The Evening Blues - 7-13-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Memphis blues piano player and singer Rosco Gordon. Enjoy!
Rosco Gordon - Shoobie Oobie
"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it."
-- Abraham Lincoln
News and Opinion
At this point, it’s become a staple of dark humor to observe that 2020 has been the year in which the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seemingly decided to descend on the United States. Yet even before our fears of war, pestilence, and economic collapse began taking physical form, one could already observe morbid symptoms spreading within the extremities of our body politic. The strongest sign of a looming social illness has been the rebirth and spread of extremist ideologies — beliefs not long ago dismissed by liberal triumphalists as relics of historical memory. Mutated through new information technologies and drawing strength from feelings of economic and demographic dislocation, fascist and sectarian ideologies have found a home in the hearts of members of a new generation of Americans.
Whether most people have connected the dots or not, a violent struggle is already playing out. Over the past few years, a steady drumbeat of massacres have been carried out by extremists associated with the new far-right. These attacks have targeted synagogues, mosques, and communities where immigrants are concentrated. In their wake, the shooters left behind manifestos damning a world that they claimed was shrinking in space for people like them.
What these ideologues drifting within the currents of this movement have really been waiting for, however, is a real crisis, one that would give them an opportunity to put their ideas of racial warfare and ethnic purification into full effect. That crisis is here. The combination of the coronavirus and the sudden collapse of the American economy has given society an exogenous shock unseen in generations. The pandemic and the social tensions it has unleashed are likely to supercharge the forces that gave rise to the new far-right extremism, even as they produce countervailing energies that could revive the best promises of liberalism.
Although some have yet to accept it, the U.S. is in the midst of an unstoppable cultural and demographic transition into multiculturalism. ... This demographic shift, though, has also given rise to serious anxieties among some within the majority community — anxieties that helped enable the rise of a white nationalist named Donald Trump to the presidency. These majoritarian sentiments are likely to escalate as minority groups grow to embrace their own forms of racial consciousness, often based on redressing past injustices suffered at the hands of the majority. ...
On the surface, it seems that events are driving the U.S. in the opposite direction of white nationalist goals and that they will likely taste defeat. But, on the other hand, a structural collapse of American society that fractures it along ethnic lines is the prerequisite for their own dark vision of a society purified by the fires of racial violence.
The governor of Okinawa island in Japan has demanded that a United States military commander take tougher prevention measures and have more transparency after officials were told more than 60 marines at two bases have been infected with the coronavirus over the past few days. On Sunday Okinawan officials reported 61 cases, 38 of them at marine corps air station Futenma, which is at the center of a relocation dispute, and another 23 at Camp Hansen since 7 July.
US military officials have told them the two bases have been put into lockdown. The disclosure of the exact figures came only after repeated requests.
Late on Saturday governor Denny Tamaki spoke on the phone to Lt Gen H Stacy Clardy, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, and insisted the US increases its disease prevention measures to maximum levels, stops sending personnel to Okinawa and seals the bases. “It is extremely regrettable that the infections are rapidly spreading among US personnel when we Okinawans are doing our utmost to contain the infections,” Tamaki said.
“We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measures.”
Adding Insult to the 'Injury of Colonialism,' Trump Suggested Selling Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria, Former Advisor Says
According to a New York Times interview with Elaine Duke, who served as Homeland Security Secretary from 2017 to 2018 and worked in President Donald Trump's cabinet when Hurricane Maria severely damaged the island of Puerto Rico, the president suggested selling the territory when it became clear the federal government would have to assist with a major recovery effort.
Duke said in her interview, published Saturday, the president suggested "divesting" or selling Puerto Rico when it was struggling to recover from the storm, which killed at least 3,000 people in September 2017 and in the hurricane's aftermath.
"The president's initial ideas were more as a businessman, you know," Duke told the Times. "Can we outsource the electricity? Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?"
"I assure you Puerto Rico is not for sale!" Velazquez tweeted.
You may try to sell the office you hold, your personal integrity and your soul, Mr. President — but I assure you Puerto Rico is not for sale!https://t.co/QEmu4lA0vJ
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) July 11, 2020
Duke added that former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, dismissed her as being "emotional" when she suggested an emergency declaration as the hurricane approached.
"It’s not about the people, it's about the money,” Duke claimed Mulvaney told her. ...
The Times' report regarding Trump's suggestion that the U.S. government sell Puerto Rico came a year after White House staffers told the Wall Street Journal that the president had suggested purchasing Greenland from Denmark. That report prompted ridicule from Danish officials including Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the Danish People's Party, who called it "final proof that he has gone mad."
Florida broke the national record Sunday for the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases in any state since the beginning of the pandemic, adding more than 15,000 cases as its daily average death toll continued to also rise.
According to state Department of Health statistics, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases, and 45 deaths were recorded. California had the previous record of daily positive cases 11,694, set on Wednesday. New York had 11,571 on 15 April.
The numbers come at the end of a grim, record-breaking week as Florida reported 514 fatalities, an average of 73 per day. Three weeks ago, the state was averaging 30 deaths per day. Since the pandemic began in March, 4,346 people have died in Florida of Covid-19, the state says.
As of Sunday, there were more than 3.2 million total confirmed coronavirus cases across the US and 135,066 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.
More than 20 locations across the US were expected to either break or tie previous high temperature records on Sunday as the south of the country bakes in a heatwave.
The National Weather Service had numerous excessive heat warnings in place across a 2,000 mile swath stretching from southern California through to Mobile Bay in Alabama. Potentially record-breaking temperatures are expected in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas.
Many of the impacted areas are also experiencing issues with surging coronavirus cases, and some experts and officials are anxious heat could increase infections if people shelter indoors, or in areas with less ventilation.
Lara Pagano, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Centre, said there are 23 locations that they expect there to be “records tied or broken today”. The heatwave, which started on Saturday, is expected to peak in most places on Sunday but go on in Texas until Tuesday.
With Covid-19 Deaths on the Rise, Hardest-Hit States Report Hospitals Are Near Capacity Following Early Reopenings
Following weeks of warnings from public health experts regarding the dangers of allowing the public into bars, restaurants, and other enclosed spaces while coronavirus case numbers continue to rise in several states, hospitals in two of the hardest-hit states showed signs that the pandemic has spun out of control in the United States' current epicenters.
According to Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, 85% of the state's intensive care unit (ICU) beds were full as of Saturday morning. Fewer than 1,000 beds are currently available for patients who become critically ill with Covid-19 in a state where more than 11,000 new cases were reported on Friday. More than 9,000 new cases and 421 new hospitalizations were reported on Saturday.
Across the country, in Arizona, 90% of ICU beds were reported to be full according to The Guardian.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Friday evening that like healthcare workers did in New York City in April as hospitals rapidly became overrun with coronavirus patients, doctors and nurses in Arizona, Florida, and other states where cases are skyrocketing may soon become overwhelmed by the demand.
"We will have hospitals overwhelmed and not only in terms of ICU beds and hospitals—and that's bad—but exhausted hospital staff and hospital staff that [are] getting ill themselves," Hotez said. "So, we won't have enough manpower, human power, to manage all of this."
In Florida, at least 52 hospitals are currently at full capacity in their ICU's, but Gov. Ron DeSantis, a loyalist to President Donald Trump who began pushing to reopen the state's economy in early May, downplayed the situation.
"There'll be articles saying, 'Oh, my gosh. They're at 90 percent,'" DeSantis said at a press conference Friday. "Well, that's how hospitals normally run."
As tens of thousands of people in Florida became ill over the past two days, the state reopened Walt Disney World, one of its top tourist attractions, while DeSantis stressed the importance of schools reopening in the fall.
On 30 June, a bill of at least $765bn came due for the 50 states. Unlike the national government, these jurisdictions cannot print money or run deficits without violating their constitutions. States rely on sales and income taxes for revenue, which along with much of the economy has collapsed under the coronavirus pandemic. Without a big infusion of federal funds, states may have to lay off employees, take a scythe to social service programs and, who knows, maybe defund the police as well.
Federal help may not arrive soon. States received $150bn through the Cares Act for Covid-19 relief and the House passed a successor in May, the Heroes Act, which contains $915bn in flexible aid. But the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said he opposes borrowing more, suggesting instead states be allowed to file for bankruptcy. ...
Given their overstructured and underfunded condition, what can the states do to square their budgets and better address the pandemic’s havoc?
First, a state’s voters can switch party control. In Virginia, a Democratic majority elected in 2019 passed measures to protect LGBTQ residents, help undocumented migrants, improve the environment, fund roads and other transportation projects via a hike in the gas tax, and become the 38th state of ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which will put it into the constitution if the courts agree. ...
Second, citizens can vote with their feet. The pandemic has accelerated telework, consumption of streamed cultural products and reliance on shipped goods, making it more palatable for people to live where costs are lower. Taxing Amazon and Netflix at higher rates would be a timely option.
Third, and most important, Louis Brandeis’s adage about the states being the “laboratories of democracy” still carries great potential. ... Thus, if and when a state comes up with a workable way to wriggle out of the Covid-19 squeeze, voters, residents, industries, other states and the federal government will take note. That’s the American federalist approach. It’s the best shot we have.
A trio of law firms that are helping the Republican Party fight to restrict voting access took millions of dollars in federal support from a program created to help small businesses avoid layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The attorneys hired by the Republican National Committee on cases to restrict mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, Nevada and California all applied for and received loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, according to information released this week by the Small Business Administration.
The loans are completely forgivable — essentially free money — so long as the companies that receive them can show they used the money to keep people employed.
As small businesses around the U.S. fought to get coronavirus-relief loans, the Catholic Church, with its net worth in the billions, managed to rake in at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-funded forgivable loans — some of which went to dioceses that have had to pay out huge settlements for clergy sex-abuse scandals.
The U.S. Roman Catholic Church and its affiliates were approved for at least 3,500 separate loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, the $659 billion fund meant to help bolster the failing economy at the start of the pandemic in the U.S. The program, handled by the U.S. Small Business Administration, was part of the $1.8 trillion CARES Act passed in March.
Records show that at least 40 dioceses involved in sex abuse scandals over the last decade were approved for a loan, according to the Associated Press. The Los Angeles diocese, for example, was approved for at least 37 loans worth between $9 million and $23 million, despite paying out as much as $660 million to settle legal disputes and pay legal fees in 2014 alone.
Some of the other egregious payouts include nearly $1 million and $1.7 million for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the Archdiocese of Agana in Guam, respectively, both of which sued the federal government to get their portion of the PPP loans despite filing for bankruptcy as a result of clergy abuse-related expenses, as well as 15 loans worth at least $28 million for top execs in the Archdioceses of New York. ...
Through persistent lobbying on Capitol Hill and coaxing the president’s support during a group call with Catholic leaders, the Church was able to bypass the 500-worker limit on the loans.
The official autopsy report for Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old security guard killed by Los Angeles police last month, revealed that a deputy shot him in the back five times.
The findings from the Los Angeles county coroner, released on Friday, confirm an independent autopsy report released earlier this week by a family attorney. The sheriff’s department had faced intense scrutiny over its initial decision to request the findings be kept confidential under a security hold.
Guardado was shot on the evening of 18 June during a foot pursuit and a full autopsy was conducted 22 June. All five gunshot wounds were fatal and there were also graze wounds on the forearms as well as secondary fragment wounds, the report said.
“The findings of both autopsies are indisputable, and establish that Andres’ death was, without a doubt, the result of unjustified police violence against an innocent young man,” Adam Shea, an attorney for the family, said on Friday.
President Trump just saved his old friend Roger Stone from prison. Trump granted his former political adviser a full commutation following Stone’s conviction for lying to Congress under oath and witness tampering during the Russia investigation, making good on a move Trump’s been signaling for months.
Trump, who’s lately been running for reelection on a “law & order” platform, overruled objections from his inner circle that he had nothing to gain from letting Stone walk free after a criminal conviction. Even Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, hailed the case against Stone as “a righteous prosecution.”
Never mind: Trump did it anyway.
“Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump presidency,” the White House said in a statement Friday evening. Mueller’s investigators, the White House said, charged Stone with “crimes arising solely from their own improper investigation.”
Krystal and Saagar: Chris Hayes STILL LYING About Roger Stone & Russiagate, Mueller To Testify Again
Liberals are such crazy idiots. They pretend to stand for truth and logic then spend years promoting the fact-free Trump-Russia collusion narrative. They pretend to stand for social justice then drop those values the second it becomes politically convenient, like making homophobic jokes about Trump and Putin, calling Lindsey Graham “Lady G” for being a closeted gay man, and lecturing black political leaders about how black people should think and vote. They pretend to stand for the little guy, then support austerity and war while literally worshipping John McCain.
Just last night on MSNBC Chris Hayes was talking about Trump’s controversial commuting of Roger Stone’s prison sentence and he parroted the completely false and utterly baseless claim that Stone was a “go between” for WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign.
“Roger Stone was what he looked like: a go-between between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, and then he lied about it, which is what he was convicted for,” Hayes said.
This is just completely untrue. The only communications between Stone and WikiLeaks prior to the November 2016 presidential election were WikiLeaks telling Stone to stop falsely claiming that he was in communication with the outlet and had been getting information from them. Stone told the Trump campaign to expect WikiLeaks to publish damning leaks after it was already public knowledge that this was to be expected. Everyone involved in the story has denied that there was ever any back channel to WikiLeaks, and there is no evidence that they are lying. Nothing in Stone’s conviction has anything to do with being “a go-between between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks”, because he wasn’t one.
It’s July 2020, and @chrislhayes is still peddling the conspiracy theory that Roger Stone “was a go-between between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks.” Does it matter that Mueller, Stone’s trial, & every person involved refuted this fantasy? pic.twitter.com/xAXze7RytR
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) July 11, 2020
But Hayes said it like it’s a fact anyway. One of the most popular reporters on on the most virulently pro-Democrat network in America told his audience an objectively false thing, will suffer no consequences for doing so, and will probably never even have to issue a correction, because lying about anything even remotely related to Russia is considered normal and acceptable in today’s liberal mainstream media.
Yet this same political faction will lament the “post-truth era” they claim Trump has ushered in.
Liberals (or “neoliberals” or “corporate liberals” or “centrists” or whatever word you think everyone should be using for this ideology that nobody can agree on a label for) are just a fake imitation of the thing that actual leftists are. Leftists actually fight for justice, equality, peace, truth and anti-authoritarianism, while liberals are cheerleading Joe Biden and sociopathic intelligence agencies and throwing endless inertia on any movement toward real change. Leftists are the thing that liberals pretend to be.
And that’s why liberals hate the true left: because leftists are a constant reminder that liberals aren’t what they pretend to be. That they are just conservatives wearing a fake plastic mask of justice and sanity. That their lives are a crude crayon drawing of the values they pretend to espouse, a layer of feel-good narratives and podcasts and Hamilton songs wallpapered over a rapacious omnicidal machine of endless war, ecocide and oppression.
And of course that’s not entirely their fault; they’ve been psychologically brutalized into their position by generations of mass media propaganda. But it is ultimately everyone’s own responsibility to expand their own consciousness to the point that they can be useful to the world. At some point, liberals, you’ve got to wake the hell up.
With the unveiling of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden’s “joint task force” proposals for the 2020 Democratic Party platform, Sanders has put the final nail in the coffin of his so-called “political revolution.”
The joint task force initiative was first announced when Sanders gave his endorsement of Biden in mid-April. The task forces were composed of leading members of the Sanders and Biden campaigns, including two members of the Democratic Socialists of America: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. The initiative was meant to promote “party unity” ahead of the election. The result of the Biden-Sanders collaboration is nothing short of a total repudiation of all the central pillars of Sanders’ campaign amid the greatest social and economic catastrophe in US history.
Most notably absent in the proposals is Sanders’ hallmark “Medicare-for-all” plan, which has been replaced by calls to “re-open the Affordable Care Act marketplaces” and provide a public option. A reduction in the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 60 is meant to serve as Biden’s “progressive” fig leaf on health care. Just four years ago, Hillary Clinton’s campaign had called for a lowering of Medicare eligibility to age 50. Other policies central to the Sanders’ campaign that were dropped include a federal jobs guarantee, the Green New Deal, free college tuition and the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Instead, the non-binding recommendations for the Democratic Party platform consist of platitudes about ensuring “equity” for all Americans and minor policy reforms that the Democratic Party has no intention of implementing. The Democratic Party platform has no practical import in any event. Many young people and workers will recall that when Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, he proclaimed that she and the party had adopted the “most progressive party platform in history.” Sanders, who is proving in real time to be the Democratic Party’s most enthusiastic cheerleader, is once again getting out his pom-poms ahead of the 2020 elections. Following the announcement of the task force proposals, Sanders went as far as predicting that Biden could become the “most progressive president” since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Who does he think he is fooling? Biden has a nearly 50-year history of carrying out the dictates of the ruling class. He supported the Iraq war and the end of the Glass–Steagall restrictions on financial speculation. He helped pass legislation that led to the mass incarceration of the poorest and most oppressed layers of the population. If elected, a Biden administration, with the participation of many of those involved in the “unity” initiative, will preside over an intensification of austerity, further attacks on democratic rights and an expansion of war and militarism.
The prostration of Sanders before the Biden campaign was entirely predictable and in line with the nature of his campaign. As reality has demonstrated so clearly the need for socialism, Sanders’ response has been to shift ever further to the right.
'No Militarists' or 'Corporate Goons': Progressives Urge Biden to Appoint Foreign Policy Team That Rejects Status Quo of Endless War
Dozens of progressive anti-war and environmental organizations are demanding presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden commit to appointing a foreign policy team dedicated to fundamentally shifting U.S. national security strategy away from the "disastrous" and "overly-militarized" status quo.
In a letter (pdf) to Biden on Tuesday, 31 advocacy groups urged the former vice president to select "personnel that meet a set of basic principles" and disqualify anyone who participated or was complicit in the Bush administration's torture regime, opposed the Iran deal, supports Israeli annexation of Palestinian land, or has worked for a private military contractor.
"The personnel you choose to staff your potential transition team and future administration will reflect your administration's policy priorities and its approach to international engagement," the groups wrote to Biden, whose support for the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq drew scrutiny and criticism throughout the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
"The failure to hold George W. Bush administration officials accountable for disastrous and unlawful decisions that made the United States and the world less safe impeded the Obama administration's ability to carry out its stated agenda and rectify harmful errors of the past," the groups wrote.
To qualify for a position on Biden's foreign policy team, the groups said, potential appointees should meet a series of "minimum requirements":
- Recognition of mass inequality, white nationalism, climate change, pandemics, and authoritarianism as critical national security challenges that must be prioritized;
- Advocacy for international cooperation, not competition, including "great power" competition, to resolve common challenges and create accountability for abuses;
- Embrace of reducing the Pentagon's budget to fully resource and prioritize nonmilitary solutions—such as peace building, conflict prevention, and diplomacy—as the primary tools to address violence and violent conflict, including as the main approach to addressing violent groups that perpetrate terrorism;
- Support for the United States' accession to, robust engagement with, and funding of international treaties and agreements, as well as international bodies and organizations that enhance international norms and rule of law, and limit and reduce the amount of nuclear weapons and materials in the world;
- Emphasis of the importance of engaging and prioritizing the importance of civil society and local stakeholders in national security and foreign policymaking.
"In a time of global pandemic—as people across the nation rise up against a violence-first approach to addressing social ills here at home—one thing should be absolutely clear: the foreign policy status quo has not kept us safe," said Kate Kizer, policy director of Win Without War, one of the letter's signatories.
"It's time to break with the past and build toward a new, progressive vision of U.S. foreign policy," said Kizer. "That means ensuring that those who hold the levers of power are not the same old guard of the national security establishment. If a Biden administration is to lead us to a more just, equitable, and peaceful world, it must first ensure that its decision-makers meet these basic requirements."
Other signatories include Beyond the Bomb, Peace Action, Justice Democrats, Center for Biological Diversity, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, and CodePink.
More than two weeks since New York’s Democratic primaries, Jamaal Bowman maintains a double-digit lead over Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, who has filed a preemptive lawsuit preserving his campaign’s right to challenge the validity of absentee ballots.
With all 50,575 in-person ballots counted, Bowman, a former middle school principal backed by Justice Democrats and the Democratic Socialists of America, leads Engel by more than 12,600 votes. Absentee ballots, meanwhile, are still being counted, with delays caused by the historic number of absentee ballots cast because of the coronavirus pandemic — around 765,000 distributed in New York City alone. The Board of Elections has said it is not sure how long it will take to finish counting absentee ballots, though the Bowman and Engel campaigns say they’ve been told that it will take until early August.
In New York’s 16th Congressional District, there are more than 12,000 outstanding ballots in the Bronx and 27,382 in Westchester, according to election officials. (Among in-person voters, Bowman got around 15,000 votes in each county, while Engel received 9,607 votes in Westchester and 8,405 in the Bronx.) Westchester County officials expect they will begin counting absentee ballots for the congressional race by Monday. The Bronx County Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment, but Bowman is leading absentee ballots there, according to his campaign.
Jerry Goldfeder, a longtime election law expert in New York City, is representing Engel’s campaign in the lawsuit, which was filed on July 1. Engel’s campaign is seeking the ability to oversee the absentee ballot-counting process and the right to contest those ballots. Bowman’s campaign has said the lawsuit would unnecessarily prolong the campaign and could disenfranchise voters. Given Bowman’s 25-point lead, a substantial portion of the 40,000 absentee ballots would have to be invalidated for the race to tip in Engel’s favor — a highly unlikely scenario. It is not unusual for campaigns to file such lawsuits in close races, but it’s less common when the gap is so large.
Democratic candidates competing in state legislative and congressional races across Florida are revolting against the Florida Democratic Party, saying that the party has abandoned them — and that the party’s refusal to support their efforts to flip the legislature could hurt Joe Biden in November. Several candidates are being denied access to a powerful voter data tool, significantly impairing their ability to organize and campaign, and are now asking the state Democratic Party to either help turn Florida blue or get out of their way.
More than 50 candidates signed onto a letter on Thursday demanding that the Florida Democratic Party share access to its voter files and resources. For access to VAN, the widely used Democratic voter file technology firm, the party is charging about $3,500 for a congressional campaign, $1,500 for state Senate, and $750 for House — fees that many candidates can’t afford before their campaigns get off the ground. State Democratic parties in New Jersey, Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska, The Progressive noted in a 2018 article, do not charge candidates to access their voter data. The Democratic Party charges congressional candidates about $3,000 in Texas and about $5,000 in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina. ...
Adam Christensen, one of three Democratic candidates running for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, said the Florida Democratic Party is missing a huge opportunity, putting a “start-up cost” on something that should be an investment. “If these candidates had the voter files, the data, the information on where to canvass, who to canvass, not only would it increase the amount of Democrats in Florida, it would in turn increase donations, it would increase the amount of races that are won in Florida,” he said. “But right now the Democratic Party is more concerned with making money off candidates, who they essentially see as suckers, and they will not call them back, they will not give them any actual backing.” ...
This election cycle marks the first time that some Democratic candidates are challenging previously uncontested, Republican-held legislative seats. For decades, the Florida Democratic Party has refused to run Democrats for state House and Senate in deep red districts, offering little resistance to the Republican takeover. That changed this year, when the voting rights group 90 for 90, with help from local progressive groups, recruited challengers and helped raise money to cover the massive ballot access fees to run for these long-ignored seats.
Florida also has the second highest fees in the country to get on the ballot, requiring congressional candidates to obtain 5,000 signatures or fork over $10,500. And because the coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult to obtain the number of signatures necessary for the petition, this means candidates are expected to pay the large fees on top of the fees to access VAN. For working-class candidates or young people trying to run for office, Christensen said, “it’s game over.”
Watchdog Accuses Trump's NOAA of 'Choosing Extinction' for Critically Threatened Right Whales by Hiding Scientific Evidence
As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.
Only 400 right whales are left in existence, and fewer than 250 of them are mature, leading the IUCN to drop its "endangered" classification for the whale and add it to its "critically endangered" Red List.
According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), NOAA has access to extensive science showing the danger in which humans have placed the whales, but internal emails show the agency aimed to put a positive spin on the outlook for the creatures.
Emails from February 2020 show career scientific staff writing that political officials within the agency were "freaked out" at the notion of the press reporting on Dragon, a female right whale who has not been seen in months and is presumed dead.
"But they'd be all over another calf sighting," NOAA Fisheries biologist Tim Cole wrote.
"Ah, I see. They only want to share the good news, not the bad," replied Allison Henry, another scientist at the agency.
According to PEER, 100% of North Atlantic right whale fatalities are caused by boats striking them and by entanglements in fishing gear.
"The North Atlantic right whale is the world's first large whale species nearing extinction," said PEER science policy director Kyla Bennett. "Its extinction is entirely preventable. NOAA has powerful tools to protect the North Atlantic right whale, but it is choosing not to use them. In this case, NOAA is choosing extinction."
In addition to fishing boats and 900,000 vertical lines that right whales are forced to navigate during lobster season, the whales' wellbeing is threatened by seismic airgun blasts conducted by oil and gas companies for offshore drilling.
In March, Democracy Forward called on the inspector general of the U.S. Commerce Department to investigate whether political appointees at NOAA had altered career scientists' proposed conservation measures regarding the blasts.
Reports that appointees modified scientists' warnings "raise troubling questions about whether political appointees at NOAA violated federal law and NOAA’s own Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity, which mandates that in 'no circumstance may any NOAA official ask or direct Federal scientists or other NOAA employees to suppress or alter scientific findings,'" Democracy Forward said.
Weeks after Trump opened the Atlantic's only marine sanctuary to commercial fishing, endangered Atlantic right whales have now been declared critically endangered. The reason for their deadly decline since 2011? Commerical fishing. https://t.co/vbzqmAYg4S
— Darryl Fears (@bydarrylfears) July 9, 2020
Democracy Forward demanded an investigation by the U.S. Commerce Department's inspector general.
"In reportedly bowing to political pressure and altering required scientific analysis in the policymaking process, NOAA appointees may have violated federal law and NOAA's own regulations, and jeopardized the very survival of the North Atlantic right whale," said Democracy Forward senior counsel Michael Martinez at the time. "The Trump administration's practice of injecting politics into the scientific decision-making process risks NOAA's credibility as a fact and science-driven agency. An investigation is warranted."
PEER called for a similar probe in 2019 when the National Marine Fisheries Service reportedly omitted scientific research about endangerment in its reporting on the right whale, but neither investigation has been completed.
NOAA has also failed to aggressively restrict the activities of fishing boats even when the agency is aware of right whales in a particular offshore area, PEER said Thursday.
Federal Judge Nixes Part of Glyphosate Settlement That Would Allow a Panel of Scientific “Experts”, Rather Than Juries, to Decide Whether the Chemical is Carcinogenic for Future Claims
Federal district court judge Vince Chhabria last Monday effectively torpedoed a controversial part of Bayer’s proposed $10.9 billion glyphosate settlement, which he must approve – thus effectively nixing the provision.Bayer wants a panel of specially selected scientific experts to decide whether something causes cancer or not, taking that decision away from future juries.
According to the New York Times, judge Chhabria said:
he “is skeptical of the propriety and fairness of the proposed settlement, and is tentatively inclined to deny the motion.” He raised concerns about the creation of a scientific panel to decide whether the key ingredient, glyphosate, causes cancer and whether the agreement unfairly limits potential plaintiffs from suing.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, Bayer acquired Monsanto in August 2018 and assumed its Roundup-related liabilities. Bayer now faces liability for about 125,000 lawsuits throughout the United States. Three multi-million dollar verdicts have been returned so far and Bayer is appealing each of these judgments.
Bayer is keen to cap its Roundup-related legal exposure not only for the 95,000 lawsuits that have already been filed, but also to bind the roughly 30,000 plaintiffs who have only got so far as to contact a lawyer but have yet either to file suit, let alone agree to any settlement offer.
The amount to be paid out for 95,000 existing lawsuits has been negotiated. The panel’s carcinogenicity determination would apply to and limit the options for those 30,000 potential plaintiffs. According to the NYT:
The settlement, announced two weeks ago after months of effort with the help of the veteran mediator Kenneth R. Feinberg, includes $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to cover about 95,000 cases. In addition, $1.25 billion was set aside to finance the scientific panel and assist impoverished Roundup users with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
As I mentioned when I last posted on this topic, in Bayer Agrees to $10.9 Billion Glyphosate Settlement(quoting the Wall Street Journal), such a provision would be rare. Not only will the panel decide on whether glyphosate causes cancer and at what levels, but Bayer and other litigants would be bound by its determination in future proceedings.
From Fossil Fuel Companies to Schools, 350+ Facilities Stopped Tracking Water Pollution Under EPA's Temporary Pandemic Policy
Bolstering warnings from environmental and public health advocates about the Trump administration's March decision to temporarily suspend pollution tracking requirements under the guise of providing relief to companies during the coronavirus pandemic, The Hill reported Friday that at least 352 facilities nationwide have used the policy to skip monitoring their water pollution.
Critics have expressed concerns over the policy since the Environmental Protection Agency, headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, announced (pdf) the indefinite suspension on March 26.
Since March, fossil fuel facilities, schools, water treatment plants, and other entities across all 10 of the EPA's regional jurisdictions have taken advantage of the eased Clean Water Act requirements, according to a list the agency shared with The Hill. As the outlet reported:
One facility on the list is owned by a company accused of Clean Water Act violations stemming from oil spills in Wyoming in 2016 and 2019.
The EPA on March 18 said Houston-based Citation Oil & Gas Corp. would pay a civil penalty of $115,000 to resolve allegations of regulatory violations surrounding the oil spills.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Activists continue to raise concerns about long-term impacts of the suspension. Jared Margolis of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which has threatened to sue the EPA over the policy, told The Hill that "one waiver can be a big deal from our perspective."
"It matters where exactly they are, what the pollutants are, how much output there was," Margolis said. "If one of those is emitting toxic pollutants or other contaminants in a habitat for an endangered species, then one is too many, much less 300."
The Hill noted that "Clean Water Act discharges were not the only type of pollution-monitoring impacted by the temporary EPA policy. Facilities are permitted to skip other types of pollution monitoring, meaning the total number of facilities taking advantage of the policy likely exceeds 352."
352 facilities have skipped reporting their water pollution under a temporary EPA easement related to the coronavirus.
At least 1 recently settled with the agency over alleged Clean Water Act violations. https://t.co/EOX4uF3x5K
— Rachel Frazin (@RachelFrazin) July 10, 2020
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Rosco Gordon - The Chicken
Rosco Gordon - No More Doggin'
Rosco Gordon - Cheese and Crackers
Rosco Gordon - Just A Little Bit
Rosco Gordon - Just Love Me Baby
Rosco Gordon - Three Cent Love
Rosco Gordon - Sally Jo
Rosco Gordon - Goin Home
Rosco Gordon - New Orleans Wimmen
Roscoe Gordon - Keep On Doggin'
Rosco Gordon - Jesse James