The Evening Blues - 6-22-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues guitarist Ronnie Earl. Enjoy!
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters - So Many Roads, So Many Trains
“Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.
Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.
They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”
-- Henry A. Wallace
News and Opinion
The fucking #Resistance strikes again:
While the world continues to be transfixed over the gruesome images coming from the border, business went on as usual in Washington. Earlier this week, the Senate quietly passed the $716 billion "John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019." The bill, which passed 85-10 in a massive show of bipartisan support, represents a considerable boost in defense spending across the board – roughly $82 billion just for next year. ...
But the problem with the defense bill, at least in terms of attracting coverage, is that it's also a big win for almost every other major political constituency in Washington. Spending on defense lobbying has actually been dropping slightly in recent years, but that may only be because the opposition to defense spending has become so anemic that lobbyists don’t really need to bother anymore. Historically, both parties reflexively vote to increase the defense budget, and there was not much #resistance in Congress on this issue. Opposition even to the bill’s quirks was limited, and overall opposition to the huge increase in spending was virtually nonexistent outside a few voices. ...
Trump is proud of his numerous Time covers, wonder what he'll make of this one pic.twitter.com/l4QrhFUCJo
— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) June 21, 2018
Putting little kids in camps. Kids of a certain kind, in camps of a certain kind. Where they are not allowed to hug or be hugged. Where the lights stay on 24 hours a day. Where their diapers aren’t changed. Where they are separated from their siblings and parents. Where soothing these damaged kids has itself become a crime.
Hold on , let’s start over.
Putting little kids in camps where they are, for all intents and purposes, by any reasonable definition of the word, being tortured. If to be tortured is to be left severely traumatized by abuse, then the bar has been met. ... These are self-evidently among the lowest and most debased things that a people can do. But what do the acts above mean — to history, to the world, to the future, and to our better selves? What is the exact word we would use to describe them? What word contains them?
“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Responsibility for unaccompanied children and families who arrive in the U.S. via the southern border appeared to shift to the U.S. military on Thursday, as the Trump administration called on the Pentagon to make preparations to house approximately 20,000 children on military bases.
Following President Donald Trump's executive order in which he directed federal agencies to prepare detention facilities to house families together and to end the forcible separation of families, Pentagon officials agreed to determine whether military bases in Arkansas and Texas could house families and unaccompanied minors.
According to the Washington Post, the arrangement would involve housing children on military bases for at least six months, until the end of 2018.
The deal between the Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees the care and supervision of unaccompanied children who immigrate to the U.S. via the southern border, follows reports that Defense Secretary James Mattis would send more than 20 military attorneys to border states to assist in prosecuting immigrants.
An excellent article worth reading in full:
Central American migrants – particularly unaccompanied minors – are again crossing the U.S.-Mexico boundary in large numbers.
U.S. military presence in Honduras and the roots of Honduran migration to the United States are closely linked. ... As part of its effort to overthrow the Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua and “roll back” the region’s leftist movements, the Reagan administration “temporarily” stationed several hundred U.S. soldiers in Honduras. Moreover, it trained and sustained Nicaragua’s “contra” rebels on Honduran soil, while greatly increasing military aid and arm sales to the country. The Reagan years also saw the construction of numerous joint Honduran-U.S. military bases and installations. Such moves greatly strengthened the militarization of Honduran society. In turn, political repression rose. There was a dramatic increase in the number of political assassinations, “disappearances” and illegal detentions. The Reagan administration also played a big role in restructuring the Honduran economy. It did so by strongly pushing for internal economic reforms, with a focus on exporting manufactured goods. It also helped deregulate and destabilize the global coffee trade, upon which Honduras heavily depended. These changes made Honduras more amenable to the interests of global capital. They disrupted traditional forms of agriculture and undermined an already weak social safety net. ...
The 2009 coup [aginst liberal reformer President Manuel Zelaya], more than any other development, explains the increase in Honduran migration across the southern U.S. border in the last few years. The Obama administration played an important role in these developments. ... Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in particular, sent conflicting messages, and worked to ensure that Zelaya did not return to power. ... Several months after the coup, Clinton supported a highly questionable election aimed at legitimating the post-coup government. ...
Since the coup, writes historian Dana Frank, “a series of corrupt administrations has unleashed open criminal control of Honduras, from top to bottom of the government.” Organized crime, drug traffickers and the country’s police heavily overlap. Impunity reigns in a country with frequent politically-motivated killings. ... Meanwhile, post-coup governments have intensified an increasingly unregulated, “free market” form of capitalism that makes life unworkable for many. Government spending on health and education, for example, has declined in Honduras. Meanwhile, the country’s poverty rate has risen markedly. These contribute to the growing pressures that push many people to migrate, raising ethical questions about the responsibility of the United States toward those now fleeing from the ravages U.S. policy has helped to produce.
Governors around the country are refusing to send their state's National Guard troops to the border while the Trump administration continues its policy of separating undocumented children from their parents. President Donald Trump asked for states to contribute National Guard resources to assist with immigration enforcement in April. But the National Guard can only provide tactical or indirect support. Those troops can’t enforce immigration laws — and can’t be involved at all without the approval of state governors.
So far, at least three governors have pulled National Guard resources from the border, and seven are refusing to send any at all in response to the administration's “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which effectively separates children from their parents. And two of the states, Massachusetts and Maryland, are led by Republican governors.
Of the states that continue to support the National Guard efforts at the border, one blue state is particularly notable: California, which has acted as a bastion for the Trump resistance. Gov. Jerry Brown’s office told VICE News he’s reviewing the situation but won’t pull National Guard resources from the border just yet. The state currently has about 250 National Guard troops deployed at the border. Brown, however, has been vocal about his opposition to the “zero tolerance” policy, calling it “callous” and “insensitive.”
In the latest expression of widespread public opposition to the Trump administration’s illegal immigration policies, more than 100 Microsoft employees signed an open letter to CEO Satya Nadella published on Tuesday, calling on the company to immediately cancel its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The letter makes reference to the Trump administration’s policy of separating parents from children and detaining toddlers in cages inside internment camps. It declares that Microsoft must put “children and families above profits. Therefore, we ask that Microsoft cancel its contracts with [ICE] immediately, including contracts with clients who support ICE. We also call on Microsoft to draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Microsoft nor its contractors will work with clients who violate international human rights law.”
The letter came a day after the exposure of Microsoft’s efforts to cover up evidence of its collaboration with ICE. On Monday, the company’s website temporarily removed parts of a January 24 blog post by General Manager Tom Keane that gloated about the company’s work with the agency. ... Keane’s post declared that Microsoft’s Azure Government program would now be able to host ICE’s “most sensitive unclassified data.” This was “a critical next step in enabling ICE to deliver such services as cloud-based identity and access,” he said. ICE agents who carry out mass round-ups of immigrant workers and their families would be able to “make more informed decisions faster,” while Azure Government would enable them to “process data on edge [mobile] devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.”
On Monday, the company released a statement declaring that it was not working with ICE on projects “related to separating children from their families at the border,” and that “we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose.” Responding to this statement, the Microsoft workers’ letter declares: “This does not go far enough. We are providing the technical undergirding in support of an agency that is actively enforcing this inhumane policy. We request that Microsoft cancel its contracts with ICE, and with other clients who directly enable ICE. As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit. We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.”
This is a reference to growing opposition by Google and other technology workers to the integration of the giant technology corporations into the repressive apparatus of the state, including the police and the military.
One of the country’s largest operators of private immigration detention facilities has made significant contributions to several Texas members of Congress. The GEO Group’s PAC and executives have given $32,900 to Houston Republican Rep. John Culberson’s campaign this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org. GEO is Culberson's largest donor.
In Texas, GEO operates detention centers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Karnes City, Laredo, Pearsall and Conroe. ... Culberson received the most funding from GEO out of Texas members of Congress, but GEO is also the top donor this cycle for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who received $32,400, and Round Rock Republican Rep. John Carter, who received $31,600.
Both Culberson and Cuellar serve on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, which funds private immigration detention centers. Culberson is also the chairman of and Carter serves on the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science, which oversees funding for private prisons.
GEO has come under scrutiny by immigrant rights organizations for alleged mismanagement and abuse in detention facilities. GEO faced class-action lawsuits in which detainees alleged that they were forced to work. In a GEO facility in California, three detainees died in custody. The American Civil Liberties Union accused GEO of denying detainees food, water and bathroom access.
Online court records show a change of plea hearing is scheduled Tuesday for former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner. U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Ian Prior confirmed by email that Winner plans to plead guilty.
The docket shows a plea agreement was filed Thursday, but it isn't publicly accessible. ...
Winner's mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told The Associated Press by phone Thursday that she understood her daughter planned to plead guilty, but didn't have any other details.
Nearly three years after Greece’s ruling party Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) contemptuously defied an overwhelming “no” vote in a referendum on its austerity policies, it is once again preparing to impose harsh measures on workers, retirees and young people. Last week, on June 14, the Greek parliament voted in favour of a legislative package which claims to mark Greece’s exit of the so-called “rescue program” set for August 20. But in fact, the new legislation is the prelude to further social attacks that go far beyond all previous austerity programs. ...
The measures will result in additional pension cuts of up to 18 percent beginning January 1, 2019. At the same time, pension contributions will be increased. Greek pensioners have already been hit by at least 23 rounds of cuts in recent years. They have protested against the cuts on a number of occasions, only to be attacked by police using tear gas. Due to the drastic level of unemployment, entire families are now dependent on the pensions of parents or grandparents. The new pension cuts will hit all of society.
On January 1, 2020, the tax-free allowance will be reduced [...] workers or pensioners with a monthly income of just 500 euros will have to pay taxes. ... However, the most comprehensive measures of the government bill are the broad guarantees for creditors enshrined in the legislative package. If Greece cannot pay one or more instalments on its huge debt-to-GDP bill of 180 percent over the next few years, creditors will be able to directly draw money from the privatization fund and sell up to 25 billion euros of Greek state-owned property. In effect, the government is mortgaging the country and handing it over on a plate to its creditors. ...
In its medium-term fiscal plan agreed along with the package, the government announced a primary surplus that exceeded the international austerity target of 3.5 percent of GDP. This surplus is allegedly to be used to finance “countermeasures” to benefit the working population, including an increase in the minimum wage. In fact, such promises are worthless and are mere window dressing aimed at disguising the real nature of the austerity policy. Even if the measures so loudly proclaimed by Syriza and the pro-government media were implemented, they would be mere chicken feed compared to the massive social cuts announced by the government in the same breath. In fact, it is highly unlikely that they will ever be implemented. ...
Workers responded angrily to the new round of austerity enforced by Syriza (now polling under 20 percent) by carrying out a number of strikes and protests last Thursday.
'Crisis of Trust': Poll Finds People Living in Democracies Think Governments Aren't Acting in Public Interest
Earlier this month, Dalia Research, Alliance of Democracies, and Rasmussen Global polled some 125,000 people across 50 countries, and found that those living in nations deemed "democractic"—based on Freedom House's latest index—have even less faith in government than those living in "non-democratic" states.
More than half of respondents in democratic countries said their voices "rarely" or "never" matter in politics, and 64 percent said they believe their government "rarely" or "never" acts in the interest of the public. In terms of citizens not believing their voices have an impact, Japan fared the worst, with a full 74 percent of people who said they felt their voice doesn't matter.
Austria, which has recently garnered international attention for the surging popularity of its far-right politicians, is the worst-ranked democracy in terms of acting in the public interest, and overall falls second to only the "partly free" Kenya. In the United States, 49 percent said their voice doesn't matter and 66 percent believe the government fails to serve the public.
Other key findings from all 50 surveyed countries include: more than half of citizens "don't trust the news they read," and nearly half "don't feel free to share political opinions in public." While citizens of democracies feel the most free to publicly discuss politics, a full 57 percent said they don't believe the news media gives them "balanced and neutral information."
Heh, another spectacular outburst from the deeply delusional Nikki Haley:
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has launched a scathing attack on the UN monitor on extreme poverty, dismissing his recent report on America that accuses Donald Trump of cruelly forcing millions of citizens into deprivation as “misleading and politically motivated”.
Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, said she was “deeply disappointed” that the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, had “categorically misstated the progress the United States has made in addressing poverty … in [his] biased reporting”. She added that in her view that “it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America” – which prompted puzzlement as Alston carried out his investigation at the formal invitation of the Trump administration.
Instead, Haley suggested, the UN monitor should have used his voice “to shine a light” on countries where governments were causing pain and suffering on their own people, such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The special rapporteur wasted the UN’s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world’s worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world.”
As part of the final week of Poor People's Campaign demonstrations leading up to the movement's Mass Rally and Moral Revival in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, hundreds of protesters joined together in chants and songs as they marched to and then were arrested outside of the U.S. Capitol Building on Thursday.
Organized by Rev. Drs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis, the movement takes inspiration from a campaign of the same name launched 50 years ago by Martin Luther King, Jr. Through a series of nationwide demonstrations in recent weeks, supporters have called for an immediate end to "systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the nation's distorted morality."
The focus of Thursday's demonstration, Barber told a crowd through a bullhorn, was "policy violence against families and children," which was only partly inspired by the Trump administration's highly contentious family separation policy.
"When we talk about policy violence, we mean snatching up not just children—brown children, because it wouldn't be happening any other way—and putting them in cages, but we also are talking about cutting healthcare. That's policy violence," Barber explained. "We're talking about protecting gun companies and not protecting our children. We're talking about refusing a living wage—that's violent. We're talking about cutting Medicare and Medicaid by $2 trillion, proposing it, that's violence."
As members of the movement chanted "Stop the war! Feed the poor!" outside the Capitol, inside the building, members of the U.S. House were narrowly passing a Farm Bill which demonstrates that, as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) put it, "Republicans are waging war on anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs." ...
On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to travel to D.C. to participate in the #PoorPeoplesCampaign protest on the National Mall.
On Saturday, June 23, thousands of peaceful justice warriors from across the country will travel by bus, train, caravan and carpool for a #MoralRevolution on the National Mall! Get on board and come join the #PoorPeoplesCampaign in DC: https://t.co/SoazpfyBwU pic.twitter.com/04UXQgh5CL
— Poor People's Campaign (@UniteThePoor) June 21, 2018
At the Vatican, the pope faced down a conference full of oil industry executives – the basic argument that fossil fuel reserves must be kept underground has apparently percolated to the top of the world’s biggest organization. And from Wall Street came welcome word that market perceptions haven’t really changed: even in the age of Trump, the fossil fuel industry has gone from the world’s surest bet to an increasingly challenged enterprise. Researchers at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis minced no words: “In the past several years, oil industry financial statements have revealed significant signs of strain: Profits have dropped, cash flow is down, balance sheets are deteriorating and capital spending is falling. The stock market has recognized the sector’s overall weakness, punishing oil and gas shares over the past five years even as the market as a whole has soared.”
The IEEFA report labeled the industry “weaker than it has been in decades” and laid out its basic frailties, the first of which is paradoxical. Fracking has produced a sudden surge of gas and oil into the market, lowering prices – which means many older investments (Canada’s tar sands, for instance) no longer make economic sense. Fossil fuel has been transformed into a pure commodity business, and since the margins on fracking are narrow at best, its financial performance has been woeful. The IEEFA describes investors as “shell-shocked” by poor returns.
The second weakness is more obvious: the sudden rise of a competitor that seems able to deliver the same product – energy – with cheaper, cleaner, better technologies. Tesla, sure – but Volkswagen, having come clean about the dirtiness of diesel, is going to spend $84bn on electric drivetrains. China seems bent on converting its entire bus fleet to electric power. Every week seems to bring a new record-low price for clean energy: the most recent being a Nevada solar plant clocking in at 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even with Trump’s tariffs on Chinese panels.
And the third problem for the fossil fuel industry? According to IEEFA, that would be the climate movement – a material financial risk to oil and gas companies. “In addition to traditional lobbying and direct-action campaigns, climate activists have joined with an increasingly diverse set of allies – particularly the indigenous-rights movement – to put financial pressure on oil and gas companies through divestment campaigns, corporate accountability efforts, and targeting of banks and financial institutions. These campaigns threaten not only to undercut financing for particular projects, but also to raise financing costs for oil and gas companies across the board.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ronnie Earl and Friends - Rock Me Baby
Ronnie Earl - Blues For Magic Sam
Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Heartbreak
Ronnie Earl - Right Place Wrong Time
Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Thank You, Mr. T- Bone
Ronnie Earl - Howlin' For My Darlin'
Ronnie Earl - T-Bone Boogie
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters - Blues For The West Side
Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - The Stumble
Ronnie Earl - Okie Dokie Stomp