The Evening Blues - 7-18-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues saxophone player Eddie Shaw. Enjoy!
Howlin' Wolf & Eddie Shaw - Sittin' On Top Of The World
"The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whup their supporters into and orgiastic frenzy - then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece."
-- Hunter S. Thompson
News and Opinion
At the big “Treason Summit” “Russopocalypse” “Catastrovent” on Monday, journalist Sam Husseini tried to ask a question about banning nuclear weapons, and was physically hauled out of the room by officials from the “Land of Press Freedom,” Finland. Meanwhile, an Associated Press reporter was permitted to ask a perfectly respectable question pushing a blatant lie that risks nuclear war. Yay for press freedom!
The AP reporter claimed that “every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that” the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election of 2016. In fact, the report that this common lie always refers to was concocted by a group of “hand-picked” (James Clapper’s description) people from three agencies out of 18 or so. The three were the NSA, FBI, and CIA — none of which ever, ever lie or get things wrong, ever. The INR and DIA were excluded along with all the others.
That’s why the Associated Press told a lie. Here’s why it’s a blatant and dangerous lie. The same report didn’t conclude a damn thing. It just “assessed,” which is a weasel word for guessed. Of the three agencies involved, two assessed with high and one with moderate confidence that Russia did something or other to benefit Trump. Whether that something was revealing to the public the DNC’s slanting of its primary against Bernie Sanders we are not told. We are also not offered any evidence for whatever it was. We are also not told Trump was involved in it, or offered any degree of assessment of that, much less any evidence. We are also not given any claim that informing us about the DNC’s shenanigans, or any other actions, had any impact on the outcome of the election. We also are not presented any case that keeping the rigging of primaries secret from the public is essential to the sanctity and freedom of our democracy.
But here’s where it gets frightening. Unknown people produced an unread report that claims very little on behalf of very few but has not only become the gospel handed down by the “Intelligence Community,” but thousands of writers, bloggers, and tweeters between Monday and Tuesday have announced that one must choose either to believe this gospel or to side with The Russian Enemy. And the unknown propagandists who produced the ridiculously vacuous report have been turned into The Troops, and The People Who Risk Their Lives to Protect Us — this language now being used by all sorts of people clogging up my social media, including some pretty well-known ones like Michael Moore. ...
“Look at Putin’s face! You can tell that he owns Trump!”
Go home America. You’re drunk.
— Margaret Kimberley (@freedomrideblog) July 17, 2018
In an article for The Nation dated July 11, the internationally renowned US-Russia relations expert Stephen F. Cohen warned of possible attempts by peace-hating beltway stalwarts to sabotage the Helsinki peace talks between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that is scheduled for this coming Monday. ... And, lo and behold, right before the summit we are seeing two major news stories loudly promoting Russia hysteria blasted onto the front pages on the very same day.
An indictment of 12 Russians has finally been issued by the Robert Mueller Special Counsel on various charges of conspiracy against the United States, an action the counsel has been sitting on for months. The indictment contains no evidence and will likely never be defended in any court of law, the correct response to which, in a post-Iraq invasion world, is always to dismiss the story and file it under “Noises US government officials sometimes make with their face holes.” ...
On the same day as all this drama erupted, Dan Coats (who replaced the lying, Russophobic Russiagate architect James Clapper as America’s top intelligence officer at the beginning of this administration) has declared that the warning signs of future Russian cyberattacks are akin to the warnings received prior to the September 11 attacks. Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about when US government officials start invoking 9/11 to warn us about a nation that had nothing to do with it. ...
Stephen Cohen isn’t psychic, he’s just been watching trends and behavioral patterns in US-Russia relations for decades, and noticing the headlines in plutocrat-owned media about the approaching peace talks. ... This notion that we should all be worried, terrified and literally shaking that two nuclear superpowers might ease tensions between one another is so Rick and Morty alternate dimension bass ackwards it’s amazing that it’s been able to stick to the extent that it has, but that just shows you the power of mass media propaganda. The social engineers are so adept that self-identified progressives can be made to cheer for the FBI, self-identified nationalists can be made to cheer for neoconservative regime change agendas against Iran, and self-identified liberals can literally be made to fear a movement away from the possibility of nuclear holocaust.
If you don't remember thinking much about Russia prior to the 2016, and now you think about it a lot more, that's your first clue that you've been propagandized. It's the same country it was in 2015. The threat it poses hasn't changed, only the narrative has.
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) July 17, 2018
US President Donald Trump offended the entire political spectrum with a tweet this morning blaming Washington for poor relations with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity,” the president said, and he is entirely correct. By this, I do not mean to say that Russia is a beneficent actor in world affairs or that Russian President Vladimir Putin is an admirable world leader. Nonetheless, the president displayed both perspicacity and political courage when he pointed the finger at the United States for mismanaging the relationship with Russia. [Or, alternately, they say that a blind hog finds an acorn from time to time. - js] ...
Unfortunately, the delusion that the United States would remake Russia in its own image persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations. I have no reason to doubt the allegations that a dozen Russian intelligence officers meddled in the US elections of 2016, but this was equivalent of a fraternity prank compared to America’s longstanding efforts to intervene in Russian politics. The United States supported the 2014 Maidan uprising in Ukraine and the overthrow of the Yanukovych government in the hope of repeating the exercise in Moscow sometime later. Then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland pulled whatever strings America had to replace the feckless and corrupt Victor Yanukovych with a government hostile to the Kremlin. She didn’t say it in so many words, but she hoped the Ukraine coup would lead to the overthrow of Vladimir Putin. ...
The Maidan coup was the second American attempt to install a Ukrainian government hostile to Moscow; the first occurred in 2004, when Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State rather than Hillary Clinton. As I wrote in Asia Times a decade ago, “On the night of November 22, 2004, then-Russian president – now premier – Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine. ‘They lied to me,’ Putin said bitterly of the United States. ‘I’ll never trust them again.’ The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West.”
American efforts to promote a democratic opposition to Putin have failed miserably, and as John Lloyd wrote recently at Reuters, the Russian president remains genuinely popular. This remains a source of perpetual frustration for the neoconservatives, who cannot fathom why dictatorships still exist. Russia is a brutal country that always has been governed by brutal men. No one talks about Ivan the Reasonable. Compared to Peter the Great or Alexander II, let alone Stalin or Ivan the Terrible, Putin is one of Russia’s gentler heads of state.
Russia is in crisis, but Russia always is in crisis. Russia has a brutal government, but Russia always has had a brutal government, and by every indication, the people of Russia nonetheless seem to like their government. If they want a different sort of government, let them establish one; what sort of government they prefer is not the business of the United States. America’s attempt to shape Russia’s destiny, starting with the Clinton Administration’s sponsorship of the feckless, drunk and corrupt Boris Yeltsin, had baleful results. So did the State Department’s attempt to manipulate events in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014. That’s why President Trump’s tweet this morning is entirely correct.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast on Monday that he told U.S. President Donald Trump that Russia is prepared to extend the New START nuclear treaty that expires in 2021.
“I reassured President Trump that Russia stands ready to extend this treaty, to prolong it, but we have to agree on the specifics at first, because we have some questions to our American partners,” Putin told Fox News in an interview after a summit with Trump on Monday in Helsinki.
“We think that they are not fully compliant with the treaty, but this is for experts to decide,” Putin added. ...
Both sides say they met the treaty caps earlier this year, but Russia has raised questions about the U.S. conversion of some submarines and bombers to carry conventional weapons, saying it has no way to verify they cannot also be used for nuclear arms.
FBI Peter Strzok – the philandering FBI chief investigator who facilitated the FISA surveillance of Trump campaign officials in 2016 – has been exposed for ignoring evidence of major Clinton-related breaches of national security and has been accused of lying about it.
Hillary Clinton’s emails, “every single one except for four, over 30,000 of them, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert said on Friday. And they went to “an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.” The information came from Intelligence Community Inspector General Chuck McCullough, who sent his investigator Frank Rucker, along with an ICIG attorney Janette McMillan, to brief Strzok.
Gohmert nailed Strozk at the open Congressional hearing on Friday the 13th in Washington, but Strzok claimed no recollection. Gohmert accused him of lying. Maybe Strzok’s amnesia about the briefing on Hillary Clinton’s email server is nothing but standard FBI training: i.e., when in doubt, don’t recall. It’s far more likely that there is a campaign of deliberate obstructing justice, selective prosecution, and political targeting by top officials embedded in the permanent bureaucracy of the Justice Department, FBI, and broader IC. Strzok is not alone. And what “foreign entity” got Hillary’s classified emails? Trump haters in British Intelligence and those in Israel who want to manipulate the US presidency – whatever party prevails – come to mind. Listen closely and you may hear rumors around Washington that it was Israel, not Russia, that was the foreign power involved in approaching Trump advisers. Time to follow that thread.
Both Representatives Gohmert (TX) and Trey Gowdy (SC) did a great job trying to pierce the veil of denials. But, right after Strzok’s amnesia in Congress, the Justice Department announced the indictment of GRU members. Change of subject.
"Vladimir Putin made a bombshell claim during Monday's joint press conference with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, when the Russian President said some $400 million in illegally earned profits was funneled to the Clinton campaign by associates of American-born British financier Bill Browder - at one time the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia. The scheme involved members of the U.S. intelligence community, said Putin, who he said "accompanied and guided these transactions."
Browder made billions in Russia during the 90's. In December, a Moscow court sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in prison for tax fraud, while he was also found guilty of tax evasion in a separate 2013 case. Putin accused Browder's associates of illegally earning over than $1.5 billion without paying Russian taxes, before sending $400 million to Clinton."
After offering to allow special counsel Robert Mueller's team to come to Russia for their investigation - as long as there was a reciprocal arrangement for Russian intelligence to investigate in the U.S., Putin said this:
For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder, in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia and never paid any taxes neither in Russia or the United States and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent [a] huge amount of money, $400,000,000, as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well that’s their personal case.
It might have been legal, the contribution itself but the way the money was earned was illegal. So we have solid reason to believe that some [US] intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions. So we have an interest in questioning them.
Noam Chomsky has observed that 'propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state'. This is certainly true for social control at home, but propaganda also allows nominally democratic states to wield their military bludgeons abroad in much the same way as totalitarian states. Thus, in April, it happened again: the entire corporate media system rose up with instant certainty to damn an enemy state for crimes against humanity on April 7, in Douma, Syria. This was not acceptable death by bomb and bullet; this was a nerve gas attack. The villainous agent on every journalist's lips: sarin, a highly toxic synthetic organophosphorus compound that has no smell or taste, but which quickly kills through asphyxiation. ...
On 6 July 2018, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued an interim report on the FFM's investigation regarding the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma. The passage that jumped out of the report:
'No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties.'
No sarin! ... The skwawkbox website noted that the BBC had covered, and distorted, OPCW's July 6 report. A BBC headline read:
'Syria attack was chlorine gas – watchdog
'The deadly attack in Douma in April left dozens of civilians dead and caused and international outcry.'
This was complete invention. As skwawkbox commented: 'the OPCW report emphatically does not say that chlorine gas was used'. The report actually said:
'Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites, for which there is full chain of custody. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is on-going. The FFM team will continue its work to draw final conclusions.'
Chlorinated organic chemicals are extremely common, found in degreasers, cleaning solutions, paint thinners, pesticides, resins, glues, and many other mixing and thinning solutions. ...
As Off-Guardian noted, the headlines should have read: No nerve agents found.
Carlos Lozada, the non-fiction book critic for the Washington Post, promised "an honest investigation" of whether truth can survive the Trump administration in the lead article in the paper's Sunday Outlook section. He delivers considerably less. Most importantly and incredibly, Lozada never considers the possibility that respect for traditional purveyors of "truth" has been badly weakened by the fact that they have failed to do so in many important ways in recent years. Furthermore, they have used their elite status (prized university positions and access to major media outlets) to deride those who challenged them as being unthinking illiterates.
This dynamic is most clear in the trade policy pursued by the United States over the last four decades. This policy had the predicted and actual effect of eliminating the jobs of millions of manufacturing workers and reducing the pay of tens of millions of workers with less than a college education. The people who suffered the negative effects of these policies were treated as stupid no-nothings and wrongly told that their suffering was due to automation or was an inevitable product of globalization. These claims are what those of us still living in the world of truth know as "lies," but you will never see anyone allowed to make these points in the Washington Post. After all, its readers can't be allowed to see such thoughts.
This was far from the only major failure of the purveyors of truth. The economic crisis caused by the collapse of the housing bubble cost millions of workers their jobs and/or houses. While this collapse was 100 percent predictable for anyone with a basic knowledge of economics, with almost no exceptions, our elite economists failed to see it coming and ridiculed those who warned of the catastrophe. Incredibly, there were no career consequences for this momentous failure. No one lost their job and few probably even missed a scheduled promotion. Everyone was given a collective "who could have known?" amnesty. This leaves us with the absurd situation where a dishwasher who breaks the dishes get fired, a custodian that doesn't clean the toilet gets fired, but an elite economist who completely misses the worst economic disaster in 70 years gets promoted to yet another six-figure salary position.
And, departing briefly from my area of expertise, none of the geniuses who thought invading Iraq was a good idea back in 2003 seems to be on the unemployment lines today. Again, there was another collective "who could have known?" amnesty, with those responsible for what was quite possibly the greatest foreign policy disaster in US history still considered experts in the area and drawing high salaries. When we have a world in which the so-called experts are not held accountable for their failures, even when they are massive, and they consistently look down on the people who question their expertise, it undermines belief in truth. It would have been nice if Lozada had explored this aspect of the issue, but hey, it's the Washington Post
Israel’s political leadership has reportedly instructed the army to prepare for a military offensive in the Gaza Strip, to be initiated if the launching of incendiary devices from the Hamas-run coastal enclave into Israeli territory continues.
According to a Channel 10 news report Tuesday, Israel has set Friday as a deadline for the flaming kite and balloon launches to cease. If this does not happen, Israel may decide it has no choice but to embark on a military campaign in the Strip, the report said. ...
On Sunday, the IDF’s 162nd Armored Division launched an exercise simulating a war in the Gaza Strip, including the capture of Gaza City. While the military said it was planned in advance and was not related to the weekend’s exchange of fire, the manner in which the exercise was publicized by the military led many to see it as a tacit threat to Hamas.
Hamas is manning some 60 percent of its positions along the border fence in order to stop the launches, according to the TV report, and is expected to dispatch its forces to all of its posts by Friday.
The European Union handed Google a record €4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine Wednesday for misusing its dominant position in the smartphone market — and now companies and trade groups are calling on U.S. regulators to do the same. Even more damaging for Google is a ruling making it illegal to force smartphone makers such as Samsung to install Google’s own search app and browser — opening the door for companies including Microsoft to take a larger share of the search market.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief and a woman reviled in Silicon Valley, laid out the bloc’s reasoning for levying such a huge fine. “Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement its dominance as a search engine. These practices have denied rivals a chance to innovate and to compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefit of effective competition in the very important mobile sphere. And this is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”
Vestager has given the company 90 days to end its “illegal conduct” by ending the restrictions it has imposed on mobile phone makers. Google immediately said following the ruling that it will appeal the Commission’s decision.
The $5 billion fine is the largest financial penalty ever levied by Europe against a single company, but for Google represents just over two week’s of revenue.
A federal judge temporarily barred the U.S. government on Monday from the rapid deportation of immigrant parents reunited with their children, while a court considers the impact on children's rights to seek asylum. ... The American Civil Liberties Union said in court papers on Monday that, once reunited, immigrant parents who face deportation should have a week to decide if they want to leave their child in the United States to pursue asylum separately.
"A one-week stay is a reasonable and appropriate remedy to ensure that the unimaginable trauma these families have suffered does not turn even worse because parents made an uninformed decision about the fate of their child," the rights group wrote.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego asked the government to respond and set a July 24 date for the next hearing. In the meantime, he halted rapid deportations.
Democratic senators on Tuesday unveiled a new family reunification bill that they said would “immediately” reunite the 2,600 immigrant children still separated from their parents as a result of the White House’s zero-tolerance enforcement policy. The measure would “ensure that never again will the United States government have the ability or the power to separate children from their parents in the way that has been done”, Senator Kamala Harris, a sponsor of the bill, said at a press conference.
Harris introduced the bill alongside senators Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, and Catherine Cortez Masto, of Nevada. The senators said their visits to detention facilities along the border helped inform the legislation. ...
The Democrats’ bill would codify some of what has been ordered by courts but would go further to address some of the challenges to reunifications, which included parents not being able to afford the cost of transportation to bring their children back to them and a lack of coordination between agencies.
Among other things, the bill would:
- Require the departments of homeland security and health and human services to publish guidance on how they plan to reunify families
- Allow for the release of parents of separated children so that the reunifications do not happen in detention
- Ensure children have access to legal counsel
- Restore a case management program for asylum seekers that was ended last year
- Establish a presumption that parents are not deported until their child’s immigration proceeding is complete
- Protect privacy around the use of DNA testing
The U.S. and Canada Are Preparing for a New Standing Rock Over the Trans Mountain Tar Sands Pipeline
In British Columbia's southern interior, on unceded land of the Secwepemc Nation, Kanahus Manuel stands alongside a 7-by-12-foot “tiny house” mounted on a trailer. Her uncle screws a two-by-four into a floor panel while her brother-in-law paints a mural on the exterior walls depicting a moose, birds, forests, and rivers — images of the terrain through which the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will pass, if it can get through the Tiny House Warriors’ roving blockade. The project would place a new pipeline alongside the existing Trans Mountain line, tripling the system’s capacity to 890,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen flowing daily from Alberta through British Columbia to an endpoint outside Vancouver. ...
Should construction begin as scheduled in August, the Tiny House Warriors expect waves of allies from Indigenous nations inside Canada and beyond to join them as they wheel 10 of the houses into the pipeline’s path. Near the pipeline’s terminus outside Vancouver, members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation have constructed a traditional “watch house” from which to monitor the progress of construction.
Resistance to the pipeline is already escalating: On July 3, seven pipeline opponents rappelled from Vancouver’s Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in a daylong blockade of tanker traffic associated with the existing Trans Mountain line. Last week, the Tiny House Warriors wheeled the homes into a provincial park that sits on the site of a historic village near Clearwater, British Columbia, in an assertion of their title to the land. On Saturday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police singled out and arrested Manuel, whose livestream of the incident has garnered more than 500,000 views on Facebook. She was detained on a charge of “criminal mischief” and released later that day. The struggle against the expansion, Manuel told The Intercept, could become “the Standing Rock of the north.”
That’s exactly what law enforcement agencies on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border fear. For more than a year, U.S. and Canadian authorities have been girding for a mobilization comparable to the 2016 resistance in North Dakota, according to law enforcement communications and government reports obtained by The Intercept. In Canada, Trudeau received a Cabinet memo discussing the implications of Standing Rock for Trans Mountain one week after his administration approved the pipeline expansion.
In Washington state, where a branch of the existing Trans Mountain line feeds processed tar sands bitumen to four refineries along Puget Sound, law enforcement agencies are preparing for the anti-pipeline struggle to spill over to the U.S. side of the border. The sheriff’s office in Whatcom County monitored activists’ plans to travel to British Columbia for a recent Trans Mountain protest, and information collected was shared with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Washington State Patrol, and the Washington State Fusion Center. The sheriff’s office has arranged at least two multiagency law enforcement trainings on protest response in the last year and a half. The documents underscore the heightened scrutiny and surveillance Indigenous-led movements fighting resource extraction have faced in the wake of the mass mobilization at Standing Rock.
Donald Trump has called big-game trophy hunting a “horror show”, despite his own sons’ participation in elephant and leopard hunts, and in 2017 he formed an advisory board to steer US policy on the issue. But rather than conservation scientists and wildlife advocates, it is composed of advocates for the hunting of elephants, giraffes and other threatened, charismatic species. And observers say that since Trump took office, court rulings and administrative decisions have in fact made it easier for hunters to import the body parts of lions, elephants and other animals killed in Africa.
Members of Trump’s advisory board, called the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), argue that the sport, in which wealthy hunters pay tens of thousands of dollars to shoot endangered megafauna, is a laudable method of conservation abroad. “This council will be focused on making hunting a better tool for conservation,” said John Jackson III, a member of the IWCC and founder of Conservation Force, an international hunting non-profit. Only two of the council’s 16 members are not active advocates for trophy hunting – the rest belong to groups such as Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association. Instead of discussing whether the sport should be limited, the group is focusing on how to broaden its reach.
Trophy hunters hold immense clout in the Trump administration. The president’s sons, Donald Jr and Eric, frequently hunt in Africa. And the hunting advisory council operates under the auspices of the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, who received $10,000 from the Safari Club during his 2016 congressional campaign. The lopsided composition of the council has critics worried its decisions will protect their chosen pastime, not the animals. “People who consider themselves conservationists don’t consider trophy hunting conservation,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s an elite, bourgeois activity.”
The US cannot ban its residents from hunting in another nation, but it does regulate the importation of trophies – the body parts of animals killed abroad. Hunters seeking to import the remains of species protected under the Endangered Species Act must provide proof that killing an individual animal broadly enhances the species’ odds of survival. n 2017, Trump’s interior department eased Obama-era restrictions on trophy hunting, and the president used Twitter to voice displeasure with the practice, writing it was unlikely he would “change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal”. The department then reinstated the ban, but a subsequent court ruling found that it was not based on proper rule-making procedures, and imports continue. Irrespective of Trump’s comments, the Fish and Wildlife Agency, which oversees trophy imports, holds that well-regulated sport hunting is beneficial to the survival of endangered species.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Eddie Shaw - Riding High
Eddie Shaw - Movin' And Groovin' Man
Rodney Brown and Eddie Shaw - There Is Something On Your Mind
Eddie Shaw - Ship Made of Paper
Eddie Shaw - Big Leg Woman
Eddie Shaw and The Wolfgang - Hoochie Coochie Man
Eddie Shaw - 300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy
Eddie Shaw - Stoop Down, Baby
George Thorogood w/Eddie Shaw - Howlin For My Baby
Eddie Shaw & The Wolfgang - Chicago Blues Festival 2016