The Evening Blues - 8-20-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and guitarist Lowell Fulson. Enjoy!
Lowell Fulson - Ride Until The Sun Goes Down
“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”
-- Kurt Vonnegut
News and Opinion
On August 13, Facebook shut down the English-language page of Telesur, blocking access for roughly half a million followers of the leftist media network until it was abruptly reinstated two days later. Facebook has provided three different explanations for the temporary disappearing, all contradicting one another, and not a single one making sense. ...
Telesur was created by Venezuela’s then-President Hugo Chávez in 2005 and co-funded by hemispheric neighbors Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Uruguay — Argentina pulled support for the web and cable property in 2016. [...] Telesur does seem to exist on a separate plane than, say, Infowars. ... Unlike RT, Telesur hasn’t been singled-out for a role in laundering disinformation for military intelligence purposes, nor is it a hoax factory, à la Alex Jones. So it was unexpected when Telesur English blinked out of existence on the 13th, and even stranger when Facebook struggled to explain its own actions. At the time of its suspension, Telesur received this boilerplate message from Facebook:
The Facebook Team
But Facebook has a third reason for suspending Telesur: In an emailed statement to The Intercept, a company spokesperson said, “The Page was temporally unpublished to protect it after we detected suspicious activity.” The term “suspicious activity” does not appear in Facebook’s terms of service. The spokesperson would not explain what “suspicious activity” was observed on Telesur’s page, or define the term, or explain why it was initially blamed on rule-breaking by Telesur and then technical problems on the social network’s end. ... This is typical behavior for the company, which both touts its use of automated rule enforcement and scapegoats the algorithms when they go awry.
Ever since the Saudi-led assault on Yemen began in March of 2015, alternative media outlets everywhere have been repeatedly and aggressively decrying the mainstream media in the US and UK for their spectacular failure to adequately and accurately cover the violence and humanitarian disaster with appropriate reporting on who is responsible for it. After the 2016 US election, journalist Michael Tracey wrote an essay documenting how throughout the entire year and a half that Americans were pummeled with updates from the mass media about candidates and their campaigns, not one single question about Yemen was ever asked by any mainstream outlet of any candidate.
This is of course outrageous, but because of how media coverage works, mainstream attention was never drawn to the problem. It hasn’t been a total media blackout, but because it only turns up in mainstream media reports every once in a while with little if any emphasis being placed on who is behind the devastation, it occupies a very peripheral place in western consciousness. ... This has all changed in the last few days. Suddenly, the atrocities being inflicted upon the people of Yemen are being pushed into mainstream attention by the mass media outlets which have been ignoring them for more than three years. The Washington Post editorial board published an op-ed titled “End U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war”. CNN did some actual, real journalism for a change with a viral exclusive documenting which American war profiteers were behind some of the more devastating Saudi bombings. And yes, MSNBC finally did cover the violence in Yemen, breaking its year-long silence to report on a US-supplied bomb which killed 40 children with such urgent condemnation of those responsible you’d never know they’d been consistently ignoring such incidents which have been going on for years. Now politicians and celebrities everywhere are shoving the horror of their government facilitating the slaughter of innocents into mainstream attention.
Astonishing graphic from @CNN, identifying civilian massacres in Yemen with the bomb makers - Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. This should be standard in war reporting. Searing images. https://t.co/EZqkSsAri6 pic.twitter.com/NWJvPuN7ct
— Tim Shorrock (@TimothyS) August 18, 2018
What’s interesting here is that nothing at all has changed except for the coverage. US-supplied bombs have been dropping on marketplaces, hospitals and funerals and slaughtering civilians in far more deadly incidents for years, and the US has also been providing extensive assistance to Saudi airstrikes, as well as attacking Yemeni targets directly. The only thing that has changed is that now it’s being reported with an urgency and volume that is appropriate for such a horrific incident instead of an occasional low-profile mention with little or no mention of responsibility. ...
From what I can see right now, I think what we are witnessing is a clear instance in which alternative media successfully caused the establishment to lose control of the narrative on an important issue. ... The story kept getting pushed toward mainstream consciousness year after year, and eventually the fact that an outlet which upholds itself as the flag bearer of Trump’s opposition has been completely ignoring this administration’s facilitation of war crimes was made viral. At a certain point a Dem-voting audience which is being told day in and day out that Trump presents a unique and unprecedented level of danger to the world will lose trust in the outlets which market themselves to that demographic if they refuse to make a big deal about the fact that this administration is helping tyrants murder busloads of children.
40 innocent children killed on a bus in Yemen.
Our crime. pic.twitter.com/yQ7FULulj2
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) August 17, 2018
In my opinion, we can safely call this a win for alternative media. The voices who aren’t beholden to the empire and its geopolitical agendas refused to let this story die, and eventually succeeded in overtaking the dominant narrative. Not because media-controlling oligarchs like Brian L Roberts and Jeff Bezos gave them permission to, but because unauthorized truth was spoken and carried by many ordinary people into mainstream consciousness via Facebook shares, Twitter retweets and speaking out loud and proud wherever possible. A people’s information battle was fought and won by the people.
Donald Trump continued to attack the former CIA director John Brennan on Monday, seemingly in response to the release of a remarkable open letter criticizing the president’s decision last week to revoke Brennan’s security clearance. The letter, signed by 177 former national security officials appointed by both Republicans and Democrats, accused Trump of acting against Brennan because Brennan had criticized him. The signatories stated “our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views”.
In the US intelligence community, revolt against the president is brewing. Monday’s letter followed a similar missive that was released last week by senior figures including six former directors and five former deputy directors of central intelligence and a former director of national intelligence. Trump’s move against Brennan also provoked a stinging Washington Post column by Adm William H McRaven, the leader of the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden.
On Sunday, Brennan threatened to challenge the revocation of his security clearance in court, charging Trump with wielding his power in an attempt to chill free speech.
In a Twitter rant following others about special counsel Robert Mueller and the New York Times, Trump called Brennan – previously a CIA station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center under George W Bush; and homeland security adviser to Barack Obama – a “political ‘hack’”.
I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit. It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
Trump went on to accuse the 177 former national security officials who signed the open letter of being motivated by the “big dollars” he said their security clearances afforded them. “Everybody wants to keep their Security Clearance, it’s worth great prestige and big dollars, even board seats, and that is why certain people are coming forward to protect Brennan,” he tweeted. “It certainly isn’t because of the good job he did! He is a political “hack.”
Demanding End to 'Unprecedented' Secrecy, Senators Say Kavanaugh May Have Perjured Himself About Role in Post-9/11 Torture Program
Three Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee claimed Thursday that documents suggest "wildly unpopular" U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lied to lawmakers about his role in the George W. Bush administration's torture program during his 2006 confirmation hearing to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
So, uh, looks like Kavanaugh lied to the Senate during 2006 judicial confirmation hearings—even just going by the tiny fraction of documents that are publicly available. Said he knew nothing about Bush torture & rendition. But: was emailed talking points. https://t.co/7Xvud9M6hS pic.twitter.com/Yv8c4UTnZq
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) August 17, 2018
The revelation was detailed in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) from Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as well as Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and came as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) threatened to sue the National Archives to get records about Kavanaugh's time working as Bush's staff secretary. ... Noting that "although Judge Kavanaugh amassed a substantial record during his five years in the Bush White House, to date, less than 3 percent of his record has been made available to the committee, and 98.4 percent of his record is being withheld from the full Senate and the public.
Just after midnight on Aug. 16, I was called by LBC Radio in London for a comment on a breaking story on the front page of The Daily Telegraph about British spies hacking the EU. Even though I had just retired to bed, the story was just too irresistible, but a radio interview is always too short to do justice to such a convoluted tale. Here are some longer thoughts.For those who cannot get past the Telegraph paywall, the gist is that that the European Union has accused the British intelligence agencies of hacking the EU’s side of the Brexit negotiations. Apparently, some highly sensitive and negative EU slides about British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for Brexit, the Chequers Plan, had landed in the lap of the British government, which then lobbied the EU to suppress publication.
Of course, this could be a genuine leak from the Brussels sieve, as British sources are claiming (well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?). However, it is plausible that this is the work of the spies, either by recruiting a paid-up agent well placed within the Brussels bureaucracy, or through electronic surveillance. ...
So if GCHQ did indeed hack the EU, it is feasible that the foreign secretary and the prime minister remained ignorant of what was going on, despite being legally required to sign off on such operations. In which case the spies would be running amok. It is also feasible that they were indeed fully briefed, and that would have been proper protocol. GCHQ and the other spy agencies are required to protect “national security and the economic well-being” of Great Britain, and I can certainly see a strong argument could be made that they were doing precisely that (provided they had prior written permission for such a sensitive operation) if they tried to get advance intelligence about the EU’s Brexit strategy.
This argument becomes even more powerful when you consider the problems around the fraught issue of the border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, an issue about which the EU is being particularly intransigent. If a deal is not made, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement could be under threat and civil war might break out again in Northern Ireland. You cannot get much more “national security” than that, and GCHQ would be justified in this work, provided it has acquired the necessary legal sign-offs from its political masters. ...
So, perhaps this is indeed a GCHQ hack. However justifiable the move might be under the nebulous concept of “national security,” this event will poison further the already toxic Brexit negotiations. As Angela Merkel famously, if disingenuously, said after the Snowden revelation that the U.S. had hacked her mobile phone: “No spying among friends.” But perhaps this is an outdated concept — and the EU has not been entirely friendly to Brexit Britain.
Greece has turned the page to become “a normal” member of the single currency, European Union authorities in Brussels declared as the country finally exited its eight-year bailout programme. ... Marking the official end of the third bailout programme on Monday, Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, said Greece was beginning a new chapter after eight “very difficult” years. ...
EU officials say Greece is now “a normal country” because it no longer has a bailout programme with conditions imposed by international creditors. However Athens will face more exacting checks than any other eurozone member, so Brussels can monitor whether the government’s budgets are in line with EU stability and growth targets. Moscovici insisted this “enhanced post-programme surveillance” would be “much lighter” than anything imposed by the troika, the name for the three creditor institutions, which became a byword for Greece’s loss of sovereignty during the economic crisis.
However, away from the official optimism in Brussels and Luxembourg, huge questions remain about how a country scarred by austerity can recover. Almost a fifth of Greece’s working-age population is out of work. By 2023 unemployment is forecast to fall to 14%, far higher than the current eurozone average 0f 8.3%. Meanwhile, youth unemployment remains at 43.6% – the worst in the EU.
Many analysts believe it will take a decade before Greece returns to pre-crisis living standards following a slump in which its economy contracted by 25% and unemployment peaked at 28%. After wages and pensions were slashed in the first bailout, economic output dropped, small businesses folded, suicide rates increased and levels of extreme poverty jumped. The population has fallen by 3% because of emigration and a lower birth rate.
Oh looky, CNN gets caught out spreading propaganda trying to defend the Koch Brothers' position on Medicare for All:
Nearly Three Days Later, Jake Tapper Admits CNN "Fact Check" on Medicare for All Was, Uh, Not Factual
After nearly three days of constant pressure, clear explanations of basic facts, and bit of healthy shaming, CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday finally relented to the sheer force of the evidence and admitted that his Medicare for All "fact check"—which aimed to discredit Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) claim that a Koch brothers-funded study showed single-payer would save Americans $2 trillion—was horribly misleading and is in need of a substantial "redo."
The central falsehood of Tapper's video segment, which he has now promised to correct, was his conflation of the American people and the U.S. government. Sanders, New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and several policy analysts have pointed out that—according to the Koch-funded Mercatus Center study, authored by Chuck Blahous—the American public would save $2 trillion on healthcare under Sanders' Medicare for All plan. Apparently confused by the difference, Tapper declared in his segment: "Is that true? Did a study funded by the Koch brothers indicate that Medicare for All would actually save the U.S. government [emphasis added] trillions of dollars? No." ...
In an article on Monday, People's Policy Project founder Matt Bruenig—who was the first to point out that the Koch-funded study projected $2 trillion in healthcare savings—argued that Tapper's misleading video is indicative of the broader problem of fact checkers not actually understanding the issue they're analyzing, making them vulnerable to the manipulative claims of corporate-funded right-wing institutions like the Mercatus Center. ... "This is the kind of nonsense we are dealing with here. Tribal affiliations are getting in the way of basic presentations of facts and figures," Bruenig concludes. "The centrist and liberal media brand themselves as truth-tellers, but that's all it is: a brand. When the truth goes against their tribe or ideological priors, they become just as bad as Fox News."
Incarcerated Americans in at least 17 states will go on strike this coming week, refusing to perform labor and engaging in sit-ins and hunger strikes to demand major reforms to the country's prison and criminal justice systems. The Nationwide Prison Strike is planned for August 21, the day Nat Turner led an uprising of slaves in 1831, until September 9, the 47th anniversary of the Attica prison rebellion in which more than 40 people were killed.
Organizers of the action, which is endorsed by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), have released a list of ten demands for improvements to their living conditions, sentencing policies, and laws that allow for prison slavery.
"All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor," reads the list of demands. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows for "slavery or involuntary servitude...as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."
Organizers are also calling for "access to rehabilitation programs" for incarcerated people and an end to "Death by Incarceration," or life sentences without the possibility of parole. A spokesperson for the strike called on Americans to support the protest, noting that inmates produce many of the products people use every day in the outside world—including Starbucks packaging, state license plates, and furniture.
Salesforce, the Silicon Valley cloud computing giant, is being targeted by activists hoping to force the company to end its contract with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) amid accusations that the agency is violating human rights. Organisations including Greenpeace, Demand Progress, New York State Nurses Association and Fight for the Future, an advocacy group which is coordinating the campaign, are threatening to boycott the company if they do not end their contract.
The activists are also calling for a boycott of Salesforce’s flagship Dreamforce conference, to be held in San Francisco in September, and targeting speakers at the conference including former vice-president Al Gore, musician will.i.am, Unilever chief investment officer Jane Moran and Entourage actor Adrian Grenier, asking them to drop out.
CBP is using Salesforce products to manage border activities. The company’s involvement with CBP comes as the Trump administration continues to struggle to clear up the mess left by its policy of separating undocumented migrant children from their families once they have been intercepted.
Pope Francis has publicly acknowledged the failures of the Roman Catholic church in dealing with sexual abuse by priests, attacking a “culture of death” and deferential “clericalism” that helps perpetuate evil. An unprecedented letter from “His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God” was issued after almost a week of mounting pressure following the publication of an excoriating report into abuse by priests in Pennsylvania.
According to a Vatican official, it is the first time a pope has written to all of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics about sexual abuse. But some survivors complained the letter lacked concrete proposals and was “too little, too late”.
The letter, published in seven languages, opens with an acknowledgement of suffering endured by children and abuse of power. Francis admits the church has failed to “act in a timely manner” and promises zero tolerance and sanctions. “We have realised that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death,” he said. ...
The letter did not propose any specific measures or sanctions against bishops who have been found to cover up abuse or have failed to report it to police or other authorities.
Trump Administration Says Deportable Immigrants Can’t Go to the Courts — Even if Their First Amendment Rights Are Violated
If U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to silence its most vocal critics by singling them out for deportation among the nearly 1 million people in the United States with final orders of removal, is there any check or remedy for that abuse of power? Is there any court, or indeed, any authority at all outside the executive branch, with the power to protect those activists’ First Amendment rights?
No. That was the position articulated by Justice Department lawyers on Tuesday before a panel of judges on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. The hearing was meant to determine whether the court should issue a stay preventing ICE from deporting just such a figure, Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, before he has a chance to assert his constitutional claim in federal court.
Tuesday’s hearing in New York was only a small part of an already complex court battle: As The Intercept reported at the time, Ragbir is one of the plaintiffs — along with the New Sanctuary Coalition, four other immigrant rights groups, and some 79 friend-of-the-court supporters at last count — in a First Amendment lawsuit filed in February accusing ICE officials of targeting activists around the country for deportation, effectively prioritizing the expulsion of its political enemies.
The stakes of the argument are high, and not only for undocumented people, said Alina Das, a professor at New York University Law School and one of Ragbir’s attorneys. “Saying there’s a group of people who can be literally banished from this country for any reason, even if it violates their constitutional rights, creates a vulnerable class, and when their rights aren’t respected, it hurts both them and society as a whole,” she said. “If ICE is given free reign to silence their critics, we are creating an agency that is unaccountable and is permitted to disappear those who are in the best position to educate the public about what this agency is actually doing. That should be a scary prospect for anyone living in this country.”
In an op-ed for USA Today, titled “Wildfires seem unstoppable, but they can be prevented. Here’s how,” Zinke wrote, “Every year we watch our forests burn, and every year there is a call for action. Yet, when action comes, and we try to thin forests of dead and dying timber, or we try to sustainably harvest timber from dense and fire-prone areas, we are attacked with frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists who would rather see forests and communities burn than see a logger in the woods.” On Breitbart News radio on August 11, Zinke doubled down. “We have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access, that refuse to allow harvest of timber,” he said. “The result is these catastrophic fires that are causing death.” ...
Interspersed between his demands for more tree removal and dismissals of climate science, Zinke compared the wildfire-affected areas to war zones and assured that the government was fighting fire with drones. His rhetoric around so-called environmental terrorists fits in with a broader push to frame environmental organizations as promoters of eco-extremism that threatens critical infrastructure. ...
Zinke’s criticism of environmentalists and public support of forest thinning is not empty rhetoric, nor is this type of politicking new for him. Finding ways to prop up Montana’s struggling timber industry was a frequent activity of Zinke’s during his tenure as the state’s U.S. representative. Now, as interior secretary, Zinke is in charge of overseeing 65 million acres of forests and woodlands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. From his elevated platform, Zinke is pushing the same timber-friendly policies that he did in Congress. In 2015, Zinke co-sponsored legislation that would have gutted environmental protections for forests located on public lands. That bill failed, but it laid the groundwork for similarly severe provisions in the House version of the 2018 farm bill, which is being debated now by members of Congress.
Using some of the same language from Zinke’s bill, the House farm bill would eliminate many of the environmental reviews currently required under the National Environmental Policy Act for timber harvested on public land. “This is an industry wish list,” Paul Spitler, director of wilderness policy for the Wilderness Society, said of the House farm bill. “The changes are sweeping. It is a dramatic rollback of environmental rules.” ...
Timber removal as a means to slow wildfires is a subject of debate among environmentalists, forestry scientists, and land managers. Many foresters assert that a century of too much fire suppression has left forests with an excess of burnable material that intensifies fires, especially under dry conditions. But even advocates for more forest thinning have called Zinke’s approach an opportunistic attempt to use a climate-fueled disaster to support the timber industry. “They’re using these fires as an excuse to increase logging on public lands, and it’s happened before. It happened in the Reagan years, it happened in the Bush years,” said James Agee, a forestry professor emeritus at the University of Washington, who wrote a set of best practices for fuel reduction projects. “Every time the Republicans come into office, you see a shift in this direction.” Agee underlined that forest thinning done wrong can backfire, “You’re opening up the forest to practices that might make the situation worse,” he said.
Summer weather patterns are increasingly likely to stall in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, according to a new climate study that explains why Arctic warming is making heatwaves elsewhere more persistent and dangerous.
The authors of the research, published in Nature Communications on Monday, warn
“This summer was where we saw a very strong intensity of heatwaves. It’ll continue and that’s very worrying, especially in the mid-latitudes: the EU, US, Russia and China,” said one of the coauthors, Dim Coumou from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Short-term heatwaves are quite pleasant, but longer term they will have an impact on society. It’ll have an affect on agricultural production. Harvests are already down this year for many products. Heatwaves can also have a devastating impact on human health.”
Circulation stalling has long been a concern of climate scientists, though most previous studies have looked at winter patterns. The new paper reviews research on summer trends, where it says there is mounting evidence of planetary wind systems – both low-level storm tracks and higher waves in the troposphere – losing their ability to shift the weather. One cause is a weakening of the temperature gradient between the Arctic and Equator as a result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The far north of the Earth is warming two to four times faster than the global average, says the paper, which means there is a declining temperature gap with the central belt of the planet. As this ramp flattens, winds struggle to build up sufficient energy and speed to push around pressure systems in the area between them.
As a result, there is less relief in the form of mild and wet air from the sea when temperatures accumulate on land, and less relief from the land when storms build up in the ocean.
The amount of food that is wasted each year will rise by a third by 2030, when 2.1bn tonnes will either be lost or thrown away, equivalent to 66 tonnes per second, according to new analysis. The report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) warns that the global response to food waste is fragmented and inadequate, and that the problem is growing at an alarming rate. ...
“The scale of the problem is one that will continue to grow while we’re developing our solutions,” said Shalini Unnikrishnan, a partner and managing director at BCG. “As population grows rapidly in certain industrialising parts of the world, like in Asia, consumption is growing very rapidly.” Each year, 1.6bn tonnes of food worth approximately $1.2tn, goes to waste – about one third of the food produced globally.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 815 million of the 7.6 billion people in the world (10.7%), were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2016.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Lowell Fulson - Don't Drive Me Baby
Lowell Fulson - I've been Mistreated
Lowell Fulson - Love Grows Old
Lowell Fulson - Loving You (Is All I Crave)
Lowell Fulson - I Believe I'll Give It Up
Lowell Fulson - Sinner's Prayer
Lowell Fulson - I'm Sinking
Lowell Fulson - I Want To Make Love To You
Lowell Fulson - Cash Box Boogie
Lowell Fulson - Little Angel
Lowell Fulson - Stoned to the Bone
Lowell Fulsom - Too Many Drivers
Lowell Fulson @ Mark Naftalin's Blue Monday Party