The Evening Blues - 9-21-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features 11-fingered Chicago blues guitarist and singer Hound Dog Taylor. Enjoy!
Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers - Sadie
“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
-- Assata Shakur
News and Opinion
A new article from the Wall Street Journal reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lied to congress about the measures Saudi Arabia is taking to minimize the civilian casualties in its catastrophic war on Yemen, and that he did so in order to secure two billion dollars for war profiteers. This is about as depraved as anything you could possibly imagine. US-made bombs have been conclusively tied to civilian deaths in a war which has caused the single worst humanitarian crisis on earth, a crisis which sees scores of Yemeni children dying every single day and has placed five million children at risk of death by starvation in a nation where families are now eating leaves to survive. ...
Starving children are being forced to eat leaves in a desperate bid for survival, as conditions in Yemen become a ‘living hell’. pic.twitter.com/KyIrUW9Dac
— SBS News (@SBSNews) September 19, 2018
It would be so very, very easy for Democratic party leaders and Democrat-aligned media to hurt this administration at the highest level and cause irreparable political damage based on this story. All they’d have to do is give it the same blanket coverage they’ve given the stories about Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort which end up leading nowhere remotely near impeachment or proof of collusion with the Russian government. The footage of the starving children is right there, ready to be aired to pluck at the heart strings of rank-and-file Americans day after day until Republicans have lost all hope of victory in the midterms and in 2020; all they’d have to do is use it. But they don’t. And they won’t.
The US Senate has just passed Trump’s mammoth military spending increase by a landslide 92–8 vote. The eight senators who voted “nay”? Seven Republicans, and Independent Bernie Sanders.
The reason for this is very simple: President Trump’s ostensible political opposition does not oppose President Trump. They’re on the same team, wearing different uniforms. This is the reason they attack him on Russian collusion accusations which the brighter bulbs among them know full well will never be proven and have no basis in reality. They don’t stand up to Trump because, as Julian Assange once said, they are Trump.
State Department Team Led by Former Raytheon Lobbyist Pushed Mike Pompeo to Support Yemen War Because of Arms Sales
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced internal opposition to U.S. support for the war in Yemen from State Department staff, according to a recent report. The staffers had become concerned by the rising civilian death toll in the war being carried out by Persian Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — not only owing to bombings of densely populated areas, but also a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the fighting, with up to 8.4 million people at risk of starvation.
That staff — the legislative affairs team at the State Department — is led by a former Raytheon lobbyist. Before his presidential appointment last June, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Charles Faulkner was paid handsomely by Raytheon to lobby lawmakers on defense procurement issues, ethics records show. ...
Last year, Faulkner was part of the Trump administration push to broadly define the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as a legal authority to pursue military engagements across the Middle East, including in Syria. A letter authored by Faulkner and sent to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, argued that military action in Syria is “consistent with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense.”
May the Flying Spaghetti Monster reach out his noodly appendage to bless Medea Benjamin.
'How Did the War With Iraq Turn Out?' CodePink's Medea Benjamin Interrupts Trump Official's Warmongering Iran Speech
After senior State Department official and head of the Trump administration's so-called "Iran Action Group" Brian Hook delivered a hawkish speech on Wednesday trashing the Iran nuclear accord and praising the White House's deeply harmful sanctions, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin interrupted the event and condemned Hook for "making the case for war with Iran."
"That is the most ridiculous thing I have seen. The world community wants to keep the Iran nuclear deal," Benjamin declared as she walked on stage at the small gathering, which was hosted by the right-wing Hudson Institute. Responding to Hook's remark that Iran must begin acting like a "normal" country, Benjamin said: "Let's talk about 'normal countries.' Let's talk about Saudi Arabia. Is that who our allies are?"
"Do you think the sanctions are hurting the regime or are they hurting the Iranian people? They are hurting the Iranian people," Benjamin added. "You are making a case for war with Iran. How did the war with Iraq turn out? You're doing exactly the same thing we did in the case of Iraq. We don't want another war in the Middle East."
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 19, 2018
While Benjamin's protest garnered zero attention from the corporate media, it was noticed by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who tweeted the video along with a short message: "Apparently, [the] U.S. only mocks calls for peace."
China and Russia are teaming up against Washington with a stern warning: Remove the sanctions, or else. Beijing and Moscow have both hit out at the White House over sanctions imposed against China for buying Russian fighter jets, warning that Washington was “playing with fire” and would “bear the consequences” if the decision was not reversed.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced it would be adding a Chinese military organization and its leader to the Blocked Person List for completing “significant transactions” with Russia's state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport.
The transactions in question were the purchases of Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
The Guardian has some breathless, sketchy reporting about Assange again:
Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK, the Guardian has learned. A tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London embassy in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to another country. One ultimate destination, multiple sources have said, was Russia, where Assange would not be at risk of extradition to the US. The plan was abandoned after it was deemed too risky.
The operation to extract Assange was provisionally scheduled for Christmas Eve in 2017, one source claimed, and was linked to an unsuccessful attempt by Ecuador to give Assange formal diplomatic status. The involvement of Russian officials in hatching what was described as a “basic” plan raises new questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin. The WikiLeaks editor is a key figure in the ongoing US criminal investigation into Russia’s attempts to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. ...
Details of the Assange escape plan are sketchy. Two sources familiar with the inner workings of the Ecuadorian embassy said that Fidel Narváez, a close confidant of Assange who until recently served as Ecuador’s London consul, served as a point of contact with Moscow. In an interview with the Guardian, Narváez denied having been involved in discussions with Russia about extracting Assange from the embassy. Narváez said he visited Russia’s embassy in Kensington twice this year as part of a group of “20-30 more diplomats from different countries”. These were “open-public meetings”, he said, that took place during the “UK-Russian crisis” – a reference to the aftermath of the novichok poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March.
Sources said the escape plot involved giving Assange diplomatic documents so that Ecuador would be able to claim he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. As part of the operation, Assange was to be collected from the embassy in a diplomatic vehicle. Four separate sources said the Kremlin was willing to offer support for the plan – including the possibility of allowing Assange to travel to Russia and live there. One of them said that an unidentified Russian businessman served as an intermediary in these discussions. ...
Assange’s Christmas Eve escape was aborted with just days to go, one source claimed. Sources offered conflicting accounts of who cancelled the Assange operation, but all agreed it was deemed to be too risky. The stumbling block was the UK’s refusal to grant Assange diplomatic protection.
A cautionary tale for "the homeland?"
It was a storm so powerful it would have sent even the sturdiest society reeling. But Puerto Rico didn’t just reel. Puerto Rico broke. Not the people of Puerto Rico, but all those systems that had already been deliberately brought to the brink: power, health, water, communication, food. All those systems collapsed. And let us be clear: It was that combination of disaster capitalism and an extraordinary hurricane that stole so many precious lives. A few lives were lost to wind and water, yes, but the vast majority died because when you systematically starve and neglect the very bones of a society, rendering it dysfunctional on a good day, such a society has absolutely no capacity to weather a true crisis.
That is what the research tells us, those studies Donald Trump so casually denies: The major causes of death were people being unable to plug in medical equipment because the electricity grid was down for months; health networks so diminished they were unable to provide medicine for treatable diseases. People died because they were left to drink contaminated water because of a legacy of environmental racism. People died because they were abandoned and left without hope for so long that suicide seemed the only option. Those deaths were not the result of an unprecedented “natural disaster” or even “an act of God,” as we so often hear. Honoring the dead begins with telling the truth. And the truth is that there is nothing natural about this disaster. And if you believe in God, leave her out of this too.
God isn’t the one who laid off thousands of skilled electrical workers in the years before the storm, or who failed to maintain the grid with basic repairs. The fatal logic of economic austerity did that. God didn’t give vital relief and reconstruction contracts to politically connected firms, some of whom didn’t even pretend to do their jobs. God didn’t decide that Puerto Rico should import 85 percent of its food — this archipelago blessed with some of the most fertile soil in the world. God didn’t decide Puerto Rico should get 98 percent of its energy from imported fossil fuels — these islands bathed in sun, lashed by wind, and surrounded by waves, all of which could provide cheap and clean renewable power to spare.
These were decisions made by people working for powerful interests.
Because for 500 uninterrupted years, the role of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the world economy has been to make other people rich, whether by extracting cheap labor or cheap resources or by being a captive market for imported food and fuel.
The new approach was revealed in the Department of Labor’s biennial list of goods that it “has reason to believe” are produced by child or forced labor, which became a crime to import in 2016 under a law introduced by Barack Obama. “American workers cannot compete with producers abroad who use child labor or forced labor,” the US secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta, said in a foreword to the list of 148 goods produced in 76 countries.
If “a trading partner” engages in child or forced labor, “the US will do what it takes to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation, safeguard American jobs and create a fair playing field for countries that play by the rules”, he added. ...
More than $400bn worth of goods likely to be made by forced labor enter the US market each year, said Annick Febrey, the director of government relations with the Human Trafficking Institute, which advocates to end modern slavery. She said the Department of Labor’s change in tone echoed Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda on international trade issues and could mean a more sustained effort to block forced labor-made goods from entering the country.
How Does Trump 'Even Sleep at Night'? Cuts to Cancer Research, Head Start, and Women's Shelters Among $226 Million Diverted to Pay for Child Detention
Along with tens of thousands of children and families, cancer patients, Americans with substance abuse disorders, and victims of domestic violence are among the casualties of President Donald Trump's detention of young immigrants—according to government documents outlining the administration's plan to divert millions of dollars away from programs serving those populations. Yahoo News reported that in order to continue detaining more than 13,000 children currently in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is proposing that up to $266 million be taken from other government health programs.
In a letter to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Azar outlined a plan in which more than $16 million would be taken from Head Start, $5.7 million would be diverted from programs to care for uninsured HIV/AIDS patients, and millions would also be reallocated from cancer research programs, government-run women's shelters, and mental health facilities. ORR's detention centers were at 92 percent capacity as of this week, according the agency, with more than 13,000 children being detained for indefinite periods. Most of the children crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without parents or guardians.
Maine Lawmakers Vote to Curb Free Speech by Banning Projection of Political Messages onto State House
An increasingly common form of non-violent protest is under threat this week after state legislators in Maine voted to bar demonstrators and groups from projecting political messages onto the State House in Augusta.
As the Portland Press Herald reported, at the request of the Maine State Capitol Police, a bipartisan committee of the state's top lawmakers voted to prohibit such projections in the interest of maintaining the State House as a "neutral institution of democracy." The measure passed with a vote of 6-0.
Critics including independent congressional candidate Tiffany Bond immediately slammed the decision, noting that the State House is a taxpayer-funded building.
Putting the skids on an increasingly popular type of messaging, legislative leaders adopt policy banning projections of political messages onto the Maine State House: https://t.co/kIjcxFyrlm #mepolitics pic.twitter.com/aPiisDrfbR
— Kevin Miller (@KevinMillerPPH) September 20, 2018
The group LumenARRT! is among the organizations that have projected messages onto the building in recent years. In March, weeks after the Parkland, Florida shooting which energized millions across the country to demand stricter state and federal gun control laws, the group projected the words "Property of the NRA" onto the public building. The protest was in response to years of legislative inaction in Maine, which has some of the country's least restrictive gun laws.
At around 6 a.m. Friday in Las Vegas, things started getting pretty wild at the Trump International Hotel and Casino. But the gambling this time was by the president of the United States, placing his bets on attacking a woman who says she was sexually assaulted.
Trump, who spent the night in Vegas after hosting a rally the night before, fired off a series of tweets challenging the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychologist who says she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at a party when they were high school students. It was Trump’s first direct attack on Ford since her accusations were made public, landing just as new reports indicated the relief Senate and White House aides were feeling at his “measured” response to the allegations. ...
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
But as Trump — who has been accused of sexual harassment or assault by at least 16 women — well knows, most victims of sexual violence do not report their assaults to police for a variety of reasons that include fear of retaliation and a distrust of police, according to RAINN. About two of every three instances of sexual assault go unreported.
Christine Blasey Ford's attorneys held a high-stakes call with Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday night that ended with no decision on when or if Ford will testify about allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
One source described the call as “positive,” though there is no ironclad agreement to have Ford appear. Ford’s attorneys also have made some requests that the committee won’t accommodate — such as subpoenaing Mark Judge, whom Ford alleges was in the room when Kavanaugh groped and forced himself on her when both were in high school. Senate Republicans had planned a Monday hearing and sought an agreement by Friday morning to appear, though those are no longer viewed as hard deadlines. ...
The lawyers requested a Thursday hearing in which Kavanaugh would appear first, said Ford is opposed to be being questioned by outside counsel and mentioned having just one camera in the hearing room, a second source said. Republicans are not going to agree to make Kavanaugh testify first.
Ford's attorneys also have said she's facing death threats and asked for help mitigating security concerns; she'd likely receive U.S. Capitol Police detail.
Senate staffers mostly just listened on the call, those people said. Grassley is now set to consult with his staff and Republicans on his committee to determine his next steps. Ford’s attorney Debra Katz canceled two media appearances on Thursday night, which Republicans took as a positive sign.
Christine Blasey Ford is now preparing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, according to a New York Times report Thursday. But she’s asking the senators to abide by conditions that will ensure her safety. ...
Ford’s attorneys said she still holds a “strong preference” for a full investigation, according to an email obtained by the New York Times. And she doesn’t want to testify on Monday. But Debra Katz, her lawyer, said she’s willing to set conditions with the Senate Judiciary Committee in an effort to testify.
Ford, a research psychologist at a California university, has been receiving death threats since she came forward, and has fled her home as a result.
Advocacy Groups Vow to 'Protect the Protest' as Government and Corporations Challenge First Amendment Rights
With wealthy corporations, state legislatures, and the federal government finding new ways to challenge Americans' right to protest, several nonprofit groups have banded together to fight back on behalf of those facing legal jeopardy for peacefully blocking pipelines or using civil disobedience to resist other fossil projects and destructive policies. The "Protect the Protest" initiative was established this month by 20 non-profit groups—including the ACLU, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), and Amnesty International—in response to lawsuits commonly filed by large companies against protesters with the goal of taking advantage of the power imbalance and exhausting activists' resources, forcing them to end their actions against the corporations.
In addition to the broader goal of "defending dissent," the coalition will put a focus on advising demonstrators and groups on how to avoid and handle that legal tactic known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation," or SLAPP. "One of the biggest and most important components of this is our tagline, which is: 'An attack on one is an attack on all.' So if you go after one of us, you're going to hear from all of us," Jana Morgan, director of advocacy and campaigns for ICAR, told Fast Company.
The group will also campaign in support of protest groups when they face a SLAPP lawsuit, in which companies seek large sums from groups with far fewer resources. The initiative was begun about a month after a judge partially dismissed a lawsuit filed by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), against several climate action groups who had urged banks not to finance the project. During the months-long protests, the government as well as private security firms hired by ETP surveilled demonstrators, blocked journalists from covering them, and used water cannons and tear gas to break up the protests.
The new initiative also comes together as opponents of the the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana face felony charges for attempting to block that project. Following the passage of a new state law, trespassing at a pipeline construction site has been deemed a felony in Louisiana rather than a misdemeanor. Similar laws have been passed or proposed in at least 20 other states, including Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, since Trump was elected. Since the Louisiana measure went into effect in early August, 10 people have been arrested, organizers say.
That Hurricane Florence broke rainfall records for tropical storms in both North and South Carolina shouldn’t be surprising, as global climate change has increased extreme precipitation in all areas of the continental United States. One analysis released before the massive storm hit, by researchers at Stony Brook, Berkeley National Lab and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, projected that warming would cause Florence to bring twice as much rain compared to a similar storm with normal temperatures.
But news audiences were rarely informed about the contribution of human-caused climate disruption to the devastating storm, according to a study of hurricane coverage by Public Citizen. Less than 8 percent of Florence stories in the 50 top-circulation US newspapers (9/9–16/18) mentioned climate change—and only 4 percent of segments on major TV outlets. ...
“When outlets fail to connect these events to global warming, audiences are left uninformed about some of the most critical decisions we face,” David Arkush, who directs Public Citizen’s climate program, said in a statement. “We need a serious national discussion about the urgent, existential threat from climate change and how we are going to fix it — and it’s very difficult to have that conversation when media won’t talk about the topic.”
ExxonMobil has joined the oil and gas industry’s flagship climate change project, reversing its decision not to join the alliance four years ago. The company was a notable holdout when the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OCGI) was launched, but will now join European peers BP, Shell and Total in contributing $100m (£75m) to curb the impact of global warming. ...
Exxon, which promoted climate denial for years despite knowing about the risks since 1981, had shifted its tone on climate change under the leadership of Rex Tillerson. But while acknowledging global warming was real and linked to fossil fuel use, Tillerson said fears over climate change were overblown.
Darren Woods, who became the chief executive in 2017 when Tillerson became US secretary of state, has taken that shift further. “It will take the collective efforts of many in the energy industry and society to develop scalable, affordable solutions that will be needed to address the risks of climate change,” he said of the firm’s decision to join the OCGI. Two other US oil companies, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, have also joined the initiative, taking its total climate fund to $1.3bn.
The project, which has been derided as “greenwash” by campaigners, previously had 10 members, which represented 20% of global oil and gas production. The new additions have taken that figure to 30%. Exxon’s annual contribution, which works out at $10m a year over a decade, represents just 0.04% of its planned capital expenditure of $25bn in 2018.
Greg Muttitt, a campaigner at Oil Change International, said: “It is hardly surprising that ExxonMobil, when faced with lawsuits for lying for decades about what it knew about climate change, should want to join an initiative that claims oil companies care about climate.”
One person has been confirmed to have died during police operations to clear the Hambach Forest to make way for a coal mine. The injury leading to the man’s death took place Wednesday afternoon as officers were attempting to remove protesters from trees, which they had climbed to prevent them from being cut down. The deceased is said to have been a journalist who fell to his death while police were making arrests in the immediate area. ...
For days, German state police have been attempting to clear tree-sits and other blockades to facilitate clear-cutting the Hambach Forest so the area can be strip-mined. Activists have been recently joined by many additional supporters looking to defend the forest, and police have made several arrests before today’s incident. Coal company RWE plans to destroy all of what remains of the ancient Hambach Forest in order to access the lignite coal deposits that lay underneath.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Hound Dog Taylor - My Baby's Coming Home
Hound Dog Taylor - She's Gone
Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserocksers - Take Five
Hound Dog Taylor - Sitting Here Alone
Hound Dog Taylor - Down Home Special
Hound Dog Taylor - Watch Out, Scrappin'
Hound Dog Taylor - The Sun Is Shining
Hound Dog Taylor - See Me In The Evening
Hound Dog Taylor - Give Me Back My Wig