The Evening Blues - 4-6-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b bandleader and singer Tiny Bradshaw. Enjoy!
Tiny Bradshaw - Heavy Juice
"If the barricades went up in our streets and the poor became masters, I think the priests would escape, I fear the gentlemen would; but I believe the gutters would simply be running with the blood of philanthropists."
-- Charles Dickens
News and Opinion
Worth a full read:
Bill Gates has never been a farmer. So why did the Land Report dub him “Farmer Bill” this year? The third richest man on the planet doesn’t have a green thumb. Nor does he put in the back-breaking labor humble people do to grow our food and who get for far less praise for it. That kind of hard work isn’t what made him rich. Gates’ achievement, according to the report, is that he’s largest private owner of farmland in the US. A 2018 purchase of 14,500 acres of prime eastern Washington farmland – which is traditional Yakima territory – for $171m helped him get that title.
In total, Gates owns approximately 242,000 acres of farmland with assets totaling more than $690m. To put that into perspective, that’s nearly the size of Hong Kong and twice the acreage of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, where I’m an enrolled member. A white man owns more farmland than my entire Native nation!
The United States is defined by the excesses of its ruling class. But why do a handful of people own so much land?
Land is power, land is wealth, and, more importantly, land is about race and class. The relationship to land – who owns it, who works it and who cares for it – reflects obscene levels of inequality and legacies of colonialism and white supremacy in the United States, and also the world. Wealth accumulation always goes hand-in-hand with exploitation and dispossession. In this country, enslaved Black labor first built US wealth atop stolen Native land. The 1862 Homestead Act opened up 270m acres of Indigenous territory – which amounts to 10% of US land – for white settlement. Black, Mexican, Asian, and Native people, of course, were categorically excluded from the benefits of a federal program that subsidized and protected generations of white wealth.
The billionaire media mogul Ted Turner epitomizes such disparities. He owns 2m acres and has the world’s largest privately owned buffalo herd. Those animals, which are sacred to my people and were nearly hunted to extinction by settlers, are preserved today on nearly 200,000 acres of Turner’s ranchland within the boundaries of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty territory in the western half of what is now the state of South Dakota, land that was once guaranteed by the US government to be a “permanent home” for Lakota people. ...
The principal danger of private farmland owners like Bill Gates is not their professed support of sustainable agriculture often found in philanthropic work – it’s the monopolistic role they play in determining our food systems and land use patterns. Small farmers and Indigenous people are more cautious with the use of land. For Indigenous caretakers, land use isn’t premised on a return of investments; it’s about maintaining the land for the next generation, meeting the needs of the present, and a respect for the diversity of life. That’s why lands still managed by Indigenous peoples worldwide protect and sustain 80% of the world’s biodiversity, practices anathema to industrial agriculture.
After Wall Street crashed the global economy in 2008, leading to massive loss of wealth in low-income communities of color, private equity firms and other institutional investors created new companies to acquire extremely discounted homes through auction, short sale or the purchase of distressed loans. This was called the REO (Real Estate Owned home) to Rental business. ... Beginning in late 2013, the financial industry was able to take single-family rental housing one step further as a commodity for trading, by selling bonds backed by the future rent checks of thousands of single-family homes, through a process referred to as securitization. Sound familiar? This process is very similar to the mortgage-backed securitization made famous by the 2008 financial crisis. Invitation Homes issued the first single-family rental-backed security for $500 million in 2013. Since then, ten more companies have entered the market, amounting to 37 securitizations and totaling $44 billion with $16.4 billion still outstanding.
Single-family rental companies have also moved this industry into the stock market. Some of the largest single-family rental companies are, or were, publicly traded, including Invitation Homes/Colony Starwood and American Homes for Rent. By selling stocks, the single-family rental companies then become accountable to shareholders and face increasing pressure to deliver financial returns. The pressure to deliver short-term economic returns for shareholders, often at the cost of long-term productivity, social responsibility and more redistributive business models, is a core by-product of the modern financialized economy. ...
Blackstone is now the largest landlord for Single-Family Rentals (SRF’s) in the world and the largest landlord in the country. “Mom and pop” landlords are becoming less and less common. Fewer tenants have a landlord who lives in the neighborhood or across town and increasingly, tenants are dealing with corporate landlords that don’t even have physical offices with real people you can talk to in the same state. All told, one-fourth of single-family rentals today are owned by institutional investors, and more than 200,000 families pay their rent to nine giant private equity firms like Starwood Waypoint and Blackstone (that are now merging). The holdings of these nine are concentrated in less than 20 cities across the country with Blackstone’s Invitation Homes owning 14,389 in California alone. ...
Wall Street landlords like Blackstone’s Invitation Homes are accountable to their shareholders who are promised a high-profit margin. So far, the record of Wall Street landlords has been marked by unprecedented rent increases, a spike in evictions and a shifting of maintenance costs to tenants by nickel and diming their renters.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned the United States not to take a superior position and presume it has a final say on global affairs.
Wang said China would not accept a list from Washington of unilateral demands for negotiations with Beijing. “The door for dialogue with China is open. But the dialogue should be done on equal basis and with mutual respect,” he said.
“China will not accept that there is any nation in the world that [can] put itself superior to the others, and that any nation will have a final say on world affairs. If the US continues to confront, China will take it calmly without fear.”
Wang was speaking to Chinese state media about his recent meetings in Fujian province with foreign ministers from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea. He said he had briefed them on the Alaska summit between US and China diplomats, telling them it was “reasonable for regional nations to be concerned about China-US relations”.
The United States said on Monday it expected indirect talks with Iran about both sides resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to be difficult, adding it did not foresee any early breakthrough. The talks begin on Tuesday.
Iran and the United States said on Friday they would hold indirect talks in Vienna from Tuesday as part of a wider effort to revive the nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Tehran has ruled out face-to-face bilateral discussions and State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters at his daily briefing on Monday that the United States did not expect any “at present” but remained open to the possibility.
“We don’t underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead,” Price said. “These are early days. We don’t anticipate an early or immediate breakthrough as these discussions, we fully expect, will be difficult.”
Moscow may ramp up military and technical measures of response to emerging threats in the wake of plans by the United States and its allies to create an arsenal of land-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Monday.
"We will continue closely watching practical measures by the United States and its allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region for creating an arsenal of land-based intermediate-and shorter-range missiles, especially taking into account the intentions announced by Great Britain," the Russian diplomat said.
"We are by no means shutting the door for a dialogue but do not rule out in the current conditions that Russia will have to increasingly shift the focus of efforts towards implementing military and technical measures of response to emerging missile threats," the statement says.
The Russian diplomat drew attention to Pentagon officials’ statements, "which have started to be voiced ever more frequently in the past few weeks" about practical steps for creating and deploying land-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in various regions of the world as quickly as possible.
The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, made the case for a global minimum corporate tax rate on Monday as the Biden administration faces opposition to its plans to raise rates on US businesses. Yellen’s comments come as Republicans and some Democrats have pushed back on Joe Biden’s proposed $2.3tn infrastructure investment bill. The bill would be funded in part by raising rates on US business and closing loopholes that allow domestic and foreign corporations to take advantage of lower taxes overseas.
“Competitiveness is about more than how US-headquartered companies fare against other companies in global merger and acquisition bids,” Yellen said in remarks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “It is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.” ...
Biden’s plans would reverse some of Trump’s landmark tax cuts, increasing the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and increasing the minimum taxes paid on US companies’ foreign income while making it harder for foreign-owned companies with US operations to shift profits to low-tax countries.
“President Biden’s proposals announced last week call for bold domestic action, including to raise the US minimum tax rate, and renewed international engagement, recognizing that it is important to work with other countries to end the pressures of tax competition and corporate tax base erosion,” Yellen said. “We are working with G20 nations to agree to a global minimum corporate tax rate that can stop the race to the bottom.”
For millions of ordinary people in the U.S., 2020 was a painful year in which loved ones and jobs were lost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating economic repercussions. But for many of the country's major corporations, last year was a lucrative one—particularly if they were among the 55 companies that paid $0 in federal income taxes on a combined $40.5 billion in profits, as a new study shows.
Released Friday, the report is based on the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy's (ITEP) analysis of 2020 financial reports filed by the country's largest publicly traded corporations.
Instead of paying a collective $8.5 billion in federal income taxes on last year's profits of $40.5 billion, as mandated by the statutory 21% rate, the 55 companies exploited preexisting loopholes and pandemic-related tax breaks to reduce their tax bills to zero.
Not only did these corporations secure a zero-tax liability, they received a collective $3.5 billion in rebates, bringing the total amount of lost federal revenue to $12 billion. And 26 of them haven't paid a dime for the past three years, a time period in which the GOP's "morally and economically obscene" tax cuts for corporations and wealthy Americans have been in effect.
"We should continue to call on policymakers to address the gaping corporate tax loopholes that make this kind of tax avoidance possible," said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at ITEP and an author of the report.
"But in a pandemic year when so many small businesses shuttered and millions of people lost their economic livelihoods," he added, "we should be asking bigger questions about a tax system so flawed that it asks next to nothing of profitable corporations that derive great benefit from our economy—in good and bad economic times."
In the report, Gardner characterized the latest example of tax dodging by profitable companies as part of "a decades-long trend of corporate tax avoidance by the biggest U.S. corporations [that] appears to be the product of long-standing tax breaks preserved or expanded by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) as well as the CARES Act tax breaks enacted in the spring of 2020."
The report includes a table listing the profits and effective tax rates of all 55 companies.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday began raising objections to President Biden’s legislation to fund infrastructure investments by raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. Derailing the tax hike would be a lucrative gift to both corporate CEOs in general, and to private equity giants whose executives bankrolled the lawmaker’s 2018 campaign and funded a super PAC that boosted his closely contested reelection bid.
On Monday, Manchin discussed Biden’s infrastructure plan with West Virginia MetroNews, and declared: “If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere.”
“As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,” Manchin said. While Biden’s plan calls for raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, Manchin said he believes the corporate tax rate should be closer to 25 percent for the U.S. “to be competitive.”
On Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told reporters that the Democratic caucus and the Senate finance committee will work together to set a final corporate tax rate figure. But Manchin’s proposed change would have a huge impact on how the Biden infrastructure plan is paid for, while largely preserving a tax policy that is delivering a disproportionately huge windfall to a tiny handful of executives at major corporations.
Amazon illegally fired two employees who advocated for better working conditions during the pandemic, the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found. The online retailer last year terminated the employment of Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa after they publicly protested its environmental and labor policies.
The two former employees accused the company of enforcing policies in a discriminatory fashion and having vague rules that “chill and restrain” staff from exercising rights, according to their charge filed in October, seen by Reuters.
The board said on Monday that its regional director in Seattle will issue a complaint if the parties do not settle the case, according to the New York Times.
Cunningham and Costa had gained prominence for pushing the company to do more on the climate crisis and became some of the company’s most outspoken internal critics. About a year ago they were terminated after circulating a petition on Amazon’s pandemic safety protocols and worked to raise money for warehouse staff at risk of contracting Covid-19.
“I don’t regret standing up with my co-workers,” Costa said in a statement at the time of her termination. “This is about human lives, and the future of humanity. In this crisis, we must stand up for what we believe in, have hope, and demand from our corporations and employers a basic decency that’s been lacking in this crisis.”
In a move that was condemned by environmental justice advocates on Friday, President Joe Biden’s administration sent 500& unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors to Fort Bliss — a highly contaminated and potentially hazardous military base in El Paso, Texas — and is reportedly considering using additional toxic military sites as detention centers for migrant children in U.S. custody.
“We are extremely concerned to hear of plans to detain immigrant children in Fort Bliss. Military bases filled with contaminated sites are no place for the healthy development of any child,” Melissa Legge, an attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement.
“We recognize that the humanitarian situation at the border needs to be addressed in humanity, compassion, and expediency,” Legge continued. “Part of that requires keeping children away from toxic military sites.”
“While we are hopeful that the Biden administration will keep children safe, we remain vigilant and ready to continue protecting detained minors in toxic facilities,” she added. “Immigrant children under the care of the federal government should not be in cages, let alone toxic sites in military bases.”
The Biden administration announced last week that facilities at Fort Bliss “would serve as temporary housing for up to 5,000 unaccompanied minors,” the El Paso Times reported Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said “it will reserve the Fort Bliss accommodations for boys ages 13 to 17. Military personnel won’t staff the site or provide care for the children, who are in the custody and care of HHS.”
There are 17,641 unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in U.S. custody as of Tuesday, according to ABC News. Over 5,600 children are being held in overcrowded facilities run by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), while more than 12,000 are under the supervision of HHS.
Although DHS is supposed to transfer minors to the HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours — after which children are housed in one of more than 200 HHS-approved shelters in 22 states until they can be placed with a family member or another suitable sponsor — thousands have been stuck for far longer than legally allowed in squalid conditions.
The emergency room doctor who tried to save George Floyd’s life told the Derek Chauvin murder trial on Monday he concluded the 46-year-old Black man most likely died of asphyxiation. ...
Dr Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld aid on the sixth day of the trial he saw no evidence Floyd was killed by a heart attack or a drug overdose, as Chauvin’s defence has claimed in attempting to deny that the death resulted from the officer keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Langenfeld, who declared Floyd dead, told the court there was not a heartbeat “sufficient to sustain life” and that he believed cardiac arrest was brought on by “lack of oxygen”. He was asked by the prosecutor if there was another term for that.
“Asphyxia,” said Langenfeld.
The doctor said he thought a heart attack was unlikely because when he cut open Floyd’s chest he saw no evidence of that. He also said the paramedics who brought him to the hospital said Floyd showed no behaviour typical of the condition. “There was no report that the patient complained of chest pain or was clutching his chest,” he said.
The state medical examiner found that Floyd’s death was caused by “cardiopulmonary arrest”, which the prosecution says is a broad enough term that can be applied to any death because it means only that a person’s heart and lungs have stopped. The defence claims the finding means Floyd died of a heart attack.
Langenfeld told the court a delay in treating Floyd, particularly giving him CPR, may have reduced his chance of survival. Ambulance paramedics reported that the police made no effort to give Floyd medical assistance even though he had passed out and was unresponsive by the time they arrived on the scene.
The Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, told the Derek Chauvin murder trial on Monday that he “vehemently disagrees” that there was any justification for the former police officer to keep his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Arradondo said on the sixth day of the trial that Chauvin’s treatment of the 46-year-old Black man breached regulations and showed a disregard “for the sanctity of life”.
“Once Mr Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalise that, that should have stopped,” he said. The police chief said that while it might have been reasonable to use a certain level of force “to get him under control in the first few seconds”, Chauvin’s subsequent actions did not meet the standard of “objectively reasonable force”.
“To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned-out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy,” he said. Arradondo said that far from being aggressive, Floyd appeared to be completely passive. “As a matter of fact, as I saw that video I didn’t even know if Mr Floyd was alive at that time,” he said.
It is highly unusual for a police chief to give evidence against one of his own officers.
Republicans’ standing as the party of corporate America appears to be under threat after Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, told chief executives critical of voting restrictions to “stay out of politics”.
Last week Coca-Cola, Delta and dozens of other companies condemned a new election law in Georgia while Major League Baseball announced it would move the All-Star Game from the state in protest. “I found it completely discouraging to find a bunch of corporate CEOs getting in the middle of politics,” McConnell told a press conference in his home state of Kentucky on Monday. “My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics. Don’t pick sides in these big fights.”
He warned companies against giving into advocacy campaigns. “It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves,” he said. McConnell also issued a written statement that claimed Georgia’s new law has been portrayed unfairly and bemoaned “a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people”.
Railing against the “Outrage-Industrial Complex”, the senator went on: “Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic leftwing signaling.
“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the second amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government. Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”
Corporate money to lawmakers supporting voter suppression:
AT&T - $810,915
Comcast & NBC Universal - $439,700
UnitedHealth - $411,200
Walmart - $376,617
State Farm - $315,370
Pfizer - $308,085
Koch - $293,000
Verizon - $246,075
Spread their shame.https://t.co/vnPJlbnOG3
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) April 5, 2021
'Follow the Money': Corporations Gave $50 Million to GOP Lawmakers Behind Voter Suppression Onslaught
Since 2015, AT&T, Comcast, UnitedHealth Group, Walmart, and other big businesses have donated a combined $50 million to state Republican lawmakers who are currently supporting voter suppression bills across the United States—generous political spending at odds with recent corporate efforts to rebrand as defenders of voting rights.
A new report (pdf) released Monday morning by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that during the 2020 election cycle alone, U.S. corporations donated $22 million to Republican architects of voter suppression bills that are advancing through state legislatures nationwide.
"AT&T [since 2015] has given the most, $811,000," Public Citizen found, citing data from The National Institute on Money in Politics. "AT&T is followed by Altria/Philip Morris, Comcast, UnitedHealth Group, Walmart, State Farm, and Pfizer. Household names that fell just out of the top 25 list... include Nationwide ($182,000), Merck ($180,000), CVS ($174,000), John Deere ($159,000), and Caterpillar ($157,000)."
"This is why you follow the money, not the good PR," Public Citizen tweeted.
The group's findings came after a number of prominent corporations—including AT&T, Comcast, and Georgia-based companies Coca-Cola and Delta—issued statements denouncing a sweeping Georgia voter suppression measure only after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law last month.
Despite vocal demands for them to speak out and use their influence to fight the bill, those companies were largely quiet as the measure made its way through Georgia's Republican-dominated legislature.
Between 2015 and 2020, according to Public Citizen, corporations donated more than $10.8 million to Georgia Republicans who are supporting the 26 voter suppression bills that have been introduced in the state's legislature this year. Corporations have also donated big to voter suppression advocates in Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas.
"From coast to coast, politicians that Corporate America helped elect are pushing racist voter suppression laws," Rick Claypool, research director for Public Citizen's president's office and one of the authors of the new report, told Common Dreams.
"No matter how many PR statements Big Business puts out, its complicity with the anti-democratic forces that want to make voting harder is clear," Claypool added. "Corporations should keep their money out of our democracy—and Congress must put the people back in charge by swiftly passing the For The People Act."
According to the latest tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators have introduced 361 bills with vote-restricting provisions in 47 states this year, and five have become law.
Progressive Nina Turner's congressional campaign announced Monday that it brought in a nearly $2.2 million haul since the Ohio Democrat launched her candidacy in December, including $1.55 million in the first quarter of 2021.
The former Ohio state senator and 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign co-chair is running for Ohio's 11th congressional district; the seat was vacated by Rep. Marcia Fudge, who now serves as President Joe Biden's Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary.
Turner announced her campaign late last year and has since won endorsements from groups including Justice Democrats and Sunrise Movement Cleveland and federal lawmakers like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
According to The Washington Post, the campaign cash shows Turner "far outpacing rivals in the special primary for a safe Democratic congressional seat in Cleveland."
Among Turner's competitors is Cuyahoga County councilwoman and chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Shontel Brown, who, by contrast, raised just $680,000 overall in campaign funds—$640,000 of which came in the first quarter. ...
The Turner campaign says it's received 77,578 individual contributions from every state, including Ohio, and from all the zip codes in the 11th district. The average donation in the first quarter was $28.
"Momentum is building and people can feel it!" Marisa Nahem, press secretary for the congressional campaign, said in a Twitter thread that noted the campaign takes no corporate PAC money.
Workers battling to prevent the collapse of a central Florida reservoir containing hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water identified a potential second leak on Monday. But officials expressed hope that a dreaded “20ft wall of water”, resulting from a total failure of the reservoir walls, could yet be averted.
Wastewater has been gushing from a pool at the abandoned Piney Point phosphate plant, south of Tampa, for a week, at a rate of 2m to 3m gallons a day. Over the weekend, officials began pumping out water at a rate of 35m gallons a day – into the ecologically sensitive Tampa Bay, causing fears of an environmental catastrophe.
In a press conference on Monday, the Manatee county administrator, Scott Hopes, said workers had brought in more pumps and planned to more than double the amount of contaminated water being dumped from the reservoir into the bay, to 100m gallons a day. ...
Environmental protection groups warned that pumping more pollutants into Tampa Bay would heighten the risk to wildlife from toxic red tide algae blooms. “Phosphate companies have had over 50 years to figure out a way to dispose of the radioactive gypsum wastes,” said the activist group Mana-Sota 88. “At the present time there are no federal, state or local regulations requiring the industry to make final disposition of phosphogypsum wastes in an environmentally acceptable manner.”
The group added: “The current crisis can be traced back to the absurd 2006 decision to allow dredged material from Port Manatee to be placed into one of the gyp stacks at Piney Point, something the stack was never designed for.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Tiny Bradshaw - The Train Kept A'Rollin'
Tiny Bradshaw - Well Oh Well
Tiny Bradshaw - Bradshaw Boogie
Tiny Bradshaw - Lay It on The Line
Tiny Bradshaw - Free For All
Tiny Bradshaw - Off And On
Tiny Bradshaw - I'm Going To Have Myself A Ball
Tiny Bradshaw - Soft
Tiny Bradshaw - I'm A Hi-Ballin' Daddy
Tiny Bradshaw - Walk That Mess