The Evening Blues - 12-18-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans blues singer Robert Parker. Enjoy!
Robert Parker - Barefootin'
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
-- Henry David Thoreau
News and Opinion
J20 Defendants Await Verdict in First Test of Government Attempt to Criminalize Protest Group as a Whole
It's been a bleak year for the 194 protesters, medics, and journalists facing multiple felony charges stemming from their arrest surrounding Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017. Vilified by much of the mainstream press and largely ignored by the liberal “Resistance” movement, the J20 defendants — as they’re collectively known — have huddled around each other and their tight network of supporters. On Friday, a jury began deliberations in the first J20 trial, of six defendants, on a raft of counts; a verdict could come as soon as Monday. Last Wednesday, however, there was a rare glimmer of hope: Before closing arguments, Judge Lynn Leibovitz of the D.C. Superior Court threw out the “inciting a riot” charge, a felony with a maximum 10 year sentence.
Despite throwing out the incitement charges, Leibovitz declined to acquit the defendants on seven other charges, including five counts of felony property destruction, misdemeanor rioting, and misdemeanor conspiracy to riot. Those charges together carry a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison. ... What the acquittal means for the remaining 188 defendants is not yet clear. Prosecutors may have stronger evidence of incitement against other protesters, especially those who planned the action or who issued directions during the march. (Some of the organizers will go on trial early next year.) But this first failure is indicative of a larger problem with the government’s case: a lack of individualized evidence against the majority of those arrested. ...
The prosecution’s case is built around hours upon hours of video captured by police body cameras, reporters, undercover cops, confiscated cellphones, and far-right groups, such as the media provocateurs of Project Veritas and the Oath Keepers militia. One of the defendants, independent journalist Alexei Wood, had his live-stream of the event used as evidence against himself and his co-defendants. In his video, Wood can be heard cheering while others graffiti walls and break windows. On Wednesday, Leibovitz decided that cheering isn’t enough to establish incitement. “Personal enthusiasm for the destruction,” Leibovitz said, “is qualitatively different from urging others to destroy.”
Only a tiny fraction of those arrested on January 20 could have personally engaged in acts of property destruction. The prosecution doesn’t dispute this fact. “We don’t believe the evidence is going to show that any of these six individuals personally took that crowbar or that hammer and hit the limo or personally bashed those windows of that Starbucks in,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff told the jury in her opening statement on November 20. “You don’t personally have to be the one that breaks the window to be guilty of rioting.”
Though it sometimes gets lost amid breathless reporting on masked anarchists, shattered glass, and burning limos, the real story of J20 is one of the state attempting to imprison almost two hundred people for criminal acts committed by a handful. The prosecution’s novel theory of group liability — in which anyone in proximity to criminal behavior during a protest can be held liable for those crimes — is a grave threat to the First Amendment, the right to assemble, and the right to protest, according to civil rights advocates. “The prosecution’s case is utterly bizarre and essentially rests on both guilt by association and criminalization of dissent,” said Chip Gibbons, the policy and legislative counsel for Defending Rights and Dissent.
The United States Military has conducted joint training operations with South Korean forces to practice removing nuclear weapons from North Korea in the event of war, according to reports.
Citing military sources, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the “Warrior Strike” exercise took place north of Seoul between Tuesday and Friday. Hundreds of soldiers from both sides took part in the training to remove weapons of mass destruction from the North.
The training exercise comes amid escalating tensions between North Korea and its perceived enemies, with Russia and China also conducting air defense drills against the rogue state this week.
The United States provided intelligence to Russia that helped thwart a potentially deadly bomb attack in St. Petersburg, U.S. and Russian officials said on Sunday, in a rare public show of cooperation despite deep strains between the two countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday to thank him for the tip-off, which the Kremlin said helped prevent a militant bomb attack on a cathedral in the Russian city, as well as other sites.
President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked massive protests for two consecutive weeks, each culminating with the biggest demonstrations on Friday. Israel’s reaction has largely been military, labeling the demonstrations “riots” and trying to crack down on them.
With several killed and hundreds wounded, however, Palestinian protests show no sign of slowing over the weekend, and Israel appears at a loss as to what else to try, and loathe to consider any alternative strategy that doesn’t involve force and threats.
Internet access has become integral to America’s way of life – it is essential to finding jobs, educational opportunities and health services. For people living on the margins, it is a tool of upward mobility. There are 69 million people in the United States living without home-based internet services. Some rural and low-income communities go without because they don’t have access to broadband services, but a study shows that most people go without home broadband because they simply can’t afford it. Affordability of broadband creates and exacerbates gaps in financial and educational opportunities between the broadband “haves” and “have-nots”. ...
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week repealed net neutrality and abandoned its role in regulating the most vital communications tool of the 21st century. ...
Net neutrality is not just about who owns access to the internet, is it also about how we are able to use it and benefit from it. It has allowed people of color a means to bypass broken legacy systems, harness innovative offerings, and succeed without access to traditional financial resources. It has also allowed marginalized communities to engage in the political process, speak truth to power, and push back against structural discrimination. All those gains and opportunities to write ourselves into history will be lost if the balance of power and control shifts to the ISPs. Allowing the internet to become a platform that is pay-to-play and splits into fast and slow lanes will tip the scales to the hands of the privileged few. ...
The American people, not greedy corporations, should be in control of the internet. Unfortunately, the FCC failed in preserving the open internet – the most vital communications tool of our lifetime.
The Federal Communications Commission’s 3-2 vote to repeal net neutrality rules has many worried that internet service providers will now build the same sort of tiered internet that some other countries have — where individual providers can collude to throttle traffic to certain websites and services in order to shake money from consumers or the companies themselves — or both.
For instance, in Morocco last year, multiple internet service providers worked together to briefly block voice chat services like WhatsApp and Skype, in what was interpreted by some as an attempt to push consumers to subscribe to their phone subscriptions instead.
But Seattle’s Socialist Alternative Council Member Kshama Sawant — the prime mover of the city’s successful bid to enact a $15 an hour minimum wage — has another idea. She wants her city to simply build its own broadband network to compete with the private providers, guaranteeing a free flow of unthrottled information.
It may sound radical but it’s not unheard of. Today, around 185 communities in the United States offer some form of public broadband service. ... In a Facebook post written Thursday night, Sawant urged the state and city to act.
“The FCC is doing the bidding of big business like Comcast, not the voters of either party, because public opinion is clear: 76% favor net neutrality, even including 73% of Republican voters,” she wrote. “Olympia should urgently pass net neutrality legislation in Washington State, and Seattle must invest in building municipal broadband, so no internet corporation has the power to prioritize making money over our democratic rights.”
“All Eyes on U.S.” as Honduran Election Panel Declares Incumbent President Hernández Election Winner
Catalonia is in the final stretch before pivotal elections Thursday that could determine the course of a secession crisis that has thrown Spain into turmoil and rattled the European Union. It is a campaign where the star candidates are in exile or in jail and where pro- and anti-independence parties for the December 21 polls are still neck-and-neck. ...
In the polls Catalans will elect 135 lawmakers in the regional parliament, which has been dominated by pro-independence parties since 2015. All eyes are on whether the three separatist parties will maintain their absolute majority, and if they do, whether they will make another bid to break from Spain after their first attempt failed. ...
At the head of a list called Together for Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont has campaigned from afar, using video appearances and social media. Some 45,000 supporters even travelled to Belgium to see him on December 7. He claims the elections are the "second round" of an independence referendum held on October 1 despite a court ban, in which Catalan leaders said 90 percent voted to break from Spain, although only 43 percent turned out in a vote marred by police brutality.
The separatists' campaign is centred on denouncing alleged rights violations and "repression" by the central government, but it is unclear what stance they will take if they win.
Cyril Ramaphosa, an anti-apartheid activist turned tycoon and politician, has been chosen by the African National Congress as its leader for the next five years.
The battle to lead South Africa’s ruling party, which has been in power for 23 years but has been hit by declining support and a series of scandals, remained on a knife edge to the last minute. Almost 5,000 delegates voted in an internal party election at a conference centre in Johannesburg. Ramaphosa won with 2,440 votes to 2,261 for his rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The delegates’ choice will almost certainly determine the next president of South Africa, due to be decided in an election in 2019, and the trajectory of the “rainbow nation” for decades to come. The victory of Ramaphosa, 65, will come as a relief to those in South Africa who feared populist and potentially divisive policies from Dlamini-Zuma, a former senior minister and party stalwart who had promised “radical economic transformation”.
But it will disappoint those who believe Ramaphosa lacks the will to take measures needed to redistribute wealth and lift millions of people out of deep poverty.
The firestorm of outrage sparked by a provision in the GOP tax bill that would personally enrich Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and President Donald Trump continued to grow on Monday as a leading economist estimated that, if passed, the measure could shave over $1.1 million from Corker's taxes each year.
First unveiled by the International Business Times on Saturday, the provision—buried in the 500-page Republican tax plan—"would allow income from real estate investment trusts to be taxed at a 20 percent rate, as opposed to the 37 percent tax rate paid by high income individuals," notes Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "According to Corker's disclosure forms, he makes between $1.2 million and $7.0 million annually in this sort of income....If we plug in the top end $7 million figure, Corker could be saving as much as $1,190,000 from this late addition to the tax bill."
These savings serve as a marked contrast to the benefits that would be seen by low-income families as a result of the highly-touted child tax credit changes demanded by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in exchange for his vote, Baker goes on to observe. While Corker, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, could potentially see a million-dollar annual benefit from the GOP tax plan, a married couple with two children earning $30,000 a year would only get an extra $800 from Rubio's tax credit efforts.
John McCain will not cast his vote on the Republican tax overhaul this week, a process the No2 Senate Republican said he expected will happen on Tuesday.
Donald Trump confirmed reports the Arizona senator has gone home to spend the holidays with his family, after spending several days in hospital in Maryland because of side effects from his treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
The president, who called McCain’s wife Cindy on Friday, told reporters at the White House: “I understand he’ll come if we ever needed his vote, which hopefully we won’t. But the word is John will come back if we need his vote. It’s too bad. He’s going through very tough time, theres no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote.”
John Cornyn earlier told ABC’s This Week he was “confident” the Senate would pass the tax cuts, “probably on Tuesday”. Without other absences or defections, McCain’s absence would not put the bill in danger.
Donald Trump said on Sunday he was not planning to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between Trump aides and Russia during the 2016 election.
Speaking to reporters on his arrival back at the White House from Camp David, the president was asked if he intended to take a step that many observers have anticipated and one Democratic congresswoman said could come as soon as Friday.
He replied: “No, I’m not.”
Trump also repeated his contention that there was “no collusion whatsoever” between his aides and Russia. Earlier in the day, amidst fevered speculation on the issue, senior administration officials criticised Mueller’s work.
The Democrats "big win" is just as much a prize for the Republicans:
Doug Jones, the Democrat who won a shock victory in the Alabama Senate election, said on Sunday he did not think Donald Trump should resign as president in light of sexual misconduct allegations against him.
It was time, Jones said, to “get on with the real issues that are facing the people of this country right now”.
Multiple women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. The president, who was recorded saying he could “grab” women “by the pussy”, denies all such allegations. The White House has said all the women are lying.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Jones was asked if he would join new Senate colleagues including Cory Booker of New Jersey, who campaigned for him, in calling for the president to resign. He said: “Where I am on that right now is that those allegations were made before the election. And so people had an opportunity to judge before that election. I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues.
“Let’s get on with the real issues that are facing people of this country right now, and I don’t think the president ought to resign at this point. We’ll see how things go but certainly those allegations are not new and he was elected with those allegations at front centre.”
The Trump administration will drop climate change from a list of global threats in a new National Security Strategy the president is due to unveil on Monday.
Instead, Trump’s NSS paper will emphasis the need for the US to regain its economic competitiveness in the world.
That stance represents a sharp change from the Obama administration’s NSS, which placed climate change as one of the main dangers facing the nation and made building international consensus on containing global warming a national security priority.
White House officials said on Sunday the Trump NSS was the culmination of 11 months of collaboration between all the leading security, foreign policy and economic agencies of government. The exclusion of climate change as a national security threat appears however to conflict with views previously expressed by the defense secretary, James Mattis.
In a case that has national ramifications, a federal judge has ruled against the city of South Portland, Maine, in its latest effort to stop the coastal town from becoming a destination for Canadian tar sands oil. The case centers around an existing pipeline owned by oil companies ExxonMobil, Shell, and Suncor. ...
In 2014, the city of South Portland passed the Clear Skies Ordinance, banning the export of crude oil from the city. This ordinance was designed to protect local air quality because the plans to bring tar sands oil to South Portland require building two smokestacks on the waterfront, located adjacent to residential areas. These pollution control towers would burn off the toxic volatile components of the tar sands oil mixture. ... Sure enough, after the city council overwhelmingly passed the Clear Skies Ordinance in 2014, the Portland Pipe Line Corporation sued the city to overturn the crude oil export ban. ...
In the latest round of this legal battle, the city of South Portland asked Judge John Woodcock Jr. to throw out the case because the pipeline in question isn’t economically viable and PPLC has no plans — or financing — in place to proceed with the project. The city’s lawyers pointed out that reversing the pipeline to bring tar sands oil from Canada to South Portland requires oil for the pipeline, yet it currently has no way to get that oil. Even the judge made this point in the recent decision, saying, “for PPLCto pump oil from Montreal to South Portland, there must be oil to pump.”
The judge’s decision notes that PPLC asserted that the Energy East pipeline’s cancellation was not only not important because of the “‘dynamic, extremely complex [nature of the oil] market, that is affected by a myriad of influences,” but was in fact a positive development because it would mean that the Portland Montreal Pipeline “will continue to be the sole operator of a crude oil pipeline running to the Atlantic coast.” This complete reversal on the role of the Energy East pipeline didn’t seem to bother Judge Woodcock. And he has embraced the PPLC’s “extremely complex nature of the oil market” argument as justification for allowing the lawsuit to continue, because, basically, no one can predict the future of oil markets.
The fight in the courts may be about an air quality ordinance and the rights of a community to control projects with potential health impacts in that area, but the pipeline reversal project poses another threat to the people of South Portland and the greater Portland metro area. The current pipeline passes under a section of Sebago Lake, which is the source of drinking water for Portland as well as 15 percent of Maine. If the pipeline leaked, the potential economic and health impact of polluting Sebago would be immense.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Robert Parker - Mashed Potatoes All Nite Long
Robert Parker - Soul Sister
Robert Parker - Get Right Down
Robert Parker - Bow Legs
Robert Parker - All Nite Long
Robert Parker - Let's Go Baby
Robert Parker - Barefootin' Boogaloo
Robert Parker - You See Me
Robert Parker - Soul Kind Of Loving
Robert Parker - Walkin