The Evening Blues - 9-17-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Enjoy!
Hubert Sumlin - Killing Floor
"Having our country act as Saudi Arabia's bitch is not "America First."
-- Tulsi Gabbard
News and Opinion
'Saudi Arabia First': Trump Accused of Letting Saudis Dictate US Foreign Policy After Oil Facility Attack
Donald Trump is taking marching orders from Saudi Arabia, said progressive members of Congress and foreign policy analysts, after the president tweeted Sunday that the U.S. military is prepared and waiting for the kingdom to assign blame for attacks on its oil facilities over the weekend. "There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed," Trump said.
Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, called the tweet the "clearest expression of Trump's 'Saudi Arabia First' doctrine yet."
"The Saudi regime has drained its economy of billions to bombard Yemen for years," said Attiah. "All there is to show for it is a humanitarian disaster. This is the regime Trump wants to take targeting orders from."
Saudi and U.S. officials were quick to claim Iran was behind the attack, which paralyzed Saudi oil output and sent crude prices skyrocketing. The two countries based their accusations on flimsy satellite evidence and unspecified intelligence. ...
Congress has voted multiple times to end US involvement in the war on Yemen. Now that war may suck the US into all out regional war with Iran and, instead of going to Congress or making his case to the American people, Trump is asking the Kingdom for instructions.
— Jamal Abdi (@jabdi) September 16, 2019
Sunday night, the Trump administration released satellite images purporting to show the oil facility attacks, apparently carried out with drones, originated from Iran or Iraq. But, the New York Times reported the photos do "not appear as clear cut as officials suggested, with some appearing to show damage on the western side of the facilities, not from the direction of Iran or Iraq."
Donald Trump has said the US response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities will depend on the assessment in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and downplayed US dependence on Middle East energy supplies.
The US secretaries of state and energy both explicitly blamed Iran for the attack. Unnamed US officials were also quoted in US media outlets as saying Iranian cruise missiles were used in Saturday’s attack on an oil field and processing plant. Estimates of the number of missiles used ranged from “nearly a dozen” to “over two dozen”.
But Trump suggested on Monday the US did not have definitive evidence, adding that he would send the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to Riyadh to investigate. “We’re going to find out,” Trump said. “There are lots of different pieces to look at.” ...
Asked on Monday whether he had pledged to protect Saudi Arabia, the president told reporters: “No, I haven’t promised the Saudis that ... We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out.” Later in the day, Trump stressed that if there were to be a retaliatory strike, Riyadh would have to play a leading role, especially when it came to paying for it. “The fact is the Saudis are going to have a lot of involvement in this, if we decide to do something,” he told reporters. “They’ll be very much involved, and that includes payment. And they understand that fully.”
17 points of impact. No Drones or missiles were detected/intercepted. Saudis & Americans still at loss as to where the attack was launched from.#KSA seriously needs to shop elsewhere & replace the Patriot or reinforce it with a web of radar operated AA guns like the Oerlikon. https://t.co/tkiRXIw5nE
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) September 15, 2019
The U.S. government published two detailed pictures of the attack's result. [Tweet above contains the pictures as does the article at the link. - js] The pictures show some 17 points of impact. There are cars visible in the second more detailed picture that demonstrate the gigantic size of the place. The targets were carefully selected. At least 11 of those were egg shaped tanks with a diameter of some 30 meter (100 foot). These are likely tanks for pressurized (liquidized) gas that receive the condensate vapor from the stabilization process. They all have now quite neat holes in their upper shells. The piping to and from the egg shaped tanks shows that these were configured in groups with double redundancy. Two tanks beside each other share one piping system. Two of such twin tanks are next to each other with lines to their processing train. There are a total of three such groups. Damage to any one tank or group would not stop the production process. The products would be routed to another similar tank or group. But with all tanks of this one special type taken out the production chain is now interrupted. ...
The targeting for this attack was done with detailed knowledge of the process and its dependencies. ...
They were attacked from the west. The hits were extremely precise. The Yemeni armed forces claimed it attacked the facility with 10 drones (or cruise missiles). But the hits on these targets look like neither. A total of 17 hits with such precise targeting lets me assume that these were some kind of drones or missiles with man-in-the-loop control. They may have been launched from within Saudi Arabia. There is no information yet on the damage in Khurais, the second target of the attacks. ...
The U.S. and Israel are able to commit such attacks. Iran probably too. Yemen seems unlikely to have this capability without drawing on extensive support from elsewhere. The planing for this operation must have taken months. ...
Any direct attack on Iran would result in swarms of missiles hitting U.S. military installations in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Saudi water desalination plants, refineries and ports would also be targets. It is doubtful that Trump or the Saudis are ready to risk such a response.
President Donald Trump on Saturday said he discussed a potential mutual defense treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call just days before the Israeli elections.
"I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries," Trump tweeted. "I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!" Trump added.
Netanyahu has been exploring a defense alliance with the U.S. for some months now, according to reports, and the issue is seen as a potential boost to his reelection bid. The Israeli elections are scheduled for Tuesday.
The latest polls show a close race between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the centrist Blue and White party led by former armed forces chief Benny Gantz. It's Israel's second snap election in several months after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition after elections in April.
Sen. Lindsey Graham floated the idea of a mutual defense treaty in April at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual meeting in Las Vegas, saying, “An attack against Israel would be considered an attack against the United States.”
The call between the two heads of state also came just days after POLITICO reported government officials concluded Israel was behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington.
In the history of modern warfare, “own the skies, win the war” has been a constant maxim. Countries with the best technology and biggest budgets have devoted tens of billions to building modern air forces, confident they will continue to give their militaries primacy in almost any conflict.
Tiny, cheap, unmanned aircraft have changed that, especially over the battlefields of the Middle East. In the past three months alone, drones have made quite an impact in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and possibly now Saudi Arabia, where half the country’s oil production - and up to 7% of the world’s global supply – has been taken offline by a blitz that caused no air raid sirens and seems to have eluded the region’s most advanced air warning systems.
Drones are now an integral part of the inventory of the region’s most advanced militaries, and the also-rans. Non state actors have been clamouring to secure them as well – convinced by the utility of hard-to-detect, dispensable flying toys to be used as weapons of war.
A top Spanish court has denied a US request to extradite Venezuela’s former military intelligence chief on drug trafficking charges, instead ordering his release. “The Audiencia National has denied the extradition of Gen Hugo Armando Carvajal,” said Spain’s top criminal court, which handles such requests.
The judges decided to release Carvajal, who served as head of military intelligence under the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and has been held in provisional detention since his arrest in Madrid in mid-April. Details of the full judgment will not be published until Tuesday, said the court which examined the case last week. ...
Known as “El Pollo” (the Chicken), Carvajal was stripped of his rank after coming out in support of Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s acting president in February. ... Carvajal has long been sought by US treasury officials who suspect him of providing support to drug trafficking by the Farc guerrilla group in Colombia.
Your tax dollars still at work in Ukraine:
The first ever Pride march in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv descended into scenes of violence Sunday, as mobs of ultranationalist thugs hunted down and assaulted marchers at the end of the event. ...
“These groups of ultra-right youth hunted for participants of the march throughout the city and beat several of them,” Andriy Maymulakhin, coordinator for the Nash Mir Center, a Ukrainian LGBT rights organization, told VICE News.
Since coming to prominence during the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, in which a popular uprising overthrew the Ukrainian government and ousted pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovych, ultranationalist groups have become an increasingly strident presence in Ukrainian public life, violently policing what they consider to be the influence of degenerate Western values. As well as attacking LGBTQ events, in recent years far-right groups have targeted International Women’s Day marches, feminist exhibitions, and animal rights demonstrations.
“They participated in Euromaidan which helped him them gain legitimacy; they present themselves as defenders of traditional Ukrainian values,” said Maymulakhin. “They’re very active in homophobic aggression, unfortunately.”
An Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) politician has walked out of an interview and threatened a journalist after he was confronted with parallels between his rhetoric and that of Adolf Hitler. An interview with Björn Höcke by the state broadcaster ZDF, recorded last week but screened on Sunday, shows the AfD politician threatening “massive consequences” to a journalist who refused to restart an interview after a series of difficult questions.
The interview started with a segment in which a number of AfD politicians were read a quotation from Höcke and asked if it was from their party colleague, the figurehead of the AfD’s hardline nationalist wing, or from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Five AfD delegates said they could not tell if the line “When the turning point is reached, then we Germans won’t do things by halves, we will dispose of the rubbish heaps of modernity” was from Höcke or Hitler, and one delegate said the line was more likely to be from Mein Kampf.
Höcke is his party’s lead candidate in the state of Thuringia, in the former East Germany, where polls predict the AfD gaining 20-24% of the vote in state elections on 27 October. In May 2018, an AfD tribunal ruled that Höcke was allowed to stay in the party in spite of controversial remarks about the culture of Holocaust remembrance.
The revival of language long banished from conversations in Germany because of its association with the Nazi era has been a constant feature of the rise of the rightwing populist party, which originally grew out of protest against the decision to commit German taxpayer money to a bailout of Greece in 2013.
Boris Johnson was left humiliated and his claims of progress in the Brexit negotiations in tatters after a chaotic visit to Luxembourg ended in the prime minister being mocked by a fellow European leader for cancelling a press appearance to avoid protesters.
Johnson was booed and jeered as he left a working lunch with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, before opting out of plans to speak alongside Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, after being targeted by a larger crowd. ...
As the chaotic scenes were played out, the European commission issued a statement disclosing that Juncker had told the prime minister that it was his responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions and that “such proposals have not yet been made”, in contradiction of the government’s recent claims.
The prime minister’s dash to Luxembourg was supposed to have been a key moment for him to illustrate that Brexit talks were moving towards a deal, with Downing Street briefing after the meeting with Juncker that negotiations in Brussels would move from being bi-weekly to daily. But the anger from Britons living in Luxembourg, and the exasperation of the EU leaders spilled over as Johnson moved between meetings.
From Incredible Hulk to Incredible Sulk pic.twitter.com/15x1Kd9FX7
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) September 16, 2019
Bettel, who gave a wave to the crowds and offered a defence of their right to demonstrate after Johnson’s decision to leave, did not mince his words as he took the lectern next to the one left empty by the British prime minister’s no-show, with the union flag still in position. He mocked the varying suggestions in recent weeks from Johnson that there had been good progress in the Brexit talks and that it would take the strength of the comic hero, the Incredible Hulk, to leave the EU with a deal.
Manhattan’s District Attorney subpoenaed eight years of President Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns from his longtime accounting firm, The New York Times reported Monday.
The move represents yet another attempt to unearth Trump’s taxes, which he’s long held secret, as well as a fresh legal onslaught by Manhattan’s combative DA, Cy Vance, who’s shown a willingness to target Trump and his inner circle in high-profile national cases. ...
The new records request follows a subpoena by Vance’s office to the Trump Organization earlier last month for records of payments to women claiming they slept with Trump before the 2016 election. ... It remains unclear why the Manhattan DA wants to see Trump’s tax returns. The office is reportedly investigating whether the Trump Organization may have falsified any business records in connection with the payments, which would be illegal in New York State.
While violating that law alone would be a relatively small-time misdemeanor, an investigation into whether the Trump Org potentially cooked its own books during the hush-money payment saga could be just the start of Vance’s inquiry into Trump’s business. Keeping false business records would rise from a misdemeanor to a felony if it can be proved that the motive was to conceal another crime, such as tax or bank fraud.
Nearly 50,000 General Motors workers walked off the job and formed picket lines Monday in the industry’s biggest major labor action in over a decade.
Talks between the union and the GM management collapsed over the weekend prompting union leadership to unanimously vote to strike, starting at midnight on Sunday. The workers want higher wages and a narrowing of the disparity in pay for new hires and longtime workers, as well as better healthcare and a plan to keep idled plants open, according to the New York Times.
The United Auto Workers union, which represents the workers, says the company is putting profits ahead of its workers by closing plants while raking in $8.1 billion globally last year. There are 55 unionized General Motors across ten states, according to the company, all of which are affected by the strike, although the union says work stoppages are happening in 19 states.
It’s the first major labor action among auto workers since 2007, when they went on strike as the recession loomed and jobs were being cut at the plants. Auto manufacturing is still a significant part of the economy, employing nearly 250,000 people. During the recession, fewer than 200,000 were making cars in the U.S.
Four General Motors manufacturing plants are currently slated for closure, and the company has reportedly made an offer to keep two of those plants, one in Lordstown, Ohio and one in Detroit, open, according to CNN. While the company hasn’t made their offer public, a person familiar with the offer told CNN that the plan would include converting those plants to build electric cars and batteries to power them.
The National Rifle Association nearly doubled its spending on pro-gun Facebook propaganda for three weeks after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, according to analytics provided to The Intercept.
The social advertising surge began just one day after the El Paso massacre, which left 22 people dead, and on the same day as the Dayton killings, which took 10 lives. At one point in this period, the NRA was spending $29,000 on a day’s worth of Facebook ads, nearly four times as much as before the shootings, according to Pathmatics, a company that monitors online advertising spending. ...
Those figures don’t even include ads originating from the main NRA Facebook page, which, according to Facebook’s ad transparency portal, typically run around a few thousand dollars per day. ...
At a time when the role of guns in society was at a national nadir, the NRA’s ads were run-of-the-mill pro-gun messaging, including the perennial characterization of American gun ownership as something under attack and threatened, according to images and videos of the material provided by Pathmatics. “Show that you won’t be intimidated by the toxic anti-gun hatred and threats,” reads one ad, which began running just three days after El Paso. “Punishing law-abiding gun owners is NOT the answer!” read another frequently used ad image.
It's Not Just Trump: New Report Details How Greed of 'Border-Industrial Complex' Fuels Militarization and Abuse
A new report detailing the ways U.S. corporations are profiting off of President Donald Trump's war on immigrants calls the partnership between security firms and the federal government a "powerful border–industrial complex," the existence of which presents a major barrier to reform, and explains that making money off of the border is nothing new.
"More Than a Wall," the report from the Transnational Institute, "looks at the history of U.S. border control and the strong political consensus—both Republican and Democrat—in support of border militarization that long pre-dates the Trump administration."
— TNI (@TNInstitute) September 16, 2019
The report lays out how both Democratic and Republican administrations have regularly increased the budget for border enforcement since the 1980s, and how the constant flow of cash has created a powerful industrial and political force invested in maintaining the oppressive policies which have contributed to the Trump-era immigration detention crisis. Just 14 companies are considered the power players in the industry: Accenture, Boeing, Elbit, Flir Systems, G4S, General Atomics, General Dynamics, IBM, L3 Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, PAE, Raytheon, and UNISYS. But, as the report explains, it's not just corporations—research centers and universities are making money off of border security as well.
Corporations have not been the only ones to benefit. Universities and research institutes have also cashed in through nine Centers of Excellence (COEs) on Borders, Trade, & Immigration that in 2017 received $10 million directly, with another $90 million dedicated to research and development (R&D). The University of Houston, University of Arizona, the University of Texas El Paso, University of Virginia, West Virginia University, University of North Carolina, University of Minnesota, Texas A&M, Rutgers University, American University, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and the Migration Policy Institute all receive DHS funding.
Without addressing the profit motive, says the report, there's little chance of making real change.
Much more detail at link.
Democratic presidential primary candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday unveiled a wide-ranging plan to combat corruption in U.S. politics with "big, structural change to fundamentally transform our government." The End Washington Corruption plan builds on legislation that the Massachusetts Democrat introduced last August, months before she announced her presidential campaign. Warren released the plan ahead of her Monday night speech in New York City, near the site of the tragic 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
"Today, I'm announcing a comprehensive set of far-reaching and aggressive proposals to root out corruption in Washington," Warren wrote on Medium Monday. "It's the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. The goal of these measures is straightforward: to take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs—in the hands of the people."
Warren directly targeted President Donald Trump with her Medium post. "Make no mistake about it: The Trump administration is the most corrupt administration of our lifetimes," she wrote, highlighting tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, Supreme Court justices "hand-picked by right-wing extremist groups," and key cabinet and ambassador posts the president has filled with former lobbyists and major donors. "But these problems did not start with Donald Trump. They are much bigger than him," Warren noted, emphasizing the need for broad, transformative change. "My plan lays out nearly a hundred ways that we can change our government to fix this problem—from improving public integrity rules for federal officials in every branch of government to ending lobbying as we know it, fixing the criminal laws to hold corrupt politicians to account, and ensuring our federal agencies and courts are free from corrupting influences." ...
Warren on Monday reiterated her support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates to corporate money in politics. "But even if we solve our campaign finance problems," she added, "comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington itself are necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the well-connected have over our government's decision-making processes."
An estimated 20,000 people packed New York City's Washington Square Park Monday night as Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered a searing speech about the corporate corruption that dominates the nation's political system.
Addressing the Manhattan crowd near the site of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the Massachusetts Democrat urged voters to support her plan to "fundamentally transform our government" by creating a system beholden to people's needs, not Wall Street interests.
Warren argued that the fire which killed 146 factory workers in less than 20 minutes in the days before federal workplace safety regulations is mirrored in the cozy relationships corporations keep with lawmakers in Washington, to the detriment of workers' rights.
Factory owners in the early 20th century "made campaign contributions and talked with their friends in the legislature," Warren told the crowd. "They greased the state government so thoroughly that nothing changed. Business owners got richer, politicians got more powerful, and working people paid the price.”
"Does any of that sound familiar?" the senator asked, drawing cheers. "Take any big problem we have in America today and you don't have to dig very deep to see the same system at work."
The rally came hours after Warren released her proposal to combat corruption in Washington, calling for laws that would restrict conflicts of interest for the president and vice president, stop lobbyists from entering government jobs, and impose a tax on excessive lobbying.
Warren has drawn progressively larger crowds in cities including Seattle and St. Paul. A Reuters poll released last week showed that her approval rating among voters has risen over the past month.
The public is providing more than $1m per minute in global farm subsidies, much of which is driving the climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, according to a new report. Just 1% of the $700bn (£560bn) a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found. Much of the total instead promotes high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser.
The security of humanity is at risk without reform to these subsidies, a big reduction in meat eating in rich nations and other damaging uses of land, the report says. But redirecting the subsidies to storing carbon in soil, producing healthier food, cutting waste and growing trees is a huge opportunity, it says. The report rejects the idea that subsidies are needed to supply cheap food. It found that the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is greater than the value of the food produced. New assessments in the report found producing healthy, sustainable food would actually cut food prices, as the condition of the land improves.
“There is incredibly small direct targeting of [subsidies at] positive environment outcomes, which is insane,” said Jeremy Oppenheim, principal at the Food and Land Use Coalition (Folu), the collaboration of food, farming and green research groups that produced the new report. “We have got to switch these subsidies into explicitly positive measures.” ...
Overall, the Folu report said the damaging way the world currently produces food and uses land causes $12tn a year in hidden costs to the environment, human health and development.
Former vice-president Joe Biden and the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, will miss an MSNBC forum on the climate crisis to be held in Washington later this week. The livestreamed event at Georgetown University, which will include hourlong interviews with presidential contenders on Thursday and Friday, is aimed at students and timed to align with global climate strikes inspired by young people.
The California senator Kamala Harris, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and the Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar will also miss the event.
The Vermont senator Bernie Sanders will be interviewed on Thursday. One Republican challenger to Donald Trump, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, will also appear. Organizers said most candidates who declined cited scheduling conflicts in the early voting state of Iowa, including for an LGBTQ forum in Cedar Rapids on Friday.
The MSNBC event is the second climate-focused discussion with presidential candidates this month, following a seven-hour CNN town hall. It will not be aired on the network in full, a factor which may have contributed to candidates declining. One person familiar with the MSNBC event said it seemed candidates felt they had “checked the box on climate” by appearing at the CNN event.
Facing State Felony Charges for Disrupting 'Critical Infrastructure,' Greenpeace Activists Denounce Fossil Fuel 'Bullying Tactic'
Greenpeace activists who rappelled off a bridge above the Houston Ship Channel last week, blockading the major "fossil fuel thoroughfare," denounced the charges they now face and said Monday that the real menace was not their act of civil disobedience but the country's failure to take sufficient action to avert climate catastrophe.
The action took place Thursday ahead of the third Democratic primary debate in Houston,and was framed by organizers as "a bold call to leaders to imagine a world beyond fossil fuels and embrace a just transition to renewable energy."
They were released from jail on Saturday. From The Houston Chronicle:
Each protester was charged with aiding and abetting obstruction of navigable waters and faces up to a year in prison or a $2,500 fine if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas’ office.
The protesters also face state felony charges of impairing or interrupting operation of a critical infrastructure facility.
That "critical infrastructure" bill—praised by the fossil fuel industry— was enacted this month. As The Intercept reported in August, it is the product of right wing bill mill ALEC and is one of a flurry of similar state laws aimed at quashing dissent of the fossil fuel industry.
"We're looking forward to mounting a vigorous defense against these charges," said Greenpeace general counsel Tom Wetterer in a statement to Common Dreams. "We believe this 'critical infrastructure' statute in particular is ripe for challenge, and we look forward to seeing what evidence the district attorney's office thinks they have that makes this charge appropriate"
"'Critical infrastructure' laws like Texas' were created by oil and gas lobbyists and secretive groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council to restrict First Amendment rights and to try to bring to bear extraordinary consequences for legitimate protests," said Wetterer. "This is a bullying tactic that serves the interests of corporations at the expense of people exercising their right to free speech."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Hubert Sumlin - West Side Soul
Hubert Sumlin - Broke and Hungry
Hubert Sumlin w/Keith Richards - Still a Fool
Hubert Sumlin - Blue Shadows
Hubert Sumlin - Down the Dusty Road
Hubert Sumlin - Chunky
Hubert Sumlin - I Don't Want No Woman
Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton & BHTM - Wang Dang Doodle
Hubert Sumlin - I'm Coming Home
Hubert Sumlin - Everyday I have the blues