The Evening Blues - 2-12-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and jazz singer and guitarist Lonnie Johnson. Enjoy!
Lonnie Johnson - Feel So Lonesome
"We have a crisis in nuclear weapons, and again, thanks very much to the Democrats: Bill Clinton, who removed us from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty framework for nuclear disarmament, and then Barack Obama, who created a trillion-dollar budget for us to spend on a new generation of nuclear weapons and modes of delivery."
-- Jill Stein
News and Opinion
The most ominous feature of the new budget document issued Monday by the Trump administration is the prominent place given to the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including so-called low-yield weapons, smaller than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which are widely regarded as more likely to actually be used in combat. The document calls for nearly $50 billion to be devoted to nuclear modernization, including $29 billion from the Pentagon budget, and $19.8 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a unit of the Department of Energy which operates the actual production of nuclear warheads, as well as some of the primary research.
The Trump budget would slash spending on diplomacy and foreign aid while sharply increasing funding for nuclear weapons, a clear indication of the policy direction being given from the White House in the wake of Trump’s acquittal last week in the impeachment trial before the Senate. The debacle of the Democratic effort to impeach Trump over foreign policy differences—while ignoring his real and ongoing crimes against the working class and democratic rights—has only emboldened the White House to press ahead with its program of militarism, austerity and attacks on immigrants. ...
The budget announcement follows the Pentagon’s confirmation that it has deployed a new low-yield variant of the W76-1 nuclear warhead used on the Trident missile. The deployment of the W76-2 came on the submarine USS Tennessee, operating from the Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia. The escalation of US preparations for nuclear war was first reported by the Federation of American Scientists, which warned that the action would bring forward the danger of a nuclear weapon actually being used. Building the W76-2 was a direct consequence of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which accompanied the more general overhaul of Pentagon military doctrine, elevating “great power” conflict with Russia and China to first place in US war preparations, displacing the so-called “war on terror.” ...
The release of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget has been accompanied by media commentaries and declarations by leading congressional Democrats that the budget is merely a “wish list” devised for political purposes to appeal to Trump’s right-wing base, and that as a practical matter it is “dead on arrival.” This may be true for the massive cuts in domestic programs like Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, which come to some $2 trillion over ten years. Neither capitalist party is likely to enact such cuts in the nine months before the November 3 election. ... The fact is, however, that the Democrats have never rescinded Republican tax cuts or restored Republican budget cuts, despite their posturing to the contrary. There is a longstanding division of labor in the capitalist two-party system, in which the Republican propose gigantic cuts in social spending which the Democrats “fight” ferociously, eventually reaching a bipartisan agreement that incorporates substantial cuts and sets the stage for the next round in a never-ending onslaught on what remains of the welfare state. While this pretended conflict takes place in relation to domestic social spending, the two parties usually cooperate openly on increasing spending for the military-intelligence apparatus.
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party has suffered a major defeat in another key state election, after failing to win over voters in Delhi with a campaign that was one of its most polarising yet.
The anti-establishment Aam Aadmi party (AAP), which has governed the capital for the past five years, is on course to win 62 seats in the 70-seat assembly after running on an agenda centred on anti-corruption, healthcare and education, which have hugely improved during its time in power.
The BJP, meanwhile, will probably take just eight seats, only a small increase from the three seats it held previously, after a campaign that played heavily on its Hindu nationalist agenda and fearmongering against the Muslim community. ...
While the Delhi polls are always among the most closely contested elections in India, determining who will control India’s capital city of more than 20 million people, this year felt particularly heated due to the protests that have rocked Delhi and the rest of the country in response to Modi’s new citizenship law (CAA), which critics say is prejudicial against Muslims. ...
The defeat constitutes another setback for Modi’s party, which faces the worst unrest in more than four decades.
The Swiss government has ordered an inquiry into a global encryption company based in Zug following revelations it was owned and controlled for decades by US and German intelligence.
Encryption weaknesses added to products sold by Crypto AG allowed the CIA and its German counterpart, the BND, to eavesdrop on adversaries and allies alike while earning million of dollars from the sales, according the Washington Post and the German public broadcaster ZDF, based on the agencies’ internal histories of the intelligence operation.
“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report concluded. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the US and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries.” The mention of five or six countries is probably a reference to the Five Eyes electronic intelligence sharing agreement between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The operation, codenamed Thesaurus and then renamed Rubicon in 1980s, demonstrated the overwhelming intelligence value of being able to insert flaws into widely sold communications equipment. The CIA’s success over many years is likely to reinforce current US suspicions of equipment made by the Chinese company Huawei.
Neither China or the Soviet Union bought Crypto encryption devices, suspicious of the company’s origins, but it was sold to more than 100 other countries.
The lead prosecutor in Roger Stone’s criminal trial just quit his job in a shock announcement that intensified the swirling political-influence scandal over the sentencing of President Trump’s former close confidant. The resignation of Aaron Zelinsky came hours after a late-night tweet from Trump expressing sympathy for Stone, a lifelong GOP political saboteur who was convicted of telling criminal lies to protect Trump from the Russia investigation.
Zelinsky didn’t publicly explain his motives. But the rare, sudden departure of a top prosecutor from the high-profile, politically-explosive case presented the unseemly spectacle of a federal prosecutor departing a case riven with internal disputes. Moments before Zelinsky resigned, news broke that the Department of Justice plans to shorten Stone’s 7-9-year prison sentence recommendation, in a rare and stunning decision that would overturn the position of the field prosecutors who directly handled the case.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ordered five major tech companies to hand over detailed information on hundreds of acquisitions made over the past decade, it announced on Tuesday.
As part of its continued antitrust investigations, the agency, which enforces consumer protection laws, has required Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Facebook to provide documents and other information on the purpose and scope of their takeovers of smaller companies from 2010 to 2019.
Large acquisitions, such as Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012 or Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, must be approved by the FTC in advance. But the FTC said the focus on deals small enough not to have been legally required to be named in previous filings will help the agency understand “whether large tech companies are making potentially anticompetitive acquisitions of nascent or potential competitors”. ...
Joe Simons, the FTC chairman, said in a statement that the initiative “will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition”.
The intensifying scrutiny comes amid calls from some lawmakers to overhaul the FTC entirely, saying it is not doing enough to hold big tech accountable. Senator Josh Hawley, of Missouri, introduced a plan on Monday proposing the agency be absorbed into the Department of Justice.
Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are among more than a dozen senators telling Amazon chief Jeff Bezos of their “serious concern” about worker safety at the tech giant.
In a letter to Bezos, the lawmakers called Amazon’s record “dismal”.
“Your employees’ lives and wellbeing depend upon your swift action,” the letter read, demanding a written response by 21 February. “Any practice that puts profits before worker safety is unacceptable.”
Kamala Harris, who ended her campaign for the White House in December, was also among the 15 senators urging Bezos “to take immediate steps to protect employees from workplace injuries”.
Officials said the senators’ concerns stemmed from reports about employee safety and mistreatment. Recent exposés have detailed how Amazon executives dodge regulations to institute warehouse working conditions that include package quotas and speed requirements.
A health insurer in Utah is seeking to reduce prescription drug costs by flying state employees to Mexico, where they can collect medications at a fraction of the US cost. The year-old programme involves about 10 state employees. The cost savings are so large that the insurance program can pay for each patient’s flight, give them a $500-per-trip bonus and still save tens of thousands of dollars.
One participant, Ann Lovell, a 62-year-old teacher, said she had saved as much as $2,400 by travelling from Salt Lake City to San Diego and then crossing the border, in order to refill a prescription for arthritis medication. “This is the drug that keeps me functioning, working,” she told the Associated Press. “I think if I wasn’t on this drug ... I’d be on disability rather than living my normal life.” Lovell’s story was first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.
Other states are seeking to bring down medical costs for state employees. California is reportedly looking at launching its own generic-drug label while Louisiana has negotiated a deal to pay a flat fee for Hepatitis C drugs rather than pay for each prescription. Four states, including Florida, are looking at Trump administration proposals to allow states to import drugs from Canada. ...
To guard against counterfeiting, Utah officials track the medications from manufacturer to pharmacy to patient. A representative from a speciality pharmacy, Provide Rx, escorts patients across the border. Utah estimates it has saved about $225,000 in a year. Lovell alone has saved the state roughly half the $62,000 US list price of her Enbrel prescription.
More than two-thirds of the migrants fleeing Central America’s northern triangle countries – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – experienced the murder, disappearance or kidnapping of a relative before their departure, according to a new study by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The MSF study said 42.5% of interviewees reported the violent death of a relative over the previous two years, while 16.2% had a relative forcibly disappeared and 9.2% had a loved one kidnapped.
The study – based on interviews with migrants and refugees at MSF medical facilities in Central America and Mexico – once again showed the despair driving migrants to abandon some the hemisphere’s poorest, most violent and most corrupt countries.
“We’re speaking of human beings, not numbers,” Sergio Martín, MSF general coordinator in Mexico, said at the study’s presentation on Tuesday. “In many cases, it’s clear that migration is the only possible way out. Staying put is not an option.”
In 45.8% of the interviews, migrants said that “exposure to violent situations” was a key reason for leaving their home country. Of those fleeing due to violence, 36.4% had become internally displaced in their countries of origin, but were eventually forced to flee.
Joseph Shabalala, the bandleader who brought the South African vocal harmony group Ladysmith Black Mambazo to global success, has died aged 78.
Shabalala died in hospital in Pretoria and the news was confirmed by the group’s manager, Xolani Majozi. No cause of death has been announced. ...
Shabalala started singing as a teenager with the groups Durban Choir and the Highlanders, before forming Ezimnyama in 1959. He later christened it Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Ladysmith for his hometown, Black for the local livestock, and Mambazo, the Zulu word for axe, as a metaphor for the group’s sharpness. ...
They came to global attention after they collaborated with Paul Simon on his 1986 album Graceland, co-writing the song Homeless – its melody based on a Zulu wedding song – and singing the backing to Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.
Heh, Republicans reject science. Democrats accept science but reject math.
The latest final results from Iowa as of the February 9 (source, also here, though the Des Moines Register begs to differ). Despite having a lead of less than 1% in SDEs, Buttigieg has now been given a lead of two national delegates (16% more delegates than Sanders is given).
I can’t leave the Iowa Caucus story without noting this. According to Trip Gabriel of the New York Times, the Iowa Democratic Party will not change even blatant errors in its report of results because it wants to “ensure the integrity of the process” — while at the same time saying that “The Iowa Democratic Party continues to be fully committed to ensuring the accuracy of the caucus data that we report”.
You read that right. Mr. Orwell would be proud. ...
As Gabriel notes in his NY Times piece on the same subject:
“The incorrect math on the Caucus Math Worksheets must not be changed to ensure the integrity of the process,” wrote the party lawyer, Shayla McCormally, according to an email sent by Troy Price, the chairman of the party, to its central committee members. The lawyer said correcting the math would introduce “personal opinion” into the official record of results.
It’s a “personal opinion” that 1+1=3 is incorrect?
— CaseStudyQB (@CaseStudyQB) February 11, 2020
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has dropped out of the race to become the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, ending an upstart campaign that rose from complete obscurity to competitiveness.
Yang ended his campaign as ballots were still being counted in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, with early results indicating he had failed to win even 3% of the vote.
“Endings are hard and I’ve always had the intention to stay in this race,” he told supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire. “I am the math guy, and it’s clear from the numbers we’re not going to win this campaign.” ...
Yang was not the only candidate to depart the race on Tuesday. Senator Michael Bennet, of Colorado, also dropped out, whittling the Democratic field to single digits.
Funny how coming close to winning the popular vote is a big deal in New Hampshire but actually winning it in Iowa didn't matter. What do you suppose the difference is? pic.twitter.com/vNTPthgxI1
— Jim Naureckas (@JNaureckas) February 12, 2020
In a staggering milestone in what critics have characterized as an effort to buy the Democratic nomination, billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg has already poured more than $350 million of his own personal wealth into television, digital, and radio advertising since launching his 2020 presidential campaign last November.
"This is what plutocracy looks like," author and environmentalist Naomi Klein tweeted Monday in response to a CNN graphic comparing Bloomberg's ad spending to that of his 2020 Democratic rivals.
No other candidate has spent as much on advertising as Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City whose net worth is estimated to be over $60 billion. Tom Steyer, also a billionaire, is in a distant second with $178 million in total ad spending—around half of what Bloomberg has already dished out.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is leading the Democratic presidential field in individual donations, has spent $37 million, nearly 10 times less than Bloomberg's total.
"Money is not speech," tweeted progressive activist Kai Newkirk. "Bloomberg's attempt to buy the presidency is a corruption of our democracy."
Michael Bloomberg's campaign has now crossed $350 million in ad spending. We created this chart to show how much $$$ he is spending. His rise in the polls = proof of the power of TV advertising? pic.twitter.com/GOoqDdOYnv
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 9, 2020
Bloomberg's unprecedented ad blitz has been a boon for broadcasting companies, CNBC reported Monday.
"All that spending has created a windfall for local TV broadcasters, especially in Bloomberg's top target states—California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania," CNBC noted. "California and Texas hold their primaries on March 3, aka Super Tuesday. Florida holds its primary March 17, while New York and Pennsylvania hold theirs April 28."
Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall told CNBC that broadcast companies are "jazzed to have Bloomberg in the fray."
Adam Johnson, writer and host of the Citations Needed podcast, warned in a tweet Monday that "at some point Bloomberg is mass bribing cable/local news."
"Usually this isn't an issue because candidates effectively cancel each other out," wrote Johnson, "but when it gets to $1 billion, $2 billion we'll have one candidate underwriting the whole TV news industry."
Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg has been facing mounting online criticism over his mayoral record on stop and frisk, a tactic used by the New York Police Department in what critics — and, eventually, a federal judge — said was a biased manner. This week, a five-year-old recording emerged of Bloomberg obliquely defending the program. In response, the Bloomberg campaign released a statement on Tuesday misleadingly claiming that he simply inherited the policy and later reduced the practice.
“I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused,” he said in a statement posted on his presidential campaign website. “By the time I left office,” the statement continued, “I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities.”
The statement drew immediate backlash over its twisting of history. In 2001, New York City maintained an aggressive program of stopping and searching people throughout the city, with an overwhelming focus on young African American and Latino men. But, under the Bloomberg administration, the program vastly expanded, from around 97,296 stops in 2002 to a height of 685,724 in 2011 — a more than seven-fold increase during the former mayor’s tenure.
Share this far and wide. Unless the mainstream media picks it up, it will be isolated to twitter. pic.twitter.com/Fm0YCi4ZRy
— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) February 11, 2020
Far from changing course over the mayor’s focus on “racial equity,” as he has since claimed, the practice was clawed back by several lawsuits that charged that the law enforcement program violated the basic constitutional rights of residents. U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, in a scathing decision, noted that over the course of 2.3 million frisks, weapons were found only 1.5 percent of the time. The decision pointed out that over half of the stops included African Americans, and about third Latino, with less than 10 percent targeting whites.
The Bloomberg administration fought alongside New York’s notoriously aggressive police union to continue the program, arguing that the stop-and-frisk effort was focused on suspects with “Furtive Movements,” in “High Crime Areas” and those with a “Suspicious Bulge.” But the judge knocked down those assertions, noting that such claims are vague and subjective.
"I think we disproportionately stop whites too much, and minorities too little." pic.twitter.com/iugZcTam9v
— This handle kills fascist rats (@BethLynch2020) February 11, 2020
Attacking Dixon as a Bernie supporter, questioning how he got the audio—and what his motives are. pic.twitter.com/nBkBbPU6Kr
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) February 11, 2020
Rather than offer a report on the State of the Union, Donald Trump used his annual primetime slot in the House of Representatives to host a re-election rally. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, summed up the sentiment of the House majority when she stood behind Trump and ripped the text of his speech in half. “I tore up a manifesto of mistruths,” she later said. But of all the lies he told, the president is proudest of the economy he claims is booming. Poor and low-income Americans know that the economy is, in fact, his greatest vulnerability.
Yes, the Dow is at a record high and official unemployment rates are lower than they have been in decades. ... In America today, 140 million people are poor or low wealth. While three individuals own as much wealth as all of them put together, the real cost of living has soared as wages have stagnated. Since the 1970s, the number of people who are paying more than a third of their monthly income in rent has doubled, and there is not a single county in the nation where a person working full-time at minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Sixty per cent of African Americans are poor or low-income, as are 64% of Hispanics, but the largest single racial group among America’s poor and low-income – 66 million Americans – are white.
While Trump stirs racial fears by attacking “sanctuary cities” and black political leaders, there are more white Americans who are unable to meet their basic needs than at any time in this nation’s history. Every day in America roughly 700 people die from poverty. When seven young people died from vaping, Trump called it a national emergency. But for the past four decades, Republicans have racialized poverty while Democrats have run from it, adopting euphemisms like “those who aspire to the middle class” to talk about poor people. By accepting the lie that everyone does better when the economy does better, both parties paved the way for the extremism of a plutocratic presidency.
We know that elites whose stock portfolios and personal taxes have benefited from the Trump tax cuts are going to stand by this president. But those people are an extreme minority – a literal plutocracy – in this nation. The question in 2020 is not whether Trump’s most ardent supporters will stand by him, but whether Democrats will embrace an agenda that can inspire poor and marginalized people to engage in a political system that has simply overlooked them for decades.
Drilling, Mining Boom Possible But Unlikely Under Trump’s Final Plan for Southern Utah Lands - But the Fight is Far From Over
As ominous as it might seem, the Trump administration's plan to reverse limits on new mining, drilling and development across a vast swath of federal land in southern Utah is unlikely to unleash a fossil fuel bonanza anytime soon. These days, it's too costly for fossil fuel companies to extract the oil, gas and coal buried within 2 million redrock acres Trump excised two years ago from the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.
That's not to say that there aren't climate impacts of the Trump administration's final decision, announced Thursday, to strip national monument protections from the wild, desolate landscape, which archeologists and conservationists treasure for its artifacts and natural rock formations. The land also has rich spiritual connotations for the indigenous people of the Four Corners region.
In a report ordered by the Obama administration but published just over a year ago, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the carbon dioxide emitted and retained by public lands in the United States: Nearly 24 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions can be traced to public lands, the report found, and those same lands act as a sink that sucks up and stores carbon from the atmosphere, offsetting in addition about 15 percent of the nation's CO2 emissions.
The climate impact of the final Trump policy is more likely to affect these carbon sinks than it is emissions. The new management plans allow vegetation to be removed on the land excluded from the monuments for better livestock grazing, said Steve Bloch, an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, one of several tribal, business, scientific and advocacy groups suing over the monuments' downsizing. He said the management plans would allow large areas of native vegetation to be destroyed, fragile cryptobiotic soils to be trampled and mature pinion, Juniper and sagebrush to be removed—diminishing the land's value for combating climate change.
The stage is set for the federal Bureau of Land Management, he said, "to rush ahead, hand-in-hand with the state of Utah, with activities that are designed to improve range for cattle at the expense of disturbing these intact natural ecosystems."
A pioneering tribal biodiversity project to restore the sacred Pacific lamprey population has been dealt a major blow after huge floods washed away hundreds of fish before they could be released into the wild. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) have spent two decades reintroducing the lamprey into tributaries of the Columbia River after US government dams and industrial fishing wiped out the endemic species.
The Pacific lamprey – a jawless fish that looks like an eel – is considered a “first food” by the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes, which make up the confederation, as it was a key element of their ancestors’ diet. The seven gill ports on each side of the lamprey are tied to the seven drums and seven generations considered sacred to the tribes.
Last week, high temperatures and heavy rainfall caused havoc and evacuations across the Pacific north-west as levees burst and rivers flooded. The 500,000-acre Umatilla reservation, located about 220 miles east of Portland, Oregon, was inundated last Thursday after sudden unseasonably hot weather caused large quantities of snow on the Blue Mountains to rapidly melt. The climate crisis is causing increased flooding in many areas as the planet warms and disrupts weather patterns.
The water gained force as it ran into the Umatilla River, where about a thousand adult lamprey were enclosed in tanks within a caged acclimatization facility, waiting to be released into the nearby Grande Ronde River. The force of the river overwhelmed the cage, and the tanks were sent floating downstream, according to Aaron Jackson, director of the lamprey project for the Umatilla tribes fisheries’ programme. Several tanks were found with their doors open, which means the fish escaped. The fish were yet to be genetically marked, so the tribe has no way of tracking them.
US federal authorities have offered a reward of up to $20,000 after two dolphins were found with gruesome and life-ending injuries along Florida’s Gulf coast in recent weeks.
According to the Florida fish and wildlife conservation commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one dolphin was discovered dead in waters off Naples in south-west Florida late last week. Officials said the animal had received bullet, or stab wounds – or possibly both.
Also last week, the Emerald Coast wildlife refuge found a dolphin with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach in the Florida Panhandle. ...
Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins have been stranded with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with objects such as fishing spears.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Lonnie Johnson - Woke Up With The Blues In My Fingers
Louis Armstrong w/Lonnie Johnson - Savoy Blues
Lonnie Johnson - Why Women Go Wrong
Lonnie Johnson - I'm In Love with Love
Lonnie Johnson with Elmer Snowden - Jelly Roll Baker
Lonnie Johnson - Tin Can Alley Blues
Eddie Lang & Lonnie Johnson - Hot Fingers
Lonnie Johnson - No More Troubles Now
Lonnie Johnson & Eddie Lang - Have To Change Keys (To Play These Blues)
Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson - Handful Of Riffs