The Evening Blues - 1-22-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Son Seals. Enjoy!
Son Seals - Call my Job
"No pressure, no diamonds."
-- Thomas Carlyle
News and Opinion
Earlier this month, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, appeared to have taken an unequivocal stance against new $2,000 stimulus checks. ... Over the weekend, Manchin went on “Inside West Virginia Politics,” saying he would prefer that the checks are targeted to the people most impacted by the pandemic, but if there’s no way to target them, it’s more important to “get more money out.” ... It may be no coincidence that not long after Manchin’s initial comments to the Washington Post, he was getting pounded at home by a brutal radio ad. “Joe Manchin thinks he knows better than both our president and the Democrats,” says the ad. “I guess Joe just don’t know what it’s been like to live through the pandemic. We should call his office and let him know.”
The spot was narrated by Corbin Trent, the former spokesperson for New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Trent, Justice Democrats co-founder Zack Exley, and former Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti had put together a new political action committee — the No Excuses PAC — to pressure Manchin to back the $2,000 checks. The ad reached an estimated quarter million people each time it aired, according to Trent. It was precisely the kind of targeted ad that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in 2009 told progressive groups was “fucking retarded” and needed to come off the air. The progressive groups complied.
Now, with an evenly divided Senate, Democrats like Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema are uniquely positioned to hold leverage over their party and block desperately needed relief. House Democrats also have little room for error in steering the nation out of a crisis, given their razor-thin margin. No Excuses PAC intends to push back against any Democratic lawmakers who try to hamper ambitious policy with similar rapid-response ad campaigns in the future, Trent told The Intercept.
“The only way we won’t do this is if Democrats just push through everything that needs to be done, keep all their promises, and do what’s right for the people who just gave them the House, the Senate, the White House,” Trent said. “But my guess is — not to be a jaded, cynical bastard — my guess is they’re going to need a little bit of encouragement, a little bit of cajoling from time to time.”
American lawmakers have asked the FBI to investigate the role of Parler, the social media website and app popular with the American far right, in the violence at the US Capitol on 6 January.
Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House oversight and reform Committee, asked the FBI to review Parler’s role “as a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence, as a repository of key evidence posted by users on its site, and as a potential conduit for foreign governments who may be financing civil unrest in the United States”. Maloney asked the FBI to review Parler’s financing and its ties to Russia.
Maloney cited press reports that detailed violent threats on Parler against state elected officials for their role in certifying the election results before the 6 January attack that left five dead. She also noted numerous Parler users have been arrested and charged with threatening violence against elected officials or for their roles in the attack. She cited justice department charges against a Texas man who used a Parler account to post threats that he would return to the Capitol on 19 January “carrying weapons and massing in numbers so large that no army could match them”. The justice department said the threats were viewed by other social media users tens of thousands of times.
A Pennsylvania woman facing charges that she helped steal a laptop from the office of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, during the attack on the US Capitol will be released from jail, a federal judge decided on Thursday.
US magistrate judge Martin Carlson directed that Riley June Williams be released into the custody of her mother, with travel restrictions, and instructed her to appear on Monday in federal court in Washington to continue her case. “The gravity of these offenses is great,” Carlson told Williams. “It cannot be overstated.”
Williams, 22, of Harrisburg, is accused of theft, obstruction and trespassing, as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Carlson noted Williams has no prior criminal record. The FBI says an unidentified former romantic partner of Williams tipped them off that she appeared in video from the 6 January rioting and the tipster claimed she had hoped to sell the computer to Russian intelligence.
Williams’s defense lawyer, Lori Ulrich, told Carlson the tipster is a former boyfriend who had been abusive to Williams and that “his accusations are overstated”.
Video from the riot shows a woman matching Williams’s description exhorting invaders to go “upstairs, upstairs, upstairs” during the attack, which briefly disrupted certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
The 26,000 National Guard troops stationed in Washington, D.C., were ready for anything, but Inauguration Day passed without them facing a single security problem.
"There were no security incidents reported involving the National Guard," according to a National Guard Bureau news release. ...
The Supreme Court did receive a bomb threat before the inauguration ceremony Wednesday, but the building was not evacuated because it was closed at the time, Business Insider reported. ...
The force could shrink rapidly, but at a minimum, the 6,200 Guard members mobilized Jan. 7 -- following the Capitol breach -- will remain in Washington through Feb. 7, he told reporters Tuesday. The rest were requested by federal law enforcement to support the inauguration.
Since the day of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, at least nine states have introduced 14 anti-protest bills. The bills, which vary state by state, contain a dizzying array of provisions that serve to criminalize participation in disruptive protests. The measures range from barring demonstrators from public benefits or government jobs to offering legal protections to those who shoot or run over protesters. Some of the proposals would allow protesters to be held without bail and criminalize camping. A few bills seek to prevent local governments from defunding police.
The pushes by close to a fifth of state legislatures are part of a pattern that began to pick up speed after the summer’s uprisings in response to the police killing of George Floyd, which in many communities included significant property damage. In a handful of states, lawmakers did what they often do: introduced new legislation — however unnecessary — to show that they were responding to their constituents’ concerns. The rate of new bills being offered sped up dramatically this month as lawmakers kicked off their legislative sessions at the very moment that Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Bills quickly arose in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.
“There has generally been an uptick at the beginning of odd-numbered years, when most states begin their biennial legislative sessions. But this year beats prior recent years,” Elly Page, senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, said in an email. Since January 1, she noted that 11 state legislatures have introduced 17 bills, including those filed before the Capitol insurrection. “Compare that to 0 during the same period in 2020, 9 in 2019, 5 in 2018, and 13 in 2017,” she said, adding that the 2017 spike was mostly due to North Dakota responding to that winter’s Standing Rock protests.
Because of state legislatures’ part-time schedules, most legislative sessions were over by late last summer, leaving insufficient time to pass bills that responded to the uprisings against police brutality. “We expected to see some bills this month, as state legislatures reconvened, but the number of bills and their severity is still shocking,” she said. ...
To some observers, the timing of the bills smacked of hypocrisy. “It’s telling that so many radical right-wing state lawmakers are responding to an attack on our democracy with an attack on our democracy,” added Daniel Squadron, a former Democratic state senator from New York and president of Future Now, a group focused on winning state legislatures from Republicans. “Make no mistake, these bills were teed up long ago to criminalize peaceful protest, stifle speech, and obscure the clear distinction between First Amendment rights and a violent insurrection.”
In a move applauded by anti-war activists, U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday reportedly offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a five-year extension of the New START treaty just days before the pact—the only remaining nuclear arms control agreement regulating the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world—is set to expire.
If the White House and Russia cannot settle on a mutually agreed-upon plan to extend the New START treaty, which caps the number of offensively-deployed nuclear weapons that each country is allowed to have at 1,550, the deal will expire on February 5, 2021.
Letting the treaty expire could unleash "a full-blown nuclear arms race that exposes the whole world to an intolerable level of risk," Derek Johnson, chief executive officer of Global Zero, an international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, said in a statement on Thursday.
"After four years of efforts to kill arms control and chase the false security of nuclear dominance, the U.S. is coming back to its senses," said Johnson. "Extending New START is a hugely consequential first move by the Biden administration." ...
While Putin is seeking an unconditional extension of the treaty, The Post reported that the Biden administration "is preparing to impose new costs on Russia pending a newly requested intelligence assessment of its recent activities."
Two senior U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic, told the newspaper that "Biden is ruling out a 'reset' in bilateral relations with Moscow as many new U.S. presidents have done since the end of the Cold War."
The Post noted that "Biden's plans for potential punitive actions toward Russia at the outset of the administration is unique among his recent predecessors, all of whom attempted to turn a new page with the Kremlin in the hopes of encouraging a more productive relationship."
While the White House's specific terms are not yet clear, The Post reported that unlike his predecessor, Biden "is not interested in holding an extension of New START hostage to China."
As Romney Says Covid Relief Bill 'Not Well-Timed,' Progressives Urge Biden to Abandon GOP Outreach, Move Swiftly on Bold Package
With Covid-19 killing thousands of people each day in the U.S. and the economy still mired in deep recession, progressives are calling on President Joe Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress to abandon futile outreach to the GOP and push ahead with a robust relief package after a pair of so-called "moderate" Republican senators voiced skepticism Wednesday about passing another major spending bill.
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling itself the Common Sense Coalition, indicated shortly after Biden's inauguration Wednesday that they would have difficulty supporting relief legislation on the scale of the $1.9 trillion plan the president unveiled last week—a proposal progressives criticized as inadequate.
Romney characterized Biden's opening offer as "not well-timed" given that Congress "passed a $900 billion-plus package" last month. Some economists argue that between $3 trillion and $4.5 trillion in spending will be necessary in the short-term to bring the U.S. out of recession and pave the way for a speedy recovery.
"Let's give that some time to be able to influence the economy," Romney said of the December relief measure.
Murkowski echoed Romney's concern, complaining that "the ink is just barely dry on the $900 billion." Biden's relief proposal—which includes $1,400 direct payments, a boost to unemployment benefits, and other key measures—would require "a fair amount of debate and consideration," said the Alaska Republican.
Given that Biden would likely need the backing of both Romney and Murkowski—as well as other Republicans—to achieve his hope of passing a relief bill with bipartisan support, progressives said the two senators' comments further bolster the case for ignoring the austerity-obsessed GOP and using unified Democratic control of government to swiftly pass an ambitious package.
"Who cares what Romney thinks," tweeted policy analyst James Medlock. "Ultimately the effectiveness of the Biden admin[istration] will be determined by how often they ignore what Republicans have to say and jam stuff through reconciliation." ...
Biden has not explicitly endorsed passing coronavirus relief through reconciliation if Republicans obstruct his agenda. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during the new administration's first press briefing Wednesday that while the president's "clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill," Biden is "not going to take tools off the table for how the House and Senate can get this done."
With the reconciliation process a possibility, another—and, according to some progressives, much better—option is to quickly eliminate the legislative filibuster, a move that would allow passage of legislation without any Republican support. ...
As progressive Democrats and advocacy groups demand quick action, the timeline for movement of a coronavirus relief package remains unclear. Punchbowl News reported Wednesday morning that "Democrats do not expect to be able to send Biden a Covid relief bill until early March," when emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans.
Joe Biden began his first full day as president confronting a host of major crises facing his fledgling administration, starting with a flurry of actions to address his most pressing challenge: the raging Covid-19 pandemic. At a White House event on Thursday afternoon, Biden unveiled a new “wartime” strategy to combat the coronavirus, vowing “help is on the way.” ...
Bracing the nation for continued hardship, Biden cautioned that it would “get worse before it gets better” and forecast that the death toll could rise to 500,000 by the end of next month. “This is a wartime undertaking,” he said, as he signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to increase production of personal protective equipment and other resources.
Among the string of actions Biden took on Thursday was an executive order to require mask-wearing on federal property, in airports and on many flights, trains, ships and long-distance buses. For international travel, the White House instituted a new order requiring passengers to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a plane bound for the US. International travelers will also be required to quarantine upon arrival. ...
Even as he charted an aggressive approach to gain control of the virus, he was met with more bad news about the economy as another 900,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week and he inherited the worst jobs market of any modern-day president.
In a development that critics say provides additional evidence of former President Donald Trump's incompetence and malfeasance, newly sworn-in President Joe Biden learned soon after Wednesday's inauguration that his administration will have to develop a coronavirus vaccine distribution strategy from "square one" because the previous administration departed without a federal inoculation plan in place.
"There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch," one source with knowledge of the Biden team's pandemic response told CNN.
With more than 406,000 people having died from Covid-19 in the U.S. alone, and with seven-day averages of nearly 200,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths per day, Biden has pledged to ramp up the production and distribution of vaccines—vowing to inoculate 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of his administration.
But the failure of the Trump administration to leave behind any national rollout plans has made that task more challenging. Describing the moment when it dawned on Biden's team that there was no vaccine strategy for them to build upon, another source told CNN: "Wow, just further affirmation of complete incompetence."
Jamie Dimon, the billionaire boss of JP Morgan who has warned income inequality has “bifurcated the economy” in America, was paid $31.5m in 2020, the bank announced on Thursday.
The news is likely to cast a harsh spotlight on a figure who has opined about the need for a more caring and equitable capitalism yet appears to have vastly increased his fortune at a time of immense suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic that has seen millions of people plunged into poverty and homelessness.
JP Morgan paid Dimon a salary of $1.5m, a $5m cash bonus and $25m of restricted stock tied to performance, according to a regulatory filing. The total was the same as last year even though the bank has enjoyed “stellar” growth in some areas, according to analysts. In 2019 JP Morgan paid Dimon $31.5m, a 1.6% increase from the $31m he received for 2018.
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is proposing to push back the start of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial by a week or more to give the former president time to review the case. House Democrats who voted to impeach Trump last week for inciting the 6 January Capitol attack have signaled they want a quick trial as President Joe Biden begins his term, saying a full reckoning is necessary before the country – and the Congress – can move on.
But McConnell told his fellow GOP senators on a call Thursday that a short delay would give Trump time to prepare and stand up his legal team, ensuring due process. The Indiana senator Mike Braun said after the call that the trial might not begin “until sometime mid-February”. He said that was “due to the fact that the process as it occurred in the House evolved so quickly, and that it is not in line with the time you need to prepare for a defense in a Senate trial”.
The timing will be set by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who can trigger the start of the trial when she sends the House charges for “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate, and also by McConnell and the new Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, who are in negotiations over how to set up a 50-50 partisan divide in the Senate and the short-term agenda.
Democrats are hoping to conduct the proceedings while also passing legislation that is a priority for Biden, including coronavirus relief, but they would need some cooperation from Senate Republicans to do that, as well. Schumer told reporters on Thursday that he was still negotiating with McConnell on how to conduct the trial, “but make no mistake about it. There will be a trial, there will be a vote, up or down or whether to convict the president.”
Pelosi could send the article to the Senate as soon as Friday. Democrats say the proceedings should move quickly because they were all witnesses to the siege, many of them fleeing for safety as the rioters descended on the Capitol.
In a bid to reverse the outsize influence of corporations and the wealthiest Americans over the nation's electoral process, a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.
The reintroduction of the Democracy for All Amendment in the 117th Congress—led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), John Katko (D-N.Y.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)—occurred on the 11th anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, a 5-4 ruling which affirmed that corporations are legal persons and that they, labor unions, and other outside groups could spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of U.S. elections.
The amendment, which has been introduced in every Congress since the 113th, grants the states and the federal government the ability to limit how money is raised and spent in U.S. elections. It also grants the states and Congress the power to differentiate between natural and corporate persons.
A separate but related measure, the We the People Amendment, has also been reintroduced in each successive Congress since the 113th, most recently by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) in February 2019. The amendment would preclude artificial entities such as corporations and limited liability companies from enjoying constitutional rights, which would be reserved for natural persons.
Deutch asserted in a statement released Thursday that Citizens United has "put an unacceptable price of admission on American democracy."
Indigenous leaders and environmentalists are urging Joe Biden to shutdown some of America’s most controversial fossil fuel pipelines, after welcoming his executive order cancelling the Keystone XL (KXL) project. Activists praised the president’s decision to stop construction of the transnational KXL oil pipeline on his first day in the White House, but they stressed that he must cancel similar polluting fossil fuel projects, including the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), to stand any chance of meeting his bold climate action goals. ...
“The victory ending the KXL pipeline is an act of courage and restorative justice by the Biden administration. It gives tribes and Mother Earth a serious message of hope for future generations as we face the threat of climate change. It aligns Indigenous environmental knowledge with presidential priorities that benefit everyone,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, founder of Brave Heart Society and a member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota nation.
“This is a vindication of 10 years defending our waters and treaty rights from this tar sands carbon bomb. I applaud President Biden for recognizing how dangerous KXL is for our communities and climate and I look forward to similar executive action to stop DAPL and Line 3 based on those very same dangers,” said Dallas Goldtooth, a member of the Mdewakanton Dakota and Dine nations and the Keep It In The Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network.
Donald Trump sanctioned the KXL and DAPL pipelines soon after taking office – which paved the way for scores of executive actions and rollbacks favoring fossil fuel allies while violating indigenous rights and environmental standards.
The world is lagging behind the pace of change needed to avert catastrophic impacts from the climate crisis, John Kerry has warned in his first remarks as the US’s new climate envoy. Kerry, the former US secretary of state, acknowledged that America had been absent from the international effort to contain dangerous global heating during Donald Trump’s presidency but added that “today no country and no continent is getting the job done”.
There would need to be a “wholesale transformation of the global economy” if the world is to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, Kerry said. He said it was necessary for coal to be phased out five times faster than recent trends, the planet’s tree cover to be increased five times faster, renewable energy to be ramped up six times faster and a transition to electric vehicles to be 22 times faster than present.
“We need to all move together, because today very few are on a trajectory of the steep reductions needed to meet even current goals, let alone the targets we need to avert catastrophic damage,” Kerry said.
Kerry’s comments, made to business leaders at a G20 forum, are the first since he began his role as an international climate envoy in Joe Biden’s new administration. Biden, who was sworn in as US president on Wednesday, has launched a blizzard of executive actions to halt fossil fuel pipelines and drilling, protect public lands and return the US to the Paris climate agreement.
Biden is expected to convene an international climate summit ahead of crucial UN talks, known as the conference of the parties (or Cop26), to be held in Glasgow later this year. The talks are aimed at escalating cuts to planet-heating emissions agreed in Paris in 2015. A recent UN report starkly outlined the inadequacy of the current targets, which would need to increase more than fivefold to avoid the planet heating up 1.5C above the pre-industrial era and causing a cascade of climate-driven disasters.
“At the Cop in November, all nations must raise ambition together – or we will all fail, together,” Kerry said. “Failure is not an option.”
The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of six labor unions and six national environmental groups, is gearing up for a significant staff expansion heading into the Biden administration, recently advertising for 11 new positions, including the 15-year-old group’s first field organizers and federal campaign manager. The staffing up, said Jason Walsh, executive director of the alliance, is a reflection of funders recognizing “the moment we’re in, both in terms of the scale of the crisis and the opportunity with the new Congress and a new president” — and also a signal that policy differences in the Democratic climate coalition will emerge in clearer focus over the next few months.
As pressure for unity from the presidential campaign season fades and President Joe Biden begins enacting his climate vision, there will be more competition among climate groups for influencing policy, a preview of which emerged in September over a House energy bill that ultimately garnered 18 Democratic dissenting votes. The Biden campaign sought to align itself closely with unions on the trail, making BlueGreen a valued ally, though some of its other efforts to court environmental justice groups highlight policy differences that the new administration will have to navigate.
The BlueGreen Alliance, which emphasizes equity and the needs of working people in the U.S.’s response to climate change, rejects what it calls the “false choice” between economic security and a viable planet, according to an eight-page policy platform released in 2019. While BlueGreen’s focus on public investment, good jobs, and justice shares much in common with the federal Green New Deal resolution introduced in February 2019, their “Solidarity for Climate Action” report is in tension with those in the environmental movement who call for a more rapid transition away from oil, coal, and natural gas. BlueGreen says that the ultimate goal should be to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, but not necessarily end the fossil fuel industry itself, with its tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. ...
And the BlueGreen Alliance, which endorsed Biden for president — its first endorsement of a candidate for public office — is well-positioned among Democratic leaders to push its platform. “Based on our efforts and the efforts of our allies, there’s something of an emerging consensus among Democratic policymakers of the central importance of getting to net-zero by 2050 in a way that supports and creates lots of high-quality, accessible union jobs in the process,” Walsh said.
The alliance — which includes large national green groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council and labor unions like the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Teachers, and the United Steelworkers — also calls for measures like restoring forests and wildlands, cracking down on employee misclassification, making it easier to unionize, winning universal high-speed internet, and investing in deindustrialized areas. Walsh declined to say who exactly was financing BlueGreen’s new positions but said it received some significant support recently from “old and some new” philanthropies, including the Hewlett Foundation.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Son Seals - Going Back Home
Son Seals - Frigidaire Woman
Son Seals - I Can't Hear Nothing But The Blues
Son Seals - Landlord At My Door
Son Seals - Hot Sauce
Son Seals - Telephone Angel
Son Seals - Going Home (Where Women Got Meat On Their Bones)
The Son Seals Blues Band - Cotton Picking Blues
Son Seals With Elvin Bishop - Sadie