Breaking NYT: Republican Matt Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter. https://t.co/igQ6n0Iuxn
A federal judge has ruled that NDAs the Trump 2016 campaign required employees to sign is unenforceable, finding that the sweeping, boilerplate language of the NDAs was so vague that the agreement was invalid under New York contract law. @joshgersteinhttps://t.co/KqffbmlrkX
By my count, Jen Psaki today holding her 42nd formal WH Press Briefing, same number as predecessor Kayleigh McEnany held during 9 months as Press Secy. Average length of Psaki briefings: 47 mins., compared to average 23 mins for McEnany.
"With three grown men on top of somebody, it appeared he was small and frail" — Nelson's mic drop moment at the end of this portion of Genevieve Clara Hansen's testimony is that she inaccurately described George Floyd during her initial interview pic.twitter.com/wB3y9wQL19
First, a quick follow-up: I’ve been writing about the delay of stimulus payments to 30 million seniors, disabled people, veterans, railroad pensioners. Last Thursday, the Social Security Administration finally sent information to enable the IRS to send out the direct deposits/checks, but there’s still no information available on when these vulnerable Americans will receive the much needed assistance.
Many recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other federal benefits are still waiting to receive their stimulus fund. The Internal Revenue Service has yet to announce a payment date, as of Tuesday….
On March 25, the SSA provided the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with the paperwork needed for stimulus payments to be issued to federal benefit recipients following pressure from the House Ways and Means Committee. The IRS has yet to respond to Newsweek‘s requests for a comment since the SSA sent the required paperwork.
The SSA website also currently states that “the IRS decided to pay EIPs [Economic Impact Payments] first only to people who filed a 2020 or 2019 tax return, and to people who used the IRS’ Non-Filer Tool to receive a previous EIP. Some Social Security beneficiaries may have received a recent EIP if they filed a tax return with the IRS.”
People who were too poor to file a tax return have been left twisting in the wind. They are advised to use the “check my payment” link at the IRS, but when they do, they are told there is no information available.
Asked whether it had received any information on a stimulus payment date for federal benefit recipients, a spokesperson for NACHA (National Automated Clearing House Association), which manages the ACH Network, the national automated clearing house for electronic funds transfers, told Newsweek this Monday: “We haven’t gotten anything.”
Newsweek has contacted the IRS, the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Bureau of the Fiscal Service for comment.
The SSA website currently advises: “Please refer to the IRS’ website for the latest information about economic impact payments (EIP). Please do not contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) with questions about EIPs. Our representatives do not have information to answer your EIP questions. The IRS, not SSA, processes all EIPs.”
A spokesperson for the SSA told Newsweek on March 26: “As you may already know, many Social Security beneficiaries have already received their EIPs. The final files we sent to IRS yesterday morning [Thursday] will address those recipients who don’t normally file a tax return with the IRS.”
Now for my main topic: Cultural Appropriation
Wikipedia: Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.
I seldom watch late night entertainment programs, but yesterday there was a strong reaction to a Tonight Show segment. A white TikTok “influencer,” Addison Rae, appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show to perform several dance routines. The problem is that she copied them from Black women on TicToc and failed to credit them or the Black artists who performed the songs she danced to.
Many of the viral dance challenges Rae demonstrated were started by Black creators, but you wouldn’t know that by watching Friday’s episode.
Many of TikTok’s viral dance challenges were started by Black creators, but you wouldn’t know that by watching Friday’s episode of “The Tonight Show,” which saw one of the app’s biggest stars, Addison Rae, perform several dances without crediting their choreographers.
What was intended as a fun moment between Rae and host Jimmy Fallon — who are both white — backfired over the weekend as Twitter users demanded recognition for the people whose choreography was featured on the show.
“Stealing from black entertainers and having white ‘creators’ regurgitate it to the masses is american history 101,” one person tweeted after Fallon shared a clip of Rae busting a move to eight different songs.
“I think Black creators should just stop creating content for like a good 6 months and just observe what these people come up with,” wrote another in a tweet that had amassed more than 261,000 likes….
Included in the TikTok dance compilation were:
“Do It Again” (recorded by Pia Mia, choreographed by @noahschnapp)
“Savage Love” (recorded and choreographed by @jasonderulo)
“Corvette Corvette” (recorded by Popp Hunna, choreographed by @yvnggprince)
“Laffy Taffy” (recorded by D4L, choreographed by @flyboyfu)
“Savage” (recorded by Megan Thee Stallion, choreographed by @keke.janjah)
“Blinding Lights” (recorded by the Weeknd, choreographed by @macdaddyz)
“Up” (recorded by Cardi B, choreographed by @theemyanicole)
“Fergalicious” (recorded by Fergie and will.i.am, choreographed by @thegilberttwins).
(The choreographers’ names have been shared by Twitter users and confirmed by Buzzfeed.)
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Rae’s performance to Cardi B’s “Up” along with the original performance by TheMayaNicole. See what you think.
If you want to see a TikTok dance skit, why not ask the original artists to participate? That’s a question The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Addison Rae face after March 26th’s episode. The well-known creator walked Fallon through a few of the app’s most popular choreography in a sketch, similar to a video released with Charli D’Amelio last year. Quickly after airing, the clip faced criticism as viewers wondered why the creatives who actually created the dances didn’t get screen time — or at the very least, proper credit.
This controversy is not new for Rae, who faced similar pushback after she and D’Amelio became the face of a “Renegade” dance routine, which was originally created by Jalaiah Harmon. Intentional or not, Rae and D’Amelio’s names were synonymous with choreography they had no hand in. They went as far as to perform the dance at a 2020 NBA All Star game without Harmon. Harmon eventually got her dues, but only after publicly reclaiming the viral dance. Rae and D’Amelo need only whisper and their combined 100+ million followers would come running, so why did Harmon practically need a megaphone to get her credit? Her experience is a disappointing reflection of how art is co-opted on social media, especially from Black creatives.
You can’t separate Rae’s success from the work of Black TikTokers. Some of her most viewed videos are built on their choreography, like the “Savage” routine originated by Keara Wilson. (Wilson told POPSUGAR she doesn’t wish any backlash against Rae because she knows “how toxic the internet can be.” She said, “Yes of course it’s always nice to be credited but just having my dance on the show is an honor in itself.”)
As Twitter user @blackamazon wrote, “This is why I bang on EVERYBODY about the economics and race of social media. ‘Tik tok dances’ the names of the artists not there. The actual choreographers not there. She’s on national television but where are the Black kids who actually made these.” Another user, @868nathan, wrote, “The fact that Addison Rae is championed for ‘Tik Tok Dances’ whilst the black creatives that made them never get the same platform will never sit right with me.”
This reminds me of the days when white recording artists like Pat Boone released pathetic cover versions of songs by Black musicians like Little Richard. The good news in those days was that people who heard the covers sought out the originals and eventually the Black artists became well known and successful. The same thing happened again in the 1960s with British and American bands who covered performances by Black blues musicians.
While some early rock ‘n’ roll acts receive little critical respect, historically speaking, these same musicians and singers played an important role in bridging musical styles and bringing cultures together, writes Aquila, professor emeritus of history and American studies at Penn State, in his book, Let’s Rock! How 1950s America Created Elvis and the Rock & Roll Craze (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).
“I spend a lot of time discussing Pat Boone and other pop rockers in the book. Boone refers to himself not as the father of rock ‘n’ roll, but as the midwife of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Aquila.
“What he means by this is that his versions of Little Richard’s songs may not be as good as Little Richard’s originals, but Little Richard couldn’t get played on mainstream radio stations back in the ’50s, due to racism and other reasons. But, after the kids listened to Boone’s music, they tended to go on and want the real thing.”
Boone spent most of his early career covering rhythm-and-blues songs, like Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.” Boone’s versions, however, were influenced by pop styles and standards that were tamer and more familiar to white audiences of the time. He also sanitized Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame,” for his white audience’s ears and, apparently, their grammar. He tried, for instance, to change the title of the song to “Isn’t That a Shame.”
While many music critics now consider this artistic theft or cultural appropriation, Aquila says that some black artists at the time appreciated Boone’s cover songs.
At a concert, for example, Aquila writes that Domino introduced Boone to the audience and, pointing to one of his diamond rings, added that Boone’s version of “Ain’t That a Shame” bought him that ring.
It’s still pathetic that our white-dominated culture made this happen and even more pathetic that it is still happening on social media platforms like TikTok and mainstream TV programs.
My body went back to normal time this morning and stole that hour plus another back! I’m just not adjusting well to this at all but I did enjoy time walking the dog last night under the Full Worm Moon. I’m not sure all the spring breakers holding the neighborhood hostage were gone but they seemed to be holed up somewhere inside because Temple and I had the neutral ground and all our heron buddies to ourselves.
The full Moon names used by The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources. Traditionally, each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, not only to the full Moon.
The Worm Moon
March’s full Moon goes by the name Worm Moon, which was originally thought to refer to the earthworms that appear as the soil warms in spring. This invites robins and other birds to feed—a true sign of spring!
An alternative explanation for this name comes from Captain Jonathan Carver, an 18th-century explorer, who wrote that this Moon name refers to a different sort of “worm”—beetle larvae—which begin to emerge from the thawing bark of trees and other winter hideouts at this time.
This is Rob and Laura who live in the Live Oak closest to the River. On the next block there are two pairs. I’ve named them Lucy and Ricky and Ethel and Fred. They live in adjacent trees.
The issue in most dire need of elucidation is undoubtedly the onslaught of voter suppression measures in state legislatures across Republican States. It is also the Voting Rights Act headed for the desk of the Senate. If you read anything today please read Jane Mayer’s article at The New Yorker. Here’s the headline: “Inside the Koch-Backed Effort to Block the Largest Election-Reform Bill in Half a Century ,On a leaked conference call, leaders of dark-money groups and an aide to Mitch McConnell expressed frustration with the popularity of the legislation—even among Republican voters.”
A recording obtained by The New Yorker of a private conference call on January 8th, between a policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups—including one run by the Koch brothers’ network—reveals the participants’ worry that the proposed election reforms garner wide support not just from liberals but from conservative voters, too. The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn’t worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress.
Kyle McKenzie, the research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together, told fellow-conservatives and Republican congressional staffers on the call that he had a “spoiler.” “When presented with a very neutral description” of the bill, “people were generally supportive,” McKenzie said, adding that “the most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description.” In fact, he warned, “there’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.”
As a result, McKenzie conceded, the legislation’s opponents would likely have to rely on Republicans in the Senate, where the bill is now under debate, to use “under-the-dome-type strategies”—meaning legislative maneuvers beneath Congress’s roof, such as the filibuster—to stop the bill, because turning public opinion against it would be “incredibly difficult.” He warned that the worst thing conservatives could do would be to try to “engage with the other side” on the argument that the legislation “stops billionaires from buying elections.” McKenzie admitted, “Unfortunately, we’ve found that that is a winning message, for both the general public and also conservatives.” He said that when his group tested “tons of other” arguments in support of the bill, the one condemning billionaires buying elections was the most persuasive—people “found that to be most convincing, and it riled them up the most.”
McKenzie explained that the Koch-founded group had invested substantial resources “to see if we could find any message that would activate and persuade conservatives on this issue.” He related that “an A.O.C. message we tested”—one claiming that the bill might help Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez achieve her goal of holding “people in the Trump Administration accountable” by identifying big donors—helped somewhat with conservatives. But McKenzie admitted that the link was tenuous, since “what she means by this is unclear.” “Sadly,” he added, not even attaching the phrase “cancel culture” to the bill, by portraying it as silencing conservative voices, had worked. “It really ranked at the bottom,” McKenzie said to the group. “That was definitely a little concerning for us.”
Gretchen Reiter, the senior vice-president of communications for Stand Together, declined to respond to questions about the conference call or the Koch group’s research showing the robust popularity of the proposed election reforms. In an e-mailed statement, she said, “Defending civil liberties requires more than a sound bite,” and added that the group opposes the bill because “a third of it restricts First Amendment rights.” She included a link to an op-ed written by a member of Americans for Prosperity, another Koch-affiliated advocacy group, which argues that the legislation violates donors’ freedom of expression by requiring the disclosure of the names of those who contribute ten thousand dollars or more to nonprofit groups involved in election spending. Such transparency, the op-ed suggests, could subject donors who prefer to remain anonymous to retaliation or harassment.
This evening shift, circa 1924, is the earliest confirmed example of Lowe’s couture. Every bead was attached individually.Dress from collection of the Henry B. Plant Museum / Tampa, Florida
Georgia has some of the most organized and mobilized groups of Black voters, thanks to Stacey Abrams, who may be the shrewdest and most tenacious voting rights advocate in the nation.
Many of these Black voters remember when Abrams lost a close race for Georgia governor in 2018, a contest tainted by allegations of voter suppression. Kemp, Abrams’ opponent, ran for governor while also holding onto his position as the state’s chief elections officer — a position many viewed as a conflict of interest.
The perception that the GOP is trying to suppress the Black vote will only make Black voters in Georgia more determined to vote in 2022, when Abrams is widely expected to run against Kemp again, says the Rev. Jamal Byrant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia.
“Georgia is frankly becoming browner and more progressive, and the Republicans are having anxiety about the upcoming gubernatorial election and they’re trying to do everything in their power to stop the wave,” Bryant says.
“You’re going to see a whole lot of first-time voters, younger voters and disillusioned and disenfranchised voters heading back to the polls because they realize what’s at stake,” Bryant says.
There is evidence to back up Bryant’s prediction. A growing body of research suggests that the passage of voter ID laws may in some cases motivate Black voters and spark voter organizing efforts.
One study examining the impact of the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby decision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, suggested that voting restrictions may actually increase Black turnout in elections.
The Shelby decision made it easier for states to pass voter restriction laws after the high court removed the “preclearance” provision from the Voting Rights Act. Under preclearance, a state with a history of racial discrimination in elections had to get permission from the federal government for instituting any changes to how they run elections.
The study, which was cited in the New York Times, said the Shelby decision may have actually increased Black turnout in the 2016 presidential election in some states where preclearance was removed.
“Overall, the removal of preclearance did not decrease Black turnout,” says Kyle Raze, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon, who authored the study. “If anything, the removal of preclearance increased Black turnout in some states during the 2016 election.”
Two months after President Donald Trump left office, 38% of Americans say he made progress toward solving major problems facing the country during his administration – while a nearly identical share (37%) say he made these problems worse. Another 15% say Trump tried but failed to solve the nation’s problems, while 10% say he did not address them.
Looking back at Trump’s term, just over half of Americans (53%) rate Trump’s presidency as below average – including 41% who say he was a “terrible” president. About a third (35%) rate his presidency as above average, including 17% who say he was a “great” president. Republicans and Democrats offer starkly different assessments of Trump’s presidential legacy, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 12,055 U.S. adults conducted March 1-7, 2021.
Graphic statement: A stately evening ensemble of black lace over aqua silk, for A. F. Chantilly, circa 1966.
On Sunday evening, CNN aired a special featuring interviews with the senior officials involved in the early coronavirus pandemic response under president Donald Trump. No longer operating under the Trump political umbrella, they offered assessments of the past year that lacked any soothing veneer.
Suspected Russian hackers gained access to email accounts belonging to the Trump administration’s head of the Department of Homeland Security and members of the department’s cybersecurity staff whose jobs included hunting threats from foreign countries, The Associated Press has learned.
The intelligence value of the hacking of then-acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his staff is not publicly known, but the symbolism is stark. Their accounts were accessed as part of what’s known as the SolarWinds intrusion, and it throws into question how the U.S. government can protect individuals, companies and institutions across the country if it can’t protect itself.
The short answer for many security experts and federal officials is that it can’t — at least not without some significant changes.
“The SolarWinds hack was a victory for our foreign adversaries, and a failure for DHS,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, top Republican on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We are talking about DHS’s crown jewels.”
The Biden administration has tried to keep a tight lid on the scope of the SolarWinds attack as it weighs retaliatory measures against Russia. But an inquiry by the AP found new details about the breach at DHS and other agencies, including the Energy Department, where hackers accessed top officials’ schedules.
Blush pink was a favorite color of Lowe’s. Here she uses it in silk and nylon for an evening dress, from 1962, festooned with trompe-l’oeil flowers.
Well, that’s a little this and that about the previous guy as well as what we’re experiencing now still because of the previous guy. The Biden/Harris administration sure have their work cut out for them.
Since I now have the Blues I will put this up by Memphis Minnie (Lizzy Douglas) who recorded this song sometime during the peak of the great depression. Douglas was born in New Orleans in the Algiers neighborhood in 1897 but moved to Tennessee to record. She was billed as the Queen of the Country Blues. You can learn more about her at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
But there were plenty of men who wanted to play guitar like Memphis Minnie. She once even beat the great Big Bill Broonzy in a picking contest. Her title “Queen of the Country Blues” was no hype. Minnie did everything the boys could do, and she did it in a fancy gown with full hair and makeup. She had it all: stellar guitar chops, a powerful voice, a huge repertoire including many original, signature songs and a stage presence simultaneously glamorous, bawdy and tough.
She transcended both gender and genre. Her recording career reached from the 1920s heyday of country blues to cutting electric sides in 1950s Chicago studios for the Chess subsidiary Checker. Minnie helped form the roots of electric Chicago blues, as well as R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, long before she plugged in. Her unique storytelling style of songwriting drew such surprising fans as Country Music Hall of Famer Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing, who covered her song about a favorite horse, “Frankie Jean,” right down to copying Minnie’s whistling. Though she inspired as many men as women, her influence was particularly strong on female musicians, her disciples including her niece Lavern Baker, a rock and R&B pioneer in her own right, as well as Maria Muldaur (who released a 2012 tribute CD) Bonnie Raitt (who paid for her headstone), Rory Block, Tracy Nelson, Saffire and virtually every other guitar-slinging woman since.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
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Sen. Steve Daines: “Twenty years ago in Montana, meth was homemade. It was homegrown. And you had purity levels less than 30%. Today the meth that is getting into Montana is Mexican cartel.” pic.twitter.com/Xtu1geaVxJ
This part of the Georgia voter suppression bill hasn't been given enough attention. It strips power from an executive official elected through a statewide vote and hands it to a heavily gerrymandered legislature. This is both undemocratic and violates the separation of powers. pic.twitter.com/nlCIuVE3l9
The information the IRS needs to send out the payments was finally delivered on Thursday morning after threatening letters sent to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul and his Deputy David Black by leaders of the House Ways and Means and Oversight Committees. There is still no word on when the deposts/checks will go out. The latest estimate is that those of us in these categories will still have to wait at least 10 days to see the money.
Meanwhile, calls on Biden to fire Saul and Black are growing louder.
Weeks after the American Rescue Plan had been signed into law, while many Americans had already received payments, the Social Security Administration’s inaction was standing in the way of millions of beneficiaries receiving desperately needed cash aid. After escalating pressure on Saul to no avail, the letter gave him 24 hours to remedy the holdup. A few hours later, the SSA announced that they’d be sending the information the next day.
This delay is just the latest in an array of extremely troubling decisions under the leadership of the Social Security Administration’s commissioner Saul, and his deputy David Black….
Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black were appointed by President Trump, alongside Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy Mark Warshawsky, to self-fulfill the Republican promise about the failure of government, and destroy the departments they were tasked with managing. Warshawsky, a veteran of the American Enterprise Institute, was pegged as an early candidate to be fired by the Biden administration for his work undercutting the program; he retired from the post in late January.
The Biden administration has set to work rolling back some of those Trump appointees’ designs on Social Security, including a proposed rule that would have subjected disability insurance recipients to even more frequent and stringent eligibility reviews, which would make an already challenging process even more difficult for people with disabilities to secure and maintain cash benefits. That move was widely celebrated among advocates. But President Biden has not heeded the call from those same advocates to fire Saul and Black, who have clear track records of working against the very department they’ve been tasked to head up, and against Democratic ambitions on Social Security.
Now, a growing number of congressional Democrats are joining the chorus calling for Saul and Black’s ousters. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for their resignation as his first act as chair of the Social Security and Pensions Subcommittee, and has since urged Biden to fire them. He’s joined House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John Larson, Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny Davis, and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell Jr. in demanding Saul’s immediate removal. Both Saul and Black are serving terms that don’t expire until 2025….
On the campaign trail, Biden insisted (straining against historical fact) he had never and would never vouch for cuts to Social Security. He, and the Democratic Party broadly, have made protecting and expanding Social Security a main plank of the party’s policy platform going forward.
That ambition is irreconcilable with a leadership regime that has, as was reported by Yahoo News, put “illegitimate political pressure on Administrative Law Judges to reduce the rate of Social Security disability case approval,” as one such judge recently claimed. That alone should be scandal enough to imperil Saul and Black’s positions at the agency, and give the Biden administration the space to fire them for cause. But the Trump years have built up a tolerance for scandal, which means that the incident hasn’t even deterred them.
Meanwhile, Saul and Black have openly pursued a number of reforms aimed at aggressively curtailing benefits. Their attempted rule change, which the Biden administration rolled back, was a Reagan-era reform that would have led to tens of thousands of people losing benefits. When President Reagan enacted it, it led to a rash of suicides, and was deemed so cruel that it led to a unanimous Senate ruling to overturn it. Elsewhere, they’ve sought to deny benefits for older and severely disabled non–English speakers, resulting in an estimated 100,000 people being denied more than $5 billion in benefits.
See my Thursday post for more about Saul and Black’s efforts to destroy Social Security on Thursday.
Pressure is also building for Biden to get rid of Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
A group of House Democrats on Friday introduced legislation to prohibit the Postal Service from lengthening mail-delivery windows and require it to adhere to present service expectations. They named the bill the Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round Act, or DEJOY Act.
Carl Larsson: Brita, Cat and Sandwich
One House aide involved in postal reform legislation introduced in February said some members of the caucus are leery of proceeding with efforts to address the Postal Service’s financial obligations given that DeJoy’s 10-year plan includes sharp reductions in service, including slower timetables for mail delivery and reduced post office hours.
Separately, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) threatened to take legal action to block the service cuts. His office said in a statement Friday that it was encouraged that DeJoy recognizes the legal obligations to secure limited regulatory approvals, but said it remained concerned about timely mail delivery….
DeJoy hopes to save the Postal Service $160 billion over the next decade through a combination of austerity measures, postage price increases and projected package volume growth. But the largest single piece of his plan is dependent on Congress repealing its pre-funding mandate for retiree health care costs, which runs about $5 billion a year. Instead, the agency wants to wind down those payments and enroll future retirees in Medicare, a proposal worth $44 billion.
A bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, includes both components.
But DeJoy’s designs to slow the mail — even as the Postal Service attempts to rebound from generationally poor service metrics in recent months — and perceived animus toward lawmakers in recent hearings have made those prospects more difficult.
Sometimes America’s legacy of white supremacy is hiding in plain sight, literally. When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a hastily passed voter suppression law that many are calling the new, new Jim Crow on Thursday night, surrounded by a half-dozen white men, he did so in front of a painting of a plantation where more than 100 Black people had been enslaved.
Lady reading with cat-Albert Roosenboom
The fitting symbolism is somehow both shocking and unsurprising. In using the antebellum image of the notorious Callaway Plantation — in a region where enslaved Black people seeking freedom were hunted with hounds — in Wilkes County, Ga., as the backdrop for signing a bill that would make it a crime to hand water to a thirsty voter waiting on Georgia’s sometimes hours-long voter lines, the GOP governor was sending a clear message about race and human rights in the American South.
The portrait of the plantation was the starkest reminder of Georgia’s history of white racism that spans slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan, and today’s voter purges targeting Black and brown voters — but it wasn’t the only one. At the very moment that Kemp was signing the law with his all-white posse, a Black female Georgia lawmaker — Rep. Park Cannon — who’d knocked on the governor’s door in the hopes of watching the bill signing was instead dragged away and arrested by state troopers, in a scene that probably had the Deep South’s racist sheriffs of yesteryear like Bull Connor or Jim Clark smiling in whatever fiery hellhole they now inhabit.
Indeed, Twitter was on fire Thursday night with posters drawing the straight line from notorious past segregationists like George Wallace to the 2021 actions of Kemp and the GOP-led Georgia Legislature in passing — at great speed and with little debate — a lengthy bill that also limits easy-access drop boxes for ballots and places onerous voter-ID restrictions on voting by mail, and which the New York Times reports “will have an outsized effect on Black voters.”
On one level this new voter-suppression law — “voter integrity,” in the modern GOP’s Orwellian branding — is inspired by the current and possible future events of ex-President Donald Trump’s Big Lie about fraud in the 2020 election, the narrow upset wins in Georgia for President Biden and two new Democratic senators, and the threat that voting icon Stacey Abrams poses to Kemp in the 2022 election. But there’s also a powerful pull back to Georgia past. That link is made clear by the history hanging right behind Kemp on Thursday.
“Things have changed dramatically” in the South, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2013 when he authored the majority opinion gutting the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with a long history of discrimination no longer needed to have changes to their voting procedures approved by the federal government.
Voter suppression in Georgia is Exhibit A for why he is wrong.
After Joe Biden carried the state in November and Black voters turned out in record numbers in the January runoffs to elect Democrat Raphael Warnock as the state’s first Black senator and Democrat Jon Ossoff as the state’s first Jewish senator, Georgia Republicans passed a sweeping rewrite of the state’s election laws on Thursday to make it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote and have their ballots counted.
Though some Georgia Republicans, most notably Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, defended the integrity of the 2020 election, the “Election Integrity Act of 2021” heavily restricts mail ballot drop boxes, adds new ID requirements for mail-in voting, throws out ballots cast in the wrong precincts, and makes it a crime to give voters food and water while they’re waiting in line.
In addition to making it harder to vote, the new law allows the GOP-controlled legislature to appoint a majority of members of the state election board and gives the board the power to take over county election boards, making it easier for Republicans to challenge election results, take over election administration in large Democratic counties, and even decline to certify the results if Democrats win close races—which Trump tried and failed to get the state to do in 2020.
One of the small, rueful truths that many Americans held in the back of their minds throughout the pandemic year was that, for all of its horrors, it had at least reduced, or even eliminated, the spectacle of the gun massacre. School closings had momentarily ended school shootings; curbside delivery had, it seemed, halted in-store assaults. It is true that gun fatalities were disturbingly trending upward in big cities, for reasons that are as yet as mysterious as those for the great decline that preceded them, and that, according to the Gun Violence Archive, last year saw the highest number of shooting deaths in decades. In fact, keyed, perhaps, by a general sense of panic marked by the pandemic and a bizarrely unsettled election year—with that strange American certainty that they’re coming for you—gun sales soared, even amid groups that are not normally associated with buying firearms in numbers.
The gun massacre, however—five or twenty or fifty people murdered at a time—had, briefly, vanished. Yet, alongside the knowledge that mass shootings had gone stood the knowledge that they would, inevitably, reëmerge. And here they are, right on schedule, as the country “opens up,” and with a vengeance: seven in the past seven days, with eight people killed in three shootings in Atlanta, and ten in a grocery store in Boulder. With those shootings come back all the usual, understandable, and all-too-human reactions—above all, our urge to give them some kind of meaning by making them an index of a larger issue. Violence this blankly nihilistic needs a point projected into it, to redeem it as a subject of discussion….
Countries that resemble ours in every way except for the availability of guns have much lower levels of gun violence and far fewer gun massacres. Yet these truths, demonstrated again and again, meet the same resistance, over and over. The Second Amendment guarantees private ownership of even military-style weapons. (It doesn’t, or rather, until very recently, not even conservative Justices imagined that it did.) Guns are essential for self-protection. (They aren’t.) The way to stop mass shootings is to arm more people, such as teachers. (A “colossally stupid idea,” according to the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)
All this, even as the sheer psychic damage done by the omnipresence of guns in America is self-evident (no healthy society should have to train its children in active-shooter drills), while the social damage extends far beyond the immediate casualties. A reason for the prevalence of police shootings in America is that the police go about armed, in levels unique to our society, in order to deal with the uniquely over-armed civilians they fear encountering, with the frequently fatal results, we know too well, for the unarmed and the innocent.
Sorry this isn’t a more cheerful post. I’ll probably be up for something more upbeat if I finally get that promised $1400. What’s on your mind today?
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The Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.