The Evening Blues - 7-14-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and soul singer Syl Johnson. Enjoy!
Syl Johnson - Come On, Sock It To Me
“Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.”
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
News and Opinion
Jesus Horatio Christ - would somebody please tell these idiot Clinton dead-enders that Hillary's loss of an election is not a reason to annihilate every living thing on the planet?
Long-time Clinton family ally Paul Begala on Wednesday evening seemingly suggested President Trump should consider bombing Russia in response to the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 election.
“We were and are under attack by a hostile foreign power,” he said, “and... we should be debating how many sanctions we should place on Russia or whether we should blow up the KGB, GSU, or GRU [Russia’s foreign intelligence agency].”
Oh hell, why would Paul Begala care? He's probably got a luxury bunker to ride out the storm in.
Survival Condo founder Larry Hall has designed bunkers for his wealthy clients to use to protect themselves in the event of a natural disaster or nuclear wars.
Rather than being utilitarian, the spaces which are buried deep underground in an abandoned missile launch base in Kansas in the US, include a swimming pool and a cinema.
[Click the link above to see the video that won't embed. -js]
For more than a year now, the collective U.S. ruling class, with Democratic Party and corporate media operatives in the vanguard, has frozen the national political discourse in a McCarthyite time warp. A random visit to a July 26, 2016, issue of the New York Times reveals the same obsession as that which consumes the newspaper today: “Following the Links from Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election,” “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C.” A year later, the allegations persist, piled ever higher with innuendo and outright nonsense. However, proof of the predicate act -- that Russia, not Wikileaks, penetrated the DNC -- remains totally absent.
What is the purpose of this torture-by-media? Clearly, the Trump White House has been crippled by the tsunami that never ebbs, but the Democrats have not been strengthened in the process, and the corporate media’s standing among the public erodes by the day. A poll conducted last month showed majorities of voters want Congress to ease up on Russia investigations and get to work on healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs. Almost three out of four respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said lawmakers aren’t paying attention to the issues that are important to them -- including 68 percent of Democrats. Sixty-two percent of voters say there is no hard evidence of White House “collusion” with Russia, and 64 percent think the investigations are hurting the country.
The non-stop vilification of Russia and Trump has seriously backfired on the corporate media. Another poll by Harvard-Harris, conducted back in May, showed that two out of three Americans believe the so-called “mainstream” press is full of “fake news” -- including a majority of Democrats. ... The only unequivocal winner is the bipartisan War Party, which has used the manufactured crisis to drench the nation in anti-Russian hysteria – worse than back in the bad old days of the Red Scares. By March, Black Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) was using much the same language as Dick Cheney to describe the Kremlin. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles,” said the hopelessly brainwashed representative of the Black Misleadership Class. “Liberal” Democratic Maryland Rep. Ben Cardin called the nonexistent “attack” a “political Pearl Harbor.”
If the U.S. Congress actually took seriously its Constitutional powers to declare war, the human race would already have been exterminated.
Heh. This should make some heads explode.
And here’s what I don’t understand. The Steele dossier that everybody got excited about, that claimed that the Russians had incriminating videos of Trump in a Moscow hotel and other dirt on Trump, that came from somebody who was getting first paid by Republicans and then by Democrats, going to Moscow and getting dirt about Donald Trump from Kremlin-affiliated agents in Moscow. In other words, he went to Russia, talked to people affiliated with the Russian government and said, "Give me dirt about Donald Trump," and then, presumably, got it and put it in the memo. Similarly, there’s an amazing Politico article from January of this year that describes how allies of the Clinton campaign, including somebody being paid by the DNC, met with officials of the Ukrainian government, which was desperate to help Hillary Clinton win and Donald Trump lose, and get information incriminating about Trump from Ukrainian officials. In other words, Ukraine was meddling in our election by giving Democrats incriminating information about Trump.
Now, I, personally, although it’s dirty, think all of these events are sort of the way politics works. Of course if you’re in an important campaign and someone offers you incriminating information about your opponent, you’re going to want it no matter where it comes from, whether it’s Ukrainian officials, whether it’s anti-Trump people in Moscow or whether it’s pro-Trump people in Moscow. So, I want to hear the standard that we’re supposed to use to assess Trump Jr.'s actions. Is it that it's wrong in all cases to get incriminating information about your opponent from a foreign government? In which case, why is it OK for the Democrats to do it with Ukrainian officials or for their investigator to go to Moscow and get dirt on Trump? Or is it some other standard that distinguishes what Trump Jr. did in this case versus what Democrats did with the Steele dossier and with Ukraine? And I just don’t see this distinction. ...
And there’s, I think, a lot more lawyers and a lot more campaign finance lawyers who have said that just getting information about a candidate would not constitute something of value. But let’s assume that that’s true. Let’s take that theory as though it’s true. Why doesn’t it also apply then to the person working for Democrats who went to Moscow and got something of value, namely information about Trump, from Kremlin-connected people in Moscow, or Democrats, including someone working for the DNC, who got something of value from Ukrainian officials? Why isn’t that the same thing?
I think there are two separate issues there that we shouldn’t conflate. One is the question of whether the Russians were behind the hacks. And when I say the Russians, I mean, was it just some group of Russians, Russian hackers or Russians acting in some rogue way, or was it actually—were they actually Kremlin officials ordered by Putin? We don’t know the answers to any of those questions, even though the intelligence agencies have said that it was Putin who ordered it. So that’s one question that I think, in that quote, Trump is talking about, which is, we have to get to the bottom of who actually hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails, and make the evidence public so that the public can see that these assertions that the intelligence community have been making actually have evidence behind them.
Then there’s a second question, which is independent, which is: If it’s true that the Russian government hacked John Podesta and the DNC’s emails and distributed what they got to WikiLeaks, did the Trump campaign participate in that crime, either by working with the Russians before the hack or working with them after the hack on how to get the information distributed in a way that would most hurt the Democrats? That, to me, is the core question that has been at the center of this controversy from the beginning. And we still don’t have evidence that the Trump administration participated in that part of the crime. Hopefully, we will learn, one way or the other, in a sober, rational, comprehensive way, not through bits and pieces being leaked by agenda-driven anonymous sources, but by an investigation laying forth the case in a way that we can all see the evidence.
[Transcript here -js]
A Russian-American lobbyist, who says he is an ex-Soviet counter-intelligence officer, said on Friday he attended the notorious meeting involving Donald Trump Jr that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to boost his father’s election campaign. Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed to the Associated Press his participation in the meeting, which Trump Jr had failed to disclose until it became public this week.
Akhmetshin accompanied Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Trump Jr; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, then chairman of the Trump campaign.
NBC News reported Akhmetshin is a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer; he denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. ... Akhmetshin said the meeting was “not substantive” and he “actually expected more serious” discussion. “I never thought this would be such a big deal to be honest,” he told the AP. ...
In March, Akhmetshin was named by Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, as lobbying against the Magnitsky Act along with the firm Fusion GPS, “which was also involved in the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians”.
There’s a civil war being fought on our nation’s soil, right in our capital. It pits the Secretary of Defense and senior generals against a bipartisan band of militant legislators who accuse the Pentagon of standing pat while Russian and China work to achieve military superiority over the United States in space. Eager congressional advocates of space warfare have attached an amendment to the House defense authorization bill requiring the Pentagon to create a new U.S. Space Corps to join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard by 2019. Currently, the Air Force oversees most space warfare projects.
The amendment has sent senior Pentagon leadership into a tizzy. Secretary of Defense James Mattis “strongly” urged Congress to rescind the requirement, stating in a letter that “it is premature to add additional organization and administrative tail to the department at a time I am trying to reduce overhead.” Similarly, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson protested that the proposal will simply “add more boxes to the organization chart.” Meanwhile, Gen. John W. Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, insisted that his service has space matters well in hand.
In response, Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican and chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, announced that he was “pissed” and “outraged” at the Air Force for fighting the new Space Command, saying its obstructionism would “set back efforts to respond to adversaries and space threats” and allow Russia and China “to surpass us soon.”
Alarmists who selectively cite Russian and Chinese activities to warn of an impending military space “gap” ignore a few key facts:
- The United States holds a clear technology lead and spends at least 10 times more on military space operations than every other country on earth combined.
- Although U.S. satellites are vulnerable to attack, most have maneuvering capabilities, shielding against various forms of radiation, and jam-resistant communications.
- For years, Russia, China and other nations have sought to control the spread of weapons into space — only to face consistent opposition from Washington.
In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly voted 126 to 4 to pass a Russian resolution banning an arms race in space. The four dissenting countries were Georgia, Israel, Ukraine — and the United States. Because the United States depends on space more than any other nation, both for military security and commerce, it has the most to lose if wars spread into space. Instead of relying only on military superiority to keep us safe, the time is long overdue to pursue diplomatic options for arms control — which potentially could help us achieve greater security for far less money.
Last October, an airstrike in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition hit a funeral, killing more than 130 people and drawing global condemnation. Yet in the months following that strike, the United States doubled the amount of fuel it provided to coalition jets, according to figures obtained from the U.S. military. The numbers underline the fact that U.S. support for the campaign has continued and even increased despite growing attention to civilian casualties and alleged war crimes by the coalition.
But the House of Representatives just passed over the chance to vote on legislation that would have tracked the fuel the Pentagon gives to the Saudi coalition and prohibited refueling of coalition aircraft unless the Pentagon could assure Congress that subsequent missions wouldn’t hit civilians or targets contained on no-strike lists.
An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, filed by Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California with bipartisan support, failed to pass the Rules Committee last night, and so it won’t be up for a vote. Khanna’s amendment would have “at the very least require[d] reporting to Congress about exactly how many flights are being refueled, where the location is and verification that they aren’t involved in civilian deaths,” the Congressman told The Intercept. ...
On March 25, 2015, the Obama administration announced support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Houthi rebels and allied forces, who had seized swaths of the country, including the capital Sanaa. The next day, CENTCOM commander Gen. Lloyd Austin told Senators that he didn’t know “the specific goals and objectives of the Saudi campaign.” The US has since offloaded more than 67 million pounds of fuel to Coalition jets – refueling aircraft more than 9,000 times – according to Air Force figures provided to The Intercept.
Baghdad is investigating allegations of torture and rights abuses meted out by Iraqi security forces to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) prisoners in Mosul, two Iraqi officials said at the Pentagon on Thursday (July 13).
A video released online shows men in Iraqi military uniforms beating a bearded detainee, then drag him to the edge of a cliff, throw him off and shoot him and another body at the bottom.
Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for Iraq's Joint Operations Command, said anyone committing rights abuses would be held accountable, but he also suggested the videos may be faked and circulated to distract from the recent victory over ISIS in Mosul.
Details about Pentagon biological and chemical weapons tests involving military personnel during the 1960s and 1970s – some involving lethal nerve agents – have long been kept secret. Thursday, the House agreed to keep things that way. “It’s shameful,” said Congressman Mike Thompson, D-Calif., of the decision. He led a bipartisan effort to get a House vote demanding that the details be disclosed.
He couldn’t even get that vote. He wanted it as an addition to a sweeping defense policy bill the House is considering this week. The House Rules Committee, which decides what gets considered on the House floor, approved votes on 210 amendments to the defense bill. It rejected 230. Thompson’s proposal was one of the losers.
Rules Committee spokeswoman Caroline Boothe said the committee felt the decision to declassify the documents should be made by Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Trump administration. The Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment.
Thompson was seeking answers about Projects 112 and SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) a series of covert chemical and biological weapons tests the Pentagon conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, the Vietnam War era, involving some 6,000 military personnel. Supporters of his plan, which included the nation’s major veterans advocacy groups, said that disclosure would help victims get better access to medical care as well as government benefits.
Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries that have imposed a political and economic blockade on Qatar are to drop their demand that the Al Jazeera Media Network be shut down. In an interview published by The Times newspaper on Wednesday, Noura al-Kaabi, the UAE minister for the federal national council, said the Emirates sought "fundamental change and restructuring" of Al Jazeera rather than to shut it.
"The staff at the channel can keep their jobs and Qatar can still fund a TV channel but not one which provides a platform for extremists and where the English channel is a protective shield for the much more radical Arabic one," Kaabi told The Times.
She also said that the Saudi-led group was ready to negotiate with Qatar. "We need a diplomatic solution. We are not looking for an escalation." The group previously called the list of demands "non-negotiable".
The Trump administration, delaying an anticipated confrontation with Iran until the completion of a long-awaited policy review, plans to recertify Tehran’s compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal, according to U.S. and foreign officials.
The recertification, due Monday to Congress, follows a heated internal debate between those who want to crack down on Iran now — including some White House officials and lawmakers — and Cabinet officials who are “managing other constituencies” such as European allies, and Russia and China, which signed and support the agreement, one senior U.S. official said.
As a candidate and president, Trump has said he would reexamine and possibly kill what he called the “disastrous” nuclear deal that was negotiated under President Barack Obama and went into effect in January last year. The historic agreement shut down most of Iran’s nuclear program, in some cases for decades, in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system, a senior Turkish official said, in a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades.
The preliminary agreement sees Turkey receiving two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year, and then producing another two inside Turkey, according to the Turkish official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. ... Turkey has reached the point of an agreement on a missile defense system before, only to scupper the deal later amid protests and condemnation from NATO. Under pressure from the U.S., Turkey gave up an earlier plan to buy a similar missile-defense system from a state-run Chinese company, which had been sanctioned by the U.S. for alleged missile sales to Iran.
Giving new credence to a provocative 2014 study showing the United States is controlled by powerful elite interests, as opposed to the desire of its citizens, a new poll released Thursday shows that three-quarters of Americans feel voiceless and largely powerless in the nation that heralds itself as the world's preeminent democracy.
The results of the new survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals that 75 percent of Americans—including "rare unanimity across political, economic, racial and geographical lines and including both those who approve and disapprove of President Donald Trump"—agree they have too little influence or say over the decisions made by the nation's elected officials.
While 82 percents of respondents said that "wealthy people" have "too much" influence, there was strong agreement that regular people have "too little." Alongside the very rich, it was large businesses (69%), political lobbyists (65 %), Wall Street (59%), and the news media (47%) who are all widely perceived as too powerful, while the near total inverse was true of seniors (6%), poor people (4%), small businesses (2%), and "people like you" (4%).
As AP notes, "The results are notable because Trump won his presidency with a populist call-to-arms to make 'forgotten Americans' his priority and to restore jobs to people still struggling amid the economy's recovery."
Also telling about the polls results, is how they bolster the findings of groundbreaking 2014 study by Princeton University's Martin Gilens and Northwestern University's Benjamin Page which offered a scientific analysis detailing how, in the United States, the "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."
Senate Republicans unveiled a revised healthcare plan on Thursday, seeking to bridge an intraparty divide that has thwarted efforts to make good on a seven-year pledge to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. But the new bill, which includes provisions intended to woo moderate and conservative critics, was met with fresh skepticism and the prospect of a protracted battle to come.
The bill maintains some ACA taxes on the wealthy, as a way to address criticisms from moderates that Republicans are placing a substantial burden on the most sick and poor Americans. It also extends an olive branch to the hard right, adopting a controversial amendment by Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah that moderates say could gut coverage for pre-existing conditions and lead to a spike in premiums.
Leaving a closed-door briefing, key senators were unmoved. Susan Collins of Maine, the first senator to voice opposition to the first plan, said she would vote against the motion to proceed to the bill. “I don’t believe you that you make major changes in an entitlement program [Medicaid] upon which millions of Americans depend without having a single hearing in the Senate to evaluate the impact,” Collins told reporters. Shelley Moore Capito, who has opposed efforts thus far due to the impact of Medicaid cuts West Virginia, said she was “very much undecided”.
No, in turns out, the United States does not have the "best healthcare system in the world."
In the midst of a deeply unpopular attempt by the Republican Party to pass legislation that could leave 22 million more Americans uninsured and as support for Medicare for All soars, a new analysis published on Friday by the Washington-based Commonwealth Fund finds that the U.S. healthcare system currently ranks last among 11 other advanced countries in healthcare outcomes, access, equity, and efficiency.
The U.S. "fell short" in almost every domain measured, the Commonwealth Fund's senior vice president for policy and research Eric Schneider, M.D., told the New Scientist.
The study examines the healthcare systems of the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, and several other nations, utilizing surveys of physicians and patients as well as data accumulated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report's conclusion echoes those of previous studies, which have indicated that despite spending far more on healthcare than other advanced nations, the U.S. continues to lag behind in a variety of measures, from infant mortality rate to overall life expectancy.
JP Morgan just had the most profitable 12 months ever for a US bank – but it wasn’t enough for Jamie Dimon, the bank’s boss.
“It’s almost an embarrassment being an American traveling around the world and listening to the stupid shit Americans have to deal with,” Dimon told journalists after the bank released its latest quarterly results on Friday. ...
Dimon, who last year turned down Donald Trump’s offer to become treasury secretary, seemed more concerned about low rates of growth in the US and the health of the American body politic. He blamed bad policy for “holding back and hurting the average American” and financial journalists for concentrating on the bank’s trading results when they should be focusing on policy.
“Who cares about fixed-income trading in the last two weeks of June? I mean, seriously,” Dimon said after a reporter asked about the health of the bonds markets. “That is the weather,” he said of changes in the markets. “It goes up and down, this and that, and that’s 80% of what you guys focus on.” Dimon said financial journalists would be better off concentrating on the “bad policies” that are hurting average Americans.
An Italian multinational oil and gas company has received permission to move ahead with drilling plans in federal waters off Alaska which environmental campaigners say will endanger polar bears, bowhead whales and other marine mammals.
Late on Wednesday, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced conditional approval of an exploratory drilling plan submitted by a US subsidiary of the company Eni.
The company plans to drill four exploration wells from the Spy Island drill site, an 11-acre artificial gravel island constructed in Alaska state waters 6-8ft deep. Spy Island is one of four artificial islands in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast, that support oil production.
Environmental groups say potential spills put marine wildlife at risk. Eni’s leases would have expired at the end of 2017, said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a prepared statement. Eni’s plan calls for extended-reach wells that could stretch more than six miles into federal waters.
The Trump administration provided the public only 21 days to review and comment on the exploration plan and only 10 days to comment on scoping for an environmental assessment, Monsell said.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is adamant that his newly unveiled package of legislation aimed at extending his state's existing cap-and-trade program through 2030 is an essential step forward in the fight against climate change, but prominent green groups are characterizing the plan as yet another massive giveaway to large polluters.
Masada Disenhouse, 350.org's U.S. organizing coordinator, argued in a statement on Friday that "Big Oil's fingerprints [are] all over" Brown's plan, part of which has been endorsed by the California Chamber of Commerce, a business advocacy group.
The legislative package, Disenhouse argued, "doesn't do enough to protect vulnerable communities or to achieve California's ambitious targets for reducing carbon pollution."
"We need to extend California's climate law, but we also need to protect the ability of local air districts to regulate pollution in their backyards—not give refineries and other fossil fuel infrastructure a free pass to pollute," Disenhouse added, concluding that "legislators should come up with a stronger plan, while continuing to support bold legislation like SB 100 which would commit California to 100 percent clean energy by 2045."
Scientists from Sweden say ravens are able to think about the future, showing a general planning ability previously documented only in people and great apes. Researchers Can Kabadayi and Mathias Osvath, of Lund University, tested five captive ravens in two tasks they do not do in the wild: using tools and bartering with humans. The results were published on Thursday by the journal Science.
Ravens, along with crows, jays and others, belong to a bird group called corvids. Some corvids have shown that in hoarding food, they do some planning for the future instead of just acting on natural urges.
The Lund University ravens showed they could also plan by setting aside a tool that they suspected would get them a tasty treat later. They also prepared for future bartering.
This more general planning ability results from the combination of several skills and if it appears in both corvids and great apes, the Swedish researchers said, it must have evolved more than once.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Syl Johnson - We Did It
Syl Johnson - Back For A Taste Of Your Love
Syl Johnson - Dresses Too Short
Syl Johnson - Watch What You Do To Me
Syl Johnson - I Feel An Urge
Syl Johnson - Try Me
Syl Johnson - 'Bout To Make Me Leave Home
Syl Johnson - Groove Me
Syl Johnson - Sorry Bout Dat
Syl Johnson - Take Me To The River