The Evening Blues - 5-21-18
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Goree Carter and His Hepcats - Rock Awhile
"The Obama administration says we only destroy the privacy of non-Americans. That is not true. The government is spying on Americans."
-- Glenn Greenwald
News and Opinion
The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election
An extrememly strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper. Four decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering.
Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted, adding: “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”
In response, the DOJ and the FBI’s various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an “informant,” not a “spy”), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as “a top-secret intelligence source” and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.” ... But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation’s largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI’s informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper’s history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI’s highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper’s identity from being reported. ...
In 1980, the Washington Post published an article reporting on the extremely unusual and quite aggressive involvement of the CIA in the 1980 presidential campaign. “Simply put, no presidential campaign in recent memory — perhaps ever — has attracted as much support from the intelligence community as the campaign of former CIA director Bush,” the article said. ... In 2016, top officials from the intelligence community similarly rallied around Hillary Clinton. ... So as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA – including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign – is quite publicly known.
Donald Trump praised the new CIA director, Gina Haspel, at her swearing-in ceremony on Monday, saying there was “no one in this country better qualified” for the job.
Trump had struck different tone earlier, when he promoted criticism of the former CIA director John Brennan and suggested the Barack Obama appointee was to blame for the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election interference and links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
On Twitter, Trump referenced remarks from the Fox & Friends commentator Dan Bongino, which argued that Brennan “started this entire debacle”. Bongino, a former secret service agent, also said Brennan had “disgraced the intelligence community”. Brennan became the agency’s director in 2013 under Obama, and served until January 2017. He has become a vocal critic of Trump.
On Sunday, Brennan responded to Trump’s demand that the Department of Justice investigate whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes”. In his own tweet, Brennan told Republican leaders if “Trump continues along this disastrous path, you will bear major responsibility for the harm done to our democracy”.
Mike Pompeo has threatened Iran with the “strongest sanctions in history” if it does not comply with a list of a dozen US demands. In a speech that attempted to lay out the Trump administration’s strategy on Iran after quitting the nuclear deal it agreed with other major powers in 2015, the secretary of state warned that the US would not just reimpose all the sanctions that were in place before the deal, but also pile additional punitive measures.
“The Iranian regime should know this is just the beginning,” Pompeo said. The speech did not explicitly advocate regime change, but in remarks immediately afterwards Pompeo suggested that it would be up to the Iranian people to end the US pressure campaign by changing their own government.
“I can’t put a timeline on it, but at the end of the day, the Iranian people will decide the timeline,” Pompeo said at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank in Washington. “The Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly that will be wonderful. If they choose not to do so, we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes that I set forth.”
Among the 12 conditions laid down by Pompeo were: demand Iran to give a full account of its alleged past work on nuclear weapons development; stop all uranium enrichment; halt launches of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles; end its support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; withdraw all forces under Iranian command from Syria; and end support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Pompeo said the Trump administration would not separate negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme from other issues like regional conflicts and missile development.
In a speech at the right-wing Heritage Foundation on Monday that critics said should put to rest all lingering illusions that the Trump White House wants anything other than regime change in Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined a "wildly unrealistic" list of demands that Iran must meet if it wants nuclear talks with America and warned that the U.S. will "crush" Tehran with sanctions if it doesn't comply.
"Pompeo has not outlined a strategy, but rather a grab bag of wishful thinking that can only be interpreted as a call for regime change in Iran," Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy, wrote on Twitter in response to the secretary of state's remarks. "This speech could have been given word-for-word by [national security adviser John] Bolton."
Echoing Maloney's assessment of Pompeo's newly unveiled "Plan B" for nuclear negotiations—which comes around two weeks after President Donald Trump violated the Iran nuclear accord and placed the U.S. on the path to yet another war in the Middle East—National Iranian American Council (NIAC) president Trita Parsi argued that the Trump administration's demands are intentionally unrealistic and "clearly designed to ensure there cannot be any new negotiation."
"If you maximize pressure and set unachievable demands, you solely pave the way for war," Parsi wrote. "That is the objective of Trump, and that's been the objective of his cheerleaders in Saudi and Israel."
The Swedish government has begun sending all 4.8m of the country’s households a public information leaflet telling the population, for the first time in more than half a century, what to do in the event of a war. Om krisen eller kriget kommer (If crisis or war comes) explains how people can secure basic needs such as food, water and heat, what warning signals mean, where to find bomb shelters and how to contribute to Sweden’s “total defence”.
The 20-page pamphlet, illustrated with pictures of sirens, warplanes and families fleeing their homes, also prepares the population for dangers such as cyber and terror attacks and climate change, and includes a page on identifying fake news. ...
Similar leaflets were first distributed in neutral Sweden in 1943, at the height of the second world war. Updates were issued regularly to the general public until 1961, and then to local and national government officials until 1991. ...
The country has begun reversing military spending cuts and last year staged its biggest military exercises in nearly a quarter of a century, as well as voting to reintroduce conscription and unveiling joint plans with Denmark to counter Russian cyber-attacks and disinformation.
President Donald Trump chose Gina Haspel, who supervised torture during the George W. Bush administration, to run the Central Intelligence Agency. He violated and withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. He bombed Syria. He moved America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He’s continued the U.S. collaboration with Saudi Arabia on waging brutal war on Yemen. He first threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea with “fire and fury,” and then last Thursday spoke of North Korea being “totally decimated” by the U.S.
Trump’s frightening and erratic approach to foreign policy has galvanized grassroots opposition, so Democrats desperately need a prominent leader who can both fuel and channel that energy, while motivating the Democratic Party’s base for the 2018 midterms with a vision of a starkly different foreign policy. Instead, Democrats have Chuck Schumer. ... Schumer’s positions on domestic policy leave much to be desired, but not on every issue. By contrast, his views on foreign policy are largely indistinguishable from the Republican Party in general and Trump specifically. ...
[See article for a detailed listing of Schumer's Republican foreign policy positions. - js]
Schumer does not and never will offer voters an alternative to Trump and Republicans in general on the most important questions of national security. That’s because Schumer truly, deeply and sincerely agrees with them.
What I like best about the wave of teachers’ strikes that have swept America these last few months is how they punch so brutally and so directly in the face of the number one neoliberal educational fantasy of the last decade: that all we need to do to fix public education is fire people. Fire teachers, specifically. They need to learn fear and discipline. That’s what education “reformers” have told us for years. If only, the fantasy goes, we could slay the foot-dragging unions and the red-tape rules that keep mediocre teachers in their jobs, then things would be different. If only some nice “tech millionaires” would step in and help us fire people! If only we could get a thousand clones of Michelle Rhee, the former DC schools chancellor who fired so many people she even once fired someone on TV!
Now just look at what’s happened. We’ve seen enormous teacher protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, with more on the way. Actions that look very much like strikes by people who, in some of these states, are legally forbidden to strike. It was the perfect opportunity for education “reformers” to fire people, and fire them en masse. It was the politicians’ chance to show us what a tough-minded boss could do. And in most cases, it was state governments that capitulated. It was hard-hearted believers in tax cuts and austerity and discipline who caved, lest they themselves get fired by voters at the next opportunity.
That, folks, is the power of solidarity, and the wave of teacher walkouts is starting to look like our generation’s chance to learn the lesson our grandparents absorbed during the strike wave of the late 1930s: that given the right conditions and the right amount of organization, working people can rally the public and make social change all by themselves. Irresistibly. Organically. From the bottom up.
There are unique circumstances that have made this amazing moment possible, of course. For one thing, parents and school officials and ordinary citizens have grown sick of the constantly worsening educational situation and – thanks to the manifest incompetence in Washington – they can now see that the federal government has no intention of doing anything to help them. Parents and school boards were often willing, out of sheer frustration, to back the walkouts.
Only a short while ago it looked as though organized labor was in deep trouble, with Republican governors declaring war on public employees and a supreme court case threatening to defund public-sector unions. Now, in a beautiful reversal, it is the shibboleths of the conservative era that are shaking. Not because the DC punditburo has changed its mind about things, of course. It’s happening because vast throngs of people in red T-shirts have gone marching through the streets of their red-state towns to let the world know they’ve had enough.
We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.
The Democratic Party, which helped build our system of inverted totalitarianism, is once again held up by many on the left as the savior. Yet the party steadfastly refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump and the insurgency by Bernie Sanders. It is deaf, dumb and blind to the very real economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all. It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics. It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural issues like gay rights, abortion and gun control in our peculiar species of anti-politics.
This is a doomed tactic, but one that is understandable. The leadership of the party, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, are creations of corporate America. In an open and democratic political process, one not dominated by party elites and corporate money, these people would not hold political power. They know this. They would rather implode the entire system than give up their positions of privilege. And that, I fear, is what will happen. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way a bulwark against despotism defies the last three decades of its political activity. It is the guarantor of despotism.
The incoming president of the National Rifle Association has a new diagnosis for the cause of America’s gun violence: Ritalin. Two days after a student armed with a Remington 870 shotgun and a .38 calibre pistol shot dead 10 people at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, Oliver North told Fox News Sunday that gun control was not the solution to America’s epidemic of school shootings.
“The problem that we got is we are trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease,” he said. “The disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. They have been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male, and they are young teenagers in most cases. And they’ve come through a culture where violence is commonplace. All we need to do is turn on a TV, go to a movie.”
North singled out the ADHD medication Ritalin as another source of the problem. “If you look at what’s happened to the young people, many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten,” he said.
No evidence has yet emerged that Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the 17-year-old charged with killing eight fellow students and two teachers and wounding 13 others in the rampage in Santa Fe, was on the medication.
A Montana border patrol agent stopped and questioned two women at a local gas station because he heard them speaking Spanish. Ana Suda, 37, and her friend Mimi Hernandez went to a gas-station store in Havre, near the Canadian border, to pick up eggs and milk on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported. The women, both Mexican-American, were speaking Spanish to each other while waiting in line to pay, when a uniformed Border Patrol agent asked for their IDs.
“We were just talking, and then I was going to pay,” Suda told the Post. “I looked up [and saw the agent], and then after that, he just requested my ID. I looked at him like, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, very serious.’” Suda began recording the incident and asked the agent to repeat why he was detaining them on video.
“Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard-of up here,” the agent said in the video. Suda asked if she and her friend were being racially profiled, to which the agent responded no. “It has nothing to do with that,” the agent said in the video. “It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking.” ...
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is reviewing the encounter to make sure protocol was followed but added that the officers do have authority to question anyone. ... Suda said she plans to take the agency to court, after reaching out to the American Civil Liberties Union for legal guidance.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Protect and Serve Act of 2018 by a vote of 382 to 35. The act — a congressional “Blue Lives Matter” bill — would make it a federal crime to assault a police officer. The Senate version of the bill, which also has broad bipartisan support, goes even further, framing an attack on an officer as a federal hate crime. The bills exemplify the very worst sort of legislation: at once unnecessary and pernicious. ...
The nickname of the bill itself speaks volumes. Blue Lives Matter bills — which have been passed at the state level in Kentucky and Louisiana — are always superfluous from a criminal justice standpoint. In our justice system, “blue lives” are already considered to matter the most — which is why police appropriation of the call for black lives to matter is so sickening. But these bills being unnecessary does not make them pointless. The point is clear, especially with regards to the adoption of hate crime statute frameworks: to reinforce the myth of the police as vulnerable and embattled — the very grounds on which police officers consistently justify the use of lethal force against black life. ...
The notion of police as victims is becoming entrenched in policy in other ways, too. The same ideological commitment to police-as-persecuted underpins FBI efforts to frame Black Lives Matter activists as potential “black identity extremists” — a designation, conjured from thin air, that claims anti-racist activism is breeding a terroristic targeting of cops. The FBI’s tactics against Black Lives Matter activists has veered on occasion into physical surveillance.
An excellent article, worth a full read. Here's a teaser:
From Pittsburgh to Flint, the Dire Consequences of Giving Private Companies Responsibility for Ailing Public Water Systems
The lead crises in Flint and Pittsburgh have many unfortunate parallels. Residents of both cities unknowingly drank water with high levels of the potent neurotoxin, which has long-term health consequences. The rise in lead levels was preceded in both cases by a miscalculation related to chemicals used to control corrosion in water pipes. And in both places, officials have faced criticism for their inaction and failure to alert the public. The two lead crises have another important thing in common: a private water company named Veolia. The world’s largest supplier of water services, Veolia had contracts with both Flint and Pittsburgh around the time that lead levels rose in their drinking water. And in both places, Veolia wound up in legal disputes over its role in the crises.
In Flint, where Veolia had a small contract to improve water quality in 2015, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette sued the company in 2016. Though the initial elevation of lead levels there has been traced to the city’s decision to switch its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which occurred before the city hired Veolia, the pending case charges the company with “professional negligence and fraud, which caused Flint’s lead poisoning problem to continue and worsen, and created an ongoing public nuisance.” In Pittsburgh, where Veolia had a contract managing water provision between 2012 and 2015, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority sued the company in October 2016, charging that “Veolia grossly mismanaged PWSA’s operations, abused its positions of special trust and confidence, and misled and deceived PWSA.” ...
Veolia U.S., a subsidiary of the French company Veolia Environnement, had offered itself as a solution to some of the drinking water problems in both cities. But, in both, people who worked closely with or monitored those water systems say, the company either failed to address the lead problem or worsened it.
“Time and time again, Veolia is shirking responsibility when it comes to mismanaging these water systems,” said Alissa Weinman, national campaign organizer for Corporate Accountability, which pointed to the industry’s failure to protect against lead in Flint and Pittsburgh back in 2016. According to Weinman, the growing number of cities that struggle to maintain their water systems are particularly vulnerable to the promises of private water companies. “Veolia is preying on cities that aren’t getting the federal investment they need to upkeep their systems.”
Now, the Trump administration is trying to make it easier for private companies to control public water systems while also seeking to cut federal funding for water protection.
Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.
The new work is the first comprehensive estimate of the weight of every class of living creature and overturns some long-held assumptions. Bacteria are indeed a major life form – 13% of everything – but plants overshadow everything, representing 82% of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, to fish and animals, make up just 5% of the world’s biomass. Another surprise is that the teeming life revealed in the oceans by the recent BBC television series Blue Planet II turns out to represent just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface. ...
The transformation of the planet by human activity has led scientists to the brink of declaring a new geological era – the Anthropocene. One suggested marker for this change are the bones of the domestic chicken, now ubiquitous across the globe. The new work reveals that farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals. ...
The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s four billion year history. About half the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years. But comparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the oceans.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Goree Carter - Hoy Hoy
Goree Carter - Back Home Blues
Goree Carter- She's Just Old Fashioned
Goree Carter - Working With My Baby
Goree Carter - She's My Best Bet
Goree Carter - I've Got News For You
Goree Carter - I'm Your Boogie Man
Goree Carter - Let's Rock
Carl Campbell & Orchestra w/Goree Carter (guitar) - Gettin' High
Goree Carter - Bad Feeling
Goree Carter - True Love Is Hard To Find
Goree Carter - I'll Send You
Goree Carter - Come On Let's Boogie