The Evening Blues - 5-19-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans r&b singer, songwriter and piano player Larry Williams. Enjoy!
Larry Williams - Slow Down
Press Corps: “Look, Comey’s cutting the lawn!”
Arctic: “I’m melting, I’m melting!”
Press Corps: “Get out of the way, then, you’re getting our Guccis wet.”
-- Jeffrey St Clair
News and Opinion
Swedish prosecutors announced this morning that they were terminating their seven-year-old sex crimes investigation into Julian Assange and withdrawing their August 20, 2010, arrest warrant for him. The chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny, said at a news conference this morning that investigators had reached no conclusion about his guilt or innocence, but instead were withdrawing the warrant because “all prospects of pursuing the investigation under present circumstances are exhausted” and it is therefore “no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence.”
Almost five years ago – in June, 2012 – the UK Supreme Court rejected Assange’s last legal challenge to Sweden’s extradition request. Days later, Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and two weeks later formally received asylum from the government of Ecuador. ... In February of last year, a U.N human rights panel formally concluded that the British government was violating Assange’s rights by “arbitrarily detaining” him, and it called for his release. But the U.K. Government immediately rejected the U.N. finding and vowed to ignore it. ...
Almost immediately after the decision by Swedish prosecutors, British police announced that they would nonetheless arrest Assange if he tried to leave the embassy. Police said Assange was still wanted for the crime of “failing to surrender” – meaning that instead of turning himself in upon issuance of his 2012 arrest warrant, he obtained refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. The British police also, however, noted that this alleged crime is “a much less serious offence” than the one that served as the basis for the original warrant, and that the police would therefore only “provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.”
That could perhaps imply that with a seriously reduced police presence, Assange could manage to leave the embassy without detection and apprehension. All relevant evidence, however, negates that assumption. ...
The termination of the Swedish investigation is, in one sense, good news for Assange. But it is unlikely to change his inability to leave the embassy any time soon. If anything, given the apparent determination of the Trump administration to put him in a U.S. prison cell for the “crime” of publishing documents, his freedom appears farther away than it has since 2010, when the Swedish case began.
So what did you think a U.S.-styled “soft coup” would look like? What we’re seeing regarding the intended removal of President Trump is not that much different from what has happened in dozens of other countries, whether Iran in 1953 or Ukraine in 2014 or Brazil in 2016. This one just has a few extra American touches. Like other coups, there are often vague and unproven accusations leveled against the target and his or her entourage. Even though hard evidence is usually lacking, “process crimes,” such as making misstatements to prosecutors or obstructing justice, are developed as a substitute under the popular saying: “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” Whatever the case, a complicit media then trumpets alleged wrongdoing into grave and impeachable offenses. And, if you had any doubts about what is looming, you should read Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.’s op-ed, entitled in print editions “A quick end would be better.” ...
As this American coup against Trump progresses, one commonality of coups around the world – whether “hard coups” of military tanks or “soft coups” of “constitutional” removals – is that the coup’s target is not some perfect human being. He or she has likely made political mistakes or cut some corners or had associates who lined their pockets. But the difference between those misdeeds being treated as politics as usual or becoming the stuff of “scandal” has more to do with the interests of powerful interests – a domestic “deep state” or an outside “superpower” – than any evenhanded pursuit of justice. What’s really at stake in any coup is power and the direction that a country will take. In the case of Donald Trump, there appear to be several factors at play: he is regarded by many establishment figures as too incompetent and uncouth to serve as America’s President; he also defies the neoconservative orthodoxy over U.S. foreign policy; and perhaps most significantly, he doesn’t believe in the New Cold War, which will assure the Military-Industrial Complex years of expensive new weapons systems by making Russia the new/old “enemy.” ...
There is one – and perhaps only one – winning move that Trump has left. He could authorize CIA Director Mike Pompeo to prepare for release U.S. intelligence information regarding turning-point moments in recent years, such as the truth about the 2013 sarin incident in Syria and the 2014 Malaysia Airlines shoot-down in eastern Ukraine. [See here and here.] If – as I’m told – the Obama administration systematically misrepresented the intelligence on those catastrophes to register propaganda gains (against the Syrian government in 2013 and Russia in 2014), the U.S. government’s internal information could shift those key narratives in more peaceful directions.
But whatever the truth is, Trump could shift his own image from a compulsive liar who disdains facts into a champion for transparency and honesty in government. He could turn the tables on The New York Times (which has set itself up as the great hero for Truth) and The Washington Post (which has fashioned a new melodramatic slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”). He could point out their hypocritical lack of aggressiveness in challenging the Obama administration’s excessive secrecy. ...
Revealing hidden truths – where the American people may have been misled – would not only be the right thing to do for democracy, it also could be the smart thing to do. When the Establishment coup-makers come for Trump – as they now almost certainly will – he can at least say that he tried to do something to return the U.S. government to the American people. That might not save his presidency but it would at least elevate his purpose and possibly create some positive legacy to attach to the Trump name. As the situation stands now, Trump appears headed for a humiliating exit that won’t just strip him of the presidency but would strip away any luster for the Trump brand.
Jordan, not Israel, was likely the original source of secret intelligence information given by US President Donald Trump to the Russians, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera news network reported Thursday, citing current and former Jordanian intelligence officials. ...
The country supplying the intelligence to the US was identified in the Post story only as “an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.” But The New York Times reported Tuesday that Israel was that country, prompting reports in local media that Israeli officials were reassessing intelligence sharing cooperation with the US.
ABC news even reported that, as a result of the information leaked by Trump, an Israeli spy’s life was believed to be at risk. The spy was said to have tipped handlers off about an Islamic State plan to blow up a passenger plane headed for the US by hiding a bomb in a laptop, ABC said, quoting current and former US officials.
However, the Jordanian sources assessed to al-Jazeera that Israel is unlikely to have been able to position a key spy in IS, the jihadist terror group.
The sources said the intelligence that Trump shared with the Russians came mainly from Jordanian spies. Jordan, they said, has developed human intelligence resources with agents on the ground, including some who have infiltrated militia groups — among them IS — inside Syria and Iraq.
US jets have attacked a convoy of Iranian-backed militiamen in south-eastern Syria in the first clash between the American military and forces loyal to Tehran since the US military returned to the region almost three years ago.
The airstrikes occurred near the Syrian town of al-Tanf, where Syrian opposition forces backed by the US have been under recent attack by Syrian and Russian jets near the main road linking Damascus to Baghdad. The militias, made up mainly of Iraqi Shia fighters, had been advancing towards the base throughout the week.
The US military said the strikes were aimed at stopping the militia advance and protect fighters it has sponsored throughout the civil war and in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.
The clash underscores the complexity of the fast-changing battlefields of Syria and Iraq, where a splintered opposition is struggling to hold ground, Isis faces military defeat, and forces allied to the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, are in the ascendant.
Opposition units in the area continue to be backed by the CIA. They were raised to fight Isis, but have also been positioned as a bulwark against Iran-backed forces that have crossed from Iraq and been instrumental in recent gains made across Syria by the Assad regime.
President Donald Trump may be dramatically miscalculating how much support Sen. Joe Lieberman would have among his former Democratic colleagues if nominated to become FBI director.
Some Senate Democrats hold a grudge against Lieberman for his rightward turn and opposition to some of President Barack Obama's agenda late in his Senate career. Others say even though they respect Lieberman, the job of FBI director should not go to a former politician. And all Democratic senators interviewed for this story said the former Connecticut senator lacks the kind of experience needed for the post.
The 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, who later caucused with the party as an independent in the Senate after losing his 2006 Senate primary, has emerged as a front-runner to replace fired FBI Director James Comey. But Lieberman's nomination likely would produce the most partisan vote for an FBI chief in Senate history. Typically, nominees for the job have been approved unanimously or with token opposition.
“I don’t think there's going to be much excitement about that from our side of the aisle. Not because we don’t respect Joe Lieberman. But we need a law enforcement professional, not someone who’s run for office before,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). “We don’t need anyone who’s put on a red shirt or blue shirt — or who’s campaigned for president.” Lieberman ran for president in 2004.
Republicans are lining up behind Lieberman.
Brazil’s president Michel Temer has vowed to fight for his political life after the supreme court approved an investigation of allegations that he condoned hush money pay-offs to a witness in a sprawling corruption scandal.
“I will not resign. I repeat: I will not resign. I know what I did,” he said in a live TV broadcast, amid growing calls for him to stand down following the suspension of one of his closest confidants in Congress and most powerful coalition allies in the Senate.
The moves on Thursday followed explosive claims that he was secretly taped discussing hush-money payments to former House speaker Eduardo Cunha, who was jailed for his role in the massive Petrobras corruption scandal, prompting calls for him to step down or be impeached.
Following last year’s dubious impeachment of Workers’ Party leader Dilma Rousseff and the ongoing trial of her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil has now been plunged even deeper into turmoil.
A judge in El Salvador on Thursday reopened the nearly four-decade-old case of murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, an icon of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, and asked that prosecutors seek criminal charges against the main suspect. The ruling, by Judge Ricardo Chicas, follows a decision last year by the country's constitutional court to repeal an amnesty law that prohibited criminal trials stemming from the Central American nation's bloody civil war from 1980 to 1992. ...
Romero, then archbishop of San Salvador, was shot dead in 1980 by a right-wing death squad as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. ... The murder was one of the most shocking of the long conflict between a series of U.S.-backed governments and leftist rebels in which thousands were killed by military death squads. No one was ever brought to justice for Romero's murder.
An aggressive campaign by Iowa lawmakers to strip Planned Parenthood of much of its public funding will force it to close four clinics serving 15,000 patients, the women’s health group said on Thursday.
Planned Parenthood said the closures were a harbinger of what might happen across the country if Congress passes legislation to defund its clinics.
Individual states have made piecemeal efforts to block Planned Parenthood from receiving public funds meant to help states provide low-income women with STI tests, contraception, and cancer screenings.
But Iowa’s campaign to defund Planned Parenthood represents a stepped-up version of those other efforts, one that more closely resembles a provision in the Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The new Glass-Steagall legislation that the administration has been trumpeting turns out to be considerably less significant than its predecessor.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren had a confounding exchange with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a Senate Banking Committee hearing today. Mnuchin indicated that the Trump administration supports a 21st century version of the Glass-Steagall Act, except for the part about separating commercial and investment banks, which is substantially what is meant by Glass-Steagall.
Warren wasn’t having it.
Responding to Mnuchin’s earlier testimony that the White House didn’t support “a separation of banks from investment banks,” the Massachusetts senator pointed out that “The president and this administration have repeatedly said that they support a 21st century Glass-Steagall.”
Indeed, Mnuchin said these words in his confirmation hearings. National Economic Director Gary Cohn has said the same. And the 2016 Republican Party platform adds explicitly, “We support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which prohibits commercial banks from engaging in high-risk investment.” As Warren said to Mnuchin, “Now you’ve just said the opposite.”
Mnuchin responded that there wasn’t any reversal, despite Warren’s incredulity. He said that the administration merely supported a 21st century version of the law. “Which means there are aspects of it, OK, that we think may make sense. But we never said before that we supported a full separation —” “There are aspects of Glass-Steagall that you support but not breaking up the banks and separating commercial banking from investment banking?” Warren interrupted. “What do you think Glass-Steagall was if that’s not right at the heart of it?”
West Virginia's Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin used a conference call with local activists in February to tell them to stop complaining about his pro-corporate voting record. “What you ought to do is vote me out. Vote me out! I’m not changing. Find somebody else who can beat me and vote me out,” he dared the activists.
Paula Jean Swearengin, an environmental activist descended from generations of coal miners, has accepted that challenge, announcing earlier this month that she will be challenging Manchin for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. She is one of the first candidates endorsed by Brand New Congress, a new effort spawned by former Bernie Sanders staffers who want to recruit both Democrats and Republicans who have never held office before to run for Congress. ...
To Swearengin, West Virginia’s historic dependence on the coal industry has created an impossible choice for the people of the state. “We’ve been bid against each other for basic human rights,” she explained. “There’s no reason that people should have to worry about putting food on the table for their children and clean water. Appalachians are strong. We’re better than that. So my path to primary Joe Manchin is to fight back. Fight back for my community. Fight back for my neighbors, my family, my friends.” ...
Her platform is built around offering West Virginians an alternative to the coal industry’s stranglehold over the state’s economy, framing this as delivering”economic freedom.” It includes support for tuition-free college, Medicare for All, and investment in infrastructure.
Interesting article, here's a taste to get you started:
Two days ago, two different inflammatory and highly controversial stories were released by two different media outlets citing anonymous sources to support their claims. You are only allowed to talk about one of them.featured the claim by a federal investigator who asked to remain anonymous that Seth Rich had been in contact with late WikiLeaks director Gavin MacFadyen. The source asserts that 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments changed hands from Rich to MacFadyen prior to Rich’s murder, and that the source has “seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.”
The Trump-Russia collusion nonsense has marched on unabated while establishment pundits fan the flames, but the Seth Rich story has been aggressively and relentlessly stomped into the ground by a coordinated corporate media campaign aided by the propagandized masses who realize that the very real possibility of Seth Rich being the source of the DNC emails released by WikiLeaks spells the end of their Russiagate fun.
Why are the establishment propagandists so keen on killing interest in the Seth Rich story? Because it throws a fat monkey wrench in their geopolitical manipulations, of course. America’s unelected power establishment wants to smack down the Putin government, which has been unashamedly involving itself in key strategic locations like Syria and the Crimean peninsula, and has been collaborating with China and its allies to eventually weaken the hegemony of the US dollar in that region. In order to reignite Cold War tensions with Russia and stage a proxy war with the Kremlin in Syria, the oligarchs need the consent of the public, because otherwise you’re dealing with 320 million heavily-armed Americans who’ve got a problem with the way you’re risking the lives of their families by tempting a possible nuclear holocaust over fossil fuels on the other side of the planet. They also need the public to hate Russia because that’s a major part of the way they’re leveraging Trump into walking back on his non-interventionist campaign promises; if he doesn’t take a hard stance against Russia he’ll feed into the “Putin’s puppet” narrative, which you know Mr. “look how big my hands are” doesn’t like.
Seth Rich kills all that. If he leaked the DNC emails, then the Russians didn’t hack them. If the Russians didn’t hack them, then the story that Putin is this omnipotent supervillain bound and determined to spread fascism across the free world doesn’t really work, and they also lose the story of Trump colluding with Russia to win the 2016 election by weaponizing WikiLeaks.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent much of his first two months in office meeting with energy and other industry groups, according to personal schedules released this week under the Freedom of Information Act.
The schedules, which cover March and April, detail a slew of meetings with oil and gas producers as well as officials representing gun owners, marine industries, automobile dealers and builders. Zinke, who was confirmed by the Senate on March 1, also met with representatives of the Navajo Nation and Montana’s Little Shell Tribe, as well as numerous lawmakers and officials from a range of states and U.S. territories.
Zinke held more than a half-dozen meetings with executives from nearly two dozen oil and gas firms during the period, including BP America, Chevron and ExxonMobil. He also spent time with the American Petroleum Institute, the Western Energy Alliance and Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm. Several of these discussions covered executive actions the administration would later take in an effort to reverse President Barack Obama’s policies, such as limits on drilling off America’s coasts and the venting of methane from drilling operations on federal and tribal land.
One of the planet's most unique coral reef systems happens to be nestled in one of the world's most active oil and gas production areas. And for a decade, federal agencies and outside experts have studied how to better protect this fragile marvel, the only national marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, President Donald Trump's executive order to unleash offshore drilling threatens to derail their solution: an expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, from 56 square miles to as much as 935 square miles.
The sanctuary, home to more than 180 species, is blanketed with a forest of corals, where schools of young grouper, snapper and other fish find protection from predators. The area is considered "essential fish habitat," vital for ensuring the survival of highly sought reef fish, which make up a significant part of the commercial and recreational catch in the Gulf. The sanctuary expansion was proposed by the Obama administration last year and was to be finalized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in early 2018. It drew on 30 years of scientific research, public meetings and comments, as well as the recommendations of task forces convened after BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. ...
Trump's April 28 "America-First Offshore Energy" order halts expansion of any national marine sanctuary until the government conducts a study of its energy potential, a move consistent with the president's no-holds-barred fossil fuel development agenda. The provision appears to target Flower Garden Banks—the only sanctuary in a drilling zone with a planned expansion. The oil industry has strongly opposed expansion of Flower Garden Banks to include more reefs and banks, which it insists are not as unique as the coral system in the current sanctuary. The industry has also said that NOAA underestimates the amount of fossil fuel buried beneath the seabed. ...
NOAA, which was to release its final environmental analysis of the plan as early as this month, is awaiting guidance from the administration.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Larry Williams - Short Fat Fannie
Larry Williams - Bony Moronie
Larry Williams - Bad Boy
Larry Williams - Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Larry Williams - My Baby's Got Soul
Larry Williams - I Can`t Stop Lovin` You
Larry Williams - Call On Me
Larry Williams - Hey Now Hey Now
Larry Williams - Lawdy Mama
Larry Williams - Jelly Belly Nellie
Larry Williams - Hocus Pocus