The Evening Blues - 6-17-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Rock n Roll singer Chubby Checker. Enjoy!
Chubby Checker - The Twist, Mister Twister, Let's Twist Again, Twist Train
"'National Security' is the root password to the Constitution."
-- Phil Karn
News and Opinion
I'll take "Deep State" for $500, please Alex ...
US President Donald Trump on Saturday accused the New York Times of “a virtual act of treason” after it reported the US is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid. Current and former government officials have described the classified deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s power grid and other targets, the newspaper reported.
The action is intended partly as a warning but also to leave the US poised to conduct cyber-strikes in the event of a major conflict between the US and Russia, the newspaper said.
Trump tweeted that the accusations were “not true”, calling the media “corrupt” and repeating accusations that journalists are “the enemy of the people”. ...
In its Saturday report, The Times also cited National Security Council officials as saying they had no security concerns about the newspaper’s reporting on the digital incursions, perhaps indicating that some of the intrusions were meant to be noticed by the Russians.
The New York Times has published an anonymously sourced report titled “U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid” about the “placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before” which could potentially “plunge Russia into darkness or cripple its military,” with one anonymous official reporting that “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.” Obviously this is yet another serious escalation in the continually mounting series of steps that have been taken into a new cold war between the planet’s two nuclear superpowers. Had a report been leaked to Russian media from anonymous Kremlin officials that Moscow was escalating its cyber-aggressions against America’s energy grid, this would doubtless be labeled an act of war by the political/media class of the US and its allies with demands for immediate retaliation.
To put this in perspective, The New York Times reported last year that the Pentagon was pushing for the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review to include the strategy of retaliating against serious Russian cyberattacks on American power grids with nuclear weapons.
So that’s scary enough. What’s even scarier is the information that the Times buried way down in the 21st to 23rd paragraphs of its report:
“Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place ‘implants’—software code that can be used for surveillance or attack—inside the Russian grid.
“Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction—and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.
“Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.”
In an article titled “Pentagon Keeps Trump in the Dark About its Cyber Attacks on Russia”, Rolling Stone’s Peter Wade described this jarring revelation as follows:
“New laws, enacted by Congress last year, allow such ‘clandestine military activity’ in cyberspace to go ahead without the president’s approval. So, in this case, those new laws are protecting American interests… by keeping the sitting president out of the loop. What a (scary) time to be alive.”
So Trump is in a bit of a bind now. The escalation has already been put in place, which will likely see an equal response from Moscow if it isn’t scaled back. But scaling it back would mean a whole new wave of shrieking alarmism from the political/media class about the conspiracy theory that just won’t die no matter how much evidence is mounted against it: that Trump is a controlled puppet of the Kremlin. ...
The U.S. war machine is the most powerful military force in the history of civilization, and the alliance of nations that it upholds is functionally the most powerful empire that the world has ever seen. Because so much power depends on the behavior of this gargantuan war engine, it is seen by those with real power as too important to be left to the will of the electorate, and too important to be left to the will of the elected Commander-in-Chief. This is why Americans are the most propagandized people in the world, this is why Russia hysteria has been blasted into their psyches for three years, and this is why we are all at an ever-increasing risk of dying in a nuclear holocaust.
Pompous Maximus is feverishly beating the war drums on Sunday teevee:
The United States does not want to go to war with Iran, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said on Sunday, following an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Pompeo reiterated that the US believes it was “unmistakable” that Iran was responsible for the attacks, in an interview with Fox News Sunday. He stressed a need for diplomacy and said American officials are reaching out to their foreign counterparts. ...
Pompeo said intelligence officials have “lots of data, lots of evidence” tying Iran to alleged attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for Arab oil shipments to Asia. He gave no details.
Pompeo said he did not want to discuss possible next steps the United State might take in response to last week’s developments.
In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US is considering “a full range of options” against Iran. Adding that during briefings to President Trump, “of course” military options were discussed.
“The President will consider everything we need to do to make sure, right?” Pompeo said, adding that Trump has “said very clearly he doesn’t want to go to war.” Yet all the consideration of war is clearly happening on the US side.
The Japanese government has been requesting the United States for concrete evidence to back its assertion that Iran is to blame for the attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, government sources said Sunday.
The request came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a statement hours after the attacks blaming Iran but without offering proof. The Department of Defense later released a video allegedly showing an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine attached to the side of the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous.
But Japanese government officials remain unconvinced, the sources said. "The U.S. explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation," said one senior government official. ...
Pompeo said in a press conference Thursday that the United States' assessment was based on their "intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication."
A source close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "These are not definite proof that it's Iran." ... If having expertise sophisticated enough to conduct the attack could be a reason to conclude that the attacker was Iran, "That would apply to the United States and Israel as well," said a source at the Foreign Ministry.
Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi has collapsed during a court session and died, almost six years after he was forced from power in a bloody coup. Morsi, 67, was attending a session in his trial on espionage charges on Monday when he blacked out and then died, according to state media.
“He asked the judge to speak, and was allowed. After the case was adjourned, he fainted and died. His body was then transferred to the hospital,” reported the Egyptian state newspaper Al-Ahram, referring to Morsi’s ongoing retrial for allegedly spying for the Palestinian Islamist organisation Hamas.
Morsi became president in 2012, following Egypt’s first and only free elections after the dictator Hosni Mubarak was forced from power. He won 51.7% of the vote and his rule marked the peak of power for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which had functioned for decades as an underground political organisation.
But his time in power was cut short a year later as demonstrators once again took to the streets – this time to protest against Morsi’s rule. Egypt’s military seized power in a coup days later on 3 July 2013, bringing the then defence minister, Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, to power.
As president, Sisi has overseen an extensive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and anyone suspected of supporting the group, which Egypt now considers a terrorist organisation.
Strikes and further protests were expected in Hong Kong on Monday after protesters rejected an apology from leader Carrie Lam following a march that saw an estimated two million people fill the streets to oppose the controversial extradition bill. After the sweeping protest – possibly the largest in Hong Kong since it was handed back to China from Britain in 1997 – Lam apologised for the way the government had handled the draft law but she stopped short of withdrawing the bill or resigning, two key demands of demonstrators.
Lam has championed the unpopular bill, which would allow citizens to be sent to mainland China for trial, but as the political crisis gripping the city entered its second week, uncertainty was mounting over her political fate. ...
On Monday morning, several hundred protesters refused police requests to clear the streets. A policewoman using a loudspeaker asked them to cooperate as officers lined up several rows deep and faced them. A woman in black speaking for the protesters responded with her own microphone, saying they were not blocking anyone from getting to work and would leave only after Lam came to hear them out.
The demonstration on Sunday came after Lam indefinitely delayed the bill on Saturday in a dramatic climbdown. Protest organisers demanded the bill’s full withdrawal and showed their anger at the way police handled a demonstration on Wednesday, when more than 70 people were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.
Adding to the mountain of statistical evidence showing the severity of U.S. inequality, an analysis published Friday found that the top one percent of Americans gained $21 trillion in wealth since 1989 while the bottom 50 percent lost $900 billion.
Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-wing think tank People's Policy Project, broke down the Federal Reserve's newly released "Distributive Financial Accounts" data series and found that, overall, "the top one percent owns nearly $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half owns less than nothing, meaning they have more debts than they have assets."
The growth of wealth inequality over the past 30 years, Bruenig found, is "eye-popping."
"Between 1989 and 2018, the top one percent increased its total net worth by $21 trillion," Bruenig wrote. "The bottom 50 percent actually saw its net worth decrease by $900 billion over the same period."
Enormous crisis: We have the worst inequality in this country since the 1920s. Three wealthiest people in America have as much wealth as the bottom 50%. That's 3 people have as much wealth as 160 million people. https://t.co/cVho21Gpln
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) June 14, 2019
AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, promised in November 2017 to invest $1bn in capital expenditure and create 7,000 new jobs at the company if Trump’s hugely controversial tax cut bill passed. Many opponents had slammed the cuts as a corporate giveaway that benefited the super-rich. But big firms lobbied for it, saying – as AT&T did – that it would fund job-creating expansions.
The bill was voted into law in December 2017, reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. AT&T’s benefit was a tax windfall of $21 bn and an additional estimated $3bn annually. But instead of creating jobs and increasing investment into the company, AT&T has eliminated 23,328 jobs since the tax cut bill was passed, according to a recent report by the Communications Workers of America. The CWA also said AT&T reduced their capital investments by $1.4bn. ...
In November 2018, GM announced it would cease operations at five plants in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Ontario, Canada, resulting in the loss of more than 14,000 jobs in those communities. As GM is closing plants, the company has spent $10bn since 2015 on stock buybacks, and made a net profit of over $8bn despite paying no federal taxes in 2018. GM reported a tax windfall of $157m in the first three months of 2018 due to the Trump tax cut. ...
Wells Fargo, the fourth largest bank in the US by assets, tied a minimum wage increase of $15 an hour to the Trump tax cuts and pledged increased investments in workers. The company is estimated to save $3.7bn annually due to the Trump tax cut. The bank’s 2018 tax savings were 47 times more than the costs of its minimum wage increases. Rather than invest in its workforce, Wells Fargo bought back 350m shares in early 2018, worth about $22.6bn, increased CEO salary by 36%, and announced plans in September 2018 to eliminate at least 26,000 jobs in the US over the next three years as many of those positions are being sent overseas.
In April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat before members of both houses of Congress and told them his company respected the privacy of the roughly two billion people who use it. ... A year later, Zuckerberg claimed in interviews and essays to have discovered the religion of personal privacy and vowed to rebuild the company in its image. But only months after Zuckerberg first outlined his “privacy-focused vision for social networking” in a 3,000-word post on the social network he founded, his lawyers were explaining to a California judge that privacy on Facebook is nonexistent.
The courtroom debate, first reported by Law360, took place as Facebook tried to scuttle litigation from users upset that their personal data was shared without their knowledge with the consultancy Cambridge Analytica and later with advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign. The full transcript of the proceedings — which has been quoted from only briefly — reveal one of the most stunning examples of corporate doublespeak certainly in Facebook’s history.
Representing Facebook before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria was Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, who claimed that the plaintiffs’ charges of privacy invasion were invalid because Facebook users have no expectation of privacy on Facebook. The simple act of using Facebook, Snyder claimed, negated any user’s expectation of privacy:
There is no privacy interest, because by sharing with a hundred friends on a social media platform, which is an affirmative social act to publish, to disclose, to share ostensibly private information with a hundred people, you have just, under centuries of common law, under the judgment of Congress, under the SCA, negated any reasonable expectation of privacy.
An outside party can’t violate what you yourself destroyed, Snyder seemed to suggest. Snyder was emphatic in his description of Facebook as a sort of privacy anti-matter, going so far as to claim that “the social act of broadcasting your private information to 100 people negates, as a matter of law, any reasonable expectation of privacy.” You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more elegant, concise description of Facebook than “the social act of broadcasting your private information” to people. So not only is it Facebook’s legal position that you’re not entitled to any expectation of privacy, but it’s your fault that the expectation went poof the moment you started using the site (or at least once you connected with 100 Facebook “friends”).
In an interview with ABC, President Donald Trump accused former White House counsel Don McGahn of lying under oath when he told Robert Mueller that the president directed him to fire the special counsel. "The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller," Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview recorded Tuesday and released Friday morning. "I never suggested firing Mueller.”
When it was pointed out that McGahn had given testimony to the contrary, Trump said: “I don’t care what [McGahn] said, it doesn’t matter.” Trump claims his former counsel “may have been confused” when he told Mueller that the president directed him multiple times to instruct acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller.
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he never suggested firing special counsel Robert Mueller—and what ex-White House counsel Don McGahn told Mueller “doesn’t matter." https://t.co/KcBTRmDQHH pic.twitter.com/wG3z1TqJIw
— ABC News (@ABC) June 14, 2019
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s prime minister, has been convicted of illegally misusing thousands of pounds of public funds on lavish meals.
A Jerusalem court on Sunday accepted a plea bargain in which Netanyahu agreed to admit to a lesser charge than the original fraud accusations. She will pay about $15,000 (£12,000) in fines and reimbursements to the state.
The sentencing ended one of the long-running cases against the family. However, Benjamin Netanyahu still faces the prospect of three corruption indictments later this year that may end his decade as leader and even result in a prison sentence. He denies all charges.
The fates of 53 desperate migrants rescued while crossing the Mediterranean hung in the balance Friday, after Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, vowed their ship would not be allowed to dock in his country’s ports — and should be sent back to a literal war zone instead.
The group of migrants — which includes nine women and four minors — were rescued by the Sea-Watch 3, a ship operated by a German humanitarian NGO, from a rubber dinghy in distress about 47 miles (76 km) off the Libyan coast Wednesday.
Salvini, an anti-immigration hardliner who says his country’s ports are closed to rescue boats, is insisting the ship disembark the migrants in the closest major port of Tripoli, Libya — currently the scene of fierce militia fighting and an unfolding humanitarian crisis. But Sea-Watch is refusing to comply, saying such a move would breach international laws stating that rescued people should be taken to a safe port.
Survivors of Japanese Internment Are Horrified Trump Is Using a Former Facility to Detain Migrant Kids
Satsuki Ina knows what U.S. government detention is like. In fact, that’s where she was born, as part of the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Now, she’s a psychotherapist who’s studied the effects of detention on migrant kids. “I know what’s happening to these children will have a lasting impact on their mental health. Indefinite detention is a form of torture,” said Ina, who grew up in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a maximum security internment camp in Newell city, California. She’s one of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans the U.S. detained.
When the Trump administration announced its plan this week to turn a former WWII internment camp in Oklahoma into an emergency shelter for migrant children, many Japanese-Americans worried history was repeating itself. They’d heard about the effects indefinite detention can have on people, especially children — and some, like Ina, lived it. ... “It’s exactly the same rhetoric — ‘They’re a threat to national security’ — without any evidence,” Ina said. “We want to remind America that this horrible thing that took place during World War II is being repeated.”
Fort Sill, an Army base in Lawton City, Oklahoma, held approximately 700 Japanese-Americans during WWII. Detainees slept in four-person tents and were under constant surveillance by armed guards. During the war, the base was one of more than 70 sites across the country where Japanese-Americans were detained. Fort Sill was also used as a prison for the Apache leader Geronimo in 1894. More than 300 other Apaches, including women and children, were also held there. ...
“What I see repeated over and over again is the government’s use of euphemisms and falsehoods,” said Tom Ikeda, the founder and executive director of Denshō, an organization that collects testimonies from internment camp survivors. His parents and grandparents were also interned during WWII. “The official name for the concentration camps that held Japanese-Americans during World War II was ‘war relocation centers,’” Ikeda said. “When we hear the government today sugarcoat what they're doing, it's a pattern that we've seen throughout the history of this country.” ...
But the completion of Trump’s plan wouldn’t be the first time migrant children have been detained at the former Japanese internment camp. The Obama administration turned three military bases, including Fort Sill, into emergency shelters for child migrants in 2014.
The top contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have made reversing a measure that blocks federal funding for abortion a top priority on the campaign trail. But Democrats back in Washington apparently haven’t gotten the message. Despite the outcry, the Democrat-controlled House is set to pass a package of federal spending bills next week that still includes the rule, called the Hyde Amendment. The fight just isn’t a risk Democrats want to take, especially not when a potential government shutdown is on the line.
“Let me be clear on the Hyde Amendment: I would repeal it tomorrow,” Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, the Democratic caucus vice chair, said in a press conference Tuesday, according to BuzzFeed News. But right now, she went on, “We felt that the Hyde Amendment was going to become a focal point that could collapse everything in the [spending] bill.”
The Hyde Amendment is not a permanent law but rather a rider on annual budgeting bills that must be regularly renewed. Named after former Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, it was first passed in 1976 and currently bans federal money from Medicaid and other government health insurance programs from being used for abortions, except in the cases of rape or incest, or if a pregnancy threatens a mother’s life.
Earlier this week, Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Barbara Lee of California, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts introduced a provision to remove Hyde from the funding package. But on Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee ruled it was “out of order,” keeping it from even going to the floor for a vote.
A nationwide Fox News poll released Sunday shows President Donald Trump trailing Senator Bernie Sanders, 49 percent to 40 percent among all registered voters nationwide.
The Fox poll also showed Biden leading Trump by 49 percent to 39 percent. Also beating Trump in the poll were Senators Elizabeth Warren (43%-41%) and Kamala Harris (42%-41%), and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (41%-40%) of South Bend, Indiana.
Also, support for impeachment is up five points among Democrats since June 2018 (69 percent vs. 74 percent now) and up 15 among independents (25 percent to 40 percent today). About 9 in 10 Republicans have consistently opposed impeachment.
The Fox poll was conducted June 9-12, 2019 under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R), this Fox News Poll includes interviews with 1,001 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide who spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters.
Drought-hit Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals – including elephants and giraffes – to limit loss of life and generate US$1.1 million for conservation, the authorities confirmed Saturday.
“Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management,” the environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda said.
The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the southern African nation estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years.
“The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation,” Muyunda said. ...
Namibia’s cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals. They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants, 20 impala and 16 kudus – all from national parks.
Global heating could bring many more bouts of severe drought as well as increased flooding to Africa than previously forecast, scientists have warned.
New research says the continent will experience many extreme outbreaks of intense rainfall over the next 80 years. These could trigger devastating floods, storms and disruption of farming. In addition, these events are likely to be interspersed with more crippling droughts during the growing season and these could also damage crop and food production.
“Essentially we have found that both ends of Africa’s weather extremes will get more severe,” said Elizabeth Kendon of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre in Exeter. “The wet extreme will get worse, but also the appearance of dry spells during the growing season will also get more severe.” ...
The new meteorology study – carried out by scientists at the Met Office in collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science at Leeds University – reports on the likely impact on Africa of these temperature rises and indicates that western and central areas will suffer the worst impacts of weather disruptions. Many countries in these regions – including Niger, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – are expected to experience substantial growth in population over that time and will be particularly vulnerable to severe floods.
At the other end of the precipitation spectrum, the study revealed there would be an increase in occasions when severe drought would occur for up to 10 days in the midst of the most critical part of a region’s growing season. The result could cause severe disruption to crop production.
The carcasses of so many gray whales have washed up this year on the US west coast that authorities have run out of places to put them, and has asked landowners for help to bury them. ...
On the US west coast, about 70 whales have been found dead this year in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the most since 2000. About five were found on British Columbia beaches. It is a fraction of the total number because most sink or wash up in remote areas and are not recorded. NOAA Fisheries late last month declared the die-off an “unusual mortality event”, and provided additional resources to respond to the deaths.
Betsy Carlson at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center said: “With the unusual mortality event of these gray whales, we know more whales will be coming in, or there is a high likelihood that more whales will die within Puget Sound and out on the coast.”
Officials say the gray whale population remains strong, at about 27,000.
France will declare a state of natural disaster after rain and hail storms lashed a swathe of the south-east on Saturday, devastating crops. The flash storms, which brought hailstones as big as pingpong balls to some areas, killed two people in France and Switzerland, and injured at least 10 others.
The worst-hit area, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region, is at the heart of France’s food production and known as the “orchard of France”. Didier Guillaume, the agriculture minister, said the government would organise a “general mobilisation” and introduce emergency measures to deal with what he described as a catastrophe for farmers.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Chubby Checker - The Class
Chubby Checker - The Shimmy
Chubby Checker - The Fly
Chubby Checker w/Dee Dee Sharp - Slow Twistin'
Chubby Checker - Toot
Chubby Checker - Do the Freddie
Chubby Checker - You Just Don't Know (What You Do To Me)
Chubby Checker - Limbo Rock
Chubby Checker - Twist It Up
Keith Richards Chubby Checker Jerry Lee Lewis - Twist
Chubby Checker - Stoned In The Bathroom