The Evening Blues - 10-9-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features boogie woogie piano player Meade "Lux" Lewis. Enjoy!
Meade "Lux" Lewis (w/Big Joe Turner) - Roll Em
“American journalism (like the journalism of any other country) is predominantly paltry and worthless. Its pretensions are enormous, but its achievements are insignificant.”
-- H.L. Mencken
News and Opinion
There's an excellent interview with Chris Hedges at the World Socialist Website, here's a taste to get you started:
David North: Chris, you worked for the New York Times. When was that, exactly?
Chris Hedges: From 1990 to 2005.
DN: Since you have some experience with that institution, what changes do you see? We’ve stressed that it has cultivated a constituency among the affluent upper-middle class.
CH: The New York Times consciously targets 30 million upper-middle class and affluent Americans. It is a national newspaper; only about 11 percent of its readership is in New York. It is very easy to see who the Times seeks to reach by looking at its special sections on Home, Style, Business or Travel. Here, articles explain the difficulty of maintaining, for example, a second house in the Hamptons. It can do good investigative work, although not often. It covers foreign affairs. But it reflects the thinking of the elites. ... The Times was always an elitist publication, but it wholly embraced the ideology of neo-conservatism and neoliberalism at a time of financial distress, when Abe Rosenthal was editor. He was the one who instituted the special sections that catered to the elite. And he imposed a de facto censorship to shut out critics of unfettered capitalism and imperialism, such as Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn. He hounded out reporters like Sydney Schanberg, who challenged the real estate developers in New York, or Raymond Bonner, who reported the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador.
He had lunch every week, along with his publisher, with William F. Buckley. This pivot into the arms of the most retrograde forces of corporate capitalism and proponents of American imperialism, for a time, made the paper very profitable. Eventually, of course, the rise of the internet, the loss of classified ads, which accounted for about 40 percent of all newspaper revenue, crippled the Times as it has crippled all newspapers. Newsprint has lost the monopoly that once connected sellers with buyers. Newspapers are trapped in an old system of information they call “objectivity” and “balance,” formulae designed to cater to the powerful and the wealthy and obscure the truth. But like all Byzantine courts, the Times will go down clinging to its holy grail.
The intellectual gravitas of the paper — in particular the Book Review and the Week in Review — was obliterated by Bill Keller, himself a neocon, who, as a columnist, had been a cheerleader for the war in Iraq. He brought in figures like Sam Tanenhaus. At that point the paper embraced, without any dissent, the utopian ideology of neoliberalism and the primacy of corporate power as an inevitable form of human progress. You had students at Harvard Business School doing case studies of Enron and its brilliant business model, that is, until Enron collapsed and was exposed as a gigantic scam.
Ofcom has cleared al-Jazeera of antisemitism and breaching impartiality rules over an undercover investigation that caught an Israeli embassy official plotting to “take down” British MPs regarded as hostile towards Israel.
The media regulator investigated the Qatar-based broadcaster after receiving complaints about The Lobby, a four-part documentary investigating the political influence of the Israeli embassy in Britain.
Clayton Swisher, the director of investigative journalism at al-Jazeera, said in a memo to staff that Ofcom had “fully and completely vindicated” the broadcaster.
The ruling comes as al-Jazeera battles for its future. A coalition of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, have demanded that Qatar close the TV station as one of the conditions of lifting a blockade of the gas-rich kingdom. Israel also wants to close al-Jazeera’s offices, with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing it of inciting violence.
Al-Jazeera aired The Lobby in January. The programme showed Shai Masot, an official in the Israeli embassy in London, saying he would “take down” MPs including Sir Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office minister who is an outspoken supporter of a Palestinian state.
Russia is within its rights to restrict the operations of U.S. media organizations in Russia in retaliation for what Moscow calls U.S. pressure on a Kremlin-backed TV station, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Sunday.
Russian officials have accused Washington of putting unwarranted pressure on the U.S. operations of RT, a Kremlin-funded broadcaster accused by some in Washington of interfering in domestic U.S. politics, which it denies.
The foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the full weight of the U.S. authorities was being brought to bear against RT’s operations in the United States, and that Moscow had the right to respond. ...
She cited a 1991 Russian law which, she said, stated that if a Russian media outlet is subject to restrictions in a foreign country, then Moscow has the right to impose proportionate restrictions on media outlets from that country operating inside Russia.
Interesting! It turns out that comic book fans are not big fans of the military industrial complex. Heh!
The Marvel comic company dropped a partnership with the defense industry giant Northrop Grumman and canceled a launch event scheduled for New York Comic Con on Saturday, after plans for a special series featuring branded superheroes alongside the legendary Avengers characters met with fierce opposition.
Some fans had planned to protest at the Comic Con event, after Marvel announced via social media that it would launch the limited edition series at its booth at the Jacob K Javits Conference Center on the western side of Manhattan. On Saturday, many attendees welcomed the cancellations. ...
Marvel Entertainment had posted on Twitter on Friday that it was “joining forces” with Northrop Grumman, which makes stealth bombers and military drones, among other defense systems, and issuing a limited comic series.
Images circulated of a comic cover featuring Avengers heroes such as Captain America alongside a new, corporate-branded troupe of superheroes known as the Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus, or NGEN. Inside the comic would be a full-page advertisement for the defense contractor and, reportedly, job recruitment notices.
Uproar on social media was swift, with fans variously calling the tie-in disgusting, tone deaf, amoral and “propaganda for the military-industrial complex”. Marvel soon announced that the project had been cancelled.
Donald Trump’s fractious relationship with the Republican establishment reached a bizarre new level on Sunday when Senator Bob Corker described the White House as an “adult day care center” and warned that the president risked setting the US “on the path to World War III”.
An extraordinary exchange between Trump and the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee began when Trump accused Corker, who is retiring, of “not having the guts” to run for re-election.
In response, Corker tweeted:
It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) October 8, 2017
Trump also said that Corker had “begged” him for an endorsement for re-election. “He also wanted to be secretary of state, I said ‘NO THANKS’,” Trump tweeted. “He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran deal!”
In a statement to the Guardian, Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, directly contradicted Trump. “The president called Sen Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” he said.
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that 25 years of agreements with North Korea have failed, "making fools" of US negotiators.
Then he added cryptically that "only one thing will work."
In a pair of tweets sent Saturday afternoon, Trump said that past agreements with North Korea have all been violated. ...
Asked by reporters later Saturday about the cryptic tweet, Trump would only say: "You'll figure that out pretty soon."
Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades is set to come to a head on Tuesday when the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, reveals his plans for independence as he addresses the regional parliament for the first time since the referendum that provoked the standoff with the Spanish government. Although Puigdemont had originally promised to make a unilateral declaration of independence within 48 hours of a victory for the secessionist campaign, he has so far held off doing so, calling instead for mediated negotiations with the Madrid government.
His appearance before parliament comes after the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, threatened to impose direct rule on Catalonia and a series of banks and businesses announced plans to relocate from the region amid the enduring uncertainty. Despite the growing national and international pressure, it is unclear whether Puigdemont will push ahead with a formal declaration of independence or choose a less drastic option in the hope of avoiding any further escalation of tensions with Madrid.
A Catalan government source dismissed suggestions that the president would opt for a merely symbolic recognition of independence, but refused to be drawn on what he might do. “We’re still on track. We’re here to do what we’re here to do and we will do it especially now that we know that people have voted in a referendum and the result is clear,” they said.
Rajoy has vowed to preserve national unity and shown himself willing to invoke article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the central government to take control of an autonomous region if it “does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain”. Invoking the article, which has never been used, would provoke an angry response in Catalonia. Tempers in the region remain high following the Spanish police’s efforts to stop the referendum on 1 October.
The Guardian has a good article with information from documents that were declassified during the recent lawsuit against the Bush torture designer doctors Mitchell and Jessen. Here's the intro to get you started:
There were twenty cells inside the prison, each a stand-alone concrete box. In sixteen, prisoners were shackled to a metal ring in the wall. In four, designed for sleep deprivation, they stood chained by the wrists to an overhead bar. Those in the regular cells had a plastic bucket; those in sleep deprivation wore diapers. When diapers weren’t available, guards crafted substitutes with duct tape, or prisoners were chained naked in their cells. The cellblock was unheated, pitch black day and night, with music blaring around the clock.
“The atmosphere was very good,” John “Bruce” Jessen told a CIA investigator in January 2003, two months after he interrogated a prisoner named Gul Rahman in the facility. “Nasty, but safe.” Jessen, one of the two contract psychologists who designed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”, spent 10 days in the secret prison near Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2002. Five days after he left, Rahman, naked from the waist down and shackled to the cold concrete floor, was discovered dead in his cell from hypothermia.
In August, Gul Rahman’s family and Mohamed Ben Soud and Suleiman Abdullah Salim, two surviving prisoners of the Afghan black site, reached an out-of-court settlement in their lawsuit against Jessen and James Mitchell seeking restitution for torture. By settling the suit, Mitchell and Jessen avoided a trial that would have brought into the full light of an American courtroom what happened in the prison codenamed Cobalt, and known simply as “the Darkness” to its prisoners.
But much of what the plaintiffs hoped would be aired before a jury can be found in 274 documents the CIA and Pentagon were forced to declassify and release during pre-trial discovery.
[See article for details of documents. - js]
On Thursday, a federal judge denied a second request for bail from Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor accused of violating the Espionage Act, despite an admission from the federal prosecutor in charge of the case that the government relied on false information in Winner’s initial bail hearing.
In his decision denying bail, Judge Brian Epps did not acknowledge or reference the prosecutor’s false statements, despite the statement having been a principal reason the defense moved for the renewed hearing.
The fight over whether Winner should be released pending trial stemmed from her bail hearing shortly after she was indicted in June. Winner was initially denied bail partly on the basis of alleged jailhouse recordings that suggested she may have other classified documents that she wanted to make public.
Relying on the FBI’s descriptions of the calls, the prosecutor told the judge on June 9 that Winner discussed having multiple classified “documents” (plural) beyond the document she allegedly released. When the prosecutor finally did listen to the recording herself — after the judge had already denied bail — she admitted that Winner did not use the plural “documents” in the phone call, but only referred to one “document.”
With no evidence Winner was in possession of more documents, U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari instead shifted focus during a bail hearing last week to Winner’s character, internet privacy habits, and political views, arguing that the young former NSA contractor had shown “nothing but contempt for our country and our security.” In his Thursday decision denying bail, Epps took many of the prosecution’s charges about Winner’s views at face value — portending a tough road ahead for Winner at trial — in making his case that she posed a security and flight risk.
Single Payer Opponents Say The Transition Process Would Be Too Difficult. But 10,000 People Do It Every Day.
Opponents of single payer health care frequently claim that such a system might be wonderful in theory, but getting there would be too disruptive. Many Americans, the argument goes, have private health insurance coverage and the transition to a government plan would be jarring.
“Half of America gets their health insurance coverage on the job,” American Hospital Association lobbyist and former Connecticut Democratic congressman Bruce Morrison told The Intercept last month. Single payer would replace coverage for some 150 million people, he noted. “If you just leaped to Medicare for All, you would totally disrupt the expectations of all those people. And that would not be a good idea.”
But roughly 10,000 Americans make that transition every single day. We call them seniors who are enrolling in Medicare for the first time.
The latest bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would not “just leap” to Medicare for All, but would gradually lower the eligibility age until the full population is covered. So instead of 10,000 per day, several times that would become eligible in a rolling fashion.
So we asked some of those seniors who went through the transition what it was like. They described lower medical bills, great access and choice, and much less fighting with insurance companies for coverage.
The Democratic party has fully mobilized multiple times this year in defense of the Affordable Care Act. But when it comes to the future of health care, the party has quietly given up on the idea of trying to make the ACA principle of regulated private insurance markets work. Instead, they see expanding public health insurance as the future.
Republicans have only themselves to blame.
The most visible sign of this shift from private to public was the release of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for all” bill. His measure garnered 16 co-sponsors, including every senator seen as a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, but it was by no means the only bill of its kind. ...
A big reason for this shift, which Democrats are unlikely to ever fully acknowledge, is how much the ACA has failed to live up to expectations. The relentless claims by Republicans that the ACA will pull the plug on grandma, or that it will explode, have allowed Democrats to redefine barely functioning as success. It has made it easy to forget, though, how great President Barack Obama’s team thought the law would turn out. ...
Some members of the Obama team honestly believed their new private insurance exchanges would be so popular with individuals and companies that they would rapidly expand to become the main way people get insurance. ... One of Obama’s top health care advisers, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, even went so far as to predict that by 2025 fewer than 20 percent of workers would be getting traditional employer-sponsored coverage, because the exchanges would be humming with competition and low prices and crowding everything out.
[See the article for the dramatic details of the collapse brought on by the neoliberal, "free market" religious beliefs of the Obama faithful. - js]
A report published September 27 by the US Federal Reserve, the Survey of Consumer Finances, shows that the top 10 percent of Americans now own 77 percent of all wealth. The top 1 percent increased its share of wealth from 35.5 percent in 2013 to 38.5 in 2016. The share of the bottom 90 percent declined from 25 percent to 22.9 percent over the same period.
These percentages show a transfer of trillions of dollars from the working class to the rich and affluent in just three years.
The bottom three quarters of the population, some 240 million people, now own less than 10 percent of the wealth. That is, if the United States were a 10-storey apartment building with 100 people, the richest person would be living on the top four floors, the nine next wealthiest people on the next four floors, fifteen on the second floor, and 75 people cramped at the bottom level.
The Federal Reserve data demonstrates, in empirical terms, profound changes in social relations that affect hundreds of millions of people, touching all aspects of political, cultural and intellectual life. The US is an oligarchy in which the government, trade unions, media, universities, and major political parties are instruments used by the ruling class to manipulate the population, mask its own wealth, and crush social opposition from below.
The Trump administration on Sunday issued a list of hardline immigration demands, including funding for a wall on the Mexico border and a crackdown on admittance of children from Central America, as its first move in negotiations for a deal to allow young undocumented migrants known as Dreamers to stay in the US legally.
Democrats rejected the list as “immoral” and “far beyond what is reasonable”, setting up a likely showdown in Congress. On Monday Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat from New Mexico and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said if Republicans and the White House refused to back off, Democrats led by the CHC were prepared to derail legislation.
“They are not going to have Democrats to get them over the finish line on anything they need,” she said on a conference call with reporters, adding: “We’ll use every leverage point we have at our disposal to protect these Dreamers.” Dreamers and groups who advocate for them also reacted with horror. Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), said the decision to use Dreamers as a “bargaining chip” was “shameful”.
The list of principles also called for withholding federal grants for “sanctuary cities” and limiting legal immigration by issuing fewer family-based green cards to spouses and the minor children of US citizens and lawful permanent residents. It also demanded the creation of a points-based system for migrants to gain entry to the US.
Gov. Rick Snyder knew about Flint-area outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in December 2015, the month before he said he found out, according to testimony Friday from one of his top aides.
Harvey Hollins III, Snyder's point man for the state's response to the Flint water crisis, revealed the information in a Flint courtroom. Hollins said he told Snyder in a phone call in December 2015, which contradicts what Snyder has said previously: that he first learned of instances of Legionnaires' disease in Flint in January 2016.
“As soon as I became aware of it, we held a press conference the next day,” Snyder said in a March 2016 interview before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that was played in court.
The news conference was held on Jan. 13, 2016. ...
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said in a statement that Hollins' testimony "raises concerning questions about the governor’s statements that need to be answered." He said he has asked the Oversight and Government Reform committee to look into the conflicting statements immediately.
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that he would sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“The war on coal is over,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky, at an event with one of the state’s US senators, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two dozen attorney generals who sued to stop Barack Obama’s push to limit carbon emissions.
Closely tied to the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change. ..
In his order on Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.
Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through northern California’s wine region early on Monday, sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. Mandatory evacuations were ordered in counties north of San Francisco Bay and elsewhere after blazes broke out late on Sunday.
“It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before,” said Marian Williams, who caravanned with neighbors through flames before dawn as one of the wildfires reached the vineyards and ridges at her small Sonoma County town of Kenwood. Williams could feel the heat of her fire through the car as she fled. “Trees were on fire like torches,” she said.
With so many fires, residents of Sonoma County struggled to figure out what roads to take, finding downed trees or flames blocking some routes. Fires also burned just to the east in the Napa County wine country as well as in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties all north of the state capital. Cal Fire tweeted that as many as 8,000 homes were threatened in Nevada County, which lies on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Smoke was thick in San Francisco, 60 miles (96km) south of the Sonoma County fire.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Meade "Lux" Lewis - Blues' Whistle
Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons - Boogie Woogie Prayer
Meade Lux Lewis - Melancholy Blues
Meade Lux Lewis - Honky Tonk Train Blues
Meade Lux Lewis - Solitude
Meade Lux Lewis (w/Big Joe Turner) - Low Down Dog
Meade "Lux" Lewis - Six Wheel Chaser
Meade Lux Lewis - Mr. Freddie Blues
Meade Lux Lewis w/Charlie Christian, Edmond Hall & Israel Crosby - Jammin' In Four
Meade Lux Lewis - Fast Boogie