The Evening Blues - 5-21-20


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Smokey Smothers

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist and singer Smokey Smothers. Enjoy!

Smokey Smothers - Blow Wind Blow

"We are a nation of sheep, and someone else owns the grass."

-- George Carlin

News and Opinion

After Dams Fail, Dow Admits Floodwaters in Midland, Michigan 'Commingling' With Toxic Chemical Storage Ponds

Floodwaters unleashed by a dam failure in central Michigan have reached a Dow Chemical facility and Superfund site, the company admitted Wednesday, raising the possibility that the flood could turn into a full-fledged environmental catastrophe.

At 10:00am EST, Dow announced that "there were flood waters commingling with on-site containment ponds" at its facility.

"Midland, Michigan is home to Dow Chemical, one of the world's largest chemical companies," Climate Power communications director Meghan Schneider tweeted Tuesday night. "Dow's facilities appear to be at the heart of the floodwaters—this has the potential to be a major environmental disaster."

As the New York Times reported, the danger of the breach to the chemical site is clear:

With much of Midland expected to be underwater by later on Wednesday, it was likely that the floodwaters would breach the levees designed to protect the Dow compound, said Allen Burton, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan. This meant that, at the site itself, flooding could reach storage tanks, potentially releasing chemicals onto farmland and residential areas that line the river downstream, he said.

The Superfund cleanup sites are downriver from the century-old plant, which for decades had released chemicals into the nearby waterways. The concern downriver, Dr. Burton said, is that contaminated sediments on the river floor could be stirred up by the floodwaters, spreading pollution downstream and over the riverbanks.

Union of Concerned Scientists research scientist Jacob Carter told Common Dreams that President Donald Trump's assault on environmental regulations bears some of the blame for the current catastrophe.

"This is another example of the Trump administration putting vulnerable communities in harms way by sidelining science" said Carter. "There was an Executive Order that called for Superfund sites to update their infrastructure to protect them from future extreme floods, but it was trashed by the Trump administration a week before Hurricane Harvey hit."

"This is not a new issue," Carter added. "The EPA has for years recognized the vulnerabilities of superfund sites, but the Trump administration continues to ignore the scientific advice and guidance from its own employees putting public health at risk."

The flood is the result of drenching rains and a decaying infrastructure in the city that has led to the weakening of the dams holding back the Tittabawassee River.

The Sanford and Edenville dams breached, leading to water cascading toward the city of Midland, which is expected to be under nine feet of water, and the Dow plant.

According to the Washington Post:

Major flooding begins when the Tittabawassee River hits 28 feet; flood stage is at 24 feet. As of 6:30am Wednesday, river gauges reported a level of 34.28 feet and rising.

"The flooding in Midland County poses significant risks of spreading pollution from the Tittabawassee River that has suffered from decades of contamination and illegal dumping by Dow Inc.—making it one of the most contaminated rivers in Michigan," said Michigan League of Conservation Voters executive director Lisa Wozniak. "High water levels also threaten the integrity of Dow's facility, which we know houses dangerous chemicals. Michiganders deserve full transparency from Dow, state and local officials regarding any contamination that results from this catastrophic event — and the immediate cleanup of it."

The owner of the Sanford Dam, Boyce Hydro Power LLC, was dinged multiple times by federal regulators for not repairing damages. In 2018, the company's license was revoked, with regulators claiming Boyce had "failed for many years to comply with significant license and safety requirements, notwithstanding having been given opportunities to come into compliance."

Potential 'treason' | Leaked tapes allegedly reveal 'quid pro quo' Poroshenko-Biden deal

Ukraine to investigate leaked calls between Joe Biden and ex-president

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said that leaked recordings of phone calls allegedly between Joe Biden and former president Petro Poroshenko would be investigated by the country’s law enforcement agencies, adding that their contents might be “perceived, qualified as treason”. The remarks prompted an angry rebuttal from Poroshenko, who said that the Zelenskiy administration may have played a role in their release and should be investigated.

The recordings, containing what appear to be heavily edited conversations between Biden and Poroshenko while in office, were published by a Ukrainian associate of Rudy Giuliani in an apparent attempt to embarrass the politicians and dent Biden’s presidential run against Donald Trump in the 2020 elections. ...

Poroshenko on Wednesday called the leaked audio “fabricated” and a Biden spokesman told the Washington Post were “heavily edited … and it’s still a nothingburger that landed with a thud”.

Andrii Derkach, the Giuliani ally, claimed to have received the tapes from investigative journalists. Opponents have pointed at the lawmaker’s ties to Russia. Derkach is a former MP for the pro-Russian Party of Regions faction and attended a KGB-run high school in Moscow. His father was a former KGB officer and then headed Ukraine’s intelligence service.

In the edited conversations, Biden apparently ties the delivery of $1bn in aid to Ukraine to Poroshenko firing Viktor Shokin, a former general prosecutor widely considered to be corrupt. In another, the two discuss the potential appointment of his successor, Yuri Lutsenko.

Supreme court temporarily blocks release of testimony from Mueller investigation

The US supreme court has temporarily prevented the House of Representatives from obtaining secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The court granted the Trump administration’s request to keep previously undisclosed details from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election out of the hands of Democratic lawmakers, at least until early summer.

The court will decide then whether to extend its hold and schedule the case for arguments in the fall. If it does, it’s likely the administration will be able to put off the release of any materials until after election day on 3 November. Arguments themselves might not even take place before Americans decide whether to give Donald Trump a second term.

For justices eager to avoid a definitive ruling, the delay could mean never having to decide the case, if either Trump loses or Republicans regain control of the House next year. If Democratic candidate Joe Biden were to win the election against Trump, it’s hard to imagine his administration would object to turning over the Mueller documents, or if Republicans won the House, it would be equally hard to see them continue to press for them.

The federal appeals court in Washington ruled in March that the documents should be turned over because the House judiciary committee’s need for the material in its investigation of Trump outweighed the justice department’s interests in keeping the testimony secret.

Keiser Report | A Blow Up Doll Economy

Much more at the link:

Senators Express Outrage at Hearing over Mnuchin’s Sneakiness with $500 Billion of Taxpayers’ Money

We’ve been watching Senate Banking Committee hearings for decades. There is typically some level of professional politeness by Senators toward witnesses that are testifying. That didn’t happen yesterday. Both Republicans and Democrats lashed out at Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for effectively cooking up a deal that put him in charge of $500 billion of taxpayers’ money under the stimulus bill known as the CARES Act and has now left Congress in the dark about how that money is being spent. During the hearing, which was held virtually, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts summed up the situation to Mnuchin like this: “You are boosting your Wall Street buddies and leaving Americans behind.”

The hearing was called to hear from both Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jerome Powell.  The CARES Act, irresponsibly, gave Mnuchin control of $500 billion, of which $454 billion was earmarked to go to the Fed to be leveraged into a $4.54 trillion bailout program. Apparently, Democrats were promised the money would go to help Main Street while the actual crafters of the legislation conveniently forgot to put that language in the bill. The bulk of the numerous programs set up by the Fed, which will use CARES Act money to absorb losses, are structured as bailout programs for Wall Street or the fossil fuels industry.

During the hearing yesterday, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren derided the $500 billion as a “slush fund” while Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana described it as a backroom deal put together by Mnuchin, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, and Chuck Schumer and then forced on other members of Congress who didn’t get to participate in the negotiations. Kennedy said Congressional members “moan and groan and complain and then moo and follow their leaders in the shoot like cattle.” Kennedy promised Mnuchin that the next deal he attempts to bring to Congress on this basis is going to receive “serious pushback from Republicans and Democrats in both houses.”

Moderates Oppose Pelosi While Progressives Cave Again!

Corporate Lawyers Openly Discussing Suing Nations Over Profits Lost to Covid-19 Measures

Prominent corporate law firms representing major businesses in the United States, Italy, Spain, and other nations are openly discussing the possibility of companies using a secretive and notorious legal process to sue countries over future profits lost due to government efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the non-profit research group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) documented numerous examples of high-powered corporate law firms—including Ropes & Gray, Alston & Bird, and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan—publicly licking their chops over the lucrative opportunity presented by the Covid-19 crisis and government attempts to fight it.

Ropes & Gray wrote in an alert on its website on April 28 that "for companies with foreign investments," the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system enshrined by thousands of trade agreements across the world "could be a powerful tool to recover or prevent loss resulting from Covid-19 related government actions."

"Governments have responded to Covid-19 with a panoply of measures, including travel restrictions, limitations on business operations, and tax benefits," the alert reads. "Notwithstanding their legitimacy, these measures can negatively impact businesses by reducing profitability, delaying operations, or being excluded from government benefits."

Lawyers from Sidley, a firm headquartered in Chicago, wrote on May 8 that "where a company prevails in its investment treaty claims, it may be able to recover all the losses that flowed from the government measures that damaged the company."

CEO noted that the ISDS system hands "sweeping powers to foreign investors, including the peculiar privilege to sue states in an arbitration court system." The ISDS chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership was one of the most widely denounced components of the 12-nation trade deal that was ultimately never ratified by the U.S. Congress.

"In ISDS tribunals companies can claim dizzying sums in compensation for government actions that have allegedly damaged their investments, either directly through expropriation or indirectly through regulations of virtually any kind," CEO wrote. The number of ISDS suits has skyrocketed in the last decade, and so has the amount of money involved."

The research group highlighted several scenarios in which corporations could challenge countries over coronavirus-related government actions, including lowering drug prices, reducing rent and utility bills, temporarily nationalizing private hospitals, and providing access to clean water.

An Alston & Bird lawyer said during a recent webinar that "governments... forcing producers to sell drugs at significantly discounted prices and/ or taking the intellectual property for themselves and/or disseminating that intellectual property to third parties without permission" constitute "takings" that could be challenged under existing investment treaties.

"The lawyers' enthusiasm is not based in fantasy," CEO wrote. "In the past 25 years over 1,000 known investor-state lawsuits have been filed. Investors have won a significant amount of ISDS claims as arbitral tribunals ruled that it was illegal to interfere with prices of essential goods, restrict or tax the export of vital products, roll back incentives to investments—and the list goes on." ...

David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect, wrote Wednesday that progressives have long viewed ISDS as a disastrous system that allows powerful corporations to "lock in a low level of regulation or extract cash if any country dares to try to protect their citizens."

"It's so unbelievably shocking to see corporate lawyers actively discussing having foreign investors use ISDS to challenge countries over their coronavirus lockdown measures, and try to extract 'expected future profits' from them," Dayen wrote.

"There is no example yet of a foreign investor filing such a claim," Dayen added. "This bears watching, or maybe a pre-emptive strike to defuse this ticking time bomb. Incidentally, the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment has proposed an ISDS moratorium during the pandemic."

Andrew Cuomo is no hero. He's to blame for New York's coronavirus catastrophe

Andrew Cuomo may be the most popular politician in the country. ... All of which is bizarre, because Cuomo should be one of the most loathed officials in America right now. ProPublica recently released a report outlining catastrophic missteps by Cuomo and the New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, which probably resulted in many thousands of needless coronavirus cases. ProPublica offers some appalling numbers contrasting what happened in New York with the outbreak in California. By mid-May, New York City alone had almost 20,000 deaths, while in San Francisco there had been only 35, and New York state as a whole suffered 10 times as many deaths as California.

Federal failures played a role, of course, but this tragedy was absolutely due, in part, to decisions by the governor. Cuomo initially “reacted to De Blasio’s idea for closing down New York City with derision”, saying it “was dangerous” and “served only to scare people”. He said the “seasonal flu was a graver worry”. A spokesperson for Cuomo “refused to say if the governor had ever read the state’s pandemic plan”. Later, Cuomo would blame the press, including the New York Times for failing to say “Be careful, there’s a virus in China that may be in the United States?” even though the Times wrote nearly 500 stories on the virus before the state acted. Experts told ProPublica that “had New York imposed its extreme social distancing measures a week or two earlier, the death toll might have been cut by half or more”.

But delay was not the only screw-up. Elderly prisoners have died of coronavirus because New York has failed to act on their medical parole requests. As Business Insider documented:

“Testing was slow. Nonprofit social-service agencies that serve the most vulnerable couldn’t get answers either. And medical experts like the former CDC director Tom Frieden said ‘so many deaths could have been prevented’ had New York issued its stay-at-home order just ‘days earlier’ than it did. On March 19, when New York’s schools had already been closed, Cuomo said ‘in many ways, the fear is more dangerous than the virus.’”

The governor has failed to take responsibility for the obvious failures, consistently blaming others and at one point even saying “governors don’t do pandemics”. (Actually, some governors just don’t read their state’s pandemic plans.) But much of the press has ignored this, focusing instead on Cuomo’s aesthetic presentation: his poise during press conferences, his dramatic statements about “taking responsibility” (even when he obviously hasn’t), and his invisible good looks. ...

There’s something disturbing about Cuomo being hailed as the hero of the pandemic when he should rightly be one of the villains. As Business Insider notes, he is now only able to attain praise for his actions because his earlier failures made those actions necessary. He’s lauded for addressing a problem that he himself partly caused. Of course, part of this is because Donald Trump has bungled the coronavirus response even more badly, so that Cuomo – by not being a complete buffoon – looks like a capable statesman by contrast. But this is the problem: for too long, Democrats have measured their politicians by “whether they are better than Republicans”. This sets the bar very low indeed, and means that Democrats end up settling for incompetent and amoral leaders who betray progressive values again and again.

Black Americans dying of Covid-19 at three times the rate of white people

The racial wound at the center of the coronavirus pandemic in the US continues to fester, with latest data showing that African Americans have died from the disease at almost three times the rate of white people. New figures compiled by the non-partisan APM Research Lab and released on Wednesday under the title Color of Coronavirus provide further evidence of the staggering divide in the Covid-19 death rate between black Americans and the rest of the nation.

Across the country, African Americans have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans.

More than 20,000 African Americans – about one in 2,000 of the entire black population in the US – have died from the disease.

At the level of individual states, the statistics are all the more shocking. Bottom of the league table in terms of racial disparities is Kansas, where black residents are dying at seven times the rate of whites. ... In other states, the gulf is almost as extreme. In the nation’s capital, Washington, the disparity in death rate between blacks and whites is six times, in Michigan and Missouri five, and in major hotspots of the disease – New York, Illinois and Louisiana – three.

Indict and Punish the Perpetrators of Covid Mass Death

The United States finds myriad ways of killing Black people – of negating the term “Black lives matter.” The novel, or new, coronavirus is ending the lives of African Americans at a nationwide rate that is 2.6 times that of whites, 2.3 times the death toll among Asian Americans and 2.2. times that of Latinos, according to the APM Research Lab’s  breakdown of mortality by race. Collectively Blacks have suffered 27 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in the United States, which would mean that 24, 930 of the 92, 333 total U.S. deaths from the virus as of this week, were African Americans, who make up only 13 percent of the population. ...

Just as infant mortality is the best measure of a society’s general health, so does the Covid-19 death toll indict the United States for systematically undermining the life chances of all of its constituent peoples (143,360 dead by August 4), and for the aggravated crime of setting a death trap for African Americans, every aspect of whose lives has been methodically weighted towards early death. These are crimes that only the ruling class can commit, because only the ruling class has the power to systematically allocate life-death chances for whole populations over generations. ...

To limit the indictment to Donald Trump and his administration would be an insult to today’s dead and dying, and to all past victims of racial capitalism’s carnage around the world. Every Democrat that has joined with the Lords of Capital in preventing the United States from establishing a universal health care system, is guilty of depraved indifference to the lives of his and her constituents, as is virtually every member of the Republican Party, whose organizing principle is white supremacy, an ideology of mass murder. The U.S. electoral duopoly system has acted as a criminal enterprise, answering to an oligarchy of wealth, with both parties colluding to deny most of the population – and especially Black people – the right to healthy and safe lives and protection from contagious disease, as well as the closely related rights to meaningful and fairly compensated employment, adequate shelter from the elements, and an education that provides the people with the knowledge and skills to shape, and contribute to, society.

It takes a whole class of criminals to create the conditions to kill nearly one hundred thousand people – 27 percent of them Black -- in just three months. However, politicians representing Black America, the most victimized constituency, are co-conspirators in the great crime, both by their collaboration with Democrats that have systematically weakened the U.S. social safety net (most notably, President Obama’s partially consummated Grand Bargain with Republicans), and by their management of Black population centers that have been methodically stripped of defenses against debilitating poverty and disease. ...

The proof of their culpability lies in cemeteries all across Black America. People’s tribunals must convene to indict the perpetrators of mass death, including the Black collaborators in the lower ranks of capitalist crime. Why were Blacks seven times more likely to die of Covid-19 in Kansas City, than whites? What factors (crimes) made Missouri, Wisconsin and Washington D.C six times as lethal for Blacks as whites, and Michigan five times more deadly for Blacks? How is it that the Grim Reaper came for Black people three times more often than for whites in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Oregon and South Carolina? And what should be the penalty for locking up millions of human beings in virus-infested cages without provision for basic hygiene, much less protection from disease. Isn’t every Covid-19 death in prison -- where captives are totally dependent on their captors – a case of murder?

The people must convene, learn the truth, and make their verdicts. The only fitting punishment is overthrow of the criminal racial capitalist regime, whose crimes are multitudinous and manifest.

Survey finds 87% of America’s nurses forced to reuse protective equipment

The vast majority of America’s nurses say they have not been tested for Covid-19, are reusing personal protective equipment (PPE), or have exposed skin or clothing while caring for Covid-19 patients, a new survey has shown.

The nationally representative survey finds that “dangerous healthcare workplace conditions have become the norm” since Covid-19 spread widely in the US, said the union which conducted the survey. More than 100 nurses have died since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’ve known for years we’re behind,” said Jean Ross, president of National Nurses United. “Not because we couldn’t have what we needed – because we are the richest country on the planet – but because of greed, because of the profit system that doesn’t really look out for the welfare of patients. Therefore it couldn’t possibly look out for the welfare of workers.” ...

The survey asked more than 23,000 nurses across all 50 states and Washington DC about their working conditions since the pandemic began. The survey represents the period between 15 April and 10 May, and was conducted by National Nurses United. It included both union and non-union nurses.

In it, surveyors found 84% of nurses had not been tested for Covid-19, 87% are forced to reuse personal protective equipment designed to be single-use, such as N95 masks and face shields, and 72% of nurses have exposed skin or clothing while treating coronavirus patients.

Nina Turner: Workers' movement GROWS as sanitation, McDonald's workers strike

McDonald's Workers Strike Across US to Demand Better Protections From Covid-19

Demanding McDonald's prioritize public health and worker safety over profits, hundreds of employees at the fast food chain went on strike Wednesday, a day before the company was set to hold its annual shareholders' meeting.

Instead of distributing dividends to its shareholders, the striking employees are calling for the company to use its massive profits to pay for safety and financial protections for workers, scores of whom have contracted Covid-19 in at least 16 states so far.

Employees and strike organizers at the fair wage advocacy group Fight for $15 are demanding hazard pay during the pandemic of "$15X2," paid sick leave, sufficient protective gear for workers, and company-wide policy of closing a restaurant for two weeks when an employee becomes infected, with workers being fully paid.

The strike is taking place at stores in at least 20 cities. Fight for $15 and the SEIU, which is also supporting the action, say it's the first nationwide coordinated effort targeting the company since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

Pramila Jayapal: 'We have to regroup,' after Progressives bailout bill loss

With 36 Million Newly Out of Work, Trump Says He's Willing to Let Boosted Unemployment Benefits Expire

President Donald Trump told Republican senators during a private lunch Tuesday that he is willing to let expanded unemployment benefits expire at the end of July, a decision that would massively slash the incomes of tens of millions of people who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the president "privately expressed opposition to extending a weekly $600 boost in unemployment insurance for laid-off workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to three officials familiar with his remarks."

House Democrats passed legislation last week that would extend the beefed-up unemployment benefits through January of 2021 as experts and government officials—including Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell—warn the U.S. unemployment rate could soon reach 25%. The unemployment insurance boost under the CARES Act is set to expire on July 31, even as many people have yet to receive their first check.

"With nearly 1 in 5 Americans out of work, Donald Trump's plan is to cut off the boost to unemployment benefits and shower his wealthy buddies with more tax cuts," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the architects of the unemployment insurance expansion, told HuffPost. "This is the worst economic crisis in 100 years and Donald Trump is doubling down on Herbert Hoover's economic playbook and pushing workers to risk their health for his political benefit."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—who declared earlier this month that Congress will only extend the boosted unemployment insurance "over our dead bodies"—said after the private lunch that Trump believes the benefits are "hurting the economic recovery." Graham was one of several Republican senators who opposed the initial expansion of unemployment benefits as too generous.

An analysis released last week by the Hamilton Project, an initiative of the Brookings Institution, found that expanded unemployment benefits offset "roughly half of lost wages and salaries in April." Unemployment insurance has "been essential to families, and is vital for keeping the economy from cratering further," the authors of the analysis noted.

Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department economist, estimated that "come July 31, if the emergency UI top-up isn't extended, unemployed workers will effectively get a pay cut of 50-75% overnight."

"It's increasingly looking like there won't be enough labor demand to hire them all back at that point," Tedeschi tweeted.

The latest Labor Department statistics showed that more than 36 million people in the U.S. have filed jobless claims since mid-March as mass layoffs continue in the absence of government action to keep workers on company payrolls. Despite the grim numbers, the Post's Jeff Stein reported Tuesday that the White House is "predicting a swift economic recovery" as it resists additional efforts to provide relief to frontline workers and the unemployed.

On top of rejecting an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance, Trump last month publicly voiced opposition to another round of direct stimulus payments, instead advocating a cut to the tax that funds Social Security and Medicare.

From Syria to U.S.-Mexico Border, Refugees Worldwide Face Hunger & Deprivation as COVID-19 Spreads

Redirecting Asylum-Seekers From U.S. to Guatemala Was a Cruel Farce, Report Finds

Last November, the United States began sending Salvadoran and Honduran asylum-seekers to Guatemala, telling them, in effect, to try their luck there. The transfers were conducted under an agreement with Guatemala, one of a series of deals with Central American countries, and one which promoted the idea that Guatemala is a “safe third country” for people fleeing violence — even though its asylum program barely functions and many Guatemalans are themselves heading north to escape violence, corruption, and persecution.

The asylum agreement faced protests and legal challenges, but the U.S. persisted and Guatemala, under the new presidency of Alejandro Giammattei, eventually acquiesced. Nearly 1,000 Honduran and Salvadoran asylum-seekers were sent to Guatemala before the program was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A new report from Refugees International and Human Rights Watch finds that those asylum-seekers were poorly treated by U.S. border officials, misinformed about the program and their prospects of getting into the U.S., and left without resources when they reached Guatemala. According to the Guatemalan government, only 20 of the 939 people sent to Guatemala under the so-called Asylum Cooperative Agreement, or ACA, have actually applied for asylum there.

The report also argues that U.S. is violating domestic and international law by sending people to dangerous conditions in Guatemala without first hearing their asylum claims.

Interviews conducted by the report’s authors with 30 asylum-seekers who were sent to Guatemala revealed confusion and anguish. Interviewees related familiar stories of harsh conditions in U.S. detention: held for days without showers, served inedible frozen food, denied access to medical care, and verbally abused by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Many said they did not understand the process by which they were sent to Guatemala.

the horse race

Krystal Ball EXCLUSIVE: NOT ONE Bernie person has been hired by Biden

Trump Is Going After States That Want to Make It Easier to Vote During the Pandemic

President Donald Trump is threatening to go to war with states that are trying to figure out a safe way for their residents to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump specifically targeted Michigan and Nevada in a pair of early Wednesday tweets, warning that the two states could face a loss of federal funding for attempts to increase vote-by-mail. To start, Trump wrongly claimed that Michigan’s “rogue” secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, had “illegally” sent 7.7 million absentee ballots to voters in the state.

In fact, Benson, a Democrat, had announced on Tuesday that absentee ballot applications would be sent so that “no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote.” Regardless, Trump used the flawed premise to threaten the state — where ten thousand people are currently evacuating due to dam failures — with a cutoff in federal dollars.

Trump then turned his ire toward Nevada, where Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske announced in March that the state would conduct its June 9 primary by vote-by-mail. Trump alleged that doing so would “create a great Voter Fraud scenario for the state and the U.S,” and threatened to “hold up” funds to the state.

Bernie MUZZLES his own delegates on Biden criticism

the evening greens

Here's the latest on the lawyer who committed the "crime" of winning a lawsuit against Chevron. There's more at the link.

Judge Rules That Attorney Steven Donziger Must Remain Under House Arrest Until September

A federal judge ruled this week that environmental attorney Steven Donziger must remain on house arrest until September. The decision means that by the time his trial begins, Donziger, who represented Indigenous people and farmers in a decadeslong legal battle against Chevron and has been confined to his Manhattan apartment and required to wear an electronic ankle monitor since August, will have spent 13 months in home detention awaiting trial on charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months.

In a telephone conference on Monday, District Judge Loretta A. Preska said that the trial of Donziger on contempt of court charges stemming from his refusal to give his cellphone and computer to the court will be delayed until September 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic. While Donziger’s attorneys requested that he be released from home confinement until then, Preska said that she believed the lawyer was a flight risk and must continue to remain confined to his home.

In another significant setback for Donziger, who has been the target of an aggressive legal attack from Chevron after winning a $9.5 billion judgment against the company over environmental devastation in Ecuador, Preska also decided that the attorney was not entitled to a jury trial. While the judge had already denied Donziger’s motion requesting a jury trial in a May 7 hearing, in the phone conference this week, one of his attorneys, Andrew Frisch, said that he believed her earlier ruling had left open the possibility that Donziger could face a penalty of more than six months in prison, which would have entitled him to have his case heard by a jury. But during the phone conference, Preska made it clear that that was not the case.

In a phone interview, Donziger described his predicament as “Kafkaesque” and “getting darker.”

World bee day: massive declines in insect populations are "a threat to our food security"

Climate change is turning parts of Antarctica green, say scientists

Scientists have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae on the Antarctic peninsula as they bloom across the surface of the melting snow, tinting the surface green and potentially creating a source of nutrition for other species.

The British team behind the research believe these blooms will expand their range in the future because global heating is creating more of the slushy conditions they need to thrive.

In some areas, the single-cell life-forms are so dense they turn the snow bright green and can be seen from space, according to the study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Biologists from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey spent six years detecting and measuring the green snow algae using a combination of satellite data and ground observation. ...

They have already found the algae have formed close bonds with tiny fungal spores and bacteria. “It’s a community. This could potentially form new habitats. In some place, it would be the beginning of a new ecosystem,” said Matt Davey of Cambridge University, one of the scientists who led the study.

Great photos accompany the article at the link:

A proposed mine in Alaska will endanger brown bears – and much more

About a third of Alaska’s 30,000 brown bears are found on the Alaska Peninsula, which separates the Pacific Ocean from Bristol Bay, a place that hosts the most productive wild salmon fishery in the world and draws large numbers of bears to catch their food in the tumbling waters once they emerge from their winter hibernation.

This idyll is under looming threat from the controversial Pebble Mine, a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine that is planned for the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed. The local fishing industry, comprising 14,000 jobs that hinge on an environment that produces half of the world’s sockeye salmon, fears the project will cause its demise.

But the mine, which will involve the destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands and miles of salmon streams, also poses a major threat to the bears that feed on the fish. Aside from ingesting pollution disgorged from the mine, the bears also face the prospect of their habitat being sliced up – an 87-mile transportation and infrastructure corridor to the mine will run right next to the largest concentration of brown bears in the world.

In 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency determined the Pebble Mine would significantly harm fish populations and streams in the region – but the agency under Donald Trump has reversed its position, opening up a path forward for the development. Alaska Natives, fishing groups and environmentalists have sought legal action to block the mine ahead of a US army corp of engineers decision, expected this summer, on whether to grant it a necessary permit.

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

How To Understand All This China Stuff

Venezuela Military Will Escort Iranian Tankers to Shore

Israel must release Palestinian children, UN says

LEE CAMP: Trump Will Win Reelection Unless We Do One Thing

Anti-Lockdown Protests Originated With Tight-Knit Group Who Share Bigger Goal: Trump 2020

Detroit families still without clean water despite shutoffs being lifted

Could a patent get in between you and a Covid-19 test? Yes

Columbia Sportswear Sought to Crush a Warehouse Union Drive as the Pandemic Approached

Saagar Enjeti: Trump, GOP Faces ELECTORAL DOOM If They Don't Protect Workers

Krystal and Saagar: MSNBC's Mika tries to get Trump banned from Twitter

Krystal and Saagar: Even CNBC's Jim Cramer admits Gov't response ONLY helps big corporations

Krystal and Saagar: NYT's Biden 'Dream Team' Cabinet FULL of Wall Streeters, Republicans

Rising Crisis Update: 2.4 million more unemployment claims, nearly 39 million since March

A Little Night Music

Smokey Smothers - I Got My Eyes On You

Smokey Smothers - Take a Little Walk with Me

Smokey Smothers - Things ain't what they used to be

Smokey Smothers - Do Your Thing

Smokey Smothers - Midnight and Day

Smokey Smothers - I Can't Judge Nobody

Smokey Smothers - Can't Hold on Much Longer

Smokey Smothers - Searching For My Baby

Smokey Smothers - Smokey's Love Sick Blues

Smokey Smothers - Black Cat Girl

16 users have voted.


snoopydawg's picture

I remember when this woman wrote about her heinous history of sexual assault and how it affected her life. Just wtf makes someone become this viscous? Women who were in abusive relationships change their names for safety reasons. This is ain’t brain surgery to under.

I thought that is what happened to her. This makes it even more disgusting that she is going after Tara. There are lots of extra tweet stories from this thread.

Why not just say that you don’t believe Tara and leave it at that? Hey did y’all hear about Tara’s lawyer giving the woman from the horse ranch a cease and desist .something because of what she has been saying about her? Not sure if this is true or not, but a few lawyers have stated that they didn’t take Tara’s case because they thought she was lying.

6 users have voted.

The donor class doesn’t want it, and Americans elect the bribed. So suck it up.

Suffering only makes you a great guy if you come away from it with empathy, a quality that Biden lacks any trace of.

gulfgal98's picture

@snoopydawg Swedish Jewfish form dkos. She (or whomever is posting under that account) was a nasty work back then.

9 users have voted.

Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

snoopydawg's picture


One person I follow says that she did, but I don’t remember who pushed that on the site. Biden’s hairy legs says that sjf made her story up. She was friends with sjf and after awhile the true story came out. I’ll just leave this at it’s sad that she wrote that about Tara.

6 users have voted.

The donor class doesn’t want it, and Americans elect the bribed. So suck it up.

Suffering only makes you a great guy if you come away from it with empathy, a quality that Biden lacks any trace of.

CS in AZ's picture

saga — an unbelievable shit show of trolling and lies that spanned a couple of years at least, and had several characters including also “the aunt” who claimed to live in Florida and set the stage well in advance for the arrival of the (fake) Nephew.

As some inevitably started to question his ever-more-crazy stories, “SJF” came to his defense. She claimed she had met with him in person and could vouch for him. Then at the finale she (it/they) were right smack in the center of it when it all blew up in one very wild and very weird night on DKos. SJF posted breathless frantic diaries about the police and being on the run and blah blah blah, while begging people to help and promising the nephew would be posting shortly with details... omg it was so bizarre! Until they messed up and posted something under the wrong account and unmasked themselves. The SJF persona was unquestionably involved, if not the primary actor all along.

Seeing that name again after so long... is strange. I remember that whole mess very clearly. I say, keep a good distance from her, and never give a penny to any of her “charities.”


10 users have voted.
TheOtherMaven's picture

@CS in AZ

And believe me it WAS a mess.

It was also not my first experience with Internet catfishing - I'd had one before, back when there was nothing more than a series of interlinked BBSes. I was also on the fringes of, God help me, the Andrew "Thanfiction" Blake mishegass (a master scammer who is still lurking in the dark corners of fandom). (Don't ask!)

5 users have voted.

There is no justice. There can be no peace.

@CS in AZ After the second or third post by "The Nephew," it seemed clear to me that the person wasn't authentic. Didn't bother sharing that because it wasn't a battle worth my time and effort. Noted the attention she/he was getting but didn't open any of the threads. Later noted when it blew up and was privately amused that so many people there had been sucked in by a relatively easy to spot fraud.

6 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


hmmm... i think that i remember that tweeter from dkos. i can't remember the details anymore, but the tweeter seemed to be at the center of some ugly arguments.

Why not just say that you don’t believe Tara and leave it at that?

it seems to me that the tweeter wants to state her expert credentials and tacitly assert that she can divine the truth of the matter due to her experience.

8 users have voted.
Bollox Ref's picture

@joe shikspack

Remember Phoenix Woman (not one of Minnesota's best exports)? Because of the above, I did a twitter check, and lo and behold, she's on the anti-Tara bandwagon also.

Why am I not surprised.

And why I'm no longer at that Orange Cesspit.

Now back to your regular programming.

11 users have voted.

from a reasonably stable genius.

joe shikspack's picture

@Bollox Ref

yep, it's good to be out of the orange fever swamp.

i remember the screen name, but i am blessedly free of memories of interactions. Smile

6 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

@Bollox Ref

I follow kos just to see what bs he’s pushing and so I can get a few digs in now and then and he likes her tweets. The stuff she pushes is just so off the wall I can’t believe anyone could believe it. But sadly she isn’t alone. I do not get it. And now it’s okay that Obama and Rice unmasked Flynn because he is a traitor and Russia Russia Russia and for gawd’s sake don’t people actually follow the news unless it comes from MSDNC and Rachel? How can people have listened to Horowitz and just dismiss what he said about the FBI’s fibbing to the FISA court?

7 users have voted.

The donor class doesn’t want it, and Americans elect the bribed. So suck it up.

Suffering only makes you a great guy if you come away from it with empathy, a quality that Biden lacks any trace of.

@snoopydawg @snoopydawg it didn't take much effort for me to find Reade's 2009 public article on her DV and name change. In this and all her statements, she sounds credible to me.

While I accept that Biden did press himself on Reade in a Capitol building hallway, I struggle with the finger rape portion of her story. A man that would casually do that is hardly likely not to have done something similar on multiple occasions to other women, and so far we're not hearing from even one of them.

4 users have voted.
travelerxxx's picture

@Marie far we're not hearing from even one of them.

I've considered this, too. However, with the full-court-press that's been laid against Reade, how many would come forward with their story knowing they'd have to face the tide of vitriol that would commence as soon as it became public? You'd have to be made of some pretty stern stuff to do it.

9 users have voted.

@travelerxxx Had a skilled investigative reporter began working on Reade's story last year after she first went public, there was a much better chance that she/he could have found another victim. A very tough assignment as Florence George Graves discovered in 1992. It's also possible that Reade was the only women that didn't welcome such attention from Biden. If so, we'll never hear from them.

Democrats dismissing Reade remind me of those that dismissed rumors about John Edwards. While I may be wrong, Edwards always looked like a cheater to me, but it was his horrible public policy record that turned me off.

5 users have voted.
travelerxxx's picture


It's also possible that Reade was the only women that didn't welcome such attention from Biden. If so, we'll never hear from them.

Exactly. Hell, some of them might be working for him or even the DNC right now. Might even be making nasty posts online about Reade for all we know...

7 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

no branch of the government is remotely on our side, this could be the perfect opportunity to renounce and repeal every treaty that contains ISDS provisions and all of the enabling legislation that goes with them, all the way back to the creation of the WTO and maybe chunks of GAAT too. That would be great fun and serve the corporatists right.

Meanwhile, the people who gave Mnuchin the keys to the safe are calling him names beccause he has the keys to the safe? How does that work? They all need to stand up and denounce themselves; "Yes, I, Elizabeth Warren, voted to hand control and dominion over these funds to this man, and I bear full responsibility for granting him the authority to do whatever he dmn well pleases with said funds", etc. And what's this bullshit "you'd better watch out next time" rhetoric? Watch out for what? Will they maybe bring in Kamala to personally shame him or something?

Thanks for the Evening Blues.

be well and have a good one.

11 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

heh, withdrawing from all of those trade deals does sound like something that trump might do while in a petulant frenzy over how democrats were responsible for all of them and no president ever could negotiate a deal like he can. frankly, i can think of worse uses of his time.

heh, i wonder if the excuse is "i didn't read the whole bill, it was too long, nobody can read those things," or, "well, yeah we didn't nail down every little detail, but our intent was clear and how dare he create an unintended loophole!"

perhaps they will use both at the same time.

have a great evening!

9 users have voted.
Azazello's picture

5 users have voted.

It didn't have to be this way.

joe shikspack's picture


well, now there's an odd twist to the story. it'll be interesting to see how this shakes out.

5 users have voted.
TheOtherMaven's picture

@joe shikspack

As in, could have stopped it but didn't? Just spitballing here....

4 users have voted.

There is no justice. There can be no peace.

joe shikspack's picture


it's an odd story.

i saw a version of the story on the vice page a little while ago:

On Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. 50, who caught the last moments of Arbery’s life on his cellphone. He’s being charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. ...

Civil rights lawyer S. Lee Meritt has argued that Bryan assisted the McMichaels in their pursuit of Arbery and “corralled” him. "We are going to continue to push for the arrest of William Bryan for recording and participating in the ambush of Ahmaud Arbery," S. Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys for Arbery's family, told CNN's Don Lemon. ...

There’s a reference to “Roddie” in the initial statement that Gregory McMichael gave to police that suggests he did more than just film the incident. McMichael claimed Bryan “attempted to block” Arbery from running down the road, but was unsuccessful. At that point, McMichael says he and his son grabbed their guns, and jumped in their truck. Bryan followed them in his car, with his camera rolling.

5 users have voted.
TheOtherMaven's picture

I did a bit of genealogical peeping, and the Smothers family wandered back and forth across the color line. Tom and Dick's branch scrubbed their history and passed for 102% white. (They had to, with the "One Drop" rule that had come in during the 1920s.)

7 users have voted.

There is no justice. There can be no peace.

joe shikspack's picture


i suspect that once dna testing becomes very widespread, a lot of americans are going to find out that they are related to people that they would never have expected. Smile

5 users have voted.
Pricknick's picture

@joe shikspack
I have no hope of being individual.
Therefore, I will never be tested.
As far as I know.

5 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

@joe shikspack It perfectly fits with family lore about the Carpet bagger black guy, the Cherokee woman who saved his life from a KKK raid. Married him, had lots of kids with curly hair, high cheekbones, propensities for alcoholism and high blood pressure.
I think the more we know about out our DNA, the more observant we can be about symptoms of conditions that are known to afflict certain races more than others.
We are all mutts.

6 users have voted.
Pricknick's picture

A man that would casually do that is hardly likely not to have done something similar on multiple occasions to other women

He can always claim insanity about smelling womens hair.
That shit drove him nuts and caused drain bamage.

3 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

it's long but an important read. Will have to wait for another reporter to delve into the very early complacency around the world except in South Korea (and SK was only minimally proactive as of 19 January), and officials encouraged public complacency as well when they should have considered we, the people, as an important asset to limit the spread and avoid a draconian lock-down as China was forced to do. Face coverings and temperature checks at all ports would have significantly mitigated the spread. Enough so that public health personnel could have effectively managed the contact tracing and isolation.

3 users have voted.

God, I hate that they are a bunch of dicks, organizationally.
They make the absolute best clothing for jungle, desert, hunting, fishing out there.
I have traveled the damn world in their clothing, wear it to the law office, have made a few emergency court appearances in some of their shirts,(we have a dress code) send their items to friends for gifts, because the clothing is simply all that. It is all that. I wore one to the office today.
I cannot count the number of times some tour guide in some foreign country was wearing the same shirt I was. Nothing gets you the personal attention of a guide of 30 people better than wearing the same shirt.
The other brand that catches EVERYONE'S eye is The North Face.
Bet they are dickish, too.
Thank you for your efforts, joe. If I don't say it, you may take it as a given, ok?

6 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

@on the cusp

discount through a mail order company named Campmor, which eventually made its own serviceable lower-priced clones. I still have some Ex-Officios that are several decades old with 4 continents worth of history. Today I default to REI, costly, but really great, especially their Sahara line, and it is a co-op so one gets a kick-back.

be well and have a good one

3 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris shop REI, swear by their brands.
I will check them out if and when I wear out some of my wardrobe.
The only thing I have purchased from REI was some mosquito repellent bracelets.
Very interesting that it is a co-op.

4 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture

@on the cusp

it's always annoying to find out that the stuff you buy is made by labor working for oppressive jackasses. unfortunately, it seems to be a pretty common experience. it's another way that our culture makes us all complicit in oppression.

Thank you for your efforts, joe. If I don't say it, you may take it as a given, ok?

i'm good with that. Smile

3 users have voted.

Nerve wracking.
Never was a crack whore pole dancer, but was often thought of as such! Lol!
Dropping this in because her performance was amazing, and my foot tapped, as the judges' feet did. Sorry if this not good and all music offends. I was bored?
And we should never forget moments of triumph of the little people, especially female.

4 users have voted.