The Evening Blues - 5-5-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas blues and cajun guitarist Clarence Garlow. Enjoy!
Clarence Garlow & Anna Mae Rogers - I Called You Up Daddy
"The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it."
-- H.L. Mencken
News and Opinion
In a story predicting two more years for the coronavirus pandemic, CNN (5/1/20) quotes Michael Osterholm, who directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota: “This thing’s not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70% of people,” he said. “The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology.”
CNN should note that accepting a 60–70% infection rate means accepting a million deaths or more, assuming a fatality rate of 0.5%—which may be a conservative estimate.
The network should also note that it’s not a law of microbiology that requires that we allow the coronavirus to infect hundreds of millions of people, but a choice made by governments—as the varied results obtained by different countries demonstrate.
There’s a usually unspoken assumption that the US just can’t do what China did—which was to pursue a strategy based not just on discouraging but on halting transmission of the coronavirus. It can’t be that quarantines are seen as incompatible with democracy; we have quarantines, after all. The idea seems to be that effective quarantines are incompatible with democracy—but that’s not true either, as nations with elected governments like New Zealand and Taiwan have also managed to bring new cases down to near zero.
It may be unlikely that the United States will summon the political will to implement a realistic plan for not just delaying, but stopping Covid-19. But it’s crucial for media reporting on options in the fight against the outbreak to distinguish between can’t and won’t—especially when the other option is letting a million people die.
The global wave of anti-Chinese sentiment being driven by the Trump administration has led officials in Beijing to warn their government to prepare for armed conflict with the U.S.
That was the finding presented to China’s top leaders, including President Xi Jinping, last month in a confidential report prepared by Beijing’s Ministry of State Security, according to sources with knowledge of the report’s contents who spoke to Reuters.
The document lays out how anti-Chinese sentiment has mirrored the rapid spread of coronavirus around the globe, concluding that hostility toward Beijing has not been this high since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The report was written by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, China’s top intelligence body. The CICIR researchers conclude that the wave of anti-China sentiment was coming primarily from Washington, and that Beijing needs to be prepared for the worst-case scenario of armed confrontation between the two global powers.
In a modern-day version of the “big lie,” the Trump administration is claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic is the product of the deliberate actions of the Chinese government. On Sunday, President Donald Trump, in a “town hall” with Fox News, accused China of taking actions specifically intended to infect millions of Europeans and Americans. After repeating the false claim that the novel coronavirus originated in a research laboratory in Wuhan, which he said China tried to cover up, Trump declared: “They didn’t stop people going into the USA and all over the world... They said, hey look, this is going to have a huge impact on China, and we might as well let the rest of the world” become infected. ...
Such claims have been asserted repeatedly in recent days by top administration officials. On Sunday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory, adding, “Remember, China has a history of infecting the world.” In a separate interview Sunday, White House advisor Peter Navarro declared that China “seeded the world with what became the pandemic.” He added, “I did write a book in 2006 called The Coming China Wars. On page 150, I predicted that the Chinese Communist Party would create a viral pandemic that would kill millions of people worldwide. It is now beyond my wildest nightmare what China has inflicted on the world.”
These are brazen and unsubstantiated lies. Neither Trump, Pompeo, Navarro or anyone else has provided a shred of evidence to substantiate their claims.
The method recalls that of Nazi Germany, which collapsed 75 years ago this month. Hitler, who committed suicide on April 30, 1945, amid the rubble of the Third Reich, used it to justify the invasions of Poland and Czechoslovakia and other crimes. The aim of the “big lie” is to intimidate through its sheer brazenness. According to Wikipedia, it “is a propaganda technique and logical fallacy. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so ‘colossal’ that no one would believe that someone ‘could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.’”
Trump’s utilization of this method comes at the very point where the American government is abandoning any systematic effort to slow the spread of the pandemic, effectively allowing large sections of the population to become infected. The Trump administration is seeking to provide itself with an escape hatch. Whatever happens, it is China’s fault. Knowing that its program will lead to a rapid and substantial growth of fatalities, the White House is hoping that when the butcher’s bill of its disastrous policies comes due, it will be able to direct social tensions outward against China.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the foremost US expert on infections diseases and a key member of Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, has said that there is no scientific basis for the theory that coronavirus was man-made in a Chinese laboratory, or escaped from a laboratory after being brought in from the wild.
Dr. Fauci told National Geographic, in an interview just published:
If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species
“Based on the scientific evidence, he also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory—that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped,” National Geographic reports
There is no current evidence to suggest that coronavirus leaked from a Chinese research laboratory, intelligence sources have told the Guardian, contradicting recent White House claims that there is growing proof this is how the pandemic began.
The sources also insisted that a “15-page dossier” highlighted by the Australian Daily Telegraph which accused China of a deadly cover up was not culled from intelligence from the Five Eyes network, an alliance between the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
British and other Five Eyes agencies do believe that Beijing has not necessarily been open about how coronavirus initially spread in Wuhan at the turn of the year. But they are nervous about getting involved in an escalating international situation.
On Sunday Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.” No evidence was offered by Pompeo to back up his assertion but information has been circulating over the last month in the UK, US and Australia aimed at raising questions about the high security Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has long specialised in researching coronaviruses in horseshoe bats.
“Out with Congress, Supreme Court saboteurs! New anti-communist constitution! Criminalize communism!” read one banner. “Military intervention with Bolsonaro,” read another. A protester waved a sign outside the window of a car: “Weapons for upstanding citizens.” Hundreds of diehard, far-right protesters were gathered on Sunday in Brasília, the capital of Brazil, to rally against the quarantine imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus and in support of what would amount to a military coup against the legislature and judiciary. Multiple journalists were physically attacked. Among the speakers at the rally was President Jair Bolsonaro himself, who was also present at a similar protest two weeks earlier.
Bolsonaro and his allies have repeatedly insisted that these protests in favor of overthrowing the legislature and undermining the Supreme Court are “spontaneous movements” by average supporters, but the Supreme Court has opened an investigation into who is behind them. Multiple members of Congress aligned with the president are suspected of organizing the events, including Bolsonaro’s sons.
Bolsonaro, who favors reopening the country against the advice of public health experts, is increasingly at war with anyone in the government who does not bend their knee to him, which includes representatives of almost every democratic institution in the country — stoking fears that Brazil is accelerating its slide toward another dictatorship.
Meanwhile, the Federal Police are investigating Bolsonaro and his politician sons for multiple suspected crimes; his former political party has called for his impeachment; his former Justice Minister Sergio Moro gave an eight-hour deposition to investigators alleging that the president politically interfered in law enforcement institutions; the public prosecutor — a recent Bolsonaro appointee — has asked for an investigation into Moro’s allegations against Bolsonaro; Supreme Court ministers have blocked multiple actions he has attempted to take in recent days; and the commander of the army has publicly contradicted his coronavirus denialism. That’s just a sampling of the battles underway. With the deck stacked so high against him, Bolsonaro is not signaling defeat or moderation, but rather that he is willing to go all out on his war against Brazilian democracy.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on Monday that the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange would likely resume for three weeks on Sept. 7 if a courtroom could be found, possibly outside London.
Assange’s lawyers had submitted a petition to delay the hearing, originally scheduled to resume on May 18, because of the difficulties of consulting with Assange and of having him appear either in the courtroom, or by video-link because of unsafe conditions in Belmarsh Prison’s video room.
Baraitser agreed to the postponement because she wants Assange to be physically present in the courtroom. He was unable to attend the brief hearing on Monday because he was “unwell,” Baraitser told the court.
Assange’s defense is expected to call 21 witnesses to the hearing, many who must travel from abroad. The prosecution also agreed to the postponement, saying it might be difficult for prosecutors to travel to London while lockdown conditions in both the U.S. and Britain persist.
'Time for the Agency to Come Clean': FCC Ordered to Release Detailed Data From Fake Net Neutrality Comments
Judge Lorna Schofield of the Southern District Court of New York has ordered the Federal Communications Commission to turn over server logs and other records pertaining to the fake comments that poured into the agency's system in 2017 as it moved to repeal net neutrality protections.
The New York Times sued the FCC in 2018 demanding that the agency release data logs that could shed light on who was behind the fake comments. The newspaper filed the lawsuit after the FCC refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the records on the grounds that revealing IP addresses from the fake comments would be an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
But Schofield ruled (pdf) last Thursday that the FCC, headed by former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, failed to make a "persuasive" case for withholding the information from the public and said the records could help determine whether the agency's comment process is "vulnerable to corruption."
"In this case, the public interest in disclosure is great because the importance of the comment process to agency rulemaking is great," Schofield wrote. "If genuine public comment is drowned out by a fraudulent facsimile, then the notice-and-comment process has failed." ...
The FCC's widely unpopular plan to repeal net neutrality protections, which took effect in 2018, garnered more than 22 million public comments. According to the New York attorney general's office, more than 9 million of the comments may have been submitted with stolen identities.
Gizmodo reported last year that "in May 2017, dozens of Americans came forward with claims that their identities had been used, without their consent, in a campaign to inundate the Federal Communications Commission with public comments critical of [net neutrality]."
"What was most curious, however, is that each of these people had supposedly submitted the very same comment; a veritable word salad of telecom industry talking points," Gizmodo reported. "In particular, the comment was a rebuke of the Obama administration's exercise of 'unprecedented regulatory power' in pursuit of net neutrality, a policy which it accused of 'smothering innovation, damaging the American economy, and obstructing job creation.'"
Tim Bray, a top engineer and vice-president at Amazon, announced on Monday he is resigning “in dismay” over the company’s firing of employee activists who criticized working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Bray’s resignation comes as Amazon faces increased scrutiny and employee activism surrounding its internal response to coronavirus. Amazon workers on Friday participated in a nationwide sick-out to, claiming the company has failed to provide enough face masks for workers, did not implement regular temperature checks it promised at warehouses, and has refused to give workers paid sick leave protest working conditions and inadequate safety protections.
In a blogpost explaining his resignation, Bray called the firings of organizers at the company “chickenshit”, and said they were “designed to create a climate of fear”. In resigning, Bray has become the highest-ranking corporate employee at Amazon to publicly speak out about worker conditions.
“Remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised,” Bray, who had worked at the company for nearly six years, said. ...
“At the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response,” Bray said. “It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.”
'Kind of Like Large Scale Negligent Homicide': As Trump Urges Reopenings, CDC Report Warns of Surge in Covid-19 Deaths
As President Donald Trump publicly encourages states to reopen their economies against the advice of public health experts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is privately projecting that U.S. Covid-19 deaths could reach a staggering 3,000 per day by June 1—nearly double the current daily death toll of more than 1,700.
"The projections confirm the primary fear of public health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation right back where it was in mid-March, when cases were rising so rapidly in some parts of the country that patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways with cases rising so rapidly that the health care system is overloaded," the Times reported.
Trump administration "is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times." https://t.co/nZZfZLKSla pic.twitter.com/OsaYXEDh3P
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) May 4, 2020
The CDC projection came to light just hours after Trump claimed during a Fox News town hall that the U.S. has been "successful" in limiting the death toll from the virus. More than 1.1 million people have contracted Covid-19 in the U.S. and nearly 68,000 have died. The virus has killed at least 1,000 people across the nation every day since April 2.
Trump Says He Won't Approve Covid-19 Package Without Tax Cut That Offers Zero Relief for 30 Million Newly Unemployed
President Donald Trump on Sunday said he will not approve another badly needed Covid-19 stimulus package if it doesn't include a payroll tax cut, a policy that would strike a blow to Social Security and Medicare funding while offering no relief for the more than 30 million people who have lost their jobs over the past six weeks.
"I told Steve just today, we're not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut," Trump said during a Fox News town hall Sunday night, referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. "That is so important to the success of our country."
The town hall was the second time in less than a week that the president has proposed a payroll tax cut as a centerpiece of the next relief legislation, which is being negotiated by the White House and congressional leaders as the U.S. barrels toward an unemployment rate not seen since the Great Depression. ...
Economists have noted that a payroll tax cut—unlike additional direct payments, which Trump has opposed—would do nothing for those who have been thrown out of work by the coronavirus crisis.
University of Michigan economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers wrote in a New York Times op-ed in March that a payroll tax cut would give "the biggest breaks to those with the biggest paychecks, and delivers nothing to those who have lost their pay."
"And it's a slow infusion of cash," Stevenson and Wolfers added, "dripping out paycheck by paycheck."
Additionally, advocacy groups have warned that a payroll tax cut represents a threat to Social Security and Medicare.
"'Payroll tax cut' is code for 'gut Social Security and Medicare's dedicated funding, then demand benefit cuts,'" Social Security Works tweeted Sunday night. "Democrats must stand strong and continue blocking Trump's terrible idea."
Trump's comments came in the early stages of talks over a "Phase Four" coronavirus stimulus package that advocates and experts say is urgently needed to stem mass layoffs, forestall a looming nationwide housing crisis, and avert a second Great Depression.
Trump Fires Inspector General Ahead of Damning Whistleblower Complaint About Bogus Coronavirus Cures
On Friday, while Rick Bright was in the process of filing what promises to be a damning whistleblower complaint to the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, President Donald Trump announced that he was firing the inspector general, Christi Grimm, and nominating a handpicked replacement.
Two weeks ago, Bright, who, as deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response for HHS, oversaw the government’s purchase and funding of vaccines, treatments, and tests for the coronavirus, said he had been forced out of his job because he refused to cave to pressure to adopt scientifically unproven treatments for Covid-19. ...
Grimm became inspector general in January and came under attack from Trump after her office published a report pointing out severe shortages of testing supplies and personal protective equipment. In a tweet, Trump called the report, which was based on interviews with hospital administrators from 323 hospitals in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, “another Fake Dossier” because Grimm had worked for the Obama administration. In fact, while she did serve under Barack Obama, Grimm, who been in the IG’s office since 1999, has also worked for the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Trump’s nominee to replace Grimm is attorney Jason Weida.
The highly anticipated whistleblower report from Bright is expected to focus on hydroxychloroquine, a drug that Trump hyped as a “game changer” but that was found in a Veterans Affairs study to be of no clinical benefit to coronavirus patients, and actually increased their chances of death. While Trump’s enthusiasm, which sent online demand for the drug surging 1,000 percent, has since fizzled, he has now put his faith in another drug: Gilead Pharmaceutical’s remdesivir. On Friday, Trump met with Gilead CEO Dan O’Day to announce that the Food and Drug Administration would be giving the drug emergency use authorization as a treatment for Covid-19.
“We’re going to be having some really incredible results,” Trump predicted.
Heh, you can't make this stuff up. AOC's challenger is Wall Street's version of a grave robber.
Ocasio-Cortez Challenger Left Her Job as CNBC Anchor to Serve on Board of Company That Profits From Death
Before Michelle Caruso-Cabrera launched a conservative primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, she was on the board of directors of GWG Holdings, a life settlement company that makes money off life insurance policies purchased primarily from seniors, the terminally ill, and those unable to afford it for less than face value, turning a profit when the beneficiary dies.
In September 2018, Caruso-Cabrera left her full-time position as an anchor at CNBC to join the board of directors at Beneficient Group, a Dallas-based company that lends money to ultrawealthy Americans who need it fast by turning nonliquid assets into cash. Beneficient is funded by GWG Holdings, a Minneapolis-based life insurance investor that poured nearly $1 billion into the company in a 2018 transaction. ...
Life settlements, also known as “viatical settlements,” grew in the 1980s during the height of the AIDS epidemic. The New York Times described the niche industry in a 2017 article as such:
If a life-settlement company likes its odds of turning a profit, it will buy the policy, paying out more than the policy’s cash value — the amount received if the policy were canceled — but less than the face value, or death benefit. The firm acquires the policy and continues paying the premiums. Then the company (or a big investor who buys bundles of policies) collects when the seller dies. It’s something like a reverse mortgage, but on your life instead of your house.
GWG Holdings, which has a portfolio of more than $2 billion, entered the life settlement business in 2006. The firm reported in a 2019 SEC filing that it continues to hold a portfolio of life insurance policies, but would no longer be purchasing additional policies. Its subsidiary, GWG Life told the New York Times that it “works with nursing homes and assisted living chains to reach people contemplating the daunting costs of long-term care.” Life settlement companies offer larger payments to people they expect will die soon — the sooner they die, the quicker the payout. (GWG has referred to profits from policy holder deaths as “policy realizations” and portfolio “seasoning.”)
The Secretary of the Senate answered former Vice President Joe Biden’s call to release any records that could support or undermine his former staffer Tara Reade’s claim that Biden sexually assaulted her in the early 1990s.
And the official answer is ... nope.
Such a records request isn’t allowed under the law, the Senate office said in a statement released Monday amid rising scrutiny over Biden’s actions three decades ago. The denial means that any official avenue for chasing down the relevant records of Reade’s incendiary claim has, at least for now, been closed. Biden refused to ask the University of Delaware, which holds his Senatorial archives, to hunt through its files. ...
On Friday, Biden broke his silence over the matter and asked the Secretary of the Senate to ask the National Archives to look for any record of Reade’s complaint, and to release it to the media. ... Biden said they must be in the National Archives. But the National Archives said, actually, no, they’re held by the Senate. But Senate rules say such documents should be preserved with the help of the General Services Administration — which said such documents are turned over to the National Archives, Politico reported over the weekend.
In any case, the Secretary of the Senate’s statement on Monday shut down the request.
By 2070, the world's habitable climate zone will shift so much that billions of people will be pushed past human comfort levels.
A new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows a "surprisingly narrow" human climate niche—between 52 degrees Fahrenheit to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. And it will shift geographically more in the next 50 years than any time during the past 6,000 years. As a result, up to 3 billion people are "likely to live under climate conditions that are warmer than conditions deemed suitable for human life to flourish," the international team of researchers wrote.
Los Angeles and Paris will bake in fiery desert temperatures, and the world's most populous cities in Asia and Africa will have deadly heat waves every year. "It looks unlivable for many," said co-author Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter. "Where we are headed is a place we don't want to go."
Some cities in North America and Europe that are now in the sweet spot of the human climate zone, with mean annual temperatures from 64 degrees and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, will be as warm as the North African coast by late in the century, Lenton said. "That's quite a climate shock. We're going back to temperatures that we haven't seen for 5 million years, territory that predates the divergence of humans from apes," he said.
Compounding the climate problem for humans is that the greatest population growth is expected exactly in those zones most affected by human-caused warming. If the inhabitants do not migrate to more livable areas, the researchers projected, one-third of the global population will experience a mean annual temperature warmer than 84 degrees Fahrenheit—an average currently found only on 0.8 percent of the Earth's land surface, mostly concentrated in the Sahara.
Howling winds roared up the Chesapeake Bay on Thursday, pushing water in Baltimore to its highest level since Hurricane Isabel in 2003. In Annapolis, the water reached its greatest height since the fall of 2014.
The high water flooded parts of both downtown areas, which is becoming more common as sea levels rise because of climate change.
The strong winds, gusting up to 50 mph from the south, arrived ahead of a drenching rainstorm that unloaded widespread totals of one to two inches. The flooding was mostly the result of the wind shoving water up the bay, but rainfall added to the inundation.
— Fox 45 Photogs (@Fox45Photogs) April 30, 2020
Baltimore’s tide gauge showed a peak water level of 4.24 feet, the highest since Sept. 19, 2003, when Hurricane Isabel elevated the tide to 8.15 feet. Thursday’s water level was the 11th highest on record, and equated to tides 2.5 to 3 feet above normal and up to one foot of inundation above normally dry ground. ...
Because of rising seas due to climate change, the frequency of coastal flooding has increased dramatically in the Mid-Atlantic in recent decades. From 2000 to 2015, the incidence of high-tide flooding doubled from an average of three days per year to six, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.
For more than a month, coronavirus has brought cleanup of a 586-square-mile decommissioned nuclear production complex in south-eastern Washington state to a near standstill. Most of the more than 11,000 employees at the Hanford site were sent home in late March, with only essential workers remaining to make sure the “most toxic place in America” stays safe and secure.
Now with signs that Washington has turned a corner with the virus and the state’s governor slowly starting to relax some safety measures, Hanford workers are looking at the very real possibility of returning to work. But after facing those initial few weeks of Washington’s coronavirus crisis on-site at Hanford, workers say they received little information and even fewer safety measures from leadership, and some employees are terrified by the prospect. ...
A radiological control technician, who has worked at Hanford for more than 15 years, said trailers continued to be shared by as many as 50 people and each Monday morning 200 employees would come together for a meeting in a single room. When workers finished at one of the many contaminated areas of Hanford, they needed to be checked for radiation before leaving. Technicians would stand next to them, without a mask on, running a handheld device over their body – being sure to stay within a quarter of an inch of their skin to ensure accurate readings. In a single hour, one of these radiological control technicians, may have surveyed as many as 30 people.
“There’s no way to keep that social distancing. You’re right up in somebody’s face, they’re breathing on you, they’re sweaty,” said the technician, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation at work. ...
Geoff Tyree, spokesperson for the US Department of Energy, Hanford Site, said in a statement on Friday that no timeline has been set in terms of a return to full operations, and plans will be adapted based on how the coronavirus situation continues to develop.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Clarence Garlow - Dreaming
Clarence Garlow - Route 90
Clarence Garlow - I feel like calling you
Clarence Garlow - Jolie Tee Catin (Purty Little Dollie)
Clarence Garlow - Crawfishin´
Clarence Garlow - Blues As You Like It
Clarence Garlow - I'm In A Boogie Mood
Clarence Garlow - No No Baby
Clarence Garlow - Bon Ton Roula
Clarence Garlow - She's So Fine