The Evening Blues - 1-7-16
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues, jazz and ragtime multi-instrumentalist Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton. Enjoy!
Blind Boy Paxton - Mississippi Bottom
“The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies — socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor — and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food.”
-- John Pilger
News and Opinion
On December 23, the day before Christmas Eve, the United States’ largest mall moved to shut down a potentially landmark Black Lives Matter demonstration before it even really began.
Management at the shopping center, Mall of America, located just outside Minneapolis, had stores lower their metal security gates about half an hour before the protest started, part of a “lockdown” that cleared shoppers from that wing of the mall. Only moments after Black Lives Matter organizers entered the mall’s east rotunda, the cousin of Jamar Clark, whose death at the hands of police was the center of the protest, was led away by a throng of police. Organizers directed demonstrators to exit the mall toward the light-rail station. As protesters walked out, the mall broadcast a looping announcement in a friendly Midwestern voice: “Mall of America is now going into lockdown. Seek shelter in the nearest store, and follow employee instructions.” ...
Mall of America’s ability to so zealously suppress the December 23 protest there highlights how, in a nation where more and more public life takes place in privatized spaces, the ability to exercise First Amendment rights has become increasingly contingent. From Zuccotti Park to Twitter, some of the last decade’s most iconic venues for dissent have been privately run. In cities like New York, privately owned public spaces have been proliferating for several decades, racing ahead of the case law that will ultimately decide their relationship to Constitutional rights. And legal experts expect social media to be a primary subject of First Amendment battles for decades to come.
Legal arguments that free political speech should be allowed at malls center around the idea that the shopping center has replaced the town square as a place where opinions can be heard and exchanged. Besides an on-site police station, the Mall of America features an amusement park and a wedding chapel, and hosts morning walkers. The publicly funded light rail line was designed to draw residents and tourists to its doors; the mall is the line’s last stop.
In a statement, Mall of America said its ban on political protests is in place to protect guest and employee safety, adding, “We respect the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. However, the courts have affirmed our right as private property owners to prohibit demonstrations on our property.”
The US has released two Yemeni men from Guantánamo Bay on Wednesday after nearly 14 years’ detention and nearly six years after the Obama administration approved them for transfer.
But neither Mahmud Umar Muhammad bin Atef nor Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby will return to their native Yemen. Instead, the US sent both men to Ghana, where they are expected to be freed upon arrival.
Bin Atef and Dhuby, both in their mid-30s, are among the longest-held Guantánamo detainees.
The announcement of the transfer on Wednesday marks the start of a spate of releases of 17 men the administration intends to free from Guantánamo Bay in January, part of a final initiative by Barack Obama, seeking to empty the detention camp before leaving office.
Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of carrying out airstrikes against the Iranian embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, which it claimed left a number of guards wounded and damaged its diplomatic building, although witnesses said the compound was intact. ...
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, condemned what he called a deliberate provocation by Saudis, but the accuracy of the claim was unclear.
Media reports suggested that the mission itself was not hit, but that shrapnel from an attack on a house nearby wounded embassy guards. The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has said it is investigating the Iranian allegation.
“This deliberate and intentional act by the Saudi Arabian government is in violation of all international conventions and legal treaties regarding the protection and impunity of diplomatic compounds under all circumstances,” Jaberi Ansari was quoted as saying by the website of the state-run IRIB network. “Iran holds the government of Saudi Arabia responsible for this act and wounding of a number of embassy staff and damages made to its building.”
A new report out of the United Nations showed that once again, the civilian death toll in the Saudi war in Yemen continues to escalate, with more than double the number of civilians killed in December than in November, and no signs of it slowing down.
This spike in deaths came in spite of December including a solid week of ceasefire, though since the Saudi airstrikes never really stopped during the ceasefire, it’s unsurprising that the death toll was not slowed by its occurrence.
Much of the West is focused on the latest sectarian provocations by Saudi Arabia, such as the execution of Shiite leader Sheik Nimr Baqr al-Nimr followed by the formal breaking of diplomatic relations with Iran in uber-retaliation for the attack on the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran. U.S. neoconservatives, however, are standing in support of that wellspring of expansionist Wahhabism.
It’s remarkable that just 14 years ago, neocons like Richard Perle were calling for the Bush administration to include Riyadh among the capitals on Washington’s post-9/11 target list. Now the Saud family has again become their dearest friend. No less remarkable is how those fearless defenders of Western values and democratic governance are rallying in defense of an absolute monarchy and the undisputed and deep-pocketed leader of the counter-revolution against the reformist movements of the “Arab Spring.”
That great champion of human rights and democracy, Elliott Abrams, and the hard-line neocon’s most influential print medium, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, were quickest off the mark in attacking Iran and defending the poor, abandoned Saudis, respectively. Bill Kristol’s Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), meanwhile, made it clear which side should be favored in a release posted on its website early Tuesday afternoon. Its list of “resources” made clear that, no matter the provocation, Iran should always be considered “Public Enemy #1.” The administration’s attempt to appear more-or-less even-handed in the escalating crisis—or even a little critical of Riyadh—was yet another deplorable example of Obama’s weakness and appeasement.
Nearly two years since U.S. officials helped foment a coup in Ukraine – partly justified by corruption allegations – the country continues to wallow in graft and cronyism as the living standards for average Ukrainians plummet, according to economic data and polls of public attitudes.
Even the neocon-oriented Wall Street Journal took note of the worsening corruption in a Jan. 1, 2016 article observing that “most Ukrainians say the revolution’s promise to replace rule by thieves with the rule of law has fallen short and the government acknowledges that there is still much to be done.”
Actually, the numbers suggest something even worse. More and more Ukrainians rate corruption as a major problem facing the nation, including a majority of 53 percent last September, up from 48 percent last June and 28 percent in September 2014, according to polls by International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s GDP has fallen in every quarter since the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Since then, the average Ukrainian also has faced economic “reforms” to slash pensions, energy subsidies and other social programs, as demanded by the International Monetary Fund.
In other words, the hard lives of most Ukrainians have gotten significantly harder while the elites continue to skim off whatever cream is left, including access to billions of dollars in the West’s foreign assistance that is keeping the economy afloat.
The Obama administration has a vision for Syrian leader Bashar Assad's departure. Even if it works, the president won't be around to see the plan through.
An internal U.S. timeline for a best-case Syrian political transition, obtained by The Associated Press, sets a date of March 2017 for Assad to "relinquish" his position as president and for his "inner circle" to depart. That is two months after President Barack Obama leaves office and more than five years after Obama first called for Assad to leave.
Syria, according to the would-be American strategy, would hold votes for a new president and parliament in August 2017 — some 19 months from now.
The State Department said Wednesday the timeline was prepared late last year as a guide for Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. diplomats working on a political transition for Syria.
Spokesman John Kirby described the document as a "staff-level think piece" that is "preliminary and pre-decisional" and not "an official position." He also said it is "not an accurate projection of plans by the international community to effect a political transition in Syria."
Way 2 Go, R2Pers!
Islamic State (IS) militants and Libyan forces were engaged in a pitched battle on Wednesday for coastal oil terminals that experts said hold the key to the extremists establishing control of the country and turning it into a base for future attacks in Africa and Europe.
Five oil tanks in the Libyan cities of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf were on fire on Wednesday as IS fighters shelled the Mediterranean port cities, Reuters reported. Libyan National Oil Corporation Chairman Mustafa Sanalla issued a statement urging the various non-IS factions in Libya's ongoing civil war to form an alliance against the militant group. ...
Rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk, a coalition of jihadists called the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, and IS have all been vying for control of Libya since the disintegration of a peace agreement that was reached after the death of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
On Tuesday, US special forces accompanying Afghan troops engaged in a protracted firefight with Taliban forces in the Helmand Province. One of the soldiers was killed and two others wounded, and a helicopter was virtually destroyed.
Don’t call it combat though. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, pressed on the matter, appeared increasingly desperate to avoid the “c-word” when talking about Afghanistan, labeling the mission a “train, advise and assist” operation, and shrugged off the fact it was a gunbattle by saying Afghanistan “is a dangerous place.”
Citing last year's Paris attacks as justification, the French government is seeking to expand police powers permanently — relaxing rules around the firing of weapons, enabling nighttime raids, and loosening restrictions on searching and detaining suspected terrorists, according to a draft bill seen by the newspaper Le Monde.
Politico Europe reported Tuesday that the draft, sent to the French Supreme Court for review in December, lays out plans to "perennially strengthen the tools and resources at the disposal of administrative and judicial authorities, outside the temporary legal framework implemented under the state of emergency."
In November, the French Parliament voted overwhelmingly to extend the state of emergency through the end of February and to increase certain powers including allowing the government to impose a house arrest as long as it has "serious reason to think that the person's conduct threatens security or the public order."
In December, the French cabinet backed reform proposals that could see that state of emergency enshrined in the nation's constitution.
Poland’s president has signed into law a bill handing the conservative government control of state media, despite concern elsewhere in the EU and condemnation from rights watchdogs.
Andrzej Duda signed the legislation because he wants state media to be “impartial, objective and credible”, his aide Małgorzata Sadurska said. She added that the president did not believe broadcasters guaranteed objective information in their current form.
Under the new law, senior figures in public radio and television will be appointed – and sacked – by the treasury minister, and will no longer be hired by the National Broadcasting Council.
Under the legislation current managers and supervisory board members of Poland’s public broadcasters will be fired with immediate effect.
While you were sleeping, things got decidedly uglier in global markets. The Chinese stock market was only able to stay open for 29 minutes before it hit its ridiculously low limit-down of 7 percent and shut down for the balance of the trading session. (U.S. stock markets require a loss of 20 percent before they cease trading for the day.)
That sent global investors wanting to lighten up on equities into European markets which saw red across the board. With the overnight rout, global stock markets have now lost approximately $2.5 trillion this week – and it’s only Thursday. ...
Markets will trade on euphoric misperceptions for only so long – even with legions of Federal Reserve speechmakers running around the country telling the populace that the economy is doing fine (despite an abysmal labor participation rate). Then ugly reality sets in. ...
Declining levels of capacity utilization (capacity utilization measures how much of U.S. productive capacity at plants and mines and utilities are actually being used in response to demand.) are consistent with high levels of income inequality – an earmark of Wall Street’s stranglehold on America since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. Declining capacity utilization invariably leads to layoffs, permanent terminations, plant closings, with corresponding declining levels of disposable consumer income to spend at companies like Amazon and Netflix.
In other words, whatever was propping up the stock darlings of 2015 should not be relied on in 2016.
Thirty rightwing militia battling federal government and Paiute Indians native to the land for thousands of years both claim right to Malheur wildlife refuge
On the fifth day of a standoff waged by about 30 rightwing militia, led by the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the political battle lines of a dispute that is garnering attention across the world splintered. No longer was this a tense face-off between the US government and protesters who want Washington to relinquish control of thousands of square miles across several western states so it can be used more freely by cattle ranchers.
Now it was the Bundy Bunch versus a Native American tribe – which claims first rights to the land – each demanding to have a say over the lingering standoff.
On Wednesday morning, Paiute tribal chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique stood before scores of people – including many of the 420-member tribe – at a press conference, saying that the Bundys and their gang were encroaching on land considered sacred to the Paiute people.
“Armed protesters don’t belong here,” she said. “By their actions they are desecrating one of our sacred traditional cultural properties. They are endangering our children, and the safety of our community, and they need to leave. Armed confrontation is not the answer.”
She said the sprawling wildlife reserve is part of the tribe’s ancestral territory and is protected under terms of an agreement signed with federal officials more than a century ago. The tribe still uses the refuge for sacred religious and cultural ceremonies, such as collecting plants for medicine and crafts.
“This land belonged to the Paiute people as wintering grounds long before the first settlers, ranchers and trappers ever arrived here,” Rodrique said, “We haven’t given up our rights to the land. We have protected sites there. We still use the land.”
A Baltimore judge ruled on Wednesday that an officer facing charges related to the death of Freddie Gray can be compelled by the state to testify against a fellow officer, setting a new precedent for Maryland.
William Porter, whose own case ended in a mistrial last month, can be compelled to testify in the case of Cesar Goodson in exchange for immunity. Goodson is charged with second-degree murder in Gray’s death. This would eliminate Porter’s ability to plead his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination, and the officer could face possible jail time if he refuses. ...
The state had previously argued that Porter should be tried first so that he could act as a material witness in the cases of Goodson and Sgt Alicia White, as his testimony was deemed “crucial” to the case.
Porter will still be compelled to testify in those cases even though he will be tried again in June. Any immunity would only extend to the prosecution’s ability to use what Porter says in another trial against him in his own. But it does not eliminate the charges against him.
The state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland for assault in Waller County, Texas, leading to her imprisonment in jail and her death while in police custody of apparent asphyxiation, has been indicted by a grand jury for lying about their encounter during a routine traffic stop.
The charge leveled against Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The perjury charge was related to Encinia's initial statement following the escalation of the traffic stop, in which he pulled the 28-year-old black woman over for changing lanes without signaling. The special prosecutor in the case, Phoebe Smith, said that the "grand jury didn't believe that statement was truthful," according to the New York Times. ...
In reporting the arrest, Encinia claimed that Bland had assaulted him.
In response to a plan that Bernie Sanders offered this week to break up Wall Street banks, former top Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee took to Twitter to criticize the Vermont senator for targeting large financial institutions and being politically unrealistic.
But Goolsbee is hardly an unbiased observer. Since leaving government, he’s become a valuable tool for Wall Street. ...
Goolsbee is now a partner at 32 Advisors, a financial strategy and government relations firm that works with Wall Street. He touts, on his company’s website, a 2014 CNBC profile where he was dubbed “hedge funds’ secret weapon.”
Hillary Clinton found herself in an unexpected battle for the support of primary voters in Nevada, as Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley impressed at a caucus dinner in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
The Nevada caucuses, scheduled for 20 February, are the third primary to take place, making the state crucial for a candidate hoping to build momentum. ...
Sanders’ supporters were by far the noisiest and most vocally enthusiastic from long before the candidates emerged. Chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” went up several times before general cheers drowned them out. A small coterie held aloft a rainbow H for Hillary, but as Born in the USA played the candidates in, the chants of Sanders’ supporters drowned out the others.
That support could signal a problem for Clinton in a state which she had previously thought relatively safe, a stronghold even. Sanders only hired a state director for Nevada in October, while the Clinton campaign has had staff in place since April.
Clinton still maintains a commanding lead in the polls, but signs are emerging that she may not be in as strong a position in the state as she would like. Politico reported on Wednesday that Erin Bilbray, once one of her most loyal supporters in the Nevada Democratic party, had endorsed the Vermont senator.
TransCanada announced Wednesday it has started two legal actions in response to the US president's rejection of its permit application in November, weeks before the UN climate talks began in Paris.
The company intends to file a claim under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying the decision to reject the permit for the $8-billion pipeline "was arbitrary and unjustified." The company's second punch is a federal court lawsuit arguing Obama's decision "exceeded his power under the US Constitution."
The lawsuit names Secretary of State John Kerry, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of the Department of Interior Sally Jewell.
In its release, the company insinuated the denial was based on climate change politics combined with a presidential power trip.
"In its decision, the US State Department acknowledged the denial was not based on the merits of the project," the statement reads. "Rather, it was a symbolic gesture based on speculation about the perceptions of the international community regarding the Administration's leadership on climate change and the President's assertion of unprecedented, independent powers."
TransCanada Sues the U.S. for $15B for Rejecting Keystone XL. Will This Be the New Normal Under TPP?
TransCanada seeking $15 billion in damages
Canadian pipeline company TransCanada announced Wednesday afternoon it is suing the Obama administration under NAFTA provisions for the U.S. decision last November to reject the unpopular Keystone XL pipeline.
The climate justice movement that successfully pressured the president to reject the mammoth pipeline project responded on Thursday by characterizing the move as "pathetic" and saying the legal argument being deployed by the company underscores the undemocratic nature of so-called "free trade" deals.
"This isn’t going to get the pipeline built, and it is going to remind Americans how many of our rights these agreements give away," Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder, said in a statement. "The idea that some trade agreement should force us to overheat the planet’s atmosphere is, quite simply, insane. But the oil industry is so used to always winning that I fear this kind of tantrum is predictable. Corporate power is truly out of control."
Michael Moore is calling for people to petition U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to ask her to arrest and charge Governor Rick Snyder for the crimes entailed in poisoning the citizens of Flint, Michigan.
Thanks to you, sir, and the premeditated actions of your administrators, you have effectively poisoned, not just some, but apparently ALL of the children in my hometown of Flint, Michigan.
And for that, you have to go to jail.
To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven't figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.
But you did. Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison -- but you decided that taking over the city and "cutting costs" to "balance the budget" was more important than the people's health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders.) So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River -- a body of "water" where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years. And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to "clean" it -- which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint's aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people's taps. Your callous -- and reckless (btw, "reckless" doesn't get you a pass; a reckless driver who kills a child, still goes to jail) -- decision to do this has now, as revealed by the city's top medical facility, caused "irreversible brain damage" in Flint's children, not to mention other bodily damage to all of Flint's adults. Here's how bad it is: Even GM won't let the auto parts they use in building cars touch the Flint water because that water "corrodes" them. This is a company that won't even fix an ignition switch after they've discovered it's already killed dozens of people. THAT's how bad the situation is. Even GM thinks you're the devil. ...
The facts are all there, Mr. Snyder. Every agency involved in this scheme reported directly to you. The children of Flint didn't have a choice as to whether or not they were going to get to drink clean water. But soon it will be your turn to not have that choice about which water you'll be drinking. Because by this time next year, if there is an ounce of justice left in this land, the water you'll be drinking will be served to you from a tap inside Jackson Prison.
Flint toxic water tragedy points directly to Michigan Gov. Snyder
After global heat records were continually broken over the last decade, and as sea levels rose and scientists reported the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets, you might be forgiven for thinking the debate over climate change had shifted. ...
Well, wrong. At least according to a new study that has looked at 15 years worth of output from 19 conservative “thinktanks” in the United States.
“We find little support for the claim that ‘the era of science denial is over’ - instead, discussion of climate science has generally increased over the sample period,” the study concludes. ...
The study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, analysed more than 16,000 documents published online between 1998 and 2013 by mainly US groups like the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute.
Contrary to some commentators, the study found attacks on science had increased in later years. At the same time, the thinktanks were focusing less on policy issues.
Ten weeks after the 23 October breach was detected, Brown ordered state agencies to make sure Southern California Gas Company, which owns the stricken natural gas storage facility, plugs the leak. ...
Brown directed his administration to take “all necessary and viable actions” to make sure SoCalGas captures leaking natural gas and odorants. He also asked the company to spell out how it planned to plug the well if its current effort failed.
The order bans SoCalGas from injecting more natural gas into the storage site, and it calls for independent monitoring of air quality. Brown also ordered daily inspections and regular testing of natural gas storage wells in the state for leaks.
Brown has come under intense criticism from campaign groups for his slow response to the leak.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Blind Boy Paxton - Candy Man Blues
Blind Boy Paxton - Broke And Hungry
Blind Boy Paxton - When an Ugly Woman Tells You No
Blind Boy Paxton - Reuben and His Morphine
Blind Boy Paxton - Railroad Bill
Blind Boy Paxton - Mole In The Ground
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton - Starving to Death on My Government Claim
Blind Boy Paxton - Motherless Child Blues
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton - Hesitation Blues
Frank George & Jerron Paxton - Cripple Creek
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton - Lost My Appetite for Chicken
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton - Come Take A Trip In My Airship
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton - Old Black Joe
Blind Boy Paxton - Even Catfish Ain't Biting Blues
Blind Boy Paxton and the Georgia Crackers - Georgia crawl
The Hazelnuts Feat. Jerron Blind Boy Paxton - It dont mean a thing
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton and Kurt Elling - Mood Indigo
Blind Boy Paxton - Easy Rider Blues
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton - Catfish Blues
Blind Boy Paxton with the Gotham SophistiCats - Lonesome and Sorry
Jerron 'Blind Boy' Paxton & the California Feetwarmers - Blues my Naughty Sweetie Gives to me
Blind Boy Paxton - Stack O' Dollars
Down Home Radio with Jeron "Blind Boy" Paxton p.1
Down Home Radio with Jeron "Blind Boy" Paxton p.2