The Evening Blues - 4-8-16
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features bluesrocker Stevie Ray Vaughan. Enjoy!
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Pride And Joy
“There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one--on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful--as usual--will shout for the war. The pulpit will--warily and cautiously--object--at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, 'It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.' Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers--as earlier--but do not dare say so. And now the whole nation--pulpit and all--will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”
-- Mark Twain
News and Opinion
One of the deadliest airstrikes in Yemen since a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began bombing the country used munitions supplied by the United States, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
The March 15 attack targeted a crowded market in the village of Mastaba in northwestern Yemen, killing at least 97 civilians, including 25 children. HRW said it found remnants of a “GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb, which consists of a U.S.-supplied MK-84 2,000-pound bomb mated with a JDAM satellite guidance kit, also U.S.-supplied.” The group said it also reviewed evidence provided by British news channel ITV, which found remnants of an “MK-84 bomb paired with a Paveway laser guidance kit.”
The report provides yet more evidence of U.S. complicity in the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Yemen. The Obama administration has been a key military backer of Saudi Arabia in its yearlong campaign against a rebel movement in Yemen known as the Houthis. In addition to billions of dollars in arms sales, the Pentagon has provided the Saudi-led coalition with logistical and intelligence support. Human Rights Watch said the U.S. role may make it “jointly responsible” for war crimes.
I suppose that you wouldn't want to allow Syrians to write their own constitution. I wonder why such a document is needed, since the power to choose their government does not reside in the people, rather it resides with the US empire.
According to diplomats familiar with the situation, US and Russian officials have begun the process of writing the new constitution for Syria, with officials saying they want the framework in place by August.
The plan has always been for the Syrian civil war to be resolved by a new constitution leading to elections, but the absence of any Syrian involvement in the penning of the new document is conspicuous, underscoring how much of the effort is still just the international community imposing a “solution” on Syria.
I can remember back when we used to call what the Pentagon is engaging in here as "lying." I guess now it's called "public relations" or "information operations" and considered normal discourse.
Under a negotiated deal with Iraq, the US is allowed to deploy a maximum of 3,870 ground troops in the nation at any given time. In spite of this, the Pentagon has conceded that they have closer to 5,000 troops inside Iraq. They insist this isn’t technically a violation, because those extra troops are just “temporary.”
But how temporary? That’s not clear. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren today conceded that the 200 US Marines at Firebase Bell are all “temporary,” but that there is no scheduled end date for their operation, saying they are just going to stay until there is an “enduring solution.”
Way to go Hillary! Your humanitarian bloodletting in Libya is really paying off!
Outgoing US commander of AFRICOM Gen. David Rodriguez today claims that the ISIS affiliate in Libya has doubled in the past year, revising previous estimates of 1,000 to 3,000 fighters and saying they have between 4,000 and 6,000.
The Pentagon has been hyping the size of Libyan ISIS for months now, with eyes on expanding the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria into Libya as well. Gen. Rodriguez conditioned this on the new “unity government” in Libya getting into power.
A million troops is not enough to match US imperial ambitions
Speaking to Congress today with an eye on major additional spending hikes, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned that the planned force strength of 980,000 was far too small, and that there is a “high military risk” for the US to only have about a million troops.
Gen. Milley says there is “no way we can meet the imminent threats that we have around the world,” and that to handle all the “major operations” (i.e. wars) planned he wants at least another 220,000 troops on top of the planned number.
Milley estimated the cost at $1 billion for every additional 10,000 soldiers added, and warned that America would risk “literally having a hollow Army” if the money wasn’t spent, suggesting domestic military bases might have to be closed, something Congress almost universally opposes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's secret method for unlocking the iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters will not work on newer models, FBI Director James Comey said.
"We have a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones," Comey said at a conference on encryption and surveillance at Kenyon College in Ohio late on Wednesday. ...
Comey added that the technique would not work on the iPhone 5s and the later models iPhone 6 and 6s. The iPhone 5c model was introduced in 2013 and has since been discontinued by Apple as newer models have become available.
Ruling delivered by same judge who chose jurors in Sandra Bland case
A former Texas police deputy on trial for killing an unarmed woman without warning immediately after she opened the front door of a friend’s house was found not guilty on Thursday.
Daniel Willis was cleared of murder by visiting district judge Albert McCaig during a retrial 30 miles east of Austin.
Yvette Smith was seemingly trying to act as a peacemaker during a dispute between two men that involved a gun. She called 911 about half an hour after midnight on 16 February 2014. When Bastrop County police arrived at the house, at least one of the men was in the front yard and the worst of the disturbance appeared over.
Willis, who is white, saw Smith, a black 47-year-old former caretaker, and ordered her to come outside. As she opened the door he shouted “police!” then fired within about three seconds. She died in the hospital after being shot twice by the deputy, who was using his personal AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Judge McCaig usually works in Waller County, where the death of Sandra Bland last year in custody drew national attention. He helped choose grand jurors last year to analyze evidence related to Bland’s death. ...
The case raised broad issues about police accountability and localised questions about recruiting standards and the conduct of the sheriff’s department.
The San Francisco police chief’s account of the fatal shooting of a homeless man on Thursday was immediately challenged by two eyewitnesses, who said that the victim was not threatening police officers before he was killed.
The SFPD chief, Greg Suhr, said that police were called to a homeless encampment in the city by members of San Francisco’s homeless outreach team who reported a “suspect waving a large kitchen knife”.
Officers confronted a Latino man who refused their orders to drop his knife, even after he was shot four times with beanbag rounds, Suhr said.
The chief said the man then charged at the officers, and that two of them opened fire. Seven bullet casings were found at the scene. ...
However two witnesses, John Visor, 33, and Stephanie Grant, 31, who told the Guardian that they were less than 10ft away during the shooting, contradicted the police narrative.
“He didn’t charge at the officers. He was going in circles because he didn’t understand what they said,” Visor said. “He had a knife on him but he didn’t have it out. He had it on his hip, and when he hit the ground, that’s when it fell out.”
The US Treasury is re-examining its policies regarding shell companies, which can serve as tax havens for the rich, in the wake of the leak of 11.5m documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. Experts, however, are worried that instead of limiting the ability to hide wealth, one rule under review could actually enhance it. ...
On Tuesday, two days after the first batch of Panama Papers revelations had been published, Obama took the stage in the White House briefing room and described tax avoidance as a “big global problem” that is “not unique to other countries”.
“A lot of it’s legal but that’s exactly the problem,” he said. “It’s not that they are breaking the law, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people – if they’ve got enough lawyers and accountants – to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens have to abide by.”
By Wednesday, the Treasury let it be known it would soon release a rule that would require banks to obtain the names of people at the helm of shell companies seeking to open accounts with them.
The problem? Experts say it’s another one of those “poorly designed” laws that Obama spoke of. And this time it’s being implemented by the Obama administration itself.
After a week in which he has been forced into making daily public statements, British Prime Minister David Cameron finally admitted in a TV interview on Thursday that he once had a stake in his late father's offshore trust, which was named in the Panama Papers.
Opposition politicians immediately called on him to resign for being "less than honest" with the British people, and demanded he publish full details of his tax arrangements immediately. The topic #ResignCameron was trending on Twitter on Friday morning.
Cameron told ITV News that he had owned shares in the Panamanian trust, Blairmore Holdings, but had sold them in 2010, before becoming prime minister. ...
Cameron has been less than honest. He should resign immediately. Most decent people would expect nothing less. https://t.co/39aLSJnAeK
— John Mann (@JohnMannMP) April 7, 2016
He immediately faced accusations of hypocrisy, given his repeated past statements about tax evasion being "morally wrong." There were also calls by the opposition for him to resign after being "less than honest" with the British public. Cameron had spoken "out of both sides of his mouth" in recent days, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith told the BBC, arguing there were now "doubts about the prime minister's trustworthiness."
Thrown into disarray by a Panama Papers scandal, Iceland’s coalition government appointed a new prime minister on Thursday, refusing to call early elections to resolve a crisis in public confidence brought about by the revelation that three senior ministers had secret offshore accounts.
Opinion polls suggest that the government would be trounced in any immediate election, and most likely replaced by Iceland’s branch of the Pirate Party, a pan-European movement founded in Sweden in 2006 to fight for internet freedom and direct democracy. The Icelandic branch currently holds just three seats in the nation’s parliament, the Althing.
Protesters, who have massed outside the Althing in Reykjavik’s Austurvöllur square every day this week, have made it clear that they are not satisfied with just the bizarre resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who intends to keep his seat in parliament and remain in charge of his party despite officially ceding power to his deputy, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson. ...
After the finance minister, Bjarni Benediktsson spoke to the press on Wednesday night inside parliament, alongside the prime minister’s hand-picked replacement, Jóhannesson, one of the three Pirate representatives, Ásta Helgadóttir, expressed her indignation at the finance minister’s claim that the government had to stay in place because the opposition was “rubbish.” ...
Helgadóttir phoned The Intercept from the Althing a few minutes later to say that the reshuffle was “a farce” and the coalition’s plan to delay elections until an unspecified date in the autumn is “not what the people are asking for.”
An Argentine prosecutor has asked a judge to open an investigation into whether President Mauricio Macri committed the crime of "malicious omission" by failing to declare his role in offshore companies.
The move follows Macri's inclusion among 12 heads of state revealed to have links to offshore companies set up by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The revelations stem from a massive leak of 11.5 million documents from the firm that is known as the Panama Papers.
The cache showed that Macri was the director of a company called Fleg Trading that was created in 1998 domiciled in the Bahamas, and in operation until 2009. Separate investigations in Argentina also uncovered that the president was director of another offshore company created in 1981 and based in Panama. It is not clear if the company, that was called Kagemusha, is still in operation.
Macri did not include either company in any of the declarations of his assets he has made as an elected official. Particular attention has been paid to the period in which he was mayor of Buenos Aires in 2007 and 2008.
Now federal prosecutor Federico Delgado is arguing that an investigation is needed to find out whether Macri's failure to mention the company constitutes a crime.
Sanders trails Clinton by a mere six points in upcoming primary state Pennsylvania and delegate-heavy California
As presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders' Wednesday rally in Philadelphia drew a crowd so large the line stretched ten blocks, Quinnipiac released a poll showing Sanders making double-digit gains on Hillary Clinton's once-formidable lead in the state—narrowing it to just a six-point margin.
The Pennsylvania poll showed Sanders behind Clinton among likely Democratic voters 44 percent to 50 percent in the closed-primary state; previous polling had Clinton ahead by a full 17 points. The margin of error was 4.3 percentage points.
Echoing previous polling that shows Sanders' strength as a general election candidate, Quinnipiac's poll also found Clinton tying with Cruz in a general election match-up, while Sanders beat both Trump and Cruz handily.
And in California, which offers the significant prize of 475 delegates to the nominating convention, a poll (pdf) released Friday also showed Sanders slimming Clinton's lead to only six points.
In California, the recent survey "was brimming with red flags for Clinton, who has lost six of the last seven Democratic primary and caucus contests and has raised less money than Sanders the past three months. While Clinton has a large lead in the number of delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination, Sanders has enough money to continue running a robust campaign through the California primary," writes SFGate.
Bernie Sanders went after the media for “political gossip” Thursday before he doubled down on his sharp comments Wednesday night in which he questioned whether Hillary Clinton was qualified for the presidency.
“Any questions on the needs of the middle class of America before we get to political gossip?” Sanders asked following a brief news conference on trade in Philadelphia. “All right, now where’s your political gossip? OK, what do you got?”
The following question focused on the Vermont senator’s forceful rhetoric against Clinton at a rally on Wednesday. Sanders explained that he took issue with a Washington Post report on Clinton with a headline that said "Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president."
“That is what was thrown at me,” Sanders said. “Now, the other thing is that I believe the Clinton campaign told CNN, and I quote, that their strategy as we go into New York and to Pennsylvania, I guess, is quote, disqualify him, defeat him and unify the party later.” ...
Sanders stressed that he has tried to run a campaign that focuses on the issues. “It’s hard, as we can see,” he remarked. “The media’s not particularly interested about why the middle class declines, about wage and income disparity. That’s not what you’re interested in.”
Bernie backs down. Sad.
Bernie Sanders on Friday clarified comments he made earlier this week questioning rival Hillary Clinton's qualifications to be president.
"I've know Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I respect Hillary Clinton. We were colleagues in the Senate, and on her worst day, she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates," he said. Asked directly by host Savannah Guthrie whether Clinton was qualified to be president, Sanders replied, "Of course."
The fresh comments mark a contrast from what Sanders' take has been over the past several days, stemming from what he saw as attacks on his own qualifications from the Clinton campaign.
Riled by protesters who repeatedly interrupted a speech on behalf of wife and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on Thursday, Bill Clinton is now under fire (and trending on Twitter) for how he responded to those challenging the political pair's record on criminal justice and welfare reform passed under his presidency in the 1990s.
While several people near the front of the crowd shouted and raised signs—including ones that read "Hillary Clinton is a Murderer" and "Clinton crime bill destroyed our communities" — Clinton defended the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the welfare reforms he enacted, but apparently went "off script" by defending the idea of so-called young black "superpredators" and claiming that Black Lives Matter activists (who recently forced Hillary Clinton to apologize for her use of the term) are actually guilty of defending violent drug dealers and murderers.
"I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African American children," Clinton told the protesters at one point. "Maybe you thought they were good citizens, [but Hillary] didn’t... You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter. Tell the truth. You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns."
In his remarks, Clinton also said that black and other low-income communities should be thankful that the economy did so well under his presidency and dismissed the idea that poverty worsened because of his policies. If the reforms were so bad, Clinton asked his detractors in the crowd, "Then why do we have the largest drop in African-American poverty in history when I was president? The largest in history."
Writing for the New York Magazine, however, Eric Levitz pushed back on Clinton for defendeing his welfare reform by arguing it would have been successful if not for the later behavior of Republican lawmakers. Writes Levitz:
One problem with Clinton blaming Republicans for "taking away" people's welfare is that, without his law, they wouldn't have been able to. Before the welfare-reform act, the federal government guaranteed assistance to impoverished families with dependent children who met a given set of eligibility requirements. Clinton's law replaced that federal guarantee with block grants to the states. That allowed Republicans (and many Democrats) at the state-level to shift welfare spending away from their poorest, least politically engaged constituents. It was not difficult to predict that Republican governors would use this new authority in the manner Clinton now derides, or that a system of inflexible block grants would drive up the rate of extreme poverty.
I am used to Bill Clinton dog-whistling – trying to speak to conservatives in a frequency only they can hear. But like Hillary on Aids, we could all hear exactly what he was saying when he tried, and failed on Thursday, to defend his punitive 1994 crime bill and the 1996 so-called welfare reform bill, both of which were disastrous for black America. And he did so while acting like black people have been controlling the national narrative for 400 years and he couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“Can I answer?” He asked the screaming crowd. “Here’s the thing, I like protesters. But the ones who won’t let you answer are afraid of the truth.” In the next 10 minutes, he managed to threaten the Clintons’ inexplicable, decades-long lock on black voters. ...
He was also happy to throw black people from the 1990s under the bus: “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out into the street to murder other African American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens – she didn’t.” This goes to the heart of the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement, which ignited with the death of Mike Brown – “no angel” to the New York Times, but beloved by a new generation who see beyond the racist spin.
Bill Clinton doesn’t get this. He is still living in a world of 1990s respectability politics, trying to separate the “good” blacks he thinks will vote from “unworthy” blacks who’ve been marginalized. But Black Lives Matter is not interested in a world where black children must be made “to heel” and where fear-mongering is achieved by mentioning the racist trope of “13-year-old kids hopped up on crack”.
The Democratic frontrunner laughed off [Republican suggestions that she will be indicted for her actions in the email scandal] in an interview on NBC's Today Show that aired Friday morning, saying that Republicans who believe that she will be indicted over her email scandal "live in that world of fantasy and hope because they have a mess on their hands" in the Republican presidential primary.
Clinton explicitly dismissed the idea that the federal government will indict her, calling Republican hopes to the contrary both "false" and "ridiculous."
"That's not going to happen. There is not even the remotest chance that's going to happen," she said.
Clinton downplayed the significance of the FBI's investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, calling it merely "a security review."
Al Hoffman, a Florida real estate developer and ambassador to Portugal during the George W. Bush administration, gave over a million dollars in 2015 to Right to Rise, the Super PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s Titanic-like presidential campaign. ...
In a USA Today op-ed headlined “Big Donors Can Save Democracy From Donald Trump,” Hoffman tries to make the case that Trump has gone off the rails because he doesn’t have people like Hoffman telling him what to do.
Here’s how Hoffman puts it: “Large donors … often serve as an executive board of sorts, challenging campaigns to act worthy of their investment.”
Hoffman writes, “Trump brags that he is without big donors. That may be true. But it also means he is without restraint. … In business and politics alike, oversight is a good thing.”
If you’re not paying close attention, that makes the whole process sound public-spirited and inspiring. If you are, however, you realize Hoffman is telling us that he and his cohort see their money as buying them seats on the board of a corporation they ultimately control.
Human population growth has followed the trajectory of a typical invasive species, says a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and that suggests there may be a looming global population "crash."
"The question is: Have we overshot Earth’s carrying capacity today?" said Elizabeth Hadly, a professor in environmental biology at Stanford University and senior author of the paper, in a press statement.
"Because humans respond as any other invasive species," Hadly continued, "the implication is that we are headed for a crash before we stabilize our global population size."
The study examined 1,147 archaeological sites via radiocarbon dating to understand the patterns of human population growth in South America. As a successfully invasive species, upon arrival "humans spread rapidly throughout the continent," the study authors note.
Once humans reached the continent's carrying capacity—meaning its resources couldn't support further population growth—"consistent with over-exploitation of their resources," the study found that humans' population growth halted and the species "remained at low population sizes for 8,000 years."
"This coincided with the last pulses of an extinction of big animals," the study discovered.
However, about 5,000 years ago humans in South America did something unprecedented: they became sedentary, meaning that humans began creating villages, towns, and cities, rather than living in nomadic family groups. As a result, the invasive species' population boomed a second time.
"Practices such as intensive agriculture and inter-regional trade led to sedentism, which allowed for faster and more sustained population growth. Profound environmental impacts followed," the study found.
This is what makes humans perhaps the most successful invasive species yet: unlike animals whose population growth is limited by their natural environment, humans are capable of exponentially growing their population several times over, through the invention of new resource-exploiting technologies and cultural shifts such as the establishment of trade.
With Massey Energy boss Don Blankenship headed to prison and some of the industry’s biggest companies bankrupt, a historic transformation may be ahead
Don Blankenship, the former chief executive of Massey Energy and the coal industry he championed are both on the ropes. Blankenship is headed to prison and some of the biggest coalmining companies in the world are in bankruptcy or possibly headed that way –knocked out of electricity markets by cheap natural gas and the environmental regulations Blankenship so vehemently opposed.
Next week Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly traded coal company, will come to the end of a 30-day grace period to repay its crushing debts or fall into bankruptcy. ...
Three other coal giants have declared bankruptcy within the last six months, Arch Coal, Patriot and Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha bought out Blankenship’s old firm nine months after the Big Branch Disaster.
The US energy information administration last month released estimates showing coal production declining across the country by 29% in the first 10 weeks of 2016 compared with the same period last year.
The agency said it anticipates natural gas will overtake coal as the country’s biggest source of electricity this year – a projection that is expected to result in hundreds more layoffs in the coming months. ...
Until Blankenship’s sentencing this week, however, no coalmining executive had ever been sent to jail for putting coalminers’ lives in jeopardy by placing profit over safety.
The oil spill that shut down a portion of the Keystone 1 pipeline in South Dakota last weekend is much bigger than initially estimated, TransCanada admitted on Thursday—almost 100 times bigger, in fact.
The fossil fuel company said the "potential volume" of the spill in Freeman, discovered by a passerby on Saturday, was about 18,600 gallons, or 400 barrels.
That estimate comes just days after TransCanada initially claimed the spill totaled about 187 gallons, or approximately 4.5 barrels.
"The fact that the damage is even bigger than first reported proves: there is no such thing as a safe pipeline," Lindsay Meiman, communications coordinator for the climate group 350.org, told Common Dreams. "The only safe place for fossil fuels is in the ground."
Rampaging Radioactive wild boars causing havoc near Fukushima nuclear plant and 'breeding like rabbits'
Radioactive wild boars which are 'breeding like rabbits' are overwhelming the Fukushima Nuclear disaster zone.
The boar population, which has increased by 330 per cent in the four years since the disaster, has been devastating the crops of farms in the area.
Around 13,000 of the boars are in the exclusion zone, which stretches in a 12-mile radius from the plant. ...
Scientists from the Fukushima University Environmental Radioactivity Institute, who have been researching the spread of radioactive materials in the disaster area, said the boars have been raising their litters in abandoned houses. ...
There is no evidence so far that the health of the boars has been affected by exposure to radiation, although smaller animals and plants have been damaged.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Stevie Ray Vaughan w/Johnny Copeland - Tin Pan Alley
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Little Wing
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Look at Little Sister
Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan - Champagne and Reefer
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Couldn't Stand The Weather
A.C.Reed with Stevie Ray Vaughan - These Blues Is Killing Me
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Nashville 1987