The Evening Blues - 10-17-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans blues guitarist Guitar Slim. Enjoy!
Guitar Slim - The Things That I Used To Do
"Facts are a Kremlin talking point, and anyone who believes them is Russian. Facts are Russian. Truth is Russian."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
In response to a statement during the Democratic primary debates by presidential candidate Andrew Yang that both Russia and the United States have engaged in election interference, liberal pundit Molly McKew tweeted, “I now retract any vaguely nice thing I ever said about Yang knowing technology things because he answered the question on Putin with moral equivalency and a Kremlin talking point.”
If you’re in the mood for some depressing amusement, just type the words “Kremlin talking point” without quotation marks into Twitter’s search engine and scroll through all the results which come up. Just keep on scrolling and observe how this label, “Kremlin talking point”, gets bleated by mainstream empire loyalists to dismiss subjects ranging from the rigging of Democratic primaries to criticism of US regime change wars to endless US warmongering to concerns about new cold war escalations to disliking John McCain to criticism of Nancy Pelosi. Any criticism of the status quo which cannot be labeled false or misleading gets labeled a “talking point” of Russia/Putin/the Kremlin by those who support and defend the status quo of US-centralized imperialist world hegemony.
Yang’s statement about US intervention in foreign elections is indisputably true, of course. Both alternative and mainstream media outlets have thoroughly documented the fact that the US government’s own data shows them to have interfered in scores of foreign elections, far more than any other nation on earth. This includes an interference in Russia’s elections in the nineties that was so brazen they made a Hollywood movie about it. Former CIA Director James Woolsey openly admitted on Fox News last year that the US still interferes in foreign elections to this very day.
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was also branded with the accusation of voicing “Kremlin talking points” for remarks she made during last night’s debate. In her case those “talking points” consisted of the indisputable fact that the bloodshed in Syria can be blamed on US politicians from both parties, and the indisputable fact that the US has armed extremist militias in that nation with the goal of effecting regime change.
“Literally a Kremlin talking point, but whatever,” tweeted #Resistance pundit Leah McElrath in response to Gabbard’s debate comments.
“It is a fact that the Russian talking point for years has been that the United States arms al-Qaeda in Syria. Tulsi Gabbard just said it on national television,” tweeted journalist Scott Stedman. “How odd to listen to Tulsi Gabbard mouthing Syrian and Russian talking points on the Democratic debate stage…sorry but no one thinks US troops withdrawn by Trump were there as part of a ‘regime change war’ by the US,” tweeted Susan Glasser of CNN and The New Yorker.
This is from a video published by HTS (Al Qaeda in Syria) showing one of its fighters firing a US-supplied TOW missile in West Aleppo. The CIA-backed FSA was a weapons farm for Al Qaeda and ISIS. That’s not a “Russian talking point.” It’s a fact. https://t.co/g4Jw43fmBz https://t.co/atPy0Rt0jA pic.twitter.com/owNJQhQLpB
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) October 16, 2019
In response to the growing global threat of white nationalist terror, House Democrats are calling on the U.S. State Department to add three international far-right groups to its list of “Foreign Terror Organizations.” This is significant: Since 9/11 the State Department’s terror designation system has been overwhelmingly focused on the threat posed by jihadi extremism, like al-Qaeda and ISIS. Adding international far-right groups to their list could give federal prosecutors more tools to go after radicals suspected of conspiring with those organizations before an attack happens.
On Wednesday, New York Rep. Max Rose, who chairs the counterterrorism subcommittee, submitted a letter to the State Department, co-signed by 39 members of Congress. It urged the department to designate as terrorist organizations. ... There is currently no domestic terror statute in the U.S. To charge a person with terrorism, prosecutors have to prove that they’re affiliated with one of the 67 groups labeled as a foreign terror organization (FTO) by the State Department. ...
Rose was surprised that not a single House Republican was willing to back the letter he submitted to the State Department. “I’m baffled as to why my Republican colleagues have refused to sign on to this,” said Rose. “Not only are Azov Battalion, National Action, and Nordic Resistance Movement directly connected to inspiring attacks in the homeland, they’re direct purveyors of anti-Semitic ideologies that inspire attacks against Jews. It’s curious to me that the Republican Party, for the better half of this year, are claiming they’re against anti-Semitism. Here they have an opportunity to label it, but they’re not willing to stand against it." ...
According to a recent report by the Soufan Center, some 17,000 foreigners from 50 countries — including the U.S. — have traveled to Ukraine to fight in the war there since 2014. Many of those fighters joined the Azov Battalion, which embraces neo-Nazi symbols, and then returned to their home countries with new paramilitary skills. The U.S. State Department effectively treats those returning fighters as nothing more than Americans coming back from an extended trip abroad.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has agreed with the US vice-president, Mike Pence, to suspend Ankara’s operation on Kurdish-led forces in north-east Syria for the next five days in order to allow Kurdish troops to withdraw, potentially halting the latest bloodshed in Syria’s long war.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters would pull back from Turkey’s proposed 20-mile (32km) deep “safe zone” on its border, Pence told reporters in Ankara on Thursday evening after hours of meetings with Turkish officials.
“It will be a pause for 120 hours while the US oversees the withdrawal of the YPG [a Kurdish unit within the SDF] … Once that is completed, Turkey has agreed to a permanent ceasefire,” Pence told reporters in Ankara on Thursday evening after hours of meetings with Turkish officials.
“Great news out of Turkey!” Donald Trump tweeted minutes before Pence spoke. “Millions of lives will be saved.” ...
No comment was immediately forthcoming from the SDF, and it was not clear if Kurdish officials had been involved in the negotiations. Damascus and Moscow, who have since also moved troops into the contested border zone, also had no immediate comment. The agreement essentially gives the Turks what they had sought to achieve with their military operation in the first place: removal of the Kurdish forces from the border “safe zone”.
President Donald Trump offered a new position on his chaotic withdrawal from Northern Syria: He's washed his hands of it entirely. Fresh off of trying and failing to persuade Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pull back on his brutal invasion into Syria, Trump attempted to distance the U.S. from the mess, then he attacked the Kurds, the U.S.' most effective ally in the fight against ISIS, just because.
“Our soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be, as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us,” Trump said Wednesday, during comments in the Oval Office before a press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella. “It’s not our border.”
“Syria’s friendly with the Kurds. The Kurds are very well protected,” Trump added. “Plus, they know how to fight. And, by the way, they’re no angels.” He went on to attack the Kurds again, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant organization inside Turkey also known as the PKK, as “part of the Kurds” and “probably worse at terror, more of a terrorist threat in many ways, than ISIS.”
In doing so, Trump appeared to be echoing Erdogan, who has regularly pushed such claims against the Kurds.
Thanks to President Donald Trump’s recent green light to Turkey to invade northern Syria and assault the Kurds there, the debate contained an unusual amount of discussion about foreign policy. ... [N]o one on stage wanted to tell Americans the awful truth. That truth is, first, that the grim reality in Syria available for viewing via Twitter videos is the climax of decades of bipartisan foreign policy. And second, by this point the only choices available are either wretched or horrible or both. The worst offenders were South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and former Vice President Joe Biden. ...
Buttigieg delivered an ode to an imaginary America, proclaiming that “when I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it and our enemies knew it.” In reality, of course, the U.S. has — like all powerful countries throughout history — continually betrayed allies whenever necessary. ... Meanwhile, Booker declared that Trump is “turning the moral leadership of this country into a dumpster fire.” ... For his part, Biden said that Trump throwing the Kurds to the wolves is “the most shameful thing any president has done in modern history.” Of course, as bad as it is, it’s far less shameful than many other U.S. actions — including the Iraq War, for which Biden voted. In terms of the Kurds specifically, it is at least to date less shameful than the Clinton administration’s fervent support in the 1990s for Turkey’s slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds. One of the key defenders of that policy was then-State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns, who is now a top adviser to Biden’s campaign.
Sanders said little about Syria, mostly just echoing Buttigieg’s concern about the rest of the world losing trust in America. By contrast, Warren and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard dipped their toes into the complicated truth before scurrying away. Warren said, “I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East. But we have to do it the right way, the smart way.” This sounds great, but what is this right, smart way? ... Gabbard did aggressively challenge standard U.S. foreign policy blather. She decried “this regime change war” in Syria and mentioned the unfortunate facts about “the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaida, HTS, al-Nusra and others.” What Gabbard didn’t say is that, by this point, any plausible exit by the U.S. will be extraordinarily ugly, with the Assad regime brutally reestablishing control over Syria. ... Most importantly, she did not mention the much larger context for what’s happening.
Any politician brave enough to do that Tuesday night would have had to say something like this:
"Look, the U.S. is the center of the most powerful empire that’s ever existed. We’re not in the Mideast for moral reasons, like protecting the Kurds, so you can forget about that. We’re there to keep the oil flowing (even though any Mideast government will happily sell their oil to anyone buying), to get whatever profits we can for U.S. corporations and to make sure our Saudi friends recycle their profits back into the American economy. We can protect people like the Kurds only with a massive enlargement of our empire. So if you care about them, get ready for much higher taxes and your kids dying in Rojava. Or we can get rid of our empire — in which case you better start thinking about how to restrain all the other countries who’d like to run the Mideast and care about the people there as much as we do. Or we can muddle along in our current half-assed fashion, in which we agree not to ask too much of you and you agree not to ask any tough questions. You tell us!"
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Wednesday that nothing would prevent him from finishing his mission to rid northern Syria of Kurdish forces, warning the U.S. and Europe that “no power can stop us.”
“We informed the U.S., EU, and Russia before the operation began that we want this terrorist organization to be removed from our borders,” Erdogan told lawmakers in Ankara, referring to the YPG. “When the zone from Manbij to Iraq that is 35km [is cleared] when we could establish a safe zone, this operation will be over. But until that point, no power can stop us.” ...
Erdogan told reporters on a flight from Baku on Tuesday: “We can never declare a ceasefire,” adding he would “not negotiate with a terrorist organization.”
Donald Trump’s clash with Democratic lawmakers reached new heights when top Democrats walked out of a White House meeting and House speaker Nancy Pelosi pitied the president for having a “meltdown”. Pelosi and other top Democrats say they walked out of the contentious White House briefing on Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria after it devolved into an insult-fest and it became clear the president had no plan to deal with a potentially revival of Isis in the Middle East. ...
The move came on the same day the US House, which is bitterly divided over the impeachment inquiry, nonetheless banded together to overwhelmingly support a resolution condemning the president’s Syria policy by a vote of 354-60. ... Condemnation of Trump’s stance on Turkey, Syria and the Kurds was quick and severe during the day, and Pelosi said Trump appeared visibly “shaken up” after nearly two-thirds of the House GOP caucus voted in support of the resolution.
The non-binding resolution states Congress’s opposition to the troop pullback and says Turkey should cease its military action in Syria. The measure also says the White House should present a plan for an “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State; many worry that Isis will resurge as Turkish forces attack Syrian Kurds who are holding the extremists.
Donald Trump warned his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan “don’t be a fool” and said history risked branding him a “devil” in an extraordinary letter sent the day Turkey launched its incursion into north-eastern Syria.
The letter, first obtained by a Fox Business reporter, was shorn of diplomatic niceties and began with an outright threat.
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s letter to #Erdogan. @POTUS warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness pic.twitter.com/9BoSGlbRyt
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) October 16, 2019
“You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will,” he wrote.
“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” Trump continued. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen.”
“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” he finished, adding: “I will call you later.”
The bizarre letter was met with incredulity, with many at first questioning its legitimacy and some calling it a “joke” and an “embarrassment”. ...
“I actually thought it was a prank, a joke, that it couldn’t possibly come from the Oval Office,” the Democratic congressman Mike Quigley said to CNN. “It sounds all the world like the president of the United States, in some sort of momentary lapse, just dictated angrily whatever was on the top of his head.” Quigley, a member of the House intelligence committee, continued: “For him to write this and to also say that it doesn’t affect us is ignorance at the highest level.”
I present to you all, Trump's crazy letter as the Star Wars crawl pic.twitter.com/0ayBvJIz1F
— Eric Koch (@EricDKoch) October 16, 2019
I have obtained a copy of the letter from Trump to Turkey pic.twitter.com/jJ3OsRtqC4
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) October 16, 2019
Spain’s prime minister has warned that his government will not be provoked into overreacting as Catalonia braces for a third night of unrest following the imprisonment this week of nine pro-independence leaders for their roles in the failed push for regional independence two years ago.
Speaking on Wednesday evening after holding talks with other political party leaders, Pedro Sánchez said the government would defend Spain’s constitution and peaceful coexistence but would not be tempted into inflaming tensions. “The state will always guarantee the rights of those who wish to protest their ideas peacefully,” he said.
“But organised violent groups and those who try to break democratic laws will not achieve their aims … The only hope of those violent groups is that we’ll make mistakes and become overexcited and divided. They want us to fall for their provocations and feed a violent spiral.”
The prime minister’s address came as tens of thousands of people gathered in central Barcelona to protest against the supreme court’s verdict. Many threw toilet rolls in the air in a nod to the demonstration’s slogan: “There’s a lot of shit to clear up.”
As the demonstration wound down, some protesters once again skirmished with police and set fire to rubbish bins.
Labour would vote for a second referendum to be added to any deal proposed by Boris Johnson on Saturday, a shadow minister has said. Jenny Chapman, the shadow Brexit minister, said Labour would push for a confirmatory vote along with other opposition parties and Tory rebels.
The move would mean Labour prioritising a second referendum over a general election, despite Jeremy Corbyn having repeatedly said he would favour the latter.
Chapman told the BBC’s Andrew Neil: “The expectation would be: should a deal be tabled on Saturday, I’m as sure as you can be that there will be an amendment tabled that would want to see a referendum attached to the deal. I would expect us to support that.”
Pressed on why Labour would support a second referendum, keeping Johnson in power for months to come, rather than an election, Chapman said: “I would rather have a general election but we are not in control on this. So should that opportunity come on Saturday, to have that referendum on a deal … the pragmatic, sensible thing for the Labour party to do, given we’ve been asking this, would be to take that opportunity.”
Mike Pompeo has come under intense scrutiny in Congress, where his former senior adviser testified that the secretary of state ignored his appeals to stand up for the former ambassador to Ukraine, who was ousted for apparently political reasons. In testimony to the House committees pursuing impeachment hearings on Donald Trump’s conduct towards Ukraine, Michael McKinley said that foreign service officers had been left feeling unprotected in the face of improper political pressure.
McKinley is the latest of a series of former diplomats to come forward to describe plummeting morale and growing politicisation in the state department – in particular because of Trump’s conduct of a parallel policy based on narrow political objectives through the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
According to CNN, McKinley asked Pompeo several time to speak up for ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was withdrawn from her post prematurely in May, in part from pressure from Giuliani. She had refused to help his efforts to persuade Ukrainian officials to hand over compromising information about Trump’s potential rival for the presidency in 2020, Joe Biden. ...
McKinley’s appeals were “greeted with silence” CNN reported, prompting McKinley to resign last week. As a top adviser, McKinley was a fixture at Pompeo’s side but the relationship between the two has soured dramatically. Pompeo did not even issue a statement thanking McKinley for his 37 years of service, as would have been customary for any departing veteran diplomat.
Critics Warn 'Consumers Will Pay the Price' After GOP-Controlled FCC Approves T-Mobile/Sprint Merger
Consumers advocates called out Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday for a party-line vote approving a "blatantly anti-competitive" proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, the third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers in the United States.
S. Derek Turner, research director at the national advocacy group Free Press, took aim at FCC Chair Ajit Pai, an appointee of President Donald Trump and former telecommunications industry lawyer who publicly backed the deal months before commission staffers completed a review of it. Pai formalized his support for the $26.5 billion merger in August, with a statement that emphasized its supposed benefits but lacked any evidence. Critics warn that allowing two major wireless providers to become one will drive up costs for consumers.
"Despite Chairman Pai's bogus claims, nothing about this deal would lower prices for customers or lead to faster 5G deployment," said Turner. "And the loss of competition would disproportionately harm low-income people and communities of color."
Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted against the merger, detailed her concerns about its consequences in an op-ed for The Atlantic ahead of Wednesday's vote. "We've all seen what happens when market concentration increases following a merger," Rosenworcel wrote. "A condensed airline industry brought us baggage fees and smaller seats, even as the price of fuel fell. A condensed pharmaceutical industry has led to a handful of drug companies raising the prices of lifesaving medications, taking advantage of those struggling with illness."
"There's no reason to think the mobile-phone industry will be different," she added. "With less competition, rates rise and innovation falls. All the evidence demonstrates that this holds true in the mobile-phone industry too. If this merger succeeds, consumers will pay the price."
Reminds me of the Jim Crow era black code vagrancy laws that were used to entrap former slaves in a system of coerced labor, where they could be arrested and jailed on often ridiculous pretexts and leased by the prison system to employers.
Los Angeles courts force roughly 100,000 people to do weeks and even months of “community service” each year, exposing some of them to exploitative and hazardous working conditions without enjoying basic labor rights and protections, according to a first-of-its-kind study.
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers analyzing court-mandated community service also found that government departments and not-for-profit organizations rely on workers threatened with debts and jail time to complete labor that would otherwise be paid – and that those affected are overwhelmingly people of color.
The UCLA Labor Center findings, released on Wednesday and shared with the Guardian, show:
People in LA county are ordered to perform an estimated total of 8m hours of unpaid work over a year, the equivalent of 4,900 paid jobs. Government agencies receive an estimated 3m hours of free labor, replacing 1,800 jobs.
People struggle to complete their work by imposed deadlines, and in criminal court, nearly one in five people sentenced to community service ultimately face a probation violation or arrest warrant as a result.
While community service is supposed to be an alternative to debt, most criminal defendants are still forced to make payments averaging $323. People also often have to “pay to work for free” through initial fees to receive their community service referrals, which can be more than $100.
In traffic court, which sentences people to community service for minor infractions, 89% of defendants are people of color.
The new paper, the first in-depth study of these kinds of sentences in the US, presents court-ordered service as a type of legal coercion and labor exploitation, comparable to wage theft. While community service has traditionally been considered a progressive alternative to imprisonment, in LA county, which has the largest jail system in the world, it’s a punishment that exacerbates inequality and creates an unregulated labor force where workers are vulnerable to abuse, the authors said.
If this sort of thing interests you, there's a fair amount of detail in the article.
It’s unlikely [...] that anyone on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s prep team had considered the scenario that arose Tuesday night: What if former Vice President Joe Biden angrily takes credit for your signature achievement? After Biden said on stage that he was the only one who had gotten big things done, Warren noted that she had ushered into being the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, over the objections of Wall Street and many in her own party.
Biden objected. “I agreed with the great job she did, and I went on the floor and got you votes,” he said, his voice raised, pointing at Warren. “I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it. So let’s get those things straight too.”
When Warren was asked to respond, a look of anger washed over her face. She paused, and said, very deliberately, “I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law, and I am deeply grateful to every single person who fought for it and who helped pass it into law.”
Biden, however, was not one of those people, according to numerous sources who were involved in the fight over the CFPB’s creation. He did, however, offer Warren a verbal pat on the head at the end of the exchange on Tuesday. “You did a hell of a job in your job,” he said.
“Thank you,” Warren deadpanned. ...
[T]he insistence that Biden had anything whatsoever to do with rallying support for the CFPB in the Senate left many other people closely involved scratching their heads. “In all honesty, that was news to me last night,” said Jim Manley, who was communications director for Reid at the time. A senator closely involved in the fight, who didn’t want to speak on the record, said that he never heard from Biden. A former Senate staffer who worked on the bill told us, about Biden’s claim, “I needed a drink when I heard that.” They added that Biden and his staff were not involved in any Hill meetings on the subject or engaged in the legislative process in any fashion.
Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., was the CFPB statute’s lead author in the House. Asked what Biden did to win votes for the CFPB, Miller told The Intercept and the American Prospect: “Nothing.” He elaborated on Twitter: “I had no contact with Biden and cannot recall every [sic] hearing his name mentioned by anyone,” he said.
Media Outlets Use Study of Healthcare Plan That Is Not Sanders' Medicare for All Bill to Fearmonger Cost of Medicare for All
The Urban Institute, a putatively left-leaning think tank, released a comprehensive study Wednesday that media outlets immediately seized upon as evidence that the Medicare for All proposal authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders would increase total U.S. healthcare costs by $7 trillion over the next decade.
The problem, as Matt Bruenig of the left-wing People's Policy Project pointed out Wednesday, is that the Urban Institute assessed the cost of its own made-up version of single-payer, not the 100-page Medicare for All bill Sanders introduced in April.
"The Urban plan uses hospital reimbursement rates that are 15 percent higher than the rates in the M4A legislation, meaning that its cost estimates are much higher than the actual costs of M4A," wrote Bruenig. "Urban is certainly welcome to put forward any health plans they can think of and score them to the best of their ability. But it is important for media to understand that this is Urban's single-payer plan, not the Medicare for All plan supported by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and many other congressional Democrats."
Many mainstream and corporate media outlets, however, did not heed Bruenig's warning.
On Wednesday morning, CNN, Axios, the Associated Press, the Washington Examiner, and other outlets published articles conflating the Urban Institute's contrived "Single-Payer Enhanced" plan with Sanders' Medicare for All legislation.
FactCheck.org Ridiculed for Claiming Sanders Use of 'Existential' Misleading Because Climate Crisis May Not 'Obliterate All People From the Planet'
A fact-checking website came under fire from journalists and progressives on Wednesday when it claimed Sen. Bernie Sanders misrepresented the dangers posed by the climate crisis and the for-profit health insurance industry at Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate.
FactCheck.org, which is run by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, claimed Sanders inaccurately described the climate crisis as an "existential threat."
"Scientists agree climate change does pose a threat to humans and ecosystems, but they do not envision that climate change will obliterate all people from the planet," wrote the think tank's fact checkers.
— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) October 16, 2019
Sanders's description of the crisis—which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says policymakers have less than 12 years to drastically mitigate to avoid its worst effects—"could use some clarification," continued the article, titled "Factchecking the October Debate."
"If taken literally to mean the end of humanity, the descriptor is incorrect," the authors wrote, before admitting:
Yet scientists are clear that climate change does pose serious risks to civilization through increased temperatures, sea level rise and extreme weather, among other factors—especially if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. In some cases, this could even mean a specific location would be uninhabitable.
Checkmate Bernie -- climate change will possibly leave a small band of emaciated human survivors scavenging for cockroaches in the wreckage of our ruined civilization. owned by facts and logic yet again https://t.co/3EYW29MELn
— Rb Russeau (@robrousseau) October 16, 2019
This Alaskan Forest Eats a Ton of Carbon. The Trump Administration Wants to Let Loggers Cut It Down.
The Trump administration just declared open season on the biggest temperate rainforest in the world, which naturally stores about half the amount of carbon the U.S. releases every year. If that forest disappears, experts say much of that carbon could wind up in the atmosphere and warm the planet.
On Tuesday, the Forest Service revealed a plan that, if enacted next year, could let developers build roads and chop down trees in more than half of the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska. The 17-million acre forest, which is bigger than the entire state of West Virginia, has been protected from development since 2001. It’s also remarkably biodiverse and home to robust populations of salmon, bears, moose, and deer. ...
The Tongass is particularly adept at keeping carbon out of the atmosphere because its plant life is so dense. The forest and all its biomass hold 3 gigatons — or 3 billion metric tons — of carbon, more than any other U.S. forest. In fact, that’s as much as all of the forests in Oregon and Northern California combined, according to Bev Law, a professor researching global climate change biology at Oregon State University. “Storing carbon in the forests is low-hanging fruit, just letting it stay there, because carbon in the forest is carbon that’s not in the atmosphere,” Law said.
In his final days of office, President Bill Clinton enacted the “roadless rule,” which protects 58.5 million acres of land in the U.S. forest system across 38 states from development, including the Tongass. But in 2003, the Bush administration tried to unsuccessfully roll back the regulation through the courts. Taking cues from Alaska Republicans like Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Trump administration has argued that logging will help the economy in sparsely populated Southeastern Alaska, where most industries are losing jobs.
But critics have noted that the logging industry in southeastern Alaska employs just under 1% of people in the region. Fisheries and tourism together provide a quarter of jobs in the region, and both industries depend on the Tongass remaining intact, according to an analysis from Southeast Conference, a regional business group.
The environmental law non-profit Earthjustice said Tuesday it would challenge a Trump administration proposal to open up more than half of Alaska's Tongass National Forest to the logging industry—threatening wildlife and indigenous populations as well as one of the world's greatest carbon sinks.
President Donald Trump's preferred rollback in Tongass, according to the USDA, "would remove all 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless acres and would convert 165,000 old-growth acres and 20,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable timber lands to suitable timber lands."
Earthjustice said on Twitter it would fight to protect the Tongass.
This ecologically rich landscape and critical wildlife habitat will be lost forever if industry is allowed to clear-cut our national forest. There is no good reason to roll back protections for the Tongass. Story by @c_m_dangelo https://t.co/TPZqSqJGEZ
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) October 15, 2019
"Alaska is already reeling from the effects of climate change. Clearcutting remaining old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest would release significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and make things worse," added Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's wrong to put private profits ahead of the health and future of Alaskans."
The Tongass also provides a place for 40 percent of West Coast wild salmon to breed, a habitat for many other animals, and has been used for generations by Indigenous populations. "America's largest national forest," said the NRDC, "is home to species like wild Pacific salmon, the Alexander Archipelago wolf, and many others that depend on its majestic old growth forests. So, too, do local Indigenous communities, who rely on these pristine lands for traditional hunting, gathering, and cultural practices.
Companies and industries that are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished by investors and go bankrupt, the governor of the Bank of England has warned. Mark Carney also told the Guardian it was possible that the global transition needed to tackle the climate crisis could result in an abrupt financial collapse. He said the longer action to reverse emissions was delayed, the more the risk of collapse would grow.
Carney has led efforts to address the dangers global heating poses to the financial sector, from increasing extreme weather disasters to a potential fall in asset values such as fossil fuel company valuations as government regulations bite. The Guardian revealed last week that just 20 fossil fuel companies have produced coal, oil and gas linked to more than a third of all emissions in the modern era.
The Bank of England has said up to $20tn (£16tn) of assets could be wiped out if the climate emergency is not addressed effectively. But Carney also said great fortunes could be made by those working to end greenhouse gas emissions with a big potential upside for the UK economy in particular.
In an interview with the Guardian, Carney said disclosure by companies of the risks posed by climate change to their business was key to a smooth transition to a zero-carbon world as it enabled investors to back winners. “There will be industries, sectors and firms that do very well during this process because they will be part of the solution,” he said. “But there will also be ones that lag behind and they will be punished.”
Carney said in July: “Companies that don’t adapt will go bankrupt without question.” US coal companies had already lost 90% of their value, he noted, but banks were also at risk. “Just like in any other major structural change, those banks overexposed to the sunset sectors will suffer accordingly,” he told the Guardian.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Guitar Slim - I Got Sumpin' For You
Guitar Slim - You're Gonna Miss Me
Guitar Slim - Certainly All
Guitar Slim - Well I Done Got Over It
Guitar Slim - New Arrival
Guitar Slim - Standin' At The Station
Guitar Slim - The Story Of My Life
Guitar Slim - A Letter to My Girlfriend
Guitar Slim - I'm Guitar Slim
Guitar Slim - Stand By Me
Guitar Slim - Oh Yeah