The Evening Blues - 4-11-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans blues guitarist Guitar Slim. Enjoy!
Guitar Slim - Later For You Baby
"Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach."
-- Joseph Stalin
News and Opinion
The Israeli army’s wanton slaughter of unarmed Palestinians trapped behind the security barriers in Gaza evokes little outrage and condemnation within the United States because we have been indoctrinated into dehumanizing Muslims. Islam is condemned as barbaric and equated with terrorism. The resistance struggle against foreign occupation, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or Gaza, sees Muslims demonized as the enemy. Muslims are branded as irrational and inclined to violence and terrorism by their religious beliefs. We attack them not for what they do but because we see them as being different from us. We must eradicate them to save ourselves. And thus we perpetuate the very hatred and counterviolence, or terrorism, that we fear. ...
Israel’s slow-motion genocide of the Palestinian people, justified by the racism and Islamophobia that are central to Israeli identity, has entered a new, deadlier phase. No longer constrained by any pretense of respecting human rights or a peace process, Israeli soldiers, although they are not threatened, fire indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed Palestinians, killing or wounding men, women, children, the elderly and journalists. The sheer number of the dead and wounded—nine or more Palestinians killed by Israeli fire and hundreds injured on Friday alone—testifies to raking the crowd with gunfire. In a civilized world, Israel would be immediately slapped with sanctions, boycotts and divestment—the only mechanism left to protect the Palestinian people from extermination—but we do not live in a civilized world. We live in a world where murder and racism are state policy, where the oppressed are dehumanized and unworthy of life and where our mutant demagogues and despots revel in the rivers of blood they create. ...
Stephen B. Jacobs has a warning from the past for America today: It’s happening again.
At 79 years old he is among the youngest of the living Holocaust survivors and was born six years after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. But Jacobs can remember life in the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald; what the Nazis did to him, his family, his friends. He worries about what’s happening right now in America, where he has lived and prospered since arriving a couple of years after Buchenwald’s liberation on April 11, 1945.
The American far-right appears emboldened since the election of President Donald Trump, who led an inflammatory, nationalist campaign. Since then, clashes like the one in Charlottesville are becoming almost commonplace.
“Things just go from bad to worse every day,” Jacobs, a successful New York architect who designed the Holocaust memorial at Buchenwald, tells Newsweek. “There’s a real problem growing.” So much so that Jacobs thinks there’s a “direct parallel” with Germany between the two world wars.
Perhaps more alarming than the far-right getting braver is the seep into mainstream politics of their hate, their talking points, their rhetoric. “It feels like 1929 or 1930 Berlin,” Jacobs speculated, ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018 on Thursday. “Things that couldn’t be said five years ago, four years ago, three years ago—couldn’t be said in public—are now normal discourse. It’s totally unacceptable.
With much of the world bracing for Donald Trump’s new missile strikes on Syria, the president’s legal authority to attack Bashar Assad is conspicuously AWOL. Assad isn’t subject to either of the two authorizations Congress passed after 9/11 to bless the use of military force. He’s not part of al Qaeda, nor a successor organization like the Islamic State—which is dubiously covered under the 2001 authorization as it is—nor is he part of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The closest Trump aides have come to providing a domestic legal justification for striking Assad, offered by his former secretary of state, is that Trump possesses the inherent authority to do so as commander-in-chief, a gigantic assertion last used—and ultimately abandoned—by George W. Bush’s administration. The implications are large and ominous, according to a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If [Trump] strikes Syria without our approval, what will stop him from bombing North Korea or Iran?” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
Trump’s casus belli is the apparent chemical weapons assault Assad launched on the Damascus suburb of Douma on Saturday. That assault, from which at least 70 are dead after an estimated 500 people were exposed, is “correctly characterized as a war crime,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law specialist at the University of Notre Dame. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. can legally respond, absent a United Nations Security Council resolution, which Assad’s ally Russia will veto. “Military force against Syria will violate international law just as surely as the use of chemical weapons. President Trump wants to enforce the law by breaking it,” O’Connell said. ...
Yet Congress typically does accept such broad assertions of presidential warmaking authority, as it’s the path of least political resistance. Congress stood idly by as Bill Clinton attacked Serbian forces in Kosovo in 1999 and as Barack Obama attacked Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. Both of those were lengthy military campaigns, not one-off strikes like Trump’s 2017 cruise-missile strike on Shayrat.
The civil war in Syria began in 2011 and escalated for five years during the Obama presidency, yet Barack Obama — despite demands from leaders of both parties and think tanks across the spectrum — never once bombed Syrian government targets. Although the CIA under Obama spent $1 billion per year to covertly train and fund Bashar al-Assad’s enemies, it was never close to enough to topple him: just enough to keep the war going. But Obama never bombed Assad or his military assets: a decision which, to this day, is scorned across official Washington. ...
Indeed, not only did Obama refuse to risk military confrontation with Russia in Syria, he sought in 2016 — after Russia annexed Ukraine — to form a military partnership with Vladimir Putin to bomb agreed-to targets in Syria. In contrast to Obama’s efforts to avoid confrontation with Russia, his successor has been far more belligerent — not only in Syria, but elsewhere. In April of last year, Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian military airfield near Homs; though it was quite limited, it was intended to send a message to Assad and Putin — and it was more than Obama was willing to do.
Over the past several days, Trump has made very clear that he intends to order another bombing campaign against Assad.
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
The exact danger Obama sought to avoid — military confrontation with Russia in Syria — is now upon us, being directly threatened by Trump. And Democrats — who spent years first scorning Obama for not becoming more militarily involved in Syria and then pushing Trump to be more hostile to Moscow — are, just as Clinton last year did, defending Trump’s military aggression. ... What makes this all the more dangerous is that Democrats, both because of ideology and political maneuvering, have painted themselves into a corner where they cannot possibly provide any meaningful, credible opposition to Trump’s increasingly dangerous path regarding Syria and Russia.
Amid escalating tensions between Russia and the U.S., former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged the two nations to "return to sanity" and said President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin should meet to engage in diplomacy rather than military confrontation over Syria.
Speaking to Interfax news agency, Gorbachev said Tuesday, "I am very alarmed."
"The situation hasn't been this bad in a long time, and I am very disappointed in how world leaders are behaving themselves. We see evidence of an inability to use diplomatic mechanisms. International politics has turned into exchanges of accusations, sanctions, and even military strikes," he said.
While he feels certain "no one wants a war," he noted the current "febrile atmosphere" and said that "ordinary people are not yet aware of the threat hanging over them."
Because Russia and the U.S. are at the sharp end of the current crisis, their leaders must meet," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate urged. "They need to meet half-way, for a day or two of serious negotiations with involvement from foreign and defense ministers."
Writing at TIME magazine last month—weeks before Trump warned that missiles "will be coming" at Syria and Russia's warning that any such missiles and their launch sites would be targeted in retaliation—Gorbachev argued that the achievements he and former President Ronald Reagan reached in terms of nuclear deescalation "are in jeopardy."
"More and more," he wrote, "defense planning looks like preparation for real war amid continued militarization of politics, thinking, and rhetoric."
As fears of a possible direct conflict between Russia and the United States mounted after U.S. President Donald Trump warned Moscow to "get ready" for missiles that "will be coming" at Syria in a series of tweets, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said in an interview Wednesday morning that a clash between the two nuclear powers in Syria could have devastating consequences across the Middle East.
"Just one spark may set the entire region on fire and open the door for the conflict," Canikli said in an interview on 24TV, a Turkish news broadcast.
"If an attack occurs against the forces [in Syria] backed by Russia or there is an attack by the U.S.-supported forces, Russia won't be able to stay away, otherwise it will lose its influence. So, serious clashes may start," Canikli added, urging the U.S., Russian, and Syrian governments to "act with restraint."
FSM help us, Tucker Carlson says a couple of intelligent things. If you can get past the garbage about the Mexican border wall, his arguments are surprising.
Tucker Carlson blasted those who feel the latest gas attack targeting Syrian civilians is a call to declare war on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Carlson said "talk-show generals" and war hawk politicians like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have "no real idea what happened." ...
Carlson noted that shortly before the attack, President Donald Trump said he would like to see an end to American involvement in Syria. "How would [gassing civilians] benefit Assad?" Carlson asked, calling instant calls for a response "foreign policy by viral video."
Last night Fox’s Tucker Carlson did what may have been the most amazing thing that has ever happened on American television. As the drums of war beat louder than they have in years, Carlson stared right into the camera and did the exact opposite of what every mainstream US pundit is doing right now: he told the truth. He told the truth about Syria. He told the truth about Yemen. He told the truth about the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma. He told the truth about the bipartisan war machine which drops all pretense of opposition the instant it’s time for bloodshed. He told the truth about what war is, what it costs, and what it does to our world.
He stood in stark, unequivocal opposition to the trajectory the Trump administration appears to be moving along. And he did it on Fox News.
For that reason we also need to stop attacking each other. People keep telling me I need to denounce Glenn Greenwald for advancing the mainstream narrative about chemical weapons and Bashar al-Assad, despite the fact that he’s been consistently and aggressively opposed to western interventionism in Syria. We don’t have that kind of luxury, people. We don’t have the luxury of rejecting anyone who’s willing to stand against the war machine, let alone a fellow leftist with a large and influential voice. We need all the help we can get.
Also, as I said on @DemocracyNow yesterday, I am 100% opposed to western military intervention in Syria under all circumstances, but claims that chemical weapons were used & that Assad did it should be fully accepted only after a credible investigation and evidence presented.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 10, 2018
Glenn cleans up a bit after a spill in aisle 9:
Are you drunk? pic.twitter.com/Sw0b4HgFZx
— charlesfrith (@jizzclone) April 9, 2018
You forgot to read the sentence to the end. pic.twitter.com/9JSvLPyYjt
— 'Australia' is a human rights abuser! (@BeeDemocracy) April 9, 2018
It's live TV. Something you say things less than ideally. I think the most likely perpetrator of this attack is Syrian Govt. I think evidence is overwhelming for prior attacks. I don't think one can say "overwhhelming" for this attack. I am 100% against western intervention.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 10, 2018
Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald Discuss Authoritarian Behavior of American Media Clamoring For War
It appeared to take just seconds for New York City police officers to pull up at an intersection in Brooklyn, get out of their vehicles, draw their weapons, and fire fatal shots at Saheed Vassel, a bipolar black man. The killing, which happened April 4, triggered unrest in Vassel’s community and comparisons to Stephon Clark, a black man shot in the back several times by Sacramento Police in March. In both instances, police thought the suspect had a gun — they did not.
At about 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the video, an unmarked vehicle plus a police SUV swerves up to an intersection in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Officers exit their vehicles swiftly, with what appear to be guns apparently drawn. There’s no audio, but at 2 minutes and 55 seconds, pedestrians start running for cover. Vassel, 34, was later transported to Kings County Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead.
The rapid sequence of events leading to Vassel’s death is in keeping with eyewitness accounts. Jaccbot Hinds, 40, told the New York Daily News that officers didn’t warn Vassel or try to de-escalate the situation before opening fire. “They just hopped out of the car,” Hinds said. “It’s almost like they did a hit. They didn’t say please. They didn’t say put your hands up, nothing.”
It turned out that Vassel didn’t have a gun. He was wielding a metal pipe.
As a matter of protocol, the New York Police Department does not make 911 calls public. In the rare occasions when it does, it is often in the service of building a narrative to justify police action. Such was the case at the end of last week, when, in response to growing community and online anger over the police shooting of Saheed Vassell in Brooklyn, police released partial transcripts of the 911 calls bringing their attention to the 34-year-old black Crown Heights resident with a well known history of mental illness.
The NYPD released the edited transcripts of three calls in which two unnamed individuals tell police that a man is pointing what looks like a gun at people, and a third caller states outright that it is a gun. One caller described Vassell as a “crazy man.” The police also made public edited clips of CCTV footage showing Vassell brandishing a silver, shiny object at a number of passersby — not a gun, but a small piece of metal piping. The point of releasing the transcripts and footage was clear: to convince an angered public that the 911 callers truly feared that a black man was threatening people with a gun in Crown Heights, and it was to this fear that police were responding.
In this fear — and its use as grounds for swift death-by-cop — Vassell’s Crown Heights community sees no justification, but rather another site of structural violence: gentrification. ... Vassell was well known and well liked in the community. Locals were well aware of his history of mental illness, but knew him to be harmless. Neighbors recalled that he was a regular feature outside Dons & Kings Barber Shop on Utica Avenue, offering to do odd jobs and chores. To longtime residents, he was known by name — not as some “crazy man.” For many, the very act of calling the police on a disturbed black man was proof of a sort of privilege that does not recognize the risks the police pose to black life, particularly when mental illness is involved.
“You are visitors in our communities,” Hortencia Peterson told the protest crowd — a mixture of locals and activists, many of whom were white — via megaphone. Peterson is the aunt of Akai Gurley, a young black man who was shot dead by police in 2014, despite being unarmed. “Stop calling 911. Blood is on your hands,” she said. Another protester, according to freelance journalist David Klion, said, “This is what your 911 call did. Stop killing black people. Stop killing black men. These officers are trained to murder black and brown people.”
Yvonne Staples, who sang alongside her family in the gospel-soul group the Staple Singers, has died aged 80, of colon cancer she was diagnosed with just two weeks ago.
She died at home in the South Shore area of Chicago, in the care of her siblings Mavis and Pervis Staples – all three sang in the group at various points, along with their late father Roebuck “Pops” Staples and late sister Cleotha Staples.
Democratic activists around the country have become energized by the nomination of Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state, kicking off a bout of organizing around foreign policy that has little precedent outside the lead-up to an imminent invasion. The question now is whether that enthusiasm will transfer to Senate Democrats themselves, or whether they will usher him through as they did in January 2017 when he was confirmed as CIA director. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voted to confirm Pompeo last year. ...
Pompeo, who previously represented Kansas in Congress, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, where Republicans hold a one-member advantage. But with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., having already announced his opposition, that means a united Democratic front could reject Pompeo in committee.
A nominee can still be brought to the floor for a vote despite having been shot down in committee, but nobody has been successfully confirmed that way in at least 40 years. The last to try, coincidentally, was John Bolton in 2005, when the committee recommended against his appointment as U.N. ambassador. He was filibustered on the floor and ultimately snuck through as a brief recess appointment. ...
That Pompeo was nominated along with Gina Haspel has only added fuel to the opposition. Haspel, deputy director of the CIA, has been named to head the agency, but she was intimately involved with the Bush administration’s torture program. (Her confirmation hearing is expected to be scheduled later this month.) The selection of the uber-hawk Bolton to be national security adviser one week after Pompeo and Haspel’s nominations frightened people into action, said Stephen Miles, director of Win Without War. “When Donald Trump hired John Bolton, the fight over Mike Pompeo went from being about just another terrible Trump nominee to potentially the difference between going to war or not,” he said. “What we’re hearing from our activists and our partners are that people are fired up.” (Bolton’s first day in the White House was Monday.)
House Speaker Paul Ryan will not run for re-election in November, according to a report Wednesday from Axios — a move that will significantly bolster Democrats’ ambitions of retaking the chamber in the November midterms.
For the 48-year-old Republican, long rumored to be leaving office, the decision to stand down was taken in consultation with confidants Tuesday night, Axios reports.
The Trudeau government says it was warned by public servants about the risks of civil disobedience or protests in advance of its 2016 decision to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project. But it wants to keep these warnings, delivered to ministers through internal briefings, a secret. Natural Resources Canada confirmed, in a new response to a request made by National Observer through access to information legislation, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet ministers were briefed internally about these topics in November 2016. But it has refused to release any of the material, citing a section of Canada's access to information legislation that allows the government to withhold records containing what it considers to be privileged information meant only for cabinet ministers.
"The documents which are relevant to this request have all been exempted from disclosure," the federal department said in its response to the access to information request in a letter dated April 9. ...
Revelations about the warnings have coincided with Kinder Morgan's threat to walk away from the project in the absence of guarantees that the federal government can ensure it can be built, despite strong opposition in British Columbia.
In Ottawa, Trudeau's cabinet held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss how to respond to what business leaders, bankers and oilpatch executives have described as a "crisis." A number of options are on the table, including investing taxpayer money to buy a stake in the fossil fuel project as well as invoking rarely-used constitutional powers to drive the project to its completion through B.C.
When a video of an emaciated and bedraggled polar bear searching for food on dry land emerged as a viral symbol of climate change in December, skeptics came running. “I’ve called this practice of filming dead or dying bears and splashing the photos across the pages of newspapers and the internet 'tragedy porn' — a kind of voyerism [sic] that leaves people open to emotional manipulation,” wrote Susan Crockford, a zoologist on her blog polarbearscience.com at the time. “The internet laps it up.”
In truth, no one knows if melting sea ice caused that particular bear’s food shortage. The bear could have been sick, not starving because of climate change, as scientists pointed out. Without an autopsy, no one can know for sure.
But a new study, published online Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal BioSciences, revealed that polar bears have, in fact, become a “poster species” for climate skeptics and deniers. Looking at 90 blogs — half of which recognized humans' role in climate change and half of which denied it — the researchers found that bloggers who deny melting sea ice or the plight of the bears also peddle misinformation to their readers about climate change. These bloggers exploit the difference between what scientists know for sure and what they can say is very likely, the researchers found. ...
Even one of the scientists who co-authored the study urged caution after the polar bear video went viral. “We cannot say, from the footage captured here, that this bear’s malnutrition was caused by global warming and its associated sea ice loss,” Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International wrote in a blog post at the time. But climate-denying bloggers, out to prove that global warming is a hoax, have latched onto that uncertainty and used it to push climate denialism. “The climate-denying blogs were saying that any level of uncertainty creates an opening for doubt,” Meena Balgopal, a professor of biology at Colorado State University and one of the study’s authors added.
Fires have raged in one of Nicaragua’s most important protected areas of tropical forest for more than a week, but the government has rejected an offer of assistance from neighbouring Costa Rica. Environmentalists in the Central American country have called on the government to appeal for international help to battle the blaze, which broke out in the Indio Maíz biological reserve on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast on 3 April and is estimated to have consumed more than 5,000 hectares (12,400 acres) of tropical rainforest.
“This is possibly the most dramatic ecological disaster ever experienced by Nicaragua, because it’s affecting a tropical rainforest – a very delicate and valuable ecosystem,” the prominent environmentalist Jaime Incer Barquero told the newspaper La Prensa.
Earlier this week, Costa Rica dispatched a team of firefighters – equipped with trucks, pumps and drones – to its northern border with Nicaragua, but they were turned away, the Costa Rica government said in a statement. The statement added that Nicaraguan officials said they would use the country’s own resources to fight the fires and Costa Rican assistance was unnecessary. But the environmentalist Gabriel Jaime, a member of the Nicaraguan environmental NGO Fundación del Río, noted that “relations between the countries have not been the best” due to a long-running border dispute.
A Mexican air force helicopter equipped for fighting fires has been allowed to operate in the affected area, and Nicaraguan officials say at least 800 soldiers have been dispatched. The Nicaraguan government says fires have charred 3,585 hectares in the reserve, but environmentalists warned the figure was likely to be much higher.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Guitar Slim - Quicksand
Guitar Slim - I Got Sumpin' For You
Guitar Slim - If I Should Lose You
Guitar Slim - I'm Guitar Slim
Guitar Slim - Stand By Me
Guitar Slim - Standin' At The Station
Guitar Slim - Oh yeah
Guitar Slim - Trouble Don't Last
Guitar Slim - You Give Me Nothin' But The Blues
Guitar Slim - Think It Over
Guitar Slim - Letter to My Girlfriend