The Evening Blues - 4-7-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer and bass player Willie Kent. Enjoy!
Willie Kent - Lonesome Whistle Blow
"I still do not understand how a corporation can have person-hood if it has no soul and never dies."
-- Jon Stewart
News and Opinion
Reaffirming that "corporations are not people and money is not speech," Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Tuesday led 50 members of Congress in introducing a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, and "put power back into the hands of people."
The We the People Amendment (pdf) would establish that "the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only" and that "artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities... have no rights under this Constitution."
Furthermore, the proposed amendment states that "the privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the people through federal, state, or local law."
The measure follows an election cycle that saw an unprecedented $14.4 billion in total spending on federal contests, with Joe Biden's presidential campaign becoming the first ever to raise over $1 billion from donors, according to the Center for Responsibile Politics' (CRP) transparency watchdog OpenSecrets.
Nine of the 10 most expensive Senate races in U.S. history also occurred last year, and CRP reported a shift to large donation strategies, with the top 10 donors—who mostly gave to political action committees (PACs) unfettered by spending limits under Citizens United—pouring a staggering $640 million into 2020 races. ...
The We the People Amendment follows the January re-introduction in the House of the Democracy for All Amendment, a bipartisan constitutional amendment that would give 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.
The United States and Iran agreed through intermediaries on Tuesday to establish two working groups to try to get both countries back into compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
In a meeting of the current members of the deal in Vienna, all parties agreed to establish one working group to focus on how to get the United States back to the deal by lifting harsh economic sanctions imposed or reimposed after President Donald J. Trump pulled out of the accord in May 2018. The other working group will focus on how to get Iran back into compliance with the accord’s limitations on nuclear enrichment and stockpiles of enriched uranium.
The two groups have already begun their efforts, according to Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian representative who is ambassador to international organizations in Vienna. Mr. Ulyanov called Tuesday’s meeting of the joint commission on the Iran deal an initial success.
Ukraine Says NATO Only Way to End Donbass War, 37,000-Troop US-NATO War Games Aim at Confrontation With Russia
The Ukrainian government reports two more soldiers killed in ongoing fighting in the Donbass as Kiev withdraws from the Trilateral Contact Group of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe meetings in the Belarusian capital of Minsk because of what it calls “hostile rhetoric” from the host nation, which it also accuses of being under Russian influence. ...
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in referring to NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP), the final stage to full membership, said: “We are committed to reforming our army and the defense sector, but reforms alone cannot stop Russia. NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbas. The MAP will be a real signal for Russia.”
Aleksey Arestovich, an advisor to the Ukrainian delegation to the now-suspended Trilateral Contact Group talks in Minsk, recently stated, “A large-scale NATO exercise has begun, called DefenderEurope 2021,” which is being conducted with as many as 37,000 troops from the U.S. and NATO member and partner nations, “from the waters of the Baltic to the Black Sea, to put it bluntly, [for] armed confrontation with Russia.”
The Biden administration was accused Tuesday of holding an "indefensible" position after the Pentagon said landmines "remain a vital tool" in the U.S. military's arsenal.
"This is the wrong approach," tweeted the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL).
The group said President Joe Biden "should be moving away from landmines, not embracing their use," the group said, and pointed to the president's campaign vow to undo the Trump administration's widely condemned rollback of landmine restrictions.
The criticism Monday followed a tweet from Daily Beast reporter Spencer Ackerman in which he wrote that "Biden's Pentagon is going to keep the Trump Pentagon's policy of embracing landmines" and shared a screenshot of a Defense Department spokesperson describing the department's landmine policy as "unchanged since January 21, 2020."
"Landmines, including anti-personnel landmines, remain a vital tool in conventional warfare that the Unites States military cannot responsibly forgo," the statement read. The department also asserts U.S. landmines "have self-destruct capability and self-deactivate features" that curb "the risk of unintended harm to civilians."
The Trump administration announced in January of 2020 that it was rescinding former President Barack Obama's 2014 order limiting U.S. landmine use to the Korean Peninsula. Among those expressing outrage at the time was, Michael Payne, with Physicians for Human Rights, who rejected the assertion that "advanced" landmines would spare civilians harm.
"Despite any purported technological advancements, landmines are still capable of causing indiscriminate harm and egregious injury and suffering," he said at the time.
Boris Johnson has sought to reassure people about the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine as a trial in children was paused while regulators investigate rare reports of blood clots, largely in younger women. The prime minister urged the public to take the jab when it is offered, while scientists stressed the side-effects were extremely rare and the benefits of protection against coronavirus were great.
Some UK drug safety experts believe there could be a causal link between the AstraZeneca jab and rare blood clotting events including cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). But they said vaccination programmes must continue, with risk mitigation for women under 55. Doctors have already been alerted to CVST symptoms, which include headache, blurred vision and fainting.
Oxford University is running a trial in more than 200 children and young people aged six to 17 to see whether they could benefit from the AstraZeneca jabs. The trial was paused on Tuesday as a precautionary measure in response to investigations by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in the UK and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), a university spokesperson said. The regulators are considering whether any action should be taken, with statements expected within days.
The Oxford spokesperson added: “While there are no safety concerns in the paediatric clinical trial, we await additional information from the MHRA on its review of rare cases of thrombosis/thrombocytopenia that have been reported in adults, before giving any further vaccinations in the trial.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday ruled out the Biden administration playing any role in a "vaccine passport" system as Republican governors in particular balk at the concept.
"The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential," Psaki told reporters at a briefing.
The White House has been clear that it would defer to private companies if they wanted to implement some type of vaccine passport system in which individuals would have to provide proof that they received one of the coronavirus shots.
"Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is American's privacy and rights should be protected so that these systems are not used against people unfairly," Psaki said.
Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that all US adults would be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine by 19 April, even as he warned that the nation was still in a “life-and-death race” against the virus.
Pairing optimism with caution, the president touted the administration’s success in accelerating the pace of the vaccination effort, including the milestone of administering a record 4m doses in a single day. But that progress, he said, is threatened by the rise in coronavirus cases in many states across the US as dangerous variants spread and some officials loosen public health restrictions. ...
In his remarks, Biden expressed confidence that every American over the age of 18 would be eligible to get in the “virtual line” to be vaccinated soon.
A number of US states have already said they will meet the accelerated timeline, which is roughly two weeks earlier than the initial 1 May goal. Meanwhile, states such as New Jersey and Oregon announced this week that all Americans over 16 would be eligible to sign up for a vaccine on 19 April.
Biden said the new deadline would eliminate uncertainty about eligibility, which varies by state. “No more confusing rules, no more confusing restrictions,” he said.
Oh, my! Not a ketchup shortage!?!
It’s an American tragedy that takes place in under a minute. You eagerly open the warm takeout bag in your hands, the smell of french fries wafting through its package. Everything seems to be there until you dig around the bottom of the bag. Nothing but napkins. Where’s the ketchup?
That experience has apparently become more common for Americans as the country experiences a ketchup shortage and manufacturers race to catch up to increasing demand for single-use ketchup packets during a pandemic boom in takeout dining.
The uptick in ketchup demand has had an influence on the price of packets, which have increased 13% since January 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. Long John Silver’s, a fast-food restaurant chain, said that the price increase of ketchup has cost the company an extra half-million dollars.
“Everyone out there is grabbing for ketchup,” Stephanie Mattingly, the company’s chief marketing officer, told the Journal.
Restaurants have had to give customers generic version of ketchup since Kraft Heinz, which produces the vast majority of ketchup consumed in the US, is also experiencing difficulty keeping up with demand.
Democratic lawmakers issued fresh calls late Monday for President Joe Biden to remove all six members of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to enable the ouster of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after the board declared its "full support" for the Republican megadonor accused of openly sabotaging the agency.
"Instead of holding DeJoy accountable, the USPS Board of Governors confirmed what I always suspected was true: The six current members are all DeJoy loyalists," tweeted Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
Duckworth was reacting to the response she received from the postal board regarding her March 25 letter demanding it fire DeJoy for cause, citing his "pathetic 10-year plan to weaken USPS" as evidence that "he is a clear and present threat to the future of the postal service and the well-being of millions of Americans, particularly small business owners, seniors, and veterans, who depend on an effective and reliable USPS to conduct daily business, safely participate in democracy, and receive vital medication."
The letter to Duckworth signed by postal board chairman Ron Bloom described DeJoy as a "transformational leader" who "continues to enjoy the board's full support."
The new 10-year strategy, the letter asserts, will "achieve service excellence adapting the postal service to the evolving needs of the American people, which will make our product offerings more attractive to prospective customers."
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.)—who called on Biden in January to purge the postal board for having remained silent during "the devastating arson of the Trump regime"—criticized the board's response to Duckworth.
"Every single member of the postal board should be fired," Pascrell tweeted Monday. "They're openly complicit in DeJoy's sabotage and arson. Fire every board member then fire DeJoy."
Duckworth, in a separate tweet Monday, said, "I'm re-upping my February request that @POTUS use his legal authority to remove the entire Board for cause."
The lawmakers' calls were echoed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
"We'd love to see some spring cleaning at the postal service. Fire Louis DeJoy," the government watchdog tweeted.
In recent weeks, progressive public interest organizations have identified—and implored congressional Democrats to repeal—dozens of former President Donald Trump's last-minute regulatory attacks on consumers, the environment, immigrants, Social Security, and more.
But by the time the deadline to introduce so-called "resolutions of disapproval" against the pending rules came and went Sunday, Democratic lawmakers had only taken aim at six Trump-era regulatory actions—and they have until next month to pass those resolutions to prevent the rules from taking effect.
Under an obscure 1996 law titled the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress has the power to nullify newly finalized federal regulations within 60 legislative days. Because CRA resolutions are not subject to the Senate filibuster, they require just a simple-majority vote in both chambers to pass.
While Republicans wasted little time jettisoning more than a dozen Obama-era regulatory moves when they took control of Congress in 2017, Democrats did not show similar urgency to use their authority under the CRA after winning back both chambers earlier this year.
As The American Prospect's David Dayen argued Tuesday, the majority party's failure to adequately wield the CRA has a lot "to do with the difference between Democrats and Republicans in Congress when it comes to regulatory matters."
"Most Republicans have a regulatory reform staffer in their offices. Most Democrats don't," Dayen noted. "As a result, the process was a scramble, funneled through a House and Senate Democratic leadership that had a muted, at best, interest in using the tool. Strong pushback outside of Congress finally yielded the handful of resolutions that did manage to beat the deadline."
"But even if this landed in a not-disastrous place," Dayen added, "it's an ominous signal that congressional Democrats are not fully committed to maximizing their power."
One unnamed observer told Dayen that "Democrats get owned on regulatory issues day in and day out."
"The problem," the person said, "is they didn't want to do the work."
More than two-thirds of students surveyed for a report published Tuesday by a coalition of community advocates say in-house police should be removed from schools, with large numbers of pupils also saying they feel unsafe around officers and many of the youth—more than 90% of whom were people of color—reporting being harassed or mocked by campus cops.
The report, entitled Arrested Learning: A Survey of Youth Experiences of Police and Security at School (pdf), was released by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) in collaboration with staff and young people from Make the Road New York (MRNY), Make the Road Nevada (MRNV), Latinos Unidos Siempre (LUS), the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), and the the Research Hub for Youth Organizing at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The release of the report marks the launch of a week of action by these organizations "to demand that federal, state and local elected officials take immediate action to remove police from schools and end the school-to-prison-and deportation pipeline."
The groups' staff surveyed 630 students in Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon. Of the respondents with police at their schools, 41% said they felt unsafe or very unsafe when they see officers, with only 16% saying that campus cops make them feel safe. On the other hand, respondents said that friends (84%) and teachers (63%) made them feel safe.
A third of survey respondents have felt targeted by police based on race, primary language, sexual orientation, or gender identity—including transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex. Nearly two-thirds reported experiencing or knowing someone who has experienced negative interactions with police at their schools. Among Black and Latinx students—who were also more likely to be targeted at metal detectors than other students—that figure rose to nearly three-quarters.
"I feel traumatized by them and purposely avoid seeing them or interacting with them," said one student about campus cops.
"I do not feel safe because I've witnessed their abuse of power and refusal to help me when I asked," said another. "They also ridicule the students and try to make them feel small."
Desiree Reyes, a youth member of Make the Road Nevada, said in a statement that "to have police officers at school is a reminder that we must be on guard. Whenever I walk by an officer I hold my breath, take my hands out of my pocket, and try to stand up straight. I'm scared."
"I know half of the young people in our district probably feel the same way," added Reyes. "We need police-free schools."
A Minneapolis police trainer who instructed Derek Chauvin in the use of force told the former officer’s murder trial on Tuesday that placing a knee on a suspect’s neck when they are already subdued “is not authorised”.
Lt Johnny Mercil told the court that at the time George Floyd was arrested last May, police department policy still permitted the use of neck restraints using an arm or side of a leg when a suspect was being “assaultive”.
But he said the training did not include the use of a knee, as Chauvin used for more than nine minutes on the 46-year-old African American man in his custody.
Mercil said putting a knee to the neck is “not unauthorised” in making an arrest, but that it is not permitted if the suspect is in handcuffs or otherwise subdued. Floyd was in handcuffs for several minutes before he was forced into the prone position on the ground and Chauvin applied his knee. Mercil, a martial arts expert specialising in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, said he trained officers that the use of force has to be reasonable when it starts and when it stops.
The prosecution is seeking to show that even if Chauvin felt that he was using a legitimate level of force when he got Floyd on the ground, keeping his knee on the detained man’s neck for more than nine minutes was not reasonable. There came a point at which it should have been lifted.
California is at the edge of another protracted drought, just a few years after one of the worst dry spells in state history left poor and rural communities without well water, triggered major water restrictions in cities, forced farmers to idle their fields, killed millions of trees, and fueled devastating megafires. On Thursday, the unofficial end of California’s wet season, officials announced that the accumulation of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Cascades was about 40% below average levels. The state doesn’t have enough snow and rain banked to replenish its groundwater supplies, feed its rivers and streams or fill depleted reservoirs.
“It’s not just that we’re anticipating a dry year, it’s that this is our second extremely dry year, in a row,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles and the Nature Conservancy. California – along with much of the US west – is parched, Swain added, and should brace for water cuts and arid conditions that could trigger more destructive wildfires.
Just four years since the state’s last drought emergency, experts and advocates say the state isn’t ready to cope with what could be months and possibly years of drought to come. Heading into the summer, battles are heating up between cities, farms and environmentalists over how scarce supplies are rationed. ...
Already, the California department of water resources has announced major cuts to the reservoirs and aqueducts that supply farms and cities. The Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which delivers water to farms up and down the state’s Central Valley, said agricultural customers south of California’s delta, which feeds into the San Francisco Bay, will not be getting any water this year. And some localities, including Marin county, north of the San Francisco Bay, have asked residents to voluntarily cut back on their water use.
“But our water system is already strained” said Nicola Ulibarri, who researches water management at the University of California, Irvine. The state’s massive agriculture industry, which supplies what amounts to a quarter of the US food supply, sucks up 80% of the state’s water resources. Much of the rest is pumped to cities and towns across the region. California is already drawing so much water from the state’s bay delta that endangered, native fish species are in decline.
There just isn’t enough water to go around, she added, “and that to me signals we’re going to need the whole system to change”.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Willie Kent - I Had A Dream
Willie Kent & His Gents - Slow And Easy
Willie James Lyons & Willie Kent - Bobby' s Rock
Willie Kent - Mean Old World
Willie Kent - Trouble In Mind
Willie Kent - Look Like It's Gonna Rain
Wille Kent - Feels So Good
Wille Kent - Going Down The Road
Willie Kent - Boogie All Night Long
Willie Kent & His Gents live at Belgium Banana Peel 2004