The Evening Blues - 11-10-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features early blues musician Big Bill Broonzy. Enjoy!
Big Bill Broonzy - Key to the Highway
“Built up by the middle classes to hold their own against royalty, sanctioning, and, at the same time strengthening, their sway over the workers, parliamentary rule is pre-eminently a middle-class rule. The upholders of this system have never seriously maintained that a parliament or a municipal council represent a nation or a city. The most intelligent among them know that this is impossible. The middle classes have simply used the parliamentary system to raise a protecting barrier against the pretensions of royalty, without giving the people liberty. But gradually, as the people become conscious of their real interests, and the variety of their interests is growing, the system can no longer work. Therefore democrats of all countries vainly imagine various palliatives. The Referendum is tried and found to be a failure; proportional representation is spoken of, the representation of minorities, and other parliamentary Utopias. In a word, they strive to find what is not to be found, and after each new experiment they are bound to recognize that it was a failure; so that confidence in Representative Government vanishes more and more.”
-- Pyotr Kropotkin
News and Opinion
From Police Violence at Home to Killing Civilians in Unending Wars Abroad, US Faces Human Rights Reckoning at UN
The United States on Monday faced criticism over its human rights record from allies and adversaries alike at the United Nations as the country submitted to its first Universal Periodic Review of the Trump administration.
All 193 U.N. member states must undergo UPRs, which are held at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC)—from which the U.S. withdrew in 2018 over alleged anti-Israel bias—in Geneva, Switzerland every five years.
Some 120 nations participated in this year's debate, which mostly occurred online due to the coronavirus pandemic, about the U.S. human rights record. Many nations, some with their own serious rights issues, offered criticism ranging from constructive to condemnatory. Country representatives were allowed less than a minute each to comment on the subject.
According to Agence France-Presse, the concern raised most at the half-day event was police violence against Black people and other minorities and in response to racial justice protests. U.S. policies and actions abroad, including the continued operation of the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and the never-ending so-called War on Terror, were also discussed.
U.S. allies urged Washington to ratify human rights treaties, while expressing alarm over racism, inequality, gun violence, family separation and other abuse of undocumented migrants, and additional social ills, the Associated Press reports.
Australia and the Netherlands were among the friendly nations that called upon the U.S. to enact a moratorium on the death penalty. Germany asked the U.S. to rejoin the HRC and to end its sanctions against International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who infuriated President Donald Trump and other U.S. leaders when she announced the ICC was launching an investigation of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan. ...
Pushing back against the global criticism, U.S. Ambassador Andrew Bremberg said that the American democratic system "allows for continued scrutiny, advocacy, and debate, which fuels progress and reform."
"We are willing to openly acknowledge our shortcomings," Bremberg insisted.
While this was the first UPR of Trump's tenure, the HRC conducted a six-month investigation in 2017 and 2018 resulting in a report condemning the administration for consciously exacerbating the worst economic inequality in the developed world. In July 2020 the HRC also decried the "arbitrary arrest and detention" and "unnecessary, disproportionate, or discriminatory use of force" against protesters, journalists, and others at demonstrations following the police and white supremacist killings of Black and Latinx people including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Andres Guardado, and others. ...
ACLU human rights director Jamil Dakwar responded to the UPR by urging President-elect Joe Biden—who as a lawmaker and vice president supported numerous human rights violations both inside the U.S. and overseas—to "prioritize re-engagement with international human rights.
"While the American voters elected a new president who is more committed to universal human rights, the international community must continue to hold the U.S. accountable to its international human rights obligations," Dakwar said, adding that the U.N. should "ensure that the U.S. repair the damages caused to millions of people’s lives over the past four years."
Trump GSA Appointee Accused of Sabotaging 'Peaceful Transfer of Power' by Refusing to Sign Off on 'Critical' Transition Document
The head of an obscure government agency that plays a key role in when Joe Biden gets full access to transition resources is refusing to sign a letter allowing the president-elect's team to formally begin work, according to a Sunday report.
The head of the General Services Administration, an appointee of President Donald Trump, has—like the president himself—refused to acknowledge Biden's victory two days after it was apparent that the former vice president had won the 2020 election, the Washington Post reported. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy is tasked with signing paperwork called a letter of ascertainment that officially allows the president-elect's team access to resources including millions of dollars and government officials, buildings, and equipment.
In a statement issued on Saturday as major news outlets were calling the race for Biden, the GSA said that "an ascertainment has not yet been made. GSA and its administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law."
In past elections, GSA ascertainment came within days of the Associated Press and other mainstream media outlets calling an election. Murphy's intransigence could result in the first transition delay in modern electoral history, with the exception of the 2000 contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush that was not decided until the Supreme Court handed the presidency to Bush over a month after the election. One official who spoke to the Post under condition of anonymity said the delay has already stalled talks on crucial issues, including the distribution of any forthcoming coronavirus vaccine.
The nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, whose members include White House veterans from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, signed a letter on Sunday urging the government to officially begin the formal transfer of power.
"While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin," the letter—which was first obtained by Politico—states. "We urge the Trump administration to immediately begin the post-election transition process and the Biden team to take full advantage of the resources available under the Presidential Transition Act."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday made his first public remarks since President-elect Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, but he made no mention of the Democratic former vice president—instead claiming the election results have not been decided and that President Donald Trump is "100% within his rights" to refuse to concede.
Despite an absence of any evidence that irregularities or fraud took place during voting or ballot-counting, the president has so far refused to acknowledge that he lost the election. McConnell (R-Ky.) referred to the "preliminary results" of the election, two days after the Associated Press and other media outlets declared Biden the winner, having won at least 290 electoral votes versus Trump's 214, according to the latest counts.
Ellen Weintraub, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, acknowledged the AP's call on Saturday.
While suggesting the results of congressional races—in which Republicans, who are expected to retain Senate control, also picked up House seats—were legitimate, McConnell said that Trump's legal challenges regarding the presidential race denotes that the election has not yet been decided.
"No states have yet certified their election results," McConnell said. "We have at least one or two states that are already on track for a recount and I believe the president may have legal challenges underway in at least five states... All legal ballots must be counted, any illegal ballots must not be counted. The process should be transparent or observable by all sides and the courts are here to work through concerns."
"President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options," the majority leader concluded.
"The defiant rhetoric of Trumpism infused the majority leader's speech," tweeted Washington Post political reporter Robert Costa.
Few Republicans have so far acknowledged Biden's victory. On Monday, a coalition of Republican attorneys general filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which allowed the counting of ballots received up to three days after Election Day.
Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia, both of whom face runoff elections on January 5, called on Monday for the resignation of their state's Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, after he stated that "there is no evidence of widespread fraud" in the election. Biden is currently leading Trump in the state's count and is expected to take Georgia's 16 electoral votes.
Without evidence, Loeffler and Perdue echoed McConnell's claim that ballots were cast "illegally" in the election.
"Every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not," said the senators. "And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process."
A massive voter turnout effort in Georgia, led by voting rights advocates including former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, resulted in more than 67% of eligible voters casting ballots this year, according to the Washington Post. Just 2% of eligible voters in the state were unregistered this year.
Journalists immediately objected to the GOP's allusions to illegal voting, with some pointing out the claims are reminiscent of Trump's repeated accusations of so-called "voter fraud" after the 2016 election.
Donald Trump has fired his defence secretary, Mark Esper, in the latest sign that the transition to a new Biden administration in January is going to be turbulent on both domestic and foreign fronts.
...Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
Esper had been at odds with Trump on a number of issues, most importantly his insistence at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer that there were no legal grounds to deploy active-service troops on the streets of US cities. He was also working with Congress on legislation to rename US army bases named after Confederate generals. In a final interview Esper predicted that he would be followed by a “yes man”, adding “And then God help us.” ...
Miller arrived at the Pentagon on Monday amid questions about the legality of his appointment. By law, the deputy secretary of defence, currently David Norquist, would become acting secretary in the event of a sudden departure at the top. Furthermore, the law requires that a secretary of defence to have been out of active duty military service for seven years. Miller, a former Green Beret, only left the military in 2014.
The law can be sidestepped by a vote in Congress, as was done for Esper’s predecessor James Mattis, a retired marine.
In the face of Trump’s widely reported fury of his intransigence, Esper stopped giving press briefings in the Pentagon in July. He is reported to have written his resignation letter before the election, and Trump may have moved abruptly to prevent his defence secretary from taking the initiative.
Evo Morales was welcomed back to Bolivia on Monday morning, surrounded by the thunderous cheers of thousands of supporters who took part in a joyous celebration filled with music.
Morales' return comes one year after the former president of the Latin American country was forced into exile by a violent far-right regime that was installed via a military coup, which was facilitated by unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud made by the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) and condoned by corporate media outlets.
It also comes one day after Bolivian President Luis Arce, Morales' ally in the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, was inaugurated following his election last month, considered a repudiation of authoritarianism and imperialism.
Massive crowds gathered in Villazón, a southern town that borders La Quiaca, Argentina, to greet Morales upon his return to Bolivia from the neighboring country, where the popular leftist leader had spent most of the past twelve months as a political refugee.
Estoy muy agradecido con el pueblo boliviano por recibirme con tanto cariño. pic.twitter.com/Ba0bJYPcu7
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) November 9, 2020
On Monday morning, thousands of Bolivians gathered to welcome Morales back to the country.
— Carlos Montero (@CMonteroOficial) November 9, 2020
Peru’s Congress has voted to remove President Martín Vizcarra in an impeachment trial over corruption allegations – the second such effort to remove him in a matter of months.
The opposition-dominated Congress, following a debate, achieved the 87-vote threshold out of 130 needed to oust the centrist leader over accusations that he accepted bribes as a governor from companies that won public works contracts.
His removal from office threatens to embroil the world’s second-largest copper producer in political turmoil as it looks to recover from an economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Vizcarra, 57, lacked a party in a fragmented Congress, creating a degree of uncertainty of how lawmakers may finally vote. In September they voted against his ouster in a separate impeachment trial over alleged links to a case of irregular government contracts with a little-known singer.
The number of US coronavirus cases passed 10m on Monday as the virus raged across many parts of the nation. The US recorded more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases for a fifth day in a row on Sunday, and the death toll passed 237,000.
The numbers were released as Joe Biden named the members of his own Covid taskforce – and it was reported that Ben Carson, the housing and urban development secretary, had become the latest senior Trump aide to test positive for the virus. Trump adviser David Bossie also tested positive as a new cluster of infections appeared to spring up in White House circles.
There was also promising news from Europe about the quest for a vaccine.
Hopes are soaring that a Covid vaccine is within reach, following news that an interim analysis has shown Pfizer/BioNTech’s candidate was 90% effective in protecting people from transmission of the virus in global trials. The vaccine performed much better than most experts had hoped for, according to the companies’ analysis, and brings into view a potential end to a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, battered economies and upended daily life worldwide.
The data is from an interim analysis and the trial continues into December but the headline results were emphatic. Regulators will be looking to process an emergency licence application at record speed. ...
John Bell, Regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, who is involved with the Oxford vaccine, said that the Pfizer team had shown “an amazing level of efficacy” and it could mean a return to normality by spring. “I’m the first guy to say that but I will say it with some confidence,” he told the BBC.
Manufacturing is already under way. Pfizer said they expect to supply globally up to 50m vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3bn doses in 2021. Countries will decide who they prioritise for vaccination. In the UK, the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has recommended that – presuming the vaccines work well enough in elderly people – the first vaccines go to care home workers and residents, followed by anybody over 80 and other health and social care workers. After that, people are expected to get them in decreasing age order. ...
There are so far no safety concerns around the vaccine, with the two companies reporting no serious side-effects.
With a symbolic poke in the eye of the outgoing Trump administration, President-elect Joe Biden named whistleblower Rick Bright to his transition Covid-19 advisory board. Bright previously ran a division of the Department of Health and Human Services that manages medical response to public health emergencies. Bright was fired in retaliation for standing up to cronyism in the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a detailed complaint he filed in May.
Bright, who has a Ph.D. in virology, will be joined by other experienced public health experts on the board, which “will consult with state and local officials to determine the public health and economic steps necessary to get the virus under control,” according to the Biden-Harris transition team. The board will be co-chaired by Dr. David Kessler, who served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 1990 to 1997; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of internal medicine and public health at the Yale School of Medicine, who has written about racial and ethnic disparities in deaths from Covid-19; and Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as surgeon general during the Obama administration.
Among the other board members are Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and medical journalist, and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and former health adviser to the Obama White House who has blamed the Trump administration’s bungling of the epidemic for “hundreds of thousands” of unnecessary deaths from Covid-19.
Biden’s plans for addressing the coronavirus pandemic include immediately reversing several steps taken by the current administration. The transition team has announced its intentions to restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which Trump folded into another office; rejoin the World Health Organization, which the administration began formally withdrawing from in July; and relaunch the U.S. Agency for International Development’s pathogen-tracking program, PREDICT, which the Trump administration stopped funding. ...
While Trump disavowed face masks — and mocked his opponent for wearing them — Biden has said that while he lacks the legal authority to issue a national mask mandate, he will encourage all governors, mayors, and county executives to use their authority to require masks locally. The Biden team is also calling for “using the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of masks, face shields, and other PPE and aiming to increase production of PPE within the U.S.”
Amid publicized Democratic Party infighting in the wake of elections last week that saw voters nationwide rally behind congressional candidates who champion policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, the majority of the Congressional Progressive Caucus voted on Monday for an overhaul that supporters say will boost the CPC's power on Capitol Hill and potentially push out "free riding members."
As The Intercept detailed on October 26, the caucus of nearly 100 House Democrats—and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—is restructuring to "shape itself into a more cohesive fighting force come 2021." Politico's Heather Caygle, who also reported on the proposed changes with two colleagues last month, tweeted Monday that of the nearly three-quarters of CPC members who voted on the overhaul, 91% favored it.
The outcome was immediately welcomed by progressive activists and advocacy groups. Former Move On executive director Ilya Sheyman called it "fantastic news" while Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project pointed out that the changes are "potentially [a] very big deal in terms of Congress."
The changes impact the highest level of the CPC, shifting from a pair of co-chairs to just one leader. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) is stepping down from his post and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) will continue serving at the helm of the caucus. Both members of Congress have expressed support for the reforms.
Pocan told Politico he is "self term-limited" and supports Jayapal leading the CPC into the future. As for concerns that the restructuring gives too much power to one person, the congressman said that "it actually does the opposite of that. ...The heart of this is really around empowering members to be more active."
Jayapal acknowledged to The Intercept that the reforms could mean some members exit the caucus, but she accepts that. "We're ready for that to happen," she said. "I just would rather have people who are really committed to the progressive caucus in the caucus and participating rather than sort of just having it as a label."
Supporters of the "really crucial changes" posited that they will set up the caucus members "to be the power brokers everyone needs them to be" and congratulated Jayapal for "leading the CPC into a new era."
Advocates of the overhaul believe it will put pressure on CPC members to back progressive policies and actually participate in the caucus. As The Intercept explained:
Under the new rules, if a position wins two-thirds support among the CPC, members of the caucus will be expected to vote as a bloc, which would make it the first Democratic caucus to attempt to bind its members. Yet at the same time, members need only support the official position of the CPC two-thirds of the time before running afoul of the rules and risking expulsion.
The new rules would also require CPC members to attend a certain number of meetings and to respond to whip requests, which are questions from caucus leadership about how a member feels about a particular bill or position. That such basic requirements are being written into the rules is a reflection of the current lack of participation. Some of that silence amounted to obstruction; a way to undermine a whip count was to simply ignore it. The new rules would strip the nonrespondents from the denominator, meaning a member who doesn't respond can't jam up the process. The caucus will also require members to vote for and sponsor a certain amount of progressive legislation.
Bad apples show up in Arkansas:
An Arkansas police chief resigned on Saturday, after posts under his name and picture advocating violence towards Democrats were found on Parler, a rightwing social media app. One of Lang Holland’s posts reflected Donald Trump’s baseless allegations that the presidential election he lost to Joe Biden was stolen, and said: “Death to all Marxist Democrats.”
Holland, who led the police department in Marshall, Arkansas, also wrote “take no prisoners” and “leave no survivors”.
Another post stated that people encountering a “Marxist Democrat” in public should “get in their face do not give them peace”, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
“Throw water on them at restaurants,” the post said. “Push them off sidewalks. Never let them forget they are traitors and have no right to live in this Republic after what they have done.”
Washington traffic. pic.twitter.com/Iu2olsovjs
— Hugh Riminton (@hughriminton) November 6, 2020
Donald Trump has no intention of admitting defeat in the US presidential election or offering Joe Biden his concession, his campaign insisted on Monday.
“That word is not even in our vocabulary right now,” Jason Miller, a senior campaign adviser, told Fox Business.
Trump has launched an array of lawsuits to press claims of electoral fraud and corruption for which he has produced no evidence. State officials say they are not aware of any significant irregularities.
Biden cleared the threshold of 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House on Saturday. He beat Trump by more than 4.3m votes nationwide, as Trump became the first president in 28 years to lose his bid for re-election.
In an election of many firsts, it appears that surging youth turnout in a number of key states may have helped propel Joe Biden to victory.
Analysis suggests an increase of as much as 10% in youth voter turnout – with particularly high engagement in 11 key battleground states. That may have been game-changing for Joe Biden, who had the support of 61% of people aged 18-29.
Projections suggest young people made up 17% of the vote share this time around, with young people also having the potential to make a decisive difference in key Senate races in states such as Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina.
A number of initiatives look to have made all the difference this year, with same-day registration now allowed in 21 states; and secure ballot drop-off boxes on college campuses in almost every state.
Other structural changes due to the coronavirus pandemic also seem to have helped young people – who typically have inflexible schedules and multiple work and study commitments. Millions of young people seem to have taken advantage of early voting this year, and a number of states allowed absentee votes without a reason (in the US, if you want to vote absentee, you normally need an excuse).
Admirers of national parks and world-class trout streams in the state of Montana have expressed alarm over the election of a new Republican governor and his environmental plans. The governor, former software developer Greg Gianforte, has in the past sought to strip protections from 700,000 acres of wilderness, and his conservative “Montana Comeback Plan” election platform promises to “streamline” permitting processes to increase logging, coalmining, and oil and gas production.
In May 2017, while running for a Montana congressional seat that he won, Gianforte was charged with assault after “bodyslamming” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs to the floor. Gianforte pleaded guilty to assault and apologized for the incident, and also pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. ...
While in Congress, Gianforte made a habit of attacking protections for public lands and water.
“I‘m concerned about loss of access [to public lands and waters], sales of public land to corporate interests, rolling back environmental protections, wet-blanketing efforts to address the climate crisis and innovations in clean energy, and the loss of funding for management and maintenance of public lands,” said Juanita Vero, a Missoula county commissioner and multi-generational rancher in the Blackfoot valley, who served as Montana Conservation Voters’ board chair for a time. ...
This year, Gianforte introduced a federal bill that would have amended the US Endangered Species Act and delisted the grizzly bear. He also pledged to “review, roll back and repeal” regulations on extractive industries that he deems excessive or unnecessary, and is a proponent of exporting Montana coal and undoing emissions limits on power plants.
Shedding more light on a significant electoral trend that progressives have drawn attention to in the aftermath of the 2020 U.S. election, a new analysis by Earther found that of the 93 House co-sponsors of the Green New Deal resolution who ran for reelection this year, only one lost their congressional race.
"Simply put," wrote journalist Brian Kahn in Earther, "the Green New Deal is not a political loser," including for representatives in swing districts.
Kahn identified four House co-sponsors who represent districts that "range from very slightly Democratic to moderately Republican," according to Cook Political Report's Partisan Voting Index.
Of those four, three—Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Jahana Hayes (D- Conn.), and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)—have already "decisively won their reelection bids," while the fourth, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D- N.Y.), is projected to win handily "once all mail-in ballots are counted."
"This quick-and-dirty analysis," Kahn said, "aligns with other data showing that representatives who have sponsored and voted for progressive policies were not punished by voters."
As Common Dreams reported this weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and others pointed out that every single congressional member who ran for reelection this year as a supporter of Medicare for All won their race.
Ocasio-Cortez hinted that her team would be "running numbers" on the Green New Deal—of which she is the lead House sponsor—next. As Earther's analysis showed, the reelection rate for representatives who co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution was nearly 100% as well, with 92 out of those 93 congressional members retaining their seat.
"Saying progressive policies held Democrats back from expanding their House majority/taking the Senate just doesn't hold water with data available so far," Kahn noted on Twitter.
Florida officials said on Monday that one of the major Covid-19 testing sites in the state suffered major damage due to the extensive rain dumped by Tropical Storm Eta in the south of the state. Samantha Bequer, spokeswoman for the Florida division of emergency management, said parts of the Hard Rock Stadium testing site in Miami were engulfed by 16in of rain. ...
All of the testing sites in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties managed by the state government closed on Sunday and Monday due to the tropical storm. State officials said testing sites in Lee county also were forced to close due to the storm’s impact. The state has not officially said when it would reopen any of them. ...
Eta is the 28th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, tying a record set in 2005. It is also the fifth to reach major hurricane status, having initially hit Nicaragua as a category 4 hurricane. The rapid intensification of some of these storms is consistent with the extra energy afforded them by the heating of the air and ocean through human activity, climate scientists have said.
Eta hit land late on Sunday on Lower Matecumbe Key, Florida. The system’s slow speed and heavy rains posed an enormous threat to south Florida, an area already drenched from more than 14in of rain last month. Eta could dump an additional 6in to 12in, forecasters said. “In some areas, the water isn’t pumping out as fast as it’s coming in,” warned the Miami-Dade commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Big Bill Broonzy - Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad
Big Bill Broonzy - John Henry
Big Bill Broonzy - When do I get to be called a man
Big Bill Broonzy - Mississippi River Blues
Big Bill Broonzy - Mr. Conductor Man
Big Bill Broonzy - Crawdad Song
Big Bill Broonzy - Backwater Blues
Big Bill Broonzy - Hey Hey
Big Bill Broonzy - The Glory of Love