The Evening Blues - 11-21-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Delta blues musician Houston Stackhouse. Enjoy!
Houston Stackhouse - Cool Drink of Water
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
-- Edward Abbey
News and Opinion
Even casual readers of the news know that the earth is probably going to look very different in 2100, and not in a good way. ... However, the cause of the disaster that, by all indications, we are already living through should be clearer. It is not the result of the failure of individuals to adopt the moralizing strictures of “green” consciousness, and it is a sign of just how far we have to go that some still believe reusable shopping bags and composting (perfectly fine in their own right) are ways out of this mess.
It is also not the deceit of specific immoral companies that is to blame: We like to pick out Volkswagen’s diesel scandal, but it is only one of many carmakers that “deliberately exploit lax emissions tests.” Nor does the onus fall on the foundering of Social Democratic reforms and international cooperation: Even before the United States backed out of the Paris Accord, we were well on our way to a 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit temperature rise by 2100, “a temperature that at times in the past has meant no ice at either pole.”
Perhaps the most common belief about this problem is that it is caused by widespread ignorance — even outright “stupidity” — and that its solution lies in its opposite, intelligence. This belief is neatly expressed in progressive opposition to Donald Trump and his administration. ... The basic idea is that if voters were intelligent, they would vote for an intelligent person who listened to intelligent people and all would be well. It is a staple of the liberal imaginary. ... Also reflected is the common view, which is not confined to one end of the political spectrum, that our biggest problems are essentially technical ones, and that the solution to them lies in the empowerment of intelligent people. ... The problem with the general view that intelligence will save us is that it involves pinning the failures of capitalist society on supposedly dumb people (them), who, so the logic goes, need to be replaced with supposedly smart ones (us). This is a spectacular delusion. ...
Iraqi Civilian Describes U.S. Airstrike on His Home That Killed His Wife, Daughter, Brother & Nephew
U.S. Generals Might Stop Trump From an Illegal Nuclear Strike — But Who Will Save Us From a Legal One?
He has become the latest in a long line of generals to be lionized by the anti-Trump #resistance. Speaking over the weekend, Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which is responsible for nuclear deterrence, revealed what he would do if he were ordered to carry out a nuclear strike. “I provide advice to the president,” Gen. Hyten told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada. “He’ll tell me what to do, and if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m gonna say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’” Hyten continued: “Guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.” ...
First, why does he assume that this president’s response to being told a nuclear strike might be “illegal” would be to ask: “What would be legal?” Does Trump, who rails against “so-called” judges, strike you as the kind of leader who is bothered by the rule of law? Why wouldn’t he just fire Hyten and replace him with a more compliant general?
Second, the STRATCOM chief said in Canada that he and his fellow generals were “not stupid” and were aware of the risks of breaking the law: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.” How then does he explain the number of top U.S. generals who happily participated in George W Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq? Or those who helped Barack Obama conduct his illegal bombing of Libya? Where were the dissenting four-star voices in 2003 or 2011, telling Bush or Obama: “Mr. President, that’s illegal”? So why should we have confidence in Hyten and other officers in 2017?
But perhaps, above all else, does the general really believe the launching of nuclear weapons is “not that complicated,” in terms of the law? Does Hyten, who graduated from Harvard not with a J.D. but with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and applied sciences, think it is that easy to distinguish a “legal” nuclear strike from an “illegal” one?
A secretive Russian nuclear facility has denied it was behind high atmospheric concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106, after Russia’s meteorological service confirmed levels several hundred times the norm were found in several locations in the country during tests in late September.
Greenpeace has called for an investigation into a potential cover-up of a nuclear accident after Russia’s nuclear agency had denied European reports of increased ruthenium-106 levels. Rosgidromet, the weather monitoring service, released test data on Monday that showed levels were indeed much higher than normal. The most potent site was Argayash in the south Urals, where levels were 986 times the norm.
Argayash is about 20 miles from Mayak, a facility that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel. The plant facility issued a denial on Tuesday. “The contamination of the atmosphere with ruthenium-106 isotope registered by Rosgidromet is not linked to the activity of Mayak,” a statement said. It went on to reassure people that the measurements were well below dangerous levels: “The measurements which Rosgidromet has released suggest that the dose people might have received is 20,000 times less than the allowed annual dose and presents no threat at all to health.”
Nuclear experts also said there was no evidence to suggest the leak posed a significant hazard to human health or the environment. ...
[The Russian state nuclear agency] Rosatom said the high readings in Argayash were still lower than those taken elsewhere in Europe, such as in Bucharest, suggesting the emission did not take place on Russian territory.
Vladimir Putin has hosted Bashar al-Assad for talks during which the two presidents agreed the focus in the Syrian conflict was switching from military operations to the search for a political solution. The Russian president met his Syrian counterpart before a gathering, planned for this week in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi with the leaders of Turkey and Iran – two other powers heavily involved in the conflict in Syria.
In comments released by the Kremlin, Putin also said he would follow up his meeting with Assad with telephone calls to Donald Trump and Middle Eastern leaders including the emir of Qatar.
“We still have a long way to go before we achieve a complete victory over terrorists. But as far as our joint work in fighting terrorism on the territory of Syria is concerned, this military operation is indeed wrapping up,” Putin said. “I think that now the most important thing, of course, is to move on the political questions, and I note with satisfaction your readiness to work with all those who want peace and a solution [to the conflict].”
Assad told the Russian leader: “At this stage, especially after we achieved victory over terrorists, it is in our interests to move forward with the political process. And we believe that the situation we now have on the ground and in the political sense permits us to expect progress in the political process. We count on the support of Russia to ensure the non-interference of outside players in the political process.”
I guess, "Assad took adequate security precautions to ensure his safety on a trip out of Syria," isn't as catchy a headline.
Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad has dared to leave his country only twice since it descended into a civil war six years ago. Both times, he’s gone to Russia to meet his strongest ally: Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, Assad slipped secretly into the Russian city of Sochi to thank Putin and a room full of Russian generals for “saving our country” after Russia intervened heavily against Assad’s enemies, some of which were backed by the United States. Assad’s previous trip to Russia, in October 2015, came right after Russia launched operations on his behalf.
Now, Putin appears to be maneuvering to become the key arbiter of Syria’s political future. Putin told Assad he planned to call Donald Trump later to discuss their conversation, before holding talks on Syria’s future with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.
While most political leaders and U.S. media outlets continue to perpetuate the "power-serving" notion that the West has played little to no role in causing and worsening Yemen's humanitarian crisis, U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn penned a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday slamming American and British forces for fueling the Saudi-led bombing campaign and demanding an independent war crimes investigation.
"At least 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict started in 2014 and 7 million people are in extreme hunger. Food shortages and the cholera outbreak are a direct result of the continuing blockade of Yemen by the U.S.- and U.K.-backed Saudi-led coalition," Corbyn wrote. "Whilst the immediate priority should be humanitarian assistance to Yemen, it is time the government takes immediate steps to play its part in ending the suffering of the Yemeni people."
A major reason Corbyn has been so hated by UK press is he has vocally & repeatedly called attention to the UK's multi-level, vital support for Saudi despots, both generally and in their destruction of Yemen: https://t.co/Twz9cxYQGZ
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 21, 2017
Corbyn's demand that the U.K. and U.S. take responsibility for their role in sustaining what has been deemed the worst humanitarian crisis in the world comes as the U.N. is calling on Saudi Arabia to end a blockade that is preventing food and medicine from entering Yemen. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, thousands more Yemenis could die per day if the country's ports remain closed.
It took a military takeover, nearly a week of negotiations, and ultimately, the launch of impeachment proceedings, but Robert Mugabe has finally resigned as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years.
The news that the 93-year-old had decided to step down, after stubbornly refusing to budge for six days, sparked scenes of jubilation after Jacob Mudenda, the speaker of Zimbabwe’s parliament, made the announcement Tuesday. Lawmakers who had gathered to impeach Mugabe broke out into loud cheers in parliament, while the streets of Harare erupted in celebration, with large crowds cheering, dancing, and waving national flags.
Mugabe’s resignation letter said he had made the decision voluntarily, to allow a smooth transition of power. The unexpected announcement interrupted impeachment proceedings that had been launched by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party earlier Tuesday, in a final push to legally oust him from office.
Two former members of the Catalan government held in custody over their roles in Catalonia’s banned independence drive have asked to be released from custody after accepting Madrid’s control of the region, according to appeals published on Monday. ...
Lawyers for Jordi Turull and Josep Rull have lodged requests with the High Court to be released, saying they had not shown any resistance to Rajoy instigating direct rule over Catalonia by activating Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.
Six other ex-members of the Catalan government and the leaders of the two main pro-independence grassroots groups are also in jail awaiting trial at the High Court on charges of rebellion and sedition. ...
Earlier this month, Spain’s Supreme Court released the Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell on bail of 150,000 euros after she agreed to renounce any political activity that went against the Spanish constitution.
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is in Belgium, and Spain has issued a European arrest warrant for him. He said a week ago he might consider a solution to the crisis that did not involve Catalonia’s secession.
Germany’s president met party leaders on Tuesday after talks to form a new government between Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, the left-leaning Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) broke down at the weekend. The collapse of coalition talks poses the most serious threat to Merkel’s position since she became chancellor more than a decade ago.
The president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has called on political leaders to rethink their positions and try again to form a government. Meetings with the leaders of the Greens and the FDP’s Christian Lindner were held on Tuesday. Neither party spoke after their meeting. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) – Merkel’s partners in the outgoing government – say they will not budge from their refusal to enter a new Merkel administration. If that stands, a minority government or a new election are the only options. Martin Schulz, head of the SPD, is due to meet Steinmeier on Thursday.
While German media are assigning at least some of the blame for the collapse of talks to the chancellor, Merkel has exuded calm over the last two days and appeared to have even consolidated her authority within her party. According to the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, even Christian Democrat (CDU) members who have been openly critical of her course during the refugee crisis have praised Merkel’s conduct during the coalition talks. “Angela Merkel is prepared to stay. And her party is as united in supporting her as it hasn’t been in ages,” it reported. A putsch in Merkel’s CDU looks less likely than in the Social Democrats, where some members are more open to the idea of another “grand coalition” than their leader, Martin Schulz. ...
While new elections look increasingly likely, they are not expected to be called for another month. Germany’s constitution requires the president to nominate a chancellor for approval by the German parliament, the Bundestag. Only when no stable government can be formed after three rounds of voting there would the president ask Germans to return to the polls.
Chile, so used to geological upheavals, faces a vastly changed political landscape after a progressive alliance surged ahead in Sunday’s general election, and left conservative presidential frontrunner Sebastián Piñera facing a tough fight in December’s run-off. Piñera, a billionaire and former president, had been widely expected to cruise to victory – and possibly even win outright in the first round. He still took first place, taking 36% of the vote, but faced a strong challenge by two main leftwing rivals who between them won 43%.
Former TV news anchor Alejandro Guillier, who heads a centre-left alliance, came second in the presidential race, but the real political earthquake, was the emergence of a new political force, the Frente Amplio – or Broad Front – whose roots can be traced to student protests that shook the country in 2011. Often compared to the Podemos movement in Spain, the FA is an anti-establishment alliance of left-liberal parties, ecologists, humanists and grassroots organizations.
Among the movement’s demands are the replacement of Chile’s neoliberal economic model together with the Pinochet-era constitution; broad changes to the country’s pension system; and major reforms in health, education, workers’ rights and wages. Led by Beatriz Sánchez, a 46-year-old journalist who came third with 20% of the popular vote, Frente Amplio will now also control 12% of the 155-seat chamber of deputies. According to political scientist Claudio Fuentes, the main outcome of the election is a fragmented parliament polarised between the right and left – and a complex, unpredictable scenario for the second-round presidential vote in which the FA finds itself a reluctant kingmaker.
A Chicago cop was sentenced to five years in federal prison Monday for shooting into a car filled with black teens. The conviction and sentence on federal civil rights charges is a rarity in Chicago and some police reform experts say it’s evidence juries are becoming more willing to hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct.
Veteran officer Marco Proano is the first Chicago cop to face federal criminal charges for an on-duty shooting in more than 15 years. In August, a federal grand jury concluded that Proano violated the civil rights of the victims by using excessive force when he unleashed a hail of gunfire into a moving vehicle in December 2013.
On that night in December, officers stopped a car for speeding, and then concluded the vehicle had been stolen and called for backup; Proano and his partner responded. During the trial, prosecutors relied on dash cam footage showing Proano brandishing his weapon immediately upon exiting his vehicle, pointing it at the car, which was full of black teenagers, and firing 16 shots as they reversed away from him. Two of the teens were wounded, but recovered from their injuries.
The top US telecoms regulator has unveiled sweeping plans to overturn Obama-era rules designed to protect an open internet.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai plans to repeal “net neutrality” regulations that were championed by tech companies and consumer groups. The rules but have been heavily criticized by internet service providers and Pai. “The FCC will no longer be in the business of micromanaging business models and preemptively prohibiting services and applications and products that could be pro-competitive,” Pai told Reuters. He added that the Obama administration had sought to pick winners and losers and exercised “heavy-handed” regulation of the internet. “We should simply set rules of the road that let companies of all kinds in every sector compete and let consumers decide who wins and loses.”
The move is likely to spark a furious battle ahead of the FCC’s vote on the proposals on 14 December. About 21 million comments were submitted to the regulator as it discussed the proposals, and activists have flooded legislators with over 250,000 calls condemning Pai’s plans. The FCC’s plans will be challenged in court. ...
On the chopping block are rules established in 2015 that prevent broadband companies from charging more for internet “fast lanes” for certain content and from blocking or slowing certain content. Critics charge that removing the rules will hand ISPs control of the internet – allowing them to pick winners and losers by slowing some services while giving preferential treatment to those they favor.
Hat tip studentofearth:
In August, a dozen inventors gathered around a fire pit outside the headquarters of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia, and set alight patents they said had been rendered worthless by an overreaching federal government. “It’s time for us to make patents great again,” Michael Caputo, an advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, told those gathered. US Inventor, the group behind the protest Caputo now represents as a spokesman, is calling for the abolition of the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board, an administrative tribunal run by the patent office that reviews the validity of patents.
The rallying cry marks an about-face for some conservatives, who broadly supported the board’s creation in 2011 as a way to rein in trial lawyers and “patent trolls,” who hold patents for the sole purpose of suing big companies for licensing fees. “Things have really flipped when it comes to the conservative perspective on patents,” said Charles Duan, a lawyer with left-leaning consumer group Public Knowledge. Much of the credit goes to activists who have convinced many conservatives that the real problem is not out-of-control litigation but how the tribunal designed to speed up resolving patent disputes favors big business over smaller rivals.
The change of positions has been aided by deepening right-wing distrust of tech giants, such as Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google, which have benefited the most from PTAB while embracing liberal causes like immigration or gay and transgender rights. The U.S. Supreme Court is due to rule sometime next year on whether the tribunal is an unconstitutional intrusion of the executive branch onto matters reserved for the courts and influential conservative groups are already weighing in. ...
Inventors say PTAB has made it much harder to get patents licensed by big technology, which now routinely respond to patent infringement claims by initiating PTAB proceedings. “Patents owners who don’t have the wherewithal to withstand serial challenges to the validity of their patents just can’t license them,” said David Pridham, chief executive of Dominion Harbor, a firm that owns and attempts to license former Eastman Kodak Co patents.
Warren “Pete” Moore, vocalist and songwriter with the seminal Smokey Robinson-fronted Motown outfit the Miracles, has died.
Moore was a childhood friend of Robinson. They grew up in Detroit and, as teenagers, co-founded a vocal group that would later become the Miracles. The band had 26 Top 40 hits in the US, including You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me and Shop Around. In 1970, they had a No 1 hit in the UK and US with The Tears of a Clown. ...
Moore co-wrote many of the Miracles’ hits, among them The Tracks of My Tears and Love Machine. Alongside Robinson he also penned songs for the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, including 1965’s Ain’t That Peculiar.
The Michigan congressman John Conyers said he has not settled any sexual harassment complaints with any staff members on Tuesday, following a report that he had paid a woman over $27,000 to settle a complaint. Conyers, who answered the door to the Associated Press at his Detroit home on Tuesday morning, said he knew nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and had learned of the story just hours earlier. ...
BuzzFeed reported on Monday that Conyers’ office paid the woman under a confidentiality agreement.
BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed the Democratic representative touching female staffers inappropriately – rubbing their legs and backs – or requesting sexual favors. One former staffer said one of her duties was “to keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using congressional resources”. BuzzFeed said it received the documents from rightwing activist Mike Cernovich, but independently confirmed their authenticity.
Those who took issue with the risk assessment portion of a draft report on Enbridge Line 5 released this summer by a state contractor aren't likely to be thrilled by the conclusions in a final version of the controversial project. Dynamic Risk Assessments of Calgary estimates a "credible worst-case" oil spill from Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac would release about 4,500 barrels of oil that would stay within 60 miles of the pipeline and cost about $200 million in total to cleanup -- about the same estimate the company delivered in June with a draft report.
The report is meant to analyze possible alternatives to Line 5 crossing underneath the straits. The draft version was widely panned as having sugarcoated the risk to the Great Lakes posed by an oil spill from the controversial underwater pipeline. ... The report evaluated building a new pipeline in either a trench or a tunnel under the straits, operating the pipeline without change, shutting down the pipeline, building a new pipeline around the southern end of Lake Michigan and moving oil by railroad. Moving oil through other existing Enbridge pipelines or shutting down only the section under the straits but leaving the rest in operation were not considered feasible options.
The report calls a leak due to corrosion a low risk factor, but notes that new information about damage to the proactive coating have surfaced in the meantime and "it would be inappropriate to speculate on any of the above aspects of the coating condition." The report says there is "no evidence" that stress due to historically unsupported spans where the lakebed washed out from under the pipeline have degraded its integrity.
Early reaction to the 379-page report -- with 216 pages of appendices and 699 pages of attachments -- was that Dynamic Risk did appear to have made some tweaks in the final version to address concerns the report put Enbridge's interest in continued operation of the pipeline ahead of the interest of Michigan citizens.
Nebraska's Public Service Commission approved the Keystone XL pipeline Monday, eliminating a major regulatory hurdle to construction of a project that galvanized people across the U.S. into opposition. The decision comes days after the existing Keystone pipeline, to which the KXL will connect, spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil onto agricultural land in South Dakota. To many pipeline opponents motivated by the inevitability of a spill, the contaminated land proves their point.
Those who have been fighting the pipeline for more than five years, and many more drawn into opposition via last year’s dramatic confrontation at Standing Rock, say the approval of KXL marks the beginning of the next phase of the pipeline battles. Opponents in Nebraska will have 30 days to appeal the decision and have promised lawsuits. “We have to do everything we can in order to make sure that this pipeline never gets built,” said Bold Nebraska founder Jane Kleeb in a press conference after the decision. ...
Monday also marked the one-year anniversary of one of the most aggressive police actions against Dakota Access pipeline opponents, when police sprayed protesters with water cannons in freezing temperatures. Indeed, the new Keystone XL fight will take place in a climate where anti-pipeline organizing has become increasingly criminalized.
Last month, 84 members of Congress — including four Democrats from Texas — signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking whether domestic terrorism laws could be used to prosecute individuals shutting down oil pipelines. In response to queries about the letter, the Department of Justice told Reuters earlier this month that it would aggressively prosecute anyone who damages “critical energy infrastructure in violation of federal law.”
In anticipation of the Keystone XL’s construction, legislation was passed in South Dakota in March that allows the governor or a local sheriff to prohibit groups numbering more than 20 from gathering on public land or in schools, and also allows the Department of Transportation to limit access to highways by prohibiting stopping or parking in designated areas. Law enforcement officials in Nebraska and other states have meanwhile been studying the policing of the Dakota Access pipeline protests.
Poland has been given two weeks to stop illegal deforestation in the Unesco-protected Białowieża forest or face fines of at least €100,000 a day. In a precedent-setting ruling that will echo across the EU, the European court of justice ordered Poland to show it was acting lawfully in the ancient woodland, or face a €36.5m (£32m) annual penalty.
Agata Szafraniuk, a lawyer for the green law firm ClientEarth, said that the court was acting after Poland’s environment minister, Jan Szyszko, showed “complete contempt” for an earlier emergency ban on logging in the ancient woodland. “Financial penalties are, unfortunately, an essential tool to ensure that the best-preserved primeval forest in Europe is protected from further harm,” she said. “Trees are still being cut down every day, so the court prescribed this measure to guarantee the full protection of this unique forest, and to avoid irreparable damage.”
The court move will ratchet up pressure on Poland, which is already facing a suspension of its EU Council voting rights over a clampdown on the country’s independent press and judiciary. Women’s groups have also been targeted for police raids, and rights to protest have been curtailed, adding to concerns about the rule of law in the east European country.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Houston Stackhouse - Kansas City Blues
Houston Stackhouse - Big Road Blues
Houston Stackhouse - Return Mail
Houston Stackhouse, Robert Nighthawk & Peck Curtis - Right round the corner
Houston Stackhouse - The Wrong Man
Houston Stackhouse - My Babe
Houston Stackhouse - Take a little walk with me
Houston Stackhouse - Mean Black Spider
Houston Stackhouse - Talkin' 'Bout You
Houston Stackhouse - Canned Heat