The Evening Blues - 4-2-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and piano player Tommy Tucker. Enjoy!
Tommy Tucker - I'm Shorty
"The lust for power, for dominating others, inflames the heart more than any other passion."
News and Opinion
As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on world economies, claims tens of thousands of lives, and cripples healthcare systems worldwide, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to threaten to attack Iran and make the country "pay a very heavy price" for any "attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq."
Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2020
The threat comes on the heels of the Trump administration crippling Iran's access to crucial medial supplies as it battles over 47,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by ramping up a sanctions regime on Iran that leading economists said was "feeding the coronavirus epidemic" and progressive organizations and Democrats said must be eased in light of the deadly disease.
"Unsatisfied with a global pandemic and an economic collapse, Trump wants to add a major war into the mix," Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, said on Twitter in response to Trump's tweet.
Miles detailed "a series of escalations" the White House has taken with Iran since Trump took office, including his 2018 formal departure from the Iranian nuclear deal.
"It's impossible to say with certainty right now what is happening on the ground that's leading to this latest talk of war, but one thing is clear, we did not have to be here," said Miles. "The President chose to put us on this path and he continues to own the consequences of his actions."
Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, also weighed in on Trump's latest threat with a tweet pointing to how actions the adminstration has undertaken to purportedly rein in Iranian aggression have backfired, citing the January assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani as one example.
Wonderful. The United States is threatening wars now based on the standard lawyers use when making allegations they can't necessarily prove. https://t.co/502osaMuof
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) April 1, 2020
The Trump administration is sending Navy ships to patrol Venezuela, the latest escalation against the government targeted by an aggressive hybrid US regime change intervention.
“President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Navy ships are being moved toward Venezuela as his administration beefs up counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean following a U.S. drug indictment against Nicolás Maduro,” AP reports in an article packed with pro-US disinformation.
As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus there is a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain,” said Trump. “We must not let that happen.”
“The Venezuelan people continue to suffer tremendously due to Maduro and his criminal control over the country, and drug traffickers are seizing on this lawlessness,” added Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
— venezuelanalysis.com (@venanalysis) April 1, 2020
All of this, of course, is bullshit. The US government does not care about “the Venezuelan people” (a term only ever invoked to advance pro-regime change narratives); if they did they wouldn’t be murdering them by the tens of thousands using starvation sanctions and targeting them with backdoor biowarfare by cutting off their ability to protect themselves from a deadly pandemic.
The US government is also not interested in “drug traffickers”. As journalist Ben Norton notes, “Even the US government’s own data admit the vast, vast, vast majority of drugs (mostly cocaine) coming from Latin America come from Colombia — a right-wing US colony.”
“70% of the coca (used to create cocaine) grown in the whole world came from Colombia in 2017 according to the UN,” Norton adds. “Right-wing US colony Colombia is the CIA’s favorite drug dealer, used to fund death squads and Contra terrorist wars to overthrow leftist governments.”
As Venezuela Analysis rightly points out, in 2009 George W Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to then-president of Colombia Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who was previously listed by US intelligence as one of Colombia’s leading narco-traffickers.
So no, the US government does not care about drug trafficking, and it does not care about the Venezuelan people. What the US government cares about is securing control over the largest proven oil reserve on planet Earth, which is located beneath Venezuelan soil. ...
"Yeah we're super interested in getting rid of Maduro because his country's got so much... uhhh... drug trafficking." pic.twitter.com/omrMT3751c
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) April 1, 2020
The Trump administration has already admitted that its sole interest is in toppling the Venezuelan government with its ridiculous offer to cease murdering civilians via economic warfare if Maduro leaves office; adding a bunch of unrelated gibberish about narco-trafficking on top of this does nothing to obfuscate this. Warships have been sent to Venezuela because the Trump administration is waging a deadly war upon Venezuelans and that’s what you do during a war. These continued escalations are directed at nothing other than shoring up more power and control for the globe-spanning US-centralized empire, which works tirelessly to dominate the world by dominating its resources.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t remember voting for a paradigm where powerful governments pour the lion’s share of riches into sabotaging, toppling and destroying nations which don’t bow before their demands. This dynamic exists without the consent of ordinary human beings, and it brings nothing but harm to ordinary human beings. It harms human beings abroad with overt and covert applications of deadly force, and it harms human beings at home by robbing them of riches and resources for agendas which benefit them in no way, shape or form.
All these Venezuela shenanigans are occurring as revelations emerge that the Pentagon had predicted the exact sort of disruptions a deadly coronavirus pandemic would cause way back in 2017. The Nation‘s Ken Klippenstein shows that the Department of Defense had warned that unless changes were made an outbreak of a novel virus would see a shortage of “ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves”, which “will have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce.”
Hey America? If your Department of “Defense” is not being used to defend the American citizenry from the deadly threats it perceives, but is being used to patrol the shores of an oil-rich nation that has nothing to do with you, then maybe that department needs a new name. And maybe you need a new kind of government. Just a thought.
As U.S. Reels from COVID-19, Trump Backs Gilead’s Exclusive Patent on Treatment & Suspends EPA Rules
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said on Wednesday he thought Americans would be living with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for a long time to come.
“I don’t think we get back to normal,” Cuomo said. “I think we get to a new normal.”
He declared it was Americans’ responsibility to ensure the change brought about by the pandemic will be positive rather than negative.
Cuomo also emphasized that all US states need to be better prepared for such crises because “something like this will happen again”.
Jesus died for our sins, grandma died for the Dow.
— Marie Connor (@thistallawkgirl) March 24, 2020
As Coronavirus Spreads, Poll Shows Nearly 60% in US Believe Political System Designed Solely to Serve Rich and Powerful
New polling out Wednesday backdropped by the continuing coronavirus outbreak shows that most of the country believes the U.S. political system works only for the wealthy and elite rather than for working people.
In a survey of 1,002 Americans taken by The Hill/HarrisX, 57% of respondents said they believe the political system serves the interests of the wealthy and powerful versus 32% who said it works for all Americans.
Low-income Americans were more likely than people who are well-off financially to say the system works for wealthy insiders—61% to 55%. Women were 12% more likely than men, and Democratic and independent voters were more likely than Republicans to say the U.S. government is designed to serve elites.
Republicans were the only subgroup in which a majority of respondents said the system works for everyone.
The poll, which had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, was taken between March 22 and 23, as lawmakers debated a relief package amid the coronavirus pandemic. The package contained a $4.5 trillion "slush fund" for powerful corporations while providing a one-time payment of $1,200 for a portion of working Americans and an expansion of some unemployment benefits.
President Donald Trump signed the legislation package days later. The bill also includes billions of dollars in loans for major corporations like Boeing while demanding little to no meaningful oversight by Congress of the Treasury Department's distribution of the funds.
We should call dying "being taxed at 100%" so republicans will care about it
— Megan Amram (@meganamram) March 24, 2020
On Monday, Amazon fired a warehouse worker who had been protesting about conditions at a New York City facility during the coronavirus outbreak. Chris Smalls, an assistant manager and organizer, had led a walkout demanding Amazon temporarily shut the facility for cleaning after multiple workers tested positive for Covid-19. ... Smalls is rightfully considering legal action and the New York state attorney general’s office is calling on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate. It’s likely Smalls was dismissed because he was a worker who dared to raise the consciousnesses of those around him. For a corporation as virulently anti-union as Amazon, workers like Smalls are particularly dangerous: they are the future leaders of a labor movement.
Amazon, perhaps the most successful corporation on Earth, can more than afford to turn a profit and treat their warehouse workers with dignity. Jeff Bezos will remain a billionaire if he chooses to pay every worker a middle-class salary with healthcare benefits and a pension. But doing so would require a slight reduction of his world-historical wealth and be a violation of the iron law of greed: more is always better.
There is no greater illustration of the moral decay of 21st-century corporate America than Amazon. Past behemoths trafficked in noblesse oblige, tolerating unions and even investing in their workforce. Automobile plants and steel mills accepted that the price of doing business was guaranteeing their workers more than a subsistence wage.
Amazon, which employs a well-compensated white-collar workforce and a vast range of warehouse workers who labor in punishing conditions to get products shipped all across the world, is not interested in the social contract. Rather than collaborate with their New York warehouse workers to safeguard their health amid the worst pandemic in a century – more American lives have been lost than on 9/11 and hundreds of thousands more could die – Amazon would rather leave an employee without a job at the worst possible moment. The firing sends a clear message: come against us and you will be crushed.
We’ve been saying that the Republican Party is a death cult, or that capitalism itself is a death cult, for so many years, but I never thought we’d get this close to them actually getting on TV and telling us it’s our patriotic duty to die for their money.
— Dan Fishback (@dangerfishback) March 24, 2020
While much of the world moved swiftly to lock down crucial medical supplies used to treat the coronavirus, the U.S. dithered, maintaining business as normal and allowing large shipments of American-made respirators and ventilators to be sold to foreign buyers. The foreign shipments, detailed in dozens of government records, show exports to other hot spots where the pandemic has spread, including East Asia and Europe.
American hospitals around the country are now running low on all forms of personal protective gear, such as N95 masks or purified air personal respirators, for medical staff, as well as life-saving ventilators, which pump oxygenated air into the lungs, for patients. Experts say the U.S. could face a drastic shortage of intensive care units equipped with ventilators and breathing aids to meet the expected wave of seriously ill patients. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has pleaded for more ventilators and said that the city may run short as soon as April 5.
The persistent lack of medical supplies is the result of a combination of factors, including poor planning by the U.S. government. In the absence of early detection and purchasing agreements, crucial medical supplies have been ferried out from American manufacturers for foreign markets. Vessel manifests maintained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and reviewed by The Intercept show a steady flow of the medical equipment needed to treat the coronavirus being shipped abroad as recently as March 17.
[See link for detailed information about various needed medical supplies and hardware that have been shipped overseas. - js]
Russia has dispatched a cargo plane with masks and medical equipment to the US after Donald Trump accepted an offer of humanitarian aid from Vladimir Putin to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The plane, a Russian Antonov An-124-100 military transport, left from Chkalovsky airfield outside Moscow on Tuesday night and will arrive in the US on Wednesday after refuelling at Shannon airport in Ireland. Footage from the plane broadcast by Russian state television showed stacks of cardboard boxes in the cargo hold.
The delivery is likely to stir controversy among critics of Trump, who have said Putin will portray the goodwill gesture as a public relations coup and use it to bolster Russia’s efforts to escape sanctions for meddling in the 2016 US elections.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro is facing a growing backlash over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, with the state governors responsible for more than 200 million of the country’s 210 million people refusing to follow his commands over the pandemic. Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the dangers of Covid-19 and last week urged Brazilians to get back to work – in defiance of advice from the World Health Organization and his own health ministry.
But his exhortations have been largely ignored by politicians and the general public. Just three of Brazil’s 27 states, home to 5.7 million people, have relaxed social isolation measures as coronavirus cases continue to rise – Brazil has 5,717 confirmed cases and 201 deaths. A study showed almost 60% of Brazilians are staying at home.
João Doria, the governor of Brazil’s most populous and economically important state, São Paulo, has maintained a strict quarantine and this week openly defied Bolsonaro, telling its 44 million citizens: “Do not follow the guidance of the president.”
Wilson Witzel, Rio de Janeiro state’s rightwing governor, has also refused to back away from strict social isolation measures. “So far I’ve been asking, now I am giving an order: don’t leave your home,” Witzel told his state’s 17 million residents on Monday as he extended Rio’s shut down for another fortnight.
Witzel, a one-time Bolsonaro ally, went on to suggest the president’s behaviour could land him a trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
New York City Has Done Almost Nothing to Protect 70,000 People in its Homeless Shelters From Coronavirus Spread
As the number of coronavirus cases in New York City continues to rise — 75,000 as of midday Tuesday — the city’s hospitals and morgues are struggling to keep up. Along with incarcerated populations, people experiencing homelessness in the city are among those most susceptible to getting infected. In fact, as of Sunday, at least 99 people living in the city’s shelters had tested positive for the virus, the New York Times reported. In other large cities, the number remains in the single digits. The city, however, has taken little meaningful action to protect the approximately 63,000 people living in shelters or the streets, a particularly crude reality as the homelessness crisis in the city is the result of years of poor policy decisions, including by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose handling of the pandemic has inspired nationwide adulation.
During his three terms as governor, which have overlapped with the tenures of mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, homelessness in New York City skyrocketed. The mayors and governor failed to coordinate and fund policies to stem the rise and even actively worsened it. In 2011, Cuomo, who served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, pulled state funding for Advantage, a rent subsidy program, prompting Bloomberg to abruptly end it. The move sent at least 8,500 families back into shelter.
The city’s response to the particular needs of homeless populations during the pandemic has been feeble. The Department of Homeless Services website has the same generic advice as all city agencies, such as “stay home if sick.” For those forced to choose between staying at a homeless shelter or sleeping in the streets or on trains, staying “home” is not much of a choice, since the shelters make it virtually impossible to practice social distancing and quarantine. ...
The city’s plan appears limited to securing 500 hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness to self-isolate if they feel ill. According to a letter from the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless to de Blasio’s administration, there are undue burdens on sick homeless people trying to access these rooms, including denying access to Covid-19-positive or likely positive homeless single adults who haven’t had recent contact with the Department of Homeless Services. That’s resulted in adults continuing to live in aggregate shelters with people who’ve tested positive for the virus.
Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, estimates the need will be much higher than 500 rooms. “We’re going to have thousands of people who need to be isolated,” he said. (The mayor’s office, which oversees the shelters, did not respond to a request for comment.)
Nearly 400 people died in New York state from COVID-19 in the span of about 24 hours, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, 1,550 coronavirus patients had died in New York, now the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. By the time Cuomo spoke during his daily press conference in Albany on Wednesday, the state's death toll had soared to 1,941.
While the exact data rises and falls from day to day, the number of hospitalizations, patients in intensive care units, and intubations are overall climbing in New York, which now has nearly 84,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to Cuomo. More than 12,200 people are currently hospitalized.
The top doctor at Rikers Island said the coronavirus-hit New York jail is a “public health disaster unfolding before our eyes” as he warned of the rapidly rising number of infections in the city’s jails.
In just 12 days, Ross MacDonald, the jail’s chief physician, said confirmed cases at Rikers had soared from one to nearly 200.
Speaking in response to a letter from five New York district attorneys and a special narcotics prosecutor criticising the release of “high-risk” inmates following the outbreak of Covid-19, he wrote on Twitter this week: “The only part of the letter I can speak directly to is their failure to appreciate the public health disaster unfolding before our eyes.” ...
More than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the US, more than anywhere in the world, and there are growing fears that an outbreak could spread rapidly through a vast network of federal and state prisons, county jails and detention centers.
Donald Trump has admitted the US government’s emergency stockpile of protective equipment is nearly exhausted because of the extraordinary demands of the coronavirus pandemic.
The shortage was first reported by the Washington Post, which said the supply of respirator masks, gloves and other medical supplies was running low.
Trump, who has been criticised for a lack of central planning, confirmed on Wednesday: “It is, because we’re sending it directly to hospitals. We don’t want it to come to the stockpile because then we have to take it, after it arrives, and bring it to various states and hospitals.” ...
Citing officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the Post reported that the depletion of the national stockpile left the White House and states competing for PPE in a “freewheeling global marketplace rife with profiteering and price-gouging”.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) had shipped or delivered 11.6m N95 respirators, 26m surgical masks, 5.2m face shields, 4.3m surgical gowns, 22m gloves, and 8,100 ventilators, the White House said on 28 March.
A Private Equity Baron Sitting on an Empty Philadelphia Hospital Is in Line For Huge Tax Gift in the Covid-19 Stimulus
As Philadelphia searches for a place to house its growing number of coronavirus patients, a millionaire health care and private equity executive is effectively holding a hospital he owns hostage — and is in line for a massive tax break under the coronavirus stimulus plan signed into law last week.
Joel Freedman bought Philadelphia’s Hahnemann University Hospital, which primarily served low-income residents, along with St. Christopher Children Hospital, in 2018 for a total of $170 million. Despite community protests that captured national attention, he shuttered it in September, hoping to turn a profit by selling the building, possibly to turn it into luxury condos. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, city officials said they could not afford Freedman’s offer for the building, which he said was a fraction of market value. They were negotiating its use until last week, when they said Freedman’s offer to rent the building to the city for just under $1 million a month, including necessary improvements and expenses was “unreasonable.”
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles-based Freedman could benefit from the $2 trillion stimulus, which temporarily and retroactively lifts a cap on the property-related depreciation real estate investors are allowed to use to lessen their tax bill. Depreciation is a paper cost that real estate investors can use to factor in losses to offset other income and reduce what they pay in taxes. In Freedman’s case, that means he can use recent “losses” from the hospital as it depreciates to offset his overall taxable income and, as a result, what he owes in taxes. A spokesperson for Freedman did not respond to requests for comment.
“Depreciation on the real estate from Hahnemann from the last two years plus this year can be used to offset any tax liabilities for his household, to the extent that he’s got profit from other things that he’s done” said Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. ...
Other hospitals are benefiting from the 800-page stimulus, which includes a $100 billion allocation for hospitals, in part to help fight the coronavirus. Easton hospital, another private equity-owned hospital in Pennsylvania, got one of the first payouts of the coronavirus stimulus plan for $8 million after threatening to shut down on Friday at midnight. “They’re just shameless,” said Appelbaum. “The very first payment out of that stimulus package went to a hospital owned by private equity that was blackmailing the governor of Pennsylvania.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday urged Wisconsin to postpone the state's April 7 election in light of the public health threat of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
"People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote, which is why 15 states are now following the advice of public health experts and delaying their elections," Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement Wednesday. "We urge Wisconsin to join them."
"The state should delay Tuesday's vote, extend early voting, and work to move entirely to vote-by-mail," Sanders continued. "While we wait for a decision, we urge our supporters to vote-by-mail."
Concern over holding primaries has increased since the last primaries were held on March 17 in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. Since then, at least two polls workers in Florida have now tested positive for the virus.
In Wisconsin, voters are set to choose on Tuesday their preferred candidate for the presidential primary—Sanders is facing off with former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic ticket while President Donald Trump is unopposed in the state's Republican primary. But there are other issues on the ballot as well, including choosing a new state Supreme Court member. Milwaukee voters will also pick a new mayor and city comptroller.
As NBC News reported Wednesday, state officials' decision to go ahead with the election makes Wisconsin an outlier.
Worth a click:
The plunging demand for oil wrought by the coronavirus pandemic combined with a savage price war has left the fossil fuel industry broken and in survival mode, according to analysts. It faces the gravest challenge in its 100-year history, they say, one that will permanently alter the industry. With some calling the scene a “hellscape”, the least lurid description is “unprecedented”.
A key question is whether this will permanently alter the course of the climate crisis. Many experts think it might well do so, pulling forward the date at which demand for oil and gas peaks, never to recover, and allowing the atmosphere to gradually heal. The boldest say peak fossil fuel demand may have been dragged into the here and now, and that 2019 will go down in history as the peak year for carbon emissions. But some take an opposing view: the fossil fuel industry will bounce back as it always has, and bargain basement oil prices will slow the much-needed transition to green energy.
Who is right depends on a heady mix of geopolitics, profit, investor sentiment, government bailouts and net zero emissions targets, campaigner pressures and, not least, consumer behaviour – is virtual working, for instance, the new normal? ...
Oil wells responsible for almost 1m barrels a day may have already been shut down because the price of oil is now lower than the cost of shipping it, according to US banking giant Goldman Sachs, with the number of wells growing “by the hour”. This is likely to “permanently alter the energy industry and its geopolitics” and “shift the debate around climate change”, said Jeffrey Currie, head of commodities at the bank.
Through rampant overfishing, pollution and coastal destruction, humanity has inflicted severe damage on the oceans and its inhabitants for centuries. But conservation successes, while still isolated, demonstrate the remarkable resilience of the seas.
The scientists say there is now the knowledge to create an ocean renaissance for wildlife by 2050 and with it bolster the services that the world’s people rely on, from food to coastal protection to climate stability. The measures needed, including protecting large swathes of ocean, sustainable fishing and pollution controls, would cost billions of dollars a year, the scientists say, but would bring benefits 10 times as high.
However, the escalating climate crisis must also be tackled to protect the oceans from acidification, loss of oxygen and the devastation of coral reefs. The good news, the scientists say, is a growing awareness of the ability of oceans and coastal habitats such as mangroves and salt marshes to rapidly soak up carbon dioxide and bolster shorelines against rising sea levels.
“We have a narrow window of opportunity to deliver a healthy ocean to our grandchildren, and we have the knowledge and tools to do so,” said Prof Carlos Duarte, of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, who led the review. “Failing to embrace this challenge, and in so doing condemning our grandchildren to a broken ocean unable to support good livelihoods is not an option.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Tommy Tucker - Long Tall Shorty
Tommy Tucker - I Don't Want 'Cha
Tommy Tucker - Chewing Gum
Tommy Tucker - That's How Much!
Tommy Tucker - Drunk
Tommy Tucker - Hard Luck Blues
Tommy Tucker - Oh what a feeling
Tommy Tucker - Sitting Home Alone
Tommy Tucker - Hi-Heel Sneakers