The Evening Blues - 4-23-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues piano player and singer Sunnyland Slim. Enjoy!
Sunnyland Slim with His Sunny Boys - Miss Bessie Mae
"Why is it that the destruction of something created by humans is called vandalism, yet the destruction of something created by God is called development?"
-- Edward Abbey
News and Opinion
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday called on his fellow members of Congress to come together and override President Donald Trump's veto of the historic Yemen War Powers resolution. "The president's action is a very serious challenge to congressional authority that demands a response," the Vermont senator and 2020 presidential contender said in a dear colleague letter. ...
"For far too long Congress, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has abdicated its constitutional role with regard to the authorization of war," added Sanders, the lead Senate sponsor of the Yemen measure. "The Congress must now act to protect that constitutional responsibility by overriding the president's veto."
In a statement following the president's veto, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said Trump "signed the death warrant of countless innocent Yemeni men, women, and children."
"Congress refuses to accept the president's decision to condemn Yemeni civilians to unspeakable suffering and carnage," Jayapal and Pocan said. "Despite this setback, the Progressive Caucus will pursue every legislative means of ending this immoral conflict, including a possible vote to override the president's veto."
Julian Assange has been prevented from seeing his lawyers for the 11 days that he has been in prison
Outrageous, inhumane and possibly illegalhttps://t.co/UiGBOQCuAn
— Suzie Dawson (@Suzi3D) April 23, 2019
The US has announced it will no longer exempt countries from sanctions that aim to impose a complete oil embargo on Iran. Officials said the Trump administration would not renew any of the sanctions waivers granted to a handful of countries, including China, India, Turkey, Japan and South Korea, when those waivers expire on 2 May.
“Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said. “We’re going to zero. We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance. Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.”
Neither Pompeo nor senior state department officials would say whether sanctions would be immediately imposed on the affected countries on 3 May, if oil purchases continued. ...
Trump administration officials said the waivers, originally granted to eight countries, were motivated by a desire to avoid a spike in oil prices in a tight market last year. They said the waivers were being allowed to end because there was now greater supply. However, oil prices jumped to a six-month high on Monday.
“When Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, it sent the US on a course of self-isolation and dwindling options,” Suzanne DiMaggio, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said. “A year later, with no progress to show, he is doubling down.”
“This administration, for all intents and purposes in my view, is working against the interests of the United States,” Colonel Larry Wilkerson told The Real News Network's Marc Steiner. China and Turkey have already said they will not abide by the U.S. ending of the waivers, but India will possibly follow along, all of which could lead to a more profound trade war.
The decision also represents the influence of National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was in favor of these sanctions, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted the waivers to continue.
Steiner noted that the sanctions violate international law and asked whether this brings the U.S. closer to war with Iran, or if the sanctions are “in lieu of war.” Wilkerson explained that John Bolton wants war even if Trump does not, and that regardless, these oil sanctions are “economic warfare”—an especially risky international gamble.
Global oil prices started the week by spiking around 3 percent on reports that Washington was preparing to announce that all buyers of Iranian oil will have to end those imports soon or face U.S. sanctions. Reuters cited a Washington Post article and sources stating that the U.S. will announce the termination of Iranian oil import sanctions waivers on Monday. ...
Prices for global oil benchmark, London-traded Brent crude rose as much as 3.2 percent in early Monday trading, to $74.30/barrel. It’s the highest price point since November 1. U.S.-benchmark, NYMEX-traded West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures spiked as much as 2.9 percent in early Monday trading, reaching $65.87/barrel - the highest point since October 30 and just before Trump announced sanctions waivers for Iranian oil.
The sanctions waivers put in place by Trump particularly caught U.S-ally, OPEC de facto leader and the world’s largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia by surprise as well. As discussed in my April 20 post, since Trump didn’t consult with Riyadh before granting Iranian oil waivers, it resulted in an uptick in global oil supply and downward pressure on prices, costing the Saudis and other major producers lost revenue. Since that time, Saudi Arabia has largely been immune to Trump’s tweets calling for the Kingdom and OPEC to pump more oil to reduce oil prices which are at five-month highs. ...
If Pompeo does carry through with the announcement, it will put considerable upward pressure on global oil prices, even as Trump has recently called on the Saudis and OPEC, via Twitter again, to increase production to bring prices down. It will also likely cause global oil inventory levels to revert to a shortage of the commodity - in effect creating the opposite market scenario that Trump has asked for and needs as the 2020 presidential election cycle kicks in.
With the Trump administration moving ahead Monday with punishing new sanctions against Iran with the goal of completely halting the country's oil exports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly joked about a secret White House plot to overthrow the Iranian government during a private meeting with Iranian-American "community leaders."
According to Axios, when asked last week whether the Trump administration has considered "the idea of a coup" in Iran, Pompeo responded: "Even if we did, would I be telling you guys about it?"
The room "broke out in laughter," Axios reported, citing three anonymous sources in attendance, including one who shared "detailed contemporaneous notes" with the news outlet.
The secretary of state also reportedly said the administration is "careful not to use the language of regime change" and insisted the U.S. has no plans to intervene militarily in Iran. Pompeo's remarks came exactly one week before the Trump administration is unveiled sanctions against all countries that continue to import Iranian oil, a significant escalation of the Trump administration's so-called "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.
Saudi Arabia has executed 37 citizens across the country for alleged terrorism-related crimes, publicly pinning one of their headless bodies to a pole as a warning. ... The Saudi interior ministry said the killings were carried out in accordance with Islamic law, using language that indicated they were all beheadings. ...
The ministry said those who were killed had adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife.
It added that the individuals had been found guilty of attacking security installations with explosives, killing a number of security officers and cooperating with enemy organisations against the interests of the country, and had been ordered to be executed by the specialised criminal court in Riyadh, where terrorism trials take place, and the country’s high court.
Just as Robert Mueller’s report created a roadmap for Democrats, Republicans have their own plans to weaponize it for Trump: by putting the origins of the investigation and the Obama administration on trial. ...
While Democrats now run the House, Republicans still control all the gavels in the Senate. And Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a one-time moderate, has become as Trumpian as anyone, particularly as his re-election campaign is in full swing.
Graham recently told VICE News he’s preparing to investigate the FBI, DOJ and other sources in order to look into the underpinnings of the Mueller investigation, and Trump's conservative media machine has been raising completely unfounded questions — even conspiracies — for months.
That’s why rank-and-file Republicans are now pushing Graham to investigate the origins of the investigation, particularly since the Mueller report discredits the so-called Steele dossier, a salacious account of prostitutes and spies created by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and paid for by the Democratic National Committee.
The Democratic chairman of the House judiciary committee has issued a subpoena ordering that the former White House counsel Don McGahn testify before Congress. The move came as the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, vowed to hold Donald Trump to account following the release of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian influence on the 2016 US election.
The subpoena, issued on Monday, escalates the congressional investigations into Trump, his finances and accusations that he sought to obstruct justice, as Democrats debate how to proceed with the evidence contained in the special counsel’s 448-page report. McGahn cooperated extensively in the special counsel’s investigation and emerged as a key witness in several incidents at the heart of whether Trump obstructed justice. ...
In a statement, Nadler said the committee asked for McGahn to turn over documents and records related to the federal investigations into Trump by 7 May and to testify before his committee by 21 May.
The leader of an armed group that is stopping undocumented migrants who cross into the US from Mexico once boasted about training to assassinate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros, an FBI agent said in court papers on Monday. Larry Mitchell Hopkins, leader of the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), whose camouflage-wearing armed members claim to have helped US officials detain some 5,600 migrants in New Mexico’s desert in the last 60 days, was arrested on Friday on a weapons charge.
The UCP claims to have the support of US border patrol at a time when the agency is overwhelmed by record numbers of asylum seeking Central American families. Dressed in clothing that resembles military fatigues and carrying weapons, members appear in videos disseminated by the group telling migrants, including women and children and in some cases numbering in the hundreds, to stop and wait for immigration agents.
Hopkins was arrested a day after New Mexico’s Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, ordered an investigation of the group, saying in a tweet that “menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum-seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease”.
On Monday, Hopkins appeared in court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to face charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The FBI said it found guns during a 2017 visit to his home. Defense attorney Kelly O’Connell said Hopkins planned to plead not guilty and noted that the charges were unrelated to UCP’s actions at the border.
Microsoft employees have published a letter on the software development platform Github in solidarity with tech workers in China.
Workers at tech companies in the country have used the Microsoft-owned platform to complain about grueling working conditions and the “996” standard in the industry, a philosophy endorsed by the tech billionaire Jack Ma. The name is based on the idea of working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.
Microsoft workers called on Chinese tech companies to comply with local labor laws, which limit their workers to 40 hours a week, with a maximum of 36 hours per month of overtime. ...
“History tells us that multinational companies will pit workers against each other in a race to the bottom as they outsource jobs and take advantage of weak labor standards in the pursuit of profit,” the letter said. “We have to come together across national boundaries to ensure just working conditions for everyone around the globe.”
An heir to the Walt Disney fortune has described the $65.6m (£50.5m) paid to the company’s chief executive, Bob Iger, as “insane”. Abigail Disney, an Emmy award-winning film-maker and a granddaughter of the company’s co-founder Roy Disney, said it was outrageous that Iger was paid 1,424 times more than the average pay for a Disney employee last year. Iger’s 2018 pay package increased by 80% from $36.3m in 2017. He also collected $43.9m in 2016.
“Let me be very clear. I like Bob Iger,” said Abigail Disney in a series of 22 tweets on Sunday. “I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself. Other than owning shares (not that many) I have no more say in what happens there than anyone else. But by any objective measure a pay ratio over a thousand is insane.”
The tweets followed up a “humane capitalism” speech she gave last week in which she said Iger was a “good man” who had performed well at Disney and deserved a bonus, but such huge pay deals “had a corrosive effect on society”. “When he got his bonus last year, I did the math, and I figured out that he could have given personally, out of pocket, a 15% raise to everyone who worked at Disneyland, and still walked away with $10m,” she said at the Fast Company event in New York.
“So there’s a point at which there’s just too much going around the top of the system into this class of people who – I’m sorry this is radical – have too much money. There is such a thing.”
Nancy Pelosi’s Drug-Pricing Talks With the Trump Administration Are About Mediating Fights Between Corporate Interests
A lobbyist for the hospital and insurance industries, as well as pharmacy benefit manager middlemen who negotiate with drug companies for discounts, is among the small handful of policy experts advising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her drug-pricing legislation strategy. The lobbyist, Lauren Aronson, has been working closely with top Pelosi policy aide Wendell Primus and in consultation with the Trump administration to find a drug-pricing compromise solution. Stat News first reported Aronson’s role in drug-pricing talks, which The Intercept was able to confirm. Aronson was previously a health policy adviser to Rahm Emanuel when he served in the House of Representatives.
“Our office meets with a wide variety of people, and Aronson is not involved in drafting Democrats’ prescription drug legislation,” said Pelosi spokesperson Henry Connelly.
While it’s in the short-term interest of insurance payers and providers to lower the cost of prescription drugs, the marriage of convenience could have its limits. Democrats from former President Barack Obama to 2020 hopeful Bernie Sanders have expressed support for interventions in the private insurance industry, from public insurance options to a Medicare for All system that abolishes insurers entirely. The House’s most powerful Democrat teaming up with insurers on drug prices may make it harder to consider more aggressive changes down the road. Already, the House has taken the side of pharmacy benefit managers in a dispute with the Trump administration over drug company rebates. One of Aronson’s clients is the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the leading trade group for pharmacy benefit managers.
The situation reveals a familiar dynamic in Washington, where political parties don’t debate each other on policy as much as they mediate fights between corporate interests. Almost everything on drug pricing coming out of the Trump administration, whose Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was the president of drug company Eli Lilly, attacks pharmacy benefit managers and hospitals to the benefit of drug companies; almost everything coming out of the speaker’s office attacks drug companies to the benefit of pharmacy benefit managers and hospitals.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren just dropped yet another bold proposal that she said would not only make undergraduate tuition free at all public colleges but also cancel student debt for 75 percent of people with loans.
Warren has already established herself as the policy heavyweight in the 2020 race, but her most recent proposal, which she released Monday morning, is the most radical plan yet to tackle the student debt crisis. Most Democratic presidential candidates support at least some form of “debt-free” college, which can mean free tuition — or simply cutting costs. Only Warren has proposed canceling a significant amount of student loans, both public and private.
Under Warren’s plan, every person with an annual household income under $100,000 would automatically have $50,000 of their student loan debt forgiven. That would immediately wipe out debt for 75 percent of the 45 million Americans with student loans and provide some sort of relief for 95 percent, according to the Massachusetts senator. For every $3 people earn beyond the $100,000 threshold, they lose $1 of the $50,000 in debt forgiven. In other words, if they make $100,003, just $49,999 of their debt will be canceled. Nobody in a household making above $250,000 a year will get student-debt relief.
The proposal would still offer federal grants to low-income students to help them cover non-tuition expenses, like housing, textbooks, and food, at universities. Warren’s plan also places an emphasis on students of color through an additional $50 billion fund for historically black universities, which she said would help close the racial wealth gap.
Bernie Sanders supporters — and even some members of Congress — aren’t too happy with Mayor Pete Buttigieg for seeming to compare Sanders to Donald Trump.
The Democratic 2020 contender told supporters at a New Hampshire campaign event over the weekend that people feel a “sense of anger and disaffection” when there’s low unemployment and a growing GDP but yet they’re not seeing benefits themselves. When they feel like they’re “stuck,” Buttigieg said, they’re more likely to vote against “the system.”
“It just kind of turns you against the system in general, and then you’re more likely to want to vote to blow up the system,” said the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “Which could lead you to somebody like Bernie, and it could lead you to somebody like Trump. That’s how we got where we are.”
Pete Buttigieg is officially over. He just blamed Trump AND Bernie voters for the problems we currently face. pic.twitter.com/Yd1n56ZtaL
— citizen uprising (@cit_uprising) April 21, 2019
I am sure equating Bernie Sanders with Donald Trump was one of the strategies Neera Tanden and David Brock discussed with Pete Buttigieg over drinks and canapés.
— Clark Feels The Bern (@Clarknt67) April 22, 2019
As a teenager, Buttigieg actually wrote an award-winning essay about his admiration of Sanders, but his views of the Vermont senator have apparently changed. Buttigieg, positioning himself as a moderate alternative in the 2020 race, reportedly attended a “What To Do About Bernie” dinner hosted by wealthy Democratic donor and Hillary Clinton supporter Bernard Schwartz, along with party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
Raging against the machine has taken Bernie Sanders a long way. In 2016, his disdain for “the establishment” and the “donor class” gave progressives a near-perfect foil to Hillary Clinton, who was cast as the “anointed” Democratic candidate for president. Sanders was beaten in the primary but the senator and his allies clamored for and won changes to party rules they said were “rigged”. Now, the party’s role in choosing its nominee has been limited and a Sanders nomination is a very real possibility. At the top of early polls, the increasingly confident senator from Vermont is daring the “political establishment” to stop him.
“They are terrified of our movement – as they should be,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir wrote in an email to supporters as part of an “emergency 48-hour fundraising drive” to counter what he called a “serious threat to our campaign”. The appeal was sent out after a New York Times report revealed a series of private dinners in which Democratic leaders, strategists, donors – and even a presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg – had met to discuss “the matter of What To Do About Bernie”.
Not long before the Times story came out, Sanders had escalated a feud with the Center for American Progress, a liberal thinktank founded by a Clinton ally. In a sharply worded letter, he accused the group of trying to “smear” him in a video produced by an affiliated website. ...
In 2018, the Democrats path to the majority ran through dozens of districts that voted for Trump two years prior. Moderates believe Sanders, who only became a Democrat to run for the nomination, would alienate these voters in the general election. Worse, they fear he might draw in a third-party “spoiler”. Former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz is considering a run as a “centrist independent” and has blamed Sanders for moving the party too far left.
There is little evidence that a concerted effort to stop Sanders would have any impact, not least because he thrives under real or perceived attack by the party establishment. Some of Sanders’ best fundraising days in 2016 came when Clinton stepped up her criticism.
Back in my youth, while in Montana, I came across Berkeley Pit, called “the richest hill on earth.” There, churches and historic neighborhoods were bulldozed to expand the pit so greedy men could make their fortunes mining copper, silver and gold. After the riches were extracted, and problems arose, those men absolved themselves of any wrongdoing, and left. Over time, the mine closed and the pit began to fill with an acidic brew so toxic that when snow geese landed there, they died. As it threatened Montana’s groundwater, the pit became an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) superfund site that would cost American taxpayers billions of dollars for generations.
I fear the same awaits Alaska’s Pebble Mine, a nightmare proposed by the Canadian mining company, Northern Dynasty. Don’t be fooled by the name. For many Alaskans, Pebble is a boulder on their heart. If built, it would be a massive pit one mile in diameter and 600ft deep. It would obliterate 3,500 acres of wetlands and 80-plus miles of salmon streams, and produce an estimated 10 billion tons of waste. Earthen dams would hold back toxic mine tailings, all in earthquake country, in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the richest sockeye salmon run in the world. What could go wrong?
In 2014, a 40-meter-high earthen dam that contained a massive copper and gold tailings pond at Mount Polley Mine, in British Columbia, failed. A toxic slurry emptied downstream into lakes and waterways, including Quesnel Lake, until then the cleanest deep water lake in the world. Knight Piésold, the geotechnical consulting firm that provided the design and supervised construction (and paid no post-disaster fines), is the same firm Northern Dynasty has hired to build the earthen dams at Pebble. And who will pay to remediate the Mount Polley mess, the biggest mine disaster in Canada’s history? Taxpayers, to the tune of an estimated $40m-100m.
Opposed by more than 65% of Alaskans, and 80% of Bristol Bay residents, Pebble was barely breathing until Donald Trump won the White House. With Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA, Pebble mine became a symbol of virtuous enterprise hobbled by government regulatory overreach. This past November, after Mike Dunleavy, another Republican, won the Alaska governor’s race, and said Alaska was “open for business”, Pebble gained more traction.
To Save Humanity and Planet, Says Climate Activist, 'We Must Go Straight to the Heart of Capitalism and Overthrow It'
While comedian and television host James Corden described the clip as "brilliant" when it first surfaced earlier this month, the salient message from author and activist George Monbiot about the need to radically upend and intensify the response to the climate crisis remains central to those around the world who have long recognized how the rapacious drive of capitalism has been a key accelerator of human-caused global warming.
"What we have to do is big structural, political economic stuff," Monbiot answered during his recent appearance on "Frankie Boyle's New World Order," a humorous news show in the UK, when asked what must be done to address the problem of a rapidly warming planet.
According to Monbiot—who has recently championed the idea of harnessing nature's power to not only stop but reverse the impacts of carbon pollution—ideas like getting consumers to change their light bulbs or end use of certain kinds of ear cleaners is not going to cut it. "We have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth," Monbiot explained. "I mean since when was GDP a sensible measure of human welfare?"
In conclusion, he says, there is simply no longer room for half measures or weak-kneed responses to the existential crisis of the climate emergency. "We've got to start ramping down all fossil fuel production and leave fossil fuels in the ground," he declared. "There's time, but we can't do it by just pissing around at the margins. We've got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it."
More than 1,000 people have been arrested at Extinction Rebellion climate protests in London, police have said, in what organisers described as the biggest civil disobedience event in recent British history. The Metropolitan police said that as of 10am on Monday, 1,065 arrests had been made and 53 people charged in relation to the protests.
Police cleared the last of the activists from Waterloo Bridge late on Sunday after protest sites at Oxford Street and Parliament Square had been vacated earlier in the day. Demonstrators from those sites moved to the main camp at Marble Arch, where they have been given permission to gather.
On Monday, as people at the camp enjoyed musical performances in the sunshine, scores of environmental activists staged a protest at the Natural History Museum in south Kensington. The group lay on the floor in a “die in” to raise awareness of the mass extinction of species. ...
The group is planning to stage a demonstration this week in Parliament Square as MPs return to Westminster following recess and attend prime minister’s questions.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sunnyland Slim w/Willie Dixon - Mystery Train
Sunnyland Slim Blues Band - Sunnyland Jump
Sunnyland Slim w/Muddy Waters - Johnson Machine Gun
Sunnyland Slim - Sunnyland Special
Louisiana Red w/Sunnyland Slim Blues Band - You Can't Mistreat A Brother
Sunnyland Slim - Tired Of You Clowning
Sunnyland Slim - Sunnyland's New Orleans Boogie
Sunnyland Slim w/Buddy Guy - Everytime I Get To Drinking
J.B. Lenoir w/Sunnyland Slim - I’ll Die Tryin
Sunnyland Slim - She Ain't Nowhere
Sunnyland Slim - Be Mine Alone