The Evening Blues - 8-14-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features a bunch of tunes that I found while putting together other shows. Enjoy!
Teddy McRae - Hi Fi Baby
"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than he who enacts laws."
-- Abraham Lincoln
News and Opinion
The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan denied reports Tuesday that the Pentagon is scaling down operations in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation.
The reports said the United States military had been ordered to stop advising the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and limit combat operations, as part of "technical details" of an agreement negotiated with the Taliban. Such a move would cut U.S. presence in Afghanistan to a few thousand troops.
"The characterizations of changes to our authorities and operations have no basis in fact," he said. "We have no such orders and have made no such changes."
The British territory of Gibraltar will not yet release an Iranian oil tanker seized by Royal Marines in the Mediterranean despite an Iranian report that it could do so on Tuesday, an official Gibraltar source said. ...
The deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, Jalil Eslami, said on Tuesday that Britain was thinking of freeing the Grace 1 following an exchange of documents.
“The vessel was seized based on false allegations,” Eslami said in comments reported by state news agency IRNA. “We hope the release will take place soon.”
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, quoting unidentified Gibraltar authorities, said the tanker would be freed by Tuesday evening. However, a senior source in the government of British overseas territory denied that would happen on Tuesday.
A Russian fighter jet warded off a NATO military aircraft that approached a passenger plane carrying Russia’s defense minister Tuesday, according to media reports in Russia.
State-owned news channel Rossiya 24 broadcast a video of the in-flight encounter over the Baltic Sea shortly after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu returned to Moscow from a visit to Russia's westernmost Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
With a number of US lawmakers taking to social media to criticize the
Chinese government for police crackdowns on protesters in Hong Kong, the
Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued a statement insisting that the US
stay out of its internal affairs, noting that Hong Kong “is not a matter that needs your worrying.“
Underpinning all of this is that Hong Kong’s protesters are waving US flags and singing the US national anthem, only adding to the sense among Chinese officials that this is yet another US-funded protest.
VOA Persian and many of its staffers have become rabidly pro-Trump, abandoning their stated mission of providing balanced news to Iranians. ... For years, hawks complained that VOA Persian wasn’t sufficiently hostile enough to the Iranian government. In 2012, a Heritage Foundation report accused VOA Persian of being “pro-Iranian” and “anti-American” for having done such things as “reported only the negative aspects of bombing in Iraq and implied that the war was a mistake.” Writers for the Wall Street Journal and Commentary lodged similar complaints.
The irony is that that station, which premiered as a radio station in the 1940s, was widely known for hostility to the Iranian government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “It was always anti-regime,” said Ali Sajjadi, who was the senior managing editor there before retiring last year. Former executive editor Mohammad Manzarpour told me that he was shocked when he arrived at VOA Persian in 2013, after many years at the BBC, to discover that his new company was filled with monarchists and supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group in exile that advocates relentlessly for the Iranian regime’s overthrow. For all its flaws, however, VOA Persian also upheld some journalistic standards and ran stories critical of the United States. It showcased positive aspects of the Obama administration’s engagement with Iran. Those qualities were, of course, why hawks despised the station: It didn’t act simply as a propaganda network for the right-wing view of Iran. Guests sometimes spoke of Iran as if it could play a constructive role in the region and didn’t always treat the Iranian government as something that needed to be overthrown.
And then Trump was elected.
Since then, the network has become, as Sajjadi puts it, “a mouthpiece of Trump — only Trump and nothing but Trump.” Manzarpour describes the situation as “blatant propaganda.” He said, “There is no objectivity or factuality.” For example, the MEK is covered heavily and favorably, despite having almost no support inside Iran, a history of terroristic violence, and a well-founded reputation as a cult. A VOA employee, who asked to speak anonymously for fear of reprisal, said, “VOA Persian, for the first time in decades, has been acting as media arm of MEK and is giving wall-to-wall live coverage of their gatherings and events.” And VOA Persian published multiple articles by Heshmat Alavi, a pro-MEK persona exposed by The Intercept this June as having been the product of a multiperson propaganda outfit housed in an MEK compound in Albania. (VOA Persian later said it would remove the articles.)
The VOA has broadcast puff pieces on Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah, whom Iran hawks see as a viable opposition leader. Hard-line Iran hawks are frequent guests on the network, often on the receiving end of friendly interviews. These guests include current Trump administration officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, Trump’s special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an inveterate Iran hawk. Pundits like Michael Ledeen have appeared, as have personnel from three heavily neoconservative Washington-based think tanks: the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute. ...
Azadeh Moaveni, an Iran expert at the Crisis Group, says that VOA’s decline worsens the possibilities for engagement between the U.S. and Iran. “It’s pro-Trump in a way that disregards the way Trump’s polices are hurting Iranians, whether through sanctions or anything else,” she told The Intercept. “To the extent that it might have served as a medium through which Iranians learned about the U.S. and better understood its policies, its present condition as a naked propaganda mouthpiece doesn’t help relations.”
'Strongest Recession Signal Yet': Alarm Bells Sound as Key Indicator That Predicted Last Wall Street Crash Goes Negative
Warning signs that the U.S. economy could be barreling toward a recession quickly became alarm bells Wednesday after the Treasury bond yield curve—a key indicator that has preceded every major downturn over the past five decades—inverted for the first time since the Wall Street crash of 2007.
As the Washington Post reported, "the yields on short-term U.S. bonds eclipsed those of long-term bonds" on Wednesday, a phenomenon that "suggests investors' faith in the economy is faltering."
Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, told the Post that "yield curves are all crying timber that a recession is almost a reality, and investors are tripping over themselves to get out of the way."
Economists and other commentators were quick to place at least some of the blame for worsening market volatility on President Donald Trump's trade war with China, the world's second-largest economy behind the U.S.
It’s SO WEIRD these recessions happen EVERY TIME Republicans balloon the deficit to give billionaires a tax cut. https://t.co/CFB5XolGUG
— Brianna Wu (@BriannaWu) August 14, 2019
Donald Trump played Santa Claus on Tuesday, telling reporters he was delaying tariffs on Chinese imports to avoid any adverse impact on US shoppers before the festive season.
“We’re doing this for the Christmas season,” Trump told reporters as he left New Jersey for an event in Pittsburgh.
The move triggered a rally on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones up 372 points, or 1.4%, by the close. Shares of Apple, Mattel and shoe brand Steve Madden shot up. ...
Grateful shoppers, however, should not leave purchases of Chinese-made cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, some toys, computer monitors, shoes and clothing until the last minute. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said it would delay tariffs on such goods until 15 December, 10 days before Christmas.
Farmers facing record bankruptcies and collapsing incomes due to President Donald Trump's escalating trade war with China were not amused by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's joke about their economic pain during an event in Minnesota last week.
"I had a farmer tell me this in Pennsylvania," Perdue told an audience of thousands of farmers gathered in a barn near Morgan, Minnesota. "What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar." Some laughed at the agriculture secretary's joke, but other farmers booed and denounced Perdue's wisecrack as callous and tone-deaf mockery of the real hardship caused by the Trump administration's trade policies.
"It was definitely not an appropriate thing to say," Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, told HuffPost on Monday. "It was very insensitive. It took everyone by surprise. He doesn't understand what farmers are dealing with, and he's the head of the Department of Agriculture. He's supposed to be working for farmers."
California Assemblyman Phil Ting has never been arrested, but he was recently mistaken for a criminal. He's not surprised. Ting (D-San Francisco), who authored a bill to ban facial recognition software from being used on police body cameras, was one of 26 California legislators who was incorrectly matched with a mug shot in a recent test of a common face-scanning program by the American Civil Liberties Union.
About 1 in 5 legislators was erroneously matched to a person who had been arrested when the ACLU used the software to screen their pictures against a database of 25,000 publicly available booking photos. Last year, in a similar experiment done with photos of members of Congress, the software erroneously matched 28 federal legislators with mug shots.
The results highlight what Ting and others said is proof that facial recognition software is unreliable. They want California law enforcement banned from using it with the cameras they wear while on duty. "The software clearly is not ready for use in a law enforcement capacity," Ting said. "These mistakes, we can kind of chuckle at it, but if you get arrested and it's on your record, it can be hard to get housing, get a job. It has real impacts." ...
There is little current federal regulation of facial recognition technology. Recently, members on both sides of the aisle in Congress held oversight hearings and there has been a strong push by privacy advocates for federal action. But concrete measures have yet to materialize.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has proposed a new interpretation of the famous welcome that appears on a placard at the Statue of Liberty.
The famous lines, taken from The New Colossus by the 19th-century New York poet Emma Lazarus, read: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
In media interviews on Tuesday, Cuccinelli said the poem was about European immigrants escaping class-based prejudice and that America was looking to receive migrants “who can stand on their own two feet”.
He suggested a change to the words which would say: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
An Arizona Border Patrol agent who called migrants “subhuman” and “mindless murdering savages” in messages to fellow agents has pleaded guilty to intentionally striking a Guatemalan migrant with his truck.
The agent, 39-year-old Matthew Bowen, was driving an agency pickup truck on Dec. 3, 2017, when he encountered Antolin Lopez Aguilar, a 23-year-old Guatemalan citizen who had illegally crossed the border that day. Bowen, who has been in Border Patrol for a decade, struck him twice with the front of the truck.
After being suspended after his indictment in May, Bowen pleaded guilty on Aug. 8 to a misdemeanor charge for violating the migrant’s rights, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson on Monday reported by KNAU. He's facing up to $100,000 in fines and a year in prison and will have to resign, according to his plea deal.
Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia lawmaker who energized Democratic voters as a candidate for governor last year, will not run for president in 2020 after toying with the idea publicly for several months.
Abrams announced at a speech in Las Vegas that she would instead lend her platform to a new initiative called Fair Fight 2020, which aims to end voter suppression.
“There are only two things stopping us in 2020: making sure people have a reason to vote and that they have the right to vote,” Abrams told the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades convention, where she made the announcement. “I’ve decided to leave it to a whole bunch of other folks to make sure they have a reason to vote. I’m here today to announce Fair Fight 2020 to make sure everyone has the right to vote in the United States of America.”
Fair Fight 2020 will work with Democratic state parties and local groups across the country to expand voter access to the polls and fight efforts to strip away voting rights before the presidential election next year. The effort will target 20 states, many of them key battlegrounds in the midwest and the south.
Plastic was the furthest thing from Gregory Wetherbee’s mind when he began analyzing rainwater samples collected from the Rocky Mountains. “I guess I expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles,” said the US Geological Survey researcher. Instead, he found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers.
The discovery, published in a recent study (pdf) titled “It is raining plastic”, raises new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth.
“I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye,” said Wetherbee. “It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.”
Rainwater samples collected across Colorado and analyzed under a microscope contained a rainbow of plastic fibers, as well as beads and shards. The findings shocked Wetherbee, who had been collecting the samples in order to study nitrogen pollution.
“My results are purely accidental,” he said, though they are consistent with another recent study that found microplastics in the Pyrenees, suggesting plastic particles could travel with the wind for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers. Other studies have turned up microplastics in the deepest reaches of the ocean, in UK lakes and rivers and in US groundwater.
Indigenous, environmental, and landowner groups fighting to block the Keystone XL pipeline sent a letter Tuesday to the two dozen 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidates, urging them to take the "NoKXL pledge" and vow—if elected—to revoke the Trump administration's permit for the tar sands oil project.
"There is no middle ground when it comes to protecting the land, water, and climate," Bold Nebraska founder Jane Kleeb said in a statement. "You either stand with family farmers, ranchers, Tribal Nations, and environmentalists—or you stand with fossil fuel corporations who are abusing eminent domain, and trampling on the treaty rights of Tribal Nations."
"Tribal Nations and communities are battling for the survival of our ecosystems and ways of life, and we need a president who will stand with us against Big Oil and the fossil fuel regime," said Dallas Goldtooth, a Keep It in the Ground campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network. "Signing the NOKXL pledge is a solid step in the right direction."
The three-point NoKXL pledge, featured on Bold Nebraska's website, states:
- If elected, I pledge to take executive action on Day One to stop any construction on the Keystone XL pipeline—no matter what—and revoke the existing presidential permits issued unilaterally by President Trump for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, sending both projects back to relevant federal agencies to undergo legitimate environmental review and Tribal consultations.
- I pledge to direct all federal agencies (State Dept., FERC, Army Corps) to submit these two projects, as well as all new pipeline and energy infrastructure projects to a true climate test, and reject permits for any project that would exacerbate our climate crisis.
- I pledge to protect the property rights of farmers and ranchers from eminent domain abuse, and to honor the treaties the U.S. government has signed with sovereign Tribal Nations.
Humanity's Destruction of Oceans Nearly Doubled Over a Decade, Scientists Warn, and Could Double Again Without Urgent Action
Humanity's impact on global oceans nearly doubled in a just over a decade and could double again soon without urgent and sweeping international action, warns a study published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports. To determine the pace of change in cumulative human impacts on the world's oceans, researchers from University of California, Santa Barbara and Stanford University combined annual data from 2003 to 2013 on 14 human stressors and how they affected 21 marine ecosystems.
The team found that over the 11 years, 59 percent of the ocean experienced a significant increase in cumulative impact, "in particular due to climate change but also from fishing, land-based pollution, and shipping." Human impact significantly decreased for only five percent of the ocean.
"Impacts of human activities on the ocean have been shown to be substantial, ubiquitous, and changing," the study says, pointing to both existing uses of global oceans and emerging ones such as offshore energy production, aquaculture, and undersea mining. "The resulting cumulative impact of these activities often leads to ecosystem degradation or even collapse."
Researchers determined that during the analyzed period, "nearly all countries saw increases in cumulative impacts in their coastal waters, as did all ecosystems, with coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves at most risk." However, some regions saw high impacts and are at greater risk for ecosystem collapse: the Black Sea, Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Canadian Eastern Seaboard, Southern Atlantic Ocean, and Southern/Western Australia.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Big Walter - Come Home To Mama
Eddie King - Love Me Baby
Pete "Guitar" Lewis - Louisiana Hop
Pete ''Guitar'' Lewis - Midnight In The Barrel House
Wanda Jackson - Hard Headed Woman
Baby Boy Warren - The Chicken
Willie Tee - Teasin' You
Joe Mayfield - I'm A Natural Born Man
Bill Jennings - Stompin' With Bill
Eddie King - Love Me Baby
Eddie King - Shakin' Inside
Little Walkin' Willie - Don't Holler Baby
Little Booker (Joe Tex) - Open The Door