The Evening Blues - 12-5-18
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This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Dave Specter. Enjoy!
Dave Specter - Chicago Style
"The French don't want crumbs, they want a baguette."
-- Benjamin Chaucy
News and Opinion
With a fourth consecutive Saturday of mass demonstrations against French President Emmanuel Macron’s regressive taxes planned this weekend, tens of thousands of high school students throughout France have staged demonstrations at their school buildings. Students staged demonstrations at 200 schools across the country on Monday, up from 50 on Friday. They expressed their solidarity with the ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters opposing president Emmanuel Macron, their opposition to Macron’s pro-corporate restructuring of university admissions, his mass layoffs of teachers, and his plans to reimpose the military draft.
The same day, dozens of ambulance drivers protesting changes to their working conditions blocked a bridge leading to the National Assembly. Statements are circulating on Facebook indicating that petrol refinery workers will strike today in support of the protests. Protesters wearing yellow vests have staged demonstrations not only in France, but in Belgium and Bulgaria, where they have set up blockades of major roads, as well as the Netherlands. Opposition to Macron, austerity and the high cost of living is intensifying across Europe.
The anger of workers in France and all of Europe, growing for years, is developing in opposition to inequality, the politics of militarism and austerity of Macron and the European Union, and against the brutality of the police forces dispatched against the protesters. ...
Police union officials confirmed that their agents are infiltrating the demonstrations. “In the ultra-right and ultra-left movements, we are collecting information proactively, via infiltrations. But the yellow vests are a new and little structured movement,” said police union officer Guillaume Ryckwaert — therefore requiring greater and more intense infiltration. Demonstrators have accused the police provocateurs of instigating violence aimed at turning public opinion against them and discrediting protesters who are in the overwhelming majority peaceful.
The reaction of the political and media establishment and the trade unions underscores that the ruling elite has nothing to offer the masses of the population besides austerity and repression. Committed to an austerity program that is rejected by 80 percent of the population, the representatives of the financial aristocracy have no other response than to call for the re-imposition of a state of emergency and the intervention of the military against the population. The suspension of democratic rights would be in this case openly tied to the efforts by Macron to impose the diktats of the banks on workers.
'We Are In a State of Insurrection': Deep Inequality and Macron's Dedication to Elites Fuel Yellow Vest Uprising in France
After more than two weeks of protests over high fuel prices and intensifying inequality across France under centrist President Emmanuel Macron, the French government announced Tuesday that it would suspend planned price hikes for gas and electricity — but the demands of the so-called "Yellow Vest" protesters have become more broad, and more broadly embraced, as the demonstrations have swelled in size and energy. The price increases for the utilities will be suspended for six months, said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, but leaders of the demonstrations in which hundreds of thousands have donned yellow safety vests were dismissive of the gesture.
"It's a first step, but we will not settle for a crumb," Benjamin Chaucy, one of the leaders of the protest, told Al Jazeera. "The French don't want crumbs, they want a baguette."
The yellow vest protests began November 17, with 300,000 low- to middle-income demonstrators expressing outrage over fuel costs, which have gone up 20 percent in the last year as a result of Macron's plan to tax carbon use. The price hikes are the result of France's effort to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in the next 12 years—but the reaction from protesters suggests intense anger across the country as low-income households have bore the burden of the green initiative, adding to the untenable cost of living for many, while the rich have been given generous tax cuts.
In addition to their dissatisfaction with the government's offer regarding the price hikes, the yellow vest protesters have widened the scope of their demonstrations and demands in recent days. The protests have exploded into an impossible-to-ignore statement of outrage over Macron's leadership, which had a 23 percent approval rating according to a poll released Tuesday by Ifop-Fiducial for Paris Match and Sud Radio; working conditions for paramedics; school reforms; and the perception that Macron, a former investment banker, is a president for the country's elite.
— Catherine Norris-Trent (@cntrentF24) December 1, 2018
"We are in a state of insurrection, I've never seen anything like it," Jeanne d'Hauteserre, mayor of Paris's 8th district, told Al Jazeera. According to French journalist Agnès C. Poirier, both far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing group France Unbowed, have tried to link themselves to the Yellow Vest movement—but their attempts have been rebuffed. "The protesters seem wholly uninterested in party politics," Poirier wrote in the New York Times last week.
The US has given Russia 60 days to comply with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty or it will no longer abide by the agreement and could produce, test and deploy new missiles, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has warned. The ultimatum could herald a major new arms race, with serious implications for Europe. The INF treaty has kept nuclear-armed missiles off European soil for nearly three decades. If it breaks down, missiles could be returned to Europe as early as February.
Speaking to journalists after a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels, Pompeo outlined longstanding US allegations of Russian violations of the cold war-era treaty with the development and deployment of a new ground-launched cruise missile, which he said was part of a wider pattern of lawlessness by the Kremlin. “In light of these facts, the United States today declares it has found Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance,” the secretary of state said.
Under the terms of the INF treaty, the US would have to give six months’ notice of withdrawal. That period would only start at the beginning of February, in 60 days’ time, Pompeo said. Meanwhile, the US would simply declare itself no longer bound by the treaty in view of Russia’s alleged material breach. ...
Moscow has denied its new missile violates the INF but, after several years denying its existence, it has been vague on its capabilities. Meanwhile, it accuses the US of violating the INF by the deployment of the Aegis missile defence system in Romania and Poland, on the grounds that the launchers used in that system for defensive interceptors could be adapted to fire offensive cruise missiles. The US has so far dismissed these Russian concerns as groundless.
Vladimir Putin has threatened that Russia will develop new missiles banned by the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty if the US exits the pact and pursues an arms buildup of its own.
The Russian president’s remarks came one day after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Moscow was in “material breach” of the cold war-era treaty and issued a 60-day ultimatum for Russia to correct the alleged violations. Otherwise, he said, the US would quit the 1987 accord, considered a milestone in reducing the threat of a nuclear war in Europe.
In Moscow on Wednesday, Putin told journalists the US had provided “no evidence” of Russian violations, and threatened an arms race if the US sought to develop new medium-range missiles after exiting the treaty. “Apparently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so drastically that the US should also have such weapons,” Putin said in remarks carried by the Interfax news service. “What response is our side to give? A simple one: then we’ll do the same.”
Saying efforts to advance a Syria political process are at a stalemate, US Syria envoy James Jeffrey today proposed that the international community “pull the plug” on the Russia-led Astana process on Syria. But it is not clear that Washington has much support for the proposal even from the European and Arab allies that make up the Syria “small group” that US diplomats met with in Washington today.
Citing the failure of the Astana parties — Russia, Turkey, and Iran — to advance efforts for a Syria constitutional committee at a meeting last week, Jeffrey said the United States would propose getting rid of the competitor to the UN-led Geneva process when UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura departs at the end of the year.
President Trump came into office harshly critical of endless wars in the Middle East, but seems to be staring down the barrel of another such conflict in Syria. This reflects the Pentagon’s determination to stay in the country, and the administration’s ambitious goals not being really attainable.
In addition to wanting ISIS defeated, the US wants to ensure they never come back. Meanwhile, they want not only Iran ousted, but all Shi’ite militias in Syria. On top of that, they also want regime change, even though the rebels are all but wiped out.
China has said that Beijing and Washington will push forward with trade negotiations in the next 90 days and it is confident that an agreement can be reached but doubts remain over whether the two sides can resolve their deep differences. The commerce ministry, in a brief statement on its website, also said China would work to implement specific issues already agreed upon as quickly as possible.
The ministry’s statement came after the US president, Donald Trump, called himself “a Tariff Man” on Twitter and warned more levies could be imposed on China. The slew of Trump tweets prompted markets to fall as investors lost faith in a detente between the two nations.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost close to 800 points – just over 3%. Other market indexes also fell sharply: the S&P 500 lost 3.2% and the Nasdaq dropped 3.7%.
The threat of further escalation in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies has loomed large over financial markets and the global economy for much of the year, and investors initially greeted the ceasefire with relief. But the mood has quickly soured on scepticism that the two sides will be able to reach a substantive deal on a host of highly divisive issues within the 90-day negotiating period that was agreed. Failure would raise the spectre of fresh US tariff action and potential Chinese retaliation as early as March.
The U.K. Parliament has published 250 pages of secret internal Facebook emails that lawmakers claim show the company — and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in particular — was planning to sell access to user data to developers willing to spend at least $250,000 a year.
The explosive set of documents contradict Zuckerberg's repeated denials that Facebook was willing to monetize access to its users’ data. The CEO even appears to openly contemplate a business model that leverages user data:
“I’ve been thinking about platform business model a lot this weekend," Zuckerberg said in an email on Oct. 7, 2012. “If we make it so devs can generate revenue for us in different ways, then it makes it more acceptable for us to charge them quite a bit more for using platform.”
Zuckerberg goes on to write that a charge of $0.10 per user per year would be acceptable.
The emails serve up another blow to Facebook's public image following two years of near-constant crises and will likely pique the interest of antitrust regulators on both sides of the Atlantic as they appear to reveal a company looking to aggressively leverage its position to maintain dominance while turning the screws on developers and rivals.
Imprisoned Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond Bumped a Guard With a Door — and Got Thrown in Solitary Confinement
Last month, a amed hacker who has been serving a 10-year prison sentence since 2012 was accused by a guard at a federal detention center of “minor assault,” landing the so-called hacktivist in solitary confinement, according to advocates. The guard at Michigan’s Federal Correctional Institute-Milan made the accusation against Jeremy Hammond — the activist associated with hacking groups Anonymous and LulzSec and best know for hacking private intelligence firm Stratfor and leaking documents to WikiLeaks — on either November 19 or 20. Hammond has been held in solitary confinement ever since, according to the Jeremy Hammond Support Network.
The guard claims that Hammond hit him with a door, “stood his ground,” and pushed his shoulder into the guard. The head of Hammond’s support network said the prison guard’s account is an overblown. “Jeremy says that he was exiting his unit through a door that has no windows and could not see the guard on the other side, and as he’s exiting, bumped the guard with the door,” Grace North told The Intercept. “The guard immediately grabbed Jeremy and threw him up against the wall and dragged him down to solitary, with no handcuffs, without calling for backup, which is against prison protocol, and Jeremy has been there ever since.” North’s version of events also portrays the guard as overly aggressive: After the guard was hit with the door, North said, he asked Hammond if he “wanted to go.”
Hammond, who pleaded guilty to violating one count of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in a noncooperating plea deal, had never been part of any physical alteration since his arrest in Chicago on March 5, 2012. ... Hammond’s run-in with the guard could have severe implications on his time in prison, disrupting his studies toward a higher-education degree and potentially precipitating a move from the minimum-security Milan facility to a medium-security prison. ... This week will mark the start of Hammond’s third week in a so-called segregated housing unit — more commonly known as solitary confinement. The United Nations has said that confinement of such length could be considered torture.
The Cleveland police officer who was fired after fatally shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice isn’t getting his job back — but it has nothing to do with the 2014 killing, for which he was never indicted.
Rather, Officer Timothy Loehmann was fired in May 2017 for lying on his 2013 job application, and an arbitrator found Wednesday that’s reason enough to keep him out of the Cleveland Police Department, according to Cleveland.com. Loehmann was with the department for less than eight months before he shot Rice.
Earlier this year, Loehmann entered the necessary arbitration proceedings to get his job back via a third-party review of his firing. The city has said it didn’t realize the mistake on his application: He didn’t disclose that he was let go from another, smaller police department due to emotionally unstable behavior.
The white nationalist who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a Virginia rally last year began sobbing and whimpering after his arrest when police told him he had killed someone, according to video played at his trial on Tuesday. Prior to the rally he had sent his mother an image of Adolf Hitler, the court in Charlottesville heard on Tuesday.
But within minutes of the mayhem at the tail end of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on 12 August 2017, James Fields could be heard on footage recorded by a detective’s body-worn camera saying he acted in self-defense. “I didn’t want to hurt people, but I thought they were attacking me,” Fields told the police, according to the video footage played to the jury, which is now expected to opine sooner than expected on whether to convict Fields on 10 charges, including murder. ...
On Tuesday, Judge Richard Moore allowed prosecutors to show the jury a cellphone text message exchange between Fields and his mother the day before Fields traveled to Charlottesville. “I got the weekend off,” Fields wrote to his mother. “I’ll be able to go to the rally.”
“Be careful,” his mother replied. “We’re not the one who need to be careful,” Field wrote. He also attached an image of Adolf Hitler. Moore told the jury they would have to weigh whether the exchange and the image of the Nazi leader showed that Fields had premeditated intent.
The young neo-Nazi accused of using his car as a deadly weapon during the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville argued with his mother in a call from jail about how sorry he ought to be for allegedly causing the death of Heather Heyer, a counterprotester. Prosecutors played the calls on Tuesday, day four of James Alex Fields Jr.’s trial, BuzzFeed News reported, before resting their case. ...
During a December 2017 call, Fields told his mother, Samantha Bloom, that Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, who's been a prominent community activist since the August 2017 violence, was “one of those anti-white communists.”
“She lost her daughter,” Fields’ mother replied, according to BuzzFeed.
“It doesn’t fucking matter,” Fields said. “She’s a communist.”
“Stop talking like that,” Bloom said.
“It isn’t up for questioning,” Fields said. “She’s the enemy, Mother.”
Prosecutors have sought to demonstrate that Fields’ actions were premeditated, and that he had an ideological motive, while defense attorneys have tried to argue that he acted in self-defense, according to reporters inside the Charlottesville, Virginia, courtroom.
California law enforcement pursued criminal charges against eight anti-fascist activists who were stabbed or beaten at a neo-Nazi rally while failing to prosecute anyone for the knife attacks against them, according to police records reviewed by the Guardian. In addition to the decision not to charge white supremacists or others for stabbings at a far-right rally that left people with critical wounds, police also investigated 100 anti-fascist counter-protesters, recommending more than 500 total criminal charges against them, according to court filings from civil rights attorneys.
Meanwhile, for men investigated on the neo-Nazi side of a June 2016 brawl at the state capitol, police recommended only five mostly minor charges, none related to stabbings. ... For two of the counter-protesters facing potential prison time, law enforcement officers surveilled their social media activity and cited their leftwing politics and affiliation with Chicano and indigenous rights groups as evidence against them, the police reports revealed. None of the defendants heading toward trial were accused of the stabbings of anti-fascists.
The documents have raised fresh questions about California police agencies’ handling of rightwing violence and extremism, renewing accusations that law enforcement officials have shielded neo-Nazis from prosecution while aggressively pursuing demonstrators with leftwing and anti-racist political views. ...
Lawyers analyzed more than a hundred police reports, finding that the California highway patrol (CHP) investigated 22 men affiliated with TWP and recommended no charges for 17 of them, including some who police said were holding knives. For every anti-fascist protester police could identify, however, law enforcement pursued charges, including against people who were not accused of any violence and were simply attending the counter-demonstration alongside other activists, defense attorneys wrote. Those activists were accused of “unlawful assembly”.
As Democrats prepare to take over the U.S. House of Representatives, abortion foes are shifting their efforts to a friendlier branch of government: the Trump administration. Specifically, abortion opponents are targeting the Title X program, which provides federal funding for family planning services for low-income Americans. More than 4 million people participate in the Title X program each year, receiving services like STD testing, cancer screenings, and birth control. Right now, none of the $286.5 million dedicated to Title X can be used to pay for providing abortions. (Since the 1970s, Congress has decreed that no federal dollars can be used to pay for abortions, except in limited circumstances.)
But the White House can flex its rule-making muscle to push through changes to Title X that would make it harder for clinics that provide abortions to operate, such as requiring they create physically separate spaces for abortions, and limiting doctors’ freedom to refer patients to providers that offer abortions. Advocates in the field widely expect these changes, first proposed in May, to be finalized within the next eight weeks.
“When you have a friendly administration, that opens up doors for administrative activities,” said Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Students for Life of America, the United States’ largest anti-abortion organization dedicated to mobilizing students. “So we just have to look at all the different funding streams and all the different programs.” Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins met with White House administrators last week to discuss post-midterms strategy. She also suggested other administrative changes such as asking that the Department of Health and Human Services stop funding fetal tissue research and that Planned Parenthood no longer be eligible for federal sex ed grants.
'This Is a Coup': Protests Engulf Wisconsin Capitol as Outgoing Scott Walker and GOP Move to Cripple Democratic Power
As Wisconsin Republicans voted to plow ahead with a sweeping package of legislation that would allow outgoing Gov. Scott Walker to strip significant authority from Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers, outraged Wisconsinites flooded the state capitol Monday night to denounce the GOP's brazen attempt to subvert the will of the voters and "undo democracy itself."
"This isn't a bill. This is a coup," Randy Bryce—aka the "Iron Stache"—said before Wisconsin's Joint Committee on Finance, which deliberated and ultimately voted along party lines to advance the Republican plan, which seeks to transfer many of Evers' crucial executive powers to the GOP-dominated legislature. A final vote on the plan is expected as early as Tuesday. Apparently lacking the courage to speak on behalf of their legislation—or fearing the immense grassroots backlash—the bill's Republican sponsors didn't bother to show up to the lame-duck hearing.
Unlike some of their representatives, thousands of Wisconsinites braved the freezing weather and turned out in force, crowding the inside of the capitol building with chants of "Respect our vote!" and rallying outside to denounce the Republicans' last-ditch power grab. ...
If approved by the state legislature, the Republican plan would force Evers to implement Wisconsin's Trump-approved Medicaid work requirements, stop him from banning guns in the state capitol, and restrict both his ability and that of newly-elected Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to execute the state's legal affairs. The GOP's sweeping legislative package would also severely restrict early voting, limiting it to as little as two weeks before an election.
Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state senate voted just before sunrise on Wednesday, following an all-night session, to pass a sweeping bill in a lame-duck session designed to weaken the incoming Democratic governor, Tony Evers, who ousted the Republican Scott Walker last month.
Republicans pushed on through protests, internal disagreement and Democratic opposition to the measures designed to reduce the powers of Evers and the incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul, also a Democrat replacing a Republican. Critics have called the move a threat to democracy. ...
Evers and Kaul urged Republicans not to pass the bill early on Wednesday, warning that lawsuits would bring more gridlock to Wisconsin when the new administration, and the first divided state government in Wisconsin in 10 years, takes over early in 2019. But Republicans forged ahead regardless. The assembly was expected to pass the bill later on Wednesday, sending it on to Walker for his consideration in the waning weeks of his controversial governorship. Walker is in his final five weeks as governor after losing a bid for a third term to Evers, the state schools superintendent.
Randy Credico Exclusive Tell-All Interview with Abby Martin on Wikileaks & Roger Stone
This wasn’t some end-of-the-year clearance sale. While you might think public lands would be more safeguarded than most from oil and gas development, the Trump administration has actually made it dangerously affordable to lease drilling rights. That’s especially concerning in light of a new federal report that found drilling on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
“We clearly have a system that is incentivizing speculation,” said Jeremy Nichols, the Climate and Energy Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. He said the low lease prices allowed companies to take advantage of public lands and make money off the backs of taxpayers.“I call it a liquidation. When you’re selling public lands for $1.50 an acre, you are liquidating.”
This devaluing of public lands and their wholesale leasing is not only alarming because of the associated greenhouse gases. Drilling can end up cutting off wildlife corridors, threatening native flora and fauna. It can also lead to massive spikes in air pollution — which is why some towns located near the gas fields in western Wyoming have experienced higher smog levels than Los Angeles.
Half of Canada’s chinook salmon are endangered, with nearly all other populations in precarious decline, according to a new report, confirming fears that prospects for the species remain dire. The report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada concluded that eight of the country’s 16 populations are considered endangered, four are threatened, one is of special concern and the health of two remain unknown.
Only one population, which spawns on the Thompson river in British Columbia, is believed to be stable.
“For those of us who have been working on recovering chinook salmon runs in British Columbia, we knew they were in terrible, terrible shape for quite a while now,” said Aaron Hill of Watershed Watch, an organisation that monitors ecosystem health. “It was actually good to see it finally recognised by this federally mandated science body, because this hopefully initiates more serious protection efforts from the government.”
Watershed Watch has renewed calls for chinook to be listed under federal legislation which would afford the ailing populations more robust government protection. But similar calls were made last year, when the same committee of scientists found that one-third of sockeye salmon are endangered, and the federal government has yet to take action.
West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is under attack from a potential 2020 Democratic candidate over his views on climate change. Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, is launching a petition to demand that Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, block Manchin from serving as the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
In an email sent out to supporters, Inslee insists: “Senate Democrats must not allow Joe Manchin to become the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I need your help to stop this.” While the Washington Democrat offers some praise for Manchin, saying “Look, Joe Manchin has been a champion for affordable health care for every American. He’s been a leader on issues you and I care deeply about.” However, he adds: “But on climate, he’s simply wrong.” ...
The effort shows Inslee making an effort to appeal to those progressives as a potential “climate candidate” if he chooses to run in 2020. Inslee’s petition comes as the Washington governor has formed a federal political action committee, which he could use to fund the exploratory steps of a presidential bid. A former seven-term congressman, Inslee has already made a number of visits to early presidential primary states in his role as head of the Democratic Governors Association during the 2018 election cycle.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Dave Specter & Band - Kidney Stew
Dave Specter & Mike Zito - Make Blues Not War
Dave Specter - The Hollywood Park Shuffle
Dave Specter & Barkin' Bill Smith - Tell Me What's The Reason
Dave Specter - Is What It Is
Dave Specter and Will Tilson - Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)
Dave Specter and Jimmy Johnson - Cold, Cold Feeling
Dave Specter and Steve Freund - People Get Ready
Floyd McDaniel with Dave Specter and the Bluebirds - St. Louis Blues
Lil' Red & The Rooster feat Dave Specter - Magic Sam's Boogie