The Evening Blues - 12-15-17
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This evening's music features Stax soul singers Sam and Dave. Enjoy!
Sam & Dave - Soul Man
"A free and open internet is the single greatest technology of our time, and control should not be at the mercy of corporations."
-- Mike Ciarlo
News and Opinion
The three men who cast their votes in favor of repeal were Republicans Ajit Pai, Brendan Carr, and Michael O’Rielly. You did not elect any of these men. Prior to today you might not have even known the names of two of them. And yet they have made a decision that could potentially have a massive impact on your life and the lives of all Americans.
So the FCC voted to kill #NetNeutrality admitting they care more about enriching their corporate sponsors than listening to 83% of Americans.
This isn't over. BOMBARD Congress with calls & tell them to defend the free & open internet OR ELSE. Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121 pic.twitter.com/lSldLGk523
— Dr. Jill Stein (@DrJillStein) December 14, 2017
Throughout the history of human civilization access to information has been controlled and manipulated by those in power, countless generations of which have given rise to the profoundly sick power-serving society we find ourselves in today. The invention of the internet gave humanity its first ever access to widespread unhindered democratization of ideas and information, and if we’re ever to overthrow the pernicious power structures which perpetuate the continual omnicidal trend toward war and ecocide which threatens us our species with extinction, widespread internet access will surely play a role in that effort. ...
The internet is the frontier of humanity’s development as a species. Three unelected bureaucrats have no business manipulating it in a way the overwhelming majority of Americans do not want. Regardless of whether they feel internet access should be a human right or not, defending that access undeniably is. People are aware of this. Their rulers’ contempt for them is showing clear as day, and people are becoming aware that they must defend themselves from unelected corporatists who do not serve their interests.
In the face of widespread opposition, the Federal Communications Commission rolled back net neutrality protections that prevented internet service providers from charging websites for faster download speeds. The vote fell along party lines. But one Democrat, Barack Obama’s former Federal Trade Commission chief Jon Leibowitz, dismissed net neutrality repeal as no big deal in the pages of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. He celebrated that the FTC would get restored authority to aggressively police the internet for anti-competitive or unfair conduct. ...
Leibowitz’s primary broadband client [is] Comcast, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the net neutrality repeal.
On his bio page, Leibowitz discloses that he has “advised Comcast Corporation in connection with a number of regulatory matters and acquisitions.” More broadly, Davis Polk was a key adviser in Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, as well as deals with DreamWorks and Time Warner Cable (which didn’t end up being approved). Comcast “has used the New York-based law firm repeatedly,” according to Reuters. NBCUniversal’s general counsel came from Davis Polk.
So a Comcast lawyer used the Wall Street Journal to give an “unbiased” opinion on why the net neutrality repeal represented no threat to consumers. The opinion meshed seamlessly with Comcast’s own published endorsements of the FCC’s action.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is dismissing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley's claim of evidence she says proves Iran is supporting Yemeni rebels.
Zarif likened her presentation Thursday to former Secretary of State Colin Powell's claim in 2003 that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
When I was based at the UN, I saw this show and what it begat... pic.twitter.com/2sAsMB6o4m
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 14, 2017
Powell's 2003 speech to the U.N. laid out the Bush administration's case for a war in Iraq. Powell in 2016 called the speech "a great intelligence failure."
Zarif's tweet comes after Haley unveiled what she referred to as "undeniable evidence" of Iran-manufactured weapons in the possession of Yemeni rebels, a move that would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.
It’s become a grim ritual in Washington foreign-policy circles to assess the chances that the United States and North Korea stumble into war. But on Wednesday Lindsey Graham did something different: He estimated the odds that the Trump administration deliberately strikes North Korea first, to stop it from acquiring the capability to target the U.S. mainland with a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile. And the senator’s numbers were remarkably high.
“I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option,” Graham predicted in an interview. If the North Koreans conduct an additional test of a nuclear bomb—their seventh—“I would say 70 percent.”
Graham said that the issue of North Korea came up during a round of golf he played with the president on Sunday. “It comes up all the time,” he said.
“War with North Korea is an all-out war against the regime,” he said. “There is no surgical strike option. Their [nuclear-weapons] program is too redundant, it’s too hardened, and you gotta assume the worst, not the best. So if you ever use the military option, it’s not to just neutralize their nuclear facilities—you gotta be willing to take the regime completely down.”
“We’re not to the tipping point yet,” he noted, but “if they test another [nuclear] weapon, then all bets are off.”
Islamic State threatened attacks on U.S. soil in retaliation for the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, one of the group’s social media accounts reported on Thursday without giving any details.
In a message on one of its accounts on the Telegram instant messaging service titled “Wait for us” and “ISIS in Manhattan”, the group said it would carry out operations and showed images of New York’s Times Square and what appeared to be an explosive bomb belt and detonator.
“We will do more ops in your land, until the final hour and we will burn you with the flames of war which you started in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria and Afghan. Just you wait,” it said.
“The recognition of your dog ‘Trump’ (sic) Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will make us recognize explosives as the capital of your country.”
The lights are already illuminated on Bethlehem’s huge Christmas tree in Manger Square. Nearby, at the narrow entrance to the Church of the Nativity, holiday pilgrims queue daily for their chance to descend into the cramped subterranean shrine said to be the birthplace of Jesus.
One person, however, who will not be entering the church, barring a last-minute diplomatic miracle, is the US vice-president, Mike Pence. A proposed visit to Bethlehem and the Nativity church – now cancelled – had been intended as the highlight of a tour of the Middle East next week. That tour has been thrown into disarray by Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the consequent refusal of Palestinian and many Christian leaders to meet Pence.
Part of the reason is that Pence – who stood next to Trump during his announcement – is seen by Palestinians as having been a key influence on Trump regarding the decision, and appears to have made little effort to repair the damage. ...
Pence had hoped to draw attention to a key area of concern for the evangelicals who supported the Trump presidency – the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The draft schedule had envisaged that the vice-president – himself a committed evangelical – would arrive first in Bethlehem at the compound of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, either by helicopter or by car for an official reception. Then Pence would travel the few miles to the West Bank city’s historic Manger Square, from where Christmas festivities are broadcast live around the globe every year. It would have been closed to tourists during Pence’s visit, and he would have been greeted by the spiritual heads of the different Christian traditions that administer it as he made his own private tour. ...
After Trump’s announcement, the official schedule for Pence’s visit to Egypt and the Holy Land now looks a decidedly one-sided affair. He will meet the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, but not the Coptic pope, who cancelled following the Jerusalem announcement. There are meetings with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and president, Reuven Rivlin, but not with Abbas. Visits to the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem and to the Western Wall are planned, but no Christian sites are listed.
Two US F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two Russian aircraft Wednesday after the Russian jets crossed the Euphrates River in Syria, flying east of the "de-confliction line" that is supposed to separate Russian and US-led coalition aircraft operating over Syria, two US defense officials told CNN.
The US jets fired warning flares during the intercept of the two Russian Su-25 close air support jets according to the officials after they crossed the de-confliction line multiple times.
One of the officials said a Russian Su-35 fighter jet was also involved and that the aerial encounter lasted "several minutes."
Thousands of delegates from across South Africa will gather on Saturday in a conference centre south-west of Johannesburg to choose a new leader for the African National Congress (ANC), the party that led the freedom struggle against apartheid and has governed for 23 years. The mundane surroundings belie the significance of the decisions the men and women gathered there will make. They are likely to determine South Africa’s next president and the trajectory of the troubled “rainbow nation” for decades.
Competing to replace Jacob Zuma, the beleaguered president of the ANC since 2007 and of South Africa since 2009, are his ex-wife and party stalwart Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy-president and a wealthy businessman. ...
Ramaphosa, broadly seen as the favourite to win, is relaxed and conversational in public. A former trade union leader, the 65-year-old was born within a mile or so of the conference centre where he may take the final steps to the highest political office in South Africa. Favoured by the business community and international investors, Ramaphosa played a key role in historic negotiations in the 1990s to end the racist and repressive apartheid regime before launching a business career that made him one of South Africa’s wealthiest men. He is seen as a centrist who is neither corrupt nor committed to disruptive economic change.
Though this may please a growing number of middle-class, urban South Africans, it may play against him among grassroots ANC members. “Cyril is a multibillionaire and he got that money from the very same people who oppressed us so we are afraid that he will more serve the people who gave him what he has today than the people on the ground,” said Billy Tsotetsi, a veteran ANC activist from West Rand, as he queued for accreditation to the conference.
Dlamini-Zuma, 68, who was chair of the African Union until earlier this year, is a former home, foreign and health minister. She lacks her rival’s charm and has made clear her intent to pursue a radical programme to redistribute wealth and resources in what remains a deeply unequal society. “The delegates must elect leaders that are going to use the ANC as an instrument for the oppressed to make sure they can get into the mainstream of the economy,” she said last week.
Solitary confinement, strip searches, prolonged yelling, threats, broken phone lines, mold, and being crowded in with hardened criminals. These are just some of the cases of widespread abuse against undocumented immigrants held in detention centers that were revealed in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General’s report.
The Office of the Inspector General made unannounced visits to six Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) facilities across the United States after receiving an onslaught of complaints from immigrant activist groups and via hotlines. Four of those facilities in New Jersey, Georgia, New Mexico, and California, were in some cases not abiding by federal standards and revealed “significant issues.”
“Overall, we identified problems that undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment,” the report said. “All ICE detainees are held in civil, not criminal, custody, which is not supposed to be punitive.” ...
“We can’t look away anymore,” Mary Small, policy director of Detention Watch Network, told CNN. “A lot of the things that were found … are horrifying,” she said. “They’re not small procedural problems. They’re things that are actually extremely dangerous for people who are detained.”
The man accused of driving into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville faces a new charge of first-degree murder after a court hearing Thursday in which prosecutors presented surveillance video and other evidence against him.
Prosecutors announced at the start of a preliminary hearing for James Fields that they were seeking to upgrade the second-degree murder charge he previously faced in the 12 August collision in Charlottesville that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. The judge agreed to that and ruled there is probable cause for all charges against Fields, including nine lesser felony counts, to proceed.
Fields’ case will now be presented to a grand jury for an indictment.
A US county attorney handling the police shooting of Australian Justine Damond has blamed investigators for the delay in the decision on whether to press charges against police officer Mohamed Noor, saying he doesn’t yet have the evidence. Mike Freeman, attorney for Hennepin county, was recorded at a meeting on Wednesday night saying: “I’ve got to have the evidence and I don’t have it yet. And let me just say, it’s not my fault. So if it isn’t my fault, who didn’t do their jobs? … Investigators, and they don’t work for me.”
The prosecutor made the remarks after activists confronted him at a union reception and asked him why he had not yet announced charges in the case against Noor. Freeman had previously indicated he would make a decision before the end of the year.
“If you look at this, here’s a nice lady who hears something bad outside, she calls the cops, they don’t come, she calls again, they drive by in her alley, they don’t stop to talk with her, and she comes out in her jammies, and she’s killed by a cop. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But, it’s not just,” Freeman said in the video posted to Facebook by an activist group. “Can I prove the cop shot her? I could’ve done that the first day. That’s not how it works.” ... Freeman, who does not appear to realise he was being recorded, expressed his frustrations with Noor’s decision not to talk to investigators by invoking his constitutional rights. He also criticised Noor’s partner, who was in the driver’s seat. “He won’t answer my questions and he doesn’t have to. We all have fifth amendment rights ... I can’t talk to her because she’s gone, and the other cop just gave us shit,” he said.
The man who confronted Freeman in the video, activist Sam Sanchez, said that, as a public official, Freeman should have realised he was on the record, but that ultimately, his comments were unsurprising. “When it comes to holding anyone accountable for police crimes, in the US this is very standard,” he told Guardian Australia.
Medics, Observers & a Journalist Face 50 Years in Prison in First Trial of J20 Inauguration Protests
If history is any guide, rich Americans are about to help themselves to a fatter slice of the economic pie, leaving an even skimpier portion the rest of the country. The reason is simple. Republicans are moving closer to finalizing a tax overhaul that will lift the tax burden on America’s richest citizens and plonk it down on those less well-off. ...
Americans like to think of the U.S. as a middle class country. Roughly, 60 percent of people identify as “middle class” according to recent Gallup surveys. But the rise in inequality means America’s middle class status is now up for debate. In fact, less than half of the U.S. should now be considered “middle class” by some measures, according to a report earlier this year from the Pew Research Center. Another example: it’s now much easier to attain the American dream in Canada than it is in the U.S.
This is bad. Going back as far as Aristotle, a large middle class has been seen as an important for the health of democracy. The logic is fairly simple. A society that’s too unequal is susceptible to violent, redistributive revolution from the bottom and repressive, oligarchy from the top. That’s what makes this tax deal seem like another indication that American democracy is in the midst of a doom loop. First off, it smells a bit oligarchical, given how its broad goals and details are very unpopular with Americans. (For instance, nobody wants corporate tax cuts.)
If the bill does deep damage, as predicted, to America’s democratic stabilizer, the middle class, it will make future failures of deliberative democracy even more likely. The bill also makes it harder to provide the kind social services that will cushion the blow of people falling out of the middle class, by increasing an already large U.S. government debt — but that’s a separate story. In other words, if you think American politics and society have been nuts lately, just wait.
Tax reform is being sold as an overhaul designed to create jobs. It’s in the name, even: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. But business executives say the bill will drive them to invest in automation, the type that will allow them to cut jobs in the future.
The issue at hand is a provision of the bill that allows full and immediate depreciation of capital spending. This change will allow most capital expenditures, such as investments in machines and building upgrades, to be written off against profits in the first year.
The change, set to last for five years, is far more generous to corporations than current law, which allows businesses to write off the costs of new equipment gradually over years. While the provision is expected to provide substantial benefit to the commercial real estate and oil industry, the provision could also spur a wave of investment in automation in the manufacturing industry. ...
Eric Marshall, a portfolio manager with Hodges Capital, told Fox Business that one of the first moves by corporate executives will be to invest in technology and automation at the expense of hiring new workers. “It’s going to be disruptive but it can be a positive and a negative,” said Marshall. ... President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has sold his tax reform effort as a job plan.
Barkley’s remarks about the Democrats came about in an odd way. CNN host Jake Tapper asked Barkley what his message for President Donald Trump would be. But Barkley took it in another direction:
Well, this is a wakeup call for Democrats. … They’ve taken the black vote and the poor vote for granted for a long time. It’s time for them to get off their ass and start making life better for black folks and people who are poor.
They’ve always had our votes, and they have abused our votes and this is a wakeup call. We’ve got it in a great position now, but this is a wakeup call for Democrats to do better for black people and poor white people.
Barkley is right that there’s an imbalance in the way black folks turn out for Democrats like Jones versus the way those Democrats then turn around and treat them. Unlike Obama’s election, the black vote is in essence used by Democrats to advance white politicians’ power. Consider these facts: The United States does not have a single black governor of the 50 states; not one of the 50 states currently has an African-American attorney general; just two African-American Democrats serve in the United States Senate — two!
And it’s not just the politicians themselves, these imbalances are built into the power structures politicians have built around themselves, too. Every United States senator has a chief of staff. Guess how many of those are black? Two! And both of them are Republicans! Each U.S. senator has a communications director; only one is black, and he also works for a Republican. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez recently posted a photo of the last crop of interns to work for the party — and almost all the faces were white. The problem runs from the rank and file all the way to the top of the national Democratic Party. The House minority leader is white and so is the Senate minority leader. ...
The Democratic Party is clearly expecting a wave of support to carry them into power in 2018. There are already rumors that the political classes want to call it a “blue wave.” But there’s a better name: the black wave. The reason is simple: The wave won’t come at all without black votes. But like all large waves in the ocean, the Democrats better learn to respect the black wave that keeps their political hopes afloat: The days of black votes without black power need to come to an end.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which refused to perform an environmental impact review of the project, has enraged indigenous and other local opponents by granting a permit for the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana to a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners—the company that is also behind the Dakota Access pipeline.
"The Army Corps and Energy Transfer Partners should expect resistance," warned Kendall Mackey of 350.org. "Bayou Bridge is another dangerous pipeline from a company that's shown complete disregard for Indigenous rights, the land and water, and our climate."
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) plans to build the 162-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline as a segment of a larger system that already carries crude oil from Nederland, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana; the new segment would extend to St. James, Louisiana, crossing the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest freshwater wetland and swamp in the country.
"It's heartbreaking, but not surprising, that the Army Corps of Engineers would approve ANOTHER pipeline to be rammed through our already over exploited and fragile south Louisiana land and waters," said Monique Verdin, a United Houma Nation tribal councilmember.
"The Houma Nation and all those south of the proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline route deserve the right to clean water for drinking, for bathing, for fishing, for life," Verdin added. "We know the risks and Energy Transfer Partners has got the track record for us to know the gamble is not worth it."
An analysis (pdf) of government safety records by the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance revealed that ETP and Sunoco, which merged earlier this year, have had a combined 329 pipeline incidents since January 2006, averaging more than two dozen per year. These incidents, according to the group's report, "have resulted in releases, spills, injury and/or death to a person, an emergency shutdown, explosion, fire, and/or property damage all across the United States."
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke brought the leader of a California park to his office last month to reprimand him for climate change-related tweets the park had sent via Twitter, two sources close to the situation said.
Zinke did not take any formal disciplinary action against David Smith, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park. And the tweets at issue weren’t deleted, because they didn’t violate National Park Service or Interior Department policies.
But Zinke made it clear to Smith that the Trump administration doesn’t want national parks to put out official communications on climate change.
And by bringing Smith from California to Washington, D.C., to deliver the tongue-lashing, he also sent a message to the park service at large.
One source said Smith “got a trip to the woodshed” and described his one-on-one meeting with Zinke as “highly unusual.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sam and Dave - Hold On, I'm Coming
Sam & Dave - I Thank You
Sam & Dave - Wrap It Up
Sam and Dave - When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
Sam and Dave - No More Pain
Sam and Dave - I Found Out
Sam and Dave - Soul Sister, Brown Sugar
Sam and Dave - Broke Down Piece of Man
Sam And Dave - You Got Me Hummin'
Sam and Dave - I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
Sam and Dave - I Take What I Want