The Evening Blues - 12-2-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and saxophone player Louis Jordan. Enjoy!
Louis Jordan - Let The Good Times Roll
“Never do a wrong thing to make a friend--or to keep one.”
-- Robert E. Lee
News and Opinion
President Donald Trump may only have seven weeks left in office, but he’s given his top advisers the green light to batter the Iranian regime—anything that doesn’t hazard a full-on war before Joe Biden is inaugurated.
According to multiple U.S. officials familiar with the matter, in recent weeks Trump has taken a more passive role in personally overseeing Iran policy for the critical final months until Inauguration Day. One White House official last week described Trump as mostly “checked out” on this major foreign policy issue, having become consumed by his bumbling legal effort to steal the 2020 election amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as by other his pet grievances of the moment.
But Trump has given some of his most hawkish administration officials, particularly his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, carte blanche to squeeze and punish the Islamic Republic as aggressively as they wish in the coming weeks. All Trump asks is that they don’t risk “start[ing] World War III,” as the president has specifically put it in several private conversations with Pompeo and others, according to two senior administration officials.
That has left a host of options at the outgoing administration’s disposal—among them, a suffocating sanctions regime and a studied silence in the face of the assassination of Iranian nationals. Two officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the administration is set to announce new sanctions on regime-linked companies and individuals in the coming weeks to solidify a years-long effort to paralyze Tehran’s economy.
Trump administration officials who spoke to The Daily Beast frequently point to Pompeo and Elliott Abrams, special representative for Iran, as the leaders of the administration’s last-ditch attempt at pummeling the regime. ...
Both Pompeo and Abrams, officials say, are supportive of harsh measures, including the quiet backing of covert actions carried out by other actors. One other senior administration official pointed to Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel as being intimately involved in the administration’s clandestine strategy as it relates to Iran.
Worth a full read:
We now read that the Fakhrizadeh murder may have fatally sabotaged President-elect Biden’s plans to restore the U.S. to the 2015 accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs, which President Donald Trump abandoned a year into his term. How does that work? If Biden and his new advisers — Antony Blinken at State, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser — are serious about diplomacy with Tehran, now is the time to go full-tilt for it, wouldn’t you say? Gentlemen, mount those white horses.
In the same piece presenting the weird argument about the damage just inflicted on Biden’s diplomatic aspirations, Sullivan is quoted as saying the U.S. will return to the accord “if Iran returns to compliance, for its obligations that it has been violating, and is prepared to advance good-faith negotiations on these follow-on agreements.”
The “follow-on agreements” seem to be those Trump and Pompeo have insisted upon — no missile-defense systems, no efforts to secure its neighborhood, the latter mischaracterized as “acts of terror.” Let me get this straight: We’re here to correct the Trump regime’s mistakes, and we propose to do so by embracing them?
These people are simply not serious.
My tentative conclusion: Biden, Blinken and Sullivan cannot see their way to recommitting to the 2015 agreement because Biden is inexcusably close to Israel and Israel has stated its opposition to this in the clearest of terms. For the time being, it looks as if they will take cover in the Fakhrizadeh murder as they slither out the side door on Iran: Golly, we wanted to talk to Tehran but events have foiled us.
Shall we mark this down as Foreign Policy Failure No. 1 for our “responsible American leadership?” We will have to keep track as the numbers rise.
When Joe Biden becomes president of the United States on January 20, a historic opportunity awaits him to demonstrate America’s commitment to the First Amendment. He can, in a stroke, reverse four years of White House persecution of journalism by withdrawing the application to extradite Julian Assange from Britain to the U.S. This would be in line with the departures from Trump policies Biden is proposing on health care, environmental protection, and tax fairness. Assange’s liberty represents the liberty of all journalists and publishers whose job is to expose government and corporate criminality without fear of prosecution. We need and deserve to be protected against government control of the press.
By removing the 1917 Espionage Act charges against Assange, Biden would be adhering to the precedent established by the administration in which he served for eight years as vice president. President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice investigated Assange and WikiLeaks for three years until 2013 before deciding, in the words of University of Maryland journalism professor Mark Feldstein, “to follow established precedent and not bring charges against Assange or any of the newspapers that published the documents.” Equal application of the law would have required the DOJ to prosecute media outlets, including the New York Times, that had as large a hand in publicizing war crimes as did Assange himself. If prosecutors put all the editors, publishers, and scholars who disseminated WikiLeaks materials in the dock, there would not be a courtroom anywhere in America big enough to hold the trial. Obama decided against it, knowing it would represent an unprecedented assault on freedoms Americans hold dear. ...
Biden has signaled his intention to return the U.S. to international cooperation, revoking Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to control Iran’s nuclear program. America’s return to the community of law-abiding nations would be enhanced further by adhering to judgements from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights calling for Assange’s immediate release. Exonerating Assange would also underscore American dedication to Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among whose drafters was American former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (Italics mine.) Assange and WikiLeaks received and imparted information vital to the public interest, as hundreds of media outlets, legal experts, and human rights advocates have attested.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a $908bn Covid-19 relief bill aimed at breaking a months-long deadlock between Democrats and Republicans over new emergency assistance for small businesses, unemployed people, airlines and other industries. The measure has not been written into legislation. Nor has it been embraced by the Trump administration, President-elect Joe Biden or leaders in the Senate or House of Representatives, all of whom would be needed for passage.
But it comes with the backing of a group of conservatives and moderates who claim it will appeal to a broad swath of Congress. Economists and senior government figures, including the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, have warned the US economy is at risk unless Congress acts.
Lawmakers are hoping to wrap up their work for the year by mid-December but they still have a massive government-funding bill to approve or else risk agency shutdowns starting on 12 December. If the bipartisan coronavirus aid bill gains traction, it could either be attached to the spending bill or advance on a separate track. ...
The proposal would provide emergency aid through 31 March, including $228bn in paycheck protection program funds for hotels, restaurants and other small businesses. State and local governments would receive direct aid, the lawmakers said.
A government panel on Tuesday formally recommended early doses of Covid-19 vaccines be given first to healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents in the US, generally seen as people who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Together, that group would represent roughly 23 million Americans, disproportionately including women, people of color and low-wage workers who makeup the healthcare labor force.
The recommendation from the panel at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hinges on a vaccine being approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration and later recommended by the advisory panel. “I believe my vote reflects maximum benefit, minimum harm, promoting justice, and mitigating the health inequalities which exist in distribution of this vaccine,” said José Romero, chair of the committee, explaining his vote in favor of the recommendation.
The recommendation will likely be the basis of vaccine distribution for states and US territories, which carry out vaccination campaigns. States must complete their final requests for the leading vaccine candidate by the end of this week.
What a country!
Dr. Megan Srinivas was attending a virtual American Medical Association discussion around the “Mask Up” initiative one evening in July when she began to receive frantic messages from her parents begging her to confirm to them that she was all right. “Somebody obtained my father’s unlisted cell phone number and spoofed him, making it look like it was a phone call coming from my phone,” she told Des Moines’s Business Record for a November profile. “Essentially they insinuated that they had harmed me and were on the way to their house to harm them.”
This malicious hoax, made possible by doxxing Srinivas’s private information, was only the most severe instance of abuse and harassment she had endured since she became a more visible proponent of mask-wearing and other mitigation measures at the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic. A Harvard-educated infectious disease physician and public health researcher on the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Srinivas currently lives and works in Fort Dodge, her hometown of 24,000 situated in the agricultural heart of northwest Iowa. ...
Basic health measures promoted by Srinivas in Iowa since the beginning of the pandemic have been politicized along the same fault lines as they have across the rest of the country. ... “I have trolls like other people, I’ve been doxxed, I’ve gotten death threats,” she said. “When you say anything people don’t want to hear, there will be trolls and there will be people who will try to argue against you. The death threats were something I wish I could say were new, but when I’ve done things like this in the past, I’ve had people say not-so-nice things in the past when I’ve had advocacy issues.” ...
The embattled situation in which Srinivas has found herself is the new normal for public health officials attempting to stem the tide of a deadly viral outbreak, particularly in the middle of country where the pandemic winter is already deepening. Advocating for simple, potentially lifesaving measures has become a politically significant act, working to inform the public means navigating conflicting regulatory bodies, and doing your job means making yourself publicly vulnerable to an endless stream of vitriol and even death threats. The result across the board is that an untenable pressure has been placed on public health workers thrust in a politicized health crisis — and that pressure only appears to be worsening.
Joe Biden, the US president-elect, formally introduced his top economic advisers on Tuesday, as his incoming administration prepares to deal with the worst financial crisis in decades and a resurgent coronavirus pandemic. ...
“We’re going to create a recovery for everybody,” Biden said. “Our message to everybody struggling right now is this: help is on the way.” ...
Janet Yellen led the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, focusing on maximising employment and less on price inflation. In remarks on Tuesday, she noted the damage caused by the pandemic. “Lost lives, lost jobs, small businesses struggling to stay alive or closed for good,” she said. “So many people struggling to put food on the table and pay bills and rent.
“It’s an American tragedy and it’s essential we move with urgency. Inaction will cause a self-reinforcing downturn, causing yet more devastation. And we risk missing the obligation to address deeper structural problems.”
Biden’s nominees have all expressed support for government spending to boost employment, reduce inequality and help women and people of colour, disproportionately harmed by the downturn.
Unions representing transportation workers who helped elect Joe Biden are outraged about reports that the president-elect is considering former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lead the Department of Transportation, citing his record of clashing with workers while in city government.
“Rahm Emanuel would be a nightmare. And a betrayal,” said John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, which represents 150,000 workers in more than 100 local unions. The union endorsed Biden in May and was one of several major transport unions that backed his campaign. “The trade union movement in transportation worked extremely hard to get Joe Biden elected,” he said, particularly in Pennsylvania, where the union represents Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit, rail, and bus workers.
TWU recruited transit and rail volunteers in Pennsylvania who knocked doors, did phone and text banking, held caravans and virtual rallies with co-workers, and distributed fliers at work sites. “We didn’t work our asses off to have Rahm Emanuel as the secretary of transportation,” Samuelsen said. “He’s anti-trade union, he’s anti-worker.”
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, said Emanuel’s consideration was a “complete non-starter,” and pointed to President Sara Nelson’s tweets on the news over the weekend. “We do not need a union buster setting the rules for workers in aviation. That just doesn’t reflect @JoeBiden’s deep commitment to workers & our unions,” Nelson tweeted Sunday. The union endorsed Biden in October. ...
After pushback from the left, Emanuel may also now be under consideration for U.S. trade representative, Crain’s Chicago Business reported last week. ... “I have no doubt in my mind that he would do what any good neoliberal would do, and side with the bosses,” Samuelsen said. “No matter where he lands, whether it’s in transportation or elsewhere, it’s gonna be viewed by the workers that supported Joe Biden as a total betrayal. And it’ll be yet another in a long line of Democratic Party betrayals,” he added. “The truth of the matter is that Rahm Emanuel is the type of Democrat that got Trump elected to begin with.”
Matt Taibbi, worth a full read:
The Democratic Party is not known for its sense of humor, but news that Joe Biden will appoint longtime Center for American Progress chief Neera Tanden to his government qualifies as a rare, well-earned laugh line.
Tanden is famous for two things: having a puddle of DNC talking points in place of a cerebrum, and despising Bernie Sanders. She was #Resistance’s most visible anti-Sanders foil, spending awe-inspiring amounts of time on Twitter bludgeoning Sanders and his supporters as a deviant mob of Russian tools and covert “horseshoe theory” Trump-lovers. She has, to put it gently, an ardent social media following. Every prominent media figure with even a vague connection to Sanders learned in recent years to expect mud-drenched pushback from waves of “Neera trolls” after any public comment crossing DNC narratives. No name in blue politics is more associated with seething opposition to Sanders than Tanden.
Biden is making this person Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sanders is the ranking member (and, perhaps, future chair) of the Senate Budget Committee. Every time Bernie even thinks about doing Committee business, he’ll be looking up at Neera Tanden. For a party whose normal idea of humor is ten thousand consecutive jokes about Trump being gay with Putin, that’s quite a creative “fuck you.” ...
The Democrats still have to reckon with Trumpism in both the short and long term, but the Sanders movement on their other flank has at least temporarily been routed as a serious oppositional force. The Democrats know this, which is part of the joke of the Tanden appointment. While the party’s labors to oppose Trump have been incoherent at best, the campaign to kneecap Sanders has been, let’s admit it, brilliant. ...
The difference between conventional Democrats and the Sanders movement is that Democrats never allowed themselves to view Sanders and his followers as anything but threats that needed squashing. They were never tempted, even for a moment, to take the idea of a Sanders presidency seriously. Sanders was loyal in the end to the party that made a mission of destroying him, and now gets Neera Tanden up the keister as the first installment in what is sure to be a long program of repayment for the sin of running without permission. Welcome to the eternal law of American politics, where no crime is punished more harshly than being a good loser.
William Barr said on Tuesday the US Department of Justice has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
The attorney general’s comments come despite Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede to President-elect Joe Biden.
Shortly after the comments were made public, the White House pool report said the attorney general had been seen to enter the building.
Trump did not immediately comment. But campaign lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in a statement: “With the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud.”
Barr made his comments in an interview with the Associated Press. US attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up complaints and information, he said, but have uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.
One of Georgia’s top election officials has made an impassioned plea to Donald Trump to tone down his rhetoric disputing the election results, saying the president is “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence”.
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system, also issued the stark warning that if Trump does not rein in his supporters then “someone is going to get hurt”.
“Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Sterling said at a press conference on Tuesday, during which he became visibly angry. “We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it. You have the rights to go to the courts. What you don’t have the ability to do – and you need to step up and say this – is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed, and it’s not right. It’s not right.”
Sterling, the voting systems manager for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said last week that he had police protection around his home because of threats he received after election results were announced. Trump lost Georgia to Biden by around 13,000 votes.
Sterling also said that the wife of Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, had received “sexualized threats”. Raffensperger has been the target of constant attacks from the president over his defeat in Georgia, and he recently told the Guardian he had received death threats. Last week, Trump had called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people”, Sterling noted, adding: “That helped open the floodgates to this kind of crap.”
In the face of legal setbacks and state election certifications showing that President-elect Joe Biden clearly won the 2020 election, President Donald Trump is still refusing to concede. Instead he continues to stoke his fascistic supporters by issuing threats against election officials who certify the results, with one his lawyers openly threatening to kill a former Department of Homeland Security secretary on Monday.
During an appearance on “The Howie Carr Show” on Monday, Trump attorney Joe diGenova, a long time Fox News contributor and former federal attorney, suggested that former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Chris Krebs, be shot for suggesting that the election was free of manipulation.
Appearing on the Newsmax podcast, diGenova called Krebs a “class A moron,” adding: “He should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot.” On Tuesday, Krebs responded to the violent comments in an NBC interview, calling diGenova’s language “dangerous” and that he would be pursuing legal action against diGenova, who has since attempted to frame his threats as “sarcastic and made in jest.”
After bombarding supporters daily with emails blaring lies about the election and soliciting donations to overcome virtually non-existent voter fraud, President Donald Trump's political operation has reportedly raised more than $150 million since November 3, a staggering windfall that is being funneled into a Republican joint fundraising committee and a Trump PAC established to fuel his post-White House activities.
While the Trump team's aggressive emails—sometimes as many as 15 per day—purport to be raising money for an "Official Election Defense Fund" set up to finance the president's flailing legal effort to overturn the election, the fund does not exist.
"There is no such account," the Washington Post reported late Monday. "The fundraising requests are being made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee that raises money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. As of November 18, that committee also shares its funds with Save America, a new leadership PAC that Trump set up in early November and which he can use to fund his post-presidency activities."
Observers said the post-election fundraising initiative has all the markings of a shameless grift, with much of the money likely going toward paying off the Trump campaign's debts, financing events at the president's properties, and other purposes. The Post noted that "there are very few limitations on how money going to" the Trump leadership PAC can be spent.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), told the Post that "small donors who give to Trump thinking they are financing an 'Official Election Defense Fund' are in fact helping pay down the Trump campaign's debt or funding his post-presidential political operation."
"The average donor who gives in response to Trump's appeal for funds to 'stop the fraud' likely doesn't realize that their money is actually retiring Trump's debt or funding his leadership PAC," Fischer said, pointing out that "only bigger donors who've maxed-out to Trump's campaign or the RNC will see any portion of their contribution go to dedicated recount or legal funds."
By the 1960s, the North American jaguar had vanished from the southern US borderland after being hunted to extinction.Yet in the mid-1990s, there was a remarkable discovery: the jaguar had reappeared in the Sky Islands of Arizona, a region of rugged linked mountain ranges spanning the US and Mexico border that boasts the highest biodiversity in inland North America. Since then, the large cats have been seen over a dozen times in the region, reviving hopes of a full return of the elusive predators to the US.
“They are coming back because the Sky Islands are their home,” said Dr Aletris Neils, the director of CATalyst, a wild cat conservation organization that runs the only jaguar monitoring project in the US. “All we have to do is let them.”
These hopes are threatened by Donald Trump’s border wall. In four years, his administration has built some 400 miles of the border wall in increasingly remote regions of the border. The barrier has severed wildlife corridors and fragmented crucial habitats for numerous endangered and threatened animals, including the wide-ranging jaguar.
Trump’s lame-duck period is no respite: the wall is currently going up in four sections in the Sky Islands, where “grizzly bears and grey wolves mix with tropical species like ocelots and jaguar”, said Neils. “There is no place like it on this planet. [The Sky Islands] are perfect for jaguars.”
“If all contracts are complete, 93% [of jaguar territory] will be blocked and walled off,” said Myles Traphagen, the borderlands program coordinator for Wildlands Network, who mapped the impact of current wall contracts in jaguar territory.
NEW: @PEERorg found that toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” were sprayed on millions of acres in MA & 25 other states. PFAS are linked to cancer, liver issues & more.
— Food & Water Watch (@foodandwater) December 1, 2020
As Lame-Duck Trump Pushes for Arctic Pillage, Bank of America Latest Bank to Rule Out Drilling in Alaska Wildlife Refuge
Climate campaigners and Indigenous rights supporters are welcoming news that Bank of America has ruled out financing fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic, including in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Bank of America on Monday became the last holdout of the major U.S. banks to make such a pledge after facing sustained pressure from activists to renounce drilling in the region.
"It has long been clear that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would trample Indigenous rights, threaten vulnerable wildlife, and worsen the climate crisis," said Sierra Club senior campaign representative Ben Cushing.
"Now that every major American bank has stated unequivocally that they will not finance this destructive activity," Cushing continued, "it should be clearer than ever that any oil company considering participating in Trump's ill-advised lease sale should stay away." ...
The news follows similar announcements over the past year from the five other U.S. banking giants—JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo—and comes as the pro-fossil fuel Trump administration continues its fervent push for oil and gas extraction in the Arctic, "irreversible harm" to the local ecoystem and communities be damned.
Just last month the Trump administration was accused of trying to bully financial institutions into backing oil and gas projects, including in the Arctic, with a proposal from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency preventing banks from categorically excluding certain customers. Also last month, the administration asked fossil fuel companies to bid on leases in ANWR's Coastal Plain—an area the Gwich'in call "the sacred place where life begins."
Immense tracts of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of Hawaii's Big Island were destroyed in Brazil over the past year as deforestation increased to a 12-year high under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, data released Monday by the country's space research agency reveals.
The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reports satellite imagery showed 4,281 square miles of rainforest were destroyed between August 2019 and July 2020, an increase of 9.5% over the previous reporting period.
Cristiane Mazzetti, Amazon campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil, said in a statement that while the latest figures were "expected," they are still devastating.
"Instead of acting to prevent the increase in deforestation, the Bolsonaro government has been denying the reality of the situation, dismantling environmental agencies, and attacking NGOs who work on the ground in the Amazon," she added.
Daniel Brindis, forests campaign director at Greenpeace USA, placed some of the blame for the crisis on rapacious capitalism.
"These numbers are a deliberate result of the current Brazilian government's agenda, as well as the actions of the U.S.-headquartered investors like BlackRock," Brindis said.
"As President-elect Joe Biden urges Brazil to end deforestation, he not only needs to look at the intentional causes of this increase, but he also must address the U.S.'s role in the crisis," he added.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Louis Jordan - House Party
Louis Jordan - Reet Petite & Gone
Louis Jordan - Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby
Louis Jordan - I Know What You're Putting Down
Louis Jordan - Early in the Morning
Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five - Let's Do It Up Baby
Louis Jordan - Salt Pork West Virginia
Louis Jordan - What's The Use Of Getting Sober
Ella Fitzgerald And Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five - Petootie Pie
Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five - Five Guys Named Moe