The Evening Blues - 4-12-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues guitarist Debbie Davies. Enjoy!
Debbie Davies - Down At the Chicken Shack
"Successful crime is dignified with the name of virtue; the good become the slaves of the wicked; might makes right; fear silences the power of the law."
-- Seneca the Younger
News and Opinion
The arrest Thursday of Julian Assange eviscerates all pretense of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. The illegalities, embraced by the Ecuadorian, British and U.S. governments, in the seizure of Assange are ominous. They presage a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes, especially war crimes, carried out by corporate states and the global ruling elite will be masked from the public. They presage a world where those with the courage and integrity to expose the misuse of power will be hunted down, tortured, subjected to sham trials and given lifetime prison terms in solitary confinement. They presage an Orwellian dystopia where news is replaced with propaganda, trivia and entertainment. The arrest of Assange, I fear, marks the official beginning of the corporate totalitarianism that will define our lives. ...
I am sure government attorneys are skillfully doing what has become de rigueur for the corporate state, using specious legal arguments to eviscerate enshrined rights by judicial fiat. This is how we have the right to privacy with no privacy. This is how we have “free” elections funded by corporate money, covered by a compliant corporate media and under iron corporate control. This is how we have a legislative process in which corporate lobbyists write the legislation and corporate-indentured politicians vote it into law. This is how we have the right to due process with no due process. This is how we have a government—whose fundamental responsibility is to protect citizens—that orders and carries out the assassination of its own citizens such as the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son. This is how we have a press legally permitted to publish classified information and a publisher sitting in jail in Britain awaiting extradition to the United States and a whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, in a jail cell in the United States.
Britain will use as its legal cover for the arrest the extradition request from Washington based on conspiracy charges. This legal argument, in a functioning judiciary, would be thrown out of court. Unfortunately, we no longer have a functioning judiciary. We will soon know if Britain as well lacks one. ...
If Assange is extradited and tried, it will create a legal precedent that will terminate the ability of the press, which Trump repeatedly has called “the enemy of the people,” to hold power accountable. The crimes of war and finance, the persecution of dissidents, minorities and immigrants, the pillaging by corporations of the nation and the ecosystem and the ruthless impoverishment of working men and women to swell the bank accounts of the rich and consolidate the global oligarchs’ total grip on power will not only expand, but will no longer be part of public debate. First Assange. Then us.
For years, press freedom advocates have feared that the U.S. government might prosecute Julian Assange for publishing classified information under a century-old law originally aimed at spies: the Espionage Act. But the Department of Justice threw a legal curveball on Thursday morning after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested in London. The indictment made public soon afterward tiptoed around Assange’s publication of leaked national security cables, instead charging him in a conspiracy to hack Pentagon computer systems.
The filing cast Assange as an active participant in then-Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning’s 2010 theft of classified national security cables—rather than a passive recipient. While that will likely limit the direct impact of the case on other news organizations, media law experts told VICE News that it could be just the opening salvo in a longer-term legal strategy by federal prosecutors.
Allegations filed in federal court in Virginia claim that Assange went far beyond normal reporting methods. After Manning already leaked Assange hundreds of thousands of classified records, the indictment argues, he assisted her in attempting to crack a Pentagon computer network password in the hope of obtaining additional documents. ... The indictment makes several references to WikiLeaks’ publication of the classified cables. But it emphasizes Assange’s efforts to aid Manning, without explicitly stating whether they were successful. ...
Despite the limited scope of the charges, however, media law experts cautioned that the indictment could be the first step in a drawn-out legal battle. ... “We don’t know if any other shoes are going to drop,” said Jonathan Peters, a media law professor at the University of Georgia. “They could drop more indictments. “They could use this one to gather more evidence and put together more charges.” That would hold the potential to lead the legal battle into more dangerous territory for other media outlets. The indictment on Thursday pointed to how WikiLeaks “publicly solicited submissions of classified, censored, and other restricted material” and then “took measures to conceal Manning” as its source. They are textbook reporting practices.
“While the Trump administration has so far not attempted to explicitly declare the act of publishing illegal, a core part of its argument would criminalize many common journalist-source interactions that reporters rely on all the time,” Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said in a statement. “Requesting more documents from a source, using an encrypted chat messenger, or trying to keep a source’s identity anonymous are not crimes; they are vital to the journalistic process.”
After a "contentious" live on-air interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald during NPR's "Morning Edition" morning was apparently scrubbed from its online version of the show, several people uploaded the deleted portion to the web so that people could hear what it seemed the public radio broadcaster did not want people to hear. ...
Hillary Clinton said the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose website published hacked emails from her 2016 presidential campaign, must “answer for what he has done” in the wake of his dramatic arrest on Thursday. ...
“I think it is clear from the indictment that came out it’s not about punishing journalism,” Clinton said at an event in New York.
Clinton said the issue was not one of press freedom, but “about assisting the hacking of a military computer to steal information from the United States government”.
The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The charging document and accompanying extradition request from the U.S. government, used by the U.K. police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.
So much of what has been reported today about this indictment has been false. Two facts in particular have been utterly distorted by the DOJ and then misreported by numerous media organizations.
The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation — that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks — is not new. It was long known by the Obama DOJ and was explicitly part of Manning’s trial, yet the Obama DOJ — not exactly renowned for being stalwart guardians of press freedoms — concluded that it could not and should not prosecute Assange because indicting him would pose serious threats to press freedom. In sum, today’s indictment contains no new evidence or facts about Assange’s actions; all of it has been known for years.
The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish. In other words, the indictment seeks to criminalize what journalists are not only permitted but ethically required to do: take steps to help their sources maintain their anonymity.
That’s why the indictment poses such a grave threat to press freedom. It characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take in order to conduct sensitive reporting in the digital age. But because the DOJ issued a press release with a headline that claimed that Assange was accused of “hacking” crimes, media outlets mindlessly repeated this claim even though the indictment contains no such allegation. It merely accuses Assange of trying to help Manning avoid detection. That’s not “hacking.” That’s called a core obligation of journalism. ...
The indictment tries to cast itself as charging Assange not with journalistic activities but with criminal hacking. But it is a thinly disguised pretext for prosecuting Assange for publishing the U.S. government’s secret documents while pretending to make it about something else.
An unsealed indictment from the Trump administration’s District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, accompanied by an extradition request, charges Assange with “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer” during Chelsea Manning’s 2010 leak of government documents exposing US war crimes. This charge is premised on a fraudulent and manipulative distortion of reality, and you may be one hundred percent certain of it. ...
The facts of the case have not changed, the information hasn’t changed, only the narrative has changed. In 2010 the United States opened a secret grand jury in Virginia to investigate whether Assange and WikiLeaks could be prosecuted for the publication of the Manning leaks, and then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration was conducting “an active, ongoing criminal investigation” into the matter. The Trump administration has not turned up any new evidence that the Obama administration was unable to find in this active, ongoing criminal investigation (US government surveillance has surely acquired some new tricks since 2010, but time travel isn’t one of them), and indeed it does not claim to have turned up any new evidence.
There's a huge myth being misreported about today's indictment of Assange. The claim that Assange tried to help Manning circumvent a password to cover her tracks isn't new. The Obama DOJ knew about it since 2011, but chose not to prosecute him. Story on this soon.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 11, 2019
The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking. The allegation he tried (and failed?) to help crack a password during their world-famous reporting has been public for nearly a decade: it is the count Obama's DOJ refused to charge, saying it endangered journalism. https://t.co/xdTQ8xauB0
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 11, 2019
This is all information that the Obama administration had access to (journalist Tim Shorrock observed that the alleged 2010 correspondence between Assange and Manning “looks like it came straight from NSA surveillance” of the two), yet it chose not to do what the Trump administration is currently doing because it would endanger press freedoms. This means that nothing has changed since that time besides (A) the fact that there is now a more overtly tyrannical administration in place, and (B) the fact that the public has been paced into accepting the prosecution of Assange by years of establishment propaganda. Nothing has changed since 2010 apart from a more thoroughly propagandized populace and a more depraved US government, which means that this new charge that the Trump administration issued in December 2017 is based on nothing other than a diminished respect for press freedoms and an increased willingness to crush them. This makes it fraudulent and illegitimate, and the precedent that is being set by it should be rejected and opposed by everyone in the world who claims to support the existence of a free press which is capable of holding power to account.
Under intense questioning about why the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights was good but the Russian seizure of Crimea was bad, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, told senators that there was an “international law doctrine” which would be explained to them later.
It turned out there was no doctrine. The state department’s clarification of Pompeo’s remarks contained no reference to one, and experts on international law said that none exists.
Donald Trump’s decision last month to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, captured from Syria in 1967, took the state department by surprise, and it has been struggling to catch up since. ...
A state department tweet on Tuesday cited Pompeo as saying: “The Trump administration sees the world as it is, not as we wish it would be. Basing policy on reality, we recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital [and] Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” Such statements have raised fears that the Trump administration is planning to accept the end of international norms and usher in a might-makes-right contest between nation states. ...
In Senate hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, Pompeo refused to say whether the US would recognise Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
"International Justice" firms up its place in the Department of Cruel Hoaxes.
The decision is "a shocking abandonment of the victims which will weaken the court's already questionable credibility,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director at Amnesty International.
— FIDH (@fidh_en) April 12, 2019
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested the investigation in 2017, a move which was praised by human rights organizations. At the time, Bensouda said there was a "reasonable basis to believe" that war crimes were committed by the Taliban, Afghan National Security Forces, U.S. armed forces, and the CIA.
In retaliation for Bensouda's action, the Trump administration last week revoked her entry visa. ...
"Coming so closely on the heels of a series of unhinged attacks by senior U.S. officials, and following long and unexplainable delays up to this point, the decision ultimately will be seen as a craven capitulation to Washington's bullying and threats," said Patnaik.
The U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) similarly found the court's decision appalling.
"With its decision today, the International Criminal Court sends a dangerous message: that bullying wins and that the powerful won't be held to account," said Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at CCR, who filed victims-representations to support the probe.
The government has stood down an army of 6,000 civil servants who had been preparing for a no-deal Brexit, at an estimated cost of £1.5bn. The civil servants who had been seconded from elsewhere will now return to their normal duties, but there is no clear role for an estimated 4,500 new recruits after article 50 was extended until Halloween. More than 16,000 civil servants in total have been working on Brexit.
The Labour party’s Hilary Benn said it was a “costly price” to pay for Theresa May’s belligerent insistence of keeping a no-deal on the table. “It was important to plan for all contingencies, but this is the huge cost of the prime minister repeatedly saying: ‘My deal or no deal’ when she knew that leaving without a deal was not in the national interest. This is one example of how Brexit is proving to be very costly for our country,” said Benn, chair of the influential Brexit select committee.
The Cabinet Office made the decision to reverse the no-deal plans at a meeting on Thursday morning.
A suspect has been arrested after three churches with majority African American congregations in central Louisiana were destroyed by fire in little more than a week. At a Thursday news conference, the suspect was identified as Holden Matthews, a 21-year-old white man, and the son of a sheriff’s deputy in the parish. He faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building. ...
Authorities said they had not yet made a determination as to whether the fires were inspired by racial bias or hate, and that any application of hate crime statutes would be left to FBI and other federal officials. ...
According to his arrest warrant, Matthews used his debit card and ID to purchase a gas can, a 10-pack of automotive shop towels and a lighter on or around 25 March. Investigators found the remains of the same brand of gas can at the scene of the 4 April fire at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. ...
The Daily Beast reported that a Facebook page appearing to belong to Matthews showed he was “active in pagan and black metal pages, and that he commented on two memes about far-right former neo-Nazi metal musician Varg Vikernes, who served 15 years in prison for killing a fellow metal musician and burning churches in Norway”.
This is kind of amusing in a sad sort of way.
Rep. Katie Porter Uses Basic Budget Math to Expose Jamie Dimon on Starvation Wages at JPMorgan Chase
.@RepKatiePorter outlined the budget of a single mother who works as a Chase bank teller, and asked JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon for solutions for the mother's over-$500 shortfall.
Dimon did not have a response pic.twitter.com/pYp6VfuZ3l
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) April 10, 2019
During a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Katie Porter used the financial struggles of one of her constituents to grill JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon over the vast worker-executive pay gap and low wages at his bank.
Porter, a Democrat from California, outlined the monthly expenses of her constituent, a single-mother working full-time as a JPMorgan Chase teller for $16.50 an hour.
After paying for rent on her one-bedroom apartment, food, utilities, child care for her daughter, and other basic needs, Porter estimated that her constituent has a $567 budget shortfall each month.
When Porter asked Dimon—who earns $31 million a year—how his employee should manage this shortfall while working 40 hours a week at his bank, the Wall Street CEO had no answer.
Bolstered by Trump Tax Scam, Number of US Corporations Paying 'Not a Dime' in Federal Taxes Doubled in 2018
A new analysis out Thursday shows that tax policy under the Trump administration is benefitting large corporations to such a degree that twice as many large companies will pay nothing in federal taxes for 2018 compared to previous years.
The report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which comes less than a week before tax day in the United States on April 15, found that 60 companies—including Amazon, Netflix, Activision Blizzard, General Motors, and IBM—used "a diverse array of legal tax breaks" to bring their federal tax liability to zero.
"For years, corporations have manipulated the system to avoid paying taxes, and it's clear that the 2017 tax law did nothing to change this," said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at ITEP and lead author of the report.
— David Beard (@dabeard) April 11, 2019
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is unveiling a new way to tax corporations: Take them at their word. Due to the vagaries of American corporate accounting, companies routinely tell investors on conference calls that they made billions in profit over the previous quarter, then turn around and tell the IRS that, actually, they made no money at all, so they don’t owe any taxes. Warren’s plan would tax those companies on the profits they claim publicly.
The proposal, called the “Real Corporate Profits Tax,” would only apply to companies that report more than $100 million in worldwide profits, and every dollar above $100 million would be taxed at 7 percent.
Warren’s new corporate profits tax plan is the latest in a series of sweeping, detailed policy proposals. Her platform includes a plan to introduce universal child care, which would be paid for with a new tax on multimillionaires, breaking up big tech monopolies, and combating corruption in government, among other positions that have largely been adopted by Democratic contenders, such as Medicare for All.
In a Medium post outlining the plan, the lawmaker explained the reasoning behind creating a new marginal tax: Raising the corporate tax rate alone isn’t enough when the corporate tax code is “so littered” with loopholes. “We need corporate tax reform, but we also need to recognize that enormous companies with armies of lawyers and accountants will always try to exploit any deductions and exemptions that remain,” wrote Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.
“To raise the revenue we need — and ensure every corporation pays their fair share — we need a new kind of tax that big companies can’t get around.” An estimated 1,200 public corporations would be subject to this tax, a move Warren said would neutralize the financial advantages of massive companies and give smaller businesses “a fighting chance.” Amazon, for example, would pay $698 million in taxes under the corporate profits tax instead of zero. And Occidental Petroleum, a summary of the proposal noted, would pay $280 million in taxes instead of zero.
Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig expects to be indicted on charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Craig’s lawyers said in a statement distributed to media outlets late Wednesday.
The news marks the first indication that a high-ranking Democrat may be caught up in a case tied to Mueller, who spent 22 months examining President Trump’s ties to Russia and issued a final report in late March that remains secret. Before he wrapped up, Mueller referred some matters to other prosecutors — including the Craig case.
The potential charges against Craig appear to have nothing to do with his stint in the Obama White House during 2009-2010, or directly with the 2016 election. Rather, they seem to be tied to work he did during the years in-between as a private lawyer in connection with the Ukrainian government and President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Craig’s attorneys told The New York Times that they expect him to be indicted for making false statements about whether he was required to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA, for work he did in 2012.
The Senate has voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former a former oil and gas and water lobbyist, as secretary of the embattled interior department. Senators voted 56-41 to approve Bernhardt’s nomination to oversee more than 500m acres of public lands and other resources, including national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges.
Bernhardt, who was confirmed as deputy secretary in July 2017, has been acting secretary since Ryan Zinke – who was plagued by scandal – stepped down in December. Democrats have complained that the former oil and gas lobbyist has used his federal position to benefit former industry clients.
Before joining the administration, Bernhardt worked at a Washington law and lobbying firm on behalf of mining companies, oil and gas giants, a politically powerful western water agency and other groups that have business before the interior department.
“David Bernhardt is a walking conflict of interest who is selling out our public lands to his former clients in the fossil fuel industry,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Like Ryan Zinke before him, Bernhardt is clearly more interested in doing favors for his corporate polluting friends than in responsibly managing our shared public spaces."
Europe can expect even greater migratory pressure from Africa unless action is taken to prevent global warming, Sir David Attenborough has said in a strongly worded warning to policymakers that time is running out to save the natural world from extinction.
Speaking at the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, the broadcaster and environmentalist said that on current trends parts of the world would soon become uninhabitable and populations would be be forced to move. Attenborough, 92, said it was vital that countries met their commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions because time was fast running out for the planet.
Asked by the IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, whether there was a link between migration and climate change, Attenborough said: “It is happening in Europe. People are coming from Africa because they can’t live where they are.” He said migration pressures would become more acute as temperatures continued to rise because more parts of the world would become uninhabitable.
Attenborough, who was publicising the Netflix series Our Planet, said: “I find it hard to exaggerate the peril. This is the new extinction and we are half way through it. We are in terrible, terrible trouble and the longer we wait to do something about it the worse it is going to get.”
A French appeals court has said US chemicals giant Monsanto was guilty of poisoning a farmer who said he suffered neurological damage after accidentally inhaling fumes from a weedkiller made by the company. Paul François, a cereal farmer, had already won previous lawsuits against Monsanto, which was bought by Germany’s Bayer last year, in 2012 and 2015.
He said he fell ill in 2004 after being exposed to Lasso, a weedkiller containing monochlorobenzene that was legal in France until 2007 but had already been banned in 1985 in Canada and in 1992 in Belgium and Britain. François argued that Monsanto was aware of Lasso’s dangers long before it was withdrawn from the French market and sought damages of more than €1m (£860,000) for chronic neurological damage that led to long hospital stays.
The court in Lyon rejected the company’s appeal on Tuesday but did not rule on how much Monsanto might have to pay, which will be determined in a separate ruling. It ordered the company to pay €50,000 immediately for François’s legal fees.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Chris Cain w/Debbie Davies - Cross Cut Saw
Debbie Davies - Takin' It All To Vegas
Debbie Davies - Blue And Lonesome
Debbie Davies - Better Off With The Blues
Debbie Davies - My Time After Awhile
Debbie Davies - Just Stepped In The Blues
Debbie Davies - Love The Game
Mick Taylor/Debbie Davies - Hard Road
Debbie Davies - I Want To Rock You Baby
Debbie Davies - Lovin' Cup