The Evening Blues - 7-16-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Piedmont blues harmonica player Sonny Terry. Enjoy!
Sonny Terry Trio - Dangerous Woman
"Dictators long ago found that it is easier to unite people in common hatred than in common love."
-- Dagobert D. Runes
News and Opinion
The tirades by President Donald Trump over the past three days have no precedent in the history of the US presidency. Trump, backed by a cabal of advisors in the White House, speaks openly as a fascist, demonizing people of different races and national origins, vilifying socialism, and declaring that those who oppose his administration’s policies are disloyal to the country and should leave it. ... Trump is playing with fire. He is placing the authority of the White House behind violent attacks on the model of the South Carolina church murders, the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, and the attacks on mosques in Southern California. This is under conditions where one Trump supporter sent mail bombs last year to leading Democrats and media figures, and a Coast Guard officer, arrested on weapons charges, was found to have drawn up a death list that includes Ocasio-Cortez, one of Trump’s latest targets.
It is more than a matter of inciting violence against individual opponents. Trump’s campaign of vilification against the Democratic congresswomen has a clear political goal, which goes well beyond his 2020 reelection campaign or these four individuals. He is making an appeal to the most reactionary forces in American society, seeking to build a fascist movement in the United States. The president of the United States, speaking for significant sections of the ruling class, has declared that anyone opposing the foreign and domestic policy of the ruling class should be subject to prosecution, deportation or physical violence.
US presidents, particularly in the period of Cold War struggle between American imperialism and the Soviet Union, once sought to posture as leaders of the “Free World,” representing a country which long identified itself as being “a nation of immigrants.” Trump discards that pretense. His ideal America would be a brutal police state in which working people are deprived of all rights and the symbols of national “greatness” are a massive wall along the US-Mexico border and the Dow Jones Industrial Average—which he boasted Monday had hit a record 27,000. ...
Millions oppose this government and everything it stands for, but they are trapped in the framework of the corporate-controlled two-party system, in which the supposed alternative to Trump is a Democratic Party completely identified with Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus. ... The only concrete action proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a resolution of disapproval that would condemn Trump’s language while citing President Ronald Reagan—whose right-wing government initiated the ongoing campaign of social counterrevolution and attacks on the working class in America—as a model of civility and tolerance.
Trump Denounced for 'Incitement to Violence' Against Ilhan Omar After Latest Racist Attack on Congresswoman
Democrats in Congress condemned President Donald Trump Monday after he doubled down on his weekend attacks on progressive women of color in the House, this time focusing his racist comments on Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Trump also fabricated a claim that Omar had praised Al Qaeda and expressed pride in the group. ...
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said he would soon force a vote on impeaching the president for "bigotry in policy," following Trump's comments. The congressman said on Twitter that he would call for the vote before representatives' August recess.
"Trump's racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and Islamophobia can no longer be tolerated or ignored," Green tweeted. "We must impeach."
As of Monday, 83 House Democrats support an impeachment inquiry against the president.
This man has lost his damn mind and revealed his soul. https://t.co/CmrRC8ALh5
— Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (@esglaude) July 15, 2019
Donald Trump’s outrageous attacks on Democratic congresswomen of color have pulled the mainstream media back into an awkward dance around how to describe a racist president. Not Fox News. To hear that network’s analysts and guests tell it, it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other three members of the progressive “squad” who are the real bigots.
“We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on "Fox & Friends" Monday morning. “They hate Israel. They hate our own country.”
“They’re anti-Semitic,” he added seconds later, for good measure. “They’re anti-America.”
And Trump, an avid “Fox & Friends” fan, tweeted them out verbatim soon afterward to his 61.9 million followers. ...
Fox News and other Trump-friendly media organs have obsessively portrayed the freshman lawmakers of color as central figures in the culture war. Last week, Tucker Carlson made Omar the focus of not one but two monologues about how liberals should pipe down with the complaints of racism and acknowledge American generosity toward immigrants. “Nothing they say on the subject of race is sincere,” Carlson said last Wednesday. “It's all a hustle designed to get them what they want.”
Trump’s attacks on this group momentarily united Democratic factions around a common enemy. And mainstream media coverage — while largely using euphemisms for racism — overwhelmingly condemned them.
Democrats are unified in opposition to President Trump’s racist attacks on four female members of Congress. But what they decide to do about it could tear them apart. The four Congresswomen attacked by Trump held a press conference Monday to show they are done with trivial rebuttals. They want to impeach and they want to do it now. ...
The fiery response by Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) stands in contrast to a response announced by Pelosi earlier in the day. Pelosi announced in a letter to her caucus that the House will vote this week on a resolution to rebuke for his tweets about the U.S. Congresswomen over the weekend that they should "go back" to their country of origin (though three of four were born in the U.S.) and continued Monday. ...
Pelosi has not yet released the text of the resolution but described it as one that would obliquely criticize Trump by laying out a parallel, aspirational view of U.S. immigration policy. It is also expected to quote President Ronald Reagan’s farewell speech in which he said, “If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”
It’s a classic Washington, D.C., inside baseball play on the House floor: Introduce a resolution that goes just far enough so everyone knows what it’s referencing, but not far enough to scare the other party away from supporting it. Then, essentially shame the opposing party into voting for it, thereby criticizing their party’s own president. The vote can later be used as political fodder to attack anyone who votes against it. ...
But the increasing number of rank-and-file Democrats are growing weary of these kinds of tactics. For some, Trump’s xenophobic comments only reinforce what they have long believed: Trump must be impeached, even if that path does not have the support of the majority of the caucus.
The Trump administration has announced new immigration rules ending asylum protections for almost all migrants who arrive at the US-Mexico border, in violation of both US and international law. According to the new rules, any asylum seekers who pass through another country before arriving at the southern border – including children traveling on their own – will not be eligible for asylum if they failed to apply first in their country of transit. They would only be eligible for US asylum if their application was turned down elsewhere.
The change would affect the vast majority of migrants arriving through Mexico. Most of those currently come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, but an increasing number are from Haiti, Cuba and countries further afield in Africa and Asia. The new rules were placed on the federal register on Monday and due to take effect on Tuesday, though they will be immediately challenged in court for contraventions of the US refugee act and the UN refugee convention guaranteeing the right to seek asylum to those fleeing persecution from around the world. ...
The US Refugee Act of 1980 limits the right of asylum if the applicant can be sent back to a “safe third country”, but human rights advocates have pointed out that neither Mexico nor any Central American countries come close to meeting the act’s standards of a safe third country, “where the alien’s life or freedom would not be threatened”... “and where the alien would have access to a full an fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum”.
Furthermore, for a country to be considered “safe”, it would have to enter into a formal agreement with the US. In recent months, the US has sought to conclude safe third country agreements with Mexico and Guatemala, but Mexico rejected the initiative and the agreement in Guatemala was blocked on Sunday by that country’s constitutional court. The new rules published on Monday simply ignore the safe third country standard.
Before Being Hacked, Border Surveillance Firm Lobbied to Downplay Security and Privacy Concerns About Its Technology
Few people had ever heard of Perceptics, a Tennessee-based subcontractor that sells license plate readers to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, before last month, when news emerged that the company had been hacked and that sensitive data — including images of license plates and drivers — had been released on the dark web. The hack is just the sort of privacy breach that civil liberties advocates have long warned could come from massive government data collection, especially when it is contracted out to private firms. And it comes at a time when the CBP is under scrutiny for monitoring activists and journalists at the U.S.-Mexico border and airports.
Yet while photos of faces and license plates of some 100,000 U.S. drivers are now freely available online, the CEO of Perceptics, John Dalton, claimed in an email a few years ago that “CBP has none of the privacy concerns at the border that all agencies have inland.” Writing to one of his company’s lobbyists in 2013, Dalton suggested that the border agency offered Perceptics an opportunity to make greater use of license plate images, stating, “Data mining and looking at traffic patterns/abnormalities are strong analytics for CBP, and could be for others.” Dalton appeared to be referring to the CBP’s relatively unfettered powers of search and seizure within 100 miles of the border. In contrast, for agencies other than CBP, “there is much concern with ACLU state level lawsuits and elsewhere around privacy issues, so this is a live challenge,” he wrote.
Dalton’s email and other internal documents laying out Perceptics’ strategy to politically defend its products are among the data taken from the company by an anonymous hacker and analyzed by The Intercept. “Obviously, we don’t agree with the blanket assertion that there are no privacy concerns at the border,” said Nate Freed Wessler, of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “The government position is that they have latitude to do whatever they want there, and we vigorously disagree with that.”
Wherever they are used, said Wessler, license plate readers, or LPRs, are concerning when the data they collect is retained and analyzed, providing a gold mine of location information as people go about their daily lives in their cars. “Especially for people who live in border communities, who live binational lives, it can really be sensitive information,” he said. And as the Perceptics hack shows, data that is retained is also vulnerable to unintended release or use, whether by hackers or unscrupulous government employees or contractors.
In early July, CBP suspended Perceptics from receiving any further contracts with the federal government, citing “evidence of conduct indicating a lack of business honesty or integrity.” The suspension apparently came because the company “had transferred copies of license-plate and traveler images onto its private network in violation of agency rules,” according to the Washington Post. A CBP official told the paper that Perceptics was trying to “refine its algorithms to match license plates with the faces of a car’s occupants, which the official said was outside of CBP’s sanctioned use.”
Months after the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed terminating federal housing assistance for “mixed-status” immigrant families, another agency is planning on doing the same thing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing to roll out an identical rule change for its Rural Housing Service, which manages over 415,000 units of subsidized low-income housing, sources close to the agency tell VICE News.
Like HUD, the agency plans to end eligibility for its program for families where one or more members are undocumented. Under the proposed rule change, families with members that do not have residency or citizenship documents would lose their homes.
The USDA’s program is one of several geared toward revitalizing rural communities and boosting residency in sparsely populated areas. It serves low-income families, many of whom are seniors or who have disabilities. Rural Housing Service also offers direct home loan programs, and subsidizes about 1,000 properties used to house farm laborers. HUD, by comparison, manages roughly 1.1 million units of public housing.
A regulatory impact analysis of HUD’s proposed rule change produced by the agency’s own employees show that the measure would displace 25,000 families — including up to 55,000 children — and cost the agency between $193 million and $227 million annually.
“Fast, effective, precise and unstoppable — these are rare but highly desired characteristics on the modern battlefield.” That’s how the New York Times Magazine (6/19/19) described the hypersonic missiles being pursued by the United States, Russia, China and other countries in a nearly 5,000-word collaborative article that seriously misleads readers on who started and is currently driving the next phase of the global arms race. The Times article, “Hypersonic Missiles Are Unstoppable. And They’re Starting a New Global Arms Race,” opened with statements by Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for research and engineering. Characterized as “an unabashed defender of American military and political supremacy” and the “chief evangelist for hypersonics,” Griffin brags about being an “unreconstructed Cold Warrior” and cites the US’s rapid development of the atomic bomb as a precedent for treating hypersonic missiles as the “highest technical priority”:
Following the usual alarmist formula used to sell military upgrades to the public, the Times then made the predictable pivot to uncritically transmitting false claims about the need to “act quickly” lest the US “fall behind” the Russian and Chinese menaces. ...
Analysts and experts not cited in the article have noted that the conventional narrative of US hypersonics lagging behind Russia and China’s is misleading, because the countries have different goals. Russia and China’s hypersonics program is focused on delivering nuclear warheads, which require much less precision and investment than US hypersonics, focused on the “much more difficult” task of delivering non-nuclear warheads (CNBC, 5/11/18). Other experts have argued that the conventional narrative is false, because the US is “still the leader” in hypersonic missiles, having researched them for over a decade, and has “done a lot more than Russia and China have,” while noting that Russian and Chinese hypersonic development is aimed at overcoming US missile defense systems near their borders to preserve their nuclear deterrent (Business Insider, 4/30/18).
As I’ve written earlier (FAIR.org, 5/17/19), nuclear strategists have long known that “missile defense” systems are actually offensive weapons designed to obtain a first-strike advantage by neutralizing retaliatory strikes. Yet the crucial context of Russia pursuing its hypersonics program as a cheaper and more rational strategy—as opposed to pointlessly competing with the US by creating its own missile-defense systems—and as a response to the US’s unilateral 2001 withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty limiting those systems, is buried near the end of the article, in the 43rd paragraph.
Instead, the Times preferred to ascribe agency and responsibility to mysterious forces and inanimate missiles manipulating the US both in its headline—it’s the missiles that are “starting a new global arms race,” not the government—and in its claim that “the rush” to possess hypersonic missiles has “pushed the United States into an arms race with Russia and China.”
An Israeli organisation has started a legal case in a bid to stop a mechanism set up by the EU designed to dodge US sanctions on Iran and salvage the nuclear deal. Shurat Hadin Israel Law Center, an NGO dedicated to representing victims of terrorism, will file on behalf of two families a lawsuit against the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Monday.
INSTEX, which was launched in January and became operational on 28 June, was set up by Germany, France and Britain to help Iran bypass sanctions.
The plaintiffs are all of Israeli and American origin who claim their relatives were victims of attacks funded by Iran. The families will file a lawsuit in the Court of Sessions in France, demanding all Iranian money and assets to be paid as compensation to the alleged victims of terror as part of the enforcement of the American courts' ruling.
Former British ambassador to the US Kim Darroch alleged in a diplomatic cable that Trump’s motivation in breaching the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was motivated by nothing more than spite, according to the Daily Mail, which saw the text.
In spring of 2018, then foreign secretary Boris Johnson came to Washington for extensive consultations with Trump and his team, attempting to convince them not to breach the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or Iran nuclear deal of 2015.
After Johnson went home empty-handed, Darroch wrote back to London that Trump was “set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism” and was reneging on the agreement mainly for “personality reasons,” that is because he could not stomach that the JCPOA had been Barack Obama’s project.
While many of us who have observed Trump have come to the same conclusion– that his Iran policy is driven more by a hope of outdoing Obama than of any rational grand strategy, we are not insiders. Darroch had many contacts inside the Trump White House and spoke of their fierce internal divisions. His formal conclusion, conveyed back to the prime minister, is not mere speculation or punditry, but the careful appraisal of a foreign policy insider with specific knowledge of Trump and his people.
“The decline in US living standards and economic security is not a side effect of globalization – it is the intended effect of this global regime that is being imposed,” said BAR executive editor Glen Ford, at the Left Forum in New York City. “The capitalist imperial consensus is to destroy all impediments to the most profitable exploitation of labor and technology.” That’s why most new US employment consists of “shit jobs.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who campaigned in 2017 as an unequivocal opponent of the death penalty, asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in a legal filing Monday night to declare the state’s death penalty system unconstitutional.
The death penalty as it stands “cannot survive the state Constitution’s ban on cruel punishments,” Krasner wrote in a brief he submitted to the state’s high court. He cited a study, conducted by his office, that revealed a startling 72 percent of Philadelphia death sentences were overturned during post-conviction review between 1978 and 2017, often due to ineffective legal representation. In a justice system rife with racial disparities, that 37 of the 45 people from Philadelphia currently on death row are black adds even more cause for concern, Krasner argued. ...
Since Krasner entered office, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office has stopped fighting appeals of death row inmates, citing ineligibility in court filings on the basis of inadequate representation or intellectual disability. But Monday’s filing is the first time the office has argued that the state’s system as a whole is unconstitutional. His data-based argument is just the latest step taken by elected officials in the state to draw attention to issues with the application of the death penalty. A bipartisan report from state lawmakers published last June showed that six people on Pennsylvania’s death row have been exonerated since 1972. Three have been executed.
Gov. Tom Wolf issued a moratorium on all Pennsylvania executions in 2015, calling the state’s death penalty system “flawed.” Pennsylvania is one of four states currently under a moratorium, including Colorado, California, and Oregon.
Lots more detail in the article, worth a read if you're following the horserace. The evidence presented certainly calls into question Warren's credibility as a campaigner against corporate power and harms to the public.
Dow breast implant case spotlights Elizabeth Warren’s work helping big corporations navigate bankruptcies
When Dow Corning faced thousands of lawsuits in the 1990s from women saying they had become sick from the company’s silicone gel breast implants, its parent firm, Dow Chemical, turned to one of the country’s leading experts in corporate bankruptcies: Professor Elizabeth Warren. Warren, now a Democratic presidential candidate, has never publicly discussed her role in the case. Her campaign said that she was “a consultant to ensure adequate compensation for women who claimed injury” from the implants and that a $2.3 billion fund for the women was started “thanks in part to Elizabeth’s efforts.”
But participants on both sides of the matter say that description mischaracterizes Warren’s work, in which she advised a company intent on limiting payments to the women. “She was on the wrong side of the table,” said Sybil Goldrich, who co-founded a support group for women with implants and battled the companies for years. Goldrich said Dow Corning and its parent “used every trick in the book” to limit the size of payouts to women. The companies, she added, “were not easy to deal with at all.”
A person familiar with Warren’s role who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe litigation strategy said the future senator was part of a Dow defense team that had containing the company’s liability as a goal.
Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and former Ivy League law professor, is building a White House campaign on her long-standing image as an advocate for consumers and a fierce critic of corporations. ...
Warren declined an interview request. Her campaign in May released a 4,000-plus-word document listing cases and summaries of outside work after The Post and other news organizations requested them. Warren previously had released a shorter list, with just 13 cases, when she ran for the Senate in 2012. ... When she released the 13 cases during her 2012 campaign, the list didn’t include it. That work surfaced when the blog Legal Insurrection posted a court document from an unrelated case in which Warren said she’d served in an “advisory capacity” to Dow Chemical “in the early days of the Dow Corning bankruptcy.”
Joe Biden thinks the prescription to fix the current healthcare system is doubling current doses, not drastic surgery.
The former vice president laid out his plan to expand rather than replace Obamacare Monday morning, taking aim at the more far-reaching Medicare-for-All plan advocated by his 2020 opponents as he dug in on one of the defining policy disagreements of the 2020 Democratic primary.
The core of Biden’s plan is a proposal to create a government-run insurance policy as an option for people to choose over private insurance. That’s something most Democrats wanted to do when passing Obamacare in the first place, but failed to pass. The former vice president’s plan would also allow Medicare to directly negotiate prescription prices and allow drugs to be imported from abroad, both of which would drive down drug costs, as well as beef up tax credits to help poorer people afford insurance. The plan would cost approximately $750 billion, according to Biden’s advisers — a cost that would be paid for by rolling back some of President Trump’s tax cuts. ...
The fight between Biden and his more left-wing opponents isn’t just about policy. It’s also a deeper if more nebulous disagreement: Do Democrats looking for someone who can return the party to the Obama era, or do they want a more aggressively liberal candidate as their standard-bearer? The answer could define the primary and determine whether Biden wins the nomination.
Joe "Smilin' Death Toll" Biden wants to keep the blues alive in the wrong way.
'Not Acceptable': Analysis Estimates Biden Healthcare Plan Would Kill 125,000 People in First Decade Alone
Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-wing think tank People's Policy Project, pointed to Biden's claim that his plan will provide health insurance to 97 percent of Americans and calculated the death toll of leaving three percent of the U.S. population without coverage.
"Even if you suppose that Biden's estimate is right and the uninsurance rate does go to three percent, that still implies an enormous amount of unnecessary death caused by a lack of insurance," Bruenig said. "One commonly-used (e.g. by CAP) estimate states that one unnecessary death occurs annually for every 830 uninsured people. This means that during the first 10 years of Bidencare, over 125,000 unnecessary deaths will occur from uninsurance."
New reporting reveals that the Pentagon is eyeing the development of so-called "rare earths" in the U.S., a move that could make the country less reliant on industry-dominating China amid trade tensions between the two nations, and would bring steep environmental costs.
Reuters reported on the development last week, citing an Air Force-created document.
The Pentagon wants miners to describe plans to develop U.S. rare earths mines and processing facilities, and asked manufacturers to detail their needs for the minerals, according to the document, which is dated June 27.
Responses are required by July 31, a short time frame that underscores the Pentagon's urgency. The U.S. government's fiscal year ends in September.
"The overall goal is to secure and assure a viable, domestic supplier (of rare earths) for the long-term," the nine-page document says.
"The push," reported Reuters, "comes weeks after China threatened to curb exports to the United States of rare earths."
p>It's not just a matter of digging them up from the earth, however, as Australia's ABC reported:
they're found inside other, non-rare-earth deposits. The materials that are dug up need to be broken down in order to isolate the rare earths.
One way to do this, [Gavin Mudd, associate professor in chemical and environmental engineering at RMIT University,] said, is through "hundreds and hundreds" of leaching cycles, which involves acid being used to separate minerals contained in rocks or sediment — an incredibly hazardous task for humans.
One rare earths mining town in northern China, Baotou—home to a large acid-mining tailings dam—has been dubbed "the worst place on earth," due to its levels of toxicity.
It's not clear that U.S. extraction and processing would fill the void. Wired reported last month, "The U.S. has a limited supply of rare earths, about 1 percent of the world's reserves, according to the Geologic Survey."
British Columbia is rushing to put plans in place to manage the endangered woodland caribou before the Canadian federal government loses patience and invokes the most extreme protections across herd ranges, which would likely involve year-round blanket closures to the mountains to protect caribou habitat. Such mass closures would decimate the economies of neighboring small towns, like Revelstoke, that depend on those same mountains for tourism and resource extraction, like logging. This debate leaves residents with a troubling question: how much are they expected to sacrifice to save a dying species?
A recently released UN report reveals that the planet is on the brink of the sixth mass extinction. Caribou have long been a symbol of the north, once roaming in vast herds and numbering at least 40,000 in BC alone. Known as “grey ghosts” for their elusive nature, they are in danger of becoming literal ghosts: in May 2018, the federal government declared that the remaining southern mountain population of woodland caribou in the country’s western reaches faced an “imminent threat” to survival. The South Selkirk caribou herd that roamed the US border disappeared earlier this year, taking with it the last caribou from the lower 48. And many of the herds left in Canada have too few animals for a likely chance at long-term survival. ...
While those consequences are landing most heavily on the small towns asked to make the most immediate and biggest sacrifices, the benefits of landscape-level alteration extend far beyond: BC’s timber goes to construct urban buildings, the Columbia River’s dams to power US cities, Canada’s oil and gas to drive cars and heat homes, bucket-list tourism to beautiful places – elevating the question of saving Canada’s caribou to an international issue. ...
The immediate future for caribou remains hazy, with no public timeline for when BC has to deliver on a recovery agreement before the federal government invokes an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act. With Canada’s federal election in the fall, the handling of these animals – and the future of these communities – may take center stage or, more likely, will be used as nothing more than a political football.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sonny Terry - Harmonica Hop
Sonny Terry - Fast Freight Blues
Sonny Terry - Ida Mae
Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Sonny Terry - Railroad Bill
Blind Boy Fuller & Sonny Terry - Bye Bye Baby
Blind Boy Fuller & Sonny Terry - Somebody's Been Talkin'
Sonny Terry - This Woman is Killin' Me
Sonny Terry - Changed The Lock On My Door
Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Jerry Silverman - Mule Skinner Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins & Sonny Terry - Lightnin' Stroke
Sonny Terry - The Doop