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The Family Author Jeff Sharlet on His Time With The Fellowship, and Being Declared 'Evil'
The author, journalist, and executive producer of the Netflix doc says the group is 'all in' on Donald Trump.
By Gabrielle Bruney
Sep 3, 2019
At the 1985 National Prayer Breakfast, Ronald Reagan praised the organization that mounted the event, a religious group known as the Family or the Fellowship. “Fellowships have begun to spring up throughout the Capitol,” he said. “They exist now in all three branches of the government, and they have spread throughout the capitals of the world, to parliaments and congresses far away.”
“Since we met last year, members of the Fellowship throughout the world have begun meeting with each other,” he continued. “Members of our Congress have met with leaders and officials from other countries, approaching them and speaking to them, not on a political level, but a spiritual level. I wish I could say more about it, but it's working precisely because it is private.”
Mark Sanford and DC's Shadowy Religious Group
Doug Coe and Netflix's 'The Family,' Explained
The group’s machinations aren’t quite as hidden these days, thanks in part to Netflix’s docuseries The Family. It tells a story spanning continents and decades, tracing the little-known but politically influential organization from its origins in the Depression-era anti-labor movement, through its associations with American presidents and global dictators. The group prizes secrecy, preaches a staunchly patriarchal, strongman-friendly variety of Christianity, and counts political figures like former Senators Tom Coburn and John Ensign, and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford among its members. It’s been at the center of American scandals and implicated in stoking violent homophobia abroad. The same National Prayer Breakfast, still held annually, functions as a lobbying bonanza and in 2018 hosted accused Russian spy Maria Butina.
(In a statement responding to the docuseries, the Fellowship said that the program “mischaracterizes” the group’s work.)
Journalist Jeff Sharlet, author of two books about the organization, The Family and C Street, served as one of the series’ executive producers. Sharlet hasn’t just investigated the Fellowship—he lived with the group at its Arlington headquarters in 2002, working and studying the Gospels alongside other young male members of the organization. While there, he began to learn the Fellowship’s unusual take on Christian theology, which abandons ministering to the poor or downtrodden in favor of focusing on the rich and powerful. We talked to him about his time living with the group, the Fellowship’s influence on American politics, and just what the organization thinks of President Donald Trump.
Esquire: The Fellowship is famously secretive, so why did they allow a writer to live at Ivanwald? Did they think that you would become a true believer by the end?
Sharlet: They never thought I'd become a true believer by the end. They thought after the first book that I was still going to come around! For an organization like this, made up of very privileged, very entitled people, operating at the center of power without much scrutiny for a long, long time—it didn't even really occur to them. They weren't so much hiding, because no one was looking. And it didn't occur to them that anyone would come asking tough questions.
And to be honest, I didn't go to ask tough questions. I wasn’t an investigative reporter, I was writing about the varieties of religious experience. I told them I was working on a book called Killing the Buddha, which is a Buddhist expression. They may have interpreted it otherwise. I can't account for that.
I took notes openly. And I wasn't undercover. I was there under my own name, introduced by a guy who'd known me for 12 years. They knew I was a Jew, they knew I was a writer, they knew the title of the book I was working on, and I took notes openly and asked questions.
It was only after the publication of C Street that I earned an incredibly special designation in this movement. And I looked through half a century of their archives, working with some of the most monstrous killers around the world, murderers, dictators, and thieves. I alone have been declared evil.
Does their willingness to forgive you even after the first book mean that you were considered to be among their elect?
That's a good question, and I've never gotten a clear answer on it. For a long time, yes, I was a brother, but I was a bad brother. I was chosen by God. That's why I was there.
Look, I've done two books about this, and now a series. You know, they've issued a statement in response to the series, and one thing that's clear is that in all this time, they've never disputed a fact. And in the series, they say that the mistake that I made, or the wrongdoing that I did, was to talk about the group. That's all. I wasn't supposed to talk about it. I was welcomed into this family, and then I spoke.
So I don't know if, after 2010, when I got declared evil, if now we have fully transcended the kind of bastardized Calvinism by which they determine these ideas of chosen-ness. It's important to distinguish those ideas of chosen-ness—that's not mainstream Evangelicalism.
How is a group this conservative able to sell themselves as being at all bipartisan and have presidents from both parties speaking at National Prayer Breakfasts? I mean, Doug Coe presumably wasn't telling Hillary Clinton his organization’s ideas about male hegemony.
The turning point came in 1953, when they were able to launch the National Prayer Breakfast with [President Eisenhower]. Which they tried with FDR and Truman, and Truman showed them the door. He said, "Get the hell out of my office."
And to his credit, that was Eisenhower's first response, too. And so they used Billy Graham, with whom they had a pretty deep relationship. And Billy Graham had been instrumental in organizing a Southern vote for Eisenhower, which is the beginning of the Republican turn. It didn't really take off there, but it dented the solid Democratic hold on the South.
And he said, “Okay, I did something for you, Ike, and in return, I want you to go to the Prayer Breakfast.” And Ike said, "All right, I'll go, but I don't want any press there." He knew this was a First Amendment violation, because it will become a precedent. It did become a precedent. And once that happened, it sort of transcends partisanship, right?
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And then comes Kennedy. And there was some consternation, and Jackie Kennedy actually refused to go. But Kennedy was already under suspicion as a Catholic, so he has to go. Well now you've got Ike and Kennedy. LBJ is the one who's going to turn on this? Not a chance. And it becomes an institution, and no president is not going to go.
I wrote a piece about [Hilary Clinton's] involvement with a reporter named Kathryn Joyce. And it is a little bit deeper than you would think, not because she's a member, but because this is sort of the channel through which you deal with conservative religious power in Washington. That was the irony, Hillary was actually the devout, pious candidate [in 2016]. And always has been—she's a conservative Methodist.
Former Fellowship leader Doug Coe, standing behind Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
You get Democrats who say, "Yeah, sure! I like prayer, and I'll go to a banal little Bible study with other congressmen every week. They're not going to get into any politics there." And then you've got their name on the letterhead. And you're able to maintain this veneer. One former member explained to me, he said, "Look. The reason that we never sort of organized around any legislation is because we felt we had more influence as long as we can keep a couple Democrats in the fold. And so we have access to everybody. And we have access internationally."
How does the Fellowship feel about Trump? His administration’s chaotic style feels like it could be at odds with their quiet, seamless style of wielding power.
They're going all in for Trump, with some dissenters within the organization. And there has been an embrace, and the embrace sort of pivots around Mike Pence. By putting Pence on the ticket, Trump signaled—not just to the Family, because Pence has many different Christian Right sort of currents running into him—he signaled to the whole Christian right he's willing to make a deal.
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I don't make political predictions, I'm not a pundit, but the one time I got it right is in the book I wrote in 2010, C Street, which had a section about Sanford and Ensign. I said, “Okay, so Sanford and Ensign, these two once presidential contenders are obviously not going to make it.” And I looked at a couple of other figures who I could imagine. Senator John Thune from South Dakota, for instance, who's a member. I said, “Or maybe it will be a little-known congressman from Indiana named Mike Pence in The White House.” So I got it pretty close. Off by a seat, but pretty close.
When Senator Chuck Grassley, who is currently the senator from Iowa—it’s a story I tell in the book—was dealing with Somalia, the dictator there at the time was named Siad Barre. The United States became his backer, largely through the Family. That is a case where they played a pivotal role in the destruction of a country. He laid wreckage to his country. And that kind of relationship, I think, sort of gives you a sense of what they're working with, and who they're willing to make deals with. So then when people say, "How can they support Trump?" I mean, they've got to be looking at Trump and saying, "You kidding? He's a buttercup, compared to the guys we work with."
The paranoia of gun rights activists
This is a military rifle. It is designed to kill and maim. Do not let anyone tell you any different.
This past week, Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke put gun rights activists into a tizzy. He has proposed a ban on all assault weapons, a mandatory buyback of said rifles, and a voluntary buyback of handguns.
Beto O’Rourke called Friday for gun licensing and a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons, expanding on a controversial gun control platform he advanced in his return to the presidential campaign the previous day.
Part of a proposal to address gun violence and white nationalism, O’Rourke said that, if enacted, anyone who failed to forfeit a banned assault weapon would be fined.
In addition to banning assault weapons and requiring their forfeiture, O’Rourke said he would work to implement a voluntary buyback program for handguns. He proposed increasing the excise tax on gun manufacturers and fines on gun traffickers to fund buybacks.
Gun rights activists are sputtering all over Twitter, saying that every Democratic presidential candidate is in favor this proposal (which is not not true). The gun lovers also claim that this would entail confiscation of their firearms. That’s another obvious lie: If you are being given compensation for something, it is not confiscation.
I have no sympathy for gun rights activists. They have turned our world upside down, without regard for the consequences. These are selfish people, only caring for their wants and treating gun ownership as an absolute right. It is not, and that part of the Second Amendment is often overlooked in regards to the debate over firearms. The entire text reads:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
This is not talking about individual gun rights. It is talking about a militia, a militia that today is known as the National Guard. It also speaks of it being well-regulated. To argue that no laws can be imposed to restrict gun ownership is absurd.
Gun rights activists could have avoided talk of gun buybacks and making certain weapon types illegal, had they just agreed to modest proposals about firearm safety. Had they not pushed and pushed for ever more lax laws, ee would not be at this point, where this is even a question. The rise in mass shootings is not because of mental health issues, it is not because of violent video games, nor is it because parents did not discipline their children. It is because of lax firearms laws, and easy access to guns that should not be in the hands of civilians.
Gun rights activists will argue that the AR-15 and AK-47 rifles sold to the civilian market are not military firearms, as they do not fire fully automatic. Bullshit. I carried the M-16A1, and M-16A2, and have fired AK-47s. Their rate of fire, the ability to quickly change magazines, and the fact that their magazines can carry up to 100 rounds: those weapons aren’t something you use to hunt rabbits. That is a weapon that has one purpose: to kill and maim human beings. If you argue you need an AR-15 for hunting, you need a new hobby. Because you do not fire off 30 rounds in less than 30 seconds to shoot a rodent.
If you want to argue that you need your AR-15 to protect yourself against a tyrannical U.S. government, I give you the M1A2 Abrams
Trust me, your little peashooter isn’t even going to chip the paint on one of these.
I promise you, you are no match for that with your AR-15, or against the infantry that support it.
The other argument that gun rights activists like to use is that criminals do not follow the law. I am not a lawyer, and I do not pretend to understand the nuances of law in society. So I asked Joe Patrice at Above the Law about what laws are for, over and above preventing crime. This was his response:
Someone is going to break every law. Criminals don’t follow laws against murder and no one suggests that’s a reason to legalize murder.
There are a few schools of thought here but basically laws are just there incentivize/disincentivize certain behaviors in the best interest of society. In this model, a critic might say that if the law doesn’t succeed in convincing someone to obey then it failed. But it should be measured more broadly — how many people followed the law that wouldn’t have but for the law? The guide should be whether or not, on balance, the law produces more good behavior than bad. If 10% of cars on the road are driving irresponsibly that’s safer overall than if you have a Thunderdome world of abject chaos.
And this doesn’t just have to be about “making a criminal not want to be a criminal.” When the country banned lawn darts that law didn’t make everyone want to stop playing lawn darts — but when the game stopped being on the shelves, a class of people who might have wanted it couldn’t get it and shrugged their shoulders and moved on. So fewer lawn dart matches regardless of what the individuals may have wanted. And there’s a whole other class of people who never would’ve ever cared about the game if they hadn’t seen it on the shelf in the first place.
If we’re talking about gun regulations, how many people never get access to the gun because Walmart isn’t selling it or the manufacturers aren’t flooding the market with it?
Another school of thought is that laws are just the reflection of the morals of society. In that model, murder is illegal because that’s what we aspire to and it doesn’t matter if it convinces anyone. Personally I don’t think that explains enough — what’s the moral code of parking tickets? But this is the philosophy, I think, of the gun crowd. They don’t want regulations because they know that shifts the moral frame of the nation to one that puts them on the outside so they complain that laws don’t matter to try and convince people not to make the moral pronouncement that casts them to the fringe of society.
But no matter how you look at it, laws can’t be judged by who breaks them — that would literally be letting inmates run society.
When I was a child growing up in the 1970s, mass shootings were rare. What we used to see in a decade, we now see in a six-month period. At that time, we also never saw anyone open carrying inside a Walmart, a Kroger, or anywhere else, for that matter. Walmart is “discouraging” open carry in its stores, while Kroger has asked its customers not to open carry in their stores. This was something that just 20 years ago was unheard of. Now ,we are expected to see it as a legal right and nothing to fear? Really? How do I know the guy (and it is always a guy) carrying that AR-15 into McDonald’s is just there to buy a Big Mac? If your establishment allows open carry, I will no longer step foot in the door. This is where insurance companies need to step in: If you are a business and open to the public, and you allow open or concealed carry in your establishment, you should be paying astronomical insurance rates.
In closing (and just to remind everyone why we are at this point), below is a list compiled by Wikipedia of all the mass shootings in the United States since 2012. In the 1970s, there were a total of 14 mass shootings, and one of them was Kent State. In the 1980s, the number was 21. It is now September 2019 and we have already had 12 this year, with four months to go.
We have a problem in this country and we need to address it, with strict gun control laws. If the gun activist crowd does not like it, well, they only have themselves to blame. There have been numerous chances to support and enact reasonable gun control laws. I am done with reasonable. Their paranoia over any law that could have prevented even one of these shootings has gotten us to this point, where we need to outlaw and ban these weapons. If they don’t like it, well, fuck them. They had their chance.
list of shooting hit link:https://www.dailykos.com/stories/20...noia-of-gun-rights-activists?detail=emaildkre
Holy shit do I hate CAP and Neera Tanden
haven't read yet
The debate over swing voters versus mobilizing the base, explained
lmfao @ giulianis 9/11 tweet
lmao that owns
Hell yeah police violence
Biden's finest moment, just drop out and make similar quips about republicans
The US Navy says it’s doing its best to avoid a ‘Terminator’ scenario in quest for autonomous weapons
This is how I imagine Trump getting his daily National Security briefing, asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff if they have planned for a Terminator scenario.
Asking the Pentagon whether they have overcome that tic-tac-toe programming bug that Mathew Broderick uncovered in War Games.
bar owners are at the top of the target list. better watch out.
“Democrats are becoming way too extreme,” Shaun Majors, a 42-year-old high school graduate who has worked at the nearby Beaver Valley Power Station for almost his entire adult life, said before last week’s event began. “I voted for Trump last time, and I would again.”
Daniel Keener, a 72-year-old Democrat who retired after more than two decades at the nearby power plant, said his party has moved “way too far left.”
“Every one of them wants to take my gun,” said Keener, motioning to the handgun clipped to his left pocket. He said he’s committed to Trump in 2020, but he’ll likely maintain his Democratic registration because he’s “a union man” and his family has a long history with the party.
At the union protest just down the street, 60-year-old power plant electrician Terrence Ankrom, a registered Democrat, isn’t so optimistic about the future of his party.
He shared his concerns with two friends while waiting for the rally to begin. All three voted for Trump.
They laughed when asked whether they had Twitter accounts. One pointed to his flip phone.
Shocker blue collar workers are chuds
Frankly it’s still bullshit that they took all our cars when they required people to get a license to drive so I agree with him
"I'm a union man"
"People organizing together to find form a collective effort to improve their lives is 'too far left'."
Just shut up and do what your wife tells you to do, old man.
Maine breaks employment records as it continues to raise minimum wage
Any conversation about increasing the minimum wage will inevitably include the naysayer argument that increasing labor costs will scare employers from hiring, and in fact will lead to higher unemployment. The majority of Americans support raising our country’s pathetic minimum wages; and anytime increases to minimum wages are made, Republicans and fiscally conservative independents are proven wrong about their economic assumptions. In 2016, Maine passed a referendum raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $10. The increase took effect in 2017. Last year, the minimum wage was increased to $11, and by next year it will rise once again, to $12. Conservatives wailed—and continue to wail—that the Pine Tree State would see an increase in its unemployment rate.
The Maine Beacon reports that the state’s Department of Labor released new statistics showing that the unemployment rate “has stayed below four percent for nearly four years.” This doubles the state’s previous record for an unemployment rate that low from between 1991 and 2001.
Unemployment rates and minimum wage increases aside, what most Americans want is an economy that works for all Americans, not just a handful. Metrics such as unemployment and minimum wage belie the real issues of income inequality and standards of living. The need for higher wages is the result of increased costs of living coupled with historic income inequality.
Arguments that big businesses will downsize workers due to minimum wage increases or calls for a living wage are bogus. Big business has shown that, no matter what wages are, no matter how much money they are gifted in taxes, they will downsize whenever they believe it will increase their stock price just a little. And just in case you are on the fence about this, just remember: Trump’s crack team of grifters advisers has come out against minimum wage increases. When in doubt, just do the opposite of what this administration says to do.
hey wait, since at least 1980 I've been told that increasing the minimum wage was terrible for the economy and jobs
Because it's awful?
good reddit rant
21 minutes ago
The GOP playbook: if Dems speed up impeachment hearings -> “they’re pursuing impeachment without the facts for political purposes!” If Dems take their time in impeachment hearings -> “they’re dragging out impeachment for political purposes!” The GOP is both morally and intellectually bankrupt.
They don’t respect the rule of law. The only thing the GOP stands for is kleptocracy, consolidation of power, and state sanctioned corruption. They are an anti Democratic Party buttressing the most corrupt autocratic President in United States history and have willingly ushered us into a post truth era. For years I’ve now heard that true GOP patriots will stand up when it is necessary. Well the time has come and the only people standing up are a few former Senators and Justin Amash who was effectively forced from his party. Good looks, guys. History will look down on you with shame.
@ the effort put into proving there’s no downside to raising the min wage.
The Secret Jailhouse Garden of Rikers Island
When the notorious New York penal colony closes, few will miss it. But an innovative sanctuary for prisoners will also be lost.
Where the inmates are in charge: Mike Cruz tending the garden at Rikers. CreditCreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
By Richard Schiffman
Oct. 4, 2019
Set incongruously in the middle of Rikers Island’s post-apocalyptic landscape of low-slung jail blocks and razor wire is a lush garden, teeming with birds and butterflies, that seems to have been teleported down from some happier planet.
“That’s my baby,” said Mike Cruz, a stocky young man who is serving time at Rikers. He was gesturing toward a patch of flowers whose flamboyant shade of orange matched the stripes on his prison jumpsuit.
“It’s a Mexican sunflower,” he said. “I put the seeds in myself, and look at it now, it’s five feet tall. You get to watch them grow, you feel good about that. It’s like having a child.”
The two-and-a-half-acre garden where Mr. Cruz and three other prisoners were working is one of seven at Rikers created by the Horticultural Society of New York in partnership with the New York City Department of Correction.
The GreenHouse, as it is called, is the nation’s oldest and largest prison garden. It has quietly flourished for the past three decades, a period during which rampant gang violence and a scandalous culture of abuse among the guards made Rikers the most notorious jail in America.
So when the city finally closes Rikers Island, as it plans to do by 2026, few New Yorkers will miss it. But also lost will be a garden sanctuary in the nation’s largest penal colony that has a remarkable track record for keeping inmates who have worked the soil there out of prison.
Inmates at Rikers run the GreenHouse.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
For more than 500 incarcerated men and women who enter them each year, the gardens are a tranquil refuge from the chaos of jail. Not everyone, however, is charmed at first. Some don’t want to wake up early — the garden workday begins at 6 a.m. Others found the idea of working with plants to be insufficiently macho.
Mr. Cruz’s objections were more visceral.
“I didn’t like dirt, I didn’t like bugs,” he said as he prepared some flowering echinacea for a circular bed. “But I gave the garden a chance, and it’s like crazy, I fell in love with it.” He says that he especially enjoys pruning the roses. “It’s a thinking job, it’s like a puzzle,” he said. “You need to figure out what bad stuff to cut out to get the good stuff to grow.” Mr. Cruz now spends 20 hours a week there.
The inmates arrive at the garden by bus accompanied by two unarmed correction officers, trading their cells for a glass greenhouse, a goldfish pond, a wooden gazebo and scores of raised soil beds growing organic vegetables and herbs. There are peach trees, fig trees and papaya trees. There is a grape arbor, as well as a chest-tall patch of native plants thronged with butterflies and bees, visited by the occasional opossum.
It is almost certainly the only place on the island where the incarcerated call the shots. Aided by a team of experts from the Horticultural Society (the Hort, as it’s known to those involved), the inmates plan the gardens and landscaping, build the sheds and other small structures and choose seeds from a catalog during the winter.
The men don’t always come with prior knowledge of the flowers that they are ordering, according to Hilda Krus, the director of the GreenHouse, so they tend to choose ones with beguiling, feminine-sounding names. One participant loved a showy perennial he had tended there so much that he named his first daughter Chrysanthemum.
Horticulture therapy came to Rikers 30 years ago. Jin Lin clearing brush.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
“I’ll miss this garden,” said Keith Johnson, whose 10 and a half month stay on the island ends in a few weeks. “But not Rikers,” he added.
Mr. Johnson, who has been offered a paid internship with the Hort after he is released, was raking a path as a flock of Guinea fowl (a gift from a prison farm on Long Island) clucked and pecked for insects around his feet.
“People are especially fond of Limpy, a bird that was hurt when it flew into a barbed wire fence,” Ms. Krus said. “They say, ‘This bird is like me, I’m also injured, they might want to get rid of me, but they won’t succeed.’”
The same care goes to damaged or unattractive plants that would be thrown away in most other gardens. “The students tell me, ‘We don’t want to get rid of things that are imperfect.’ They do everything that they can to save them,” Ms. Krus said.
“Development in a garden is slow,” she added. “Some things change overnight, but most things develop slowly.”
An incubator for guinea hen eggs.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
Some of the inmates, the program’s director said, had never eaten a fresh tomato before working in the garden.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
When the GreenHouse started, its aims were modest. In the late ’80s, a single volunteer, Barbara Margolis — a Hort board member and official in the Koch administration — funded a small garden, where she socialized with inmates and offered them employment advice. The garden expanded, and it was eventually promoted as a job-training program, which was enthusiastically supported by the city, eager to demonstrate that it was equipping people for life after prison.
As word of the brutal conditions within Rikers spread, the focus shifted. “People started saying that we should not be treating these people like criminals, because 70 percent of them suffer from mental health issues,” recalled Sara Hobel, the Horticultural Society’s current director. “The city began to realize that not everybody is ready for work. Many of these guys had led lives of trauma. We need to deal with that first.”
This was when Ms. Krus was hired, and the focus of the garden shifted from vocational training to life skills: self-care, nutrition, teamwork, personal responsibility.
As innovative as it was when it was founded, the GreenHouse is no longer unique. There are others, like the Insight Garden Program, which combines gardening with mindfulness training. It operates in California’s San Quentin prison and 13 other facilities nationwide and serves approximately 1,500 incarcerated people annually, according to the group’s founder, Beth Waitkus.
Amy Lindemuth, a landscape architect from Seattle, helped design a garden for incarcerated women and their children at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County. She notes that gardens and farms in prisons were common in the early 20th century, but they fell out of favor after the deadly Attica prison riot in 1971, when security concerns became paramount.
“These gardens help repair the damage that people have been through, both in prison and in their earlier lives,” she said. “They are quiet places to be alone with your own thoughts away from the cacophony and stress of the prison environment.”
Not everyone is a fan, at least at first. Jails still prioritize security and discipline, which can be hard to maintain in a garden setting. While some guards at Rikers were initially skeptical of the program, most who work in the garden come to see its value.
Officer Ronald Wells, who has spent 14 years on the island, said the garden taught him a less adversarial way of relating to the men. Many guards on the island suffer from PTSD, he said, and the garden also helps them cope with the stress of their role.
Guinea fowl under the heat lamps.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
“I’ll be working side by side with them using the shears, raking leaves, and they really open up to me,” Mr. Wells said. “I talk to them about their goals, their problems. It allows you to come out of just being a correctional officer and relate to people as human beings.”
Stacey King, executive director for educational services at the Department of Correction, said that lessons learned in the garden program are being applied to a recently instituted “reform agenda,” which includes initiating a number of so-called “re-entry programs” that train people in trades like automobile repair, carpentry and cooking.
Ms. King said that these rehabilitation programs minimize conflict. “It’s proven that reducing idleness reduces violence,” Ms. King said. “Participants in the GreenHouse project are less likely to act out, because they enjoy the garden and don’t want to endanger their participation in it.”
But the question remains: how much impact can a few gardens have on the culture of violence at a place like Rikers?
“The program brings much needed humanity to the people who take part,” said Dr. Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer of New York jails and the author of “Life and Death in Rikers Island,” a book on the health risks of incarceration.
“But,” he added, “it’s a minor influence when put against the overall inhumanity of Rikers Island.
“We have incredibly high rates of institutionalized brutality,” he continued. “Sure, a program like this gives us important lessons, it has a positive effect. But the real question is: Why do we parcel out human treatment to such a small group of people? Why haven’t we translated those lessons to the way the rest of the jail system works?”
Crucial to evaluating the success of rehabilitation programs like GreenHouse is recidivism, the rate at which formerly incarcerated people return to prison.
According to Prof. Deborah Koetzle of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 68 percent of those released from U.S. prisons are rearrested within three years. On Rikers, the recidivism problem is even worse: close to half return to jail within a year.
Dalvin Dawson and Jin Lin, participants in the Horticultural Therapy Program.CreditMary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
For Dr. Koetzle, these dismal statistics prove that “the prison system is broken.” “We lock people up, we don’t provide the services they need, and we make it difficult for them to get jobs when they come home,” she said. “Prisons cause a lot of harm.”
2008 study by Alison Laichter, a graduate student at Columbia University, showed that participants in the GreenHouse program had a 40 percent lower rate of reconviction than inmates in the general prison population. Similar results are reported for the garden at San Quentin.
But according to Sander van der Linden, a professor of social psychology at the University of Cambridge, it is difficult to say whether green prison programs are the cause of this difference.
“Serious or violent offenders are unlikely to qualify for such programs,” he said. “So perhaps those who are selected into them were less likely to reoffend to begin with.”
While the precise impact may be hard to quantify, Taariq King credits the garden with his transformation from a frightened young inmate without job skills to someone who has found a sense of direction in his life.
Mr. King was sent to Rikers at the age of 18, accused of second-degree murder and possession of a weapon. Early in his jail stint he tried working in the garden, which was way outside of his comfort zone, he said. But the garden grew on him quickly.
After two years of waiting for his trial, he was eventually acquitted. He entered the Hort as an intern, and now is a full-time employee.
On a recent Thursday, he was out with a team planting flowers at Parkside and Ocean Avenue across the street from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Largely because he found the garden, he now considers his time in jail as “a curse that turned into a blessing.”
His fondest memory of the garden, he said, was when Ms. Krus brought a bucket full of water that had rose petals soaking in it for Mr. King to wash his feet in after he had waded into a pond full of algae scum. “It was amazing,” he recalled. “My feet felt tingly for hours.”
How to Kill Your Grassroots Support in 2 Easy Steps
So let’s talk a little about the holdouts on supporting an impeachment inquiry. There are only a handful left. The one I know best is my own representative, Jared Golden in Maine’s District 2. Like many of you who helped flip a seat in 2018 (or worked your asses off and didn’t get that reward), I got waaaay outside my comfort zone to help Jared get elected. I sat in a scuzzy office in Bangor and made dozens of phone calls, mostly to people not to happy to have their phone ring. I hosted postcard writing parties in my home, and wrote over 800 postcards myself. I gave money and lots of time, far more than anything I’d done in the past for any campaign. I was working alongside many others, mostly seniors, who were also volunteering at this level for the first time in their long lives.
I got out of my comfort zone because I was damn tired of putting so much time into calling and writing my reps (Bruce Poliquin and Susan Collins) begging them to do the right and popular thing on taxes, health care, and on and on and on. I wanted a rep who would just do the job without me chiming in. And in District 2, that’s what I’d be accustomed to before Bruce Poliquin’s 4-year stint, culminating in Bruce hiding in the bathroom to avoid reporters asking about his tax cut vote. We’d had 20 years of Democratic reps before Bruce in District 2, and even before that the Republican reps in the district (Bill Cohen and Olympia Snowe) were truly Republican moderates back when that was still a thing.
I’m sitting here pissed, because Jared Golden is one of the very last Democrats to support an impeachment inquiry. And he’s acting like that’s some principled thing, when it’s the coward’s way out of what any voter expects, a principled stance. So that’s strike 2. And I’m thinking I’m going to have to AGAIN starting writing and calling and WASTING MY TIME BEGGING MY REP TO DO THE RIGHT THING. Not only will Jared not support the impeachment inquiry, he is hiding from reporters who ask for statements (has he learned nothing from Bruce’s stint in the women’s room?).
If you’re wondering what strike 1 was, Jared’s already said he will not support the Democratic nominee for Senate next year, because he likes Susan Collins and wants to continue to work well with her if she is re-elected. He is going to stay “neutral.” Which means his promise to constituents to get things done on prescription drugs, healthcare, and taxes means nothing, since without the Senate, any bill from the House dies. Not to mention his betrayal of all the women in his district who want our reproductive rights supported (abortion rights are overwhelmingly popular in Maine, enshrined in the state constitution).
The whole point of all that time and treasure spent by the grassroots up here in 2018 was to get someone in office who would do the right thing. And Jared sadly is showing he has no spine. What energy he is willing to expend is to spit on his base. We’re “extremists” to him, no different than the far right if you read the quotes about how he proudly stands right in the middle, superior to his Democratic supporters who are taking a stand. But here’s the thing. Trump is deeply unpopular in Maine (underwater by 12-15% depending on the survey you read). District 2 is not a red district by much—+2 according to the Cook Index. And the state can’t be 13% underwater for Trump without our district being at least a little underwater for Trump too.
So rather than write and call Jared and have him ignore me as he has ignored all his supporters, I’m going to write to y’all here in hopes I get uprated enough for him to read it. Jared, or Jared’s poor intern reading this, get a message to your guy and let him know how this is going to go down. Your grassroots is still energized for 2020, but not for you. We will drag your sorry ass over the finish line again in 2020 while we are getting Sue Collins drummed out of office, getting our new Democratic president elected, and shoring up our majorities in the Maine state houses.
And then in 2021 our state reps are going to get rid of the gerrymander that is making District 2 more pink than it should be. Waterville and more coastal communities are going to be in the district. We’re going to move from light pink to light blue, and in 2022 you’re going to be primaried. We’re going to select one of the many fine Dem reps serving in the state house to replace you. We’re going to knock on doors, write postcards, show up to vote in the primary in droves, and get someone who is more than a placeholder in office. Because you are NOT representing the majority of your district who do want a president who isn’t a stone-cold criminal, who OVERWHELMINGLY support women’s rights, and most of all, who long for the days when we had a representative who did what was right over what they think is politically expedient. We are not going to forget your tacit support for Collins, for keeping the Senate in Republican hands, for ignoring Trump’s threat to the constitution.
We are playing a long game, Jared. Don’t wonder what happened in a few months when your fundraising is way down and no volunteers show up to phonebank. Your local grassroots is still energized and raring to go. We’ll be out in force defeating Sue Collins and getting Dem reps in the state house and senate. Don’t think that means your seat is safe. You’re on our to-do list for 2022. And like Bruce, you’ll be a two-term representative. Remember this diary. You were warned.
(Before anyone responds about good reasons for why a rep might not support impeachment, I get it. It’s a big country, a big tent for Democrats, and the stance might make sense elsewhere. But this is not Oklahoma and my rep is not Kendra Horn. Jared is making what will likely be a fatal mistake for his political career.
2 easy steps = 9 paragraphs
That's possibly the greatest tweet I've seen in my life
I saw that yesterday and it was fucking staggering. And the math checks out, apparently
Pretty straight forward math. Columbus sailed in 1492.
(2019-1492) * (365) * (5000) = about $962 million
hat part was easy but I was more unsure about Bezos’ weekly income. That was the part I checked to make sure.
thought this was interesting thread
Listening to my uncle bitch about Wisconsin roads.
They're the worst roads in the nation! Just took a 6000 mile trip out west and all their roads were great! Wisconsin roads are the worst!
Well maybe you shouldn't have been willing to suck a fart out of Walker's ass above all, dumbass. This is your doing.
Tell your uncle that Wisconsin isn’t even in the bottom 10. Tell him to swing by Jersey where we are bottom 5 in road quality, and we spend more than double 2nd place in $$ per mile of road.
Naomi Klein wrote a new book about the GND and has been making the rounds on various leftist programs. The interview she's doing on the latest Chapo is really good and at about the 29 minute mark she goes into the differences between Bernie and Warren's vision.
Putting this in here... I tend to agree that she's not doing herself any favors with regard to how she describes how she's going to pay for (much needed) social programs.
In essence, once you get past the initial hit, universal health care would pay for itself in terms of overall benefits to the economy and to society in general.
Germany Shooter ‘Would Have Killed More People’ With Access To Better Guns
The gunman accused of killing two people outside a Halle synagogue was using homemade firearms — a far cry from military-style weaponry common in the U.S.
The man accused of shooting two people to death in Halle, Germany, this week shares a lot of characteristics with American mass shooters: He’s a bigot with delusions of grandeur, and is part of an online community that fervently supports his hate.
But one thing that set him apart ― and likely curbed the death toll in Wednesday’s shootings outside a synagogue ― was his choice of weapons. Police say he was armed with homemade guns that jammed repeatedly during the attack. American mass killers, on the other hand, typically strike with a cache of military-style, semiautomatic weaponry.
That’s in part due to Germany’s strict gun laws. Had the Halle shooter had access to better guns, the bloodshed could have been much worse, experts said.
“It’s clear that if he had access to better weapons, the body count would have been higher,” said Vegas Tenold, a journalist and author with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. Tenold tweeted a photo of the shooter’s slam-bang tube, adding, “This is a direct result of Germany’s strict gun laws.”
The shooter, in a gruesome, 36-minute video livestreamed on Twitch, used his improvised guns to kill two people after failing to get inside a synagogue filled with Yom Kippur worshippers.
His guns ― including a so-called slam-bang tube and a homemade 9mm rifle ― repeatedly jammed or failed to fire as he attempted to shoot. He said he wanted to prove the effectiveness of rudimentary weapons in a country that makes it hard to obtain semiautomatic guns.
Germany has some of the world’s strictest gun laws. All gun ownership is heavily regulated, and each legal purchase comes with a background check that considers addiction, mental health history, and criminal record. Gun buyers under 25 have to pass a psychological exam, and semiautomatic gun ownership requires special authorization.
German gun laws were tightened after school shootings in 2002 and 2009. In turn, shooting incidents dropped dramatically, according to The Washington Post.
Illegal weaponry and DIY guns are still a threat across much of Europe. But shooters need criminal connections to get their hands on semiautomatic firepower that is commonplace in America, said Nils Duquet, a weapons expert in Belgium with Flemish Peace Institute.
“If you want to buy an illegal gun in Europe, what’s important is having the right networks. For assault rifles, you need better criminal connections,” Duquet told The Washington Post. “But there are many hot spots in Europe where you can try, and that is what’s worrying.”
A “slam-bang” tube, purportedly cobbled together and used by the shooter in Germany.
America’s gun laws, along with war-torn Yemen’s, are the world’s loosest. The U.S. is averaging more than one mass shooting per day this year. According to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, 329 mass shootings ― defined as an incident in which four people or more are shot, excluding the shooter ― have occurred in the U.S. in 2019.
Military-style, semiautomatic rifles are often easier to obtain in the U.S. than handguns, and they kill twice as many people as other types of weapons, according to researchers.
“Active shooters are hell-bent on killing people,” Dr. Adil Haider, a trauma surgeon who was the lead author of a 2018 study on weapons used in “active shooter” incidents, told The Associated Press. “The big difference — and this is not such a big surprise — is if you give them a semiautomatic, they’re able to shoot twice the number of people.”
You know just recently it seemed that I was told our generation had no thought for our future and were idiot free spenders