The Evening Blues - 1-16-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Tennessee blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Sleepy John Estes. Enjoy!
Sleepy John Estes - Liquor Store Blues
"The universe consists of 5% protons, 5% neutrons, 5% electrons and 85% morons."
-- Frank Zappa
News and Opinion
The headline was too good. Sorry.
Donald Trump unveiled unusual, new campaign promises to a crowd of thousands of his fervent supporters at a Milwaukee campaign rally on Tuesday: better household appliances.
While Democratic presidential candidates sparred over climate change at their debate in Iowa, Trump offered a contrasting message in the vital swing state of Wisconsin by calling out the Department of Energy for tightening energy efficiency standards for dishwashers, refrigerators, lightbulbs and more.
The rally, held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panther Arena, took a strange turn to appliances, with Trump taking particular offense at household items that limit water usage. “Sinks, toilets, and showers – you don’t get any water,” he said.
He also railed into dishwashers and refrigerators, evoking nostalgia for more powerful machines.
“Remember the dishwasher? You’d press it, boom! There’d be, like, an explosion. Five minutes later you open it up, the steam pours out,” he said. Trump then criticized newer models, claiming women – just women – across the country have to now wash their dishes “10 times”.
“Anybody have a new dishwasher? I’m sorry for that,” he told the crowd, promising that under his presidency their “dishes will be beautiful”.
Trump's complaints about new dishwashers are nuts and suggest he's never used one in his life pic.twitter.com/D7E6R0TNsQ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 15, 2020
"You don't get any water!" -- POTUS transitions from complaining about dishwashers to complaining about sinks, toilets, and showers. He then starts bragging about his hair. pic.twitter.com/o4nHUBkGSc
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 15, 2020
The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction told Congress on Wednesday that U.S. officials have routinely lied to the public during the 18-year war by exaggerating progress reports and inflating statistics to create a false appearance of success.
"There's an odor of mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue . . . mendacity and hubris," John Sopko said in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "The problem is there is a disincentive, really, to tell the truth. We have created an incentive to almost require people to lie."
As an example, Sopko said U.S. officials have lied in the past about the number of Afghan children enrolled in schools - a key marker of progress touted by the Obama administration - even though they "knew the data was bad." He also said U.S. officials falsely claimed major gains in Afghan life expectancy that were statistically impossible to achieve.
In addition, Sopko criticized the Trump administration for classifying information that shows the war is going badly, including data on Afghan troop casualties and assessments of the Taliban's strength.
"When we talk about mendacity, when we talk about lying, it's not just lying about a particular program. It's lying by omissions," he said. "It turns out that everything that is bad news has been classified for the last few years." ...
The House Foreign Affairs Committee summoned Sopko to testify in response to a series of articles published last month in The Washington Post that revealed how senior U.S. officials did not tell the truth about the war, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the conflict had become unwinnable.
In addition to bankrupting Iraq by seizing the entirety of their oil revenue account, the Trump Administration is now also threatening to cut military aid to Iraq, if the Iraqi government formally asks the US to leave.
The US State Department and Pentagon have discussed the matter, with the State Department working on cutting all $250 million from the 2020 military aid budget already approved, and asking the budget office to cut $100 million from the 2021 request.
Progressive lawmakers on Tuesday welcomed the announcement by House Democratic leadership that the chamber will take up two measures later this month to rein in the White House march to war with Iran.
One of the efforts is Rep. Barbara Lee's (D-Calif.) proposal to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The other is Rep. Ro Khanna's legislation to bar Pentagon funding for "military force in or against Iran" without congressional approval. The pair of bills, said the Congressional Progressive Caucus, represents "our best chance to avoid future conflict."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House would take up the bills the week of January 27, a development advocacy group Win Without War called "huge" and Lee deemed a chance to "stop endless war."
For far too long, Congress has been missing in action on war and peace. It's time to reassert our Constitutional authority on the use of force, repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, and #StopEndlessWar! Thank you @SpeakerPelosi and @LeaderHoyer for bringing my bipartisan bill for a vote. https://t.co/PEOhkhJAtJ
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) January 14, 2020
"Leaving this outdated AUMF on the books, which has been used to justify the use of force throughout the world, is not only dangerous but irresponsible," Lee added in statement.
Nearly all of the top Democrats in Congress have criticized the process and strategy behind President Trump’s strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Saturday slamming the initiation of hostilities without consultation of Congress. ...
But the third-longest serving Congressional Democrat-one with a powerful position overseeing military spending-has so far remained silent on President Trump’s military actions.
Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) is the chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, which allocates funds for the military and contractors that work with and sell weapons to the Department of Defense. Visclosky has so far not issued a statement on Trump’s unauthorized assasination of Gen. Suleimani on his House website, on Twitter, or recently in the press. His House office also did not respond to Sludge’s request for comment on the matter.
Since 1989, Visclosky has received $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the defense industry, more than any other Democrat in Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Several of Viscolsky’s top defense industry donors could profit from increased military sales if tensions with Iran escalate.
On Monday, Trump retweeted a photoshopped image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a hijab and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer in a turban, superimposed on an Iranian flag with the caption “the corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham gave a prepared statement in an appearance on Fox News in which she doubled down on the provocation. “I think the president is making clear that the Democrats have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans,” she said. “I think the president was making the point that the Democrats seem to hate him so much that they’re willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans.” ...
In a fascistic speech last Thursday in Toledo, Ohio, Trump mocked the constitutional requirement that the president obtain congressional authorization for military intervention. He told his supporters that he could not give Congress advance notice of the attack on Suleimani because the Democrats would have leaked the information to the “fake news” media in order to thwart the strike and protect the Iranian leader. This branding of the Democrats as traitors goes hand in hand with Trump’s illegal invocation of a national emergency to build his border wall with Mexico, his deployment of troops to assist in the incarceration of immigrants in concentration camps, his talk of “civil war” in response to the impeachment inquiry, his repeated “jokes” about remaining in office past the constitutional two-term limit, and his efforts to build a far-right base among police, soldiers and immigration agents.
The character of the Democrats’ opposition, however, only enables Trump. Their response to his increasingly authoritarian and fascistic pronouncements is characterized by fecklessness and complicity. Not a single prominent Democrat, including the self-described “socialist” Bernie Sanders, has denounced the murder of Suleimani as a war crime and breach of US and international law, nor have the Democrats suggested making this crime or his other multiple attacks on democratic rights grounds for impeachment. The so-called “antiwar” resolution passed by the Democrats in the House is a toothless, nonbinding resolution that places no real restrictions on Trump’s war-making powers. It denounces Iran as a terrorist state and condemns Suleimani as the “lead architect” of Iran’s “destabilizing activities throughout the world.”
The impeachment crisis itself is the product of a bitter conflict within the ruling class over foreign policy, in which the Democrats are aligned with disaffected sections of the military, intelligence and foreign policy establishment, which consider Trump to be insufficiently aggressive in confronting Russia. ... The Democrats have centered their own denunciations of Trump on neo-McCarthyite allegations that Trump himself is an agent of Putin, a campaign that has been utilized to suppress free speech, censor the internet and persecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning for exposing US war crimes. On Sunday, Pelosi repeated this absurd allegation, declaring that “all roads lead to Putin,” and suggesting that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is an “accomplice.” Each of America’s major bourgeois parties is accusing the other of “treason.”
Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has warned that European soldiers in the Middle East could be in danger after the UK, France and Germany triggered a dispute mechanism in the nuclear agreement that could lead to the reimposition of international sanctions on the country.
Rouhani’s remarks on Wednesday were the first direct threat he has made against European powers as tensions have grown between Tehran and Washington since Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal more than 18 months ago.
“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Rouhani said in a televised address to his cabinet. He did not elaborate, though European soldiers are deployed alongside US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. France maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi and Britain has a base in Bahrain. ...
Speaking in Delhi on Wednesday, the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, struck a more upbeat note, arguing that the dispute-resolution mechanisms in the deal were intended to resolve issues such as these and that the agreement was “not dead”.
Hundreds of Hondurans have started walking and hitching rides from the city of San Pedro Sula, in an attempt to form the kind of migrant caravan that reached the US border in 2018.
But the prospects that they could reach the US appear remote: many people in the 2018 caravan applied for asylum, something that is now difficult or impossible thanks to Donald Trump’s crackdown on migration. Meanwhile, under pressure from the US, Mexico and Guatemala have tightened their own controls on undocumented migrants.
Some waved Honduran flags and shouted slogans against President Juan Orlando Hernández as they set out for the Guatemalan border on Wednesday morning. ...
Some migrants said they were aware the voyage would be tough, but said they would try anyway. “We aren’t living here, we’re just surviving,” said Elmer García, 26, a migrant from the town of Comayagua. “So it doesn’t make much difference if you die there or die here.”
After a day of routine commotion on Capitol Hill, the mood stiffened. The formal procession to deliver the House’s two articles of impeachment to the Senate had begun. A procession of newly appointed impeachment managers marched solemnly across the Capitol to deliver the impeachment articles against Donald Trump to the Senate. ...
The House clerk, Cheryl Johnson, carried a blue folder containing the articles. Accompanied by the sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, she led the group through Statuary Hall, where luminaries from the 50 states are honored, then under the vaulted dome of the rotunda that divides the Capitol and past the Ohio Clock, a looming mahogany timepiece that announces the entrance to the Senate’s stately chamber.
There the managers proceeded through the doors of the chambers, where the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and more than two dozen Democratic senators awaited the ceremonial delivery.
“Mr President, a message from the House of Representatives,” Johnson declared, announcing the resolution adopting the two articles and appointing the seven managers, who stood somberly in the corner of the chamber. McConnell, without much precedent and in accordance with the rules of impeachment, received the articles, and offered a series of resolutions that would shape the ensuing trial, due to begin “in earnest” next week.
Former diplomats and congressional Democrats have responded with fury to revelations that associates of Donald Trump’s lawyer may have carried out surveillance on the US ambassador to Ukraine.
There was also considerable anger at the silence of the state department after the House intelligence committee released WhatsApp messages on Tuesday evening between the Florida businessman Lev Parnas and a Trump donor, Robert Hyde – who both have links to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney and all-purpose fixer who has been a central figure in Trump’s impeachment.
In the texts, Hyde, who is a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, implies he was in touch with people in Ukraine who were monitoring the movements and communications of Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Kyiv who Trump ordered removed from her post in April. He also hinted he could arrange for Yovanovitch to be removed for the right price. ...
Eliot Engel, the Democratic chair of the House foreign affairs committee issued a statement saying: “This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Engel’s Senate counterpart, Bob Menendez put out a tweet demanding “immediate answers from the Trump [administration] on what they knew and what they’ve done since to ensure her safety.”
In a Facebook post, Hyde claimed the WhatsApp messages were a joke.
Trump Supporter Who Discussed Surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Has History of Stalking, Mental Health Issues
The man who relayed information about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s location to Rudy Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates was a known stalker with mental health issues. Newly released private WhatsApp messages between Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani’s, and Robert F. Hyde, a donor to President Donald Trump’s campaign and aspiring GOP lawmaker, reveal what appears to be an effort to surveil the former ambassador to Ukraine, whose ouster was sought by Giuliani as part of a plan to pressure the Ukrainian government into pursuing political investigations at the White House’s behest.
The messages, released Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee relating to its ongoing impeachment inquiry, show Hyde claiming to know Yovanovitch’s location and movements in Kyiv, while implying that he was in contact with local security services in Ukraine who could be paid to go after the ambassador. The startling messages show the extent to which the Giuliani associates were willing to at least entertain extreme tactics from a campaign donor who has courted controversy and even unsettled others, including fellow supporters of the president.
The Intercept obtained police records showing that Hyde violated a restraining order issued by a Washington, D.C., Superior Court judge at the request of a Republican consultant who says that Hyde stalked her and intimidated her family over the last year. In one of the reports, an officer disclosed that Connecticut police confiscated Hyde’s firearms in connection to his violation of the restraining order. Hyde was reported to authorities for “unsettling behavior” and trespassing at a church in Connecticut, according to a separate police report last summer. ...
Hyde publicized that he was placed in a psychiatric facility in Florida last May, following an incident at the Trump National Doral Miami resort. A report written by the Doral Police Department at the time notes that Hyde expressed fear for his life and told officers that he “was scared due to several painting workers and landscape working trying to do harm to him because they weren’t working.” Hyde posted about his facility stay in a now-deleted Instagram video. “I don’t know what that nine days was in that facility, and they wanted to keep me 10 and I finally got out, but here I am,” Hyde said in the video following his release. The caption for the video and the police report reference confinement under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows individuals showing signs of mental illness who could pose a danger to themselves or others to be involuntarily submitted to a mental health facility. ,,,
The WhatsApp messages between Hyde and Parnas reveal a new dimension to the continued focus of Giuliani’s focus on Yovanovitch. “She under heavy protection outside Kiev,” Hyde wrote to Parnas last March. In another batch of messages, Hyde claimed, “That address I sent you checks out. It’s next to the embassy.” Other Hyde messages conveyed an eerie level of knowledge about Yovanovitch’s activities: “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off. She’s next to the embassy. Not in the embassy. Private security. Been there since Thursday.”
Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, did not immediately respond to request from The Intercept. In a statement to the Washington Post, he said, “There is no evidence that Mr. Parnas participated, agreed, paid money or took any other steps in furtherance of Mr. Hyde’s proposals.”
Hyde also sent several cryptic messages that implied he knew of “security forces” in Ukraine who could be tapped for assistance. “They are willing to help if we/you would like a price. Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money …” Parnas responded, “Lol.”
Donald Trump has signed the first phase of a new trade agreement with China after two years of tension between the two superpowers that have rattled economies around the world.
Trump said: “Today, we are taking a momentous step towards a future of fair and reciprocal trade. Together we are righting the wrong of the past.”
“At long last Americans have a government that puts them first at the negotiating table,” he said. “This is the biggest deal anybody has ever seen.”
Trump and China’s chief trade negotiator, Liu He, signed the deal at a packed press conference, attended by Ivanka Trump, much of Trump’s cabinet, Henry Kissinger, and media and business leaders including Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman of Blackstone, and Ajay Banga, the president of Mastercard. The signing came hours after Democrats named the team that will prosecute Trump in an impeachment trial that starts early next week.
There’s a rampant homelessness crisis in large cities across the country, stoked by a lack of affordable housing units. But fear not — developers are constructing new apartments at a rapid clip this year. The catch: Up to 80% of those rental units to be completed this year will be in luxury buildings the average person likely can’t afford, according to data obtained by the Wall Street Journal from the real estate analytics firm RealPage. ...
A sizable portion of this year’s expected 371,000 new rental units will also come online in cities with deep poverty and inequality crises, like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., according to the data released Wednesday. In Dallas, nearly 21% of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, compared to a national average near 12%. In Los Angeles, where the homelessness population has swelled to 36,300 people, the poverty rate is 19%. In D.C., nearly 17% of the population is impoverished. Collectively, those cities will get nearly 60,000 new units.
It wasn’t immediately clear what percentage of those units would be reserved for low-income renters, if any. But the new units will represent a 50% increase from the number of units completed last year nationwide — and more new units will be built in 2020 than in any year since the ‘80s, according to the Journal. ...
Developers often argue that building a new apartment is prohibitively expensive, making luxury units the only real profitable option for them, according to the Journal. And ideally, developers say, building more units for wealthy tenants means they’ll move out of their smaller apartments, leaving them available to lower-income renters. An analysis out of the Joint Center For Housing Studies of Harvard University found this isn’t happening.
In response to what he described as “credible intelligence” of threats of violence at an upcoming gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency and will temporarily ban individuals from carrying firearms on Capitol grounds.
The governor said at a press conference Wednesday that authorities believe “armed militia groups plan to storm the Capitol” during the January 20 rally.
He also said that law enforcement had intercepted threats and “extremist rhetoric” similar to what was observed prior to the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here,” he said.
The decision to ban all weapons, including firearms, won’t sit well with the thousands of gun lovers who are expected to descend on Richmond to participate in what was billed as an open-carry affair and an opportunity to flex Second Amendment rights.
“No weapons will be allowed on Capitol grounds,” said Northam, a Democrat. “Everything from sticks and bats to chains and projectiles…. The list also includes firearms. It makes no sense to ban every other weapon but allow firearms when intelligence shows that armed militia groups plan to storm the Capitol.”
'CNN Is Truly a Terrible Influence on This Country': Democratic Debate Moderators Pilloried for Centrist Talking Points and Anti-Sanders Bias
Critics of the corporate media as well as supporters and staffers of Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign blasted the moderators of the CNN/Des Moines Register Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night for employing centrist talking points and demonstrating a bias against Sanders in how they framed questions. The debate, which ran over two hours, was moderated by the Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel and CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip. ...
As Common Dreams reported, the financial burden of deploying American forces was notably absent during first part of the debate—a lengthy discussion on foreign policy and war—but the moderators did ask candidates about the costs of implementing Medicare for All healthcare, as Sanders has proposed. That contrast, and the presentation of the healthcare questions, sparked swift condemnation from progressives.
Overall, a team of Rolling Stone writers called the debate moderators' questions "mystifyingly inane." In a piece titled "CNN Completely Botched the Democratic Presidential Debate," HuffPost's Zach Carter called them "awful." According to him, the debate on the whole was "tedious, interminable, frivolous... a fiasco of irrelevance held three weeks before the Iowa caucuses."
"Again and again, CNN anchors substituted centrist talking points for questions - and then followed up predictable responses with further centrist talking points, rarely illuminating any substantive disagreements between the candidates or problems with their policy positions," he wrote.
Carter pointed to examples such as when Phillip noted that Des Moines is an "insurance town" and asked Sanders what will happen to employees of private insurance companies if the country implements Medicare for All. She also asked Sanders, "How would you keep your plans from bankrupting the country?" ...
Jesus Christ I hate these biased questions from the moderators. "How would you keep your plan from bankrupting the country?" JUST ASK THE KOCH BROTHERS TO MODERATE NEXT TIME! #DemocraticDebate
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) January 15, 2020
Jeet Heer, a national affairs correspondent at The Nation, wrote in a piece titled "CNN Has It in for Bernie" early Wednesday that "the big loser of the night was the network that hosted the event. CNN was so consistently aligned against Bernie Sanders that it compromised its claim to journalistic neutrality."
"CNN's treatment of Sanders raises a major problem that he's going to have to confront going forward: Some major players in the mainstream media are clearly unafraid to cover him in a biased and one-sided manner," Heer concluded. "But this problem also has an upside: Sanders thrives under adversity, and he can use these examples of bias to fundraise and to mobilize his base. The Sanders campaign is a gamble, and one major uncertainty is whether his base is strong enough to overcome consistently negative media coverage."
What you just saw tonight IS rigging an election. But go on, CNN, Nancy Pelosi, and corporate dems, do keep telling us how Russia is the real boogie man trying to destroy our democracy. #CNNisTrash
— beth, purity test enthusiast (@bourgeoisalien) January 15, 2020
When Senator Elizabeth Warren walked up to Senator Bernie Sanders after Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, refused to shake his hand and exchanged only a few words with her rival 2020 presidential candidate, it seemed like the progressive wing of the Democratic party would sink into more infighting. But a day later, supporters of both candidates and neutral liberal figures were keen to find some kind of off-ramp.
The fear is that the longer the row goes between the two candidates, the higher the chances that neither of them will benefit and instead a larger pathway to the party’s nomination for the White House will open up for a more centrist candidate like the former vice-president Joe Biden or the former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“I think that what is most constructive is that progressives across this country unite in fighting against the corporate wing rather than fighting against each other,” said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the liberal political action committee Democracy for America. ...
Neither campaign has offered more information on what was said. Immediately after the debate, Sanders’ senior adviser Jeff Weaver told reporters that he did not know more about what was said but that the two senators remained friends. The exchange did not look friendly, though.
On Wednesday, two hashtags were trending on Twitter: #neverwarren and #warrenisasnake. ...
Chamberlain recalled that in 2004, just before the Iowa Democratic caucuses, the then Vermont governor, Howard Dean, and then House Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt, were in a heated feud. That paved a way for the then senator John Kerry to win the caucuses and eventually become the Democratic nominee. Kerry went on to lose the election to George W Bush, decisively.
Calling Bernie Sanders a 'Champion' for Immigrant Families, Make the Road Action Endorses Vermont Senator for President
Immigrant rights group Make the Road Action on Wednesday announced its first-ever presidential endorsement for Sen. Bernie Sanders' Democratic bid, saying the Vermont lawmaker's 2020 run "reminds us every day that progressive values and issue priorities are both the right thing to do and the right way to beat Trump."
"We can and we must fight for a country where members of our communities are free to stay, free to move, and free to thrive," said Make the Road co-executive director Javier H. Valdés in a statement. "And we are proud to fight alongside Bernie Sanders to realize that vision."
Make the Road Action is one of the nation's largest immigrant rights groups, with tens of thousands of members across the country and a particularly strong presence in Nevada, one of the early states in 2020 Democratic primary voting. The organization has members as well in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
In a statement, Sanders thanked the group for its support and pledged to continue to work toward positive change in the country's immigration system and beyond.
"I'm proud to have their support," said Sanders, "and I look forward to continuing to work with them to create a humane immigration system, to stand up for tenants' and workers' rights as we tackle corporate greed, and to stop the mass criminalization of Black and Brown people across this country."
"This is not what democracy looks like. This is the world Citizens United made."
Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen's Corporate Presidency Project, made that declaration Wednesday as his group released a pair of reports about the money that ultrarich individuals and corporations have poured into American politics since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on Jan. 21, 2010.
With its contentious 5-4 judgement, the high court effectively enabled corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money with the aim of influencing elections. Over the past decade, pro-democracy advocates have raised alarm about the consequences of the decision and called on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn it.
Oligarch Overload found that since the Supreme Court's ruling, "just 25 ultrarich individual political donors, including numerous billionaires, have poured nearly $1.4 billion into super PACs." Putting that figure into context, Public Citizen explained that "the political donations of these 25 people and their spouses amounted to nearly half of nearly $3 billion in total individual super PAC donations from 2010-2020."
The top 10 big spenders, as listed in the report, were Sheldon and Miriam Adelson ($292 million); Tom Steyer ($255 million); Michael Bloomberg ($155 million); Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein ($72 million); Fred Eychaner ($64 million); James and Marilyn Simons ($62 million); Donald Sussman ($57 million); Joe and Marlene Ricketts: ($46 million); Paul Singer ($45 million); and George Soros ($44 million). Both Steyer and Bloomberg are seeking the Democratic nomination for president. ...
Corporations United—authored by Rick Claypool, a research director for Public Citizen's president's office—addresses corporate spending on political elections. "Thanks to Citizens United, corporations can now channel as much money as they want into dark money groups that influence elections—over $1 billion and counting—so it's not possible to know exactly how much corporate election spending is occurring," the report explained.
"Nevertheless, FEC data from the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org) reveals that over 2,200 corporations have reported a total of $310 million in donations to over 500 political entities for the purpose of influencing elections," the report continued. "The top 20 corporate donors account for $118 million—more than a third—of the corporate donations reported to the FEC."
Only four of the report's top 20 corporate donors are publicly traded companies—three energy giants (Chevron, NextEra Energy, and Pinnacle West Capital) and RAI Services Co., part of the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc. Among both public and private political corporations, the greatest number (seven) are fossil fuel companies.
In addition to the money that goes directly from corporations to political entities, Public Citizen documented 30 corporate trade groups that don't disclose donors spending $226 million on influencing elections—which brought the total for corporate political spending to at least $539 million. As the report put it, "This is almost certainly an undercount."
Firefighters have saved the only known natural stand of Wollemi pines, so-called “dinosaur trees” that fossil records show existed up to 200m years ago, from the bushfires that have devastated New South Wales. The state’s environment minister, Matt Kean, said a specially deployed team of remote area firefighters helped save the critically endangered trees from the giant Gospers Mountain fire.
The pines are in an undisclosed sandstone grove in the Wollemi national park, in the Blue Mountains, about 200km north-west of Sydney. They were thought extinct until discovered 26 years ago. Kean said with fewer than 200 of the trees left in the wild the government had to do everything it could to save them, describing it as “an unprecedented environmental protection mission”. ...
A scientific assessment found while some of the trees were charred the species would survive in the wild. Kean said the government would continue to keep the precise location of the trees secret to ensure their long-term protection.
The trees were discovered by David Noble, a ranger with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife service,in 1994 when he noticed a stand of unusual trees and took a fallen branch for identification. The species had previously been believed long extinct. The plant once formed vast forests across Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica.
2019 Was the 2nd-Hottest Year on Record2019 Was the 2nd-Hottest Year on Record
Harvard law students have disrupted a recruiting event for Paul Weiss, the law firm representing ExxonMobil in climate lawsuits, in an escalation the protesters hope will open a new front in climate activism in the legal world. The oil giant is facing a series of lawsuits in the US related to claims that it knew petroleum products were heating the planet and sought to persuade the public otherwise.
The students say Paul Weiss has cultivated a reputation as a liberal corporate law firm, despite representing oil companies, tobacco and big banks. Ted Wells Jr, a partner at the New York firm, is a prominent Democratic donor.
During a reception at an upscale restaurant in Cambridge, a group of students unfurled a banner reading “#DropExxon” and began chanting over a speaker from the firm that they wouldn’t work for Paul Weiss as long as the firm worked for Exxon. They live-streamed the event. The protest follows another action at the Harvard-Yale football game in November, when students from both elite universities swarmed the field at half-time. ...
Organizer Aaron Regunberg said the protest action will be a shock to the Harvard Law School community, where students are taught that their job requires them to remain neutral about the actions of clients. “But if you don’t start these conversations – if you don’t start forcing people to reckon with the reality of what the work that Paul Weiss is doing for Exxon, for example, means – then there’s never going to be any change,” Regunberg said. “And it’s clear from the science that we have just a few years left to address climate change.”
The Coalition’s decision to axe funding to a climate change adaptation research body in 2017 has left Australia “not well positioned” to deal with fires, the “silent killer” of drought and other global heating impacts, its director has said.
Jean Palutikof, the director of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), told Guardian Australia the decision to discontinue funding in 2017 – when Scott Morrison was treasurer – had hollowed out the research community and “the capacity to take action on climate change is smaller than it was decade ago”.
Palutikof made the comments as Scott Morrison and the science minister, Karen Andrews, attempt to shift debate from the link between climate change and bushfires to strategies for “adaptation and resilience”.
Palutikof said the funding cut had forced it to axe conferences for researchers and community workshops informing business, local government and citizens about their exposure to climate risk.
Palutikof warned that – although bushfire cooperative research centres have continued to receive funding – bushfire is “not the only risk”, citing drought and other natural disasters such as floods. “I worry if it starts to rain and bushfires cease to be an immediate risk some money will be pumped in and then we’ll forget about it,” she said. “The government will call it adaptation and resilience but people will be left in the same vulnerable state they were when these bushfires hit.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
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