The Evening Blues - 1-20-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans r&b piano player Huey "Piano" Smith. Enjoy!
Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns - Sea Cruise
“People tell me, 'Bill, let it go. The Kennedy assassination was years ago. It was just the assassination of a President and the hijacking of our government by a totalitarian regime - who cares? Just let it go.' I say, 'All right then. That whole Jesus thing? Let it go! It was 2,000 years ago! Who cares?'"
-- Bill Hicks
News and Opinion
Targeted assassinations via drone strikes, such as the killing of Iran’s Qassem Suleimani, have become progressively normalised with the help of official secrecy, government propaganda and some uncritical press coverage, according to a report. In The Frame, published by pressure group Drone Wars, concludes that “an easy narrative for targeted killing” had been constructed by the UK and the US during the conflict with Islamic State, where several high-profile individuals were killed by drones and the existence of a British “kill list” emerged.
Chris Cole, the director of Drone Wars, said it helped reinforce the justifications for the US assassination of Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, earlier this month. “It is surely unarguable now that drones have enabled and normalised a culture of targeted killing which is eroding international law norms and making the world a more dangerous place,” Cole said. He argued the recent strike could usher in a violent “new era in drone warfare”.
The study, conducted before Suleimani was killed, examines drone strikes carried out between 2015 and 2018, including the lethal targeting of Briton Reyaad Khan by the RAF in September 2015, as well US strikes on Mohammed Emwazi the same year and two years later on Sally Jones. ...
International law around targeted killings is complex, but in theory they are only legitimate as acts of self-defence by a state, where the threat is imminent, meaning overwhelming and immediate. But the doctrine of imminence has been eroded over recent years, the report notes. In the case of Suleimani, an official in Iran’s government, the US said it had intelligence he was plotting further terror attacks against its citizens in the Middle East, but has not publicly released the information, which has been described as “razor thin” by sources who had seen it.
Donald Trump has said that legal justifications about the death of Suleimani “doesn’t really matter” because the Iranian commander was “the terrorist” and had a “horrible past”.
For many of President Donald Trump’s 2016 voters in depressed communities in battleground states, “America First” meant spending less time on the world’s problems and more time on their own. As Trump loyalist Steve Bannon said the day after the assassination of the Iranian leader Qasem Suleimeni, “One of the central building blocks of why he [Trump] was elected president was to get out of these wars.” Trump has clearly betrayed that trust. Over the last three years he has spent most of his limited attention span indulging a childish master-of-the-universe obsession with picking fights around the world while his voters’ unattended domestic needs pile up.
Democrats scold and scorn Trump for his recklessness and ignorance. But as the Iranian crisis shows once again, the party’s leaders are not willing to challenge his claim that military might authorizes the United States (i.e., Trump, as president) to dictate and enforce the rules of behavior for the rest of the world. In effect, they are letting him slip off his own hook, and may well be helping him get re-elected. ...
With the exception of Senator Bernie Sanders, the most prominent Democrats running for president — Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar — along with the congressional leadership, agreed with Trump that Suleimeni deserved to be killed. Their complaints are about process. First, he didn’t inform Congress. So House Democrats passed a non-binding resolution telling Trump that in the future he should. Even if the Senate concurs, Trump has already make it clear he will ignore it.
The Democrats second objection is that the murder was risky because the timing wasn’t right. Typical was the response of Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee: “I believe there was a threat, but the question of how imminent is still one I want answered.”
As one military source told a Reuters reporter, it all depends on how you define
The administration’s subsequent farcical briefing of Congress demonstrated that it was naïve to the point of simplemindedness to expect Trump to provide any serious answers to the “imminence” question. As with the fake Gulf of Tonkin incident that justified the Vietnam War and the myth of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction that rationalized the invasion of Iraq, Americans’ will not know the truth in time for it to make any difference. And far too late to address suspicions that the murder of Soleimani was a wag-the-dog election year ploy.
President Trump told Republican donors Friday evening that Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general who was killed in a drone strike this month, was “saying bad things” about the U.S. before his death.
Trump offered a minute-by-minute recounting of the strike in Baghdad at a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago estate, CNN reported Saturday, citing audio it obtained of his remarks. He told the high-dollar donors that Soleimani’s invectives against America helped lead to his decision to authorize his killing.
"How much of this shit do we have to listen to?" Trump was quoted as saying. "How much are we going to listen to?"
The leaders of major Shia armed groups in Iraq gathered in Iran's city of Qom earlier this month to coordinate efforts to expel the United States' troops in Iraq. Mohammad Mohie, spokesman of the Iran-backed Shia paramilitary group Kataib Hezbollah, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that the meeting held on January 13 aimed to coordinate future action among the armed groups.
"That meeting was very important to coordinate our actions, activities and the resistance for the next step," Mohie said.
"The Americans may stay in Iraq and challenge us, so we are coordinating amongst ourselves," he said, adding that populist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads the Sairoon bloc in parliament and lives in Qom, had called the meeting. ...
"We responded to Muqtada al-Sadr's call… and one of the outcomes [of the meeting] is the protest which will take place in four to five days," said Mohie. "This is the beginning of the new era of coordination between Shia forces and resistance groups," he added.
Brazil’s far-right government helped support military attacks on Venezuela in hopes of inciting a coup and violently overthrowing the country’s leftist government. This plan was revealed by a major pro-government newspaper in Brazil. And yet the shocking story was not covered by any mainstream paper in the US or Europe. Outside a lone report by Venezuela’s state-backed teleSUR — which Washington-backed coup plotters are now trying to usurp – the story was completely ignored in Anglophone media. ...
On December 31, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo disclosed the putsch plans in an article titled “Attack on barracks by soldiers who took refuge in Brazil was part of larger plan against Maduro.” The subtitle added, “Deserters intended to initiate large-scale military uprising, but failed.” ...
With the support of neighboring right-wing countries, Venezuelan military defectors planned to launch three military uprisings against the Venezuelan government on or around Christmas Eve, according to O Globo. The official name of the operation was Trilogia (Trilogy). One attack targeted Venezuela’s Bolívar state on the southeastern border with Brazil; a second attack was planned as an amphibious invasion; and a third was to take place near Colombia’s border.
Two of these three planned attacks failed, as only one of the groups carried out the orders as planned.
Brazil-backed insurgents crossed into Venezuelan territory and, on December 22, attacked the 513 Selva Mariano Montilla infantry battalion in Venezuela’s Bolívar state, located roughly 230 kilometers from Brazil’s northern-most state Roraima, near the border of the two countries. A total of 16 Venezuelan military deserters participated in the attack on the Mariano Montilla barracks, killing a Venezuelan soldier and wounding another.
The Washington Post on Friday published an excerpt from the book “A Very Stable Genius” — written by Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker — that’s scheduled to be published later this month. The excerpt revisits a tirade from July 20, 2017, when Trump met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff inside “The Tank,” a famous secure room in the Pentagon.
The room was full of high-profile U.S. leaders who have since left the Trump administration: then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford Jr., then deputy defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, Vice President Mike Pence, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, then White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and then Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn. Leaders from every military branch were present as well.
Mattis reportedly tried to explain to Trump why NATO was important. To make a long story short: the president ultimately responded with insults against the U.S. military leaders in the room.
“You’re all losers,” Trump told them, according to the Post excerpt. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”
Trump’s tirade continued. He reportedly wondered aloud why the U.S. wasn’t getting paid off for having troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. “Where is the fucking oil?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump later yelled, according to the excerpt from the book. “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
Paris’s strike-hit public transport network is expected to return to near normal this week after the city’s main rail union voted to return to work. The decision to suspend industrial action from Monday follows six weeks of road and rail chaos since transport staff walked out in December as part of national protests over pension reforms.
The strikes – France’s longest in decades – brought traffic to a halt in parts of the capital as Parisians were forced into cars and on to motorbikes, scooters and cycles. On Saturday, seven out of 16 Paris metro lines were working normally. The capital’s public transport company, RATP, is expected to announce a further improvement for Monday’s services, although drivers on three lines have voted to remain on strike.
In a statement, Laurent Djebali, the secretary general of the Unsa-RATP union, said members needed to “get their breath back and recharge their batteries” after 45 days of industrial action, during which they have not been paid. The union reiterated its opposition to the government’s measures to introduce a universal points-based pension system instead of the 42 individual schemes that exist at the moment, which it said was unjust and a regression for workers’ rights. Unsa insisted it was not giving in but was calling for “another form of action”.
“The government must understand that the conviction and determination of RATP staff remains intact,” it said in the statement, which called on unions to “increase and generalise the movement in all the country’s companies. This is how we will push the government back and all win,” it wrote.
Increasing inequality and the climate crisis are pushing the world towards another financial disaster, the International Monetary Fund chief said Friday—a warning, according to one anti-poverty group, that should be taken seriously. IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva made the remarks in a speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C.
A theme of "increasing uncertainty," some of which is driven by inequality, has already emerged from the new year, Georgieva said. The trend of rising inequality within countries, she said, "is reminiscent of the early part of the 20th century, when the twin forces of technology and integration led to the first Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, and, ultimately, financial disaster." Unlike the 1920s, however, the new decade is confronted with an urgent climate crisis.
"In the 2020s," said Georgieva "the financial sector will have to grapple with preventing the traditional type of crisis, and handle newer ones, including climate-related shocks. Think of how stranded assets can trigger unexpected loss. Some estimates suggest the potential costs of devaluing these assets range from $4 trillion to $20 trillion."
She also pointed to new IMF research showing rising inequality—which her institution has helped fuel by promoting neoliberal policies—is a predictor of coming a financial crisis. Staving off that threat includes increasing affordable and readily available access to financial services to address inequality, sustaining regulatory mechanisms, and ensuring more stability. Key to the latter point is addressing the climate crisis.
"The financial sector can play a crucial role in moving the world to net zero carbon emissions and reach the targets of the Paris Agreement," said Georgieva. "To get there, firms will need to better price climate change impacts in their loans." Institutions will also increase stability and help lessen inequality by boosting lending to smaller firms, she added.
An excellent piece worth a full read if how the game is rigged interests you:
On February 3, 2015, Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of the iconic 85-year old polling company, Gallup, penned an article for his company in which he called the reported unemployment number issued by the U.S. Government “The Big Lie.”
Wall Street On Parade has now discovered that a speech by former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and a statement made by the current Fed Chairman Jerome (Jay) Powell, support the view that today’s reported unemployment rate of 3.5 percent is statistically impossible based on a long-held economic model known as “Okun’s Law.”
Named after economist Arthur Okun, the economic law works like this according to a speech given by the Fed Chair Ben Bernanke in March 2012:
“Okun noted that, because of ongoing increases in the size of the labor force and in the level of productivity, real GDP growth close to the rate of growth of its potential is normally required just to hold the unemployment rate steady. To reduce the unemployment rate, therefore, the economy must grow at a pace above its potential. More specifically, according to currently accepted versions of Okun’s law, to achieve a 1 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate in the course of a year, real GDP must grow approximately 2 percentage points faster than the rate of growth of potential GDP over that period. So, for illustration, if the potential rate of GDP growth is 2 percent, Okun’s law says that GDP must grow at about a 4 percent rate for one year to achieve a 1 percentage point reduction in the rate of unemployment.”
Here’s the common sense version of Okun’s Law: when there is a financial crash and millions of workers are thrown out of their jobs and businesses shut down, it is going to take a significant increase in GDP to create new jobs for those workers plus create jobs for the new job entrants coming from high school and college graduates. But that never happened. From 2009, the year after the epic financial collapse on Wall Street, through 2018, U.S. GDP has grown at an average rate of 1.8 percent. That substandard rate has persisted despite three rounds of Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Federal Reserve; $29 trillion in secret revolving loans from the Fed to bail out Wall Street trading houses and their foreign derivative counterparties; vast amounts of federal government fiscal spending to stimulate the economy; and the massive tax cut [corporate welfare] of the Trump administration.
But somehow, magically, alongside a subpar growth rate of 1.8 percent, unemployment has shrunk from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 3.5 percent today.
[see article for description of how the unemployment numbers are cooked. - js]
What was this smoke and mirrors all about? Just imagine how much more public anger there would be against Wall Street’s fat cats and their bailout kingpins at the Federal Reserve if the media had reported the real unemployment rate along with the fact that Wall Street banks and their foreign derivative counterparties had received a secret $29 trillion bailout from the Fed, allowing them to pay billions in bonuses to their miscreant bosses, while average Americans’ lives and dreams were shattered.
The federal Transportation Security Administration has apologized to a Native American woman who said an agent at Minneapolis-St Paul international airport “pulled her braids” and said “giddy up!” when she took a flight from there this week.
“The agent said she needed to pat down my braids,” tweeted Tara Houska, an indigenous rights advocate and attorney. “She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed and said ‘giddyup!’ as she snapped my braids like reins. My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your ‘fun’ hurt.”
Houska, who is Ojibwe, added: “When I informed the middle-aged blonde woman who had casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect me, she said, ‘Well it was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.’
“That is NOT an apology and it is NOT OK.” ...
In a statement to the Guardian, the TSA said it had been “made aware of allegations made by a traveler about her screening experience at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport [on] Monday morning. “TSA officials investigated the incident and on Tuesday afternoon, TSA’s federal security director for Minnesota, Cliff Van Leuven, spoke with the traveler. He apologized for actions and a comment that were insensitive and made by a TSA officer to the traveler during the screening experience.”
The US National Archives apologized on Saturday after it emerged that a photo of the Women’s March included in signage for an exhibition on women’s suffrage had been altered to blur anti-Trump signs.
“We made a mistake,” the Washington institution said in a statement.
“As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings without alteration.
“In an elevator lobby promotional display for our current exhibit on the 19th amendment, we obscured some words on protest signs in a photo of the 2017 Women’s March.
“This photo is not an archival record held by the National Archives, but one we licensed to use as a promotional graphic. Nonetheless, we were wrong to alter the image.
The Supreme Court will consider whether the Trump administration can let employers opt out of offering birth control coverage to workers on moral or religious grounds, the justices announced Friday.
The court will hear oral arguments for a challenge that consolidates two cases, Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. Both focus on a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires employer-sponsored healthcare plans to cover contraception at no extra personal cost. While that provision has long been controversial, in 2017, the Trump administration released new rules that could dramatically curtail its scope, by letting employers avoid offering the coverage by claiming religious or moral objections.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey promptly sued over the rules. And last May, the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit sided with the states, issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction that blocked the rules from going into effect. ...
This isn’t the first time the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “contraceptive mandate” has reached the Supreme Court. In a famous 2014 case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court ruled that in forcing Hobby Lobby — a chain of for-profit arts and craft stores run by a religious family — to offer insurance coverage for birth control, the government had violated the corporation’s religious freedoms.
However, at the time, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh had not yet joined the bench. This case will mark the first time the conservative duo hears a challenge centered around the contraceptive mandate.
The Sanders Campaign Researched Whether Warren Could Be Both Vice President and Treasury Secretary at Once
The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders has researched the question of whether the same person can serve as both vice president and treasury secretary, according to three sources on the campaign. The person the Sanders campaign had in mind with the inquiry was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, his rival for the nomination and the bane of Wall Street over the last decade. The inquiry did not rise to the level of an official legal analysis undertaken by the campaign attorney.
The answer is yes: There is nothing in the Constitution that bars the vice president from also serving as treasury secretary. Sanders has made no final decisions on a potential running mate or cabinet officers, and did not direct the inquiry, nor was he involved in it, as he considers such questions premature and presumptuous. “No conversations are happening about any positions in a potential Sanders administration. Our campaign is focused on winning the nomination,” said campaign manager Faiz Shakir. The research into the question of Warren’s dual eligibility reflects the political affinity that has long existed between the two — an affinity that was dealt a setback over the past week, as the pair clashed over the contents of a year-old private conversation. The sources were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations. “Not only have I not written a memo, I haven’t had any phone calls, emails, or communications about it,” said Brad Deutsch, the campaign’s lawyer.
Warren and Sanders have been allies since at least 2008, before she came to Washington to chair a panel with oversight of the Wall Street bailout. An author of books on the struggles of the middle class and an expert on bankruptcy law, she was invited by Sanders to a Vermont town hall, where the two talked about their shared agenda. Sanders was a strong supporter of her effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the financial crisis and privately lobbied President Barack Obama to name her the head of the new agency. Ideologically, Sanders and Warren are largely aligned when it comes to Wall Street, though Warren has concentrated more attention on bankers, meaning the two different skill sets could complement each other in the same administration. ...
Not long after meeting with Sanders at the end of 2018 to discuss her impending presidential run, Warren hosted an off-the-record dinner with a number of journalists, according to sources with knowledge of it. At the dinner, Warren was asked about her meeting with Sanders, and in the course of the discussion, she relayed that Sanders had warned that he didn’t believe a woman could beat Trump in 2020. Different reporters recalled the comments differently, a mirror image of the dispute between Warren and Sanders over exactly what Sanders said — with Warren saying that Sanders argued a woman couldn’t beat Trump, while Sanders said that he only said Trump would weaponize misogyny against a woman, not that it would work. (The Intercept was not at the dinner. Most politicians hold informal, off-record dinners or meetings with journalists, though it’s not something Sanders is known to do. Occasionally details from those meetings leak, but it’s rare.) ...
On Monday, Warren told The Intercept that her campaign did not intentionally plant the CNN story. That Warren told a number of journalists about the meeting a year ago adds context to that statement. If Warren had only told her closest advisers about the meeting, then it would be logical to assume that her campaign dictated the timing of the story, dropping it just ahead of a debate, and just weeks before the primary, to undercut Sanders. But since Warren told the story more broadly to a group of journalists, CNN’s sources could have come from outside the campaign. The revelation does not rule out the possibility that someone in her campaign was a source, but it opens up other possibilities, as well.
In a move touted by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a “really big deal”, a key progressive member of Congress endorsed Bernie Sanders for president on Sunday, building on Ocasio-Cortez’s own endorsement and others. Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, a co-chairman of the congressional progressive caucus, told the Washington Post she was endorsing Sanders because “he has a clarity on policy prescriptions that goes right to the heart of what working people need”.
Really big deal - @PramilaJayapal has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.
Pramila is a major leader in the House, carries the Medicare for All bill & co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Both chairs of the Progressive Caucus have now endorsed Bernie Sanders. https://t.co/DPUjrFWTW3
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 19, 2020
The news was excellently timed for Sanders, 78, whose viability as a standard-bearer for the modern Democratic party, which has sought to highlight its youth and diversity in the age of Donald Trump, was challenged this week around a skirmish with fellow candidate Elizabeth Warren. Campaigning separately in Iowa at the weekend, both candidates sought to dismiss the perception of friction between them following the presidential debate in Iowa, when a CNN microphone caught Warren telling Sanders he made her out to be a liar on national television. ...
Any doubts about Sanders’ support in the progressive wing of the party that may have been raised by the debate contretemps were forcefully rebutted by the Jayapal endorsement. The other chair of the progressive caucus, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, endorsed Sanders last week and will be chairing his campaign in the state.
Trump's Racist Demagoguery Only Works, Says Sanders, Because Too Many Americans Feel Establishment Has 'Failed Them'
In an interview with the New York Times for the newspaper's 2020 Democratic presidential candidate endorsement, Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about how President Donald Trump has weaponized racism to appeal to many Americans who sense that the political and media establishments have abandoned them in 2016 to win support.
After Sanders spoke at length about Trump's efforts to "divide the American people up" and "demonize" undocumented immigrants, Times editorial board member Brent Staples asked Sanders why he thinks the president has the support of more than 40% of the public and questioned the senator's assertion that political and economic inequality—not just Trump—must be defeated.
"What about [divisiveness] is that Trump is a symptom of a widespread problem?" asked Staples. "I mean, how do you address that? The problem exists whether Trump is president or not is what I'm saying."
"How did Trump become president?" Sanders said. "I think it speaks to something that I talk about a lot and that is the fact that...tens and tens of millions of Americans feel that the political establishment, Republican and Democrat, have failed them. Maybe the New York Times has failed them, too."
In an interview with the Times’s editorial board, @BernieSanders says President Trump is playing the “blame game.” See more on a special episode of #TheWeeklyNYT, Sunday on @FXNetworks and the next day on @hulu. Full transcript: https://t.co/qhsg2DY3ef pic.twitter.com/28BRT76ZfW
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) January 15, 2020
In a video the Times released containing an abridged version of the exchange, Sanders describes how Trump exploited the state of despair many Americans have fallen into over recent decades to convince voters that undocumented immigrants were to blame for unemployment, drug addiction, and economic struggles in many U.S. communities.
"When that condition arises, whether it was the 1930s in Germany, then people are susceptible to the blame game," said Sanders. "To say that it is the undocumented people in this country who are the cause of all of our problems, and if we just throw 10 million people out of the country, you're going to have a good job, and you're going to have good health care, and you have good education, that's all we got to do... Trump didn't invent demagoguery. It's an age-old weapon used by demagogues... And you take the despair and the anger and the frustration that people are feeling and you say, 'That's the cause of your problem.'" ...
On social media, some observers noted, despite those statistics, the Times editorial board appeared incredulous at Sanders's explanation.
"Bernie Sanders teaches Demagoguery and Fascism 101 to a very skeptical New York Times editorial board," wrote Columbia University neuroscience professor Ken Miller. "The looks of disdain as Bernie simply and lucidly explains are priceless." ...
Sanders's full comments on offering voters an alternative to Trump and the political establishment were left out of the Times's video:
Now, I think, you raised the question, let me take it a step further. You haven't asked me, I suppose it's somewhere on your list, why I think I'm the strongest candidate to beat Trump... And that is that there is a hard-core support for Trump, which I'm not going to be able to get through. You're right. It is racist. It is sexist. I run into that. It's hard to believe the attitude toward women in some parts of the country. You really would have a hard time to believe it. We're back into the 18th century in some these places. It is homophobic. It is anti-immigrant. Do I think I'm going to win those people over? Nah, no way. But do I think we can get a sliver? I can't tell you how much, 3%, 5%, 8%, of people who voted for Trump because he said, "I am a different type of Republican. I'm not going to cut Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. I'm going to have trade policies that work for workers. We're not going to be shutting down plants in America."
"Do I think we can win some of those people? Yeah, I do," Sanders added. "And I think we're going to win because we are going to run a campaign of energy and excitement, which speaks to truths in people's lives, which the political establishment does not often talk about."
Joe Biden has called for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign to “disown” what he calls “doctored video” that some Sanders supporters say shows the former vice-president endorsing Republican calls to cut Social Security and Medicare. “There’s a little doctored video going around … put out by one of Bernie’s people,” Biden told supporters on Saturday in Indianola, Iowa, referring to a 2018 speech in which Biden discussed then House speaker Paul Ryan saying rising deficit demanded action on the popular entitlement programs.
“I’m looking for his campaign to come forward and disown it,” Biden continued, pointing to his 2020 campaign proposals designed to shore up Social Security. “But they haven’t done it yet.”
The video in question, circulated on Twitter by a top Sanders adviser, does not appear to be altered. But the short clip omits Biden’s larger argument over how Ryan handled the 2017 tax cuts and subsequent budget debates. A separate Sanders’ adviser included a transcript of Biden’s remarks in the video clip in a separate campaign newsletter. He added other, more extended video, of Biden as a US senator in 1995 and presidential candidate in 2007 explaining his support for a more austere federal budget, including putting Social Security and Medicare “on the table”.
Responding to Biden’s remarks, Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said: “Joe Biden should be honest with voters and stop trying to doctor his own public record of consistently and repeatedly trying to cut Social Security. “The facts are very clear: Biden not only pushed to cut Social Security – he is on tape proudly bragging about it on multiple occasions,” Shakir said in a statement.
“The vice-president must stop dodging questions about his record, and start explaining why he has so aggressively pushed to slash one of the most significant and successful social programs in American history, which millions of Americans rely on for survival.”
'Our Planet Is Seriously Burning and the Adults Keep Letting Us Down': Ninth Circuit Throws Out Youth Climate Case
In a ruling taken as a devastating blow for climate campaigners worldwide, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States on Friday afternoon threw out a lawsuit brought by 21 youth plaintiffs who accused the U.S. government of failing its constitutional mandate by refusing to act urgently and responsibly to address the existential threat of human-caused global warming.
The case at issue, Juliana vs. United States, has been seen as a potential landmark case not just domestically but across the globe and while the three-member panel of the 9th Circuit—notably seen as one of the country's most liberal-minded circuit courts—agreed with the plaintiff's argument that the U.S. government has operated as a barrier to climate action it concluded the courts were not the appropriate avenue for their complaint.
In the 2-1 majority ruling, written by Circuit Court Judge Andrew Hurwitz, he stated that while the panel was convinced by the narrative set forth in the lawsuit—agreeing the climate crisis has brought the world close to the "eve of destruction" and that "the government's contribution to climate change is not simply a result of inaction"—it ultimately and "reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs' case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large."
Andrea Rodgers, a senior attorney at Our Children's Trust, the nonprofit backing the youth who filed the lawsuit, described the decision as an "unprecedented and contrary to American principles of justice."
The Juliana case began in 2015, when a group of young people-aged 11 to 22-years-old at the time-sued the U.S. government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by enacting policies that contributed to the climate crisis. Kelsey Juliana, the 23-year-old named as lead plaintiff in the case, said Friday: "This isn't over. Prepare for a petition for review en banc to the 9th circuit as we refuse to do anything but move forward and ultimately win. Courts do have an obligation to address issues of constitutional, existential crisis, like climate change." Juliana asked supporters and allies, to "stay hopeful, stay with us, stay tuned," and "stay in power." ...
"What is remarkable about this decision, and what will land it in legal textbooks for decades to come, is that the 9th Circuit recognizes the grave realities of the climate crisis and the government's role in causing climate harms, but immediately abdicates the court's own responsibility to address and remedy those harms," said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), in response.
Muffet said the panel's conclusion that the courts have no role to play in addressing the legitimate grievance of the plaintiffs flies in the face of the entire purpose of judicial review. "For centuries, and emphatically," Muffett said, "that has been the definition of the role of courts: when plaintiffs are suffering harms to fundamental rights at the hands of other branches of government, addressing those wrongs and protecting plaintiffs' rights is the essential and inescapable domain of the federal courts." ...
Citing the "blistering" dissenting opinion of District Court Judge Josephine Staton, Kimmell warned that "we live in a time where the government has failed to act—in large part due to fossil fuel industry’s outsized influence—despite overwhelming scientific evidence that delaying action will only lock in more severe climate impacts."
In her dissent, Staton disagreed strongly with the conclusion of her panel colleagues.
"It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation," Staton wrote. "My colleagues throw up their hands, concluding that this case presents nothing fit for the Judiciary."
The global response to the “ozone hole,” as it came to be known in the 1970s, has long been held up as a model for environmental problem-solving — and the hope that we might yet be able to fix the climate crisis. After scientists realized that chemicals used for cooling and in aerosol sprays were causing the Earth’s protective ozone layer to thin, threatening to cause vast increases in cancers and other diseases, countries around the world came together to fix it. Even the companies that made and sold the chemical culprits — chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs — participated in the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that began phasing them out in 1989. Since then, the ozone layer has partially recovered.
The international commitment to eliminating ozone-depleting chemicals has held so firm that in 2018, when some Chinese factories were discovered to be using a substance banned by the treaty known as CFC-11, they were met with condemnation from the U.S. and other countries. Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Program, which oversees the Montreal Protocol, called the release of the ozone-depleting substance “nothing short of an environment crime which demands decisive action.” China quickly addressed the problem.
Yet evidence has recently emerged that U.S. companies are also releasing ozone-depleting chemicals. While the ozone layer is rebounding overall, scientists have observed decreasing levels of the gas in certain areas. Chemicals used for everything from fracking to cooling appear to be the culprits, according to comments the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in December. The chemical pollution, some of which is coming from the U.S., EPA records show, has already delayed progress on the ozone layer. The resulting setback appears to be worse in highly populated southern latitudes, where it could cause the most damage. Continued emissions of the chemicals could delay the healing of the ozone layer by up to 30 years, according to a 2017 article published in Nature Communications.
Despite the threat, the EPA has not considered impacts on ozone in initial phases of its assessment of 14 chemicals with ozone-depleting potential now being conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The Philly Oil Refinery That Exploded Was Already Leaking Tons of a Toxic Chemical That Causes Leukemia and Infertility
The enormous explosion at the East Coast’s largest refinery last June spewed tons of corrosive chemicals into the air, but a new investigation has found that the Philadelphia facility was previously leaking dangerously high levels of a carcinogen into the surrounding, predominantly black neighborhood.
The explosion destroyed the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery and was powerful enough to launch a 38,000-pound hunk of debris over the Schuylkill River. But even before the plant blew, it was leaking more than 21 times the legal limit of benzene, a chemical that smells sweet and causes leukemia, infertility, and blood and immune system disorders, according to a new report from NBC News, E&E News, and the Investigative Reporting Workshop, a nonprofit newsroom based at American University. ...
The investigation found readings from an air-quality monitoring device on the border of the refinery were off the charts in the lead up to the explosion. And afterward, the benzene levels stayed high even after the explosion: Weeks after the plant blew up, a monitor across an expressway from schools and hundreds of homes was still picking up high levels of the chemical. ...
No one was killed in the explosion, which was caused by a faulty pipe. But the flames that burned for more than a day sent more than 5,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid, a super-corrosive chemical that can make your heart stop if you inhale it, into the air around the refinery. ...
In addition to the sky-high levels of benzene the investigation identified, the facility was leaking other chemicals into the surrounding neighborhood for years. It was in violation of the Clean Air Act for nine of the last 12 quarters that it was operating. It settled over those repeated violations with the city of Philadelphia in 2015 for more than $650,000. And even a $175 million bailout from the Trump administration in 2018 couldn’t save the refinery from bankruptcy.
Damaging winds produced by thunderstorms across central New South Wales have whipped up dust storms that turned daytime into night in some towns. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a series of severe thunderstorm warnings on Sunday evening for inland NSW with the associated winds generating massive dust clouds.
Videos posted to social media showed dust storms descending on Dubbo and nearby towns that were so thick they blocked out the sun. ...
Nyngan‘s Grace Behsman took this video of a huge dust storm rolling in as they approached town. Watch til end - scary moment when the storm overtakes and everything goes black. The dust storm has swept the west & is encroaching Dubbo. Remember: not everyone’s celebrating rain pic.twitter.com/5VMLrFbrrT
— Lucy Thackray (@LucyThack) January 19, 2020
Narromine dust storm - Jan 19th pic.twitter.com/GeFSqby8NY
— Mick Harris (@mickharris85) January 19, 2020
Rain and hail also lashed Victoria, sparking almost 1500 calls for assistance with more severe weather on the way as bushfires continue. The State Emergency Service received 1453 calls for assistance since Sunday morning, more than 1000 of them for building damage.
Many towns on the NSW mid-north coast and the northern rivers regions received between 100mm and 180mm from 9am to 10.30pm on Sunday. ...
Downpours over the past few days have provided relief for parts of drought-stricken NSW and helped firefighters slow the spread of bushfires and build containment lines before increased fire danger mid-week.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns - Don’t You Just Know It
Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns - Beatnik Blues
Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns - We Like Birdland
Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns - Don’t You Know Yockomo
Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns - For Cryin' Out Loud
Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns - Walking Down the Street
Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns - I Think You're Jiving Me
Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns - High Blood Pressure
Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns - Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu