Monday Reads: Let’s get Cheeky!!!

Good Day Sky Dancers!

One of the problems that I’ve always had with sportsball is–even with strong unions– the owner/athlete paradigm is such a throwback to the relationship between the Roman Empire and all that slave jazz. The New Orleans Super Dome just got sold to Ceasar’s from Las Vegas, so now we have a new tacky thing to deal with while Golddigging Widow Gail Bensen gets to up her $4.3 billion net worth.  I only wish that cities or teams could own their own franchise.

I’m not thrilled with the Olympics either, which usually is framed with similar relationships between the rules and the athletes. Also, there’s usually someone in charge of women’s wear that either hates women or is overly interested in their body parts. I’ve always been a big fan of Pink, but I’m even more a fan now for this action.  This is from the UK Guardian: “Tokyo 2020: Pink offers to pay the fine for Norwegian women’s volleyball team. The ‘Get The Party Started’ singer said the European Handball Federation should be fined ‘for their sexism’”

Singer and songwriter Pink has offered to pay off the fine for the Norwegian women’s handball players who refused to wear bikini bottoms for their match against Spain at the European Beach Handball Championships last week.

The European Handball Federation (EHF) fined the team $1,765 (£1,283), or about $176 for each player, asserting that the women competed in “improper clothing” when they picked shorts rather than the mandated bikini bottoms.

Male players, meanwhile, are permitted to wear shorts no longer than four inches above the knee.

The 41-year-old music artist tweeted she was “proud” of the team for “protesting the very sexist rules about their ‘uniform’” and that the EHF “should be fined for their sexism.”

“Good on ya, ladies. I’ll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up,” she wrote.

Women athletes must wear bikini bottoms with a close fit and cut on an upward angle towards the top of the leg, according to the International Handball Federation’s rules. “The side width must be of a maximum of 10 centimetres,” the rules say.

Some of the worst people are having a fit about The Cleveland Indians being renamed The Cleveland Guardians.  After all, isn’t it an American tradition to diminish the humanity and culture of Native Americans? If you can stand it, This is what the Trumperz said via The Hill.  Oh, and the most disliked Senator ever–Ted Cruz– is at it too.  This is a look at what the Deplorables of the country think about the name change.

 

Big Batty Gal by Elizabeth Prentis

The rules are always weird when it comes to women. Here’s the Daily Beast with this headline: “A Key Trump Witness Is Being Muzzled Over Her Custody Battle. Jennifer Weisselberg is the only person willing to speak publicly about Trump employees accepting untaxed corporate perks instead of salary. She’s been ordered to keep quiet.”   I only wish they could gag order Trumperz.

As the New York criminal investigation into the Trump Organization deepens, a parallel battle is quietly playing out in the city’s family court, where lawyers are trying to muzzle one of the government’s key witnesses—and cast doubt over her mental health.

Jennifer Weisselberg, the ex-wife of Trump employee Barry Weisselberg—and former daughter-in-law of one of Trump’s closest business confidants, Allen Weisselberg—has told investigators that executives at the Trump Organization were rewarded with untaxed perks.

Her documents and grand jury testimony were crucial to last month’s indictment of her former father-in-law, the corporation’s chief financial officer. And she has repeatedly explained to journalists how the tuition for her children’s private school was an untaxed corporate gift paid in lieu of salary.

But all the while, she’s said these things at great personal risk; since March 19, Jennifer Weisselberg has been under a judge’s gag order to shut her up.

“Defendant, Jennifer Weisselberg, shall refrain from having any discussions or interviews whatsoever with the press about the parties’ children… the custody proceeding… or her motivation for giving interviews insofar as it concerns the children,” reads the order, signed by New York County Supreme Court Justice Lori S. Sattler.

But if she can’t talk to journalists about her children—or even her “motivation” for speaking to journalists—then she can’t explain to the public how the Trump Organization allegedly broke the law. And she’s the only person who witnessed these alleged crimes and is willing to speak publicly.

The gag order does not limit her from speaking to investigators. But three sources familiar with the divorce proceedings describe the gag order as part of a broader campaign of witness intimidation. Attorneys separately representing her ex-husband and children have repeatedly demanded court-mandated mental evaluations and drug tests for Jennifer Weisselberg. And these sources say these orders smear her character ahead of a potential criminal trial where she would be expected to testify against the company.

Bum 2 by MC Llamas

The rules are different for many of us. David French writes this for The Dispatch: “Structural Racism Isn’t Wokeness, It’s Reality. Christians must not deny the full consequences of centuries of intentional, racist harm.”

I’m not going to address the church’s procedural disputes. (Though I will note that it is contrary to basic principles of religious liberty to ask an arm of the state—a judge—to intervene in matters of church governance.) I am going to deal head-on with the prime underlying complaint that has triggered outrage and national media coverage of a struggle for control in one of America’s largest and most influential churches. The charge against Platt and his team can be summed up in one word: wokeness.

The congregants object to what they perceive as a pastoral embrace of critical race theory, and they assert that the Bible alone contains teaching sufficient to address America’s race problems. You can read the comprehensive complaint against Platt and his team here and the allegations of teaching or advocating CRT here.

Without restating all the contents of these lengthy documents, they include complaints that Platt and his MBC colleague pastor Mike Kelsey marched in a Christian black lives matter march and that Kelsey has endorsed the “CRT concepts” of “systemic racism” and “white privilege.” They also condemn Platt for this comment, which argues that the absence of overt prejudice doesn’t absolve one of the problems of racism and racialization:

A disparity exists. We can’t deny this. These are not opinions—they’re facts. It matters in our country whether one is white or black. Now, we don’t want it to matter, which is why I think we try to convince ourselves it doesn’t matter. We think to ourselves, “I don’t hold prejudices toward black or white people, so racism is not my problem.” But this is where we need to see that racialization is our problem. It’s all of our problem. We subtly, almost unknowingly, contribute to it.

The dissenters argue that the “solution to the ‘race’ problem in America is more Bible, not more sociology books. It is not the Bible plus a secular reading list, but sola scriptura.” It’s not just unwise to rely on secular scholarship to address American racism, they argue: It’s unbiblical.

This argument echoes tenets of the secular right-wing consensus on race—that racism exists only when there is individual malign intent, that remedies for racism should be limited to imposing consequences on individual racists, and that there is no intergenerational obligation to remedy historic injustice (“I’m not responsible for my ancestors’ sins”).

Under this mode of thinking, the concept of “equality under the law”—as mandated by the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act—is both necessary and largely sufficient to address the causes and consequences of centuries of slavery followed by generations of Jim Crow.

But on the core issues of American racism, Platt is biblically and historically right, and it’s his detractors who are biblically and historically wrong. These “conservatives” have placed a secular political frame around an issue with profound religious significance. They’ve thus not just abandoned the whole counsel of scripture, they’ve even contradicted a core component of the secular conservatism they claim to uphold.

 

Venue Insomnia by Xu Yang

Somehow it’s okay for children of color to experience racism, but it’s wrong for children of certain wipipo to learn about it. Seriously, what’s that all about?  Here’s John Oliver explaining redlining and gerrymandering in his usual adroit way via the AV club.

The recent Republican push toward state-mandated literal whitewashing of American history to remove all that pesky racism and genocide has seen a lot of not-willfully-ignorant people stepping up to the historical plate. On Sunday, it was John Oliver’s turn at bat. His extra-long Last Week Tonight return from hiatus saw the reliably funny, research-supplied, and pissed-off Brit doing an especially comprehensive job of examining yet another area where white Americans’ perceptions of their history (and the inarguable and deeply inconvenient facts thereof) are skewed, predictably, in favor of said white people’s self-satisfied need to do nothing.

In his piece on housing discrimination, Oliver, as is his way, plucked out one representative case from which to expand his argument that the institutionalized bigotry in home ownership continues to undermine the potential of Black prosperity. In this case, Oliver’s pick of a depressingly voluminous litter came from Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan, California. That’s where a black couple’s valuable beachfront property was seized by the now-wealthy town, but only after even the most strenuous efforts of the local Ku Klux Klan failed to terrorize Willa and Charles Bruce from their legal residence. As Oliver put it in summarizing the way that the actions of government and cross-burning yahoos’ to disenfranchise Black Americans have always gone hand in soot-covered glove, “Sure, the vigilante racists are spooky, but you’ve really gotta worry when the motherfuckers with advanced degrees show up.”

Just to channel his most skeptical (and whitest) viewers for a moment, Oliver asked what’s to be done about this generations-old racist swindle, anyway? After all, didn’t Manhattan put up a nice plaque about how it stole a Black family’s land and put out a proclamation condemning the act but pointedly not apologizing? What more do the millions of Black Americans legally denied their chance top own property and accumulate wealth at the same rate as their white co-citizens want? (Psst, it rhymes with “steparations,” and Oliver asked his more historically clued in viewers to keep the answer under their hats until his wrap-up.)

So, thank you for coming to my Ted Rant on why we keep having to deal with this shit.

You may view more art and the ones I’ve posted today from The Guardian‘s: “The cheek of it: artists celebrate the bottom – in pictures.”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads: A tale of Plague Rats and Variant Human Petri Dishes

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JULY 14: Visitors walk past face mask signs along Decatur Street in the French Quarter on July 14, 2020, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Many U.S. cities have returned to mask mandates for any inside activity.  New Orleans Returned to a mandate on Wednesday as part of an order handed down by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.  Newsweek reports that we’re not alone.

In a statement, New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno cited the city’s “inadequate vaccination rate,” when announcing the mask advisory.

“People who continue to refuse to take the lifesaving COVID vaccine are now also putting the entire community in jeopardy. We must take action now to slow the rapid spread of the Delta variant,” Avegno said.

While some areas of the U.S. have reinstated their mask mandate, Hawaii Governor David Ige recently announced he was keeping a requirement in place to mandate masks when residents are indoors. According to the Associated Press, Ige said he plans to keep the state’s mask mandate in place until at least 70 percent of the population is vaccinated.

A man wearing a mask walks along Washington Street in Greenbay, Wisconsin, in March 2021

Inadequate vaccination rates appear to be the national shame.  Returning to masks may help some, but it’s not the panacea for the pandemic.  Getting vaccinated is the only way to go. However, vaccine hesitancy is everywhere, albeit worse in the Trump states.  You can see the list of states without mask mandate at this US News & World Report link. You’ll notice the worst states for Delta Variant cases–including Missouri, Florida, and Texas–are on that list. The previous article from Newsweek reported that St Louis was considering a return.  Undoubtedly, Kansas City will also comply.  However, the huge numbers of rural states and counties where masks and the vaccine are anathemas continue to plague the country.  I literally know understand what that saying truly means.

Kansas counties that had a mask mandate had a 50% reduction in the spread of COVID-19 when compared to those without, a KU study found. Masks don’t eliminate the disease, but they slow virus spread.

Governor Ivey of Alabama had this to say, and she’s right: “‘It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated’: Gov. Ivey on rising in COVID-19 cases, low vaccination rate.”

On Thursday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey addressed concerns about the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the state and its low vaccination rate.

In the last two weeks, the state has seen over 9,900 cases of COVID-19. In Jefferson County alone, over 1,000 new cases have been reported.

Health officials and the governor herself site the low vaccination rate as a major hurdle in trying to combat the virus and the new, highly contagious Delta variant.

New Hampshire’s Durham Town remains under a mask mandate as the Town’s administrator Todd Sellig reminds them in the town newspaper.

Newsweek reports that “Zero States Have Decreasing COVID Cases as Delta Variant Spreads.”

Zero U.S. states have reported a decrease in daily COVID-19 cases over the past week as the Delta variant continues to spread.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, over the past week, 49 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have seen an increase in daily COVID-19 cases of 5 percent or more.

On Wednesday, the states that saw the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases were Texas, which reported over 8,100 new cases; California (over 7,700 cases); Louisiana (over 5,300); Missouri (over 2,900); and Georgia (over 2,200).In addition to those five states, 21 other states reported over 500 new cases on Wednesday, including eight that reported over 1,000 new cases.

The data does not include newly reported cases in Florida and Michigan, but according to a tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both have seen an increase in new daily cases over the past week. CDC data shows that in Michigan, cases increased by over 1,000 over the past week while Florida saw an additional 20,000 cases when compared to the previous week.

According to the data, Colorado is the only state to see no change in the number of new daily cases reported, but that does not indicate a decrease in daily cases

People walk through the 626 Night Market at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on July 9.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times). LA now has returned to a mask mandate.

David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick–of the New York Times--start the discussion on Vaccine Mandates: “Boosting Vaccinations; Vaccine mandates are controversial. They’re also a way to save lives.”

Vaccine mandates are controversial. They’re also effective.

  • Before Houston Methodist became one of the first hospital systems in the U.S. to mandate Covid-19 vaccines, about 85 percent of its employees were vaccinated. After the mandate, the share rose to about 98 percent, with the remaining 2 percent receiving exemptions for medical or religious reasons, Bloomberg’s Carey Goldberg reported. Only about 0.6 percent of employees quit or were fired.

  • Schools — including Indiana University and many private colleges — that require students and workers to get vaccinated have reported extremely high uptake.

  • A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey of Americans who had been opposed to getting vaccinated and later changed their minds found that mandates — or restrictions on the unvaccinated — were one common reason. One 51-year-old man told Kaiser that he began to feel as if he had “limited options without it.”

  • The French government will soon require that people show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to eat at a restaurant, attend a movie or participate in many other activities. After President Emmanuel Macron announced the policy last week, the number of vaccine appointments surged. Italy announced a similar policy yesterday, The Times’s Marc Santora explains.

People on Newbury Street in the Boston MA area still wearing maks despite the lifting of outdoors masking requirements around Memorial day.

This is from David Frum writing at The Atlantic: “Vaccinated America Has Had Enough. In the United States, this pandemic could be almost over by now. The reasons it’s still going are pretty clear.

In the United States, this pandemic could’ve been over by now, and certainly would’ve been by Labor Day. If the pace of vaccination through the summer had been anything like the pace in April and May, the country would be nearing herd immunity. With most adults immunized, new and more infectious coronavirus variants would have nowhere to spread. Life could return nearly to normal.

Experts list many reasons for the vaccine slump, but one big reason stands out: vaccine resistance among conservative, evangelical, and rural Americans. Pro-Trump America has decided that vaccine refusal is a statement of identity and a test of loyalty.

Reading about the fates of people who refused the vaccine is sorrowful. But as summer camp and travel plans are disrupted—as local authorities reimpose mask mandates that could have been laid aside forever—many in the vaccinated majority must be thinking: Yes, I’m very sorry that so many of the unvaccinated are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions. I’m also very sorry that the responsible rest of us are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions.

As cases uptick again, as people who have done the right thing face the consequences of other people doing the wrong thing, the question occurs: Does Biden’s America have a breaking point? Biden’s America produces 70 percent of the country’s wealth—and then sees that wealth transferred to support Trump’s America. Which is fine; that’s what citizens of one nation do for one another. Something else they do for one another: take rational health-care precautions during a pandemic. That reciprocal part of the bargain is not being upheld.

Server Jeni Cero (left) brings food to Siani Davis (center) and her boyfriend, Troy Richardson, during lunchtime at Green Eggs Cafe in South Philadelphia. The city is dropping coronavirus restrictions but the mask mandate will remain in place

Server Jeni Cero (left) brings food to Siani Davis (center) and her boyfriend, Troy Richardson, during lunchtime at Green Eggs Cafe in South Philadelphia. The city is dropping coronavirus restrictions, but the mask mandate will remain in placeTIM TAI / Staff Photographer.

Frum also brings up the idea of vaccine mandates.

Can governments lawfully require more public-health cooperation from their populations? They regularly do, for other causes. More than a dozen conservative states have legislated drug testing for people who seek cash welfare. It is bizarre that Florida and other states would put such an onus on the poorest people in society—while allowing other people to impose a much more intimate and immediate harm on everybody else. The federal government could use its regulatory and spending powers to encourage vaccination in the same way that Ron DeSantis has used his executive powers to discourage it. The Biden administration could require proof of vaccination to fly or to travel by interstate train or bus. It could mandate that federal contractors demonstrate that their workforces are vaccinated. It could condition federal student loans on proof of vaccination. Those measures might or might not be wise policy: Inducements are usually more effective at changing individual behavior than penalties are. But they would be feasible and legal—and they would spread the message about what people ought to do, in the same way that sanctions against drunk driving, cheating on taxes, and unjust discrimination in the workplace do.

Read more at the link.

While the jerk that is the governor of Georgia has declared that no city or county can mandate mask-wearing, two huge businesses have taken umbrage and going out on their own.  This is really interesting and from the Atlantic Journal/Constitution:  “The Jolt: Customer requirements by Walmart, Kroger make mask mandates a property rights issue”  This might be the way that some businesses start to do business.

Late Wednesday, for the first time, Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order that explicitly prohibited cities and counties from mandating the use of masks, triggering a furious reaction from local government officials who accused the Republican of placing his political interests above their efforts to protect residents from a growing pandemic.

The governor has said he believes requiring masks are a “bridge too far” and that such a mandate is unenforceable – even though Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey crossed that bridge on Wednesday. A mask mandate was essential to “slow the spread and turn these trends in a different direction,” she said.

The Alabama governor was actually behind Walmart, which hours earlier had announced its decision to mandate face coverings before customers can enter. From the Washington Post:

Walmart’s decision to require masks — with its potential to alienate the company’s clientele in red states and rural areas — echoed its choice last year to end the sale of ammunition following a mass shooting at its store in El Paso.

The Arkansas-based retailer announced the mandate in a Wednesday news release, citing the recent resurgence in U.S. covid-19 cases and the need for consistency across its operations. Walmart said roughly 3,500 of its more than 5,300 namesake stores and Sam’s Club locations already comply with public health mandates in their respective markets.

“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic,” according to the news release from Dacona Smith and Lance de la Rosa, the chief operating officers of Walmart and Sam’s Club, respectively. “We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC.”

Worth noting is the fact that Walmart has estimated that 10% of its workforce is on some sort of coronavirus leave. Also Wednesday:

It still enrages me that a public health issue of monumental consequence has turned into a political culture war with so much disinformation that folks that might normally seek a vaccine are hesitant or hell-bent against it.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 

Remember, these threads are always open, so even though I went down the Covid-19 rabbit hole today, you don’t have to!  I really want to go to Seattle to see my granddaughters and daughter, but the thought of what I might bring to them because of having to go through airports and be around these vaccineless and maskless nitwits just makes me sit home and think that’s the safest option for everyone concerned.


Monday Reads: Dystopian SyFy and the Trump Legacy

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m having a tough time getting started today on things.  BB and I’ve been talking about the weirdish dreams I’ve been having the last few years with a fairly constant theme although changing setting.  Now, I read just about every dystopian science fiction novel as a kid that I could get my hands on.  And, that habit has pretty much continued up to the onset of my social security years. But, why is it just recently that I keep thinking my home is located somewhere in a mall of some kind from which I never go outside?  It’s filled with even stranger people.

Part of it might be due to the invasion of the hipster gentrifiers in my neighborhood coupled with a decaying abandoned Navy Base that was key to get sailors to both World War 1 and 2 theatres.  It’s now filled with a ton of the region’s opioid-addicted who live off rag-picking trash cans and scrapping metal wherever they can get it.  It’s also next to a detail shop turned hipster hangout bar where tourists come for something that doesn’t resemble a New Orleans experience at all. So, it’s a one-stop drug, and booze yourself into oblivion gateway.  It seems to be a popular place to film porn these days too. Folks come all the way from Atlanta to do that.

Then there are those addicts that commit crimes like petty theft or burglary or busting into homes that appear to be abandoned to set up camp.  All of that is really dystopian, believe me.  Plus, the weather keeps getting looking more climate-impaired all the time.  Plus, I let a friend escape a violent marriage who has been here for over 6 years and came with a drug problem, PTSD, and severe brain damage.   She now calls me a “vaccine bully” as I struggle to reason with her about why she needs to get the Fauci Ouchi while telling me that it might change my DNA so fully I could become a zombie. No, she’s not a Trumper, but it frequently sounds like she could be.

I still think there’s something about the Trumpist regime and its cult that really tripped these dreams into me, although I have no dear leader in any of them.  Just simply, people living in airports or shopping malls, or other semi-functional artifices of the 20th century.  I’ve had doozies of them the last two nights.

So, when I read this headline in Salon, I thought, well, maybe it’s not just my anxiety running away with my sleep.  From Salon: “Dr. John Gartner on America after Trump: “Dystopian science fiction … is actually happening”. Former Johns Hopkins professor on the aftermath of Trump’s coup — and whether he was a Russian stooge after all.”

If Trump had successfully ordered the United States military to keep him in power by usurping the will of the American people, the result could well have been a second American Civil War. The nation was saved from such an outcome, at least for the moment, through good fortune and the choices of a few real patriots such as Gen. Milley and his allies.

Unfortunately, Trumpism was not routed or finally defeated, and the Trump coup is ongoing. Trump remains in firm control of the Republican Party. At least 30 percent of the American people have been seduced by the Big Lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump and that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.

The Jim Crow Republicans are escalating their war on multiracial democracy by proposing laws in numerous states designed to stop Black and brown people and others who support the Democratic Party from voting. The end goal of this anti-democratic campaign is to turn the United States into a plutocratic theocratic fascist state where dissent is not allowed and the Trump-Republican Party rules uncontested.

In a recent interview on MSNBC, historian Timothy Snyder, author of the bestselling book “On Tyranny,” described this state of peril: “A failed coup is practice for a successful coup. … We’re now working within the framework of a Big Lie … so long as we’re in that framework of a Big Lie, we can expect one of the parties to try to rig the system.”

Like other fascist and fake populist movements, Trumpism draws its power and a type of life force from the slavish loyalty of Trump’s followers. Normal politics is fundamentally ill-equipped to grapple with fascism and its commands to ignore reality in deference to the Great Leader, the elevation of that leader into a type of God and extension of the self, and its collective celebration of narcissism and other anti-social behavior including violence and hatred. Ultimately, Trumpism is a cult movement: If Trump and other leaders are the brain and the arms, Trump’s followers serve as a hammer meant to smash multiracial democracy.

From The Daily Beast and Molly Jung-Fast: “As a twice-impeached, one-term historical freak show of a president, his only hope is to turn his movement into a cult, worshipping himself. It’s the Trump Steaks of religion.”

Seriously, literally, this is a cult.

Donald Trump, who regrets not ordering the White House flag to be flown at half-staff to mourn Ashli Babbitt, the rioter and Qanon believer killed while storming the U.S. Capitol, is determined to create a narrative that his idiot insurrectionists are in fact part of an army of holy MAGA warriors.

“I would venture to say it was the largest crowd I had ever spoken before… It was a loving crowd too, by the way. Many, many people have told me that was a loving crowd. It was too bad, it was too bad that they did that” Trump said in one of his post-presidency interviews from Mar-a-Lago. He didn’t mention the violence, but insisted that, “In all fairness, the Capitol Police were ushering people in… They were hugging and kissing. You don’t see that. There’s plenty of tape of that.”

You don’t see that tape because that didn’t happen, but that’s the point of this cult: Never mind your lying eyes, have faith in your Dear Orange Leader.

“Personally, what I wanted is what they wanted,” he concluded, meaning to overturn the results of the election because he’d said there was fraud and never mind all of the judges appointed by Republicans and Republican state and election officials who said there was no evidence of any of that. Heretics. The GOP is dead, and there’s only the MAGA movement now, as the party’s “leaders” sojourn to his sacred golf clubs to confess their sins.

I know a lot of this has its roots in the absolute abandonment of reason to the politicization of white American evangelicism to the point you hardly recognize the “christ” in their “Christianity.” Grifters of a feather flock together. This is also from Salon: “How evangelicals abandoned Christianity — and became “conservatives” instead. As an evangelical pastor for many years, I saw faith in Jesus Christ gradually replaced by right-wing ideology. I watched this happen when Pat Robertson brought his presidential campaign to small Iowa towns.  Since then, the Republican party has never been the same, although it’s been on the road to reinstating Jim Crow since Nixon’s Southern Strategy.  It was logical they’d follow along.  This is written by Nathaniel Manderson, who is no stranger to that Journey.

Over the last 70 years, Christian theology has been steadily replaced, within the evangelical world, by Republican or “conservative” ideology. I noticed this in my time at an evangelical seminary and during my years in ministry, whenever political discussion would go beyond abortion and gay rights. When the conversation turned towards gun rights, immigration, taxing the wealthy, education or health care, the tenets of Christian theology disappeared behind Republican talking points.

The evangelical political message was that the Bible should be used in politics to attack certain people, but never to question oneself. That’s how you get people to donate: Make the enemy clearly visible and easily definable. That’s why the Bible is almost never used in politics as a justification for serving the poor, welcoming the foreigner, healing the sick or promoting equality. That agenda is not likely to motivate donations from wealthy white heterosexual men.  Therefore, over time the evangelical message became that “American” and “Republican” were more important labels than “Christian” — or that they were effectively the same thing.

They may have loved Dubya–who they recognized as part of the flock–, but they worship Trump as the one that will do anything for ultimate power, attention, and money.  He has fully embraced the right-wing culture wars, so the sheeple just found their shepherd no matter his behavior or demeanor or outward displays of mean exclusivity.

Plus, the DOJ under Merrick Garland continues to disappoint.

This is getting ridiculous.

So, anyway, I’m watching a few other stories, but it really seems like there’s a lot of inaction on some pretty important things right now. But then, it’s summer, and everyone is out spreading Covid-19 again. Stay safe! The variants are stewing and brewing and out there!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Monday Reads: Trigger Post for victims of Rape and Assault and Racism

Yayoi Kusama

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

If you read one thing today make it this opinion piece at The Guardian by Rebecca Solnit: “Women are harmed every day by invisible men”.  The title really doesn’t say it all but the body of the essay does.

I was a teenage advocate to challenge how women and children are treated by about every layer of society and the justice system when men do something untoward and harmful to them.  My neighbor was in Junior League that established one of the first rape and abuse crisis lines for women in the country. It is now nationally recognized and run by the YWCA in Omaha.  At the time, we had one phone in a psychologist’s office in West Omaha, training to use the list we had and to listen, and then various resources that we could provide to callers.  It was small but became mighty.  Fortunately, it now has skilled counselors on phones instead of teenage volunteers and homemakers.

I learned many things at the time about exactly how unfair the entire criminal justice system was to women and child victims at the time.  Sex crimes were in the property crimes divisions of police stations.  Women officers?  Nope.  Could a man rape his wife?  Nope. Have at least three witnesses present to see the entire thing?  No? Then, forget prosecution.  My job at the crisis line was to say here’s the person you call, here’s a hospital that will help you, and eventually we started having lists of safe houses and counsellors. This was the mid 70s.  A lot has changed on that front but one thing hasn’t.

Whatever happens to a woman is still likely seen to be her fault. The perpetrator eventually becomes invisible. She asked for it. She provoked him. She had a drink.  I even had a friend while at university who knew I was still passionately working on campus and at the legislature to change things who had just  been raped by the library rapist.  She asked if it was worth reporting it because she had a couple of hits off a joint before she went there to study.  I’m like Go to the hospital! Call the police!  Do not make this man the winner of anything!

Ask any woman and they’ll have similar stories from either their own lives or women they know.  I grew up with my mother pointing to the imprint of an iron on her inner thigh and the stories of how it got there.  My mild mannered banker of a grandfather was violent and abusive.  My family oozed white, WASPY upper mild class privilege so I don’t want to hear any of that other kind’ve stuff that excuses men’s–and especially white men’s–actions and behaviors. It’s still rampant.

Tschabalala Self

Solnit’s writing always hits home but this one hit home so hard my house shook.  She’s speaking to the latest spree shooter who targeted Asian Women working for Day Spas in the Atlanta area.  However, she reminds us that we’ve seen this and we’ve seen the response over and over and over.

Some white guy with no emotional or self control has to eliminate “temptation” or was forced into a “rage” or a “hard on” by some women.  So, rather than get his act together he  kills the “objects” of his temptation or rapes her.  Then, the media continues with his narrative. Women are to blame for what happens to them.  Women are just men’s property.  They are objects. They are less.   These guys have a right to feel resentful and harmed and to correct that by taking it out on the woman or women or they’re just lone wolves, disturbed little boys, men with issues we can’t possibly understand.

This is Solnit’s opening narrative.

The alleged murderer of eight people, six of whom were Asian American women, reportedly said that he was trying to “eliminate temptation”. It’s as if he thought others were responsible for his inner life, as though the horrific act of taking others’ lives rather than learning some form of self-control was appropriate. This aspect of a crime that was also horrifically racist reflects a culture in which men and the society at large blame women for men’s behavior and the things men do to women. The idea of women as temptresses goes back to the Old Testament and is heavily stressed in white evangelical Christianity; the victims were workers and others present in massage parlors; the killer was reportedly on his way to shoot up Florida’s porn industry when he was apprehended.

This week an older friend recounted her attempts in the 1970s to open a domestic-violence shelter in a community whose men didn’t believe domestic violence was an issue there and when she convinced them it was, told her, but “what if it’s the women’s fault”. And last week a male friend of mine posted an anti-feminist screed blaming young women for New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s travails, as though they should suck it up when he violated clear and longstanding workplace rules, as though they and not he had the responsibility to protect his career and reputation.

Sometimes men are written out of the story altogether. Since the pandemic began there have been torrents of stories about how women’s careers have been crushed or they have left their jobs altogether because they’re doing the lioness’s share of domestic labor , especially child-rearing, in heterosexual households. In February of this year, NPR opened a story with the assertion that this work has “landed on the shoulders of women” as if that workload had fallen from the sky rather than been shoved there by spouses. I have yet to see an article about a man’s career that’s flourishing because he’s dumped on his wife, or focusing on how he’s shirking the work.

Informal responses often blame women in these situations for their spouses and recommend they leave without addressing that divorce often leads to poverty for women and children, and of course, unequal workloads at home can undermine a woman’s chances at financial success and independence. Behind all this is a storytelling problem. The familiar narratives about murder, rape, domestic violence, harassment, unwanted pregnancy, poverty in single-female-parent households, and a host of other phenomena portray these things as somehow happening to women and write men out of the story altogether, absolve them of responsibility – or turn them into “she made him do it” narratives. Thus have we treated a lot of things that men do to women or men and women do together as women’s problems that women need to solve, either by being amazing and heroic and enduring beyond all reason, or by fixing men, or by magically choosing impossible lives beyond the reach of harm and inequality. Not only the housework and the childcare, but what men do becomes women’s work.

Please Read the entire thing.  Then, consider this stream of tweets by Bruce Bartlett on research by Pew Research. It’s basically a reading list of things surrounding white–but especially white male–fragility.   Yes.  Racial discrimination is a problem for white males in their minds just about the same way that the mass murderer felt women tempting him were his problem.

Minnie-Evans

Minnie-Evans

The research thankfully shows that the majority of all of us in this country see racial discrimination and even white people.  But, then there’s the wipipo that think it’s all about them.  Bartlett writes about this at The New Republic: “The Ultimate White Fragility. White people in not-insignificant numbers maintain a persistent belief that they’re the ones suffering historic levels of racial discrimination.”   Robin DiAngelo, coined the term in a best-selling book in 2011. Yes, that’s 10 years ago and look where we are on this.

Over the last 10 years, the issue of reverse racism and its social and political implications have drawn extensive interest from social scientists. The most well-known study was by Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers of the Harvard Business School and Tufts University, respectively, in 2011. They found that whites increasingly viewed racial prejudice as a zero-sum game—reduced bias against black citizens automatically led to increased bias against their white counterparts. As the chart from their article shows, perceived discrimination against whites by both whites and blacks rose as discrimination against blacks was perceived to have fallen. (This analysis is available through Tufts University.)

Further studies in 20142015, and 2016 confirmed that many whites do indeed see racial progress as a zero-sum game. However, the latest study, published last year, was more skeptical of this trend. Nevertheless, the idea of zero-sum racial discrimination is very popular in the Republican Party. Then-Senator Jeff Sessions expressed the widely held GOP sentiment in 2009 when he said, “Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.”

Grace Hartigan

Notice it’s the same set of white evangelicals and republicans that tend to come up in all the quotes and polls that Bartlett cites in that 2019 article.  It’s a complete taste of Trumpism.  All of this is deeply intertwined with both patriarchy as viewed by many religious traditions like white evangelical Christianity and white supremacy which has been at the root of native genocides and slavery of Africans and black Americans since the country’s inception. It continues to poison the well.

So, the Supreme Court is considering reinstating the death penalty of the Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Remember that Domestic Terrorist Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma bombings was the last to receive the federal death penalty in 2001 until Trump went on killing spree at the end of his term. You may remember that a woman was one of them. The other were primarily black men   This is from January and BBC Canada.

Five people have been executed in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s 20 January inauguration – breaking with an 130-year-old precedent of pausing executions amid a presidential transition.

They make Mr Trump the country’s most prolific execution president in more than a century, overseeing the executions of 13 death row inmates since July of this year.

The five executions began with convicted killer 40-year-old Brandon Bernard who was put to death at a penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. They ended with the death of Dustin Higgs, 48, at the same site on 16 January.

Lillian Bassman

President Biden does not support the Death Penalty.  This is from the AP link.

The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider reinstating the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, presenting President Joe Biden with an early test of his opposition to capital punishment.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal filed by the Trump administration, which carried out executions of 13 federal inmates in its final six months in office, including three in the last week of President Donald Trump’s term.

The case won’t be heard until the fall, and it’s unclear how the new administration will approach Tsarnaev’s case. The initial prosecution and decision to seek a death sentence was made by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president.

Queenie McKenzie

Justice and jobs are not generally meted out equally in this country and many white men fear they will be.  The Capitol Hill Riot/Insurrection will be a test of this certainly.  Today’s NYT: “Evidence in Capitol Attack Most Likely Supports Sedition Charges, Prosecutor Says.“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” said Michael Sherwin, who had led the Justice Department’s inquiry into the riot. “. This is from Katie Benner.

Evidence the government obtained in the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol most likely meets the bar necessary to charge some of the suspects with sedition, Michael R. Sherwin, the federal prosecutor who had been leading the Justice Department’s inquiry, said in an interview that aired on Sunday.

The department has rarely brought charges of sedition, the crime of conspiring to overthrow the government.

But in an interview with “60 Minutes,” Mr. Sherwin said prosecutors had evidence that most likely proved such a charge.

“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Mr. Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”

Scott Pelley’s interview on 60 minutes can be found at this link.

I’d like to point you to a more inspiring read from Vogue:  “5 Female Artists From Around the World Who Celebrate Women in Their Work.”    If you’d like to share something with the kids or grand kids, try the Multicultural Kids Blog.: “7 Women Artists Who Changed History.”. You can also check out this from Art and Design: “Famous Female Artists – 5 Incredible Women Artists That You Need To Know”  

I hope you have a good week.  It’s so nice to have so many flavors of spring decorating the avenue now.  All the azaleas and camellias are in bloom. I hope they’re finding they’re way to your corner of the northern hemisphere!

Meanwhile enjoy a live performance of Suzanne Vega and her song “Luka”.   And then listen to Natalie Merchant and “Motherland”.  Gee, I like this Women’s History month thing!  And, I notice I’m really late in the day already!  This was my morning to sleep 2 hours later than the I usually get up in Fake Time and 1 hour later in Real Time. My body is really not liking this time change.  But, anyway … your turn!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: A House Divided

Norah Neilson-Gray
SELF PORTRAIT IN CLOCHE HAT

Good Day Sky Dancers!

We continue to find more about just exactly how violent the insurrectionists were as they were attacking the Capitol. We’ve also found that Republicans are eager to remove access to voting seeing it as the only path to remaining front and center in the culture wars as a white nationalist christianist party while being a minority party.   The third thing we learned yesterday was that election interference from foreign countries hostile to the US and democracy are moving the process along.

Anne Applebaum writes this lede for The Atlantic: The Science of Making Americans Hurt Their Own Country. A new report lays bare why Russian disinformation succeeds.” Konstantin Kilimnik figures prominently. He was core to passing Russian disinformation to Rudy Gulliani in 2020.

When I read the report, my instinctive reaction was I know all of this already. No wonder the story is familiar—most of it appeared in newspapers as it was unfolding. Giuliani’s contacts with Derkach can’t be described as an open secret, because they weren’t secret at all. In 2019 the two men appeared together on the One American News Network, a far-right channel that breathlessly described Derkach as part of a group of “actual whistleblowers,” talked about the “impeachment hoax,” and referred to the FBI’s “personal hatred for Donald Trump.” Giuliani and Derkach provided the channel with doctored tapes and other material designed to create the impression that Biden was somehow involved in corruption in Ukraine.

Kilimnik, too, has become an old and familiar face in American politics, one that appears in election after election. During the 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, passed polling information to him. Although this fact turned up in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 election, nobody has ever explained why Kilimnik wanted this polling information or what he might have done with it. Now here he is, back again, front and center in 2020. The new report says that—in addition to providing kompromat to OANN—Kilimnik, Derkach, and others “met with and provided materials to Trump administration–linked US persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a US firm to petition US officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior US officials.”

All of that helps explain why my second reaction was If I know this already, and none of it seems to matter, then something is seriously wrong with the American political system. If the link between Russian security services and the stories about the Biden family was bleedingly obvious at the time, why did anyone go along with it? Why were American journalists, American politicians, and the American president’s advisers messing around with Russian intelligence agents?

Self Portrait with Cloud & Cigarette
Joan Brown
1964

That’s the question we keep asking here.  It was obvious.  Why were so many drawn into the narrrative.  Applebaum continues.

The problem is not only the outgrowth of the peculiar climate created by Donald Trump—however simple and satisfying such an explanation might be. Think, for a moment, about why the Russian state indulges in this kind of activity, year in and year out, despite the political costs and the risk of sanctions: Because it’s very cheap, it’s very easy, and a lot of evidence suggests that it works.

For decades now, Russian security services have studied a concept called “reflexive control”—the science of how to get your enemies to make mistakes. To be successful, practitioners must first analyze their opponents deeply, to understand where they get their information and why they trust it; then they need to find ways of playing with those trusted sources, in order to insert errors and mistakes. This way of thinking has huge implications for the military; consider how a piece of incorrect information might get a general to make a mistake. But it works in politics too. The Russian security services have now studied us and worked out (it probably wasn’t very hard) that large numbers of Americans—not only Fox News pundits and OANN broadcasters but also members of Congress—are very happy to accept sensational information, however tainted, from any source that happens to provide it. As long as it suits their partisan frames, and as long as it can be used against their opponents, they don’t care who invented it or for what purpose.

In other words, there’s an eager market here for all those false narratives. It’s basically a group of Republican White Men of a certain flavor of Christianity eager to maintaing Patriarchy and Hegemony.  They’re desperate and they’re doing whatever they can to fight the changing US demographics.   Hence, nearly every republican-controlled statehouse in the country is rushing through Jim Crow Redux.  This is at the roots of the insurrection, the elevation of Trumpism, and the total Republican Meltdown about every Mexican or South American that shows up at the border. Racism, Sexism and Xenobia is all they have any more.

Self-portrait Zinaida Serebriakova 1921

The Washington Post‘s David Ignatious has this analysis and opinion this morning. “Russia’s disinformation campaign will keep rolling, as long as Republicans are gullible enough”.

The most startling conclusion that emerges from the intelligence reports is that Republicans close to Trump continued to peddle Moscow’s line even after they were warned about the Russian disinformation campaign. They eagerly took the bait.

One persistent pro-Kremlin manipulator was Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian legislator who the first report alleged “has ties to Russian officials as well as Russia’s intelligence services.” Derkach met in Kyiv on Dec. 5, 2019, with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to pass disinformation about Biden. Haines noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin “had purview over the activities” of Derkach.

The intelligence community warned the White House back then, in December 2019, that “Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence,” according to a story 10 months later in The Post.
865c0432629618a13203944a6a747de8

Self Portrait, Joni Mitchell,

 
Maybe both the press and social media outlets are beginning to come around to this nonsense. This is from CNBC: Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as Democrats push to expel her from Congress.”

Twitter has once again suspended the account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., her office said Friday, as dozens of House Democrats move to expel the conspiracy-embracing lawmaker from Congress.

Greene, who has previously promoted the baseless pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy and supported calls for violence against Democrats, said in a campaign message that Twitter suspended her account around 1 a.m. Friday “without explanation,” her office told CNBC.

Greene’s account is locked for 12 hours, according to that campaign message.

Spokespeople for Twitter did not immediately confirm the suspension or provide comment on Greene’s claims.

Twitter had previously temporarily suspended Greene in January for spreading misinformation.

Greene’s office raised suspicions about the timing of the social media giant’s latest action, which allegedly came hours before Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., introduced a resolution to expel Greene from Congress. There was no immediate evidence to back up the suspicions.

Amrita Sher-Gil · Self Portrait · 1933

We’re finding more about the Capitol Insurrectionsists. We knew they were violent but any one watching the news last night saw it first hand.  This is from NPR: “Yes, Capitol Rioters Were Armed. Here Are The Weapons Prosecutors Say They Used”.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a popular narrative has emerged: that because rioters did not fire guns that day, they were not really “armed.”

But a review of the federal charges against the alleged rioters shows that they did come armed, and with a variety of weapons: stun guns, pepper spray, baseball bats and flagpoles wielded as clubs. An additional suspect also allegedly planted pipe bombs by the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican parties the night before the riot and remains at large.

Those weapons brought violence and chaos to the Capitol. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died one day after two rioters allegedly sprayed him and other officers with what prosecutors describe as an “unknown chemical substance.” Four other people in the crowd died in the insurrection, and more than 100 police officers suffered injuries, including cracked ribs, gouged eyes and shattered spinal disks.

Some supporters of former President Donald Trump have argued that the dangerousness of the Capitol rioters has been overblown. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has said, for example, “This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.”

Natalia Goncharova
Self-portrait
1907

Then there is this little bit of news from VIce :Trump Official Charged In Capitol Riot Has Family Ties to Argentina’s Military Junta.  Federico “Freddie” Klein, a Trump appointee, repeatedly praised the Argentinian military junta of the 1970s and 80s while working at the State Department.”  Look, another one of those very nice people on both sides.

A Trump administration official who’s been charged with playing a major role in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol had a history of praising a military dictatorship that seized power in a coup—and close family ties to that junta.

Federico “Freddie” Klein, a former mid-level political appointee at the State Department who sits in jail awaiting a trial for his role in the riots, repeatedly praised the Argentinian military junta of the late 1970s and early 1980s while working at the State Department, according to three former colleagues.

“He had warm feelings about the Argentine junta. His father’s Argentine, and he expressed some frustration about how history remembers that brutal dictatorship,” one former State Department official who’d heard Klein praise the junta told VICE News.

It turns out that those views may run in the family.

Klein’s uncle Guillermo Walter Klein Jr. was a senior economic official in the Argentine military junta shortly after came to power in 1976. While he pushed through drastic neoliberal economic reforms, the military and its allies were busy murdering as many as 30,000 Argentine students, trade union organizers and other dissidents. And he may not have been the only relative with pro-junta views.

Bob Cox, a former newspaper editor in Argentina, told VICE News that he knew both Walter and Federico, Freddie’s father—and while he hadn’t met Freddie, who was born in the U.S. in 1978, Cox said was “not a bit surprised” about his alleged involvement in the insurrection given his father’s and uncle’s politics.

“There is a connection of the belief that you use military force, if you can. That ran in the family,” he said.

A number of Argentina experts—as well as some of Freddie Klein’s former colleagues — noted unsettling parallels between his family’s support for a right-wing coup that toppled a democratically elected regime in Argentina and Freddie’s own alleged role in the attempted pro-Trump coup at the Capitol on January 6.

So, I don’t know what we’re going to do about it but I do believe that media coverage is still part of the primary cause and effect as well as solution. Then there’s the still wild wild frontier approach adopted early on by social media prior to them becoming a force in merchandising and monetizing everything.  Let’s not even think about the Dark Web. At the heart of this is that these Republicans officials are willing to do anything to stay in power including push false narratives to their gullible base.  That’s not the way a democracy is supposed to work.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?