The Evening Blues - 1-16-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues piano player and singer Georgia Tom Dorsey. Enjoy!
Georgia Tom & Scrapper Blackwell - Mississippi Bottom Blues
“[E]xperience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
-- Thomas Jefferson
News and Opinion
For the time being, President Trump has toned down his threat to declare a national emergency to pay for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. ... While Trump’s announcement is welcome news to anyone concerned with human rights and rational immigration policy, it’s important to remember that our 45th commander in chief can’t be trusted. As long as the president’s lips move, there’s a good chance he’s lying. ...
The problem, however, isn’t just that we have a mendacious crypto-fascist in the White House who looks to other crypto-fascists for counsel and succor. The problem is that the National Emergencies Act (NEA), passed in 1976 and which Trump would invoke to get his way, makes it easy for any president to declare emergencies. Trump’s threat to deploy extraordinary powers to counter a fake crisis on our southern boundary should spark a clarion call to reexamine, repeal and replace the NEA. The NEA was designed to place congressional checks and balances on the emergency authority of the president, and to restore the separation of power between Congress and the executive branch. The act may have been well-intentioned as a post-Watergate reform, but in practice it has been a dismal failure.
Historically speaking, there is nothing new in Trump’s emergency posturing. Prior to the adoption of the NEA, American presidents issued scores of emergency orders, dating back to George Washington’s 1794 proclamation. ... Apart from the Supreme Court’s decision in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer (1952), which invalidated Truman’s takeover bid, federal courts have been reluctant to overturn presidential emergency declarations.
By the early 1970s, Congress had enacted some 470 statutes, delegating extraordinary powers to the president in times of crisis on issues ranging from public health, natural disasters and land management to national defense and security. A 1934 law still on the books even allows the president to shut down or take control of “any facility or station for wire communication” (arguably, the internet in the digital era) upon his proclamation “that there exists a state or threat of war … or other national emergency.” As Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, writes in The Atlantic, the NEA was passed to “rein in this proliferation.”
Problematically, the act doesn’t define what constitutes an emergency. “The president,” Goitein explains, “still has complete discretion to issue an emergency declaration—but he must specify in the declaration which [statutory] powers he intends to use, issue public updates if he decides to invoke additional powers, and report to Congress on the government’s emergency-related expenditures every six months. The state of emergency expires after a year unless the president renews it, and the Senate and the House must meet every six months while the emergency is in effect ‘to consider a vote’ on termination.” ... Goitein also notes that “during the 40 years the law has been in place, Congress has not met even once, let alone every six months, to vote on whether to end them.” ... Worse still is the prospect that after pressing the emergency button for the border wall, Trump’s appetite for even more outrageous initiatives will expand exponentially until he destroys our democracy piece by piece, one phony national emergency at a time.
A new, updated data set is now available on a psychological phenomenon that has been labeled “Trump Anxiety Disorder” or “Trump Hypersensitive Unexplained Disorder,” and it says that the phenomenon only got worse in 2018. The disorder is described as a specific type of anxiety in which symptoms “were specific to the election of Trump and the resultant unpredictable sociopolitical climate,” and according to the 2018 surveys Americans are feeling significantly more stressed by the future of their country and the current political environment than they were last year. Pacific Standard reports as follows:
Overeating. Headaches. Fainting. Irregular heartbeat. Chronic neck pain. Depression. Irritable bowel syndrome. Tightness in the chest. Shortness of breath. Teeth grinding. Stomach ulcer. Indigestion. Shingles. Eye twitching. Nausea. Irritability. High blood sugar. Tinnitus. Reduced immunity. Racing pulse. Shaking limbs. Hair loss. Acid reflux. Deteriorating vision. Stroke. Heart attack. It was a veritable organ recital.
Two years later, the physiological effects of the Trump administration aren’t going away. A growing body of research has tracked the detrimental impacts of Trump-related stress on broad segments of the American population, from young adults to women, to racial and LGBT communities.
... Trump is clearly not a Russian asset, he’s a facilitator of America’s permanent unelected government just like his predecessors, and indeed as far as actual policies and administration behavior goes he’s not that much different from Barack Obama and George W Bush. Hell, for all his demagogic anti-immigrant speech Trump hasn’t even caught up to Obama’s peak ICE deportation years. If the mass media were in the business of reporting facts, people would be no more worried about this administration than they were about the previous ones, because when it comes to his administration’s actual behavior, he’s just as reliable an upholder of the establishment-friendly status quo as his predecessors.
— Moon of Alabama (@MoonofA) January 15, 2019
At least 15 children have died in Syria because of a lack of medical care and inadequate living conditions for displaced people amid freezing temperatures, the UN has said, warning that more deaths are likely to follow.
Eight babies in the Rukban camp on the Jordanian border had died from hypothermia in the last month, a statement from the UN children’s fund said on Tuesday. A further seven children, mostly under one year old, had died from the cold in recent weeks as their families fled the battle for Hajin, one of the last areas held by Islamic State in eastern Syria.
“Extreme cold and the lack of medical care, for mothers before and during birth and for new infants, have exacerbated already dire conditions for children and their families,” said Geert Cappelaere, Unicef’s regional director. “The lives of babies continue to be cut short by health conditions that are preventable or treatable. There are no excuses for this in the 21st century. This tragic man-made loss of life must end now.”
The freezing winter weather has piled pressure on the already inadequate infrastructure for the estimated 6 million Syrians who have been displaced within the country’s borders over the last eight years of civil war, and for the estimated 4 million living in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. At least 22,000 refugees in Lebanon have lost tents and belongings in recent storms and snowfall that have flooded hundreds of informal camps. Forecasts indicate the cold snap is set to worsen, bringing more snow, strong winds and plunging temperatures.
U.S. President Trump wants U.S. troops to leave northeast Syria. His National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to sabotage that move. Trump came up with idea to hand northeast Syria to Turkey, but soon was told that Turkey would fight the Kurdish YPK/PKK who the U.S. armed and used as proxy force against the Islamic State. Turkey has no interest in fighting the Islamic State or in occupying Raqqa and other Arabic ethnic cities along the Euphrates. Its only interest is to prevent the formation of an armed Kurdish entity that could threaten its soft southern underbelly. It thus came up with the idea of a "security zone" in Syria that it would occupy to keep the Kurds away from its borders.
But that border strip is exactly where the major Kurdish settlements are. Ayn al-Arab, in Kurdish 'Kobane', and many other cities along the border all have largely Kurdish populations. These would certainly fight against a Turkish occupation. Turkey also wants to control the Manbij area west of the Euphrates.
Russia will not allow Turkish control of more Syrian land:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday the Syrian regime must take control of the country's north, after calls from the United States to set up a Turkish-controlled "security zone" in the area.
"We are convinced that the best and only solution is the transfer of these territories under the control of the Syrian government, and of Syrian security forces and administrative structures," Lavrov told reporters.
“Syria affirms that any attempt to target its unity will be considered as a clear aggression and an occupation of its territories as well as a support and protection for the international terrorism by Turkey,” [an official source at Foreign and Expatriates Ministry] said.
Turkey moved enough troops to its border to launch an invasion but the risk for its economy is high. There are local elections in March and the Turkish President Erdogan does not want to upset them by jumping into a quagmire. Erdogan will soon visit Russia again and discuss the issue with President Putin. Most likely Erdogan will be convinced that Syrian government control over the Kurdish areas, and Russian guarantees for a mostly quiet border, are a better solution than a costly Turkish occupation of a hostile population.
Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot this weekend acknowledged for the first time that Israel had indeed provided weaponry to Syrian rebel groups in the Golan Heights during the country’s seven-year civil war.
Until Sunday, Israel would say officially only that it had given humanitarian aid to Syrian opposition groups across the border, while denying or refusing to comment on reports that it had supplied them with arms as well.
In an interview in the British Sunday Times, before ending his tenure as chief of staff this week, Eisenkot said that Israel had indeed provided light weapons to the rebel groups along the border, saying it was “for self-defense.” ...
As the outgoing army chief conducts departing interviews with Israeli and international outlets, more and more previously classified information about the IDF’s fight against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria has emerged.
In his media appearances, Eisenkot acknowledged that the IDF carried out hundreds of raids in Syria — in some interviews, the number given is 200, in others its 400 — and dropped 2,000 bombs on Iranian targets in 2018 alone.
Here’s the dire warning National Security Advisor John Bolton brought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan. 6: “We have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons.”
I have found zero evidence to support Bolton’s claim. It is unclear who “we” means, but it certainly does not include the American intelligence community. They have found exactly the opposite. ...
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats certainly does not agree with Bolton. He testified to the Senate last year that Iran “wants to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” which expressly forbids Iran from ever having nuclear weapons. He said that the accord “has also enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly by fostering improved access to Iranian nuclear facilities.” That is, we have increased our already formidable ability to detect any Iran violations. The International Atomic Energy Agency concludes, and U.S. intelligence agencies agree, that Iran remains in strict compliance with the deal that shrank and then largely froze its nuclear complex.
In his 2017 statement, “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” Coats was crystal clear on the issue of intent: “We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” That is, Bolton has no basis for his statement. “We” — the U.S. intelligence agencies—do not believe that Iran is committed to building nuclear weapons.
Nor is this a new judgement, one that Bolton might have somehow missed in the press of his duties. Paul Kerr, in his comprehensive 2018 report for the Congressional Research Service, finds: “Since at least 2007, the U.S. intelligence community has issued unclassified assessments that Iran has not decided whether to develop nuclear weapons. ... A survey of Bolton’s former colleagues by ProPublica concluded that he skews intelligence, that he “resists input that doesn’t fit his biases and retaliates against people he disagrees with.” In short, we have a national security advisor whose temperament and tendencies nearly exactly mirror those of the president — an exceptionally dangerous situation.
Long-standing US efforts to impose regime change in Venezuela may be coming to a head with a possible opposition bid to unseat President Maduro, who was recently reelected to a second term, and who US officials say is a dictator with no claim to power.
The US has been urging opposition leader Juan Guaido to declare himself “interim president,” and President Trump is said to be considering recognizing Guaido as the “legitimate” president of Venezuela to try to advance the cause of regime change.
Guaido has suggested he could make himself interim president for the sake of holding new elections. His allies are in the process of trying to get the Venezuelan military on board for this, promising protection to military members who back the regime change.
Theresa May has pledged to face down a vote of no confidence in her government, after her Brexit deal was shot down by MPs in the heaviest parliamentary defeat of the democratic era. On a day of extraordinary drama at Westminster, the House of Commons delivered a devastating verdict on the prime minister’s deal, voting against it by 432 to 202.
The scale of defeat, by a majority of 230, was greater than any seen in the past century, with ardent Brexiters such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson walking through a packed division lobby cheek-by-jowl alongside passionate remainers.
As noisy protesters from both sides of the Brexit divide massed outside in Parliament Square, the prime minister immediately rose to accept the verdict of MPs – saying she would welcome a vote of no confidence in the government. “The house has spoken and the government will listen,” she said. “It is clear that the house does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support.”
In a raucous Commons, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, confirmed he had tabled a formal motion of confidence in the government, backed by other opposition leaders, which MPs would vote on on Wednesday. Corbyn told MPs: “This is a catastrophic defeat. The house has delivered its verdict on her deal. Delay and denial has reached the end of the line.”
The Brexit-backing European Research Group (ERG) and the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) later announced that they would support the prime minister, making it unlikely Labour could succeed in triggering a general election.
A former associate of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán testified Tuesday that the drug kingpin paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, a claim met with audible gasps inside the federal courtroom in Brooklyn.
Alex Cifuentes, who described himself on the witness stand as Chapo’s personal secretary in the late 2000s, made the allegation when asked by Chapo’s lawyer about his involvement in efforts to corrupt high-ranking Mexican government officials. The questions during the cross examination focused on past statements made by Cifuentes to U.S. law enforcement.
According to Chapo’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, Cifuentes initially told U.S. authorities that Peña Nieto requested $250 million. In a subsequent meeting, in April 2016, Cifuentes claimed that a woman identified as Comadre Maria delivered a bribe of $100 million to Peña Nieto on behalf of Chapo in October 2012. ...
Cifuentes offered no evidence to back up his claims, but he was in a position to know cartel secrets. The 50-year-old Colombian lived with Chapo in the mountains of Sinaloa for several years starting in 2007, and Cifuentes said he became so close to the kingpin he was both Chapo’s “right-hand man and his left-hand man.”
President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Justice wants marijuana to stay illegal at the federal level. But he doesn’t have a plan for how to make states abide by that law. “We should either have a federal law that prohibits marijuana everywhere — which I would support, myself, because I think it’s a mistake to back off on marijuana,” William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon in response to questions about his future role as attorney general. “I think current situation is untenable. It's almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law."
But Barr also said he wouldn’t try to stop marijuana’s success in the states that have already legalized the drug in the face of current federal law. If the government wants to allow states to go their own way on marijuana, Barr added the feds should go about that the “right way,” although he didn’t clarify what that means.
When asked by Sen. Kamala Harris if he would use federal resources to go after companies working within their state’s legal marijuana industry, Barr said that he wouldn’t. But he added that the U.S. “can’t stay in the current situation,” where a dichotomy exists between state and federal law. “Can an existing administration and an attorney general start cutting deals with states and say well, ‘We’re not going to apply the law?’” Barr asked, using gun control as an example.
With President Donald Trump's attorney general pick William Barr set to begin his first confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, progressive advocacy groups and legal experts are calling on senators to stop Barr from becoming the nation's top law enforcement official due to his long record of "abusing civil rights and liberties," supporting mass incarceration, and attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. ...
Formerly the Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush, Barr was nominated in December to succeed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired just hours after the November midterm elections. And while Sessions was fiercely opposed by civil rights groups as he carried out Trump's racist agenda during his tenure as head of the Justice Department, Vanita Gupta—president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—argued that Barr's record and extremist views raise the alarming prospect that, if confirmed, he could be "Jeff Sessions 2.0."
"As attorney general, Barr endorsed a draconian approach to law enforcement that helped build the system of mass incarceration we have today, which continues to decimate poor black and brown communities," Gupta wrote in a piece for Cafe on Monday. "Yet, he denied evidence of racial disparities, telling a reporter, 'Our system is fair and does not treat people differently.' It was untrue then and it is still untrue now." "Barr later backed a 1992 Justice Department report, The Case for More Incarceration, as the prison population in the United States soared," Gupta added. "The report irresponsibly stated, 'We are incarcerating too few criminals, and the public is suffering as a result.' He also co-chaired a commission in the mid-1990s that recommended abolishing parole."
With this history in mind, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law issued a statement ahead of Tuesday's hearing imploring senators to probe Barr's past actions and force him to "acknowledge the devastating impact that his policies have had on African Americans and other communities of color."
An Alabama judge ruled the state’s law protecting municipal Confederate monuments is void, so the city of Birmingham can keep a Confederate statue in a local park covered up, as directed by the former mayor in 2017 after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Noting that many in Birmingham are “repulsed by the monument,” Jefferson County Circuit Court judge Michael Graffeo said the state of Alabama overstepped its authority when it sued to get the soldier monument uncovered, according to court filings.
After the violent Unite the Right rally in August 2017 and national division over the messages sent by Confederate monuments, Birmingham’s then-mayor directed city employees to cover a Confederate soldier monument with plywood and tarp, blocking it from view. The state’s attorney general quickly sued, since Alabama state law penalizes cities with at least $25,000 in fines if they remove or sully monuments. Graffeo also ruled Monday night that the state’s law protecting municipal Confederate monuments is void and without any legal authority.
"Just as the state could not force any particular citizen to post a pro-Confederacy sign in his or her front lawn, so too can the state not commandeer the city's property for the state's preferred message," Graffeo wrote in the ruling.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office will appeal the ruling, according to AL.com.
Shifting strategy, the White House invited rank-and-file House Democrats to lunch Tuesday with President Donald Trump, bypassing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team in an effort to get centrist and freshman lawmakers on board with funding Trump’s long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Pelosi approved of lawmakers attending the meeting, telling her team that the group can see what she and others have been dealing with in trying to negotiate with Trump to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 25th day with no resolution in sight. ...
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said he attended a meeting of fellow centrist Democrats on Monday night and that a handful of members, most of whom represent districts Trump carried in 2016, were invited. ... Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, another centrist Democrat, said the White House is “grasping at straws.”
“The majority of Americans understand exactly what is happening here,” he said. “The president could open the government tomorrow and he refuses to. We’re very conscious of the fact that this is a bully and when you allow him to succeed by holding the government hostage you can expect to see that play run again.”
Following outrage last week after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) shut out progressives from some of the chamber's most powerful committees, news that freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are headed to the Financial Services Committee was met with applause.
Congratulating the quartet, Social Security Works called it "scary news for Wall Street and great news for the rest of us!"
The committee's oversight responsibilities include U.S. banks and lenders, the economy, financial aid to industries other than transportation, insurance, international finance, public and private housing, securities and exchanges, and urban development.
Confirming her appointment late Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she was "looking forward to digging into the student loan crisis, examining for-profit prisons/ICE detention, and exploring the development of public and postal banking."
Steny Hoyer Deploys 'Republican-Lite Talking Points' to Oppose 70% Tax Rate on Ultra-Rich That Most Americans Want
Despite the popularity of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) proposal to raise the marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans to 70 percent—House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) revealed that he has no plans to serve the public interest by pushing for higher taxes for the rich. Speaking to the news outlet Cheddar, Hoyer scoffed and smirked when asked on Tuesday whether he would support the proposal—even as he undermined his own point, admitting that a 70 percent tax rate for the rich has in fact existed in the U.S. in the past.
Despite his stated view that "we need to get the deficit down" and "pay for our priorities and our needs," Hoyer claimed that asking Americans making more than $10 million per year—as Ocasio-Cortez proposed—"is not reasonable to attain either politically or frankly, I think, from a policy standpoint."
Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid compared Hoyer's statement to "mealy-mouthed Republican-lite talking points in place of a vision of Democratic governance."
Hoyer did not elaborate on why he believes the proposal to be unfeasible—an incongruous statement for an idea that 59 percent of Americans supported in a recent poll by The Hill and HarrisX. Though critics have attempted to portray a 70 percent top marginal tax rate as "radical," even a large number of Republican respondents—45 percent—approved of the proposal, along with 71 percent of Democrats. Political scientist Corey Robin noted that Hoyer's comments should serve as a reminder that the Democratic Party has a ways to go in terms of pushing for bold proposals that a majority of Americans support.
In the first major strike since the U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow to public-sector unions last June, more than 30,000 Los Angeles public school teachers took to the rainy streets Monday to launch the LA teachers union’s first labor stoppage in 30 years. It’s the seventh major teacher protest over the last year, but unlike their counterparts in Arizona, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the Los Angeles teachers are not striking against austere Republican state legislatures. Rather, they are striking against the policies of their Democratic-controlled school district, city, and state, and are framing their efforts as a fight for the future of public education. ...
Negotiations between the district and the teachers have dragged slowly since April 2017 and collapsed last month over demands to reduce class size and hire more teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians. United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl says it’s not unusual for class size to exceed 45 students in middle and high school, and for there to be 25 to 35 students per elementary school class. But perhaps more notably, the teachers are also striking against school privatization. In December, the union called for a moratorium on the opening of new charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Los Angeles has 224 charter schools, more than any other city in the country. On Tuesday, the union plans to protest outside the offices of the California Charter Schools Association, the politically powerful lobbying arm of charters in the state.
The centrality of opposition to charter school growth in the LA protests has put many Democrats in an uncomfortable position. The Democratic Party has long straddled an awkward political balancing act between the charter school and labor movements, which both fund Democratic candidates but war with each other. Today, with people across the country focused on the LA teachers, most Democratic lawmakers have stayed silent, and even those who have weighed in have mostly avoided commenting on the union’s opposition to charter school growth. ... While voicing support for teachers and public education is relatively safe territory for any politician, weighing in on the teachers’ opposition to charter schools comes with the possibility of upsetting powerful donors or the growing number of families who enroll their children in the schools. (Charters educate roughly 3.2 million students across the country, and most are concentrated in liberal cities.)
Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, released a statement in support of the teachers on Monday afternoon. ... The DNC’s statement did not mention charters or privatization.
The Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand is running for president.
At a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday evening, Gillibrand shared that she was officially joining the race for the White House. Announcing that she was assembling an exploratory committee and would soon be on her way to Iowa, she told Colbert she was running as a mom as she outlined key parts of her platform:
“I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I’d fight for my own, which is why I believe healthcare should be a right, not a privilege; it’s why I believe we should have better public schools for our kids because it shouldn’t matter what block you grew up on; and I believe that anybody who wants to work hard enough should be able to get whatever job training they need to earn their way into the middle class.” ...
Gillibrand was a member of the centrist and fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition while in the House of Representatives. Her positions became more liberal after she was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton in New York when Clinton became Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
Gillibrand backs a Medicare-for-all bill championed by Democratic party liberals.
With US 'Drilling Towards Disaster,' Report Warns Anything Less Than Urgent Green New Deal Will Be 'Too Little, Too Late'
As the scientific community warns the world must dramatically and rapidly slash carbon emissions to avert global climate disaster, the United States is expanding fossil fuel extraction far more quickly than any other nation and is on pace to account for 60 percent of the global growth in oil and gas production between now and 2030. These are just two alarming findings from a report (pdf) published Wednesday by Oil Change International (OCI), which warns that—unless radical action on the scale of a Green New Deal is taken—U.S. fossil fuel production could single-handedly imperil the world's ability to adequately confront the climate crisis before it's too late.
"Our findings present an urgent and existential emergency for lawmakers in the United States at all levels of government. The oil and gas industry is expanding further and faster in the United States than in any other country at precisely the time when we must begin rapidly decarbonizing to prevent runaway climate disaster," said Kelly Trout, senior research analyst at OCI and co-author of the report, which was produced in collaboration with 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and over a dozen other progressive organizations. "This report should be a wake-up call for elected officials who consider themselves to be climate leaders," Trout added. "We need a complete overhaul of our economy with a Green New Deal, and that overhaul must include standing up to the fossil fuel industry in order to take us off this path of devastation for our climate and communities. Anything less than a full, swift, and just managed decline of fossil fuel production is too little, too late."
Titled "Drilling Towards Disaster," OCI's report estimates that the continued expansion of massive fossil fuel extraction and pipeline projects throughout the U.S. under President Donald Trump has put the nation on track to account for 60 percent of global growth in fossil fuel production between 2019 and 2030—the year by which United Nations experts say the world must cut carbon emissions in half to avert planetary catastrophe. According to OCI's research, the U.S. is expanding oil and gas extraction "at least four times more than any other country."
Additionally, the new analysis finds that the United States is on pace to release 120 billion tons of new carbon pollution—"equivalent to the lifetime CO2 emissions of nearly 1,000 coal-fired power plants"—into the atmosphere between 2018 and 2050. "If not curtailed, U.S. oil and gas expansion will impede the rest of the world's ability to manage a climate-safe, equitable decline of oil and gas production," the report warns. OCI's report comes just days after new figures from the independent research firm Rhodium Group showed that carbon emissions surged by 3.4 percent in 2018, thanks in part to the Trump Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ongoing efforts to roll back regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
A worthwhile article, though not very cheery. Here's a taste:
I’m standing atop Rush Hill on Alaska's remote St. Paul Island. While only 665 feet high, it provides a 360-degree view of this tundra-covered, 13-mile-long, seven-mile-wide part of the Pribilof Islands. While the hood of my rain jacket flaps in the cold wind, I gaze in wonder at the silvery waters of the Bering Sea. The ever-present wind whips the surface into a chaos of whitecaps, scudding mist, and foam. The ancient cinder cone I’m perched on reminds me that St. Paul, was, oh so long ago, one of the last places woolly mammoths could be found in North America. I’m here doing research for my book The End of Ice. And that, in turn, brings me back to the new reality in these far northern waters: as cold as they still are, human-caused climate disruption is warming them enough to threaten a possible collapse of the food web that sustains this island’s Unangan, its Aleut inhabitants, also known as “the people of the seal.” Given how deeply their culture is tied to a subsistence lifestyle coupled with the new reality that the numbers of fur seals, seabirds, and other marine life they hunt or fish are dwindling, how could this crisis not be affecting them?
While on St. Paul, I spoke with many tribal elders who told me stories about fewer fish and sea birds, harsher storms and warming temperatures, but what struck me most deeply were their accounts of plummeting fur seal populations. Seal mothers, they said, had to swim so much farther to find food for their pups that the babies were starving to death before they could make it back. And the plight of those dramatically declining fur seals could well become the plight of the Unangan themselves, which in the decades to come, as climate turbulence increases, could very well become the plight of all of us.
Just before flying to St. Paul, I met with Bruce Wright in Anchorage, Alaska. He’s a senior scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, has worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and was a section chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for 11 years. "We're not going to stop this train wreck," he assures me grimly. "We are not even trying to slow down the production of CO2 [carbon dioxide], and there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere.” While describing the warming, ever more acidic waters around Alaska and the harm being caused to the marine food web, he recalled a moment approximately 250 million years ago when the oceans underwent similar changes and the planet experienced mass extinction events “driven by ocean acidity. The Permian mass extinction where 90% of the species were wiped out, that is what we are looking at now."
A year after a mudslide swept through a fire-devastated California town, killing 21 people, residents of hundreds of homes in burn areas were told to pack up and leave as a Pacific storm threatened potential catastrophe. In Riverside county east of Los Angeles, mandatory evacuations were ordered Monday for a dozen areas around the Holy fire, which swept through an enormous swath of the Cleveland national forest and surrounding areas last August.
“People in these zones MUST GO NOW. Rainstorms carry the potential for dangerous debris flows that can send mud, boulders and trees crashing down hillsides” with little or no warning, a county statement said. The evacuation was later downgraded to voluntary but authorities urged people to stay alert because of continuing rain forecasts.
In Santa Barbara county on the central coast, evacuation orders were set to take effect at 10am Tuesday for areas hit by the Sherpa, Whittier and Thomas fires. “Gather family members, pets, and essential items,” a county statement said. A debris flow could also make roads impassable and strand people near the evacuation areas, especially in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, the county warned.
After a devastating fire that burned and destabilized foothills, Montecito was hit by a powerful storm on 9 January 2018, that sent water, mud and boulders sluicing down creeks and canyons. Twenty-three people died and more than 100 homes were destroyed. Weather forecasters have predicted a series of storms that could continue to bring rain and snow into the middle of the week. Flash flood watches were issued by the National Weather Service for burn areas in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, which could see as much as an inch of rain an hour from Tuesday afternoon into the evening.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
2018 Blues Hall of Fame Inductee - Georgia Tom Dorsey
Georgia Tom Dorsey (Thomas A. Dorsey) - Levee Bound Blues
Kansas City Kitty & Georgia Tom - How Can You Have the Blues
Tampa Red & Georgia Tom - Dead Cat on the Line
Georgia Tom & Hannah May - What's That I Smell
Georgia Tom Dorsey - Come on Mama
Georgia Tom & Tampa Red - Lonesome Man Blues
Georgia Tom & the Harum Scarums - Where Did You Stay Last Night
Big Bill Broonzy & Georgia Tom - Saturday Night Rub
Georgia Tom & Scrapper Blackwell - Maybe It's The Blues
Tampa Red & Georgia - Tom Things 'Bout Coming My Way No. 2
Georgia Tom Dorsey - Rollin' Mill Stomp