The Evening Blues - 1-14-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features vocal group The Ronettes. Enjoy!
The Ronettes - Be My Baby
"It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen."
-- Muhammad Ali
News and Opinion
The House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached Donald Trump for inciting a violent insurrection against the government of the United States a week after he encouraged a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol, a historic condemnation that makes him the only American president to be charged twice with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.
After an emotional day-long debate in the chamber where lawmakers cowered last week as rioters vandalized the Capitol, nearly a dozen House Republicans joined Democrats to embrace the constitution’s gravest remedy after vowing to hold Trump to account before he leaves office next week.
The sole article of impeachment charges the defeated president with “inciting an insurrection” that led to what the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said would be immortalized as a “day of fire” on Capitol Hill. ...
The final count was 232 to 197, with 10 members of the president’s party supporting his unprecedented second impeachment, making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in US history. Among them was Liz Cheney, the No 3 House Republican and daughter of Dick Cheney, George W Bush’s vice-president. Though she did not rise to speak on Wednesday, she issued a blistering statement announcing her decision, in which she said that there had “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States” than Trump’s conduct on 6 January. ...
The House was prepared to immediately transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate after Wednesday’s vote. In a statement, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said there was “simply no chance” of concluding a trial before Trump leaves office, ensuring that the affair would begin during the inaugural days of Joe Biden’s presidency.
The National Guard has started to move into Washington en masse in an attempt to prevent violence in the run up to the inauguration of Joe Biden next week. As Congress acted to impeach Donald Trump on Wednesday and the president urged his supporters to shun violence, the National Guard started to deploy 20,000 troops in the US capital. At Trump’s inauguration in 2016, the figure was about 8,000.
The National Guard are on a 24-hour watch in the US Capitol after last week’s violence, with off-duty members catching naps in hallways and below the bust of General George Washington. Riot shields and gas masks were piled in the hallways, with large numbers of Guard members in fatigues and carrying rifles stationed around the exterior of the building. Troops have been present at the seat of Congress since at least Friday but more were due to arrive before inauguration day, according to the city’s acting police chief Robert Contee. ...
Roads near the Capitol have been closed, and the National Park Service has closed the Washington Monument to tours. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked visitors to stay away. ... Washington’s subway system said it would close 13 stations from Friday through to 21 January – including Union Station, a major transit hub. It is also closing the three busiest downtown stations.
Following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who believed that the presidential election had been stolen, the Pentagon was quick to distance itself from the security failure, saying that it was not privy to any intelligence indicating that National Guard support would be needed. But the U.S. military had its own intelligence that anticipated election-related unrest from individuals who viewed the presidential election as fraudulent — the same individuals who stormed the Capitol — according to an internal Defense Department intelligence assessment obtained exclusively by The Intercept. ...
The day after the Capitol unrest, the Defense Department insisted: “We don’t do domestic [intelligence] collection … we rely on Capitol Police and federal law enforcement to provide an assessment of the situation. And based on that assessment that they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request.” Kenneth Rapuano, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, likewise told reporters that law enforcement did not provide them with any intelligence warning of “significant violent protests.” But the document obtained by The Intercept suggests that the Pentagon did have relevant intelligence and was not entirely dependent on law enforcement intelligence. ...
The intelligence report, which totals more than 400 pages, addresses a host of other threats. It contains probability ratings to assess the likelihood of an attack from each threat, assigning “HIGH” probability to “domestic terrorists/homegrown violent extremists.” (Of the 14 threats included, domestic terrorists ranks fourth highest, below only threats posed by cyberattacks, foreign intelligence entities, and active shooters.) “The resulting aftermath of the recent presidential election has contributed to an environment where civil disturbance activity is almost certain to continue to persist,” the assessment notes. “There are multiple ways that protest activity could play out such as large-scale protests that escalate to riots, looting, or criminal activity.”
QAnon is mentioned under a section titled “Domestic Extremist Groups: Spectrum of Activity from Peaceful Protest to Terrorism” and is characterized as one of several “Groups Motivated by Conpiracy Theories/Misinformation/Disinformation” — alongside “Anti-5G” and “Pizzagate” adherents. Other domestic extremist groups listed that were present among the Capitol rioters include “White Nationalist/Separatist Groups” and “Anti-Government/Militia/Patriot/Boogaloo Groups.” ...
Federal agencies in addition to the Defense Department have similarly sought to distance themselves from the failure to prevent the Capitol unrest. For example, the FBI’s Washington field office chief, Steven D’Antuono, said that “there was no indication” that any violence would take place. But the Post subsequently reported that a day prior to the Capitol unrest, an FBI office in Virginia issued a situation report warning of extremists planning to travel to the Capitol in order to commit violent acts.
Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, has said that banning Donald Trump from the platform was the “right decision” but that it sets a dangerous precedent. Speaking out for the first time since the social network took the remarkable step of permanently suspending the president’s account following a violent attack on the US Capitol, Dorsey said the company faced “an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety”.
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey admitted on Wednesday in an extended Twitter thread. “I feel a ban is a failure of ours, ultimately, to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.”
Dorsey said that it was the right decision for the company but that such actions “fragment the public conversation”.
“They divide us,” he continued. “They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.” ...
Dorsey underscored in his tweets a need for a new “open decentralized standard for social media”.
“It’s important that we acknowledge this is a time of great uncertainty and struggle for so many around the world,” he said. “Our goal in this moment is to disarm as much as we can, and ensure we are all building towards a greater common understanding, and a more peaceful existence on earth.”
Many of the Members who signed this letter, including those of us who have served in the military and are trained to recognize suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff, witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5.
— Rep. Mikie Sherrill (@RepSherrill) January 13, 2021
This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March due to the pandemic. We found these tours so concerning that senior staff questioned the SAA on January 5 about what was taking place.
— Rep. Mikie Sherrill (@RepSherrill) January 13, 2021
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and a former federal prosecutor, says she saw members of Congress give “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol the day before last week’s deadly insurrection.pic.twitter.com/8XLfZ7mKmU
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 13, 2021
The Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told thousands of followers via her Instagram Live on Tuesday that she “thought [she] was going to die” as a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol last week. ... Ocasio-Cortez – who is also referred to as AOC – spoke at length about the experience, noting she “didn’t feel safe around other members of Congress” because there were colleagues “who would create opportunities to allow [her] to be hurt, kidnapped, etc”.
“I myself did not even feel safe going to that extraction point because there were QAnons and white supremacist sympathizers and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress in that extraction point who I know and who I had felt would disclose my location,” she said. ... The congresswoman’s remarks add to several Democratic leaders who have come forward with details that suggest some Republican politicians may also have aided in the invasion.
In a Facebook live on Tuesday night, the New Jersey representative Mikie Sherrill recalled a “reconnaissance”, or tours being provided by colleagues to groups of Trump supporters at the Capitol on 5 January. The grounds had been closed to the public since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I was told later that members of that mob had zip ties, were wearing body armor and were looking to take prisoners,” the congresswoman said. ...
Later Tuesday, Sarah Groh, chief of staff to Ayanna Pressley, told the Boston Globe that as the Massachusetts congresswoman and her staff hid from the approaching invaders, they discovered that the emergency system in her office had been manipulated without explanation. “Every panic button in my office had been torn out – the whole unit,” she said. ...
The congresswomen join a trove of officials pushing for the president and his Republican allies to be held accountable for inciting the attack.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Impeachment Is Late Attempt to Curb Violence & Racism at Heart of Trump Era
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for the FBI, Transportation Security Administration, and Department of Homeland Security to put rioters who stormed the Capitol on a no-fly list, barring them from airline travel in the U.S. “Any of those who were inside the Capitol should not be able to fly and should be placed on the no-fly list,” Schumer said, waving a piece of paper with a “no” sign over a plane. “We are calling on the authorities — FBI, TSA, Department of Homeland Security — to put them on the no-fly list immediately.” ... To civil liberties advocates, though, Schumer’s call echoes the groundswell of paranoia, anger, and anxiety that followed 2001’s September 11 attack — an event that spurred security agencies and government officials to transform the United States into a quasi-police state searching for suspected terrorists. The shocking riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, described by many as the start of an insurrection, looms as a similar turning point. The “war on terrorism” and its chilling of toolbox of security, legal, and political implements look ready to turn against the homegrown threat of domestic terrorism.
“Doubling down on use of the no-fly list will entrench an error-prone and unconstitutional system, and communities of color will continue to bear the brunt of it,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.
In the years following the September 11 attacks, tens of thousands found themselves on the no-fly list without any specific allegation against them, after having been targeted without due process, based on classified criteria. In 2014, The Intercept published documents from the National Counterterrorism Center revealing the criteria for how individuals are placed on the broader terrorism watchlist from which the no-fly list is constructed. Introduced behind the scenes, the criteria for watchlisting possible extremists — and potentially banning them from flying — revealed an opaque system rife with potential for abuse. The guidelines allowed federal authorities to tie individuals to terror groups without hard evidence and gave unilateral authority to a single White House official to designate entire “categories” of surveilled people onto both the watchlist and no-fly list. “Fragmentary information” could suffice for officials to nominate someone to the list, and even dead people could be watchlisted.
Although efforts have been made to improve accountability over use of such secret lists in response to public pressure, the no-fly list has frequently caught innocent people in its net. In some cases, particularly those that drew in other forms of law enforcement abuse and surveillance onto targeted individuals, it seemed to transform into an unaccountable tool for security agencies to discriminate against, punish, or pressure ordinary people as they chose.
Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri, who is black, was openly booed by Republican lawmakers Wednesday after she denounced white supremacy on the House floor while explaining why she would vote in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump for inciting a violent mob to attack the U.S. Capitol building last week.
Before being booed on the House floor, Bush said, "If we fail to remove a white supremacist president who incited a white supremacist insurrection, it's communities like Missouri's 1st District that suffer the most. The 117th Congress must understand that we have a mandate to legislate in defense of black lives."
"The first step in that process," Bush continued, "is to root out white supremacy, starting with impeaching the white supremacist-in-chief."
Republicans responded harshly with boos and loud moans, leading Bush to question the underlying significance of the GOP lawmakers' outrage.
"What does it mean when they boo the Black congresswoman denouncing white supremacy?" Bush tweeted moments later.
The coronavirus claimed more than 4,300 lives on Tuesday, another one-day high, amid further signs that pandemic fatigue is likely to lead to further spread of the virus. The death toll from Covid-19 has now passed 380,000 across the US, according to Johns Hopkins University – closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in the second world war, or about 407,000. Confirmed infections have topped 22.8m.
With the country simultaneously facing a political crisis and on edge over threats of more violence from far-right extremists, the US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins’ count. Arizona and California have been among the hardest-hit states. ...
The latest daily figure is subject to revision, but deaths have been rising sharply over the past two and a half months, and the country is now in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is being distributed. New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million a day on average.
More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or less than 3% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That is well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.
New York, Oregon and other state medical providers have thrown out precious vaccine doses after struggling to find patients who matched strict vaccination guidelines. The issue has been exacerbated by the reluctance of some healthcare workers and others who qualify for early vaccination to receive vaccine. New York has since loosened those guidelines as coronavirus cases continued to rise.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the country state and local governments across the US are bracing for severe economic impacts in 2021 that could force layoffs of government employees and swingeing cuts to services.
The last few months have offered a more detailed picture of what the pandemic’s economic recession will look like for state and local governments. While some have been spared the doomsday scenarios predicted at the outset of the pandemic, others have been “savaged”. On the line are millions of jobs and drastic cuts to already struggling services in the midst of a national health and economic crisis that is only getting worse. ...
State and local governments, many anticipating the worst, have already taken steps to slim their budgets, namely by instituting layoffs, furloughs and hiring freezes of government workers. About 1.3m jobs in state and local governments have been cut since March, and it is unclear when and if those jobs will be coming back. State and local government employment has not been this low since 2001. ...
Meanwhile, public schools will probably have to spend more money in repairing air ventilation systems, paying for personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing when reopening for students and, eventually, expanding instruction in attempt to make up for a year when many students are falling behind, said Rebecca Sibilia, a school funding expert who previously led the non-profit EdBuild.
A broad coalition of organizations is urging Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to mandate a national moratorium on water and other utility shutoffs on day one in the White House, in order to curtail the spread of Covid-19 and ease the financial burden on struggling Americans.
More than 600 environmental, rights and religious groups will on Wednesday present the incoming Democratic administration with a draft executive order that would impose an immediate nationwide ban on disconnecting essential utilities like water, gas and electricity until at least 12 months after the coronavirus pandemic ends.
The groundswell of pressure comes amid mounting reports of water and energy shutoffs across the country despite Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiralling. A study from Duke University last year found that banning water and utility shutoffs helps reduce the Covid infection rates.
Cutting off access to running water is particularly dangerous as regular hand-washing is crucial to minimize the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Yet moratoriums on water shutoffs have so far been patchy and often short-lived. Only 20 states banned disconnections last year despite warnings from public health experts, and 11 of these moratoriums have expired. Currently, 56% of Americans – 183 million people – are at risk of losing their water supply if they cannot keep up with bill payments.
The US supreme court has reinstated a requirement that women visit a hospital or clinic to obtain a drug used for medication-induced abortions, lifting an order by a lower court allowing the drug to be posted or delivered during the coronavirus pandemic.
The justices granted a request by the Trump administration to lift a federal judge’s July order that had suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rule requiring in-person visits.
The court’s three liberal justices said they would have denied the Trump administration’s request while litigation over the dispute continued in lower courts.
A district judge in Maryland, Theodore Chuang, had ruled that owing to the health risks that Covid-19 poses, the in-person requirements “place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a medication abortion” and were likely to violate their constitutional rights. He said the government had also taken actions to, in effect, waive several in-person requirements for dispensing other drugs, including opioids.
Lots of detail at the link:
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder knew about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint as early as October 2014, when there was still a significant amount of time to save lives. That was the accusation of investigators looking into the Flint water crisis, according to documents compiled as part of a three-year investigation and obtained by The Intercept. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Snyder, as well as former Michigan health department director Nick Lyon, and Snyder’s top adviser Richard Baird, will be charged by the Michigan attorney general, Dana Nessel, over their roles in the Flint water crisis.
On Wednesday, reports surfaced that Snyder would be charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor. The Michigan penal code lists a maximum penalty for willful neglect as a year in prison or a fine of $1,000. Charges for Lyon and Baird have not yet been made public.
But, in addition to willful neglect, investigators working on the case prior to Nessel had evidence to charge Snyder with misconduct in office, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation and documents obtained by The Intercept. The former criminal team also considered an involuntary manslaughter case, according to multiple sources, but had not yet concluded their investigation when the majority of the team was dismissed by new AG Nessel, who announced a revamped investigation in 2019. According to the findings of an investigation launched by Nessel’s predecessor, then-Attorney General Bill Schuette, Snyder was involved in a mad dash of phone calls in October 2014 at the same time the deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint was raising alarm bells among state health and environmental officials — yet still unknown to the Flint residents drinking and bathing in Flint River water.
The criminal investigation was originally launched in 2016 when Schuette named a special prosecutor, Todd Flood, to run the investigation. That avalanche of calls, uncovered by investigators, included multiple conversations between Snyder, his chief of staff, and the state’s health department director. Other evidence from the same period — including briefings addressed to the governor that mentioned Flint’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak — led prosecutors to conclude the calls were about the outbreak, which was unfolding in real time. ...
While charges against former Gov. Rick Snyder, former health director Nick Lyon, Richard Baird, and others appear imminent, the finalizing of a $641 million civil settlement negotiated between Nessel and attorneys representing Flint residents also appears imminent. On Monday, nearly two dozen Flint residents held a press conference to oppose the settlement, believing it is insufficient and won’t be allocated fairly. In response to news reports that Snyder will be charged with willful neglect of duty, Flint resident and leading water activist, Melissa Mays didn’t hold back. “The rumors that former Governor Rick Snyder is only going to be charged with a misdemeanor is BEYOND disgusting and insulting,” Mays wrote. “The Attorney General choosing to charge the man who made himself the unilateral dictator over my City, poison us, lie to us and watch us suffer with a small misdemeanor just proves to us in Flint that if you are a rich white man, it’s not considered an ACTUAL crime to poison poor, black and brown communities for profit, it’s only a minor fine and a slap on the wrist.”
In an example to the rest of the scientific community and an effort to wake up people—particularly policymakers—worldwide, 17 scientists penned a comprehensive assessment of the current state of the planet and what the future could hold due to biodiversity loss, climate disruption, human consumption, and population growth.
"Ours is not a call to surrender—we aim to provide leaders with a realistic 'cold shower' of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future," according to the perspective paper, co-authored by experts across Australia, Mexico, and the United States, and published in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science.
Co-author Paul R. Ehrlich of Stanford University's Center for Conservation Biology—who has raised alarm about overpopulation for decades—told Common Dreams his colleagues "are all scared" about what's to come.
"Scientists have to learn to be communicators," said Ehrlich, citing James Hansen's warning about the consequences of "scientific reticence." Hansen, a professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to Congress about the climate crisis in 1988.
Ehrlich was straightforward about how "extremely dangerous things are" now and the necessity of a "World War II-type mobilization" to prevent predictions detailed in the paper: "a ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health, and climate-disruption upheavals (including looming massive migrations), and resource conflicts."
"What we are saying might not be popular, and indeed is frightening. But we need to be candid, accurate, and honest if humanity is to understand the enormity of the challenges we face in creating a sustainable future," said co-author Daniel T. Blumstein of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a statement about the paper.
"By scientists' telling it like it is, we hope to empower politicians to work to represent their citizen, not corporate, constituents," he said in an email to Common Dreams.
The paper, Ehrlich and Blumstein pointed out, comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—which, according to Johns Hopkins University, has killed nearly two million people. Over the past year, the Covid-19 crisis has provoked calls for humanity to end its destruction of the natural world to prevent future public health catastrophes.
"We're all seeing the shocks to our global systems now from Covid and the rise of authoritarian leaders," Blumstein said. "Because our current ways of life are ecologically unsustainable (we're living in an ecological Ponzi scheme), we fully anticipate more—and more deadly—pandemics in the future. We expect civil unrest, wars, and famines. We are all shaken by the likelihood of the collapse of civilization as we know it."
The new warning from scientists, Blumstein noted, cites over 150 other papers "documenting the diverse and shocking decline in biodiversity and planetary 'health' and their consequences." Among the cited sources is a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report that in September revealed an "average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish between 1970 and 2016."
"In the midst of a global pandemic, it is now more important than ever to take unprecedented and coordinated global action to halt and start to reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations across the globe by the end of the decade, and protect our future health and livelihoods," WWF International director general Marco Lambertini said at the time.
The co-authors—including William J. Ripple of Oregon State University, who last year led thousands of scientists in declaring a climate emergency and earlier this month led a call for "a massive-scale mobilization to address the climate crisis"—echoed Lambertini's message while also underscoring the importance of increasing awareness about what's actually needed.
"Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth's ability to support complex life. But the mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilization," the paper says.
"In fact, the scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms is so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts," said lead author Corey Bradshaw of Australia's Flinders University in a statement. "The problem is compounded by ignorance and short-term self-interest, with the pursuit of wealth and political interests stymieing the action that is crucial for survival."
The paper explains that "while suggested solutions abound, the current scale of their implementation does not match the relentless progression of biodiversity loss and other existential threats tied to the continuous expansion of the human enterprise." According to its authors, "That we are already on the path of a sixth major extinction is now scientifically undeniable."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Ronettes - What'd I Say
The Ronettes - Baby, I Love You
The Ronettes - I Wonder
The Ronettes - (The Best Part Of) Breakin' Up
The Ronettes - Is This What I Get For Loving You
The Ronettes - Silhouettes
The Ronettes - Here I Sit
The Ronettes - Don't Worry Baby
The Ronettes - You Make Me Want To Shout