The Evening Blues - 9-13-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Memphis blues singer and songwriter Rosco Gordon. Enjoy!
Rosco Gordon - Bop It!
"When imperialism feels weak, it resorts to brute force."
-- Hugo Chavez
News and Opinion
Recent statements from the Trump administration suggest that the United States is now preparing to go to war against the ICC itself, motivated largely by an effort to silence investigations into alleged American war crimes committed in Afghanistan, as well as alleged crimes committed by Israel during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. In a speech at a D.C. event held by the Federalist Society on Monday, Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton denounced the ICC as “illegitimate” and expressed his intentions toward the institution in no uncertain terms. “We will not cooperate with the ICC,” Bolton said. “We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”
In addition to this death wish against the court, Bolton said that the United States would retaliate against any ICC investigations into U.S. activities by sanctioning the travel and finances of ICC officials, even threatening to prosecute them in American courts.
Because it involves U.S. officials themselves, at the center of the campaign against the ICC is a 2016 report by ICC prosecutors that deals in part with the war in Afghanistan. ... The crimes in question appear to have been related to detention programs run in Afghanistan during the early years of the U.S. occupation. While the report does not name the individuals responsible nor their victims, it indicates that there are dozens of cases in which torture, cruel treatment, and sexual assault were committed by American soldiers and CIA officers in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004. The report also states that the alleged crimes “were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,” adding that “there is a reasonable basis to believe these alleged crimes were committed in furtherance of a policy or policies aimed at eliciting information through the use of interrogation techniques involving cruel or violent methods which would support U.S. objectives in the conflict in Afghanistan.”
Given longstanding U.S. refusals to cooperate with ICC investigations, it’s unlikely that the 2016 document — a preliminary report from the prosecutor’s office — would have succeeded in bringing U.S. officials to trial at the Hague. Bolton’s campaign thus seems intended on solidifying the fact that the United States is free of international norms on human rights conduct, with those who even investigate its actions subject to threat.
Elite media insist they’re engaged in challenging the imperious presidency of Donald Trump. But their support for US imperialism itself remains vigorous, as coverage of the funeral of Sen. John McCain showed clearly. In a September 1 news report, Washington Post national security reporter Greg Jaffe and White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker (9/1/18) write that:
the full tableau of his funeral—which included the previous three presidents and every major-party nominee for the past two decades— . . . served as a melancholy last hurrah for the sort of global leadership that the nation once took for granted. ... Much of the praise for McCain focused on his vision of the United States as a global superpower and moral beacon, positions Trump has been accused of abandoning. His longtime friend, former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, lauded McCain’s globe-trotting ways and his advocacy on behalf of political prisoners and dissidents in far-flung places such as Myanmar and Syria…. Yet more than ever before in the post–World War II era, McCain’s vision of the United States as the bulwark against tyrants, guarantor of global stability and refuge for the oppressed is out of favor.
The New York Times, on September 11, 2013, accommodated Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s desire “to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders” about “recent events surrounding Syria.” Putin’s op-ed in the Times appeared under the title: “A Plea for Caution From Russia.” In it, he warned that a military “strike by the United States against Syria will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders … and unleash a new wave of terrorism. … It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
Three weeks before Putin’s piece, on August 21, there had been a chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was immediately blamed. There soon emerged, however, ample evidence that the incident was a provocation to bring direct U.S. military involvement against Assad, lest Syrian government forces retain their momentum and defeat the jihadist rebels. ...
In recent days, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has left no doubt that he is the mascot of American exceptionalism. Its corollary is Washington’s “right” to send its forces, uninvited, into countries like Syria. “We’ve tried to convey the message in recent days that if there’s a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” Bolton said on Monday. “I can say we’ve been in consultations with the British and the French who have joined us in the second strike and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response.” As was the case in September 2013, Syrian government forces, with Russian support, have the rebels on the defensive, this time in Idlib province where most of the remaining jihadists have been driven. On Sunday began what could be the final showdown of the five-year war. Bolton’s warning of a chemical attack by Assad makes little sense as Damascus is clearly winning and the last thing Assad would do is invite U.S. retaliation.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, with remarkable prescience, has already blamed Damascus for whatever chemical attack might take place. The warnings of direct U.S. military involvement, greater than Trump’s two previous pin-prick attacks, is an invitation for the cornered jihadists to launch another false-flag attack to exactly bring that about.
Last week Trump warned Russian and Syria not to attack Idlib. Trump faces perhaps his biggest test as president: whether he can resist his neocon advisers and not massively attack Syria.
The Intercept has obtained the Secretary of State's ass-covering memo which claims against all evidence that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are doing a bang-up job of reducing harm to civilians in their continuing bloodthirsty U.S.-backed assault on Yemen. Click the link to see the full 7 page pack of lies.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified that the coalition of Persian Gulf monarchies waging a war in Yemen was taking sufficient steps to protect civilians. The declaration by Pompeo — which flew in the face of years of criticisms of the coalition’s conduct in the war by international bodies and human rights groups — allowed the U.S. to continue refueling coalition jets.
Pompeo’s vetting of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was required by a bipartisan amendment to the annual defense spending bill signed into law last month by President Donald Trump. Pompeo made the announcement of his certification in a statement, saying that the two Gulf countries were “undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.” ...
“Pompeo’s description of doing everything possible is wrong,” Larry Lewis, the State Department’s former senior civilian harm advisor, told the Intercept. Lewis, who was pushed out last year during Rex Tillerson’s tenure as secretary of state, previously gave trainings to Saudi pilots and assisted in the formation of the assessment team.
Humanitarian groups pilloried the decision, which came less than a month after a bomb from a coalition jet killed dozens of children in a school bus in northern Yemen. The aid group Oxfam reported that August was the deadliest month of the more than 3-year war. “This administration is doubling down on its failed policy of literally fueling the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” said Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy lead.
The Spanish government has confirmed it will proceed with the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, days after saying the €9.2m (£8.2m) deal had been halted amid apparent concerns over the use of such weapons in the war in Yemen. Josep Borrell, the foreign minister, announced the U-turn on Thursday, saying the government had reviewed the contract and felt it had to be honoured.
The decision came after protests by workers at the state-owned Navantia shipyard in southern Spain, who argued that abandoning the contract would lead the Saudi government to walk away from a €1.8bn deal to buy five warships.
“After an intense week’s work by various ministries, including the foreign ministry, the decision is that these bombs will be delivered to honour a contract from 2015, which was made by the previous government and in which no irregularity has been detected that would bar it from happening,” Borrell told Onda Cero radio. The minister said the contract had been thoroughly reviewed by different ministries and checked three times by the interdepartmental commission that oversees arms sales. ...
Pressed on whether the Spanish government had received any guarantees that the bombs would not be used against civilians in Yemen, Borrell insisted they were precision weapons that “do not create collateral effects” and were accurate to a range of within a metre of their targets.
Israel secretly armed and funded at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria that helped prevent Iran-backed fighters and militants of the Islamic State from taking up positions near the Israeli border in recent years, according to more than two dozen commanders and rank-and-file members of these groups. The military transfers, which ended in July of this year, included assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles. Israeli security agencies delivered the weapons through three gates connecting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria—the same crossings Israel used to deliver humanitarian aid to residents of southern Syria suffering from years of civil war.
Israel also provided salaries to rebel fighters, paying each one about $75 a month, and supplied additional money the groups used to buy arms on the Syrian black market, according to the rebels and local journalists. The payments, along with the service Israel was getting in return, created an expectation among the rebels that Israel would intercede if troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad tried to advance on southern Syria. When regime forces backed by Russian air power did precisely that this past summer, Israel did not intervene, leaving the rebel groups feeling betrayed.
“This is a lesson we will not forget about Israel. It does not care about … the people. It does not care about humanity. All it cares about it its own interests,” said Y., a fighter from one of the groups, Forsan al-Jolan.
The Vatican has launched an investigation in the Sistine Chapel Choir, after claims that members of the world-renowned choir may be involved in embezzlement, fraud and money laundering.
The Vatican issued a statement on Wednesday confirming that Pope Francis had authorised an investigation into possible financial irregularities in the choir, which is one of the world’s oldest singing groups.
The statement came just hours after a report in La Stampa newspaper about the choir, which said Vatican magistrates were investigating the choir’s manager, who is a layman, and its director, who is a priest, on suspicion of embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. ...
Founded in 1471, it is believed to be the world’s oldest choir, with roots going back to the Schola Cantorum instituted by Pope Saint Gregory the Great around the year 600.
GCHQ’s methods for bulk interception of online communications violated privacy and failed to provide sufficient surveillance safeguards, the European court of human rights has ruled. But the ECHR found that GCHQ’s regime for sharing sensitive digital intelligence with foreign governments was not illegal, and it explicitly confirmed that bulk interception with tighter safeguards was permissible.
The ruling, which follows Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations, is a comprehensive assessment by the ECHR of interception operations carried out until recently by UK intelligence agencies.
The legal claims, which had already been heard by the UK’s investigatory powers tribunal, were brought by a coalition of 14 human rights groups and privacy organisations including Amnesty International, Liberty, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch, as well as journalists. The case concerned the interception regime previously operated by GCHQ. Updated regulations are coming into force under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. The ECHR did not examine this legislation, which already faces fresh legal challenges.
By a majority of five to two votes, the Strasbourg judges found that GCHQ’s bulk interception regime violated article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees privacy, because there were said to be insufficient safeguards, and rules governing the selection of “related communications data” were deemed to be inadequate.
For five long years, governments have denied that global mass surveillance violates of your rights. And for five long years, we have chased them through the doors of every court. Today, we won. Don't thank me: thank all of those who never stopped fighting. https://t.co/ARgbI5PKaa
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 13, 2018
A senior Google esearch scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China. Jack Poulson worked for Google’s research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company’s search systems.
In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31.
He told The Intercept in an interview that he believes he is one of about five of the company’s employees to resign over Dragonfly. He felt it was his “ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments,” he said. Poulson, who was previously an assistant professor at Stanford University’s department of mathematics, said he believed that the China plan had violated Google’s artificial intelligence principles, which state that the company will not design or deploy technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” ...
Between May 2016 and July 2017, Poulson worked out of Google’s Mountain View headquarters, before he relocated to company offices in Toronto. He said he views his former Google colleagues as some of the smartest and most hardworking people he has ever met. But he is surprised more of the company’s employees have not quit over Dragonfly. “It’s incredible how little solidarity there is on this,” he said. “It is my understanding that when you have a serious ethical disagreement with an issue, your proper course of action is to resign.”
'Crushing Defeat' for DeVos as Federal Judge Rules She Illegally Delayed Relief for Students Defrauded by For-Profit Colleges
A Washington, D.C. federal judge has delivered a "crushing defeat" of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, ruling that the Trump-appointee illegally delayed Obama-era regulations to provide loan relief to students defrauded by for-profit colleges.
U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss, in a 57-page ruling (pdf) issued Wednesday, sided with consumer advocates and a coalition of 19 Democratic states attorneys general, determining that DeVos's actions to delay the borrower defense rule were "unlawful," "procedurally invalid," and "arbitrary and capricious."
In terms of DeVos's broader and deeply unpopular agenda for the Education Department, Politico characterized the decision as "the most significant legal setback to date for DeVos's efforts to dismantle the Obama administration's higher education policies."
As over a million Americans rush to evacuate their homes just days before Hurricane Florence is expected to slam into the Carolinas, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) released documents late Tuesday showing that the Trump administration transferred nearly $10 million away from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just ahead of hurricane season in order to fund the White House's cruel family separation and deportation efforts.
"This is a scandal," declared Merkley, who first provided the documents to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. "At the start of hurricane season—when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA's inadequate recovery efforts—the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided 'zero tolerance' policy."
"It wasn't enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents—the administration chose to partly pay for this horrific program by taking away from the ability to respond to damage from this year's upcoming and potentially devastating hurricane season," Merkley added.
Trump Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh was subject to a wringer of testy Senate confirmation hearings last week. The current DC Circuit Court judge has come under fire from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for his stances against the landmark pro-abortion decision Roe v. Wade, affirmative action and programs for Native Hawaiians, as well as his support for torture.
But some Democrats have also said that Kavanaugh lied under oath in both current and past hearings, and groups like Free Speech for People, Demand Justice, MoveOn and NARAL Pro-Choice America have all advocated perjury probes against him. However, these serious allegations of perjury have received sparse coverage from establishment media outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and NPR.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy noted that while Kavanaugh was working in the Bush administration as White House staff secretary in 2004, he received thousands of stolen documents that were circulated by Manuel Miranda, a GOP Senate staffer, which revealed Democratic opposition strategies and questions to be asked of Bush judicial nominees. Leahy offered examples of his own stolen emails as proof. In Judiciary committee hearings in 2004 and 2006, Kavanaugh denied under oath that he knew the documents were stolen, even though one of the email chains he was copied on was titled “spying.” In the 2004 hearing, Kavanaugh also denied under oath that he “personally handled” the nomination of controversial anti-abortion judge William Pryor to the DC Circuit Court, although emails from 2002 and 2003 say otherwise.
Sharpening these allegations is the fact that Kavanaugh himself has in the past supported strict interpretations of perjury. While working as an attorney for independent counsel Ken Starr in 1998, Kavanaugh urged that President Bill Clinton be impeached for perjury over his role in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. Kavanaugh authored a memo to the other Starr attorneys that pushed for a civil suit for perjury against Clinton, suggesting graphic questioning of Lewinsky as well.
Many outlets, such as Slate (9/7/18), Vox (9/6/18, 9/7/18), Daily News (9/6/18), Politico (9/7/19), the Nation (9/10/18), Common Dreams (9/10/18), Newsweek (9/8/18), the Daily Beast (9/7/18), Mic (9/10/18), Media Matters (9/6/18), Rewire (9/10/18) and Salon (9/8/18)—mostly on the liberal or left end of the media spectrum—have addressed the recent perjury allegations against Kavanaugh in depth. By contrast, as of today, establishment outlets like the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and NPR have been quite cagey about the issue.
By releasing new documents (pdf) previously marked "committee confidential" late on Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) doubled down on accusations that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed perjury in his 2006 confirmation hearing for his seat on a federal appeals court.
This is a theme that we see emerge with Judge Kavanaugh time and time again – he says one thing under oath, and then the documents tell a different story. It is no wonder the White House and Senate Republicans are rushing through this nomination and hiding his record.
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) September 11, 2018
In defiance of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Durbin shared with the public two pages of emails showing that Kavanaugh was involved in discussions regarding the nomination of William Haynes for a judicial seat in 2002.
Four years later, Durbin said, Kavanaugh misled the Judiciary Committee about his involvement while under oath. "It is clear now that not only did Judge Kavanaugh mislead me when it came to his involvement in the Bush administration's detention and interrogation policies, but also regarding his role in the controversial Haynes nomination," Durbin said.
In an email dated November 15, 2002, Kavanaugh asked other White House officials whether Haynes, who helped form the Bush administration's torture policy while working as general counsel for the Pentagon, would be a sufficiently conservative judge. In his confirmation hearing in 2006, Kavanaugh told senators that Haynes' nomination "was not one of the nominations that I handled" while working in the Bush White House.
Since 'Citizens United,' Just 15 Groups Account for 75 Percent of the $800+ Million in Dark Money Spent on US Elections
Just 15 groups were responsible for more than 75 percent of dark money political spending from 2010 to 2016, and together poured more than $600 million—out of a total of $800+ million—into campaigns in the wake of the landmark Citizens United case, according to a new analysis from Issue One, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for stricter campaign finance rules.
"Dark money groups hold enormous sway over what issues are, and are not, debated in Congress and on the campaign trail," the report explains. "But the donors behind these groups rarely discuss their motivations for bankrolling these efforts, leaving the public in the dark about who funds these increasingly prominent and potent organizations."
In addition the new Dark Money Illuminated (pdf) report, which identifies about 400 donors and organizations bankrolling these 15 secretive groups, the researchers also developed profiles for each dark money group and an "extensive, first-of-its-kind database containing nearly 1,200 transactions, each supported by primary source documents."
"Right now, the dark money groups and anonymous donors behind them that endlessly bombard Americans with television ads spouting half-truths and outright lies do a disservice to voters," said Issue One CEO Nick Penniman. "In the internet age, every American should be able to know where the money is being spent and who is giving it in near real-time." Of course, overall political spending since 2010 is in the many billions of dollars, but the Issue One report specifically focuses on groups that have been allowed to conceal their donor lists.
A new study released Wednesday found that the U.S. will fall short by about one-third on its greenhouse gas emissions targets stipulated in the Paris Climate Accord.
The report titled "Fulfilling America's Pledge" was financed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and projects that by 2025, the U.S. will cut greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels.
That is well short of the original pledge of a 26-28 percent cut in carbon emission levels that former President Obama committed to under the Paris agreement.
Hurricane Florence lumbered toward the Carolinas on Thursday as a slow-moving giant, churning up a powerful storm surge that could reach 13 feet at high tide and devastate hundreds of miles of shoreline. Adding to forecasters' fears was the storm's potential to bring days of torrential rain to the already saturated region.
The hurricane was unusual for a variety of reasons—and it was being made worse by climate change, a team of scientists said Wednesday.
The scientists—from Stony Brook University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric Research—compared the storm's real-time forecasts to what would be expected if the ocean temperature wasn't so warm and the atmosphere lacked today's additional heat and moisture fueled by climate change. They estimated that Florence's rainfall forecast is more than 50 percent higher than it would have been without global warming, and that the hurricane's projected size is about 80 kilometers larger.
Florence's path toward the North Carolina coast is one if its many unusual behaviors. Most previous hurricanes on a track like Florence's headed north and then east, paralleling or brushing the Southeast coast. They typically move on a clockwise path around a stable bubble of air that can cover the entire mid-Atlantic. But this year, that high-pressure dome has shifted, squashing Florence toward the coast. A similar pattern steered 2012's Superstorm Sandy on an unexpected path toward New Jersey.
Scientists say it's too soon to tell if Florence is a warning that more hurricanes will hit the densely populated Northeast coast, but they are growing more certain that global warming will make some of the coming tropical storms intensify more quickly, move more slowly and drop more rain.
Donald Trump has falsely claimed that 3,000 people did not die in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, and said the number was made up by the Democratic party “to make me look as bad as possible”. Despite significant evidence showing nearly 3,000 people were killed in the devastating storm last year, Trump tweeted an extraordinary claim that the official death toll was a political scheme, two days after he was sharply criticised for saying the government had an “unsung success” in its response to Maria.
Puerto Rico’s government raised the official death toll from 64 people to 2,975 late last month following the publication of new research by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. Though the official death toll was changed, reports by other academic institutions and newspapers estimated the death toll was in the thousands as early as December 2017. But Trump contested these findings on Thursday.
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
.....This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Rosco Gordon - Booted
Rosco Gordon - Let's Get High
Rosco Gordon - You Figure It Out
Rosco Gordon - Don't Take It Out On Me
Rosco Gordon - Three Cent Love
Rosco Gordon - We're All Loaded
Rosco Gordon - You Got My Bait
Rosco Gordon - Tummer Tee
Rosco Gordon - Roscoe's Boogie