The Evening Blues - 1-7-19


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: The Falcons

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features a doo wop and soul group with Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Joe Stubbs and Sir Mack Rice among its members, The Falcons. Enjoy!

The Falcons - You're Mine

"There’s an additional reason why people — not just political leaders — like balanced budget thinking. It frees us from responsibility for making decisions. Just like the ‘independence of the Federal Reserve,’ we can choose to get rid of our obligations as citizens in a democracy if we say that the hard stuff should be determined by men in suits who don’t have to answer to voters. If however we choose to ignore the men in suits, then normal people have to make decisions about trillions of dollars, and wielding power is scary. That’s democracy, but it’s scary. Since the 1970s, Democrats have believed that it is inappropriate for normal non-fancy people to wield real power; normal people can be ornamental elected officials and argue about social questions, but real decision-making about power should be done by businessmen, generals, economists, and so forth. Progressives have largely gone along with this. Progressive members generally went onto committees in Congress that don’t deal with ‘hard’ subjects like money, banks, guns, or spying. They want to go onto committees that address health care, education, kittens, and hugs. This is a subtle deference to power, and it’s an ingrained culture habit."

-- Matt Stoller

News and Opinion

The Senate apparently has nothing better to do than grovel before AIPAC while forwarding efforts to destroy the First Amendment.

U.S. Senate’s First Bill, in Midst of Shutdown, is a Bipartisan Defense of the Israeli Government from Boycotts

When each new congress is gaveled into session, the chambers attach symbolic importance to the first piece of legislation to be considered. For that reason, it bears the lofty designation of H.R.1 in the House, and S.1 in the Senate. In the newly controlled Democratic House, H.R.1 – meant to signal the new majority’s priorities – is an anti-corruption bill that combines election and campaign finance reform, strengthening of voting rights, and matching public funds for small-dollar candidates.

But in the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate, the first bill to be considered – S.1 – is not designed to protect American workers, bolster U.S. companies, or address the various debates over border security and immigration. It’s not a bill to open the government. Instead, according to multiple sources involved in the legislative process, S.1 will be a compendium containing a handful of foreign-policy related measures, a main one of which is a provision, with Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio as a lead sponsor, to defend the Israeli government. The bill is a top legislative priority for AIPAC.

In the previous Congress, that measure was known as S.170, and it gives state and local governments explicit legal authority to boycott any U.S. companies which themselves are participating in a boycott against Israel. As the Intercept reported last month, 26 states now have enacted some version of a law to punish or otherwise sanction entities which participate in or support the boycott of Israel, while similar laws are pending in at least 13 additional states. Rubio’s bill is designed to strengthen the legal basis to defend those Israel-protecting laws from constitutional challenge.

Punishment aimed at companies which choose to boycott Israel can also sweep up individual American citizens in its punitive net, because individual contractors often work for state or local governments under the auspices of a sole proprietorship or some other business entity. That was the case with Texas elementary school speech pathologist Bahia Amawi, who lost her job working with autistic and speech-impaired children in Austin because she refused to promise not to boycott goods produced in Israel and/or illegal Israeli settlements.

Thus far, the two federal courts that have ruled on such bills have declared them to be unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment speech rights of American citizens. ... These are the Israel-defending, free-speech-punishing laws which Rubio’s bill is designed to strengthen. Although Rubio is the chief sponsor, his bill attracted broad bipartisan support, as is true of most bills designed to protect Israel and which are supported by AIPAC. Rubio’s bill last Congress was cosponsored by a several Democrats who are still in the Senate: Bob Menendez, N.J.; Joe Manchin, W.Va.; Ben Cardin, Md.; Ron Wyden, Ore.; Gary Peters, Mich.; and Debbie Stabenow, Mich. The support among Democrats for bills that would punish supporters of the Boycott Israel movement is now particularly awkward given that two of the most prominent newly elected Democratic members – Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first two Muslim women in Congress – are both supporters of that Israel boycott.

Clashes erupt in Paris between 'Yellow Vest' protesters and police

Denouncing Focus on Violence, Women March in France to Reclaim Anti-Austerity Message of 'Yellow Vest' Movement

"Macron your goose is cooked, the chicks are in the street!"

That was the chant by one large contingent of women marching in the French city of Toulouse on Sunday as female-led demonstrations took place across France in order to keep the pressure on President Emmanuel Macron while also pushing back the increasing displays of violence some within the broader "Yellow Vest" (or Gilets Jaunes) movement argue is overshadowing the underlying political message.

"All the media ever reports is the violence, and we are forgetting the root of the problem" which is the fight against austerity, one protester named Karen, a 42-year-old nurse, told Agence France Presse on the streets of Marseilles.

Sunday's demonstrations followed a day of protests on Saturday during which violence broke out in Paris and other cities as those participating in "Act VIII" protests under the Yellow Vest banner clashed with French riot police, erected barricades, and started fires:

"The 'yellow vest' protest movement, which has now seen protests on eight consecutive Saturdays," reports AFP, "was initially triggered by anger over an increase in fuel taxes. But it has since morphed into a campaign against the high cost of living and the government of President Emmanuel Macron, seen by many as arrogant and beholden to big business."

Laurent Berger, head of the reform-minded CFDT trade union, France's largest by members, on Sunday accused Macron's government of going it alone while ignoring the legitimate concerns of those who support the complaints, if not always the tactics, of the Yellow Vest protesters.  "We're at an impasse. We have on the one side a violent movement ... and on the other a government which thinks it can find the answers all on its own," Berger told France Inter. According to polls, approximately 55 percent of the French public currently support the protests, though that is a smaller number compared to the 75 percent who registered approval in November when the movement began.

Ecuador unveils “special examination” of Julian Assange’s asylum

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose courageous publication of leaked documents exposed the crimes and mass surveillance of the US and its allies, is facing a new threat to expel him from Ecuador’s London embassy. He was granted political asylum there in 2012 to protect him from being extradited to the US to face possible life imprisonment, or even execution, on trumped-up espionage or conspiracy charges. Having already cut off Assange’s internet access and communication with the outside world last March, in an effort to coerce him into leaving the embassy, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno has set in motion a pseudo-legal inquisition to provide a cover for his government to repudiate its asylum obligations.

Facing mounting demands from Washington, Moreno’s government has unveiled a “special examination” of Assange’s asylum and citizenship—a process clearly designed to repudiate both. The issue of citizenship is significant because Ecuadorian law forbids extradition of citizens. On January 3, former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, whose government granted Assange asylum, tweeted an image of a letter he received from Ecuador’s State Comptroller General on December 19, notifying him of an investigation by the Direction National de Auditoria. Specifically, the “general objective” of the audit is to “determine whether the procedures for granting asylum and naturalization to Julian Assange were carried out in accordance with national and international law.” It will cover the period between January 1, 2012 and September 20, 2018.

Correa, now living in Belgium, was asked to supply information for the inquiry, but no timeline was mentioned, nor any date for the end result. There is no doubt, however, that the timing is directly connected to the escalating economic, financial and political pressure on Ecuador, above all emanating from the US military-intelligence apparatus and political establishment. WikiLeaks tweeted Correa’s news the same day, pointing to the link between the “special examination” and the Moreno government’s mooted resort to an IMF bailout because of its deepening debts, which have been fuelled by falling global oil prices and the dictates of the financial markets.

WikiLeaks reported: “Ecuador has initiated a formal ‘Special Examination’ of Julian Assange’s asylum and nationality (nationals cannot be extradited) as it seeks a $10 billion+ IMF bailout for which the US government demanded handing over Assange and dropping environmental claims against Chevron.”

All the evidence points to the handing over to the US of Assange, effectively the world’s number 1 political prisoner, being a condition set by Washington and the financial elite for the survival of Moreno and his government. The relentless and vindictive operation against Assange is driven by the ruling capitalist class’s determination to silence dissent as it faces the re-emergence of working-class struggles around the world.

How Trump’s sudden withdrawal from Syria is bringing the Kurds and Assad together

President Donald Trump made his feelings on U.S. involvement in Syria clear on Wednesday: “We want to protect Kurds, but I don’t want to be in Syria forever. It’s sand. And it’s death,” he said. He also walked back his December announcement of an immediate withdrawal of American troops, saying it would be slow, but the Kurds have already made other plans for their protection. On Friday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council — the U.S.’s staunchest ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria — invited Russian-backed Syrian forces into their territory in the country’s northeast in a once-unimaginable partnership. Damascus has said the troops have already arrived, while the U.S. and Turkey are denying it.

Just seven months earlier, U.S. airstrikes defending the Kurds killed hundreds of Russian mercenaries when they attempted to reclaim Kurdish-controlled oil fields for Damascus.

Assuming troops are pulled out in the foreseeable future, Damascus’ alliance with the Kurds is only the first of what will likely be many unexpected shifts in power and control. ... Manbij was captured from ISIS in 2015 and has been guarded by U.S. and French soldiers since. Now, with American forces slated to leave, Turkey, which has been threatening invasion for years, now has an opening. Fearing a slaughter, Kurdish forces are desperately casting around for a savior and apparently seeing one in Assad. ...

For the region’s large Assyrian and Syriac Christian minorities, the future looks equally grim. Perhaps the one thing uniting northeast Syria’s politically divided Christians is abhorrence at the prospect of Turkish-backed rebel rule. Many of the region’s Christians have already fled to Canada and Sweden as a result of the Turkish-supported rebel and jihadi offensives of 2013, and the 2014 and 2015 ISIS assaults on the Christian-populated Khabur river valley. The general command of the Kurds’ Assyrian and Syriac Christian militia, MFS, warned in a Dec. 27 press release that an invasion like the Afrin offensive could result in the extinction of Christianity in this corner of Syria.

Bolton: US troops will not leave Syria till Isis beaten and Kurds protected

US troops will not leave north-eastern Syria until Islamic State militants are defeated and US-allied Kurdish fighters protected, national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday, signaling a pause to a withdrawal abruptly announced last month and initially expected to be completed within weeks. Achieving such conditions will likely take months or even years.

Bolton also said some US troops would remain in the critical area of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity. He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it was justified by the president’s constitutional authority.

In Washington, Donald Trump said “we won’t be finally pulled out until Isis is gone”. That was a reversal from his announcement on 19 December, when the president said US forces had “defeated Isis in Syria, my only reason for being there”, and said in a video posted to Twitter: “Now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”

Bolton was in Jerusalem, and was due to fly on to Turkey in pursuit of an agreement to protect Kurdish militias. In Washington, Trump told reporters at the White House that “we are pulling back in Syria. We’re going to be removing our troops. I never said we’re doing it that quickly.” But in that 19 December video, the president said of the roughly 2,000 US troops in Syria: “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now.” Officials said at the time they expected American forces to be out by mid-January.

Bolton said Trump has made clear he will not allow Turkey to kill the Kurds: “That’s what the president said, the ones that fought with us.” The US has asked the Kurds to “stand fast now”, he said, and refrain from seeking protection from Russia or Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. “I think they know who their friends are,” Bolton added.

Heh, and Mr. Moustache Man, the Kurds appear to know who their friends aren't ...

Syrian Kurds seek Damascus deal regardless of US moves

Syrian Kurdish leaders aim to secure a Russian-mediated political deal with President Bashar Assad's government regardless of U.S. plans to withdraw from their region, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters.

The Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria presented a road map for an agreement with Assad during recent meetings in Russia and is awaiting Moscow's response, Badran Jia Kurd, who attended, said.

Syria: What's next for the Kurds after the US troops withdrawal?

Reasons To Believe In Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Are Vanishing

On the first of April last year I published an article titled “Ignore The Words Of US Presidents. Watch Their Actions Instead.“, about Trump’s claim that his administration would be pulling troops out of Syria “very soon”. ... The president’s words said the troops were leaving, and what actually happened was the US bombing the Syrian government for a second time in a year while troops remained where they were. Everyone completely lost their shit last month when the president once again made the claim that US troops will be brought home from Syria. Establishment loyalists of the political/media class went into full meltdown, Mattis handed in his resignation, and #Resistance Twitter pundits who’d never typed the word “Kurd” in their lives suddenly became self-appointed experts on the geopolitical dynamics between the Turkish government and the YPG. Support for the president’s words also rushed in from anti-interventionists and anti-imperialists everywhere, as well as from a few surprising places like Democratic Representative Ted Liu and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren.

So there was a very strong reaction to Trump’s words about Syria. But what have his actions been? If we look at this administration’s actual behavior with the narrative soundtrack on mute, what we see is a significant increasing of the number of troops in Syria, bombing the Syrian government twice, committing war crimes in Raqqa, providing full-throated support for hundreds of Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and a steadily increasing number of indications that the troops won’t be coming home at all. “I never said we’d be doing it that quickly,” press were told on Sunday by the president, who has indeed previously used the words “now” and “quickly” to describe the pace of troop withdrawal. “We won’t be finally pulled out, until ISIS is gone,” Trump added.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has also announced additional conditions which will need to be met before there’s a full withdrawal of US forces from Syria, including the seemingly indefinite need to counter Iranian activity in the region, and the need for an agreement to be reached between the US and Turkey to protect Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria. ... So there’s that. Trump’s rhetoric on Syria has differed from people in his administration like Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with the president tending to express more urgency on troop withdrawal and more indifference toward Iranian actions in Syria, but does it make any difference? It really doesn’t matter what noises Trump makes with his mouth if no moves to scale down interventionism actually occur.

As China feels US tariffs bite, a chill spreads around the world

It epitomises China’s position in the global economy that a seismic warning about its health last week came from a US company: Apple. The iPhone maker cut sales forecasts, citing the unforeseen “magnitude” of the economic slowdown in China – a vital growth market. At the same time the head of Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, warned his employees that “winter is coming” in the world’s second-largest economy. If China is indeed entering an economic winter, then the chill will spread around the globe. ...

China’s central bank said on Friday it was cutting the amount of cash that banks have to hold as reserves for the fifth time in a year, freeing up $116bn (£92bn) for new lending, as it tried to reduce the risk of a sharp economic slowdown.

This week US negotiators will travel to Beijing for a crucial round of talks with their Chinese counterparts in an attempt to break the deadlock in a year-long dispute over trade tariffs. Global markets, worried about the impact of tariffs on growth, have suffered a jump in volatility over recent months, with investors oscillating between exuberant optimism and despondency about the outcome.

Despite a near 20% fall in the US stock market between October and last month, some investors believe there are reasons for hope. They think Beijing might blink first in talks because the Chinese have much to lose by maintaining their objections to President Trump’s demands over trade imbalances, market access and alleged abuses of intellectual property. Beijing has downplayed the impact of extra tariffs on around £200bn of Chinese imports into the US. But the evidence from businesses and commentators inside China is clear: the dispute is hurting. And Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on almost $300bn of extra imports in March, including a 25% charge on imported cars, would be catastrophic.

Violence continues in Brazilian state despite security force presence

Attacks including fire-bombings that has swept across Brazil’s north-east state of Ceará have continued despite the deployment of at least 300 members of the elite National Public Security Force to help bring an end to days of violence in the region. Ceará’s public security department said buses and cars were set alight and petrol stations were attacked on Sunday in state capital, Fortaleza, and in at least six other cities. Police killed two people in a shootout. More than 100 people have been arrested since the violence broke out on Wednesday.

Brazil’s newly inaugurated government ordered the security force officers to be sent to the state on Friday after a series of attacks on banks, public buildings and vehicles. While authorities said the motive behind the attacks had not been confirmed, officials believed they were revenge for the recent announcement of tighter rules governing prisons and prisoners in the state. Prison gangs in Brazil are powerful and their reach extends beyond the country’s jails.

The Sounds That Haunted U.S. Diplomats in Cuba? Lovelorn Crickets, Scientists Say

In November 2016, American diplomats in Cuba complained of persistent, high-pitched sounds followed by a range of symptoms, including headaches, nausea and hearing loss. Exams of nearly two dozen of them eventually revealed signs of concussions or other brain injuries, and speculation about the cause turned to weapons that blast sound or microwaves. Amid an international uproar, a recording of the sinister droning was widely circulated in the news media.

On Friday, two scientists presented evidence that those sounds were not so mysterious after all. They were made by crickets, the researchers concluded. ...

Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln in England studied a recording of the sounds and published by The Associated Press. “There’s plenty of debate in the medical community over what, if any, physical damage there is to these individuals,” said Mr. Stubbs in a phone interview. “All I can say fairly definitively is that the A.P.-released recording is of a cricket, and we think we know what species it is.”

'The US can't dump people in Mexico': Trump asylum policy in doubt

When she announced last month that tens of thousands of asylum seekers would be returned to Mexico while their cases are considered, the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, described the move as a “historic” overhaul of US immigration policy. But more than two weeks later, the new strategy has yet to begin and it remains unclear how the plan would work – or even if Mexico is willing to enforce it.

The measure would be the Trump administration’s most significant move so far to dissuade people from seeking asylum. It would relieve pressure on US immigration authorities – and transfer it to Mexico. But Mexican officials who would in theory implement the policy say they have been kept in the dark over the change – and some have explicitly opposed it. “I had heard rumors, but I was not consulted,” said Tonatiuh Guillén, head of Mexico’s national immigration authority, told the Guardian.

“The US can’t just dump people into Mexico – they have to knock. We’ve asked for more answers, but the US government is shut down, so I guess they’ll answer when they figure that out. It’s all up in the air,” he said. ... “It’s not some small detail. The numbers just aren’t manageable. It will have far-reaching effects on services, employment, everything – the social and political fabric of Tijuana and other border cities,” said Guillén.

Confusion over the current state of the plan reigns on both sides of the border: when Nielsen announced the move on 20 December, Mexico’s foreign ministry reluctantly accepted, although within days the foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said he would need more information from US authorities. Guillén said Mexico had not formally accepted the plan.

“He’s lost it:” Trump’s lack of credibility on the border wall is frustrating Republicans

President Trump’s false statements and shifting position on the border wall have contradicted his own negotiators and frustrated Republicans he needs to fight battles for him on Capitol Hill. Now some are venting frustration at their inability to negotiate with the White House, or even locate a discernible position that could help end the government shutdown which is now entering its third week.

“The one thing you’ve got when you come into this place is your credibility, and once you lose it, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. He’s lost it,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told VICE News just off the House floor. “It’s very difficult to negotiate anything, because you don’t know if he’s going to stick with it. You don’t know what his attitude is going to be tomorrow or what his position is going to be tomorrow.”

Simpson is on the powerful Appropriations Committee, which controls the federal pursestrings, and, as an 11-term veteran, he has clout that’s earned him the respect of many Democrats, along with his GOP colleagues. He says his frustration with the president and his made-for-TV spending battle isn’t unique.

“There’s a lot of members of our caucus who think this shutdown is stupid,” Simpson said.

Top Trump officials are about to get a $10K raise while federal employees work without pay during the shutdown

Some of D.C.’s top brass — including Vice President Mike Pence — are about to have about $10,000 added to their salaries, as more than 800,000 federal employees struggle to get paid during the extended partial government shutdown.

Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, and federal administrators in the Trump administration will receive thousands of dollars in raises beginning Jan. 5, according to the Washington Post, potentially as an unintended consequence of the federal shutdown that’s troubled so many regular workers.

Since 2013, Congress has passed laws capping pay for top federal executives at a certain level, but the cap expires Saturday unless Congress moves to extend it. Without the cap, all of the raises that have accumulated over the last five years will go into effect.

Pence would see his salary rise from $230,700 to $243,500, according to the Post. Cabinet secretaries, meanwhile, will see salaries of $210,700, rather than $199,700. Some Cabinet members, like Secretary of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, already have an estimated net worth of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Trump threatens national emergency in 'next few days' over wall and shutdown

Donald Trump said on Sunday he may declare a national emergency over immigration, to allow him to build a wall on America’s southern border. As the government shutdown triggered by the president entered its 16th day, Trump threatened to take extraordinary action to bypass Congress, where Democrats refuse to pass a spending bill that would give him $5.6bn to build his wall. New House speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the wall “an immorality” and refused to fund Trump’s signature campaign pledge.

By declaring a state of national emergency, the White House thinks it will be able to unlock money without congressional approval, although it has given no specific details of the move.

Adam Schiff, a Democratic leader on Capitol Hill, declared the idea “a non-starter”. Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, the California representative said: “If Harry Truman couldn’t nationalise the steel industry during wartime, this president doesn’t have the power to declare an emergency and build a multi-billion dollar wall on the border. So that’s a non-starter.”

The 1976 National Emergencies Act grants a president powers to take unilateral acts in times of crisis. But it also outlines congressional checks and with Democrats controlling the House, an attempt to make such a move would be fiercely and legally contested, potentially pitching the US into constitutional crisis.

Leaving the White House for Camp David on Sunday, Trump claimed that many of the 800,000 federal staff either working without pay or told to stay at home “agree 100% with what I’m doing”.

Record Numbers of Americans Want to Leave the U.S.

  • 40% of women younger than 30 would like to leave the U.S.
  • 22% who disapprove of Trump would like to move vs. 7% who approve
  • Canada is top desired destination for would-be migrant Americans

While Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency focused on the number of people who want to get into the U.S., since he took office, record numbers of Americans have wanted to get out.

Though relatively average by global standards, the 16% of Americans overall who said in 2017 and again in 2018 that they would like to permanently move to another country -- if they could -- is higher than the average levels during either the George W. Bush (11%) or Barack Obama administration (10%).

While Gallup's World Poll does not ask people about their political leanings, most of the recent surge in Americans' desire to migrate has come among groups that typically lean Democratic and that have disapproved of Trump's job performance so far in his presidency: women, young Americans and people in lower-income groups.

During the first two years of the Trump administration, a record-high one in five U.S. women (20%) said they would like to move to another country permanently if they could. This is twice the average for women during the Obama (10%) or Bush years (11%) and almost twice the level among men (13%) under Trump. Before the Trump years, there was no difference between men's and women's desires to move.

Interesting article. I've not included any of Pramila Jayapal's whining about how she and the bunch of losers collectively known as the Congressional Progressive Caucus are misunderstood by social media and that sometimes it's more strategic to "go along to get along." If you like that sort of thing you should definitely click the link and read the whole thing.

Behind the Pay-go Battle Is a Central Contradiction That Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Her Allies Will Need to Resolve

In the first vote of the 116th Congress on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was one of just three Democrats who split with their party and voted against a rules package introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and backed by the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. ... The debate over the vote started Wednesday morning, when it became clear that the House rules package for the 116th Congress would include a fiscally conservative measure known as “pay-go.” A spokesperson for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called for progressives in the House to oppose it. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., was the first out of the gate, calling it “terrible economics” and promising to vote down the rules package. Ocasio-Cortez soon followed suit. For a moment, it looked like a rebellion could brewing among the newly energized and organized left. Except it wasn’t. There was no stampede of opposition, and later that day, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., put out a statement in support of the rules package, ending any real chance at a last-minute insurrection. The next evening, when the package hit the House floor, just three Democrats voted it down: Khanna and Ocasio-Cortez were joined by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who has hinted at 2020 presidential aspirations. ...

The sudden burst of energy over pay-go, and the just as sudden collapse, brought into relief in the starkest way yet the paradox that is Ocasio-Cortez’s position in the House — she has as much influence outside Congress as anybody else she serves with. Her every tweet is a potential news cycle, and the routine happenings of her high school and college life get turned into fodder for conservative face-plants on disturbingly regular occasions. She has used that platform to shift the broader political conversation in ways previously unthinkable. For nearly two decades, Democrats have quietly grumbled that it’s just not possible to get people interested in doing something about climate change. Ocasio-Cortez sparked a national conversation about ambitious climate change legislation, which is now backed by 45 members of Congress and has become a litmus test of sorts for 2020 Democratic presidential contenders.

But inside the building, she is heavily outgunned. Aside from her close ally Khanna, the only member of Congress to endorse her primary bid (after also endorsing the incumbent), Ocasio-Cortez is strengthened by her “squad,” which includes insurgent Ayanna Pressley, who unseated a longtime Democratic incumbent in Massachusetts, and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, who won competitive primaries to replace Keith Ellison and John Conyers, respectively. But even the squad broke with Ocasio-Cortez on the House rules package and supported Pelosi. The gap between the New York Democrat’s power outside the Capitol and the display of it on day one inside of it could hardly have been greater, and it’s an imbalance that simply can’t hold long-term. Something has to give; one side or the other will need to break or bend. It remains to be seen which one it will be. ...

Putting the climate on the map came at a cost — and here’s where the contradiction comes in — in that her proposal angered her colleagues, who furiously defended the turf of their respective committees, seeing themselves in competition with the proposed select committee. That hostility built upon already strong wariness on the part of her fellow lawmakers, who see in Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of people-powered, corporate-free politics a challenge to their own integrity or progressivism. She is a walking reminder to some Democrats of the space between their ideals and how they have come to practice politics — and they don’t appreciate the reminder.

This interview, where AOC calls out Trump as a racist ought to provide lots of fodder for screaming talking heads.

Democrats, Says Ocasio-Cortez, Have Compromised Away "Too Much of Who We're Supposed to Be"

In addition to calling for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will explain during a 60 Minutes interview that will air in full on Sunday evening why she believes Democrats have compromised away "too much" in recent years and have lost track of the party's purpose and mission.

While telling journalist Anderson Cooper she is certainly willing to compromise in order to get things accomplished in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez, in a preview clip, says "It's just about what we choose to compromise. My personal opinion, and I know that my district and my community feels this way as well, is that we as a party have compromised too much, and we've lost too much of who we're supposed to be and who we are."

Agreeing with a posit by Cooper that the Democratic Party has already "lost too much" by compromising with the GOP on certain things, she explained: "I think we've compromised things that we shouldn't have compromised, whether it's judgeships with Mitch McConnell, whether it's compromising on climate change. I think we've — there are some things that we've compromised a little bit too much on. But am I open to compromise on certain ways to get things done? Absolutely."

A case in point, earlier on Sunday—and amid an ongoing standoff over a federal funding and President Trump's demand for $5.6 billion for his border wall—Ocasio-Cortez characterized Trump's shutdown tactics as "hostage-taking," in which the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of federal workers and their families were under threat by the president. "No one," she said, "can compromise or negotiate with that."

the horse race

Ari Berman: Dems Introduce Sweeping Voting Rights Bill to Combat Rampant Voter Suppression

Senior Democrats chide Rashida Tlaib over 'impeach the motherfucker' vow

On her first full day as one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, Rashida Tlaib experienced a media storm over her vow to impeach “the motherfucker” Donald Trump. The promise, made at an event the night before, drew plenty of political pushback from her Democratic colleagues in the House. “It’s been pretty intense,” the Michigan Democrat said. ...

“I disagree with what she said,” said Jerrold Nadler of New York, to CNN. Nadler is chair of the House judiciary committee, which would begin impeachment proceedings. “It is too early to talk about that intelligently,” he said. “We have to follow the facts.”

Tlaib and her classmates have been celebrated for their promises to stand up to the powers that be. By rebuking one, more seasoned Democrats were effectively warning others. ...

Talk of impeachment is fueled by a handful of Democrats on the left who are pressuring Pelosi to pursue the issue. But proceedings appear unlikely. Even if the House advanced any articles of impeachment, a two-thirds-majority vote to convict Trump in the Republican-controlled Senate would seem out of the question, barring new revelations.

Elizabeth Warren Supports Trump’s Syria Withdrawal

Elizabeth Warren Nails Economy, Muddles Foreign Policy

In her New Year’s Eve announcement about forming an exploratory committee for the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a great point: “Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. It’s just not working for anyone else.” In case you missed that, she did not say “the economy isn’t working well” or such, as we’ve all heard numerous politicos say countless times. She rather said the opposite of that; repeatedly: “The way I see it right now, Washington works great for giant drug companies, but just not for people who are trying to get a prescription filled. Washington works great for for-profit colleges and student loan outfits, but not for young people who are getting crushed by student loan debt. And you could keep going through the list. The problem we have got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who’ve got money to buy influence.” ...

The problem is that she doesn’t articulate that in the same manner when it comes to bloody wars. Quite the contrary. ... When asked on Wednesday night by Rachel Maddow about Trump’s recent announcement on pulling troops from Syria, Warren said the U.S.’s wars are “not working.”

She didn’t say: “The wars are working great for military contractors, just not for regular people in the U.S. or Syria or anywhere else.” Warren—who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee—did not say: “The wars are great for the wealthy profiting off of them, they’re just terrible for the people getting killed in them.” Instead, Warren actually swallowed some of the rhetoric about U.S. wars having as their alleged goals stability or humanitarianism or security. The profits of military contractors or geopolitical elites went unexamined. She said it was “right” to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, an arguably positive position, but added: “It is not working and pretending that somehow, in the future, it is going to work…it’s a form of fantasy that we simply can’t afford to continue to engage in.”

But part of the fantasy is ignoring that the wars are indeed working great for some. Indeed, if Warren heard someone else say that “it is not working” about the economy, she’d likely correct them. Warren did at least raise the question of what “success” in the perpetual wars might be, which is certainly better than most of official Washington. ... But, like most of the U.S. political establishment, Warren doesn’t actually scrutinize the underlying motives. ... The idea that the U.S. establishment gets the country into wars for ulterior financial or geopolitical reasons should be regarded as banal. Instead, it’s barely articulated at all.

the evening greens

U.S. Taxpayers on the Hook for Insuring Farmers Against Growing Climate Risks

Like every Midwestern farmer, Jerry Peckumn relies on a few things going right every season. Rain, but no deluge. Sunshine, but no heat wave. A timely cycling of the seasons. Peckumn is a progressive, conservation-minded farmer who's deeply concerned about the impact of the changing climate on his farm. He knows nature isn't controllable and the weather is getting more erratic. So, like hundreds of thousands of American farmers, he relies on federal crop insurance. "I'd quit farming if I didn't have crop insurance," Peckumn said, sitting at his kitchen table in central Iowa this summer, surrounded by corn and soybeans in every direction. ...

The Federal Crop Insurance Program is flawed in many ways. It discourages farming practices that build healthier soil by absorbing more carbon. It encourages monoculture farming, undermining the protection from extreme weather that comes from diversifying crops. It favors large, wealthy farms with bigger carbon footprints. And it keeps taxpayers on the hook for the ever-growing tab. Scientists warn that time to tackle climate change is running out. They also agree that agriculture plays a critical role in solving the climate problem, so addressing these flaws in the program is especially urgent now. "The current U.S. crop insurance program encourages farmers to adopt production practices that will not be sustainable in the face of climate change, and in the short term contribute to greenhouse gas emissions," said Vincent Smith, an agricultural economist at Montana State University who has written extensively about the crop insurance program. "Crop insurance encourages people to adopt production practices that are riskier, and by definition, reduce resiliency."

For decades, the Farm Bureau, which calls itself the voice of the American farmer, has defended this status quo in the face of criticism that its views are colored by its connections to the insurance industry. The crop insurance program doesn't just help farmers through hard times; it helps the insurance business thrive. The government projected earlier this year that companies selling crop insurance policies will get about $2.5 billion in subsidies from the program every year until 2028. Some of these companies have had direct financial ties to state Farm Bureau chapters—which are also connected to other insurance companies that sell policies of all kinds, including auto, home and health insurance. ...

Federally backed insurance has become a cornerstone of American agriculture, and it has boomed in the past few decades. Today, it covers more than 300 million acres at a cost to the government of nearly $9 billion a year, on average, over the past five years. The program protects farmers from both natural disasters and low market prices. The federal government sets the premiums, which have to cover payouts year after year. The government pays about 60 percent of the premiums; farmers pay about 40 percent. Private insurers sell the policies. The government kicks in part of these companies' operating costs, too, and protects the insurance companies from some of their inevitable losses. It also sets their rate of return—their profit margins—currently at about 14 percent, which is unusually high compared to other types of insurers. ...

More than 80 percent of the premium subsidies flow to the largest 20 percent of farms, and about 65 percent go to the largest 10 percent. That's mainly because bigger farms produce most of the crops, but also because the program's requirements are so complicated that smaller, diversified farms have a harder time qualifying for affordable rates. "This is a rich man's program, not a poor, hardscrabble farmer's program," Smith said. For well-insured farmers, insurance all but eliminates risks.

Canada: indigenous anti-pipeline protesters call police presence ‘act of war’

Indigenous protesters in Canada have called a growing police presence near their makeshift checkpoint “an act of war”, as tensions mount over a stalled pipeline project in northern British Columbia. In defiance of a court order, dozens of protesters have gathered on a logging road nearly 700km (430 miles) north-west of Vancouver, to block the construction of a natural gas pipeline. “We want them right off Wet’suwet’en territory,” Chief Madeek, a hereditary leader, told reporters at the gates of the checkpoint, where temperatures have dipped to -15C (5F). ... On Monday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced they would enforce a court order to remove the demonstrators from the area, and at least 10 police cars and a helicopter arrived at the protest camp.

Energy company TransCanada is attempting to build the Coastal GasLink, a 670km line stretching from Dawson Creek to the coastal city of Kitimat. The C$6.2bn (US$4.6bn) project is part of a broader plan to ramp up natural gas exports in the province. The company has previously said it has the support of all elected indigenous leaders along the proposed route, but Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have signaled they do not support the project – and argue that elected band leaders are not in the position to negotiate with the company. “They’re not the title-holders or the caretakers of the land. The hereditary chiefs are,” said Madeek.

The pipeline project has previously faced numerous delays, after a group of protesters constructed a blockade – named Unist’ot’en Camp – in order to prevent construction vehicles from accessing the area. On 14 December, a British Columbia court granted TransCanada an injunction permitting them access to the construction site and ordering the removal of the blockade. Within days, activists erected the new barrier, named the Gidimt’en checkpoint.

On Sunday, Unist’ot’en Camp issued a statement of support for the Gidimt’en checkpoint: “The RCMP’s ultimatum, to allow TransCanada access to unceded Wet’suwet’en territory or face police invasion, is an act of war. Canada is now attempting to do what it has always done – criminalize and use violence against indigenous people so that their unceded homelands can be exploited for profit.” Both the Unist’ot’en and Gitimd’en are part of the five clans which make up the Wet’suwet’en.

Sunrise Movement: Pelosi’s Actions on Climate Fall Woefully & Inexcusably Short of What We Need

Supreme Court Blocks ExxonMobil's Effort to Conceal Decades of Documents in Probe of Oil Giant's Climate Deception

In a win for climate campaigners and Massachusetts' Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected ExxonMobil's attempt to block Healey's demand for documents related to her state's ongoing investigation into allegations that one of the world's largest oil and gas corporations deceived the public and investors for decades about how fossil fuels drive global warming.

"The public deserves answers from this company about what it knew about the impacts of burning fossil fuels, and when," Healey said, responding on Twitter to the ruling. This victory, she added, "clears the way for our office to investigate Exxon's conduct toward consumers and investors." The news, which followed a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling against the company in April, was also welcomed by climate activists—including U.S. communications manager Thanu Yakupitiyage, who thanked Healey "for her vigilant leadership in standing up for people over polluters."

"Executives at Exxon knew about climate change decades ago, but they chose to lie to the rest of us to line their oily pockets," Yakupitiyage declared. "Now, it's those who have done the least to cause the problem who are paying the cost of this deception through our lives and livelihoods. In 2019, we'll use all our power to make sure Big Oil pays its fair share for climate destruction."

Also of Interest

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

Congressional Staffing for Dummies: The Pay Go Dispute

Should Institutional Providers Be Incentivized by Profit under Medicare for All?

Syria - Turkey Fails In Idleb, Is Unwilling To Take The Northeast

'Integrity Initiative' - New Documents From Shady NGO Released

A Tough Time to Be a Spy, NPR Reports

Equality Triumphs! Women Now Lead World In Clubbing Baby Seals

Czech democracy ‘under threat’ from rising debt crisis

Bernie Sanders Reminds Liz Cheney of Iraq War Lies After Daughter of Bush VP Attacks So-Called 'Fraud of Socialism'

Neoconservatives Are Ascendant in Donald Trump's America

Evo Morales attacks 'white supremacist ideology' in clash with Bolsonaro ally

Gillibrand Defends Voting Record Following Report NY Senator Feeling Out Wall Street Support for 2020 Run

Katharine Hayhoe: 'A thermometer is not liberal or conservative'

A Little Night Music

The Falcons - I Found A Love

The Falcons - Sent Up

The Falcons - Since You've Been Gone

The Falcons - Darling

The Falcons - My Only Love/Now That It's Over

Falcons - Oh Baby

Falcons - I'll Never Find Another Girl Like You

Falcons - You Must Know I Love You/That's What I Aim To Do

Falcons - You're So Fine

The Falcons - Good Good Feeling

The Falcons - Swim

The Falcons - I Got the Blues

15 users have voted.


QMS's picture

and probably do not care. Painting 'progressives' with such a broad brush falls into the gutter with the rest of this nonsensical news. Sewn together as how things are working? Too many spokes are left out of these gears to elicit a challenge. Thanks for the Platters Joe!

5 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

joe shikspack's picture


to be fair, stoller isn't painting progressives with a broad brush. he is painting members of congress who identify as progressive with a broad brush:

Progressive members generally went onto committees in Congress that don’t deal with ‘hard’ subjects like money, banks, guns, or spying. They want to go onto committees that address health care, education, kittens, and hugs. This is a subtle deference to power, and it’s an ingrained culture habit."

i can't come up with any examples off the top of my head that refute his observation about cpc members on committees that regulate the armed services, intelligence, banks or guns. it seems like a fair point. now in the senate, there is one guy (sanders) who identifies as progressive that has gotten himself on the budget committee, but that is the only example that i can think of.

it is only now, with the current wave of progressives entering congress that it seems that progressives are waging a concerted effort to get themselves assignments on these committees.

7 users have voted.
QMS's picture

@joe shikspack
Can't follow this to the level you have. Just do not like seeing this type of statement:

it’s an ingrained culture habit

to describe much larger patterns. Find it rather limiting. But then, the Matt Stoolers of the world need to make a living by somehow describing the unreality of our time in plausible ways.

2 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

divineorder's picture

Some health related news:


9 users have voted.

A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

joe shikspack's picture


well, that looks like reasonably good news on the surface. i guess we'll see what devils appear in the details after the generally spineless corporate dems "compromise."

3 users have voted.
divineorder's picture


9 users have voted.

A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

QMS's picture

Use your soap box to speak out on issues that matter! thx do for sharing

6 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

joe shikspack's picture


i generally avoid chevron, exxon, shell and bp stations whenever possible because of things that i know that they've done. then again, there are no good oil companies.

4 users have voted.
divineorder's picture

@joe shikspack about in order to avoid the ones we do!

3 users have voted.

A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

Azazello's picture

Here's a good interview with Aaron Mate. It's another Russiagate debunking.
The Mind Unleashed

I think you’re hitting on something very important – this massive belief that Russia is some sort of existential threat to western society, is entirely the result of failed western elites needing a scapegoat for their own failures. You see that in case after case. It happened with the Democrats who lost to Donald Trump – one of the worst if not the worst candidates in history, he is a former reality TV host. And they lost in part because he was openly calling out their failed agenda. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote so it’s not as if the majority of the country rejects the Democrats, but the point is in the states that mattered to win, she lost. And a big reason why she lost is that she didn’t campaign in Michigan and Wisconsin. The reason she didn’t campaign there is because her own people saw that her message, her platform, was not resonating because she’s associated with the Clinton-Obama neoliberal legacy that has shipped out jobs to foreign countries and just led to economic stagnation in large parts of the country — the neoliberal failure.

So, afterwards, Russia was a convenient boogeyman to blame. It is the same thing with Brexit. Brexit has been blamed on Russia as well, because there were some Russian tweets and some Russian accounts buying ads. Again, that was the case where voters felt left behind by western neoliberalism and enough of them decided to be desperate enough to leave the EU in the same way the voters were desperate enough to vote for Donald Trump. And now it’s the same thing in France. Voters are rising up around real issues, tax cuts for corporations, the price of fuel and again it has to be Russia’s fault. It speaks to how pervasive this narrative is, not because of an actual threat from Russia but because of how threatened Western elites are by their own populations. So, the answer has to be that all this is a Kremlin plot.

Here's a handy map of US military installations:

10 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


heh, is that a nasty subtext i hear? something like: "buckle down and do things our way or we will make war on russia, risking all life on the planet."

5 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

@joe shikspack
worst behavior and worst excesses have always been done by the exploration and development boys, usually the "upstream" arm of an integrated oil company. Those solely engaged in refining and marketing, pure "downstream" companies like Valero, have a lot less to answer for and are hence the lesser evil. Additionally, CITGO = PDVSA = Venezuela. The sins of the predecessor company may be deemed to have been at least partially absolved when it was nationalized.

4 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

i remain blessedly ignorant of the origin of the gasoline that i usually purchase at the couple of local, independent stations that i frequent when i am in town.

1 user has voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

@joe shikspack
inside out. It stinks.

3 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

lotlizard's picture

@enhydra lutris  
if you really want to defy Russiagaters and -haters.

3 users have voted.
QMS's picture

Thanks for that. Somehow, it does not seem to include the entire globe. Black ops are difficult to track.

6 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

QMS's picture

key point from your quote

economic stagnation in large parts of the country

5 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

dystopian's picture

Great early Wilson Picket

The only thing more anti-democratic than the Democratic Party is the anti-BDS cult. They know this is unconstitutional, and so are trying to legislate a way around it. It blows my mind how AIPAC has millions of times the influence on U.S. policy than Russia, yet all we hear about is Russia influence.

Nothing makes me want to boycott like someone telling me I can't while taking away my free speech. Idiots lost me. To find out who owns you find out whom you can't criticize: Israel. Bibi, Likud and their Zionism has to be brought to heel. Glad to see the ACLU taking up the Texas case, hopefully it will shut this madness down. I doubt it.

Any and all AIPAC people should be required to be registered foreign lobbyists, as should all dual citizens. I don't believe one can swear an oath to two different constitutions and remain honest and true to both. Unless you are schizo.

On Bolton not wanting to leave Syria to protect the Kurds... a broken clock is right twice a day.

I can't tell you how hard I am laughing about the crickets in Cuba. I have actually done recording of several species myself, though birds are my thing for recording. My research indicates the crickets certainly consider it a sonic weapon. It slays those cute lady crickets.

7 users have voted.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

joe shikspack's picture


aipac is a menace, their meddling in u.s. elections was bad enough but their full-frontal attack on our civil liberties is just unacceptable and unamerican. the "a" in aipac is supposed to stand for "american," but they clearly don't give a damn about the american people.


heh, but are they russian crickets?

4 users have voted.

I am back in elementary school. Cousin is the hottest guy in high school. We are out in the yard, radio blasting, washing his bad ass hot rod that out runs everything, stop to dance and sing. Every beautiful teenaged girl that happened by to just gawk at him is dead. My handsome cousin is dead.
I can stand on the spot where we danced and sang to that song.
As long as I am alive and can hear that song, he is just eternal. And those beautiful gawking girls.
This is what music is for, isn't it?

7 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture

@on the cusp

that is absolutely what music is for and arguably all art is for. it is to create moments of transcendence, to help us form the imagery and sensory information to experience and communicate the things that go well beyond words and ordinary symbols.

have a wonderful evening!

5 users have voted.

@joe shikspack I will.
Back atcha.

5 users have voted.