The Evening Blues - 8-11-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues musician Buddy Guy. Enjoy!
Buddy Guy - Dont Tell Me About The Blues
"I may think that hornets do not have an ideal social organization. But I know better than to poke their nest."
-- Fred Reed
News and Opinion
US and South Korean militaries will go ahead with massive sea, land and air exercises later this month, despite a spiralling situation in which North Korea has threatened to fire missiles towards a US Pacific territory.
The annual joint exercises, named Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, have long been planned for 21-31 August, but now come at a time when both Washington and Pyongyang are on heightened alert, raising the spectre of a mishap or overreaction.
The timing is doubly concerning as it is within a timeframe in which Pyongyang says it will be ready to fire four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles toward the US-run island of Guam, an unusually specific threat against the US.
Washington and Seoul say the exercises, involving tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops, are a deterrent against North Korean aggression. In the past, the practices are believed to have included “decapitation strikes” – trial operations for an attempt to kill Kim Jong-un and his top generals, further antagonising a paranoid leadership.
Donald Trump kept up his brinksmanship on North Korea on Friday with a morning tweet claiming US military options were “locked and loaded” for use if Pyongyang “acted unwisely”. There was no change in US deployments in the region or a change in the alert status of US forces.
Speaking to reporters earlier, the US defence secretary, James Mattis, said a conflict on the Korean peninsula would be “catastrophic” and stressed that US diplomats should take the lead in resolving the crisis. Mattis pointed to a UN security council vote at the weekend for more sanctions against North Korea as a sign that diplomacy was making progress.
The president then retweeted US Pacific Command, which had posted pictures of B-1B Lancer heavy bombers on exercises over the Pacific with the Japanese and South Korean air forces on 7 August, accompanied by text saying the planes were ready to fulfil the “ready to fight tonight” mission of US forces in South Korea, “if called upon to do so”.
Trump only cares about Trump. pic.twitter.com/UxSkMU2L2c
— The Tweetwit (@TheTweetwit) August 11, 2017
Oh come on Bernie, really? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Bernie T. Warmonger:
Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump don't agree on much, but the Vermont independent says that if the President is genuinely coaxing China to help moderate North Korea, he is "doing the right thing."
"North Korea is a real danger to this world, and we have got to do everything we can to ... prevent a nuclear war and to get them to stop their nuclear program," said Sanders, speaking with CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day."
"China has got to apply the screws and tell North Korea that if their economy is going to survive, they cannot continue expanding their nuclear arms program and their missile program," he added.
"China is, in fact, the key," Sanders continued. "People have been working on China for years. If Trump is doing that, he's doing the right thing."
A US warship has sailed close to an artificial island created by China in the South China Sea as part of a “freedom of navigation” operation. The USS John S McCain destroyer sailed within six nautical miles of Mischief Reef, part of the disputed Spratly Islands south of the Paracel Islands. A US official said a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain. “They called and said ‘Please turn around, you are in our waters,’” the official said.
“We told them we are a US [ship] conducting routine operations in international waters.” The official said the interactions were all “safe and professional”, with the operation lasting about six hours from start to finish. China’s foreign ministry said: “The US destroyer’s actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harmed China’s sovereignty and security. “China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the US side.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday said President Trump doesn't need congressional approval for a military strike against North Korea, but he urged his colleagues to give it "as a last resort."
"It would be very smart if the Congress could come together and tell the president 'you have our authorization to use military force ... as a last resort.' That would sent a signal to North Korea and China, that would probably do more good to avoid war than anything I could think of," Graham told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Trump's warning that North Korea could "face fire and fury like the world has never seen" if Pyongyang continues its threats has reignited a debate over if he needs approval from Congress before launching a pre-emptive military strike. Graham, while stressing he doesn't want a war, added he "violently" disagreed with his colleague, GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who said that a “pre-emptive war” on the Korean peninsula “would require the authorization of Congress.” ...
Graham said he had discussions with Trump about North Korea and described the president as "deadly serious. Very curious."
"I think he's made a decision long ago, quite frankly, to try to negotiate the threat with North Korea. ... But if negotiations fail, he is willing to abandon strategic patience and use pre-emption," he said.
The Pentagon has prepared a specific plan for a preemptive strike on North Korea's missile sites should President Trump order such an attack.
Two senior military officials — and two senior retired officers — told NBC News that key to the plan would be a B-1B heavy bomber attack originating from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
Pairs of B-1s have conducted 11 practice runs of a similar mission since the end of May, the last taking place on Monday. The training has accelerated since May, according to officials. In an actual mission, the non-nuclear bombers would be supported by satellites and drones and surrounded by fighter jets as well as aerial refueling and electronic warfare planes.
"Of all the military options … [President Trump] could consider, this would be one of the two or three that would at least have the possibility of not escalating the situation," said retired Adm. James Stavridis, NATO's former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and an NBC News analyst.
[Other experts seem to think that any intervention in North Korea would quickly escalate to a nuclear exchange. - js]
Martin Luther King Jr once said: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.” Now, it appears Donald Trump might be the man who makes us pay for our country’s moral gap. ...
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to this moment has been paved with the consensus of the foreign policy establishment. Both neocons and hawkish Democrats have pushed for an aggressive posture that has US special operations forces operating in 137 countries. US defense spending consistently dwarfs the rest of the world. ...
Before Trump, the Obama administration brokered more weapons sales than any other administration since the second world war. Although Hillary Clinton campaigned on strong gun control, the state department under her leadership exhibited little restraint when it came to selling arms. In this environment, it’s not surprising that efforts for nuclear disarmament have largely been abandoned. The former US secretary of defense William Perry describes the ways in which progress in this area has been lost; now he, and many others, argue that the risk of nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the cold war. ...
King’s moral framework understood that the stability of our “world house” required a revolution of values. The triplet and intersecting evils of racism, capitalism and militarism would not be dismantled if profit motives and property rights were considered more important than people and the planet. Trump’s xenophobic policies, giveaways for the wealthy, and belligerent temperament exemplify this. As long as war remains a business profiting a few, peace will remain a low priority. The problem is not simply Trump or the preceding presidential administrations, but an entire system that profits from violent conflicts and war.
In a letter delivered to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday, 62 House Democrats denounced President Donald Trump's "belligerent" and "reckless" threats against North Korea, and called on Tillerson to do everything in his power to de-escalate tensions.
With his "fire and fury" remarks on Tuesday—which were quickly deemed "stupid" and "dangerous"—Trump "raised the specter of nuclear war" and "senselessly provide[d] a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda, which has long sought to portray the United States as a threat to their people," the lawmakers write.
The letter continued:
Congress and the American public will hold President Trump responsible if a careless or ill-advised miscalculation results in conflict that endangers our servicemembers and regional allies. To allay these concerns, the Trump administration should publicly declare its agreement with the constitutional requirement that any preemptive attack on North Korea must be debated and authorized by Congress.
"Simply put," the lawmakers concluded, "there is no military solution to this problem," and "diplomatic initiatives" must be pursued.
The letter was made public as Trump doubled down on his North Korea remarks, suggesting that perhaps his statement wasn't "tough enough." Trump added that he hopes to increase the U.S. military budget "by many billions of dollars."
President Donald Trump's White House is being put in the awkward position of having to choose sides between major donors and its own senior staffers. On Wednesday night, a right-wing, pro-Israel lobby group funded largely by the Adelson family — which also gave millions to Trump’s presidential campaign and inauguration — launched a broadside attack against National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster.
The Zionist Organization of America announced Monday that it was undertaking a review of McMaster’s record on Israel, according to an “exclusive” story in the right-wing website, Breitbart. On Wednesday, the group released a statement calling for McMaster to be reassigned from the National Security Council because, according to the ZOA, he “purged from the NSC those officials who were carrying out President Trump’s policies of combating Iranian and radical Islamist transnational threats.” ...
Breitbart, which first reported the inquiry and its results, is also linked to a top Trump donor — Robert Mercer invested at least $10 million in the site — as well as Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chair and now one of his top political strategists. ... The ZOA's attack on McMaster pits Adelson and Mercer, two extreme right-wing Trump backers, against Trump’s new chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, who is widely seen as bringing some discipline and order to a White House that constantly finds itself in chaos. Kelly is said to be closely allied with McMaster. In its statement, the ZOA pointed to McMaster’s personnel changes at the NSC. “Gen. McMaster has appointed officials who are holdovers from the Obama administration, who favor the Iran nuclear deal and are hostile to Israel — officials who are diametrically opposed to President Trump’s policies,” the statement said. ...
McMaster’s controversial statements, according to the ZOA, were reported by the Jerusalem Posts’ Caroline Glick. “According to senior officials aware of his behavior, [McMaster] constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews,” Glick, another far-right, pro-Israel figure, had written on Facebook. The ZOA statement cited Glick’s statements, as well as a litany of article from frequently Islamophobic websites, such Frontpage Mag, in its condemnation of McMaster’s personnel changes.
This is an interesting article worth a peek, here are a couple of excerpts:
"This was never about enrichment.” The academics and officials in the room were taken aback. For a former senior Israeli official to deny the importance of the nuclear issue was unusual, to say the least. The conversations, attended by American civilian and military officials and other Western representatives, as well as Iranian diplomats and Tehran’s then-nuclear negotiators, were shockingly honest. ...
The  closed meeting, organized by a prominent U.S. university and held in a small Western European country, revealed dynamics driving the conflict that are rarely discussed in public: The Israeli fear that Iran’s rise in the region would be accepted by the U.S., and that it would regard Tehran as a legitimate player in the new regional order without Tehran accepting Israel’s existence. The most potent instrument for ensuring that Washington wouldn’t come to terms with Iran was the nuclear issue, which before the breakthrough in November 2013, was viewed as a hopelessly intractable conflict. “As long as the deadlock held, Iran would remain at least a permanently sanctioned pariah,” former Israeli official Daniel Levy wrote. For the years when the U.S. pursued Iran’s all-out containment, Israel “enjoyed a degree of unchallenged regional hegemony, freedom of military action, and diplomatic cover that it is understandably reluctant to concede or even recalibrate.” Israel’s position was directly linked to the U.S. upholding Pax Americana in the Middle East; its status was “underwritten by U.S. preeminence in the region,” Levy argued.
Herein lies the tragedy of Netanyahu’s miscalculation. By aggressively defining the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat to Israel, depicting the Iranians as irrational and suicidal, and threatening to bomb Iran, Netanyahu hoped to force Obama to take military action and recommit Washington to Pax Americana. Instead, Netanyahu’s strategy eliminated the status quo option of containing the nuclear program while neither resolving the issue nor acquiescing to Iran’s nuclear demands. Then, once that option was rejected, Obama did something Netanyahu had discounted: He opted for diplomacy, a measure that by definition could open the door to ending the U.S.’s efforts to isolate Iran.
From Obama’s perspective, the war in Iraq and the U.S.’s over-commitment in the Middle East had served only to weaken the country and undermine its ability to meet the challenge of prospective peer-competitors [like China]. With the Middle East losing strategic significance as a result of a variety of factors — including reduced U.S. dependence on oil — and with the cost of U.S. hegemony drastically increasing, the cost-benefit calculation for the U.S. had decisively shifted. To Obama, the Middle East was unsalvageable, and the more the U.S. got involved, the worse things would get and the more the U.S. would be blamed for the region’s woes. If Libya showed Obama that the region was best avoided, the rise of the Islamic State proved to him that the region could not be fixed.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has lost two of her top aides, key departures that come at a time of growing international tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
Haley’s Chief of Staff Steven Groves resigned, as did her communications director Jonathan Wachtel. Haley said on Twitter Wednesday it was because of "family concerns." The departures also come ahead of Haley’s trip to Vienna to review Iran’s nuclear activities with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
Heh, next time I travel west, there's a beach I need to visit...
A California court has ordered a Silicon Valley billionaire to restore access to a beloved beach that he closed off for his private use, a major victory for public lands advocates who have been fighting the venture capitalist for years.
An appeals court ruled on Thursday that Vinod Khosla, who runs the venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and co-founded the tech company Sun Microsystems, must unlock the gates to Martins Beach in northern California by his property.
The decision is a major blow to Khosla and other wealthy landowners who have increasingly tried to buy up the internationally celebrated beaches along the California coast and turn public lands into private property.
The beach was a popular destination for fishing, surfing and other recreational activities for nearly a century, and the previous owners provided a general store and public restroom. But Khosla eventually bought the property and in 2010 closed public access, putting up signs warning against trespassing.
Khosla, who has a net worth of $1.55bn and does not live on the property, has faced multiple lawsuits and legislative efforts to get him to open up the gate to the beach near Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco. The law in California states that all beaches should be open to the public up to the “mean high tide line”.
An Alabama law barring teachers from having sex with their students was ruled unconstitutional Thursday by a state judge who also dismissed charges against two instructors who were facing 20 years behind bars for sleeping with students. Judge Glenn Thompson dismissed charges against a former high school teacher Carrie Witt, 44, and David Solomon, 27, a former aide at a different school.
Witt was accused of sleeping with two students, aged 17 and 18 respectively. Solomon was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old. But their lawyers argued that Alabama’s law — passed in 2010 — violates teachers’ equal protection rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, because it treats educators differently under the law than other citizens.
For example, other adults having consensual sex with teenagers over 16 years, the age of consent, don’t face criminal charges. On the flip side, prosecutors say that because teachers have special disciplinary and authoritative powers, sexual relations with students is inherently coercive, and the law is designed to protect students in an educational environment.
Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, one of several Democrats vying for his party’s nomination to run for Illinois governor against incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner, doesn’t think the drug war was a failure. “The war on drugs was a success,” he said in a speech on criminal justice reform given last month. “Because the war on drugs was never actually on drugs. It was against black people.”
Pawar used that address to explain the true history of the modern drug war, which President Nixon utilized to crack down on the anti-war left and African-Americans.
As part of his campaign, he’s vowing to end Illinois’s participation in that drug war through a battery of policies: making minor possession of controlled substances no longer a felony, legalizing and taxing marijuana, expanding addiction treatment, establishing a truth and reconciliation commission to air police-community grievances, and, most radically, using his commutation powers as governor to simply commute the sentences of nonviolent low-level drug offenders.
The chatter about a House leadership post is gone. So is talk of statewide office. After Hillary Clinton’s defeat, there’s no prospect of an administration job for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. One year after the Florida congresswoman’s resignation as national party chair at the Democratic National Convention — where activists booed and shouted “shame!” at her during a Florida delegation breakfast speech — the once-rising star's political fortunes continue to fade, beset by critics on all sides.
Wasserman Schultz is again on defense after steadfastly refusing to explain why she continued to employ Imran Awan, an IT staffer who was under a federal investigation for an alleged equipment and data scam in the U.S. House since February. She finally fired him on July 25, one day after authorities arrested him on a seemingly unrelated mortgage fraud charge. He was at the airport leaving for Pakistan, after wiring $283,000 there. The firing came a full six months after about two dozen House Democrats dismissed four of Awan’s relatives and a friend, all of whom were under investigation with him.
Wasserman Schultz broke her public silence on Awan last week, portraying herself as the victim of "right wing media" attacks rooted in anti-Muslim bigotry aimed at Awan and the IT group. But fellow Democrats are as confounded and disbelieving as ever by her penchant for making puzzling and stubborn political missteps.
“We wish she would go away and stop being so public by doubling down on negative stories,” said Nikki Barnes, a progressive DNC member from Florida, who believes Wasserman Schultz left the national party “in shambles” while chair, culminating with the hack of DNC servers and the release of embarrassing internal emails by WikiLeaks in the 2016 campaign. As for Wasserman Schultz's defense, Barnes said “none of this makes sense. It doesn't sound like racial profiling … there must have been something for her.”
The problem with the Awan case, Barnes said, is that it’s not just hurting the congresswoman. It’s drawing negative attention to a party still healing after last year’s shocking losses and the divisive Democratic primary in which Wasserman Schultz appeared to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
As the U.S. growing season entered its peak this summer, farmers began posting startling pictures on social media: fields of beans, peach orchards and vegetable gardens withering away. The photographs served as early warnings of a crisis that has damaged millions of acres of farmland. New versions of the herbicide dicamba developed by Monsanto and BASF, according to farmers, have drifted across fields to crops unable to withstand it, a charge authorities are investigating.
As the crisis intensifies, new details provided to Reuters by independent researchers and regulators, and previously unreported testimony by a company employee, demonstrate the unusual way Monsanto introduced its product. The approach, in which Monsanto prevented key independent testing of its product, went unchallenged by the Environmental Protection Agency and nearly every state regulator.
Typically, when a company develops a new agricultural product, it commissions its own tests and shares the results and data with regulators. It also provides product samples to universities for additional scrutiny. Regulators and university researchers then work together to determine the safety of the product. In this case, Monsanto denied requests by university researchers to study its XtendiMax with VaporGrip for volatility - a measure of its tendency to vaporize and drift across fields. ...
Some states are now forming task forces to determine what should be done about the damage.
2014, 2015, and 2016 each broke the global temperature record. A new study led by climate scientist Michael Mann just published in Geophysical Research Letters used climate model simulations to examine the odds that these records would have been set in a world with and without human-caused global warming. In model simulations without a human climate influence, the authors concluded:
- There’s a one-in-a-million chance that 2014, 2015, and 2016 would each have been as hot as they were if only natural factors were at play.
- There’s a one-in-10,000 chance that 2014, 2015, and 2016 would all have been record-breaking hot years.
- There’s a less than 0.5% chance of three consecutive record-breaking years happening at any time since 2000.
- There’s a 0.1%–0.2% chance of 2016 being the hottest on record.
To put those numbers in perspective, you have about a one-in-3,000 (0.03%) chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime. You have about as much chance of being struck by lightning this year as 2014, 2015, and 2016 each being as hot as they were due solely to natural effects. That means denying human-caused global warming is like planning to be struck by lightning three years in a row. Perhaps a tinfoil hat will help.
A house-sized asteroid will shave past our planet on 12 October, far inside the Moon’s orbit but without posing any threat, astronomers have said.
The space rock will zoom by harmlessly at a distance of about 27,300 miles (44,000km ) – an eighth of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, according to the European Space Agency. It is outside the roughly 36,000km orbit of geostationary satellites.
“We know for sure that there is no possibility for this object to hit the Earth,” Detlef Koschny of ESA’s near-Earth objects research team told AFP. “There is no danger whatsoever.”
The asteroid, dubbed 2012 TC4, first flitted past our planet in October 2012 – at about double the distance – before disappearing from view.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Buddy Guy - Out of Sight
Buddy Guy/Memphis Slim - Goodtime Charlie
Junior Wells & Buddy Guy - Hoodoo Man Blues
Buddy Guy & Koko Taylor - Born Under A Bad Sign
Sonny Boy Williamson w/Buddy Guy - One Way Out
Buddy Guy, Bobby Rush - Can't Lose What You Never Had
Junior Wells with Buddy Guy - Live at Nightstage
Born to Play Guitar: Buddy Guy Reflects on a Life in the Blues