The Evening Blues - 6-11-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features San Francisco folk blues artist Jesse Fuller. Enjoy!
Jesse Fuller - Leavin Memphis, Frisco Bound
“All over the world, wherever there are capitalists, freedom of the press means freedom to buy up newspapers, to buy writers, to bribe, buy and fake "public opinion" for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.”
-- Vladimir Lenin
News and Opinion
Donald Trump’s Surveillance of New York Times Reporter Is a True Declaration of War Against the Press
Donald Trump's real war on the press has finally begun. Ever since he began his campaign for president, Trump has engaged in a largely rhetorical battle against the press, casting the reporters who cover him as the enemy of the average American and as disseminators of what he calls “fake news.” But for the most part, Trump’s bark has been worse than his bite. Unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama, Trump was not known to have spied on journalists or tried to jail them – as Obama did with me – for refusing to reveal their sources.
Now we know that the Justice Department secretly seized the phone and email records of Ali Watkins, a New York Times reporter, in a leak investigation involving a former Senate staffer. It is the first time the Trump administration is known to have engaged in such an aggressive tactic against a reporter, and it is exactly the kind of press surveillance at which the Obama administration excelled. For years, conservatives attacked Obama for using such tactics to spy on reporters. Of course, there was no outcry from the right on Friday over Trump’s willingness to do the same thing. ...
One story that apparently caught the interest of the Trump administration as part of this draconian leak investigation concerned the Trump-Russia probe. Documents made public in the new leak case show that the government wanted to know how Watkins, then a reporter for BuzzFeed, found out last year that Russian intelligence tried to recruit Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who is a key figure in the Trump-Russia investigation. The fact that a scoop about the Trump-Russia case apparently helped prompt a leak investigation by the Trump administration shouldn’t come as a surprise.
North Korea is to be offered unprecedented security guarantees when Kim Jong-un meets Donald Trump in Singapore, the US secretary of state has said on the eve of the summit. Mike Pompeo did not specify what security assurances Trump would offer Kim but made clear they would go even further than a 2005 agreement in which the US pledged not to attack North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons. ...
“It is the case we are prepared to give security assurances necessary for the North Koreans to engage in ... denuclearisation,” Pompeo told reporters. “We are prepared to take actions that will provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearisation isn’t something that ends badly for them.” He added: “We are prepared to make ... security assurances that are different, [more] unique than, what America has been willing to provide previously. We think this is both necessary and appropriate.”
US and North Korean officials met in Singapore on Monday to prepare for the historic summit, which will take place at a luxury hotel on an island close to central Singapore. While North Korea spoke of establishing a new “permanent peace-keeping mechanism” and its state-run news agency hailed a “new era” in relations with the US, Trump tweeted on Monday about how pleased he was to be in Singapore. “Excitement in the air!” he tweeted.
Donald’s Trump’s chief economic adviser said the US pulled out of a G7 communique because the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “stabbed us in the back” and accused the leader of one America’s most important allies of playing a “sophomoric political stunt for domestic consumption”. In an extraordinary interview with CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Larry Kudlow, who was present for negotiations at the G7 summit in Quebec over the weekend, said Trudeau had instigated “a betrayal” and was “essentially double-crossing President Trump”.
Trudeau used a media conference on Saturday to reject a US demand for a sunset clause in the North American trade agreement, Nafta, that Trump has at different times pressed to abolish or renegotiate. The prime minister also said Canada would “move forward with retaliatory measures” in response to the Trump administration’s move to impose tariffs on aluminium and steel imports from the European Union, Mexico and Canada. The move enraged Trump, who branded his Canadian counterpart “dishonest and weak” in a furious tweet, announcing the US would pull out of an agreed communique. ... Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro appeared on Fox News Sunday and said Trudeau deserved “a special place in hell”.
“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door and that’s what Bad Faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference,” Navarro said, adding that his comments had come “right from Air Force One”.
Leaders of other G7 member states hit back at the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the joint statement. The office of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, issued a statement saying cooperation on the international stage “cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks”.
Angela Merkel's office has released this photo taken today at the G7, which tells you a lot about how things went. pic.twitter.com/IXX6K3ayys
— David Mack (@davidmackau) June 9, 2018
G7 Summit pic.twitter.com/HAiFItZn0q
— Professional Heckler (@HecklerForever) June 10, 2018
Donald Trump’s early departure, and his subsequent refusal to endorse the G7 communique, has thrown the mainstream press into an apoplexy reflecting a deeper incomprehension of our unfolding global reality. In a bid to mix toughness with humour, Emmanuel Macron had quipped that the G7 might become the … G6. That’s absurd, not least because without the United States, capitalism as we know it (let alone the pitiful G7 gatherings) would disappear from the planet’s face.
There is, of course, little doubt that with Trump in the White House there is an awful lot we should be angst-ridden about. However, the establishment’s reaction to the president’s shenanigans, in the United States and in Europe, is perhaps an even greater worry for progressives, replete as it is with dangerous wishful thinking and copious miscalculation. Some put their faith in the Mueller investigation, assuming that Mike Pence would be kinder to them as president. Others are holding their breath until 2020, refusing to consider the possibility of a second term. What they all fail to grasp is the very real tectonic shifts underpinning Trump’s uncouth antics.
The Trump administration is building up a substantial economic momentum domestically. First, he passed income and corporate tax cuts that the establishment Republicans could not have imagined even in their wildest dreams a few years ago. But this was not all. Behind the scenes, Trump astonished Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat’s leader in the House of Representatives, by approving every single social program that she asked of him. As a result, the federal government is running the largest budget deficit in America’s history when the rate of unemployment is less than 4%.
The US anti-Trump establishment prays that markets will punish his profligacy. This is precisely what would have happened if America were any other country. With a fiscal deficit expected to reach $804bn 2018 and $981bn in 2019, and with the government expected to borrow $2.34tn in the next 18 months, the exchange rate would be crashing and interest rates would be going through the roof. Except that the US is not any other country.
As its central bank, the Fed, winds down its quantitative easing program by selling off its stock of accumulated assets to the private sector, investors need dollars to buy them. This causes the number of dollars available to investors to shrink by up to $50bn a month. Add to this the dollars German and Chinese capitalists need to buy US government bonds (in a bid to park their profits somewhere safe) and you begin to see why Trump believes he will not be punished by a run either on the dollar or on government bonds.
Armed with the exorbitant privilege that owning the dollar presses affords him, Trump then takes a look at the trade flows with the rest of the G7 and comes to an inescapable conclusion: he cannot possibly lose a trade war against countries that have such high surpluses with the US (eg Germany, Italy, China), or which (like Canada) will catch pneumonia the moment the American economy catches the common cold.
More Than Just Russia — There’s a Strong Case for the Trump Team Colluding With Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE
Donald Trump has fully embraced both official, legalized corruption as well as good, old garden-variety individual corruption. Did Trump directly conspire with Vladimir Putin and Russia to influence the 2016 election? That is certainly possible. Will we see concrete evidence of that, especially evidence that would stand up in a court? That also is possible. It is also plausible that Robert Mueller issues a public report that would be damaging, if not damning, to Trump, but for whatever reason decides not to or, because of Trump’s influence over the Justice Department, cannot pursue criminal action. We shall see. But this much is clear: It is a major mistake to place all focus on Russia. We know that Trump’s team has colluded with Israel. We know they colluded with Saudi Arabia. We know they colluded with the United Arab Emirates.
In the United States, Real Flying Cars a Thing But 'Very Serious People' Still Say Medicare for All 'Too Expensive'
While billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page has a team of amazing engineers out in the Nevada cruising around in real life flying cars, back in the real world of the United States it seems that having a healthcare system that actually covers everybody, impoverishes nobody, and treats everyone as equally valuable and worthy of quality care continues to be something that too many powerful people want to remain an unattainable fantasy. ...
Last week, outgoing Starbuck's chairman Howard Schultz was pulling his hair out wanting to know how in the world we're "going to pay for these things" like universal healthcare—which is strange because nearly every other industrialized country in the world does it with a relative smile on their face.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has decided it is not something she wants her party to embrace, but is something she will be happy to "evaluate" if—if!—the Democrats win back Congress in the mid-term elections.
While the costs of wars that have resulted in further destabilizing and impoverishing the Middle East and South Asia continue after more than a decade and a half have cost the U.S. Treasury trillions upon trillions of dollars—with no end in sight—President Donald Trump continues to celebrate record-setting budgets for the Pentagon. Last week it was reported that the Trump administration's plan for public housing would result in a rent hike of 20 percent for the nation's struggling families.
International concern about Italy’s new populist government has mostly focused on the challenge its plans for huge tax cuts and spending hikes might pose to the EU’s budget rules, and the risk it might even leave the euro altogether. But the refusal by the interior minister, Matteo Salvini, this weekend to allow the Aquarius rescue ship carrying 629 migrants to dock in any Italian port makes it clear that the country’s first big clash with the bloc will not be over the common currency, but migration.
The Italian finance minister, Giovanni Tria, sought this weekend to reassure investors and EU officials, saying the coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League intended to stay in the euro and would “avoid creating the market conditions” for an involuntary exit. Matteo Salvini, the new interior minister and leader of the far-right League, was less emollient. “France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons,” he said, announcing that Italy’s ports were closed to the Aquarius.
“From today, Italy is also starting to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration,” Salvini – who campaigned on a pledge to round up and deport 500,000 migrants living illegally in Italy – added. His intransigence, the first real evidence of the new government’s promised hardline stance, risks precipitating a full-blown crisis over EU asylum reforms, which the bloc has been trying to overhaul without success for the past two years.
She Was Kidnapped by Guerrillas and Forced to Work. That Qualifies as Material Support for Terrorism, According to Immigration Ruling
The highest U.S. immigration administration authority ruled this week that cooking and cleaning for terrorists, even when done under threat of death, qualifies as providing material support and justification for deporting someone. The immigration court’s catch-all interpretation of material support aligns with how it has been used in federal criminal cases, where the law has allowed prosecutors to charge people for vague, often nonviolent offenses related to terrorism.
The case at issue before the immigration court involved an unnamed Salvadoran woman who was kidnapped by guerrillas in 1990 and forced to undergo weapons training and cook and clean. The woman also watched her husband, a sergeant in the Salvadoran army, dig his own grave before being executed by the guerrillas.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had argued for the woman’s removal from the United States in 2004, based on the duties she was forced to perform while held captive 14 years earlier. Under the material support provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the sweeping security legislation passed in the months after the 9/11 attacks, immigrants may be denied entry or removed from the country if they provided support to terrorists, which are broadly defined in immigration law as nonstate actors involved in armed force. ...
An immigration judge agreed to cancel her removal order, finding that the work she provided was so minimal it did not amount to material support.But DHS appealed the ruling, and this week, in a 2-1 ruling, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the government’s reasoning. The majority of board members found that the woman’s cooking and cleaning for the group still qualified as material support, stating that nothing in the law allows for a “quantitative requirement” that would make one activity, such as raising money, more significant than another activity, such as washing dishes. They also ruled, citing a previous case from 2016, that there is no duress exemption to the material support statute.
The supreme court is allowing Ohio to clean up its voting rolls by targeting people who have not cast ballots in a while, in a ruling that will stoke partisan debate over voter rights and alleged Republican attempts to attack them. One representative of a civil rights group said the decision gave a “green light” to state efforts to “loosely purg[e] the registration rolls”. The Republican Ohio secretary of state said it was “a victory for electoral integrity”.
By a 5-4 vote on Monday, the justices rejected arguments that the Ohio practice violates a federal law intended to increase the ranks of registered voters. A handful of other states also use voters’ inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls. Justice Samuel Alito said Ohio was complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. He was joined by his four conservative colleagues. The four liberal justices dissented.
Under Ohio rules, registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period are targeted for eventual removal from registration rolls, even if they have not moved and remain eligible. The state said it only uses the disputed process after first comparing its voter lists with a US postal service list of people who have reported a change of address. But not everyone who moves notifies the post office, the state said. So Ohio asks people who have not voted in two years to confirm their eligibility. If they do, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered. If they do nothing, their names fall off the list of registered voters.
“Combined with the two years of nonvoting before notice is sent, that makes a total of six years of nonvoting before removal,” Alito wrote. Stephen Breyer, writing in dissent, said the 1993 law prohibits removing someone from the voting rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote. In my view, Ohio’s program does just that”. In a separate dissent, Sonia Sotomayor said Congress enacted the voter registration law “against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters”. The court’s decision essentially endorses “the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against”, Sotomayor wrote.
Just two days before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government would purchase Kinder Morgan's faltering and widely opposed Trans Mountain pipeline, British Columbia's Ministry of Environment said 100 liters of crude oil had leaked at a Kinder Morgan pipeline pump station north of Kamloops—but the company initially refused to confirm the severity of the spill. On Saturday, with its bailout from the Canadian taxpayer confirmed by Trudeau, Kinder Morgan declared after an investigation that, actually, 4,800 liters of crude oil had leaked during the May 27 spill—48 times more crude than first reported.
While the Ministry of Environment said no waterways were affected by the leak, environmentalists and Canadian members of parliament highlighted the leak as a telling example of the dangers pipelines pose to people and the environment and continued denouncing Trudeau's buyout. ...
Trudeau's decision has since sparked opposition rallies nationwide, with green groups arguing that the billions of taxpayer money being used to rescue a leak-prone, "climate-destroying" pipeline should be spent on healthcare, education, and a just transition to a sustainable energy system.
"This could cost $15 to $20 billion all told," Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy and climate justice campaigner at Council of Canadians, said at a demonstration outside of the Ottawa office of Liberal MP Catherine McKenna last week. "That is money that could solve the drinking water crisis in Canada on First Nations reserves. That is money that could halve tuition fees across the country. Think about the affordable housing that we could achieve with that money...That is where this money should be going."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jesse Fuller - Rockin' Boogie
Jesse Fuller - Stealing
Jesse Fuller - As Long As I Can Feel The Spirit
Jesse Fuller - Whoa Mule
Jesse Fuller - San Francisco Bay Blues
Jesse Fuller - Beat It On Down The Line
Jesse Fuller - The Monkey And the Engineer
Jesse Fuller - Ninety Nine Years And One Dark Day
Jesse Fuller - I Double Double Do Love You
Jesse Fuller - You're No Good
Jesse Fuller - Ida Noyes Hall, University of Chicago, 1962