The Evening Blues - 2-26-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Garnet Mimms. Enjoy!
Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters - Cry Baby
"Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty."
-- Samuel Adams
News and Opinion
The separation of families by U.S. immigration officials at the U.S.-Mexico border amounts to torture, according to a group of medical and human rights experts that performed psychological evaluations of asylum-seekers. Their report for Physicians for Human Rights, a U.S.-based nonprofit that investigates human rights violations around the world, found that the policy of family separation — which officially ended in the summer of 2018 continues today — “constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” In other words: torture.
As far as we know, as of last December, over 5,500 children had been forcibly separated from their parents under a policy first implemented in 2017 and drastically expanded in 2018 as part of the Trump administration’s so-called zero tolerance crackdown on the border. In their investigation, “You Will Never See Your Child Again: The Persistent Psychological Effects of Family Separation,” PHR evaluated 17 adults and nine children from Central America who had been separated between 60 and 69 days. All of the parents reported already having suffered trauma in their home countries, and feared that their children would be harmed or killed if they remained or returned. And so, in search of protection, they fled.
Instead of finding safety or refuge in the United States, however, they were met with new abuses, and further trauma. Children were “forcibly removed from [parents’] arms” or simply “disappeared” while their parents were taken to court. Some of the parents were then taunted and mocked by U.S. immigration officials when they asked after their children. The subsequent shock, terror, and grief was not only expected, but intentional — designed to push parents into giving up their asylum cases.
“U.S. officials intentionally carried out actions,” the report explains, “causing severe pain and suffering, in order to punish, coerce, and intimidate Central American asylum seekers to give up their asylum claims.” That intentionality is a key factor that the report leans on to make the argument that the abuse meets the legal standard for torture.
The US supreme court has refused to open the door for foreign nationals to pursue civil rights cases in American courts, declining to revive a lawsuit by a slain Mexican teenager’s family against the US border agent who shot him from across the border in Texas.
The court ruled 5-4 to uphold a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit against the agent, Jesus Mesa, who shot 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Guereca in the face in the 2010 incident.
The family sued in federal court seeking monetary damages, accusing Mesa of violating the US constitution’s fourth amendment ban on unjustified deadly force and the fifth amendment right to due process. The court, with the five conservative justices in the majority, refused to allow people who are not in the United States at the time of a cross-border incident to file civil rights lawsuits in federal court.
Julian Assange was stripped naked, searched, and repeatedly handcuffed once he was returned to prison at the end of the first day of his high-profile extradition trial, according to his legal team.
The allegation was made by Edward Fitzgerald, a lawyer on Assange’s defense team, during the second day of the extradition hearing in London. Fitzgerald pleaded with the judge to intervene as “his treatment will impinge on these proceedings and his preparations to be able to participate.”
“Yesterday Mr. Assange was handcuffed 11 times, he was stripped naked two times at Belmarsh, and was put in five separate holding cells," Fitzgerald said in court this morning, the London Evening Standard reported.
As well as being strip-searched and handcuffed repeatedly after the hearing had adjourned for the day, Fitzgerald said Assange had his case files, which the Wikileaks founder was reading in court on Monday, confiscated by guards when he returned to prison later that night.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said she did not have the legal power to rule on Assange’s conditions, and she encouraged the defense team to formally raise the matter with the prison authorities.
Thousands of classified US diplomatic files obtained by WikiLeaks were only made public after the password to unlock the trove was published in a book, Julian Assange's lawyer says. Mark Summers has told Assange's extradition hearing British journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding published the password in their book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy in 2011.
"Far from being a reckless, unredacted release ... what actually occurred is that one of the media partners published a book in February 2011, the password to the unredacted materials in a book, which then allowed the world to publish those unredacted materials," Summers said at London's Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday.
"The gates got opened, not by Mr Assange or WikiLeaks." ...
The US government says the release of the files was reckless and that Assange knowingly put the lives of sources at risk. But Summers said WikiLeaks had initially been very cautious about releasing the files and reached out to newspapers including The Guardian, Der Speigel, Le Monde, El Pais and the New York Times. He said they worked out a process of redaction together and the media partners had even run the redactions by representatives of the US government and the US State Department.
WikiLeaks repeatedly tried to warn the US State Department and the US embassy about a possibly impending leak, Summers said.
During the first six months of 2019 alone, U.S. Africa Command tracked seven reports of American and allied attacks in Somalia that allegedly killed or wounded at least 18 civilians, according to internal AFRICOM documents obtained by The Intercept. But the U.S. does not acknowledge killing or wounding a single civilian in Somalia last year, according to AFRICOM spokesperson John Manley.
In fact, AFRICOM contends that hundreds of airstrikes and commando missions over more than a decade – aimed at members of the terrorist groups al-Shabab and the Islamic State – have caused only two civilian casualties in Somalia: a woman and a child killed in an airstrike near the central Somali town of El Buur on April 1, 2018.
New data released Tuesday by Airwars, a U.K.-based airstrike monitoring group, offers a stark rebuke to AFRICOM’s claims. The group contends that the number of civilian deaths may be as much as 6,800 percent greater than the command asserts. ...
Using official AFRICOM statements, local and international news reports, photos, videos, social media posts, and other open-source information, as well as internal military documents obtained by journalists (including myself) via the Freedom of Information Act, Airwars has created an immersive, multimedia website that incorporates mapping, geolocation, interactive timelines, and a searchable database for every known U.S. air and ground action in Somalia since 2007. The result is nothing less than a redefinition of the scope and contours of America’s long-running, undeclared war in the Horn of Africa.
Airwars places the number of avowed U.S. attacks — airstrikes and ground raids since 2007 — at 204, a 40 percent increase over an earlier estimate by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, whose data Airwars took over and refined before launching the new site. Add alleged kinetic actions that the U.S. military hasn’t confirmed, and the number jumps to 280.
As President Donald Trump praised India’s Hindu nationalist leaders for their work on religious freedom in New Delhi Tuesday, hardline supporters of the government were rampaging through the city hunting Muslims.
Mobs tore through Muslim-majority neighbourhoods in north-east New Delhi, attacking individuals, burning homes, businesses, and places of worship, and targeting victims on religious lines. Officials reported that the death toll since Monday had reached 11 — the deadliest violence in the Indian capital in decades. More than 150 people were injured, including a journalist for the JK24 news channel who was in a serious condition after being shot, according to reports.
Footage of the shocking violence circulated on social media, showing assaults, burning buildings, and heavily bleeding men being dragged through the streets.
Former Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak has been buried in Cairo with a full military funeral, following his death aged 91.
Mubarak’s body was transported from a mosque on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital to the family cemetery on Wednesday amid tight security. His coffin was pulled by horse-drawn carriages alongside a procession led by his sons Gamal and Alaa Mubarak and the current president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, flanked by military top brass and leading religious figures. ...
Mubarak’s 30-year rule was the longest presidency in Egypt’s history, and until his overthrow in 2011 he was the only ruler that many young Egyptians had ever known. Rising through the ranks of the military, he came to power following the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 and maintained his grip on office through a crackdown on political opposition, routinely running for re-election unopposed and stifling free speech.
His rule appeared unshakeable for many Egyptians, despite the contrast between growing poverty and corruption at home and images of Mubarak enjoying a luxurious lifestyle in his many palaces and villas. The former president courted international powers, receiving annual donations of American military aid as a reward for maintaining a “cold peace” with Israel, and winning tacit acceptance from western leaders, who saw him as a driver of regional peace and stability.
Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011 was a political earthquake for Egypt and the wider Middle East, part of a wave of Arab tyrants swept from power by popular protests against corruption and repression.
Gabriel Ocasio Mejias worked as a barista at Starbucks in Orlando international airport for two years before he was fired on 18 February, shortly after he emerged as one of the leading organizers to unionize his co-workers with labor union Unite Here.
“I was fired three hours after another union organizer was fired,” Mejias told the Guardian. “They took me to the back of the food court, in a dimly lit area, and a manager fired me over a third write-up for drinking water. That was their way to get rid of me, for drinking water, because they know I was one of the strongest organizers. They targeted me specifically to create fear for my co-workers of joining the union.” ...
Mejias’s comments come as a new report from Unite Here found significant issues for some Starbucks workers employed by HMS Host, an airport and highway food service company that has maintained exclusive rights to operate Starbucks stores in airports throughout North America until earlier this month, when both companies announced the exclusivity deal would end.
The Unite Here report found that pay for black Starbucks workers was $1.85 less than white Starbucks workers, based on data taken from HMS Host locations between February and December 2019.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the coronavirus outbreak could cause “severe disruption” to the lives of ordinary Americans, and urged families and communities to start making preparations. The extent of the spread of the virus in the US is uncertain, as the CDC stopped the distribution of coronavirus testing kits after they were found to be flawed. Working testing kits are now available in only a handful of states, and it is not clear when new kits will be ready.
Donald Trump told journalists in India on Tuesday that coronavirus is “very well under control in our country” and “is going to go away”.
However, the head of immunization at the CDC, Nancy Messonnier, said that disruption to everyday life may be severe as the virus spreads among local communities. ... “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more exactly when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
In the absence of a vaccine or medicines, other methods would be needed to contain the spread of the disease, including possible school closures, and telecommuting where possible instead of travelling to workplaces.
If 40-70% of humanity ends infected with covid-19 (of which 30-70% are asymptomatic), and the death rate (for the symptomatic) is 1-3%, then the total fatalities worldwide for coronavirus will be between 10m and 100m, and between 400k and 5m in the United States. https://t.co/j98Gk1dQtv
— Nils Gilman (@nils_gilman) February 22, 2020
Democratic candidates rounded on Bernie Sanders at the crucial 10th primary debate in South Carolina on Tuesday night, seeking to slow his momentum as the current frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Vermont senator, who cruised to victory in the Nevada caucuses last weekend and holds a firm lead from the first three early voting states, faced fire from rivals looking to halt his rise in the race to become the Democratic candidate to take on Donald Trump in November’s election.
Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg used his first answer to criticize Sanders over recent reports that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help his campaign. Trying to recover from his disastrous first debate performance last week, Bloomberg said Russia’s efforts showed Sanders is the weakest candidate Democrats could put up against Trump. ...
Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, a fellow progressive, also took aim at Sanders, saying the pair agree on a lot of things, but that she’d be a “better president”. ...
The candidates on stage – who also included former vice-president Joe Biden, Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, former mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer – frequently bickered and talked over each other as they tried to make their mark days ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday, and Super Tuesday on 3 March, when 16 states and territories will have their say.
We're building a movement to win this election and transform this country.
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) February 22, 2020
Doctored videos, tweets with invented quotes, exaggerated claims of persecution.
Yet another example of how the corporate Democratic establishment projects. Bloomberg is doing exactly what his spokespeople would protest if Sanders did any of this. Unbelievable. https://t.co/yD14uAT87Z
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) February 25, 2020
Hmmm... Bernie is making some gains in the late-night comedian market:
I have often gone after the media on printing large numbers that are meaningless to almost all their readers. The point is that when you throw out numbers in the millions, billions and trillions, very few readers have any idea what these numbers mean. It is possible to make them meaningful by simply adding some context, such as expressing them relative to the size of the economy or as a per-person amount.
I actually got Margaret Sullivan, then the New York Times public editor, to completely agree with me on this point. In her column, she also enlisted the enthusiastic agreement of then Washington editor David Leonhardt. But then nothing changed.
We see the fruits of this failure in a New York Times article (2/22/20) that compares the tax and spending plans of the leading Democratic contenders. It gives a true orgy of really big numbers, in the form of trillions of dollars of additional taxes and spending, providing readers with no context that would let them know how much impact these taxes are likely to have on the economy and/or their pocketbooks.
We are told that:
Even Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire himself, would raise taxes on the rich and corporations by an estimated $5 trillion, which is about 50% more than Mr. Biden would.
A bit later we get:
Mr. Sanders’ policy agenda is by far the most expensive of the leading candidates, though estimates vary. The cost of his policy plans on just a handful of topics — healthcare, higher education, housing and climate change—could exceed $50 trillion over ten years. By contrast, the federal government is currently projected to spend roughly $60 trillion over the next decade. [Total federal spending is some context.]
…In addition to a Medicare for All program that would require an estimated $20.5 trillion in new federal spending over ten years, Ms. Warren’s proposals include a sweeping set of new programs addressing areas like Social Security, climate change, higher education, K–12 schools and housing. Taken together, those proposals and her Medicare for All plan have an estimated 10-year price tag of more than $30 trillion.
Since most readers probably don’t have a very good idea of how much money $30 trillion would be over the next decade, a useful starting point might be the projected size of the economy. The Congressional Budget Office puts GDP over this ten-year period at roughly $280 trillion. That means $30 trillion in additional taxes and spending would be a bit less than 11% of projected GDP. Mr. Bloomberg’s projected $5 trillion in taxes would by roughly 1.8% of projected GDP.
To get a bit more context, the tax take projected for 2020 is 16.4% of GDP. By contrast in the late 1990s boom, tax revenue was over 19% of GDP, peaking at 20% in 2000. This means that Bloomberg’s proposed increase in taxes would still leave us with revenues that are far smaller as a share of GDP than what we paid in the late 1990s.
The proposals from Warren and Sanders would raise above the late 1990s level, but perhaps by less than the really big numbers in this piece might lead readers to believe. If we increased taxes by 11% of GDP, it would raise them to a bit more than 27% of GDP, roughly 7 percentage points about the 2000 peak.
The Sanders proposals would imply an increase in taxes of roughly 18 percentage points of GDP, putting us at a bit over 34% of GDP. That is considerably more than the 2000 peak, but still much lower than in most other wealthy countries. (To get a full comparison, we have to add in state and local taxes. This is difficult to do, since many of Sanders’ proposed federal expenditures [e.g. Medicare for All] would in part replace spending currently being undertaken by state and local governments.)
These proposals can certainly be discussed in considerably more detail, but a piece like this could at least try to put the numbers in some context that would make them meaningful to readers, rather than just tossing around “trillions” like it is some sort of mantra. The reality is that the Biden/Bloomberg proposals are not terribly big deals in terms of the budget and what we have done historically. Clearly the Warren and Sanders proposals are more ambitious. Readers can decide whether they think the potential benefits are worth the cost; taking a few minutes to add a little context would give readers an idea of what is at stake.
Sen. Bernie Sanders at a CNN town hall event Monday night reiterated his belief that the candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination with the the most delegates should be the party's standard bearer in the general election, a view shared by progressives who worry establishment leaders could use a brokered convention to find a more conservative nominee.
"If I or anybody else goes into the Democratic convention with a substantial plurality, I believe that individual, me or anybody else, should be the candidate of the Democratic Party," said Sanders.
“If I or anybody else goes into the Democratic convention with a substantial plurality ... that individual, me or anybody else, should be the candidate of the Democratic Party,” says Bernie Sanders on how he’d approach a brokered convention. #CNNTownHall https://t.co/t75TJVF0Hs pic.twitter.com/Osy7DFpGfw
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) February 25, 2020
The chance that no candidate enters the Milwaukee convention, set for July 13–16, 2020, without a majority of delegates remains high. Eight Democrats are still vying for the nomination: Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), former Vice President Joe. Biden, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and billionaire Tom Steyer.
With South Carolina casting ballots February 29 and 14 states voting in the Super Tuesday contests on March 3, it's likely the field will shrink in the coming weeks.
Sanders has a delegate lead after winning contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada and is the first candidate in a contested primary to ever win the popular vote in the first three states to vote. But that lead, thus far, has not translated into a clear majority, despite February 22's overwhelming victory in the Nevada caucuses. A strong showing across the country and in big states like California and Texas on March 3 could bolster his convincing lead while not delivering a technical majority. ...
In Jacobin on February 21, Sam Lewis and Beth Huang made the case for progressives to use grassroots organizing to pressure party insiders to do the right thing:
Sanders supporters should be preparing now for mass mobilizations to demand that superdelegates respect the will of the voters, and should articulate an explicit strategy to remove those who don't concede to that demand. We can have the most impact by keeping our focus on the slight majority of superdelegates who are national, state, or local elected officials who the Sanders base can hold accountable through primary elections, and the dozens who are labor leaders elected by their own members to represent their interests.
Both Bloomberg and Warren surrogates have made little secret about their candidates' path to the nomination going through a brokered convention.
Even 'Worst Fossil Fuel Banker' JPMorgan Chase Will No Longer Fund This Way of Destroying the Planet
Faced with mounting public pressure to take the climate crisis seriously and to end its financing for the fossil fuel industry, the investment bank JPMorgan Chase announced Monday that it will stop backing extraction projects in the Arctic and phase out loans for coal by 2024 but keep funding oil and gas developments across the globe.
"Activism works, what do you know," author and activist Naomi Klein tweeted in response to the news late Monday. "So much more to do but this is something."
JPMorgan is not only the largest bank in the United States, it is also the biggest funder of fossil fuels, according to the latest annual report from Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which revealed last March that the bank poured nearly $196 billion into coal, oil, and gas companies since world leaders adopted the Paris climate agreement in December 2015.
"In the context of the climate emergency, the biggest fossil bank in the world—by a 29% margin—has a unique responsibility to phase out its climate impact," RAN climate and energy senior campaigner Jason Opeña Disterhoft said in a statement Monday. "Today's policy does not meet that responsibility."
"That said, the measures that JPMorgan Chase took today are steps forward," he added. "For the world's biggest banker of Arctic oil and gas to stop funding new fossil fuel projects in the region adds to the growing signal that the Arctic is a no-go zone for fossil expansion. These measures are a continued credit to the power of the advocacy by the Gwich'in Steering Committee and their allies, who have been organizing for years to defend the Arctic Refuge from fossil fuel development. And Wall Street's biggest coal mining banker setting an aggressive exit date on some major miners will accelerate coal becoming unbankable."
A Costa Rican indigenous defender has been killed by an armed mob while trying to reclaim ancestral land – the latest in a spate of violence targeting native communities in Central America’s safest country. Yehry Rivera, 45, from the Brörán community in Térraba, was shot dead around 11pm on Monday after being surrounded by a group of angry locals armed with sticks, machetes, stones and at least one gun.
The attack took place amid mounting tensions in Térraba, where human rights groups had warned authorities in recent days about non-indigenous groups violently confronting Brörán families reclaiming ancestral land. ... The killing comes just two weeks after Mainor Ortiz Delgado, 29, a leader of the Bribri indigenous people in neighbouring Salitre, was wounded in a gun attack, and less than a year since Sergio Rojas Ortiz, 59, was shot dead. Both cases remain unsolved. ...
Bribri and Brörán people have been subject to a string of violent attacks, racist harassment and trumped-up retaliatory lawsuits with almost total impunity. In 2013 Rivera survived a brutal beating while trying to stop illegal loggers. The alleged perpetrator was set free after being ordered not to return to Térraba for six months. As a result, in 2015 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued precautionary measures, calling on Costa Rican authorities to protect the lives and physical integrity of the Bribri and Brörán people. Rivera, Delgado and Ortiz were ostensibly recipients of these safety measures when attacked.
Amid growing international condemnation about the impunity, the government has pledged to investigate the growing list of crimes but denies responsibility for the spate of violence.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Garnet Mimms - As Long As I Have You
Garnet Mimms - There Goes My Baby
Garnet Mimms - Prove It To Me
Garnet Mimms - A Little Bit Of Soap
Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters - Baby Don’t You Weep
Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters - For Your Precious Love
Garnet Mimms - Looking For You
Garnet Mimms - The Truth Hurts
Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters - A Quiet Place
Garnet Mimms - That Goes To Show You
Garnet Mimms - Nobody But You