The Evening Blues - 11-13-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist and singer Mighty Joe Young. Enjoy!
Mighty Joe Young - Suffering Soul
“When truth is replaced by silence,the silence is a lie.”
-- Yevgeny Yevtushenko
News and Opinion
In one of the most horrendous blows to press freedom since the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, the U.S. Department of Justice has forced the news broadcaster RT America to file under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The assault on RT America, on which I host the show “On Contact,” has nothing to do with the dissemination of Russian propaganda. It is driven by RT America’s decision to provide a platform to critics of American capitalism and imperialism, critics who lambast a system of government that can no longer be called democratic. And it is accompanied by the installation of algorithms by Google, Facebook and Twitter that divert readers away from left-wing, progressive and anti-war websites, including Truthdig. The World Socialist Web Site has seen its search traffic from Google fall by 74 percent since April. Google, in a further blow, this month removed RT from its list of “preferred” channels on YouTube. Twitter has blocked all advertising by the channel.
It would seem, given how we are locked out of the corporate media and public broadcasting, that the assault is overkill. But the ideology that sustains the corporate state, the “free market” and neoliberalism has lost all credibility. The corporate state has no counterargument to its critics. The nakedness of corporate greed, exploitation and repression is transparent across the political spectrum.
Complicit in this censorship is a bankrupt liberal class. The institutions tasked with defending press freedom—including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists and PEN—along with major news outlets such as The New York Times, have served as the corporate state’s useful idiots. ... The ruling elites are desperately trying to shift the focus away from the cause of the political insurgencies on the left and the right: extreme social inequality. It is for this reason that critics who highlight and explore the roots and causes of social inequality must be discredited or silenced. If social inequality is accepted as the driving force behind the decay of the American state and the mounting rage of much of the population, then the structures that profit from this inequality will come under assault. All the elites have left is to paint their critics as “agents of a foreign power.”
Journalists working for Facebook say the social media site’s fact-checking tools have largely failed and that the company has exploited their labor for a PR campaign.
Several fact checkers who work for independent news organizations and partner with Facebook told the Guardian that they feared their relationships with the technology corporation, some of which are paid, have created a conflict of interest, making it harder for the news outlets to scrutinize and criticize Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation.
The reporters also lamented that Facebook had refused to disclose data on its efforts to stop the dissemination of fake news. The journalists are speaking out one year after the company launched the collaboration in response to outrage over revelations that social media platforms had widely promoted fake news and propaganda during the US presidential election. ...
“I don’t feel like it’s working at all. The fake information is still going viral and spreading rapidly,” said one journalist who does fact-checks for Facebook and, like others interviewed for this piece, was not authorized to speak publicly due to the continuing partnership with the company. “It’s really difficult to hold [Facebook] accountable. They think of us as doing their work for them. They have a big problem, and they are leaning on other organizations to clean up after them.”
Facebook announced to much hype last December that it was partnering with third-party factcheckers – including the Associated Press, Snopes, ABC News, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org – to publicly flag fake news so that a “disputed” tag would warn users about sharing debunked content. A Guardian review this year found that the fact-checks seemed to be mostly ineffective and that “disputed” tags weren’t working as intended.
Analysts say a reckoning is coming — even as Republicans seek tax cuts that will add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt. The post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have been fought with borrowed money, enough to require up to $8 trillion in interest payments in coming decades, a new report says.
Unlike America’s previous wars, its 21st-century conflicts have been paired not with a tax hike or massive sale of U.S. bonds, but a tax cut. The federal government has been operating at a deficit since 2002, accruing a national debt that now totals $20 trillion and counting.
“We have to recognize that we have been borrowing for 16 years to pay for military operations,” said Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. It’s the “first time really in history with any major conflict that we have borrowed rather than ask people to contribute to the national defense directly, and the result is we’ve got this huge fiscal drag…that we’re not really accounting for or factoring into deliberations about fiscal policy as well as military policy.”
A powerful magnitude-7.3 earthquake has rocked the northern border region between Iran and Iraq, killing more than 400 people and injuring thousands more.
Iran’s state-run Irna news agency has raised the death toll to 407 and said 6,700 people were injured after the quake that struck the country’s western provinces at 9.20pm local time on Sunday. Tremors were felt hundreds of miles away in both capitals, in Tehran and Baghdad.
Local officials said the toll was likely to rise as search and rescue teams reached remote areas. More than 70,000 people were in need of emergency shelter, the Iranian Red Crescent said.
The hardest hit province was Kermanshah, where three days of mourning have been announced. More than 236 people died in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, about 10 miles from the Iraq border. In Kermanshah’s Dalahu county, the local governor was quoted as saying that some villages had been completely destroyed.
From the moment Saad al-Hariri’s plane touched down in Saudi Arabia on Friday Nov. 3, he was in for a surprise. There was no line-up of Saudi princes or ministry officials, as would typically greet a prime minister on an official visit to King Salman, senior sources close to Hariri and top Lebanese political and security officials said. His phone was confiscated, and the next day he was forced to resign as prime minister in a statement broadcast by a Saudi-owned TV channel.
The move thrust Lebanon back to the forefront of a struggle that is reshaping the Middle East, between the conservative Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite revolutionary Iran. Their rivalry has fueled conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where they back opposing sides, and now risks destabilizing Lebanon, where Saudi has long tried to weaken the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s main political power and part of the ruling coalition.
Sources close to Hariri say Saudi Arabia has concluded that the prime minister - a long-time Saudi ally and son of late prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 - had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah. Multiple Lebanese sources say Riyadh hopes to replace Saad Hariri with his older brother Bahaa as Lebanon’s top Sunni politician. Bahaa is believed to be in Saudi Arabia and members of the Hariri family have been asked to travel there to pledge allegiance to him, but have refused, the sources say. ...
Hariri was summoned to the Kingdom to meet Saudi King Salman in a phone call on Thursday night, Nov. 2. Before departing, he told his officials they would resume their discussions on Monday. He told his media team he would see them at the weekend in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, where he was due to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Youth Forum.
Lebanon’s president has told foreign ambassadors that the country’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri, who resigned suddenly last week in Saudi Arabia, has been “kidnapped” and must have immunity, a senior Lebanese official told Reuters on Saturday.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri says he will return home "in days" to formally submit his resignation. Mr Hariri spoke to Future TV from Riyadh, his first public remarks since he announced he was stepping down last week.
His cabinet allies say he is being held captive, but Mr Hariri denied this.
He has blamed the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement for his resignation, citing concerns over his and his family's safety.
The US and UK have warned other countries not to use Lebanon for proxy conflicts.
Observers noted the journalist who interviewed Mr Hariri made an effort to demonstrate that the event was live, rather than pre-recorded, though there were several moments which raised suspicions about the conditions under which the interview was held, the Associated Press reported.
Two former US intelligence chiefs have said Donald Trump poses “a peril” to the US because he is vulnerable to being “played” by Russia, after the president said on Saturday he believed Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director John Brennan issued a stern rebuke to Trump after the president called both men “political hacks” for their support of an intelligence agency consensus that Russia meddled with the US election.
“First of all, he was referring to us as political hacks because he was trying to delegitimize the intelligence assessment that was done,” Brennan told CNN’s State of the Union. He added: “By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin: ‘We know that you’re responsible for this,’ I think he’s giving Putin a pass.
“And I think it demonstrates to Mr Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, recently issued the first indictments in the investigation into possible collusion between Trump aides and Russia. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion. On Saturday, Trump told reporters on Air Force One during a flight to Hanoi that Mueller was leading an “artificial Democratic hit job” which could cost “millions and millions of lives” by interfering with diplomatic efforts with Russia.
Asked if he had raised the issue of Russian interference during sideline conversations with Putin at the Apec summit in Da Nang, Trump said: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe – I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.” The president later tweeted criticism of “haters and fools” and insisted that “having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing” because he wanted “to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!”
"Wearing yellow ribbons on their lapels to signify support, they filled the length of the Avenue Marina that runs from the beach to Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia church, while the jailed leaders' families made speeches," The Independent reports. "Catalonia's two main grassroots independence groups called the march, under the slogan 'Freedom for the political prisoners,' after their leaders were remanded in custody on charges of sedition last month."
The march on Saturday followed a series of related demonstrations in recent weeks. On October 16, "around 200,000 people (according to calculations by the municipal police) came out to protest the jailing of the heads of the pro-independence ANC and Òmnium associations, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart," the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports. "On October 21, another protest calling for their release saw 450,000 people take to the streets of the Catalan capital." ...
The Spanish High Court has jailed a group of former government officials and leaders of two grassroots groups. On Thursday, the government released five of the those who had been imprisoned, though former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell reportedly struck a deal that effectively bars her from advocating for independence during December's election. The court has also issued warrants for the region's former president Carles Puigdemont, a supporter of Catalan independence who fled to Brussels with four other former government officials.
Puigdemont, according to El Pais, sent a video message to Saturday's protest to urge citizens to remain "very active" and reassure them that those who have been jailed will hear the "clamor" of the people. "Let's not let ourselves be frightened or constrained by those who want to impose the law of [Article] 155," Puigdemont reportedly said, referencing the clause of the Spanish Constitution that Madrid has used to fire the entire Catalan government and impose direct rule in the region. "The Spanish state cannot carry on like this," he said. "The European community must stop looking the other way."
Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the Houston area, and inestimable tons of moldy debris have to be mucked out as the city rebuilds. Much of the work is being done by undocumented immigrants, who make up half of the Texas construction workforce, according to some estimates. But even as their labor is in high demand, many are silently enduring abuse as they fear deportation. ...
Wage theft is not new for day laborers, and it can take many forms. But it has been especially hard on undocumented construction workers ineligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who live in apartments and homes that flooded during the hurricane.
Under the Texas Payday Act, victims of wage theft — including undocumented immigrants — can file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission. Similarly, an ordinance passed in Houston in 2013 allows workers employed by a city contractor to also file wage theft claims with the city’s Inspector General and prohibits retaliation. But nearly four years after the measure went into effect, none of the dozens of complaints filed have been resolved.
Long before Texas ramped up immigration enforcement, it scaled back the power of unions to stand up to such abuse. In 1993, state lawmakers passed a right-to-work law that let employees benefit from a union contract without paying dues. Economists report that wages and benefits have since declined, and workplaces have become more dangerous. By 2010, the fatality rate for construction workers in Texas was higher than in any other state. Fewer than 5 percent of the state’s home construction workers are now unionized.
Roy Moore’s Republican Opponents Chased Rumors About “Women Issues” for Years, But Could Never Nail Them Down
Republican strategists in Alabama have for years heard rumors that Roy Moore had “women issues” — a euphemism for sexual misconduct used in the politics business — according to four sources who ran various campaigns against Moore, but they were never able to get definitive proof.
“There’s been a rumor for a while,” said David Mowery, an independent political consultant who first heard the allegations in his role as campaign manager for Bob Vance, Moore’s opponent in a 2012 race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. “But I don’t know if anyone knew the extent of it, if you know what I mean,” Mowery added. ...
On Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee dropped its support of Moore. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who endorsed Moore after his primary victory in September, has asked the Moore campaign to stop using his picture in a fundraising email the campaign sent out Friday. The Moore campaign, in a lengthy statement, called the reporting in the Washington Post “fake news,” arguing that if the allegations were true, they would have been made earlier.
“Judge Roy Moore is winning with a double-digit lead. So it is no surprise, with just over four weeks remaining, in a race for the U.S. Senate with national implications, that the Democratic Party and the country’s most liberal newspaper would come up with a fabrication of this kind,” the campaign argued. On Friday, Moore tried to walk back some of this tough talk by clarifying he believes most victims of abuse, just not his victims.
A woman has come forward to claim George HW Bush touched her inappropriately when she was 16.
Roslyn Corrigan told Time that she posed for a photo with the former president in 2003 at a gathering of CIA officers north of Houston. She was 16 at the time and attended the event with her mother and father, who was an intelligence analyst.
Corrigan says as the photo was being taken, Bush dropped his hand to her buttocks and squeezed. ...
A spokesman for the former president, Jim McGrath, said Bush has apologized “to anyone he may have offended during a photo op”. In previous cases, McGrath has mentioned the fact that using a wheelchair, as Bush has for about the past five years, “his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures”. But Bush was not in a wheelchair in 2003, when the new incident allegedly took place.
Massive conflicts of interest no longer stand in the way of confirmation to the Environmental Protection Agency’s highest posts, as Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s sworn enemy, demonstrated when he ascended to the agency’s top job. Last Thursday, the Senate confirmed a second highly conflicted EPA nominee, fossil fuel lobbyist Bill Wehrum, who will now oversee air pollution protections despite his clear record of working to undermine those very same protections. With only one Republican opposing Wehrum, the 49-47 vote was a reminder of how little Senate Republicans expect of those who are meant to protect us from environmental threats.
Yet Michael Dourson, the industry scientist Trump nominated to head EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, may be unable to clear even this low bar. Though the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee voted to advance Wehrum’s and Dourson’s nominations at the same October 25 hearing, only Wehrum’s advanced to the floor of the Senate, an indication that Republicans don’t yet have the votes to confirm Dourson.
Resistance to his nomination is coming from red states that have been directly harmed by chemicals Dourson has defended on behalf of industry. The senators from West Virginia, for example, might have been expected to fall in line behind Dourson. But in a hearing last month, West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito questioned the nominee about his involvement with two chemicals that have affected her state: PFOA and MCHM, both of which, Capito said, had “very much touched the lives of my fellow West Virginians.” Capito, who didn’t respond to inquiries for this story, has yet to announce how she will vote.
Dourson was responsible for setting a state standard for PFOA that was thousands of times higher than the EPA’s current safety level. His consulting company Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment also worked on MCHM, one of the chemicals that spilled into West Virginia’s Elk River in 2014, leaving some 300,000 people without drinking water.
West Virginia’s other senator, Joe Manchin, announced his intention to vote against Dourson last month. Though a Democrat, Manchin often votes with Republicans, but not this time. West Virginia is “unfortunately familiar with the dangers that can arise when we neglect to properly comply with and enforce our chemical regulations,” Manchin said in a statement.
[Holy crap! I thought that in order to get Joe Manchin to vote against a nominee, he'd either have to be a progressive Democrat or have kicked Joe's dog. - js]
The burning of fossil fuels around the world is set to hit a record high in 2017, climate scientists have warned, following three years of flat growth that raised hopes that a peak in global emissions had been reached.
The expected jump in the carbon emissions that drive global warming is a “giant leap backwards for humankind”, according to some scientists. However, other experts said they were not alarmed, saying fluctuations in emissions are to be expected and that big polluters such as China are acting to cut emissions.
Global emissions need to reach their peak by 2020 and then start falling quickly in order to have a realistic chance of keeping global warming below the 2C danger limit, according to leading scientists. Whether the anticipated increase in CO2 emissions in 2017 is just a blip that is followed by a falling trend, or is the start of a worrying upward trend, remains to be seen.
Much will depend on the fast implementation of the global climate deal sealed in Paris in 2015 and this is the focus of the UN summit of the world’s countries in Bonn, Germany this week. The nations must make significant progress in turning the aspirations of the Paris deal into reality, as the action pledged to date would see at least 3C of warming and increasing extreme weather impacts around the world.
'You Claim To Be An American, But We See Right Through Your Greed': A Song of Protest and Then a Walkout at US Event at Climate Summit
Protesters interrupted an event sponsored by the U.S. climate delegation at the UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany on Monday with a repackaged version of the song "God Bless the U.S.A." before staging a mass walkout.
— Amy Harder (@AmyAHarder) November 13, 2017
Soon after the protest, the room was left nearly empty as many in attendance walked out.
Following lengthy protest, the room is now basically empty other than press and few White House guests in front row pic.twitter.com/aYuUKLk2XL
— Leo Hickman (@LeoHickman) November 13, 2017
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Mighty Joe Young - I Want A Love
Mighty Joe Young - Something's Wrong
Mighty Joe Young - Ladies Man
Mighty Joe Young - Guitar Star
Mighty Joe Young - Hey Baby
Mighty Joe Young - I Don't Want To Lose You
Mighty Joe Young - Henpecked
Mighty Joe Young - Easier said than done I & II
Mighty Joe Young - Tell Me Something
Mighty Joe Young - Why, Baby
Mighty Joe Young - Rome Wasn't Built In A Day
Mighty Joe Young - Ain’t Nobody Home