The Evening Blues - 9-30-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jazz piano player Fats Waller. Enjoy!
Fats Waller - Honeysuckle Rose
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."
-- Abraham Lincoln
News and Opinion
Caitlin Johnstone finds a silver lining in the turd that was the Presidential "debate."
I mean, wow.
So in case you missed it, the first US presidential debate was everything the US empire deserves and a fair reflection of everything the US empire is.
If Vladimir Putin were every bit the election-meddling demon the Democrats say he is, and if he had unlimited time and unlimited resources to create the perfect ninety-minute propaganda video to discredit the US-led unipolar world order, he could not have designed one more effective than the performance that was just delivered by President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden with the help of moderator Chris Wallace.
I mean, it had everything. Both candidates yelling over each other the entire time, Biden telling the sitting president of the United States to shut up on live television, Trump at one point saying the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by“, Chris Wallace literally shouting to be heard over the unceasing interruptions, Biden getting confused and arguing that the Green New Deal would pay for itself and then turning around saying he does not support the Green New Deal, mountains of lies and nonsense, and absolutely no meaningful discussion of policies that will actually help ordinary Americans at all.
It was crazier than any of Trump’s debates in 2016. It was crazier than any presidential debate that has ever happened.
The world is going to be talking about this for a while now. Clips from this debate are going to share widely all across the planet. It will be translated in many languages. Articles will be written about it for days. And people who’d never thought to question whether this is the government that should be leading the world into the future are suddenly going to find themselves contemplating that question.
And hopefully the next one will be even worse.
It is good for the US empire to invalidate itself in this way. The government that has encircled the planet with hundreds of military bases and snuffed out millions of human lives while displacing tens of millions since 9/11 in military interventions that were based on lies, which sanctions, sabotages and destroys any nation which dares to disobey its dictates, and which is escalating world-threatening cold war aggressions against not one but two nuclear-armed nations is not a government that should have any control over humanity’s collective future.
The uglier a face that appears on this murderous empire, the better it will be for everybody. In a government that is intrinsically evil and destructive from root to flower, an attractive face with competent management is the last thing anyone should want.
It doesn’t matter who won this accidental Kremlin propaganda performance of a debate. It doesn’t even matter who wins the election; the most evil aspects of the US government will continue unhindered regardless of which oligarchic puppet wins in November. What does matter is that the dark, ugly aspects of global power that people had previously not noticed are being drawn into the spotlight and seen by everybody. 2020 seems to be a good year for that.
If the imperialists who run things have any sense they will find a way to cancel future debates in the name of national security, because they’re the ones who will be worst affected by them. Here’s hoping they don’t, though.
Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan threatened to escalate as both sides accused each other of targeting border areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian officials claimed Turkey was deploying fighter jets in the conflict. Armenia’s defence ministry said one of its Sukhoi Su-25 jets was shot down on Tuesday morning by a Turkish F-16 that had taken off from the Ganja airbase in Azerbaijan. “Unfortunately, the pilot died heroically,” the ministry said.
Turkish officials quickly dismissed the claim as false and told Bloomberg it was a “cheap propaganda stunt”.
Armenia’s foreign ministry said earlier that one civilian was killed in Vardenis, a town inside Armenian territory and miles from Nagorno-Karabakh, when Azerbaijani forces shelled “civilian-military infrastructure” in the area. It also claimed a civilian bus in the town was set on fire by an unmanned drone.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry had earlier accused Armenia of shelling the Dashkasan region, also north of Nagorno-Karabakh – a claim the Armenian foreign ministry denied.
Amid fears that the ongoing fighting could spread to new fronts and draw in other regional actors, the UN security council announced it would hold emergency talks on Tuesday evening behind closed doors in New York. Belgium formally requested the session after France and Germany had led a push for it to be placed on the agenda.
A special court in The Hague has begun hearings on war crimes committed by Kosovo’s former separatist fighters, more than two decades after its war for independence from Serbia and nine years after a prosecutor was first appointed to investigate reports of atrocities. Over the past week the Kosovo specialist chambers have ordered the arrest of three former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who were detained by EU police and transferred to the Netherlands. Two of them have already appeared before a judge, in a specially built courtroom fitted with transparent screens as a precaution against coronavirus.
The start of the long-delayed court proceedings could have profound effects on Kosovo and its tense relations with Serbia. In June Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, was charged by the special prosecutor with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The charges have yet to be confirmed by a judge. Thaçi was formally questioned on the charges in July and has proclaimed his innocence.
The charges prevented Thaci from attending a signing ceremony with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, for an agreement on limited steps towards economic normalisation. The pact was eventually signed on 4 September by Kosovo’s prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, but considerable tensions remain and neither Serbia nor its supporters including Russia and China have so far recognised Kosovo’s independence.
Spanish judge’s request to probe a Las Vegas Sands staffer’s apparent role in a criminal spying operation against Julian Assange indicates the investigation is homing in on US intelligence.
The Spanish judge presiding over the trial of a security firm owner apparently hired to spy on jailed Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange has sent a request to the US Department of Justice for an interview with Zohar Lahav, the Israeli-American vice president for executive protection at Las Vegas Sands. Sands is owned by the ultra-Zionist casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, one of the single largest donors to Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns and the Republican Party.
According to court documents reviewed by The Grayzone, the judge seeks to probe Lahav’s relationship with disgraced UC Global CEO David Morales, who was indicted for an array of crimes after allegedly presiding over a spying operation targeting Assange while he was confined within Ecuador’s embassy in London. This request follows a previous attempt at securing witness interviews that was effectively blocked by the US Department of Justice.
The judge outlined four objectives for the interview with Lahav:
- Determine Lahav’s relationship with Morales
- Determine the occasions when Morales and Lahav met in the United States and Spain
- Determine if Lahav had communications and meetings with Morales regarding the alleged illegally obtained information under investigation
- Determine if Lahav or his superiors in Las Vegas Sands, Sheldon Adelson and Brian Nagel, had access to the alleged illegally obtained information under investigation.
The judge’s interest in Nagel indicates that the Spanish investigation is now probing the suspected role of US intelligence as the guiding hand behind UC Global’s criminal spying operation.
Former employees of a security firm accused of spying on Julian Assange at Ecuador’s embassy in the UK will be allowed to give evidence to his extradition case anonymously after claiming they would be at risk of kidnapping or poisoning. ...
James Lewis QC, acting for the US government, did not contest the submission for anonymity but said that checks would be carried out on the witnesses, whose evidence would be read into the record. He added that the US case was likely to be that their evidence was “wholly irrelevant”.
In allegations first reported by El Pais, the Spanish defence and private security company provided security for the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange lived for seven years until April 2019. According to a complaint lodged by Assange in Spain, the company handed over audio and video of meetings he held with his lawyers and supporters inside the embassy to the CIA, breaching privacy laws and legal privilege.
Earlier in Tuesday’s hearing, a lawyer for Abu Hamza, the radical Muslim cleric serving a life sentence in the US for terrorism offences, told the court that Assange would almost certainly end up in the extreme conditions of a notorious “supermax” jail if sent to the US. The lawyer, Lindsay Lewis, accused US authorities of going back on assurances that she said had been given to courts in the UK and Europe before Hamza was extradited from Britain in 2012. ...
The 62-year-old had suffered serious psychological consequences from enforced isolation in the US, Lewis told the Old Bailey. The US lawyer represented Hamza during his New York terrorism trial and has been called by Assange’s defence team. “I would note he was almost never out of his cell except for legal visits,” she said, adding that calls and communications to his family were also sporadic. There was no reason to believe that the conditions US authorities could impose on Assange “would be any less arbitrary, oppressive or difficult to challenge”, Lewis said.
JP Morgan Chase has agreed to pay more than $920m and admitted to wrongdoing to settle federal US market manipulation investigations into its trading of metals futures and Treasury securities, the US authorities said on Tuesday. ...
According to the settlement, between 2009 and 2016 JPMorgan Treasury’s traders placed orders on one side of the market which they never intended to execute, to create a false impression of buy or sell interest that would raise or depress prices. The manipulative practice designed to create the illusion of demand or a lack of demand is known as “spoofing”.
JPMorgan Chase Admits to Two New Felony Counts – Brings Total to Five Felony Counts in Six Years – All During Tenure of Jamie Dimon
As the attention of Americans is focused on surviving the pandemic and the pivotal presidential debate tonight, William Barr’s Justice Department decided to quietly hand an early Christmas present to a notorious Wall Street bank. ...
The bank has agreed today to pay criminal fines and admit to two felony counts of wire fraud for manipulating (spoofing) trading in the precious metals and U.S. Treasury markets. Why the Justice Department is bringing only two counts when its own charging document indicates that traders engaged in “tens of thousands of instances of unlawful trading in gold, silver, platinum, and palladium…as well as thousands of instances of unlawful trading in U.S. Treasury futures contracts and in U.S. Treasury notes and bonds…” is one more sign that this Justice Department is egregiously failing the American people and making a mockery of the word “justice.”
This Justice Department is not only defining deviancy down; it’s defining outrage down. Where is the U.S. Attorney’s voice announcing his resignation over this sellout of a deal?
The routine of charging the largest bank in the United States with felonies and placing it on a three-year probation is now so yawn-worthy at the U.S. Department of Justice that the prosecutors didn’t even bother to hold the usual press conference today to announce the charges and settlement. The Justice Department simply issued a press release and a Deferred Prosecution Agreement which both sides had already signed. ...
Representing JPMorgan Chase as outside counsel were lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis (the law firm with which Attorney General William Barr was associated before coming to the Justice Department) and lawyers from Sullivan & Cromwell, where SEC Chairman Jay Clayton was a partner before taking the lead at the SEC. (See SEC Nominee Has Represented 8 of the 10 Largest Wall Street Banks in Past Three Years.)
In yet another revelation regarding the Trump Administration's concerted effort to downplay the threat of Covid-19 to the American people, new reporting shows top White House officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage in-person schooling, despite scientific evidence that the virus is airborne and can be more easily spread indoors.
"The White House spent weeks trying to press public health professionals to fall in line with President [Donald] Trump's election-year agenda of pushing to reopen schools and the economy as quickly as possible," the New York Times reported Monday. "The president and his team have remained defiant in their demand for schools to get back to normal, even as coronavirus cases have once again ticked up, in some cases linked to school and college reopenings."
In the Times article, Mark Mazzetti, Noah Weiland, and Sharon LaFraniere wrote these actions were "a strikingly political intervention in one of the most sensitive public health debates of the pandemic, according to documents and interviews with current and former government officials."
The revelations come as the global death toll from Covid-19 surpassed one million people—nearly a fifth of them in the United States—this week, and as a new CDC report found more than 277,000 American children have contracted cornoavirus since May. Kaiser Health News reported earlier this month that opening colleges and universities in the U.S. fueled a spike in Covid-19 cases at the rate of about 3,000 a day.
Olivia Troye, a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence on the White House Coronavirus Task Force—who was admittedly involved in some of the alleged interference—has since spoken out about the efforts, saying she regrets being "complicit" in the disinformation campaign.
"During my tenure on the task force, I saw senior White House political staff actively undermine the doctors by attempting to manipulate scientific data on the virus and force changes to CDC guidances," Troye tweeted Tuesday. "I know my former task force colleagues are still fighting for what's right today."
According to Times reporting, "As part of their behind-the-scenes effort, White House officials also tried to circumvent the CDC in a search for alternate data showing that the pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children... The effort included Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, and officials working for Vice President Mike Pence, who led the task force. It left officials at the CDC, long considered the world's premier public health agency, alarmed at the degree of pressure from the White House."
"Ball Is Now in the Court of Senate Republicans": GOP Urged to Immediately Pass Democrats' $2.2 Trillion Covid Relief Bill
Progressive advocacy groups and labor leaders are urging Senate Republicans and the Trump White House to stop stonewalling and immediately approve a Covid-19 relief package unveiled late Monday by House Democrats that would renew the expired $600-per-week federal unemployment supplement, send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans, and provide aid to faltering state and local governments.
The $2.2 trillion legislation, announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) just weeks ahead of the November election, represents a compromise version of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that the Democrat-controlled House approved more than four months ago. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dismissed the House-passed version as an "unserious liberal wish list" and has refused to allow a vote on the measure despite still-deteriorating economic conditions and surging coronavirus cases nationwide.
Lee Saunders, president of the 1.3 million-member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said in a statement Monday evening that the latest iteration of the HEROES Act "represents a good faith effort to renew constructive negotiations and finally deliver the relief that families and communities need."
"The ball is now in the court of Senate Republicans and the White House, as it has been for more than four months," said Saunders. "While the Senate has wasted no time trying to illegitimately jam through a Supreme Court nomination, they continue to turn their backs on the suffering and hardship of millions of people, as the worst public health crisis in a century rages on. Speaker Pelosi's overture provides another opportunity to put progress ahead of partisanship and get something done."
In addition to providing badly needed relief to tens of millions of jobless and hungry Americans, the revised HEROES Act also includes emergency funding for schools, election assistance, the U.S. Postal Service, housing aid, and coronavirus testing and tracing. ...
Late Monday, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin resumed coronavirus relief negotiations that have been stalled for months due to the White House's refusal to approve a relief package larger than $1.5 trillion—a price tag Democratic congressional leaders have slammed as far too low to meet the needs of struggling Americans and cash-strapped state and local governments, which are already beginning to lay off teachers and other public-sector employees.
As the New York Times reported, "Absent an agreement with the administration, the House could vote as early as this week to approve the legislation, responding to growing pressure for Congress to provide additional relief and quelling the concerns of moderate lawmakers unwilling to leave Washington for a final stretch of campaigning without voting on another round of aid."
"But at roughly $1 trillion more than what Mr. Mnuchin has signaled the White House is willing to consider," the Times noted, "the package is likely just a starting point, all but guaranteed to be rejected by the Republican majority in the Senate should the House pass it in its current form."
Kentucky’s attorney general has said he will release a recording of the grand jury proceedings in the Breonna Taylor case, after a judge ordered they be filed in court by noon on Wednesday. It follows an anonymous juror suing for them to be made public.
Attorney general, Daniel Cameron, said in a statement: “The Grand Jury is meant to be a secretive body. It’s apparent that the public interest in this case isn’t going to allow that to happen.”
Cameron said the special prosecutor had an “ethical obligation not to release the recording from the Grand Jury proceedings, and we stand by our belief that such a release could compromise the ongoing federal investigation and could have unintended consequences such as poisoning the jury pool”.
“Despite these concerns, we will comply with the Judge’s order to release the recording on Wednesday. The release of the recording will also address the legal complaint filed by an anonymous grand juror.”
LAPD cops use data-mining firm Palantir's controversial law enforcement tool to 'store personal information
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) cops have been trained to use data-mining firm Palantir's controversial law enforcement tool to list the names, addresses, phone numbers, license plates, friendships, romances and jobs of anyone who comes into contact with police - including their associates. More than half of all LAPD cops - around 5,000 officers - have accounts with Palantir, one of the biggest surveillance companies in the world, which both firms claim helps the force keep the public safe on the city's streets.
However, newly released documents obtained by Buzzfeed News through a FOIA request reveal that the surveillance is far from limited to people arrested, convicted or suspected of criminal activity. Training documents for the 'Intermediate Course' and 'Advanced Course' show how cops are taught to use the powerful law enforcement tool Palantir Gotham to collect and store detailed information on anyone at all they encounter, from witnesses or victims of crimes to someone simply living in the area a crime took place.
The system then indiscriminately stores intricate details such as tattoos, scars, romances and associates on people including those who are innocent and completely unrelated to any crime. As well as being invasive, critics warn the system reinforces racism in law enforcement, with data suggesting when cops use it to predict future criminal activity, they over-target black and brown communities. ...
The software maps relationships from person to person, person to car, person to home, or person to crime scene, and cops use this to create lists of people they predict will commit a crime.
The FBI has long been concerned about the infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacist groups and its impact on police abuse and tolerance of racism, the unredacted version of a previously circulated document reveals. The FBI threat assessment report was released by Rep. Jamie Raskin, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, ahead of a hearing about the white supremacist infiltration of local police departments scheduled for Tuesday.
A heavily redacted version of the 2006 document had previously been published, one of a handful of documents revealing federal officials’ growing concern with white supremacists’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” A different internal document obtained by The Intercept in 2017 had also noted that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers.”
The unredacted version of the first document sheds further light on the FBI’s concerns, as early as 2006, about “self-initiated efforts by individuals, particularly among those already within law enforcement ranks, to volunteer their professional resources to white supremacist causes with which they sympathize.” ...
In a report published last month by the Brennan Center for Justice, former FBI agent Mike German detailed law enforcement agencies’ longstanding failure to respond to affiliation with white supremacist and militant groups in their ranks, as well as the long history of law enforcement involvement in white supremacist violence.
Since 2000, law enforcement officials with alleged connections to white supremacist groups have been exposed in more than a dozen states, while hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have been caught expressing racist, nativist, and sexist views on social media, “which demonstrates that overt bias is far too common,” German noted in the report. “Efforts to address systemic and implicit biases in law enforcement are unlikely to be effective in reducing the racial disparities in the criminal justice system as long as explicit racism in law enforcement continues to endure,” German wrote in that report. “There is ample evidence to demonstrate that it does.”
'Fascism at Our Door': Asked to Condemn White Supremacist Groups, Trump Tells Them to 'Stand By' Instead
President Donald Trump was asked point-blank during Tuesday night's presidential with Democratic rival Joe Biden if he would denounce armed white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and ask them to "stand down" in order to quell violent confrontations at racial justice rallies in U.S. cities, but instead of making a clear and straightforward condemnation the president said such groups should "stand back and stand by"—a clearly different signal. ...
"Not even hiding the racism," said the Arabs for Bernie account on Twitter in response.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) put the exchange—including the ominous and revealing choice of words by the president—in stark terms:
Donald Trump is a white supremacist.
People have been warning about this for a long time.
They were ridiculed, called hyperbolic & radical - not bc they were wrong, but bc others couldn’t accept that our country elected a supremacist as President.
This is fascism at our door. https://t.co/sahloCJt25
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 30, 2020
Chris Wallace's debate performance tonight is a great reminder that kindergarten teachers are underpaid. #Debates2020
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) September 30, 2020
Two in five of the world’s plant species are at risk of extinction as a result of the destruction of the natural world, according to an international report.
Plants and fungi underpin life on Earth, but the scientists said they were now in a race against time to find and identify species before they were lost.
These unknown species, and many already recorded, were an untapped “treasure chest” of food, medicines and biofuels that could tackle many of humanity’s greatest challenges, they said, potentially including treatments for coronavirus and other pandemic microbes. ...
“We would be able not survive without plants and fungi – all life depends on them – and it is really time to open the treasure chest,” said Prof Alexandre Antonelli, the director of science at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in the UK. RBG Kew led the report, which involved 210 scientists from 42 countries.
“Every time we lose a species, we lose an opportunity for humankind,” Antonelli said. “We are losing a race against time as we are probably losing species faster than we can find and name them.”
California firefighters on Tuesday battled a wind-fueled wildfire that had exploded in the northern California wine country, prompting tens of thousands of evacuations. A second blaze killed at least three people.
The Glass fire raged through Napa and Sonoma counties on Sunday and Monday, tripling in size to more than 56 sq miles without any containment. More than 110 buildings have burned, including homes and winery installations. Tens of thousands of people have had to evacuate.
The fire was driving through brush that had not burned for a century, even though surrounding areas saw a series of blazes in recent years.
Dry winds that gave the flames a ferocious push appeared to have eased by Monday evening and firefighters were feeling “much more confident”, said Ben Nicholls, a division chief with the California department of forestry and fire protection, known as Cal Fire. ...
The Glass fire is one of nearly 30 wildfires around California and the National Weather Service warned that hot, dry conditions with strong Santa Ana winds could remain a fire danger in southern California into Tuesday.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Fats Waller - Your Feet's Too Big
Fats Waller Plays - Handful of Keys
Fats Waller - You're A Viper
Fats Waller - Lulu's Back In Town
Fats Waller - The Jitterbug Waltz
Fats Waller - It's a Sin to Tell a Lie
Fats Waller - Viper's Drag
Fats Waller - The Curse Of an Aching Heart
Fats Waller - The Joint Is Jumping
The Red Clay Ramblers - Baby Grand