The Evening Blues - 1-20-16
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features "The Poet of the Blues," Percy Mayfield. Enjoy!
Percy Mayfield - I Don't Want To Be President
"Human rights is the soul of our foreign policy, because human rights is the very soul of our sense of nationhood."
-- Jimmy Carter
News and Opinion
Do Bernie Sanders’ rising poll numbers and newfound willingness to take Hillary Clinton on change anything? They might. ...
That Sanders’ views on foreign and military affairs are more or less those of mainstream Democrats bothered me more. But Sanders comes from the more thoughtful (less thoughtless), humane (less vicious) wing of that consensus. He is not a diehard imperialist, the way that Hillary is. With him, the problem is more that he is soft on imperialism.
Because this is an area in which even small differences can have major consequences, lesser evil considerations like this one can be germane.
In 2000, Al Gore and George W. Bush seemed to have no major foreign policy differences either. But Gore would not have gratuitously invaded Iraq. Bush did, with dire consequences that are still unfolding.
Hillary v. Bernie is a lot like Bush v. Gore. The two of them differ a lot, in small ways, especially on matters of war and peace. We will probably be OK with Bernie in charge; Commander-in-Chief Hillary is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
She is a bellicose humanitarian intervener with deeply rooted neoconservative (anti-Russian, anti-Chinese, Israel first) inclinations. And any honest assessment of her tenure as Secretary of State would demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she is a dunce and an incompetent, notwithstanding the carefully cultivated and widely believed impression that she is a skilled diplomat and administrator with a deep understanding of world affairs. ...
Although Sanders' foreign policy views, on the Middle East especially, leave a lot to be desired, at least he is a man of integrity, unlikely to let self-serving opportunistic concerns govern his actions. The contrast with Obama is plain; the contrast with the Clintons, either one, is breathtaking.
A record number of Air Force drones crashed in major accidents last year, documents show, straining the U.S. military’s fleet of robotic aircraft when it is in more demand than ever for counterterrorism missions in an expanding array of war zones.
Driving the increase was a mysterious surge in mishaps involving the Air Force’s newest and most advanced “hunter-killer” drone, the Reaper, which has become the Pentagon’s favored weapon for conducting surveillance and airstrikes against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other militant groups.
The Reaper has been bedeviled by a rash of sudden electrical failures that have caused the 21/2-ton drone to lose power and drop from the sky, according to accident-investigation documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigators have traced the problem to a faulty starter-generator, but have been unable to pinpoint why it goes haywire or devise a permanent fix.
All told, 20 large Air Force drones were destroyed or sustained at least $2 million in damage in accidents last year, the worst annual toll ever, according to a Washington Post investigation. The Pentagon has shrouded the extent of the problem and kept details of most of the crashes a secret.
Defense chiefs from the US, France, Britain, and four other nations are meeting in Paris on Wednesday to examine ways to accelerate gains against the Islamic State (IS), including by potentially ramping up the number of police and army trainers.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter described the gathering as a chance for face-to-face talks among the core contributors in the US-led coalition, which also includes Germany, Italy, Australia, and the Netherlands.
"I'll be soliciting their views and describing to them my thoughts about how we can accelerate the campaign, including the variety of capabilities, military capabilities, that will be required," Carter said, predicting increases in the numbers of trainers in the months ahead, including of police who can help hold territory seized from IS.
In a telling sign, no Arab states from the region are joining the gathering of top contributors to the campaign. A senior US defense official acknowledged that many Arab allies have been occupied with the Saudi Arabian-led campaign against Houthi militants in Yemen.
Speaking today at a security conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared that he “prefers ISIS” over Iran, and does not consider ISIS to pose a serious threat to the Israeli state, saying Iran will always remain “the main enemy.”
Ya’alon insisted that he believes ISIS will be defeated at any rate, what with the US launching strikes on their oil supplies, but that he’d much rather see ISIS rule all of Syria, and consequently be directly on Israel’s border, than have the pro-Iran government remain in power.
Libya’s new “unity” Prime Minister Fayez Siraj today unveiled his new unity cabinet at a high-profile UN-backed ceremony in Tunis, the capital city of neighboring Tunisia. The hope was that this unified government would gain some control over the country.
Things aren’t looking good on day one, however, as the “unity government” quickly became a government-in-exile, when they tried to return to Libya and were stopped at the border by the Libyan Dawn militia, who are not going to let them back in.
With villages on the front lines endlessly changing hands between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq, the Kurds have at times seen these villages as a liability, forcing them to spread their forces thinner to defend, and widening the front lines.
A new report from Amnesty International, however, suggests the Peshmerga’s “solution” to this problem is increasingly to just burn Arab villages they capture to the ground, expelling the population, and accusing them of being “pro-ISIS.” ...
Incredibly, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) doesn’t appear to be denying the report at all, insisting simply that in expelling the Arabs “we are taking back some of what was ours,” with officials openly talking about chasing enough Arabs out of the area around Sinjar to ensure that after the war it is dominated by Kurds and Yazidis exclusively. ...
The expansion of the KRG’s territory seems to be setting the stage for the Kurds to secede outright from Iraq after the war, and with the US throwing an ever-growing array of weapons at the KRG “to fight ISIS,” they are also laying the foundation for an independent Kurdistan, and one which seems to be increasingly centered on the notion of ethnic cleansing.
Last week's suicide bombing in Istanbul struck at the heart of Turkey's tourism industry, killing 10 tourists and wounding 15 others near some of the country's most famous sites. ...
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, some tourists already in Turkey cancelled their vacations and returned home. The world's largest tour operator, TUI, gave clients the option to change their trips to Turkey in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Individual hoteliers gave anecdotal accounts of tourists canceling bookings. And cruise operator Crystal Cruises canceled two upcoming stops in April and May in Istanbul due to security concerns. ...
Turkey is the fifth most visited tourist destination in the world, and tourism makes up four percent of the country's economy. The number of foreign visitors increased by 200 percent between 2002 and 2014, when the country received 41 million tourists. The number of tourists fell slightly in 2015.
Some in the tourism industry say the Turkish government is to blame for the decline, due to the country's involvement in, and proximity to, the conflict in Syria. ... The 30-year conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish PKK separatists also erupted again last July after a two-year ceasefire. The conflict is isolated in eastern Turkey, far from Istanbul's tourist sites, but it has killed hundreds.
The event with the potential to most affect Turkey's tourism sector involved Russia: the shooting down by the Turkish air force of a Russian warplane involved in Moscow's operations in Syria near the Turkish border in late November.
Russian tourists made up 10 percent of Turkey's annual visitors in 2015. After the shoot-down, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended visa-free travel, stopped tour operators from selling Turkish vacation packages, and banned charter flights from Russia to Turkey.
A Turkish security force campaign against Kurdish militants in the southeast has been largely completed, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was reported as saying on Tuesday, as he outlined plans to maintain tighter control in parts of the region. ...
The army says it killed more than 500 PKK rebels in the campaign, adding to a death toll of more than 40,000 people killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984. The pro-Kurdish HDP party says about 100 civilians have been killed in the fighting.
"The process is to a large extent completed," Davutoglu was reported as telling reporters on his plane traveling to London.
"It won't be like with old operations, withdrawing after streets are cleansed. There will be a more orderly security presence," the Yeni Safak daily quoted him as saying. "The goal is to build a public order ... in which no illegal structure can take control of any streets."
The US State Department has moved to back America’s ambassador to Israel in a febrile and escalating row over his remarks on Monday that Israel applied law in the occupied West Bank differently to Palestinians and Israelis.
Ambassador Daniel Shapiro’s unusually critical comments drew harsh criticism from ministers in Israel’s rightwing government – including from the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Shapiro was also publicly lambasted on Israeli television on Tuesday by a former aide to Netanyahu who used the deeply offensive Hebrew word “yehudon” – which translates as “little Jew boy” – to disparage the ambassador. The term is used by rightwing Israelis against other Jews – particularly those in the diaspora – whom they regard as not being sufficiently Jewish or pro-Israel.
Netanyahu has described Shapiro’s comments as unacceptable and wrong, while the justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, has suggested that they were inappropriate and Shapiro should recant them. ...
As the row continued into a third day, US State Department spokesman John Kirby insisted the ambassador was reiterating US policy on Israeli settlement construction. Kirby was speaking after a private meeting between Shapiro and Netanyahu to attempt to paper over the differences.
The main opposition leader in Israel, the head of the center-left Zionist Union Isaac Herzog, has today declared a two-state solution to be “impossible,” telling a high-profile security conference that the goal should be to build as big a wall as possible to wall off as many Palestinians as possible.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took considerable heat during the most recent election campaign for his similar panning of the peace process, leading many to believe Herzog’s coalition represented the only real chance for a peace process. That chance too, however, seems to be fading.
Goldman Sachs’ profit slumped for the third straight quarter as a $5bn settlement of crisis-era legal claims ate into earnings and trading woes impacted profits during a tumultuous three months.
Despite the settlement, Goldman Sachs beat analysts’ expectations on Wednesday when it reported that its 2015 net revenue was $33.82bn. Revenue for the fourth quarter was $7.27bn, down from $7.69bn a year ago. It was, however, more than the $7.07bn that the analysts expected. ...
Last week, Goldman Sachs said it will pay $5.06bn to resolve civil claims related to the firm’s securitization, underwriting and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities from 2005 to 2007. The bank expected the agreement to reduce fourth quarter earnings by about $1.5bn after tax.
The militiamen occupying federal lands in Oregon say they are recruiting ranchers to stop paying government grazing fees as protest leaders freely come and go from the compound to spread their message.
On Monday night, Ammon Bundy and other key militia leaders left the Malheur national wildlife refuge to meet with ranchers in nearby Crane to detail their strategy and persuade them to take a stand against the federal government.
“This is going to be across the country,” militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum said on Tuesday morning. “This is just the beginning.” ...
It’s unclear if the occupiers can successfully galvanize other ranchers to stop paying government fees altogether. Finicum, a rancher from Arizona, said he no longer pays his grazing fees and claimed that two other ranchers, including one from Oregon, have now pledged to do the same.
Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led a 2014 standoff against the BLM and is the father of Ammon, has also refused to pay his fees and owes the government more than $1m. Finicum said other ranchers in Oregon are now considering joining the cause, though he acknowledged that some remain opposed to the idea.
In the 1980s, writer Denise Giardina’s “Storming Heaven” offered a wide-ranging portrait of southern West Virginia’s coal camps, while film director John Sayles’ “Matewan” focused on one of the defining moments in the long-running battle between the state’s coal industry and its workers. One was a novel and the other one was a low-budget movie drama. And yet both storytellers filled a hole in research that professional historians had neglected to cover for more than half a century.
Miners and their family members, who had kept quiet for decades, gradually found the courage to speak out. Since the release of Storming Heaven and Matewan, numerous other books, films and articles have been produced about this important period in the nation’s industrial and labor history.
This riveting history of southern West Virginia’s coal industry eventually caught the eye of a national television network. On Tuesday, Jan. 26, PBS will be premiering a two-hour documentary called The Mine Wars as part of American Experience, the network’s flagship history series. The documentary, based in large part on James Green’s book, The Devil Is Here in These Hills, chronicles the hurdles coal miners in southern West Virginia encountered from 1900, when Mary “Mother” Jones sought to organize the workers, to the early 1920s, when the coal miners went on an armed march to unionize southern West Virginia.
Using mostly photographs and old newsreel, the filmmakers paint a vivid picture of what life was like in southern West Virginia in the early 20th century. They interviewed more than a dozen historians, writers and local miners who put the images into context and provide a variety of perspectives on the skirmishes between coal miners and their bosses.
Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, will be back in the national spotlight on Wednesday telling mayors from across the United States how police must work to win back the trust of the communities they serve.
Yet while Barack Obama’s former chief of staff is on Capitol Hill trying to shape the future of policing and urban violence at the US conference of mayors, back in his own city there is a growing clamor for him to quit because he has lost all credibility on exactly those issues.
Ever since video of the 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer emerged in December, Emanuel has faced mounting scrutiny and calls to resign, especially from sectors of Chicago’s black community who feel he has done nothing to help lift them out of poverty or tackle the daily scourge of gun violence. ...
Emanuel has gone out of his way to at least create the impression that he is listening. On Saturday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that since the backlash began, the mayor’s office has increased the frequency of Emanuel’s events and visits with black Chicagoans.
According to Kari Lydersen, author of the 2013 book Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%, this is nothing new for Emanuel. “He has, throughout his time as mayor, mostly ignored black neighborhoods, occasionally making these really concerted efforts – like charm offensives – and throwing money and leveraging his connections,” Lydersen told the Guardian. That has been an ongoing characteristic of Emanuel’s mayorship, according to Lydersen, “and this is just an amped-up version of what he’s done in the past”.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter may demote retired Gen. David Petraeus after he admitted he gave classified information to his biographer and mistress while he was still in uniform. ...
If Gen. Petraeus is demoted, he would most likely become a lieutenant general and could have to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars to make up the annual difference in salaries from his former top ranking. His yearly pension would also drop from $220,000 to $170,000.
Gen. Petraeus retired from the Army in 2011 shortly before his controversial relationship with writer Paula Broadwell became public in August 2012. He admitted to sharing notebooks containing confidential information with Ms. Broadwell while they were overseas.
Emails from Hillary Clinton's home server contained information classified at levels higher than previously known, including a level meant to protect some of the most sensitive U.S. intelligence, according to a document obtained by NBC News.
In a letter to lawmakers, the intelligence community's internal watchdog says some of Clinton's emails contained information classified Top Secret/Special Access Program, a secrecy designation that includes some of the most closely held U.S. intelligence matters.
Two American intelligence officials tell NBC News these are not the same two emails from Clinton's server that have long been reported as containing information deemed Top Secret. ...
Charles McCulllough, the intelligence community's inspector general, said in a letter to the chairmen of the Senate intelligence and foreign affairs committees that he has received sworn declarations from an intelligence agency he declined to name.
The declarations cover "several dozen emails containing classified information determined by the IC element to be at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET and TOP SECRET/SAP information."
An intelligence official familiar with the matter told NBC News that the special access program in question was so sensitive that McCullough and some of his aides had to receive clearance to be read in on it before viewing the sworn declaration about the Clinton emails.
The following two articles about the primary challenger of Hillary's poodle, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, are both excellent and worth a read. The first article by Dave Dayen has good information about Tim Canova's economic ideas, the second article features an extensive interview of Canova by Glenn Greenwald.
Thousands of Democrats want the DNC chair to resign. Populist Timothy Canova has another idea.
In two separate petitions, more than 94,000 people have demanded that Wasserman Schultz resign as DNC chair. But back in her district, in Hollywood, Florida, Timothy Canova has another idea: vote her out of office.
Last Thursday, Canova, a former aide to the late Sen. Paul Tsongas and a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law, jumped into the Democratic primary in Florida’s 23rd congressional district. It’s Wasserman Schultz’s first primary challenge ever, and with frustration running high against her, it’s almost certain to draw national attention. But Canova first became interested in challenging Wasserman Schultz not because of her actions as DNC chair, but because of her record.
“This is the most liberal county in all of Florida,” Canova said in an interview, referring to Broward County, where most of Wasserman Schultz’s district resides (a small portion is in northern Miami-Dade County). But she more closely associates with her , Canova argued. He listed several of Wasserman Schultz’s votes, such as blocking the SEC and IRS from disclosing corporate political spending (which was part of last month’s omnibus spending bill), opposing
a medical marijuana ballot measure that got 58 percent of the vote in Florida, preventing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from regulating discrimination in auto lending and opposing their rules cracking down on payday lending, and supporting “fast track” authority for trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“I think anyone who voted for fast track should be primaried. I believe that ordinary citizens have to step up,” Canova said.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the six-term congresswoman from South Florida and chair of the Democratic National Committee, has been embroiled in numerous significant controversies lately. As the Washington Post put it just today: “DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s list of enemies just keeps growing.” ...
This year, however, Democrats nationwide, and in her district, have a choice. For the first time in her long congressional career, she faces a primary challenger for the Democratic nomination. He’s Tim Canova, a smart, articulate, sophisticated lawyer with a history of activism both with the Occupy movement (he’s against the Wall Street bailout for which Wasserman Schultz voted and the general excesses of big banks and crony capitalism) as well as a steadfast opponent of the Patriot Act (for which Wasserman Schultz repeatedly voted).
He has worked with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson against the drug war and private prisons; worked with the Sanders campaigns of the past; and was a former aide to the late Sen. Paul Tsongas. He is an outspoken advocate of the Ron Paul/Alan Grayson-sponsored Audit the Fed bill, and a vehement opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. And he has vowed to run a campaign based on small-donor support, calling Wasserman Schultz “the quintessential corporate machine politician.”
[Click the link above to read the candidate interview. - js]
— Doug Mataconis (@dmataconis) January 20, 2016
The fundamentals of Trump's campaign are frothing ahead.
Sarah Palin, the Tea Party darling and former half-term governor of Alaska, officially endorsed fellow cable television star Donald Trump for president on Tuesday afternoon. ...
Palin's stamp of approval comes just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses take place. Trump has been campaigning hard in Iowa, where he is currently neck and neck with Cruz, in an attempt to win over the state's conservative Christian base.
Palin's endorsement might be the tipping point Trump needs to finally pull ahead in the state.
"Palin's brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump tower," Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told the New York Times. "Endorsements alone don't guarantee victory, but Palin's embrace of Trump may turn the fight over the evangelical vote into a war for the soul of the party."
"I haven't discussed anything with her about what she'd do, but she's somebody I really like and I respect, and certainly she could play a position if she wanted to," Trump said of the former Alaska governor, who threw her backing behind the real estate mogul on Tuesday.
While Trump insisted he hasn't considered vice presidential candidates yet, he said he doubts Palin would be interested because "she's been through that," referring to her role as the 2008 running mate of Sen. John McCain.
Protesters Demand Michigan Governor's Resignation During State of the State Speech on Flint Water Crisis
Earlier this month, Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for [Flint, a] city of just under 100,000 people, who are at risk for toxic lead exposure due to citywide contamination in the water system. Following criticism that clean water was not being distributed efficiently to the city's residents, the governor called in the National Guard for assistance, and President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency over the weekend, authorizing $5 million of federal assistance, though he stopped short of declaring the crisis a "major disaster." ...
A crowd of demonstrators came out despite below-freezing temperatures, as Snyder took to the legislature floor to deliver arguably the most important speech of his tenure in office.
"Today will be a different State of the State address," Snyder said, shortly before announcing increased transparency measures, a boosted National Guard presence, and plans to push for nearly $30 million in additional emergency funding. Addressing the residents of Flint, he said, "Your families face a crisis — a crisis you did not create and could not have prevented." ...
"Government failed you — federal, state, and local leaders," said Snyder, who has weathered strident calls for his resignation from members of the public. "I'm sorry most of all that I let you down. You deserve better. You deserve accountability." He said that he plans to work hand in hand with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver "so we can rebuild the trust that's been broken."
While outlining a timeline with details of what occurred over the course of the last year, Snyder also announced that he would release his emails from 2014 and 2015 for them to be scrutinized. The governor's emails have come under focus as a result of the Flint water crisis; a longstanding Michigan law exempts the state's highest office from freedom of information requests. ...
For most protesters, Snyder's penitence on the issue is too little too late. According to 34-year-old Flint resident and protester Law Greggs, a declaration of immediate action is the only thing that would have satisfied him from tonight's state of state address.
"I'm fixing the pipes tonight! We digging tonight — other than that I don't wanna hear nothing," he said.
"He snuck into town last week," he added of Snyder. "He's lucky we didn't catch him. We would have made him drink the water."
015 smashed the record for the hottest year since reporting began in 1850, according to the first full-year figures from the world’s three principal temperature estimates.
Data released on Wednesday by the UK Met Office shows the average global temperature in 2015 was 0.75C higher than the long-term average between 1961 and 1990, much higher than the 0.57C in 2014, which itself was a record. The Met Office also expects 2016 to set a new record, meaning the global temperature records will have been broken for three years running.
Temperature data being released in the US on Wednesday by Nasa and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) are also expected to show 2015 was the warmest year on record. ...
Noaa said in September that 2015 was 97% likely to be the hottest year so far. The Nasa, Noaa and HadCRUT4 temperature records all use independent methods to calculate the global average. They use many thousands of temperature measurements taken across the globe, on land and at sea, each day.
There are uncertainties in the measurements, partly due to fewer measurements in the polar regions, and these are included in the calculations. Stott said: “Remaining uncertainties are clearly much smaller than the overall warming seen since pre-industrial times.” Another independent temperature record, from the Japan Meteorological Agency, indicates 2015 was by far the hottest year on record.
The oil price slump below $30 barrel is spurring some of the world’s biggest oil exporters to curb domestic consumption of fossil fuels and invest in wind and solar power, according to government officials meeting in Abu Dhabi.
A month after the historic climate agreement in Paris, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and other oil exporters are in the midst of overhauling domestic energy policies and seeking alternatives to oil and gas for electricity.
The main motive is not reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but cutting back on domestic energy demand that is taking up a rising share of production. Oil exporters would rather sell their fossil fuels abroad than burn them at home, government officials attending meetings of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) said.
Since oil prices began their precipitous slide, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, the UAE and other big oil producers have cut electricity and water subsidies, imposed energy conservation measures, and encouraged homeowners to install solar panels in an effort to cut back on domestic consumption.
California's attorney general has joined New York state in investigating Exxon Mobil's decades-long climate change cover-up, probing what it knew about global warming, as well as what—and when—the oil giant disclosed to its shareholders and the public, according to the LA Times on Wednesday.
According to "a person close to the investigation," the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris is looking into "whether Exxon Mobil Corp. repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change—and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws," the Times writes.
W/today's CA news re #exxonknew, planet's 8th-largest economy now probing world's richest oil company in worst corporate scandal ever. Big.
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) January 20, 2016
The news comes on the heels of a unanimous vote last week by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party—California’s largest Democratic organization—to pass a resolution urging Harris "to investigate Exxon Mobil and fellow fossil fuel companies for potential breaches of California law based on their 1970s-era research into the science of climate change, then pouring millions into manufacturing doubt and denial of climate science."
U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who has led the charge for Exxon probes, told the Times he hopes the decision by Harris, representing a state with the eighth-largest economy in the world, will prompt other states and the Justice Department to investigate.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Percy Mayfield - Stranger in My Own Home Town
Percy Mayfield - Louisiana
Percy Mayfield - Hit The Road Jack
Percy Mayfield - Cookin' In Style
Percy Mayfield - Ha Ha in the Daytime
Percy Mayfield - Strange things happening
Percy Mayfield and Orch.- Loose Lips
Percy Mayfield - Walking on a Tightrope