The Evening Blues - 10-6-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas blues guitarist Freddie King. Enjoy!
Freddie King - Looking Good
"Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor."
-- Thomas Jefferson
News and Opinion
Nearly half of Americans have a tough time paying their bills, and over one-third have faced hardships such as running out of food, not being able to afford a place to live, or not having enough money to pay for medical treatment.
Those are some of the grim findings from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s first-ever survey of financial well-being, released Tuesday.
By a vote of 219 to 206, the House on Friday approved a GOP-crafted budget resolution that proposes more than five trillion dollars in cuts to key safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid to pave the way for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and massive corporations.
No Democrats voted for the budget, and 18 Republicans voted against it.
Crucially, the resolution includes parliamentary language that eliminates the possibility of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and will allow the GOP to "fast-track" their tax cuts with only 51 votes instead of the typical 60—the same procedure Republicans utilized in their failed attempt repeal the Affordable Care Act. ...
While the specific spending cuts in the House GOP budget resolution—which include a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid—are non-binding, they are nonetheless an indication of the devastating steps Republicans are willing to take in order to deliver more wealth to the richest Americans.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a “rational actor” who does not want to wage war against the U.S., a CIA official said Wednesday. The assessment by Yong Suk Lee, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, is at odds with the public rhetoric of President Donald Trump, who has dismissed the North Korean leader as “obviously a madman.”
“Beyond the bluster, Kim Jong Un is a rational actor,” said Lee at a CIA conference at George Washington University. “Waking up and deciding to nuke Los Angeles is not in his interest to survive,” he added. “He wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.” Lee’s comments echo those of Dan Coats, Trump’s director of national intelligence, who in July said Kim has “some rationale backing his actions.” ...
At a meeting of military leaders in Washington Thursday, Trump continued with his bellicose rhetoric, saying the U.S. “will do what we must do” in relation to the regime.
Donald Trump is expected to withdraw his endorsement of the nuclear deal with Iran next week, leaving its survival uncertain and in the hands of a divided Congress.
Adding to the mood of uncertainty hanging over Washington, Trump used a group photograph before a dinner with military leaders and their spouses to warn cryptically that the evening represented “the calm before the storm”.
When asked by reporters what he meant, the president said: “You’ll find out,” leaving it unclear whether he was referring to impending military action, or whether Trump, a former TV reality show host, was simply creating tension for the sake of it. ...
On Friday several media outlets confirmed what has been suspected in Washington and foreign capitals for some time: that Trump will overrule his top national security aides and will not certify the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, on the grounds that it does not serve US security interests.
That would trigger a period of 60 days in which it would be up to a delicately balanced Congress whether to reimpose sanctions. A decision to do so could trigger a collapse of the deal and a return to a tense standoff in the Middle East over the Iranian nuclear programme.
President Trump’s bellicose speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month sparked a crisis for the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that was then reaching out to North Korea and Iran, with Trump’s comments jeopardizing not only the talks but the credibility of the intermediaries, according to a source familiar with those efforts. Trump essentially pulled the rug out from under the intermediaries by insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” threatening to “totally destroy” Kim’s nation of 25 million people, and calling for regime change in Iran. Trump’s bluster on Sept. 19 also deepened internal tensions with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was privately supporting the secret diplomacy.
The next day, when one of the intermediaries complained about the harm that Trump’s speech had caused, the President glibly explained that he liked to “zigzag” in charting his foreign policy, the source said. The immediate consequences of Trump’s U.N. speech included ratcheting up nuclear-war tensions on the Korean peninsula and torpedoing a possible diplomatic breakthrough with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. A proposed meeting between Rouhani and Trump around the Iranian president’s trip to the U.N. sank under Trump’s barrage of insults, the source said. ...
In Trump’s depiction of his business negotiating style, he has hailed the value of coming on tough to soften up a rival. But one problem of this approach in foreign policy is that Trump’s zigzagging left the U.S. government’s middlemen in the uncomfortable position of appearing to have misled senior North Korean and Iranian officials regarding what U.S. intentions were. The source said no one was in physical danger but apologies had to be made and the credibility of the initiatives suffered a severe blow.
In the case of North Korea, the backchannel goal had been to tamp down the heated rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang and to persuade the North Koreans to begin talks with South Korea about the possibility of some loosely formed confederation that could then lead to the gradual withdrawal of U.S. military forces and a reduction in overall tensions. However, by using his maiden U.N. speech to personally insult North Korea’s leader and to threaten to annihilate the country, Trump left his intermediaries in the unenviable spot of trying to explain to North Korean officials the chasm between the U.S. administration’s private overtures and the President’s public outburst.
Spain's government will issue a decree on Friday making it easier for firms to transfer their legal base out of Catalonia, two sources said, in a move that could deal a serious blow to the region's finances as it considers declaring independence. The decree is tailor-made for Spanish lender Caixabank, sources familiar with the matter said, as it would make it possible for the bank to transfer its legal and tax base to another location without having to hold a shareholders' meeting as stated in its statutes. ...
Caixabank is Catalonia's biggest company by market value and accounts for around 50 percent of the region's banking sector.
Another Catalonia-based bank, Sabadell, Spain's fifth-biggest lender, decided on Thursday to move its base from Catalonia to Alicante, on Spain's eastern coast. ...
Catalonia is a centre of industry and tourism that accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy, a production base for major multinationals from Volkswagen to Nestle, and home to Europe’s fastest-growing sea port.
The Spanish government’s “proportionate use of force” in Catalonia was necessary to uphold the rule of law, the European Commission declared on Wednesday. As the European Parliament opened a debate on the Catalonia crisis, Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans sided unequivocally with the Madrid government. Timmermans minced no words in condemning the effort to hold an independence referendum as a violation of the Spanish constitution and, therefore, as a threat to the rule of law in all EU countries.
His comments were met by the continuing fury and disbelief of Catalans who insist the referendum was intended as a democratic expression of free speech and self-determination. ...
The debate was arranged in such a way that only group leaders — none of whom are Spanish — could speak. But during a separate session earlier on Wednesday, MEP Jordi Solé from the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya turned to Timmermans to say: “If European institutions keep saying that it’s all about the law, and nothing else than the law, and that it’s an internal matter, you will deserve the world record for turning Catalan pro-Europeans citizens into Euroskeptics.”
The Spanish government has apologised for police violence during Sunday’s Catalan independence referendum but said the region’s political leaders were to blame because they had decided to push ahead with the vote.
The comments from Enric Millo, the government’s most senior representative in Catalonia, were the first apology from a Spanish government official over the officers’ behaviour. The Catalan government says hundreds of people were injured after Spanish police attempted to stop the vote by raiding polling stations, beating voters and firing rubber bullets at crowds. ...
Millo said in an interview with Catalonia’s TV3: “When I saw those images, and knowing that people were hit [and] shoved … all I can do is apologise on behalf of the officers who intervened.” Spain’s education minister, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, later issued a more guarded apology, saying: “If there were incidents and people were injured, then obviously we’re sorry.” But, like Millo, he said the regional government was responsible for the situation, saying “co-existence is broken” with Catalonia.
The apology is unlikely to be well received in Catalonia, where many are still shocked and angered by the heavy-handed police operation. There are also enduring tensions over the continuing deployment of thousands of Spanish Guardia Civil and national police officers to the region. Puigdemont has asked to appear in the Catalan parliament next Tuesday to “report on the current political situation” and to put the referendum results to MPs. The move – seen as an attempt to circumvent the Spanish constitutional court’s ban on a similar session scheduled for Monday – could potentially provide an opportunity for the region’s promised unilateral declaration of independence.
Canada will pay up to C$750m ($598m) in compensation to thousands of aboriginals who were forcibly removed as children from their families decades ago, promising to end “a terrible legacy”.
The move is the latest attempt by the Liberal government of the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to repair ties with Canada’s often-marginalised indigenous population, which says it has been the victim of systemic racism for centuries.
In the so-called “Sixties Scoop”, welfare authorities took about 20,000 aboriginal children from their homes between the 1960s and 1980s and placed them in foster care or allowed them to be adopted by non-indigenous families.
The compensation package is designed to settle many of the lawsuits launched by survivors, who say the forced removal deprived them of their heritage and led to mental disorders, substance abuse and suicide.
“Language and culture, apology, healing – these are essential elements to begin to right the wrong of this dark and painful chapter,” said Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister in charge of relations with the indigenous population.
Colin Kaepernick's protest during the U.S. national anthem was originally intended to make a statement about state-sanctioned lethal violence against black people. But conservatives, liberals, NFL team owners, athletes, fans, and celebrities, among others, have in a variety of ways co-opted and diluted the demonstration. Once President Donald Trump noisily injected himself into the flap, this derailment and dilution officially peaked. The national conversation, while louder than ever, may be irretrievably off-message. ...
For more than a year, despite the attention, shows of support from Kaepernick’s fellow NFL players were relatively few and scattered. That changed on September 22 when Trump addressed a crowd at a rally in Alabama. ... Trump’s remarks succeeded in singlehandedly shifting the discourse around Kaepernick’s protest. Whether it was a masterstroke or he stumbled into it, Trump turned the #TakeAKnee protests into a circus that rendered the gesture impotent.
The national debate was no longer about the state-sanctioned murder of black people. Instead, it became the type of liberal-versus-conservative culture war bickering that typically dominates the news cycle. Talking heads began debating the issue in terms of free speech, anti-Trump #resistance talk. Think pieces popped up expounding on whether patriotic displays belong at NFL games, and how much the NFL was paid by the government to have them.
Before Trump’s statements, Kaepernick’s protest didn’t fit into a neat partisan framing. He had begun his silent demonstrations under Barack Obama, a black Democratic president. Kaepernick said it “didn’t really matter” to him whether Trump or Hillary Clinton won, since neither showed any real commitment to addressing his concerns. ... Now, however, Democrats are using the protest to score partisan points against Trump. For mainstream liberals, Trump’s intervention turned #TakeaKnee into the new #IceBucketChallenge.
Police in Utah fatally shot a man from behind while he was running away from officers, according to newly released footage, which has sparked accusations of racial profiling and a “brutal execution”.
Prosecutors in Salt Lake City have said officers were justified in killing Patrick Harmon, 50, who was pulled over for riding a bicycle without a light and who attempted to flee when police tried to arrest him. Police are not facing charges despite the fact that the body-camera footage captured officer Clinton Fox shouting “I’ll fucking shoot you!” from a distance before he fired three bullets into Harmon, who was running in the opposite direction.
“They just murdered him flat out,” Alisha Shaw, Harmon’s niece, told the Guardian on Thursday after watching the footage. “They are lying. There is no way they were threatened by anything. He was only trying to get away.”
Civil rights activists said the killing of Harmon was the latest example of police brutality and a prejudiced criminal justice system in the US, where officers kill black men at disproportionately high rates. Data has shown that across the country, black citizens and people of color are stopped by police and targeted for low-level offenses at higher rates than white residents, and some reports have suggested that police stop and cite black cyclists for minor infractions with much greater frequency than others.
At last, we know what it takes to bump RussiaGate off of MSDNC for a few hours: three deadly hurricanes and a mass shooting with nearly 600 victims. Trump took advantage of this lull in his prime-time persecution to publicly scold the distressed people of Puerto Rico for their alleged profligacy and indolence, before turning his consolatory ministrations toward the bloodbath in Las Vegas. The theologian-in-chief advised the appalled national audience that this was an act of “pure” and “unspeakable evil”—unspeakable, one presumes, because to name the evil would require him to face the specific evil at work in real terms, define the conditions which hatched it and punish the institutions that profit from its existence. Better politically to keep the precise nature of the “evil” in Vegas vague and eschatological.
Just as I braced myself at the thought of Donald Trump launching into a moral homily on the evils of violence, the president shifted gears, offering a brisk psychological profile of the shooter as a “sick” and “deranged” man, a psycho who had managed to stockpile an arsenal of 49 guns of varying calibers and killing capacities and enough explosives to blow a hole in Hoover Dam. I must admit this prospect was not especially reassuring to me, but Trump seemed intent on making the point that the shooting rampage was not the work of a normal man. The nation could rest easy. The shootings in Las Vegas had nothing to tell us about the devolving nature of the American character.
You can see why Trump raced to paint Stephen Paddock as a whack-job. Like the billionaire thrill-killer Robert Durst, Paddock was someone Trump could relate to: he was a millionaire, a landlord, a habitué of casinos, and a man who enjoyed the company of foreign-born women. Trump would rather not confront one of the most pressing questions of the Vegas massacre: what happens when the one-percenters snap and go full-auto on crowds of middle class white people? Somewhere along the line Paddock had done a Colonel Kurtz in the American outback, holing up in a planned retirement community in the Nevada desert, adjacent to Bunkerville, the Masada of the gun-obsessed property rights fanatics. Will Carl Ichan be the next one to crack?
Like so many mass shooters, Paddock’s system was humming with serotonin uplifters, including diazepam, the white crack, marketed to millions of depressed suburbanites as Valium. What was driving Paddock’s anxiety? Had his fortune slumped? Had the casinos finally exacted their terrible toll, as they always do? As his ticket out, did he want to lay claim to the title of America’s top mass killer? If so, the media was happy to give it to him, even if he didn’t rate that vile honor. The title for America’s top mass murderer—on the domestic front—belongs to Col. James Forsythe, and the men of the Seventh Cavalry, who slaughtered as many as 300 unarmed men, women and children at Wounded Knee on the icy morning of December 29, 1890. Of course, mass killings committed by the state don’t count in the record books of crime. They’re not even considered massacres. After Wounded Knee, 20 of the killers were awarded the congressional medal of honor for their “bravery.”
The Trump administration rolled back women’s health coverage Friday, allowing any employer to drop contraceptive coverage for its female employees.
A provision of the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage, except for houses of worship, dramatically expanded access to birth control for women across the country. The new rule, posted to the Federal Register Friday morning and effective immediately, allows any company to get an exemption to the requirement because of a religious or moral objection to birth control. ...
More than 55 million women were guaranteed free birth control through their private employer insurance plans because of the 2012 mandate. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the share of reproductive age women paying out of pocket for birth control pills declined from 20.9 percent in 2012 to 3.6 percent in 2014. The new rule allowing companies complete exemptions shifts costs back to women, effectively limiting access to birth control.
“It puts the religious rights of the employer above those of women,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Eighteen groups representing thousands of corporations and banks filed the lawsuit against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last Friday in federal court in Dallas. Oddly, they did not attempt to individually resolve the dispute through an arbitration process, which they’ve consistently said yields speedier and better results for those wronged. “Arbitration gives consumers the ability to bring claims that they could not realistically assert in court,” the lawsuit reads.
But for corporations, banding together in courts apparently presents a better option.
The plaintiffs want to overturn the CFPB’s arbitration rule, which would prevent companies from using clauses in financial contracts to force all customer complaints into individual arbitration rather than class-action lawsuits. They claim that the CFPB is unconstitutional, and that the analysis the bureau generated to help finalize the rule was flawed, while denying the companies their proper input. Plus, the arbitration rule harms the public interest, they claim, because “it precludes the use of a dispute resolution mechanism that generally benefits consumers (i.e., arbitration) in favor of one that typically does not (i.e., class-action litigation).”
So, really, they’re doing it for the consumers.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is among the plaintiffs. They represent thousands of corporations, none of which decided to file their own administrative grievance against the CFPB. Those corporations don’t have the resources to engage in high-profile litigation against the government by themselves, so they band together and pay into a fund, so the Chamber can represent their interests.
This is what the Chamber wants to prevent consumers from doing.
In an earlier piece on the Equifax data hack and its consequences, I predicted this. ... [N]ot only would Equifax not be disciplined by the government, but it would be protected by the government from harm cause either by the so-called "free market" or by federal courts.
In the immediate wake of the data breach news we saw a round of announced, outraged congressional investigations. But time has passed, the major shock is over, and now we see the start of government protection. The IRS has announced that it's awarding Equifax a multi-million dollar no-bid exclusive contract to aid the agency with "fraud prevention." ...
A $7.5 million dollar cash infusion is not that great for a company with nearly $500 million in net income (pdf), but it's not nothing either, especially coming from the federal government, and the timing will help restore confidence in the stock price, which has been rising. This is the government saying, "We're not going to let Equifax go away, despite their demonstrated dangerous incompetence."
The optics, of course, are terrible, but if you think this happened because the Republicans are in the White House, think again. A Democratic administration under any neoliberal president would do the same — protect Equifax from market harm. Ask yourself if Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden or Chuck Schumer allow Equifax to twist in the free market wind. Of course not.
The US jobs market stalled in September, losing 33,000 jobs, as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma took their toll. It was the first time in seven years that the US monthly total had recorded a fall.
The US economy had added an average of 176,000 new jobs a month so far this year but as the labor department had predicted the storms, which caused fatal and catastrophic damage across Texas and Florida, slowed hiring.
But a loss in jobs was far worse than the 80,000 new jobs most US economists had expected would be created. It ends the longest stretch of uninterrupted jobs growth in US history. This was the first loss in jobs since September 2010.
Ahead of Friday’s jobs report the Bureau of Labor Statistics said some 11.2 million workers lived in the affected areas, about 7.7% of the US workforce.
Employment in food services and drinking places declined by 105,000 in September. That sector has added an average of 24,000 jobs a month over the past 12 months.
More Americans than ever—61 percent—say the Democratic and Republican parties are inadequate and the U.S. should have a third major political party, a new poll from Gallup shows. The desire among Americans for a competitive third party has been above 57 percent over the last five years, but Gallup’s latest poll marks a record high level of support.
Backing for a third major party also hit a record high among independents—77 percent—according to the new poll. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Republicans say a competitive third party is needed.
You've got to be kidding me with this nominee. pic.twitter.com/85w8Ru2618
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) October 4, 2017
This is an important day in the fight against climate change in Canada. Realizing that Energy East would never would never be allowed if its full climate impact was accounted for, TransCanada has walked away from the project.
Energy East was a disaster waiting to happen. The pipeline and tanker proposal scheme was utterly incompatible with a world where we avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The project was designed to facilitate massive, long-lived expansion of Canada’s oil production at a time when science shows we must cut carbon pollution rapidly. TransCanada pulled its application for Energy East once the National Energy Board (NEB) ruled that it would consider all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the project.
Oil Change International estimates its construction would have created up to an additional 236 million tons of carbon pollution each year, multiplied over decades of operation.
Energy East was just the latest in a string of ill-conceived tar sands pipeline projects. Like Northern Gateway, Keystone XL, Enbridge’s Line 3, and Kinder Morgan before it, this pipeline generated unprecedented grassroots opposition from Indigenous peoples, and front-line communities across the continent aiming to protect their climate, their water, and their rights. This movement grows stronger every day.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Freddie King - Big Legged Woman
Freddy King - Use What You’ve Got
Freddie King - The Same Thing
Freddie King - Come On
Freddie King - Same Old Blues
Freddie King - Hide Away
Freddie King - I Just Want To Make Love To You
Freddy King - Onion Rings
Freddie King and Eric Clapton - Farther on up the Road
Freddie King - 1970 Fillmore West