The Evening Blues - 11-23-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Champion Jack Dupree. Enjoy!
Champion Jack Dupree - Strollin'
"A drone strike is a terror weapon, we don't talk about it that way. It is; just imagine you are walking down the street and you don't know whether in 5 minutes there is going to be an explosion across the street from some place up in the sky that you can't see. Somebody will be killed, and whoever is around will be killed, maybe you'll be injured if you're there. That is a terror weapon. It terrorizes villages, regions, huge areas. It's the most massive terror campaign going on by a long shot."
-- Noam Chomsky
News and Opinion
President-elect Joe Biden has maintained silence for years on the controversial and continued use of so-called targeted killings — lethal strikes by drones, cruise missiles, and occasionally military special operations raids. Biden has never publicly disavowed or criticized former President Barack Obama’s legacy of expanding the use of drones, nor made clear his own policy on the continuation of targeted killing conducted by the Department of Defense and, clandestinely, the CIA.
His campaign and transition websites similarly make no mention of policy addressing drone strikes, a defining feature of Obama-era foreign policy. And no questions were asked during presidential primary and general election debates about assassination policies. While on the campaign trail, Biden pledged to end “endless wars” without detailing how his administration would differ from those of President Donald Trump and Obama, even as lethal strikes, including against American citizens, have remained an often-noted blemish on Obama’s legacy. ...
What we know of Biden’s opinion of lethal strikes is limited. In 2009, while serving as vice president, Biden pushed back against a strategy set forward by Gen. David Petraeus. Instead of sending 40,000 troops to Afghanistan along with civilian-assistance workers to rebuild the country, Biden advocated for what he called “counterterrorism plus,” a combination of special forces and aggressive drone bombing to target suspected Al Qaeda militants. Biden stuck by that advocacy on the campaign trail, vowing to keep a “counterterrorism” force in Afghanistan. Obama sent about half as many troops as the generals wanted — but also embraced the plan Biden advocated for. ...
As Biden prepares to assume office, his possible Cabinet selections have already begun to knock the credibility of any pledge to end the forever wars. Former Obama officials Michael Morell and Avril Haines have been reported as possible picks for director of national intelligence or CIA director. ... Haines was directly involved with the Obama targeted killing program, even playing a legal role in shaping it — yet was considered a voice of constraint on lethal strikes in the latter half of Obama’s administration, the Daily Beast reported. Morell, a former deputy CIA director, embraced and defended the use of drone strikes, even calling reports of civilian deaths “highly exaggerated.” His defended targeting killings by claiming that they saved lives. ...
There have been indications that Biden intends to keep military counterterrorism strikes on the table. Earlier this year, during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Biden suggested that he wanted to replace, not revoke, the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the legal justification used by successive presidential administrations for using military forces to carry out counterterrorism operations across the globe. ... Biden has been even more circumspect in addressing the CIA strikes. Early this year, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a questionnaire to candidates on a range of human rights issues. One question posed to the candidates asked if they would pledge to end lethal strikes conducted by the CIA. Biden never responded to the survey.
As Biden Taps Blinken as Secretary of State, Critics Denounce Support for Invasions of Iraq and Libya
With the upper ranks of President-elect Joe Biden's foreign policy team beginning to take shape after new reporting indicated he plans to nominate long-time adviser Antony Blinken as secretary of state, progressives raised alarm over Blinken's support for the disastrous 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the 2011 assault on Libya as well as his recent consulting work of behalf of corporate clients in the tech, finance, and arms industries.
Blinken served as deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration and, as the Washington Post reported Sunday, "has been described as having a centrist view of the world" and "has also supported interventionist positions."
"He once broke with Biden and supported military action in Libya, for example," the Post noted, referring to the Obama White House's catastrophic decision to join with NATO to bomb that country, an armed intervention that helped unleash a violent civil war that is still ongoing.
When it came to Syria policy under Obama, Blinken is also reported to have supported more aggressive military measures against the government of President Bashar al-Assad and more recently has indicated that the Biden administration would opt for leaving U.S. troops in the war-torn country.
When Biden, then a senator and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted in 2002 to authorize the Bush administration's disastrous invasion of Iraq—a decision he has since described as a mistake—Blinken was the Democratic staff director of the committee. The Intercept's Ryan Grim reported last July that Blinken "helped craft Biden's own support for the Iraq War"; speaking to the New York Times earlier this year, Blinken characterized the vote to invade Iraq as "a vote for tough diplomacy."
"So we will have a president who supported the invasion of Iraq, and a secretary of state (Tony Blinken) who supported the invasion of Iraq," tweeted Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war group CodePink. "In the U.S., there is no accountability for supporting the worst foreign policy disaster in modern history. Only rewards."
After briefly attending the virtual G20 summit from the White House's Situation Room on Saturday, President Doanld Trump skipped a meeting with other leaders of the world's 20 largest economies where the attendees discussed the coronavirus pandemic.
The "Pandemic Preparedness and Response" meeting included addresses by French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but no American government officials were listed as speakers. Both Macron and Merkel have been leaders in the global call for a coordinated international response to the coronavirus pandemic, with the French leader calling on Saturday for "solidarity" between countries.
As the U.S. allies prepared to discuss the financing of vaccine collaborations at the two-day G20 summit, Trump retreated to his golf club in Sterling, Virginia.
In the U.S., Covid-19 cases passed 12 million cases on Saturday, less than a week after reaching 11 million cases. On Friday, the country set a new record for new cases recorded in a single day, with more than 198,500 cases confirmed. Deaths are now higher than average in all 50 states and are peaking in 14 states including Maine, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.
Governors, including Trump's Republican allies such as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, are attempting to undo the damage done by the president'sand his political party's widespread dismissal of public health guidance like mask-wearing and social distancing. Earlier this week, Reynolds pleaded with Iowans to obey a new mask mandate, which she issued after months of calling such measures "feel-good" restrictions.
"If Iowans don't buy into this, we lose," Reynolds said this week. "The cost in human life will be high."
Despite reports of overwhelmed hospitals in states including Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, and Nevada, the president has taken no questions from reporters about the pandemic since most news outlets declared President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election on November 7.
Instead, the president has been largely focused on his efforts to prove the election, which Biden won by more than six million votes, was rigged and that so-called "voter fraud" is behind Biden's victory. On Saturday, after leaving the G20 summit and before arriving at his golf club, Trump tweeted about unspecified "big voter fraud information coming out concerning Georgia," which certified the election results on Friday after a hand recount confirmed that Biden won the state.
"The president is not only missing from his post, but he's encouraging a mutiny," Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, told The Guardian on Saturday. "There's no precedent in American history for this kind of deranged behavior."
Master tactician Pelosi could have had a $1.8 trillion deal pre election and now will be lucky to get McConnell’s $500 billion deal. All while economists project double dip recession. https://t.co/fV8LaRRDLn pic.twitter.com/Tf5zvgEfmG
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) November 22, 2020
Experts urged Americans against traveling for family gatherings at Thanksgiving this week even though millions were set to defy the advice, as the US crossed the threshold of more than 12m cases of coronavirus.
Ominous warnings came as Donald Trump appeared to admit that coronavirus is “running wild” across the US, in contrast with his statements throughout the election campaign that the virus would simply “go away” or “disappear” and, more recently, that the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.
As new Covid-19 infections in the US approached 200,000 a day, Trump tweeted on Saturday night to insist things were bad outside the United States as well, posting: “The Fake News is not talking about the fact that ‘Covid’ is running wild all over the world, not just in the US.” ...
As many as 50 million people are expected to travel by various means this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, potentially producing a new surge in infections that will manifest a couple of weeks later and threaten the Christmas holidays, too, Fauci warned.
As the United States recorded its 12th million Covid-19 case, the Trump administration’s vaccine program adviser predicted that life in America could be back to normal around May of 2021 as immunization is set to begin. The note of optimism came even as millions of Americans were expected to travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this week and many appeared to be ignoring warnings from health officials about furthering the spread of the infectious disease.
Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of the government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine development and distribution program, which involves the military and the private sector as well as government health experts, said that pending regulatory approval for the first vaccine means the first Americans could be vaccinated outside of clinical trial by mid-December. And Slaoui said that if the vaccination distribution and immunization plan goes well, enough Americans should be vaccinated by “May or something like that” of 2021 to allow life to go back to normal.
The first application to the US government for vaccine approval was made on Friday by the pharmaceutical team of Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory body is scheduled to hold a key meeting on December 10 that could award the team emergency authorization for the vaccine. “By December 11 or 12 I’m hopeful the first people will be immunized across the US, in all states,” Slaoui told CNN’s State of the Union politics show on Sunday morning.
Jim Gentile is haunted by the patients who died alone. A surgical nurse at St Mary medical center in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, his hospital was quickly overwhelmed during the first wave of the pandemic this spring, he said. He described racing between patients, only to discover that one had quietly suffocated while awaiting help.
He said he wrapped more patients in body bags in the first two months of the pandemic than he had in the previous 25 years. On Tuesday, he and 700 other nurses at the medical center went on strike after saying they were poorly compensated and short-staffed despite all they had to deal with as the virus surges again. “Many of us have PTSD, and many of us would just sob on the way home,” he said. “And then 10 hours later we’d get back on the horse and do it all over again.”
Adding to their challenges is the politicization of Covid-19. Dozens of states have been slow to implement mask mandates and other public health measures that could slow the spread of the virus, and healthcare workers have reported cases of patients believing the illness to be a hoax even as they were being intubated. In North Dakota, nurses infected with the virus who did not show symptoms were asked to continue working amid staffing shortages.
“Nurses are totally burned out from this,” said Deborah Burger, a registered nurse and co-president of National Nurses United. “We’ve normalized this crisis. We’re staffing [hospitals] as if there were normal times and it’s not. Nurses who used to have, say, one [patient] code per shift are now seeing that exploding to where there are multiple codes going on. And it takes a toll.”
By Rejecting WTO Drug Patent Waivers Amid Pandemic, Richest Nations Put Big Pharma Profits Before Health of Billions
A handful of the world's wealthiest nations on Friday dug in their heels in their fight against waiving intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, putting them even more firmly at odds with global health campaigners struggling to ensure access for people in developing countries, conflict zones, and refugee camps.
The United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia all opposed intellectual property waivers at a Friday meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. Such waivers would allow mass production of life-saving advances in a move campaigners say could shorten the peaking pandemic.
Seeking to avoid the type of tragedy the world witnessed a generation ago when hundreds of thousands of people in poor countries died from AIDS because they couldn't afford HIV medications, Kenya on Friday formally asked the WTO to suspend patents for certain Covid-19 treatments.
Last month, India and South Africa were the first countries to propose granting permission to WTO members to temporarily waive patents and other protections on all Covid-19-related vaccines and treatments until the end of the pandemic. Since then, China—which according to Reuters has five Covid-19 vaccine candidates in late-stage trials—has voiced support for the waivers. Dozens of mostly developing nations also back waivers, as do over 100 civil society groups in Europe who have signed an open letter sent to E.U. leaders on Thursday supporting the suspension policy.
Rich countries have come under fire for cornering the supply of future Covid-19 vaccines. In September, wealthy countries with just 13% of the world's population had already purchased rights to more than half of all promised vaccine doses, and last week Common Dreams reported that 82% of doses of Pfizer's forthcoming vaccine had been bought up by rich nations.
Compounding the injustice, say campaigners, is the unprecedented amount of taxpayer funding pharmaceutical companies have received to develop vaccines.
According to the France-based medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), although Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/Oxford University have taken a combined $6.68 billion in public funding for their vaccine candidates, the corporations have retained control over key decisions including who gets the vaccines, when they get them, how much they get, and how much they pay.
Consumer advocates have warned that Big Pharma is having it both ways—by taking huge amounts of taxpayer funding to develop treatments that they will then sell back to the public at prodigious profit. Earlier this year, Moderna was accused of "taking taxpayers for a ride" after it announced that it plans to charge between $32 and $37 per dose for a Covid-19 vaccine developed entirely with U.S. government funding.
The U.S. military deployed B-52 bombers to the Middle East Saturday, just days after the Trump administration announced a partial withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. Central Command said the U.S. Air Force B-52H “Stratofortress” aircrews conducted the mission on "short notice" to "deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies." ...
It is unclear where the B-52H bombers went in the Middle East Saturday, but they left from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. Minot Air Force Base is the only base in the United States that houses both intercontinental ballistic missiles in underground silos as well as a fleet of bombers also capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
It marks the first B-52 mission to the Middle East in several months. In January, after the U.S. military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike, six B-52 bombers were dispatched to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Sarkozy trouve l'eau très chaude:
Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, will make history on Monday when he appears in court accused of corruption and influence peddling. The case is the first of several investigations against the rightwing politician who led France between 2007 and 2012 to come before judges after years of attempts to have the charges dropped or nullified.
In a case known as the “bugging affair”, the prosecution alleges Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, attempted to bribe a senior magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, to hand over secret information from a separate investigation against the former French leader. In return, Sarkozy is accused of offering to help secure Azibert a cushy job on the Côte d’Azur.
Sarkozy has been targeted in an array of legal investigations – from allegations of receiving illicit campaign funding from the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to receiving alleged kickbacks from arms sales to Pakistan.
French detectives began monitoring Sarkozy’s communications in September 2013 as part of an investigation into claims he had a received an undeclared and illegal €50m donation from Gaddafi to fund his successful 2007 presidential campaign. What they heard from the recorded conversations, however, pointed investigators in an entirely new and unexpected direction. They revealed the former president and Herzog were “secretly” communicating using mobile telephones registered under false names. Sarkozy’s phone was attributed to a Paul Bismuth.
Additional wiretaps on these phones picked up conversations suggesting that Sarkozy had been in contact with Azibert, then a member of the Cour de Cassation – the highest court in France – via Herzog to request confidential information about a separate investigation into whether Sarkozy received donations from the ailing L’Oréal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt. ... The Bettencourt case was eventually dropped, but by then the corruption and influence-peddling investigation had been opened.
Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala’s congress and burned part of the building amid growing demonstrations against President Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature for approving a budget that cut educational and health spending.
The incident on Saturday came as about 10,000 people were protesting in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City against corruption and the budget, which protesters say was negotiated and passed by legislators in secret while the Central American country was distracted by the fallout of back-to-back hurricanes and the Covid-19 pandemic.
About 1,000 protesters were demonstrating outside the congress building. Video on social media showed flames coming out of a window in the legislative building. Police fired teargas at protesters, and about a dozen people were reported injured.
“We are outraged by poverty, injustice, the way they have stolen the public’s money,” said Rosa de Chavarría, a psychology professor.
“I feel like the future is being stolen from us. We don’t see any changes. This cannot continue like this,” added Mauricio Ramírez, a 20-year-old university student.
The amount of damage to the building was unclear, but the fire appears to have affected legislative offices rather than the main hall of congress. Protesters also set bus stations on fire.
Crippling Common Good Worldwide, Landmark Study Shows $427 Billion Lost Each Year to Tax Dodging by Corporations and the Rich
A first-of-its-kind international report released Friday shows how wealthy countries are the primary drivers of tax revenue loss each year—contributing to $427 billion in losses to public funding annually and affecting the ability of countries all over the world, including developing nations, to provide services to the public.
The Tax Justice Network's inaugural State of Tax Justice report is the first study to thoroughly measure how much money each country loses each year to corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion, using data that was self-reported by corporations to tax authorities.
The report notes that in light of the global coronavirus pandemic, the loss of revenue to tax abuse and evasion has major implications for public health efforts. One nurse's annual salary is lost every second to tax havens—the equivalent of 34 million nurses' salaries each year.
"A global tax system that loses over $427 billion a year is not a broken system, it's a system programmed to fail," said Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network.
"Under pressure from corporate giants and tax haven powers like the Netherlands and the U.K.'s network, our governments have programmed the global tax system to prioritize the desires of the wealthiest corporations and individuals over the needs of everybody else," he continued. "The pandemic has exposed the grave cost of turning tax policy into a tool for indulging tax abusers instead of for protecting people's wellbeing."
Lower-income countries are particularly affected by tax evasion during public health crises like the current pandemic, with losses are equivalent to 52% of their public health budgets. While rich countries lose hundreds of billions more dollars each year to tax evasion and abuse, their losses only make up about 8% of their public health budgets.
Latin America and Africa's tax losses are equivalent to about 20.4% and 52.5% of their public health budgets, respectively.
Contrary to data compiled in the European Union's "highly politicized blacklist" of tax havens, the Tax Justice Network said, high income countries are behind a vast majority of global tax abuse. The British territory Cayman Islands is responsible for other countries losing $70 billion in public funding each year, while the U.K.'s tax laws take away more than $42 billion. The U.S. is in fifth place globally, robbing other countries of $23.6 billion each year.
This is a really outstanding article by Jonathan Cook. It is totally worth a full read, but here are some excerpts to tickle your fancy:
Biden will do his best to achieve what his donors want: a return to the neoliberal “normal” under Obama. He will offer a sprinkling of initiatives to ensure progressive liberals can put to rest their resistance posturing with a clear conscience. There will be some “woke” identity politics to prevent any focus on class politics and the struggle for real economic justice, as well as some weak, corporation-friendly Green New Deal projects, if Biden can sneak past them past a Republican-controlled Senate. And if he can’t manage even that … well that’s the beauty of a system tailor-made to follow the path of least financial resistance, to uphold the corporate status quo, the “normal.”
But there is a second, bigger problem. A fly in the ointment. Whatever Biden and the Democratic Party do to resurrect the neoliberal consensus, the old “normal” it isn’t coming back. The smug, technocratic class that has dominated western politics for decades on behalf of the corporate elite is under serious threat. Biden looks more like a hiccough, a last burp provoked by the unexpected pandemic.
The ability of the technocratic class to manage growth – wealth accumulation for the rich, tempered by a little “trickle down” to stop the masses rising up – is coming to an end. Growth is over and the technocrat’s toolbox is empty. We are now in the age of political populism – a natural response to burgeoning inequality.
On one side is the populism of the Trumpers. They are the small-minded nationalists who want to blame everyone but the real villains – the corporate elite – for the West’s declining fortunes. As ever, they will search out the easiest targets: foreigners and “immigrants.” In the U.S., the Republican Party has been as good as taken over by the Tea Party. The U.S. right is not going to repudiate Trump for his defeat, they are going to totemise him because they understand his style of politics is the future. There are now Trumps everywhere: Boris Johnson in the U.K. (and waiting in the wings, Nigel Farage); Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil; the Le Pen dynasty in France; Viktor Orban in Hungary. They are seeding the return of xenophobic, corporate fascism.
The corporate media would have us believe that this is the only kind of populism that exists. But there is a rival populism, that of the left, and one that espouses cooperation and solidarity within nations and between them. Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. and Sanders in the U.S. are the first shoots of a global reawakening of class-conscious politics based on solidarity with the poor and oppressed; of renewed pressure for a social contract, in contrast to the worship of survival-of-the-fittest economics; of a reclaiming of the commons, communal resources that belong to us all, not just the strongmen who seized them for their own benefit; and, most importantly, of an understanding, lost sight of in our industrialized, consumption-obsessed societies, that we must find a sustainable accommodation with the rest of the living world. ...
As ever, the populism of the nationalists and bigots has the upper hand. And that is no accident. Today’s globalized wealth elite prefer neoliberal, technocratic politics that keep borders open for trade; that treat the laboring poor as human chattel, to be moved around on a global chess board as a way to force wages down; and that ensure the elite can stash its ill-gotten gains away on island sanctuaries far from the tax man. But when technocratic politics is on its death bed, as it is now, the corporate elite will always settle for the populism of a Trump or a Farage over the populism of the left. They will do so even if rightwing populism risks constraining their financial empires, because leftwing populism does much worse: it upends the warped logic on which the corporate elite’s entire hoarded wealth depends, threatening to wipe it out.
If the corporate elite can no longer find a way to foist a neoliberal technocrat like Biden on the public, they will choose the populism of a Trump over the populism of a Sanders every time. And as they own the media, they can craft the stories we hear: about who we are, what is possible and where we are heading. If we allow it, our imaginations will be twisted and deformed in the image of the deranged totem they choose. We can reclaim politics – a politics that cares about the future, about our species, about our planet – but to do so we must first reclaim our minds.
While President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly signaled he will not investigate or prosecute President Donald Trump or senior members of his administration after they leave office in the spirit of uniting a deeply riven nation, some observers say that dismissing the possibility of holding the impeached president accountable for his alleged crimes would be a mistake.
In a nation that doesn't punish—and often lionizes—its leaders who perpetrate or support genocide, nuclear war, mass murder, torture, and other crimes against humanity, Democrats calling for probes and prosecution of Trump have given what are arguably his worst offenses a pass. Democratic presidents, after all, also wage wars that kill thousands of civilians, support murderous regimes, and ignore refugee rights.
Absent any prospect of punishment for policies and actions critics call war crimes and crimes against humanity, those hoping to see Trump face some sort of justice must settle for more mundane misdeeds. The most realistic prospects—those openly discussed in the halls of power and the corporate mainstream media—would likely involve Trump's alleged bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to defraud the United States, campaign finance violations, Census improprieties, and Hatch Act violations.
There are those in Congress who have vociferously called for prosecuting Trump once he leaves office. Perhaps the loudest voice of this crowd is Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who earlier this week fired this broadside at the soon-to-be ex-president:
[Trump] has endangered our national security. He ripped families apart. He poisoned the Census. He has personally profited from his office. He has attacked our elections and sought to throttle democracy. He was rightly impeached by the House of Representatives. He has engaged in treachery [and] in treason. He has all but given up on governing and protecting our nation and if he had a shred of dignity he would resign today.
Pascrell added that "in 2021 the entire Trump administration must be fully investigated by the Department of Justice and any other relevant offices."
"Trump along with his worst enablers must be tried for their crimes against our nation and Constitution," Pascrell asserted. "Importantly, any further abuse of the sacred pardon power to shield criminals would itself be obstruction of justice, and any self-pardons would be illegal."
However, it is highly unlikely that a Biden Justice Department would try, or even investigate, Trump or any senior members of his administration, according to unnamed sources close to the president-elect. This is in keeping with U.S. history over the past half-century, including former President Gerald Ford's 1974 pardon of his predecessor, the Watergate criminal Richard Nixon, former President George H.W. Bush pardoning Iran-Contra criminals and giving his ex-boss former President Ronald Reagan a pass, and former President Barack Obama's refusal to prosecute the Bush-era architects and perpetrators of CIA and U.S. military torture.
It is also, according to the sources, very much in line with both of those former presidents' stated desire to move on from dark chapters—what Ford called "our long national nightmare" in the case of Watergate—in the nation's history and move forward in unity.
But out-of-hand dismissal of the pursuit of justice for Trump's alleged crimed—or leaving the matter up to state-level actors—would be a serious mistake, say some observers.
Jeet Heer argues in The Nation that while prosecuting Trump "will do nothing to fight the popularity of Trump and Trumpism" and would be "likely to bind him closer to his followers" who will see him as a martyr, "not prosecuting Trump will also come with a cost." He explains:
The United States is a nation of elite impunity, as the history of recent decades demonstrates. Nixon had to resign for Watergate, but he also received an expansive pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, which covered all crimes Nixon might have committed as president, even those yet undiscovered. It's hard to interpret this pardon as affirming anything other than the idea that an American president can never face legal liability, no matter what.
And while Ankush Khardori of the New York Review of Books acknowledges that "the political implications of criminally investigating the Trump administration are no small matter, and the potential costs of doing so are real," he stresses that "it is vital for the [Justice] Department to keep its options open, and not prematurely foreclose on the possibility of criminal investigations."
"At a bare minimum, the incoming attorney general should provide the public with an intelligible approach to how the Justice Department will consider these issues, something that could be laid out as broad principles defined during a confirmation hearing," he argues. "That is all the more important given the very real possibility that we will discover more misconduct—possibly, far more serious misconduct than we know—after Trump's administration leaves office and his grip on government finally comes loose."
In pondering whether the nation can restore the rule of law without prosecuting Trump, Jonathan Mahler writes in the New York Times Magazine that the game trumps the name.
"In the end, the dilemma over what to do about Donald Trump may be less about Trump than it is about the structural problems his presidency exposed," he says. "Trump may have turned the executive branch into an instrument for his personal gain and deliverance, but it was the country's legal and political systems that enabled him to do it. And even out of office, he may still face no consequences."
There has never been a better time to be a woman, minority or member of the LGBT community who works in the DC establishment and thinks the poor should be made into pet food.
The New York Times has published an article titled “Could Limiting Corporate Candidates Hurt Biden’s Diversity Push?”, for the benefit of all those normal everyday readers who’ve been lying awake at night wondering if limiting corporate candidates might hurt Biden’s diversity push.
The article’s authors warn against the nonexistent, completely imaginary threat of the next presidential administration rejecting corporatists for cabinet positions to appease the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, claiming that doing so would be “narrowing the candidate pool” in a way that hurts Biden’s stated aim of creating an administration that is as diverse as America. Because apparently executive positions in the corporate and financial sector are the only place you can find ethnic minorities in America.
“Groups from the far left throw out edicts, but these don’t reflect the realities of the American experience or inequality, the racial wealth gap, and may prove counterproductive to diversify the administration and to implement policies that work for all Americans,” NYT is told by a member of the influential DC lobbying firm Mehlman Castagnetti.
The New York Times just published an article insinuating that the government can only find qualified people of color on Wall Street, but not elsewhere https://t.co/1wmeGX85yf
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) November 20, 2020
The New York Times is warning of the pressing danger of the Biden administration conceding too much to “the far left” at a time when progressive politicians have reportedly already been ruled out as candidates for cabinet positions due to concerns of appearing to be too far left, and when members of the Biden camp are already waving off demands from progressives using the phrase “we don’t negotiate with terrorists“.
Vox has also put out an article celebrating diversity without regard to policies or behavior titled “President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is one of the most diverse ever“, subtitled “Biden wants his administration to ‘look like America.’ His transition team is a start.”
“Thus far, 46 percent of Biden’s transition staff are people of color and 41 percent of senior staff are people of color,” Vox reports. “More than half of the transition staff — 52 percent — are women, and 53 percent of senior staff are women.”
Meanwhile exactly zero percent of them oppose war, nuclear brinkmanship, starvation sanctions and imperialism. Zero percent oppose US oligarchy or its sociopathic intelligence agencies. Zero percent support universal healthcare or redistributing the nation’s immense wealth to end poverty in the United States. Zero percent support ending the drug war, ending the prison-industrial complex, ending the US police state, ending mass surveillance. Zero percent oppose Israeli apartheid, oppose internet censorship, oppose mass media propaganda via US plutocracy.
Real diversity in any government is of course important. But what you don’t see Vox reporting on is the fact that Biden’s transition and advisory teams are packed to the gills with corporate cronies and war whores, and that the women he’s eyeing for key foreign policy positions are as murderous and depraved as any man anywhere on earth. They might be diverse in gender, skin color and sexual orientation, but in terms of bloodshed, exploitation and oppression they couldn’t be more homogeneous. They are all devout acolytes of the murderous, imperialist, oligarchic religion that is the mainstream consensus of the US political/media class.
• 0% oppose war
• 0% oppose oligarchy
• 0% oppose sociopathic intelligence agencies
• 0% oppose internet censorship
• 0% oppose the drug war
• 0% oppose the police state
• 0% oppose mass surveillance
• 0% oppose the prison-industrial complex
• 0% oppose Israeli apartheid https://t.co/8noL4ZR8Ps
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) November 21, 2020
And of course the people who will be hurt worst by it are members of those very same marginalized communities you’re supposed to get excited about being elevated to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy or whatever under the Biden administration. They are hurt by the austerity policies, they are hurt by the authoritarian police state policies, they are hurt by the fact that they’re the ones getting bombs dropped on them overseas, and they are hurt by the fact that there is still so very far to go in terms of racial and sexual equality yet the thrust toward getting there is being diverted into a pussyhat parade for Susan Rice as Secretary of State.
The most influential news reporting should be that which holds power to account and draws attention to its most malignant aspects. Instead it is actively facilitating the most malignant aspects of power and hiding them under the banner of “diversity”.
US president-elect Joe Biden will announce the first names chosen for his cabinet on Tuesday, the incoming White House chief of staff said – and is expecting a scaled-down inauguration celebration because of the risks of spreading coronavirus.
In a sign that his transition team is pressing ahead swiftly – despite Donald Trump’s failure to concede the election and ongoing attempts to thwart the transition process – Ron Klain said on Sunday that the appointments were moving at a faster pace than the previous two administrations.
“You’re going to see the first cabinet picks this Tuesday. But if you want to know what cabinet agencies they are, who’s going to be in those cabinet agencies, you’ll have to wait for the president-elect to say that himself on Tuesday,” he told ABC.
It comes after Biden said on Thursday that he had already chosen his treasury secretary, hinting only that it is somebody who will be “accepted by all elements of the Democratic party”.
Donald Trump faced growing pressure from Republicans on Sunday to drop his chaotic, last-ditch fight to overturn the US presidential election, as victor Joe Biden prepared to start naming his cabinet and a Pennsylvania judge compared Trump’s legal case there to “Frankenstein’s monster”. Despite Republican leadership in Washington standing behind the president’s claims that the 3 November election was stolen from him by nationwide voter fraud, other prominent figures, including two of his former national security advisers, were blunt.
Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton said that Biden would be sworn in in January and added: “The real question is how much damage Trump can do before that happens.” ... And another former Trump administration national security adviser, HR McMaster, told CBS’s Face the Nation that Trump’s efforts were “very corrosive” and warned that his actions were sowing doubt among the electorate. ...
On Sunday evening, hours after former New Jersey governor and adviser to the president Chris Christie said Trump’s legal team was a “national embarrassment” the campaign issued a statement distancing itself from lawyer Sidney Powell, who has been a prominent figure arguing the Trump case that the election was fraudulent, while positing wild theories but no evidence.
Meanwhile, Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, another Republican, said he also was confident Biden would be sworn in on schedule on 20 January and said “I’m embarrassed” at the lack of party leadership speaking out to recognize the election result. Hogan added that he thought Trump’s pressuring last week of state legislators “to somehow try to change the outcome” was “completely outrageous”. The US used to supervise elections around the world but was now “beginning to look like we’re in a banana republic,” Hogan told CNN’s State of the Union politics show.
If you had done your job, America's governors wouldn't have been forced to fend for themselves to find tests in the middle of a pandemic, as we successfully did in Maryland.
Stop golfing and concede. https://t.co/tCXO8etxge
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) November 22, 2020
Desperate efforts by Donald Trump and his Republican allies to overturn the result of the American election are facing an ever narrowing range of options as court cases and recounts have repeatedly failed to make any dent in the convincing victory of Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Now that states are certifying their election results, it appears the president’s last-ditch efforts will entail desperate pleas to Republican state lawmakers in hopes they will ignore their state laws and somehow skew the election to favor his reelection in the all-important electoral college.
It has been two weeks exactly since Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, and since then, Republicans and Trump’s campaign have made multiple attempts to take the election results to the courts and woo state Republican officials into helping them subvert the votes of their constituents. But the effort has largely failed to make meaningful headway with any of the lawsuits in key swing states, and state officials have mostly stuck by the original counts. In just the past few days, Trump’s dream of overturning the results of the election has significantly narrowed after results were certified in Georgia and Arizona’s largest county in Biden’s favor on Friday.
The states were two of six that the Trump campaign and Republicans were targeting in efforts to push slim margins that favored Biden over Trump. Their haphazard plans have fallen apart as judges across the country halted legal challenges that cried fraud in an election that experts and public officials have said showed no evidence of widespread fraud. Three other swing states, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, are set to join Georgia in certifying their results as their certification deadlines approach next week. Arizona and Wisconsin, the last of the state’s targeted by the Trump campaign, have certification deadlines the week after.
Joe Biden’s popular vote lead over Donald Trump has now stretched to more than 6m as he continues to rack up the highest number of votes in American history.
The Democratic challenger, and now president-elect, currently has 79,823,827 compared to the president’s 73,786,905 – itself a record for a losing candidate in terms of sheer number of votes cast.
Responding to grassroots pressure and shareholder activism, five of the six largest U.S. banks have decided they want no part of financing fossil fuel drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—but that isn't stopping the Trump administration from what critics on Friday called bullying banks into funding oil and gas extraction.
The Wall Street Journal reports the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Friday proposed a new rule that would bar financial institutions from refusing to lend to entire categories of lawful businesses. In the name of "fair access," the proposed rule would force banks to finance not only the fossil fuel industry that is largely responsible for the ever-worsening climate emergency, but also other highly controversial sectors such as for-profit private prisons and firearms manufacturers.
"We need to stop the weaponization of banking as a political tool," Brian Brooks, the acting comptroller, told the Journal. "It's creating real economic dislocations."
Under the proposal—which came on the heels of complaints by Republican politicians that banks are discriminating against Big Oil—institutional lenders would only be permitted to decline loans if an applicant failed to meet "quantitative, impartial, risk-based standards established by the bank in advance."
The proposal will be open for public comment until January 4, 2021 before it is subject to final approval. That would leave Brooks just over two weeks to enact the measure before President Donald Trump leaves office on January 20. The financial services industry is likely to push back against the proposal, fearing it could force banks to finance individuals, entitites, or endeavors against their will.
Critics say the measure is meant to compel banks to finance destructive drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to the Gwich'in Indigenous people and hundreds of animal species. On Tuesday, the Trump administration began accepting requests from fossil fuel companies staking claims to where they want to drill for oil and natural gas. This, as Arctic temperatures warm to record high and Arctic sea ice recedes to record low levels.
Sierra Club campaign representative Ben Cushing fired back against GOP "discrimination" claims.
"Contrary to the claims of oil-backed politicians, banks don't want to finance more drilling in the Arctic not because of some vast liberal conspiracy, but because it's bad business," he said in a statement Friday. "The idea that this constitutes discrimination is ludicrous. No amount of saber-rattling in the final days of the Trump administration is going to change the fact that Arctic drilling is a risky investment that any savvy financial institution would stay far away from."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Champion Jack Dupree - Jack's Boogie
Champion Jack Dupree - Heavy Heart Blues
Champion Jack Dupree w/Mickey Baker - Early in the morning
Champion Jack Dupree - Income Tax
Champion Jack Dupree - Stack-O-Lee
Champion Jack Dupree - Georgiana
Champion Jack Dupree - Shake baby shake
Champion Jack Dupree - I Just Want To Be Free
Champion Jack Dupree - Bus Station Blues
Champion Jack Dupree - Yellow Pocahantas
Mr. Bear & Champion Jack Dupree - Daybreak Rock
Champion Jack Dupree - Big Time Mama