The Evening Blues - 3-15-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer and guitarist Son Seals. Enjoy!
Son Seals & The Chicago Fire Band-The Sun is Shinin'
“Kakimi chertyami oni viigrali holodnuyu voinu?"
This translates roughly to: "How the hell did these people win the Cold War?”
-- Dave Barry
News and Opinion
Following the publication of the results of a groundbreaking new study this week, experts are now reporting that every single person who questions western military interventionism is both an antisemitic bigot and a Russian national. Research analyst Les Overton is a senior fellow at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Democracy (ASPCD), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank whose motives we can only assume are perfectly truthful and unbiased. He told NNC that the ASPCD’s research clearly shows that the rate of correlation between an individual opposing western foreign policy, harboring a virulent hatred of Jewish people, and being a citizen of the Russian Federation is “at least a hundred percent, if not more.” ...
These findings track with revelations exposed by respected foreign policy analyst Max Boot in an article published yesterday in the Washington Post titled “It’s time to retire the ‘neocon’ label“. Boot explains that those who criticize the relentless warmongering of neoconservatism are actually facilitating antisemitism, writing that antiwar voices have been known to use that label “to suggest that Jews are running U.S. foreign policy.” These findings also help explain the fact that British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and US Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard and Ilhan Omar have all been found to be arousing suspicion with their irrational affection for Vladimir Putin and irrational disdain for people of Jewish ancestry.
Defense officials want to test a neutral particle-beam in orbit in fiscal 2023 as part of a ramped-up effort to explore various types of space-based weaponry. They’ve asked for $304 million in the 2020 budget to develop such beams, more powerful lasers, and other new tech for next-generation missile defense. Such weapons are needed, they say, to counter new missiles from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. But just figuring out what might work is a difficult technical challenge.
So the Pentagon is undertaking two studies. The first is a $15 million exploration of whether satellites outfitted with lasers might be able to disable enemy missiles coming off the launch pad. Defense officials have said previously that these lasers would need to be in the megawatt class. They expect to finish the study within six months.
They’re also pouring money into a study of space-based neutral particle beams, a different form of directed energy that disrupts missiles with streams of subatomic particles traveling close to light speed — as opposed to lasers, whose photons travel at light speed. On Wednesday, officials speaking to reporters at the Pentagon voiced guarded confidence that they would result in something that would in fact be deployable. ...
It’s also a controversial idea and not popular among arms control proponents. “The deployment of interceptors in space would be a disaster for strategic stability. To ensure the credibility of their nuclear deterrents, Russia and China would likely respond by building additional and new types of long-range ballistic missiles as well as missiles that fly on non-ballistic trajectories. Russia and China could also take steps to improve their ability to destroy such U.S. interceptors, thereby greatly increasing the threat to U.S. assets in space,” said Kingston Reif, who directs disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. ... A February report from the Defense Intelligence Agency suggests that both China and Russia are developing space-based weapons and that they could be in orbit next year.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan denied Thursday that under sharp questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Warren, who is running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, was pressing Shanahan on the Pentagon’s request for $164 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) account in fiscal year 2020. ...
OCO is theoretically a war fund only to be used for temporary expenses, though over the years it has increasingly been used for base budget items since it is not subject to budget caps. ...
The international news agency Reuters has confirmed that Venezuela’s US-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó and his right-wing economic advisers drafted a plan to privatize the country’s petroleum industry and open up the oil-rich South American country to foreign corporations. ...
In a March 12 report titled “Venezuela’s Guaido readies to open up oil industry after years of nationalization,” Reuters outlined plans by the opposition to partially privatize Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.
The news agency obtained a copy of the US-backed opposition’s privatization proposal, and detailed it as follows:
Under the proposal, which is expected to be released and discussed at Venezuela’s National Assembly in coming days, private firms could choose to run the day-to-day operations of Venezuelan oilfields, a sharp departure from the Chavez era in which foreign companies could only hold minority stakes and were not granted operational control.
Guaido’s team is proposing a variety of exploration and production contracts to allow private companies for the first time in decades to operate oilfields individually and in partnership with PDVSA. Private companies could also apply to operate oil refineries and retail service stations under the draft proposal.
... The proposal would also let the coup regime completely remake PDVSA, allowing it to reorganize the company, renegotiate its debts, suspend existing so-called “harmful contracts,” and change its relations with current partners — such as Chinese, Russian, and Iranian companies.
.@ajtata on #Maduro refusing to leave #Venezuela: “He needs to understand that a bullet to the forehead may be his way out of Venezuela. That’s just the bottom line, and we have that capability.” #SOSVenezuela #ALaCalleContraLaOscuridad pic.twitter.com/8fihE5TRaz
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) March 15, 2019
Power has been restored to much of Venezuela, a week after a devastating blackout struck across the country, crippling water supplies, and cutting off telephone and internet services for millions. But swaths of the country remain without electricity, and experts have warned that normal services may not resume for weeks – or even months.
A new report from the Central University of Venezuela’s faculty of engineering confirmed that the blackout was caused when a bush fire near the Malena substation in eastern Venezuela took out a vital section of the country’s power grid.
The report offered two possible explanations for why the fire had such a devastating impact – both of which imply full supply will not be restored any time soon. The first is that the fire took out part of the transmission network, which could take up to 60 days to repair. The second scenario, would be even more severe. It posits that the fire led to a turbine failure at the El Guri hydroelectric dam, which powers 80% of the country’s electric grid. In that case, repairs could take up to three years and will depend on Venezuela’s embattled government obtaining replacement parts and qualified technicians – both long absent from Venezuela’s electrical infrastructure.
The US withdrew the last of its diplomats on Thursday, and the Stars and Stripes flag over the embassy in Caracas was taken down. ... Washington is reportedly considering fresh financial sanctions that could prohibit Visa, Mastercard and other financial institutions from processing transactions in Venezuela. The restrictions have been described as a way to pile pressure on the embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, but if introduced, they will inevitably create more problems for citizens who are struggling with hyper-inflation and chronic shortages of food and medicine.
Venezuelans resumed work Thursday after a weeklong hiatus forced by an unprecedented nationwide blackout, but President Nicolas Maduro's government faced fresh problems including a "terrorist attack" on an oil facility.
Three storage tanks at the Petro San Felix heavy oil processing plant in eastern Venezuela caught fire late Wednesday, Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo told state television. There were no reports of casualties. Quevedo blamed Guaido, the head of Venezuela's opposition-ruled congress and self-proclaimed interim president backed by 50 countries, accusing him of collusion with the United States.
On Twitter, the minister said Guaido and the opposition were "intensifying terrorist incursions" against the state-owned oil company PDVSA to impact Venezuela's vital crude exports. "Traitors!" he wrote, adding "the US has decided to rob Venezuela of its oil resources... (and) wants blood to flow."
Oil accounts for 90 percent of Venezuela's export revenues. Production has long slid, crimped by years of underinvestment and mismanagement. Stepped-up US sanctions have further trimmed exports.
Two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cut short their second summit with no agreement or clear path forward, a top North Korean official said on Friday the "gangster-like" behavior of Trump's hawkish top officials helped derail the denuclearization negotiations.
At a gathering of diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui expressed disappointment that the summit ended without a deal and threatened to suspend talks. According to The Associated Press:
Choe, who attended the Feb. 27-28 talks in Hanoi, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the "eccentric" negotiation position of the U.S. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust was created by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate.
"On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said, 'For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?'" Choe told reporters. "I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger."
Militants in Gaza have fired two rockets towards Tel Aviv, the first such attack since the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. Israel has responded by attacking what it called “terror sites” in Gaza. ...
There were no reports of damage or casualties, the Israeli army said, and no group in Gaza immediately claimed the attack, but in a statement, Hamas’s military wing denied responsibility for the attack. ...
As tensions have risen in Gaza over Israel’s lethal response to weekly protests at the frontier during the past year, militants in the enclave have fired hundreds of projectiles into surrounding areas, although not as far north as Tel Aviv. Israel’s military has responded with widespread airstrikes.
Looks to me like nobody in the UK wants to take responsibility for the hot potato:
MPs had the chance to take back control of Brexit – wresting this tortured process from a weak, flailing and moribund government – and they ducked it. Sure, it was by the narrowest of margins, losing by just two votes, 312 to 314, but MPs passed up the opportunity to take charge and say, at long last, what kind of Brexit they want. They preferred instead to grant Theresa May yet another lifeline for her own deal – which, incredibly, will come back for a third meaningful vote on Tuesday.
The lever that was offered to MPs, by which they might have finally got a grip on the Brexit crisis, was a proposal from Hilary Benn that would have seen a series of votes allowing MPs to indicate their preferred Brexit plan – whether that be Norway plus or a second referendum or every shade in between. No longer would May retain the initiative, with the power to confine MPs to a single, binary choice: my way or the highway.
Had it gone through, it would have confirmed what the rest of this week had already suggested: that power is haemorrhaging away from this prime minister, that this government is in office but not in power, that it is parliament rather than Downing Street that now calls the shots. But, by a whisker, May’s administration clung on, the party whip having lost not all of its sting. In fact, it was six Brexiter Labour MPs who saved May from what would have been further humiliation, voting against their colleague Benn and giving her a stay of execution.
It now means the prime minister can stage next Tuesday’s vote the way she wants it: as an ultimatum to the ultras of the European Research Group and the Democratic Unionist party. Thanks to another, much more comfortable vote this evening, approving in principle an extension of article 50, those intransigents will now face a sharp dilemma. The ERG and DUP either swallow their objections and vote for May’s deal, or they face the prospect of a long delay to Brexit – perhaps for the best part of two years. Given the mayhem on show these past few days, who would bet what might happen to their precious Brexit project between now and 2021? They might lose it altogether. That is the stark, binary choice May has always wanted to press upon the Brexiters, and the defeat of the Benn amendment allows her to do it.
President Trump in a new interview suggested that his supporters are tougher than Democrats, and that if they actually play tough things could get "very bad." Trump made the comments in the context of an interview with the conservative outlet Breitbart in which he argued that Democrats play a tough political game.
“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny," Trump said in the interview with Breitbart published on Wednesday. "I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher."
"I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad," Trump said.
"But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress ... with all this invest[igations] — that’s all they want to do is — you know, they do things that are nasty. Republicans never played this.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and several other members of Trump World had #LetThemEatCake moments during the government shutdown. We decided they should meet their inspiration in person... Follow us and stay tuned. pic.twitter.com/yzi3yRn5uf
— American Family Voices (@AFVhq) March 12, 2019
An immigrant rights group on Wednesday filed a civil rights complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that the Trump administration is blatantly flouting the Flores agreement—the law that dictates how long the U.S. government can keep children in custody.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) says that five children have been held at a detention center in Karnes City, Texas for at least 41 days, with at least one held for nearly three months. The prolonged detention is a clear violation of Flores, which prohibits the government from holding children for longer than 20 days, the group argued.
BREAKING: Today, we filed a complaint w/DHS on behalf of families at Karnes.
They've been detained for 41-58 days. Kids are supposed to be held for 20 days MAX.
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) March 13, 2019
RAICES wrote in its complaint that the group had taken note of the "disturbing trend" at Karnes Detention Center and called for the immediate release of the children, who are as young as five years old. Most of the children are being held with their fathers but some of the families have been separated since first being detained.
"All children in detention, even those detained with their parents, have the same rights under Flores," RAICES wrote. "The Flores agreement states that a child must be released from detention 'without unnecessary delay' so long as they do not pose a flight risk or danger, i.e. they must be released within 20 days. Prolonged detention of children, even with their fathers, is a clear violation of Flores."
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Thursday that his administration is investigating corruption among its immigration and customs agents, responding to a question by VICE News about claims that agents are extorting migrants applying for asylum in the U.S. “The entire immigration and customs system is being cleansed of corruption. This was initiated straight from the National Palace,” he said at his morning news conference.
“To the extortionists, the miscreants who pass themselves off as public servants and officials but are vulgar thieves: There will be no tolerance,” he said, singling out corruption in the agency that controls customs and migration. “This practice may last a month, two months, but no more. They will be fired.”
López Obrador’s comments came one day after VICE News detailed how Mexican officials along the Texas-Mexico border are demanding up to $3,500 from migrants who want to access ports of entry and apply for asylum in the U.S. They are also threatening migrants with deportation if they don’t pay.
The United States Senate just sent President Trump its second stunning rebuke in as many days when a flock of Republicans joined Democrats in disapproving Trump’s emergency declaration over his border wall. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk, where it faces a promised veto, Trump’s first.
The 12 Republicans who voted to block Trump from redirecting funds to pay for the border wall say they’re standing up for Congress and its constitutional authority to control spending. ...
The vote caps weeks of behind-the-scenes talks with Vice President Mike Pence being deployed to the Capitol numerous times, and a group of Republicans visiting the White House Wednesday, to try to urge Trump to back down. In the end, the floodgates of Republican opposition were blown wide open ahead of the vote.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
The House has unanimously voted for a resolution calling for any final report in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to be made public. The symbolic action designed to pressure the attorney general, William Barr, to release as much information as possible when the inquiry ends.
The Democratic-backed resolution, which passed 420-0, comes as Mueller appears to be nearing an end to his investigation. Lawmakers in both parties have maintained there will have to be some sort of public discussion when the report is done – and privately hope that a report shows conclusions that are favorable to their own side.
The resolution is unlikely to be passed in the Senate, where the Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, tried to bring it up hours after House passage. He was rebuffed when the Senate judiciary committee chairman, Lindsey Graham, objected. But the House vote shows that lawmakers from both parties are eager to view Mueller’s findings after almost two years of speculation about what they might reveal.
Though Mueller’s office has said nothing publicly about the timing of a report, several prosecutors detailed to Mueller’s team have left in recent months, suggesting that the investigation is winding down.
Must be frustrating to be Liz Warren, rolling out policy after policy, and then see Beto make a splash by saying he just, like, needs to be in it, man.
— Matthew Sitman (@MatthewSitman) March 14, 2019
Surprise, surprise - Beetlejuice wants to continue Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy policy.
“We are truly now, more than ever, the last great hope of this Earth,” Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke ended a video announcing his presidential bid. “At this moment of maximum peril and maximum potential, let’s show ourselves and those who will succeed us in this great country just who we are and what we can do.” That sounds pretty green and maybe even refreshing after two years of Donald Trump. But O’Rourke’s candidacy is kind of like the iceberg lettuce of politics. You can load it up with whatever you want, but underneath all the dressing and crunchy topping seems to be a whole lot of nothing. As political scientist Lee Drutman put it: “He knows how to be an empty vessel for hopes and dreams.”
O’Rourke wants to be everything to everyone. To take a look back at his career, that’s an invitation he’s extended to the fossil fuel industry. With just about 11 years to begin rapidly transitioning the US off of fossil fuels – per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – an O’Rourke presidency is not a risk the US or the world can afford to take. As an analysis by the not-for-profit news site Capital and Main has shown, his six-year record in Congress – representing a solidly blue district – included siding with Republicans more than his fellow Democrats did, including on some key climate votes.
O’Rourke voted twice to lift longstanding restrictions on crude oil exports. The decision was a boon to the world’s most dangerous industry, making the reckless exploration of reserves in the Permian and Appalachian Basin profitable and helping to set the US on the path to becoming a net exporter of fossil fuels; two years after the vote, exports had tripled. As Oil Change International has found, the continued expansion of these reserves – including in the US – is flatly incompatible with averting catastrophic levels of global warming.
He voted with the Republican party as well to encourage more natural gas exports, and to stop a Democratic bill to ban drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And as recently as October, O’Rourke voiced his support for an all-of-the-above energy policy that’s out of step with scientific reality, repeating a fossil fuel industry talking point that indefinitely continued oil and gas production is a way to “help us meet some of the challenges of climate change”.
Hundreds of thousands of children are expected to walk out of their classrooms on Friday for a global climate strike amid growing anger at the failure of politicians to tackle the escalating ecological crisis. Children at tens of thousands of schools in more than 100 countries are due to take part in the walkouts which began last year when one teenager – Greta Thunberg – held a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament.
Since then the climate movement has snowballed with schoolchildren on every continent except Antarctica taking part.
Friday’s strike is expected to be the biggest yet as evidence mounts of the climate emergency facing the planet. Amnesty International has warned that the failure of world governments to tackle the crisis could amount to “one of the greatest intergenerational human rights violations in history”.
When French President Emmanuel Macron showed up for a town hall meeting last week in the picturesque provençal town of Gréoux-les-Bains, part of a Great National Debate that has seen him engage with local communities across the country, the star guest from Paris was upstaged by a local schoolboy who, mic in hand, urged him to get serious about saving the planet.
“What do you mean by ecology, since our factories are free to discard their waste at sea, pesticides pollute our soils and thus our food, Europe sends 20,000 tonnes of junked electrical equipment to Nigeria, and plastic rubbish invades our oceans and our planet?” asked the plucky 14-year-old, who went by the name of Charlie. “When are you going to react? You have the power to,” the youngster added. “Or do you think money will buy us a new planet?” ...
On Thursday, four French NGOs – Notre affaire à tous, la Fondation pour la nature et l'homme, Greenpeace France and Oxfam France – filed a lawsuit at the Paris administrative court against the French government, accusing it of failing to act upon its environmental obligations. A petition accompanying their initiative, called ‘L’Affaire du siècle’ or the case of the century, has collected a record 2.1 million signatures.
France played a key part in engineering an agreement at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, but it has consistently fallen short of its environmental commitments since then. Macron’s own green credentials took a hit last summer when his star environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, quit the government in protest at the lack of progress. Months later, he was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on anti-pollution fuel tax hikes in the face of country-wide "Yellow Vest" protests.
“We want the French state’s commitments and stated ambitions to be translated into concrete action,” said Noelie Coudurier, who heads Oxfam France’s climate section. “And in order to enforce this, we need the courts to recognise the state’s responsibility in failing to meet its targets,” she told FRANCE 24.
New Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced on 4 March that he plans to permit mining on indigenous lands in Brazil, including within the Amazon. He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current ban along a 150-kilometer (93-mile)-wide swath at the frontier.
The Bolsonaro administration’s indigenous mining plan is in direct opposition to indigenous land rights as guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. The indigenous mining initiative will likely be implemented via a presidential decree, which will almost surely be reviewed, and possibly be rejected, by Brazil’s Supreme Court.
Mining companies stand ready to move into indigenous reserves, if the measure goes forward. Brazil’s mining ministry has received 4,073 requests from mining companies and individuals for mining-related activities on indigenous land. Indigenous groups are outraged and they plan to resist in the courts and by whatever means possible.
Brazil’s mining industry has a very poor safety and environmental record. As recently as January, Brazil mega-mining company Vale saw a tailings dam collapse at Brumadinho which killed 193 and left another 115 missing. Public outcry is strong against the industry currently, but how the public will respond to the indigenous mining plan isn’t yet known.
Let the financial district sink. They are the ones who underwrote the prime movers of climate change, let them bail out their own damned ship.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, has announced a radical plan to meet the “existential threat” of climate change by constructing a new section of Manhattan , extending hundreds of feet out into the narrow East river, in order to protect Wall Street and other downtown areas. Plans to fund the scheme, however, are far from firm. He said the project, which would cost an estimated $10bn, will aim to be funded partly by private development “if federal funds are not available”. ...
Officials have been developing schemes to fortify New York’s waterfront since Superstorm Sandy destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and took more than 50 lives in the city, in 2012. De Blasio said it will cost about $500m to fortify most of lower Manhattan from future effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and intense precipitation, by providing grassy berms and removable barriers.
But planners determined that protecting the lowest-lying area, including South Street Seaport and the adjacent financial district at the tip of Manhattan, will require adding more land over several years.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Son Seals - Bad Axe
Son Seals - Call My Job
Son Seals - Sadie
Son Seals - The Sun Is Shining
Son Seals - I Can't Hold Out
Son Seals - Going Home
Son Seals - Don't Pick Me For Your Fool
Son Seals - Hot Sauce
Son Seals - Frigidaire Woman
Son Seals - Buzzard Luck