The Evening Blues - 10-18-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims. Enjoy!
Frankie Lee Sims - She Likes To Boogie Real Low
“The important thing to know about an assassination or an attempted assassination is not who fired the shot, but who paid for the bullet.”
-- Eric Ambler
News and Opinion
Say, does anybody remember when U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the murder of a 16 year-old kid from Colorado?
As long as the media are all hot and bothered about the Saudi's arranging assassinations, perhaps they might want to also pay attention to the frequent assassination campaigns that United States presidents personally order as a matter of normal policy as well as those that U.S. ally Israel perpetrates.
This interview with human rights attorney Noura Erekat is worth a full read. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
The expansion of legal rules around targeted killings by the United States is one of the most consequential legacies of the post-9/11 era. Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, the U.S. government arrogated itself broad rights to kill individuals far from any battlefield. The legal reasoning that former President Barack Obama used to publicly justify the ramped-up drone warfare program had its origins in a similar past effort by Israeli military lawyers to justify Israel’s targeted killings of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ...
How have the Israeli government and military lawyers employed international law to justify the use of targeted killings?
During the Second Intifada, Israel created an entirely new set of laws of war to govern their relationship with the Palestinians. As Daniel Reisner, former head of the [Israel Defense Forces]’s International Law Department, himself stated in this article, Israel developed the concept of “armed conflict, short of war” to give itself the ability to legally justify its targeted killing policies in the occupied territories. The issue is that there exists a body of international law that dealt with situations of guerrilla warfare, namely the 1977 Additional Protocols I and II, which Israel has simply refused to recognize. The whole reason they needed to create these new legal concepts is because they were rejecting existing laws that were created during the 20th century, specifically to regulate this kind of irregular combat. ...
The United States has used similarly expansive legal reasoning to justify its targeted killing operations in the war on terror. Is there a relationship between the Israeli legal efforts and those used in the American global counterterrorism campaign?
There is a synergy, in the sense that U.S. and Israeli arguments to expand the use of lethal force have been building off each other. As per the U.N. Charter, the use of force is generally prohibited, with a few exceptions, including individual and collective self-defense or when specifically authorized by a Security Council resolution under its Chapter VII authority. After 9/11, there was a shift under the Bush administration toward the use of preventive force, as opposed to pre-emptive self-defense, under customary law, or a response to an armed attack under treaty law. This shift becomes the basis of legal justification for extrajudicial assassinations, or targeted killings, outside of hot battlefields. It was during the Obama-era drone warfare campaign, however, that these changes were really institutionalized. Whatever public hostility there was to Bush administration activities almost disappeared under Obama, though what he did in terms of targeted killings far exceeded what Bush did. It was liberal lawyers like Harold Koh and Martin Lederman who wrote the legal memos justifying these policies. Their efforts ultimately also helped legitimate previously unprecedented Israeli legal arguments in favor of expanding the range of circumstances when lethal force can be legally used.
Donald Trump says the US has asked Turkey for an audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s death which reportedly proves he was brutally tortured before his premeditated murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials said the audio recording had been handed over to the US and Saudi Arabia. But on Wednesday, Trump told reporters: “We’ve asked for it … if it exists” – before adding that it “probably does” exist. ...
Trump’s defence of the Saudi royals has become increasingly difficult as Turkish government leaks and press reports have revealed more details about the grisly nature of Khashoggi’s fate and the involvement of Saudi operatives close to the Saudi crown prince.
The evidence, if confirmed, would also undermine any Saudi attempt to claim that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation gone wrong, carried out by rogue elements in the Saudi intelligence and security services. Multiple reports have suggested that Riyadh was contemplating putting out a narrative along those lines. ...
It is unclear how the Turkish authorities obtained audio recordings of the murder, but officials have briefed multiple news organisations on their macabre contents.
What would Jesus do? Not risk the arms deal, apparently.
Pat Robertson, the prominent evangelical and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, said Monday on " The 700 Club" that Americans shouldn’t bother themselves over the likely murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate because the American arms deal with Saudi Arabia is more important.
“You’ve got $100 billion worth of arms sales,” said Robertson. “We cannot alienate our biggest player in the Middle East.” ...
“These people are key allies,” Robertson said of Saudi Arabia. “I don’t think on this issue we need pull sanctions and get tough. I just think it’s a mistake.”
Donald Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to close the southern border with Mexico Thursday, part of a breakfast Twitter rant blaming Democrats for enabling a criminal “assault on our country.”
Returning to his major preoccupation, Trump said the flow of Central American migrants through Mexico into the United States was resulting in “Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in” to the country, and threatened to suspend all aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in response.
“In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so, I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!
Trump recently expressed anger over a caravan of up to 2,000 migrants from Honduras that has been moving northwards through the region this week. He tweeted Tuesday that he would cut financial aid to Honduras immediately unless the group, which set off from San Pedro Sula Friday, was turned back. Trump also warned of repercussions to neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador if they allowed the migrants to pass through.
It has been nearly a full year since the Republican Party rammed through its transparent scam of a tax bill in the face of massive grassroots resistance, and the results have been almost precisely what nearly every analyst predicted: Record profits for the rich and massive corporations, little to nothing for American workers.
"These latest filings show that big banks have stopped at nothing to make more money—and that the GOP's tax law gave them license to put profits over people," Not One Penny spokesperson Ryan Thomas said in a statement on Thursday, highlighting the enthusiastic earnings reports of Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.
"These six banks have constantly chosen to use these tax breaks to enrich their shareholders and executives while laying off employees and exploiting consumers," Thomas noted, pointing to the explosion of stock buybacks since the GOP tax bill became law. "These shameful actions—and the Republican tax law that permitted them—indicate just how rigged the system is against working people and the middle class." As Common Dreams has reported, American workers have seen virtually zero gains from the GOP tax bill despite lofty promises from Republican lawmakers. Overall, even as the economy has grown at a steady clip this year, wages for most workers have actually fallen in real terms as CEO pay has skyrocketed.
With midterms less than three weeks away, the GOP is plowing ahead with another $600 billion in tax cuts for the rich while vowing to slash Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security if they retain control of Congress.
After Leaked Video, Sanders and Warren Demand Bezos Answer for Amazon's "Potentially Illegal" Union Busting
After a leaked training video provided a rare glimpse into the aggressive tactics Amazon deploys to prevent its workers from organizing and bargaining for better working conditions, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos on Wednesday expressing alarm at his trillion-dollar company's "potentially illegal anti-union behavior" and demanding a copy of the full video.
"It is important to recognize that workers' rights do not stop at the minimum wage, and raising the pay of your lowest-paid workers, while important, does not give you a free pass to engage in potentially illegal anti-union behavior," the senators wrote, referencing Amazon's recent decision to raise the minimum wage of its U.S. employees to $15 an hour in the face of massive grassroots pressure. "It is also important to note that, absent a union, Amazon remains free to unilaterally cancel the increase or make other cuts to compensation," Sanders and Warren continued. "Unfortunately, Amazon's recent conduct provides a telling example: immediately after announcing the wage increase, Amazon cut bonuses and eliminated stock options for warehouse workers." ...
In their letter, Sanders and Warren also demanded that Bezos explain "disturbing allegations" that Amazon has recently fired workers who have raised concerns about the company's low pay and poor working conditions. Such retaliation, the senators note, would constitute a serious violation of federal labor law.
Los Angeles officials have pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars and created a dedicated taskforce to fight an outbreak of typhus, as a city of glittering wealth grapples with a disease linked to intense poverty. “We’re deploying every available resource to help control and stop this outbreak,” said Alex Comisar, press secretary for Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric Garcetti.
Many of those resources have focused on the city’s large homeless population, considered most at risk for contracting the flea-borne illness. This same time last year, California’s homeless population was threatened by an outbreak of hepatitis A, another disease associated with impoverishment and poor sanitation, which killed 21 people and infected hundreds. There have been 64 cases of typhus reported across Los Angeles county so far this year, more than the 53 cases recorded this time last year, and on track to surpass the 67 cases diagnosed last year total. A department of public health spokesperson said the outbreak began with 11 cases of typhus in downtown Los Angeles, six of which were diagnosed in people who were homeless.
According to the most recent count, 53,000 people are homeless across Los Angeles county, many of them in the downtown neighborhood of Skid Row. The streets of Skid Row are lined with tents and sometimes strewn with trash. Chronic sickness and hospitalization is common among the residents of Skid Row, many of whom have been forced into the streets by the city’s soaring rents and lack of affordable housing. Homeless residents have no choice but to live in close proximity to rats and other rodents, putting the homeless and their pets especially at risk for flea exposure and typhus. The lack of access to toilets and places to wash up can also help the spread of disease.
Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO, has escalated his attacks on fellow San Francisco billionaires, saying they are “hoarding” money and don’t want to help the homeless. In an interview with the Guardian on Tuesday, the tech entrepreneur intensified his criticisms of Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, saying: “He just doesn’t want to give, that’s all. And he hasn’t given anything of consequence in the city.”
Benioff’s recent efforts to call out ultra-wealthy business leaders has caused divides in the tech industry, which has typically been united in its resistance to taxes that could fund services and combat income inequality. The CEOs’ unusual public spat centers on Proposition C, a ballot measure that would tax large businesses in San Francisco by implementing an average 0.5% gross receipts tax for company revenues over $50m. The measure is meant to help fix a rapidly expanding humanitarian crisis in the city.
The growth of tech firms such as Salesforce, a cloud computing company and one of the largest employers in the city, has contributed to a massive housing shortage, with thousands left homeless, including one in 25 public school children. Prop C, which Benioff is backing, is expected to raise between $250m and $300m a year to pay for housing, shelters, mental health treatment and more. Dorsey, who also runs Square, a second major San Francisco-based tech firm, recently announced his opposition to the measure, saying he did not believe it was “the best way” to “fix the homeless problem”.
Benioff said by phone that he had expected Dorsey to stand against Prop C – and that he did not anticipate the Twitter co-founder would change his mind or give back in a meaningful way. “That’s not a surprise to me. There’s lots of CEOs and companies and billionaires in that category. We have 70 billionaires in San Francisco [Bay Area region]. Not all of them are giving money away. A lot of them are just hoarding it. They’re keeping it. That’s just who they are and how they look at their money.”
For Next Weapon in Anti-Protest Arsenal, US Military Building Plasma Gun Capable of Vaporizing Human Flesh
Recent reporting out of the Pentagon reveals that the U.S. military is working on perfecting what they called a Scalable Compact Ultra-short Pulse Laser System (SCUPLS)—or plasma gun, for short—intended for mounting on a truck or a tank. Billed as the military's latest "crowd control" technology, what this has typically meant is a new "non-lethal" weapon designed for use by militaries or police forces against unruly demonstrators or those standing against powerful state actors or corporate forces.
According to U.S. government documents, the aim of the ongoing project is to develop "a lightweight and energy efficient next-generation Ultra-Short Pulse Laser (USPL) system that can produce sustainable and controllable plasma at range capable of inducing a full spectrum of scalable non-lethal effects." As a so-called "scalable" weapon, it will be able to shoot not only piercing sounds, but also "burn off" or "vaporize" human skin, and ultimately could be used to kill its target.
As the Daily Mail recently explained, the weapon will be able to "produce a range of effects":
- At the lowest setting, the weapon can produce speech, and it will be able to warn people up to 3,200 feet (1,000m) away by delivering voice messages.
- When it gets closer, the weapon will deliver a 'Flash-bang effect' by sending an 'acoustic blast of ~ 165+ dB at minimum distance of 100 meters'.
- It will also be able to send a 'Flash blind effects (6-8 million candela)' momentarily blinding people at minimum distance of 100 meters
- The highest setting of the current model will let loose 'Full scalable thermal ablative effects' through common natural clothing (i.e., fabric, denim, leather, etc.) at minimum distance of 100 meters. This would painfully vaporize the outer layer of skin – rather than burning it will be turned into gas.
Vaporizing skin? Yes, that's precisely what "scalable thermal ablative effects" means.
Ultimately, as the government's program plan lays out, the weapon would "have direct application to many other U.S. Government agencies as well as civilian law enforcement. ... Of course, what this often means is using such a weapon—as has long been true with other "crowd control" technologies—in order to intimidate or put down public protest or organized demonstrations that are seen as threatening to powerful interests.
A US treasury department official has been arrested and charged with leaking information relating to the Trump-Russia investigation to a journalist. Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards is accused of disclosing reports over the past year on suspicious financial activity by figures including Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Federal prosecutors alleged that the leaks were used for a series of reports published by BuzzFeed News titled The Money Trail, which has revealed details of numerous money transfers flagged as suspicious to treasury investigators.
Edwards, a senior adviser at the treasury’s financial crimes enforcement network, has been charged with unlawfully disclosing suspicious activity reports and conspiring to do so. She was due to appear in a court in Virginia on Wednesday afternoon. She allegedly admitted to FBI agents that she gave the reports to the journalist, but said she was acting as a whistleblower. Investigators said she had previously filed an unrelated whistleblower complaint and discussed this with congressional officials.
Why wouldn't they sound like Democrats? There is only one party and no principles.
A growing number of Republican candidates are sounding a lot like Democrats as they face midterm elections, co-opting Democratic talking points on issues such as health care, education funding and the #MeToo movement. Republicans around the country have begun campaigning on safeguarding insurance protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, a pillar of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — even though the GOP spent years trying to repeal the law.
In Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere, conservative GOP governors known for clashing with teachers are now campaigning on pledges to boost teacher pay or spending on students.
And after the bitter fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, a handful of Republicans are trying to turn the #MeToo movement against Democrats, advancing accusations of sexual wrongdoing or assault against their opponents.
Poll after poll shows health care as the top issue for voters. Democrats repeatedly have said that the GOP, which is intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act, will strip Americans of the core protection of coverage for those with preexisting conditions. In the campaign’s final stretch, the messaging from Republicans is in part an acknowledgment that the Democratic argument has resonated with voters. And on other issues, with their control of Congress and statehouses at risk, Republicans appear to have concluded that the best offense is a good defense.
Some congressional Republicans are furious with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, for giving a wide-ranging interview to the Wall Street Journal , while he reportedly ducks on-the-record questioning from legislators. Rosenstein oversees the work of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian election interference, links between Trump aides and Russia, and potential obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.
Lawmakers have wanted to hear from Rosenstein ever since the New York Times reported that he had openly discussed the idea of wearing a wire to obtain incriminating evidence on Trump, and the idea of impeaching the president via the 25th amendment. Rosenstein has called those claims “inaccurate”. Rosenstein did not address those reported remarks in his interview with the Journal, and has said he won’t comment at all on the New York Times report, blaming the alleged statements on “anonymous sources … advancing their own personal agenda”. But that didn’t stop GOP legislators from questioning his priorities.
“Rod Rosenstein gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal today, after failing to show up in Congress last week to answer questions,” tweeted the Republican congressman Mark Meadows Wednesday. “By hiding from Congress and making time for media interviews, Mr Rosenstein has made his priorities clear. It seems transparency isn’t one of them.”
The "tragicomedy" that is the Democrat Party continues unabated:
'Are You Kidding Me?' Outrage as Democrats Push 'Incremental Steps' Over Bold Agenda Needed to Save Planet from Climate Catastrophe
The Hill reported on Wednesday, citing House members who believe a piecemeal approach to climate policy will be more "pragmatic" in the face of GOP and White House denialism.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), co-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, told The Hill that if Democrats retake the House in next month's midterms, they will "focus on the practical and the opportunistic" steps available while vaguely keeping in mind "the aspirational goals."
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? https://t.co/1Cp6w8GYqq
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 17, 2018
Environmentalists were quick to make clear that such a passive approach is unacceptable—and tantamount to climate denial—given that humanity has just a dozen years to enact fundamental changes to the world economy and energy production before the climate crisis inflicts catastrophic and irreversible damage.
Dems make chicken-shit (and out-dated) short-game political calculations while the worst planetary crisis humanity has ever faced accelerates. https://t.co/Mvm3HgSwni
— Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen) October 17, 2018
Local Fury and Health Concerns as Japan Plans to Dump a Million Tons of Radioactive Fukushima Water Into Ocean
While both the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco)—the company that runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant—have claimed that radioactive material in the water has been reduced to indetectable amounts and that only "safe levels of tritium" remain, documents obtained by the London-based Telegraph suggest that the cleaning system being used to decontaminate the water "has consistently failed to eliminate a cocktail of other radioactive elements, including iodine, ruthenium, rhodium, antimony, tellurium, cobalt, and strontium."
"The government is running out of space to store contaminated water that has come into contact with fuel that escaped from three nuclear reactors after the plant was destroyed in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan," the Telegraph reported. "Its plan to release the approximately 1.09 million tons of water currently stored in 900 tanks into the Pacific has triggered a fierce backlash from local residents and environmental organizations, as well as groups in South Korea and Taiwan fearful that radioactivity from the second-worst nuclear disaster in history might wash up on their shores."
One document the Telegraph obtained from the government body charged with responding to the 2011 Fukushima disaster reportedly indicates that the Japanese government is perfectly aware that the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) is failing to eliminate radioactive materials from the water stored at the Fukushima site, despite its claims to the contrary.
The Trump administration is moving to restrict the release of information about its decisions on endangered species, according to a confidential internal document obtained by the Guardian. It comes as wildlife advocates and scientists accuse the government of attempting to weaken protections for wildlife, including wolves, grizzly bears and sage grouse, while boosting domestic energy production and mining in crucial animal habitat.
In a private September guidance sent to offices around the country, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS, recommended that employees with its ecological services program – which administers the Endangered Species Act – take a less transparent approach when responding to certain Freedom of Information Act requests from the public. The guidance contains a list of records that “should be considered for withholding in full or in part” from the public, including draft versions of policies and rules; internal PowerPoint presentations and webinars; deliberative email communications and meeting notes; and others.
Such records should be carefully reviewed and possibly withheld, the guidance suggests, if they might hamper the defense of the government’s decisions in certain court cases and cause “foreseeable harm” to the federal government by sowing “public confusion” or subjecting officials to public scrutiny and thereby creating a “chilling effect” on internal decision-making processes.
“This guidance would effectively prevent the American people from standing up for science and endangered species,” said Meg Townsend, the open government staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, a wildlife conservation group. “It would become much more difficult to challenge improper decisions that hurt imperiled animals.” Townsend added that the new guidance would directly impact the work of her organization. In a recent lawsuit against both FWS and the state department, for instance, the center used internal FWS documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act to support its argument that the agency had failed to adequately account for the Keystone XL pipeline’s potential harm to critically endangered whooping cranes when it signed off on the controversial project.
The center obtained emails and other records that, it says, helped show that the government did not sufficiently plan how to prevent whooping cranes from colliding with new power lines, a leading cause of death for the species. Under the agency’s new Foia guidance, Townsend said, the center would probably not have obtained some of the documents it relied on to make those arguments in its lawsuit.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Frankie Lee Sims - Hey Little Girl
Frankie Lee Sims - Well Goodbye Baby
Frankie Lee Sims - Come Back Baby Pt 1
Frankie Lee Sims - Walking With Frankie
Frankie Lee Sims - As Long As I Live
Frankie Lee Sims - Rhumba My Boogie
Frankie Lee Sims - Raggedy and Dirty
Frankie Lee Sims - Woman Why'd You Break My Heart
Frankie Lee Sims - Lucy Mae Blues
Frankie Lee Sims - Going to the River
Frankie Lee Sims - Wine And Gin Bounce