The Evening Blues - 7-3-20


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Muddy Waters

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago blues musician Muddy Waters. Enjoy!

Muddy Waters - Sail On, Honey Bee

"[I]t's impossible to evade the fact that Endless War will inevitably degrade the citizenry of the country that engages in it. A country which venerates its military above all other institutions, which demands that its soldiers be spoken of only with religious-like worship, and which continuously indoctrinates its population to believe that endless violence against numerous countries is necessary and just - all by instilling intense fear of the minorities who are the target of that endless violence - will be a country filled with citizens convinced of the virtues and nobility of aggression."

-- Glenn Greenwald

News and Opinion

House Democrats, Working With Liz Cheney, Restrict Trump’s Planned Withdrawal of Troops From Afghanistan and Germany

The U.S. military has been fighting in Afghanistan for almost nineteen years. House Democrats, working in tandem with key pro-war GOP lawmakers such as Rep. Liz Cheney, are ensuring that continues. Last night, the House Armed Services Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment — jointly sponsored by Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado and Congresswoman Cheney of Wyoming — prohibiting the expenditure of monies to reduce the number of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan below 8,000 without a series of conditions first being met.

The imposed conditions are by no means trivial: for these troop reductions from Afghanistan to be allowed, the Defense Department must be able to certify, among other things, that leaving Afghanistan “will not increase the risk for the expansion of existing or formation of new terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan” and “will not compromise or otherwise negatively affect the ongoing United States counter terrorism mission against the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and associated forces.”

The Crow/Cheney amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last night passed by a vote of 45-11. The NDAA was then unanimously approved by the Committee by a vote of 56-0. It authorizes $740.5 billion in military spending — roughly three times more than the world’s second-highest spender, China. ...

The Crow/Cheney amendment impeding Trump’s withdrawal plan asserted that “a rapid military drawdown and a lack of United States commitment to the security and stability of Afghanistan would undermine diplomatic efforts for peace” (only the U.S. could malign a troop withdrawal plan after a 19 year-old war as “rapid”). Their amendment also claims that “the current agreement between the United States and the Taliban does not provide for the appropriate protections for vulnerable populations, does not create conditions for the rejection of violence and prevention of terrorist safe havens, and does not represent a realistic diplomatic solution, based on verifiable facts and conditions on the ground, that provides for long-term stability”

The NDAA that was approved last night by the Committee also imposed restrictions on Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Germany. Trump’s plan called for the removal of roughly 9,500 troops from German soil, reducing the number of U.S. troops in this extremely prosperous and rich European nation from 34,500 to 25,000. But by an overwhelming vote of 49-7, the Armed Service Committee approved an amendment to the NDAA that “bans the administration from lowering troop levels below current levels until 180 days after Pentagon leaders present a plan to Congress and certify it will not harm U.S. or allied interests.” Just as she did with Afghanistan, Congresswoman Cheney, to oppose this troop removal from Germany, cited — along with her Democratic Committee colleagues — the threat of Russia, now the all-purpose rationale for continuing endless U.S. imperialism and war, just as it was during the first Cold War.

Here Are the 16 Democrats Who Voted With GOP to Kill Amendment to Withdraw All US Troops, End Afghan War

A bipartisan Senate amendment to withdraw the remaining 8,600 U.S. troops from Afghanistan—ending a bloody war that has dragged on for nearly two decades—failed Wednesday after 16 Democrats joined 44 Republicans in voting to table the measure, effectively guaranteeing it will not be included in the chamber's $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act. ...

Below are the 16 members of the Senate Democratic caucus who voted with nearly every Republican to table the Afghanistan amendment:

  • Richard Blumenthal (Conn.)
  • Tom Carper (Del.)
  • Chris Coons (Del.)
  • Dianne Feinstein (Calif.)
  • Maggie Hassan (N.H.)
  • Doug Jones (Ala.)
  • Angus King (Maine)
  • Joe Manchin (W.Va.)
  • Bob Menendez (N.J.)
  • Chris Murphy (Conn.)
  • Jack Reed (R.I.)
  • Jacky Rosen (Nev.)
  • Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz)
  • Mark Warner (Va.)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)

Seriously, Get The Hell Out Of Afghanistan

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House Armed Services Committee has added a Liz Cheney-spearheaded amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which throws severe roadblocks in the Trump administration’s proposed scale-down of US military presence in Afghanistan and Germany.

As The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald notes, both parties advancing the amendment cited in their arguments the completely unsubstantiated intelligence leak that was recently published by credulous mass media reporters alleging that Russia has paid bounties to Taliban fighters for killing the occupying forces in Afghanistan. Yet another western imperialist agenda once again facilitated by unforgivably egregious journalistic malpractice in the mass media.

Every aspect of this development is enraging.

The mass media have continued to add to their mountain of Gish gallop fallacies promoting this narrative with a new Daily Beast report citing former senior Taliban figure Mullah Manan Niazi who asserts that “The Taliban have been paid by Russian intelligence for attacks on U.S. forces—and on ISIS forces—in Afghanistan from 2014 up to the present.” The Beast’s own article admits that its source has severe conflicts of interest and is believed to be a CIA asset by Taliban leadership, and that Niazi provided no evidence of any kind for his claim or any further details whatsoever.

These flimsy, poorly-sourced allegations are being hammered into mainstream liberal consciousness on a daily basis now in the exact same way the discredited Russiagate psyop was, and just like with Russiagate the narrative they are being used to shape helps advance military expansionism and new cold war escalations which just so happen to fit perfectly into pre-existing geostrategic agendas of planetary domination.

The way mainstream news outlets consistently refuse to account for a fact so obvious and indisputable as intelligence agencies being known liars should by itself be enough to discredit the entire institution of mass news reporting. Yet here we are with these reports being treated as established fact throughout the entire political/media class and down through the entire population of propagandized rank-and-file citizenry.

The Afghanistan Papers established conclusively that the occupation has been unwinnable and without a clear picture of what winning would even look like from the very beginning, and that this fact has been hidden from the world by systematic deceit for two decades. The revelation was in the news for a day and then quickly memory holed without having any meaningful impact on the dominant narrative about Afghanistan, and now the mainstream consensus is that even trying to reduce the number of troops there is a hazardous and outlandish notion.

This is because the mainstream consensus is shaped not by facts, but by narrative. We see this in the way the fact-filled Afghanistan Papers have played no role in shaping the dominant narrative about what should be done about the nineteen-year occupation, and we see it in the way the fact-free “bounty” narrative is shaping public opinion and determining US foreign policy. The propagandists who manufacture consent for imperialist agendas understand that truth and facts play far less of a role in what the propagandized consider important than does mindless repetition and emotion. ...

The continued Afghanistan occupation is like if the police stormed a house, shot a bunch of people, realized they got the wrong house and they’d never find the guy they were looking for by staying there, stayed anyway, moved in, and then years later said they can’t move out because they heard a rumor that the neighbors are trying to make them leave.

In a sane world it would be the violent invasion and occupation of sovereign nations which elicits outrage and opposition from elected officials and intense skepticism and critical reporting from prominent journalists. In today’s propaganda-maddened society we get the exact opposite: the invasions and occupations are treated as the normal default position and any attempt to end them is regarded as outlandish.

This cannot continue. We must find a way to awaken from the brainwashing and force it to end. Anyone who works to prevent this from happening is an enemy of human progress.

Shut It Down! Mass Organizing During Pandemic - Lisa Fithian interview!

Trump administration has no regrets about reopening push, says Mnuchin

The US treasury secretary has said the Trump administration has no regrets about pushing states to reopen their economies, as the country saw another day of more than 50,000 new daily cases on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins figures.

Asked if he regretted that the White House pressured states to reopen as quickly as possible despite the repeated warnings of the country’s top public health experts, Steven Mnuchin told a press conference on Thursday: “No, absolutely not.”

Cases are rising significantly in more than 40 states, particularly across southern and western America, with California, Florida and Texas – the three most populous states in the country – seeing record increases. Florida, among the states hardest hit by the June surge, reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, its largest spike so far.

The US recorded 50,655 new confirmed cases on Thursday, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. That represents a doubling of the daily total over the past month and is even higher than what the country witnessed during the most lethal phase of the crisis in April and May, when the New York area was the worst hotspot in the US. It was the second straight day in which daily US cases topped 50,000, with 51,200 new cases reported on Wednesday, a new record, according to Johns Hopkins.

Texas governor orders residents to wear face masks as coronavirus cases surge

The governor of Texas has ordered that face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state, in a dramatic ramping up of efforts to control a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The move marks a major reversal for Republican Greg Abbott, who had pushed Texas’s aggressive reopening of the state economy in May, and had previously said the government could not order individuals to wear masks. His prior virus-related orders had undercut efforts by local governments to enforce mask requirements.

But faced with rising numbers of newly confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus and a wave of hospitalizations, Abbott changed course with Thursday’s mask order. It requires “all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive Covid-19 cases, with few exceptions”.

“We are now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast, there is little margin for error,” Abbott said.

Texas reported 7,915 newly confirmed cases, a slight dip after passing the 8,000 mark for the first time on Wednesday. The 7,382 hospitalizations means the state has more than quadrupled its numbers in that category since the end of May.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley on Protests, Covid-19, and Police Brutality | RS Interview

What Media Aren’t Telling You About Reopening Risks

In the second half of June, the story of the United States’ coronavirus pandemic began to shift dramatically, as a massive surge in new infections took hold, particularly across states in the South and West that had previously been spared the worst of the outbreak. Media reports abruptly switched gears from declaring that reopening was proceeding with few ill effects (Reuters, 5/17/20; Tampa Bay Times, 5/28/20) to expressing alarm that health officials’ warnings against lifting social distancing restrictions too soon had been proven right—a cognitive dissonance perhaps most dramatically depicted in Oregon Public Broadcasting’s headline, “Oregon’s COVID-19 Spike Surprises, Despite Predictions of Rising Caseloads” (6/10/20).

Increasingly, the big story has been the litany of state moves to halt or roll back reopenings: A typical roundup in the New York Times (6/26/20) included closing bars in Texas and Florida, a full stay-at-home order in California’s Imperial County, and putting beaches off-limits in Miami-Dade County for the July 4th weekend.

“This is a very dangerous time,” declared Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, where new cases began rising on June 15, just over a month after the state allowed stores and businesses to reopen. “I think what is happening in Texas and Florida and several other states should be a warning to everyone.”

But a warning of what? While the question of how quickly to reopen will affect potentially millions of lives, equally important is asking what science can tell us about how to reopen. Health experts point to many lessons we can learn from the pandemic experience, both in the US and elsewhere, that can help inform which activities are safest (and most necessary) to resume—a discussion that is more useful than the media’s inclination toward simple debates about whether reopening is good or bad (LA Times, 5/14/20; New York Times, 5/20/20)

Among the most important conclusions:

1. Types of reopenings matter

While the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 at first seemed like an all-powerful threat that could be carried by everything from cardboard boxes to cats, public health officials have long since determined that infection is overwhelmingly via person-to-person encounters. This means that reducing face-to-face interaction time—or ensuring that it’s at least conducted while wearing masks, or in outdoor or well-ventilated spaces—is key to reducing risk. ...

Infectious disease experts have attempted to reduce this equation to simple mnemonics that will be easy to remember; Tulane University epidemiologist Susan Hassig has cited “the three D’s: diversity, distance and duration” (Business Insider, 6/8/20), while Ohio State’s William Miller created the rhyme “time, space, people, place” (NPR, 6/23/20). These were featured in the increasingly common articles attempting to rank which activities were riskiest, including some that assigned weirdly specific point scales to behaviors for anyone wondering whether they should go bowling or for a pontoon boat ride (MLive, 6/2/20).

But most of those articles entirely ignored one of the most widespread reopening activities: going back to work in shared office spaces. Infectious disease experts say that offices can be the perfect petri dishes for viral spread, involving gatherings of a large number of people, indoors, for a long time, with recirculated air. As one study (Business Insider, 4/28/20) of a coronavirus outbreak at a Seoul call center showed, the virus can quickly spread across an entire floor, especially in a modern open-plan office. In fact, the call center was doubly prone to viral spread, because its workers were all talking constantly, which previous studies have found to spread respiratory droplets just as effectively as coughing (Better Humans, 4/20/20)—a warning that was heavily noted in media’s coverage of the risks of chanting protestors (Washington Post, 5/31/20; Politico, 6/8/20), but notably missing from articles on the reopening of workplaces.

“They’re pretty high-risk spaces,” Boston University School of Public Health epidemiologist Eleanor Murray tells FAIR. “What we would like to see with offices, if people have to be there for the function of the office to work, is to keep the minimum number of people in at any given time.” (She also urges consideration of the risk to office cleaning workers, who are seldom included in back-to-work safety debates.)

This is especially key, adds Tulane’s Hassig, in office environments where co-workers are breathing the same air. Workers can safely unmask if they’re in a private office where they can shut their door, she tells FAIR; however, “if you’re in an open office space with little four-foot cubicle walls, everybody needs to be wearing masks all the time.”

Yet most states have limited themselves to following CDC guidelines for reopening offices, which mandate wearing masks only when within six feet of a co-worker. But as Bromage (5/6/20) has pointed out, “Social distancing rules are really to protect you with brief exposures or outdoor exposures.”

In fact, former Arizona Department of Health Services director Will Humble told Newsweek (6/9/20) that one reason his state became the nation’s leader in new infections per capita was that local officials did not go beyond CDC mandates to impose “performance criteria such as required business mitigation measures, contact tracing capacity or mask-wearing.” Hassig worries that the CDC’s guidance may have been “far less prescriptive than they would like it to be from the scientific perspective,” noting that “we’ve got plenty of evidence that distance is not enough if you’re in a shared space with lots of people.”

All of this would have been good for US workers returning to their jobs to know, but very little of it has made it into media coverage of reopenings, whether before or after the recent virus spikes. And the rare exceptions often left much to be desired: When CBS News (5/28/20) devoted time to investigating the dangers of reopening offices, it was solely in terms of whether plumbing systems left stagnant during closures could lead to the spread of Legionnaires’ disease.

2. Let science, not political power, guide health decisions

Because it takes at least two to three weeks for case numbers to noticeably rise in response to a change in social distancing rules, Hassig says, states should start slowly, and wait to see if numbers rise before moving on to the next stage of reopening. “If your reopening timetable is preset, that’s somewhat of a folly,” she says. Ideally, she says, after each change in policy, states should “wait at least three weeks to make a decision before you move on, which would mean that probably you’re really looking at a month in each phase. And that is not what Texas did.”

It’s also not how the Texas media presented reopening plans to the public. The Austin American Statesman (4/27/20, 5/1/20) dutifully listed types of businesses that would resume operations under Gov. Greg Abbott’s reopening order, but never cited any independent health officials on the risks each activity would entail. When the Dallas Morning News (4/30/20) ran answers to reader questions about the reopening, the only potential negative consequence it mentioned was whether Texans who refused to return to work could still get unemployment benefits. And the Houston Chronicle (4/30/20) declared, “No more stay-home. Just stay safe”—though the only “safety” measures it mentioned were those still being recommended by Abbott, such as wearing masks in public and limiting the size of gatherings. 

The New York Times (5/1/20), meanwhile, chose to both-sides the issue with a story headlined “A Texas-Size Reopening Has Many Wondering: Too Much or Not Enough?”

In doing so, the media largely followed the lead of elected officials, who in many cases let concern over profit-and-loss statements take precedence over whether the data indicated it was safe to resume business as usual. In Ohio, state officials went so far as to allow guidelines to be written by the businesses seeking to reopen themselves (Columbus Dispatch, 6/29/20), something health experts suspect helped lead to a tripling of daily new cases in the state between June 14 and June 25.

3. Learn from places that have done better

The Covid curves in many European and Asian nations that were hit the earliest and took the first and strongest action have remained low, despite reopenings in those nations: Italy, for example, once the world epicenter of the virus, currently has under three new cases per day per million residents, according to Johns Hopkins data—about half the infection rate for the least-hard-hit US state, Vermont.

Those nations, however, took very different approaches to reopening than the US. First off, they waited until case rates were much lower before reopening: When Italy first reopened restaurants on May 18, its daily new-case rate, averaged over the previous week, was 14.4 per million residents; when Florida did so on May 4, its average daily rate was 31.7 per million. “Where you start in terms of your case burden will probably wind up being one of the best predictors of how well your reopening went,” says Hassig.

In addition, the measures the European nations took to get cases down that low were much stricter than those ever implemented in the US—something that was largely overlooked in rundowns of nations imposing and lifting lockdowns (New York Times, 6/10/20; CNBC, 6/25/20). “What we were doing in the US compared to what Europe was doing in terms of lockdown are completely different things,” says Murray:

I have friends in France, and you had to have a permit that said what time you were allowed to go to the grocery store. So even the places in the US that did a gradual opening were already starting from a much more open place than places in Europe.

US residents can also learn from areas of their own country that have done comparatively well under reopenings. Hassig notes that New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish have provided an unintentional controlled experiment—albeit “a sample of one”—in the efficacy of wearing masks: “The mayor of New Orleans made masking mandatory in indoor spaces, which empowered businesses to put up signs like ‘No mask, no shoes, no shirt, no service.’”

The city, which had been an early Covid hotspot, also established a hotline to report violators, kept casinos closed longer, and kept tighter restrictions on such things as church gatherings—with the result, says Hassig, that Orleans Parish currently has less than half the new-case rate of the similarly sized Jefferson Parish. (On Monday, Jefferson Parish announced its own mandatory mask order—New Orleans Advocate, 6/29/20.)

4. Every reopening is a tradeoff

When media outlets posit the decision facing states as balancing the economic needs with public-health needs, it not only ignores that an out-of-control pandemic would be an economic catastrophe (Guardian, 3/26/20), but overlooks another important point: In reopening, governments have a limited amount of risk they can safely spread around without losing control of an outbreak. As a result, reopening decisions don’t just impact public health and the economy now—they also could end up undermining your ability to reopen other things down the road.

“It’s not ‘open’ or ‘shut’—there’s a whole spectrum in between,” says Murray. “We need to be thinking about what are the high-priority things that we need to reopen from a functioning point of view, and not an enjoyment point of view.”

If the goal is to prevent the kind of explosive surge in Covid cases that many states saw in March and April—and which are now being repeated in new hotspots in June and July—that means picking and choosing carefully, not just which activities are the safest, but which are the most urgent for a functioning society—which, it bears emphasizing, is not the same thing as what’s best for businesses’ bottom lines.

“We need to be getting dentists’ offices open and getting childcare open and getting elective medical treatment open; bars are not as important,” advises Murray. “It may be that we have to give up on some of those things to allow the risks that some of these other activities take.”

That’s a discussion that will require informed public debate on the conditions of reopening, from what should stay closed to whether to require masks. It’s a debate that will be much easier if the media spends less time on who is “winning” or “losing” in the struggle to reopen, and more on why people are getting infected—and how they could not be.

Battle for Venezuela gold | Maduro’s claim on $1bn shiny metal reserves rejected by British court

Trump Used Looted Venezuelan Public Money to Build Border Wall with Mexico

Since the United States initiated a coup attempt against Venezuela’s elected leftist government in January 2019, up to $24 billion worth of Venezuelan public assets have been seized by foreign countries, primarily by Washington and member states of the European Union. President Donald Trump’s administration has used at least $601 million of that looted Venezuelan money to fund construction of its border wall with Mexico, according to government documents first reviewed by Univision. ...

Univision reviewed U.S. congressional records and court documents and found that the Trump administration tapped into $601 million of the Treasury Department’s “forfeiture fund” to supplement the wall construction. The United States has seized at least $1 billion of Venezuelan public funds that Washington in turn claimed were supposedly being stolen by government officials, according to Univision. This is in addition to the billions more worth of Venezuelan state assets that have been illegally taken over by the Trump administration, the most important of which is Caracas’ crown jewel, the oil refinery Citgo.

“None of that money… has been returned to the Venezuelan people,” Univision reported. “Instead, most of the money is being collected by the U.S. Justice and Treasury Departments and held in special forfeiture funds used mostly to fund law enforcement investigations.”

The Trump corruption scandal has been almost entirely ignored by mainstream corporate media outlets. ... Univision was clearly upset that the Trump administration had not given the self-declared “Guaidó government” the money that it stole from Caracas. “When it comes to who gets to keep the money from those looted assets, the U.S. appears unwilling to relinquish the cash,” Univision wrote in frustration. What Univision did not mention in the report was that the Juan Guaidó coup administration had already been exposed for numerous acts of corruption.

"America's Moment of Reckoning": Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor & Cornel West on Uprising Against Racism

Markey Bill, Backed by Sanders and Warren, Moves to Abolish Qualified Immunity for Cops 'Once-and-for-All'

In the wake of the recent killings of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky—which sparked a national uprising against racial injustice and police violence—Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Wednesday introduced a new bill in the U.S. Senate that would end "qualified immunity" for law enforcement officers accused of excessive force and violating the constitutional rights of civilians.

An antiquated legal doctrine that has insulated police for decades from serious prosecution of even wanton misconduct, Markey said in a statement that qualified immunity "makes it almost impossible for a victim of excessive force by a police officer to hold that officer accountable in a court of law." Such legal protection, given the harm it has caused and the manner to which it roadblocks justice, said Markey, must come to an end.

"If we want to change the culture of police violence against Black and Brown Americans," Markey explained, "then we need to start holding accountable the officers who abuse their positions of trust and responsibility in our communities. That means once-and-for-all abolishing the dangerous judicial doctrine known as qualified immunity."

Spearheaded by Markey, the "Ending Qualified Immunity Act" is co-sponsored by Sanders and Warren in the Senate and serves as a companion piece of legislation previously introduced in the House by Reps. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). ...

Specifically, according to Markey's office, the new legislation:

  • Amends 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") to explicitly state that the qualified immunity doctrine invented by the Supreme Court does not provide public officials that violate civil rights with defense or immunity from civil liability for their actions; and
  • Clarifies Congress' original intent for Section 1983 and notes the history and necessity of this protection.

Online privacy experts sound alarm as US Senate bill sparks surveillance fears

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance the Earn It Act, legislation that on paper is intended to address sexual exploitation. However, privacy experts say the act would give the Department of Justice unprecedented power over the internet and potentially threaten the privacy of messages sent online.

The “Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technology” (Earn It) Act was introduced in March by the South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California to address what lawmakers characterized as “the rapid increase of child sexual abuse material on prominent online platforms”. ...

The bill would weaken protections under Section 230, a measure that has historically shielded internet publishers from legal responsibility for the content shared on their sites. It would also allow individuals to sue tech companies that don’t take “proper steps” to prevent online child exploitation. Those steps would be determined by a 19-member panel of unelected officials, mostly law enforcement, who would impose a set of “best practices” that websites and online forums would have to follow, or risk getting shut down.

But privacy advocates are concerned its powers could overreach and pose a threat to encryption, a tool that obscures the content of messages so others – including tech companies and law enforcement – cannot read them. If technology companies are to be held liable for content on their sites, the privacy advocates say, they could be required to scan all user messages, requiring a weakening of encryption practices.

“The Earn It Act could end user privacy as we know it,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Tech companies that provide private, encrypted messaging could have to rewrite their software to allow police special access to their users’ messages.” Graham’s office did not return request for comment, but it previously said his “goal here is not to outlaw encryption … that will be a debate for another day”. However, Barr – who would be given a large amount of power under the new act – has been outspoken about his desire to force technology companies to allow law enforcement to bypass encryption.

Professional Managerial Class slowly realizing their entire lives are meaningless

There’s a War Going On Over Kamala Harris’s Wikipedia Page, with Unflattering Elements Vanishing

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris is widely seen as a frontrunner for a spot on the ticket with presumptive nominee Joe Biden, with vetting well underway. Presidential vetting operations have entire teams of investigators, but for the public, when the pick is announced, the most common source for information about the person chosen is Wikipedia. And there, a war has broken out over how to talk about Harris’s career.

At least one highly dedicated Wikipedia user has been scrubbing controversial aspects of Harris’s “tough-on-crime” record from her Wikipedia page, her decision not to prosecute Steve Mnuchin for mortgage fraud-related crimes, her strong support of prosecutors in Orange County who engaged in rampant misconduct, and other tidbits — such as her previous assertion that “it is not progressive to be soft on crime” — that could prove unflattering to Harris as the public first gets to know her on the national stage. The edits, according to the page history, have elicited strong pushback from Wikipedia’s volunteer editor brigade, and have drawn the page into controversy, though it’s a fight the pro-Harris editor is currently winning.

In 2016, The Atlantic published an article about Wikipedia edits and how a burst of activity could foreshadow Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick, noting that Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine’s page had seen significantly more edits than any other candidate’s in the weeks leading up to the announcement. The article also cited a 2008 Washington Post report about Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia page seeing more than 65 edits in the hours leading up to John McCain’s announcement. Last month, a Reddit user remembered this Atlantic piece and wrote a Jupyter script to see which 2020 vice presidential contender had the most edits in a span of three weeks: Harris had 408, Stacey Abrams had 66, Sen. Elizabeth Warren had 22, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar had four. Another Redditor pointed out that a majority of Harris’s edits were coming from a single person.

Harris has been working to distance herself on the national stage from her prosecutorial record in California, which has increasingly become a political liability, while taking a lead on Democratic police reform legislation after the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. During the 2020 primary, she branded herself as a “progressive prosecutor” and shifted left on issues like health care and climate change. But the most drastic gap is between her current messaging on crime and her past.

"What to the Slave Is the 4th of July?": James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass's Historic Speech

the horse race

"White Fragility," Plus Adolph Reed on Identity Politics | Useful Idiots

the evening greens

60% of fish species could be unable to survive in current areas by 2100

Sixty per cent of studied fish species will be unable to survive in their current ranges by 2100 if climate warming reaches a worst-case scenario of 4-5C (7.2-9F) above pre-industrial temperatures, researchers have found. In a study of nearly 700 fresh and saltwater fish species, researchers examined how warming water temperatures lower water oxygen levels, putting embryos and pregnant fish at risk.

“A 1.5C increase is already a challenge to some, and if we let global warming persist, it can get much worse,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, a climatologist who co-authored the study published in the journal Science.

The world is already more than 1C hotter than before industrialization, and it is on track to be about 3C hotter. In the best-case scenario the authors considered – where the climate heats a total of 1.5C – only 10% of the surveyed species would be at risk in the next 80 years.

That scenario still puts fish which are also economically and ecologically important at risk, including Atlantic cod, swordfish, Pacific salmon, Alaska pollock and Pacific cod, which is used to produce frozen fish sticks. Study co-author Flemming Dahlke said it was challenging to assess the impact of a 10% loss in species because a single species can be critical to the overall ecosystem.

US rivers and lakes are shrinking for a surprising reason: cows

As a fifth-generation rancher in Colorado, Paul Bruchez knows the value of water. Not only does he raise cattle irrigated by the Colorado River and its nearby tributaries, Bruchez runs a fly-fishing business on those same streams. “My income, my life, requires a reliable water resource,” he said. But since moving to northern Colorado two decades ago, the Colorado River has shrunk by an average of 20% compared to last century. Climatic conditions are one culprit – the area is suffering the worst regional dry spell on record. But there’s another big problem.


A recent analysis published in Nature found cattle to be one of the major drivers of water shortages. Notably, it is because of water used to grow crops that are fed to cows such as alfalfa and hay. Across the US, cattle-feed crops, which end up as beef and dairy products, account for 23% of all water consumption, according to the report. In the Colorado River Basin, it is over half. “There are many smaller streams that have been dried up completely,” said Brian Richter, the study’s lead author and the president of Sustainable Waters, a water conservation non-profit. “We’re only seeing the beginning of what’s going to become a major natural resource issue for everybody living in the western United States.”

Agriculture accounts for 92% of humanity’s freshwater footprint across the planet, and has long been identified as a major culprit in drought. But the new study suggests how extreme its impact can be. “The fact that over half of that water is going to cattle-feed crops just floored us,” Richter said. “We had to double and triple check to make sure we got the numbers right.”

Lake Mead, in Arizona and Nevada, for example, hasn’t been full since 1983, and has fallen by almost two-thirds in the last 20 years alone. According to Richter’s analysis, almost 75% of that decline can be attributed to cattle-feed irrigation. In the Colorado River Basin as a whole, which services about 40 million people in seven states and is overtaxed to the point that it rarely ever reaches the ocean anymore, that number is 55%.

It takes a lot of water to make a double-cheeseburger. One calculation puts it at 450 gallons per quarter-pounder. ... Around 60 species of fish in the western US are experiencing increased risk of extinction due to draining water tables, according to the study. As streams dry up, toxic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides that run off from farms become concentrated, suffocating river-dwelling fauna.

Also of Interest

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

Seattle’s CHOP Went Out With Both a Bang and a Whimper

Protest and Power

Behind the 4.8m jobs that returned: key takeaways from June’s US jobs report

The US has the most billionaires in the world – but here's what it doesn't have

Citigroup Has Made a Sap of the Fed: It’s Borrowing at 0.35 % from the Fed While Charging Struggling Consumers 27.4 % on Credit Cards

Arizona reels as three of the biggest wildfires in its history ravage state

Revealed: legislators’ pro-pipeline letters ghostwritten by fossil fuel company

Ende Gelände: 'When Laws Fail, It Is time for Blockades!'

Every dog year not equivalent to seven human years, scientists find

Jean Castex replaces Edouard Philippe as France's Prime Minister

U.S. Tensions Against CHINA Increase! Journalist Danny Haiphong's Perspective.

U.S. vs. CHINA -- A New Cold War? Dylan Ratigan's Perspective!

Did the FBI entrap Wikileaks? New Assange indictment explained

Rachel Bovard: Will populists or corporatists rule GOP if Trump goes down?

A Little Night Music

Muddy Waters - Down South Blues

Muddy Waters - Stuff You Gotta Watch

Muddy Waters - She's Got It

Little Walter + Muddy Waters - Walkin On

Muddy Waters - Forty Days and Forty Nights

Muddy Waters - Manish Boy

Muddy Waters - Rollin' Stone

Muddy Waters - Trouble No More

Muddy Waters & George Harmonica Smith - Walking Through The Park

Muddy Waters - I Am The Blues

Rory Gallagher - Muddy Waters - I'm Ready

18 users have voted.


Very disappointed in our two congress critters supporting the Cheney amendment.
A scathing email is up and coming. Screw this forever war BS.
At least Russia had the sense to withdraw from their Afghanistan misadventure.

14 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


it's always a good time for muddy waters.

i hope that your congresscreatures take your message to heart. we're all sick of these endless wars.

8 users have voted.
studentofearth's picture

Just changing American diet will not solve the problem.


Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. More than half of the town’s 94,000 acres are bushy blue-green fields growing the crop.

Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands.

Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.


Peacock Nuts is one of seven corporate farms identified by The Arizona Republic as major agricultural groundwater users in Arizona. They include private-equity firms, investment funds focused on agriculture, and foreign food companies, mirroring the nationwide trend of big capital driving the ag industry and leading to larger farms.

There’s no cost for the groundwater other than the cost of drilling the well and the electricity to bring the water to the surface. That’s brought companies from California, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to rural areas throughout the state seeking to exploit Arizona’s underground resource.

Companies use Arizona’s groundwater to grow alfalfa, pistachios, pecans or other crops and then export some of the products to other states or countries.

17 users have voted.

Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

enhydra lutris's picture

doubt that will make any difference.

be well and have a good one.

7 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


yep, it's a global problem. the planet's freshwater resources are under attack by both state actors and private equity. african land (and the water resources with them) are being bought up by foreigners who practice corporate agriculture (worst practices). my guess is that in the not-too-distant-future, hungry african locals will rise up against big ag corporations and their own "leaders" that sold them out.

11 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

Another thing people don’t seem to care about when it comes to our troops is how they are treated once they return home. From inadequate funding for their health care to same for housing to keep them from becoming homeless to the worst of all. That 24 or more of them commit suicide because of the trauma they experienced and can’t get help for. I’m sure there are many more issues that they deal with that are not given adequate funds for.

Heh I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when the news got out.

Unless all of the people involved with Epstein have been given assurances that nothing will happen to them. I’m curious about why Maxwell wasn’t charged for the sexual abuse she was charged by the grand jury with. Last month she was playing tag with private investigators, but then she decided to come here where she knew that she was under investigation? How does that make sense?

Have a great 4th guys and stay safe. Our big fireworks have been canceled, but sounds like my neighbors went to Wyoming to get what is not legal here. We’ve already had 3-4 fires started with people being dumb in the foothills. One home burned down and more were damaged. Oh yeah and they were lit during a very strong windstorm. 'Doh!

14 users have voted.

I feel like I’m riding in the backseat of a '66 Thunderbird with Thelma at the wheel and Louise riding shotgun whilst heading towards a cliff.

joe shikspack's picture


it seems like there must be a great deal going on beneath the surface of the epstein investigation. certainly maxwell has not been acting like a one might expect a fugitive in her shoes to act.

the only way her setting foot on u.s. soil makes sense is if either there has been a deal cut or the alternatives are all worse. my guess would be the former, since there are likely some intelligence agencies that are eager for certain information to be kept under wraps.

official fireworks here have been cancelled pretty much all over the state, though it seems like there are far more informal fireworks than usual this year.

10 users have voted.

@snoopydawg Epstein was arrested, Maxwell has been living in various locations in New England. She was in MA was Epstein was picked up. So, all the "where in the world is Ghislaine Maxwell" was baseless, idle speculation.

4 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture


going into her apartment last month. Other than that....

5 users have voted.

I feel like I’m riding in the backseat of a '66 Thunderbird with Thelma at the wheel and Louise riding shotgun whilst heading towards a cliff.

@snoopydawg Better than:

The last public sighting of Maxwell was thought to have taken place in August 2019 – just days after Epstein’s death in prison – when she was allegedly photographed at an LA fast food restaurant. The photos were, however, quickly discredited as Photoshopped fakes. Metadata from the images was subsequently traced back to Meadowgate Media Investments – a trading company whose President, Leah Saffian, is a friend of Maxwell’s.

I'm not an astute visual observer, but even I sensed that those LA photos weren't authentic.

I'm indifferent as to whether she was recently in Paris or not. I merely passed along what the Feds are claiming. If they're lying, that will come out at some point and they'll have to explain themselves.

5 users have voted.

@snoopydawg discount all reports about Maxwell from Laura Goldman. No reason whatsoever that they would ever have met each other, much less formed a friendship. Don't know if she's acting totally on her own accord (she's loopy enough to do so) or is being paid to distribute propaganda in defense of Maxwell.

3 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

but it got me to thinking about all the layers of middle management that pervade US enterprises and just how many of them will be invited back to work by those enterprises that largely shifted to work form home operations.

"Oh look, the workers are getting their work done just fine without all those meetings and all that extra paperwork, and don't seem to need anybody looking over their shoulder all day. hmmmm. ..."

be well and have a good one. Have a great Fourth, too.

11 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

just about everywhere i've ever worked had redundant layers of middle management. it would be surprising if upper management doesn't notice that at this time.

have a great weekend!

9 users have voted.

@joe shikspack a business to operate with what looks like redundant middle management. 1) Span of control. If too large, there is no control. 2) Continuity and resilience. Humans do get sick, in accidents, and do die. Who can quickly step in to fill that role so that operations continue without a hitch? 3) training stomping ground for the next round of senior managers.

In a kinder corporate world (before all the consultants began dictating to businesses), redundancy was used to mask incompetence or long-term dead wood that executives didn't want to fire. Can be benign or toxic depending on how the executive manages it (I've experienced some of both).

Of course that was in a business world where executives and managers understood if they screwed up, the company would go bankrupt and everyone would be unemployed. Now they can chuck the middle managers and when things go wrong, they can get a handout from DC.

5 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

the ocean so I don’t get all sad about the circle of life stuff. Yes I’m that sensitive.

I watched this one to cheer me back up. Good dawg.

More info

11 users have voted.

I feel like I’m riding in the backseat of a '66 Thunderbird with Thelma at the wheel and Louise riding shotgun whilst heading towards a cliff.

joe shikspack's picture


that's a pretty impressive catch. i've never seen anything like that before.

a good dog, indeed.

7 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture


special take this one home to feed the family/eat grip, chck the talons.

be well and have a good one.

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 --

dystopian's picture

@snoopydawg I do not believe that is a shark. In my hobby, and mostly professionally, I have personally had in tanks in my care over 2000 species of the worlds fish, including many species of sharks. Not buying the shark part of the story here... but Nice Osprey! I have seen them with 4 lb. fish. They have that special shoulder socket allowing the wing to be raised higher above the back than normal birds. This is how they get the extra stroke to get the extra lift, to get out of the water soaking wet with something heavy as itself. Remarkable bird. That crooked winged silhouette is diagnostic. Learn that and you can ID an Osprey at a mile.

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

travelerxxx's picture

Muddy Waters was the real deal, eh?

Hard to believe our Governor Abbott has ordered Texans to wear face masks. I'm sure he'll get pushback. Just prior to this, he ordered the bars closed again and some right-winger bar owners wasted no time in heading to Austin to protest that they were being discriminated against. It's kind of funny in a way – right-wingers protesting a fellow traveler (no relation...). Were Abbott a Democrat they'd have probably burned down the statehouse by now.

Actually, I do have sympathy for the bar owners. I have friends with no income due to this. Just some folks in the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean, there's no one in baseball stadiums right now, either. Sad, but it's the times we're in.

Unrelated, but thought I'd mention that the @BootsRiley Twitter page you'd linked to a couple of weeks ago in an EB is MIA. Now all I get is: "This account doesn’t exist." I was just there a couple of days ago. Wonder what's up with that? Possibly just Boots weirdness... Hope he didn't get caught up is some purge, but it wouldn't surprise me if he did.

7 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


yep, definitely the real deal.

i was pretty surprised the abbott decided to go with saving lives rather than dollars - and i'm not surprised that a lot of texans don't like that.

i have sympathy for anybody that is having trouble making it right now, it's sad that our government is totally inept and incompetent to handle this. things don't have to be this way.

i did a little quick googling and i ran across one comment that suggested that riley had taken a break and then on returning decided that twitter was just a big time suck and deleted his account. i don't know if that's the truth, but it sounds pretty plausible.

6 users have voted.
dystopian's picture

Hey JS! Great tunes, love that Muddy Waters! What a influential pioneer he was. A generation of skinny little young guitar playing British boys obviously went nuts with it. Then we did. At least he got his recognition later. Awesome playing, and always with all the best people. Those London Sessions were outstanding. Rory G.!

So what will it be? Bugpocalypse or Fishpocalypse?

I can't believe the UK declared Gauido the president and owner of Venezuela's gold!
Hey ya wanna be president?

I was made fun of for wearing a mask today in my rural redneck Texas town. But most outsiders, the tourists, had them on. Few local workers wore them. It is a hoax here, they just play with the numbers to make shit up, it's just to hurt Trump, this whole thing.

Be well, it is nuckinfutz out there.

8 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


heh, i think we are most likely to have a dumbpocalypse. Smile

i think that i will declare myself the emperor of venezuela and demand that britain ship me the billion dollars worth of gold. it's worth a shot. hell, i'd make a better absolute ruler than guaido.

glad that you're wearing a mask, it certainly increases your chances of having the last laugh.

10 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

and good for them.

6 users have voted.

I feel like I’m riding in the backseat of a '66 Thunderbird with Thelma at the wheel and Louise riding shotgun whilst heading towards a cliff.

snoopydawg's picture


7 users have voted.

I feel like I’m riding in the backseat of a '66 Thunderbird with Thelma at the wheel and Louise riding shotgun whilst heading towards a cliff.

lotlizard's picture

A population of North American individuals migrates / is imported to points south, outside its natural habitat, for business reasons; becomes invasive and takes over… (spoiler: it’s beavers in Tierra del Fuego and the Patagonian Magellanic forest)

4 users have voted.