The Evening Blues - 9-17-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features folk-blues musician Guy Davis. Enjoy!
Guy Davis - Going Down Slow
"Every news outlet and every journalist who is not speaking out for Assange with urgency and force is admitting they have no intention of ever challenging power in any meaningful way; they’re saying this trial poses no threat to them. They are admitting they are propagandists."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
William Barr told prosecutors to explore aggressive charges against people arrested at recent demonstrations across the US, even suggesting bringing a rarely used sedition charge, reserved for those who have plotted a threat that posed imminent danger to government authority, according to multiple reports on Wednesday.
The move signals a doubling down on Barr’s aggressive approach to the protests. Barr told US attorneys from across the country during a conference call last week that they should seek to pursue federal charges against people who were arrested at demonstrations, even if state charges could also apply, the Wall Street Journal reported. ...
The attorney general suggested that prosecutors could even bring a rarely used sedition charge, which means a person plotted a threat that posed imminent danger to government authority, against protesters. With the first amendment protecting any general anti-government speech, bringing on a sedition charge would require proof that a person posed imminent danger.
Attorney General William Barr drew stinging rebuke from legal experts and civil liberties advocates including the ACLU Wednesday after he told federal prosecutors to more aggressively charge some protesters with crimes—including sedition, under certain circumstances. ...
"Treating protest as a form of sedition won't stand up in court, but that is clearly not the point here," Somil Trivedi, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, said in an email to Common Dreams. "This is a tyrannical and un-American attempt to suppress demands for racial justice and an end to police violence. Independent and ethical prosecutors should reject this administration's authoritarian impulses." ...
Both Barr and President Donald Trump have (often falsely) blamed left-wing and anarchist protesters, including members of the Black Lives Matter movement and people who loosely identify under the Antifa umbrella, for most of the violence during the ongoing protests that began earlier this year after police and white supremacist killings of Black and Latinx people including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
However, a study by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), which analyzed more than 7,750 Black Lives Matter demonstrations in all 50 states and Washington D.C. that occurred between May 26 and August 22, found that fully 93% of the protests were peaceful.
Nevertheless, the president has called the Black Lives Matter movement—the latest iteration of the centuries-old Black struggle for equality and justice—"a symbol of hate."
Bad apples turn up in France:
As Oregon battles more than a dozen wildfires and rumors about looters and arsonists flare, the appearance of armed civilian checkpoints has sparked a fierce debate about vigilante activity and how law enforcement should respond. Residents of the unincorporated town of Corbett in Multnomah county met with law enforcement officials on Saturday evening, after several people complained of being subjected to illegal roadblocks the previous night.
Vigilante groups had sprung up on Friday afternoon, after the detonation of a firecracker led to a brushfire on private property that was quickly extinguished.
Civilian residents, some heavily armed, set up at least two roadblocks with cars and household chairs, according to residents and recordings obtained by the Guardian. Drivers who were stopped said they were asked to identify themselves and their connection to the town and claimed that on at least two occasions, police were on the scene and did not intervene in the illegal traffic stops. ...
Multnomah is the state’s most populous county, taking in the city of Portland and points east, including outer-metropolitan Gresham and several unincorporated communities near the entrance of the Columbia River Gorge, including Bridal Veil, Orient, and Corbett. Social media appeared to have played a central role in setting up the events in Corbett. Corbett’s main (and private) local Facebook group last week was consumed with rumors of “antifa” militants traveling up into the Columbia River Gorge to set fires and destroy the town.
[Lots more detail at the link. -js]
To the extent that they report on the trial at all, mainstream news outlets have mostly limited their coverage to trivialities like trouble with courtroom audio equipment or postponement due to a coronavirus scare. No mainstream outlet has been covering this immensely important trial in-depth to anywhere near the extent that former UK ambassador Craig Murray has been doing every night, or explaining to their audience the significance of a precedent which will allow journalists all over the world to be extradited and jailed for exposing embarrassing truths about the US government.
This dereliction of journalistic responsibility was damning enough back when the prosecution was trying to argue that Assange doesn’t have First Amendment protections because he was engaged in espionage and not journalistic behavior. But now that the prosecution has pivoted to arguing that it doesn’t matter that Assange is a journalist because the US government is allowed to imprison people for journalism, this dereliction of duty has become far more pronounced.
Murray writes the following in his latest update:
The prosecution’s line represented a radical departure from their earlier approach which was to claim that Julian Assange is not a journalist and to try and distinguish between his behaviour and that of newspapers. In the first three days of evidence, legal experts had stated that this gloss on the prosecution did not stand up to investigation of the actual charges in the indictment. Experts in journalism also testified that Assange’s relationship with Manning was not materially different from cultivation and encouragement by other journalists of official sources to leak.
By general consent, those first evidence days had gone badly for the prosecution. There was then a timeout for (ahem) suspected Covid among the prosecution team. The approach has now changed and on Tuesday a radically more aggressive approach was adopted by the prosecution asserting the right to prosecute all journalists and all media who publish classified information under the Espionage Act (1917).
The purpose of the earlier approach was plainly to reduce media support for Assange by differentiating him from other journalists. It had become obvious such an approach ran a real risk of failure, if it could be proved that Assange is a journalist, which line was going well for the defence. So now we have “any journalist can be prosecuted for publishing classified information” as the US government line. I strongly suspect that they have decided they do not have to mitigate against media reaction, as the media is paying no attention to this hearing anyway.
Murray’s subsequent breakdown of the prosecution’s arguments makes it clear that he was not over-selling this change in strategy. His notes on attorney for the prosecution James Lewis’ arguments contain lines as blatant as “There are Supreme Court judgements that make it clear that at times the government’s interest in national security must override the First Amendment” and “serial, continuing disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest cannot be justified. It therefore follows that journalists can be prosecuted” in arguing against witness testimony that Assange’s publishing behavior should be protected by the First Amendment.
“The United States Supreme Court has never held that a journalist cannot be prosecuted for publishing national defence information,” Murray reports Lewis argued.
So that’s the precedent the prosecution is setting now. No longer “We can extradite and imprison Assange because he isn’t a journalist”, but “We can extradite and imprison Assange because we’re allowed to extradite and imprison journalists.”
The argument that Assange isn’t a journalist has always been transparently false, whether made in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion. Publishing important information so that the public can understand what’s going on in their world is exactly the thing that journalism is. All WikiLeaks publications have included extensive written analyses of their contents, and its staff have received many esteemed awards for journalism.
But the fact that the prosecution is no longer even attempting to argue against the journalistic nature of the actions they are attempting to criminalize means they have ceased trying to pretend that they are not waging a war against worldwide press freedoms. Which means that all journalists and news media outlets have lost their last excuse for not condemning Assange’s persecution with great force and urgency.
Now that it is out in the open that the US government plans to prosecute any journalist anywhere in the world who it deems to have committed “disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest” (which in Assange’s case means exposing US war crimes), anyone on earth who actually plans on doing real journalism which holds real power to account is at risk. If someone isn’t using whatever platform they can to denounce Assange’s persecution, they are showing the world that they have no interest in ever doing real journalism which holds real power to account.
News reporters and news outlets are showing us what they are right at this moment. If they are not speaking out for Assange’s freedom right now they are telling you that his persecution poses no threat to them. They are telling you that they never plan on doing anything that might hold power to account with the light of truth. They are telling you that they will side with power every time. They are telling you they are propagandists.
The prosecution’s new line of argumentation should have drawn massive headlines from all the major news outlets who’ve been bloviating about the dangers posed by Trump’s war on the press with flamboyant preening and self-aggrandizement. Instead they are silent, because they do not care.
To quote Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.
In an apparent admission about a previous lie that alarmed anti-war advocates, President Donald Trump claimed in Tuesday television appearance that he wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—contradicting his past denial of the desire, which was first revealed in journalist Bob Woodward's 2018 book Fear.
Woodward reported that not long after Assad used chemical weapons on Syrian civilians in April 2017, Trump told then-Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis: "Let's fucking kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the fucking lot of them." After hanging up with the president, Mattis—who announced his resignation the following year—told a senior aide that "we're not going to do any of that. We're going to be much more measured."
Trump initially responded in September 2018 by denying the reporting. However, during a Tuesday "Fox & Friends" interview in which Trump took aim at Woodward's new book, Rage, the president said he wanted to order Assad's assassination but Mattis opposed it, then complained about his former Pentagon chief.
"I would have rather taken him out. I had him all set. Mattis didn't want to do it," Trump said Tuesday before quickly noting that earlier this year he ordered the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, which a top United Nations expert has deemed a violation of internatinal law.
Critics of Trump responded to the interview by not only pointing to it as yet another example of the president's seemingly endless dishonesty but also condemning his desire to issue an "illegal" and "reckless" order for the United States military to kill the Syrian leader—arguing that human rights abuses by Assad's government, however brutal, do not give Trump the authority to have him assassinated.
"How ironic that at the very time Trump is trying to position himself as someone making peace in the Middle East, he tells Fox News that he wanted to murder Syrian President Assad but was stopped by his then-Secretary of Defense Mattis," Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink, told Common Dreams Wednesday.
Benjamin said that "it's ridiculous to say that Mattis stopped him," considering Trump is commander-in-chief. "Such a murder would have been an egregious violation of international law," she added. "But more importantly, this call to murder Assad, the leader of a sovereign nation, is a disgusting display of Trump's imperial hubris." ...
CBS News reported the Syrian Foreign Ministry responded to the interview in a statement Wednesday, calling Trump's comments confirmation "that the U.S. administration is a rogue and outlaw state, and is pursuing the same methods of terrorist organizations, with murder and assassination, without taking into account any legal, humanitarian, or moral controls or rules in order to achieve its interests in the region."
The United States plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.
Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which U.S. military sales to the island were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing.
But the Trump administration has become more aggressive with China in 2020 and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, a lingering trade war and disputes about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
At the same time Taiwan's desire to buy weapons increased after President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected here in January and has made strengthening Taiwan's defenses a top priority.
Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue. Beijing says it is a Chinese province, and has denounced the Trump administration’s support for the island.
Insisting during a town hall Tuesday night that Covid-19 will simply disappear on its own—echoing a baseless claim he also made in February, March, April, May, June, July, and August—President Donald Trump touted a so-called "herd immunity" approach to the pandemic that public health experts warn would lead to hundreds of millions of new coronavirus infections and millions of additional deaths.
"We're gonna be OK. And it is going away," Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "And it's probably gonna go away now a lot faster with the vaccine. It would go away without the vaccine, George."
When Stephanopoulos replied that "many deaths" would result such a scenario, Trump said: "You'll develop like a herd mentality. It's gonna be herd developed, and that's gonna happen. That will all happen. But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly. But I really believe we're rounding the corner, and I believe that strongly."
Trump's remarks came as Covid-19 continues to spread across the United States, with the nation averaging around 38,000 new cases per day over the past week. In total, the U.S. has recorded over 6.6 million positive coronavirus cases and at least 195,600 deaths, and it remains unclear when a safe and effective vaccine will be available to the public. ...
To reach "herd immunity" to the virus, experts say around 65% of the U.S. population—over 200 million people—would have to be infected. Given the current U.S. death rate from Covid-19, that number of cases would kill millions of people.
'Why Is He Trying So Hard to Keep It a Secret?' Postal Service Sued Over Refusal to Release DeJoy Calendar
Government watchdog group American Oversight filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday over its refusal to turn over Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's calendar in response to a Freedom of Information request, stonewalling that the nonpartisan organization said could indicate the USPS chief has something to hide.
"Who has Postmaster General DeJoy been meeting with and why is he trying so hard to keep it a secret?" said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said in a statement. "DeJoy is supervising the delivery of everything from mail-in ballots to medications right now, and the public is entitled to see how he's spending his time and who has been influencing his decisions."
The lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks an order compelling the Postal Service to release DeJoy's calendar, which is stored on a government computer.
In response to the Postal Service's claim that DeJoy's calendar was "created for his personal use" and "not intended to be an official record of his schedule," American Oversight said the "postmaster general's calendar is composed of agency records" and thus subject to FOIA requests.
As HuffPost's Roque Planas reported last week, "the USPS doesn't have to make rock-solid legal arguments to withhold DeJoy's calendar, or any of the other records critics want to see, ahead of the election."
"November 3 is less than two months away," Planas noted. "FOIA allows for a weekslong administrative process to resolve disputes and appeals. Lawsuits often take years to settle. Documents like DeJoy's calendar, which might shed light on the agency's politicization, will likely stay out of the public eye until well after Election Day has passed."
American Oversight's filing comes two weeks after the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed DeJoy for a number of documents, including his "complete, unredacted calendar from June 15, 2020 to the present." The deadline for DeJoy to comply with the panel's subpoena is noon Wednesday.
Activists Help ICE Detainee Avoid Deportation Following Alleged Sterilization Procedure at Georgia Facility
Immigrant rights advocates Wednesday praised efforts that helped a woman detained in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility temporarily avoid deportation, potentially paving the way for her to corroborate evidence that she and other women at an ICE detention center received unwarranted procedures including hysterectomies while in custody, and allowing her to continue her legal fight against deportation.
"We just got Pauline off the plane," Mijente, a Latinx advocacy group tweeted Wednesday afternoon, referring to a commercial flight Pauline Binam had been on, presumably to be deported.
Binam, who is Black, is originally from Cameroon and has lived in the United States since she was two years old. According to reporting from Democracy Now!, she has been detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia for three years. Last fall, according to a document shared by Mijente, Binam went to a gynecologist at the facility for a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure, often used to remove tissue from a woman's uterus, but ended up having a salpingectomy, a procedure that removes one or both fallopian tubes, without her consent. ...
In related news, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune reported Monday that ICE had deported a detainee who was "a crucial witness in an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual assault and harassment at an El Paso immigrant detention center." The 35-year-old woman was detained Texas facility, and alleged a "pattern and practice" of abuse there including sexual assault, and that some assaults happened in surveillance camera blind spots.
"The short history of DHS has been filled with violence, fear-stoking, and a lack of oversight. Dismantle it," the ACLU tweeted Wednesday, renewing its call to break up the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part.
Amnesty International joined the ACLU in demanding action.
"Unfortunately, the United States has a history of forced sterilization, including of Indigenous women, Black women and other women of color, incarcerated women, and intersex people," the group said in a statement Wednesday. "In addition to a violation of a person's rights to health and safety and sexual and reproductive rights, forced sterilization can constitute a crime against humanity under international law. No one should be sterilized without their full consent, and people should be not be detained for seeking asylum."
The top congressional Democrat, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has joined mounting calls for an investigation into an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention centre in Georgia accused of sending migrant women held there to have hysterectomies without their full consent.
Pelosi branded the substance of allegations presented by a whistleblowing nurse “a staggering abuse of human rights”. ...
“The DHS [Department of Homeland Security] inspector general must immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint.”
The nurse, Dawn Wooten and four lawyers representing clients at the centre are claiming that immigrant women are routinely sent to a gynecologist who has left them bruised and performed unnecessary procedures, including hysterectomies, according to a report by NBC News.
A memo by Senate Republicans’ campaign arm has admitted that control of the upper chamber is “at risk” and that Democrats could win the Senate in November’s elections. The September 2020 political update from the National Republican Senatorial Committee summarizes the state of the race of 10 states with Senate races around the country and how the outcome of each could factor into whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber in January.
The memo, obtained by the Guardian, has been circulating among political operatives, donors and interested parties. It comes just shy of 50 days before the November 2020 elections. ...
Democrats need to pick up three or four seats to take control of the Senate. The fact that the NRSC memo categorizes seven Senate races as ones that simply can’t be lost or deserve serious attention suggests that it’s possible, but not certain that Democrats can take control of the Senate.
Two Indigenous women who were arrested by federal agents while attempting to block border wall construction in southern Arizona last week say they were chained and held incommunicado by the government without access to a phone call or lawyer for nearly 24 hours.
Nellie Jo David and Amber Ortega visited the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument early Wednesday morning to pray at Quitobaquito Springs, a desert oasis that has become a flashpoint in the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to bulldoze its way through protected lands and stand up new sections of border wall. In order to mix concrete for the wall, government contractors have tapped into a desert aquifer that feeds into the springs, draining the only source of fresh water for miles around and slowly killing a sacred and ancient site of deep spiritual significance for the Tohono O’odham and Hia Ced O’odham people; David and Ortega are both Tohono O’odham and Hia Ced O’odham. ...
With the 2020 presidential election nearing, the Trump administration has seized on federal lands in southern Arizona as a means to run up the total number of new border wall miles completed before voters head to the polls. In keeping with that goal, the Department of Homeland Security has focused its efforts on the state’s wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and national monuments, using the post-9/11 Real ID Act to waive scores of federal laws designed to protect sensitive environmental and cultural spaces like Organ Pipe’s Quitobaquito Springs. ...
In southern Arizona, David and Ortega have been leading voices challenging the Organ Pipe project, drawing national attention to the existential danger it poses to Quitobaquito Springs. In November, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the pair rallied hundreds of people on Organ Pipe to oppose border wall expansion. Native resistance to the border wall has escalated and extended beyond Arizona in recent weeks, with members of the Kumeyaay Nation also blocking construction equipment and access roads in the Laguna Mountains of Southern California. Both David and Ortega said that while they anticipated an increase in heavy construction near Quitobaquito last week, their decision to take direct action was not preplanned. ...
David managed to get inside the bucket of one of the machines, where she took a seat and refused to move. Across the road, Ortega attempted to block a second vehicle from digging into the earth. Eventually, Border Patrol agents and park rangers arrived at the scene. “There were so many,” David said. Around the same time, outside media started to show up. In a video from the scene, Ortega can be heard imploring the men to leave. “This is O’odham land,” she said. “This is a sacred area. You do not have permission to be here.” ... Ortega, who was on the other side of the road, said the words and actions of law enforcement felt contradictory. “They said that I had permission to leave, but they wouldn’t let me leave,” she said. The presence of so many men with guns near the springs left her shaken. “There was so many I couldn’t even count,” Ortega said. “It was really intimidating, and I was trying to explain that they were on sacred land, and it was not OK for them to be there in the way that they were with their weapons, and how violent it was, and how disrespectful it was to our people, to our land.”
Thousands of migrating birds have inexplicably died in south-western US in what ornithologists have described as a national tragedy that is likely to be related to the climate crisis.
Flycatchers, swallows and warblers are among the species “falling out of the sky” as part of a mass die-off across New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and farther north into Nebraska, with growing concerns there could be hundreds of thousands dead already, said Martha Desmond, a professor in the biology department at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Many carcasses have little remaining fat reserves or muscle mass, with some appearing to have nose-dived into the ground mid-flight. ...
Long-distance migrants flying south from tundra landscapes in Alaska and Canada pass over America’s south-west to reach winter grounds in Central and South America. During this migration it is crucial they land every few days to refuel before continuing their journey.
Historic wildfires across the western states of the US could mean they had to re-route their migration away from resource-rich coastal areas and move inland over the Chihuahuan desert, where food and water are scarce, essentially meaning they starved to death. “They’re literally just feathers and bones,” Allison Salas, a graduate student at NMSU who has been collecting carcasses, wrote in a Twitter thread about the die-off. “Almost as if they have been flying until they just couldn’t fly any more.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Guy Davis - That's No Way To Get Along
Guy Davis - Loneliest Road That I Know
Guy Davis - Shaky Pudding
Guy Davis - Black Coffee
Guy Davis - Watch Over Me
Guy Davis - Walk On
Guy Davis - Statesboro Blues
Guy Davis - Maggie Campbell Blues
Guy Davis, Anne Harris, Marcella Simien - Gumbo, Grits & Gravy
Guy Davis - We All Need More Kindness In This World