The Evening Blues - 4-18-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b group Archie Bell & The Drells. Enjoy!
Archie Bell & The Drells - Tighten Up
“The concept of good versus evil is a handy construct for framing a narrative. When you see someone applying that concept to real-world events, however, be aware that you're in the presence of a peddler of fiction.”
-- Stewart Stafford
News and Opinion
Members of the United States Congress criticised President Donald Trump's veto of a resolution that would have ended US military support for the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen, calling it a "missed opportunity".
"From a president elected on the promise of putting a stop to our endless wars, this veto is a painful missed opportunity," said Democrat Ro Khanna, who was the lead sponsor of the bill in the US House of Representatives. ...
Advocates for the Yemen resolution are likely to turn their attention now to legislation in the House that would ban further US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and a bill in the Senate that would also impose financial sanctions on individual Saudis. ...
Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, introduced legislation in January with bipartisan support that would stop all arms sales and US aid to Saudi Arabia. The bill is pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In the Senate, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has introduced a bill that calls for an end to the war in Yemen, and would impose financial and travel sanctions on individual Saudis. It is pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A federal appeals court dealt another severe blow to the beleaguered Guantanamo Bay military tribunals Tuesday, tossing out three years worth of rulings in a key terror case after deciding the judge overseeing the proceedings did not appear to be impartial.
In a blistering opinion, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Air Force Col. Vance Spath created “an intolerable cloud of partiality” over the military commission by pursuing a job at the Justice Department while simultaneously presiding over the case against Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000.
The unanimous opinion from a three-judge panel also accused Spath of a “lack of candor” for obscuring his pending job change by not revealing it when he halted proceedings in the case in July 2018.
Judge David Tatel said that under the circumstances, Al-Nashiri had “a clear and indisputable right to relief.” ...
Tuesday’s ruling is yet another setback for the tribunal system. The order included an extraordinary rebuke of military judges, prosecutors and other officials for failing to ensure that the commission process remained free of bias and the appearance of bias.
“Criminal justice is a shared responsibility. Yet in this case, save for Al-Nashiri’s defense counsel, all elements of the military commission system—from the prosecution team to the Justice Department to the [Court of Military Commission Review] to the judge himself—failed to live up to that responsibility,” Tatel wrote. “And we cannot dismiss Spath’s lapse as a one-time aberration, as Al-Nashiri’s is not the first meritorious request for recusal that our court has considered with respect to military commission proceedings.”
Ever since Donald Trump was elected president we have heard a lot about people who call themselves the “resistance.” That word has very significant meaning and should not be used frivolously. The enslaved Haitian people resisted the French 200 years ago. Harriet Tubman resisted and so did Tecumseh. Brave people all over the world have resisted colonial invasion, occupation, and racist violence. But resistance for the anti-Trump group doesn’t amount to very much. They are united in dislike of Donald Trump, but only some of the time. They call him a fascist, but they mute themselves when his fascism supports the bipartisan imperialist consensus.
The so-called resistance have been conspicuously silent ever since Julian Assange was arrested after Ecuador withdrew his asylum from its London embassy. Under the guise of defending the press, this same group became hysterical when Trump had a stupid argument with a CNN reporter.They are enraged when he refers to the media as “enemies of the people.” But when publisher and journalist Julian Assange was snatched up by the U.S. and its vassal states they either said nothing or condemned a man whose actions are the very embodiment of resistance. ...
This resistance is little more than a collective hissy fit from dead ender Democrats who insist on following a party that can’t even reliably stay in office. They have spent the last three years railing against Trump but bite their tongues when he commits an act that reeks of fascist ideology. ... Liberals are just as much true believers in imperialism as the right wing they claim to oppose.They are nothing if not consistent. When the Trump administration announced the coup attempt against the Venezuelan government the resistance didn’t resist at all.
Instead they repeated talking points from the New York Timesand National Public Radio which labeled the elected Venezuelan president a brutal dictator. They didn’t question the United States claim of a right to undo the will of people in another country. Some gave wishy washy criticism of military intervention but none of them questioned an intervention which is fascist by any definition. ...
Attacking the person who revealed war crimes is compliance in the service of the state. Perhaps this group needs a new name. They should be honest and call themselves the conformists.
Donald Trump has taken another step towards reversing Barack Obama’s historic rapprochement with Cuba with a measure that earned swift criticism from allies in Canada and Europe. The US announced on Wednesday that it would enable lawsuits against foreign companies that use properties nationalised by the communist government after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
The policy shift, which could draw hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billion of dollars, aims to put pressure on Cuba at a moment when the US is demanding an end to Havana’s support for Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolás Maduro.
It was condemned by Cuba as “an attack on international law” and by Canada and the European Union as “regrettable”, since their companies have significant investments in hotels, distilleries, tobacco factories and other properties on the island. Title III of the Helms-Burton Act had been fully waived by every president over the past 23 years due to concerns from the international community and fears that it could overwhelm US courts with lawsuits.
But Trump, who has made a habit of breaking from his predecessors, gave the go-ahead for it to be activated. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said that, for the first time, US citizens will be able to bring lawsuits against individuals trafficking in property that was confiscated by the Cuban regime. ...
James Williams, president of the pressure group Engage Cuba said: “President Trump is doing this for one reason, and one reason only: to appease fringe hardliners in South Florida ahead of the 2020 election. The only way to get property claimants what they deserve is through diplomatic negotiations, which President Trump just threw off the table.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the testing of a new type of tactical guided weapon on Wednesday, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday. It is North Korea’s first public weapons test since the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement in February.
KCNA did not describe exactly what the weapon is, including whether it was a missile or another type of weapon, but “tactical” implies a short-range weapon, as opposed to the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States. Nevertheless, the missile has a “peculiar mode of guiding flight” and “a powerful warhead,” KCNA said. ...
Meanwhile, satellite images from last week show movement at North Korea’s main nuclear site that could be associated with the reprocessing of radioactive material into bomb fuel, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the United States said on Tuesday. “Kim is trying to make a statement to the Trump administration that his military potential is growing by the day,” said Harry Kazianis, an analyst at the Center for the National Interest. “His regime is becoming frustrated with Washington’s lack of flexibility in recent negotiations.”
An Israeli court on Tuesday ordered the deportation of Human Rights Watch's Omar Shakir over his advocacy work against illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The court's decision marks the first time Israel's draconian "anti-boycott law" has been applied to someone already legally present in the country.
Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine director, has called on businesses to "cease operations" in illegal Israeli settlements and expressed support for individuals' right to participate in boycotts against Israel.
Israel said Shakir's advocacy work amounts to support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS), which the country has criminalized.
Tom Porteous, deputy program director at HRW, said in a statement that Israel's efforts to deport Shakir are part of a broader attempt to muzzle critics of the country's brutal occupation of Palestinian territories. "Israel portrays itself as the region's only democracy, but is set to deport a rights defender over his peaceful advocacy," said Porteous.
Half of England is owned by less than 1% of its population, according to new data shared with the Guardian that seeks to penetrate the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded land ownership. The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country. The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across the entire population, each person would have almost an acre – an area roughly the size of Parliament Square in central London. Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson.
While land has long been concentrated in the hands of a small number of owners, precise information about property ownership has been notoriously hard to access. But a combination of the development of digital maps and data as well as pressure from campaigners has made it possible to assemble the shocking statistics. Jon Trickett, Labour MP and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, hailed the significance of the findings and called for a full debate on the issue, adding: “The dramatic concentration of land ownership is an inescapable reminder that ours is a country for the few and not the many.
Guy Shrubsole, author of the book in which the figures are revealed, Who Owns England?, argues that the findings show a picture that has not changed for centuries. “Most people remain unaware of quite how much land is owned by so few,” he writes, adding: “A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.” ... Shrubsole estimates that 18% of England is owned by corporations, some of them based overseas or in offshore jurisdictions. He has based this calculation on a spreadsheet of land owned by all UK-registered companies that has been released by the Land Registry. From this spreadsheet, he has listed the top 100 landowning companies.
Addressing Ireland’s parliament in Dublin on Wednesday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized control of American foreign policy in relation to Brexit, saying that Congress would block any new trade deal with the United Kingdom if Britain’s exit from the European Union threatens the peace in Northern Ireland.
After introducing the slew of Irish-American lawmakers traveling with her, Pelosi praised the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to the British-governed territory of Northern Ireland in 1998 and removed the need for customs and security checkpoints along its border with Ireland.
Nancy Pelosi tells the Oireachtas that "we must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday Accord, including, but not limited to, the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland" pic.twitter.com/OjhsI2YGQB
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 17, 2019
“Let me be clear,” Pelosi added, “if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday accords, there would be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.”
Attorney General William Barr delivered a full-throated defense of President Donald Trump Thursday, using Trump’s own repeated claim — “no collusion” — to describe the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, even before the public or Congress has had a chance to see it. ...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2019
Barr said that while the report showed Russia worked extensively to influence the election, no American was involved in the effort. As to whether the president obstructed justice by firing the head of the FBI, James Comey, Barr said he concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to reach a determination, despite Mueller laying out 10 accounts of potential obstruction and supporting legal theories. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, however, “disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories.”
“Although the deputy attorney general and I disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision,” Barr said Thursday. “Instead, we accepted the special counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the special counsel in reaching our conclusion.”
Barr justified the decision not to charge the president with obstruction in part on a reading of President Trump's intent. He was angry at the two-year investigation, Barr said, and therefore not trying to obstruct justice, avoid questions, or contest the findings. He was just mad and frustrated at being investigated in the first place.
Donald Trump’s claims of vindication after the release of Robert Mueller’s report on Thursday were quickly drowned out by furious Democrats, who pointed to a wealth of evidence the president attempted to obstruct justice and demanded fresh hearings into potentially criminal conduct.
Republican hopes of drawing a line under the affair were dashed as the bombshell document threatened to reopen debate over impeachment and raised questions over the futures of William Barr, the attorney general, and Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, both accused of misleading the public. The timing of the report was fortunate for Trump, with Congress not in session and Washington winding down for Easter. Initial reaction was perhaps preordained by a four-page summary released by Barr last month and offered a textbook example of Washington’s bitter partisanship and polarization.
Republicans circled the wagons and claimed exoneration again. Speaking at the White House, Trump said: “This should never happen to another president again. This hoax – it should never happen to another president again.” ... There was also a preview of how Trump will attempt to use the report in next year’s presidential election, arguing that it was cooked up by Democrats and anti-Trump officials in an attempt to thwart his supporters. His re-election campaign said in a statement: “Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.”
But if the White House hopes the nation is ready to move on, it is likely to be disappointed. Mueller offered plenty of fodder for Democrats and other critics of the president, including detailing Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice and remove Mueller that were prevented only by those around him.
Attorney Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard professor and lawyer for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, is the subject of a new defamation lawsuit from one of Epstein’s accusers.
In the suit, Virginia L. Giuffre, previously known as Virginia Roberts, said that she was a victim of sex trafficking and abuse by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein over a decade ago and that Dershowitz falsely claimed she had fabricated the accusations. The suit alleges that Dershowitz "was also a participant in sex trafficking, including as one of the men to whom Epstein lent out Plaintiff for sex."
Dershowitz has adamantly denied the allegations.
Giuffre says in the in the suit filed Tuesday that she was the victim of sex trafficking and abuse by Epstein during 2000 to 2002, beginning when she was 16 years old. "When Epstein was arrested for sex trafficking in 2006, Dershowitz defended his friend and client by falsely attacking the veracity of his accusers, including calling the children whom Epstein had abused [and, in the case of Plaintiff, the Defendant himself had also abused], liars and prostitutes,” the defamation suit filed by Giuffre says.
The case of a white police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man in Alabama three years ago is now on its ninth judge. Eight judges have dropped out as the case makes its way to trial, with the eighth recusing himself earlier this week, just a few days after being appointed.
A Montgomery police officer, Aaron Smith, is to face a jury over the killing of Greg Gunn, who fled a random stop-and-frisk and was chased, shocked, beaten and then shot five times in 2016, by Smith while he was on duty. Smith has argued that he acted in self-defense. Sam Welch became the eighth judge assigned to the case last Friday and then recused himself this week.
The state supreme court has now ranged further afield from Montgomery and tapped the retired Dale county circuit judge Philip Ben McLauchlin, in a ninth attempt to pick a judge to hear the case, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. Welch is a former presiding judge of the state court of criminal appeals who said he had denied motions asking for another judge’s recusal.
National Republicans picked up the tab for the legal defense of a North Carolina congressional candidate whose campaign illegally solicited and forged absentee ballots in the state’s 9th District, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission. The attorney has been accused by the North Carolina State Board of Elections of improperly withholding documents that would help expose the fraud.
Financing the legal defense implicates national Republicans in the scandal, but it hasn’t stopped them from exploiting it to push new voter suppression laws. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have both spoken out about ballot harvesting in the 9th District, without naming the party as the culprit, using the episode to justify their push for stricter voter ID laws and attempting to curtail early voting.
The National Republican Congressional Committee paid $157,303 to a Raleigh-based law firm representing Mark Harris, whose apparent narrow victory in a November election led to an investigation into election fraud.
John Branch, a lawyer with Shanahan McDougal Law Group, represented Harris while he testified before the state election board in February about his campaign’s scheme. The NRCC made the payments to Shanahan McDougal over a three-month period starting in December, the federal disclosures show.
Branch’s representation of Harris for potentially breaking the law itself has raised ethical questions. The lawyer withheld documents during the hearing, and the election board chair called his actions “unacceptable.”
More detail at the link.
All of the Democratic presidential candidates have committed to rejecting the influence of special interests. To demonstrate their resolve, several of the candidates have promised to power their White House ambitions without a single dollar of lobbyist money. In the waves of small-dollar donations reported on Monday — the first financial disclosure reporting period of the 2020 presidential race — lobbyist money had made its way into the coffers of major candidates’ campaigns.
Beto O’Rourke is one of the candidates who had pledge to run a campaign financed only by regular people — “not PACs, not lobbyists, not corporations, and not special interests.” His latest filing, however, shows that he accepted donations from a federal utility-company lobbyist and a top Chevron lobbyist in New Mexico.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has also collected donations from registered corporate lobbyists in South Carolina, New York, and California. Several technology lobbyists from San Francisco have given to her campaign. Another Harris donor, Robert Crowe, from the firm, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, is a federal lobbyist who has worked to influence Congress on behalf of pipeline firm EQT Corporation and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., similarly announced that he would eschew campaign donations from federal lobbyists, and his campaign appears to be making most of the caveat about “federal” lobbyists. Though he has returned donations from lobbyists registered under the federal government’s system, Booker has taken half a dozen donations from lobbyists registered under state and municipal lobbyist registration laws, but who do not appear in federal disclosures.
Obama told an audience in Berlin, Germany (HuffPost, 6/4/19):
One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States…is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, “I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,” and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a circular firing squad, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues, and when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.
In the political world, the term “purity test” has a very specific meaning, largely used by elites to chastise and attack the left, or to gaslight them into supporting more centrist or right-wing policies. Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi (4/24/17), for example, bemoaned the ideological “activists” infiltrating the Democratic Party, undermining “more pragmatic party leaders everywhere” with their “purity tests.” She highlighted the supposed “danger” in “pushing the party too far to the left and imposing rigid orthodoxy,” warning that they are creating a “one-size party suitable only for zealots.” ...
It is often made explicit that “purity test” is merely code for the Democratic base wanting more leftist policies, and being disgruntled with politicians who block them. The Denver Post (1/31/19) described Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper as a progressive, pragmatic and “moderate problem-solver” in favor of “bipartisanship,” under attack from the “hard-core” left who demand “drastic” change. Their “purity test,” wrote the Post, will destroy a candidate with perhaps the most “credible” chance to beat Trump.
In contrast, behavior or policies imposed on the left from establishment Democrats are rarely if ever framed as a “purity test.” For example, Sanders appointed Briahna Joy Gray as his press secretary, who had previously declared she voted for the Green Party’s Jill Stein in 2016. Instead of this being seen as the party expanding its appeal to third-party voters, it produced a scandal among liberals on social media. For many, it was proof, as they had been saying all along, that Bernie was not a real Democrat—in other words, it was an opportunity for them to excommunicate an ally for being insufficiently orthodox.
On this story, New York magazine (3/20/19) described Sanders’ campaign as an “irrational cult” of “left-wing factionalists” that were attempting to “split the party” by “intentionally misleading” voters. These kind of attacks are not seen as “purity tests,” however.
Bernie Sanders 'Raises the Bar Even Further' on Climate With Vow to Ban Fracking, All New Fossil Fuel Projects
Bernie Sanders won praise from environmental groups after releasing a climate platform that calls for a complete ban on fracking, a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure, an end to oil exports, and a Green New Deal. "Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet," the Vermont senator and 2020 contender wrote on the climate page of his website, which was unveiled this week.
If elected president, Sanders said, his administration will work to:
- Pass a Green New Deal to save American families money and generate millions of jobs by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A Green New Deal will protect workers and the communities in which they live to ensure a transition to family-sustaining wage, union jobs.
- Invest in infrastructure and programs to protect the frontline communities most vulnerable to extreme climate impacts like wildfires, sea level rise, drought, floods, and extreme weather like hurricanes.
- Reduce carbon pollution emissions from our transportation system by building out high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit.
- Ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground by banning fossil fuel leases on public lands.
- End exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.
Sanders' climate platform comes just days after fellow 2020 hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) vowed that her administration would ban fossil fuel drilling offshore and on public lands on day one.
A new study highlights the importance of ensuring that the global transition to 100 percent clean power—which scientists say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe—doesn't rely on dirty mining for metals used in renewable energy and storage technologies. The report, entitled Responsible Minerals Sourcing for Renewable Energy (pdf), was prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) for Earthworks, as part of the U.S. nonprofit's new "Making Clean Energy Clean, Just & Equitable" initiative. It was released Wednesday.
"As we scale up clean energy technologies in pursuit of our necessarily ambitious climate goals, we must protect community health, water, human rights, and the environment," said Payal Sampat, director of Earthworks' Mining Program. "We have an opportunity, if we act now," Sampat added, "to ensure that our emerging clean energy economy is truly clean—as well as just and equitable—and not dependent on dirty mining."
The report offers an assessment of projected demand for metals often used in electric vehicles (EV), lithium-ion batteries, wind turbines, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and other renewable energy infrastructure. The report also details the potential to decrease demand for certain minerals through efficiency and recycling, and identifies "hotspots" around the world "where opportunities to reduce demand and influence responsible sourcing initiatives will be most needed." ...
Of all the metals studied, copper, lithium, silver, and rare earths present the biggest challenges for substitution, efficiency, and recycling, for a variety of reasons.
As the report explains:
Copper is used in all technologies, and is difficult to substitute, as it is used for its high electrical conductivity. Lithium is challenging to substitute as it is used in the dominant battery technologies, as well as technologies predicted to be important in future, and currently only has limited recycling from batteries. Silver is used in 95 percent of PV panels, and while the industry is continuously increasing its efficiency in material use, it is not currently recycled and is technologically difficult to do so. Similarly, the rare earths neodymium and dysprosium are not currently recycled, and substitution is possible but currently nearly all EVs use this technology.
Given the challenges for those particular minerals as well as the broad environmental and human costs of current mining practices, ISF research director Sven Teske emphasized the need to prioritize improving extraction processes along with transformative climate policies. "The responsible materials transition," said Teske, "will need to be scaled up just as ambitiously as the 100 percent renewable energy transition."
There have been more than 400 arrests linked to the Extinction Rebellion protests across London and reports suggest the capital’s cells are rapidly filling up.
The Metropolitan police would not release up-to-date figures on cell capacity, but data from two years ago showed they had 799 cells available across London. With cuts to policing budgets, this number is likely to have fallen, so reports that cell space is under pressure are credible.
Extinction Rebellion protesters, activists and legal observers have told Guardian reporters some of those arrested are being taken to police stations outside London, with several saying demonstrators are being taken to Luton, while others mentioned Brighton and Essex. ...
However, despite the volume of arrests, anecdotal evidence from those on the ground suggests the police are approaching the protests with a distinctly lighter touch. One legal observer said the diminishing capacity might be a reason why police were arresting people so slowly. “The other thing is that if they come in and do a mass arrest, they might lose public support,” she added.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Archie Bell & The Drells - Wrap It Up
Archie Bell & The Drells - Do The Hand Jive
Archie Bell & The Drells - Dog Eat Dog
Archie Bell & The Drells - Who's Loving You
Archie Bell And The Drells - There's Gonna Be A Showdown
Archie Bell & The Drells - I Can't Stop Dancing
Archie Bell & The Drells - Love Will Rain On You
Archie Bell & The Drells - Here I Go Again
Archie Bell & The Drells - Mama Didn't Teach Me That Way
Archie Bell & The Drells - I've Been Trying
Archie Bell & The Drells - One Night Affair
Archie Bell & The Drells - Jammin' In Houston