Thursday Reads: Top Generals suspected Trump was plotting a coup

Honoré Daumier, “The Uprising,” 1848 or later

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m doing today’s post.  BB’s in bed healing atm so I’m going to scramble to get stuff up before I see students at noon.

The details coming out from General Mark Milley in the latest tell-all book from two Pulitzer Prize-winning WAPO reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker are simply horrifying.  This is from CNN: “‘They’re not going to f**king succeed’: Top generals feared Trump would attempt a coup after election, according to new book”

The top US military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, was so shaken that then-President Donald Trump and his allies might attempt a coup or take other dangerous or illegal measures after the November election that Milley and other top officials informally planned for different ways to stop Trump, according to excerpts of an upcoming book obtained by CNN.

The book, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, describes how Milley and the other Joint Chiefs discussed a plan to resign, one-by-one, rather than carry out orders from Trump that they considered to be illegal, dangerous or ill-advised.

“It was a kind of Saturday Night Massacre in reverse,” Leonnig and Rucker write.

The book, “I Alone Can Fix It,” scheduled to be released next Tuesday, chronicles Trump’s final year as president, with a behind-the-scenes look at how senior administration officials and Trump’s inner circle navigated his increasingly unhinged behavior after losing the 2020 election. The authors interviewed Trump for more than two hours.

The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation’s top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

The authors explain Milley’s growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.

Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be “on guard” for what might come.

“They may try, but they’re not going to f**king succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”

In the days leading up to January 6, Leonnig and Rucker write, Milley was worried about Trump’s call to action. “Milley told his staff that he believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military.”

Milley viewed Trump as “the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose,” the authors write, and he saw parallels between Adolf Hitler’s rhetoric as a victim and savior and Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides, according to the book. “The gospel of the Führer.”

Francisco Goya, “The Third of May,” 1808

Ben Jacobs–writing for New York Magazine–had more to say about the Hitler referrences. “Top U.S. General Said Trump Preached ‘Gospel of the Führer’.

Tump had appointed Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2018, over the objections of Defense Secretary James Mattis. The Army general’s tenure at the top of the Pentagon had been relatively quiet, until last summer, when he appeared in uniform during an infamous photo opportunity for Trump in Lafayette Square that followed the clearing of protesters in front of the White House. Milley later apologized for creating a “perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

Although the book chronicles Milley’s concern with Trump dating back to that moment, the general’s worries grew rapidly as the president plunged the nation into chaos following Election Day. Seven days later, Milley got a call from “an old friend” with an explicit warning that Trump and his allies were trying to “overturn the government.” Milley was confident that any attempts by Trump to hold on to power would be thwarted, because the military wouldn’t go along. “They may try, but they’re not going to fucking succeed,” he told aides. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with guns.”

Still, Milley was disturbed by the sight of Trump supporters rallying to his cause in November, calling them “Brownshirts in the streets.” Leonnig and Rucker wrote that Milley “believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military.” The general likened the U.S. to Germany’s fragile Weimar Republic in the early 1930s. “This is a Reichstag moment,” he said, referring to the arson attack on Germany’s Parliament that Hitler used as a pretext to assume absolute power and destroy democracy.

On January 6, Milley watched with disgust as Trump addressed his supporters. Soon after Trump finished speaking, a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the presidential election by a joint session of Congress — and many promised to return for Biden’s inauguration. “These guys are Nazis, they’re boogaloo boys, they’re Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II,” Milley said a week after the attack on the Capitol.

After Biden took the oath of office on January 20, and Trump was finally an ex-president, former First Lady Michelle Obama encountered Milley at the Capitol and asked how he was feeling. “No one has a bigger smile today than I do,” he said. “You can’t see it under my mask but I do.”

Konstantin Yuon, “New Planet,” 1921 

Meanwhile out in the states, the Big Lie continues to be a Republican Election tactic.  This is from the Atlantic Journal-Constituion: “Georgia Republicans center campaigns on false claims of election fraud.”  These people are a crazy-ass Death Cult.

 The organizers at the door handed out soft-pink “Trump Won” signs to each attendee. An out-of-state radio host spouted far-right conspiracies. Speaker after speaker insisted that Joe Biden couldn’t have won the November election and that Georgia couldn’t be a blue state.

The gathering this week in Rome might seem like a pro-Donald Trump fantasy convention. But this was no fringe group. Some of the biggest stars in the Georgia GOP were in attendance.

State Sen. Burt Jones, a wealthy executive who is expected to run for lieutenant governor, was given a hero’s welcome. A fellow Republican, state Sen. Brandon Beach, regaled the group with stories about standing up to the party establishment. Two other congressional candidates worked the room.

And U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene opened by telling the crowd, “I do not think Joe Biden won the election.”

Across the state, candidates for public office are repeating Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged and the contest was stolen from him. Many are running for local office and state legislative seats, while some are seeking the most powerful posts in the state.

Diego Rivera, “The Arsenal,” 1928

Where does the exercise of freespeech trip over into inciting insurrection?  Hey DOJ!  Hey AG Garland!  Can we get some action here before there’s a repeat of Jan in–say–August?  Or say, let’s get back to the Bender book. (See BB’s post on this) and discuss the former guy doing that interview for it.  This is from Poliltico: “Trump rages over post-presidential books he did interviews for. The avalanche of coming books has caused recriminations. And there is anxiety about what’s to come by Meredith McGraw.

The guessing game that Bender’s book sparked added to the schisms and points of tensions that have erupted in Trump’s orbit in recent weeks. As the deluge of Trump-related books has hit the shelves, the already tenuous alliances that bind aides and associates of the former president have been strained further. Ex-aides have publicly attacked one-time allies while others have sought distance from a presidency they once dutifully served.

Fear is mounting, too, about the tea-spilling to come. In particular, Trump officials are anxiously awaiting the books set to be published by actual colleagues, chief among them counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner, who plan to write their own accounts of the Trump presidency.

“I think it’s fraught right now as to who is telling the truth,” said a Trump adviser. “They’re all trying to go back in time and curate their own images.”

Privately, former administration officials and top campaign aides have shared concerns about Conway’s upcoming tell-all in particular. The ex-president’s loyal former counselor is expected to give a hold-no-punches account of her time in the White House and those she worked alongside. Conway herself sat down with Trump for her book at Mar-a-Lago.

Right!  Just what we need!  A book from Ms “Alternative Facts”.  Well, here’s another attention grabber. From The Guardian. 

Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.

The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present.

They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow’s strategic objectives, among them “social turmoil” in the US and a weakening of the American president’s negotiating position.

Russia’s three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump, in a decree appearing to bear Putin’s signature.

By this point Trump was the frontrunner in the Republican party’s nomination race. A report prepared by Putin’s expert department recommended Moscow use “all possible force” to ensure a Trump victory.

Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for some months and to have carefully examined them. The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.

The Guardian has shown the documents to independent experts who say they appear to be genuine. Incidental details come across as accurate. The overall tone and

The Revolution, 1937 by Marc Chagall

AG Garland?  Hello?  Are you there?  Please rid us of this meddlesome TV Reality Bimbo.  You know?  The Former Guy?

So, that’s enough to discuss and read for awhile.  I think we’re likely in for a Friday surprise tomorrow.  There are hints from Politico: ” Pigs fly: McConnell weighs giving Biden a bipartisan win. The self-appointed Senate GOP “Grim Reaper” has aired remarkably little criticism of the physical infrastructure deal that his members helped negotiate.”  I personally will believe it when I see it.

Something strange is happening in Washington: Mitch McConnell might go along with a central piece of Joe Biden’s agenda.

The self-appointed “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, a minority leader who said just two months ago that “100% of my focus is on standing up to this administration,” has been remarkably circumspect about the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal. He’s privately telling his members to separate that effort from Democrats’ party-line $3.5 trillion spending plan and publicly observed there’s a “decent” chance for its success.

So, lots of headines to share today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

capitol-insurrection-tear-gas-crowd-gty-imgA bipartisan Senate report on the January 6 insurrection came out last night, and it’s highly critical of the Capitol Police, but it doesn’t address Trump’s role in encouraging the riot. 

A new Senate report reveals previously unknown details about the stunning security breakdowns ahead of the January 6 US Capitol attack, including a finding that the US Capitol Police’s main intelligence unit “was aware of the potential for violence” beforehand.

The report adds an authoritative emphasis to previous evidence that there were massive intelligence failures, critical miscommunications, and unheeded warnings that ultimately led to the chaotic response that day.

Among the failures was an inability by intelligence officials to tie together a swirl of troubling internet chatter leading up to the riot and a reliance on using past, non-violent Trump rallies in security planning.

There are also several glaring omissions in the report including any examination of Donald Trump’s role in the riots, raising questions about whether lawmakers, in their quest for bipartisanship, exposed the limits of a Congress divided and unable to agree on certain truths, particularly those related to the former President’s actions.

Sources tell CNN that in order for this report, which was compiled by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees, to have support from both parties, the language had to be carefully crafted, and that included excluding the word “insurrection,” which notably does not appear outside of witness quotes and footnotes.

Clearly we need an independent commission to investigate the origins of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Nevertheless the Senate report does reveal new information.

The Washington Post: Capitol Police had intelligence indicating an armed invasion weeks before Jan. 6 riot, Senate probe finds.

The U.S. Capitol Police had specific intelligence that supporters of President Donald Trump planned to mount an armed invasion of the Capitol at least two weeks before the Jan. 6 riot, according to new findings in a bipartisan Senate investigation, but a series of omissions and miscommunications kept that information from reaching front-line officers targeted by the violence.

11696121ha.originalA joint report, from the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, outlines the most detailed public timeline to date of the communications and intelligence failures that led the Capitol Police and partner agencies to prepare for the “Stop the Steal” protest as though it were a routine Trump rally, instead of the organized assault that was planned in the open online.

Released Tuesday, the report shows how an intelligence arm of the Capitol Police disseminated security assessments labeling the threat of violence “remote” to “improbable,” even as authorities collected evidence showing that pro-Trump activists intended to bring weapons to the demonstration and “storm the Capitol.”

“There were significant, widespread and unacceptable breakdowns in the intelligence gathering. . . . The failure to adequately assess the threat of violence on that day contributed significantly to the breach of the Capitol,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the homeland security panel, told reporters. “The attack was, quite frankly, planned in plain sight.”

Recommendations for the future?

The report’s recommendations, which call for better planning, training and intelligence gathering, largely mirror those of other investigators who have examined the topic, and its contents steer clear of offering any assessment or conclusion about Trump’s responsibility for the riot.

Still, the report provides a vivid picture of how poor communication and unheeded warnings left officers underequipped to face violent threats about which they had not been made aware, leaving the Capitol vulnerable to an attack that otherwise might have been preventable.

According to the report, Capitol Police intelligence officers knew as early as Dec. 21 that protesters planned to “bring guns” and other weapons to the Jan. 6 demonstration and turn them on any law enforcement officers who blocked their entry into the Capitol. They knew that would-be rioters were sharing maps of the Capitol campus online and discussing the building’s best entry points — and how to seal them off to trap lawmakers inside. But that information was shared only with command officers.

A separate security assessment dated Dec. 23 made no mention of those findings. Neither did a follow-up Dec. 30.

Read more at the WaPo.

file-20210107-16-1t7kdysThe New York Times: ‘Does Anybody Have a Plan?’ Senate Report Details Jan. 6 Security Failures.

Top federal intelligence agencies failed to adequately warn law enforcement officials before the Jan. 6 riot that pro-Trump extremists were threatening violence, including plans to “storm the Capitol,” infiltrate its tunnel system and “bring guns,” according to a new report by two Senate committees that outlines large-scale failures that contributed to the deadly assault.

An F.B.I. memo on Jan. 5 warning of people traveling to Washington for “war” at the Capitol never made its way to top law enforcement officials. The Capitol Police failed to widely circulate information from its intelligence unit that supporters of President Donald J. Trump were posting online about pressuring lawmakers to overturn his election loss.

“If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors,” one post said.

“Bring guns. It’s now or never,” said another.

The first congressional report on the Capitol riot is the most comprehensive and detailed account to date of the dozens of intelligence failures, miscommunications and security lapses that led to what the bipartisan team of senators that assembled it concluded was an “unprecedented attack” on American democracy and the most significant assault on the Capitol in more than 200 years….

The 127-page joint report, a product of more than three months of hearings and interviews and reviews of thousands of pages of documents, presents a damning portrait of the preparations and response at multiple levels. Law enforcement officials did not take seriously threats of violence, it found, and a dysfunctional police force at the Capitol lacked the capacity to respond effectively when those threats materialized.

There are many more details on the report at the NYT link.

NBC News: Capitol Police didn’t act on warnings Trump backers would breach Capitol, target Democrats, report say.

U.S. Capitol Police leaders learned that Trump supporters were discussing ways to infiltrate tunnels around the complex and target Democratic members of Congress on Jan. 6 but failed to act on the threats, according to a new Senate report summing up what it says were profound intelligence and security failures that contributed to one of the worst incidents of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

Rioters clash with police trying to enter Capitol building

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The report also says that officers complained about a lack of leadership within the department as they tried to repel the attack — and that top leaders were virtually silent as they begged for help.

Through tips from the public and other sources, Capitol Police “knew about social media posts calling for violence at the Capitol on January 6, including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence,” the report said, but the police force’s intelligence division “did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners.”

The Capitol Police’s possession of the specific intelligence had been previously flagged by the department’s inspector general in a report that has not made public, NBC News and other news organizations have reported. But the Senate document sheds new light on it. The failure to distribute the information widely, the report says, left rank-and-file Capitol Police officers unprepared to defend themselves from the armed mob.

“The objects thrown at us varied in size, shape and consistency,” an officer said. “Some were frozen cans and bottles, rebar from the construction, bricks, liquids, pepper spray, bear spray, sticks of various widths, pipes, bats.”

Another officer told Senate investigators: “We were ill prepared. We were NOT informed with intelligence. We were betrayed.”

In other news, CNN obtained a recording of a 2019 phone call between Rudy Giuliani and a Ukrainian official: Exclusive: New audio of 2019 phone call reveals how Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate baseless Biden conspiracies.

Never-before-heard audio, obtained exclusively by CNN, shows how former President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Rudy Giuliani relentlessly pressured and coaxed the Ukrainian government in 2019 to investigate baseless conspiracies about then-candidate Joe Biden.

The audio is of a July 2019 phone call between Giuliani, US diplomat Kurt Volker, and Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The call was a precursor to Trump’s infamous call with Zelensky, and both conversations later became a central part of Trump’s first impeachment, where he was accused of soliciting Ukrainian help for his campaign.

US-IRAN-DEMONSTRATION

During the roughly 40-minute call, Giuliani repeatedly told Yermak that Zelensky should publicly announce investigations into possible corruption by Biden in Ukraine, and into claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to hurt Trump. (These separate claims are both untrue.)

“All we need from the President [Zelensky] is to say, I’m gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out,” Giuliani said, according to the audio. “… Somebody in Ukraine’s gotta take that seriously.”

The new audio demonstrates how Giuliani aggressively cajoled the Ukrainians to do Trump’s bidding. And it undermines Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that “there was no quid pro quo” where Zelensky could secure US government support if he did political favors for Trump.

The call was one of the opening salvos in the years-long quest by Trump and his allies to damage Biden and subvert the 2020 election process — by soliciting foreign meddling, lying about voter fraud, attempting to overturn the results, and inciting the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol.

I hadn’t heard of this crazy conspiracy theory until yesterday. Vanity Fair: Trump’s Deranged Theory That Democrats Would Replace Biden Might Have Helped Him Lose 2020

In early 2020, a frustrated and furious Donald Trump described Joe Biden as “a mental retard” while struggling to cope with his own placement in early polls, according to a passage from “Frankly, We Did Win This Election”: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, a forthcoming book by senior Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender. The author notes that Trump vented his anger at the time by interrupting “a policy meeting in the Oval Office to ask, ‘How am I losing in the polls to a mental retard?’” 

In another moment Bender writes that Trump held back on focusing his firepower on Biden during the primary stage of the election because he was convinced that the Democratic Party was scheming to switch out now president Biden for a different candidate—such as Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama—over the summer. The source of this conspiracy theory, per Bender, was Dick Morris, a former Clinton White House adviser who was “quietly advising Trump” last year. “Dick Morris told Trump that Biden was too old and too prone to gaffes to be the nominee,” Bender writes, while others in Trumpworld felt Biden would exit the race and be replaced by someone else if Trump began bashing him too hard. “Others said Fox News anchor Sean Hannity expressed concern that Biden would collapse under a sustained attack from Trump.”

trump-dollarAccording to Bender, Trump also felt that his attack strategy had backfired during the first stage of the Democratic primary. “The president, meanwhile, had often complained that his early attack on [Elizabeth] Warren had damaged her presidential bid, which he regretted because he viewed her as an easier opponent than Biden,” Bender writes. “Now he worried that a heavy blitz of attack ads would hasten the secret plot being hatched by Democrats, and his mind raced with who they might select in Biden’s place.” During a meeting held the month after the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S., Trump expressed his Biden replacement theory to advisers, saying that Democratic leadership would “realize [Biden is] old, and they’re going to give it to somebody else. They’re going to give it to Hillary, or they’re going to give it to Michelle Obama.” 

One person in Trump’s circle did work to put a stop to this absurd belief, which Trump apparently clung to so deeply that he “had cited it as a reason to hold off on heavy spending against Biden earlier in the month.” Bender writes that Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio “devoted nearly an entire page of [a campaign memo] to debunking a conspiracy theory that had bubbled up inside Trump World, including with the president, that Democrats were going to steal Biden’s nomination at the convention.” In the memo, Fabrizio reportedly wrote, “I know there is some concern (which I strenuously disagree with) that if we go after Biden too soon, we can collapse him, and the Dems will replace him at their convention. I know POTUS tends to share this opinion.” Bender adds: “The pollster aimed to debunk the theory by outlining the remaining Democratic primaries, in which Biden had no significant challenger, and the delegate math to secure the nomination. Biden would have enough delegates to secure the nomination in just three weeks, Fabrizio explained, and it would be mathematically impossible to steal it in four weeks.”

How on earth could this wacko actually have been POTUS? 

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


Friday Reads: The Previous Guy

Suzanne Valadon – Still Life with Basket of Apples Vase of Flowers 1928

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I watched Biden’s first presser yesterday afternoon.  I’m pretty convinced that some one needs to rewrite the rules for the Beltway Press.  There were a lot of missed opportunities for real questions, the usual resplendent use of bothersiderisms, the usual just to be “fair” hunt for attacks knowing Status Quo Joe wouldn’t respond like the Previous Guy, and just some things that make me think some one needs to rewrite their playbooks. But, let’s also review the day/week where The Previous Guy managed to suck some of the air out of the recent spate of good news.

Meanwhile, in the dank regions of the The Previous Guy we have some upsetting headlines.  The first one is a stab at the heart of our democracy as Georgia’s Governor signed a disturbing series of voter suppression actions into law. A Georgia legislator was arrested while knocking on a door to see the secret signing.  Then, the Previous Guy went on TV to exclaim the DOJ was persecuting the Seditionists that illegally entered the US Capitol Building. If that wasn’t enough, we learn that white supremacist and all around ugly white Guy Stephen Miller is trying to put together some legal organization to torment President Biden.

Suzanne Valadon

I’m going to try to unpack all or some of these but it’s a lot.  Especially since we woke up this morning to the Michigan Legislature trying voter suppression legislation there.  Yes, their Governor will not sign it but that’s not stopping them from trying to go around her.      Then there is also the usual bunch of right wing whack-a-dos still off on the absolutely false narrative of a stolen national election and not only going anti-mask but also anti-vaccine. Why do they want to stop the Vaccine? 

So, on to the unpacking …

This is from Susan B. Glasser writing for The New Yorker: The Presidential Press Conference in the Biden Era Is as Awful as Ever. Under Trump, we had to listen. But now? There must be a better way.”

Sometimes the big moments in our politics meet the very low expectations we have for them. Joe Biden’s first Presidential press conference, on Thursday, was one of them. By the end of it, after an hour and two minutes that felt much longer, Biden had answered some two dozen questions. The majority of them were repetitive variants on one of two subjects: immigration and the Senate filibuster.

Biden had no actual news to offer on either subject. In case you missed it, he is really, totally, absolutely committed to fixing the terrible situation at the border, and also not yet ready—because he does not have the votes—to commit to blowing up the filibuster. There was not a single question, meanwhile, about the ongoing pandemic that for the past year has convulsed life as we know it and continues to claim an average of a thousand lives a day. How is this even possible during a once-in-a-century public-health crisis, the combating of which was the central theme of Biden’s campaign and remains the central promise of his Presidency? It’s hard not to see it as anything other than an epic and utterly avoidable press fail.

For weeks, Washington clamored for a Biden press conference. This was, after all, the longest a new President had gone without holding one since the Coolidge Administration. Republicans—and the state-run media in Russia—seized on Biden’s reticence as proof that he was somehow too old or incoherent to face the rigors of extended, unscripted questioning. With his critics having set such a low bar, it should surprise no one that Biden, who did, after all, win a national election by surviving almost a dozen debates with his Democratic-primary rivals and two with Donald Trump, cleared it. Republicans, it could be said, succeeded in one respect with their preshow spin: they wanted Biden to be on the defensive talking about immigration and the border, not the passage of his $1.9 trillion covid-relief package and the success of his vaccine campaign. Reporters, based on the questions, agreed.

Sixty-five days into Biden’s tenure, there was plenty to ask him about, even in the absence of the Trump-manufactured dramas that fuelled the news in the past few years: horrific mass shootings, escalating tensions with China and Russia, missile tests by North Korea, and, oh, yes, the pandemic. The killings in Georgia and Colorado over the past week forced Biden to cancel part of his carefully planned “help is here” tour to tout the covid-relief package—a reminder that, no matter how disciplined and organized his Administration is, no matter the contrast to Trumpian chaos, all leaders fall prey to the press of urgent and unanticipated crises. Biden opened the press conference by announcing a new plan to administer two hundred million vaccines by his hundredth day in office and a vow to get a majority of elementary and middle schools open by then. But that is where the big story of his Administration began and ended—as far as the journalists were concerned.

Yayoi-Kusama-Pumpkin-300x300

Yayoi Kusama Pumpkins 1990

This take by Jon Allsop  at The Columbia Journalism Review is brutal.  Here’s the lede: ‘Reporters hype—then waste—Biden’s first press conference.’

Given the anticipation, one might have expected White House reporters to use their time with Biden wisely. Some did, asking specific questions on consequential topics such as troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and tariffs on China. On the whole, though, the questions were a flop. Some were misframed: Biden was asked, based on the worthless word of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, if he had “rejected bipartisanship”; a question about Republican voting restrictions cast them not as an assault on democracy, but a potential partisan disadvantage for Biden’s party. (Biden corrected the error: “What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” he said. “It’s sick.”) Other questions came up repeatedly, even though Biden answered them the first time: Reporters raised the situation at the border, applying the highly dubious narrative that Biden’s “decency” is leading to a “surge” in child migration. Biden was asked twice whether he’d run again in 2024 and, if so, whether Vice President Kamala Harris would be on his ticket, and whether he thought Donald Trump would be his opponent. (“Look, I… I don’t know where you guys come from, man,” Biden replied. “I’ve never been able to plan three and a half years ahead for certain.”) All of the above questions long preceded the first substantive question on gun policy, despite the recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado. There were no questions at all about the pandemic.

Yayoi-Kusama-300x234

Yayoi Kusama

There’s some other critiques out there you can check but it’s pretty much the same.  The Beltway Press are predictable and somewhat useless any more.  I so miss Helen Thomas. I can’t help but wonder what she’d have done with The Previous Guy.

The only thing republicans have left to them is to continue to block everything via the filibuster if they can, conspiracy theories easily disproven, and the voter suppression efforts in the legislatures which are directly anti-democratic and as seditious as rioting, looting, and killing police at the U.S. Capitol.

So, The Previous Guy thinks every one is persecuting his ugly band of seditionists.  This is from New York Magazine and Jonathan Chait: “Trump Complains Government Is ‘Persecuting’ Capitol Rioters.”  This definitely makes me feel sorry for any one that has to watch Laura Ingraham for a living.

The new reality was driven home in Trump’s interview with Laura Ingraham Thursday night. At one point, the Fox News host, whose “interview” was more like an exchange of talking points, brought up a new report that the Homeland Security Department will be giving more attention to right-wing domestic extremism. “The idea is to identify people who may, through their social-media behavior, be prone to influence by toxic messaging spread by foreign governments, terrorists, and domestic extremists,” Ingraham noted. “Mr. President, their DHS is going after people who may be your supporters.”

It is worth pausing for a moment to record that Ingraham’s reaction to a description of people “prone to influence by toxic messaging spread by foreign governments, terrorists, and domestic extremists” is hey, they’re talking about us!

Trump, taking the cue, denounced federal authorities for charging his supporters with crimes. “They go after that, I guess you’d call them leaning toward the right … those people, they’re arresting them by the dozens,” he complained.

Ingraham did not follow up by asking who was being arrested by the dozens. But Trump’s answer became clear a few questions later. Ingraham prompted him with a safe question about the security fencing around the Capitol, a precaution even Democrats have deemed excessive long after the insurrection ended.

Rather than simply denounce the fencing, Trump launched into a defense of the riot. “It was zero threat, right from the start, it was zero threat. They’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards,” he insisted about the violent clash.

Trump proceeded to portray the prosecution of the insurrectionists as a witch hunt against his movement. “They’re doing things, they’re persecuting a lot of those people,” he complained. Using his customary formulation — the crimes are on the other side — he launched into a tangent about the alleged failure to prosecute antifa, before returning to his true complaint: “… and yet I’m constantly seeing they’re searching out people on the right.”

Aliza Nisenbaum (b. 1977), MOIA’s NYC Women’s Cabinet, 2016.

This is really true to form for both of these ugly people.  I still can’t believe any one buys this bullshit but there certainly a lot of dumb white men out there.  And wait!  There’s more!  Far-Right Extremists Move From ‘Stop the Steal’ to Stop the Vaccine. Extremist organizations are now bashing the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines in an effort to try to undermine the government.”

Adherents of far-right groups who cluster online have turned repeatedly to one particular website in recent weeks — the federal database showing deaths and adverse reactions nationwide among people who have received Covid-19 vaccinations.

Although negative reactions have been relatively rare, the numbers are used by many extremist groups to try to bolster a rash of false and alarmist disinformation in articles and videos with titles like “Covid-19 Vaccines Are Weapons of Mass Destruction — and Could Wipe out the Human Race” or “Doctors and Nurses Giving the Covid-19 Vaccine Will be Tried as War Criminals.”

If the so-called Stop the Steal movement appeared to be chasing a lost cause once President Biden was inaugurated, its supporters among extremist organizations are now adopting a new agenda from the anti-vaccination campaign to try to undermine the government.

Bashing of the safety and efficacy of vaccines is occurring in chatrooms frequented by all manner of right-wing groups including the Proud Boys; the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation known for wanting to spark a second Civil War; and various paramilitary organizations.

These groups tend to portray vaccines as a symbol of excessive government control. “If less people get vaccinated then the system will have to use more aggressive force on the rest of us to make us get the shot,” read a recent post on the Telegram social media platform, in a channel linked to members of the Proud Boys charged in storming the Capitol.

Katarzyna Przezwańska
Untitled, 2018

Okay, so let me wrap up with the most important topic of the here and now.  Republicans are aware that they are falling into the category of an unelectable minority given the demographics of most states.  The bottom line is they’re working hard to make certain People of Color– and especially Black Americans–cannot access the voting booth.  The first of the draconian measures were signed into Georgia law late last night in a secret gathering in Governor Kemp’s office.  This lead to the arrest of Georgia Legislator State Rep Park Cannon. This all broke late into the evening news hour.  This is from NPR:  “Georgia Lawmaker Arrested As Governor Signs Law Overhauling Elections”.

Repeatedly knocking on the office door of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp got one state lawmaker arrested at the Capitol on Thursday.

Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon, a Black woman, continued knocking on Kemp’s office door after Georgia State Patrol troopers instructed her to stop.

She said later she was arrested for “fighting voter suppression.” A law signed by Kemp on Thursday includes new limitations on mail-in voting, expands most voters’ access to in-person early voting and caps a months-long battle over voting in a battleground state.

It has been heavily criticized as a bill that would end up disenfranchising Black voters. It’s also seen as Republicans’ rebuke of the November and January elections in which the state’s Black voters led the election of two Democrats to the Senate.

Cannon is facing a charge of obstructing law enforcement officers by use of threats or violence and she faces a second charge of disrupting general assembly sessions or other meetings of members.

It’s unclear what was said between Cannon and one state trooper guarding Kemp’s office door.

Katarzyna Przezwańska

You can read more about the “Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law” at the Atlanta JC.

Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race.

The most disturbing parts are where the legislature gets to decide the race outcome if they don’t like what the people voted for.

The bill also will allow the State Election Board to take over county election boards that it deems need intervention. Skeptics say that will allow Republican officials to decide which ballots count in majority Democratic areas, such as Fulton County.

“Lady at her Toilette” by Berthe Morisot.

While the head of the Michigan Republican party “quips on video about assassination, ‘three witches’ ”  The legislature tries to shove voter suppression actions around the vetoing pen of Governor Whitmer.   This is via The Detroit News : “Michigan GOP leader reveals plans to go around Whitmer for voting law overhaul.”

Michigan Republicans are crafting plans to work around Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to make changes to the battleground state’s voting laws after losses in the 2020 election.

Ron Weiser, chairman of the Michigan GOP, told the North Oakland Republican Club Thursday night that the party wants to blend together bills proposed in the House and Senate for a petition initiative.

If Republicans gathered enough signatures — more than 340,000 would be needed — the GOP-controlled Legislature could approve the proposal into law without Whitmer being able to veto it.

Senate Republicans unveiled 39 bills Wednesday to require applicants for absentee ballots to present a copy of identification, overhaul large counties’ canvassing boards and bar Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson from sending absentee ballot applications to voters unless they specifically request the applications.

“If that legislation is not passed by our Legislature, which I am sure it will be, but if it’s not signed by the governor, then we have other plans to make sure that it becomes law before 2022,” Weiser said, according to a video posted on social media.

“That plan includes taking that legislation and getting the signatures necessary for a legislative initiative so it can become law without Gretchen Whitmer’s signature,” Weiser added.

In states across the country this year, Republicans have advanced changes to voting laws after former President Donald Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden on Nov. 3 and made unproven claims of voter fraud.

Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot

So, we’re not going to get a break from the crazy any time soon.

Since I’ve really loaded you down with some negative political vibes I am once again celebrating Women artists and musicians for Women’s History Month.  Hopefully, the woman artists and their artwork will pick you up.  Also, enjoy one of my favorite young songwriters and her group from New Orleans.  I featured her before but I always like to play her whenever the day needs a pick me up.

So here is  Tank and the Bangas  doing their  NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2017.  These young adults are all graduates of the performing arts school in my neighborhood!  Be safe!  Check in!

And I just had to add this!!! This woman had some amazing Needle skills and an incredible eye for design!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Me worry?

And good morning to you…

Some hard hits there…as usual, the political comics bringing the point home.

First tweet I saw when I started to write this post:

This is one of my favorite pictures…please click on that link and read more about Raymond Cauchetier.

Now for some news updates:

And one last thing…

#FuckBernieSanders

( And #FuckJoeManchin too!)

Ugh…

Try and stay safe today…


Sunday Reads: What’s Normal?

Trump is gone, innit wonderful.

This is an open thread.