The Evening Blues - 3-16-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features odds and ends found while putting together other features. Enjoy!
Willie Jones - Wheres my Money
"If you think Russia poisoning a spy is bad, wait til you hear what the United States did to Flint, Michigan."
-- Found on Facebook
News and Opinion
There's a lot more information in the article, it's well worth reading in full.
On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that former Russian spy, Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned with “a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia” known as ‘Novichok’. ... May referred to the British government’s “knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so” as a basis to conclude that Russia’s culpability in the attack “is highly likely.” ...
But there is a problem: far from offering a clear-cut evidence-trail to Vladimir Putin’s chemical warfare labs, the use of Novichok in the nerve gas attack on UK soil points to a wider set of potential suspects, of which Russia is in fact the least likely. Russia did actually destroy its nerve agent capabilities according to the OPCW [UN Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]. Yet a concerted effort is being made to turn facts on their head. ...
[I]n September 2017 declared that the independent global agency had rigorously verified the completed destruction of Russia’s entire chemical weapons programme, including of course its nerve agent production capabilities. ... The OPCW’s reports on Russia confirm that the agency found no evidence of the existence of an active Novichok programme.
It should be noted that Dr. Robin M. Black, formerly of Porton Down’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory — which reportedly confirmed the use of Novichok in the Salisbury assassination — sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the OPCW. Yet a scientific review by Dr. Black also raised doubts about Novichok, noting that its properties and structures had not been independently confirmed.
So in short, the OPCW does not agree with the vague US and British insistence that Russia failed to declare all its chemical weapons stockpiles and facilities, and does not agree with the insistence that Novichok stockpiles or production facilities exist in Russia. ... The crux of it is this: At this point, neither the US nor Britain have offered any actual evidence as to why the OPCW’s verification process regarding Russia’s dismantlement of its chemical weapons capability should be disbelieved. They have provided no evidence that Russia retains any Novichok stockpiles.
The Kremlin has called direct international accusations that Vladimir Putin ordered the Salisbury nerve agent attack “shocking and unforgivable”. The remarks come amid rising tensions between London and Moscow. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov have said repeatedly that Moscow would retaliate soon for the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats by Theresa May.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Peskov repeated denials that Russia had ordered the attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. “Any references to our president is nothing other than shocking and unforgivable from the point of view of diplomatic behaviour,” he said. ...
Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee, which handles high-profile cases, announced on Friday it had opened a criminal investigation into the attempted murder by poisoning of Yulia Skripal, the daughter of the former double agent targeted in the Salisbury nerve agent attack. The law enforcement agency also opened an investigation into the murder of Nikolai Glushkov, an associate of the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky who was found dead, probably as a result of strangulation, in his home in London on Wednesday. British police have not said he was murdered.
The Investigative Committee said it would manage the investigation “in accordance with the requirements of Russian law” and that investigators were ready to cooperate with British law enforcement. Russia has previously complained that Britain has not shared facts in the case, including samples of the nerve agent that London says was developed in the former Soviet Union. It may choose to demand those samples as part of the investigation.
Commentators across the spectrum of acceptable establishment opinion are alarmed by the possibility of peace breaking out on the Korean peninsula. ... Rachel Maddow (MSNBC, 3/9/18) seemed flabbergasted by the prospect of a meeting between the leaders:
It has been the dream of North Korean leaders for decades now that they would advance their weapons programs and their nuclear programs so much so that the United States would be forced to acknowledge them as an equal and meet with the North Korean leader…. They got there with [Trump] and I don’t know that the administration intended it to be that kind of a gift. It’s just a remarkable time to be covering this stuff.
MSNBC blogger Steve Benen (3/9/18) says he’s “not opposed to direct diplomacy,” but he sounded like a time capsule from 1951 when he warned that
Trump has agreed to give Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants. North Korean leaders have sought this kind of meeting for decades because it would necessarily elevate the rogue state: It would show the world that North Korea’s leader is being treated as an equal by the Leader of the Free World.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (3/9/18) also claims to prefer that the US and North Korea exchange words rather than missiles, but he expressed relief that the threat of peace was minimal: “It’s genuinely encouraging that Kim doesn’t object to the US resuming military exercises,” he wrote, but worried that America
has agreed to give North Korea what it has long craved: the respect and legitimacy that comes from the North Korean leader standing as an equal beside the American president.
. This sort of commentary shows that liberal analysts are every bit as capable of a chest-thumping jingoism as their counterparts on the right.
The U.S. is officially fighting wars in seven countries, including Libya and Niger, according to an unclassified White House report sent to Congress this week and obtained by the New York Times.
Known officially as the “Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Military Force and Related National Security Operations,” the document is part of a new requirement outlined in the 2018 defense spending bill. The White House is already required to update Congress every six months on where the U.S. is using military force.
The new report comes at a time when the Pentagon has expanded its war authority in several active conflicts while adopting an increasingly secretive approach, and is likely to raise new and old concerns around the constitutionality of executive war-making privileges put in place after September 11, 2001.
Though President Donald Trump campaigned on a more isolationist foreign policy platform, he’s largely expanded or reinvigorated his predecessor’s conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. The report gives the clearest indication to date of America’s most pressing military conflicts under Trump, largely detailing an uptick in direct and indirect combat, as well as “advise and assist” operations across
The Senate is expected to debate a war powers resolution next week that calls for the United States to end its involvement in the Yemen conflict, but a top Senate Republican leader signaled Thursday GOP leaders would prefer to put off a final vote on the divisive issue until after it can be more closely studied in committee.
"I think it would be better for the committee to consider it and make a recommendation after having a hearing so everybody understands exactly what the consequences are," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 GOP leader in the chamber, referring to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ...
Three senators -- Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut -- authored the privileged resolution and are working to force a vote on it. They believe the refueling and other actions by the US armed forces are akin to "boots on the ground" and that Congress needs to authorize it.
They described their bill as the "first-ever vote in the Senate to withdraw US armed forces from an unauthorized war."
The United States is monitoring reports of a large underground North Korean military base in Syria which could be used for "advanced weaponry and nuclear-related work," according to the Washington Free Beacon.
Regional news reports that North Korea is close to completing construction of the base near the town of Qardaha, Syria - the hometown of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The site can be seen here.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon that they are monitoring these reports. ...
That said, there were also reports that Saddam Hussein hid chemical weapons in Syria after nobody could find them - rumors which were later disproven.
President Donald Trump hinted he may withdraw American troops from South Korea if the U.S. ally doesn’t concede more in trade negotiations, a newspaper reported.
The Washington Post quoted Trump as saying Wednesday in a fundraising speech that the United States was losing money on trade with South Korea as well as the military presence that is meant as protection against aggression from the North.
“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” Trump said Wednesday in audio obtained by the Post. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”
“Our allies care about themselves,” he said in the 30-minute speech to donors in Missouri. “They don’t care about us.”
South Africa’s chief prosecutor has said the former president Jacob Zuma will face prosecution on corruption charges that haunted much of his term in office.
Zuma, who was forced to resign by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) last month, will be prosecuted for corruption relating to a 30bn-rand (£1.8bn) arms deal in the late 1990s, Shaun Abrahams told a media conference on Friday.
“After consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment,” the chief prosecutor said. Zuma disputes all the allegations against him, he added. Abrahams told a media conference that Zuma’s attempts to head off the charges that have been hanging over him for more than a decade had failed.
“I am of the view that a trial court would be the most appropriate forum for these issues to be ventilated and to be decided upon,” he said.
Zuma will face 16 charges relating to 783 counts of alleged wrongdoing, the spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, Luvuyo Mfaku, said. The charges, which include racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud, carry lengthy custodial sentences on conviction.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued a full retraction and apology for a bizarre screed it published last week lumping anti-war leftists in with fascists and Nazis. As of this writing two other articles by the same author, Alexander Reid Ross, have also been pulled by the Southern Poverty Law Center “pending further review”. ...
The retracted article is worth reading in light of the fact that the SPLC is unwilling to stand by its claims, so here’s an archive if you’re curious. It’s full of weird arrow graphs that would look more at home on an Illuminati conspiracy website and academic jargon like “Atlanticist”, “fascist engagées“, “Duginists”, “LaRouchite” and “Eurasianist” that most normal people don’t use or understand. Ross weaves that mess into a barely decipherable conspiracy theory about a “red-brown populist collaboration” to advance fascist regimes against American hegemony, making the anti-imperialist left “a willing accomplice” to fascism.
Right. Gotcha. It can’t possibly be that antiwar leftists recognize that US military violence is literally always disastrous and literally never accomplishes what its proponents claim it will accomplish. It can’t possibly be that the far right objects to American lives and resources being spent on pointless wars that create refugee crises. It can’t possibly be that for those two reasons the antiwar left and anti-interventionist right often find themselves on the same side of the debate on issues like Syria. It’s that they both secretly love the idea of fascist foreign governments rising to power in a multipolar world. If you squint at it just right through Ross’ convoluted, conspiratorial reality tunnel, it almost kinda sorta makes sense.
Among those caught up in the article’s accusatory ramblings were Vanessa Beeley (who Ross hilariously labels a “conspiracy theorist”), the Ron Paul Institute’s brilliantly lucid anti-war conservative Daniel McAdams, the always excellent Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report, Ben Norton (who ironically has on more than one occasion used his platform to falsely smear me in exactly the same way Ross falsely smeared him), Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek. ...
The one error that Ross has conceded he might possibly have made in the article was his baseless and easily disproven claim that journalist Tim Pool had once attended a conference for Holocaust deniers in Iran. Unlike the Southern Poverty Law Center, however, Ross has not conceded that he also inaccurately labeled Pool as an “Alt Right journalist” while reporting his false claim about the Iran conference, which greatly offended Pool.
Once a mere nuisance for Twitter, accounts created by software programs pretending to be human — “bots” — have become a major headache for the social network. In October, Twitter’s general counsel told a Senate committee investigating disinformation that Russian bots tweeted 1.4 million times during the run-up to the last presidential election, and such bots would later be implicated in hundreds of tweets that followed a school shooting in Florida. In January, the New York Times detailed how U.S. companies, executives, journalists, and celebrities often purchase bots as followers in an attempt to make themselves seem more popular.
The fallout for the company has been withering. In Vanity Fair last month, writer Nick Bilton, who has tracked the company closely as an author and journalist, accused Twitter of “turning a blind eye to the problem” of bots for years in order to artificially inflate its count of active users. Meanwhile, disgruntled former Twitter executives told Maya Kosoff, also in Vanity Fair, that the social network was throwing too many humans and too little technology at the problem of bots and other misbehavior. “You had this unsophisticated human army with no real scalable platform to plug into,” one said.
Even if Twitter hasn’t invested much in anti-bot software, some of its most technically proficient users have. They’re writing and refining code that can use Twitter’s public application programming interface, or API, as well as Google and other online interfaces, to ferret out fake accounts and bad actors. The effort, at least among the researchers I spoke with, has begun with hunting bots designed to promote pornographic material — a type of fake account that is particularly easy to spot — but the plan is to eventually broaden the hunt to other types of bots. The bot-hunting programming and research has been a strictly volunteer, part-time endeavor, but the efforts have collectively identified tens of thousands of fake accounts, underlining just how much low-hanging fruit remains for Twitter to prune.
Activists in Charlottesville are calling on authorities to drop the charges against DeAndre Harris, an African American beaten by at least six white nationalist demonstrators at the August 12 Unite the Right rally. A video of Harris's beating went viral in the days following the white nationalist rally, prompting an outcry. Harris was initially charged with a felony, but it was later reduced to a misdemeanour.
Harris's first date in court for misdemeanor assault against a white nationalist is Friday. Local activists are holding a vigil Thursday evening in front of the court house where he will appear, which is also near to the garage where he was beaten. Organisers fail to see how an African American in the middle of a white nationalist demonstration could be charged with misdemeanor assault and battery of his attackers. For them, it was self-defence.
A black man who was severely beaten during a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then charged with misdemeanor assault over the same incident, has been found not guilty.
Local news outlets reported that a Charlottesville judge said on Friday it was clear DeAndre Harris did not intend to harm the man who made a complaint against him.
Donald Trump is set to fire his second national security adviser, the Washington Post reported Thursday, with H.R. McMaster just one of several top officials potentially facing a White House exit on “Firing Friday.”
Others rumored to be for the chop include Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and chief of staff John Kelly — according to multiple media reports.
The president has never gelled with McMaster, who replaced Michael Flynn, and is now “comfortable” with getting rid of him, the newspaper reported citing five sources with knowledge of Trump’s plans.
The Trump administration is finalizing a long-awaited plan that it says will solve the opioid crisis, but it also calls for law enforcement measures — like the death penalty for some drug dealers — that public health advocates and congressional Republicans warn will detract from efforts to reverse the epidemic.
The ambitious plan, which the White House has quietly been circulating among political appointees this month, could be announced as soon as Monday when President Donald Trump visits New Hampshire, a state hard hit by the epidemic. It includes a mix of prevention and treatment measures that advocates have long endorsed, as well as beefed-up enforcement in line with the president’s frequent calls for a harsh crackdown on drug traffickers and dealers.
Trump’s plan to use the death penalty in some cases found at least one fan among congressional Republicans: Rep. Chris Collins of New York, one of the president’s most consistent cheerleaders. “I’m all in on the capital punishment side for those offenses that would warrant that,” he said when asked about the plans Thursday afternoon. “Including drug cases. Yep.”
But several congressional Democrats said they were alarmed by Trump's plan to ramp up punishment. “We are still paying the costs for one failed 'war on drugs,' and now President Trump is drawing up battle plans for another," said Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. "We will not incarcerate or execute our way out of the opioid epidemic."
The attorney representing porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had an affair with President Donald Trump, said his client was physically threatened — although he wouldn’t go into specifics. Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti was asked by Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski if Stormy Daniels had been “threatened in any way,” during an appearance to tease his client’s upcoming interview on “60 Minutes” on March 25.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) March 16, 2018
“Yes,” Avenatti responded.
“Was she threatened physical harm?” Brzezinski pushed.
“Yes,” Avenatti said.
“Was her life threatened?” Brzezinski asked again.
Avenatti then declined to respond and pointed to the upcoming March 25 interview for answers.
The new Food & Water Watch report Take Back the Tap: The Big Business Hustle of Bottled Water details the deceit and trickery of the bottled water industry. Here’s one more angle to consider: The bottled water business is closely tied to fracking.
The report reveals that the majority of bottled water is municipal tap water, a common resource captured in plastic bottles and re-sold at an astonishing markup—as much as 2,000 times the price of tap, and even four times the price of gasoline. Besides being a rip-off, there is plenty more to loathe about the corporate water scam: The environmental impacts from pumping groundwater (especially in drought-prone areas), the plastic junk fouling up our waterways and oceans, and the air pollution created as petrochemical plants manufacture the materials necessary for making those plastic bottles filled with overpriced tap water. ...
There is a growing international awareness that plastic is a serious problem. In 2016, about 4 billion pounds of plastic were used in the bottled water business, and most of those bottles are not recycled—meaning they often end up in landfills or as litter. ...
Despite Unprecedented Year of Extreme Weather, FEMA Ditches Every Single Mention of 'Climate' From Four-Year Strategic Plan
While 2017 was the costliest year ever for destruction from extreme weather events—and even as much of Puerto Rico is still struggling with a slow and "dehumanizing" recovery nearly six months after Hurricane Maria—a look at the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) four-year strategic plan reveals there is not a single mention of "climate change" or "global warming."
The document (pdf), as Bloomberg points out, "doesn't mention climate, global warming, sea-level rise, extreme weather, or any other terminology associated with scientific predictions of rising surface temperatures and their effects." With this "dangerous" decision, FEMA's 2018-2022 strategy departs from the version developed under the Obama adminitration, which "repeatedly cited the challenges caused by a changing climate, and the need for FEMA to incorporate those risks into its long-term plans."
The new plan claims that "[l]arge scale, complex incidents, including FEMA's responses to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the 2017-2018 California wildfires, underscore the criticality of our shared mission and remind us of the importance of learning from past disasters" and acknowledges that "[d]isaster costs are expected to continue to increase due to rising natural hazard risk, decaying critical infrastructure, and economic pressures that limit investments in risk resilience."
However, despite the record-breaking costs of natural disasters last year, FEMA's new plan fails to mention the how global warming—largely driven by greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil fuel use—is fueling the "rising natural hazard risk" and has exacerbated these recent disasters.
Under the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management has some new branding, one that prominently features oil rigs.
The Bureau of Land Management gave out new identification cards for all its employees to wear out in the field — complete with illustrations of oil rigs and cowboys. Under the heading “our vision,” the card also outlines the agency’s current vision: “to enhance the quality of life for all citizens through the balanced stewardship of America’s public lands and resources."
The cards also highlight the agency’s “multiple-use mission” in sustaining the “productivity of the public lands” and pursuing “excellence in business practices.” The language also mentions the work the agency does for “customers” and “stakeholders” — words have become code for industry under the Trump administration.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Toppers - Baby Let Me Bang Your Box
The Bees - Toy Bell
The Swallows - It Ain't The Meat It's The Motion
Ella Mae Morse - Rock Me All Night Long
Googie Rene - Wiggle Tail
The Spiders - I'm Slippin' In
Don Gardner - My Baby Likes To Boogaloo
The Pirates - Cuttin'Out
Pleasure Seekers - What a Way To Die
The G-Men - Raunchy Twist
Mel McGonnigle - Rattle Shakin Mama
Sir Douglas Quintet - She's About A Mover
Hank Marr - The Out Crowd
Minnie Epperson - Grab Your Clothes
The Trashmen - Malaguena