The Evening Blues - 4-8-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer Georgia White. Enjoy!
Georgia White - I Just Want Your Stingaree
"I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed."
-- Jonathan Swift
News and Opinion
Corporations are now lining up to receive a portion of the Trump administration’s massive $2.2 trillion bailout. They are employing an army of lobbyists, lawyers and financial advisers (all taking a fat fee for their services) to maximise their gains as they plead that they are strapped for cash and must be provided with money to “save the economy.” But a report published in the Wall Street Journal at the weekend reveals that one of the main reasons for the cash shortage is the trillions of dollars spent by major corporations on share buybacks, particularly over the decade since the global financial crisis.
According to Brian Reynolds, the chief market analyst at the research firm Reynolds Strategy, upon whose research the article is based, corporate buybacks have been the “only net source of money entering the stock market” since 2008. The sole purpose of buyback programs is to enhance the wealth of the executives who sit atop the major corporations as well as hedge funds and other traders in shares. By cutting the number of shares on issue, the stock of the corporation rises. Executives and others can then exercise their stock options to make a killing while hedge funds strike at the opportune time and rake in billions.
The buybacks are financed by using the accumulated profits of the company or, in some cases, by the raising of debt, taking advantage of the ultra-low interest rate policies of the US Federal Reserve. According to the economist William O. Lazonick, the proportion of corporate buybacks funded through the issuing of bonds went as high as 30 percent in both 2016 and 2017. By Reynolds’ calculations, since the beginning of 2009, buybacks have added a net $4 trillion to the stock market, an amount equivalent to one-fifth of the total $20.9 trillion market value of the companies in the S&P 500 index.
Calculations by Lazonick put share buybacks as equivalent to 52 percent of all corporate profits, with dividends on shares accounting for another $3.3 trillion. According to the Journal article: “Contributions from all other sources—including exchange-traded funds, foreign buyers, insurance funds, mutual funds, broker-dealers, hedge funds and households—netted out to roughly zero.” ...
The data on the scale of the buyback operations and the dependence on them for the plundering of the wealth of society discloses the source of the push for a return to work, whatever the dangers to the health of workers, so that the process of surplus value extraction and its distribution to the ultra-wealthy can resume.
Private Equity Firms Told to 'Get to the Back of the Line' as Wealthy Investors Try to Profit Off Coronavirus Relief Funds
Executives and lobbyists from some of the most profitable private equity firms in the U.S. are aggressively pressuring members of Congress and Trump administration officials to ensure that the huge investment companies are able to benefit from coronavirus stimulus funding—including a $350 billion relief program intended to help struggling small businesses.
NBC News reported Saturday that investment giant Apollo Global Management sent an email last week to Jared Kushner—President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser—as well as other White House officials pleading with the administration to "relax rules on coronavirus relief money in a way that would benefit the company."
"But Apollo is not just any business: It made a $184 million loan in 2017 to Kushner Companies, the real estate company in which Jared Kushner... retains an interest," NBC noted.
Apollo's overture to Kushner was part of what the Washington Post on Monday described as a "rush of behind-the-scenes jockeying" by private equity firms as banks—under the guidance of the Treasury Department—begin distributing loans authorized by the multi-trillion-dollar Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Trump signed into law late last month.
Several private equity titans, including Blackstone group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, took part in a conference call Trump hosted late last month as the coronavirus spread rapidly across the U.S. and sent the economy into a tailspin. The firms are now, according to reporting from various outlets, urging lawmakers and the White House to relieve federal restrictions that bar many small businesses backed by private equity from receiving funding from the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program. ...
Under current federal regulations known as "affiliation rules," small companies backed by private equity funding are not able to qualify for Small Business Administration relief loans if the companies in the firm's portfolio collectively have more than 500 employees—the limit established by the Paycheck Protection Program.
"Businesses must report if they have major investors, and they are blocked from the program on the theory that they can borrow money from their larger and deep-pocketed private-equity backers, rather than taxpayers," the Post explained. "The purpose is to make sure that businesses truly owned and operated by individuals can benefit from the loan, rather than opening the funds to companies that must answer to the interests of shareholders and parent companies."
But on Friday, the Post reported, "the financial industry secured a modest victory: The Treasury Department issued guidance waiving the rule for a small subset of small businesses backed by private equity and venture capital, to include those in the accommodations and food-service industries, as well as franchisees."
Bloomberg's Shuli Ren wrote in a column Monday that private equity firms looking for taxpayer bailout money "should get to the back of the line."
"Private equity may be in the eye of the storm, but it certainly doesn't need a bailout," wrote Ren. "These firms came out of the collapse of Lehman Brothers fairly unscathed. Perhaps the coronavirus could finally teach them a lesson: Using cheap debt to pay themselves dividends isn't such a savvy investment model after all."
This moron from Georgia thinks that looters come from Atlanta, when it's obvious that they come from Wall Street.
Why do Americans need AR-15 rifles during a global pandemic? To shoot “looting hordes from Atlanta”.
That’s the campaign message from a former Republican congressman from Georgia, Paul Broun, who is now running for congress again.
Broun lives in Gainesville, Georgia, a city that is 87% white, and that is about an hour outside of Atlanta, the state capital, which is majority-black. ...
“Whether it’s looting hordes from Atlanta, or a tyrannical government from Washington, there are few better liberty machines than an AR-15.” ...
Americans have responded to the coronavirus epidemic with a record-breaking number of gun purchases. More than 3.7m total firearm background checks were conducted through the FBI’s background check system in March, with nearly 1.2m checks conducted in the week of 16 March alone, according to government data. While not a one-to-one correlation, background checks serve as best official proxy for gun sales in the United States.
Oversight of $4.5 Trillion Corporate Bailout in 'Grave Jeopardy' as Trump Fires Independent Watchdog
In a move that critics warned could put independent oversight of a multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus package "in grave jeopardy," President Donald Trump on Monday fired the official in charge of monitoring the federal government's implementation of the business-friendly new law.
Trump's decision to fire acting Pentagon inspector general Glenn Fine—first reported by Politico Tuesday—effectively removed Fine from his position as the lead watchdog on the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The president signed the CARES Act into law late last month amid criticism that the package did not contain nearly enough oversight for trillions of dollars in corporate bailout money, which progressives characterized as a "slush fund." ...
Fine was appointed to lead the oversight committee last week by a panel of fellow inspectors general. Because the law only allows current inspectors general to head the committee, Fine's termination as acting Pentagon inspector general makes him unable to serve in the newly created oversight role.
The inspectors general will have to appoint another official for the position, raising the question of whether Trump will fire that person as well.
Trump's removal of Fine was widely viewed as part of his broader assault on efforts to hold him and his administration accountable. Late last month, as Common Dreams reported, Trump openly stated his intention to flout congressional oversight requirements contained in the CARES Act.
Dead squid could be the new profit center for Wall Street. There's more at the link.
If it sounds ghoulish, it’s because it is ghoulish.
Some of the biggest banks on Wall Street have been intimidating their traders to come back to work despite an executive order from the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, ordering people to remain at home during the coronavirus outbreak unless they work for essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals.
New York State, home to Wall Street, is now the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States with 5,489 deaths as of today or 44 percent of all deaths from coronavirus in the entire United States.
Now, it turns out, while Wall Street traders have taken on greater health risks of catching the coronavirus by traveling to work on mass transit and working in a potentially contaminated building, some of the biggest banks will collect a death benefit should the employees die from the virus.
Wall Street banks own a form of life insurance called BOLI, short for Bank-Owned Life Insurance. The death benefit pays to the corporate owner of the policy, in this case the banks, not the employee or their family. Because it’s a life insurance policy, it has a lot of nice perks for the banks’ bottom line. The cash benefit of the policy builds up tax free while the policy is in force and the paid death benefit is free of federal income taxes. The bank is supposed to get the employee’s permission before taking out the policy but there is little evidence that employees know what they’re signing when a huge stack of papers is pushed in front of them on their hire date.
The amount of BOLI assets held by the banks is listed on Schedule RC-F on their Call Reports that are filed with federal regulators. As of December 31, 2019, four of the largest U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup’s Citibank held a combined $58.44 billion in BOLI assets. The breakdown was as follows: Bank of America $22.55 billion; Wells Fargo $19 billion; JPMorgan Chase $11.66 billion; and Citibank $5.23 billion.
But death benefits represent a large multiple to the amount of investments held in the policies. Experts suggest that $58.44 billion in BOLI assets could represent approximately $584 billion in future death benefits, or more than half a trillion dollars.
In a recent article falsely titled “The U.S.-China propaganda war is on hold, but not for long“, The Washington Post‘s Josh Rogin made a very interesting admission.
“The United States is now in dire need of medical supplies, many of which are coming from China,” Rogin said. “If China’s leaders are willing to stop telling lies about us, we can pause pointing out the most embarrassing truths about them.”
Wait, sorry, “us”? “We”?
Rogin wasn’t quoting any US officials. He was referring, in the first person plural, to the US government, because he apparently sees himself as a part of it. He sees himself and others like him as an extension of the US government’s narrative control campaign, the branch that is responsible for distributing “truths” in America’s propaganda war to counter China’s “lies”. He sees himself as a state propagandist.
Which, of course, he is. The devoutly neoconservative Rogin consistently advances hawkish narratives against nations which have resisted absorption into the blob of the US-centralized empire, and he is showing no hesitation in running point on the new escalations in the narrative control campaign against China. This is because the USA and China have been on a collision course toward aggressive confrontation for a long time now, and the narrative managers need to manufacture consent for that horrific eventuality.
Passage‘s David Mastracci has a very worthwhile new article out titled “Don’t Blame China For Your Government’s COVID-19 Failures“, exposing what Rogin calls “embarrassing truths” about China’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic for the distorted spin jobs that they are and highlighting the fact that the difficulties Americans are currently facing is due to their own governments failures, not China’s.
“Those who aren’t in power, such as rightwing journalists, realize their neoliberal ideology is unequipped to deal with the pandemic, and therefore is under attack,” Mastracci writes. “They won’t abandon their views, so they have to shift blame to an outside country with an ideology that is different in the right way. Attacking China clearly serves this purpose, and offers a chance for anti-communism, which, as Parenti notes, people have been primed to hate for more than a century.”
This is much closer to the truth than anything you’ll read in any mass media publication. This virus is brutally highlighting all the insanity of the neoliberal status quo upon which the US empire is built, and that status quo is indeed premised upon shutting down all leftward political movement which could potentially inconvenience plutocrats and war profiteers. Much of what we’re hearing from leading Republican and Democratic Party pundits these days can be accurately translated as a wailing temper tantrum about their entire worldview crashing to an embarrassing faceplant in front of the whole world.
But even that doesn’t really cover it.
If you ask a leftist what the west’s sudden uptick in anti-China hysteria is about, they might say racism, xenophobia, and/or anti-communism. If you ask a rightist, they might tell you it’s because China lied about the virus, or because of communism, or because of China’s economic relationship with the US, or because it’s a backwards culture of people who eat different animals from us. If you ask someone who occupies the mainstream so-called “center”, they might tell you that it’s because of humanitarian concerns about China’s oppressive government, along with racism or some mixture of the aforementioned claims.
Ultimately though, it’s not about any of those things. While racism, xenophobia, anti-communism, free trade deals, authoritarianism and the virus are all real concerns which play a real role in the propaganda campaign, it’s not ultimately about any of them. Ultimately, like so much else, this is about power.
There can only be one top dog in a unipolar world. After the fall of the Soviet Union the prevailing philosophy slowly coalesced among US policymakers that the world’s only remaining superpower needed to remain that way at any cost in order to preserve the so-called liberal world order. This philosophy rose to dominance when the neoconservatives took over the Executive Branch during the George W Bush administration, and from there their ideas simply became the mainstream orthodoxy. Now the “unipolarity at any cost” ideology of neoconservatism is so pervasive that when you see someone like Tulsi Gabbard basically just advocating for pre-9/11 US foreign policy, you see them demonized as though they supported child cannibalism.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.” Preventing the rise of China (and its loose network of other unabsorbed nations like Russia) has been a lasting agenda of the western world for generations, and the continuation of this agenda has set the world on a trajectory toward aggressive confrontation. The US has been surrounding China with military bases, many of them nuclear-armed, in preparation for a confrontation that it sees as ultimately inevitable, since China has no interest in being absorbed into the US power alliance and the US has no interest in allowing China to surpass it as a superpower.
What this means for us ordinary people is that we have found ourselves smashed between steadily increasing escalations between two nuclear-armed nations and their nuclear-armed allies hurtling toward a confrontation which benefits none of us in the slightest, while propagandists spoon feed us narratives about why this is something we should eventually support.
Immediately following his visit to Kabul, the US State Department released a statement saying that because of the failure of the Afghan leaders to end the political impasse, $1 billion in US aid money for Afghanistan would be cut, and funding in 2021 might also be reduced.
However, the statement about a complete troop withdrawal was not previously reported.
A former senior US official was quoted by NBC as saying that Pompeo told Ghani and Abdullah they would be held responsible if the president’s peace deal fails.
According to the former official, Pompeo told the Afghan leaders that Trump has followed through on other threats to withdraw troops and pull financial aid, said NBC report.
Pompeo told Abdullah that he must support Ghani, according to officials as quoted by NBC news.
This comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 7-hour visit to Kabul on March 23 where he met with President Ghani and his political opponent Abdullah Abdullah, separately, and in a joint meeting. But the meetings ended without a result.
A plane carrying over a million surgical masks for the IDF landed in Ben-Gurion airport Tuesday night, in an operation run by the US Department of Defense's Delegation of Procurement.
"In the past two weeks we have purchased and flown to Israel tens of thousands of swabs, masks, protective suits for medical staff and more," said Limor Kolishevsky, head of the New York Purchasing and Logistics Division.
"A million masks, procured in China, were quickly flown to Israel with the intention that the IDF will be using them within the next few days," he said.
This GOP Senator Conveniently Bought a Ton of Stock in a PPE Company After a Private Coronavirus Briefing
Since the day the Senate was briefed on the COVID-19 threat back in January, Georgia Sen. David Perdue and his wife bought up to $185,000 in stock in a company that makes personal protective equipment, according to financial disclosures filed over the past three months.
Perdue’s latest disclosure, filed Sunday, details 110 stock trades (as well as two investments in municipal bonds) involving up to $1.8 million in purchases and $825,000 in sales, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first reported Perdue’s latest disclosure.
Among his trades last month was a single purchase of up to to $15,000 in DuPont de Nemours, Inc., which makes and distributes personal protective equipment. Perdue, a former CEO of Dollar General, has bought DuPont stock 10 times over the past three months, beginning with up to $65,000 purchased on January 24, the day the Senate received a briefing on COVID-19. ...
Perdue is just the latest senator whose trading is being scrutinized after the coronavirus-related stock market crash last month.
Donald Trump was warned at the end of January by one of his top White House advisers that coronavirus had the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and derail the US economy, unless tough action were taken immediately, new memos have revealed.
The memos were written by Trump’s economic adviser, Peter Navarro, and circulated via the National Security Council widely around the White House and federal agencies.
They show that even within the Trump administration alarm bells were ringing by late January, at a time when the president was consistently downplaying the threat of Covid-19. ...
The Navarro memos, first reported by the New York Times and Axios, were written by Navarro on 29 January and 23 February. The first memo, composed on the day Trump set up a White House coronavirus task force, gave a worst-case scenario of the virus killing more than half a million Americans.
According to the Times, it said: “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil. This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.” The second memo went even further, predicting that a Covid-19 pandemic, left unchecked, could kill 1.2 million Americans and infect as many as 100 million.
Doctors have found tentative evidence that seriously ill coronavirus patients can benefit from infusions of blood plasma collected from people who have recovered from the disease. Two teams of medics working at separate hospitals in China gave antibody-rich plasma to 15 severely ill patients and recorded striking improvements in many of them.
In one pilot study, doctors in Wuhan gave “convalescent plasma” to 10 severely ill patients and found that virus levels in their bodies dropped rapidly. Within three days, the doctors saw improvements in the patients’ symptoms, ranging from shortness of breath and chest pains to fever and coughs.
Xiaoming Yang, from the National Engineering Technology Research Center for Combined Vaccines in Wuhan, described the treatment as a “promising rescue option” for severely ill patients, but cautioned that a larger randomised trial was needed to confirm the findings. Details of the pilot study are reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ...
The findings raise hopes that donated blood from recently recovered patients could be used to boost the immune systems of more vulnerable people and help them fight the infection. But with only a small number of patients so far treated with plasma, and the infusions given outside of formal trials, it is impossible to know how much benefit the treatment really brings.
Top Sanders Aide David Sirota Explains Why Billionaire Class Will Support "Coronavirus Care for All" But Never "Medicare for All"
David Sirota, senior advisor and speechwriter for Sen. Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign, gave a scathing account Monday of what he believes is driving foes of Medicare for All to embrace universal coverage for the treatment of COVID-19, dubbed "Coronavirus Care for All" by the progressive writer.
The highly contagious nature of the coronavirus is leading the affluent political class to look after their own interests, wrote Sirota. The wealthy are thus in this case backing a healthcare system in which "workers are only permitted to get the absolute minimum amount of free healthcare that may prevent them from infecting billionaires." Sirota made the argument Monday evening in a publicly available Facebook post, in which he noted that President Donald Trump and Sanders rival former Vice President Joe Biden are supporters of such a system.
Billionaires and lobbyists, wrote Sirota, can count on "gold-plated private health insurance," and aren't at risk when a low-wage worker is suffering from a serious—and expensive—but non-contagious health issue such as cancer.
Private heath insurance affords no such buffer when it comes to COVID-19.
A "billionaire Manhattanite and that Washington lobbyist may have great health insurance," wrote Sirota, but "they and their families are indeed personally jeopardized by that grocery worker being unable to afford COVID testing and treatment, because that grocery worker can spread the disease to the food supply and the larger community."
Sirota put the motivation for the narrowly focused government-backed coverage in harsh terms:
This anti-Medicare for All but pro-COVID-19 care for all mentality puts a spotlight on a harsh truth, wrote Sirota: "the rich and powerful will only act out of fear, never out of a sense of moral solidarity—and only in narrow ways that serve their own interests."
As the coronavirus rips through jails and prisons across the country and pressure mounts on corrections departments to stave off disaster, federal, state, and local officials have begun to release some incarcerated people in an effort to reduce prison density and slow the spread of the virus. But in Louisiana, which has both the highest incarceration rate in the country and one of the worst virus outbreaks, officials are bucking the trend. Rather than release people, they plan to isolate those who test positive for the virus in two maximum-security state facilities — a plan that critics said amounts to creating death camps. ...
Under the plan, local jails and state prisons without the equipment necessary to treat Covid-19 patients can send them to one of two facilities: the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola after the plantation that once operated there, or the Allen Correctional Center. The plan, which also applies to people held in pretrial detention, was met with a barrage of questions and criticism. Last week, the Promise of Justice Initiative and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent state officials from transferring Covid-19 patients to Angola. On Thursday, a federal judge denied the request. A federal judge in February declared parts of the prison’s medical care system unconstitutional, and is set to rule in the coming days in an ongoing class-action suit filed in 2015 by people incarcerated at the facility against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
“If you were lacking to start with, this crisis won’t make it easier, it will make it more challenging,” said Norris Henderson, who spent 27 years wrongfully incarcerated at Angola and now runs Voice of the Experienced, or VOTE, a New Orleans-based group of formerly incarcerated activists. “There is no way in any prison environment to have the social distancing that folks are calling for, and this is why there’s this national call across the country to start moving people out of these types of environments.”
Bernie goes spelunking.
Bernie Sanders Ends 2020 Campaign With Vow to Continue Struggle for 'What We Are Entitled to as Human Beings'
Sen. Bernie Sanders departed the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday with a forward-looking message to the diverse coalition of voters that made up his enthusiastic base of support across the United States.
"While this campaign is coming to an end," said Sanders, "our movement is not."
In a livestreamed address announcing the end of his campaign, the Vermont senator said that while he failed to achieve his goal of leading the Democratic ticket against President Donald Trump in November, the grassroots movement that drove his presidential bid "won the ideological struggle."
RoseAnn DeMoro, former executive director of National Nurses United and a vocal Sanders supporter, tweeted that "we changed the narrative, won the ideological struggle, Bernie is right about that."
"But our representatives will still belong to the wealthy," said DeMoro. "Wall Street won again. Thank you Bernie. We will carry on."
The stock market soared Wednesday in the aftermath of Sen. Bernie Sanders' suspension of his presidential campaign, a telling moment that emphasized the threat the Vermont lawmaker's bold agenda and egalitarian vision presented to Wall Street's bottom line.
As of this writing, the Dow Jones average had climbed more than 700 points following the senator's announcement.
"Sanders' exit removes the tail risk of some of his policies, immediately sets up focus on Biden vs. Trump," Ed Mills, Washington policy strategist at Raymond James, told CNBC Wednesday. "Biden's policies will get a new scrutiny now he is the presumptive nominee, but the truth of the matter is that the market will be looking towards Washington more to help the economy and much of the assistance matches his platform."
Last month, Biden stitched together a wide range of support from African Americans, suburbanites and working-class white voters to rack up wins across the country and amass an almost indomitable lead over his rival, democratic socialist senator Bernie Sanders. Yet missing from that coalition is the young and more liberal voters who overwhelmingly prefer Sanders’ call for political revolution to Biden’s promise of a return to “normalcy”.
Determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2016, when the party struggled to unify after a divisive primary battle that stretched into the summer convention, Biden is now amplifying his appeals to the party’s left.
According to campaign officials, his team has for weeks quietly engaged top progressive organizations and movement leaders representing a range of Democratic causes from climate change to racial justice. The effort, spearheaded by senior Biden advisers, includes outreach to legacy organizations such as Planned Parenthood as well as newer, youth-led groups like the Sunrise Movement.
Biden has also made overt gestures. He recently adopted a plan by his former rival, Elizabeth Warren, to overhaul the consumer bankruptcy system and embraced elements of Sanders’ tuition-free college proposal. “Let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by senator Sanders: I hear you,” Biden said after sweeping three major primary contests last month. “I know what is at stake. And I know what we have to do.” ...
Biden, confined to his home in Delaware amid the coronavirus outbreak, has so far struggled to re-create the grassroots excitement that has powered Sanders’ presidential bid, with packed rallies and an endless stream of small-dollar donations. Meanwhile, Sanders has continued to criticize his opponent’s record. ...
In a virtual fundraiser on Friday, Biden was optimistic that he could find common ground with the Democrats most leery of his campaign in time to bring the party together in November. “There’s a lot of good ideas they have – I disagree with many of them,” Biden said. But he continued: “There’s lot of significant change that can take place – both structurally and practically – that can bring everybody along.”
'One of the Most Brazen Acts of Voter Suppression in Modern Times' as US Supreme Court Blocks Absentee Ballot Extension in Wisconsin
The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority Monday night was accused of green-lighting "one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern times" after the body overturned a lower court ruling that extended the absentee voting deadline in Wisconsin by six days in an effort to allow people to more safely exercise the franchise amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a 5-4 decision (pdf) along ideological lines, the high court ruled that Wisconsin voters must hand-deliver their absentee ballots by the end of the day Tuesday or have them postmarked April 7 if their ballot is to be counted. The decision rewards Wisconsin Republicans and GOP groups that led the legal challenge against the extension of absentee voting until April 13.
Matthew DeFour, state politics editor at the Wisconsin State Journal, noted on Twitter following the ruling that "there is no postmark requirement in state law."
"The lower court judge changed the date, but did not add a postmark," DeFour said. "The U.S. Supreme Court has just written a new election law in Wisconsin."
In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court's conservative majority attempted to wash its hands of any responsibility for intensifying an ongoing public health crisis by refusing to allow Wisconsin to extend absentee voting.
"The court's decision on the narrow question before the court should not be viewed as expressing an opinion on the broader question of whether to hold the election, or whether other reforms or modifications in election procedures in light of COVID-19 are appropriate," the opinion stated.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned in a scathing dissent that the conservative majority's ruling "will result in massive disenfranchisement":
Because gathering at the polling place now poses dire health risks, an unprecedented number of Wisconsin voters—at the encouragement of public officials—have turned to voting absentee. About one million more voters have requested absentee ballots in this election than in 2016. Accommodating the surge of absentee ballot requests has heavily burdened election officials, resulting in a severe backlog of ballots requested but not promptly mailed to voters.
Slate's Mark Joseph Stern wrote late Monday that the high court's ruling "will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic."
"Because voters are rightfully afraid of COVID-19, Wisconsin has been caught off guard by a surge in requests for absentee ballots," Stern wrote. "Election officials simply do not have time, resources, or staff to process all those requests. As a result, a large number of voters—at least tens of thousands—won't get their ballot until after Election Day." ...
Let me be very clear about this. Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites will not receive their absentee ballots by Election Day BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC, THOUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN.
The U.S. Supreme Court's five conservatives just said: "Too bad. You don't get to vote."
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) April 6, 2020
The Supreme Court's ruling came just after the Wisconsin state Supreme Court overturned an executive order by Gov. Tony Evers and decided that Tuesday's elections—which include the Democratic presidential primary and nearly 4,000 down-ballot contests—must proceed as scheduled despite the dire public health threat posed by COVID-19.
Air pollution is linked to significantly higher rates of death in people with Covid-19, according to analysis. The work shows that even a tiny, single-unit increase in particle pollution levels in the years before the pandemic is associated with a 15% increase in the death rate. The research, done in the US, calculates that slightly cleaner air in Manhattan in the past could have saved hundreds of lives.
Given the large differences in toxic air levels across countries, the research suggests people in polluted areas are far more likely to die from the coronavirus than those living in cleaner areas. The scientists said dirty air was already known to increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is extremely deadly and a cause of Covid-19-related deaths, as well as other respiratory and heart problems. ...
The scientists said their findings could be used to ensure that areas with high levels of air pollution take extra precautions to slow the spread of the virus and deploy extra resources to deal with the outbreak. Air pollution has already fallen because of widespread lockdowns, but the scientists said ensuring cleaner air in the future would help reduce Covid-19 deaths.
The study, by researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston,analysed air pollution and Covid-19 deaths up to 4 April in 3,000 US counties, covering 98% of the population. ...
A small increase in exposure to particle pollution over 15-20 years was already known to increase the risk of death from all causes, but the new work shows this increase is 20 times higher for Covid-19 deaths. “The results are statistically significant and robust,” they said. The study took account of a range of factors, including poverty levels, smoking, obesity, and the number of Covid-19 tests and hospital beds available. They also assessed the effect of removing from the analysis both New York City, which has had many cases, and counties with fewer than 10 confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The world may be racked by the coronavirus, but Donald Trump has less earthly concerns on his mind, too, after signing an executive order encouraging the US to mine the moon for minerals. The executive order makes clear that the US doesn’t view space as a “global commons”, opening the way for the mining of the moon without any sort of international treaty.
“Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space,” the order states, noting that the US had never signed a 1979 agreement known as the moon treaty. This agreement stipulates that any activities in space should conform to international law. In 2015, the US Congress passed a law explicitly allowing American companies to use resources from the moon and asteroids.
According to Trump’s executive order, the US will object to any attempt to use international law to hinder its efforts to remove chunks of the moon or, should the opportunity arise, additional mining of Mars and “other celestial bodies”. ...
Trump has taken a consistent interest in asserting American power in space, forming the Space Force within the US military last year to conduct space warfare where needed. The president appeared to be confused about the composition of space, however, when he tweeted in June that Nasa “should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part).”
A rare hole has opened up in the ozone layer above the Arctic, in what scientists say is the result of unusually low temperatures in the atmosphere above the north pole.
The hole, which has been tracked from space and the ground over the past few days, has reached record dimensions, but is not expected to pose any danger to humans unless it moves further south. If it extends further south over populated areas, such as southern Greenland, people would be at increased risk of sunburn. However, on current trends the hole is expected to disappear altogether in a few weeks.
Low temperatures in the northern polar regions led to an unusual stable polar vortex, and the presence of ozone-destroying chemicals such as chlorine and bromine in the atmosphere – from human activities – caused the hole to form.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Georgia White - I'll Keep Sittin' On It
Georgia White - Was I Drunk
Georgia White - Dead Man´s Blues
Georgia White - The Stuff Is Here
Georgia White - The Blues Ain't Nothing But
Georgia White - Take Me For A Buggy Ride
Georgia White - Late Hour Blues
Georgia White - Rock Me Daddy
Georgia White - Tell Me Baby
Georgia White - Hot Nuts (Get 'em from the Peanut Man)