G. G. Bain The new Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge over the East River, NYC 1909
China trade deal. Dems Debate. Senate impeachment trial. Should be a fun week.
The Democrats are in self-destruct mode. Debate tonight, no more Mr. or Mrs. nice gal. Nobody can afford to be nice anymore. You’re my friend, but…
But as I said the other day: “Bernie is a socialist, Biden is a sleepy flip flop who blackmailed Ukraine, Warren is Pocahontas squared and a socialist, Buttigieg has a closet full of things he hasn’t yet outed, and nobody likes Bloomberg.”
• The Coming Clash Between Bernie And Biden (Pol.)
Bernie Sanders’ first major tangle with Joe Biden — over a 2010 deal that Biden struck with Republicans that liberals believed threatened Social Security — helped fuel his national rise. Now Sanders is set to reprise that clash Tuesday night on the debate stage, where the Vermont senator is preparing to lay into Biden over his record on Social Security. For the past week, Sanders and his campaign have telegraphed his attack over the former vice president’s long-standing record entertaining cuts to the program that are anathema to progressives and many mainstream Democrats. Sanders’ speechwriter and senior adviser David Sirota said Tuesday will be time for Biden to answer hard questions about his past onstage.
“Joe Biden has repeatedly worked to cut Social Security, and has never offered up a good explanation for that crusade. His Social Security record is not only atrocious on a policy level, it is an enormous political vulnerability in both a primary and a general election,” Sirota said. “Bernie Sanders has exactly the opposite record — he’s fought those cuts and fought to expand Social Security, and that is a contrast Democratic voters deserve to know.” [..] Sanders, though, differs from [..] other candidates in one important way: He has a devoted base of loyal followers who show no signs of deserting him, many of whom want to see Sanders take the fight to a rival they view as the embodiment of the Democratic establishment by focusing on one of the party’s signature legacy programs, Social Security.
He has also already repeatedly criticized Biden for his votes for the Iraq War and free-trade deals on the debate stage without seemingly suffering. The Sanders team’s expected assault comes as he is at the top of the polls in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, but still significantly polling behind Biden among seniors. It’s not guaranteed he will execute the attack on Biden in a sustained way: After previous debates, some of his aides and supporters have been disappointed that he hasn’t confronted Biden more aggressively.
I don’t think it’s time for America to go socialist, the economy has to get a lot worse for that. But a Democratic candidate who is exposed getting funded by billionaires may already be bridge too far.
• Joe Biden’s Campaign Chairman Rallies Wall Street Donors (CNBC)
Joe Biden’s campaign chairman privately met with some of Wall Street’s top donors last week in an attempt to rally them around the former vice president’s push for the Democratic nomination. Steve Ricchetti, the campaign chairman and one of Biden’s closest advisors, gathered with about 90 financiers Wednesday at investment banking firm Evercore in New York, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. His pitch appeared to sway several of the big-money donors, as well, these people said. Attendees included Evercore founder Roger Altman, longtime investor Blair Effron, Blackstone Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gray, Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, Centerbridge Partners co-founder Mark Gallogly, and former U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, said the people, who declined to be named since the meeting was deemed private.
Ricchetti told the donors that he believes now is the time for them and their donor networks to get behind Biden as the first contests of the 2020 primary season are set to kick off in three weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. Polling averages show that Biden has maintained his spot as the national Democratic front-runner with six months to go until the Democratic convention. Yet he is in extremely tight races with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary early in February.
They tried anti-semite on Jewish Bernie Sanders, and if possible smearing him as sexist is even crazier. Bye Warren!
• Sanders-Warren Fight Unnerves Progressives (Hill)
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appear to be at war after a long-standing detente, unnerving liberals who hoped to see a progressive win the party’s nomination and fear the clash could hurt both presidential candidates. Tensions between the Sanders and Warren camps were already rising, but they boiled over ahead of a pivotal Tuesday night debate in Des Moines, Iowa, after CNN reported that Sanders told Warren at a meeting in 2018 that a woman could not be elected president. Sanders vehemently denies the story, which came from four anonymous sources close to Warren. Warren, in a statement released late Monday, said Sanders did make the remark, but she also sought to cool tensions. “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed. I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” she said.
[..] The CNN report about Sanders’s alleged sexist remark was a dramatic escalation after a year of campaigning in which the candidates and their campaigns refused to go after one another. Sanders released a statement strongly denying that he had ever told Warren that a woman could not be elected president. The Vermont senator, who has at times singled out CNN and other mainstream outlets over their coverage of his campaign, called the report “ludicrous.” “It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened,” he said. “What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”
Don’t forget, this is going to overlap the Democratic nomination race. The Dems can get Bolton perhaps, but that opens the door for the GOP to call Hunter and Joe Biden. And many others. Hillary, Obama?!
• The Democrats Are Demanding Witnesses With One Notable Exception (Turley)
For those who have the votes, witnesses are an unnecessary risk. For those who don’t, they are an absolute necessity. On Friday, Schumer insisted that “there is only one precedent that matters here: that never, never in the history of our country, has there been an impeachment trial of the president where the Senate was denied the ability to hear from witnesses.” Put another way, Schumer does not have the votes and thus needs the witnesses. Schumer now wants to hear from the witnesses who never testified before the House, which rushed through an impeachment without seeking to compel testimony from key officials. One of those, former national security adviser John Bolton, said Monday he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed.
In the Clinton impeachment trial 21 years ago, Schumer and the Democrats opposed hearing from witnesses. In that impeachment chapter, the Democrats had the votes. Lacking the votes this time, the unpredictability of witnesses now appeals to Schumer and his party. But only up to a point. Schumer has opposed the suggested Republican witnesses as a mere “distraction.” One witness in particular could prove not just a distraction but a disaster: Hunter Biden. In a conventional trial, Biden would be a relevant defense witness. Biden’s testimony would have bearing on a key question in an abuse-of-power trial. Trump insists that he raised the issue of Hunter Biden’s relationship with a Ukrainian energy firm to the Ukrainian president as part of an overall concern he had about ongoing corruption in that country.
If that contract with the son of a former vice president could be shown to be a corrupt scheme to advance the interests of a foreign company or country, it might be Trump’s best defense. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 401, courts will often review possible testimony under the standard of whether “it has a tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Even before the adoption of the Bill of Rights, Congress enacted a statute reaffirming the right of the “defense to make any proof that he can produce by lawful witnesses” in cases of treason and capitol cases.
[..] Trump’s position is that he did not arbitrarily ask a country to investigate a possible political rival. Had Trump called for an investigation into Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) husband, for example, without a scintilla of proof of corruption, it would be entirely indefensible. However, the Biden contract was so openly corrupt it would have made Jack Abramoff blush. Even in the United States, lobbyists and companies will often give family members undeserved lucrative jobs and contracts to curry favor with powerful politicians. Overseas, it is standard operating procedure.
Jim does a lot of reading into the topic. He’s becoming an expert.
• Sedition in Real Time (Kunstler)
It is a wonder of these incendiary times that even as impeachment of a president moves to its ripest phase, trial in the Senate, the acts of sedition that prompted it still go on behind the scenes with no intervention — an epic failure of authority, if there ever was one. And further irony, if ever there was a trial that cried for witnesses, the impeachment case being brought by Mrs. Pelosi is such a hash of fraud, incompetence, and chicanery, that it begs for summary dismissal — so that these seditious caitiffs will not have to answer to the nation. I speak of the “whistleblower” scheme cooked up by a network of officials who have actively plotted to overthrow the president for three years, as laid out at The Last Refuge website Sunday night:
Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson in league with former colleagues from the Department of Justice National Security Division and the Lawfare org — a group dedicated to weaponizing law, in service to the political Left. As I have averred in this blog as far back as October, Mr. Atkinson’s previous job before being appointed ICIG was counsel (lawyer) to the Department of Justice’s Chief of National Security. During the first half of the election year 2016, that was John Carlin. Mr. Carlin’s job was not just to sign-off on FISA warrants, but to actually write them. It also happens that Mr. Carlin had previously served as chief of staff to Robert Mueller, when Mr. Mueller was FBI Director.
Mr. Carlin signed-off on a March 2016 warrant against Carter Page, under suspicion of being a Russian Spy, when in fact Carter Page was a CIA informant who had been operating in Russia for years to uncover Russian adventures against the USA. CIA Director John Brennan inserted Mr. Page into the Trump campaign to open up Mr. Trump’s campaign to FBI surveillance, since the CIA has no law enforcement powers. The FISA Court’s Two-hop Rule allows a second hop to anyone who communicated with the initial subject of a warrant, which might have achieved surveillance of everyone in the Trump campaign, including the candidate himself. It also would have allowed access to all communications going back for years. This part of the scheme was probably green-lighted by White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice for Mr. Brennan, with President Obama’s approval, for the purpose of helping Hillary Clinton win the election.
David Graeber on Brexit. Excellent.
“Insofar as they dreamed of anything, now, it was of finding some British equivalent of Barack Obama, a leader who looked and acted so much like a visionary, who had so perfected the gestures and intonations, that it never occurred to anyone to ask what that vision actually was (since the vision was, precisely, not to have a vision).”
• The Center Blows Itself Up: Care and Spite in the ‘Brexit Election’ (Graeber)
Politics, in wealthy countries, is increasingly becoming a war between the generations. While the support for smaller parties in the UK (Liberal Democrats, Greens, the Scottish National Party, even Brexit) is constant across ages, the split between Labour and Conservative is almost entirely based on age cohort: The result, according to YouGov opinion polling data from 2018, is that if only Britons over the age of sixty-five were allowed to vote, the Labour Party would be all but wiped out, whereas if only Britons under twenty-five were allowed to vote, there would simply be no Tory MPs whatsoever. This is particularly striking when one takes into consideration that the left Labour policies the young so overwhelmingly voted for in the 2017 and 2019 elections were ones that had been treated, even a year or two before, as so radical as to fall off the political spectrum entirely.
Proclamations of the death of British socialism, then, seem decidedly premature. Meanwhile, the Tories’ core constituency is quite literally dying off. If conventional wisdom is correct, historically young people only begin to vote Conservative when they acquire a mortgage, or otherwise feel they have a secure position to defend within the system, which bodes ill indeed for the Tories’ future prospects. Why, then, such an apparently devastating victory? Why did middle-aged swing voters—particularly in the former Labour heartlands of the North—break right instead of left? The most obvious explanation is buyer’s remorse over the European Union. For many working-class Northerners in their sixties, the first vote they ever cast was in the Common Market referendum of 1975, in which a majority of Britons declared in favor of the European project.
Electoral maps of the UK based on projected results of opinion polling from 2018 if, respectively, only over sixty-five year-olds (left) or only eighteen-to-twenty-four year-olds (right) were allowed to vote
Most experienced the next forty or so years largely as a sequence of disasters. In 2016 they turned against the “Eurocrats,” then watched in dismay as the entire political class proceeded to engage in endless and increasingly absurd procedural ballet that appeared designed to reverse their decision. This explanation is true, but superficial. To understand why Brexit became such an issue in the first place, one must first ask why a populism of the right has so far proved more adept than the left at capitalizing on profound shifts in the nature of class relations that have affected not just the UK but almost all wealthy societies; second, one must understand the uniquely nihilistic, indeed self-destructive, role of centrism in the British political scene.
Please fork over your $50 trillion.
• UN Draft Plan Sets 2030 Target To Avert Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction (G.)
Almost a third of the world’s oceans and land should be protected by the end of the decade to stop and reverse biodiversity decline that risks the survival of humanity, according to a draft Paris-style UN agreement on nature. To combat what scientists have described as the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history, the proposal sets a 2030 deadline for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and wildlife that perform crucial services for humans. The text, drafted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, is expected to be adopted by governments in October at a crucial UN summit in the Chinese city of Kunming. It comes after countries largely failed to meet targets for the previous decade agreed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010.
As well as calling for a commitment to protect at least 30% of the planet, the 20-point draft plan, which has been likened to the 2015 Paris agreement on the climate crisis, aims to introduce controls on invasive species and reduce pollution from plastic waste and excess nutrients by 50%. The draft text has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, who have called on governments to treat the targets outlined in the accord as the minimum acceptable level for which to aim. The director of Campaign for Nature, Brian O’Donnell, said: “Today’s draft shows that countries are listening and that they recognise the increasingly important role that protecting land and water must play in confronting climate change, preventing wildlife extinctions, and supporting people and local communities. This is a very encouraging first step.
“Much work remains to be done in the coming months to ensure that the rights of indigenous people are advanced, and bold conservation and finance targets are included in the final agreement.” By 2030, the trade in wild species must be legal and sustainable, according to the draft document, which also aims to promote the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in decision-making about biodiversity.
They claim only $1 trillion initially. Just so you don’t scare away.
• EU To Unveil Financial Plan To Shift To Green Economy (R.)
The European Commission will propose on Tuesday how the EU can pay for shifting the region’s economy to zero CO2 emissions in 2050 while protecting areas and industries most dependent on coal from taking the brunt of changes aimed at preventing climate change. The commission, the European Union’s executive arm, is to unveil details of its Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to mobilize investment of 1 trillion euros over 10 years using public and private money to help finance its flagship project — the European Green Deal. All EU countries except Poland agreed last month they should transform their economies over the next 30 years to not emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb, so as to limit global warming and resulting climate changes.
The deal came amid overwhelming support from Europeans who see irreversible climate change as one of their biggest threats, more so than terrorism or unemployment. In the only dissent among the 28 European Union countries to the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal, Poland argued that its energy systems and economy were too dependent on coal and lignite to make the transition over that time. To secure Warsaw’s support, the commission is to unveil on Tuesday the details of how it can help it financially through a Just Transition Fund that would generate 100 billion euros over seven years to ease the transition of coal-dependent regions to a “green” economy.
The Just Transition Fund is to be a mix of money from the EU’s long-term budget, loans from the European Investment Bank and the InvestEU program, using the principle of leveraging limited public funds to attract private cash by covering the riskiest parts of an investment. The commission announcement on Tuesday will spell out eligibility criteria for the funds, which are widely expected to be tilted in favor of Europe’s most coal- or lignite-dependent regions like Silesia in Poland. As well as being a huge challenge, the commission sees a switch to an economic model not based on burning fossil fuels for energy as a great opportunity for European industry to shift to making environmentally clean, re-usable and repairable products based on renewable energy sources.
• US Drops China Currency Manipulator Label Ahead Of Trade Deal Signing (R.)
The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday dropped its designation of China as a currency manipulator days before top officials of the world’s two largest economies were due to sign a preliminary trade agreement to ease an 18-month-old tariff war. The widely expected decision came in a long-delayed semi-annual currency report, reversing an unexpected move by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last August at the height of U.S.-China trade tensions. Mnuchin had accused China of deliberately holding down the value of its yuan currency to create an unfair trade advantage, just hours after President Donald Trump, angered at the lack of progress in trade negotiations, had also accused China of manipulating its currency.
The Treasury Department had not labeled China a currency manipulator since 1994. Beijing had recently met just one of the department’s three criteria needed for such a designation – a large bilateral trade surplus with the United States. In its latest currency report, the Treasury said that as part of the Phase 1 trade deal, China had made “enforceable commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation” and agreed to publish relevant data on exchange rates and external balances. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington on Monday for a White House ceremony to sign the trade deal with Trump. People familiar with the negotiations said that although the manipulator designation had no real consequences for Beijing, its removal was an important symbol of goodwill for Chinese officials.
Can’t survive on hubris alone, white boy.
• Australia’s Indigenous People’s Answer To Bushfires Is 50,000 Years Old (CNN)
The fires in Australia have been burning for months, consuming nearly 18 million acres of land, causing thousands to evacuate and killing potentially millions of animals. They’re showing minimal signs of slowing down. The Australian state of New South Wales, where both Sydney and Canberra are located, declared a state of emergency this week, as worsening weather conditions could lead to even greater fire danger. But a 50,000-year-old solution could exist: Aboriginal burning practices. Here’s how it works. Aboriginal people had a deep knowledge of the land, said historian Bill Gammage, an emeritus professor at Australian National University who studies Australian and Aboriginal history.
They can feel the grass and know if it would burn well; they knew what types of fires to burn for what types of land, how long to burn, and how frequently. “Skills like that, they have but we don’t know,” Gammage said. Aboriginal techniques are based in part on fire prevention: ridding the land of fuel, like debris, scrub, undergrowth and certain grasses. The fuel alights easily, which allows for more intense flames that are harder to fight. The Aboriginal people would set small-scale fires that weren’t too intense and clear the land of the extra debris. The smaller intensity fires would lessen the impact on the insects and animals occupying the land, too, as well as protect the trees and the canopy.
Setting smaller, low-intensity fires to prevent larger bushfires may sound like common sense. In practice, though, it’s really hard. It comes down to knowledge, Gammage said. When do you a start a fire? What time of the year? What time of day? How long you want it to burn? What plants are there? What’s the weather like — is there a drought like now? “You have to have a lot of local skill,” Gammage said. He cited an example. In Australia, fires that are too hot actually allows the flammable undergrowth to germinate more. When early Europeans tried to copy Aboriginal techniques by lighting fires, they made the fires too hot, and got even more of the flammable scrub. So, they tried again. And again. “Even though people can see the Aboriginese doing the fire control, and could see the benefits, they couldn’t copy it,” he said.
James C. Goodale was the vice chairman and general counsel of The New York Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and other battles.”
• Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? (Goodale)
[..] The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently livestreamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life. After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.
Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange. When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)
The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried. Can anything be more offensive to a “sense of justice” than an unlimited surveillance, particularly of lawyer-client conversations, livestreamed to the opposing party in a criminal case? The alleged streaming unmasked the strategy of Assange’s lawyers, giving the government an advantage that is impossible to remove.
Short of dismissing Assange’s indictment with prejudice, the government will always have an advantage that can never be matched by the defense. The usual remedy for warrantless surveillance is to exclude any illegally obtained information from the trial, but that remedy is inapplicable here. The government’s advantage in surveilling Assange is not the acquisition of tangible evidence but, rather, intangible insights into Assange’s legal strategy. There is no way, therefore, to give Assange a fair trial, since his opponents will know every move he will make. When Assange begins his extradition hearing, this will be part of his argument — that the CIA’s misbehavior violates his human rights by depriving him of his right to a fair trial.
Why do I have to read about this onn Sputnik? Where is the western coverage?
• Assange Legal Team Close To Bringing Legal Action Against Belmarsh Prison (Sp.)
Julian Assange’s legal team is on the verge of bringing a judicial review against prison authorities for denying their client proper access to his lawyers and his case files, Westminster Magistrate’s Court was told on 13 January 2020. Assange appeared in person for an administrative hearing for the first time in months and was greeted by supporters raising their clenched fists in solidarity, which he acknowledged with a nod and a small wave of the hand. At the hearing Judge Venessa Baraitser told Assange’s lawyers that the “longest period [Assange will have before being taken back to Belmarsh prison] is going to be an hour” due to the fact that there were already 47 people in the custody cells and eight in the consultation rooms.
Gareth Pierce, Assange’s lead solicitor, said that his legal team came to court with the expectation that they would discuss a “pretty substantial amount of evidence which only Mr Assange can sign off on” and which would take far more than an hour. “[Only having an hour] sets us back in our timetable enormously”, she explained. The court is expecting Assange’s lawyers to serve further key documents in the next couple of days but Pierce said that that would not be possible without proper time with their client. She told the court that if it was willing to contact Belmarsh prison on her client’s behalf then a meeting with his lawyers could be secured as early as 14 January. Judge Baraitser has consistently refused to intervene with prison authorities, claiming that she has no jurisdiction to do so, despite being presented with evidence of another judge doing precisely that.
“We have used every ability to press Belmarsh every way, and have [even] used government lawyers to note it is a breach of a defendant’s right to a defence… we are at the brink of judicial review”, Pierce told Judge Baraitser. [..] While Judge Baraitser remained unwilling to intervene with Belmarsh she did allow his hearing to be adjourned later in the day by another judge. In doing so she secured more time for Assange to consult with his lawyers before being returned to Belmarsh. Journalist and activist John Reese who attended the hearing suggested that Judge Baraitser was taking an increased interest in helping Assange secure more access to his lawyers
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