TGIF Reads

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Charles Burchfield, “July Sunlight Pouring Down”, 1952, Watercolor on paper

Good Day

Sky Dancers!

Today’s art is from Charles Burchfield whose ethereal water colors of nature have always had a calming effect on me.  Water color is my favorite medium and I love painting landscapes and old buildings.  I always find his play of light to be fascinating. That’s hard to do with water color. You get one chance at it.

According to Burchfield’s friend and colleague Edward Hopper, “The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best.”

Those times were not simpler for most folks. There are always plagues and famines and wars.  However, this is the first time we look at Americana from the viewpoint of living through a nightmare of a leader who is not the least bit suited for the job a minority of the population shove him into.  I cannot wait to be rid of him one way or another and whatever gets him out of our lives quickly.

Polls continue to show the displeasure is not limited to us.  This is from Politico: “Poll shows Trump’s coronavirus approval at all-time low. The president remains reluctant to acknowledge the disease’s threat as he keeps pushing to restart the U.S. economy.”

Support for President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit an all-time low, according to a new survey, with a similarly substantial majority of Americans also disapproving of his response to widespread racial unrest.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday reports that a record 67 percent of respondents now disapprove of “the way Donald Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus,” while only 33 percent approve — the widest gulf in public sentiment since ABC News and Ipsos started surveying on the pandemic in March.

Dawn of Spring, ca. 1960s. Watercolor, charcoal, and white chalk on joined paper mounted on board,

It’s still disheartening that fully 1/3 of those respondents appear to be adherents to the kind of white christian nationalism that brands the Trumpist regime and supporters into the KKK corner of life.   What’s also disheartening is that the kind of blatantly fictional conspiracy theories and fairy tales embraced by these people seems to be still selling in some corners that send representatives to Congress.  This is from Media Matters: “QAnon may be coming to Congress, and journalists need to be ready”. This article describes the odd views of ““Gun-toting” restaurateur Lauren Boebert who beat an incumbent Republican in the Colorado primary.

In many ways,  Boebert and other QAnon-following candidates have been normalized in the press. FiveThirtyEight published an article about the likelihood that Republican women will increase their representation in Congress with the November elections, and used a photo of Boebert. Her fringe beliefs are not mentioned anywhere in the article or accompanying tweet.

When The New York Times wrote about Boebert’s victory, it made a passing reference to her support of QAnon, saying in the lead that she’d “spoken approvingly of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon.” It wasn’t until the 11th paragraph that the movement got mentioned again, and even that was framed in the context of how “Democrats immediately went on the attack” for her support of QAnon.

Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan has reported extensively on the QAnon movement, and he has identified two concepts that journalists need to understand when reporting on this movement. The first has to do with QAnon-supporting candidates and the need to probe their actual beliefs. “Some of these candidates seem to see QAnon and its supporters as an explicit political constituency to appeal to for support, and are trying to use existing QAnon infrastructure to do so, such as using QAnon hashtags (particularly #WWG1WGA) and going on QAnon YouTube channels,” he says. “So they seem to be treating a far-right conspiracy theory group tied to violence and flagged by the FBI as some normal voting block when it’s clearly not.”

The second issue is that reporters often seem unaware of, or aren’t reporting on, the actual number of QAnon-supporting candidates who are progressing in their races. Kaplan says, “I keep seeing just a few specific candidates mentioned over and over regarding those who made it out of primaries or to primary runoffs (Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jo Rae Perkins), when it’s way more than that; it’s at least 14 candidates that made it out of primaries to the ballot in November or to primary runoffs (and that’s leaving out independent/write-in candidates).”

 

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Charles Burchfield, “Purple Vetch and Buttercups”, 1959, Watercolor over charcoal,

 

This shows you exactly how far Trump thinks he can go unchecked.  Via CNN: “Trump implies he’s ready to grant clemency to Roger Stone”. 

Trump is widely expected to pardon or commute Stone’s sentence, according to at least half a dozen sources close to the President.

>Asked by Fox News host Sean Hannity whether he’s considered a pardon or commutation for Stone, Trump said during a phone interview, “I am always thinking.”

“You’ll be watching like everyone else in this case,” he said.

In another interview, with radio host Howie Carr, Trump decried Stone’s treatment at the hands of law enforcement and said he may grant his clemency plea.

“He was framed. He was treated horrible. He was treated so badly,” Trump said.

Probably the most heinous thing Trump is doing right now is turning America’s school children into political props for his culture war.  This is an Op Ed by Michelle Goldberg writing at the NYT: “Trump Threatens to Turn Pandemic Schooling Into a Culture War. The president might sabotage parents’ best hopes for getting their kids back to school.”

Instead, Donald Trump has approached the extraordinarily complex challenge of educating children during a pandemic just as he’s approached most other matters of governing: with bullying, bluster and propaganda.

While doing nothing to curb the wildfire spread of the coronavirus, he has demanded that schools reopen and threatened to cut off funding for those that don’t. On Wednesday, he tweeted that the guidelines for reopening schools from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “very tough & expensive,” adding, “I will be meeting with them!!!” Mike Pence then suggested that the guidelines would be revised. On Thursday the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said they wouldn’t be, but later, seeming to give into pressure, said the guidelines should be seen as recommendations, not requirements.

Also on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gestured toward a plan of coronavirus-inspired school choice that would punish public schools that don’t fully reopen. Without offering details, she said families could take the federal money spent at these schools and use it elsewhere. She’s long wanted to give public money to private schools; perhaps she thinks this coronavirus has given her the chance.

 

 

 

Check out New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi’s piece “The Unburdened Believer”.  There’s a lot of creepy here.

Trump’s central case for reelection — the strong economy — has evaporated faster than the tear gas the administration sprayed on peaceful demonstrators outside the White House in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 130,000 Americans and counting, and the shutdowns have left millions out of work. Trump publicly worked through his grief in phases: denial, semi-acceptance, promotion of bad medical advice, denial once again, then promotion of overly rosy recovery projections. Meanwhile, he has responded to the nationwide civil unrest that erupted after Floyd’s killing by circulating far-right conspiracies, calling for more violence, defending iconic losers of the Confederacy, sharing a video in which one of his supporters shouted “White power!,” and attempting halfheartedly to cast Biden as a far-left extremist.

Trump has struggled to offer his campaign a message behind which to organize. For Trump, this would never mean formulating a case to prove that voters are better off now than they were four years ago or something similarly normal. It would mean coming up with an effective way to bully his opponent. In the 2016 Republican primary, this meant Lyin’ Ted and Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb(!). In the general, it meant Crooked Hillary and the Fake News media vs. the Deplorables. In 2020, “Sleepy Joe” hasn’t quite caught on. Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary who now hosts some kind of low-rent faux Fox News program on a D-list far-right cable channel, recently talked about this with Dick Morris. The issue with Trump’s “sleepy” message is that sleepy might sound pretty appealing to some voters right now, fatigued by the chaos of the Trump years. On Fox News, Ari Fleischer, a White House spokesman under George W. Bush, and Matt Schlapp, a Trump-campaign surrogate, had a conversation about the issue, too. They agreed that “sleepy” wasn’t working, that the president needed to go back to the drawing board and focus on something else. Kellyanne Conway has suggested that the campaign’s focus on Biden as senile and losing it might put off older voters. These allies of the president are offering campaign-strategy notes in public, on television, because that’s how you get through to him.

And so in walks Hogan Gidley, the new spokesman for the reelection effort — a job that recently belonged to Kayleigh McEnany, who in April became Gidley’s boss when she was named White House press secretary. In a normal White House, the position would’ve gone to Gidley. The ambition of any deputy, after all, is to replace the principal under which the deputy serves. Gidley has served under three press secretaries: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and now McEnany. (So much for the patriarchy!)

Gidley, now 43, arrived at the White House as a supporting character in the volatile second season. A onetime broadcast-journalism major at Ole Miss and a student of political media, he ended up reporting on Mike Huckabee for a TV station in Little Rock, Arkansas, before defecting to the dark side to join the then-governor’s staff. “He’s got professional integrity. He will never do something that is wrong or immoral,” Huckabee told New York. “But, at the same time, he’s a person that, if he takes a check from someone in a job, he’s gonna be loyal to that person.” In the next breath, Huckabee addressed the question that hangs over any human shield for this president. “If it ever gets to where he can’t, then maybe he’ll find something else. But he’s not gonna go out and burn his bridges.”

When Mike’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, replaced Sean Spicer as press secretary, she brought along her “big brother” Hogan as a special assistant to the president. In the very West Wing that inspired a tell-all book called Team of Vipers, he’s distinguished himself as “a golden retriever,” “a great teammate,” and “a really sweet person,” in terms that were repeated by more than half a dozen current and former White House staffers who spoke to New York. Across the board, but never on the record, Gidley’s colleagues described him as a nonthreatening force for good, for making things run a tiny bit smoother in what can charitably be described as the very definition of a hostile work environment — a happy-to-be-here functionary who keeps things light and in perspective. However, these qualities can sometimes read more like haplessness than virtue.

Sun and Rocks, 1918-50. Watercolor and gouache on paper,

I would really like a nice quiet weekend but I imagine I’m going to start hearing the sound of perpetual sirens.  Any one who knows me heard me say I am not going anywhere until at least two weeks after 4th of July because I want to see what Memorial Day and the 4th drag into town with all this reopening stupidity.  Well,  it reignited our Covid -19 upward trend.  So, ask me again when we get a few weeks after Labor Day.  I’m staying my fat ass home.

This is from NPR News Baton Rouge.

Louisiana is now one of the leading states in the nation for most new coronavirus cases.

It ranks third in the U.S. this week for most new cases per capita on a rolling seven-day average, according to new data from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It’s a trajectory that could spark another shutdown.

Louisiana’s jump to the top of the list for most new coronavirus cases cannot be explained by increased testing. Hospitalizations grew by more than 50 percent over the last two weeks, and the percentage of positive tests in the state has also been rising. On Thursday the latter rate hit 12 percent positive — over the 10 percent threshold set by the state for safe opening in Phase 2. The 7-day rolling average is 8.7 percent, according to AH Datalyitcs.

But that could already be too high. The World Health Organization’s recommended goal is 5 percent. A high positivity rate indicates that the virus’s spread is too great for contact tracing to work — and that’s assuming contact tracing is actually being broadly embraced by the public, which hasn’t been the case in Louisiana.

Dr. Vin Gupta, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington, is among the medical experts warning that contact tracing is now useless across much of the U.S. because the virus has already spread too widely.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has “lost all the gains made in June” and is “now seeing some numbers that rival our peak back in April.”

And while Texas, Florida and Arizona are seeing higher increases in hospitalizations, Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon and assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said it could be a matter of time.

“My worry is that Louisiana may just be a few weeks behind Texas and Arizona and Florida, unless more concerted efforts are taken,” he said.

It’s unclear whether there’s public appetite for that — or even to abide by the guidelines already in place. Health officials say that as the state reopened — too many people have ignored public health guidelines, particularly around wearing masks and keeping distance. Bars in particular have become a key source of outbreaks.

“Frankly, it’s been really, really frustrating. Because just a few weeks ago, we were in a really, pretty good place,” said Suan Hassig, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University.

“The curve is going to bounce back up if we don’t keep jumping on it and stomping it down.”

I’m no epidemiologist but frankly,  I knew opening the damned bars would send us into a spike.  The mayor backed off a little and put some size limits but we still have indoor eating,  Short term Rentals, and open bars although you can’t drink at the bar.  They’ve put them outside which is highly unpleasant in a neighbor even at the best of times.

And we have this too look forward to!  Climate change hoax again … right?

 

So, I hope it’s going better where you are.  Keep letting us know you’re safe!  If you’d like to see the Whitney Showing of Burchfield: Heat Waves in a Swamp please go to this page and enjoy  a teaching led tour!.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Monday Reads

Vintage Botanical Print - Sweet Orange - The Graphics Fairy

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m waiting for my new computer to come today and I spent three days resurrecting this one with huge nearly endless chk dsk runs so I’m back on line with more than a phone now.  Thanks to all of you that helped me. The new one is not top of the line but it will be reliable which is really what I need right now.  These things always happen to me during summer breaks when I don’t get a class and on Fridays.  I just seem to have that kind of karma.

I’ve been doing my horticulture class and fighting the continual rain that appears to want to specifically drown my slips and seedlings.  I’ve been spending a good deal of the last few days pulling my containers out of or under the house. So, in tribute to what I hope starts bearing fruit in my side and back yard I’m sharing antique botanical prints.

100+ Free Farmhouse Printables- Botanical Sets | Harbour Breeze Home

I continue to feel like we’ve entered some alternate evil time line. I tried hard to avoid news coverage of Trump’s racist screeds on the weekend we traditionally celebrate Independence.  The strangest–and perhaps most horrific–thing he said was that American values started with Christopher Columbus.  We started out as a colony not a colonizer so that was confusing history with I have no idea what and it also continues to glorify the perpetrators of mass enslavement and genocide.  He also continues to fully embrace the legacy of the lost cause.   This is painful to live through.

Today, the Daily Beast characterized this strategy as a “Hail Mary.”  The only thing I see in it is a huge shout out to White Christian Nationalists. Asawin Suebsaeng writes  “Trump Advisers Wonder: ‘Is the Statue Shit Going to Work?’ ”

With four months left to salvage his re-election campaign against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, President Donald Trump has decided to pivot heavily to culture-war bluster and hard-right posturing. A major part of that pivot appears to be turning his anger on people who don’t like the same statues he does and comparing those enemies to Nazi “fascists.”

Shockingly, there are some in Trump’s political orbit who aren’t convinced this tactic will move voters as much as the president seems to think it will. They see the “pivot” as Trump simply continuing to rile up a conservative base that will not, by itself, deliver him a second term.

But for now, Trump isn’t listening, telling a crowd at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday night that “This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.”

Two individuals close to the president told The Daily Beast last week that they believe devoting so much time and energy to defending lifeless statues—a kick that started with sticking up for ones honoring racist dead Confederates—will likely fail to help rejuvenate his sagging 2020 campaign and close the wide polling deficits that former Vice President Biden has opened up.

Both sources independently said they intended to gently implore Trump to take a different approach. One of the sources said they had already told Trump in recent days that making statue fetishization a cornerstone of the re-election pitch amounted to a “distraction” that wouldn’t help move the necessary votes into the president’s column by the election in November.

This Gallup poll indicates it’s doing him no good.

 President Donald Trump’s approval rating is holding steady at a lower level after a sharp drop in late May and early June, with 38% of Americans currently approving of the job he is doing.

Vintage Botanical Art Prints – discoverprints

I cannot figure out how those 38% arrived at that conclusion either.  But this warning stands out to me.  “Don’t gorge on polls that show Biden ahead. COVID and voter suppression boost Trump’s odds” via Jason Sattler at USA today.

► No poll can account for the toxic mix of voter suppression, COVID-19 and a president of the United States willing to use every power at his disposal to prevent Americans from voting. 

The pandemic that’s now sending the U.S. economy back into a medical coma for the second time in months has already crushed voter registration. Despite the White House admitting that we’re likely to face a potentially worse second wave in the fall, Trump has declared a holy war on his favorite method of casting a ballot: mail-in-voting, which he has called his “biggest risk” to getting reelected.

Though voting by mail is even more secure than voting in-person, Trump is desperate to get voters to have to wait in lines to vote. Why?

“Trump’s re-election strategy appears to depend on cutting off channels for voters to have polling places and then sending operatives and right-wingers to intimidate and suppress voters in person,” says Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

The only thing getting me to a brief state of smile is the Anti-Trump Republicans in the Lincoln Project.  They really get him and they really get to him.  This is from NBC News: “How Lincoln Project anti-Trump Republicans got into his head. Spoiler alert: It was easy. With clever ads and searing social media attacks, the group has drawn notice. But what that means for the election is up in the air.”

The group has particularly targeted Washington and swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. It has also spent hundreds of thousands against Republican Senate candidates in states like Arizona, Iowa and Montana.

June was its biggest month by far for expenditures in the 2020 cycle, with the group spending more than $1.46 million. Its largest donors through March included the hedge funder Andrew Redleaf, Walton family heir Christy Walton and venture capitalist Ron Conway.

“Trump is his own worst political enemy at times,” Weaver said. “And there’s no doubt that he has given us rocket fuel by engaging with us. I mean, it’s hard to claim we’re irrelevant if they’re constantly attacking us.”

While the group isn’t one of the better-funded PACs, it has been able to take advantage of the members’ large combined social media followings and prevalence on cable news.

Galen said the Lincoln Project sees itself as “a pirate ship” that, because it isn’t aligned with any party, is able “to be extremely nimble” and is not subject to “a lot of hemming and hawing” over decision-making.

Recent ads mocked Trump for his smaller-than-promised crowd at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma; ridiculed him over the latest controversy over Russian bounty intelligence; and lampooned his handling of the coronavirus response.

These Vintage Botanical Illustrations Will Have You Gaping in ...

The Coronavirus Response is a big focus of both campaigns according to WAPO.  Trump’s popularity in the states where the virus is out of control is falling like a lead balloon.

The Trump and Biden presidential campaigns now see the coronavirus response as the preeminent force shaping the results of November’s election, prompting both camps to try to refocus their campaigns more heavily on the pandemic, according to officials and advisers of both campaigns.

Advisers to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden see the covid-19 crisis as perhaps the clearest way yet to contrast the former vice president with President Trump, using the stumbling response and renewed surge in cases as ways to paint Trump as uninformed, incapable of empathy and concerned only about his own political standing.

Trump’s advisers, by contrast, are seeking ways to reframe his response to the coronavirus — even as the president himself largely seeks to avoid the topic because he views it as a political loser. They are sending health officials to swing states, putting doctors on TV in regional markets where the virus is surging, crafting messages on an economic recovery and writing talking points for allies to deliver to potential voters.

The goal is to convince Americans that they can live with the virus — that schools should reopen, professional sports should return, a vaccine is likely to arrive by the end of the year and the economy will continue to improve.

Botanical – Squash vine – Italian (4) | Vintage Printable at ...

Trump’s support is  falling in states where the virus is rampant.  This is from Bloomberg:“Trump’s Support Is Withering in Areas Where Virus Cases Are Rising”.

Coronavirus is skyrocketing in Republican-leaning Sunbelt and interior states, where shifting attitudes about the virus and President Donald Trump’s handling of it could spell more trouble for his re-election effort.

New cases have exploded in particular in Arizona and Florida, battlegrounds Trump must retain to win re-election. Jacksonville, Florida, where the president relocated the Republican National Convention, had the fastest-growing rate of coronavirus of any metropolitan area in the U.S. for the week ended July 4, according to Evercore ISI.

The convention site was changed after Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, balked at holding a gathering in Charlotte, as planned since 2018 when it was the only city to officially submit a bid, at full capacity.

The slide in support for Trump occurred as the president stopped talking about the virus and masks to focus instead almost entirely on reopening, a risky gamble that so far appears to be backfiring.

Botanical – Squash – Italian (12) | Vintage Printable at ...

I have to agree with Jennifer Rubin this morning.  Trump has no idea what our country is about. It isn’t about waving the Confederate Flag certainly!

The reactionary ethos of the backward-looking Trump and his ilk is antithetical to our national spirit and foundational values.

Trump and his ignorant media handmaidens understand none of this (or pretend not to). They define America by whom they want to be in it, not understanding that the country’s shifting composition is what gives expression to and perfects the ideals of our country in each new generation. To the Trump cult, progress itself is a danger; a free and independent media that exposes and challenges the powerful is their enemy. This cowering, timorous band of self-defined victims seems perpetually enraged at their countrymen who threaten their warped interpretation of America.

None of their fractured history and constitutional illiteracy bear any resemblance to America’s founding creed or to the words of some Americans Trump wants to memorialize in stone. It’s the words and ideas, not the visage, that should be celebrated. We would do better to build fewer statues and more libraries and schools.

Let’s hope for a better Independence Day in 2121.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Good News First

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Vivian Maier is often considered one of America’s greatest street photographers.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Today’s pictures are of women artists and their self portraits from the National Geographic and other sources.

There’s some very good news out of the Supreme Court today for Louisiana Women and women every where in the country!  From NBC News: “Supreme Court, in 5-4 ruling, strikes down restrictive Louisiana abortion law. The measure would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of a clinic.”

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Louisiana’s tough restriction on abortions violates the Constitution, a surprising victory for abortion rights advocates from an increasingly conservative court.

The 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four more liberal justices, struck down a law passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2014 that required any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Its enforcement had been blocked by a protracted legal battle.

Two Louisiana doctors and a medical clinic sued to get the law overturned. They said it would leave only one doctor at a single clinic to provide services for nearly 10,000 women who seek abortions in the state each year.

The challengers said the requirement was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. With the vote of then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that Texas imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services without providing any medical benefits. Kennedy was succeeded by the more conservative Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by President Donald Trump, who was among the four dissenters Monday.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the Texas decision, also wrote Monday’s ruling. The law poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking an abortion, offers no significant health benefits, “and therefore imposes an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.”

Roberts said he thought the court was wrong to strike down the Texas law, but he voted with the majority because that was the binding precedent. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Even small victories based on stare decisis are still victories.

 

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Self Portrait By Paula Modersohn Becker

Well, Iran always makes things interesting.  You have to give them that. From The Sydney Morning Herald: “Iran issues arrest warrant for Donald Trump, requests help from Interpol.

Tehran: Iran has issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol to help detain US President Donald Trump and others it believes carried out a drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, a local prosecutor reportedly says.”

While Trump faces no danger of arrest, the charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said Trump and more than 30 others whom Iran accuses of involvement in the January 3 strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad face “murder and terrorism charges,” the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Monday.

Alqasimehr did not identify anyone else sought other than Trump, but stressed that Iran would continue to pursue his prosecution even after his presidency ends.

From BuzzFeed News: “Democrats Won’t Let Republicans Speak In Coronavirus Hearings If They Won’t Wear Masks.  “We’re not going to have another meeting in a confined space if we’re not going to abide by this,” Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn told Republicans.”

Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis are threatening to bar Republican members from participating future meetings in-person after they showed up to a hearing on Friday without masks.

Subcommittee Chair Jim Clyburn is sending a letter to ranking member Steve Scalise, warning he would not recognize members in hearings and meetings without proper face coverings; the chair must recognize members to speak and participate in committee business.

“Going forward, as long as the Attending Physician’s requirement to wear masks is in place, I will not recognize any Member of this Subcommittee to participate in person in any Subcommittee meeting or hearing unless the Member is wearing a mask and strictly adheres to the Attending Physician’s guidance,” Clyburn said in a letter to Scalise. The letter further recommends members participate remotely if they insist on not wearing masks.

The letter comes after a monthslong debate in Congress where Republicans have repeatedly disregarded recommendations and then a requirement from Capitol health experts to wear face coverings. The disagreement on the topic came to a head at the end of a Friday hearing when Clyburn reminded his Republican colleagues they were in violation of a mandate handed down by the attending physician, even as disposable masks were stationed outside the hearing room for members to use.

“For the United States House of Representatives meetings, in a limited and closed space such as a committee hearing room for greater than 15 minutes face coverings are required,” Clyburn said, reading the Capitol health official’s order. “And we’re not going to have another meeting in a confined space if we’re not going to abide by this. I will stay in the safety of my home as I would ask all you to do.”

Scalise responded to Clyburn by saying members of the House are following guidelines on how to social distance just fine, suggesting mask-wearing is an additional precautionary measure.

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Self-Portrait, Lois Mailou Jones

From Kyle Cheney at Politico: “House Dems propose strengthening Congress’ contempt power to break administration stonewalls. “We’ve seen unprecedented and illegal obstruction by the Trump administration to Congress,” Ted Lieu said.”

House Democrats increasingly frustrated by the Trump administration for defying subpoenas are proposing legislation that would ratchet up their power to punish executive branch officials who reject their requests.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), and five other membersof the House Judiciary Committee, unveiled a rule change Monday to formalize and expand Congress’ power of “inherent contempt” — its authority to unilaterally punish anyone who defies a subpoena for testimony or documents.

Though Congress has long had inherent contempt power, it has been in disuse since before World War II. This power, upheld by courts, has included the ability to levy fines and even jail witnesses who refuse to cooperate with congressional demands.

But such extreme measures have fallen out of favor over the years, as Congress has relied instead primarily on litigation to enforce its subpoenas and officials across government have acknowledged the unappetizing prospect of using force to impose its will. It’s even trickier when applied to a coequal branch of government, which may have its own privileges and protections to assert.

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Frida Kahlo Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

More news is coming forth about the Russian bounties.  This is from WAPO: “Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments.”

Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted under the program. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed this year. In each of those years, several service members were also killed by what are known as “green on blue” hostile incidents by members of Afghan security forces, which are sometimes believed to have been infiltrated by the Taliban.

The intelligence was passed up from the U.S. Special Operations forces based in Afghanistan and led to a restricted high-level White House meeting in late March, the people said.

 

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Joni Mitchell Self Portrait

This is really unfolding in a particularly quick way.  Here’s an opinion from Greg Sargent at WAPO’s Plum Line: “As Trump’s corruption gets worse, some Democrats want a tougher response.”

The big revelations of the moment — the reports that Russia may have paid bounties for the killing of U.S. troops, and the news that a U.S. attorney was ousted after investigating Trump cronies — are a reminder that Trump has found a gaping hole in our system.

If a president refuses to cooperate with congressional oversight in just about every conceivable way — and if that president has the near-total backing of a party that controls one chamber of Congress — any such scrutiny can basically be ground to a halt, with no repercussions.

But a group of House Democrats is now calling on its chamber to get a lot tougher in this regard.

This group of Democrats — which is led by Rep. Ted Lieu of California and includes other high-profile lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee — is introducing a resolution Monday that, if successful, would dramatically increase the House’s ability to compel compliance with oversight.

This resolution would create a new, modernized mechanism by which the House could seek to levy stiff fines on officials who defy subpoenas for testimony or documents. It would in effect bring into the 21st century a power that Congress has used only rarely in the past — the power to enforce its own subpoenas.

“The administration can simply choose not to have witnesses appear and not produce documents, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Lieu told me, noting that “we’ve seen the Trump administration getting worse, not better, in terms of both obstruction and engaging in reckless conduct.”

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Self-Portrait by South African Visual Artist Zanele Muholi

One last OpEd piece from WAPO by Elizabeth Spiers: “Trump’s ‘silent majority’ isn’t a majority, and it’s far from silent. But the rhetoric lays the groundwork for crying foul when the true majority wins.”

The Trump team’s declaration that a silent majority lurks, ready to return Trump to the White House, is at odds with almost everything else the president says and does. His efforts to make it harder to vote by opposing voting by mail in the middle of a pandemic, and his repeated claims that Democrats are plotting election fraud, suggest a distinct nervousness about the majority’s true will. He appears to be laying the groundwork for explaining away a Democratic victory in November, as the result of deception and trickery. On June 22 he tweeted, in typical fashion: “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” In a system where success usually depends on grasping what a majority of the electorate wants, the sound strategy might be to reach out from one’s base to voters in the middle. Trump instead is heavily invested in the assumption that his enthusiastic minority will determine the outcome — even if it means that the people who don’t like him are prevented from voting.

These are hopeful signs in a fight to stop some of the most disturbing trends of the Trumpist Regime.  However, the fight is on so many levels and we battle the rich and powerful and the firmly entrenched like Mitch McConnell. Take this idiot as an great example. He’s not on the front pages like Police Reform and Abortion Restrictions.  And we still don’t make enough noise about voter restrictions in so many Republican-controlled states.

 

They’re killing our land, our children, our hopes and dreams, our democracy, our economy, our climate and its ecosystems, our indigenous peoples,  Black Men, and just about everything with their greed, racism, misogyny, and rigid theocratic ideologies that punish women, the GLBT community, and science and rational thought.

We just have to hang in there.

Remember we have leadership that will stand up to it all

Have a great week Sky Dancers!  Do be safe!  Stay home if possible!  Wear a mask!  Be kind, gentle, and giving to yourself and others!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: I never had Saharan Dust on my Wicked Weather Bingo Card

Eerie echoes … Edward Hopper’s Cape Cod Morning, 1950.

Hi Sky Dancers!

So, this is the sky down here today!  Saharan dust hits Louisiana and I’m sitting here waiting for my AC guy to check the refrigerant because the AC is not cooling. He just called and he’s running late. It was not a fun night.  Hopefully, he gets here as quickly as possible.

Today’s paintings are by Edward Hopper. They’re a gallery of social distancing and isolation.  You can follow this link to the UK Guardian.

Some people are saying we now all exist inside an Edward Hopper painting. It doesn’t seem to matter which one.

We all hope to defy Hopper’s terrifying vision of alienated, atomised individuals and instead survive as a community. But, ironically, we have to do that by staying apart and it may be cruelly dishonest – the empty propaganda of the virus war – to pretend everyone is perfectly OK at home.

For the message of Hopper is that modern life can be very lonely. His people are as isolated among others in a diner or restaurant as they are at their apartment windows. In this he is typical of modernist art. Edvard Munch had already shown in his nightmarish Evening on Karl Johan Street that a crowd can be a very isolating place to be.

Today, we’re simply better at hiding the isolation that these artists thought defined the modern condition. In normal times, we sit alone in cafes, too, except we’ve now got mobile phones to make us feel social. The fact is that modernity throws masses of people into urban lifestyles that are totally cut off from the gregariousness that was once the norm.

Now, about that dust cloud …

 

 

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I read the news today! Oh Boy!

It’s pretty much the same three headlines BB gave you yesterday.  A good number of the states in the South that were overly eager to open are inundated with Covid-19 cases.  The number of cases of young people testing positive is going up.  I am really glad I’m not going to be on a campus any time soon.  This is from NBC: “The future of the coronavirus recovery runs through the classroom.  Analysis: Nobody knows what school will look like in the fall, and that’s a huge problem for everything from the economy to November’s elections.”

With just weeks to go before classes typically begin, education advocates complain that the federal government’s response has been lethargic — the House and the Senate have held hearings on opening schools and child care facilities, but President Donald Trump and Republican leaders have been slow to craft a relief bill that might back up school budgets and fund new pandemic safety measures.

“It’s really shocking to me how little appreciation there is for the situation in Washington,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute and head of the California State Board of Education. “It’s not a problem that can be solved at the state level.”

Plans are still in flux for state and local governments, but parents hoping for a swift return to normal are likely to be disappointed. Many districts are weighing proposals in which students would split time between virtual and in-person classes to maintainstrict social distancing inside buildings.

And as businesses and investors try to map the arc of the recovery, they should probably start with those classrooms.

“There are 78 million parents with at least one child in their household under 18. That’s almost a third of the adult population,” said labor economist Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department official. “A parent’s ability to find and keep a job is inseparable from child care and schooling.”

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Our Covid-19 numbers are going up again here in Louisiana. We worked hard at a shut down and we also openeved very slowly. A lot of the outbreaks are due to an LSU hangout called Tigerland.  Even the football team has tested positive.  This may be a problem in college campuses everywhere: “Why coronavirus spike in Baton Rouge among young adults is causing a big problem for testing” via The Advocate.

Cars backed up Thursday near Baton Rouge’s Tigerland bars, with college students flocking there not for “thirsty Thursdays” but for coronavirus tests amid a worrisome spike in infections among young adults in Louisiana that is reigniting concerns about the availability of tests.

Cases of the virus are growing so quickly among young adults that some providers say they’re struggling to provide enough tests, while some people who suspect they have been infected say it’s been a challenge to find a test.

“We were doing pretty well for a while there in keeping up with the demand,” said Dr. Kevin DiBenedetto, the medical director for Premier Health, which runs dozens of urgent care clinics across the state, including Lake After Hours in Baton Rouge, LCMC Health Urgent Care in New Orleans and Lourdes Urgent Care in the Lafayette area.

“With this spike, it totally crushed our supply of tests,” DiBenedetto said.

Testing availability was an early concern when the coronavirus pandemic flared locally in March. For the first several weeks of the outbreak, potential coronavirus patients had to meet rigid standards to get tested because hospitals and clinics were so short on supplies. And once they did get tested, many reported long lags between the time they got tested and the time they received results.

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I cannot understand why we opened bars in the state.

Paul Krugman sums it up for me: “America Didn’t Give Up on Covid-19. Republicans Did. Partisanship has crippled our response.”  He asks “what went wrong?”

The immediate answer is that many U.S. states ignored warnings from health experts and rushed to reopen their economies, and far too many people failed to follow basic precautions like wearing face masks and avoiding large groups. But why was there so much foolishness?

Well, I keep seeing statements to the effect that Americans were too impatient to stay the course, too unwilling to act responsibly. But this is deeply misleading, because it avoids confronting the essence of the problem. Americans didn’t fail the Covid-19 test; Republicans did.

After all, the Northeast, with its largely Democratic governors, has been appropriately cautious about reopening, and its numbers look like Europe’s. California and Washington are blue states that are seeing a rise in cases, but it’s from a relatively low base, and their Democratic governors are taking actions like requiring the use of face masks and seem ready to reverse their reopening.

So the really bad news is coming from Republican-controlled states, especially Arizona, Florida and Texas, which rushed to reopen and, while some are now pausing, haven’t reversed course. If the Northeast looks like Europe, the South is starting to look like Brazil.

Nor is it just Republican governors and state legislatures. According to the new New York Times/Siena poll, voters over all strongly favor giving control of the pandemic priority over reopening the economy — but Republican voters, presumably taking their cue from the White House and Fox News, take the opposite position.

And it’s not just about policy decisions. Partisanship seems to be driving individual behavior, too, with self-identified Democrats significantly more likely to wear face masks and engage in social distancing than self-identified Republicans.

The question, then, isn’t why “America” has failed to deal effectively with the pandemic. It’s why the G.O.P. has in effect allied itself with the coronavirus.

Well, my response to that is greed and they only care about rich white people.

 

 

The White House announced Thursday night that Vice President Mike Pence would lead a public coronavirus task force briefing Friday morning, the first public meeting in almost two months.

The announcement comes as at least 30 states are seeing a resurgence in cases of Covid-19, and California, Oklahoma and Texas are seeing fresh high peaks.

The briefing will not take place at the White House, but at the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a schedule released by the White House.

The public meeting comes as President Donald Trump has tried to declare the pandemic “over” despite the rising numbers, and has instead focused his administration’s energy on reopening the economy.

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There is a lot of Trump News and I’ll just list it here. I can’t take even thinking about him atm.

 Amy Walter / The Cook Political Report:

Trump Is in a Deep Hole.  Can He Dig Himself Out Before November?

Every single poll that has come out in these last two weeks has painted a dire picture for President Donald Trump’s chances at re-election.  His overall job approval rating sits somewhere around 41 percent.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg / New York Times:

Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Strike Down Affordable Care Act

If successful, the move would permanently end the health insurance program popularly known as Obamacare and wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans.

Michael Kranish / Washington Post:

Mary Trump once stood up to her uncle Donald.  Now her book describes a ‘nightmare’ of family dysfunction.

Mary L. Trump was embroiled in a feud over her inheritance two decades ago when her uncle Donald Trump and his siblings punched back in classic style.

Susan B. Glasser / New Yorker:

Trump Retreats to His Hannity Bunker

Beaten by the pandemic and down in the polls, a President and his propagandist create an alternate reality.  —  June began poorly for President Trump, and it’s ending worse.

I’m going retreat to my bed to lie under the ceiling fan a while.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Monday Reads: The Failure of Trumpism

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Good Day

Sky Dancers!

The resplendent chaos of the Trumpist Regime appears to include chickens coming home to roost.  Yes, the Bolton Book is out.  But did that really tell us much about the goings on that we didn’t at least suspect?  I didn’t have begging and whining to China on my bingo card but it certainly is basically his M.O. for his reelection strategy.

Bolton has all kinds of interviews out there and now he opines hope that  Trump will be term limited by voters.

This is from the ABC interview yesterday:

President Donald Trump‘s longest-serving national security adviser John Bolton condemned his presidency as dangerously damaging to the United States and argued the 2020 election is the last “guardrail” to protect the country from him.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Bolton offered a brutal indictment of his former boss, saying, “I hope (history) will remember him as a one-term president who didn’t plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral we can’t recall from. We can get over one term — I have absolute confidence, even if it’s not the miracle of a conservative Republican being elected in November. Two terms, I’m more troubled about.”

In the interview with ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz and in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton paints Trump as “stunningly uninformed,” making “erratic” and “irrational” decisions, unable to separate his personal and political interests from the country’s, and marked and manipulated by foreign adversaries.

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Yeah, it just continues.  That’s about it.  And then, there’s the clean up man who supposedly is the chief agent of justice in the country.  The massive failure of the Tulsa CoronaViruspalooza is only upstaged by the massive failure of Barr to disassemble the Southern District of New York’s investigations of so many Trumpist cronies, relatives, and Trump himself.

This NY Op Ed was written by Preet Bharara a former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York: “The Wrong Justice Department Official Lost His Job This Weekend.  The attorney general, Bill Barr, undermined the rule of law by forcing out Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan.”

Trump’s latest domestic political errand involves the office I led for almost eight years — the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, commonly known as S.D.N.Y., a place where politics is supposed to be off limits. The United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman was fired on Saturday in a manner and under circumstances that warrant criticism and scrutiny.

To understand the uproar over the termination in legal circles, some context helps. S.D.N.Y. is famously and proudly independent. It embraces its nickname, the “Sovereign District of New York,” as a badge of honor. Sovereign, in the understanding of those who have served there, does not mean rogue. It signifies respect for law and scorn for political considerations. Republicans and Democrats are equally in the cross hairs.

The career lawyers are hired without knowledge of their politics or ideology. Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney who hired me to be a prosecutor, opened an investigation of Bill Clinton, the president who appointed her, after he pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich. Such independent action would seem beyond this president’s comprehension.

That same commitment to independence is why I did not return President Trump’s unusual phone call to me in March 2017, after which he fired me.

The importance of reputational independence isn’t codified in a rule or a statute, but it is rightly embedded in the D.N.A. of any worthy law enforcement institution for a simple reason: That independence gives comfort to the public that decisions about life and liberty will not be influenced by politics or partisan interests, that those decisions will not depend on an individual’s identity, wealth, fame, power or closeness to a president — every judgment rendered without fear or favor, as the oath commands.

It is this independence, and the public’s faith therein, that Attorney General Bill Barr, in cahoots with President Trump, threatened with his dubious, if legal, removal of Mr. Berman.

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The Daily Beast’s Asha Rangappa argues Barr should be impeached.

We’re now on *checks notes* plan D. This would involve the House Judiciary Committee conducting its own oversight investigation into Barr’s conduct and issuing him a subpoena to testify. As we know, however, this administration is fond of ignoring subpoenas, and there is no reason to believe that Barr would comply with one. The remedy for that is a citation for criminal contempt. But enforcing a congressional criminal contempt citation is ultimately referred to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office, the same office now headed by Timothy Shea, who is a close associate of… the attorney general. In fact, Shea was put in place last January after Barr executed a Berman-like move with the former U.S. Attorney for D.C., Jessie Liu, whose office had prosecuted Trump’s campaign associate Roger Stone. Shea’s office has since moved to drop the charges that came out of the special counsel’s investigation against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Since the executive branch has always reserved the right to determine whether criminal contempt citations issued by Congress should be enforced, it’s safe to assume that this route won’t go anywhere, either.

That leaves just one last option: impeachment. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has stated that pursuing impeachment against Barr would be a “waste of time” because the Senate would never vote to remove him. That may be true. It may also seem pointless to begin impeachment with an election only five months away. But that approach misses the point, and the urgency. Barr’s actions have the potential to conceal attempts by the president to corrupt the very electoral processes we are relying on to hold him accountable—and it is in Barr’s interest to assist Trump in this effort, since his own political survival (and avoidance of accountability) depends on it.

Put another way, Barr has the potential to inflict more damage on the U.S. than even the president because he can use the levers of justice to stonewall investigations, bury evidence, and provide a veneer of legality to illegal acts. Even if he isn’t ultimately removed, an impeachment hearing brings some measure of accountability to Barr, by making public the myriad ways he has subverted the administration of justice by acting as Trump’s legal goon. And because impeachment invokes a plenary and explicit constitutional authority, elevating its power beyond mere oversight, Barr’s refusal to comply with the House’s subpoenas in this process could themselves become impeachable acts of obstruction, as they did in the articles of impeachment against President Trump.

 

So, I will make one more “big deal” about the Walk Of Shame Tulsa thing.  From Ed Mazz of HuffPo: ‘Walk Of Shame’: Deflated Trump’s Lonely Helicopter Walk Becomes Biting New Meme. The president’s walk from Marine One after his disappointing Oklahoma campaign rally gets the treatment on Twitter. 

 

Some folks are arguing that he’s setting himself up for the role of come back kid, but let’s hope not meanwhile from that HuffPo piece.

The rally was meant to restart his 2020 reelection campaign, stalled since the coronavirus pandemic shut down most large gatherings.

But the crowd that turned out was much smaller than anticipated, and Trump returned to the White House with an open shirt and an undone necktie as he clutched one of his campaign’s signature red caps.

On Twitter, critics said Trump looked dejected ― and some even added music to the moment …

Trump Tulsa rally

Bet that gets play all week on the late night shows and political cartoon pages everywhere!

 

 

And back to the real issue of Bill Barr …

 

Check this out from the Atlantic “Why Bill Barr Got Rid of Geoffrey Berman. This is how an authoritarian works to subvert justice.” It’s written by Paul Rosenzweig.

But the real question is: Why? Why replace Berman now, just five months before the election?

The answer lies in the firing earlier this year of Jessie Liu, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. By firing Liu, Barr and his team took control of the Washington, D.C., U.S. attorney’s office. Until they did that, the office was following up on various indictments and charges that had been brought against Trump’s associates. Once they seized control, Barr’s team intervened to short-circuit that process. They interceded in the sentencing of Roger Stone, and more recently, they have made an effort to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn. In both circumstances, career prosecutors were so outraged that they withdrew from the case, and some resigned from the Department of Justice altogether.

This is how an authoritarian works to subvert justice. He purports to uphold the forms of justice (in this case, the formal rule that the attorney general and the president exercise hierarchical control over the U.S. attorneys) while undermining the substance of justice. In the Flynn case, for example, Barr has asserted an absolute, unreviewable authority to bring and dismiss cases at will—a power that, even if legally well founded, is a subversion of justice when misused.

That may be the game plan for New York as well. Barr may want Berman out so that he can use his newly enhanced control to dismiss or short-circuit all of the pending cases in Manhattan that implicate Trump or his associates.

We know those are many. We know that Trump’s various organizations, including his inauguration committee, are under investigation. We know that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is under investigation. We know that Trump’s bank, Deutsche Bank, is under investigation.

Since taking office, Barr has repeatedly intervened to protect Trump. In addition to the behavior already mentioned, we might identify his attempt to protect Trump’s tax records from disclosure, or the way he distorted the true contents of the Mueller report. Barr’s actions are more like those of a consigliere to Don Trump than those of an attorney general of the United States, working for the American people.

Even that characterization is too kind to Barr. The attorney general’s apparent goal is to turn the Department of Justice into an arm of the president’s personal interests. He seems to have no regard for the department’s independence, and is doing long-term damage to the fabric of American justice.

There just doesn’t seem to be a level of corruption to dark and dangerous for this crowd.  I fear for our country.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?