The Evening Blues - 1-13-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features folk and blues singer Leadbelly. Enjoy!
Lead Belly - Black Betty
"We can't allow the world's worst leaders to blackmail, threaten, hold freedom-loving nations hostage with the world's worst weapons."
-- George W. Bush
News and Opinion
What's a little blackmail between sovereign friends?
While a good chunk of Iraq's parliament wants American troops to begin a safe withdrawal from the country in the wake of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Washington is in turn threatening to block Baghdad's access to its central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in an effort to keep the forces in place, Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal.
Iraq, like many other countries, maintains government accounts at the New York Fed, which helps them manage national finances, including revenue from oil sales. ... An official in Mahdi's office said the prime minister received a warning about the bank account during a phone call Wednesday. ...
"The U.S. Fed basically has a stranglehold on the entire [Iraqi] economy," said Shwan Taha, chairman of Iraqi investment bank Rabee Securities. Others, like Mahdi adviser Abd al-Hassanein al-Hanein, think the U.S. is bluffing. "If the U.S. does that, it will lose Iraq forever," he said.
Donald Trump is facing mounting criticism after telling Fox News Iran was “probably” planning to attack four US embassies before he authorised the drone assassination of the top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani earlier this month.
Chris Murphy, a Democratic member of the Senate foreign relations committee, said: “Let’s be clear – if there was evidence of imminent attacks on four embassies, the administration would have said so at our Wednesday briefing. They didn’t. So either Fox News gets higher-level briefings than Congress ... or … wait for it... there was no such imminent threat.” ...
The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, told reporters on Friday the US “had specific information on an imminent threat, and those threats included attacks on US embassies period full stop”. Pompeo claimed “American facilities including American embassies, military bases, American facilities throughout the region” were at risk.
But the Washington Post cited “a senior administration official and a senior defense official” who said they “were only aware of vague intelligence about a plot against the embassy in Baghdad and that the information did not suggest a fully formed plot. Neither official said there were threats against multiple embassies”.
Seeking to explain Donald Trump’s claim that Iran was planning attacks on four American embassies before the US killed Iranian Gen Qassem Suleimani in a drone strike, defense secretary Mike Esper found himself in the dangerous position of contradicting the president.
Asked on CBS’s Face the Nation if there had been a specific or tangible threat, Esper said: “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies.” ...
On Sunday, Esper added: “What I’m saying is I share the president’s view that, probably, my expectation was that they were going to go after our embassies. “We had information that there was going to be an attack within a matter of days that would be broad in scale, in other words more than one country, and that it would be bigger than previous attacks, likely going to take us into open hostilities with Iran. ...
Esper later appeared to row back, telling CNN’s State of the Union “what the president said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well”.
“There was intelligence that there was an intent to target the US embassy in Baghdad,” he said.
However, Esper’s insistence that such “exquisite intelligence” was shared with the bipartisan Gang of Eight congressional leaders in a briefing was immediately dismissed by Adam Schiff, Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee. “He’s just plain wrong,” Schiff told CBS. “There was no discussion that, ‘These are the four embassies that are being targeted and we have exquisite intelligence that shows these or those are specific targets. [And] I don’t recall there being a specific discussion about bombing the US embassy in Baghdad. The briefing was more along the lines of what Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo admitted the other day, that, ‘We don’t know precisely where and we don’t know precisely when.’’
U.S. Strike on Iranian Commander in Yemen the Night of Suleimani’s Assassination Killed the Wrong Man
On the night the U.S. assassinated Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani by drone strike, the U.S. launched a similar operation to kill a top Iranian commander in Yemen, a U.S. official told The Intercept. The operation was aimed at killing Abdul Reza Shahlai, the commander of the Yemen division of Iran’s elite Quds Force, near the Yemeni capital Sana’a. Shahlai survived, but a lower-level Quds Force operative was killed, and Shahlai went into hiding, the official said. Shortly thereafter, Iranian state TV reportedly announced the death of a Quds Force operative named Mohammad Mirza in “one of the fields of Resistance Front.”
Shahlai is a senior operator in the Quds Force, the external operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2008 for his role in operations against the United States in Iraq, and the U.S. has accused him of coordinating a 2011 plot to assassinate the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir, at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Shahlai has since been placed in charge of the Quds Force division responsible for aiding the Houthi militia in its war against Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, the official said. ...
The Trump administration had contemplated killing Shahlai for three years, as a means of deterring further Iranian support for the Houthis in Yemen, the U.S. official told The Intercept. But the attempt to assassinate him on the night of January 2 seems to undercut the government’s stated rationale for killing Suleimani, who U.S. officials have repeatedly described as posing “an imminent threat” to U.S. forces in Iraq.
Shahlai is unlikely to have posed a similar threat in Sana’a, where the U.S. evacuated its embassy compound in 2013. The U.S. conducts operations and drone strikes against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, but does not have personnel in the north of the country, which is controlled by the Houthis and where Sana’a is located.
Congress needs answers.
What was the full extent of the Trump administration’s plans to kill Iranian officials?
How does the attempted killing in Yemen have anything to do with an imminent threat? https://t.co/2Zw4Z0Zssi
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) January 10, 2020
Donald Trump has renewed his threats to forcibly steal oil from Syria, a move which experts say would amount to a war crime.
The president defended his decision to leave a small number of American troops in the war-torn nation after a general withdrawal in October by claiming they were only there to secure Syria’s oilfields.
“They say he left troops in Syria... do you know what I did? I took the oil,” he said during a Fox News interview.
“The only troops I have are taking the oil, they are protecting the oil.”
When the interviewer, Laura Ingraham, attempted to correct Mr Trump by insisting the soldiers were not there to take the oil but to guard the facilities, the president cut her off.
“I don’t know, maybe we should take it, but we have the oil. Right now, the United States has the oil. We have the oil.”
Democratic Party royal family member Chris Cuomo delivered a pearl-clutching, hand-wringing monologue on CNN last night about how appalling and outrageous it is for Republicans to accuse Democrats of having covert loyalties to a foreign government. Cuomo, who is the son of a Democratic New York Governor and the brother of another Democratic New York Governor, began his “Closing Argument” segment rationally enough, berating the 194 Representatives who voted against opposing Trump’s ability to initiate an Iran war without congressional approval. Obviously the more resistance there is to Mike Pompeo manipulating the highly suggestible Commander-in-Chief into any more reckless warmongering against Tehran, the better.
But then, without any coherent segue, Prince Fredo began babbling about Republicans leveling baseless accusations about Democrats having loyalties to Iran.
"Shame on you and every Trumper and never-Trumper who voted against this."@ChrisCuomo addresses those who voted against the Iran War Powers resolution and those in the GOP who aim to divide the country when unity is a life and death matter. pic.twitter.com/kNMnXEeTdJ
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) January 10, 2020
“They’re in love with terrorists,” we see Republican Representative Doug Collins saying in Cuomo’s clip. “They mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families, who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani. That’s a problem.” Cuomo made some sputtering outraged face noises about Collins’ comments, then highlighted Republican Representative John Rutherford’s tweet accusing Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal of belonging to a “squad of Ayatollah sympathizers” for her condemnation of Trump’s indefensible assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Democrats were quick to condemn Rutherford’s obnoxious accusation on Twitter.
Cuomo also highlighted a tweet by Republican Representative Mark Meadows claiming that “Democrats are falling all over themselves equivocating about a terrorist” (which also drew angry Democratic backlash on the platform), and expressed astonishment at war crime fetishist Nikki Haley’s ridiculous claim that “The only ones that are mourning the loss of Soleimani are our Democrat leadership, and our Democrat presidential candidates.”
“So on the right, stop spreading toxic gossip about who likes terrorists,” Cuomo bloviated in a long-winded conclusion, making no mention at any time of the fact that Democrats have been spouting this exact same sort of “toxic gossip” for more than three years now. ...
If only we had a word for this -- something-ism https://t.co/ubMlhdqGj2
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 9, 2020
This would be the same Jonathan Chait who authored what was arguably the single most bat shit insane Trump-Russia conspiracy article that ever made it past the editors of the mainstream press in a 2018 New York Magazine masterpiece titled “What If Trump Has Been a Russian Asset Since 1987?”, which was just as crazy and full of baseless speculation as the headline suggests. McCarthyite Russia hysteria was being mainlined into the veins of rank-and-file Democrats so aggressively at the time that Chait was subsequently granted a (serious, non-mocking) interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC to expound upon his fact-free conspiracy theory.
None of this, of course, is to defend any of the vile Republican comments listed above. Accusing political adversaries of being soft toward a targeted government in order to shut down dissent and pressure them to espouse a more militaristic position is absolutely despicable. It’s a very typical right-wing tactic which is designed to shrink the Overton window of acceptable debate into the most hawkish and jingoistic ideological corner of political discourse possible. Which was why anyone to the left of Hillary Clinton found it extremely shocking and creepy when Democrats began making it their entire political strategy after their loss in 2016.
Democrats’ baseless yet relentless accusations of Kremlin loyalty against political opponents, from “Moscow Mitch” McConnell to “Putin Puppet” Trump, have sucked all oxygen out of the room for progressive reform and created political cover for this administration to freely escalate cold war tensions with Russia more aggressively than any president since the fall of the Berlin Wall. So it has been a relief to see Democrats and liberal pundits like Cuomo and Brian Stelter set aside the jingoism and McCarthyism to actively protest the warmongering of this Republican administration.
Israeli Intel Helped the United States to Take Out Soleimani, Report Says
Israeli intelligence helped the United States to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in near Baghdad, NBC reported on Friday. According to the report, informants at the Damascus international airport tipped off the CIA about the time Soleimani's plane took off for Baghdad, while Israel confirmed the intelligence provided to the Americans.
According to The New York Times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before Soleimani was assassinated, being the only leader in the region that was informed about the operation.
As the Cham Wings Airbus A320 carrying Soleimani landed outside the Iraqi capital, CIA agents at the Baghdad International Airport confirmed the exact location of the plane, the NBC report said. Then, U.S. drones armed with four Hellfire missiles, moved into position in the Iraqi airspace, fully controlled by American forces. ...
Iraqi authorities are currently holding four people suspected of aiding the U.S. – two Baghdad airport employees and two Cham Wings airline workers, who are believed to be part of a broader network that provided information about Soleimani to the United States. The authorities suspect that the four informed the CIA about Soleimani's arrival in Iraq on the night he was killed.
Human rights advocates marked the 18th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba with a rally outside the White House on Saturday to "demand an end to years of torture and human rights violations" and call for the detention camp's immediate closure.
In January 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the prison open. The move, which revoked an order from Trump's predecessor that called for the prison to be closed, outraged human rights defenders. With the demonstration Saturday, activists criticized not only Trump's decisions related to the prison but also those of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
"Three United States presidents have overseen Guantánamo during its shameful 18-year existence, yet it continues to remain open as people who have never been granted a trial are still detained and as they age and face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in the prison, dying far away from the families and loved ones they have not seen in years," Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty International USA said in a statement.
"It is well past time that Guantánamo close once and for all, and all the men who have long ago been cleared for release are transferred to countries that have agreed to accept them," added Eviatar, director of the Security With Human Rights program. ...
"Guantánamo currently holds 40 individuals: all Muslim men, many of whom were tortured in the camp," Amnesty's statement said. "Several detainees are experiencing health problems as a result of years of detention and instances of torture and other ill-treatment. Some remain detained despite having been cleared for transfer for years. This includes Toffiq al-Bihani, who has been imprisoned for eight years without trial."
A Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire between the two warring groups in Libya was struggling to take hold in Tripoli as both sides accused the other of breaches and laid out plans to mobilise more forces. In a breakthrough on Saturday, both sides in the civil war – the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces led from the east of Libya by Gen Khalifa Haftar – agreed to a ceasefire proposed last week by Russia and Turkey.
Both Russia and Turkey have small forces in the country, with Russia backing Haftar through the use of mercenaries and Turkey supporting the GNA with military advisers. The Turkish ministry of defence insisted the ceasefire was holding, adding that the situation in Libya was “calm except for one or two isolated incidents”.
However, both Libyan sides claimed otherwise. “The [GNA] militias violated the truce on more than one battlefront, with all types of weapons,” said the LNA commander, Al-Mabrouk al-Gazawi, who added that forces were waiting for further instruction from LNA general command. The army also claimed to have downed a Turkish drone. ...
At stake is not only Libya’s vast oil wealth and the future of African migration into Europe, but also the geopolitical orientation of north Africa. Turkey claims it is trying to prevent Libya from turning into an authoritarian, anti-Islamist state. Opponents of the Turkish intervention claim Erdogan is in fact trying to secure Mediterranean gas supplies and turn Libya into a client Ottoman state. With both sides in Libya largely composed of decentralised militia, the difficulties in policing a ceasefire are multiplied.
Jalel Harchaoui, a Libyan at the Clingendael Institute thinktank, warned of a near diplomatic free-for-all in which the Italian government of Guiseppe Conte was losing out. “The process by which Turkey and Russia are taking the diplomatic space is ruthless and largely irreversible,” he said. “Turkey and Russia aren’t allies. But they are too shrewd and too realistic to make the mistake of undermining each other or acting like full-blown enemies. Both Turkey and Russia understand that the US is in the process of withdrawing from the Middle East over the long run."
Spain’s prime minister has called for calm and cooperation as the country’s first coalition government since the 1930s prepares for office. The plea by Pedro Sánchez follows a tumultuous and extraordinarily bad-tempered week of political argument that presages another fraught legislature. The prime minister has spent the past few days putting together a cabinet made up of ministers from his own Spanish Socialist Workers’ party and its new partners, the far-left, anti-austerity Unidas Podemos alliance.
On Sunday afternoon, Sánchez spoke of the need for “social, territorial and generational dialogue”, adding that Spain had grown tired of political deadlock, splits and squabbling. ...
Sánchez last Tuesday secured the backing of congress to form his new government by the narrowest of margins, winning 167 votes to 165, with 18 abstentions. The coalition’s path to victory was far from easy – or polite. The two investiture debates began with the leader of the conservative People’s party (PP) calling Sánchez a sociopath.
It was at least in keeping with the epithets Pablo Casado has hurled at Sánchez in the past, which include traitor, squatter, villain, catastrophe, hostage and compulsive liar. Casado warmed to his theme still further on Tuesday, when he accused the Socialist leader of being an egotistical “extremist” who had left the country’s future in the hands of “terrorists and coup-mongers” from Catalonia and the Basque country.
Sánchez, meanwhile, branded his rightwing opponents a “coalition of the apocalypse” and sore losers to boot. ...
Bonnie Field, professor of global studies at Bentley University in Massachusetts, said that although “very heated debate” had long been a feature of contemporary Spanish politics, “the tone of this week’s investiture debate was the most corrosive, aggressive and divisive of all investiture debates” since Spain’s return to democracy after 1977.
The EU will be unashamedly “political” and block the City of London’s access to European markets if Boris Johnson tries to exempt the UK from its laws.
Croatia’s prime minister, Andrej Plenkovic, whose country is taking over the presidency of the EU, made the bloc’s intentions clear after the prime minister insisted the UK would not be aligned to the bloc’s regulations.
Asked whether the EU would use its power to switch off the City’s ability to serve European clients to gain leverage in the coming negotiations with Britain, Plenkovic said: “I wouldn’t go into the vocabulary of weapons but what I have learned in international and European negotiations [is] that all arguments and considerations are treated as political.”
A major issue in the EU-UK negotiations over the future relationship concerns the extent to which the British government wants to diverge from the bloc’s rules in various sectors of the economy. The outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said this week that it would not be appropriate for the UK to be a “rule-taker” in the field of financial services after Brexit.
The European commission president, however, warned of the economic costs of seeking a loose relationship with the EU. Ursula von der Leyen was also speaking in Zagreb following a meeting with Johnson in Downing Street. “We have to find a good balance between divergence and being close to the single market,” she said. “There is a difference in being a member state and not. And there are trade-offs between regulatory divergence on one side and access to the single market. This room now has to be explored in the coming negotiations. In June we will take stock of the progress.”
The European commission will make a unilateral decision before the summer on whether it recognises British regulations and supervisory bodies as being sufficiently robust for its financial services sector to continue to work for EU-based clients.
John Bolton will be blocked from testifying at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the president has indicated, despite the former national security adviser insisting he would do so if he received a subpoena.
Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Friday night he would “love everybody to testify”, including Bolton, secretary of state Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
But he went on to say “there are things that you can’t do from the standpoint of executive privilege”.
“Especially a national security adviser,” Trump added. “You can’t have him explaining all of your statements about national security concerning Russia, China and North Korea, everything. You just can’t do that.”
Asked if that meant he would invoke executive privilege to prevent Bolton from testifying, Trump said: “I think you have to for the sake of the office.”
A Win for Telecom': House Overwhelmingly Passes 5G Bill That Bars Consideration of Industry Nationalization
The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed three bills aimed at upgrading the U.S. telecommunications grid to 5G—including one resolution barring the consideration of nationalizing the industry.
"This legislation looks to be a handout to big telecom, securing a rollout for a technology the industry has long been pushing, and which we do not yet fully understand in terms of potential risks," journalist Walker Bragman told Common Dreams. "The bill seems to be written in a way that provides assurances to the industry against future government encroachment as well as the possibility of future subsidies."
H.R. 2881, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020, contains a provision limiting the scope of that strategy by disallowing nationalization. "The Strategy shall not include a recommendation or a proposal to nationalize 5th or future generations wireless communications systems or infrastructure," the bill's Section 4, subsection 1 reads.
Introduced by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), the bill calls for the administration to develop a strategy for 5G implementation across the country. Companion legislation in the Senate was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
The legislation passed the House in a vote of 413-3, with 14 members abstaining.
The only nay votes were independent Justin Amash and Republicans Clay Higgins and Thomas Massie.
Six Democrats did not vote: Tulsi Gabbard, Ron Kind, John Lewis, Donald McEachin, Jerry Nadler, and José E. Serrano.
Every other House Democrat voted for this legislation.
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) January 10, 2020
As 2020 Race Heats Up Ahead of Primaries and Caucuses, Sanders Surrogate Argues Biden 'Has Repeatedly Betrayed Black Voters'
Among the signals that the Democratic presidential race is heating up in the final few weeks before the first round of caucuses and primaries, a leader in Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign on Sunday published an op-ed detailing former Vice President Joe Biden's record on racial issues and encouraging black voters to support Sanders.
In an op-ed for The State—a newspaper based in South Carolina, which will hold the nation's fourth nominating contest on Feb. 29—Sanders 2020 co-chair Nina Turner, an African American woman, wrote:
Will our community side with former Vice President Joe Biden, who has repeatedly betrayed black voters to side with Republican lawmakers and undermine our progress? Or will we stand with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a movement that has been fighting for racial and economic justice since the civil rights era?
This critical choice is illustrated by the key differences between Biden and Sanders—which began at the beginning of their respective careers.
Turner highlighted moments from each man's political career to establish a contrast between them. She pointed to Biden's votes and advocacy for "bills designed to prevent black students from accessing white schools" compared with Sanders organizing civil rights protests as a college student in Chicago.
Recalling the 1991 hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court justice, when Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, Turner wrote that "Biden facilitated the public degradation of Anita Hill, an esteemed professor already victimized by a powerful man."
Hello somebody! @ninaturner brings the receipts on Biden vs Bernie and the African American community saying Biden “repeatedly betrayed black voters to side with Republican lawmakers and undermine our progress.”https://t.co/XV8Xx8yzYA
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) January 12, 2020
The op-ed also noted Biden and Sanders' positions on so-called "welfare reform" in the 1990s as well as "tough on crime" legislation and economic policies, including 2005 bankruptcy legislation that Biden backed. "And today, "Turner wrote, "the differences between Biden and Sanders remain stark."
As Turner explained, Biden "opposes Democratic efforts to legalize marijuana" while Sanders supports not only legalization but also criminal justice reform to address institutional racism; Biden opposes transitioning to a Medicare for All healthcare system, for which Sanders has advocated for years; and Biden "has refused to support Sanders' bill to make public colleges and universities tuition free and cancel all student debt."
"By supporting a racial justice champion like Sanders—and his popular progressive agenda—black Americans will forge a multiracial, multigenerational working-class alliance that will generate the high turnout necessary to beat President Donald Trump," she concluded. "In standing with Sanders over Biden, we will declare that we are not going backward—we are going forward into a future of empowerment and equality for all."
Heading into the Iowa caucus, a Super PAC backing Joe Biden is spending big on TV ads in the state, giving him a boost over his fellow Democratic presidential frontrunners. Unite the Country PAC, which was launched in October by longtime advisers to the former vice president and allies of former President Barack Obama, has spent $2.3 million on TV ads in support of Biden in Iowa, according to recent disclosures.
In recent years, political campaigns have devoted more of their resources to digital advertising and email distribution, but they continue to spend big on TV ads. For candidates like Biden, whose campaign had been struggling with fundraising in the fall, Super PACs can play a key role in helping reach people on the airwaves.
Biden had disavowed the support of Super PACs early in his campaign, but walked that position back just before Unite the Country launched in October. The timing of the launch comes with an additional benefit: The PAC will be able to keep its donors under wraps until just three days before the February 3 Iowa caucus. Under Federal Election Commission rules, the Super PAC’s first disclosure is due on January 31. The schedule gives Biden more of a chance to escape scrutiny of who exactly is bundling for the PAC — a list likely to include more major industry players, far and away from the working-class voters for whom Biden has cast himself as a hero. Asked about the date the group was required to file its next disclosure, a spokesperson for the PAC said it followed the FEC’s reporting schedule. The Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
As Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign continues to flounder, his Super PAC, United We Win, has spent $250,000 on TV advertising on his behalf. Other campaigns have made massive investments in TV ads in Iowa. Both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have spent around $3.9 million on TV ads in the state so far. Andrew Yang has spent $2.5 million, Biden has spent $1.8 million, and Elizabeth Warren has spent $1.6 million. Billionaire Tom Steyer has spent $9 million in Iowa and $116.5 million overall, and it’s paying off: According to a Fox News poll released this week, Steyer is polling ahead of Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg in South Carolina, where he’s spent $8.3 million on TV ads, and ahead of Warren in Nevada, where he’s spent $8.7 million. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, has spent $153.1 million on TV ads so far.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is suspending his presidential campaign, he announced in an email to supporters on Monday. Booker said multiple factors had contributed to his conclusion that he had no chance to win the Democratic nomination.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory,” Booker wrote. “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.”
Booker is the first candidate to leave the race who specifically cited the impending impeachment trial as an issue. In recent weeks, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held back the articles of impeachment from the Senate, delaying the start of the trial, it has become apparent that the senators in the Democratic race would be handicapped by the need to attend the proceedings in Washington during the crucial final days of campaigning before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.
Bernie Sanders has the slight edge in a tight race in Iowa, according to the state’s most accurate pollster.
Sanders leads the way with 20% support of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers in a new poll conducted by the well-respected Ann Selzer for the Des Moines Register and CNN. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is right behind him at 17%, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 16% and former Vice President Joe Biden is at 15% in the survey.
The poll comes just weeks ahead of Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses, the official start of the 2020 campaign and a key moment for candidates as they try to lock down the nomination. And it shows a close four-way contest where all four candidates have a real shot at winning the influential contest.
Sanders: 20% (+5)
Warren: 17% (+1)
Buttigieg: 16% (-9)
Biden: 15% (-)
Klobuchar: 6% (-)
Yang: 5% (+2)
Booker: 3% (-)
Steyer: 2% (-1)
Gabbard: 2% (-1)
Bloomberg: 1% (-1)
Not sure: 11% (+6)
No other candidate polled above 0%. https://t.co/zI54dRncgk
— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) January 10, 2020
These are good numbers for Sanders — he’s the only one who’s shown any growth in support since Selzer’s last poll in November. Buttigieg led in that survey with 25%, followed by Warren at 16% and Biden and Sanders at 15% apiece. These latest numbers also aren’t good for Buttigieg, who’s slipped nine points since November in Selzer’s poll.
Bernie Sanders had a curt response for Donald Trump on Sunday, after the president noted the Vermont senator’s strong showing in the Democratic primary race and asked: “So what does this all mean?”
“It means you’re going to lose,” Sanders tweeted back. ...
It means you’re going to lose. https://t.co/CVBKoKq8DT
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 12, 2020
Speaking to the Guardian this weekend, Republican strategist turned Trump critic Rick Wilson said Sanders was the GOP’s “dream opponent”.
Sanders, Wilson said, was “the easiest person in the world to turn into the comic opera villain Republicans love to hate, the Castro sympathiser, the socialist, the Marxist, the guy who wants to put the aristos in the tumbril as they cart them off to the guillotine”. ...
Sanders and his supporters show little sign of such concern. On Saturday, at slightly greater length, the senator tweeted: “Recently, our campaign has been the target of attacks from Trump and the Republican party – because they are catching on that our campaign is THE campaign that can and will defeat them.”
Realclearpolitics.com also runs polling averages matching Democrats with Trump in notional general elections. On Sunday, it gave Sanders victory by 2.6 points, 47.8% to 45.2%.
Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge funder, has claimed picking a nominee to face Donald Trump in November is “more about judgment than experience”. Steyer this week became the sixth qualifier for the seventh Democratic presidential debate, in Des Moines on Tuesday, after he met polling and donor-based marks set by the Democratic National Committee.
He is way down the field in Iowa, the first state to vote, but polls in South Carolina and Nevada, where he has spent heavily on ads that depict him as an “outsider” ready to take on Trump, put him over the top. ...
Steyer’s success has prompted pointed remarks from analysts and other candidates. Warren said recently she did not “believe that elections ought to be for sale”. Others have pointed to an all-white debate lineup in the absence of Booker, the only African American left in the race, and what that says for a party committed to recognising diversity.
Asked what qualified him to seek the White House, Steyer told CNN’s State of the Union: “I did business for over 30 years working and traveling around the world, meeting with governments, talking to the heads of huge corporations, and understanding actually what drives America’s business around the world and our relationships with other countries, and what makes that trade and relationship succeed.”
Climate pollution in the US is up under Donald Trump and threatens to undermine international efforts to stall the crisis, especially if he wins re-election this year and secures a second term in the White House. While US climate emissions fell 2.1% in 2019, they rose significantly in 2018, according to estimates from the economic analysis firm Rhodium Group. On net, emissions are slightly higher than in the beginning of 2017, when Trump’s administration began enacting dozens of environment rollbacks aimed at helping the oil and gas industry.
Trump is still working to further weaken bedrock standards. This week he proposed to allow major projects like pipelines and highways to bypass reviews of how they will contribute to global warming. The draft rule is unlikely to become final before the November election, but it is yet another reason industries weighing climate choices might delay significant action.
“What they have done is created confusion within the business community and the environmental world as to what are going to be the standards,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under the Republican president George W Bush. “Essentially every regulation the agency promulgates gets a lawsuit that goes with it, almost inevitably … that’s the only good thing you can say about it.” ...
Andrew Light, a climate negotiator for President Barack Obama’s state department, said the world is taking note of those efforts, but if Trump is re-elected “you are going to see a lot of people who are worried anew about what the US can do.” Americans choosing Trump would send the signal that they don’t care about the climate, Light said.
Australian firefighters were battling hellish conditions through the night into early Saturday, as three massive bushfires merged to create the long-feared "mega-blaze" spanning more than 2,400 square miles — about half the size of Connecticut — and straddling the border of two federal states. ...
The ferocious blaze — more than three times bigger than any fire ever recorded in California, according to NPR — was formed when three separate fires south of the Snowy Mountains connected into an enormous inferno that has unleashed treacherous wind and heat conditions.
The fires forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes across southeast Australia Friday as crisis caused by the vicious blazes continued to escalate. While seasonal fires are a regular occurrence in Australia, the current infernos, raging amid record-high temperatures and a three-year drought, have created a crisis unprecedented in scope, killing at least 26 people and more than a billion animals, and destroying nearly 3,000 houses.
Sydney Protest: Thousands of climate change activists have descended on Sydney’s CBD, protesting the federal government’s perceived inaction during the bushfire crisis. https://t.co/PpAvGax75p #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/ShSh68vuZg
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 10, 2020
Scott Morrison flags bushfires royal commission and says Coalition could bolster emissions reduction
Scott Morrison has indicated the government could bolster its carbon emission reduction efforts as he flagged a royal commission into Australia’s horror bushfire season and warned of a “new normal” that will require a greater role for the commonwealth. ...
Facing pressure to do more on climate change, Morrison said the government could “evolve” its policies, including emission reduction targets that are pegged to 26-28% of 2005 levels by 2030. While insisting the Coalition was on track to “meet and beat” the targets, he said the government would look to improve its performance.
When pressed on whether this could mean a change in the government’s 2030 targets, Morrison said the “challenging task” required a balanced approach. “In meeting and beating those targets, we will always be taking up the opportunities of measures that enable us to achieve lower emissions, but lower emissions at the same time as we stay true to the policy I took to the last election,” Morrison said. ...
Morrison, who is attempting to balance the political differences in his party room and in electorates held by the Coalition, insisted the government would not be willing to jeopardise jobs or the economy and would not adopt policies that would put up electricity prices or impose a “carbon tax”.
“We’ll reduce our emissions further without a carbon tax, without putting up prices, and without shutting down traditional industries upon which regional Australians depend.”
He acknowledged there was an “array” of views within the Coalition about the importance of climate change after commentary from conservative MPs who have downplayed the role of the warming climate in the bushfire season, instead focusing on arson and hazard reduction.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Leadbelly - The Gallows Pole
Leadbelly - Where Did you Sleep Last Night
Leadbelly - House of the Rising Sun
Leadbelly - Im Leaving On The Morning Train
Leadbelly - Cotton Fields
Leadbelly - There's A Man Going Round Taking Names
Lead Belly - Let it Shine on Me
Leadbelly - Goodnight Irene
Lead Belly - Midnight Special