The Evening Blues - 1-19-16
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features early blues guitarist and singer Crying Sam Collins. Enjoy!
Crying Sam Collins - Lonesome Road Blues
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.”
-- Thomas Pynchon
News and Opinion
The Red scare of the 1950s had everything going for it. ...
Long after it was over, Americans would marvel at how such an un-American movement had convulsed the land. The remarkable thing about the Red scare, however, is not how far it reached, but how short-lived it was.
It collapsed in dramatic fashion. In 1954, McCarthy was eviscerated on live television by chief counsel for the U.S. Army, Joseph Welch, who famously asked: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” McCarthy slinked off into obscurity, and the nation shook off its paranoia and moved on, determined, defiant and calm.
It's hard to overstate the implications of America's triumph over the Red scare. At its core lay a terrifying premise: The communist ideology was so insidious and toxic that no one — not your neighbors, not your children, not even yourself in your own mind — was immune. McCarthyism told the nation that it was besieged by an unstoppable evil. In finally rejecting that premise; America rejected defeatism.
That uniquely American decision played out repeatedly during the harrowing grind of the Cold War. Each decade — from the Cuban missile crisis, through the horrors of Vietnam, through the arms race and proxy wars of the early 1980s — American society was forced to again reject paralyzing paranoia.
Suddenly, communism suffered a stunning, worldwide collapse; seemingly overnight, the greatest threat to America's national welfare went from thermonuclear warheads to Bill Clinton's sexual peccadilloes. And then, for the first time in 40 years, a generation grew up without an existential threat — but thus also without the mind-set necessary to confront an ideological enemy without descending into panic.
America beat back hysteria before and can do it again.
The questions over last week’s incident in which a pair of US Navy boats and 10 sailors strayed into Iranian waters continue to grow, as the Pentagon’s narrative on a “navigational error” is thrown into serious doubt.
The Pentagon initially claimed mechanical problems, but after the boats were returned changed its story to claim the sailors had no idea they were in Iranian waters. Today, however, Iran revealed that the GPS devices on the two US boats were in perfect working order at the time, and they had no reason not to know they were in Iranian waters.
While a lot of nations’ governments are being brought to task by human rights groups for their support for Saudi Arabia amid the soaring civilian death toll in their bombing of Yemen, few of shown anywhere near the comfort with continuing their complicity in Saudi actions that British Premier David Cameron did today.
Cameron insisted selling arms to Saudi Arabia is important to Britain’s national security because “they’re opponents of ISIS,” and cheered their continued attacks on Yemen, saying they are working “on behalf of the legitimate government” in Yemen.
The Saudis have been attacking Yemen since last March, and have killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes targeting residential areas. ... Cameron’s support for the Saudis is just part of a growing problem, with the British government’s overseas allies, as recent reports show that out of Britain’s own list of 27 countries “of humanitarian concern,” Cameron has been selling arms to 24 of them.
Saudi warplanes today attacked and destroyed a police station in the Yemeni capital city of Sanaa, killing at least 26 people and wounding 15 others. The tolls are expected to rise, with locals saying as many as 30 others are unaccounted for and believed trapped under the debris.
There isn’t a final statement on the identities of the victims, but the indications are that the overwhelming majority of the slain were Yemeni police, with a handful of other members of the Shi’ite Houthi faction that rules the city also present.
More than 18,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 1, 2014, and October 31, 2015, according to the United Nations, which says violence there remains "staggering."
An estimated 3,500 people, mainly women and children, are believed to be held as slaves and 3.2 million people have become internally displaced, it said.
A UN report released on Tuesday said the Islamic State (IS or ISIL) continued to perpetrate systemic and widespread atrocities that could amount to war crimes and possibly genocide.
IS was killing and abducting people opposed to their ideology, people affiliated with the government, and professionals such as doctors, lawyers and journalists, as well as tribal and religious leaders. About half the deaths took place in Baghdad.
The report, which is based largely on the testimony of victims, survivors, and witnesses, describes how IS made "gruesome public spectacles" out of its killings in the form of "shooting, beheading, burning alive, bulldozing, and throwing off buildings."
Women and children were subjected to sexual violence and sexual slavery, it added.
Gosh, who could have imagined that when Hillary and her Humanitarians got their way and murdered Ghaddafi that the Libyans would not gratefully welcome the US as liberators and cooperate with the US military?
It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. On December 14, some 20 US special forces troops were sent to Libya to fight ISIS, in a deployment the administration apparently had no intention of telling anyone about. If everything went well, we probably still wouldn’t know about it.
Instead, the Libyan Air Force publicized the arrival of the out-of-uniform but heavily-armed troops, and local commanders quickly expelled the US troops, turning just another little secret war into a particularly embarrassing incident.
And it’s one the US seems increasingly frustrated about, as it’s not just the “miscommunication” they say happened that day, but the overall lack of a compliant and reliable faction for the US to claim its military operations in Libya are centered at helping.
With Afghanistan already facing the huge handicap of 40% of its military flat out not existing, one would think they’d be more careful with the remaining 60%. They’re not, however, and the Afghan military is now facing a growing number of desertions.
Undermanned and poorly trained, many Afghan troops see their involvement in the war as “suicide missions.” In a country whose economy has been all but destroyed by generations of foreign occupation, that’s par for the course, but many say they’re not even getting their meager paychecks on a regular basis.
Being in the Afghan military doesn’t pay well, and widespread corruption means it’s not unusual for those paychecks to disappear long before they make their way to the troops on the ground. That’s similarly the case with ammunition and food, leaving the troops more or less perpetually in dire straits.
The Ukrainian government is threatening to impose sanctions on private Israeli citizens, or Israeli companies, doing business in Russian-occupied Crimea.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel published an announcement to that effect on its website on Friday, in English and Ukrainian. The embassy had received information, the announcement said, that Israeli citizens were entering areas of Crimea conquered by Russia and in violation of Ukrainian law, were conducting business collaborations with the "illegal authorities," instead of receiving permits from the Ukraine government. ...
The background to this bizarre announcement remains utterly unclear. A great many citizens live in Israel and some of them are businessmen, and some of those also hold Ukrainian citizenship – dual citizenship is not rare in Israel.
A British appeals court has ruled that the United Kingdom’s broad counter-terrorism laws breach fundamental rights in a case involving the seizure of encrypted documents from David Miranda, the partner of Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald, at a London airport in 2013.
Miranda was detained and interrogated for nine hours at Heathrow airport in August 2013 while he was assisting Greenwald’s reporting on documents about government mass surveillance leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Last year, the High Court in London dismissed a legal challenge brought by Miranda over the case on the grounds that it reasonably regarded his actions as “terrorism” as defined by the law. However, that decision was partially overturned Tuesday by the Court of Appeal in a ruling that will be viewed as a major victory for press freedom campaigners.
The ruling finds that the police followed the law when detaining Miranda under a controversial section of the Terrorism Act, Schedule 7. However, crucially, it asserts that the statute itself “is not subject to adequate safeguards against its arbitrary exercise” and is “incompatible” with article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides the right to “receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to rebrand Canada's economy on the world stage in Davos, opposition parties are demanding a say on how his government plans on spending its way out of a weak loonie, tanking oil prices, and a sluggish economy.
As Trudeau gets set to board a plane to Switzerland on Wednesday, interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose has requested a meeting with the prime minister "at the earliest opportunity to discuss the rapidly deteriorating economy," in a letter released to the public on Monday.
Trudeau's speech to the World Economic Forum is already receiving hype from the likes of Bloomberg, even despite Canada's precarious financial situation.
His sales pitch to world markets, and a raft of private meetings that will bookend it, is expected to focus on his planned infrastructure and technology investments. Reports suggest that Trudeau will work hard to brand Canada as something more than an oil-reliant energy state, and that he's slated meetings with tech industry giants like Jack Ma, founder of online trading hub Alibaba.
New evidence has surfaced in the case of Jérôme Kerviel, a French trader accused of having cost the French banking giant Société Générale nearly 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in one of history's biggest trading scandals, and convicted of fraud in 2010.
The massive loss resulted in 2008 from trades made by Kerviel that the bank described as "rogue" and unauthorized. Kerviel insists that his bosses were aware of his trades, and that they share responsibility.
French news outlets 20 Minutes and Médiapart have now leaked a secret recording of a lead prosecutor on the case that appears to discredit the bank's assertions that Kerviel was acting alone. ...
The controversial recording — described as "explosive" by the news site 20 Minutes — is an excerpt from a conversation between former police chief Nathalie Le Roy and Chantal de Leiris, a former deputy prosecutor on the case. Le Roy made the recording in a café in June 2015 without de Leiris's knowledge. ...
During their chat, de Leiris appears to confirm Le Roy's misgivings about the case, and about the role of the Société Générale. ...
Among the more revealing claims made by de Leiris in the surreptitious recording is the allegation that "no expert assessment" was ever carried out to confirm the figure of 4.9 billion euros put forward by Société Générale.
The recording also implies that the prosecutor believes Kerviel's claim that the bank was aware of the scam.
"The SG knew, they knew," she is heard telling Le Roy. "It's obvious. Obvious!"
The International Monetary Fund has added to concerns about the health of the global economy by cutting its growth forecasts for the next two years and warning that recovery from the financial crisis could be derailed altogether if key challenges are mishandled.
The Washington-based body said world output would be 0.2 points lower in 2016 and 2017 compared with forecasts made just three months ago – and that the risks to its predictions were to the downside. ...
The IMF said: “Risks to the global outlook remain tilted to the downside and relate to ongoing adjustments in the global economy: a generalised slowdown in emerging market economies, China’s rebalancing, lower commodity prices, and the gradual exit from extraordinarily accommodative monetary conditions in the United States. If these key challenges are not successfully managed, global growth could be derailed.”
It added that the downward revisions largely reflected a more pessimistic view of the prospects for some countries in the emerging world since October. Brazil’s recession was proving to be deeper and more protracted than previously estimated, while the forecasts for Russian and Saudi Arabian growth have also been cut.
Protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement blocked traffic on the westbound span of the Bay Bridge that connects Oakland and San Francisco as part of a long weekend of protests aimed at reclaiming Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy of radicalism.
Shortly after 3.30pm, a caravan of cars slowed to a stop on the five-lane bridge. Passengers in the first line of cars passed chains through their windows and locked themselves to both sides of the bridge, bringing all westbound traffic to a stop.
“Today is the day when we reclaim MLK’s radical legacy,” said April Thomas, who was chained between two cars. “I’m out here for Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, for my mother, myself, for Harriet Tubman.”
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) January 19, 2016
Officers from the California Highway Patrol arrived soon after the blockade was in place. Wearing riot gear and carrying less-lethal weapons, the officers ordered onlookers back into their cars. About 4.15pm, the officers began cutting chains and arresting protesters. Some protesters passively resisted arrest and had to be carried to the side of the road.
According to organizers of the protest, 24 people were arrested in total. Traffic began moving again at 4.30pm.
The bridge shutdown caps off four days of protest in the Bay area, where the Black Lives Matter movement has been galvanized by the fatal shooting of Mario Woods by San Francisco police officers on 2 December 2015.
A recent spate of cases involving Native American women from northern Minnesota being murdered or going missing has raised questions about how seriously such disappearances are taken by the police and other authorities.
As Duluth, Minnesota, marks trafficking awareness month, local activists say some of the disappearances and deaths are linked to this issue, and argue that the invisibility of the Native American population contributes to neglect by police, media and social services and point to the need for better data collection in order to track the number of missing and murdered women.
Three Native American women have been killed and two more have disappeared from northern Minnesota since May last year. ...
“I think a lot of disappearances of young women can be tracked back to some sort of trafficking,” Patti Larsen of Mending the Sacred Hoop, an organization focused on ending violence against Native women, said. ...
Advocates [...] contend that Native women and girls represent an easy target for traffickers who seek to recruit them into commercial sex work. According to federal data, Native women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as women of other races. They are also subject to high rates of intimate-partner violence and other forms of violence. These factors, along with poverty, substance abuse and foster care, can make them vulnerable to exploitation.
The biggest international issue that is powering [far-right] organising – from the internet to the streets – is the refugee crisis brought about by the Syrian war, and the opportunity that has presented itself to mobilise people on the basis of fear of foreigners and Islam.
Reclaim Australia, European groups such as Pegida and the US right up to and including the Trump candidacy are both stoking and benefiting from a fear of the consequences of a large influx of refugees.
Groups such as Reclaim Australia are promoting similar ideas to European and American groups – fantasies about halal foods, and cultural and racial dilution. They are also drawing on a long history of Australian political racism, and capitalising on forms of xenophobia which have come to frame the mainstream policy response to refugee arrivals. ...
But the refugee crisis – which has no end in sight – offers the most important opportunity for a sprawling, self-reinforcing, international far-right movement to gain in strength.
Making the picture even bleaker is looming economic instability which, if it arrives, will worsen the plight of those Europeans and Americans who have still not recovered from the 2008 recession, and may give Australia its first taste of real economic hardship in decades.
In bad economic times, the right finds it much easier to ignite its emotional propellant – resentment.
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to an election-year review of President Barack Obama's executive order to allow up to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to "come out of the shadows" and work legally in the United States.
The justices said they will consider undoing lower court orders that blocked the plan from taking effect in the midst of a presidential campaign that already roiled by the issue.
The case will be argued in April and decided by late June, about a month before both parties' gather for their nominating conventions. ...
At issue is the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, which Obama said in late 2014 would allow people who have been in the United States more than five years and who have children who are in the country legally to "come out of the shadows and get right with the law."
Texas quickly led a legal challenge to the program and has won every round in court so far. Most recently, in November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the states, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Clintons have no shame, that much you can count on. That stupefying arrogance was on full display in the most recent presidential campaign debate when Hillary Clinton countered Bernie Sanders’ charge that she was compromised by her close ties to Goldman Sachs and other rapacious Wall Street interests with the retort: “Sen. Sanders, you’re the only one on this stage that voted to deregulate the financial markets in 2000, ... to make the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission no longer able to regulate swaps and derivatives, which were one of the main causes of the collapse in ’08.”
Hillary knows that the disastrous legislation, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA), had nothing to do with Sanders and everything to do with then-President Bill Clinton, who devoted his presidency to sucking up to Wall Street. Clinton signed this bill into law as a lame-duck president, ensuring his wife would have massive Wall Street contributions for her Senate run.
Sanders, like the rest of Congress, was blackmailed into voting for the bill because it was tucked into omnibus legislation needed to keep the government operating. Only libertarian Ron Paul and three other House members had the guts to cast a nay vote. The measure freeing Wall Street firms from regulation was inserted at the last moment in a deal between President Clinton and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm, R-Texas, who had failed in an earlier attempt to get the measure enacted. Clinton signed it into law a month before leaving office.
Sanders soon figured out that he and almost all other Congress members had been tricked into providing a blank check for the marketing of bogus collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps made legal by the legislation, of which a key author was Gary Gensler, the former Goldman Sachs partner recruited by Clinton to be undersecretary of the treasury. ...
Today, Gensler is the top economic adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Hillary Clinton addressed a Martin Luther King Day rally at the South Carolina state house in Columbia in an attempt to shore up her support among African American voters in the south as a firewall against the surging tide of Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.
With polls tightening in Iowa and Sanders continuing to show a lead in New Hampshire where he has a home advantage, South Carolina, the first state in the south to hold a primary, is increasingly seen within the Clinton camp as an essential buttress against the senator for Vermont’s insurgency. Clinton advisers are mindful that Barack Obama defeated her in South Carolina in 2008 in no small measure due to the backing of black voters who made up 55% of the Democratic primary turnout.
Clinton is determined not to lose the state a second time and has focused her attentions during a three-day tour of South Carolina that ends today on a relentless charm-offensive targeted at the black electorate. First at a dinner on Saturday night hosted by the South Carolina congressman James Clyburn; then at events attended by her new surrogate, the first black US attorney general Eric Holder; and then at Sunday night’s televised debate in Charleston, she has been emphasizing her credentials as a president in the making who would carry on the mantle of Dr King and the civil rights movement. ...
Monday’s appearance at the MLK Day celebrations marking the great civil rights leader’s birthday is paradoxical for Hillary Clinton. It was her comments in 2008 relating specifically to King that did so much to damage her standing among black voters then, with dire consequences in South Carolina and at other key primaries.
On 7 January 2008, in an attempt to portray Obama as an eloquent speaker who nonetheless lacked the experience to be a great leader, she implied that it was president Lyndon Johnson, rather than King, who got the civil rights job done. “I would point to the fact that that Dr King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 … That dream became a reality; the power of that dream became real in people’s lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it and actually got it accomplished.”
The implication that it took a white president to make concrete the hopes of a black dreamer like MLK circulated rapidly among black communities and shook the previous goodwill that had been extended by them to both former president Bill Clinton and Hillary. It gave Obama the edge that needed to win in the south.
Thousands of supporters, hungry for "political revolution," braved rare sub-freezing temperatures in Alabama on Monday night to rally around the man they hope might bring it.
"There must be a mistake," Sen. Bernie Sanders joked to the diverse crowd of 7,000. "Somebody told me Alabama is a conservative state."
The presidential hopeful marked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Birmingham's Boutwell Auditorium, where he delivered an impassioned speech on inequality, the challenges that working class Americans face today, and how he hoped to carry out King's vision for this country.
"To truly honor the life of Dr. King, we must fight to carry out his radical and bold vision for America," Sanders told the crowd. "And his vision was of a nation in which we not only end all forms of institutional racism, and bigotry, but a nation in which all of us, black, and white, and Latino, Asian-American, Native American, all of us, come to together to create a country which provides economic, social and environmental justice for all." ...
The senator's aspirational speech contrasted sharply with that given by his primary competitor Hillary Clinton earlier in the day Monday. Speaking at a rally commemorating King in Colombia, South Carolina—which all three Democratic candidates attended, including Martin O'Malley—Clinton told the crowd: "I don't want to over-promise. I don't want to come out with concept or theories that may or may not be possible."
The world’s oceans are warming at a quickening rate, with the past 20 years accounting for half of the increase in ocean heat content that has occurred since pre-industrial times, a new study has found.
US scientists discovered that much of the extra heat in the ocean is buried deep underwater, with 35% of the additional warmth found at depths below 700 meters. This means far more heat is present in the far reaches of the ocean than 20 years ago, when it contained just 20% of the extra heat produced from the release of greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution.
The paper, published in Nature Climate Change, sheds further light on the vast quantities of heat being absorbed by the world’s oceans.
Ocean water, which has a much higher heat capacity than air, has absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat and nearly 30% of the carbon dioxide generated by human consumption of fossil fuels. The vast Southern Ocean sucked up 1.2bn tonnes of carbon in 2011 alone – which is roughly equivalent to the European Union’s annual carbon output. ...
Scientists have already declared that a third global coral bleaching event is currently underway, where corals whiten and die off due to extreme heat. An analysis of more than 620 studies last year found that the food chains of the world’s oceans are at risk of collapse due to climate change, overfishing and localized pollution.
Peru has sacked its top anti-logging official, leading to claims he was dismissed after pressure from the timber trade and drawing criticism from a leading US congressman and environmentalists.
The presidential decision to dismiss Rolando Navarro , the former head of Peru’s forestry and wildlife inspection service OSINFOR was announced in El Peruano, the state-owned gazette. It makes no mention of why Navarro was dismissed.
“Clearly, illegal logging in Peru continues,” Earl Blumenauer , the US Congressman for Oregon who has campaigned to toughen the US’s stance on illegal rainforest logging, told the Guardian.
“I am appalled that the removal of Rolando Navarro comes in the wake of protests by industry groups following the intervention by authorities in Peru to stop shipments of illegally harvested timber,” said Blumenauer, who helped amend the US’s 2008 Lacey Act to outlaw the import of illegally sourced wood. ...
The sacking follows what was locally reported to be the largest seizure of illegal timber in Peruvian history in November last year. In protests that followed, led by the timber industry, Navarro’s name was displayed on a symbolic coffin.
The World Health Organization (WHO) over the weekend warned that skyrocketing air pollution levels are killing millions of people in thousands of cities and are poised to take an "enormous" toll on public health services worldwide.
"We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society," said Dr. Maria Neira, head of public health at WHO.
"Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma," Neira said. "Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too—even dementia."
The latest figures come from pollution data in 2,000 cities, where growing populations have led to a surge in traffic, construction, and power generation—leaving huge areas to grapple with toxic smog and rising greenhouse gases that cannot be resolved without an overhaul of infrastructure. The WHO next month will issue more in-depth statistics showing the steady rise of pollution in urban areas since 2014.
"We are storing up problems," Neira said Saturday. "These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
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