The Evening Blues - 9-18-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Clyde McPhatter. Enjoy!
Clyde McPhatter - A Shot of Rhythm and Blues
“For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.”
-- George Washington
News and Opinion
The US government on Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit against Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, over the publication this week of his memoir. Snowden, the suit contends, “published a book entitled Permanent Record in violation of the non-disclosure agreements he signed with both CIA and NSA”.
The lawsuit alleges that Snowden published without submitting the book to the agencies for pre-publication review, “in violation of his express obligations under the agreements he signed”. Additionally, the suit argues that Snowden has given public speeches on intelligence-related matters, “also in violation of his non-disclosure agreements”.
Although it does not seek to block publication, the suit aims to recover all proceeds earned. ...
In response, Snowden, 36, tweeted a link to his book on Amazon: “The government of the United States has just announced a lawsuit over my memoir, which was just released today worldwide. This is the book the government does not want you to read.” ...
The lawsuit is separate from the criminal charges brought against Snowden, whom the government has accused of violating the Espionage Act. ...
The government lawsuit was condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union. Ben Wizner, director of its speech, privacy, and technology project and a lawyer for Snowden, said: “This book contains no government secrets that have not been previously published by respected news organisations. “Had Mr Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review. But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified.”
We are now just one week away from the end of Julian Assange’s uniquely lengthy imprisonment for bail violation. He will receive parole from the rest of that sentence, but will continue to be imprisoned on remand awaiting his hearing on extradition to the U.S. – a process which could last several years. At that point, all the excuses for Assange’s imprisonment which so-called leftists and liberals in the U.K. have hidden behind will evaporate. There are no charges and no active investigation in Sweden, where the “evidence” disintegrated at the first whiff of critical scrutiny. He is no longer imprisoned for “jumping bail.” The sole reason for his incarceration will be the publishing of the Afghan and Iraq war logs leaked by Chelsea Manning, with their evidence of wrongdoing and multiple war crimes.
In imprisoning Assange for bail violation, the U.K. was in clear defiance of the judgement of the UN Working Group on arbitrary Detention, which stated:
Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instances. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge. The Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the U.K., which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador. Mr. Assange should be able to exercise his right to freedom of movement in an unhindered manner, in accordance with the human rights conventions the U.K. has ratified.
In repudiating the UNWGAD the U.K. has undermined an important pillar of international law, and one it had always supported in hundreds of other decisions. The mainstream media has entirely failed to note that the UNWGAD called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Irian dual citizen detained in Iran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe might have been a source of potentially valuable international pressure on Iran, but the U.K. has made her case worthless by its own refusal to comply with the UN over the Assange case. Iran simply replies “if you do not respect the UNWGAD then why should we?” ...
In applying for political asylum, Assange was entering a different and higher legal process which is an internationally recognized right. A very high percentage of dissident political prisoners worldwide are imprisoned on ostensibly unrelated criminal charges with which the authorities fit them up. Many a dissident has been given asylum in these circumstances. Assange did not go into hiding – his whereabouts were extremely well known. The simple characterization of this as “absconding” by district judge Vanessa Baraitser is a farce of justice – and like the U.K.’s repudiation of the UNWGAD report, is an attitude that authoritarian regimes will be delighted to repeat towards dissidents worldwide.
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019
Two points are worth considering here. First, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the “power to declare war.” Previous presidents, including Obama, have ignored this War Powers Clause and transferred authority for war-making to the executive branch; none of them, however, publicly handed over that authority to a foreign government — an absolute monarchy, no less. Reread those words again from the president: “Waiting to hear from the Kingdom … and under what terms we would proceed.” ...
It is difficult, as the New York Times reports, “to imagine him allowing NATO, or a European ally, such latitude to determine how the United States should respond.” So what is behind this jaw-dropping tweet from the president? Is this Trump’s longstanding and hawkish obsession with the Iranians on show again, which also led him to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018? Is this yet another example of his love affair with foreign tyrants, whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Kim Jong Un of North Korea, or Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who he has called his “favorite dictator”? (Can you imagine, incidentally, how jealous the crown prince must have been when he heard the news about Trump and Sisi?)
Or is this further evidence of how this commander-in-chief is financially compromised by his business connections to the Saudis? As I explained in a video essay last year, the Saudis have been bailing out Trump since the 1990s — and have continued to do so since he entered the White House. “Saudi Arabia … they buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump once declaimed. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” ...
Second, Trump is a belligerent hawk and has always been a belligerent hawk. The “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk” nonsense from Maureen Dowd & Co. during the election campaign wasn’t true then and isn’t true now. Who else but a belligerent hawk deploys the action-movie rhetoric of “locked and loaded”? On Monday, the day after his tweet, Trump was asked by a reporter in the Oval Office if he had evidence that Iran was behind the attacks on Saudi Arabia. “We’re having some very strong studies done, but it’s certainly looking that way at this moment,” he replied, before bragging about having “the strongest military in the world.”
Will the media pose any tough questions about the nature of these “strong studies”? It doesn’t look good so far. Consider this uncritical headline from MSNBC, based on three anonymous sources: “U.S. intelligence shows Saudi oil attack was launched from Iran.”
Saudi Arabia has ramped up the pressure on Donald Trump to respond to a devastating strike on two major oil installations, displaying drone and missile technology it insisted showed the attack was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran”. At a press conference in Riyadh a Saudi defence spokesman claimed that 25 drones and cruise missiles were used in the attack on the Aramco facilities on Saturday, saying repeatedly they had been fired from the north, the direction of Iran.
Asked for his response, Trump said “We know very much what happened” but argued that it was “a sign of strength” that he has thus far taken no military action against Iran. “How did going into Iraq work out?” Trump asked, before voicing support for a UN investigation into Saturday’s attack. “I’ve always felt the United Nations is very important,” the president said. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, confirmed on Wednesday that an international team of experts was on the way to Saudi Arabia to investigate.
Trump put the emphasis on further sanctions on Iran, tweeting on Wednesday morning that he had instructed the US treasury to “substantially increase” sanctions. He later told reporters he would provide details within the next 48 hours.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday to confer with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on a coordinated response. “We are working to build a coalition to develop a plan to deter them. This is what needs to happen. This is an attack on a scale that we’ve just not seen before,” Pompeo told journalists. ...
Despite the display of fallen ordnance, the Saudis have clearly not yet been able to make an unanswerable case that Iran was directly involved. At one point Al-Maliki said the missiles may have come from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, as Iran and the Houthis themselves assert.
#NostraDumbAss strikes again!
So, Saudi Arabia should have been fighting their own wars when Obama was president, but they are going to tell you when, where, and how to get into a war with Iran? h/t @DevinsFRoom https://t.co/9MBeGl9r2p pic.twitter.com/jpxnB5AvmJ
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) September 16, 2019
The United States believes the attacks that crippled Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend originated in southwestern Iran, a U.S. official told Reuters, an assessment that further increases tension in the Middle East.
Three officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the attacks involved cruise missiles and drones, indicating that they involved a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought.
The officials did not provide evidence or explain what U.S. intelligence they were using for the evaluations. Such intelligence, if shared publicly, could further pressure Washington, Riyadh and others to respond, perhaps militarily.
Saudi state television said the Saudi Defense Ministry will hold a media conference on Wednesday that will show evidence of Iran’s involvement in the Aramco attacks, including the use of Iranian weapons.
Khamenei will not negotiate with terrorists ...
Iran’s Supreme Leader said Tuesday morning that Washington’s tactic of “maximum pressure” against his country was futile and that there was no chance of any negotiations taking place with U.S. officials at any level. U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested he could meet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments appear to rule that out.
“There will be no talks with the U.S. at any level,” Khamenei said during a speech broadcast live on Iranian state TV.
The leader added that Washington's imposition of crippling economic sanctions after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear pact, would not yield the results Trump hoped for. “If we yield to their pressure and hold talks with Americans, this will show that their maximum pressure on Iran has succeeded. They should know that this policy has no value for us,” Khamenei said.
“In return, we have to prove that the policy is not worth a penny for the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “That’s why all Iranian officials, from the president and the foreign minister to all others, have announced that we do not negotiate [with the U.S.] either bilaterally or multilaterally.”
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” So begins Naval Station Guantánamo Bay’s hurricane preparedness guide, which it circulates to the military officers and dependents stationed at the base. The quip, a quote attributed to Ben Franklin, smacks of irony given the current U.S. administration’s approach to climate change — to deny it exists and certainly not to plan for the havoc it will inevitably wreak.
But plan Guantánamo must, not only because the base is a crucial hub for what the U.S. Southern Command considers “hemispheric security,” but because of its notorious prison that holds the 40 forever detainees of the war on terror. And while President Donald Trump has promised to keep the prison open and even bring in new detainees, the base at Guantánamo finds itself in a geographic region particularly vulnerable to the very climate crisis the Trump administration refutes. Whether they acknowledge it or not, military commanders thus face a conundrum: spend enormous amounts of money to revamp the deteriorating detention camp to make it hurricane-proof, or put detainees lives in danger. The military has proposed a series of improvements to the base, some of which would address the threat of storms, but for the most part, work has proceeded piecemeal. ...
Since Trump’s January 2018 executive order to maintain the prison at Guantánamo, the question of infrastructural shortcomings has reemerged. The detention mission at the base changed from “expeditionary” to “enduring” as a result of Trump’s order. Consequently, Joint Task Force Guantánamo, or JTF GTMO, was under a new imperative to plan for the future – a future comprised of an aging and increasingly ill detainee population, some of whom are already experiencing the physical and psychological effects of torture, detainment, and growing old at the base. In light of the current administration’s position, commanders received orders last year to plan for another 25 years of detention at Guantánamo. As journalist Carol Rosenberg reported for the New York Times, JTF is effectively planning for detainees to “grow old and die” there. Rosenberg wrote in April that then-JTF Commander Rear Adm. John C. Ring envisioned a “communal nursing home-style and hospice care confinement” facility.
Prior to his dismissal at approximately the same time as Rosenberg’s report, Ring was a leading proponent of the establishment of Camp 8, a proposed $69 million detention camp to hold the alleged 9/11 plotters and other “high-value” detainees. Camp 8 would have been constructed to withstand a Category 3 hurricane (despite the Category 4 and 5 storms of recent years), but Congress ultimately refused to fund it. Asked how it intends to navigate climate change-related extreme weather, a JTF spokesperson told The Intercept, “We do not discuss our plans or operations, but reaffirm our commitment to safe, humane, and legal detention of law of armed conflict detainees. Our Warfighters constantly train for multiple contingencies including destructive weather, and the safety of detainees is a priority for the Joint Task Force.” Though Congress declined to upgrade detainee facilities, those “Warfighters” now take their meals at a $12 million hurricane-proof dining room and kitchen that opened in summer 2018.
Spain looks set to return to the polls for the fourth time in as many years in November after last-ditch efforts to break the deadlock following April’s inconclusive vote came to nothing late on Tuesday. Although the Spanish socialist party (PSOE), led by the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, won the most votes five months ago, it fell well short of a majority in the country’s 350-seat congress.
Sánchez’s efforts to form a government were hobbled by the refusal of the centre-right Citizens party to countenance a pact with the PSOE and by the socialists’ own firm veto on entering into a coalition with the far-left, anti-austerity alliance Unidas Podemos.
On Tuesday night, after two days of talks with party leaders, King Felipe announced that he would not be putting forward a candidate to stand as prime minister as none was likely to win an investiture debate in congress.
Barring any breakthroughs, parliament is expected to be dissolved on Monday and a general election held on 10 November.
Jeremy Corbyn has set out the four pillars of a “sensible” Brexit deal he would negotiate with the EU, as he pledged to carry out whatever the people decide in a second EU referendum as Labour prime minister. The Labour leader set out how he would go into an election offering to negotiate a Brexit deal involving a customs union, ahead of next week’s party conference where activists will launch a bid to shift the party’s position towards campaigning to remain in the EU.
At the annual gathering in Brighton, some members will attempt to force a conference vote on the issue, with the aim of getting a promise to campaign for remain in the party’s next general election manifesto. Senior shadow cabinet figures – John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry, Tom Watson and Nick Brown – have all said they would want to campaign to stay in the bloc regardless of any Brexit deal negotiated by Labour.
However, Corbyn’s statement is the strongest sign yet that he will resist demands to pick a side and would opt to stay out of campaigning in a second referendum on a Labour-negotiated Brexit deal, allowing him to pitch himself as the neutral referee who pledges to carry out whatever the public decides. This would help avoid the situation David Cameron found himself in as prime minister in 2016, when he resigned from No 10 after ending up on the losing side.
Writing in the Guardian, Corbyn laid down a marker of his determination to seek a better Brexit deal from the EU, which the party believes it could negotiate quickly based on conversations already undertaken with Brussels. “A Labour government would secure a sensible deal based on the terms we have long advocated, including a new customs union with the EU; a close single market relationship; and guarantees of workers’ rights and environmental protections,” he said. “We would then put that to a public vote alongside remain. I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister.” ...
Corbyn also positioned Labour as “the only UK-wide party ready to put our trust in the people of Britain to make the decision”, after the Liberal Democrats changed their position to campaigning for a revocation of article 50 in a bid to attract remain voters.
Worth a full read:
Central bankers are out of ammunition. Mark Carney, the soon-to-be-retiring head of the Bank of England, admitted as much in a speech at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in August. “In the longer-term,” he said, “we need to change the game.” The same point was made by Philipp Hildebrand, former head of the Swiss National Bank, in a recent interview with Bloomberg. “Really, there is little if any ammunition left,” he said. “More of the same in terms of monetary policy is unlikely to be an appropriate response if we get into a recession or sharp downturn.”
“More of the same” means further lowering interest rates, the central bankers’ stock tool for maintaining their targeted inflation rate in a downturn. Bargain-basement interest rates are supposed to stimulate the economy by encouraging borrowers to borrow (since rates are so low) and savers to spend (since they aren’t making any interest on their deposits and may have to pay to store them). At the moment, over $15 trillion in bonds are trading globally at negative interest rates, yet this radical maneuver has not been shown to measurably improve economic performance. In fact, new research shows that negative interest rates from central banks, rather than increasing spending, stopping deflation and stimulating the economy as they were expected to do, may be having the opposite effects. They are being blamed for squeezing banks, punishing savers, keeping dying companies on life support and fueling a potentially unsustainable surge in asset prices.
So what is a central banker to do? Hildebrand’s proposed solution was presented in a paper he wrote with three of his colleagues at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, where he is now vice chairman. Released in August to coincide with the annual Jackson Hole meeting, the paper was co-authored by Stanley Fischer, former governor of the Bank of Israel and former vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve; Jean Boivin, former deputy governor of the Bank of Canada; and BlackRock economist Elga Bartsch. Their proposal calls for “more explicit coordination between central banks and governments when economies are in a recession so that monetary and fiscal policy can better work in synergy.” The goal, according to Hildebrand, is to go “direct with money to consumers and companies in order to enliven consumption,” putting spending money directly into consumers’ pockets. ...
It sounds good until you get to the part about who would disburse the funds: “Independent experts would decide how best to deploy the funds to both maximize impact and meet strategic investment objectives set by the government.” “Independent experts” is another term for “technocrats”—bureaucrats chosen for their technical skill rather than by popular vote. They might be using sophisticated data, algorithms and economic formulae to determine “how best to deploy the funds,” but the question is, “best for whom?” It was central bank technocrats who plunged the economies of Greece and Italy into austerity after 2011, and unelected technocrats who put Detroit into bankruptcy in 2013.
President Trump approvingly tweeted a chart that showed a sharp decline in the number of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border last week, celebrating it as “Incredible progress.” But that chart wasn’t produced by his own administration — it was provided to him by the government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
It was the latest indication that Mexico has oriented its immigration policy entirely around the goal of appeasing Trump. To that end, Mexico has instituted a widespread crackdown on migrants traversing the country from Central America in order to reach the United States.
Incredible progress being made at the Southern Border! pic.twitter.com/xcqxKEkfGD
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2019
The crackdown is the culmination of a long about-face by López Obrador, who campaigned for president last year as a progressive populist and promised to treat migration as a humanitarian concern rather than a military one or a threat to public safety.
Specifically, López Obrador promised not to do the “dirty work” of the United States by stopping migrants in their tracks. But in June, after Trump threatened escalating tariffs on all Mexican goods, the López Obrador administration caved.
Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw has a popular post going around on Twitter at the moment admonishing Senator Bernie Sanders for saying that the US government should not go to war if it can’t afford to take care of its veterans.
“Watching Bernie pander to different groups to get their vote has always disgusted me, but now it’s personal,” Crenshaw tweeted. “I didn’t go to war so that you would take care of me, Bernie. I went because I wanted to serve and our country needed it.”
This “look at me, I’m a veteran” song and dance is par for course with Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who lost an eye to an improvised explosive device on his third deployment in America’s evil and unjustifiable Afghanistan occupation. When Crenshaw says “I went because I wanted to serve and our country needed it,” he is being delusional, and feeding into his delusion allows him to continue dominating public discourse with obnoxiously propagandistic takes like the notion that the US should continue its forever war without even so much as ensuring that it can take care of the people whose lives are chewed up and spat out by the imperial war machine.
Dan Crenshaw did not serve his country. Dan Crenshaw is not a hero. Dan Crenshaw participated in a military occupation that after 18 years and counting has claimed tens of thousands of lives for no benefit to any ordinary American at all. All he served during his time in that country was the geostrategic imperialist agendas of unaccountable government agencies and the profit margins of war plutocrats, yet upon returning home he’s been able to convert his stint as a glorified hired thug into social collateral which got him elected to the US House of Representatives and secured him a punditry platform from which he can spout war propaganda. All because people agree to play along with the completely nonsensical narrative that US war veterans are heroes. You see this time and time again: a completely fact-free fairy tale about heroism and fighting for freedom is treated as unquestionable dogma by a populace who has agreed to treat US war veterans with reverence and respect, despite the fact that they chose to pour their time and energy into what is literally the most unhelpful and destructive endeavor that you could possibly devote yourself to. This unquestioning reverence is then consistently twisted into leverage for war propagandists to use in glorifying acts of mass military slaughter which benefitted no one and made the whole world worse. ...
Of course veterans of US wars should be taken care of, and taken care of far better than they currently are, but not because they are heroes. Rather, they should be cared for because they spent time in a highly traumatic environment which sends home many highly traumatized people who will need a lot of help in order to reintegrate into society in a healthy way. What they went through was a horrible tragedy that nobody should ever have to go through, not a glorious thing that more people should aspire to enlist into. ...
It’s like veterans are engaged with us in a bizarre live action role-playing game, where they pretend to be the heroes and the rest of us pretend to be the thankful civilians whose freedoms they fought for. But continuing to LARP with them in this way creates nonsense like we see in Crenshaw’s tweet, and in the ridiculous smears against NFL players choosing to take a knee during the national anthem, and in the bleating of “Support our troops!” as a one-line shutdown of anyone who protested the Iraq invasion. ...
There are no war heroes. There are only war victims. It’s time to grow up and stop pretending otherwise.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly decried the West Coast’s inability to solve homelessness. Now, some members of his administration are now floating at least one way to get people off the streets: supporting police crackdowns. In a new White House report published Monday, Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers suggested that “policing may be an important tool to help move people off the street and into shelter or housing where they can get the services they need.” The report also cited research from the 80s, which wrote of a time before a boom in unsheltered homelessness when “police patrols would have bundled [the homeless] off to jail."
The suggestions were published a day before Trump would travel to Palo Alto, California, for a campaign fundraising event on Tuesday. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will also be in nearby San Francisco to discuss the progressive enclave’s long-standing problems with homelessness and housing affordability.
While Trump has no public events scheduled for Tuesday, it’s anticipated he and Carson will make an appearance together, according to CNN. And the council’s report could serve as a talking point. Speaking to reporters during his flight to the West Coast, Trump said he planned to do something the homeless people sleeping on “our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings.”
Here's a small taste of an article with the particularly damning details of Joe Biden's long, racist juggernaut of a career.
The Untold Story: Joe Biden Pushed Ronald Reagan to Ramp Up Incarceration — Not the Other Way Around
Joe Biden this weekend continued to draw attention to the complicated role he has played in the country’s history of race relations. On Thursday night, he drew criticism when he was asked what Americans can do about the legacy of slavery, and answered by suggesting parents put on a record player for kids, and that social workers should visit parents’ homes to teach them how to care for their children. He followed that by recounting on Sunday his run-in in the 1960s with a young gang leader named “Corn Pop,” a story that involved “the only white guy” at a city pool cutting him a 6-foot piece of chain to defend himself against the razor-wielding teen and his friends.
The politics of race relations have been a central part of Biden’s career, from his high-profile opposition to busing to his authoring of the 1994 Biden Crime Bill. When he talks about his criminal justice record on the campaign trail, he argues today that the focus on the ’94 bill is unfair, because the real rise in mass incarceration happened at the state level and was long underway by then.
Although mass imprisonment is and was primarily driven by states, at the federal level Biden shaped the punitive political culture of the 1980s and 1990s by reviving a policy agenda that was briefly in decline at the end of the 1970s. In three years under Carter, the federal prison population fell by a quarter, even as it was rising at the state level. By the final days of the Carter administration, the federal program that provided resources to states for policing and imprisonment, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, or LEAA, was being dismantled.
In the weeks after the election, Biden argued that the problem with LEAA was inadequate coordination and poor management, and that the federal government should take a more assertive stance in this area while continuing to provide funds to states to expand their police and prison systems. “The American people believe we have waged war on crime and failed,” Biden, who was the U.S. senator for Delaware at the time, said. “Therefore, they concluded that nothing can be done about it.” In his view, though, federal funding was an essential piece of the drug war. He saw the need for a program like LEAA, but it needed a stronger manager in charge: a drug czar.
In the old George Carlin joke, the TV sportscaster announces: “Here’s a partial score from the West Coast – Los Angeles 6.”
For a brilliant comedian like Carlin—who skewered corporate power, class structure and political/media propaganda—that’s one of his more innocuous jokes. But it’s sharply relevant today as corporate TV news outlets serve up a series of partial scores. Call it “propaganda by omission.”
Take the coverage that followed Thursday’s Democratic debate. Bernie Sanders didn’t object in the debate when Joe Biden hung a price tag on Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan of $30 trillion (over 10 years). Sanders responded by offering the other score: “That’s right, Joe. Status quo over 10 years will be $50 trillion. Every study done shows that Medicare for All is the most cost-effective approach to providing healthcare to every man, woman, and child in this country.”
The $50 trillion figure for continuing the status quo (actually $47 trillion) comes from the “National Health Expenditure Fact Sheet” of the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
I checked the post-debate news coverage. As in the Carlin joke, I found many references to the partial score: the $30-32 trillion estimated cost of Sanders’ legislation. But not the other score: the more costly estimate of sticking with a system in which health insurance is provided by for-profit corporations. I watched, for example, the next day’s in-depth report on CBS Evening News lasting a full two minutes. (That’s “in-depth” nowadays on nightly newscasts.) The $32 trillion estimate was prominent, but the other score was omitted—no estimate for staying with the status quo. When the report ended, anchor Nora O’Donnell accentuated the bias by saying: “That’s an expensive plan, Ed. Thank you.”
Surprise! (Well, not really.)
Some of Wall Street’s largest asset management companies are failing to live up to commitments to use their voting power to fight the climate crisis, according to a new report. The report, published on Tuesday by the Washington DC-based Majority Action and the Climate Majority Project, claims that BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6tn under management, and Vanguard, with assets of $5.2tn, have voted overwhelmingly against the key climate resolutions at energy companies, including a resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting, and at Duke Energy.
Had BlackRock and Vanguard not torpedoed these investor efforts, at least 16 climate-critical shareholder resolutions at S&P 500 companies would have received majority support in 2019, representing a significant corporate shift on climate, the report claims.
Refusing to use their proxy votes to support shareholders’ resolutions means letting companies off the hook – even as the climate crisis threatens their investors, their business models and the planet, the group says.
“The climate crisis is well upon us, and leading investors are stepping up to press fossil-fuel-dependent companies to align their strategies to the goals of the Paris agreement but some of the largest US investment companies are severely lagging,” said Majority Action’s Eli Kasargod-Staub. “Blackrock and Vanguard have been using their shareholder voting power to undermine, rather than support, investor action on climate, including opposing every one of the resolutions proposed by the $34tn Climate Action 100+ coalition, calling for significant board room reform in response to its failure to act on climate change,” Kasargod-Staub added.
Air pollution particles have been found on the foetal side of placentas, indicating that unborn babies are directly exposed to the black carbon produced by motor traffic and fuel burning.
The research is the first study to show the placental barrier can be penetrated by particles breathed in by the mother. It found thousands of the tiny particles per cubic millimetre of tissue in every placenta analysed.
The link between exposure to dirty air and increased miscarriages, premature births and low birth weights is well established. The research suggests the particles themselves may be the cause, not solely the inflammatory response the pollution produces in mothers.
Damage to foetuses has lifelong consequences and Prof Tim Nawrot at Hasselt University in Belgium, who led the study, said: “This is the most vulnerable period of life. All the organ systems are in development. For the protection of future generations, we have to reduce exposure.” He said governments had the responsibility of cutting air pollution but that people should avoid busy roads when possible.
A comprehensive global review concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body. Nanoparticles have also been found to cross the blood-brain barrier and billions have been found in the hearts of young city dwellers.
The Trump administration is poised to end California’s authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards and bar states from establishing their own regulations. Conservative and free-market groups have been invited to attend an announcement of the rollback Wednesday afternoon at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington. The widely reported announcement is sure to spark a furious legal challenge.
The EPA has planned since last year to ease emissions standards for cars and trucks, saying that a timeline put in place by Barack Obama set standards “too high”. California, which had a waiver under the Clean Air Act to exceed the national standards by requiring even more efficient cars, vowed to fight the new standards, as the state has fought the Trump administration on a number of a different issues.
Donald Trump met with senior officials on Thursday and agreed to greenlight the plan to bar California from setting its own vehicle greenhouse gas standards or requiring zero emission vehicles, Reuters reported last week. The White House declined to comment. The administration plans to issue rules rolling back Obama-era fuel economy requirements in the coming weeks.
The move comes after the justice department opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen for tougher pollution and mileage requirements than those sought by Trump.
The world’s biggest supplier of burgers sourced meat from a farmer in the Amazon who had been found guilty of using deforested land, say reports, even as new figures reveal the beef industry’s deforestation risks.
Marfrig, a Brazilian meat company that has supplied McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food chains around the world, bought cattle from a farm that had been using deforested land earlier this year, according to a joint investigation by Repórter Brasil and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The company said it was misled by a government certificate that cleared the farm of deforestation, and it has since ended the association.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Clyde McPhatter - Lover Please
Clyde McPhatter - Deep Sea Ball
Clyde McPhatter - Just To Hold My Hand
Drifters - Honey Love
Clyde McPhatter - Since You’ve Been Gone
Clyde McPhatter - One Right After Another
Drifters - Money Honey
Clyde McPhatter - Let's Forget About The Past
Clyde McPhatter - Don't Dog Me
Clyde McPhatter - Everybody's Somebody's Fool
Clyde McPhatter - Everybody Loves A Good Time
Clyde McPhatter - I'm Not Going to Work Today