The Evening Blues - 4-12-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues and soul singer Harold Burrage. Enjoy!
Harold Burrage - Feel So Fine
"All wars are fought for the acquisition of wealth."
News and Opinion
The media are baying for Trump to "act presidential" again. Duck and cover.
Showing They 'Learned Nothing' From Iraq, Corporate Media Help Beat War Drums for Trump Attack on Syria
With America's major corporate cable outlets—particularly so-called liberal networks like MSNBC—continuing to uncritically provide generals and lawmakers a massive platform to beat the drums of war as President Donald Trump inches closer to launching a military attack on Syria, critics have concluded that the U.S. media has clearly learned nothing from the crucial role it played in cheerleading for the Bush administration's catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"The push for escalation on TV is overwhelming," Cenk Uyger, host of The Young Turks, observed in a tweet on Wednesday, reacting to the numerous instances this week of television hosts opining on Trump's "military options" with the likes of Iraq War supporter and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey while refusing to question the underlying rationale for or legality of unilateral military action.
"It's incredible how readily the cable news channels have politicians on pushing for war in Syria with almost no questions asked about how disastrous it might be or the so-called evidence," Uyger added. "They pretended to learn lessons from Iraq but have actually learned nothing."
As media critic Simon Maloy lamented in a column at Media Matters, the behavior of much of the corporate media "indicates how alarmingly comfortable much of the mainstream press is with the idea that the president can just up and decide to initiate military hostilities whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason—even when there is no actual reason at all."
Almost entirely absent from the prevailing discussion of Syria on America's cable networks in recent days—which one journalist described as "a parade of one war hawk after another"—has been any mention of the alternatives to military action.
A selection of headlines conveys the sentiment that is pervading the American establishment press. “A few cruise missiles from Trump won’t stop Syria’s war crimes” (Washington Post); “For a second strike on Syria, Trump will have to go big” (Foreign Policy); “In Syria, Trump faces the limits of bluster” (New York Times). ...
The Post declared on April 11: “[T]he reality Mr. Trump has not yet faced is that as long as the dictator he called ‘Animal Assad’ remains in place, Syria’s wars will continue.” The Times ’ editorial stated: “Just to reiterate: To have any chance of success, any international retaliatory action must be part of a coherent diplomatic strategy for stabilising Syria and putting a political settlement in place…. The conflict has allowed Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Islamic State, now degraded by an American-led coalition, to gain a foothold in Syria.”
Foreign Policy, after endorsing a massive attack, indifferently raised the question: “Whether or not such a large-scale operation will bring the United States into a confrontation with Assad’s main patron, Russia, is less clear. The answer depends in part on the severity of the US military action…” ...
The message being conveyed in the US media, however, is that if Trump chooses a non-military option, his already besieged administration will face an even more ferocious attack from its opponents. They will be satisfied with nothing less than war.
[See also, FAIR's excellent piece: Major Papers Urge Trump to Kill Syrians, Risk World War III -js]
Tiny hands and cold feet?
Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that he had “never said when an attack on Syria would take place” and that such an assault might come “not so soon at all” – less than 24 hours after warning Russia to “get ready” for an attack on its ally.
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
The president’s latest Twitter outburst clouded the timing over the anticipated U.S.military response against Syria to punish it for an alleged chemical attack on civilians over the weekend, following days where Trump had signalled such a move was imminent.
His apparent backpedalling may have been prompted by the widespread criticism that yesterday’s tweet ignored his own advice, in the years before he was president, where he publicly lambasted the Obama administration for tipping its hand ahead of military action.
In war, the elememt of surprise is sooooo important.What the hell is Obama doing.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 2, 2013
Trump’s comments came as British and American officials met Thursday to further discuss a response to Saturday’s alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, which observers say killed dozens and affected hundreds of others.
Russian state TV told citizens Tuesday to stockpile food and water as the threat of nuclear war with the U.S. intensified over Syria.
Standing in front of a mushroom cloud, a presenter on state-run broadcaster Vesti 24 warned viewers to stock up on “fewer sweets and more water.”
The presenter listed off a number of food items that citizens should buy ahead of a possible war with Trump, including rice, oatmeal and sugar “for those who succumb to panic and decide to spend all their savings.”
The newscaster said 30 liters of water are needed for drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.
“It should be noted that real panic isn’t here but across the ocean,” he added, saying bomb shelter sales “took off” in the U.S. after Trump’s election. This is true: bomb shelter sales spiked in the U.S. in late 2016 and early 2017.
James Mattis, the US defense secretary, has said Washington is still looking for evidence on who carried out Saturday’s chemical weapons attack in Damascus and said his main concern about a military response was how to stop it “escalating out of control”.
However, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said on Thurday that his government had “proof” that the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attack, which is reported to have killed about 50 people and affected hundreds more.
NBC and CNN quoted US officials as saying that blood and urine samples from the victims of Saturday’s attack showed traces of chlorine and a nerve agent, and that US intelligence had other evidence pointing to the regime’s culpability, which would be presented to the president.
But Mattis’s cautious tone on Thursday echoed a morning tweet by Donald Trump that appeared to walk back his threat of imminent action 24 hours earlier. ... In testimony to the House armed services committee, Mattis said that tweet meant that Trump “has not made a decision”. He pointed out that Trump would meet his top national security advisers at the White House on Thursday afternoon where he would be presented with a full range of options.
Tehran has said that it will stand by Bashar al-Assad in the event of a US-led strike, as a senior adviser to the Iranian supreme leader met the Syrian president in Damascus on Thursday. Ali Akbar Velayati, a top foreign policy aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, visited eastern Ghouta earlier in the week and rejected claims that the Syrian government was behind Saturday’s suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma.
Velayati met Assad in a show of defiance in the face of possible western retaliation for the attack. “Like before, Iran will stand by Syria under any circumstances,” he said, according to Iran’s state Irna news agency. “For seven years, an all-out war has been waged against the Syrian nation and its government led directly by the US. Syria is not weaker than seven years ago, nor is America any stronger,” he said, according to separate quotes carried by the semi-official Fars news agency, which is affiliated to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Earlier in the week, a senior Iranian foreign ministry official, Hossein Jabari Ansari, strongly rejected claims that Assad was behind the chemical attack. “The Syrian army’s use of chemicals does not seem logical since it has the upper hand in its war against armed terrorists,” he told a Russian official in Tehran. He said Iran condemned any use of chemical weapons by any country or group, according to the Tasnim news agency. “Such allegations by the US and some other western countries reveal a new conspiracy against the Syrian government and people. This is an excuse for military action against Syrians and will definitely add to the complexity of the situation in this country and region.”
Israeli officials both past and present, and a number of analysts, are predicting that Israel’s Sunday evening attack on Syria, which killed a number of Iranians, is going to provoke retaliation from the Iranian government. This, they believe, will be the start of a proxy war, and potentially direct military confrontation, within Syria.
It’s not unusual, of course, for Israeli analysts to predict imminent war with Iran. They’ve been doing so for literally since the Iranian Revolution. Yet the increasing certainty about such a conflict is noteworthy, as are warnings it will amount to the “worst war in decades” for the Middle East.
That’s really saying something for the Middle East. Yet this has broadly been a war of choice for Israel, which has been attacking Syria with regularity, and openly talking about the attacks being about Iran. The Israeli right’s long-anticipated war with materially the whole of Shi’a Islam may be on the horizon.
Having survived an assassination attempt with a Cold War nerve agent, Yulia Skripal, daughter of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, found herself at the center of a surreal diplomatic spat Wednesday, with the Russian embassy insinuating Britain had effectively kidnapped her. The allegation came after Skripal, a Russian citizen, issued a statement through London’s Metropolitan Police in which she, perhaps understandably, declined the offer of consular assistance from Russia — the government accused of attempting to kill her.
“If I change my mind I know how to contact them,” read the statement. ...
The attack left her in a coma for weeks, but she left hospital Monday and was immediately taken into hiding by British security services, prompting demands from Moscow for access to her. Skripal’s comments drew a swift response from the Russian embassy in London Wednesday, which issued a line-by-line dissection of the release saying it doubted “that the statement really belongs to Yulia.”
“The text has been composed in a special way so as to support official statements made by British authorities,” it read. “Particularly amazing is the phrase ‘no one speaks for me’ appearing in a statement which, instead of being read on camera by Yulia herself, is published at Scotland Yard website.” It concluded that “the document only strengthens suspicions that we are dealing with a forcible isolation of the Russian citizen.”
The international chemical weapons watchdog has backed the UK’s findings on the identity of the chemical used to poison the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
The findings by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will be a major relief to the UK, which has said novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia, was used in the attack.
The executive summary released by the OPCW does not mention novichok by name, but states: “The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirms the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.”
The OPCW, which does identify the chemical by its complex formula in a classified report that has not been made public, also notes in its summary that the chemical had an “almost complete absence” of impurities.
As Most Democrats Stay Silent, Elizabeth Warren Calls on Israel to Exercise Restraint Against Palestinian Protesters
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., broke with the political establishment and called on the Israeli government to respect the rights of Palestinian protesters in Gaza in a statement to The Intercept on Wednesday. “I am deeply concerned about the deaths and injuries in Gaza,” Warren said. “As additional protests are planned for the coming days, the Israel Defense Forces should exercise restraint and respect the rights of Palestinians to peacefully protest.”
The statement is a sign that the turning tide of opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the Democratic Party — which has traditionally been stridently pro-Israel — is trickling up to senior figures in the party. (A recent survey from the Pew Research Center showed that Democrats are almost as likely to be sympathetic to Palestinians as they are to Israelis.) It also signifies Warren’s personal evolution on the issue, as she has not always acknowledged Palestinian rights. In 2014, Warren more or less repeated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talking points about the war in Gaza, defending Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas, even as the military bombarded civilian infrastructure in Gaza. She also walked away when asked a question about Gaza at the liberal Netroots Nation conference that year.
Warren is the second potential 2020 presidential candidate to speak up in favor of Palestinian rights in recent weeks. The first was Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who was the first member of Congress to comment on the situation at all when he said the killing of protesters in Gaza was “tragic” in a tweet late last month. In a follow-up appearance on CNN, Sanders was asked about the Israeli government’s explanation that it was responding to “direct attacks” from Hamas fighters in the crowd.
“Do you accept the Israeli government’s explanation?” host Jake Tapper asked.
“No, I don’t. I think, from what my understanding is, is you have tens and tens of thousands of people who are engaged in a nonviolent protest. I believe now 15 or 20 people, Palestinians, have been killed, and many, many others have been wounded,” Sanders replied. ...
In addition to Sanders and Warren, three other members of Congress have voiced concerns about Israeli conduct towards protesters in Gaza: Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.; and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
Donald Trump once boasted of killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), calling the giant trade pact a “fraud”. Now, apparently, he wants in.
During a meeting with Republican senators on Thursday, Trump reportedly asked Larry Kudlow, his national economic council chairman, and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer to take another look at the pact – a deal he once called Republicans “stupid” for endorsing.
The move runs counter to Trump’s repeatedly expressed belief that he prefers “bilateral” trade agreements – between the US and one other country – to wide-ranging pacts like TPP and the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which he has also said should be rewritten or scrapped.
But at a time of increasing tensions over trade between the US and China, revising a deal he once argued was “pushed by special interests who want to rape our country” could offer the US greater leverage in negotiations with Beijing.
The Sacramento Police Department couldn’t explain why two of its officers muted their body cameras after shooting and killing 22-year-old Stephon Clark in his own backyard last month. Now, the department wants every officer to verbalize their reasons before even touching the button.
In a memo sent to officers on April 4, first obtained by the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday, the Sacramento Police Department wrote that muting body-worn cameras is considered de-activation — the same as completely shutting them off.
“Once their BWC [born-worn camera] is activated, employees shall not deactivate or mute their BWCs until the investigative or enforcement activity involving a member of the public has concluded,” stated the memo, also obtained by VICE News. "If enforcement or investigative activity resumes, the employee shall re-activate the BWC and continue recording.”
The rule, however, has some exceptions: discussions with medical professionals, to conserve battery life, investigations with “sensitive circumstances,” or a witness or citizen requesting that the officer turn their camera off or mute it, the Bee reported. If officers do mute their audio for one of those reasons, the department now requires they verbally explain why.
The Republican governor and state legislature in Oklahoma have refused to budge on any new school funding measures as the strike by tens of thousands of teachers enters its eighth day today. ... After more than a week of mass protests inside and outside the state capitol in Oklahoma City, Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill Tuesday repealing a $5 hotel/motel tax. The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) had called on Fallin to maintain the tax as part of funding proposal that the union said would be enough to end the strike. Republican leaders of the state House of Representatives have also rejected out-of-hand the OEA’s proposal to remove reductions on capital gains taxes, saying they would not even hear a bill before the legislature adjourns on May 25.
The OEA has sought to hijack the powerful strike by Oklahoma educators and shut it down based on maneuvers with state Democrats and Republicans to add approximately $50 million to a spending bill. The was rejected as wholly inadequate by teachers who face not only near poverty wages, but overcrowded classrooms and a chronic shortage of supplies. Teachers want at least $200 million in additional funding and a $5,000 raise for the even more poorly paid school aides and other support staff.
Ignoring the demands of striking teachers, OEA President Alicia Priest reiterated that the union would call the strike off if the governor and state legislature came up with $50 million more. “They’ve passed $456 million. We’ve asked for $506 million in the first year. And when you do the math, that does break down to $50-million,” Priest told local media outlet News 9 Tuesday. “So, we’re 90 percent of the way there.” Referring to the rejection of the unions’ proposals, Priest added, “That’s just one route on a roadmap to get to a final destination. There are many other routes to get there.”
The OEA does not speak for teachers. On the contrary, from the beginning the OEA and the smaller Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers opposed a strike and hailed the first pay raise and spending measure as “historic.” After rank-and-file teachers, using social media, rejected the sellout and walked out, the OEA and AFT have done nothing but try to sabotage the struggle and demoralize teachers with impotent and fruitless appeals to bought-and-paid-for politicians.
A nationwide network of rightwing thinktanks is launching a PR counteroffensive against the teachers’ strikes that are sweeping the country, circulating a “messaging guide” for anti-union activists that portrays the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and their children.
The new rightwing strategy to discredit the strikes that have erupted in protest against cuts in education funding and poor teacher pay is contained in a three-page document obtained by the Guardian. Titled “How to talk about teacher strikes”, it provides a “dos and don’ts” manual for how to smear the strikers.
Top of the list of talking points is the claim that “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families”. It advises anti-union campaigners to argue that “it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.”
The “messaging guide” is the brainchild of the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 rightwing “ideas factories” that span every state in the nation. SPN uses its $80m war chest – funded by billionaire super-donors such as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation that flows from the Walmart fortune – to coordinate conservative strategy across the country. Another financial backer of SPN is the billionaire DeVos family of the Amway empire. Betsy DeVos is the current education secretary in the Trump administration.
SPN’s previous campaigns have included a plan to “defund and defang” public sector unions. Now it is turning its firepower on the striking teachers.
Will Senate Dems Block Confirmation of Climate-Denying, Torture-Backing State Dept Pick Mike Pompeo?
An audit released this week found evidence of corruption in how contracts were awarded at the Tar Creek Superfund site in Oklahoma. Gary Jones, the state auditor and inspector who wrote the report, submitted it to then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt back in January 2014. But Pruitt inexplicably refused to release it. Pruitt’s successor, Mike Hunter, had also refused to release the report since he began serving as attorney general after Pruitt left the job in February 2017 to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. But on Monday, facing a lawsuit demanding the release of the audit, Hunter changed his mind. ...
For the rest of the country, , the operative question is why the former Oklahoma attorney general and current administer of the EPA refused to release the report in the first place. An article in Politico floated the theory that Pruitt might have wanted to protect Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who endorsed and got funding for the trust, which used public money to buy people’s homes and businesses. The audit could embarrass Inhofe by showing that the relocation project he spearheaded didn’t go well. ...
The evidence of corruption at Tar Creek also reflects badly on Pruitt. Not only was he the head law enforcement official in the state when some of the problems transpired and the audit was conducted, he also aligned himself with the subjects of the audit, according to The Oklahoman. In February, that paper reported that, while Pruitt kept the results of the audit from the public, he gave them to the attorney representing the trust that was being investigated. The attorney then shared the audit with his clients, according to the paper.
Whatever Pruitt’s original reason for suppressing the report, it now has national significance. “This whole situation is about the way Pruitt handled alleged wrongdoing at one site,” said Daniel Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability. “He now oversees the entire Superfund program across the country. What does this mean about how he’s running the entire program?”
The same vessel thought to have caused a mineral-oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac earlier this month may also have put three small dents in Line 5, according to the governor's office. Line 5, operated by Enbridge, carries oil between Michigan's two peninsulas underneath the Straits of Mackinac. It's proven controversial in recent years as engineers and environmentalists have expressed concern about risks the aging pipeline could pose to the Great Lakes.
The incident involving a different line in the Straits was initially thought not to have affected Line 5, which was shut down temporarily during the investigation. ... Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is acting as governor due to Gov. Rick Snyder being out of the state, is also asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to initiate legal action against the ship's owners, operators or other parties who are potentially responsible.
"There is no excuse for the ship's actions, which risked devastating environmental harm as well as the loss of vital infrastructure for communications, electrical power, and heat for residents of the Upper Peninsula," Calley said. "I have asked the Attorney General to begin legal action against the ship's owners immediately to ensure every member of the maritime community understands the no-anchor zone is vital."
In a press release, Snyder called for an acceleration of studies on alternatives to the pipeline he demanded in November. ... The studies, expected to be completed in June, are looking at ways to mitigate anchor strikes. One possibility is tunneling, which according to the governor's office would require Enbridge to construct a tunnel and decommission the existing Line 5. That is a possibility the governor would support assuming studies show a tunnel is physically possible and constriction would not cause significant environmental damage, according to his press release.
In a much-watched case, a Michigan agency has approved Nestlé's plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the state. The request attracted a record number of public comments — with 80,945 against and 75 in favor.
Nestlé's request to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to pump 576,000 gallons of water each day from the White Pine Springs well in the Great Lakes Basin was "highly controversial," member station Michigan Radio reports. But despite deep public opposition, the agency concluded that the company's plan met with legal standards. ...
Water is a complicated and sore subject in many areas, but in few places more so than in Michigan, where a crisis has raged for years over high levels of lead and other dangerous heavy metals in the water in Flint. And back in 2014, Detroit resorted to shutting off water to thousands of customers as it fought bankruptcy.
With that recent history as a backdrop, Nestlé's plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the Great Lakes State drew attention and added another dimension to a debate over whether water should be seen as a commodity, a commercial product — or a human right.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
Heh, these first two articles should be read together.
hat tip snoopydawg:
A Little Night Music
Harold Burrage - Hi-Yo Silver
Harold Burrage - She Knocks Me Out
Harold Burrage - Got To Find A Way
Harold Burrage - Take Me Now
Harold Burrage - Way Down Boogie
Harold Burrage - Messed Up
Harold Burrage - Crying For My Baby
Harold Burrage - You Eat Too Much
Harold Burrage - Say You Love Me
Harold Burrage - I Don't Care Who Knows
Harold Burrage - A Fool (For Hiding My Love From You)
Harold Burrage - More Power To You
Harold Burrage - Got To Find A Way
Harold Burrage - Betty Jean