The Evening Blues - 5-14-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist and harmonica player Louis Myers. Enjoy!
Louis Myers & The Aces - Take A Little Walk With Me
"Machiavelli did believe that it was better to appear to be good than to be good. If you're good, you're just too vulnerable, but if you appear to be good, you get all the benefits plus you can be sneaky and, when necessary, stab someone in the back."
-- David Ignatius
News and Opinion
Your tax dollars at work:
“I’ve seen some crazy stuff but for a case like this it’s complete insanity,” said attorney Timothy Parlatore. “I was absolutely stunned, especially given the fact that it’s so clear the government has been the one doing the leaking.”
Parlatore represents Edward Gallagher, the special operations chief who has pleaded not guilty to a murder count in the death of an injured teenage militant he allegedly stabbed to death in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher’s platoon commander, Lt Jacob Portier, is fighting charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly conducting Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony next to the corpse. Gallagher’s case has prompted intense media interest and become a cause célèbre on the right. Donald Trump has demanded the case proceed quickly.
Attorneys for Portier filed a motion on Monday asking a military judge to force prosecutors to turn over information about what they were seeking and the extent of the intrusion. “The fact that prosecutors have embedded their emails with devices designed to monitor defense communications at least implicates the fourth and sixth amendment rights of Lt Portier, and also impacts air force defense operations in the entire western circuit,” wrote Nicholas McCue, one of Portier’s defense lawyers. “In this case, discovery of the requested items is important to ensuring the prosecution in this case did not take any part in arranging or permitting an intrusion into Lt Portier’s attorney-client relationship.” ...
The emails were sent last Wednesday to 13 lawyers and paralegals and to Carl Prine, a reporter for the Navy Times newspaper. Prine has reported extensively on the case and has broken several stories based on documents provided by sources.
A festering four-year war, crippling sanctions, threats to maritime oil trade and a US naval battlegroup steaming for the Persian Gulf. Such developments were troubling enough, before two Saudi tankers were reportedly sabotaged off the UAE coast on Sunday – a development set to ratchet tensions between Tehran and Washington to new and combustible highs.
With Riyadh claiming significant hull damage to its ships and the UAE claiming the damage was done inside its territorial waters, what last week was a looming standoff is now a real-time crisis with potent implications for both global energy security and regional stability. ...
According to Riyadh, one of the “sabotaged” tankers was en route to a Saudi port to upload oil to be exported to the US. Stopping such a shipment would be consistent with an act of revenge for crippling Iranian exports and for making good on threats to disrupt global energy routes – although on Monday Iran vehemently denied playing a role.
Bolton’s prediction of a “credible threat” from Iran, or its proxies, to the oil interests of Washington, or its allies, however looks prophetic in the royal courts of the Gulf. And what regional officials are calling a “terrorist attack” is certain to similarly energise a White House that has at times appeared to be itching for a confrontation with a foe it now faces in most corners of the Middle East.
At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.
The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.
The development reflects the influence of Mr. Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush. ...
Deploying such a robust air, land and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.
Several oil tankers were reportedly attacked or sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend [...] Emirati officials are investigating the apparent sabotage, and American officials suspect that Iran was involved. Several officials cautioned, however, that there is not yet any definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the reported attacks. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman called it a “regretful incident,” according to a state news agency.
Is the Trump administration attempting to concoct a false pretext to justify launching a war against Iran?
That question has become increasingly common and urgent among anti-war commentators and activists in recent days as U.S. intelligence officials—without citing any concrete evidence—blamed Iran for reported attacks on Saudi and UAE oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz over the weekend.
Commentators quickly likened the accusations to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, referring to the "fabricated" event that President Lyndon Johnson used to massively escalate America's war in Vietnam. ...
According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials "didn't offer details about what led to the assessment" that Iran carried out the attacks on the oil tankers.
"We are in grave danger of being sleepwalked into military confrontation with Iran over an incident that is blamed wrongly on Iran," author and journalist Gareth Porter said in a statement. "Corporate media have given Bolton and his conniving to achieve such a crisis a free pass."
As The New Yorker's Robin Wright wrote Monday, the United States "has a long history of provoking, instigating, or launching wars based on dubious, flimsy, or manufactured threats," including in Iraq, Lybia, Vietnam, and elsewhere. "Today, the question in Washington—and surely in Tehran, too—is whether President Trump is making moves that will provoke, instigate, or inadvertently drag the United States into a war with Iran," Wright wrote. "The problem, as U.S. history proves, is that the momentum of confrontation is harder to reverse with each escalatory step."
Not a day goes by without the Trump administration imposing a new challenge on us, the Iranian people. Those who think that the travel ban has been the hardest obstacle for Iranians need to catch up with latest foreign policy developments. Encouraged by Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisors, the Iranian people today face an increasing risk of military attack by the United States. Also, the Iranian currency has lost 80 percent of its value since last year, mainly reflecting the collective sense of fear caused by the increased sanctions and the decertification of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the increasing empowerment of the most undemocratic factions of the Iranian state. Trump has proudly taken credit for bankrupting an economy that feeds 80 million people, and he has recently promised to reduce Iran’s oil export to zero.
Iran is only marginally reflected in the U.S. news, which means the American public does not hear voices that express the human suffering caused by the U.S. government far beyond its borders. The murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, Trump’s best ally in the region, is a rare instance of attention given to the nature of America’s allies and Iran’s opponents in the Middle East. Pro-democracy Iranians worldwide are experiencing a political trauma. They feel alienated from both internal and world politics. They are unable to communicate the debilitating pain of, on the one hand, expecting a military attack by the United States and on the other, the worsening of the political landscape in their home country.
Those who feel relieved by thinking that Trump will not engage in an actual war and is merely interested in making threats should realize that the war has already begun. U.S. sanctions are producing a level of suffering comparable to that of wartime. Sanctions in fact are a war waged by the United States against the Iranian working- and middle-classes. These groups struggle to make ends meet as unemployment dramatically increases even as the inflation rate skyrockets. The same people that the Trump administration is pretending to want to set free are the ones that are hit hardest by current U.S. policies in the Middle East.
On April 7 2018 Syrian 'rebels' claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed dead bodies of mainly women and children. The claim of the 'chemical attack' was made shortly after U.S. President Trump had announced that he wanted U.S. troops to leave Syria. It was designed to "pull him back in" which it indeed did. In an illegal 'retaliation' the U.S., Britain and France launched a number of cruise missiles against Syria. Most of them failed to reach their targets. ...
Now the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media obtained a copy of the 15 pages long OPCW Engineering assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident - 27 February 2019 (pdf).
After testing various hypotheses through experiments, simulations and finite element analysis the engineering sub-group of the OPCW investigation concluded (emphasis added):
32. At this stage the FFM engineering sub-team cannot be certain that the cylinders at either location arrived there as a result of being dropped from an aircraft. The dimensions, characteristics and appearances of the cylinders and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder having been delivered from an aircraft. In each case the alternative hypothesis produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.
33. In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.
The engineering assessment confirms our earlier conclusion. The whole scene as depicted by 'rebels' and propaganda organs was staged. The more than 34 dead on the scene were murdered elsewhere under unknown circumstances.
In its discussion of the OPCW engineering assessment and its suppression by the OPCW management, the Working Group states:
The new information we have removes all doubt that the organization has been hijacked at the top by France, UK and the US. We have no doubt that most OPCW staff continue to do their jobs professionally, and that some who are uneasy about the direction that the organization has taken nevertheless wish to protect its reputation. However what is at stake here is more than the reputation of the organization: the staged incident in Douma provoked a missile attack by the US, UK and France on 14 April 2018 that could have led to all-out war.
The cover-up of evidence that the Douma incident was staged is not merely misconduct. As the staging of the Douma incident entailed mass murder of civilians, those in OPCW who have suppressed the evidence of staging are, unwittingly or otherwise, colluding with mass murder.
A protracted legal saga at Guantánamo Bay ended last month, when a federal court tossed out two years of rulings by the judge overseeing the military tribunal trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged leader of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. The ruling was a rare rebuke, as federal courts have largely deferred to the government on matters relating to Guantánamo in recent years.
Though a victory for Nashiri’s lawyers, the ruling also means an indefinite future for the case against Nashiri, who has been in U.S. custody since 2002. There are clear, viable routes to resolving the case and its fraught history — but they involve moving the case from Guantánamo. This prospect usually founders on the question of political will, which has been missing for nearly a decade.
“The ruling shows that the military commissions system, from top to bottom, is flawed,” Rick Kammen, Nashiri’s former death penalty counsel, told The Intercept. “This case would be dismissed in a rational world.” But with little interest from politicians or the public, it seems that the commissions will continue to lurch along, with little prospect of justice for the victims and survivors of the Cole bombing, and little accountability for the government.
On April 16, the D.C. Circuit Court issued a unanimous ruling vacating the orders of Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the presiding judge on Nashiri’s case since 2015, because he failed to disclose that he was seeking a job as an immigration judge with the Justice Department — the very same body involved in prosecuting Nashiri.
Some further details in this article:
A British judge gave the U.S. a deadline of June 12 to make its case for the extradition of Assange, who has denied both the rape allegation in Sweden and conspiring with Manning to break U.S. law.
Eva-Marie Persson, the Swedish prosecutor, said that her office will issue a European Arrest Warrant immediately, seeking to question and possibly charge Assange based on a rape complaint from a woman in 2010. ... “I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the U.K. and that he could be extradited to the U.S.,” Persson said. “In the event of a conflict between a European Arrest Warrant and a request for extradition from the U.S., U.K. authorities will decide on the order of priority.”
The competing extradition requests will be evaluated by a British judge, but the ultimate decision could be made by the U.K. Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, a Conservative politician.
Last month, more than 70 British lawmakers signed a letter to Javid from Stella Creasy, a member of Parliament for the opposition Labour party, urging their government to give priority to any extradition request from Sweden, over the one filed by the U.S. ...
Since the statute of limitations on the rape allegation in Sweden expires in August 2020, that case would almost certainly end if Assange were to be extradited to the U.S. to face trial on allegations that he tried to help Manning hack into a Pentagon computer system to obtain documents.
Palantir, the CIA-backed data-mining firm co-founded by Donald Trump’s ally Peter Thiel, became the target of an online protest organized by tech activists against the company’s work with US immigration authorities.
On Saturday morning, activists with the Tech Workers Coalition began flooding Palantir’s page on Github with reports on the US government’s use of Palantir technology to target immigrants and unaccompanied children. An open software development program, Github allows outside parties to flag “issues” with sites and platforms and requires employees at those sites and platforms to review the problems. The effort was intended as an online equivalent to passing out flyers to employees, alerting them to what their company is doing in hopes they speak out against it.
Noah Gordon, a tech worker in New York who participated in the action, said he was heartened to see as many as 40 people raise issues on the site. “If Palantir’s going to profit from the work of the open-source community, then we’re going to make sure we, as a community, have a say in who they work with,” he said. “And this is just the start.” ...
For several weeks, the Tech Workers Coalition and the Latinx organizing group Mijente have been spreading pamphlets outside of Palantir offices in New York City, Washington DC, and Palo Alto, California. On Monday, both groups distributed pamphlets in front of the company’s offices in all three cities. The activists said Palantir had quickly removed many of this weekend’s online protests from its Github page.
Google has given tens of thousands of dollars in free advertising to an anti-abortion group that runs ads suggesting it provides abortion services at its medical clinics, but actually seeks to deter “abortion-minded women” from terminating their pregnancies.
The Obria Group, which runs a network of clinics funded by Catholic organisations, received a $120,000 Google advertising grant in 2015, according to a public filing. In 2011, it received nearly $32,000. Such grants are designed to support and expand the reach of non-profits around the world.
Obria was awarded the 2015 grant despite the fact Google had faced intense criticism a year earlier, after a pro-choice group found the platform was running deceptive ads for clinics that appeared to offer abortions and other medical services, but instead focused on counseling and information on alternatives to abortion.
In some cases, such clinics, known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), are located close to Planned Parenthood clinics and provide some medical treatment, such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and prenatal counseling. But they also seek to deter women who enter from seeking abortions and do not offer referrals for alternative treatment.
Obria runs a network of clinics across the US, many of which suggest on their websites that they offer abortion. The clinics are actually opposed to abortion and all forms of contraception. Obria’s use of Google grants underscores how Google has become a vital marketing tool for such organisations. A group called Choose Life Marketing, which helps CPCs market their services, encourages its clients to apply for Google grants.
Attorney General William Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate.”
That’s according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on Monday. The person couldn’t discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The person said Barr has appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct the inquiry.
Durham has previously investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office’s relationship with mobsters.
A dark money organization designed to help Democrats win rural votes in 2020 is getting support from anti-Medicare for All forces — and pushing their message with a pair of former Democratic senators. Last month, former Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., announced the launch of the One Country Project, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, to bring rural voters back to the Democratic Party. The group has already started working with the Democratic National Committee, according to Axios. Time Magazine reported that Heitkamp is using “leftover campaign funds” for the project.
Records show the One Country Project’s website is registered to an executive at Forbes Tate Partners, a lobbying and public relations firm founded by former Clinton administration officials. The lobbying firm is leading the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF), the health industry-backed nonprofit created to crush momentum for a comprehensive universal health care system.
Heitkamp has used the launch of the One Country Project as an opportunity to speak out against Medicare for All. “Polling indicates that most Americans are satisfied with the health care they receive and do not want their coverage options taken away and replaced with a one-size-fits-all government program,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week that echoed PAHCF talking points. Donnelly and Heitkamp both campaigned against Medicare for All during their failed re-election bids, even though polling by Data for Progress and the Kaiser Family Foundation last year found that 55 percent of Democratic voters in Indiana and 51 percent in North Dakota support Medicare for All. Heitkamp lost her 2018 race by 11 points, Donnelly by almost six.
The One Country Project’s website is registered to Elizabeth Gonzalez, the director of operations and development at Forbes Tate. Lauren Crawford Shaver, a Forbes Tate partner who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, is PAHCF’s executive director and has been the group’s public face. Forbes Tate formally registered to lobby for PAHCF last month.
Tulsi criticizes New Knowledge (Joe had its former Research Director @noupside on the podcast) by pointing out that they created fake Russian bots to influence the Alabama Senate election in 2017, and later tried to smear her as backed by Russian bots https://t.co/rlaTUhWmWq
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) May 14, 2019
To Force 'Congress to Do Its Job,' Capitol Hill Sit-In to Demand Immediate Impeachment Inquiry for Trump
Members of the U.S. public from all over the country are planning a major sit-in on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to demand that Congress begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
Organizers with the grassroots group By the People will risk arrest by assembling in the nation's capitol, hoping not only to convince lawmakers that many Americans want the president to be impeached, but also to ask the public to join the call.
The action will be largely focused on "inviting the rest of the public to take action with us in order to force Congress to do its job," organizer Alexandra Flores-Quilty told Common Dreams. "This really requires the American public to lead."
The demonstration comes three months after By the People circulated a petition to all members of Congress, asking them to pledge to vote for impeachment proceedings. Since then, a number of prominent Democrats have claimed that impeaching Trump would be politically unwise and that Americans should focus solely on making sure a Democrat wins the 2020 presidential election.
Abandoning the possibility of impeachment proceedings, Flores-Quilty argued, "is really [an] abdicated responsibility."
"A lot of our elected officials are really scared and unwilling to take bold action right now, and want to wait and have elections be a remedy," she said. "However, elections are not the same thing as impeachment."
A California jury has ordered Monsanto to pay more than $2bn to a couple that got cancer after using its weedkiller, marking the third and largest verdict against the company over Roundup. A jury in Oakland ruled Monday that Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, was liable for the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) cancer of Alva and Alberta Pilliod. The jury ordered the company to pay $1bn in damages to each of them, and more than $55m total in compensatory damages.
The victory for the Pilliods follows two consecutive trial wins for families taking on Monsanto over Roundup, the world’s most widely used weedkiller, which research has , a cancer that affects the immune system. , a former school groundskeeper with terminal cancer, won a $289m victory in state court last year, and , who sprayed Roundup on his properties, was awarded $80m in the trial this year.
The latest verdict is the largest by far and will increase pressure on Bayer, which has share price drops in the wake of the verdicts and is now facing similar lawsuits from , survivors and families who lost loved ones to NHL.
The juries have repeatedly ruled that Roundup was defectively designed, that the company failed to warn consumers about the cancer risks, and that Monsanto has acted negligently. The cases have uncovered that plaintiffs’ lawyers say reveal the ways in which the company has “” scientists over the years and helped “ghostwrite” research defending the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup.
Bayer and Monsanto have continued to argue that Roundup is safe to use and does not cause cancer. They are appealing the verdicts.
On the deepest dive ever made by a human inside a submarine, a Texas investor found something he could have found in the gutter of nearly any street in the world: litter.
Victor Vescovo, a retired naval officer, made the unsettling discovery as he descended nearly 35,853ft (10,927 meters) to a point in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench that is the deepest place on Earth, his expedition said in a statement on Monday. His dive went 52ft (16 meters) lower than the previous deepest descent in the trench in 1960.
Vescovo, the Dallas-based co-founder of Insight Equity Holdings, a private equity fund, found the manmade material on the ocean floor and is trying to confirm that it is plastic, said Stephanie Fitzherbert, a spokeswoman for Vescovo’s Five Deeps Expedition.
This is the first time in human history our planet's atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2.
Not just in recorded history, not just since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Since before modern humans existed millions of years ago.
We don't know a planet like this. https://t.co/azVukskDWr
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) May 12, 2019
The world is "facing a climate emergency" and is "not on track" to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Sunday.
Speaking in Auckland alongside New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, Guterres said, "Climate change is running faster than what we are."
Despite clear manifestations of the climate and ecological crises—including record warm temperatures, a million species at risk of extinction, and atmosphere carbon levels at historic highs—global political leadership is not taking action in line with the needed urgency and scope, he said.
"We are facing a paradox," said Guterres.
"We are feeling clearly by what happens on the ground that things are getting worse, even worse than it was forecast," he added, referencing the recent storms in Mozambique and increasingly frequent droughts.
"We are seeing everywhere a clear demonstration that we are not on track to achieve the objectives defined in the Paris Agreement," Guterres said. "The paradox is that as things are getting worse on the ground, political will seems to be fading."
One outlier to such inaction, said Guterres, is New Zealand. The U.N. chief applauded the country for "leadership" in tackling the climate crisis. It recently unveiled a proposal to be carbon neutral by 2050—though some climate campaigners said that deadline is two decades too late.
Ocasio Cortez wants to address climate change quickly. The republicans on the hill would like to address it half-fast:
The U.S. became the laughingstock of the world again last week when it comes to the planetary threat of climate change. The same week the United Nations released a report stating that a million animal and plant species are on the verge of extinction, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Europe proclaiming that melting sea ice should be seen as an economic opportunity. “The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance," Pompeo said in Finland at a meeting of the Arctic Council. "It houses 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare-earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore." ...
But in certain corners of the Republican Party, there seems to be some warming to the idea that U.S. policymakers can enact legislation to help stem the dire tide of climate change. “I don’t think as many people think it’s voodoo science anymore. I think a lot of people think it’s a real issue,” Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) told VICE News just off the House floor. As a moderate Northeasterner, Katko is an endangered species himself. But he says it’s not just political expediency and insists he wants to combat climate change through shifting funding from fossil fuel research to renewables research while also investing more in nuclear power, which he calls “the bridge between fossil fuels and when renewables can stand on their own.”
But there’s one big thing stopping Katko and other moderate Republicans from reaching across the aisle to get some climate legislation done: the Green New Deal. “The Green New Deal is so far off the grid of what’s achievable that it’s a nonstarter,” Katko said. “Instead of trying to do those far-left messaging things, how about sitting down and doing the dirty work of working together to do something that’s acceptable?” ...
Ocasio-Cortez thinks Katko and a growing number of other Republicans are basically oil lobbyists pretending they’re environmentally conscious. “The actual problem is that since it’s so politically toxic right now to say, ‘I don’t believe in climate change,’ as they’ve been doing for 10 years, now all of a sudden they’re changing their position on a dime, and they’re saying, ‘Oh, well, I believe in climate change, but I think that we need to have solutions on a 50- or 100-year time scale,’ which is not that much different than denying the severity of the actual issue at hand,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Louis Myers - Give Me A Drink
Louis Myers - Top Of The Harp
The Aces - It's All Your Fault
The Aces - Sweet Little Angel
Louis Myers - Heart Attack
Robert Stroger, O. Payne Jr, Louis Myers, Big Leon Brooks - You Know
The Aces - That's Allright
Robert Stroger, Odie Payne Jr, James Wheeler, Louis Myers, Big Leon Brooks - Pink Champagne
The Aces - Baby Please Don't Go
2018 Blues Hall of Fame Inductee - The Aces