The Evening Blues - 9-28-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues shouter Big Joe Turner. Enjoy!
Big Joe Turner - Feelin' Happy
“I believe that there will be ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think it will be based on the color of the skin...”
-- Malcolm X
News and Opinion
ASSANGE HEARING DAY FOURTEEN—Baraitser Grants Defense 4 Weeks to Prepare for Final Argument, Citing US Election
Judge Vanessa Baraitser has granted the defense four weeks to prepare it closing argument, saying that her decision would come after the Nov. 4 U.S. election one way or the other. She had been previously reluctant to give more than a week to the defense.
Baraitser set the date of final arguments for Nov. 16. Fitzgerald had told the judge that:
“It seems unlikely for you to make a judgement before Nov. 3 and you would have to bear in mind that the future is uncertain. Much of what we say about Trump is because this proceeding was initiated by Trump,….and some elements of the case would be worse if Trump were there [re-elected].”
Baraitser had raised the issue of the election and how it might impact the hearing. She said: “That’s one of the factors going into my decision.”
“I agree that one way or the other my decision will come after an election in the United States. For that reason I find no reason not to give you the four weeks,” she said.
Baraitser said she could not yet set a judgement day. “That means for your client there will be no decision until the new year, if he appreciates that.”
Reacting to her decision, Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: “District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has acknowledged what has been clear since even before the first indictment against Julian Assange was unsealed — that this is a politically motivated prosecution.”
The dog that didn't bark:
Labeled the media “trial of the century,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is currently taking place in London—although you might not have heard if you’re relying solely on corporate media for news. ... The extradition, widely viewed as politically motivated, has profound consequences for journalists worldwide, as the ruling could effectively criminalize the possession of leaked documents, which are an indispensable part of investigative reporting.
WikiLeaks has entered into partnership with five high-profile outlets around the world: the New York Times, Guardian (UK), Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany) and El País (Spain). Yet those publications have provided relatively little coverage of the hearing.
Since the hearing began on September 7, the Times, for instance, has published only two bland news articles (9/7/20, 9/16/20)—one of them purely about the technical difficulties in the courtroom—along with a short rehosted AP video (9/7/20). There have been no editorials and no commentary on what the case means for journalism. The Times also appears to be distancing itself from Assange, with neither article noting that it was one of WikiLeaks’ five major partners in leaking information that became known as the CableGate scandal.
The Guardian, whose headquarters are less than two miles from the Old Bailey courthouse where Assange’s hearing is being held, fared slightly better in terms of quantity, publishing eight articles since September 7. However, perhaps the most notable content came from columnist Hadley Freedman (9/9/20).
When asked in an advice article: “We live in a time of so much insecurity. But is there anything we can expect from this increasingly ominous-looking winter with any certainty?” she went on a bizarre tangential rant ridiculing the idea that Assange’s trial could possibly be “politicized,” also crassly brushing off the idea that his young children would never see their father again, and never answering anything like the question she was asked. Holding people to account “for a mess they could have avoided,” she notes, “is not ‘weaponizing’ anything — it is just asking them to do their jobs properly.” She also claimed that believing Assange’s trial was politicized was as ridiculous as thinking antisemitism claims were cynically weaponized against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which, she meant to suggest, was a preposterous idea. This was not an off-the-cuff remark transcribed and published, but a written piece that somehow made it past at least one editor.
Like the Times, the Guardian appeared to be hoping to let people forget the fact it built its worldwide brand off its partnership with WikiLeaks; it was only mentioned in a forthright op-ed by former Brazilian president Lula da Silva (9/21/20), an outlier piece.
The Guardian should be taking a particularly keen role in the affair, seeing that two of its journalists are alleged by WikiLeaks to have recklessly and knowingly disclosed the password to an encrypted file containing a quarter-million unredacted WikiLeaks documents, allowing anyone—including every security agency in the world—to see an unredacted iteration of the leak. In 2018, the Guardian also falsely reported that Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort had conducted a meeting with Assange and unnamed “Russians” at the Ecuadorian embassy (FAIR.org, 12/3/18). And, as former employee Jonathan Cook noted, the newspaper is continually being cited by the prosecution inside the courtroom.
There were only two articles in the English or French versions of Le Monde (9/7/20, 9/18/20) and only one in either of Der Spiegel’s English or German websites (9/7/20), although the German paper did at least acknowledge its own partnership with Assange. There was no coverage of the hearings in El País, in English or Spanish, though there was a piece (9/10/20) about the US government thwarting a Spanish investigation into the CIA spying on Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London—accompanied by a photo of a protester against his extradition.
The rest of corporate media showed as little interest in covering a defining moment in press freedom. There was nothing at all from CNN. CBS’s two articles (9/7/20, 9/22/20) were copied and pasted from news agencies AP and AFP, respectively. Meanwhile, the entire sum of MSNBC’s coverage amounted to one unclear sentence in a mini news roundup article (9/18/20).
Virtually every relevant human rights and press freedom organization is sounding the alarm about the incendiary precedent this case sets for the media. The Columbia Journalism Review (4/18/19), Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation note that the government includes in its indictment regular journalistic procedures, such as protecting sources’ names and using encrypted files—meaning that this “hacking” charge could easily be extended to other journalists. Trevor Timm, founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told the court this week that if the US prosecutes Assange, every journalist who has possessed a secret file can be criminalized. Thus, it essentially gives a carte blanche to those in power to prosecute whomever they want, whenever they want, even foreigners living halfway around the world.
The United Nations has condemned his persecution, with Amnesty International describing the case as a “full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression.” Virtually every story of national significance includes secret or leaked material; they could all be in jeopardy under this new prosecutorial theory.
President Donald Trump has continually fanned the flames, demonizing the media as the “enemy of the people.” Already 26% of the country (including 43% of Republicans) believe the president should have the power to shut down outlets engaging in “bad behavior.” A successful Assange prosecution could be the legal spark for future anti-journalistic actions.
Yet the case has been met with indifference from the corporate press. Even as their house is burning down, media are insisting it is just the Northern Lights.
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Thursday demanded that the Trump administration answer critical questions about possible unauthorized domestic mass surveillance conducted by the federal government after the expiration of controversial portions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
In a letter (pdf) to Attorney General William Barr and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Ratcliffe, the lawmakers—led by Reps. Pramilla Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio)—note than three FISA provisions expired in March: business records collection (Section 215), roving wiretap, and the so-called "lone wolf" provision added in 2004 to target potential terrorists not affiliated with known terror groups or foreign powers.
Section 215 was orginally used by the FBI to acquire records pertaining to a specific individual investigation. However, in 2013 whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was using the law to justify bulk collection of domestic metadata. The controversial provision expired earlier this year.
In May, the Senate voted to reauthorize the USA FREEDOM Act—a move which effectively restored Section 215 and the other contentious FISA provisions—but failed to pass an amendment banning warrantless surveillance of Americans' internet searches, which Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at the time likened to "almost spying on [people's] thoughts." The measure is currently stalled pending reconciliation of the House bill, which passed in March, and the more recent Senate version.
In the letter, the lawmakers state that "with the expiration of Section 215, we are concerned that the executive branch may, once again, be using questionable legal theories of executive authority to justify the illegal surveillance of the American people."
The legislators also express their concern that the Trump administration "believes it has the inherent authority to surveil the American people without any congressional authorization."
The letter notes that Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "stated that under Executive Order 12333, the executive branch could continue to engage in mass records surveillance of people in the United States without congressional approval."
E.O. 12333 is a Reagan administration directive cited by U.S. intelligence agencies as the justification for expanding surveillance, especially data collection, without satutory authorization or congressional oversight. The NSA has claimed the order provides all the legal justification it needs to collect unencrypted information that flows through companies like Google and Yahoo.
Matt Stoller: Media Misses The Real Problem With Amy Coney Barrett ‘Not A Single Case’ Where She Rules For Workers
Get ready for the Stepford Supreme!
President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, setting up a ferocious confirmation battle as votes are already being cast for the November 3 election. Barrett, who was previously named to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by Trump, is an outspoken social conservative, broadly hostile to abortion rights, and a strong supporter of corporate rights. Her confirmation would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the Court, making Justice Brett Kavanaugh the swing vote, and would be the culmination of a decadeslong strategy on the right to marry the pro-corporate, anti-worker, and anti-consumer movement with social conservatism. ...
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer faces increasing pressure from Democrats around the country to use every tool at his disposal to oppose the Republican effort to push through a Supreme Court nominee before the election, one question has bedeviled activists: What exactly is possible?
A memo circulating on Capitol Hill, put together by several people with knowledge of congressional procedure and obtained by The Intercept, lays out some of the options that could be available to Schumer even in the face of a determined Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senators looking to obstruct in the Senate have a dizzying array of opportunities, but a majority leader with 50 votes, plus a tie-breaking vice president, also has an extraordinary amount of power in the upper chamber. Elements of the memo were first published earlier Thursday by the Daily Poster. ...
The memo does not claim that victory would be guaranteed by engaging in these dilatory tactics, but lays out why the scenario is different than the confirmations of Neil Gorsuch or Brett Kavanaugh, both of which came long before the presidential election.
[Memo available in full at link. -js]
Donald Trump has said it “is certainly possible” Amy Coney Barrett will be part of a supreme court decision overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling which made abortion legal in the US. “She is certainly conservative in her views, in her rulings, and we’ll have to see how that all works out but I think it will work out,” the president told Fox & Friends Weekend of his new nominee to the court. ...
Progressives and Democrats fear the Indiana appeals judge’s strict Catholicism and conservative views will colour any rulings on abortion rights arising from any of 17 cases currently making their way through the courts. They also worry about the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance to millions. An attempt to strike it down is due before the court on 10 November. ...
Republicans in the Senate are rushing to confirm Barrett. Democrats opposing them are backed by polling which shows majorities saying the next president should choose the replacement for the liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died aged 87 last week. But on Sunday the Senate minority whip, Dick Durbin of Illinois, told ABC’s This Week: “We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most, but we can’t stop the outcome.”
Detained immigrants in the U.S. have been subjected to harmful and sometimes deadly medical neglect—including inadequate and delayed care, unsanitary conditions, and understaffing—while in Department of Homeland Security custody at facilities operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as Customs and Border Protection, and particularly at detention centers run by its two largest for-profit contractors, CoreCivic and GEO Group.
That's according to a staff report (pdf), which summarizes the disturbing results of a yearlong investigation conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, published Thursday.
Last summer, the Oversight Committee initiated its probe of immigrant detention centers following a "troubling series of reports of health and safety violations" related to the Trump Administration's "rapidly increasing use of for-profit contractors to detain tens of thousands of immigrants."
After reviewing thousands of documents and conducting inspections at almost two dozen facilities in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, the committee found widespread evidence of the ongoing maltreatment of children and adults in DHS custody, especially those detained in centers run by private contractors whose profits have soared under the Trump administration.
"In some cases, conditions were so poor that committee staff warned contractor officials during their visits about deficiencies in the treatment of detainees," according to the report.
The report notes that "committee staff were so alarmed by health and safety concerns" at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia—the same facility facing public scrutiny over "jarring medical neglect" alleged in a recent whistleblower report—"that they raised them directly with the warden during their visit."
The investigation found "a widespread failure to provide necessary medical care to detainees with serious and chronic medical conditions, along with critical medical staff shortages." The report includes numerous examples of egregious medical deficiencies and negligence.
The Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times last month told investigators he thought Blake was trying to abduct one of his own children and opened fire because Blake started turning toward the officer while holding a knife, the officer’s lawyer contends. ...
Brendan Matthews, the attorney for Officer Rusten Sheskey and the Kenosha police union, told CNN that when Sheskey arrived at the scene on 23 August in response to a call from a woman who said Blake was at her home and shouldn’t be there, he heard a woman say: “He’s got my kid. He’s got my keys.”
Sheskey saw Blake put a child in the SUV as he arrived but didn’t know two other children were also in the back seat, Matthews said. He said Sheskey told investigators he opened fire because Blake “held a knife in his hand and twisted his body toward” the officer, and that he didn’t stop until he determined Blake “no longer posed an imminent threat”. Matthews said if Sheskey had allowed Blake to leave and something happened to the child, “the question would have been ‘Why didn’t you do something?’” ...
Blake’s uncle Justin Blake said on Saturday the allegation that Blake was attempting to kidnap his own child was false, the Kenosha News reported. “That’s ridiculous,” Justin Blake said. “It’s gaslighting. Outright lies.”
The bystander who recorded the shooting, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell: “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” White said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
About 1,000 supporters of the rightwing Proud Boys group, some armed, rallied in Portland, Oregon on Saturday in a largely peaceful event that drew far fewer followers than organizers forecast and state authorities had feared. The rally in a north Portland park ended after a few hours of speeches and chants, many against anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter groups which held a nearby counter-protest. The Proud Boys had forecast a crowd of at least 10,000 and Portland’s police chief on Friday said he saw chances of a “very, very large” gathering.
The state governor, Kate Brown, had declared a weekend state of emergency for Oregon’s biggest city, saying “white supremacist groups” were traveling from out of state to attend the rally called by the Proud Boys to “end domestic terrorism” in Portland. The Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group, said they were hosting a free speech event to support Trump and the police, restore law and order and condemn anti-fascists, “domestic terrorism” and “violent gangs of rioting felons”. ...
“The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come time and time again looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic,” Brown said. ... On Friday, the Oregon Justice Resource Center launched a $1.25m civil suit against three named men, and 50 more yet to be identified, over a rally on 22 August at which rightwingers fired paintballs into a leftwing crowd. The same day, a journalist’s hand was broken by a Proud Boy wielding a baton. One man, Alan Swinney, said on social media he had been indicted.
Also on Friday, the Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, published a “letter to the community” in which he invoked for the first time state anti-paramilitary laws, a move the Guardian recently reported experts were urging. “Oregon law prohibits paramilitary activity,” Wheeler said. “Organizers of and likely participants in the 26 September event have openly discussed tactical operations and military-style formations that lead us to believe that they are operating as an unauthorized private militia.”
Over four years in the city, provocations by rightwing activists have culminated in violence while Trump and rightwing media have scapegoated local officials and anti-fascists.
A Police Cover-Up? New Bodycam Video from Night of Breonna Taylor’s Killing Undermines State Account
A Kentucky legislator who was arrested during demonstrations over the Breonna Taylor case has accused Louisville police of detaining her and about 20 allies on false pretenses and called for charges to be dropped. State representative Attica Scott, the only Black woman in the Kentucky legislature, was arrested with her 19-year-old daughter, prominent activist Shameka Parrish-Wright and others on Thursday, during protests against a grand jury decision on Wednesday to clear police of homicide charges in the shooting death of Taylor. ...
Scott, the main sponsor of the proposed “Breonna’s Law” that would expand police oversight, said her arrest on Thursday “felt like retaliation”.
“They knew exactly who I was when I got to the jail,” she said.
Scott said that when she was arrested, a group of about 20 protesters intended to obey a 9pm curfew but were met by a line of police. Her account is supported by video she posted on social media. Scott, her daughter and Parrish-Wright were held overnight on charges of felony first-degree rioting, which carries a sentence of one to five years in prison, in addition to the misdemeanor offenses of failure to disperse and unlawful assembly, police said.
She said police accused her of vandalizing the library, which she called “absurd”. A statement by the library workers union called her a “vocal supporter for libraries”.
“How dare LMPD say that I was trying to burn down our library,” Scott said. “Come up with some better lies.”
A Criminal Tax Cheat? Bombshell NYT Report Shows Trump Paid No Federal Income Tax for 10 of 15 Years
Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, paid only $750 in federal income taxes in the year he was elected US president, according to a stunning New York Times investigation that could shake up the presidential election. “Trump taxes show chronic losses and years of tax avoidance,” was the banner headline on the paper’s website on Sunday. The president’s tax returns have long been the holy grail of American political reporting.
The president “paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency”, the paper reported, adding that “in his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. “He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years – largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.” In all, the paper said, Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years its reporters examined. Many of his businesses, including his golf courses, report significant financial losses – which have helped him to lower his taxes.
The Times also said the documents it had obtained “comprise information that Mr Trump has disclosed to the IRS, not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.”
The paper said it would not publish the documents, in order to protect its source.
President Donald Trump pressed ahead with his plans for a court-ratified seizure of power in the 2020 elections, as White House officials made it known Friday evening that he will nominate ultra-right jurist Amy Coney Barrett today to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump’s intention is to block the counting of mail-in ballots—expected to overwhelmingly favor his Democratic Party opponent Joe Biden—by appealing for federal court intervention in many states based on bogus claims of vote fraud. He expects that if these cases reach the Supreme Court, a 6-3 right-wing majority, including three justices who owe their positions to him, will provide a reliable guarantee of success, on the model of the notorious 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore that installed George W. Bush in the White House.
When this political coup inevitably provokes mass protests, Trump will call on the police and various federal paramilitary forces, backed by the US Army and Marines, to restore “order” on the streets of America. On this authoritarian basis, he intends to consolidate a fascistic, anti-working class regime committed to far-ranging attacks on democratic rights, social benefits, jobs and living standards.
The response of Biden and his fellow Democrats to this imminent threat of dictatorial rule has been to dismiss it as nothing more than hot air from Trump, which the American people should ignore. In an extraordinary interview on MSNBC with Stephanie Ruhle, Biden oozed complacency, dismissing the president’s comments about not being committed to a peaceful transfer of power as “a typical Trump distraction.” ...
When Ruhle pressed him on whether Trump was not a danger to democracy, because of the power of the presidency, Biden replied, “Well, I just think the power of the Oval Office depends on those in authority to enforce what he says. He already has six members of his administration who were four-star generals and major positions in homeland security and the like who said, ‘This guy’s not fit to be president.’” He continued, “I don’t think he’s going to get the FBI to follow him, get anybody else to enforce something that’s not real. Now what I do—what I am concerned about, is whether he generates some kind of response, in a way that unsettles the society and causes some kind of violence.”
This exchange confirms that the real fear of the Democratic Party is not the threat Trump poses to the democratic rights of the American people, but the danger that Trump’s bid for dictatorship “unsettles the society” and produces a massive rebellion from below, from the working class.
Texas officials have warned residents of some communities near Houston to stop using tap water because it might be tainted with a deadly brain-eating microbe. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality warned the Brazosport Water Authority late on Friday of the potential contamination of its water supply by Naegleria fowleri.
The commission issued an advisory warning people not to use tap water for any reason except to flush toilets in Lake Jackson, Freeport, Angleton, Brazoria, Richwood, Oyster Creek, Clute and Rosenberg. Those communities are home to about 120,000 people. Also affected are the Dow Chemical works in Freeport, which has 4,200 employees, and the Clemens and Wayne Scott state prison units, which have 2,345 inmates and 655 employees.
The advisory will remain in place until the Brazosport authority’s water system has been thoroughly flushed and tests on water samples show the system’s water is safe to use. It said in a statement that it was unclear how long it would be before the tap water was safe.
The Brazosport Water Authority’s water source is the Brazos river.
A federal judge has ruled that a controversial Trump official who has overseen a vast weakening of public lands protections cannot continue in his position since he has not been approved by the Senate. US district judge Brian Morris ruled that former oil industry attorney William Perry Pendley had been unlawfully running the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees nearly one out of every 10 acres of US land, for 424 days.
Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, argued that as a result, courts could potentially strike down every major BLM action in roughly the last three years. “They’ve never had a valid person running that agency,” said Hartl. “Even before Pendley there was just a never-ending list of rotating acting people, and that’s not what you’re supposed to do.”
The US constitution requires Senate approval for agency heads, for which the Federal Vacancies Reform Act sets time limits. The Trump administration nominated Pendley to the post but rescinded the nomination when it became apparent he might not secure enough votes.
The BLM decides how nearly a quarter-billion acres of public lands, mainly in the western US, can be used for mining, oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing and recreation. Under Trump, it has been at the forefront in the administration’s drive to loosen environmental restrictions for oil and gas drilling and other development on public lands. ...
Under Pendley, the BLM has finalized plans to permit drilling, mining and grazing on the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah, both downsized by Trump. It has proposed oil and gas drilling in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a national historic park where Native artifacts have been found. Pendley has also begun moving the bureau from Washington DC to Grand Junction, Colorado – which longtime staff believed was meant to weaken regulatory abilities. All these actions are now under scrutiny.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Big Joe Turner (Big Vernon) - Around The Clock Pts 1 and 2
Big Joe Turner - Wee Baby Blues
Big Joe Turner - I Hear You Knockin'
Big Joe Turner - Chains of Love
Big Joe Turner - Juke Joint Blues
Big Joe Turner - Boogie Woogie Country Girl
Big Joe Turner - Rock the Joint Boogie
Big Joe Turner w/Bill Moore's Lucky Seven Band - Johnson And Turner Blues
Big Joe Turner - Red Sails In The Sunset