The Evening Blues - 12-9-19


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Big Smokey Smothers

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Big Smokey Smothers. Enjoy!

Big Smokey Smothers - I Can't Judge Nobody

“Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away."

-- John Lennon

News and Opinion

Video exposes US Custom and Border Protection’s lies in death of teenage immigrant

A video published by ProPublica on Thursday of the death of 16-year-old Guatemalan immigrant Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez in a US detention center exposes the official lies peddled by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to conceal its responsibility for his death. Vasquez made the journey to the US with his adult sister, from whom he was promptly separated upon being detained by CBP agents in southern Texas. Although, under a 2008 anti-trafficking law, immigrant children are supposed to be held by CBP for only a maximum of 72 hours before being transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the Department of Health and Human Services, Vazquez was held for 6 days, until his death.

In the early morning of May 19, 2019, Vasquez had come down with the flu at the CBP processing center in McAllen, Texas. The nurse who treated him recorded a 103-degree fever and told the guards that he should be checked on in two hours. Instead, he was moved to a Border Patrol quarantine cell in nearby Weslaco and was not seen by a medical professional for another 19 hours. He passed away early the next day. His father, Bartolome Hernandez, was left asking in an interview with Telemundo, “He left healthy. What happened to him?” ... The video obtained by ProPublica already has nearly half a million views, and shows Vasquez’s last hours in the small CBP cell, where he and his cellmate were given space blankets and made to sleep on a concrete bench. It shows him writhing in pain on the floor before collapsing by the toilet.

It exposes the lies that CBP spun shortly after Vasquez’s death. The acting commissioner at the time, John Sanders, stated that an agent had found the teenager unresponsive, and a Border Patrol log documented that Vazquez had regular checkups during the night at 2:02 a.m., 4:09 a.m. and 5:05 a.m. Using open records laws and other available information, ProPublica was able to determine exactly when the video was recorded and show that CBP’s account of Vazquez’s death was a lie. It establishes moreover, with little room for doubt, that the logs had been falsified.

While under Obama some 2.5 million were deported, itself a staggering number, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been emboldened by the Trump administration, and its methods have correspondingly become more brutal. While no migrant children died in federal custody over the prior decade, Vazquez was the sixth to die in a CBP facility in less than a year. ... The gross and criminal negligence shown in the video is not an accident, but is in line with the policy of the Trump administration. ... The attention and outrage generated by the revelations of Vasquez’s death show that there is massive opposition to the attacks on immigrants in the US and abroad. Millions of working class Americans are appalled by the barbarism of the Trump administration, but this opposition finds no expression in Washington.
The Democratic Party has based all its arguments for impeachment around Trump’s subordination of US imperialism’s foreign policy interests to his own political prerogatives, threatening to undercut the aggressive policy toward Russia adopted by the Obama administration and backed by the CIA and the dominant factions of the military and foreign policy establishment. The most reactionary and authoritarian aspects of the Trump administration--the brutal deaths of immigrants in concentration camps, the waging of endless wars abroad, and the evisceration of democratic rights at home—do not run contrary to the politics of the Democratic Party. Under Obama, the Democrats erected the framework upon which Trump is pursuing his racist anti-immigrant program, and with the backing of the intelligence agencies and the military they would continue the attack on immigrants were they to take control of the White House in 2020.

Anti-Nuclear Movement Urges Trump to Accept Putin Offer to Renew START Treaty

The international anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero is urging President Donald Trump to accept with open arms an offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to "extend the New START treaty immediately, before the year's end, and without any preconditions."

The 2010 treaty—first signed by the former presidents of the two nations, Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, but which has floundered since Trump took office—limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.

In his comments on Thursday, Putin said Russia has put forth a set of proposals to see agreement of the pact resumed, "but we have got no response from our partners."

In response to the news, Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, said it was a "security no-brainer" for the Trump administration to accept Putin's outstretched hand on the issue of nuclear disarmament. "Losing New START," said Johnson, "would set the United States and Russia on a path to nuclear anarchy: a state of affairs where legal constraints of nuclear arsenals has ended and norms of voluntary restraint are weak or nonexistent. We'd all be flying blind into a nuclear arms race."

"At the stroke of a pen, Trump could extend New START, preserve critical verification tools, and strengthen restraints on Russia's nuclear ambitions for the long-haul," added Johnson. "If the President is serious about addressing the catastrophic threat of nuclear weapons, a golden opportunity has just been handed to him. The time to make the deal is now."

North Korea resumes nuclear testing

North Korea's U.N. envoy says denuclearization off negotiating table with United States

North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations said on Saturday that denuclearization is off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed.

Ambassador Kim Song's comment appeared to go further than North Korea's earlier warning that discussions related to its nuclear weapons program, the central focus of U.S. engagement with North Korea in the past two years, might have to be taken off the table given Washington's refusal to offer concessions.

Kim said in a statement that the "sustained and substantial dialogue" sought by the United States was a "time-saving trick" to suit its domestic political agenda, a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's 2020 reelection bid. ...

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned he could take an unspecified "new path" next year, raising fears this could mean a return to the nuclear bomb and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017.

On Tuesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry repeated a call for Washington to change its "hostile policies" and said it was up to Washington to decide what "Christmas gift" came at the end of the year.

Trump says Kim Jong Un risks losing 'everything' after North Korea claims major test

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."

"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.

North Korea's state media KCNA reported earlier on Sunday that it had carried out a "very important" test at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket-testing ground that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.

Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch.

"If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already," said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

"This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year."

Day 5 of public transport chaos in France as strike over pensions continues

The use of the word "overhaul" in the title and article seems suspect. "Theft by neoliberals" seems far more appropriate.

France pensions overhaul to go ahead despite huge protests

The French government has vowed to press ahead with its overhaul of the pensions system despite a hardening nationwide strike that will keep transport at a standstill next week amid another round of planned massive street protests. Four days after at least 800,000 people took part in one of the biggest demonstrations of trade union strength in a decade on Thursday, transport remained virtually at a halt over the weekend as the president, Emmanuel Macron, held talks with ministers at the Elysée Palace on how to diffuse growing tension.

The pro-business president, who has promised to deliver the biggest transformation of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era, sees his pension reforms as a key test. He has staked his political credibility on refusing to buckle in the face of street protests, accusing previous presidents of lacking the bravery to stand strong. With Macron potentially aiming to run for a second term in the 2022 presidential election, backing down would be to risk losing his support base.

The prime minister, Édouard Philippe, has been pushed to the front to insist the pension reform will go ahead, but after months of gilets jaunes anti-government protests earlier this year, the executive knows that to calm tensions, it must be seen to consult and negotiate rather than force things through in a top-down way. ...

The next few days will be crucial as unions plan another major street protest on Tuesday before the government sets out full details of its pension plans on Wednesday. ... An Ifop poll on Sunday showed 53% of French people supported the strike. Polls earlier this month showed that a majority of French people support pension change but do not trust Macron to do it fairly.

Amid strikes, French government may consider concessions on pension reform

Hong Kong: mammoth rally marks six months of pro-democracy protests

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Hong Kong in a mass show of support for an anti-government movement that shows no signs of flagging as it enters a seventh month.

The march on Sunday was mostly peaceful, in a rare break from the escalating violent scenes of recent weeks.

Chanting “Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution of our time!”, a sea of protesters formed a two-mile-long human snake winding for blocks on Hong Kong Island, from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central business zone.

It was the first time in nearly four months that the march organiser, Civil Human Rights Front, had been given police permission for a mass demonstration. The organiser of million-strong marches in June estimated that 800,000 people participated in Sunday’s march. Police said 183,000 turned up.

China tells government offices to remove all foreign computer equipment

China has ordered that all foreign computer equipment and software be removed from government offices and public institutions within three years, the Financial Times reports.

The government directive is likely to be a blow to US multinational companies like HP, Dell and Microsoft and mirrors attempts by Washington to limit the use of Chinese technology, as the trade war between the countries turns into a tech cold war.

The Trump administration banned US companies from doing business with Chinese Chinese telecommunications company Huawei earlier this year and in May, Google, Intel and Qualcomm announced they would freeze cooperation with Huawei. By excluding China from western know-how, the Trump administration has made it clear that the real battle is about which of the two economic superpowers has the technological edge for the next two decades.

This is the first known public directive from Beijing setting specific targets limiting China’s use of foreign technology, though it is part a wider move within China to increase its reliance on domestic technology.

Trump's Plan to Label Mexican Drug Cartels as Terrorists Could Backfire Big-Time

Within a matter of two months, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel brazenly killed 13 Mexican police officers; the Sinaloa cartel took an entire city hostage after the arrest of one of its leaders; and nine U.S.-citizen women and children were massacred in northern Mexico. Soon after, President Donald Trump proposed a solution: designate the cartels as terrorist organizations.

The idea of designating Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations may not sound crazy — after all, the cartels do inflict terror — but the idea has sent reverberations of fear through Mexican officials. Not only do they see it as a threat to the country's sovereignty — one that could lead to military intervention by the U.S. — but it also doesn’t solve the biggest problem from the Mexican perspective: stopping the flow of U.S. weapons over the border into Mexico. ...

Complicating matters is that Trump and López Obrador have diametrically opposite views on how to address the soaring violence in Mexico, which is on pace to be the deadliest year on record. López Obrador took office on a slogan of “hugs, not bullets” and promised to end his predecessor's ill-fated war on drugs. He maintains that if the U.S. really wants to help, it would do more to stop gun trafficking from the U.S. into Mexico. Seventy percent of guns confiscated in Mexico are from the U.S., according to Mexico’s defense minister.

Trump, on the other hand, called on Mexico to “WAGE war on the cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth,” shortly after the November killing of nine American Mormon women and children. A few weeks later, in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump first publicly raised the prospect of designating cartels as terrorist organizations and said his administration is “well into that process.” He complained that López Obrador has refused offers of military help. “But at some point, something has to be done,” Trump said. ...

The Trump administration insists that the more than 60,000 migrants returned to Mexico are safe, despite sending them to violent Mexican border cities where cartels operate with impunity. Labeling the cartels as terrorist groups could bolster legal challenges to the policy by immigrant-rights groups. “The administration has to prove that migrants are being kept in a country where there isn’t a threat and they are safe,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. “If you designate these groups as terrorist organizations, then somebody will be able to say that there is a terrorist threat in this part of Mexico. It opens him up to court challenges.”

Private border wall construction continues despite court order

The construction of a private border wall partially funded by rightwing allies of Donald Trump continued with vigor in south Texas this week, seemingly in blatant violation of a court injunction ordering work to be suspended.

On Thursday and Friday, within three days of a temporary restraining order being issued, the Guardian found construction crews with at least 10 heavy machinery vehicles moving soil, digging trenches and positioning tall metal posts along the US bank of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo county, which forms the border with Mexico. A 3.5-mile, privately-funded concrete barrier is planned on the site, near Mission, Texas.

The state court order was served to We Build the Wall (WBTW), an anti-migrant group founded by military veteran Brian Kolfage, and the landowners, Neuhaus and Sons LLC, whose land is situated between Trump’s proposed wall and the Mexican border. WBTW is a not-for-profit group that has crowd-funded millions of dollars by tapping into anti-migrant fervor and is led by the former White House advisor Steve Bannon as chairman of its advisory board. Kolfage has described migrants as terrorists and drug traffickers, and accuses border wall critics as being cartel collaborators.

The injunction, issued on Tuesday by a state judge, was granted citing potential “imminent and irreparable damage” to the National Butterfly Center, a popular 100-acre riverfront nature reserve adjacent to the Neuhaus property. The wall could act as a dam and redirect floodwater and debris to the sanctuary, destroying an ecosystem which sustains hundreds of native butterfly species and birds, the center said.

On Wednesday, Kolfage said that construction work continued as neither he, or the group, had been physically served with the order. Work was still going on on Friday afternoon when the Guardian was given access to an adjacent private plot, and witnessed crews moving soil, excavating a trench on a vast stretch of cleared riverbank, and preparing it for concrete foundations and metal posts. A border patrol vehicle was parked close to the bulldozers, partially hidden by lofty sugar cane. An employee of the construction company Fisher Industries, who identified himself as Sean, confirmed that work had continued uninterrupted – despite the injunction.

'Pushing Blatant Antisemitism': Trump Rebuked for 'Disturbing' Comments

President Donald Trump was accused Sunday of "pushing blatant antisemitism" and repeating his racist use of the word "Pocahontas" during a speech he gave Saturday evening at the annual conference of the Israeli-American Council.

"Trump's antisemitism and his racism are two sides of the same coin," said Yonah Lieberman, co-founder of progressive Jewish group IfNotNow.

In the remarks that were widely condemned on social media, Trump said that some people of the Jewish faith in the U.S. "don't love Israel enough"—a trope he's used previously.

After being introduced by right-wing megadonor Sheldon Adelson, the president told the audience, "A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You're brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me. You have no choice. You're not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You're not going to vote for the wealth tax. 'Yeah, let's take 100 percent of your wealth away.'"

The comments sparked sharp criticism from progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc, which said Trump, "his enablers in Congress, and his white nationalist base are targeting all of us."

"The GOP & far-right leaders regularly weaponize antisemitism against progressive leaders of color & use Jews as a shield," the group said in a Twitter thread. "Where is their outrage when Trump is blatantly antisemitic? When he insinuates Jews control money & power? When he calls us disloyal?"

"This is personal," IfNotNow added in a tweet Sunday. "Trump is inciting his white nationalist base to attack 'bad Jews'—that is, Jews like us who support freedom and dignity for everyone. We have a duty to fight back. We have a duty to defeat white nationalism." ...

The group behind the conference, the Israeli-American Council, advocates for "a strong Jewish and Israeli identity for the next generations." It was co-founded by real estate millionaire Adam Milstein, who, as The Intercept reported, has bankrolled attacks on the BDS movement. Milstein has called Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) a "terrorist" and suggested she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are not loyal to the United States.

Clinton Impeachment Video Reveals Dems’ Hypocrisy

Impeachment inquiry: Nadler may add Mueller counts against Trump

The Democratic chairman of the House judiciary committee, Jerry Nadler, has not ruled out including evidence from the Mueller report in articles of impeachment against Donald Trump that could be published as early as next week.

On Sunday, Nadler told CNN’s State of the Union evidence showed the president’s conduct in the Ukraine scandal was part of “a pattern”, indicating “that the president put himself above this country several times”.

On Monday Nadler’s committee will hold a critical hearing. Democratic and Republican lawyers from the House intelligence committee will testify following a months-long investigation of the president’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate a political rival for his own political gain.

Nadler said on Sunday Democrats had presented “a very rock solid case” that Trump abused his power, and would get “a guilty verdict in three minutes flat” if the case was presented to a jury. He has suggested that after the hearing concludes his committee will work quickly to publish impeachment articles, which could be voted on before Christmas.

Clinton Donors Charged In Massive Campaign Finance Scheme

Clinton Donors Charged in Massive Campaign-Finance Scheme

Eight people, including major Hillary Clinton donors and a witness in the Mueller investigation, have been charged in a massive campaign-finance scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

The individuals conspired to “make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign contributions” valued around $3.5 million in the 2016 election campaign and beyond, according to the announcement. Although the indictment does not specifically name the recipient of the donations, it is clear that the contributions went to groups allied with Clinton’s presidential campaign.

One of those charged, George Nader, is a Lebanese American businessman who was a witness in the Mueller report. Nader was also caught in 2018 in possession of child pornography, but received partial immunity in exchange for testimony in the Mueller investigation. He faces between 15 to 40 years in prison if convicted on child-pornography charges.

'We Were Proven Right,' Says AOC After Amazon Expands in New York Without Taking Billions in Public Cash

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested the Trump administration "focus more on cutting public assistance to billionaires instead of poor families" after news broke Friday that Amazon was expanding its presence in New York City without the state giving the company billions in tax incentives.

The decision by the online giant to lease 335,000 square feet of office space in Manhattan and employee 1,500 employees in the consumer and advertising departments was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The announcement came roughly 10 months after Amazon announced it was ditching its widely condemned plan to locate a second headquarters site in Long Island City, Queens—a plan for which New York state would have given the online giant nearly $3 billion in tax incentives.

Ocasio-Cortez was among that plan's most vocal critics, asking at the time, "Why should corporations that contribute nothing to the pot be in a position to take billions from the public?"

In a Twitter thread Saturday morning, the New York Democrat said that Amazon would now be "bringing work without the welfare." Ocasio-Cortez also countered the Republican talking point that the city was losing out on thousands of jobs.

Kansas City, Missouri Approves Free Public Transit for All

Lawmakers in Kansas City, Missouri took a "visionary step" on Thursday by unanimously voting to make public transportation in the city free of charge,setting the stage for it to be the first major U.S. city to have free public transit.

The Kansas City Council voted to direct the city manager to set aside $8 million to eliminate the $1.50 per ride fare that currently applies to the city's bus system.

Some frequent riders could save about $1,000 per year under the new plan, according to KCUR, the city's public radio station. ...

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority also expressed approval, with CEO Robbie Makinen telling KCUR that residents will be able to put the money they save on transportation toward other necessities, boosting the economy.

The city still needs to work out details of the proposal, including how it will be funded and where that money will come from, according to local news station KSHB.

Supporters of the measure on social media pointed out that free public transit could have positive impacts on economic inequality, the city's efforts to fight the climate crisis, and mass incarceration—as other cities, like New York, are cracking down on public transit fare evasion.

Free public transit has been shown to drastically reduce automobile use and emissions elsewhere, such as in Tallinn, Estonia, wrote economic researcher Curtis Myers.

the horse race

The “Bernie Blackout” Is in Effect — and It Could Help Sanders Win

Lots more detail at the link. Here's a taste:

How Media Turn Support for Public Schools Into Opposition to Children of Color

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic presidential candidates are rejecting the Obama administration’s embrace of charter schools, and media observers aren’t taking kindly to it. “Minority Voters Chafe as Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools,” blared a recent New York Times headline (11/26/19). “The front-runners for the presidential nomination are moving away from the charter school movement, and black and Latino families ask why their concerns are lost,” read the subhead.

The article itself was slightly more nuanced, reporting that the shift away from charters has left “some black and Latino families feeling betrayed”; buried deep within, the reporters note that “there is no consensus on charter schools among families of color.” (Black and Latino voters support charter schools at higher rates than do whites, but less than 50% view them positively; the NAACP and Black Lives Matter have called for a moratorium on new charter schools.) But the article also relied heavily on uncontested quotes from charter school founders and leaders, who accuse Democrats who would stop funding new charters of having “a lack of respect for black voters in the party” and “writing off years, if not generations, of kids.”

The pro-charter side was also given the floor a week earlier when the Times published an op-ed by Cory Booker (11/18/19) headlined, “Stop Being Dogmatic About Public Charter Schools.” (We could find no recent evidence of any pro-public school op-ed published in the paper in support of this “dogma.”)

Andrew Yang on Useful Idiots

Krystal Ball: Media turns on Pete, will this end him?

Oh look, it's a new season of "Dynasty."

George HW Bush's grandson Pierce announces run for Congress

If George HW was the first President Bush and George W Bush was “Shrub”, as the Texas columnist Molly Ivins famously and witheringly called him, Pierce Bush must be … Twig?

On Monday, the grandson of one president and nephew of another announced his candidacy for a congressional seat in Texas.

He joined one of the most crowded 2020 contests, the race to replace Pete Olson, a Republican retiring from Texas’s 22nd district, a suburban seat Democrats nearly flipped in 2018 and are targeting aggressively again.

Pierce Bush’s announcement video, released on the deadline to get on the ballot, included an image of him speaking next to a picture of his late grandfather, the 41st president who died last year aged 94. ...

Pierce Bush’s father is Neil Bush, George HW’s fourth child who is now a businessman and investor.

Nevada reporter: Can Sanders' organization overcome Biden's lead?

the evening greens

At Major March in Madrid, Indigenous & Youth Activists Slam Global Leaders for Climate Inaction

UN climate talks failing to address urgency of crisis, says top scientist

Urgent UN talks on tackling the climate emergency are still not addressing the true scale of the crisis, one of the world’s leading climate scientists has warned, as high-ranking ministers from governments around the world began to arrive in Madrid for the final days of negotiations.

Talks are focusing on some of the rules for implementing the 2015 Paris agreement, but the overriding issue of how fast the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions has received little official attention.

“We are at risk of getting so bogged down in incremental technicalities at these negotiations that we forget to see the forest for the trees,” said Johan Rockström, joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “There is a risk of disappointment in the UN process because of the inability to recognise that there is an emergency.”

In the next few days, environment and finance ministers from more than 190 governments will begin the “high-level segment” of the UN talks, which began on 2 December, and will finish on Friday. Over the weekend, negotiators produced the latest draft of a key text on carbon markets, which still does not have the consensus needed to pass. ...

Rockström said the UN conference must grapple urgently with reversing emissions of greenhouse gases, which are still on the rise despite repeated scientific warnings over three decades and multiple resolutions by governments to tackle the problem. “We must bend the curve next year,” he told the Guardian, citing stark warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Next year is the year of truth. The year when we must move decisively to an economy that really starts to reduce investments in fossil fuels.”

New Report on Ocean Oxygen Loss Gives 'Ultimate Wake-Up Call' to Act on Climate

Market debut for world’s biggest polluter must be a rallying cry for climate action

In less than a week the most valuable company in history will make its debut on a publicly traded market. Saudi Aramco is both the most profitable and the most polluting company of all time. Its looming $1.7tn (£1.3tn) market listing is also evidence of the gaping chasm between Europe’s growing climate movement and the carbon addiction the rest of the world just cannot kick. A year that has seen the most determined green investor activism, fossil fuel divestments and climbing climate targets will end with the largest single fossil-fuel binge in investment history.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman put in motion plans to offer international investors the opportunity to own a piece of the world’s biggest oil company in 2016, only months after governments in Paris had agreed plans to tackle the climate crisis. Nonetheless, the world’s biggest investors, from Wall Street to the largest financial centres in Europe and Asia, still clamoured for a chance to help bring Aramco to market.

The scale of the world’s biggest IPO has since been scaled back in line with a waning western appetite for a company indelibly linked to the Saudi regime and its flaring geopolitical tensions. When Aramco makes its debut later this month, it will be on the local Riyadh stock exchange, for the dubious benefit of investors based almost exclusively in the Middle East. The plans for a second, international, listing are gone, as is the hope of a $2tn valuation, but Aramco’s failure to live up to Prince Mohammed’s desire for a place in the global investment community should not be chalked up as a victory for ethical investment. Despite the cold feet of western banks, the float still attracted investor interest equating to more than five times the number of shares on offer. Aramco will still raise $25bn for the Saudi government, breaking the record set by China’s online retail giant Alibaba. ...

The centuries-old bonds which bind global capitalism to carbon show little sign of fraying as the world’s fastest-growing economies remain keen to continue investing in oil, coal and gas.

Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron & BP Could Be Legally & Morally Liable for Climate Crisis in Philippines

Site contaminated with uranium partially collapses into Detroit River

A shoreline property in Detroit listed for decades by the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency as a contaminated site due to its use of uranium and other dangerous chemicals during manufacturing dating back to the 1940s has partially collapsed into the Detroit River. The riverbank apparently collapsed under the weight of large aggregate piles stored at the site by Detroit Bulk Storage which has a long-term lease on the property for such use. ... There are uranium and radiation concerns on the site because Revere Copper in the 1940s was subcontracted under the Manhattan Project — the race to build the world’s first atomic bomb. The company into the 1950s continued to roll or construct uranium rods which were used in the nuclear bomb’s development.

The plant was eventually closed in 1984, abandoned and then torn down in 1989. The site’s ownership has changed hands, but largely been left vacant until leased recently by Detroit Bulk Storage. The property’s shoreline crumbled into the water last week at some point during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so the spill initially remained unknown to many responsible state and federal environmental regulatory agencies. ...

The city of Detroit has drinking water intake lines nearby downriver, but on the Canadian side the closest water intake lines that may be impacted by the spill are quite a distance away in Amherstburg.

The Wall Street Journal a half dozen years ago listed the Revere Copper site as one of America’s forgotten nuclear legacy “waste lands.” It referenced a 2011 evaluation study by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the property which concluded the “potential exists for significant residual radiation.”

Derek Coronado of Windsor’s Citizen’s Environment Alliance noted how along with uranium, historical records for the Revere Copper site also show concern for dangerous chemicals beryllium and thorium. Aside from the dangers of what’s in the property’s soil that may get washed into the river, a bigger issue may involve sediment on the bottom of the Detroit River. Sediment in that area is loaded with a cocktail of chemicals that include mercury, PCBs and PAHs which all have negative health implications for humans, wildlife and the water, he said. The sediment, like the soil of the Revere Copper site, may generally be considered safe if left undisturbed. But the fact a ton of aggregate just fell off the shore into the water will disperse the sediment in many directions, Coronado said.

Potential toxic impact of Detroit riverfront collapse won't be known for weeks

Water quality tests to determine whether a Detroit River shoreline collapse may have released harmful toxins into a nearby suburban drinking water intake will not be complete for weeks, officials said Sunday. ... The tests will aim to determine whether metals, PCBs, PAHs and other industrial contaminants may have been released when the river sediment — laden with toxins due to decades of heavy industrial activity — was disturbed. The release of such chemicals may endanger public health and wildlife.

Additionally, the water authority is testing for radionuclides because uranium was processed on site in the 1940s. However, EGLE soil tests conducted Friday did not find harmful levels of radiation. The federal government previously remediated the site. The Great Lakes Water Authority says a third-party lab test of samples from its drinking water system will take six weeks to complete. The river water analysis, meanwhile, will take several weeks, an EGLE [Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy] spokesman told the Windsor Star. ...

Some residents and community activists have blasted the state for what they consider a slow and inadequate response. The collapse was first reported by The Windsor Star Thursday, a day after EGLE learned of it. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, was reportedly alerted to what happened almost immediately, but did not share the information with any government agencies because it said it was unaware of potential risks.

“How in the world is it possible that we are hearing from Canadian news networks, days late at that, before we are hearing from our own authorities in charge of protecting us?” said Justin Onwenu of the Sierra Club. “Michiganders deserve emergency response systems in place that will assure communities that public health and safety is adequately protected.”

Pipeline Giant Energy Transfer and Its Private Security Contractors Face Bribery Charges in Pennsylvania

Security personnel working for Energy Transfer, one of the largest and most controversial oil and gas pipeline companies in the U.S., have been charged with bribery and criminal conspiracy for allegedly recruiting, hiring, and hiding payments to Pennsylvania state constables. According to a complaint filed December 3 by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, Energy Transfer illegally hired 19 constables to guard the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline, which has faced opposition from residents over the project’s ecological impact, explosion risks, and violations of their property rights. The constables were encouraged to wear their uniforms and badges and carry their guns, in what Hogan described as an intimidation tactic.

While it is not uncommon for companies to hire uniformed off-duty police officers to provide security services, in Pennsylvania, constables are elected officials barred from private security work. Furthermore, they are required to report outside income of more than $1,300. None of the seven who met that threshold did, according to the complaint. And in what appeared to be an attempt to hide the illegal activity, Energy Transfer paid the constables via a series of subcontractors, in many instances using handwritten checks that were not claimed for tax purposes. Hogan charged an Energy Transfer security manager, two contractors for the security firm TigerSwan, and two former state troopers for involvement in what his office called a “buy-a-badge scheme.” ...

The case is an example of the myriad ways that corporations behind some of the country’s most controversial fossil fuel projects are using local law enforcement to overcome opposition. And it’s only the latest scandal involving Energy Transfer’s security personnel. The state security boards of Louisiana and North Dakota have each confronted TigerSwan for attempting to circumvent local licensing laws. In North Dakota, where Energy Transfer hired TigerSwan to guard the Dakota Access pipeline, the security firm faced scrutiny after The Intercept published leaked documents detailing its invasive surveillance practices, which involved infiltrators, aerial monitoring, and a close collaboration with local law enforcement to thwart massive protests near the Standing Rock reservation. The documents reveal that both of the TigerSwan contractors charged in Pennsylvania previously worked on the Dakota Access pipeline.

Until now, Energy Transfer has successfully distanced itself from the deeds of its contractors. Hogan’s case offers a rare glimpse of the pipeline company’s hand in questionable security activities. ...

Hogan, a Republican, announced a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East 2 around the time the pipeline began operating last December. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro launched his own joint investigation into the pipeline project with Delaware County’s district attorney in March. And in November, the Associated Press reported that the FBI had launched an investigation into Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s permitting of Mariner East 2’s construction. Texts and emails obtained by The Guardian and the nonprofit Clean Air Council indicate Wolf’s office was involved in fast-tracking the project’s permit approval, bypassing planned environmental reviews.

An interesting article worth a read. Here's a taste:

Under Left and Right-Wing Leaders, the Amazon Has Burned. Can Latin America Reject Oil, Ranching, and Mining?

The chapter in Latin American history that opened in 1998 with celebrations in Venezuela has ended with a coup and violence in Bolivia. As with all tidal waves, the “pink tide” recedes to reveal a terrain transformed. The left movement landscape that produced variously striped socialist governments in a dozen countries is fractured and disillusioned. Central and South America face a resurgent right and the return of austerity, often through a scrim of tear gas. This state of disarray also marks the continent’s literal terrain: the forests and mountains cleared and ripped open, their minerals and hydrocarbons sent to port and shipped abroad in the name of a socialist project whose achievements have proven fragile, temporary, and superficial.

Global concern about the future of the Amazon has understandably focused of late on Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has accelerated the destruction of the rainforest with fascistic glee. But beneath that regime’s chilling contempt for nature as anything but a store of resources to be harvested lies an unsettling truth: Its agenda of unrestrained extraction represents a difference of degree and style, rather than kind, from the one embraced by every major Amazonian country of the past two decades. This includes the pink-tide governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil, which promoted mining, oil, and industrial agriculture as earnestly as their neoliberal counterparts in Peru and Colombia.

To scrutinize this legacy is not to dismiss the social gains it made possible, however briefly. These gains were real and in some cases striking. New state spending on health, education, and block grant programs improved the lives of many millions of people in a region defined by gross inequality and deep endemic poverty. And yet, as many observed from the beginning, these gains could only be ephemeral, based as they were on the budgetary sugar highs of a unique, decadelong commodities boom driven by China and, to a lesser degree, India. Even before mineral and oil prices began declining in 2012, the coalitions behind many pink-tide governments began to crack under the contradictions and trade-offs of what the Uruguayan social scientist Eduardo Gudynas, an early and influential pink-tide critic on the left, called “neo-extractivism.” This version of extractivism, it turned out, though defended from palace balconies under the banners of socialism and anti-imperialism, was not so different from the model practiced by centuries of colonial, military, and neoliberal rule. Its main innovation was to negotiate bigger cuts on growing exports of primary resources.

The proceeds of the extra percentage points accomplished much good while they lasted. They also obscured the failure to advance a democratic left project to challenge five centuries of systemic despoilment, dispossession, and dependence. Neo-extractivism “enabled important forms of socio-economic inclusion and political empowerment for the masses while simultaneously undermining more radical transformations,” concludes Thea Riofrancos in “Resource Radicals,” her forthcoming study of the politics of pink-tide extractivism. In place of these more radical transformations, neo-extractivism accelerated the cycle of destruction required of the region’s historical role in the global economy. The political and ecological consequences of this were starkest in the rainforests, dry forests, and the western cordilleras that are the fountains of the Amazon system. As mining and oil auctions multiplied, the pink-tide coalitions of urban workers, small farmers, and Indigenous people broke apart.

“Left or right, the ideology is the same: Steal our land and destroy the environment,” said José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, the Venezuelan coordinator for the federation of Amazonian indigenous organizations, or COICA. “In both Bolivia and Brazil, the forests are in flames.”

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

Journalist: Newsweek Suppressed OPCW Scandal And Threatened Me With Legal Action

Jimmy Dore: Pro-War "Bellingcat" Smears Anti-War Journalists

US government drops case against Max Blumenthal after jailing journalist on false charges

With People in the Streets Worldwide, Media Focus Uniquely on Hong Kong

How middle class Bolivia learned to stop worrying and love the coup

Saudi Arabia Retreats From The Troubles Its Clown Prince Caused

Boris Johnson admits there will be some Irish customs checks after Brexit

The Geography of EU Discontent

Elizabeth Warren: Donald Trump has destroyed American leadership – I'll restore it

Bombshell Report: The Fed Has Not Rejected One Bank Merger Application Out of 3800 Submitted in Past 11 Years

Kochland review: how the Kochs bought America – and trashed it

Jimmy Dore: How The Ruling Class Implements It’s Agenda w/Danny Haiphong

Rising: Warren floats Kamala as VP

Rising: Hillary's divisive Howard Stern interview

A Little Night Music

Smokey Smothers - Twist with me Annie

Barrelhouse Chuck & Big Smokey Smothers - Searching For My Baby

Smokey Smothers - Do Your Thing

Smokey Smothers - I've Been Drinking Muddy Water

Big Smokey Smothers - Take a Little Walk with Me

Smokey Smothers - I Ain't Gonna Be No Monkey Man No More

Big Smokey Smothers - That's Alright

Smokey Smothers - Hello little school girl

Smokey Smothers - Smokey's Love Sick Blues

Smokey Smothers - Come On Rock Little Girl

Smokey Smothers - Honey, I ain't teasin'

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Azazello's picture

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It didn't have to be this way.

Thanks Az
real people

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Let's try to help each other
find a better way.

mimi's picture


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“Trauma is not what happens to you.
Trauma is what happens inside you,
as a result of what happens to you.”
— Dr. Gabor Maté

Azazello's picture


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It didn't have to be this way.

joe shikspack's picture


thanks, i hadn't seen that. well, perhaps if this presidenting thing doesn't work out for her, there's the possibility of a second career. Smile

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Not Henry Kissinger's picture

Indigenous Bolivia Ready to Go to War Against Fascism

“The situation which we are living in these days in our country, in the communities up here, in the Andean communities is very difficult. In reality we feel frustrated, often abandoned because during the previous government led by President Evo Morales, we as farmers and indigenous people, felt very good. Even if, sometimes, we did not receive too much help, still, the government, the very President Evo Morales, is of our own blood, our own class. For that reason, we were supporting him. And we keep supporting him.”

“And this, what we have, now is a government – dictatorship. They say the contrary, but it is a fascist government. It is a government which is burning Wiphala, our symbol. It dishonors us. We feel humiliated, we feel discriminated against. For that reason, we realize that we cannot fail; we cannot stay here like this, we will continue fighting. There will be elections in our country, and we will continue supporting that one person who has elevated our name; the name of the native people, of workers, of working people, and of the poor.”

“First, we will go to the elections, if of course there are elections. We will go and support our people; our leaders. In case that they will produce electoral fraud, then yes, we will rise!”

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The current working assumption appears to be that our Shroedinger's Cat system is still alive. But what if we all suspect it's not, and the real problem is we just can't bring ourselves to open the box?

joe shikspack's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger

thanks! that was a good read.

i hope that carlos is correct about the ranks of the military being willing to refuse orders to fire on the people. i have little doubt that a test of that proposition will be in the offing.

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Benny's picture

Good roundup and I'd not heard the artist before.

This tweet made me laugh, only because I'm in a half-cynical mood about the Horse Race:

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One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.--Tennyson

joe shikspack's picture


heh, i suppose that it doesn't take much to edge out mr. strong fourth, who is polling zero among south carolina black voters.

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dystopian's picture

Great player Big Smokey was... I love his style. Simple basic, pure, real, organic.

Glad to see oceanic ox levels getting some attention. Us aquarist folk have long known and been aware of this issue. Most folks keep tropical fish and the difference in the ox levels in water between 72 and 82dF are astonishing. By 92dF it is death. Yes there are exceptions, but in general... In the low 70's the water is full of ox. By the low 80's it has much much less. By the mid-80's we are talking about near-depletion levels. So it won't take much warming for all hell to break loose. The ocean has been sequestering lots of heat, and when she blows, it will not smell good for a long time.

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

joe shikspack's picture


yep, i am glad to see that the declining health of the oceans is getting some attention, too. i wonder how many data points it takes to wake up the dullards that run things on this planet.

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The temperatures are dropping tonight and we should be colder the next few days. Then it warms up. Then it gets really cold.

Thanks for the Lennon quote ~ such an advocate for peace and to become a victim of such a violent act ~ he imagined peace all the time. I love that video of Tulsi and her husband singing Imagine, a fitting tribute to Lennon and to who she is.

Glad this Monday is over - enjoy your evening, folks! Pleasantry

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"When will our conscience's grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?" Eleanor Roosevelt

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Socrates (469-399 BC)

joe shikspack's picture

@Raggedy Ann

it's hard to believe that 39 years have gone by so quickly. the cause of peace could sure use another such powerful and talented advocate. it's really just sad.

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lotlizard's picture

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joe shikspack's picture


heh, warren's guardian piece is linked up in the blog posts of interest section. i skimmed it and thought that it provided perhaps too much information about her foreign policy ideas for somebody who wants to be taken seriously.

i had always suspected that she was clueless about foreign policy, but if there was any doubt, her op-ed confirms it.

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snoopydawg's picture


Well now doesn't that just show that Warren will continue our hegemony and tell us that we are exceptional? Nothing like hitting all the talking points we have been subjected to forever.

He has cast doubt on the US commitment to NATO at a moment when a resurgent Russia threatens our institutions and freedoms.

Russia’s land grab in Ukraine has upended the post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace”. The chaotic Brexit process has consumed our closest partners, while sluggish growth and rising xenophobia fuel extremist politics and threaten to fracture the European Union.

To start with that last point, no. That “post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace” was destroyed by NATO’s eastward expansion, executed in spite of US, EU and NATO promises that it wouldn’t. Moreover, you can talk about a resurgent Russia, but the country has hardly recovered economically from the 1980’s and 90’s today, and it has no designs on countries to its west.

Just look at the military budgets of the respective countries, where Russia has maybe 10% of the expenditure of the US, let alone the rest of NATO, and you get the picture. Is Russia getting more bang for its buck, because it doesn’t have to maintain a long running Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon link? Yes, it does. But a 10 to 1 difference is still way out there. It’s not as if they spend half of what the US does, they spend just 10%.

This is because not only Russia doesn’t have to satisfy the desires and needs of Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon, it’s also because they have no desire to conquer any territory that is not at present Russian.

I'd love to have the chance to ask Liz just how Russia is threatening my freedoms. Or how anyone in any country could. ISIS is not going to take the first boat to America and take away my rights to speak freely or gather peacefully to protest my government or listen in on my phone calls. I'd like for her to explain just what Vlad is doing to disrupt Brexit. And ask her which countries Russia has invaded since WWII. Seems to me that she is blaming Russia for the things we have actually done.

I will pass on Warren. She is just Obama 2.0 or Bush 4.0 or Clinton 6.0. Sure she has a lot of plans for this and that, but has she written any legislation for those things while she has been in congress? I used to get all excited when someone came along and told me that they would change my life for the better. But if they haven't been doing something about those things when they had the chance then it's just election chatter that won't happen. At least Bernie has a record of at least trying to make things better. Liz? Not so much.

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“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020