The Evening Blues - 5-16-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Piedmont blues singer and guitarist Amos "Bumble Bee Slim" Easton. Enjoy!
Amos Easton (Bumble Bee Slim) - I Keep On Drinkin'
"Tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are."
-- Carl Schmitt
News and Opinion
Labour’s manifesto – unveiled today – is a moderate, commonsense set of antidotes to the big problems holding back one of the wealthiest countries on earth. And – intriguingly – here is an attempt to confront the crisis of identity and vision afflicting social democracy not just in Britain, but across the western world. ...
There’s a commitment that 95% of Britons won’t pay any more tax: fair, after the Tories’ unprecedented squeeze on wages. Instead, the top 5% of earners will be asked to pay a bit more: also fair, given they’re doing better than ever. If companies choose to pay salaries that are 25 times higher than the living wage, they’ll be expected to pay a bit more tax; if they pay salaries 20 times higher than the average income, then a bit more than that. Corporation tax will be hiked, but it will still be lower than the United States. A Robin Hood tax on financial transactions – which, as Labour’s Rachel Reeves puts it, both raises money and curbs excessive risk-taking which imperils our economy – would raise even more money, as will an all-out war against tax avoidance.
The billions raised can be invested in education to realise the potential of the next generation – to modernise our NHS so it can meet the needs of an ageing population; to upgrade Britain’s feeble infrastructure; and to build the housing the country desperately needs. Free childcare will reduce pressure on families forced to make difficult decisions about raising families and having a career; while a triple-lock on pensions will protect poorer pensioners who built this country with their hard graft.
The Russia-gate affair has taken a strange turn as advocates for President Trump’s removal say his ouster should take precedence over completing the investigation and actually seeing how much there is there – whereas at least one target of the inquiry wants the U.S. government to put its cards on the table. Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is reportedly under an FBI counterintelligence investigation for his contacts with Russians, has called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the investigation, to immediately release “any documents related to [the Obama administration’s] alleged wiretapping of me.”
In Page’s view, it was the Obama administration’s spreading of allegations about the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia that represented “government meddling in the 2016 election,” rather than Russia’s alleged hacking Democratic emails and publicizing them via WikiLeaks, a claim made by President Obama’s intelligence chiefs but denied by WikiLeaks and Russia.
Yet, what has been perhaps most remarkable about the entire Russia-gate affair is that it has been conducted with almost no evidence being shared with the American people. Thus, we have the prospect of a duly elected President of the United States being targeted for removal by the political and media Establishment without the citizens being let in on exactly what evidence exists and how significant it is. The curious role of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the FBI in spearheading the Russia-gate investigation – including having handpicked “senior analysts” from the three agencies produce a clearly biased and nearly evidence-free report on Jan. 6 – has raised concerns of a “soft coup” or “deep-state coup” to negate the 2016 election.
Considering the seriousness of such a move in a constitutional republic that prides itself as the gold standard of democracy, it might have been expected that that the law-enforcement and intelligence agencies would go the extra mile in sharing their evidence with the American people whose electoral judgment would, in effect, be made meaningless: both by Comey’s late intervention against Clinton and now the pressure to impeach Trump. Yet, instead of a commitment to openness, the intelligence community is telling the citizens that we must accept the fact of Russian “meddling” as “a given,” sans evidence. In addition, influential voices are emerging to declare that Trump’s impeachment should proceed even without the results of the Russia-gate investigation of possible Trump-Russia collusion being known to the public.
Wow, the Democrats and the resistance are so exercised about Trump sharing "highly classified, code word" intelligence that they want to preserve the secrecy of that super-duper sekrit intel by putting it out to lots of people in probably the leakiest institution in the country - an institution that is so concerned about its internal leaks that they have created "the gang of four" for clubhouse sekrits that congress and the intelligence committees can't be trusted with.
Among the revelations in Monday evening's bombshell Washington Post report on President Donald Trump disclosing classified information to Russian diplomats is the fact that one U.S. counterterrorism official "called for the problematic portion of Trump's discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked."
Now, amid outrage, calls are growing for that transcript to be released—if not to the public at-large, than at least "to Congress for investigative purposes," as National Memo editor-in-chief Joe Conason wrote Tuesday.
"[T]he House and Senate intelligence committees should request—or if necessary, subpoena—the transcripts of Trump's meeting with the Russians, to see who is telling the truth," Conason insisted. "To paraphrase Trump, that may be the only way to 'find out what the hell is going on'."
In turn, he continued, it may be the only way to see if there are grounds for impeachment. (Notably, U.S. press was not allowed into the meeting between Trump and the Russian officials.)
As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
...to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his decision to share certain sensitive information with Russian officials in the Oval Office last week, undermining the credibility of his own staff, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who just hours before had carefully denied such reports. ...
On Monday the Washington Post reported that Trump divulged classified details about an ISIS terrorist plot involving laptops on airplanes during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The information had been shared with the U.S. intelligence community by an ally on the basis that it was not shared with others. The Post said Trump also revealed the city within Islamic State group territory where the ally found out about the threat — prompting some to suggest that the informant’s life had been put in danger. ...
Trump’s tweets seem to counter the message White House officials had been giving reporters just hours earlier. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who was in the room during the meeting, said late on Monday: “The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false.”
Secretary of State Tillerson, also present at the meeting, offered a carefully crafted response similar to McMaster’s, acknowledging that Trump discussed a “broad range of subjects” with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador: “During that exchange, the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.” As many have pointed out, the Post’s report never accused Trump of discussing sources, methods or military operations.
Breathtakingly Irresponsible: Former Bush Iraq Adviser on Trump Sharing Secret Intel with Russians
Barack Obama defended his decision not to bomb Syria as president in an interview published Monday, casting his controversial decision as an act that “required the most political courage.” ...
“But I actually think that the issue that required the most political courage was the decision not to bomb Syria after the chemical weapons use had been publicized and rather to negotiate them removing chemical weapons from Syria,” Obama said. ...
Obama said his approach, in retrospect, “was an imperfect solution” because while “99 percent of huge chemical weapons stockpiled were removed without us having to fire a shot,” the U.S. knows that some weapons remained in the Syrian regime’s possession.
“The reason it was hard was because, as president, what you discover is that you generally get praised for taking military action, and you’re often criticized for not doing so,” Obama said.
Iran has changed the course of a land corridor that it aims to carve to the Mediterranean coast after officials in Iraq and Tehran feared a growing US military presence in north-eastern Syria had made its original path unviable. The new corridor has been moved 140 miles south to avoid a buildup of US forces that has been assembled to fight Islamic State (Isis). It will now use the Isis-occupied town of Mayadin as a hub in eastern Syria, avoiding the Kurdish north-east, which had earlier been mooted by Iranian leaders as a crucial access route. ...
Throughout the war with the terror group, and for several years earlier, Iran has been attempting to carve out areas of influence across Iraq and Syria that it and its proxies control. But as the project has taken shape, the evolving Syrian conflict has added new and unpredictable dimensions that have made securing such a corridor increasingly difficult. The US buildup in north-eastern Syria has alarmed officials in Baghdad and Tehran. Senior Iraqi sources have told the Guardian that Iranian leaders believe the stepped-up presence aims to deter Tehran’s ambitions.
“In response they are doing all they can to make this corridor happen as quickly as they can,” said a senior Iraqi official. “That means finishing off Ba’aj as quickly as they can, then kicking out Isis from Mayadin and Deir Azzour. They want to do this before the Americans get there.”
Top security researchers believe there’s a connection between North Korean-affiliated cybercriminals and the global WannaCry ransomware hack. Google security researcher Neel Mehta pointed out in a Monday afternoon that code used in WannaCry bore similarities to code used by the Lazarus Group, a cadre of cybercriminals believed to be responsible for the 2014 Sony hack and a recent $81 million heist of the Bangladeshi central bank.
Hours after Mehta’s tweet, leading cybersecurity firms Kaspersky Lab and Symantec both confirmed the similarities.
The WannaCry hack, which first surfaced on Friday, allows hackers to encrypt the data on infected machines, which it then holds hostage for about $300 in bitcoin. One researcher found a “kill switch” for WannaCry over the weekend that has helped control the damage, but the ransomware creators have already released a new variant without the fix.
Both Symantec and Kaspersky said it was too early to tell whether North Korea was involved in the attacks, based on the evidence that was published on Twitter by Google security researcher Neel Mehta. ...
FireEye Inc (FEYE.O), another large cyber security firm, said it was also investigating, but it was cautious about drawing a link to North Korea.
"The similarities we see between malware linked to that group and WannaCry are not unique enough to be strongly suggestive of a common operator," FireEye researcher John Miller said.
U.S. and European security officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that it was too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect.
Four asylum seekers who harbored NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as he hid out in Hong Kong in 2013 have had their claims rejected. The group now face deportation, their lawyer said Monday. ...
A Hong Kong government spokesman said there were no substantial grounds for believing that the asylum claimants would be in danger in their home countries, as they have claimed. The four – Vanessa Rodel from the Philippines, former Sri Lankan soldier Ajith Pushpakumara, and Supun Kellapatha and Nadeeka Nonis, a married couple from Sri Lanka – now face possible detention or deportation.
The four have also applied for asylum in Canada for themselves and their children. Rodel has one child born in Hong Kong, while Kellapatha and Nonis have two. CNN reports that Snowden has made a video appeal calling on members of the public to petition Canada’s immigration minister, the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong, or the Hong Kong government to help the families.
Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron has wasted no time in reaffirming his commitment to the European Union, traveling to Germany Monday to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. The pair confirmed that in order to secure the future integrity of the bloc, they are willing to draw up new treaties to allow for deeper integration and facilitate widespread reform. ...
Macron, who ran on a pro-EU platform, decisively beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the second-round vote earlier this month. The German media initially embraced Macron’s victory, with headlines like “France says yes to Europe,” “Macron wins it for Europe,” and “No Frexit” greeting readers the morning after the election victory. ...
Some of the reforms Macron has floated include the creation of a finance minister for the eurozone, a shared budget and EU-wide social insurance. While politicians have previously suggested similar ideas, it was thought that the need to rewrite European treaties would stymie these options.
“In the past, the subject of treaty change was a French taboo. It will no longer be the case,” Macron said, with Merkel affirming her commitment to rework the treaties where necessary, adding that she had been “irked” by those who said treaty change was not possible. “The entire world is changing and we declare that we have exhausted ourselves once and that’s it for our entire lifetime,” she said.
The family of a Connecticut teenager who was shot and killed by police last Tuesday say they have been lied to by officers about how he died, after bystander footage filmed at the scene was made public over the weekend. “We weren’t given the truth. We were lied to from the moment the incident happened,” said Giovanni Rivera, a relative of the victim, 15-year-old Jayson Negron. Police in Bridgeport fired into the car Negron was driving after they said he backed his vehicle into an officer and refused calls to stop. Police say the car was stolen.
Rivera said police told him and other family members that Negron was struck in the head by an officer’s bullet and died instantly at the scene. But Rivera said a video he uploaded to social media, taken by a bystander, raised questions about how Negron died. A figure, thought to be Negron, can be seen handcuffed, lying on the ground, as an officer stands over his body. The shaky video pans away from Negron’s body for a moment, and when it returns a few seconds later, Negron’s head is facing in the other direction. Negron’s body was left on the pavement for upwards of six hours before being removed. Police attributed this to “evidence-gathering”.
“Nobody called an ambulance. Nobody treated his wounds. They let him bleed out on the concrete,” Rivera said. Negron died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to a postmortem.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to ratchet up the war on drugs by undoing Obama-era sentencing reforms signals an about-face on drug policy, and the move has prompted an outcry from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Going forward, anyone who faces federal drug charges will likely be subject to a harsh mandatory-minimum sentence. “This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency,” Sessions said in a memorandum issued last week. “Any inconsistent previous policy of the Department of Justice relating to these matters is rescinded, effective today.” ...
Criminal justice reform has had bipartisan support, borne from the widely-held view that harsh sentencing policies failed, and had instead sent incarceration rates skyrocketing. Mass incarceration cost the nation about $80 million a year in additional costs to maintain prisoners convicted on minor drug offenses, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. One study by researchers at Washington University, St. Louis, accounting for lost wages and socio-economic costs of incarceration, put the figure closer to $1 trillion per year.
Ford’s shares have gotten hammered as it struggles with plunging car sales, and in April even with weak truck sales, mired as automakers are in the US “car recession.” ...
After announcing in March that Ford would create 700 jobs in Michigan, more or less an optical illusion as a nod to Trump, it is now time to throw Wall Street a bone. A huge bone.
Ford is considering cutting 10% of its global workforce of around 200,000 employees (about half of them in the US), “according to people briefed on the plan,” cited by the Wall Street Journal.
That’s about 20,000 people, globally. If these cuts, or some of these cuts, hit US workers, there’s going to be some wild tweeting from the White House. But that too shall pass. Because Wall Street should be happy.
Surprise! Obama lied repeatedly about his immigration enforcement actions.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement imprisons more than 10,000 parents of American citizens in California each year, according to a report released today by Human Rights Watch.
The report, entitled “I Still Need You,” analyzes the impact of immigration enforcement policy on immigrant families in California and finds that parents with U.S. citizen children were more likely to be deported from detention rather than released. The report also finds that from January 2011 through June 2015 nearly half of the immigrants detained in California had no criminal history, findings that directly contradict claims President Obama made about his immigration enforcement policy at that time. Under President Trump, the report’s authors believe, the trends suggested by the data have likely become even more pronounced.
In 2014, Obama announced a new immigration enforcement policy known informally as “felons, not families,” which purported to prioritize the deportation of undocumented immigrants with serious criminal histories and avoid separating families. But as the Marshall Project has shown, less than a fifth of the immigrants deported nationwide under the policy had been convicted of violent or potentially violent crimes. More than 40 percent had no criminal convictions whatsoever.
An even higher proportion — 47 percent — of immigrants detained by ICE in California from October 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 had no criminal history, according to Human Rights Watch’s review. (The data showed criminal history only for this shorter period of the overall time span.) The report estimates that only 9 percent were convicted of a violent felony. “Instead of focusing on violent criminals, U.S. immigration policy has ripped apart American families and communities through the deportation of large numbers of lawful residents and undocumented immigrants with less serious criminal histories,” the report argues.
Hundreds of protesters gathered for a candlelit “vigil against hate” on Sunday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, one day after a smaller number of white supremacists carrying torches had rallied at the same spot — around a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, which the city council recently voted to remove.
— Ken Horne (@HorneKen) May 15, 2017
Charting a new course for the Democrats seems a tall order for a freshman congressman. Here's the intro to an interview he gave The Intercept:
Freshman California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna rode to an upset victory this past November over long-serving California Democrat Mike Honda on a wave of Silicon Valley support. Among his prominent backers stood titans of the tech industry such as Yahoo executive Marissa Mayer and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg — as well as Peter Thiel, the billionaire Palantir co-founder who spoke in favor of Donald Trump’s candidacy at the Republican National Convention. ...
But almost immediately after being elected, Khanna attached himself to the more traditionally progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He most recently became the first member of Congress to join the Justice Democrats, a new organization that seeks to reduce corporate influence on the Democratic Party.
Khanna agreed to an interview with The Intercept to lay out his political vision. Khanna notably stuck by a number of popular progressive positions, such as his support for a financial transactions tax and expanding the Medicare program to cover all Americans. He also embraced reforms to the party, such as banning corporate lobbyists from serving as DNC members and ending lobbyist contributions to the Democratic National Committee.
However, he declined to join Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in criticizing former president Barack Obama for his time on the Wall Street speech circuit. He also stuck to the familiar script on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failing to embrace the rising demand among the Democratic Party’s base for a U.S. posture that enacts real accountability for Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The family of the Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., blasted reports that he was a source of thousands of emails leaked to WikiLeaks. Rod Wheeler, a retired Washington homicide detective and Fox News contributor hired by a third party to investigate the case made the WikiLeaks claim, which was corroborated by a federal investigator who spoke to Fox News. ...
An FBI forensic report of Rich's computer -- generated within 96 hours after Rich's murder -- showed he made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time, the federal source told Fox News.
“I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks,” the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department. ...
The federal investigator, who requested anonymity, said 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between Democratic National Committee leaders, spanning from January 2015 through late May 2016, were transferred from Rich to MacFadyen before May 21.
On July 22, just 12 days after Rich was killed, WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails that appeared to show top party officials conspired to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont from becoming the party’s presidential nominee. That controversy resulted in Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigning as DNC chairperson.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, is under fire from federal and state regulators after triggering a massive spill, and seven other violations, during the first seven weeks of construction of a major gas pipeline in Ohio.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Wednesday sent a letter to the Rover pipeline operator ordering it to not start construction on any new locations, as well as to stop construction at the site of the major wetlands spill and to hire an independent contractor to dig into what went wrong there.
"Staff has serious concerns regarding the magnitude of the incident (which was several orders of magnitude greater than other documented [horizontal directional drilling] inadvertent returns for this project), its environmental impacts, the lack of clarity regarding the underlying reasons for its occurrence, and the possibility of future problems," federal regulators wrote. The phrase "inadvertent returns" is industry speak for a certain type of spill or release of construction material.
The FERC letter came less than a week after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency proposed a $431,000 fine for violations and ordered the company to immediately implement its emergency response plan.
The South Korean capital, Seoul, is among the world’s most polluted cities, so it’s no surprise that air pollution was one of the key campaign issues for the newly elected president, Moon Jae-in.
That’s why, on his fifth day in power, Moon has announced that the country will temporarily shutter 10 coal power plants now and will shut them down completely within his five-year term. The move should bring respite from the choking air pollution, but it raises questions about South Korea’s energy security. ...
Nuclear power’s contribution to South Korea’s mix has fallen from 40% to 30% over the last 10 years, as plants have been decommissioned over safety issues. To make up for the fall, the contribution of coal has shot up to 40% (paywall). The country operates 53 coal-power plants, and plans to build another 20 in the next five years.
One of the world’s most remote places, an uninhabited coral atoll, is also one of its most polluted. Henderson Island, a tiny landmass in the eastern South Pacific, has been found by marine scientists to have the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world, with 99.8% of the pollution plastic. The nearly 18 tonnes of plastic piling up on an island that is otherwise mostly untouched by humans have been pointed to as evidence of the catastrophic, “grotesque” extent of marine plastic pollution.
Nearly 38m pieces of plastic were estimated to be on Henderson by researchers from the University of Tasmania and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, weighing a combined 17.6 tonnes. The majority of the debris – approximately 68% – was not even visible, with as many as 4,500 items per square metre buried to a depth of 10cm. About 13,000 new items were washing up daily.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Bumble Bee Slim - Bumble Bee's New Muddy Water
Memphis Minnie & Bumble Bee Slim - New Orleans Stop Time
Bumble Bee Slim - Ease Me Down
Bumble Bee Slim - Lemon Squeezing Blues
Bumble Bee Slim - Dumb Tricks Blues
Bumble Bee Slim - Step Child
Bumble Bee Slim - Fattening Frogs For Snakes
Bumble Bee Slim - Ida Red
Bumble Bee Slim - Wake Up In The Morning