Friday Reads: Every Day People

Portrait Of Alice Neel by Fred W. McDarrah

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I feel like one of those cartoons with the spinning heads as news leaps from continued lies, conspiracy theories and freakshows from the previous guy and his cronies to the headlines coming out of the first 100 days of Status Quo Joe’ sudden leap into the headlines as the next FDR or LBJ and then to the absolute horrific tales coming out the Derik Chauvin Trial. It’s like the psyche of America is on full monte, naked display.

So, yesterday I saw this Washington Post article on the Artist Alice Neel and a notice of a retrospective of her work at the Metropolitan Art Museum in NYC. Some of her delightful portraits fill the white space today.  I found a lot of them a this link at the NYT under a the headline Alice Neel’s Love of Harlem and the Neighbors She Painted There”    You may also find more of her work here “The Life & Works of Alice Neel. Delve deep into the mind of the American artist, whose body of work demonstrates the intertwining of art and life, capturing what the eyes see and what the heart feels.”

‘Ginny and Elizabeth’, 1975,

While the Trump whack-a-dos are obsessing on Vaccine Passports and mumbling about the mark of some beast or another we’ll just take a look at Susan B. Glasser’s thoughts on Biden as the next LBJ or FDR at The New Yorker.  The headline is clickbait worthy but the lede is what is real. “Is Biden Really the Second Coming of F.D.R. and L.B.J.?  Proposing historic legislation is not transformative; passing it is.”  Well, the article was posted yesterday so maybe it was a little bit of April Foolery?  Read it and realize the first hundred days do not a presidential legacy make.  But, of course we knew that.

As for Biden, what I’m struck by is not so much the quite possibly overheated F.D.R. and L.B.J. comparisons as the radically different political circumstances that Biden faces in getting Congress to enact his sweeping big-government proposals. Yes, Trump was the first Republican incumbent seeking reëlection to see his party lose the White House, Senate, and House since Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover, in 1932. But almost everything else about the politics of today appears to be radically different for the new Biden Administration than it was for Roosevelt, from the nature and scale of the economic problems that he faces—the Great Depression was not just worse than our current predicament but much worse—to the realities of governing. The biggest difference is in Washington, where Biden will be trying to push through his agenda with the votes of only fifty senators and a House margin of only three votes. In 1933, by contrast, F.D.R. was working with a Congress in which Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the House three to one; in the Senate, they had a fifty-nine-vote majority. L.B.J.’s hand was even stronger; after his landslide election victory, in 1964, Democrats controlled sixty-eight seats in the Senate and picked up an additional thirty-six seats in the House, giving them two hundred and ninety-five seats and a sizable majority.

What a contrast with today. The truth, which the savvy hands in the Biden White House know all too well, is that the enemy gets a vote, as the military saying goes. In this case, it will get a lot of votes, because there is just no getting around the reality of near-parity between the parties in Congress. As the bills are hashed out on the Hill over the coming months, every faction of even one or two or three members will get a say, knowing that an entire bill could go down with just their votes. The lobbying that has already begun suggests a tough road ahead.

Alice Neel’s 1950 portrait of the playwright Alice Childress. Credit: Estate of Alice Neel, David Zwirner, New York/London; Collection of Art Berliner

Meanwhile, the prosecution and search for the Trumpist Insurrectionists continues.  This is one more reminder of why the previous guy is still a clear and present danger.  I was glad to read that more people threatened by the Insurrection Riots–now to include Capitol Police as well as Congress Critters–are suing the living daylights out of him.

This is from BuzzFeed News‘ Zoe Tillman: ‘The Lawsuits Against Donald Trump Are Stacking Up Over “Stop The Steal”‘

Lawsuits seeking to hold former president Donald Trump personally — and financially — responsible for the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 are stacking up.

This week, two US Capitol Police officers who said they were on the front lines at the Capitol on Jan. 6 sued Trump, arguing that he was liable for inciting the violence and for the physical and emotional injuries they sustained during clashes with rioters.

There are already two lawsuits filed by Democratic members of Congress — Reps. Bennie Thompson and Eric Swalwell — that accuse Trump and his allies of conspiring to interfere with their official duties by pushing the false claims of voter fraud that underpinned the Capitol insurrection. A fourth case, filed a few weeks before the January riot, accuses Trump and Republicans of violating federal civil rights law by focusing postelection challenges and fraud falsehoods on areas with large Black populations.

Trump has denied that he was responsible for inciting the violence of Jan. 6, and his defense against these cases is likely to feature an argument that his promotion of the “Stop the Steal” campaign — the lie that President Joe Biden’s win was illegitimate and that there was widespread fraud — was political speech protected by the First Amendment. His lawyers haven’t filed responses yet to the post–Jan. 6 cases, but they’ve already raised a First Amendment defense in the postelection civil rights case filed on behalf of Black voters.

There’s more potential legal fallout from “Stop the Steal” looming over Trump. Earlier this week, a lawyer for Dominion Voting Systems told Axios that the election tech company hadn’t ruled out suing Trump or anyone else who promoted false claims that Dominion and its products were involved in an election fraud scheme. Dominion and another voting systems company, Smartmatic, have already filed billion-dollar lawsuits against Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, and Fox News.

Alice Neel’s 1966 painting of a South Asian woman, her mauve sari covered with periwinkle diamonds, is among two dozen portraits in the show “Alice Neel, Uptown” at David Zwirner gallery.

Let’s hope all the injured parties can drain them all dry!  The Spawn of Trump are fairing no better.  Ivanka Trump’s project to globally aid women entreprenuers shows incredible signs of mismanagement.  This is reported by Glenn Thrush writing for the NYT. “A global aid program championed by Ivanka Trump has serious problems, a report finds.”   Pretty bad when a bored and dim socialite can’t even make a decent run at a charity but then, they all can’t seem to get the idea that a charity isn’t there to benefit them somehow.  That’s sort’ve a killer misperception.

One of Ivanka Trump’s top initiatives — a legislative overhaul of programs assisting small businesses run by women around the world — was so haphazardly managed by a federal agency that an independent watchdog was unable to determine whether it actually worked.

In a report released on Thursday, the Government Accountability Office found that programs funded through the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, which Ms. Trump, the eldest daughter of former President Donald J. Trump, helped usher through Congress in late 2018, were deeply flawed and hampered by poor oversight.

Officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversaw $265 million per year in spending on the initiative and an associated antipoverty program, never worked out “an explicit definition” of who was eligible to receive millions in aid, the report found.

The aid agency was also unable to determine the percentage of funding going to “the very poor and enterprises owned, managed and controlled by women,” the authors concluded after a 14-month audit, which covered actions taken during both the Obama and Trump administrations.

The G.A.O. recommended the U.S. Agency for International Development make six major changes to overhaul the programs. The agency’s leaders, who were appointed by the Biden administration, said they planned to implement them.

Ah, let me put a theme song to the paintings and what I want to sing every time I turn on TV and read about another Hate Crime.  I’m trying to work myself up to looking at the attempt to get Justice for George Floyd and to stop thinking about all those women who died in the spa shooting so maybe Sly will cheer me up and I can sing  ‘

‘We all the same no matter what we do’ .

Neel’s portrait of Mercedes Arroyo, from 1952.Credit…Estate of Alice Neel, David Zwirner, New York/London; Daryl and Steven Roth

‘and scooby dooby dooby …’

So, today the prosecution put more expert witnesses which are a hell of a lot easier to watch than the seriously emotionally damaged witnesses to Chauvin’s knew on George Floyd.  Joy Reid twitted this interesting fact about him:

The first officer who testified today in the Chauvin trial was interesting — the fact that he went through the community policing system under Obama’s 21st century policing program means he just has a different perspective from other officers. We need more of that.

This was the conclusion at WAPO just minutes ago: “Senior officer rejects Chauvin’s ‘totally unnecessary’ use of force against George Floyd”.  That pretty much backs up everything the witnesses up to date have said including the 9 year old.

An emotional week of testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin concluded Friday with Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the most senior officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, rejecting the former officer’s use of force against George Floyd, calling it “uncalled for” and “totally unnecessary.” Zimmerman testified that once someone is handcuffed, “they are not a threat to you at that point” and the amount of force should be immediately reduced. “If your knee is on a person’s neck, that could kill him,” he testified.

Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, argued Friday that police can use “improvisation” for “whatever force is reasonable and necessary.”

The Trial is on recess until Monday Morning so you have plenty of time to watch/hear the gut wrenching testimony of the witnesses as well as First Responders who arrived at the scene too late to be of use.

Neel’s drawing of Georgie Arce, from 1955. Credit: Estate of Alice Neel, David Zwirner, New York/London; Private Collection

I have to pace myself even when it’s just post coverage by the media. It’s so supremely shocking that even repeats of the film or watching witnesses cry on the stand as they try to recount it just makes me put my head in my pillow to scream.

‘Ooh sha sha
We got to live together
I am no better and neither are you
We’re all the same whatever we do
You love me you hate me
You know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people’

And just so you know we’re still not out of  the woods yet …

and the suspect is in custody.

and then there’s this:

And with that I bid you to please have a happy and sunny weekend.  Please be safe!  We want to hear from you for a very long time!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  


Monday Reads: Plumage and Bloomage

Good Day Sky Dancers!

My body went back to normal time this morning and stole that hour plus another back!  I’m just not adjusting well to this at all but I did enjoy time walking the dog last night under the Full Worm Moon. I’m not sure all the spring breakers holding the neighborhood hostage were gone but they seemed to be holed up somewhere inside because Temple and I had the neutral ground and all our heron buddies to ourselves.

The full Moon names used by The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources. Traditionally, each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, not only to the full Moon.

The Worm Moon

March’s full Moon goes by the name Worm Moon, which was originally thought to refer to the earthworms that appear as the soil warms in spring. This invites robins and other birds to feed—a true sign of spring!

An alternative explanation for this name comes from Captain Jonathan Carver, an 18th-century explorer, who wrote that this Moon name refers to a different sort of “worm”—beetle larvae—which begin to emerge from the thawing bark of trees and other winter hideouts at this time.

This is Rob and Laura who live in the Live Oak closest to the River. On the next block there are two pairs. I’ve named them Lucy and Ricky and Ethel and Fred. They live in adjacent trees.

I’ve taken some photos of spring arriving to my street.  I hope you enjoy them!  I’m also highlighting some of the Haute Couture from the New Yorker’s article on Ann Lowe by Judith Thurman.Ann Lowe’s Barrier-Breaking Mid-Century Couture How a Black designer made her way among the white élite.”  Enjoy all the plumage and bloomage!

The issue in most dire need of elucidation is undoubtedly the onslaught of voter suppression measures in state legislatures across Republican States.  It is also the Voting Rights Act headed for the desk of the Senate.  If you read anything today please read Jane Mayer’s article at The New Yorker. Here’s the headline: Inside the Koch-Backed Effort to Block the Largest Election-Reform Bill in Half a Century , On a leaked conference call, leaders of dark-money groups and an aide to Mitch McConnell expressed frustration with the popularity of the legislation—even among Republican voters.”

A recording obtained by The New Yorker of a private conference call on January 8th, between a policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups—including one run by the Koch brothers’ network—reveals the participants’ worry that the proposed election reforms garner wide support not just from liberals but from conservative voters, too. The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn’t worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress.

Kyle McKenzie, the research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together, told fellow-conservatives and Republican congressional staffers on the call that he had a “spoiler.” “When presented with a very neutral description” of the bill, “people were generally supportive,” McKenzie said, adding that “the most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description.” In fact, he warned, “there’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.”

As a result, McKenzie conceded, the legislation’s opponents would likely have to rely on Republicans in the Senate, where the bill is now under debate, to use “under-the-dome-type strategies”—meaning legislative maneuvers beneath Congress’s roof, such as the filibuster—to stop the bill, because turning public opinion against it would be “incredibly difficult.” He warned that the worst thing conservatives could do would be to try to “engage with the other side” on the argument that the legislation “stops billionaires from buying elections.” McKenzie admitted, “Unfortunately, we’ve found that that is a winning message, for both the general public and also conservatives.” He said that when his group tested “tons of other” arguments in support of the bill, the one condemning billionaires buying elections was the most persuasive—people “found that to be most convincing, and it riled them up the most.”

McKenzie explained that the Koch-founded group had invested substantial resources “to see if we could find any message that would activate and persuade conservatives on this issue.” He related that “an A.O.C. message we tested”—one claiming that the bill might help Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez achieve her goal of holding “people in the Trump Administration accountable” by identifying big donors—helped somewhat with conservatives. But McKenzie admitted that the link was tenuous, since “what she means by this is unclear.” “Sadly,” he added, not even attaching the phrase “cancel culture” to the bill, by portraying it as silencing conservative voices, had worked. “It really ranked at the bottom,” McKenzie said to the group. “That was definitely a little concerning for us.”

Gretchen Reiter, the senior vice-president of communications for Stand Together, declined to respond to questions about the conference call or the Koch group’s research showing the robust popularity of the proposed election reforms. In an e-mailed statement, she said, “Defending civil liberties requires more than a sound bite,” and added that the group opposes the bill because “a third of it restricts First Amendment rights.” She included a link to an op-ed written by a member of Americans for Prosperity, another Koch-affiliated advocacy group, which argues that the legislation violates donors’ freedom of expression by requiring the disclosure of the names of those who contribute ten thousand dollars or more to nonprofit groups involved in election spending. Such transparency, the op-ed suggests, could subject donors who prefer to remain anonymous to retaliation or harassment.

This evening shift, circa 1924, is the earliest confirmed example of Lowe’s couture. Every bead was attached individually.Dress from collection of the Henry B. Plant Museum / Tampa, Florida

You certainly cannot boycott a Hedge or Capital Venture Fund but we know from Fair Fight that many Georgia Voters are putting pressure  on corporations–like Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot– to throw their weight behind getting Voting Rights passed and Voter Suppression Tactics stopped.  The effort is called Black Dollars Matter.

Georgia has some of the most organized and mobilized groups of Black voters, thanks to Stacey Abrams, who may be the shrewdest and most tenacious voting rights advocate in the nation.

Many of these Black voters remember when Abrams lost a close race for Georgia governor in 2018, a contest tainted by allegations of voter suppression. Kemp, Abrams’ opponent, ran for governor while also holding onto his position as the state’s chief elections officer — a position many viewed as a conflict of interest.

The perception that the GOP is trying to suppress the Black vote will only make Black voters in Georgia more determined to vote in 2022, when Abrams is widely expected to run against Kemp again, says the Rev. Jamal Byrant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia.

“Georgia is frankly becoming browner and more progressive, and the Republicans are having anxiety about the upcoming gubernatorial election and they’re trying to do everything in their power to stop the wave,” Bryant says.

“You’re going to see a whole lot of first-time voters, younger voters and disillusioned and disenfranchised voters heading back to the polls because they realize what’s at stake,” Bryant says.

There is evidence to back up Bryant’s prediction. A growing body of research suggests that the passage of voter ID laws may in some cases motivate Black voters and spark voter organizing efforts.

One study examining the impact of the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby decision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, suggested that voting restrictions may actually increase Black turnout in elections.

The Shelby decision made it easier for states to pass voter restriction laws after the high court removed the “preclearance” provision from the Voting Rights Act. Under preclearance, a state with a history of racial discrimination in elections had to get permission from the federal government for instituting any changes to how they run elections.

The study, which was cited in the New York Times, said the Shelby decision may have actually increased Black turnout in the 2016 presidential election in some states where preclearance was removed.

“Overall, the removal of preclearance did not decrease Black turnout,” says Kyle Raze, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon, who authored the study. “If anything, the removal of preclearance increased Black turnout in some states during the 2016 election.”

Political scientists have found laws that make voting more difficult don’t always succeed in changing election outcomes, because voters and parties take steps to counteract what’s happening.

I suppose the one great thing we’ve got going for us is that the country’s voters outnumber the country’s wicked rich. But then I read things like this poll from the Pew Research Center. “A partisan chasm in views of Trump’s legacy”.  It still seems many rank and file republicans get their information from alternative reality sites. Democracies don’t work so well when a slice of the electorate likes being deliberately and willfully ignorant.

Two months after President Donald Trump left office, 38% of Americans say he made progress toward solving major problems facing the country during his administration – while a nearly identical share (37%) say he made these problems worse. Another 15% say Trump tried but failed to solve the nation’s problems, while 10% say he did not address them.

Looking back at Trump’s term, just over half of Americans (53%) rate Trump’s presidency as below average – including 41% who say he was a “terrible” president. About a third (35%) rate his presidency as above average, including 17% who say he was a “great” president. Republicans and Democrats offer starkly different assessments of Trump’s presidential legacy, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 12,055 U.S. adults conducted March 1-7, 2021.

Graphic statement: A stately evening ensemble of black lace over aqua silk, for A. F. Chantilly, circa 1966.

I’d really like to know which problems exactly they think he solved.  He certainly created a lot more chaos and shameful policies than anything else he did.  Maybe they like the idea of child separation and children in cages? The huge budget busting and no growth creating tax cuts?  The love letters to Putin and Kim?  Who knows and I’m not about to ask any of them.  Phillip Bump of WAPO writes that “Trump is losing the war over his legacy”  How could someone who led a band of violent white supremacists to insurrection against our country have anything but a rotten legacy?  Added to his mishandling and manipulation of the COVID-19 response–discussed below–and I’d say he’s going down in history as a murderer, a seditionist, and a thief.

On Sunday evening, CNN aired a special featuring interviews with the senior officials involved in the early coronavirus pandemic response under president Donald Trump. No longer operating under the Trump political umbrella, they offered assessments of the past year that lacked any soothing veneer.

Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House response under Trump, expressed her belief that the deaths that occurred after the first wave of infections last spring were largely preventable. It’s a sentiment that matches recent research but was at odds with the sanitization practices of the Trump White House to which Birx had so often adhered. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top epidemiologist, suggested it was government experts, not Trump, who had decided to push forward quickly on a vaccine to combat the virus in January 2020. That was months before the administration rolled out Operation Warp Speed, its push for vaccine development..

Well, that’s the one thing he was taking credit for that might’ve stuck.  I guess we should’ve known that somebody else’s idea all along.  Also, in the news is the Solar Winds Hack which probably was partially due to the deconstruction all over the National Security front by the Trumpist Regime.  This is breaking  from the AP: “from Alan Suderman.

Suspected Russian hackers gained access to email accounts belonging to the Trump administration’s head of the Department of Homeland Security and members of the department’s cybersecurity staff whose jobs included hunting threats from foreign countries, The Associated Press has learned.

The intelligence value of the hacking of then-acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his staff is not publicly known, but the symbolism is stark. Their accounts were accessed as part of what’s known as the SolarWinds intrusion, and it throws into question how the U.S. government can protect individuals, companies and institutions across the country if it can’t protect itself.

The short answer for many security experts and federal officials is that it can’t — at least not without some significant changes.

“The SolarWinds hack was a victory for our foreign adversaries, and a failure for DHS,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, top Republican on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We are talking about DHS’s crown jewels.”

The Biden administration has tried to keep a tight lid on the scope of the SolarWinds attack as it weighs retaliatory measures against Russia. But an inquiry by the AP found new details about the breach at DHS and other agencies, including the Energy Department, where hackers accessed top officials’ schedules.

Blush pink was a favorite color of Lowe’s. Here she uses it in silk and nylon for an evening dress, from 1962, festooned with trompe-l’oeil flowers.

Well, that’s a little this and that about the previous guy as well as what we’re experiencing now still because of the previous guy.  The Biden/Harris administration sure have their work cut out for them.

Since I now have the Blues I will put this up by Memphis Minnie (Lizzy Douglas) who recorded this song sometime during the peak of the great depression.  Douglas was born in New Orleans in the Algiers neighborhood in 1897 but moved to Tennessee to record.  She was billed as the Queen of the Country Blues. You can learn more about her at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

But there were plenty of men who wanted to play guitar like Memphis Minnie. She once even beat the great Big Bill Broonzy in a picking contest. Her title “Queen of the Country Blues” was no hype. Minnie did everything the boys could do, and she did it in a fancy gown with full hair and makeup. She had it all: stellar guitar chops, a powerful voice, a huge repertoire including many original, signature songs and a stage presence simultaneously glamorous, bawdy and tough.

She transcended both gender and genre. Her recording career reached from the 1920s heyday of country blues to cutting electric sides in 1950s Chicago studios for the Chess subsidiary Checker. Minnie helped form the roots of electric Chicago blues, as well as R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, long before she plugged in. Her unique storytelling style of songwriting drew such surprising fans as Country Music Hall of Famer Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing, who covered her song about a favorite horse, “Frankie Jean,” right down to copying Minnie’s whistling. Though she inspired as many men as women, her influence was particularly strong on female musicians, her disciples including her niece Lavern Baker, a rock and R&B pioneer in her own right, as well as Maria Muldaur (who released a 2012 tribute CD) Bonnie Raitt (who paid for her headstone), Rory Block, Tracy Nelson, Saffire and virtually every other guitar-slinging woman since.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


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?


Friday Reads: Saying Goodbye to Donny’s Dank Dystopia

Self-Portrait: The Inn of the Dawn Horse (1937 – 1938), LEONORA CARRINGTON

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It was quite the contrast between the coverage of what what was happening a year ago with the pandemic and massive shutdowns of schools and businesses last night right before Biden’s speech and then seeing the coverage of the speech after.  Here’s how The New Yorker‘s Susan B. Glasser characterized it: “It’s Morning (and Mourning) in Biden’s America.

Fifty-one days into his Presidency, on the first anniversary of our collective quarantine, Joe Biden pivoted to optimism. He spoke of “finding light in the darkness,” vaccines for everyone by the end of May, and a country open for barbecues by the Fourth of July. That certainly counts as an upbeat message in the midst of the pandemic, although it was appropriately accompanied by the expressions of concern and communal grief at which this new President so excels. Good news is a lot easier than bad to deliver.

For much of his short time in office, Biden has stuck to the sober facts of the covid-19 crisis that he inherited. He has been the perpetual un-Trump, wielding science and seriousness against the pandemic and the political toxicity that has accompanied it. Even in his twenty-four-minute address to the nation from the East Room of the White House, on Thursday night, Biden did not abandon that approach. How could he? Everything that he does and says to address the pandemic, which has killed more Americans than all combat deaths in the last century’s wars combined, is a rebuke to his predecessor. Trump’s failed stewardship of the nation during the coronavirus outbreak is both the signal fact of his Presidency and the inescapable emergency of Biden’s nascent one. Yet Biden did more than lament or lecture on Thursday. He offered, for the first time since he took office, the gauzy optimism that predecessors from Roosevelt to Reagan have embraced at times of national trouble, speaking of “real progress” and getting the job done, of setting goals and beating them, of “hope and light and better days ahead.”

The clichés did not really bother me. That is because I spent the few minutes right before Biden’s speech listening to Trump’s nine-minute address to the nation from the same night a year earlier. In the awful hindsight created by the deaths of more than five hundred thousand Americans, it’s a true horror to again hear Trump promising the country that “the virus will not have a chance against us,” and insisting, “I will never hesitate to take the necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people.” Watching this risible B.S. a year later, it seemed to me that even Trump had had a hard time believing his own bluster. When he read off the teleprompter that he was “confident” of victory over the pandemic, he appeared to be gasping for air.

Autoportrait (Self-Portrait in a Green Bugatti) (1929),TAMARA DE LEMPICKA

The partisan response to the speech which just obvious in the right wing media.  It’s just that the character of the two men couldn’t be more opposite. Here’s some good news from Axios on the Trump Chidren in Cages Travesty: “Biden to end Trump-era agreement between ICE and agency housing migrant children.”  Remember children being scurried around in the darkness too?  My hope is there is a full blown 911 commission on reforming ICE.

The Biden administration will prevent the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from sharing any information about families who accept migrant children with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to administration officials.

Why it matters: By terminating a 2018 legal agreement between HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement and ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Biden administration hopes to encourage more sponsors to work with the government to accept unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border.

  • Moving those children out of HHS shelters and into sponsors’ homes helps free up space, which is needed to process the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • HHS has some 8,500 minors in custody, with an additional 3,500 still being held at border patrol stations, according to the Washington Post.
  • To alleviate strain on HHS shelters, CBP has eased COVID-19 protocols that were limiting the number of minors in a given facility, allowing them to fill up to full capacity. “We are aggressively adding hundreds of beds by the week,” said an administration official.

Self portrait, Rosa Bonheur

New York Magazine published a harrowing story of sexual harassment written by reporter Jessica Bakemen: “Cuomo Never Let Me Forget I Was a Woman” .  Calling him a cad doesn’t even begin to capture his lewd and loutish behavior.

I walked up to the governor, who was in the middle of a conversation with another reporter, and waited for a moment when I could interject. He took my hand, as if to shake it, then refused to let go. He put his other arm around my back, his hand on my waist, and held me firmly in place while indicating to a photographer he wanted us to pose for a picture.

My job was to analyze and scrutinize him. I didn’t want a photo of him with his hands on my body and a smile on my face. But I made the reflexive assessment that most women and marginalized people know instinctively, the calculation about risk and power and self-preservation. I knew it would be far easier to smile for the brief moment it takes to snap a picture than to challenge one of the most powerful men in the country.

But my calculation was a bit off. I was wrong to believe this experience would last for just a moment. Keeping his grip on me as I practically squirmed to get away from him, the governor turned my body to face a different direction for yet another picture. He never let go of my hand.

Then he turned to me with a mischievous smile on his face, in front of all of my colleagues, and said: “I’m sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady.”

I stood there in stunned silence, shocked and humiliated. But, of course, that was the point.

I never thought the governor wanted to have sex with me. It wasn’t about sex. It was about power. He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve what relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions. He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist. (The Cuomo administration has declined to comment.)

It’s not that Cuomo spares men in his orbit from his trademark bullying and demeaning behavior. But the way he bullies and demeans women is different. He uses touching and sexual innuendo to stoke fear in us. That is the textbook definition of sexual harassment.

And then some great young black female atheletes endured this last night.

Self Portrait, Anna Bilinska

Self Portrait. Anna Bilinska

The Bulwark‘s Amanda Carpenter writes it like it is: ““Election Integrity” Means Restriction. You can’t have a reasonable debate about voting rights with people who wanted to cancel votes.

If you value more voter participation, then you want more Americans to have access to the voting options that worked so successfully in 2020. If you prefer lower voter participation, then you want those options either rescinded or restricted. This isn’t rocket science.

Also not rocket science: It’s clear that one of our country’s two political parties overtly prefers less voter participation and so, as a consequence, is now actively pursuing avenues designed to reduce—or suppress, or depress, or whatever perfectly non-judgmental verb you’d like to use—the number of votes cast in future elections.

Republican lawmakers, still testifying to lies about a “stolen” election from 2020 loser Donald Trump, are currently advancing hundreds of bills on the state level to restrict voting rights in the name of restoring “election integrity.” Go ahead and take a look at some of these “integrity-filled” proposals.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, having avoided a lynching by Trump supporters on January 6, has decided to use the fight for “election integrity” as his way back to the warm embrace of MAGA. He emerged from his new post at the Heritage Foundation to announce that “Voter Integrity Is a National Imperative” at the same moment that Heritage Action plans to spend $10 million to tighten election laws in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin.

But what exactly does “election integrity” mean to Mike Pence and those pushing restrictionist laws? For the MAGA crowd, it’s code for eliminating “fraud.” No matter that Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr said, “There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.” Or that officials at Trump’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised,” and the election was “the most secure in American history.”

Pence’s piece is a work of art, designed to simultaneously appease both his lawyers and the QAnon chat boards. He writes, “Many of the most troubling voting irregularities took place in states that set aside laws enacted by state legislatures in favor of sweeping changes ordered by governors, secretaries of state, and courts.” He doesn’t say what these “irregularities” were exactly. Or mention that the “sweeping changes” were made to ensure the election would go smoothly during the pandemic. Which it did.

The only thing that was “irregular,” as Pence puts it, was the exceptionally high number of Americans who voted. Against him.

The plain fact is that more Americans voted against Trump and Pence—both singularly in 2020 and cumulatively in combination with 2016—than any other ticket in the long history of our nation. That’s the real problem Republicans have with the 2020 election.

So, I think I’ll stop here and let you take over.  Again, celebrate Women’s History Month by discovering Women in all kinds of places !!!  And again, discover the misogynyist patriarchal bastards who want to keep them down too!  Tucker Carlson thinks mocking pregant service members is cool.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads

Good afternoon.

There was something about that image of the high heel and at vaccine 💉 …connecting women to science and how women are moving forward with Covid relief. (It also harkens back to the film High Heels by Pedro Almodóvar.)

The tag line to the film was, “Life can be murder in high heels.” And that is one statement you can’t argue with…even though we are living in 2021.

First some cartoons:

Ok…

All this makes this next tweet relevant…

On women:

Update here:

So true:

And I will end it with this thought:

Have a kick ass day…