The Evening Blues - 2-23-16
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features boogie and blues piano player, Memphis Slim. Enjoy!
Memphis Slim - Born With The Blues
"For at least the last four decades now I feel like I've been living in Beached America: a nation that has lost its values, even as it writhes in violent agitation, inflicting its military on the vulnerable regions of the planet."
-- Robert C. Koehler
News and Opinion
The shockingly brutal Saudi air campaign in Yemen has been led by American-made F-15 jet fighters.
The indiscriminate bombing of civilians and rescuers from the air has prompted human rights organizations to claim that some Saudi-led strikes on Yemen may amount to war crimes. At least 2,800 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far, according to the United Nations — mostly by airstrikes. The strikes have killed journalists and ambulance drivers. ...
A few years earlier, as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton made weapons transfer to the Saudi government a “top priority,” according to her closest military aide.
And now, newly released emails show that her aides kept her well-informed of the approval process for a $29.4 billion sale in 2011 of up to 84 advanced F-15SA fighters, manufactured by Boeing, along with upgrades to the pre-existing Saudi fleet of 70 F-15 aircraft and munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance, and logistics.
The deal was finalized on Christmas Eve 2011. Afterward, Jake Sullivan, then Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and now a senior policy adviser on her presidential campaign, sent her a celebratory email string topped with the chipper message: “FYI — good news.” ...
The congratulatory tone continues through the email chain with other officials, also with redacted names, calling the weapons deal “Great news!”
What is a Canadian-made sniper rifle doing in the war in Yemen?
Bolt-action .50 caliber rifles have been spotted, thanks to social media, in the conflict that has ravaged Yemen since last year, drawing focus on Canada's weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a military campaign against Houthi rebels.
The social media reports, picked up by Armament Research Services (ARES) — an intelligence consultant agency that monitors the flow of weapons worldwide — indicate that the heavy-duty LRT-3 sniper rifle was "seized by Houthi forces on 11 June 2015 after clashes with Saudi border guards," ARS writes in a November, 2015 blog post.
Canadian broadcaster CBC reports that Saudi border guards appeared to be equipped with the Canadian-made rifles as of last year.
Other videos reportedly show Houthis brandishing American-made M82A1 semi-automatic rifles, also originally provided to Saudi Arabia by the United States.
Barack Obama’s final plan to close Guantánamo Bay does not name alternative sites in the United States for sending remaining detainees, according to sources familiar with it.
Moving Guantánamo detainees to the mainland US remains central to the clash between the White House and Congress over closing the facility in Cuba. However, the plan, due to be sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, declines to name alternative venues, despite a months-long field review undertaken by Pentagon officials. ...
Officials declined to identify a desired site, in part to avoid any proposed destination becoming a rallying point for political opposition.
Instead, the last-ditch plan offers to engage legislators in a dialogue about lifting the ban on the military transferring Guantánamo detainees back into the US that has been in effect since 2011.
Even inside the administration, there is widespread skepticism that the Republican-led Congress will relent in a presidential election year on an issue that it has used to portray Obama as weak on terrorism.
“The odds are pretty slim that Congress is going to go along with the plan, particularly the House,” conceded a US official who was not cleared to discuss the plan ahead of Tuesday’s release.
The Syrian government said on Tuesday it accepted a halt to "combat operations" that does not include actions taken against the Islamic State (IS) group, the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, or groups connected to it, in line with a US-Russian plan announced on Monday.
It was followed by a statement from the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents Syria's main opposition groups, which said it had "given its acceptance of international efforts for a cessation of hostilities."
The Syrian government said it would coordinate with Russia to decide which groups and areas would be included in the cease fire which is due to take effect on Saturday at midnight local time, according to the US-Russian plan.
Suggesting that a more sober U.S. position is emerging—and cautious hope that bloodshed in the war-torn country may soon lessen—the United States and Russia on Monday announced that a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria will go into effect on Saturday, February 27. ...
Middle East Eye notes that "[c]rucially, it states that opposition groups signing up to the terms will be guaranteed protection from military action by Russia, the US and Syria."
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would do "whatever is necessary" to ensure that Damascus respects the agreement, adding: "We are counting on the United States to do the same with its allies and the groups that it supports."
Though inherently tenuous given the volatility and complexities of the current situation, analysts have seen the prospect of a firmer U.S.-Russian agreement as the best hope for a lasting ceasefire in the war-torn country.
What's more, Monday's developments go further to suggest U.S. officials have "gotten down off their 'Assad must go' high horses," as investigative journalist Robert Parry put it last October.
The agreement announced Monday will likely require the U.S. to adjust its diplomatic strategy "to take into account the likelihood that the Nusra Front will now be substantially weakened," as Gareth Porter wrote last week.
In fact, he said, "Russian-Syrian success offers the most realistic prospect for an end to the bloodletting in Syria and would also reduce the likelihood of an eventual Al Qaeda seizure of power in Syria."
Despite claiming just a week ago that ISIS is operating its entire economy on US dollars, the latest reports about ISIS are reporting they are making a significant profit in controlling the exchange between dollars and the Iraqi dinar, which by and large are what they are paying people in. ...
Though traders are complaining this amounts to ISIS “rigging” the Mosul market, they can and almost certainly are justifying this as simple supply and demand, as recent US airstrikes in Mosul have destroyed large amounts of US currency, making it scarcer in the ISIS caliphate than it is in Baghdad.
Instead of hamstringing ISIS operations, as the US claimed it was doing at the time, they’ve simply shifted the exchange rate in ISIS territory by creating a new scarcity, and positioning ISIS to profit on the fact that they’re the only ones with serious currency reserves left. The losers, in the end, are the average people in ISIS territory, and any losses the airstrikes inflicted on ISIS will be made back on exchange.
China's South China Sea military deployments are no different from US deployments in Hawaii and the White House should stop deliberately creating tension, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday — striking a combative tone ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United States this week.
"The US has recently made quite a lot of remarks about militarization. It is actually trying to confuse the public," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a briefing. "China's deploying necessary, limited defensive facilities on its own territory is not substantively different from the United States defending Hawaii."
The United States last week accused China of raising tensions in the South China Sea by its apparent deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, a move China has neither confirmed nor denied.
Asked whether the South China Sea, and the missiles, would come up when Wang is in the United States to meet Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Washington should not use the issue of military facilities on the islands as a "pretext to make a fuss." ...
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States would "press China to deescalate and stop its militarization" in the South China Sea.
Newly published classified documents show the National Security Agency spied on a 2010 conversation between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the two discussed ways to improve Israel’s relationship with the United States. ...
According to “Italian diplomatic reporting of 13 March,” Israel had reached out to Italy “for help in smoothing out the current rift in its relations with the United States.”
The rift concerned Israel’s decision to build 1,600 new houses in “contested East Jerusalem.” ...
The newly published reports provide additional details on U.S. efforts to spy on countries taking part in the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, which failed to reach an agreement. ... One NSA report published by WikiLeaks contains details of a confidential discussion about climate change negotiations between U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lead-up to the conference. The NSA report is stamped “U.N. diplomatic,” “German leadership,” and Top Secret Gamma, the “Gamma” indicating an extremely sensitive spying operation.
The U.N. spying was directed by “S2C52,” a team of analysts based in the NSA’s Maryland headquarters that specializes in operations against the United Nations.
The FBI wants you to believe that its contentious court battle to force Apple to write new software that would let it hack San Bernardino killer Syed Farook’s iPhone is only about this one, specific, particularly heinous case. ...
But the FBI’s defenders and friends in state and local law enforcement are going way off message. They say the ruling is going to have a huge impact on how they do business. ...
In a new letter to customers posted on Monday, Apple drew attention to the enthusiastic response from other law enforcers: “Law enforcement agents around the country have already said they have hundreds of iPhones they want Apple to unlock if the FBI wins this case.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. spoke about his smartphone encryption problem multiple times over the weekend in press conferences and television interviews.
When Charlie Rose asked Vance on Sunday if “this is important for you, more than just the case of the San Bernardino phone,” he answered that it was just “one example.”
“There are tens of thousands of other cases around the country, in cases related to homicide, to sex abuse, where data is going to be on smart phones that prosecutors and police officers need to access,” he said.
The Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has waded into the row between Apple and the FBI, arguing that the government agency is right to demand co-operation from Silicon Valley when it comes to terrorism investigations.
Gates also questioned Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s characterisation of the case as a demand for a “back door”, the Financial Times reported. ...
With his intervention, Gates stands on the opposite side of the conflict to many of the prominent figures in Silicon Valley, including Google’s Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp’s Jan Koum, and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. ...
Even Gate’s own Microsoft has issued support for Apple, of a sort. The Reform Government Surveillance industry lobby group, of which Microsoft is a member, released a statement on Thursday saying that “technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure.” The statement was tweeted by Microsoft’s chief legal officer, Brad Smith, and then retweeted by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella.
It would be one thing if Apple could carry out a court order that it unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorists simply by waving a magic wand. But encryption isn’t magic; the order requires Apple to write and digitally sign a security-degraded version of its iOS operating system. That raises serious First Amendment concerns because the order amounts to a government-compelled speech. ...
Computer code can be speech: no less than video games (which the Supreme Court found to be protected), code can convey ideas and even social messages. A new encryption algorithm or mathematical technique, for example, does not lose its character as speech merely because it is expressed in a computer language instead of English prose.
That’s not to say that all code is absolutely protected. But there’s a strong case to be made where code embodies deeply held views on issues of public policy and individual rights -- such as the right to be free from government surveillance. Forcing a person to write code to crack his own software is little different from demanding that he endorse the principle of doing so.
And that leads to the most troubling aspect of the court order: it does, in fact, demand that Apple endorse the government’s views by requiring that it digitally sign the software so that it can run on an iPhone. A signature speaks volumes: agreement, endorsement, trust, obligation. Apple says all those things when it decides to sign a new version of its operating system.
The government can’t force a person to sign a petition and endorse a political view. But that is exactly what it demands here: to compel Apple to endorse a version of its own software that runs precisely counter to its values.
As European Union and U.S. negotiators arrived for the latest round of controversial trade talks in Brussels on Monday, opponents of the mammoth TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) made their resistance known by blockading access to the negotiating site for hours. ...
Beginning Monday morning, 30 Greenpeace activists from seven countries chained themselves at the entrances of a conference center where the meeting was due to take place. Some demonstrators climbed the front of the building to deploy a large banner depicting a 'dead-end' road sign that read: "TTIP: dead end trade deal."
The blockade was lifted only after Belgian police secured a side entrance for negotiators.
Thanks to the Presidential debates, most Americans have heard of the Glass-Steagall Act which kept the country’s banking system safe for 66 years until it was repealed by President Bill Clinton in 1999, allowing the risky activities of Wall Street trading firms to merge with insured-deposit banks, setting the stage for the Wall Street collapse in 2008. But few Americans have ever heard of the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994, which Bill Clinton signed into law less than two years after taking office. The Riegle-Neal legislation allowed bank holding companies to acquire banks anywhere in the nation and invalidated the laws of 36 states which had allowed interstate banking only on a reciprocal or regional basis. ...
In 1934, there were 14,146 commercial banks with FDIC insurance in the United States. By 1985, that number had barely budged – we had a total of 14,417. But as of this month, we have 6,172 FDIC-insured commercial banks, a decline of 57 percent, with the annual declines accelerating after the passage of Riegle-Neal in 1994. ...
By allowing these mega banks to gobble up banks all over the country and stick their logo on thousands of insured-deposit branches across America, Bill Clinton effectively created too-big-to-fail.
Bill Clinton ran for president on a platform of being out to help the little guy. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign web site says she “wants to be a champion for everyday Americans.” But the wrecking ball that Bill Clinton took to investor protection banking legislation during his two terms as President, the millions of dollars that have flowed from Wall Street into both Hillary Clinton’s campaign coffers and her personal bank account from speaking fees, should tell voters all they need to know.
A former CIA officer serving jail time for leaking documents to the New York Times accused federal officials of setting a double standard by apparently refusing to aggressively prosecute Hillary Clinton.
Clinton was “a high ranking official who should know better, but completely given a pass, and almost an apologetic pass,” Jeffrey Sterling, who was found guilty of leaking classified information to Times reporter James Risen last year, said in an interview with the Washington Post published on Monday.
“So how should us regular citizens feel, especially with heightened concerns about national security?”
The comments from Sterling, who is serving a 3.5-year prison term, come as an indictment of the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s controversial use of a “homebrew” email setup throughout her tenure as secretary of State.
Emails show Clinton seeming to personally lobby her former Democratic colleagues in the Senate to support free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. She had previously told voters she would work to block the Colombian and South Korean pacts.
An email Oct. 8, 2011, to Clinton from her aide Huma Abedin gave notes about the state of play in Congress on the proposed trade pacts. The notes provided Clinton “some background before you make the calls” to legislators.
Two days later in an email titled “FTA calls,” Clinton wrote to aides indicating she had spoken to Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Jim Webb of Virginia, both Democrats. ...
Only three years earlier, Clinton wooed organized labor during her presidential campaign with promises to oppose those same deals. She called the South Korea agreement “inherently unfair.” She also said, “I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.” Clinton has lately courted organized labor’s support for her current presidential bid by pledging to oppose the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a deal she repeatedly touted while secretary of state.
Forty years ago, Sanders didn’t just complain about CIA interventions abroad; he called for abolishing the spy agency altogether.
The CIA is “a dangerous institution that has got to go,” Sanders told an audience in Vermont in October 1974. He described the agency as a tool of American corporate interests that repeatedly toppled democratically elected leaders — including, he said, Mosaddegh. The agency was accountable to no one, he fumed, “except right-wing lunatics who use it to prop up fascist dictatorships.”
At the time, the 33-year-old socialist was running for U.S. Senate on the ticket of the Liberty Union Party, an anti-war group that likened the draft to “a modern form of slavery” and called for reducing the U.S. military in favor of local militias and the Coast Guard. ...
Sanders lashed out at the CIA for years to come. In a 1989 C-SPAN interview, he argued that every “revolution for the poor people” in Latin or Central America had been “overthrown by the CIA” or some other arm of the U.S. government. ...
The party was radical in other ways. A 1971 document listing Liberty Union’s “principles” called the draft a “modern form of slavery” that produced “cannon fodder” for “the imperialist policy of the U.S.” ...
Sanders left Liberty Union in 1977, calling it ineffectual.
According to an article in Politico, Bernie Sanders, during his 1974 campaign for the Senate on Vermont’s Liberty Union Party ticket, called the Central Intelligence Agency “a dangerous institution that has got to go.” Sanders complained that the CIA was only accountable to “right-wing lunatics who use it to prop up fascist dictatorships.” ...
But Sanders’ position is not that radical: many prominent politicians, including two previous Democratic commanders-in-chief, have called for the CIA to be dismantled or severely constrained.
John F. Kennedy famously described his desire to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds” after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Peter Kornbluh points out in his book Bay of Pigs Declassified that the State Department at that same time proposed that the CIA should be stripped of its covert action capacity and renamed. However, the CIA escaped any serious repercussions — partly because, as Kornbluh explains, the CIA’s then-director John McCone made sure that most of the copies of a damning report on the Bay of Pigs by the Agency’s own Inspector General were literally burned.
Then in 1963, after Kennedy’s assassination, Harry Truman wrote a newspaper column explaining that “I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations … I, therefore, would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President … and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.”
[See also: No, Politico, Bernie Sanders' Views on the C.I.A. Were Not 'Extreme' - js]
With polls showing a tight race and one of his toughest contests ahead of him, Bernie Sanders is going on the offensive against rival Hillary Clinton, accusing her of parroting his anti-establishment message even as she cashes in on Wall Street and other corporate ties.
In what is being described as "one of his most striking critiques" of Clinton yet, Sanders charged the former secretary of state of employing "hastily adopted campaign rhetoric" to capitalize on the grassroots momentum that his campaign has generated.
"I have to say that I am delighted that Secretary Clinton, month after month after month, seems to be adopting more and more of the positions that we have advocated. That’s good," Sanders said during a Monday press conference at the International Association of Ironworkers, Local 7, in Boston, Massachusetts, where the two are currently locked in a tie ahead of the state's March 1 primary.
He added that Clinton is "beginning to use a lot of the language and phraseology that we have used."
"In fact," Sanders continued, "I think I saw a TV ad and thought it was me. But it turned out it was Secretary Clinton’s picture in the end." ...
National polls show the two are locked in a very tight race. The average spread on Real Clear Politics has Clinton up by just 5.6 points.
Meanwhile, voters have continuously expressed trust issues with the frontrunner. A Gallup survey released on Tuesday found that 21 percent of Americans described Clinton as "dishonest," a "liar," or having a "poor character."
Ahead of Nevada's Democratic caucuses, the Service Employees International Union is distributing literature to members touting Hillary Clinton's support for a $15 hourly wage for workers. But Clinton, who won SEIU's endorsement in November, has not actually endorsed a federal $15 minimum wage. Clinton has said since the beginning of her campaign that she backs a federal minimum wage of $12 an hour.
“Hillary Clinton supports our fight for $15 and a union,” read the SEIU fliers, which were distributed in English and Spanish. The literature also featured quotes from Clinton supporting New York’s proposal to raise wages for fast-food workers to $15 an hour. ...
Shepherd said the union has been stumping for Clinton in working-class neighborhoods and has knocked on 36,000 doors and distributed 10,000 pledge cards on her behalf.
Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman told CNN host Brian Stelter on Sunday that his network should focus less on presidential polls and more on candidates' records.
"The media is so commercial, it's so driven by corporate interests," Goodman explained to Stelter during an interview on CNN's Reliable Sources. "And it's so important though that people recognize that there is a whole independent media world out there."
"We do not emphasize the polls," she pointed out. "I would love the media, there to be a month without polls. What is the value of these polls? If I am making a decision about a candidate, I want to weigh their record."
"Do I care what my neighbor thinks or the person next to me? I want to make an independent decision."
Philosopher and Bernie Sanders surrogate Cornel West told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Hillary Clinton was like the disgraced band Milli Vanilli because she only gave “lip service” to social justice policies.
During a Monday interview on CNN’s New Day, West praised Sanders for supporting Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential bid, but he wasn’t as impressed with Clinton’s political pedigree.
“Sister Hillary Clinton is the Milli Vanilli of American politics,” West charged. “She lip-syncs, she gives lip service. But when it comes to policy, who supported the crime bill? Who supported, not just the deregulating of banks, but also pulled the rug from under welfare?”
Director Spike Lee has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president in a radio ad targeting South Carolina voters, four days before the state’s Democratic primary.
“Wake up!” the spot begins, over a soul backing track. “Wake up, South Carolina! This is your dude Spike Lee. And I know that you know the system is rigged. For too long we’ve given our votes to corporate puppets. Sold the Okie-doke.”
“Ninety-nine percent of Americans were hurt by the great recession of 2008, and many are still recovering,” Lee continues. “And that’s why I am officially endorsing my brother Bernie Sanders. Bernie takes no money from corporations. Nada. Which means he is not on the take. And when Bernie gets into the White House, he will do the right thing.”
He adds: “How can we be sure? Bernie was at the March on Washington with Dr King. He was arrested in Chicago for a protest of segregation in public schools. He has fought for wealth and education equality throughout his career.”
The Michigan State Board of Canvassers has approved another petition seeking to recall Gov. Rick Snyder, citing Snyder's declaration of a state of emergency in Flint after lead leached from the pipes into the city's water supply.
The board approved the petition Monday from the Rev. David Bullock of Detroit. ... Bullock would need to collect at least 789,133 signatures. If approved, the recall effort would become a ballot question that would then need majority support from voters.
Aboriginal communities are at the United Nations, accusing Canada of chronically violating their basic human rights as their fight for clean drinking water reaches the world stage.
Three First Nations — Grassy Narrows, Shoal Lake 40 and Neskantaga — are in Geneva, Switzerland to address the UN's Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which is reviewing Canada's human rights record.
The drinking water connected to all three communities has been deemed too unsafe to drink. In the case of Shoal Lake 40, residents have been on a boil water advisory for 17 years. For Neskantaga, it's been more than 20. And last year, the tiny Ojibway community of Grassy Narrows, in Ontario, declared a state of emergency when tests showed toxic chemicals in its water supply.
"Prime Minister Trudeau says that 'Canada is back' as a leader on the world stage," Grassy Narrows Deputy Chief Randy Fobister said in a statement. "Canada has not met its duty to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from Grassy Narrows' Ojibway culture when it allowed timber companies to log on Grassy Narrows Indigenous homeland, nor when the company dumped 10 tonnes of mercury poison into the river of the Grassy Narrows people. Clean up the river."
"Some of our children continue to be born with mercury poisoning and for decades nothing has been done to clean the poison from our river," Judy Da Silva, who spoke to the UN committee, said in a statement. "In the past Canada has not respected our rights but I still have hope that the tide will finally turn for us and that the prime minister will honor his word."
Did you hear about the time 22 flights were cancelled at London's Heathrow Airport because there was a polar bear on the runway? No? Well he was arrested and now faces up to three months in jail.
But this wasn't some sort of zoo escape that went very weirdly wrong — it was a direct action protest last summer that will see 13 people sentenced by a London court on Wednesday. The group has been told to expect jail time, a severity of punishment that has shocked many in the legal profession.
The thirteen are all members of Plane Stupid, activists who opposes the expansion of the airport — already one of the world's busiest — due to concerns over climate change. ...
At the conclusion of their trial in late January, Judge Deborah Wright said that while she believed the 13 were "principled" and "passionate," she could not "think of a more serious case of aggravated trespass."
They have been told to expect custodial sentences — involving up to three months in prison — meaning it could be the first time in over 20 years that anyone has been imprisoned in the UK for staging an environmental protest. ...
In an impassioned statement provided to Plane Stupid, the UK shadow chancellor John McDonnell, whose parliamentary constituency Hayes and Harlington includes Heathrow Airport, said the concerns of the group were shared by many of his constituents.
McDonnell defended the right to non-violent direct action in the face of a government that appears set to break concrete promises it made to the electorate.
"It's almost inevitable that activists will lose patience with a process that they no longer trust and do what they can to solve the problems themselves," he wrote.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Memphis Slim - Rockin' This House
Memphis Slim - Everyday I Have The Blues
Memphis Slim - Grinder Man Blues
Memphis Slim - St. Louis Boogie
Memphis Slim & Peter Green - Mother Earth
Memphis Slim - Lend Me Your Love
Memphis Slim - Pinetop´s Boogie, Pigalle Love, Boogin´& Bluesin´
Memphis Slim - 1986