The Evening Blues - 2-18-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jazz and blues banjo player Ikey Robinson. Enjoy!
Ikey Robinson - My Four Reasons
“The West exported so much democracy to the Middle East, it ran out of it.”
-- Fuad Alakbarov
News and Opinion
France24 reports that Trump’s attempt to dissuade the Europeans from continuing their support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has backfired.
On Friday at a Munich security meeting, Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, replied to the chiding of Vice President Mike Pence that Iran is destabilizing the region. Maas remarked that “Together with the British, the French and the entire European Union, we have found a means to allow Iran to remain in the nuclear accord. Our objective remains the lack of nuclear weapons, precisely because Iran destabilizes the region.” Without the accord, “the region will not be more secure, but would in fact take a further step toward open confrontation.” ...
The European rebuke, with the sardonic raising of a single eyebrow in which French foreign ministers specialize, came in the wake of the US-sponsored anti-Iran conference in Warsaw. Most countries sent low-level delegations and the mete was widely considered a failure. ... Not only could Trump not rally Europe to his anti-Iran crusade, but even the anti-Iran states of the Gulf have split because of the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar. With a deep fissure in the Gulf Cooperation Council and an AWOL Europe, Trump’s grand coalition against Iran has fallen almost completely apart.
Pence Met with Icy Silence in Munich, Praising Trump and Attempting to Bully Leaders on Foreign Policy
Vice President Mike Pence received an icy response from world leaders at the Munich Security Conference Saturday, as he made clear his aim for the weekend was to promote his President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda. The vice president began his remarks by telling world leaders, "I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump"—and was met with a long silence before describing Trump's accomplishments as "extraordinary" and "remarkable."
Addressing U.S. allies at the Munich Security Conference, Mike Pence is met with silence as he tells the audience: "I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump." pic.twitter.com/yr7SNVhCVf
— Axios (@axios) February 16, 2019
In addition to heaping praise on the president, Pence chastised European and Asian leaders for remaining in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal and called on them to join the U.S. in recognizing Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela, weeks after the right-wing opposition leader declared himself the head of the country despite President Nicolas Maduro winning re-election last May. Pence urged the E.U. to "step forward for freedom" by recognizing Guaido as president.
Slamming European countries for "undermining U.S. sanctions" by staying in the painstakingly-reached Iran nuclear deal, Pence called on world leaders to turn away from Iran while accusing the country of antisemitism.
A leaked video from the conference reveals that Arab leaders are ready to abandon solidarity with Palestinians.
Last year, thousands of young Afghans marched across the country, demanding an end to fighting that has destroyed millions of lives since the Soviet invasion in 1979. The grassroots peace movement led to a number of local ceasefires throughout the country between Taliban militants and Afghan government soldiers. ...
That tentative peace effort, a poignant expression of Afghans’ desire to end the violence that has scarred so many families, did not hold. But in recent weeks, there have been increasing signs that another peace deal may be coming together, negotiated from conference tables in Doha and Moscow. The Taliban and a group of former Afghan officials, including former President Hamid Karzai, met in Moscow last week to discuss the future of the country. These talks, along with separate negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha, seem to hold out the possibility of ending the violence that has ravaged the country over four decades.
But the talks also offer a serious reality check about the outcome of 18 years of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. For many observers, the negotiations register as a defeat — recognition that the Taliban has not only survived, but is likely to play an integral role in Afghanistan’s future. It is also clear that there will be a new set of winners and losers in Afghan society, and that Afghans who pegged their hopes to the U.S.-backed government now risk losing limited gains in living standards and civil rights. ...
After nearly two decades, the international community, as well as the U.S. public, has grown bored with the war and exhausted by the work of trying to rebuild Afghanistan. U.S. President Donald Trump successfully campaigned on a promise to end long-running U.S. military engagements at any cost, though this was less as a gesture of peace than a sign of his isolationist “America First” ethos. For ordinary Afghans, who are also tired of their country’s troubles, the current talks will determine whether their future is marked by continued violence or will afford space for gradual healing and reconciliation. The Taliban has announced that it will meet with U.S. officials in Pakistan later this month to continue the negotiations.
The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
The recommendation by Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East as head of Central Command, is one of the strongest signs yet of U.S. military hopes for an enduring partnership with the SDF despite the concerns of NATO ally Turkey, which says Kurdish SDF fighters are terrorists. ...
In Europe, the plight of the SDF has come into sharp focus. A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the issue came up at a meeting of defense ministers on the sidelines of the Munich Security conference on Friday.
“Many of (them) recognize the degree to which the SDF has actually done the hard fighting and dying and they feel a sense of obligation to just not turn our backs,” the official said.
On Friday, two days after his budget was voted down in the Congress, Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called a snap general election for April 28. Sanchez’s government, the shortest-lived since the Transition from fascist to parliamentary democratic rule in 1978, fell over the state prosecution of Catalan political prisoners who organized or supported the October 1, 2017, independence referendum. They face up to 25 years in prison on false charges of having instigated violence during the referendum.
Sánchez criticized Catalan nationalist parliamentarians who voted down his budget in retaliation for his trying of the Catalan nationalist prisoners. “When some parties block the taking of decisions, it is necessary to call new elections,” he said. “There are parliamentary defeats that are social victories,” he added, claiming that supposedly progressive measures inscribed in the budget that the PSOE is abandoning meant that “citizens have seen what we wanted for the country.”
The PSOE is opening the door to the most right-wing campaign since 1978, in which the imposition of austerity and police-state rule is to proceed under cover of opposition to Catalan separatism. Elections in 2015 and 2016 produced hung parliaments, as votes split between the PSOE, the right wing Popular Party (PP), Citizens (Cs), and Podemos. Now, while the PSOE denounces the Catalan nationalists, the PP aims to assemble a narrow right wing majority on the basis of an anti-Catalan coalition with Cs and the new, pro-fascist VOX party. ...
In government, the PSOE was virtually indistinguishable from the PP. Its fundamental agenda was further austerity for the working class, stepped-up militarism in the service of Spain’s geo-strategic ambitions and re-stabilizing the state after the Catalan independence crisis.
In an extremely weird article titled “Russia is backing a viral video company aimed at American millennials“, CNN reports that Facebook has suspended popular dissident media outlet In The Now and its allied pages for failing to publicly “disclose” its financial ties to a subsidiary of RT. According to CNN, such disclosures are not and have never been an actual part of Facebook’s official policy, but Facebook has made the exceptional precondition of public disclosure of financial ties in order for In The Now to return to its platform.
I say the article is extremely weird for a number of reasons. Firstly, according to In The Now CEO Anissa Naouai, CNN knew that Facebook was going to be suspending the pages of her company Maffick Media before she did, suggesting a creepy degree of coordination between the two massive outlets to silence an alternative media platform. Secondly, the article reports that CNN found out about Maffick’s financial ties thanks to a tip-off from the German Marshall Fund, a narrative control firm which receives funding from the US government. In The Now‘s Rania Khalek has described this tactic as “a case where the US government has found a legal loophole to suppress speech, in this case speech that is critical of destructive US government policies around the world.”
Thirdly, and in my opinion weirdest of all, the article goes to great lengths to make the fact that a dissident media outlet supports the same foreign policy positions as Russia look like something strange and nefarious, instead of the normal and obvious thing that it is. The article repeatedly mentions the fact that all the people working for In The Now “claim” to be editorially independent as opposed to being told what to report by Kremlin officials, a notion which Khalek says was met with extreme skepticism when she was interviewed for the piece by CNN. As though the possibility of an American opposing US warmongering and the political establishment which drives it without being ordered to by a rubles-dispensing FSB officer was a completely alien idea to them. ...
As we discussed recently, there will necessarily be inadvertent agreement between Russia and westerners who oppose western interventionism, because Russia, like so many other sovereign nations, opposes western interventionism. If you discover that an American who opposes US warmongering and establishment politics is saying the same things as RT, that doesn’t mean you’ve discovered a shocking conspiracy between western dissidents and the Russian government, it means people who oppose the same things oppose the same things.
Most people [...] imagine that if they decide to stop using Gmail or Microsoft Outlook or never buy another book from Amazon then they have liberated themselves from the tentacles of these giants. If that is indeed what they believe, then Kashmir Hill has news for them. ... She set out to answer the question of whether it was possible to live a normal life without using the services of Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. So, over five weeks, she blocked her access to each one in turn and then, in the final week, cut herself off from all of them. And she reported what she learned as she went.
She had a geek collaborator, Dhruv Mehrotra, who created a special virtual private network (VPN) for her through which all of the approximately 2m data packets she would send in a normal day had to pass before heading out on to the net. The special thing about the VPN was that it would stop every packet addressed to any domain or server operated by the particular tech giant that Ms Hill was seeking to avoid that week. And it was this comprehensive blocking technology that really revealed the ubiquity of the tech giants’ grip on our networked world. The scale of this grip is astonishing. Amazon owns 23.22m domains, Microsoft has 21.57m, Apple runs 16.78m and Google 8.72m. Facebook, surprisingly, turns out to have only a measly 122,880. What this means is that almost every interaction you are likely to have with the internet will at some stage touch one or more of these domains, in which case Ms Hill’s VPN would stop that interaction in its tracks. You may think that a particular website has nothing to do with any tech giant, but then it turns out that the site is actually hosted on Amazon’s or Microsoft’s cloud-computing services. ...
Seven lawmakers from Britain’s opposition Labour party announced Monday they were quitting the party in protest at leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of an anti-Semitism scandal and Brexit. The seven say they’re not forming a new party, but plan to sit together as the Independent Group in parliament. ...
Leader of the party since 2015, Corbyn rose to power with the backing of the grassroots, hard-left Momentum movement. While his unabashedly socialist politics saw the party pick up an extra 30 seats in the 2017 elections, he has alienated more moderate members, who feel he would make a disastrous prime minister. ...
Although only seven MPs quit, many observers are speculating their departure could trigger a second wave of defections. A number of Labour MPs were reportedly very close to joining their colleagues Monday. They could also be joined by disaffected pro-Remain MPs from the governing Conservative party — including those who have been involved in cross-party efforts [...] to push for a second EU referendum. ...
Momentum spokeswoman Laura Parker dismissed the defectors Monday as a “fringe minority” who wanted to return to the discredited politics of the Tony Blair-era. “With a back to the Blair years program of privatization, tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of the banks, they offer no concrete solutions, no new ideas, and have no support amongst the public,” she said.
The U.K. will defy the Trump administration and allow British carriers to use equipment from controversial Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, according to a report published Sunday in the Financial Times.
The National Cyber Security Centre will recommend to the government that the U.K. can mitigate any security risks posed by Huawei equipment, sources told the FT. ...
The U.K could become the first of the Five Eyes countries — an anglophone intelligence sharing network comprising the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand — to break ranks with the White House, which has pushed hard to get global allies to bar the use of Huawei equipment from the rollout of next-generation wireless communication networks.
The U.S. believes Huawei is colluding with the Chinese government to spy on U.S. citizens, though it has yet to provide any credible evidence of this. Huawei has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The U.S. government has suddenly stopped force-feeding a group of men on a hunger strike inside an El Paso immigration detention center, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.
The dramatic reversal comes as public pressure was mounting on ICE to halt the practice, which involves feeding detainees through nasal tubes against their will. Last week, the United Nations human rights office said the force-feeding of Indian hunger strikers at the facility could violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
On Wednesday, a U.S. district judge said the government had to stop force-feeding two of the detained Indian immigrants, but warned that if their health started to decline he would consider ordering force-feeding again, their attorney said. On Thursday, all force-feeding at the detention center near the El Paso airport had stopped, according to ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa.
Donald Trump will veto any congressional resolution against his declaration of a national emergency, a senior White House adviser indicated on Sunday. Stephen Miller, a hardline and influential voice on immigration policy, also claimed the administration will have built 200 miles of border wall by September 2020, two months before the next presidential election.
Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Miller defended Trump’s controversial decision to declare a national emergency in order to secure funds to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, despite the president’s own startling admission on Friday that the situation is not an emergency and that his use of emergency powers is unlikely to survive challenges in the lower courts. ...
The question of whether Trump’s act was constitutional dominated the Sunday talk shows, administration figures and allies saying Trump was within his apportioned powers, Democrats saying otherwise.
Civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the Trump administration’s policy of requiring asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases play out, saying it “eviscerates” long-standing protections for individuals fleeing persecution. ...
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Northern District of California by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other civil rights groups, names the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as defendants. It asks the court to vacate the policy and allow asylum seekers to remain in the U.S.
The lawsuit alleges that requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico places them in extreme danger, noting that Mexican cities along the border have some of the highest rates of crime in the country and that organized crime is common. Tijuana, the first place for the policy to take effect, is one of the deadliest cities in the world and in the grips of a homicide crisis.
“Asylum seekers in Mexico face a heightened risk of kidnapping, disappearance, trafficking, sexual assault, and murder, among other harms,” according to the lawsuit. “The conditions in Mexico will make it difficult if not impossible for asylum seekers to meaningfully exercise their right to apply for asylum. Asylum seekers who are attacked, kidnapped, or killed in Mexico will be wholly unable to pursue their asylum applications.”
When Amazon announced its plan to open a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, working-class residents worried that the presence of a nearly $1 trillion company in their borough would price them out. Within hours, community organizers started going door-to-door, planning protests, and enlisting the support of local officials to fend off the e-commerce giant. ...
Throughout U.S. history, community opposition has stopped urban development projects, but the victory against HQ2 stands out because of its size and apparent desirability, which dangled the promise of thousands of new, high-paying jobs, according to gentrification experts. “I think this marks a turning point because of the size and power of Amazon, and because it was not a dirty, polluting factory or waste transfer station that was being challenged,” said Trina Hamilton, an associate professor of geography at the University of Buffalo (SUNY) and co-director of its Center for Trade, Environment, and Development.
But more jobs, different jobs, with higher salaries can also catalyze rapid gentrification, or the redevelopment of a neighborhood to match middle-class tastes, which pushes out long-time, low-income residents. It’s a problem New York City knows all too well.
[W]hile resistance to Amazon’s HQ2 was swift and formidable, the task of stopping the deal appeared Sisyphean. So when Amazon announced on Thursday that it was canceling plans for the New York corporate campus, the news was met with delight and surprise. Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man in history; Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised the company that he’d change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” were the deal to go through. It is rare to win against a corporate-government power nexus of this magnitude.
The plan’s thwarting offers a lesson in the possibility of forceful collective struggle against seemingly unbeatable Goliaths. It also proves the need for left-wing politicians and organizers to challenge and replace conservative, capitalist Democrats if we are to wrest control of neighborhoods, cities, and public resources away from corporate interests and towards the good of existing communities. ...
It’s true that these politicians played a crucial role. Yet without consistent pressure and door-to-door canvassing from activist and community groups — including immigrant and worker advocate organizations Make the Road NY and Desis Rising Up and Moving, alongside Teamsters and Queens residents — many elected officials would not have taken up a stance against Amazon. New York legislatures of old showed no such sensitivity to anti-gentrification and anti-corporate sentiment. ...
Some of the most vocal New York legislators who opposed HQ2 were newly elected through grassroots campaigns on democratic socialist platforms. ... The victory against Amazon — and its dealmaker allies in New York’s leadership — shows the immediate material effects of upsetting the state and city’s historically centrist and corporate-friendly order, as represented by the governor and the mayor.
Trump ally Lindsey Graham has promised a Senate investigation into claims senior justice department officials discussed invoking the 25th amendment and removing the president from power. “There’s an allegation by the acting FBI director at the time that the deputy attorney general was basically trying to do an administrative coup,” the South Carolina senator, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, told CBS Face the Nation. ...
The acting FBI director referred to is Andrew McCabe, who Trump fired in March 2018, just short of his intended retirement. He told CBS about the discussions, which reportedly followed Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey in May 2017, in an interview this week to promote his new book. He also said he authorized an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia in the aftermath of the Comey firing. The deputy attorney general is Rod Rosenstein, who wrote the memo justifying Comey’s firing, which said it was due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. ...
Fox News reported on Saturday that James Baker, formerly a senior FBI lawyer, testified to two House committees last year that he was told Rosenstein said he had found two cabinet members who would support such an effort.
Absent an open debate about the party’s values on foreign policy, Democrats are hurtling toward an election more divisive than the one in 2016.
First, on Monday, Omar criticized the influence of pro-Israel lobbyists on Capitol Hill, tweeting that Congress’s stance was “all about the Benjamins”. She was swiftly rebuked by the party leadership in tandem with Republicans, prompting her to apologize. Then, less than 48 hours later, Omar grilled America’s new envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, over his well-documented material support for multiple Central American governments that committed mass killings and genocide in the 1980s. She also questioned his credibility, noting that Abrams had pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress as part of his participation in the Iran-Contra scandal.
How did Democratic elites respond? Several pounced again – to defend the Trump administration’s backer of death squads against Omar’s pointed questioning. Kelly Magsamen, a senior official at the Center for American Progress, defended Abrams on Twitter as a “fierce advocate for human rights and democracy”. Likewise, Nicholas Burns, a 27-year diplomat who most recently advised former secretary of state John Kerry, praised Abrams as a “devoted public servant”. “It’s time to build bridges in America,” Burns wrote, “and not tear people down.”
If Democratic leaders were incredulous at Omar’s statements, rank-and-file Democrats were just as incredulous at their party leaders. Why, many asked, is it routine to criticize the influence of NRA money but almost forbidden to question the influence of Aipac money? On top of that, how could Trump’s neocon criminal be lauded as some sort of ally while Omar was treated as a pariah? A Twitter torrent caused Magsamen to delete her tweet and apologize.
Personalities aside, however, the episode is charged with significance for the Democratic party as a whole. Omar is not going away. She represents the party’s younger generation, a more diverse and progressive cohort that came of age in the war on terror. In the election of 2016, such voters balked at Hillary Clinton’s hawkish record and her courting of Never Trump neoconservatives. Now the divide is only wider and more entrenched. Democrats need to have a real conversation, immediately, about the party’s values and goals in foreign policy. Squelch it now and watch it resurge in 2020, with Trump the beneficiary.
Carlos Danger is out of the slammer!
Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner has been released from federal prison after being convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old girl in 2017. The Federal Bureau of Prisons website shows the 54-year-old New York Democrat is currently in the custody of its Residential Re-entry Management office in Brooklyn, N.Y.
It’s not immediately clear when Weiner was transferred and where he’s staying now, but Weiner will have to register as a sex-offender and spend three years on supervised release under the terms of his sentence.
The bureau website shows Weiner is slated to complete his sentence May 14, a few months earlier than scheduled because of good conduct in prison.
Jair Bolsonaro Praised the Genocide of Indigenous People. Now He’s Emboldening Attackers of Brazil’s Amazonian Communities.
The protection of Indigenous lands is guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution to preserve the rights and cultures of groups that have been persecuted for centuries. Brazil is home to approximately 900,000 Indigenous citizens from 305 tribes, most of whom live on reserves, but more than half of the locations claimed by Indigenous groups have not yet received government recognition. Bolsonaro, consistent with his anti-Indigenous stance throughout his career, said in a televised interview shortly after his election that if it were up to him, “there won’t be any more demarcations of Indigenous land.”
Any rollback of protections for Indigenous lands would pose a dire threat to the Amazon rainforest, which is being rapidly cut down by ranchers, farmers, and extractive industries. ... Meanwhile, armed bands of land grabbers, known as “grileiros,” have been staging attacks on Indigenous communities — a pattern of violence that has surged in the wake of Bolsonaro’s election, according to Indigenous leaders and allies interviewed for this article. “With Bolsonaro, the invaders are feeling more at ease,” Bitete Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, who lives on an Indigenous reserve, told The Intercept by telephone.
He referred to the invaders as “peons” sent by powerful bosses to cut down trees, burn undergrowth, and plant grass for cattle grazing — the first stage in the vastly profitable criminal enterprise of land-grabbing in the Amazon. ...
About 0.4 percent of Brazil’s population lives on federally protected Indigenous lands, which cover around 13 percent of national territory and contain some of the nation’s best-maintained forests. Climate scientists consider empowerment of Indigenous people and their lands as an important weapon in the fight against climate change. But regardless of who is running the nation, throughout recent history, those concerns have been sublimated to the short-term economic interests of major industries.
Seven rare right whale calves have been spotted so far this winter off Florida’s Atlantic coast, an encouraging sign for the critically endangered species but one which one expert said “still isn’t enough”.
No newborns were spotted during the last calving season and just five calves were counted during the previous year. ...
Scientists estimate only about 450 North Atlantic right whales remain. Jackson said right whales need to deliver 16 to 18 calves a year just to maintain their current population.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Rhythm Aces (Jabbo Smith, Omer Simeon, Cassino Simpson, Ikey Robinson) - Little Willie Blues
Jabbo Smith & His Rhythm Aces - Let's Get Together
Ikey Robinson & His Band - Got Butter On It
Ikey Robinson w. Jabbo Smith - Take Your Time
Banjo Ikey Robinson - Pizen Tea Blues
Ikey Robinson - A Minor Stomp
Ikey 'Banjo' Robinson - Get Off Stuff
The Pods of Pepper - You've Had Your Way
Banjo Ikey Robinson & His Bull Fiddle Band - Rock Me Mama
The Rhythm Aces (Jabbo Smith, Omer Simeon, Cassino Simpson, Ikey Robinson) - Jazz Battle