The Evening Blues - 12-3-15
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features delta blues musician and pioneer of the slide guitar, Casey Bill Weldon. Enjoy!
Casey Bill Weldon - You Just as Well Let Her Go
"Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed."
-- William Shakespeare
News and Opinion
Dear Idiot in the White House - it's too expensive, in things beyond your printing press currency, to continue to torture and hold people without charge in your stinking gulag.
Though officials continue to insist President Obama intends to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay at some point, he has reportedly rejected the latest Pentagon proposal to do so as “too expensive” to justify.
The plan would’ve cost some $600 million, $350 million of which was meant to build a new prison on US soil, a figure the president believed was “excessive.” The plan would save $100 million in operations annually, for running a prison inside the US instead of in the legal blackhole at Guantanamo Bay.
This is an excellent article, far too rich in detail to fully abstract here. It's certainly worth a full read.
France and Russia’s military responses to mass murders in Paris and Egypt echo the United States’ response to mass murders in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in 2001. As Oxford University researcher Lydia Wilson told Democracy Now on Nov. 17, Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) is “seemingly delighted” by this warlike response to its latest atrocities.
In several interviews, Lydia Wilson has cited Abu Bakr Naji’s The Management of Savagery as a “playbook” that ISIS appears to be following closely. Naji called for mass murders in foreign cities and tourist destinations as part of a strategy to draw foreign powers into unwinnable wars that would spread chaos, fuel jihadism and leave Muslim fundamentalist groups in control of more and more of the Muslim world.
[It sure seems like the terrorist's strategy is still working all too well, doesn't it? Are our elites too stupid to think up a counterstrategy? - js]
As the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein of Jordan, told the Council on Foreign Relations on Nov. 16, “it seems that the defenses against chaos and bloodshed that states erected at the close of the Second World War, the laws they wrote and swore to abide by, the agreements and treaties they signed, are giving way to increasing action bound by no principle or any foresight. … Much of the Middle East and North Africa is gripped in deadly conflict with constant, now almost routine, violations of the norms that should protect civilians, and even proxy warfare with greater powers engaged in combat rather than in making peace.” ...
Throughout the past 14 years, whenever the fear of terrorism has temporarily receded, the U.S. government has quickly redirected its threats and uses of military force, covert operations and propaganda to a completely different purpose: destabilizing and overthrowing a laundry-list of internationally recognized governments, in Venezuela, Iraq, Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and around the world. ...
Each new U.S. military operation is justified as a response to some new crisis, while the U.S. role in creating these crises in the first place is obscured (with increasing difficulty) behind funhouse mirrors of secrecy and propaganda.
Investing our nation’s wealth in military forces and deadly weapons and deploying them all over the world is not just a tragic waste in terms of all the unmet human needs in our country and the world. It’s dangerous. By building a global war machine designed to fight anybody anywhere, while rejecting all legal and political constraints on how it may be used, U.S. leaders have set the stage for endless, unwinnable, global war.
As Prince Zeid suggested, the U.S. government has turned its back on the legitimate infrastructure of collective security enshrined in the UN Charter and international law, and reverted to something more primitive: the law of the jungle or “might makes right.”
As Saudi Arabia’s allies try to bomb Islamic State out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, the kingdom’s war in Yemen is enabling jihadists to seize new ones.
Al-Qaeda took over two cities in south Yemen on Wednesday, local media said. In the key port of Aden, whose recapture from Shiite rebels was the biggest success for Saudi-led forces in Yemen, there are growing signs of a militant presence. Al-Qaeda’s flag has flown above the police station in the war-scarred al-Tawahi neighborhood, and graffiti on the road to Taiz warns that “the Islamic State is strong.” Students at Aden University have been warned not to mix with the opposite sex.
All that is grist to the mill for critics who say the world’s biggest oil exporter, already squeezed by the slump in crude prices, is storing up more trouble by fighting the wrong war. In making the Shiite Houthi rebels their military priority, the argument goes, the kingdom has inadvertently empowered more dangerous enemies -- Sunni jihadists who have repeatedly called for the overthrow of the Al Saud ruling family.
The Saudis and their allies “prioritize the fight against what they see as Iranian allies over the fight against Salafi jihadists,” Gregory Gause, a professor of international affairs at Texas A&M University, said by e-mail. “They think that they can clean up the latter after they have taken care of the former,” he said. “It is a dangerous and risky bet.”
Britain has carried out its first airstrikes in Syria, hours after MPs voted overwhelmingly to authorise military action.
Four RAF Tornado jets were seen taking off from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus early on Thursday morning and the Ministry of Defence later confirmed they had carried out the “first offensive operation over Syria and have conducted strikes”.
The RAF jets carry a range of munitions including Paveway IV guided bombs and precision-guided Brimstone missiles. The strikes were focused on six targets in an Isis-controlled oilfield in eastern Syria, the BBC reported. The British defence secretary, Michael Fallon, confirmed that eight more jets – two Tornados and six Typhoons – were being sent to Akrotiri to join the attacks. ...
The defence secretary indicated that military action against Isis could be expected to continue for years, rather than months, telling BBC1’s Breakfast: “This is not going to be quick.”
For Israel, having overwhelming military superiority toward every neighbor in every conceivable way has been a given for years, with massive influxes of US military aid annually allowing the nation a huge qualitative advantage. ...
Last week’s Turkey’s shootdown of a Russian plane over northern Syria has Russia bulking up its air defenses in the area, and Israeli officials are seeing this as something of a threat to that superiority, with advanced Russian anti-aircraft missiles deployed around the Syria-Turkey border.
Even though Russia put its S-400 missiles in Latakia, virtually as far away from Israel as possible for a deployment in Syria, the system’s broad targeting range means it still covers the northern half of Israel’s airspace.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a State of the Nation address that Turkey would regret "more than once" shooting down a Russian bomber jet near the Syrian-Turkish border last week, and declared retaliatory sanctions would get much stricter. ...
Russia's rhetoric only deepened with Putin's annual state of the nation address shortly afterwards. "If anyone thinks that having committed this awful war crime, the murder of our people, that they are going to get away with some measures concerning their tomatoes or some limits on construction and other sectors, they are sorely mistaken," the Russian leader told the Federal Assembly at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. "We will remind them what they did more than once. And they will regret what they did more than once." ...
On Wednesday, Russia's defense ministry said it had proof that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family were benefiting from the illegal smuggling of oil from IS-held territory, showing press satellite images at a Moscow briefing. ... Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed the oil allegations as "Soviet-style propaganda" on Thursday. "In the Cold War period there was a Soviet propaganda machine. Every day it created different lies," he told a news conference before leaving on an official visit to Azerbaijan. "Firstly they would believe them and then expect the world to believe them. These were remembered as Pravda lies and nonsense. This was an old tradition but it has suddenly reared its head again. Nobody attaches any value to the lies of this Soviet-style propaganda machine."
Escalating tensions between Russia and Turkey have spread to the Caucuses, a volatile region where both powers have long contested each other's influence. ...
Now the two sides are squaring off over the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two tiny former Soviet republics that have been at loggerheads since a six-year war over an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994. ...
Armenia, a Russian ally, now controls Nagorno-Karabakh. But most of the international community recognizes the enclave as part of Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally. Russia maintains a military base in Armenia, which experts say has had a stabilizing influence.
"For 15 years, Russian support for Armenia has kept Azerbaijan from mounting another viable challenge to retake Nagorno-Karabakh," according to a recent analysis by the intelligence company Stratfor, which added that Azerbaijan has recently increased its cross-border raids and shootouts against Armenian forces. The Stratfor report suggested that Azerbaijan's bolder stance reflects its growing political clout in the region.
Azerbaijan is an ethnically Turkic, Muslim country with a 1,100-mile pipeline that brings oil to Turkey via Georgia, bypassing Russia and undercutting Moscow's influence in the region's energy sector.
Turkey has come down firmly on Azerbaijan's side in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. On November 26 — two days after the Russian plane went down — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rattled his saber in the dispute. "Turkey will do everything possible to liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan," he said, according to Kommersant, a Russian newspaper.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is asking why a small Department of Defense task force charged with developing the Afghan economy spent nearly $150 million on private villas, security guards and luxury meals while operating in the country between 2010 and 2014.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made public Thursday, SIGAR chief John Sopko wrote that members of the Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) could have used accommodations available on local military bases and other U.S. government facilities, adding that it was “unclear what benefit the U.S. received as the result of TFBSO’s decision.” ...
Amazingly, former TFBSO employees told SIGAR investigators that the $150 million spent on accommodations in Afghanistan – fully 20 percent of the task force’s total budget — supported “no more than 5 to 10” employees. ...
In its letter, SIGAR said that task force employees had solicited military contractor Triple Canopy to provide rooming for them that included “western-style hotel accommodations,” such as flat-screen televisions, mini-refrigerators and DVD players. Contractors were also hired to provide food service that was “at least 3 stars,” specifying that each meal contain “at least two entree choices and three side order choices.” Triple Canopy was also instructed to ensure that three-course meals were available for “special events.”
Triple Canopy is one of the firms that have financially benefitted the most from post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning roughly $2.2 billion in government contracts since 2003, according to the Project on Government Oversight. The company has continued to receive lucrative government contracts despite being at the center of several controversies related to the killing of civilians in Iraq by its employees and providing falsified documents for its private security guards.
Israel’s police and domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, has arrested “several Israelis” in connection with an arson attack in July that killed three members of a Palestinian family, including a toddler.
An announcement of arrests had been widely expected after media outlets this week reported a breakthrough in a case involving Jewish extremism. Investigators confirmed in a statement that members of a “Jewish terror group” had been arrested in connection with the attack.
The statement did not disclose how many suspects were in custody and said a court order banning disclosure of their names and other details of the case remained in effect.
The slow pace of the investigation has been criticised. In September, the defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, said Israel knew who had carried out the attack but was unable to charge them because of lack of evidence and fear of compromising sources.
When men attack women’s health clinics, the Department of Justice should call it domestic terrorism and treat it that way, a coalition of activists said Wednesday. ...
“Clearly these attacks [against Planned Parenthood] meet the definition of domestic terrorism. This is not a random shooting … and it must be called out as such,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, on a press teleconference on Wednesday.
The FBI defines “domestic terrorism” as “activities … [that] involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law … appear intended to (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population, (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.” ...
Attacks on clinics that provide abortion services are politically motivated and intended to strike fear into the hearts of women across the country seeking care — not just at the particular clinic — the activists say.
So far, Attorney General Loretta Lynch hasn’t commented on the Colorado shooting, one way or the other. The activists are hoping that when she does, she won’t mince words.
Behind closed doors, speaking with investors and Wall Street analysts, the gun industry views mass shootings as an opportunity to make lots of money.
Ordinary people are despairing about the frequency of tragic events like the murderous rampage in San Bernardino on Wednesday, or the Planned Parenthood massacre last week. And the cycle of mass killing, media frenzy, and political stalemate starts anew each time.
But meanwhile, gun sales continue to break records, a fact that has not gone ignored by financial analysts.
The Intercept reviewed investor transcripts for gun companies, ammunition manufacturers, and sporting stores, and found many instances of industry executives discussing mass shooting incidents and the resulting political dynamics as lucrative.
Here’s how it works. Following a mass shooting, there is talk of gun control, which the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates attack as an assault on the Second Amendment. Notably, gun and ammunition manufacturers often donate, either directly or as a portion of each sale, to the NRA. The fear of losing gun rights leads to panic buying, which brings greater profits to gun retailers, gun companies and their investors.
Release of dashcam video now puts focus on Chicago mayor’s attempt over 13 months to delay release of the footage – and why he did so
The last week in October 2014 was a busy time for the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. He was facing a barrage of criticism over his handling of the city’s stretched finances, its troubled public schools and the strength of its police force, and on top of that his campaign for re-election was just starting to gather steam. ...
It was amid this mounting pressure on the mayor of Chicago that the police shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, occurred. At first barely noticed, the impact of the incident gathered momentum over the months until this week it erupted, forcing Emanuel to dismiss his police chief and putting the mayor’s own political future in doubt. ...
Emanuel resisted making the video public until his hand was forced by a judge from the Cook County circuit court who ordered its release on 19 November. The mayor justified his stance over several months by saying publication would jeopardize a federal investigation into the shooting – an argument undermined by the justice department itself, which raised no objections to issuing the footage.
The mayor’s dogged stance over the video has prompted a rising chorus of voices calling for him to resign. Despite having sacked the police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, on Monday and ordered the formation of a taskforce into police accountability, questions continue to swirl about what Emanuel knew, and when he knew it – questions that at best raise doubts about his grip over his own city and at worst threaten to impugn his integrity.
On Wednesday Emanuel was forced to respond to the calls for his resignation by saying he had no plans to step down. ... Emanuel went on to repeat his claim that the first time he watched the footage of the shooting was last week. He told Politico that he had avoided viewing it until then so that he could rebuff reporters trying to discover its contents.
"It's pretty obvious to anybody that there is some cover-up taking place here," says U.S. Congressman
Despite his insistence that he will not step down from the post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is facing calls from all sides to resign in the wake of a police shooting scandal that has shaken the city and further eroded trust in its public officials.
Leading black members of Congress joined the chorus on Wednesday, piling onto Emanuel and calling for his resignation should concrete evidence of a cover-up emerge.
"The whole scenario stinks," Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who represents Ferguson, told The Hill. He said he thought the release of damning police video—after Emanuel's re-election in April—"was intentional and timed that way." ...
"Everything about the killing of McDonald over 400 days ago, including the slithering about of Chicago officials in their efforts to suppress video of his murder, stinks to high heaven," wrote New York Times columnist Charles Blow on Thursday. "There is the $5 million settlement with the family, the timing of that settlement, the strenuous efforts to keep the tape from public view, the long delay in charging the officer who did the shooting."
"It all makes one ask: How much is the life of a teenager worth?" Blow continued. "To what length would officials go to bury visual evidence that he had been shot down in the street like a dog? Are officials so desperately afraid of losing their jobs that they would conceal details about the loss of a boy's life?"
Apparently, Janet Yellen doesn't live in the same economy that the rest of us live in.
A historic rise in US interest rates later this month is almost certain, Janet Yellen signalled on Wednesday. The chair of the Federal Reserve said that the US economy had “recovered substantially since the Great Recession” and she was “looking forward” to increasing rates, which have been held at near zero since the 2008 financial crisis.
“The economy has come a long way toward the FOMC’s [Federal Open Market Committee] objectives of maximum employment and price stability,” she said in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington. “When the committee begins to normalize the stance of policy, doing so will be a testament, also, to how far our economy has come in recovering from the effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession. In that sense, it is a day that I expect we all are looking forward to.”
Hmmm, I think that this writer misses what the 1% actually fears from Trump's rhetorical slings and arrows. Like Wall Street, which had a hissy fit when the Obamanator called them "fat cats," the 1% fear the development of a culture of ridicule. It undermines their power and uses one of their own divide and conquer tactics against them. ... Have you ridiculed the 1% today?
Charles Koch, David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Karl Rove; the Club for Growth, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads. These are some of the most influential persons and organizations not only in the world of American politics but in the world, full stop.
They have billions of dollars at their disposal, a sprawling network of dedicated activists, and voluminous experience running winning campaigns. ... And according to recent reports from the Washington Post and the New York Times, they are all, to a man (and it’s all men), afraid of the same thing. They are afraid of being made fun of by Donald Trump. And, no, this is not a joke. Here’s how the Times puts it:
Many leading Republican officials, strategists and donors now say they fear that Mr. Trump’s nomination would lead to an electoral wipeout, a sweeping defeat that could undo some of the gains Republicans have made in recent congressional, state and local elections … Some of the highest-ranking Republicans in Congress and some of the party’s wealthiest and most generous donors have balked at trying to take down Mr. Trump because they fear a public feud with the insult-spewing media figure.
And as the Times and WaPo reports, taken together, make clear, it’s not the main reason these big shots are holding their tongues. The main reason is fear. ...
What it means, then, is that the Koch brothers don’t want to go through the evidently traumatic experience of seeing headlines featuring Donald Trump, their name, and some combination of mean words.
An excellent article with lots of good historical tidbits worth a peek:
It should come as no surprise, but it does for many, that money merchants founded and continue to govern America. See Debt Serfdom in America. The dominant narrative that America was established by “puritans” and “pilgrims” escaping religious atrocities sweeping across Europe is incompletely correct, used mostly for myth-making and finding a respectable origin for a powerful nation, the United States of America . But the dominant narrative conveniently if not deliberately whitewashes the plight of wretched debt servants brought from Europe to make profits for entrepreneurs. Just as vulnerable migrant workers are now imported from across the Mexican border to slog in the fields, poverty-stricken Europeans were transported from across the Atlantic to toil in the “New World” for the benefit of venture capitalists. ...
From establishment of the first colony until well into the eighteenth century, the principal source of labor (from 50% to 75%) in mainland colonies was indentured servants shipped from England, Scotland, Germany, and other parts of Europe. Religious strife tearing apart Europe was God’s gift for money merchants as the strife made debt servants cheap and readily available. Money merchants and venture capitalists offered entire families “free voyage” to debt servitude in America. Even Africans were first brought as indentured servants. In 1641, the Massachusetts slave traders passed the first slavery law setting the trend in American colonies. It was color-blind slave legislation. ...
Colonial money merchants and their scions, much like money merchants today, cared little about racial characteristics or national origin since working hands were desperately needed to exploit the land and natural resources forcibly taken from Native Americans. As money merchants and venture capitalists relished their wealth, they found it commercially logical to cast a wider net of debt servitude to ensnare Native Americans, Mexicans, and free and freed Africans. Debt servitude turned into “an equal opportunity employer” for the poor and the wretched without distinction of race, religion, color, national origin, or gender.
Millions of white Americans living today are the descendants of indigent Europeans brought as indentured servants. Historically, white Americans have much in common with African Americans, Mexicans, and Native Americans than they do with money merchants and venture capitalists -old money or new money– who take delight in turning social and racial divisions into cheap labor.
Climate change scientist James Hansen says current ‘half arsed’ plans to reduce emissions will lead to dangerous climate change and calls for an honest carbon price to cut fossil fuel use
James Hansen, former head of Nasa’s Goddard Center and the man who raised awareness of climate change in a key Senate hearing back in 1988 said that the UN meeting was on the wrong track by seeking a 2C maximum rise in temperatures. ...
“[A rise of ] 2C is definitely dangerous. We are at the point now where temperatures are hitting the 1C mark and are are on a path above 1C. Even if we reduce emissions 6% a year we will still get 1C. ...
Hansen, who was speaking at a climate summit for the first time, said the planet was out of energy balance. “There is more warming in the pipeline that will take us into real danger. We are on the edge of handing our children a climate system that is out of control, and that could mean losing half our coastal cities.” ...
Hansen said the solution was to get two or three large countries to impose an escalating price on carbon. “The problem is fossil fuels are cheap and as long as they remain so they will be burned. They do not include the effects of warming and air pollution on human health.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, says the U.N. Climate Summit reveals the "scoreboard" for activists pushing governments to take action on global warming, and shows "how much more work we have to do." He argues whatever agreement comes out of the meeting "won’t be enough" to avoid putting the world on a path to higher temperatures and an "uninhabitable world." As France continues to ban protests at the summit, McKibben says he was moved to tears by the the outpouring of solidarity actions this weekend in 2,200 places around the world.
As the world gathers in Paris for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making that transition look childishly simple and affordable.
In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the national director of energy, Ramón Méndez.
In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts. ...
Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.
Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%. ...
There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades. Instead, Méndez says, the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Casey Bill Weldon - I believe I'll make a change
Casey Bill Weldon - Guitar Swing
Casey Bill Weldon - The Big Boat
Casey Bill Weldon - Blues Everywere I Go
Casey Bill Weldon - We Gonna Move On The Outskirts Of Town
Casey Bill Weldon - Go Ahead, Buddy
Casey Bill Weldon - You Shouldn't Do That
Casey Bill Weldon - Somebody changed the lock on that door
Casey Bill Weldon - W P A Blues
Casey Bill Weldon - Back Door Blues
Casey Bill Weldon + Memphis Minnie - New Orleans Stop Time
Casey Bill Weldon - Sold My Soul to the Devil
Casey Bill Weldon - Has My Gal Been Here
Casey Bill Weldon - New Round and Round
Casey Bill Weldon - Two Timin' Woman