The Evening Blues - 3-14-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas country blues singer and guitarist Mance Lipscomb. Enjoy!
Mance Lipscomb Baby, You Don t Have To Go
"The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists."
-- Hannah Arendt
News and Opinion
You cannot speak of WikiLeaks’ most recent release online without running into some condescending neckbeard trying to tell you that if you find the leaks shocking or surprising, it’s because you were ignorant and uninformed in some way. Like every argument advanced by establishment loyalists, this one has its roots in corporate media’s establishment propaganda. Here’s an article by Forbes titled “WikiLeaks Vault 7 CIA Dump Offers Nothing But Old News”. Here’s one by the CIA-funded Washington Post informing us that “none of the revelations reported by WikiLeaks should be shocking.” It’s mainstream church doctrine now.
I guess I missed the part where we all knew that the CIA had lost control of its massive hacking arsenal and these powerful cyberweapons could be in the hands of any hacker on the planet. I must not have been paying attention when the “Russian hacking” narrative was previously undermined by the revelation that the CIA has been deliberately cultivating the capacity to forge signs of Russian cyber intrusions. Perhaps I skimmed past the headlines showing us that journalists are no longer capable of holding the government to account since a government agency has given itself the ability to surveil all of their communications with their sources. I’m sorry I missed CNN’s extensive reporting on the fact that a criminal agency with an extensive history of lying to the American people has taken the liberty of giving itself the ability to watch and listen to them in their own homes, and even assassinate them using their own vehicles without leaving a trace. Silly me for thinking that proof of these things from a whistleblowing outlet with a decade-long 100 percent perfect record of authentic releases is something I should pay attention to.
Last month if you’d said the CIA has set up a domestic espionage program for the purpose of spying on US citizens and that it had lost control of the cyberweapons it had created, these same oligarchic sycophants would have called you a tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. Now, it’s just a normal everyday thing that we all knew was happening. We are seeing Orwellian doublethink unfolding in real time regarding an extremely Orwellian situation— a driving plot point in 1984 is how the government utilizes domestic espionage to “thought police” the public to ensure their obedience. ... The pro-establishment soldiers of the McResistance are out there in their vagina hats protesting what they see as a dangerous totalitarian regime in Donald Trump, completely compartmentalizing away from all evidence that such a regime already existed under their beloved Obama.
The FBI has already begun hunting down the source as part of a criminal leak investigation. Historically, the criminal justice system has been a particularly inept judge of who is a whistleblower. Moreover, it has allowed the use of the pernicious Espionage Act — an arcane law meant to go after spies — to go after whistleblowers who reveal information the public interest. ...
Already, the information in the Vault 7 documents revealed that the Intelligence Community has misled the American people. In the wake of Snowden’s revelations, the Intelligence Community committed to avoid the stockpiling of technological vulnerabilities, publicly claiming that its bias was toward “disclosing them” so as to better protect everyone’s privacy. However, the Vault 7 documents reveal just the opposite: not only has the CIA been stockpiling exploits, it has been aggressively working to undermine our Internet security.
Even assuming the CIA is using its hacking tools against the right targets, a pause-worthy presumption given the agency’s checkered history, the CIA has empowered the rest of the hacker world and foreign adversaries by hoarding vulnerabilities, and thereby undermined the privacy rights of all Americans and millions of innocent people around the world. Democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and journalistic sources — whether they call themselves whistleblowers or not — are a critical component when the government uses national security as justification to keep so much of its activities hidden from public view.
As we learn more about the Vault 7 source and the disclosures, our focus should be on the substance of the disclosures. Historically, the government’s reflexive instinct is to shoot the messenger, pathologize the whistleblower, and drill down on his or her motives, while the transparency community holds its breath that he or she will turn out to be pure as the driven snow. But that’s all deflection from plumbing the much more difficult questions, which are: Should the CIA be allowed to conduct these activities, and should it be doing so in secret without any public oversight? These are questions we would not even be asking without the Vault 7 source.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said on Tuesday that if Donald Trump is sincerely concerned about the government’s ability to listen in on his private communications, he should fix the NSA mass surveillance programs that collect data on every American. ...
Snowden did not validate Trump’s wild accusation that President Obama had “tapped” the wires in Trump Tower. “If Donald Trump or anyone else wants us to take this seriously, they have to show evidence,” Snowden said. “And the fact that they have not despite the severity of this allegation, means that they’re trying to make political hay — I suspect — out of something that effects all of us, which is that mass surveillance is making all of us vulnerable.” ...
“If Donald Trump wants to take this seriously, he needs to fix the problem that everyone in America’s communications are being collected right now, without a warrant, and they’re going into the bucket, and they’re protected by very lax internal policy regulations, and this simply is not enough,” said Snowden.
When Buffalo, New York couple Akram Shibly and Kelly McCormick returned to the U.S. from a trip to Toronto on Jan. 1, 2017, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers held them for two hours, took their cellphones and demanded their passwords. "It just felt like a gross violation of our rights," said Shibly, a 23-year-old filmmaker born and raised in New York. But he and McCormick complied, and their phones were searched.
Three days later, they returned from another trip to Canada and were stopped again by CBP. "One of the officers calls out to me and says, 'Hey, give me your phone,'" recalled Shibly. "And I said, 'No, because I already went through this.'" The officer asked a second time.. Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend's face turn red as the officer's chokehold tightened.
Then they asked McCormick for her phone. "I was not about to get tackled," she said. She handed it over. Shibly and McCormick's experience is not unique. In 25 cases examined by NBC News, American citizens said that CBP officers at airports and border crossings demanded that they hand over their phones and their passwords, or unlock them. ...
Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016. According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015. ...
Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement needs at least reasonable suspicion if they want to search people or their possessions within the United States. But not at border crossings, and not at airport terminals.
President Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, U.S. officials said, changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon.
The new authority, which hadn’t been previously disclosed, represents a significant departure from a cooperative approach that had become standard practice by the end of former President Barack Obama’s tenure: The CIA used drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists and then the military conducted the actual strike. The U.S. drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in May 2016 in Pakistan was the best example of that hybrid approach, U.S. officials said.
While U.S. officials said Trump’s action specifically applied to the CIA’s ability to operate in Syria, it means the agency eventually could become empowered under Trump to once again conduct covert strikes in other places where the U.S. is targeting militants in Yemen, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere.
Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya in recent days, U.S., Egyptian and diplomatic sources say, a move that would add to U.S. concerns about Moscow's deepening role in Libya.
The U.S. and diplomatic officials said any such Russian deployment might be part of a bid to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who suffered a setback with an attack on March 3 by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his forces.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States has observed what appeared to be Russian special operations forces and drones at Sidi Barrani, about 60 miles (100 km) from the Egypt-Libya border.
Egyptian security sources offered more detail, describing a 22-member Russian special forces unit, but declined to discuss its mission. They added that Russia also used another Egyptian base farther east in Marsa Matrouh in early February.
The U.S. military confirmed Tuesday it will deploy drones capable of carrying missiles to bases in South Korea, as it continues to strengthen its military presence in the face of ever more aggressive missile and nuclear testing by North Korea.
The secretive kingdom once again warned again Tuesday that it is willing to launch “merciless” attacks against U.S. forces if they infringe on its “sovereignty and dignity.” The ominous statement comes as tensions on the Korean peninsula continue to rise – with some experts speculating that dictator Kim Jong Un is not simply testing out missiles, but is preparing for possible nuclear war. ...
North Korea’s latest warning was a reaction to a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, joining South Korean forces on Tuesday as part of annual exercises which involve hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both countries.
The exercises, dubbed Foal Eagle, are seen by North Korea as a dress rehearsal for an invasion. “If they infringe on the DPRK’s sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater,” the North’s state news agency KCNA said.
A clique of individuals, many of whom hold themselves out as advocates of the Syrian rebels, pressured a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of North Carolina and convinced the chapter to cancel an event with journalist Rania Khalek. ...
The effort to silence Khalek escalated substantially in recent months, especially when she traveled to Syria to see for herself what was happening to Syrians in Aleppo. She went on a delegation with Western journalists to a conference in Damascus organized by a nongovernmental organization known as the British Syrian Society, which was co-founded by Assad’s father-in-law. She had her name added to a program as a speaker without her consent. So did a number of other journalists, however, after the program circulated online, she was the only one who was targeted by this faction.
As a result, Khalek was forced to resign from the editorial board of The Electronic Intifada. She had to leave Damascus and never attended the conference. She subsequently found it impossible to convince major progressive media outlets to publish her reporting from Aleppo, even though it was topical and frequently in the news last November. ...
Part of the attack on her included outrage that she commented on sects of Islam when she is not Muslim. There was outrage that a secular non-Muslim Arab woman condemned Salafism and Wahhabism. To Khalek, this weaponization of identity politics to destroy her reputation is similar to how pro-Israel groups target Palestinian voices and work to suppress their work. Her family is from Lebanon and have Druze heritage. These religious ideologies, according to Khalek, are led by figures, who call for the death or enslavement of Druze people. “As a minority from the region, I have every right to speak out against the religious ideologies that call for my death. I don’t know how else to say it.”
More Guns, Less Medicine: Trump’s Military Spending Binge Would Swamp Savings From Health Care Repeal
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Monday, finding that the Trump-backed House Republican bill that seeks to repeal and replace Obamacare would save the federal government $337 billion over 10 years — at the cost of throwing 24 million people off of health insurance coverage by 2026.
But those theoretical savings would be more than wiped out by an also theoretical increase in military spending that President Trump wants Congress to pass.
Shortly after the release of the CBO report, House Speaker Paul Ryan put out a statement embracing its findings, claiming among other things that it found that the AHCA would “dramatically reduce the deficit.” Yet Ryan has offered no objections to Trump’s request for an additional $54 billion in annual military spending in this coming year. ...
Assuming that the Trump administration set the new amount as a baseline going forward, over 10 years it would amount to $540 billion in additional spending. This eclipses the $337 billion that would ostensibly be saved were the AHCA to pass in its current form and remain in place.
The reason the AHCA doesn’t save more is because it also includes a $600 billion tax cut, most of it aimed at benefiting wealthier taxpayers, by paring back taxes used to support the Affordable Care Act.
The Republican plan to replace Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 14 million in 2018 and 24 million by 2026, according to estimates released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. ...
The White House, which has endorsed the healthcare plan put forward by House Speaker Paul Ryan and dubbed the American Health Care Act, joined other Republican lawmakers in launching pre-emptive strikes against the CBO.
“If you’re looking at the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week, noting that the agency miscalculated the number of people who would gain insurance under Obamacare in 2010.
MSNBC throws Bernie a bone.
In a town hall in rural McDowell County, West Virginia, on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told a crowd filled with supporters of President Donald Trump that "healthcare is a right" — and was met with cheers.
The warm reception to Sanders' views—that climate change is real, that universal healthcare is a right, and that free higher education is necessary, among others — demonstrated that residents of this county that voted 75 percent for Trump support far more progressive policies than those touted by the president.
Earlier in that exchange, Sanders also appeared to find common ground on a topic widely seen as unpopular in coal country: climate change. Sanders explained that he believed in climate change—unlike the current administration—but he didn't hold individual coal miners responsible for it, recalling that coal heated his "rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn" when he was a child. "You guys are my heroes," he said.
The senator then called for job creation in infrastructure and renewable energy, to put former coal miners back to work in well-paying jobs that will help mitigate the climate crisis. "We are the richest country in the world," Sanders said. "We can do this." The crowd applauded.
While international columnists were fretting about the rise of Dutch far-right provocateur Geert Wilders, more than 5,000 people packed into an Amsterdam rock arena Thursday to hear one of his fiercest political rivals speak. Jesse Klaver, the charismatic 30-year-old GroenLinks (GreenLeft) leader, has quickly distinguished himself as the Wilders-antidote, the progressive left’s bright hope in dark times. ...
In a race that has been defined by the explosive rise of Wilders – a radical right-wing populist who has pledged to close mosques, ban the Koran and halt Muslim immigration – Klaver, of Moroccan, Dutch and Indonesian descent, has positioned himself as the clearest counterpoint to his politics.
Many voters on the left feel the establishment parties have acquiesced too easily to Wilders’ xenophobic politics in a bid to blunt his populist appeal. In January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte stirred up controversy when he took a page out of Wilders’ playbook, publishing an open letter saying anyone who refused to respect Dutch customs should leave the country. Klaver has gone the other way, and believes the Greens can win big by forcefully rejecting Wilders’ harsh nationalist agenda. ...
And Dutch voters are responding. Klaver’s success in selling an optimistic vision of tolerance, equality and environmentalism – through a slick, social media-driven campaign strategy unlike anything previously seen in Dutch politics – means his party looks poised to win five times as many seats as it did at the last election, and has made him the other big story in a race often described as a political bellwether for Europe ahead of major elections in France and Germany later this year.
The conservative congressman Steve King drew bipartisan condemnation for saying “our civilization” couldn’t be restored “with somebody else’s babies” while the Iowa representative defended his comments and said they were “not about race”. ...
King expanded, saying he had delivered the same message to an audience in Europe.
“You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies,” he reiterated. “You’ve got to keep your birth rate up, and you need to teach your children your values. In doing so, you can grow your population, you can strengthen your culture, and you can strengthen your way of life.” ...
Asked on CNN if he was advancing a theory of white nationalism with his commentary, King disagreed and said his comments were “not about race” but rather about the promotion of “western civilization”.
“This is an effort on the left, I think, to break down the American civilization, the American culture and turn it into something entirely different,” King said. “I’m a champion for western civilization.”
The Girl Guides of Canada are cancelling all travel to the United States because of fears that their members might have trouble at the border due to travel restrictions enacted by Donald Trump. A spokeswoman, Sarah Kiriliuks, said on Monday the organization’s membership was diverse and inclusive and leaders worried some girls could get left behind when a group tried to enter the US.
The decision comes after a string of reports that Canadians have been turned away at the border. In January – on the eve of Trump’s inauguration –several would-be demonstrators said they were denied entry to the US after telling border officials of their plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington.
Last month Canadian citizen Fadwa Alaoui said she had been barred from entering the US after border officials asked probing questions about her Muslim faith and her views on Trump. Weeks later Manpreet Kooner, a Canadian citizen of Indian descent, said she was told she would now need an immigrant visa to enter the US, despite being born in Canada.
Kiriliuks said the Girl Guides didn’t want to take the risk with all the uncertainty. She was not aware of any girls being turned away by US officials. The Girl Guides of Canada said in a letter to members it would not be approving any new trips to the United States until further notice.
With only a few days until President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban is scheduled to take effect, several states officially leapt into the legal fight against it.
Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, California, and Maryland all joined papers filed Monday by Washington state challenging Trump’s new travel ban. ...
A January lawsuit filed by Washington state secured a nationwide halt to the original travel ban. Last week, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked a federal judge to extend the halt to the original ban to the second one. Minnesota and Oregon signed on to that request. ...
Hawaii has also filed an amended lawsuit against Trump’s ban; its original challenge was put on hold after Trump released the revised version.
Sex toy maker We-Vibe has agreed to pay customers up to C$10,000 (£6,120) each after shipping a “smart vibrator” which tracked owners’ use without their knowledge. Following a class-action lawsuit in an Illinois federal court, We-Vibe’s parent company Standard Innovation has been ordered to pay a total of C$4m to owners, with those who used the vibrators associated app entitled to the full amount each. Those who simply bought the vibrator can claim up to $199.
The We-Vibe 4 Plus is a £90 bluetooth connected vibrator, which can be controlled through an app. It is marketed as a way to “allow couples to keep their flame ignited – together or apart”. Its app-enabled controls can be activated remotely, allowing, for instance, a partner on the other end of a video call to interact. But the app came with a number of security and privacy vulnerabilities, which added up to produce something that many would feel uncomfortable about using. The app that controls the vibrator is barely secured, allowing anyone within bluetooth range to seize control of the device. In addition, data is collected and sent back to Standard Innovation, letting the company know about the temperature of the device and the vibration intensity – which, combined, reveal intimate information about the user’s sexual habits.
The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.
For most of its life, the reef was the world’s largest living structure, and the only one visible from space. It was 1,400 miles long, with 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands. In total area, it was larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined. It harbored 1,625 species of fish, 3,000 species of mollusk, 450 species of coral, 220 species of birds, and 30 species of whales and dolphins. Among its many other achievements, the reef was home to one of the world’s largest populations of dugong and the largest breeding ground of green turtles.
The reef was born on the eastern coast of the continent of Australia during the Miocene epoch. Its first 24.99 million years were seemingly happy ones, marked by overall growth. ... To say the reef was an extremely active member of its community is an understatement. The surrounding ecological community wouldn’t have existed without it. Its generous spirit was immediately evident 60,000 years ago, when the first humans reached Australia from Asia during a time of much lower sea levels. ...
In 1981, the same year that UNESCO designated the reef a World Heritage Site and called it “the most impressive marine area in the world,” it experienced its first mass-bleaching incident. ... By the turn of the millennium, mass bleachings were common. The winter of 1997–98 brought the next big one, followed by an even more severe one in 2001–02, and another whopper in 2005–06. ... No one knows if a serious effort could have saved the reef, but it is clear that no such effort was made. ...
The Great Barrier Reef was predeceased by the South Pacific’s Coral Triangle, the Florida Reef off the Florida Keys, and most other coral reefs on earth. It is survived by the remnants of the Belize Barrier Reef and some deepwater corals.
While he was chief executive of ExxonMobil, current secretary of state Rex Tillerson used an alias email account for eight years to discuss climate change and the risks it posed to the company's business, according to investigators for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Those investigators say the company concealed the shadow emails despite a 2015 subpoena for Tillerson's communications issued as part of a sweeping investigation of the oil giant in connection with possible financial fraud.
Schneiderman's office disclosed the existence of the email account assigned to Tillerson on Monday in a letter to Judge Barry Ostrager, which accused Exxon of failing to turn over all relevant documents required by the subpoena.
Tillerson, whose middle name is Wayne, used an email address on the Exxon system under the pseudonym "Wayne Tracker" from at least 2008 through 2015, investigators say. The company has turned over a handful of the emails, but New York authorities believe a much larger trove exists.
"Mr. Tillerson used this secondary email address to send and receive materials regarding important matters, including those concerning to the risk-management issues related to climate change that are the focus of OAG's [office of the attorney general] investigation," according to the letter.
One of the problems that comes from reliance on solar power is the “duck curve” where the solar panels produce more power than is needed during the day, and standby power is needed in the evening when demand is high and the sun goes down. The common solution has been to turn on natural gas “peaker” plants to produce power when the needed in those few hours.
One of those alternatives that people dreamed about just a few years ago was giant batteries, and Elon Musk promised that he would make them in his new Nevada factory. What is really astonishing is that in just three months, Tesla has delivered a giant battery farm with 396 stacks of batteries that can provide enough electricity to power 15,000 houses for four hours, about how long it takes to shave the peaks, to kill the duck.
Even the experts are shocked at the speed this is happening at: According to the New York Times,
“I had relatively limited expectations for the battery industry in advance of 2020,” said Michael J. Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “I thought that it would not really accelerate and begin to penetrate the electric grid or the transportation world for a while to come. Once again, technology is clearly moving faster than we can regulate.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Mance Lipscomb - Take Me Back, Goin' Down Slow
Mance Lipscomb - Cocaine Done Killed My Baby
Mance Lipscomb - Jack of Diamonds
Mance Lipscomb - Boogie In A
Mance Lipscomb - Sugar Babe
Mance Lipscomb - Texas Blues
Mance Lipscomb - Alcohol Blues
Mance Lipscomb - Keep On Truckin Little Mama
Mance Lipscomb - Willie Poor Boy