The Evening Blues - 5-25-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues musician Bo Diddley. Enjoy!
Bo Diddley Ed Sullivan Show 1955
"Democracy don't rule the world, You'd better get that in your head; This world is ruled by violence, But I guess that's better left unsaid."
-- Bob Dylan
News and Opinion
An excellent article worth a full read:
All talk of democracy in the United States is a lie meant to ensure devotion to and acceptance of a system that is inherently undemocratic. The word that is used with such reverence should mean more than holding elections. People living in a democracy ought to have some say in how they are governed; instead, Americans have none. But the electoral process itself is rife with vote theft, suppression schemes against black voters in particular and a variety of tactics meant to undo the little bit of popular will that is permitted to take place. These are not the only examples of undemocratic political activity. The involvement of the United States security apparatus in politics is a closely held secret that is deliberately withheld from public discourse. We are inundated with endless expressions of outrage regarding alleged Russian government election meddling. Yet little is said about known United States intelligence agency involvement in American presidential campaigns.The 2016 election was just the latest example of FBI and CIA interferencein a supposedly free country. ...
Both camps attempted to get “dirt” on the other, with the hapless Trump team getting caught in a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. The lawyer used a claim of having information on Hillary Clinton as a hook when she was in fact interested in getting the Magnitzky Act anti-Russian sanctions lifted by a Trump administration. The Democrats were more skillful but were ultimately found out too. It is the Democratic National Committee that paid former British spy Christopher Steele to find compromising information about Donald Trump. The resulting dossier was used as justification for an FBI investigation but the fact that the DNC and Clinton campaign paid for the information was withheld.
It was recently revealed that one of the pro-Clinton parties, Stephan Halper, spied on Trump staffers for the FBI. But Halper is also connected to another presidential campaign. He and his father-in-law, former CIA deputy director Ray Cline, were involved in dirty work against the Jimmy Carter campaign in 1980. Their goal was to prevent the Carter administration from freeing hostages held in Iran. They succeeded and in so doing assured a Reagan victory. Nearly 40 years later Halper was up to his old tricks, this time working with the FBI in an attempt to derail the Trump campaign.
The New York Times says Halper was not a spy, but an “informant.” The nonsensical hair splitting is not incidental. The corporate media want to delegitimize Trump but not for the reasons they should. Donald Trump’s campaign and ultimate victory presented serious challenges for these interests. His divergence from orthodoxy made him a danger. Donald Trump is correct to ask for an investigation of Halper’s contacts which began during his campaign and continued after he was inaugurated. Anyone concerned about the dangerous role of secret and unelected law enforcement control ought to support his request. Justified anti-Trump sentiment shouldn’t be forgotten but also should not be allowed to legitimize the very dangerous intelligence apparatus.
The same forces which went after Trump will come after anyone else who is seen as a danger to the system. One cannot argue against the “black identity extremist” designation without also calling into question the intelligence agencies role in politics, even if their work was used against Donald Trump.
Three days before President Trump announced him as the new National Security Advisor, deranged mutant death walrus John Bolton appeared on Radio Free Asia and said of negotiations with North Korea, “I think we should insist that if this meeting is going to take place, it will be similar to discussions we had with Libya 13 or 14 years ago.” Bolton has been loudly and publicly advocating “the Libya model” with the DPRK ever since. ...
Bolton never bothered to refine his message by saying, for example, “Without the part where we betray and invade them and get their leader mutilated to death in the streets.” He just said they’re doing Libya again. This was what John Bolton was saying before he was hired, and this was what John Bolton continued to say after he was hired. This was what John Bolton was hired to do. He was hired to sabotage peace and facilitate death and destruction. That is what he does. That is what he is for. Can openers open cans, John Bolton starts wars. You don’t buy a can opener to rotate your tires, and you don’t hire John Bolton to facilitate peace.
“You know, there were some talk about the Libya model last week,” Vice President Pence told Fox News on Saturday. “And you know, as the president made clear, you know, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal.”
“Some people saw that as a threat,” Fox’s Martha MacCallum replied, because there is no other way it could possibly be interpreted. Pence blathered something about it being “a fact”, not a threat, but that is because he is a fake plastic doll manufactured by Raytheon. It was an extremely obvious and blatant threat, so of course North Korea responded accordingly.
If there’s a silver lining to be found in all of this, it was summed up by the Ron Paul Liberty Report’s Daniel McAdams:
“I think Trump is making America great again by making America irrelevant. We are irrelevant in the North and South peace talks right now. The ball is completely in [South Korea President] Moon’s court, what is he going to do next; we’ve basically recused ourselves from the whole process. Which is very, very good for us. So I feel rather upbeat. I think although it’s always better to talk to people, and it would be better to talk, but in the current environment, for us to get out of the way is really the non-interventionist position.”
Donald Trump thought Kim Jong Un was going to cancel their June date — so he quickly nixed it himself, according to a report published Friday. The cancellation, announced Thursday in a three paragraph letter to "his excellency" Kim, came after Trump and his advisers deliberated on the issue for less than 12 hours, according to NBC, citing multiple unnamed officials.
The letter, which noted North Korea’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” as reasons for the withdrawal, came after Pyongyang had itself repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the meeting — and according to officials, Trump didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. ...
While Trump’s letter to Kim contained a barely veiled threat about Washington’s “massive and powerful” nuclear arsenal, it also left the door open to future talks, with Trump saying that “some day I look very much forward to meeting you.” North Korea responded Friday, expressing its “great regret” at the cancellation and saying it too was open to talks — and even noting its appreciation of Trump’s efforts to resolve the issues between their countries. ...
NBC reported Friday that there were deep divisions between Trump’s top advisers over whether to press ahead with the summit — particularly between the hawkish Bolton, who has publicly advocated for regime change in North Korea, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has visited Pyongyang twice, met with Kim and helped secure the release of three detained Americans. Several officials said Pompeo blamed Bolton for scuppering the progress he had made in preparing for the summit.
Donald Trump has suggested his summit with Kim Jong-un could still go on as planned, marking yet another dramatic reversal for the US president who just a day earlier canceled the meeting in a letter to the North Korean leader. “We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday, adding that his administration was in talks with Pyongyang and the summit was still possible on its originally scheduled date of 12 June.
“They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it,” he added.
Asked if North Korea was playing games, Trump responded, “Everybody plays games.”
The president’s comments came after North Korea said it was still willing to engage in direct talks, calling the planned summit between Trump and Kim “desperately necessary”.
“We express our willingness to sit down face-to-face with the US and resolve issues anytime and in any format,” North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement. “Our commitment to doing our best for the sake of peace and stability for the world and the Korean Peninsula remains unchanged, and we are open-minded in giving time and opportunity to the US.”
In the wake of a bruising confirmation fight that highlighted new CIA Director Gina Haspel’s role in the U.S. torture program in the years after 9/11, the House of Representatives on Thursday voted to force a public accounting of the current U.S. role in torture prisons across the south of Yemen. Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee advanced an amendment by California Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee that would require the Department of Defense to investigate whether U.S. allies in Yemen were involved in torturing detainees and if U.S. personnel had any role in the interrogations. The measure was adopted unanimously on the floor by a voice vote on Thursday.
An investigation by the Associated Press last year revealed a network of 18 clandestine prisons across south Yemen that are run by the United Arab Emirates – the U.S.’s primary ally in fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen – or by Yemeni forces controlled by the UAE. The investigation found that nearly 2,000 Yemenis had been disappeared into prisons where severe torture techniques were the norm, including a “grill” in which “the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire.”
A U.N. panel of experts in January largely affirmed the findings and found that UAE forces in Yemen were responsible for acts of torture that included beatings, electrocution, denial of medical treatment, and sexual violence.
The exact role that U.S. personnel from the Defense Department or CIA play in these interrogations is not clear, but anonymous U.S. defense officials told AP “that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.”
Israel’s supreme court has ruled in favour of demolishing a Palestinian Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, despite a campaign by European governments to save it. Campaigners said the hearing had been the final appeal open to the village of Khan al-Ahmar, located close to several Israeli settlements east of Jerusalem. ...
The court ruled that the village was built without the relevant building permits. Such permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.
“This verdict takes away the absolute minimal protection the Bedouin communities received until recently from the court,” Shlomo Lecker, the lawyer representing the village, said in a statement.
“By any standard of international humanitarian law, the verdict is an approval by the Israeli court of a crime against humanity.”
The Pentagon plans to invest more than $20 billion in munitions in its next budget. But whether the industrial base will be there to support such massive buys in the future is up in the air — at a time when America is expending munitions at increasingly intense rates.
The annual Industrial Capabilities report, put out by the Pentagon’s Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, has concluded that the industrial base of the munitions sector is particularly strained, something the report blames on the start-and-stop nature of munitions procurement over the last 20 years, as well as the lack of new designs being internally developed.
Some suppliers have dropped out entirely, leaving no option for replacing vital materials. Other key suppliers are foreign-owned, with no indigenous capability to produce vital parts and materials ― setting up the risk that a conflict with China could rely on Chinese-made parts.
The National Rifle Association is calling for outright censorship as news of yet another school shooting dominates national headlines. “It’s time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings, because it’s killing our kids,” said Colion Noir, a gun-rights activist and host of an NRA-TV show, in a video posted online less than one week after a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, left 10 people dead.
"It's time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings because it's killing our kids. It's time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common sense limitations on #MSM's ability to report on these school shootings." –@MrColionNoir #MSMsense pic.twitter.com/0CulOKEPSn
— NRATV (@NRATV) May 24, 2018
The NRA went on a similar offensive in the wake of the Valentine’s Day massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. “Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch said at a CNN Town Hall after the Parkland shooting. “I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
It’s also an idea that appeared to be on President Donald Trump’s radar as far back as the Parkland shooting, when he ordered the formation of the School Safety Commission. In addition to age limits for certain firearm purchases, violence in video games, access to mental health treatment, school building security and Obama-era guidance on school discipline, Trump also directed the commission to consider how journalists cover mass shootings.
Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday morning, demanding answers about how the tech giant’s facial recognition technology is being used by law enforcement agencies around the country.
The letter, provided to The Intercept ahead of its public release, lists a total of 12 requests for information regarding Amazon’s facial recognition service, branded as “Rekognition,” including the names of any law enforcement or government agencies that use the system and data on how the service could enable, or itself engage in, discrimination, including racial and gender bias. “The disproportionally high arrest rates for members of the black community make the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement problematic,” the letter reads, “because it could serve to reinforce this trend.”
According to an Ellison aide, the letter is an attempt to enact at least a baseline level of congressional oversight for the tech giant — an attempt that comes less than two months after congressional hearings that tried to do the same for Facebook.
Amazon came under fire earlier this week after the American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates, as well as 35 other civil liberties organizations, released a public letter expressing concerns about how Amazon markets its technology to law enforcement agencies. The ACLU letter coincided with the release of a trove of documents, which the organization obtained through public records requests and after a six-month investigation, that shed light on the company’s relationship and correspondence with law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Florida.
Worth a full read:
Cedric O’Bannon tried to ignore the sharp pain in his side and continue filming. The independent journalist, who was documenting a white supremacist rally in Sacramento, said he wanted to capture the neo-Nazi violence against counter-protesters with his GoPro camera. But the pain soon became overwhelming. He lifted up his blood-soaked shirt and realized that one of the men carrying a pole with a blade on the end of it had stabbed him in the stomach, puncturing him nearly two inches deep. He limped his way to an ambulance.
But the police did not treat O’Bannon like a victim. Records obtained by the Guardian reveal that officers instead monitored his Facebook page and sought to bring six charges against him, including conspiracy, rioting, assault and unlawful assembly. His presence at the protest – along with his use of the black power fist and “social media posts expressing his ideals” – were proof that he had violated the rights of neo-Nazis at the 26 June 2016 protests, police wrote in a report. None of the white supremacists have been charged for stabbing O’Bannon.
“The judicial system is supposed to find the people who attack me, and they come after me with all these crazy charges,” O’Bannon said in a recent interview in Oakland, where he lives. “It’s outrageous.”
O’Bannon’s case is the latest example of police in the US targeting leftwing activists, anti-Trump protesters and black Americans for surveillance and prosecution over their demonstrations and online posts. At the same time, critics say, they are failing to hold neo-Nazis responsible for physical violence.
After the attacks at the California capital, which left at least 10 people injured, police investigators expressed sympathy with the white supremacists and worked with them in an effort to target “anti-racist” demonstrators for charges, the Guardian reported in February. Though nearly all the victims were counter-protesters, prosecutors have brought criminal cases against three anti-fascist activists. Only one member of the Traditionalist Workers party (TWP), the neo-Nazi group behind the rally, is facing charges.
San Francisco prosecutors said they would not charge officers in two shooting deaths, including the killing of a black man that led to citywide protests three years ago and federally recommended police reforms. The district attorney, George Gascón, declined on Thursday to prosecute five officers who fired at Mario Woods, whose 2015 killing led to large demonstrations amid nationwide upheaval over police shootings of black men, and two officers who shot Luis Góngora Pat in 2016, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Both men had knives, prosecutors said, and there was insufficient evidence that the officers did not reasonably act in defense of themselves and others. Gascón expressed frustration over the high-profile cases that brought national attention, saying he did not believe the officers should have killed the men but he was bound by law not to press charges.
In the Woods case, prosecutors said, cellphone videos showed the suspect was not directly threatening officers with the knife when they fired 26 rounds at him. “To the Woods family and the Góngora family, there are not enough words that I can say that are going to bring their loved ones back,” Gascón said. “I’m very sorry they lost a son, they lost a brother, a friend, because I don’t believe that was necessary.”
Jeff Adachi, the city’s elected public defender, decried Gascón’s charging decision as “mind-boggling” and indicative of a double standard. “To date, not a single officer in San Francisco has ever been criminally charged as the result of shooting a citizen, yet citizens are charged with crimes every day despite prosecutors being unable to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said in a statement. “A hail of bullets is not an appropriate police response to people suffering mental health crises.”
This is a short and excellent piece from the CEPR blog by Dean Baker. Since it has a creative commons license, I'm going to quote it in full here:
It's rare that you get a more explicitly classist piece in a major newspaper than Catherine Rampell's column on Donald Trump's trade war with China. While its assessment of the Trump administration's blustery rhetoric and confused actions seems very much on the money, its assertions about the country's actual interests is not.
It tells readers:
"So rather than taking the time to learn about our actual complaints regarding China’s trade policy (primarily, intellectual property theft), or how we could deal with them (through multilateral pressure, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump killed), Trump fixated on deficits. The part of the story that sold with the public."
Okay, so Rampell tells us that we should not be concerned about a trade deficit that costs in the neighborhood of 2 million manufacturing jobs. Instead, we should be concerned that China is not as protectionist as she wants it to be when it comes to intellectual property claims of our software and pharmaceutical companies.
And why exactly should those of us who don't own lots of stock in Microsoft and Pfizer care if China doesn't pay them licensing fees and royalties? If we think through the economics here, this means that other things equal, lower payments to these companies mean a lower valued dollar, which would improve our trade balance on manufactured goods. What's the problem here?
Actually, the story gets even better. Suppose that China doesn't honor the patents of Pfizer and other drug companies so that it produces generic version of new drugs that sell for hundreds of dollars for a course of treatment instead of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that these companies demand for the patent-protected product (equivalent to tariffs of tens of thousands of percent). Suppose it sells these generic versions to people in the United States or just lets them come to China for their treatment.
This would save patients in the United States enormous amounts of money, and possibly save lives. This is what free trade is all about.
Sure, it means that Microsoft and Pfizer will not be as profitable and their shareholders will be less rich. It probably also means that some of the highly skilled workers whose pay depends largely on these forms of protectionism will get smaller paychecks. But as I recall, we are all supposed to be concerned about income inequality, so why should the country be pursuing a trade policy intended to give us more of it?
Yes, we do need a mechanism for financing innovation and research. But we can do better than extending a relics of the feudal guild system, even if most of the folks in policy debates are too lazy to bother thinking about the issue. (See Rigged, chapter 5. It's free.)
President Trump’s $1.4 trillion tax cut could have painful consequences for the economy down the road — including a possible recession and a ballooning deficit, according to Goldman Sachs. ...
The Wall Street powerhouse — whose former president Gary Cohn helped engineer the tax package as the White House economic adviser — dismissed economic projections by the Congressional Budget Office as too “optimistic,” and said that the deficit could spike by about 2.5 times, to $2.05 trillion, by 2028.
In one scenario, the bond market could punish the US for its growing debt levels by making it more expensive to borrow — thereby swelling deficits further, according to the Goldman note.
The chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign arm said Thursday that he welcomes the help of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the midterms, embracing the onetime power couple of the Democratic Party, even as they have become more polarizing figures since the 2016 election.
“We welcome those individuals and everybody who wants to help,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, speaking of the Clintons and former president Barack Obama. He said he would leave decisions about surrogates to each individual campaign.
Democrats are defending 10 Senate seats in states where President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. Republicans have been eager to tether Democratic senators to the Clintons and Obama in ruby-red states hosting marquee races this year.
“For those curious — the NRSC also welcomes Hillary Clinton to the campaign trail in 2018,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Katie Martin in a statement. ...
Van Hollen, who spoke at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, said Senate Democrats are “very bullish” on the midterms, but are facing numerous difficult races and “taking nothing for granted.”
Republicans hold a slim lead over Democrats in a generic ballot among registered voters, a new Reuters poll found, marking the first time the survey showed the GOP ahead in this election cycle. The poll showed 38.1 percent of registered voters said they would vote for a Republican candidate if midterm elections were held today, compared to just under 37 percent who said they’d vote for a Democrat. Another 15.4 percent of registered voters said they didn’t know which party’s candidate they’d choose.
The new poll was conducted on May 17 and surveyed 1,338 registered voters. For the week ending May 20, pollsters also found that Republicans held a nearly 6-point advantage over Democrats. That marked a 9-point swing from the previous week, when Democrats held a 3-point lead among registered voters.
The results are a stark contrast to previous polls, which showed Democrats with a 10-point edge as of late April.
A new article published by the Centre for Research on Globalization, titled “The Methane Time Bomb and the Future of the Biosphere,” presents evidence that the current emission of carbon threatens to melt the large polar ice caps, leading to tens of meters of sea level rise and the disappearance of species at a rate two orders of magnitude higher than without recent human actions. Dr. Andrew Glikson, a visiting fellow at the Climate Change Institute and the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at Australian National University, states in his abstract, “Having sent young generations to kill and die in wars, the powers that be are now presiding over the greatest mass extinction of nature since 66 million years ago,” a reference to the event that caused dinosaurs to go extinct.
According to Glikson, methane is the most potent common greenhouse gas, and there are many hundreds of billions of tons stored in Arctic permafrost, lakes, shallow seas, and sediments. This methane has accumulated as part of the unoxidized organic matter present in such features since the Arctic glaciation that occurred approximately 2.6 million years ago. This methane reservoir, which also exists in tropical bogs, may have catastrophic effects on the biosphere upon its release. The global carbon project has released data showing that up to 1,400 billion metric tons of carbon on land and 16,000 billion metric tons in the oceans will potentially be released in the near future. This much carbon, which would be emitted in the form of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide or methane, would cause a significant rise in temperatures and widespread melting and defrosting of the polar ice sheets. This possibility comes from the combustion of fossil fuels and is further compounded by coal seam gas drilling, which perforates the earth’s crust in several parts of the world and further releases huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere.
Glikson notes that even a small percentage of this carbon released into the atmosphere as methane, which has 25 to 75 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide, may raise the atmospheric greenhouse concentration of carbon to the point that it leads to further extensive melting of the large ice sheets, major sea level rise, and a mass extinction event rivaling the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum that occurred approximately 56 million years ago. The warnings given by Glikson are substantiated by several sources, including 2011 expeditions along the East Siberian Arctic Shelf by Russian scientists who identified large sea-bed structures showing bubbling plumes of methane as well as large numbers of perforations in the shelf itself. The estimated release of methane from this region alone is 150 megatons of carbon per year and has driven atmospheric methane there to concentrations nearly forty percent higher than the global average.
Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) is a hugely influential policy group filled with heavy hitters from politics and the oil industry. While the center's home page describes it as “an independent, interdisciplinary, and nonpartisan platform,” its track record shows that CGEP consistently supports the same policies favored by the fossil fuel industry.
And one of its latest moves — hiring former Trump energy advisor and fossil fuel defender George “David” Banks as an expert on “international climate policy” — shows that trend will continue.
Under Trump, Banks served as White House Special Assistant for International Energy and Environment, which included publicly representing the administration at international climate change negotiations. At last November's United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, that meant moderating the U.S.'s lone event, a controversial panel promoting coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy — and defending President Trump's infamous “climate change is a Chinese hoax” tweet.
In addition to his new job with CGEP, Banks remains executive vice president with the American Council for Capital Formation, a free market think tank funded by an A-list of climate science deniers including ExxonMobil, the Koch family foundations, and the American Petroleum Institute.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Bo Diddley - Diddley Daddy
Bo Diddley - You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover
Bo Diddley - Hush Your Mouth
Bo Diddley - Surfers Love Call
Bo Diddley - Mr Krushchev
Bo Diddley - Pills
Bo Diddley - I'm Bad
Bo Diddley - Before You Accuse Me
Bo Diddley - Cops and Robbers
Bo Diddley - Down Home Special
Bo Diddley - Crackin Up
Bo Diddley - Help Out
Bo Diddley - Pretty Thing
Bo Diddley - Ooh Baby
Bo Diddley - Road Runner