The Evening Blues - 8-14-18
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This evening's music features boogie woogie piano player Cripple Clarence Lofton. Enjoy!
Cripple Clarence Lofton - Strut That Thing
"Capitalism tends to destroy its two sources of wealth: nature and human beings."
-- Karl Marx
News and Opinion
It must have been a moment of unspeakable shock, terror and pain. But it’s hard to know exactly what it was like at the moment last Thursday when a school bus packed with Yemeni schoolchildren — summer campers coming back from a picnic — was struck from the skies by a powerful bomb, because so few of these innocent kids survived to tell about it, and because those who did are mostly clinging to life, maimed or badly burned by the blast. ...
The merciless Saudi-led war in Yemen — which has not only claimed 13,500 lives but triggered a humanitarian crisis in which some 20 million Yemenis, out of a nation of just 29 million, are scrambling for food and other basic necessities and as many as 900,000 people are suffering from cholera — is what it is today because of help from the United States. America offers the Saudis and its allies in the region the intelligence used to carry out the nonstop airstrikes and other military operations. The planes that conduct the bombing runs are refueled by American forces in the region. And many of the bombs that have been dropped on Yemen — including those that have struck hospitals and other civilian targets — were manufactured and supplied by the United States.
It’s very likely the bomb that obliterated the school bus last week was an American bomb; a Pentagon spokesman conceded that, because of the lengths to which U.S. forces go to avoid operational knowledge of the war for which we otherwise provide such critical support, it officially doesn’t know whether we supplied these particular munitions. “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command, told Vox — a classic case of American plausible deniability. But people on the ground in Yemen say they can link American-made bombs to Thursday’s airstrike and other attacks on innocent civilians.
The remnants of the US bombs that killed Yemen children in the latest US-Saudi massare and war crime of August 9th, 2018
In Saada north Yemen. pic.twitter.com/z8bvadwncG
— Nasser Arrabyee (@narrabyee) August 11, 2018
Thursday’s school bus bombing did accomplish one thing: The unavoidable carnage forced American media — which has all but ignored the conflict in Yemen, and our role in supporting it — to pay at least a little bit of attention, cramming a few minutes of coverage into the end of the hour, after all the latest inane tweets from the Madman Across the Fairway had been regurgitated and dissected. It shouldn’t have taken so long. ...
This blood is on America’s hands, as long as we keep sending the bombs that kill so many Yemenis, and as long as we give the Saudis our unqualified diplomatic support in a messy regional conflict. And yet there’s been no public debate about the murky U.S. role out of this, and no clarification from the White House or the Pentagon over what we hope to accomplish by our support of the mayhem. There are, however, a few members of Congress demanding answers. But efforts by Congress to end America’s role in the seemingly endless conflict have gone nowhere. ...
As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!, 1/17; FAIR.org, 4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”
It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:
- Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN, 4/7/18)
- Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post, 4/6/18)
- Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
- After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)
... Israel has a state-of-the-art military: F35s, Sa’ar corvettes, Merkava tanks and Hellfire missiles, not to mention the most intrusive surveillance apparatus in the world; total control over the air, sea and land. In the Great March of Return protests, the Palestinians have employed rocks, tires and, according to the IDF, the occasional Molotov cocktail, though no independent evidence has emerged of the latter being used. The power asymmetry is one of the largest of any conflict in the world, yet Western media still cling on an institutional level to a “cycle of violence” frame, with “both sides” depicted as equal parties. The term “clashes” permits them to do this in perpetuity, no matter how one-sided the violence becomes.
It was on September 16, 2001, five days after the 9/11 attacks, that President George W. Bush declared his now-infamous “war on terrorism.” Other governments around the world followed suit — but few matched the speed, intensity, and sheer cynicism with which the autocrats in Beijing aligned themselves with the Bush administration.
Dogged by protests and revolts from a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority called the Uighurs in the vast and autonomous Central Asian border region of Xinjiang — or East Turkestan, as it is historically referred to by the Uighurs — the Chinese spotted an opportunity. In the weeks and months after 9/11, Beijing began submitting documents to the United Nations alleging that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM — a group that few people had ever heard of, or could even confirm the existence of — was a “major component of the terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden” and “an important part of his terrorist forces.” By September 2002, both the U.N. and the United States had listed ETIM as a “terrorist organization” — throwing the Uighurs under the geopolitical bus.
Fast forward 17 years: On Friday, a panel of U.N. human rights experts said Uighurs in Xinjiang were being treated as “enemies of the state” and announced that it had received credible reports about the “arbitrary and mass detention of almost 1 million Uighurs” in “counter-extremism centers.” One. Million. People. It’s an astonishingly high number. In the context of the Uighur population as a whole, it’s even more shocking: There are around 11 million Uighurs living in Xinjiang, which means that almost one in 10 of them has been detained, according to the U.N. How is this not anything other than one of the biggest, and most underreported, human rights crises in the world today? ...
As with the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, China’s war on terror in Xinjiang risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the Chinese — like the Americans and the Israelis — don’t really give a damn about alleged terrorist threats. This has much less to do with security and much more to with politics. Beijing is asserting control over a restless province that borders eight countries — including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Other economic factors come into play, too: Xinjiang is home to the country’s largest reserves of coal and natural gas.
Fighting terrorism, though, has become a useful cover for authoritarian governments around the world. Nicholas Bequelin, who is the East Asia director at Amnesty International and a former visiting scholar at Yale Law School’s China Center, draws a “direct line” from the Bush declaration of a war on terror in 2001 to the repression of the Uighurs in 2018. “The war on terror rhetoric immensely benefitted the Chinese,” said Bequelin. “It was a 180-degree turn for the discourse of the Chinese state with respect to its ability in Xinjiang: from minimizing and trying to hide it to casting its efforts and suppression of any form of dissent as ‘counterterrorism.’
The governing council of the American Psychological Association voted Wednesday against a proposal to allow military psychologists to return to Guantánamo Bay, after a fraught debate that had reopened controversy over the organization’s involvement in the early days of the war on terror.
The proposal would have amended the ethics policy of a 2015 resolution by the association, which banned psychologists from working at detention sites that are in violation of international human rights law, such as Guantánamo. Current policy allows for independent psychologists to treat both military personnel and detainees in illegal settings, but only if they work directly for the detainee or a human rights organization, which precludes offering their services at Guantánamo, because the military does not allow civilian psychologists access to the prison.
The proposal inserted language that would allow psychologists to work in national security settings “in a health care role” — raising concerns about the profession once again working under the command of the military. “The vote is a decision to remain steady with the current policy that keeps psychologists out of illegal detention facilities. It keeps APA consistent with the human rights community and international law,” said Stephen Soldz, a psychologist and representative on the association’s council.
The 2015 resolution came on the heels of a report from former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, commissioned by the APA, which concluded that members of the organization’s leadership had collaborated with officials in the George W. Bush administration to ensure that psychologists could participate in national security interrogations under APA policies, even as evidence of CIA torture and military abuses at Abu Ghraib emerged. The reform realigned the APA’s ethics policy according to international human rights law and conventions against torture.
We all learned in school that some countries have a single governing party. If you’re not in that party, you can’t be part of the government. The US has two government parties, Republicans and Democrats, both funded by the corporations and wealthy individuals who make up this country’s capitalist elite. If you’re not in either one of the government parties, you’re denied access to media and in many states, laws are passed specifically to keep you off the ballot. ... Since the election of Donald Trump Democrats have branded themselves “the resistance.”
This month the House and Senate passed the reconciled version of the 2019 Pentagon budget on to the White House. On TV and establishment media they call it a defense budget, but that’s branding too. ... Early this month, the House and Senate passed the reconciled version of the US war budget to the president for signatgure. It’s the earliest in the budget cycle Congress has done a military budget since 1996 or 1997, when a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in Congress were anxious to assure Republicans that they were all on the same side. They call this year’s atrocity the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act, worth a record $716 billion. This total doesn’t include the budget of the Afghan war, which lives somewhere else, or the budgets of several other known programs, and there are secret budgets for more or less secret programs as well. Nobody really doubts that actual US military spending has hovered around a trillion a year for several years now.
So how did the resistance perform? In the Senate the vote was 87 to 10, three not voting. Only 8 Democrats resisted. Among them Liz Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand. Dick Durbin of Illinois also voted against the Pentagon bill. This is purest theater, because Durbin since 2005 has been Democratic Whip in the Senate, the man responsible for lining up the votes of his fellow senators. If this meant anything to him, why did only 7 other Democrats vote with their supposed leader? In the House the vote was 351 to 66, with 139 Democrats voting yes, 49 voting no, and 5 not voting. So the resistance was really the assistance, voting almost 2 to 1 to continue spending as much on US wars around the world as the next nine or ten countries put together.
For the second time this year, Facebook has suspended teleSUR English's page, claiming the left-leaning Latin American news network violated the social media platform's terms of service without any further explanation—a move that provoked outrage and concern among journalists, free speech advocates, and Big Tech critics.
In a short article posted on teleSUR's website on Monday, the regional news network—which is based in Venezuela but also has received funding from Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua—explained:
teleSUR English's page has been removed from Facebook for the second time this year without any specific reason being provided. It should be noted that the first time this occurred back in January 2018, Facebook did NOT provide any explanation in spite of our best efforts to understand their rationale. This is an alarming development in light of the recent shutting down of pages that don't fit a mainstream narrative.
According to the outlet, "the only communication" teleSUR has received from Facebook was the following message:
Max Blumenthal, editor of The Grayzone Project, called Facebook's decision "deeply disturbing." He also noted that the platform recently banned Venezuelanalysis.com, which like teleSUR offers a leftist perspective on Latin America, and raised alarm about Facebook's work with the Digital Forensic Research Lab, a project of the Atlantic Council, a NATO-backed, D.C.-based think tank.
It seems like the censorship power many people on the left want Silicon Valley executives to unilaterally exercise might end up being wielded against the left. One good way to know that would happen is that is already is happening https://t.co/3KXEHvi2n5 - https://t.co/OyElNWwoue https://t.co/G1ZprSQgGZ
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 14, 2018
The corporate media paid only scant attention to recent protests in Russia led by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. It was reported that tens of thousands of Russianstook to the streets in late July to protest a proposed raise in the pension retirement age for both men and women. One would have suspected that Russiagate crusaders s would have jumped at the opportunity to exploit the protests as an opportunity to denounce “Putin’s Russia.” However, the corporate media did no such thing. That’s because the leaders of Russiagate in the US and Western ruling class don’t give a damn about democracy or the people. Their main objectives are war and austerity.
Furthermore, protests gave little for Russiagate loyalists to exploit. Protesters were not besieged by the state as would be expected from an “authoritarian” regime. Instead, Putin announced that he would listen to “all sides” of the issue. The Duma’s proposal to raise the retirement age for men to sixty-five and women to sixty-three comes amid several contradictions that have been developing in Russia for some time now. On the one hand, Russia has spent the last decade and a half crawling back from the disaster that was the fall of the Soviet Union. Over this period, Russia has raised the life expectancy and standard of livingfor millions of people to make up for the steep decline in living conditions that characterized the “shock therapy” austerity reforms of the Yeltsin era.
However, Russia is no socialist paradise. Capitalism remains the dominant system in Russia despite the very real progress that has been made under Putin. But the US ruling class’ addiction to Russiagate is not the product of some concern for “democracy” or the condition of workers in Russia. Russiagate is the ideological bedrock of US imperialist aggression toward Russia. Putin has become the scapegoat that masks the insidious interests of US finance capital and the Deep State. These forces desperately want to intimidate Russian leaders into reviving the wholesale theft of the country that took place from 1991-2000.
The proof isn’t too difficult to find. US-imposed sanctions on Russiahave only intensified since the Russiagate narrative emerged over two years ago. If Russiagate enthusiasts were interested in “democracy,” they would demand an end to the sanctions and a scale back of the US military’s presence along the Russian border. Instead, Russiagate crusaders have gone “all in” with the FBI, CIA, and the Deep State to promote regime change in Russia. The conditions of workers in Russia mean nothing to those who saddle up behind the repressive agents of the Deep State.
Russia will further decrease its holdings of U.S. securities in response to new sanctions against Moscow but has no plans to shut down U.S. companies in Russia, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on state TV on Sunday, RIA news agency reported.
On Friday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would regard any U.S. move to curb the activities of its banks as a “declaration of economic war” and would take retaliatory action. ...
“We have lowered to the minimum level and will further decrease our investment in the U.S. economy, in the U.S. securities,” Siluanov said, shedding light on the nature of an unexpected drop in Russia’s holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds. Russia has ditched its holdings of U.S. Treasuries in the past few months as relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated, data showed last month.
Russia will also have more settlement in roubles and other currencies, such as the euro, than in dollars, Siluanov said.
A fresh plunge in the Turkish lira sent tremors through global currency markets on Monday, amid fears that the failure of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to tackle its worsening financial crisis would have a domino effect on other vulnerable countries.
Argentina’s central bank raised its key interest rate by five percentage points to 45% following a fall in the peso, and the South African rand was also hit in a day of turbulence that saw the lira fall 8% against the dollar.
Erdogan lashed out at “economic terrorists on social media” as he accused Donald Trump of stabbing Turkey in the back. But the Turkish president’s insistence that his country would survive an economic siege failed to reassure financial markets alarmed at the possible collapse of the strategically vital emerging market country.
Concerns that the 45% drop in the value of the lira this year would prove ruinous for companies that had borrowed heavily in foreign currencies prompted the renewed sell off of the lira and pushed up the cost of servicing Turkey’s budget deficit. ...
Although Turkey’s $300bn of dollar-denominated corporate debt makes it particularly vulnerable, currency speculators have started to assess the potential damage to Europe and to identify other emerging market countries that have also taken advantage of low global interest rates to accumulate foreign currency debts during the post-financial crisis period.
There was a critical meeting where Obama met with a bunch of senior bankers. And he said basically, “I’m all that’s standing between you and the pitchforks.” And that was when everybody knew he was going to be on their side. He made it official he was on the bankers side. And what really shocked me was in 2009, when the banks decided to pay their staff higher bonuses than they had gotten in 2007.
I lost it. The fact that they couldn’t even have the decency to tone it down for appearances’ sake and pay themselves less and rebuild their balance sheets … They’ve just been bailed out, and they slapped the public in the face. And they paid themselves even higher bonuses in 2010. They slapped the public in the face by taking the bailout money and then paying themselves even more than they’ve ever made.
While there were all these unnecessary foreclosures. There were 9 million foreclosures. Basically about a sixth of the houses with mortgages in the U.S. were foreclosed on. That’s just a stunning and disgraceful figure. And the reason it’s stunning and disgraceful is that before you had securitization, when a borrower got in trouble the mortgage borrower got in trouble. ...
Trump is crowing about this 4.1 percent GDP growth, right? Yet if you look at the statistics, real worker wages have continued to be flat for this period. The crisis itself was the greatest looting of the public purse in history. The crisis itself was a huge wealth transfer. The Obama administration should have forced a lot more recognition of the losses. These losses were real. They should have forced more loan write-downs. And recognition of the loss to the financial system. And they should have had a huge stimulus to offset the downdraft of recognizing those losses. ...
With Merger Pending, Bayer Shares Plunge After Court Orders Monsanto to Pay $289 Million to Cancer Victim
Shares in Bayer took a nosedive on Monday—just days after newly-acquired Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages to a man who alleged that the company's glyphosate-based herbicides, including the widely used weedkiller Roundup, caused his cancer. At one point the German pharmaceutical giant's shares fell by as much as 14 percent, Reuters reported, marking a loss in value of roughly $14 billion.
It capped off the U.S. trading day as one of the "biggest losers," ending at a 10-percent loss. Friday was also a losing day for Monsanto, which Bayer AG controversially acquired for $62.5 billion in June. In a landmark trial, a San Francisco jury unanimously found that the company failed to warn school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who's suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and other consumers of the cancer risks from its weed killers, and said the company acted "with malice or oppression."
Historic Ruling Against Monsanto Finds Company Acted with “Malice” Against Groundskeeper with Cancer
A week ago, the federal government halted work on a massive pipeline project that runs from Northern West Virginia through Southern Virginia. The government said it had no choice but to order work on the multibillion-dollar Mountain Valley Pipeline stopped after a federal appeals court ruled that two federal agencies had neglected to follow important environmental protections when they approved the project.
The court had found that the U.S. Forest Service had suddenly dropped — without any explanation — its longstanding concerns that soil erosion from the pipeline would harm rivers, streams and aquatic life. It also found that the Bureau of Land Management approved a new construction path through the Jefferson National Forest, ignoring rules that favor sticking to existing utility rights-of-way. “American citizens understandably place their trust in the Forest Service to protect and preserve this country’s forests, and they deserve more than silent acquiescence to a pipeline company’s justification for upending large swaths of national forestlands,” Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for a unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Citizens also trust the Bureau of Land Management to prevent undue degradation to public lands by following the dictates” of federal law.
It turns out, those weren’t the only times state and federal regulators bent environmental standards for the project, which began construction in February. A review by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, in collaboration with ProPublica, shows that, over the past two years, federal and state agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s environmental laws have moved repeatedly to clear roadblocks and expedite the pipeline, even changing the rules at times to ease the project’s approvals.
Projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, known as MVP, require a variety of approvals before being built. Developers and regulators must study various alternatives, describe a clear need for the project, and show that steps will be taken to minimize damage to the environment and reduce negative effects on valuable resources like public lands and the water supply. But in numerous instances, officials greenlit the pipeline despite serious unanswered questions, records show.
Bank of the West’s decision to divest from certain fossil fuel investments has run headlong into threats of retaliation in Colorado, Wyoming and other states that rely heavily on coal, oil and natural gas extraction for revenues. The San Francisco-based bank recently made it known that it would be “investing where we feel we can make the most impact” and withdrawing support for companies and business activities that are “detrimental to our environment and our health.”
That includes no longer doing business with companies whose main activity is tied to oil and gas from shale or tar sands or financing oil and gas exploration or production projects in the Arctic. Nor will it finance coal mines or coal-fired power plants not actively involved in the energy transition. And the company also is cutting ties to tobacco-related businesses. ...
Bank of the West is Colorado’s fifth largest bank with $4.5 billion in deposits as of June 30, 2017. It has 75 locations in Colorado, the bank’s second largest concentration of any state after California with 235 locations, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Moffat County officials were so upset with Bank of the West that they responded by announcing plans to shift about $25 million worth of county transactions to one of its rivals, and a similar move is planned by officials in Sweetwater County, Wyo., according to a story in The Daily Sentinel. ... Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon threatened Thursday to stop depositing state funds for a local lending program that has generated about $63 million in deposits with the bank over the years. Gordon and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said they will ask state banking regulators to review the bank’s status as a public depository for the state, which could prohibit all state agencies from using the bank for petty cash accounts.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Cripple Clarence Lofton - Monkey Man Blues
Cripple Clarence Lofton - Streamline Train
Cripple Clarence Lofton - In The Mornin'
Cripple Clarence Lofton - I Don't Know
Cripple Clarence Lofton (Adam Wilcox) - Policy Blues
Cripple Clarence Lofton - Pine Top's Boogie Woogie
Cripple Clarence Lofton - Brown Skin Girls
Cripple Clarence Lofton - You Done Tore Your Playhouse Down
Cripple Clarence Lofton - Pitchin' Boogie