Friday Reads: The Previous Guy

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

Good Day Sky Dancers!

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

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

Suzanne Valadon

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

So, on to the unpacking …

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

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

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

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

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

Yayoi-Kusama-Pumpkin-300x300

Yayoi Kusama Pumpkins 1990

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

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

Yayoi-Kusama-300x234

Yayoi Kusama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katarzyna Przezwańska
Untitled, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katarzyna Przezwańska

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

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

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

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

“Lady at her Toilette” by Berthe Morisot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot

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

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

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

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

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Another Blow to the Big Lie

Frida Kahlo, self portrait

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s women’s history month!  Today is International Women’s Day and I’m focusing on women artists and their work.  It’s just a small selection of women’ painters, singer/songwriter and actress!  I’m going to keep it up for the month so keep your eyes and ears open!

SCOTUS rejected Trump’s final attempt to throw out legitimate elections.  This time the state of Wisconsin was the target of the lawsuit chase.  From The Hill: “Supreme Court rejects final Trump bid to nullify 2020 election results”.

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a bid by former President Trump to nullify his electoral loss in Wisconsin, rejecting the former president’s final pending appeal over the results of the 2020 election.

In an unsigned order without noted dissent, the justices declined to take up Trump’s lawsuit alleging Wisconsin election officials violated the Constitution by expanding absentee voting amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

The justices’ move brought an end to Trump’s scattershot and ineffective legal campaign to overturn President Biden’s victory and added to the abysmal post-election court record of Trump and his allies, which included more than 60 losses and just one narrow win.

Carrying Clay Pots, Helen Mmakgabo Mmapula Sebidi

Georgia Republicans continue to push “election integretity” laws that are clearly aimed at suppressing minority votes.  This is from NBC News: Georgia Republicans are pushing dozens of ‘election integrity’ bills. Black voters are the target, rights groups say.As the battle over voting rights plays out in legislatures across the country, advocates say federal protections are more necessary than ever.”

After 15 years allowing voters to cast absentee ballots without excuses, Georgia Republicans say the practice has got to go.

The Republican-controlled state Senate votes Monday on a package of legislation that would, among other things, limit mail-in voting primarily to Georgians who are elderly, disabled or out of town on Election Day — one of dozens of restrictive election-related measures under consideration in state legislatures.

Supporters of the measures, who include allies of former President Donald Trump and those who stood up to his bogus allegations of fraud after Joe Biden upset decades of Republican dominance to win the state, say the bills are commonsense election security efforts. Democrats, voting rights advocates and civil rights groups say something else is going on.

“It’s pathetically obvious to anyone paying attention that when Trump lost the election and Georgia flipped control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats shortly after, Republicans got the message that they were in a political death spiral,” state Rep. Renitta Shannon, a Democrat from Decatur, said during a floor debate over the Republican proposals in Georgia last week. “And now they are doing anything they can do to silence the voices of Black and brown voters specifically because they largely powered these wins.”

Untitled, Bridget Bate Tichenor

NPR reports that President Biden has established a Gender Policy Council within the White House.  I’m withholding judgement on this.

President Biden marked International Women’s Day on Monday by signing two executive orders geared toward promoting gender equity, both in the United States and around the world.

In a statement, Biden said: “In our nation, as in all nations, women have fought for justice, shattered barriers, built and sustained economies, carried communities through times of crisis, and served with dignity and resolve. Too often, they have done so while being denied the freedom, full participation, and equal opportunity all women are due.”

The first executive order establishes a Gender Policy Council within the White House, reformulating an office from the Obama administration that was later disbanded by the Trump administration, and giving it more clout.

Under former President Barack Obama, the office was called the White House Council on Women and Girls. The name change to the Gender Policy Council is intentional, according to an administration official speaking on background, “to reflect the fact that gender discrimination can happen to people of all genders.”

But, the official said, “there will be a focus on women and girls, particularly women and girls of color, given the historical and disproportionate barriers that they face.”

Poppies, Georgia O’Keefe

Zack Beauchamp at Vox writes “The stimulus shows why the left should stop worrying and learn to love the suburban voter. Contrary to the left’s fears, the road to redistribution runs through the suburbs”.

But a funny thing happened over the past few years: As Democrats made inroads into the suburbs, they also became more progressive on economics.

Consider President Biden’s economic policy agenda.

To date, it is almost certainly the most left-leaning since Lyndon Johnson’s. The stimulus is more than twice the size of the one passed by President Obama’s majority in 2009, and includes (among other progressive priorities) $1,400 checks for tens of millions of Americans and a generous child tax credit. His broader legislative agenda includes a $2 trillion climate change plan, a public option for health care, and a plan to expand Section 8 housing vouchers that would radically reduce the poverty rate. This ambitious program would be paid for primarily by deficit spending and tax hikes on corporations and Americans making over $400,000 per year.

Some leading political scientists and Democratic pollsters see this agenda as perfectly consistent with an influx of college-educated white suburbanites — for the simple reason that this demographic has, in recent years, become much more progressive on economic issues than it was in the past.

This is certainly a relief to hear from the Save our planet and sacred/historical spaces for the future agenda.

The Biden administration has withdrawn an environmental review for a massive copper mine in eastern Arizona, temporarily blocking a multinational mining corporation, Resolution Copper, from taking over a parcel of land sacred to the San Carlos Apache Nation and other Native communities. The U.S. Forest Service said it needs more time to consult with Native people about the mine’s impact on Oak Flat, an ancient forest with spiritual and cultural significance. Advocates say the proposed mine would destroy Oak Flat and contaminate a large swath of southern Arizona. Arizona Democratic Congressmember Raúl Grijalva is set to reintroduce the Save Oak Flat Act, which would repeal the appropriation of the site.

Emmie and her child, Mary Cassatt

Now that we’re beginning to get vaccinnated there’s some additional good news for those of us through our first doses.  My friend Nancy across the street and I frequently get together but it still feels akward to have our little picnics and dinners while doing all the hand washing and masking.  We’re both fully vaccinated so this is great news!  Now, we just have to get to a place where we get the kids into the mix.  I’m sure there’s a lot of grandparents missing hugs!  Another one from NPR: “CDC Says It’s Safe For Vaccinated People To Do These Activities”.

The CDC has issued new guidance for vaccinated people, giving the green-light to resume some pre-pandemic activities and relax precautions that have been in place.

Specifically, people who are fully vaccinated can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have gotten the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines (or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

Vaccinated people can also gather, unmasked, with people from another household who are not yet vaccinated, as long as those people are at low risk of serious illness from the virus. However, the agency said, vaccinated people should continue to mask when they’re in public, avoid crowds and take other precautions when gathering with unvaccinated people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

The CDC said this new guidance is a “first step” to returning to everyday activities. There’s accumulating evidence to show that people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to become infected and also “potentially” less likely to spread the virus to others, agency officials wrote in a press release.

The good news is that Trump is still under his Mara LaLa rock.  The bad news is Mike Pence may take his show on the road.  He’s headed to South Carolina which is definitely an important state in presidential primaries.

Well, that’s it for me today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today!  Happy International Women’s Day!