The Evening Blues - 5-20-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues piano player Otis Spann. Enjoy!
Otis Spann - Spann's Boogie Woogie
"It will never stop being fall-to-the-floor laughcry hilarious that the US has an evil idiot president who can’t form a coherent sentence and exacerbated a deadly pandemic, and the only answer has been a fake Russia scandal, a fake impeachment, and a candidate with holes in his brain."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Trouble in Pelosi paradise? Could it be that election year politics mean that congressworms have to do something for the voters?
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi excluded a plan to keep unemployment down by subsidizing firms to keep workers on payrolls from her relief package last week, dozens of progressives have banded together with 10 “front-line” Democrats from swing districts to introduce it as a standalone piece of legislation. The Paycheck Recovery Act, authored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., aims to make sure that paychecks are flowing from employers to workers during the coronavirus pandemic. ...
The stampede of front-liners toward Jayapal’s new bill, according to people involved in the negotiations, is driven by an intersection of policy and electoral concerns. The front-liners are concerned that Pelosi’s rejection of the paycheck bill, and her focus on unemployment, makes for poor politics, and they have complained that they are getting hammered at home by Republicans, who are dubbing Democrats the party of unemployment.
The alliance of swing-district Democrats and the progressive wing of the party represents a new threat to House Democratic leadership’s domination of the caucus. Because of the stark partisan divide in the House, Pelosi can’t rely on the few remaining moderate Republicans to push legislation over the top. Instead, leadership typically shapes legislation to appeal to the swing-district bloc of Democrats — there are 42 front-liners who the party considers in need of electoral protection — then bludgeons progressives into supporting it, arguing that whatever is being offered is better than nothing and promotes the necessary goal of maintaining the majority, without which progressives have no power at all. Efforts by progressives to organize enough no votes to extract leverage in negotiations over coronavirus relief have so far not come to fruition, but teaming with front-liners opens up a new potential strategy as the pandemic scrambles political calculations.
For years, Pelosi has insisted that if it were up to her, the party would go further left than it does, but that the imperatives of reelection require moderating legislation for the members she calls “majority makers.” But if those majority makers get out ahead of Pelosi, that rationale would evaporate, and the dictates of making and keeping a majority would militate in their direction.
Oh, my. What has gotten into the 1%? It can't be conscience, these ruthless bastards have none. I wonder how they plan to jigger the system to screw us worse under the banner of "fairness?"
Jamie Dimon, the billionaire chief executive of JP Morgan, said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic must serve as a “wake-up call” to build a fairer society. “It is my fervent hope that we use this crisis as a catalyst to rebuild an economy that creates and sustains opportunity for dramatically more people, especially those who have been left behind for too long,” he wrote in a memo issued ahead of his bank’s annual shareholder meeting.
“The last few months have laid bare the reality that, even before the pandemic hit, far too many people were living on the edge,” Dimon added.
This is not the first time that Dimon has criticized the system that built his $1.2bn fortune. Last year, when leftwing Vermont senator Bernie Sanders was leading in Democratic polls, he acknowledged the “flaws” in capitalism, but warned that socialism led to “stagnation, corruption and often worse”.
Dimon has been tipped as a possible treasury secretary should Joe Biden be successful in his presidential bid. Biden is also reportedly considering his former presidential rival Michael Bloomberg, the multi-billionaire founder of the Bloomberg news service, as a future head of the World Bank.
Poor New York City Neighborhoods Seeing Deaths From Covid at More Than Twice the Rate of Affluent Areas
New data from the New York City Health Department reveals a stark gap between the number of Covid-19 deaths in the city's poor neighborhoods and those in wealthier areas.
Low-income neighborhoods have experienced more than double the death rates seen in affluent parts of the city, Politico reported.
The report follows last month's release of data showing that New York's black and Latinx residents have been dying of Covid-19 at about twice the rate of white New Yorkers.
A section of the eastern Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie containing the massive housing complex Starrett City has the highest death rate in the city, with 76 out of the complex's 13,000 residents—or one out of every 165—having succumbed to Covid-19 as of Monday.
The next-highest death rates have been recorded in the Queens neighborhoods of Far Rockaway and Flushing, with the Northeast Bronx also reporting high rates.
At least 1,241 New York City Housing Authority residents have died from the virus, and more than 7,800 cases have been confirmed in the city's public housing system, where about 400,000 New Yorkers live.
According to the Health Department, in ZIP codes where at least 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, 232 people for every 100,000 people have died. In more affluent neighborhoods where less than 10% of residents are in poverty, the rate of death is 100 for every 100,000 people.
"This virus is not hitting New Yorkers equitably," said Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot.
A map of the city's ZIP codes showed that some of the lowest infection and death rates have been in wealthy Lower Manhattan neighborhoods including Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Tribeca, and the Financial District. The only two ZIP codes in New York which have reported zero deaths so far are in the Financial District. ...
Based on data collected by cell phone analysis firms Teralytics and Descartes Labs and by two researchers at New York University, the Times showed that at least 30 to 40% of residents in some of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods left the city by May 1, making them less vulnerable to infection.
"We may all be in the same storm, but we're not all in the same boat," New York City Councilwoman Inez Barron, whose district includes Starrett City, told the Times.
A group of 29 House Democrats said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic shows the nation needs "more testing, not more bombs" as they demanded the leadership of the House Armed Services Committee cut Pentagon spending in this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The Democrats' demand comes in a letter spearheaded by Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). Among the other 27 signatories are the lawmakers making up the so-called "Squad"—Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).
"Year after year, the Pentagon budget has inflated to historic levels while the vital needs of everyday people are left unmet," said Rep. Lee in a statement. "The Covid pandemic has laid bare how America has failed to make its budgets reflect the real needs of our everyday families. It's long past time that we address our bloated military budget and retarget resources towards policies and programs that matter the most for keeping us safe, healthy, and secure."
Authorizing less "defense" spending in the annual legislation would give more spending ability to contain Covid-19, the lawmakers wrote. From the letter:
In the last three years alone—during a time of relative peace—we have increased annual defense spending by more than $100 billion, almost 20 percent. This has occurred during a period without any military action authorized by this Congress. Right now, the coronavirus is our greatest adversary. It has killed more than 90,000 Americans, far surpassing the number of casualties during the Vietnam War. We must remain focused on combating the coronavirus and not on increasing military spending that already outpaces the next 10 closest nations combined (China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil). At some point, spending more than every other nation on Earth must be enough.
America needs a coronavirus cure, not more war. We need more testing, not more bombs. In order to reopen our nation in a data-driven, safe manner, we need to focus our spending efforts on the millions of additional coronavirus tests and tens of thousands of additional contract tracers we will need, as well as covering treatment costs, developing therapeutics, and distributing future vaccines.
The number of signatories indicates a potential stumbling block for the upcoming NDAA. The Hill reported:
In 2019, Republicans voted against the initial House version of the bill, meaning it had to pass on Democratic support alone. After a compromise version of the NDAA emerged from negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate that led to the removal of several progressive priorities, House Republicans supported the measure and it easily passed despite a handful of progressives voting against it.
A statement from Lee and Pocan's office suggests the bloc of lawmakers is willing to be an obstacle. "Republicans withstanding, 19 Democrats would need to vote 'NO' this year for the bill to fail. 29 Democrats signed this letter."
Brazil has confirmed a record 17,408 cases in the last 24 hours and a record 1,179 deaths. The country now has 271,628 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 17,971 people have died. ...
Hospital officials say more than 85% of intensive care beds in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are full.
Brazil accounts for more cases than any other country in Latin America, which has seen 480,000-plus cases and 31,000 dead. Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has snubbed physical distancing rules and has called for gyms, hair salons and other businesses to reopen.
On the day that China pledged $2 billion to the World Health Organization and announced the country’s coronavirus vaccines would be freely available to all, U.S. President Donald Trump declared war on the global health authority, threatening to withdraw permanently unless “major” changes are made.
He just forgot to mention what those changes should be.
In a four-page letter addressed to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus — and posted on the president’s Twitter account late Monday night — Trump excoriated the organization for what he sees as a series of failures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading globally and for an “alarming lack of independence” from China.
Trump, who suspended U.S. funding for the WHO last month, said that without “major substantive improvements" to the way the organization operates in the next 30 days, the U.S. would make the funding withdrawal permanent, and “reconsider our membership in the organization” altogether.
Trump, who called the WHO a “puppet of China” earlier on Monday, did not outline what changes he wants the WHO to make. ...
The attack on the WHO is also part of an escalating battle with China that some experts believe will end in a new Cold War between the two nations.
Erik Prince, founder of the global security firm Blackwater USA, is suing the investigative news site The Intercept for defamation over an April 13 article headlined “Erik Prince Offered Lethal Services to Sanctioned Russian Mercenary Firm Wagner,” his lawyer said on Tuesday.
The article claimed provocatively that “[a]ny business relationship between Prince and Wagner would, in effect, make the influential Trump administration adviser a subcontractor to the Russian military.”
The lawyer, Matthew L. Schwartz of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, told RealClearInvestigations that Prince had “no choice but to defend himself” after having repeatedly “turned the other cheek as publications, The Intercept first among them, have smeared him.”
“This story was different,” the lawyer continued. “The Intercept accused Erik Prince of being a criminal and a traitor based on dishonest and biased anonymous sources that it made no effort to corroborate.”
Asked to respond, Rodrigo Brandão, The Intercept's director of communications, said "We will not comment until we are able to review any lawsuit."
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell declassified an email former national security adviser Susan Rice sent to herself on President Trump’s Inauguration Day about an Oval Office meeting in which the Russia investigation was discussed.
In the email, obtained by The Hill from the office of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rice says then-FBI Director James Comey was worried about sharing classified information with the Trump team, considering incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with a Russian ambassador.
Most of the email was already declassified in February per another Republican Senate request. The newly declassified portion reflects Comey's response, in which he said he was proceeding "by the book" and that he was concerned Flynn was still in contact with the Russian ambassador, noting that their "level of communication is unusual."
When then-President Obama asked if the intelligence community should withhold information from Flynn, who was an incoming national security adviser, Comey responded, "Potentially." ...
The 2017 meeting described in Rice’s email included Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden as well as Justice Department and intelligence officials.
Economists Warn 'Prolonged Depression Guaranteed' If GOP Refuse Federal Aid to State and Local Governments
The ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy will be devastating enough to send the country into a certain and "prolonged depression," economist Josh Bivens warned Tuesday, unless federal aid is delivered to state and local governments.
"State and local governments are currently forecast to be facing revenue shortfalls as large as $1 trillion over the coming years," Bivens wrote at the Economic Policy Institute blog. "If no help is forthcoming from the federal government to close these shortfalls, the result will be an economic disaster—one that is not confined to these governments."
In his analysis, Bivens looked at data from the Great Recession from the 2010s and the austerity policies from that time which, he explained, slowed that recovery.
"We need to learn from our past," tweeted economist Elise Gould. "Austerity was a huge drag on the recovery from the Great Recession. Let's not make the same mistake."
As Bivens explained:
The spending austerity in the 2010s was the entire reason why it took a full decade to return to pre-crisis unemployment rates following the onset of the Great Recession. It is why millions of Americans struggled—through no fault of their own—to find work and it is a key reason why wages for tens of millions of Americans barely kept pace with price inflation over this time, as labor markets remained too soft to give workers the bargaining power they needed to demand better-paying jobs.
The austerity "clearly delayed economic recovery for U.S. workers by years," said Bivens.
With similar cuts this time, a "prolonged depression is guaranteed," Bivens warned.
"The economy is currently approaching a knife edge in how recovery will proceed," wrote Bivens. "If the virus relents and effective public health measures are undertaken that allow a phased reopening of business, and if the federal government provides sufficient measures for relief and recovery during this crisis, then recovery could be rapid."
"But this confidence and demand will be savaged if policymakers allow state and local governments' spending to be hamstrung by the crisis," he continued. "These sub-national governments spend about $4 trillion every year in the economy, making them the second-largest source of spending outside of the federal government."
"If they are forced into crash-cutting," Bivens concluded, "the entire economy will suffer."
The US economy risks “permanent damage” if coronavirus lockdowns continue for months, the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has warned Congress. Mnuchin’s comments came in a joint appearance before the Senate banking committee with Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Appearing via video link, the pair offered a stark assessment of the fragile state of the economy and warned of worse to come. “I think the jobs numbers will be worse before they get better,” Mnuchin said, adding that the overall economy too was likely to weaken in the near term before starting to recover towards the end of the year. ...
The Fed has cut interest rates to zero and launched nine lending programs to support businesses, cities, states and financial markets. Mnuchin and Powell said more action would be needed.
The Democratic senator Sherrod Brown pressed Mnuchin on the White House’s push to rapidly reopen parts of the economy. “How many workers should give their lives to increase our [gross domestic product] by half a percent?” Brown asked Mnuchin. Mnuchin replied: “No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair.” ...
Brown countered that “from what we know so far, it does not appear that this administration or the Federal Reserve are making workers their priority”.
"Stay Alive, Stay at Home, Organize”: Rev. Barber Sets June 20 for Poor People's Digital March on DC
Wildcat strikes, walkouts and protests over working conditions have erupted across the US throughout the coronavirus pandemic as “essential” workers have demanded better pay and safer working conditions. Labor leaders are hoping the protests can lead to permanent change. ...
Working conditions, low pay and lack of safety protections have triggered protests throughout the pandemic as workers across various industries, including food service, meat processing, retail, manufacturing, transportation and healthcare have come together to protest about issues, many of which were apparent before the coronavirus.
“There are no federal mandates or requirements to implement the social distancing guidance or anything else. It’s only guidance and employers can choose to implement them or not,” said Deborah Berkowitz, director of worker safety and health for the National Employment Law Project. “And that is why, in an unprecedented way, they are walking out to bring public attention to the fact that their companies are not protecting their safety and health.” ...
[See article at link for extensive listing of worker actions. -js]
Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, said it was too early to tell if these worker actions around the US will have a lasting impact.
“These walkouts show that essential workers don’t want to be treated any more as if they were disposable. They are demanding a voice in how their companies respond to the pandemic. Having a voice is a life-and-death matter now more than ever,” said Block. “Success will be a matter of whether consumers and policymakers will be inspired by these workers’ courage.”
A federal court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by the New York Board of Elections and ruled the state's Democratic presidential primary must take place on June 23 as scheduled, a decision that supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang celebrated as a win for democracy.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld District Court Judge Analisa Torres' May 5 ruling that ordered New York to restore Sanders, Yang, and other Democratic presidential candidates to the ballot after state election officials voted to remove them last month.
Yang and seven other New York residents sued the state Board of Elections over the decision on April 28.
"The removal of presidential contenders from the primary ballot not only deprived those candidates of the chance to garner votes for the Democratic Party's nomination," Torres wrote, "it deprived Democratic voters of the opportunity to elect delegates who could push their point of view in that forum."
Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York Board of Elections, said in a statement after Tuesday's ruling that there are no plans to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
Progressives Slam Oil-Soaked Steny Hoyer for Backing Joe Kennedy III Over Green New Deal Champion Ed Markey
Progressives and climate activists expressed frustration with Democratic Party leadership after Politico reported Tuesday that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer would be holding a virtual fundraiser for Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Ed Markey in the 2020 Massachusetts Democratic primary.
Markey, who cosponsored the Green New Deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), has the support of youth climate group the Sunrise Movement, which cited Hoyer's affiliation with Big Oil in a scathing statement on the fundraiser to Common Dreams.
"Steny Hoyer has received millions from oil and gas PACs and bundlers over his career, he's the number two highest recipient of fossil fueled electric utilities this cycle, and he recently tried to jam a Big Oil handout into the coronavirus relief packaged passed by Democrats in the House," said Sunrise's political director Evan Weber. "Given all that, it's no wonder that he'd prefer that the co-author of the Green New Deal doesn't win his re-election campaign."
House Democratic Leadership only opposes primary challenges when they are from the left, I see. pic.twitter.com/8brLimgjG0
— Jonathan "Boo and Vote" Cohn (@JonathanCohn) May 19, 2020
As Common Dreams reported, Hoyer's ultimately unsuccessful advocacy for a fossil fuel bailout in the HEROES Act passed by Congress on May 15 earned the Maryland Democrat harsh criticism from his primary challenger, progressive Mckayla Wilkes.
"This is just one example of Congressman Hoyer's failure to approach the climate crisis with the urgency it requires," Wilkes said.
Journalist Kate Aronoff said on Twitter that while the move by Hoyer could be about political spats and party discipline, Hoyer's reliance on fossil fuel and utility industry donors can't be ignored as he raises money for the candidate trying to oust one of the Senate's biggest champions of the Green New Deal.
"I think generally this kind of stuff comes down to dumb turf wars and trying to discipline anyone who steps out of line," said Aronoff, "but it's also worth noting that electric utilities are some of Steny Hoyer's biggest donors."
On Tuesday, Wilkes told Common Dreams that Hoyer hosting a fundraiser for Kennedy flies in the face of over a year's worth of threats and blacklists by Democratic leadership against progressive challengers to incumbents in both the House and the Senate.
"House Democratic Leadership has worked for over a year to disadvantage progressive primary challengers through the DCCC Blacklist," said Wilkes. "Now, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is fundraising for a primary challenge against sitting U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the co-sponsor of the Green New Deal."
"The hypocrisy makes it crystal-clear," she continued. "Hoyer does not actually have a problem with primary challengers, he has a problem with progressives."
Sunrise Movement's Weber echoed those remarks, referring to House Democratic leadership's backing of "Trump's favorite Democrat" Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) against primary challenger attorney Jessica Cisneros in the Lone Star State's primary on March 3.
"It's pretty hypocritical for House leadership to make such a fuss about challenging incumbents in their chamber, and to go as far as to handicapping someone like Jessica Cisneros challenging pro-oil Democrat Henry Cuellar, but then go out of their way to back someone trying to oust the Democrats' most senior leader on climate in the Senate," said Weber. "What gives?"
Hoyer is being joined at the event with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a Congressional Progressive Caucus vice chair, and Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.). The presence of Raskin irked healthcare advocate Timothy Faust, who tweeted it was a sign that "members of the CPC are throwing Ed Markey under the bus."
"This isn't like kneecapping Sanders—Markey is hardly a socialist; a senator who typifies the 'acceptable' kind of progressive to the Dem Party," said Faust. "They just are willing to take any opportunity to squish anyone left of center."
Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically since lockdowns were imposed around the world due to the coronavirus crisis, research has shown. Daily emissions of the greenhouse gas plunged 17% by early April compared with 2019 levels, according to the first definitive study of global carbon output this year.
The findings show the world has experienced the sharpest drop in carbon output since records began, with large sections of the global economy brought to a near standstill. When the lockdown was at its most stringent, in some countries emissions fell by just over a quarter (26%) on average. In the UK, the decline was about 31%, while in Australia emissions fell 28.3% for a period during April.
“This is a really big fall, but at the same time, 83% of global emissions are left, which shows how difficult it is to reduce emissions with changes in behaviour,” said Corinne Le Quéré, a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia, and lead author of the study published journal Nature Climate Change. “And it is not desirable – this is not the way to tackle climate change.” ...
The experience of the crisis so far has shown that changes in behaviour by individuals – such as not flying, working from home and driving less – can only go part of the way needed to cut emissions, as even the lockdown measures left the bulk of emission sources intact, she said, adding that bigger shifts are needed to the way people produce and use energy.
“Just behavioural change is not enough,” she said. “We need structural changes [to the economy and industry]. But if we take this opportunity to put structural changes in place, we have now seen what it is possible to achieve.”
Activist and shareholder frustrations with JPMorgan Chase's funding of global climate catastrophe were on full display Tuesday during the multinational investment bank's virtual Annual General Meeting.
In a clear signal of support for reforming the lending practices of the world's largest private bank to ensure a habitable future planet, 49.6% of shareholders voted in favor of a resolution that asked JPMorgan to craft a plan to better align its operations with the Paris climate agreement's goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
Welcoming that vote in a statement Tuesday, Sierra Club campaigner Ben Cushing declared that "the days when Chase could quietly funnel money into the fossil fuel industry without the public taking notice are over."
"The pressure Chase faced on climate at today's meeting and the votes showing unprecedented support for climate accountability are proof that the movement to push Chase and other big banks to clean up their act on climate is only gaining momentum and power," Cushing said. "This is only the beginning, and we'll continue to demand meaningful changes to align Chase's investments with a climate-safe future."
The development was also celebrated by Danielle Fugere, president of the nonprofit shareholder advocacy group As You Sow. "Shareholders today sent the message that it is past time for Chase to catch up with its peers, implement a strategy to decarbonize and de-risk its lending portfolio, and help build a more secure future for all," she said.
Since the landmark Paris accord was adopted in late 2015, JPMorgan has provided over a quarter of a trillion dollars in fossil fuel financing. That has made the bank a top target of climate activists—including Stop the Money Pipeline, a campaign launched in January by a coalition of advocacy groups to pressure banks, insurers, and asset managers to cut ties with planet-wrecking companies.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Otis Spann - Nobody Knows My Trouble, Cold Cold Feeling
Otis Spann - Sometimes I Wonder
Otis Spann - Spann's Stomp
Otis Spann - Vicksburg Blues
Otis Spann - T99, Love
Otis Spann - No More Doggin'
Otis Spann - Hungry Country Girl
Otis Spann – I'm In Love With You Baby
Otis Spann - Five Spot