The Evening Blues - 6-7-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b band The Valentinos. Enjoy!
The Valentinos - Lookin' For A Love
"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent."
-- Gore Vidal
News and Opinion
When Officer William Chatman, of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, walked into the atrium of the D.C. Superior Court on May 21, heads turned. A few minutes earlier, he had testified in the trial of four people accused of rioting in downtown Washington during Donald Trump’s inauguration; it was the second trial group to face a jury. In accordance with Metro Police rules, Chatman had pulled another “cover shirt” over his uniform after concluding his testimony. ... Under an image of a nightstick enlaced with a pair of handcuffs, it read, in capital letters, “Police brutality … or doing what their parents should have?” ...
Before donning his infamous T-shirt, Chatman had offered key testimony for the J20 prosecution. Chatman narrated the events of January 20, 2017, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff played police body camera footage for the jury — images of black-clad protesters wreaking havoc along 13th Street. A member of the Civil Disturbance Unit, Chatman rode behind the marchers on a Harley-Davidson 883 motorcycle during the protest. Throughout his testimony, he referred to the defendants as “rioters,” even after Judge Kimberley Knowles sustained a defense objection to that term. “These are experienced rioters,” he said at one point, after the judge’s ruling.
It “seemed as if there were people in charge” of the group, Chatman testified. They were issuing “commands” to fellow marchers: “‘Let’s go, break that, grab that, get this’ — things of that nature,” Chatman explained. His testimony is central to the prosecution’s argument that J20 protesters were a well-organized and purposeful group, consistent with the legal definitions of “riot” and “conspiracy” — a novel approach used by the government to indict hundreds of people on felony charges for the alleged criminal acts of a select few.
In a week of high courtroom drama, Chatman’s T-shirt may have seemed like a sideshow. The government’s case against the J20 defendants continues to unravel. The first tranche of J20 defendants was found innocent by a jury, and shortly thereafter, charges against 129 other protesters were dropped. Last week, a judge sanctioned prosecutors for failing to turn over some 69 recordings of potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense, a violation of pretrial discovery rules. ... Amid this confusion and prosecutorial malfeasance, the T-shirt story epitomized another budding theme of the J20 case: The government’s reliance on police witnesses with apparent proclivities toward extreme politics — and, in Chatman’s case, a past brush with accusations of police brutality.
“These cases were always about right-wing police and prosecutors following Trump’s lead to go after left-wing protesters using a broad theory of liability,” said Mark Goldstone, an attorney for multiple J20 defendants. “So it’s no surprise that a police witness would express such political hostility.”
“What is surprising,” Goldstone added, “is the stupidity of an officer showing up in court wearing that shirt.”
The dominant U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish party in control of northeastern Syria is prepared to hold talks with the Syrian government over the future of the area, senior Kurdish officials said Wednesday. A Damascus-based political group called the "Syrian Democratic Front," which is seen as close to the government, visited the Kurdish-led administration to "start a dialogue" with the government, said Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria.
The proposition comes days after Turkey and the United States agreed on a "roadmap" to resolve a dispute over the northern Syrian town of Manbij, which is controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, Washington's main ally in Syria. "The aim would ... be to develop a Syrian-Syrian solution and close the door on conflicts and wars," said Aldar Khalil, a senior Kurdish official.
Ahmed suggested time may be ripe for dialogue with the Syrian government, which has opposed the Turkey-U.S. deal on Manbij. The Kurdish-led administration is under pressure to clarify its relationship with Damascus after U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to withdraw U.S. troops from eastern Syria.
Syrian President Bashar Assad's government has oscillated between reaching out to the Kurds and lashing out at them for collaborating with the Americans. Last year, the Syrian foreign minister said self-administration for the Kurds is "negotiable." Damascus has also sharply criticized a Turkey-backed offensive against a Syrian Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria, and left roads open for the movement of aid and people out of the Kurdish enclave.
A U.N. peace plan for Yemen calls on the Houthi movement to give up its ballistic missiles in return for an end to the bombing campaign against it by a Saudi-led coalition and a transitional governance agreement, according to a draft document and sources.
The plan, which has not been made public and could be modified, is the latest effort to end Yemen’s three-year-old civil war, which has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. ...
The document also cites plans to create a transitional government, in which “political components shall be adequately represented,” in an apparent nod to the Houthis, who would be unlikely to cede Sanaa without participation in a future government. ...
The draft document calls for establishing an inclusive transition government, led by an agreed-upon prime minister, “in which political components shall be adequately represented”.
With Senate Democrats having already stated their intentions to interfere in the upcoming Trump-Kim summit, the House of Representatives now also has a bipartisan bill which seems aimed at complicating the deal.
The bill, which is being backed by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Mike McCaul (R-TX), and is being called the North Korea Nuclear Baseline Act. The bill would require President Trump to present a full, detail report on every North Korean nuclear weapon, and where it is. The bill would also demand repeated updates. ...
With Trump saying that the denuclearization probably will happen in several steps, these recurring reports would be a constant chance for opponents to argue it’s not happening fast enough.
Donald Trump has let it be known he is coming to this year’s summit of the world’s rich liberal democracies spoiling for a fight, and he does not mind wrecking established practice and old alliances if it plays well among his supporters. This year’s conclave, opening on Friday, is being referred to as the G6 plus one, or the G7 minus one. It promises to be a showdown between the US president and everyone else. ...
The Canadian host, Justin Trudeau, is seeking to make common cause with leaders from Europe and Japan against Trump’s “America First” unilateralism – in particular, his use of tariffs against traditional trading partners under the pretext that their exports represent a security threat to the US. Trump’s reference to the 1814 burning of the White House, in a phone call with the Canadian prime minister, to justify steel and aluminium tariffs two centuries later suggests that facts are unlikely to play a significant role in the looming row (the British were the actual arsonists) and that the US president is seeking to stoke the row rather than defuse it.
Trudeau, like his European colleagues Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, are stymied. On the one hand, public opinion at home demands they stand up to Trump’s bullying. The imposition of tariffs is just the latest in a series of blows: Trump has already walked out of the Paris climate accord and abrogated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, imposing sanctions on any European company that continues to do business with Tehran. He has also broken with US allies in recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On the other hand, the Europeans, Canadians and Japanese cannot afford an escalation that turns into a full-blown trade war with a nation that accounts for more than half of the G7’s combined GDP. “They have little choice than to respond, but at the same time they are shooting themselves in the foot,” said Sebastian Mallaby, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations thinktank. “Everyone loses from this except China and Russia.”
In a Sunday interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German Chancellor Angela Merkel replied to proposals for European Union (EU) policy made by French President Emmanuel Macron in a speech last September at the Sorbonne in Paris. These proposals will be discussed in an EU summit in Brussels later this month. For a half year after that speech, Berlin did not reply, as Germany’s main bourgeois parties fought over how to form a government. In the meantime, the crisis of the EU has intensified. Not only is Washington threatening China and the EU with a potentially catastrophic trade war and threatening all-out war across the Middle East by scrapping the Iran nuclear treaty, but the EU’s disintegration is accelerating. Two years after Brexit, a far-right government that is hostile to the euro has taken office in Italy, the third-largest EU economy.
At the same time, there are escalating protests and strikes across Europe, with mass protests against Macron’s cuts in France, and strikes against wage austerity in airlines across Europe, as well as in the metalworking and automobile sectors threatened by US trade tariffs. Thus, via Merkel’s FAZ interview, the two largest EU powers were trying to coordinate a response to the prospect of the greatest combination of wars, economic shocks and class struggles since the EU’s founding in 1992. But the EU is politically bankrupt. While Merkel endorsed Macron’s calls for hundreds of billions of euros in new military spending and vindictive anti-immigrant policies, she did not resolve bitter conflicts that erupted inside the European ruling class a decade ago, after the 2008 Wall Street crash, in the Greek sovereign debt crisis. ...
Merkel endorsed Macron’s calls for a military build-up: “I am in favor of President Macron's proposal for an intervention initiative. ... Merkel signaled that this would mean Paris reorienting away from Washington and towards Berlin, however. Criticizing France’s decision to join the United States and Britain in going to war in Libya in 2011, which her government did not do, Merkel said: “In the 2011 intervention in Libya and for a time during the strikes in Syria, the French preferred to deal with Britons and Americans rather than with more partners. That seems to be France’s culture on waging interventions. But if you want to work with more partners, you also have to decide together.”
Merkel endorsed the immigration policy of Macron, who passed a drastic asylum law effectively giving police veto powers over asylum proceedings, and called for a common EU refugee policy and migration authority. ... She called to reinforce the EU’s Frontex border police, whose policies have left thousands of refugees to drown in the Mediterranean: “The EU border protection agency Frontex must in the medium term become a true European border police with European-wide powers. That means that the European border police must have the right to independently operate at the EU’s external borders.”
On Macron’s financial demands, however, Merkel gave fairly little. She proposed a European investment fund controlling “tens of billions” of euros—10 times less than Macron wanted. She endorsed calls for building an EMF as an alternative to the US-led IMF. ... She also indicated that the German parliament should retain its right to veto and impose further austerity measures in proposed EMF bank bailouts, as during the Greek debt crisis in 2009-2015. “The EMF should be organized on an inter-state basis, with the corresponding rights for national parliaments,” Merkel said. Merkel’s replies put paid to whatever illusions existed among Macron’s supporters that his proposals would reshape the architecture of European capitalism. Ten years after the Wall Street crash and the eruption of the Greek debt crisis, it has nothing to propose but deeper austerity and attacks on democratic rights at home, and militarism abroad.
Italy’s New Prime Minister Conte Says Euro Exit Off the Table, But Mr. Market Pouts About Spending Talk
In his inaugural speech before Parliament, Italy’s new prime minister, Guiseppe Conte, stressed his populist bona fides while moderating some of the positions that ruling coalition members 5 Star and Lega, had adopted during their campaign. The most striking was that Conte walked back the idea of a possible Euro exit, as well as delaying and diluting a key 5 Star promise, that of an income guarantee.
However, a more measured populist stance wasn’t enough to satisfy Mr. Market, since Conte stressed that Italy wants to renegotiate some of the Eurozone economic rules of the road, with getting more spending wriggle room a key demand. Interest rates on Italy’s two year government bond rose 22 basis points after Conte’s speech, to 1.02%. ...
The government has promised to fight a good fight with the Eurozone overlords to get more spending and growth for the benefit of ordinary Italians and Europeans generally. As numerous commentators have pointed out, Italy’s weak spot is its wobbly banks, which would become even more wobbly if Italian bond prices were to fall because Mr. Market disapproved of the government’s economic plans. I’m not sure how the coalition can square this circle, since even introducing a parallel currency designed only for domestic use, to allow for more spending, could spook the horses. But Conte also appears to be signaling that the coalition will proceed in a deliberate manner, and steady pressure is probably the only way to force the Germany and its allied to relent on some of their deeply held but sorely misguided ideas.
The myriad problems with the U.S. healthcare system aren’t the fault of any one person. But every so often, an industry executive spouts something so wrong-headed, it shines a helpful light on what we’re up against. Heather Bresch, chief executive of the drug company Mylan, maker of EpiPens, stepped into it Monday in a CNN podcast.
After about 40 minutes of benign, getting-to-know-you questions, interviewer Poppy Harlow finally got around to asking about the lingering stink that surrounds Bresch having jacked up the price of life-saving EpiPens by more than 400%. Mylan didn’t invent the devices. It bought the rights to sell them in 2007. Bresch tap danced a little, talking about how the price hike was justified because of a brand-awareness campaign and a package redesign. She then slid past her money-grubbing behavior and focused instead on her company’s sensitive and caring response to public outrage.
After hearing that people were angry about Mylan raising the price of a two-pack of EpiPens from about $100 to more than $600, Bresch said Mylan didn’t hesitate to bring out a generic version of the EpiPen that sold for just $300. ... In August of that year, members of Congress started asking Mylan about the more than 400% markup of EpiPens. A week later, it was reported that Bresch’s total compensation as CEO soared by nearly 700% — from $2.5 million in 2007 to almost $19 million in 2015 — as EpiPens grew more and more expensive. ...
If you’re catching hell for more than quintupling the price of a drug for which you did no research to create, do you really get points for merely tripling the price? I don’t think so. Moreover, Mylan was profitably selling EpiPens in Canada and Europe for a fraction of the U.S. price. Again, the company had done no R&D. All it did was purchase the rights to the device. ...
Bresch painted herself as a victim of a broken system. “I wasn't going to be apologetic for operating in the system that existed,” she said. “What I decided to do was put my effort and energy to … talk about what needed to be fixed.” As for her sky-high increase in pay as she was gouging patients, she said people should be happy that a woman in the drug industry was making as much as the guys. #YouGoGirl. I’d love to say that CNN called Bresch on all this nonsense, but it didn’t. It gave her an hour’s worth of podcast time to sing her own praises and rewrite history.
A conservative Stanford University professor coordinated with a group of Republican student activists to conduct "opposition research" against a progressive activist and undergraduate student, according to a report by the Stanford Daily.
The report, based on leaked emails between the professor — British political commentator Niall Ferguson — and Stanford studens John Rice-Cameron and Max Minshull, shows that the three teamed up to get information on a student they viewed as a threat to an on-campus program called Cardinal Conversations. Cardinal Conversations, run by the right-leaning Hoover Institution, aims to bring conservative speakers to the campus.
Ferguson resigned from his position as a faculty adviser on the program's steering committee after the emails were revealed to the university.
— Rob Rogers (@Rob_Rogers) June 1, 2018
U.S. Border Patrol agents made 51,912 arrests in May for illegal crossings, the third month in a row the number has topped 50,000 amid a new “zero tolerance” policy and agents separating families caught crossing illegally. The Trump administration — like previous administrations — uses the arrest numbers as the best gauge of whether illegal crossings are going up or down, though there is no precise measure of illegal crossings because some people aren’t caught.
The border arrest figures are made up of people who are stopped at land crossings and other official points of entry, according to federal data. The May tally was more than triple the number from April 2017, which was the lowest on record since the Homeland Security Department was created in 2003.
The debate over immigration reached a fever pitch in recent months following reports that since October hundreds of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border have been separated from their parents. The number of separated minors was expected to jump after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would enforce criminal charges against people crossing the border illegally with few or no previous offenses. Under U.S. protocol, if parents are jailed, their children would be separated from them.
The U.N. human rights office on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to halt the policy, insisting there is “nothing normal about detaining children.”
A South Dakota lawmaker on Monday said businesses should be able to turn away customers based on race. In a Facebook comment, state Rep. Michael Clark, a Hartford Republican, said business owners should have the final say in who they serve. Clark later pulled the Facebook comment. And an hour after the Argus Leader published a story about the comment, he issued an email apology to a reporter.
Clark's initial comment came in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow decision Monday siding with a Colorado baker that refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding. "He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants," Clark wrote. "If he wants to turn away people of color, then that('s) his choice." Clark posted a story and in the description celebrated the decision as a "win for freedom of speech and freedom of religion." ...
In an interview with the Argus Leader, Clark said that business owners with strongly-held beliefs should be able to turn away customers. “If it’s truly his strongly based belief, he should be able to turn them away,” Clark said. “People shouldn’t be able to use their minority status to bully a business."
The New York Times demonstrates its laughable "journalistic ethics" again:
Eight overt white nationalists are running for office in 2018—a new record, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Overt fascists, inspired by the rise of President Donald Trump, have found a place both within and just outside the margins of the official Republican Party. ... With the increase on the US right in overt Nazi activity, one might be surprised to see the paper of record (New York Times, 5/29/18) turn its sights not on this disturbing trend, but on progressive candidate Leslie Cockburn, whose criticism of Israel is being cynically exploited by her opponents in the Republican Party—the same party increasingly finding common cause with a host of white nationalists, alt-right and “alt-light” elements.
Let’s begin with the headline, “Democratic Candidate Who Criticized Israel Faces Charges of Antisemitism.” It’s rare for political reporters to let partisan opponents wholly manufacture a controversy, much less frame it, but when it does happen—as it did in January 2016 when the Times let a number of Clinton operatives smear Sanders as a Commie infiltrator (FAIR.org, 5/25/16)—one can be certain it will be against a left-leaning candidate. The very existence of this piece makes little sense. The only people in the 1,100-word report who think Cockburn is an antisemite are operatives for the Virginia Republican Party, who have an obvious political agenda. Times reporters Thomas Kaplan and Michael Tackett can’t find a single independent or third-party talking head to accuse Cockburn of antisemitism and the very meeting that frames the piece is expressly said by its attendees to not be about antisemitism, but about Israel:
“None of us think she’s antisemitic,” said Sherry Kraft, one of the organizers of the meeting. “That’s not even an issue. It’s more where are you about Israel.”
OK—so the story isn’t about “charges of antisemitism,” it’s about criticism of Israel. The headline—which is the only thing a majority of people will read—ought to have said, “Democratic Candidate Questioned About Criticism of Israel.” Instead, criticism of a Middle Eastern government is sloppily conflated with being racist—an equation advanced by the story’s claim that “Mr. Trump has used his Middle East policies to try to drive a wedge between Jewish voters and the Democratic Party.” ...
There are real, honest-to-god racists in our midst, and they come almost entirely from the right. This likely explains why those running the GOP messaging machine would be so quick to label others’ antisemitic, a sleazy deflection tactic one would expect from a party increasingly associated with white nationalism. What one wouldn’t expect—or at least shouldn’t have to—is that the most influential paper in the English-speaking world would assist such an obvious and cynical smear.
An excellent article worth a full read. Here's a small taste:
Animal Rights Activists Face Multiple Felony Charges, Brought by Prosecutors With Ties to Smithfield Foods
Six animal rights activists in California have been charged with multiple felony counts in two separate criminal cases brought by Utah prosecutors last month. If convicted, they could face many years in prison. These charges raise serious questions about whether prosecutors are attempting to unconstitutionally punish the activists for filming, documenting, and exposing abuses by the agricultural industry that dominates the state, and particularly whether the prosecutors have acted with improper motives because of their own extensive ties to that industry.
The first criminal case, reported by The Intercept last month, was brought by Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels. It charges six activists with two felony charges that, at least as provided by the cited statutes, carry possible prison terms of five years each. ... The second criminal case, reported by the Washington Post last month, was brought by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, led by state Attorney General Sean Reyes. It charges five of the same activists with five separate felony charges, including “rioting,” racketeering, and felony theft. These charges, accumulated together, could conceivably entail sentences of decades in prison. ...
While filming at the Smithfield-owned farm, the activists, following the same “open rescue” model that they used for the recuse of the three Norbest turkeys, took two extremely sick piglets who were near death. They filmed themselves doing so, and then published videos of the rescue and the piglets’ slow recovery into playful, happy, healthy animals after they received veterinarian care and placement at a sanctuary. ... In neither of the two cases did the activists take anything of commercial value. All five of the animals they rescued were virtually certain to die within days if not hours: well before they could get to the slaughterhouse and be turned into comercially marketable food. ...
So why are animal activists who took nothing of commercial value, and who injured nobody, facing multiple felony charges and many years in prison? How can that conduct possibly be defined under the law to constitute felony theft, rioting, and racketeering? And how is it possible to criminalize activism that – as its only goal and only outcome – reports on, reveals and documents the secret, abusive practices of powerful corporations?
The answers to all of those question lie in the same grim reality that has corrupted so much of American democracy: namely, lawmakers, the legislative process, and the justice system are controlled by the most powerful corporate actors, which abuse and exploit democratic and legal processes for their own interests. That includes abusing the power of the criminal law to punish those who criticize these industries, report on them, and dissent from their practices.
US geologists have identified the moment of the dinosaurs’ death in the Earth’s deep past as the time when the climate changed, even faster and more severely than it is changing as a consequence of human action. That fateful moment occurred on the day around 65 million years ago when a vast comet or asteroid smashed into Earth over what is now Chicxulub in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and brought the Cretaceous era to a close.
The scientists used tiny bits of fish scales, teeth and bones to compose a temperature chart for the last 50,000 years of the Cretaceous, and the first 100,000 years of the Palaeogene, when planet Earth changed forever. The planetary average temperatures rose around 5°C [9 F] and stayed perilously hotter for at least another 100,000 years, and in the course of this the last dinosaurs disappeared, as if violently wiped out in one short episode. ...
The researchers report in the journal Science that they see this fateful celestial traffic accident as “an unusually relevant natural experiment to compare to modern climatic and environmental changes.” ...
Climate change happens because of tectonic plate movements, or shifts in planetary orbit, or dramatic losses of oxygen in the oceans, but these changes often happen imperceptibly, over very long periods. But the change associated with the human expansion and the profligate combustion of fossil fuels – sometimes called the Great Acceleration – in the last 200 years is far, far faster.
Thanks to evidence from the last days of the Cretaceous, though, climate scientists have found an accelerated change even faster than anything humans have yet managed. So the latest study provides, the scientists say, “a perspective on the response of Earth systems to extremely rapid global perturbations.” So far, that is all it provides: a perspective. There are many more questions to be settled before the dying convulsions of the dinosaurs become a model for what might happen to humanity in the coming century.
Four weeks. - That's how long the Environmental Protection Agency has to "promptly perform a search and produce the documents" in its possession that underpin Administrator Scott Pruitt's claim that human activity is not a "primary contributor" to the climate crisis, and any studies that support that assertion. The directive comes from a federal court order (pdf), issued Friday, which smacks down the EPA's efforts to reject a FOIA request from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The group first filed that request on March 10, 2017—that's a day after Pruitt, speaking in his official capacity, said on CNBC: "I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."
Beryl Howell, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, dismissed the EPA's characterization of the FOIA request as "an interrogation" with "simply a reach too far." Instead, she wrote, it was a fair request that reasonably describes the records sought and creates no undue burden, so the EPA is not legally justified in its lack of compliance.
Plastic and traces of hazardous chemicals have been found in Antarctica, one of the world’s last great wildernesses, according to a new study. Researchers spent three months taking water and snow samples from remote areas of the continent earlier this year. These have now been analysed and researchers have confirmed the majority contained “persistent hazardous chemicals” or microplastics.
The findings come amid growing concern about the extent of the plastic pollution crisis which scientists have warned risks “permanent contamination” of the planet.
Seven of the eight sea-surface water samples tested contained microplastics such as microfibres. Seven of the nine snow samples tested contained detectable concentrations of the persistent hazardous chemicals – polyfluorinated alkylated substances, or PFAS.
Researchers said the chemicals are widely used in many industrial processes and consumer products and have been linked to reproductive and developmental issues in wildlife. They said the snow samples gathered included freshly fallen snow, suggesting the hazardous chemicals had come from contaminated rain or snowfall.
Prof Alex Rogers, a specialist in sustainable oceans at the Oxford Martin school, Oxford University, said the discovery of plastics and chemicals in Antarctica confirmed that manmade pollutants were now affecting ecosystems in every corner of the world.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Valentinos - It's All Over Now
The Valentinos - Sweeter Than The Day Before
The Valentinos - What about Me
The Valentinos - I'll Make It Alright
The Valentinos - Bitter Dreams
The Valentinos - Darling, Come Back Home
Bobby Womack Of The Valentinos - I Found A True Love
The Valentinos - Let's Get Together
The Valentinos - I'm Gonna Forget About You