The Evening Blues - 3-13-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and boogie piano player and singer Cecil Gant. Enjoy!
Cecil Gant - We're Gonna Rock
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
-- Some Damned Piece of Paper
News and Opinion
This is an excellent article with lots more than can be excerpted fairly. It's an important read for folks who care about the 4th Amendment and/or their privacy.
On Sunday's Face the Nation, Sen. Rand Paul was asked about President Trump’s accusation that President Obama ordered the NSA to wiretap his calls. The Kentucky Senator expressed skepticism about the mechanics of Trump’s specific charge, saying: “I doubt that Trump was a target directly of any kind of eavesdropping.” But he then made a broader and more crucial point about how the U.S. Government spies on Americans’ communications – a point that is deliberately obscured and concealed by U.S. government defenders.
Paul explained how the NSA routinely and deliberately spies on Americans’ communications – listens to their calls and reads their emails – without a judicial warrant of any kind:
The way it works is, the FISA court, through Section 702, wiretaps foreigners and then [NSA] listens to Americans. It is a backdoor search of Americans. And because they have so much data, they can tap — type Donald Trump into their vast resources of people they are tapping overseas, and they get all of his phone calls.
And so they did this to President Obama. They — 1,227 times eavesdropped on President Obama’s phone calls. Then they mask him. But here is the problem. And General Hayden said this the other day. He said even low-level employees can unmask the caller. That is probably what happened to Flynn.
They are not targeting Americans. They are targeting foreigners. But they are doing it purposefully to get to Americans.
Paul’s explanation is absolutely correct. That the NSA is empowered to spy on Americans’ communications without a warrant – in direct contravention of the core Fourth Amendment guarantee that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” – is the dirty little secret of the U.S. Surveillance State.
As I documented at the height of the controversy over the Snowden reporting, top government officials – including President Obama – constantly deceived (and still deceive) the public by falsely telling them that their communications cannot be monitored without a warrant. ... Those statements are categorically false.A key purpose of the new 2008 FISA law – which then-Senator Obama voted for during the 2008 General Election after breaking his primary-race promise to filibuster it – was to legalize the once-controversial Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping program which the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing in 2005. The crux of the Bush/Cheney controversy was that they ordered NSA to listen to Americans’ international telephone calls without warrants – which was illegal at the time – and the 2008 law purported to make that type of domestic warrantless spying legal.
Senior Republican John McCain has told Donald Trump to either present evidence proving Barack Obama was involved in wiretapping his phones or retract the claim. McCain’s demand came after the House intelligence committee asked the president for evidence that phones at Trump Tower were tapped during the campaign. ...
The committee’s request for evidence by Monday was made in a letter sent to the justice department by the House committee chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, a senior congressional aide said on Saturday. The aide wasn’t authorised to discuss the request by name and requested anonymity. ...
Declaring that Congress “must get to the bottom” of Trump’s claim, senators Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse asked Comey and the acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente, to produce the paper trail created when the justice department’s criminal division secures warrants for wiretaps.
Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime adviser, has admitted to exchanging what he claims are “completely innocuous” messages with the hacker or hackers who claim to have infiltrated the DNC during the 2016 presidential campaign. He told the Washington Times that he corresponded on Twitter with “Guccifer 2.0,” the self-described “hacktivist” from Romania who claims responsibility for the breach of the DNC’s email servers last summer.
Stone wrote an article about the hacks for Breitbart in August of last year. On Saturday, Stone dismissed his contact with the hacker as “cursory,” and having taken place “after he releases the D.N.C. stuff.” Stone is under investigation for his connections to the Russians.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 10, 2017
Let’s End This Fact-Free McCarthyist Feeding Frenzy Once And For All
I enjoy watching Rachel Maddow about as much as I enjoy a cold-fingered pelvic exam, but sometimes I have to force myself because it’s important for people to see how this lying scumbag hooks people in to her establishment propaganda indoctrination. She fires off a barrage of unsubstantiated claims and outright lies in a confident, authoritative tone to her trusting viewers, and then the next day those same trusting viewers show up like clockwork regurgitating those same unsubstantiated claims and outright lies on my social media timeline. This fact-free McCarthyist feeding frenzy has gotten so bad that it now has pundits seriously claiming that the GOP’s attempts to scrap Obamacare are proof that Vladimir Putin has infiltrated the US government and is actualizing an evil plot to kill as many Americans as possible by taking away their health insurance. ...
By desperately putting all their eggs into the basket of this frenetic McCarthyist freak fest, the political establishment has actually collected all their loyalists into one big bubble, and that bubble’s about to pop. The investigators will not find what Rachel Maddow and her fellow talking heads are telling them they will find, and we clear-eyed rebels will need to quickly move in when that happens before the establishment can shift the narrative to another red herring. There’ll be an opening when these people finally realize they’re not getting the deus ex machina solution to the Trump problem they were told they’d get, and we’ll have a chance to point out that the Democratic party is going to lose to him again in 2020 if we keep letting its reigning elites resist change like they’ve been doing ever since the election. The establishment Dems told the American people they would rescue them from Trump, and in reality all they’ve done is host an expensive media three-ringed circus to distract them. That reality is about to come crashing down.
They have nothing. The deep state has nothing. They wouldn’t be having their propagandists lie so openly and consistently if they had anything. They’re on the back foot, and they’re running out of options. We’re about to see a great big hole open up in the web of lies they’ve been spinning, and that will give us enough space to get some truth in. I sincerely believe that there are so many Democratic party loyalists who are so deeply invested in the fairy tale end of their Trump fears they’ve been sold that when reality comes crashing in it will create some much-needed stillness in America for a moment.
A new report rom Rand Corp. may help shed light on the government’s arsenal of malicious software, including the size of its stockpile of so-called “zero days” — hacks that hit undisclosed vulnerabilities in computers, smartphones, and other digital devices.
The report also provides evidence that such vulnerabilities are long lasting. ... Rand’s report is based on unprecedented access to a database of zero days from a company that sells them to governments and other customers on the “gray market.” The collection contains about 200 entries — about the same number of zero days some experts believe the government to have.
Rand found that the exploits had an average lifespan of 6.9 years before the vulnerability each targeted was disclosed to the software maker to be fixed, or before the vendor made upgrades to the code that unwittingly eliminated the security hole. ... Rand’s researchers found that there was no pattern around which exploits lived a long or short life — severe vulnerabilities were not more likely to be fixed quickly than minor ones, nor were vulnerabilities in programs that were more widely available.
The March 1 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry“ asserted that the bloody attack on a humanitarian aid convoy west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was an airstrike by Syrian government planes. But an analysis of the U.N. panel’s report shows that it was based on an account of the attack from the pro-rebel Syrian “White Helmets” civil defense organization that was full of internal contradictions.
The U.N. account also was not supported by either the photographic evidence that the White Helmets provided or by satellite imagery that was available to the commission, according to independent experts. Further undermining the U.N. report’s credibility, the White Helmets now acknowledge that rockets they photographed were not fired from Russian or Syrian planes but from the ground. ...
The White Helmets, which are heavily funded by Western governments and operate only in rebel-controlled areas, are famous for using social media to upload videos purporting to show injured children and other civilian victims of the war. ...
[See article for detailed debunking of the "evidence" in the UN report. - js]
In embracing the Syrian-air-strike narrative — although it falls apart on closer examination — the U.N. “Commission of Inquiry” thus fell into line with the dominant Western political bias in favor of the armed opposition to the Syrian government, a prejudice that has been applied to the Syrian conflict by U.N. organs since the beginning of the war in 2011.
But never has the evidence so clearly contradicted that line as it has in this case – even though you will not learn that by reading or watching the West’s commercial news media.
The Pentagon has deployed several hundred marines to Northern Syria, the Washington Post and CNN reported this week. Their mission: firing long-range artillery to help recapture Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital city.
The marines are equipped with M777 howitzers, which can fire GPS-guided explosives up to 25 miles.
That’s a big change from the “train, advise and assist” role U.S. forces have been playing so far — although as with many previous troop deployments to Iraq and Syria, it was not debated, let alone authorized, by Congress.
But White House Press Secretary brushed off a question about the move, saying that sending “several hundred advisers” did not amount to “hostile action.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said U.S. forces in Syria were "invaders" and he had yet to see "anything concrete" emerge from U.S. President Donald Trump's vow to prioritize the fight against Islamic State.
Assad has said he saw promise in Trump's statements emphasizing the battle against Islamic State in Syria, where U.S. policy under President Barack Obama had backed some of the rebels fighting Assad and shunned him as an illegitimate leader. ...
Asked about a deployment of U.S. forces near the northern city of Manbij, Assad said: "Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation ... are invaders. We don't think this is going to help".
Around 500 U.S. forces are already in Syria in support of the campaign against Islamic State.
Assad said that "in theory" he still saw scope for cooperation with Trump, though practically nothing had happened in this regard. He dismissed the U.S.-backed military campaign against Islamic State in Syria as "only a few raids", and said a more comprehensive approach was needed.
A new report from the children’s charity UNICEF says Syrian children have “paid the heaviest price in this six-year war,” laying out in stark detail the horrors perpetrated against minors during the civil war in 2016 alone, with 652 children killed in attacks and at least 850 others recruited to take part in the fighting — including, in extreme cases, as executioners, suicide bombers, and prison guards.
The report says that a drastic escalation of violence meant that suffering “hit rock-bottom” for Syrian children in 2016. ...
As well as the rising death toll, the conflict has also forced families to take drastic measures just to survive. This has seen a rise in child labor, early marriage and child recruitment. The number of children coerced to take part in fighting almost tripled compared to 2015, and children are being recruited at an ever younger age.
The U.S. military unleashed 40 airstrikes on al-Qaida targets over a five-day period in Yemen last week, more strikes than the Obama administration dropped in the war-torn nation in any given year of the civil war there, according to Foreign Policy magazine.
The surge of airstrikes is part of a ramp-up of U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen, and it comes roughly a month after President Trump approved the botched ground raid on an al-Qaida compound in the Shabwa province that resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and an estimated 30 civilians, including nine children. ...
Trump and his military advisers appear unperturbed by the heavy criticism they’ve received in the wake of his administration’s first military blunder. Trump has repeatedly characterized the raid as a success, saying it “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” And Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, told Senators on Thursday that after a lengthy review of the raid, he had determined the military exhibited sound judgement and decision-making in moving forward with the mission, and that there was no need for further investigations.
Droney is dead! One can only imagine the tears which must be flooding the Obama residence over this. Perhaps the Obamabots should be sending him condolence notes.
The Predator is dead; long live the Reaper. The retirement of the antiquated Predator drone MQ-1, which is to be withdrawn from service in July and replaced by the more capable MQ-9 Reaper, is giving military analysts an opportunity to review the mixed history of a weapon that has long been associated with low-cost war, a sense of disembodiment from conflict, and for inflicting a high number of civilian casualties.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been removed from office after the Constitutional Court on Friday upheld a decision by the National Assembly to impeach her on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty. The decision meant Park became the first democratically elected leader of South Korea to be stripped of office.
The ruling from the eight judge panel sparked violent clashes outside the courtroom in Seoul between Park’s supporters and the protesters seeking her removal. The Yonhap news agency reports that two people have died as a result of the clashes.
The scandal has rocked South Korea – and not just because it involves the president. Samsung, the country’s largest and most powerful chaebol (family-run business) has also been caught up in the affair. In what is being called “the trial of the century,” the heir to the Samsung empire went on trial Thursday alleged to have made payments of up to $38 million to Park and her adviser Choi Soon-sil.
Once again the United Kingdom’s future is in doubt, after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans Monday to seek a second referendum on Scottish independence before Britain leaves the European Union.
Claiming “the language of partnership has gone,” Scottish National Party leader Sturgeon said she would seek the Scottish assembly’s approval for the referendum next week. She made the announcement at a news conference in Edinburgh, as the British government prepares to kick off the two-year process of withdrawing Britain from the EU. ...
She said her attempts to talk to the government in London about a potential compromise deal under which Scotland could remain in the UK but retain special access to the single market had hit a “brick wall of intransigence.” “I cannot pretend a compromise agreement is remotely likely,” Sturgeon continued.
A second independence referendum, following the messy and fractious attempt of 2014 that was defeated by 55 percent of voters, would drastically raise the stakes of Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union, potentially resulting in the breakup of a 310-year-old political allegiance.
More than two years after the shooting of black teen Michael Brown ignited the Black Lives Matter movement, new video from the convenience store Brown had allegedly robbed is shifting the narrative of what happened that night.
New footage from a different visit to the store 11 hours earlier was featured in “Stranger Fruit” a documentary about Brown’s death, and premiered Saturday at South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.
Jason Pollock, the filmmaker who found the video, says the new footage shows Brown giving a package of weed to the store clerk. In the video, employees at the store pass around and smell the package. Then, the clerk hands Brown two cartons of cigarillos. Brown walks towards the exit holding his shopping bag, and then appears to change his mind, and hands the bag back to the clerk. The clerk puts the bag under the counter.
“They wanted us to think Michael robbed the store because they needed us to think that Michael was aggressive,” Pollock said during an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America Monday morning. “Michael was handed the bag in the video, the clerk puts it in a plastic bag and hands it over the counter to Michael Brown… That’s not stealing [from] the store.” ...
A spokesperson for St Louis County Police Department told the New York Times over the weekend that they did not release the earlier video because they felt it was not relevant to the case.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Monday released its score of the GOP's plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, projecting that 14 million people would lose coverage by 2018 if the Republican bill is implemented.
That number would rise to 24 million by 2026.
Additionally, the plan would lead to higher deductibles and other cost-sharing payments.
In short, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter, "The Republican healthcare plan: less healthcare for you, bigger salaries for healthcare CEOs. Republican priorities!"
Hey looky, the Republicans hate women and children and they don't care who knows:
Next Phase of Obamacare Repeal Will Target Mandate Requiring Prenatal Coverage, GOP Leader Tells Allies
When Republican Congressman John Shimkus expressed outrage during a House committee hearing Wednesday “about men having to purchase prenatal care” in their health insurance — the video clip of which caught fire on social media as an example of misogyny and cluelessness — he wasn’t going rogue. He was just getting ahead of party leaders, who haven’t publicly announced their next steps quite yet.
In a conference call with GOP allies on Thursday, however, House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers outlined the party’s “three-phase approach” to repealing the Affordable Care Act and suggested that the Essential Benefits Package, a provision of the law with sweeping consumer protections, could soon be on the chopping block. The benefits package, a core provision of the ACA, requires qualifying health insurance plans to cover a set of medical treatments, including pregnancy-related medical care. ...
The Republican legislation currently under consideration in Congress, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), is only the first phase, she said. She explained that it might appear narrow in scope only because the legislation was crafted in order to meet rules set by reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows a filibuster-proof 51 vote threshold for passage in the Senate.
“Phase 2 is the administrative action,” she said. That means unwinding regulations that could not be addressed in the current, reconciliation-based legislation.
“Obamacare gave the Secretary of Health and Human Services 1,442 instances of discretion to administer health care,” McMorris Rodgers said. “For example, the Essential Benefits Package is within the Secretary of Health and Human Services.”
A Texas lawmaker has filed a satirical bill to regulate “masturbatory emissions” as a riposte to a slew of anti-abortion measures advocated by the state’s Republican politicians.
The proposed act takes the language and concepts used by conservatives to limit abortions and swaps the sexes.
It calls for a $100 fine for “emissions outside of a woman’s vagina, or created outside of a health or medical facility”, which “will be considered an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life”.
It also requires the creation of a “masturbatory assistance registry” of not-for-profit organisations and hospitals able to provide “fully-abstinent encouragement counseling, supervising physicians for masturbatory emissions, and storage for the semen”. ...
Farrar’s bill requires the creation of a booklet which must be reviewed by doctors with male patients and which “must contain medical information related to the benefits and concerns of a man seeking a vasectomy, Viagra prescription, or a colonoscopy. The booklet must contain artistic illustrations of each procedure.”
It also demands an attending physician “administer a medically-unnecessary digital rectal exam … before administering an elective vasectomy or colonoscopy procedure, or prescribing Viagra”.
There’s a new obnoxious buzzword in the corporate Democratic lexicon, and it’s being employed with increasing regularity by rank-and-file Democratic party loyalists. More and more I run up against vagina hat-wearing keyboard warriors of the McResistance dismissing progressive rebels as “purists,” “purity ponies” and “purity progressives,” the idea being that if you don’t want to vote for Democrats who actively facilitate corporatism, warmongering and ecocide, you are somehow being unrealistic and unreasonable. Like every argument these oligarchic meat puppets advance, this new pejorative has its roots not in independent critical thought, but in think tank-generated political talking points being funneled into their obedient minds through the corporate media. ...
No, idiots, we are not “purists”. We aren’t asking for our leaders to be pure, we are asking for them to not be lying, corrupt, warmongering psychopaths. That’s normal. We are not the weird and unreasonable ones in this picture. The weird and unreasonable ones are the people saying we need to accept leaders who will continue to bolster income and wealth inequality while funneling all new income to the wealthiest of the wealthy, who will force Americans to work two or three jobs to feed their kids while spending trillions bombing other people’s kids in corporatist wars, who refuse to push for the massive environmental policy changes that need to be made in order to avert climate catastrophe because it might inconvenience their billionaire sponsors, who lie, cheat and steal from the American people with the help of their corporate media mouthpieces. That’s not purism, that’s just basic, bare-minimum sanity. ...
This idea that it's somehow unreasonable to not want to be crushed to death by the Walmart economy while the world burns illustrates just how pants-on-head, smearing-body-fluids-on-the-wall insane the Democratic establishment has become. We’re not purists, they’re just saying that because we’re not bat shit raving lunatics like they are. They are crazy and unreasonable, we are sane and normal. That’s why our candidates should be in charge.
On February 16, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center hosted a film screening of the “Rational Middle Energy Series.” The university promoted the event as “Finding Energy’s Rational Middle” and described the film’s motivation as “a need and desire for a balanced discussion about today’s energy issues.” ...
The event’s sponsor was Shell Oil Company. The producer of the film series was Shell. The film’s director is Vice President of a family-owned oil and gas company, and has taken approximately $300,000 from Shell. The host, Harvard Kennedy School, has received at least $3.75 million from Shell. And the event’s panel included a Shell Executive Vice President. ...
After years conducting energy-related research at Harvard and MIT, we have come to discover firsthand that this pattern is systemic. Funding from Shell, Chevron, BP, and other oil and gas companies dominates Harvard’s energy and climate policy research, and Harvard research directors consult for the industry. These are the experts tasked with formulating policies for countering climate change, policies that threaten the profits – indeed the existence – of the fossil fuel industry.
Down the street at MIT, the Institute’s Energy Initiative is almost entirely funded by fossil fuel companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron. MIT has taken $185 million from oil billionaire and climate denial financier David Koch, who is a Life Member of the university’s board.
Fossil fuel interests – oil, gas, and coal companies, fossil-fueled utilities, and fossil fuel investors - have colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities, and much of energy science too. And they have done so quietly, without the general public’s knowledge. ... As scientists and policy experts rush to find solutions to the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, our institutions are embroiled in a nationwide conflict of interest with the industry that has the most to lose.
In early November, shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, a career scientist working for the federal Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management began having muted conversations with colleagues about what the new presidential administration meant for dedicated agency staffers.
The Bureau of Land Management is not as high-profile a target as the Environmental Protection Agency, but the agency’s effectiveness is also deeply threatened by the Trump administration’s suspicion of science. BLM performs a precarious balancing act, managing the conflicting goals of conservation and profit extraction on millions of acres of public lands. It makes decisions on behalf of the American public about which acres of sagebrush, pine forest, and rocky mountain should be preserved and which should be harvested for fossil fuels, timber, and minerals. “There’s been a great deal of influence historically from the industry, especially mining. There are managers with the agency, and they see their job as trying to permit as much mining as possible,” the scientist said. “BLM is an agency that I think depends on internal debate and depends on a tolerance for dissent.”
Under the new president, dissent against industry interests suddenly became more dangerous. “I can’t imagine a time, at least in my life, where it’s okay to think whatever you want to think is real,” the person said. “It’s deeply troubling when you work in a field that needs to be guided by science, by fact, by things that are provably true or false.”
The scientist reached a conclusion with colleagues in other locations around the country. “We decided it was necessary to try to establish an alternative outlet,” the BLM employee told me. The Alt_BLM twitter account was the result.
The Alt_BLM account is one of dozens of “alt” and “rogue” federal agency accounts that launched shortly after Trump’s inauguration, operating under names like altEPA and Rogue POTUS Staff. A number of the accounts are administered by actual federal employees, including three that provided information to the Intercept indicating they work for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Interior Department. Others are run by a cast of characters that includes a former military analyst who worked for the NSA, a union employee, an art student, and a Boeing employee. Most of them declined to be named out of fear of workplace retaliation and pressure to shut down their accounts.
Great white sharks are swimming toward the waters off Massachusetts in rising numbers, scientists say, after a second consecutive year showing an increase in predators to Cape Cod.
The latest data from a multiyear study of the ocean predators found that the number of sharks in waters off the vacation haven appeared to be on the rise, said Greg Skomal, a senior scientist with the Massachusetts division of marine fisheries, and the state’s top shark expert.
The sharks are after seals, not humans, and towns are using the information from the study to keep it that way. “How long does it stay and where does it go are the questions we’re trying to answer,” Skomal said. “But for the towns, it’s a public safety issue.” ...
Great whites, made famous in the 1975 movie Jaws, about a monstrous shark that terrorizes a fictional New England resort town, journey to Cape Cod waters every year to feast on seals. Once hunted to near extinction, the now protected seals have rebounded in great numbers.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Cecil Gant - Nashville Jumps
Cecil Gant - I'm All Alone Now
Cecil Gant - Boozie Boogie
Cecil Gant - Train Time Blues
Cecil Gant - I'm Tired
Cecil Gant - Screwy Boogie
Cecil Gant - Loose As A Goose
Cecil Gant - I'm A Good Man But A Poor Man
Cecil Gant - Hogan's Alley
Cecil Gant - Another Day, Another Dollar