The Evening Blues - 2-13-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer Gatemouth Moore. Enjoy!
Gatemouth Moore - I Ain't Mad at You Pretty Baby
“In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on and uninhabited planet.”
-- William L. Shirer
News and Opinion
Worth a full read:
Nukes are the ultimate Trump policy problem because it's a subject that requires scientific knowledge he completely lacks, while also forcing him to choose between two of his most sharply conflicting narcissistic affectations: the deal-making man of peace vs. the "I love war" Lieutenenant Schiesskopf-style missile-humping parade-master.
Remember, candidate Trump ran as a quasi-isolationist who was too smart to waste treasure and lives on pointless regional confrontations in Middle Eastern countries. ... But Trump, like Americans generally, can't handle even the possibility of people thinking he's a wimp for a second. So even as he ran as an isolationist ... he also constantly hyped himself as someone so crazy and unpredictable, he just might use nuclear weapons (as if we needed to be told this!). ...
Now, on the heels of reports that Trump wants his own version of a Bastille Day parade – classically Soviet behavior in the mold of George W. Bush or Nikita Khruschev, lifelong political creatures who craved military affirmation in the form of medals, unis, and parades – we get the release of Trump's "Nuclear Posture Review." And it's every bit as bad as could be expected. ...
Trump's new NPR shows that the president and the people around him believe in the usability of nuclear weapons. They're ignorant enough to not have asked questions about what happens after we hit "send" on that one. After all, this is a president who clearly didn't even consider the next steps of winning an election. And we expect him to have plans for how to manage nuclear war? Of all the nightmares of the Trump era, this, Elizabeth, is the big one.
Actually it isn’t. In part because we’ve backed away from anti-proliferation efforts, the Russians have apparently developed a real-life Doomsday Device – the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6 or “Kanyon” bomb, which is 1,000 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb and apparently would be delivered by drone submarine. So that’s awesome. Now we get to go back in time to worrying for real about the specter of mutual mass-annihilation, only this time with more devastating weapons.
Scores of Russian mercenaries were reportedly killed when US forces carried out air strikes against a pro-regime force in eastern Syria last week, according to US and Russian reports. If the high estimates of Russian casualties are confirmed, it would be the most lethal clash between US and Russian citizens since the end of the cold war, and it comes at a time when proxy forces in Syria are increasingly coming into contact, as they compete for territory vacated by retreating Islamic State militants.
Bloomberg News quoted Russian sources as saying as many as 200 Russian nationals could have been killed in a clash last Wednesday and Thursday around the oil fields of Deir Ezzor region between forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and a Kurdish-led opposition force supported by US advisers. The New York Times said that Russian and Syrian officials had estimated that dozens of Russians had been killed.
US Central Command said on Tuesday that US forces came under fire from a tank, and that they responded with three hours of intense strikes from drones and B-52 bombers against the attackers, which it described as a unit of 300 to 500 fighters. ...
Without mentioning the incident directly, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned on Tuesday that “Americans have taken dangerous unilateral steps” in Syria in siding with SDF forces, who control an extensive region in northern Syria. “Those steps look increasingly as part of efforts to create a quasi-state on a large part of Syrian territory from the eastern bank of the Euphrates all the way to the border with Iraq,” Lavrov said, in remarks that highlighted the geopolitical jostling in Syria in the wake of the fight against Isis.
“It’s Hard to Believe, But Syria’s War Is Getting Worse”: World Powers Clash as Civilian Deaths Soar
The nation’s top intelligence watchdog put the brakes on a report last year that uncovered whistleblower reprisal issues within America’s spy agencies, The Daily Beast has learned. The move concealed a finding that the agencies—including the CIA and the NSA—were failing to protect intelligence workers who report waste, fraud, abuse, or criminality up the chain of command.
The investigators looked into 190 cases of alleged reprisal in six agencies, and uncovered a shocking pattern. In only one case out of the 190 did the agencies find in favor of the whistleblower—and that case took 742 days to complete. Other cases remained open longer. One complaint from 2010 was still waiting for a ruling. But the framework was remarkably consistent: Over and over and over again, intelligence inspectors ruled that the agency was in the right, and the whistleblowers were almost always wrong.
The report was near completion following a six-month-long inspection run out of the Intelligence Community Inspector General office. It was aborted in April by the new acting head of the office, Wayne Stone, following the discovery that one of the inspectors was himself a whistleblower in the middle of a federal lawsuit against the CIA, according to former IC IG officials.
Stone also sequestered the mountain of documents and data produced in the inspection, the product of three staff-years of work. The incident was never publicly disclosed by the office, and escaped mention in the unclassified version of the IC IG’s semiannual report to Congress.
Julian Assange will continue to face detention if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London after a British judge upheld a warrant for his arrest.
Handing down her judgment at Westminster magistrates court, the senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot said she was not persuaded by the argument from Assange’s legal team that it was not in the public interest to pursue him for skipping bail.
She said: “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.
“Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do the same. It is certainly not against the public interest to proceed.”
It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade. Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.
In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK. ...
One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.
The U.K. announced Tuesday it has developed a tool to snare ISIS propaganda before it goes online — and the government could force tech platforms to use it. Westminster, which has been critical of U.S. tech companies for failing to stop the the spread of terrorist content, said the tool can spot ISIS propaganda with a 99.9 percent accuracy.
The technology is designed to show tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter that the government’s demands they “do more” to tackle online extremism are not unreasonable. The tool was developed by London-based artificial intelligence company ASI Data Science and cost £600,000 ($830,000). It uses advanced machine learning to analyze the audio and visuals of a video to determine whether it’s ISIS propaganda.
A teenage Palestinian protester filmed slapping and kicking two soldiers outside her home has appeared before an Israeli military court to face various charges including assaulting security forces, incitement and throwing stones. Ahed Tamimi, who turned 17 in jail last month, arrived on Tuesday morning for the first day of what could be a months-long trial, in what has become a symbolic case in the battle for international public opinion.
The judge ordered a closed-door hearing and ejected a large group of journalists who had gathered at the Ofer military base, despite a request by Tamimi’s lawyer for the media to be able to observe proceedings. ...
Arrested in the middle of the night and since denied bail, Tamimi could spend years in prison for what prosecutors argue was a criminal offence. She faces 12 charges, some of which date back to 2016. Tamimi’s father, Bassem, said on Tuesday that he arrived at trial “with no good expectations, because this a military court, and it’s part of the Israeli military occupation”.
Tuesday’s preliminary proceedings were brief, with Tamimi appearing in a prison uniform with her hands and feet in restraints. The case was adjourned until March.
Israeli police have submitted a recommendation to indict Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery and breach of trust in two corruption investigations against the prime minister.
Following a 14-month investigation, the recommendation has been handed to the country’s attorney general, who will examine the evidence and later – possibly in several months’ time – decide whether to indict.
Shortly after the police recommendation was submitted, Netanyahu held a press conference in Jerusalem, denying any wrongdoing and dismissing rumours that he might resign.
He said the recommendations were the latest in a long list of attempts to remove him from government. “All these attempts end up with nothing because I know the truth. I tell you, also this time, things will end up with nothing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in trying to placate his far-right coalition on delaying an effort to annex the West Bank, made what analysts are calling a “gaffe,” saying the process needs to be coordinated with President Trump, and that he’s been talking to Trump and other US officials about it for some time.
The problem is, he wasn’t. The White House quickly called out Netanyahu for falsely claiming this, and Israeli officials too said the discussions never took place. Such talks would obviously be a huge deal, and would also do massive harm to the peace process.
ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and Secretary-General Ace Magashule visited Zuma at his home in Pretoria late Monday to deliver an ultimatum: quit or be stripped of power. By defying his party, Zuma looks set for a protracted battle with ANC leadership, who could move to impeach the 75-year-old within days. ...
According to local media, Zuma is angry with Ramaphosa after the pair reportedly agreed to a timeframe for his resignation — including delivering the cancelled State of the Union address last week. Zuma was also hoping to take a tour of the country with Ramaphosa — the man most likely to replace him as president — to present a unified front to the ANC base.
Zuma has reportedly committed to resigned in three months time, though he has no legal obligation to do so and can continue to defy his party and rule without their support. However, this will result in a confidence vote in parliament — described by some as a nightmare option — which is currently scheduled for Feb. 22 but could happen sooner.
President Donald Trump’s latest $4.4 trillion budget proposal calls for boosting military spending by nearly $200 billion over the next two years, and would balloon the national debt by more than $7 trillion over the next decade. Pundits proclaim it “dead on arrival.” But the likely alternative, based on the recent congressional budget accord, will be an equally irresponsible combination of sky-high military spending and even more borrowing – signs of a dysfunctional empire unable to manage its decline intelligently.
The U.S. national debt now exceeds $20 trillion, or $170,000 per taxpayer. When the number was smaller two years ago, under President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “dangerous and unacceptable.” Yet, following last December’s massive corporate and personal tax cut, and the subsequent agreement on new spending targets, Congress now envisions adding $15 trillion to the federal government’s debt over the next decade. ...
The Pentagon budget tilts heavily toward gold-plated weapons systems that continue to fail tests and evaluations. Congress is buying dozens of trouble-plagued F-35 Joint Strike Fighters each year, with a projected program cost of more than $1 trillion, even though the plane is still not fully combat ready. ... Much worse, the Pentagon’s upcoming budgets contain about $140 billion over two years for fighting wars that the United States has no business waging.
In his famous 1987 book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Yale historian Paul Kennedy demonstrated a consistent link between economic and military strength. The link goes one way: a nation with robust resources can afford to build a strong military, but a nation with an oversized and overcommitted military may cripple its economy, undermining the very source of its strength. That’s what happens when empires get stretched too thin, like Great Britain’s after two world wars. As Kennedy predicted, and the Trump era is confirming, the American empire cannot last in its current form. The faster we cut it loose, the more chance we have of a soft landing that preserves our security and prosperity.
Exxon Mobil's fourth-quarter profit nearly quintupled after President Trump's tax cuts gave the oil giant a big lift. Exxon reported a quarterly profit of $8.38 billion, up from $1.68 billion a year earlier. The spike came in part due to increasing oil prices and a $5.94 billion one-time boost from the tax reform package.
The company has said it plans to invest $50 billion over the next five years in the U.S., including new operations to extract more energy from the surging Permian Basin in west Texas.
“The impact of tax reform on our earnings reflects the magnitude of our historic investment in the U.S. and strengthens our commitment to further grow our business here,” Exxon CEO Darren Woods said in a statement.
Dominion Energy, the utility monopoly in Virginia, suffered a rare loss on the floor of the state House of Delegates late Monday night, when their ability to double-charge ratepayers for infrastructure improvements was stripped out of a controversial bill.
The bill, which sailed through the Senate and is expected to pass the House of Delegates on Tuesday, would let Dominion and other utilities in the state use excess profits to pay for the upgrades, like modernization of the energy grid or renewable generation. Because Dominion could also use those upgrades as a rationale to increase its base power rates, critics charged that utilities could get ratepayers to pay twice for the same infrastructure. Virginia’s State Corporation Commission and the state Office of the Attorney General agreed.
Senate populists tried to put a restriction on the double-dipping in their version of the bill, but lost. But the House of Delegates, with all 49 Democrats joining six Republicans, were successful in passing such an amendment in the 100-member chamber.
The move is a major victory for Virginia’s large freshman class of Democratic legislators, many of whom campaigned against Dominion in their races and refused to take campaign contributions from them. It’s an act of defiance against the state’s most powerful corporate donor, as well as the Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, who endorsed the overall bill. While the legislation still has problems — Delegate Lee Carter called it “a steaming pile of garbage” to The Intercept yesterday — Dominion losing a vote of any kind in the Virginia legislature, even an amendment vote, is a political earthquake. ...
If the House version passes as expected, it would have to be reconciled with the Senate version, with the opportunity for quietly dropping the amendment still possible. But Dominion and Northam had contended that double-dipping already wasn’t allowed in the Senate version. The House amendment merely clarified that point. So it’s tricky politically to justify removing it.
The Trump administration is attempting to speed up or even sweep away various environmental reviews in its plan to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure and construct a wall along the border with Mexico.
The White House’s infrastructure plan targets what it calls “inefficiencies” in the approval of roads, bridges, airports and other projects. It proposes a 21-month limit for environmental reviews of projects that potentially threaten endangered species or fragile habitats, along with curbs on federal agencies’ ability to raise objections to new construction.
In a meeting with state and local officials on Monday, Trump said “we’re going to get your permits very quickly.” The president, who mentioned he was able to push through the building of an ice rink in New York’s Central Park within a few months, said he will “speed the permit approval process from 10 years to two years, and maybe even to one year.”
The campaign to fast-track development over concerns has been picked up by Trump’s lieutenants. Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has attempted to quicken the pace even further, telling the same group that the EPA will “process every permit, up or down, within six months” by the end of 2018.
The administration has sought to completely cast aside environmental considerations when it comes to its controversial border wall. It recently acquired a waiver for the third time in order to speed construction of 20 miles of the wall in New Mexico, and Trump has rescinded an Obama-era rule that demanded officials consider sea level rise and other climate change factors in federally-funded projects.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Gatemouth Moore - Did you ever love a woman
Gatemouth Moore - Beale Street Ain't Beale Street No More
Gatemouth Moore - Somebody's Got to Go
Gatemouth Moore - I'm Goin' Way Back Home
Gatemouth Moore - Boogie Woogie Papa
Gatemouth Moore - Everybody has their turn
Gatemouth Moore - Highway 61 Blues
Gatemouth Moore - My Mother Thinks I'm Something
Gatemouth Moore - Bum Dee Dah Ra Dee