The Evening Blues - 8-16-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and boogie woogie piano player Big Maceo Merriweather. Enjoy!
Big Maceo Merriweather - Kid Man Blues
“Free speech means the right to shout 'theatre' in a crowded fire.”
-- Abbie Hoffman
News and Opinion
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones responded to Twitter’s seven-day platform ban Wednesday by posting a video to Twitter in which he blasted the company for its ineffectual attempt to shut him down.
Twitter announced its decision late Tuesday, saying it had restricted Jones’ personal account after he posted a link to a Periscope video in which he told supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready against antifa, the mainstream media, and “Chicom operatives.” The network said the tweet violated its rules, and they asked Jones to delete the post. He did, and that triggered a seven-day period during which he won’t be able to tweet, retweet, or like any messages.
But hours after the restrictions went into effect, Jones posted a 13-minute video via the Infowars Twitter account, decrying what he sees as another part of Silicon Valley’s efforts to censor him. [Click the link if you want to see the video, I will not post it here.- js] ...
Jones can also still reach an audience via Infowars.com, though the website did come under attack earlier this week and was knocked offline for a short period. Jones accused a cabal of Chinese communists, Hollywood and the left for the “hack attack.”
Framing media restrictions on his output as a war, Jones said Wednesday: “Infowars is now a rallying cry for free speech in Americana, so I am very honored to be under attack.”
President Donald Trump yanked the White House security clearance for former CIA Director John Brennan on Wednesday, and he could target others critical of him next. The move was announced by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who cited “the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”
Brennan, CIA chief from 2013-17, has been vocal about his disdain for Trump on the president’s most-used social media platform, tweeting Tuesday that he would “never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our nation.” He echoed those comments in an MSNBC appearance Tuesday night. ...
Brennan’s verified [Twitter] account has been pretty much tweeting only about Trump over the past several months, often criticizing him for attacking the Russia investigation.
Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, wasn’t consulted before Trump’s move to revoke, according to CNN. ...
Trump is also reviewing the security clearances of other former officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, the Washington Post reported. Comey apparently no longer has his security clearance anyway. The White House is also considering revoking security clearances from former director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, among others.
Shed Not a Tear for War Criminal John Brennan, Say Legal Experts, But Also Recognize Danger of Trump Abusing Power to Punish Critics
While Democratic senators, corporate talking heads, former national security officials, and Twitter pundits issued dire proclamations about the "dangerous precendent" President Donald Trump set on Wednesday by revoking former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance for obviously vindictive and political reasons, critics of America's far-too-powerful intelligence apparatus were quick to express how little sympathy they feel for Brennan, given his utterly horrendous track record of defending torture and masterminding the Obama administration's deadly drone program.
john brennan is being punished by not being able to find out who got droned yesterday, i hope he's ok https://t.co/wD2Y2TFqWp
— libby watson (@libbycwatson) August 15, 2018
But while well-established critics of the American national security state refused to shed a single tear for Brennan—or, for that matter, any of the other former intelligence officials on Trump's so-called enemies list—the very fact that Trump has such a list and is using the power of the presidency to punish the individuals on it sparked alarm among journalists and civil libertarians. "The First Amendment does not permit the president to revoke security clearances to punish his critics," Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, argued in a statement on Wednesday, referring to the fact that the officials on Trump's list have frequently denounced the president on television.
"Brennan's record is full of grave missteps, and we have been unsparing in our criticism of his defense of the CIA torture program and his role in unlawful lethal strikes abroad," Wizner added. "But Trump's revocation of Brennan’s clearance, and his threats to revoke the clearances of other former officials for the sole reason that they have criticized his conduct and policies, amount to unconstitutional retaliation. They are also part of a broader pattern of seeking to silence or marginalize critics, which includes forcing staff to sign unconstitutional non-disclosure agreements."
1) @JohnBrennan is a war criminal, a pathological liar & an advocate of torture & torturers.
2) Ex-CIA officials exploiting their security clearance for profit is abusive & they don't need it.
3) It's dangerous to allow a President to impose punishments for criticisms.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 15, 2018
John Brennan has called Donald Trump’s repeated denials that his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election “hogwash,” and accused the president of revoking his security clearance as part of a “desperate” attempt to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation.
The war of words between the former CIA director and the president escalated on Thursday, as Brennan hit back after being stripped of his security clearance by the White House the previous day – an unprecedented presidential intervention that has prompted widespread criticism. A statement from Trump said he had taken the step due to Brennan’s “erratic conduct and behavior”.
Brennan, who was CIA director during the Obama administration, has increasingly criticized Trump in recent months.
Writing in an article for the New York Times published on Thursday, Brennan described the decision as “politically motivated” and “an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him”.
In a move that immediately sparked alarm among national security analysts, President Donald Trump on Wednesday reportedly scrapped a classified Obama-era memo that set detailed restrictions on how and under what circumstances cyberweapons can be used.
According to the Wall Street Journal—which first reported Trump's move late Wednesday—the rollback was described by one administration official briefed on the decision as an "offensive step" toward loosening constraints on the military's ability to deploy cyberweapons against foreign "adversaries."
One anonymous official told the Journal that Trump's ultra-hawkish national security adviser John Bolton began calling for the elimination of the Obama-era memo shortly after he arrived in the White House in April. "The Trump administration has faced pressure to show that it is taking seriously national-security cyberthreats—particularly those that intelligence officials say are posed by Moscow," the Journal noted. "Top administration officials are also devising new penalties that would allow stronger responses to state-sponsored hacks of U.S. critical infrastructure... a mounting worry due to Russia's efforts to penetrate American electric utilities." ...
White House officials told the Journal that Trump has replaced Obama's directive with his own rules, but they refused to provide any details.
The bombing of a bus full of schoolchildren last week was just one of more than 50 airstrikes against civilian vehicles by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen so far this year, according to new data. The data also shows that the monitoring body set up in Riyadh purportedly to investigate incidents of civilian casualties has supported the Saudi military version of events in almost every case.
The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) has not issued comprehensive statistics but has instead issued periodic press statements. And according to an analysis by Human Rights Watch (HRW), out of 75 incidents where civilian casualties were reported, JIAT has admitted Saudi rules of engagement may have been broken in only two.
In 10 more cases, JIAT has conceded that civilians may have been killed in error and said that compensation would be paid, but human rights advocates said there was so far no sign of any payments being made. “None of the victims’ families we reached out to said they had been contacted,” said Kristine Bekerle, a HRW researcher, noting that the cases where compensation had been promised were up to two years old.
Statistics collated by an independent monitoring group, the Yemen Data Project, suggest that the targeting of the schoolbus was part of a wider pattern. According to its records, there have been 55 airstrikes against civilian vehicles and buses in the first seven months of this year – a higher rate than in 2017. The group’s analysis of over 18,000 strikes from March 2015 to April 2016 found that almost a third (31%) of the targets were non-military – civilians or civilian infrastructure – 36% were military, while another third were classified as having an unknown target.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), joined by 16 other Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday demanding "immediate action" to reunite the immigrant families torn apart and detained under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy.
More than 500 immigrant children remain separated from their parents—many of whom already have been deported—despite a June federal court order requiring the administration to reunite all families by July 26. Since the administration missed that deadline, immigrant rights groups and critical lawmakers have, as the letter (pdf) puts it, expressed "extreme frustration" over the prolonged separation. ...
The letter presents Nielsen three solutions to speed up the process:
- DHS should use humanitarian parole to reunify families with deported parents abroad;
- DHS should adopt a presumption of reunification for families with parents now deemed "ineligible"; and
- DHS should ensure that no parents who relinquished their rights to reunification under coercion or duress are removed.
More than 70 percent of the 539 children that remain in government custody, according to the letter, are there because their parents have been deported, and "many such parents are now hiding in their home countries from the very persecutors they fled in coming to the United States to seek protection"—hence the suggestion that DHS offer these parents humanitarian parole.
Another 87 children's parents have been deemed "ineligible" for reunification, yet in many cases, "the government has failed to provide detailed information regarding its allegations." The letter demands that the agency immediately provide such details, and provide parents the opportunity to offer a rebuttal, with the help of an attorney.
The remaining 34 children are in custody because their parents relinquished their right to reunification. The letter states that lawmakers are "alarmed" by allegations which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has put forth in court that Trump officials misled or coerced these parents to sign such waivers ahead of their deportation.
The man responsible for removing the words “We are a nation of immigrants” from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ mission statement spoke at an event Wednesday hosted by a hard-line anti-immigration think tank. Lee Francis Cissna, who has served as USCIS director since October, sat down with Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a hate group on account of its record of publishing false or misleading information about immigrants. ...
The appearance came just days after USCIS was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, who accused the agency of coordinating a plot with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to trap and arrest individuals seeking legal residency. ... “USCIS is, like it or not, part of a cycle,” Cissna said, defending cooperation with ICE. “That involves our sister components in immigration, like ICE, CBP, etc. Together we adjudicate and handle the lawful immigration program.”
Cissna also took advantage of the appearance at the National Press Club in Washington to defend his decision to alter the agency’s mission statement. “The first thing I did, what I wanted to do, was to redefine, clarify, what the purpose of the agency is,” Cissna said. “I looked at the old mission statement and I concluded it didn’t really do that. So I started from scratch.” The previous statement affirmed a dedication to securing “America’s promise as as nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers,” as well as granting immigration and citizenship benefits. Now, thanks to Cissna, the mission of USCIS is to administer “the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values."
In short, he has transformed the agency from a service accommodating those hoping to obtain visas or greencards, to an American guard dog. ... Under Cissna’s leadership, the backlog of naturalization applications at USCIS has skyrocketed by 87 percent, which critics suggest is a ploy to delay citizenship for individuals during a critical midterm election year. “The Trump admin has built a second wall that prevents legal immigrants in the U.S. from becoming voting U.S. citizens,” Joshua Hoyt, the executive director of an immigrant advocacy group, told NBC News.
It has been four years since Deborah Jane was attacked by a gang of men led by her abusive ex-husband. The men scalded the then-39-year-old mother of four with acid as punishment for speaking out about the domestic abuse suffered by many women in her rural Ugandan community. Maimed and fearing for her life, Jane fled to Nairobi, Kenya, where, after a lengthy process, she won a coveted spot on the list of refugees to be resettled in the United States. She arrived alone in Columbus, Ohio, in January 2016, and immediately applied to have her children — the youngest of whom was 4 years old — to join her in the U.S. A year later, around the same time Donald Trump assumed the presidency, her paperwork was approved. “We just needed the children to do interviews, medical — a few things, and then they’d be able to come,” Jane told The Intercept, “But since then, there has been only silence.” ...
She has lobbied numerous times at the offices of both Ohio senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman — and has sought legal help from refugee advocacy groups and local churches, but feels no closer to an answer. “No one can tell me what the real problem is — only that their cases are not moving. I think the current administration just doesn’t want refugees like me to come here. ...
As the world’s already-unprecedented refugee population continues to climb, the Trump administration is considering slashing the annual refugee cap to 25,000 for the 2019 fiscal year, down from this year’s historic low of 45,000, the New York Times reported earlier this month. The administration last year suspended all refugee resettlement for 120 days and diverted resources and personnel away from refugee processing, further weakening an already-backlogged system. These disruptions have caused a cascade of delays and interagency confusion, while a lack of transparency leaves refugees and advocates alike at the mercy of an increasingly antagonistic system. Sources familiar with the program describe chaos amid shifting security protocols, with particular detriment to refugees from the Middle East and other Muslim-majority countries.
The president is expected to announce his recommended refugee quota in September, ahead of the October 1 start of the fiscal year. Regardless of what he decides, however, advocates report that the refugee quota is no longer a reliable indicator of actual refugee admissions. At the current pace, the administration is on track to settle about 20,000 refugees — out of a global population of roughly 25 million — by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. In 2017, the U.S. admitted only 33,000 refugees, marking the first time that the country resettled fewer refugees than the rest of the world. “In the past, refugee numbers fluctuated at times, but it was always understood to be temporary, with the goal to return to the normal numbers around 95,000,” said Adam Bates, policy counsel for the International Refugee Assistance Project, “but this is different. It seems as if the administration is trying to rewrite the status quo — a status quo that is very hostile to refugees, and immigrants in general.” ...
The drastic decrease in refugee admissions has led to the weakening of decades-old systems that help refugees transition to life in their new home, making it likely that the program will have to be rebuilt if a future U.S. administration moves toward welcoming more refugees.
The great American soul singer Aretha Franklin has died at the age of 76, her representative has said. She was reported to have been gravely ill with her family at her bedside. ...
Franklin had been in ill health since 2010, when she was diagnosed with a tumour but returned to intermittent live performance after undergoing surgery. She died of advanced pancreatic cancer. Despite having announced her retirement from performing in 2017, she was due to headline two shows at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest this April but cancelled on doctor’s orders. Her last performance was at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City during Elton John’s 25th anniversary gala for the Elton John Aids Foundation on 7 November 2017.
Known as “the queen of soul”, Franklin sold more than 75m records in her lifetime and won 18 Grammy awards. She had 77 entries in the US Billboard Hot 100 and 20 No 1 singles on the R&B chart. ...
Franklin was born on 25 March 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. The family moved to Buffalo, New York, when Franklin was two years old, and settled in Detroit, Michigan two years later. It was in Detroit, shortly after her mother’s death, that the 10-year-old Franklin started singing solos at New Bethel church, where her father was a preacher whose political sermons led Martin Luther King to stay with the family when he visited Detroit.
Clarence LaVaughn (CL) Franklin began managing his daughter and included her in his “gospel caravan” church tours. He assisted Franklin in signing first to JVB Records, which released her debut, Songs of Faith, in 1956, then to Columbia to pursue a pop career. After a first flush of success in the early 1960s, Franklin signed to Atlantic in 1966, where she flourished with an extraordinary run of singles including her cover of Otis Redding’s Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and I Say a Little Prayer. In 1972, she released the live album Amazing Grace, which showcased her gospel background.
Louisiana has over 100,000 miles of pipeline, and the most recent addition, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, is causing major headaches for homeowners along the route. Just like with the Dakota Access Pipeline, not everyone wants it crossing their backyard. Like Pat Trahan. When she raised concerns about potential environmental damage and tried to negotiate with the company building the Bayou pipeline, her family was threatened with a lawsuit.
“It just sounded like they have more lawyers than we could ever have, and they'd eventually win,” Trahan told VICE News. “They wore my husband down.”
The pipeline is part of a huge network that includes the Dakota Access Pipeline, and moves crude from Dakota’s Bakken oilfield to refineries and export terminals hundreds of miles south. In Louisiana, oil pipeline companies have almost unlimited powers of eminent domain, meaning they can take private property in court when landowners refuse to sell. And Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind Bayou Bridge, hasn’t been shy about using this right along the pipeline’s 163-mile route. ...
Anne Rolfes, executive director of environmental group the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said property owners ultimately have no option to object to a pipeline crossing their land. “We've realized that there isn't any oversight and that the state isn't carrying out its function regarding eminent domain,” said Rolfes. “I think it's an issue on which really conservative lawmakers are quite concerned because it's about companies seizing private property.”
NSA’s interest in environmental issues is limited, it’s wide-reaching and has grown over the years. Unsurprisingly, the agency is driven not by an imperative to avoid climate-induced ecological crises, but by a need to respond to such crises as they threaten U.S. political and economic interests or explode into violent clashes.
According to the documents, the NSA targets its surveillance at disputes over natural resources, from the dwindling fisheries of the South China Sea to the newly opened shipping channels of the Arctic. It also plays a role in monitoring natural disasters, including by gathering intelligence after an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011. Documents previously reported on show the agency routinely surveils climate talks, giving U.S. negotiators an edge as they avoid committing to the dramatic emissions reductions necessary to avoid the most dire potential effects of climate change. Intelligence is shared not only with diplomats and emergency responders but also with officials from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.
The NSA’s eco-spying coincided with repeated findings within the intelligence community that environmental concerns had national security implications. The military has long recognized climate change as a major threat, and over the years, the Defense Department has framed it as a “threat multiplier,” enflaming conflicts by adding to the mix issues like drought, loss of access to drinking water or irrigation, rising sea levels, migration and die-offs of wild game, wildfires, catastrophic storms, and the human displacement that comes with all such issues. A previously published NSA document, dated May 14, 2007, quoted then-Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper at an internal NSA conference saying, “Increasingly, the environment is becoming an adversary for us. And I believe that the capabilities and assets of the Intelligence Community are going to be brought to bear increasingly in assessing the environment as an adversary.”
The U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, released in February 2018, dedicates a section to the issue of climate change. “The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018,” the assessment said. But under President Donald Trump, security officials have sometimes avoided talking about climate change. Neither the Defense Department’s 2018 defense strategy nor the president’s national security strategy highlight the issue as a security threat. Nonetheless, Trump’s military, intelligence, and border agencies are responding to issues whose links to climate change may not be outwardly apparent — from the war in Syria, which has been linked to an earlier drought; to the hurricanes that ravaged Houston and Puerto Rico; to emigration from Central America, where a prolonged period without rain in recent years made agriculture in the region’s Dry Corridor extremely difficult. The documents hint at, but do not fully capture, the potentially vast role of the surveillance state in a climate-changed world.
Stalling Trump's 'Illegal Rubber-Stamp' of Keystone XL, Federal Court Orders Full Environmental Review
Rejecting what critics have called the Trump administration's "illegal rubber-stamp" of the Keystone XL pipeline, a federal court in Great Falls, Montana has sided with opponents of the project and mandated a full environmental impact review for the proposed route. "This is a huge win for the landowners and Tribal Nation members whose water and environment would be forever threatened by this dangerous tar sands project," declared Jackie Prange, senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council.
"The court saw through the sham fast-track environmental review that TransCanada and the State Department were trying to shove past Nebraska landowners and Tribal Nations," responded Mark Hefflinger of Bold Alliance. "We'll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens our land, water, and climate at every opportunity, and at every public hearing during the new court-ordered review of Nebraska."
After President Donald Trump reversed the Obama administration's decision to block the TransCanada pipeline—which would run through Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada as well as Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska—regulators in Nebraska approved a path that was not part of the federal government's 2014 environmental impact statement. Last month, the Trump State Department issued a draft assessment (pdf) for the Mainline Alternative Route (MAR) through Nebraska, but U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Wednesday ordered a full review.
While opponents of Keystone XL continue to fight both in court and beyond—by organizing protests, installing solar panels along the planned route, and returning land to local tribes—they celebrated Morris's ruling as a step toward permanently blocking the project.
With Only One Percent of Leases Sold, Even Fossil Fuel Industry Understands Trump's Offshore Drilling Plan Is Ridiculous
In yet another rebuke to the Trump administration's claims that opening wide swaths of the ocean to the ravages off fossil fuel production is wise or necessary, an auction for more than 14,000 offshore drilling leases on Wednesday received little enthusiasm from oil and gas companies.
The Interior Department managed to sell fewer than one percent of the tracts, making the auction even less successful than its last sale in March, when just over one percent of leases went to buyers.
The sale will bring in $180 million, but with offers from only 30 companies, climate action groups took the largely failed auction as a sign that there is an end in sight for the destructive method of oil extraction, as progressive leaders call for a shift to renewable energy sources. ...
The leases sold in Wednesday's auction are in the Gulf of Mexico. The Center for Biological Diversity joined other green groups in applauding the Trump administration's failure to sell more leases to corporate polluters—but noted that even the 144 tracts the Interior Department auctioned off have the capacity to damage wildlife habitats and endanger lives as companies extract oil and gas.
A study of dozens of popular oat-based breakfast foods delivered sobering news this week when almost all of the products examined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) were found to contain the chemical glyphosate.
"We're very concerned that consumers are eating more glyphosate than they know," said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at EWG, in a statement. Glyphosate is classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and was listed last year as a chemical known to cause cancer by California.
Out of 45 products "made with conventionally grown oats," all but two were found to contain glyphosate. EWG also tested two organic brands, detecting the chemical in five samples. Thirty-one of the breakfast foods were found to contain levels of glyphosate that were higher than the level that EWG deems safe for children.
Quaker Simply Granola, Giant Instant Oatmeal, Quaker Dinosaur Eggs Instant Oatmeal, and Quaker Steel Cut Oats had some of the highest levels of the chemical.
While the Trump administration recently moved to roll back a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in U.S. wildlife refuges, conservationists are celebrating Canada "for recognizing the overwhelming body of scientific evidence on neonics and phasing out these dangerous pesticides."
"These bee-killing pesticides pose a serious threat to public health, the environment, and our entire food system," declared Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a senior food futures campaigner for Friends of the Earth U.S., applauding the Canadian government's new policy.
Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency on Wednesday unveiled plans to phase out two of the three main neonics currently allowed in the country. As The Canadian Press noted, "The agency has already announced plans to phase out the third pesticide in all outdoor uses, meaning it can't be sprayed or used to pre-treat seeds before planting."
Although scientists and activists have urged the Trump administration to follow suit, disgraced former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt positioned himself as a lackey of the chemical industry, and his replacement, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, isn't expected to be much better.
"Unfortunately, it looks like the EPA is trying to be the last agency on Earth to recognize that these pesticides should be banned," concluded Finck-Haynes, who also blamed "leading food retailers" that "continue to disregard science."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Big Maceo Merriweather w/Tampa Red - Worried Life Blues
Big Maceo Merriweather w/Tampa Red - I´m So Worried
Big Maceo Merriweather w/Tampa Red - Won't Be a Fool No More
Big Maceo Merriweather - Big City Blues
Big Maceo Merriweather w/Tampa Red - Since You Been Gone
Big Maceo Merriweather w/Tampa Red - Texas Stomp
Big Maceo Merriweather - Without You My Life Don't Mean a Thing
Big Maceo Merriweather w/Tampa Red - Anytime For You
Big Maceo Merriweather - Detroit Jump
Big Maceo Merriweather - Have You Heard About It?