+ Theodore Roosevelt statue, flanked by African and Native American men, to be removed in New York
A statue of President Theodore Roosevelt at the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York will be removed. (mpi43/MediaPunch/IPx)
By Meagan Flynn
June 22, 2020 at 5:59 AM EDT
For decades, a hulking bronze statue of President Theodore Roosevelt atop a horse, flanked by Native American and African men on foot, has greeted visitors at the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The roles of the two nameless men have provoked debate and protests for years, as critics said they appeared subservient to the powerful white man, creating an unmistakable portrait of racial hierarchy and colonialism.
Now, the museum said the time has come to take down the statue of the 26th president.
On Sunday, the museum announced that it had the permission of New York City — along with the blessing of Roosevelt’s great-grandson — to remove the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, as it’s formally known. New York City owns the statue and the property on which it was built in 1940.
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said in a statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
+ Ex-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell Mocked For Typo-Laden Lawsuits
The estranged Trump campaign lawyer filed lawsuits to overturn election results in Michigan and Georgia, rife with spelling and formatting errors.
By Ja’han Jones
11/26/2020 01:18 PM ET
Sidney Powell — a former lawyer for President Donald Trump’s campaign — filed typo-laden lawsuits alleging without evidence that voter fraud took place in Michigan and Georgia, and critics on social media roundly mocked the error-filled legal documents.
Some wondered how any lawyer could submit a formal claim so rife with errors.
In the Michigan case, for example, Powell misspelled the word “district” in the heading as “distrct.” She also dropped spaces throughout the document that groupedseveralwordstogether.
In the Georgia lawsuit, Powell misspelled “district” twice more — as “districct” and “distrcoict.”
Powell and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have filed largely unsuccessful lawsuits intended to overturn the results of the presidential race in the weeks since Election Day. President-elect Joe Biden won in states where Giuliani and others have filed suits.
+ 'He will be away from children': Houston-area priest pleads guilty to child indecency charges
Belisa Morillo, Noticias Telemundo and Luis Antonio Hernández, Noticias Telemundo
Wed, November 25, 2020, 1:53 PM CST
A Houston-area priest has pleaded guilty to child indecency charges in a case that has put a focus on the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and its failures over the handling of sexual abuse cases.
The Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, 62, pleaded guilty to two out of five charges of indecency with a child Nov. 17, as part of an agreement with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. He faces 10 years in prison in the case which deals with allegations that he molested two teens more than 20 years ago after gaining the trust of their families; his sentencing is Dec. 16.
La Rosa-Lopez avoided a possible 20-year sentence with the guilty plea.
"We offered him to plead guilty on two of the greater charges, which were second-degree felonies, indecency with a child," Montgomery County chief prosecutor Nancy Hebert told Noticias Telemundo Investiga. "In exchange for that plea, we're dismissing the other three charges."
That there alone would tell me All I Need To Know about that person: that she's okay with Racism, Entitlement, Misogyny, Classism, Theocracy, being a mindless Cult Zombie, and some other inexcusably-stupid things.
+ Bill Maher Says Catherine Oxenberg’s “Hate The Cult, Love The Cultist” Approach Is Perfect For Donald Trump Era
By Dade Hayes
November 20, 2020 9:04pm
In tonight’s season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher, the host invoked the case of New York-based sex cult Nxivm in suggesting a way to handle Donald Trump supporters who believe the election was stolen.
“The challenge for us is, how do you get people out of a cult?” Maher asked. “Especially when every time you present evidence of what is obvious reality, they take it as proof of you being in on a conspiracy to destroy them?” A recent poll found that 88% of Trump voters believe he won the election, he noted, and their conviction could cleave a large swath of America from the workings of democracy and society.
For a living example of how to rise to such an existential challenge, Maher saluted Catherine Oxenberg. The former Dynasty star’s dogged work to free her daughter, India, is depicted in two documentary series, HBO’s The Vow and Starz’ Seduced: Inside the Nxivm Cult.
Maher played a series of clips showing the unbridled admiration of followers of Nxivm leader Keith Raniere, who was sentenced to 120 years in prison last month, and Republican leaders lavishing praise on Trump. Maher found many points of comparison between Trump and Raniere, who gave himself the nickname Vanguard. “They had to have that one queen bee around them, who they deputized to recruit others into their sick games,” he quipped. “Vanguard had Smallville actress Alison Mack. Trump has Lindsay Graham.”
In trying to fight a “cult” that has grown tens of millions strong, he added, “you’re not just fighting the leaders, but all the enablers. They see you as an enemy. Truth is a threat to them.
+ Op-Ed: In what moral universe does Biden require a Catholic task force when Trump got a free pass?
Mon, November 23, 2020, 5:00 AM CST
The election of the second Roman Catholic as president of the United States should be the occasion of great celebration among his coreligionists. Not all Catholics supported Joseph Biden, of course, though about half did. On Nov. 7, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, José Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, congratulated Biden and Kamala Harris, and five days later so did Pope Francis. Then last week, Gomez wasn’t so sure. On Tuesday, at the end of the national meeting of the American bishops, he declared that the president-elect’s support for abortion rights presents the church with a “difficult and complex situation.”
News reports suggest that the bishops may want to deny Biden, a lifelong Catholic, access to the sacrament of Holy Communion, much the way that conservative bishops declared John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, unwelcome at the communion rail in their dioceses. Gomez has set up a task force to consider the matter. No one is yet calling this a threat of excommunication, but that effectively is what the bishops are considering.
Back in 2016, the same U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rushed to congratulate Donald Trump after his presidential victory, even before the results were certified. This year, at least one member of the conference, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, refused to acknowledge Biden as president-elect after the race was called.
To pretend that there is anything approaching moral equivalency between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, let alone to decide the matter in Trump’s favor, represents an appalling failure to exercise ethical judgment.
President Trump without remorse has separated refugee children from their parents and confined them to cages; he has borne false witness more than 22,000 times during the course of his presidency; and he has used his office to advance his political, economic and legal interests. All of that, you may say, emerged after the bishops offered their 2016 postelection congratulations, but Trump’s life to that point — littered with divorces and extramarital affairs, with workers forced to sue for their rightful pay, as well as his nasty, race-baiting campaign — foretold it all.
In what moral universe does Joe Biden, devout Roman Catholic, public servant and family man, present the bishops with difficulties and complexities while Trump gets a pass?
+ 'Beyond an embarrassment,' legal experts say of Trump and Giuliani's floundering efforts in court
"It's as dysfunctional a litigation strategy as I've ever seen," one attorney told NBC News.
Nov. 24, 2020, 6:28 AM EST / Updated Nov. 24, 2020, 7:26 AM EST
By Dareh Gregorian
Rudy Giuliani was brought in to lead an "elite strike force" of lawyers to guide President Donald Trump's legal challenges to the 2020 election, but their efforts have been "dysfunctional" and "an embarrassment," based on "unsubstantiated evidence" and "outlandish claims," legal experts told NBC News.
"It's beyond an embarrassment," said lawyer Glenn Kirschner. "It's both really poor lawyering and it has the worst possible motive behind it. It's all in the name of overturning the will of American voter."
Election lawyer Matthew Sanderson compared Giuliani unfavorably to James Baker, who led George W. Bush's legal effort in the 2000 presidential election.
"This is like Bush v. Gore, but replace James Baker with the editor of a QAnon subreddit," he said. "It's not competent lawyering. There are strategic errors, typographical errors — every kind of error you can make in a case."
"It's as dysfunctional a litigation strategy as I've ever seen," Sanderson added.
+ Cancel the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree for Good
This week, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was unfurled in all its floppy, haggard glory. As many a Twitter user were quick to point out, its appearance was a metaphor for this year of pandemic, a slapdash coup attempt, and a general drubbing of American exceptionalism.
This year’s tree is also perfectly poised to reflect something more than our national mood: It reflects the absolutely toxic relationship we have with the natural world and the need to rapidly reverse course. If this year’s tree sees any justice, it’s that it should be the last.
Everything about this tree tells a piece of the story of our past century-plus relationship with nature and extractive capitalism. The tree came from Oneonta, New York, located 170 miles outside New York City. It stood in someone’s yard, a 75-foot (23-meter) giant amid an otherwise entirely uninteresting, ecologically destructive swath of lawn. It’s not that this is some old growth, native tree or remnant of the forest that grew where Oneonta now stands. The tree is a Norway spruce, which, as you can likely guess from the name, is not native to the U.S. That in and of itself reflects how upended our relationship with nature is. In its previous home, though, it had an iota of dignity lost completely once it was transported to Midtown Manhattan. And in that home, it served as a veritable island for wildlife in a vast, biodiversity-poor sea of lawns.
As if to reinforce that, workers discovered an owl in the tree after transporting it to Rockefeller Center. The Northern saw-whet owl was “rescued” from the tree, which is, of course, being spun as a feel-good, cute story. NBC’s Today framed it that way, talking to Ravensbeard Wildlife Center founder Ellen Kalish who called the owl “the little gift in the tree this year.” Great, can’t wait for the children’s book to be optioned.
Today host Craig Melvin noted the owl “picked the right tree.” But me, personally, I’d call it picking exactly the wrong tree. (This is why I’m not a morning show host.) This poor owl was transported on a harrowing 170-mile (274-kilometer) journey on a flatbed and miraculously wasn’t crushed. Sure, it’s great the owl survived and will be released back into the wild. But that’s a pretty piss-poor definition of “right.”
To sum things up, the Rockefeller tree was cut down in a town itself carved out of what was, more than a century ago, an old growth forest. The tree itself was a pocket of cover for wildlife who happened to wander into said town. And an owl was scooped up in the process of cutting down the tree and transported to New York. All this reflects the ways in which we’ve subjugated nature to our whims. And really, the evolution of the Rockefeller Center tree tradition is a very apt stand-in for that in general.
The holidays are coming up. And although gatherings will probably be smaller this year, or taking place virtually rather than in person, you may find yourself in a difficult conversation with a friend or family member.
Now normally, a good rule of thumb is to avoid politics at the dinner table altogether — but this year, in the aftermath of a bitterly divisive election, and with a global pandemic raging, there may be no way around it. Political arguments are a part of life, but increasingly in the U.S. they take place between people who disagree over not just policies but also objective reality, posing a dilemma over how to respond when confronted with misinformation, baseless internet rumors or conspiracy theories.
Well, first, maybe don’t start by calling them conspiracy theories. The term is occasionally useful. But to those accused of harboring them, it increasingly comes across as a pat dismissal, a way of closing off discussion. It might be helpful, however, to point out the difference between a proven conspiracy and an unproven conspiracy theory, and we’ll talk about some of those differences in a moment.
Here are the telltale signs of a conspiracy theory:
Negative evidence. The absence of evidence is a clear sign. Often someone who asks for evidence is then painted as closed-minded and potentially even part of the plot to suppress the truth.
Errant data. Conspiracy theories often rely on obscure statistical or historical data, meant to suggest a sophisticated approach but which doesn’t stand up to analysis.
An imaginary master plan. A hallmark of a conspiracy theory is that it discounts the possibility of coincidence or random events. There are no accidents; everything is part of the plot, or the counterplot. Of course, that’s not how the world works. Ask yourself: Is this true of anything in your own life?
A cabal behind the scenes. There is a shadowy, often nameless villain or group of bad guys pulling the strings.
Circular reasoning or contradictory claims. Conspiracy theories don’t hew to deductive logic.
Skepticism toward accepted truth. If you hear someone saying that we can’t actually know for sure what happened, that’s a hallmark of conspiracy theories.
Self-justifying rationales. Reality itself — the existence of a plausible explanation, even one backed by evidence — is part of the plot, because “that’s what they want you to believe.”
So how to talk about it?
First, assess your audience. Are you speaking with someone who is confused by conspiracy theories, or committed to them?
If it’s simply someone who is not sure what to think, then talk about media literacy and the standards for distinguishing good information from bad.
The Cornell Alliance for Science, in its Conspiracy Theory Handbook, recommends four basic questions to help someone assess the credibility of information.
The four questions are:
Do I recognize the news organization that posted the story?
Does the information in the post seem believable?
Is the post written in a style that I expect from a professional news organization?
+ The Thanksgiving Myth Gets a Deeper Look This Year
Wed, November 18, 2020, 1:58 PM CST
FORT PECK INDIAN RESERVATION, Mont. — On a frigid November morning inside a tractor barn in northeast Montana, 10 members of the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes joined in song to bless a thirty-aught-six hunting rifle, and to lift up the spirit of a buffalo they were preparing to kill. One man played a painted hand drum. Others passed around burning sage.
The hunt that followed took place on Turtle Mound Buffalo Ranch, 27,000 acres of rolling pasture on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Every stage of the hunt was marked by a ceremony to give thanks for a buffalo that descends from animals killed to near-extinction by white settlers in the late 19th century.
The mass killing was part of a government-approved effort to seize land from Native Americans who depended on the animal to survive. The brutality of settlers’ expansion into the Great Plains and American West has been drastically underplayed in popular myths about the founding and growth of the United States.
Arguably the best-known of those myths is the story of the first Thanksgiving, a holiday Robert Magnan, who led the buffalo hunt at Fort Peck, does not observe. “Thanksgiving is kind of like Columbus Day for Native people,” he said. “Why would we celebrate people who tried to destroy us?”
It is now widely accepted that the story of a friendship-sealing repast between white colonists and Native Americans is inaccurate. Articles debunking the tale have become as reliable an annual media ritual as recipes for cornbread stuffing.
But this year should be different, say Native American leaders, scholars and teachers.
The holiday arrives in the midst of a national struggle over racial justice, and a pandemic that has landed with particular force on marginalized communities of color. The crises have fueled an intense reexamination of the roots of persistent inequities in American life.
This Thanksgiving also comes on the heels of an election in which 110 American Indian and Alaska Native candidates ran for office, according to the National Congress of American Indians, and on the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage.
Winona LaDuke, the Native American activist and writer who ran for vice president in 1996 and 2000 as Ralph Nader’s running mate, believes that the country is primed to reenvision Thanksgiving as an occasion to come to terms with the cruelty Native Americans have experienced throughout history.
“I’ve seen a growing awareness, a wake-up, to the systemic oppression of people of color,” said LaDuke, an enrolled member of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation. “There is a movement toward justice for Native people. People want to listen.”
Thanksgiving, of course, is a time for listening, a welcome opportunity for prayer, reflection and looking back, and many Indigenous people celebrate it in their own way. But the problem with its origin story, LaDuke and others say, goes beyond misrepresentations about what was served on Cape Cod in 1621. (There is no evidence that turkey was on the menu, and pie couldn’t have been, because there was no flour or butter available for crust.)
Linda Coombs is a Wampanoag historian and a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Wampanoag people attended the harvest ceremony that later became known as the first Thanksgiving.
“There was an event that happened in 1621,” Coombs said. “But the whole story about what occurred on that first Thanksgiving was a myth created to make white people feel comfortable.”
The caricature of friendly Indians handing over food, knowledge and land to kindhearted Pilgrims was reinforced for generations by school curricula, holiday pageants and children’s books. These stories were among the few appearances made by Native Americans in popular historical narratives, effectively erasing history-altering crimes, like the killing of tens of millions of buffalo, from the country’s consciousness. That massacre led to the mass starvation of Indigenous people.
“Erasure isn’t taking down a conquistador statue,” said LaDuke, 61. “Erasure is when you don’t even know the name of the people who own the land where you live.”
Work to reverse this historical amnesia has spanned decades. The National Day of Mourning dates back to 1970, established on Thanksgiving by activists in New England to recognize the suffering of Native Americans. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia now celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day, recasting a holiday that honored an explorer who presided over the enslaving and killing of Indigenous people.