Finally Friday Reads: Into the Woods

Girl in White in the Woods, 1882, Vincent van Gogh.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Things keep getting weirder this week. News broke last night that would be stunning if it was just one story. But, it wasn’t just one story. It is story after story after story including a shooting at a university I taught at while I was ABD.

I’ve been grading and working on my earth mother vibe to try to stave off that feeling that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. My neighbor drove me to get a sourdough starter. I used to work this into bread weekly when my girls were quite little. Well, I think it went bad around the time I had cancer and couldn’t keep up with anything and that would make baby daughter an actual baby daughter. This starter actually comes from Sandor Katz about 20 years ago. So it must have radical power!

This brings me to the formula shortage and the behavior of the Nasty Nine Republican Congress Critters in the House. My first daughter never had formula at all but the littlest one got weaned early because my milk just dried up at the shock of my cancer diagnosis. She was like 5 months at the time and we had to get her on soy formula because, like me, she had issues with the regular stuff. Fortunately, the soy alternative was around for her. I can’t imagine it being absent from shelves. It hurts thinking about it.

I still can’t believe anyone serving in Congress couldn’t get themselves to vote for a program to help put baby formula on shelves. Most voted to get some flexibility on formula brands for WIC recipients. But, 200 of them evidently decided that it wasn’t time for government spending on live babies. They seem to have their whitie-tighties in a bunch over the President getting the military to bring some in from Switzerland too. It’s the continuation of that forced birth notion where we forget the actual children once they’re out of the birth canal. So, this is the good and horrid news yesterday for families with fertile mothers.

The good news is that the baby formula shortage may come to an end rather quickly. From WAPO: “Baby formula plant may be open within a week, FDA commissioner says.” Maybe, I’m obsessed with this because I have two granddaughters on formula right now but it just seems like something that shouldn’t happen in a highly developed country. It’s mostly because we’ve let the industry get way too concentrated and have done a lot to stop the importation from foreign sources. The last one was when NAFTA was renegotiated and Trump was having his milk wars with Canada. I guess the one good thing is my kids are close to Canada and have resources since both are Doctors.

Congress on Thursday passed a measure aimed at helping low-income mothers more easily get baby formula, as lawmakers intensified their scrutiny of failures at the Food and Drug Administration, failures that led to a nationwide shortage of a critical food source for infants and medically fragile children.

The bill, which President Biden is expected to sign, passed unanimously in the Senate and with bipartisan support in the House. It would allow mothers in the Women, Infants and Children program — who buy half the formula in the United States — a broader choice of formulas during supply-chain crises that threaten baby food and formula.

The votes came on a day when FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf was grilled by members of a House appropriations subcommittee about failures at his agency that contributed to the shortage. The members criticized the FDA for moving too slowly to investigate a whistleblower complaint last year at a baby formula plant in Sturgis, Mich., that makes much of the U.S. supply of powdered formula. The plant was inspected and shuttered only this year after two infants were sickened and two infants died after consuming contaminated formula. Abbott Nutrition, which operates the plant, has said there isn’t clear evidence the contamination came from the factory.

Let’s hope this ends shortly before any more babies get sick or die.

Asleep In The Woods, Jules Breton, 1877

This, however, keeps going on and I hope we get some frog marches before we all die of advanced age. This is from Politico: “Eastman provides new details of Trump’s direct role in legal effort to overturn election. The court filing describes the direct role of Trump himself in developing strategy, detailing “two hand-written notes from former President Trump about information that he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation.”

John Eastman, the attorney who architected Donald Trump’s last-ditch legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election, revealed Friday that he routinely communicated with Trump either directly or via “six conduits” during the chaotic weeks that preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

In a late-night court filing urging a federal judge to maintain the confidentiality of his work for Trump, Eastman provided the clearest insight yet into the blizzard of communications between Trump, his top aides, his campaign lawyers and the army of outside attorneys who were working to help reverse the outcome in a handful of states won by Joe Biden.

The filing also describes the direct role of Trump himself in developing strategy, detailing “two hand-written notes from former President Trump about information that he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation.” Those notes are among the documents Eastman is seeking to shield via attorney-client privilege. Eastman said he would also speak directly with Trump by phone throughout his legal challenges to the election.

Eastman described these contacts and records as part of an effort to prevent the Jan. 6 select committee from accessing 600 emails that describe his efforts to build Trump’s legal gambit to reverse the 2020 election outcome — and, when that failed, urge state legislatures to simply overturn the results themselves. He argues that the documents are protected by attorney-client and attorney work product privileges that Congress has no business probing, even as the panel investigates the circumstances that led a mob of Trump supporters to attack the Capitol.

Well, that’s what lawyers call “proof of intent”. (Lock him up!)

Okay, deep breaths and a poem before I go on …

How I go into the Woods

by Mary Oliver

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone,
with not a single friend,
for they are all smilers and talkers
and therefore unsuitable.
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree.
I have my ways of praying,
as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone
I can become invisible.
I can sit on the top of a dune
as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned.
I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me,
I must love you very much.

“Walking at the forest edge”, Ferdinand Hodler, 1885

Well, it had to come to pass, and turn off the TV for the weekend unless you want to be driven nuts by tales of Hunter Biden’s laptop. I think it was leaked as a distraction because unless we get to hear about Donald Jr, Ivanka, and Jared’s forays into shaking down nations, I do not give a fuck about this. However, here’s the NBC take. (Hint: he went on a drug-fueled bender as he mentioned in HIS BOOK.) Analysis of Hunter Biden’s hard drive shows he, his firm took in about $11 million from 2013 to 2018, spent it fast. The hard drive and documents from Senate Republicans indicate few of Biden’s deals ever came to fruition and shed light on how fast he was spending his money. ” Just so, you remember, this is like Benghazi, it never goes away.

NBC News obtained a copy of Biden’s laptop hard drive from a representative of Rudy Giuliani and examined Biden’s business dealings from 2013 to 2018 based on the information available on the hard drive and the scope of the documents released by the Senate.

The Republicans on the Senate Finance and Homeland Security committees, then chaired by Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, respectively, issued their first report on Biden’s business dealings in September 2020. The 87-page report said Biden had “cashed in” on his name, but Johnson said in an interview before its release that the report included “no massive smoking guns.”

Now in the minority, the Republicans from the two committees are still reviewing and analyzing several hundred pages of financial and business documents tied to Biden and his business associates, according to a person familiar with the committee’s work.

But of course, his LAPTOP!!

And, here’s the only twist of interest to me:

I have to admit, it’s somewhat like watching two trains wreck at once. Trust Fund Tuckums just surely can grovel just as well as throw utter bull crap to an audience.

Tucker Carlson and his wife were looking to get their son a leg up in his college application to Georgetown University when they turned to a well-connected Washington friend who had an even better-connected father.

“I realize you don’t really know Buckley,” Susie Carlson wrote via email in 2014 to Hunter Biden, a Georgetown graduate and the son of the then-vice president. “Maybe you could meet or speak to him and he could send you a very brief resume with his interests and grades attached.”

Tucker Carlson offered that his son was a good squash player and an excellent fly fisherman. “He loves Washington for all the right reasons, I think,” Carlson added, “and really wants to go to school here.” When Biden agreed to write a letter of recommendation, Susie Carlson added a heap of praise: “Tucker and I have the greatest respect and admiration for you. Always!”

And speaking of weasely wipipo gone wild, this is from Michael Tomasky’s “Fighting Words, a weekly newsletter about what got me steamed this week. ” You may get this newsletter from TNR. It perks up my Fridays for sure!

Item two: Who is Barry Loudermilk?

Thursday afternoon on MSNBC, Nicolle Wallace asked Charlie Sykes, What do you know about Barry Loudermilk? Sykes offered that all-too-rare cable TV response: Not much, really.

Who is he? He’s a congressman from Georgia, from the 11th district, north and west of Atlanta. He co-sponsored legislation to disband the Environmental Protection Agency. He seems to be in the pocket of the credit-rating agencies, whittling away at consumer protections. He voted not to certify the presidential election results. And so on. A run-of-the-mill right-wing backbencher: hence Wallace and Sykes’s lack of information. Nothing of particular interest.

But now, the January 6 select committee has hit upon something quite interesting indeed. Loudermilk gave a tour of the Capitol to constituents on January 5, 2021. That’s, uh, one day before January 6, as you have no doubt already sussed. The Capitol was closed. He was caught on closed-circuit showing some people around.

The long-held suspicion, of course, is that some GOP members gave “reconnaissance tours” before the riot to people who’d come to town to storm the Capitol. Loudermilk insists that he did nothing wrong—that it was just one family, and they never ventured into the areas that were breached. If so, that family got a pretty crappy tour, considering that the breached areas included the halls directly surrounding the House chamber, the House gallery upstairs, and the magnificent Rotunda, the showcase of any Capitol tour, with its impressive statuary and its eight large canvases depicting scenes of the early republic.

We shall see what we shall see. But one increasingly gets the feeling from the leaks that have come out from the committee that these people know stuff. A lot of stuff. Which the rest of us will know soon enough.

As you can see, I’m trying some new tricks today to distract me from all the mass shootings, the Elon Musk Tweets, etc. But I will say that Elon Musk is such a supreme sociopath and narcissist that he could give Donald Trump a run for his money.

Okay, some pretty music before you’ll need to take another morning shower on the next one. I got to hear Bernadette Peters in concert so that’s my happy place right now. My oldest daughter wore the tape out on this one. When I was living in Minneapolis, we went to see it live at the Circle Theatre! What a treat!

Okay, I warned you.

WAPO’s Emma Brown has this headline: “Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice, pressed Ariz. lawmakers to help reverse Trump’s loss, emails show.” Can we PULEEZE get some FROGMARCHES in this country?

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona lawmakers after the 2020 election to set aside Joe Biden’s popular-vote victory and choose “a clean slate of Electors,” according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

The emails, sent by Ginni Thomas to a pair of lawmakers on Nov. 9, 2020, argued that legislators needed to intervene because the vote had been marred by fraud. Though she did not mention either candidate by name, the context was clear.

Just days after media organizations called the race for Biden in Arizona and nationwide, Thomas urged the lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure.” She told the lawmakers the responsibility to choose electors was “yours and yours alone” and said they have “power to fight back against fraud.”

In the Woods, 1855 Asher Brown Durand

But her EMAILS! But his LAPTOP! Lock her up!

It seems like nearly every Republican candidate is trying to outdo each other in selling out women’s bodies to the state. This is from HuffPo: “Trump-Endorsed Candidate Backs Banning Birth Control. Jacky Eubanks, who is running for Michigan state Senate, said “sex ought to be between one man and one woman in the confines of marriage.” Yes, it’s another Phyliss Schafly wannabe.

Donald Trump’s pick for a Michigan state Senate seat is promising to ban all birth control if she gets the chance.

“I guess we have to ask ourselves, would that ever come to a vote in the Michigan state legislature? And if it should, I would have to side with it should not be legal,” Republican Jacky Eubanks said in a recent interview with the site Church Militant.

“People believe that birth control — it’s better, like you said, oh, because then you won’t get pregnant and you won’t need to have an abortion,” she added. “But I think it gives people the false sense of security that they can have consequence-free sex, and that’s not true and that’s not correct. Sex ought to be between one man and one woman in the confines of marriage.”

Eubanks’ comments are some of the most explicit from a conservative candidate about going after contraception. But some other Republicans have made clear that with abortion rights likely to be struck down this summer, they’re starting to eye contraception restrictions as well.

Republican politicians have started talking about Griswold v. Connecticut as another case they’d like to see the Supreme Court overturn after Roe v. Wade. That 1965 decision said married couples have a right to contraception access based on the constitutional right to privacy. That decision could set the stage for future decisions that further restrict birth control protections, abortion and marriage equality.

Okay, I’m going to go water the squash. Set yeast. Go grade. If this country comes to a vile end then I at least want to go out with a good dinner. Church Militant? WTF is a church militant? This certainly can’t have anything to do with the Jesus of the Beatitudes. As my grandfather used to say when he cursed “Jesus wept!”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Get the government outta my snatch!

All for this!

Cartoons via Cagle website:

That one above is what I call a perfect political cartoon.

On the Buffalo mass shooting hate crime:

And here’s to the #BansOffOurBodies rallies from yesterday:

And with that…this is an open thread


Friday Reads: Right-Wing Overreach Seems to Be Upon Us

The Foxes (German: Die Füchse), 1913, Franz Marc.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There are signs of backlash to moves by the Libertarian Right, the White Evangelical Nationalist Crusade, and the advance of global Fascism. They’re little signs mind you, but they are definitely there.

The major obvious overreach is the Putin invasion of Ukraine. But, we have some small hints that our markets and our political system may be waking up and pushing back.

Nothing made me happier today than to see the announcement I expected this morning after the crazy cryptocurrency market took a major dive and Tesla fell drastically. Nothing like a good dose of market discipline to kick a guy when he thinks he is winning. From WAPO: “Elon Musk tweeted that Twitter deal is temporarily on hold. The Tesla CEO, who has been seeking Twitter investors as his EV company sheds $400 billion in value, later says that he’s ‘still committed’ to the acquisition.”

I did mention a while ago that the entire thing could blow up in many different ways for many different reasons. Tesla has been overpriced for quite some time and cryptocurrency is basically a wild gamble no matter what they say about it. Sometimes, the favorite gets outfoxed.

Elon Musk tweeted early Friday that his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter was temporarily on hold, injecting fresh doubt into his ownership push just as a stock downturn had forced him to scramble for new investors.

Musk said the deal was on hold as he examined the number of spam accounts on the site, appearing to tie the delay to due diligence on an issue he has raised as a motivating factor to become Twitter’s owner. But the revelation sent the company’s stock down sharply, as investors signaled their doubt about whether the deal would go through.

“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” he tweeted, linking to a Reuters article from last week citing a Twitter filing.

Roughly two hours later, he added: “Still committed to acquisition.”

My guess is he’s looking for a reason to lower the offering price. My youngest daughter–the Market Maven–and I frequently discuss that we do not understand the demand for cryptocurrency. My Brother-in-law who also has been into investing for some time and is a Tax Attorney/CPA sneers at it too. I just come at it as a Financial Economist who believes currency needs to be backed up by actual production and a country’s laws. Maybe, I’m seriously old-fashioned. The last time I heard all the crypto bots tweet “To the Moon” I realized a crash was on the horizon for them. My jaded attitudes based on too-good-to-be-true have served me well in every market crash I’ve lived through. I bail. New York Magazine has this headline: “The Crash of Crypto’s Perpetual Wealth Machine” written by Kevin T. Dugan.

Just about four months ago, billionaire and Wall Street legend Mike Novogratz went to a Brooklyn tattoo parlor a few blocks down from Jim Cramer’s bar and, at 58, made permanent his devotion to a speculative new cryptocurrency. The result, on his left arm, was a large wolf howling at the moon. “I’m officially a Lunatic!!!” he tweeted to his more than 400,000 followers.

The ink refers to Luna, one half of a duo of digital currencies that were supposed to act as a perpetual wealth-creation machine, a way to always make money through the magic of code and financial engineering. At the time, Luna was on a massive run, up more the 1,000 percent over the prior six months. Novogratz is known as much for his career in the buttoned-up world of high finance — he’s an ex-partner at Goldman Sachs and Fortress Investment Group, an investor who lost two ten-figure fortunes and is on his third — as for being someone who has chafed against those boundaries. Several years ago, he was among the first high-profile Establishment finance types to dive all-in on crypto. (The ex-Princeton wrestler also hired Hilary Duff to play at his birthday party a few years ago.) But even for Novogratz, the tattoo seemed a little over-the-top. When someone tweeted their bewilderment that Novogratz would have gone so far, Do Kwon, the creator of Luna, chimed in, unprompted: “don’t worry it wasn’t much.”

This week, though, the critics who warned that Kwon’s perpetual wealth machine was too good to be true and that Novogratz might come to regret that tattoo before long were vindicated when Luna and its partner coin, Terra, both imploded in spectacular fashion. Terra is supposed to be trade reliable at the value of exactly one U.S. dollar, but it plummeted to 29 cents on Wednesday morning. Luna was down 99 percent since its highs last month. More than $40 billion in wealth — no small part of it from retail investors — was gone in a matter of hours. The shock of the sudden collapse sent the price of bitcoin falling to its lowest point since July, exposing how a coin labeled a Ponzi scheme by its critics had impacted the larger market in digital assets. Meanwhile, shares in leading U.S.-based crypto exchange Coinbase were off by 25 percent, and the trillion-dollar-plus crypto industry is teeming with rumors about large funds or companies that may be on the brink of failure.

Le Petit Prince et le renard, Antione de Saint Exupery,1943

Does this sound like a rational market to you?

The Oil and Gas Industry is also overreaching which caused me to once more troll one of my senators on Twitter. This is what’s going on and the Oil and Gas Industry is once more outfoxing the people who are supposed to regulate their failed oligopoly market so they can’t restrict quantity or price fix. From Time: “Oil Companies Posted Huge Profits. Here’s Where The Cash Will Go (Hint: Not Climate).” Nor is its goal the production of more gas and oil. They are perfectly happy with the high prices.

As consumers grapple with high fuel prices and politicians scramble to knock them down, oil companies are not making any sudden moves. That’s because, after years of low fuel prices, they are now enjoying a financial upswing, as demonstrated by lucrative first quarter earnings reports released in late April and early May.

Oil prices started to creep up in late 2021 due to supply constraints, but then turbocharged after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. For Chevron, the upshot was $6.3 billion in profits last quarter, up from $1.4 billion a year ago. For Exxon Mobil, profits more than doubled in the same period, to $5.5 billion. The numbers were also rosy for European firms—even among those that took a hit from severing ties with their Russian investments. TotalEnergies, a French company, netted nearly $5 billion, a 48% boost from last year, while U.K. companies Shell (at $9 billion) and BP (at $6.2 billion) are hitting profit levels that they haven’t seen in about a decade.

For the most part, major oil companies aren’t going to pour these billions of dollars into climate-mitigation investments like carbon capture technologies. Nor have they signaled any immediate intention to bolster oil production, despite calls from heads of state to do so. Their inaction has spurred U.S. and European countries, which are under pressure to keep fuel affordable, to release oil reserves and replace Russian crude oil and liquid natural gas from other sources. Despite those government efforts, oil prices have stayed above $100 per barrel, sustaining an influx of money to fossil fuel companies that are passing it on to stockholders and investors in the form of increased dividends and share buyback initiatives that drive up companies’ share values.

One analysis from the Wall Street Journal found that the nine largest U.S. oil producers spent 54% more in share repurchases and dividends in the first quarter than they invested in new oil developments. Similarly, a recent report covering the 20 largest U.S. oil companies published by the environmentalist organization Friends Of The Earth and consumer watchdog organizations Public Citizen and BailoutWatch, tallied $56 billion in new share buyback authorizations in the roughly seven months since last October, compared with $11 billion announced in the nine months before that.

I think they’re being deliberately political and obtuse about this. It’s also not helpful because they could solve this problem by passing laws. They are stopping oil production. You are letting them Senator by not forcing them to produce or give up their damned excessive profits to an extraordinary income or price gouging tax.

So, it looks like Republicans are going to be bringing more guys like this one to the ballot in the fall midterms. More power to them. I’m not sure any rational voter of either part is going to want more of this guy. From Politico: “‘He’s Not OK’: The Entirely Predictable Unraveling of Madison Cawthorn. A string of embarrassing incidents has led many to question whether the young congressman from North Carolina was really ready for the job.” The little dude is not an outlier. Ask his Maga Buddies in Congress now subpoenaed by the Jan 6 committee.

Four and a half years after Cawthorn contemplated suicide, he was running for Congress. Turning a stirring story of conquering adversity into a shocking political victory, he achieved his most ambitious career goal at a staggeringly early age. And within weeks if not days of being sworn in — at 25 years old one of the youngest members in the history of the House — he had put himself on a short list of the chamber’s most known figures. Now, though, heading into his first reelection, Cawthorn is mired in controversy, facing the very real possibility that the end of his electoral career might come as quickly as it began. Emboldened by Cawthorn’s miscues, misdeeds and array of indiscretions, seven Republican challengers have lined up to try to take him out in Tuesday’s primary, party leaders have abandoned him, and other MAGA firebrands are keeping their distance what with the escalating storm of even just the past few months.

Police stopped him for driving with a revoked license (again). Airport security stopped him for trying to bring a gun onto a plane (again). He made outlandish and unsubstantiated comments on an obscure podcast about orgies and cocaine use by his Capitol Hill colleagues. He called the Ukrainian president a “thug,” he suggested Nancy Pelosi was an alcoholic (she doesn’t drink), and the seemingly ceaseless gush of unsavory news has included allegations of insider trading, pictures of shuttered district offices, a leaked tranche of salacious images and videos, and ongoing proof in FEC filings that he’s a prodigious fundraiser but a profligate spender as well. All of this comes on top of multiple women in multiple places accusing him of sexual harassment, his role in the insurrection on Jan. 6 of last year, his growing catalogue of alarming provocations on social media and on the House floor, and his politically imprudent decision to announce he was switching districts only to reverse course. His marriage amidst all this lasted less than a year.

Common foxes in the snow, 1893,Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Kuhner

Seems a lot like Gaetz, Jordan, Taylor Greene, and others except they didn’t spill the beans on the Grand Old Pervert’s Orgies and Cocaine parties. Then there’s the Hand Maid on the Supreme Court. Move on, she’s perfectly normal too right?

Check out this in The Atlantic by Margaret Atwood. “I INVENTED GILEAD. THE SUPREME COURT IS MAKING IT REAL. I thought I was writing fiction in The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid’s Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?

For instance: It is now the middle of 2022, and we have just been shown a leaked opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States that would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not “deeply rooted” in our “history and tradition.” True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all.

Women were deliberately excluded from the franchise. Although one of the slogans of the Revolutionary War of 1776 was “No taxation without representation,” and government by consent of the governed was also held to be a good thing, women were not to be represented or governed by their own consent—only by proxy, through their fathers or husbands. Women could neither consent nor withhold consent, because they could not vote. That remained the case until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, an amendment that many strongly opposed as being against the original Constitution. As it was.

Women were nonpersons in U.S. law for a lot longer than they have been persons. If we start overthrowing settled law using Justice Samuel Alito’s justifications, why not repeal votes for women?

Reproductive rights have been the focus of the recent fracas, but only one side of the coin has been visible: the right to abstain from giving birth. The other side of that coin is the power of the state to prevent you from reproducing. The Supreme Court’s 1927 Buck v. Bell decision held that the state may sterilize people without their consent. Although the decision was nullified by subsequent cases, and state laws that permitted large-scale sterilization have been repealed, Buck v. Bell is still on the books. This kind of eugenicist thinking was once regarded as “progressive,” and some 70,000 sterilizations—of both males and females, but mostly of females—took place in the United States. Thus a “deeply rooted” tradition is that women’s reproductive organs do not belong to the women who possess them. They belong only to the state.

Alito of the poison pen is “reluctant to discuss state of Supreme Court after Roe leak” according to the Washington Post. Do you think he enjoys being the most hated man in America?

In his first public address since the explosive leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion he wrote that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. breezed through a detailed examination of statutory textualism, and renewed a disagreement over the court’s decision saying federal discrimination law protects gay and transgender workers.

But he was a little stumped by the final audience question from a crowd at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University: Are he and the other justices at a place where they could get a nice meal together?

“I think it would just be really helpful for all of us to hear, personally, are you all doing okay in these very challenging times?” the questioner asked.

The fact that Alito was speaking via closed circuit from a room at the Supreme Court seven miles away, rather than in person, was a sign these are not normal times.

Foxes, Kawanabe Kyosai

The snowflake can’t even handle his neighbors serving wine and cheese plates and opening their home bathrooms to protestors by his house. They needed a law to protect him from a cocktail get-together with a point? What did he think would happen? That 60% of the population was going to take his little diatribe based on a guy that believed in and killed witches? And he was at fucking George Mason which barely qualified as an educational institution and is more like an indoctrination center that teaches false narratives and pogrom generator.

What about the overreach of the White Nationalists and Militias that stormed the Capitol and January 6. Ever wonder what a nightmare it would be to be raised by one or married to one? What sense of relief you must feel to find your violent and manipulative father/husband in federal prison!

You may read the stories of the three grown kids of Steward Rhodes at The Southern Poverty Law Center.

Prosecutors’ most recent allegations against Rhodes include that he attempted to contact then-President Donald Trump through an intermediary in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. They further alleged that Rhodes, in a conference call with Oath Keepers members in the days following Trump’s election defeat, characterized Trump’s opponents as a cabal of pedophiles.

In February, Hatewatch met with and interviewed Rhodes’ adult children: son Dakota Adams, 24, and daughters Sedona Adams, 23, and Sequoia Adams, 19, in Kalispell, Montana. Rhodes and his ex-wife, Tasha Adams, have three other children who are still minors, and are not included in this interview.

The conversation shed important new light on the psychology of the Oath Keepers founder and provided the untold story of the impact of his public activities on his family.

The more these stories get out, the more outraged the sane majority in this country should be convinced that voting Democratic is our only hope. Even, if that party isn’t exactly the party that stands up for right, we have no other rational choice.

What’s on your writing and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Believe it or not.

Say what?

Don’t worry, it didn’t permanently change their belief systems…as you will read from the link, the FoxNews people went back to their old ways soon enough.

Cartoon time, via Cagle website:

Gonna miss him👇🏼:

On the Covid news:

Take a look at this clip from Jimmy Kimmel:

The power of yolk compels you:

And you all have a good Sunday, this is an open thread.


Friday Reads: The Right to Vote is Essential to Addressing the Issues of Our Time

Marc Chagall – Saint-Paul de Vance at Sunset, 1977

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I hope your week went well and your weekend goes better! I think I’m fully moved into my new phone and zapped then returned the old one. I’m about to start switching over to the new computer tomorrow.  I just have a few more adulting things to do and I, fortunately, don’t need the camera and mic until Sunday.

American Life is so abnormal that I am really glad that I don’t have to drag myself into a classroom until January. I’ve dealt with teaching far worse economies and financial markets so that’s not the challenge. Part of me is just bugged by the fact I can’t depend on any American to do the right thing in this latest surge of Pandemic. Indeed, I’m actually thinking I may be back on Zoom instead of behind a podium next year. I think our economy is looking resilient and the financial markets are functional.  What I think is dysfunctional is the way America does business. That’s the model that doesn’t work. It’s especially not working now. The extreme nature of the American ideological take on Capitalism is causing all kinds of things just to not work.

Then, there’s the weather situation which was elucidated in an article in The Guardian that BB posted yesterday. We’re not just experiencing extreme weather. It’s extreme and unique. This week we had temperatures never reported before in December in places like St. Paul. We continue to have severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the midwest in December. These records are not only record-setting. These instances are making records because their occurences are unknown to us in modern times. Between the weather and the global pandemic, we need to strengthen and address flaws in our institutions before it all kills nearly everything.

Marc Chagall, Bouquets de Lilas a Saint-Paul (Bouquets of Lilacs at Saint-Paul), 1978

I do want to address the new push to reinstate and further Voting Rights and why it’s so important. First, I want to address what I’ve said above by sharing this Article in VOX by Anna North. “The world as we know it is ending. Why are we still at work? From the pandemic to climate change, Americans are still expected to work no matter what happens.”

It’s a good question to ask and it’s being asked by the workers at Kellogg’s including the one I spent my teen years viewing out school windows and those of my house on the hill.  The plant in Omaha is way across on another hill where you can always see the big ol’ red Kellogg’s signature on the building. My thought was always the same. I’m never going to put myself in a place where I have to endlessly and mindlessly drop trinkets in cereal boxes for at least 8 hours a day.  Yesterday, on MSNBC, I heard from Senator Sanders that some workers worked overtime for 100-120 consecutive days at Kellogg’s factories. We also learned that workers at the decimated candle factory in Kentucky were threatened with firing if they didn’t keep working.  Are candles and dry cereal really worth this?

We didn’t learn anything from all the workers dropping dead from COVID-19 at meat processing plants?   Now, we also find out there’s no shortage of truckers, it’s just how there’s a major difference between how independent truckers are paid and those that are union.  It’s basically a problem of driver delays.  Nonunion drivers get paid by the mile so they get assigned to places where they have to sit forever. Union drivers are paid by the hour. I’m frankly blessed not to have been pushed prematurely back into the classroom but that’s only because I’m semiretired and can say no without it threatening my work.

So, with that background, let’s read Anna North’s article.

For a moment in early 2020, it seemed like we might get a break from capitalism.

A novel coronavirus was sweeping the globe, and leaders and experts recommended that the US pay millions of people to stay home until the immediate crisis was over. These people wouldn’t work. They’d hunker down, take care of their families, and isolate themselves to keep everyone safe. With almost the whole economy on pause, the virus would stop spreading, and Americans could soon go back to normalcy with relatively little loss of life.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Instead, white-collar workers shifted over to Zoom (often with kids in the background), and everybody else was forced to keep showing up to their jobs in the face of a deadly virus. Hundreds of thousands died, countless numbers descended into depression and burnout, and a grim new standard was set: Americans keep working, even during the apocalypse.

Now it’s been nearly two years since the beginning of the pandemic — a time that has also encompassed an attempted coup, innumerable extreme weather events likely tied to climate change, and ongoing police violence against Black Americans — and we’ve been expected to show up to work through all of it. “I don’t think people are well,” says Riana Elyse Anderson, a clinical and community psychologist and professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. “We are moving along but we are certainly not well.”

For some Americans, working during the apocalypse is fatal — think of the transit workers who died from Covid-19 in 2020, or the Amazon warehouse workers killed by a tornado on December 10 in Illinois. “All disasters are workplace disasters for some people,” said Jacob Remes, a historian and the director of the Initiative for Critical Disaster Studies at New York University. For others, the effects are more of a slow burn; the chronic stress that comes with putting on a game face at work, day in and day out, as the world becomes ever more terrifying.

Of course, Americans haven’t all quietly accepted the demand that we work through the end times. Record numbers are quitting their jobs in search of higher pay and better conditions. After more than 20 months of being asked to keep showing up uncomplainingly while everything crumbles around them, people are demanding a more humane approach to work in the age of interlocking crises.

Marc Chagall: “Nocturne at Vence”  1963

Please read the full article.

So, the question is how do we get more humane treatment at work, access to educations, and childcare at a reasonable cost?  Pharmaceuticals at a reasonable cost? Food at a reasonable cost?   How about energy that doesn’t cost too much and kill us at the same time?  Fewer wars?  Actual customer service instead of automated checkouts and endless phone trees to get to someone that can actually help you?  The business model these days is basically about where it was pre-union. Just jack up prices, lower service levels, overwork what employees you have, push a paperwork and surveillance atmosphere, then drive all the profits to the top where no one has to pay taxes on anything or can hide their money. This is not sustainable in this day and age. Where do we get some redress and control?

We should get it through our voter franchise and our democracy and representatives that deliver to voters and not just donors and radical bases. We’re losing all kinds of rights and none of them will return to us unless the majority of the democracy can vote easily and get fair elections,  Can we get this done?

Not, when all roads lead to Joe Manchin and there’s a filibuster rule in the Senate for for basic civil, human, constitutional rights. These things should not be left to overturn by a radical minority.

From the AP: “Power of one: Manchin is singularly halting Biden’s agenda.”  Let’s be real about this. It’s not just Biden’s Agenda it’s the people’s agenda as demonstrated by poll -after-poll.  Joe Manchin is the perfect example of someone that pushes everything that’s not sustainable and mostly because his wealth depends on it and his power.

Sen. Joe Manchin settled in at President Joe Biden’s family home in Delaware on a Sunday morning in the fall as the Democrats worked furiously to gain his support on their far-reaching domestic package.

The two-hour-long session was the kind of special treatment being showered on the West Virginia senator — the president at one point even showing Manchin around his Wilmington home.

But months later, despite Democrats slashing Biden’s big bill in half and meeting the senator’s other demands, Manchin is no closer to voting yes.In an extraordinary display of political power in the evenly split 50-50 Senate, a single senator is about to seriously set back an entire presidential agenda.

Biden said in a statement Thursday night that he still believed “we will bridge our differences and advance the Build Back Better plan, even in the face of fierce Republican opposition.”

But with his domestic agenda stalled out in Congress, senators are coming to terms with the reality that passage of the president’s signature “Build Back Better Act,” as well as Democrats’ high-priority voting rights package, would most likely have to be delayed to next year.

Failing to deliver on Biden’s roughly $2 trillion social and environmental bill would be a stunning end to the president’s first year in office.

Manchin’s actions throw Democrats into turmoil at time when families are struggling against the prolonged COVID-19 crisis and Biden’s party needs to convince voters heading toward the 2022 election that their unified party control of Washington can keep its campaign promises.

This has been pushed to the back burner and now they have decided to shift to voting rights.  Look at who’s on the catbird seat again.

 

Circus Dancer (Le Grand Cirque) 1968

From The Hill article in the above Tweet:

President Biden joined a Zoom call with Senate Democrats on Thursday to encourage them to pass voting rights legislation, as the chamber appears poised to leave for the year without a deal.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who are both part of the group negotiating rules changes and voting rights, said that they had spoken with Biden about their efforts.

“Very positive. ‘Good work, guys. Keep at it,’” Kaine said about Biden’s message.

“‘Are you talking, are you taking it seriously, are you trying to get there?’ Yes. So he [was] encouraging us, thanking us and encouraging us,” the Virginia Democrat added.

Tester, asked about Biden’s general message, summed it up as the right to vote is “important for democracy.”

Those included on the call were Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kaine and Tester, a source familiar told The Hill. Vice President Harris was also on the call.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the call.

Biden’s call come as Senate Democrats are poised to wrap their work for the year without a deal on how to move voting rights legislation.

“We don’t have the votes right now to change the rules,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters after a closed-door caucus lunch, acknowledging the political reality that the party currently faces.

Democrats have been holding a flurry of behind-the-scenes meetings to try to come to a deal that unites all 50 Democrats on changing the Senate rules.

A group of Senate Democrats — Kaine, Tester and King — have been tasked with coming up with a proposal on how to alter the 60-vote legislative filibuster in a way that would allow voting rights legislation to move forward.

Republicans have blocked several voting rights and election bills, fueling calls from within the Senate Democratic caucus to change the rules.

Marc Chagall – le jardin d’Eden, 1980

Meanwhile, the Senate is going on holiday.  Why can’t we all get paid and have work hours and benefits like them?

From NPC News: Democrats rev up voting rights push to end 2021. But Senate path remains elusive. All 50 Senate Democrats would be needed to change the rules to get around a filibuster. But Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema still don’t support such a move.

Long-simmering frustrations among prominent Black leaders appeared to be boiling over as they pressure President Joe Biden to do more to encourage the Senate to act. Progressive advocacy groups have revved up their pressure campaigns, fearing that time is running out to avert what they see as an existential threat to democracy. Leaders of the effort in the Senate, notably Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, have held meetings with colleagues to find a path forward.

And moderates like Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, said this week they’re ready to change the Senate rules to allow a vote on an election overhaul. But despite this movement, it may not be enough.

Manchin and Sinema are supportive of the Freedom to Vote Act, which would enshrine a series of voting-access guarantees across all states, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would impose additional limits on states with a history of discrimination. But neither supports a rule change to get around the 60-vote threshold that is blocking votes on those bills.

Manchin, who spoke to Warnock about the issue and left the Capitol shoulder-to-shoulder with him this week, told reporters he wants support from both parties before establishing new rules.

“All my discussions have been bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats. A rules change should be done to where we all have input in this rules change because we’re going to have to live with it,” he said.

That’s a problem: Republicans are extremely unlikely to sign off on any rule changes that would enable passage of voting rights legislation, which they staunchly oppose. A filibuster change through the regular process require a two-thirds vote, and even moderate Republicans say they’re not interested.

“I don’t see how. Unless Sen. (Chuck) Schumer tries to employ the nuclear option, rule changes require 67 votes,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told NBC News, referring to the Senate majority leader. “I think the rules and traditions of the Senate have generally served us well, and I don’t see the need for rule changes.”

Sinema said through a spokesperson that she still opposes weakening the 60-vote rule to pass a voting bill.

And that Ladies and Gentlemen is how empires and democracies die!

Have a great weekend!  I hope you enjoy the soothing colors of Marc Chagall!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?