Before I get to today’s news, here’s a little comic relief. This was in yesterday’s Boston Globe, but I can’t get past their rigid paywall. But I found the story at The Pest Control Daily: Boston Public Backyard used to have child alligators — sure, alligators — and other people fed them rodents. The “public backyard” is the Boston Public Garden, adjacent to the Boston Common. I had heard about cows grazing on the Common, but not about alligators in the Public Garden.
There are several newspaper articles from this period referring to the alligators who lived in a basin – or pond – near the entrance to Arlington Street amid a “magnificent” row of lilies. Reports vary, but for some time there were between three and four alligators on the site, strikingly complementing the many other exotic features of the public garden at the time.
A story in the September 19, 1901 issue of the Boston Post said three of the city’s alligators were given by “a Charlestown woman” who “became afraid of them and introduced them to the city of Boston.” The fourth alligator was given to the city by a man from Chelsea, though it’s just unclear why.
An article that appeared in an August 9, 1901 issue of the Boston Globe said the alligators – known as babies – belonged to William Doogue, the city’s superintendent for common and public reasons.
Doogue oversaw the public garden from 1878 to 1906, according to Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit advocating Boston Common, the public garden, and the nearby Commonwealth Avenue Mall and known for its exceptional green thumb….
The alligators have certainly rubbed some city dwellers the wrong way. But it wasn’t so much their presence that was annoying – people often huddled around the pool looking for them – it was how they were sometimes fed.
“Some objections to feeding live rats and mice to those in the public garden pond,” read the headline of the August Globe article.
The newspaper reported that in “warm weather” the alligators were put in the public garden and fed by park officials once a week….
“Live rats exposed to hungry alligators,” read a headline in the Boston Post on August 9, 1901. “The public garden exhibit attracts morbid interest from women and children.”
The article says, “The city doesn’t feed them in the summer … the city doesn’t have to” because “the alligators make their own living by entertaining the public”.
The story included an illustration of primitively dressed people gathered around a small pond-like structure and watched a man kneel to feed the alligators with the animals’ mouths wide open.
Apparently this was seen as a low-life activity. There is much more detail at the link about the feeding of the alligators. Apparently they were moved to the Franklin Park Zoo during the colder months, and their presence in the Boston Garden lasted for about 6 years.
White Supremacist News
Remember those neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us?” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was trending on Twitter all day yesterday after he parroted a white supremacist conspiracy theory that liberals are trying to replace white people with immigrants.
For decades, white nationalists have invoked the specter of nonwhite immigration, multiculturalism, and declining birthrates to argue for the existence of a vast conspiracy aimed at eliminating white populations as a dominant demographic. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson is distributing the language, grievances, goals, and inherent call to action of the conspiracy theory to massive audiences.
On the April 8 broadcast of Fox News Primetime, Carlson offered perhaps his most explicit justification yet for the core belief of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory: that a wave of “Third World” invaders is coming to replace you and reshape your environment, and that you, the audience, should do something about it.
The Fox News host claimed that “what’s true” is that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” and no one should “sit back and take that.”
More from Media Matters: White nationalists praise Tucker Carlson’s full embrace of their “replacement” conspiracy theory.
White supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes explained what Carlson actually meant in his statements, lamenting that Carlson wasn’t more direct and theorizing that he probably had to dial it back in order to avoid consequences at Fox….
Other racist and extreme far-right media personalities and social media accounts also backed Carlson, celebrating him for broadcasting “what nationalists have been talking about for decades” and defending him against criticism.
Matt Gaetz Updates
The Washington Post: House opens ethics investigation into Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.
Click the link for more details.
Fred Grimm at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Scandal leaves Florida’s congressional provocateur with few friends.
His fellow congressional Republicans have risen as one to defend Matt Gaetz.
Oh, sorry. My bad. Make that two.
Jim Jordan of Ohio — Abbott to Gaetz’s Costello in their Capitol Hill clown act — came through for Matt. Sort of. After Gaetz denied allegations that he had been galivanting with escorts and even a 17-year-old girl, with allusions to orgies and illicit drug use, Jordan managed a four-word tweet: “I believe Matt Gaetz.” Which seemed an understated reaction from the likes of Jordan, whose usual outbursts have been unfettered by propriety, truth or the national interest.
You’d think the pugnacious Jim Jordan, of all people, would have come up with a more defiant defense of his fellow provocateur. But no.
Which left Marjorie Taylor Greene from Planet QAnon as his defender-in-chief. “Take it from me rumors and headlines don’t equal truth. I stand with @mattgaetz,” tweeted the Georgia congresswoman, a propagator of astounding untruths, slanders and conspiracy theories. Not sure that character references from the woman who suggested California wildfires had been ignited by Jewish space lasers can rehabilitate Gaetz’s mucky reputation.
Support was also slow coming from Mar-a-Lago, although Gaetz had been Donald Trump’s most outlandish congressional defender through two impeachments and an insurrection. Yet, the ex-president kept quiet in the week after The New York Times reported that the FBI has widened an investigation of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg — who faces a slew of federal charges — to include his former best buddy and fellow philanderer. The Times said the FBI is looking into allegations that Greenberg and Gaetz arranged sexual trysts with paid escorts, including a 17-year girl. (Which Gaetz denies.)
It wasn’t until reports surfaced that, during Trump’s final days in office, Gaetz had sought a preemptive pardon for any federal charges that might come his way, that the ex-president finally said something. Not much, but something. His office issued a carefully worded, unTrumpian statement: “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” adding, like an afterthought, “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
I just can’t get enough of Gaetzgate.
The Washington Post: Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, emails show.
The paintings and drawings in this post are by Philip Guston, a painter who shocked the art world in the late 1960s by abandoning his abstract expressionism and turning to cartoonish representations of KKK-like figures that to him reflected the culture of America under Richard Nixon. These works also reflected his childhood memories of scenes of the Klan marching openly in Los Angeles, where his Jewish family lived.
Four major museums have decided to call off a retrospective of Guston’s work for fear of negative reactions to the racial justice content of the paintings. From The New York Times:
In an open letter published Wednesday in The Brooklyn Rail, nearly 100 artists, curators, dealers and writers forcefully condemned the decision last week by the National Gallery of Art in Washington and three other major museums to pull the plug on the largest retrospective in 15 years of one of America’s most influential postwar painters.
The show, after years of preparation, will be delayed until 2024. The stated reason is to let the institutions rethink their presentation of Guston’s later figurative paintings, which feature men in hoods reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan members, and which, a National Gallery spokesperson said, risked being “misinterpreted” today.
In the open letter, the artists, “shocked and disappointed,” accuse the museums — the National Gallery, Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — both of betraying Guston’s art and of patronizing the public they are supposed to serve.
The postponement, they write, is an admission of the museums’ “longstanding failure to have educated, integrated, and prepared themselves to meet the challenge of the renewed pressure for racial justice that has developed over the past five years.” They demand that the Guston exhibition take place as scheduled, and that the museums “do the necessary work to present this art in all its depth and complexity.”
Surely these paintings are as relevant in the Trump years as they were in Nixon’s America. Postponing the exhibition until 2024 guarantees that public discussions of their import won’t happen until after Trump’s second term if he is reelected. This reminds me of the many efforts to ban Mark Twain’s profoundly anti-racist novel Huckleberry Finn because of Twain’s use of the N-word.
Read more at Art News: Controversial Philip Guston Show Postponement Met with Shock and Anger from Art Community. See also this statement (and more art works) from Guston’s daughter Musa Mayor: Philip Guston: The Danger is in Looking Away.
Now on to today’s news. Trump’s dumpster fire of a debate performance on Tuesday night is still drawing reactions.
The New York Times Editorial Board: A Debate That Can’t Be Ignored. Americans need to face the man who is their president.
President Trump’s was a national disgrace. His refusal to condemn white supremacists, or to pledge that he will accept the results of the election, betrayed the people who entrusted him with the highest office in the land. Every American has a responsibility to look and listen and take the full measure of the man. Ignorance can no longer be a tenable excuse. Conservatives in pursuit of long-cherished policy goals can no longer avoid the reality that Mr. Trump is vandalizing the principles and integrity of our democracy.
It’s a tired frame, but consider how Americans would judge a foreign election where the incumbent president scorned the democratic process as a fraud and called on an armed, violent, white supremacist group to “stand by” to engage with his political rivals.
The debate was excruciating to watch for anyone who loves this country, because of the mirror it held up to the United States in 2020: a nation unmoored from whatever was left of its civil political traditions, awash in conspiratorial disinformation, incapable of agreeing on what is true and what are lies, paralyzed by the horror of a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and beholden to a political system that doesn’t reflect the majority of the country.
The debate featured one politician trying his best to do his job, trying to bring some normalcy to America’s battered public square, and one politician who seemed incapable of self-control — petulant, self-centered, rageful.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Shortly after Donald and Ivana Trump’s son was born, however, the future president had an unusual concern for a parent: What if this kid grows up and embarasses me?
“What should we name him?” Donald asked, according to Ivana’s memoir, Raising Trump. When Ivana suggested Donald Jr., the real-estate heir responded, “What if he is a loser?”
That anecdote helps explain one of the more memorable exchanges in Tuesday night’s presidential debate, as well as Trump’s approach to governance. The president’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, sought to criticize Trump’s remarks about U.S. service members being “losers,” as first reported by The Atlantic. In doing so, Biden brought up his late son, Beau, who died of a brain tumor after earning a Bronze Star in the Army National Guard.
“My son was in Iraq and spent a year there,” Biden said to Trump, raising his voice. “He got the Bronze Star. He got a medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot. And the people left behind there were heroes.”
In an attempt to neutralize the attack, Trump changed the subject—to Biden’s other son, Hunter. “Hunter got thrown out of the military; he was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use,” he spat out.
To a person who feared sharing his name with his son at the moment of his birth, because the child might turn out to be a “loser,” that attack must have seemed devastating. But normal parents don’t stop loving their children because they do bad things. They love them anyway. That’s what being a parent is.
Biden responded by reaffirming his love for his surviving son. “My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Biden responded. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.” [….]
More than any other moment of the debate, Trump’s response to Biden’s invocation of his dead son—attempting to make him ashamed of his surviving one—threw the dispositions of the two men into sharp relief. I wondered how Hunter must have felt to see his father speak of his pride in his brother, only for his own name to be brandished as a weapon to inflict shame on his father. And I thought about Biden’s response, which was to reaffirm his pride in Hunter, the troubled son living in the indelible shadow of a departed war hero. In the midst of being attacked by a president trying to wield his own family against him, Biden’s instinct was to reassure Hunter that he is also loved, that nothing could make his father see him as a loser.
Read more at The Atlantic.
At The Washington Post, Eric Garcia wrote about his own struggle with addiction and how Trump’s words will affect other recovering people: Trump’s attack on Hunter Biden will only increase the stigma of addiction.
As saccharine as it sounds, the president of the United States is also the president of screw-ups, addicts and hopefuls like me and Hunter Biden. But Trump’s comments made clear that he believes that an addict’s actions can be used against our families to attack their character.
That will make us less willing to talk about our problems and get the help we need. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says explicitly that stigma can make people with substance abuse disorders less willing to seek treatment. And that makes sense. If your addiction is going to be used against you, why try to get better?
Hunter Biden’s problems with alcohol, drugs and women have been well-documented. (News reports show that, contrary to what Trump said Tuesday, Hunter was not dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve when he tested positive for cocaine in 2014.) Those demons were enough of an issue that when the former vice president began running last year, the New Yorker published a piece asking whether they would “jeopardize his father’s campaign.” That story ran a few days before I finally hit bottom myself.
I don’t know Hunter Biden, but I do know that worrying that your own actions could hurt the people you love is one of the things that tears an addict up inside.
I hope you’ll read the rest.
The debate also raised fears about Trump stealing the election, by suppressing votes, encouraging white supremacist violence, and using the courts.
The Daily Beast: Trump’s Crew of Far-Right Vigilante Poll Watchers Is Coming.
The truck-revving, banner-waving, loudspeaker-blaring pro-Trump rally took place, conveniently, on Sept. 19, the first Saturday of early voting in the swing state of Virginia, in a parking lot where voters in Democratic-leaning Fairfax County were lined up to cast their ballots. Some Trump supporters drove circles around the voters while others—many without face masks—mingled with the line, chanting and waving flags.
“We had a couple poll observers there that had to actually escort voters in because we saw people that would get to the edge of the parking lot, and see this giant group of Trumpers yelling and screaming,” Jack Kiraly, executive director of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, told The Daily Beast, adding that the scene reminded him of the volunteers who escort people past anti-abortion protesters outside women’s health clinics.
So during Tuesday night’s remarkably unhinged presidential debate, when President Donald Trump urged his supporters to take unsanctioned actions at polling places, Kiraly was reminded of what Fairfax County voters had witnessed earlier this month.
During the debate, Trump appeared to tell the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys to “stand by” and urged fans to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” for voter fraud, an exceedingly rare phenomenon Trump has crafted into a cornerstone of his political identity. For close observers of the far right, as well as officials like Kiraly, the remarks amounted to the latest warning that an embattled president might use his supporters to impede fair elections, or to cast the results of those elections in doubt.
If the prospect of election-related violence was already looming over the first presidential contest since Trump effectively welcomed the paramilitary far-right into the Republican Party, the debate made the alarm bells ring even louder.
David Sanger at The New York Times: Tuesday’s Debate Made Clear the Gravest Threat to the Election: The President Himself.
President Trump’s angry insistence in the last minutes of Tuesday’s debate that there was no way the presidential election could be conducted without fraud amounted to an extraordinary declaration by a sitting American president that he would try to throw any outcome into the courts, Congress or the streets if he was not re-elected….
Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to say he would abide by the result, and his disinformation campaign about the integrity of the American electoral system, went beyond anything President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could have imagined. All Mr. Putin has to do now is amplify the president’s message, which he has already begun to do….
The president began the debate with a declaration that balloting already underway was “a fraud and a shame” and proof of “a rigged election.”
It quickly became apparent that Mr. Trump was doing more than simply trying to discredit the mail-in ballots that are being used to ensure voters are not disenfranchised by a pandemic — the same way of voting that five states have used for years with minimal fraud.
He followed it by encouraging his supporters to “go into the polls” and “watch very carefully,” which seemed to be code words for a campaign of voter intimidation, aimed at those who brave the coronavirus risks of voting in person.
And Mr. Trump’s declaration that the Supreme Court would have to “look at the ballots” and that “we might not know for months because these ballots are going to be all over” seemed to suggest that he would try to place the election in the hands of a court where he has been rushing to cement a conservative majority with his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
And if he cannot win there, he has already raised the possibility of using the argument of a fraudulent election to throw the decision to the House of Representatives, where he believes he has an edge because every state delegation gets one vote in resolving an election with no clear winner. At least for now, 26 of those delegations have a majority of Republican representatives.
And of course Trump’s final backstop could be to trigger mass violence by his white supremacist supporters.
I’m running out of space, but I’ll post more links in the comment thread. Have a nice Thursday, and please check in with us if you have the time and inclination. We love to hear from you!
Is it just me, or are we really approaching the point at which U.S. democracy cannot be saved? Trump wants to hold next year’s G7 at his private Doral resort in Florida, which would mean that foreign countries would literally have to pay his family business for the privilege of attending. And Trump will likely try to invite Putin next year after he “went to the mat for Putin” over the weekend.
As we approach next year’s presidential election, the Federal Election Commission, the agency that enforces campaign finance laws, is going out of business. Trump and McConnell have stymied legislative efforts to secure our elections.
House Democrats aren’t doing much to control the lawless madman president, much less take steps toward impeaching him. They are making efforts to get his tax returns through the courts, but Rep. Richard Neal refuses to ask New York to provide Trump’s state tax returns.
I hope you’ll check out the links above; there simply isn’t time or space for me to provide excerpts here. And there are so many emergencies that I didn’t mention, such as Trump’s war on immigrants, the problem of easily available guns and the rising threat of white supremacist violence.
Today’s top emergency is the burning of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil.
The Washington Post: What you need to know about the Amazon rainforest fires.
The Amazon — nearly four times the size of Alaska — is a vast sink for storing carbon dioxide and a key element of any plan to restrain climate change. Any increase in deforestation there would speed up global warming as well as damage an important refuge for biodiversity.
Studies show the 2.2 million-square mile forest is nearing a tipping point, at which large fragmented portions of the rainforest could transform into an entirely different, drier ecosystem, leading to the acceleration of climate change, the loss of countless species and disaster for the indigenous populations that call the tropical rainforest home….
The trees and plants of the Amazon forest pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as part of photosynthesis. Destruction of the forest releases carbon stored in the trees and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide used by them.
…most fires in the Amazon are caused by humans, set either accidentally or intentionally.
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research found the country has lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover to development since January, when President Jair Bolsonaro took office. That’s a 39 percent increase over the same period in 2018. July in particular featured a huge spike in forest loss, with an area larger than the city of Los Angeles lost in a single month.
Why would anyone want to hard the Amazon rain forest?
The biggest economic interest groups eating away at the Amazon are cattle grazers and soybean growers. “Directly after deforestation, mostly what we see is pasture,” said Mikaela Weisse, a fellow at the World Resources Institute. Later, soybean growers expand by taking over pasture lands.
Mining, timber and development firms are also eyeing the region for expansion, encouraged by Bolsonaro’s election.
There’s much more helpful (and horrifying) information at the WaPo link.
The New York Times: Brazil Says It Will Reject Millions in Amazon Aid Pledged at G7.
Hours after leaders of some of the world’s wealthiest countries pledged more than $22 million to help combat fires in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s government angrily rejected the offer, in effect telling the other nations to mind their own business — only to later lay out potential terms for the aid’s acceptance.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil expressed his ire in a series of Twitter posts on Monday, and specifically criticized and taunted President Emmanuel Macron of France, who had announced the aid package at the Group of 7 summit meeting. Their comments extended a verbal feud between the two leaders.
But early the next day, Mr. Bolsonaro offered possible terms for the acceptance of the aid package when he spoke to reporters in the capital, Brasília.
He said that if Mr. Macron withdrew “insults made to my person,” and what Mr. Bolsonaro interpreted as insinuations that Brazil does not have sovereignty over the Amazon, he would reconsider.
“To talk or accept anything from France, even with their very best intentions, he will have to withdraw his words, and then we can talk,” Mr. Bolsonaro said. “First he withdraws them, then he makes the offer, and then I’ll answer.”
Mr. Bolsonaro, who has suggested earlier that Mr. Macon’s real motive is to shield France’s agriculture from Brazilian competition, had tweeted on Monday that the president “disguises his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of the G7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or a no-man’s land.”
He sounds a lot like like Trump.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Editorial: The Amazon is burning and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t care.
The fires raging at the edges of the Amazon rainforest are, at the moment, largely consuming lands that had already been converted from their natural state into tracts waiting to be farmed or developed. Nevertheless, some of the blazes are eating away at the rainforest itself, reducing its size by a football field a minute. And one of the most disturbing things about them is that they aren’t part of the cycle of nature, like a California wildfire might be, but are intentionally set in many cases to get rid of brush and felled trees to make way for soy fields and beef grazing grounds. That reflects Brazil’s troubling return to a policy of deforestation that, if unabated, could have grave consequences for efforts to counter the worst effects of global warming.
The reason the Amazon is burning is because Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who followed Donald Trump’s populist, anti-establishment playbook to win election last year, wants it to. He thinks the Amazon should not be protected, and that lands reserved for indigenous peoples should not be recognized — all in the name of economic growth. That see-no-evil approach is another point Bolsonaro has in common with Trump, who has sought to make an alarming amount of public lands available for oil and gas drilling and other extractive industries, such as uranium mining — the health of the planet be damned.
At the just-concluded G-7 meeting in France, international leaders criticized Bolsonaro for his land-use and environmental policies, which include telling those who would cut the rainforest that his government would no longer stop them. So the rate of deforestation, while still far below what it had been a dozen years ago, has been increasing. The G-7 also announced more than $20 million in aid to Brazil and Bolivia for firefighting equipment — a drop in the bucket considering the need, advocates say — and French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to put together an alliance to push for reforestation.
Bolsonaro was not receptive; he accused the leaders of embracing colonialism by telling Brazil what to do. But there’s nothing colonial in asking a neighbor to stop lighting fires that affect the rest of us….
We are all joined by the hard reality that our continued release of carbon into the atmosphere — whether it be from the cars we commute in or the forest Brazilians burn to grow food — is endangering us all. It’s a reality not recognized by Bolsonaro. Nor by Trump, who neither joined the criticism of Bolsonaro’s policies nor showed up for the G-7 climate talks that led to the fire aid package. Both presidents’ disregard for the well-being of the world is, literally, playing with fire. That won’t end well.
The Washington Post: How beef demand is accelerating the Amazon’s deforestation and climate peril.
There are approximately 1.5 billion cows in the world, a population second only to humans among large mammals. They can be raised anywhere: from the Arctic to the equator, on prairies, in deserts and on mountains.
Cattle ranchers in the Brazilian Amazon — the storied rainforest that produces oxygen for the world and modulates climate — are aggressively expanding their herds and willing to clear-cut the forest and burn what’s left to make way for pastures. As a result, they’ve become the single biggest driver of the Amazon’s deforestation, causing about 80 percent of it, according to the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
The ecological devastation is done in the service of the surging demand for beef. About 80 percent of Brazil’s beef is consumed domestically, said Nathalie Walker, the director of the tropical forest and agriculture program at the National Wildlife Federation.
Read more at the WaPo.
I admit, I’m feeling extremely pessimistic today. If anyone has more positive news, I’d love to read about it. I love you guys.
California is burning and we have no national leadership. The current death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California stands at 71, with more than 1,000 missing. Trump is going to California, not to help or comfort, but to educate politicians and firefighters about what they did and are doing wrong. Politico:
Trump said he will be meeting Saturday with Gov. Jerry Brown, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and emergency workers across the state.
“I want to be with the firefighters and the FEMA first responders,” Trump said, anticipating that he would likely be returning to the White House at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, “or something like that.”
The president also hinted at some potentially confrontational discussions he might engage in Saturday with California’s elected leaders, including on the state’s forest management efforts.
“I’ve been saying that for a long time this could have been a lot different situation, but the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there’s no question about it,” Trump said. “It should have been done many years ago, but i think everybody’s on the right side. It’s a big issue.”
Yesterday Trump explained his theory to Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
So is Trump bringing a rake with him?
Read About the Wildfires
PARADISE, Calif., Nov 17 (Reuters) – Forensic recovery teams searched for more victims in the charred wreckage of the northern California town of Paradise on Saturday as the number of people listed as missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire topped 1,000.
Remains of at least 71 people have been recovered in and around the small Sierra foothills town 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco. It was home to nearly 27,000 residents before it was largely incinerated by the blaze on the night of Nov. 8.
The disaster already ranks among the deadliest U.S. wildfires since the turn of the last century. Eighty-seven people perished in the Big Burn firestorm that swept the Northern Rockies in August of 1910. Minnesota’s Cloquet Fire in October of 1918 killed 450 people.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has blamed the recent spate of fires on forest mismanagement, was due to visit the fire zones on Saturday to meet displaced residents. Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom planned to join Trump on his tour.
Authorities attribute the high death toll from the blaze – dubbed “Camp Fire” – partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little advance warning, driven by howling winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.
More than a week later, firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 45 percent of the blaze’s perimeter. The fire covered 142,000 acres (57,000 hectares), fire officials said.
Besides the toll on human life, property losses from the blaze make it the most destructive in California history, posing the additional challenge of providing long-term shelter for many thousands of displaced residents.
The BBC has a timeline of the destruction of Paradise, CA: California wildfires: The day Paradise burned down. Here’s the introduction:
“Heavenly father, please help us.”
Sitting in the back seat of the car her husband was driving, Brynn Parrott Chatfield’s entire field of vision was filled with flames as she prayed.
Only the thin strip of road in front of them remained unburned.
“Please, help us to be safe.”
A wave of embers rose up from the surface of the road and struck their front windscreen. Brynn’s husband Jeremy drove calmly on down the middle of the road; no-one would be coming towards them into the fire.
“I’m thankful for Jeremy and his willingness to be brave…”
By now, no road was visible, and only a dense orange cloud could be seen in front of the car. Then suddenly, it cleared, and the fires seemed to scatter.
Clear skies opened up, the last embers bounced off the windscreen and the fire was finally behind them.
As a helicopter flew overhead, carrying water to try and douse the flames, Jeremy and Brynn knew they had made it out alive.
Soon after, almost nothing would remain of their hometown, Paradise, and the fire they fled in north-east California would become the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.
This is the story of how the fire spread.
More reads on the California disaster:
The New York Times: Air Quality in California: Devastating Fires Lead to a New Danger.
The Los Angeles Times: California fire: If you stay, you’re dead. How a Paradise nursing home evacuated.
Trump Is Fueling White Supremacist Extremism
David Neiwert at The Washington Post: Right-wing extremists are already threatening violence over a Democratic House. The introduction:
Seeking a more lenient sentence for Patrick Eugene Stein’s plot to murder hundreds of Somali immigrants in a small Kansas town, Stein’s attorneys turned to a novel strategy: They blamed the inspiration for his actions on Donald Trump.
“The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president,” the lawyers wrote.
Stein and his two cohorts planned their attack to take place the day after the November 2016 election. Anticipating a Hillary Clinton victory, the three Kansans wanted to make a violent first strike against her presidency by setting off a set of Timothy McVeigh-style truck bombs at a Muslim immigrant community in Garden City, then gunning down survivors as they fled.
The plot had been exposed, and the men arrested, a few weeks before they intended to carry it out. It took place amid a national environment in which far-right militiamen had been vowing a violent resistance to a potential Clinton administration. That resistance was, at least temporarily, mooted by Trump’s victory.
But those same rumblings can now be heard from the very same far-right factions, likewise threatening violence, in response to this month’s takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats. There is legitimate reason for concern that right-wing terrorist violence will continue and perhaps increase — and that extremists could soon begin targeting politicians in office, especially if Trump singles them out for scorn.
Read the Rest at the WaPo. Neiwert is the author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.
Lucian K. Truscott IV at Raw Story: Donald Trump isn’t our president — he is the Jefferson Davis of a new red state confederacy in a slow-motion civil war.
In 1861, they were cadets from the Citadel Military Academy in South Carolina. On January 9, of that year, they were manning an artillery battery on Morris Island, an uninhabited island in Charleston Harbor when they fired on the United States steamship Star of the West, which was attempting to resupply the American garrison at Fort Sumter. The shots they fired that day, along with the bombardment of the fort by the Confederate States Army beginning on April 12 of that year, are generally considered by historians to be the first shots fired in what became the American Civil War.
In 2017, they were members of the so-called “alt-right” — white supremacists, neo-nazis, neo-confederates, white nationalists, and neo-fascists who were in Charlottesville for the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. On the night of August 11, 2017, as many as 200 of them marched carrying burning torches through the campus of the University of Virginia chanting white supremacist slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” When they reached the statue of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, they clashed with a group of students who had surrounded the statue. The alt-right demonstrators swung and threw their torches and used pepper spray against the counter-protestors, injuring several.
The next day, the alt-right demonstrators marched through Charlottesville carrying Confederate and Nazi flags chanting “white lives matter,” “Jewish media is going down,” and “make America great again.” Many demonstrators were armed, some with semi-automatic assault-style rifles. They clashed again with counter-protestors, and at 1:45 p.m., a white supremacist demonstrator identified as James Alex Fields Jr. drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
She was not the first to die in the new civil war. Already dead were black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina; a native of India in Olathe, Kansas; an Army lieutenant in College Park, Maryland; and many others.
But the death of Heather Heyer would become a focus of the violence and killing in the new civil war, because President Trump would put it there.
More at Raw Story (originally pubABlished at Salon).
More to Explore:
ABC Action News Tampa: 39 suspected gang members charged in major drug, gun trafficking investigation in Pasco.
Jackson Free Press: Hyde-Smith Accepts $2,700 Donation from Notorious White Supremacist.
Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince
Yesterday someone leaked the news that CIA has concluded that MBS ordered the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month in Turkey. The New York Times reports:
The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials.
The C.I.A. made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.
The C.I.A. has believed for weeks that Prince Mohammed was culpable in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing but had been hesitant to definitively conclude that he directly ordered it. The agency has passed that assessment on to lawmakers and Trump administration officials.
The change in C.I.A. thinking came as new information emerged, officials said. The evidence included an intercept showing a member of the kill team calling an aide to Prince Mohammed and saying “tell your boss” that the mission was accomplished. Officials cautioned, however, that the new information is not direct evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the assassination, which was carried out in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Undoubtedly the leak was motivated by Trump’s defense of MBS and his suggestion that another long-time U.S. resident Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen should be handed over to Turkey most likely to be tortured and killed.
In the unending swirl of shocking statements and decisions by the Trump administration, the latest scoop by NBC News could easily get lost. But it is nonetheless jaw dropping to hear reports that the administration may be thinking about surrendering to Turkish demands to extradite a long-time U.S. resident for the sake of placating Turkey and protecting Saudi Arabia in the wake of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder.
According to four people interviewed by NBC, the White House has instructed the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to find a way to remove Fethullah Gulen, a former ally-turned-foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan claims Gulen was the mastermind behind a failed coupagainst him in 2016. The elderly Gulen has lived in rural Pennsylvania for close to 20 years. He is a green card holder, or permanent resident of the U.S., and he adamantly denies Turkey’s accusations. But Trump presumably hopes that if he turns Gulen over to Turkey, Erdogan will return the favor by easing his campaign against Saudi Arabia, an important American ally that has been under intense scrutiny following the Khashoggi killing.
U.S. authorities have already reviewed Turkey’s two-year-old extradition request and found it without merit. But Trump, in an effort to help Saudi Arabia diffuse the Khashoggi crisis, is weighing whether or not to both sacrifice a man and make a mockery of the extradition system.
More Stories to Check Out
The Washington Post: Trump says he’ll speak with CIA about Khashoggi killing.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.
I found some really interesting things for you to read and watch today but let’s just do a quick Drumpfistan Detritus Dump first. It’s easy to look at US History and recoil from the dark side with its huge numbers of crimes and cruelties inflicted by ‘White Christian Hegemony’. Andrew Jackson’s removal of hundreds of thousands of indigenous Americans from their Tribal Lands on the Trail of Tears should be forced reading every time we celebrate any holiday like Columbus Day. The contributions of women in this country have long buried, discounted, and discouraged. The absolute impact of how our country was built on the slave trade and on the institution of slavery which has created lasting effects of racism that just do not go away is poorly understood by many Americans. This last year we have learned how vested so many are in the idea of White Christian Male Hegemony that it hurts to watch any action taken by any one in the White House. They will destroy everything to protect it.
Racist and misogynistic attacks by this Administration on two black women US Representatives–Maxine Waters and Frederica Wilson–and a young black gold star widow–Myeshia Johnson–continue to gall. The blatant misogyny and racism and this ongoing dog whistle and bait show provide us a glimpse into minds that obviously believe that some gold star families are more ‘sacred than others.’ This leaves me shocked and deeply saddened. The attacks are also awash with lies and so disrespectful that none of these old, white, ‘Christian’–yes I’ve taken to using ironic quotation marks–men can’t even speak their names correctly if at all.
This is not the power of soft bigotry. This is full on white supremacist mode. No thinking person can deny this.
A grieving, pregnant widow and mother of small children has been compelled to go on Network TV to defend the Congresswoman that mentored her late husband. We all believe Frederica Wilson.
The pregnant widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was among four U.S. service members killed in Niger earlier this month, expressed a mix of blame and sorrow today on “Good Morning America,” saying she was “very angry” about President Donald Trump‘s condolence phone call and upset because she says he struggled to “remember my husband’s name.”
ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos spoke to Myeshia Johnson, who criticized Trump’s handling of the phone call that started a firestorm of controversy.
I still can’t move beyond this. Meet a retired Chicago police officer …
We continue to stand witness to the suffering of our country men and women in the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico. The fact we now likely have incredibly failed military policy in Niger that ended the lives of 4 soldiers is at the heart of the Drumpf-created media circus that we’re watching. It serves to take our minds off of that and the suffering in our Caribbean territories. McCain has joined in with swipes at Drumpf’s successful Draft Dodging during the Vietnam war. Bone spurs? Seriously? Now would be a really great time for Congress to have some truth seeking hearings but their heads are up the asses of millionaires and billionaires seeking tax cuts.
Meanwhile, we have “Forever Wars”. It also seems the groundwork is being laid for a few more. It’s the belief of quite a few of us that the entire West Wing and the Drumpf Pentagon is out looking for an excuse to preemptively strike North Korea.
While President Donald Trump rattles sabers on Twitter and slams “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un, there is also a perceptible hardening of tone among senior officials. Military action to halt North Korea’s march to a missile tipped with a nuclear warhead that could hit the US mainland appears to be a growing possibility.
Trump upped the rhetoric another notch in an interview with Fox Business Network broadcast Sunday, in which he said Washington was “so prepared, like you wouldn’t believe” for any contingency with Pyongyang.
“You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be,” Trump said. “Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is yes. Will that happen? Who knows, who knows.”
Trump’s power to shock has been eroded by the extraordinary spectacle of his nine months as President.
Yet it’s still stunning to hear an American President speaking so openly about the possibility of a war, that could, under some scenarios, cause the most devastation of any US conflict, at least since the Vietnam War.
And then, again, he talks shit about our allies who will probably leave us high and dry on any Drumpf war adventure.
Donald Trump has blamed a rise in crime in the UK on “radical Islamic terror”, despite there being no evidence to support the claim.
In an early morning tweet the President said: “Just out report: ‘United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror.’ Not good, we must keep America safe!”
So, enough of this … let’s end on the UPSIDE of humanity.
Paleontologists in Germany have discovered 9.7 million-year-old fossilised teeth that a German politician has hailed as potentially “rewriting” human history.
The dental remains were found by scientists sifting through gravel and sand in a former bed of the Rhine river near the town of Eppelsheim.
They resemble those belonging to “Lucy”, a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of an extinct primate related to humans and found in Ethiopia.
However, they do not resemble those of any other species found in Europe or Asia.
Scientists were so confused by the find they held off from publishing their research for the past year, Deutsche Welle reports.
Herbert Lutz, director at the Mainz Natural History Museum and head of the research team, told local media: “They are clearly ape teeth. Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim.
“This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery.”
At a press conference announcing the discovery, the mayor of Mainz suggested the find could force scientists to reassess the history of early humans.
I discovered a gem of a page on FaceBook. It’s called History’s Women Adventurers. It’s loaded with video after video of amazing women. Now, I’m looking for more about them.
From Scary Mommy: GIFS of “women just destroying SHIT”. Yup. You’re enjoying some of them on this post! Do take a brief look at the lives of two adventurous women! You’ll be glad that you did! The Facebook page is an amazing collection of short videos of adventuring women’s lives. Here’s an article about the effort to celebrate the legacies of these women.
Also, go Check out Doug McCash’s tweeter feed for artwork on homes and buildings through out New Orlean’s 7th ward. Doug is an Arts and Entertainment writer at The Times-Picayune. There’s some really fine street art out there.
So, at least I ended my rant with something uplifting. Destruction and creation and evolving life; What could be more human?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?