The Evening Blues - 9-23-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Piedmont blues guitarist Larry Johnson. Enjoy!
Larry Johnson - Keep It Clean
“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
-- Donald Trump
News and Opinion
There is a Groundhog Day quality to the American experience of Covid-19. Back in March there was public outcry that, under Trump, protective gear to keep health workers safe was in critically short supply, testing for coronavirus was woefully inadequate and black Americans were dying in grotesquely disproportionate numbers. Today, six months later, exactly the same laments can be heard. “There is a theme here,” said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “Recreate the crime. We keep on doing it, over and over again.”
With autumn on the horizon, when colder weather is likely to drive millions back indoors where the virus can spread more easily and with returning colleges acting as giant disease incubators,
In March the Guardian asked Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who was at the forefront of the US government response to Ebola in 2014, to give his take on how the pandemic was being handled. He called the Trump administration’s effort “one of the greatest failures of basic governance in modern times”. We went back to Konyndyk to ask how he sees it now as the country passes the devastating 200,000 deaths mark. “I think my analysis has borne out extremely well,” he said. “We’re on track to have a quarter-million dead Americans by the end of the year with absolutely no reason it had to happen. It was all preventable. So yes, this is a leadership failure of astounding proportions.”
"It affects virtually nobody," Trump says of the coronavirus, which has now killed 200,000 Americans and counting pic.twitter.com/qHrZvUWNhX
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020
Instead of adhering to congressional intent by building up the nation's inadequate supply of N95 masks and other equipment to combat the Covid-19 crisis, the Pentagon has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriated taxpayer funds to private defense contractors for drone technology, jet engine parts, Army uniform material, body armor, and other purposes not directly related to the pandemic.
As the Washington Post reported Tuesday morning, the Department of Defense—headed by former Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper—"began reshaping how it would award the money" just weeks after Congress in March approved a $1 billion fund under the Defense Production Act to help the nation "prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus."
"The Trump administration has done little to limit the defense firms from accessing multiple bailout funds at once and is not requiring the companies to refrain from layoffs as a condition of receiving the awards," the Post noted. "Some defense contractors were given the Pentagon money even though they had already dipped into another pot of bailout funds, the Paycheck Protection Program."
As the U.S. still faces major shortages of testing supplies and N95 masks six months into the pandemic, the Post reported that the Pentagon has used congressionally approved funds to dish out $183 million to luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce and other companies to help "maintain the shipbuilding industry," tens of millions for "drone and space surveillance technology," and $80 million to "a Kansas aircraft parts business."
A subsidiary of Rolls-Royce also received $22 million from the Pentagon "to upgrade a Mississippi plant," according to the Post.
If you can’t get a COVID test or find an N95, it’s because these contractors stole from the American people to make faster jets and fancy uniforms. After all, Trump did say we were “at war.”https://t.co/a1wth7pvKV
— Dr. Emily Porter, M.D. (@dremilyportermd) September 22, 2020
Mandy Smithberger, a weapons industry analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, told the Post, "This is part and parcel of whether we have budget priorities that actually serve our public safety or whether we have a government that is captured by special interests."
The Pentagon's misuse of taxpayer funds aimed at addressing the Covid-19 pandemic has drawn a rebuke from the Democrat-controlled House Appropriations Committee, which characterized the Defense Department's rewards to defense contractors as a clear violation of congressional intent.
"While the Department plans to execute a portion of that funding for personal protective equipment (PPE) as intended by Congress, most of the funds will be used to address the impact of Covid–19 on the [defense industrial base], which was not the original intent of the funds," the committee said in a July report (pdf).
Pentagon officials insisted to the Post that the funds were allocated appropriately, citing the need to "protect key defense capabilities from the consequences of Covid," but Slate's Elliot Hannon argued the Defense Department's generous taxpayer-funded gifts to private corporations amount to little more than "a colossal backdoor bailout for the defense industry."
Pointing to the Pentagon's handouts to Rolls-Royce and other major companies, Hannon wrote, "That doesn't exactly sound like PPE."
A growing number of Americans will be reluctant to get a Covid-19 vaccine immediately after one is developed.
The US has recorded nearly 7m cases and on Tuesday the death toll surpassed 200,000. But six in 10 respondents in a new Axios/Ipsos poll said they would not take a vaccine as soon as it is available, up from 53% from August, and a majority said they would wait at least a few months to get a vaccine or did not plan to get one at all.
Regarding when respondents planned on getting a vaccine once it was available, the most popular timeframe was a few months after release, at 30%. Just 13% said they would get it immediately; 16% said they would wait a few weeks; 18% said they would wait at least a year; and 23% said they would not get a vaccine at all.
Public health experts, including some involved in White House coronavirus response efforts, have indicated it is very unlikely a vaccine will be proven safe and effective before the presidential election in November.
Facebook has warned that it may pull out of Europe if the Irish data protection commissioner enforces a ban on sharing data with the US, after a landmark ruling by the European court of justice found in July that there were insufficient safeguards against snooping by US intelligence agencies.
In a court filing in Dublin, Facebook’s associate general counsel wrote that enforcing the ban would leave the company unable to operate. “In the event that [Facebook] were subject to a complete suspension of the transfer of users’ data to the US,” Yvonne Cunnane argued, “it is not clear … how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU.” ...
The filing is the latest volley in a legal battle that has lasted almost a decade. In 2011, Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer, began filing privacy complaints with the Irish data protection commissioner, which regulates Facebook in the EU, about the social network’s practices.
Those complaints gathered momentum two years later, when the Guardian revealed the NSA’s Prism program, a vast surveillance operation involving direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet companies. Schrems filed a further privacy complaint, which was eventually referred to the European court of justice. That court found in 2015 that, because of the existence of Prism, the “Safe Harbour” agreement, which allowed US companies to transfer the data of EU citizens back home, was invalid.
The EU then attempted a second legal agreement for the data transfers, a so-called privacy shield; that too was invalidated in July this year, with the court again ruling that the US does not limit surveillance of EU citizens.
María Alejandra Villamizar has had a front row seat of Colombia’s civil conflict. Over a 25-year career, she has reported from rebel-held jungles to territories controlled by violent drug cartels. She also worked as an adviser to several presidents during successive attempts to make peace. But she recently discovered that her work had put her in the crosshairs of the military.
An investigation by the local news weekly Semana found that the Colombian army gathered intelligence on Villamizar and more than 130 of her colleagues – including at least three US reporters.
Soldiers had trawled through information on social media in order to build “profiles” on each target, with comprehensive lists of their contacts, families and friends. Their political leanings were deduced from their posts and connections, and logged in a database.
The scandal revealed that despite a peace deal which led to the demobilization of the country’s largest rebel group, Colombia’s US-backed military are still unable to shake habits from a dirty war in which the rules that usually bind a democracy’s armed forces are non-binding – and journalists and opposition members are considered fair targets. “What this shows is that the army has never known how to fight a clean war,” said Villamizar said. “They don’t know how to stand on the side of civilians, or even what their role is in Colombia.”
Taiwan has demanded that China “back off” and accused it of threatening peace after a Beijing official rejected the existence of a largely respected marine boundary following recent incursions. The Taiwanese foreign minister, Joseph Wu, urged Beijing on Tuesday to “return to the civilised international standards” after a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said there was no so-called median line in the Taiwan Strait “as Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory”.
Wu told reporters: “The median line has been a symbol of preventing military conflicts and maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait for many years. The Chinese foreign ministry’s comment is equivalent of destroying the status quo.” ...
Washington’s increased outreach to Taiwan under Donald Trump has become yet another flashpoint with Beijing, as the US and China clash over a range of trade and security issues, as well as the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Chinese fighters and bombers twice breached Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) while a high-ranking US diplomat was on a rare trip to Taiwan that provoked anger in Beijing.
Taipei’s defence ministry said it scrambled fighters again on Tuesday after two Chinese Y-8 anti-submarine planes entered its south-west ADIZ, the fifth such incursion in six days.
Amy Coney Barrett: Front-Runner to Replace RBG Is Anti-Abortion Member of Patriarchal Catholic Group
A 13-year-old Utah boy with autism was shot by police after his mother asked for help getting him hospital mental health treatment and officers agreed to talk with him, police footage released Monday showed.
The videos show Salt Lake City officers chasing him down an alley after they arrive at his home, then yelling at him to get on the ground. The boy collapses after about 11 shots ring out. He survived but suffered broken bones and pierced organs, the family’s attorney has said. He remains hospitalized.
His mother, Golda Barton, had warned police that her son said earlier that day, 4 September, that he had a gun and had threatened to shoot her male coworker and break windows in the house, the video showed. But she told officers she thought it was a BB gun or pellet gun. There were no indications he was armed.
She wanted him to be hospitalized for help with his mental health issues. ...
The videos do not seem to show the boy holding any weapon and police do not mention any in a report, also released Monday. Barton has said she told dispatchers her son was having a breakdown and she needed help from a crisis-intervention officer.
A state of emergency was declared in Louisville, Kentucky, in anticipation of protests following an imminent grand jury decision on the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a 26-year-old who worked as an emergency room technician, was killed on 13 March by police serving a no-knock warrant as part of an investigation into an ex-boyfriend.
Taylor was at her apartment with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when police barged in. Walker, who said officers did not announce themselves, fired his gun, believing the police were intruders. One officer was shot in the leg and police fired in return.
No money or drugs were found in the apartment. One of three officers involved in the shooting was fired for “wantonly and blindly” firing his weapon into the home, but no charges have been filed against him or the other officers.
Reports have indicated the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron, has presented evidence to a grand jury, which would ultimately decide whether to indict any of the three officers involved in the shooting. Cameron would also present the result of his office’s investigation into the case.
It is unclear exactly when he will make an announcement or if the grand jury has begun deliberations.
On Saturday night, the New York Police Department arrested nearly a third of a 300-person protest. Demonstrators had gathered in Times Square to call for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE. The protesters did no more than march and chant. They stayed on the sidewalk. Police outnumbered them 3 to 1. One demonstrator told CNN that officers “descended from all sides” and “started ripping people off of the sidewalk.” There were 86 arrests. In the preceding days, small protest after small protest in New York had been crushed by overwhelming police force and aggressive arrests.
Such is the state of unchecked liberation in this, the “anarchist jurisdiction” of New York City. Alongside Seattle and Portland, New York City earned the official “anarchist jurisdiction” label from Attorney General Bill Barr on Monday. Other cities under Democratic leadership are likely to be added to this farce of a naughty list, targeting areas where potent antiracist, antifascist protests have erupted this summer. The designations are the latest act in President Donald Trump’s theater of the absurd. ...
Residents of New York, Seattle, and Portland responded with bemusement on social media when they learned that their cities — heavily policed, viciously unequal, racially segregated terminals and repositories of capital — are, in fact, anarchist jurisdictions. ... It is hard not to scoff. There are over 38,000 officers in the NYPD’s standing army. And the department’s budget — even after some toothless cuts in the new city budget — will continue to exceed $5 billion. In June, during New York City’s historic six-night curfew, 1,349 people were detained by police and placed in holding cells, in the midst of a pandemic, for merely being out past 8 p.m. Not to mention that there are, even in New York’s left-wing milieux, very few self-identifying anarchist groups. The city’s new label is laughable.
Yet the material consequences for residents in the designated cities could be all too real. White House Budget Director Russ Vought is set to issue guidance to federal agencies on withdrawing funds from the cities in less than two weeks. The New York Post, which broke the story, noted that “it is not yet clear what funds are likely to be cut, but the amount of money siphoned from New York City could be massive, given the Big Apple gets about $7 billion in annual federal aid.” City coffers, devastated by the pandemic, now face more brutal cuts.
In no uncertain terms, Trump is punishing cities that have, again and again, shown themselves to be hubs of antiracist, antifascist resistance.
State Supreme Court Ruling Will Likely Make Maine First in US History to Use Ranked-Choice in Presidential Election
Ranked-choice voting advocates praised a state Supreme Court ruling in Maine on Tuesday that positions voters there to be the first in U.S. history to employ the practice in a presidential election.
"This is a victory for every Mainer who sat around kitchen tables and in basements years ago, wondering how we could ensure more votes would be heard in our elections," Anna Kellar, executive director of the League of Women Voters, said in a statement following the decision. "It is a victory for the voters who showed up, year after year, affirming 'yes, this is the reform we want for our state.' We are proud to have been part of this next step in our nation's history of better elections."
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court overturned a lower court ruling that would have blocked the use of ranked-choice voting (RCV) in the presidential contest on November 3. Maine's Republican Party has spearheaded attempts to prevent the use of RCV—which voters approved in 2016 and again in 2018—and the court's historic opinion was the latest in a blow to GOP efforts.
A lower court ruled that Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap erroneously invalidated signatures collected for a "people's veto" referendum on RCV, which Dunlap did according to state law that requires signature gatherers to be registered to vote in the towns where they circulate referendum petitions. Republicans argued Dunlap had disenfranchised voters by invalidating the signatures collected by non-registered voters, per state law.
"It is wonderful that Mainers will be able to use ranked-choice voting in presidential elections," Betsy Sweet, a former U.S. Senate and Maine gubernatorial candidate who helped pass RCV in the state, told Common Dreams Tuesday. "It is disheartening that the Republicans continue to try and take away the expansion of democracy that ranked-choice voting represents, even after Mainers voted for it time and time again. I am glad the will of the people is being honored. Ranked-choice voting is an important, positive contribution to democracy."
Tuesday's ruling came on the heels of a op-ed in favor of RCV from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in the Boston Globe last week. Citizens in Massachusetts and Alaska will vote on implementing the process in their states in November, as will residents of cities in California, Colorado, and Minnesota.
Polls show Joe Biden faces a troubling voter enthusiasm gap, and has not succeeded in bringing over significant support from Republican voters. That means he will need to generate major Democratic voter enthusiasm — and it means he should stop triangulating against the base of his party and publicly dunking on the millions of Democratic voters who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the party’s last two presidential primaries.
During an interview with a local Fox affiliate in Wisconsin today, Biden took a shot at Sanders in response to a reporter’s loaded question about “voters that are worried about socialism and you raising taxes.” ... Biden used the opportunity to dunk on Bernie Sanders -- the third most popular Democrat in America, ahead of Biden, according to YouGov’s national poll.
“I beat the socialist. That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination,” Biden said. “Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career, my whole career. I’m not a socialist.”
That’s certainly true -- Biden has tried to cut Social Security, supported bank deregulation and is opposed to Medicare for All. The only part of Biden’s record that could be called socialist was his vote to bailout Wall Street executives -- but that was a form of corporate socialism that enriched the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country after they ruined millions of Americans’ lives.
So yeah, while Biden is no socialist, none of his record proving that is anything to brag about. More important, Biden’s instinct to crap on progressives, rather than energizing them, is totally counterproductive to the effort to defeat Donald Trump. It not only helps Trump by validating his red-scare framing of the election, it also tells progressives that Biden may not be the ally he is promising to be.
Facebook has suspended the accounts of several environmental organizations less than a week after launching an initiative it said would counter a tide of misinformation over climate science on the platform.
Groups such as Greenpeace USA, Climate Hawks Vote and Rainforest Action Network were among those blocked from posting or sending messages on Facebook over the weekend. Activists say hundreds of other individual accounts linked to indigenous, climate and social justice groups were also suspended for an alleged “intellectual property rights violation”.
The suspended people and groups were all involved in a Facebook event from May last year that targeted KKR & Co, a US investment firm that is backing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a 670km-long gas development being built in northern British Columbia, Canada.
The suspensions, the day before another online action aimed at KKR & Co, has enraged activists who oppose the pipeline for its climate impact and for cutting through the land of the Wetʼsuwetʼen, a First Nations people. ...
Many of the accounts have now been restored, but a handful are still blocked, with no fuller explanation coming from Facebook. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Our systems mistakenly removed these accounts and content. They have since been restored and we’ve lifted any limits imposed on identified profiles.”
The effects of climate change since 2000 will slow U.S. economic growth slightly over the next 30 years, adding another drag on an economy that will struggle to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday.
In a new research paper, the nonpartisan budget referee agency studied both positive and negative contributions to gross domestic product, from longer growing seasons in colder climates to drought to damage to factories from more intense storms.
It projected that on net, climate change will reduce real U.S. GDP by an average of 0.03% annually from 2020 to 2050, compared to what U.S. growth would have been if global climate conditions remained the same as they were in 2000.
That reduction in the growth rate, accumulated over 30 years, lowers the CBO’s projected level of real GDP output in 2050 by 1%, the paper showed.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Larry Johnson & Woody Mann - Bad Feeling Blues
Larry Johnson - Catfish Blues
Larry Johnson & Nat Riddles - I Believe
Larry Johnson - Step It Up And Go
Larry Johnson - Seaboard Train Blues
Larry Johnson - When Things Go Wrong
Larry Johnson - Four Women Blues
Larry Johnson with Rob Fleder - Keep A Knockin' An' You Can't Come In
Larry Johnson - Two White Horses