The Evening Blues - 5-28-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jump blues guitarist and singer Stick McGhee. Enjoy!
Stick McGhee - One Monkey Don't Stop No Show
“There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss — the abyss from which there is no return.”
-- James Bamford
News and Opinion
Hot off the presses - From the Department of Stopped Clocks:
WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICANS IS WRONG!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued a rare veto threat, promising to reject a renewal of his surveillance authorities if approved by the House of Representatives.
If the FISA Bill is passed tonight on the House floor, I will quickly VETO it. Our Country has just suffered through the greatest political crime in its history. The massive abuse of FISA was a big part of it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
The Senate had previously approved the renewal through 2023, and it had been expected to become law with little controversy. But earlier this month, the Republican-led Senate failed to pass a measure that would limit the FBI’s ability to access web browsing history and other online activity without a warrant by a single vote — a vote that Sen. Bernie Sanders missed. Civil libertarians, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow an up-or-down vote on that amendment, then send it back to the Senate, where it could pass with all senators voting. Pelosi instead told Lofgren to negotiate with Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, the New York Times reported, and Schiff watered down the legislation. The result drew criticism from the left and right — and Trump’s attention to the fight.
Had Pelosi simply agreed to a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate amendment, it likely would have passed easily, and reauthorization of the broad surveillance authorities, along with some real reforms, would be on their way to becoming law. The House is scheduled to vote late Wednesday evening, and leaders from both the Republican minority and the Congressional Progressive Caucus said they were whipping members to vote no. Even if it passes, Trump has promised to veto it. Trump, of course, has been known to break promises, so Pelosi’s gamble may still pay off.
For the first time in the history of the House, the lower chamber allowed for remote proxy voting, as dozens of members of Congress stayed away from the floor amid the unfolding pandemic. The vote is expected to be close, the result of furious last-minute lobbying by civil libertarians on both the left and right, as well as opposition from Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democrats postponed a vote on Wednesday to reauthorize key parts of the federal surveillance program known as FISA, after an 11th hour revolt by Republicans and progressive Democrats.
Democrats have not decided when or if they will take up the bill. The legislation had broad bipartisan support in the Senate, but lost support from GOP lawmakers after sudden resistance from President Donald Trump and the Justice Department.
“We haven’t made that decision,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in an interview late Wednesday as he left Pelosi’s office.
It was clear for much of Wednesday that Democrats lacked the votes, with few, if any, Republicans willing to buck Trump and his veto threat. Without them, the House’s delicate coalition fractured and Democrats found themselves without the support to pass it on their own. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has roughly 100 members, formally opposed the bill, virtually guaranteeing that Democrats would need GOP votes. ...
Pelosi and her leadership team sent lawmakers home for the night shortly after 9:30 p.m., after spending much of the day attempting to salvage the bill. As she left the Capitol, Pelosi was noncommittal about the fate of the FISA bill when the House returned on Thursday: “We’ll see.”
Internet privacy group Fight for the Future said Wednesday that House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff—who has called President Donald Trump a "clear and present danger" to democracy—"may be the biggest hypocrite in Congress" after the California Democrat threw a wrench into efforts to curb the Justice Department's powers to surveil U.S. web browsing records without a warrant.
Over the weekend, Schiff and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) hammered out a deal on a compromise privacy amendment to the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020, a Senate-passed bill that would renew major elements of the FBI's surveillance authority. The amendment was originally welcomed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading privacy advocate in Congress, as a solid safeguard against warrantless internet spying.
But Schiff on Tuesday instead advanced a narrower interpretation of the amendment in a statement to the New York Times just hours before the surveillance reauthorization bill was expected to hit the House floor for a vote.
Schiff's interpretation of the measure, according to the Times, "left open the possibility of interpreting the potential new law as banning only deliberate attempts to collect an American's data, leaving the FBI free to ask for lists of all visitors to websites despite the risk that the list may turn out to incidentally include some Americans."
The California Democrat's comments led Wyden to withdraw his support for the amendment and caused an uproar among privacy advocates, many of whom are publicly urging lawmakers to oppose the amendment and the surveillance bill as a whole.
Fight for the Future urged the House to vote down the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act and "let the Patriot Act's domestic surveillance programs die permanently."
Progressive advocacy group Demand Progress is also urging the House to vote against the legislation unless it includes an amendment by Wyden and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) that would bar the FBI from surveilling internet browsing records without a warrant.
Tensions between China and India over their Himalayan border have escalated, with China accused of moving thousands of troops into disputed territory and expanding a military airbase in the region. Thousands of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops are reported to have moved into sensitive areas along the eastern Ladakh border, setting up tents and stationing vehicles and heavy machinery in what India considers to be its territory.
In response, the Indian army has moved several battalions from an infantry division usually based in the Ladakh city of Leh to “operational alert areas” along the border, and reinforcement troops have been brought in. The aggressive military posturing follows two skirmishes between the two sides on 5 and 9 May in the border areas of Pangong Lake and North Sikkim in Ladakh, in which more than 100 soldiers from both sides were injured. ...
The high-altitude border has been aggressively contested and heavily militarised since 1962 when China launched an offensive into Indian territory, sparking a short but bloody war. Ashok K Kantha, a former Indian ambassador to China and now director of the Institute of Chinese Studies based in Delhi, said the recent incursions and border aggressions from China were “far from routine occurrences”. ...
China’s actions appear to be a response to India’s construction of roads and airstrips adjacent to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which will improve connectivity and enable easier mobility for Indian troops in the area. Construction has paused during the coronavirus lockdown but is due to resume imminently.
Senior military officials are set to brief President Trump in the coming days on options for pulling all American troops out of Afghanistan, with one possible timeline for withdrawing forces before the presidential election, according to officials with knowledge of the plans.
The proposal for a complete withdrawal by November reflects an understanding among military commanders that such a timeline may be Mr. Trump’s preferred option. But they plan to propose, and to advocate, a slower withdrawal schedule, officials said.
The move is part of the Pentagon’s attempt to avoid another situation like the one in December 2018 and again in October 2019, when Mr. Trump surprised military officials by ordering the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Diplomatic chaos and violence followed, and the president subsequently modified each announcement. American troops remain in Syria, although in smaller numbers.
In recent months, Mr. Trump has repeatedly voiced a desire to leave Afghanistan sooner than the timeline laid out in the Feb. 29 peace agreement with the Taliban, which stipulated U.S. troops would leave in 12 to 14 months if the insurgent group met certain conditions.
The Pentagon is expected to try to persuade a commander in chief who has made clear his desire to end America’s involvement in what he has criticized as “endless wars” — and who has regularly surprised the military with his decisions.
Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 jobs through layoffs and buyouts as the coronavirus pandemic seizes the travel industry, and more cuts are coming. One of the nation’s biggest manufacturers will lay off 6,770 US employees this week, and an additional 5,520 workers are taking buyout offers to leave voluntarily in the coming weeks.
Air travel within the US tumbled 96% by mid-April, to fewer than 100,000 people on some days. It has recovered slightly. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 264,843 people at airports on Tuesday, a drop of 89% compared with the same Tuesday a year ago.
Boeing had said it would cut 10% of a workforce that numbered about 160,000. A Boeing spokesperson said Wednesday’s decision represented the largest number of job cuts, but several thousand additional jobs will be eliminated in the next few months.
The layoffs are expected to be concentrated in the Seattle area, home to Boeing’s commercial-airplanes business. The defense and space division is stable and will help blunt the impact of the decline in air travel and demand for passenger jets, the company said.
The United States has recorded more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, moving past a grim milestone even as many states relax mitigation measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. The US has recorded more deaths from the disease than any other country in the pandemic, and almost three times as many as the second-ranking country, Britain, which has recorded more than 37,000 Covid-19 deaths. ...
The United States has increased its testing capacity but has yet to stand up a national plan for the contact tracing of positive cases, a step South Korea took immediately. That country has since recorded 269 deaths from coronavirus. ...
Across Europe, the virus exacted a terrible toll. Eight of the 10 countries with the top per-capita rates of Covid-19 deaths are in Europe; the United States ranks ninth on that list, with about 30 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Britain is third, with 55.64 deaths per 100,000.
Health experts warn that the United States can expect millions more Covid-19 cases and a tragic number of deaths to come, unless the virus takes an unprecedented and unforeseen vector. With regional infection rates varying from about 5-20%, most experts believe the virus will continue to churn through the US population until the overall rate of infection is 50-60% – or until a vaccine is widely administered.
It’s official: Donald Trump now has the blood of 100,000 people on his tiny hands. On Wednesday, the coronavirus death toll in the United States crossed the 100,000 mark, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
One. Hundred. Thousand. ...
It did not have to be this way — because the vast majority of these deaths were preventable.
Don’t believe me? In the United States, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was on January 20. Three days later, Vietnam confirmed its first case of Covid-19. Today, the death toll in the United States has crossed 100,000. The number of deaths in Vietnam?
How about South Korea, which confirmed its first case on the exact same day as the United States?
Less than 300 deaths so far.
According to epidemiologists Britta L. Jewell and Nicholas P. Jewell, “an estimated 90 percent of the cumulative deaths in the United States from Covid-19 … might have been prevented by putting social distancing policies into effect two weeks earlier, on March 2, when there were only 11 deaths in the entire country.”
Putting those policies into effect even a week earlier, they say, would have resulted in “approximately a 60-percent reduction in deaths.” Think about that: tens of thousands of Americans would be alive today had Trump take action sooner.
The pathogen that kills Black people at two and a half times the rate of whites took the life of 46 year-old George Floyd, this week in Minneapolis. Floyd’s last words were, “I can’t breathe,” much like the desperate utterances of plague victim Eric Garner, struck down in 2014 in New York City. Unlike the still raging Covid-19 virus, which is virulent among Blacks of both sexes, the Blue Plague is especially lethal to Black males of all ages. According to researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Michigan, 1 in every 1,000 black boys and men will be fatally stricken by the Blue Plague at some point in their lifetimes – at ages ranging from 12 year-old Tamir Rice, snuffed out in Cleveland in 2014, to 50 year-old Walter Scott, who fell victim to the pestilence in North Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.
Covid-19 is categorized as a “novel,” or new, virus, having mutated recently from wild animals. But the Blue Plague is a serial killer that dates back to the slave patrols of the pre-Civil War South. Indeed, the first vector of the Blue Plague has been traced back to Charleston, South Carolina, which established a paramilitary force called the City Guard in 1783, primarily to “police” Black slaves – although the term police had not yet been invented. The City Guard helped suppress the Denmark Vesey slave rebellion in 1822 – a success that is believed to have led to the mutation of slave patrols into full-fledged vectors of Black death in cities across the nation, not just the South.
Researchers are hoping to find a vaccine for Covid-19, possibly within the year, but the Blue Plague only grows more deadly over time and enjoys a host of immunities. Although Black people had hoped that the historic expansion in the number of Black elected officials would create political antibodies to limit the spread of the Blue Plague, the opposite has happened. In 2014, just months before Michael Brown’s life was cut short by the Blue Plague, in Ferguson, Missouri, 80 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus voted to continue funneling billions of dollars in military weapons, gear and training to local infestations of the plague, despite ample evidence that such infusions have made the scourge even more toxic to Black life. Four years later, 75 percent of the Black Caucus voted to classify the Blue Plague as a “protected class,” further immunizing the disease from the possibility of cure. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 was “superfluous, since cops are already the most protected ‘class’ in the nation.” ...
This being an election year, George Floyd’s death by Blue Plague in Minneapolis was widely condemned by the same parties that have encouraged and funded the spread of the fatal contagion. The Democratic mayor of the city fired the four cops involved in crushing Floyd’s neck, and Joe Biden, the presidential candidate who brags that he “wrote” the Plague-proliferating 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, tweeted that “George Floyd deserved better and his family deserves justice. His life mattered.” But Biden and his party’s history as vectors of mass death say otherwise.
Two of the four Minneapolis cops involved in George Floyd’s fatal arrest Monday — including the one seen in a viral video kneeling on the black man’s neck for several minutes as he repeatedly cried out that he couldn’t breathe — were previously involved in use-of-force incidents.
The two others haven’t been named. All four officers were fired Tuesday, just hours before large protests erupted across the Minnesota city of 425,000. ...
Chauvin worked for the Minneapolis police department for 19 years before his firing on Tuesday, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and had been involved in at least two officer-involved shootings during his tenure.
One of those shootings took place in 2008, and allegedly occurred because a man reached for an officer's gun while Chauvin was responding to a domestic assault call. Chauvin shot the man in the torso, and was placed on administrative leave, according to the Pioneer Press. The other shooting took place two years earlier, when Chauvin and other cops were responding to an alleged stabbing. The person they were pursuing, Wayne Reyes, allegedly aimed a gun at the officers while fleeing the scene. Officers including Chauvin fired at Reyes and killed him.
Videos taken by bystanders show the moments leading up to the deadly arrest of George Floyd — and appear to undermine Minneapolis police’s account that he was uncooperative.
Minneapolis cops said that they were responding to reports of a man suspected of forgery on Monday evening, and encountered 46-year-old Floyd, who appeared “to be under the influence” sitting on top of his car. “He was ordered to step from his car,” the Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement. “After he got out, he physically resisted officers.”
But newly-surfaced videos do not appear to support that account. The first video, taken by a bystander through his windshield, shows several officers apprehending Floyd. But he doesn’t appear to be resisting — just standing next to his car.
New video sent to us shows the moment George Floyd was removed from his vehicle and handcuffed on 38th and Chicago.
Video courtesy of Christopher Belfrey pic.twitter.com/MiIIula4sA
— Alex Lehnert (@AlexLehnertFox9) May 26, 2020
The second video was from surveillance cameras belonging to a restaurant owner, who watched the arrest and contends that Floyd was not, as Minneapolis police claimed, resisting arrest. It shows Floyd sitting on the ground, handcuffed. Then a police officer brings him up to standing, and walks him over to the wall. The officer and Floyd appear to exchange words (there’s no sound), and Floyd appears to be anguished. Another officer comes over, and all three walk off camera.
Video shows what appears to be the start of the confrontation between #GeorgeFloyd and #Minneapolis #police officers. A restaurant's security footage shows cops taking him into custody, but the restaurant owner says it does not show Floyd resisting #Arrest pic.twitter.com/LjIerm6BaX
— Sn00pster (@sn00pdad) May 27, 2020
Floyd died soon after having his face pressed against the sidewalk, his nose bleeding, his hands cuffed behind his back, and a police officer’s knee on his neck.
The Monterey County District Attorney’s office has launched an investigation into whether Tara Reade lied on the witness stand while acting as an expert witness. Reade, under the name Alexandra McCabe, for years testified as an expert in domestic violence cases for the California D.A.’s office. Among the issues is whether she lied about her credentials to qualify as an expert. ...
Recent news reports have raised questions about Reade’s testimony under oath, including whether she falsely claimed to have completed her bachelor’s degree, gave false testimony about taking the bar exam and exaggerated her job duties in Biden’s office.
Last week, the school where she testified to completing a bachelor’s degree, Antioch University in Seattle, confirmed to POLITICO that Reade attended for only three academic quarters and did not graduate. The university also denied Reade’s assertion she had a special arrangement with a former chancellor to credit her with an undergraduate degree under a different name.
Seattle University Law School confirmed that Reade, under the name Alexandra McCabe, did graduate from law school. ...
Reade’s attorney, Douglas Wigdor, announced Friday he was no longer representing her. Reade could not immediately be reached for comment.
A powerful new conservative organization fighting to restrict voting in the 2020 presidential election is really just a rebranded group that is part of a dark money network already helping Donald Trump’s unprecedented effort to remake the US federal judiciary, the Guardian and OpenSecrets reveal.
The organization, which calls itself the Honest Elections Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and started stoking fears about voter fraud. Backed by a dark money group funded by rightwing stalwarts like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’ family, the Honest Elections Project is part of the network that pushed the US supreme court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and is quickly becoming a juggernaut in the escalating fight over voting rights.
The project announced it was spending $250,000 in advertisements in April, warning against voting by mail and accusing Democrats of cheating. It facilitated letters to election officials in Colorado, Florida and Michigan, using misleading data to accuse jurisdictions of having bloated voter rolls and threatening legal action.
Calling voter suppression a “myth”, it has also been extremely active in the courts, filing briefs in favor of voting restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota, among other places, at times represented by lawyers from the same firm that represents Trump. By having a hand in both voting litigation and the judges on the federal bench, this network could create a system where conservative donors have an avenue to both oppose voting rights and appoint judges to back that effort.
A panel of federal judges on Tuesday ruled that California climate lawsuits aiming to force major fossil fuel companies to pay for their role in causing the environmental crisis must be heard in state courts rather than more industry-friendly federal venues, a decision that was celebrated as a major blow to Big Oil's efforts to evade accountability.
In a unanimous 3-0 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from fossil fuel company lawyers that the lawsuits by five California cities and three counties should be heard in federal rather than state court. In a separate ruling Tuesday, the panel unanimously overturned a 2018 district court decision that tossed out climate lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Oakland.
The latter ruling sends the San Francisco and Oakland suits back to the lower court for reconsideration.
The lawsuits by California municipalities seek to compel major oil companies like Chevron, BP, and Exxon Mobil to pay tens of billions of dollars to help cities and counties combat the devastating effects of the climate crisis.
"These lawsuits were filed to protect our residents, workers, and businesses from the harms of climate change knowingly imposed on our communities by the fossil fuel companies," San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a joint statement. "Today's ruling from a unanimous Court of Appeals panel puts us one step closer to that goal."
The Associated Press reported that the rulings "are expected to meet continued challenges that could include a review by a larger Ninth Circuit panel and, eventually, review by the U.S. Supreme Court."
While the lawsuits have a long way to go before reaching a jury, UCLA environmental law professor Ann Carlson told AP that the rulings move plaintiffs closer to discovering what top fossil fuel executives knew and when they knew it and what oil companies did to fund a campaign to dissuade the American public that climate change was happening."
"The oil companies' strategy is to keep the light from shining on their own behavior," said Carlson. "This gets closer to allowing plaintiffs to shine that light."
Even after the world's largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.
The new report, from Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth (FOE) U.S., focuses on financing for oil, gas, and coal projects from members of the Group of 20 (G20), which comprises governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union.
Although U.S. President Donald Trump began the one-year withdrawal process for ditching the Paris accord in November 2019 after years of threats, other G20 nations remain committed to the agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C and further limit it to 1.5°C by 2100.
Despite their public commitments to the Paris agreement, "G20 countries continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry even as it makes bad business decisions that hurt people and the planet," FOE U.S. senior international policy analyst Kate DeAngelis said in a statement.
"Our planet is hurtling towards climate catastrophe and these countries are pouring gasoline on the fire to the tune of billions," she said. "We must hold G20 governments accountable for their promises to move countries toward clean energy. They have an opportunity to reflect and change their financing so that it supports clean energy solutions that will not exacerbate bad health outcomes and put workers at greater risk."
Just Released: Our new report w/ @FoE_US reveals G20 countries provided at least $77 billion a year in public finance to oil, gas, and coal projects since the Paris Climate Agreement.
— Oil Change International (@PriceofOil) May 26, 2020
Trump-Connected Fossil Fuel Companies Permitted to Delay Payments of $56 Million in Pollution Fines During Pandemic
Corporations with close ties to Trump administration officials are among 10 companies being permitted to delay payments of millions of dollars in fines for pollution they caused, according to The Guardian and government watchdog Accountable.US.
The companies had agreed to pay a collective total of $56 million in civil penalties for contributing to pollution in communities across the country, but they were informed in April by the Department of Justice that they can pause their payments during the pandemic.
Ironically, said Accountable.US, which uncovered the arrangement through a FOIA request, the corporations are being granted leniency for contributing to the kinds of pollution which can make the coronavirus more deadly.
"This is exactly the time to make sure support is flowing to the federal, state, and local governments that need a hand with responding to the coronavirus crisis and with the environmental problems that these special interests have caused," Chris Saeger of Accountable.US told The Guardian. "When we're facing a public health crisis that causes respiratory problems, this is a time to be holding companies to a higher standard of air quality, not a lower one." ...
ArcelorMittal, where Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was previously a board member, told Accountable.US that it already paid the fine despite being offered the extension. Attorney General William Barr was a board member at Dominion Energy before joining the Trump administration, and was paid $500,000 by the corporation.
Kevin Kauffman, CEO of K.P. Kauffman, has been a major donor to President Donald Trump, and his company spent $200,000 lobbying the EPA last year.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Stick McGhee - Travelin' On
Sticks McGhee - Six To Eight
Stick McGhee - Southern Menu
Stick Mcghee - Let's Do It
Stick McGhee - Housewarmin' Boogie
Sticks McGhee - Whiskey, Women and Loaded Dice
Stick McGhee - Venus Blues
Sticks McGhee - Jungle Juice
Sticks McGhee - Things have Changed