The Evening Blues - 3-22-19


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Magic Slim

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago bluesman Magic Slim. Enjoy!

Magic Slim - Bad Boy

“We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, Our Flag will be recognized throughout the World as a symbol of Freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

-- George C. Marshall

News and Opinion

Trump provokes global anger by recognising Israel's claim to Golan Heights

Syria has vowed to retake the Golan Heights as Donald Trump’s call for the US to recognise the occupied territory as part of Israel elicited strong responses from Russia, Turkey and Iran. The president ended half a century of US foreign policy and broke from post-second world war international consensus that forbids territorial conquest during war with a tweet on Thursday that said it was time “to fully recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights”.

Trump said the territory was “of critical strategic and security importance to the state of Israel and regional stability”. Israeli troops took control of the volcanic plateau from Syria in the six-day war in 1967 and later annexed it, moves that were condemned by the UN security council and never internationally recognised.

Syrian state media said on Friday that the country was now “more determined to liberate it by all possible means no matter what,” citing a foreign ministry source. Damascus said Trump’s statement showed “the blind bias of the United States” towards Israel but would not change “the fact that the Golan was and will always be a Syrian Arab territory”.

Syria’s allies Russia and Iran also lambasted Washington. Iran said the announcement was “illegal and unacceptable”, and Russia pointed out that a change of the status of the Golan Heights would be a direct violation of UN resolutions. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters the comments “can destabilise the already fragile situation in the Middle East”. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned on Friday that Trump’s “unfortunate” declaration had brought the region “to the brink of a new crisis and new tensions”. “We will never allow the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights,” he said.

European powers also warned of the potential damage to international order.

Human Rights Attorney to Trump: “Israel Is Not Interested in the Golan Heights for Security”

US Completely Invalidates All Of Its Own Arguments About Crimea

Well the worst Putin Puppet of all time is at it again, this time tweeting that the US must recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel despite the fact that the Israeli occupation of that Syrian land is illegal under international law. “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”, Trump’s tweet reads. ...

“More red meat for Trump’s Evangelical base,” tweeted journalist Mark Ames in response to Trump’s tweet. “Doubt anyone will care about US hypocrisy since hypocrisy is what defines us—rewarding Israel’s armed seizure/colonization/annexation of Golan; yet punishing Russia’s Crimea annexation, which at least had local majority-Russian support.” ...

The discrepancy between the White House’s positions on Crimea and the Golan Heights can easily be explained by the nature of America’s overarching imperialist agenda. The US-centralized empire, of which Israel is an inseparable part, operates much like the creature in the 1958 movie The Blob: its goal is to absorb as many geostrategic territories into itself as possible, growing larger and stronger with every absorption. The Golan Heights is a resource rich region dominated by plutocratic interests and provides Israel with a third of its water supply, as well as a strategically valuable location for attacking and undermining the unabsorbed nation of Syria and its unabsorbed Iranian and Hezbollah allies. Crimea, meanwhile, is another highly strategically important location, but its control shifted outside the blob of empire when its people chose Moscow over Kiev. The blob of empire is strengthened and enlarged with the addition of the Golan Heights, but weakened and shrunk with the loss of Crimea.

We see this dynamic playing out all over the globe. Bolsonaro’s election in Brazil was a huge victory for the blob, strengthening its ability to attack and absorb other unabsorbed nations like Venezuela. ... The tight network of US allies which functions as an empire on foreign policy is constantly attempting to expand roughly eastward and southward, and to undermine the interests of any government which presents an obstacle to that expansion. Many people have grown very rich by the exploitative and frequently violent nature of this expansion, in precisely the way colonialists and conquistadors grew very rich with the exploitative and frequently violent expansion of European power into the rest of the world hundreds of years ago. The alliance of secretive government agencies and thieving plutocrats has been ensuring a concurrent metastasizing of corporate and government power along the waves of that expansion, and it won’t stop until either the empire is overthrown, the world is completely absorbed, or these bastards get us all killed in a nuclear holocaust with their reckless imperialist aggression.

Explosive new letter reveals Trump aides’ unsecured scheme to ‘transfer sensitive U.S. nuclear technology’ to an authoritarian state

Former Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland and other aides in the White House appear to have worked on a plan to “transfer sensitive U.S. nuclear technology” to Saudi Arabia over unsecured emails, according to a new letter from the House Oversight Committee chair sent on Thursday.

The detail is one of many allegations in a broader letter about the White House’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act, which has strict requirements about how administration officials should conduct and record official business. The letter, signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), said that the committee has been investigating concerns about the White House’s use of private email and messaging apps, including use by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner. ...

But the new revelation that Trump administration officials were working on a plan to transfer “nuclear technology” to Saudi Arabia is a remarkable development, given the continuing scandal of the White House’s twisted relationship with the authoritarian regime.

The letter noted that McFarland’s discussion of the plan, using an AOL email address, was done in coordination with Tom Barrack, who is described as “a personal friend of President Trump and the chairman of President Trump’s inaugural committee.”

Cummings also said that Steve Bannon, the president’s former top strategist who has left the White House, may also have been involved. One email “appears to show that Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist, received documents pitching the plan from Mr. Barrack through his personal email account,” according to the letter.

U.S. "Oil Weapon" Could Change Geopolitics Forever

In a dynamic that shows just how far U.S. oil production has come in recent years, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday that in the last two months of 2018, the U.S. Gulf Coast exported more crude oil than it imported. ... The U.S. is the new global oil production leader, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia, while Saudi Arabia is still the world’s largest oil exporter – a factor that still gives Riyadh considerable leverage, particularly as it works with Russia, and other partners as part of the so-called OPEC+ group of producers. However, Saudi Arabia’s decades-long role of market swing producers has now been replaced by this coalition of producers, reducing Riyadh’s power both geopolitically and in global oil markets. In short, what Saudi Arabia could once do on its own, it has to do with several partners. ..

Evidence of growing American energy clout was evident last week when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the oil industry  to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage. Pompeo made his remarks at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, where U.S. oil and gas executives, energy players and OPEC officials usually gather annually to discuss global energy development. Pompeo’s added that America’s new-found shale oil and natural gas abundance would “strengthen our hand in foreign policy.” He added that the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the U.S. the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

This is the first time, in at least recent history, that American officials have considered using oil production and exports for geopolitical advantage. One of the last times the country had such oil production clout dates back to the years just before World War II when the U.S. held back oil exports to Japan. Consequently, this was one of the mitigating factors that provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941. Moreover, Pompeo’s comments can be viewed as a reversal from the so-called oil weapon that Arab producers have used on the U.S. and its western allies for decades, including both the unsuccessful 1967 Arab oil embargo and the 1973 Arab oil embargo that brought the U.S. and its allies to their knees, driving up the price of oil four-fold and contributing to severe economic headwinds for the West and a geopolitical and economic shift that still persists to the current.

Venezuelan minister accuses Guaidó chief of staff of leading 'terrorist cell'

The face-off between Nicolás Maduro and his US-backed challenger Juan Guaidó has escalated dramatically after Venezuelan intelligence agents seized Guaidó’s chief of staff and accused him of leading a “terrorist cell” plotting a wave of political assassinations.

The charges – which opposition leaders rejected as a ploy to attack and intimidate their movement – were announced late on Thursday by Maduro’s interior minister, Néstor Reverol. “We would like to inform the national and international communities that our intelligence services have dismantled … a terrorist cell that was planning to carry out a series of targeted attacks,” Reverol said in a broadcast on state channel Venezolana de Televisión.

Reverol claimed the supposed cell “had hired Colombian and Central American mercenaries to kill political leaders, military officials, supreme court judges and carry out acts of sabotage against public services to generate cause in Venezuelan society”. He alleged Guaidó’s aide – the 49-year-old lawyer Roberto Marrero – was a key leader of the “criminal organization” and claimed a cache of “weapons of war” had been apprehended with him.

Chile: retired soldiers sentenced over 1986 attack on activists burned alive

A Chilean court has sentenced three retired soldiers to 10 years in prison for their part in a horrific attack on two democracy activists who were doused with petrol and set on fire. The 1986 attack on Rodrigo Rojas and Carmen Gloria Quintana was one of the most notorious torture cases in the 17-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

On Thursday, Julio Castaner, Iván Figueroa and Nelson Medina were found guilty of murder and attempted murder. Eight other former soldiers received three-year prison sentences for acting as accomplices in the attack. ...

Rojas died from his burns, and Quintana was left disfigured, but attempts to investigate the case were stymied by a decades-long “pact of silence” among the former servicemen. The case was reopened in 2013, and, in 2014, a former army conscript identified the men who had participated in the attack.

Cabinet ministers believe risk of no-deal Brexit now 'very real'

Cabinet ministers believe there is now a real risk of a no-deal Brexit, with sources close to them describing the mood in government as depressing and No 10 as “run by lunatics”. Senior members of the cabinet from both sides of the Brexit argument are understood to think the chances of the UK leaving without a deal have substantially increased after the prime minister set herself against a longer extension to article 50.

One aide to a cabinet minister said No 10 was in “full-on bunker mode” and the prime minister’s speech from Downing Street showed “they have all taken leave of their senses”. ...

On the other side, one leave-supporting cabinet minister believes May has no intention of resigning if her deal fails to pass next Tuesday and that she would prefer to switch to a position of supporting no deal rather than allow a longer extension to article 50. They point to the fact that 63% of Conservative MPs opposed a delay to Brexit and opinion polls suggesting a shift in public opinion towards no deal. In this scenario, the prime minister could attempt another meaningful vote next Thursday in a high-stakes gamble that would challenge MPs to back her deal or face no deal at the last minute. ...

Behind the scenes, there was fury among Tory MPs – and even the whips – about May’s speech blaming parliament at a time when she needs more votes to pass her Brexit deal. ... Chris Wilkins, a former speechwriter for May, said that he thought she was finally running out of road as prime minister. However, he did not expect her to resign because of her dogged determination to carry on with her duties: “I think that if the entire cabinet resigned, she would not go because in her mind she cannot be forced out under party rules. If there was a cabinet of one, she would sit in it.”

Brexit extension talks: "Macron has become the heavy on the European stage"

As of this afternoon, the petition was at 3.5 million signatures, having gained 2.5 million in 24 hours.

More Than One Million Crash UK Petition Site With Demand to Cancel Brexit

The British Parliament's petitions website crashed Thursday morning as over a million of Britons attempted to make their opposition to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan known.

Hours after May chastised members of Parliament for rejecting her Brexit plan a second time, an anti-Brexit petition was gathering about 1,500 signatures per minute when it crashed the website for 40 minutes. The site then briefly went up before failing again.

As of this writing, more than one million people had signed the petition demanding that May's invocation of Article 50 of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, which allows a country to formally withdraw from the EU, be revoked.

"The government repeatedly claims exiting the E.U. is the will of the people," reads the petition. "We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now for remaining in the E.U. A people's vote may not happen, so vote now."

The petition quickly reached the 100,000-signature threshold to force a debate in Parliament over the proposal after being posted on the government website Wednesday evening.

Brexit is not the cause of Britain’s political breakdown. It’s a symptom

... This is a crisis in our polity – the norms of our political and electoral culture that has parties at its centre. It is now approaching full-scale collapse. Conventional wisdom has it that Brexit has precipitated this crisis. The crude question of remain or leave was always going to create divisions, embolden renegades and undermine moderates. Depending on your prejudice, once the country opted to leave by a narrow margin, it presented the political class either with the challenge of committing an irresponsible act responsibly or fulfilling the will of the people. Either way, our politics has proved inadequate to the task. Brexit has broken us.

But by ignoring what was going on in the country before June 2016, and trends beyond our shores, this gives too much credit to the Brexit vote. That didn’t create this dysfunction and dislocation, it all too powerfully illustrated it. Up until that point, the two most persistent trends in postwar electoral politics were the decline in turnout and waning support for the two major parties. Between 1945 and 1997, turnout never went below 70%; since 2001, it has never reached 70%. Meanwhile the two-party landscape that once dominated our first-past-the-post system has frayed. Fewer people want to vote and even fewer wanted to back the two main parties (these trends have reversed slightly since 2001 but are nowhere near where they were). In 1950, Winston Churchill won 38% of eligible voters and still lost. The year before the referendum, the Tories got a majority with just 24% of the eligible vote.

This is how we got to a place where all the mainstream parties, the unions and business representatives could back remain and the country could vote leave. It’s not Brexit that’s caused the crisis in our politics; it’s the crisis in our politics that’s made Brexit possible.

That crisis is by no means unique to Britain. Since the 2008 economic crash, most countries across the west have seen electoral fracture, the demise of mainstream parties, a rise in nativism and bigotry, a marked increase in public protest, and general political dysfunction. The gilets jaunes are still out every Saturday in Paris; the European parliament has concluded that Hungary poses a “systematic threat” to democracy and the rule of law, and the conservative bloc has expelled Hungary’s ruling party; Estonia’s ruling party is contemplating inviting the far right into government; Italian humanitarians are being threatened with jail for saving drowning refugees and bringing them home when the government wouldn’t; antisemitism is on the rise across Europe with a 60% rise in the number of violent attacks in Germany; protesters in Serbia stormed national TV calling for media freedom. All of this before we mention the preening authoritarianism of Presidents Donald Trump of the US and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.

The broad narrative arc in most places is similar, and in some cases even more pronounced, than the one that brought us Brexit. The key difference is that Brexit comes complete with a timetable, a deadline, and an entity – the EU – that has thus far escaped these trends because it is subject to the diplomatic pressure of governments rather than the popular pressure of voters. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where Britain does not continue looking ridiculous for some time to come. We deserve to be laughed at. But those who laugh hardest should beware they do not choke on their own hubris. This virus that made this madness possible is highly contagious. We may, as yet, be the worst affected. But we will not be the last.

Macron to deploy French army against “yellow vest” protests

After Wednesday’s meeting of the council of ministers, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux announced that President Emmanuel Macron would activate army units during this weekend’s “yellow vest” protests. This is the first time since the 1954–1962 war in Algeria that the army is to be mobilized in police operations on French soil against the population. Griveaux announced that the operation would have the task of “securing fixed and static points in conformity with their mission, that is to say principally the protection of official buildings.” He justified his recourse to the armed forces by claiming this was necessary to allow the police forces to “concentrate on protest movements and on the maintenance and re-establishment of public order.”

Today, Defense Minister Florence Parly is slated to meet representatives of the police forces in the late afternoon to discuss operational details on the upcoming deployment this Saturday. The mobilization of army units comes on top of a series of repressive measures the government announced on Tuesday. These include allowing the state to ban protests if “radicals” attend them, increasing fines for participating in a banned protest from 38 to 135 euros, the setting up of “anti-hooligan brigades” of police, the use of drones, the firing of chemical agents allowing police to trace demonstrators, and the use of police checkpoints to stop and identify demonstrators.

The resort to the French army to threaten protests against social inequality marks a historical turning point of international significance. A wave of strikes and protests is spreading across the world, driven by mounting political anger at decades of austerity and militarism. These range from protests by the “yellow vests” to strikes against decade-long wage freezes across Europe, to the mass protests against the Algerian military dictatorship, to the strikes of US teachers and Mexican maquiladora workers and mass strikes in Sri Lanka and India. Macron’s decision to deploy the army against the “yellow vests” is part of the increasingly desperate attempts of the ruling class internationally to intimidate the rising political opposition among workers and, failing that, to create conditions to try to repress it through force of arms.

The government is deploying the army amid the media frenzy that followed the looting of the Champs- Élysées avenue in Paris during last Saturday’s “yellow vest” protests. But there is no hard evidence that “yellow vest” protesters carried out this looting. Top officials, including Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, have said these actions were committed by far-right groups who exploited a breakdown in the chain of command of the police forces, some of whom were filmed joining in the looting of shops on the Champs- Élysées. Despite the murkiness of Saturday’s events, the government is responding by rapidly stepping up threats against protesters. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner brazenly declared that on Saturday, police were facing “10,000 hooligans,” implying that the vast majority of peaceful “yellow vest” protesters were violent criminals whom police could treat as such. Speaking about the violence on Saturday, Macron for his part provocatively declared that supporters of the “yellow vest” movement “have made themselves complicit in it.”

Brazil’s former president Michel Temer arrested in corruption investigation

Brazil’s former president Michel Temer – who played a key role in the 2016 impeachment of his rival Dilma Rousseff – has been arrested by federal police while driving in São Paulo. Judge Marcelo Breitas issued arrest warrants on Thursday for Temer and nine others in “Operation Radioactivity” – part of Operation Car Wash, the country’s largest ever corruption investigation, which has led to the convictions of numerous members of Brazil’s political elite. ...

Federal prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro said Temer had led “a criminal organization”, which was involved in the construction of Brazil’s Angra 3 nuclear plant. According to prosecutors, Temer received a R$1m bribe in exchange for awarding three companies a construction contract for the nuclear facility. The prosecutors said Temer’s “criminal organization” committed crimes including cartel formation, active and passive corruption, money laundering and fraudulent bidding processes.

Also arrested was the former energy minister and governor of Rio de Janeiro, Moreira Franco, making him the fifth governor of the state to be arrested in three years.

Canada: 'Much more to be told' on Trudeau scandal, says minister who quit

A Canadian cabinet minister who had quit in protest over the government’s handling of a corruption scandal said she and others had more to say about the matter, indicating more pain to come for the embattled prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has been on the defensive since February over allegations top officials working for him leaned on the former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to ensure the construction firm SNC-Lavalin avoided a corruption trial.

“There’s much more to the story that should be told,” the former treasury board president Jane Philpott told Maclean’s magazine in an interview released on Thursday. “I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth,” she said. Philpott added that she and Wilson-Raybould had more to say but did not elaborate further. Philpott, a close political ally of Wilson-Raybould, quit on 4 March.

The crisis may threaten Trudeau’s re-election chances in the upcoming October vote. Polls show Trudeau’s Liberals, who as recently as January looked certain to win the election, could lose to the official opposition Conservatives. As well as the two ministers, the affair has claimed Trudeau’s closest political aide and the head of the federal bureaucracy. A Liberal legislator who backed Wilson-Raybould quit on Wednesday to sit as an independent.

Trudeau suffered further potential embarrassment on Thursday when SNC-Lavalin’s chief executive, Neil Bruce, denied he had told government officials that 9,000 jobs could be at risk if the firm was found guilty of offering bribes to Libyan officials. Trudeau has often referred to the 9,000 potential job losses as a reason for helping the firm, which wanted to take advantage of new legislation to pay a large fine rather than be prosecuted.

Florida man pleads guilty to sending wave of pipe bombs to Trump critics

A Florida man pleaded guilty on Thursday to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent critics of Donald Trump in a wave of attacks that harmed no one but spread fear of political violence across the US for days leading up to last fall’s midterm elections.

Cesar Sayoc, 57, sobbed as he entered the plea before a federal judge in New York. “I’m extremely sorry,” he said, adding that he never intended for the devices to explode.

He could get life in prison at sentencing in September on 65 counts, including using weapons of mass destruction and mailing explosives with intent to kill. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge that carried a mandatory life sentence.

Sayoc was accused of sending rudimentary bombs – none of which detonated – to 16 targets, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, several members of Congress, Barack Obama and the actor Robert De Niro. Devices were also mailed to CNN offices in New York and Atlanta.

Trump threatens to cut funding for colleges 'hostile to free speech'

Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday requiring US colleges to protect free speech on their campuses or risk losing federal research funding. The new order directs federal agencies to ensure that any college or university receiving research grants agree to promote free inquiry and to follow federal rules and regulations supporting free speech.

“Even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and to the first amendment,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony. “These universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans.”

The order follows a growing chorus of complaints from conservatives who say their voices have been stifled on campuses across the US. Joining Trump at the ceremony were students who said they were challenged by their schools while trying to express views against abortion or in support of their faith.

Trump initially proposed the idea during a 2 March speech to conservative activists, highlighting the case of Hayden Williams, an activist who was punched in the face while recruiting for the group Turning Point USA at the University of California, Berkeley. He invoked the case again Thursday, noting that Williams was hit hard “but he didn’t go down”. ...

Debate over campus free speech has flared in recent years following a string of high-profile cases in which protesters shut down or heckled conservative speakers, including at UC Berkeley and Middlebury College in Vermont. Republicans called hearings on the issue when they controlled both chambers, but proposed legislation backing campus speech never made it through committee.

The Boeing crashes are becoming a bigger problem for Trump’s White House

Widening scrutiny after the two recent Boeing 737 Max crashes could blow back on the White House and the government as a whole.

To start, President Donald Trump has left the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the government agency that oversees air travel, without a permanent head for more than a year — during the time of both crashes, which claimed a total of 356 lives. A former Boeing executive, Patrick Shanahan, also sits on Trump’s Cabinet as the acting secretary of defense. On Wednesday, the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General opened up a probe into allegations that Shanahan tried to boost Boeing’s contracts with the U.S. government. Although unrelated to the crashes, the investigation could shed light on just how much influence Boeing has within the administration. ...

Aside from creating headaches for Trump personally, the two crashes — an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 10 and a Lion Air flight in October — have put the FAA’s reputation as a worldwide leader of aviation safety at risk. One sign of that came Wednesday, when Canada and Europe announced they planned to conduct their own reviews of software updates to the 737 Max 8, the Boeing model involved in both crashes, instead of relying solely on the FAA’s certifications. The move signals a lack of trust in the U.S. agency’s ability to oversee safety features and comes alongside reports that top FAA officials didn’t know about changes to the planes’ systems. ...

U.S. flight officials delegated oversight of certain safety assessments regarding that automated program to Boeing during the plane’s 2015 certification process, which resulted in flaws in understanding the strength of the automation software, The Seattle Times reported. The software prevent the model’s engine from tipping the plane’s nose too high, but certain circumstances can push the nose down suddenly and with force. Because Boeing took over parts of those safety assessments and didn’t flag significant problems, top FAA officials didn’t know about that software system, anonymous sources told the New York Times.

the horse race

2020 Democrats are dropping like flies from pro-Israel AIPAC conference

Just weeks after Democrats had a meltdown over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s criticism of Israel, seven 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have opted to skip this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, which annually convenes prominent Israel supporters.

Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Jay Inslee, and Julian Castro have all confirmed they won’t attend the pro-Israel conference this year. Democrats started pulling out after MoveOn, a progressive advocacy group, called on Democratic presidential candidates to skip the event, which typically enjoys support from major Democrats. Top Dems, including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, are speaking at AIPAC this year.

"He’s concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution,” Bernie Sanders’ policy director, Josh Orton, told the Huffington Post. Sanders has highlighted his Jewish faith as part of his 2020 presidential campaign.

House Democratic Leadership Warns It Will Cut Off Any Firms Who Challenge Incumbents

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warned political strategists and vendors Thursday night that if they support candidates mounting primary challenges against incumbent House Democrats, the party will cut them off from business.

The news was officially announced Friday morning, paired with a statement on the committee’s commitment to diversity in consulting — “which obviously, is just to give themselves cover,” a Democratic political consultant who learned of it Thursday told The Intercept. The consultant asked for anonymity given their relationship with the DCCC, and the party organization’s professed strategy of blacklisting firms who don’t fall in line.

To apply to become a preferred vendor in the 2020 cycle, firms must agree to a set of standards that includes agreeing not to work with anyone challenging an incumbent.

Wisconsin judge blocks Republican bid to weaken governor and erode voting rights

A Wisconsin judge has temporarily blocked Republican laws that curtailed the powers of a newly elected Democratic governor and rolled back voting rights across the state. The laws were passed during a lame-duck session shortly after the GOP lost control of the governor’s mansion during elections last year.

The ruling immediately prompted the Democratic governor, Tony Evers, to pull the state out of a challenge to federal healthcare legislation, known as Obamacare, the signature legislative achievement of president Obama’s tenure. Evers had pledged to do so during his election campaign last year but was essentially blocked from doing so under the hastily passed laws. The statutes were passed in a series of so-called extraordinary sessions, and were described by critics as an illegal attempt to wrest power away from the incoming Democratic executive.

The temporary ruling by the Dane county circuit judge Richard Niess came as a result of legal action by advocacy groups. It follows a ruling in a separate federal lawsuit that blocked a set of controversial election laws, also passed in the lame-duck session, which sought to cut early voting in the state.

A brief compendium of the awfulness that is Joe Biden, here are a couple of excerpts:

Joe Biden Is Hillary Clinton 2.0 — Democrats Would Be Mad to Nominate Him

Have the Democrats gone mad? Are they really planning on putting up the same type of candidate against Donald Trump in 2020 that they put up against him in 2016? Is the party bent on nominating Hillary 2.0? How else to describe Joe Biden, the former vice president and ex-senator from Delaware, who is leading in the polls and has hinted that he’d reveal whether he’s running for president in “a few weeks” and might select a running mate early in the process?

Forget, for a moment, his “blue-collar-uncle-at-the-end-of-the-bar persona.” Ignore also his recent, and ridiculous, claim to have the “most progressive record of anybody” running for president. Consider, instead, the sheer number of similarities he seems to have with the vanquished Democratic presidential candidate of 2016.

Iraq War supporter? Check. ... Let’s be clear: If he runs, Biden will be the only candidate — out of up to 20 Democrats running for the nomination — to have voted for the Iraq War. As the influential chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the run-up to the invasion, Biden (falsely) claimed the United States had “no choice but to eliminate the threat” from Saddam Hussein. A former U.N. weapons inspector even accused the then-senator of running a “sham” committee hearing that provided “political cover for a massive military attack on Iraq.”

Friend of Wall Street? Check. Clinton had a Goldman Sachs problem; Biden has an MBNA problem. Headquartered in his home state of Delaware, the credit card giant MBNA was his biggest donor when he served in the Senate. In 2005, Biden threw his weight behind a bankruptcy bill, signed into law by President George W. Bush, that shamefully protected credit card companies at the expense of borrowers. National Review later dubbed Biden “the senator from MBNA”. The then-senator’s son Hunter even went to work for the company while his father was pushing through the bankruptcy bill. There’s a word for that, right? Trumpian.

[There's plenty more of the case against Biden at the link. -js]

[T]here is no question for the Democrats in 2020 to which Biden is the answer. Have they really learned no lessons from three years ago?

the evening greens

‘Unprecedented’ US flood season will imperil 200m people, experts warn

The severe flooding in the American midwest is set to only be a prelude to “unprecedented” levels of flooding across the US in the coming months that will imperil 200 million people, federal government scientists have warned. Nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states will have a heightened risk of flooding until May, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) forecast.

Communities living near the Mississippi river, which has received rain and snow levels up to 200% above normal, the lower Ohio river basin, the Tennessee river basin and the Great Lakes are at the greatest risk, Noaa said on Thursday. Vast swaths of the rest of the country may also get mild or moderate flooding, including most of eastern US and parts of California and Nevada.

“The extensive flooding we’ve seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream,” said Ed Clark, director of Noaa’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”

The flooding has been fueled by rapid snow melt combined with heavy rainfall that has already inundated much of the midwest and plains, particularly in Nebraska and Iowa. The torrents of rainfall have not been able to penetrate the frozen ground, causing water to swell rivers and make them break their banks.

Our History Is the Future: Lakota Historian Nick Estes on Indigenous Resistance to Climate Change

Ocasio-Cortez: Maybe Wall Street Bankers 'Not the Best Authority' on Wellbeing of People and Planet

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reminded JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon of his bank's massive investments in oil and gas development projects after Dimon suggested the Green New Deal is not an "intelligent" solution to the climate crisis.

"JP Morgan agreed to pay out $13 billion over its massive role in mortgage schemes with the '08 recession," Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Democratic congresswoman from New York, said in a tweet Wednesday. "They also finance major fossil fuel pipelines. It's big money."

"So maybe they aren't the best authority on prioritizing economic wellbeing of everyday people and the planet," she added.

According to a report card released Wednesday by a coalition of environmental groups, JP Morgan invested $195.66 billion in oil and gas companies between 2016 and 2018, making the Wall Street bank "the world's top funder of fossil fuels by a wide margin."

From Black Plume to Benzene Fumes, Houston's Plight Drags On

Now that the four-day fire is out at a Houston-area chemical storage complex, the real danger has emerged. Cancer-causing benzene wafted across suburbs of the fourth-largest U.S. city Thursday, shutting roads, schools and industrial plants, and disrupting normal life for half a day. A major oil refinery in the heart of North America’s most important fuel-producing region told workers to stay home and the Texas National Guard deployed troops to assist with air monitoring. The benzene probably arose from charred chemical tanks as overnight winds stirred remnants of their contents, owner Intercontinental Terminals Co. said.

Even after the working-class suburb of Deer Park rescinded an order telling everyone to shut their windows and stay inside around lunchtime, the reprieve may be temporary, scientists warned. Warm temperatures that are swirling the air and dispersing toxic fumes will disappear after sunset, potentially allowing benzene to settle at ground level, said Jeff Evans, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Houston office. “The air is mixing vertically now but what you need to watch for is tonight” when those conditions cease, Evans said. ...

[W]ith the fire at Intercontinental’s storage complex extinguished, the situation is actually more treacherous because the pools of naphtha and other crude-oil byproducts at the site are no longer burning off -- and are free to evaporate at ground level. “It’s making the dangers worse for the communities near the site,” said Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University. “The fires that had been burning had been burning off many of these air toxins and wafting them into a plume higher into the sky, where it was able to spread and disperse into broader regions.” ...

“This is a real risk to human health, not theoretical,” said Elena Craft, senior director for climate and health at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Benzene is a known carcinogen, and no amount is safe to breathe. We urge everyone, especially pregnant women, to be vigilant.”

Also of Interest

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

Trump Gives Netanyahu Part of Syria to Boost Israeli Leader’s Flagging Reelection Campaign

After Pressure on Twitter, Christine Assange’s Account is Restored; Venezuela’s Teleseur Now Hit

Whose Blood, Whose Treasure?

Brexit: Opening the Seals

Theresa May has trashed our democracy and put MPs in danger

How Theresa May Botched Brexit

Costly Confusion: Patients Caught by Medicare Not Covering Annual Physical Exams

Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for 2020

Who anointed Beto O'Rourke to be our political saviour? He did

Democratic Socialists of America back Bernie: 'The best chance to beat Trump'

Fox News’ Self-Fulfilling Propaganda on Ocasio-Cortez

Mike Pompeo thinks it’s “possible” that Trump is a biblical savior

A Little Night Music

Magic Slim - I'm A Bluesman

Magic Slim - I Got Money

Magic Slim - Crazy Woman

Magic Slim - Cold Women With Warm Hearts

Magic Slim - Someone Else Is Steppin' In

Magic Slim & the Teardrops - Breaking Up Somebody's Home

Magic Slim & the Teardrops - Still A Fool

Magic Slim - Give Me Back My Wig

Magic Slim and the Blue Jeans Blues Band

20 users have voted.


detroitmechworks's picture

Since they can't control the populace with soothing words and carrots, it's AMAZING how fast the sticks come out, innit?

Well, clearly TPTB believe the old saying,

"Sticks and stones can break their bones; their words can hurt us badly."

8 users have voted.

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

joe shikspack's picture


yep, when the iron fist is busy, the velvet glove doesn't hold up well. the powers that be have been signalling their willingness to bring down the hammer for a while and preparing their troops police for the fight.

6 users have voted.
Raggedy Ann's picture

Well, well, well - whaddyaknow! Nick Estes on Democracy Now! I know Nick - he works in an office on my floor around the corner from me. We chat all the time about his work and I have students interested in working with him. UNM better be careful not to chase him away and, instead, ensure he stays here. Great individual! Damn smart dude. Make sure you listen to it, folks! He was also interviewed on one of The Intercept's podcasts in the fall.

It is now being made clear, finally!, that Herr Drumpf was elected by gawd to save Israel! I didn't realize we were the anointed saviour, much less that Israel needed saving. I think we should annex Israel and rename ourselves the United States of Ismerica or Amerael. Has a ring, doesn't it? Or was that a gong? Anyhoo............

We got some nice rain yesterday and this morning. Cleaned the air right up, which was good for relieving my allergies! We also got more snow in our northern mountains. I'm not concerned about flooding, although it could happen, but in this desert that's suffered drought for many years, the spring run-off should be spectacular, finally!

Thanks for the Friday, blues, joe! Magic Slim is a treasure!

Have a beautiful day and weekend, everyone! Pleasantry

10 users have voted.

Women are human beings, not prey.
(I forgot where I read it although it might have been in The Intercept)

QMS's picture

@Raggedy Ann
definitely describes us policy

6 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

joe shikspack's picture

@Raggedy Ann

heh, trump a "biblical savior?" it's good of pompeo to let everyone know just what kind of fruitcake he is.

we've had rain here, too, for a couple of days now. everything is quite soggy.

have a great weekend!

4 users have voted.
dystopian's picture

Magic Slim is great, heavy on the magic, not so much on the slim. Great tone and intonation, fast fingers and knows where to go. Nice burst Paul, couple nice Jags or Jazzmasters. Great singing too.

Golan is Syria's. Astounding how we pretend to feel about property rights here, whilst having no respect for soverign nation's land rights. Hypocrites R us. I am trying to think of somewhere to give someone, any ideas?

Good Caitlin piece on the Golan/Crimea cognitive dissonance.

So Trumps Whitehouse is following the example of the Obama/Hillary Whitehouse precendent regarding security of sensitive information communication. These are our Commanders-in-Chief. Incompetent as the sycophants they surround themselves with.

Great to see some action against the coup leaders in Venezuela. About time.

Macron is a heavyweight now in the EU? In the featherweight class? Deploying the army for policing? They are as F'd up as Brexit is. Cool how the refugees we created destablized Europe, huh? A twofer for the MIC.

Neat how democracy works in the Democratic party... glad they're not bullies or anything:
"The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warned political strategists and vendors
Thursday night that if they support candidates mounting primary challenges against incumbent House Democrats, the party will cut them off from business."

Meanwhile they are primaring incumbents like Tulsi because she isn't pro MIC enough.

To call Obamacare his "signature legislative achievement" is a sorry state of affairs.
Perfect for him to have a F the people, gift to insurance co's POS signature act.

Corporate capture at work:
Houston for four days: No problem, nothing to worry about, carry on.
Houston: We have a problem. Get inside, close the doors and windows, no worries.

Pompeo's papal pronouncement about der Pumpkinfuhrer is as crazy a thing I have ever heard a U.S. official say. These nuts think they are on a mission from God. They ain't no Blues Brothers.

have a good weekend!

9 users have voted.

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


magic slim had a jazzmaster, but i don't think that i ever saw him with a jaguar. playing live he had a trebly tone that would cut through anything.

Astounding how we pretend to feel about property rights here, whilst having no respect for soverign nation's land rights. Hypocrites R us. I am trying to think of somewhere to give someone, any ideas?

heh, i have always wanted to give florida to the palestinians and perhaps the kurds would like texas.

So Trumps Whitehouse is following the example of the Obama/Hillary Whitehouse precendent regarding security of sensitive information communication. These are our Commanders-in-Chief. Incompetent as the sycophants they surround themselves with.

they're all cut from the same mold - laws don't apply to them.

have a great weekend!

4 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

New Democrat. Not sure if he was DLC too, but New Dem for sure. No use for new Democrats. Perhaps everybody and their brother, regardless of whether or not they intend to vote Democrat, or even vote at all, should, for the good of the universe, indulge in part time anti-Biden campaigning, rhetoric and, especially, agit prop. For starts on the following I propose posters and bumper stickers saying:

Biden? Not HER again!

using a "HER" graphic copped from HER campaign to make it unmistakably clear.

9 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

sheesh, can you imagine? these people think that making biden president would be a good idea! these are the sort of people that think an ice cream eating contest would be a capital idea for a fundraiser to end hunger.

great idea for the graphic, have a great weekend!

4 users have voted.
QMS's picture

@joe shikspack

tend to be a bit more upsetting than a little face with unfrozen cream dribbling down chin-ward. But the idea is the same. Who wants to shove the most dogs down the throat in the least amount of time for a trophy? Irregardless of cousin stomach. Another stupid people trick.

Biden is good at that.

4 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

joe shikspack's picture


heh, that brings back memories. back when i was a kid, there was a place downtown in baltimore called polock johnny's that had an annual hotdog eating contest. it was a pretty big deal back then and the local champion was a guy named "hog jaws."

it was the sort of event that biden would have fit right into.

5 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

@joe shikspack
You make sure that you have one too.

5 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 --

Azazello's picture

@enhydra lutris
I'll do a little landscaping around the old rancho and then I'll BBQ a chicken.
And drink some beers.
Let the world go to Hell, I'm gonna' enjoy what I can, while I can.

5 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


have a fabulous weekend!

Let the world go to Hell, I'm gonna' enjoy what I can, while I can.

heh ...

4 users have voted.
travelerxxx's picture


It'll be a lazy morning when you arise...

3 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

and other leaders have been condemned because they attacked their own citizens right? Well here's Macron's decision to send his army into the streets to put down the protests. The troops that have been fighting against the terrorists that their government armed and that once attacked their country. The failed logic here would be ironic if it wasn't sad. Wonder if our media will give this the same amount of coverage it did for the Libyan and Venezuelan protests? Nah. I'm not really wondering that at all.

After the October 1917 Revolution in Russia during World War I, which saw mass mutinies in the French army, the government decided it could no longer trust the army for domestic policing. “After the victory and the sacrifices of the 1914–1918 war, it was no longer possible to use the victorious army for internal operations,” Berlière said. Asked whether the French army was active after World War I in domestic policing inside the borders of current-day France, he added: “Basically, no. The political risk was too great: what would be the attitude of the conscripts?”

Sure would love to know what Macron's end game is here. This is not going to end well.

7 users have voted.

America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

joe shikspack's picture


Sure would love to know what Macron's end game is here.

i can help you with that. macron will do whatever it takes to hold onto power and maintain the neoliberal control.

This is not going to end well.

probably not. i don't see the powers that be having any willingness to back down.

6 users have voted.
GreatLakeSailor's picture


5 users have voted.

Compensated Spokes Model for Big Poor & Big Peace.