The Evening Blues - 9-13-16
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Sam Chatmon - Make Me A Pallet On the Floor
“The world is on the brink of radical changes. We see how the E.U. is gradually crumbling, and the U.S. economy is collapsing. This will end in a new world order. ... We are now witnessing the aggressive actions by the United States against Russia and China. I believe that Russia and China may form an alliance before which NATO will be powerless and it will put the end to the imperialist aspirations of the West.”
-- Xi Jinping
News and Opinion
Last week, a major censorship controversy erupted when Facebook began deleting all posts containing the iconic photograph of the Vietnamese “Napalm Girl” on the ground that it violated the company’s ban on “child nudity.” Facebook even deleted a post from the prime minister of Norway, who posted the photograph in protest of the censorship. As outrage spread, Facebook ultimately reversed itself — acknowledging “the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time” — but this episode illustrated many of the dangers I’ve previously highlighted in having private tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google become the arbiters of what we can and cannot see.
Having just resolved that censorship effort, Facebook seems to be vigorously courting another. The Associated Press reports today from Jerusalem that “the Israeli government and Facebook have agreed to work together to determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network.” These meetings are taking place “as the government pushes ahead with legislative steps meant to force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.” In other words, Israel is about to legislatively force Facebook to censor content deemed by Israeli officials to be improper, and Facebook appears eager to appease those threats by working directly with the Israeli government to determine what content should be censored.
The joint Facebook-Israel censorship efforts, needless to say, will be directed at Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation. The AP article makes that clear: “Israel has argued that a wave of violence with the Palestinians over the past year has been fueled by incitement, much of it spread on social media sites.” As Alex Kane reported in The Intercept in June, Israel has begun actively surveilling Palestinians for the content of their Facebook posts and even arresting some for clear political speech. Israel’s obsession with controlling Palestinians’ use of social media is motivated by the way it has enabled political organizing by occupation opponents; as Kane wrote: “A demonstration against the Israeli occupation can be organized in a matter of hours, while the monitoring of Palestinians is made easier by the large digital footprint they leave on their laptops and mobile phones.” ...
All of this underscores the severe dangers of having our public discourse overtaken, regulated, and controlled by a tiny number of unaccountable tech giants. I suppose some people are comforted by the idea that benevolent Facebook executives like Mark Zuckerberg are going to protect us all from “hate speech” and “incitement,” but — like “terrorism” — neither of those terms have any fixed meanings, are entirely malleable, and are highly subject to manipulation for propagandistic ends. Do you trust Facebook — or the Israeli government — to assess when a Palestinian’s post against Israeli occupation and aggression passes over into censorship-worthy “hate speech” or “incitement”?
Facebook temporarily banned a well-known Black Lives Matter activist and writer who posted a racist message he received, raising fresh questions about the way the social media site censors journalists.
Shaun King – a senior justice writer for the New York Daily News, who frequently writes viral stories about police brutality – posted on his Facebook page a screenshot of an email that twice called him the N-word, saying “FUCK YOU N*****!” The technology corporation said it was blocking him from posting for 24 hours, saying he had violated its “community standards”.
The ban, which Facebook later revoked and said was a mistake, comes amid a heated debate about the questionable editorial policies of the company, which now plays a major role in how people consume news. ...
In a statement to the Guardian on Monday, Facebook said: “The post was removed – and profile suspended – in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.” ...
King noted that Facebook’s censorship decisions can have a huge impact on people’s lives, citing the recent case of the company of Korryn Gaines, a Baltimore woman who was engaged in a standoff with police. Officers subsequently killed her.
North Dakota police have issued an arrest warrant for the Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, who has been reporting on the Native American protests against an oil pipeline, accusing her of entering “private property” to conduct interviews.
The charges have raised concerns about possible free speech violations and press intimidation, since the Morton county sheriff’s office accused the award-winning broadcast journalist after Democracy Now! filmed security guards working for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters. ...
An 8 September criminal complaint was filed against Goodman and Cody Hall, a protest organizer. The charging document from the state’s attorney for Morton County calls on the defendants to be “arrested and dealt with according to law” ...
Denis Moynihan, special projects coordinator for Democracy Now!, declined to comment further on Monday, but confirmed that Goodman had not been arrested. Goodman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Spokespeople for the sheriff and prosecutor’s office declined to comment. Deputies stopped Hall on 9 September, allegedly for “expired tabs”, and then arrested him for two counts of criminal trespass, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. ...
Democracy Now! said it is now consulting with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and lawyers in North Dakota. CCR’s legal director, Baher Azmy, told Democracy Now!, “This is clearly a violation of the first amendment … an attempt to repress this important political movement by silencing media coverage.”
Edward Snowden has set out the case for Barack Obama granting him a pardon before the US president leaves office in January, arguing that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by US and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off.
The US whistleblower’s comments, made in an interview with the Guardian, came as supporters, including his US lawyer, stepped up a campaign for a presidential pardon. Snowden is wanted in the US, where he is accused of violating the Espionage Act and faces at least 30 years in jail.
Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited.
“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists – for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” he said.
“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”
On Monday, in a rare public appearance, Assad spoke to congregants gathered for Eid al-Adha prayers in a mosque in Damascus.
Assad expressed dismay that, "after five years, some people still haven't woken up from their fantasies," and vowed to retake "every area from the terrorists and to rebuild."
Assad has often labelled all forces fighting against his regime as terrorists.
The speech took place in the Daraya suburb of Damascus, which, until last month, had been a stronghold for forces attempting to topple Assad.
A two-day ceasefire, brokered by the US and Russia, will begin at sunset on Monday. The deal calls for US-backed opposition, and the Russian-backed regime, to refrain from attacking each other, though the regime will still be able to target Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) targets.
The Syrian ceasefire came into effect this evening across the nation, and despite a handful of claims of violations, it appears to have largely been intact. Across the country there is considerable tension, and many expect the deal to fail, but there is also calm.
The largest reported incident of fighting was in the far southern Daraa Province, where southern rebels who were supposed to be part of the ceasefire bragged of killing four soldiers after it was supposed to have gone into effect.
Helicopter strikes were also reported against the rebel-held half of Aleppo, though since that area is held by the Nusra Front, which is not a party to the ceasefire, it is unclear if they actually amounts to a violation or not.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu today mocked his US counterpart Ash Carter for a bellicose speech in which he’d claimed Russia was plotting to erode “the international order” and was a threat to global security.
Shoigu insisted that Carter was mistaking the international order with a “American order,” and that the international order was up to the entire international community to decide, and not just for the Pentagon to dictate to everyone else.
He went on to say that ongoing disagreements over Syria would be a lot easier to solve if the Pentagon recognized this distinction, and that disagreements in a lot of other venues worldwide would be settled more easily as well.
White House officials continue to insist that President Obama intends to veto the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which unanimously passed in both the House and Senate, claiming that the weakening of the principle of sovereign immunity is a danger to the US.
JASTA is designed to allow victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia over the attack, based on Saudi government involvement in the scheme, as detailed by the 9/11 Report’s 28 pages. Saudi Arabia has threatened to collapse the US Treasury market in retaliation. ...
The Obama Administration argument boils down to the idea that the US commits so many atrocities abroad itself that opening this Pandora’s box could really open the US government up to similar suits from its assorted victims. In that regard, they’re probably not wrong, though the US has tended to pick and choose with sovereign immunity, protecting its allies from lawsuits while setting up suits against international rivals.
The White House also faces the very serious possibility of a veto override, which would be the first in Obama’s presidency, since both the House and Senate unanimously passed the bill, and many are likely to continue to do so even in the face of presidential opposition.
Israel’s Channel 2 has today reported that Israeli officials have accepted the most recent US military aid package, which will see them receiving some $38 billion over the next decade. Israeli officials are said to be eager to finalize it, and it is expected to be signed in the next few days.
This comes just a day after a report in the Washington Post claiming that the deal was being held up by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC), who was planning to advance his own, slightly larger military aid bill through the Senate and accused Obama of trying to take over appropriations duties that are rightfully Congress’.
Graham says Benjamin Netanyahu warned him he was holding up the deal, and that he told Netanyahu to tell the Obama Administration “to go F themselves.” The White House was said to be reluctant to sign the deal with Graham so outraged by it.
Show of force after regime tested its biggest device yet as South’s president, Park Geun-hye, says Kim Jong-un’s ‘mental state spiralling out of control’
The United States has flown two nuclear-capable supersonic bombers over ally South Korea in a show of force meant after North Korea conducted a nuclear test.
The B-1B bombers, escorted by US and South Korean jets, flew over Osan air base, 75 miles (120km) from the heavily armed border with the North. The bombers were thought to have returned later to Andersen air force base in Guam, without landing in South Korea.
Such flyovers are common when tensions are elevated on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea does not have nuclear weapons and relies on its US alliance as a deterrent to the North. Washington stations more than 28,000 troops in the South and tens of thousands more in Japan.
The North Korea uses American military influence in the South in its propaganda as alleged proof of US hostility that it claims as the reason it needs a nuclear bomb programme.
In yet another tough statement against the North, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday ordered her military to be ready to “finish off” North Korea if it fires a nuclear missile toward South Korea. She said Kim Jong-un’s “mental state is spiralling out of control” and his government showed “fanatic recklessness”.
Speaking of "fanatic recklessness"...
A Republican leader calling for a new military base in Georgia is hardly newsworthy — the state already has more than a dozen such installations. But when it’s the speaker of parliament in the country of Georgia, who belongs to that nation’s Republican Party calling for a U.S. military base on Russia’s southern border, and for a constitutional amendment to guarantee his country’s commitment to NATO, that should raise some eyebrows.
Although major U.S. papers didn’t report that news this month, it reflects another escalation of NATO’s dangerous confrontation with Moscow. Eight years ago, Georgia’s intense campaign to join NATO — combined with its reckless aggression against the breakaway territory of South Ossetia — helped spark a brief but bloody war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Today, the U.S.-led military alliance is once again promoting its expansion plans in Georgia and other countries on Russia’s periphery as if the Cold War had never ended.
On Sept. 7, ambassadors from all the NATO countries drove along George W. Bush Avenue to downtown Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, to meet with Georgian leaders about security cooperation and progress toward the country’s full integration into NATO.
At the end of the two-day visit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared “the bonds between NATO and Georgia are stronger than ever.” His news release noted that “the Alliance is committed to helping Georgia move towards NATO membership,” and that “NATO experts in Georgia are providing advice on defense planning, education and cyber security, while Allies have increased joint training and exercises with Georgian troops.”
Just days earlier, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that it had joined “NATO allies and partners from the Baltics and Black Sea regions” in the Republic of Georgia to conduct live-fire military exercises with heavy tanks, armored vehicles, and anti-armor TOW missiles. And in July, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Georgia before joining President Obama at a NATO meeting in Poland to sign a new security cooperation agreement with Georgia.
All of these moves followed President Obama’s request to Congress in February to quadruple U.S. military spending in Europe next year, including military equipment to help Georgia in “countering Russian aggression.” Days later, NATO dispatched ships and sailors to Georgia for joint naval exercises in the Black Sea.
Moscow’s ambassador to NATO complained, “NATO is trying to draw us into a state of Cold War by inflating the myth about the threat from the East and justifying the necessity to deter Russia.”
Last month, Trump got his first two briefings at an FBI field office in New York City, inside a special room known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a SCIF, pronounced “skiff.” ... The leakage began on Wednesday night, during the Commander-in-Chief Forum ... At one point, Matt Lauer, the moderator asked Trump about his secret briefings. Was there anything surprising about them?
“Yes,” Trump said. “Very much so.” He hinted at a secret so vague and tantalizing that it almost sounded like a clickbait headline. “There was one thing that shocked me.” But Trump couldn’t say what it was. What he could say was that the White House had ignored its experts, turned around, and done “exactly the opposite. … Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.”
Trump knew this, he said, because he could read his briefers’ body language. ... In fact, Trump was singing a familiar refrain, one that is heard whenever classified information touches political ambition. It goes like this: Trust me. You don’t know what I know. I was in the room. I heard some scary things. I can’t tell you any more.
There is no “red line” against this kind of semi-deceptive nondisclosure. Classified intelligence ... is an incredibly useful instrument for shaping public opinion. Most candidates wait until they actually win the presidency before using it in this way. Trump didn’t wait. Neither did John F. Kennedy, who received classified briefings on the U.S. nuclear program even as he attacked the incumbent, Dwight Eisenhower, over the nonexistent “missile gap.” Compared to Kennedy’s politicization of what turned out to be incorrect intelligence, which contributed to the early acceleration of the Cold War, Trump’s claim to be able to read the minds of people across the table was clumsy at best.
There is something unfair about Trump’s using his briefers as “props,” as [former head of the CIA and NSA, Michael] Hayden put it, to malign Obama’s policies without offering any names or specifics. But Trump’s misbehavior is not exceptional. His mendacity points to a much deeper problem of how government can claim to serve the people while holding back so much information. Those who have access — or who have been led to believe they have access — to secret information never have to engage in a reasoned debate with those who don’t. All they have to do is pound the table and wave their arms about the classified “facts” that supposedly back up their case.
Harris Corp.'s Stingray surveillance device has been one of the most closely guarded secrets in law enforcement for more than 15 years. The company and its police clients across the United States have fought to keep information about the mobile phone-monitoring boxes from the public against which they are used. The Intercept has obtained several Harris instruction manuals spanning roughly 200 pages and meticulously detailing how to create a cellular surveillance dragnet. ...
Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International, told The Intercept that the “manuals released today offer the most up-to-date view on the operation of” Stingrays and similar cellular surveillance devices, with powerful capabilities that threaten civil liberties, communications infrastructure, and potentially national security. He noted that the documents show the “Stingray II” device can impersonate four cellular communications towers at once, monitoring up to four cellular provider networks simultaneously, and with an add-on can operate on so-called 2G, 3G, and 4G networks simultaneously.
“There really isn’t any place for innocent people to hide from a device such as this,” Tynan wrote in an email.
“As more of our infrastructure, homes, environment, and transportation are connected wirelessly to the internet, such technologies really do pose a massive risk to public safety and security.”
And the Harris software isn’t just extremely powerful, Tynan added, but relatively simple, providing any law enforcement agent with a modicum of computer literacy the ability to spy on large groups of people.
A black man who was shot dead by police officers called to a domestic altercation at his Florida home was “executed” as he sat eating chicken wings in his backyard, relatives claimed on Monday.
Deputies from Broward sheriff’s office shot Gregory Frazier, 55, multiple times outside the house in Pompano Beach on Friday night after a 911 call from his sister, who said he was threatening her and her daughter with a knife and “breaking up the house” after a day of drinking.
In the call, Deborah Frazier warned the dispatcher that her brother was wielding a Swiss army-style pocket knife.
But Frazier’s relatives insist he had regained his composure by the time the two officers arrived and was sitting calmly in the backyard eating chicken and fries when they approached him.
Quartaze Woodard, Frazier’s nephew, told the Broward New Times that the officers opened fire after his uncle twice refused an order to lie on the ground.
Woodard said that the officers handcuffed Frazier after shooting him, then released the handcuffs and attempted to perform CPR once they realized he was unresponsive.
Deborah Frazier, meanwhile, told the New Times that she regretted calling 911. “I would never have called the cops if I’d known this would happen. They just came in and started shooting right away,” she said.
The NCAA has pulled seven championship events from North Carolina, including opening weekend men’s basketball tournament games, for the coming year due to a state law that some say can lead to discrimination against LGBT people.
In a news release Monday, the NCAA said the decision by its board of governors came “because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections”.
“This decision is consistent with the NCAA’s long-standing core values of inclusion, student-athlete well-being and creating a culture of fairness,” said Georgia Tech president GP “Bud” Peterson, the chair of the board of governors.
The law – known as HB2 – requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide anti-discrimination protections. ...
The NCAA’s release also noted that five states and several cities prohibit travel to the state for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include athletes and staff members.
Pharmaceutical executives who recently made a major donation to an anti-marijuana legalization campaign claimed they were doing so out of concern for the safety of children — but their investor filings reveal that pot poses a direct threat to their plans to cash in on a synthetic cannabis product they have developed.
On August 31, Insys Therapeutics Inc. donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, becoming the single largest donor to the group leading the charge to defeat a ballot measure in Arizona to legalize marijuana. ... A spokesperson told the Arizona Republic that Insys opposes the legalization measure, Prop. 205, “because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” ...
The company concedes that scientific literature has argued the benefits of marijuana over [its product] synthetic dronabinol, and that support for marijuana legalization is growing. In the company’s latest 10-K filing with the SEC, in a section outlining competitive threats, Insys warns that several states “have already enacted laws legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana.”
The Donald Trump campaign unveiled a new ad Monday attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton for her comments last Friday at a swanky fundraiser that half of the Republican nominee's supporters fall into a "basket of deplorables."
Speaking to a crowd at Cipriani on Wall Street, Clinton described these voters as "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that."
Trump immediately took to Twitter Saturday morning to unleash a tweetstorm, saying that Clinton's remarks were "SO INSULTING," and his staff quickly turned the footage into its new ad "Deplorables." The ad will run this week in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida with a $2 million ad buy "at least to start," according to the Trump campaign.
The fight is not over, is the word from the tribes gathered at the Sacred Stone camp, whose months-long resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) has captured national attention. Heeding that call, more than 100 #NoDAPL solidarity actions are being held on Tuesday to put national pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama to revoke the pipeline's permits once and for all.
"To defeat a pipeline, it takes a movement of people from all corners of the nation," reads the call to action.
"Right now, we're witnessing one of the most courageous stands against a fossil fuel project this country has ever seen," it continues. "Thousands of Indigenous activists have set up prayer camps along the pipeline route in a historic moment of nonviolent resistance. They're fighting with everything they have to protect their water, the land, their history, and the climate—and we need to fight with them."
In Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Square, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is scheduled to speak alongside Tara Houska with Honor the Earth, Chase Iron Eyes with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Van Jones, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Youth member Jasilyn Charger, and other native leaders from North Dakota.
According to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, August 2016's temperature was 0.16 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous warmest August in 2014. Last month also was 0.98 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean August temperature from 1951-1980.
Notably, NASA points out, "the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July."
But recent months have been anything but typical. "The record warm August continued a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set new monthly high-temperature records," NASA said in a press release.
What's more, climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf pointed out on Twitter, the temperature has risen even though this year's unusually strong El Niño is on the wane.
NASA: hottest August on record. A bit of a shock - temperature has gone up again even though El Niño has subsided. pic.twitter.com/sZf1NLCjd3
— Stefan Rahmstorf (@rahmstorf) September 12, 2016
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
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Sam Chatmon - Let's Get Drunk Again
Sam Chatmon - Prowling Groundhog
Sam Chatmon - Careless Love
Mississippi Sheiks - The World Is Going Wrong
Mississippi Sheiks - I am the Devil
Mississippi Sheiks - Honey babe let the deal go down
Mississippi Sheiks - He Calls That Religion
Mississippi Sheiks - Still I'm Travelin' On