The Evening Blues - 12-9-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jump blues and early rock 'n roll band. The Treniers. Enjoy!
The Treniers - Rockin' is Our Bizness
“You know how impossible it is, in short, to have a free nation if it is a military nation and under military orders”
-- Woodrow Wilson
News and Opinion
Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece up about the dangers of breaking down civilian control of the military and Biden's pick of a general to run the pentagon. Here are some excerpts to give you a taste, but it really is worth a full read.
Joe Biden’s pick to be the next Secretary of Defense, according to reports on Monday night, is recently retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, III. The choice of Gen. Austin further erodes the once-sacred American norm that military officials will be barred from exercising control over the Pentagon until substantial time has passed after leaving active-duty military service.
Before Gen. Austin can be confirmed, Biden will need a special waiver from Congress under the National Security Act of 1947. That law, a cornerstone of the post-World War II national security state, provides that “a person who has within ten years been on active duty as a commissioned officer in a Regular component of the armed services shall not be eligible for appointment as Secretary of Defense.” Enactment of the law after the war, explained the Congressional Research Service, was imperative to “preserve the principle of civilian control of the military at a time when the United States was departing from its century-and-a-half long tradition of a small standing military.” A 2008 law reduced that waiting period to seven years, but Gen. Austin, who retired from the U.S. Army only four years ago, in 2016, still falls well within its prohibition. ...
One of the reasons Trump was repeatedly accused of violating “norms” was his reliance on military officers to run civilian parts of the government, including the Pentagon. So prominent was the criticism that Trump was militarizing the government that the Democrats’ 2020 platform addressed it, vowing — under the title “Renewing American Leadership” — to restore “healthy civil-military relations.” ... While Democrats and liberal pundits complained that Trump was violating this norm of civilian control, they also celebrated his choice of retired Generals for key positions because they believed that those military officials — Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis, White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly, National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster — had better judgment than Trump and, as “the adults in the room,” would serve as a backstop against Trump’s worst impulses.
Worse, many in the media and D.C. professional class cheered outright subversion by military brass and the intelligence community of the policies of the elected President — including when they withheld classified information from Trump, “slow walked” his orders, and deceived him about troop positions to prevent him from leaving Syria. In other words, while the liberal establishment feigned concern over “norms,” including the one that demands civilian control, they applauded military and intelligence sabotage of the president’s policies. (Subversion by the military of democratically elected leaders who, in their judgment, pursue unwise policies is a defining element of a Deep State, something supporters of this subversion simultaneously insisted did not exist in the U.S. and that only conspiratorial crazies could believe it did). ...
Over the last four years, Democrats and establishment liberals militarized themselves and became far more jingoistic in their rhetoric and far more reverential of the military and intelligence establishments, to the point where they even filled their newsrooms with former Pentagon, FBI and CIA operatives. For that reason, it is unsurprising to see Biden relying at least as heavily on Generals and intelligence officials as Trump did, including doing exactly that which Democrats vowed in 2017 would not happen again: choosing a recently retired General — one on the Board of Raytheon, no less — to run the Pentagon. But that lack of surprise should not obscure the dangerous and anti-democratic threats posed by these ongoing trends.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Monday that the Senate will take up and pass a mammoth defense bill despite a looming veto showdown with President Trump.
The GOP leader's remarks come as the House is poised to vote on the bill on Tuesday, paving the way for the Senate to pass it as soon as this week.
The bill, which has passed for 59 years in a row, has garnered a veto threat from Trump because it does not repeal Section 230, a legal shield for tech companies that has become a prime punching bag for Trump and his allies.
McConnell did not address Trump’s veto threat during his floor remarks.
The US on Tuesday crossed the threshold of 15 million coronavirus cases, by far the highest total in the world, as American hospitals braced to ration care amid staff shortages and warnings about the “rampant” spread of the disease.
Pennsylvania’s governor Tom Wolf said that the coronavirus was running rampant throughout his state and could soon force overwhelmed hospitals to begin turning away patients. Wolf calls it a “dangerous, disturbing scenario” that will become reality if people do not take steps to slow the spread. He said additional pandemic restrictions might be on the way but did not elaborate on what his administration might be considering, while also acknowledging the ones already in place have not worked.
Wolf said the unchecked spread of the virus in all regions of the state means that resource-sharing agreements among hospitals could soon begin to break down and force them to begin rationing care. Still, the governor all but ruled out a return to the kinds of statewide restrictions he imposed in the spring, when schools were closed, thousands of businesses deemed non-essential were shut down, and all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians were under a stay-at-home order.
Three US states have recorded a million cases each of Covid-19 – California, Texas and Florida – and California has enacted new stay-at-home guidelines as coronavirus cases in the state have surged, placing 33 million pandemic-fatigued residents under some of the harshest restrictions in the US in a last-resort effort to rein in the pandemic. ...
Deaths from the coronavirus in the US have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the peak reached last April, with the crisis likely to get worse because of the fallout from gatherings at Thanksgiving, Christmas and over the New Year.
Joe Biden vowed on Tuesday to ensure 100m coronavirus vaccinations would be administered to Americans during his first 100 days in the White House – as Donald Trump held a parallel event where he ignored the deepening public health crisis, instead repeating his false claims that he, not Biden, won the November election.
The Democratic president-elect on Tuesday introduced his new leadership team covering healthcare and laid out an aggressive plan to defeat the coronavirus pandemic that contrasted sharply with the Trump administration’s efforts. ...
Leading what Biden dubbed his “core Covid healthcare team” was Xavier Becerra, his nominee for secretary of health and human services. Becerra, the son of Mexican immigrants, served 12 terms in Congress and is California’s the attorney general. He would be the first Latino to serve as US health secretary. ...
Among the other members of the health team is the former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, whom Biden nominated again for the role, and Rochelle Walensky, whom he picked to lead the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, accepted Biden’s invitation to stay on as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a position he has held since 1984, and will serve as Biden’s chief medical adviser.
The moderate radical Massatwoshits Democrat bureaucracy that lied, cheated and stole to get Richie Neal reelected has a lot to answer for:
A last-minute scramble to include surprise hospital billing reform in the new coronavirus relief bill has fallen short, according to multiple sources. Surprise billing is a tactic used by hospitals and other medical providers, many of them owned by private equity giants such as Blackstone, to manipulate bills so that patients and insurance companies wind up paying eye-popping sums for treatment.
Wendell Primus, senior policy adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the most powerful staffer on the Hill, had plans to send a proposal on surprise medical billing to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to four sources with knowledge of the negotiations. By Monday night, however, the effort had been rebuffed. “There’s still work that needs to be done with the committees,” a senior Democratic aide said.
Slowing and weakening surprise billing reform has been a driving motivation of House Ways and Means Chair Richie Neal, D-Mass., during this past congressional term. The issue fell under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, whose chair, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, hammered out a tough reform bill on the bipartisan issue with his Republican counterparts. Neal, however, invented jurisdiction for the Ways and Means Committee — the panel has jurisdiction over taxation, and he linked the issue to government revenue in a roundabout way — and put forward his own proposal that was much more favorable to the private equity industry.
McConnell was not interested in including the provision, according to three Senate aides. Neal was also an obstacle to getting reform into the Covid-19 bill, said one member of Congress briefed on the talks. “The one stumbling block has been of course, Richie trying to scuttle it,” the member said.
Gov. "DeSantis needs to worry less about what I'm writing about and more about the people who are sick and dying... doing this to me will not stop me from reporting the data. Ever."
- FL data scientist Rebekah Jones on having her home raided as part of a cybercrime investigation. pic.twitter.com/ztbqdKjwYv
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) December 8, 2020
Non-profit groups which have spent much of this year meeting the soaring needs of food-insecure communities have learned in recent days that a program initiated by the Trump administration last spring is running out of money nearly a month before it was expected to, leaving anti-hunger workers scrambling to help millions of individuals and families.
The $4.5 billion Farmers to Families food box program, run by the USDA to support struggling farms as well as people facing unemployment and hunger, was introduced in May. Along with the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, the initiative has helped serve 1.7 billion of the meals provided by Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks, this year.
Non-profits say the USDA did not warn them that the fourth round of funding for the program could be drastically cut at the end of the year, leaving food banks with dwindling food supplies and government funds.
Farmers to Families has relied on USDA contracts, awarded to large food distributors, to supply food boxes for growing food lines—in which 40% of people served since the pandemic hit have been first-time beneficiaries of government food assistance, having lost jobs and income in an economy in which 78% of workers live paycheck to paycheck.
The first three rounds of contracts amounted to $1.2 billion, $1.76 billion, and $1 billion, before the federal government cut funding to just $500 million in the last two months of the year, as the holidays and the current surge in coronavirus cases approached.
The funding cut left many parts of the country where non-profits have relied on the food boxes with little or no support; food banks across the country are poised to lose about half of the food they receive from the USDA, and some regions simply weren't selected by the federal government to receive more contracts in the last two months of the year.
"That left a palpable void," John Bernardi, of the United Way of the Adirondack Region in New York, told the Washington Post Tuesday. "This has left the food pantries overwhelmed."
Non-profits had been counting on the program to be fully funded through December 31, at which point anti-hunger groups are hoping Congress passes a new coronavirus relief package including food aid.
"People can't believe the government promised food and reneged," Jeremy Haicken, president of Unite Here Local 737 in Florida, told the Post this past weekend while working at a food line the union has helped to run during the pandemic.
As the union learned it would not have access to boxes of fresh dairy, meat, and produce through the USDA earlier this month, its leaders raised money and used some of the organization's own savings to purchase as much ramen, canned vegetables, and beans as it could to help serve families.
Over the weekend, families in the Ft. Wayne, Indiana area learned that a Farmers to Families distribution event had been canceled and that they won't be able to rely on the program for the rest of the year.
A day before the distribution in Indiana was canceled, President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, touted the "huge success" of Farmers to Families on social media.
However, the early end to the program is expected to leave tens of thousands of families without a supply of food they have come to rely on this year, as food banks report a 60% increase in demand.
According to the Post, 50 million people could face food insecurity by the end of the year, up from 35 million in January 2020.
During the last financial crisis, banks paid out dividends to shareholders even as losses mounted and the financial sector headed towards collapse. Now, even as they face big losses on commercial real estate loans, the nation’s largest banks are once again being permitted to continue paying out billions of dollars of dividends to shareholders — and a top Trump appointee at the Federal Reserve has pushed to weaken rules requiring banks to keep large cash reserves on hand to cover losses.
In essence, regulators are allowing banks to spend capital on making payments to shareholders — which could amount to over $50 billion this year — rather than requiring them to save more resources to either lend during the pandemic or protect against a financial collapse that could require another government bailout. ...
Some Fed officials have said that halting dividend payments to shareholders would signal that regulators are concerned about the health of the financial system, and that easing capital standards will make consumer credit cheaper — helping to fund an economic recovery.
But Marcus Stanley, policy director at Americans for Financial Reform, said this isn’t a real concern. “The idea that the Fed needs to reassure the markets by letting banks pay dividends is the kind of backwards logic that you fall into if you accept Wall Street's assumptions about what is good and what is bad,” Stanley told The Daily Poster. “Fed officials up to and including Powell are flashing red warning signs about what will happen absent additional fiscal stimulus. No bank dividend payment is going to obscure those signals to the market.” Stanley added that easing capital standards won’t help consumers, because their problem right now isn’t a lack of credit, but a lack of income.
There’s also a longer-term concern associated with the Fed’s policies of allowing banks to pay dividends during a moment of immense uncertainty. A key cause of the last financial crisis was that capital requirements on banks weren’t stringent enough. And yet, the banks paid shareholder dividends until the government decided to bail them out. It created what economists call “moral hazard,” because now banks make decisions with the knowledge that they will be bailed out when the moment comes.
Joe Biden has reportedly selected Ohio congresswoman Marcia Fudge as his housing and urban development secretary and and the former agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack to reprise that role in his administration.
Fudge was first elected to Congress in 2008 to represent a district that includes Cleveland, and is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Vilsack spent eight years as head of the US Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration and served two terms as Iowa governor.
Their intended nominations were confirmed to the Associated Press on Tuesday by five people familiar with one or both of the decisions who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid preempting the president-elect’s announcement.
As other news outlets started reporting Fudge’s selection as HUD secretary Tuesday, Fudge said on Capitol Hill that it would be “an honor and a privilege” to be asked to join Biden’s cabinet, though she didn’t confirm she had been picked. ...
A longtime member of the House Agriculture Committee and a fierce advocate for food stamps, Fudge was originally discussed to become agriculture secretary. But her name was later floated for HUD as Biden’s team focused on other candidates for USDA, including Vilsack and former North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp.
New reporting that President-elect Joe Biden is strongly considering having Tom Vilsack reprise his role as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture elicited warnings from food safety groups that Vilsack would put the interests of Big Ag over those of a more sustainable and just food system.
"Tom Vilsack has a long and detailed record on food and agriculture—a record that clearly demonstrates why he would be a very bad pick to lead the USDA," Mitch Jones, policy director at Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.
Politico reported Monday that the president-elect "is leaning toward picking" Vilsack, who "was a top rural and agriculture policy adviser to the Biden campaign," for the role.
Vilsack also served as governor of Iowa from 1999 until 2007 and USDA secretary under the Obama administration.
Two other names that have emerged as possibilities for USDA chief are former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio. Jennifer Granholm, a former governor and attorney general of Michigan, is also now reported to be in the running.
As USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack failed to protect food workers, did little to combat the agency’s racist policies, and championed industrial agriculture over family farmers. @JoeBiden should not give him this job again. @Transition46 https://t.co/Y0Ot2cRE1W
— Liz Moran Stelk (@lizziestelk) December 7, 2020
Bloomberg News also reported Monday on Vilsack being the favored candidate. "He is now president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, which promotes sales of American dairy products abroad," reported Bloomberg, noting his previous backing of trade deals including the Trans Pacific Partnership and President's Donald Trump's USMCA. ...
Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety's policy director, called Vilsack's possible selection "a huge step backwards in our urgent need to support agricultural systems that protect public health, the environment, and mitigate the ongoing climate crisis.”
Hanson cited as damning evidence Vilsack's previous time at the Cabinet position as well as his post-Obama administration work supporting corporate dairy operations.
"While serving as Secretary under President Obama, Mr. Vilsack supported chemically-dependent industrial agriculture that resulted in millions more pounds of pesticides released into the environment, contaminating our water and soils and harming human health and wildlife. In addition," Hanson continued, "during his tenure the meat industry grew larger and more concentrated, contributing to the climate crisis."
"Mergers in the meat industry grew larger and larger—even when huge Chinese and Brazilian operations bought up U.S. operations," said Hanson, "Vilsack's USDA did not protest."
"Vilsack supported the expansion of pesticide-promoting, genetically engineered crops, and was not a strong supporter of organic agriculture," added Hanson.
Sanders Leads Senate Demand for $1,200 Stimulus Checks Over 'Get-Out-of-Jail Free Card' for Corporations
Rejecting the bipartisan coronavirus relief plan currently under negotiation on Capitol Hill as "totally inadequate," Sen. Bernie Sanders and five Democratic senators circulated a letter Tuesday calling on their fellow lawmakers to join them in demanding the inclusion of another round of direct stimulus payments and the removal of all corporate-friendly poison pills.
"Simply stated, given the horrific extent of the current crisis and the desperation that working families all over this country are experiencing, this proposal does not go anywhere near far enough," reads the letter (pdf), which was coordinated by Sanders and backed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Noting that the bipartisan plan only calls for $348 billion in new funding—a far cry from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act Congress approved in March—and includes a "get-out-of-jail free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk," the senators warn it "would be unacceptable to take a major step backwards" as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surge nationwide and economic conditions continue to deteriorate.
"Unlike the CARES Act... this proposal only provides a $300 supplement for unemployed workers rather than $600 a week," the lawmakers note. "Further, unlike the $1,200 direct payment for every working class individual and $500 for each child, it provides absolutely no direct payment."
The White House is urging Senate Republicans to push for the inclusion of $600 stimulus checks in the relief bill, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
"The American people need help and they need help now," the senators' letter continues. "We agree with President-elect Biden that a $1,200 direct payment should be included in this proposal. We also feel strongly that we should not provide immunity to corporations who endanger the health and lives of their employees. Please join us in demanding that any new Covid relief proposal includes a $1,200 direct payment to adults and $500 to their children. Further, please work with us to make certain that there is no language in this bill to give a liability shield to corporations."
Growing progressive criticism of the bipartisan stimulus proposal first unveiled last week comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand for a five-year liability shield for corporations—a top priority of many congressional Republicans—is threatening to completely derail ongoing relief talks.
If lawmakers don't pass a legislative fix before the end of the year, dozens of key federal programs—including unemployment insurance, paid sick and family leave, and an eviction moratorium—will expire, leaving millions of Americans in the lurch.
Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement Tuesday that "unemployment insurance, aid for hospitals, and state and local assistance should not be held hostage to McConnell and the Senate Republicans' quest for corporate immunity."
"We are down to the wire as the opportunity to attach the stimulus to the end of year spending deal winds down," Gilbert added. "Lawmakers should continue to reject any package that includes this deadly corporate giveaway and move with haste to finish the negotiations."
While Donald Trump continues to falsely insist he won the 2020 race, Tuesday marks an important deadline further cementing that Joe Biden will be inaugurated as America’s 46th president on 20 January.
This year, 8 December is the so-called “safe harbor” deadline, which federal law says must fall six days before electors meet across the country to cast their votes for president. The statute says that as long as states use existing state law to resolve disputes about electors by the deadline, the votes cast by those electors will be “conclusive”. It is meant to act as a safeguard so that Congress, which will count the electoral votes on 6 January, can’t second-guess or overturn the election results.
At least one Republican member of Congress, Mo Brooks of Alabama, has said he will object to electors and Republicans in Pennsylvania have urged lawmakers to do the same. Those challenges are unlikely to be successful because a majority of both houses would have to agree to the challenge. Democrats control a majority of the US House of Representatives.
The US supreme court on Tuesday turned away a long-shot bid by Republicans to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 race.
The suit, filed on behalf of Mike Kelly, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, took issue with a 2019 state law that adopted no-excuse absentee voting, and argued that the expansion of mail-in voting was illegal.
Several courts, including the Pennsylvania supreme court, had already denied the request, noting that Kelly waited until after the 2020 election to file his suit when the law was in place well before the election.
The case is the first piece of 2020 election litigation to reach the US supreme court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority including three Trump appointees. But the decision is not a surprise. As is customary with emergency requests, the supreme court did not offer an explanation for its decision. There were no noted dissents.
Pennsylvania was one of the pivotal states in the election, with Biden, a Democrat, defeating Trump after the Republican president won the state in 2016. State officials had already certified the election results.
The state of Texas, aiming to help Donald Trump upend the results of the US election, decisively won by Joe Biden, said on Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit against the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin at the US supreme court, calling changes they made to election procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic unlawful.
The extraordinary and probably long-shot lawsuit, announced by the Republican attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, was filed directly with the supreme court, as is permitted for certain litigation between states. The supreme court has a 6-3 conservative majority, including three justices appointed by Trump. ...
Republican-governed Texas in the lawsuit accused election officials in the four states of failing to protect mail-in voting from fraud, thus diminishing “the weight of votes cast in states that lawfully abide by the election structure set forth in the constitution”.
State election officials have said they have found no evidence of such fraud that would change the results, and local and national officials have declared it the most secure election in US history. ...
Texas is asking the supreme court to block the electoral college votes in the four states – a total of 62 votes – from being counted. ... Texas also is asking the supreme court to delay the 14 December deadline for electoral college votes to be cast.
The Arctic’s rapid transformation into a less frozen, hotter and biologically altered place has been further exacerbated by a year of wildfires, soaring temperatures and loss of ice, US scientists have reported.
The planet’s northern polar region recorded its second hottest 12-month period to September 2020, with the warmest temperatures since 1900 all now occurring within the past seven years, according to an annual Arctic report card issued by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The Arctic is heating up at a rate around double that of the global average, due to the human-caused climate crisis.
Some places were abnormally hot in 2020, with parts of Siberia 9F (5C) above the long-term average in the first half of the year. In June, the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk reached 100.4°F, the hottest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle.
Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice shrank to its second lowest summer extent in the 42-year satellite record in 2020, with the loss of ice and surging ocean heat causing a burst of ocean plant growth and altered behavior of bowhead whales. On land, fierce wildfires tore through parts of the Arctic region while the melting of permafrost and retreat of ice is increasingly turning parts of the Arctic green with sprouting vegetation.
Private mining firms and arms companies are exerting a hidden and unhealthy influence on the fate of the deep-sea bed, according to a new report highlighting the threats facing the world’s biggest intact ecosystem.
An investigation by Greenpeace found a handful of corporations in Europe and North America are increasingly dominating exploration contracts, and have at times taken the place of government representatives at meetings of the oversight body, the UN’s International Seabed Authority (ISA).
Greenpeace said this undermines effective environmental management and fair distribution of risks and rewards from the ocean floor, which some states and companies want to open up for exploitation next year.
Given the potential risks of fisheries disturbance, water contamination, sound pollution and habitat destruction for dumbo octopuses, sea pangolins and other species, the campaign group said no new licences should be approved. It has said governments should instead implement an ocean treaty, to ensure adequate protections.
Mining firms see the deep-sea bed as the last frontier for a mineral extraction boom. Technological hurdles have been overcome, and the ISA’s recently re-appointed secretary-general Michael Lodge – from the UK – wants member states to agree on a rulebook next year that would set standards for working practices and allow commercial mining to begin.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Treniers - (We Want A) Rock & Roll President
The Treniers - Good Rockin' Tonight
The Treniers - Rock-A-Beatin´ Boogie
The Treniers - Holy Mackerel, Andy!
The Treniers - Rocking On Sunday Night
The Treniers - Out Of The Bushes
The Treniers - Trapped (In The Web of Love)
The Treniers - Squeeze Me
The Treniers - It Rocks, It Rolls, It Swings
The Treniers - Go! Go! Go!