The Evening Blues - 8-28-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features The Poet of the Blues, Percy Mayfield. Enjoy!
Percy Mayfield - Danger Zone
Sad and lonely all the time
That's because I've got a worried mind
You know the world is in an uproar
The danger zone is everywhere, everywhere
Just read your paper and you'll see
Just exactly what keeps worryin' me
Yeah, you'll see the world is in an uproar
The danger zone is everywhere
My love for the world is like always
For the world is a part of me
That's why I'm so afraid of the progress
That's being made toward eternity
Every morning, noon, and night
Finds me hoping that every thing's alright
Mm, hmm, the world is in an uproar
The danger zone is everywhere
-- Percy Mayfield
News and Opinion
But, but, when America does it, we're the good guys - not like that Syrian government trying to take back its land from an invading force.
On June 6, the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced the beginning of a military campaign to liberate the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State. In an interview at the time, the commander of the force, which is known as SDF, highlighted the critical role that the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition would play in the fight to take back the city. “The coalition has a big role in the success of the operations,” the commander said. “In addition to warplanes, there are coalition forces working side by side with the SDF.”
Nearly three months later, the battle for Raqqa is still raging, and more and more civilians are dying from U.S. airstrikes. A relatively small number of ISIS militants are fighting to the death to defend their putative capital, while an estimated 160,000 civilians are trapped in dire circumstances, caught between the armed factions on the ground and bombarded by U.S. airstrikes and artillery barrages.
Activists inside Raqqa who spoke to The Intercept by phone earlier this month described an increasingly desperate situation. (Their names are being withheld for their safety.) Despite the bombardment Syrian activist groups like Sound and Picture are continuing to work documenting abuses in the ISIS-held city.
“The airplanes are heavily striking the city, and many of the places they are targeting are empty of ISIS fighters and full of civilians,” an anti-ISIS Syrian activist from Raqqa told The Intercept. “The number of civilians being killed today is much more than the ISIS members. ...
“We have seen incidents in which entire families have been wiped out. The scale of things is increasing significantly,” said Alex Hopkins, a researcher at AirWars. There has been a “worrying increase in the rate of mass casualty incidents” in recent weeks, he said, with disproportionate numbers of children being reported killed in U.S. strikes.
US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicisation of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts.
The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea.
Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phoney evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations.
“Anecdotally, I have heard this from members of the intelligence community – that they feel like they have come under pressure,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who also served as a national security council spokesman and special assistant to Barack Obama. “They told me there was a sense of revulsion. There was a sense of déjà vu. There was a sense of ‘we’ve seen this movie before’.”
However, Donald Trump has said he expects to declare Iran non-compliant by mid-October, the next time he is required by Congress to sign a three-monthly certification of the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action, or JCPOA). And the administration is pursuing another avenue that could trigger the collapse of the deal.
President Trump has had his foreign policy hands and feet tied by the Russia (and Iran) Sanctions Act. He now has been rendered “helpless”: in respect to détente with Russia — gulliverized, spitefully, by his own party, working with the Democrats, to empty Trump’s constitutional prerogatives in foreign policy – and to seize them for Congress. And in a further humiliation, Trump has been “rolled” by his military minders (Generals James Mattis, H.R. McMaster and John Kelly) on his Afghan policy: he has relinquished civilian oversight of this military expedition in Afghanistan to McMaster and Mattis — the former being the presumed author of the “new” Afghan policy. The President was “rolled” on his foreign military prerogatives too – as Commander in Chief – by his triumvirate of military minders in the White House. The “civilian” leadership has given place to the “military.”
Professor Walter Russell Mead – and he should know – tells us that “President Trump’s highest officials remain committed, one way or another, to defending the global order the U.S. has been building since the Truman era. That includes [Secretary of State RexTillerson, Mattis, Kelly and McMaster]: These men share a disdain for the Obama administration’s retrenchment and retreat. … They want to check the ambitions of America’s rivals, while restoring the foundations, both military and economic, of U.S. world power.” Ok – that is clear: they want to “grasp” America as world order. They have been trying that for some time now, but have not yet succeeded in seizing “her.” ... What else accounts for the new Afghan plan? Almost nobody (outside of the U.S. élites) believes it will do other than prolong an unwinnable war (or worse, push Pakistan and India into confrontation). Yet the further despoliation of Afghanistan must go on, for the sake of the myth of this America – of Trump’s “highest officials” – that America is always victorious, if only it wills it sufficiently, and is persistent – “defeat” as heresy.
It seems that the American deep state is so frenzied in this way that its inhabitants can no longer see straight: they are ready to risk despoiling not just the “recalcitrant” abroad, but America herself. And the way they are going about trying to “have her,” may well ruin the deep state too, as collateral damage. ...
Incredibly, as one commentator put it: “During the ramp up to new UN sanctions on North Korea, the Trump administration threatened to sanction China if it did not commit to further pressure [on N. Korea] … Trump himself implied that he was willing for a quid pro quo: ‘If China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade’, [Trump] told reporters … “A deal was made, and the UN Resolution 2371 passed … China did its part of the deal: It helped pass the UN resolution against North Korea – and it immediately implemented it, even though that caused a significant loss for Chinese companies which trade with North Korea. [But …] “Now Trump is back at sanctioning Chinese (and Russian) companies: The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 16 mainly Chinese and Russian companies and people for assisting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and helping the North make money to support those programs …
The alliance of these three states [Russia, China and Iran] and their “partner forces” no longer believe that America is capable of serious diplomacy, or that it enjoys any real capacity to “seize” the world. On the contrary, they see Europe drifting away from the U.S., the Gulf Cooperation Council in disarray, and even Israel is despairing of its Washington ally.
A few years ago, when George W. Bush came out as a painter, he said that he had told his art teacher that “there’s a Rembrandt trapped inside this body.” Ah, so Georgie is more than just a painter. He’s an artiste. And we all know that artistes are very special people. They’re never to be confused with mass murderers, war criminals, merciless torturers or inveterate liars. Neither are they ever to be accused of dullness of wit or incoherence of thought or speech.
Artistes are not the only special people.
Devout people are also special: Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood. Osama bin Laden prayed five times a day. And animal lovers: Herman Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.” ...
Members of ISIS and Al Qaeda and other suicide bombers are genuinely and sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing, for which they will be honored and rewarded in an afterlife. That doesn’t make them less evil; in fact it makes them more terrifying, since they force us to face the scary reality of a world in which sincerity and morality do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.
Matthew Prince had the power to kill the white supremacist hate site the Daily Stormer for years, but he didn’t choose to pull the trigger until 16 August. That’s when the chief executive of website security company Cloudflare “woke up … in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet”, as he told his employees in an internal email. Without Cloudflare’s protection, the Daily Stormer was forced to retreat to the darknet, where it is inaccessible to the majority of internet users.
Cloudflare is just one of many internet companies that cleaned house amid a wave of public outrage following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Critics charge that technology platforms have enabled a disparate network of racist extremists to seek one another out, raise funds, and plan and execute such rallies. But unlike consumer facing companies such as Facebook, YouTube, PayPal and Discord, and even as liberal voices – including the Guardian editorial board – applaud it, Cloudflare won’t defend its actions.
“I am deeply uncomfortable with the decision we made,” Prince said in an interview. “It doesn’t align with our principles.” The primary principle at stake – that the US and the internet both remain free speech zones, even for Nazis – has never been more fraught. “This is a really terrible time to be a free speech advocate,” said Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s a ‘First they came for the … situation,” she said, referring to the famous Martin Niemöller poem about the classes of people targeted by Nazis, “only in reverse”.
Though these are dark days for American exceptionalism, the US remains distinct in its commitment to freedom of speech. Even as many Americans increasingly favor European-style limitations on hate speech, the constitution’s first amendment ensures that any such legislative effort is likely a non-starter. But the fate of the Daily Stormer – as vile a publication as it is – may be a warning to Americans that the first amendment is increasingly irrelevant. “Historically, the place you went to exercise your speech rights was the public square. Now the equivalent is Twitter and YouTube and Facebook,” said Daphne Keller of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. “In a practical matter, how much you can speak is not in the hands of the constitution but in the hands of these private companies.”
When Hurricane Sandy slammed New York, New Jersey, and a number of other states in 2012, Ted Cruz and more than 20 of his fellow Texas Republicans voted against an emergency aid package devoted to the areas devastated by the storm. Now that Hurricane Harvey is currently ravaging their own state, however, many of these same Republicans are changing their tune.
Last Friday, Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—two of the more vociferous opponents of the Sandy emergency aid package—sent a letter to the White House urging President Donald Trump to "provide any and all emergency protective measures available by a major disaster declaration." The senators also called on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to expedite emergency funding.
The two letters were quickly highlighted by lawmakers and commentators as shamelessly hypocritical.
"The devastation of Hurricane Harvey has two-faced Texas politicians looking for the same sort of relief funding they flatly opposed five years ago," noted Larry McShane of the New York Daily News. "Cornyn and Cruz were among the 39 Republican senators to oppose the [Hurricane Sandy aid] package, along with 179 GOP members of the House. Republican senators further delayed the vote by trying to offset the aid with budget cuts." Many of these senators, as ThinkProgress reported, had previously backed emergency aid packages after disasters struck their own states.
Of the 24 GOP members of the Texas House delegation in 2013, all but one voted against the Sandy relief package in 2013. The one “yea” vote was Rep. John Culberson, whose district includes Houston. But seven other Houston-area congressmen voted the package down. All 12 Democratic members of the delegation voted in favor of Sandy relief with the exception of Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents central Houston and didn’t cast a vote. Three Republicans and two Democrats in office at the time of the vote are no longer serving in Congress.
Most of the lawmakers who commented on the 2013 Sandy appropriation couched their opposition in terms of fiscal responsibility. ... Others demanded that every dollar spent on Sandy relief be balanced by a dollar cut somewhere else in the federal budget. ...
A second ideology undergirding hostility to Sandy aid was climate change denial; virtually every lawmaker who voted against the package had also denied or expressed extreme skepticism about climate change, even though it may well have magnified the impact of of the storm on low-lying districts, and may well have contributed to the devastating potency of Hurricane Harvey. As I reported then, tying climate change to specific weather events is difficult, but climatologists say that among the likely consequences of climate change is an increase in the frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms like Matthew and Harvey.
The biggest factor influencing the Sandy vote, however, may have been the disappearance of bipartisan comity from the halls of Congress. The process may be denigrated as “logrolling,” but the idea that every legislator is going to need something from his or her colleagues at one point or another is ingrained in history. ... The breakdown of partisan and regional cooperation has been compounded by the substitution of ideology for foresight. That’s a particular danger today, when the possibility — nay, probability — of future devastation from climate change, not to mention other natural occurrences, is staring us in the face. As Rep. Frank LoBiondo, (R-N.J.), called to GOP holdouts after their 2013 vote against Sandy relief: “Florida, good luck with no more hurricanes. California, congratulations, did you get rid of the Andreas fault? The Mississippi's in a drought. Do you think you're not going to have a flood again? Who are you going to come to when you have these things?”
We’ll know soon enough. The bills for Harvey will be coming due very, very soon.
With a clear, diplomatic response, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday quashed President Donald Trump's latest attempt to convince the public that Mexico will pay for the border wall he promised his supporters, and debunked a number of his other repeated claims about the United States' southern neighbor—while offering help to the U.S. as Texas copes with the impact of Hurricane Harvey. ...
"As the Mexican government has always maintained, our country will not pay, under any circumstances for a wall or physical barrier that is built in US territory along the Mexican border," read the statement. "This determination is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but a principle of national sovereignty and dignity." ...
The statement ended by noting that Mexico has offered support to the U.S. "to deal with the impacts of [Hurricane Harvey], as good neighbors should always do in times of difficulty."
The Foreign Ministry's statement left out the fact that the U.S. has relied heavily on Mexican aid in the recent past. As the Washington Post reported Monday, Mexico provided significant aid to the U.S. in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Marking the first time that Mexican troops had set foot on U.S. soil since the Mexican-American War in 1846, President Vicente Fox sent an army convoy and a naval vessel laden with food, water and medicine," wrote Max Bearak in the Post. "By the end of their three-week operation in Louisiana and Mississippi, the Mexicans had served 170,000 meals, helped distribute more than 184,000 tons of supplies and conducted more than 500 medical consultations."
On Twitter, commentators also noted the especially poor timing of Trump's latest attack on Mexico, considering the U.S. may need to take Mexico up on its offer of aid in the coming days.
Surprise, surprise, surprise! As if we couldn't see this one coming miles away. Trump is arming the storm troopers.
US police will again have access to high-caliber weapons, grenade launchers, heavily armored vehicles and other surplus military equipment that the Obama administration had limited after critics said its use was militarizing the police and inflaming confrontations with protesters, often in racially sensitive situations.
Donald Trump plans to sign an order undoing the Obama-era directive, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on Monday told a national convention of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the groups that have urged Trump to revive the military program.
On Sunday night, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said the move was part of the Trump administration’s “open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country”. ...
Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police.
As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets and 126 tracked vehicles – those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels – that were provided through the program.
— Pat Ward (@WardDPatrick) August 27, 2017
Rex Tillerson told host Chris Wallace that when it came to articulating American values following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville two weeks ago, Donald Trump “speaks for himself.” ...
Tillerson isn’t alone among high-level officials who’ve gone public about Trump’s refusal to unequivocally condemn those who gathered in Charlottesville and sparked the violence that led to three deaths. National Economic Council director Gary Cohn told the Financial Times last week that “citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK,” and said that the Trump administration “must do better.” ...
At the moment, it seems Trump is tolerating the dissent.
While local officials across the United States are scrambling to remove Confederate monuments in the wake of Charlottesville, residents in Crenshaw County, Alabama has decided to go a different direction.
On Sunday afternoon, more than 200 people assembled for the unveiling of a brand new Confederate monument in Crenshaw County, AL.com reported. The monument — a “modest stone marker” according to local press — honors the “unknown Confederate soldiers” who died in in the Civil War. ...
Speakers and attendees at the ceremony on Sunday stressed repeatedly that the timing of the unveiling was a coincidence and had nothing to do with the wider national conversation currently raging about race, history and confederate iconography. The monument itself is on private land next to an RV park.
Here's another article in an important series being run by The Intercept, based upon a cache of leaked documents and public records detailing how the wars are coming home - and military tactics being used on enemy forces abroad are now being used against American citizens. Here's a teaser:
When the largest Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camp in North Dakota was forcibly shut down in February, the work of TigerSwan, the private security company hired by Energy Transfer Partners to guard its property, appeared to be nearly done. Then the pipeline was hit by several acts of vandalism targeting valve sites along the route. Starting in mid-March, saboteurs snaked down the line, piercing holes in exposed parts of the pipeline and setting equipment on fire. The vandalism, which disrupted completion of the pipeline, created new work for TigerSwan. But the company did more than deploy additional guards along the line — it also embarked on a multistate hunt for the culprits. By early May, TigerSwan had a pair of suspects. “The best assessment based on the known facts is that the attack was most likely conducted by Iowa activists; Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya,” states an internal report dated May 4.
On July 24, Reznicek and Montoya claimed responsibility for the sabotage. ...
For at least two weeks in May, Reznicek and Montoya had been a primary focus of TigerSwan’s work, as operatives attempted to track their movements, sharing their photos and other identifying information with employees at hardware stores, hotels, and gas stations, and passing intelligence they collected to local law enforcement and the FBI, according to the reports, among more than 100 provided to The Intercept by a contractor working for TigerSwan. At the time this story was published on August 26, Reznicek and Montoya had not been charged in connection with any of the vandalism for which they claimed responsibility.
TigerSwan was founded amid a private security industry boom, its business driven by U.S. government contracts supporting the nation’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. With its Dakota Access Pipeline contracts, agents applied the tactics they had honed in wars abroad to an environmental and indigenous rights movement based in the rural American Midwest. “Our concentrated focus is the massing of intelligence (digital and ground) to find, fix and eliminate one person from the ‘detachment’ who will lead us to the arrest and conviction to the remainder of these terrorists,” TigerSwan wrote on May 4, echoing a phrase, “find, fix, finish,” used by U.S. special operations forces in so-called targeted killing campaigns in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan. The firm used the term “detachment” to refer to a group of anti-DAPL activists they believed were operating outside of protest camps.
But as with the U.S. targeted killing program, TigerSwan’s surveillance operation frequently reached far beyond its mark, sweeping up dozens of individuals in its hunt for a few and casting suspicion on pipeline opponents who say they were uninterested in property destruction.
As Catastrophic Flooding Hits Houston, Fears Grow of Pollution from Oil Refineries & Superfund Sites
Texas is halfway through what the newly appointed FEMA director called “probably the worst disaster” in the state’s history — and flooding is expected to worsen before Hurricane Harvey loosens its deadly grip.
About 30 inches of rain have fallen since the Category 4 hurricane hit land late Friday night, and experts predict another 20 inches across Texas, adding to the “catastrophic flooding,” as Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service, described it. The storm, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, will likely peak on Wednesday or Thursday, although in the worst-case scenario Harvey could pick up more power on the coast before returning to land. ...
By midday Sunday, 9 trillion gallons of water had pounded the Greater Houston and Southeast Texas regions. Now, the threat of flooding also spreads east to Louisiana, where the National Hurricane Center warned that up to 25 inches of rain are expected. Tornadoes are also expected from Galveston, Texas, to New Orleans.
What can we say about the role of climate change in the unprecedented disaster that is unfolding in Houston with Hurricane Harvey? There are certain climate change-related factors that we can, with great confidence, say worsened the flooding. Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.
In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F). There is a simple thermodynamic relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation that tells us there is a roughly 3% increase in average atmospheric moisture content for each 0.5C of warming. Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 0.5-1C warmer than current-day average temperatures, which translates to 1-1.5C warmer than “average” temperatures a few decades ago. That means 3-5% more moisture in the atmosphere.
That large amount of moisture creates the potential for much greater rainfalls and greater flooding. The combination of coastal flooding and heavy rainfall is responsible for the devastating flooding that Houston is experiencing.
Not only are the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico unusually warm right now, but there is a deep layer of warm water that Harvey was able to feed upon when it intensified at near record pace as it neared the coast. Human-caused warming is penetrating down into the ocean. It’s creating deeper layers of warm water in the Gulf and elsewhere. Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human-caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage and a larger storm surge.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Percy Mayfield - Right on Young Americans
Percy Mayfield - The Voice Within
Percy Mayfield w/ Joy Hamilton - Sugar Mama - Peachy Papa
Percy Mayfield - My Love
Percy Mayfield - Baby You're Rich
Percy Mayfield - Cry Baby
Percy Mayfield (Dallas Red) - Alma Lee, Cold Blooded Blues
Percy Mayfield - Hit The Road Jack
Percy Mayfield - River's Invitation
Percy Mayfield - Louisiana
Percy Mayfield - Are You Out There