The Evening Blues - 8-10-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jump blues and r&b musician Roy Milton. Enjoy!
Roy Milton - Baby Don't You Know
Making America Grating Again
Give me your dictators, your poor polluters yearning
not to worry if people breathe free, the gropable (“tens”
only, of course) women of your teeming beauty contests
and shores, send these, the Russian oligarchs, to take advantage
of me, as I worship my reflection in my hotel’s golden door.
— Bob Hicok
News and Opinion
The United Arab Emirates is on pace to contribute $20 million over the course of 2016 and 2017 to the Middle East Institute, one of Washington’s leading think tanks, according to a document obtained by The Intercept. The outsized contribution, which the UAE hoped to conceal, would allow the institute, according to the agreement, to “augment its scholar roster with world class experts in order to counter the more egregious misperceptions about the region, inform U.S. government policy makers, and convene regional leaders for discreet dialogue on pressing issues.”
The Emirates, according to the Associated Press, operate a network of torture pens in Yemen where detainees are grilled alive.
MEI was founded in 1946 and has long been an influential player in Washington foreign policy circles. It serves as a platform for many of the U.S.’s most influential figures, allowing them to regularly appear on cable news, author papers, host private briefings and appear on panels in between stints in government.
Washington’s announcement that the CIA has cancelled its program to support ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria – estimated to have cost the US taxpayer over $1billion and which has helped perpetuate a conflict in which up to 400,000 people have died, many in the most heinous way – was made recently in the manner of a multinational corporation wrapping up a failed business venture overseas.
There was no mention made that the program had been undertaken in violation of international law. No mention either of the fact it was in support of an insurgency largely been made up of non-Syrians, who over the past six years have descended on the country driven not by the desire to establish a democracy in the country but rather to impose religious and cultural tyranny. ... As for those who argue that the West has only ever supported moderate head-chopping fanatics in Syria, never the extreme kind, this is a preposterous distinction that the Syrian people have never had the luxury of embracing. ...
What did they think was going to happen? Did the CIA really believe their nice moderate rebels with their shiny new US-supplied weapons and equipment would slot into the conflict and remain inoculated from the attentions of the bad extremist rebels? Are they really so incredibly inept and disastrously ill informed about a region they have expended so much effort in trying to dominate over the past 70 years?
Rania Khalek is reporting from Syria. Here's a teaser from her latest report:
Ahmad Kaboul has big shoes to fill. Earlier this summer, his childhood friend and commanding officer of the Golan Brigade, Majed Hamoud, was killed by Jabhat Al Nusra, Syria’s al Qaeda affiliate, which now goes by the name Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.
Founded as one of the dizzying array of fighting units in Syria’s six-year civil war, the genesis of the Golan Brigade was one of the most remarkable. The brigade was established in 2014 by Syrian fighters who had defected from the Free Syrian Army rebel group after they made a shocking discovery: their unit had been coordinating with the Israelis.
After switching sides to support the Syrian government, they witnessed the Israeli military providing direct air cover for attacks launched against them by Al Qaeda. The Israelis even tried to kill Majed on several occasions before Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, Nusra, finally did him in.
This July, I met veterans of the Golan Brigade and heard their stories. They painted a picture of the war that stood almost entirely at odds with the dominant narrative of the conflict spun out in Western mainstream media. And this is perhaps why they have received so little attention.
President Trump has suggested he’s going to claim a violation [of the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran] next time, and [Ambassador to the UN Nikki] Haley is reportedly planning to visit the IAEA in Vienna later this month, with the visit expected to focus on Iranian compliance. The IAEA has affirmed Iran remains in compliance monthly since the deal went into effect.
Neither Haley nor Trump are believed to be particularly concerned with the factual details of compliance, so much as declaring Iran in violation would give them a pretext to withdraw from the deal, and escalate sanctions and military threats against Iran. ... Haley’s visit, then is likely to be done mostly to make a show of engagement with the international community ahead of declaring the violation.
Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2013
Like some demonic Hollywood director, President Trump keeps finding new ways to make us jump out of our seats, just when we think we’ve seen everything. On Tuesday, he outdid himself by twice pledging to meet any further North Korean threats to the United States “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” His headline-grabbing comments were sufficiently incendiary that White House staffers rushed to reassure reporters (and the public) that the President was just improvising, not speaking from an approved script. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted that the President simply meant to say that “the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack . . . So the American people should sleep well at night.”
People at home and around the world were rattled but not too alarmed, judging by the modest drop in stock prices on U.S. and foreign exchanges. North Korea responded to Trump’s threat with a threat of its own to vaporize Guam, yet no war broke out. So far, leaders of both countries, like taunting schoolboys, seem content to lob only harsh rhetoric across the ocean, not fully armed missiles. It’s easy to discount Trump’s bluster, based on his long history of practicing the art of “bullshit.” Maybe he’s just trying to make Chinese leaders nervous about his intentions, so they try a little harder to rein in Pyongyang. Surely he understands by now just how devastating a war with North Korea would be, right?
I’m not so sure. What increasingly keep me up at night are the uncontradicted claims of one of the GOP’s leading foreign policy spokesmen, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, that Trump is ready and willing to launch a preemptive war “if [North Korea tries] to keep developing an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top to hit the [U.S.] homeland.” ... The Trump-Graham doctrine recalls the George W. Bush administration’s justification for preemptive war against Iraq in 2003 — with the key difference that North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction are real, not mythical. Contrary to all evidence, Trump appears to believe that America’s immense nuclear arsenal will be insufficient to deter North Korea from attacking the United States or its allies.
The last time the U.S. appeared this close to war with North Korea was 23 years ago. Back then, a Pentagon plan to send cruise missiles and stealth fighters to strike a North Korean nuclear reactor forced Pyongyang to the negotiating table. Now, as the war of words between the two countries escalates to unprecedented levels, experts aren’t convinced a similar threat today would intimidate the Kim regime.
Kim will stop at nothing to achieve his goal of building a nuclear missile arsenal, analysts told VICE News, predicting the North Korean leader will continue to flout U.N. sanctions and provoke Trump in an increasingly vitriolic war of words. His reasoning is remarkably straightforward: Having nukes gives the regime leverage and a sense of protection. ...
“Much of the [Trump] rhetoric about military actions or war with North Korea actually serves the interest of North Korea rather than U.S. interests,” said Lisa Collins, a fellow with the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The more Kim can create the perception of an external threat, the more he can tell his own people they have to work harder on nuclear weapons.”
Previous U.S. presidents have faced similar threats from Pyongyang, but the big difference now is that North Korea poses a credible nuclear threat, having successfully tested a missile capable of sending a warhead to the West Coast. Further, the latest round of sanctions may be celebrated as a diplomatic victory, but they aren’t likely to have much impact on Kim’s regime, which through black market trade, hacking enterprises, and clever financing, is better prepared to weather the economic punishment than previous regimes.
North Korea has defied threats of “fire and fury” from Donald Trump, deriding his warning as a “load of nonsense” and announcing a detailed plan to launch missiles aimed at the waters off the coast of the US Pacific territory of Guam.
A statement attributed to General Kim Rak Gyom, the head of the country’s strategic forces, declared: “Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him”. The general outlined a plan to carry out a demonstration launch of four intermediate-range missiles that would fly over Japan and then land in the sea around Guam, “enveloping” the island.
“The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA [Korean People’s Army] will cross the sky above Shimani, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures of Japan,” the statement said. “They will fly for 3,356.7 km for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40km away from Guam.”
The statement said the plan for this show of force would be ready by the middle of this month and then await orders from the commander-in-chief, Kim Jong-un. ...
The response from Pyongyang was its most public and detailed threat to date, and evidently meant to goad the US president. Trump had “let out a load of nonsense about ‘fire and fury’ failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation. This is extremely getting on the nerves of the infuriated Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA.”
Andrew Bacevich: Trump's Handling of N. Korea, His First National Security Crisis, is Very Troubling
An accidental spark could ignite a catastrophic conflagration in north-east Asia, Chinese state media has warned, after Donald Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea. In an English-language commentary, China’s official news agency, Xinhua, said “tit-for-tat confrontations” between Washington and Pyongyang would lead nowhere and argued dialogue was the only way to defuse the North Korean nuclear crisis.
South Korea, whose capital is just 35 miles from the North Korean border, needed to be particularly wary of how a “war of words” might spiral out of control. “For Seoul, an uncontrolled situation and even perhaps any accidental spark could trigger a conflict and prove to be a disaster it cannot afford,” Xinhua warned. ...
Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the Global Times, a nationalist Communist party-controlled tabloid, claimed the US would come off worse from any military clash with North Korea since it had far more to lose. “The US is more powerful than North Korea but in a real showdown I don’t think they would beat North Korea. There is a Chinese saying: ‘A man with nothing to lose, doesn’t fear a man with something to lose,’” he said in an online opinion video.
The Canadian military has been deployed to build a 500-person camp at a remote location at the border as authorities grapple with a growing number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada by foot from the United States.
On Wednesday, nearly 100 soldiers were sent to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle – just across the border from Champlain, New York – to erect heated tents to temporarily house as many as 500 people, the armed forces said in a statement. The site has become a popular crossing spot in recent months, with hundreds of people a day making the easy trip over a shallow ditch that connects both countries.
Since the start of the year, the numbers of asylum seekers entering Canada from the US has risen sharply. More than 4,000 of them – many of them driven by fears of Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants – have entered Canada at remote, unguarded locations along the border. By doing so, they aim to skirt a 2004 agreement between Canada and the US that forces most migrants to apply for asylum in the first country in which they arrive. ...
Authorities have responded by opening additional welcome centres. After hundreds of beds were set up last week in the city’s Olympic Stadium, officials opened similar sites in a former convent, as well as a decommissioned hospital. Asylum seekers will probably only spend a few weeks in the centres before being moved into longer-term housing while they wait for their claims to be heard.
50 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were “deliberately drowned” by a human smuggler as their boat neared the coast of Yemen, the UN’s migration agency said Wednesday. The war-torn country is a heavily trafficked gateway to the Gulf, and the migrants on board were hoping to reach safe haven from the war zones they were fleeing.
The International Organization for Migration said that a smuggler forced 120 migrants off the boat and into the rough sea near the coast of Yemen’s Shabwa governorate when they saw an official boat approaching. The agency said it found the shallow graves of 29 individuals, while 22 people are still unaccounted for.
The average age of the migrants onboard was 16-years-old.
Even as the list of targeted [Venezuelans] grows longer, promised economic sanctions have yet to materialize amid an outcry by the U.S. oil industry that a potential ban on petroleum imports from Venezuela — the third-largest supplier to the U.S. — would hurt U.S. jobs and drive up gas costs.
While most Venezuelan officials wear U.S. sanctions as a badge of honor — and are frequently rewarded with promotions as a result — Maduro faces a far greater threat if Trump follows through on economic sanctions against the OPEC nation. For all of Maduro's anti-capitalist rhetoric, Venezuela, which sits atop the world's largest oil reserves, remains highly dependent on oil exports to the U.S., especially for importing food and medicine — items in short supply as crude prices have fallen and triple-digit inflation wreaks havoc on the economy. ...
But since the election last month, no such action has materialized, leading some of Maduro's opponents to wonder whether the U.S. president has lost his nerve. The prospect of an import ban has alarmed U.S. oil companies that rely on Venezuelan crude. Nine companies, including Chevron, Valero, Citgo and Phillips 66, currently process Venezuelan crude in more than 20 U.S. refineries, most of them located along the Gulf Coast, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Many of these refineries are designed for the type of heavy crude that Venezuela exports and replacing those supplies would be disruptive and costly. ...
Six Republican congressmen from three of the states that process Venezuela's heavy crude — Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana — recently wrote a letter to Trump warning that banning Venezuelan oil imports would do more harm than good. While applauding the president for his efforts to counter "the disturbing decline of democracy" in Venezuela, the lawmakers, led by Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, said that it could jeopardize 525,000 refining-related jobs along the Gulf Coast.
Venezuela is the question on everyone’s lips. Rather, Venezuela is the question on reporters’ lips whenever they see Jeremy Corbyn: will he condemn the president, Nicolás Maduro? What is his position on Venezuela, and how does it affect his plans for Britain? The actual problems of Venezuela – a complex country with a long history that does not start with the previous president Hugo Chávez and certainly not with Jeremy Corbyn – are largely ignored or pushed aside. This is nothing new: most of the time, Latin America’s debates are seen through western lenses.
Of course, the situation in Venezuela is deplorable and worrying. But it’s easy to see that concern about Maduro’s undemocratic abuses don’t necessarily come from actual concern for the welfare of Venezuelan people.
Nearby neighbour Brazil has not been analysed or debated at length, even as it demonstrates similar problems. The country’s president, Michel Temer, recently escaped measures that would see him put to trial in the supreme court by getting congress to vote them down. The case against Temer was not a flimsy or partisan one: there was a mountain of evidence, including recordings of him openly debating kickbacks with corrupt businessman Joesley Batista. That a president put into power under circumstances that could be, at best, described as dodgy, manages to remain in power by buying favours from Congress, even as he passes the harshest austerity measures in the world should be enough to raise a few eyebrows internationally. But that has not happened, and Brazil has carried on as most stories about Latin America do: unnoticed and uncommented on. ...
[Brazil's] economy continues to sink, as the unemployment rate soars to 13%. That narrative isn’t very convenient, though, and nobody is interested in making Brazil the representative case of how capitalism is an undemocratic system doomed to fail.
Though some suggest the Republicans' effort to push through "tax reform" will likely fail like their effort to repeal Obamacare, the White House and its corporate allies have undertaken a coordinated campaign to ensure the passage of a tax code rewrite that stands to fatten the pockets of the wealthiest.
Launching Wednesday, for example is a $2.5 million TV ad from American Action Network (AAN), a conservative group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which claims "America's tax code is sabotaging our economy." The spending on the ad, which will run on national cable and air in 24 Republican-held congressional districts, marks half of the $5 million the group pledged to spend on its "full-scale campaign" to push the effort during the August recess.
The high-powered group, CNN notes, is just "one of many right-leaning organizations pushing Congress to act on the issue." Indeed, the ad comes amidst promotional efforts by Koch brothers-affiliated groups to bolster the GOP tax cut endeavor, including an ad blitz of their own and a line-up of events in 36 states. There's also a more stealth effort underway far closer to the Oval Office.
With this new agenda item on the docket, the Indivisible team is gearing up, writing on Twitter Wednesday morning: "Trump's tax cuts for the rich are what's next," and linking to a "toolkit" that offers a handful of questions constituents can ask their representatives on the issue during this month's recess.
Here's the first thing to know: this is not going to be true tax reform. Calling it "tax reform" suggests they intend to close corporate loopholes or address the growing wealth inequality that the current tax code fuels. But that's not what Republicans have in mind.
Instead, they want tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations paid for by taking away Medicare, Medicaid, and education funding. Since they want to pass their tax cut plan through the Senate with only 51 votes, they have to follow the rules of reconciliation. One of the rules is that the legislation can't add to the deficit after ten years—meaning that, in order to make their tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, they intend to make deep cuts to entitlements to offset them.
— Stef Lhermitte (@StefLhermitte) August 9, 2017
Greenland is burning. Not all of it—this northern island is mostly ice—but a cluster of large wildfires is currently spreading through western Greenland, near the town of Kangerlussuaq, a base camp for researchers studying the island’s ice sheets. The strange event has surprised researchers, who are unaccustomed to blazes of this size in the area.
At first, scientists thought traces of smoke in the satellite data from this region were anomalies in the data, says Jessica McCarty, assistant professor of geography at Miami University of Ohio. But a closer look revealed that the area was burning.
The fires started on July 31 and are still going strong. Researchers suspect that the fire is fueled by peat, a dark soil rich in organic material found throughout the northern latitudes. Besides peat, only grasses and rocks make up the landscape in this region, McCarty says. The largest of these fires covers an area that is 3,000 acres in size, and the blaze is likely the largest ever observed on the island, says Jeff Weber, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
Climate change has almost certainly contributed to this fire. Research shows that warming temperatures associated with human influences have already led to the melting and degradation of west Greenland’s permafrost, soil and sediment that usually stays frozen year-round. Rain has been sparse this summer, and temperatures have been slightly warmer than average, drying out the soil and grass and setting the stage for the fire, McCarty adds.
The US government’s withdrawal from dealing with, or even acknowledging, climate change may have provoked widespread opprobrium, but for Alaskan communities at risk of toppling into the sea, the risks are rather more personal. The Trump administration has moved to dismantle climate adaptation programs including the Denali Commission, an Anchorage-based agency that is crafting a plan to safeguard or relocate dozens of towns at risk from rising sea levels, storms and the winnowing away of sea ice.
Federal assistance for these towns has been ponderous but could now grind to a halt, with even those working on the issue seemingly targeted by the administration. In July, Joel Clement, an interior department official who worked with Alaskan communities on climate adaptation, claimed he had been moved to a completely unrelated position because of the administration’s ideological hostility to the issue.
“We were getting down to the brass tacks of relocation [of towns at risk] and now work has just stopped,” Clement told the Guardian. He has lodged an official complaint over his reassignment.
“Without federal coordination from Washington DC, there isn’t much hope. This will take millions of dollars and will take years, and these people don’t have years. I think it’s clear I was moved because of my climate work. It feels like a complete abdication of responsibility on climate change.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
Thomas Frank digs deep to find a glimmer of hope in the Democrats' alleged "Better Deal."
A Little Night Music
Roy Milton & Camille Howard - That's The One For Me
Roy Milton - Short, Sweet & Snappy
Roy Milton - Don't You Remember,Baby?
Roy Milton and his Solid Senders - Everything I Do Is Wrong
Camille Howard & Roy Milton and his Solid Senders - Groovy Blues
Roy Milton - It's Later Than You Think
Roy Milton - Have It Your Way
Roy Milton - Red Light
Roy Milton and his Solid Senders - Junior Jives
Roy Milton - You Got Me Reeling and Rocking