Breaking News Breaking News articles brought to you by History News Network. Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 Zend_Feed_Writer 2 ( $80 Million Dark Money Group Tied to Trump Supreme Court Advisor Leonard Leo A close informal advisor to President Trump who has been deeply involved in all three of his Supreme Court nomination battles is the sole trustee of a mysterious group that brought in more than $80 million in 2018, according to a previously unreported tax return uncovered by CREW. The filing vastly expands the amount of money known to be flowing into the growing constellation of dark money groups tied to Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo and provides new details about his role in a secretive firm that was responsible for one of the largest donations received by President Trump’s inaugural committee.

What makes Rule of Law Trust (RLT) particularly interesting is that despite its $80 million haul, the group seems remarkably hollow. It claimed it had no employees and no volunteers in its first year and listed what appears to be a virtual office in Virginia as its main address. Its stated mission is “to advance conservative principles and causes through communications, research, strategy and assistance to other organizations,” but there’s no apparent public information to demonstrate what that work entails, not even a website.

In an unusual financial arrangement, the group also appears to have channeled nearly all of its $2.7 million in expenditures through the BH Group — an enigmatic firm that, the filing reveals, is partly owned by Leo. The company has long been known to be tied to Leo, but the nature of his role was unknown until now. Just months after it was formed in 2016, the BH Group gave $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee — though the only known funds that it has received during that time came from other dark money groups allied with Leo. The ultimate source of the money remains unknown to this day.

The only other people linked to RLT in the sparse filing are either longtime Federalist Society officials-turned-consultants like Leo, or operatives with a long history working behind the scenes on dark money groups tied to Leo. For example, RLT’s single largest payment in 2018 was a $1.5 million consulting fee paid to Jonathan Bunch, a former vice president of the Federalist Society who has been involved in a number of entities tied to Leo. Bunch is now the president of CRC Advisors, a firm formed by Leo this past January. RLT paid an additional $300,004 to a firm called YAS, LLC for consulting. According to DC government records, the firm is registered to Maria Marshall, a former director of operations at the Federalist Society who currently serves as the vice president of CRC Advisors.



Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
The Real Abbie Hoffman At the end of his autobiography, Soon to be a Major Motion Picture, 60s radical activist Abbie Hoffman includes a sarcastic epilogue retracting everything he has ever believed. At the time he wrote the book, Hoffman was living underground, on the run from the law on drug charges, and he offered to give the following “confession” in exchange for readmission into respectable society: 

You know, I’m really sorry and I wanna come home. I love the flag, blue for truth. White for right. Red for blood our boys shed in war. I love my mother. I was wrong to tell kids to kill their parents… Spoiled, selfish brats made the sixties. Forgive me, Mother. I love Jesus, the smooth arch of his back, his long blond curls. Jesus died for all of us, even us Jews. Thank you, Lord. … I love Israel as protector of Western civilization. Most of my thinking was the result of brainwashing by KGB agents… I hate drugs. They are bad for you. Marijuana has a terrible effect on the brain. It makes you forget everything you learned in school… I only used it to lure young virgins into bed. I’m very ashamed of this. Cocaine is murderous. It makes you sex crazy and gets uneducated people all worked up. Friends are kidding themselves when they say it’s nonaddictive. The nose knows, and the nose says no… Once I burned money at the stock exchange. This was way out of line. People work hard to make money. Even stockbrokers work hard. No one works hard in Bangladesh—that’s why they are starving today and we are not. … Communism is evil incarnate. You can see it in Karl Marx’s beady eyes, long nose, and the sneering smile behind his beard….Our artists are all perverts except, of course, for the late Norman Rockwell. …Our system of democracy is the best in the world… Now can I come back? 

Part of Hoffman’s life is now indeed a major motion picture, Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, written and directed by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is an unfortunate choice to bring Abbie Hoffman to the screen, since Sorkin’s basic worldview is one Hoffman completely rejected. The West Wing is known for showing a faith in good liberal technocrats to govern wisely, yet Hoffman was a “burn down the system” anarchistic radical. Sure enough, Sorkin’s Hoffman is almost the Jesus-loving patriot of the actual Hoffman’s biting satire.

The story of the Chicago 7 is one that needs to be remembered, so we can be glad that Netflix chose to bring it to the screen. After the 1968 Democratic convention, at which antiwar protesters clashed with Chicago police and were savagely beaten, shocking the country, the Nixon administration brought charges against a number of the event organizers. Nixon’s justice department wanted to teach the New Left a lesson in order to demonstrate it was serious about “restoring law and order,” and the charges against the defendants were flimsy. The trial itself was a farce, thanks in part to a biased judge who saw conviction as a foregone conclusion. But the defendants, instead of accepting their fate, decided to use the media attention being paid to the trial to publicize the cause of the antiwar movement, and called an array of celebrity witnesses (Dick Gregory, Allen Ginsberg, Jesse Jackson, Judy Collins, Norman Mailer, Arlo Guthrie, and even former attorney general Ramsey Clark) to “put the government on trial” and turn a political persecution into a media event that would keep the left’s message on the national agenda. Ultimately, while most of the defendants were convicted of conspiracy to riot, the convictions were overturned on appeal and the government dropped the case. The Chicago 7 trial’s historical significance is (1) as an example of the American government trying to criminalize dissent and intimidate the political left through selective prosecution and (2) as an example of how defendants can successfully fight back through turning a trial into a media spectacle and winning in the “court of public opinion.” 

Abbie Hoffman, the most charismatic and media-savvy defendant, was one of the most colorful figures of the ‘60s left. Coming from a serious activist background as part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Hoffman’s Youth International Party (Yippies) engaged in attention-grabbing stunts to publicize left causes. Infamously, Hoffman sneaked into the New York Stock Exchange and dumped dollar bills onto the trading floor, sending brokers scrambling for cash. In a giant antiwar march, he led a group trying to perform an “exorcism” of the Pentagon and send it off into space. At Woodstock, Hoffman scuffled with Pete Townshend of The Who when Hoffman stormed the stage to give a political speech. Hoffman’s Steal This Book gives advice on how to shoplift, deal drugs, and live free through all manner of scams. 


Yet while The Trial of the Chicago 7 is sympathetic to Hoffman, it also softens him in a way that ultimately amounts to historical fabrication. In the climax of Sorkin’s film, Hoffman takes to the stand and defends the protesters actions by invoking Lincoln and Jesus, and gives a tribute to democracy that could have come from The West Wing. “I think our institutions of democracy are a wonderful thing that right now are populated by some terrible people,” he tells the court. In the film, Hoffman is a relatively benign spokesman for the basic right of dissent. 


Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Last Week Tonight: The World Health Organization

John Oliver discusses the crucial role of the World Health Organization, why Donald Trump is skeptical of it, and how his plans to withdraw the United States could have dire consequences.


Content advisory: this segment includes some vulgar language and sexual references. 

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
‘Stunning’ Executive Order Enables Politicized Civil Service President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order to create a new classification of “policy-making” federal employees that could strip swaths of the federal workforce of civil service protections just before the next president is sworn into office.

The order will create a new Schedule F within the excepted service of the federal government, to be composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” and instructs agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them—whether they are members of the competitive service or other schedules within the excepted service—into this new classification. Federal regulations stating that employees hired into the competitive service retain that status even if their position is moved to the excepted service will not apply to Schedule F transfers.

Positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most federal workers currently enjoy, although individual agencies are tasked with establishing “rules to prohibit the same personnel practices prohibited” by Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The order also instructs the Federal Labor Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by federal employee unions.


But federal employee groups and government observers described the executive order as a “stunning” attempt to politicize the civil service and undermine more than a century of laws aimed at preventing corruption and cronyism in the federal government.

“The [1883] Pendleton Act is clearly in the sights of this executive order,” said Donald Kettl, the Sid Richardson professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “It wants to undo what the Pendleton Act and subsequent civil service laws tried to accomplish, which was to create a career civil service with expertise that is both accountable to elected officials but also a repository of expertise in government. The argument here is that anyone involved in policymaking can be swept into this new classification, and once they’re in they’re subject to political review and dismissal for any reason.”

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Burn it All Down: A Growing Number of Liberal Laywers Want More than Court Packing The election to shape the course of the current Supreme Court already happened — it was 2016, with one seat left open by Mitch McConnell’s partisan discipline and two Democratic appointees in their 80s. Now that liberals’ worst nightmare has happened with Ginsburg’s death, Democrats could deploy the insight conservatives long ago hit upon: It’s easier to run against the Court than to preserve the status quo, and your base might care if they lose much of what they hold dear. Or they could do nothing.

Surveying the wreckage, you might ask what took the lawyers so long. Molly Coleman has a few theories. She was one of those starry-eyed students who showed up at law school, in her case Harvard, having absorbed what she calls the “lofty views of ourselves as advancing justice. And you very quickly learn that law school is about power.”

There, the cultural veneration of the courts and judges as infallible runs deep. “Lawyers are raised to believe that lawyers are the heroes,” Christopher Jon Sprigman, a professor at NYU Law School, told me. “And the ultimate lawyer heroes are lawyers in robes.”

Coleman realized, watching her cohort, that the romantic notions of lawyers as Atticus Finch — the principle that everyone deserves legal representation and lawyers shouldn’t be judged by their client’s deeds — was being deployed on behalf of getting rich: “It’s not the person accused of a crime,” she said. “It’s Exxon Mobil.” In 2018, her work organizing against forced arbitration clauses, which among other effects let sexual harassers off the hook, led Coleman to co-found the People’s Parity Project; she’s now its executive director, overseeing multiple campus chapters.

Their work is also up against a clubby social world. Witness former Obama acting solicitor general Neal Katyal vouching for Gorsuch, Yale Law’s Amy Chua calling Kavanaugh a “champion” for women as her daughter was poised to clerk for him, and more recently, Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman devoting a Bloomberg column to saying that Coney Barrett, with whom he clerked on the Supreme Court 20 years ago, was not only “brilliant” but a “sincere, lovely person.”

“The belief in procedural fairness is coupled with a deep deference to institutions and power,” says Leah Litman, a professor at the University of Michigan and co-host of the podcast Strict Scrutiny. A former clerk for Anthony Kennedy, she’s repeatedly broken the omertà by speaking publicly about sexual harassment at the hands of one of Kennedy’s feeder judges, Kavanaugh mentor and former Ninth Circuit judge Alex Kozinski, and for more accountability for judges and lawyers generally. She’s not alone; Yale Law students recently called for Chua’s husband, Jed Rubenfeld, to be removed instead of suspended for sexual harassment, after years of a whisper network.

Litman recently decried the fact that “elite circles of the legal profession seem deeply uncomfortable with doing anything that might hold other elite lawyers accountable for their disregard of various norms or principles.” She was talking about the Trump lawyers who helped enact child separation — former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein has returned to Big Law and is on a speaking tour — but the same could be said for nominations and for the courts themselves.

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Aaron Sorkin Sanitizes the Chicago 7 I confess that I was disheartened when I first heard that Aaron Sorkin, best known as the creator of the TV show The West Wing, was writing and directing a film about the trial of the Chicago Seven. Although much celebrated not just for The West Wing but for his scripts for films like A Few Good Men (1992) and The Social Network (2010), Sorkin struck me as having the exact wrong sensibility for telling the story of radicals fighting the legal system. Spanning the years 1969 and 1970, the Chicago Seven trial involved the federal government trying to convict seven anti-war radicals (Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner) along with Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (whose case was eventually treated separately). All stood accused of fomenting riots during the 1968 Democratic convention. The trial was extremely controversial and polarizing, with many shocking moments, most notoriously when Judge Julius Hoffman ordered Seale shackled and gagged after the defendant repeatedly tried to represent himself in court.

I thought Sorkin was the wrong writer for the job because the Chicago Seven trial is about the deep divisions in American politics, while Sorkin himself has always been celebrator of consensus and civility. The West Wing was a fantasy of bipartisan reconciliation, featuring a liberal president named Josiah Bartlett who found ways of winning over conservative opponents.

As Luke Savage noted in Current Affairs, in The West Wing “Republicans come in two types: slack-jawed caricatures, and people whose high-mindedness and mutual enthusiasm for Putting Differences Aside make them the Bartlett Administration’s natural allies or friends regardless of whatever conflicts of values they may ostensibly have.” In one episode, the Democratic president gets a Republican-dominated Senate to agree to a liberal Supreme Court justice by offering a deal: He guarantees that the next Supreme Court nomination (expected to open up soon because one justice is elderly) will go to a conservative. The limits of Sorkin’s political imagination can be seen in the difference between this imaginary Washington of mutually beneficial cooperation and the way the real GOP has ruthlessly gamed the system to get what will soon be a 6-3 Republican court.

How could someone as committed to the fantasy of American national unity possibly do justice to a story of radicals like Seale and Hoffman who questioned the very validity of the political system?

My misgivings were misplaced—at least in part. Sorkin’s new movie, The Trial of the Chicago 7, currently streaming on Netflix, is in fact very entertaining and shows a greater complexity than his earlier work. The film does a credible job of tracing the trajectory of the trial and highlights the ideological differences between the defendants, with Hoffman (charismatically performed by Sasha Baron Cohen) standing as the leading advocate of in-your-face confrontation while Tom Hayden (played as inward-looking and cerebral by Eddie Redmayne) serves as the voice of trying to work within the rules of system. Surprisingly, Hoffman comes across as the more appealing of the two: He’s warm and has a sharp understanding that a political trial demands revolutionary theater. The film’s Hayden, who has politics that are closer to Sorkin’s own, seems cold and calculating, although he is also the only character who has a narrative arc. Through the course of the movie, he comes to appreciate Hoffman’s more radical politics.

But Sorkin is able to achieve this positive view of the New Left only by sanitizing and romanticizing the historical record. Sorkin takes many liberties with the facts, most of which are designed to make both the New Left and its conservative opponents more palatable to contemporary liberal viewers.

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Watergate Led to Reforms. Now, Would-Be Reformers Believe, So Will Trump After the twin traumas of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal came a period of change in the nation’s capital. The system set about reinventing itself to realign the balance of power, establish new guardrails for those in high office and try to enforce greater accountability.

Two weeks before an election that will determine whether President Trump wins another term or is repudiated by voters, some in both parties are already looking beyond him to map out a similar rewriting of the rules. After four years in which the old post-Watergate norms have been shattered, the would-be reformers anticipate a counterreaction to establish new ones.

“It’s pretty obvious that Trump has, through his actions and words, exposed a number of weaknesses in the normative and legal restraints on the presidency,” said Jack L. Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor. “He has revealed that there are a lot of gaps in presidential accountability and that norms are not as solid as we thought. He has revealed that the presidency is due for an overhaul for accountability akin to the 1974 reforms.”

Mr. Goldsmith, an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush, has teamed up with Robert F. Bauer, a White House counsel under President Barack Obama, to produce what they hope could be a bipartisan blueprint for what such an overhaul would look like. Among their ideas are empowering future special counsels; restricting a president’s pardon power and private business interests; and protecting journalists from government intimidation.


The historical precedent traces back to the 1970s when Congress responded to Vietnam, Watergate and C.I.A. revelations with a raft of legislation, including the War Powers Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Privacy Act, the Inspector General Act, the Civil Service Reform Act, the Presidential Records Act, the Ethics in Government Act that provided for independent counsels and updated versions of the Federal Election Campaign Act and Freedom of Information Act.

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Under External Investigation, N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans Wage an Internal Civil War In March 2019, Bill Starnes emailed his neo-Confederate colleagues to discuss what he saw as a need for more political influence in their movement. 

Thanks to law enforcement, “it is not likely our current struggle will require the use of weapons to any high degree,” wrote Starnes, a lead officer and de facto enforcer for the North Carolina division of Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc. Instead, Starnes urged his membership to take steps toward greater political involvement, including one they could take immediately: Give more money to the NC Heritage PAC, a pro-Republican fundraising outfit that he and other N.C. SCV leaders had been running for years. 

“We have men there,” Starnes wrote. “We can immediately provide them with funds to get the right folks in office.”

Less than a year after Starnes sent that email, the State Board of Elections opened an investigation into the political action committee. A coup-minded crusade of current and former N.C. SCV members exposed the operation from within, intensifying a schism in the group that has taken an increasingly public face ever since.

Now, Board of Elections Investigator Matthew Martucci has what one neo-Confederate describes as “a thick-ass file” in an ongoing investigation that’s scrutinizing the N.C. SCV for running the Heritage PAC in violation of its own tax-exempt status, and funding it through a separate illegal scheme for years, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, including the PAC’s co-treasurer and a dissenting SCV member who is assisting the investigation. Martucci declined to comment. 

Since its inception in early 2016, the Heritage PAC has allowed the neo-Confederate group to raise money from its underlings, shuffle it to supportive Republicans under a different name, and avoid paying taxes on the effort by exploiting nonprofit law. The Heritage PAC has given at least $28,500 to various Republican campaign committees since it launched, including $3,500 to Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler—who has for years ensured a booth for the N.C. SCV at the Raleigh State Fair—and $2,500 to both House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. 

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
‘It’s Negligence’: U. of Michigan Students Ordered to ‘Stay in Place’ After Covid-19 Cases Surge Faced with a steep rise in Covid-19 cases, the local county health department has issued an emergency “stay in place” order for all undergraduates at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, effective immediately.

The decision by the Washtenaw County Health Department — which was supported by university officials — comes after a series of dorm outbreaks that fueled a dramatic increase in cases of the virus on campus.

The surge in infections on the campus contributed to a “critical” situation overall in Ann Arbor, according to local health officials, who noted that university students now represent more than 60 percent of local cases.

Some of that Covid spread is a result of Michigan students partying irresponsibly. But university leaders have also been roundly criticized for failing to take enough precautions when reopening.

The 14-day health-department order allows students to attend class, but they cannot socialize. The order will not affect the University of Michigan Wolverines’ football schedule.

University officials on Tuesday pledged to provide additional safety options for students and instructors, including moving more undergraduate courses to online instruction for the remainder of the semester.

This latest effort to control Covid at Michigan may or may not work. But in the meantime, frustrations on campus are growing.


Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Former Democratic power broker James A. Johnson dies at 76 MINNEAPOLIS — James A. Johnson, a former Democratic campaign operative who was CEO of housing lender Fannie Mae in the 1990s and served as chairman of Walter Mondale’s presidential bid, died Sunday at his home in Washington. He was 76.

Johnson’s son, Alfred, confirmed that his father had died, telling The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal that the cause was complications from a neurological condition.

A native of Benson, Minnesota, and the son of a prominent state lawmaker, Johnson had a political, cultural and business resume that prompted Harold M. Ickes, President Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, to dub him “the chairman of the universe.” Johnson chaired the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Brookings Institution think tank and Fannie Mae all at the same time.

Besides running Mondale’s failed run for the White House against Ronald Reagan in 1984, Johnson was a key player in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy, Edmund Muskie and George McGovern.

He turned his political savvy into business success. David O. Maxwell, former head of Fannie Mae, hired Johnson as vice chairman in 1990, after Johnson had helped the company hold off privatization efforts by the Reagan administration. Johnson was promoted to chairman and CEO the next year.


Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
US Justices Won't Take Case Over 1946 Georgia Lynching Records The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it would not hear a case stemming from a historian’s efforts to learn about the 1946 lynching of four Black people in Georgia.

In March, the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled by an 8-4 vote that a lower court judge was wrong to release records from the grand jury that investigated the killing of the two Black couples at the Moore’s Ford Bridge in Walton County. Their deaths 74 years ago, for which no one was held accountable, are considered one of the precursors to the civil rights movement.

The Eleventh Circuit majority upended a 1984 precedent, known as Hastings, 735 F.2d 1261, which allowed the release of grand jury records in an “exceptional situation.” Under similar reasoning, courts have released grand jury transcripts in historically significant cases, including those involving Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, President Richard Nixon and union leader Jimmy Hoffa. In 2017, Judge Marc Treadwell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia said the Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching qualified as an exception, too.

In 2019, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit voted 2-1 to uphold Treadwell’s ruling. But the en banc ruling from March voided that decision.

Lawyers for the wife of the historian, who has since died, and another historian who renewed the requests for the records were Joseph J. Bell and Paul W. Armstrong of Bell & Shivas of Rockaway, New Jersey.

Bell emailed on Monday afternoon that he was “deeply saddened that the Court missed a historic opportunity to correct a horrible injustice.”


The historians could rely on a new law, the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018, which allows a review board to authorize the release of records from cases such as the Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching.

Bell said he plans to apply to the cold case commission to see the records or ask for a rules change with the federal courts committee that govern criminal procedure. “When a door closes somehow a window will open,” he said.

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Baseball’s Race Problem Roger Angell, who turned 100 in this year of pandemic and upheaval, is one of the best and most beloved writers on baseball, in large part because of his lyrical, sinewy prose. Over the decades, he has cogently analyzed the “summer game” and its importance to American life. Baseball, he wrote, boasts “the most enviable corporate image in the world.” Its evocations, overtones, and loyalties, firmly planted in the mind of every American male during childhood and nurtured thereafter by millions of words of free newspaper publicity, appear to be unassailable. It is the national pastime. It is youth, springtime, a trip to the country, part of our past. It is the roaring excitement of huge urban crowds and the sleepy green afternoon silences of midsummer.

Without effort, it engenders and thrives on heroes, legends, self-identification, and hometown pride.

Yet even as far back as 1964, when Angell wrote those words, he knew that this bucolic corporate image had been smudged and distorted by exploding television revenues and the owners’ avarice for newer, more profitable locations for their teams. The brusque departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants for the West Coast seven years before, he wrote, left those teams’ fans bereft and with “the new knowledge that baseball’s executives cared only for the profits inherent in novelty and new audiences, and sensed no obligation whatever…to the fans who had built their business.” Still, because much of the American psyche was for so long tethered to baseball, the game remained at the very least a symbol of national continuity, even consensus.

Whether you liked baseball or not, you at least knew what it was, how it was played (three strikes, etc.), what it represented, who its stars were. And how you related to it (or didn’t) still connected you to a part of the country’s soul. Despite more shifts of franchises and players from one city to another, despite Astroturf, cocaine, collusion, strikes, steroids, Pete Rose’s gambling bug, Al Campanis’s bigoted ramblings, and tackle football’s all but total conquest of America’s athletic dream life, baseball endured. If none of those could kill the grand old game, it can certainly withstand a mutilated regular season with cardboard cutouts in the stands instead of people.

What was also telling in 1964 was that the racial integration of baseball that the owners had fought—even after Jackie Robinson first took the field for the Dodgers in 1947—had altered more than just major league rosters. Black players brought to major league ball a kind of base-running dynamism and defensive flair that hadn’t been prevalent since the early 20th century, before Babe Ruth went to the New York Yankees in 1920 and inaugurated the boom, so to speak, of home-run appeal. The contrast between 1964’s National League pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals, with their roster of slick, speedy, and strong Black stars like Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Curt Flood, and their American League counterparts, the once-mighty and soon-to-decline New York Yankees, with an aging roster that featured Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford, demonstrated how far the AL still lagged the senior circuit in signing African Americans. (The Cards won a tough seven-game World Series, with Gibson’s gritty pitching sealing the deciding game.)

Today, more than half a century after Black Americans helped reenergize the sport, baseball once again has a color problem: a steep decline of African American interest and participation in the game. The trend was most trenchantly detailed in a 2015 visual essay for HBO’s muckraking Real Sports by comedian Chris Rock, who argued that such problems have their roots precisely among the nuances, subtleties, and grace notes nostalgically exalted by the Roger Angells of the world. Rock is a middle-aged New York Mets fan, as am I. And as 50-and-over Black baseball fans, we are in no way happy with—but also in no way surprised by—the difficulties that baseball has connecting with younger fans, Black and white.

“Baseball,” Rock said, “wants everything to stay the way things used to be. But the world has sped up, but the game is slower than ever…. It’s old-fashioned and stuck in the past…. [It’s] the only game where there’s a right way to play the game: the white way. The way it was played a hundred years ago, when only whites were allowed to play.”


ed note: the author identifies Peru as a "powerhouse" for producing professional baseball players. There is currently one Peruvian Major League baseball player. It is likely he meant "Venezuela" or "Colombia." 

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Human Remains Found in Search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Victims  


A state archaeological team announced Tuesday they've located human remains in their search for victims from the 1921 Race Massacre.

The team said the remains were recovered during the search at Oaklawn Cemetery.

They said they have a positive identification as of this morning and they located an intact grave shaft.

State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said they are in the process of analyzing the remains.


Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Ukraine Seeks UN Cultural Status for Beloved Borscht. A Culinary Spat with Russia Could be Brewing KYIV, Ukraine — The chef said he didn't intend to start an Eastern European culinary clash.

But that’s what happened after 33-year-old Ievgen Klopotenko fired the equivalent of a gastronomic cannon shot: starting an effort to have borscht recognized as part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage by the United Nations’ cultural agency.

To the uninitiated, borscht is a humble, reddish beet soup, often served with a generous dollop of sour cream on top. But in its simplicity is a cultural significance that transcends borders.

A pot of borscht, simmering away on the stove during the long winter months, is a mainstay across many parts of Eastern Europe, and a cornerstone of the region’s concept of home and hearth.

Many countries claim the dish as central to their culinary tradition. However, what has previously been a debate on low boil now threatens to bubble over.

The disagreement over who is steward of borscht heritage has primarily been between Kyiv and Moscow — amplified since 2014 by Ukraine’s battle against Kremlin-supported militants in its East, a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people over six years.

Klopotenko said that his actions were inspired by the commonly held impression outside of Ukraine that borscht is a Russian dish. A tweet from the Russian Foreign Ministry last year called the soup one of the country’s “most famous and beloved dishes.”

“Russia, as usual, is changing the facts. They want to make borscht their own. But it’s not true,” Klopotenko said on the terrace of his Kyiv restaurant, which specializes in modern-day versions of traditional, and sometimes long-forgotten, Ukrainian dishes.

But he doesn’t fear any Russian repercussions for his UNESCO campaign. “They’re already at war with us,” he said. “What’s the worst they can do?”

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Shouting Matches, Partisan Rallies, Guns at Polling Places: Tensions High at Early-Voting Sites During a pro-Trump rally earlier this month in Nevada City, Calif., enthusiastic supporters in cars and trucks crowded into the parking lot of the county government center.

As many as 300 people played music, cheered and called out through a megaphone, according to Natalie Adona, a county election official who could see the gathering from her second-floor office at the Eric Rood Administration Center.

But unlike usual Trump rallies, this one was happening at the site of one of the most popular drive-up ballot boxes in the county. And early voting was already underway.

That afternoon, voters were forced to navigate through the pro-Trump crowd, and some felt the electioneering amounted to voter intimidation.

In an election year clouded with anxieties about voter intimidation and the possibility of election-related violence, the first days of early voting have unfolded with dozens of accusations of inappropriate campaigning and possible voter intimidation in at least 14 states. The reports, though anecdotal, illustrate the tensions unfolding as more than 33 million Americans have already cast ballots two weeks before Election Day.

Election officials say voting has progressed relatively smoothly considering the upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic and a bitterly divided electorate. But a wide array of complaints have been reported around the country, according to tips reviewed by ProPublica’s Electionland project and shared with other news organizations including The Washington Post, and incidents reported by local media.


Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
New PBS Documentary on New York Gossip Columnist Walter Winchell  


A new American Masters documentary Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip traces the life and career of Walter Winchell, an American journalist, columnist, radio news commentator and television host who invented the fast-paced, gossip driven, politically charged media culture with massive audience and influence in the U.S. from 1930s to 1950s. He was said to be America’s most feared and admired man at the time and had the power to make or break careers. Directed by Ben Loeterman and presented by PBS, the documentary tapped Stanley Tucci as the voice of Winchell and Whoopi Goldberg as the narrator and utilizes recordings and digitized collection of Winchell’s work to reconstruct the life of a pioneer in the field of journalism. “Walter Winchell is the architect of modern American media,” says biographer and film interviewee Neal Gabler in a press statement, “He turned journalism into a form of entertainment.”

Born in New York City in 1897 to Jewish immigrants, Winchell launched his gossip columnist career when one of the documents he produced for a theatre bulletin board, which were neatly typed, punctuated and consisted of far-fetched puns, was noticed by the publisher of Vandeville News, and he was offered a full-time job in 1927, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. His column at the tabloid New York Evening Graphic and his snappy, acerbic banter procured him his widely syndicated column at the New York Daily Mirror and a weekly radio program. He invented many slangs such as “pashing it” and “garbo-ing it” and wrote and spoke in Broadway idiom. His opinionated news reports attracted millions of people, and he was viewed as one of America’s most prolific phrase-makers.

“Winchell’s is the origin story of fake news; there could not be a timelier moment to unpack it for a wide audience,” Loeterman wrote in an American Masters essay. Loeterman wrote that Winchell was good at spinning tales about celebrities and trading gossips with friends. He had at times attacked famous people who had offended him or any of his affiliates, which eventually led to many people’s downfalls. Yet, his populist agenda had brought to light bureaucratic injustices amongst the rich and the powerful, which put him on President Franklin Roosevelt’s radar. Roosevelt recruited Winchell in 1933 and asked him to persuade an isolationist American public that the U.S. government should increasingly ramp up its intervention in Europe as facist powers were gaining grounds. “Too bad that a man like Hitler can rise so high in politics, who hates so intensely…. His hatred of the Israelites is contemptible,” Winchell wrote.


Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Northam Calls for VMI Investigation after Black Cadets Describe Relentless Racism Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered an investigation into the culture at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday after Black cadets and alumni described relentless racism at the nation’s oldest state-supported military college.

The governor, who graduated in VMI’s Class of 1981, co-wrote a letter to the college’s Board of Visitors informing it that the state will fund an independent probe into the school’s treatment of its Black students.

His action followed a Washington Post story detailing a lynching threat, Klan reminiscences and Confederacy veneration at the Lexington school, whose cadets fought and died for the slaveholding South during the Civil War.

The letter — signed by Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), and several House and Senate leaders, including Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), the chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus — said the state is directing an “independent, third-party review” of what officials called “the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism at the Virginia Military Institute.”


Black cadets make up about 8 percent of VMI’s 1,700 students. The school, which was founded in 1839 and became the last public college in Virginia to integrate in 1968, received nearly $19 million in state funds this past fiscal year.

The campus’s main Parade Ground features two statues of enslavers — Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who taught at VMI, and the school’s first superintendent, Francis H. Smith, who believed Black people should be resettled in Africa. Until a few years ago, freshmen were required to salute the Jackson statue, which sits in front of the student barracks.

In The Post article, Black students and alumni described an atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity. One Black woman, who graduated in the Class of 2019, filed a complaint against her White business professor who reminisced in class about her father’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan — and how they had “the best parties ever.”

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
After Chicago 7 Trial, Mrs. Jean Fritz Helped Change the Course of History This is a good time to remember Mrs. Jean Fritz.

Fritz was a juror in the Chicago 7 trial, which is back in the news thanks to Aaron Sorkin’s movie, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which debuted Friday on Netflix. It’s a story that has been told many times, typically with the focus on the men accused of coming to Chicago in 1968 to incite a riot during the Democratic National Convention.

You may know some of their names. Abbie Hoffman. Tom Hayden. Jerry Rubin. But Mrs. Jean Fritz? That name, as she was often referred to back then, is less familiar. She was one of the so-called ordinary people chosen to sit in judgment of those famous men.

I wrote a long story on Fritz a couple of years ago, based on the journals she kept while on the jury. They’re a remarkable record of a woman and of the times, and of how the times changed her. When the trial started, in September 1969, Fritz was what the press referred to as a “housewife.” In truth, she also worked alongside her husband at their Western Auto store in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. She was 51, had three daughters, wore her hair in the bouffant style and taught Methodist Sunday school. She considered herself politically moderate, but in the 1960 election voted for the Republican, Richard Nixon, who lost to the Democrat, John F. Kennedy.

By the time of the trial, during Nixon’s eventual presidency, the country was driven by fear and anger, a state of division and disarray that was remarkably like today’s, yet different. The news back then was of war in Vietnam, the fight for civil rights, street riots and rebellions, political assassinations, cries for law and order, a clash of generations.

A common conservative view of the era was reflected in a Chicago Tribune opinion piece that characterized Woodstock, the 1969 summer music festival, as “a Saturnalia attended by hundreds of thousands of frenzied aberrants of the human species.”

Fritz was not conservative in that way, but she expressed a conventional attitude when, early in her trial journals, she noted her fear that young people didn’t share her appreciation for “the most wonderful country in the world.”

“Have always had a great love for my country,” she wrote. “Always get chills when I see a parade and the flag goes by. What is happening today?”

But as the trial went on, as she heard how protesters were mistreated by police and deceived by government informants, her mind opened and her fears shifted.

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Despite Everything, People Still Have Weddings at ‘Plantation’ Sites The question of the use of these historical sites across the South is not settled.

Ashley Rogers, who is white and from North Carolina, is the executive director of the nonprofit Whitney Plantation in Wallace, La.

“We are an educational institution. And that’s how we see ourselves, that we are here to provide context and education around the history of slavery and race relations in this country,” Ms. Rogers said. “Everything that we do has to really be in support of that mission.”

Weddings are not a part of that mission. “There is a moral and a right thing,” she said.

She said the common justification that weddings and other social events support educational programming is “fiction.”

“You have to dedicate whole teams to sales and coordinating the events and either you buy all of the equipment or you’re renting equipment. It’s a huge cost,” she said. “You really have to pour a lot of resources into just running your events and wedding business.”

At Whitney, she said coordinating wedding events on site would redirect “all of my energy or a significant portion of my energy into doing a thing that is counter to my mission.”

“We have to grind against this really entrenched idea of white supremacy, of the glory of the Old South,” she said. “Having a wedding in 2019 or 2020 in front of these gorgeous colonnades on a plantation, all it does is reinforce the idea that what a plantation is: a beautiful home — when it’s not. It’s a labor camp.”

Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0
Why Do Witches Ride Brooms? The History Behind the Legend The evil green-skinned witch flying on her magic broomstick may be a Halloween icon—and a well-worn stereotype. But the actual history behind how witches came to be associated with such an everyday household object is anything but dull.

It’s not clear exactly when the broom itself was first invented, but the act of sweeping goes back to ancient times, when people likely used bunches of thin sticks, reeds and other natural fibers to sweep aside dust or ash from a fire or hearth. As J. Bryan Lowder writes, this household task even shows up in the New Testament, which dates to the first and second centuries A.D.

The word broom comes from the actual plant, or shrub, that was used to make many early sweeping devices. It gradually replaced the Old English word besom, though both terms appear to have been used until at least the 18th century. From the beginning, brooms and besoms were associated primarily with women, and this ubiquitous household object became a powerful symbol of female domesticity.

Despite this, the first witch to confess to riding a broom or besom was a man: Guillaume Edelin. Edelin was a priest from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. He was arrested in 1453 and tried for witchcraft after publicly criticizing the church’s warnings about witches. His confession came under torture, and he eventually repented, but was still imprisoned for life.

By the time of Edelin’s “confession,” the idea of witches riding around on broomsticks was already well established. The earliest known image of witches on brooms dates to 1451, when two illustrations appeared in the French poet Martin Le Franc’s manuscript Le Champion des Dames (The Defender of Ladies). In the two drawings, one woman soars through the air on a broom; the other flies aboard a plain white stick. Both wear head scarves that identify them as Waldensians, members of a Christian sect founded in the 12th century who were branded as heretics by the Catholic Church, partly because they allowed women to become priests.


Sat, 24 Oct 2020 16:08:56 +0000 0