The Evening Blues - 3-15-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans blues and jazz pianist and guitarist Dr. John. Enjoy!
Dr John w/The Band - Such a Night
"A waterboarder as top diplomat and a torture enabler as CIA honcho. Talk about clarity of purpose."
-- Pepe Escobar
News and Opinion
President Trump’s nomination of CIA deputy director Gina Haspel to be the new director returns the country to the bad old days of torture and secret prisons. Trump couldn’t be any clearer that he has come down on the side of the architects of the George W. Bush-era torture policy. Haspel was a protégé of Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s notorious former deputy director for operations and former director of the Counterterrorism Center (CTC), known as the godfather of the torture program. Haspel served as Rodriguez’s chief of staff at CTC.
Haspel has been at the CIA for 33 years. She’s been described in the media as a “seasoned intelligence veteran,” with an “uncanny ability to get things done” and as someone who “inspires those around her.” I’m sure that’s true for some. But many of the rest of us who knew and worked with Gina Haspel at the CIA called her “Bloody Gina.”
The CIA will not permit me to talk about Haspel’s time overseas. Suffice it to say that others already have, and her career has been well documented in the media. Most importantly, it was Haspel whom Rodriguez ordered to destroy videotaped evidence of the torture of Abu Zubaydah, who many of us believed, incorrectly, to be the third-ranking person in al-Qaida. And that was after the White House counsel told her to preserve everything. She never apologized or even attempted to explain herself. Rodriguez called her a patriot. I would say that she committed “obstruction of justice,” a felony.
Haspel’s appointment as CIA director is wrong for a number of reasons. First, just imagine the message this sends to the CIA workforce: Engage in whatever war crimes or crimes against humanity you want, and there won’t be any repercussions. Don’t worry about ethics. Don’t worry about morality. We’ll cover for you. And you can destroy the evidence, too.
What message does that send to other countries around the world? What do we tell our allies, the same ones we criticize every year in the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report? We tell them: “You know how we always say that we’re a beacon of respect for human rights and the rule of law? Well, that’s nonsense. We say those things only when it’s expedient. Do as we say, not as we do.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) on Tuesday said that Gina Haspel has been a "good deputy director of the CIA," but said that she would wait until the confirmation hearing to determine whether she will vote for Haspel to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Feinstein blocked Haspel's promotion to acting head of the agency’s clandestine service in 2013 over her involvement in the torture program back during the early 2000's, but she said she wouldn't make a decision on how she would vote until the confirmation hearing, according to the Huffington Post.
"Well, I have spent some time with her, we’ve had dinner together, we have talked … everything I know is, is that she has been a good deputy director of the CIA," Feinstein said. "I think hopefully the entire organization learned something from the so-called enhanced interrogation program. I think it’s something that can’t be forgotten. And I certainly can never forget it. And I won’t let any director forget it."
Washington Breaks Out the “Just Following Orders” Nazi Defense for CIA Director-Designate Gina Haspel
Some of Haspel’s champions have used the exact language of the popular version of the Nuremberg defense, while others have paraphrased it.
One who paraphrased it is Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. In a Wednesday op-ed, Hayden endorsed Haspel as head of the CIA, writing that “Haspel did nothing more and nothing less than what the nation and the agency asked her to do, and she did it well.” Hayden later said on Twitter that Haspel’s actions were “consistent with U.S. law as interpreted by the department of justice.” This is true: In 2002, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department declared in a series of notorious memos that it was legal for the U.S. to engage in “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were obviously torture. Of course, the actions of the Nuremberg defendants had also been “legal” under German law.
John Brennan, who ran the CIA under President Barack Obama, made similar remarks on Tuesday when asked about Haspel. The Bush administration had decided that its torture program was legal, said Brennan, and Haspel “tried to carry out her duties at CIA to the best of her ability, even when the CIA was asked to do some very difficult things.”
Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd used the precise language of the Nuremberg defense during a Tuesday appearance on CNN when Wolf Blitzer asked him to respond to a statement from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: “The Senate must do its job in scrutinizing the record and involvement of Gina Haspel in this disgraceful program.” Hurd, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a former CIA operative as well, told Blitzer that “this wasn’t Gina’s idea. She was following orders. … She implemented orders and was doing her job.” ...
Samantha Winograd, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council and now is an analyst for CNN, likewise used Nuremberg defense language in an appearance on the network. Haspel, she said, “was implementing the lawful orders of the president. … You could argue she should have quit because the program was so abhorrent. But she was following orders.” ...
Remarkably, this perspective has even seeped into the viewpoint of regular journalists. At a recent press conference at which Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul criticized Haspel, a reporter asked him to respond to “the counterargument” that “these policies were signed off by the Bush administration. … They were considered lawful at the time.” It fell to Paul to make the obvious observation that appears to have eluded almost everyone else in official Washington: “This has been historically a question we’ve asked in every war: Is there a point at which soldiers say ‘no’? … Horrendous things happened in World War II, and people said, well, the German soldiers were just obeying orders. … I think there’s a point at which, even suffering repercussions, that if someone asks you to torture someone that you should say no.”
There is no mystery to the ideological collapse of U.S. ruling class politics under late stage capitalism and imperial decline. Simply put, the corporate duopoly parties have nothing to offer the masses of people except unrelenting austerity at home and endless wars abroad. A shrunken and privatized Detroit serves as the model for U.S. urban policy; Libya and Syria are the scorched-earth footprints of a demented and dying empire. The lengthening shadow of economic eclipse by the East leaves the U.S. Lords of Capital with no cards left to play but the threat of Armageddon. ...
George Bush drawled the “last hurrah” of empire with his declaration of “Mission Accomplished,” 15 years ago -- and was quickly contradicted. With the failure in Iraq, the pretense of “spreading democracy” came ingloriously undone. A refurbishing of the imperial brand was attempted, with a bright and shiny new face – a Black-ish one -- plus a new logo to justify invasion and regime-change: “humanitarian” intervention. But Obama’s assault on Syria revealed that the U.S. and its junior partners could only project power in the region through an alliance with Islamic jihadist terror. The architects of the War on Terror were, in fact, the godfathers of al Qaida.
“Do you realize now what you’ve done?” Vladimir Putin demanded of the Americans, at the United Nations, in 2015. “It is hypocritical and irresponsible to make loud declarations about the threat of international terrorism while turning a blind eye to the channels of financing and supporting terrorists, including the process of trafficking and illicit trade in oil and arms. It would be equally irresponsible to try to manipulate extremist groups and place them at one's service in order to achieve one's own political goals in the hope of later dealing with them or, in other words, liquidating them.”
Washington’s jihadist strategy has rapidly unraveled ever since. The empire was unmasked in the world’s most public forum, revealing the utter depravity of U.S. policy and, more importantly, the weakness of Washington’s position in the region. The mighty fortress of global capital, the self-appointed defender of the world economic “order,” was revealed as, not just in collusion with head-chopping, women-enslaving, sectarian mass-murdering terrorists, but militarily dependent on the very forces it claims to wage a twilight, “generational” battle to destroy. ...
Do not expect the Republicans or the Democrats to make any sense of a world of diminishing empire. The duopolists are incapable of seeing any future beyond their rich patrons’ vision –- and the rich have no vision beyond continued accumulation of wealth, which requires a harsher and harsher austerity. Most dangerous, they cannot imagine a world in which they are not on top. We will have to fight to keep them from blowing us all up, in rich man’s despair.
One of the most effective rhetorical tools in normalizing massive military budgets is to treat spending billions—and sometimes trillions—of dollars as something one has to do in order to be “modern.” “Modernization” is, after all, a normative label; who doesn’t want to be modern? Here are just a handful of examples over the past month:
- “The Department of Energy said the money was needed to modernize and restore the country’s nuclear weapons complex.” (Reuters, 2/12/18)
- Pentagon Budget Seeks Billions for Modernizing Nuclear Arsenal, Missile Defense (The Hill, 2/12/18)
- “The United States Army will receive increased funding in the president’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal as the service struggles to modernize while simultaneously fighting wars in current conflicts.” (National Interest, 2/19/18)
- “US nuclear policy is aimed at deterring Russia through the modernization of the US arsenal.” (CNN, 3/1/18)
- US F-35 Fighter Modernization Could Cost $16 Billion Through 2024 (Reuters, 3/7/18)
- Navy to Modernize Its Super Hornet Fleet (Military.com, 3/7/18)
A variation on this tautology is “overhaul” (New York Times, 8/27/17) or “rebuild” (The Hill, 1/20/18), the idea being that something has fallen into disrepair or broken down and simply needs to be put back together. How vast new expenditures on weapons that can already end civilization can be justified in either financial or moral terms is simply breezed past. A “modern” United States is self-evidently preferable to a pre-modern one, and the United States must be “modern” to “keep pace” with perennial Bad Guys Russia and China.
The leaders of Britain, the US, Germany and France have released a joint statement strongly condemning the Salisbury nerve agent attack as “an assault on UK sovereignty” and saying it is highly likely Russia was behind it.
The rare united comment from Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, released by Downing Street, follows extensive UK efforts to drum up international support for its response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
After the statement’s release, Donald Trump said that Russia appeared to be behind the attack. “It looks like it,” he told reporters. “I’ve spoken with the prime minister and we are in discussions. A very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. Something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously, as I think are many others.”
May, speaking on a visit to Salisbury, said the statement showed the UK’s allies “are standing alongside us” in protest at Russia’s behaviour. ...
“What is important in the international arena – and we have taken this into Nato, into the United Nations, we’ve taken it through into the European Union – is that allies are standing alongside us and saying this is part of a pattern of activity that we have seen from Russia in their interference, their disruption that they have perpetrated across a number of countries in Europe,” she said.
North Korea’s top diplomat flew to Sweden for a surprise visit on Thursday, fueling speculation that the trip will lay the groundwork for a proposed summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, and even that the Scandinavian country could be the host.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho was seen at Beijing International Airport on Thursday, along with Choi Kang-il, a senior North Korean diplomat responsible for U.S. affairs, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. The visit comes just a week after Trump’s surprise announcement that he was prepared to accept Kim’s invitation to a face-to-face meeting to discuss the nuclear issue.
The Swedish government issued a statement confirming that Ri was en route for two days of talks with his Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallström. The talks would “focus on Sweden’s consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada, and Australia” according to the statement. “They will also address the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.”
Days earlier, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven had spoken of his willingness to help facilitate talks between the United States and North Korea.
What do you get for the man who has everything? When it comes to Jeff Bezos – the richest man in the world with around $130bn to his name – many US cities competing to host Amazon’s second headquarters have an answer: billions of dollars in tax incentives.
That proposition has united an ideologically diverse group of dissenters to Amazon’s grand HQ2 competition, ranging from rightwing organizations linked to the Koch brothers to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Groups and individuals that would normally agree only to mutual disdain and distrust have somehow come around to the same conclusion: that Amazon’s decision to pit 20 cities against each other in a fight to host a future hub is a bad deal for everyone except Amazon.
In Atlanta, an anonymous group of activists with roots in the Occupy movement has set up AtlantaAgainstAmazon.org, a website that compares the HQ2 process to “something like a televised Hunger Games death-match”, and has designed anti-Amazon flyers that have been plastered around town. Generation Opportunity, a conservative advocacy group for millennials associated with the Koch brothers, has launched a targeted digital ad campaign with a slickly produced, ominously soundtracked video that compares the HQ2 competition to – wait for it – the Hunger Games.
And a petition launched by the prominent urbanist Richard Florida and dozens of other academics calling for the finalist cities to unite in a “mutual non-aggression pact” on tax incentives has garnered more than 15,000 signatures. ... Florida called the tax incentives proposed by states like New Jersey ($7bn) and Maryland ($3bn) “obscene”, an assessment shared by the Washington-based advocacy group Fair Budget Coalition.
“Jeff Bezos personally has more money than the district’s budget,” said the group’s co-director, Monica Kamen. “Are we going to give the richest man in history a tax break before we make sure that homeless children have a place to sleep?” ... Florida, who called the city councilors who signed the pact “heroes”, said that he believes the backlash to HQ2 is just getting started, and that politicians who feel pressured to support the bids are mistaken about how residents will respond once a winner is chosen and the details of the deal become public.
The union representing nearly 4,000 federal employees working for the U.S. Department of Education filed a complaint this week accusing the agency, run by Betsy DeVos, of union busting. ...
On Friday, management officials at the Education Department informed their workers’ union, the American Federation of Government Employees Council 252, that they would no longer be bargaining with them. Instead, management issued a 40-page document the department is calling a “collective bargaining agreement.” This unilateral agreement supposedly took effect on Monday. Education Department staffers have been represented by the AFGE since 1982.
“AFGE did not agree to these unilateral terms,” said Claudette Young, AFGE Council 252 president, in a statement. “The agency has imposed an illegal document that we had absolutely no bargaining over. It’s a total attempt to strip employees of their collective bargaining rights and bust the union. This is an attempt to tie our hands.”
In an interview with The Intercept, AFGE Assistant General Counsel Ward Morrow said it’s “extremely unusual” to have to file a complaint over something like this. “You can’t even call it a ‘collective bargaining agreement’ because it wasn’t collective, it wasn’t bargained, and there was no agreement,” he said.
A Michigan candidate for US Senate has proposed arming homeless people with pump-action shotguns in an effort to reduce crime. Brian Ellison, who is running against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, says homeless people are “constantly victims of violent crime” and providing them with firearms would provide a deterrent.
Regarding the pump-action shotguns, Ellison said he and his team would aim to “pre-qualify” homeless people who wanted shotguns and were deemed suitable candidates to own them. The homeless people would not be forced to carry pump-action shotguns, Ellison said. “The first thing that we’re gonna do is ask them if they think this is something that would benefit them. We’re certainly not trying to force anything on anybody.”
Mail Bombs Are Killing People in Texas but Donald Trump Hasn’t Said a Thing. There’s a Reason for That.
On Monday, bombs went off in Austin, Texas. ... They weren’t found by a bomb squad and safely disposed of by a brave crew or a high-tech robot. Nah, they were left on the doorsteps of people’s homes all over Austin. Made to look like mail, the packages were then picked up by a mix of everyday people – black and Latino, young and old – who were then torn to bits by explosive shrapnel. A report from ABC News outlined the level of sophistication of the explosives: The bombs had been designed by a “highly skilled” bomb maker – or makers —who used pieces of metal to generate shrapnel and set triggers that detonated the bombs with motion. ...
Strangely, though, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, who campaigned on being tough on crime and terrorism, hasn’t said a word. He hasn’t tweeted concerns or condolences. ...
Here’s what I know and what makes living in this country so damn exhausting: If the victims were white and the suspects were known to be Muslims, the president of the United States would care. In these cases, however, with no profile of the attacker available and a trail of black and brown victims, it seems like this square peg doesn’t fit into the round hole of Trump’s agenda.
So, a lot of people are happy that Shkreli, the infamous “pharma bro” who raised the price of Daraprim, a 62 year old life saving drug used for serious parasite infections and to treat HIV, by 5,500 percent has been sentenced to jail for seven years.
The catch is that he was sentenced for securities fraud not for jacking up the price of the drug.
Yes, that’s because securities fraud is illegal, but killing people by jacking up drug prices isn’t. ...
Your betters don’t want someone cheating them, but they don’t care if you live or die.
NRA Responds to National Walkout Honoring Students Killed by AR-15 by Tweeting Glamour Photo of AR-15
— NRA (@NRA) March 14, 2018
Oh, you’re protesting? Well here’s a certain killing machine that we’d like to show you for no particular reason.
Thank goodness it wasn't the Russians fault after all:
Hillary Clinton on Saturday partly blamed her 2016 presidential loss on white women and said that they voted for Donald Trump because their husbands told them to vote that way.
Clinton spoke at the India Today Conclave in Mumbai, India over the weekend, where a journalist introduced her as the "woman who should have been the president of the United States of America."
The event's host, India Today Editor Aroon Purie, asked Clinton how 52 percent of white women could vote for Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape was released in the final weeks of the campaign, which featured Trump making crude sexual remarks about women.
"Democrats, going back to my husband and even before, but just in recent times going back to Bill and our candidates and then President Obama, have been losing the vote, including white women. We do not do well with white men and we don't do well with married white women," Clinton said.
She went on to say that white women face an "ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should."
Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for the first time as part of the probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, two people briefed on the matter told the New York Times on Thursday.
The subpoena, issued in recent weeks, requests documents, some of which are related to Russia. The entire scope of the subpoena isn't clear.
This is the first time Mueller has asked for documents specifically related to President Donald Trump’s business dealings with Russia. Trump warned in July that Mueller would be crossing a “red line” if he investigated his family finances unrelated to Russia. The subpoena appears to be be inching close to that line.
Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said last month that he bought the silence of adult film actress Stormy Daniels with $130,000 of his own money, adding that, “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford.” New documents, however, show that the shell company he used for the payment is represented by a Trump Organization employee.
According to the newly revealed documents obtained by CNN and the Wall Street Journal, a Trump Organization lawyer named Jill Martin is listed as an attorney representing Essential Consultants LLC — the shell company Cohen created weeks before the election to transfer Daniels the $130,000 payment. The document was apparently filed on Feb. 22 as part of a demand for arbitration.
Martin currently works as the Trump Organization’s vice president and assistant general counsel, according to her LinkedIn. She also spoke on behalf of Trump during his 2016 campaign. Martin confirmed her involvement to the Wall Street Journal, but said she was working in an “individual capacity” to help as Cohen’s lawyer, and that the Trump Organization was not involved.
Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry. The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.
The year was 1968, and the term “global warming” would not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Famed Nasa scientist James Hansen would not testify before Congress that “global warming has begun” for another 20 years. And the US would not enter into – only to later pull out of – the Paris climate accord for nearly half a century. ...
At the time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood about 323ppm. The planet was warming but was still well within the historical norm. Sea levels had risen by about 4in compared with 1880 levels. The report, however, cautioned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the Earth” and that “significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000”. Those predictions proved to be correct: by the turn of the century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen to 369ppm, causing a temperature increase of nearly half a degree over pre-industrial averages. Today, virtually all climate scientists agree there is little or no chance the world can stay within the goal of 1.5C, the limit of what scientists believe to be safe.
To counter and slow down that effort to address climate change, the fossil fuel industry began its long and powerful strategy of climate denial and obstructionism. Even though they knew the science, they also realized that attempts to control emissions could seriously damage their bottom lines. ... Making up for 50 years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. But taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden alone. The API and its climate polluters knowingly and deliberately caused this mess. They must help pay to clean it up.
While the fight over US public lands has reached a fever pitch unlike anything seen in recent decades, and the Trump interior department seeks to lease out vast areas to private interests for mining and drilling, the fate of public waterways has largely flown under the radar. Now New Mexico has become a battleground for that very issue, with the state government, landowners, and outfitters on one side of the fight and anglers, boaters, recreationalists and heritage users on the other. At the heart of the argument: who owns the water that has long been considered the lifeblood of the arid west.
Water use rights and access vary by region across the country, though the water itself has always been a public resource for people to fish, paddle, wade and float in. Private landowners have long taken unsanctioned steps to keep the public out of waterways, as in the recent case of an Arizona man convicted of shooting at kayakers boating down a river that runs through his land.
But in the last hours of 2015, efforts to bar public access received official sanction, when New Mexico’s state government quickly and quietly passed a bill that implies private ownership of public waters that run through private land. It was a response to a statement from New Mexico’s then attorney general, Gary King, that the public can wade and fish in streams running through private property, as long as they remain in the stream, which is in line with common doctrine in many states. Landowners and outfitters protested.
The rule remained mostly dormant until late December, when in a special meeting with only 10 days’ notice – just a third of the 30-day standard – the state began a process to allow landowners to certify streambeds as private property. “Prohibiting access from the public is privatizing what has been historically ours, and the way this happened is chilling,” says Robert Levin, New Mexico director of the American Canoe Association. “The process was hasty and moved through more quickly than it should have been. From a recreation standpoint on this, you start to worry about an erosion of inclusion.”
Garrett VeneKlasen, 51, grew up fly-fishing the Pecos, a well-known river that cuts across western New Mexico, with his father. He remembers when it was possible to walk nearly the entire length of the river without running into fencing. ... But when the experience of fly-fishing became a commodity, things started to shift. ... He explains it with an example he’s seen play out on what’s now a fenced section of the Pecos. “That landowner started out just like any landowner, and he had trout in the stream that runs through his property. He decided to do some in-stream improvements, and the trout fishing got better. Then he started to stock big trout in the section that ran through his land, and feed them so they’re artificially big – and suddenly, you can sell an experience. So he fences the river to keep other people out, and to some extent, to keep those fish in. And just like that, a lifestyle became an industry.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Dr. John - Your Average Kind of Guy
Dr. John - Honey Dripper
Dr John and the Nite Trippers - The Monkey
Mac Rebennack - The Point
Mac Rebennack AKA Dr John - Storm Warning
Dr. John - Feel Good Music
Dr. John - My Indian Red
Dr. John - On The Wrong Side Of The Railroad Tracks
Jerry Garcia & John Kahn with Dr.John 4/21/82 - Goodnight Irene
Mac Rebennack w/Mavis Staples & Dirty Dozen - Lay My Burden Down
Dr John & Eric Clapton - VH1 Duets
Dr. John Plays Louis Armstrong's Piano