The Evening Blues - 7-17-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues musician Sam Lay. Enjoy!
Sam Lay - Maggie's Farm
"The arms race is a race between nuclear weapons and ourselves."
-- Martin Amis
News and Opinion
In the days leading up to the Helsinki summit between leaders of Russia and the United States, an open letter titled “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security” was published and signed by experts, activists and scholars ranging from Noam Chomsky to Gloria Steinem to Daniel Ellsberg to Michael Moore. Part of the letter reads as follows:
“At the same time, the US and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course. Diplomacy has given way to hostility and reciprocal consular expulsions, along with dozens of near-miss military encounters in Syria and in skies above Europe. Both sides are plunging ahead with major new weapons-development programs. In contrast to prior eras, there is now an alarming lack of standard procedures to keep the armed forces of both countries in sufficient communication to prevent an escalation that could lead to conventional or even nuclear attack. These tensions are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.”
Though you’ll never hear American mass media talking about it on either MSNBC or Fox News because it doesn’t fit the narrative on either side, Trump has actually dangerously escalated cold war tensions with Russia far beyond anything his predecessor dared to do. From adopting a Nuclear Posture Review with greatly increased aggression toward Russia and blurring lines between when nuclear strikes are and are not appropriate, to facilitating the longstanding neoconservative agenda to arm Ukraine (a dangerously hawkish move which Obama adamantly refused to do), to repeatedly bombing the Syrian government and killing Russians in Syria as part of its illegal occupation of that country, to throwing out Russian diplomats on more than one occasion, to expanding NATO with the addition of Montenegro, to aggressive sanctions on Russian oligarchs and more, this administration has inflamed tensions along multiple fronts and increased the probability of something going disastrously, irrevocably wrong. ...
Communication and understanding in this situation is an objectively good thing. This meeting with Russia’s leader, which all US presidents have done for many decades, is an objectively good thing. If you have joined in the campaign to help shove the tide of opinion away from peace and toward nuclear holocaust, you are making yourself an enemy of humanity. You have become so warped and demented by your hatred of Donald Trump that it has made a part of you less human. ... Only assholes and morons oppose these peace talks. Get a fucking grip, you raving lunatics.
Well worth a full read:
With great fanfare, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday released a 29-page indictment, a byproduct of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Ostensibly, this indictment cemented the government’s case against the Russians and punched a hole in the arguments of those, like President Trump, who have been labeling Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.” This, of course, is precisely what Rosenstein and Mueller hoped to achieve through their carefully timed, and even more carefully scripted, indictment. ...
There is one major problem with the indictment, however: It doesn’t prove that which it asserts. True, it provides a compelling narrative that reads like a spy novel, and there is no doubt in my mind that many of the technical details related to the timing and functioning of the malware described within are accurate. But the leap of logic that takes the reader from the inner workings of the servers of the Democratic Party to the offices of Russian intelligence officers in Moscow is not backed up by anything that demonstrates how these connections were made.
That’s the point of an indictment, however—it doesn’t exist to provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, but rather to provide only enough information to demonstrate probable cause. , and there is much doubt that if, for some odd reason, the Russians agreed to send one or more of these named intelligence officers to the United States to answer the indictment, this indictment would ever go to trial. It simply couldn’t survive the discovery to which any competent defense would subject the government’s assertions.
Robert Mueller knew this when he drafted the indictment, and Rob Rosenstein knew this when he presented it to the public. The assertions set forth in the indictment, while cloaked in the trappings of American justice, have nothing to do with actual justice or the rule of law; they cannot, and will never, be proved in a court of law. However, by releasing them in a manner that suggests that the government is willing to proceed to trial, a perception is created that implies that they can withstand the scrutiny necessary to prevail at trial.
And as we know, perception is its own reality.
Clinging to Collusion: Why Evidence Will Probably Never Be Produced in the Indictments of ‘Russian Agents’
Friday’s indictments do not include any charges against Trump campaign members for allegedly colluding with the Russian government to carry out the hacks. That has been at the core of allegations swirling in U.S. media for two years. If the alleged co-conspirators “known” to the DOJ were on the Trump team, the indictments do not say. There is only a hint that “unknown” persons might be. In announcing the indictments at a press conference Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said: “The conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet. There’s no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.” ...
The lack of evidence that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia has never stopped Democrats and their media outlets from believing unnamed U.S. intelligence sources for two years about such collusion. “Collusion” is the title of a best-selling book about the supposed Trump-Russia conspiracy to steal the election, but such a charge is not to be found. The indictment excluding collusion also undermines the so-called Steele dossier, a work of opposition research paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign masquerading as an intelligence document because it was compiled by a former MI6 agent. The memos falsely claimed, it turns out, that Trump’s people started colluding with Russia years before he became a candidate.
But even after Friday’s indictments failed to charge anyone from Trump’s team, the Democratic media continued to insist there was collusion. A New York Times story, headlined, “Trump Invited the Russians to Hack Clinton. Were They Listening?,” said Russia may have absurdly responded to Trump’s call at 10:30 a.m. on July 27, 2016 to hack Clinton’s private email server because it was “on or about” that day that Russia allegedly first made an attempt to hack Clinton’s personal emails, according to the indictment, which makes no connection between the two events.
If Russia is indeed guilty of remotely hacking the emails it would have had no evident need of assistance from anyone on the Trump team, let alone a public call from Trump on national TV to commence the operation.
And as Twitter handle “Representative Press” pointed out: “Trump’s July 27, 2016 call to find the missing 30,000 emails could not be a ‘call to hack Clinton’s server’ because at that point it was no longer online. Long before Trump’s statement, Clinton had already turned over her email server to the U.S. Department of Justice.” Either the indictment was talking about different servers or it is being intentionally misleading when it says on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”
President Trump set off a roar of outrage when he defied U.S. intelligence agencies to defend Vladimir Putin and Russia against allegations of meddling. Republican lawmakers joined Democrats to condemn the president's deference to Putin, but his conclusion that the U.S. and Russia are both to blame for the deteriorated relationship is not without defenders. Take, for example, two American foreign policy experts, Stephen F. Cohen and John Mearsheimer, who both say they agree with Trump on that point, whether you think that makes them Putin's patsy or not. And they're both afraid anti-Russia sentiment in the U.S. will tank Trump's efforts.
“I’ve seen these things from the inside. I've re-thought and re-thought how we got to the edge of war with Russia, where we haven't been since Cuba in 1962. And I have concluded, and I would be happy to debate my opponents… It is 95 percent our own doing,” Cohen said.
The failure on the part of establishment media to defend Julian Assange, who has been trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, has been denied communication with the outside world since March and appears to be facing imminent expulsion and arrest, is astonishing. The extradition of the publisher—the maniacal goal of the U.S. government—would set a legal precedent that would criminalize any journalistic oversight or investigation of the corporate state. It would turn leaks and whistleblowing into treason. It would shroud in total secrecy the actions of the ruling global elites. If Assange is extradited to the United States and sentenced, The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other media organization, no matter how tepid their coverage of the corporate state, would be subject to the same draconian censorship. Under the precedent set, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court would enthusiastically uphold the arrest and imprisonment of any publisher, editor or reporter in the name of national security.
There are growing signs that the Ecuadorean government of Lenín Moreno is preparing to evict Assange and turn him over to British police. Moreno and his foreign minister, José Valencia, have confirmed they are in negotiations with the British government to “resolve” the fate of Assange. Moreno, who will visit Britain in a few weeks, calls Assange an “inherited problem” and “a stone in the shoe” and has referred to him as a “hacker.” It appears that under a Moreno government Assange is no longer welcome in Ecuador. His only hope now is safe passage to his native Australia or another country willing to give him asylum. ...
The persecution of Assange is part of a broad assault against anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist news organizations. The ruling elites, who refuse to accept responsibility for profound social inequality or the crimes of empire, have no ideological veneer left to justify their greed, ineptitude and pillage. Global capitalism and its ideological justification, neoliberalism, are discredited as forces for democracy and the equitable distribution of wealth. The corporate-controlled economic and political system is as hated by right-wing populists as it is by the rest of the population. This makes the critics of corporatism and imperialism—journalists, writers, dissidents and intellectuals already pushed to the margins of the media landscape—dangerous and it makes them prime targets. Assange is at the top of the list. ...
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled Friday that those seeking political asylum have the right to take refuge in embassies and diplomatic compounds. The court stated that governments are obliged to provide safe passage out of the country to those granted asylum. The ruling did not name Assange, but it was a powerful rebuke to the British government, which has refused to allow the WikiLeaks co-founder safe passage to the airport.
The blacklisting, imprisonment and deportation of tens of thousands of people of conscience during the Red Scares of the 1920s and 1950s are back with a vengeance. It is a New McCarthyism.
Vladimir Putin has accused Britain of making baseless allegations against Russia over the former Soviet spy and three other people poisoned, one fatally, with the novichok nerve agent in Salisbury. Asked in a Fox News interview about the British government’s assertion that Moscow was behind the novichok attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal, Putin said London had not provided any evidence to back up the claim.
“We would like to get documentary evidence but nobody gives it to us,” Putin, speaking through a translator, told the US network after a summit with Donald Trump in Finland.
“It’s the same thing with the accusations of meddling in the election process in America,” he added in reference to claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election which was won by Trump.
The Israeli parliament is considering a bill that would legalize Jewish-only communities and codify the existing de facto segregation between the country’s Jewish and Muslim communities. It’s a move that, as The Guardian reports, has earned comparisons to South African apartheid. ...
The parties have argued over several issues—whether Arabic can be a national language, whether Jewish-only communities will be ruled by Jewish law, and now, a new clause, Section 7B, that says, “The state sees developing Jewish communities as a national value and will act to encourage, promote and establish them.” ...
Tamar Zandberg, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, said that “The basic law that advanced today is not a basic law on nationality but a basic law of racism. This is a law that was born in sin and advanced through arm-twisting among the extremist and nationalist elements in the coalition.” Haaretz reports that another Knesset member, Dov Khenin, has called the bill “a model of undisguised racism, suited only to corrupt rulers who have lost all shame.”
The bill’s staunchest defenders include Netanyahu and members of his Likud Party. When Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, said that the bill would harm Israel’s international reputation, and “even be used as a weapon by our enemies,” Likud member Miki Zohar responded, “Unfortunately, President Rivlin has lost it,” and suggested the president had “forgotten his DNA.”
Breaking with many Republican colleagues, the Kentucky senator Rand Paul has revealed his concern over Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the supreme court.
Paul told Fox and Friends on Sunday he was worried Kavanaugh, a judge on the DC circuit court of appeals, could cancel out supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch’s vote on fourth amendment cases and allow the federal government to collect the phone records of millions of Americans.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation rests on a knife edge. Republicans hold a 51-49 advantage in the Senate. They need a simple majority or a tie broken by Vice-President Mike Pence to confirm Kavanaugh as Trump’s second supreme court pick, after Gorsuch.
With John McCain absent through illness and Democrats promising all-out opposition to a pick that could tilt the court to the conservatives for a generation, public attention has focused on three Democrats facing re-election in Republican states and two moderate GOP senators. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are considered possible opponents of Kavanaugh, based on his position on abortion rights.
Heads: arrest, tails: release. For one driver in Georgia, a simple coin flip was the deciding factor in determining how she would be punished for driving above the speed limit.
In a video obtained by WXIA-TV Channel 11, bodycam footage from April showed the Roswell police officers Courtney Brown and Kristee Wilson questioning Sara Webb at a traffic stop after she drove past their police cruiser. When the two returned to their vehicle to process Webb’s license, Brown and Wilson told Webb they were going to use a “coin toss” app to determine their next course of action. “A [arrest] – head. R [release] – tail,” can be heard in the background followed by an electronic ding, signifying the flip.
Following the video’s release, the Roswell police department placed the two officers on administrative leave while prosecutors dropped all charges against Webb.
As Bezos Becomes Richest Man in Modern History, Amazon Workers Mark #PrimeDay With Strikes Against Low Pay and Brutal Conditions
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has just become the richest man in recorded history—surpassing $150 billion in net worth—thanks to his business model of subjecting employees to low wages, brutal working conditions, and scant benefits, and on Tuesday Amazon workers throughout Europe are marking "Prime Day" by walking off the job in massive numbers to call attention to their plight.
In addition to walkouts by an estimated 80 percent of the workers at Amazon's largest distribution center in Spain—nearly 1,800 workers—employees of the retailer are also reportedly launching strikes in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom to demand higher wages and denounce Amazon's union-busting efforts.
"The message is clear—while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers," Stefanie Nutzenberger, spokesperson for the German services union Verdi, said in a statement.
Strikes against Amazon's notoriously appalling working conditions—which include forcing warehouse employees to skip bathroom breaks and urinate in bottles to meet the company's unrealistic performance expectations—come as Bezos is coming under growing pressure to address his treatment of employees. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pointed out in his "CEOs vs. Workers" town hall Monday night—which Bezos declined to attend—the Amazon chief earns around $275 million each day while refusing to pay his workers enough to get by without food stamps.
Watch Live: Sanders Hosts "CEOs vs. Workers" Town Hall to Take on "Extravagant" Executive Pay and Poverty Wages
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is hosting a live-streamed town hall Monday evening, where he, along with low-paid employees of corporate giants, will take on "the enormous disparity between the wealth of corporate executives and the wages and treatment of the companies' workers."
Workers on the panel are employed or were employed at well-known—and profitable—corporate giants: Amazon, Disney, McDonald's, American Airlines, and Walmart.
A group of 54 detained immigrant parents begged to be reunited with their children and said U.S. officials used deception and trickery to remove them in the first place. "We were not prepared for the nightmare that we faced here,” the parents said in an open letter to the public obtained by CNN Sunday. “The United States government kidnapped our children with tricks and didn't give us the opportunity to say goodbye."
The group of immigrants detained in Port Isabel, Texas, detailed their suffering, a consequence of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy in which parents and kids are systematically separated at the border and detained apart for weeks and even months. While 57 of the youngest children were reunited last week, more than 2,500 children remain in government custody separated from their parents, according to the most recent figures from the Department of Health and Human Services.
"To the people of the United States, please help us. We are desperate parents,” they wrote in longhand on a yellow pad in Spanish.
Several immigrant parents say their children were taken from them in cruel ways, and many are concerned about the lasting trauma of separation. Other parents shared similar stories. Immigration authorities told Jose, a 27-year-old Honduran father, that they were taking his 3-year-old son to use the bathroom and then never brought him back. He didn’t see his son again for two months. “It was very hard, the hardest thing that's happened to me,” Jose said.
Ever Reyes Mejia, 30, also from Honduras, said officials took him out of the cell he was sharing with his 3-year-old son, who was sleeping at the time. That was the last time he saw him for two months. ... The parents at Port Isabel who penned the letter are likely still waiting to be assessed by the Department of Homeland Security and HHS. Some parents have only had one phone call with their children since they were separated, according to the letter. “The children cry, they don't recognize our voices, and they feel abandoned and unloved,” they wrote. “This makes us feel like we are dead.”
MSNBC Ignored Ocasio-Cortez’s Campaign — but Its Parent Company Made a Late Donation to Her Opponent
The liberal-skewing cable news channel MSNBC missed the biggest left-wing congressional primary upset in a generation. The network failed to provide any news coverage of the populist progressive campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against entrenched moderate incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, in the party’s primary for a New York congressional seat.
Not everyone at Rockefeller Center, however, failed to see the writing on the wall. Just as Crowley scrambled amid late-campaign internal polls showing Ocasio-Cortez gaining ground, MSNBC’s parent company donated to the incumbent’s bid to save his seat.
NBC Universal donated $3,000 to Crowley through its political action committee just 13 days before the June 26 primary. The PAC donation was listed on Crowley’s second-quarter campaign disclosure, which was filed with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday evening. ...
The network’s top political talent expressed shock at the Ocasio-Cortez upset, suggesting that no one saw her victory coming. The corporate parent of MSNBC, however, maintained close ties to Crowley. Not only has the network routinely invited Crowley on as a guest and donated to his campaign in the past, but, as we previously reported, NBC Universal also retained Crowley’s brother John “Sean” Crowley as a lobbyist.
Ireland is on its way to becoming the first country to fully divest all public funds from fossil fuel companies after a key vote in its parliament on Thursday. It's a major milestone in an international push by environmental organizations to shut off the flow of investor cash into coal, oil and gas companies. ... Ireland's Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill still has to pass the upper house of parliament, but that is anticipated to happen without difficulty, Lindsay Meiman, a spokesperson for 350.org, said.
Ireland's plan, designed to help the country meets its Paris Climate Agreement commitments, would divest its Strategic Investment Fund of companies in which fossil fuel extraction or refinement that makes up 20 percent or more of the business. The $10.4 billion fund had approximately $371 million invested in fossil fuel companies last year, according to Reuters.
Yorktown, where Lord Cornwallis accepted General Washington's victory to end the American Revolution, would seem like an appropriate spot for a surrender in the war on coal. Instead, two outdated coal-fired power plants there, the Yorktown 1 and 2 units operated by Dominion Energy, are limping along in the Virginia heat. Inefficient, uncompetitive, and out of compliance with federal pollution standards, and long slated for retirement, the Yorktown boilers have been fired back up intermittently since last year under an emergency license granted by the Department of Energy using a rarely invoked authority of the Federal Power Act (FPA).
Energy Secretary Rick Perry granted that request by the regional grid operator, PJM Interconnection, because without Yorktown's supplies the local area faced possible blackouts or power rationing when the summer heat drove up demand. That would affect such places as Langley Air Force Base, William and Mary College, and 600,000 electric customers in and around Hampton Roads. At the moment, Yorktown is the only generating station in the country where power is being supplied by coal plants on an emergency basis to preserve the grid's reliability.
But that could happen at many more if the Trump administration gets its way and invokes the FPA and another law, the Defense Production Act, to keep old coal and nuclear plants in operation on grounds that closing them would present a national security emergency. As the seasonal heat arrived in Virginia this year and these units coughed back into action, Yorktown turned out to be a poor exemplar for national policy. Running these old coal plants on standby in case the grid gets overloaded creates extra pollution, costs extra money, and introduces extra risk of failure. ...
In late May, PJM asked for the first Yorktown unit to fire up, and then the second. Each spun up in turn for several hours, then churned along generating as much as 146 megawatts of power at full steam. The pollution, too, climbed along with power output. Each unit at full power put out more than 130 tons of carbon dioxide an hour, hundreds to thousands of pounds of sulfur dioxide an hour, various forms of smog and soot, and smaller but still harmful levels of lead and mercury, among other pollutants.
The Trump administration has been trying, at the request of politically connected coal and utility companies, to ram through emergency supports for coal-fired plants ever since it came into office. It had been clear for a long time that market pressures and environmental controls had been pushing utilities to shut down the worst coal plants. Dominion Power was no exception. It announced in 2012 that it would close Yorktown rather than invest in new pollution controls on mercury, a toxic pollutant that causes brain damage, developmental disorders and other ailments. Built six decades ago, Yorktown 1 and 2 are older than average and have operated many years longer than expected, becoming less and less competitive in the face of cleaner, cheaper natural gas and renewables. Only when demand spikes during extreme weather are they able to meet market prices, and the amount of their capacity actually dispatched to the grid shrank from 47 percent in 2007 to 10 percent in 2017, according to an outside market analysis presented to government regulators.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sam Lay - Rock Me Baby / King Bee
Sam Lay - Mean Mistreater
Sam Lay - I Got Two Women
Sam Lay - Folsom Prison Blues
Sam Lay - Gonna Boogie
Sam Lay - Katie Mae, Short Haired Woman, Mojo Hand
Sam Lay Band - Baby How Long
Sam Lay Blues Band - Asked Her For Water
Sam Lay Band - Walkin' Thru The Park
Sam Lay and Billy Branch Chicago Blues Fest 2012 - Lovelight