The Evening Blues - 11-20-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Delta blues musician Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes. Enjoy!
Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes - Ain't Goin'To Worry
"Television news is now entertainment, and the stories are being written by the people that have a special interest in them."
-- James Taylor
News and Opinion
Saudi Arabia's years-long blockade and bombing campaign in Yemen has gotten very little coverage in the United States, even as the extreme food and fuel shortages have developed into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Now, as the Saudi noose on Yemen tightens — leaving 7 million people facing starvation and another 1 million infected with cholera — the war is having its moment in the media spotlight.
On Sunday, “60 Minutes” aired a 13-minute segment on the war’s devastating humanitarian toll. The program featured imagery of starving children and interviews with displaced people, all obtained after Saudi Arabia blocked “60 Minutes” from entering the country. ... Coverage on such a high-profile program is frequently enough to get politicians to pay attention to an issue, and the “60 Minutes” feature comes amid a growing debate about the U.S. role in the war. Just last week, the House of Representatives voted to say that Congress has not authorized American military support for the Saudi-led coalition.
Still, the program did not once mention that Saudi Arabia is a U.S. ally, and that U.S. support is essential for the Saudi campaign to continue. ... The U.S. has had the power to pull the plug on the intervention since the beginning. Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a 30-year veteran of the CIA, explained last year that “if the United States and the United Kingdom, tonight, told King Salman [of Saudi Arabia], ‘This war has to end,’ it would end tomorrow. The Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support.” ...
Per “60 Minutes’s” framing of the conflict, the crisis in Yemen is a random tragedy happening on the other side of the world – manmade, but outside U.S. control. The truth is nearer the opposite. Without U.S. support, the humanitarian crisis would not exist on such a catastrophic scale.
In September 2007, Israeli warplanes bombed a building in eastern Syria that the Israelis claimed held a covert nuclear reactor that had been built with North Korean assistance. Seven months later, the CIA released an extraordinary 11-minute video and mounted press and Congressional briefings that supported that claim. But nothing about that alleged reactor in the Syrian desert turns out to be what it appeared at the time. The evidence now available shows that there was no such nuclear reactor, and that the Israelis had misled George W. Bush’s administration into believing that it was in order to draw the United States into bombing missile storage sites in Syria. Other evidence now suggests, moreover, that the Syrian government had led the Israelis to believe wrongly that it was a key storage site for Hezbollah missiles and rockets.
The International Atomic Agency’s top specialist on North Korean reactors, Egyptian national Yousry Abushady, warned top IAEA officials in 2008 that the published CIA claims about the alleged reactor in the Syrian desert could not possibly have been true. In a series of interviews in Vienna and by phone and e-mail exchanges over several months Abushady detailed the technical evidence that led him to issue that warning and to be even more confident about that judgment later on. And a retired nuclear engineer and research scientist with many years of experience at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has confirmed a crucial element of that technical evidence.
Published revelations by senior Bush administration officials show, moreover, that principal U.S. figures in the story all had their own political motives for supporting the Israeli claim of a Syrian reactor being built with North Korean help.
Vice President Dick Cheney hoped to use the alleged reactor to get President George W. Bush to initiate U.S. airstrikes in Syria in the hope of shaking the Syrian-Iranian alliance. And both Cheney and then CIA Director Michael Hayden also hoped to use the story of a North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria to kill a deal that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was negotiating with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program in 2007-08.
[Much more detail at link. - js]
The Trump administration is threatening to shutter the Palestinian Authority’s representative office in Washington based on a provision of a U.S. law that has not been previously enforced. The State Department recently informed the Palestinian Authority that if it does not reenter peace negotiations with Israel, its delegation to the United States could be closed within months, though it did not specify a timeline.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed the Palestinians that the decision was made following statements by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes. ...
The Israeli television channel KAN reported in September on a plan “hatched” by the Israeli government and Republican lawmakers in the U.S. to “punish the Palestinians for their recent diplomatic advances, including their successful bid to join Interpol, the world’s largest police organization, and their ongoing efforts to have Israeli leaders tried at the International Criminal Court.”
Palestinian officials have warned that they will freeze all communication with the US, following steps by the Trump administration to close the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) office in Washington, DC.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Saturday the PLO had been informed by the US Department of State of a decision not to renew the operating permission for the organisation's diplomatic office in the American capital. ...
Every six months, the US Department of State signs a waiver that allows the PLO office to remain open in Washington. The certification period for the current waiver ended this month. ...
Since Trump was elected a little more than a year ago, he has made no progress on promises to forge a peace deal between Palestinian and Israeli officials. Instead, illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories have expanded exponentially and, for the first time in two decades, a new Israeli settlement is being built in the West Bank.
Donald Trump has announced that the US will designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terror amid heightened nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Trump said the designation will impose further penalties on the country. He called it a long overdue step and part of the US “maximum pressure campaign” against Pyongyang. North Korea would join Iran, Sudan and Syria on the list of state sponsors of terror.
“In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said in a cabinet meeting.
US officials cited the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother in a Malaysian airport in February as an act of terrorism. ...
Trump has faced pressure from congressional lawmakers to relist the country amid its advancing nuclear missile program, though some fear it could increase already heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Maybe Roy Moore will feel right at home on the Senate Armed Forces Committee:
American troops were told to ignore the rape and abuse of children by Afghan security forces they were partnered with, according to a report released Thursday by the Pentagon’s inspector general. “In some cases, the interviewees explained that they, or someone whom they knew, were told that nothing could be done about child sexual abuse because of Afghanistan’s status as a sovereign nation, that it was not a priority for the command, or that it was best to ignore the situation and to let the local police handle it,” the report reads.
Although the report found that there was no written guidance telling U.S. troops to ignore abuse allegations, cultural-awareness training for U.S. personnel deploying to Afghanistan identified child sexual abuse as a culturally accepted practice in Afghanistan.
“There were a couple cases where service members brought it to commanders’ attention, and they said there’s nothing we can do,” according to an anonymous interviewee quoted in the report. “There’s no recourse to stop them from bacha bazi. Soldiers [were] told to ignore it and drive on.”
”Bacha bazi,” which translates as “boy play,” is a cultural practice in which “powerful or wealthy local figures and businessmen sexually abuse young boys who are trained to dance in female clothes,” the report reads. In 2015, findings by the Labor Department on “The Worst Forms of Child Labor” stated that “reports indicate that some government officials, including members of the Afghan National Police, Afghan Local Police, and the Afghan Border Police, have boys for bacha bazi and also have them work as tea servers or cooks in police camps.”
As Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Refuses to Resign, Advocates Say Coup “Is Not the Answer” for Meaningful Reform
The Pentagon now has its largest military presence in war-torn Somalia since the deadly battle in 1993
The number of U.S. military forces in Somalia has more than doubled this year to over 500 people as the Pentagon has quietly posted hundreds of additional special operations personnel to advise local forces in pockets of Islamic militants around the country, according to current and former senior military officials.
It is the largest American military contingent in the war-torn nation since the infamous 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle, when 18 U.S. soldiers died. It is also the latest example of how the Pentagon’s operations in Africa have expanded with greater authority provided to field commanders.
The growing Somalia mission, coming more fully to light after four American troops were killed in an ambush in Niger last month, also includes two new military headquarters in the capital of Mogadishu and stepped-up airstrikes. It’s driven by a major shift in strategy from primarily relying on targeted strikes against terrorists to advising and supporting Somali troops in the field, the officials said.
The new operations also come as a peacekeeping mission spearheaded by the African Union is winding down. That is putting more pressure on the fledgling Somali security forces to confront al-Shabab, a terrorist army allied with Al Qaeda that plays the role of a quasi-government in significant parts of the country.
In the classic Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, the rich go “on strike” – withdrawing their services and disappearing from society in protest against taxes and regulation. Weary of carrying an ungrateful world on their shoulders, business leaders and other top income earners finally shrug, and leave the world without them. The book’s metaphor inspires political rhetoric to this day: if you tax the rich, they will leave. Variations on the threat are issued by well-off individuals all over the world – not least in the United States, where each state sets its own tax policies, and periodic warnings are issued that taxes on the rich will lead to millionaire migration to more obliging US states.
When Oregon voters passed a millionaire tax at the start of this decade, for example, the state’s richest resident, Nike CEO Phil Knight, warned the tax would set off a “death spiral … in which thousands of our most successful residents will leave”. As California considered similar taxes, policymakers cautioned “nothing is more mobile than a millionaire and his money”. In New Jersey, governor Chris Christie simply stated: “Ladies and Gentlemen, if you tax them, they will leave.”
To better understand elite migration across state lines, I analysed tax return data from every million-dollar income-earner in the United States. The dataset includes 3.7 million top-earning individuals, who collectively filed more than 45 million tax returns over more than a dozen years – showing where millionaires live and where they move to. ...
Only about 2.4% of US-based millionaires change their state of residence in a given year. Interstate migration is actually more common among the US middle class, and almost twice as common among its poorest residents, who have an annual interstate migration rate of 4.5%. While travel may be a classic “luxury good”, migration is not. Moving one’s home, life and family to a different place is mostly about people who have a poor economic fit with where they live, earn below-market incomes, and are struggling to find a livelihood. Higher income earners show low migration levels because they are not searching for economic success – they’ve already found it.
When millionaires do move, they admittedly tend to favour lower-tax states over higher-tax ones – but only marginally so. Around 15% of interstate millionaire migrations bring a net tax advantage. The other 85% have no net tax impact for the movers. Furthermore, almost all of the tax-migration moves are to just one low-tax state: Florida – where low-income taxes comingle with sun, sand and palm trees. Other low-tax states such as Texas, Tennessee and Nevada do not pick up any net tax-migration.
A second woman has come forward and accused Al Franken of inappropriately touching her, this time since he took office as senator from Minnesota. According to CNN, Lindsay Menz, 33, said Franken grabbed her buttocks in 2010 while the two were posing together for a photo at a state fair in Minnesota. ...
Menz said her own encounter with Franken, which she described as “uncomfortable”, took place two years after he was elected to the Senate. Menz, who is now a resident of Texas, had stationed herself at a booth inside the state fair sponsored by her father.
Franken came by, she said, “pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear. It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek. “It wasn’t around my waist. It wasn’t around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt,” Menz said, while noting the interaction lasted three or four seconds.
A photo released by Menz shows Franken standing close to her, although his hands are not visible. Franken told CNN in a statement he did not recall his meeting with Menz but said he felt “badly” for how she felt following their interaction.
Vox published screenshots from a text conversation between Thrush, a former Politico reporter hired by the Times in January to cover President Donald Trump, and Bianca Padró Ocasio, a 23-year-old journalist.
Padró Ocasio confronted Thrush about his behavior with a friend of hers, also 23, at at a colleague’s going-away party at a bar near the Politico newsroom. Padró Ocasio’s friend said the night ended after she resisted Thrush’s advances. ...
The writer of the Vox piece, Laura McGann, goes on to accuse Thrush of sexually inappropriate behavior. ... “Five years ago, when Thrush and I were colleagues at Politico, I was in the same bar as Padró Ocasio’s friend — perhaps the same booth — when he caught me off-guard, put his hand on my thigh, and suddenly started kissing me. Thrush says that he recalls the incident differently.”
Nebraska regulators have approved the Keystone XL pipeline, paving the way for the new project to be built despite last week’s major oil spill from the existing Keystone pipeline operated by Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation.
Five members of Nebraska’s Public Service Commission voted 3-2 on Monday to approve a 275-mile stretch of pipeline that would cut through the state — the final regulatory hurdle the $8 billion project needed to go forward. ...
The new pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada’s oil sands to Nebraska, where it will join the original Keystone pipeline. The route approved on Monday is not TransCanada’s preferred route, however. Greenpeace campaigner Rachel Rye Butler said in a statement that the permit “complicates” things for the company.
TransCanada said it would conduct a review of the ruling “while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project.”
Trump Cited Pittsburgh in Pulling Out of Paris Deal—But Mayor Says City Will Implement Accord Anyway
Most of the people in the room when the United States gave its sole presentation last week at COP23 — the United Nations climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany — were protesters. Around the 20-minute mark, 100 people — mostly Americans — stood up, sang an altered version of “God Bless the U.S.A.,” turned their backs to the panel of White House officials and fossil fuel industry representatives, and walked out. The event then continued before a room filled mainly with journalists.
Panelists soldiered on, peddling one of the Trump administration’s favorite lies: clean coal, or what Trump himself loves to call “beautiful, clean coal.” ...
Holly Krutka, a representative from Peabody Energy who spoke on the U.S. panel, offered her own explanation of what clean coal is. While she spoke in lucid and complete sentences, walking through the various efficiency technologies, she was no more tethered to reality than Trump. Like the White House’s own proxies, she framed continued coal usage as a moral and ethical imperative and a vehicle for bringing developing nations out of poverty: “While some people clearly believe there is no path forward for fossil fuels in a carbon-constrained world, we don’t believe that is the case. The discussion needs to be not if we use coal, but how.” ...
The White House stands alone on the world stage in its outright endorsement of climate denial, and many Americans — certainly those on the ground in Germany last week, and most of all the ones who interrupted Monday’s panel — are at odds with the Trump administration’s position. Yet baked into the climate negotiations themselves is a quieter kind of denial than the administration’s, in which climate policies are crafted not to align with mounting physical realities, but with the economics that got us into this mess in the first place.
Shortly following the Nebraska Public Service Commission's "shortsighted and dangerous" vote to green-light TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, a coalition comprised of Indigenous peoples, farmers, and ranchers living along the oil project's proposed route published a letter on Monday urging the public to join them in protecting sacred land from corporate exploitation.
Endorsed by Native tribes, green groups, and high-profile environmentalists, the "Promise to Protect" call to action argues that making "a concerted stand" against TransCanada's $8 billion dirty energy project "will make other fossil fuel companies think that much harder about their own expansion plans."
"Together we've stopped them for many years, and we are going to keep stopping them," the letter reads. "But we need everyone's help. We need you to take a stand no matter what land you live or work on. The struggle to save Mother Earth begins with you."
"For many years the tribes, indigenous leaders, farmers, ranchers, and allies everywhere have kept this pipeline at bay," the coalition notes. "That has been a great achievement. We honestly don't know if we can hold the line against Keystone XL forever—but we know that we have a chance."
The letter goes on to make several requests of those who wish to participate in the "creative resistance" against KXL that is expected to take shape in the coming months, including:
- Commitment to entirely peaceful acts of protest, even in the face of "the pain caused by TransCanada's aggression";
- Respect for "the leadership of Indigenous peoples, farmers, and ranchers in the action, and the plans and strategies of the front lines and their allies who have made promises to protect the land, water, and climate";
- Preparation in advance of the demonstrations, including training sessions with organizers, so that "you're able to find the place you're most needed on any given day."
The fossil fuel industry "believes that with the inauguration of Mr. Trump, the obstacles in their path had disappeared," the letter concludes. "They are unaware of the rising tide of indigenous unity and the strong alliances with ranchers, farmers and the climate justice movement which grew stronger at Standing Rock. When the president approved the federal permits for KXL last winter, he asked TransCanada executives when construction would start: Our job is to make sure the answer is, no time soon."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - Heart Broken Man
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - Tin Pan Alley
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - I'm Going Back Home, Bluebird
Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes & The Playboys How Long This Must Go On
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - Louise, Louise Blues
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - No Place To Go
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - Love Like I Wanna
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - Rocking Daddy
Roosevelt Booba Barnes - Baby, Scratch My Back