The Evening Blues - 1-24-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Enjoy!
Oscar Peterson & Count Basie - Slow Blues
"The reason people hate America is because they don't like being treated like garbage by arrogant, pompous, hypocritical, self-righteous, duplicitous, imperialist political and bureaucratic hacks."
-- Jacob G. Hornberger
News and Opinion
Thankfully we hadn't heard much from America's Biggest Pompous Ass for a while, but now that the slime ball is running for presidunce, he needs to grab some headlines ...
The former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has dismissed the indignation prompted by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as “faux outrage” – and cast doubt on whether the Washington Post columnist was a genuine journalist at all.
In his new book, Pompeo says that Khashoggi – who was killed by Saudi agents in Istanbul in 2018 – was not “a Saudi Arabian Bob Woodward martyred for bravely criticising the Saudi royal family”. Instead, Pompeo argues, Khashoggi was “an activist who had supported the losing team”. ...
Khashoggi’s widow told NBC that Pompeo should “shut up”.
In his memoir, Pompeo – a potential Republican presidential contender – introduces his description of the Khashoggi affair with a provocative turn of phrase, saying the Trump administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia “made the media madder than a vegan in a slaughterhouse”. He calls the killing of Khashoggi “grotesque butchery … outrageous, unacceptable, horrific and despicable, evil, brutish and, of course, unlawful”.
But, he writes, the killing “wasn’t surprising – not to me, anyway. I’d seen enough of the Middle East to know that this kind of ruthlessness was all too routine in that part of the world”. Pompeo bemoans “faux outrage … fueled by the media”. Reporters, he says, “hammered the story extra hard because Khashoggi was a ‘journalist’. “To be clear, Khashoggi was a journalist to the extent that I and many other public figures are journalists. We sometimes get our writing published, but we also do other things. The media made Khashoggi out to be a Saudi Arabian Bob Woodward who was martyred for bravely criticising the Saudi royal family through his opinion articles in the Washington Post.
Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister, Vasyl Lozinskyi, has been detained and dismissed from his post for allegedly stealing $400,000 (£320,000) intended for purchasing aid, including generators, according to Ukraine’s state anti-corruption detectives and prosecutors.
After the news emerged, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, vowed that the old ways of corruption would not return to Ukraine. “I want this to be clear: there will be no return to what used to be in the past, to the way various people close to state institutions or those who spent their entire lives chasing a chair [a state position] used to live,” said Zelenskiy in his nightly address on Sunday without specifically mentioning the case.
Lozinskyi is said to have colluded with contractors to inflate the price of generators and siphoned off part of the difference, according to Ukraine’s anti-corruption bodies. Other national and regional officials are also said to have been involved. Over summer, the Ukrainian government allocated 1.68bn hryvnia (approximately £36.7m) for goods and technology that would help provide alternative sources of energy, water and heat for its population during winter. ...
Before the war, corruption scandals were an almost daily feature of Ukrainian political life. The country was ranked 122 out of 180 by Transparency International in 2021, making it one of the world’s most corrupt countries. The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of the key requirements for Ukraine gaining EU membership.
A former top FBI counter-intelligence official conspired to commit money laundering offences and violated US sanctions by taking secret payments from the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to investigate a rival, federal prosecutors said in an indictment on Monday. Charles McGonigal, 54, was also arrested on charges relating to his alleged acceptance of a $225,000 cash payment from a former foreign security officer, when he was special agent in charge for counter-intelligence at the FBI’s New York office.
In the Deripaska-connected case, the five-count indictment unsealed in Manhattan was the latest in a string of charges against associates of the oligarch that suggest the US justice department views the matter as going beyond regular sanctions violations. In the cash payments case, federal prosecutors portrayed McGonigal as seeking to enrich himself and the former foreign service officer, who later served as an FBI source in a criminal investigation involving foreign political lobbying, over which McGonigal had supervisory authority.
“Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin,” said Michael Driscoll, FBI assistant director in charge in New York. “Mr McGonigal and Mr Shestakov, both US citizens, acted on behalf of Deripaska and fraudulently used a US entity to obscure their activity.” ... According to charging papers, McGonigal violated US sanctions by agreeing in 2021, three years after he left the FBI’s New York office, to provide services to Deripaska. While at the FBI, McGonigal oversaw investigations into oligarchs including Deripaska, who was himself indicted last year for sanctions violations.
Federal prosecutors on the first day of a historic racketeering trial in Ohio alleged that top Republicans in the state accepted bribes from the power company FirstEnergy.
The trial, which is expected to last six weeks, is the latest utility scandal following cases in the last 10 years in Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida which experts say has led to higher bills for consumers, less green energy, and more CO2 emissions.
One of the defendants, the former Ohio house speaker Larry Householder, told reporters Monday morning as he waited for opening statements in the US district court in Cincinnati that he has done nothing wrong and expects “redemption”. Householder is charged with one count of racketeering, and if convicted, faces up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege that Householder and the four men indicted alongside him received over $60m in bribes from the Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy corporation and its subsidiaries. Prosecutors argue that in exchange, Householder and his co-conspirators passed HB-6, a bill that would have delivered $1.4bn in customer funded bailouts to two ailing nuclear plants controlled by the utility. Nuclear power has struggled to compete with comparatively cheap gas plants in recent years.
“Larry Householder sold the statehouse,” assistant US attorney Emily Glatfelter told jurors in the government’s opening statement. “He ripped off the people he was elected to serve and made backroom deals to exchange his power for money.” ... At the heart of the case are the over $60m from FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries that Householder and his four co-conspirators received via several “dark money” tax exempt entities, the most important of which was Generation Now.
This month President Joe Biden renominated the highly qualified Sohn, whose confirmation has now been stalled for a record-breaking amount of time. With a 50/50 split in the Senate, Democrats had failed to muster enough support for a vote in the face of strong opposition from deep-pocketed big media corporations like Comcast.
The FCC has been operating without a fifth member for well over a year, which has left it deadlocked with two Democratic and two Republican members. That’s great news for the telecom industry, which is enjoying the FCC’s inability to do things like restore net neutrality (which was implemented under Obama and repealed under Trump), ensure equal access to broadband, prevent further consolidation of big media, and crack down on wireless carriers’ abuse of private user location data.
Sohn’s renomination, and the record-breaking delay on her vote, have been met with virtual radio silence in news media. Only a small handful of newspapers and online news outlets have covered the nomination; FAIR could find no mentions on TV news in a search of the Nexis news database.
In one noteworthy exception, the Mercury News and East Bay Times editorial boards published an editorial (1/19/23) supporting Sohn’s nomination and declaring, “Enough is enough.” In addition to highlighting Sohn’s qualifications, the Silicon Valley-based editors pointed to “the importance of net neutrality” to the tech industry, which depends on “fair, open competition in the content market.”
A handful of smaller online publications like American Prospect, the Verge, TechDirt and ArsTechnica are the only non-right-wing outlets to consistently cover the battle over Sohn’s confirmation, despite its importance to every person in this country who watches TV, uses the internet or has a cell phone.
As we pointed out last year (6/15/22), while Fox News had made repeated attacks on Sohn, MSNBC—which has reported on several other blocked Biden nominees—had not mentioned her name on air once since her initial nomination. In the seven months since then, what passes for a left-leaning cable network has still failed to speak Sohn’s name. (MSNBC.com did publish one guest column about digital redlining—10/27/22—that advocated for Sohn’s confirmation to address the issue.) CNN has also been silent on Sohn, though a CNN Business article (CNN.com, 7/19/22) on net neutrality mentioned that “the Senate has yet to confirm Gigi Sohn, Biden’s nominee to fill the fifth and final seat on the commission.”
Cable news isn’t directly regulated by the FCC, whose purview is public, not private, communications infrastructure. But note: Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox Broadcasting Company; MSNBC is owned by telecom behemoth Comcast, which has been actively lobbying against Sohn (Ars Technica, 1/13/22); and CNN is now owned by fellow telecom giant AT&T.
Media conglomerates will always have armies of lobbyists to make their interests heard at the FCC; the public interest needs to overcome a media blockade to get its representative on the board.
There are two things I love about the mess our more or less senile president finds himself in as his hoard of classified documents comes to light in a rolling barrage of revelations. One is the mainstream media’s quite unbelievable faith in the American public’s stupidity. Does anything more persuasively measure the stupidity of these media?
Joe “My Corvette’s in the Garage” Biden howls with indignity when Donald Trump gets caught with classified files at Mar–a–Lago, his Florida estate. Then our serving president is discovered with his own stashes of secret documents here, there and everywhere. Oh, but it is very different, we read. Not at all the same, because Trump didn’t cooperate with the National Archives and the Justice Department, and Biden did.
As the man from Scranton now takes to saying, “I did nothing wrong. There’s no there there.” The New York Times, the other major dailies and the corporate broadcasters all report this with straight faces: The Trump case is one thing, Biden’s another.
So are we urged to think illegal possession of classified documents is not the issue. No need to consider this. It’s all about attitude. If you exhibit the right attitude when you are caught red-handed in a criminal act, you can stand there and claim innocence, insist that the garage where classified documents were found is locked because your Corvette is parked in it, and the media will go all the way for you.
They can’t be so stupid as to think their readers and viewers are so stupid, I’ve said to myself since CBS News opened the door onto this farrago of nonsense a couple of weeks ago. How wrong I have been. We have a 50–year record attesting to Joe Biden’s stupidity. We now know, if we didn’t already, that there is no limit to our mainstream media’s defense of his stupidity. ...
Whether or not Americans are aware of it, and my impression is few are, they are now face-to-face with the extent to which our government conducts its business in secret. This is the second thing I love about these matching messes over classified documents. A paradox here: It is illegal for a government official to possess classified documents without authorization, and it is perfectly normal to do so given the extent to which classified material forms the basis of U.S. policy — notably, but not only, its foreign policy.
You may have forgotten by now, but there was a brief moment during the pandemic when hopes were raised for a new “roaring 20s”. The Yale sociology professor Nicholas Christakis predicted that as in the 1920s, after the 1918 Spanish flu, society would embrace indulgence, with a rise in “sexual licentiousness” as well as a “reverse of religiosity”. We were poised to emerge from lockdown randy and flush. We certainly weren’t supposed to plunge, as we have in Britain, right into political crises and strikes, have three prime ministers in as many months, and sit at home too skint to turn on the heating or socialise.
But a roaring 20s is actually happening, just not for most of us. According to Oxfam’s annual inequality report, released to coincide with the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, the richest 1% of people have captured nearly twice as much new wealth as the rest of the world combined since the pandemic. Their fortune soared by $26tn, increasing their share of new wealth from 50% to two-thirds.
The breakdown of these figures exposes how on a global basis, extreme wealth is accumulated not by innovating or increasing production, but by taking advantage of rising prices and exploiting labour. In this effort, wealthy people are enabled by lack of regulation and taxation. The result is a bonanza of plunder with no sheriff in town.
This has been happening for a while, but the pandemic accelerated the trend. Rich people benefited from everything – every positive intervention from the state and negative impact of the crisis somehow still ended up increasing their wealth. They benefited from rising costs by using them as an alibi to charge higher-than-inflation prices, then distributing the rewards as dividends instead of higher wages. Food and energy corporations made a killing, making $306bn in windfall profits in 2022, then distributing 84% to shareholders. ...
What hangs in the balance, as the billionaires’ riches increase, is their ability to argue that it’s working for us too.
Four members of the Oath Keepers anti-government militia were convicted on Monday of seditious conspiracy relating to the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump, after the second major trial accusing far-right extremists of plotting to forcibly keep the former US president in power. ...
The convictions were another major victory for the Department of Justice, which is also trying to secure sedition verdicts against the former leader of the hard-right, violent, all-male nationalist group the Proud Boys and four associates. The trial against Enrique Tarrio and his lieutenants opened earlier this month in Washington DC and is expected to last several weeks.
They are some of the most serious cases brought so far in the sweeping investigation into the Capitol attack, which continues to grow two years after the riot. The justice department has brought nearly 1,000 cases and the tally increases by the week.
Climate watchdogs warned Monday that a bill House Republicans are expected to vote on this week is a thinly veiled effort to open more public lands and waters to planet-wrecking oil and gas drilling.
The Strategic Production Response Act, led by new House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), aims to curtail presidential authority to release oil from the United States' strategic reserve—something President Joe Biden did on a major scale last year in an attempt to curb gas prices.
But Joshua Axelrod, a senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who focuses on public lands, noted in a blog post Monday that "despite its title, the bill neither responds to any existing problem nor advances any coherent or achievable energy policy."
"Under the guise of limiting the use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the Strategic Production Response Act appears, in fact, to be focused on establishing a federal oil and gas leasing mandate that eclipses all past efforts to hand over public lands and offshore areas to oil and gas companies," Axelrod wrote. "How? Under the proposed language, no non-emergency drawdown of the SPR can take place without the development of a plan from the Secretary of Energy and other relevant agency heads to 'lease for oil and gas production... [on lands and waters] by the same percentage' as the planned SPR drawdowns (up to 10%)."
"Put more clearly: If 1% of the SPR is to be drawn down, a plan to lease 1% of available public lands or offshore areas must first be developed," Axelrod added, cautioning that—if passed—the measure would "lock in another century of oil and gas."
The French government is taking legal action over an “environmental nightmare” caused by waves of tiny plastic beads washing up on the coast of Brittany.
The white pellets the size of grains of rice, nicknamed “mermaids’ tears”, have been appearing on beaches in France and Spain for the last year. They are believed to have come from shipping containers lost in the Atlantic Ocean. ...
Jean-Michel Brard, the mayor of Pornic, said he had filed a legal complaint along with two other mayors from affected seaside resorts in the region. However, officials say it is impossible to identify the origin of the beads.
Christophe Béchu, the minister for ecological transition, said the pellets were an “environmental nightmare” and that the government would also be taking legal action “against x” [persons unknown]. “The state stands with the associations,” Béchu said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Oscar Peterson - Boogie Blues Etude
Oscar Peterson Trio - Georgia On My Mind
Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson - Just One of Those Things
Oscar Peterson - Sweet Georgia Brown
Oscar Peterson - Summertime
Oscar Peterson & Milt Jackson - Work Song
Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass & Ray Brown - Caravan
Oscar Peterson & Clark Terry - Mumbles
Oscar Peterson Trio - C Jam Blues