The Evening Blues - 5-8-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues/rock/gospel group The Chambers Brothers. Enjoy!
The Chambers Brothers - I Can't Turn You Loose
"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you'd best teach it to dance."
-- George Bernard Shaw
News and Opinion
Controversial former television news anchor Megyn Kelly announced on Thursday that she has conducted the first on-camera interview with Tara Reade, almost a week after Joe Biden was directly confronted in another interview with Reade’s allegation of sexual assault, which he denied. ... Later on Thursday, Kelly released the first clip from the interview, in which she asked Reade if she thought Biden should drop out. “I wish he would,” Reade said. “He won’t, but I wish he would.”
Asked what she would like to say to Biden, Reade replied: “I want to say, you and I were there, Joe Biden. Please step forward and be held accountable. You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.”
It has not yet been announced when and in what form the full interview will run, although it is expected to be broadcast soon. ...
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) May 7, 2020
The interview came as new evidence emerged in support of Reade’s case. A 1996 court document obtained by the Tribune in San Luis Obispo, California, indicated that Reade told her ex-husband she was sexually harassed while working for Joe Biden in 1993.
The court declaration, written by Reade’s ex-husband while contesting a restraining order during their divorce, “does not say Biden committed the harassment nor does it mention Reade’s more recent allegations of sexual assault”, the Tribune reported. But it appears to be the first physical documentation to corroborate Reade’s account of sexual harassment.
I read this interview between Ezra Klein and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, and I have to say I’m tiring of what amounts to a bunch of excuses for how progressives have been functionally locked out of policymaking during this crisis. Jayapal sniffs that “it’s a lot easier to be on the outside and to be pure and never having to make compromises,” and says that there aren’t enough progressives willing to use their power to stop legislation outright. She essentially says that, as long as there’s a bone in there, members can be easily picked off.
But the problem isn’t about compromise, it’s about invisibility. Nancy Pelosi has run the House of Representatives by fiat for close to two months, and there hasn’t been a single word of protest as she locks every other member of the Democratic caucus out of policymaking and hands them take-it-or-leave-it legislation to rubber stamp. If Jayapal has ever objected to that you sure wouldn’t know.
As Ezra points out, instead of organizing around one thing, progressives supply 100-item wish lists that everyone knows won’t be fulfilled. This has two consequences: the wish lists show progressives are not completely serious about governing, and the leadership can always pick like 2 of the 100 out of the list and give members something to justify voting for a bad bill.
Meanwhile, Pelosi has been talking about what she’ll add to the next bill, and it’s relatively unconstrained by wish lists. One of the elements is changing the eligibility standards for PPP small business loans to include 501(c)(4) and (c)(6) nonprofit organizations. You might know (c)(6) organizations by another name: lobbyists. Unbelievably, K Street has asked for a bailout and is on the road to getting it. I mean lobbyists are good at lobbying, I guess. ...
Meanwhile, Jayapal’s bill to guarantee payroll support from the government for the duration of the crisis was “very worthy of consideration,” said Pelosi. That’s code for “nice work but it’s not getting in the bill.”
Now this I've got to see.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will soon unveil a coronavirus relief package that he described as “Rooseveltian” in its scope and size.
“We need big, bold action," Schumer said in an MSNBC interview with Stephanie Ruhle, adding that he and Pelosi "are working very closely together on putting together a very strong plan, which you will hear shortly.”
“We need Franklin Rooseveltian-type action and we hope to take that in the House and Senate in a very big and bold way,” he added.
Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Ed Markey introduced legislation Friday that would provide most U.S. households with $2,000 monthly payments per person for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, a proposal that comes as Democratic and Republican leaders continue to resist sending additional cash directly to people even as corporations get trillions in no-strings-attached bailout funds.
"During this unprecedented crisis, Congress has a responsibility to make sure that every working-class household in America receives a $2,000 emergency payment a month for each family member," said Sanders (I-Vt.). "If we can bail out large corporations, we can make sure that everyone in this country has enough income to pay for the basic necessities of life."
The bill, titled the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act (pdf), would send $2,000 in direct payments to adults who earn less than $120,000 a year. The bill would send $4,000 per month to married couples who file taxes jointly and an additional $2,000 for children and dependents up to three.
Payments would be retroactive back to March and continue until three months after the Health and Human Services secretary declares that the Covid-19 public health emergency has ended. The bill explicitly bars debt collectors from seizing the rebates and "ensures the homeless and foster youth receive payments," according to a one-page summary (pdf) released by Harris' office.
"Providing recurring monthly payments is the most direct and efficient mechanism for delivering economic relief to those most vulnerable in this crisis, particularly low-income families, immigrant communities, and our gig and service workers," Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement.
The trio of senators unveiled their proposal in the wake of Labor Department figures showing that a record 20.5 million people lost their jobs in April and the U.S. unemployment rate soared to 14.7%, the highest level since the Great Depression.
Harris said the new legislation is an attempt to remedy congressional failure to do "nearly enough to meet the needs of this historic crisis."
'Most Cataclysmic' Jobs Report of Our Lifetime Shows US Unemployment Soaring to Level Not Seen Since Great Depression
Just a day after announcing that about 33.5 million Americans have filed jobless claims since mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic has caused lockdowns worldwide, the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday revealed the nation's official unemployment rate hit 14.7% last month—its highest level since the Great Depression.
Before the April jobs report release, Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) warned on Twitter that Friday would be "the most cataclysmic #JobsDay of all of our lives" and shared a chart showing how recent unemployment claims contrast with the past 80 years, before detailing current conditions in a 22-tweet thread.
BRACE YOURSELF for the most cataclysmic #JobsDay of all of our lives. This chart has monthly job changes over the past 80 years. We lost more than 20 million jobs in April. There has never been anything like this. 1/ pic.twitter.com/eODWpeAb4X
— Heidi Shierholz (@hshierholz) May 8, 2020
While the 14.7% figure for April is significantly higher than February (3.5%) and March (4.4%), it fails to capture the full scope of how U.S. workers have been impacted by temporary business closures and hours reductions that have resulted from the ongoing global health crisis. The report says 5.1 million Americans had hours cut in April.
Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at EPI, explained that "only about two-thirds of coronavirus-related job losses are showing up as unemployed—the rest are showing up as having dropped out of the labor force. If all coronavirus-related job losses had shown up as unemployed, the unemployment rate would now be around 19.0%, not 14.7%."
"Further, about 7.5 million workers are likely being misclassified as 'employed, not at work' instead of 'temporarily unemployed,'" she continued. "If they were classified correctly AND all coronavirus-related job losses had shown up as unemployed, the unemployment rate would be around 23.6%."
She also highlighted EPI's estimate from April 30 that because of recent job losses, about 12.7 million Americans have lost their employer-based health insurance—which EPI researchers called a "terrifying" indictment of the country's private, for-profit healthcare system, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.
To Prevent 'Monopoly Free-for-All,' Congress and Fed Urged to Bar Use of Covid-19 Funds for Corporate Mergers
A diverse coalition of nearly 30 progressive advocacy groups is demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer act quickly to bar companies from using Covid-19 bailout money to finance a "tsunami of corporate mergers that will devastate workers, small businesses, and the communities they support."
In a letter (pdf) to the Democratic leaders on Friday, the groups specifically demanded that the next coronavirus stimulus package include legislation by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that would impose a moratorium on corporate mergers and acquisitions by large firms for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
"Amid a growing economic crisis in which 26 million people have filed for unemployment insurance, the Federal Reserve and Treasury programs constitute the largest financial response to the coronavirus crisis and they represent a massive, enduring transfer of power to billionaires and big corporations," reads the letter.
"Yet for the most part, large corporations and financiers with access to this credit still have free rein not only to fire workers, enrich their CEOs, or buy back their own stock, but also to merge or buy up their smaller competitors," the letter continues. "Without safeguards like Senator Warren's and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez's Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act, the problem of monopolies and corporate power will become even more dire."
The CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in late March, handed the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve control over a $450 billion corporate bailout fund, which the central bank can leverage into $4.5 trillion. Under the law, the Fed and Treasury have wide discretion over how the taxpayer funds are used—and what, if any, conditions are attached to them.
Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the congressional oversight panel tasked with monitoring how the Trump administration uses the CARES Act funds, pointed out on Twitter earlier this week that there is currently "nothing stopping big companies from taking taxpayer support" while continuing to lay off workers and reward their shareholders.
Advocacy groups said Friday that a moratorium on corporate mergers is essential to prevent a "monopoly free-for-all."
Medicare for All advocates cheered Thursday after the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting guaranteed healthcare coverage.
The resolution passed by the city council at their video conference meeting signals endorsement of the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), which would direct Medicare to cover all the healthcare costs of everyone in the U.S. for the duration of the pandemic. The resolution also urges support for Sanders's Medicare for All Act, introduced last year, which would provide comprehensive healthcare coverage to every American beyond the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq index turned positive for 2020 on Thursday, boosted by gains in the share prices of companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix, which have fared well during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The US index caught up all this year’s losses, taking it back to its level at the beginning of January, after rising 1.4% on Thursday to 8,979.66. It ended last year at 8,972.
The Nasdaq fell sharply as coronavirus spread around the world, but it has now shrugged off that setback. Marios Hadjikyriacos, an analyst at the currency firm XM, said investors were rushing into “giant tech names that are considered more resilient”.
The FAANGM stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and Microsoft – were all up on Thursday. Nexflix is up 32% this year, Amazon is 25% ahead and Microsoft has gained 14%, while Apple has gained 1%, Facebook is up 1% and Alphabet is 0.1% ahead.
It is the first time one of the world’s major stock markets has turned positive since the pandemic led to many countries going into some form of lockdown.
Amazon workers in southern California’s industrial heartland say the company’s policies are forcing sick employees to work and that warehouses are refusing to comply with a state paid sick leave law meant to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks.
In the Inland Empire region outside Los Angeles, Amazon workers told the Guardian they fear losing their jobs if they are ill and stay home. At least four Amazon warehouses in the region have recorded Covid-19 cases.
On 1 May, Amazon ended a policy allowing unlimited unpaid time off, a measure adopted at the start of the coronavirus crisis that allowed workers to take time off for any reason. They would forgo wages, but if they were concerned about their safety or had new childcare responsibilities due to lockdowns, they could stay home without losing their jobs.
Without the policy, workers say they could now be fired if they miss shifts. They worry the reversal will result in sick and vulnerable people showing up for shifts because they can’t risk termination. The health concerns are particularly serious in the Inland Empire, which has some of the worst air quality in the US and disproportionately high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Employees also shared emails showing that Amazon has dismissed some paid sick leave requests by claiming a California law intended to provide supplemental sick leave during the pandemic does not apply to the warehouses.
For the past several decades, rural America’s economic lifeline has been the construction and operation of prisons and immigrant detention centers, both public and for-profit. The 1980s saw the collapse of American manufacturing and a farm crisis that ripped through the countryside. Mass incarceration was well-timed to fill the gap, producing jobs where they were needed.
But those lifelines have transformed into vectors for coronavirus, putting rural communities at risk of outbreaks. ... It’s next to impossible to social distance in jails and prisons. “Correctional facilities are overcrowded, often badly,” explained Aaron Littman, a UCLA School of Law professor who focuses on jail conditions. “It’s important to remember that when we say overcrowded, we mean dozens of people sleeping inches within each other’s faces. They’re using the same toilets. Most don’t have access to liquid hand soap. In short, they are ideal sites for incubating respiratory viruses.” Guards and other jail staff have to share tight spaces and physically handle the prisoners — and then they go home at night. In some rural areas, there are not many other career choices beyond working in a jail or prison. The average national salary for a prison correctional officer is $47,013.
In an essay titled “Building a Prison Economy in Rural America,” public policy researcher Tracy Huling points out that there are more prisoners than farmers in some swaths of the United States. She notes that in the 1990s, a new prison or jail sprung up in a rural area at a rate equivalent to every 15 days. So it’s not surprising that there have been outbreaks in areas that don’t otherwise have risk factors, such as crowded public transportation in densely populated urban centers. Marion County, Ohio, has 2,332 confirmed cases, in a population of 66,501. The Marion County prison is currently the top cluster site in the country by far, according to a New York Times analysis.
Last week, PBS reported that of federal prisoners who had been tested, 70 percent were found to have the coronavirus. A breakdown of New York Times data tracking Covid-19 cluster sites on April 26 revealed that out of 100 top cluster sites, 35 were tied to correctional facilities. In comparison, 28 percent of infections were linked to nursing homes. Those numbers are astounding when you consider that nursing home residents are at much higher risk of serious infection because of their age, while incarcerated people and prison staff vary in age. Seven of the top 10 cluster sites are linked to American prisons or jails. As the Marshall Project reported, so-called prison towns like Palestine, Texas, where correctional facilities are a community’s primary employer, have already seen an explosion of cases. An ACLU report released last week estimates that 100,000 more people will die because of America’s crowded jails. “The United States’ unique obsession with incarceration has become our Achilles heel when it comes to combating the spread of COVID-19,” the ACLU concluded.
A black lawmaker came to Michigan’s capitol with an escort of armed black citizens on Wednesday, days after white protesters with guns staged a volatile protest inside the state house, comparing the Democratic governor’s public health orders to “tyranny”.
The state representative Sarah Anthony, 36, said she wanted to highlight what she saw as the failure of the Michigan capitol police to provide legislators with adequate security during the protest, which saw demonstrators with rifles standing in the legislative chamber above lawmakers. “When traditional systems, whether it’s law enforcement or whatever, fail us, we also have the ability to take care of ourselves,” she told the Guardian. Anthony became the first African American woman elected to represent her district in Lansing, Michigan’s capital, in 2018.
As of today, Michigan has seen 45,054 COVID cases and 4,250 deaths. There’s real work to do and I’m here to work for the people...without intimidation or fear. https://t.co/7bc9Se53lc
— Sarah Anthony (@SarahAnthony517) May 7, 2020
One of Anthony’s constituents, a black firefighter, organized Wednesday’s capitol escort. While early reports focused on three black men with large rifles escorting Anthony, there were six participants, including two women, and some of them were armed with handguns, Lynn said. Five of the participants are black and one is Hispanic. Michael Lynn Jr, a Lansing resident, said he was frustrated to see his legislator being violently intimidated in her workplace. He said the escort was the first time he had ever chosen to openly carry his AR-15 rifle.
Lynn said he did not want to see a black woman who had been elevated to political office feeling threatened “because of the white supremacists in the yard” and wanted “to make sure that would never happen again”. ...
Anthony described last week’s protest, which drew hundreds of people, as “one of the most unnerving feelings I’ve ever felt in my life”.
“If I don’t vote the way that these people want me to vote, are they going to rush the and start shooting us?” she said. “You could feel the floor rumbling. You could hear them yelling and screaming.”
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against former Vice President Joe Biden “is not clear cut” and that she’s still weighing the facts. "It certainly seems as though something has happened. I'm not sure,” the progressive icon told NPR Thursday. “Frankly, this is a messy moment, and I think we need to acknowledge that — that it is not clear cut.” ...
Ocasio-Cortez has said she will vote for Biden but reiterated again on Thursday that she hasn’t officially endorsed him as the Democratic presidential nominee, which he’s now all but certain to become. (Ocasio-Cortez’s choice for the gig was Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who dropped out of the race in early April and endorsed Biden shortly after.) She framed her reluctance to endorse Biden as a question of vision and indicated that the two don’t currently share enough policy values.
The federal agency providing oversight of the commercial nuclear sector is attempting to push through a rule change critics say could allow dangerous amounts of radioactive material to be disposed of in places like municipal landfills, with potentially serious consequences to human health and the environment.
“This would be the most massive deregulation of radioactive waste in American history,” said Dan Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a nuclear industry watchdog non-profit, about a proposal that would permit “very low-level” radioactive waste to be disposed of by “land burial”. Currently, low-level radioactive waste is primarily disposed of in highly regulated sites in Texas, Washington, South Carolina and Utah. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) also provides exemptions allowing “low-level waste” to be dumped in unlicensed disposal sites, but these exemptions are given only rarely, and are conducted with strict case-by-case protocols in place.
The proposed “interpretive” rule change relaxes the rules surrounding how radioactive materials would be disposed of in unlicensed disposal sites “significantly”, said Hirsch. “If you dump radioactive waste in places that aren’t designed to deal with it, it comes back to haunt you. It’s in the air you breathe, the food that you eat, the water you drink,” he added.
In an email, David McIntyre, an NRC spokesperson, explained that the rule would apply only to a “small subset” of very low-level waste, and that the agency would not allow such disposals “if we felt public health and safety and the environment would not be protected”.
But major sticking point, say experts, concerns how the term “very low-level waste” is not defined by statute or in the NRC’s own regulations.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order late Thursday that environmentalists warned will accelerate the corporate exploitation of oceans by relaxing regulations on and streamlining the construction of industrial offshore aquaculture facilities, which critics deride as "floating factory farms" that pump pollution and diseases into public waters.
The Don't Cage Our Ocean Coalition, which was formed to oppose ocean industrial fish farming, said in a statement that Trump's Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth "mandates federal agencies to craft a program for rapid authorization of industrial offshore aquaculture facilities, which use giant floating cages to cultivate finfish, allowing toxic pollution to flow into open waters."
Rosanna Marie Neil, policy counsel for Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, a member of the coalition, said the Trump White House is "supporting the corporate takeover of our oceans while they hope we aren't paying attention."
Environmental attorney Marianne Cufone similarly accused Trump of exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to "push through dangerous short-cuts to regulatory processes, while communities struggle to stay healthy, pay rent, and put food on the table."
"The federal government should strengthen local food security during this health crisis by supporting sustainable seafood," said Cufone, "rather than allowing corporations to pollute the ecosystems we depend on."
Rep. Ro Khanna on Thursday introduced legislation to overhaul the nation's agricultural system including by tackling massive corporate consolidation and enacting a moratorium on factory farms.
"Multinational corporations have concentrated our food system to its breaking point," said Jake Davis, a Missouri farmer, and national policy director at Family Farm Action, in a statement backing the measure. "Mega meatpackers have extracted profits from farmers, workers, and consumers for too long," he said. "This pandemic has shined a bright light on those abuses."
The legislation from the California Democrat represents a companion measure to The Farm System Reform Act, which was introduced in the Senate in December by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
"If we had a food system with fair competition, independent and diversified producers would provide a dependable and sustainable food supply," Khanna said in a statement. "Folks deserve to know where their animal products are really coming from, and farmers deserve a fair shot in their own business."
Booker on Thursday pointed to President Donald Trump's executive order last month keeping meatpacking plants open in the face of increased worker and food safety concerns as evidence of a long "broken" system sorely in need of reform.
"Our food system was not broken by the pandemic and it was not broken by independent family farmers," said Booker. "It was broken by large, multinational corporations like Tyson, Smithfield, and JBS that, because of their buying power and size, have undue influence over the marketplace and over public policy. That undue influence was on full display with President Trump's recent executive order prioritizing meatpacker profits over the health and safety of workers."
"We need to fix this broken system," Booker continued. "That means protecting family farmers and food system workers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing. Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system."
As a statement from Khanna's office explains, the proposed legislation would:
- Place an immediate moratorium on new and expanding large CAFOs, and transition by 2040 the largest CAFOs as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency
- Provide a voluntary buyout for farmers who want to transition out of operating a CAFO
- Hold corporate integrators responsible for pollution and other harm caused by CAFOs
- Strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers, including:
- Prohibit the use of unfair tournament or ranking systems for paying contract growers
- Protect livestock and poultry farmers from retaliation
- Create market transparency and protect farmers and ranchers from predatory purchasing practices
- Restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef and pork and expand it to dairy products
- Prohibit the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from labeling foreign imported meat products as "Product of USA"
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who co-sponsored the Senate legislation, echoed her colleague Booker's criticism of a longstanding problem.
"For years, regulators looked the other way while giant multinational corporations crushed competition in the agriculture sector and seized control over key markets," said Warren. “The COVID-19 crisis will make it easier for Big Ag to get even bigger, gobble up smaller farms, and lead to fewer choices for consumers. We need to attack this consolidation head-on and give workers, farmers, and consumers bargaining power in our farm and food system."
The new legislation was welcomed by Food & Water Watch, with the advocacy group's executive director Wenonah Hauter calling it a "visionary bill that finally reverses decades of consolidated and predatory corporate agriculture."
Worth a full read, too much detail to fairly extract.
Humanity’s “promiscuous treatment of nature” needs to change or there will be more deadly pandemics such as Covid-19, warn scientists who have analysed the link between viruses, wildlife and habitat destruction. ... A growing body of research confirms that bats – the origin of Covid 19 – naturally host many viruses which they are more likely transfer to humans or animals if they live in or near human-disturbed ecosystems, such as recently cleared forests or swamps drained for farmland, mining projects or residential projects.
In the wild, bats are less likely to transfer the viruses they host to other animals or come into contact with new pathogens because species tend to specialise within distinct and well-established habitats. But once land is converted to human use, the probability increases of contact and viruses jumping zoonotically from one species to another.
As natural habitats shrink, wild animals concentrate in ever smaller territories or migrate to anthropogenic areas, such as homes, sheds and barns. This is particularly true of bats, which feed on the large number of insects drawn to lamplight or fruit in orchards. Two years ago, scientists predicted a new coronavirus would emerge from bats in Asia, partly because this was the area most affected by deforestation and other environmental pressures.
“Humans destroy the bats’ natural environment and then we offer them alternatives. Some adapt to an anthropomorphised environment, in which different species cross that would not cross in the wild,” Roger Frutos, a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Montpellier, said. Habitat destruction is an essential condition for the proliferation of a new virus, he added, but it is only one of several factors. Bats also need to pass the disease on to humans. There is no evidence of this being done directly for coronaviruses. Until now there has been an intermediary – either a domesticated animal or a wild animal which humans came into contact with for food, trade, pets or medicine. In the 2003 Sars outbreak in China, it was a civet cat. In the Mers outbreak in the Middle East in 2012, it was a camel. Scientists are not yet certain of the animal for Covid-19, though Frutos said initial theories that a pangolin was the intermediary now seem less likely.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Chambers Brothers - Time Has Come Today
Stealin' Watermelons (Somethin' You Got)
The Chambers Brothers - The Weight
The Chambers Brothers - Love, Peace & Happiness
The Chambers Brothers - So Fine
The Chambers Brothers - Rock Me Mama
The Chambers Brothers - Good Vibrations
The Chambers Brothers - Are You Ready
The Chambers Brothers - People Get Ready
The Chambers Brothers - Traveling Shoes