The Evening Blues - 1-31-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer, saxophone player and bandleader Louis Jordan. Enjoy!
Louis Jordan - Wham Sam
"The notion that public service requires men and women of good character now seems quaint."
-- Elliott Abrams
News and Opinion
Congress made its most aggressive use ever of the War Powers Act to end an ongoing conflict at the end of 2018, with the Senate approving — and the House coming just short — a resolution that would have required the United States to end its support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., re-introduced that resolution, and with the House in Democratic control, it’s expected to pass both chambers this year and head to the president’s desk, setting up a confrontation over U.S. involvement in the war.
Since 2015, the United States has provided logistical support to Saudi Arabia, in addition to tens of billions of dollars in arms sales. The resolution, which seeks to end that, picked up momentum in the wake of the butchering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But inside the House, a much lower-profile development played a critical but overlooked role: a Democratic primary campaign in Washington state. Significant credit for that resolution’s earlier momentum, say people closely involved in the process, belongs indirectly to Sarah Smith, a long-shot congressional candidate who challenged Democratic Rep. Adam Smith in Washington last year, making it to the general election before losing. Adam Smith at the time was the top-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee and is now the panel’s chair, and Sarah Smith mounted her challenge largely in opposition to what she cast as his hawkish foreign policy approach, with a specific emphasis on Yemen.
Adam Smith, facing the challenge from Sarah Smith, became an outspoken advocate of using the War Powers Resolution in the fall to go up against the Trump administration, including by becoming a leading sponsor of a new War Powers resolution on Yemen. Now that he has won re-election, he remains a supporter of the effort, but his enthusiasm for it has changed noticeably. ... His shift in rhetoric underscores the impact primary challenges can have on internal House politics, but it also could make him vulnerable to another challenge in two years. ...
In 2016, Smith was just one of 16 Democrats to vote against defunding Saudi Arabia’s use of cluster bombs. On July 26, 2018, Smith trumpeted his success in winning restrictions on war activity in Yemen in a defense appropriations bill passed by the House. ... On September 6, a month after Sarah Smith clinched a primary win, Adam Smith announced that he was introducing a War Powers Resolution, with Khanna, and Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., to end the Yemen war.
Given his perch on the Armed Services Committee and his influence on matters of foreign policy, Adam Smith’s public push for the resolution was a signal to rank-and-file Democrats that it was an issue worth supporting, and the party broke en masse in favor of the resolution. Both Hoyer and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is another leading hawk in the House, endorsed the Yemen resolution in late September. ... Sarah Smith said that if Adam Smith backslides on Yemen, she’s willing to challenge him again, but she’s watching to see how he does as the chair of the House Armed Services Committee before making the decision. .... “If he fails to meet his obligation, I’m going to make notes of every single time he’s failed and I’m going to challenge him again.”
Lawmakers Reintroduce War Powers Resolution To End Carnage in Yemen and Reclaim Congress' Constitutional Authority
With the government now reopened, a the newly-elected Congress in session, and the U.S. still complicit in the world's worst humanitarian disaster, a bipartisan group of Senators and House members—led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)—officially re-introduced a War Powers Resolution on Wednesday in order to block further U.S. military participation in the Saudi-led war on Yemen. While the same resolution in December passed the Senate in an historic bipartisan vote, it was not taken up for a vote in the Republican-controlled House at that time. But now that Democrats control the lower chamber, Rep. Khanna argued the people of Yemen can wait no longer.
With an estimated 14 million people on the brink of famine and 85,000 children already dead as a result of the war, Khanna said "the U.S.-Saudi military campaign in Yemen has triggered the world's worst humanitarian crisis." Now, he added, is time "to end U.S. military participation in the Saudi regime's war in Yemen by reasserting Congress' constitutional role on matters of war and peace."
Passage of the resolution in December, said Sanders, was a clear declaration by the U.S. Senate "that we will not continue to have our military posture dictated by a despotic, murderous regime in Saudi Arabia" and called for both the House and Senate to quickly pass the resolution. "Our immediate job is to end the terrible war in Yemen," Sanders added. "But the time is also long overdue for Congress to reclaim its constitutional right, and to make certain that no president, Republican or Democrat, engages in a military conflict unauthorized by the U.S. Congress."
At a morning press conference, Sanders and Khanna were joined by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) as well as Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) – all key co-sponsors of the joint resolution. Read the Senate resolution here. Read the House version here.
Two steps forward, one step back...
The Republican leader of the U.S. Senate offered legislation on Tuesday urging the United States to keep troops in Syria and Afghanistan, as President Donald Trump’s administration moves toward withdrawals of American forces after years overseas.
Saying that Islamic militant groups in the two countries continue to pose a “serious threat” to the United States, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had introduced an amendment to a broader Middle East security bill urging a “continued commitment” until al Qaeda, Islamic State and other groups are defeated. ...
The measure would be an amendment to a broader Middle East security bill being debated in the Senate. That bill, which includes fresh sanctions on Syria and a measure combating the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, advanced in a procedural vote on Monday.
There was no immediate word on when the Senate might vote on whether to pass the bill, including the amendment. To become law, it would also have to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and be signed by Trump, or overcome a Trump veto if he will not sign.
Senate Republicans are trying to drive a wedge between Democrats with a Middle East foreign policy bill they’ve brought to the floor this week. ... Republicans have seized on two points of possible tension within the wide-ranging legislation, both of which could split Democrats. The first is an anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) provision that would let states penalize businesses that take part in boycotts or divestments of Israel. The second is a proposed amendment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would urge President Trump to rethink his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
Democrats have been divided for weeks over the BDS provision, and the issue has split a number of the Democrats eyeing the 2020 presidential race from the party’s leadership. ...
The politics for Democrats are more complicated on the Syria provision. Trump’s announcement late last year that he would remove troops from Syria sparked a backlash from Democrats. Though many disagreed with sending troops to the country in the first place, they also disagreed with his rationale for removing troops. ...
“It is problematic,” [Durbin] said. “I didn’t vote that for the war that we’re currently engaged in, if that’s what you want to call it. And I think some of the language by McConnell is very loose and although I want to see our troops come home in an orderly fashion the way he has written this appears to approve military action in Syria by the United States,” Durbin said. ... Durbin argues that the wording suggests that in voting for McConnell’s measure, senators would be voicing support for keeping troops in Syria and Afghanistan without Congress previously authorizing military action in Syria.
Durbin told The Hill that the caucus had not made a decision about whether they would filibuster McConnell’s proposal. The GOP leader will need to flip at least seven Democrats to get over a 60-vote hurdle if Republicans are united.
The U.S. will withdraw from a key nuclear missile treaty with Russia as soon as this weekend, a U.S. official said Thursday, freeing up both countries to press ahead with the development of new weapons of mass destruction. ...
The U.S. claimed the pact, which bans both sides from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe, was broken by the development of a new Russian missile, the Novator 9M729, called the SSC-8 by NATO. ...
“The Russians still aren’t in acknowledgment that they are in violation of the treaty,” U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Andrea Thompson told Reuters, adding that a slim chance of saving the treaty remains as “diplomacy is never done.”
Thompson had been holding last-ditch talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Beijing.
An excellent ramble through Elliot Abrams' resume. There's too much detail to abstract, so here's something to get you started:
Elliott Abrams, Trump’s Pick to Bring “Democracy” to Venezuela, Has Spent His Life Crushing Democracy
On December 11, 1981 in El Salvador, a Salvadoran military unit created and trained by the U.S. Army began slaughtering everyone they could find in a remote village called El Mozote. Before murdering the women and girls, the soldiers raped them repeatedly, including some as young as 10 years old, and joked that their favorites were the 12-year-olds. One witness described a soldier tossing a 3-year-old child into the air and impaling him with his bayonet. The final death toll was over 800 people.
The next day, December 12, was the first day on the job for Elliott Abrams as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration. Abrams snapped into action, helping to lead a cover-up of the massacre. News reports of what had happened, Abrams told the Senate, were “not credible,” and the whole thing was being “significantly misused” as propaganda by anti-government guerillas.
This past Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Abrams as America’s special envoy for Venezuela. According to Pompeo, Abrams “will have responsibility for all things related to our efforts to restore democracy” in the oil-rich nation.
The choice of Abrams sends a clear message to Venezuela and the world: The Trump administration intends to brutalize Venezuela, while producing a stream of unctuous rhetoric about America’s love for democracy and human rights. Combining these two factors — the brutality and the unctuousness — is Abrams’s core competency.
Abrams previously served in a multitude of positions in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, often with titles declaring their focus on morality. ... In these positions, Abrams participated in many of the most ghastly acts of U.S. foreign policy from the past 40 years, all the while proclaiming how deeply he cared about the foreigners he and his friends were murdering.
The New York Times just published an op-ed from the man being installed by the US to lead Venezuela. This piece isn’t for Venezuelans - this is for an American audience. This is how he (and the coup, the sanctions) is legitimized. pic.twitter.com/dob1yJlJUR
— Hot Take Monger (@SanaSaeed) January 31, 2019
The other day Hawaii congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard came out with what remains the strongest rejection of the Trump administration’s regime change interventionism in Venezuela out of anyone likely to run for the presidency in 2020. “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela,” Gabbard tweeted. “Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders–so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”
Boom. Unambiguous, unequivocal, and without any of the “Yeah Maduro is an evil monster, but” modifiers that other officials (including Bernie Sanders) have been preceding their feeble objections to Trump’s campaign to topple the Venezuelan government with. Which of course outraged all the usual war pundits, including the Washington Post‘s most reliable military-industrial complex fluffer Josh Rogin. “Again, @TulsiGabbard shares the same foreign policy position as Russia and the Assad regime,” Rogin tweeted in response to Gabbard’s statement. “It’s probably just a coincidence. #TusiAssad2020”
This man calls himself a journalist. He works for one of the most respected and influential news outlets in America. Rogin’s post is obnoxious and idiotic for a whole host of reasons, among them the fact that Trump is consistently painted as a Kremlin stooge by pundits like Rogin, yet opposing Trump is somehow being depicted as Kremlin servitude. But the reason his tweet deserves an article of its own today is because the argument he is using is one you see recurring over and over again in the psychotic, pants-on-head, screaming-at-traffic stupid salad that is collectively referred to as Russiagate. Another way to write Rogin’s tweet would be as follows:
“Hmmm, you think the US should refrain from destroying countries all around the world? You know who else thinks that? The Kremlin! Hmmm, it’s very interesting that you and the Kremlin share that same view all the time, hmmmm, hmmmmmmm, hmmmmmmmmmmm probably just a coincidence though!”
You see this obnoxious McCarthyite talking point regurgitated over and over and over again by people eager to paint anyone who objects to US interventionism and the political establishment responsible for it as Russian agents, and it’s about as moronic an argument as any you’ll ever see. ...
US-led interventionism is literally always disastrous and literally never helpful in modern times, and you don’t need to be aligned with Moscow or Damascus to see that. The power establishment which crushes any nation that refuses to bow to its demands is responsible for the deaths of untold millions of human beings, and wanting that power establishment to crumble is a very legitimate and reasonable thing. Every good and decent person in the world should want the same.
The United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) published a report this month, “China Military Power,” detailing the strength of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. The report, which goes into great detail about the location, size, and sophistication of China’s weapon-systems, garrisons, command centers, air force, navy, and other tools of war, aims to stoke fear of “Chinese aggression” among the American public, while also signaling to Beijing the extent of US preparations for war. ...
DIA director, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, emphasized that “China Military Power 2019” showed China’s evolution from a domestically oriented force to a global one. He told reporters the PLA was changing “from a defensive, inflexible ground-based force charged with domestic and peripheral security responsibilities to a joint, highly agile, expeditionary, and power-projecting arm of Chinese foreign policy that engages in military diplomacy and operations across the globe.”
The report details a myriad of ways the PLA is increasing, in the jargon of the Pentagon, its ability to “project power”—that is, to have influence beyond its domestic borders. This includes the development of bombers, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, hospital ships, submarine port calls in foreign harbors, and more. In particular, the report drew attention to the PLA’s technical and organizational developments, including in hypersonic missiles, where China is allegedly ahead of the US in precision-guided ammunition, defense systems, and 5G technology.
Echoing the changing policy of the US military away from the “war on terror” and towards China and Russia, the report bemoaned that China had taken advantage of “a period of strategic opportunity” early this century, during US entanglements abroad, “wherein [China] presumably would not be involved in a major military conflict before 2020, allowing time for economic and military development.”
A senior defense official, speaking anonymously to Reuters said: “As a lot of these technologies mature, as [China’s] reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, the concern is we’ll reach a point where internally in their decision-making they will decide that using military force for regional conflict is something that is more imminent.” With specific reference to Taiwan, the defense official continued that “the biggest concern is that they are getting to a point where the PLA leadership may actually tell [President Xi Jinping] they are confident in their capabilities. We know in the past they have considered themselves a developing, weaker power.”
President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Cairo on Sunday for talks with Egypt’s bloodstained military dictator General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was a barely veiled threat, tacitly endorsed by governments around the world, against the working class. For eleven weeks, hundreds of thousands of “yellow vest” protesters in France have marched every weekend to demand higher living standards, tax increases for the wealthy, and an end to repression and militarism. But the financial aristocracy will make no concessions to workers’ social and political demands. Rather, it is preparing a drastic intensification of repression of social protest amid a universal turn of the capitalist class around the world towards authoritarian forms of rule.
The meaning of Macron’s visit to Sisi is unmistakable. Sisi is infamous for his resort to mass murder to drown in blood revolutionary struggles of the working class that erupted in Egypt in 2011. During the 2013 coup against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, his troops shot thousands in broad daylight on the streets of Egypt’s cities. Since then, more than 60,000 people have been jailed, as the Sisi junta carries out mass show trials of its opponents and resorts to systematic torture, documented by human rights groups, of thousands of political prisoners. ...
In Cairo, Macron made clear France would continue arming Sisi to the teeth against the Egyptian workers. French sales of Rafale fighters and other military hardware to Sisi are to continue despite Macron’s mealymouthed comments on human rights. “I would differentiate between the two subjects,” he said. “They are not linked for us and they never were.” Asked about Amnesty International’s report that French armored vehicles were used in the 2013 repression in Egypt, Macron said France “foresaw they would be used for military purposes.” He claimed that there is “no possible ambiguity” in French weapons sales, that they are intended for the “defense of Egyptian territory against external enemies,” not against the Egyptian people.
Who does Macron think he is kidding? French armored vehicles serve to repress the workers not only in Egypt, but also in France—since Macron took the hitherto unprecedented step of deploying armored vehicles against the “yellow vests.” As Macron escalates repression in France and showers Cairo with weaponry, Sisi can take Macron’s toothless remarks as a green light to use French arms for further crackdowns in Egypt. The French ruling elite’s response to the “yellow vest” protests has been to launch mass arrests and repression on a scale unseen in metropolitan France since the Nazi Occupation. Over 5,000 protesters have been arrested, including more than 1,700 on a single day on December 8. At least four protesters have had their hands blown off by police stun grenades, another 20 have lost eyes from police bean-bag bullets, and one person has been permanently deafened.
The French government is under growing pressure to review police use of explosive weapons against civilians after serious injuries were reported during gilets jaunes street demonstrations, including people alleged to have lost eyes and to have had their hands and feet mutilated. France’s legal advisory body, the council of state, will on Wednesday examine an urgent request by the French Human Rights League and the CGT trade union to ban police from using a form of rubber-bullet launcher in which ball-shaped projectiles are shot out of specialised handheld launchers. France’s rights ombudsman has long warned they are dangerous and carry “disproportionate risk”.
Lawyers have also petitioned the government to ban so-called “sting-ball” grenades, which contain 25g of TNT high-explosive. France is the only European country where crowd-control police use such powerful grenades, which deliver an explosion of small rubber balls that creates a stinging effect as well as launching an additional load of teargas. The grenades create a deafening effect that has been likened to the sound of an aircraft taking off.
France’s centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, is facing renewed calls to ban such weapons after Jérôme Rodrigues, a high-profile member of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) demonstrators was hit in the eye on Saturday in Paris. He is said by his lawyer to have been disabled for life. Rights groups say Rodrigues’s case is the tip of the iceberg. Lawyers estimate that as many as 17 people have lost an eye because of the police’s use of such weapons since the start of the street demonstrations, while at least three have lost their hands and others have been left with their face or limbs mutilated. Injuries have happened at demonstrations in Paris and other cities, including Bordeaux and Nantes.
The government has not commented on specific allegations or given any breakdown of injuries. The interior minister, Christophe Castaner, on Tuesday said only that 1,900 people had been injured in all circumstances since the start of the gilets jaunes demonstrations in November. Lawyers and journalists attempting to compile lists of police weapon injuries estimate at least 100 people have been wounded. A total of 101 investigations have been opened by France’s police watchdog. ... Castaner said because France was dealing with a “crisis” situation, any review of policing would not happen at the present time.
A U.S. federal judge has ruled against a petition to unseal a criminal complaint against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, arguing that there is no proof that it exists.
Judge Leonie Brinkema of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decided on Wednesday to turn down the request by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to make public details of the complaint, the existence of which was made known inadvertently last year.
“The Government opposes the Committee’s application on the ground that it has neither confirmed nor denied whether charges have been filed against Assange and cannot be required to disclose that information before an arrest is made,” Brinkema wrote in her 10-page ruling.
Assange’s named appeared in a totally unrelated criminal complaint, apparently from a copy and paste mistake. The government called it an “unintentional error.”
Brinkema ruled that despite the government’s admission of the error, “The Government has not acknowledged whether formal charges have been filed against Assange and the Committee has not cited any authority supporting the notion that the public has a right to require the Government to confirm or deny that it has charged someone.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are force-feeding at least six detained migrants on a hunger strike to protest mistreatment, an ICE spokesperson confirmed to VICE News Thursday.
The federal officials at an El Paso, Texas, jail are using nasal tubes to force-feed the protesters, according to the Associated Press, which broke the story. ICE told VICE News officials are force-feeding them under court order.
About 30 inmates from Cuba and India have been refusing food to protest verbal abuse from guards, threats of deportation, and lengthy detainments with no sign of due process, they told the AP. Eleven have been starving themselves for about a month, according to ICE, and some are reportedly so weak they cannot stand up.
"The ICE Health Services Corps (IHSC) is medically monitoring the detainees’ health and regularly updating ICE of their medical status. Efforts are being taken to protect the detainees’ health and privacy," an ICE spokesperson told VICE News. The hunger strikes are not isolated to Texas, either: At least four more detainees, in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco, are refusing food, according to ICE.
On FDR's 137th Birthday, 200+ Democrats Unveil Bill to Expand Social Security So 'Seniors Can Retire in Dignity'
In a move progressives celebrated as an essential step toward ensuring that no one retires into poverty, over 200 House Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation that would protect and significantly expand Social Security benefits by subjecting the earnings of wealthy Americans to the program's payroll tax. Additionally, the Democratic bill would prevent Social Security benefits from eroding over time by more accurately adjusting them to rising costs of living.
In a statement after the measure was introduced, Social Security Works president Nancy Altman applauded the bill's "unprecedented" 200 Democratic co-sponsors for working to guarantee that "every penny of promised Social Security benefits, including the increases, can be paid in full and on time through the 21st century and beyond, just as they always have been paid." ...
Sponsored by Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the Democrats' legislation would set Social Security's minimum benefit at 25 percent above the poverty line in an effort to combat high levels of senior poverty in the United States while ensuring the program's solvency into the next century.
"The minimum benefit, which has eroded since its enactment in 1972, is increased because the cosponsors do not believe Americans should be forced to retire into poverty after a lifetime of work and contributing," Altman noted in an op-ed for Forbes on Wednesday. "The cosponsors also recognize that Social Security's vital benefits are more important than ever. Reliance on Social Security benefits will only increase in the future as a result of the decline in traditional, employer-sponsored pensions and the proven inadequacy of 401(k) savings plans." ...
As the Huffington Post's Daniel Marans notes, the legislation's 200 Democratic co-sponsors shows the party has come a long way from the Obama years, when many mainstream Democrats — including President Barack Obama himself—entertained plans to cut to the popular program.
Hasn't Wasserman-Schultz been primaried out of our collective misery yet?
As some Senate Democrats offer up half-measures that fall far short of Medicare for All and rush to distance themselves from Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) expressed support for eliminating private insurance, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) on Wednesday made heavy use of buzzwords and verbal gymnastics—with phrases such as "the moniker of what you call the concept"—in an attempt to paper over these substantive and crucial healthcare policy differences within the Democratic Party. "I think we have to look past the surface-level name for it," Wasserman Schultz said during a CNN appearance when asked about Harris' remarks and what Medicare for All really means.
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Health care is a right and should not be treated as a privilege...That is what Democrats are for, that’s what you’ll see every Democratic presidential candidate be for…they will take different approaches to getting there." pic.twitter.com/r6PZ7hJ2zL
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 30, 2019
Harris' remarks in support of eliminating the private insurance industry—which her team has since walked back—during a CNN town hall earlier this week intensified an ongoing national conversation about what Medicare for All would actually look like and how the transformative policy might be implemented.
The longest government shutdown in US history has come to an end, but experts fear its long-term consequences will include a brain drain among professionals who won’t want to work for a federal government they can’t count on to stay open.
The pain of the shutdown and fear of another one may drive away current and would-be government employees – especially those in highly skilled fields such as science, research and technology who can often command bigger paychecks in the private sector.
“The damage is profound,” said Max Stier, the president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “This is something that will take a very long time to fix.” ...
“It’s not a secret you can make more money as a defense contractor or in cybersecurity working for a private company,” said John Harmon, the vice-president of federal sales at the cybersecurity firm Endgame. “If the government isn’t a safe place to work any more, they can look other places.”
While conventional wisdom holds that stability is one of the draws of a government job, Stier said he believes employees are more motivated by their commitment to the mission, whether that means space exploration at Nasa or maintaining federal buildings at the General Services Administration. That too is jeopardized by the shutdown, which forced scientists to leave fragile research languishing in the lab.
Over the past 25 years, teacher salaries have fallen drastically behind. It’s a phenomenon called the “teacher pay gap,” and two years ago, it reached an all-time high.
All across the country last year, public school teachers walked off the job to demand better resources and higher pay. The states that have some of the largest pay gaps in the country — like Arizona, Oklahoma or Colorado — saw the biggest surges in teacher activism.
"The issue we're really talking about here is that we have a constant defunding of teacher pay as we have an erosion of public investment in the public school systems more generally,” said economist Sylvia Allegretto, one of the authors on the Economic Policy Institute’s Study. She explained that as public school budgets were cut during the Great Recession, they weren't reinstituted during the economic recovery that followed.
Sherrod Brown may not have decided yet whether he’s running for the White House in 2020. But the Ohio Democrat certainly sounded like a candidate vying for a chance to take on Donald Trump. On Wednesday night, the senator previewed his populist, pro-worker message to a hometown crowd in Brunswick, near Cleveland – the official launch of his “Dignity of Work” tour that will wind through the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. In his remarks here, Brown laid out the themes that would likely shape a presidential campaign while drawing a sharp contrast with the president.
“Donald Trump doesn’t respect the dignity of work – he has betrayed workers,” Brown, 66, told the crowd of more than 200 longtime supporters, union workers and liberal activists who braved the sub-zero temperatures gripping the region to attend. He accused Trump of peddling “phony populism to distract from the fact that he has used the White House to enrich billionaires like himself”.
“Real populism is not racist,” Brown said, his gravelly baritone rasping as he became more animated. “Real populism is never antisemitic. Real populists don’t engage in hate speech. And real populists don’t rip babies from their families at the border.” While Brown draws clear distinctions between his brand from Trump-style populism, he has also set himself apart from the fiery liberalism embraced by some of his colleagues and potential challengers. He has so far not endorsed key progressive priorities such as Medicare for All or a Green New Deal.
“If he’s going to claim the mantle of working-class hero then he has to also embrace the economic populist policies that are popular with voters,” said Waleed Shahid, spokesman for Justice Democrats, a political action committee that supports progressive candidates.
The population of monarch butterflies wintering in central Mexico is up 144% over last year, according to new research.
The data was cheered but scientists quickly warned that it does not mean the butterflies that migrate from Canada and the United States are out of danger. This winter, researchers found the butterflies occupying 14.95 acres (6.05 hectares) of pine and fir forests in the mountains of Michoacan and Mexico states – an increase from 6.12 acres a year ago.
This year’s is the biggest measurement since the 2006-2007 period, said Andrew Rhodes, Mexico’s national commissioner for protected natural areas. A historic low of just 1.66 acres (0.67 hectares) was recorded in 2013-2014.
Jorge Rickards, director of World Wildlife Fund in Mexico which participates in the monitoring, cautioned that the butterflies, like other insects, see their annual populations rise and fall and the monarchs have had a declining trend. This year’s number was positive, but there is no guarantee it will continue.
The first monarchs crossed into Mexico more than a week later than usual on 20 October owing to rain and cold along the Texas-Mexico border, Rhodes said. “Once in Mexican territory, the butterflies occupied an area that gives us a lot of hope for the future,” Rhodes said.
Scientists said the approximately 15 acres coverage should be seen as a minimum for the viability of the migrating monarchs in the future.
A U.S. judge berated Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. on Wednesday, accusing the nation’s largest utility of enriching shareholders instead of clearing trees that can fall on its power lines and start fires and making “excuses” to avoid turning off electricity when fire risk is high.
Judge William Alsup in San Francisco did not immediately order PG&E to take any of the dramatic measures he has proposed to try to stop more wildfires. But he warned that he was not ruling out at least some new requirements on the company if it did not come up with a plan to “solve” the problem of catastrophic wildfires in California.
“To my mind, there’s a very clear-cut pattern here: that PG&E is starting these fires,” Alsup said. “What do we do? Does the judge just turn a blind eye and say, ‘PG&E continue your business as usual. Kill more people by starting more fires.'” Alsup is overseeing a criminal conviction against PG&E on pipeline safety charges stemming from a 2010 gas line explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
He proposed earlier this month as part of PG&E’s probation that it remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines in high-wind conditions and shut off power when fire is a risk regardless of the inconvenience to customers or loss of profit. Alsup said his goal was to prevent PG&E equipment from causing any wildfires during the 2019 fire season. PG&E shot back in a court filing last week that the judge’s proposals would endanger lives and could cost as much as $150 billion to implement. ...
Alsup was also critical of the California Public Utilities Commission, accusing it of working slowly and using former PG&E employees. The judge later apologized for those comments but still questioned how so many fires broke out under the CPUC’s watch.
Mussels start to lose their grip when exposed to microplastics, research has found, in the latest example of the damaging effects of plastic pollution on marine life. When blue mussels were exposed to doses of non-biodegradable microplastics over 52 days, they lost about half their power to stick to surfaces. The weakening of their attachment appears to be the result of producing many fewer byssal threads, the thin fibres produced by mussels that enable them to attach to rocks, ropes and other undersea environments.
The research, carried out at the Portaferry Marine Laboratory in Northern Ireland, and reported in the journal Environmental Pollution, is among the first to study the effects of microplastics on marine organisms.
Microplastics have been found across the world in a wide variety of environments, from tapwater and seawater to flying insects and are probably even in the air we breathe. Last year, a study found microplastics in human faeces for the first time. Some are microplastics that have been deliberately manufactured, for instance as microbeads in cosmetics, but most are the result of the breakdown of bigger pieces of plastic debris. There are vast numbers of sources of microplastics – for instance, synthetic clothing can shed tiny fibres when washed – making it difficult to remove them from use.
If mussels are losing their grip in the wild as well as under study conditions, the effects will be felt beyond the mollusc population. Mussels cling together and form reefs, which help them to breed, and shelter myriad other marine animals and plants, playing an important role in the marine ecosystem.
As its name suggests, the polar vortex is found around the north pole. It’s a band of strong winds, high up in the atmosphere that keeps bitterly cold air locked around the Arctic region. This circulation isn’t considered a single storm, or even a weather pattern as such. ...
Studies have pointed to a recent increase in instances where the polar vortex has bulged down into heavily populated areas. Scientists are gaining a better understanding of why this is happening, with many identifying climate change as an influence.
There’s some evidence that the jet stream, a meandering air current that flows over North America and Europe, is slowing and becoming wavier as the planet warms. The jet stream interacts with the polar vortex, helping bring numbing temperatures further south.
Scientists also point to a complex sequence of events involving sea ice, which is rapidly diminishing in the Arctic. As the ice retreats, summertime heat is absorbed by the dark ocean that lies underneath. This heat is released into the atmosphere during winter, spurring winds that can disrupt the polar vortex.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Louis Jordan - Keep a Knockin' (But You Can't Come In)
Louis Jordan - Salt Pork West Virginia
Louis Jordan - Juneteenth Jambouree
Louis Jordan & his Tympany 5 - Time Is A Passin'
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Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five - Outskirts of Town
Louis Jordan - Choo Choo Ch'boogie
Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five - Jack, You’re Dead
Louis Jordan - I Know What You're Putting Down
Louis Jordan - Somebody Done Hoodooed The Hoodoo Man
Louis Jordan - Peace Of Mind