The Evening Blues - 2-1-19


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Pinetop Perkins

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features delta blues piano player Pinetop Perkins. Enjoy!

Pinetop Perkins - Chicken Stomp, How Long Blues, Ida B

"Endless money forms the sinews of war."

-- Marcus Tullius Cicero

News and Opinion

Here's the roll call on this abomination, so you can see whether your "representative" voted for endless war.

GOP-led Senate votes to advance amendment rebuking Trump over Middle East troop pullout

The Senate voted Thursday to advance an amendment highly critical of President Donald Trump's push to remove troops from Syria and Afghanistan, a rare public admonishment by the Republican-led chamber and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who authored the amendment and forced a vote on it.

The vote was 68-23; the measure needed 60 votes to pass. Twenty members of the Democratic caucus supported the bill and three GOP senators voted against advancing it. Most of the Democratic senators running or considering running for president in 2020 voted against advancing the legislation, though Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio did not vote.

A final vote on the overall bill is not expected before next week.

Media Rally Around ‘Forever War’ in Afghanistan

After “six days of some of the most serious Afghan peace negotiations to date,” US government and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to preliminary foundations of a deal, the “biggest tangible step toward ending” the war, the New York Times (1/28/19, 1/26/19) reported this week. ... Certainly this sounds like good news, a chance to end the United States’ longest overseas war, one that has cost nearly $1 trillion and some 100,000 lives—a war that, in its 17th year, even the foreign policy elite admit “cannot be won” (Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, Project Syndicate, 1/14/19).

Yet, just hours after news of the framework deal broke, corporate media jumped to sound the alarm, urging the US to maintain its occupation. The primary concern was over the Trump administration’s perceived “quick exit” or “speedy withdrawal,” a boogeyman notion that the New York Times has hyped up for years (e.g., 12/13/18, 8/10/13, 6/22/11, 8/15/09, 1/14/09, 10/17/08, 11/6/01).

“Fearing What Could Follow a Quick Exit,” read a New York Times’ front-page headline  (1/29/19) on Tuesday. “A hasty American withdrawal, experts said, would erode the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan government” and “could consign Afghanistan to a protracted, bloody civil war,” veteran national security reporters Mark Landler, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt wrote. The Washington Post’s editorial board (1/28/19) was similarly apprehensive at the prospect of US withdrawal. Lamenting what it considered a deal brokered “mostly on the enemy’s terms,” it proclaimed that “an end to the Afghan war is desirable, but not at the expense of everything the United States has helped to build there since 2001.” ...

Accepted without question by the Times is the idea that the US has a right to “enforce” a deal, or should have the “ability to influence events” in a country 7,000 miles away from its borders, or that doing so would materially contribute to the peace effort in Afghanistan. Whenever Trump expresses an interest in reining in US troop deployments—albeit for his own self-serving, nationalist goals—the foreign policy establishment and its stenographers in corporate media have reacted with outrage, especially over US policy in Syria (, 1/11/19). The obvious implication of media’s concern trolling over any withdrawal plan, in Syria and now in Afghanistan, is that the US should indefinitely occupy multiple countries to maintain as much “leverage” as possible. A permanent war state with an ever-expanding array of military bases across the globe ensures imperial hegemony and ensures record-breaking profits for private military contractors.

Russia, China on Defense and No Iranian Nuclear Bomb - US Intelligence Report

Mohammed bin Salman Is Running Saudi Arabia Like a Man Who Got Away With Murder

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority announced 2019 as the “Year of Entertainment” in the kingdom. With a $64 billion budget granted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the plan comes complete with a social media platform and an app — Enjoy_Saudi — and aims to “transform the Kingdom into one of the top ten international entertainment destinations.” The authority said it is negotiating contracts to bring international stars, such as Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Trevor Noah, Chris Rock, and Seth Rogen, among others, to the kingdom.

The same week, Amnesty International published new reports of systematic torture and sexual abuse of numerous female activists currently being held in Saudi prisons. Most of the women are now in their ninth month of detention, where they’ve been held without charges or legal representation. Evidence linked the women’s mistreatment to Saud al-Qahtani, a former top adviser to bin Salman who has been implicated in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “Not only have they been depriving them of their liberty for months now, simply for peacefully expressing their views, they are also subjecting them to horrendous physical suffering,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director. The Saudi Ministry of Media has rejected the claims of torture as “baseless,” and has denied human rights observers any access to the prisoners.

It should come as no surprise that the Saudi regime has little to say on the matter. Such dismissiveness is to be expected from a monarch who, far from being deposed by the Khashoggi scandal, now has the confidence of a man who has gotten away with murder. Unleashed and unrepentant, bin Salman’s campaign against dissent continues unabated — and, as the Amnesty report shows, has targeted the women he promised to liberate in unprecedented ways.

The coinciding reports from the General Entertainment Authority and Amnesty represent more than dark irony: They are also a re-enactment of one of bin Salman’s earliest tactics. Such aggressively enthusiastic, Western-centric campaigns were a prominent feature of the early years of bin Salman’s reign, when the ascendant prince wowed the world by re-introducing movie theaters and live concerts to the kingdom. At the time, many Saudis and non-Saudis alike were so struck with the spectacle of Saudi’s sudden embrace of Hollywood films and Cirque du Soleils that the crown prince’s emerging authoritarianism went largely unnoticed. Busy remarking on superficial social reforms, Western media neglected — or declined — to press bin Salman on his crackdowns on free speech, his censorship of the local press, the ongoing carnage in Yemen, or his failure to address the country’s legalized gender discrimination.

FBI investigated civil rights group as 'terrorism' threat and viewed KKK as victims

The FBI opened a “domestic terrorism” investigation into a civil rights group in California, labeling the activists “extremists” after they protested against neo-Nazis in 2016, new documents reveal. Federal authorities ran a surveillance operation on By Any Means Necessary (Bamn), spying on the leftist group’s movements in an inquiry that came after one of Bamn’s members was stabbed at the white supremacist rally, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The FBI’s Bamn files reveal:

  • The FBI investigated Bamn for potential “conspiracy” against the “rights” of the “Ku Klux Klan” and white supremacists.
  • The FBI considered the KKK as victims and the leftist protesters as potential terror threats, and downplayed the threats of the Klan, writing: “The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda.”
  • The FBI’s monitoring included in-person surveillance, and the agency cited Bamn’s advocacy against “rape and sexual assault” and “police brutality” as evidence in the terrorism inquiry.

The FBI’s 46-page report on Bamn, obtained by the government transparency non-profit Property of the People through a records request, presented an “astonishing” description of the KKK, said Mike German, a former FBI agent and far-right expert who reviewed the documents for the Guardian. The FBI report ignored “100 years of Klan terrorism that has killed thousands of Americans and continues using violence right up to the present day”, German said. “This description of the KKK should be an embarrassment to FBI leadership.”

Shanta Driver, Bamn’s national chair, criticized the investigation in a statement to the Guardian, saying, “The FBI’s interest in BAMN is part of a long-standing policy … Starting with their campaign to persecute and slander Dr. Martin Luther King, they have a racist history of targeting peaceful civil rights and anti-racist organizations, while doing nothing to prosecute the racists and fascists who attacked Dr. King and the movement he built.” ...

Even knowing the FBI’s legacy of going after activists, the report was still shocking, said Ryan Shapiro, executive director of Property of the People. “A bunch of anti-fascists showed up at a Nazi rally and were attacked by Nazis, and the response from the bureau was to launch a domestic terrorism investigation into the anti-fascists,” he said. “At its core, the FBI is, as it has always been, a political police force that primarily targets the left.”

Are we meddling?’ Max Blumenthal confronts lawmakers on what America’s doing in Venezuela

People Who Care About Democracy Don’t Plot Coups Abroad

For some months now, Venezuela’s socialist government has lurched through a series of escalating crises — hyperinflation, mass protests, political violence — while both the government and its opposition have flirted with authoritarianism. It isn’t pretty — and to hear the right wing tell it, it’s the future the U.S. left wants for our own country. As if to prevent that, the Trump administration is now fomenting a coup in Venezuela. ...

They’ll tell you this about restoring “democracy” and “human rights” in the South American country. But one look at the administration officials driving the putsch perishes the thought. Take Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently spoke at the United Nations calling on countries to stand “with the forces of freedom” against “the mayhem” of Venezuela’s government. This fall, the same Pompeo shared a photo of himself beaming and shaking hands with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince — just as the prince’s order to kill and dismember a U.S. resident journalist was coming to light. The same prince is carrying on a U.S.-backed war in Yemen, where millions are starving.

Does this sound like a man who gives one fig for democracy, or against mayhem?

Or take Pompeo’s point man on Venezuela, the dreaded Elliott Abrams. Pompeo said Abrams was appointed for his “passion for the rights and liberties of all peoples.” More likely, it was Abrams’ history as Reagan’s “Secretary of Dirty Wars” (yes, that’s a real thing people called him). A singularly villainous figure, Abrams vouched for U.S. backing of a genocidal Guatemalan regime and Salvadoran death squads in the 1980s. And when a UN report cataloged 22,000 atrocities in El Salvador, Abrams praised his administration’s “fabulous achievement” in the country. ...

Finally there’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, who recently took a cute photo with the words “5,000 troops” written on a notepad. Bolton still thinks the Iraq war was a good idea, and he’d like one with Iran too. Do we think it’s bread and roses he wants for Venezuela? ...

The future of Venezuela’s revolution is for Venezuelans to decide, not us. All that can come of more intervention now is more crisis, and maybe even war.

Bernie's Disappointing Venezuela Tweet

The ‘Venezuelan People’ Are Whoever Agrees With Donald Trump

The latest bizarre episode in the Trump presidency is currently playing out in Venezuela. Just weeks after President Nicolás Maduro’s inauguration, Trump officially recognized Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old head of the National Assembly—a man who has never even run for president—as the rightful head of state. A White House statement (1/29/19) announced, “President Trump stands with the people of Venezuela as they demand democracy, human rights and prosperity denied to them by Maduro,” noting that the “people” had “courageously spoken out,” and that the US would pursue increased sanctions on the country. More alarmingly still, Trump has continually threatened a military intervention in Venezuela (New York Times, 8/12/17), and his National Security Advisor John Bolton allowed himself to be filmed with a notepad that read, “5,000 troops to Colombia” (CNN, 1/29/19).

Before any troops are sent anywhere, we should ask ourselves, who exactly does Trump mean by “the people of Venezuela”? A recent local poll shows that 86 percent of Venezuelans oppose military intervention, while 81 percent already disagree with the current US sanctions.

Nevertheless, it appears that the media have decided that “the people” want regime change, after all. PBS NewsHour (1/30/19) interviewed one Venezuelan resident of New York City who claimed he spoke for the entire population: “I—not only I—but 30 million people support the US circumstance,” meaning Washington’s attempt to replace the government. The New York Times (1/24/19) published a letter from someone in Boston using the phrase “the Venezuelan people” and “us” interchangeably, claiming Guaidó is “what we need” and that we are “feeling hopeful.” On MSNBC (1/30/19), reporter Mariana Atencio declared matter-of-factly: “This is a battle right now between legitimacy and power. Guaidó has the legitimacy, but Maduro has the guns, meaning the power.” ...

But in reality, the UN Human Rights Council has formally condemned the sanctions, noting they “disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable”; it called on all member states to break them, and even began discussing reparations the US should pay to Venezuela. A UN rapporteur who visited the country described Trump’s actions as possible “crimes against humanity” (London Independent, 1/27/19). This has not been reported by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN or any other US national media outlet. ... There has been a great deal of coverage (CNBC, 1/23/19; New York Times, 1/23/19; Fox News, 1/23/19) of the “Venezuelan people” protesting for Guaidó, but very little of the counter-protests in support of the government that complicate the picture. This continues a longstanding media policy of treating “the Venezuelan people” as a term that exclusively means “anyone who agrees with US policy.”

Venezuela's Maduro rejects calls for snap presidential election: RIA

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said calls to hold early presidential elections amounted to blackmail and that the countries calling for them must wait until 2025, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.

White House's Bolton says he met with Citgo executives

White House national security adviser John Bolton said he had a “very productive meeting” on Wednesday with Citgo’s executive team, two days after Washington slapped sanctions on the company’s parent, Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA.

“The United States is continuing to work to make sure that the economic benefits of Venezuela’s resources are not pilfered by (President Nicolas) Maduro and his cronies. Very productive meeting this afternoon with members of the CITGO executive team,” Bolton said on Twitter. ...

Maduro has accused the United States of seeking to unlawfully take U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp.

An excellent piece with tons of links from Moon of Alabama. There's far too much to fairly extract, but here are a couple of interesting snippets. It's worth a click for the whole thing.

Venezuela - Coup Attempt Part Of A Larger Project - Military Intervention Likely To Fail

The Trump administration has launched a large political project to remake several states in Latin America. The Wall Street Journal headlines:

U.S. Push to Oust Venezuela’s Maduro Marks First Shot in Plan to Reshape Latin America
The Trump administration’s broader aim is to gain leverage over Cuba and curb recent inroads in the region by Russia, Iran and China

The plan includes regime change in Venezuela, Nicaragua and eventually Cuba. The removal of any Russian or Chinese interest is another point. It is a multiyear project that has bipartisan support. It will likely require military force. The project seems to echo the "New Middle East" plan then Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice launched in 2006. It largely failed due to U.S. incompetence but left behind severely damaged states. That the U.S. is going for such a wide ranging plan in the western hemisphere might explains why Trump is pressing to end the other military projects in the Middle East and Afghanistan. ...

Venezuela will have trouble to defend itself against a foreign military attack. The Maduro government is not the most competent, the military is quite corrupt, and money is scarce. China and Russia may support it with some additional loans, but are otherwise unlikely to come to its help. Cuba and Nicaragua may be willing to send troops but have little else to offer. But the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela has millions of supporters. Most are poor people who would lose out under a new rightwing government. While the Venezuelan military may be corrupt and not very willing to fight, many people will surely take up arms to defend the gains they made under Maduro and Chavez.

It might be relatively easy to invade Venezuela and to defeat its regular military. But the following occupation would be a very difficult endeavor. The Pentagon has seen how this worked out in Iraq. It will likely warn against the use of any U.S. troops in Venezuela. Other countries will likewise be careful not to get into such a mess. The CIA and the coup plotters can hire thousands of throat cutting thugs to do some extreme damage to Venezuela. But they have little chance to win more than a completely destroyed country. Might that be the real aim? Is the project for the New Middle East Latin America one of complete destruction?

Israeli strikes on Iran in Syria may lead to war - U.S. intelligence chief

The top US intelligence chief warned that Israel’s ongoing strikes against Iranian targets in Syria increase the threat of regional war.

“We assess that Iran seeks to avoid a major armed conflict with Israel,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday. “However, Israeli strikes that result in Iranian casualties increase the likelihood of Iranian conventional retaliation against Israel.” ...

His assessment echoes concerns raised by Israeli officials that Iran would likely increase its response to IAF strikes in Syria. Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, President Reuven Rivlin warned that Tehran would likely “intensify its responses” to Israeli strikes against its forces in Syria. “I believe Iran will retaliate with greater force in Israel’s North,” the president said, adding that: “It appeared as though Iran would be restrained by our understandings with Russia and its defeats on the northern front – but in recent months, the trend is changing.” ...

But according to Coats, Israeli strikes have not deterred the Iranians, who continue “to pursue permanent military bases and economic deals in Syria, and probably want to maintain a network of Shia foreign fighters there, despite Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria.”

This is all very nice. U.S. court finds U.S. enemy guilty of killing journalists. When will a U.S. court get around to finding the U.S. guilty for the journalists killed, um, by the U.S.?

U.S. Court Finds Syria Responsible for Killing American Journalist Marie Colvin

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has ordered the Syrian government to pay $302 million in damages for the murders of journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik in a 2012 artillery strike. The decision, issued on Wednesday, marks the first time in the seven-year conflict that a court has declared Syrian forces loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad responsible for deliberately attacking civilians. ...

The Syrian government did not respond to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Colvin’s niece and nephew, leading to a default judgement. The suit followed from a six-year investigation by the Center for Justice and Accountability, which unearthed testimony and documentary evidence detailing how Assad’s commanders tracked and killed Colvin and her colleague on the morning of February 22, 2012 in Homs, Syria. Colvin was among the few Western journalists working from Homs, where she reported on the government’s use of rocket and artillery strikes against the civilian population trapped in the city. Also hurt in the attack that killed Colvin and Ochlik, a French photojournalist, were photographer Paul Conroy, journalist Edith Bouvier, and media activist Khaled Abu Salah.

The Assad government will almost certainly never pay the damages, but the finding establishes a significant precedent for the press, according to Scott Gilmore, the attorney who investigated and litigated the case. The ruling “recognizes that attacks designed to intimidate journalists and stifle reporting cause broad social harm and merit severe condemnation,” he told The Intercept. “The Colvin case joins Terry Anderson’s suit against Iran (circa 2000) as twin precedents establishing the specific harms to free expression when journalists are killed or detained.”

Italy slips into recession for third time in a decade

Italy’s economy fell into recession in the final three months of 2018, in a blow to the country’s governing radical centre-right coalition, which pledged to boost the country’s persistently low GDP growth.

The 0.2% drop in the eurozone’s third largest economy between October and December followed a 0.1% fall in the previous three months, the Italian statistics agency said. Declining GDP growth over two consecutive quarters put Italy in recession. It is the third time the country has fallen into recession in a decade. Amid weakening growth rates across the eurozone, which led to the 19-member currency bloc increasing its GDP by only 0.2% in the final three months of 2018, Italy is likely to be forced to rewrite its forecasts for growth in 2019.

Italy’s economy has been shrinking steadily since the rightwing League party formed a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. ... The deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio, the head of the Five Star Movement, said the recession was proof that Europe’s budget rules should be relaxed to allow Italy to stimulate its economy back to growth.

Di Maio heaped blame for the downturn on the previous centre-left government, which was ousted last spring. He said this year’s EU parliamentary elections would effectively be a referendum on eurozone fiscal policy, adding: “I believe this referendum will have a positive outcome for those who are against austerity.”

With Estate Tax on Nation's Richest, Bernie Sanders' "For the 99.8% Act" Applauded for Targeting "Tyranny of Plutocracy"

To combat astronomical wealth inequality across the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday introduced the For the 99.8% Act (pdf), which would impose a progressive estate tax on the ultra wealthy and significantly raise rates on the nation's billionaires. "Our bill does what the American people want by substantially increasing the estate tax on the wealthiest families in this country and dramatically reducing wealth inequality," Sanders said in a statement that specifically pointed to the Koch, Walton, and Bezos families. ...

Specifically, Sanders' plan would establish:

  • a 45 percent tax on the value of an estate between $3.5 million and $10 million;
  • a 50 percent tax on the value of an estate between $10 million and $50 million;
  • a 55 percent tax on the value of an estate in excess of $50 million;
  • and a 77 percent tax on the value of an estate above $1 billion—a return to the top rate from 1941 through 1976.

While the timetable would be uncertain, as estate taxes only take effect when someone dies, Sanders' team estimates the changes would raise $2.2 trillion from the country's 588 billionaires. Policy aides told the Washington Post that over the next decade, the tax would raise about $315 billion.

Ian Welsh read the Davos set's poverty propaganda
that I posted the other day, too. Here is a portion of what he said about it:

World Poverty is NOT Decreasing

These people who say with certainty how poverty is massively decreasing make me sick. They are either ignorant, very stupid and disconnected from reality, or they are very evil.

Essentially all of the poverty reduction of the past 30 years comes from one source, and one source only. China. Which industrialized by classic protectionist policies which the IMF, World Bank and poverty ghouls do their best to make impossible. And as for China, what is also clear from their experience, and in the data, is that the Chinese who moved to the cities to get those great new jobs are less happy than the people who stayed in the villages. Further, great amounts of force have had to be used to move peasants off the land, because they know the new factory jobs suck even worse than being a peasant. (As they did in Britain during the Industrial revolution.)

What made some parts of the world better wasn’t capitalism, per se. It was steam power and oil power. Those parts of the world then used that power, along with gunpowder and whatnot, to conquer most of the world and take what they wanted.

Today we do it different ways, but the bottom line is simple enough: measured by any semi-reasonable standard (would you want to try to live on $7.40 a day, including paying your rent?), poverty is not getting better. It is getting worse. If you say poverty is decreasing, what you are saying is “it is ok to keep doing what we’re doing.” If you’re wrong, you’re a monster, because you’re saying “we don’t really need to do more.” And you’re wrong.

Trump inches closer to declaring emergency for wall as negotiations stall

Donald Trump is moving closer to using emergency powers to get $5.7bn to help build a wall on the US-Mexico border. The president is still smarting from arguably the biggest defeat of his presidency, a partial government shutdown over wall funding that dragged on for a record 35 days, laid off hundreds of thousands of workers or forced others to work without pay. And left him empty-handed.

Trump finally signed a three-week deal to reopen the government but threatened to declare a national emergency and bypass Congress if it fails to reach a compromise, and is now making plans in the event he carries out that threat.

Negotiations have so far gone nowhere as Democrats, with increased power in the House of Representatives after last November’s midterm elections, refuse to fund Trump’s long-promised wall. ...

Trump’s comments come after a day of intense speculation about the president’s plans. “Trump met with his budget chief, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Jared Kushner and other top officials, including White House lawyers, on Tuesday to walk through the logistics of such a move,” Politico reported. “And White House aides have been quietly meeting with outside conservative political groups to build support for the president to take such an action. Those talking points, which emphasize Trump’s legal authority, have begun to show up in such conservative media outlets as Breitbart News.”

AOC, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar to Shutdown Negotiators: 'Not Another Dollar' for Trump's Anti-Immigrant Agenda

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled on Thursday that Democrats are willing to offer President Donald Trump funding for border "technology" and "Normandy fencing"—but nothing for his wall—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and three of her progressive colleagues sent a letter urging Democratic negotiators to take a harder line by slashing funding for the agencies at the center of Trump's anti-immigrant agenda.

Condemning the Trump administration for putting "profits before people and rhetoric before the lives of immigrant children," Ocasio-Cortez joined Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in demanding that Democrats cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

"These agencies have promulgated an agenda driven by hate—not strategy," reads the letter, which was first published on Thursday by The Daily Beast. "With the world watching and the lives of families at stake, we should not compromise our values at the negotiating table."

The letter from House progressives, which is expected to be read on the House floor next week, went public as Trump told reporters on Thursday that he "won't waste [his] time reading" any funding agreement that doesn't include wall money—an indication that he may be willing to shut down the government again when the current stopgap spending measure expires Feb. 15.

the horse race

‘Grande ego’: Schultz disapproval gets personal in Starbucks' home town

When the former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz held an event promoting his new book in his home town of Seattle on Thursday evening, his audience was greeted by dozens of protesters holding signs decorated with coffee cups and chanting: “Pick a party.”

The news that Schultz is exploring a potential run for the presidency as an independent candidate sparked a backlash from leading Democrats this week, some of whom believe such a move could help hand the White House to Donald Trump again in 2020.

“We are absolutely petrified that Howard Schultz will come in and take votes from the Democrats and hand us another four years of Donald Trump,” said Chris Petzold, founder of Indivisible Washington’s Eighth District, a local advocacy group which organized the protest across the street from the theatre, where a long line of people headed into the event. ...

Schultz explained that he thought both a Trump win and a Democratic win could have a negative impact on the country.

“Take me out of the equation. If Donald Trump is re-elected, we’re going to have four more years of just a disaster level of leadership in the country and our standing in the world,” he said. “If a Democrat should win, I have no confidence … that we’re going to see any change whatsoever in the toxicity of what Washington DC currently represents.”

Cory Booker: Democratic senator announces presidential bid

Cory Booker on Friday morning jumped into the already busy field of Democratic candidates running for the White House in 2020 in a bid to oust Donald Trump.

The New Jersey senator, long considered one of the Democratic party’s rising stars, launched his campaign in an email to supporters that promised to “channel our common pain back into our common purpose. Together, America, we will rise.”

Branding himself as a progressive, Booker has embraced a ‘Green New Deal’ — a sweeping proposal that aims to combat climate change by zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions in a decade and reducing poverty with clean-energy jobs backed by federal spending.

As with his Senate colleagues Warren, Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, he is a supporter of Medicare-for-All health insurance provisions, and has called for comprehensive immigration reform. Booker also played a key role in championing criminal justice reform efforts in the Senate, co-sponsoring bills that would do away with mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

He has, however, been criticized by leftwingers for strong ties to Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical industry.

the evening greens

European colonization of Americas helped cause climate change

European colonization of the Americas resulted in the killing of so many native people that it transformed the environment and caused the Earth’s climate to cool down, new research has found. Settlers killed off huge numbers of people in conflicts and also by spreading disease, which reduced the indigenous population by 90% in the century following Christopher Columbus’s initial journey to the Americas and Caribbean in 1492.

This “large-scale depopulation” resulted in vast tracts of agricultural land being left untended, researchers say, allowing the land to become overgrown with trees and other new vegetation. The regrowth soaked up enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to actually cool the planet, with the average temperature dropping by 0.15C in the late 1500s and early 1600s, the study by scientists at University College London found.

“The great dying of the indigenous peoples of the Americas resulted in a human-driven global impact on the Earth system in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution,” wrote the UCL team of Alexander Koch, Chris Brierley, Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis. The drop in temperature during this period is known as the “Little Ice Age”, a time when the River Thames in London would regularly freeze over, snowstorms were common in Portugal and disrupted agriculture caused famines in several European countries. ...

“There is a lot of talk around ‘negative emissions’ approaching and using tree-planting to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to mitigate climate change,” study co-author Chris Brierley told the BBC. “And what we see from this study is the scale of what’s required, because the great dying resulted in an area the size of France being reforested and that gave us only a few parts per million. “This is useful; it shows us what reforestation can do. But at the same, that kind of reduction is worth perhaps just two years of fossil fuel emissions at the present rate.”

City-Sized 1,000-Foot Deep Cavity Found in Glacier, Warns NASA, Signaling 'Rapid Decay' of Antarctic Ice

NASA scientists were startled when a recent exploratory mission revealed a huge and rapidly-growing cavity on the underside of one of Antaractica's glaciers—signaling that the ice mass has been melting much faster than experts realized. The cavity is two-thirds the size of Manhattan—large enough to have contained about 14 billion tons of ice before it melted, according to a report that was published in Science Advances on Thursday.

Much of that ice disappeared at an "explosive rate," scientists reported—likely melting only in the last three years. "The size of a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting," lead author Pietro Milillo said in a statement. "As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster."

The agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory used ice-penetrating radar to explore the area beneath the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, often called "one of the world's most dangerous glaciers" because its melting could significantly contribute to sea level rise. Scientists expected to find some relatively small gaps between the glacier and bedrock, but were unsettled by the 1,000-foot deep cavity the mission revealed.

The melting of the Thwaites Glacier, which is the approximately the size of Florida, is already behind about four percent of global sea rise, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The disappearance of the ice mass would cause sea levels to rise by about two feet as well as making surrounding glaciers more likely to melt rapidly—which could cause an eight foot rise.

With Ocasio-Cortez/Markey Bill Reportedly on Horizon, Expert Says Green New Deal Must Include 'Fossil Fuel Phaseout'

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) are working on Green New Deal legislation that the pair may unveil as soon as next week, Axios reported late Wednesday. Those plans were confirmed by a spokeswoman for Markey as well as Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led advocacy group that has led powerful protests across the country—including at the D.C. office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.)—in favor of the proposal, which would combine bold climate action with green jobs and other measures aimed at creating a more just economy.

The text of the bill, however, has not been finalized, according to Axios—meaning it is still unclear how closely it will align with the draft legislative document promoted by Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement. That proposal called for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy within the next decade, a federal jobs guarantee program, universal healthcare, and a House Select Committee to hammer out the details.

While welcoming the news, Greenpeace USA climate director Janet Redman said in a statement that any Green New Deal bill must include a "fossil fuel phaseout" for it to be taken seriously. ...

While some Democrats who have announced their 2020 presidential candidacies—such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)—have said they support a Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement has vowed to maintain pressure on members of Congress to ensure the plan put forward lives up to the bold proposal they've been fighting for and doesn't become a watered down bill that merely borrows the increasingly popular buzzword.

With Green New Deal Committee Neutered, Energy and Commerce Democrat Says “Smash and Grab” Is Over

House Energy and Commerce Democrats weren’t thrilled about the suggestion of a new select House committee on climate change, worried that its power would creep into their expansive jurisdiction. Committee leaders flexed what internal muscle they had to make sure that the committee, established at the behest of progressives behind the “Green New Deal,” was defanged, withholding subpoena power and the authority to approve new legislation. Rep. Bobby Rush, the No. 2 Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Intercept that he was pleased to see the end of a “smash and grab” that’s pushed the committee to cede “too much of our jurisdiction over the years.”

“The grab is over, as far as I’m concerned, in terms of Energy and Commerce, this smash and grab that’s been going on for too long in this Congress,” he told The Intercept in an interview. “We’re gonna return to regular order as we have exercised it in the past, and we stand on it now. You know, we’re not ceding any of the Energy and Commerce jurisdiction. I’m not in favor of not one measure, not one iota of Energy and Commerce’s jurisdiction to be ceded to other committees.”

Asked what he planned to do with that power, Rush said, “We’re gonna do what we’ve always done. Legislate, deliberate, legislate, move bills to the floor. And we’re going to continue to work hard on behalf of the American people.” But while Chair Frank Pallone said he understands and shares concerns “about the need for transformational action” laid out in the Green New Deal, he added in a statement to The Intercept that he wants to prioritize “actions we can take this year that will make a difference now.” ... Pallone argued that the fossil fuel industry dollars flowing through the committee won’t have any impact on the agenda.

Canada's Supreme Court Rules Bankrupt Fossil Fuel Companies Must Clean Up Pollution Left Behind

Green energy campaigners in Canada applauded a precedent-setting Supreme Court ruling on Thursday which ordered the bankrupt Alberta-based oil and gas company Redwater Energy to clean up its failed wells instead of leaving the task to the public. Observing the "polluter pays principle," the 5-2 ruling overturned two earlier decisions by lower courts which had sided with a federal law stating that insolvent companies could prioritize paying back their creditors over fulfilling their environmental obligations.

"Bankruptcy is not a license to ignore rules," Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote in the ruling, which was celebrated as one that would set a new precedent for the entire country.

"The Supreme Court of Canada has prioritized paying clean up costs before creditors when extractive companies go bankrupt. This outcome reinforces the growing understanding that polluters are responsible for their clean up obligations," said the Pembina Institute, a think tank focused on clean energy and environmental policy.

"Working families across this province, as well as all of Canada, should not have to pay for the financial and environmental liabilities left behind when companies walk away from their obligations," said Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd. "Upholding the polluter-pays principle is good news for Albertans and it's good news for Canadians."

Also of Interest

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

Venezuela Coup Attempt Part of US Plan to Remake Latin America

Netanyahu’s Tolerance for Anti-Semitism Goes Back 120 Years

Israel leader scorned for wooing Holocaust-distorting allies

America's Kurdish allies risk being wiped out – by Nato

‘More AIPAC Than J Street’: Kamala Harris Runs to the Right on Foreign Policy

When 'Former' Spies Run Wild, Bad Things Happen

The CIA’s Masterful Use of Fake News

Eight Years Later, America’s Ally Bahrain Is Still Hunting Down Arab Spring Protesters

‘Foxconn Was a Major Con’: Backed by Trump Promises and $4 Billion in Subsidies, Company Admits Factory Jobs Not Coming

U.S. Moves Ahead With Oil Leases Near Sacred Park

Chemours Is Using the U.S. as an Unregulated Dump for Europe’s Toxic Waste

Oakland Teachers May Be the Next to Strike

Deep freeze: polar vortex grips midwest and east US – in pictures

A Little Night Music

Pinetop Perkins - Look On Yonder Wall

Pinetop Perkins - What's The Matter With The Mill

Pinetop Perkins - Big Fat Mama

Pinetop Perkins - You Don't Have to Go

Pinetop Perkins & Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - Cut That Out

Pinetop Perkins - Little Girl, Little Girl

Legendary Blues Band - For You My Love

Pinetop Perkins & Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - Walkin' Down The Highway

Pinetop Perkins - High Heel Sneakers

Pinetop Perkins & Hubert Sumlin - Take It Easy Baby

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Raggedy Ann's picture

Friday night, everyone must be out jukin’!

bin Salman has learned well from the US how to come out of the crap smelling like a rose.

So topple the Middle East and now Latin and South American countries, AND Cuba. Who the funk are we???

This is being done in our name with our taxes. This is unsustainable.

Let’s hold on to one another.

Have a beautiful evening and weekend, folks! Pleasantry

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“The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”
-- Arundhati Roy

joe shikspack's picture

@Raggedy Ann

heh, yeah i was wondering where everybody went. oh well, everybody deserves a night off.

Who the funk are we???

we are the people who kill people and break things - wholesale. we're volume dealers. and we have extended last century's oil market domination tour.

This is being done in our name with our taxes.

but without our permission.

have a wonderful weekend!

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Raggedy Ann's picture

@joe shikspack
dammit, joe. Sigh.

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“The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”
-- Arundhati Roy

Azazello's picture

Here's the best thing I read today.
From naked cap: Michael Hudson: Trump’s Brilliant Strategy to Dismember U.S. Dollar Hegemony
Here's some Kremlin propaganda:

Thanks, joe, for my earworm today.

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joe shikspack's picture


wow, that michael hudson article is interesting. if he is correct the neocon "success" in international economics might even be more impressive that its "successes" in spreading demockery.

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Azazello's picture

@joe shikspack
But I'm a Michael Hudson fan.

Calling the U.S. coup being sponsored in Venezuela a defense of democracy reveals the Doublethink underlying U.S. foreign policy. It defines “democracy” to mean supporting U.S. foreign policy, pursuing neoliberal privatization of public infrastructure, dismantling government regulation and following the direction of U.S.-dominated global institutions, from the IMF and World Bank to NATO. For decades, the resulting foreign wars, domestic austerity programs and military interventions have brought more violence, not democracy.

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joe shikspack's picture


it appears to me that he is correct as well, but then again i am also a fan of his work. Smile

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GreatLakeSailor's picture

Question: On the Cloture Motion (Motion to Invoke Cloture on McConnell Amdt. No. 65 )
Vote Number: 13
Vote Date: January 31, 2019, 02:58 PM
Required For Majority: 3/5
Vote Result: Cloture Motion Agreed to
Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 65 to S. 1 (Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019)

I see that you voted for more forever war. I agree with very little our current president proposes, but when he wants to REDUCE the number of illegal wars in which the US is engaged, I support that and you vote against it!?!?

19 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 1 Indy had the moral backbone to vote against more forever war.

2 Dems and 7 Repubs have no backbone at all and didn't vote.

And then there's the 68 warmongers, you among them. When is enough death of our young/our children, to say nothing of people in far off lands, and plundering of our national treasure going to be enough for you warmongering greedheads and your owners?


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Compensated Spokes Model for Big Poor & Big Peace.

joe shikspack's picture


well now, that puts it in plain language that even a congressworm can understand. Smile

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GreatLakeSailor's picture

@joe shikspack

At least I'd like to think I do.
Baldwin's office too, but not for today. She voted with the 23. Pleasant surprise.

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Compensated Spokes Model for Big Poor & Big Peace.

dystopian's picture

I love me some Pinetop Perkins, what a touch.

I fear for Venezuela like I do for Assange.

Israel continues to antagonize because besides being one of its better skills, it fears the US departure, fighting their war for them, after helping arming the bad guys in Syria. With friends like that...

Doesn't the judgement against assad and Syria mean everyone harmed by U.S. action can sue for the same. Let me guess, just the others will be found guilty?

Besides any of a hundred other things, we are a dozen icebreakers and two decades behind on ships for the arctic, but the wall is an emergency? Homeless and hungry not so much?

Thanks for the blues...

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

joe shikspack's picture


yep, i feel sorry for those people who are now in the gun sights of abrams, bolton and pompeo, too. i wish that we could stop this madness.

Israel continues to antagonize because

also because israel has evolved a culture where being the neighborhood bully is part of their national identity. candidates for high office trade on their exploits as war criminals and racist bastards.

have a wonderful weekend!

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divineorder's picture

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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


i hope that you guys are warm and happy and having a great time. have a wonderful weekend!

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enhydra lutris's picture

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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

have a great weekend!

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burnt out's picture

Just swinging by to say hey.

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All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth. John Lennon

joe shikspack's picture

@burnt out

hey back! have a great weekend!

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Anja Geitz's picture

About the moral compass of Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Trevor Noah, Chris Rock, and Seth Rogen, as they tap dance their way into the hearts of oppressive genocidal murderers.

But, hey, we can't all be politically aware, eh?

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

joe shikspack's picture

@Anja Geitz

well, i guess there's a continuum between being politically aware and being oblivious. not to have any idea of why performing in saudi arabia might be a bad idea just about pegs the meter on oblivious in my view.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@joe shikspack

But Trevor Noah? He's not only a fairly smart guy, but his status as a non-American has always made his comedy about world matters socially and politically astute prior to his getting tbe Daily Show gig. I really think in his case, he knows but doesn't give a fuck. Which is worse.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

that your eb's are important to me, always, every time, let me reiterate that I show your eb's all over the world.
Not internet faceless to faceless.
I mean handing my tablet to a person in Serbia and Columbia and Prague so they can read your assessment, and c99's assessment of the world's most critical crises.
I take you everywhere.
Everywhere is glad I do.
Sorry if I am not a daily presence.

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joe shikspack's picture

@on the cusp

thanks for sharing c99 around the world! word of mouth is a good way to build readership and, with any luck, participation.

Sorry if I am not a daily presence.

hey, we all get to take time off. even me sometimes. Wink

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