The Evening Blues - 6-12-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Memphis blues singer Furry Lewis. Enjoy!
Furry Lewis - East St. Louis Blues
“As long as a population can be induced to believe in a supernatural hereafter, it can be oppressed and controlled. People will put up with all sorts of tyranny, poverty, and painful treatment if they're convinced that they'll eventually escape to some resort in the sky where lifeguards are superfluous and the pool never closes. Moreover, the faithful are usually willing to risk their skins in whatever military adventure their government may currently be promoting.”
-- Tom Robbins
News and Opinion
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of our serviceman who was killed and his fellow servicemen who were wounded in Somalia. They are truly all HEROES.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
The US special operations soldier who was killed in Somalia (one of the “seven countries in five years” famously named in General Wesley Clark’s revelation of the US war machine’s plans for world domination) and the four others who were injured are not heroes. The US servicemen and women who have fought and died in America’s nonstop acts of military expansionism and wars of aggression are not heroes. They are victims. They are victims of a sociopathic power establishment which does not care about them, and never has.
If what I just wrote bothered you, it is because you have been conditioned to oppose such ideas by generations of war propaganda. If you believe that US soldiers are heroes, it means that you believe that they are fighting and dying for a noble cause; for your freedom, for democracy, for the good and the just. It turns the deaths of the fallen into a tragic but noble sacrifice in your eyes, which keeps you from realizing that they have actually been dying for the profit margins of war plutocrats, land and resource assets, and the neoconservative agenda to secure control of the planet.
There is nothing heroic about being thrown into the gears of the war machine and having one’s body and mind ripped apart for the advancement of plutocratic interests. But if your rulers can trick you into thinking that dead US soldiers died for something worth dying for, you won’t turn around and lay the blame on the war profiteers and ambitious sociopaths who are truly responsible for their deaths. So they lie to you. Constantly.
People often counter this notion by pointing at World War 2, about which a case for the possibility of heroism in war can indeed be made. But the fact that this argument needs to reach back 73 years to the very brink of living memory in order to find a justifiable US war tells you everything you need to know about the weakness of that argument. Since 1945, when human civilization looked completely different and America itself was still an apartheid state, we have seen the US military spread around the globe, collapse nations, and butcher millions upon millions of people, all at the expense of the lives of US military personnel, and all without just cause.
The people whose lives have been used like Kleenex and discarded by the US war machine did not die for a good cause. They did not die fighting for freedom or democracy. They are not heroes. They are victims.
The Yemen War is spiraling out of control. The Saudi/UAE/U.S. coalition bombed a Doctors Without Borders cholera treatment facility earlier today.
Let me repeat that - the U.S helped bomb A DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS CHOLERA TREATMENT FACILITY.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 11, 2018
After the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières on Monday announced that a newly constructed cholera treatment center in Yemen was bombed on Monday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)—who has led the fight in the U.S. Senate to end the U.S. military's key role in assisting Saudi Arabia's assault on its war-torn and poverty-stricken neighbor—lashed out in disgust and anger on social media.
According to MSF, the clinic in the city of Abs was empty at the time and no patients or medical personnel were injured or killed in the attack, but the building—which the group says was clearly marked on its roof as a healthcare facility—is now completely non-functional and operations have now been suspended in the area.
"This morning's attack on an MSF cholera treatment center (CTC) by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition (SELC) shows complete disrespect for medical facilities and patients," declared João Martins, MSF's head of mission in Yemen. "Whether intentional or a result of negligence, it is totally unacceptable. The compound was clearly marked as a health facility and its coordinates were shared with the SELC. With only half of health facilities in Yemen fully functional, nearly 10 million people in acute need, and an anticipated outbreak of cholera, the CTC had been built to save lives. MSF has temporarily frozen its activities in Abs until the safety of its staff and patients is guaranteed."
— MSF Yemen (@msf_yemen) June 11, 2018
The United Arab Emirates has given the UN less than 48 hours to try to negotiate a Houthi ceasefire at the strategic Red Sea port of Hodeidah before it mounts an attack on the port through which the bulk of food, medicine and gas to the rest of Yemen is distributed. Urgent British-led efforts at the UN were under way to dissuade the United Arab Emirates and the Saudis from pressing ahead with the attack – or at least to give undertakings that it will not seek to starve Hodeidah into submission. Aid agencies have warned that an attack would have catastrophic consequences. ...
After briefing the security council on Monday, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters that “if for any period Hodeidah were not to operate effectively the consequences in humanitarian terms would be catastrophic”. ...
The UK’s Middle East minister, Alistair Burt, repeatedly urged the UAE not to mount an attack, but he told MPs in the Commons that it would only be a breach of international law if the attack was used as a matter of policy to attempt to starve the population. ...
But there was little sign that either the British or the Americans were willing to announce a halt to arms sales to Saudi or any other similar mark of disapproval of the Saudi assault.
Trump came face to face with North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on Tuesday morning just a few minutes after 9:00 am local time, marking the official start of an unprecedented geopolitical gambit aimed at convincing the Hermit Kingdom to give up its nukes.
The two leaders kicked off the summit with a private meeting, joined by just their translators, that stretched for the the better part of an hour. The action is unfolding at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island, an old pirate hangout turned into a neatly manicured resort covered in golf courses. ...
The two then spent the better part of an hour together behind closed doors. Afterward, Trump and Kim emerged on the veranda of the hotel and waved to the assembled journalists.
Trump announced the two have an “excellent relationship,” and that the summit had so far been “very, very good.”
The meeting caps weeks of high-wire diplomacy: Even in the hours leading up to the summit’s launch, emissaries held feverish talks aimed at producing a joint statement both sides could endorse.
Trump Vows to End “Provocative” War Games on Korean Peninsula After Historic Summit with Kim Jong-un
Donald Trump has ordered the suspension of US military exercises with South Korea, in a surprise concession at an extraordinary summit with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. The US had previously ruled out such a move on the grounds that the exercises were a key element of its military alliance with Seoul and deterrent against North Korea.
In return for the US concession, Kim signed a joint statement committing to denuclearisation, but it was a vaguely worded commitment that the regime has made several times before over the past three decades. Asked what would be different this time, Trump pointed to his instincts as a dealmaker. “We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time,” Trump told reporters. “I know when somebody wants to deal and I know when somebody doesn’t.”
As proof of Kim’s good intentions, Trump said Kim had offered to destroy a missile engine testing site. “I got that after we signed the agreement,” he recalled. “I said: do me a favour. You have this missile engine testing site … I said can you close it up. He’s going to close it up.” Nuclear weapons experts suggested the site in question could be the Hamhung missile site, thought to have been damaged in a recent engine test. They said it was a minimal part of North Korean weapons programme.
By contrast, the cancellation of the military exercises has been a priority for North Korea for decades. Surprising US allies in the region, Trump declared that the war games, involving planes flying long distances, were too expensive. “We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, it is very provocative,” Trump said. ... The outcome of the summit appeared to be a solution that had been championed by Beijing, a “freeze for freeze” in which the North Koreans continue to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests while the US halts military exercises and does not impose new sanctions.
It is solution that the US had hitherto rejected, arguing that it implied an equivalence between North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and South Korea’s right to maintain its defences in concert with allies. Both the South Korean government and US forces in the region appear to have been taken by surprise by Trump’s declared suspension of joint exercises.
Western military commanders have grown increasingly worried about Russian submarines lurking around internet cables at the bottom of the ocean. On Monday, the U.S. did something about it. The Treasury Department slapped sanctions on a string of Russian companies for allegedly helping to develop cyber capabilities and submarine hardware for Russia’s main spy agency, the FSB. The department also warned that Moscow may be monitoring internet cables at the bottom of the ocean.
The new measure sanctions a handful of companies and their executives, including a Russian submarine-maker called Divetechnoservices, which got paid $1.5 million to deliver a special submarine to the spy agency, according to the Treasury’s statement. “Today’s action also targets the Russian government’s underwater capabilities,” the statement reads. “Russia has been active in tracking undersea communication cables, which carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunications data.”
Western military leaders have expressed anxiety about Russian subs reportedly hanging around at the bottom of the ocean near the long cables that carry much of the world’s data between continents. The concern is that Russia could either tap into those cables to do some next-level internet espionage — or, in the event of a crisis, cut the cables and sow chaos through the global economy.
As FAIR has noted before (7/3/16, 12/30/17), centrist and liberal media have a disturbing tendency to rehabilitate some of the most vile, reactionary forces on the American right simply because they say vaguely negative things about Donald Trump—a phenomenon we call “Trumpwashing.” In the understandable service of shoring up forces against a destructive president, producers and editors check their memories at the door and help rebrand a laundry list of war criminals, anti-LGBTQ weirdos and Islamophobic media hustlers simply because they also happen to not like Trump.
The latest version of this terrible trend is the recent veneration of retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters. A long-time Fox News presence, Peters quit the network in March to much fanfare, calling it a “propaganda machine” in service of Trump. But Peters is a strange arbiter of what is and isn’t propaganda, given his long history of bigoted, warmongering virtrol. From insisting Islam “is not a religion of peace,” to constantly suggesting Black Lives Matter and Obama were Islamists, to calling Yemenis “primitive,” to writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal headlined “Civilian Casualties: No Apology Needed” (7/25/02), Peters has been one of the most bloodthirsty hawks and overtly anti-Muslim trolls in American media. He even lobbied for one of the very things he criticizes Putin for doing, the killing of journalists—calling for “military attacks on the partisan media” in the Journal of International Security Affairs (5/24/09).
But now that he dislikes Trump for being mean to his friends in the US intelligence community, he can find a home again on CNN as a Respectable, Reasonable Republican—that most cherished of endangered species, in urgent need of protection. His appearance last week on Anderson Cooper 360 (6/7/18) was given several glowing write-ups in the US press, eager for a defection narrative.
The indictment of James Wolfe, 58, former security director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), has sent shockwaves around Washington. Wolfe faces three counts of violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, for making false statements to criminal investigators, and could easily face serious jail time if convicted. After a year of leaks cascading down Capitol Hill, Wolfe is a cautionary tale for many members, staffers and journalists. Yet, one person should be especially discomforted by the indictment: former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. ...
The only person who should be more worried than staffers and journalists by the Wolfe charges is McCabe. He is already embroiled as the subject of a referral by the Justice Department inspector general for possible criminal prosecution. This referral by career Justice Department officials is based on their finding that McCabe knowingly lied to investigators about leaking information to the media.
It was bad enough for McCabe that he was involved in the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was charged with the same violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001 for lying to investigators. Now, Wolfe is charged under the same provision for a leak to the media. For McCabe not to be charged would lead to a torrent of criticism over the failure of the Justice Department to apply the same standards to its own lawyers.
McCabe’s giving information to the Wall Street Journal is not in dispute. He claims that his boss, at the time FBI director James Comey, knew and either explicitly or implicitly approved of the leak. Comey directly contradicts McCabe and says he failed to tell the truth. In response, McCabe’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, has ridiculed Comey’s “white knight” account and said that Comey is offering a false narrative.
Canadian diplomats are scrambling to mend a deteriorating relationship with its largest trading partner after senior US officials maintained the rhetorical barrage first unleashed by Donald Trump at the G7 meeting in Quebec. Foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland will travel to Washington this week for a visit which will focus on trade talks – but also attempt to reset relations between the two countries, which have been pushed to their lowest point in recent memory amid an increasingly bitter row over trade.
The sharp escalation has shocked experts and fuelled worries of a devastating trade war, one which Canada, a middling economic power, would likely lose. “There have been moments of tension in various times in the history of Canada-US relations, but I’ve never seen or heard of anything like the type of language the US administration has used towards Canada,” said Roland Paris, an international affairs scholar and former advisor to Trudeau. ...
“We have to prepare for the worst now,” said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and head of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “There’s a lot of damage control going on today and for the next few days,” he said. The US remains Canada’s largest trading partner, a relationship valued at $673.9bn, but Trump has claimed Canada has a trade surplus with the US, a statement not backed up by any evidence.
Campaign managers for Colombia’s rightwing presidential candidate Iván Duque were probably hoping to create a bit of a buzz with a campaign rally ahead of next week’s election, but the event turned into fiasco after it was attacked by a swarm of angry killer bees. Scores of people were caught up in the bizarre incident on Saturday, including former president Álvaro Uribe, who was stumping on behalf of his protege Duque.
Uribe had been scheduled to address supporters in La Loma, a small town in the northern Cesar province, but was forced to run for cover before he could give his speech. Fifteen people were taken to hospital, but were later discharged. ...
The attack took place a week before the second round of a presidential election in which Duque – a conservative hardliner – will face off against leftist former rebel Gustavo Petro. ... At stake in the vote is a fragile peace process with guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Farc). The deal – which Petro supports – has been strongly opposed by Duque.
A jogger in Oakland has been caught on camera trashing a homeless man’s belongings in the latest viral incident to spark debate about gentrification and racism in California. Video spread on social media over the weekend showing the jogger rifling through a local homeless man’s possessions in a public park, dumping blankets into a lake and carrying property to a nearby trash can as a group of onlookers tried to stop him.
“I’m picking up trash, what do you want me to do? Look at this,” the man said in the video, which was captured by JJ Harris, an Oakland film-maker and photographer. “It’s disgusting.”
In an interview Monday, Harris said: “I was just completely taken aback ... This is a homeless man’s stuff – a guy who is always peaceful, never causing trouble, always giving you a smile. That he would do this to another human being, the lack of compassion is astonishing.”
The episode happened at Lake Merritt, a popular Bay Area park and the site of another recent viral video of a white woman calling police on two black men barbecuing. That woman, who became known internationally as “BBQ Becky”, was the latest in a series of examples of white people calling law enforcement on African Americans going about their daily lives and harassing people of color with racist rants.
The jogger, who is white and was wearing large headphones, mostly ignored other park-goers who said they knew the homeless man and that he had long stayed in that spot. Supporters, who have raised nearly $2,000 for the man since the Friday incident, identified him as Drew.
On Tuesday, dozens of media outlets broke what at first seemed to be a major story about “the government” announcing that Social Security and Medicare will be broke in less than 20 years:
- Medicare Will Become Insolvent in 2026, US Government Says (AP, 6/5/18)
- Medicare’s Trust Fund Will Be Depleted in 2026: Trustees Report (The Hill, 6/5/18)
- Trustees Report That Social Security Benefits Are at Risk in 16 Years (Forbes, 6/5/18)
- Social Security Must Reduce Benefits in 2034 if Reforms Aren’t Made (CNN, 6/5/18)
If the lifelines of millions of poor, elderly and disabled were going to crumble in less than a generation, this would be major news indeed. But they’re not really. Or, at least, we have no objective reason to believe they will, since the authors of the report was not “the government,” as it’s generally understood—the Congressional Budget Office, or some other ostensibly bipartisan “commission” sanctioned by “both parties” - but the not-so-reliable Trump White House. The same White House that has a long, documented track record of venality, lying and corruption, and leads a Republican Party that has been quite explicit in its desire to “reform” Social Security and Medicare through slashing and privatizing.
The report was commissioned by the US Social Security Trustees, a benign-sounding but overtly partisan group of people all appointed by Donald J. Trump. ... Three of the “trustees,” Mnuchin, Acosta and Azar, are Trump cabinet members. ... The report is a partisan document produced by partisan actors. ...
Though the “insolvency” of entitlement programs is not a universally agreed-upon fact, the imminent fall of the fiscal sky is not put up for debate. Corporate media ought to subject this claim to skeptical scrutiny, not mindlessly repeat it because some Trump flunkies said so.
Attention attention breaking news Triple Crown winner justify has just turned down an invitation to visit the White House ask why the Triple Crown winner said if I wanted to see a horse's ass I would have finished second
— Steve the electrician (@Steve03343829) June 11, 2018
Democrats attempting to look like they are not among the authors of the U.S. inequality problem before an election cycle:
Bernie Sanders and a group of top Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to present a plan to Congress to combat “massive levels of deprivation and the immense suffering this deprivation causes”, following an excoriating United Nations report into extreme poverty in America.
In a congressional letter delivered on Tuesday to Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, the group said the UN report was “a call to action that we must heed”. They stand ready, the signatories say, to work with the Trump administration “to address appalling rates of child poverty, destructive economic policies that benefit the wealthy over the working poor … and lack of access to basic necessities in rural and underserved communities”.
The group specifically urges Trump to put the convention on the rights of the child before the Senate for ratification. The US is the only country in the world that has failed to ratify the treaty and the letter writers say “it is shameful that more than 13 million children live in poverty in this country and that, on any given night, more than one in five homeless individuals are children”. ...
The congressional intervention comes in response to the official report of the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, who acts as global watchdog on the human rights implications of deprivation. Following a two-week tour of the US in December that took him to several of the most poverty-stricken parts of the country, he issued a scathing critique of the fact that 40 million Americans live in poverty and more than five million experience levels of absolute deprivation associated with the developing world. Alston will present his findings to the UN human rights council in Geneva on 21 June.
Some of Africa’s oldest and biggest baobab trees have abruptly died, wholly or in part, in the past decade, according to researchers. The trees, aged between 1,100 and 2,500 years and in some cases as wide as a bus is long, may have fallen victim to climate change, the team speculated. “We report that nine of the 13 oldest … individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years,” they wrote in the scientific journal Nature Plants, describing “an event of an unprecedented magnitude”.
“It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages,” said the study’s co-author Adrian Patrut of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania. Among the nine were four of the largest African baobabs. ...
Between 2005 and 2017, the researchers probed and dated “practically all known very large and potentially old” African baobabs – more than 60 individuals in all. Collating data on girth, height, wood volume and age, they noted the “unexpected and intriguing fact” that most of the very oldest and biggest trees died during the study period. All were in southern Africa – Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia.
The baobab is the biggest and longest-living flowering tree, according to the research team. It is found naturally in Africa’s savannah region and outside the continent in tropical areas to which it was introduced. It is a strange-looking plant, with branches resembling gnarled roots reaching for the sky, giving it an upside-down look. The iconic tree can live to be 3,000 years old, according to the website of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a natural baobab habitat.
Climate change will increase the risk of simultaneous crop failures across the world's biggest corn-growing regions and lead to less of the nutritionally critical vegetables that health experts say people aren't getting enough of already, scientists warn. Two new studies published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences look at different aspects of the global food supply but arrive at similarly worrisome conclusions that reiterate the prospects of food shocks and malnutrition with unchecked global warming. While developing tropical countries would likely be hardest hit, the destabilizing financial effects could reach all corners of the globe, the authors say.
One paper analyzed corn—or maize—the world's most produced and traded crop, to project how climate change will affect it across the major producing regions. Much of the world's corn goes into feeding livestock and making biofuels, and swings in production can ripple through global markets, leading to price spikes and food shortages, particularly for the 800 million people living in extreme poverty.
The researchers found significant differences in corn yield depending on how high global temperatures rise. An increase of 4 degrees Celsius—close to where the current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory would take us by the end of this century—could cut U.S. corn production by nearly half. If global warming is instead held to 2°C (the goal of the Paris climate agreement is to stay below that level) the projected loss in U.S. production would be closer to 18 percent, the researchers found.
While those numbers are pretty dramatic, the researchers find that the chances of the top-producing regions suffering extreme yield losses at the same time rises, too. When the researchers looked at the four biggest corn exporters—the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine—they found that the likelihood of all four suffering yield losses of 10 percent or more at the same time rises from about 7 percent at 2°C warming to 86 percent at 4°C warming. Such simultaneous shocks in the top-producing regions, which are rare now, could have significant impacts on global markets and drive up the price of food.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Furry Lewis - Everybody's Blues
Furry Lewis - Kassie Jones
Furry Lewis - Black Gypsy Blues
Furry Lewis - Old Blue
Furry Lewis - Done Changed My Mind
Furry Lewis - Jelly Roll
Furry Lewis - Im Going To Brownsville
Furry Lewis & Will Shade - Muscle Shoal Blues
Furry Lewis - Billy Lyons And Stack O'Lee
Furry Lewis + Backwards Sam Firk - I've Got A Bird To Whistle
Furry Lewis - Roberta