The Evening Blues - 5-24-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and r&b musician Johnny Otis. Enjoy!
The Johnny Otis Show - Willie and The Hand Jive
"The function of the prosecutor under the federal Constitution is not to tack as many skins of victims as possible against the wall. His function is to vindicate the rights of the people as expressed in the laws and give those accused of crime a fair trial."
-- William O. Douglas
News and Opinion
Chief Judge Robert E. Morin of the D.C. Superior Court found on Wednesday that federal prosecutors suppressed potentially exculpatory evidence against six Inauguration Day protesters. In a motion filed late last night, attorneys for the defendants accused the government of withholding evidence that could have exonerated their clients — a serious violation of pretrial discovery rules. Attorneys allege that the state withheld evidence by editing a video of a protest planning meeting. Defense attorneys called on the court to sanction Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff for “blatant hiding of evidence” and requested that the indictment against their clients be dismissed.
At pretrial hearing Wednesday afternoon, Morin agreed that the prosecution had violated the “Brady rule,” which governs the state’s pretrial obligations to disclose exculpatory evidence, but declined to rule on the defense’s motions to dismiss the indictment or suppress the evidence. Morin will rule on those sanctions next week. “The government has abused its power by hiding discovery from all defendants,” the attorneys, led by Andrew O. Clarke and Cary Clennon, wrote in the motion, “purposefully choosing not to disclose Brady information, and calling into question the integrity of all of its third-party video evidence and proffers in open court.”
J20 supporters cheered Morin’s finding, but pushed for serious sanctions. “We hope that the court further recognizes that these violations are characteristic of the U.S. Attorney’s approach to this case from day one and their shameless attempts to criminalize standard acts of organizing and protest,” said Sam Menefee-Libey of D.C. Legal Posse, which is coordinating support for the defendants. “We hope that other aspects of the prosecution’s strategy, including use of right-wing ultranationalist sources and many repressive tactics drawn from the post-9/11 security state, are also shut down by the court.”
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) May 22, 2018
Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo said during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today that he does not believe there is a deep state in the CIA, the State Department or the Department of Justice, which is the same as a mob boss saying he doesn’t believe there is organized crime in the Mafia. California Rep. Ted Lieu, himself a virulent Russiagater and aggressive defender of the US intelligence community, asked Pompeo if he believed there was a “Criminal Deep State” at the State Department in reference to a recent tweet by America’s reality TV president. ... It was like watching a two-handed puppet show about two swamp monsters furiously agreeing with one another that there is no swamp. ...
I hardly ever use the term “deep state” anymore. For a time it was a sensible label to use within smaller, well-informed circles to refer to the unelected power structures which remain in America regardless of the shifting tides of its official elected government, but ever since it became a mainstream household term it’s been rendered meaningless by partisan hackery. ...
Democrats meanwhile proclaim that talk of a deep state in America is a baseless conspiracy theory, which is an innately absurd position. ...
Obviously there is a deep state in America, obviously it is extremely powerful, and obviously men like Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo are some of its most valuable foot soldiers. But partisan echo chambers have most Americans so blinkered that they can only see one of two halves of the equation: either the US intelligence community is a plucky band of virtuous patriots resisting a president who is simultaneously (A) stupid, (B) crazy, (C) a Nazi, and (D) a Kremlin agent, or Trump is a populist hero of the people who is fighting the deep state. Through the filters of partisan idiocy it’s impossible to see the otherwise obvious fact that unelected power dominates the United States, and that Donald Trump is in full service of that unelected power.
President Donald Trump just canceled his meeting with Kim Jong Un scheduled for next month in Singapore because North Korea was mean to Vice President Mike Pence. Trump made the call Thursday morning over the “tremendous anger and open hostility” North Korea showed in a recent statement about the vice president, the president wrote in a letter to “chairman” Kim.
Just hours earlier, North Korea labeled Pence a “political dummy, ignorant, and stupid.” The Hermit Kingdom also threatened to “make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined” and added that if the summit did not go ahead, it would result in a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
Trump, however, didn’t completely close the door on a future meeting and wrote that he looks forward to meeting Kim “some day.” Trump also noted that if Kim changed his mind about the Singapore summit, then he should call or write to Trump — though it’s unclear what that means, given Trump was the one who cancelled the meeting.
Americans ought to be more honest about U.S. military interventionism. There ought to be a serious debate about it. Instead there seems to be three, entrenched foreign policy camps who never talk to each other. The first is made up of avowed imperialists. They are easy to recognize, because they happen to be in power. They are the people for whom there is no such thing as a bad war. They have likely committed the United States to regime change in Iran. And they are currently spearheading an overly aggressive approach in attempting to defuse tensions with a nuclear-armed North Korea—an approach that will probably backfire in the end. This camp would also be the strongest to deny that there is any such thing as U.S. imperialism.
Then there are people who totally reject imperialism in any form, committed by any country, as a grave error. These are the people who recognize that there must be other values that bind relationships between nations—shared values premised on international law, human rights, Individual and spiritual freedom, and the rule of law. I suspect it is a very small camp.
Finally, there is a third group, who’ve I’ve come to see as of two minds. They think it possible to maintain a militant foreign policy, while also saying they are using that foreign policy to spread civilized values. They want to wallow in the false glory that comes from empire, and to feel good about it. Current political discourse in the United States — whether it is in the media, the think-tanks, or from major politicians — largely falls in this camp. For example, most Republicans and Democrats use the language of human rights and freedom to couch their perspective. But the reality of their actions, and the consequences of those actions, makes it impossible to hide an underlying imperialist thread. Thinking people cannot ignore that it was a Democrat, President Barack Obama, who increased the use of military drones in several countries, invaded Libya, maintained and increased America’s presence in Afghanistan, and even committed $1 trillion to enhancing America’s nuclear arsenal.
There has never been a more urgent time for people to really study and consider American foreign policy, and to ask fundamental questions about America’s role in the world. There are people in power today who are literally playing with fire with a nuclear-armed country (North Korea) and who are goading another country (Iran) into seeking nuclear weapons in order to defend itself from the open threat of an American invasion. ... There is another point, too, which needs to be made. The pedigreed leaders who pace the halls of power, their think-tank enablers, and many individual Americans, very often find a false and perverse comfort in the domination, exploitation, and suffering of people who are not Americans. This is truly a despicable thing, and it needs to be called out. It was this type of thinking that created genocide in the United States, against the First Nations and indigenous people. It is this type of thinking which has killed, and which continues to kill, tens of millions abroad.
There is a fundamental choice that Americans have to make. And that is whether they will be okay with imperialism as the defining characteristic of their foreign policy. Whether they want to be known as an imperialist people. I think there is a day coming, sooner than most would like, where that choice will have to be confronted head on.
'John Bolton Must Be Stoked': Experts Put Blame for Canceled North Korea Talks Squarely on Trump's Top Warmonger
As the world scrambles to make sense of U.S. President Donald Trump's bizarre and potentially disastrous letter announcing the cancellation of his planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Thursday, lawmakers and anti-war advocates argued that the Trump White House's repeated regime change threats and national security adviser John Bolton's belligerent rhetoric are to blame for the summit's collapse.
"We can't forget that many in Trump's administration, including his national security adviser and secretary of state, are thirsty for war," Win Without War said in a statement on Thursday. " The American public and Congress must prevent the Trump administration from using this self-inflicted setback to justify a catastrophic U.S. war of choice on the Korean peninsula."
In a Twitter thread responding to the president's letter, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote simply: "John Bolton must be stoked...This is what happens when amateurs are combined with warmongers."
While Trump insisted that "open hostility" from Pyongyang in recent days was what ultimately led him to call off the summit, Korea experts were quick to point out that White House officials' repeated references to the so-called "Libya model" provoked angry responses from North Korean officials, who have warned constantly over the past several weeks that it views such comments as explicit regime change threats.
Congratulations to John Bolton and Mike Pence on their success making the deaths of millions more likely https://t.co/oGfVTWMBg8
— Jon Schwarz (@schwarz) May 24, 2018
Iran isn’t making Europe’s efforts to save the ailing nuclear accord any easier. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei set out tough demands Wednesday in order for Tehran to stay in the deal — expressing doubt the Europeans would comply or that they would go against the wishes of the U.S.
Returning serve to the White House list of demands issued Monday, which it said Iran would have to meet to strike a new deal, Khamenei outlined his own strict conditions for remaining in the 2015 pact, warning that Iran would resume its nuclear activity if they were not met.
“If the Europeans linger over our demands, Iran has the right to resume its nuclear activities,” he said. “When we see that the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the 2015 deal is known] was useless, one way forward is to restart those halted activities.” He added that he did not want to start a fight with the European signatories, “but we don’t trust them either,” because they always fell in line with the United States.
Khamenei’s conditions included that Europe could not object to Iran’s missile tests, or its wider behavior in the region. The Trump administration has criticized the 2015 deal for failing to tackle either of these issues, and demanded that Iran withdraw from Syria and cut off support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia if it wants a new deal to avoid U.S. sanctions.
131 House Dems Help GOP Pass Massive Pentagon Budget That Includes Billions for Expanded Nuclear Arsenal
While the world responds with alarm over President Donald Trump's spontaneous decision to cancel diplomatic talks with North Korea scheduled for next month—which aimed to ease rising nuclear tensions — 131 Democrats in the U.S. House joined with the overwhelming majority of Republicans to pass a $717 billion Pentagon spending bill that includes massive expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019 authorizes the development of new low-yield submarine-launched nuclear warheads that the Trump administration demanded in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was released in February and denounced by disarmament advocates as "radical" and "extreme."
On Thursday, anti-war activists and lawmakers shamed the Democrats who voted with the GOP to approve the military spending bill, and warned of its consequences. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), according to Politico, said the measure "pushes us even further and faster down the path to war, toward a new nuclear arms race."
"Does it make us safer to have a low-yield nuclear weapon on one of our submarines?" Garamendi posed. "Probably not." ...
In addition to allocating $22 billion toward U.S. nuclear weapons programs and $69 billion for U.S. war efforts, the legislation approves the purchase of more than 70 F-35 fighter jets, the addition of 16,000 active-duty personnel, and Trump's request for a 2.6 percent pay raise for the military, the biggest increase in nine years.
"Instead of a blueprint for peace and security, this NDAA continues the practice of endless war with no input or oversight from our congressional leaders," lamented Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), one of 59 Democrats who voted against the bill. "It fails to compel any debate or vote in Congress on our endless wars. And it continues the shameful practice of budgeting our wars off the books with the unaccountable Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) slush fund."
International prosecutors presented evidence Thursday that they claim proves the Russian military was responsible for the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
Members of the Joint International Criminal Investigation Team MH17 officially blamed Moscow for the tragedy during a briefing in The Hague, backing up an earlier report by investigative website Bellingcat that identified the same Russian brigade as being responsible for the attack. The Kremlin has long denied accusations that its weapons were used in the tragedy, which caused the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 to explode in midair.
The evidence collected allowed investigators to “fingerprint” the exact missile used in the attack, and the same missile was recorded several times when it joined a convoy of the 53rd brigade on 23–25 June 2014, a month before the attack. Prosecutors even showed photos of the missile responsible, claiming it is a 9M38 BUK missile that was manufactured in Russia in 1986.
A former CIA officer who was imprisoned for leaking classified information to journalists said he was initially was cleared of charges until Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan got involved. ... "In 2007, the Bush administration investigated me and determined I hadn't committed a crime," he said. However, Kiriakou said that once President Obama took power in 2009, a series of memos showed that Brennan asked Attorney General Eric Holder to reopen his case.
"The injustice is incredible," he said, adding that Brennan and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller "set out to ruin people" they don't like. Kiriakou claimed Brennan sent the DOJ a memo asking the department to prosecute the officer for espionage. The department said it had no evidence of such, but Brennan responded something to the effect of "charge him anyway and make him defend himself," according to Kiriakou.
Mueller, who was involved in the case, is "a man who chooses a person, then looks for a crime to hang on that person," Kiriakou said, adding that Mueller initiated the "John Kiriakou Task Force" to probe him.
The top US diplomat in Caracas, Venezuela and his deputy have been ordered to leave the country after allegedly conspiring against the government, President Nicolas Maduro announced. "I have declared him persona non grata and I announce the exit of the US chargé d'affaires in 48 hours," Maduro said on Tuesday, referring to Todd Robinson. His deputy, Brian Naranjo, was also expelled.
The expulsion comes after Washington denounced Maduro’s victory in Venezuela’s elections on Sunday as a “sham.” Maduro won 4 million votes more than the second-placed opposition candidate Henri Falcon, but the turnout was just over 46 percent.
Washington insists that Maduro is running a socialist dictatorship, with US Vice President Mike Pence calling the election “neither free nor fair” and saying the “fake process” was a blow to the “proud democratic tradition” of Venezuela. The Trump administration sanctioned all purchases of Venezuelan debt on Monday, but stopped short of blocking oil sales.
Maduro slammed the sanctions as “arbitrary and unilateral measures” that constitute a “crime against humanity.” The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry also criticized the “systematic campaign of aggression and hostility” from the United States, which it said was aimed at punishing the Venezuelan people “for exercising their right to vote.”
Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones, a court case in California alleges. The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years. ...
Documents filed in the court last week draw upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives, which are currently sealed. ... The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes.
“Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users’ location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls,” one court document says. But all details about the mass surveillance scheme have been redacted on Facebook’s request in Six4Three’s most recent filings. Facebook claims these are confidential business matters. It has until next Tuesday to submit a claim to the court for the documents to remain sealed from public view.
Milwaukee’s police chief, Alfonso Morales, apologized to NBA player Sterling Brown on Wednesday for a January arrest that started with a parking violation and escalated to include use of a stun gun, saying some officers had been disciplined. Brown, a Milwaukee Bucks rookie, responded with a statement that described the incident as “an attempt at police intimidation” and said it “shouldn’t happen to anybody”. ...
The video footage dates from about 2am on 26 January in a Walgreens parking lot. As Brown walks out of the store, an officer standing by Brown’s car asks him for his driver’s license. When Brown gets close to his car’s passenger door, the officer touches Brown and he tells the officer not to touch him.
“Back up! Back up!” the officer yells. “For what? I ain’t did nothing,” Brown responds. He eventually shows the officer his driver’s license. The conversation between the officer and Brown is testy as they wait for additional squad cars to show up. Brown says he has no problem with the officer’s questions and the officer responds that he touched him “because you got up in my face”.
“Really?” Brown responds in disbelief. Brown, surrounded by four officers, is asked to take his hands out of his pockets. Almost immediately a scuffle ensues, with the officers swarming over Brown and one yelling “Taser, Taser, Taser!” Brown is heard groaning in pain on the ground. Brown ultimately was not charged with anything. ... Later in the video, the officer who had the initial interaction with Brown mocks him while talking to another officer about what happened, saying he thought Brown “was being an ass” and “trying to hide something”.
“And now he’s like, ‘I’m a Bucks player, blah, blah, blah. So what,” the officer says.
In September 2017, House Speaker Paul Ryan traveled to a Harley-Davidson plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, to tout the Republican tax bill, which President Trump would sign later that year. “Tax reform can put American manufacturers and American companies like Harley-Davidson on a much better footing to compete in the global economy and keep jobs here in America,” Ryan told workers and company leaders.
Four months later and 500 miles away in Kansas City, Missouri, 800 workers at a Harley-Davidson factory were told they would lose their jobs when the plant closed its doors and shifted operations to a facility in York, Pennsylvania — a net loss of 350 jobs. Workers and union representatives say they didn’t see it coming.
It’s a pattern that’s played out over and over since the tax cuts passed — companies profit, shareholders reap the benefits, and workers get left out. Corporate stock buybacks hit a record $178 billion in the first three months of 2018; average hourly earnings for American workers are up 67 cents over the past year. Harley-Davidson is an American symbol, and President Trump has trotted it out as an example of business success. But as it’s getting its tax cut, it’s outsourcing jobs and paying shareholders.
Remember these names the next time Wall Street tanks our economy and taxpayers are left to bail out the Big Banks: pic.twitter.com/YM2wLB9VMw
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 22, 2018
Here's how much money the House Democrats who voted for the Dodd-Frank rollback have received from the financial sector:
Sinema (AZ) $1,173,176
Gottheimer (NJ) $924,624
Maloney (NY) $498,881
Himes (CT) $448,890
Schneider (IL) $350,579
Kind (WI) $331,555
Scott (GA) $317,250
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 22, 2018
Bera (CA) $134,306
Bishop (GA) $61,600
Carson (IN) $40,046
Correa (CA) $103,700
Costa (CA) $50,950
Cuellar (TX) $124,900
Davis (IL) $58,750
Delaney (MD) $277,215
Foster (IL) $278,035
Gonzalez (TX) $135,964
Hastings (FL) $84,251
Kuster (NH) $300,641
Larsen (WA) $21,795
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 22, 2018
Lawson (FL) $56,300
Murphy (FL) $188,735
Nolan (MN) $66,585
O'Halleran (AZ) $131,471
Peters (CA) $220,833
Peterson (MN) $109,607
Rice (NY) $182,824
Rochester (PA) $132,511
Schrader (OR) $111,050
Source: https://t.co/36mM9EqtrL via @OpenSecretsDC
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) May 22, 2018
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives just voted to roll back financial regulations put in place following the 2008 financial crisis. 33 Democrats captive to big banks’ political donations helped. ...
S.2155 now heads to to the desk of President Trump, who is expected to sign it despite his statement on the campaign trail in 2016 that the big banks “caused tremendous problems for us.”
For years here in North Carolina - the second largest pork-producing state in the US - the pigs have been outstripping the humans. They currently number around 38 to one in Duplin county, with the impact, say local groups, falling disproportionately heavily on African-Americans, Latinos and native Americans. But in the last few weeks, two court decisions may have tipped momentum in a new direction, awarding compensation and bringing in new penalties for polluters.
The pig farms of North Carolina produce around 10bn gallons of faeces a year, which is more than the volume of waste flushed down toilets by the human population of Germany. The waste falls underneath slatted floorboards and is discharged into murky lagoons that sit beside the barns. There are around 4,000 of these cesspools in North Carolina.
The sludge is broken down and sprayedonto nearby fields. In order to prevent ammonia washing off into water systems, the liquid is sprayed on crops that can, farmers say, soak up a lot of nutrients, such as Bermuda grass. Still, some residents [...] have drinking water wells they’ve had to seal up. State regulators and the pork industry insist that a rigorous system of permits and inspections ensure that this waste doesn’t spill from lagoons into waterways, or drift in a sprayed mist onto nearby residents.
But in April, a jury in Raleigh awarded $50m in damages to 10 neighbours of the Kinlaw farm in Bladen county, which has three waste lagoons. And that case is just the first in a series of 25 similar claims against various hog operations in North Carolina, with the next to start on 29 May. A study of several of the plaintiffs’ homes by Shane Rogers, a former Environmental Protection Agency engineer, found widespread evidence of pig faecal matter on walls, mailboxes and street signs. A miasma of “offensive and sustained swine manure odours” lingers around the homes, Rogers wrote. ...
This opening victory for the anti-hog farm group was swiftly followed by another breakthrough. A civil rights complaint alleging that African Americans [...] as well as Latinos and native Americans are disproportionately burdened by “grossly inadequate and outdated systems of controlling animal waste” was settled with the state, which agreed to a new regime of water and air monitoring, along with a rejigged system of penalties for polluters. A study by the University of North Carolina has found that black people and native Americans are around twice as likely to live within three miles of an industrial hog operation than whites. “Anything white people don’t want, they dump on eastern North Carolina,” said Naeema Muhammad, co-director of North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. “It’s a new thing every day, this crap don’t ever stop. But someone is finally holding this industry accountable for the damage it has done.”
In what's being called the People's Climate Case, families from eight different countries have come together to sue European Union (EU) institutions for failing to adequately address the global climate crisis that's threatening their livelihoods.
With support from the Climate Action Network (CAN), ten families from Fiji, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Portugal, Romania, and Saami Youth Association Sáminuorra in Sweden have filed suit against the European parliament and the council of the EU in the Luxembourg-based General Court, which, as one plaintiff put it, "citizens can turn to in order to achieve something in the name of everyone's interest." ...
Rather than seeking compensation for what they've lost, the families want to force EU institutions to be more ambitious with efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, transition to renewable energy, and prevent future warming. They are specifically focusing on the EU's goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels—which the families say are inadequate.
"Climate targets are no longer about diplomacy, the economy, or climate models. It is really about the protection of people, of very concrete people: their land, their heritage, their property, their culture," said Roda Verheyen, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. "That is what this case is about and makes clear to the world."
With the case, Verheyen also hopes to set a global precedent. "If it is recognized by the court that climate protection is a human rights issue," she said, "then climate protection can be activated in the courts of all other jurisdictions in the world."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Johnny Otis - All Nite Long
Leon Sims & The Johnny Otis Orch - Ain't Nothin' Shakin'
Johnny Otis - The Hash
Johnny Otis - Tough Enough
Johnny Otis - New Orleans Shuffle
Johnny Otis - One Mint Julep
Johnny Otis - Rock Me Baby
Johnny Otis - Hangover Blues
Johnny Otis - The Love Bug Boogie
Arthur Lee Maye & the Johnny Otis Orch. - At My Front Door
Johnny Otis - The Midnite Creeper
Johnny Otis - Oopy - Doo