The Evening Blues - 1-16-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter Little Mack Simmons. Enjoy!
Little Mack Simmons - Never Leave My Homework Undone
Are you sick of universal health care?
Do you hate public spending on high-quality infrastructure?
Do you wish your neighbors were less happy? A lot less happy?
Have we got a country for you!
[This Ad Paid For By The United States of America]
— Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) January 11, 2018
News and Opinion
I covered the war in El Salvador for five years. It was a peasant uprising by the dispossessed against the 14 ruling families and the handful of American corporations that ran El Salvador as if it was a plantation. Half of the population was landless. Laborers worked as serfs in the coffee plantations, the sugar cane fields and the cotton fields in appalling poverty. Attempts to organize and protest peacefully to combat the huge social inequality were met with violence, including fire from machine guns mounted on the tops of buildings in downtown San Salvador that rained down bullets indiscriminately on crowds of demonstrators. Peasant, labor, church and university leaders were kidnapped by death squads, brutally tortured and murdered, their mutilated bodies often left on roadsides for public view. When I arrived, the death squads were killing between 700 and 1,000 people a month.
An insurgent army arose, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (known by the Spanish-language abbreviation FMLN), named for the leader of a peasant uprising in 1932 that was crushed through the slaughter of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, many of them killed in summary executions. The FMLN seized huge parts of the country from the corrupt and demoralized military. In the fall of 1983, the rebels, supplied with weapons from the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, were on the verge of capturing the country’s second largest city. I did not, at first, travel with the army. It was too dangerous. It was far safer to go into combat with the FMLN. Without outside intervention, the rebels would have seized control of El Salvador within months and ousted the oligarchs.
But, far to the north, was a shithole country ruled by a former B-list movie actor who had starred in “Bedtime for Bonzo” and who was in the early stages of dementia. This shithole country, which saw the world in black and white, communist and capitalist, was determined to thwart the aspirations of the poor and the landless. It would not permit the profits of its companies, such as United Fruit, or the power of the pliant oligarch class that did its bidding in El Salvador, to be impeded. It had disdain for the aspirations of the poor, especially the poor of Latin American or Africa, the wretched of the earth, as writer Frantz Fanon called them, people who in the eyes of those who ruled the shithole country should toil in misery all their lives for the oligarchs and the big American companies allied with them. Let the poor, brown and black people go hungry, watch their children die of sickness or be murdered. Power and wealth, those who ruled this shithole country believed, was theirs by divine right. They, as the lords of shithole-dom, were endowed with special attributes. God blessed shithole countries. ...
The leaders of the shithole country would oversee the murder of 80,000 people and 8,000 disappeared in El Salvador. Intelligence officials from the shithole country were, it appears, complicit in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Romero, organized by a former Salvadoran army officer named Roberto D’Aubuisson—known affectionately as “Blowtorch Bob”—who was one of the shithole country’s favorite killers. The shithole country protected those who ordered the murder and rape of four American churchwomen in December 1980. They protected the officers of the Atlacatl Brigade—which in 1981 had massacred more than 700 civilians in El Mozote—when in 1989 they gunned down six Spanish Jesuit priests, one of whom was the rector of the University of Central America, plus their housekeeper and her teenage daughter, on the university campus. The Salvadoran officers who oversaw these massacres, and countless others, had been selected and trained in the shithole country’s U.S. Army School of the Americas. The war would destroy much of the infrastructure. El Salvador never recovered. It is awash in weapons. It experiences a murder every one and a half hours. Let the blood flow, the leaders of the shithole country said. The blood of brown and black people does not matter.
European foreign ministers are being forced to side with Iran over Trump whether they like it or not
Just as Iran looks as if it is going to draw less and less economic benefit from the JCPOA, its political gains from agreement are increasing at home and abroad. President Hassan Rouhani can blame austerity, rising prices and unemployment squarely on Trump and the US. Spontaneous protests inspired by economic grievances that erupted across Iran in the days after 28 December can be demonised as plotted by or playing into the hands of foreign foes since the chief foe, in the shape of Trump, is cheering them on.
Another potential political benefit for Iran has become more evident in the last few days as the issue of the Iranian nuclear deal returns to the top of the news agenda. European states had put a lot of effort since Trump won the presidential election in 2016 into pretending that he was not “the mad woman in the attic” who had somehow taken control of the White House. There were hopes that Trump would simmer down or the great American ship of state would sail on under its own momentum, regardless of the weirdness of the new man at the helm. Foreign governments half-convinced themselves that if you held your nose and pretended that Trump was like other American presidents then he might become like one or else people would not notice that he was not.
But the pretence is getting pretty thin. Just how thin was visible this week as European foreign ministers met with their Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Brussels with the supposed purpose of persuading Iran to curtail its destabilising activities in the Middle East that impact on the nuclear deal. But it did not look like that: if Zarif was indeed being held to account, he was showing no sign of discomfort as he sat beaming at the British, French and German foreign ministers and they beamed back at him. It looked much more as if Iran and the powerful European states, aside from Russia, which is already in the Iranian corner, were presenting a common front against the US in defence of the nuclear deal. “Strong consensus in Brussels today,” tweeted Zarif cheerfully. “Iran is complying with JCPOA.”
Trump may eventually sabotage the nuclear deal, but the US will pay a heavy political price. The Europeans are embarrassed by being pushed into the Iranian corner along with Russia and China, but they do not have a lot of choice on the JCPOA and, increasingly, on other issues. Reluctantly, they are deciding that Trump is the great destabiliser and a far more potent threat to the international order than any danger posed by Iran.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has responded negatively to the US pledge to create a new “border” force in northern Syria of some 30,000 US-backed fighters, saying not only are they violating Syrian sovereignty, but the Syrian Army’s goal must be to end the US presence in the country outright.
Syria has long opposed the US military presence in the country, which was deployed without Syrian permission, and which Pentagon officials say will last long after the outright defeat of ISIS.
Syrian Kurdish officials are mobilising citizens to defend the town of Afrin as Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday that an attack was imminent.
“The Self Administration in Afrin has taken all measures,” said Egid Rashid, head of the media office of the Democratic Self Administration, the local government associated with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD. “The citizens of the district are guarding its borders and are ready to sacrifice everything to protect Afrin. If Turkey attacks Afrin, then Afrin will be a powerful and unforgettable lesson for Turkey,” he said.
Mr Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to attack Afrin, which is held by the PYD militia known as the People's Protection Units, or PYG. Turkey considers the Kurdish force to be affiliated with Turkish Kurds battling for autonomy in Turkey’s south-east.
Mr Rashid said Afrin had "for years now been under a systematic siege posed by mercenary groups supported by the Turkish occupation”. He said Turkish forces had been shelling Afrin from positions inside Syria and from positions in Turkey since Saturday, and the YPG had responded to movements by Turkish-backed forces with heavy machine gun fire.
Here's a teaser for the interview:
Daniel Ellsberg, the US whistleblower celebrated in Steven Spielberg’s new film, The Post, was called “the most dangerous man in America” by the Nixon administration in the 70s. More than 40 years later, the man he helped inspire, Edward Snowden, was called “the terrible traitor” by Donald Trump, as he called for Snowden’s execution. ... The Post deals with Ellsberg’s 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, which revealed presidents from Truman to Nixon lying about the Vietnam war. It deals, too, with the battle of the US media, primarily the Washington Post and the New York Times, to protect press freedom.
During a two-hour internet linkup between Ellsberg in Berkeley, California, Snowden in Moscow and the Guardian in London, the whistleblowers discussed the ethics, practicalities and agonised internal debate involved in whistleblowing and how The Post has a special resonance today in Trump’s America. They are worried about Trump’s assault on press freedom and express fear that journalists could be indicted for the first time in US history. And they are alarmed by the prospect of a US nuclear strike against North Korea, urging a new generation of whistleblowers to come forward from the Pentagon or White House to stop it.
“It is madly reckless for this president to be doing what he is doing. Whether he is, in some clinical sense, crazy or not, what he is doing is crazy,” says Ellsberg. His book based on his experience as a defence analyst and nuclear war planner, The Doomsday Machine, was published in December.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin [Md.], has become a big star in national media by routinely denouncing Russia as a dire threat to American democracy. The senior senator from Maryland personifies the highly dangerous opportunism that has set in among leading Democrats on the subject of Russia. ... [Chelsea Manning's] campaign has real potential to raise key issues. One of them revolves around the kind of bellicose rhetoric that heightens the dangers of conflict between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.
In a typical foray into reckless hyperbole, Cardin told a public forum in November: “When you use cyber in an affirmative way to compromise our democratic, free election system, that’s an attack against America. It’s an act of war. It is an act of war.” ... Last week, Cardin upped the ante with the release of a report that he commissioned. In effect, it’s a declaration of red-white-and-blue jihad against Russia.
The report — which accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of “a relentless assault to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States” — received massive coverage in U.S. news media. Conservative and libera
lpunditry voiced acclaim. “Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president,” a solo statement by Cardin declares on the opening page. With the truly repugnant President Trump in its crosshairs, the report’s most polemical claims — no matter how debatable or ahistorical — have predictably gotten a pass from mass media.
But the much-ballyhooed report is a carefully selective and distorted version of history.
The expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders, the U.S. interference in dozens of countries’ elections (including in Russia during the Clinton administration), Washington’s support for repressive regimes in the past and present — such realities didn’t merit consideration or mention. Nor did facts such as the USA’s role as the world’s biggest arms merchant. Or the aggressively deadly U.S. military interventions in the recent past and present, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya. Such omissions are essential to the self-righteous tone of the Russiagate frenzy. Only with silence about basic truths of U.S. foreign policy can officials in Washington pose as leaders of an angelic nation that must confront satanic Russia.
Spain rejected as absurd suggestions that Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont could lead the region from exile if elected president by the new Catalan parliament, and said if he were chosen Madrid would maintain direct central rule.
Puigdemont fled to Brussels in October after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fired him as Catalonia’s leader for declaring an independent republic following an illegal referendum. He faces arrest and possibly decades in jail if he returns to Spain.
With only days before Catalonia’s parliament convenes to elect a new regional government, separatists said Puigdemont was their candidate to lead the region again.
They are exploring the possibility he could do so by video link from Brussels.
But Rajoy, in a speech at his centre-right People’s Party (PP) Madrid headquarters, derided the idea and the Catalan parliament’s own legal advisory body said it was not possible without changing the law.
A California city has brought charges against 12 people who defied a ban on feeding homeless people at a neighborhood park, as officials try to rein in a hepatitis A outbreak that has killed 20 people and prompted mass vaccinations and the bleaching of streets. Officials in El Cajon, east of San Diego, argue that the ordinance aims to protect the public from hepatitis A, which has mostly affected those who are homeless or use drugs, by preventing the person-to-person transmission of pathogens. But activists have decried it as a draconian measure to criminalize homeless residents. ...
In El Cajon on Sunday, a volunteer organization named Break the Ban manned tables offering breakfast bars, oranges and bananas, hygiene supplies and socks at a local park. Within an hour, the police arrived threatening to arrest those who defied the ban. Volunteers shouted angrily at them, and they began issuing misdemeanor citations.
Scott Dreher, an attorney to the organizers who was present at the event, described the ordinance a restriction on his free-speech rights. “It prevents me from exercising my right to share food with those people in need, which is an expression of speech by action,” he said. “There are other, non-first-amendment-restrictive, ways to accomplish the city’s stated goal of preventing the spread of hep A, namely, by cleaning up the parks and providing and encouraging use of public restrooms and hand-washing.”
Almost 600 people in the county have been infected with the disease, which is spread via fecal contamination, a symptom of the fact that homeless people have few places to use the bathroom and then wash their hands.
Donald Trump on Tuesday raised the specter of a government shutdown over immigration, with just four days remaining before federal funding expires and with lawmakers in Washington still scrambling to reach a deal. The president preemptively cast blame on Democrats, who have demanded that any bill to fund the government be accompanied by protections for the nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.
“The Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever. We need a merit based system of immigration, and we need it now! No more dangerous Lottery.”
Trump’s comments came as congressional leaders looked increasingly unlikely to agree on a long-term spending bill, amplifying concerns that the US government might be poised for its first shutdown since 2013.
During a shutdown, vital government services such as law enforcement and air traffic control would continue, as would benefit programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid. But national parks would close, and many federal bureaucrats would be sent home. Analysts have projected that the cost of furloughing federal employees could total $6.5bn a week and “possibly snuff out any economic momentum”.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating ties between Russia and President Trump’s presidential campaign, last week subpoenaed Steve Bannon to testify before a grand jury, a source told the New York Times.
The subpoena calls for Bannon to testify about possible links between Trump and the Kremlin, but the Times points out that Mueller may be employing a negotiation tactic to get Bannon to agree to be questioned by investigators in a less formal setting at the special counsel offices in D.C.
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, was reportedly warned about his friendship with Wendi Deng Murdoch, amid fears she was using the connection to promote China’s business interests. Early in 2017 US officials urged Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the US president, to exercise caution around Murdoch, according to the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch is a close friend of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump.
Concerns were raised by US officials about a counter-intelligence assessment that Murdoch was lobbying for a high-profile construction project in Washington funded by the Chinese government, anonymous sources told the US paper. Wendi Deng Murdoch is former wife of Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Wall Street Journal.
The construction project was a proposed $100m (£73m) Chinese garden, which was reportedly declared a national security risk because the design included plans for a tall tower that officials were concerned could be used for surveillance. The garden was planned to be built less than five miles from both the Capitol and the White House. Murdoch’s spokesman said she “has no knowledge of any FBI concerns or other intelligence agency concerns relating to her or her associations”. He also said she “has absolutely no knowledge of any garden projects funded by the Chinese government”.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke launched an unprecedented effort Wednesday to undertake the largest reorganization in the department’s 168-year history, moving to shift tens of thousands of workers to new locations and change the way the federal government manages more than 500 million acres of land and water across the country.
The proposal would divide the United States into 13 regions and centralize authority for different parts of Interior within those boundaries. The regions would be defined by watersheds and geographic basins, rather than individual states and the current boundaries that now guide Interior’s operations. This new structure would be accompanied by a dramatic shift in location of the headquarters of major bureaus within Interior, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation. ...
In a Wednesday interview with The Washington Post, Zinke said reorganization is his largest priority, in addition to shoring up the National Park Service’s crumbling infrastructure, with its $12 billion shortfall for maintenance of buildings, roads, bridges and other projects.
“If you look at the way we’re presently organized, all the bureaus under Interior have different regions . . . and are not aligned geographically,” Zinke said. For example, a single stream with trout and salmon can fall under multiple agencies, one for each fish, another for a dam downstream and yet another to manage the water, and each generates reports that often conflict. ...
Moving thousands of employees around the country would require congressional authorization. Zinke said the Trump administration plans to negotiate the reorganization in the upcoming budget approval process. ... Former interior secretary Sally Jewell was one of several people with knowledge of the department who expressed doubt that such a sweeping reorganization can work.
The EU is waging war against plastic waste as part of an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030.
Following China’s decision to ban imports of foreign recyclable material, Brussels on Tuesday launched a plastics strategy designed to change minds in Europe, potentially tax damaging behaviour, and modernise plastics production and collection by investing €350m (£310m) in research.
Speaking to the Guardian and four other European newspapers, the vice-president of the commission, Frans Timmermans, said Brussels’ priority was to clamp down on “single-use plastics that take five seconds to produce, you use it for five minutes and it takes 500 years to break down again”.
In the EU’s sights, Timmermans said, were throw-away items such as drinking straws, “lively coloured” bottles that do not degrade, coffee cups, lids and stirrers, cutlery and takeaway packaging.
The former Dutch diplomat told the Guardian: “If we don’t do anything about this, 50 years down the road we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans … we have all the seen the images, whether you watch [the BBC’s] Blue Planet, whether you watch the beaches in Asian countries after storms.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Little Mack (Simmons) - I Need Love
Little Mack Simmons - Come Back
Little Mack Simmons - Don't Come Back
Little Mack Simmons - Times Are Getting Tougher
Little Mack Simmons - Goose Walk
Little Mack Simmons - Givin' Me A Hard Time
Little Mack Simmons - You've Got To Help Me
Little Mack Simmons - Last Night & Blue Lights
Little Mack Simmons - Just Your Fool
Little Mack Simmons - Snap Your Fingers
Little Mack Simmons - Reefer Head Woman
Little Mack Simmons - Sun Is Shining