The Evening Blues - 4-19-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues guitarist Freddie King. Enjoy!
Freddie King - The Things That I Used To Do!
“In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”
-- Charles MacKay
News and Opinion
Absolutely worth a full read. There are extensive supporting quotes from Mueller's report that eviscerate the MSDNC/Democrat conspiracy theorists.
The two-pronged conspiracy theory that has dominated U.S. political discourse for almost three years – that (1) Trump, his family and his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, and (2) Trump is beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin — was not merely rejected today by the final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It was obliterated: in an undeniable and definitive manner. The key fact is this: Mueller – contrary to weeks of false media claims – did not merely issue a narrow, cramped, legalistic finding that there was insufficient evidence to indict Trump associates for conspiring with Russia and then proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That would have been devastating enough to those who spent the last two years or more misleading people to believe that conspiracy convictions of Trump’s closest aides and family members were inevitable. But his mandate was much broader than that: to state what did or did not happen.
That’s precisely what he did: Mueller, in addition to concluding that evidence was insufficient to charge any American with crimes relating to Russian election interference, also stated emphatically in numerous instances that there was no evidence – not merely that there was insufficient evidence to obtain a criminal conviction – that key prongs of this three-year-old conspiracy theory actually happened. As Mueller himself put it: “in some instances, the report points out the absence of evidence or conflicts in the evidence about a particular fact or event.” With regard to Facebook ads and Twitter posts from the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, for example, Mueller could not have been more blunt: “The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation” (emphasis added). Note that this exoneration includes not only Trump campaign officials but all Americans.
To get a further sense for how definitive the Report’s rejection is of the key elements of the alleged conspiracy theory, consider Mueller’s discussion of efforts by George Papadopoulos, Joseph Misfud and and “two Russian nationals” whereby they tried “to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian officials” to talk about how the two sides could work together to disseminate information about Hillary Clinton. As Mueller puts it: “No meeting took place.”
Several of the media’s most breathless and hyped “bombshells” were dismissed completely by Mueller. Regarding various Trump officials’ 2016 meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Mueller said they were “brief, public and nonsubstantive.” Concerning the much-hyped change to GOP platform regarding Ukraine, Mueller wrote that the “evidence does not establish that one campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican platform was undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia,” and further noted that such a change was consistent with Trump’s publicly stated foreign policy view (one shared by Obama) to avoid provoking gratuitous conflict with the Kremlin over arming Ukrainians. Mueller also characterized a widely hyped “meeting” between then-Senator Jeff Sessions and Kislyak as one that did not “include any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.” ...
After Trump fired James Comey, the White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders repeatedly claimed in live press briefings that the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in the FBI director, and that “we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI” who did not support him. Those statements had no basis in fact, Sanders later admitted in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
The redacted version of the special counsel’s report released on Thursday included multiple examples of Trump’s current and former press secretaries making false claims to journalists, particularly in the days after Comey’s firing.
Sanders, the current White House press secretary, told the special counsel’s office that a statement she had made to journalists about the Comey’s lack of support within the FBI “was not founded on anything”. Sanders’ claim on 10 May 2017, the day after Comey was fired, that “countless members of the FBI” opposed Comey was “a slip of the tongue”, Sanders told the special counsel’s office in an interview last year.
Sanders repeated that “slip of the tongue” during a press briefing the following day, when skeptical White House reporters questioned her on her claim that Comey did not have support within the FBI’s rank and file.
US Slides Down Annual Press Freedom Ranking, With Watchdog Calling Nation 'Problematic' for Reporters' Rights
An annual accounting of press freedoms around the world describes an "intense climate of fear" in which reporters are being forced to work, calling out world leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for their attacks on the media.
Trump's repeated statements that journalists are "the enemy of the people" and his threats to roll back their right to report political news have been a contributing factor in the United States' descent to 48th place in the Press Freedom Index, which was released Thursday by Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF).
The U.S. slid down the list three places and is now categorized as a "problematic" country for journalists' rights, according to RSF.
"The violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the U.S. government has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions," RSF reported.
The country is behind Slovakia, where an investigative journalist was murdered in 2018 after reporting on the Calabrian mafia's connections in the government; Botswana; and Romania.
Worth a full read:
As official Washington pores over the Gospel According to Saint Robert, an all-important fact about the Mueller report has gotten lost in the shuffle. Just as the Christian gospels were filled with holes, the latest version is too – particularly with regard to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. ...
The official story that the GRU is the source doesn’t hold water, as a timeline from mid-2016 shows. Here are the key events based on the GRU indictment and the Mueller report:
- June 12: Assange tells Britain’s ITV that another round of Democratic Party disclosures is on the way: “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton, which is great. WikiLeaks is having a very big year.”
- June 14: The Democratic National Committee accuses Russia of hacking its computers.
- June 15: Guccifer 2.0 claims credit for the hack. “The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to WikiLeaks ,” he brags. “They will publish them soon.”
- June 22: WikiLeaks tells Guccifer via email: “Send any new material here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”
- July 6: WikiLeaks sends Guccifer another email: “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.”Replies Guccifer: “ok . . . i see”
- July 14: Guccifer sends WikiLeaks an encrypted file titled “wk dnc link1.txt.gpg.”
- July 18: WikiLeaks confirms it has opened “the 1Gb or so archive” and will release documents “this week.”
- July 22: WikiLeaks releases more than 20,000 DNC emails and 8,000 other attachments.
According to Mueller and obsequious news outlets like the Times, the sequence is clear: Guccifer sends archive, WikiLeaks receives archive, WikiLeaks accesses archive, WikiLeaks publishes archive. Donald Trump may not have colluded with Russia, but Julian Assange plainly did. [Attorney General Will Barr, significantly calling WikiLeaks a publisher, said at his Thursday press conference: “Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy]
The narrative raises questions that the press studiously avoids. Why, for instance, would Assange announce on June 12 that a big disclosure is on the way before hearing from the supposed source? Was there a prior communication that Mueller has not disclosed? What about the reference to “new material” on June 22 – does that mean Assange already had other material in hand? After opening the Guccifer file on July 18, why would he publish it just four days later? Would that give WikiLeaks enough time to review some 28,000 documents to insure they’re genuine? “If a single one of those emails had been shown to be maliciously altered,” blogger Mark F. McCarty observes, “Wikileaks’ reputation would have been in tatters.” There’s also the question that an investigator known as Adam Carter poses in Disobedient Media: why would Guccifer brag about giving WikiLeaks“thousands of files” that he wouldn’t send for another month? ...
So four days was indeed too short a time to subject the Guccifer file to proper vetting. Of course, Mueller no doubt regards this as more “dissembling,” as his report describes it. Yet WikiLeaks has never been caught in a lie for the simple reason that honesty and credibility are all-important for a group that promises to protect anonymous leakers who supply it with official secrets. ... Mueller, by contrast, has a rich history of mendacity going back to his days as FBI director when he sought to cover up the Saudi role in 9/11 and assured Congress on the eve of the 2003 invasion that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction pose “a clear threat to our national security.”
Worth a full read:
As Donald Trump sharpens his re-election messaging, he has sought to make a foil out of freshman Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar, homing in on her identity as a black Muslim immigrant and her brazen defiance of what was once a bipartisan pro-Israel consensus. Trump’s most recent attack was the most inflammatory to date, implying through a characteristically dishonest Twitter video that Omar had played some role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Trump was referencing comments Omar made this month during a banquet of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR): “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” Omar said during a 20-minute-long denunciation of public bullying and violent attacks against Muslims living in the West. (CAIR was founded in 1994, contrary to Omar’s claim).
As innocuous as Omar’s comments might have seemed, they were easily spun by a right-wing bigot-sphere seeking to portray her as not merely insensitive to the deep wound Americans suffered on 9/11, but as a possible terror-sympathizer. ... In Washington, 9/11 is understood as an act of inexplicable evil that materialized out of a clear blue sky. “They hate us because we’re free,” Americans are still told in a semi-official drone, conveniently excising the attacks that took place on 9/11 from their historical context. This ruthlessly enforced interpretation has had the effect of displacing blame from those who bear direct or indirect responsibility for the attacks onto much more convenient scapegoats like the Islamic faith and its diverse mass of adherents.
In my new book, The Management of Savagery,” I explain which people did what things to lay the groundwork for the worst terror attack on U.S. soil. Not all of those people were Muslim, and few have faced the kind of scrutiny Omar has for her seemingly benign comment about 9/11. As I illustrate, many of them maintained lustrous reputations well after the ash was cleared from Ground Zero. Today, some of their names – Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ronald Reagan, H.W. Bush – are prominently engraved on airports, federal offices, and library halls around the country. Others became the subject of rowdy bestsellers such as “Charlie Wilson’s War,” or saw their exploits dramatized in Cold War kitsch productions like “Rambo III.” And then there were those who waged America’s dirty wars from the shadows, and whose names will scarcely ever be known.
While these figures lay claim to the mantle of “national security,” their true legacy was the callous abandonment of that concept in order to advance imperial objectives. During the Cold War, they forged partnerships with theocratic monarchies and armed Islamist militants, even distributing jihadist textbooks to children in the name of defeating the Soviet scourge. Today, as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – the lone foreign policy dissenter within the Democratic presidential field – pointed out, they are doing it all over again through their protection of the world’s largest Al Qaeda franchise in Syria’s Idlib province, which came into being thanks in large part to U.S. intervention in the country.
To effectively puncture Trump’s demagogic ploys, the discussion of 9/11 must move beyond a superficial defense of Omar and into an exploration of a critical history that has been suppressed. This history begins at least 20 years before the attacks occurred, when “some people did something.” Many of those people served at the highest levels of U.S. government, and the things they did led to the establishment of Al Qaeda as an international network – and ultimately, to 9/11 itself.
Secret IDB Proposal Would Give $48 Billion Infusion to Boost Venezuela’s Economy — But Only After Regime Change
The Inter-American Development Bank is quietly circulating an analysis that foresees an up to $48 billion infusion of capital into the Venezuelan economy should President Nicolás Maduro be removed from office. A pair of confidential documents, both called “Venezuela: Challenges and Opportunities,” outlines a four-year plan to open the country’s beleaguered economy to foreign corporations through privatization, structural reforms, and public-private partnerships. ... Founded in 1959, the IDB offers financing and technical assistance for infrastructure, health, and education projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. The bank is owned by 48 countries: 26 borrowing member countries and 22 nonborrowing member countries. Currently, the five largest shareholders are the U.S., with 30 percent of voting shares; Argentina and Brazil, with 11.2 percent each; Mexico, with 7.2 percent; and Japan, which has 5 percent of voting shares.
The dominant position of the U.S. has raised questions about the bank’s independence. Indeed, U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressive stance on regime change helped urge IDB officials into pushing the analysis of a post-Maduro Venezuela, a source told The Intercept. The Maduro regime has long claimed that the country’s economic collapse is the result of a capital crunch driven by sanctions and a coordinated financial assault by the United States for the purposes of undermining and overthrowing the socialist government. The emergence of the IDB-led plan will only heighten those suspicions.
The proposal for international largesse could be a boon to an incoming administration. If all went according to plan, the improvements in Venezuelans’ daily lives would allow opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó, or another incoming president, to claim a victory — by benefiting from international assistance that is being denied to the current leadership. Meanwhile, Venezuela would be stripped of its public assets. ... Notably, the IDB documents obtained by The Intercept lay out what the bank calls “priority actions”: eliminating obstacles for private companies, financing international trade, and establishing new legislation to re-privatize government-owned companies.
The proposed infusion of cash laid out in the IDB plan would serve as a carrot to induce foreign governments and business leaders to support the U.S.-led push to overthrow Maduro. The plan calls for $4.5 billion in the first year to repair basic infrastructure, such as electricity, water supply, and transportation. The figures, the bank stresses, do not include “private investments in the oil and energy sectors.” ...
The subsidies and direct support — even on electricity and basic sanitation — in the IDB proposal could help a new government gain popular support and alleviate suffering during a crucial transitional period. But the subsidies and direct support funding would be cut dramatically over the course of four years.
Microsoft unveiled two data centers Wednesday designed exclusively to host the government’s secret classified data. Microsoft’s announcement is part of the company’s plan to compete with Amazon—the only company cleared to host the CIA and Defense Department’s secret and top secret classified data—and comes as both companies compete for a $10 billion military cloud contract called JEDI. ...
Microsoft’s latest moves come as the demand for cloud computing services is at an all-time high, with the Pentagon alone expected to spend $2 billion on cloud in the coming year. ...
The government’s increasing reliance on cloud computing has attracted a bevy of suppliers, pitting longstanding defense contractors like IBM, Oracle and General Dynamics against newcomers like Google and AWS. Microsoft is both a longtime government contractor and a growing commercial cloud provider, and its ubiquitous Office 365 platform has it all but guaranteed to receive a chunk of the Defense Enterprise Office Solutions contract, another multibillion-dollar cloud deal.
Jeremy Corbyn is to be urged by a group of Labour MPs not to “torpedo” the prospect of a Brexit deal with Theresa May by insisting on a second referendum. The MPs, including Stephen Kinnock and Gloria De Piero, are set to send the Labour leader a letter early next week setting out their “deep-seated reservations about a second referendum”, which they believe would be “divisive but … not decisive”.
They also express a worry that insisting on a second referendum would cause talks with the government to collapse, arguing that Conservative MPs would never back such an idea.
Labour has committed to keeping a second referendum on the table as an option to stop a “damaging Tory Brexit”, but there are conflicting views at the top of the party about whether to insist on one if Corbyn can secure a deal with the Conservatives.
Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has been at the forefront of making the case for a confirmatory second referendum on any Brexit deal, but others are worried this would lose Labour support in some of its leave-voting heartlands.
Armed rightwing militia members detained a large group of migrants at the US-Mexico border and coordinated with US border patrol agents to have them arrested, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, in a series of actions the civil liberties organization called a “kidnapping” and a flagrant violation of the law.
Several videos taken at the border in New Mexico this week appeared to show men belonging to a group that calls itself the United Constitutional Patriots approaching migrant families and children, ordering them to sit down, calling federal agents on them, and at one point potentially misrepresenting themselves by saying “border patrol” as they approached.
“The Trump administration’s vile racism has emboldened white nationalists and fascists to flagrantly violate the law,” the ACLU of New Mexico said in a letter to the state’s governor and attorney general, urging them to “immediately investigate this atrocious and unlawful conduct”.
The ACLU described the group as “an armed fascist militia organization” made up of “vigilantes” working to “kidnap and detain people seeking asylum” and accused the group of directly making illegal arrests.
The group has repeatedly appeared in local news stories in recent weeks, expressing support for Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and presenting themselves as “volunteers” aiding border patrol efforts.
With comprehensive Medicare for All legislation now introduced in both chambers of Congress and bolstered by surging grassroots support, health insurance stocks are "crumbling" as investors grow increasingly fearful that single-payer could eventually become a reality.
"Together, the shares of hospitals and insurers lost $28 billion in market value on Tuesday," Bloomberg reported. "The slide in hospital and insurance stocks continued Wednesday, wiping out billions of dollars more in market value from some of the biggest health companies in the U.S."
Note that the drop in health insurance stocks is *not* dragging down the overall market. Our economy would not only survive without private health insurers, it would be much better off. #SinglePayer #MedicareForAll https://t.co/hIqNBjimJh
— PNHP (@PNHP) April 17, 2019
Income “insufficiency”, not inequality, is to blame for the widening gap between rich and poor, private equity titan Steve Schwarzman said on Thursday, becoming the latest billionaire to publicly worry about the issue. The CEO of Blackstone and former Trump adviser outlined what he called a Marshall plan for the middle class on cable channel CNBC – referencing the US initiative that aided the rebuilding of western Europe after the second world war.
Schwarzman’s plan would eliminate taxes for teachers, introduce a higher minimum wage and more technical training for people who don’t go to college.
But Schwarzman, who Forbes estimates to be worth $13.7bn, seemed keen to avoid the term income inequality at a time when inequality, which has been growing markedly for more than 30 years, has become a hot political topic. “I look at this as a systemic problem. This is not anecdotal,” he said. “This is like, half of our society is severely disadvantaged. We can’t allow that to continue, so that means you need policy solutions.”
Offshore oil and gas drilling in the US is plagued by “systemic failures” in oversight that are being worsened by Trump administration attempts to expand drilling and roll back safety requirements, a new report has warned. The analysis of public documents by the conservation group Oceana found that while some minor improvements have been made since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, a system of lax oversight, paltry fines and overstretched inspectors risks further major oil spills.
This situation is further deteriorating due to the Trump administration opening up almost all US waters to offshore drilling, as well as repealing Obama-era safety rules put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill, according to the report, released on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the disaster.
“Less safety and more drilling is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “We should be implementing safety reforms, not rolling back what we have. Nearly 10 years on from the BP disaster, overarching failures haven’t been remedied.”
The report criticizes the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, for relying upon industry-written standards and for regularly granting exemptions to safety rules. Penalties for rule-breaking by drilling companies are capped at little more than $44,000 per violation per day, with just 120 BSEE inspectors tasked with conducting 20,000 inspections in US waters each year. Oceana called this oversight regime “alarming” and demanded a much tougher system of inspections and fines.
[ACTION] One of the biggest actions of civil disobedience ever organized in France just started. More than 2000 citizens are blocking the business district of #LaDéfense to denounce the toxic alliance of @EmmanuelMacron and the french governement with big polluting companies. pic.twitter.com/XkfdDQ1MBU
— Greenpeace France (@greenpeacefr) April 19, 2019
The New York City Council passed the world's "largest single carbon reduction effort that any city, anywhere, has ever put forward" on Thursday afternoon, marking a major milestone in the fight against the climate crisis.
The Climate Mobilization Act contains ten provisions for a greener New York. ...
Chief among the bill's provisions were regulations that directly affect city buildings.
The legislation packages together 10 separate bills and resolutions, and calls in its centerpiece bill for a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from city buildings. That level of reduction, and the associated costs of such a move, led real estate interests in New York to oppose the bill, which is known as Intro 1253 in the City Council.
Those efforts were unsuccessful, as the measure passed by a vote of 45-2.
Opponents of the legislation claimed it could have an adverse affect on the city's economy and lead to a drying up of jobs.
But, as HuffPost reported, that doom and gloom future is unlikely:
The new rules would create demand for more than 3,600 construction jobs per year, by one estimate, and another 4,400 jobs in maintenance, services and operations, fueled by the sheer magnitude of the investment required to meet the emissions goals.
According to The New York Times, buildings account for 67 percent of the city's emissions.
Who are America’s public lands for? The answer to that question might seem self-evident: the public. The newly confirmed interior secretary, David Bernhardt – officially charged with stewarding them – has a different interpretation. A lawyer and longtime energy lobbyist, he has shuffled between posts on K Street and in the federal government with one goal in mind: handing as much of that land as possible over to corporations, particularly his friends and clients in the oil and gas industry eager to snap up new leases for mining and drilling. ...
A long-dead Hungarian political economist tried to warn us about people like Bernhardt and the interests he represents. For Karl Polanyi, making land (along with labor and money) subject to the whims of the market threatens to throw society out of whack, dubbing them “fictitious commodities”.
“To allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment,” he wrote, “would result in the demolition of society.” As Polanyi argued, too, the so-called free market Bernhardt and other rightwingers are so keen to support is dependent on a tremendous amount of active government intervention, and indeed contingent on people like him pulling levers with not so invisible hands at places like the interior department, to deliver as many handouts as possible to his friends in industry. There’s nothing natural about that, or about the $20bn in state and federal subsidies oil and gas companies get each year from the government. ...
The Massachusetts senator and 2020 hopeful Elizabeth Warren this week released an ambitious plan to protect public lands from corporations, and “preserve wild, natural places for future generations” to make them “part of the climate solution – not the problem”.
About quarter of America’s land area, fossil fuel extraction on public lands are responsible for about 25 % of the country’s fossil fuel emissions. Warren wants a “total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands”, a position the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has also supported. She also hopes to strengthen environmental protections on public lands, get a full 10% of the country’s electricity from renewables built on public lands and offshore, make national parks free, democratize decision-making on how public land is used and revive the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, to “create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands, deepening their lifelong relationship with the great outdoors”.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Freddie King - Boogie Funk Woman
Freddie King - I Got The Same Old Blues
Freddie King - Tore Down
Freddie King - Just Pickin'
Freddie King - Hide Away
Freddie King - Same Old Blues
Freddie King - Big Legged Woman
Freddie King - You've Got To Love Her With Feeling
Freddy King - The Stumble
Freddie King - Help Me Through The Day
Freddie King Live in Europe 1973 & 1974