The Evening Blues - 10-10-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago bluesman Sunnyland Slim. Enjoy!
Sunnyland Slim - Louise
"A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges."
-- Benjamin Franklin
News and Opinion
Defense Secretary James Mattis says the U.S. Army "must stand ready" in the face of continued provocations by the North Korean regime.
While delivering the keynote address at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting on Monday, Mattis outlined the current strategy in North Korea for the U.S. military, saying "it is right now diplomatically led, economic sanctioned, buttressed effort to try to turn North Korea off its path."
He conceded, however, that "neither you nor I can say" what the future holds for the regime.
"There's one thing the U.S. Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed," said Mattis.
Amid escalating tensions between North Korea and the U.S., critics were alarmed Tuesday when a South Korean news outlet reported that President Donald Trump will travel to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the neighboring countries next month.
A defense source reportedly told the Yonhap news agency that the White House has sent officials to the DMZ to assess potential sites for a planned "special activity" in which the president is "expected to send a significant message to North Korea, either verbally or 'kinetically'," according to a Reuters report.
Last week, the president cryptically told the press that the U.S. may currently be in "the calm before the storm." The statement, combined with president's refusal to engage in talks with Kim Jong-un and the news of his planned visit to the DMZ, alarmed critics, with many raising concerns that Trump is seeking to provoke North Korea.
In an email comment sent to Bloomberg, Bong Youngshik, a researcher at Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the trip would fit the "appetite for high theatrics" often exhibited by the U.S. president.
"The image of him narrowing his eyes to stare across the DMZ. It is tweeting by another means," Bong said. "Mr. Trump may also think that if it provokes Pyongyang, all the better."
Donald Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19. That threat violates the UN Charter, and indicates an intent to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, the war crime of collective punishment and international humanitarian law. Moreover, a first-strike use of nuclear weapons would violate international law. ...
Article 2 of the UN Charter states that all members "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Trump's threat to totally destroy North Korea violates that mandate. In addition, the preemptive use of force violates the Charter. ...
By stating the intention to totally destroy North Korea, Trump has threatened genocide. The crime of "genocide," as defined in the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, is committed when, with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, any of the following acts are committed: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part. ...
In its 1996 advisory opinion, "Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons," the International Court of Justice (ICJ) determined that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law."
Tuesday, the major news outlets were filled with the latest lurid chapter of Russia-gate, how Google, the Internet’s dominant search engine, had detected suspected “Russia-linked” accounts that bought several thousand dollars worth of ads. The Washington Post ran this item as front-page news entitled “Google finds links to Russian disinformation in its services,” with the excited lede paragraph declaring: “Russian operatives bought ads across several of Google’s services without the company’s knowledge, the latest evidence that their campaign to influence U.S. voters was as sprawling as it was sophisticated in deploying the technology industry’s most powerful tools.”
Wow! That sounds serious. However, if you read deeply enough into the story, you discover that the facts are a wee bit less dramatic. The Post tells us:
“Google’s internal investigation found $4,700 of search ads and display ads that the company believes are Russian-connected, and found $53,000 of ads with political content that were purchased from Russian Internet providers, building addresses or with Russian currency, people familiar with the investigation said. …
“One Russian-linked account spent $7,000 on ads to promote a documentary called ‘You’ve Been Trumped,’ a film about Donald Trump’s efforts to build a golf course in Scotland along an environmentally sensitive coastline, these people said. Another spent $30,000 on ads questioning whether President Obama needed to resign. Another bought ads to promote political merchandise for Obama.”
A journalist – rather than a propagandist – would immediately follow these figures with some context, i.e., that Google’s net digital ad sales revenue is about $70 billion annually. In other words, these tiny ad buys – with some alleged connection to Russia, a nation of 144 million people and not all Vladimir Putin’s “operatives” – are infinitesimal when put into any rational perspective. ... And, by the way, how does any of this material reveal a Russian plot to put Trump in the White House and to ensure Hillary Clinton’s defeat, which was the original Russia-gate narrative? Now, we’re being told that any Internet ads bought by Russians or maybe even by Americans living in Russia are part of some nefarious Kremlin plot even if the content is an anti-Trump documentary or some ads for or against President Obama, but nothing attacking Hillary Clinton. ...
However, rather than include the comparative numbers which would show how nutty Russia-gate has become, the U.S. mainstream media systematically avoids any reference to how tiny the “Russia-linked” pebbles are when compared to the size of the very large lake into which they were allegedly tossed.
NATO launched a new multinational force in Romania on Monday to counter Russia along its eastern flank and to check a growing Russian presence in the Black Sea following the Kremlin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea.
The force will initially be built around a Romanian brigade of up to 4,000 soldiers, supported by troops from nine other NATO countries, and complementing a separate deployment of 900 U.S. troops who are already in place. The plans are to include additional air and sea assets to give the force greater capabilities. ...
Russia accuses NATO of trying to encircle it and threatening stability in Eastern Europe, which NATO denies. Around the Black Sea, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are NATO members while Georgia and Ukraine aspire to join.
Major Israel Lobby organization AIPAC was leading the campaign against the Iran nuclear deal for years, and is now struggling to revise the appropriate confines of debate on the matter in the lead-up to President Trump decertifying the deal to try to kill it.
AIPAC insists that they take no specific position on whether or not Trump ought to decertify the deal. They are, however, heavily lobbying the administration and US Congress on a new round of sanctions which would amount to a breach of the deal.
Oh my, I've got to lay in a supply of popcorn.
Britain's broadcasting regulator on Monday concluded that Al Jazeera did not violate any rules in its controversial undercover investigation exposing the Israeli embassy’s campaign to target British citizens critical of Israel, a campaign that included attempts to destroy the careers of pro-Palestinian British politicians.
The move by the communications regulator, known as Ofcom, clears the way for a follow-up documentary focused on Israeli influence in the U.S., the existence of which has previously been suspected but had yet to be made public. Clayton Swisher, director of investigative journalism for Al Jazeera Media Network, confirmed it to The Intercept on Monday. The goal of the British complaint may partly have been to delay publication of the follow-up American version, he said. “At the very same time [as the London investigation] — and we can safely reveal this now — we had an undercover operative working in tandem in Washington, D.C. With this U.K. verdict and vindication past us, we can soon reveal how the Israel lobby in America works through the eyes of an undercover reporter,” he said. ...
In January, pro-Israel activists in the U.S. began to suspect they’d been infiltrated when footage in America appeared in the British version of “The Lobby. Tablet began piecing things together and identified the likely hoaxer as a highfalutin British intern who’d dissonantly been renting a fully furnished $5,460 a month corporate apartment.
Swisher wouldn’t confirm or deny the identity of the American operative, but he said that with the American political class focused on foreign intervention in the affairs of the United States, now is an appropriate time to run the follow-up investigation. “I hear the U.S. is having problems with foreign interference these days, so I see no reason why the U.S. establishment won’t take our findings in America as seriously as the British did, unless of course Israel is somehow off limits from that debate,” he said.
In a quite shocking escalation of the rhetoric in Spain, a spokesman for the ruling People's Party just issued a (barely) veiled death threat to the President of Catalonia.
3. Some people in Spain (here a senior Podemos figure) are interpreting it, though, as Casado suggesting Puigdemont would be shot. https://t.co/yviau4XLcy
— The Spain Report (@thespainreport) October 9, 2017
Lluís Companys was the President of Catalonia (Spain), from 1934 and during the Spanish Civil War. He was a lawyer and leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) political party. Exiled after the war, he was captured and handed over by the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, to the Spanish State of Francisco Franco, who had him executed by firing squad in 1940.
Seems about as clear as it gets from Rajoy's PP to Puigdemont - Call for Independence and Die!
The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has pulled the region back from the brink of an unprecedented showdown with the Spanish government by announcing that he will suspend a declaration of independence to pursue negotiations in the hope of resolving Spain’s worst political crisis for 40 years.
Addressing the Catalan parliament on Tuesday evening, Puigdemont said that while the recent referendum had given his government a mandate to create an independent republic, he would not immediately declare unilateral independence from Spain.
“We propose the suspension of the effects of the declaration of independence for a few weeks, to open a period of dialogue,” he said. “If everyone acts responsibly the conflict can be resolved in a calm and agreed manner.” ...
In the run-up to the announcement, police had been stationed outside government buildings in Barcelona and had closed off the Ciutadella park around the regional parliament.
Thousands of independence campaigners, many of them draped in Catalan estelada flags, gathered nearby on Tuesday afternoon to watch the parliamentary session on giant screens as police helicopters hovered overhead. Behind them, just in front of Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, stood nearly three dozen tractors that had been driven into the city in a show of farmers’ support for Catalan sovereignty. Many among the crowd drifted away when it became clear that an immediate declaration of independence would not be forthcoming.
Thousands of French public sector workers have gone on strike and staged street demonstrations across France to protest against Emmanuel Macron’s budget cuts and pro-business agenda. All nine unions representing public sector workers from hospital staff and teachers to air traffic controllers called joint industrial action for the first time in a decade. Union leaders said they wanted to show a “profound disagreement” with the president’s plans to overhaul the state sector, accusing him of “stigmatising” state workers and favouring private business.
France’s vast public sector employs about 5.4 million staff and accounts for one in five jobs in the country. Macron, like previous presidents, has sought to make cuts in the large state sector budget with a plan to reduce the number of state workers by 120,000 over the next five years. A consultation on the future of the public sector is to begin soon.
Demonstrators from nurses to school canteen staff protested against issues including job cuts, low pay, tax increases and the tightening of rules that mean the first day of sick leave goes unpaid.
The education ministry said one in five primary school teachers and 16% of secondary school teachers had gone on strike, while unions said the figure was higher. Some high schools were blockaded by pupils. For the first time since 2009, hospital unions called on medical staff to walk out. About 30% of flights in and out of Paris and other major cities were cancelled because of action by air traffic controllers.
Julian Assange Marks 5.5 Years Inside Ecuadorean Embassy as UK & US Refuse to Confirm Arrest Warrant
Hat tip Snoopydawg:
The US government has declared “black identity extremists” a violent threat, according to a leaked report from the FBI’s counter-terrorism division. The assessment, obtained by Foreign Policy, has raised fears about federal authorities racially profiling activists and aggressively prosecuting civil rights protesters.
The report, dated August 2017 and compiled by the Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, said: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Incidents of “alleged police abuse” have “continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement”.
The FBI’s dedicated surveillance of black activists follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt civil rights groups, but the scrutiny of African Americans by a domestic terrorism unit was particularly alarming to some free speech campaigners. “When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.”
The document has emerged at a time of growing concerns about Donald Trump’s links to the far right and white nationalists, and increasing anxieties about his administration’s efforts to further criminalize communities of color and shield police from scrutiny. Anti-Trump protesters and Black Lives Matter activists have continued to face harsh prosecutions and close federal monitoring.
— Red T Raccoon (@RedTRaccoon) October 9, 2017
Amid desperate calls for more supplies from the mayor of San Juan, the White House allowed the 10-day waiver it issued on September 28 for the Jones Act, to expire on Monday.
The 1920 shipping rule prohibits foreign ships from carrying cargo between U.S. ports, citing tariffs, and was the subject of outcry last month as the Trump administration raised alarm with its slow response to Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico.
Despite President Donald Trump's statements about the strong recovery Puerto Rico has made and his declaration that Maria was not "a real catastrophe like Katrina," nearly half of the island's 3.4 million people are still without drinking water and 85 percent of the territory is without power. Only 25 of Puerto Rico's 67 hospitals have electricity. The recovery is expected to go on for months.
The death toll, which was reported as 16 for several days without being updated, has gone up to 36—and that number is expected to rise as rescue crews make it to areas of the island that have been isolated since the hurricane struck on September 20.
Critics say an indefinite lifting of the Jones Act would allow the U.S. to deliver gasoline and other supplies more quickly to speed along the recovery without imposing the high costs of American-owned ships on the island, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year.
Distraction politics at its best:
Donald Trump has challenged his secretary of state to “compare IQ tests”, if Rex Tillerson did call the president a “moron” as reported. Trump told Forbes magazine: “I think it’s fake news. But if he did [say] that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”
The president spoke to the magazine on Friday and the interview was published online on Tuesday. Last week, an NBC story claimed Mike Pence, the vice-president, had to talk Tillerson out of resigning this summer, and that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron”. Some reports said he called the president “a fucking moron”. Tillerson said he never considered resigning but did not deny calling Trump a moron. His spokeswoman said he never used such language. ...
Later, at the daily White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted: “The president never implied the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent. He made a joke – nothing more than that. He has full confidence in the secretary of state … They’re working hand in hand to move the president’s agenda forward.”
She chided reporters: “Maybe you guys should get a sense of humour and try it some time … He’s got 100% confidence in the secretary of state. We’re trying to move forward and talk about the agenda whereas you guys are trying to talk about who likes who.”
Six white supremacists violently beating a black man in a parking garage was one of many disturbing incidents caught on camera during the striking events surrounding the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
But now 20-year-old DeAndre Harris, who reportedly suffered a concussion, a head laceration that required 10 staples, a broken wrist, and a chipped tooth, is facing a felony charge himself: unlawful wounding for allegedly fighting back.
If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and be slapped with a $2,500 fine. On Monday, a local magistrate issued a warrant for Harris’ arrest based on a complaint brought by one of the individuals involved in the melée.
According to a statement provided to local NBC station WVIR, the alleged victim relayed his account of what happened to the magistrate’s office. After a detective from Charlottesville Police Department concluded that the victim was telling the truth, the magistrate issued a warrant for Harris’ arrest.
The Charlottesville PD is withholding the identity of the accuser until Harris is in custody. Harris’ attorney C. Lee Merritt told the Washington Post that the accuser was a member of a white supremacist group, and that the charge was “clearly retaliatory.” He also said it was “highly unusual” that the warrant was issued by the magistrate rather than the local police department.
As many as 2,000 leopard sharks have mysteriously died in the San Francisco Bay over the past few months. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says determining the cause is not a priority for the state since the sharks are not threatened or endangered, however, scientists say additional research and resources are crucial since the threat is now believed to be preying on other marine life. “This year is unusual in that there has been a large number of other species that have also been dying,” said Dr. Mark Okihiro, a research scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This pathogen can tackle a variety of different species … we've had a much more diverse group of fish that have been found dead in the San Francisco Bay.”
At least 500 bat rays, hundreds of striped bass, 50 smooth-hound sharks and about 100 halibut died in the bay between February and July, according to Okihiro’s estimates.
Okihiro regularly performs necropsies on stranded sharks found along the bay and says researchers at UC San Francisco helped him identify parasite DNA in a large number of those shark samples. The deadly pathogen sneaks in through the shark’s nose and slowly eats away at the brain, Okihiro says, oftentimes causing sharks to beach themselves or swim in circles.
Okihiro estimates 1,000 to 2,000 leopard sharks have died in the bay so far this year, however, he concedes the death toll could actually be higher. “The sharks you see on shore are just a small fraction of the sharks that are actually dying in the bay,” he said. Sharks are not naturally buoyant. Unless they are actively swimming, their bodies sink. As a result, infected sharks that die in deep water may never actually wash up on shore.
At least 13 people have died in northern California after what officials are describing as an “unprecedented” wildfire that has already destroyed over 1,500 structures and devastated large swaths of wine country.
“We often have multiple fires going on, but the majority of them all started right around same time period, same time of night – it’s unprecedented,” Amy Head, the fire captain spokeswoman for Cal Fire, the state agency responsible for fire protection, told the Guardian. “I hate using that word because it’s been overused a lot lately because of how fires have been in the past few years, but it truly is – there’s just been a lot of destruction.”
About 20,000 people have been evacuated, including hundreds of senior citizens from nursing homes, and public schools in Napa and Sonoma counties were closed Tuesday. Major fires in those regions remain completely uncontained, threatening thousands of homes and vineyards in the wine country north of San Francisco. ...
Years of drought in California, followed by an extremely wet winter, have meant that vegetation is thicker and more susceptible to the fires that tend to be at their worst in the autumn. Officials say the high winds are hampering firefighting efforts in the region about 140 miles (225km) north of San Francisco. To assist with the efforts the country’s largest firefighting aircraft – a converted 747 – has been deployed.
President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt have a go-to argument they lean on when pushing for repeal of the Clean Power Plan or other government regulation: The red tape is costing America jobs. ...
Pruitt may be right about a connection between climate change policy and jobs, but he seems to have it backward. The United States shed 33,000 jobs in September, ending a seven-year streak in U.S. jobs growth — the longest-ever in U.S. history. Two of the main causes of that reversal?
Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
As Economic Policy Institute Senior Economist Elise Gould wrote, the drop-off in employment “was almost certainly due to Hurricane Irma, which struck smack in the middle of the reference period, and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.” Over the phone, she told The Intercept that the storms had “a larger effect than I would have expected.”
While drawing direct correlations between warming and any single storm is virtually impossible, rising temperatures almost certainly shaped both Irma and Harvey. Each benefited from unusually warm waters in the seas where they brewed. The fact that sea levels are higher than they were just a few decades ago also makes storm surges higher. Worth noting as well is that Harvey was the third “once-in-500-year” flooding event Houston had experienced in just three years.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sunnyland Slim - I Had It Hard
Sunnyland Slim - Speak Once And Think Twice
Sunnyland Slim - Miss Ida B.
Sunnyland Slim - It’s You Baby
Sunnyland Slim - Orphan Boy Blues
Sunnyland Slim - Get Hip To Yourself
Sunnyland Slim + Johnny Shines - Livin' In the White House
Sunnyland Slim - Shake It Baby
Sunnyland Slim + Big Time Sarah - Rocking My Blues Away