Mostly Monday Reads: Some Cherry Reads

Hana no Yube or Flowers (Image of Evening) was made in 1938 by Funada Gyokuju. The power of this sizeable folding screen painting is in the scale of the cherry blossom tree.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

So far, things are going well here at the KatHouse.  Keeley has not had a seizure since last Monday and is resigned to her pill regime.  I hope we can continue on this path!

I’m sharing some Japanese paintings and block prints of the upcoming Cherry Blossom Season.  My late mother-in-law was born and raised in Kyoto during World War 2. The season is vital to Japan and Washington D.C., where everyone recognizes the beautiful sakura blooming on the mall.  I love it because it always starts on the Spring Equinox, which occurred the day Doctor Daughter was born. It starts on March 20 this year, and it’s another Monday, so I may give you some more Sakura artwork.

Our National Cherry Blossom Festival and the trees were a gift from Japan.  It’s certainly good they’re located in the National Mall, part of our National Park System. The last glum lady in the White House didn’t do positive things to the gardens there.  The First Lady that helped plant these trees was Helen Herron Taft.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual spring celebration in the capital, commemorates the gift of 3,020 Japanese cherry trees given by former Toyko Mayor Yukio Ozaki to the U.S. in 1912, which were planted in Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument (Potomac Riverbank) by Kawase Hasui, 1935The Sakura tree does not actually produce cherries.  They give us these brilliant pink blossoms when we need to remove the winter darkness from our national psyche. So, that’s one symbol of rebirth we can enjoy coming from Washington, D.C.  I’m keeping that in mind as I read the news today.

Erik Wemple–reporting for the New York Times–has an exciting Op-Ed today on Faux News and the Dominion Law Suit. “What is Fox News hiding in the Dominion lawsuit?”

Yet the filing is filled with frustrating dead ends, the result of the network’s aggressive effort to prevent disclosure of many of the internal communications that came out of discovery in the case, Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News. The black passages in the document raise the questions: What is Fox News hiding? And will those passages ever be unredacted?

As the Dominion filing makes clear, Fox News executives panicked in the weeks after the November 2020 presidential election. The network had called Arizona on election night for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, a move regarded as treason by the network’s MAGA crowd, which declared viewers would flee to the competition, especially conservative cable news outlet Newsmax.

So, Fox News tried playing both sides — a little conspiracy-mongering here, a little factual injection there. Anything to hang on to its ratings preeminence.

One way the network competed with Newsmax was to host election-denying attorney Sidney Powell and her extravagant claims. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, who appeared multiple times in the Dominion filing, apparently commented on the situation, though the public, for now, doesn’t have the goods:

Impenetrable black expanses in the filing thwart a complete understanding of what was happening as Fox News faced down a ratings collapse. We do know what happened when White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked a stolen election claim made by Trump: Host Tucker Carlson advocated for her firing. Similar tensions arose when anchor Neil Cavuto cut away from a news conference at which Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, was inveighing against the election. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Cavuto said on air. “She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this.”

Sakura, © Meiji Hashimoto, Sakura, 1970s

Pictures of the redacted bits and more examples are included in the media critic’s take at the link.  David Folkenflik at NPR has this piece today. “Fox News stands in legal peril. It says defamation loss would harm all media”.  Faux is uniquely a propaganda outlet.  I’m not sure its demise will be significant for other media other than to create more room to breathe. Can you imagine not having to offset the Fox Lies daily?  An entire group of comedians may become unemployed, but that’s like Faux, which is a self-serving entertainment and propaganda outlet.

Outside legal observers say the Fox News Channel finds itself in real legal jeopardy in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by an election tech company over lies broadcast about the 2020 presidential race.

The amount and weight of evidence is perhaps without equal among other major, recent defamation cases.

“How often do you get ‘smoking gun’ emails that show, first, that persons responsible for the editorial content knew that the accusation was false, and also convincing emails that show the reason Fox reported this was for its own mercenary interests?” says Rutgers University law professor Ronald Chen, an authority on constitutional and media law.

Fox News has endured one humiliation after another from the rolling revelations in the case brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Private communications made public in legal filings demonstrate the network’s producers, stars and executives — even controlling owner Rupert Murdoch — knew the claims they were broadcasting were false, and at times unhinged. A trial in the case is slated for next month.

Fox’s legal team is grounding much of its defense in a claim that it was merely reporting allegations by the most newsworthy public official of all, then-President Donald Trump.

“We err on the side of speech because the more and more speech you have, the better chance of having people actually getting the opportunity to point out what’s right and what’s wrong,” attorney Erin Murphy, one of the senior figures on Fox’s defense team, tells NPR in an interview. “And that’s why we don’t suppress the speech that we don’t think is right.”

A loss for Fox would make it harder for all journalists to serve the public, she says.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to hinder the ultimate objective of the First Amendment, of getting to the truth,” Murphy argues.

The case may serve as a test for the elasticity of that argument.

Cherry Blossom Flurry, 1903, Kayburagi Kiyokata. The Smithsonian.

It also tests the elasticity of calling nearly anyone at Faux an actual reporter rather than a propaganda spewer or hate-mongering shouter of conspiracy theories. I suppose I should be more excited about the possibility of a less Trumpy network and Republican Party, but those waiting in the right wing are just as, if not more, scary.  It’s also still well-funded by freak families like the Mercers.  They die off and come back like Koch zombies.

Here’s Tim Miller of The Bulwark writing on what used to be the influential CPAC event. “CPAC: Taste the Sadness. Go ahead and laugh. They deserve it.” 

As I pulled into Matt Schlapp’s preferred Gaylord Hotel in suburban Washington for the latest rendition of CPAC, ghosts of past selves flashed through my head. I remembered 2015, my last time at the gathering. It was an early inflection point in Jeb!’s campaign. As Bush was interviewed on stage by an obsequious Sean Hannity, a Revolutionary War cosplayer in a tricorne hat led a walkout. I was backstage managing an impending Breitbart News story about how Jeb’s new spokesman (moi) and campaign manager were hostile to homophobes.

It’s been quite the journey since then.

For all the familiar flashbacks, this year’s CPAC felt . . . different and a little sad. You might even say, low energy. Rick Wilson put it well on Charlie’s podcast this weekend, comparing the event to a “collapsing neutron star . . . it’s smaller. It’s hotter. It’s more intensely crazy.” A reporter at the event had a different sad-sack metaphor, describing the energy in the building as “what it feels like when the Apple Store leaves a dying mall.”

It’s funny, in a laugh-out-loud sort of way. Because we’re not laughing with CPAC. We’re laughing at it. But cheap laughs aside, there are some consequential questions about CPAC’s decline.

What does it signal for the direction of conservative politics and for the belle of the ball, Donald Trump? Were the ballrooms barren because some of the faithful decided to at long last change the channel from the Trump show? Or did they just figure they didn’t want to contribute to the legal defense fund of a dude who pummeled another dude’s dick against his will (allegedly).

Or is the reality simply that the entire Republican party is CPAC now, so there’s no real need for it anymore? Especially when there’s a younger, more dynamic offering for  culture warriors looking for fellowship in Turning Point USA?

It’s probably a bit of each. What we do know is that Trump won the straw poll, again, with Tiny D finishing a distant second. But whether that matters . . . whether it’s a precursor of primaries to come or more of a Fat Elvis-meets-Ron Paul demonstration of fading niche power is something we can speculate about, but won’t actuallyknow until next year’s CPAC.

Utagawa Hiroshige II (1826-1869); 1859-1861; colour woodcut; RV-1353-290a
High-ranking prostitute parading under cherry blossoms

Another piece at the Washington Post has totally given me a bad case of the sads as a former History teacher at public schools.‘Slavery was wrong’ and 5 other things some educators won’t teach anymore.  To mollify parents and obey new state laws, teachers are cutting all sorts of lessons.” This is written by Hannah Natanson.

Excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Passages from Christopher Columbus’s journal describing his brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples. A data set on the New York Police Department’s use of force, analyzed by race.

These are among the items teachers have nixed from their lesson plans this school year and last, as they face pressure from parents worried about political indoctrination and administrators wary of controversy, as well as a spate of new state laws restricting education on race, gender and LGBTQ issues.

“I felt very bleak,” said Lisa Childers, an Arkansas teacher who was forced by an assistant principal, for reasons never stated, into yanking Wollstonecraft’s famous 1792 polemic from her high school English class in 2021.

The quiet censorship comes as debates over whether and how to instruct children about race, racism, U.S. history, gender identity and sexuality inflame politics and consume the nation. These fights, which have already generated at least 64 state laws reshaping what children can learn and do at school, are likely to intensify ahead of the 2024 presidential election. At the same time, an ascendant parents’ rights movement born of the pandemic is seeking — and winning — greater control over how schools select, evaluate and offer children access to both classroom lessons and library books.

In response, teachers are changing how they teach.

study published by the Rand Corp. in January found that nearly one-quarter of a nationally representative sample of 8,000 English, math and science teachers reported revising their instructional materials to limit or eliminate discussions of race and gender. Educators most commonly blamed parents and families for the shift, according to the Rand study.

The piece continues with a list of how 20 educators nationwide have changed and eliminated teaching “certain” subjects.  Jose Pagliery writes this in today’s The Daily Beast. “How a New DOJ Memo Sets Up Two Potential Trump Indictments. What seemed like a narrow decision could have far-reaching implications.”

When the Department of Justice took the position this week that former President Donald Trump acted improperly by urging his followers to attack Congress in 2021, prosecutors did more than open the door to a potential flood of civil lawsuits from police officers who were injured on Jan. 6.

What they actually did, according to legal scholars, is lay the groundwork for a potential criminal indictment against Trump for inciting the insurrection.

“If they took the position that the president was absolutely immune, then they wouldn’t be able to bring a criminal prosecution,” said one person familiar with the DOJ’s ongoing investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Legal scholars have come to the same conclusion.

“Had DOJ concluded that incitement unprotected by the First Amendment could nevertheless be within the president’s official functions, that could conceivably have impacted criminal charging decisions related to the same speech,” said Mary B. McCord, a former federal prosecutor now teaching at Georgetown University Law Center.

At the behest of the District of Columbia’s federal appellate court, the DOJ last week submitted a legal memo weighing in on a civil dispute by injured police officers. The department clarified that Trump’s speech, full of vitriol and fury, was not protected by presidential immunity, nor was it protected by his own free speech rights under the First Amendment.

“Such incitement of imminent private violence would not be within the outer perimeter of the Office of the President of the United States,” the DOJ wrote.

The department went out of its way to say it doesn’t necessarily support officer lawsuits against Trump, noting that it “expresses no view on that conclusion, or on the truth of the allegations in plaintiffs’ complaints.” But by making clear that Trump’s speech was outside the norms of his office, it stripped the former president of virtually any defense he could make.

“If they’re saying it’s outside the scope of immunity of civil suits, and outside the scope of protected speech, there really isn’t anything else out there protecting Trump,” said one attorney, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid rattling DOJ leadership.

The two indictments Trump could face are for his incitement of the Jan. 6 riot—a federal crime—and his attempts to overturn the election results in Georgia, a state case there.

So far, the Justice Department has not indicated its legal analysis of the looming federal case against Trump, which concerns the effort his campaign led to undermine the electoral vote by Congress. However, its new legal memo draws a clear red line on his actions during the lead up to the actual attack on Congress.

Now, I’m contemplating the difference between the rebirth of life in spring and unwanted zombies in your Government and Media.  Well, that will be another rabbit hole for me to enter, and rabbits are an elemental totem of spring.

Have yourselves a good, peaceful week, and start looking for the signs of spring!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

And don’t laugh, but I can actually play Sakura on the koto. It’s like the first thing kids learn!


9 Comments on “Mostly Monday Reads: Some Cherry Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Jennifer really knocks it out of the park with this one. Media normalizing Trump again!

  2. NW Luna says:

    From the Miller excerpt above:

    is the reality simply that the entire Republican party is CPAC now

    Looks like it’s true for 90% of the party. (Tries to think about who could make up the other 10%…)

  3. dakinikat says:

    Can you hear my screams from down and over here?

    • NW Luna says:

      Who the hell are they talking to about Kamala to get this impression?

      Oh. She’s a 1) woman with 2) brown skin. Coincidentally, one of the news feeds showing in the right sidebar has this:

      Gender equality still ‘300 years away’, says UN secretary general

      Screaming into the void here too.

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. quixote says:

    *Loved* the cherry blossom paintings!