The Evening Blues - 6-14-19


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Tower of Power

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features r&b and funk band Tower of Power. Enjoy!

Tower of Power: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

“The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”

-- Chris Hedges

News and Opinion

Mike Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman

The US has blamed Iran for an early-morning assault on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which ended a Japanese mediation effort and raised fears over the safety of vessels passing through the key oil artery to the west.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the US believed blasts on the two tankers were carried out by Iran “based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation”. He also claimed that the attacks , in the Strait of Hormuz had such a high degree of sophistication they could not be carried out by a proxy.

Pompeo offered no evidence for his claim and took no questions after making his allegations. He said that Iran had been responsible for a previous wave of attacks on tankers last month, but the official investigation into those attacks did not determine who had been responsible. He also claimed a 31 May car bomb in Afghanistan which killed Afghan civilians and wounded four US soldiers, had been carried out by Iran. The attack had been claimed by the Taliban.

Reuters news agency and Fox News reported on Thursday night that US officials claimed to have video footage of a small Iranian military vessel approaching one of the ships after the attack and removing what appeared a limpet mine which had not exploded.

Pompeo claimed Iran’s actions “present a clear threat to international peace and security”. He added: “Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted. No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail.” Tehran denied all responsibility and its foreign minister suggested others could be trying to provoke a conflict between Iran and the US.

Vijay Prashad: U.S. Rushes to Blame Iran for Tanker Attacks as Much of World Pushes for Diplomacy

Contradicting Trump Claim of Iranian Mine Attack, Owner of Japanese Oil Tanker Says 'Flying Object' Likely Caused Explosions

During a press conference just hours after the U.S. released video footage that purported to show an Iranian boat removing an unexploded mine from the side of an oil tanker, the Japanese owner of that vessel said Friday that the ship was likely damaged by a "flying object" and called claims of a mine attack "false."

"I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship," Yutaka Katada, president of the Japanese company that operates the Kokuka Courageous tanker, told reporters in Tokyo.

Katada's account of the attack appeared to contradict the Trump administration's suggestion that Iranian mines were responsible for the explosions that damaged the Kokuka Courageous and one other oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

In his first public comments on the oil tanker attacks, President Donald Trump said during a telephone interview on "Fox & Friends" Friday morning that "Iran did do it," pointing to the U.S. military's grainy video footage. "You know they did it because you saw the boat," Trump said. "You know they did it, because you saw the boat, I guess one of the mines didn't explode and it's probably got, essentially, Iran written all over it."

But Katada said the crew members who were aboard the Kokuka Courageous at the time of the attack believe the vessel was damaged by "something [that] flew towards them."

"That created the hole, is the report I've received," Katada said. "It seems there was a high chance they were attacked by a flying object. The impact was well above the water. I don't think it was a torpedo." Katada did not suggest a possible culprit, and the Japanese government is reportedly "gathering information" on the attacks before it reaches a conclusion.

'Deja Vu' of Iraq War Lies as Mike Pompeo Blames Iran for Tanker Attack Without Single Shred of Evidence

In a press conference that immediately evoked memories of the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday claimed Iran was behind alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman without presenting one single shred of evidence. ...

After asserting Iran was also behind a litany of attacks prior to Thursday's tanker incident—once again without presenting any evidence—Pompeo said that,"Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security."

Pompeo—who has a long history of making false claims about Iran—did not take any questions from reporters following his remarks, which were aired live on America's major television networks.

"Mike Pompeo has zero credibility when it comes to Iran," Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, told Common Dreams. "He's long been actively campaigning for a confrontation with Iran. He has a track record of pushing bogus theories with no evidence such as the idea that Iran collaborates closely with al-Qaeda."

"Once again Pompeo is not waiting for the evidence to come in," Rainwater said, "he is picking facts to suit his campaign for confrontation with Iran."

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war group CodePink, characterized Pompeo's speech as a "deja vu" of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous weapons of mass destruction speech before the U.N. in 2003, which made the case for the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. "Secretary Pompeo gives zero proof but insists that Iran is responsible for ship attacks in Gulf of Oman this morning," Benjamin tweeted. "Lies, lies, and more lies to make a case for war."

Oman tanker explosions: "I'm not saying it's false, but this is not proof"

Think US Media Won't Help Lead Nation Into War With Iran Based on Flimsy or False Intelligence? Looks Like They Already Are

If there were any lingering hopes that the corporate media learned from its role in perpetuating the lies that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and would never again help start a Middle East war on the basis of false or flimsy evidence, the headlines that blared across the front pages of major U.S. news websites Thursday night indicated that such hopes were badly misplaced.

The U.S. military late Thursday released blurry, black-and-white video footage that it claimed—without any underlying analysis or further details—showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, one of the oil tankers damaged in attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks, and Yutaka Katada—the owner of the Kokuka Courageous—contradicted the Trump administration's account during a press conference on Friday. "Our crew said that the ship was attacked by a flying object," Katada said. "I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship."

Independent critics were quick to call for extreme skepticism in the face of U.S. government claims, given the quality of the "evidence" and the warmongering track records of those presenting it. But the media displayed no such caution.

[See article for survey of MSM craven warmongering. -js]

US gears up for World War III with largest defense contract in history

The Pentagon announced Monday the single largest arms purchase in its history, agreeing to buy nearly 500 F-35 fighter aircraft at a total cost of $34 billion. This purchase is only a down payment on the Pentagon’s acquisition of the notoriously wasteful and failure-prone aircraft, whose design is based on two overarching priorities: fighting a war with a “great power” such as Russia and China and lining the pockets of Lockheed Martin and the horde of former congressmen and retired generals on its payroll.

The agreement covers the 12th, 13th and 14th batches of F-35s ordered by the Pentagon, which eventually plans to field thousands of the aircraft. Billed in 2001 as a program to save money, each plane eventually ended up costing four times the initial estimate. At a projected total program cost of $1.5 trillion, this one weapons system alone would finance the US Department of Education for a quarter-century. ...

At speeches before military audiences, Trump routinely brags about the massive military budgets he has pushed through Congress, touting in particular the Pentagon’s vast spending on the F-35. Speaking at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony last month, the American president responded to resounding applause from the graduating officers by declaring, “You just like all those brand new, beautiful airplanes that we’re buying.” Trump continued: “Last year… we secured $700 billion to support our war fighters, followed by another $716 billion—not million—billion. That’s with a ‘B.’”

Both of these Pentagon budgets, entailing the largest increases in defense spending since the end of the Cold War, were passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Eighty-nine percent of Senate Democrats voted to pass the most recent defense budget, whose explicit aim is to prepare the US military for “great power” conflict with Russia and China.

This year the White House is aiming even higher. Next Monday, the administration plans to submit a $750 billion Defense Department budget proposal, a figure $18 billion higher than the amount requested by the Pentagon.

Bombs made by Chicago company killed Gaza civilians

Israel used “bunker buster” bombs made by a US arms company in two attacks on Gaza in which civilians were killed last month. The deadly strikes occurred in intense violence between 4 and 6 May during which 25 Palestinians, half of them civilians, and four civilians in Israel were killed. Remnants of the GBU-39 series guided “small diameter” bomb manufactured by Boeing were found by Human Rights Watch at the site of the Zoroub building in Rafah, southern Gaza. Three civilians were killed in an Israeli attack on the six-story commercial building on 5 May.

Ahmad Zoroub, a relative of the building’s owner, was sitting in a basement cafe with two friends when the building was hit by three munitions. Ahmad survived but his companions, Mousa Muammar, 35, and Hani Abu Shaar, 37, did not. Also killed in the attack was Ali Abd al-Jawad, an English teacher who had been present at the tutoring center he operated on the ground floor of the building when it was hit.

Minutes after the attack on the Zoroub building, according to Human Rights Watch, “the Israeli military said on Twitter that it attacked ‘terrorist operatives’ in south Gaza, but did not say what or where the targets may have been.”

“Three local residents said that Islamic Jihad had a media office on the second floor, but one noted that the office had moved to a different location months before,” Human Rights Watch states. The owner of the building told the rights group that the Palestinian resistance group did not have an office there. “Human Rights Watch uncovered no evidence of a current military objective.”

Weapon remnants found at a destroyed residential building in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza, were also determined by Human Rights Watch to be from a GBU-39 bomb. The three-unit residential building was, like the Zoroub building, attacked by Israel on 5 May. Abdallah al-Madhoun, a member of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, was killed in the strike, as well as his father, Abd al-Rahim, 60; his 36-year-old sister-in-law, Amani al-Madhoun, who was nine months pregnant; and his brother-in-law Fadi Badran, 33. Human Rights Watch contends that because he was an operative with Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, Abdallah al-Madhoun was a “a valid military target,” though its report states he was praying at his father’s home when he was killed. “However, the nature of the attack, on a home containing many civilians, raises concerns that it was disproportionate,” according to Human Rights Watch.

Putin says relationship with U.S. 'getting worse by the hour'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that U.S.-Russia relations are “getting worse and worse," criticizing U.S. sanctions and praising his country's trade relationship with China. “Unfortunately, we cannot say anything of the kind about our relations with the U.S.,” he told state media outlet Mir TV. “They are in fact deteriorating, getting worse by the hour.” ...

His comments contradict President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Russia, which the U.S. leader has called an ally.

Russia to reply to US deployment in Poland

Trump pledged to Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday that he would deploy 1000 U.S. troops to the European country, a step sought by Warsaw to deter potential aggression from Russia.

Sergei Ryabkov, a Russian deputy foreign minister, was quoted by RIA news agency as saying that the move may reflect Washington's "aggressive intentions".

Members of Russia's parliament were quick to react to the plan, which also envisages the US deploying military drones. "In the event of any conflict, God forbid, the territory of Poland would become a clear target for a retaliatory strike, if there was suddenly an attack on us," Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the upper house of parliament's international affairs committee, told the Interfax news agency.

Another lawmaker, ex-commander of Russia's special forces Vladimir Shamanov, who now runs the lower house of parliament's defence committee, said he was concerned about the US drones because of their potential to carry nuclear weapons. "The world is gradually slipping towards a dangerous moment comparable to the Caribbean crisis," Shamanov said, using the Russian expression for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan

The New York Times Thursday morning has bad news for one of its favorite anonymous sources, former CIA Director John Brennan. The Times reports that the Justice Department plans to interview senior CIA officers to focus on the allegation that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to intervene in the 2016 election to help Donald J. Trump. DOJ investigators will be looking for evidence to support that remarkable claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report failed to establish. ...

No one batted an eye when Brennan told a House committee in May 2017, “I don’t do evidence.”

As we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have warned numerous times over the past two plus years, there is no reliable forensic evidence to support the story that Russia hacked into the DNC. Moreover, in a piece I wrote in May, “Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate,” I again noted that accumulating forensic evidence from metadata clearly points to an inside DNC job — a leak, not a hack, by Russia or anyone else. So Brennan and his partners, FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper were making stuff up and feeding thin but explosive gruel to the hungry stenographers that pass today for Russiagate obsessed journalists.

With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan conclusively as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story. Evidence, real evidence in this case, abounds, since the Brennan-Comey-Clapper gang of three were sure Hillary Clinton would become president. Consequently, they did not perform due diligence to hide their tracks. Worse still, intelligence analysts tend to hang onto instructions and terms of reference handed down to them by people like Brennan and his top lieutenants. It will not be difficult for CIA analysts to come up with documents to support the excuse: “Brennan made me do it.” ...

Happily, at least for those interested in the truth, some of the authors of the rump, misnomered “Intelligence Community Assessment” commissioned by Obama, orchestrated by Brennan-Clapper-Comey, and published on January 6, 2017 will now be interviewed. The ICA is the document still widely cited as showing that the “entire intelligence community agreed” on the Russia-gate story, but this is far from the case. As Clapper has admitted, that “assessment” was drafted by “handpicked analysts” from just three of the 17 intelligence agencies — CIA, FBI, and NSA. U.S. Attorney Durham would do well to also check with analysts in agencies — like the Defense Intelligence Agency and State Department Intelligence, as to why they believe they were excluded.

Rick Gates and Mike Flynn Just Got Subpoenaed by House Democrats

House Democrats just subpoenaed two men at the heart of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates and Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

The House Intelligence Committee is seeking testimony and documents from the one-time members of Trump’s inner circle who each became key cooperators in the Mueller probe after pleading guilty to charges of lying to investigators. The new subpoenas signal Democrats want to bring a sense of urgency to their hearings by calling in direct witnesses, rather than rely on outside legal experts as they have in televised hearings this week.

“Michael Flynn and Rick Gates were critical witnesses for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, but so far have refused to cooperate fully with Congress,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said in an emailed statement Thursday. “That’s simply unacceptable.” ...

The move comes as Democrats struggle to keep the public’s attention focused on Mueller’s findings following the release of his final report, which presented links between the Trump campaign and Russians and episodes of potential obstruction of justice without accusing Trump of committing a crime.

Ola Bini Was Friends with Julian Assange. He Has Spent Two Months in Jail Without Charge in Ecuador

Julian Assange to face US extradition hearing in UK next year

Julian Assange will face a five-day US extradition hearing in February next year, a judge has ruled.

The WikiLeaks founder faces an 18-count indictment, issued by the US Department of Justice, that includes charges under the Espionage Act. At Westminster magistrates court on Friday, the chief magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, ordered that a full extradition hearing should begin on 25 February.

Ben Brandon, representing the US, formally opened the case, a day after an extradition request was signed off by the home secretary, Sajid Javid.

As Brandon ran through a summary of the accusations against Assange, including that he had cracked a US defence network password, Assange, appearing by video link, protested: “I didn’t break any password whatsoever.”

Assange, 47, who was dressed in a grey T-shirt, had a white beard and was wearing black-framed glasses, said 175 years of his life was at stake and defended his website against hacking claims, saying: “WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher.”

EU says reneging on Brexit bill would damage UK economy

A UK government led by Boris Johnson could not be dragged through the courts if it refused to pay the country’s multibillion-pound Brexit bill, the EU’s German budget chief has admitted, but Britain’s economy, security and universities would be made to suffer.

Günther Oettinger, European commissioner for the EU’s finances, linked the settling of Britain’s debts as agreed by Theresa May to Brussels’ approach to the prospects of the country retaining any kind of beneficial relationship with the bloc.

Johnson, who remains the clear frontrunner in the race to be the next prime minister, has threatened to hold back on payment of the UK’s financial settlement with the EU, estimated to be around £39bn, claiming the sum could be used as “lubricant” to improve Britain’s bargaining position in trade talks.

The EU’s position is that the British government has already agreed to the settlement and that even in a no-deal scenario, Britain would need to pay both liabilities relating to the existing EU budget, which runs until the end of 2020, and unspent commitments that Britain signed off on as a member state.

In any circumstance, should the UK wish to open talks with the EU over a future relationship, Brussels insists that it would be conditional on full payment.

What Future for the UK with One-Third of Children in Poverty?

Brazil: Bolsonaro fires key moderate who warned of dangers of 'extremism'

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has sacked one of the most prominent moderates in his administration for reportedly failing to ideologically align himself with his commander-in-chief’s radical creed. Gen Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, Bolsonaro’s secretary of government, had repeatedly locked horns with the president’s crotchety US-based guru, Olavo de Carvalho, and was reportedly relieved of his duties on Thursday afternoon.

The move, which sent shockwaves through Brazilian politics, came as Bolsonaro finally broke an almost four-day silence over a still unfolding scandal involving his justice minister Sérgio Moro. ...

The Rio broadsheet O Globo said the sacking was the result of “a lack of political and ideological alignment”. Santos Cruz became embroiled in a public feud with Olavo de Carvalho in March, with the latter launching a succession of foul-mouthed and often infantile Twitter attacks. ...

Santos Cruz’s dismissal came shortly after Bolsonaro offered his backing to another key minister, Sérgio Moro, who has come under fire this week following the Intercept’s revelations. “What he did is priceless. He is part of Brazilian history,” Bolsonaro said in reference to the sprawling Car Wash anti-corruption investigation for which Moro became famous.

However, the Intercept’s editors have vowed to release more compromising material from what they call a “vast trove” of secret documents, leaving Brazil’s political class bracing for further turbulence.

After Exposing 'Corrupted' Brazilian Government, Journalist Glenn Greenwald Faces Deportation Warning and Death Threats

Journalist Glenn Greenwald and his family are receiving death threats over reporting from The Intercept on Brazilian corruption. The "grotesque" threats came days after Greenwald and his colleagues published leaked chats from government officials that appear to show justice minister Sérgio Moro was involved in a plot to keep former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, from entering the country's 2018 presidential race. The reporting has already caused controversy in Brazil and forced Moro to answer difficult questions from the public.

In addition to physical harm, Greenwald, who is American but lived in Brazil for many years, says powerful members of the Brazilian government are also threatening to have him deported because of his journalism. Greenwald's husband, David Miranda, is a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party, and was elected to Brazil's National Congress last year.

In comments to AFP, Greenwald said his family would not be intimidated by the threats and would not leave Brazil. "We have taken all the measures that we feel like we should take for our legal and physical security," said Greenwald. "After that you have to go about and do your work."

Trump Announces Sarah Sanders’ Departure by Saying She Should Run for Governor of Arkansas

It’s been 94 days — barring a phony press conference for literal children — since Sarah Huckabee Sanders has held a White House press briefing. And we may never see one again.

Trump announced that Sanders will leave the White House at the end of the month in two Thursday afternoon tweets, which called on her to run for governor of Arkansas, her home state.

“She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job!” Trump tweeted. “I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas - she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!” But he also got the math wrong, saying she'd been on the job for 3 1/2 years.

Sanders took over as Trump’s second press secretary after Sean Spicer resigned in 2017. During her tenure, she lied or misrepresented facts several times, including one instance, she admitted — her claim that “countless” FBI agents applauded Trump’s decision to fire James Comey.

Special Counsel Says Kellyanne Conway Broke the Law and Should Be Fired

On Thursday, the Office of the Special Counsel publicly called for Donald Trump’s favorite spin woman to be fired, charging that Conway has repeatedly violated the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates and others in her official capacity as an employee of the executive branch. The Hatch Act forbids White House employees — except the president and vice president — from engaging in campaign politics.

“If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position by the Merit Systems Protections Board,” the Office of the Special Counsel (Henry Kerner, not Robert Mueller, who stepped down last month) wrote to President Trump. “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions,” the letter continues. “Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”

Conway apparently responded to the special counsel’s accusations in May by dismissing them. “Blah, blah, blah,” Conway reportedly told the OSC. “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

Wyden Bill to Strip Tax Breaks From Private Prison Industry Profiting From Child Detentions

President Donald Trump's administration continues to detain migrants at the southern border in conditions that one expert believes approximate concentration camps, but those that profit off of migrant detentions may find the spigot of government cash isn't a renewable resource.

A bill proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Thursday would strip private prisons of the ability to be considered real estate investment trusts (REITs). REITs allow for a special tax exemption that sees companies taxed at the individual rather than corporate level—or at the point of dividend payments for shareholders, but not at the point of profits for the companies.

In a statement, Wyden explained why he believed the move was necessary, citing the moral imperative of the moment.

"The private prison industry is booming, particularly with the Trump administration holding more immigrants in detention than any time over nearly the past 20 years," said Wyden. "Companies that profit off of putting children in cages shouldn't get tax breaks."

the horse race

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Campaign Organizers Are Training Working-Class Progressives to Take on the Consultant Class

Lead organizers from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 campaign are taking on the consultant class with a new initiative to train the next generation of progressive organizers and staffers. Movement School, a 10-week professional development program launched by Organize for Justice, the sister organization of Justice Democrats, is teaching fellows how to work as campaign managers, communications directors, and field directors. The Campaign Fellows program is meant to create a pathway for young activists from working-class backgrounds to enter official campaign roles and to preserve the lessons grassroots campaigns have learned throughout the years by passing them down to future staffers — all while setting up an alternative political infrastructure that operates outside of the Democratic Party.

Ironically, the progressive movement’s work to build its own political infrastructure may have been inadvertently accelerated by a policy designed to suppress the party’s insurgent wing. In March, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced a new policy to blacklist any firms working for primary challengers, effectively protecting the party’s white, male incumbents in safe blue seats.

As a result of the DCCC blacklist, several consultants dropped the primary campaign of Marie Newman, the pro-abortion rights progressive who has launched a second challenge to Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the few anti-abortion Democrats in the House. Despite the blacklist, organizations like EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, have still rallied behind Newman’s challenge. A Movement School participant even went on to work for Newman after the trainings.

the evening greens

Flint water crisis: prosecutors drop all criminal charges

Prosecutors stunningly dropped all criminal charges Thursday against eight people in the Flint water scandal and pledged to start the investigation from scratch. The defendants include Michigan’s former health director, Nick Lyon, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter. He was accused of failing to alert the public in a timely manner about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that occurred in 2014 to 2015 when Flint was drawing improperly treated water from the Flint River. That led to residents’ water being tainted with lead.

The Michigan solicitor general, Fadwa Hammoud, who took control of the investigation in January after the election of a new attorney general, said “all available evidence was not pursued” by the previous team of prosecutors. “This week, we completed the transfer into our possession millions of documents and hundreds of new electronic devices, significantly expanding the scope of our investigation,” Hammoud and the Wayne county prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. “Our team’s efforts have produced the most comprehensive body of evidence to date related to the Flint water crisis. We are now in the best possible position to find the answers the citizens of Flint deserve and hold all responsible parties accountable,” they said.

They said it’s possible that Lyon and others could be charged again. ...

Three years after the investigation began, no one is behind bars. Seven of 15 defendants have pleaded no contest to misdemeanors. Their records will eventually be scrubbed clean. Charges were pending against eight people, including the former Michigan chief medical executive Eden Wells and two men who were state-appointed emergency managers in Flint.

Climate Change: Judge Allows New York’s Martin Act Lawsuit Against Exxon to Proceed

New York Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrager yesterday blocked three of Exxon’s four possible affirmative defenses against New York state’s lawsuit for alleged climate fraud. Then-New York state attorney general Barbara Underwood filed the suit under the state’s Martin Act last year (see complaint here), following a three-year investigation by her predecessor, Eric Schneiderman (who was forced to resign his office after several women accused him of physical abuse). Judge Ostrager’s ruling clears the way for current New York attorney general, Letitia James to take the company to trial in October. ...

As Bloomberg reports in Exxon’s Defense Against Climate Change Suit Narrowed by Judge:

Justice Barry Ostrager in Manhattan on Wednesday dismissed three lines of attack by Exxon, including its claim that former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman engaged in “official misconduct” when he started the investigation three years ago as part of an “activist agenda.”

Exxon’s only remaining so-called “affirmative defense” is that the attorney general’s office engaged in selective enforcement when it sued because the probe was brought in bad faith. Such defenses are used to undercut legal claims without addressing the merits of the case.

Judge Ostrager’s rejection of Exxon’s affirmative defenses allows the case to proceed, meaning Exxon now must produce documents in response to New York’s discovery requests, according to this Climate Liability News account, Judge Rejects Exxon Challenges to New York’s Climate Fraud Suit.

Many relevant documents may already have been disclosed, as the commonwealth of Massachusetts is separately pursuing its own climate change litigation. As Vox reported in January in The Supreme Court just declined to hear Exxon Mobil’s appeal in a climate change lawsuit:

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided last April that Exxon would have to start turning over internal documents about its knowledge about the impacts of fossil fuel combustion on the global climate. Exxon appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Massachusetts attorney general doesn’t have jurisdiction to compel the company to release documents.

By refusing to hear Exxon Mobil’s appeal, the United States Supreme Court left the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision standing, requiring the company to begin handing over documents.

Two-hour ‘dose’ of nature significantly boosts health – study

A two-hour “dose” of nature a week significantly boosts health and wellbeing, research suggests, even if you simply sit and enjoy the peace.

The physical and mental health benefits of time spent in parks, woods or the beach are well known, but the new research is the first major study into how long is needed to produce the effect. If confirmed by future research, two hours in nature could join five a day of fruit and veg and 150 minutes of exercise a week as official health advice. ...

“What really amazed us was this was true for just about every group we could think of,” said Dr Mathew White, at the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study. The benefits of a two-hour dose were the same for both young and old, wealthy and poor, and urban and rural people, he said. It also applied to those with long-term illnesses and disabilities, White said. “So getting out in nature seemed to be good for just about everybody. It doesn’t have to be physical exercise – it could be just sitting on a bench.”

The researchers were also surprised that it did not matter whether the two hours in nature were taken in one go or in a series of shorter visits, or whether people went to an urban park, woodlands or the beach.

The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, used data from a Natural England survey, the world’s largest study collecting data on people’s weekly contact with the natural world. It did not include time people spent in their gardens, as this was not measured. But White said half of people saw their gardens as representing more of a chore than a pleasure in any case. The data showed that two hours was the threshold for positive impacts: spending much more than that in natural environments did not appear to have any additional benefits.

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

I Don't Trust This Administration* With a Lemon Zester, Let Alone a War With Iran

Seven Reasons To Be Highly Skeptical Of The Gulf Of Oman Incident

Low-yield nukes lose partisan fight in House committee’s NDAA markup

Australia has been seduced by creeping authoritarianism – and its citizens need to wake up

US Attacks on UN Palestinian Refugee Agency Taking a Toll

Mexico’s Militarized Response to the Migrant Crisis is Starting to Look A Lot Like Trump’s

How New York’s Criminal Justice System Killed a Transgender Woman at Rikers Island

Justice Denied, Delayed, or Done Right? Serious Concerns as Prosecutors Throw Out Charges in Flint Water Crisis Cases

'The Changes Are Really Accelerating': Alaska at Record Warm While Greenland Sees Major Ice Melt

Japan Facing Nightmare Scenario of Longer Lives, Low Unemployment, Less Crowding

'It's long overdue': the first exhibition for Native American female artists

A Little Night Music

Tower of Power - Credit

Tower Of Power - So Very Hard To Go

Tower of Power Horn section on David Letterman - Squib Cakes

Tower Of Power - Soul Vaccination

Tower Of Power - This Time It's Real

Santana w/ Tower Of Power - Knock Yourself Out

Tower of Power - Only So Much Oil In The Ground

Tower Of Power - East Bay Grease

Tower of Power - We came to play / Souled out

Tower Of Power - I Still Be Diggin' on James Brown

Tower Of Power - You Got To Funkifize

Tower Of Power - 1973

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Apparently, American Hitler and his cronies are conspiring with some secret group of “Jewish leaders” to stop British Hitler from becoming prime minister and wiping out all the Jews in Great Britain. Weird, right? But that’s not the weird part, because maybe American Hitler wants to wipe out all the Jews in Great Britain himself, rather than leaving it to British Hitler … Hitlers being notoriously jealous regarding their genocidal accomplishments.

No, the weird part is that everyone knows that American Hitler does not make a move without the approval of Russian Hitler, who is also obsessed with wiping out the Jews, and with destroying the fabric of Western democracy. So why would Russian Hitler want to let American Hitler and his goons thwart the ascendancy of British Hitler, who, in addition to wanting to wipe out all the Jews, also wants to destroy democracy by fascistically refunding the NHS, renationalizing the rail system, and so on?
There are always only two sides in these “worlds” that the ruling classes conjure up for us, and there can be only one official enemy. The official enemy of the moment is “fascism.” Therefore, all the “bad guys” are Hitler, or Nazis, or racists, or anti-Semites, or some other variation of Hitler.

The fact that this “reality” they have conjured up for us is completely psychotic makes it no less real. And it is only going to get more insane until the corporatocracy restores “normality.” So, go ahead, if you consider yourself “normal,” and try to force your mind to believe that Jews are no longer safe in Great Britain, or in Germany, or France, or the USA, and that Donald Trump is a Russian asset, and is also literally Adolf Hitler, and an anti-Semitic white supremacist who is conspiring with Israel and Saudi Arabia in their campaign to destroy Iran and Syria, which are allies of his Russian masters, as is Venezuela, which he is also menacing, and that Jeremy Corbyn’s secret plan is to turn the UK into Nazi Germany, with the support of Trump, who is trying to destroy him, and that the Yellow Vests are Russian-backed fascists, and that Julian Assange is a rapist spy who conspired with Russia to get Trump elected, which is why Trump wants to prosecute him, just as soon as he finishes wiping out the Jews, or protecting them from Jeremy Corbyn, or from Iran, or brainwashing Black Americans into reelecting him in 2020 with a handful of Russian Facebook ads.

Go ahead, try to reconcile all that … or whatever, don’t. Just take whatever medication you happen to be on, crank up CNN, MSNBC, or any other corporate media channel, and report me to the Internet Police for posting dangerous “extremist” content. You know, in your heart, I probably deserve it.

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joe shikspack's picture


heh, it seems that we are living in the midst of an information war where quite a number of competing generals are running propaganda. in a way it's sort of amusing since nobody seems to be able at this point to completely enforce a dominant narrative.

but they're working on it.

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NCTim reminded us this morning that it's Flag Day. We should have a False Flag day, too, so that more Americans understand the concept. Think Congress will vote for that? Think the POTUS--whoever he or she may be at the time--would sign it?

Granted, Trump is an asshat. However, people need to stop talking about his administration as though it were unique. You don't trust Trump's administration to go to war with Iran? But you trusted Obama's administration to go to war with six or seven Middle Eastern nations with no declaration of war by Congress? Why? You trusted prior administrations to impose sanctions on Iran? Why?

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@HenryAWallace last bit, poor Charlie pierce lost his shit a while ago and it appears it's gone for good. Trump derangement syndrome has so many uses, doesn't It? Idiot America indeed Charlie....

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Only a fool lets someone else tell him who his enemy is. Assata Shakur


When all Democrats and all leftists opposed Bush, the divide was all but invisible. Once Obama took office, the divide between "Blue, no matter who" and the left became more and more obvious. And rightist Democratic attacks on the Democratic left and those left of Democrats became more and more shrill, even as they became more and more inane.

IMO, Pierce is a brilliant writer. Politically, he's blue, no matter who, masquerading as a leftist as long as he can--almost right up until the rubber hits the road. Moreover, he is not a "this Democratic candidate is a waste of skin, but nonetheless better than a Republican" type. Rather, he is the type who says he voted for Sanders in the primary and praises Obama in February and then writes this pack of lies about Hillary in May:

As flawed a candidate as she is, Hillary Rodham Clinton has run a strong and decent campaign for president. If she wins the nomination, as seems increasingly likely, she will have deserved to win it. (Of course, this also means that she will run for president against He, Trump, which nobody deserves, but that's the way things go this year.)

Also in May 2016: A column entitled It's time for Bernie's people to calm down. Attacking the supporters of a candidate, rather than only the candidate--Right out of the Hillary Clinton play book.

Strong primary campaign? She fucking hid out most of the time and drew crowds of fives of people, mostly her own staffers. Decent primary campaign? You have to be kidding. Deserved to win the primary? Yeah, like dictators who win Presidential elections by over 90% of the vote win "fair and square."

IMO, Pierce is far too intelligent and too close a watcher of politics to believe that crap about Hillary above. Even if he did not have sources, which I would bet he does. So, IMO, he is a dishonest shill, albeit a highly readable one. I don't think Pierce lost his shit, any more than I think Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or Rachel Maddow lost theirs. (Or the less gifted Thom Hartmann, Cenk Uygur and Stephanie Miller lost theirs). I think Pierce is just another political commenter who bit the dust in my estimation once the divide between rightist Democrats and the left became apparent.

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joe shikspack's picture


heh. nobody should be trusted with the sort of unilateral military power that chief executives have exercised since the dawn of the national security state.

the founding generation was quite clear about that, they had a remedy for it enshrined in the constitution.

limiting that sort of power is precisely what democracy is for and why the powers-that-be have worked so assiduously to rid the system of all but purely symbolic exercises of it.

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dystopian's picture

@HenryAWallace What a great idea HAW! False Flag Day. We really need one. Max Blumenthal I think it was listed some in a tweet the other day and Pompeo jumped on him for it. Every one is well known and proven. Yet here were are with another it seems.

We really should get the progressives together on creating one, if people can make 420 a day, we can do it with False Flag Day. Everyone needs to be reminded about each and every one and
should know them by heart.

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

ggersh's picture

cuz tswhtf big time.

tRump and co. haven't a clue, fuckin idiots.

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tRump amerika's last president

voting in ameriKa is an illusion

I'm fairly sure that the R's have finally figured out
that the D's are no longer necessary

snoopydawg's picture


Iran can't just sit by while its citizens are dying from lack of everything and mostly medications. Eventually they will have to do something about it, but one thing that b didn't talk about was the sailors on the Japanese ship said that they saw something hit the ship from the air. Eye witness accounts should have more weight than the grainy video that looks to be fake.

The only consequences of the Iraq sanctions that we heard were the 500,000 children, but how many adults were also killed because of them? Women who had breast cancer couldn't get treatment and I'm sure that people with other cancers couldn't either. Diabetics? Were they able to get insulin? There is a reason why sanctions on countries are considered an act of war.

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"I will be the best, the best, you know, you know the thing!”
- Joe Biden

Grope and Hope

joe shikspack's picture


yep, i read that earlier today. it's an interesting and plausible speculation, but with all of the players in this drama each with compelling motives to mount provocations, it's hard to say that one scenario is really the most likely at this point.

it does appear that iran has a far better grasp on how to perform diplomacy than the bunch of clowns that the u.s. employs do, and that may ultimately leave them with the upper hand.

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snoopydawg's picture

I don't know why our government doesn't think that Russia would have a problem with our aggressive moves in Poland and elsewhere close to its borders. This is a direct threat to their country and people and yet here we are... I'm sure that we'd have a huge problem if Russia put troops in Mexico and Canada. Putin has stated that if war happens that Russia will be standing afterwards. I think we should believe him.

500 more f-35 that can't fly in combat? Swell..lots of someone's are getting lots of money to keep this boondoggle going.

America Is Stuck With a $400 Billion Stealth Fighter That Can’t Fight

Here’s something the public didn’t know until today: If one of the U.S. military’s new F-35 stealth fighters has to climb at a steep angle in order to dodge an enemy attack, design flaws mean the plane might suddenly tumble out of control and crash.

Also, some versions of the F-35 can’t accelerate to supersonic speed without melting their own tails or shedding the expensive coating that helps to give the planes their radar-evading qualities.

The Pentagon’s $400-billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, one of the biggest and most expensive weapons programs in history, has come under fire, so to speak, over more than a decade for delays, rising costs, design problems and technical glitches.

But startling reports by trade publication Defense News on Wednesday revealed flaws that previously only builder Lockheed Martin, the military, and the plane’s foreign buyers knew about.

The problems might also help to explain why acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan reportedly described the F-35 program as “fucked up.

Ayup. I would say that this is F'cked up. Say..isn't Patrick from Lockheed or is that Boeing? Gotta hand it to Trump. He sure knows who to put in charge of each position to let people know what their old jobs used to be.

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"I will be the best, the best, you know, you know the thing!”
- Joe Biden

Grope and Hope

joe shikspack's picture


there are people within the pentagon and the u.s. government both elected and unelected who have been kicking around for years trying to get a war on with russia. they're lunatics, but they are prevalent and have weaseled their way into every nook and cranny of the system.

the fact that there has not been an ugly exchange of hostilities to this point is nigh unto miraculous.

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dystopian's picture

@snoopydawg The US just warned the UK about blistering paint when flown supersonic for extended periods. Then you are losing the stealth. This boondoggle is the same as the Boeing 737 Max thing. In that a bunch of mistakes that should have been obvious were ignored. To make money now. That new 4 billion $ boat doesn't work either, and they ordered three more. Can you imagine? Something is not performing properly, and ordering more 'to get a better deal', on the shat! We have run off the rails of the crazy train of capitalism.

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

enhydra lutris's picture

With no apologies to Chicago, "the" horn section of our time.

Here's a little 82/83 New Year's Trifecta:

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

thanks for the tunes!

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dystopian's picture

Love them horns! They were sooooo good!

One of the great all-time horn sections.

Fairly exasperated with the shitshow of our clusterfk nation. Do we do anything right? Do we ever take the high road and just do the right thing, or is everything guided by ulterior motives, with profit being the prime directive? U.S. military flights operating out of the Galapagos!

The legal pot folks have a hard time using their money, but when the governments seize it in an asset forfeiture without even a conviction, no problemo spending it on themselves. So money laundering depends on who is doing it. Thanks Joe Biden.

I guess we are exceptional at hypocrisy.

Have a great weekend! Thanks for the great tunes. At least we have that.

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

joe shikspack's picture


Fairly exasperated with the shitshow of our clusterfk nation.

yep, that's why i'm glad it's the weekend.

have a good one!

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enhydra lutris's picture

a lying right wing sack of shit? Almost makes you wish it would happen.

0 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

a fitting successor to bill clinton, ready to follow in his prevaricating footsteps, no doubt.

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snoopydawg's picture

Senators Switched Key Votes On Gulf Arms Ban Hours After Tanker Attacks

A brief report from's Eric Garris suggests Thursday's tanker attack incident in the Gulf of Oman which the United States promptly blamed on Iran has directly impacted bills placed before the Senate which would ban US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar.

Garris wrote of the vote which came hours after the Gulf tankers incident: "Both votes were considered highly likely to pass up until they were rushed to the floor today. The timing appears almost certainly to have been related to Thursday tanker bombings in the Gulf of Oman, and shifted a number of Senators’ votes in favor of continuing the arms sales." He noted that "some senators switched sides to kill the bills" following news of the tanker attacks.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected Sen. Rand Paul’s measures to block sales of munitions to Bahrain and Boeing AH–64E Apache helicopters to Qatar.

The vote on Bahrain was 43-56 and Qatar 42-57, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., announced their opposition Thursday. The White House earlier this week threatened to veto the measures.

The Kentucky Republican and prominent Libertarian argued passionately that the US should not be supporting authoritarian governments who are known backers of extremists and who are conducting mass atrocities in Yemen. Sen. Paul has repeatedly called on Congress and the White House to "stop arming radical jihadism".

“Dumping more weapons into the Middle East won’t get us any closer to peace,” Paul said. “A ‘yes’ vote today is a vote for sanity. A ‘yes’ vote is a vote to quit sending arms to people who abuse human rights.”

“What are they doing with all the weapons we give them? They’re bombing civilians in Yemen,” he said. “They have been using our bombs and up until recently they were refueling their bombers with our planes. We’ve got no business in the war in Yemen. Congress never voted on it. It is unauthorized, it is unconstitutional and we have no business aiding the Saudis in this massacre.” Sen. Rand Paul

The weapons are not going to be used against Iran and everyone who voted against the bill knew that. They are going to be used for the continuation of the Yemen genocide and anyone who voted that way deserves to fry in hell for it! Gawd this makes me so f'cking angry.

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"I will be the best, the best, you know, you know the thing!”
- Joe Biden

Grope and Hope

joe shikspack's picture


gosh, it's like they want to be manipulated.

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Azazello's picture

I'm going on vacation.
No computer, digital detox.
See you in a couple weeks.
I used to play some pool, always liked this cover.


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mimi's picture

big heads all around. I wonder whose heads explode first, mine or their's.

So, I thought, how to get those big heads a little smaller. And I remembered a 'shrunken head', which I saw in the bedroom of a cousin of mine when I was around 13 years old and just wondered how this head ended up in his bedroom. I think his parents brought it back home from a round trip ship tour to South America as a souvenir.

That reminded me that one should look for the wisdom and skills of indigeous people to shrink heads.

Reading through a couple of links about 'Shrinking Heads', I also learned about the origins of the word 'Shrink'. You know the people who help you figuring out what makes your big head explode, they shrink your head, so to speak. So, never underestimate the wisdom of indigeous peoples' skills of how to shrink some big heads.

My head definitely needs some shrinking now. Have a good weekend, all. Warning: The news articles you are gathering (which are excellent and needed) will make your head explode. And we don't want that to happen.

Just watch the birds in a park and sit on a bank and have a look over the water from a little hill. It helps. As even one of your articles describes and has proven. And basically that article proves something that I think many people can confirm to be true.

Oh boy, that was a dynamite collection. Good morning from Germany.

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