The Evening Blues - 1-18-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features The Poet Laureate of the Blues Percy Mayfield. Enjoy!
Percy Mayfield - Louisiana
"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
-- Charles Darwin
News and Opinion
On January 14, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, dubbed the American Rescue Act, which he has urged Congress to pass within days of his January 20 inauguration. This was followed the next day with a speech in which Biden outlined his vaccination plan, pledging to administer 100 million coronavirus vaccines within the first 100 days of his administration, although the current rate is far below that. The second announcement was significant mainly for what was not in it. Biden focused on the vaccine entirely to the exclusion of efforts to prevent the spread of infections, which will kill hundreds of thousands more before they can be vaccinated. Above all, there is not the slightest suggestion of the only serious measure to contain the pandemic: a full-scale lockdown of the economy, including closing non-essential businesses and schools, and providing income for working people and fully-resourced remote education for children until it is safe for everyone to resume normal life.
In announcing the plan, Biden paid lip service to widening income inequality, taking note of “those few people at the very top who are doing quite well in this economy.” He correctly pointed out that the wealth of the top one percent has grown “roughly $1.5 trillion since the end of last year, four times the amount for the entire bottom 50 percent of American wage earners.” The American Rescue Act does not aim to reverse this trend through aggressive taxes on “pandemic profiteers” such Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, who recently became the world’s richest man after “earning” some $165 billion last year, based almost entirely on the meteoric rise of Tesla stock. In fact, there are no tax increases for the wealthy at all, with Biden allowing the wealthy to keep their ill-gotten gains while the federal government borrows the money—from these same billionaires, at a hefty price in terms of interest payments—to foot the bill.
Despite a majority of House Republicans and senators such as Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Missouri) seeking to overturn his election victory last week, even after President Donald Trump’s fascistic coup attempt, Biden pleaded for “unity” with his “Republican colleagues.” He welcomed their input in modifying the legislation. This process has already begun, as the $1.9 trillion cost of the package is $1.1 trillion less than the Heroes Act, which passed the Democratic-controlled House last May, largely along party lines.
Joe Biden will sign a series of executive orders in his first days in office, attempting to roll back damage done at home and abroad by Donald Trump, whom the Democrat will replace as president on Wednesday.
Biden, 78, has already outlined plans to send an immigration bill and a Covid stimulus and relief package to a newly Democratic-controlled Congress. On Friday he said he would shake up the delivery of vaccines against Covid-19, mired in chaos under Trump.
Biden plans to return the US to the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal, overturn Trump’s travel ban against some Muslim-majority countries, restrict evictions and foreclosures under the pandemic and institute a mask mandate on federal property.
In a memo released on Saturday, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said: “These actions will change the course of Covid-19, combat climate change, promote racial equity and support other underserved communities, and rebuild our economy in ways that strengthen the backbone of this country: the working men and women who built our nation. ...
The memo did not mention rejoining the World Health Organization, previously mentioned as a priority. Klain said subsequent orders would address “equity and support communities of color” and address criminal justice reform, access to healthcare and other priorities.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has said it is possible that members of Congress could face prosecution if found to have “aided and abetted” the violent attack on the Capitol earlier this month that left five people dead. “Justice is called for as we address insurrection perpetrated against the Capitol last week,” the Democratic speaker told reporters on Friday.
“If, in fact, it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection,” the Democratic speaker said, “if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that.”
Pelosi’s comments came after Mikie Sherrill, a Democratic congresswoman of New Jersey, said she saw colleagues leading groups on “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol a day before the riot.
More than 30 Democrats have signed on to a letter, spearheaded by Sherrill, seeking more information about the tours that took place at the Capitol on 5 January.
The public will not see Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there is growing concern the collection will never be complete – leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies. Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together. ...
In the Trump White House “not only has record-keeping not been a priority, but we have multiple examples of it seeking to conceal or destroy that record”, said Richard Immerman, from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.
And now Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud – which postponed for weeks an acknowledgement of Joe Biden’s presidential victory – has delayed the transfer of documents to the National Archives and Records Administration, further heightening concern about the integrity of the records.
Lack of a complete record might also hinder investigations of Trump, from his impeachment trial and other prospective federal inquiries to investigations in the state of New York.
Even with requests by lawmakers and lawsuits by government transparency groups, there is an acknowledgment that noncompliance with the Presidential Records Act carries little consequence for Trump. In tossing out one suit last year, US circuit judge David Tatel wrote that courts cannot “micromanage the president’s day-to-day compliance”. The act states that a president cannot destroy records until he seeks the advice of the national archivist and notifies Congress. But the law does not require him to heed the archivist’s advice. It does not prevent the president from going ahead and destroying records.
Far right “playbooks” teaching white nationalists how to recruit and radicalise Trump supporters have surfaced on the encrypted messaging app Telegram ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration. The documents, seen by the Observer, detail how to convert mainstream conservatives who have just joined Telegram into violent white supremacists. They were found last week by Tech Against Terrorism, an initiative launched by the UN counter terrorism executive directorate.
Large numbers of Trump supporters migrated on to Telegram in recent days after Parler, the social media platform favoured by the far right, was forced offline for hosting threats of violence and racist slurs after the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January. The documents have prompted concern that far right extremists congregating on Telegram instead of Parler has made it far harder for law enforcement to track where the next attack could come from. ...
One of the playbooks, found on a channel with 6,000 subscribers, was specially drawn up to radicalise Trump supporters who had just joined Telegram and teach them “how to have the proper OPSEC [operations security] to keep your identity concealed”.
The four-page document encourages recruiters to avoid being overtly racist or antisemitic initially when approaching Trump supporters, stating: “Trying to show them racial IQ stats and facts on Jewish power will generally leave them unreceptive... that material will be instrumental later on in their ideological journey. “The point of discussion you should focus on is the blatant anti-white agenda that is being aggressively pushed from every institution in the country, as well as white demographic decline and its consequences.”
The document concludes with its author stating: “Big Tech made a serious mistake by banishing conservatives to the one place [Telegram] where we have unfettered access to them, and that’s a mistake they’ll come to regret!”
According to an analysis conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and Princeton University, deaths caused by COVID-19 have reduced the overall life expectancy in the United States by 1.13 years. In epidemiologic terms, this is an enormous decline. Life expectancy is one of the most accurate barometers of the health of a society.
Adding to the catastrophe of the pandemic, a new variant of the coronavirus has been detected across more than 12 states, threatening to further exacerbate the crisis.
On New Year’s Day, the US had registered 20.7 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 357,000 deaths, making it the third leading cause of death behind cancer and heart disease. However, this conservative figure only represents confirmed cases.
Overall, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found more than 475,000 excess deaths through early December. It has been estimated that almost two-thirds of excess deaths are attributed directly to COVID-19. Compared to 2019, deaths in the US have climbed more than 10 percent.
Biden Urged to Ramp Up Vaccination Effort as CDC Warns New, More Contagious Coronavirus Variant Could Soon Become Dominant in US
With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning Friday that a new, much more contagious strain of the coronavirus could become the dominant source of infection in the country by March, public health advocates underscored the imperative for President-elect Joe Biden to quickly turn the page from the Trump administration's failure-ridden pandemic response by accelerating development and distribution of effective vaccines from day one of his presidency.
The CDC said the new, more contagious variant—known as B117—originated in Britain and is currently circulating at low levels in the United States.
"I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks," said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC, according to the New York Times. "We're sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel."
"We know what works and we know what to do," Butler added.
"What to do," the CDC says, includes "universal and increased compliance with mitigation strategies, including distancing and masking." The agency added that "higher vaccination coverage might need to be achieved to protect the public."
On Friday, Biden said that "the more people we vaccinate and the faster we do it, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us and the sooner we can build our economy back better and get back to our lives and our loved ones."
To that end, the president-elect unveiled a five-point vaccination plan, promising to invoke the Defense Production Act to help "manage the hell" out of nationwide vaccine distribution.
"The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far," Biden asserted, adding that "we remain in a dark winter."
"Things will get worse before they get better," he warned.
Public health experts said that Biden's $400 billion pandemic mitigation plan—which includes the ambitious goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days of his administration—as well as Friday's selection of Dr. David Kessler to head the government's effort to develop, manufacture, distribute, and administer coronavirus vaccines, are promising signs, especially following the colossal failures of the Trump administration to contain the year-long outbreak.
Hospitals across much of the U.S. are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. As of Friday evening, nearly 23.5 million people in the United States have been infected with coronavirus, and more than 391,000 have died. The U.S. leads the world in both infections and deaths, both by large margins.
Study showing simple modifications can improve mask effectiveness. For example, tucking in the corners of a procedure mask & tying the loops increased filtration from 39% to 60%. Covering the mask with a nylon stocking increased it to 80%.
— Dr Zoë Hyde (@DrZoeHyde) January 12, 2021
Joe Biden’s promise to carry out 100m coronavirus vaccinations in his first 100 days in power is “absolutely a doable thing”, Dr Anthony Fauci said on Sunday. The president-elect has announced ambitious initiatives to combat Covid-19 and its economic toll, seeking to overcome the struggles and failures of the Trump administration, which has presided over a slow start to the biggest vaccination drive in US history.
The challenge is steep: Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, told CNN on Sunday, Biden’s team projected another 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the first five weeks of the administration. According to Johns Hopkins University, by Sunday morning 23,760,523 cases and 395,855 deaths had been recorded in the US. “It’s going to take a while to turn this around,” Klain said.
Fauci, the top US infectious disease doctor, told NBC’s Meet the Press: “I can tell you one thing that’s clear is that the issue of getting 100m [vaccination] doses in the first 100 days, is absolutely a doable thing. What the president-elect is going to do is where we need be, to invoke the [Defense Production Act] to get the kinds of things they need, whatever they may be, be they tests, be they vaccines or what have you. ...
Officials have warned that continued failure to properly plan for distribution and administration might thwart gains from rapid vaccine development. The new administration must also seek to shore up a long-fractured public health system while facing probable Republican opposition to meaningful financial relief via Congress.
Rebekah Jones, the founder of Florida’s coronavirus database who has clashed publicly with Governor Ron DeSantis in a dispute over data manipulation, said she would surrender on Sunday after a warrant was issued for her arrest.
The state department of law enforcement said it would not reveal details of the allegations against the 31-year-old data analyst until she was in custody. The agency had been investigating allegations Jones illegally accessed a state messaging system and staged an armed raid at her Tallahassee home last month.
Jones, who was fired by the Florida department of health in May for insubordination after claiming she was ordered to censor and manipulate information on the database she founded and managed, said she was told the charge was unrelated to that investigation, and accused DeSantis of retaliation.
“The governor will not win his war on science and free speech,” she said in tweets that also confirmed her intention to turn herself in to police on Sunday night. “He will not silence those who speak out.” ...
Since her dismissal she has continued to amass and disseminate state Covid-19 information online, maintaining a rival to the official database and more recently compiling and publishing information on cases in Florida schools.
"Thoughts and prayers."
That is what many opponents of the National Rifle Association wryly stated in response to news that the pro-gun lobby group had officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday in the United States.
In a statement on its website, the NRA—which promotes the interests of the gun industry and gun owners unbothered by the unparalleled level of gun violence seen in the country—said it was leaving New York state, where it is currently registered, to restructure in Texas as part of a "new strategic plan" it is implementing. ...
In August, as Common Dreams reported at the time, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the NRA which sought to dissolve the organization based on widespread evidence of corruption and financial self-dealing that violated the state's requirements for nonprofit status.
In a tweet on Friday responding to the NRA's move to divorce itself from New York, James said: "The NRA's claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt."
A coalition of Voice of America journalists has called for the director of the organization and his deputy to resign, alleging in a letter they retaliated against a veteran reporter for questioning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In the letter dated 14 January, some two dozen reporters charged that three days previously VOA director Robert Reilly and deputy director Elizabeth Robbins “violated” the organization’s journalistic code by staging “a propaganda event” for Pompeo.
They also said that the violation stemmed from the decision to remove Patsy Widakuswara from her role as VOA White House correspondent, after she tried to question Pompeo as he left the network’s headquarters.
The letter also slammed the “sudden and unexplained” reassignment of Yolanda Lopez, formerly central news director.
VOA is an international broadcast service funded by Congress. In his speech there last Monday, Pompeo praised Michael Pack, a Trump-appointee who heads the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which runs VOA, but has faced criticism for allegedly trying to undermine VOA editorial independence. Pack has denied such claims.
An associate of Rudy Giuliani told a former CIA officer a presidential pardon was “going to cost $2m”, the New York Times reported on Sunday in the latest bombshell to break across the last, chaotic days of Donald Trump’s presidency. The report detailed widespread and in some cases lucrative lobbying involving people seeking a pardon as Trump’s time in office winds down. The 45th president, impeached twice, will leave power on Wednesday with the inauguration of Joe Biden.
The former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was jailed in 2012 for leaking the identity of an operative involved in torture, told the Times he laughed at the remark from the associate of Giuliani, the former New York mayor who as Trump’s personal attorney is reportedly a possible pardon recipient himself.
“Two million bucks – are you out of your mind?” Kiriakou reportedly said. “Even if I had two million bucks, I wouldn’t spend it to recover a $700,000 pension.”
An associate of Kiriakou reported the conversation to the FBI, the Times said.
A parade of oil and gas companies nobly announced this week that they will review their political donations in the wake of last week’s riot in Washington, D.C. — an attempt to distance themselves from the spectacle of election fraud conspiracists and white supremacists attacking the Capitol building and temporarily halting the election certification process. Marathon Petroleum, Occidental Petroleum, and the employee political action committees for ConocoPhillips and BP temporarily froze their contributions. Exxon Mobil and Chevron are reviewing their donations. Even energy industry association spokespersons for the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, as well as a leader of the Koch network said the attack on the Capitol will factor into their future giving. ...
In many ways, fossil fuel companies laid the groundwork for the widespread acceptance of lies big enough to cause an existential threat to democracy’s survival — even humanity’s. “Lying has become a habit,” said science historian Naomi Oreskes, whose book with Eric Conway, “Merchants of Doubt,” documents how veterans of the tobacco industry’s misinformation efforts seeded climate denial among the media and lawmakers. “They have been funding disinformation and anti-climate politicians for a very long time,” she said over email, of the fossil fuel industry. Oreskes said reconsidering political donations for election misinformation is a belated gesture: “A day late and a dollar short. Or, rather, three decades late and hundreds of millions of dollars short.” ...
To climate scientist Michael Mann, the fossil fuel groups’ announcements that they will review political giving serves to evade attention from the fact that, during the Trump administration, the oil and gas agenda was supercharged by the racist rhetoric and lies that swayed elections in the direction of their favored candidates. Indeed, never has the fossil fuel industry’s agenda been carried to fruition so completely as it was over the past four years, achieved using what Mann described to The Intercept as “red meat” thrown out for the racist right, including election disinformation. “It is the fossil fuel industry, the front groups that they fund along with plutocrats like the Koch brothers — these are the groups that have been pulling the strings, that have been throwing out the red meat, that have been instigating this racially motivated, treasonous rebellion by the disaffected base of the Republican Party,” said Mann. “They’re playing with fire, and it’s almost like they don’t really care about democracy.”
I guess we may be about to go through the looking glass into ConservativeWorld, where:
“Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." -- Ronald Reagan
The last decades have been filled with dire warning signs from forests. Global warming has contributed to thinning canopies in European forests and to sudden die-offs of aspen trees in Colorado, as well as insect outbreaks that are killing trees around the world. In many places, forests are not growing back. New research shows that Earth’s overheated climate will alter forests at a global scale even more fundamentally, by flipping a critical greenhouse gas switch in the next few decades. The study suggests that, by 2040, forests will take up only half as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they do now, if global temperatures keep rising at the present pace.
The study, published Wednesday in Science Advances, analyzed more than 20 years of data from about 250 sites that measure the transfer of carbon dioxide between land and plants and the atmosphere—the way the planet breathes. Forests and the rest of Earth’s land-based ecosystems take up about 30 percent of human carbon emissions, so any big change in that process is important. The data show a clear temperature limit, above which trees start to exhale more CO2 than they can take in through photosynthesis, said co-author Christopher Schwalm, an ecologist and earth system modeler at the Woodwell Climate Research Center. The findings mark a tipping point, of sorts, at which “the land system will act to accelerate climate change rather than slow it down,” Schwalm said.
The study found that, while trees at different latitudes have different temperature thresholds, for many forest types that are important for absorbing carbon dioxide, photosynthesis peaks at 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 degrees Fahrenheit). But the data showed no limits on the amount of carbon dioxide they can release. Plants typically absorb CO2 and release oxygen, but they also “exhale” CO2, particularly at night, when photosynthesis ceases due to the lack of sunlight. Forests also emit more CO2 when they are stressed by increasing temperatures.
Continued warming will reduce photosynthesis and exponentially increase the amount of CO2 trees release through respiration as they try to breathe enough to keep cool. That will turn many vegetated landscapes from carbon sinks into carbon sources within 20 to 30 years, accelerating climate change, the study concluded. The study also showed no signs that forests were able to acclimatize to the rising temperatures of the last two decades.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Percy Mayfield - Strange things happening
Percy Mayfield - Double Dealing
Percy Mayfield - Baby Please
Percy Mayfield - Baby You're Still a Square
Percy Mayfield - Hopeless
Percy Mayfield - Freeway
Percy Mayfield w/ Monroe Tucker & his Orch. - Two Years Of Torture
Percy Mayfield - Walking on a Tightrope
Percy Mayfield - Please Send Me Someone To Love
Percy Mayfield - Hit The Road Jack