Open Thread: Arrogantly Clueless, or Deliberately Evil?

When it comes to the President-Asterisk’s administration, we’ll never be sure! The Washington Post‘s art critic reports “The controversy behind the painting that will hang at Trump’s inaugural luncheon”:

Since Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985, an American painting has served as a backdrop during the inaugural luncheon, at which members of Congress play host to the newly installed president. When Donald Trump is made the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20, George Caleb Bingham’s “The Verdict of the People” will be the chosen painting, hanging on a partition wall behind the ceremonial head table in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

The painting was finished in 1855 by an artist best known for his Mississippi River scenes, which burnished the rough-and-tumble and often violent West into a benign and mythological place, ready for investment, development and full participation in American political life.

“The Verdict of the People,” which shows a large crowd celebrating or mourning election results in a Missouri town, is part of a series of three large canvasses created in the 1850s, each taking up the theme of democratic self- governance… Despite the title, “The Verdict of the People,” and the seeming jubilation of many of the figures in the picture, Bingham was representing a despairing moment in the life of his state, and American politics.

“Bingham is a Whig Painter, using these images to depict a Democratic victory,” says Adam Arenson, associate professor of history at Manhattan College in New York, and an expert on Missouri history. As a Whig, Bingham was anti-slavery while the Democratic Party, at the time, was either proslavery, or complicit in status-quo acceptance of it. “The Verdict of the People” was painted just as Congress passed the disastrous Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which put a future of slavery in Kansas to a popular vote. Thugs from Missouri got in the fray, crossing the border to attack abolitionist settlers. One of the state’s senators, David Atchison, called on his supporters “to kill every Goddamned abolitionist” if necessary to secure Kansas as a slave state.

“Bingham is painting out of a great fear that popular sovereignty and the Kansas-Nebraska act will lead to an irreparable divide in the country,” says Arenson. “It represents a moment when democracy was unable to handle the conflict of the country.”…

And so Bingham’s painting is an almost ideal emblem for a president who came to power on a promise to “Make America Great Again.” Blunt seems to read this painting as a reassuring sign that American electoral politics have always been messy and fractious. But he chose an image that in fact depicts a (likely) proslavery candidate triumphing in the name of an America that denies not only full suffrage, but basic human and constitutional freedoms to its African American population.

The painting’s use at the inauguration also highlights a problem that opponents of the new president will face again and again: Is there method in what appears to be simply blundering cultural ignorance? Is there design in casual remarks and off-the-cuff observations that seem to be deliberately provocative? …

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Appreciate Them While You Can


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What’s on the agenda as we prepare for Countdown Week?

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Speaking of appreciating greatness, even Lord Shortfinger’s Repub ‘teammates’ are noticing that attacking Rep. Lewis might just have been counter-productive… and the decent people are not letting it go:

#Facepalm Read: Andy Griffith’s Home Town Hates & Fears This Modern World

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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I believe I may have discovered the platonic ideal of all “Poor Little WWC Voters!” stories. And because it is from the Washington Post, I strongly suspect its bathetic overkill may be entirely intentional. “How nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump“:

Residents and tourists from far-flung states mill along the thoroughfare, past the quaint low-slung shops made of Mount Airy’s famous white granite and named, like Floyd’s City Barber Shop, for references in “The Andy Griffith Show,” the folksy comedy set in the idyllic fictional small town of Mayberry that first aired in 1960.

And yet even as this city of about 10,000 nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains fills its coffers by selling nostalgia, many of its residents would agree with the now-popular saying “We’re not in Mayberry anymore.”

If only the real Mount Airy, which has experienced decades of economic and social decline, were like the Mayberry facade, muses Mayor David Rowe. If only his city and the rest of America could return to the 1950s again.

“Now it’s about secular progressivism, not the values you get out of this book,” such as honesty and hard work, said Rowe, 72, jabbing his finger at the leather Bible on his office desk.

But as Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, Rowe and many of his constituents are hoping for a return to the past…

Seventy-four percent of white evangelicals believe American culture has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s — more than any other group of Americans — compared with 56 percent of all whites, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. In sharp contrast, 62 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans think the culture has changed for the better, the survey said.

“You think back to the 1990s, and conservative Christians could throw around the phrase ‘moral majority,’ and there was a kernel of truth to that,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive at PRRI and author of “The End of White Christian America.” “Even in 2008, they could say the country is on our side on [same-sex marriage], and that’s changed so quickly in this last decade. The election hit on fundamental questions about what America is and should be.”…

Thomas, who blames the loss of his $75,000-a-year factory job on Obama, now makes $18,000 working in his friend’s gun store and pawnshop. He is hopeful Trump will bring jobs back.

His colleague, Dreama Staples, 53, said people are bringing in their prized possessions to sell so they can buy groceries and gas. At 4.8 percent, the unemployment rate in Surry County is similar to the national figure, but Staples said that finding full-time work with benefits is difficult. She said she has grown angry over what she considers government overreach.

“We’re losing control of our freedoms,” Staples said. “The government was taking away our rights. Taxes are higher, our jobs are gone, and it just feels less Christian.”…

Not everyone is nostalgic for the 1950s.

Ron Jessup, 68, who grew up in Mount Airy during that era, found the place generally friendly then, he said — as long as he and other blacks obeyed the racist laws and social mores of the time.

If African Americans went to the theater, they sat upstairs, he said. If they went to the restaurants, they avoided the counter. “We understood what was considered our place,” said Jessup, who is retired from his job as a high school principal in nearby Winston-Salem. Even now, all five Surry County commissioners are white.
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Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Film News

Last weekend’s snowstorm kept us from getting out to see Hidden Figures, and I felt just a little guilty about not adding to the opening box office numbers. I’m glad it will still be in theaters next weekend!

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Apart from President Obama’s farewell address, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Friday Morning Open Thread: Pioneering Figures

Something I did not know, via McClatchy DC:

More than 100 astronauts have visited the International Space Station since it was first launched in 1998. Of the 101, the U.S. has accounted for 49 of those visitors, a fraction of the hundreds of astronauts NASA has sent into space over the decades.

But now, for the first time ever, an African-American will call the International Space Station home, NASA announced Wednesday.

Jeanette Epps will be part of Expedition 56 to the ISS in 2018 and will remain on board as part of Expedition 57, per a press release. That will make her the first African-American to crew the station, as well as the 13th woman.

Epps has served as an astronaut since 2009 and has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. She has also spent several years as a CIA technical intelligence officer, according to her biography.

NASA’s announcement comes just before the release of the film “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of three African-American women who were pivotal in the launch of the first American into orbit, John Glenn. The movie, which has enjoyed a warm reception from critics, per Rotten Tomatoes, has been praised for its authentic feel and adherence to history, per Space.com

Been looking forward to Hidden Figures for a while now — I’m hoping we can get our schedule in order to see it this weekend.

Apart from happy planning, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the week?
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Today in Stochastic Violence and Terrorism

News started to break yesterday of the horrific kidnapping, brutalization, and torture of a mentally/developmentally disabled Chicago man by four others – one of whom was an acquaintance.

A mentally disabled man attacked and racially taunted on a Facebook Live video was able to leave a West Side apartment after a neighbor complained about the noise and distracted his attackers, authorities said Thursday.

Two of them followed the neighbor downstairs and the 18-year-old victim took the opportunity to leave the building in the 3300 block of West Lexington Street, ending a five-hour ordeal, police said at a news conference.

Officers found the man wandering the streets in the Homan Square neighborhood around 5:15 p.m., police said. “I observed him wearing a tank top, inside-out, backwards, jean shorts and sandals on,” said Officer Michael Donnelly. “He was bloodied, he was battered.

“He was very discombobulated,” he added. “He was injured. He was confused.”

The four perpetrators are facing felony charges, including hate crimes charges:

Four people face felony criminal charges including hate crimes and kidnapping in the brutal beating and torturing of a mentally disabled man that was broadcasted on live on Facebook.

Jordan Hill,18, of Carpentersville; Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago; Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago; and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago; face felony criminal charges of aggravated kidnapping, hate crime; aggravated unlawful restraint; aggravated battery deadly weapon; robbery; PSMV and residential burglary.

Chicago police were made aware of the video Tuesday afternoon. The footage shows the suspects kicking, hitting and cutting the hair of the victim while he was gagged. Shouts of “F*** Trump!” and “F*** white people!” can be heard in the background.

At one point, the victim is held at knife point and told to curse President-elect Donald Trump. The group also forces the victim to drink water from a toilet.

The victim was held hostage for at least 24 hours and as long as 48 hours. Police believe the kidnapping took place in an apartment in the 3400 block of West Lexington on the West Side. Chicago police found the victim “in distress” walking along a street, authorities said.

CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi called the footage “reprehensible.”

What has gotten a lot of play, and some of it absolutely falling in line with preconceived notions and prejudices, is that the victim is White and the perpetrators are African American.

I want to make this very, very clear: people, regardless of ethnicity, what we call race in the US, religion, or any other demographic descriptor we can come up, do horrible, terrible things to their fellow humans. And they do it all the time. In this case the victim/perpetrator realities lined up to provide grist for certain people’s mills, but what happened in Chicago is, unfortunately, not restricted to any one particular ethnicity or religious group. It is also unacceptable. And it would be unacceptable if the victim was African American and the perpetrators were white. Or if the victim was LatinX and the perpetrators were Jewish-American. Or if the victim was LGBTQ and the perpetrators were Asian American. Wrong is wrong is wrong regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin. There is enough evil in the world without looking to shoehorn it into one’s ideological prejudices to score political points.

It is more important now than ever to remember and take to heart the wisdom of President Washington from his Letter to the Jewish Congregations of Newport, Rhode Island:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

 

Late Night Open Thread: The NAACP Does Not Trust Jefferson Beauregard Sessions

Who could blame them?

… “As a matter of conscience and conviction, we can neither be mute nor mumble our opposition to Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions becoming Attorney General of the United States. Senator Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped-up charges of voter fraud,” Brooks said in the statement.

He appeared to be referencing an incident in which Sessions brought 29 charges related to voter fraud and conspiracy against each of three black activists when he was a U.S. attorney in the 1980s. A jury found the activists innocent in a matter of hours.

“As an opponent of the vote, he can’t be trusted to be the chief law enforcement officer for voting rights,” Brooks continued in the statement.

Sessions was rejected from a federal judgeship in 1986 after a former colleague testified during his confirmation hearings that Sessions had made racially insensitive remarks. During those hearings, a Justice Department employee said Sessions had called the ACLU and NAACP “Communist-inspired” and “un-American,” comments for which Sessions said he had “meant no harm.”

And they’re hardly alone, per the Washington Post:

A group of more than 1,100 law school professors from across the country is sending a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general.

The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions on Jan. 10-11…

The professors — from every state except North Dakota and Alaska, which has no law school — highlight the rejection of Sessions’s nomination to a federal judgeship more than 30 years ago. Robin Walker Sterling of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, one of the organizers of the letter, said that 1,000 professors signed on within 72 hours. “Clearly, there are many, many law professors who are very uneasy with the prospect of Attorney General Sessions, and they are willing to take a public stand in opposition to his nomination,” she said…

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire:

It seems that some folks are finding the concept of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions just a tad too 1957 for their liking. Were you a historically minded type, you might even say the idea is encountering massive resistance. Down in Alabama, at Sessions’ local office, the NAACP is taking rather direct action, as CNN informs us.

The protesters arrived earlier Tuesday and said they would stay until Sessions is no longer the nominee or they were arrested.”We are asking the senator to withdraw his name for consideration as attorney general or for the President-elect, Donald Trump, to withdraw the nomination,” Brooks said Tuesday afternoon from Sessions’ office. “In the midst of rampant voter suppression, this nominee has failed to acknowledge the reality of voter suppression while pretending to believe in the myth of voter fraud.” Earlier in the day, Alabama NAACP President Benard Simelton said he and 15-20 others were there “conducting business as usual” and would remain until “Sessions meets our demands or the arrest — whichever he chooses.”…

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