The Evening Blues - 12-4-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player Little Willie Anderson. Enjoy!
Little Willie Anderson - Come Here Mama
"Policy is no longer being written by politicians accountable to the American public. Instead, policies concerning the defense budget, deregulation, health care, public transportation, job training programs, and a host of other crucial areas are now largely written by lobbyists who represent mega corporations."
-- Henry Giroux
News and Opinion
CIA Director Gina Haspel will give a closed briefing to leaders of several US Senate committees on Tuesday on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two sources familiar with the planned meeting. ...
At last week’s briefing, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo and the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, said there was no hard evidence the crown prince was behind the killing and urged senators not to downgrade ties with Saudi Arabia over the incident.
Haspel will brief the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Appropriations committees, the source said, adding that the Senate Intelligence Committee already had been briefed by the CIA chief.
Senators have emerged from a classified briefing by the CIA director, Gina Haspel, saying they are certain that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
“If the crown prince went in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee told journalists immediately after the Haspel meeting.
A handful of leading senators from both parties attended the secure briefing from Haspel, who flew to Turkey to hear tapes of the 2 October killing from Turkish intelligence intercepts. The senators were not allowed to disclose details of what they were told, but their reaction reinforced reports that the CIA had accumulated substantial evidence that the crown prince (widely known by his initials MBS) was behind the murder.
The Trump administration has said that there is no “direct evidence” of the prince’s culpability, with the defence secretary, James Mattis, insisting there was no “smoking gun”, but Corker said you would have to be “willfully blind” not to see the evidence. “There is no way anyone with a straight face could say they didn’t know what happened,” he said.
After Tuesday’s Haspel briefing, the Republican senator Lindsey Graham said: “There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw.”
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe met with political rivals Monday in a bid to ease protesters’ anger after facing widespread criticism following violent anti-government protests that rocked Paris. ... French President Emmanuel Macron, just back from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, held an emergency meeting Sunday on security and the government hasn’t ruled out the possibility of imposing a state of emergency. ...
Philippe and Macron have been lambasted for their handling of the crisis. After meeting with the prime minister, Socialist leader Olivier Faure urged Philippe to drop the tax hikes and to restore a wealth tax that was slashed by the centrist government. “We want a change in the method. One needs to come down from Mount Olympus,” Faure said, referring to Macron’s Greek god nickname of Jupiter. Laurent Wauquiez, head of center-right Les Republicains party, urged Macron to hold a referendum to end the crisis but did not say what its topic should be. ...
Philippe will try to defuse tensions this week before more possible protests this weekend, speaking with yellow vest representatives on Tuesday. Members of the National Assembly will also hold talks on France’s social crisis later this week.
The folks at the World Socialist Web Site are excited for the global working class and the struggle in France.
On Saturday, 100,000 people took part in a series of mass “yellow vest” demonstrations throughout France against President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-worker fuel tax hike, in the most significant mass protests in the country since the May-June 1968 general strike.
These events are a critical turning point not just for France and Europe, but for the entire world. Suppressed for decades, the eruption of social protest proclaims the reentry of the working class onto the stage of world history. The class struggle is again asserting itself as the driving force of historical progress. The explosive character of the events in France testifies to the enormous social contradictions that have accumulated over the nearly three decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and, particularly, over the decade since the crash of 2008. The intense hatred of capitalism and the conditions it has created in France and throughout the world—the staggering level of social inequality, the endless accumulation of wealth within a small percentage of the population, the ever-greater levels of poverty and suffering—is now bursting onto the surface of political life.
In Macron, the ruling elite has its true representative—a justly despised and farcical figure, the investment banker turned president, who is nothing more than the puppet of the European stock exchanges. In the face of anger and outrage, Macron has made clear that he intends to go ahead with his anti-working-class policies, if need be through police-state means and the declaration of a state of emergency. The moment the masses challenge the economic demands of the ruling elite, it turns to violence and repression.
What is driving developments in France are not essentially national, but global conditions. What Macron can do, how he can respond, is determined by the demands of international capital. He is carrying out his attack on workers in France as the American bourgeoisie is implementing a new round of cost-cutting, epitomized in the mass layoffs announced at General Motors. Amid growing signs of a renewed economic slump, the ruling elite is going on the offensive in every country.
On the other side is the working class, which is showing itself to be not just an oppressed class, but a revolutionary class. Beneath the surface of bourgeois order and stability a civil war is brewing.
So, there are major protests across France, protesting Macron’s policies. Macron has raised fuel taxes and removed worker protections, among other things. He is a neoliberal’s neoliberal, who believes in free labor markets (a.k.a. markets where workers can be easily fired, made to work overtime, and so on.)
His popularity rating is 20 percent, there is no chance that he will be re-elected, and he is unlikely to give in to any protests–both because he is a true believer and because his future is assured if he pushes through as much destruction of France’s social state as possible. He will be rewarded by the rich. ...
While it seems unlikely, it wouldn’t bother me if the current French state was overthrown. More likely, what will matter is whether La Pen or Melenchon (who is a real left-winger) wins the next election. Hopefully the French are not so stupid as to vote for another pretty neoliberal. Little that has been done by Macron, or other neoliberal twats, cannot be undone if a government is elected with a mandate to do so.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will announce the suspension of the tax, which was due to come into force on Jan. 1, local and international media reported, citing government sources. Stopping the tax, which the government said was to fund green initiatives, was a core demand of the so-called “yellow vest” protest movement.
The concession would be the first major policy U-turn for President Emmanuel Macron since coming to power last year, and a major back down from his tough talk in previous days.
“The perpetrators of this violence do not want change, they don’t want any improvement, they want chaos,” he said on Saturday as the protests erupted. But after meeting with opposition leaders Monday, Macron made the call to suspend the tax hikes, according to reports. With yellow vests calling for repeat demonstrations on Saturday, he faced an urgent deadline to address their grievances. ...
The sprawling, leaderless movement, which drew national support from across the political spectrum, called for Macron to abolish the fuel tax, boost the minimum wage, and reinstate a wealth tax on high-earners his government scrapped last year.
Philippe had been scheduled to meet with a delegation of the protesters on Tuesday afternoon, but the talks were cancelled after some of the yellow vests received threats of violence from hardliners in the movement warning them not to deal with the government.
France and the UK have echoed warnings by Donald Trump’s administration that Iran may be in breach of United Nations obligations by testing medium-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying multiple warheads. The remarks from Paris and London will be seen by the US government as the first sign that its key European partners may yet be persuaded to view Iran’s broader behaviour as so dangerous that their support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal can no longer be justified.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, criticised Iran’s missile programme at the weekend and will be at a Nato foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels over the next two days to underline his message about the threat to Middle East stability posed by Iran. He is also due to meet the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Brussels.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Pompeo said Iran had tested a medium-range ballistic missile, violating a UN resolution. The missile, according to Pompeo, is capable of carrying multiple warheads and “has a range that allows it to strike parts of Europe and anywhere in the Middle East”. He added: “This test violates UN security council resolution 2231 that bans Iran from undertaking ‘any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology’.”
Pompeo has been pressing Germany, France and the UK to join the US in withdrawing from the Iran nuclear accord signed during the presidency of Barack Obama in 2015. Trump unilaterally pulled out of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May, reimposing broad economic sanctions, with some exemptions, on any country or company that seeks to trade with Iran.
“The Lobby,” the four-part Al-Jazeera documentary that was blocked under heavy Israeli pressure shortly before its release, has been leaked online by the Chicago-based website Electronic Intifada, the French website Orient XXI and the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
The series is an inside look over five months by an undercover reporter, armed with a hidden camera, at how the government and intelligence agencies of Israel work with U.S. domestic Jewish groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), The Israel Project and StandWithUs to spy on, smear and attack critics, especially American university students who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. It shows how the Israel lobby uses huge cash donations, often far above the U.S. legal limit, and flies hundreds of members of Congress to Israel for lavish and unpaid vacations at Israeli seaside resorts, bribing the American lawmakers to do Israel’s bidding, including providing military aid such as the $38 billion (over 10 years) that was approved by Congress in 2016. It uncovers Israel’s sleazy character assassination of academics, activists and journalists, its well-funded fake grassroots activism, its manipulation of press coverage, and its ham-fisted attempts to destroy marriages, personal relationships and careers. The film highlights the efforts to discredit liberal Jews and Jewish organizations as tools of radical jihadists, referring, for example, to Jewish Voice for Peace as “Jewish Voice for Hamas” and claiming that many members of the organization are not actually Jewish. Israel recruits black South Africans into an Israeli front group called Stop Stealing My Apartheid, in a desperate effort to counter the reality of the apartheid state that Israel has constructed. The series documents Israel’s repeated and multifaceted interference in the internal affairs of the United States, including elections; efforts to discredit progressive groups such as Black Lives Matter that express sympathy for the Palestinians; and routine employment of Americans to spy on other Americans. Israel’s behavior is unethical and perhaps illegal. But don’t expect anyone in the establishment or either of the two ruling political parties to do anything about it. It is abundantly clear by the end of the series that they have been intimidated, discredited or bought off. ...
Those of us who denounce and expose the Israeli crimes committed against Palestinians are intimately familiar with the sordid and nefarious tactics of the Israel lobby. The power of the film series is that in dealing with the reporter—a young Oxford postgraduate, James Anthony Kleinfeld, who goes by the name Tony in the film and poses as a pro-Israel student—major figures within the Israel lobby candidly explain and expose their massive covert campaign in the United States. There is no plausible deniability. And this is why Israel worked so hard to stop the film from being broadcast.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin is making a behind-the-scenes push to slip an anti-boycott law into a last-minute spending bill being finalized during the lame-duck session, according to four sources familiar with the negotiations.
The measure, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, was shelved earlier amid concerns about the infringement of free speech, after civil liberties groups argued that the original version would have allowed criminal penalties for Americans who participate in a political boycott of Israel. Some of the more aggressive elements of the provision have been removed under pressure, but the American Civil Liberties Union, which spearheaded the initial opposition to the bill, is still strongly opposed.
In a letter to Congress, the ACLU warned that the amended version still creates unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. “We understand the Senate is considering attaching a revised version of S. 720 to the end-of-the-year omnibus spending bill, and we urge you to oppose its inclusion,” reads a letter dated December 3. ...
The Senate measure, which has a House companion, is part of a broad push to undermine support of BDS in both the U.S. and Europe, often conflating the boycott with anti-Semitism. According to the activist group Palestine Legal, which monitors anti-BDS legislation across the country, as of June 2018, 25 states had enacted laws punishing businesses that choose to boycott Israel. In 2017, one city in Texas even required businesses to certify that they would not boycott Israel before receiving hurricane aid.
US stock markets fell sharply on Tuesday as investors lost faith in a trade truce between the US and China that had been negotiated by Donald Trump at last week’s G20 summit of world leaders. The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 786 points in early afternoon trading, a drop of 2.9%. Other market indexes also fell sharply with the S&P 500 losing 2.5% and the Nasdaq dropping 3%.
Stock markets had rallied on Monday after Trump tweeted: “Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!”
Trump and China’s president, Xi Jingping, reached a 90-day trade truce after a dinner at the G20 summit in Argentina on Saturday. But differing reports on the terms of the truce from Chinese and US officials rattled investors fearful of a full-on trade war between the two economic superpowers.
After the meeting Trump told reporters: “It’s an incredible deal. If it goes down, certainly, if it happens, it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made.” But details of the deal have since unravelled. White House officials have struggled to explain, for example, whether China has actually agreed to drop its 40% tariffs on US autos.
A jury in Charlottesville heard testimony on Monday from a first responder who said activist Heather Heyer was “pulseless”, with no heartbeat or breath, when he came upon her after she was struck by a vehicle driven by James Fields in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in the Virginia city.
Nick Barrell, a fire captain and paramedic, tried to save Heyer’s life after 21-year-old Fields drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters on 12 August 2017, killing Heyer, 31, a local paralegal and civil rights activist, and injuring dozens of others.
The trial of Fields, who is charged with murder, entered its second week on Monday, nearly 15 months after the white nationalist rally erupted into violence and sparked a national controversy about the far right after Donald Trump weighed in to blame “both sides”.
On Monday, Melissa Elliott, another eyewitness to the carnage wreaked by Fields, said that she ducked into the alcove of a store when heard the crash and the “screaming and yelling” that ensued. She then saw the car quickly reverse and then drive away “out of sight”. Over the last three days of the trial in Charlottesville, several people who were in the crowd during the time of the attack have described the tragedy that unfolded.
When police opened fire on 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., on Thanksgiving at a suburban mall in Alabama, he was facing away from them, according to the autopsy released by the family’s lawyer on Monday. In total, three bullets struck the young black man, whom police said they mistook as an armed shooter. The gunfire hit Bradford in the back of his head, neck, and lower back — any of which could have killed him, according to the family’s Attorney Benjamin Crump. The findings shed light on what truly happened during a shooting for which the Hoover Police Department has changed its story numerous times.
The situation started on Thanksgiving night around 9.30 p.m local time, when police responded to reports of a physical altercation at the Riverchase Galleria Mall that escalated to gunfire and left a 12-year old girl and an 18-year-old boy injured. What exactly happened next has so far remained a mystery. Bradford, who police initially identified as the suspected shooter, ended up dead, while the real suspected gunman, Erron Brown, was apprehended and arrested days later. Brown’s gun was recovered in Santa’s Village in the mall. Police said Bradford also had a gun on him, but his parents called their son, a licensed gun owner, a “good guy with a gun” who was likely trying to protect the victims.
Oh looky! The Demorats gave Barbara Lee a consolation prize.
Barbara Lee suffered a narrow loss to Hakeem Jeffries in the leadership race for Democratic Caucus chair last week, but the campaign to get her elected bore fruit regardless. Late last Friday, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi made room for Lee on a key committee that has a primary role in building progressive power in the House. ...
After a one-on-one meeting, Pelosi named Lee as a third co-chair on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. (Technically, Pelosi recommended Lee for the position, but the Steering and Policy Committee votes on the recommendations, and Pelosi herself is the chair, so this is in the bag.) Pelosi added a co-chair to make room for Lee; current co-chairs Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., will stay on as well. Lee, DeLauro, and Swalwell are all close Pelosi allies. ...
The Steering and Policy Committee has a few different duties, but by far the biggest is determining committee assignments for Democratic members. This has taken on new importance since the election, when the blue wave and numerous retirements created an unusually large incoming freshman class and lots of slots to fill on committees.
Last month, the Congressional Progressive Caucus engineered a power play to get representation proportional to its membership on several key “money” committees. The final stop in that quest is the Steering and Policy Committee, which ultimately lays out the chart of committee assignments for each of the 235 Democrats in the caucus. The money committees, through which nearly all vital domestic legislation flows, include the Ways and Means Committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Appropriations Committee, as well as the Financial Services Committee.
Lee’s presence on the Steering and Policy Committee adds another Progressive Caucus member and could influence the final result. Pelosi, the chair of the committee, will certainly have the first and last word on committee assignments. But having Lee in the room as key decisions are being made can only assist the Progressive Caucus in its bid for influence.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making a push for a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, according to people familiar with her decision. It’s a panel whose jurisdiction over taxes and revenue puts most of the economy within its mandate. For that reason, freshmen are almost never given spots on the panel, but the midterm elections upset the balance of power in the House. Sixty-three new representatives have joined the Democratic caucus, and some 43 Republicans either lost their seats or retired — so there is an unusually large number of vacancies to fill.
By custom, New York City effectively has at least one reserved seat on Ways and Means, and Ocasio-Cortez is looking to claim it. Its former occupant was Rep. Joe Crowley, whom Ocasio-Cortez beat in a primary election.
Any major piece of legislation — whether it’s “Medicare for All,” a “Green New Deal,” or free public college — would involve some level of revenue, putting it squarely in the domain of Ways and Means, which makes it a key spot for a legislator looking to have an impact. Ocasio-Cortez is routinely asked how she plans to pay for her aggressive economic agenda, and the first answer begins with securing a spot on the House’s key tax-writing committee.
Traditionally, the seat is sought after for its fundraising potential, as every industry in the country is concerned with federal tax policy, meaning that members of the committee are more likely to get their fundraising calls returned. That makes the decision of who to give the seat to a tricky one for incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has the final say on committee assignments. Placing a lawmaker who refuses corporate PAC contributions on the Ways and Means Committee could be seen by some elements of the party as leaving money on the table.
But giving it to the other New York applicant presents its own problems. Ocasio-Cortez is competing with Rep. Tom Suozzi, who represents the North Shore of Long Island, a district not far from Ocasio-Cortez’s Bronx and Queens — but a world away in terms of wealth and privilege. He would no doubt make efficient fundraising use of the seat, but he also took part in a recent assault on Pelosi’s power as speaker. ... Suozzi is a vice chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, as well as a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a bloc of Wall Street-friendly Democrats that dramatically expanded its membership with the 2018 elections.
NOTE: The Green New Deal was formulated by the Green New Deal Group of global Greens in 2007. It was modified by the Green Party United States and hundreds of Green Party candidates have run with the Green New Deal as part of their platform. The Green Party version of the Green New Deal calls for a public works program, local control and other changes that create an economic bill of rights, an emphasis on small businesses and cooperatives, financial reform, a functioning democracy and significant cuts to the military. Unlike the Democrats, the Green Party US views all of these changes as necessary for the Green New Deal to be effective, fair and sustainable. ...
Last week, newly-elected Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a proposal for an addendum to the rules of the US House of Representatives, to create a new congressional committee that would draft legislation for a “Green New Deal.” ... The document includes the call for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years, and actions to “virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone.” It calls for “a job guarantee program to assure a living wage to every person who wants one”; “massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases,” and “upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety.” The document, as with Ocasio-Cortez’s politics, is characterized by a massive political fraud. It includes various left-sounding rhetoric, but is entirely directed to and dependent upon the Democratic Party. In particular, the members of the committee would be selected by the Speaker of the House, who is likely to be Nancy Pelosi, the stalwart of the Democratic Party establishment who has received the support of Ocasio-Cortez herself.
Several of her proposals are explicitly aimed at promoting the interests of different sections of capital, including the call to “promote opportunities” for “entrepreneurship,” and “promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism.”
“Labor market flexibility”—that is, the ability of corporations to fire and hire at will. Such is the character of Ocasio-Cortez’s great left-wing reform! ... None of the signatories to the bill believes that any of its proposals—except those directly tailored to corporate interests—will ever be implemented. Its purpose is rather to promote illusions that the Democratic Party, a party of the corporate and financial elite no less than the Republicans, can be transformed into an agency of social progress.
Inside a little-known bulwark of conservative state policy, in a hotel conference room in Washington DC, state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists last week voted for a slate of anti-environment measures. They approved resolutions supporting stripping tax benefits from electric vehicles and endorsing Donald Trump’s pro-fossil fuel energy agenda. And they voted down a proposal to limit monopoly control of the power industry, which backers said would give consumers more choice and help grow renewable electricity faster and more cheaply.
The group, a taskforce of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), did so behind closed doors. They barred press from the rooms where they called roll. When voice votes were close and a tally was required, the business representatives weighing in on what kinds of policies state legislatures should pursue voted in secret. They cast ballots on paper, in a change that four sources said organizers announced was meant to keep the process confidential from reporters. ...
The deliberations of a private group such as Alec, where elected officials meet out of public view with big business, highlight the divides the Republican party is struggling with as it courts both rightwing social conservatives and free-market Republicans. Alec has lost prominent members, including ExxonMobil and Verizon. Advocates who deny the science behind manmade climate change are regular attendees. Verizon ended its support after an anti-Muslim activist spoke at an annual Alec meeting.
But corporate influence over statehouses is strong and was on display in the lobbying fight over the future of the power industry. A trade group for investor-owned power companies opposed the idea of subjecting them to more competition. Competition supporters said the fight shows how much power utilities have over state governments and the people who are forced to buy their product. Michigan state representative Gary Glenn, the Alec resolution sponsor and head of the house energy committee who lost his seat this year to a primary challenger, said lawmakers are controlled by power companies “in fear of political retaliation”. Glenn claimed the industry donated $1m against him in his primary election.
At least 65,000 people marched on the European Union’s headquarters in Belgium to show support for the bloc’s proposed curbs on climate change.
Braving rain and wind, demonstrators thronged the main road in central Brussels where the EU headquarters are located. Police said the peaceful march, held as a global climate conference got underway in Poland on Sunday, was the biggest climate demonstration in Belgium’s history.
Australia, literally on fire.
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) November 26, 2018
Late on Sunday night, a tropical cyclone formed off the north Queensland coast. The storm has begun a track towards the coast, where more than 100 bushfires are still burning after week-long heatwaves and “unprecedented” conditions. Tropical cyclone Owen will bring some relief from the stinking heat; lower temperatures and rainfall that should help firefighters control the most threatening fires by midweek.
Queensland’s exhausted emergency services will not welcome Owen’s track towards the shore with any sense of respite; to them the blended ends of disaster seasons represent a horror scenario, but one many have seen coming.
Paul Gray, a representative of the Queensland Firefighters’ Union, says the nature of bushfires has noticeably changed in recent years. The fires, he says, have become more intense and longer-lasting. Last week conditions in parts of Queensland were classified “catastrophic” for the first time. The rating has only existed since 2009, but no bushfire in the state since 1966, when warnings were first introduced, would have been considered so dangerous. “They’re always intense, but now you’re getting punished for days and days. Instead of a heatwave lasting one day, heatwaves are lasting four days or longer,” Gray says.
“It makes it more difficult for fire crews to stand down, we lose the ability to rotate. Firefighters are working longer hours on protracted incidents for days at a time. There is an increasing need for out-of-state and overseas assistance, because it’s getting harder to relieve our own crews.”
Australia’s devastating bushfires typically occur far to the south of the tropical Queensland rainforest. But Gray says the fire season in the north now lasts longer. That means a diminishing timeframe to allow emergency services to change tack from firefighting to battling cyclones and floodwaters, which historically have caused many more deaths and wider destruction in Queensland.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Little Willie Anderson - 69th Street Bounce
Little Willie Anderson - Looking For You Baby, West Side Baby
Little Willie Anderson - Been Around
Little Willie Anderson - Willie's Women Blues
Little Willie Anderson - Late night
Little Willie Anderson - Everything Gonna Be Alright
Little Willie Anderson - Big Fat Mama