The Evening Blues - 8-6-20


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Johnny Shines

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features delta bluesman Johnny Shines. Enjoy!

Johnny Shines - Standing At The Crossroads

“Surely by now there can be few here who still believe the purpose of government is to protect us from the destructive activities of corporations. At last most of us must understand that the opposite is true: that the primary purpose of government is to protect those who run the economy from the outrage of injured citizens.”

-- Derrick Jensen

News and Opinion

US could become ‘safe haven’ for corporate abusers, activists warn

US corporations could be able to commit human rights violations overseas with almost no legal sanction, effectively turning the US into a “safe haven” for corporate abusers, campaign groups fear. Human rights activists are concerned that the US supreme court is gearing up to reinterpret a centuries-old law that has been widely used by foreign victims of slavery, trafficking and other abuses to claim redress in US courts.

The possible change arises from a legal challenge by multinational firms Nestlé and Cargill to a ruling that allowed a lawsuit lodged under the disputed Alien Tort Statute to be brought against them for “aiding and abetting” forced labour in Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry.

The companies argue that the law in question, which dates back to 1789, only applies to individuals and cannot be used to indict corporate entities.

“If they win this appeal, they will have succeeded in denuding the major human rights tool that activists have in court,” said Terrence Collingsworth, executive director of International Rights Advocates, a US non-profit representing the plaintiffs in the case. Should the US supreme court reinterpret the law in the companies’ favour, victims would need to prove the culpability of individual decision-makers within the accused corporations to bring a case under the Alien Tort Statute.

“It is virtually impossible to imagine how we could get enough evidence to sue any individual at these corporations … so this would effectively allow [some companies] to continue using child slaves with impunity,” Collingsworth added.

Coalition Accuses Adam Schiff of Throwing Dreamers Under the Bus to Ensure Trump Retains Unaccountable Spying Powers

Rep. Adam Schiff worked behind the scenes to ensure the White House had expanded surveillance powers in Section 215 of the Patriot Act by selling out the civil rights of immigrants, a coalition of privacy groups alleged Wednesday.

"The consequences of Schiff's actions are inescapable: In trying to hand the Trump administration Section 215, he repeatedly sabotaged efforts to protect privacy," Demand Progress senior counsel Sean Vitka said in a statement. "This is dangerously bad law and dangerously bad oversight."

According to a letter (pdf) signed by a number of groups from the right and left including Americans for Prosperity, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action, FreedomWorks, and the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability, Schiff during negotiations over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in May altered privacy protections for web activity in the Act's Section 215 so that the government could still target immigrants—including recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as Dreamers.

That action, Vitka said, allowed the California Democrat—who serves as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee—to provide protections for "dragnet internet surveillance by cutting Dreamers and many other immigrants out of a proposed protection, which, in context, appears to have served as a loophole to protect something else: potential undisclosed surveillance of Americans' internet browsing and search histories."

According to Gizmodo, Schiff was joined in his efforts by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to ensure the Trump administration retained extraordinary spying powers:

In May, Democrats engaged in closed-door negotiations over a proposed amendment aimed at shielding U.S. residents who are not suspected of violating the law from having their search and web browsing histories seized by the FBI without a warrant. Democratic and Republican sources on Capitol Hill told Gizmodo that the efforts were continually hindered by top Democrats, including Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a former and ex-officio committee member.


Sources with knowledge of the secret meetings said that months-long efforts to introduce privacy reforms were undermined at nearly every juncture by the "national security Democrats" in control of the party. A critical vote in February was abruptly canceled, for instance, to stop a pro-privacy amendment from being attached to the FISA reauthorization bill. The bill itself was effectively shelved by Pelosi in June in an apparent effort to stymie bipartisan calls for reform.

"Throughout the 2020 PATRIOT Act reauthorization fight, Schiff has run point for [Attorney General] Bill Barr to make sure Congress doesn't know what the law it is considering means, including whether it allows the FBI and NSA to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans' internet activity," said Vitka.

In May, Common Dreams reported on the negotiations and the actions of both Pelosi and Schiff to hold back information on the program lawmakers were voting on. Comments Schiff made at the time to Charlie Savage of the New York Times, Wednesday's letter suggest, indicate that "the government may have secretly contorted the law to justify dragnet surveillance of the internet activity of people in the United States, regardless of their United States personhood."

A regular on MSNBC, Schiff has made a name for himself over the last three years as one of President Donald Trump's most vocal critics and supporter of immigrant rights. But his actions with respect to the Dreamers and his efforts to ensure the president maintains control over an unaccountable and incredibly powerful government surveillance regime tell a different story.

That those actions were taken in secret, Vitka said, just shows that letting the intelligence collection program continue is unpopular among lawmakers.

"Ironically, if Schiff has been trying to sneak ratification of such surveillance through Congress, he has unwittingly demonstrated that he knows Congress wouldn't support it," said Vitka.

“The Beginning of Our End”: On 75th Anniversary, Hiroshima Survivor Warns Against Nuclear Weapons

Ted Cruz’s Hearing on Anarchist Protest Violence Was a Total Farce

On Tuesday afternoon, with Congress still failing to agree on an urgent pandemic relief package, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, brought together a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee to propagandize. Instead of helping the pandemic-stricken, Cruz chaired an hourslong spectacle of a hearing designed to peddle misleading narratives about anarchists and anti-fascists.

If the propagandistic title of the hearing — “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence” — wasn’t enough to show his aims, Cruz’s own comments made clear the proceedings’ purpose as political theater. In a telling moment, Cruz twice chastised his Democratic colleagues for praising peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters while failing to condemn “antifa” and the “terrorists” who killed a federal security officer, Dave Patrick Underwood, during a May protest in Oakland. Cruz’s implication was clear: The left killed Underwood. Yet Underwood was killed by a member of the far right — one of 329 murders carried out by right-wing extremists since 1994. In the same period, a grand total of zero murders have been attributed to antifa participants.

The political affiliations of the man charged in Underwood’s murder have been public knowledge for nearly two months. The alleged killer, Air Force Sgt. Steve Carillo, who also killed another federal officer during the premeditated ambush, is an open adherent of the boogaloo movement, which is aimed at hastening a second civil war. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pointed out Cruz’s error after the Texas Republican’s first mention of Underwood, noting that the killer was on the far right. This did not stop Cruz raising the killing again later in the hearing, once again within the context of a blustering speech about antifa.

The hearing was just the latest stage for baseless overtures on the threat of the far left. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, made numerous attempts to change the afternoon’s focus onto a more worthy target — deadly white supremacist violence — to little avail.

New Report Accuses Trump of 'Intentional Disregard' and Attack on Democracy Throughout Failed Covid-19 Response

A new report published Wednesday details months of wilful failures to confront the coronavirus pandemic by the White House and paints President Donald Trump's authoritarian tactics during that national crisis as an overt assault on the nation's democratic institutions ahead of elections in November.

The report by Common Cause—titled "Intentional Disregard: Trump's Authoritarianism During the Covid-19 Pandemic," (pdf)—highlights Trump's coronavirus response as part of a larger effort by the president to attack U.S. democracy.

As evidence to support its thesis, Common Cause points to the president's repeated claim that mail-in voting—favored by 58% of Americans according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday—will result in a "rigged" election. The report also shows how the administration is actively undermining the U.S. Postal Service by naming a top GOP donor with no USPS experience as postmaster general.

"The Trump administration's failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented public health crisis leading to a worsening economic crisis. What is becoming clearer each day is President Trump's intent to use this chaos to create a crisis for our democracy," said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn.

Trump’s Tantrum Against TikTok Is No Laughing Matter

President Donald Trump has made it clear he would like to ban the video-making app TikTok. Despite being mostly used by younger users to make music or comedic videos, the White House says it is worried about the platform, as the New York Times (8/1/20) explained, “because of the app’s Chinese ownership”: TikTok is owned by the Beijing-based firm ByteDance. The administration has often vilified China as a rival that intends to undermine the United States through underhanded means.

In true Trump fashion, he changed course, declaring he would be satisfied if the company were acquired by Microsoft  (New York Times, 8/3/20)—though he added that he expected the US Treasury to get a cut of the profits, since it was his threat that made the sale possible (BBC, 8/4/20).

The focus on TikTok has caught many by surprise: Why would the US government care so much about such a seemingly innocuous app? The reasons for Trump’s rage are at once comical and frightening. On the one hand, Trump has found what might appear to be a random media issue to deflect from his various problems (plummeting poll numbers, rising Covid cases, slumping economy), a phenomenon that lends itself to ribbing from satirists and talkshow hosts. But the deeper problem is that he is leveraging his executive position to fight and try to take control of a media group with the excuse of its being foreign, which is both a threat to free speech and free press, and adds to his administration’s pugnacious Sinophobia.

And the reason he has fixated on TikTok, it seems clear, is because of its reported use by young online activists to organize spurious reservations to his Tulsa rally—contributing to his humiliation when the sparse attendance failed to match his boastful expectations. Trump’s use of the power of the federal government to punish media outlets he perceives as having crossed him is part of a disturbing pattern of contempt for the First Amendment’s protection of the press (, 8/1/20).

Corporate media have helped bang the drum against TikTok, too. The Independent (12/3/19) reported on claims that the app was loaded with Chinese spyware. Bored Panda (6/25/20) reported on claims that TikTok, while not technically malware, was certainly a “nefarious” app that was “outright evil.” Showing bipartisan anger towards the app’s Chinese origins, the Hill (8/2/20) posted on Twitter a video of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer opposing TikTok’s presence in the United States. Bloomberg (7/14/20) sounded the alarm that the app’s data harvesting was a concern of “national security.”

To accuse a free app of engaging in data mining, however, is a bit like running a headline that water is wet. Facebook, Twitter and other networks are free to use, but their owners have grown enormously rich, not through user fees, but through the cultivation of data that users make public, which is incredibly valuable for modern-day internet marketing.

In fact, the book Digital Labor makes the case that social media users engage in a form of “playbor” (play and labor), whereby the recreational activity of using these apps creates material (data and information) that are used for profit, making the user a kind of unpaid laborer creating value. As the Washington Post (7/14/20) explained, TikTok isn’t that different from Facebook in this regard.

What catches the eye of the administration—and some in the media—is the fact that TikTok is Chinese. And this makes it inherently suspicious, as the US government news service Radio Free Asia indicated when it tweeted a cartoon suggesting that the Chinese government was using the video chat service Zoom to spy on people (, 4/17/20). So the narrative becomes clear: When US-based corporations use apps to gather data on people, it’s just regular business, but—as indicated by Trump’s suggestion that Microsoft buying the app would solve the problem—when a Chinese-owned company does it, it’s economic and political warfare.

So when the New York Times (6/21/20) reported that TikTok users organized through the app to reserve tickets for Trump’s much-hyped Tulsa rally, thus helping to thin out the crowd, it gave Trump license to claim he was fighting against foreign intrusion, when he was actually just upset about his embarrassing campaign rally.

Trump’s rage toward TikTok is symptomatic of a president losing his grip on power. Deploying federal troops to suppress Black Lives Matter protests, floating the idea of delaying the election and attacking the US Postal Service (which would be vital in an election during a pandemic) are all textbook cases of a wannabe authoritarian who feels the walls closing in. He especially aims his anger at media, which both deflects from his problems and allows him to paint media coverage of those problems as simply an extension of his political opposition.

The move against TikTok, which is mostly used for entertainment purposes, could be replicated against more fact-based media the administration can’t abide. For example, the South China Morning Post is owned by the Hangzhou-based Alibaba Group ; could a few anti-Trump editorials make the venerated paper a “national security threat”? This isn’t so unthinkable, as the New York Times (2/18/20) reported that the US State Department announced that China’s “five foremost news agencies — Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and the People’s Daily — will officially be treated as foreign government functionaries.” The move came, the paper reported,

at a time when the administration has moved aggressively on multiple fronts to fight what officials describe as extensive Chinese influence and intelligence operations in the United States.

Whatever one thinks of these news organizations, progressives and conservatives alike should agree that the US government, in the interest of free speech and free press, shouldn’t restrict the ability of foreign news organizations to report the news or restrict what information Americans can consume.

A TikTok ban would be another instalment of the kind of anti-Chinese scapegoating Trump has made a part of his rhetoric—China is to blame for our economic woes, and it’s the cause of the pandemic, he has declared to his base, without evidence. He has even attacked Chinese-American CBS journalist Weijia Jiang, insinuating that her loyalties rest with Beijing (CNN, 5/12/20). This debasement of reality has fueled anti-Asian racism. As CBS (7/2/20) reported, there have been more than 2,000 reported incidents of hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

There’s another thread here. As FAIR contributor Alan MacLeod noted on Twitter (8/3/20), Microsoft’s share prices soared after Trump changed direction, indicating that Trump’s threats were part of a government-sponsored hostile takeover of a foreign business. Leaving aside any economic debate about such protectionism, the idea that he could use this model against other forms of media is no joking matter.

That Trump is lashing out at some youngsters making music videos is indeed the kind of absurdity his administration has employed that makes satire almost impossible, but the free speech and anti-Asian repercussions of this move are real and dangerous. That some in the media and the Democratic Party have helped Trump in this regard only solidifies this fear.

Insider Exposes Corruption at MSNBC and Network News Companies!

White House eyes executive orders to upend virus negotiations

The White House is considering a trio of executive orders aimed at shaking up coronavirus relief negotiations with Democrats, a sign of frustration within the Trump administration at the sluggish pace of the talks with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The three actions under consideration would delay the collection of federal payroll taxes, reinstitute an expired eviction moratorium, and in the riskiest gambit of them all, extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits using unspent money already appropriated by Congress.

This plan is the brainchild of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and President Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed that he was reviewing his options for unilateral action but hadn't made any decisions to move forward yet.

"We're looking at it," Trump said at a press briefing. "Were also looking at various other things that I'm allowed to do under the system. Such as the payroll tax suspension."

Following another session with Pelosi and Schumer, Meadows called it "the most productive meeting we've had yet," and added that Trump wouldn't issue any executive orders if the negotiations with Democratic leaders are moving toward a conclusion.

BREAKING NEWS: Jobs Numbers Still Bleak As Congress Haggles Over 600 Bucks

House Speaker Pelosi signals readiness to cut unemployment benefits

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in an interview on PBS’ “NewsHour” program Tuesday signaled the Democratic Party’s willingness to reduce benefits for the nearly 30 million US jobless workers who had been receiving $600 a week in enhanced federal unemployment pay. The jobless benefit, part of the CARES Act, which allocated trillions for the corporations and banks, expired this past week. The federal benefit, along with a moratorium on rental evictions from properties with federally backed mortgages, was allowed to lapse at the end of July, leaving millions in the lurch.

Shortly before the expiration of the federal unemployment benefit, the House of Representatives, in a near party-line vote, passed a $694.6 billion defense appropriations bill for 2021. The bill, overwhelmingly supported by the Democratic Party, included funding for 91 F-35 fighter jets ($9.3 billion) and nine new Navy ships ($22.3 billion). Added together, the cost of these 100 pieces of military hardware could provide supplemental jobless benefits for 30 million people for nearly two weeks.

While both parties worked around-the-clock for the financial oligarchy and their cratering stock portfolios by passing the CARES Act in late March, now that Wall Street has been rescued, the two big business parties are taking their time in working out the terms for imposing the full brunt on the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic on the backs of the working class.

Throughout the PBS interview, Pelosi, with an estimated net worth of $120 million, portrayed herself and the Democratic Party as champions of working people. However, when gently pressed by the news anchor, Judy Woodruff, the House speaker signaled the corporate-financial elite that the Democrats were prepared to cut the already inadequate $600-a-week benefit, saying, “Let’s find out what we can afford.” She added, “We will find our common ground.” ...

All parties are seeking to pass a new bill that would provide reduced benefits, using the prospect of hunger and homelessness to blackmail workers into returning to virus-infected work sites or take other work at lower pay when their previous jobs have been eliminated. At the end of the interview, Pelosi made clear that the goal of the Democrats was the same as the Republicans: “reopening” the economy (i.e., resuming at full blast the flow of corporate profit) by forcing teachers and students back to school so as to allow “our parents to go to work.”

The Housing Crisis Is HERE

People of Missouri Accomplish What Its GOP Lawmakers Refused to Do for Nearly 10 Years: Approve Medicaid Expansion

An estimated 230,000 low-income residents of Missouri will soon be eligible for Medicaid after 53% of the state's voters passed a ballot measure expanding the program in Tuesday's election. The popular approval comes after nearly ten years of obstruction by Republican lawmakers in the state forbid expansion of the program made possible by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

"It's a huge day for Missouri," Traci Gleason, vice president with the advocacy group Missouri Budget Project, told KCUR. "It's something we have long needed in order to strengthen our state. This is something that will improve the health of our communities."

Per the initiative language, Medicaid expansion in the state is slated to take effect in July of 2021. According to the Fairness Project, similar citizen-led expansion efforts around the country have opened up eligibility for 830,000 low-income people.

The Missouri vote comes in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused unemployment to spike, and tens of millions of Americans to lose their employer-sponsored insurance due to job loss.

Missouri became 39th state to expand Medicaid under the ACA, and the sixth state to expand Medicaid via ballot initiative. Successful efforts in Maine, Idaho, Nebraska, Utah and Oklahoma—where GOP-led state legislatures and/or GOP governors refused to enact expansion on their own—have helped close the coverage gap that emerged when ACA was enacted.

Oil prices rise above $45 a barrel for first time since start of pandemic

The price of oil has risen above $45 a barrel, the first time it has reached that level since the coronavirus outbreak forced countries across Europe into lockdown. However, this rebound may prove to be short-lived, according to oil market analysts.

Global oil prices climbed to highs of $45.50 a barrel on Wednesday after official US data revealed that its stores of crude – which were filled to the brim in April – are beginning to empty as energy demand returns in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

The oil price has doubled since late April when Brent crude tumbled to 21-year lows of $16 a barrel. But Chris Midgley, of S&P Global Platts, said the price of Brent crude may struggle to stay above $40 a barrel over the next couple of months as global oil production begins to rise and demand begins to slow due to the timing of maintenance at refineries.

The Opec oil cartel and its allies, known as Opec+, have started to increase their output after an historic agreement struck earlier this year to rein in production to help prevent the global market becoming oversupplied during the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns.

the horse race

Daniel Marans: Will The New 'Squad' ACTUALLY Stand Up To Pelosi?

Rashida Tlaib and Slate of Local Wins Signal Progressive Revival in Michigan

Detroiters put Rashida Tlaib in a strong position for reelection in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District on Tuesday night, as she beat back a rematch from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in the Democratic primary. While it could be weeks before a final vote count is known, Tlaib’s margin with most precincts reporting was 66 percent to 34 percent of the vote on Wednesday morning.

Tlaib’s seat was considered the most vulnerable among members of the so-called Squad, as the congresswoman faced off against a more or less unified Detroit political establishment and the ire of President Donald Trump. Tlaib’s presumed win comes alongside a host of down-ballot wins by progressives, including Karen McDonald for Oakland County prosecutor. Michigan progressives, crushed by the 2018 defeat of Abdul El-Sayed and the 2020 defeat of Bernie Sanders in the state’s critical March primary, could be seeing a revival of sorts.

In 2018, after former Rep. John Conyers resigned, Jones was elected to serve out the remainder of his term, but lost by 600 votes to Tlaib for the much more important nomination for the full term. Tlaib’s victory was driven by the presence of an additional candidate in the latter nomination race, state Sen. Coleman Young II, the son of legendary former five-term Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.

This time around, all of Tlaib’s 2018 opponents united against her, a difficult proposition given that she had received just 31 percent of the vote in 2018. But Tlaib gained greatly from national publicity around the Squad and dramatically out-raised Jones, $3 million to $270,000. Tlaib also had the support of organized labor, a blow to Jones, a former Communications Workers of America local president who had gained labor’s support in the previous election. Tlaib additionally benefited from an independent expenditure by the Working Families Party in partnership with local group Detroit Action, which sent 234,000 texts to registered voters in the district, according to Detroit Action Director Branden Snyder.

Along with Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Tlaib is one of two members of Congress who support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israeli human rights abuses. But Tlaib has not faced the same influx of pro-Israel money into the primary as Omar, whose opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, has been attacking Omar with charges of anti-Semitism. Jones’s previously vocal support for the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan likely played a role in the decision of outside groups to stay put. Other questions about Jones could have influenced the decision by outside groups to keep their powder dry. The Intercept revealed in April that Jones had violated state campaign finance law and in May tracked the role of Quicken Loans in Jones’s political rise.

Krystal Ball: Cori Bush's CLASS Identity Politics Are A REBUKE To Wealthy Dem Establishment

Iowa ends lifetime voting ban on people with felony convictions

Iowa’s governor signed an executive order on Wednesday ending the state’s lifetime voting ban for anyone with a felony conviction, a historic move because Iowa was the only state in the country enforcing such a severe policy.

The order from Kim Reynolds, a Republican, allows people with felony convictions to vote once they complete their sentences, including parole and probation.

“Today we take a significant step forward in acknowledging the importance of redemption, second chances and the need to address inequalities in our justice system,” Reynolds said in a statement. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of society and the free republic in which we live. When someone serves their sentence, they should have their right to vote restored automatically.”

The order is a major victory for Black Lives Matter activists, who for months protested at the state capitol and pushed Reynolds to quickly sign an order. Roughly 52,000 people – including nearly 10% of eligible African American voters – cannot vote in Iowa because they have felony convictions, according to a 2016 estimate by the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice non-profit. Nearly 24,000 of those blocked from voting had completed their criminal sentences.

Noam Chomsky's New Biden Pitch 'Your Feelings Are Irrelevant'

Another one bites the dust and goes relentlessly binary. The propaganda in alt/left media is coming thick and fast. Emphasis in article mine. One is left to wonder how it is that the demands that one makes of Biden after he has gotten what he wants from your group are going to be any more effective than those made of Trump.

With 'Survival of Organized Human Society' at Risk, New Campaign Rallies Progressives to Vote Trump Out

With the goal of boosting progressive voter turnout in swing states that could play a decisive role in November, advocacy group on Wednesday launched a grassroots campaign aiming to prevent another disastrous four years of President Donald Trump's "war on truth, on decency, on our planet, and on working people."

Organizers of the new "Vote Trump Out" initiative argue that while progressives have major substantive differences with Joe Biden on a number of key issues, "supporting the Democratic nominee in swing states is the only means we have to defeat Trump."

"As progressives and leftists, we are not going to minimize our disagreements with Joe Biden. But we're also clear-eyed about where things stand," campaign's mission statement reads. "We have a moral responsibility to defeat Trump."

"If Biden wins, we'll be at his door on day one, demanding the kinds of structural reforms that advance racial, economic, and environmental justice," the statement continues. "But before that, it's clear what we have to do: This November, we have to #VoteTrumpOut in swing states."

Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, co-founders of RootAction—which backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary—said in a statement that "the general election is far less about Biden than it is about Trump—the most dangerous president in modern U.S. history, who opposes virtually every policy and principle that progressives are fighting for."

Endorsed by world-renowned linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, labor leader RoseAnn DeMoro, Medicare for All activist Ady Barkan, and other national progressive figures, the new initiative offers social media toolkits to help residents of the key swing states of Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin engage progressive voters and drive up turnout in those states.

[I pity the "progressive" that shows up on my doorstep to deploy the toolkit to obtain my vote. -js]

the evening greens

Sagebrush Rebel Picked for Public Lands Post Sparks Controversy in Mountain West Elections

Mountain bikers scaling slickrock, hopeful hunters scouting for elk, footsore hikers pitching tents in pine forests—they're the activities typically associated with public lands. But as the 2020 election approaches, much of the action on federal lands is playing out in the polished halls of Washington, a political drama set in motion in June when the White House announced its had chosen veteran lands lawyer William Perry Pendley to permanently lead the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that oversees one acre of every ten in the United States.

With the election just three months away, putting Pendley in that role is an election selling point for conservative westerners who favor his provocative record as a Sagebrush Rebel and eagerness to open up public lands for energy development. For Democrats, the nominee's term as the "acting" BLM director over the past year has proven he's still a right-wing extremist and an obstacle to managing public lands to address climate change.

Democratic senators may be trying to turn the nomination to their political advantage. They have asked Environment and Public Lands Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski to fast track Pendley's confirmation hearings and hold them by the end of the week, about two dozen working days before the election. If they succeed, vulnerable Republican senators will be forced to reckon with the nominee's controversial record before environmentally-minded Mountain West voters go to the polls.

Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen said Pendley is "unfit" to lead an agency that oversees more than two-thirds of the land in her state. She's one of nine Democratic senators who pressed Murkowski last month to schedule the confirmation hearings soon. "From Lake Tahoe to Lake Mead, the people of Nevada support their public lands, and William Pendley does not care about that," she said. "This is why his lifetime record needs to come out. He is unacceptable for this position."

New Guinea has greatest plant diversity of any island in the world, study reveals

New Guinea is home to more than 13,500 species of plant, two-thirds of which are endemic, according to a new study that suggests it has the greatest plant diversity of any island in the world – 19% more than Madagascar, which previously held the record.

Ninety-nine botanists from 56 institutions in 19 countries trawled through samples, the earliest of which were collected by European travellers in the 1700s. Large swathes of the island remain unexplored and some historical collections have yet to be looked at. Researchers estimate that 4,000 more plant species could be found in the next 50 years, with discoveries showing “no sign of levelling off”, according to the paper published in Nature.

“It is a paradise teeming with life,” said lead researcher Dr Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, a biologist from the University of Zurich who was previously at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

New Guinea – which is divided into the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua and the independent state of Papua New Guinea in the east – is the most mountainous and largest tropical island in the world, with snowcapped peaks reaching 5,000 metres high. “This allows for different types of habitats, such as mangroves, swamp forests, lowland tropical forests and also montane forests, which have high levels of endemism,” said Cámara-Leret. “And then at the very top, just below the limit of plant growth, are these alpine grasslands … This habitat is basically unique to New Guinea in southeast Asia.”

Also of Interest

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

Intercepted podcast - Escape From the Nuclear Family: Covid-19 Should Provoke a Rethink of How We Live

Wall Street Banks that Got the Biggest Fed Bailouts Have Been Dogs to Shareholders Over the Past 15 Years

The Beirut Blast | George Galloway

Beirut Blast Wrap-up

Understanding Leadership Responsibility For Death, Harm & Welfare

Daughters of the bomb: my reckoning with Hiroshima, 75 years later

How U.S. Gov't & Hollywood Secretly Worked Together to Justify Atomic Bombings of Japan

In Hollywood

Cuomo ADMITS He's Talking To Rich People While Blocking Billionaires Tax Hike

Australia's live wildlife cams spark obsessive viewership

A Little Night Music

Johnny Shines - Sitting On top Of The World

Johnny Shines - Back to the Steel Mill

Johnny Shines & Big Walter 'Shaky' Horton - If It Ain't Me

Johnny Shines - Evil Hearted Woman Blues

Johnny Shines - Pet Rabbit

Robert Lockwood Jr. & Johny Shines - Lonesome Whistle

Johnny Shines - Rollin' & Tumblin'

Johnny Shines - Two Trains Runnin'

Johnny Shines & Big Walter Horton - Blues Stay Away From Me

Johnny Shines + Sunnyland Slim - Livin' In the White House

Johnny Shines - Goodbye Boogie

17 users have voted.


So, I gotta wonder what the Dem's internal polling shows. I'm trying to remember back to this point in 2016 and I feel like we were still getting the belligerent "we don't need your vote" and "for every progressive we lose, we'll pick up two Republicans" jive.

While they aren't quite desperate enough to include a few steps in a progressive direction on a non-binding and ultimately meaningless platform (as an example), it does feel like they're kind of admitting they need votes from the left, albeit in a read between the lines sort of way. This whole "settle for Joe" push kind of feels like that, like there's this "ha, ha, we get it, now please give us your votes" air about it.

With as poorly as Trump is handling everything at the moment, I keep feeling like Biden should be farther ahead in the public polling than he is. It just really makes me wonder about what's being tossed around behind closed doors. Maybe it's just that the entire campaign is different and so low key, but the Biden camp just doesn't seem as cocksure as the Hillary camp did.

Also, regarding the progressives taking out incumbents in primaries, yeah, I'd like to be excited about this, but I think I'll reserve that until a) they actually get elected and b) they show the willingness and ability to stand up to the Dem establishment. I will acknowledge that Cori Bush's win was pretty impressive. I just hope she's got a little more in her than the squad, who I continue to be pretty underwhelmed with. (I don't think any of the squad endorsed Bush. Pretty lame, IMHO.)

20 users have voted.

Just another Bozo on the bus.

joe shikspack's picture

@Dr. John Carpenter

i think that the people running biden's campaign are walking a tightrope. they don't dare let him out of his basement where he might run his mouth, so they are going to need all of the votes they can get from engaged voters. say what you want about progressives, they know who is running against trump, despite the biden stealth campaign's effort to keep him out of the spotlight.

i think that bush's win is an exceptional event and probably says more about the blm movement's reach than about progressive politics as a whole.

8 users have voted.

@Dr. John Carpenter Biden's national poll numbers range from 47-55%; most frequent 50+/-1. HRC's numbers were closer to 45+/-1. Trump's numbers are about 3 to 4 points higher than they were in 2016. However, in 2016 until much closer to election day, that 3-4% was defaulting to Johnson.

With an effective challenger (not hiding in his basement), Trump would be much further behind. What Trump's counting on is that he'll be able to expose Biden as not mentally fit when they go one on one.

4 users have voted.

One is left to wonder how it is that the demands that one makes of Biden after he has gotten what he wants from your group are going to be any more effective than those made of Trump.

I have been reading this illusion that Biden can be moved left after the election by a number of sources advocating for Biden. As one pundit noted after the Platform Committee said no to M4A, that this was really about dragging Bernie's political carcass around the block. There are these so-called progressives in Congress, but they looked to be useless and powerless, and are not will to play hard ball. Nancy essentially has tamed them.

And yes, progressives will be outside in the pouring rain under Biden as they were under Trump.

18 users have voted.
gulfgal98's picture

@MrWebster "Nothing will fundamentally change."

Support is leverage and most of the progressives gave away that leverage up front. So nothing will fundamentally change.

10 users have voted.

Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

joe shikspack's picture


i am generally amused by the (il)logic deployed by people who ought to know better (like chomsky, who didn't just fall off the turnip truck) that suggests that a right-wing democrat is any more permeable by progressive demands than a republican.

biden has said it and it is a remarkable feat of truth-telling by a politician, "nothing will fundamentally change." he can flap his gums all he wants about things, but when all is said and done, if progressives want to make real change anytime soon, they are going to need another avenue than the voting booth and a very different set of tactics than they are employing.

11 users have voted.
Azazello's picture

Could be trouble for Wayne LaPierre: New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA
Rania Khalek is in Beirut.

10 users have voted.

It didn't have to be this way.

joe shikspack's picture


heh, i'm glad to see that the brewing scandal in the nra has finally wound up in front of a judge. it certainly couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

i'm glad to hear that rania khalek is safe. i can't imagine what is going to happen to the remaining people of beirut. this was an awful thing to happen in the midst of brutal american imperialist sanctions and a raging pandemic.

8 users have voted.
mimi's picture

Yesterday I wanted to post a translation of an article in a German newspaper, who is usually quite reasonable and close to truthful reporting.

Eine sieben Jahre alte, tödliche Fracht (A deadly seven year old freight).

Schon im Herbst 2013 war klar, dass eine potenzielle Bombe in Beirut angelandet war. Hafenbehörde und Zoll drängten immer wieder darauf, die gefährliche Fracht loszuwerden. Doch nichts geschah.
It was already clear in autumn 2013 that a potential bomb had landed in Beirut. Port authorities and customs kept pushing to get rid of the dangerous cargo. But nothing happened.

Put it through a google translator and read for yourself. It's sobering. But it seems the NYT reported about it. So, whatever, nothing to see here.

6 users have voted.

"heh, as they say, if you don't dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul" - JS

mimi's picture

I am not sure what to say about it, but if that doesn't sound like the worst way to ignite the ammonium nitrate, then my desaster shit-meter is out of order.
Beirut explosion: former port worker says fireworks stored in hangar

“We complained a lot about this over the years,” said Shehadi, who worked at the port until emigrating to Canada in March this year. “Every week, the customs people came and complained and so did the state security officers. The army kept telling them they had no other place to put this. Everyone wanted to be the boss, and no one wanted to make a real decision.”

In addition, the hangar housed a quantity of fireworks, Shehadi said, which customs had confiscated in about 2009-10 and which he said he had personally seen delivered on a forklift. “There were 30 to 40 nylon bags of fireworks inside warehouse 12,” he said.

“They were on the left-hand side when you entered the door. I used to complain about this. It wasn’t safe. There was also humidity there. This was a disaster waiting to happen.

Beirut explosion: cruise ship owner sues 'those responsible', as more protests loom

A former port worker, Yusuf Shehadi, told the Guardian he had been instructed by the Lebanese military to house the chemicals in warehouse 12 at the port despite repeated protests by other government departments. Dozens of bags of fireworks were stored in the same hangar.

Shehadi said he had spoken to former colleagues at the port who said workers had been attempting to fix a gate outside warehouse 12 with an electrical tool ahead of the blast. “This was at 5pm, and after 30 minutes they saw smoke. Firefighters came, and so did state security. Everyone died.”

Out of words I am. Thank God, Canada let Sheradi in as an immigrant into their country.

2 users have voted.

"heh, as they say, if you don't dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul" - JS

enhydra lutris's picture

are a haven for corporate abusers. Sure, in theory they can be sued here, and in theory they could even lose too, but the facts on the ground, as they say, are pretty wildly at odds with that theory. Success rates of even getting the suit filed and accepted are, per what I see, pretty piss poor, and winning? Even if you get to bring suit and miraculously enough win, then you get to try to collect. Bwahahahaha.

Why does the state department even have an IG? Their job is corrupt and is in part to foster further corruption. They are in bed with the CIA, evil regimes (here and abroad), blackmail countries, play bait and switch and spew propaganda? In that "corporate culture", just what is the IG's role, catch people cheating on their entertainment expense vouchers or something?

And MSNBC? Does anybody expect journalism or even news from that outfit? Is it silly season already?

be well and have a good one

10 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

perhaps since, as you point out, the alien tort system was foreclosed in all but theory, it is best that it be shut down so that foreigners abused by american corporations can focus on other means of obtaining justice or retribution as the case may be.

ig's are another system of redress that is broken - and may never have worked at all. certainly the large numbers of whistleblowers over the years is testimony to the failure of the internal systems.

have a great evening!

6 users have voted.
GreatLakeSailor's picture

...Kenosha Wisconsin.

It is a pretty good article. In part

If only a small fraction of the people in Kenosha County who disliked Trump and his diehards but saw no other reason to care about politics could be persuaded to vote, a Democrat would win there in a landslide. But to win them over, the Democratic Party would have to acknowledge that something much bigger than Trump has gone wrong in our society. It would take letting go of the mythical American story of steady, forward progress. And this is a myth that Democrats don’t seem ready to abandon.

There's a lot more I could say about the article but I'm too lazy. It's worth a read. It's kinda long.

11 users have voted.

Compensated Spokes Model for Big Poor & Big Peace.

joe shikspack's picture


thanks for the article!

the democrats will do anything rather than offer real change. it's not what the donor class wants. they are ripe for creative destruction.

have a great evening!

5 users have voted.

I saved a fledgling mocking bird that fell from a tree, was almost killed by my office cat, so I will say that removed from the world, just at my normal "work station", I did something helpful.
(My cat would disagree, but she is a cat, ya know.)
I am helping a man acquire some family property. His Dad insisted on coming to me for help.
His Dad is the first African American man to win a custody battle in my county. This wonderful young man was raised by that Dad.
He calls me "Beautiful".
That was a hard damn case.

7 users have voted.
lotlizard's picture

@on the cusp  
that we humans scold them for eating birds, while all the time feasting on plenty of birds (chicken, etc.) ourselves.

(My cat would disagree, but she is a cat, ya know.)

4 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture

@on the cusp

heh, perhaps you should make up a chart of acceptable prey for the office cat for study purposes. Smile

have a good one!

2 users have voted.

7 users have voted.
Lookout's picture

I'm late to the party as usual. I usually check out the eb in the AM after the early chores.

This conversion of crises - COVID, collapsing economy, failed government, and more is a little overwhelming. The dollar is in danger it seems....explains the higher oil (and metals) price. The Fed is printing away the value of the USD, but for decades its only value has been that the USD is the standard of global exchange. But hey the market is up. Unbelievable really.

Well take care. Thanks for your reporting. I met Johnny Shines a few times back in the day when I worked on a variety of festivals. I appreciate your work!

4 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

joe shikspack's picture


the dollar has been in danger for quite a while. the borrowing that has been going on to keep the rich fat and happy during the pandemic may exacerbate the problems, but the dollar is on shaky ground. its status as the world's reserve currency may not last the coming decade and without the boost the dollar gets from that status, things could go downhill fast.

1 user has voted.

Trump fires TVA chairman over foreign contractors
More than any President in the last twenty years has done for American programming jobs.

3 users have voted.

I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

@The Voice In the Wilderness It's worthy of an essay. Trump did this for political reasons and not because it's the right thing to do. The same political strategy that he employed in 2016 that he adopted from his Perot orientation and that continues to elude Democrats.

An essay would need to include the info from Highest-paid Fed official - NYPost April 8, 2020. The TVA outsourcing announcement. Where all the politicians stood on this - outgoing TN Senator Alexander was fully on-board with TVA decisions. TN Senate nominees (Aug 6 primary) and their position on this.

Also time to start pushing back on the notion that compensation for those in high level positions at non-profits and public agencies should be near what they would command in the private sector.

1 user has voted.
TheOtherMaven's picture


He does what he thinks is politically expedient, and once in a while it will be the right thing (for the wrong reasons). Just wish he'd get it through his noggin that outflanking the Dims to their Left would give him a cakewalk to re-election...but does he really want to be re-elected?

4 users have voted.

There is no justice. There can be no peace.


but does he really want to be re-elected?

He's been running for reelection since November 2016; so, yes, he does want to win.

Your question reminds me of the 2016 primary and general election. There was no shortage of Democrats/liberals/leftists perplexed by Trump and articulating it as "what does Trump want?" I always answered with "to be POTUS." The response was always, "no, that can't be right" followed with first "he can't win the GOP nomination" and later "can't beat HRC." The first GOP debate informed me that it wasn't improbable for Trump to win the nomination, but others couldn't see that. All the way through Super Tuesday, they kept thinking that he wouldn't win the nomination and couldn't imagine that Trump wanted it. Once that was secured, they continued to wonder what Trump wanted since he obviously wouldn't win the general election. Don't know where those people got the notion that any Presidential candidate doesn't want to be POTUS; with the possible exception of Harding, that's what they all want regardless of how slim their chances are.

(No, I didn't correctly project the outcome. I had EC as - HRC 274 Trump 260 (with NH (4 EC) too close to call). I overthought PA -- expecting it to buck the trend that the presidential and senate races would move in tandem, and therefore the winners would be HRC and Toomey. I also had no idea that Feingold was in trouble in WI. winning. Trump only needed to flip one of the two.)

While it may look as if Trump has outflanked Democrats on the left, that's not his political calculation. He's a straightforward Republican, doesn't even concede anything to the Libertarians, and his secret sauce is the Perot orientation. Protection for US workers and make it an emotional issue for them. Hence, anti-TPP, anti-H1-B visas, MAGA. It's bs but it sells. He really does think that his inept handling of SARS-CoV19 can be covered up by calling it the China virus, just another migrant that steals from American workers.

There's plenty in Biden's long record that is anti-US workers. I expect that's what we'll see Trump highlight and attack in the debates.

2 users have voted.

For now, we can observe lots of the little corruption bits and pieces during the SARS-COV19 pandemic.

Up today: Stinking Tory Corruption from Craig Murray. This is an update on an earlier piece in which Murray observed that a wholly unqualified company was given a £250 million PPE contract. What has yet to appear in the public domain is the actual contract. The terms of the contract may also be in violation of standard public contracts. For now, the contractor has supplied 50 billion masks that are unusable, and approximately £150 million of the contract. Currently, an "oh, well" response appears to be the official position of the UK government and the contractor. Suggesting that the contractor was paid and there's no recourse for the government now stuck with a mega-supply of unacceptable masks.

More than eighty years ago, New Dealers had figured out how to avoid corrupt contracting and contractor failures with limited to no loss to the government agency.

Murray's other recent piece, Clive Ponting, Hero, seems like a good companion to "Stinking Tory Corruption."

3 users have voted.