The Evening Blues - 11-10-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and pianist Ray Charles. Enjoy!
Ray Charles - Hit the Road Jack
“The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying – lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else,” ranted the comedian whose routines were studied in graduate schools.
“But I’ll tell you what they don’t want,” Carlin continued. “They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. You know what they want? Obedient workers – people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they’re coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club.“
-- George Carlin
News and Opinion
... to hoard as much special interest money into the DNC's starving coffers. As a result, a progressive, anti-establishment candidate like Sanders had to fight more than a lack of name recognition, party leaders' endorsements, financial and staffing disadvantages in 2016: he basically was up against a DNC strangled by Clinton's money-soaked grip.
Does any objective person think the Clinton campaign, when given say on who the DNC communications chair would be during the primary, wouldn't try to ram through a communications director who benefited them immediately, thus helping them become the general election candidate?
And benefit they did: the DNC hired Luis Miranda, a veteran communications operative for establishment figures including John Kerry and President Obama. As WikiLeaks revealed, he worked overtime behind the scenes on behalf of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz—Clinton's 2008 campaign co-chair—to plant hit pieces on Bernie Sanders in media outlets during the primary, which ultimately got him fired when Brazile cleaned house.
Does any objective person think the DNC wasn't making decisions—like, planting debates at dead zones like the Saturday night before Christmas, or having its chairwoman go on national television to falsely declare chairs were thrown by Sanders supporters at the Nevada State Convention with zero video evidence of such violence occurring—due to the fact that the DNC had handed over sizable control over finances, staffing, and messaging to Clinton-world in exchange for Hillary keeping the money flowing into the DNC?
If you don't, I've got a bridge to sell you.
One of The Owners (as described by the Prophet Carlin in one of his most famous Jeremiads) speaks:
In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle, timeshare tycoon and top Democratic party donor Stephen Cloobeck told the world that he was outraged at how Democrats have been treating the one percent, and that he has personally ordered Dem leaders to espouse a platform that is more warm and accommodating to the donor class. ...
Under no pressure whatsoever from the extremely sympathetic Ruhle, who made it clear in the beginning of the interview that she and Cloobeck are good friends, Cloobeck passionately stated that he had instructed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and senior Democratic Senator Ron Wyden that if they ever so much as use the word “billionaire” again, he will withdraw financial support from the party.
And there you have it. Not enough attention is being paid to the fact that the American left has just been given a rare insider’s perspective on how the donor class uses their financial might to order US politicians to sabotage the progressive agenda and refuse to move an inch to the left. ... And make no mistake, this guy is the real deal. Cloobeck gave well over two million dollars to the Democratic party last year alone, including a million dollar donation to the Hillary Clinton super PAC Priorities USA.
So. Who do you think will determine the future of the Democratic Party? The Owners, Bernie Sanders or (cough, snort) the "little people?"
Following a massive wave of progressive victories in elections throughout the U.S. earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argued in a Politico op-ed on Friday that the Democratic Party must embrace "fundamental reforms" and "welcome into its ranks millions of working people and young people" if it is to build on this grassroots momentum and overcome the "unprecedented crisis" posed by the Trump administration.
Sanders' plea for systemic change within the party that has been decimated at nearly every level of government over the past eight years comes just ahead of the final meeting of the DNC's "Unity Reform Commission," a group formed in the aftermath of the 2016 Democratic primary with the stated goal of "ensur[ing] that inclusivity is upheld in all things that we do."
Some of the reforms Sanders says the commission "desperately" needs to consider during its December meeting if it is to have any hope of defeating Trump's "agenda of the billionaire class" include:
- Reducing the power of superdelegates, which currently have "the power to control the nominating process and ignore the will of voters";
- "Making voting easier, and not harder" by "ending the absurdity of closed primary systems" that lock out independent voters and fully embracing "universal and same-day voter registration";
- Developing a process that makes it easier for working people and students to participate in the voting process in states that use caucuses "even if they are not physically able to attend a caucus"; and
- "Fully appreciat[ing] Donna Brazile's revelations and understand the need for far more transparency in the financial and policy workings of the Democratic Party." Brazile, Sanders wrote, "exposed the rot."
The Democratic Party, Sanders argues, "cannot remain an institution largely dominated by the wealthy and inside-the-Beltway consultants" if it is to defeat Trump's "reactionary agenda"—which includes massive tax breaks for the wealthy coupled with enormous cuts to life-saving social programs.
The Crown Prosecution Service is facing embarrassment after admitting it destroyed key emails relating to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy fighting extradition. Email exchanges between the CPS and its Swedish counterparts over the high-profile case were deleted after the lawyer at the UK end retired in 2014. The destruction of potentially sensitive and revealing information comes ahead of a tribunal hearing in London next week.
Adding to the intrigue,
The CPS, responding to questions from the Guardian, denied there were any legal implications of the data loss for an Assange case if it were to come to court in the future. Asked if the CPS had any idea what was destroyed, a spokesperson said: “We have no way of knowing the content of email accounts once they have been deleted.”
The CPS data destruction was disclosed in a freedom of information (FOI) case being pursued by the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi. Maurizi, a reporter on La Repubblica who has covered WikiLeaks since 2009, has been pressing both the CPS and its Swedish counterpart for information relating to Assange and extradition. Unhappy over the limited material released so far, she is taking her case against the CPS to an information tribunal on Monday and Tuesday. “It is incredible to me these records about an ongoing and high-profile case have been destroyed. I think they have something to hide,” Maurizi said.
During a hacking operation in which U.S. authorities broke into thousands of computers around the world to investigate child pornography, the FBI hacked a number of targets in Russia, China, and Iran, The Daily Beast has learned.
The news signals the bold future of policing on the so-called dark web, where investigators are increasingly deploying malware without first knowing which country their suspect is located in. Legal experts and commentators say the approach of blindly kicking down digital doors in countries not allied with the U.S. could lead to geopolitical fallout.
The FBI’s actions are “essentially opening the door for other countries to unilaterally hack devices located in the U.S. in the law-enforcement context,” Scarlet Kim, legal officer at U.K.-based activist group Privacy International, which has closely followed the FBI’s global hacking operation, told The Daily Beast.
Saudi Arabia has ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon immediately, escalating a regional standoff with Iran centred on the fragile state, which it claims is being run by Tehran’s proxy, Hezbollah. The move follows a week of bellicose rhetoric from the Sunni Arab powerhouse about its Shia rival, drawing strong support from Donald Trump and Israel, all three of whom insist Iran is forging strongholds across the region.
The standoff has taken tensions between Riyadh and Tehran to new levels and raised fears that decades of distrust and manoeuvrings between the two may be building towards a military confrontation, underwritten by the Trump administration and joined by Israel.
The Saudi order for its citizens to leave, also made by the kingdom’s allies in Bahrain and Kuwait, came after the country’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said his government would treat Lebanon as a hostile state as long as Hezbollah was in the government. He described Hezbollah’s participation in government as an “act of war” against Saudi Arabia.
The Israeli intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz, said on Thursday he believed conditions were ripe for a diplomatic offensive against Iran and Hezbollah at the United Nations, where he said Israel would seek better enforcement of a 2006 ceasefire agreement that called on Hezbollah to disarm and stay away from its border.
Allegations of a pact, at least on a de facto level, between Saudi Arabia and Israel were given impetus after it was revealed that Israeli diplomats were asked to repeat talking points, almost identical to remarks made by Saudi leaders after Saturday’s resignation of the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, claiming Hezbollah had made his job impossible.
Lebanon believes Saad al-Hariri is being held in Saudi Arabia, from where he resigned as Lebanese prime minister, two top government officials in Beirut said, amid a deepening crisis pushing Lebanon onto the frontlines of a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
A third source, a senior politician close to Saudi-allied Hariri, said Saudi Arabia had ordered him to resign and put him under house arrest. A fourth source familiar with the situation said Saudi Arabia was controlling and limiting his movement.
In a televised statement indicating deep concern at Hariri’s situation, his Future Movement political party said his return home was necessary to uphold the Lebanese system, describing him as prime minister and a national leader.
Hariri’s resignation last Saturday, read out on television from Saudi Arabia, came as a shock even to his aides and further embroiled Beirut in a regional contest between Riyadh and Tehran.
Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman Consolidates Power & Purges Rivals Under “Anti-Corruption” Pretense
Hundreds of sick and elderly Yemenis "will die within the next week" unless Saudi Arabia lifts its blockade and allows urgently needed medical supplies into the country.
Doctors in the capital told Al Jazeera pharmacies across Sanaa that were already struggling with a critical shortage of specialist drugs, would be unable to treat cancer, diabetes and renal failure patients by the start of next week.
"We're running dangerously low on medical supplies and won't have anywhere near the necessary vials of pain-relief medication, insulin, and other specialist medicines for our patients," said Abdulrahman al-Ansi, a doctor at Sanaa's al-Mutawkil hospital. ...
Saudi Arabia, which has been at war with Yemen since 2015, tightened its air, land and sea blockade of the country on Sunday, after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would hold a hearing next week on “the executive’s authority to use nuclear weapons.”
“A number of members both on and off our committee have raised questions about the authorities of the legislative and executive branches with respect to war making, the use of nuclear weapons, and conducting foreign policy overall,” Corker said in a statement announcing the Nov. 14 hearing.
“This continues a series of hearings to examine these issues and will be the first time since 1976 that this committee or our House counterparts have looked specifically at the authority and process for using U.S. nuclear weapons,” he continued. “This discussion is long overdue, and we look forward to examining this critical issue.”
A debate over nuclear authority has reignited among lawmakers after President Trump warned in August that North Korea could face "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it continues to advance its nuclear program. A number of rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans have come forward saying Congress must authorize the use of nuclear weapons and a declaration of war should Trump want to strike North Korea.
The final version of the annual defense policy would require President Trump to submit his North Korea strategy to Congress.
“The conferees note that ... the United States should act to counter North Korea's continued development and testing of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles,” House and Senate negotiators wrote in a conference report released Thursday. ...
The Senate-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act would have required the Defense secretary to submit a North Korea strategy to Congress within 90 days after passage.
The House-passed version, meanwhile, only included a sense of Congress about the threat posed by North Korea.
The compromise bill released Thursday retains the strategy required in the Senate version, but now says it must come from the president instead of the Defense secretary.
The Supreme Court had summoned them to answer charges of rebellion after they enabled an Oct. 27 declaration of independence that prompted the Spanish government to dissolve the Catalan parliament and sack the regional administration.
Speaker Carme Forcadell will be transferred to the Alcala Meco prison outside Madrid and kept there until she pays 150,000-euro bail, court sources said. The four lawmakers must pay bail of 25,000 euros while a fifth was released without bail.
Judge Pablo Llarena wrote in Thursday’s ruling: “All the accused ... have expressed that either they renounce future political activity or, those that remain active, will in future renounce any actions outside the constitutional framework.” ...
After the ruling, Carles Puigdemont tweeted: “Carme Forcadell will spend the night in prison for allowing a democratic debate. For allowing speaking and voting! That’s Spanish democracy for you.”
The street-level response to the Paradise Papers, the mighty follow-up punch to last year’s Panama Papers, has been curiously tepid. This is probably not what many activists, and the 100 media organizations involved in the leak, expected to happen. In striking contrast to the bombshell release of the Panama Papers in mid-2016 that immediately triggered a 10,000-person-strong protest in Iceland leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the Paradise Papers have thus far made many headlines but no uprisings.
The world was different – arguably better – 18 months ago when commentators widely believed, as Rana Foroohar put it at the time in Time magazine: “the Panama Papers could lead to capitalism’s greatest crisis.” ... Then Brexit happened, alt-right nationalism surged and Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. In other words, the Panama Papers protests, and leftist activism more generally, were quickly overshadowed by a dramatic string of victories for the criminally rich who now figure prominently in the Paradise Papers. ...
Sure, noisy mobs might force one or two tax evaders to take a less public role – perhaps even resign from office – but the fundamental economic injustice of our society is not corrected. ...
While street protest is losing its effectiveness, there is a force that could terrify these elites: the spectre of a ruthless and globally inescapable class justice. Unlike in the 99%’s world where youth languish for months and years in jail for allegedly stealing a backpack or $5 worth of candy or a bottle of water, in the world occupied by the 1% getting caught stealing millions from the public through tax evasion might be embarrassing but is rarely prosecuted. That must change.
From this point forward, protesters must frighten the uber-rich with a sophisticated movement to establish a new binding global legal regime dedicated to prosecuting financial crimes against humanity.
Out of sight, a powerful industry has been developing since the 1980s in tax havens across the globe. By following the money, we can start to grasp the costs that these territories impose on the economies of other countries. ...
Most of the world’s equity wealth belongs to very wealthy people, so corporate tax avoidance only enriches a small group. And the taxes multinationals dodge have to be compensated for by higher taxes on lower-income households, making it harder for these people to save and accumulate wealth. In the absence of higher taxes, public spending has to fall. The revenue EU countries lose to tax havens represents the equivalent of about half of public spending on higher education. Tax havens, like climate change, are thus at the root of a massive intergenerational transfer of wealth, which enriches the old and impoverishes the young.
But there is an even more direct way in which tax havens increase inequality. On top of helping multinationals dodge taxes, offshore centres enable a number of ultra-wealthy individuals to hide their riches – from the taxman, business partners, spouses or judges. The equivalent of 10% of global GDP is held offshore by rich individuals in the form of bank deposits, equities, bonds and mutual fund shares, most of the time in the name of faceless shell corporations, foundations and trusts.
The explosive allegations of sexual abuse against a minor that have been leveled against Roy Moore present the GOP leadership with a tricky political crisis. On Thursday evening, hours after the Washington Post reported allegations that he instigated improper sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl in 1979, when he was 32, Moore, who in less than five weeks is set to stand as Republican candidate in Alabama’s special US Senate election, appeared to be digging in for a fight.
In an indication of how the firebrand and former judge intends to handle the storm, he has begun fundraising on the back of it, accusing the Post, whose claims he denied, of a “vicious and nasty” attack. “The forces of evil are on the march,” he said before appealing for campaign donations.
But should he continue to doggedly refuse to step aside, as seems more than likely, the Republican leadership in the US senate could find itself in a bind as it seeks to hang on to the party’s slender majority. The Democrats, whose sails have been filled by resounding victories across the country on Tuesday, are only three seats away from regaining control of the chamber in next year’s midterm elections, and are already eyeing Arizona and Nevada as potential targets.
Should Moore’s travails cost the Republicans as reliable a seat as Alabama on 12 December, that could open up for the Democrats a credible path to the majority.
[Not that the Democrats would do anything useful with it... - js]
Donald Trump could slow down US progress towards a lower carbon economy, but he will be unable to halt it because businesses and local governments have committed to a low-carbon path, a former climate negotiator for the US has said. Through measures such as slapping import tariffs on solar products, scrapping incentives to renewable energy and promoting coal power, the US president could try to alter the economics of pursuing low-carbon energy.
However, many American states, towns and businesses are moving to renewable energy as it is proving lower cost than conventional sources. The recent rise in the price of oil has underlined the volatility of fossil fuels.
Paul Bodnar, a lead US negotiator in the climate talks under former president Barack Obama, told the Guardian that Trump possessed “powerful instruments”, such as import tariffs and quotas, that could hamper the growth of low-carbon technology. “If he chooses, he could use them,” he said. But he warned this would be short-sighted, as China is forging ahead with low-carbon power and the US would risk losing any technological lead.
“It is clear the way the market is driving – towards lower carbon. It would be difficult for a Republican administration to take action that is clearly counter to the forces of the market,” he said. Coal, he said, was losing ground in the market, even without penalties on carbon output. “A huge percentage of US coal is just flat out uneconomic,” said Bodnar. “Ratepayers are being asked to pay more for incumbent industries. Questions are going to be asked about why that is. It would cost a lot to make coal great again.” He added: “The direction of travel [for businesses] has been set, and it is lower carbon. The only question is the pace at which that happens. And the pace is important because this is an urgent problem. Trump has the ability to slow that pace, but he cannot reverse it.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ray Charles - Busted
Ray Charles - Hide ‘Nor Hair
Ray Charles - I Got a Woman
Ray Charles - Drown In My Own Tears
Ray Charles - Hard Times
Ray Charles + The Blues Brothers - Shake A Tail Feather
Ray Charles - Mess Around
Ray Charles - In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)
Ray Charles - Let's Go Get Stoned
Ray Charles - Sticks And Stones