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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 106

[ 26 ] July 17, 2017 |

This is the grave of Charles Pillsbury.

Born in New Hampshire in 1842, Pillsbury graduated from Dartmouth in 1863. Rather than fight in the Civil War, Pillsbury moved to Quebec, where he worked for the next 6 years as a clerk and then as a partner in a mercantile firm. A lot of Midwestern grain was processed in Quebec so he figured he would have some opportunities there and moved to Minneapolis in 1869. He worked for his uncle in flour milling for awhile and was thinking about how he could improve upon it. He did so by transforming the technology to become more efficient and producing a high quality flour. He started the Pillsbury Corporation in 1872 and soon became the nation’s largest flour producer. It also significantly changed the agricultural economy of the northern states by creating a strong market for its spring wheat, which was before this a secondary production to southern winter wheat. He traveled to Europe to see the largest flour mills there and reproduced them in Minneapolis. He produced ever larger and more efficient mills and began selling his wheat around the world. Now wealthy, he ran for the Minnesota state senator in 1878 and won, serving until 1897. It helped that his uncle was governor as he rose. He became chair of the Finance Committee and was a typical Gilded Age capitalist who used politics to promote his own business interests. He sold the controlling interest in his mills to a large British company in 1889 but remained in control of them.

Pillsbury died of a bad heart in 1899.

Pillsbury did produce specific Pillsbury products, but the modern ubiquity of Pillsbury as a brand of baked cake mixes and the like originated mostly in the 1950s. The Pillsbury Doughboy originated in 1965. The name is probably far more famous today than it was during Pillsbury’s life, although he certainly became wealthy enough at the time.

Charles Pillsbury is buried in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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The President is a 6 Year Old Boy

[ 86 ] July 17, 2017 |

Trump gets back in big trucks.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 105

[ 16 ] July 16, 2017 |

This is the grave of Elbridge Gerry.

Born in 1744 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Gerry grew up in a Massachusetts elite merchant family. He gradated from Harvard in 1762 and received an M.A. from the same institution in 1765. He was an early supporter of anti-British sentiment, working with Sam Adams, John Hancock, and others by 1770. He used his business contacts to help fund the American Revolution, served in the Second Continental Congress, and supported the Declaration of Independence. He served at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and to his credit strongly opposed the Three-Fifths Compromise. He actually was only of only 3 delegates to vote against the Constitution as it was written, fearing the lack of individual liberties in the proposed government. He fought hard for the Bill of Rights to amend the flawed document, especially the inclusion of freedom of assembly in the First Amendment and for the Fourth Amendment. He really tried to stay away from the developing political party system after the Revolution, holding very strongly the antipathy to political parties common among the Founders. He supported Alexander Hamilton’s financial plans but disliked the monarchical inclinations of the man and his supporters. He was chosen by John Adams to be a representative to France in what became known as the XYZ Affair because he was so known for his impartiality. Finally, in 1800, he joined the Democratic-Republicans as a response to his discomfort with Federalist centralization of power and because Federalist partisans had attacked him over his role in the XYZ Affair, claiming he was pro-French, which was proven not true when he published his correspondence with Talleyrand. He then served as governor of Massachusetts for a couple of years.

But let’s quit beating around the bush. There is one reason why Gerry is important today, and that is what became known as gerrymandering. The overall connection to him for this is a bit unfair. He was governor in 1812 and the state legislature adopted new electoral boundaries that were highly partisan. He signed the bill. Federalists protesting their exclusion from power called it “gerrymandering” and the term stuck. It also contributed to his defeat for reelection in 1812. No matter, as James Madison chose him to be Vice-President. He served in that role until 1814, when he died.

In conclusion, this fellow’s signing of that 1812 bill has caused us no problems in the present.

Elbridge Gerry is buried in Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

This Day in Labor History: July 16, 1931

[ 9 ] July 16, 2017 |

On July 16, 1931, a white mob murdered the black sharecropper organizer Ralph Gray in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. This murder demonstrated both the very real communist organizing among black sharecroppers in Alabama and the extent that whites would go to keep control of their rural labor force, eight decades after the Civil War.

Gray was born into a family with a long history of fighting for black rights. His grandfather had served in the Alabama state legislature during Reconstruction. Gray was born in 1873 and had fought for his own personal survival through the terrible oppression that defined his life. He moved to Birmingham for awhile before returning to Tallapoosa in 1895 to get married and become a tenant farmer. In 1919, he set out again for a better life, but ended up sharecropping in Oklahoma and New Mexico over the next decade, unable to get ahead. He returned home in 1929. He managed to scrape together a small amount of money, bought a little land and even an automobile. He took out a federal loan in 1931 to rent a farm from a local white farmer. The check was supposed to be split between the two men. The white landowner stole Gray’s half. Gray took the case to the Agricultural Extension Service. The landowner was outraged and attempted to beat Gray. But Gray fought back and did the beating himself.

By this time, the Depression was decimating southern farmers and the worst of it was among sharecroppers. Gray began reading the Communist Party’s southern paper Southern Worker. He declared himself a communist and wanted to start a sharecroppers’ union. The Communist Party, probably the most important majority white organization in the United States fighting for racial equality, even if it had its own form of racial blinders, was attempting to organize southern workers no matter the race. Gray and his brother wrote to the CP, requesting an organizer come help them. That organizer was Mack Coad, an illiterate Birmingham steelworker and communist. He came at a good time. Tallapoosa County white landowners, having all the crops planted by mid-May, decided to withhold credit and food from black farmworkers to force them to work in a new sawmill. The outrage over this led to significant interest in the Communists from these black workers, as was happening in many places in Alabama during the early 1930s. Gray and Coad started a local branch of the Croppers’ and Farm Workers Union (CFWU), which soon had 800 members.

The sheer idea of black organizing outraged the local white elite and they acted with the brutality all too typical of the South. On July 15, the CFWU held a meeting to discuss the Scottsboro Boys’ case, the famous trial against nine African-Americans for raping two white women on a train, a charge for which they were completely innocent and which became a major cause on the left in 30s. The Scottboro Boys had been sentenced to death five days earlier and the movement to support them was beginning. About 80 people showed up to hear Coad discuss the case. Sheriff Kyle Young created a posse to violently eliminate this growing threat to the white political, economic, and racial power structure in Tallapoosa County. They went to the meeting house and brutally beat many of the people there, scattering everyone else. They then went to the home of Tommy Gray, brother of Ralph. There they beat him and his wife, breaking her skull. Ralph Gray ran in armed and dispersed the posse. Showing incredible bravery, the next evening about 150 people gathered for another meeting with Coad. Armed sentries guarded the building. Ralph Gray was among those standing guard. When Young and his deputies showed up to the meeting, they confronted Gray. Shots rang out. Gray had shot Young with buckshot in the stomach while Gray laid on the ground with wounds to his legs.

Coad and others carried Gray back to his home and barricaded themselves inside. A new posse developed led by police chief J.M. Wilson. The exchange of fire lasted for some time and gave everyone but Gray the chance to escape. He evidently told his comrades to leave him. When the posse walked in to his house, someone put a gun down his throat and fired. They then burned his house and dumped his body on the steps of the courthouse in Dadeville. Armed whites then used his body for target practice. In the repressive aftermath, between 34 and 58 African-American men were arrested over the next few days. Most were charged with conspiracy to murder and carrying a concealed weapon, but 5 union leaders were charged with assault to murder. White mobs roamed the countryside murdering blacks and burning their homes. Dozens were killed or wounded.

Coad escaped to Atlanta. After a local black minister accused her of hiding ammunition, the police broke the back of Estelle Milner. These local mobs were whipped up by the white power elite in Alabama. The Birmingham Age-Herald ran a story titled “Negro Reds Reported Advancing” with claims that eight carloads of black communists were heading for Tallapoosa to help the sharecroppers. Of course, these stories were accompanied with fears of black men raping white women and all the usual race-baiting. None of this was true but whites created a mob to stop traffic entering the county.

Local black leaders and white liberals blamed white communists for all of the violence, saying that sharecroppers were docile and would never start such a thing. Moreover, they said Ralph Gray was contaminated with foreign ideas from his time in Oklahoma and New Mexico, as if those states were somehow less politically nightmarish than Alabama. Walter White and the NAACP went so far to accuse the communists of using the NAACP’s name to organize the sharecroppers after white Alabama blamed that organization as well. The Communist Party planned to go all-in to defend their members in prison. Alabama elites, already feeling the pressure over the Scottsboro Boys, wanted the charges dropped and after several delays, they were released and their hearings postponed indefinitely.

None of this had led to any concrete gains for the sharecroppers but it also did not stop the organizing. On August 6, 55 communist sharecroppers, including Ralph Gray’s brother Tommy, met in Tallapoosa and reorganized. The Communist Party would continue seeing success in organizing rural black workers in the Alabama through the rest of the decade.

I’m sure it will shock everyone that Tallapoosa County went 70-28 for Donald Trump in 2016.

I borrowed from Robin D.G. Kelley’s seminal Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression in the writing of this post. You should read this book.

This is the 231st post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z

[ 50 ] July 15, 2017 |

A deep exploration on what might be The Simpsons’ finest moment.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 104

[ 198 ] July 15, 2017 |

This is the grave of Omar Bradley.

I don’t have indifference to military history, I have open hostility to it and to the people who find interest in utterly pointless details of military operations. I suppose military history could be theoretically interesting, but it’s purveyors are so hidebound that it’s become a complete backwater of the historical profession, filled with people who are hostile to the historiographical and theoretical innovations that have transformed the writing of history in the last half-century. So let me see how quickly I can get through this.

Born in 1893 in rural Missouri, Omar Bradley was an important general. He led some big battles in World War II as the commander of ground forces in Europe. He became head of the Veterans Administration in 1945 and did a lot of quality work on health care for returning veterans. Then he became Joint Chief of Staff under Harry Truman in 1949 where he was the chief policy maker for the military during the Korean War. He openly rebuked Douglas MacArthur’s craziness during that war, perhaps the most important he ever did given the bloodlust MacArthur and other lunatics had to take the war into China. He retired in 1953 but remained active in military policy until his death in 1981. He was a strong hawk on Vietnam and advised Lyndon Johnson to pursue the war with vigor. That worked out great.

That seems like enough on Bradley to me. Those of you who care about World War II battles can tell me why I’m not only wrong, but a jerk too.

Omar Bradley is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

The Workers Making Ivanka Brand Clothing

[ 8 ] July 14, 2017 |

I’ve said previously that the attention to the sweatshops where Ivanka-brand clothing is produced is valuable because it’s finally bringing attention again to the horrible conditions in which most of the products Americans buy are made. But this very deep dive and wonderful piece of journalism demonstrates that if anything, the Ivanka brand is even worse than the average American apparel manufacturer in caring about conditions in their supply chain. And let’s be clear, the average American apparel manufacturer is far worse than the average European manufacturer, largely because European citizens have put more pressure on their corporations than Americans, who can’t even find Bangladesh on a map. Here’s just one section from this must-read piece.

The dangers to workers who try to seek better labor conditions are especially acute in China, where activists say heavy surveillance and police presences are used to protect company profits and the country’s lucrative reputation as the “factory of the world.”

Ivanka Trump’s products have been made in more than two dozen factories across China since 2010, shipping data show.

Yen Sheng, a Hong Kong-based company with factories in Dongguan where workers are paid between $190 and $289 a month, has shipped thousands of pounds of Ivanka Trump cowhide-leather handbags and other items since 2015, customs records show.

Employees in Dongguan told The Post that the company withholds sick pay unless they are hospitalized and avoids paying overtime by outsourcing work to the unregulated one-room factories that dot Dongguan’s back streets. But pressing for change is not an option, they said.

“If you don’t work, other people will,” one woman at the company’s Dongguan subsidiary Yen Hing Leather Works said. “If you protest, the company will ask the police to handle it. The owner is very rich. He can ask the police to come.”

Trump brand executives said its products are not made at Yen Hing. A manager at the Dongguan factory, Huang Huihong, told The Post that its workers have produced Ivanka Trump goods in the past.

Officials at Yen Hing denied the workers’ allegations, saying they “strictly follow the laws in our business operation.” Mondani, the Trump brand’s handbag supplier, did not respond to requests for comment.

The work conditions at Chinese factories that make Trump’s products have gained public attention in recent weeks after the detentions of three activists from a group called China Labor Watch who were investigating the facilities. The group said it found evidence at one facility of laborers working 18-hour days and enduring verbal abuse from managers, allegations that the Chinese factory denied.

Chinese authorities accused the activists of using illegal surveillance equipment and suggested they might have been selling commercial secrets to foreign entities. They were released on bail in late June. A trial is pending.

The State Department denounced the arrests, saying that labor rights activists “have been instrumental in helping . . . American companies understand the conditions involving their supply chains.”

Li Qiang, the group’s executive director, said it had never faced such police pressure in nearly two decades of experience investigating factories and said he believes this case was handled differently because “this is Ivanka Trump’s factory.”

Hua Haifeng, one of the detained activists, told The Post after his release, “The first question the police asked was to the effect of ‘whether you know it’s Ivanka Trump’s factory and then came here to investigate.’ ” Local police officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Li’s group says it has sent four letters since April to Ivanka Trump at the White House detailing the working conditions in the factory and asking for her to advocate for their colleagues.

Deng Guilian, Hua’s wife, also pleaded with Trump to intervene, telling The Post, “For her, it’s just a matter of a few words, but those few words would save the entire family.”

Of all the Trumps, the only one who matches Donald in being a grifter is Ivanka, unlike her moron brothers who make AJ Soprano look brilliant. Ivanka’s utter bullshit about caring about workers and women is complete garbage and needs to be called out. Moreover, we need to use these stories to advocate for a completely new system within supply chains that hold people like Ivanka Trump legally accountable for what happens in making their products, including giving global workers the right to advocate for themselves in American courts. Maybe I should send Ivanka a copy of Out of Sight. I’m sure it will be well-received!

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 103

[ 65 ] July 14, 2017 |

This is the grave of Henry McCarty, aka, William Bonney, aka, Billy the Kid.

Billy the Kid was a murderous thug who achieved the Old West fame that eastern urban Americans were just eating up in the late 19th and early 20th century. Born in Manhattan, of all places for a western murderer to be birthed, in 1859, his father died at some point early in his life and his mother moved to Indianapolis. Why anyone chooses to move to Indianapolis without a really good reason, in the 1860s or 2010s, is unknown to modern scholars. Anyway, his mother remarried in 1873 and the family moved to Wichita, then Santa Fe, and then Silver City, New Mexico Territory. It was there that Billy began his life of violence. His mother died in 1874 and his stepfather evidently didn’t want him around. In 1875, the poor kid, who really never had a chance, as was so common for 19th century impoverished children, was caught stealing food. But this was no regular poor kid. A mere ten days later, he robbed a Chinese laundry in Silver City and stole some guns. He was caught and jailed, and then escaped.

Thus began a life of criminality. He moved to Arizona Territory, became a cowhand, and ran with rough people. He was known for spending a lot of time gambling. He first killed a man in 1877, during a fight in a saloon in Bonita, Arizona. He escaped the prison again and rode back into New Mexico, but heading toward Pecos, his horse was stolen by the Apaches. He nearly died before getting to Pecos, but was nursed back to health.

The post-Civil War American West was a violent mess. Even leaving aside the genocide against Native Americans, many Civil War veterans suffering from PTSD moved out to the West where they continued the war in what my undergraduate advisor Richard Maxwell Brown called “The Western Civil War of Incorporation.” Despite the clunky name, it makes sense in describing what was going on. Basically, northern thugs were largely Republicans and taking advantage of the fact that Republicans controlled the federal government in an age of patronage to gain control of western land and resources. Largely, southern Democrats were out of luck. So if you examine the famed incidents of western violence, it’s almost always northern Republicans on the side of law and order and southern Democrats as the outlaws. In reality, both sides were staffed with violent thugs. Billy the Kid was far too young to fight in the Civil War but he as a poor kid with a murder rap, he fit in well with the violent Texans he got to know.

The intricacies of the Lincoln County War are too convoluted to bother explaining here and who really cares anyway. In any case, Billy started working as a cattle rustler. At first, he offered to rustle cattle for John Chisum, a Tennessee-born cattle rancher attempting to build an empire in central New Mexico. That was fine for awhile, but Billy and the gang he developed got out of control and Chisum turned on him. Eventually, Billy came under the employ of Alexander McSween, a Scottish immigrant also attempting to be a cattleman but who found himself locked out by the Republican machine in Santa Fe. McSween hired Billy and a bunch of Texans to be on his side. A lot of violence ensued and Billy killed a whole mess of people, at least 8 men and quite likely more. McSween was killed in 1878 but Billy escaped and continued his violence. The killings continued for another 3 years. He was finally caught and convicted of killing a sheriff in 1881, but escaped before he was to hang after killing a couple more people in Lincoln, New Mexico, where he was to die. He went to Fort Sumner, and word got out that he was there. By this time, Governor Lew Wallace, who was a political hack appointee when he wasn’t writing Ben Hur, a novel mysteriously seen as a brilliant piece of literature in the Gilded Age before people acquired decent taste, offered a bounty on Billy’s head. Finally, Pat Garrett shot him in Fort Sumner, New Mexico on July 14, 1881.

The number of media portrayals of Billy the Kid is totally out of control. Among the better versions in film are Kris Kristofferson’s role in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, although that movie isn’t really all that great, even without Bob Dylan pointlessly floating through it. And then there is Young Guns, which is best not discussed. I haven’t seen The Left Handed Gun with Paul Newman, which I should alleviate. There are some pretty good songs about him, from Marty Robbins’ version of the song by his name to the Buddy Tabor song that uses his name. Joe Ely’s “Me and the Billy the Kid” is like my least favorite of his songs, but I like the origin, which is the fact that the Billy the Kid museum in Fort Sumner has nothing to do with the actual person, so Ely figured he could write whatever he wanted. But for a complete and utter thug, this kind of media attention is ridiculous.

Billy the Kid is buried at Old Fort Sumner Cemetery, Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on the land of the Navajo genocide at the Bosque Redondo.

Two Saved

[ 17 ] July 13, 2017 |

The Trump administration’s grotesque attempt to reduce or destroy the wonderful national monuments created in the last twenty years has at least taken two monuments off the chopping block. We can at least be allowed to enjoy the Hanford Reach in Washington and Craters of the Moon in Idaho. This is because there is not the slightest economic interest a corporation has in either one, as the image above probably suggests, but it’s still a good thing. There are 25 more that could still be decimated. Everyone who cares about our public lands, please keep up the fight for the rest.

Trumpcare and Home Care Workers

[ 18 ] July 13, 2017 |

The Senate has released its new deathcare bill and it looks pretty much equally horrible to the previous draft. I’m sure Scott will have more on it and I’m no healthcare wonk so I’m not going to try. But I do want to highlight this Sarah Jaffe piece on how it will affect home care workers.

The Obama administration was a high point for the rights of home care workers, many of whom were still locked out of basic labor protections. In 2013, the labor department extended federal minimum wage and overtime protections to them. Elly Kugler, who leads federal policy work at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, says it was meaningful because it recognized them as workers, and afforded them additional pay. Wages for home care have been largely stagnant, hovering just above $10 an hour on average.

Low wages had often driven people out of the field who otherwise found the work meaningful, Kugler notes. “Though many of our members care deeply for the work they do … they had to go and work in other kinds of jobs. Meaning fast food, other sectors, making a little bit more money.”

“I think one of the interesting things about home care is that it forces all these different worlds to connect,” Kugler adds. “The world of state funded home care and and healthcare and also worker rights and disability rights and senior rights and racial justice – all these different worlds are connected in home care.”

Nowhere is that more clear than in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, now under fire from the Trump administration and a Republican Congress.

The expansion of Medicaid, which took effect in 2014, meant more funding for home care and more jobs for care workers. The bill also expanded healthcare for the workers themselves – Barrett had never had chicken pox as a child, and when she contracted it as an adult from a client with shingles, it aggravated her asthma.

“Before the Affordable Care Act passed, one in three home care workers was uninsured,” says Josephine Kalipeni, director of policy and partnerships at Caring Across Generations. After its passage, that rate dropped by 26%.

Because of the general forward trajectory, Kugler says, the Obama years had meant that the movement for care workers had gained more public traction with bigger issues, such as immigrants’ rights (many home care workers are immigrants like Barrett), racial justice, and the value of women’s work. Home care workers had joined the Fight for $15, initiated in part by the Service Employees International Union, which represents tens of thousands of home care workers around the country.

Workers who liked their care jobs, like Barrett, could begin to think about their work as a career.

And then came Trump.

Those priorities are clearly demonstrated in the Republican plan to “repeal and replace” the ACA, currently moving through the Senate. Estimates compiled by the National Domestic Workers Alliance range from 1.8m to 3 million jobs lost in just a few years if “Trumpcare” passes; between 305,000 and 713,000 of those will be home care workers.

The latest version of the bill to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office predicts that 22 million people would lose their health insurance by 2026 if the bill were passed as is. Premiums would spike for elderly people like Barrett’s clients, as Medicaid spending would be slashed by $772bn over 10 years. Changes to Medicaid could include a “per capita cap”, or a limit to how much the federal government pays states per enrollee in the program.

“It is basically saying, ‘Your state can only get so sick. You can only have so much of a disability and then you are just going to have to pay,’” Kugler says. These cuts, Kalipeni notes, will fall squarely on the shoulders of women – the women of color and immigrant women who do the paid home care work, the women who still do most of the unpaid care work that will pick up the slack when the budgets for paid care are cut.

Until such cuts directly affect people’s lives, she says, people often don’t realize the importance of these systems – and by then it is frequently too late.

The whole piece is outstanding, providing some history of home care work and exploring how workers are trying to fight for greater dignity. I will only add that jobs such as home care (and day care and K-12 teaching and others) are absolutely essential for living with basic dignity and yet we don’t provide those workers any dignity at all, or are actively taking it away in the case of K-12 teachers. Home care is pretty tough work. Anyone who has dealt with elderly relatives knows what is coming in no so distant future for them. Don’t we want the people taking care of us when we are old to have decent health care and to make enough money they can be proud of their job and presumably then do a better job at it? We should. And yet as a society we very much do not. Trumpcare would only make their lives worse. And that will eventually mean making our own lives worse.

How Can We Respond to the Renewed Muslim Ban?

[ 85 ] July 13, 2017 |

I want to build on my post from Tuesday about how no one is even talking about the renewed Muslim ban, as well as Dan’s post from yesterday expanding on it to discuss Trump’s plan for mass deportations.

The initial response to the Muslim ban was amazing. As these things go, the seeming spontaneous actions by hundreds if not thousands of people to go to airports and disrupt the Muslim ban in fact was created by the hard work of grassroots organizers preparing for these sorts of issues and actions. The majority of people who showed up of course had no idea who these people were and they went out of outrage, but also because they heard other people were going. That’s where the organizing comes in. Their friends wouldn’t have gone if organizers hadn’t started that process, etc.

The secondary response to the Muslim ban was for liberals to give record amounts of money to the ACLU. From one angle, this makes sense. The legal teams fighting the Muslim ban in the courts had early victories and ultimately, one hopes that the American legal system would rule this as unconstitutional as it obviously is.

On the other hand, we know now that this probably isn’t going to work because of the Supreme Court. So where does that leave us? Donating to the ACLU is useful. It is not useful enough. It also gives the overwhelmingly upper middle class white liberal donors to the ACLU a bit of a pass in doing anything else.

Ultimately, the legal strategy and donations are good, but they have to be backed up with protest politics. As many said at the time, including the lawyers fighting the Muslim ban, the protests in the airports did a world of good, giving judges the shot in the arm they needed to stand up to Trump at that early moment when no one really knew if anyone would stand up to him. Without the protests, the stays on the Muslim ban might not have happened at all.

If the Supreme Court is not going to throw out the ban, what will you do?

I was discussing my post with an organizing friend of mine. She works in New York, with many of the immigrant-led organizations doing the grassroots work that meant so much during the JFK occupation. These are barebones organizations, holding the funding together by a thread. These are the groups we should be funding. The ACLU has plenty of access to money. We need to move our money around more effectively to people who add to the legal strategy through the equally important direct action strategy.

My friend noted that as this was all going on, she was desperately trying to get people to donate to a much broader set of organizations than the ACLU. She was using her Twitter feed to publicize all these other groups. It didn’t really work and she is very frustrated by it. I think the question for me is how to connect your everyday liberal to these organizations. When I think of who donates in situations like this, I think of professors. And I think of many commenters on this blog. I think that some of the problem is that there are a not small number of liberals who are openly uncomfortable with protest politics. In the aftermath of the courts intervening in the Muslim ban, some LGM commenters asserted the protests had nothing to do with it. This was of course absurd and countered by the very legal people working on the issue. But it gets at the feeling some have. This is a problem. Personally, I think a bigger problem is more that most donating liberals simply don’t know who they should give to, don’t know how to know, and aren’t going to do the work to find out. The ACLU is a nice safe organization. It does good work. It’s an easy donation without having to think about it too much.

But it’s not also not sufficient, as we are seeing. Donating to the ACLU is not an excuse not to be active and outraged at the betrayal of American values from this administration and its racist base. More is needed.

So my question to you is, what do you think a next step would be? If I was to promote grassroots organizations on this site, would you consider giving to them instead or in addition to big groups like the ACLU? How else will we reignite outrage over the Muslim ban? What do you recommend?

Trump’s Imaginary Friend

[ 92 ] July 13, 2017 |

Our president has an imaginary friend he trots out when useful.

For all things Paris, President Donald Trump’s go-to guy is Jim.

The way Trump tells it — Jim is a friend who loves Paris and used to visit every year. Yet when Trump travels to the city Thursday for his first time as president, it’s unlikely that Jim will tag along. Jim doesn’t go to Paris anymore. Trump says that’s because the city has been infiltrated by foreign extremists.

Whether Jim exists is unclear. Trump has never given his last name. The White House has not responded to a request for comment about who Jim is or whether he will be on the trip.

Trump repeatedly talked about the enigmatic Jim while on the campaign trail, but his friend didn’t receive widespread attention until Trump became president. For Trump, Jim’s story serves as a cautionary tale – a warning that even a place as lovely as Paris can be ruined if leaders are complacent about terrorism.

Jim’s biggest moment in the spotlight was during a high-profile Trump speech in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. Trump explained that Jim “loves the City of Lights, he loves Paris. For years, every year during the summer, he would go to Paris. It was automatic, with his wife and his family.”

Trump one day asked Jim: “How’s Paris doing?”

“’Paris?” Jim replied, as relayed by Trump. “‘I don’t go there anymore. Paris is no longer Paris.’”

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, responded by tweeting a photo of herself with Mickey and Minnie Mouse inviting Trump “and his friend Jim” to France to “celebrate the dynamism and the spirit of openness of #Paris.”

This inspires confidence in our nation’s future.

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