The Evening Blues - 7-20-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Louisiana blues piano player and singer Marcia Ball. Enjoy!
Marcia Ball - Shine Bright
“It doesn't matter if justice is on your side. You have to depict your position as just.”
-- Benjamin Netanyahu
News and Opinion
A New York Times story was published that got my social media notifications lighting up with another wave of people screaming “Proof! Here is your proof, Caitlin! Now you must join us!” The story alleges that in a briefing before taking office, Donald Trump was shown documents proving that Russians had launched a campaign of cyberattacks under the personal direction of Vladimir Putin. As we have all come to expect of New York Times stories pertaining to Trump and Russia, it is anonymously sourced, contains none of the documents it refers to, and was probably leaked by the Obama administration intelligence community insiders who gave the briefing.
So of course I was dismissive. Anonymous assertions aren’t evidence either, which should really go without saying. But then those notifications lit up again as people stated saying “Look! It’s not anonymous anymore! James Clapper has personally verified it on CNN! #TrumpKnew!” Oh. Right. Clapper. Yeah, that’s much better. James Clapper, who was almost certainly one of the sources for the New York Times story, was the single most essential architect of the establishment Russia narrative. He personally hand-picked the two dozen intelligence agents who made the report upon which the entire Russian cyber attack narrative has been built, which, as the late, great Robert Parry pointed out last year, is actually hand-picking the findings of the report. ...
This known liar, who was absolutely fundamental in constructing the establishment Russia narrative that is now being used to manufacture support for dangerous new cold war escalations including sanctions, arming Ukraine, NATO expansionism, and a Nuclear Posture Review which takes a much more aggressive posture toward Russia, also happens to be a disgusting Russophobic eugenicist pig. “And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique,” Clapper casually told NBC’s Chuck Todd last year while explaining why Russians are so dangerous. “So, we were concerned.”
“Genetically driven.” He actually said that. Can you imagine anyone getting away with saying any other ethnic group is “genetically driven” to nefarious behavior on national television without it being a huge, career-ruining scandal? Try to think of literally any other ethnic group for whom that would have been remotely acceptable. But it was such a non-story for the mass media machine that you probably never even heard about it.
These are the kinds of people who have built and continue to build the establishment Russia narrative. And people wonder why I’m skeptical.
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
So it appears America and democracy have miraculously survived the dreaded Trump-Putin summit … or Trump’s meeting with his Russian handler, as the neoliberal ruling classes and their mouthpieces in the corporate media would dearly like us all to believe. ... And so, once again, Western liberals, and others obsessed with Donald Trump, having been teased into a painfully tumescent paroxysm of anticipation of some unimaginably horrible event that would finally lead to Trump’s impeachment (or his removal from office by other means) were left standing around with their hysteria in their hands. It has become a sadistic ritual at this point … like a twisted, pseudo-Tantric exercise where the media get liberals all lathered up over whatever fresh horror Trump has just perpetrated (or some non-story story they have invented out of whole cloth), build the tension for several days, until liberals are moaning and begging for impeachment, or a full-blown CIA-sponsored coup, then pull out abruptly and leave the poor bastards writhing in agony until the next time … which is pretty much exactly what just happened.
In the days and weeks leading up to the summit, the global capitalist ruling class Resistance deployed every weapon in its mighty arsenal to whip the Western masses up into a frenzy of anti-Putin-Nazi fervor. While continuing to flog the wildly popular baby concentration camp story (because the Hitler stimulus never fails to elicit a Pavlovian response from Americans, regardless of how often or how blatantly you use it), the corporate media began hammering hard on the “Trump is a Russian Agent” hysteria. (Normally, the corporate media alternates between the Hitler hysteria and the Russia hysteria so as not to completely short-circuit the already scrambled brains of Western liberals, but given the imminent threat of a peace deal, they needed to go the whole hog this time and paint this summit as a secret, internationally televised assignation between Hitler and … well, Hitler). ...
In the wake of Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit, which Garry Kasparov has called “the darkest hour in the history of the American presidency” (darker than Truman dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki!), the neoliberal establishment and the corporate media appear to have gone full Joe McCarthy. Virtually every establishment mouthpiece, former spook, official state clown, from Thomas Friedman to Stephen Colbert, have been braying about “treason” and “traitorousness,” and suggesting that Donald Trump be removed from office by, you know, whatever means necessary. At least David Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic had the balls to openly call for a CIA-orchestrated military coup, because we can’t afford to wait for the legal process to take its course this time, as we are “facing a national security emergency!”
God knows where we go from here. It’s hard to believe the ruling classes can keep teasing liberals, and other Trump-obsessives, over and over and over like this, without eventually impeaching or shooting the guy … but then again, maybe they can. Perhaps they intend to continue conducting this experiment all the way up to 2020, just to see how paranoid and mindlessly conformist they make the majority of the Western public. In any event, if they decide not to impeach him, and then try him for treason, or just kill him, or whatever, the Democrats at least have a new campaign slogan that they can use in 2018 and beyond … “NEXT TIME VOTE FOR WHO WE TELL YOU TO, YOU RUSSIA-LOVING NAZI SCUM!” It kind of has a ring to it, doesn’t it?
Email Hacking Was ‘Pearl Harbor,’ Helsinki Presidency’s ‘New Low’: Welcome to the United States of Amnesia
The media maelstrom around the Helsinki meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin obscures at least one point of view: that it’s possible to believe that Russia intervened in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump without thinking that this is remotely comparable to Pearl Harbor, as Politico (7/16/18) declared, or “the worst attack on America since 9/11,” as a Washington Post headline (2/18/18) claimed earlier this year. Not saying it doesn’t make it less true that both Russia and the United States frequently interfere in other countries’ elections—the US somewhat more frequently, according to a database of electoral interventions maintained by a political scientist at Carnegie Mellon. That’s a lot of Pearl Harbors.
What justified concern there could be is undermined rather than served by airily ahistorical claims like that of a Washington Post op-ed by Garry Kasparov (7/17/18): “The Helsinki Summit Marks a New Low in the History of the US Presidency.” Suffice to say there are millions who disagree that Trump failing to acknowledge that he had Russian help in getting elected is worse than Bush Jr. invading Iraq, Reagan arming death squads in Central America, worse than Nixon bombing Cambodia, or Truman dropping atomic bombs on civilians, or FDR rounding up Japanese-Americans or, well, worse than the deliberate separation of children from their families at the southern border. A conversation without that perspective is hardly worth having.
The Israel Defense Forces launched a massive attack on the Gaza Strip late Friday evening, following an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Four Palestinians were killed in the exchange. Hamas' armed wing, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, confirmed that the four were members of the organization.
The family of Gen Franco has said it will not co-operate with the Spanish government’s efforts to remove the dictator’s remains from the mausoleum where they have been interred for the past 43 years. Spain’s new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has made Franco’s exhumation a priority and said the body would be removed over the summer from its tomb in the basilica of the Valley of the Fallen outside Madrid.
In May last year, Spanish MPs approved a symbolic resolution to exhume Franco and have him reinterred elsewhere. Sánchez has said his government will make good on that mandate imminently. ... However, the Franco family says the exhumation is not up for discussion. “There’s nothing to talk about,” the dictator’s grandson, Francisco Franco Martínez-Bordiú, told the Guardian. “The position of all us siblings is very clear – we’re not going to facilitate things. This is an act for indefensible political ends.
Asked whether the family could stop the exhumation, he replied: “I’m not saying the government can’t do this – a government can do a lot of things – but we’re not going to facilitate this.”
The prime minister, whose government recently announced plans to create a truth commission to investigate crimes against humanity committed by the Franco regime, said the intention was to help people deal with the legacy of the civil war.
Defeated Syrian rebels near the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are preparing to evacuate the region and cede control of the frontier to Bashar al-Assad, securing a key victory for the Syrian president, whose forces are on the verge of concluding a swift campaign to reclaim control of southern Syria. Under the deal, the Syrian military will deploy once again to its pre-2011 positions along the Golan frontier, defined by the 1974 disengagement treaty with Israel.
Mirroring other agreements throughout the country, rebel fighters who do not want to reconcile with the Assad regime will be allowed to leave for opposition-controlled regions in the north near Turkey. Those who wish to stay have to resolve their status with the government and may be drafted into the military in the future. All heavy weapons will be turned over to authorities.
It marks a key milestone and victory for the Assad regime, which launched a major offensive a month ago to reclaim control of all of southern Syria – a region that includes Deraa, which borders Jordan, and Quneitra, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Deraa is considered the birthplace of the Syrian uprising, where protests against the regime’s torture of teenagers who scrawled anti-government graffiti in 2011 spread nationwide.
A Spanish judge has dropped the international arrest warrants issued for the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and five other pro-sovereignty politicians over their roles in last year’s illegal referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence. The supreme court judge Pablo Llarena announced the decision a week after a German court said it would extradite Puigdemont only over alleged misuse of public funds rather than the more serious charge of rebellion.
The dropping of the international warrant means Puigdemont and his former colleagues – currently in Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland – no longer face extradition proceedings. But domestic warrants remain in force, meaning the six will be arrested should they return to Spain.
In his ruling, published on Thursday, Llarena hit out at the court in Schleswig-Holstein, accusing it of “a lack of commitment” over acts that could have “broken Spain’s constitutional order”. The German court’s refusal to extradite Puigdemont on the rebellion charge – which prosecutors had argued could be equated to “high treason” in the German penal code – meant the deposed president could not be tried for the offence if sent back to Spain. ...
Nine Catalan leaders – including Puigdemont’s former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras – remain on remand in Spain, awaiting trial on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. All have now moved from jails near Madrid to Catalan prisons closer to their families. The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, met Puigdemont’s successor, Quim Torra, for talks at the beginning of July, signalling a thaw in relations between the central and regional governments.
Worth a full read:
The corporate media has overwhelmingly praised Barack Obama’s speech in Johannesburg on Tuesday at an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, calling it an “impassioned” defense of democracy, tolerance, equality and the liberal capitalist world order established after World War II. ... No notice is being taken in the press reports of two points in the rambling, 90-minute address that exposes Obama’s boundless cynicism and hypocrisy. In a cliché-ridden speech that deplored the “explosion of inequality” and argued for “inclusive capitalism,” Obama evidently departed from his written text to quip, with a smile:
“Some [members of the ‘new elite’] even supported Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States, and by virtue of my status as a former head of state, some of them consider me as an honorary member of the club. (Laughter.) And I get invited to these fancy things, you know? They’ll fly me out.”
Later, in the midst of a call to rein in the “excesses of capitalism” so that “rich people are still rich” but they’re “giving a little bit back,” he evoked more laughter and applause from his audience when he said, in a jocular voice:
“I should add, by the way, right now I’m actually surprised by how much money I got, and let me tell you something: I don’t have half as much as most of these folks or a tenth or a hundredth. There’s only so much you can eat. There’s only so big a house you can have. There’s only so many nice trips you can take. I mean, it’s enough.”
At this point, the video camera panned the rostrum to show a broadly smiling and clapping Cyril Ramaphosa, the recently elected president of South Africa, who parlayed his posts at the head of the country’s trade unions into lucrative slots on corporate boards and a fortune estimated at $675 million.
Obama may be surprised at his recent entry into the American financial oligarchy, but it’s not for lack of effort on his part to “join the club.” Even before he left the White House in January of 2017, he and Michelle were plotting the means to cash in on their services rendered to the rich and the filthy rich during their eight years in office. That period was distinguished by two major records: the first two-term presidency to preside over uninterrupted war for the entire duration, and the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in American history. Since leaving office, the Obamas have garnered a $65 million book deal, and Obama is making an estimated 50 speeches a year before corporate and Wall Street audiences at about $400,000 a clip. It has been estimated that the couple is on course to rapidly amass a fortune of $242 million (outdoing the Clintons, who up to now have managed to cash in to the tune of only $75 million). ...
Obama denounced the rapid growth of inequality, while gliding over his own multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and “quantitative easing” policies, which were designed to pump up the stock market and further enrich the oligarchy. Nor did he note the wage-cutting impact of his auto bailout, which imposed a 50 percent across-the-board cut in pay for new-hires; his support for the Detroit bankruptcy, which launched a nationwide attack on public-employee pension benefits; or his health care “reform,” which has increased out-of-pocket cost and reduced services for millions or workers.
In the case of Ms. L v. ICE, Judge Dana Sabraw ruled that child separation was a violation of the due process clause of the Constitution, ordered it be brought to an end, and that the already separated families be reunified. The government has yet to challenge this ruling and those reunifications are currently underway.
The ad hoc procedures the government has created to respond to this judicial decree has offered proof that it never intended for families to be brought back together. On Wednesday, Democratic members of the House Judiciary presented further such evidence. Ranking member Jerrold Nadler—along with Reps. Elijah Cummings and Bennie Thompson—released a joint statement saying that the Trump administration told them there had been no plan to reunite the children prior to the judicial order by Judge Sabraw last month.
“[During a Wednesday meeting], Trump Administration officials made a startling confession—they had no interagency plan in place to reunite children with their parents when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced President Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy in April,” the trio of Congressman announced on Thursday. “Even if they believed their new policy was the right one, how could they have been so heartless not to have planned to reunite these children with their parents?” ...
Did our government plan to make effective orphans of thousands of children who came here with loving parents? Again, the plain answer seems to be: “Yes.”
A total of 364 of the more than 2,500 children separated from their parents in a US-Mexico border crackdown on illegal immigration have been reunited, officials disclosed in court late on Thursday, days before a reunification deadline.
The government has six more days to comply with the reunification order by the US district judge Dana Sabraw, who summoned the government attorneys to appear in his San Diego courtroom on Friday to account for progress.
Lawyers for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had reported in a court filing late on Thursday that less than a fifth of the families with children aged five and older had been reunited since Sabraw’s order was issued more than three weeks ago.
It was unclear from the status report, filed as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging parent-child separations at the border, exactly how many more reunifications were likely before the 26 July deadline.
Nearly 850 parents have been interviewed and cleared for reunification so far but another 229 parents have been deemed ineligible because of criminal records, or because they “waived” reunification or for other reasons, the report said. The rest are pending review.
The Trump administration has asked at least 70 babies under the age of 1 to come to court in 2018 and personally make their case to an immigration judge about why they should be able to stay in the U.S. Kids have long been forced to navigate the U.S. immigration system alone as thinly stretched pro bono legal aid organizations struggle to provide lawyers for every child. But new Justice Department data obtained by Kaiser Health News and the Texas Tribune show the number of babies under 1 summoned to immigration court recently increased almost 200 percent, from 24 in fiscal year 2017 to 70 so far in fiscal year 2018 (which ends Sept. 30).
“It sounds bizarre, it is bizarre, but this is what’s happening,” said Wendy Young, president of Kids In Need of Defense, an organization that provides free legal counsel to immigrant kids. “It’s obviously tragic but not surprising to us.”
Last year, the Trump administration insisted that its regressive tax cuts were so important, it was worth adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt to ensure their passage. Now, the White House is warning Congress that the United States cannot afford to add $1.6 billion to the deficit to expand health-care options for veterans. In a letter Monday, the Trump administration demanded that lawmakers fund a popular veterans’ health-care program — which allows former troops to spend public funds on private doctors and hospitals — with cuts to other parts of the budget. Democrats, and some top Senate Republicans, prefer to raise the current caps on discretionary spending instead.
The case for the latter option is straightforward. Congressional spending falls into two categories: mandatory (funding for programs like Social Security, which increases automatically as more Americans qualify for benefits) and discretionary (spending that Congress must actively renew). When Congress passed its omnibus budget bill back in March, the private veterans’ health-care program was on the mandatory side of the ledger. Thus, although lawmakers knew that federal spending on the program was going to increase, they didn’t have to account for its cost when setting a discretionary budget.
But last month, president Trump signed a law that reorganized veterans’ health care, and shifted funding for the private program into the discretionary column. This did not significantly increase the overall cost of domestic spending — but it did lift the price tag on the discretionary budget above previously set caps. Which is to say: It produced a budget shortfall that wasn’t a product of changes in fiscal reality, so much as in accounting practices.
Taking 'Wrecking Ball' to Endangered Species Act, Trump Administration Opens Door for Corporate Attack on Vulnerable Wildlife
Gutting the law that has protected the bald eagle, the American crocodile, the gray wolf, and countless other animals from extinction over the past four decades, the Trump administration gave its latest handout to corporate interests on Thursday when it unveiled sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). "These regulations are the heart of how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. Imperiled species depend on them for their very lives," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who is now president of Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. "The signal being sent by the Trump administration is clear: Protecting America’s wildlife and wild lands is simply not on their agenda."
Under the newly proposed guidelines, the Interior Department would direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to take economic impacts into consideration when deciding whether to protect species—potentially allowing corporations to move ahead with projects that would otherwise be prohibited. The department also proposed that it should stop extending similar levels of protection to animals and plants regardless of whether they are listed as "endangered" or "threatened," and would remove protections for "take"—the harming or killing of species—for animals that have been newly added to the "threatened" list.
If approved by the administration, critics said, the rollback of the law—which has the approval of 90 percent of Americans—will solidify the Trump administration's legacy as one which put the interests of corporations ahead of the well-being of wildlife.
As Trump Guts EPA From Within, Watchdog Reports Blasts Agency for Failures Related to Flint Water Crisis
A new report lays blame on all levels of government for the water crisis that has gripped Flint, Michigan for more than four years, and which safety advocates say has yet to be fully resolved. As the Trump administration urges budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency's inspector general found that the EPA responded far too slowly to a regional office's concerns about Flint's water after tests showed high levels of lead in April 2015. The discovery came a year after the city began using the Flint River as a drinking water source, switching from Detroit's water system to save money.
The EPA did not immediately publicize the findings, urging Michigan officials to address the problem and failing to oversee the response. "While oversight authority is vital, its absence can contribute to a catastrophic situation," EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins said in a statement. "This report urges the EPA to strengthen its oversight of state drinking water programs now so that the agency can act quickly in times of emergency."
Michigan was also found to have responded far to slowly to the Flint crisis, which began due to high levels of lead in the city's river. State officials did not acknowledge the toxicity of the water, waiting until September 2016 to shift the city's drinking water source back to Detroit, after researchers at Virginia Tech compared some water samples from the river to "toxic waste." Local officials were also blamed by the inspector general for ignoring residents' concerns over the unusual taste, color, and smell of the drinking water.
"People have realized they've been lied to, and EPA knew about this, and the state knew about this," Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards, who tested the water in 2016, told the Washington Post at the time. "What you really have as it spun out of control is a total loss of trust in government, which failed [residents] miserably. They don't believe a word that anyone tells them."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Marcia Ball - Mobile!
Marcia Ball - Hot Tamale Baby
Marcia Ball - I'm Coming Down With the Blues
Marcia Ball - That's Enough Of That Stuff
Marcia Ball and Stevie Ray Vaughan - Soulful Dress
Delbert McClinton & Marcia Ball - Read Me My Rights
Marcia Ball - I Got To Find Somebody
Marcia Ball w/David Murray - Eugene
Marcia Ball - Louisiana 1927
Marcia Ball at Discovery Green