The Evening Blues - 8-3-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and boogie-woogie piano player Cow Cow Davenport. Enjoy!
Cow Cow Davenport - Cow Cow Blues (Take B)
"One of the main lessons I’ve learned from the Trump era is that one can see literally anything as “a gift to Vladimir Putin” if they squint hard enough and are stupid enough."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
In August 2011, as Libya’s rebels and Nato jets began an assault on Tripoli, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi delivered a speech calling on his supporters to defend the country from foreign invaders. “There is a conspiracy to control Libyan oil and to control Libyan land, to colonise Libya once again. This is impossible, impossible. We will fight until the last man and last woman to defend Libya from east to west, north to south,” he said in a message broadcast by a pro-regime television station. Two months later, the dictator was dragged bleeding and confused from a storm drain in his hometown of Sirte, before being killed.
Nine years on, after the outbreak of a second civil war, Gaddafi’s proclamation is not far from the truth – but as the US has retreated from the role it played in his downfall, a constellation of emboldened regional powers has descended on Libya instead. As the battle moves to Sirte, gateway to the country’s oil crescent, a potential showdown over control of Libya’s oil wealth is looming. ... In violation of an international arms embargo, the city and surrounding desert have been flooded with weapons and fighters in recent weeks as forces loyal to the government in Tripoli mobilise on one side of the frontline, and those fighting for General Khalifa Haftar, appointed by the rival parliament in Tobruk, line up on the other.
At stake is Libya’s greatest treasure: the largest oil reserves in the entire African continent. The majority of the country’s oilfields are in the Sirte basin, worth billions of dollars a year. Haftar’s forces, who are in control of Sirte, imposed a blockade on oil exports in January, causing revenues to plummet as daily production dropped off from around 1 million barrels to just 100,000 barrels a day. Forced to impose pay cuts for civil servants and currently spending from reserves inherited from the Gaddafi era, Tripoli is desperate to dislodge Haftar’s forces. ... The GNA’s main allies are the Muslim Brotherhood-friendly Turkey and Qatar, and to some extent Italy, which relies on the GNA to stop the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to its shores. Haftar is supported by leaders of the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who view political Islam as a threat to their own power, and by Russia, which is fresh from its successes in Syria and is intent on expanding its footprint in the Arab world. The UK government under David Cameron and France under Nicolas Sarkozy were instrumental in overthrowing Gaddafi – but while London now works diplomatically from the sidelines, Paris has kept a strong hand in events on the ground. ...
It may not have happened the way Gaddafi envisaged in 2011, but today he certainly wouldn’t recognise Libya, which has indeed evolved into a playground for foreign powers. The fate of Libya’s people is increasingly in their hands.
More than a thousand people showed up in downtown Portland early on Saturday to peacefully protest, about three days after the announcement that the presence of US agents there would be reduced – a deal that Oregon officials hope will continue to ease tensions as the city tries to move on from months of chaotic nightly protests.
Friday’s overnight protest mimicked Thursday’s, which was the first time in weeks that demonstrations ended without any major confrontations, violence or arrests.
The change in tone outside a federal courthouse that has become ground zero in clashes between demonstrators and federal agents came after the US government began drawing down its forces in the liberal city under a deal between the Democratic governor, Kate Brown, and the Trump administration.
The fence that has separated protesters and US agents stationed at the courthouse was decorated with balloons and upside-down American flags sewn together with “BLM” painted across. At one point in the night a small firework was shot over the fence. As it sizzled out on its own, protesters pleaded with others to remain peaceful. Later, a few small fires were occasionally started outside the courthouse, with at least one put out by other protesters.
Unlike previous weeks, protesters were not centered mainly outside the courthouse, but scattered throughout downtown. ...
“Last night, the world was watching Portland,” Brown said in a tweet Friday. “Here’s what they saw: Federal troops left downtown. Local officials protected free speech. And Oregonians spoke out for Black Lives Matter, racial justice, and police accountability.”
This summer, as millions of Americans marched and put their lives on the line for racial justice and an end to police brutality, too many wealthy Americans have done nothing more than offer their solidarity and moral support. Our country’s most fortunate have gotten rich thanks to a system that has for centuries excluded fellow Americans from the nation’s prosperity. They can, and should, go beyond statements in support of racial justice and Black Lives Matter and put their money where their mouth is.
If America’s millionaires tried even one-tenth as hard to end police brutality as they’ve tried to cut their own taxes, we would be looking at a completely different world.
Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, one of the largest financial management firms in the world and my former employer, is a perfect example of the problem with the way rich people approach these issues. Mr Fink has voiced a commitment to racial equity and said all the right things in the last few weeks, but he has not actually done what he professes to believe in. “As a firm committed to racial equality, we must also consider where racial disparity exists in our own organizations and not tolerate our shortcomings,” he said, in a statement published on 30 May.
Yet, at the same time as Mr Fink is sympathizing with a movement against anti-Blackness, he has remained a donor to the New York Police Foundation (NYPF), which pays for equipment and training and provides incentives for anonymous tips that lead to arrests. For the last three years, Mr Fink has served as co-chair of the NYPF’s annual gala. Funding and publicly supporting the NYPF means that despite his stated commitment to racial equity, Mr Fink has chosen to stand with a group of people who have murdered some of our fellow citizens. The police are clients of BlackRock, but Mr Fink can take a powerful stand for racial justice by making sure his personal contributions reflect his stated commitments. His dollars don’t have to reflect BlackRock’s client list.
The $600 weekly unemployment insurance supplement enacted in March as part of the bipartisan multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street expired Friday, leaving some 25 million US workers laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic facing destitution. The loss of the federal supplement to state jobless insurance will cut benefits by up to 80 percent in some states, dropping the average national payment from $920 a week to $520, according to some estimates.
In addition, a moratorium on evictions of tenants in buildings with mortgages backed by the federal government, affecting 18 million of the 44 million renter households in the US, expired last week. This means that 11 million households could be served with eviction papers over the next four months, according to the global advisory firm Stout Risius Ross LLC. With home mortgage payment moratoriums also expiring, a vast growth of homelessness is looming.
Mile-long lineups of cars at food distribution centers have already become commonplace. A cutoff or reduction in the unemployment pay supplement will greatly increase the spread of hunger and even starvation in the US. Already, almost 40 million people do not expect to be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment, and nearly 30 million say they did not have enough to eat during the week ending July 21. The official unemployment rate, at 11.1 percent, remains the highest since World War II, and the government reported Thursday that new jobless claims for the week ending July 18 rose for the second week in a row, climbing to 1.43 million.
The Labor Department reports that 33.8 million workers are either receiving jobless benefits or have applied and are waiting to see if they will receive them. These workers account for fully 20 percent of the US labor force. ...
Under these conditions, the stalemate in Congress over an extension of the unemployment pay supplement, which is certain to result in either the total elimination or a major cut in the benefit, amounts to a declaration of war by the capitalist ruling elite against the entire working population. This was underscored by the response on Wall Street, where the financial oligarchy reacted to the expiration of benefits on Friday by driving up stock prices on all of the major indices. The Dow climbed by 114 points and Nasdaq shot up by 157 points.
Americans angry with inaction from Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump on extending $600 a week unemployment benefits are accusing the government of not living up to its responsibility to care for the public during the Covid-19 pandemic as the boost in aid expired Friday.
"In the middle of this pandemic they're playing with us," said Candida Kevorkian, a 53-year-old California woman relying on the payments to survive, told the Washington Post Saturday.
The benefits are credited with keeping the economy from a complete collapse due to the ongoing nationwide Covid-19 outbreak and staving off a wave of evictions many advocates fear is coming now that the weekly infusion is gone. But the initial program, passed in the CARES Act in late March, only ran until the end of July.
House Democrats approved the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus package which included an extension of the unemployment benefit boost, in late May, but GOP lawmakers in the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), took no action on the bill, instead presenting a competing bill known as the HEALS Act last month that cut the payment to $200 a week. That legislation was dead on arrival, however, not even generating necessary support within the caucus due to the level of spending.
The White House and the GOP Senate leadership floated a one-week extension for the benefits, but that fix—such as it is—was rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Thursday evening.
"We recognize the gravity of the situation," Pelosi told reporters Friday. "They don't."
Negotiations are, reportedly, ongoing—but the Republican-led Senate nonetheless adjourned for the weekend on Thursday.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told MSNBC Friday night the choice to leave town was "inexplicable" and urged his GOP colleagues to negotiate a workable solution to the ongoing crisis with House Democrats.
"I hear senators making $175,000 a year complaining that these 'lazy workers are getting so much money,'" said Brown. "People haven't sunk into poverty in significant numbers at all during this pandemic because of the $600 a week."
The fix is simple, 38-year-old New Haven, Connecticut resident Raven Holmes told the Post.
"Money is not a resource that can be depleted. It's a man-made thing," said Holmes. "If you need more make more."
"There are other countries—their citizens are fine, nobody is suffering, and everybody is healthy," she added. "All our government wants is money in their pockets, while the people are poor and starving and scrounging."
House speaker Nancy Pelosi escalated an attack on Dr Deborah Birx, a senior scientist on Donald Trump’s coronavirus taskforce, in television comments on Sunday as Birx defended the administration’s handling of the pandemic. Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, was asked on ABC’s This Week whether she has confidence in Birx, a renowned public health expert who has frequently appeared alongside Trump in briefings on the virus.
“I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no,” Pelosi told ABC. However Pelosi praised another scientist on Trump’s task force, Dr Anthony Fauci. Pelosi’s comments came as Birx made an appearance of her own on cable television, and warned that widespread coronavirus infections in urban and rural America mark a “new phase” for the pandemic in the US, as she doubled down on calls to wear face masks and observe social distancing.
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread,” she said. The United States has the world’s largest number of cases at 4.6m, or one-quarter of the global total, and 154,361 deaths. Birx said mitigation efforts across the west and the south are beginning to work but warned that people need to take the virus seriously and employ significant safety precautions when cases first begin to tick up.
Pelosi’s comments built on a report last week that she criticized Birx to Republican counterparts negotiating a new coronavirus relief package.
California capped its worst month of the coronavirus pandemic, reporting a record number of deaths on four separate days in just over a week. And even as the virus shows signs of slowing its spread in some regions, other pockets of the state still find themselves in the center of the storm.
California has tallied 493,140 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
July saw California overtake New York as the state with the nation’s highest case count. It ranks 28th in the nation for per capita fatalities, with 22 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New Jersey, by contrast, counted 177 deaths per 100,000 residents.
There are signs the spread of the virus is slowing. New cases ticked down in July’s last week, now averaging 8,322 a day. The positivity rate dropped slightly to 7.2% – a percentage point decrease from earlier in the month, but still above the 5% positivity rate the World Health Organization recommends before lifting lockdown restrictions.
Still, the state tallied 2,844 deaths attributed to the virus in July, roughly 800 more than any previous month. Thirty-eight of the state’s 58 counties – accounting for 94% of the state’s population – have now been placed on the state’s watchlist for infection trends that worry public health officials.
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose by 1.9 million and deaths from the disease by over 25,000 in the month of July, another sign of President Donald Trump's failure to slow the pandemic.
The numbers from July represent 42% of the country's total cases since the outbreak began and a 69% increase in infections altogether.
New coronavirus cases are picking up at a dangerous pace in much of the Midwest and in areas that had seen apparent progress. The U.S. recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July, more than double the number documented in any other month @nytimes
— Chris Jansing (@ChrisJansing) August 2, 2020
"It is extraordinarily widespread," White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN Sunday.
According to the New York Times:
Gone is any sense that the country may soon get ahold of the pandemic. The seven-day average for daily new infections has hovered around 65,000 for the past two weeks, more than doubling the peak average from the spring, when the country experienced what was essentially its first wave.
"It didn't have to be like this," tweeted Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. "We need a national mask mandate. Now!"
While cases increase around the country, GOP lawmakers from the White House on down continue to downplay the severity of the crisis and question the levels of infections. As Common Dreams reported, Trump on Saturday repeated the baseless claim that increased testing was to blame for the rise in cases.
Camouflaged U.S. Border Patrol agents in armored vehicles launched a nighttime raid on a humanitarian aid camp in Southern Arizona on Friday. Agents zip-tied volunteers’ hands behind their backs, shouted at them with rifles raised, and confiscated their cellphones as well as the organization’s medical records. At least two helicopters hovered above the camp and a film crew documented the operation on the ground. Agents moved through camp structures and arrested more than 30 undocumented immigrants who were receiving treatment after trekking through the desert in the middle of heat wave. The humanitarian group, No More Deaths, a faith-based organization out of Tucson, believes the operation was likely part retaliation, part violent publicity stunt. The raid marked the second time in two years that the Border Patrol descended on one of No More Deaths’ aid stations immediately after the group published materials that cast a negative light on the border enforcement agency.
On Wednesday, the group shared documents regarding a remarkably similar raid on the same camp three years ago, which showed the Border Patrol’s national union clamoring for a crackdown on No More Deaths. On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the documents were posted online, Border Patrol entered the camp without a warrant and took an undocumented woman into custody. The agency then surrounded the location and set up a checkpoint to detain and search volunteers as they came and went. The camp remained surrounded until Friday’s raid.
Montana Thames, who gathered accounts from the detained volunteers, described the operation as a militarized show of force that featured the same Border Patrol tactical teams that were recently deployed to suppress protests in Portland, Oregon. According to Thames, who is also a No More Deaths volunteer, when agents entered the camp in Arivaca, Arizona, roughly 10 miles north of the border, they claimed they had a warrant but refused to show it. “They pretty aggressively got people out of there and then trashed the camp,” Thames told The Intercept Saturday. In addition to the aircraft hovering above the camp, volunteers reported the use of at least two dozen marked and unmarked vehicles, ATVs, and armored personnel carriers.
Some of the agents looked to be members of the Border Patrol’s BORTAC teams, the same commando-style units that were filmed bundling protesters into unmarked cars in Portland, volunteers said — photos from the raid appear to back up those claims. According to Thames, members of the tactical unit raised their rifles and shouted at volunteers while they were zip-tied. The decision to wait until nightfall to conduct the operation felt deliberate and produced “unnecessary trauma” for the migrants receiving care and volunteers alike, Thames said: “They started rolling in when the sun was setting, raided the camp when it was dark, and created a lot more fear and chaos.”
The media will reportedly not be allowed to witness Donald Trump’s formal renomination as the Republican party’s choice for president at its national convention later this month.
Citing coronavirus-related health concerns, a convention spokesperson told the Associated Press that media members would be turned away in order to assure compliance with state and local guidelines “regarding the number of people who can attend events”.
The announcement was highly unusual and would represent a historic departure from convention practices in modern times. An Arkansas newspaper, the Democrat Gazette, first reported the news. The Republican national committee, which organizes the convention, could not immediately be reached for comment.
All four of the national co-chairs of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign on Friday applauded the more than 700 delegates to the Democratic National Convention who have so far vowed to vote against the party's platform if it doesn't include a plank supporting Medicare for All.
"We stand with the grassroots activists who understand that the party must stand for extending Medicare to everyone," said former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, and San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz in a joint statement.
"Many hundreds of delegates are speaking out now with clarity to insist that Medicare for All belongs in the Democratic Party platform," the statement continues. "They are correct to never waver in this fight for healthcare as a human right. During the last few months, millions of people in the United States have lost their jobs. They should not lose their healthcare."
The co-chairs released their statement after the DNC Platform Committee on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted down an amendment that would have inserted support for Medicare for All into the Democratic platform, which is set to receive a final vote at the virtual Democratic convention next month.
Turner called the Platform Committee's vote against the single-payer amendment "shameful as hell."
Norman Solomon, national director of progressive advocacy group RootsAction, welcomed the comments from the Sanders campaign alumni as "a strong statement of solidarity" and "a boost to the organizing now underway with delegates to confront the failure of the party's pending platform to truly treat healthcare as a human right."
"One nationwide poll after another, as well as primary election exit polling, have shown that Medicare for All has majority support," Solomon said in a statement Friday. "Increasingly, the absence of support for Medicare for All from the top of the Democratic Party is bad politics as well as inhumane."
More than 700 delegates to the Democratic convention have signed a petition pledging to vote against the party platform if it doesn't endorse Medicare for All. While most of the signatories are Sanders delegates, organizers of the petition say some delegates for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden have also signed on.
Much more disgusting detail at the link.
In the five books authored by President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, William Perry Pendley rails against “environmental extremists,” endangered species protections, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Al Gore — all of whom, in his view, would illicitly limit private development on the lands of the West. He had another target too: policies supporting Native nations’ treaty rights. Pendley has been the acting leader of the BLM, which is responsible for managing the nation’s public lands, for more than a year. With confirmation hearings expected in the coming weeks, his long history of attacking Indigenous people is getting new scrutiny.
For years, Pendley was head of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a right-wing organization that has fought multiple high-profile cases favoring private property rights in states west of the Mississippi, including in Native territories. In court and in his voluminous writings, Pendley attempted to undo protections for sites considered sacred to tribes; fought Justice Department efforts to support Native voters’ rights; argued in favor of toppling key legal precedents that uphold treaty rights; and made statements about Native identity and religion that Indigenous scholars and attorneys call deeply offensive.
In his 2006 book “Warriors for the West,” for example, Pendley suggested that Native people may soon cease to exist. “The day may soon come when Congress and the Supreme Court will be asked to take a serious and very hard look at whether there remains a need for the federal government’s policy of paternalistic protection,” Pendley wrote, apparently referring to the U.S. government’s legal obligation to fulfill treaty commitments, known as its “trust responsibility.” The statement continued, chillingly, “The day may come sooner than many expect given that, with ever-declining blood quantum per tribal member, recognized tribes may soon be little more than associations of financial convenience.”
Pendley’s views on Indigenous people have engendered fierce opposition to his nomination to lead BLM — with his positions on “blood quantum” being only the latest to come under scrutiny. ... Pendley, who has lately come under fire for his views on racial justice, worked for the Interior Department in the 1980s as well, and his record there provides further evidence that he could prioritize private development over treaty rights. As acting assistant secretary for energy and minerals under President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, Pendley sought to delay oil and gas industry royalty payments owed to Indigenous people, according to documents shared with The Intercept by the Western Values Project, a public lands and accountability nonprofit. ...
Of course, Pendley’s critics are urging Senators to reject the attorney. “William Pendley’s record of actively working against the interests of Native Americans and tribal governments during the Reagan administration and while heading up the right-wing lawsuit factory Mountain States Legal Foundation should be as disqualifying as his racist and bigoted views,” said Jayson O’Neill, director of the Western Values Project. Instead, given what O’Neill called the “culture of corruption” promoted by Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, “They are actually trying to promote him.”
Thousands of people were under evacuation orders Sunday after a wildfire in mountains east of Los Angeles exploded in size as crews battled the flames in triple-digit heat. The fire, dubbed the Apple Fire by local firefighters, was straddling Riverside and San Bernardino counties and consumed more than 23sq miles (about 60sq km) of dry brush and timber, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
There was zero containment early Sunday. The cause is under investigation.
Nearly 8,000 residents of Riverside county were told to evacuate their homes on Saturday, the County fire department said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Cow Cow Davenport - The Mess Is Here
Cow Cow Davenport - I Aint No Iceman
Cow Cow Davenport - Jim Crow Blues
Cow Cow Davenport - Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here
Cow Cow Davenport w/Ivy Smith - State Street Jive
Cow Cow Davenport - Texas Shout
Cow Cow Davenport - Slow Drag Blues
Cow Cow Davenport w/ Jim Towel - I've been Hoodooed
Cow Cow Davenport - Back In The Alley
Cow Cow Davenport - Atlanta Rag