The Evening Blues - 7-14-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer Ray Agee. Enjoy!
Ray Agee - I Got What You Looking For
"When the Democrats are attacked for [inciting class warfare] they shrink back. They don't say what obviously should be said, "Yes, there is class warfare. There has always been class warfare in this country." The reason the Democrats shrink back is because the Democrats and the Republicans are on the same side of the class war. They have slightly different takes. The Democrats are part of the upper class that is more willing to make concessions to the lower class in order to maintain their power."
-- Howard Zinn
News and Opinion
Last Friday, the United States set a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases at 71,787. On Sunday, Florida set a one-day record for any state with 15,300 cases. Daily reported cases are climbing in 46 states, and the number of daily deaths is again on the rise, with nearly 1,000 each day over the past week. This catastrophe is the outcome of the campaign led by the Trump administration but supported by the entire political establishment to force workers back into factories and workplaces without any serious effort to contain the pandemic.
The drive to reopen the schools in the fall, under conditions of the explosive spread of COVID-19, is a key element of a conscious, bipartisan policy of class war, in which lives are sacrificed for the sake of corporate profits. The American ruling class is indifferent to human life. It is prepared to sacrifice the lives of countless students and teachers to facilitate its homicidal back-to-work policy, which requires that children be herded into unsafe schools so their parents can generate corporate profits in unsafe factories.
In this context, the New York Times, which speaks for the Democratic Party and the sections of the financial oligarchy allied with the Democrats, joined hands with Donald Trump in pushing the reopening of the schools in an editorial published over the weekend titled “Reopening Schools Will Be a Huge Undertaking. It Must Be Done.” In March, the Times’ leading columnist Thomas Friedman coined the phrase used by Trump to justify reopening the economy, “The cure can’t be worse than the disease.” Now the newspaper is stepping up its efforts to provide legitimacy for the ruling elite’s class war policies. The editorial begins by stating, “American children need public schools to reopen in the fall... They need food and friendships; books and basketball courts; time away from family and a safe place to spend it.”
This is sophistry. What is the absence of “time away from family” compared with the trauma of losing a parent, grandparent or teacher to the pandemic? The Times does not care about what children need. It cares only about what Wall Street needs. And Wall Street needs kids in school so their parents can slave away for the likes of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. The newspaper hints at this, writing: “Parents need public schools, too. They need help raising their children, and they need to work.” Further on, it notes, “The consulting firm McKinsey estimates that 27 million American workers require child care, which includes schools, to return to full-time work.” As for the schools providing a “safe” haven from the pandemic, the claim that the dilapidated, underfunded and generally filthy schools in America are safe for children or educators is a criminal lie.
A report last month by the Government Accountability Office found that 41 percent of school districts need to update or replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in at least half of their schools. A 2016 report by the Center for Green Schools found that 15,000 schools in the country have poor indoor air quality deemed unfit for students and staff to breathe. Under conditions where the World Health Organization has concluded that the coronavirus is airborne, and nearly a third of educators are at higher risk of dying from the virus, the mass reopening of schools threatens the lives of tens of thousands of educators as well as students.
A new study shows that those infected with the coronavirus may only remain immune to reinfection for a matter of months. The revelation presents the possibility that people could become infected by COVID-19 year after year, and doctors are warning that repeated exposure to the virus puts patients at higher risk of more severe symptoms such as lung disease.
The study found that the antibodies the human body produces to fight the coronavirus peaked about three weeks after symptoms first presented, but the level of antibodies quickly declined.
The study, which was the first of its kind, was conducted by researchers at King’s College London, who tested 96 patients and healthcare workers for antibodies over the course of three months. Blood tests revealed that while 60% of people built up a “potent” antibody response initially, just 17% retained the same potency three months later. Antibody levels fell as much as 23-fold over the period and in some cases became undetectable.
The research was published in a pre-print paper online, but the findings have yet to be peer-reviewed. However, the study’s findings line up with other research that suggests immunity to COVID-19 is short-lived and that herd immunity will not be a solution to the pandemic, which has so far infected almost 13 million globally and killed nearly 570,000.
The Trump administration is increasingly at war with Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top public health expert, over the handling of the coronavirus crisis, as the US continues to report around 60,000 new cases a day. On Monday Donald Trump once again sought to downplay the outbreak and erroneously blame extra testing for high numbers of cases, adding that the US was doing a “great job”, while Fauci, in an online talk with a Stanford University expert, said: “We have let the local public health infrastructure in our country really go into tatters.”
Fauci also warned that some states, in rushing to reopen before coronavirus was under control and on the decline, went “from shutdown to completely throwing caution to the wind” and were part of the surge in numbers.
In what had appeared to be a concerted effort to discredit the infectious diseases expert, Trump aides told news outlets over the weekend Fauci, who has become the public face of the government’s response, had made a series of “mistakes” in his predictions.
Fauci’s unvarnished manner and willingness to be blunt in a way that may question or contradict statements by the president have fed reports he has been barred from major media appearances, though he has testified in Congress and continued to speak to the press. Fauci said last week he had not briefed Trump in months. ...
The Trump administration’s unseemly effort against Fauci came as doctors warned that hospitals in several large cities across the US south are close to being overrun. ... CNN reported being given bullet points listing statements made by Fauci early in the pandemic, a list which it said “resembled opposition research on a political opponent”.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prepared to release new details on its guidance for reopening US schools, the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, reiterated the administration’s push to reopen fully in September and repeated Donald Trump’s threat to pull funding from schools which do not do so.
In response, one Democratic congresswoman said she “wouldn’t trust [DeVos] to care for a house plant, let alone my child”.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, DeVos said “the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall”, adding that any coronavirus hotspots can be “dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis”.
Pressed about the CDC guidelines, which currently say both that “if children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk” and that virtual learning bears the lowest risk of the spread of Covid-19, DeVos said: “We know that children get the virus at a far lower rate than any other part of the population. There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being back in school is dangerous to them.”
In response, the CNN host Dana Bash cited a case in Missouri where 82 positive tests were linked to a summer camp and an announcement from the Texas department of health that more than 1,300 cases were linked to childcare facilities. DeVos said: “It really is a matter of paying attention to good hygiene” through washing hands, wearing masks “when appropriate” and “staying apart at a bit of distance socially”.
Trump Accused of Suppressing CDC Warning That Full School Reopenings Pose 'Highest Risk' of Covid-19 Spread
The leader of one of the largest teachers' unions in the U.S. accused President Donald Trump over the weekend of "trying to bury" federal guidelines warning that fully reopening schools and universities in the fall poses a high risk of spreading Covid-19 and endangering the health of students, faculty, and parents.
A 69-page packet (pdf) of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention materials obtained by the New York Times and labeled "For Internal Use Only" cautions that the "more people a student or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread."
The documents, many of which had already been posted online, warn that "full-sized, in-person classes" present the "highest risk" of spreading coronavirus compared to virtual courses and small classes in which students remain at least six feet apart at all times.
The packet, according to the Times, "was among material for federal response teams that are being dispatched to hot spots around the country for short periods of time."
While it's "unclear whether Mr. Trump saw the document," the Times reported, "what is clear is that federal health experts are using a road map that is vastly different from what Mr. Trump wanted."
Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, slammed Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for recklessly pushing to reopen schools as federal experts privately warned of the severe risks of doing so without a clear safety plan.
"Trump suppressed a CDC report that concluded 'fully opening schools and universities remained the highest risk for the spread of coronavirus," Weingarten tweeted Saturday. "Trump, Pence, DeVos had this report and said the exact opposite. His intentional lies will endanger thousands."
Last week, Trump complained on Twitter that non-binding school reopening guidelines offered by the CDC—which recommend that students maintain six feet of distance from each other and wear face coverings—are "very tough" and "expensive."
In an apparent attempt to mollify the president—who also threatened to cut off funding to schools that don't reopen—Pence said during a press briefing last Wednesday that the CDC plans to release new documents "giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward." CDC director Robert Redfield said in an interview the following day that the new documents would not alter the agency's existing guidelines.
The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea. The administration presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognizing international law. But it will almost certainly have the more immediate effect of further infuriating the Chinese, who are already retaliating against numerous U.S. sanctions and other penalties on other matters.
It also comes as President Donald Trump has come under growing fire for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stepped up criticism of China ahead of the 2020 election and sought to paint his expected Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, as weak on China.
Previously, U.S. policy had been to insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbors be resolved peacefully through U.N.-backed arbitration. But in a statement released Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognized waters to be illegitimate. ...
Although the U.S. will continue to remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement means the administration is in effect siding with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese assertions of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding contested islands, reefs and shoals. “There are clear cases where (China) is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.
The Chinese government has announced sanctions against US officials, including the Republican senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in response to US sanctions over Beijing’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province.
China’s ministry of foreign affairs spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said the retaliatory sanctions would be in place from Monday, but gave no details on what they would entail.
The sanctions apply to Rubio and Cruz, their fellow Republican politicians Samuel Brownback and Chris Smith, and the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which monitors and reports on human rights and the rule of law in China.
The announcement is largely symbolic, given that the US officials have little financial or legal exposure in China.
On Friday, the US imposed sanctions against a Chinese government entity and four senior Chinese officials, including a sitting member of the ruling politburo, under the Magnitsky Act. The sanctions included the freezing of US assets and US travel, and prohibiting Americans from doing business with the individuals.
One of Catalonia’s most senior politicians has been warned his mobile phone was targeted using spyware its makers say is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists.
A joint investigation by the Guardian and El País has revealed that the speaker of the Catalan regional parliament, Roger Torrent and at least two other pro-independence supporters were told they were targeted last year in what experts said was a “possible case of domestic political espionage” in Europe.
According to a US lawsuit, the spyware exploited a previous vulnerability in WhatsApp software that would have given the operator potential access to everything on the target’s mobile phone – including emails, text messages and photographs. It could also have turned on the phone’s recorder and camera, turning it into a listening device.
Torrent, who was warned about the targeting by researchers working with WhatsApp, said it seemed clear the “Spanish state” was behind the alleged attack on his phone, and that he believed it had most likely occurred without any judicial authority. WhatsApp believes the attacks occurred over a two week period in April to May 2019, when a total of 1,400 of its users were allegedly targeted by the ‘Pegasus’ spyware sold by the Israeli company NSO Group.
A group of 83 of the world’s richest people have called on governments to permanently increase taxes on them and other members of the wealthy elite to help pay for the economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
The super-rich members, including Ben and Jerry’s ice cream co-founder Jerry Greenfield and Disney heir Abigail Disney, called on “our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently”.
“As Covid-19 strikes the world, millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world,” the millionaires said in a letter shared with the Guardian. “No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards. We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door.
“But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis.” ...
“The problems caused by, and revealed by, Covid-19 can’t be solved with charity, no matter how generous. Government leaders must take the responsibility for raising the funds we need and spending them fairly,” the letter says. “We owe a huge debt to the people working on the frontlines of this global battle. Most essential workers are grossly underpaid for the burden they carry.”
Using Bank Deposits, JPMorgan Chase Lost $3.2 Billion Trading Stocks and Credit Derivatives in First Quarter
Imagine if every bank customer was greeted this week with a big sign just inside their Chase Bank branch that said this:
“Dear Customers: We lost $3.2 billion trading stocks and credit derivatives in the first quarter. We did that using your bank deposits. But don’t worry, that pales in comparison to the $6 billion we lost in 2012 in the London Whale mess.”
JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in the United States. Each and every week, millions of Americans write out a check on their account at one of the more than 5,000 branches of Chase Bank; or drop into a branch to open a savings account for a grandchild; or to put money into their own retirement account; or to seek financial advice. Everything looks very crisp, clean, consumer friendly and professional inside that individual bank branch. But there is a frightening picture serially occurring in the unaccountable management of this sprawling financial behemoth.
According to the latest quarterly report from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), JPMorgan Chase lost $2.4 billion trading stocks (equities) and $822 million trading credit derivatives, giving it a net loss among all of its trading in cash instruments and derivatives of $940 million. This is not what happened in the whole sprawling trading octopus of JPMorgan Chase, it’s just what happened in the taxpayer-backstopped, federally-insured bank.
Authorities in two U.S. cities are investigating incidents over the weekend in which police officers knelt on suspects’ necks, similar to the way a Minneapolis policeman restrained George Floyd before he died.
Allentown, Pennsylvania, police said on Monday they are conducting a “use of force” investigation after a police officer was seen on a cell phone video kneeling on the neck of a man lying face down outside a hospital on Saturday. ...
The department said the officers involved in the incident were restraining a man who was vomiting and staggering before he screamed and spit on them. The unidentified man was taken to a hospital where he was treated and released, it said. ...
In a similar incident in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a police officer knelt on the back of the neck of a Black teenager on Sunday evening before officers stood the teenage man up and led him away in handcuffs, a cell phone video circulating online showed. Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome told The Advocate newspaper that the city’s police department opened an investigation.
Dueling anti-racist and pro-cop rallies in Brooklyn turned ugly this weekend, as video captured a Black Lives Matter protester being tased and violently arrested by the New York Police Department on Sunday.
A video showing a Black man described as a protester was posted to Twitter. While the events leading up to what was posted are unclear, the video shows a cop pushing the man and another officer attacking him. As the protester is standing on the sidewalk yelling, “Y’all see this?” the second officer pulls out a stun gun and fires it at him, sending him to the ground. A group of four officers then arrests him.
New York City council member Justin Brannan, who represents the Dyker Heights neighborhood where the protests took place, retweeted the video and said he had called for a full investigation from the NYPD and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy, but a "progressive dark money group?" Interesting.
A progressive dark-money group hitting politicians over ties to corporate interests on Monday released an ad against Democratic Rep. Richie Neal of Massachusetts, accusing him of working to maintain President Donald Trump’s corporate tax cuts and highlighting his ties to the private equity firm, Blackstone. “After Donald Trump cut corporate taxes, one of the wealthiest Wall Street firms, Blackstone, now pays nothing in federal taxes,” the new ad says. “Richie Neal introduced a bill that maintains Trump’s corporate tax cuts. Now, Blackstone is Richie Neal’s top funder. And one of Donald Trump’s too. Corporate power is corrupting Democracy. And Richie Neal is part of the problem.”
Trump’s 2017 tax bill reduced the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. Democrats campaigned on rolling back the cuts, but when Neal, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, introduced legislation last summer expanding tax cuts for low-income families, it didn’t touch the corporate tax rate. Individuals from Blackstone have given $48,600 to Neal’s campaign this cycle, making the company his top contributor so far, out of a total haul of more than $3 million. Individuals from the group started giving to Neal in large amounts in 2019, HuffPost reported.
Released by Fight Corporate Monopolies, a political nonprofit founded by the anti-monopoly American Economic Liberties Project, the ad is the second this month going after Neal for his ties to Blackstone. In the first ad, the group criticized him for “protecting Blackstone’s profits” by helping to kill a bill to stop surprise medical billing last year. Neal’s campaign told HuffPost that he introduced his own bill on the issue and that the original bill would have hurt hospitals in his district. The group announced that it would spend a total of $300,000 on TV ads targeting Neal in his district. They spent $150,000 on the first ad buy, which will run for another week, and are putting another $150,000 into the second ad buy, starting Monday. Former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir is consulting for the group, which has so far only spent money on ads about Neal. ... As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group, Fight Corporate Monopolies is not required to disclose its donors.
Texas is voting on Tuesday. And even as the state’s coronavirus caseload has gone through the roof, state Republicans have done everything in their power to make it harder, not easier, to vote.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared that fear of the coronavirus isn’t enough to get a mail ballot under state law and promised to zealously enforce a law that only allows senior citizens and those with disabilities to vote by mail. The state’s Republican-dominated supreme court sided with his interpretation of the law, and the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court refused to force the state to allow mail voting. ...
That leaves voters in a confusing spot as they attempt to vote in Tuesday’s primary runoff elections, which will determine the Democratic nominee who'll run against Republican Sen. John Cornyn, candidates of both parties in a number of key House contests, and a plethora of other Texas races.
Although the Texas Supreme Court sided with Paxton’s reading that fear of the coronavirus isn’t enough justification to vote by mail, the justices ruled that voters could decide for themselves whether they were disabled. That left a murky “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in place. Voters can check the disability box to get a ballot, but if it’s proven they did so because of a fear of catching the coronavirus, they could face prosecution from the state’s litigious attorney general. ...
To add health risk to injury, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared that most of the state would have to wear masks for public activities due to a spike in the state’s coronavirus cases — but he exempted voting places among the few places where that rule doesn’t apply. That means that people can’t be forced to wear masks while voting, which puts both poll workers and other voters at potential risk.
Brazil’s government has fired an official at the national space agency Inpe whose department is responsible for satellite monitoring of the Amazon rainforest, just three days after June deforestation data reflected a continued increase in degradation. Lubia Vinhas was the general-coordinator of Brazilian space agency Inpe’s Earth Observation Institute, which is an umbrella for divisions that monitor the Amazon and panels to debate climate change with civil society organizations.
Vinhas was picked in 2018 for a four-year term but Marcos Pontes, Brazil’s science and technology minister, decided to fire her after two years and three months on the job. He did not explain why. The timing of the dismissal – coming on the heels of June data – drew an outcry from environmentalists who saw a parallel with another high-profile firing at the same agency last year. ...
In August, amid international outcry over Amazon wildfires, Bolsonaro accused the then-head of Brazil’s space research institute, Ricardo Galvão, of manipulating satellite deforestation data in order to undermine his administration. Galvão publicly countered the claims, and was fired.
Inpe figures published on Friday showed 400 sq miles (1,034 sq km) of deforestation in the Amazon in June, a new record for the month since data started being gathered in 2015. Total deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from January to June was 1,890 sq miles (3,069 sq km), up 25% from the same six-month period last year.
Outside observers are keeping close tabs on Brazil’s environmental stewardship just ahead of the so-called burning season, during which landholders use fire to clear brush and forest.
A devastating new report from the New York Times details how as fracking companies are going out of business they are leaving behind unsecured wells spewing methane and other gases into the atmosphere and paying out the same executives that drove them into bankruptcy huge bonuses—drawing condemnation from activists and climate advocates.
"Frackers don't clean up after themselves," tweeted 350.org founder Bill McKibben.
Frackers don't clean up after themselves
This is about the ultimate in 'privatize the profit, socialize the mess.'https://t.co/VCUv5dFYHp
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) July 13, 2020
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. fracking industry was struggling amid debt obligations, the rise of renewable energy sources, and a price war with overseas oil producers. Since the pandemic hit, critics have been warning against using public relief funds to bail out the polluting industry they argue should be banned because of its impact on local health and the climate.
As the companies filed for bankruptcy, the Times reported, they made sure to pay out executives:
Whiting Petroleum, a major shale driller in North Dakota that sought bankruptcy protection in April, approved almost $15 million in cash bonuses for its top executives six days before its bankruptcy filing. Chesapeake Energy, a shale pioneer, declared bankruptcy last month, just weeks after it paid $25 million in bonuses to a group of executives. And Diamond Offshore Drilling secured a $9.7 million tax refund under the Covid-19 stimulus bill Congress passed in March, before filing to reorganize in bankruptcy court the next month. Then it won approval from a bankruptcy judge to pay its executives the same amount, as cash incentives.
"The few profit, the rest of us pay," British Green Party politician Natalie Bennett said on Twitter.
But while the businesses had millions to pay out to top executives, they have chosen not to spend capital to properly close wells that are emitting methane and other gases into the atmosphere. Capping wells would cost tens of millions of dollars, the Times reports, a cost the companies apparently aren't willing to bear.
"Hard to overstate what a climate catastrophe it is to just leave a methane spigot on and leave," tweeted The Intercept's Ryan Grim.
There are an estimated two million such unplugged wells in the U.S., according to the Times.
"They're sitting there and they're leaking," North America at Carbon Tracker executive director Robert Schuwerk told the Times. "And they're much leakier than a well that’s still in production and being monitored, although those leak, too."
Emissions could result in cancers and other diseases in surrounding communities. Patricia Garcia Nelson of Greeley, Colorado told the Times that with high levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the air monitored at her seven-year-old son's school, just 700 feet away from an Extraction Oil & Gas fracking site, she fears the company's bankruptcy will leave the well open and uncapped.
"Are we going to be responsible for the mess that these companies leave behind?" asked Nelson. "Are we going to be okay if something happens?"
The cost of the cleanup, noted journalist Jake Bernstein, is prohibitive—and companies don't appear to be taking it seriously.
"Chesapeake Energy, which declared bankruptcy last month after paying out executive bonuses, has potential cleanup costs of $1.4 billion," said Bernstein. "Chesapeake's filings show that it has set aside only $41 million in bonds to cover the cleanup of its 6,800 wells."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ray Agee - The One l Love
Ray Agee - Leave me alone
Ray Agee - The Devils Angels
Ray Agee - Mr. Clean
Ray Agee - Count The Days I'm Gone
Ray Agee - It's Hard to Explain
Ray Agee - The Monkey On My Back
Ray Agee - Hit Me Where It Hurts
Ray Agee - I'm Not Looking Back.
Ray Agee - The Wobble OO