The Evening Blues - 1-10-19


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Big Bill Broonzy

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features blues singer Big Bill Broonzy. Enjoy!

Big Bill Broonzy - Five Feet Seven (Tell Me Who)

"A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both."

-- James Madison

News and Opinion

Defense Department Abruptly Stopped Releasing Key Details on Strikes in War Against ISIS

The Defense Department has quietly halted its practice of issuing detailed “strike releases,” periodic reports that provided information about bombings targeting Islamic State fighters, buildings, and equipment in Iraq and Syria. The change comes as the U.S. military has ramped up its bombing offensive against ISIS in eastern Syria following President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement of a troop withdrawal last month. While many of the U.S.-led coalition’s actions against ISIS were shrouded in secrecy, the strike releases, which the military has been issuing since the start of the campaign against ISIS in 2014, were valuable tools for watchdogs that work to corroborate reports of civilian casualties.

“The only claim I’ve seen publicly made is that with ISIS almost beat, there’s less need for detailed releases,” said Chris Woods, the founder of Airwars, a London-based nonprofit that monitors and assesses civilian harm from bombing campaigns in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. “Yet both strikes and civilian harm are at their highest levels since Raqqa. Reducing transparency is entirely counterproductive in our view.”

In a note appended to the top of its January 4 strike release, the Defense Department announced that strike releases would be cut from weekly to biweekly. The subtext of the announcement is that even with biweekly releases, transparency about the bombings, including the dates of specific strikes and the buildings or groups targeted, has become the latest collateral damage. Between December 16 and December 29, 2018, the coalition against ISIS “conducted 469 strikes consisting of 1,001 engagements in Syria, and conducted nine strikes consisting of 14 engagements in Iraq,” the strike release read. No dates were provided and targets were so vaguely described (“fighting positions,” “seven buildings”) that researching specific bombings is nearly impossible.

Previous strike releases, such as this one from December 19, 2018, provided specific information, including dates, cities, and towns affected, and specific targets. In announcing the policy change, the U.S. military said frequent strike releases were not necessary due to “the degradation of ISIS” and “decreased kinetic activities against the terrorist organization.” But this explanation doesn’t match the reality on the ground; though ISIS has lost much of its territory, the group continues to fight back in the sliver of Syria that remains under its control. ... The military’s rationale for curbing strike releases also contradicts statements by its own officials. In a January 3 statement provided to The Intercept, the Defense Department acknowledged an “increase in strikes in late December” targeting ISIS in eastern Syria.

Trump wants less transparency on wars: 'They release reports to public & public means enemy'

Turkey Rejects New U.S. Syria Plan - Humiliates John Bolton

On Sunday National Security Advisor John Bolton tried to set conditions for a U.S. retreat from Syria. Turkey was not amused. ... When Bolton landed in Turkey today he received a very cold welcome. The planned meeting with the Turkish President Erdogan did not take place. The meeting John Bolton, Joint Chief of Staff Joe Dunford and Syria envoy James Jeffrey held with the Turkish National Security Advisor Ibrahim Kalin was downgraded and took less than two hours. A planned joint press conference was canceled. ...

An editorial in the Erdogan aligned Daily Sabah called Bolton's ideas a soft coup against Trump. And with that, Bolton was humiliated and the issue of the U.S. retreat from Syria kicked back to Trump.

We have seen a similar scheme in U.S. negotiations with North Korea. Trump made a four step deal with Kim Jong Un. Then the borg in form of Secretary of State Pompeo tried to change the deal, and demanded that North Korea fulfills step four before the U.S. will take step one, two and three. When he then flew to North Korea he was ignored by Kim Jong Un and only met with lower level staff. It required Trump's intervention to keep the talks alive. Erdogan likewise had a deal with Trump about the U.S. retreat from Syria. Bolton tried to change the deal, to add conditions and to prolong the timeline. When he arrived in Ankara he was not only ignored by Erdogan, but scolded. It will require Trumps intervention to bring the issue back onto its tracks.

If Trump does not move, Erdogan is likely to seek a military escalation. His army will probably fire artillery on this or that Kurdish position near the Turkish border. It may even invade a few towns. Not necessarily to hold them, but to increase the pressure on the U.S. occupation force. Turkey originally planned to first take Manbij on the western side of the Euphrates. But Manbij is blocked by Syrian troops, now reinforced by Russian military police patrols. Erdogan will not dare to attack them. Erdogan wants the U.S. to leave Syria and to take with it the arms it handed to the YPG to fight ISIS. He wants the Syrian government to retake northeast Syria and to bring the Kurds under control. ...

Since Trump announced that U.S. troops would soon leave Syria the fight against the remaining ISIS forces near the Iraqi border increased in pace. ISIS' territorial hold is now down to two or three villages. Sunday night it used another spat of bad weather due to which the U.S. air force could not provide air support to the Kurdish led proxy force that fights ISIS. An ISIS counter attack ensued and killed some 25 of the U.S. supported forces. This was likely the last significant battle for ISIS. The Islamic State is down to a few hundred fighters who have no way to escape. They will be bombed to smithereens.

Turkey to Ask U.S. to Hand Over 22 Military Bases in Syria, Report Says

Turkey will ask U.S. officials in talks on Tuesday to hand over its military bases in Syria to Ankara or destroy them, the Hurriyet newspaper reported, a request that could further complicate discussions over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

US will expel every last Iranian boot from Syria, says Mike Pompeo

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has vowed the US and its allies will “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria as he sought to reassure Middle Eastern nations it was not withdrawing from the region despite Donald Trump’s call for troops to return home.

In a keynote speech delivered in Cairo, pitched as the centrepiece of his nine-country regional tour, Pompeo called for a common stand against Tehran. “It’s time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region,” he said. The US would “use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and bolster efforts “to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people”, he said.

The US’s most senior diplomat also delivered a rebuke to Barack Obama, whose address from the Egyptian capital a decade ago set the course for his government’s outreach to Iran and disavowal of George W Bush’s intervention in Iraq. Pompeo claimed the US under Obama had been timid about asserting itself, “when the times – and our partners – demanded it”, and had emboldened Iran to entrench its influence across the region.

He committed to ongoing airstrikes against Isis but did not directly address Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 US ground forces from eastern Syria. Pompeo and the US national security adviser, John Bolton, have attempted to walk back Trump’s December announcement and observers considered the announcement of continuing US airstrikes to be a further move to reassure allies, particularly Kurdish proxies, that they would not be abandoned.

Turkey says it will launch Syria offensive if US delays pullout

Turkey will launch an offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces if the US delays the withdrawal of its troops from Syria, the foreign minister has said. “If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process. Erdogan – who has welcomed the pullout plan – accused Bolton of a “grave mistake” in demanding that Ankara provide assurances on the safety of the Kurdish fighters before Washington withdraws its troops.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who is on a regional tour, also said on Wednesday that Turkey had committed to protecting Washington’s Kurdish allies fighting Islamic State in Syria. ...

Cavusoglu said Turkey would go ahead with its incursion plan. “We are determined on the field and at the table,” he said. “We will decide on its timing and we will not receive permission from anyone.” He also said some officials in the US administration had sought to deter Trump from the pullout plan and create “excuses” such as about Turkey massacring Kurds, in reference to Pompeo’s comments.

Cavusoglu said Ankara would fight the YPG whether or not the US withdrew from Syria. He said he was planning to have a phone call with Pompeo on Thursday.

Why China Tiptoed onto the Far Side of the Moon

When China landed a space probe on the far side of the moon last week, it was a first for humanity. ... But while the scientists who designed the Chang’e 4 probe were properly proud, China’s state-controlled media buried the story beneath the day’s more mundane news. ... Why would this be? Why would Xi Jinping’s hyper-ambitious China go relatively quiet after demonstrating that its swiftly developing technological capabilities are making the nation the global leader its president thinks it is destined to be?

Mike Pompeo suggested an answer the same day the Chang’e 4 touched down on lunar soil. President Donald Trump’s secretary of state chose last Thursday to warn the Iranians to drop their plans to launch three satellites into space over the next several months. Pompeo dismissed these projects as nothing more than a cover to test intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of bearing warheads. These events are not unrelated. ... The U.S. proposes to sanction Iran to kingdom come so as to limit its leverage as an emerging power in the Middle East. But the U.S. administration’s dangerously aggressive policies toward Tehran are about more than the Islamic Republic’s regional influence.

There is a larger theme here that is not to be missed: Maintaining America’s lead in advanced technologies is now essential to preserving U.S. primacy. And China and Iran are among those middle-income nations whose scientific and technological advances will at some point challenge this lead. ... Tensions between the U.S. and China have increased steadily since Beijing announced its Made in China 2025 Initiative several years ago, and it is hard to imagine this is mere coincidence. As one of Xi’s core strategies, Made in China 2025 designates 10 high-technology industries—robotics, pharmaceuticals, cutting-edge telecom networks, advanced machine tools, and the like—in which China proposes to make itself a global leader. All 10 of these industries are currently dominated by the U.S. and other Western nations.

Since Xi’s program began, Washington has made persistent efforts to limit its progress. Last year the State Department began a program intended to restrict the number of Chinese students permitted to study at U.S. universities. In two much-noted cases, the Commerce Department has gone after leading Chinese high-tech companies, ZTE and, most recently, Huawei, charging both with violations of U.S. restrictions on exports to Iran and North Korea. Legislation now prohibits the federal government from purchasing products from either company.

It is not difficult to detect a 21st Century version of the old “yellow peril” in all this. Last year the Council on Foreign Relations referred to Made in China 2025 as “a real existential threat to U.S. technological leadership.” In the long run this may prove to be so. The Chinese strategy has a lot in common with Japan’s designation of “strategic industries”—autos, shipbuilding, and electronics among them—in the postwar decades, and we know how those battles turned out.

Worth a full read:

A New Narrative Control Firm Works To Destroy Alternative Media

The frenzied, hysterical Russia narrative being promoted day in and day out by western mass media has had two of its major stories ripped to shreds in the last three days. A report seeded throughout the mainstream media by anonymous intelligence officials back in September claimed that US government workers in Cuba had suffered concussion-like brain damage after hearing strange noises in homes and hotels with the most likely culprit being “sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon” from Russia. A recording of one such highly sophisticated attack was analyzed by scientists and turned out to be the mating call of the male indies short-tailed cricket. ... Another report which dominated news headlines all of yesterday claimed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (the same Paul Manafort who the Guardian falsely claimed met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy) had shared polling data with a Russian associate and asked him to pass it along to Oleg Deripaska, who is often labeled a “Russian oligarch” by western media.

The polling data was mostly public already, and the rest was just more polling information shared in the spring of 2016, but Deripaska’s involvement had Russiagaters burning the midnight oil with breathless excitement. Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall went so far as to publish an article titled “The ‘Collusion’ Debate Ended Last Night”, substantiating his click-generating headline with the claim that “What’s crystal clear is that the transfer to Kilimnik came with explicit instructions to give the information to Deripaska. And that’s enough.” Except Manafort didn’t give any explicit instructions to share the polling data with Deripaska, but with two Ukrainian oligarchs (who are denying it). The New York Times was forced to print this embarrassing correction to the story it broke, adding in the process that Manafort’s motivation was likely not collusion, but money. ...

The only voices who have been questioning the establishment Russia narrative that is being fed to mass media outlets by secretive government agencies have been those which the mass media refuses to platform. Alternative media outlets are the only major platforms for dissent from the authorized narratives of the plutocrat-owned political/media class. Imagine, then, how disastrous it would be if these last strongholds of skepticism and holding power to account were removed from the media landscape. Well, that’s exactly what a shady organization called NewsGuard is trying to do, with some success already. A new report by journalist Whitney Webb for MintPress News details how NewsGuard is working to hide and demonetize alternative media outlets like MintPress, marketing itself directly to tech companies, social media platforms, libraries and schools. NewsGuard is led by some of the most virulently pro-imperialist individuals in America, and its agenda to shore up narrative control for the ruling power establishment is clear.

The product which NewsGuard markets to the general public is a browser plugin which advises online media consumers whether a news media outlet is trustworthy or untrustworthy based on a formula with a very pro-establishment bias which sees outlets like Fox News and the US propaganda outlet Voice of America getting trustworthy ratings while outlets like RT get very low ratings for trustworthiness. ... We may be absolutely certain that NewsGuard will continue giving a positive, trustworthy ranking to the New York Times no matter how many spectacular flubs it makes in its coverage of the establishment Russia narrative, because the agenda to popularize anti-Russia narratives lines up perfectly with the neoconservative, government agency-serving agendas of the powers behind NewsGuard. Any attempt to advance the hegemony of the US-centralized power establishment will be rewarded by its lackeys, and any skepticism of it will be punished.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Ruling power’s desire to regulate people’s access to information is so desperate that it has become as clumsy and ham-fisted as a teenager pawing at his date in the back seat of a car, and it feels about as enjoyable.

You can blame your baby boomer parents for spreading fake news

Researchers have found that sharing fake news on Facebook during the 2016 election was a “relatively rare activity” — that is, unless you were over 65.

The report, prepared by researchers from New York University’s Social Media and Political Participation Lab and Princeton University, found that on average, users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as the youngest age group did.

“Aside from the overall rarity of the practice, our most robust and consistent finding is that older Americans were more likely to share articles from fake news domains. This relationship holds even when we condition on other factors, such as education, party affiliation, ideological self-placement, and overall posting activity,” the report states.

The study found that 11 percent of people over 65 had shared at least one link to a known fake news website in 2016, compared to just 3 percent of those aged 18-29.

Rod Rosenstein is quitting the DOJ, reports say

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will resign from the Justice Department in the coming weeks, according to several reports published Wednesday. Rosenstein has informed President Donald Trump of his intention to leave once William Barr — the president’s nominee for AG — is confirmed, ABC News reported.

The deputy AG is not being forced out and wants to facilitate a smooth transition for Barr, who still faces a Senate confirmation hearing, a source told ABC.

Twitter Hilariously Memes Pelosi & Schumer’s Response To Trump

'It's a Crisis Alright': Report Details Serious Public Health and Safety Risks of Trump Shutdown

In addition to pushing thousands of low-wage workers to the brink of financial collapse and imperiling life-saving public programs like food stamps and Medicare, a Public Citizen report released on Wednesday found that the government shutdown over President Donald Trump's demand for border wall funding is also placing crucial consumer, health, and safety protections at serious risk.

"Corporate lawbreakers are going unpunished, safety inspections are being postponed, discrimination charges are going uninvestigated, polluters are not being held in check, financial fraudsters are not being policed, consumer complaints are not being received, and accident investigations have ceased," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said in a statement. Authored by Rick Claypool, a research director at Public Citizen, the new report examines how nearly a dozen federal agencies have been impacted by the Trump shutdown, which has furloughed hundreds of thousands of government employees.

According to Public Citizen's analysis, under-discussed but extremely important federal agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission are currently operating without over 90 percent of their staff due to the shutdown, which is just days away from becoming the longest in U.S. history. ...

Public Citizen's report cites the severe staff shortage at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as just one of many examples of how prolonged government shutdowns can have devastating impacts on public safety. "Forty percent of FAA staff are furloughed during the government shutdown—notably staff responsible for facility security inspections and law enforcement assistance support," Claypool notes. The report goes on to quote Doug Lowe, president of the Florida chapter of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), who warned on Tuesday: "The longer it goes without that oversight, the more dangerous the aviation system becomes."

"A week from now," Lowe concluded, "I would tell you, 'Yes, I would not get on an aircraft.'"

Shutdown hits American farmers already hurt by China trade war

Just as American farmers thought Donald Trump had rescued them from the economic consequences of his trade war with China, along came the government shutdown.

The National Farmers Union said the closure of agriculture department offices could not have come at a worse time for members awaiting emergency federal aid principally to compensate for a sharp drop in soybean prices after sales to China plunged as a result of trade sanctions on Beijing. The shutdown has also created a new wave of uncertainty in planning for the planting season because crucial end of year agricultural data will now not be released on schedule.

“This is a bigger than normal challenge because agriculture has been in a five year profit decline,” said Roger Johnson, the president of the National Farmers Union representing about 200,000 family farmers and ranchers. “Net farm income is half of what it was five years ago. Financial conditions are very difficult for a lot of farmers. There’s a lot of stress out there. It’s been exacerbated by what’s gone on in the trade arena as market prices have gone down. And now we have the shutdown.”

The most immediate impact is on farmers waiting for payments as part of a $12bn government package to help offset the impact of the trade dispute with China. US soybean sales into the world’s largest market have plummeted since Beijing increased the tariff on American imports by 25% in July as part of the trade dispute with Trump. That hit American farmers hard because many of them have increasingly relied on soybeans as relatively profitable after years of decline in the price of most other crops. ...

The Farm Service Agency office, which pays out the assistance from the Market Facilitation Program, is now closed. Johnson said that many of those farmers who have already registered for payments have yet to receive them even though the first tranche of money went out in November. In addition, the deadline for farmers to sign up for the aid is 15 January. Those that have not already done so are uncertain whether they will be able to if the government shutdown continues. “These payments in many cases are very much depended on in order for folks to get through the year and pay loans and so forth,” said Johnson.

American politics go gothic

“Bye-bye”: Trump walked out of shutdown talks with Democrats but also gave them candy

President Donald Trump assured Americans during his primetime television address Tuesday night that he only needed a “45-minute meeting” with Democrats to end the government shutdown and secure the $5.7 billion he's demanding for his border wall.

But when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuffed him during shutdown talks on Wednesday, Trump walked out of the room.

“Just left a meeting with Chuck [Schumer] and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. “I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”

(Trump literally said the words “bye-bye” to Pelosi, a Democratic aide told the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey.) ...

The vice president also said the president gave Pelosi and Schumer some candy.

Trump repeats threat to call national emergency as he heads to border

Donald Trump has reiterated his threat to declare a national emergency if Congress does not meet his demand for billions of dollars to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border as part of a deal to end the partial government shutdown. As he left the White House on Thursday for a visit to the Texas border, Trump told reporters he would prefer to work with Congress on a deal to end the partial government shutdown but will use his emergency powers to circumvent Congress if they can’t come to agreement.

“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” Trump said, contradicting legal scholars who have questioned the president’s right to take such action in this case. “I haven’t done it yet, I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely,” he said.

Thursday is the 20th day of the shutdown, just one day shy of the longest government closure in US history. Trump is travelling to the Mexican border on Thursday as a publicity ploy aimed at shoring up his contested policy of insisting on a wall, which triggered the shutdown.

Trump is expected to travel to a section of border in the Rio Grande Valley near Mission, Texas. According to local media, he will stop at Anzadulas park on the banks of the Rio Grande, where border agents regularly search for migrants attempting to enter the US illegally – giving a clue to Trump’s likely photo opportunity and comments. ... The visit to the border also comes just hours before hundreds of thousands of government workers will miss their first paychecks.

Public Citizen: Frightening Prospect If an Authoritarian Like Trump Declares State of Emergency

'Shock Doctrine' Author Naomi Klein Worries 'What Next?' If Trump Succeeds in Inventing a 'National Emergency'

As a result of creating a fake crisis in order to appease his far-right base and achieve a policy goal that has majority public opposition, President Donald Trump continues to threaten to declare a "national emergency" as a way to commandeer military funds in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But even as experts debate whether or not Trump has the authority to make such a declaration—and consensus that an immediate legal battle would ensue—author and activist Naomi Klein on Thursday morning expressed worry that if the president is allowed to get away with such anti-democratic maneuvers, what would stop him from repeating the tactics in the future.

Klein's statement of concern came in response to a new story on the issue by Charlie Savage at the New York Times – one which noted that "If the president does invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress, it would be an extraordinary violation of constitutional norms — and establish a precedent for presidents who fail to win approval for funding a policy goal."

The Times article was headlined, "Trump's Emergency Powers Threat Could End Shutdown Crisis, but at What Cost?" To which Klein answered: "At a huge cost. What further roll back of rights (e.g. curfews, 'no protest zones'), not to mention intensified state violence and surveillance, become possible under the banner of 'emergency?' What is to stop him from declaring emergencies again and again if this works?"

the horse race

Billionaire Democrat Tom Steyer will not run for president in 2020

The progressive billionaire Tom Steyer will not run for the White House. Steyer announced he would not pursue a presidential bid at an event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday afternoon.

Steyer, who earned his fortune as a hedge fund manager, has appeared around the country to organize around his Need to Impeach group, an effort to encourage support for the impeachment of Donald Trump. The group built a formidable email list of more than 6 million people committed to removing Trump from office.

“The impeachment question has reached an inflection point. That’s why I just announced that I will be dedicating 100% of my time and effort in 2019 towards Mr Trump’s impeachment and removal from office,” said Steyer.

He announced on Wednesday that he commit another $40m of his fortune to the group and defined success as either the House beginning impeachment proceedings or Trump resigning from office.

Keiser Report: AOC 2024?

Freedom Rider: Phony Resistance Can’t Beat Trump

At the midway point of the Trump presidency the Democrats have nothing to show in the way of meaningful resistance. The Women’s March has been exposed as a fraudulent get-out-the-vote effort that was dispatched soon after the mid-term election. Now the Democrats have been reduced to using curse words in what passes for opposition to Donald Trump. Trump’s shutdown of the government in the dispute over the border wall is an opportunity for the Democrats to show their mettle. But they can’t fight what they never really opposed. They may call it a fence or a barrier or some other euphemistic term but they have voted to support the same thing over the years. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama requested and got funding for border walls in the past. They are boxed in by their own past misdeeds and now present nothing but acquiescence to right wing tropes and call themselves a resistance force.

The Democrats are terrified of mobilizing the people they claim to represent. There are many issues they could champion that would win them votes, everything from Medicare for All to debt forgiveness of college loans. But their donors won’t give them money if they fight for those causes so instead of policy we get justification for cursing. The government shut down is an opportunity to fight for the rights of thousands of people who are going without paychecks and for everyone who needs government services. But connecting with the voters is the last thing that Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer want to do. Parliamentary procedures and a final face save for Trump will bring the impasse to an end. But there is still no plan for a true fight-back that would give the people what they want and bring Democrats easy victories.

The farcical opposition is carried out with the connivance of corporate media who made a show of debating whether to broadcast Trump’s speech on the issue of the border wall. Of course a presidential speech is broadcast live. That is always the case. But histrionics are no substitute for policy changes that the Democrats refuse to make. The Democrats don’t intend to offer anything new. Endless war and austerity are the only items always on their menu. Their actions at the start of the 2020 presidential election prove the falseness of their efforts. The race has barely begun and they are already rigging public opinion against Bernie Sanders. Their opinion polls omit his name, negative stories suddenly resurface, and Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke are presented as party saviors. The more right wing the policies presented, the more praise they lavish.

The spontaneous expression of voter dismay after the Trump election was never put to good use. While a majority of Americans want an end to Trump, the party that is supposed to fight against him depends on sleights of hand and barely concealed contempt for its voters. Democrats should have won the House and the Senate too. Trump ought to be on the ropes because of an organization and mobilization, not because of his cringe worthy words and deeds. “We aren’t Trump” was supposed to win the day back in 2016 but that weak excuse for a political platform made Democrats the losers. They continue in that same vein with Russiagate thrown in for good measure and hope these tricks are enough to bring victory. But they aren’t, and a second Trump term or a win for another Republican are plausible scenarios in November 2020.

the evening greens

Trump Nomination of Wheeler Ensures EPA Will Continue to Put 'Profits of Polluters' Over Human Health and Planet

In the six months since he stepped in to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency following Scott Pruitt's resignation last summer, Andrew Wheeler has gutted fuel efficiency standards, rolled back carbon emissions rules for coal plants, and moved to allow more mercury emissions—and President Donald Trump made his approval known Wednesday as he nominated Wheeler to officially head the agency.

Wheeler has served as acting EPA administrator since July, having served as Pruitt's second-in-command. Before his career in the Trump administration, he was a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry and an aide for vehement climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)—resumé items whose influence has been apparent in his actions as acting administrator and will likely to continue to sway his decision-making if he's confirmed.

"The only thing Wheeler is going to protect at the EPA is the profits of polluters," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), in a statement. "I'm sure corporate board rooms will celebrate this nomination. But for anyone who drinks water, breathes air, or cares about wildlife, this will be nothing but awful."

Like Pruitt before him—and a number of other Trump administration officials— Wheeler has made clear his intent to undermine his agency's stated mission, instead doing everything in his power to make it easier for his former industry to harm the American public.

National Parks Overflow with Trash, Human Waste as Gov’t Shutdown Approaches 3 Weeks

Why your chicken wings mean we’ve entered a new epoch

When and why the Anthropocene begins is up for debate. Many point to sometime in the mid-20th century when we started dropping atomic bombs, paving the world over in cement and concrete and filling our oceans with plastic as a beginning to the so-called Anthropocene. Now new research from geologists and archeologists published in the Royal Society poses another possible marker that began in the 1950s as well: the rise of the factory farmed chicken.

In 2016, the world consumed almost 66 billion chickens. To put that number in perspective, we slaughtered 1.5 billion pigs, 550 million sheep, 460 million goats, and 300 million cattle that same year. About nine out of every 10 terrestrial animals slaughtered for food globally are chickens. ... These chickens are a product of modern technology that rivals almost any other innovation over the past 50 years in its scope and impact on our food system. The modern chicken has been bred into an entirely new animal that looks very little like its wild counterpart. Through breeding techniques and feed manipulation, farmed chickens quadrupled in size between the mid-1950s to the mid-2000s.

In order to keep them from getting deathly ill and to accelerate growth, chickens are fed antibiotics prophylactically to the tune of half a million pounds a year in America. ... If chickens were not killed at such a young age (on average, five to seven weeks), they would be unable to survive into maturity. While their bodies, limbs and organs simply cannot function properly into adolescence, their bones may last a very long time. In the wild, bird carcasses either decay or are scavenged by predators. Chicken bones, on the other hand, are discarded in landfills where anaerobic activity tends to mummify more than decay.

Chickens aren’t only changing our fossil record. They’re pecking away at our environment in more profoundly concerning ways. So concerning, in fact, that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has said that “the environmental impacts of the sector are substantial” and include the acceleration of climate change, erosion of biodiversity, pollution of soil and water, overexploitation of natural resources, and the list goes on. ... However it shifts our perspective, the chicken-induced Anthropocene is more writing on the wall that industrialized animal agriculture has gone too far. Without radically reimagining our food system, our future in the Anthropocene looks just like the lives of those 66 billion chickens every year: nasty, brutish and short.

'As World Teeters on Brink of Climate Catastrophe,' 600+ Groups Demand Congress Back Visionary Green New Deal

On behalf of their millions of members and supporters, 626 environmental organizations on Thursday demanded that U.S. policymakers "pursue visionary and affirmative legislative action" such as a Green New Deal to combat the "urgent threat" of the global climate crisis.

"As the world teeters on the brink of climate catastrophe, we're calling on Congress to take large-scale action," said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which signed the letter (pdf) to lawmakers. "Americans want a livable future for their children, and that requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground while greening the economy on a wartime footing." Angela Adrar of Climate Justice Alliance, another signatory, emphasized that "such a new, green economy needs to be guided by the leadership and knowledge of those most burdened by pollution, poverty, and other forms of institutional violence waged by the corporations causing this global ecological crisis."

To achieve a transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 or sooner, according to the letter, federal lawmakers must:

  1. Halt all fossil fuel leasing, phase out all fossil fuel extraction, and end fossil fuel and other dirty energy subsidies;
  2. Transition power generation to 100 percent renewable energy;
  3. Expand public transportation and phase out fossil fuel vehicles;
  4. Harness the full power of the Clean Air Act;
  5. Ensure a just transition led by impacted communities and workers; and
  6. Uphold Indigenous rights.

"The disproportionate impacts of climate change and dirty energy development in the traditional territories and lands of American Indian and Alaska Natives must be taken into account, to ensure the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples are fully recognized in the just transition to a new green economy," asserted Tom BK Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). Specifically, the letter pushes lawmakers to abide by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) along with other treaties and international law regarding any proposed policies or projects that would impact "lands, territories, and/or natural resources, cultural properties and heritage, and other interests" of native communities.

Additionally, the groups "vigorously oppose" any efforts to slash existing environmental and public health protections, prevent dirty energy polluters from liability, or promote "corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits." Their letter further charges that "fossil fuel companies should pay their fair share for damages caused by climate change, rather than shifting those costs to taxpayers."

Also of Interest

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

Alger Hiss and Russia-gate

What’s The Matter With the Democratic Party? Just Watch Pelosi and Schumer Respond to Trump’s Wall Speech.

Fight Over Something That Matters, “The Wall” Mostly Doesn’t

Ocasio-Cortez, Socialism, War and Austerity

Pelosi Accused of Shutting Bold Progressives Out of Powerful Committees

How Gulf states hatched plan with Israel to rehabilitate Assad

Has the Ruling Class Finally Had Enough of Trump?

New Documents Reveal a Covert British Military-Intelligence Smear Machine Meddling In American Politics

US prison sentences could vary by up to 63% depending on judge – study

Not all environmentalists eat tofu: the hunters fighting climate change

For Owners of Amazon’s Ring Security Cameras, Strangers May Have Been Watching Too

A Little Night Music

Big Bill Broonzy - Backwater Blues

Big Bill Broonzy - Summertime Blues

Big Bill and his Chicago Five - I'm Woke Up Now

Big Bill Broonzy - All I Got Belongs To You

Big Bill Broonzy - Hollerin' Blues

Big Bill Broonzy - I Can Fix It

Big Bill Broonzy - She Caught the Train

Big Bill Broonzy - Hey Hey

Big Bill Broonzy - Blues In 1890

Big Bill Broonzy 1955 09 01 WFMT Studios Chicago IL

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Raggedy Ann's picture

John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are driving us to the brink. I do believe there is a soft coup against Herr Drumpf going on and has been going on since he took office. He's oblivious because it's too close to him (can't see the forest for the trees).

I'm looking forward to watching some of the videos. I always love the Kaiser Report - thanks for posting it, and of course, anything with Dore. I hope to listen to Democracy Now on my way home.

Have a beautiful evening, folks! Pleasantry

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"The “jumpers” reminded us that one day we will all face only one choice and that is how we will die, not how we will live." Chris Hedges on 9/11

joe shikspack's picture

@Raggedy Ann

i'm not sure how i feel about the idea of a soft coup. surely trump is not so lacking in wit that he didn't understand what kind of ideologues bolton and pompeo were when he appointed them. any rational being with a plan to withdraw from wars such as syria and afghanistan would surely not appoint a bloodthirsty warmonger like bolton?

on the other hand, it appears that bolton and pompeo are going to have their hands full dealing with turkey with one obvious caveat that i can see.

the caveat is that turkey is our nato ally that the u.s. is required by treaty to defend if it is attacked. if this is an elaborate setup to get syria to attack turkey so that nato can attack syria, well, all bets are off.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

@joe shikspack
I’m concerned about the situation in Turkey, too. I read the article on Bolton being shunned by Erdogan. Things are ramping up. Sigh.

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"The “jumpers” reminded us that one day we will all face only one choice and that is how we will die, not how we will live." Chris Hedges on 9/11

ggersh's picture

We have so many soulless people in positions of power now that when evil makes its presence public it just fills the void and has its way with them. And the weak willed and the morally indifferent follow. Such is the root of our misery.

The rest of the world is deeply concerned, as well they should be. We would be more concerned if we were not so close to it. We are taking more and more outrageous things in stride.

This is nothing new in history, of course. But the moral vacuum is of an ascendant size and quality now that is seen only once in a generation or two. And the results of this are often memorable.

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I never knew that the term "Never Again" only pertained to
those born Jewish

"Antisemite used to be someone who didn't like Jews
now it's someone who Jews don't like"

Heard from Margaret Kimberley

joe shikspack's picture


it's sad and terrible how many can see that the train is careening down the tracks and is unstable, but are unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

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Azazello's picture

Here's some vids:
Max Blumenthal on the "Integrity Initiative".
[video: width:500 height:300]
Jimmy Dore on Nancy's healthcare word salad.
[video: width:500 height:300]
I got this earworm today.
[video: width:500 height:300]

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We wanted decent healthcare, a living wage and free college.
The Democrats gave us Biden and war instead.

joe shikspack's picture


thanks for the max blumenthal video, i hadn't seen it and it is a nice short summation of his grayzone article this week.

glad to see that jimmy dore is calling out pelosi for her corruption on mfa.

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snoopydawg's picture


and the other organizations are doing. This is stuff that people used to read about in sci-fi type books many moons ago or even what happened in Germany and people now asking why they didn't fight against it or try to stop it. And here we are learning more about this every day and seeing that there isn't anything that we can do about it. Or even worse seeing so many people blithely going along with it.

I have lost track of how many companies there are that are doing things like this. Of course Facebook, Twitter and Google are in on it. The Atlantic council, Hamilton 68 , are they still around?

From the video: "propaganda was made legal under Obama." That too slipped under the radar didn't it?

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

Voting is like driving with a toy steering wheel.

divineorder's picture


Thanks for transferring the ear worm.

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A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

enhydra lutris's picture

On their "Bridges to Babylon" tour they had a set list and then allowed the locals from each city where they were to perform to select one extra by vote to be announced at show time. That was Oakland's choice.

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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 --

divineorder's picture

Hope all is well. Got our roof repaired by roofers on our old cabin today, so hopefully will only need to repair the sheetrock damage and be good to go.

jb is slowly getting us organized for our annual travels in Costa Rica, just in time to see your excerpt from Public Citizen which included warning to avoid flying soon due to safety concerns related to the shutdown. Whooweee! Here's more:

I read that link you shared: "New Documents Reveal a Covert British Military-Intelligence Smear Machine Meddling In American Politics" . Had wondered at the huge attack in the press on Jeremy Corbyn but now I understand. Stand by for same here?

Ah, as am sure you remember we used to say ' one nuclear bomb could ruin your whole day. ' Guess we will fade off into the jungle as usual and watch from there. Smile

Some people are still working for peace it seems.


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A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

joe shikspack's picture


glad to hear that your cabin repairs are about done for now and you can move on to more fun things.

heh, think you guys can take parachutes as carry-on luggage? Smile

about the peace movement, i think that it has been rescheduled. usually, when a democrat president is replaced by a republican, the peace movement gets an infusion of sunshine patriots who suddenly notice that the wars are being directed by the bad people and that they ought to be stopped. well, that didn't happen this time, in part because of russiarussiarussia and the brainwashing of the democrat faithful who now think that the right thing to do is to push trump to make war against another nuclear-armed opponent.

the peace movement needs to figure out how to make change without the partisans filling in their numbers in the streets, i guess.

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snoopydawg's picture

Pompeo called for a common stand against Tehran. “It’s time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region,” he said. The US would “use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and bolster efforts “to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people”, he said.

This isn't the first time he has said that the USA's sh*t doesn't stink. The only diplomacy this country knows is how to work with others to destroy things. His arrogance in saying that Iran has to leave Syria is something else isn't it? Iran is in Syria legally while the US committed the ultimate war crime when it invaded Syria and ... Then to say that Obama's foreign policies were weak is laughable. He outdid Bush on how many countries he got us involved in.

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

Voting is like driving with a toy steering wheel.

joe shikspack's picture


pompeo's arrogance in the face of an untenable diplomatic position would be laughable if one didn't consider how many people will likely die in the process of demonstrating to him that he's a fucking moron.

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snoopydawg's picture

If they were willing to give Trump $25 billion for the wall, but are now digging in and refusing to give him $5 billion and ending the shutdown then they own what people who aren't working in my opinion.

But then I've read that Trump, border patrol and DHS haven't shown what they are going to do with the money so there's that. But as the article states the democrats don't really care what Trump does if they can score some points. Don't know what they want to do with them though. It's not like they have any better ideas.

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

Voting is like driving with a toy steering wheel.

joe shikspack's picture


if my congressman had listened to me years ago, everything would be fine right now.

i suggested that he create legislation such that whenever the government shut down, payroll would continue for all non-political-appointee federal employees and work would continue as normal with funding at the level of the last budget that had been enacted.

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