The Evening Blues - 8-17-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features an assortment of tunes I ran across while putting together other features. Enjoy!
Tommy Hunt - The Work Song
“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”
-- Albert Camus
News and Opinion
Today, hundreds of newspapers, at the initiative of The Boston Globe, are purporting to stand up for a free press against Trump’s rhetoric. Today also marks exactly one month since I was dragged out of the July 16 Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up until the middle of the night. As laid in my cell, I chuckled at the notion that the city was full of billboards proclaiming Finland was the “land of free press“. So, I’ve grown an especially high sensitivity to both goonish behavior toward journalists trying to ask tough questions — and to those professing they are defending a free press when they are actually engaging in a marketing exercise.
As some have noted, the editorials today will likely help Trump whip up support among his base against a monolithic media. But, just as clearly, the establishment media can draw attention away from their own failures, corruptions and falsehoods simply by focusing on Trump’s. Big media outlets need not actually report news that affects your life and point to serious solutions for social ills. They can just bad mouth Trump. And Trump need not deliver on campaign promises that tapped into populist and isolationist tendencies in the U.S. public that have grown in reaction to years of elite rule. He need only deride the major media. They are at worst frenemies. More likely, at times, Trump and the establishment media log roll with each other. ...
My case is a small but telling one. Major media outlets were more likely to disinform about the manhandling I received in my attempt to ask about U.S., Russian and Israeli nuclear threats to humanity. ... Other obvious cases: None of the newspaper editorials I’ve seen published today mention the likely prosecution of Wikileaks. If there were solidarity among media, the prospect of Julian Assange being imprisoned for publishing U.S. government documents should be front and center today. Neither did I see a mention of RT or, as of this week, Al Jazeera, being compelled to register as foreign agents. ...
My day job is with the Institute for Public Accuracy. Yesterday, I put out a news release titled “Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content.” Tech giants can decide — possibly in coordination with the U.S. government — to pull the plug on content at a time and manner of their choosing. You would think newspaper people might be keen to highlight the threat that such massive corporations thus pose, not least of all because they have eaten up their ad revenue. The sad truth is that this is what much of the media have long done: Counter to the lofty rhetoric of many of today’s editorials, the promise of an independent and truth-seeking press has frequently been subservient to propaganda, pushing for war or narrow economic and other interests. ...
Those who have been truly silenced in the “Trump era” are those who were critical of the seemingly perpetual U.S. government war machine since the invasion of Iraq.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) kicked a pirate radio station known for rebroadcasting Alex Jones off Austin’s airwaves on Wednesday and handed the station’s operators a $15,000 penalty, according to the Austin-American Statesman. The operators had refused to pay as of late Wednesday.
The Genesis Communications Network still carries Jones’ show to affiliates across the country. He’s said that 160 broadcasters nationwide carry his show.
The FCC’s move comes right on the heels of Jones being banned from Twitter for seven days. ...
The pirate station, Liberty Radio, was accused of operating at 90.1 FM without federal consent since 2013, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Austin. FCC agents traced the signal to a maintenance or utility room in an East Austin apartment complex owned by an entity linked to Walter Olenick and M. Rae Nadler-Olenick, who are listed as defendants in the federal lawsuit over Liberty Radio, according to the American-Statesman. According to a message on the radio station’s website, Liberty Radio hasn’t aired since December 2017 but still streams online “due to circumstances beyond our control.”
Michelle Higgins was protesting a high-profile police killing in St Louis when the officers grabbed her. The activist’s arrest for “failure to disperse” on 15 September 2017 wasn’t the only punishment she faced for marching. When she was released a day later, she learned that the police department had posted her name, age and address on Twitter, alongside 32 others arrested during the chaotic demonstrations sparked by the acquittal of an officer.
Most of the arrests did not result in charges, but the damage was done. It’s a law enforcement tactic that activists say has become increasingly common: police arrest protesters en masse, publicly shame them on social media, and then drop the cases. The strategy can lead to intense online abuse for Black Lives Matter activists and other protesters. In the case of anti-fascist protesters, some critics argue that police are also boosting the agenda of neo-Nazis and white supremacists by exposing counter-protesters’ identities – and branding them violent offenders before they’ve gone to court.
“You criminalize folks who are trying to hold people accountable, then you dehumanize them by telling everyone where they live,” said Higgins, who was not prosecuted after her arrest. The St Louis police tweets, she said, posed an “active threat” to activists and sent a message that “these animals were out protesting when they should’ve been sitting at home”.
Although rightwing extremist groups have a documented record of violence and killings, the police response at far-right events in recent weeks has repeatedly targeted the leftwing resistance. Some of the news coverage has also focused on the alleged threats of “antifa”, or anti-fascists.
Law enforcement, who have also faced scrutiny for working directly with rightwing and neo-Nazi groups to build cases against anti-fascists, largely defended their tactics.
At least 450 Yemenis were killed in the first nine days of August, making it one of the bloodiest periods since the war broke out three and a half years ago between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government. And it could get a lot worse.
An international coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and backed by the United States, is preparing to retake the strategic port city of Hodeidah. The operation could prove disastrous for Yemen’s most vulnerable: 70 percent of Yemen’s goods enter the country through Hodeidah, so a protracted battle could quickly turn into a humanitarian disaster where millions of people are prevented from receiving food and aid.
The U.N. is desperately trying to stop this attack and restart failed peace talks in the process. Its Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, is hoping to bring all sides together in Geneva on Sept. 6. ...
A battle in Hodeidah city itself would be one of the deadliest in a war that has already claimed more than 10,000 lives and thrust 23 million more into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 120,000 civilians have fled the city in anticipation. It’s easy to see why. Not long after government forces started their push, ambulances began rolling up outside the one semi-functioning hospital in the area.
Ten-year-old Mohammed was the first civilian to be caught up in the crossfire. Ali Jalmoud says his son was playing in their house when a Houthi mortar hit. Dr. Mahdi Ba-Kather is the one remaining doctor in a local hospital, and he’s been struggling to cope with the influx of casualties.
Donald Trump’s plans for an extravagant Veterans Day military parade were put on ice Thursday, after costings for the event were put at $80 million more than initially estimated. Defense Department spokesman Col. Rob Manning announced that the event would not be held on November 10 as planned, and that the military and the White House had “agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”
U.S. officials had earlier told CNBC that the parade through Washington, D.C., originally intended to mark the centenary of the end of World War I on November 11, would cost about $92 million, according to estimates. About half would cover security, with the rest going to expenses such as transportation of equipment to the event, aircraft, and temporary duty for troops.
Earlier this year, a White House official told Congress that the cost would be between $10 million and $30 million, while a Defense Department estimate last month put it at $12 million.
The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2018
....attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th. Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2018
Trump’s military parade: $92 million.
Clean water in Flint: $55 million.
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) August 16, 2018
The UN human rights committee ruled on Friday that Brazil’s imprisoned leftist leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva cannot be disqualified from upcoming presidential elections because his legal appeals are ongoing. The committee issued the finding following an urgent request filed by Lula’s lawyers on 27 July.
In a statement, the panel “requested Brazil to take all necessary measures to ensure that Lula can enjoy and exercise his political rights while in prison, as (a) candidate in the 2018 presidential elections”.
The committee said Lula cannot be barred as a candidate “until his appeals before the courts have been completed in fair judicial proceedings”. The Geneva-based committee monitors a member state’s compliance with the international covenant on civil and political rights, as well as a supplementary text called the optional protocol. Because Brazil has ratified both texts, it is technically obligated to abide by the committee’s findings.
Google employees are demanding answers from the company’s leadership amid growing internal protests over plans to launch a censored search engine in China. Staff inside the internet giant’s offices have agreed that the censorship project raises “urgent moral and ethical issues” and have circulated a letter saying so, calling on bosses to disclose more about the company’s work in China, which they say is shrouded in too much secrecy, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter. ...
Now, a letter has been circulated among staff calling for Google’s leadership to recognize that there is a “code yellow” situation – a kind of internal alert that signifies a crisis is unfolding. The letter suggests that the Dragonfly initiative violates an internal Google artificial intelligence ethical code, which says that the company will not build or deploy technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.”
The letter says: “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment. That the decision to build Dragonfly was made in secret, and progressed with the [artificial intelligence] Principles in place, makes clear that the Principles alone are not enough. We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building.” The letter goes on to demand “an ethics review that includes rank and file employee representatives”; the appointment of an ombudsperson to oversee the process; a plan for more transparency to be instituted across the company so that employees can make ethical choices about what they choose to work on; and “ethical test cases” assessing the Chinese censorship plans. ...
Many Google employees are members of the Association of Computing Machinery, the world’s largest organization for computing professionals. The ACM’s ethical code states that its members should “take action to avoid creating systems or technologies that disenfranchise or oppress people” and “use their skills for the benefit of society.” Two Google sources told The Intercept that they felt the Dragonfly project clearly violated the ACM’s code of ethics, which has led them to support the protests inside the company against the planned China censorship.
Google bosses have broken their silence on the company’s plan to launch a censored search engine in China amid mounting internal protests over the project. On Thursday, CEO Sundar Pichai admitted to employees during an all-hands meeting that the censorship project – code-named Dragonfly – had been “in an exploration stage for quite a while now,” according to two sources who heard his remarks. Pichai emphasized his belief that Google should return to China, but claimed that the company was “not close to launching a search product in China.” Facing employee criticism for shrouding Dragonfly in secrecy, Pichai vowed that “we’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record.”
Google co-founder Sergey Brin also spoke at Thursday’s meeting — and remarkably stated that he knew nothing about Dragonfly until The Intercept exposed it earlier this month. Back in 2006, Google launched a censored search engine in China. But four years later, in March 2010, it pulled the service out of the country, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. At that time, Brin was a vocal opponent of the censorship. During Thursday’s meeting, Brin told Google employees that Dragonfly would have “certain trade-offs” but said the process was “slow-going and complicated.”
Both Pichai and Brin’s statements to Google employees raise a number of questions. Pichai’s attempt to portray Dragonfly as an “exploratory” project contradicts information contained in internal Google documents and statements made by senior Google officials on Dragonfly and seen by The Intercept. As recently as last month, Google’s search engine chief Ben Gomes told Google staff who were working on Dragonfly that they should have it ready to be “brought off the shelf and quickly deployed.” ... Through the process, Pichai repeatedly traveled to China, meeting with top Communist Party officials, such as Wang Huning, one of President Xi Jinping’s top advisers. Dragonfly was well beyond the “exploratory” stage.
'Complete Joke': Democrats Ripped for Totally Failing to Grill FCC Chair Ajit Pai Over Net Neutrality Cyberattack Lies
This FCC Congressional oversight hearing is, as usual, a complete joke. Softball questions, misrepresentations galore.
You'd hardly even know three FCC staffers were just proven to have repeatedly lied to the press, public and Congress about a DDOS attack that never happened.
— Karl Bode (@KarlBode) August 16, 2018
"Democrats at the FCC 'oversight' hearing could have easily pressed Pai on his bullshit 'I knew nothing' DDoS claim by pointing out his press shop actively maligned and misled reporters, and at least three staffers gave false statements Congress and FBI investigators. But nah." Bode added. "That the FCC lied repeatedly to the press, public, and Congress about a bogus DDoS attack is a complete afterthought at this 'oversight' hearing. Even in this corrupt mess of a country, that's fucking incredible." ...
Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, echoed Bode's critique of Senate Democrats on Thursday, arguing that if a Democratic FCC chair was accused of misleading Congress and the public like Pai has been, Republicans would have ruthlessly demanded answers.
'If You're Poor or Disabled, the GOP Wants You to Die': Outrage as Trump Pushes More Cruel Medicaid Restrictions
Undettered by lawsuits, federal court rulings, and widespread moral outrage over its efforts to strip life-saving healthcare from tens of thousands of vulnerable Americans, the Trump administration is reportedly planning to sign off on yet another flurry of waivers that would allow Republican governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker to impose deeply cruel work requirements and other punitive restrictions on Medicaid recipients.
"If you're poor or disabled, the GOP wants you to die," actor and democratic socialist Rob Delaney wrote in response to a new Politico's report late Thursday detailing the Trump administration's plan to approve a "new round" of Medicaid restrictions in Maine, Arizona, and Wisconsin.
"One of the most controversial changes sought by the states is Wisconsin's attempt to drug test its Medicaid applicants—an effort that advocates and lawyers say is illegal," Politico reported, noting that Walker has been relentlessly pushing to drug test Medicaid and food stamp recipients for years. While the White House isn't likely to approve Walker's full plan to drug test every Medicaid applicant and recipient due to legal barriers, "Wisconsin is expected to win approval to ask applicants to disclose on their Medicaid applications whether they've used drugs or are in recovery, but won't make coverage decisions based on the answers provided," Politico notes. ...
While conservatives often frame their push for punitive work requirements and drug testing as an effort to control Medicaid costs, such restrictions have repeatedly proven to be less cost-effective and more bureaucratic than the current system, leading advocates for Medicaid expansion to conclude that the GOP's only true objective is to demonize the poor as lazy moochers and kick people off their healthcare. ...
Calling the right-wing notion that Medicaid recipients are lazy the "fundamental lie of work requirements," Splinter's Libby Watson pointed to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that showed "nearly 8 in 10 Medicaid enrollees have at least one family member who is working and a majority work themselves." The vast majority of those who don't work are either disabled or caretakers, the analysis found. "Threatening poor people's lives—which is what getting rid of their healthcare coverage essentially means—is not a way to eradicate poverty, or increase employment, or improve anyone’s lives. It is not, whatever they tell you, about self-reliance or dignity," Watson concluded. "It is simply a way to punish the poor for being poor, and an ideological commitment to being as grotesque as possible."
As Corporate Media Has 'Moved On,' Just a Reminder That 565 Children Are Still Separated From Families Due to Trump's Monstrous Policies
Amid a news cycle dominated by the day-to-day chaos, antics, and scandals of the Trump presidency, new government numbers released on Thursday offered a grim reminder that the humanitarian travesty sparked by President Donald Trump's inhumane family separation policy is still ongoing, despite the fact that it has faded into the background of corporate news coverage.
In court filings on Thursday, lawyers for the Trump Justice Department said that 565 immigrant children remain separated from their parents and held in detention facilities more than three weeks after the court-mandated deadline for reunification. While immigrant rights activists and advocacy groups have continued calling attention to the crisis and working tirelessly to ensure that every child is ultimately reunited with their families, much of the media "has largely moved on, worn out and dazzled by other outrages," observed Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur.
As Judd Legum noted in his Popular Information newsletter this week, "the Trump administration has been able to get away with its disinterested approach to reunification by taking advantage of the short attention spans of the public and the media."
"This week, for example, the focus has been on a new book in which a former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault, claims that Trump is a racist. As proof, she claims there is a secret tape of Trump using the n-word on The Apprentice," Legum notes. "Interest in the Omarosa story far exceeds interest in the child separation story, even at its June peak. This week, despite hundreds of kids still in limbo, child separation barely registers."
The chief executives of America’s top 350 companies earned 312 times more than their workers on average last year, according to a new report published Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute.
The rise came after the bosses of America’s largest companies got an average pay rise of 17.6% in 2017, taking home an average of $18.9m in compensation while their employees’ wages stalled, rising just 0.3% over the year.
The pay gap has risen dramatically, with some fluctuations, since the 1990s. In 1965 the ratio of CEO to worker pay was 20 to one; that figure had risen to 58 to one by in 1989 and peaked in 2000 when CEOs earned 344 times the wage of their average worker.
CEO pay dipped in the early 2000s and during the last recession, but has been rising rapidly since 2009. Chief executives are even leaving the 0.1% in the dust. The bosses of large firms now earn 5.5 times as much as the average earner in the top 0.1%. ...
Last year, McDonald’s boss Steve Easterbrook earned $21.7m while the McDonald’s workers earned a median wage of just $7,017 – a CEO to worker pay ratio of 3,101 to one. The average Walmart worker earned $19,177 in 2017 while CEO Doug McMillon took home $22.8m – a ratio of 1,188 to one.
Jeff Greene, the billionaire real estate developer running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida, appears to own Puerto Rican debt worth at least $26.8 million, according to a listing on his candidate financial disclosure form. The disclosure, known as Form 6, lists Greene’s net worth as of May 31 at $3.3 billion and lays out Greene’s assets, liabilities, and sources of income. Under secondary income, Greene listed a fixed income holding named “PR Commonwealth Public Impt.” There is no description of the value or the date of purchase.
Puerto Rico Commonwealth Public Improvement bonds are a standard type of general obligation debt that the government has issued as far back as 1995. The island is now suffering under more than $70 billion in debt, and creditors have forced crushing austerity and privatization of public assets.
It seems logical that “PR Commonwealth Public Impt” would refer to the Public Improvement bonds, but the Greene campaign did not answer repeated questions about the listing. If it does indeed turn out that a candidate running to govern Florida — as well as a significant portion of the Puerto Rican diaspora, after economic depression and natural disaster sent hundreds of thousands of native Puerto Ricans to the mainland — is profiting from Puerto Rican debt, that could generate significant controversy prior to the August 28 Democratic primary.
“If you are running to represent Puerto Ricans, and potentially harming Puerto Ricans through investments, then Puerto Ricans will hold you accountable,” said Julio López Varona of the Center for Popular Democracy, one of the leading activist groups on the Puerto Rican debt crisis. “There’s a question about what are those investments, and if that question is not answered that is extremely concerning.”
— Jess NvrTrump (@AutieAutismMom) August 17, 2018
The two monuments, now significantly smaller in size, are both in Utah. The draft management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument includes a 98-page minerals report that outlines deposits of coal, oil and gas, tar sands and other minerals under the whole of the monument’s original 1.9m acres. It also targets 1,600 acres for selling to neighboring property owners, although the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, said on his second day on the job: “You can hear it from my lips: we will not sell off public lands.”
The Bears Ears national monument plan allows for mineral development in lands removed from monument status. It is a goal of the administration to open public lands to increased industrial development. The plans follow Trump’s December 2017 executive order shrinking both monuments by a combined 2m acres, a move that prompted tribal and environmental groups and major outdoor brands to file lawsuits against the administration questioning the legality of the reduction.
Many of those groups now claim the administration is jumping the gun with these plans while five consolidated suits are pending in the US district court in Washington DC, and point to a request from 16 senators to hold off planning processes for these areas until those challenges are resolved. “The Grand Staircase plan alone has already cost American taxpayers $1,160,004,” said Nicole Croft, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners, referring to a government estimate. “That’s money desperately needed to improve hiking trails, hunting grounds and law enforcement. The Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument already has a plan that should remain in place, continuing to protect the priceless antiquities within its borders, at least until a court rules on the legality of the Trump reduction.”
California’s wildfires are likely only going to get worse, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Firefighters have already battled over 100 large fires in the American West, and the unusually hot and dry conditions will almost certainly exacerbate the problem, scientists from NOAA said during their monthly report on Thursday. In July, for example, California saw its warmest month ever with average temperatures of almost 80 degrees.
The increased temperatures and fast gust of extremely hot and dry winds that whip up fire — called “Diablo winds” — could increase and ignite the dry trees, grasses, and shrubs in the area, Tim Brown, the director of the Western Regional Climate Center, explained during a press call on Thursday. Diablo winds stoked the monumental fires last fall in Sonoma and other counties, according to McClatchy. ...
While NOAA scientists didn’t directly blame climate change for the rise of wildfires, Brown said in a press call that the increased trend in the West, combined with firefighters’ difficulty containing them, “has really taken off” during the past few decades.
Climate scientists who have had their research held up this year are pointing to the Interior Department, which added an additional step in the review process for approving funding grants, as the reason they have been hamstrung in their efforts to study the climate crisis and its effects on the Earth. The additional review was put in place by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to ensure research "better align[s] with the administration's priorities"—and he appointed an old high school friend with no experience in scientific research or environmental work, to make that call.
Steve Howke was named senior adviser to the Interior Department's policy, management, and budget official last fall, after years of working in credit unions. His highest level of education is a Bachelor's degree in business administration, which he earned after playing with Zinke on Whitefish High School's football team as a teenager.
"If you were going to design a way to bog things down so not much could happen, you might do it like this," a scientist whose work at the Climate Adaptation Science Centers has been delayed due to the lack of funding from the Interior Department—which controls $5.5 billion for research, conservation and land acquisition—told the Guardian. The Centers conduct research on the climate crisis and how it has been linked to numerous disasters like the destructive wildfires tearing through parts of California and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which caused billions of dollars in damage and killed thousands of people last year, mainly in Puerto Rico.
A federal court has blocked an attempt by the Trump administration to delay safety regulations for chemical plants – the latest in a string of recent legal setbacks for the administration in its attempts to reverse environmental standards.
An appeals court in Washington DC ruled on Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency could not delay the enforcement of a chemical safety rule drawn up by the Obama administration. The EPA’s attempt to impose a two-year delay on the rule was “arbitrary and capricious”, the court ruled, with judges criticizing the agency for making a “mockery” of the Clean Air Act.
The rule, which came in the wake of a 2013 chemical explosion that killed 15 people in West, near Dallas, set stricter standards for operators’ risk management plans. Plant operators complained the rule was too burdensome, a view shared by the former EPA head Scott Pruitt, who announced the delay in June last year. A total of 11 states allied with environmental groups to successfully challenge this rollback.
“Again and again, the Trump EPA has tried to push through policies that jeopardize our health and fly in the face of the law – and again and again, we’ve taken them to court and won,” said Barbara Underwood, attorney general of New York, a state that has fought the EPA on the chemical rule and a host of other environmental issues.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Big Ella -The Queen
Bunker Hill - You Can't Make Me Doubt My Baby
Minnie Epperson - Grab Your Clothes
Big Ella - Too Hot Too Hold
Roger Washington - You're too much
Big Ella - It Takes A Lot Of Loving
King Coleman - LooKey DooKey
Bobby Long & His Satelites - Mo Jo Workout
Rex Garvin - Oh Yeah!
Muddy Waters with Earl Hooker's Orch - Muddy Waters Twist
King Coleman - Crazy Feelin'
Four Tops - Kiss Me Baby
Jo Jo Williams - Rock'n Roll Boogie
Charley Ryan - Hot Rod Lincoln