Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Last Call For Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

On February 23, a 25-year-old unarmed black man in Georgia named Ahmaud Arbery was jogging through a neighborhood on a sunny day when he was ambushed, shot and killed by two white men lying in wait. He died in the middle of the street and the men still have not been charged, because in 2020 it is still legal in multiple states to kill a black man in broad daylight in the middle of a street and claim "stand your ground".

The killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of armed white men here has sparked outrage and drawn fresh attention to the state’s stand-your-ground law. 
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was running down a street in the city’s Satilla Shores neighborhood early in the afternoon of Feb. 23 when he caught the attention of Gregory McMichael. A former cop and investigator with the local district attorney’s office, McMichael was sitting in his son Travis’ front yard. 
“Travis, the guy is running down the street, let’s go,” Gregory told his son, according to a police report obtained by The New York Times.

The men, who are white, said they suspected Arbery, who is black, might be connected to recent thefts in their neighborhood. They grabbed weapons—a shotgun and a .357 magnum—and followed Arbery in Travis McMichael’s pickup truck, which bears the Gadsden flag and its “Don’t tread on me” motto. A neighbor, William Bryan, joined the McMichaels in pursuing Arbery, according to police. 
Soon after, the trio confronted Arbery. According to Gregory McMichael’s account in the police report, Arbery turned toward Travis McMichael’s truck as he stopped and exited, and struck Travis. A video that circulated widely on Tuesday—and that Arbery’s aunt, Thea Brooks, said depicted her nephew—shows a black man and white man struggling both on and off-screen as shots ring out. But the video’s provenance, and whether it was the same footage shot by Bryan that was cited by a local prosecutor—who initially declined to press charges in connection with the shooting—was unclear. 
“Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot,” the police report states. At least two shots struck Arbery, the Glynn County Coroner’s Office told The Daily Beast last week. 
Arbery died in the middle of the street where he fell, and no one has been arrested or charged with a crime. But on Tuesday, District Attorney Tom Durden—the third prosecutor to tackle the killing—announced that he would present the case to a grand jury
Meanwhile, Arbery’s family was moving to hold a protest in the area Tuesday evening.
“It’s murder. It’s heartbreaking to even look at. The whole city has seen it,” Brooks, Arbery’s aunt, told The Daily Beast of the clip circulating. “Right now we just have to stay calm because it’s a graphic video, it was very painful to watch, and we know what we knew the other day: one man was murdered, and two men are out.” 
At his son’s home on Friday, Gregory McMichael told The Daily Beast he “never would have gone after someone for their color,” and that the “closest version of the truth” exists in a letter effectively exonerating him and his son that was written by a prosecutor who recused himself from the case, George Barnhill.

Repeated attempts to reach Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan by phone after the video surfaced on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The video circulating appears to have been taken by the third man, William Bryan.   He is in his vehicle driving around a curve and on the right side of the road we see Ahmaud running as Bryan is coming up behind him.  Ahmaud sees a white truck parked on the right shoulder and runs around to the right on the grass to avoid it as the vehicle with Bryan slows down to approach the same truck.

The vehicle pulls up behind the truck and we hear a gunshot.  Two white men come out from the right side of the truck,  Ahmaud is in a struggle with an older white man, who is holding a long rifle. Ahmaud grabs the barrel of the rifle in an effort to defend himself.  A second shot rings out and Ahmaud takes a few steps and staggers to the pavement.

They were lying in wait for Ahmaud.

This was a lynching, straight up, in 2020 America.

Ahmaud Arbery died in the middle of the street.

They took a video of the act.

The NY Times's 1619 Project on the 400-year history of slavery in America won a Pulitzer Prize this week for commentary for Nikole Hannah-Jones.  The right, in particular Federalist editor Ben Shapiro, have ruthlessly been attacking the 1619 Project as "divisive" and "hateful" towards America itself, as "revisionist history".  Shapiro in particular was livid over the award, promising a "large part" of his upcoming book would be dedicated to debunk the "notion" that slavery was the driving force of American history.

I mention this because Shapiro's chief argument is that slavery and racism have been "solved" by white America, and that black America, in particular black folk of my generation and younger, have lived in a country where civil rights have been guaranteed by law all our lives, and that racism is an ugly relic of the past used to blame white America for the problems that black America now needs to "solve" themselves.

And to Shapiro, I say Ahmaud Arbery was ambushed and murdered in the middle of the street like an animal.

A black man was lynched in 2020 Georgia.

Very little has changed from 400 years ago.

Hostage Taking 101, Con't

Donald Trump made it clear again this week that he expects the people in the states who didn't vote for him to suffer catastrophic effects and that he refuses to help them in any way.

President Donald Trump says it would be unfair to Republicans if Congress passes coronavirus "bailouts" for states because he said the states that would benefit from that funding are run by Democrats. 
"I think Congress is inclined to do a lot of things but I don't think they're inclined to do bailouts. A bailout is different than, you know, reimbursing for the plague,” Trump told the New York Post in a sit-down interview in the Oval Office on Monday. 
The president continued, "It's not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help — they're run by Democrats in every case. Florida is doing phenomenal, Texas is doing phenomenal, the Midwest is, you know, fantastic — very little debt."

The president named California, Illinois and New York as examples of states that are currently run by Democratic governors and are in "tremendous debt" because he said they "have been mismanaged over a long period of time." 
Democrats have made it clear that approving funding for states and municipalities is their top priority for the next piece of legislation
Maryland's GOP governor, Larry Hogan, who serves as the chairman of the National Governors Association, has also been urging Congress to send states financial aid. His own state is facing a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall this year. 
"To stabilize state budgets and to make sure states have the resources to battle the virus and provide the services the American people rely on, Congress must provide immediate fiscal assistance directly to all states," Hogan recently said in a statement. 
Hogan said that if Congress doesn't appropriate at least $500 billion specifically for states and territories to meet the budget shortfalls, "states will have to confront the prospect of significant reductions to critically important services all across this country."
Last week, Trump addressed the issue on Twitter, saying, "Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?" 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that instead of Congress sending aid to states, they should declare bankruptcy, a comment that has deeply angered Democrats.

Trump won't sign a bill that gives money to blue states, period.  If they suffer, why should he care? What is California going to do, not vote GOP?

Be more like red states.

Because red states are completely great with money.

The state of Mississippi allowed tens of millions of dollars in federal anti-poverty funds to be used in ways that did little or nothing to help the poor, with two nonprofit groups instead using the money on lobbyists, football tickets, religious concerts and fitness programs for state lawmakers, according to a scathing audit released on Monday.

According to the report, released by the state auditor’s office, the money also enriched celebrities with Mississippi ties, among them Brett Favre, a former N.F.L. quarterback whose Favre Enterprises was paid $1.1 million by a nonprofit group that received the welfare funds. The payments were for speaking engagements that Mr. Favre did not attend, the auditors said.

Other large sums went to a family of pro wrestlers whose flamboyant patriarch, Ted DiBiase, earned national fame performing as the “Million Dollar Man.” In a news conference on Monday, Shad White, the state auditor, said it was possible that many recipients of the money did not know it had come from the federal welfare program.

Mr. Favre could not be reached for comment Monday. Mr. DiBiase declined to comment.
Mr. White called the findings “the most egregious misspending my staff have seen in their careers.” The audit found that more than $98 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, was funneled to the two Mississippi-based nonprofit groups over three years. About $94 million of that was “questioned” by state auditors, meaning the money was in all likelihood misspent or the auditors could not verify that it had been spent legally, Mr. White said.

The breadth of the audit — which auditors said included funds that were “misspent, converted to personal use, spent on family members and friends of staffers and grantees or wasted” — raises broad questions about the efficacy of America’s social safety net.

In 1996, the TANF program converted the old federal welfare system, in which cash benefits to poor families were deemed an entitlement, to a system of block grants issued to the states. The new program created work rules and time limits on aid — and, notably, gave each state much more leeway on how to spend the money. Critics say that states do not have to clearly justify that they are spending the money on helping the poor.
“There’s this incredible amount of flexibility,” said LaDonna Pavetti, vice president for family income support policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It could allow for a lot of things to happen.”

Mississippi Republican lawmakers concerned about the misuse of federal funds have enacted safeguards to prevent fraud by potential welfare recipients. A ThinkProgress article found that in 2016, only 167 of the 11,700 Mississippi families who applied for a TANF payment were approved.

For those who support anti-poverty initiatives, the unfolding scandal has left a particularly bitter taste. “It’s just, ‘How can you?’” said Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund.

Monday’s audit comes after the arrest in February of John Davis, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, the agency that distributes the federal welfare block grants. Mr. Davis is accused of taking part in a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme.

Trump's been a grifter all his life, maybe the most successful con artist in human history.  But the grift in the GOP has been there for decades, and it always comes at the expense of the people who can least afford it.

Food For Thought, Con't

As I've been talking about for weeks now, the meat shortages are now reaching the retail grocery store level. Kroger is starting to limit meat purchases in the Midwest, and Costco is being hit too, and they have a lot more control over their meat supply chain.

Costco on Monday became the latest retailer to implement purchasing limits on fresh meat because of the slowdown at processing plants during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company announced it’s limiting shoppers to three items of beef, pork and poultry products to “help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need.”

Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain, announced a similar rule. The limits are because of high demand from shoppers while top meat suppliers are temporarily closing their factories because workers are falling ill.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated last week that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died so far. The union said last week the closures have resulted in a 25% reduction in pork slaughter capacity and 10% reduction in beef slaughter capacity. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order aimed at keeping meat plants open during the crisis.

Tyson Foods warned Monday that it expects more meat plant closures this year. The company also said it will continue producing less meat than usual, as workers refrain from coming to work during the outbreak. The pandemic has halved the amount of pork processing capacity in the country, Tyson said in its earnings call.

Demand is up sharply as the weather gets nicer and we get closer to Memorial Day weekend.  People want to grill out in the backyard. They may not invite the neighbors over, but they want to get out of the house and have some semblance of normalcy.  I can't blame them.

Meanwhile, plant closures are happening at the same time.

It's going to get worse before it gets better.


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