The Evening Blues - 12-6-17


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Little Sonny

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Detroit blues harmonica player Aaron "Little Sonny" Willis. Enjoy!

Little Sonny - Tomorrow's Blues Today

“Rebellion has its roots in government's indifference and incompetence.”

-- Mike Barnicle

News and Opinion

Defiant Trump confirms US will recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Donald Trump has defied overwhelming global opposition by declaring US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but insisted that the highly controversial move would not derail his own administration’s bid to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In remarks delivered in the diplomatic reception room of the White House, Trump called his decision “a long overdue” step to advance the peace process.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.” Trump said: “All challenges demand new approaches. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The president said that the US remained committed to a two-state solution, and insisted that he was not dictating how much of Jerusalem should constitute Israel’s capital – leaving open the possibility that East Jerusalem would be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Trump said “we are not taking a position on any final status issues” of which the fate of the holy city is one of the most emotive, and that it would be up to Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate boundaries. ...

Trump’s announcement provoked immediate condemnation from world leaders, who had previously denounced the move as a destabilising factor in an already tense and turbulent region. French president Emmanuel Macron said: “This decision is a regrettable decision that France does not approve of and goes against international law and all the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council.” The move was also condemned by US allies Turkey and Egypt.

Israel’s government rushed to congratulate Trump for the speech, which prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as an “important step toward peace.”

UN Secretary General on Trump’s Jerusalem decision: “No alternative to the two-states solution”

Trump’s Transition Team Colluded With Israel. Why Isn’t That News?

Did the Trump campaign collude with Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 election? Maybe. We await Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s next move to learn more about that. But in the meantime, why aren’t more members of Congress or the media discussing the Trump transition team’s pretty brazen collusion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undermine both U.S. government policy and international law? Shouldn’t that be treated as a major scandal?

Thanks to Mueller’s ongoing investigation, we now know that prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, members of his inner circle went to bat on behalf of Israel, and specifically on behalf of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, behind the scenes and in opposition to official U.S. foreign policy. That’s the kind of collusion with a foreign state that has gotten a lot of attention with respect to the Kremlin – but colluding with Israel seems to be of far less interest, strangely. ...

None of this been contested. In fact, on Sunday, Kushner made a rare public appearance at the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Trump administration’s plans for the Middle East and was welcomed by the forum’s sponsor, the Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, who said he “personally wanted to thank” Kushner for “taking steps to try and get the United Nations Security Council to not go along with what ended up being an abstention by the U.S.” Kushner’s response? The first son-in-law smiled, nodded, and mouthed “thank you” to Saban.

Meanwhile, the Israelis have been pretty forthcoming about their own role in all of this, too. On Monday, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and a close friend and ally of Netanyahu, told Politico’s Susan Glasser that, in December 2016, “obviously we reached out to [the Trump transition team] in the hope that they would help us,” and “we were hopeful that they would speak” to other governments “in order to prevent this vote from happening.”

Got that? The Trump transition team — in the form of key Trump advisers Kushner and Flynn — reached out to the Russian government in order to undermine the U.S. government because the Israeli government asked them to. Where’s the outrage?

Talk of a Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Middle East

In a mysterious trip last month, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, traveled to Saudi Arabia’s capital for consultations with the hard-charging crown prince about President Trump’s plans for Middle East peace. What was said when the doors were closed, however, has since roiled the region. According to Palestinian, Arab and European officials who have heard Mr. Abbas’s version of the conversation, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented a plan that would be more tilted toward the Israelis than any ever embraced by the American government, one that presumably no Palestinian leader could ever accept.

The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. ... That left many in Washington and the Middle East wondering whether the Saudi crown prince was quietly doing the bidding of Mr. Trump, trying to curry favor with the Americans, or freelancing in order to put pressure on the Palestinians or to make any eventual offer sound generous by comparison. Or perhaps Mr. Abbas, weakened politically at home, was sending out signals for his own purposes that he was under pressure from Riyadh. ...

Adding to the shock for Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials from Fatah and Hamas, as well as a senior Lebanese official and several other people briefed on the matter, was the claim that Prince Mohammed had told Mr. Abbas that if he would not accept the terms, he would be pressed to resign to make way for a replacement who would. Several of the officials said the prince had offered to sweeten the agreement with vastly increased financial support to the Palestinians, and even dangled the possibility of a direct payment to Mr. Abbas, which they said he had refused. ...

Mr. Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, dismissed the accounts of the Riyadh meeting and the Saudi proposals as “fake news” that “does not exist,” and said the Palestinians were still awaiting a formal proposal from the United States. But the main points of the Saudi proposal as told to Mr. Abbas were confirmed by many people briefed on the discussions between Mr. Abbas and Prince Mohammed, including Mr. Yousef, the senior Hamas leader; several Western officials; a senior Fatah official; a Palestinian official in Lebanon; a senior Lebanese official; and a Lebanese politician, among others.

Israeli Presentation on How to Make Drone Strikes More “Efficient” Disturbed Its Audience

Research backed by the U.S. and Israeli military scandalized a conference near Tel Aviv earlier this year after a presentation showed how the findings would help drone operators more easily locate people — including targets — fleeing their strikes and better navigate areas rendered unrecognizable by prior destruction. The doctoral student who presented the research demonstrated how pioneering data visualization techniques could show a drone operator, using lines and arrows of varying thickness, which direction fast-moving people and vehicles were most likely to travel, for example, at an intersection or while fleeing a building. The presentation clearly angered at least some of the crowd, including the moderator, prompting hostile questions.

“The guy’s talk (and its video documentation) revealed much of what’s very wrong about UAV warfare,” said Mushon Zer-Aviv, a web designer and activist and an organizer of the conference, the data visualization confab known as ISVIS. The incident at ISVIS underscores the extent to which drone warfare’s deeply technological basis and inhumanity has become a major part of global public debate around its use. Once viewed (and still promoted) as an efficient, safer way to target terrorists, the growing ubiquity of lethal drone strikes in global hotspots is increasingly seen as helping to create wastelands and fomenting the sort of terroristic support it’s designed to eradicate.

Part of the controversy over the research presentation traces back to the desensitized environment in which drone pilots operate, which is not frequently seen by outsiders. In this world, the pilots ask questions that might sound absurd outside the context of aerial robot-aided killing: What happens when you want to kill someone, but they’ve run into a building, and you’re not sure where they’ll exit? What happens when a town has been so thoroughly destroyed, you can’t recognize it anymore and get lost?

Few Members of Congress Are Concerned With Potential for Violence if U.S. Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Although Congress voted in 1995 to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declare it the capital, every president since then has invoked a national security waiver to prevent recognition. ... A slew of world powers warned the United States against making such a move this week. East Jerusalem is home to a large Palestinian population that lives under a harsher set of rules than the city’s Israeli residents, and it is widely believed that a two-state solution is impossible if Israel insists on controlling the entire city. ...

But while international diplomats are pressing the Trump administration to prevent recognition of Jerusalem, few from either side of the aisle in Congress are willing to speak about it, even though the vast majority of Democratic voters oppose the move.

On Tuesday, The Intercept asked a bipartisan group of senators on Capital Hill about the Trump administration’s plan. Most either supported the move or did not directly respond to the question. Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, defended the Trump administration. “Well you know, it is true — the capital of Israel is Jerusalem,” he said. When asked about diplomats’ warnings that recognizing it as such may set off violence, he advised, “You’ve got to handle it the right way.” Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby also offered his support for the White House. When asked about concerns about ensuing violence, Shelby replied, “Can’t be much more violence than what’s already there.”

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz also backed the move.. “Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is long overdue,” he said, dismissing concerns about predictions of potential violence. “History has shown that radical Islamic terrorists need no provocation,” he said. Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown took a wait-and-see approach. “Let’s see what happens when he announces it,” he told us in a terse response.

Trump's Jerusalem decision: "Every Palestinian will interpret this as Trump taking sides"

House passes legislation to restrict US aid to Palestinians

The Republican-led House easily approved legislation Tuesday that would restrict financial aid that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority until it takes credible steps to end what lawmakers say is a practice of rewarding Palestinians who kill Americans and Israelis. The legislation, which passed by voice vote, reflects bipartisan outrage over what members of Congress have called a “pay to slay” program endorsed by the Palestinian Authority. ....

Palestinian officials have said U.S. lawmakers are misinformed about a program that supports families who lose their breadwinners during Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Palestinians have argued that ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — lands Palestinians seek for their state — is key to defeating terrorism.

The bill states U.S. money may only be made available if the State Department certifies the Palestinians are serious about ending “acts of violence against Israeli citizens and United States citizens that are perpetrated or materially assisted by individuals under their jurisdictional control.” The Palestinian Authority is also required to revoke any laws or regulations authorizing the payments to terrorists or their families and must publicly condemn the acts of violence, according to the bill.

Lebanon's Hariri rescinds resignation, drawing line under crisis

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri rescinded his resignation on Tuesday, drawing a line under a month-long crisis triggered when he announced from Riyadh that he was stepping down and remained outside Lebanon for weeks. His coalition government, which includes the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, reaffirmed a state policy of staying out of conflicts in Arab states. Hariri’s Saudi allies accuse Hezbollah of waging war across the Middle East as agents of Iran.

Hariri’s shock resignation had thrust Lebanon to the forefront of the regional quarrel between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has been played out on battlefields in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Lebanese officials said Saudi Arabia had coerced Hariri, a long-time Saudi ally, into resigning and put him under effective house arrest until an intervention by France led to his return to Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Hariri have denied this.

Saudi concern over the influence wielded by Shi‘ite Muslim Iran and Hezbollah in other Arab states had been widely seen as the root cause of the crisis, which raised fears for Lebanon’s economic and political stability. The Lebanese policy of “dissociation” was declared in 2012 to keep the deeply divided state out of regional conflicts such as the civil war in neighbouring Syria. Despite the policy, Hezbollah is heavily involved there, sending thousands of fighters to help President Bashar al-Assad.

Daniel Ellsberg Reveals He was a Nuclear War Planner, Warns of Nuclear Winter & Global Starvation

White House Press Secretary Issues Bizarre Non-Denial of Private Spy Network Plans, While White House Official Confirms It

The White House press secretary did not directly dispute the revelation that Blackwater founder Erik Prince and former Iran-Contra figure Oliver North pitched a plan to develop a private spy network to members of the Trump administration. The plan, detailed in a story broken by The Intercept on Monday, is to develop a private intelligence network to counter perceived “deep state” enemies within government ranks. Prince denied the report, and North did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment. ...

“I’m not going to answer some random hypothetical. Did some random person off the street come in and say something? I don’t know,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. ...

A White House official later told New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman that the proposal was indeed pitched to the Trump administration, but there is no sign the president himself was briefed. A White House official also confirmed to CNN that the plan was pitched, adding that “this idea is going nowhere.”

Apparent Election Theft in Honduras

Honduras is in crisis, again. The national election took place on Nov. 26 with results posted that night showing the challenger Salvador Nasralla with a 5 percentage-point lead with 57 percent of the votes tallied. Then strange things began to happen. After midnight on election night, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) stopped posting updates and effectively shut down for the next 36 hours. The TSE’s president, David Matamoros Batson, said the TSE had received 13,000 tally sheets but was missing 6,000 from the total. With just over 18,000 total, this does not quite add up. Then two hours later, Matamoros increased the number of missing tally sheets to 7,500. When updates resumed, mid-day last Tuesday, the results consistently favored the incumbent right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The opposition lead steadily diminished then disappeared.

The leader of the Opposition Coalition against the Dictatorship, Salvador Nasralla, denounced the apparent malfeasance and protests commenced across the country. Police and military have sometimes responded violently. Numerous unarmed Hondurans have been killed over the past five days. On Monday, more than a week after the election, the TSE announced results giving a narrow victory to the incumbent National Party President Juan Orlando Hernandez. As mass protests continue, the opposition has demanded a recount of all the tally sheets received after the TSE shutdown.

The current National Party government derives from the 2009 military coup, which overthrew the moderately progressive President Manuel Zelaya supposedly because he simply considered the possibility of seeking a second term. When Zelaya was kidnapped in the 2009 coup, he was flown directly from Tegucigalpa to the U.S. government’s Palmerola Air Base just 48 miles from the capital. After time on the ground there, with the coup leaders presumably consulting with Washington, the kidnapped president was taken to Costa Rica. Five months later an election was held to replace Zelaya. The election was widely boycotted within Honduras but given the seal of approval by Washington. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the election made the coup a “moot point.” ...

Days before the recent Honduras election The Economist published a blockbuster article titled “Is Honduras Ruling Party Planning to Rig an Election?” reporting: “The Economist has obtained a recording that, if authentic, suggests the ruling party has plans to distort results in the upcoming election.” The two-hour recording is from a National Party training session. It details five tactics used to influence election results: buy the credentials of small party delegates who supervise the local polling place, surreptitiously allow National Party voters to vote more than once, spoil the votes for other candidates, damage the tally sheet which favors the opponent so it cannot be transmitted electronically to election headquarters – and expedite tally sheets favoring their party. ...

Honduras is important to U.S. foreign policy and the White House is closely following events. In mid-November Foreign Policy magazine ran an article titled The United States has a lot Riding on the Honduras Election” The article says “losing Hernandez would be a real setback.” Clearly the Honduran people have even more riding on the Honduras election. The coup of 2009 led to increased crime and violence along with massive repression of landless campesinos, environmental and indigenous communities. From the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, the domestic policies of Honduras have been skewed to benefit foreign corporations, plantations, the local oligarchy and neighbor to the north.

The Government Is Trying to Make It Impossible For Reality Winner to Defend Herself in Court

The investigation into potential Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election continues to dominate headlines, but one aspect of the saga has fallen completely away from public view: the case of former NSA contractor Reality Winner. Little attention is paid to the Trump administration’s first prosecution in its war on leaks, and the person being prosecuted for allegedly attempting to shine light on hackers’ attempts to probe the U.S. election infrastructure.

The Justice Department is now engaged in a multi-pronged effort to hamstring Winner’s defense against charges of violating the Espionage Act behind cumbersome classification rules, cut off any attempt by Winner to argue her alleged disclosures did not harm national security, and, according to her lawyers, were unconstitutionally keeping parts of the case hidden from public view. In a brief filed on November 27, Winner’s defense team accused federal prosecutors of using secrecy rules to stifle their ability to do even basic research about the case. They’re arguing that a number of limitations and concerns have arisen that present a serious obstacle to the defense’s ability to gather evidence and prepare its case, and that are contrary to the Constitution and the presumption of openness in federal courts.” ...

The efforts on the part of the prosecutors represent a broad push by the government to hamper Winner’s attempt to defend herself. They are seeking to prevent Winner’s lawyers from citing public news articles in open court, restricting their ability to research those public articles even in private, hiding several aspects of the case completely from public view, and arguing that someone charged under the Espionage Act is not even allowed to bring up the fact that her actions never harmed national security. A key part of the defense’s argument may hinge on the fact that nothing Winner is alleged to have leaked actually damaged national security and that similar information was likely already in the public domain. If the defense can prove that, then they can show that she did not violate the Espionage Act, which requires the “national defense information” released to have been “closely held” — a true secret, in other words.

More than 100 U.S. prisoners have died after being shocked by a Taser

Since 2000, at least 104 prisoners died after a corrections officer used a Taser on them, according to a multi-part investigation into the weapons by Reuters. Just two of the 104 victims were armed; a third were in handcuffs or shackles, and many more were already incapacitated or immobilized when the Taser was used.

This was the case for Natasha McKenna, a schizophrenic woman who died in Virginia’s Fairfax County Jail two years ago when a sheriff’s deputy Tased her four times. The Sheriff’s Office released video of the incident, which showed a 130-pound McKenna surrounded by six members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, all clad in white biohazard suits and gas masks. McKenna, flailing and trying to get out of her handcuffs, screams “You promised you wouldn’t hurt me.” The six-person team holds her down, while a lieutenant shocks her with a Taser, each shock sending 50,000 volts coursing through her body. Minutes later, McKenna stopped breathing.

Experts consulted by Reuters about the use of Tasers behind bars echoed what many said when scrutinizing the details of McKenna’s death: that the use of a stun-gun in that context wasn’t necessary. “She wasn’t a threat; she wasn’t going anywhere; she was restrained,” Richard Lichten, a use-of-force expert told the Washington Post in 2015. “It feels excessive, unnecessary and out of policy.” Others wondered whether their use in a controlled setting constituted torture. “When you inflict pain, serious pain, for the singular purpose of inflicting pain… what is that?” U.S Justice Department consultant Steve Martin told Reuters.

America's homeless population rises for the first time since the Great Recession

America’s homeless population has risen this year for the first time since the Great Recession, propelled by the housing crisis afflicting the west coast, according to a new federal study.

The study has found that 553,742 people were homeless on a single night this year, a 0.7% increase over last year. It suggests that despite a fizzy stock market and a burgeoning gross domestic product, the poorest Americans are still struggling to meet their most basic needs.

“The improved economy is a good thing, but it does put pressure on the rental market, which does put pressure on the poorest Angelenos,” said Peter Lynn, head of the Los Angeles homelessness agency. The most dramatic spike in the nation was in his region, where a record 55,000 people were counted. “Clearly we have an outsize effect on the national homelessness picture.”

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which produced the report, said in a statement: “This is not a federal problem – it’s everybody’s problem.”

Establishment Democrats Lack the Will to Fight the GOP Tax Plan. It’s Time for an Alternative.

Despite opposition from 52 percent of the American public according to a CNN poll, tax “reform” has now passed both the House and the Senate largely on party line votes. All that remains is for the GOP Congress to reconcile the two bills. The exact details are yet to be determined, but what is not in doubt is that the Republicans are set to deliver lavish tax breaks to the 1 percent. This giveaway to the rich will be accompanied by major cuts in the 2018 federal budget (another piece of legislation that must be reconciled before the end of the year) for initiatives that help the rest of us, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). In 2016, SNAP fed many of the 41 million Americans—including 12.9 million children—who suffered from food insecurity and hunger.

The Democrats’ ability to adequately respond to this one-sided class war, waged by GOP donors and their legislative puppets, is in doubt. The party of Franklin Roosevelt today lacks the moral authority—and the appetite—to take on this challenge because, as Theo Anderson notes in this month’s print cover story, “The party’s New Deal-era critique of concentrated wealth and power has been supplanted by a corporate-friendly worldview.”

While Dems Babbled About Russia, GOP Passed Trickle-Up Economics Tax Bill

Yesterday my social media feeds were ablaze with people celebrating the latest new “bombshell” Russiagate revelation, which, as always, turned out to be nothing once the facts rolled in. Less than nothing, in fact, since Trump supporters everywhere are jumping up and down on ABC’s correction of an important part of its breaking coverage of the Flynn plea that it had misreported. The popular narrative on pro-Trump forums today is quite understandably that this is more vindication of their president in yet another example of the “fake news” biased reporting against him. Russiagaters gained no ground, and lost some.

Late last night, the US Senate passed the most drastic rewrite of America’s tax system since the Reagan administration, which is expected to mostly benefit the wealthiest Americans while further crippling the nation’s already broken healthcare system. It even includes a late addendum to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Hours after the tax bill passed while everyone was distracted by a bogus Russiagate story, “Trump and Flynn” is still trending on Twitter in the US.

That’s right, Republicans are openly enacting trickle-up economics plans, an expansion of a continuing trend in which wealth is funneled to the wealthiest of the wealthy while ordinary Americans are squeezed tighter and tighter by inflation, wage stagnation, diminishing social programs, and the decimation of a quality job market by predatory corporate giants like Walmart and Amazon… and Democrats are still babbling about Russia.

The Democrats are ‘all in’ for the Pentagon, including a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus

Democratic Party “resistance” to Donald Trump is a sham that has succeeded only in increasing the likelihood of nuclear war and the certainty of massive impoverishment. The two corporate political parties have, in reality, forged an even deeper alliance since the 2016 election, guaranteeing an epochal transfer of wealth to the rich. Although Democrats rail against the colossal thievery of impending Republican tax cuts -- a multi-trillion dollar boondoggle for corporations and the rich that rivals Ronald Reagan’s overhaul of taxes, almost two generations ago -- they have already ensured the destruction of what remains of the social side of government spending through their support for the biggest war budget in human history: $700 billion.

There is a price tag attached to every mindless anti-Russia rant. In their crazed zeal to scapegoat Vladimir Putin for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the Democrats became the most maniacal faction of the imperial War Party. If the Kremlin is really “at war” with “American democracy,” as the demented chorus goes, then no expense can be spared in “defense” of the “homeland” and its sacred institutions. Democrats were logically compelled to back up their anti-Russia “woof tickets” with mega-bucks for ”defense.”

This year, the Democrats are “all in” for the Pentagon, including a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus -- despite the absence from the White House of the war-mongering Barack Obama. Led by Democratic House honcho Nancy Pelosi, the “opposition” party showed its flaming imperial colors in a July 14 vote on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. Of the 41 voting Black members, 23 supported the nearly $700 billion bill -- $57.4 billion more than the Pentagon had asked for. Sixty percent of House Democrats as a whole voted in favor. A companion bill later passed the U.S. Senate with only five Democrats voting against it. ...

Russiagate may be the bane of Donald Trump’s existence, but it has been a remarkably useful tool in the hands of the military industrial complex and the national security state.

GOP Tax Bill: The Great American Heist

Sen. Rubio tells a secret: After giving a tax cut to the rich, GOP will cut Social Security and Medicare

Advocates for seniors and the middle class have been warning for weeks that the Republican drive to cut taxes for the wealthy is the prelude to a larger attack on Social Security and Medicare.

In a videotaped interview with two Politico reporters Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the quiet parts out loud. Asked by interviewers Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman how to address the federal deficit, he replied: “We have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” (A video of Rubio’s appearance is here, with his remarks on Social Security and Medicare beginning at the 21:45 mark.)

The only thing that’s new here is the explicit admission by a Republican officeholder that this is the GOP’s master plan to eviscerate the welfare and retirement of American workers. Budget analysts have seen it coming with all the subtlety of a freight train. As we reported earlier this month, the damage begins with the so-called Paygo law (for “pay as you go”), which requires Congress to offset any increase in the federal deficit with spending cuts. The law limits Medicare cuts to 4% of its budget per year, or $25 billion of its $625-billion budget. Because the tax cut proposals the Senate was preparing to vote on late Friday would expand the deficit by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years, it’s likely to trigger the cuts.

$25 billion a year is a drastic cut that “would undermine the delivery of care to the 57 million seniors and disabled Americans who depend on the program,” Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said a couple of weeks ago.

the horse race

Democrats turn on Al Franken

Democratic senators called Wednesday for Sen. Al Franken’s resignation, just hours after Politico published a report detailing how Franken tried to forcibly kiss a former Democratic congressional aide.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand became the first Senate Democrat to call for Franken’s resignation, writing in a Facebook post that she was “shocked and disappointed” to have learned of his behavior, which includes multiple allegations of groping and forcible kissing. But, she wrote, “While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

Franken denied the aide’s accusation Wednesday, telling Politico, “This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

As the latest allegation against Franken sunk in, the list of Democratic senators calling for the Minnesota Democrat’s resignation continued to grow throughout Wednesday. Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Washington Sen. Patty Murray Pennsylvania, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Michigan Rep. Debbie Stabenow, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown all said Franken should step down.

Democrat plans to force impeachment vote against Donald Trump this week

A Democratic congressman said on Tuesday that he intended to force the House to vote on Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Al Green of Texas said he would present articles of impeachment on the floor of the House on Wednesday. He argued that the president was “unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and properties thereof”.

“For too long, we have allowed our civility to prevent us from confronting the invidious incivility of President Donald J Trump,” Green wrote in a memo to colleagues on Tuesday.

“In doing this, hatred disguised as acceptable political correctness has festered in our body politic and polluted our discourse to our detriment. It divides and damages the social fabric of our country in ways that obstruction of justice cannot. It causes unparalleled destruction to our society in the long- and short-term that will not easily heal.”

The impeachment resolution that Green’s office circulated to reporters on Tuesday did not include allegations that Trump had committed a crime or obstructed justice. But it did detail Trump’s “association” with white nationalism, neo-Nazism and his incitement of hatred and hostility as evidence that he is not fit to occupy the Oval Office.

The congressman specifically referenced: Trump’s comments after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, when Trump drew an equivalence between neo-Nazi demonstrators and liberal protesters; his decision last week to share three anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy leader of a British far-right group; and a list of statements he has made denigrating groups and individuals, including NFL players and the congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

the evening greens

Zinke backs shrinking more national monuments and shifting management of 10

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday called on President Trump to shrink a total of four national monuments and change the way six other land and marine sites are managed, a sweeping overhaul of how protected areas are maintained in the United States. Zinke’s final report comes a day after Trump signed proclamations in Utah that downsized two massive national monuments there — Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 46 percent. The president had directed Zinke in April to review 27 national monuments established since 1996 under the Antiquities Act, which gives the president broad authority to safeguard federal lands and waters under threat.

In addition to the Utah sites, Zinke supports cutting Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou, though the exact reductions are still being determined. He also would revise the proclamations for those and the others to clarify that certain activities are allowed. The additional monuments affected include Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean; both Rose Atoll and the Pacific Remote Islands in the Pacific Ocean; New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte, and Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters.

“The Antiquities Act over time has done great things for our country, and it has protected some of our greatest treasures,” he said in a call with reporters. But its power had been “abused,” he said, with monument designations extending far beyond the objects they were designed to protect. ...

For several sites, Zinke recommended amending the monuments’ proclamation language to ensure activities such as grazing, hunting and fishing can continue. While these practices often go on even after a presidential designation, Zinke said he wants to make that legality clear because ranchers have felt marginalized and fear they will face future restrictions. In the case of New Mexico’s national monuments, Zinke said, he listened to the state’s two Democratic senators and others in deciding not to modify their boundaries. Still, he wanted “to make sure that the proclamation protects the long-standing grazing [in parts] of those monuments” and that management of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks does not interfere with U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations in the area.

The administration is already facing multiple lawsuits over the president’s decision Monday to scale back both Bears Ears, a sacred tribal site designated last year by former president Barack Obama, and Grand Staircase-Escalante, a reservoir of prehistoric fossils Bill Clinton established in 1996. More litigation could be coming. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said to Zinke in a letter in July that the state was “ready to take appropriate legal action” if Trump rescinds or reduces the size of Cascade-Siskiyou. Interior received more than 2.5 million comments on the review, and they “overwhelmingly” said all of the monuments should remain unchanged, Zinke wrote in his report. But he attributed the extreme tilt to “a well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple groups.”“I don’t yield to public pressure,” Zinke said Tuesday.

With Oceans Threatened as 'Never Before in Human History,' World Leaders Fail to Show Urgency

While renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned the world's oceans are "under threat now as never before in human history," green groups on Tuesday said a United Nations resolution to end plastic pollution in the world's oceans does not go nearly far enough to combat the problem, and stressed that more urgent action is needed to eradicate the damage before it's too late.

Attenborough's new BBC documentary series finale airing this weekend will highlight the crisis, drawing attention to the huge amount of plastic that's dumped into oceans and seas every year, as well as the impact of climate change, overfishing, and noise pollution on underwater wildlife.

The final episode of Blue Planet 2 will focus entirely on the damage being done, arguing that humans' actions are the only thing capable of reversing the effects.

"For years we thought the oceans were so vast and the inhabitants so infinitely numerous that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them. But now we know that was wrong," said Attenborough, who narrates the show, in a preview of the episode in the Guardian. "It is now clear our actions are having a significant impact on the world's oceans...Many people believe the oceans have reached a crisis point."

"The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us," added Attenborough.

California wildfires: new blaze in Los Angeles closes Interstate 405

A dramatic new wildfire erupted in Los Angeles early Wednesday as firefighters battled three other destructive blazes across southern California. Flames exploded before dawn on the steep slopes of Sepulveda Pass, which carries heavily traveled Interstate 405 through the Santa Monica mountains, where ridge tops are covered with expensive homes.

Firefighters were at the scene as helicopters flying in darkness made water drops on the flames on the east side of the pass. Northbound traffic was halted, but southbound lanes remained open. Hundreds of homes burned in the area during the famous Bel Air fire of 1961. The Getty Center art complex, on the west side of the pass, employs extensive fire protection methods. Elsewhere, use of firefighting aircraft has been constrained by the same winds that have spread the fires.

The water-dropping planes and helicopters essential to taming and containing wildfires have been mostly grounded because it was too dangerous to fly them in the strong wind. Tuesday saw gusts of over 50mph (80kph).

Commanders hoped to have them back in the air on Wednesday morning, but all indications were that the winds will be whipping then too, fanning the flames that spurred evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people, destroyed nearly 200 homes and remained mostly out control. ...

Fires are not typical in southern California this time of year but can break out when dry vegetation and too little rain combine with the Santa Ana winds. Hardly any measurable rain has fallen in the region over the past six months.

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

Intercepted Podcast: Who’s Afraid of the Alt-Deep State?

The Intercept Attacks WikiLeaks on Behalf of Democrats

Trump's cuts to national monuments are an assault on our humanity – fight them

How Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Contributed to Libya's Slavery Crisis

Why are America's farmers killing themselves in record numbers?

A Little Night Music

Little Sonny - Don't Ask Me No Questions

Little Sonny - Let Me Love You

Little Sonny - Sonny's Fever

Little Sonny - Where Women Got Meat On Their Bones

Little Sonny - Back Down Yonder

Little Sonny - The Creeper Returns

Little Sonny - Goin' Down Slow

Little Sonny - Wade In The Water

Little Sonny - Hung Up

18 users have voted.


Really Zinke, tough guy? They just don't even bother to hide their stupidity and contempt. If there's someone left to write history this asshole goes down as just what he is - an entitled, arrogant, ugly American.

10 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


nah, he's a real pussycat. he yields to corporate pressure.

7 users have voted.
detroitmechworks's picture

Pretty typical.

You know, at this point, I think some Native American Tribes need to get in on this action. Since Uncle Sam is NOT using the stolen land, and is fact trying to sell its use to the highest bidder... There's gotta be a Stewardship clause in one of those treaties to at least mount a legal defense, if not a Casus Belli.

As far as I/P goes... I Support Jewish people, but I sure as hell don't support the Israel Government. I don't much care for most of the people who live in that area of the world in the first place, and as far as I'm concerned we have no business trying to take on the failed experiment of the British. They learned how to wash their hands and walk away at one point. We should follow their example.

9 users have voted.

I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

joe shikspack's picture


i believe that there is a group of tribes that is indeed suing the trump administration over the modification of the bears ears monument. there's been a great deal of interest in pushing back against the trumpsters on this.

i agree with you about the israeli government. they are really making a mess of things. i support the idea of jewish people being able to go and live in a place that they feel at home. i don't support the idea of the israeli government performing ethnic cleansing to oust other people who feel at home in that place. i guess if you can't be decent and share, there's going to be trouble.

4 users have voted.
divineorder's picture

RE: Jerusalem piece you excerpted

12 users have voted.

A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

joe shikspack's picture


the more that jeremy corbyn guy talks, the more i hope that he gets his chance to run the uk and participate in world politics as a national leader.

8 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

the Russian propaganda crap has led to the republicans dismantling every legislation that was put in place to protect us from the corporations who have always did what they wanted to and continued doing them after paying fines. This is the cost of doing business in this country. But let's remove restrictions and bypass the fines.

I doubt that anyone thought that if the tax bill was done through regular channels there would have been democrats that would vote for it. Manchkin has already said that. "Why not go through regular channels and get it passed by more than 70 votes?" Bernie may be speaking out against it, but he hasn't said that some of the military spending should be cut or cuts should be made in other areas.

Of course congress isn't going to be upset if the embassy is moved to Jerusalem, Schumer has already said that this is the right thing to do. And to the congress member who said that this won't give people more reasons to do terrorists activities because they will find something else, they already have. Bombing their countries and killing their families is a damn good reason to want to enact revenge.

12 users have voted.

Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment

divineorder's picture

@snoopydawg September.

7 users have voted.

A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

snoopydawg's picture


he was one of nine that voted against it. The rest don't seem to have problems with killing innocent civilians like they were when it was our civilians that were killed.... sigh

6 users have voted.

Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment

joe shikspack's picture


I doubt that anyone thought that if the tax bill was done through regular channels there would have been democrats that would vote for it.

i'm pretty sure that all of the partisan brewhaha around the tax bill is just posturing to maintain the illusion that there is an appreciable difference between the two parties.

7 users have voted.
riverlover's picture

We may have reached the tip. If T does nor respond within the hour...

8 users have voted.

Hey! my dear friends or soon-to-be's, JtC could use the donations to keep this site functioning for those of us who can still see the life preserver or flotsam in the water.

joe shikspack's picture


scary stuff, but, of course, it has nothing to do with climate change.

6 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

much become an impediment to any form of progress whatsoever. Nonetheless, the insanity and inanity grows. I received an e-mail today from an Oregon gubernatorial candidate encouraging me to press my representative to vote for the ERA. The time is now, it opined, thanks to all of the sturm und drang about the gropers and gropings. Does the author not know that the ERA is dead, or do they honestly think it can be successfully re-introduced under current conditions? It doesn't matter. What matters is that other than Russiagate, this is what passes for thought, and this is what passes for an agenda.

7 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

yep, every day i get the same sort of stupid emails from the party of dead ideas and empty pockets. fortunately, they have only discovered two of my email accounts.

7 users have voted.
Unabashed Liberal's picture

remind folks that tomorrow is the last day to enroll/disenroll/change Part D RX Plans. Of course, got ahead of the game (this time), and completed ours in October.

Not sure what to make of the CVS buyout of/merger with Aetna. 'Some say' it may be transformative (the melding of Pharmacy Managers and healthcare insurers, that is); 'others' seem to think that it'll mostly be helpful to CVS/Aetna. Whoah! Stopped a moment to make a call to CVS--apparently, they recently bought out Kmart's Pharmacy, too.

Just saw this Tweet about Al Franken. I have to wonder what he was thinking. Admittedly, the way he always talked about 'Frannie' on his radio program, I was surprised when several women popped up with similar allegations.

Will do my best to get here real early tomorrow--have a video to post about the Deplorables, and 'why' they voted for DT. It was both sad and revealing, I thought.

Thanks for tonight's EB, Joe. Everyone have a nice evening!

[Edited: Re-paragraphed; corrected typo - deleted 't.']


"Every time I lose a dog, he takes a piece of my heart. Every new dog gifts me with a piece of his. Someday, my heart will be total dog, and maybe then I will be just as generous, loving, and forgiving."
--Author Unknown

7 users have voted.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."
--George Bernard Shaw, Irish Dramatist & Socialist
"We [corporations] are the government!" Actor John Colicos (1978)

joe shikspack's picture

@Unabashed Liberal

Not sure what to make of the CVS buyout of/merger with Aetna.

i think that it means that enforcement of antitrust is officially dead.

heh, al franken is also toast.

have a great evening, looking forward to the deplorables feature!

6 users have voted.