The Evening Blues - 11-11-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b and soul singer Little Esther Phillips. Enjoy!
Little Esther Phillips & Big Al Downing - You Never Miss Your Water
“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”
-- Bruce Coville
“It is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions.”
-- Neil Postman
News and Opinion
Worth a click and a read:
In recent weeks, the New York Times and Washington Post have published innumerable editorials and op-eds arguing that Facebook has a responsibility to carry out political censorship, or, in their words, to “moderate” political speech online. Replying to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s declaration that “people should be able to hear for themselves what politicians are saying,” New York Times columnist Timothy Egan mockingly declared, “Yes, of course—let the people hear for themselves, no matter if it’s true or not. They can decide. Except, they can’t.” (“Why doesn’t Zuckerberg get it?”) ...
The campaign in the press has been joined effectively by the entire gamut of the Democratic Party. Last week, Hillary Clinton demanded that Facebook take down “false, deceptive or deliberately misleading content” or “pay a price.” Her statements echoed those of presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who condemned Facebook for allowing “politicians to run ads with known lies—explicitly turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine.” Last month, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, demanded that Facebook “take down lies.” She was joined by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who condemned Facebook for allowing “politicians” to make “untruthful statements.”
When the Democrats demand that Facebook adjudicate truth and lies, they are directly attacking political speech. Inevitably, the powers given to giant corporations and the state will be utilized to reinforce the conceptions and positions of the social interests that determine their actions. To arm the state—or, in this case, one of its corporate proxies—with the power to determine truth and falsehood is to provide it with the power to totally obliterate freedom of speech.
What is that smell? Could it be the not-so-rare odor of the CIA playbook?
In a televised address, Bolivia’s president of nearly 14 years said he was stepping down for the “good of the country” but added in an attack on opponents whom he had accused of a coup attempt: “Dark forces have destroyed democracy.”
In a tweet, Mexico foreign affairs secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, said it would offer political asylum to Morales in accordance with the country’s “tradition of asylum and non-intervention”. He added 20 other members of the government’s executive and legislature were already in the Mexican ambassador’s residence in La Paz.
The announcement by Morales came shortly after the commander-in-chief of the Bolivian armed forces, Williams Kaliman, exhorted him to resign his “presidential mandate allowing the pacification and maintenance of stability for the good of Bolivia.”
No Evidence That Bolivian Election Results Were Affected by Irregularities or Fraud, Statistical Analysis Shows
Statistical analysis of election returns and tally sheets from Bolivia’s October 20 elections shows no evidence that irregularities or fraud affected the official result that gave President Evo Morales a first-round victory, researchers and analysts at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) say. Contrary to a postelection narrative that was supported, without evidence, by the OAS Electoral Observation Mission, statistical analysis shows that it was predictable that Morales would obtain a first-round win, based on the results of the first 83.85 percent of votes in a rapid count that showed Morales leading runner-up Carlos Mesa by less than 10 points.
The new paper, “What Happened in Bolivia’s 2019 Vote Count? The Role of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission,” presents a step-by-step breakdown of what happened with Bolivia’s vote counts (both the unofficial quick count, and the slower official count), seeking to dispel confusion over the process. The report includes the results of 500 simulations that show that Morales’s first-round victory was not just possible, but probable, based on the results of the initial 83.85 percent of votes in the quick count.
“There is simply no statistical or evidentiary basis to dispute the vote count results showing that Evo Morales won in the first round,” CEPR Senior Policy Analyst, and coauthor of the paper, Guillaume Long said. “In the end, the official count, which is legally binding and completely transparent, with the tally sheets available online, closely matched the rapid count results.” ...
The paper verifies that historic voting tendencies favoring Morales in later-reporting polling areas explain why the gap between Morales and Mesa widened as votes were counted, ending with an official result that put Morales ahead of Mesa by 10.57 points. The paper also shows that the respective voting trends for Morales and Mesa were consistent, contrary to the OAS’s early postelection statements: “Neither the quick count nor the official count exhibit sudden changes in trends in the final results, and the same well-known trend, explainable by geography, is evident in both counts.”
They never did find any evidence of fraud in the October 20th election, but the media repeated the allegation so many times that it became "true," in this post-truth world. Thread: https://t.co/8oWFNKNebT
— Mark Weisbrot (@MarkWeisbrot) November 10, 2019
“Bolivian President Evo Morales steps down following accusations of election fraud” proclaims CNN.
“Bolivia’s Morales resigns amid scathing election report, rising protests” reports The Washington Post.
“Bolivian Leader Evo Morales Steps Down” says The New York Times.
“Bolivian President Evo Morales resigns amid fraud poll protests” declares the BBC.
“President of Bolivia steps down amid allegations of election rigging” we are informed by Telegraph.
“Bolivia’s President Morales resigns after backlash to disputed election” says the Sydney Morning Herald.
So there you have it. The indigenous leader of a socialist South American government which has successfully lifted masses of people out of crushing poverty, which happens to control the world’s largest reserves of lithium (which may one day replace oil as a crucial energy resource due to its use in powering smartphones, laptops, hybrid and electric cars), which has an extensive and well-documented history of being targeted for regime change by the US government, simply stepped down due to some sort of scandal involving a “disputed election”. Nothing to do with the fact that right-wing mobs had been terrorizing this leader’s family, or the fact that the nation’s military literally commanded him to step down and are now currently searching for him to arrest him, leading to ousted government officials being rounded up and held captive by soldiers wearing masks.
All perfectly normal and not suspicious at all.
As is usual, mass media’s reporting on this story is in full alignment with the US State Department, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also advancing the “disputed election” line in a tweet shortly before the forced resignation of Morales. Pompeo cited the evidence-free and discredited allegation of suspicious vote tallies during Morales’ re-election last month from the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS). As Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic & Policy Research explains in a recent article for The Nation, the OAS receives 60 percent of its funding from Washington, which gives the US tremendous leverage over the supposedly neutral and international body. ...
The field of narrative management keeps making more and more advances.
Pentagon Claims US Authority to Shoot Any Syrian Govt Official Who Tries to Take Control of Syrian Oil
Pentagon officials asserted Thursday U.S. military authority over Syrian oil fields because U.S. forces are acting under the goal of "protecting Americans from terrorist activity" and would be within their rights to shoot a representative of the Syrian government who attempted to retake control over that country's national resource.
The comments came from Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman and Navy Rear Admiral William D. Byrne Jr. during a press briefing in which the two men were asked repeatedly about the legal basis the U.S. is claiming to control Syrian oil fields. ...
Byrne claimed that the U.S. has been waging the oil field control mission alongside SDF and that the goal was to prevent ISIS from obtaining the oil revenue.
But, as one reporter pointed out, ISIS fighters "have no armor. They have no aircraft."
"Do they have the capability to actually seize the oil fields?" the reporter asked. "And isn't this really about Russia and Syria seizing those oil fields?"
Hoffman replied that the goal was "to prevent a resurgence" of ISIS which would be facilitated if the terrorist group had access to the oil revenue.
When the Pentagon officials were pressed on whether "U.S. troops have the... authorization to shoot if a representative of the Syrian government comes to the.. oil fields and says, 'I am here to take property of these oil fields,'" Byrne said, "our commanders always retain the right and the obligation of self-defense when faced with a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent."
The officials were reminded by a reporter that "the government of Syria is still, based on international law... [the] recognized legitimate government." Hoffman said, "Everyone in the region knows where American forces are. We're very clear with anyone in the region in working to deconflict where our forces are. If anyone—we work to ensure that... no one approaches or has—shows hostile intent to our forces, and if they do, our commanders maintain the right of self-defense."
About 500 or 600 US troops will remain in Syria to counter Islamic State, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Sunday.
Donald Trump recently approved an expanded US military mission to secure oil fields across eastern Syria. His decision locked hundreds of troops into a more complicated presence in Syria and contradicted his own controversial pledge to bring them home.
Gen Mark Milley’s announcement came days before Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to visit the White House. On Sunday, national security adviser Robert O’Brien was asked if war crimes had been carried out Turkish troops or Turkish-backed militias in northern Syria since US troops were withdrawn from the area.
“Some of the things that we’ve seen are very disturbing,” he said.
Milley told ABC’s This Week: “There will be less than 1,000 [troops] for sure. And probably in the 500-ish frame. Maybe 600. But it’s in that area. But we’re not going to go into specific numbers because we’re still going through the analysis right now.”
The European Union could face a wave of returning battle-hardened Islamic State fighters from Syria unless it gets much tougher with Turkey, including breaking off any accession or trade talks, a senior Kurdish leader told Reuters. ...
Ilham Ahmed, a Kurdish political leader and co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) executive, said in an interview that the EU should get tough with Turkey or it would soon face a wave of Islamic State militants arriving in Europe.
“The threat is very big due to the arbitrary way in which the United States has withdrawn. This has allowed many (Islamic State) members to escape and they will make their way back to their countries to continue their terrorist activities.” ...
She called on Europe to send 2,000 troops to secure the Syrian-Turkish border and prevent fighters crossing, and to cease all arms sales to Turkey. “Our people are being killed by European weapons,” she said.
Turkey will begin deporting foreign members of Islamic State in Turkish custody back to their home countries from next week, the country’s interior minister has said.
Ankara has repeatedly criticised European nations for refusing to take back any of the 1,200 foreign nationals currently held in Turkish prisons on suspicion of links to the terror organisation.
“Now we are telling you that we are going to send [members of Isis] back to you. We are starting this on Monday,” Süleyman Soylu said in Ankara on Friday.
In earlier comments, Soylu said repatriation efforts would also include individuals who have had their European citizenship revoked and are legally stateless.
“Countries can’t just revoke the citizenship of such ex-terrorists and expect Turkey to take care of them; this is unacceptable to us and it’s also irresponsible,” he told reporters on 2 November. “Turkey is not a hotel for foreign terrorists.”
Spain’s ruling socialist party has won the country’s fourth general election in as many years but once again failed to secure a majority in a vote in which the far-right Vox party vaulted into third place and the centre-right Citizens party suffer a humiliating collapse. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE), led by the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, won 120 seats, three fewer than in April’s inconclusive election.
The conservative People’s party (PP) rallied after its dismal showing last time, winning 87 seats, while Vox finished third as its seat count more than doubled from 24 to 52. The anti-austerity Unidas Podemos came fourth with 35 seats, followed by the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left with 13 seats. Citizens slumped to sixth place as the 57 seats it picked up seven months ago dwindled to just 10.
Frustration and apathy appeared to have affected turnout, with participation dropping from 75.5% in April to 69.9%.
The result suggests Spain is no closer to ending its impasse and is again bound for months of negotiations and horse-trading to try to assemble a government at a time of unprecedented political fragmentation.
Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, has claimed former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to recruit her to work around Donald Trump in an effort to “save the country”. Haley, who left the administration last year, makes the claim in a book, With All Due Respect, that will be published on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported.
In Haley’s telling, Tillerson told her that if Trump was left unchecked, people would die. “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley writes.
The pair told her that “it was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America” and “the president didn’t know what he was doing”.
Haley’s claims add to a picture of the White House as a hive of insurrection, with former business leaders, diplomats, career politicians and aides attempting to stymie the wilder impulses of a wildly unconventional president.
Mitch McConnell Is About to Steamroll Democrats with Another 30 Conservative Judges By the End of the Year
In the face of some stunning electoral setbacks this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump are trying to get their party to refocus the mission at hand: confirming judges.
Now, with the government lurching ever closer to another shutdown in the coming weeks, and with Democrats opposing the GOP’s attempt to move on to a defense spending bill, McConnell is planning to confirm at least 30 conservative judicial nominees before year’s end, which will bring joy to Trump’s base and build a legacy that will outlast both of their political careers.
McConnell and Trump have already overseen the confirmation of more than 150 judges — a whopping 40 more than former President Barack Obama had confirmed at a similar point in his tenure. ...
So while Democrats are obsessing over impeachment, and government funding remains at an impasse over funding for Trump's border wall, McConnell is going to stick to his knitting and steamroll Democrats with another wave of judicial confirmations.
This morning @BillMoyers spoke with @ReliableSources to explain why he and @MichaelWinship are still demanding @PBS air Trump impeachment hearings during prime time. Latest column: https://t.co/nhCixTzcNM pic.twitter.com/7qbu70xxHA
— Common Dreams (@commondreams) November 10, 2019
President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney famously justified the cash-for-investigations swap with Ukraine at the heart of Trump’s impeachment inquiry as commonplace, telling reporters in the White House press room: “Get over it.”
Apparently, he was speaking from firsthand knowledge. Fresh testimony released Friday ties Mulvaney directly to the shadow diplomacy campaign to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations into Trump’s Democratic rivals, alongside Trump’s EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and private attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Mulvaney personally approved trading a symbolically important presidential meeting for probes, Sondland told visiting Ukrainian officials on July 10, according to an account by Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top White House adviser on Europe and Russia.
“Ambassador SondIand, in front of the Ukrainians, as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations,” Hill said. She later added: “I was quite shocked.”
The whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump will not testify in public, House intelligence chair Adam Schiff said.
“The committee ... will not facilitate efforts by President Trump and his allies in Congress to threaten, intimidate and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm,” Schiff said in a letter to ranking Republican Devin Nunes released on Saturday night.
It comes as an associate of Rudolph Giuliani said he travelled to Ukraine to warn that unless an investigation was announced into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, US aid would be frozen to the country and Mike Pence would not attend the swearing in of the new president.
According to the New York Times, the claim by Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born American charged last month with campaign finance violations for channeling foreign money into the president’s campaign, “directly links” Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions or a quid pro quo with Ukraine, which is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. ...
In his own letter on Saturday, Nunes criticised Schiff’s handling of the impeachment inquiry and set out the witnesses Republicans would like to question. Among them were the whistleblower, whom the president and his allies have demanded be identified contrary to federal law; Hunter Biden, the son of former vice-president Joe Biden who is accused without evidence of corruption in Ukraine; Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American former Democratic National Committee staffer; and Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the political intelligence firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the famous Steele dossier on Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.
As the impeachment inquiry continued to cast dark clouds over the White House, Donald Trump said he was preparing to release details of a second call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“We have another transcript coming out which is very important,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before leaving for Alabama and a college football game. “I will give you a second transcript, because I had two calls with the president of Ukraine.” ...
Trump said his new “transcript” would probably be released on Tuesday. He also characterised the impeachment inquiry as “a lot of witch-hunt” but said Republicans defending him “have never been so united”.
House Democrats wasted no time Friday preparing to allow for the Equal Rights Amendment to enter into force, just three days after Democrats won control of Virginia's legislature—making it likely that the commonwealth will soon become the 38th state to ratify the amendment.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Friday the committee will mark up a bill next week that would do away with the 1982 deadline for states to ratify the amendment, often called the ERA.
"After decades of work by tireless advocates, it is time for Congress to act and clear the way for Virginia, or any other state, to finally ratify the ERA and for discrimination on the basis of sex to be forever barred by the Constitution," Nadler said in a statement.
A deadline of 1979 was originally set in 1972 when Congress passed the ERA, but advocates were unable to convince the 38 states needed to ratify the amendment to adopt it by then; only 35 states had adopted it by 1982, the second deadline that was set.
It wasn't until 2018 that Illinois became the 37th state to approve the ERA, following Nevada, which ratified it the previous year. The two states were the first to approve the amendment after the passing of the deadline.
Soon after Democrats in Virginia won control on Tuesday of both the state Senate and House of Delegates, pro-ERA advocates in the state and across the country celebrated the likely approval of the law. "We will be bringing [the ERA] back, and yes, we do have the votes to pass it," Virginia state Rep. Eileen Filler-Corn told The Atlantic Friday.
The law would enshrine in the U.S. Constitution a ban on discrimination on the basis of sex. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination, it only applies to companies with 15 or more employees.
New research "shows that gaining Medicaid coverage is literally a matter of life and death, particularly for people with serious health needs," and bolsters arguments in favor of states expanding their Medicaid programs, according to a report published this week by a leading progressive policy institute.
A report released Wednesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) details how the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) expansion of Medicaid from 2014 to 2017 saved the lives of at least 19,200 people aged 55 to 64. Meanwhile, state decisions to not expand during that time led to the premature deaths of 15,600 adults in that age group.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state health insurance program that provides coverage to low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. The ACA, signed in 2010, aimed to force states to expand Medicaid eligibility to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level—but a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made the expansion voluntary.
Trade wars, climate change plunge the family farm into crisis. Is it an endangered American institution?
Farm bankruptcies in September surged 24% amid a perfect storm created by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and Europe, slumping commodity prices, and a year of unfavorable weather. This August, the USDA reported that more than 19.4 million acres of farmland nationwide weren’t planted due to record spring rains and historic, catastrophic flooding.
According to a report released Wednesday by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest general farm organization, U.S. farmers increasingly depend on trade aid and other federal programs for income. Record-high debt and a rise in Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies should come as no surprise, the Farm Bureau reported. ...
The effect of the trade war has been acute. Over the first eight months of 2019, Chinese importers purchased about $8 billion of U.S. agricultural goods, far below the $19.5 billion total for 2017 before the trade battle broke out, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. ...
Ever since federal farm policy told farmers to “get big or get out” in the ’70s, the push toward consolidation has created decades of slow-burning crisis for many farmers. ... Problems for farmers are compounded by a six-year slump in crop and livestock prices, according to Farm Aid, the non-profit music festival and advocacy group formed in 1985 to keep American family farmers on their land. Overproduction of corn and soybeans, at a time when China imports less and less U.S. commodities, has come as the major companies gobble up more farmland globally; according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 80% of American farmland today is owned by big Ag companies and some 30% owned by non-operators who lease it out to farmers.
With Michael Bloomberg, the 9th richest man on earth, apparently running for president, Americans are asking themselves some tough questions. Like, why did we ever allow non-billionaires to run for the highest office in the land? And, why aren’t all the other billionaires jumping into the race?
After all, for all intents and purposes the United States is already run by its billionaires. They should care about us enough to make things official. If you like America, you should put a ring on it!
There’s no possible downside here. We already have a guy who calls himself a billionaire as president, and that’s going great. Things could only get better with more of this billionaire magic.
History makes this clear too. Two thousand years ago, in A.D. 19, the politics of the Roman Empire had become a plaything of its ultrarich. We haven’t checked, but presumably we would have heard if anything’s gone wrong for the Romans since then.
The Trump impeachment frenzy in the U.S. among Democrats, especially by party heavies like Nancy Pelosi, makes zero sense on its face. First, there’s no chance they’ll succeed: they’ll impeach (i.e. charge) him in the House and fail to convict in the Republican Senate. Why waste resources on losing instead of building a credible, vote-garnering alternative. It’s not about healing divisions, since this will make those far deeper. ... Some say it is about that, they’re trying to cripple Trump for the election. But this will just entrench voters on both sides, it won’t move a single ballot.
Pelosi’s a special mystery. She held out against impeachment for three years. Then along comes a Ukrainian sideshow and she’s all in? Spare me. What shifted her now? I’d say the answer is:
Bernie Sanders scared the crap out of them in 2015. He was nobody, and worse, a socialist! But Hillary Clinton beat him back, even if Trump beat her. Some things are worse than losing elections. Then, instead of going away, Bernie stayed at it — and proliferated! He has a sibling in Elizabeth Warren and acolytes in “the squad.” He raises more money than anyone — in dribs and drabs. This is their nightmare. They threw Joe Biden at “the left” but he’s flawed and fading. They tried others: Beto, Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete. So far, nothing but single digits. And If you combine Warren and Sanders, as you should, you get about double Biden’s support. They think, OK, if necessary, we can live with Warren. So they shift focus: control the agenda, not the choice of candidate. Turn the discussion into all impeachment, all the time. Pelosi’s on it.
On a weekend of sharp infighting among Democratic presidential candidates, Senator Amy Klobuchar hit out at Michael Bloomberg. “When people look at the White House and see this multi-millionaire messing up so many things,” the Minnesota senator told CNN’s State of the Union, “I don’t think they think, ‘Oh, we need someone richer.’ I think you have to earn votes, not buy them.”
Klobuchar also criticised Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has surged in Iowa. The senator repeated her contention that a female candidate with Buttigieg’s experience would not have made the debate stage.
Bloomberg, 77 and a three-term mayor of New York, has an estimated personal fortune of $51.1bn. Having long flirted with a run for the Democratic nomination, on Friday he registered to enter the Alabama primary. ... Advisers to the billionaire indicated earlier this week that he plans to win the nomination by skipping early voting states like New Hampshire and Iowa before making a massive ad spend in larger states.
But polling of likely Democratic primary voters generally indicates satisfaction with the candidates who make up a historically large and diverse field. A Morning Consult poll conducted on 8 November found that just 4% of Democratic primary voters would make Bloomberg their choice.
When Bernie Sanders heard about the report that Amazon owner Jeff Bezos asked fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg whether he’d consider entering the 2020 presidential race, he could barely contain his laughter. Sanders laughed so hard that he couldn’t answer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was in Iowa campaigning for Sanders, took over and began answering the reporter’s question. “Of course!” she told the Des Moines Register. “They’ve got class solidarity. The billionaires are looking out for each other. They’re willing to transcend difference and background and even politics.” Ocasio-Cortez went on to note that “the fact that Bill Gates seems more willing to vote for Donald Trump than anyone else tells you everything you need to know about how far they’re willing to go to protect their excess, at the cost to everyday Americans.”
At that point, Sanders had managed to compose himself and he jumped in. “Jeff Bezos, worth $150 billion, supporting Mike Bloomberg, whose worth only $50 billion, that’s real class solidarity,” Sanders said, while continuing to chuckle. “I’m impressed by that grassroots movement.”
Tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: Sorry, you’re not going to buy this election. pic.twitter.com/15sVnuPxwR
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 10, 2019
Campaign donations are a great investment. Stocks might only earn you 10%, but controlling the government can multiply your investment unimaginably
If you allow money to directly buy political representation in a nation with severe economic inequality, then political power will tend to represent the interests of a small group of wealthy people. The fact that this observation is obvious and unremarkable has not stopped us from falling completely into its trap. It is not really accurate to say that the people of America chose this system; rather, it was chosen for them, by people wealthy enough to build and maintain a political and social superstructure comprehensive enough to train, nurture, appoint and confirm a group of supreme court justices who would one day rule that corporate political spending is the same thing as free speech. You have to admire the shamelessness necessary to pull this off in the face of, you know, 2,500 years of post-Platonic political philosophy. Yet here we are. Not only have we allowed a smaller and smaller sliver of people to accumulate all the wealth, but we have also arranged our allegedly democratic political system in such a way that they can purchase all the power. Well done, everyone! It’s not just a national problem. It’s right in your home town.
Seattle is home to Amazon, one of the world’s most powerful corporations, as well as to a city council that has tended to have troublesome ideas like “the trillion-dollar corporation led by America’s richest man that is headquartered in our city should pay a tax to help house the 11,000 homeless people here”. When the city council passed such a tax on Seattle’s biggest businesses last year, it took Amazon less than a month to get it repealed, using economic threats and political spending. But that wasn’t enough. For the city council elections this year, Amazon poured $1.5m into a business-backed effort to elect a slate of friendly candidates. Though vote counting is still going on, it looks like Bezos and co fell short of their goal. ...
Still, any crowing by progressives about this minor speed bump in the path of capital is a bit too pat. The head tax that Amazon defeated would have cost the company more than $10m per year. They spent $1.5m on this election to pick up one or two seats. That is not a meaningful defeat for a company this powerful – it is a data point. At these prices, Amazon could happily spend, say, $7.5m on the next election and still come out ahead in terms of the financial risk they face from the left. The corporate thought process does not dictate that the company should now slink away chastened. It dictates that the company should spend more next time. Elections happen all the time, but the system remains stacked in Amazon’s favor. Progressives will always have to expend vast amounts of energy organizing thousands and thousands of people to act in concert to maintain their tenuous hold on power. All corporations have to do is write a check. At this unequal work rate, one side is bound to get tired before the other. ...
So yes, we will have to drastically change our campaign finance laws if we want to begin to overcome the gravitational pull of wealth warping our democracy. But if we ever want to get serious about that dream of a political system that represents everyone, we will have to do something more definitive: take all the money away from the rich.
'As Corrupt as It Gets': Oil Lobbyist Turned Interior Chief Proposes Giving 'Coveted' Contract to Ex-Client
Watchdog and conservation groups called out former oil lobbyist and current Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Friday over the department's attempt to give a "coveted" permanent water supply contract to one of Bernhardt's ex-clients.
"Bernhardt might as well still work for his former lobbying firm, where he represented oil and gas, mining, and agribusiness interests for many years," declared Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. Weissman's national advocacy group previously waged a campaign highlighting Bernhardt's conflicts of interest, opposed his confirmation, and filed an ethics complaint demanding a department investigation into him.
"If Bernhardt would like to return to his former lobbying job at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and pursue the interests of his corporate clients, he certainly is free to do so, subject to the ethics rules," Weissman said. "But for now, he is secretary of the Interior, and his duty is to serve the public, not his old clients."
Invoking President Donald Trump's rallying cries from the 2016 campaign, Weissman added that "if anyone still has any illusions that Trump is working to 'drain the swamp' or 'take on elites,' here is the definitive proof that it ain't so. A former lobbyist delivering the goods for his old lobby clients is about as corrupt as it gets. Bernhardt is fast making a play for title of 'Shadiest Trump Cabinet Official.'"
Holy hell. The oil lobbyist running Trump's Interior Department is awarding one of the first *permanent* water supply contracts to.... wait for it.... his former lobbying client.
This is as corrupt as it gets. https://t.co/a7JwhfFyuu
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 8, 2019
Their condemnation came in response to an Associated Press report that the Interior Department "is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity" to California's Westlands Water District. The district, which "serves some of country's wealthiest and most politically influential corporate farmers," long employed Bernhardt as a lobbyist.
"As a lobbyist, he was involved in negotiations on a contentious 2016 federal law that made the Westlands' proposed deal possible, allowing water districts to lock up permanent contracts for water from California's federal water project," AP noted. That law, which conservationists oppose over concerns for endangered native wildlife, "reshaped the federal handling of water in the U.S. state with the largest economy."
Worth a full read:
As fierce Santa Ana winds whipped the wildfires outside of Los Angeles, stirring exactly the kind of infernos that scientists expect in a hotter, drier California, President Donald Trump was gloating over the new allies he has won in his epic battle to block that state's efforts to fight climate change. California has been a world innovator in crafting environmental policy, and its pioneering approach to the difficult issue of carbon emissions from cars helped put the United States on course to cleaner, more efficient vehicles. But a multi-pronged assault by the Trump administration now seeks both to hobble California's climate efforts and to shred the state's reputation as an environmental leader.
In its latest move, the Trump administration doubled down on its fight to eliminate the state's carbon emissions rules for vehicles. It had already revoked California's authority to set higher standards. Now it was pressuring carmakers to take its side in California's lawsuit over the move. When GM, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota made the surprise decision to comply last week, Trump tweeted: "California has treated the Auto Industry very poorly for many years, harming Workers and Consumers. We are fixing this problem!"
The attack isn't just on auto standards. On Sunday, Trump tweeted a threat to cut U.S. aid for fighting California wildfires, reiterating his previous false claim that they are due to the state (which owns of just 2 percent of the forest land within its borders) failing to "clean" its forest floor. Trump's Justice Department sued the state a week earlier, arguing that California exceeded its authority when it launched a cap-and-trade agreement with Quebec to lower fossil fuel emissions. At the same time, Trump's Environmental Protection Agency has threatened to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to withdraw federal highway funds from the state over air pollution, and to initiate enforcement action for water pollution violations. In a flourish, the EPA blamed the latter on human waste and needles from homeless people in San Francisco.
Those warnings, issued directly from the desk of EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, were at odds with the agency's hands-off approach under Trump. At a time when EPA is weakening environmental standards on both air and water pollution and enforcement activity is at its lowest level in a decade, the agency was invoking one of the most severe penalties available, for a state that has invested billions in improved air quality and has among the best compliance records in the nation on water pollution.
California's governor has called the moves "pure retaliation," while former federal officials say that the unusual nature of the enforcement actions, and the management of the cases by top Trump appointees in Washington, reeks of political score-settling.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Little Esther - You Can Bet Your Life
Little Esther - If its News To You
Esther Phillips - Flesh, Blood & Bones
Little Esther - I'm a Bad, Bad Girl
Little Esther - Ramblin' Blues
Little Esther - Mainliner
Esther Phillips - Am I That Easy To Forget
Esther Phillips - Cheater Man
Esther Phillips - Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You