The Evening Blues - 11-6-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features West Coast blues guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. Enjoy!
Pee Wee Crayton - The Telephone Is Ringing
"With unfailing consistency, U.S. intervention has been on the side of the rich and powerful of various nations at the expense of the poor and needy. Rather than strengthening democracies, U.S. leaders have overthrown numerous democratically elected governments or other populist regimes in dozens of countries ... whenever these nations give evidence of putting the interests of their people ahead of the interests of multinational corporate interests."
-- Michael Parenti
News and Opinion
At the edge of hope lies the gunfire from what Frantz Fanon called “the old granite block upon which the nation rests.” At the moment of protest, when the gunfire starts, clarity arrives. One should not be naïve about the character of the elite, whose smiles camouflage the instructions given through clenched teeth to the henchmen, their “simple men” ready to kill the “simple people.” At its best, the “granite block” shrugs, shuffles its cabinet, offers modest reforms; at its worst, its soldiers — their faces covered to prevent the tears from showing — fire at their family members.
Far away, in London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Washington, D.C., the elites sniff, they brush the dandruff from their shoulders. “We are not like them,” they say of the elites in Santiago and Baghdad, although everyone knows that they are identical, for they had not long ago sent out their robocops to humiliate the yellow vests and Occupy Wall Street.
Decades ago, the Chilean-Argentinian writer Ariel Dorfman sat in a metro in Paris reading Heinrich Böll’s “The Clown” (1963). “Must be a sad profession,” said a man sitting across from Dorfman, referring to the clown. Both Dorfman and the man recognized that the other was sad. The man said he was from Brazil. They embraced each other for their common predicament – their countries under dictatorship. “I am sad,”, said the man, “because I want us to win, but in my heart, I don’t think we will.” The man spoke of the hard crust of reality, the sense that the elites are entrenched in their granite block, unwilling to let humanity shatter it and release the best of human ethics. That is what both men understood, although both wanted to win. It is the desire to win that drove more than a million people into the streets of Santiago, Chile, and it was these millions that sang Victor Jara’s song, “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz” (“The Right to Live in Peace”), which Jara sang for Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese in 1971. Two years later, the dictatorship in Chile arrested and brutally killed Jara. ...
On Dec. 22, 1916, M. K. Gandhi gave a lecture at the Muir Central College Economic Society in Allahabad (India). Here, Gandhi offered a simple measure for civilization – “the test of orderliness in a country,” he said, “is not the number of millionaires it owns, but the absence of starvation amongst its masses.” ...
Chile has the highest inequality rate amongst the countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Its billionaires scatter money into the pockets of all the major political parties, generating the view that democracy is about raising money from the major capitalist blocs rather than about raising the aspirations of the people into policy. The Angelinis, Paulmanns, Cuetos, Solaris, and Luksics might support different political factions, but at the end of the day – whoever wins – these billionaires and their conglomerates are the ones that set the policy and benefit from it. That is why over a million people came onto the streets to sing Victor Jara. They want the right to live in peace, the right to control their lives.
Gandhi’s standard is not only about the number of ultra-rich, but also about those who struggle each day with hunger. A few months ago, the World Health Organisation released a report on hunger which showed that at least 821 million people go to bed at night hungry. This is a ghastly number. But this is not enough. Studies by the UN agencies find that an estimated 2 billion people – 1-in-4 people – are moderately to severely food insecure, which means that they “do not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.” So, there we are. According to Gandhi’s simple formula, the world fails its test. ...
Every few years, the people of the planet rise up and announce that the Global Intifada has begun. A few months later, their hopes are crushed, and the formula remains the same – more billionaires, more hungry people.
Chile’s anti-neoliberal rebellion is entering its third week, and the brutal crackdown continues. Hard-right President Sebastian Piñera and his generals have effectively decreed the country’s oligarch-dominated democracy out of existence by sending soldiers into the streets to kill, maim and torture their own people. And, for the most part, the Western corporate media blackout persists unabated. October 25’s historic 1.2 million–person march in Santiago—the largest since the end of the dictatorship—has forced some outlets to begin to acknowledge state violence. But corporate journalists continue to largely overlook the Piñera government’s mounting atrocities. ... This media bias in favor of Piñera’s hardline neoliberal administration must also be juxtaposed with the unfolding coverage of anti-government protests in Bolivia. In yet another case of self-serving hypocrisy, US corporate media have moved to revoke left-wing President Evo Morales’ democratic credentials after his recent re-election.
By October 21, the news had broken in the Chilean press that Ecuadorian national Romario Veloz, 26, had been shot dead by state security forces while taking part in a protest in northern Chile the previous evening. Over half a dozen people had already been killed since the protests began on October 16, and at least 1,420 detained at the time, according to Chile’s National Human Rights Institute (known in Spanish as INDH). Graphic videos of abhorrent state repression were already circulating widely on social media. One might expect such glaring atrocities to spark attention from supposedly reputable international news outlets like the New York Times. It hasn’t. A Times article published on October 21, headlined “What You Need to Know About the Unrest in Chile,” made no mention whatsoever of the mounting allegations of egregious human rights violations. ...
Meanwhile, the US State Department, which has refrained from making any statement on the brutal crackdown in Chile, was quick to weigh in, accusing the electoral tribunal of attempting to “subvert Bolivia’s democracy.” Like clockwork, the Western media began pumping out headlines casting the elections as illegitimate. “Bolivia Polls: Morales Claims Victory Amid Fraud Claims,” reported the BBC (10/24/19), while CNN (10/23/19) wrote, “Tensions Boil Over in Bolivia as Protesters Claim Presidential Election Was Rigged.” “Shadow Hangs Over Bolivian Elections as Morales Scores First-Round Win,” announced Reuters (10/24/19).
Unlike in Chile, where mass demonstrations against military rule have been portrayed as irrationally “violent” (Financial Times, 10/28/19; CBC, 10/25/19; NPR, 10/22/19), Bolivia’s right-wing protests are presented as justifiable “anger” (CBS, 10/25/19; BBC, 10/22/19; New York Times, 10/25/19) at an “authoritarian” government (Reuters, 10/27/19, Miami Herald, 10/25/19, Washington Post, 10/22/19). ...
The scale and staying power of Chile’s anti-neoliberal rebellion has nevertheless forced some corporate outlets to make amendments to their narrative portraying the Piñera government as “inept” or “incompetent” (FAIR.org, 10/23/19) rather than illegitimate or criminal. Bloomberg (10/30/19) and the Guardian (10/27/19) were among the few to report on the 160 people who have suffered eye injuries, including at least 26 blinded in one eye, due to authorities firing of 9-millimeter rubber-coated lead bullets at demonstrators’ heads. Similarly, Bloomberg (10/30/19) and AP (published in Time, 10/29/19) were rare outlets that referred to the savage repression as a “crackdown.” Bloomberg (10/30/19) went as far as to compare the mass protests to the “1988 plebiscite that ended the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.” ...
AP joins the vast majority of Western media in ignoring the INDH’s appalling statistics concerning the widespread criminality of Chilean state security forces. According to the body, as of November 4, 1,659 people have been hospitalized for injuries, including 40 shot with live ammunition, 473 wounded by buckshot and 305 by unidentified firearms. The INDH has filed 181 lawsuits against state bodies so far, among them 133 for torture and 19 for sexual violence, including two cases of alleged rape.
For the most part, the op-ed pages of major Western newspapers continue to ignore or whitewash the crimes of the Piñera government. ... The coverage of Chile’s uprising proves once again that criminality on the part of Western states and their clients is perfectly palatable to corporate journalists whose atrocity, Michael Parenti observes, is always “against the truth.”
As peaceful protesters and rioters alike have thronged the streets of the Chilean capital of Santiago to protest against inequality and state repression, a string of no less symbolic blows has also been struck 650km (400 miles) to the south. In the urban centre of Temuco, hooded demonstrators lassoed a statue of a 16th-century Spanish conquistador last week and yanked it to the ground.
Cheering bystanders – many wearing the traditional ponchos and headbands of the indigenous Mapuche people – stamped on the bronze effigy of Pedro de Valdivia and hammered it with wooden staffs. In the city of Concepción – which Valdivia found in 1550 – a crowd toppled another bust of the Spanish coloniser, impaled it on a spike, and barbecued it at the feet of a statue of his historical nemesis, the Mapuche chieftain Lautaro.
In the nearby town of Collipulli, a bronze of General Cornelio Saavedra – notorious for leading the bloody 19th-century “pacification” of the Mapuche heartland – suffered a similar fate. Most dramatically of all, a statue in Temuco of the Chilean founding father Diego Portales (1793-1837) was decapitated, and his head hung from the arm of a statue of the Mapuche warrior Caupolicán – now also holding the Mapuche flag, or Wenufoye. ...
These are actions of a very potent symbolism, in rejecting an official version that has falsified and grossly airbrushed our history,” said Pedro Cayuqueo, a Mapuche writer and historian. “There’s something far deeper going on.” The toppling of statues also reflects deep modern-day grievances felt by the Mapuche, who were absorbed into the Chilean state at gunpoint 150 years ago. ...
Mapuche activist groups – who marched together in Temuco last week – are hoping that near-unanimous support for rewriting Chile’s Pinochet-era constitution will provide a window of opportunity. Chief among their objectives is for Chile to become a “plurinational state” like neighbouring Bolivia, granting native peoples greater political autonomy, and their languages and customs official status.
President Donald Trump has approved an expanded military mission to secure an expanse of oil fields across eastern Syria, raising a number of difficult legal questions about whether U.S. troops can launch strikes against Syrian, Russian or other forces , U.S. officials said.
The decision, coming after a meeting Friday between Trump and his defense leaders, locks hundreds of U.S. troops into a more complicated presence in Syria, despite the president’s vow to get America out of the war. Under the new plan, troops would protect a large swath of land controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters that stretches nearly 90 miles (150 kilometers) from Deir el-Zour to al-Hassakeh, but its exact size is still being determined. ...
Trump’s decision hands commanders a victory in their push to remain in the country to prevent any resurgence of the Islamic State group, counter Iran and partner with the Kurds, who battled IS alongside the U.S. for several years. But it also forces lawyers in the Pentagon to craft orders for the troops that could see them firing on Syrian government or Russian fighters trying to take back oil facilities that sit within the sovereign nation of Syria. ...
According to officials, lawyers are trying to hammer out details of the military order, which would make clear how far troops will be able to go to keep the oil in the Kurds’ control.
The legal authority for U.S. troops going into Syria to fight Islamic State militants was based on the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force that said U.S. troops can use all necessary force against those involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on America and to prevent any future acts of international terrorism. So, legal experts say the U.S. may have grounds to use the AUMF to prevent the oil from falling into IS hands.
But protecting the oil from Syria government forces or other entities may be harder to defend.
“The U.S. is not at war with either Syria or Turkey, making the use of the AUMF a stretch,” said Stephen Vladeck, a national security law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Yemen’s UN-recognised government has signed a Saudi Arabian-brokered power sharing agreement with separatists in the south of the country after months of fighting in the area. The deal aims to create a new, cohesive government capable of challenging the Iranian-backed Houthi forces that control the capital, Sana’a, and the north.
The clashes between separatists and government forces – who for years fought on the same side against the Houthis – had raised fears that the country could break apart entirely. It also exposed a rift between normal Gulf allies, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
In August, the separatists took control of Aden, which has served as the beleaguered government’s base since it was ousted from Sana’a by Houthi rebels in 2014.
The agreement, formally sealed at a signing ceremonyin Riyadh on Tuesday, is short on specifics but is expected to share out ministries equally between the UN-backed government led by Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the backers of the president of the Southern Transitional Council, Aidarus al-Zoubaidi. ... Elements of the deal include the return of the UN-backed government to Aden within seven days to reactivate state institutions. The separatists also agreed to disband their militias, which would be integrated into Hadi’s forces within three months.
Last year, a German offshoot of the U.S. neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division announced its existence to the world with a chilling video declaring “National Socialism is alive.” Now, it’s issuing death threats to left-wing German politicians. Two lawmakers from Germany’s Green Party have revealed they have received death threats from the group, warning that they were the first and second names on the group’s kill list.
“At the moment, we are planning how and when we will execute you. At the next public rally? Or will we get you in front of your home?” read the email to 53-year-old Cem Ozdemir, a veteran politician of Turkish descent, who co-chaired the Greens for a decade before stepping aside last year. Fellow Green MP Claudia Roth received an email the same day — Oct. 27 — warning that she was second on the list.
The messages, which have been passed to police, are just the latest far-right death threats to stir concern in Germany, amid a climate of rising right-wing extremism. Germany’s government condemned the threats Monday, vowing to crack down on the perpetrators. ...
The threats are believed to have emanated from the German branch of the U.S. neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, whose name means "Nuclear Weapons Division.” The violent and misanthropic group, which emerged from the now defunct neo-Nazi online forum Iron March, is “organized as a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
'What Fascism Looks Like': Israeli High Court Upholds Expulsion of Human Rights Watch Director Omar Shakir Over Alleged BDS Support
The Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the deportation and permanent expulsion of Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch representative in Israel and Palestine, over Shakir's alleged support of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions movement, a move that drew criticism from peace advocates and progressives around the world.
"This is what fascism looks like," tweeted Palestinian rights advocate Diana Buttu.
The court gave Shakir 20 days to leave the country.
As Common Dreams reported, Interior Minister Arye Dery decided in April to expel Shakir, a U.S. citizen, from Israel over Shakir's alleged support of the BDS movement.
The high court on Tuesday ruled that decision was legal due to a controversial 2017 Israeli law banning proponents of the boycott movement from entering or remaining in Israel. Dery said the ruling affirms his position that "anyone who works against the state should know that we will not allow him to live or work here."
Shakir's attorney Michael Sfard told Haaretz that the ruling made clear Israel is joining what he described as other repressive regimes in barring those who would expose misbehavior from their countries. "Today, the State of Israel joined the list of countries like Syria, Iran, and North Korea, which have expelled Human Rights Watch representatives in an attempt to silence criticism of human rights violations taking place within their borders," said Sfard.
But, according to The New York Times, Human Rights Watch believes Shakir was expelled for his work against Israeli settlements in the West Bank rather than any advocacy in favor of BDS:
Human Rights Watch says neither it nor Shakir has called for an outright boycott of Israel and says that Shakir, who is a U.S. citizen, is being targeted for the rights group's opposition to Israel's West Bank Jewish settlements and its calls for companies to stop working with the settlements.
Today’s decision from Israel's Supreme Court to uphold the deportation of @hrw director @OmarSShakir is a cowardly move that confirms Israel’s oppressive intent on silencing independent human rights organizations at any cost. https://t.co/pvHLeUcgr4
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) November 5, 2019
Dozens of governments around the world are weaponizing social media to subvert democratic elections and spy on their own citizens, a new report reveals. The latest edition of Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report shows that rather than acting as a vector for more transparency and open elections, the internet is being used to undermine the democratic process.
“Governments and populist movements are using social media to manipulate elections on a grand scale, and governments are using technology to monitor their own citizens on an unprecedented scale,” Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, told reporters Monday. ... Today, almost 3 billion people are under surveillance by governments and law enforcement, in part because monitoring technology is getting more advanced and more affordable, the report finds.
"Governments are using social media to collect and analyze vast amounts of personal data on entire populations,” Abramowitz said. “Many employ artificial intelligence to identify potential threats and silence opposition. As this monitoring technology has become less expensive, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are using mass surveillance with little oversight or accountability.” ...
In the U.S., internet freedom declined for the third year in a row thanks to the increased surveillance of social media by law enforcement, and immigration officials’ monitoring of people crossing the southern border. Documents published earlier this year revealed that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was monitoring the social media use of participants in anti-Trump protests in New York City during the summer of 2018.
"Agents of the Department of Homeland Security have used social media monitoring tools to scrutinize Americans’ constitutionally-protected activities not only when crossing the Mexico border but also in the context of peaceful protests on the administration's policies on immigration and other topics,” Adrian Shahbaz, one of the report’s authors, told reporters.
AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company, will pay $60m to resolve US allegations it misled millions of smartphone customers by charging them for “unlimited” data plans but reducing data speeds if they used too much, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said on Wednesday.
The FTC commissioner, Rohit Chopra, called AT&T’s actions a “massive fraud”. “AT&T’s bait-and-switch scam is a good window into the many harms that result from dominant companies operating without the discipline of meaningful competition,” Chopra said in a statement.
As part of the settlement of the 2014 complaint, AT&T is also prohibited from making any representation about the speed or amount of its mobile data, without also disclosing any material restrictions on the data. ...
The $60m represents a small sum for AT&T, which had revenues of over $170bn last year. It will be deposited into a fund to provide partial refunds to both current and former customers who had signed up for unlimited plans prior to 2011 but had their data speeds reduced, or “throttled” by AT&T when their usage went past a certain threshold.
A local government in Florida has blocked its library system from getting a digital subscription to the New York Times, dismissing the newspaper as “fake news” and as a challenge to US president Donald Trump. At a meeting in Citrus county, a coastal area west of Orlando, several of the city’s five commissioners laughed as they explained why they did not want to approve the library’s request.
“Fake news, I agree with President Trump,” commissioner Scott Carnahan said. “I don’t want the New York Times in this county. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ‘em, it’s fake news and I’m voting no. They can take that money and do something else with it ... I support Donald Trump.”
The library requested $2,700 to pay for digital access to the New York Times for the 70,000 library-card holders in Citrus county. The library already pays for a print-edition of the New York Times, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
An ally of Donald Trump has changed his impeachment inquiry testimony to confirm that the US president offered Ukraine a quid pro quo to investigate a political rival.
Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, said he had told a senior official in Ukraine that nearly $400m in military aid would probably be withheld until the country announced an investigation into corruption, including allegations concerning a gas company with ties to the former vice-president Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
The dramatic revision to Sondland’s account was revealed in a four-page transcript of sworn testimony made public on Tuesday.
“I now do recall a conversation on September 1, 2019, in Warsaw with” Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Sondland said in his updated evidence. “I said that resumption of the US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
The altered testimony raised eyebrows in Washington. Matthew Miller, a former director of the office of public affairs at the justice department, tweeted: “Helluva thing for Sondland to have forgotten in his first appearance.” Democrats, who have made the quid pro quo offer central to their push for impeachment, seized on the revelations.
A new study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs found that people are less likely to die prematurely if they receive federal nutrition assistance, shedding light on the potentially deadly consequences of President Donald Trump's proposal to strip food stamps from millions of low-income Americans.
Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the research found, "led to a population-wide reduction of 1-2 percentage points in mortality from all causes and a reduction in specific causes of death among people ages 40–64."
As HuffPost reported, when "looking specifically at deaths of despair—from drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning and suicide—the researchers found that SNAP benefits cut the mortality rate in half, from 1.64% to 0.81%, for people ages 40 to 64."
Rachel West, an economic policy adviser to the House Committee on Education and Labor, said the study confirms the effectiveness of federal food assistance and demonstrates that "cutting SNAP, like Trump is trying to do, will literally result in more people dying before age 65." ...
The study came just days after the end of the public comment period for the Trump administration's proposal to end automatic food stamp eligibility for those receiving other forms of federal and state assistance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in July the move would eliminate food stamps benefits for more than three million people.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday condemned a proposed ordinance in Las Vegas, Nevada that would effectively criminalize homelessness in the city by making it illegal for people to sleep on sidewalks and in other public areas.
"Homelessness isn't a crime, it's a symptom of the greed that is destroying housing in America," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement.
The Las Vegas City Council is set to begin debating the ordinance on Wednesday amid widespread opposition from affordable housing advocates and civil liberties groups. The Sanders campaign said it plans to use its massive email list to drive turn-out to a rally outside Las Vegas City Hall as city councilmembers discuss the measure.
"We are in the middle of a national housing crisis, with Nevada having the greatest shortage of affordable housing for the lowest income earners, while the wealthiest have it all," said Sanders. "That has got to change. When we are in the White House, we will stop the criminalization of homelessness and spend nearly $32 billion over five years to end homelessness once and for all."
NBC News reported that the ordinance, drafted in September, would "make it a misdemeanor to rest, sleep, or 'lodge' in Las Vegas' downtown district and other residential areas if shelter beds are available. Those found in violation could be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to six months."
At a big-money fundraiser Tuesday night hosted by wealthy real estate moguls and a health insurance executive, former Vice President Joe Biden attacked fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a "condescending" elitist.
Biden's comments, which were echoed in a Medium post he published late Tuesday, came after Warren said the former vice president is "running in the wrong presidential primary" in response to his attacks on her Medicare for All proposal.
"One of the things that people want to make sure we can do is you gotta elect somebody who can... actually get things done," Biden told rich donors gathered in Pittsburgh. The former vice president also hit Warren for becoming a Democrat "only fairly recently in the mid-'90s."
According to an invitation to the event obtained last month by The Intercept, attendees wishing to "sponsor" the fundraiser were asked to give Biden $2,800, the maximum individual campaign contribution allowed by law. ...
As of this writing, the Warren campaign had not yet responded to Biden's remarks, which came as the former vice president is slipping in early-state polls and lagging behind Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in fundraising.
'This Is the Roadmap': Running on Green New Deal, Virginia Democrats Take Full Control of State Government for First Time in Decades
The Virginia Democratic Party took full control of the state government for the first time in nearly three decades Tuesday night by winning majorities in both chambers of the legislature, a massive shift progressives celebrated as a testament to the electoral power of bold policy proposals like the Green New Deal.
Democratic candidates—including Green New Deal backers Joshua Cole, Ghazala Hashmi, and Dan Helmer—flipped at least five Republican seats in the House of Delegates and at least two in the state Senate, overcoming the GOP's thin majorities. Additionally, Green New Deal champions like democratic socialist Del. Lee Carter, Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, and Del. Elizabeth Guzman won reelection.
In a statement, the youth-led Sunrise Movement noted that Virginia Democrats' historic victory comes just months after the state's Democratic Party unanimously endorsed a Green New Deal for Virginia.
"Tonight showed that running on the Green New Deal is a key part of how Democrats can win elections," said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement. "The polls and election results tell a clear story: the Green New Deal is a winning issue."
"When Nancy Pelosi and corporate Democrats try to argue otherwise," Prakash said, "it's nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to shut down progressive policies and protect the interests of corporate donors."
Dems Win Big on Election Day, Flipping Virginia Legislature & Ousting Trump-Backed Kentucky Governor
As 'Working Class Revolt' Topples Kentucky's Trump-Backed Governor, a Warning to McConnell: 'You're Next'
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear declared victory Tuesday night in his closely watched contest with Kentucky's Trump-backed Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, whose vicious attacks on teachers, anti-union policies, and aggressive efforts to gut Medicaid helped spark what one commentator described as a "working class revolt" that led to his defeat.
"Beshear won by running up the margins in the suburbs and urban areas, but there aren't enough of those in Kentucky to get you over the finish line on their own," HillTV's Krystal Ball, who has lived in Kentucky, wrote in her newsletter Tuesday night. "No, it was coal country that came through and gave Beshear the numbers he needed to pull off the upset."
"The eastern part of the state is culturally conservative," wrote Ball, "but also extremely populist, and they were not having it with Bevin's attacks on workers."
Bevin, who has thus far refused to concede the race, attempted to gin up conservative voters' fears by framing the election as a battle against what he called the "hateful class warfare and communist ideology" of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who campaigned for Beshear.
"Kentucky voters... Which side are you on?" Bevin asked in an August video. "Do you support socialism or do you still believe that America is the greatest nation on earth?"
Kentuckians were apparently unpersuaded by Bevin's hysterical redbaiting, which Beshear overcame with a campaign focused on healthcare, decent-paying jobs, and support for public education. Beshear also benefited from strong get-out-the-vote operations by Working America—the political arm of the AFL-CIO—and the Poor People's Campaign.
Eight years ago, when Thomas Hofeller addressed state legislators from across the country in the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., he cautioned elected officials working on redistricting to “make sure your computer is in a private location” and warned them not to “walk away from it and leave your work exposed.” ...
Hofeller, a veteran Republican mapmaker, failed to heed his own advice. After his death in 2018, his daughter, Stephanie, discovered backups of over 70,000 of his files. She notified Common Cause, a watchdog organization that works on voting rights, that she had the files, and Common Cause then subpoenaed her to provide them. After a handful were made public — including files that led to the removal of Trump’s citizenship question on the 2020 census — Geographic Strategies, a consulting firm co-founded by Hofeller, sued to keep more of the files from entering the public sphere.
The decision Monday by a North Carolina state court — removing a protective shield from tens of thousands of files belonging to Hofeller, likely making public details of his work on maps as well as litigation in states including Texas, Missouri, Arizona, Virginia, and North Carolina, among others — seemed inconceivable.
Hofeller, who spent parts of five decades remaking America from the shadows, always a step ahead of Democrats in understanding how redistricting, census data, and new technology could create new advantages for his side, will now stand unmasked. Many of Hofeller’s emails, his draft maps, and the algorithms that bedeviled Democrats for years appear poised to enter the public domain for the first time. Most importantly, they’ll be available to lawyers working to correct unconstitutional gerrymanders or litigating other efforts Hofeller worked on, whether from the 2010 cycle or beyond.
“Now the truth can come out about all of Hofeller’s shocking efforts to rig elections in almost every state,” said a statement from Common Cause on Monday. Still, that could take a while. The organization, which had subpoenaed the files from Hofeller’s daughter, did not indicate a timetable for the release. Lawyers will need to vet tens of thousands of documents; this means weeks or months, not days.
The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”
There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.
When the Keystone Pipeline burst last week, half of an Olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of a particularly dirty fossil fuel spilled into wetlands in North Dakota. And the thick liquid, known as tar sands oil, will be nearly impossible to clean up.
The spill realized some of the biggest fears of the pipeline project, which was approved in 2006 — despite opposition from farmers, indigenous groups, and environmental organizations — and started pumping oil back in 2010. The Keystone Pipeline carries oily sludge from the enormous tar sands fields in Alberta, Canada, across more than 2,000 miles of pristine wetlands in the Dakotas, through Nebraska to Patoka, Illinois.
The company, TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, projected that the pipeline would spill just 11 times over the course of 50 years, or about once every seven years. Since it started pumping, it’s already spilled four times. ...
“Once bitumen sinks to the bottom of a lake or wetland, it is much more problematic to clean up than conventional oil, which floats nicely and can be skimmed off the surface,” Diane Orihel, a professor in aquatic ecotoxicology at Queen’s University, told VICE News.
The wetlands in the Dakotas, fertile breeding grounds for migratory birds like Canada geese and the American bittern, have already been widely drained out for agriculture. They once covered about 10% of the state; half were wiped out over the course of the 20th century to create more farmland. Only about 2.7 million acres of wetlands remain. When tar-sands oil leaches into wetlands, they’re just about impossible to restore entirely. ... Cleaning up the wetlands could involved digging them up to get at the bitumen that’s sunk in. But that risks damaging the wetland in the process of trying to save it.
Study Shows Pension Funds' Refusal to Divest From Fossil Fuels Cost Retired Teachers, Firefighters, and Public Workers $19 Billion
Amid global demands for immediate and bold climate action, a new economic analysis released Tuesday reveals that the pensions of working-class people are paying the price for continued investments in the same fossil fuel companies that are ruining the planet. Toronto-based firm Corporate Knights revealed in a new study that three major state pension funds in California and Colorado lost over $19 billion collectively as a result of investments in fossil fuel industries over ten years.
CalSTRS and CalPERS, which represent nearly three million retired teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees, lost out on more than $17 billion over a decade. Those losses came as the pension funds invested people's retirement savings in extractive industries, which are losing jobs and stock value as the renewable energy sector has added jobs in recent years. The funds' members lost an average of $5,572 and $6,072 per person, respectively.
Colorado's pension fund for state retirees would have gained an additional $1.7 billion in value if it hadn't invested in fossil fuels, Corporate Knights reported, translating to a loss of nearly $3,000 per member. ...
On Wednesday, retired teachers in California plan to attend a CalSTRS meeting to demand answers about why the fund invested their retirement savings in fossil fuels.
Lost and abandoned fishing gear which is deadly to marine life makes up the majority of large plastic pollution in the oceans, according to a report by Greenpeace. More than 640,000 tonnes of nets, lines, pots and traps used in commercial fishing are dumped and discarded in the sea every year, the same weight as 55,000 double-decker buses.
The report, which draws on the most up-to-date research on “ghost gear” polluting the oceans, calls for international action to stop the plastic pollution, which is deadly for marine wildlife. ...
The report said abandoned fishing gear was particularly deadly. “Nets and lines can pose a threat to wildlife for years or decades, ensnaring everything from small fish and crustaceans to endangered turtles, seabirds and even whales,” it said. “Spreading throughout the ocean on tides and currents, lost and discarded fishing gear is now drifting to Arctic coastlines, washing up on remote Pacific islands, entangled on coral reefs and littering the deep seafloor.”
Ghost gear is estimated to make up 10% of ocean plastic pollution but forms the majority of large plastic littering the waters. One study found that as much as 70% (by weight) of macroplastics (in excess of 20cm) found floating on the surface of the ocean was fishing related. A recent study of the “great Pacific garbage patch”, an area of plastic accumulation in the north Pacific, estimated that it contained 42,000 tonnes of megaplastics, of which 86% was fishing nets.
A team of Trump administration advisers – consisting mostly of appointees from the private industry – are urging “modernization” of national park campgrounds, with a vision of food trucks, wifi and even Amazon deliveries.
“Our recommendations would allow people to opt for additional costs if they want, for example, Amazon deliveries at a particular campsite,” Derrick Crandall, vice-chairman of the Made in America Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, told the Los Angeles Times. “We want to let Americans make their own decisions in the marketplace.” The committee published its recommendations in a letter to the Interior Department last month. ...
The White House wants to reduce spending on the National Park Service by 15%, or $481m, even as the service has said it is facing a more than $11bn maintenance backlog.
The committee said there is “broad consensus” that the campground system operated by federal employees has “inadequate and outmoded visitor infrastructure” and needs more funding. “Overall capacity has not kept up with growth and changes in camping demand, and the infrastructure that does exist, with few exceptions, fails to meet expectations of the contemporary camping market,” the group said, calling US national campgrounds an “underperforming asset”.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Pee Wee Crayton - You Know, Yeah
Pee Wee Crayton - Austin Boogie
Pee Wee Crayton - My Kind Of Woman
Pee Wee Crayton - Poppa Stoppa
Pee Wee Crayton - I Must Go On
Pee Wee Crayton - Do Unto Others
Pee Wee Crayton - Texas Hop
Pee Wee Crayton - I've Found Peace Of Mind
Joe Turner (w. Pee Wee Crayton & Sonny Stitt) - Lucille
Pee Wee Crayton - Pee Wee's Texas Boogie