The Evening Blues - 1-15-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Detroit blues singer and songwriter Sir Mack Rice. Enjoy!
Sir Mack Rice - Baby I'm Coming Home
"John Bolton was by far the most dangerous man we had in the entire eight years of the Bush Administration. Hiring him as the president's top national security advisor is an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war. This must be stopped at all costs."
Richard W. Painter (Former chief White House ethics lawyer during the Bush administration)
News and Opinion
In 2003, John Bolton got the war he wanted with Iraq. As an influential, high-profile, hawkish member of the Bush administration, Bolton put pressure on intelligence analysts, threatened international officials, and told barefaced lies about weapons of mass destruction. He has never regretted his support for the illegal and catastrophic invasion of Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Now, he wants a war with Iran. So say State Department and Pentagon officials, according to the Wall Street Journal, who were “rattled” by his request to the Pentagon “to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year.” The New York Times also reported that “senior Pentagon officials are voicing deepening fears” that Bolton “could precipitate a conflict with Iran.”
Should we be surprised? In March 2015, Bolton, then a private citizen, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times headlined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” In July 2017, just eight months prior to joining the Trump administration, Bolton told a gathering of the cultish Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq that “the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran” and that “before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran.” Despite leaks to the press over the past few days from “rattled” but unnamed officials at the State Department and the Pentagon, Bolton is far from the only person close to Trump who is pushing a belligerent line on Iran. He has plenty of allies in the administration. As Vox reported on Monday, “Bolton has staffed up the NSC with people who share his views. Last week, he hired Richard Goldberg, a noted Iran hawk, to run the administration’s pressure campaign against the country.”
So how do these hawks plan to get their war with Tehran? Bolton, in particular, seems keen on two lines of attack. The first relates to the nuclear issue. “We have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons,” the national security adviser told fellow Iran-hater Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem earlier this month. There is, however, not a shred of evidence for Bolton’s claim; in fact, the U.S. intelligence community has flatly and repeatedly rejected it. “We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons,” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in his 2017 “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.”
The second line of attack relates to the activities of Tehran-backed groups in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. According to the New York Times, Bolton’s request for military options against Iran “came after Iranian-backed militants fired three mortars or rockets into an empty lot on the grounds of the United States Embassy in Baghdad in September.” To be clear: No one was killed or injured in this attack. Also, how far does this retaliatory logic extend? The United States has been accused of supporting extremist, anti-government groups in Iran, as well as Israeli strikes on Iranian positions in Syria; does this mean that the Iranians have a right to launch retaliatory air strikes on U.S. soil? Do the Cubans have the right to bomb Miami, where a number of U.S.-supported anti-Castro groups reside and operate? Logic, however, has never been Bolton’s strong suit.
Guess who's a lot like John Bolton in many awful ways?
A memo sent to Hillary Clinton that WikiLeaks made public in 2016 has not gotten the attention it deserves. Now is the time. After President Donald Trump tweeted that he was pulling American troops out of Syria, Clinton joined his vociferous critics who want more war in Syria. ... The memo shows the kind of advice Clinton was getting as secretary of state to plunge the U.S. deeper into the Syrian war. It takes us back to 2012 and the early phase of the conflict. At that point, it was largely an internal affair, although Saudi arms shipments were playing a greater and greater role in bolstering rebel forces. But once the President Barack Obama eventually decided in favor of intervention, under pressure from Clinton, the conflict was quickly internationalized as thousands of holy warriors flooded in from as far away as western China.
The 1,200-word memo written by James P. Rubin, a senior diplomat in Bill Clinton’s State Department, to then-Secretary of State Clinton, which Clinton twice requested be printed out, begins with the subject of Iran, an important patron of Syria. The memo dismisses any notion that nuclear talks will stop Iran “from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program—the capability to enrich uranium.” If it does get the bomb, it goes on, Israel will suffer a strategic setback since it will no longer be able to “respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.” Denied the ability to bomb at will, Israel might leave off secondary targets and strike at the main enemy instead. Consequently, the memo argues that the U.S. should topple the Assad regime so as to weaken Iran and allay the fears of Israel, which has long regarded the Islamic republic as its primary enemy. As the memo puts it:
“Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted.”
This document, making the case to arm Syrian rebels, may have been largely overlooked because of confusion about its dates, which appear to be inaccurate. ... The memo was sent to her shortly before Clinton joined forces with then-CIA Director David Petraeus to push for an aggressive program of rebel military aid.
Needless to say, the memo’s skepticism about negotiating with Iran proved to be unwarranted since Iran eventually agreed to shut down its nuclear program. The memo, which Clinton twice asked to be printed out for her, underscores the conviction that Israeli security trumps all other considerations even if it means setting fire to a region that’s been burned over more than once. But the memo illustrates much else besides: a recklessness, lack of realism and an almost mystical belief that everything will fall neatly into place once the United States flexes its muscle. Overthrowing Assad would be nothing less than “transformative,” the memo says. ... Needless to say, that’s not how things turned out. The memo’s assumption that the U.S. could neatly and cleanly decapitate the Syrian government without having to worry about broader consequences was little short of deluded. The notion that ordinary Syrians would fall to their knees in gratitude was ludicrous while Clinton’s disregard for the intricacies of Syrian politics was astonishing. ...
The cost of the Clinton-backed policy in Syria has been staggering. As many as 560,000 people have died, and half the population has been displaced, while the World Bank has estimated total war damage at $226 billion, roughly six years’ income for every Syrian man, woman, and child. A cockeyed memo thus helped unleash a real-life catastrophe that refuses to go away. It’s a nightmare from which Trump is struggling to escape by trying to withdraw U.S. troops in his confused and deluded way. And it’s a nightmare that warmongers from arch-neocon John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, to “liberal” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to Hillary Clinton are determined to keep going.
Worth a full read:
In December, President Donald Trump said that he planned to withdraw the US troops from Syria, which number between 2,000 and 4,000. Trump’s claim was widely condemned in corporate media, demonstrating the commentariat’s shared belief in American benevolence toward other peoples, in Washington’s alleged right and duty to decide other countries’ fates, and in the forever war the US supposedly has to wage in the Middle East.
One consistent theme in the coverage was the view that US troops need to stay in Syria because ISIS still exists. Another is that US forces must remain there because the governments of Russia, Syria and Iran want the US to leave. A New York Times editorial (12/19/18) said it would be “dangerous” for the US to withdraw from Syria. “No one wants American troops deployed in a war zone longer than necessary,” the editors claimed. The paper endorsed the perspective that “the job” of fighting ISIS “is not yet done,” going on to write that, "an American withdrawal would also be a gift to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader…. Another beneficiary is Iran, which has also expanded its regional footprint."
According to this view, the US should get out of Syria once a US presence there is no longer “necessary,” but it’s “necessary” until some unspecified benchmark for annihilating ISIS has been reached, and never mind the costs to Syria: A US-led bombing ostensibly aimed at ISIS leveled Raqqa, a major Syrian city, killing and injuring civilians en masse in what former Defense Secretary James Mattis called a “war of annihilation.” It’s also apparently “necessary” to stay until Syria has a government that is not allied with Russia or Iran, even though in practice this pursuit has contradicted the goal the editors just outlined, eliminating ISIS: US efforts to help bring down the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as the US invasion of Iraq, helped create the conditions for the emergence of ISIS in Syria.
What the authors are suggesting is that the US should maintain an illegal presence in Syria until the Syrian government has been overthrown and replaced with one that has partnerships to which the US assents. Because all evidence suggests that Russia will fight to keep its Syrian partner in power, in practical terms the authors are arguing that it’s “necessary” for the US to occupy Syria forever, or until the US fights World War III with Russia.
NATO said Tuesday the U.S. remains committed to trans-Atlantic security, despite a New York Times report claiming Trump told aides repeatedly last year that he wanted to exit the alliance.
Citing unnamed senior administration officials, the NYT report said that while Trump had publicly walked back threats to leave the 70-year-old organization, the U.S. could still withdraw because member countries continue to lag behind Trump’s increased-payment demands.
However, NATO, which was set up after World War II to counter the Soviet threat, insists Trump is committed to the group.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to trans-Atlantic security,” a NATO official told VICE News. “The U.S. has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments. At the same time, European allies and Canada are stepping up with new investments in major capabilities, contributions to operations and missions, and four consecutive years of rising defense spending.”
Worth a gander if the details of this lunacy still interest you. After the text I quote there is a long list of Trump actions that adversely affect Russia and perhaps put the lie to the idea that Trump is acting in Russia/Putin's interest ...
Slate's Fred Kaplan writes:
The Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday that President Donald Trump’s confiscation of the translator’s notes from a one-on-one conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 was “unusual.” This is incorrect. It was unprecedented. There is nothing like it in the annals of presidential history.
Not really. Other U.S. leaders held long private meetings with their counterparts without notes being taken.
When Richard Nixon met Leonid Brezhnev he did not even bring his own interpreter:
George Szamuely @GeorgeSzamuely - 20:57 utc - 14 Jan 2019
Nixon would meet Brezhnev alone, the only other person in attendance being Viktor Sukhodrev, the Soviet interpreter. "Our first meeting in the Oval Office was private, except for Viktor Sukhodrev, who, as in 1972, acted as translator." Nixon on Brezhnev's 1973 visit. RN, p.878 . Therefore, the only "notes" that would exist would be those of the Soviet interpreter. Not sure he would have time to make notes and translate and, even if he did so, whether those notes would be housed in any US archive.
Nixon's White House office was bugged. There are probably tape recordings of the talks. There might also be recordings of the Trump-Putin talks.
At their 1986 Reykjavik summit Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev talked without their notetakers:
Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev began their second day of talks with a private meeting that had been scheduled to last 15 minutes but ran for nearly 70 minutes, with only interpreters present. They met in a small room in the Soviet Mission, with the Soviet leader seated in a small armchair and Mr. Reagan on a sofa.
In the afternoon, they meet alone for a little over 20 minutes and then again for 90 minutes. All told, the two leaders have spent 4 hours and 51 minutes alone, except for interpreters, over the two days here.
The archives of the Reykjavik talks do not include any notes of those private talks.
But, who knows, maybe Nixon and Reagan where also on the Russian payroll, just like Donald Trump is today.
At least 70,000 workers from 45 factories—including tens of thousands of auto parts and assembly workers at companies that supply GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler—have launched a wildcat strike in the US-Mexico border town of Matamoros. The strike is a rebellion against both the “maquiladora” manufacturing corporations and the pro-company trade unions. Over 1 million workers endure low wages and sweatshop conditions at the 3,000 “maquiladora” factories that line the Mexican side of the border and account for 65 percent of Mexican exports.
The strike is a powerful sign of the growing mood of insurgency among workers across the world. It takes place alongside a strike of 30,000 public school teachers in Los Angeles, growing “yellow vest” demonstrations against inequality in France, and widespread anger among US and European autoworkers over massive planned job cuts by GM and Ford.
The workers decided to strike on Saturday at a mass general assembly meeting where the 2,000 in attendance repudiated the hated Union of Laborers and Industrial Workers of the Maquiladora Industry (SJOIIM) and agreed to elect representatives from their factories to direct their struggle free from the control of the union. After the meeting, strikers visited each plant to call out their coworkers and hang red and black banners on closed plants—the traditional Mexican symbol of a factory occupation.
In defiance of orders by the union to stay on the job until Wednesday, groups of workers fanned out across the city to block the entrances to the shuttered plants and to stand guard both day and night. ... Workers are demanding a 20 percent wage increase, a bonus of 30,000 pesos (USD$1,500) and a return to the 40-hour workweek. Workers initially demanded a 100 percent wage increase, but this was reduced by the union when SJOIIM President Juan Villafuerte agreed to officially sanction the strike. The SJOIIM’s decision to give official backing is a maneuver by the union to control and suffocate the strike. Workers are already posting screenshots online of text messages from union representatives threatening them with mass firings if they do not return to work immediately.
“Public Education Is Not Your Plaything Billionaires”: L.A. Teachers Strike Against Privatization & Underfunding
Thousands of teachers decked in red and black braved torrential rain in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, carrying giant umbrellas and signs about class sizes as they demanded more resources for their students – and a halt to what they see as the encroaching privatization of their profession. It was the first day of a strike that has largely halted education in the United States’ second-largest school district.
“We’re here because we want to stand up for our students,” Maria Ortiz, a teacher at Evergreen elementary school, said amid a downpour, ducking for cover at a bus stop. “It’s not about pay. We want smaller class sizes. A fully funded nurse. Psychologists,” she said. While money goes toward an increasing number of charter schools, many public school teachers feel it is at their expense. “We seem to be fighting for things that are basic in education,” Ortiz said, “and that is a sad situation, all around.”
The Los Angeles unified school district serves more than 640,000 students – more than twice the number enrolled in West Virginia, where teachers went on strike a year ago over wages they said were not enough to cover the rising cost of living. In LA the district has already offered a 6% increase in salary. But that proposed raise, teachers say, is not the only goal that made them call the first strike since 1989. ...
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district’s 30,000 teachers, describes the school district’s last offer as “insulting”. Salary increases are tied to healthcare cuts, it notes, and class sizes could be capped as high as 39 at elementary schools and 46 thereafter – if not higher in practice. Teachers, who overwhelmingly voted to strike last August, want the school district to spend some of its $1.8bn surplus to reduce those class sizes, to subject students and teachers to fewer standardized tests, and to check the growth of charter schools.
Trump's AG nominee is a hell of a guy:
A president facing a major sandal, just as the highest-profile trial is about to begin, pardons the indicted or convicted officials around him to effectively stop the investigation that’s closing in on his own illegal conduct. Trump soon? We’ll see. But this actually describes what President George H.W. Bush did in 1992.
The Iran/Contra scandal revealed, among other things, that the Reagan/Bush White House had secretly sold missiles to Iran in exchange for hostages held in Lebanon, using the proceeds to fund right-wing forces fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government in violation of US law. On Christmas Eve 1992, just as the indicted former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was about to face trial, Bush pardoned him and five others, including former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams and and former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane. The New York Times (12/25/92) reported this as “Bush Pardons 6 in Iran Affair, Averting a Weinberger Trial; Prosecutor Assails ‘Cover-Up.'”
The attorney general for Bush who approved the pardons, William Barr, is now being nominated for the same position by Trump. Is this background relevant? Though current news columns are rife with speculation that Trump might likewise protect himself by pardoning his indicted or convicted associates, the dominant US news wire service doesn’t seem to think so. In “Barr as Attorney General: Old Job, Very Different Washington” (1/14/19), Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker made no mention whatsoever of the Iran/Contra pardons.
Set to a short film by Spike Lee, The Killers take on Trump's wall, tear-gassing of asylum-seekers, mass incarceration, and gun violence
A federal judge in New York ruled that President Donald Trump’s administration must abandon its plans to include a controversial citizenship question as part of the 2020 census.
The question — ”Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — has not been asked as part of the census since 1950. But in March of last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the question would be added back into the census. More than two dozen cities and states sued.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman determined that the decision to include the question about citizenship violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which ensures that federal agencies consider “all important aspects of a problem” before establishing new regulations. “In arriving at a decision as he did, Secretary Ross violated the law,” Furman’s ruling said. “And in doing so with respect to the census — ’one of the most critical constitutional functions our Federal Government performs’ and a ‘mainstay of our democracy’ — Secretary Ross violated the public trust.”
Census Bureau research indicates that the inclusion of the question could lead to an inaccurate headcount because U.S. households with noncitizens may be wary to participate in the 2020 census under the current anti-immigration rhetoric espoused by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The government shutdown is into its fourth week with no end in sight. ... A wide range of interests across the economic spectrum are jeopardized. But not all interests are suffering equally: Wealthier and more powerful interest groups have been granted preference by the government.
Over Christmas, the shutdown threatened to stop the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, from issuing flood insurance certificates. According to federal law, FEMA must provide flood insurance certifications before banks may issue federally backed mortgages to prospective homeowners living in federally designated floodplains — even in areas that FEMA has determined should not be built on due to high risk of flooding. The National Flood Insurance Program of 1968 ensures that FEMA has the ability to issue and pay out claims for the insurance.
Without the certificates, roughly 40,000 closings a month would be at risk, resulting in millions in lost revenue for banks and mortgage companies. So it came as no surprise when interest groups successfully lobbied a bipartisan congressional cohort to temporarily reauthorize the NFIP through May on the eve of the shutdown. The stopgap bill was signed into law by Trump on December 21, hours before the federal government shuttered. ... But that wasn’t the end of it. Despite the reauthorization, FEMA believed that the shutdown meant that the agency could not, by law, provide these certifications. The reason? A law called the Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits government agencies from entering into contracts or spending money if the projects aren’t funded.
Craig Fugate, the former administrator for the agency from May 19, 2009 to January 20, 2017, disagrees with FEMA’s take. The NFIP is solvent, Fugate explained, subject to a different funding source and funding code, and generates its own revenue. That allows the NFIP to continue operations in the face of a shutdown. ... Nevertheless, FEMA announced on December 26 that the agency was not going to issue the certifications, citing the shutdown and anti-deficiency. The reaction from interest groups was as swift as it was predictable.
The National Association of Realtors, the largest lobbying group for the industry, made its displeasure over the possibility of lost revenue and closed home sales known. ... Once the rage of the business sector — and Congress — was made clear to the White House, the administration ordered FEMA to resume issuing the certificates. ... Looking at what happened to the NFIP, said Fugate, gives a lot of insight into the priorities of the government when it comes to the shutdown. Federal workers in the Transportation Security Administration, the Secret Service, and other agencies are expected to work without pay. Public lands are being destroyed by garbage and misuse in the absence of rangers. Those effects haven’t spurred the president or Congress to act. “As long as the only people feeling pain are federal employees, nobody really cares about shutdowns,” said Fugate.
Justice Democrats — the progressive group founded after the 2016 election to reform the Democratic Party that helped lift Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to victory — has announced its first primary target in 2020: Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, whom they’re calling a “fake Democrat.”
Justice Democrats announced Friday that it is raising funds to support a primary challenger against Cuellar, a 63-year-old who votes with Republicans 69 percent of the time and has received campaign money and an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. He has been a member of Congress since 2005.
“Despite representing one of the safest Democratic districts in the country, Rep. Cuellar of Texas' 28th district has been a consistent ally of the Republican Party and Donald Trump,” Justice Democrats said in an announcement message. “That's why we're now leading a grassroots candidate recruitment effort to find a primary challenger against Cuellar, and replace him with the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ayanna Pressley.”
Cuellar is an especially vulnerable target because he accepts an enormous amount of cash from the oil and gas industry. In the 2018 campaign cycle, Cuellar accepted $165,000 from the oil and gas industry — more than any other industry that financed his campaign.
The answer to the question “Who’s afraid of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?” is establishment Democrats in Congress, apparently. A recent Politico report says that fellow House members are worried she will “unleash a tweet at them”, and are “afraid” of her stinging public criticisms of Democrats.
Their fear is not irrational. Ocasio-Cortez has been using Twitter masterfully, as a way of directing the national political conversation. The Politico article compares her technique to that of Donald Trump, and this isn’t completely wrong: the president has long used his Twitter account to keep the media talking about whatever he wants them to be talking about. Democrats have long failed to keep pace – they end up reacting to whatever Trump says, rather than setting the agenda themselves. In Ocasio-Cortez we see (at last!) what it might look like for lefties to retake control – to begin talking about what we want to talk about rather than whatever nonsense Trump is spewing this week.
It’s incredible: Ocasio-Cortez’s remark about 70% marginal tax rates on the rich was delivered offhand in an interview. It immediately sparked a national political debate about taxes. ... If Ocasio-Cortez hadn’t made the remark, there would be no discussion. But she did, and so now there’s a discussion! Now Nobel prize winners are publicly pointing out that high taxes are good, and moderate Democrats are being pressured to endorse “radical” ideas. As the New York Times reported, she is pushing the Democrats to the left whether they like it or not. She has realized what Republicans have known for a long time: if people are talking about your agenda, even if they’re talking about how bad and silly it is, you are making that agenda more plausible. ...
Conservatives cannot stop talking about Ocasio-Cortez. Sean Hannity literally repeats her agenda on live television and then thinks he’s the one winning! She drives them up the wall, and it’s fantastic. But there’s one person who never mentions her: Donald Trump. Strange, isn’t it? Trump mocks everyone on Twitter. But he has never once sent a tweet about her, even though they both have major presences on the platform. I suspect I know exactly why: he realizes that she’s better at this than him. He may be able to make jokes at the expense of Elizabeth Warren, but Ocasio-Cortez is better at online repartee than almost anyone else.
It’s a framing that’s been everywhere over the past two years: the Resistance v Donald Trump. By some definitions that “resistance” even includes people like Mitt Romney and George W Bush. By almost all definitions it encompasses mainstream Democrats, such as the likely presidential hopefuls Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand.
In their rhetoric and policy advocacy, this trio has been steadily moving to the left to keep pace with a leftward-moving Democratic party. Booker, Harris and Gillibrand know that voters demand action and are more supportive than ever of Medicare for All and universal childcare.
Gillibrand, long considered a moderate, has even gone as far as to endorse abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) and, along with Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill. Harris has also backed universal healthcare and free college tuition for most Americans.
But outward appearances aren’t everything. Booker, Harris and Gillibrand have been making a very different pitch of late – on Wall Street. According to CNBC, all three potential candidates have been reaching out to financial executives lately, including Blackstone’s Jonathan Gray, Robert Wolf from 32 Advisors and the Centerbridge Partners founder Mark Gallogly. from Gallogly and other powerful executives.
When CNBC’s story about Gillibrand personally working the phones to woo Wall Street executives came out, her team responded defensively, noting her support for financial regulation and promising that if she did run she would take “no corporate Pac money”. But what’s most telling isn’t that Gillibrand and others want Wall Street’s money, it’s that they want the blessings of financial CEOs. Even if she doesn’t take their contributions, she’s signaling that she’s just playing politics with populist rhetoric. That will allow capitalists to focus their attention on candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have shown a real willingness to abandon the traditional coziness of the Democratic party with the finance, insurance and real estate industries.
Gillibrand and others are behaving perfectly rationally. The last presidential election cost $6.6bn – advertising, staff and conventions are expensive. But even more important than that, they know that while leftwing stances might help win Democratic primaries, the path of least resistance in the general election is capitulation to the big forces of capital that run this country. Those elites might allow some progressive tinkering on the margins, but nothing that challenges the inequities that keep them wealthy and their victims weak.
The Trump administration is expected to give BP and other big oil companies more power to self-regulate their offshore drilling operations, years after investigators found that lax regulatory oversight was one of the leading culprits behind the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the worst environmental catastrophe in US history.
The move to relax new rules that were put in place by the Obama administration after the BP disaster, which killed 11 workers, spewed 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and cost BP $65bn, comes as the White House is seeking to open offshore oil and gas drilling to the vast majority of US coastal waters, including in the Arctic.
The proposed revised rules, which most experts believe will be finalised despite heavy opposition from environmental groups, include a change that would allow oil companies to select third party companies to evaluate the safety of their equipment. Under previous rules, those entities had to be approved by the government agency that oversees offshore drilling, without any input from industry. A separate rule on oil production safety systems that has already been finalized would also strike requirements that were put in place after the BP disaster that forced companies to get independent verification of the safety measures and equipment they use on offshore platforms, as well as a rule that required professional engineers to certify the safety of drilling equipment for new wells.
Michael Bromwich, an attorney who in 2010 was selected by the Obama administration to revamp the offshore oil regulator after the BP spill, told the Guardian he believed the administration had essentially offered the industry a “wish list” of how it wanted the Obama-era rules to change. “A lot of the changes that were made to reduce the requirements were designed to get synchronized with [oil industry lobbyist] API,” he said. ...
The oil industry’s main lobbyist, the API, has argued in public filings that some of the Obama-era rules created an “unnecessary burden”, made drilling less safe, and posed a “significant financial threat” to the industry. Members of API include BP America, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell.
“We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming. “It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.”
“It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.”
Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon”. When Lister’s study was published in October, one expert called the findings “hyper-alarming”. The Puerto Rico work is one of just a handful of studies assessing this vital issue, but those that do exist are deeply worrying. Flying insect numbers in Germany’s natural reserves have plunged 75% in just 25 years. The virtual disappearance of birds in an Australian eucalyptus forest was blamed on a lack of insects caused by drought and heat. Lister and his colleague Andrés García also found that insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico had fallen 80% since the 1980s.
“We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet,” Lister said. “It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.”
China is growing plants on the moon, the country’s space agency announced Monday. Seeds carried by the Chang’e 4 probe sprouted buds, marking the first time any biological matter had been grown on Earth’s satellite.
The announcement is a significant milestone for space exploration, indicating that it may be possible for astronauts to grow their own supply of food on deep space missions to Mars and beyond.
The Chang’e 4 is carrying soil containing potato and cotton seeds, as well as yeast and fruit fly eggs. All are inside a self-contained biosphere, which scientists hope will show that an artificial, self-sustaining environment can thrive on the lunar surface.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sir Mack Rice - Mustang Sally
Sir Mack Rice - Gotta Have My Baby's Love
Mack Rice - My Baby
Sir Mack Rice - Love Sickness
Mack Rice - Love's A Mother Brother
Sir Mack Rice - It's All Right
Sir Mack Rice - Tina The Go Go Queen
Sir Mack Rice - Daddy's Home To Stay
Sir Mack Rice - Mini Skirt Minnie
Sir Mack Rice - You Can't Lose
Sir Mack Rice - Cadillac Assemby Line
Sir Mack Rice w/Detroit All Star Revue - Respect Yourself