The Evening Blues - 1-17-19



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The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Willie Dixon


Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago blues songwriter, singer and bass player Willie Dixon. Enjoy!

Willie Dixon's Big Three - After Awhile

“A program of "disarmament," while imperialist antagonisms survive, is the most pernicious of fictions. Even if it were realized by way of general agreement - an obviously fantastic assumption!- that would by no means prevent a new war. The imperialists do not make war because there are armaments; on the contrary, they forge arms when they need to fight.”

-- Leon Trotsky


News and Opinion

US to begin INF treaty pullout next month after Russia missile talks fail

The US has rejected Moscow’s offer to inspect a new Russian missile suspected of violating a key cold-war era treaty, and warned that it would suspend observance of the treaty on 2 February, giving six-month notice of a complete withdrawal. The under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, Andrea Thompson, confirmed the US intention to withdraw from the treaty after a meeting with a Russian delegation in Geneva, which both sides described as a failure.

Donald Trump took US allies by surprise when he announced his intention to leave the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in October. The agreement led to the destruction of thousands of US and Soviet weapons, and has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused the US of intransigence, saying Moscow had offered to allow US experts inspect the suspect missile, which it insists does not infringe the limits laid down in the treaty. “However, US representatives arrived with a prepared position that was based on an ultimatum and centred on a demand for us to destroy this rocket, its launchers, and all related equipment under US supervision,” Lavrov said.

Thompson said that there were currently no plans for a follow-up talks on the INF before the 2 February deadline laid down by the Trump administration, though US and Russian diplomats would be meeting, including at a summit of the Nato-Russian council next week. She said that if Russia did not show willingness to comply with the treaty by the deadline, the US would suspend its own obligations, meaning that the US defense department could start research and development on missiles with ranges currently banned by the INF, from 500 to 5,500km. At the same time, she told reporters, the US would formally give notice of its withdrawal from the treaty, which could come into effect on 2 August.

Diplomats said that Trump’s third national security adviser, John Bolton, persuaded him to withdraw, despite opposition from the state and defence departments, and from European allies.

New Cold War Crazier Than the Old One

War Whores Scramble To Say Syria Attack Means Troops Must Remain

A suicide bombing in Manbij, Syria has reportedly killed 19 people including four Americans, two of whom were US soldiers and two of whom worked with the US military. ISIS, which has an extensive history of falsely claiming responsibility for attacks it had nothing to do with, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Despite the fact that ISIS would claim responsibility for a housewife stepping on a Lego block, and despite the complete absence of evidence that it had anything to do with the deadly explosion, all the usual cheerleaders of endless war are pointing to the Manbij suicide bombing and shrieking “See?? Trump said ISIS is defeated and it’s not!” [See article for statements from the usual suspects omitted in this excerpt. - js]

Other voices are treating the reports about the bombing with a little more skepticism. “If ISIS were smart it would hold its fire especially against Americans,” tweeted professor and author Max Abrahms. “The main justification for leaving Syria is the (contested) assessment ISIS is defeated. ISIS attacks convey the opposite, weakening the strategic rationale of withdrawal while making it politically harder.”


If ISIS is indeed responsible for the bombing, as war pundits are unquestioningly asserting is the case, then they’re either really, really stupid or they really want US troops to remain in Syria. Or perhaps the attack was engineered by someone else who has a vested interest in keeping a US military presence in Syria, either using ISIS as a patsy or completely separate from ISIS. Wouldn’t be the first time a suspicious attack took place in Syria while the Trump administration was working to withdraw troops. Of course, this whole debate ignores the most obvious point of all: that if there was no US military presence in Syria, there would be no US military personnel being killed in Syria. The fight against the terrorist forces who nearly overtook the nation with the help of the western power alliance’s imperialist support have been beaten to the brink of total defeat not by the US, but by the Syrian government and its allies. If US troops were removed Damascus would quickly restore stability to the region and continue rebuilding the war-ravaged nation. But this is precisely what these war whores do not want.

Yemen ceasefire: new UN resolution seeks to save agreement

The UN has tried to prevent the collapse of the ceasefire agreement in Yemen by endorsing a fresh security council resolution urgently increasing the number of monitors overseeing the deal in Hodeidah, the strategic port that lies at the heart of the three-year civil war. The resolution, drafted by the UK, extends the UN monitoring role for a further six months and increases the number of monitors to as many as 75 people. UN personnel are likely to be transferred from Djibouti to Hodeidah.

The Houthi rebels and the UN-backed government of Yemen’s president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, have accused each other of multiple breaches of the ceasefire. The terms of that ceasefire – agreed in haste at UN-brokered talks in Stockholm in December – were seen as flawed due to a lack of precision and the country’s geographical limits. Having too few monitors has also made it more difficult for the UN to ascribe responsibility for breaches, and so prevent their repetition.

The British and Americans have accused the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of breaching the spirit of the ceasefire after drones were used to attack a Yemeni government military parade, killing six people including the head of Yemeni intelligence. The Houthis said the attack in Lahij governorate was outside the ceasefire zone and accused the Saudi air force of continuing to launch airstrikes in Hodeidah since the ceasefire was announced on 18 December. ...

Peter Salisbury, a senior Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, said in a recent report: “With the deadline for redeployments now past – they were scheduled for completion by 8 January – speculation is mounting that the deal may be on the verge of collapse. The Stockholm agreement is imperfect and imprecise, but it was hard-won. If it is allowed to break down, there will be no opportunity for a similar deal for a long time.” ...

Alistair Burt, the UK’s Middle East minister, contrary to some American descriptions of the conflict, said he did not believe the Houthis were a proxy of Iran, describing them as independent-minded, and pointing out Iran had played a part in ensuring the Houthis attended the Stockholm talks.

Top North Korean officials reportedly set for Washington visit

Three North Korean officials, including the top envoy involved in talks with the United States, are booked on a flight to Washington, South Korean media reported on Wednesday, suggesting possible movement toward a second summit between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. US and South Korean media quoted sources as saying that the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and senior North Korean official Kim Yong-chol were expected to meet on Friday in the US capital to discuss the summit.

The White House and the US state department declined to confirm the reports, perhaps wary of another last-minute cancellation. Pompeo planned to meet his counterpart to discuss a second summit last November, but the state department had to postpone the meeting the day after announcing it. While Trump has been eager to hold a second summit with Kim, on Wednesday the US vice-president, Mike Pence, acknowledged that efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal had not made headway. ...

The South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing an unidentified Chinese airport official, said Kim Yong-chol, along with North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son-hui, and a third official, would leave Beijing on Thursday for Washington.

The Pentagon is worried China’s military could push to retake Taiwan by force

The Pentagon is increasingly concerned that China’s growing military might could lead it to one day try to retake Taiwan by force, a senior U.S. defense intelligence official said Tuesday. The official spoke to reporters in Washington on condition of anonymity as the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency released a 140-page report on China’s modernizing military, which has undergone significant advances in recent years.

“The biggest concern is that ... they are getting to a point where the PLA leadership may actually tell [Chinese Premier] Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” the official told reporters, while stressing that the Pentagon assessed that Beijing was still seeking to avoid conflict.

The report described Taiwan as the “primary driver” for the rapid advances to modernize China’s military, in a bid to deter foreign powers from intervening in any dispute with Taiwan. ...

The officials remarks came as China’s military issued a stark warning to U.S. counterparts over the status of Taiwan during talks in Beijing involving the U.S. Navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson. Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng, chief of China’s Central Military Commission Joint Staff Department, said that Beijing considered Taiwan an “internal matter” and would countenance “no external interference” over its status. “If someone tries to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will do whatever it takes to safeguard national reunification, national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said, according to a Chinese government account of the talks.

The Empire Files: Trump is Expanding the US Empire

An excellent piece from Ian Welsh, worth a full read. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Two Lessons From France’s Yellow Vest Protests

What I want to discuss, however, is WHY they are having some success where unions, for example, could not stop Macron.

The great weakness of modern unions is leadership, bank accounts and law. They are easy to break if the state cooperates with corporations, or by the state alone. You can bribe the leadership, you can scare the leadership, or you can break the union. Because unions have things like headquarters, leaders and bank accounts the state can simply take all of those things away any time it wants to if the unions don’t have enough internal support in the government to stop them. This matters because unions tend to have centralized leadership: take out the leadership, get rid of the strike funds, and they can be broken.

The Yellow Vests have none of this. What tiny leadership they have is some facebook pages. They have no united bank account, no buildings, no strike funds, etc… They cannot be broken by a strike on a few people and some pooled resources. ...

Here’s the thing: most protests get nowhere because they threaten no one and nothing. The elite, being rich and powerful, can wait out those protests they cannot buy, scare or break. They know it. This is why the union protests against Macron also failed. He just waited them out. Unions cannot tell their members to try to attack political leaders. (Though sometimes such things happen and are “regrettable” and a good union then makes sure the people who did it have good lawyers.) Macron is scared. He is scared for himself. For his family. For his staff and probably for his friends. There are people he cares about who could wind up catching a good beating, or worse. (Given that the police have killed a number of protesters, please spare me wringing of hands.)

Normally, no one a politician cares about is threatened. Protesters get beaten, maybe the occasional cop gets a beating (being a cop is NOT dangerous compared to most manual labor jobs so spare me the hand wringing about people who beat people for a living, very occasionally getting beaten themselves.) But politicians and corporate leaders are safe. The protesters suffer, strikers lose money, etc, etc… The yellow vests have threatened Macron. He is personally frightened, and he is giving in.

Macron’s policies and those of France’s elites have made poor French and many middle class French poorer for two generations now. Macron, in particular, has made it easier to fire people, raised regressive taxes, and broken unions. He is a neoliberal’s neoliberal who believes that a more preacrious, poorer workforce will lead to prosperity. ... Macron and the French elites policies KILL people. These deaths show up in the statistics. They don’t have dramatic pictures. But there are more suicides; poorer people die younger; people under financial stress drink more and beat their wives more and so on. Death and suffering is what neoliberalism causes. Macron is a murderer, for an ideology which has never worked, despite being tried in most of the first world and much of the developing world.

British politics goes over a cliff

British politics is broken. It may not be fixable in time to solve the Brexit mess.

The U.K. wakes up Wednesday with a government unable to govern — in office, but without the numbers to fulfill its central purpose: a negotiated exit from the European Union.

A defeat of previously unimaginable proportions Tuesday — 432 to 202 — has left the country adrift, floating toward no deal, with no party or faction in parliament able to command a majority for any way of moving off the course it has set for itself. The only thing MPs can agree strongly on is a desire to avoid an economically damaging no deal, but they currently can't settle on a mechanism for how to do so.

Faced with disaster, Theresa May has a plan but no strategy — the Churchillian maxim, “Keep Buggering On.” ...

Britain is now entering a period of rolling, daily crises with no obvious way out, its political class unable — or unwilling — to reach compromise on what to do next. Remainers and Brexiteers alike are convinced that voting against the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement takes them closer to their own desired outcome.

One side is making a miscalculation of historic proportions.

Theresa May survives vote, but Britain remains in Brexit deadlock

Theresa May has survived as prime minister after weathering a dramatic no-confidence vote in her government, but was left scrambling to strike a Brexit compromise that could secure the backing of parliament. In a statement in Downing Street on Wednesday night, the prime minister exhorted politicians from all parties to “put aside self-interest”, and promised to consult with MPs with “the widest possible range of views” in the coming days.

It followed her announcement that she would invite Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders for immediate talks on how to secure a Brexit deal, something she had declined to do earlier in the day, although Labour later said Corbyn would decline the invitation unless no-deal was taken off the table. ...

In her late-night statement, the prime minister said: “I am disappointed that the leader of the Labour party has not so far chosen to take part – but our door remains open … It will not be an easy task, but MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this done.”

The Scottish National party’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, met May on Wednesday night, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, also accepted her invitation. Blackford later wrote to May, urging her to make a “gesture of faith” to show that she was serious. He said the SNP would take part in cross-party talks if she was able to confirm “that the extension of article 50, a ruling out of a no-deal Brexit and the option of a second EU referendum would form the basis of those discussions”.

With just five days to go before May must make a statement to parliament setting out her Brexit plan B, Downing Street continued to indicate that she was not ready to budge on her red lines, including membership of a customs union. Conservative politicians are deeply divided about how May should adapt her deal to win over hostile MPs.

May tells Corbyn it is 'impossible' to rule out no deal

Theresa May has told Jeremy Corbyn his demand that she rule out a no-deal scenario as a prerequisite for Brexit talks is “an impossible condition” and called on him to join cross-party discussions immediately. In a letter to Corbyn on Thursday afternoon, written after the Labour leader dismissed her request for talks as a “stunt”, May said that she would be “happy to discuss” the Labour leader’s ideas. She urged him to “talk and see if we can begin to find a way forward for our country on Brexit”. ...

The proposed talks have been stymied by Corbyn’s insistence that a no-deal must be ruled out as a precondition and May’s insistence that doing so would not be workable. In her letter she wrote: “It is not within the government’s power to rule out no deal.”

Earlier, Downing Street insisted the prime minister was determined to stick to her “principles” on Brexit, including rejecting a customs union and a second referendum. ... May’s official spokesman insisted these conversations would be approached “in a constructive spirit, and wanting to hear what the various groups have to say”. But when asked whether May was willing to flex any of her negotiating red lines, he said they remained in place. ...

On the specific issue of a customs union, which is a key demand of both Labour and backers of a Norway-style softer Brexit, he said: “The PM is absolutely clear on the importance of having an independent trade policy in order to honour the result of the referendum.” Members of the customs union cannot strike their own trade deals.

Another Bogus RussiaGate Story By NY Times Revealed

As support grows to extend Los Angeles teacher strike, unions colluding with Democrats to end walkout

Tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers and their supporters manned picket lines and marched downtown yesterday on the second day of the strike by 33,000 educators in America’s second largest school district. The walkout has generated widespread public support and growing calls for the spreading of the strike throughout California and more broadly. For the second day in a row, as many as 50,000 strikers, parents and students converged on the city center, this time in front of the headquarters of the California Charter Schools Association. They were joined by 75 teachers who walked out at three charter schools operated by Accelerated Schools. Another 900 unionized charter school teachers have been kept on the job by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

There are growing calls by teachers throughout California and beyond for joint strike action. Teachers in Oakland are planning sickouts Friday to oppose threats by school officials to close one-third of the district’s schools, even as they expand privately run charter schools. Teachers in Denver, Colorado will be voting for strike action on January 19, and thousands of educators in Virginia are planning a mass rally in Richmond on January 28.

Like they did during the teachers’ rebellions last year in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and other states, the leaders of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) are attempting to isolate teachers in Los Angeles and prevent the broadening of the strike across the state and the country. On the eve of the strike, AFT President Randi Weingarten, who is currently in Los Angeles, tweeted, “This is not about a strike wave—this is a specific fight for the kids & public schools of LA.” But Los Angeles teachers are not fighting a local fight. They are confronting powerful financial and political forces, including the Eli Broad Foundation, that are conducting a nation-wide conspiracy, with the backing of both corporate-controlled parties, to dismantle and privatize public education. ...

Teachers [...] denounced the refusal of the UTLA to pay strike benefits. “They’ve been talking about a strike since 2017,” another teacher said. “We’ve been paying union dues, and there hasn’t been a strike for 30 years, so there should be money for us to strike. ... “Where did all this money go? The AFT president Randi Weingarten makes a half a million dollars a year. None of us are making that kind of money. Then the union is also giving millions to these politicians who say they are for us, but once they’re elected, they do nothing for us.” In his Tuesday night Facebook address to teachers, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl placed all the onus for sustaining the strike entirely on teachers, saying it is their duty to picket every day “like it’s a work day.” He was silent on growing calls for a statewide and national strike and said nothing about providing teachers with strike pay.

Instead, Caputo-Pearl tried to impress teachers by saying the strike has received the support of four expected Democratic Party candidates for US president in 2020, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, California Senator Kamala Harris, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. ... The Democratic Party exercises complete control over every level of government in Los Angeles and the state of California. No matter how many phony statements Sanders, Warren & Co. make about “progressive” Democrats, the fact is that their party has overseen the dismantling of public education in California. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner is a Democrat and former official in the Clinton administration, and the Obama administration and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, spearheaded the assault on teachers and oversaw a vast expansion of charter schools.

Washington just became the second state to ban the NRA’s “murder insurance”

Washington just became the second state to ban NRA-backed insurance, which hands gun owners cash to cover civil and criminal legal fees if they become involved in a shooting. The NRA’s program, called “Carry Guard,” is marketed as a protection for gun owners who act in self-defense. But officials in Washington state, usually a stronghold for NRA members, have decided that the plans violate a state law that prohibits insurance that protects criminal activity.

“When it comes to insurance products associated with the NRA, it’s buyer beware,” Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement. “The attempt to insure a criminal act is a rip-off for consumers. The policies sold are deceptive and dishonest. I would be remiss as the state’s insurance regulator if I didn’t shut them down.” The policies cover expenses and costs related to criminal defense for gun owners, even if the insured is convicted of a crime or pleads guilty to a crime, Kreidler explained in a release Tuesday. ...

Washington is following in the footsteps of New York State, which has been locked in a legal battle with the NRA after lawmakers banned the group’s firearm liability insurance last May. In court documents, the NRA claimed that New York’s law, spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had inflicted “irrecoverable loss and irreparable harm” on the organization, which may be “unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission” in the future. “It would be highly unusual for a state to allow an insurance company to reimburse for an illegal activity,” Cuomo said in an interview with CNN last August. “They call it 'murder insurance.'" ...

Last September, California’s Department of Insurance also issued a cease and desist order that said the NRA wasn’t licensed to sell its insurance product, although the state hasn’t said the insurance, on its face, violates any laws.

Strike! Barbara Ehrenreich Calls on TSA Workers to Walk Off Job in Protest of Government Shutdown

Pelosi asks Trump to delay State of the Union address, or deliver it in writing

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has asked Donald Trump to delay, or deliver in writing, his State of the Union address scheduled for 29 January as long as the government remains partially shut down. The request came as the record-long shutdown dragged into a 26th day with little sign of progress.

In a letter to the president, Pelosi said the US Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, both of which are responsible for coordinating and implementing security at the event, have been “hamstrung” by the funding lapses.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to Congress on January 29,” Pelosi wrote in the letter.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Native American Communities Bear Brunt of Shutdown with Medicine Shortages & Suspended Food Programs

How about a wall made of irony?

How Trump's border wall impasse is costing the US economy

The partial shutdown is harming the economy. CNBC reports that an anonymous official from the Trump administration said around 0.1 percentage points are subtracted from economic growth for each week of the shutdown. ...

This week, the financial analysis firm S&P estimated that the shutdown, which began on 22 December, had cost the US economy $3.6bn by January 11. By that estimate, it suggests the shutdown has cost $1.2bn per week – so by the 25th day that had risen to $4.3bn, increasing by about $170m per day.

If the impasse continues for another week, the shutdown would have cost about the same as Trump has demanded for the wall.

West Virginia to the rescue!

West Virginia: Proposal to give $10M for Trump's border wall

Some lawmakers in drug-ravaged West Virginia want to pitch in millions of dollars for President Donald Trump's wall-building effort along the U.S.-Mexico border. The GOP-led House of Delegates issued a statement Monday that a bill planned by three delegates would divert $10 million from West Virginia's current $186 million budget surplus for wall construction. ... The suggested offer from West Virginia would pay a tiny fraction of the cost.

Last week a Republican lawmaker in Montana proposed giving more than $8 million for the wall, while South Dakota senators voted to urge construction of a steel barrier. ...

West Virginia Democratic Party chairwoman Belinda Biafore called the proposal a "political stunt" and "sickening" because the money should be used for other pressing needs in the state.

Trump carried West Virginia by 42 percentage points in the 2016 election, and 63 percent of state voters who cast midterm ballots approve of his job as president.

Thousands more migrant children separated under Trump than previously known

The Trump administration may have separated thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border for up to a year before family separation was a publicly known practice, according to a stunning government review of the health department’s role in family separation.

A report by the health department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published on Thursday said officials at the health department estimated “thousands of separated children” were put in health department care before a court order in June 2018 ordered the reunification of 2,600 other children. “The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown,” the report said.

This report shows that not only did the US government probably separate thousands more children from their parents than previously thought, but it was separating families well before the policy was made public in April 2018.

We are looking for refuge”: A new migrant caravan just left Honduras and is headed to the U.S. border

The flier had been circulating for weeks. “We are looking for refuge. In Honduras they kill us,” the red and black block letters said. It announced that a new caravan would be leaving the central bus station in San Pedro Sula at 5 a.m. on Tuesday. Media attention and cautionary government announcements spread the word. By nightfall Monday, more than 1,000 Hondurans had gathered outside the bus station. They didn’t want to wait till morning to begin the journey, so they started walking around 9 p.m., in the rain, headed northwest in the direction of Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. ...

And so begins another mass exodus of migrants from Central America, their sheer presence more fuel for Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. On Tuesday, Trump pointed to the new caravan — which has grown to about 2,000 people — to back his demand that Congress allocate $5.7 billion for the border wall. ...

As with prior caravans, the latest group is a mix of mostly single men and families with no clear organizer telling them where to go. They are fleeing desperate circumstances: mass unemployment, powerful criminal gangs, and rampant violence coupled with impunity for the perpetrators. In the first 13 days of the year, 22 people in Honduras were assassinated in six separate events, according to local media reports.

Pueblos Sin Fronteras, which assisted the migrants who reached Tijuana late last year, denied any participation with the most recent caravan, leading to questions about who was in charge, if anyone. “PSF is completely uninvolved and has no fundraising efforts for the next caravan,” said Alex Mensing, an activist with the group. “We learned about it through the press and social media.”

Mexican president AMLO linked to new corruption allegation in El Chapo trial

The list of Mexican presidents linked to corruption allegations in trial of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has risen to three, and now includes the man currently in office, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. A court filing unsealed Wednesday evening by U.S. federal prosecutors mentions a bribe allegedly paid by the younger brother of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a Sinaloa cartel leader who remains free in Mexico, to an unnamed individual who worked on López Obrador’s failed 2006 presidential campaign.

A spokesperson for López Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1 after campaigning on a promise to curb corruption, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ...

The alleged bribe to the individual who worked for López Obrador in 2006 was purportedly delivered by Jesus Reynaldo Zambada Garcia aka El Rey, a high-ranking Sinaloa cartel member who testified against El Chapo in November. Chapo’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said in his opening statement to the jury that “the current and former presidents of Mexico received hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes” from El Mayo.

Richard Ojeda on the LA Teachers Strike: “Don’t Make Us Go West Virginia on You”

Almost exactly one year ago today, I sat in a room with a bunch of pissed-off teachers in Mingo County, West Virginia. They were fed up with earning some of the lowest pay in the country, and they were disgusted with how promise after promise had been broken on their health care coverage. They were tired of digging into their own pockets for the supplies they needed, let alone the granola bars, warm jackets, and pairs of shoes that they kept on hand. But more than anything, they were ready to call bullshit. Bullshit on the idea that there was no money for public education, when there was always money when the big-business lobbyists came around looking for tax cuts. Bullshit on the politicians who claimed to care about the future for our kids, when they short-changed them every step of the way. They walked out, and soon their local movement became a state-wide movement that became a national movement. I’ll never forget the day we saw a Kentucky teacher post a picture of a rally sign that read: “Don’t make us go West Virginia on you!”

On Tuesday, I found myself with a whole lot more pissed-off teachers, this time in Los Angeles, California. After trying to negotiate a contract for more than a year, LA teachers have decided to go West Virginia. They decided to stand shoulder to shoulder, hold the line, and shut it down. ...

But there’s a reason why two places as different as Mingo and Los Angeles — not to mention Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina, and Colorado — can be part of the same movement. It’s because the attack on public schools is part of a larger national attack on working people. Teachers are on the front lines of this war, and they understand perfectly well what’s at stake. Yes, they are fighting for their own ability to practice their profession without having to also drive an Uber on the side, but what they are really fighting for is the fate of the middle class. The public education system is the bedrock of the American middle class, the great equalizer. Teachers are risking their own livelihoods to try to keep the middle class alive in this country, and we should all be taking up arms.



the horse race



Tulsi Gabbard Smears Debunked

Now here's some fake news of a better kind.

Yes Men make a fake Washington Post pushing Trump’s impeachment

Some people in Washington woke up Wednesday to the news they've been hoping for. “TRUMP HASTILY DEPARTS WHITE HOUSE, ENDING CRISIS,” the headline read, under a banner saying “UNPRESIDENTED.” Turns out it was a fake version of the Washington Post, claiming Donald Trump had been ousted from the White House. The fake editions, dated May 2019, also included headlines about women’s protests that helped bring down Trump.


Later in the day, a “trickster activist collective” called The Yes Men group took responsibility for the stunt and told the actual Post the effort had cost them about $40,000, largely from an appeal to their mailing list that raised about $36,000. ... The intent, according to the group, was to create a “grassroots” action that pushed for the impeachment of Trump. Of the 25,000 copies that were printed, Yes Men co-founder Andy Bichlbaum estimated to the Post that about 10,000 had been distributed. ...

The group Code Pink, a liberal activist group known for disrupting congressional hearings and other political events in D.C., was apparently in on the joke and posted a video of the group’s founder, Medea Benjamin, hawking the newspaper.



the evening greens

Andrew Wheeler: Trump's EPA pick says climate change 'not the greatest crisis'

A former coal lobbyist Donald Trump has nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday touted rolling back pollution standards and declined to identify climate change as a crisis requiring unprecedented action from the US. Andrew Wheeler, the deputy administrator who took over when his predecessor Scott Pruitt resigned after months of controversy, said in his confirmation hearing that he is carrying out the president’s “regulatory reform agenda”. Wheeler called the US the “gold standard for environmental progress”. ...

The Vermont senator Bernie Sanders said it was Wheeler’s job to lead on climate, noting that some Republican senators do not believe humans are causing rising temperatures. Asked if he agreed with the president’s past statements that climate change is a Chinese “hoax”, Wheeler said he would “not use the hoax word, myself”. But Wheeler said he would “not call it the greatest crisis”.

“I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally,” Wheeler added.

Wheeler also told the New Jersey senator Cory Booker, a likely presidential contender, that he is “still examining” a November report from US government scientists showing the country will suffer from heat-related deaths, coastal flooding and infrastructure damage. Booker said Wheeler’s regulatory changes “fly in the face” of that science, and the Massachusetts senator Ed Markey called it “unacceptable” that Wheeler would seek confirmation without being familiar with the report.

The Fox in Charge of the Henhouse: Activists Decry Trump’s EPA Pick, Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler

Industry alliance sets out $1bn to tackle oceans' plastic waste

The scourge of plastic waste in the world’s oceans is the target of a new global alliance of businesses which says it will try to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced and improve recycling. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, launched on Wednesday, includes companies producing consumer goods and plastic, as well as waste management and recycling firms. Among more than 25 companies joining the effort are household names such as Procter & Gamble, Shell, BASF and ExxonMobil.

Together the companies have committed $1bn (£778m) over the next five years, with an aspiration to raise that to $1.5bn (£1.2bn) if further members join. The firms intend to invest in a wide variety of projects, including research and development into new recycling technologies, building infrastructure to collect and recycle waste, and cleaning of areas where plastic waste concentrates, such as in rivers. About 8m tonnes of plastic waste is dumped in the seas annually, according to the UN. Plastic in the seas can choke fish and other marine creatures, destroy habitats and enter the food chain. But despite increasing public awareness about the problem, highlighted by Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II programmes, there has been little sign of it abating. ...

However, some campaigners were not impressed. Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace, said: “This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics. In 2018 people all over the world spoke up and rejected the single-use plastics that companies like Procter & Gamble churn out on a daily basis, urging the industry to invest in refill and reuse systems and innovation. Instead of answering that call, P&G preferred to double down on a failed approach with fossil fuel giants Exxon, Dow and Total [which] fuel destructive climate change.” He added: “Make no mistake, plastics are a lifeline for the dying fossil fuel industry, and this announcement goes to show how far companies will go to preserve it.”

"I'm Sure Dinosaurs Thought They Had Time, Too': Over 12,000 Students Strike in Brussels Demanding Bold Climate Action

An estimated 12,500 students walked out of their classrooms in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday to join the country's second youth-led climate march in the past week, demanding that government leaders from across Europe take bold action to help stem the global climate crisis.

Carrying signs reading "Act now before it's too late," "The planet needs you to give a damn," and "I'm sure the dinosaurs thought they had time, too," young people at the Marche Pour le Climat chanted, "We want change!" as they marched through the city in the rain. ...

The "climate strike" movement by student in Brussels is part of a wide global campaign and just the latest sign that young people are increasingly taking the lead in demanding climate action—and refusing to abide by the status quo—amid deeply troubling reports that governments are running out of time to curb fossil fuel emissions.

The turnout was significantly larger than the demonstration students held last week, when about 3,000 young Belgians expressed anger over their Parliament's refusal to sign an agreement at the recent COP24 climate conference, calling for countries to accelerate their efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Young people from Uganda, the U.S., New Zealand, Colombia, and other countries also staged protests last week. Dozens more school strikes are planned for Friday as well, with German students planning more than 40 protests.


Also of Interest

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

Intercepted podcast: One Wall, Supersized, Extra Racism, Hold the Wars

Let's Expose Congress Members for the Warhawks They Are

Donald Trump’s nightly tweets have shown that US presidents really don’t make fundamental policy, the corporate ruling class elite does

Matt Taibbi: Return of the Neocons!

The women fighting a pipeline that could destroy precious wildlife

British Democracy Nears Meltdown as Parliament Deadlocks Over Brexit

Brexit: Chaos

Putin says US wants to 'assert dominance' in Balkans as Macedonia changes name

As Trial Starts for Border Humanitarian Volunteers, New Documents Reveal Federal Bureaucrats’ Obsession With Stopping Activists

Italian town puts dozens of homes on market for as little as €1


A Little Night Music

Willie Dixon - Spoonful

Willie Dixon - Sittin' And Cryin' The Blues

Willie Dixon - Walking The Blues

Willie Dixon - 29 Ways

Willie Dixon - I'm Ready

Willie Dixon - You Shook Me

Willie Dixon - I Love The Life I Live

Willie Dixon - Bring It On Home

Willie Dixon & Friends - Berlin Wall

1st RECORDING OF: Whole Lotta Love (as ‘You Need Love’) - Muddy Waters

Willie Dixon - Wang Dang Doodle


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Raggedy Ann's picture

I work at a third-world university - although it is called the flagship u for the state. I call it third-world today because I work on the 4th floor of a building. The elevator is not working. I take the stairs - no problem. However, our professor was shot in the head (now there's a story for you!) and is disabled - he is having difficulty taking the stairs and informed me he will cancel his classes next week if it is not fixed by Tuesday.

He was behind a fellow dragging himself up the stairs with another person bringing the fellow's wheelchair. We also have a grad student on crutches - how did he get up???

That's my world today, sigh.

Have a beautiful evening, folks! Pleasantry

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"The herd management intent is simply to get you into one of the corrals. Nobody is right, if everybody is wrong.
I am a free range DFH."
NCTim

joe shikspack's picture

@Raggedy Ann

heh. where i used to work, the elevators used to go out for a couple of days at a time, too. and then, this new vice president, decided that it would be really great to put a really long building in between the faculty parking lot and the central campus. they wound up having to ferry folks with health conditions and disabilities in from the parking lot in vans to the center of campus.

ah, happy memories. Smile

have a great evening!

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ggersh's picture

something has to break the camels back, something

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-15/trump-s-selective-rec...

Trump Orders Thousands Back to Work Without Pay to Blunt Shutdown Disruption

https://www.businessinsider.com/monopolies-resulted-in-myth-of-capitalis...

Big companies are crushing their competition in the US, and it's creating a dangerous 'fake capitalism' that hurts workers and consumers

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"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." William Casey, CIA Director 1st staff meeting, 1981

“USA will export two things soon, jack and squat. no planes, no cars soon.”

joe shikspack's picture

@ggersh

heh, i think that there may be a limit to the tolerance of the federal workers that trump is ordering to work without pay. i'm guessing that there are a lot of resumes floating around that feature a federal job as the current employer.

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burnt out's picture

Good to see those striking teachers, wish it would go nationwide. Interesting article on ZNET about it, talking about how although higher wages, smaller class sizes, etc, are part of it, a bigger concern is the ongoing attempt being made by corporate america to privatize the public school system. The article talks about the millions of dollars pouring in to push the Charter School agenda, via a few billionairs, 2.2 million from the Walton family in 2017 going to the school board election, and 84 million to Los Angeles charter schools and a disgusting $1.3 billion on “school reform” efforts nationwide over the past few years. Then there’s a Doris Fisher that gave 4.1 million to the California Charter School Association. There are several more big time donars, here’s a link to the whole article. https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/billionaires-vs-la-schools/ if anyone wants to know more.
Don’t really think I want the 1% setting the education priorities… Gotta give em credit though get a grip on the population while their young minds are most malleable. Much easier to keep them in line later.

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All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth. John Lennon

joe shikspack's picture

@burnt out

great to see you! i hope that all is going well.

heh, thanks for the field guide to the assorted species of billionaire charter birds paying to destroy public education.

i'm not sure if the charter issue in the strike is getting much in the way of mainstream media attention (in fact, i'd guess not) but the teachers are talking it up and i've seen a bunch of alternative media articles that cover it. the other night i posted this piece from the intercept that explores the democrats' drive to privatize schools, presumably in order to rake in that sweet, sweet billionaire donor cash.

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Azazello's picture

but this seems likely to me, from Caitlin's piece:

These are interesting points. If ISIS is indeed responsible for the bombing, as war pundits are unquestioningly asserting is the case, then they’re either really, really stupid or they really want US troops to remain in Syria. Or perhaps the attack was engineered by someone else who has a vested interest in keeping a US military presence in Syria, either using ISIS as a patsy or completely separate from ISIS. Wouldn’t be the first time a suspicious attack took place in Syria while the Trump administration was working to withdraw troops.

Made to order, just in time gas attacks come to mind.
Here's another good piece on Tulsi: The American Conservative
The Daily is a partnership between Neoliberal Propaganda Radio and the Neo York Times so it's BS most days but sometimes it's worth a listen. Here's today's edition, about the border: A Republican Congressman From Texas Who Opposes The Wall, 20 min.

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joe shikspack's picture

@Azazello

heh, i strongly suspect that caitlin is barking up the right tree, too.

damn if it doesn't look like the american conservative is treading on a piece of common ground with the (actual) left. what is up with those guys? who issued them a clue? Smile

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mimi's picture

I like your version, here another.

I just watched it happen in DC on TV. When I came back to Berlin (my student year's home) some 30 years later to visit, I desperately looked to find the Berlin Wall and felt so offended that all that was left of it was a greyish line of plaster stones within the current streets, marking where the Wall stood before. Never was so disappointed how they not only teared down the wall, but buried its whole history with it. It should have been left standing as a moral reminder. I thought it was very thoughtless by those who maintain historical buildings to the next generations so that they can better understand what it stood for - even decades later.

Well, remember the late seventies in Berlin... Bygone all of it.

Well, again thanks for your work. If I just could read as fast and as much, so that I would have finished all, before you post the next one tomorrow. Sigh. Brexit, Yellow Vesters, Gabbard all good.

Good night from over here to over there.

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joe shikspack's picture

@mimi

heh, sorry you missed the big event and that there are not enough public monuments to remind folks of what has happened.

if you ever make it back to the states, i could show you my piece of the wall for old times sake. a friend of mine was there when they were tearing it down and brought home a bunch of small pieces. Smile

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Bollox Ref's picture

A little like the revolution in Russia in 1905, after the debacle of the Russo-Japanese War. Nicholas II forced to accept a form of parliamentary government (Duma). Too little too late, which led to 1917 and Nicholas' ultimate demise (with the help of another debacle, WWI).

(Edited)

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8 users have voted.

Gëzuar!!
from a reasonably stable genius.

joe shikspack's picture

@Bollox Ref

i wonder which european state will be the one to first rebel successfully against its neoliberal government and whether it will spark a sudden cascade of rebellions.

macron lately looks a bit like a deer in the headlights. actually, he reminds me a lot of the "right ordinary horatio jackson" character in the adventures of baron munchausen if you've ever seen that movie.

i was amused by macron calling the uk's brexit leaders liars:

he seems to be the poster boy for "misery loves company," there.

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Bollox Ref's picture

@joe shikspack

The French find him arrogant and personally rather repellent. Nicholas II and Louis XVI were hopeless chief executives, but apparently personable. Macron has none of that.

Put it this way; he's no earthy, ebullient Henry IV, advocating "A chicken in every peasant's pot every Sunday."

(Edited)

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5 users have voted.

Gëzuar!!
from a reasonably stable genius.

QMS's picture

an ideology which has never worked

from the yellow vest article above

loves me some willy dixon, with a little muddy waters on the side

thanks joe

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Listen to your higher mind.

joe shikspack's picture

@QMS

heh. neoliberalism does work. for billionaires and warmongers.

it also works to give me a taste for some blues, too. Smile

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snoopydawg's picture

This is a done deal.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

QMS's picture

@snoopydawg
that would be pelosi's trip to afghanistan trump wants to cancel as payback for delaying the
sotu address until the govt. shut down ends. sheesh

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4 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

snoopydawg's picture

@QMS

Meanwhile millions of people are hurting financially and they play their tit for tat. I say that they should be locked in a room and not let out until they reach an agreement. Oh yeah. McConnell can park his buttocks in there with them.

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5 users have voted.

America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

joe shikspack's picture

@snoopydawg

heh, an exchange of petty insults between government officials. these guys really know how to get stuff done for the american people.

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burnt out's picture

Thanks for the link, good article. I learned that the California Charter Association that I mentioned above is actually the lobbying arm of the charter movement. No doubt the near silence from both Dems and Repubs on the charter aspect of the strike is related directly to their desire to keep the cash flowing.

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6 users have voted.

All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth. John Lennon

What? What would it be?
Teaching people how to grow food? Purify water? Protest and get their eyes blown out?
This is what I can do.
Woman went on drugs, husband divorced her, got custody of their 2 sons. 10 years ago.
Woman remarried, had a son, and she and her husband are doing 40 year sentences for robberies.
3rd son, at age 4, has nobody. First husband finds him. He takes in this child so his two sons will know and love their half-brother.
I was the attorney who won custody of all of them.
That is just all I got, people.

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joe shikspack's picture

@on the cusp

thanks for using your skills to fix what you can where you can. congratulations on winning the case.

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@joe shikspack @joe shikspack I asked him if he had a medal to award to my client.
He said he only had appreciation, came off the bench to shake my client's hand and thank him.
Everyone in the courtroom was blinking back tears.

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joe shikspack's picture

@on the cusp

it sure sounds like a happier day than most in family court.

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snoopydawg's picture

The trial for the people giving water and beans to immigrants is unthinkable for anyone who has an ounce of humanity.

And how boneheaded is putting a pipeline through an area like this one?

This ecosystem supports half of the continent’s migratory waterfowl and is one of the most important bird habitats in the western hemisphere. It’s also considered to be one of the most productive swamps on the planet

I wish I lived closer to the area because I'd join the women trying to protect it. No amount of money is worth destroying the planet and yet here we are with ours being destroyed. I swear that the PTB have a place to go after this world becomes a cesspool. Don't any of them have grand kids, great grand kids? Where are they supposed to live? Or are they so psychotic that they just don't care?

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9 users have voted.

America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

joe shikspack's picture

@snoopydawg

I swear that the PTB have a place to go after this world becomes a cesspool.

they certainly act like it. i think that they are just an extremist death cult.

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