Category Archives: News

Historians Sue Trump

As a historian and a member of the American Historical Association (AHA), I found that particularly interesting. The AHA, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), the National Security Archive, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) joined together to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against President Trump and other administration officials to ensure compliance with records laws. The groups said that with Trump facing “potential legal and financial exposure once he leaves office, there is a growing risk that he will destroy records of his presidency before leaving.”

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, said in a statement, “Presidential records are always at risk because the law that’s supposed to protect them is so weak. The archive, historians, and CREW are suing to put some backbone in the law and prevent any bonfire of records in the Rose Garden.”

When asked for a response, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said it could not comment on pending litigation, nor did the Trump administration make any comments about the lawsuit.

The Presidential Records Act requires presidents and White House personnel to preserve all records of “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the president’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties.” NARA restricts these records from public view until at least five years after the end of an administration. NARA can withhold some records for much longer.

James Grossman, director of the AHA, said, “Research rooted in these materials provides an unparalleled look inside an administration’s activities that would, if absent, leave the world wholly reliant upon the memoirs and memories of those whose deeds we professionally investigate and evaluate.”

Presidential records and the keeping of them have long been a source of tension and revelation. Congress passed the Presidential Records Act with historians in mind. A president’s papers used to be considered the personal property of that president, for better or worse. And, sometimes, it was for worse. Much of George Washington’s papers were neglected by his heirs and destroyed by rats. During Richard Nixon’s presidency, his records, which included the so-called smoking gun tape, were legally seized from him. After that, Congress passed the Presidential Records Act to clarify that a president’s records belong to the public.

Conflicts between Trump and records laws have been occurring for nearly his entire term. Unbelievably, Trump has a habit of ripping up paper he is finished with and throwing it in the trash or on the floor. How childish and disrespectful do you have to be to rip up a document and throw it on the floor? I guess you have to be as uncaring and immature as Donald Trump. Because of these careless acts, an entire team of records specialists has been taping the pieces back together for preservation.

The lawsuit also focuses on other administration officials, including Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who uses screenshots to keep records of communications on nonofficial messaging accounts such as WhatsApp or private email. According to the lawsuit, screenshots violate the Presidential Records Act because they do not include metadata and other attachments that could be of historical value. Congress amended the act in 2014 to include specific instructions on electronic records. It prohibits all official communications sent on nonofficial messaging platforms unless an official account is copied on the original transmission or forwarded to an official account within 20 days.

The historians say White House counsel incorrectly directed staff to preserve such records “via a screenshot or other means” in a February 2017 memo. White House counsel provided this memo during a Senate briefing in October 2017. In December 2018 testimony, Kushner’s personal attorney Abbe Lowell told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that Kushner had used and continued to use WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders and that he used screenshots to preserve records of the communications. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a senior adviser, also used private email accounts for White House business, as did former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. Wasn’t this what Trump attacked Hillary Clinton over and had crowds chanting “Lock Her Up”? Then again, we know that the Trump administration says one thing and does the opposite, flaunting a wanton disregard for every law, precedent, and American institution. 

The lawsuit seeks to stop the disposal of any of these potential records without following proper protocols and to have the “screenshotting policy” rescinded. This isn’t the first time historians have sued over the administration’s alleged violations of the records act. Three of the groups — CREW, SHAFR, and the National Security Archive — have previously sued to challenge White House officials’ use of encrypted apps such as Signal and to allege President Trump has violated the records act by not keeping records of phone calls and meetings with foreign leaders.

I doubt the lawsuit will be successful. Yes, they may win in court to halt the destruction of documents. Still, I doubt anyone thinks it will actually stop the administration from destroying documents that could implicate them in crimes or be used to discredit them in the history books. Trump will spend the rest of his life, claiming he won the 2020 election and rewriting history to align with his own delusions. Historians, however, will remember and document the ineptitude and unlawfulness of the Trump presidency.


Shave

For those of you with beards, it’s time to shave them. The CDC has put out a warning that facial hair is dangerous and could lead to further spreading of the Coronavirus. A graphic released by the agency shows the fashionable facial-hair-wearer which styles will conflict with potentially life-saving respirators as the US braces for the quickly spreading coronavirus to emerge state-side. And while a clean-shaven face is OK, stubble could cause trouble, the CDC warned.

Men in Vermont love their beards. I hate them. A very trim well kept beard can be attractive on the right man, but it’s not for everyone. Big unkept beards are just ugly to me, and now the CDC says they need to go. If the epidemic comes to the Americas and becomes a pandemic, some men won’t give up their beards even if it will help save theirs and others lives. On the bright side, maybe we will finally be rid of those Duck Dynasty people forever.


RIP Odo

I’m a big Star Trek fan. I’m an even bigger fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. René Auberjonois died yesterday at age 79. He’d played Odo on DS9, probably one of the most complex characters in all of Star Trek. His son, the actor Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois, said the cause of death was metastatic lung cancer.

Mr. Auberjonois moved easily among television, film and the stage, and between comedy and drama, often playing scene-stealing characters who injected comic relief or snark or a plot wrinkle into the proceedings.

Major roles on long-running television shows in three decades — “Benson” in the 1980s, “Deep Space Nine” in the 1990s and “Boston Legal” in the 2000s — made him the kind of star whose face was familiar to millions, even if they might not immediately be able to put a name to it. Across almost 60 years as a professional actor, he was rarely not in demand.

I loved him as an actor and I’ve seen all three of the TV shows he starred in. I’ve been a fan most of my life. I’m heartbroken that he’s no longer with us.


It’s a Sad Day

Some of you may have heard on the news that an Alabama sheriff was shot and killed last night. “Big John” Williams was not just any sheriff, he had been my sheriff. My mother called me just before the news broke. He was murdered not 200 yards from where my grandparents used to live and maybe 500 yards from where I used to live. According to my mother, Big John had been called to the QV gas station about a disturbance of the peace. An 18 year old white man was playing his music too loudly, and the gas station personnel or someone at the station had complained. Big John answered the call. When he asked the guy to turn down his music, the guy pulled a gun on him and shot him to death, probably because he didn’t like a black man telling him what to do. William Chase Johnson, the suspect, is currently in custody. If he lives to see trial, and I’m not betting on that, Johnson will receive the death penalty. I know the judge, I taught her children. He’ll never see freedom again.
Lowndes County, Alabama is a radially divided county in Alabama’s Black Belt. However, Big John had always worked to make race relations better when many of the politicians in the county had worked to further the divide. He would sometimes be the only black man at events at the private school in the county, though there was one black family who had children there, so I guess he wasn’t always the only black face. Big John never seemed to see color. He treated everyone with equality and respect. He was much loved because of it. My Facebook this morning was full of tributes from the people I am friends with in the county.
Big John had spent his life serving others. First, as a US Marine, then, as a police officer and sheriff’s deputy and finally, as the sheriff.

What the Hell, Alabama?

From AL.com by Mike Cason

A bill to eliminate marriage licenses in Alabama and instead have couples file an affidavit that probate judges would record as part of a marriage document moved a step close to becoming law today.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range. Albritton has tried to pass similar bills since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

After the Supreme Court decision, probate judges in some Alabama counties stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether because they did not want to license same-sex marriages. Albritton said his bill would eliminate the discrepancy.

“This will allow everyone to be married in their home county,” Albritton said.

Current law says couples wanting to get married must obtain a license from a probate judge. The law says probate judges “may” issue licenses but does not require them to.

“There’s still counties that will not issue marriage licenses,” Albritton said. “They take the word may to the extreme, if you will.”

Albritton did not know exactly how many but said there were probably about seven such counties.

Albritton’s bill said probate judges “shall” record each marriage if couples provide the proper documentation. That includes affidavits saying they are of legal age, are not already married, are not related and are competent to enter a marriage.

“I would suggest this is the end of the state telling people who they can and cannot marry. A license is permission,” Albritton said.

His bill would also eliminate the requirement in current law to hold a ceremony to “solemnize” a marriage. Current law requires the minister, judge, retired judge or person otherwise authorized to perform a ceremony to sign the marriage license before it is recorded as a certificate or marriage.

The committee approved the bill on a voice vote today. Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, voted against it. Coleman said she opposed the bill because of its origins, the resistance of some probate judges to licensing same-sex marriages after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“I do remember the original dialogue where it came from,” Coleman said. “So that was my no vote. It was still one of those kind of protest votes against what I felt was the original reason why we were here with this bill in the first place.”


Yesterday

Yesterday was not a good day. First of all, for the past few days, I’ve had a toothache when I lie down at night. It doesn’t really hurt any other time. Sunday night, the pain stopped and I thought all was okay. Then on Monday night, the pain was back. I didn’t have a choice but to call my dentist and make an appointment. Luckily, they were able to get me in right away. They did an x-ray of the tooth. Underneath the filling I just had done a few weeks ago, there was s huge cavity that had grown into the pulp of my tooth. The only way to eliminate the pain is to do a root canal. However, I have to wait until April 30 to do anything about it. So that’s how my morning started out.

Then I got two emails. One asked me to do an oral history on a 90-year-old alumnus. The problem is not doing an oral history; that is still part of my job description. The problem is when he’s in Vermont, I am not. So it looks like I may have to go to New Jersey for the interview. The trip may or may not involve a funeral.  In the second one, the speaker I had hoped to get for an event in November can’t make it for the dates we need. This is my third try at a speaker. So I am back to square one. We do have an alumnus who is the head of a major Washington museum whom my boss is trying to get instead. It turns out, though, he has to go through our Development Office first. That’s just one more delay.

I also realized how much I still have to do before I leave for Alabama on Sunday.

On top of all that, I had a migraine for most of the day.


Tumblr Bans Adult Content

Tumblr will permanently ban adult content from its platform on December 17th in a move that will eradicate porn-related communities on the platform and fundamentally alter how the service is used. The ban includes explicit sexual content and nudity with a few exceptions. The new policy’s announcement comes just days after Tumblr was removed from Apple’s iOS App Store over a child pornography incident, but it extends far beyond that matter alone. “Adult content will no longer be allowed here,” the company flatly stated in a blog post published on Monday

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breastfeeding and after-birth photos.

After December 17th, any explicit posts will be flagged and deleted by algorithms. For now, Tumblr is emailing users who have posted adult content flagged by algorithms and notifying them that their content will soon be hidden from view. Posts with porn content will be set to private, which will prevent them from being reblogged or shared elsewhere in the Tumblr community. Users have a chance to appeal Tumblr’s decision in situations where they think there’s been a mistake, and the platform admits there’s a chance that the automated tools it’s using could make errors. It’s a process that could take a while, as a bulk of Tumblr posts feature explicit content. Users who run adult blogs can also export their content before the change takes place in order to save what they have.

Explicit blogs will be allowed to remain on the service, but they’ll be heavily censored for all visitors. Here’s Tumblr’s FAQ:

What if my blog (not to be confused with posts) was marked as “explicit” before December 17, 2018? 

Blogs that have been either self-flagged or flagged by us as “explicit” per our old policy and before December 17, 2018 will still be overlaid with a content filter when viewing these blogs directly. While some of the content on these blogs may now be in violation of our policies and will be actioned accordingly, the blog owners may choose to post content that is within our policies in the future, so we’d like to provide that option. Users under 18 will still not be allowed to click through to see the content of these blogs. The avatars and headers for these blogs will also be reverted to the default settings. Additionally, posts from these blogs are kept out of search results.

Since Tumblr was founded in 2007, it has largely turned a blind eye to adult content. The company has tried to shield it from public view through Safe Mode and more stringent search filters. But in recent months — and under the ownership of Verizon’s Oath unit — it began to consider removing content more aggressively. “We’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward,” CEO Jeff D’Onofrio says in a blog post. “We’ve realized that in order to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change.” D’Onofrio says Tumblr weighed the pros and cons thoroughly before making its decision. It also decided not to remove explicit accounts because it wanted to give these accounts a chance to post appropriate content instead.

Under Oath, Tumblr has been cleaning up its platform more rapidly than it had done in previous years. In August, Tumblr announced new community guidelines that banned revenge porn, hate speech, and posts that glorified school shootings.

If users mourn the loss of adult content on Tumblr, D’Onofrio claims they have many other solutions. “There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community,” he said. That argument will do little to curtail anger over this decision from people who have used Tumblr as a safe place to enjoy, share, and discuss their preferred flavor of porn and adult content.

Ask Tumblr to reverse this extreme censorship:

https://www.change.org/p/tumblr-com-allow-nsfw-content-on-tumblr


Inappropriate? Indecent? What do you think?

A man claims he was sexually harassed at a New York City gym when three men in a steam room with him dropped their towels and started pleasuring themselves.

The alleged victim has filed a lawsuit against the fitness chain Equinox, after claiming he was enjoying an afternoon steam at the location on Broadway in Gramercy Park last November.

‘I’m relaxing, I’m sitting in the corner, it’s very meditative,’ the man, identified in court papers as just GB, told the New York Post.

‘The steam clears… And I look across from me. This gentleman, sitting pretty close, his towel is open, his legs are spread and he’s looking right at me, and the guy next to him was rubbing [the man’s] inner thigh.

‘He’s looking right at me, his towel’s off, and he’s masturbating.’

GB, who is a straight single father, told the paper that he then looked around and realized the third man in the steam room at the time was also masturbating.

He then said he panicked and thought he wouldn’t be able to escape – worried the three men might overpower him and sexually assault him.

The alleged victim then quickly left the steam room, dressed and went to the front desk to report the incident, but said staff members didn’t take any action.

He said the incident left him ‘shaken up.’

GB also alleges in the Manhattan Supreme Court Filing that Equinox ‘has known for as much as 10 years prior that similar wrongful acts were occurring in its steam showers.’

In a recording, taken by GB and obtained by the Post, the manager of the fitness chain location acknowledged it was a problem.

‘It’s something that every gym in New York City, not just Equinox, has an issue with,’ the manager can be heard saying.

The gym, where memberships cost upwards of $200 a month, told the Post it ‘thoroughly investigates’ complaints.

A spokeswoman for the location said staff ‘did exactly what in this case,’ adding ‘we maintain a zero-tolerance policy for any inappropriate behavior in our clubs.’

But GB claims the gym refused to revoke the masturbators’ memberships.

From UK Daily Mail


From WBHM in Birmingham

The Southeast is home to roughly 35 percent of LGBT people in the U.S., the largest LGBT population in the country, according to data compiled by the Williams Institute at UCLA. This find might seem surprising to some since most Southeastern states have few or no policies protecting LGBT people. A team of researchers in Georgia are seeking to learn more about the lives of LGBT people in the South. Eric Wright, who chairs the sociology department at Georgia State University, says there are a number of reasons why so many LGBT people call this region home.

“One of which is that the cost of living generally speaking is lower in the U.S. South than in other parts of the country,” he says. “There’s also been what some researchers have called a reverse migration, particularly of minorities.”

That means many Southern LGBT people who migrated to more progressive areas of the country are returning to the Southeast. To find out why so many call this place home, Wright and his research partner, Ryan Roemerman with the LGBT Institute created what they call the Southern Survey. It’s a comprehensive study that seeks to examine the lives of LGBT people across 14 Southern states.

“One of the things that we want to be able to accomplish through this survey is to be able to provide our non-profit partners across the South with data that they can use for policy development, grassroots organizing and fundraising,” Roemerman says.

The survey is by and for LGBT people in the South. This may help them better understand individual needs of the community, such as housing for transgender people or health services for lesbians living in rural areas, Wright says . And, he says, it will also help decipher the needs of this community in different Southern states. According to the LGBT Institute, more than half of the 100 anti-LGBT bills proposed this year were drafted in Southeastern states.

The survey is open through this month and the team expects to release its findings early next year.


A Posthumous Wedding

Gay Man Makes History By Marrying Cop Killed In Terrorist Attack

Curtis M. Wong is the Senior Editor of HuffPost Queer Voices
A gay police officer killed by a gunman in Paris was married in a posthumous wedding that’s believed to be a historic first.
Xavier Jugelé, 37, was shot dead April 20 on the Champs-Élysées three days before the French presidential election. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack, which left two other officers wounded. The gunman, identified as Karim Cheurfi, was shot dead by security forces.
Though details of Wednesday’s nuptials are scarce, Etienne Cardiles married Jugelé in a ceremony attended by former French president François Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, The Guardian reports. It’s believed to be the first posthumous same-sex wedding to take place in France (where marriage equality has been the law of the land since 2013) and possibly the world, according to the BBC.
The U.S. does not recognize posthumous matrimony under federal law, but its origins in France can be traced back to 1803. The practice became particularly popular during World War I, when it allowed women to wed slain soldiers, thus legitimizing any children conceived beforehand and entitling them to a pension.
France’s current legislation allowing people to marry the dead dates back to 1959, when a woman named Irène Jodard requested permission from former French President Charles de Gaulle to wed her fiancé, André Capra, after he had drowned. Hundreds of people have since applied for post-mortem matrimony under the law, which requires applicants to send a formal request to the president, according to The New York Times.
Cardiles made global headlines when he delivered an impassioned eulogy at an April 26 memorial service for Jugelé, who had also been deployed during the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m suffering without hate,” Cardiles said in the speech, which was transcribed by Time magazine. “This hate, Xavier, I don’t have it because it never existed in you… Because tolerance, dialogue and temperance were your best weapons. Because behind the policeman there was the man. Because you become a policeman by choice; the choice to help others and to fight against injustice.”
An associate described Jugelé as having been “really committed” to queer causes. Mickaël Bucheron, who is the president of Flag, a French association for LGBTQ police officers, said Jugelé had been active with the group for several years. “He protested with us when there was the homosexual propaganda ban at the Sochi Olympic Games,” Bucheron told The New York Times.
Here’s to hoping the union gives Cardiles some comfort following his tragic loss.