The Evening Blues - 2-15-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b guitarist Lonnie Mack. Enjoy!
Lonnie Mack - Memphis
"Most wars present themselves as humanitarian endeavors to help people."
-- Howard Zinn
News and Opinion
As Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro urges the international community to condemn an ongoing U.S.-backed effort to overthrow him and calls for peaceful negotiations with critics led by self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaidó, the Cuban government—which supports Maduro—claimed on Thursday that the Trump administration is moving special forces closer to Venezuela "in preparation for a military adventure under the guise of a 'humanitarian intervention.'"
In a lengthy statement denouncing the steps President Donald Trump and his allies have taken to oust Maduro—particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.)—the Cuban government said:
Between February 6 and 10 of 2019, several military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport in Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base in the Dominican Republic, and other strategically located Caribbean Islands, most certainly without the knowledge of the governments of those nations. These flights took off from U.S. military facilities where Special Operation Troops and U.S. Marine Corps units operate. These units have been used for covert operations, even against leaders of other countries.
Pointing to a draft resolution that the Trump administration recently introduced at the U.N. Security Council that expresses concern about the humanitarian conditions of Venezuela, Cuba concluded:
[T]he U.S. intends to fabricate a humanitarian pretext in order to launch a military attack on Venezuela and, by resorting to intimidation, pressure, and force, is seeking to introduce into this sovereign nation's territory alleged humanitarian aid... It is obvious that the United States is paving the way to forcibly establish a humanitarian corridor under international supervision, invoke the obligation to protect civilians, and take all necessary steps. It is worth recalling that similar behaviors and pretexts were used to by the U.S. during the prelude to wars it launched against Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, which resulted in tremendous human losses and caused enormous suffering.
The warnings out of Cuba come after Guaidó vowed on Tuesday that foreign aid—which has already begun arriving along the border with Colombia and Brazil—will enter Venezuela on Feb. 23 in spite of objections from Maduro, who has also characterized offerings of aid as part of a "political war of American empire" and "warmongering in order to take over" Venezuela.
President Nicolas Maduro has invited a U.S. special envoy to Venezuela after revealing in an AP interview that his foreign minister recently held secret meetings with the U.S. official in New York. A senior Venezuelan official said the second of two meetings took place Feb. 11 — four days after the envoy, Elliott Abrams, said the “time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed,” and as the Trump administration publicly backed an effort to unseat the embattled Venezuelan president.
Even while harshly criticizing Donald Trump’s confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he holds out hope of meeting the U.S. president soon to resolve a crisis over the U.S.’ recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
At turns conciliatory and combative, Maduro said all Venezuela needs to rebound is for Trump to remove his “infected hand” from the country that sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves.
President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel and the U.S. Thursday for a suicide bomb attack that killed 27 members of the Revolutionary Guard in southeastern Iran. The bomber drove a car laden with explosives Wednesday into a bus carrying members of the elite paramilitary force in Sistan and Baluchistan province, a mountainous region along the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A militant Sunni Muslim group called Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), who are seeking greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed the attack. ...
The attack took place on the same day that officials from around the world gathered at a U.S.-sponsored conference in Warsaw billed as a discussion on peace in the Middle East. However, the conference’s unofficial focus was firmly on Iran — a fact highlighted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who posted a tweet threatening war with the Iranian regime.
The US vice-president, Mike Pence, has sharply rebuked Washington’s European allies over their efforts to shield their businesses from US sanctions on Iran, as transatlantic tensions over US foreign policy were laid bare at a conference in Warsaw. A scheme the European Union has set up to facilitate trade with Iran was “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime”, Pence said during a conference on the Middle East organised by the US in the Polish capital.
“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the US,” he said.
In an unusually blunt and fiery address, Pence called on what he described as “freedom-loving nations” to stand against Iranian “evil”, and went so far as to accuse the regional power of plotting a “new Holocaust”. ...
Pence then called for Europe to abandon the nuclear agreement altogether, making explicit a demand that Trump administration officials had previously only hinted at. European diplomats at the conference rejected Pence’s accusations. “We strongly disagree,” a diplomat from a major European power told Reuters.
In an unprecedented interview with an Israeli TV station broadcast Wednesday, the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the US and UK accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of deceiving the Israeli public by claiming that Israeli ties with the wider Arab world can be warmed without the Palestinian issue being solved.
“Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue,” Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told Israel’s Channel 13 news in a lengthy interview in London. “From the Israeli point of view, Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around.”
Asked by interviewer Barak Ravid whether that meant Netanyahu was “deceiving the Israeli public” by claiming to be able to “promote relations with the Arab world regardless of the Palestinians,” Prince Turki replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.” ...
Ravid said Prince Turki had met with the Saudi king in the days before the interview, and that the prince was plainly conveying a message that Riyadh wants heard in Israel.
The US government and Facebook are negotiating a settlement over the company’s privacy lapses that could require the online social network to pay a multibillion-dollar fine, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. ...
The FTC has been investigating revelations that Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million of its users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The inquiry has focused on whether the sharing of data with Cambridge Analytica and other privacy disputes violated a 2011 agreement with the FTC to safeguard users’ privacy.
An eventual settlement may also mandate changes in how Facebook does business.
Theresa May has suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of hardline Eurosceptics, plunging her hopes of uniting the Conservatives around a renegotiated Brexit deal into chaos. The prime minister failed to win support for her EU strategy after the European Research Group (ERG), led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, abstained on a government motion because it appeared to rule out a no-deal Brexit. ...
The prime minister was not present for the House of Commons defeat, by 303 votes to 258, in which she again lost control of her party in the crucial final weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU on 29 March. ...
In Brussels, diplomats said the result confirmed that the prime minister was incapable of commanding the support of her party on key votes, and that she needed to work cross-party. “No one can take any good from this,” said one diplomat.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, demanded that May come to the House of Commons to explain her Brexit plan in the absence of parliamentary support for her approach. “Tonight’s vote shows there is no majority for the prime minister’s course of action in dealing with Brexit,” he said. “Yet again her government has been defeated. The government cannot keen on ignoring parliament or ploughing on towards 29 March without a coherent plan.”
Amazon has had a bad week but there is some comfort for the tech titan – it will not pay a single cent in income tax on the $11.2bn of profits it made last year. ... [T]he Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) published a report showing Amazon is not paying a single cent in taxes for the second year in a row.
In 2018, Amazon nearly doubled its profits, from $5.6bn to $11.2bn. But far from paying the statutory 21% income tax rate, it reported a $129m federal income tax rebate for the year – a tax rate of -1%.
“The fine print of Amazon’s income tax disclosure shows that this achievement is partly due to various unspecified ‘tax credits’ as well as a tax break for executive stock options,” according to ITEP.
A member of Portland’s city council said Thursday a newspaper’s report that the commander for the police rapid response team exchanged friendly text messages with a leader of far-right protests that have rocked the city confirms collusion exists between some police and right-wing extremists.
“I am not shocked, and I am not surprised at today’s reporting of Lt. Jeff Niiya’s collaboration with Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson over text to provide aid and support for their hate marches,” Councilwoman Jo Ann Hardesty said in a statement.
Willamette Week obtained text messages through a public records request between Niiya and Gibson. The texts purportedly show Niiya had a friendly rapport with Gibson, frequently discussing Gibson’s plans to demonstrate. In one text reported by the newspaper, Niiya tells Gibson that he doesn’t see a need to arrest his assistant, Tusitala Toese, who often brawls with antifascist protesters, even if he has a warrant, unless Toese commits a new crime.
Sweet Jesus. Now "sleeping while black" is a crime punishable by death in California.
Video footage of police killing a 20-year-old California man in his car shows a group of officers firing more than a dozen shots at him, prompting his family to say he was “executed by a firing squad”.
Blurry cellphone footage of six officers shooting Willie McCoy, an aspiring rapper who had been sleeping in his car outside a Taco Bell, also revealed that multiple police officers shouted commands at the young man after hitting him with a barrage of bullets.
“This was a cruel death by a firing squad,” David Harrison, McCoy’s cousin, told the Guardian on Thursday. “He was executed. They shot him so many times.”
The video, filmed by a witness from a distance and published on YouTube, captured audio of what sounds like between a dozen and 20 shots within several seconds. After the bullets stopped, multiple officers screamed: “Let me see your hands! Put your hands up!”
Ian Welsh makes an excellent point:
So, apparently Trump has said he will declare a national emergency to build his wall. I’m going to make one point about this. If you have an abusable law or power it will eventually be abused.
Wikipedia notes that:
Congress has delegated at least 136 distinct statutory emergency powers to the President upon the declaration of an emergency. Only 13 require a declaration from Congress; the remainder are invoked by an executive declaration with no Congressional input.
If you set up a law that allows someone to act as a dictator, someone will.
Worth a full read:
A government shutdown deal seems to have been reached. Details are scant, and it’s still unclear whether the president will sign the deal, but the rough outline is there: more detention beds, more fencing, and more funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Democrats, in other words, are conceding to Trump’s calls for increased border security. Importantly, their increased funding for DHS includes miscellaneous “technology” spending, which, given past statements, is likely to include drones, artificial intelligence, and unspecified “cutting-edge technology”. ...
We should be extremely cautious about increasing funding for a “smart wall”. Such a wall will amass profits for military companies like Raytheon, tech firms like Amazon, and private prison makers like Geo Group, but do nothing to solve the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. It will also likely lead to civil rights violations writ large – not just for migrants, but for the two-thirds of the American population who live within 100 miles of the border around the US as a whole. Eventually, surveillance technology perfected at the border could be repurposed against us all, as is often the case when new tech is rolled out first against the most vulnerable populations. ...
A wall made of drones and cameras would be just as wrong as one made of concrete. The real emergency along the southern border is comprised of the abhorrent conditions that migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are forced to suffer. The answer cannot be to violate human and civil rights and line corporate coffers.
President Donald Trump will sign the budget deal that Congress is expected to send him later Thursday, but he’ll also declare a state of emergency at the southern border so he can fund his long-promised wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The Senate is expected to overwhelmingly pass the bill, which contains $1.37 billion in funding for 55 miles of border fence, far short of the president’s requested $5.7 billion for the wall — which he'd long insisted Mexico would pay for.
In just two weeks, what is being heralded as an "astonishingly strong" plan to create a Medicare for All system in the United States will be introduced in the U.S. House. With energized grassroots activists, more than 90 congressional co-sponsors, and public opinion all firmly on her side, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) announced on Wednesday that she plans to introduce her 150-page Medicare for All bill the week after next. ...
Speaking to the Washington Post, Jayapal said she expects to introduce her bill with at least 100 original co-sponsors. ...
In an analysis of Jayapal's legislation and the broader fight for Medicare for All in Splinter on Thursday, single-payer proponent and health policy expert Tim Faust offered strong praise for the Medicare for All Act after reading an overview of the bill. Noting that he is "generally inclined to distrust the policy gestures of elected officials," Faust wrote that—while not perfect—Jayapal's bill "appears to meet all of the criteria for a proper single-payer plan."
"It includes long-term care with a preference toward home health. It sets guidelines for care but lets doctors overrule them. It is, by all accounts, the first actual robust single-payer bill of the post-[Affordable Care Act] era," he argued. "If you are looking for a bill to call 'Medicare for All,' this is the one. It must not be permitted to be weakened."
While Jayapal's bill will be released as nurses and other grassroots activists mobilize in support of Medicare for All across the nation, it will also come as a number of her Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate are pushing ahead with Medicare buy-in plans and other half-measures, which single-payer supporters say would leave the fundamental cruelty and wastefulness of the current for-profit system intact.
#BREAKING: HUGE VICTORY! A U.S. court has dismissed a pipeline company's baseless $900 million lawsuit against Greenpeace and others! It's a win for free speech and people power! RT and Share! https://t.co/epBJVEr8tz pic.twitter.com/16lsVpicQP
— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) February 14, 2019
District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed (pdf) all claims against all defendants in a lawsuit brought by fossil fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which sought to hold the water protectors liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for millions of dollars in alleged damages.
"Donating to people whose cause you support does not create a RICO enterprise," Wilson wrote in his opinion. "Posting articles written by people with similar beliefs does not create a RICO enterprise."
While the protests against DAPL, which were met with a militarized response from law enforcement, were ultimately unsuccessful—and the now-operational pipeline already boasts an alarming track record of oil spills—the activists and their attorneys welcomed the win in court on Friday, noting that Wilson's ruling aligns with that of a similar case that was dismissed in 2017. ...
Defense attorneys called the case a "textbook example" of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). "The goal of a SLAPP is not to win, but to burden the defendants with costly and time-intensive litigation procedures, while creating a chilling effect that discourages others from speaking out on issues of public concern," EarthRights International explained in a statement on Friday. "The judge's swift dismissal suggests that the federal judiciary may be losing patience with these abusive tactics."
A broad new scientific analysis of the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate herbicides, the most widely used weedkilling products in the world, has found that people with high exposures to the popular pesticides have a 41% increased risk of developing a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. ...
The findings by five US scientists contradict the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) assurances of safety over the weed killer and come as regulators in several countries consider limiting the use of glyphosate-based products in farming.
[T]he new analysis could potentially complicate Monsanto’s defense of its top-selling herbicide. Three of the study authors were tapped by the EPA as board members for a 2016 scientific advisory panel on glyphosate. The new paper was published by the journal Mutation Research /Reviews in Mutation Research, whose editor in chief is EPA scientist David DeMarini.
The study’s authors say their meta-analysis is distinctive from previous assessments. “This paper makes a stronger case than previous meta-analyses that there is evidence of an increased risk of NHL due to glyphosate exposure,” said co-author Lianne Sheppard, a professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences department at the University of Washington. “From a population health point of view there are some real concerns.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Stevie Ray Vaughan with Lonnie Mack - Wham
Lonnie Mack - Why
Lonnie Mack - Oreo Cookie Blues
Lonnie Mack - Save Your Money
Lonnie Mack - Satisfy Susie
Lonnie Mack - Farther On Up The Road
Lonnie Mack - Camp Washington Chili
Lonnie Mack - Cincinnati Jail
Lonnie Mack - Suzie Q