The Evening Blues - 8-12-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Macon, Georgia blues guitarist and harmonica player Johnny Jenkins. Enjoy!
Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers - Pinetop
"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."
-- Soren Kierkegaard
News and Opinion
Leaked Draft of Trump Executive Order to 'Censor the Internet' Denounced as Dangerous, Unconstitutional Edict
Civil liberties groups are warning of a major threat to online freedoms and First Amendment rights if a leaked draft of a Trump administration edict—dubbed by critics as a "Censor the Internet" executive order that would give powerful federal agencies far-reaching powers to pick and choose which kind of Internet material is and is not acceptable—is allowed to go into effect.
According to CNN, which obtained a copy of the draft, the new rule "calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the Trump administration's draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies."
While Politico was the first to report how the draft was being circulated by the White House, CNN notes that if put into effect, "the order would reflect a significant escalation by President Trump in his frequent attacks against social media companies over an alleged but unproven systemic bias against conservatives by technology platforms. And it could lead to a significant reinterpretation of a law that, its authors have insisted, was meant to give tech companies broad freedom to handle content as they see fit."
The White House just leaked a draft executive order that would give the government the power to censor the Internet. We have to stop it before it's . https://t.co/mQCoL86ifA
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) August 11, 2019
As detailed in an action alert put out by Fight for the Future over the weekend:
[The] leaked documents show that the Trump administration is drafting an executive order that, if upheld by the courts, could essentially end free speech on the Internet. The draft order would put the FTC and the FCC, headed by its notoriously corrupt chairman Ajit Pai, in charge of monitoring and policing online speech on social media platforms, online forums, and more.
It would give these bureaucratic government agencies unprecedented control over how Internet platforms moderate speech by allowing them to revoke the essential protections Congress laid out in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). CDA 230 is the basic law that makes it possible for online platforms to let users post our own content, and to make basic decisions about what types of content they as private entities want to host. Every meme, every social media post, every blog and user-created video on the Internet has been made possible by this crucial free speech protection.
While the Trump administration has tried to argue the new order is a tool to keep web platforms from censoring online speech, Fight for the Future warns "this plan would create terrifying new censorship powers for the government to do just that."
Donald Trump is heading into the 2020 elections with no clear-cut foreign policy successes, some dramatic failures and a string of looming crises around the world that could undermine his bid for re-election. For that reason, many expect the president to try to reverse the trend with dramatic interventions around the globe with uncertain outcomes – which will make the next 16 months even more volatile than his presidency so far.
Trump has pulled out of nuclear agreements with Iran and Russia but the better deals he predicted seem more remote than ever, and in their absence nuclear weapons proliferation looks likely to accelerate. An effort to oust Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela in April was a fiasco, and subsequent efforts to strangle the economy have so far showed no sign of achieving their political objective. This week, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned that the measures are likely to significantly exacerbate conditions for millions of ordinary Venezuelan.
Trump’s proudest diplomatic achievement so far, becoming the first US president to meet a North Korean leader, is looking increasingly hollow, as Kim Jong-un steadily builds up his nuclear arsenal and resumes missile testing.
Similarly, Trump’s most significant military win, completing the eradication of the Islamic State caliphate in Syria and Iraq, has been tarnished by a Pentagon inspector general report this week saying that Isis had “solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria”. In Afghanistan, the administration claims to be close to an agreement with the Taliban, clearing the way for a major withdrawal of US forces by the end of Trump’s first term, but a spike in violence, with 1,500 civilian casualties in July alone, has underlined the tenuous nature of such negotiations.
Foreign policy issues rarely play a leading role in US presidential elections, but Trump has relentlessly portrayed himself as uniquely able to strike deals with foreign leaders and bring US troops home. And some foreign crises have a direct domestic result. The absence so far of the promised deal with China, the imposition of tariffs and the prospect of a worsening trade war will directly hit consumers and producers. “What is interesting is that in every one of these issues, Trump saw a domestic political benefit: getting tough on China, Iran, on Venezuela, with voters in Florida in mind, the spectacle of meeting Kim Jong-un,” said Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s speechwriter and foreign policy adviser. “But whatever short-term benefit there was has been more than eclipsed by the long-term mess he has created.”
North Korea conducted the latest in a series of missile launches Saturday to protest US-South Korean war games, just hours after US President Donald Trump expressed his own frustration with the exercises.
Defence officials in Seoul said what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles were fired at daybreak from near the northeastern city of Hamhung, flying 400 kilometres (250 miles) before splashing down in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan. It was the fifth round of launches in two weeks, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un labelling them a "solemn warning" over the joint military drills that began just days ago.
Saturday's tests came shortly after Trump said he agreed with Kim's opposition to the war games -– albeit for financial rather than military reasons. ... "He wasn't happy with the war games. I've never liked it either. I've never been a fan. And you know why? I don't like paying for it."
A senior member of the Taliban, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwah, says the US and the Taliban negotiators will likely sign the much-awaited peace agreement after Eid al-Adha -- at the end of this week.
In a recorded video published on Youtube, the Taliban member says the talks between the US and the group will continue after Eid al-Adha which ends on August 13.
He said that the peace deal between the US and the Taliban will be signed in the presence of representatives of the UN the Islamic Organization and regional countries after the return of the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to Doha after Eid (August 14).
“Discussions on other issues such as intra-Afghan negotiations will be made after that [the signing of the peace deal],” he said.
John Bolton, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has arrived in London for talks at which he is expected to urge Britain to toughen its stance on Iran and Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei. As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union on 31 October, many diplomats expect London to become increasingly reliant on the United States.
Bolton arrived on Sunday night and will hold talks on Monday and Tuesday. They will include a heavy focus on Brexit, reflecting the Trump White House’s attempts to solidify ties with Boris Johnson’s new government after Trump’s strained relationship with his predecessor Theresa May.
The hardliner is expected to urge British officials to align policy on Iran more closely with that of Washington, which has pressured Tehran with an increase in sanctions after the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. Britain has so far backed the European Union in sticking with the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last month put pressure on London to consider a tougher stance.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler finally made it official: The House is engaged in “formal impeachment proceedings” against President Trump. A decision on whether to recommend articles of impeachment will be made by his committee “hopefully” by the end of this year, Nadler told CNN Thursday night, in the first public declaration that the process is underway.
“This is formal impeachment proceedings,” Nadler said. “And we will at the conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won’t. That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”
The statement marks a rhetorical escalation in the still hotly-contested issue among House Democrats: how aggressively to proceed on impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still opposes going there, fearing it's a political dead end, bound for certain failure in the Republican-controlled Senate.
But as that debate roils on, a related battlefront is heating up: Democrats’ strategy for prying damaging information from Trump’s White House, in what they hope will result in a series of explosive televised hearings this fall featuring top-shelf members of Trump’s inner circle. And that may be their real prize — even if they never get around to impeachment.
President Trump and Mitch McConnell are actually making noises about considering background checks after last weekend’s two horrific mass shootings. But they don’t seem to be in any great rush: Neither Senate Majority Leader McConnell nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called their conferences back from summer recess for an emergency session, despite loud calls from Democrats to do so. ...
....mentally ill or deranged people. I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country. Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2019
Trump tweeted early Monday that he would support background checks if coupled with immigration reform, but appeared to walk back those statements during his White House address, when he put the blame for rampant gun violence on mental illness and violent video games.
And McConnell has refused to hold a vote on a gun control bill House Democrats passed in February that would require background checks for gun sales, despite calls this week from Schumer, Pelosi, and a conference of over 200 mayors to reconvene the Senate in an emergency session to discuss gun control measures and white supremacy.
His comments on Thursday are the closest he’s come to publicly entertaining the idea.
The NRA spent more than $30 million to elect Trump https://t.co/jO09i8HGRb
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) August 9, 2019
The suspected gunman in an attack on a mosque in Norway on Saturday was inspired by recent white extremist attacks in New Zealand and the US, online posts suggest. Police in Norway have so far only said the attack in Baerum, a town 20km from Oslo, the capital, will be investigated as a possible act of terrorism.
In messages posted on the day of the attack, Philip Manshaus, a 21-year-old man who has been named by local media as the main suspect, described himself as “chosen” by “Saint [Brenton] Tarrant”, the gunman who killed 51 people at mosques in New Zealand in March.
“My time is up, I was chosen by Saint Tarrant after all … We can’t let this continue, you gotta bump the race war threat in real life … it’s been fun,” one post reads. In a meme also posted by Manshaus, three rightwing extremists suspected of being responsible for other attacks this year are depicted and praised as heroes of the white nationalist movement.
Tarrant is described as having “addressed the Muslim problem” while Patrick Crusius, who has been charged with the attack in El Paso, Texas, in which 22 people died, is praised for “fighting to reclaim his country”. A third attacker suspected of killing a woman during a Passover celebration at a synagogue in California in April is also praised, alongside antisemitic abuse.
The evidence of posts supporting the actions of the three suspects will fuel fears that a “cascade” of rightwing extremist attacks is gathering supporters around the world.
Friday marked five years since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including once through the top of the head, and left for four-and-a-half hours to die in the street by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. Brown’s father, Michael Brown, Sr. used the grim anniversary to call for a reopening of the investigation into his son’s death. The killer cop has never been charged. “Justice has not been served,” Brown, Sr. said at a press conference Friday morning outside the St. Louis County Justice Services Center, not far from where Michael Brown was killed. “My son deserved to live a full life. But a coward with a badge… chose not to value his life. My son was murdered in cold blood, with no remorse and no medical treatment.”
Brown’s killing on the afternoon of August 9, 2014 sparked popular protests in the small working class suburb of St. Louis, which were met with a paramilitary police occupation and deployment of the National Guard by a Democratic governor. The scenes of riot police with body armor and military grade weapons, backed by armored vehicles with mounted machine guns and military helicopters, facing down peacefully protesting men, women and children shocked the whole country and the world. Protestors were shot by rubber bullets, bean bags and flash bang grenades. More than a dozen journalists were arrested as they attempted to cover the police crackdown. ...
Four months later a grand jury delivered its decision not to indict Wilson, reigniting protests that were again met by a police crackdown and the deployment of more than a thousand National Guard troops. This was followed by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department announcement in March 2015 that it would not bring federal civil rights charges against Wilson, completing the whitewash of Brown’s murder. ...
Twelve-year-old Amir Worship was fast asleep when a SWAT team allegedly raided his bedroom at 5 a.m. on May 26, conducting a search warrant in his south Chicago home. One of the officers then shot him in the leg, shattering his knee, when he was sitting on the edge of his bed complying with their orders, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Cook County, Illinois.
Amir’s room was already cleared and he was attempting to follow directions when he was shot, according to the complaint. "Police shot 12-year-old Amir as he sat on the edge of his bed with his hands up," said his attorney, Al Hofeld Jr., in a news conference Thursday. Amir's older brothers, Eric, 13, and Robert, 18, woke up to guns pointed at them, too, the complaint alleges.
But the officers weren’t looking for the boys; they were trying to arrest their mother’s boyfriend, Mitchell Thurman, who had been charged with drug and gun possession. In June, Thurman’s case was dismissed.
A Michigan cop has been placed on administrative leave so city officials can investigate why he decorated his home with Confederate flags and a framed membership application for the Ku Klux Klan. ...
Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson was alerted to Officer Charles Anderson’s disturbing memorabilia after an African-American man toured the white officer’s home, which is for sale, according to the statewide news site MLive. Rob Mathis wrote on Facebook that the five-bedroom home was littered with Confederate memorabilia. The KKK application was hanging in one of the bedrooms. It lacks a name and signature.
Anderson, who's been with the force for more than two decades, fatally shot a black man in 2009, according to MLive. The 48-year-old officer killed 23-year-old Julius Johnson after the man fled on foot after a traffic stop and then allegedly beat the officer in the head. Anderson had been called in as back-up apparently relating to the smell of marijuana, and said he shot Johnson because he feared for his life. The local prosecutor said Anderson was justified in using deadly force.
Tens of millions of people use Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo speakers to play music, make calls, and turn off the lights. What they don’t know is how those speakers were built: by schoolchildren who are forced to work overtime and night shifts against their will, according to a new report from China Labor Watch.
The 72-page report details how Foxconn, the contract manufacturer that also makes Apple’s iPhones, drafts thousands of Chinese teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 to work long hours without a break when it receives large orders of the popular Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers.
Workers are typically restricted to 60 hours per week, but when a large order is placed, the factory lifts those restrictions and forces the schoolchildren to work overtime and night shifts, often without a single day off. The factory in Hengyang, the second-largest city in Hunan Province, draws from a group of local schools to bolster its labor force during busy periods. Researchers found that teachers in those schools effectively force students to work this punishing schedule.
A China Labor Watch investigation last year found similar labor rights violations, and Foxconn and Amazon both promised to fix the problem. But the group’s 2019 investigation found that Foxconn’s working conditions have actually deteriorated.
Sanders Demands Drug and Insurance Industries Explain the Hundreds of Millions They Seem Willing to Spend to Defeat Medicare for All
Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is calling on the top lobbyists of the nation's private health insurance and pharmaceutical industries to explain to the American people why they are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this election cycle to attack his proposal for Medicare for All—a plan that would provide everyone in the country with healthcare coverage by improving and expanding the existing Medicare program.
In a letter sent Friday to Matt Eyles and Stephen Ubl, the respective heads of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Sanders asked them both to "please explain to the American people why you believe it is more important to spend such an enormous sum of money on advertising, lobbying and campaign contributions than it is to make sure that no one in the wealthiest country in the world dies or goes bankrupt because they cannot afford to purchase life-saving prescription drugs or go to a doctor."
Today I asked the health care industry a simple question:
How much will you spend to defeat Medicare for All?
Is it $200 million? Is it $500 million?
They can spend all the money they want. We're going to beat them. pic.twitter.com/cjjCVbOBsc
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 10, 2019
“It just shows,” says Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, “that launching a smear campaign is the only response to the truth.”
Gabbard, 38, burst into headlines after a July 31 Democratic Party presidential debate, when she went after California Senator Kamala Harris’s record as Attorney General of the State of California. The “smear campaign” refers to the bizarre avalanche of negative press that ensued, as reporters seemed to circle wagons around a Harris, a party favorite. The Gabbard-Harris exchange was brief but revealing, as a window into a schism in the Democratic Party. Harris was elected Attorney General of California in 2010. She frequently sought moderate or even conservative positions on issues like criminal sentencing, drug enforcement, and prison labor. These stances were standard among Democrats back when being “tough on crime” was considered an essential component of the “electability” argument. ...
Having wounded a presumptive frontrunner backed by nearly $25 million in campaign funds, Gabbard instantly became the subject of a slew of negative leaks, tweets, and press reports. Many of these continued the appalling recent Democratic Party tradition of denouncing anything it doesn’t like as treasonous aid to foreign enemies. ... The New York Times wrote Gabbard believes the United States has “wrought horror on the world,” and that “critics have called her actions un-American.” Politico denounced Gabbard’s “Star Wars bar scene-like following” and hissed that the Daily Stormer was a supporter (Gabbard has repeatedly condemned white nationalism and sworn off their support). On The View, co-host Sunny Hostin called Gabbard a “Trojan Horse,” while Ana Navarro viciously insinuated Gabbard, an Iraq veteran, was part of a foreign column.
The campaign against Gabbard is part of another remarkable shift in the Democratic Party. Barack Obama’s star began to rise as a presidential candidate 12 years ago, in 2007, when asked in a debate if he’d be willing to meet with Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. Obama said he would, that “it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.” He added: “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of [the Bush] administration — is ridiculous.” He went on to cite, as Gabbard has done, the example of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who both met with Soviet leaders. It is true that Hillary Clinton pushed back against Obama’s position in that debate, calling it “irresponsible,” but the moment was a key in endearing Obama to liberal voters who were tired of Bush’s gunboat lunacy. The episode also helped define one of the more meaningful policy differences between Clinton and Obama. But the progressive position that meeting with dictators and/or adversaries is not only defensible but desirable no longer has any representation in major America media. ...
[Excerpts from a podcast which will be released later follow. - js]
Example of 'Unknown Unknowns,' Study Detailing 'Almost Instant Mortality of Corals' Suggests Crisis Worse Than Previously Understood
As the human-caused climate crisis drives up ocean temperatures at a rate that has scientists worried, a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology reveals that warming waters are an even bigger threat to coral reefs than experts previously realized. Past research has raised alarm about how ocean pollution and rising temperatures cause coral bleaching—which is when coral expels algae, its main food source, and turns white. Although more susceptible to disease and death, bleached coral can recover if temperatures fall, so some scientists have been hopeful that urgent climate action could revive impacted reefs.
However, the new study—conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales Sydney, the University of Newcastle, the University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—heightens concerns about the future of coral reefs in a warming world. ...
"Until now, we have described coral bleaching as an event where the symbiotic relationship between coral and its microbes breaks down and corals lose their main source of nutrition, and the coral can die if the symbiosis is not restored," co-author Tracy Ainsworth, an associate professor at Australia's University of New South Wales Sydney, explained in a statement. "But what we are now seeing is that severe marine heatwave events can have a far more severe impact than coral bleaching," Ainsworth continued. "The water temperatures are so warm that the coral animal doesn't bleach—in terms of a loss of its symbiosis—the animal dies and its underlying skeleton is all that remains."
"A bleached reef has the capacity to recover.
But now we’re starting to talk about a very clear mortality event; a very fast and well-defined mortality event.”
— Nsikan Akpan (@MoNscience) August 8, 2019
"We find that the skeleton is immediately overgrown by rapid growth of algae and bacteria," said co-author Bill Leggat, an associate professor at the U.K.'s University of Newcastle. By CT scanning the coral skeleton, Leggat said, the team found that "this process is devastating not just for the animal tissue, but also for the skeleton that is left behind, which is rapidly eroded and weakened." ...
PBS News Hour reported that "without the option to recover, the world may start seeing corals die off faster than expected. And the death of corals would come with a steep cost for humans: flood protection that's worth tens of millions in the U.S. alone, plus an estimated value of almost $30 billion each year globally in tourism, fishing, and other benefits."
Environmentalists on Friday denounced the Trump administration for once again attempting to boost fossil fuel industry profits at the expense of public health after EPA chief Andrew Wheeler proposed a rule to expedite approval of dirty pipeline projects. The rule, according to the Wall Street Journal, would significantly weaken states' authority to cite Clean Water Act regulations to delay or block pipeline projects.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement Friday that the Trump administration's proposal "should be seen for what it is: an egregious handout to corporate fossil fuel polluters."
"The Clean Water Act is responsible for many of the most important improvements in public health and safety for generations. Any effort to strip its power is an affront to common sense and our overall wellbeing," said Hauter. "For an administration that claims to prioritize states' rights, this attempted power grab at the expense of state-based clean water oversight is the epitome of hypocrisy."
Activists are raising the alarm that the Democratic Party may be about to kill efforts to schedule a debate focused on the climate crisis through a resolution being pushed by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez that includes language seen as a potential excuse for not covering the topic. The Perez resolution, which was publicly revealed Friday by HuffPost reporter Alexander Kaufman, is entitled "Resolution Recommitting the Democratic Party to the Work of Combating Climate Change and Creating Jobs by Growing our Clean Energy Economy." The proposal lists nine points on climate, but it's the last one—a relatively innocuous few lines of praise for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates—that has green groups concerned.
From the resolution:
WHEREAS, Democratic candidates for President of the United States are demonstrating their commitment to tackling the issue of climate change, having already scheduled two televised forums on CNN and MSNBC to discuss the issue, and debating the issue during each of the DNC-sanctioned presidential primary debates; THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, Democrats will address the serious threat of climate change through bold and inclusive solutions that grow the clean energy economy and expand America's middle class.
"Whereas Democratic candidates are proposing real solutions to the crisis; and whereas a forum is not the same as a debate, therefore be it resolved that Tom Perez needs to stop looking for excuses to not hold a climate debate," tweeted green group Sierra Club. "Simply put, the people demand and deserve to hear a real debate on the climate crisis, not yet another DC leader obstructing the conversation," the group added. "It's time we get a climate debate."
According to HuffPost's Kaufman, the resolution language is suspect to activists that already distrust the DNC:
That, say activists, appears to provide cover to the DNC to reject a resolution calling for an official debate on the climate crisis. The DNC is expected to consider proposals for a climate debate and a party-sanctioned forum later this month.
"Why is Tom Perez trying to kill the momentum for a climate debate?" progressive group Justice Democrats wondered on Twitter.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Johnny Jenkins - It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues
Johnny Jenkins - I Don't Want No Woman
Johnny Jenkins - Scratch My Back
Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers - Love Twist
Otis Redding & The Pinetoppers - Fat Girl
Johnny Jenkins - Dimples
Johnny Jenkins - Big Bad Wolf
Johnny Jenkins & Duane Allman - Down Along The Cove
Johnny Jenkins - Voodoo In You
Johnny Jenkins - The Truth Is Gonna Stand