The Evening Blues - 1-27-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Enjoy!
Oscar Peterson - C Jam Blues
"By trying to seize far more power than is necessary over American citizens, the federal government is destroying its own legitimacy. We face a choice not of anarchy or authoritarianism, but a choice of limited government or unlimited government."
-- James Bovard
News and Opinion
Glenn Greenwald, excellent and worth a click and a read:
Washington, DC has been continuously militarized beginning the week leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, when 20,000 National Guard troops were deployed onto the streets of the nation’s capital. The original justification was that this show of massive force was necessary to secure the inauguration in light of the January 6 riot at the Capitol. But with the inauguration over and done, those troops remain and are not going anywhere any time soon. Working with federal law enforcement agencies, the National Guard Bureau announced on Monday that between 5,000 and 7,000 troops will remain in Washington until at least mid-March.
The rationale for this extraordinary, sustained domestic military presence has shifted several times, typically from anonymous U.S. law enforcement officials. The original justification — the need to secure the inaugural festivities — is obviously no longer operative. So the new claim became that the impeachment trial of former President Trump that will take place in the Senate in February necessitated military reinforcements. On Sunday, Politico quoted “four people familiar with the matter” to claim that “Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial poses a security concern that federal law enforcement officials told lawmakers last week requires as many as 5,000 National Guard troops to remain in Washington through mid-March.”
The next day, AP, citing “a U.S. official,” said the ongoing troop deployment was needed due to “ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol.” But the anonymous official acknowledged that “the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility.” Even National Guard troops complained that they “have so far been given no official justifications, threat reports or any explanation for the extended mission — nor have they seen any violence thus far.”
It is hard to overstate what an extreme state of affairs it is to have a sustained military presence in American streets. Prior deployments have been rare, and usually were approved for a limited period and/or in order to quell a very specific, ongoing uprising — to ensure the peaceful segregation of public schools in the South, to respond to the unrest in Detroit and Chicago in the 1960s, or to quell the 1991 Los Angeles riots that erupted after the Rodney King trial. Deploying National Guard or military troops for domestic law enforcement purposes is so dangerous that laws in place from the country’s founding strictly limit its use. It is meant only as a last resort, when concrete, specific threats are so overwhelming that they cannot be quelled by regular law enforcement absent military reinforcements.
Are we even remotely at such an extreme state where ordinary law enforcement is insufficient? ... Future violent acts in the name of right-wing extremism, as well as other causes, is highly likely if not inevitable. But the idea that the country faces some sort of existential armed insurrection that only the military can suppress is laughable on its face. ... Why were these troops likely to indiscriminately arrest and murder black reporters and other journalists over the summer but are now trusted to protect them? And what does it say about the current climate, and the serious dangers it poses, that the public is being trained so easily to acquiesce to extreme measures in the name of domestic security?
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said on Tuesday that he ordered the military to draw up new plans to attack Iran’s nuclear program. He also warned the new Biden administration against reviving the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
“I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones,” Kohavi said. “We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year.”
Kohavi’s comments are just the latest threatening comments towards Iran from Israeli officials. Earlier this month, an Israeli minister from the Likud party said Israel will have to attack Iran if the Biden administration returns to the JCPOA
The US and Russia have agreed to extend an arms control treaty limiting their deployed nuclear warheads after Joe Biden’s first phone call as president with Vladimir Putin. At the same time, Biden took a firm position on Russian actions that Donald Trump largely ignored, raising concerns about the poisoning and arrest of the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, warning Putin that the US supported Ukraine against Russian “aggression”, complaining about Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election, and the “Solar Winds” cyber-attack on US government agencies last year.
Biden challenged Putin on US intelligence reports that Russia had offered bounties to the Taliban and other extremist groups in Afghanistan for the killing of US soldiers. ...
The White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said that Biden had also expressed opposition to the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, as being a “bad deal” for Europe, one example of continuity with the Trump and Obama administrations.
The Biden team is seeking to take a tougher line on Russia’s violations of human rights and international law while seeking to make progress on arms control with Moscow, which crumbled under the Trump administration. The two leaders formally exchanged notes extending the 2010 New Start agreement by five years, assuring the survival of the last remaining arms control treaty between the US and Russia in the wake of the Trump era.
Donald Trump is suspended from posting to YouTube indefinitely after the video platform’s parent company Google extended a ban put in place this month.
“In light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, the Donald J Trump channel will remain suspended,” a YouTube spokesperson said. “Our teams are staying vigilant and closely monitoring for any new developments.”
YouTube had announced on 12 January, following the insurrection at the Capitol, that it would suspend Trump’s account indefinitely. After revisiting the issue it has decided to keep that suspension in place, CNet first reported.
Under the suspension, Trump’s account will remain online but the former president will not be able to post new videos. Comments under existing videos will remain disabled, a YouTube spokesperson told the Guardian. The company did not give any indication as to when the suspension would be lifted.
On 16 January, Facebook announced that it will be “banning ads that promote weapon accessories and protective equipment in the US at least through January 22”. To those of us who have been observing the world of Trump-supporting social media, this announcement is a manipulative piece of whitewashing that obscures how Facebook’s algorithms continue to divide people the world over.
As part of my research while working as a consulting producer on Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, I made many pro-Trump social media accounts. The accounts were a window into the Trump echo-chamber, where the unhinged threats and vitriol posted by radicalized users are chilling. Yet as shocking as the posts can be, they make perfect sense if you look at the ads that bombard those accounts.
Roughly four out of five ads shown to my pro-Trump profiles sell tactical gear clearly intended for combat. This is not a new thing – it has been going on since I started looking at these accounts in June 2019, and it was probably going on much longer than that. Although Facebook policy does not allow the direct advertisement of guns and bombs, accessories have generally been fair game. Tactical backpacks with integrated back scabbards that can hold weapons up to 25in long. Rapid clip loaders. Night vision sights. Shoulder holsters. Body armor.
Despite not actually selling guns, the vast majority of the ads nevertheless display military-style weapons somewhere in their design. An automatic rifle slides into the tactical backpack. The body armor is worn by someone actively poised to shoot a semi-automatic weapon. A black T-shirt presents an image of a medieval crusader in full armor holding a contemporary handgun, accompanied by a biblical quote: “Blessed be the lord my rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” ...
According to a 2018 Pew study, seven in 10 US adults are on Facebook, and about half of all Americans check the platform every day. Those who have liked and shared pro-Trump posts, or who have mostly pro-Trump friends, are being bombarded with fear- and aggression-driven advertising warning them to stockpile weapons and accessories. Most of the paths presented lead deeper into the rabbit hole. Few lead out.
The Oregon Republican party has falsely claimed in a resolution that there is “growing evidence” that the 6 January attack on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob was “a ‘false flag’ operation”.
The resolution, which was published on 19 January and was endorsed by the executive committee of the state Republican party, suggested that the storming of the capitol by Trump supporters was an orchestrated conspiracy “designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters and all conservative Republicans,” and to create a “sham motivation” to impeach the former president.
To back up these false claims, the resolution cited links to rightwing websites, including the Epoch Times, a pro-Trump outlet that has frequently published rightwing misinformation, as well as the Wikipedia entry for “Reichstag Fire.”
In a Facebook video released on 19 January, the Oregon Republican party chairman, Bill Currier, said that Oregon Republicans were working with Republicans in other states to release similar resolutions. “We are encouraging and working with the others through a patriot network of RNC members, the national level elected officials from each state, to coordinate our activities and to coordinate our messaging,” Currier said as part of the video conversation with other members of the Oregon Republican party.
“We’re partway in the door of socialism and Marxism right now … and we have to fight,” Currier said. “It’s a time for choosing. People can decide what they want to believe and what they want to do, but there are people standing up and there are people sitting down.”
Report Reveals Racist Conspiracy Theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Showed Support for Murdering Democrats
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—a freshman Republican lawmaker, prolific bigot and conspiracy theorist, and staunch backer of former President Donald Trump—repeatedly showed support online for executing prominent Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former President Barack Obama, and former Secertary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN reported Tuesday.
Greene, who represents Georgia's 14th Congressional District, in January 2019 "liked" a Facebook comment asserting that "a bullet to the head would be quicker" to oust Pelosi (D-Calif.) from the House speakership.
In April 2018, she responded to a Facebook post asking if "we get to hang" Obama and Clinton over their support for the Iran nuclear deal by saying the "stage is being set" and "players are being put in place."
"We must be patient," wrote Greene. "This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off."
Greene also liked Facebook comments supporting the assassination of FBI agents who were purportedly part of the "deep state" opposition to Trump.
On Tuesday, Greene tweeted that "fake news CNN is writing yet another hit piece on me focusing on my time before running for political office."
"Over the years, I've had teams of people manage my pages," she wrote. "Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views. Especially the ones that CNN is about to spread across the internet."
President Joe Biden’s recent pick to chair the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, is welcome news to those who have been fighting to help students access the internet during the coronavirus pandemic. It was Rosenworcel herself, one of just two Democrats on the five-person commission, who years back coined the term “the homework gap,” referring to inequities faced by kids living in communities with poor internet infrastructure or in households that can’t afford internet service.
The homework gap, or so-called digital divide, has been one the most difficult challenges for children throughout the pandemic. The disparity took on new urgency when schools nationwide closed to prevent Covid-19 spread in the spring, and internet providers also struggled to handle the surge in home usage among their regular customers. Ten months into the pandemic, millions of students still lack reliable connectivity, and many of those children have no plans to return to in-person school for months.
One change Rosenworcel has been advocating throughout the pandemic could now be used to address inequities in digital learning: By using her new emergency powers, she could authorize existing federal funding streams to go toward buying hot spots and tech devices for students learning at home who currently lack them. Rosenworcel did not return a request for comment. An FCC spokesperson said, “We need to put classrooms and libraries across the country on course for digital age learning, and a big part of that will be building an E-Rate program that can more fully meet these needs.” The spokesperson also referred The Intercept to Rosenworcel’s remarks before Congress in September, where Rosenworcel emphasized the FCC’s ability to get started “immediately.”
Established in 1996, the federal Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as E-Rate, provides up to $4.15 billion annually to help connect public schools to the internet. The program was modernized in 2014 under reforms spearheaded by the Democrat-appointed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. The goal was to help more schools access high-speed fiber broadband, but the modernization effort was opposed by then-FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who argued that the reforms were fiscally irresponsible and did not do enough to control fraud and abuse. ...
Pai’s continued opposition to E-Rate modernization was instrumental in hampering students from accessing more reliable internet during the pandemic. One little-known restriction on the program states that E-Rate’s federal funding can only go toward financing internet in physical classrooms and school libraries, meaning that the billions of dollars could not help students access at-home broadband or even subsidize internet at public libraries.
The world’s biggest pharmaceutical firms are little prepared for the next pandemic despite a mounting response to the Covid-19 outbreak, an independent report has warned.
Jayasree K Iyer, executive director of the Netherlands-based Access to Medicine Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation funded by the UK and Dutch governments and others, highlighted an outbreak of the Nipah virus in China, with a fatality rate of up to 75%, as potentially the next big pandemic risk.
“Nipah virus is another emerging infectious disease that causes great concern,” she said. “Nipah could blow any moment. The next pandemic could be a drug-resistant infection.”
Nipah can cause severe respiratory problems and encephalitis, swelling of the brain, and has a mortality rate of 40% to 75%, depending on where the outbreak occurs. Fruit bats are its natural host. Outbreaks in Bangladesh and India were probably linked to drinking date palm juice.
It is one of 10 infectious diseases out of 16 identified by the World Health Organization as the greatest public health risk where there are zero projects in pharmaceutical firms’ pipelines, according to the foundation’s biennial report. They also include rift valley fever, common in sub-Saharan Africa, along with Mers and Sars – respiratory diseases that are caused by coronaviruses and have far higher death rates than Covid-19 but are less infectious.
In response to the emergency, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is lifting stay-at-home restrictions, removing essential workers from the state’s vaccine priority list, and championing a complex deal that extends the state’s expiring partial eviction moratorium but still allows landlords to pursue evictions. Newsom has long insisted his decisions are “lead by data and science” — but his moves come just as new studies show that keeping workers out of the workplace and banning evictions play pivotal roles in reducing the spread of the deadly virus.
The first study, from University of Pennsylvania researchers, found that workers deemed essential and required to go to their workplaces have a 55 percent higher chance of being infected than those staying home. Family members and roommates living with essential workers also have a significantly higher chance of being infected. The data — gleaned from health insurance records in the Philadelphia area — builds on a previous University of Alabama research documenting how stay-at-home orders likely reduced the virus spread during the spring of 2020. ...
The findings echo a November report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that working in offices and schools increases an individual’s risk of contracting COVID. The study looked at 314 people with similar levels of community exposure and found that those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus were nearly twice as likely to work in an office or school than at home. The report recommended businesses offer “alternative work site options” where possible. ...
A separate report from researchers at UC San Francisco detailed which essential workers appear to be the most at risk. Topping the list were cooks, packaging and filling machine operators and tenders, agricultural workers, bakers, construction workers, and production workers. Despite data showing that essential workers face extra risk of dying from COVID, California’s new measures remove essential workers from the state’s vaccination priority list, transitioning to a system based on age.
“A Step Forward”: Black Lives Matter Protests Forced Biden to Push Racial Equity, But More Is Needed
Progressives Welcome Biden Executive Order Ending DOJ Private Prison Contracts, But Say This Is Just the Start
Criminal justice reform advocates on Tuesday welcomed an executive order from President Joe Biden phasing out Department of Justice contracts with private prisons as a meaningful first step, even as the president faced criticism over the order's limited scope and impact.
In announcing Tuesday's orders, Biden acknowledged the wave of racial justice protests that swept the nation in the wake of last year's killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police, which the president said "opened the eyes of millions."
"We've never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation... that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives," Biden admitted, declaring that "now's the time to act."
"More than two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, including a disproportionate number of people of color," the executive order states. "There is broad consensus that our current system of mass incarceration imposes significant costs and hardships on our society and communities and does not make us safer."
"To decrease incarceration levels, we must reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate by phasing out the federal government's reliance on privately operated criminal detention facilities," it adds.
To that end, Biden's order directs the office of the attorney general—currently headed by Monty Wilkinson in an acting capacity pending the Senate confirmation of Merrick Garland—to "not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities."
The order will affect around 14,000 federal inmates currently incarcerated in private prisons, or about 9% of the federal prison population—and just 0.6% of the approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in US prisons and jails. It does not apply to other federal agencies that contract with private prisons, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Progressive lawmakers, organizations, and advocates welcomed the order, even while many noted its considerable limitations.
The order on prisons was one of a set of racial equity measures enacted by Biden on Tuesday. The president also issued a memorandum ordering the Department of Housing and Urban Development to "redress historical racism in federal housing policies" and fully implement the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
Additionally, he signed an executive order re-affirming the federal government's commitment to Indigenous sovereignty, and another memorandum condemning "racism, xenophobia, and intolerance" against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, which has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, in part due to racist rhetoric from former President Donald Trump.
Donald Trump’s hopes of avoiding conviction by the US Senate received a boost on Tuesday when 45 Republicans tried to dismiss his impeachment trial before it even began.
The procedural vote was not enough to prevent the trial going ahead, since 55 senators voted that it should, but it did suggest that Democrats face an uphill battle to get the 67 senators they will need for a conviction on a two-thirds majority vote. ...
Senators gathered at the scene of the crime on Tuesday to begin his trial. After they were sworn in and signed the oath book – each using a different pen due to coronavirus precautions – Rand Paul of Kentucky challenged the legitimacy of the trial. He argued on a point of order that, since Trump is no longer president, pressing ahead with it “violates the constitution”. ...
Senators then voted 55-45 against Paul’s point of order, ensuring the trial will proceed – but also signalling the strength of Trump’s residual support among Republicans in the Senate and beyond. The only five Republicans who voted to go ahead with the trial were the longtime Trump critics Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
WATCH: Senate Majority Leader Schumer calls on President Biden to "explore" using emergency powers to declare climate an emergency.
"If there ever was an emergency, climate is one" pic.twitter.com/Zpnd03kPVD
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 26, 2021
Now Make It 'Permanent': Environmental Groups Applaud Biden's Plan to Pause New Oil and Gas Leasing on Public Lands
As President Joe Biden prepares to enact a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, climate justice advocates on Tuesday praised the expected move and encouraged the Biden administration to demonstrate its commitment to addressing the climate emergency by permanently banning fossil fuel extraction on the nation's publicly owned territory.
"A pause on drilling and fracking is good news, but only if it is followed by a strong plan to permanently ban all dirty energy extraction on public lands," Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said Tuesday in a statement responding to Biden's forthcoming moratorium.
"The simple truth," Hauter added, "is that we need to stop drilling and fracking everywhere, as soon as possible. The federal government has the power—and the moral responsibility—to get off fossil fuels, and doing so on publicly owned land sends a positive message that the Biden administration is serious about confronting this issue head-on."
The Washington Post, which heard from three individuals briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan is still being finalized, reported Tuesday that "the moratorium would not affect existing leases, meaning drilling would continue on public land in the West as well as in the Gulf of Mexico."
The Post also noted that "administration officials had considered imposing a moratorium on new federal coal leasing as well, but one of the people briefed on the plan said officials are leaning against that option."
According to The Associated Press, which spoke with two unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter, "The moratorium is intended to allow time for officials to review the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment and climate." The Post pointed out that "the pause will allow the new administration to assess whether taxpayers are being adequately compensated for the minerals extracted from land they own."
Billions of cicadas that have spent 17 years underground are set to emerge across large areas of the eastern US, bringing swarming numbers and loud mating calls to major towns and cities.
The periodic cicadas – bugs with strikingly red eyes, black bodies and orange wings – burrow underground as nymphs and suck fluids from the roots of plants as they grow, eventually bursting into the open as adults in mass synchronized events.
The last such event for 15 states including New York, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia occurred in 2004. The cicadas emerge in a 17-year cycle, meaning they will appear this year once temperatures are warm enough, expected to be mid-May.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Oscar Peterson - Boogie Blues Etude
Oscar Peterson & Count Basie - Jumpin' At The Woodside
John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson - Hackensack
Oscar Peterson - Summertime
Oscar Peterson - On The Sunny Side Of The Street
Oscar Peterson with Ray Brown & NHO Pedersen - Reunion Blues
Oscar Peterson - Carolina Shout
Oscar Peterson - Night Train
Oscar Peterson - Kelly's Blues
Keith Emerson & Oscar Peterson - Honky Tonk Train Blues