The Evening Blues - 1-18-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues harmonica player James Cotton. Enjoy!
The James Cotton Band - Boogie Thing
“I can’t believe that this world can go on beyond our generation and on down to succeeding generations with this kind of weapon on both sides poised at each other without someday some fool or some maniac or some accident triggering the kind of war that is the end of the line for all of us. And I just think of what a sigh of relief would go up from everyone on this earth if someday–and this is what I have–my hope, way in the back of my head–is that if we start down the road to reduction, maybe one day in doing that, somebody will say, ‘Why not all the way? Let’s get rid of all these things’.”
-- Ronald Reagan
News and Opinion
Donald Trump has announced plans for a huge expansion of US missile defense with aim of destroying enemy missiles “anywhere, anytime, any place”. The missile defense review, which Trump unveiled on Thursday in a speech at the Pentagon, calls for a major upgrade in land and sea-based missile interceptor systems, as well as the development of a layer of satellite sensors in low orbit that would help track new types of cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) countries like Russia and China are developing.
The review argues that nuclear deterrence is the main defense against major nuclear powers like Russia and China, which both own large and sophisticated arsenals. And it restates US policy that the primary aim of such defenses is to counter well-armed “rogue states”, North Korea and Iran. Seven months after Trump declared that the North Korean threat had been eliminated, the new missile review states that Pyongyang “continues to pose an extraordinary threat and the US must remain vigilant”. ...
Arms control experts expressed alarm at the review and Trump’s presentation, warning that it would feed already substantial Russian and Chinese fears that US missile defense was aimed at blunting their deterrent. The review could drive those states to build more missiles with more capabilities to overcome US defenses, and trigger an arms race. ...
It is unclear whether Congress will fund Trump’s missile defense ambitions, especially with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. Congress crushed a similarly ambitious plan developed by the George W Bush administration. The US has nonetheless spent nearly $300bn on missile defense since 1983, when Ronald Reagan launched his Strategic Defense Initiative (widely known as Star Wars), according to estimates by Stephen Schwartz, a senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. ...
Melissa Hanham, an expert on weapons of mass destruction at the One Earth Future foundation, said that any idea that missile defence could limit the damage of a nuclear war was “fantasy”. “If we invest as much money in lowering tensions and de-alerting missile systems, we would be safer by far,” Hanham said.
ISIS Fighters in Syria Are Trying to Push Into Iraq, Where U.S.-Backed Forces Can’t Get Along With Militias Supported by Iran
As the fight against the Islamic State in eastern Syria — where some of the U.S. troops President Donald Trump has promised to withdraw are based — enters its final stages, ISIS fighters are trying to cross into Iraqi territory. “We normally have daily sightings,” Col. Saleh Al-Yacoubi of the Iraqi border guard said of the ISIS fighters, who are now cornered in a handful of villages on the reeds-enveloped east bank of the Euphrates River. ...
Al-Yacoubi spoke at a base north of Al Qaim, about 500 yards from the last ISIS position in Syria. His U.S.-backed forces, together with the Iraqi army, secure this side of the border, working closely with U.S. and French coalition troops stationed nearby. The Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, an umbrella group of largely Shiite paramilitary units backed by Iran, meanwhile, patrols the Iraqi border south of Al Qaim. To the west of the border fence, some 2,000 ISIS militants are wedged between the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces to the north and Syrian regime fighters to the south.
The array of armed groups on both sides of the border underscores the breadth of the coalition that has come together to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But it also hints at what could go wrong if the militants take advantage of the impending U.S. withdrawal to stage a comeback. In Al Qaim, the last Iraqi urban center to be freed from ISIS in November 2017, the Iraqi security forces, which receive air cover, intelligence, and strategic advice from the United States, and the Iranian-backed PMF have long distrusted each other. ...
With their common foe on the verge of defeat, the rifts between the U.S.-led coalition and the PMF appear to be deepening. The PMF has been increasing its numbers along the border with Syria, where some of its units also fight alongside Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government troops. Among them is Kata’ib Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terror group and just one of a half-dozen Shia-led PMF units that have set up shop here. A large surveillance balloon hovers over the American base nearby, monitoring the area. The U.S.-led coalition and the PMF have divided areas of control to avoid confrontation, but that hasn’t been enough to calm tensions. During a tour of PMF areas south of Al Qaim, Ahmed Nasrallah, who commands a PMF unit called Liwa Al Toufuf, rattled off a list of grievances against the Americans: They tried to undermine the PMF’s authority by supporting local Sunni PMF units; they used their surveillance assets to spy on the PMF; and they deliberately targeted PMF positions. ... Nasrallah accused the U.S. forces of aiding ISIS, a widespread but unsubstantiated belief among the PMF that highlights the depth of antagonism between the two sides.
In the absence of direct communication between the PMF and American troops, the Iraqi army serves as a go-between, passing on information about troop movements to avert clashes. It’s an inefficient arrangement that seems prone to errors and hampers information-sharing about the presence of ISIS militants.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across Sudan, including the capital, where activists said a child and a doctor were killed in clashes between police and protesters calling for the end of Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year-old rule. Thursday’s protests marked some of the most widespread disturbances since unrest began on 19 December.
The protests were triggered by price rises and cash shortages, but have quickly developed into demonstrations against Bashir.
In the day’s most violent clashes police in Khartoum’s Burri neighbourhood fired rubber bullets and teargas, and chased demonstrators with batons, witnesses said. Several people were overcome with teargas, while some were bruised by rubber bullets and others beaten. ... A live video posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed security forces pointing guns at protesters in Burri. The sound of gunfire could be heard. ...
Bashir is wanted by the international criminal court over charges, which he denies, of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region.
Brexit architect Nigel Farage said Friday that Britain’s exit from the European Union will likely be delayed — and a second, do-over referendum is now a distinct possibility. The former UKIP leader told Sky News that the current parliamentary deadlock over a withdrawal deal meant that Brexit would not take place on the scheduled date of March 29.
“I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50,” he said, referring to the two-year window in which the terms of the divorce were to be settled. “There could be another referendum,” he added. Calls have been growing for a so-called “people’s vote” to revisit the decision to leave, as the withdrawal date draws nearer with no deal with the EU in place. ...
Despite the growing call from sections of his party to push for a second referendum, Corbyn has only said he may consider it, although he would prefer a general election. May has said a second referendum would harm the public’s faith in democracy. If a second referendum were to be held, it would take a year to organize, according to government guidance shown to MPs Wednesday.
Jeremy Corbyn could face up to a dozen resignations from the Labour frontbench if the party backs a second referendum as a way out of the Brexit crisis. A string of junior shadow ministers have told the Guardian they are strongly opposed to the idea of a second referendum, which they fear would expose Labour to a vicious backlash in leave-voting constituencies.
The development follows another tense day of brinkmanship in Westminster between Theresa May and the Labour leader as they seek a way out of the crisis that has engulfed both major parties.
Corbyn refused to enter talks with Theresa May on Thursday until she ruled out the idea of a no-deal departure, and demanded that his party’s MPs refuse similar invitations. Later May wrote to Corbyn telling him that ruling out no-deal was “an impossible condition” and calling on him to join cross-party discussions. With no sign of the impasse being broken, pressure is growing on Labour to consider a so-called people’s vote as the UK prepares to leave the EU on 29 March. ...
At a meeting in Hastings, East Sussex, Corbyn remained uncommitted on the idea of a second referendum, saying again that it remained one of several options if an election did not happen. Explaining why he was the only opposition leader not to meet May for one-to-one talks, Corbyn dismissed the cross-party discussions as a “stunt”, adding that May appeared unable to grasp the fact that her withdrawal agreement was now “dead”.
“She seems to be prepared to send the country hurtling towards a cliff-edge,” he said.
Most of the other issues in this article have been well covered in others, but the excerpt here is worth some attention:
Some teachers were pointedly critical of Los Angeles School Superintendent Austin Beutner, a man media outlets describe as “A former investment banker with no history working as an educator.” Andy Dowdell, from Fleming Middle School, said, “He’s kind of like some of those people that Trump’s hired to dismember, to take apart these bureaucracies, and he’s trying to do that to our district.” Dowdell suspects that Beutner’s real agenda is to privatize the school district.
In fact, LAUSD insists on keeping more than 25 percent of the budget as surplus instead of the required 1 percent, raising suspicions about its agenda (what would be enough of a reserve, one wonders?). Mike Fahy, a special education teacher at Le Conte Middle School, explained to me that the broken computers he needs to teach dyslexic students to read need to be replaced. But the district won’t fund the needed upgrade. “There’s simply no money for supplies for my school, so I end up buying the supplies myself, because I don’t want to run a ‘poverty program,’ ” he said.
Fahy has a theory. “We’re being set up to fail by the decisions of the district and the school board,” he told me. Le Conte shares its campus with a charter elementary school. “In my school the students come in and they’re 90 percent brown. At the charter school on our campus, the students are 90 percent white. So the white kids go over there and the brown kids come over to my school.” According to Fahy, “The other school is being run like a private school on the public dime.” In the long run, he fears that unregulated charter school growth will result in LAUSD becoming “a special-ed district for the ‘problem kids.’ ” He has good reason to issue such a dire warning. Examples abound in places like New Orleans, where public school systems embraced charter schools only to end up an even more segregated system that fails students and teachers.
But corporate-minded elites across the U.S. are hellbent on viewing education as a business, and they see teachers as ungrateful moochers who are looking for easy paychecks funded by taxpayers. The Wall Street Journal published a sneering editorial on the first day of the Los Angeles teachers strike, fixating on the increasing costs of teacher salaries and pensions as requiring new tax programs every few years. The paper’s editors did not even acknowledge the third-world conditions that L.A. schools struggle with—schools situated in the world’s fifth largest economy and within the world’s richest nation. They defended charter school expansion and laughably described such schools as a “refuge for low-income and minority students.” In contrast, New York Times contributing writer Erin Aubrey Kaplan explained last year that “[i]t’s partly because diversity can be managed—or minimized — that charters have become the public schools that liberal whites here can get behind.”
Protesting Outside GOP's 'Lavish Retreat,' Federal Workers Demand End to Shutdown Amid Growing Calls for Strike
Amid growing calls for federal workers to walk off the job in protest as President Donald Trump continues to hold their paychecks hostage and downplay their financial hardship, government employees rallied outside of the Washington Nationals' ballpark in the frigid D.C. weather on Thursday to demand an end to the government shutdown as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans held a "retreat" inside the stadium.
"Clearly McConnell thinks his lavish retreat is more important than 800,000 families," declared the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), one of several unions that took part in the demonstration.
Facing severe economic pain from the shutdown—which is now the longest in U.S. history—the workers called on McConnell to immediately allow a vote on House-passed legislation that would reopen the government and put an end to the pervasive financial anxiety and safety risked posed by the lapse in federal funding. "It's past time for McConnell to call the vote instead of partying with his colleagues at Nationals stadium," the AFL-CIO wrote on Twitter.
The workers' rally comes as the widespread economic strain caused by the shutdown has led some to call on federal workers to go on strike to pressure Congress and Trump to reopen the government. Long-time activist and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich—who co-authored a New York Times op-ed on Monday urging low-paid Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers to strike—echoed her call in an interview with Democracy Now! on Thursday, arguing that public employees are "being treated in a mean and humiliating fashion."
President Donald Trump is going tit-for-tat with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in their public fight about the partial government shutdown: She suggested that the president postpone his State of the Union address until the government reopens — so he canceled her travel plans.
Pelosi said Trump hasn’t directly responded to her request yet, but Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted a pretty clear answer on Thursday: a letter signed by the president to Pelosi which said he'd be postponing her upcoming trips to Egypt, Belgium, and Afghanistan. Major political leaders are usually allowed to use military transport for travel, but Trump noted that buying a commercial flight would “certainly be [Pelosi’s] prerogative.”
“In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” Trump wrote.
Even if Pelosi wanted to take the trip on her own dime, Trump may have blown up her spot. Trips taken by Congress — including their locations — are usually kept secret for security purposes, reporters have noted.
Even as hundreds of thousands of federal workers are running out of money or fear they soon will, the two people with the most control over when they receive their next paycheck — President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — still aren’t talking.
And they’re far from the only politicians avoiding each other in the Capitol or getting out of Dodge as the partial government shutdown stretches into its 28th day. The House of Representatives has already left town for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and won’t be back for four days, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed his chamber to leave Washington, so they won’t be back for 10 days. ...
So while around 800,000 federal employees are now close to going a full month without receiving a check, in Trump’s Washington the current response to the shutdown remains tit for tat, or silence. And frustration is growing.
The Trump administration separated thousands of migrant children from their parents and then lost track of them after they were released from custody — long before the practice of family separation became formalized under the administration's “zero tolerance” policy last year. That’s according to a new report by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services released Thursday, which shed light on the utter chaos in the implementation of the immigration policy.
The report identified a spike in family separations beginning in the summer of 2017, and found that HHS officials failed to make records of what happened to children after they were released from Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, including whether they were reunified with parents or non-relative sponsors.
A class action filed in June 2018 challenging the administration’s policy on behalf of parents led to a federal court order requiring the government to end its family separation practice and reunify the 2,737 children in its care with their parents. ... Before the court order, HHS says they were not legally required to identify or track children who had been separated from their parents. Officials told the Inspector General that they estimate “thousands” of children were taken into custody before the court order, not marked as separated from their parents, and then released.
Three Chicago officers have been acquitted of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of a black teenager by a white officer who was seen pulling the trigger on the shocking dashcam video that showed Laquan McDonald getting hit with 16 bullets. In rejecting the prosecution’s entire case, Judge Domenica Stephenson seemed to accept many of the same defense arguments that were rejected by jurors who in October convicted officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
Stephenson said there was no indication that officers tried to hide evidence. “The evidence shows just the opposite,” she said. She singled out how they preserved the graphic video at the heart of the case.
McDonald’s family immediately questioned how the two cases could produce such different decisions. His great uncle, the Rev Marvin Hunter, told reporters that the verdict means “that if you are a police officer you can lie, cheat and steal”. ...
The judge rejected prosecution arguments that the video demonstrated officers were lying when they described McDonald as moving even after he was shot. She repeatedly stated that McDonald was moving after being hit by the first few bullets and refused to relinquish the knife. “An officer could have reasonably believed an attack was imminent,” she said. “It was borne out in the video that McDonald continued to move after he fell to the ground.” Those and other comments suggest she accepted an argument jurors in the Van Dyke murder trial seem to rejected: that McDonald was a bona fide threat.
The video appeared to show the teen collapsing in a heap after the first few shots and moving in large part because bullets kept striking his body for 10 more seconds.
Just two years after leading the largest recorded protest in US history, the third annual Women’s March on Saturday is set to proceed under a cloud of controversy. This year’s march is shaping up to be smaller and more splintered than before, after several major sponsors withdrew and local chapters disaffiliated from the central organization which leads it, following allegations of antisemitism.
Leaders were slow to deny and condemn allegations they had made antisemitic comments, and recent reporting has revealed deep ties between top officials and the Nation of Islam, whose leader, Louis Farrakhan, is a notorious antisemite. Major progressive groups which sponsored the first march in 2017 have quietly withdrawn, including leading unions, environmental groups and women’s organizations. Of the many Jewish groups listed as partners in previous years, only a few remain. The Democratic National Committee, which had previously appeared on a list of 2019 Women’s March sponsors, recently disappeared too.
It’s a major blow for the movement that marked the beginning of the “resistance” in the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential upset, when hundreds of thousands descended on the National Mall in Washington DC, a mass demonstration roughly three times the size of Trump’s own inauguration. This year, however, the showing is expected to be fractured.
Following a protracted fight over the organization’s leadership, Vanessa Wruble, a Brooklyn-based activist who was pushed out of the organization in 2017, went on to help found another organization called March On, which emphasizes supporting local activists and denouncing antisemitism. The result is that there will be two major women’s marches taking place on the streets of New York and many other cities around the country on Saturday – the original one, which emphasizes leadership by women of color, and another – March On – formed in opposition to antisemitism. “Founded by the leaders of many of the marches across the country, March On is women-led, but open to all, and will employ a sophisticated political strategy to coordinate concrete actions at the federal, state, and local level through the joint efforts of millions of marchers,” the March On website states.
Even without the infighting, turnout for the main Women’s March – which kicks off on Saturday on the National Mall in Washington DC – was expected to be lower than in previous years. Crowds in 2017 came in part as a response to Trump’s presidential inauguration. But this year’s rally takes place on the heels of a successful midterm election for Democrats, and at a time when options for civic involvement extend well beyond donning a pussy hat. Many of the biggest stars of the Democratic party, including those who are running for president and were prominently featured at the march in 2017 will not be making appearances this year. They include Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, who once called the women’s march the “most inspiring and transformational moment I’ve ever witnessed in politics”.
House Democrats’ HR 1 – Faking the Funk on Voting Rights, Spreading Fear and Gunning For the Greens in 2020
The House Intelligence Committee will investigate a bombshell report published Thursday that claims Donald Trump instructed his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress the deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Citing law enforcement officials, the report is the strongest indication yet that Trump criminally obstructed the investigation into his ties to Russia.
According to BuzzFeed, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is aware that Trump instructed Cohen to lie and has evidence beyond Cohen’s testimony, including “interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
The report also claims that Trump agreed to Cohen’s plan to set up a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016 to kickstart the tower project. “Make it happen,” Trump reportedly told his lawyer. Trump has yet to respond to the allegation, but his current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the Washington Post: “If you believe Cohen, I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Democrats, however, pounced on the revelations. ...
Sources told BuzzFeed that Cohen admitted to Mueller that Trump “directed” and “personally instructed” him to lie to Congress about the work he was doing on the Trump Tower Moscow project. Details are scant, but the sources said the aim was “to obscure Trump’s involvement” in the deal.
New Democratic leadership in the investigation into the Flint water crisis has sparked hope among activists that a tougher line will be taken on prosecuting officials and compensating victims of the environmental disaster. ...
Now newly elected Democratic Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel has taken over the investigation from 1 January. She enters office after a 2018 campaign in which she labeled the prosecutions “politically charged show trials” designed to benefit her predecessor, Republican Bill Schuette, who ran for governor last year. Though Schuette’s special prosecutor, Todd Flood, initially charged suspects with felonies like involuntary manslaughter and false pretenses, he ended up negotiating seven plea deals for misdemeanors as minor as “disturbing the peace at a public meeting”. At the same time, Schuette spent over $25m in taxpayer money on legal fees, some of which funded the state’s fights against the civil lawsuits seeking compensation.
But Nessel has pledged to fully re-evaluate the investigation, and after a week in office she announced a dramatic shift in the state’s approach to Flint. On the criminal side, Nessel asked a Democratic prosecutor to review and take over the investigation. That could lead to more charges, or frivolous charges being dropped. Nessel also directed the state to settle civil lawsuits brought against it, which would result in victims finally receiving compensation.
With Democrats now investigating Flint, there’s a sense among many activists and community leaders that Michigan is finally serious about seeking justice for victims. The Republican-led investigation “was never about the state taking responsibility and making sure that the health of Flint’s families was the focus,” said Michigan senate minority leader and Flint resident Jim Ananich. “It was about trying to protect the governor’s image and do public relations, and now it will be about getting Flint the justice it deserves, and making families whole,” he said.
'Step Up or Step Aside': Youth Climate Leaders Occupy Schumer's Office to Demand Support for Green New Deal
Keeping up the pressure on the Democratic leadership to embrace bold and popular solutions that are aligned with the science, youth climate leaders on Thursday occupied the D.C. office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) to demand that he either show true leadership by supporting a Green New Deal or "step aside."
"Real climate leadership means a commitment to bold climate action and a just transition. It means a Green New Deal," a 16-year-old New Yorker named Jordan declared during Thursday's demonstration, which comes just weeks after young climate campaigners demonstrated at the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
"We're not going anywhere, Sen. Schumer," 350.org, one of the groups that organized the action, wrote on Twitter. "We're going to keep showing up until Democratic leaders like you step up and show the real climate leadership we need—or step aside."
I make Bitcoin, and in a previous life, I covered the oil industry as a journalist. ... Bitcoin’s environmental footprint will haunt it. Nobody has pointed this out, but it is painfully clear: if we can at all predict an industry’s growth by that of a different one, then oil is Bitcoin’s crystal ball.
Most cryptocurrencies, of which Bitcoin is the first and most valuable, are created by running servers to crunch mathematical puzzles, or “mining”. I have a facility that does that in Canada’s oil capital of Calgary, and its business model is similar to that of the city’s dominant industry. Both profit by generating and selling a product whose price swings with supply and demand. Some in Calgary partake in both.
The cryptocurrency world is bigger than mining, just as the vaguely defined big oil is more than those who extract crude. But shares in either industry move in sync with the value of the underlying asset. Oil is considered volatile in finance. In the two years after 2014, its price fell more than 70%, similar to Bitcoin’s crash in 2018. Layoffs swept both industries. ...
Bitcoin mining uses as much power as a small country, according to some estimates. Miners compete for limited coins, resulting in an arms race, and that power usage increases constantly and rapidly. In China, which leads Bitcoin mining, 60% of energy comes from coal. Even if mining uses clean power, it carries the opportunity cost of not using said power for greener purposes, such as charging electric cars, which replace fossil-fuel-guzzling vehicles. ...
It is not this day, but a day may come when big oil shrinks or changes, becoming less of a target for environmentalists. Bitcoin is the natural next enemy. ... Abkhazia has announced the shutdown of 15 mining sites over electricity use concerns. Municipalities in Washington state have reined in the activity. Norway has excluded miners from power subsidies, with one leftwing politician calling the activity “the most dirty form of cryptocurrency output”.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
James Cotton - Sugar Sweet
James Cotton - Here I Am (Knocking At Your Door)
Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, James Cotton - Black Cat Bone/Dust My Broom
James Cotton - Juke
Chris Thomas King w/James Cotton - Come On In My Kitchen
James Cotton - Mississippi Freight Train
James Cotton & Ruthie Foster - Wrapped Around My Heart
Magic Slim and James Cotton - Ship Made Of Paper
James Cotton - 1978 Canada