The Evening Blues - 5-23-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and country singer Tracy Nelson. Enjoy!
Tracy Nelson with Robben Ford - Gonna Miss You
“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
News and Opinion
A new story by the Washington Post, normally a prolific promoter of the narrative that Saudi Arabia is undergoing exciting new reforms, reports that several women’s rights activists have been arrested in a brutal crackdown. ... This comes just weeks after Saudi Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s wildly celebrated tour of the US, in which he met with powerful individuals like Donald Trump, James Mattis, Jeff Bezos, Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Rupert Murdoch, as well as celebrity superstars like Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
As you would expect, there has been no statement about the arrests by ... Mike Pompeo. He has, however, had a giant mouthful to say about human rights in Iran. “As seen from the hijab protests, the brutal men of the regime seem to be particularly terrified by Iranian women who are demanding their rights,” Pompeo bloviated in a half-hour speech for the Heritage Foundation, a mainstream conservative DC think tank. “As human beings with inherent dignity and inalienable rights, the women of Iran deserve the same freedoms that the men of Iran possess.” ...
Throughout the speech, Pompeo made a series of demands from and threats against the Iranian government which many analysts in both mainstream media and alternative media say add up to an open policy of regime change. This should surprise nobody who’s been paying attention. The US government is planning to use crippling sanctions and CIA covert ops to stir up unrest and violence in Iran in order to effect an overthrow of its government, similar to what it accomplished in Libya and has been attempting in Syria. Failing that, a conventional military invasion of some sort may be in the cards later on.
Mike Pompeo does not care about the Iranian people. Mike Pompeo does not care about the American people. Mike Pompeo cares about punishing a disobedient nation until it is absorbed into the US-centralized western empire (or “rejoins the league of nations”, as he bizarrely put it in his speech). Ensuring the continued expansion of the empire is what he’s there for. That’s why he got Rex Tillerson’s old job, which is evil swamp monster Hillary Clinton’s old job, which is evil swamp monster Condoleeza Rice’s old job, which is evil swamp monster Madeleine Albright’s old job.
Donald Trump's words are no laughing matter. They get people in faraway countries tortured, raped, and killed. Consider the case of Bahrain, home not just to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, but also to what has been dubbed the “forgotten revolution” of the Arab Spring. For more than seven years now, security forces in the tiny Gulf island kingdom have been shooting, maiming, blinding, and detaining pro-democracy protesters in their hundreds and thousands. An independent inquiry commissioned by the Bahraini government at the start of the uprising confirmed the use of “excessive” and “indiscriminate” use of force, not to mention the systematic use of torture.
To be clear, the Obama administration did shamefully little to stop the violence in Bahrain. Nevertheless, as president, Barack Obama at least went through the motions of condemning “mass arrests and brute force” and even imposed a handful of restrictions on U.S. arms sales to the kingdom. Under Trump, however, even those few restrictions have been lifted — and the rhetoric transformed. “Our countries have a wonderful relationship together, but there has been a little strain. But there won’t be strain with this administration,” the new U.S. president proclaimed a year ago, during a meeting with Bahrain’s king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, at a summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Less than 48 hours later, on May 23, 2017, Bahraini security forces raided the village of Diraz and opened fire at a sit-in by supporters of the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s most high-profile Shia cleric. Five people were killed, including a respected environmental activist, more than 100 were wounded, and 286 were arrested. It was the deadliest attack on Bahraini protesters since the start of the revolt in 2011 — and it was done with the blessing of the president of the United States. ...
But Al Khalifa hasn’t been the only Arab autocrat to receive a rhetorical blank check from the U.S. president. Take Egypt. Trump hailed President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as a “fantastic guy” and, only hours after his meeting with the Bahraini king, was photographed touching a glowing orb with the Egyptian strongman at the opening of an anti-extremism center in Riyadh. You’ll never guess what happened next: “On his return to Egypt,” reported the New York Times last May, “the Sisi government pushed through new news media restrictions and prosecuted a rival political leader in the courts, further squeezing political rights and free speech.” ...
Words matter. And Trump’s words, time and again, seem to provide aid and comfort to some of the world’s worst rulers.
Four former high-ranking Guatemalan military officers once considered untouchable have been convicted of crimes against humanity. They were also found guilty of aggravated sexual abuse against a young activist, Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, one of a small number of civilians who escaped army custody during the country’s 36-year civil war. Three of the officers – the former head of the armed forces, Benedicto Lucas García, former intelligence chief Manuel Antonio Callejas y Callejas and local commander Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas – were also found guilty of the forced disappearance of Emma’s 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio and sentenced to 58 years’ jail by the court for high-risk crimes in Guatemala City.
The Molina Theissen family have been searching for Marco Antonio since 6 October 1981, when he was bundled into a sack by military officers and driven away. The Guatemalan state admitted responsibility for grave crimes against the Molina Theissen family in 2000, but it has taken 37 years for the perpetrators to be brought to account. Wednesday’s verdict was hailed by anti-impunity campaigners as it is the first time senior military officers have been prosecuted for serious human rights violations since the 2013 genocide verdict against the former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was sent back to trial. ...
The crimes took place as part of the military junta’s “national security doctrine”. Key to this were counterinsurgency operations used to detain, torture for information, and then kill or “disappear” people regarded as the internal enemy – suspected communists, critics of the military dictatorship and activists. At the time, senior military officers received training at the School of Americas and in Argentina.
Kim Jong Un is desperately worried about next month’s summit with President Trump in Singapore. Not that the North Korean fears he’ll be out-maneuvered by America’s reality TV commander — but that a military coup at home will oust him from power while he’s away.
Kim thinks that being so far from home will leave him exposed to an internal attempt to unseat him, according to sources familiar with his plans who spoke to the Washington Post. He is also reportedly worried about his personal safety during the trip to Southeast Asia, and even having enough fuel for his plane to make the 3,000-mile round trip. ...
A 2017 report from the Rand Corporation found that most North Korea elites view Kim as a weak leader, adding that they are unlikely to choose a successor from within his family.
“For the Kim family, everyone is a potential enemy,” Choi Min Jun, a North Korean defector living in South Korea, told the BBC. “The North Korean military, the General Staff Department, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, as well as the entire North Korean people, they are all potential enemies.” Fortunately for Kim, the meeting could be cancelled at the behest of Donald Trump.
Vice President Pence warned in an interview on Monday that talks between the U.S. and North Korea could end like Libya's denuclearization process if Kim Jong Un does not cooperate.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 22, 2018
"You know, there was some talk of the Libyan model last week. And as the president made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn't make a deal," Pence told Martha MacCallum on Fox News. ...
Pence's remarks come after national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday that the U.S. was looking at using the Libya model as a way of getting Pyongyang to surrender its nuclear weapons.
Yulia Skripal has said she wishes to return to Russia “in the longer term” despite the nerve agent attack on her and her father Sergei, which she described as life-changing. ...
Skripal was speaking from a secret location in London, where she is under police guard. She was discharged from Salisbury district hospital five weeks after the poisoning and has not been seen by the media until now. Her father, a former GRU intelligence officer, was discharged last week.
She said she was now making progress, but admitted “my life has now been turned upside-down by the devastating changes thrust upon me, both physically and emotionally”. She added: “I take one day at a time and want to help care for my dad till his full recovery. In the longer term, I hope to return home to my country.”
Skripal spoke in Russian to the news agency Reuters. She supplied a statement that she said she had written herself in Russian and English. The Russian version had several crossings out and corrections. After reading her statement in front of camera, she signed both documents. She declined to answer questions.
“Islands Bruegge,” an idyllic harbor park that stretches along the east bank of Copenhagen, was alive with a celebratory crowd on Monday as three ships were about to steam towards Gaza. The 2018 Freedom Flotilla—two ships from Sweden and one from Norway — will call at ports in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy before traveling through the Mediterranean Sea to its final destination: Gaza harbor. Volunteer boat guides explained the history and mission of the Gaza Flotilla movement, which has organized a number of journeys to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Gaza and break the illegal economic siege. An independent U.N. panel and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say the blockade violates the Geneva Conventions and is illegal.
Israel dragged the last Israeli settlers from Gaza and withdrew the Israeli Defense Force in 2005. When the Palestinian Authority lost a 2006 election in Gaza to Hamas, Israel imposed the illegal blockade. ...
Reaching the harbor of Gaza (which means “jewel” in Arabic) should be as simple and straightforward as entering any harbor in Germany, France or Spain. But instead, Israel has denied Gazans use of their own harbor for commerce, trade and travel, and has bombed it on numerous occasions, along with their electric power plants and sewage systems, making life miserable for the local population and rendering 97 percent of the drinking water toxic. As the Freedom Flotilla embarks on its peace odyssey, it is our hope to bring a light of hope and solidarity to the people of Gaza, who deserve the peaceful, dignified and joyful existence that is their right.
Facebook announced Thursday it was partnering with DC think tank the Atlantic Council to “monitor for misinformation and foreign interference.” The details of the plan are vague, but Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab wrote in a non-bylined Medium post (5/17/18) that the goal was to design tools “to bring us closer together” instead of “driving us further apart.” Whatever that means, exactly.
Behind its generic-sounding name and “nonpartisan” label, the Atlantic Council is associated with very particular interests. It’s funded by the US Department of State and the US Navy, Army and Air Force, along with NATO, various foreign powers and major Western corporations, including weapons contractors and oil companies. The Atlantic Council is dead center in what former President Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes called “the blob”—Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy consensus. While there is some diversity of opinion within the Atlantic Council, it is within a very limited pro-Western ideological framework—a framework that debates how much and where US military and soft power influence should be wielded, not if it should in the first place.
When a venture that’s supposedly meant to curb “foreign influence” is bankrolled by a number of foreign countries—including the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Norway, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea—one would think that would be worth noting. Nor should US government money be exempt from the “foreign” qualifier with its suggestion of malicious influence; to most of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users, after all, the United States is a foreign country. (It should be noted the US government reserves the right to run unattributed propaganda on Facebook, and there’s much evidence they have. Needless to say, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab hasn’t done any work in this space.) The major outlets who covered the story, however, didn’t mention this glaring conflict of interest.
As the Trump administration corruption scandals mount and yet President Donald Trump's poll numbers continue to tick upward, Democrats ask: Why don't voters care? Doesn't corruption matter? Here's one reason the Trump corruption scandals aren't connecting as much as they should: Before Democrats spent the past 18 months telling everyone this is not normal, they spent years reassuring voters that this was normal. Well, not precisely this. But the general this: politicians having extensive financial conflicts of interest.
They said nobody would object if a man did these things. They said you should look past the finances and understand that the Clintons shared your values and had your best interests at heart. ...
It's not just money where the need to defend the Clintons made it impossible for Democrats to enforce ethical standards internally. For decades, the perceived need to defend Bill Clinton's sexual misbehavior required Democrats to let things go they should not have, even including one credible accusation of rape. Sometimes, people ask me why I can't let my anger at the Clintons go. This is my answer: More than any other individuals, Bill and Hillary Clinton are responsible for creating the impression of inevitable corruption that Trump has exploited to get his supporters to shrug off his own corruption. It's not true that everybody does it. But for years, the message from Clinton surrogates was that everybody does it and we should just get over it. Voters heard that message.
The Blue Lives Matter movement is a political counterattack against the Black Lives Matter movement. It doesn’t include the concept that black lives also matter (notice the catch phrase isn’t “blue lives matter too”), but enshrines a defiant, contrary opinion thinly disguised in a superficially innocuous phrase. In the same way, “America First” or “Make America Great Again” is a thinly disguised, pretend-innocuous phrase that delivers a defiant and contrary message, in this case against ideas like “immigrants have human rights.” ...
Affirming that “blue lives matter” is tantamount to saying “Yes, cops can kill.” Affirming the Blue Lives Matter movement, or in this case, voting for Blue Lives Matter laws, throws the Black Lives Matter effort to resist and criminalize police murder under the bus.
Raúl Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Beto O’Rourke, Ro Khanna and other noted “progressives” did just that recently by voting yes on the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018” (roll call here). Anthony Rogers-Wright, writing at Medium:
This Wednesday, with little attention, the House of Representative just passed the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018”sponsored by Representative John H. Rutherford (R-FL). The bill would make it a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for “knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer, or attempts to do so.” It joins a host of others deemed “Blue Lives Matter” laws, which have been introduced and passed, in part as a reaction to rising defiance to documented brutality and racism practiced by law enforcement in this county.
This act encapsulates the essence of the “blue lives matter” movement. Why? Because cops lie when they commit their own violence, and resistance of any kind to police violence frequently spurs more police violence. Wright again:
Let us be clear: police departments across the country have justified brutality and murder by accusing their victims of assault, for actions as heinous as dodging a night stick or pushing back on a barricade that is crushing against a crowd. And we don’t need body cameras to know that law enforcement officials are not always honest about their actions that result in arrests and lethal force — assuming the cameras aren’t turned off as was the case with Stephon Clark in Sacramento. Cops in the U.S. already have more of a License to Kill than James Bond, and in many cases enjoy more impunity that he does (Bond at least, at times, faces some scrutiny from M for his actions.)
And now there’s a federal law that can be added to the crimes laid against victims of police violence, thanks to Raúl Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Ro Khanna and others who supposedly, publicly “stand with the people.” Shameful.
In a case involving the rights of tens of millions of private sector employees, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, delivered a major blow to workers, ruling for the first time that workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws. Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act and that employees who sign employment agreements to arbitrate claims must do so on an individual basis — and may not band together to enforce claims of wage and hour violations. ...
The ruling came in three cases — potentially involving tens of thousands of nonunion employees — brought against Ernst & Young LLP, Epic Systems Corp. and Murphy Oil USA Inc. Each required its individual employees, as a condition of employment, to waive their rights to join a class-action suit. In all three cases, employees tried to sue together, maintaining that the amounts they could obtain in individual arbitration were dwarfed by the legal fees they would have to pay. Ginsburg's dissent noted that a typical Ernst & Young employee would likely have to spend $200,000 to recover only about $1,900 in overtime pay.
The employees contended that their right to collective action is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act. The employers countered that they are entitled to ban collective legal action under the Federal Arbitration Act, which was enacted in 1925 to reverse the judicial hostility to arbitration at the time.
Employment lawyers were elated. Ron Chapman, who represents management in labor-management disputes, said he expects small and large businesses alike to immediately move to impose these binding arbitration contracts to eliminate the fear of costly class-action verdicts from juries. "It gives employers the green light to eliminate their single largest employment law risk with the stroke of a pen," he said.
The House sent a major revision of banking regulations to President Trump's desk on Tuesday after conservatives who wanted a more sweeping rollback decided to accept a bipartisan deal crafted by the Senate. Supporters said the bill would give businesses more access to loans for homes and cars that they cannot get now because of government regulations. Critics said the measure would thwart efforts to fight discriminatory lending, and increase the risk of future bank failures and bailouts.
Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
Donald Trump has dramatically escalated his attacks on the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the US election, and his fightback against the Department of Justice reached a turning point this week with aspects of the inquiry itself now being investigated. ...
Trump’s manoeuvring came as reports indicated an FBI informant was in contact with several Trump campaign officials in 2016. Trump swiftly seized on the news to claim, without evidence, that the FBI had planted a spy within his campaign and demanded that the DoJ investigate the matter. Now a meeting will be held on Thursday between top government officials and two senior Republican lawmakers – but no Democrats – to allow the congressmen to review classified information relating to claims the FBI deployed a confidential source to gather information on Trump’s presidential campaign, the White House said on Tuesday afternoon.
Made against the backdrop of a series of characteristically fuming tweets, Trump’s demand signalled he was embracing an aggressive strategy to discredit the special counsel’s investigation.
Shutting down power plants that burn fossil fuels can almost immediately reduce the risk of premature birth in pregnant women living nearby, according to research published Tuesday.
Researchers scrutinized records of more than 57,000 births by mothers who lived close to eight coal- and oil-fired plants across California in the year before the facilities were shut down, and in the year after, when the air was cleaner.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that the rate of premature births dropped from 7 to 5.1 percent after the plants were shuttered, between 2001 and 2011. The most significant declines came among African American and Asian women. Preterm birth can be associated with lifelong health complications.
The results add fresh evidence to a robust body of research on the harmful effects of exposure to air pollution, especially in young children—even before they're born.
The Minnesota section of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline accounts for nearly 300 miles of the longest crude oil transport system in the world, and it is failing. The multi-billion-dollar transnational corporation has applied for a permit to replace it. Opposition from tribes in the region and environmental groups is slowing the project, but the process at times appears so tilted in Enbridge’s favor that, watching the court battles and utility commission meetings, it almost feels like Enbridge wrote the rules.
At one point in its application to build the new Line 3, Enbridge listed all the federal and state laws that regulate the permitting and construction of pipelines. Nearly all the Minnesota laws originated in one 1987 Senate bill: S.F. 90. This bill was accompanied by unprecedented pipeline industry lobbying — led in spending by Enbridge — and included subtle but major handouts to pipeline companies. One such provision imposes a sweeping limit on the public’s ability to oppose new pipelines, including the Line 3 replacement project.
According to environmental lawyer Paul Blackburn, one of the largest barriers to pipeline regulation is actually the federal Pipeline Safety Act, which preempts most state regulations. He called the law “a beautiful example of how to appear to regulate something without actually regulating it at all.” Still, Blackburn said there are ways for states to regulate pipelines, with some of the most powerful being zoning, permitting, and routing laws. However, S.F. 90 includes industry-friendly language that undercuts these and other potential regulations.
The bill allowed pipeline operators to classify their own data after a spill, making it inaccessible to the public. It instituted stiff civil and criminal penalties for pipeline company employees who failed to alert the authorities or destroyed evidence after a spill, but the companies were subject only to relatively small fines. Perhaps S.F. 90’s largest handout was the overhaul of Minnesota’s routing and permitting process. Before 1987, counties and towns could use zoning to exert some control over the routing and permitting of pipelines (how and where they were built), but S.F. 90 preempted local zoning of pipelines, a measure with implications for the Line 3 battle today. Instead, a new pipeline would require only a single routing permit, issued by the Environmental Quality Board, an authority which shifted to the Public Utilities Commission in 2005.
This is the commission that will decide the fate of Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, a decision expected in June.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Tracy Nelson w/Charlie Musselwhite - Ramblin´ Man
Tracy Nelson - It Hurts Me Too
Tracy Nelson - I'm That Way
Tracy Nelson - Walk Away
Tracy Nelson - Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair
Tracy Nelson - Nothing As Cold As Ashes After the Fire is Gone
Tracy Nelson - The Same Old Thing
Tracy Nelson - Living The Blues
Tracy Nelson - Cow Cow Boogie
Tracy Nelson - It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
Tracy Nelson - I Feel So Good