The Evening Blues - 9-13-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and guitarist John Hammond. Enjoy!
John Lee Hooker and John Hammond Jr - Bottle Up And Go
“If the militarily most powerful and least threatened states need nuclear weapons for their security, how can one deny such security to countries that are truly insecure? The present nuclear policy is a recipe for proliferation. It is a policy for disaster.”
-- Joseph Rotblat
News and Opinion
On Thursday, President Donald Trump did something truly shocking: He told the truth.
When asked why he fired John Bolton, his former national security adviser, Trump said:
He made some very big mistakes. When he talked about the Libyan model for Kim Jong Un, that was not a good statement to make. You just take a look at what happened with Gaddafi.
Back in 2018, Bolton told Fox News that the U.S. had “very much in mind the Libya model” for North Korea. Americans hear those words and think that it means another country gets rid of its nuclear weapons program in one fell swoop, and then, motivated by our love of peace, we shower them with benefits. ... Foreign leaders listen to those words and hear something different. To them, “the Libya model” means that (1) Like Libya, they give up any nuclear weapons or the possibility of ever acquiring them; (2) the U.S. responds by attacking and overthrowing their government, like we did to Libya in 2011; (3) they, like Moammar Gaddafi, end up dead in a ditch. This could also be called the “Iraq model,” except that Saddam Hussein’s corpse did not spend any time in a ditch.
This is the context in which everything must be seen when the U.S. demands that other countries disavow nuclear weapons. We’ve explicitly demonstrated to foreign leaders via the Iraq and Libyan wars that disarmament isn’t the path to security but to their own personal doom. As one of Gaddafi’s sons said as the bombs fell, “We gave up our nukes and they screwed us.” It would have been unlikely under any circumstances that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons, but with these object lessons in front of the country, it’s nearly impossible to imagine. The record of America’s bad-faith actions makes it all the more startling that Iran was willing to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which severely reduced its ability to produce the fissile material needed for nukes.
Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan politician fighting to topple Nicolás Maduro, is facing awkward questions about his relationship with organised crime after the publication of compromising photographs showing him with two Colombian paramilitaries.
In an interview on Friday, Guaidó played down the significance of the pictures, in which he posed alongside two members of the Colombian criminal gang the Rastrojos identified as El Brother and El Menor.
The photos appear to have been taken on 22 February as Guaidó used an illegal border crossing to sneak across Venezuela’s western border into Colombia to attend a Live Aid-style concert in the town of Cúcuta.
Lo dijimos desde el primer día: la entrada a Colombia el 23 de febrero del sr @jguaido fue coordinada con los Rastrojos. Aquí están alias el brother armado, y el segundo al mando de este grupo paramilitar, alias el menor. pic.twitter.com/qflAYBgWQf
— WILFREDO CAÑIZARES (@wilcan91) September 12, 2019
But analysts said the images had the potential to cause severe harm to Guaidó’s credibility and his nine-month quest to force Maduro from power. The Rastrojos are a drug-trafficking group with paramilitary origins who operate on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border. As well as the cocaine trade, they are engaged in illegal mining, kidnapping for ransom and extortion.
Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based expert for Crisis Group, said: “I think it is extremely damaging. Regardless of whether this was as innocent as they claim – which is rather hard to believe – or whether there was something more to it, it looks so bad.”
Downing Street has played down the prospect of an early breakthrough in Brexit talks despite hopes of a compromise on the Irish backstop, as Boris Johnson prepares to meet the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. There has been a renewed drive in No 10 for an agreement since parliamentarians passed a law aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit on 31 October and twice rejected Johnson’s demand for a snap general election.
However the government has no plans to publish any detailed written proposals as the prime minister seeks to avoid Theresa May’s fate of having her carefully constructed compromise shot down publicly by party colleagues.
Downing Street believes little compromise will be forthcoming from the EU side before the crucial European council summit on 17 October – and it plans to blame rebel parliamentarians if it does not materialise. A Downing Street source said: “There’s no way they’re going to move yet – it’s going to be the 17th before we get any flash of light: but [Jeremy] Corbyn and his surrender bill has significantly diminished the chance of getting a deal.”
Efforts are focused on finding a way to allow customs and other checks to take place away from the Irish border, so that Northern Ireland can leave the EU customs union along with the rest of the UK. In return, Northern Ireland would remain within the EU’s regulatory orbit in key areas, including agriculture, a proposal Johnson has already signalled publicly. Johnson hopes the Democratic Unionist party can be won over to some form of compromise, despite its previous objections to a border of any kind down the Irish Sea.
The US government’s investigations into big tech widened on Friday as lawmakers announced they were seeking internal documents from Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. Letters went out to the four companies on Friday from the leaders of the House judiciary committee and its subcommittee on antitrust, which has been conducting a sweeping antitrust investigation of the companies and their effect on competition and consumers.
Among the dozens of executives named in the requests are Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt.
Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, said: “The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online. “But there is growing evidence that a handful of corporations have come to capture an outsized share of online commerce and communications.” ...
The investigation is likely to lead to the release of potentially embarrassing internal documents and high-profile public hearings involving some of the biggest names in tech. The letters seek information about the ways in which the tech giants have built their businesses, how they shape the search results that consumers see and how other businesses interact with their services.
Jewish protesters from several groups rallied outside Palantir’s offices in Palo Alto and New York on Friday to get the tech company to stop collaborating with ICE, as a key contract date approaches. The protesters were affiliated with a handful of organizations, including Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, the grassroots Latinx group Mijente, and Never Again Action, a left-leaning Jewish group that made headlines after its members were arrested while protesting outside immigrant detention facilities across the country.
Their primary goal: to make Palantir pull out of its $49 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement before it goes into effect on Sept. 20. Palantir has provided the software behind ICE’s Investigative Case Management System, which the agency has used to plan and carry out raids and deportations, since 2014, and its current contract is set to expire on September 25.
Protesters compared the Trump administration’s immigration policy — particularly the 2018 “zero-tolerance” policy that caused the family separation crisis, the long-term detention of children and families in Border Patrol stations, and the arrests of immigrants in the interior of the country — to the anti-Semitic policies that led to the Holocaust. And they see Palantir as aiding and abetting.
“We refuse to be like the neighbors who stood by while our ancestors were detained and deported,” one protester called out to a crowd assembled a block away from Palantir’s Manhattan office. “We refuse to stand by and see what new terror the administration will roll out with the help of its corporate partners.”
In 'Massive Victory' in Fight Against Trump's 'Unconstitutional Conduct,' Federal Appeals Court Reopens Emoluments Case
An anti-corruption watchdog celebrated Friday after a federal court reopened a suit alleging President Donald Trump routinely violates the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clauses and is profiting from the presidency.
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lower court's decision to throw out the case brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and a number of hospitality companies who argue that the president's continued involvement in his real estate empire has harmed their own businesses.
CREW filed the suit against Trump in January 2017, days after he took office and refused to divest from the Trump Organization—instead handing over management of the business to his two eldest sons and continuing to maintain financial control of his properties.
The group called the decision a "massive victory" in its fight to hold the president accountable for what it calls "unconstitutional conduct."
Wall will traverse the entirety of the southern edge of the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument, one of the most biologically diverse regions in the US
Construction of a 30ft-high section of Donald Trump’s border barrier has begun in the Organ Pipe Cactus nationalmonument in southern Arizona, a federally protected wilderness area and Unesco-recognized international biosphere reserve. In the face of protests by environmental groups, the wall will traverse the entirety of the southern edge of the monument. It is part of the 175 miles of barrier expansion along the US-Mexico border being funded by the controversial diversion of $3.6bn from military construction projects.
This will include construction in Texas, New Mexico as well as Arizona where, according to a government court filing, some 44 miles of new barrier construction will pass through three federally protected areas. These are the Organ Pipe wilderness, Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge and San Pedro Riparian national conservation area, the location of Arizona’s last free-flowing river.
The Trump administration has deemed the new structures necessary due to a “national emergency” of unauthorized immigration into the US. According to CBP, in the 2019 fiscal year there have been 14,265 apprehensions in the Tucson sector, where the Organ Pipe wall is going up, compared to 51,411 in the nearby Yuma sector of Arizona and over 205,000 in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
Yet Organ Pipe is a contentious setting. “What is being proposed is bulldozing one of the most biologically diverse regions of the entire United States,” said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center. “Walling off these precious places would be a colossal mistake and a national tragedy.” Organ Pipe, located south-west of Tucson, Arizona, is a 330,000 acre wilderness home to mountain lions, javelinas, the endangered pronghorn and “more bird species than can be listed”, according to the National Park Service website. It is also a deeply significant area for the nearby Tohono O’odham nation which has long opposed Trump’s border wall on their ancestral lands.
“This unneeded, expensive blight will use precious water for its construction, cut off wildlife species from their habitat; and its all-night lights will destroy the clear night skies,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association.
The private prison industry is set to be upended after California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday banning the facilities from operating in the state. The move will probably also close down four large immigration detention facilities that can hold up to 4,500 people at a time.
The legislation is being hailed as a major victory for criminal justice reform because it removes the profit motive from incarceration. It also marks a dramatic departure from California’s past, when private prisons were relied on to reduce crowding in state-run facilities.
Private prison companies used to view California as one of their fastest-growing markets. As recently as 2016, private prisons locked up approximately 7,000 Californians, about 5% of the state’s total prison population, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But in recent years, thousands of inmates have been transferred from private prisons back into state-run facilities. As of June, private prisons held 2,222 of California’s total inmate population.
The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, must still sign AB32, but last year he signaled support for the ban and said during his inaugural speech in January that the state should “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all”.
Currently, one company, the Geo Group, operates four private prisons in California under contract with the California department of corrections and rehabilitation. The contracts for these four prisons expire in 2023 and cannot be renewed under AB32, except to comply with a federal court order to reduce crowding in state-run facilities. In addition to signaling a major criminal justice reform, AB32 also has become a flashpoint in California’s fight with the Trump administration over the treatment of immigrants.
'Decades of Progress Are at Stake' as Trump Reaches 150 Lifetime Judicial Appointments and Right-Wing Court Takeover Accelerates
The Republican-controlled Senate quietly confirmed four more of President Donald Trump's lifetime federal judicial nominees on Wednesday, bringing the total number of conservative judges successfully appointed by the administration to over 150.
It is a milestone that, according to rights groups, marks the extent to which Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have flooded the nation's courts with disproportionately young and unqualified right-wing judges who could reshape the judiciary for decades to come. ...
Bloomberg Law reported Wednesday that 19 of Trump's lifetime judicial nominees are awaiting votes and more judges are making their way through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Many have disturbing civil rights records," Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference, said of the judges the Senate has confirmed thus far. "Dozens wouldn't affirm Brown v. Board. They're overwhelmingly white and male. Decades of progress are at stake. We must keep fighting."
Industry Coalition Launches Seven-Figure Ad Blitz to Flood Democratic Debate With Attacks on Medicare for All
A coalition of major insurance companies and drug manufacturers plans to air a series of ads attacking Medicare for All during the 2020 Democratic presidential debate Thursday night, ensuring the event's commercial breaks will feature talking points from the corporate interests profiting off America's dysfunctional for-profit healthcare system.
The Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PAHCF), which was formed in 2018 to combat Medicare for All, said it will run ads on both ABC and Univision, the two networks hosting the Democratic debate in Houston, Texas.
The coalition said it also plans to "run advertisements on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, as well as a takeover of YouTube's homepage following the debate."
The blitz is part of a seven-figure ad buy aimed at perpetuating the right-wing narrative that Medicare of All would increase Americans' healthcare costs and income taxes.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the ad campaign shows "industry groups view Medicare for All as a serious threat in a 2020 election." ...
An analysis published Thursday by the People's Policy Project showed Medicare for All could cut the poverty rate by 20 percent, and studies have shown single-payer has the potential to save the U.S. trillions of dollars over the next decade. PAHCF's ads make the opposite argument, characterizing Medicare for All as a "one-size-fits-all" program that would hike costs and reduce quality of care. ...
David Sirota, speechwriter for the Sanders campaign, said the ad blitz is an attempt by healthcare industry lobbyists "to buy tonight's Democratic debate—as part of their campaign to buy the 2020 election."
Challenging Biden on Iraq War Vote, Sanders Denounces Bloated Trump Pentagon Budget During Democratic Debate
Distinguishing himself from his 2020 presidential rivals on the issue of America's obscene military spending—which continues to soar year after year with bipartisan support—Sen. Bernie Sanders touted his record as the only candidate on stage during Thursday night's Democratic debate who has opposed all of President Donald Trump's Pentagon budget proposals.
"I think... I am the only person up here to have voted against all three of Trump's military budgets," the Vermont senator said to applause. "I don't think we have to spend $750 billion a year on the military when we don't even know who our enemy is."
In 2017, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and then-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas.)—the only other 2020 contenders on stage Thursday who were in Congress at the time—all voted for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, which handed the Pentagon $700 billion. Sanders voted no. Sanders also voted against the 2019 NDAA and a procedural motion for the 2020 NDAA. The House and Senate still have to reconcile the 2020 NDAA before both chambers take a final vote on the legislation.
"I think that what we have got to do is bring this world together—bring it together on climate change, bring it together in fighting against terrorism, and make it clear that we as a planet, as a global community, will work together to help countries around the world rebuild their struggling economies and do everything that we can to rid the world of terrorism," said Sanders.
"But dropping bombs on Afghanistan and Iraq was not the way to do it," added the senator.
"I think I am the only person up here to have voted against all three of Trump's military budgets. I don't think we have to spend $750 billion a year on the military when we don't even know who our enemy is" @BernieSanders #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/YhAYjZ0DcT
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) September 13, 2019
Sanders also took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden's support for the Iraq War, a record Biden attempted to obfuscate in the days leading up to Thursday's debate in Houston.
"You talked about the big mistake in Iraq and the surge. The truth is, the big mistake, the huge mistake, and one of the big differences between you and me, I never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq," said Sanders, addressing Biden. "I voted against the war in Iraq and helped lead the opposition."
Sanders First 2020 Democrat to Pledge, If Elected, All Top Appointees Will Back Fracking Ban and Bold Climate Action
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday affirmed that if he wins the presidency, his administration will only include officials who share his opposition to all fracking and fossil fuel development. The Vermont Independent, who is a Democratic candidate in the 2020 election, was the first candidate to sign a pledge put forward Wednesday by Food & Water Action, the political action arm of the public health advocacy group Food & Water Watch.
"As president," the pledge reads, "I pledge to only appoint individuals to environmental, energy, foreign policy, and national security positions in my administration that affirm the extent of the climate emergency we face, and support: banning fracking everywhere; halting all new fossil fuel infrastructure development; and banning fossil fuel exports."
Food & Water Watch, along with other climate action groups, has been closely monitoring the positions held by presidential candidates on fracking, fossil fuel development, oil and gas exports, and other issues related to protecting the planet from climate-warming carbon emissions
Joe Biden's answer on how to address the legacy of slavery was appalling -- and disqualifying.
It ended in a sermon implying that black parents don't know how to raise their own children.
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) September 13, 2019
A Solution for All Generations': With Plan for Social Security Expansion, Warren Demands Rich Pay Fair Share to Lift 5 Million Out of Poverty
Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday unveiled her plan to expand Social Security benefits for senior citizens and future generations after retirement, a proposal she would fund with an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
The Massachusetts Democrats's expansion of the 84-year-old program would immediately increase benefits for seniors by $200 per month, or $2,400 per year, while adding even more to benefits for retired women, lower income households, people with disabilities, and others who face disproportionately low wages throughout their working lives.
The plan would be financed by new requirements for the highest earners to contribute their "fair share" to the national Social Security fund. The fund currently contains $3 trillion but has been threatened for years with proposed cuts and privatization by Republicans and which has yielded smaller and smaller benefits for retirees in recent years.
"Because of inadequate contributions to the program by the rich, we are projected to draw down that reserve by 2035, prompting automatic 20 percent across-the-board benefit cuts if nothing is done," Warren wrote.
The top two percent of earners—those making individual wages above $250,000—would be required to contribute 14.8 percent of their wages to Social Security benefits. Investment income for the wealthiest earners and families would also be subject to a 14.8 percent contribution.
"The plan results in a much more progressive Social Security system," wrote Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, in an independent analysis, "as high-income people shoulder the financial burden of the plan, while low- and middle-income people benefit substantially."
The plan was praised by Social Security Works, a national group that works to protect the program.
Trump Rollback of Key EPA Water Protection Rule Denounced as 'Callous' and 'Immoral' Giveaway to Big Polluters
Environmental and public health advocates blasted the Trump administration Thursday for finalizing its rollback of an Obama-era regulation designed to curb the pollution of waterways nationwide. "Fifty years after the Cuyahoga River fire that inspired the Clean Water Act, President Trump's administration wants to turn back the clock to the days of poisoned flammable water," declared Abigail Dillen, president of the non-profit legal group Earthjustice. "This is shameful and dangerous."
nothing gets Republicans jazzed up like poisoning baby brains https://t.co/lQidq2YU8e
— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) September 12, 2019
Cadmium Children, Mercury Moms, Lead Lads, Coal Ash Kids, Dioxin Dads, come one and all to Republican utopia
— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) September 12, 2019
The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that the Trump administration "plans to scrap the Obama-era definition of what qualifies as 'waters of the United States' under the Clean Water Act, returning the country to standards put in place in 1986."
Robert Irvin, president of American Rivers, told the Post that "the administration wants to go back to an era where we are destroying wetlands heedlessly."
In 2015, under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the Clean Water Rule—also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule—which gave the federal government regulatory authority over many streams and wetlands across the country. Because of various ongoing legal battles involving the 2015 rule, including some cases that relate to the Trump administration's moves to repeal or weaken it, the Obama-era definition of federal waters remains in effect in only 22 states and is temporarily blocked in the other 28 states.
Brazil’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, will meet a rightwing US advocacy group that denies climate change, just four days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Salles will meet representatives from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) at the headquarters of the US Environmental Protection Agency on 19 September, Brazil’s Folha de S Paulo newspaper revealed.
The meeting was immediately condemned by environmentalists, who said it showed that the government of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, had no commitment to fighting the climate crisis.
News of the meeting emerged a day after Brazil’s foreign minister questioned the scientific proof for global warming in a convoluted speech in Washington. Addressing the Heritage Foundation, Ernesto Araújo said “there is no climate catastrophe” and described efforts to fight climate change as a plot to destroy national sovereignty.
Brazil is doubling down on its efforts to convince the world the Amazon is in safe hands, despite soaring deforestation and a huge spike in seasonal fires that provoked an international crisis. Bolsonaro is due to address the UN general assembly on 24 September. ...
The CEI’s director for energy and environment, Myron Ebell, led Donald Trump’s transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency. His biography quotes Business Insider, which said: “Myron Ebell may be enemy #1 to the current climate change community.”
'We Will Not Give Up,' Say Indigenous Groups, as Trump Admin Gets Closer to Fossil Fuel Pillage of Arctic Refuge
Indigenous leaders vowed Thursday to protect their Alaskan lands from fossil fuel exploitation after the Trump administration moved closer to allowing drilling along the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—a move the House just tried to block.
"The Gwich'in are protectors," said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, "and we will not give up."
The pledge from the Gwich'in—who call the coastal plain "the sacred place where life begins"—came in response to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for oil and gas leasing, which was released Thursday by the Bureau of Land Management.
The announcement, said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in a press statement, represents "a big step to carry out the clear mandate we received from Congress to develop and implement a leasing program for the Coastal Plain," referring to Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-Alaska) provision in the "tax scam" of 2017 requiring the sales for drilling rights in the area. Bernhardt is a former fossil fuel lobbyist.
In the new analysis, the administration, as The Washington Post reported, chose "the most aggressive development option for an area long closed to drilling."
"The FEIS unlawfully opens the entire coastal plain to leasing," wrote NRDC staff attorney Garett Rose. "It fails to even consider an approach that minimizes damage to the refuge's unique environment, violating our bedrock environmental review law."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
John Hammond - Cross Road Blues
John Hammond - No Money Down
John Hammond - East St. Louis Blues
John Hammond Jr. - Honey Bee
John Hammond Jr. - Maybelline
Bonnie Raitt & Lowell George & John Hammond Jr & Freebo - Going Down To Louisiana
Johnny Hammond/Duane Allman - Shake For Me
John Hammond - Crosscut Saw
John Hammond — Ask Me Nice
John Hammond - Ride 'Til I Die