The Evening Blues - 1-14-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues-rock band Dr. Feelgood. Enjoy!
Dr Feelgood - I'm A Man
“Every major power has some widely publicized justification for its procurement and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, often including a reptilian reminder of the presumed character and cultural defects of potential enemies (as opposed to us stout fellows), or of the intentions of others, but never ourselves, to conquer the world.”
-- Carl Sagan
News and Opinion
Russia has refused to rule out a military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela if talks with the west on European security and Ukraine fail to go its way, while warning the latest discussions with Nato were hitting a dead end.
In an apparent attempt to up the ante with the Biden administration, Sergei Ryabkov, who led Russia’s delegation in a meeting with the US on Monday, told Russian television he could neither confirm nor exclude sending military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if talks fail. Asked about these steps, he said “it all depends on the actions by our US counterparts”. Meanwhile another senior Russian diplomat threatened unspecified “necessary measures” if Moscow’s security demands were not met.
At the end of a week of diplomacy that appears to have produced no progress, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said US had intelligence Russia was preparing to fabricate claims of an imminent Ukrainian attack on Russian forces as a pretext for invasion. ...
Meanwhile the US defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, promised his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, continuing US provision of “defensive assistance” to help build the capacity of Ukraine’s armed forces. Michael Carpenter, the US representative at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), made clear that there had been no progress made in defusing tensions at Thursday’s meeting. “The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,” Carpenter told journalists afterwards.
The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials.
The CIA-trained forces could soon play a critical role on Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russian troops have massed in what many fear is preparation for an invasion. The U.S. and Russia started security talks earlier this week in Geneva but have failed thus far to reach any concrete agreement.
While the covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch — now officially known as Ground Department — was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and expanded under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has further augmented it, said a former senior intelligence official in touch with colleagues in government.
By 2015, as part of this expanded anti-Russia effort, CIA Ground Branch paramilitaries also started traveling to the front in eastern Ukraine to advise their counterparts there, according to a half-dozen former officials. The multiweek, U.S.-based CIA program has included training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like “cover and move,” intelligence and other areas, according to former officials.
The program has involved “very specific training on skills that would enhance” the Ukrainians’ “ability to push back against the Russians,” said the former senior intelligence official. The training, which has included “tactical stuff,” is “going to start looking pretty offensive if Russians invade Ukraine,” said the former official. One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly. “The United States is training an insurgency,” said a former CIA official, adding that the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians.”
1 million children suffering acute malnutrition. Quick, somebody call Madeleine Albright to see if it's "worth it."
Excellent article, worth a full read:
The word “encirclement” does not appear in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by President Joe Biden on Dec. 27, or in other recent administration statements about its foreign and military policies. Nor does that classic Cold War era term “containment” ever come up. Still, America’s top leaders have reached a consensus on a strategy to encircle and contain the latest great power, China, with hostile military alliances, thereby thwarting its rise to full superpower status.
The gigantic 2022 defense bill — passed with overwhelming support from both parties — provides a detailed blueprint for surrounding China with a potentially suffocating network of U.S. bases, military forces, and increasingly militarized partner states. The goal is to enable Washington to barricade that country’s military inside its own territory and potentially cripple its economy in any future crisis. For China’s leaders, who surely can’t tolerate being encircled in such a fashion, it’s an open invitation to… well, there’s no point in not being blunt… fight their way out of confinement.
Like every “defense” bill before it, the $768 billion 2022 NDAA is replete with all-too-generous handouts to military contractors for favored Pentagon weaponry. That would include F-35 jet fighters, Virginia-class submarines, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and a wide assortment of guided missiles. But as the Senate Armed Services Committee noted in a summary of the bill, it also incorporates an array of targeted appropriations and policy initiatives aimed at encircling, containing, and someday potentially overpowering China. Among these are an extra $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, or PDI, a program initiated last year with the aim of bolstering U.S. and allied forces in the Pacific.
Nor are these just isolated items in that 2,186-page bill. The authorization act includes a “sense of Congress” measure focused on “defense alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific Region,” providing a conceptual blueprint for such an encirclement strategy. Under it, the secretary of defense is enjoined to “strengthen United States defense alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region so as to further the comparative advantage of the United States in strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China,” or PRC. ...
For Chinese leaders, there can be no doubt about the meaning of all this: whatever Washington might say about peaceful competition, the Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, has no intention of allowing the PRC to achieve parity with the United States on the world stage. In fact, it is prepared to employ every means, including military force, to prevent that from happening. This leaves Beijing with two choices: succumb to U.S. pressure and accept second-class status in world affairs or challenge Washington’s strategy of containment. It’s hard to imagine that country’s current leadership accepting the first choice, while the second, were it adopted, would surely lead, sooner or later, to armed conflict. ...
How will Chinese leaders react to all this? No one yet knows, but President Xi Jinping provided at least a glimpse of what that response might be in a July 1st address marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. “We will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us,” he declared, as China’s newest tanks, rockets, and missiles rolled by. “Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
Welcome to the new 21st century Cold War on a planet desperately in need of something else.
The United States still does not know what the illness known as Havana syndrome is or who is responsible for it, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on Thursday after more American diplomats were reported ill in Paris and Geneva.
Blinken said the entire federal government was working to get to the bottom of the illness, which has afflicted about 200 US diplomats, officials and family members overseas.
“To date, we don’t know exactly what’s happened and we don’t know exactly who is responsible,” Blinken said in an interview with MSNBC.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported additional illnesses among officials serving in US diplomatic missions in Paris and Geneva, where the United States and Russia held security talks on Monday over Moscow’s troop buildup near the Ukraine border.
Three officials at the US consulate in Geneva reported symptoms of the mysterious syndrome, the newspaper reported, and at least one of them was medevacked from Switzerland to the US for treatment. Blinken said the United States had raised the illnesses with the Russians but still cannot make a determination about who was responsible.
Dozens of journalists and human rights defenders in El Salvador have been subjected to “jaw-dropping” phone hacks using the Pegasus spyware allegedly deployed by governments around the world against dissidents, reporters, diplomats and members of the clergy, according to internet security researchers. Reporting on its latest findings about the use of the Israeli firm NSO Group’s spyware, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said it had identified a Pegasus operator working almost exclusively in El Salvador in early 2020.
Citizen Lab found that 35 journalists and civil society activists had been targeted over a 16-month period that coincided with their investigations into allegations that the government of President Nayib Bukele was negotiating a pact with El Salvador’s street gangs to reduce violence and win their electoral support. ...
Although the researchers could not conclusively link the hacks to Bukele’s government, the report said “the strong country-specific focus of the infections suggests that this is very likely”. Such suggestions, however, were denied by the Bukele government. ...
The 40-year-old president – who once referred to himself as “the world’s coolest dictator” – made international headlines in February 2020 when he marched soldiers in combat fatigues into congress and told MPs to approve a loan for new security equipment or be summoned back in seven days for another session. ...
John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at Citizen Lab and an author of the report, said the “aggressiveness and persistence of the hacking was jaw-dropping”.
More than 8,000 workers at nearly 80 Kroger-owned King Soopers grocery stores around Colorado started a three-week strike on Wednesday as new union contract negotiations stalled.
The dispute is the latest in which workers have accused a corporation of making big profits during the pandemic while not paying high enough wages.
Kenny Sanchez, a King Soopers worker in Broomfield, Colorado, for 10 years has attended new contract negotiation meetings with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union and Kroger – and said there was a gulf between the two sides.
Sanchez said the lawyers from out of state acting on behalf of Kroger don’t get that the cost of living in Colorado has been soaring, and the workers’ wages aren’t keeping up with it. “We’re not making a living wage. We have people living out of their cars and struggling to pay bills,” said Sanchez. “This company does not get it. We can’t survive on what they’re paying out here and the competition is paying more.”
Union members voted nearly unanimously to authorize the strike over unfair labor practices against Kroger, as the company’s last, best and final offer included several concessions such as permitting the company to lower wages, use non-union gig workers, shortening leave of absence periods, relying on a part-time workforce, and offering only a $0.13 wage increase for some workers.
After raking in enormous profits from its coronavirus vaccine in 2021, the U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has kicked off the new year by hiking the prices of more than 120 of its drugs, resulting in significantly higher costs for patients amid a deadly pandemic.
That's according to a new report released Thursday by Patients for Affordable Drugs (P4AD), which found that pharmaceutical companies have raised the prices of 554 medicines this month alone. Pfizer led the way with 125 price hikes to start 2022, leading P4AD to label the company the industry's "poster child for greed."
"Due to sales of its Covid-19 vaccine, which is set to be the best-selling drug of all time, Pfizer shattered profit records in 2021. Projected sales for 2022 are $54.5 billion—more than double the previous record for one-year sales for a prescription drug," the report notes. "To put this into perspective, AbbVie's Humira previously held the spot with $19.8 billion in sales, and Pfizer’s best-selling product just prior to the pandemic achieved worldwide revenues of $5.8 billion." ...
While the worst offenders, Pfizer and its subsidiaries were hardly alone in raising drug costs for patients during the first month of 2022, according to P4AD, which also spotlighted price hikes by Gilead, Eli Lilly, and other prominent pharmaceutical companies.
"So far in 2022," the group noted in a press release, "drug companies have increased prices on 554 drugs, 183 drugs were hiked by $100 or more, and 118 drugs with increases carry a price over $5,000. The average price hike was 6.3%, and one in four price hikes exceeded the most recently available inflation rate at the time of analysis."
David Mitchell, P4AD's founder and a blood cancer patient whose medications have a list price of more than $900,000 annually, said in a statement Thursday that "even as we enter the third year of a pandemic, Big Pharma continues its practice of targeting American patients and consumers with price increases, completely undeterred by the financial and health challenges facing American families."
"Drug corporations can do this because we let them—unlike other nations that use their purchasing power to get a better deal," Mitchell added.
This fall, a sweeping Wall Street Journal investigation found that at least 131 federal judges violated the law by hearing cases in which they had a financial interest in one of the parties. What's more, 61 judges actively traded shares in a party to an ongoing case.
These findings are a stunning indictment of the federal judicial ethics system. The requirement of a neutral arbiter to a dispute—that is, that "no one shall be judge in his own cause"—is a foundational principle of equal justice, dating back to the Justinian Code. There is no due process, no rule of law, no justice without it. It's hard to overstate the magnitude of this ethical crisis.
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts appears to disagree. In his yearly report on the federal judiciary, the Chief Justice took pains to address—and then downplay—the significance of the crisis. As Roberts would have us see it, the problem boils down to "a small number," of judges who "did not take sufficient note" of their ethics training. In general, he says, these were "isolated violations" that were the result of "unintentional oversights," and he takes pains to note that the 685 specific cases uncovered by the Journal amount to "three hundredths of one percent" of the civil cases heard. Critically, and most egregiously, he ends this exercise in reframing and obfuscating by asserting that, "for all the conflicts identified, the Journal did not report that any affected the judge's consideration of a case or that the judge's actions in any of those cases … actually financially benefited the judge."
There are multiple problems with the picture the Chief Justice is painting. First, the numbers he cites—the total cases heard by conflicted judges—aren't particularly useful in understanding the scope of the problem. The total number of known conflicted cases is less important than the sheer number of judges who violated the law by hearing a conflicted case. The number of judges—131—is staggering because there are only 870 total federal judges at any given time. Even with some attrition during the period of the study, the percentage of judges who have failed to live up to their ethical obligations is far larger than "three hundredths of one percent."
The issue here is not simply that Roberts is cherry-picking numbers to suit his argument—he's a lawyer, after all. Rather, it's that he's arguing this point at all. Roberts, who by all accounts is acutely aware of the judiciary's public perception, is apparently unwilling to see these conflicts for what they are: a crisis of institutional legitimacy. The federal judiciary is tasked with upholding and executing fundamental principles of justice in our country, and granted the extraordinary privilege of lifetime tenure. Not only does a conflicted judiciary violate a litigant's constitutional right to due process, it undermines the public's belief in the rule of law in general. The judiciary is built on a foundation of public trust: it doesn't have the power of the purse or the authority to enforce the laws that it interprets. Credibility is its currency. If that falls away then the entire institution crumbles.
This is precisely why Roberts' statement that the Journal didn't prove that the conflicts actually resulted in a benefit to the judges is so troubling. The problem isn't the result of the cases or whether it benefitted a judge. Rather, the problem is the existence of the conflicts themselves. Hundreds of judges presided over cases in which they had a direct financial interest, and in doing so they violated both the law and basic principles of fairness and equality under the law. As Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet said during a recent hearing, "it is in the appearance of impartiality that Americans find faith in their courts and trust in their democracy. … The damage has been done. Federal judges did not follow the law. … The appearance of impropriety has already tainted their judgments." Public confidence that the system of law is fair and just is critical to maintaining democratic governance, and these judges undermined that confidence.
Joe Biden acknowledged it will be difficult to get a voting rights bill through the Senate, after the president met with Democratic senators on Capitol Hill this afternoon.
“I hope we can get this done. The honest to God answer is, I don’t know whether we can get this done,” the president told reporters.
Biden noted that past civil rights bills have required multiple attempts to get them passed, and he expressed hope that Democrats will have another opportunity to enact their proposals.
President Biden: "I hope we can get this done, but I'm not sure." pic.twitter.com/N7csgdbmjG
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 13, 2022
This day could not get much worse for Joe Biden. Joe Manchin has now reiterated that he is opposed to changing filibuster rules to pass voting rights bills.
“As I have said many times before, I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin said in a new statement, released shortly after Senate Democrats met with Biden on Capitol Hill.
“The filibuster plays an important role in protecting our democracy from the transitory passions of the majority and respecting the input of the minority in the Senate.” ...
Both Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have now indicated they are against filibuster reform, leaving Democrats with no path for passing their voting rights bills.
The nation’s most prominent anti-abortion group has been leading the campaign to protect the Senate’s legislative filibuster, in order to ensure that Democrats don’t pass voting rights protections. The right-wingers promoting the filibuster have been fully transparent about their goal: They want to block a federal voting rights law so they can elect more anti-choice politicians and to protect the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority that’s threatening abortion rights. It’s one more piece of evidence that defending the filibuster isn’t about preserving a rarified legislative tradition — it’s all about rigging the game to maximize conservatives’ power. ...
Last year, the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) helped launch the Election Transparency Initiative, with the stated goal of blocking Democrats from passing a national voting rights bill that would undo new Republican voter suppression laws around the country. Central to that effort: defending the filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation. In a press release announcing the initiative, the SBA List said the effort would include opposing H.R.1 — the strongest voting rights and democracy reform bill that Democrats have considered — and “mounting a vigorous defense of the filibuster and current Senate rules governing the reconciliation process, so as to prevent the worst of the pro-abortion Democrat agenda: unilaterally passing H.R.1. and expanding the Supreme Court.” ...
In recent months, the Election Transparency Initiative has been running ads pressuring corporate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — the two Democrats who have publicly opposed filibuster reforms — not to allow any changes to the filibuster. “For a century the filibuster has been a bedrock senate tool ensuring bipartisanship,” says one video ad from the Election Transparency Initiative. “Ending it means more dysfunction. Thankfully, Sen. Joe Manchin pledged to protect the filibuster, despite partisan pressure to cave. If Manchin sides with liberal elites to weaken the filibuster with carve-outs for Democrats' priorities, he would violate the trust of voters. Tell Manchin: Keep your promise. Protect the filibuster.” A similar version has aired recently on West Virginia radio stations.
An Arizona ad from the group says: “Congress is broken and extreme politicians want to make it worse by abolishing the senate's 60-vote filibuster rule. Sen. John McCain knew better and pledged preservation of the filibuster to ensure bipartisan cooperation. Thankfully Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has promised to honor McCain's legacy and protect the filibuster. But if Sinema votes to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, she would be just another hypocritical politician.” ...
To be clear, it’s not as if the SBA List has any kind of ideological affection for the filibuster or Senate rules: When Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch, the SBA List issued a press release praising the move.
Eleven members of the so-called "Oath Keepers"—including the right-wing extremist group's leader—have been charged with seditious conspiracy for actions related to the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
The Department of Justice unsealed the indictment Thursday a day after it was handed down by a grand jury.
The indictment states that Oath Keepers leader and former Army paratrooper Stewart Rhodes and others conspired "to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power."
It cites a message on the encrypted application Signal two days after President Joe Biden won the 2020 election in which Rhodes wrote: "We aren't getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit."
Rhodes and others associated with the Oath Keepers used encrypted and private communications for their efforts to recruit and mobilize others, including "trainings to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics; bringing and contributing paramilitary gear, weapons, and supplies," authorities said.
Rhodes was arrested Thursday, as was Edward Vallejo, who is identified as a "quick reaction force" leader in the indictment. QRF teams, according to the indictment, "were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C." to support the Oath Keepers' operations that day.
While those two men were arrested for the first time related to the Capitol attack, the other nine people named in the indictment were previously charged, and now face the sedition conspiracy charges.
Other charges listed against the Oath Keepers in the new indictment include conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties.
Rhodes' arrest, the New York Times reported, marked "a major step forward in the sprawling investigation of the Capitol attack," as well as the first time prosecutors made sedition charges.
According to CNN:
The Justice Department until now had been careful not to push the idea of sedition, instead charging defendants affiliated with right-wing groups with conspiracy to obstruct the congressional proceeding on January 6. The seditious conspiracy charge carries the same possible consequence as an obstruction charge, but is rarely used, politically loaded and has been difficult for the Justice Department to use successfully against defendants in the past. [...]
Rhodes has also been of interest to the House's January 6 investigation, which issued subpoenas in November for him and his organization for a deposition and documents related to the events of that day.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—who recently warned that "the next coup is not only possible; it has already begun"—said that the sedition charges could mark a turning point.
Following the news of the indictments on Thursday, Omar tweeted:
Following the news, watchdog group Accountable.US said it was important to recognize a link between the attack on democracy and anti-public lands movement spearheaded by right-wing militia groups like the Oath Keepers.
Rhodes and other Oath Keepers were involved in multiple standoffs in recent years with the Bureau of Land Management, including a noted armed dispute in 2014 as the group stood with Nevada cattle rancher and fervent anti-government activist Cliven Bundy, who defied the feds by letting his animals graze on public lands without payment or permit for years.
“Rhodes' challenges to the electoral process and to public ownership of land are two sides of the same coin,” said Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig.
“The crisis of conservation is a crisis of democracy," he continued. "We must hold accountable the special interests that threaten the public's role in guiding the government's decisions.”
The Republican party has signaled plans to withdraw from traditional US presidential debates, which it claims are biased against it. The New York Times first reported the move, citing a letter sent on Thursday by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
The commission was set up in 1987, as a non-partisan body “to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates between or among the leading candidates for the offices of president and vice-president … are a permanent part of the electoral process”. ...
The Times said the Republican move against the CPD was born of longstanding complaints that it favors Democrats, “mirroring increasing rancor from conservatives toward Washington-based institutions”. Among Republican complaints in 2020 was that the first debate took place on 29 September, more than a month before election day but after nearly a million votes had been cast.
Trump and Republicans also complained about supposed bias among debate moderators – even from Chris Wallace, then of the conservative Fox News network, in the first debate. ...
The threatened withdrawal from CPD debates, the Times said, followed “months of discussions between the commission and party officials”.
A new report has revealed that a record number of Americans are now alarmed about the climate crisis.
The study, published by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, found that Americans overall are becoming increasingly worried about global heating, more engaged with the issue and more supportive of finding solutions to the issue.
The study categorized Americans into six distinct groups based on their beliefs, attitudes, policy support and behavior about climate change.
The six distinct groups are: the Alarmed, who are the most engaged and very worried about global warming; the Concerned, who think global warming is a significant threat but prioritize it less and are less likely to take action; the Cautious, who are aware of climate change but are uncertain about its causes and are not very worried; the Disengaged, who are largely unaware of global warming; the Doubtful, who doubt it is happening or human-caused and the Dismissive, who firmly reject its reality and oppose most climate change policies.
The study revealed that the largest group, Alarmed (33%) greatly outnumber the dismissive (9%) by more than three to one. Approximately six in 10 Americans (59%) are either Alarmed or Concerned while only approximately two in 10 (19%) are Doubtful or Dismissive. Over the last five years, the Alarmed group has nearly doubled in size, growing 15 percentage points in total.
A new report published Thursday details how some of the world's biggest corporations and banks are exacerbating the global climate emergency by fueling the destruction of the world's tropical rainforests.
Forest 500, a project of Global Canopy, asserts that "500 companies and financial institutions have the power to transform cattle, timber, soy, and palm oil supply chains." But according to the group's latest annual assessment, those firms that are well-positioned to eliminate deforestation and related human rights abuses are failing to do so.
Titled A Climate Wake-Up, the analysis finds that 72% of the 350 largest producers of palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, pulp, and paper "do not have a deforestation commitment for all of the forest-risk commodities in their supply chains." One-third of the companies "have no deforestation commitments at all," and none have a "comprehensive approach to human rights."
"While 28 companies published a new commitment to address deforestation since last year," the report notes, "just 11 of these have a deforestation commitment for all of the commodities they are exposed to."
Even among the companies that do have deforestation policies, the report points out, many of them do not provide evidence of implementation, such as monitoring their suppliers or their own operations to ensure compliance.
The Forest 500 report also identifies the 150 banks that are driving the deforestation economy by providing more than $5.5 trillion in finance to companies active in forest-risk commodity supply chains.
Ninety-three of the 150 financial institutions most responsible for bankrolling deforestation—including BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, the world's three biggest asset managers—"do not have a deforestation policy covering their investments and lending to" the 350 corporations analyzed. Those 93 firms provide $2.6 trillion in finance to companies linked to clear-cutting.
Alluding to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use issued during last year's United Nations climate summit, Global Canopy executive director Niki Mardas said in a statement that more than 140 governments have acknowledged "the urgent need to protect forests" and promised to take action to stop clear-cutting by the end of the decade.
And yet, Mardas added, "most companies and financial institutions with the greatest ability to halt deforestation are doing little or nothing."
Ultimately, the report makes clear, "only mandatory action and reporting will drive market-wide change at the scale required."
The Biden administration's commitment to the advancement of environmental justice is the target of fresh doubt Thursday following departures in recent days of two key officials focused on the issue.
The administration's top environmental justice official, Cecilia Martinez—who served as senior director for environmental justice at the Council for Environmental Quality—announced her resignation last week.
She had been hailed by Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen as "a superb choice" for the CEQ role, as she's "dedicated her life's work to advancing equity and environmental justice all."
Martinez told the Associated Press, which first reported her resignation, that "it was a hard decision" to go. From AP:
Martinez helped develop then-candidate Joe Biden's environmental justice agenda while he was campaigning by setting up meetings between Biden's team and key environmental justice leaders from around the country. She went on to oversee a review of the Council on Environmental Quality as part of Biden's transition team and was eventually appointed as the top ranking official on environmental justice in the administration.
"Colleagues at the White House and in Congress say her departure is a loss," AP added, "since she played a pivotal role in centering disadvantaged communities in President Biden's environmental and climate policies."
And as Grist further noted:
Most notably under Martinez' leadership, the federal government has been working to create and implement the long-touted Justice40 initiative, through which the Biden administration committed to ensuring that 40 percent of government sustainability investments benefit the country's most pollution-burdened communities. The program is meant to guide the government's spending throughout the Biden administration, including spending from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the now-idled Build Back Better Act.
In a statement Thursday, CEQ chair Brenda Mallory said that Martinez was "the heart, soul, and mind of the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever adopted by a president."
She continued by saying that Martinez "is an unwavering and effective champion for the communities that, for far too long, have been overburdened by pollution and left out of government decisions that affect them."
Just days after Martinez's exit, the Council for Environmental Quality announced the departure of David Kieve, who served as director of public engagement at CEQ.
Kieve, who is married to White House communications director Kate Bedingfield, "was one of the Biden campaign's point people on outreach to environmentalist and climate groups during the 2020 campaign," The Hill reported.
White House counselor Steve Ricchetti said in a statement that Kieve's "advocacy and work on climate issues has made him an important ambassador for the president to the climate community, rallying their support behind our ambitious agenda to tackle the climate crisis, the existential threat of our time."
Their departures have reportedly rattled some inside the administration.
According to Politico, three members of Biden's White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council urged in a Monday letter to White House chief of staff Ron Klain that the administration install an environmental justice expert in the Climate Policy Office.
That office, established under Biden, is headed by Gina McCarthy.
Maria Lopez-Nuñez, an advisory council member and deputy director at the Ironbound Community Corporation, told Politico the fresh departures were "a big blow to being able to believe in the administration's seriousness to its commitment of environmental justice."
"Everybody that environmental justice people were connected with are gone," Beverly Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, told Politico. "I'm speechless."
"What's going on in D.C. right now is very bothersome to me," she added. "Black people—now I can't speak for anyone else—we're kind of feeling like we've been thrown under the bus."
In addition, the Climate Justice Alliance said in a tweet sharing Politico's story that the White House "was already too short-staffed to achieve its ambitious environmental justice goals, even before Brigitte Cecilia Martinez and David Kieve abruptly exited from the White House's Council on Environmental Quality."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Dr.Feelgood - Rolling and Tumbling
Dr.Feelgood - Going Back Home
Dr.Feelgood - She Does It Right
Dr. Feelgood - Boom Boom
Dr. Feelgood - Riot in Cell Block Number Nine (Live)
Dr. Feelgood - Roxette
Dr. Feelgood - Back In The Night
Dr Feelgood - I'm a Hog for You Baby
Dr.Feelgood - Keep It Out Of Sight
Dr.Feelgood - Bonie Moronie / Tequila
Dr.Feelgood - Johnny Be Goode