The Evening Blues - 10-11-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features delta bluesman Johnny Shines. Enjoy!
Johnny Shines - Ramblin'
"When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right."
-- Victor Hugo
News and Opinion
The Trump campaign argued in a legal filing that WikiLeaks could not be held liable for publishing emails that were stolen by Russian hackers ahead of the 2016 US election because the website was simply serving as a passive publishing platform on behalf of a third party, in the same way as Google or Facebook.
Questions about WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of hacked emails, which it allegedly obtained following a plot by Russian military intelligence to steal the emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic party, are at the heart of Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
The campaign also said in a legal filing that any alleged agreement between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to publish the emails could not have been a “conspiracy” because WikiLeaks’ decision to release the stolen emails was not an illegal act. The court filing was written in response to a civil lawsuit brought against the Trump campaign by two of Hillary Clinton’s donors and a former employee of the Democratic party.
The Trump campaign’s surprising defence of WikiLeaks marks a stark departure from official US policy, which has condemned the website for frequently targeting the US government and for publishing thousands of classified documents about covert policies. ...
The filing also makes the case that, under the campaign’s first amendment right to free speech, it had the right to publish information – even if it was stolen – as long as it did not participate in the theft of the emails. The hacked materials were a matter of “significant public concern”, the filing said.
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has received over a dozen official judicial misconduct complaints leveled against U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court Judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. So far he has not forwarded the complaints to a proper judicial panel. Now, some critics are calling foul and accusing Roberts of mounting a cover-up in favor of the controversial Supreme Court nominee.
Those official misconduct complaints were forwarded to Roberts by a fellow member of Kavanaugh’s court. While U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland would traditionally have overseen those complaints, Garland chose to recuse himself on the matter, according to Buzzfeed News. In his stead, U.S. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson fielded the multiple complaints against Kavanaugh. Judge Henderson dismissed many complaints filed against the Supreme Court nominee as “frivolous,” but found substantial merit in over a dozen of the complaints she reviewed.
According to the Washington Post, Henderson began forwarding the complaints she deemed valid onto Roberts. Henderson sent them to Roberts so that Kavanaugh’s fellow judges on the D.C. Circuit would not have to assess the serious and substantive issues raised against a colleague. ...
Roberts’ decision to sit on the complaints against Kavanaugh stands in stark contrast to how he handled a similar complaint–centered around allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment–filed against Kavanaugh’s mentor, now-former judge Alex Kozinski. In that case, Chief Justice Roberts forwarded the Kozinski complaint to another circuit the day after he received it. Thus, Roberts’ decision here raises some serious questions.
"We are in the middle of a national emergency," declared an open letter as students of at least a dozen U.S. law schools walked out of class on Wednesday afternoon to launch a three-day strike calling for the impeachment of recently confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
"We cannot accept a system that empowers a man who repeatedly lied under oath and a judiciary review process that only performs a sham of an investigation into his misconduct," the letter continues, referencing allegations of perjury and sexual assault that have been levied against the newest member of the nation's highest court, and the "charade" of an FBI investigation conducted to address the assault claims, which Kavanaugh has denied.
"We do not recognize Kavanaugh as a legitimate member of the United States Supreme Court," the letter asserts, demanding that "anyone seeking to be elected to Congress in November commits to impeaching Kavanaugh to protect any semblance of rule of law and the people of our communities." ...
Law students have organized events for the strike, according to NLG, at Brooklyn Law School, Cardozo Law School, Duke Law School, Lewis & Clark Law School, New York University Law, Rutgers Law School, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, U.C. Hastings College of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law, University of Southern California School of Law, the Chicago-Kent College of Law, and University of Miami School of Law. ... Following the walkout on Wednesday, students are hosting events such as a letter-writing session at Brooklyn Law School on Thursday where students wrote messages to elected officials to demand that they move to impeach Kavanaugh.
When Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, he launched an attack on what he called the “millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups” spent fighting his nomination. And when Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins announced her support for Kavanaugh, she called out the “interest groups” that, she said, “have also spent an unprecedented amount of dark money opposing this nomination.”
Their condemnations of the Supreme Court nomination process being increasingly politicized were accurate. Groups opposed to Kavanaugh did spend millions in an effort to keep him off the bench. But Kavanaugh and Collins ignored one fact: Organizations that supported the judge spent even more on the confirmation fight, watchdog groups found.
While little information is publicly available about digital advertising, a massive and ever-growing market, groups supporting Kavanaugh did spend at least $7.3 million on TV ads alone, said Douglas Keith, counsel at Brennan Center for Justice, which has tracked spending around Kavanaugh’s nomination. In contrast, organizations opposed to the now-justice spent at least $2.9 million in TV ads against him between June and early October.
“In terms of the totals that we’ve seen disclosed, we’ve seen a lot more spending on the conservative side,” said Anna Massoglia, who researches dark money at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. “The side that was supporting Justice Kavanaugh was by far millions of dollars more.” ...
Kavanaugh may have already ascended to the nation’s highest court, but ads invoking his name are still running: On Tuesday, the Judicial Crisis Network announced it was starting a “six-figure TV and digital ad campaign” in support of Collins.
With federal protections for abortion potentially in greater jeopardy under a newly right-leaning Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood has unveiled a new strategy to expand and protect abortion access across the United States. The multimillion-dollar initiative comes just days after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, a reliable conservative replacing frequent swing-vote Anthony Kennedy, and the second justice to ascend to the high court under Donald Trump. ...
The organization's three-part plan, called “Care For All”, will focus on abortion access, policy, and cultural and social stigma, and will include further investment in technology and telemedicine, as well as lobbying and campaign efforts. Planned Parenthood provides a range of services at about 600 locations, and abortion represents 3 percent of it, the group says. In terms of access, the global reproductive healthcare organization wants to build an “ironclad” network of states with bolstered resources to compensate for the areas in the U.S., mainly in the Midwest and the South, in which women have limited options. ...
“This network will leverage key states to serve as crucial access points particularly for the growing number of people who need to travel from out of state to ensure that no matter what happens that everyone in this country can access abortion,” said Rachel Sussman, national director of State Policy and Advocacy, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.” We are leaving no state behind.”
The second tier of the plan includes fighting back on policies that have already eroded a woman’s access to reproductive health care. ... Fighting the cultural stigma around abortion is the third leg of the new strategy. Kevin Griffis, Planned Parenthood's vp of communications, said the organization had restructured their communications teams in order to more effectively work with the TV industry and others to combat abortion stigma.
Hat tip for this podcast to divineorder, the good stuff starts around 18 minutes in:
In 2017, eight men controlled half of the world’s wealth and 70% of the world controls 5% of the wealth. Global elites, the 1%, are consolidating their fortunes without regard for the remaining 99% or the welfare of the planet. It is important to understand how this small number of people control the world and who they are so that we know what we’re up against and whom to hold accountable. We speak with Peter Phillips, author of “Giants: The Global Power Elite,” about his decades of work tracking the power holders and what we do to create a more just and sustainable world.
As Demands for US Probe Into Alleged Murder of Khashoggi Grow, Trump Says Halting Saudi Arms Sales 'Very Tough Pill to Swallow'
Nine days after journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, President Trump has expressed only vague concern over reports that he had been murdered by a Saudi "hit team"—and late on Wednesday he all but took off the table the possibility of cutting off arms sales to the Saudis if they are found responsible for Khashoggi's likely death.
"We have jobs. We have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that's doing probably better economically than it's ever done before," Trump said in a Fox News interview. "A part of that is what we are doing with our defense systems and everybody is wanting them and, frankly, I think [ending arms sales] would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country."
The U.S. has sold more than $200 billion in weapons and military equipment to the Saudis in recent years, with Trump signing off on a $110 billion agreement weeks after taking office and the Obama administration offering the country $115 billion in arms sales. Since 2015, those sales have helped to fund Saudi Arabia's air war in Yemen, which has killed more than 16,000 civilians and left millions displaced and on the verge of famine.
China’s far north-western region of Xinjiang has “legalised” internment camps where up to one million Muslims are being held. Amid sustained international criticism, Chinese authorities have revised legislation to allow the regional government to officially permit the use of “education and training centres” to incarcerate “people influenced by extremism”.
Chinese authorities deny that the internment camps exist but say petty criminals are sent to vocational “training centres”. Former detainees say they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist party in what they describe as political indoctrination camps. “It’s a retrospective justification for the mass detainment of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. “It’s a new form of re-education that’s unprecedented and doesn’t really have a legal basis, and I see them scrambling to try to create a legal basis for this policy.”
The revisions, published on Tuesday, say government agencies at the county level and above “may establish occupational skills education and training centres, education transformation organisations and management departments to transform people influenced by extremism through education”. A new clause directs the centres to teach the Mandarin language and provide occupational and legal education, as well as “ideological education, psychological rehabilitation and behaviour correction”.
The original legislation announced in 2017 banned the wearing of veils, “extreme speech and behaviour” and the refusal to listen to public radio and television broadcasts.
A panel of judges on Thursday unanimously struck down the death penalty in Washington state, ruling that it violates the state constitution. The ruling makes Washington the latest state to do away with capital punishment, leaving 30 states in the United States that maintain the measure.
The court ordered that the eight people currently on death row in Washington should have their sentences converted to life in prison. Five justices on the state supreme court said the “death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner”.
“Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals,” the justices wrote. Four other justices on the bench, in a concurrence, wrote that while they agreed with the majority’s conclusions and invalidation of the death penalty, “additional state constitutional principles compel this result.”
More than a year after the Trump administration quietly began a program of separating migrant children from their families along the U.S.-Mexico border, the full number of people impacted remains unclear. According to a new report, however, the government’s own data indicates that the campaign was far more expansive — and far more destructive — than previously acknowledged.
Figures provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection detail the separation of 6,022 “family units” from April 19, 2018 to August 15, 2018, according to a report published by Amnesty International on Thursday. Noting that the term “family unit” has varying applications in the U.S. immigration enforcement world — sometimes referring to individuals in a family, and other times referring to family groups containing multiple people — Amnesty observes that even on the low end, the figure reflects the largest total ever disclosed by the border enforcement agency in the context of the family separation crisis.
Using available statistics from the last two years, Amnesty further reports that in 2017 and 2018, the Trump administration appears to have separated approximately 8,000 “family units” along the border. Even if half of the people referred to in that figure were parents, the remaining 4,000 children would dwarf the total number of kids commonly reported to have been impacted by the “zero tolerance” campaign — that total tends to hover between 2,500 to 3,000.
The numbers are admittedly murky, said Brian Griffey, the author of the Amnesty report. But that’s because the agency that provided them — CBP — refused to provide any clarification as to what, exactly, they reflected.
Dianne Feinstein Finally Agrees to “Debate” Senate Challenger, While Ensuring Almost No One Watches It
Dianne Feinstein, the longtime California senator, has finally agreed to a share a stage with her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Kevin de León, in what will be her first appearance alongside a general election opponent in 18 years. But it certainly seems as though the front-runner has gone out of her way to make sure that as few people see the proceedings as humanly possible.
The event, sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California, is set for Wednesday, October 17, at noon PDT. According to the Sacramento Bee, the discussion will be webcast by the policy institute. There’s no indication that any TV or radio outlet will be able to air it. The event is not yet listed on the institute’s events page, even though people who want to view it must register on its website. Every major media outlet in the state has offered to co-host a debate between the two Democrats before the November 6 election. Some representatives have even made personal appeals on Twitter to the candidates. Nevertheless, the debate will have no live TV component.
It will also not be a debate, but rather a “discussion.” The two candidates will share the same stage, but will not be allowed to engage with one another. ... Since the beginning of the campaign, de León has sought a game-changing event that would bring wider attention to the race. A “discussion” that takes places in the middle of the day and in the middle of the week — to be shown only on the web — may not do the trick.
Negative campaign advertisements are as familiar in US elections as door-knocking and yard signs. But as the 2018 midterm election campaign pulls into its homestretch, Republican attacks in two congressional races happening 3,000 miles apart have triggered alarm bells for targeting non-white candidates in an apparent effort to highlight their “otherness”.
The first comes from California’s 50th district, where Ammar Campa-Najjar is running as a Democrat for a seat currently occupied by the Republican Duncan Hunter. NBC’s Chuck Todd, a veteran political reporter and commentator called the spot “maybe the most shocking and outrageous political ad I’ve ever seen”, in a Meet The Press Daily segment. The ad zeroes in on Campa-Najjar’s heritage – his mother is Mexican American and his father is Palestinian – calling him a “Palestinian, Mexican, millennial Democrat” who is “working to infiltrate Congress” and a “security risk”.
The ad accuses Campa-Najjar of being supported by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood with no evidence, and despite the fact that Campa-Najjar is a Christian. “It’s just so interesting that we live in a world where Islamophobia even extends to non-Muslims,” Campa-Najjar told the Guardian. The rest of the ad is focused on trying to tie Campa-Najjar to his grandfather, Mohammed Najjar, who was a member of the Black September Organization which plotted the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre that killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer. Campa-Najjar was born 16 years after his grandfather was killed by Israeli forces for his role in the attacks, but Hunter’s advert accused Campa-Najjar of changing his name to “hide his family’s ties to terrorism”.
'Definition of a Rigged System' as GOP Candidate for Georgia Governor Commits Massive Purge of Registered Voters
As Georgia's Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, called for voters in her state to fight Republican efforts at voter suppression by showing up at polls in large numbers in next month's election, a national grassroots group reported Secretary of State Brian Kemp—also the GOP's gubernatorial candidate—to the Justice Department late Wednesday night for blatantly violating the Voting Rights Act in order to swing the upcoming election in his own favor.
The Democratic Coalition is among those that have expressed outrage over a massive voter purge in the state which has disproportionately affected black voters, just before residents prepare to choose between Abrams—who would be the country's first black female governor—and Kemp himself in the November 6 election. ...
An analysis by the Associated Press estimates that Kemp, whose office oversees the state's elections and voter registration, has purged 53,000 registrants from the rolls by exploiting a 2013 "exact match" rule that states voters' application forms must exactly match Georgia's existing state records for every resident. Seventy percent of those registrations now listed as "pending" as a result of the law, the AP found, belong to African-Americans. ...
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, Abrams said she was "deeply worried" that many Georgia voters "will be disenfranchised in this election" — by the actions that Kemp has taken. ... The voter purge is just Kemp's latest attempt to disenfranchise voters in Georgia, Abrams added, noting that she led a lawsuit against him four years ago over the "exact match" law, forcing his to reinstate 33,000 canceled voter registrations. In August, as Common Dreams reported, the Randolph County Board of Elections rejected the state's proposal to close more than three-quarters of the majority-black county's polling places.
A California judge has moved to grant the agrochemical company Monsanto a new trial after a landmark jury verdict found its herbicide had caused a man’s terminal cancer. Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a $289m award in August in a trial alleging that the popular Roundup weedkiller had made him sick and that Monsanto had failed to warn him of the risks.
Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, immediately appealed the verdict, which included punitive damages and economic losses and also found that Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression”. The San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos cited the “insufficiency of the evidence to justify the award for punitive damages” in a tentative written ruling issued before a hearing on Wednesday. She is expected to make a final decision after attorneys submit additional arguments.
Monsanto sought to overturn the verdict and has continued to argue that it is safe to use glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide. Glyphosate-based products, including the Roundup and Ranger Pro brands, are now worth billions of dollars in revenues, approved for use on more than 100 crops, and registered in 130 countries. Timothy Litzenburg, one of the attorneys who represented Johnson in the trial, told the Guardian that regardless of the outcome, the original ruling would still have a long-term impact: “There’s been a loud and clear message.”
This summer, a chunk of ice the size of lower Manhattan broke off of a glacier in Eastern Greenland. It contained 10 billion tons of ice, making the video of the event an insanely shareable capsule of climate change dread. But for NASA scientists, the spectacle created by these massive calving events is really just the final step in a far more worrisome — and less visible — process.
That's because glacial melt isn’t just the result of our planet’s warming air. The biggest threat to these glaciers’ continued existence resides deep below the water’s surface.
Unlike most other bodies of water, the ocean surrounding Greenland gets warmer with increasing depth. That’s because warm, salty currents from the Atlantic are heavier than fresh glacial water, so those currents end up on the bottom. And that’s what’s got scientists’ attention: our oceans absorb the heat trapped by greenhouse gases, so they’re getting warmer, and as they do, Greenland’s biggest, deepest glaciers are interacting with them — and melting at increasing speeds.
A waning but still powerful Hurricane Michael was lashing the Carolinas on Thursday after one of the strongest storms ever to strike the United States claimed at least two lives and tore a trail of carnage through Florida and Georgia. Downgraded to a tropical storm, the cyclone that struck Florida’s Panhandle as a category 4 monster on Wednesday, with winds of 155mph, was dumping large quantities of rain on areas of South and North Carolina that are still recovering from the flooding of Hurricane Florence last month.
Daylight brought confirmation of Florida governor Rick Scott’s prediction that Michael, which inundated coastal towns with a storm surge of up to 14 feet from the Gulf of Mexico, would bring “unimaginable devastation”.
Television pictures showed that some residential waterfront communities had been obliterated. Street after street of houses and other buildings were ripped apart in Panama City, boats and warehouses in marinas were smashed into pieces, roofs were ripped from multiple structures in several other communities. Fallen trees and downed power lines were everywhere, with more than 900,000 homes and businesses without electricity in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina, according to poweroutage.us.
“It looks like an atomic bomb had hit our city,” resident David Barnes told the Panama City News Herald. “Damage has been widespread.” In Mexico Beach, Florida, where Michael roared ashore at lunchtime on Wednesday with winds gusting to 175mph, there were reports that the small town of barely 1,000 was “just gone”.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Johnny Shines - Livin' In The White House
Johnny Shines - Till I Made My Tonsils Sore
Johnny Shines - Tennessee Woman Blues
Johnny Shines - Ain't Doin' No Good
Johnny Shines - Little Wolf
Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton - Evening Sun
Johnny Shines - I Don't Know
The Johnny Shines Blues Band - Hey, Hey
Johnny Shines Antones, Austin 1990 (starts around 11:00)