The Evening Blues - 6-10-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player Billy Branch. Enjoy!
Billy Branch & Jamiah Rogers - Red House
"We the government have vital information which we cannot disclose. It is upon this knowledge that we make decisions. You, who are merely private citizens, have no access to this information. Any criticism you make of our policy, any controversy about it in which you may indulge, will therefore be uninformed and valueless."
-- Harold Thorby
News and Opinion
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) called a news conference on Thursday to justify its raids targeting journalists at two media organisations this week.
Police spent seven hours ransacking a News Corp political reporter’s home in Canberra on Tuesday, and eight hours poring over and seizing files at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Sydney headquarters on Wednesday.
In an extraordinary admission, the AFP’s acting commissioner Neil Gaughan blurted out that the real reason for the raids was to protect the information that the Australian police and intelligence agencies receive from their “Five Eyes” counterparts. Five Eyes is a top-level network of intelligence agencies dominated by the US that also includes Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. “The Australian government, or particularly the Australian enforcement and intelligence communities, rely on secret and top-secret information from our international partners, particularly our Five Eyes partners,” the police chief said. “If we can’t be seen to protect our own internal information, [then] we are concerned that the information flow to us dries up.”
Citing government demands for investigations into leaks of secret information, Gaughan said the AFP received “numerous referrals to us [of leaks] and to be honest we get too many. But the premise of investigating these matters is to ensure the international community knows that we take the leaking of information, sensitive information, seriously.” In other words, the AFP is under pressure not just from Canberra, but from Washington, to ensure that information, including about criminal actions of governments and its agencies, is kept from public view. This takes place amid the Trump administration’s mounting threats of war against Iran and Venezuela, as well as its escalating confrontation with China.
The AFP search warrants related to leaked documents exposing war crimes perpetrated by the Special Air Service (SAS) in Afghanistan and plans to legalise domestic mass surveillance by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), which are both central to Five Eyes operations.
The U.S. has obtained intelligence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia “significantly escalated” its ballistic missile program with Chinese help, CNN reported on Wednesday. Beijing has enabled the Saudis to expand their missile infrastructure and technology at a time of escalating tension in the Persian Gulf, CNN said, with both the Saudis and Iranians perceiving a growing threat from each other.
The previously unreported classified intelligence has led U.S. lawmakers to express concern about undermining decades-old efforts to limit the proliferation of missiles in the Middle East. The CNN report cited two former senior U.S. intelligence officials who said it is “likely” that President Trump received this intelligence in a Presidential Daily Briefing, given the close monitoring of ballistic missile developments and flows of material worldwide by U.S. intelligence.
Yet the Senate Foreign Relations Committee only acquired this intelligence from a committee staff member who learned about the ballistic missile activity in Saudi Arabia from a “foreign counterpart” while on “an unrelated trip to the Middle East.” The news increased anger in Washington about a perceived lack of congressional oversight on foreign policy matters in the Trump era.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez, (D-NJ) reprimanded Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and blamed the administration for its “unacceptable” failure to initially provide the committee with the classified information. Menendez declared that the State Department must “do a better job of engaging with us.” Such outcry comes against the backdrop of mounting bipartisan criticism over the administration’s support for the Saudi/Emirati-led campaign in Yemen and the cover that Trump provided Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) following the CIA’s conclusion that he ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.
The Trump administration likely avoided disclosing the intelligence because of its tacit approval of the Kingdom’s ballistic missile activity. ... News of this recent intelligence must also be read within the context of U.S. -Saudi nuclear cooperation, which is another Saudi-related flashpoint pitting lawmakers against the White House. ... Some analysts worry that such information transfers could help the Kingdom develop a nuclear weapon at a later point if the Saudi government makes that decision.
The resignation of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charles Faulkner last month appears to have been less a resignation and more of a sacking, according to officials familiar with the situation. Faulkner, a former Raytheon lobbyist turned Trump appointee, was spearheading the administration’s scheme to declare a phony “state of emergency” to avoid Congressional oversight on arms sales. In this case, the arms sales included billions from his former employer, Raytheon.
Faulkner’s role in this decision cannot be overstated, and since Congress started moving to restrict sales to the Saudis he had been one of the lone voices in the State Department urging Pompeo to sign off on sales, as well as being a heavy advocate of skirting oversight. ... This is expected to be a major topic of discussion next week when Congress takes up the matter of the arms sales, and the State Department’s role in them. Congressional aides suggest Faulkner’s former employment with Raytheon and his role in decision-making on their sales appear particularly problematic.
Accusing the Trump administration of "economic terrorism," Iran's foreign ministry said Saturday that the latest sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump demonstrate that the U.S. is not serious about pursuing negotiations regarding Iran's nuclear power. Trump announced the newest round of sanctions on Friday to punish Iran's largest petrochemical company for its indirect support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Trump administration labeled the IRGC as a terrorist group in April.
The sanctions came just days after the administration indicated it wanted to pursue negotiations to reach a new deal on Iran's nuclear activity.
"It was only necessary to wait one week until the claim of the president of America about talks with Iran were proven to be hollow," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to Reuters. "The American policy of maximum pressure is a defeated policy."
The sanctions were announced about a month after the administration sent an aircraft carrier, missiles, and B-52 bombers to Iran in an apparent show of force.
This was supposed to be the year the farmers of eastern Syria and Iraq bounced back. For the first time in a decade, neither war nor drought had intervened to deter what promised to be a bumper harvest. Fields of golden wheat rippled across the vast lands once ravaged by the militant fighters, the most fertile area of the region that in centuries past served as the breadbasket of the known world.
Then came the mysterious crop fires - blamed on and claimed by the Islamic State, but perhaps not entirely the work of the militants. Starting in early May, tens of thousands of acres of farmland have been burned across an expanse of territory stretching from the Iranian border in the east to near the Mediterranean coast in the west. The scorch marks across the landscape are visible from satellites. The plumes of smoke rising on the horizon recall the U.S.-led airstrikes that pummeled much of the area a few years ago. ...
The fires come as a reminder that the Islamic State retains the capacity to spark mayhem with seemingly little effort, exploiting the unresolved grievances and disputes that contributed to its emergence - and could yet help it rise again. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the earliest of the fires and urged its followers to ignite more. "The harvest season is still long, and we tell the soldiers of the Caliphate: you have before you millions of dunams of land planted with wheat and barley, which are owned by apostates," said the claim, published by the Islamic State's al-Naba newsletter, exhorting supporters to set more fires.
Many of the fires are almost certainly the work of the Islamic State, or ISIS, in keeping with the scorched earth strategy the group adopted after it began to lose territory, said Peter Schwartzstein, a fellow at the Center for Climate and Security. "They are a means of keeping the countryside unstable and ripe for it to operate," he said. "The rationale is: If we can't have this land, neither can anyone else." Few, however, believe the Islamic State is responsible for all the burnings, he said. "A chunk of it is almost certainly others piggybacking on the phenomenon. It looks as if these ISIS-related fires have provided a useful foil for others to pursue their goals."
Millions of people in Sudan have joined a general strike called by pro-reform groups, shutting down the centre of cities across the country despite a wave of arrests and intimidation. The massive shutdown was called to take place on Sunday, the first day of the working week, and is aimed at relaunching an opposition movement battered by a brutal crackdown and forcing the country’s new military leaders to resign.
Shops were closed and streets were empty throughout the capital, Khartoum, and in the neighbouring Omdurman. Four protesters were killed in sporadic violence in the two cities. The Sudanese Professionals Association, a leading opposition group, said it had called on people to stay home in protest at the deaths of more than 100 people on Monday last week, when security forces violently dispersed a pro-democracy sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.
“The peaceful resistance by civil disobedience and the general political strike is the fastest and most effective way to topple the military council … and to hand over power to a transitional civilian authority,” the SPA said.
The military took power after ousting the then president, Omar al-Bashir, in April after months of mass rallies. The ruling Transitional Military Council has since refused demonstrators’ demands for an immediate move to civilian rule, instead pushing for a transitional power-sharing arrangement.
As Trump Signals Support for Israel's Proposed West Bank Annexation, Lawmakers and Rights Advocates Condemn Plan to Commit 'War Crime'
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told the New York Times that Israel is "entitled to retain some portion" of the Palestinian territory where Israel has built settlements over the past two decades.
Saeb Erakat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator, wrote that the Trump administration's blessing of Israeli's plan to commit a "war crime" represents "the road to an endless conflict."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in April that he planned to begin annexation, drawing condemnation from U.S. progressive leaders including Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), who accused Netanyahu of "undermining" peace efforts.
Late Friday, ahead of Friedman's statement, lawmakers including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were among the lawmakers who introduced a resolution opposing any Israeli plan to annex parts of the West Bank and demanding a two-state solution that recognizes Palestinians' right to self-determination.
Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine is nationalist hawk who volunteered with fascist party during US-backed coup
When Facebook hired a new public policy manager for Ukraine, the mega-corporation chose one of the most biased candidates possible: a hawkish jingoist who has worked extensively with the Ukrainian government and the European Union.
Kateryna Kruk, who has served as Facebook’s first public policy manager for Ukraine since late May, was an active participant in Ukraine’s 2014 US-backed coup, in which far-right ultra-nationalists violently ousted a democratically elected government accused by the West of getting too close to Russia and replaced it with a pro-NATO one.
During the coup, Kruk volunteered with the fascistic Svoboda party, and defended the extreme-right group from criticism. She is a nationalist hardliner who compares Russian President Vladimir Putin to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, reduces all pro-Russian forces in Ukraine to “terrorists,” and opposes any kind of negotiations with Moscow.
Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine publicly cheered when Turkey shot down a Russian plane, has called for martial law, and claims that Russians are incapable of keeping promises. She has even gone so far as to refer to the Kremlin as a “terrorist organization.”
An investigation by The Grayzone found that Kateryna Kruk said she “thanked” and “blessed” a boy who joined the Ukrainian neo-Nazi militia known as the Azov Battalion. She also gloated over fascist violence against Ukrainian communist politicians, and repeatedly called for the Communist Party of Ukraine to be banned.
The fact that someone with these extreme political views will be policing content for Facebook is already troubling, and raises concerns about whether she will censor sources that she disagrees with. ... Facebook’s new public policy manager for Ukraine openly refers to her country as a key battleground for “information warfare” against Russia. She has called for NATO and the European Union to play a more active role in policing media content. And Kruk clearly indicated in various social media posts that her solution to fight supposed “Russian propaganda” is with pro-EU and pro-NATO propaganda.
[Much more background at link. -js]
House Democrats Aren’t Done Talking About the Mueller Report — Especially the Russia Hacking Details
When Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally spoke about his investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia, he hammered home the “central allegation” of his probe: Russia made multiple attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Democrats seemed to have got the memo. While they’re still in talks about getting testimony from Mueller, the House Intelligence Committee on Friday announced a “Lessons from the Mueller Report” hearing to be held this Wednesday, with a specific focus on the “counterintelligence implications” of his findings.
No one from Mueller’s team is expected to show up, but the committee will hear testimony from two former top national security officials at the FBI, Stephanie Douglas and Robert Anderson.
“Our committee’s goal will be to explain to the American people the serious counterintelligence concerns raised by the Mueller Report, examine the depth and breadth of the unethical and unpatriotic conduct it describes, and produce prescriptive remedies to ensure that this never happens again,” said committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat from California.
House Democrats reached a deal with the Department of Justice to review some of the “key evidence” behind special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. As a result, they’ve backed off plans to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee said in an emailed statement on Monday.
The deal struck Monday relates to evidence used by Mueller to determine whether Trump obstructed justice. But Nadler said House Democrats would revive plans for a legal confrontation over Mueller’s files if the DOJ balks at sharing information.
“If the Department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps,” Nadler said. “If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies.”
A real estate company part-owned by Jared Kushner has received $90m in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since he entered the White House as a senior adviser to his father-in-law Donald Trump. Investment has flowed from overseas to the company, Cadre, while Kushner works as an international envoy for the US, according to corporate filings and interviews. The money came through a vehicle run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven that guarantees corporate secrecy.
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s elder daughter Ivanka, kept a stake in Cadre after joining the administration, while selling other assets. His holding is now valued at up to $50m, according to his financial disclosure documents. Cadre’s foreign funding could create hidden conflicts of interest for Kushner as he performs his work for the US government, according to some ethics experts, who raised concerns over the lack of transparency around the investments. ...
The names of the foreigners investing in Cadre via Goldman Sachs are not disclosed by the companies, which are not required to make the information public. Two sources familiar with the firm said much of the money came to the Cayman Islands vehicle from a second offshore tax haven, while some came from Saudi Arabia.
Cadre was founded in 2014 by Kushner, his brother Joshua and their friend Ryan Williams, who previously worked for Goldman Sachs. The company operates from a building in Manhattan owned by the Kushner family’s real estate corporation.
The company styles itself as an online marketplace where investors can come together to buy property. But it has also built a real estate investment fund, now worth more than half a billion dollars, that is used to buy properties across the US. The fund’s value has risen fivefold since 2017, when Kushner was appointed a White House adviser, following earlier slower growth.
The Intercept Is Reporting on a Vast Trove of Materials About Brazil’s Operation Car Wash and Justice Minister Sergio Moro
The Intercept Brasil today published three explosive exposés showing highly controversial, politicized, and legally dubious internal discussions and secret actions by the Operation Car Wash anti-corruption task force of prosecutors, led by the chief prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, along with then-Judge Sergio Moro, now the powerful and internationally celebrated justice minister for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. These stories are based on a massive archive of previously undisclosed materials — including private chats, audio recordings, videos, photos, court proceedings, and other documentation — provided to us by an anonymous source. They reveal serious wrongdoing, unethical behavior, and systematic deceit about which the public, both in Brazil and internationally, has the right to know.
These three articles were published today in The Intercept Brasil in Portuguese, and we have synthesized them into two English-language articles for The Intercept. Given the size and global influence of Brazil under the new Bolsonaro government, these stories are of great significance to an international audience. ... Beyond the inherent political, economic, and environmental importance of Brazil under Bolsonaro, the significance of these revelations arises from the incomparably consequential actions of the yearslong Car Wash corruption probe. That sweeping scandal implicated numerous leading political figures, oligarchs, Bolsonaro’s predecessor as president, and even foreign leaders in corruption prosecutions.
Most importantly, Car Wash was the investigative saga that led to the imprisonment of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last year. Lula’s conviction by Moro, once it was quickly affirmed by an appellate court, rendered him ineligible to run for president at a time when all polls showed that Lula — who was twice elected president by large margins in 2002 and in 2006 before being term-limited out of office in 2010 with an 87 percent approval rating — was the frontrunner in the 2018 presidential race. Lula’s exclusion from the election, based on Moro’s finding of guilt, was a key episode that paved the way for Bolsonaro’s election victory. ...
The Car Wash prosecutors and Moro have been highly controversial in Brazil and internationally — heralded by many as anti-corruption heroes and accused by others of being clandestine right-wing ideologues masquerading as apolitical law enforcers. Their critics have insisted that they have abused and exploited their law enforcement powers with the politicized goal of preventing Lula from returning to the presidency and destroying his leftist Workers’ Party, or the PT. Moro and the prosecutors have, with equal vehemence, denied that they have any political allegiances or objectives and have said they are simply trying to cleanse Brazil of corruption. But, until now, the Car Wash prosecutors and Moro have carried out their work largely in secret, preventing the public from evaluating the validity of the accusations against them and the truth of their denials. That’s what makes this new archive so journalistically valuable: For the first time, the public will learn what these judges and prosecutors were saying and doing when they thought nobody was listening.
[Here are links to the two articles:
Brazil has been rocked by allegations that a prominent judge repeatedly collaborated with prosecutors during high-profile corruption investigations – including the controversial case that imprisoned former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. According to the Intercept, Sérgio Moro gave prosecutors strategic advice, criticism and tips during the sprawling corruption investigation known as Operation Car Wash that jailed hundreds of executives, politicians and middlemen. ...
In a statement on Sunday night, Moro said the disclosures “did not show any abnormality” and that they “ignored the giant corruption scheme revealed by Operation Car Wash”. The minister also complained about the “criminal invasion” of prosecutors’ phones. ...
Bolsonaro has yet to comment but his son Carlos shared a tweet noting that Greenwald’s husband is congressman David Miranda from the leftist Socialism and Freedom party.
Prosecutors said in a statement they had been subject to a “criminal act” by a hacker which had compromised their safety with “the objective of impeding the continuity of the operation”. “Many conversations, without due context, can give way to misinterpretations,” they said.
Brazilian leftists – who have long argued that Lula was unjustly convicted – said the revelations proved they were right. “It is harder and harder to deny the judicial persecution of Lula,” said Jean Paul Prates, a Workers’ party senator in a statement. ... Geoffrey Robertson, the lawyer handling Lula’s appeal to the United Nations human rights committee said the disclosures showed Moro was biased. “Lula should now be released from prison and Moro and certain police officers prosecuted for preventing justice,” he said in a statement.
Riot police have clashed with protesters in Hong Kong after hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets in a massive demonstration against a proposed extradition law. Critics say the proposed law will allow mainland China to pursue its political opponents in the city, which has traditionally been a safe haven from the Communist party.
A largely peaceful scene outside the parliament and government headquarters in the Admiralty business district changed dramatically in the early hours of Monday as police wearing riot gear moved in with batons and pepper spray on protesters who hurled bottles and metal barricades.
Earlier on Sunday a sea of people, many wearing white, stretched for almost two miles as they marched from Victoria Park, in the east of Hong Kong island, to the government HQ. Thousands more struggled to board packed public transport from outer Hong Kong and Kowloon on the mainland. After seven hours of marching, organisers estimated that more than 1 million people had taken part, far outstripping a demonstration in 2003 when half that number successfully challenged government plans for tighter national security laws. A police spokesman said they estimated that 240,000 were on the march at its peak.
Small groups of young protesters had planned to stay outside the government HQ until Wednesday, when the extradition bill is due to have its second reading, but police moved in on them after their permission to protest expired at midnight. Within minutes scenes of chaos unfolded as protesters fought with officers who were soon backed by riot police. An hour or so later riot police moved into clear out the remaining protesters. There was little resistance after the earlier violence, although some pockets of people remained sitting.
The Conservative leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has claimed Angela Merkel would be willing to renegotiate the UK’s Brexit deal and possibly the Irish border arrangements opposed by Eurosceptics. The foreign secretary said he had spoken to the German chancellor on the sidelines of D-day commemorations last week and she had indicated that the EU was “willing to negotiate on the package” if a new prime minister had the “right approach”.
His claim flies in the face of repeated assertions from Brussels that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened to change the Irish backstop, which Eurosceptics reject because they fear it may keep the UK in a customs union indefinitely.
Speaking to Sky’s Ridge on Sunday programme, Hunt said Merkel had told him Brussels “would look at any solutions” the UK put forward to solve the Irish border issue.
In apparent criticism of the leadership frontrunner, Boris Johnson, Hunt said an “ultra hardline person” would be met by “an ultra-hardline response” from the EU.
Johnson told the Sunday Times he would withhold the UK’s payments to the EU until a better deal could be struck. He suggested the settlement of £39bn over the coming decades would be paid only when there was “greater clarity” about the way forward.
The Trump administration was forced to defend its immigration agreement with Mexico on Sunday, amid reports that key provisions in the deal, forged under the threat of trade tariffs, were mostly old commitments agreed to months ago. ...
In the deal announced with significant self-congratulation by Donald Trump on Friday, Mexico agreed to deploy its national guard and to expand a heavily criticised program that keeps migrants seeking asylum in the US in Mexico as their claims are processed. Trump withdrew a threat of 5% tariffs on all Mexican goods.
But on Saturday the New York Times reported that Mexico had already agreed to key provisions in the joint declaration during secretive negotiations over the past six months.
On Sunday, the president fired off a series of enraged tweets as he headed for a second day of golf at his course in Sterling, Virginia. Lamenting what he called “another false report in the Failing New York Times”, he wrote: “If President Obama made the deals that I have made, both at the Border and for the Economy, the Corrupt Media would be hailing them as Incredible, & a National Holiday would be immediately declared. With me, despite our record setting Economy and all that I have done, no credit!”
Over the last decade, the FBI classified domestic terrorism cases using 11 categories, including a specific grouping for white supremacists. At the end of April, the FBI and Justice Department revealed to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers that a new classification system was now in place, employing only four categories: racially motivated violent extremism; anti-government and anti-authority extremism; animal rights and environmental extremism; and abortion extremism.
The “racially motivated” category is the most problematic one. Under an administration that has made a point of drawing false equivalences between deadly white supremacist violence and anti-racist dissent, the FBI’s category collapse is as unsurprising as it is disconcerting.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, between 2009 and 2018, white supremacist and far-right extremists were responsible for 73 percent of extremist murders in the U.S. Yet the distinct and deadly threat of white supremacist violence is now unnamed and merely folded into the too-broad “racially motivated extremism” category. That category folds in “black identity extremism” — an FBI category conjured in 2017 to make the unsubstantiated claim that black organizers fighting against racist police executions were a national security threat.
The new nomenclature reflects the Trump administration’s ideological commitment to enabling white supremacists. But the new classifications are more than semantic: They render it impossible for the public, or even elected officials, to know whether the FBI is dedicating resources to investigating the very real threat of white supremacist terror or if those resources are going toward the harassment of Black Lives Matter and civil rights activists. Only the former use of government time and money would be justified, but both cases would fall under “racially motivated extremism.”
Rev. William Barber: Racist Gerrymandering Created a GOP Stronghold in the South. We Must Fight Back
On the heels of a major Iowa poll which showed a big slip in his big lead over the Democratic field, Joe Biden was conspicuous by his absence from the guest list for a big party event in the state on Sunday. Nineteen candidates for the presidential nomination were due to give five-minute speeches at the Democratic Party Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids, among them leading contenders Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris.
Biden, who was attending his granddaughter’s graduation, was not among them. He is due to visit Ottumwa, Iowa, on Tuesday – the same day Donald Trump will visit Council Bluffs and Des Moines.
In the poll released by CNN and the Des Moines Register on Saturday night, the former Delaware senator and vice-president led the 23-strong field in the early voting state by eight clear points. But he only polled at 24%, down from his usual 30%-plus. Sanders was second with 16%, ahead of Warren with 15% and Buttigieg with 14%. Harris was the only other candidate above 5%, with half as much support as Buttigieg.
'Bravo... Now Do the Iraq War': After Hyde Reversal, 2020 Candidate Seth Moulton Reminds Biden of Other Position He May Want to Retract
After 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden bowed to pressure and announced he no longer supports the anti-choice Hyde Amendment, Rep. Seth Moulton on Friday applauded Biden for reversing his position and said he should do the same for the Iraq invasion he voted for as a senator in 2002.
Bravo to @JoeBiden for doing the right thing and reversing his longstanding support for the Hyde Amendment. It takes courage to admit when you're wrong, especially when those decisions affect millions of people.
Now do the Iraq War.
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) June 7, 2019
Biden's vote in favor of the invasion of Iraq is one of his many past positions that, according to critics, show he is out of touch with the current direction of the Democratic Party.
"Joe Biden stands in near complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today," progressive advocacy group Justice Democrats said after Biden announced his candidacy in April. "We don't need someone who voted for the Iraq War, for mass incarceration, and for the Bankruptcy Reform Act while voting against gay marriage, reproductive rights, and school desegregation." ...
As Norman Solomon wrote for Common Dreams in March, the problem "wasn't just that Biden voted for the Iraq war on the Senate floor five months before it began."
"During the lead-up to that vote, in August 2002, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee," Solomon wrote, "he presided over sham hearings—refusing to allow experts who opposed an invasion to get any words in edgewise—while a cavalcade of war hawks testified in the national spotlight."
Greenpeace Campaigners Stop BP Rig Bound for North Sea, Stalling Fossil Fuel Giant's Plan to Extract 30 Million Barrels of Oil
Three Greenpeace campaigners halted a British Petroleum oil rig off the coast of Scotland on Sunday as it prepared to leave for the North Sea to drill oil wells.
Carrying enough provisions to last several days aboard the rig, the climate action advocates pulled up to the 27,000-ton vessel in small boats as it attempted to leave Cromarty Firth, bound for the Vorlich oil field where BP plans to access up to 30 million barrels of oil. The campaigners unfurled a banner reading "Climate Emergency" after climbing the rig.
Despite recent studies from the world's top climate scientists warning that governments must transition to renewable energy sources and end their dependence on fossil fuels to stem the effects of the climate crisis, the U.K.'s Oil and Gas Authority last week awarded 37 license areas to 30 companies.
"The approval threatens to result in scores of new projects at exactly the time we need to halt the growth of new oil and gas production," said Greenpeace. The new licenses suggest that the country is not following its recent declaration of a climate emergency with concrete action, as campaigners have demanded.
The Trump administration issued one of its most blatant attacks on climate science this past week when it tried to stop a State Department employee from testifying on the climate crisis, reports showed on Saturday. As the Washington Post reported, intelligence analyst Rod Schoonover's testimony was submitted to the White House for approval ahead of his planned appearance before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. His remarks focused on the national security risks posed by the climate crisis.
The Trump administration refused to approve the testimony for entry into the congressional record, noting that the data Schoonover planned to present—drawing from top government scientists' research and peer-reviewed scientific reports—did not align with the executive branch's views. National Security Council advisers wrote a number of comments on Schoonover's draft, saying the testimony was "not objective."
The testimony "includes lots of climate alarm propaganda that is not science at all," wrote William Happer, a senior member of the National Security Council who has sought to create a federal task force to challenge the consensus reached by 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate scientists who say humans are contributing to the climate crisis.
"I am embarrassed to have this go out on behalf of the executive branch of the federal government," Happer added, noting a particular objection to Schoonover's use of the term "tipping point" in reference to possible devastating, irreversible effects of the climate crisis. "'Tipping points' is a propaganda slogan for the scientifically illiterate," Happer wrote.
Schoonover was ultimately permitted to testify before the committee, but his testimony was not submitted into the record because, the Office of Legislative Affairs said, it did not "jibe" with the Trump administration's views on the climate.
Following Trump's Executive Order, EPA Moves to Limit States' Ability to Block Dirty Energy Projects
In just the latest move by the Trump administration to expand dirty energy infrastructure no matter the cost to the climate and public health, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday issued a new guidance that limits the ability of states and tribes to block permits for proposed projects such as fossil fuel pipelines.
"Not a day goes by where [EPA] doesn't do *something* to endanger your health," Jake Levine, a climate attorney who served as an energy aide to former President Barack Obama, tweeted in response to the news Friday.
The EPA put out the guidance (pdf) to facilitate the implementation of President Donald Trump's April executive order to expedite the approval process for energy projects—which critics at the time decried as "a massive abuse of power that does nothing other than line the pockets of Trump's fossil fuel billionaire friends, all at the expense of our democracy and our safety."
The guidance is specifically about Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401, which empowers state and tribal governments to "certify" projects permitted at the federal level by the Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
E&E News, which first reported on the development Friday, explained how states have used that power and how the Trump administration intends to rein it in:
In recent years, New York and Washington have used this certification process to deny permits for pipelines and coal terminals not just due to water quality concerns, but also because of their contribution to air pollution and climate change.
Guidance issued today by EPA seeks to limit that practice. The guidance is meant as a stand-in while EPA works on formal regulations.
The guidance itself doesn't carry the rule of law, and therefore states are not bound by it. But it serves as a significant warning shot. States that ignore EPA guidance could well find themselves in court, either fighting EPA for ignoring their certification decisions or fighting with industry.
The guidance aims to restrict the scope of state and tribal certifications, and force the local governments to issue decisions more quickly.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Billy Branch feat. Lurrie Bell & The Sons Of Blues - Help Me
Billy Branch & Sugar Ray Norcia - Route 66
Billy Branch & The Sons Of Blues - Bring It on Home
Billy Branch - The Blues Follow Me Around
Billy Branch - My Baby Caught the Train
Billy Branch & The Sons Of Blues - I'm Ready
Billy Branch and Lurrie Bell ~ The Train I Ride
Billy Branch & Lil' Ed - I Like It Like That
Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues - Blues Shock