Sunday Morning Excellent Read / Open Thread: JOY!

Many of you will have seen this already, but I agree it’s worth sharing. Laura M. Holson, at the New York Times:

In the Trump era, Ms. Reid, the daughter of immigrants, has emerged as a heroine of the resistance to his leadership. And her forceful questioning style, matching that on conservative outlets like Fox, has resonated with MSNBC’s viewers. She is popular on social media with fans who fondly call themselves #reiders. Her morning show on Saturday averages nearly 1 million weekly viewers and, for the last four months, she has bested MSNBC’s competitor CNN, according to Nielsen, which tracks television ratings (granted, her competition then is general newsroom updates rather than another headline personality).

“Our prime directive is to constantly remind people that this is not normal and not to allow it to become mundane,” Ms. Reid said in a recent interview at MSNBC’s studios in Midtown Manhattan, referring to the architecture of the Trump presidency. Each week she makes sure to discuss the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “We feel like one of our duties is to keep that story top of mind because it’s fundamentally about whether we truly choose our own leaders,” she said.

Ms. Reid was born in Brooklyn and raised in Denver alongside two siblings mostly by their mother, a college professor and nutritionist from Guyana; their father left the family when she was a child for his native Democratic Republic of Congo. “He was a phone father,” Ms. Reid said. At 17, she was accepted to Harvard University, where she planned to study medicine.

But her mother died of breast cancer three weeks before school started. “I failed a bunch of classes,” Ms. Reid said. “I was just depressed.” She took a year off, returned to Brooklyn — staying with an aunt and working a temp job at Columbia Pictures — and then switched her major to documentary filmmaking.

“I was thinking Hollywood movies,” she said. “Come to find out Harvard doesn’t do that. So I had to study documentary.”

Ms. Reid had also always been captivated by politics. In the late 1990s she moved to Miami to write for a local television morning show. There, she became a fixture among South Florida lawmakers. She was involved in minority outreach for voter education and blogged. In 2005 she met James Thomas, a longtime disc jockey and radio veteran known as James T, who hired her to produce a talk radio show for listeners in the black community…

Ms. Reid got her television break in 2014 when she was hired by MSNBC to create a daily show called “The Reid Report.” It was short-lived, though, canceled the next year because of poor ratings (along with Ronan Farrow’s). “It was stressful because it was daily,” Ms. Reid said. “There was a lot more management eyes on us. And when it ended, you know, it was not fun. But it did enable me to do something I hadn’t done in my career, which was to actually be a field reporter.”…

In her class for Syracuse, which she teaches in Manhattan, Ms. Reid addresses the precarious definition of what the president calls “fake news,” and why it is a dangerous concept. “Now, something is ‘true’ because you like it,” she said. “If the information is displeasing to you or makes you uncomfortable, or is in opposition to your ideology, then it is ‘fake.’” She is concerned consumers of news will isolate themselves, believing only what makes them feel good. “That’s the problem,” she said…


Apart from applauding our sheroes, what’s on the agenda for the day / week?

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Heritage & Its Limits

Families tell each other stories to establish their place in the world — even if the story is “We’re just normal, we have no stories.” Because my own parents came from families that believed in putting the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’, they also cheerfully introduced us to the concept of the unreliable narrator about the time we were old enough to go off to school. And even so, the eventual unspooling would prove weirder than any fiction about Irish kingdoms and hidden murders (the real family skeleton would turn out to be a failed trans-Atlantic Romeo-and-Juliet story that didn’t emerge until after the deaths of both participants and their only offspring).

Obviously I’ve sympathized with Senator Warren’s “Pocahontas” problem; she trusted what her parents told her — what her parents, and their community, believed — but the rules about claiming Native American ancestry have pretty much been reversed over the last half-century. I still hope she’ll be my senator for a great many years to come, but it’s good that she’s done her best to clear the deck to campaign for other Democrats as we march towards 2018.

Per the Boston Globe:

Senator Elizabeth Warren made a surprise appearance at the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday, forcefully denouncing President Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” to deride her and defending her claims of Native American heritage more expansively than she has before.

The Massachusetts Democrat also made an impassioned pledge to advocate for issues of importance for Native Americans. The speech was a clear attempt to put to rest a sensitive issue that has been used by her enemies to attack her character and another signal of her potential 2020 presidential ambitions.

Warren did not apologize for her undocumented claims that her mother’s family had Cherokee blood — instead, reaffirming: “My mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So, in 1932, when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped.”

“The story they lived will always be a part of me,” she said, as tears came to her eyes. “And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away.”

But she told the gathered tribal leaders from around the country that she drew a distinction between claiming native ancestry and claiming tribal membership. She repeatedly referred to Trump’s insensitivity, not only in calling her Pocahontas but in doing it last year during an event at the White House meant to honor Navajo code-talker veterans of World War II…

Warren — who has been criticized for not advocating more aggressively in the Senate for Native American issues, given her claims to ancestry — also appeared to assert greater common cause with Native Americans than she has in the past.

“For far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials,” she said. “So I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”…

Rebecca Nagle, the Cherokee activist who wrote the ThinkProgress column, said on Wednesday that the speech was a “giant step in the right direction.”

“It’s a historic moment for Indian country for a senator to make a speech like that,” Nagle said. “That’s exactly what she needed to do.”…

Mr. Charles P. Pierce adds:

Here’s a partial transcript, via The Boston Globe:

… In the fairy tale, Pocahontas saves John Smith from execution at the hands of her father. Except that was probably made up too. In the fable, her baptism as “Rebecca” and her marriage to a Jamestown settler are held up to show the moral righteousness of colonization. In reality, the fable is used to bleach away the stain of genocide. As you know, Pocahontas’s real journey was far more remarkable — and far darker — than the myth admits.

But in her teens, Pocahontas was abducted, imprisoned, and held captive. Oral history of the Mattaponi tribe indicates that she was ripped away from her first husband and child and raped in captivity. Eventually she married another John — John Rolfe. Her marriage led to an uneasy harmony between Jamestown and the tribes, a period that some historians call the Peace of Pocahontas. But she was not around to enjoy it. John Rolfe paraded her around London to entertain the British and prop up financial investments in the Virginia Company. She never made it home. She was about 21 when she died, an ocean separating her from her people. Indigenous people have been telling the story of Pocahontas — the real Pocahontas — for four centuries. A story of heroism. And bravery. And pain. And, for almost as long, her story has been taken away by powerful people who twisted it to serve their own purposes.

In the Capitol, right there in the rotunda, there is John Gadsby Chapman’s a massive painting, The Baptism Of Pocahontas. It is a huge and beautiful lie that has been hanging there since 1840, all through the debates over treaties that never were worth the paper on which they were printed, all through the passage of military appropriations that paid for the genocide in the West. And now, Elizabeth Warren works in that same building and, on Wednesday, she tried in her own way to put paid to all of the lies and broken promises. She should not be alone.


And then there was this *other* Warren-related story, which didn’t get nearly so much ink…

Russiagate Open Thread: Watching the “Detectives”, Nunes Edition

“Nut job” has clung to Nunes’s reputation as long as he’s been chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI, in Washington-speak). Or at least among Democrats (and some Republicans) who have decried Nunes’s transformation of a once bipartisan national security panel into a GOP platform to attack Democrats.

Janz thinks he knows why: Nunes’s mentorship by Michael Flynn, the now disgraced former Trump national security adviser. “I know that they had a pretty close relationship,” he said. Nunes served on the executive committee of the Trump transition team with Flynn, he noted, which was headed by Vice President Mike Pence, “and it seems to me like he never left. He’s still on that team.“

A descendent of Portuguese Azorean immigrants, Nunes grew up on a Central Valley, California farm and concentrated on water issues when he came to Congress in 2003. But his fundraising prowess for fellow Republicans endeared him to Representative Paul Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner, who in 2013 anointed him chairman of the intelligence panel.

Like many hawks back then, Nunes was in awe of Flynn, who had won praise for revolutionizing the hunt for terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This guy was one of the best intelligence officers in several generations,” Nunes told me in a December 23, 2016 interview. “I don’t know if you’ve ever met him, but Flynn is extremely smart. He really is top notch.”

Nunes was speaking fives months after Flynn had startled many former military officers by leading “Lock her up” chants against Hillary Clinton at the Republican National Convention. It was also two years after the Obama White House has forced Flynn’s resignation as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. “What happened,” Nunes told me, “is…he went out and said a lot of things that Obama didn’t like…”

But that’s not close to the full story on Flynn, whose battlefield talents didn’t transfer well to running the DIA from 2012 to 2014. Not only were his executive skills lacking, according to many observers, including former Army general and Secretary of State Colin Powell, he quickly developed a reputation for indulging in conspiracy theories—or “Flynn facts,” his aides derisively called them.

But Nunes embraced them. During Flynn’s tenure, the neophyte intelligence overseer and the general came to share a number of beliefs. One was that the CIA was suppressing the release of documents captured from Osama Bin Laden’s lair that supposedly showed a closer relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iran than the Obama White House, then conducting backchannel talks with Tehran on halting its nuclear weapons program, wanted known. Nunes, according to a then-close observer, demanded the CIA open up its files for him and Flynn one Saturday. “He was going to sneak up on them” on a weekend, the source snorted, speaking on terms of anonymity to discuss the sensitive incident. Nunes denied that excursion, but said he did go down to Central Command headquarters in Tampa “to meet with the team that was doing exploitation of the documents in 2013.”…
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Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Hearts & Flowers Day

… or, as us relationship lifers call it: Amateur Evening!

Photo courtesy of ace photographer & funny dude Ozark Hillbilly.

And speaking of flowers, from the Washington Post“How the rose trade lifted Colombia – and nearly erased an American industry”:

The majority of roses Americans give one another on Valentine’s Day, roughly 200 million in all, grow here, the savanna outside Bogota, summoned from the soil by 12 hours of natural sunlight, the 8,400-foot altitude and an abundance of cheap labor.

Thousands of acres of white-tarped greenhouses, some the size of several football fields, are crammed with seven-foot stems topped with rich red crowns. Many are pulled into warehouses by horses, chilled to sleep in refrigeration rooms, and then packed with other flowers onto planes — 1.1 million at a time — to be sold in the United States.

It’s peak season for a massive Colombian industry that shipped more than 4 billion flowers to the United States last year — or about a dozen for every U.S. resident.

The Colombian industry has bloomed thanks to a U.S. effort to disrupt cocaine trafficking, the expansion of free-trade agreements — and the relentless demand by American consumers for cheap roses.

The transformation demonstrates the barreling, often brutal, efficiency of globalization: In 27 years, market forces and decisions made in Washington have reshaped the rose business on two continents. The American flower industry has seen its production of roses drop roughly 95 percent, falling from 545 million to less than 30 million…

Colombians don’t even celebrate Valentine’s Day, but among flower growers, the foreign holiday can account for close to 20 percent of annual revenue.

The volume of the rose trade is breathtaking. In the three weeks leading up to Feb. 14, 30 cargo jets make the trip from Colombia to Miami each day, with each plane toting more than a million flowers.

From Miami’s airport, the flowers are loaded into refrigerated trucks — 200 are needed each day — and from there many go to warehouses in South Florida, where they are repackaged, assembled into bouquets, and then shipped all over the country…

Walmart alone is purchasing 24 million Colombian roses to sell for Valentine’s Day. One of its senior associates, Deborah Zoellick, is so well known in Colombia and South Florida that her travels are closely tracked. That’s because any buying decision by the United States’ largest retailer can single-handedly change the flow of roses on two continents.

This year promised to be especially busy. Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday, a boon for Colombian growers, as they believe Americans are more likely to splurge on midweek sales and still count on extra purchases on the weekend before and after…

You should definitely read the whole thing, because the photos, as well as the stats, are amazing!

Apart from planning for V-Day, what’s going on in your garden/household/photo planning this week?

This is Amazing!

I love this:

I am the very model of a New York Times contrarian,
My intellect is polished but my soul’s authoritarian,
From Allen down to Exxon, bullies’ water I am carrying,
Except for Donald Trump’s, because I find him a vulgarian.
I’m very well acquainted, too, with arguments political,
I love to mount defenses for the vile and hypocritical,
I filigree each sentence till its meaning I am burying,
My job is to distract you from the rising smell of carrion.

Bravo Matthew Dessem! Read the whole thing.

Interesting Read: “Bob Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger—and Further Along—Than You Think”

I sincerely hope Garrett M. Graff is correct:

Last summer, I wrote an analysis exploring the “known unknowns” of the Russia investigation—unanswered but knowable questions regarding Mueller’s probe. Today, given a week that saw immense sturm und drang over Devin Nunes’ memo—a document that seems purposefully designed to obfuscate and muddy the waters around Mueller’s investigation—it seems worth asking the opposite question: What are the known knowns of the Mueller investigation, and where might it be heading?

The first thing we know is that we know it is large.

We speak about the “Mueller probe” as a single entity, but it’s important to understand that there are no fewer than five (known) separate investigations under the broad umbrella of the special counsel’s office—some threads of these investigations may overlap or intersect, some may be completely free-standing, and some potential targets may be part of multiple threads. But it’s important to understand the different “buckets” of Mueller’s probe…

1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering. Business dealings and money laundering related to Trump campaign staff, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates, are a major target of the inquiry. While this phase of the investigation has already led to the indictment of Gates and Manafort, it almost certainly will continue to bear further fruit…

2. Russian Information Operations. When we speak in shorthand about the “hacking of the election,” we are actually talking about unique and distinct efforts, with varying degrees of coordination, by different entities associated with the Russian government…
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Leftovers Open Thread — Superb Owl Edition

David Roth, in the Baffler“Downward Spiral”:

The NFL is financially healthy and also pretty luridly out of its mind, increasingly given to grandiose delusion and stubborn denial and spasms of executive sadism. And lately, it’s declining—in ways that are obvious for even casual viewers and evident during an average Sunday’s slate of games and in ways that the league might not fully feel for generations.

It’s America’s game all right, and if the NFL is sick, if it is even perhaps dying, it is for the most American of reasons—because it is increasingly ragged and rotten with corruption, and because it can’t quite come up with any other way that it would rather be…

Rich television deals ensure that profitability is locked in for the foreseeable future, and ratings are only slightly off their old Olympian standard. But the NFL currently feels very much like a league in decline—the league seems in a real way to have lost interest in football, or in trying to stop the league’s broader skid. There are and will always be bad teams, but the NFL in 2017 is remarkable for the number of teams that appear not even to be trying to compete. This includes not just teams embarking on variously forward-thinking tank schemes to gain advantageous position in upcoming drafts, or the roughly equal number of teams that are plainly institutionally incompetent. The ones that stand out most dramatically are those that are plainly not trying to do anything but bump along the bottoms of their divisions and collect their share of the $39.6 billion in television revenues that the league’s thirty-two teams will divide between 2014 and 2022.

Fans will put up with a lot, but such overt and unapologetic indifference is an insult that’s hard to ignore. The NFL has always prioritized the profits of the men who own the league’s teams above any other end and has only rarely bothered to conceal that fact. In its simultaneously sincere and delirious self-performance, the NFL rhymes perfectly both with our Trump-y moment and the man himself, from its valorizing of not just money but greed, its blank devotion to bigness, its endless capacity to take offense at every outrage against itself, by “anti-football” doctors revealing the damage the game does to the people who play it, to the kneeling Kaepernick. It makes sense that Trump once owned a football team of his own, the New Jersey Generals of the short-lived USFL; it’s a nice Trumpian touch that the USFL only realized a modest financial return when Trump and his fellow team owners negotiated a buyout at the expense of their far richer NFL counterparts. That the same NFL owners who donated more than any other sports executives to Trump’s inauguration celebration, according to FEC filings, recoil righteously from Kaepernick vulgarly “politicizing” their American Sunday tradition is, mostly, unsurprising. That Trump, in a characteristically beefy ad-lib at a late-September rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange, said he would “love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,’” was, in retrospect, probably inevitable. That he kept mashing away at that (popular) sentiment whenever his poll numbers turned down in the months afterward spoke not just to Trump’s well-documented animal shamelessness but also to the risks of the NFL’s long, strange campaign against its players.
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