The Evening Blues - 1-30-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues piano player and rock n roll innovator Johnnie Johnson. Enjoy!
Johnnie Johnson - Johnnie B Goode
“Yet hear me, people, we have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our fathers first met them but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule.”
-- Sitting Bull
News and Opinion
This is a devastating analysis of the Davos Masters of the Universe propaganda effort. Worth a full read if you enjoy seeing rich hypocrites skewered.
An infographic endorsed by the Davos set presents the story of coerced global proletarianisation as a neoliberal triumph
Last week, as world leaders and business elites arrived in Davos for the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates tweeted an infographic to his 46 million followers showing that the world has been getting better and better. “This is one of my favourite infographics,” he wrote. “A lot of people underestimate just how much life has improved over the past two centuries.” Of the six graphs – developed by Max Roser of Our World in Data – the first has attracted the most attention by far. It shows that the proportion of people living in poverty has declined from 94% in 1820 to only 10% today. The claim is simple and compelling. And it’s not just Gates who’s grabbed on to it. These figures have been trotted out in the past year by everyone from Steven Pinker to Nick Kristof and much of the rest of the Davos set to argue that the global extension of free-market capitalism has been great for everyone. Pinker and Gates have gone even further, saying we shouldn’t complain about rising inequality when the very forces that deliver such immense wealth to the richest are also eradicating poverty before our very eyes. It’s a powerful narrative. And it’s completely wrong.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) January 19, 2019
There are a number of problems with this graph, though. First of all, Roser draws on a dataset that was never intended to describe poverty, but rather inequality in the distribution of world GDP – and that for only a limited range of countries. There is no actual research to bolster the claims about long-term poverty. It’s not science; it’s social media.
Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place. In other words, Roser’s graph illustrates a story of coerced proletarianisation. It is not at all clear that this represents an improvement in people’s lives, as in most cases we know that the new income people earned from wages didn’t come anywhere close to compensating for their loss of land and resources, which were of course gobbled up by colonisers. Gates’s favourite infographic takes the violence of colonisation and repackages it as a happy story of progress.
Historian's Advice to Davos Elite Worried About Pitchforks: 'Stop Talking About Philanthropy' and Start Paying Higher Taxes
While the private jets have mostly left the airport outside of Davos, Switzerland following the conclusion of this year's World Economic Forum, a little noticed exchange that took place during the annual gathering has picked up steam in recent days showing what it looks like when some of the world's richest people are confronted by someone willing to call literal "bullshit" on the we-can-save-the-world-with-charity mantra that dominates among the global elite.
‘It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.’ — This historian wasn’t afraid to confront the billionaires at Davos about their greed pic.twitter.com/TiXSJZd89M
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 29, 2019
A richly detailed article explaining where Washington's latest attack dog was groomed to do their bidding. There's far too much here to excerpt fairly, so here's a little bit to get you started:
Before the fateful day of January 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence. Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution. But after a single phone call from from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom-dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the US-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves. ...
While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrated his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.
“Juan Guaidó is a character that has been created for this circumstance,” Marco Teruggi, an Argentinian sociologist and leading chronicler of Venezuelan politics, told The Grayzone. “It’s the logic of a laboratory – Guaidó is like a mixture of several elements that create a character who, in all honesty, oscillates between laughable and worrying.” Diego Sequera, a Venezuelan journalist and writer for the investigative outlet Misión Verdad, agreed: “Guaidó is more popular outside Venezuela than inside, especially in the elite Ivy League and Washington circles,” Sequera remarked to The Grayzone, “He’s a known character there, is predictably right-wing, and is considered loyal to the program.”
While Guaidó is today sold as the face of democratic restoration, he spent his career in the most violent faction of Venezuela’s most radical opposition party, positioning himself at the forefront of one destabilization campaign after another. His party has been widely discredited inside Venezuela, and is held partly responsible for fragmenting a badly weakened opposition. ... But this is precisely why he Guaidó was selected by Washington: He is not expected to lead Venezuela toward democracy, but to collapse a country that for the past two decades has been a bulwark of resistance to US hegemony. His unlikely rise signals the culmination of a two decades-long project to destroy a robust socialist experiment.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro slapped a travel ban Tuesday on Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader challenging his presidency. Guaidó’s assets were also frozen and a probe was announced that could lead to his arrest. Attorney General Tarek Saab announced the parliamentary investigation into Guaidó, who last week declared himself the rightful president of the beleaguered country.
Simultaneously, the Supreme Court issued the travel ban and asset freeze.
Guaidó "is prohibited from leaving the country until the end of the (preliminary) investigation" for having "caused harm to peace in the republic,” Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno, a Maduro loyalist, said.
Reacting to the news, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton warned: “there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaidó.”
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan on Tuesday would not rule out sending U.S. military forces to Colombia or the region in connection with the ongoing political upheaval in Venezuela.
Shanahan told reporters that he hasn't spoken to national security adviser John Bolton about sending troops to Colombia. But he said he wouldn't comment when asked if he had other conversations about such a deployment plan or if he could rule it out.
Bolton had "5,000 troops to Colombia" written on a notepad he held during a news conference Monday announcing new sanctions on Venezuela. ...
Colombia Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said Monday that his government does not know the "importance and reason" for Bolton's note.
A War for Oil? Bolton Pushes Privatization of Venezuela’s Oil as U.S. Ratchets Up Pressure on Maduro
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has accused Donald Trump and a “group of extremists around him” of plotting to topple him in order to seize Venezuela’s oil, and warned he risked transforming the South American country into a new Vietnam. In a four-minute Facebook video – published as Venezuela prepared on Wednesday for a day of fresh pro-opposition protests – Maduro claimed the leaders of the US “empire” were conspiring “to get their hands on our oil – just like they did in Iraq and in Libya”.
Unable to accuse Venezuela’s government of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, they were instead waging a media campaign of fake news to justify intervening in a country that boasts the world’s biggest crude reserves, Maduro claimed.
“We will not allow a Vietnam in Latin America. If the US intends to intervene against us they will get a Vietnam worse than they could have imagined. We do not allow violence. We are a peaceful people,” Venezuela’s embattled leftist leader added.
Maduro also said on Wednesday he was willing to negotiate with Guaidó. “I’m willing to sit down for talks with the opposition so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future,” he said. Maduro said the talks could be held with the mediation of other countries, naming Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, the Vatican and Russia. Later on Wednesday, Moscow repeated its offer to mediate. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Russia could offer more balanced conditions for dialogue than the west. Lavrov called on Guaidó to agree to talks without preconditions.
, with two editorials — those involving the 1983 Grenada invasion and the 2009 Honduras coup — ranging from ambiguous to reluctant opposition. The survey can be viewed here.
Covert involvement of the United States, by the CIA or other intelligence services, isn’t mentioned in any of the Times’ editorials on any of the coups. Absent an open, undeniable U.S. military invasion (as in the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada), things seem to happen in Latin American countries entirely on their own, with outside forces rarely, if ever, mentioned in the Times. Obviously, there are limits to what is “provable” in the immediate aftermath of such events (covert intervention is, by definition, covert), but the idea that the U.S. or other imperial actors could have stirred the pot, funded a junta or run weapons in any of the conflicts under the table is never entertained. ...
There’s a familiar script: The CIA and its U.S. corporate partners come in, wage economic warfare, fund and arm the opposition, then the target of this operation is blamed. This, of course, isn’t to say there isn’t merit to some of the objections being raised by The New York Times—whether it be Chile in 1973 or Venezuela in 2019. But that’s not really the point. The reason the CIA and U.S. military and its corporate partisans historically target governments in Latin America is because those governments are hostile to U.S. capital and strategic interests, not because they are undemocratic. So while the points the Times makes about illiberalism may sometimes be true, they’re mostly a non sequitur when analyzing the reality of what’s unfolding.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are hoping to upend nearly half a century of American foreign policy by using the War Powers Act to end U.S. military support for the civil war in Yemen. If the resolution that’s being introduced Wednesday passes both chambers of Congress — and its sponsors believe it will — it will reassert Congress’s constitutionally-mandated authority over declaration of war, and it could force President Donald Trump to veto the bill in order to continue U.S. support of Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
The bill may also limit the administration’s future actions in Venezuela, even as National Security Advisor John Bolton said this week that “all options are on the table,” including a military intervention to protect opposition leader Juan Guaidó. ... If the bill passes, it would mark the first time Congress has ever used the War Power Act of 1973 to curtail a president’s ability to deploy U.S. military assets abroad.
Back in December, seven Republican senators joined Democrats in passing a War Powers Act resolution to put a stop to U.S. material support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s brutal civil war. The Senate also voted unanimously to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia personally responsible for the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey last Ocober, a powerful rebuke of Trump, who dismissed U.S. intelligence linking the crown prince to the killing.
Paul Ryan was House speaker back then, and he made sure the Senate’s legislation never saw the light of day in the House of Representatives. This time, Democrat Nancy Pelosi is speaker, and the legislation is expected to sail through the House with significant bipartisan support.
Though the bill maintains more Democratic support than Republican, it marks a slow change in American foreign policy as seen through the eyes of many members of Congress. ... Lawmakers are particularly concerned about Bolton’s contention that “all options are on the table” when it comes to Venezuela. “That’s just not true. Only Congress can declare war,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) told VICE News in the basement of the Capitol. Lieu contends that Congress has only authorized two uses of military force. “One is to go after terrorists. The other is to do operations in Iraq. None of those apply to Venezuela, so that option is just not on the table for military troops,” Lieu said.
The head of US intelligence has said that North Korea is “unlikely to give up” its nuclear weapons because its leadership sees them as “critical to regime survival” – in comments which contrasted sharply with Donald Trump’s own assessment. Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, made his assessment in a written statement on “worldwide threats” to the Senate on Tuesday, which was noteworthy for the many ways it differed from the rhetoric favoured by the president and his top aides.
The gaps were not only evident on North Korea, but also on Iran’s nuclear programme, the continuing threat of the Islamic State in Syria and on the importance of climate change. The distance between the White House and its intelligence agencies was highlighted further in verbal testimony to the Senate intelligence committee by Coats, alongside the heads of the CIA, DIA and NSA who also testified. Coats’s assessment on North Korean intentions had particular impact as it comes in the run-up to a planned second summit at the end of February between Trump and Kim Jong-un. ...
In his written testimony, however, Coats said: “We continue to assess that North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, even as it seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization steps to obtain key US and international concessions.”
“North Korean leaders view nuclear arms as critical to regime survival,” Coats argued.
In contrast, Coats said that US intelligence “continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device”. He noted that Iran’s activities are limited by the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but as Iran derives ever fewer benefits from the deal, hardliners are pressing for the state to break free of those constraints.
Heh. The fruithats in the White House and their nutbar allies in the legislature are thinking about imposing sanctions on Europe. What'll they think of next?
The Trump administration is closely eyeing efforts in Europe to set up an alternative money payment channel to ease doing business with Iran and avoid running afoul of sanctions the US has levied on the Islamic Republic.
The White House is putting the Europeans on notice, saying that if they try to do an end-run around US sanctions on Iran, they will be subject to stiff fines and penalties. Unfazed, the European Union is marching forward with the plan, which, if implemented, could further strain trans-Atlantic relations.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said preparations for the alternative system were “at an advanced stage.”
Getting out ahead of a possible announcement, a senior administration official told The Associated Press on Friday that the US will fully enforce its sanctions and hold individuals and entities accountable for undermining them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue. “The choice is whether to do business with Iran or the United States,” Sen. Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas), told the AP. “I hope our European allies choose wisely.”
A Canadian Jewish organization has been stripped of its charity status following a government audit that found it had provided support to “foreign armed forces,” according to documents obtained by Global News. The Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, based in Toronto, had been a registered charity since 1980 and was one of richest in Canada, with more than $60-million in revenues in 2017.
But federal regulators said some of its activities were not charitable under Canadian law, such as “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces.” The Canada Revenue Agency also identified a list of other problems such as funding projects in the occupied territories, which it said was contrary to Canada’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ...
In 2017, Global Philanthropy, a newsletter by Toronto charity lawyer Mark Blumberg, placed it 15th among charities that spent the most outside Canada. ...
Blumberg told Global News that reading the details of the case was “shocking” and the government should be embarrassed the charity was allowed to operate for so long, noting that despite spending tens of millions annually it had only two active board members and one or two staff. “This is an example of the type of ‘efficient’ charity we don’t need in Canada. It is efficient at giving out tax receipts but not effective in making sure that the $200-million of tax-subsidized dollars was spent appropriately,” he said on Sunday.
Theresa May was handed a two-week deadline to resuscitate her Brexit deal last night after she caved to Tory Eurosceptics and pledged to go back to Brussels to demand changes to the Irish backstop. With just 59 days to go until exit day, MPs narrowly passed a government-backed amendment, tabled by the senior Tory Graham Brady, promising to replace the Irish backstop with unspecified “alternative arrangements”.
But within minutes of the Commons result the European council president, Donald Tusk, announced that the EU was not prepared to reopen the deal.
“The withdrawal agreement is, and remains, the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union,” a spokesman for Tusk said. “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” ...
On a dramatic day in Westminster the House of Commons also served notice that it would not support the government if it pursued a no-deal Brexit, undermining what May regards as one of her key bargaining chips in the days ahead. ... The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he would meet the prime minister after the amendment against no-deal Brexit was passed. He had previously declined her invitation to talks until a no deal was taken off the table.
Viktor Orban features most often in Western commentary not just for his stern stance on migration from outside Europe but also as a cautionary tale of the continent’s slide away from liberal democracy into soft authoritarianism through his consolidation of judicial power and control of most of the country’s media into the hands of party allies. Opposition activists and parties are not silenced, as in a true dictatorship, but rather crowded out by government-funded media outlets supportive of Orban’s rule. He adheres to the letter of democracy — free and fair elections, a free press — while stacking the decks in his own favor. This delicate dance appears to be working. Increasingly, especially since winning more than two-thirds of the votes in Hungary’s election in April, he appears to be Europe’s most popular political leader.
The Hungarian leader now aims to expand his brand of populist politics to the rest of the continent, seeking allies to win control of Europe’s political institutions and reshape the European Union in his own image. Underlying his political success is a raft of policies some call “Orbanomics,” a set of redistributive strategies that shield middle-class Hungarian voters from the pressures of unrestrained capitalism, and which, to American eyes, seem almost socialist in generosity.
CSOK, which launched in 2016, is a prime example. Under the program, families who commit to having three children are given a government grant to buy or build a new house equivalent to up to twice the annual average income. Generous welfare payments make it viable for one parent to leave the workforce and stay at home with the children, while carefully targeted tax allowances mean that a family with three children no longer pays income tax at all. Finally, the expansion of free nurseries around the country allows women to re-enter the workforce without denting their income through childcare costs, in contrast to much of Western Europe. “What we would like to do in Hungary is to give the freedom of choice, the opportunity to choose between staying a long time at home with the children, taking care of them, or going back to work,” Hungarian State Secretary for Families Katalina Novak told VICE News. “These are, I would say, the main pillars of our family support system.”
This blend of soft authoritarianism and benevolent paternalism may be an outlier in the European Union, but in Hungary it has deep roots. In its thousand-year history, Hungary has been a liberal democracy for less than 30 years. Under Communism, the atypically liberal concessions made to popular opinion by the country’s leadership — minimal censorship and political repression, free travel to the West, a restrained version of market capitalism — were termed “Goulash Communism,” as a marker of the country’s unique political settlement. It is perhaps fair to say Hungary is now experimenting with “Goulash democracy,” where voters accede to Orban’s consolidation of power and are in turn sheltered from the storms of the free market capitalism by high living standards and generous state support.
Rightwing activists in Portland, Oregon, appear to have shifted tactics in their ongoing confrontation with leftwing groups and city authorities, attempting forced “demaskings” of opponents and picketing union venues and events. One activist has threatened the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler. Since the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, the Vancouver, Washington-based Patriot Prayer group, led by the former Republican Senate candidate Joey Gibson, has staged frequent rallies in Portland. Opposed by leftwing counter-protesters, many such events have become violent.
Wheeler has become a hate figure on the far right, ostensibly over the city’s response to a Portland protest in June 2018 that descended into a bloody riot. The mayor was among public figures threatened by Cesar Sayoc, the suspect in the so-called “Maga bomber” case. Last week, Reggie Axtell, a member of the “western chauvinist” Proud Boys group and a frequent attendee at Patriot Prayer marches, issued a threat to Wheeler. In a video posted to Facebook, Axtell said the mayor’s “days are fucking numbered” and added: “I promise you this, Ted Wheeler: I’m coming for you, you little punk.”
Axtell also said he would try to “unmask every antifa son of a bitch that I come across” and said: “Like Joey Gibson says, behind every blade of grass there is a gun.”
Foxconn is reconsidering plans to make advanced liquid crystal display panels at a $10bn Wisconsin campus, and said it intends to hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised. Announced at a White House ceremony in 2017, the 20m sq ft campus marked the largest greenfield investment by a foreign-based company in US history and was praised by Donald Trump as proof of his ability to revive American manufacturing.
The deal relied on a potential $4.8bn in subsidies and has proved highly controversial. One of the deal’s biggest critics, Randy Bryce, a former iron worker who lives neat the Foxconn site and ran for House speaker Paul Ryan’s seat as a Democrat, said the deal appeared to be “unravelling”.
“It shows what happens when government puts corporations before people,” said Bryce. “They absolutely should not get that money now.” ...
Louis Woo, the special assistant to Foxconn chief executive Terry Gou, aid the company was still evaluating options for Wisconsin, but cited the steep cost of making advanced TV screens in the US, where labor expenses are comparatively high. “In terms of TV, we have no place in the US,” he said in an interview. “We can’t compete.” Rather than a focus on LCD manufacturing, Foxconn wants to create a “technology hub” in Wisconsin that would largely consist of research facilities along with packaging and assembly operations, Woo said. ...
Earlier this month, Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple, reiterated its intention to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, but said it had slowed its pace of hiring. The company initially said it expected to employ about 5,200 people by the end of 2020; a company source said that figure now looks likely to be closer to 1,000 workers. ... The Foxconn project was championed by Scott Walker, the Republican former Wisconsin governor who helped secure around $4bn in tax breaks and other incentives before leaving office.
Wary of reigniting a clash that proved damaging to Republicans, congressional GOP leaders signaled Tuesday that they want to de-escalate the battle over President Donald Trump’s border wall and suggested they could be flexible as bargainers seek a bipartisan agreement. In what seemed a message aimed at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the two confrontational tactics that Trump has threatened to employ if negotiators can’t craft a border security accord to his liking. ...
The remarks by McConnell, R-Ky., were noteworthy because the guarded lawmaker seldom volunteers his opinions and reporters had not specifically asked him about a shutdown or a possible emergency declaration. The comments underscored his party’s eagerness to put the 35-day partial federal shutdown behind them and avoid additional jarring clashes, and suggested possible divisions between GOP lawmakers and the White House.
“I’m for whatever works that would prevent the level of dysfunction we’ve seen on full display here the last month and also doesn’t bring about a view on the president’s part that he needs to declare a national emergency,” McConnell said when asked to describe a border security agreement he’d support.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would not insist that any deal include the word “wall.” The comment signaled the GOP’s latest rhetorical retreat from a battle cry — “Build the wall!” — that Trump made a keystone of his presidential campaign.
Just over a year after the GOP rammed through its $1.5 trillion tax plan—which has predictably rewarded the ultra-rich while doing virtually nothing for workers—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Republican colleagues were condemned for pushing yet another "blatant giveaway to their wealthy donors" by introducing a bill on Monday that would permanently repeal the estate tax.
"Greed has no limit for the GOP," declared Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. "We need to reverse direction—not allow the GOP to hand the rich even more tax cuts."
The deeply unpopular Republican tax law already significantly weakened the estate tax by doubling the exemption, allowing couples with up to $22 million to pass on their fortunes tax-free. If it passes Congress, the plan introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Thune (R-S.D.), and McConnell—and co-sponsored by dozens of Senate Republicans—would accomplish the longstanding GOP goal of completely eliminating the estate tax.
"Ending the estate tax would give a tax break of up to $63 billion to the Walton family and $39 billion to the Kochs—but $0 to 99.8% of Americans," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted in a tweet on Tuesday. "At a time of record inequality, the very last thing we should do is line the pockets of the rich."
What's 'Ridiculous,' Says Warren, Is Not Tax on Wealth But Billionaires Like Schultz 'Who Think They Can Buy the Presidency'
"What's 'ridiculous' is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves while opportunity slips away for everyone else." That is how Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday responded to Howard Schultz, the billionaire and former Starbucks CEO considering a 2020 presidential run, after he characterized her proposed wealth tax on the nation's ultra-rich as "ridiculous" earlier in the day.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday swiftly rejected criticism of her plan to tax the wealthiest Americans from Howard Schultz, the billionaire and former Starbucks CEO who announced this week that he is exploring a potential presidential run in 2020.
On NPR's "Morning Edition," Schultz called Warren's Ultra-Millionaire Tax "ridiculous," and suggested that the plan—which would levy an annual two percent tax on households with more than $50 million and a three percent tax on those with more than $1 billion in assets—is unfair to the .1 percent of Americans whose vast wealth would be targeted. ...
"The question I think we all should be asking ourselves is at a time in America when there's so much evidence that our political system is broken, that both parties at the extreme are not representing the silent majority of the American people—isn't there a better choice, a better way?" Schultz said in a video addressing voters.
Despite Schultz's evidence-free claim that U.S. voters want some nebulous "centrist" candidate, numerous polls have shown that there is in fact a vocal majority demanding higher taxes for the rich as a way to correct wealth inequality, Medicare for All, government-funded college tuition, and the Green New Deal. Ignoring these calls, Schultz appears ready to begin a campaign building on his belief, stated in an interview last summer, that "we have to go after entitlements" like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as a way of balancing the federal budget.
As Harris Says 'Eliminate' For-Profit Insurance, Bloomberg Offers Fact-Free Medicare for All Fearmongering
At a town hall event Monday night, Sen. Kamala Harris's (D-Calif.) unequivocal statement of support for a Medicare for All system which would do away with the for-profit health insurance industry won applause from the audience and universal healthcare advocates around the country, as the senator and 2020 presidential candidate backed the plan that 70 percent of Americans now support. ... Harris was undeterred by a follow-up question from CNN host Jake Tapper, who asked whether she meant that the private health insurance sector should be done away with as the government takes responsibility for delivering healthcare to Americans.
"Listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care," she replied, making clear that she fully supports the proposal put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rather than attempting to prop up the private insurance industry while offering a public option. ...
But in addition to supporters, Harris's comments also caught the attention of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who criticized the 2020 contenders who have backed Medicare for All by claiming the plan would be unaffordable for the United States. "You can have Medicare for All for people that are uncovered, because that's a smaller group," said Bloomberg incongruously. "But to replace the entire private system where companies provide healthcare for their employees," he added without citing evidence, "would bankrupt us for a very long time."
Kamala Harris has an authoritarian streak a mile wide. Watching the video clip, one has to wonder if she wouldn't be worse than Trump, pandering to white voters with promises to flog the poor into submission using the full force of state power. What a disgusting performance.
In a 2010 speech, Kamala Harris laughed as she described the backlash to her decision to start prosecuting the parents of children who were truant from school. Now, just days after the California senator officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign, clips from that speech have gone viral on Twitter, sparking criticism of Harris’ punitive approach to truancy. ...
In public speeches and op-eds, Harris leaned heavily on the threat of potential jail time for parents whose elementary school children were often absent from school. During her race for attorney general of California, she championed a new statewide anti-truancy law that specified that parents of chronically truant students could face a maximum penalty of a year’s imprisonment in county jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
Critics responding to the clips of Harris’ speech this week said they disapproved of Harris’ willingness to use what she called the “huge stick” of law enforcement as a threat to make sure struggling parents got the help they needed.
Kamala Harris at an event hosted by the Commonwealth Club in 2010, explaining her decision as San Francisco DA to get tough on truancy.
Critics of truancy crackdowns say such efforts unfairly target poor parents and children without actually helping students. pic.twitter.com/GKkDpayxuv
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) January 28, 2019
In her 2010 speech, Harris noted that one of the parents prosecuted for truancy was a single mother of three, who was homeless and working two jobs. By shining the “spotlight of public safety” on her case, officials were able to get the woman services, Harris argued. Once her children’s attendance improved, “we dismissed the charges against her”. Harris’ anecdote about the homeless mother captures “the disaster of American social policy”, James Forman Jr, a scholar and critic of mass incarceration, wrote on Twitter in response to the clip. “That’s the American way: what little help we offer poor people comes under threat of prison.”
The people prosecuted for the “crime” of having their children miss school are overwhelmingly poor, black and brown, Forman, the author of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment Black America, wrote. “Poor parents don’t need the threat of jail to get their kids to school. They need what the wealthy take for granted: good schools, lead-free water, safe parks, healthy food, well-stocked libraries, etc.”
One widely-shared tweet compared Harris’ remarks on truancy to Hillary Clinton’s racist 1996 comment about juvenile “super-predators”.
[Interesting. The link to the tweet comparing Harris' remarks to Clinton's "super-predators" comments brings up a page saying that the account has been suspended. Quelle surprise! - js]
Minnesota police have spent 18 months preparing for a major standoff over Enbridge Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline that has yet to receive the green light to build in the state. Records obtained by The Intercept show that law enforcement has engaged in a coordinated effort to identify potential anti-pipeline camps and monitor individual protesters, repeatedly turning for guidance to the North Dakota officials responsible for the militarized response at Standing Rock in 2016. ...
A police response like the one in North Dakota is a significant concern for Line 3 opponents. At Standing Rock, law enforcement used water cannons, rubber bullets, armored personnel carriers, and sound cannons in an operation that resulted in serious injuries. Aided by private intelligence and security firms working for the pipeline, they gathered information on protesters via aerial surveillance, online monitoring, embedded informants, and eavesdropping on radio signals. In a time of growing resistance to fossil fuel industries, the public-private partnership served as a chilling example of law enforcement agencies acting as bulwarks of the oil industry.
In 2017, Enbridge began construction on the tiny portion of Line 3 that cuts into Wisconsin. Local police reports describe two security firms, Raven Executive and Security Services and Securitas, keeping tabs on protesters and reporting their activities to law enforcement. It was the protests in Wisconsin that sparked the multistate coordination led by Minnesota. The state’s fusion center developed a reputation as “the keepers of information for the Enbridge protests,” as one sheriff’s analyst put it, receiving information on Line 3 opponents from police departments in at least three states. While fusion centers were originally established to facilitate counterterrorism intelligence-sharing, they have increasingly played a role in monitoring, interpreting, and criminalizing political activity.
Meanwhile, opposition research firms that market their services to energy companies have also singled out Line 3 as the next likely flashpoint of opposition to a U.S. pipeline project. Executives of the public relations firm Off the Record Strategies and the private intelligence firm Delve, which the National Sheriffs’ Association contracted in 2016 to dig up information on DAPL opponents, gave an overview of their work at a pipeline industry conference in 2017. “If you look at Line 3, they’re already arresting activists in Minneapolis. They’re already doing encampments in Wisconsin,” Delve CEO Jeff Berkowitz told conference attendees, according to audio obtained by The Intercept. “I think the next one is potentially going to be worse than DAPL.”
Tribal attorney Tara Houska, who is Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation and the national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, has been deeply involved in organizing against Line 3. “It’s clear that Enbridge is doing everything they can to have a very highly skilled force of security and law enforcement at their fingertips to do what they can to stop any resistance to Line 3,” said Houska, who also took part in the struggle at Standing Rock. “And if anything, it seems like what they’re doing is much more coordinated than what we saw in North Dakota.”
Faced with potentially ruinous lawsuits over California’s recent wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electric Corp filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday, in a move that could lead to higher bills for customers of the nation’s biggest utility and reduce the size of any payouts to fire victims. The Chapter 11 filing allows PG&E to continue operating while it puts its books in order. But it was seen as a possible glimpse of the financial toll that could lie ahead because of global warming, which scientists say is leading to fiercer, more destructive blazes and longer fire seasons.
The bankruptcy could also jeopardize California’s ambitious program to switch entirely to renewable energy sources.
PG&E cited hundreds of lawsuits from victims of fires in 2017 and 2018 and tens of billions of dollars in potential liabilities when it announced earlier this month that it planned to file for bankruptcy. ... The bankruptcy filing immediately puts the wildfire lawsuits on hold and consolidates them in bankruptcy court, where legal experts say victims will probably receive less money. “They’re going to have to take some sort of haircut on their claims,” said Jared Ellias, a bankruptcy attorney who teaches at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. “We don’t know yet what that will be.”
In a bankruptcy proceeding, the victims have little chance of getting punitive damages or taking their claims to a jury. They will also have to stand in line behind PG&E’s secured creditors, such as banks, when a judge decides who gets paid and how much.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
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Johnnie Johnson - Everyday I Have The Blues
Johnnie Johnson w/Ry Cooder - Another Slow Blues
Johnnie Johnson - Movin' Out
Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson - House of Blue Lights
John Lee Hooker, Johnnie Johnson, Bonnie Raitt, Albert Collins, Robert Cray, Charlie Musselwhite, Roy Rogers
Johnnie Johnson 1999 Studio 22