The Evening Blues - 8-6-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features boogie woogie piano player Pete Johnson. Enjoy!
Pete Johnson - Death Ray Boogie
"The bedfellows politics made are never strange. It only seems that way to those who have not watched the courtship."
-- Marcel Achard
News and Opinion
'US Is Now Allied With al-Qaeda in Yemen': AP Reveals American-Backed Saudi Coalition Forged Deals With AQAP Fighters
As the United States continues to fuel Yemen's worsening humanitarian crisis, and boast that it's targeting al Qaeda in the impoverished nation (AQAP) with airstrikes, new reporting reveals that the U.S.- and U.K-backed Saudi coalition waging a bombing campaign there is recruiting al Qaeda fighters to join its ranks, and paying off the extremists to leave areas.
Soon after the Saudi-led coalition, with the United Arab Emirates being a key partner, began its bombing campaign in Yemen against the Houthi rebels in 2015, it was reported that al Qaeda militants were fighting on the same side as the Saudi militia to defeat the Iran-linked Houthis. The new Associated Press investigation, however, reveals that the coalition has made "secret deals with al-Qaeda fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment, and wads of looted cash."
Beyond that, the "coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaeda militants," AP found, based on on-the-ground reporting including interviews with members of al Qaeda, tribal mediators, Yemeni security officers, and militia commanders.
The earliest such deal took place in the spring of 2016 when "thousands of al-Qaeda fighters ... pull out[ed] of Mukalla," a port city. From AP:
The militants were guaranteed a safe route out and allowed to keep weapons and cash looted from the city—up to $100 million by some estimates—according to five sources, including military, security, and government officials. [...]
Coalition-backed forces moved in two days later, announcing that hundreds of militants were killed and hailing the capture as "part of joint international efforts to defeat the terrorist organizations in Yemen."
A similar deal took place soon after in the province of Abyan. Again, the fighters would not be targeted with drone strokes as part of the deal, which also included a provision for hundreds of al Qaeda fighters the join the ranks of the UAE-backed Yemeni force there.
The EU has launched an attempt to protect European businesses from Donald Trump’s sanctions against Iran as the US administration voiced its intent to apply maximum pressure on Tehran by vigorously applying its punitive measures.
The sanctions are to enter into force at midnight (US east coast time). At the same time, a blocking statute – last used to protect EU firms from US sanctions against Cuba – will be brought into force in an attempt to insulate firms and keep alive a deal designed to limit the Iranian government’s nuclear aspirations.
European firms have been instructed that they should not comply with demands from the White House for them to drop all business with Iran. Those who decide to pull out because of US sanctions will need to be granted authorisation from the European commission, without which they face the risk of being sued by EU member states.
A mechanism has also been opened to allow EU businesses affected by the sanctions to sue the US administration in the national courts of member states.
Venezuelan Pres. Nicolás Maduro Targeted in 1st Assassination Attempt by Drone Against Head of State
Venezuela’s opposition has warned that President Nicolás Maduro may launch a political crackdown after he accused adversaries of attempting to assassinate him with drones loaded with explosives on Saturday. State television on Saturday evening showed Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, looking up at the sky and wincing after hearing the sound of an explosion midway through a speech he was giving at a military parade in Caracas. Seconds later, the footage panned to hundreds of soldiers chaotically scurrying out of formation and running away before the television feed was cut.
Seven people were injured, the country’s information minister, Jorge Rodríguez, said. “The investigation clearly reveals [the explosions] came from drone-like devices that carried explosives,” he told reporters. Authorities have said that six people have been arrested over the incident. On Sunday Venezuela’s defence minister claimed those behind the alleged attack were aiming to decapitate the government’s entire top leadership along with Maduro.
Although witnesses confirmed seeing at least one drone that appeared to be linked to an explosion, exactly what happened still remained unclear on Sunday.
A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators is demanding that Google CEO Sundar Pichai explain the company’s plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.
Since spring 2017, the internet giant has been developing a censored Android search app to launch in the country as part of a secretive project code-named Dragonfly, The Intercept revealed on Wednesday. The app would manipulate search results in accordance with strict censorship rules in China that are mandated by the ruling Communist Party regime, which restricts people’s access to information about political opponents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. The censored Google search has been designed to “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to internal Google documents.
In a letter sent to Pichai on Friday, the six lawmakers called the Google plan “deeply troubling” and said that it “risks making Google complicit in human rights abuses related to China’s rigorous censorship regime.” The letter was led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and also signed by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
The senators write: “It is a coup for the Chinese government and Communist Party to force Google—the biggest search engine in the world—to comply with their onerous censorship requirements, and sets a worrying precedent for other companies seeking to do business in China without compromising their core values.”
They are asking Google to provide answers to multiple questions, such as “Which ‘blacklist’ of censored searches and websites are you using? Are there any phrases or words that Google is refusing to censor?” The senators want to know why Google has reversed its policy on China. In 2006, the company launched a censored search engine in the country, but ceased operating the service in March 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. “What has changed since 2010 to make Google comfortable cooperating with the rigorous censorship regime in China?” the senators ask.
Apparently not satisfied with access to its users' call history, text messaging data, and online conversations, Facebook has reportedly asked major Wall Street firms like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo to hand over their customers' sensitive financial data as part of the social media giant's ongoing attempt to become "a platform where people buy and sell goods and services."
And according to the Wall Street Journal—which first reported on Facebook's plans on Monday—the social media behemoth isn't the only tech company that wants access to Americans' financial data. Google and Amazon have also "asked banks to share data if they join with them, in order to provide basic banking services on applications such as Google Assistant and Alexa," the Journal pointed out, citing anonymous sources familiar with the companies' ambitions.
Over the past year, Facebook has reached out to some of America's largest banks to request "detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users," the Journal notes. "Facebook has told banks that the additional customer information could be used to offer services that might entice users to spend more time on Messenger."
Among the "features" Facebook is reportedly looking to create if it successfully obtains financial data is a tool that would "show its users their checking-account balances," the Journal reported. "It has also pitched fraud alerts." While Facebook insisted in response to the Journal's story that it doesn't want to use any of this data for advertising purposes or share it with third parties, many pointed out that there is no reason to trust Facebook's expressed commitment to user privacy, particularly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other abuses.
Brazil’s Disastrous 2018 Presidential Race Teaches Key Lesson For All: Demagogues Thrive Only When Establishments Fail
Brazil's media , legal, judicial and corporate factions have spent the last three years righteously insisting that systemic political corruption is the nation’s gravest problem. They were so terribly upset about corruption that, in 2016, they united, with almost no dissent permitted, in support of the most drastic step a democracy can take: removal of the elected President, Dilma Rousseff, before her term expired. That indignation over corruption and criminality was their pretext for impeachment, not the actual motive, was painfully obvious from the start. ...
The career sleaze they installed as President, Michel Temer, then got caught on tape ordering the payment of bribes to silence the literal gangster, Eduardo Cunha, Temer’s party comrade who, as House Speaker, lead the impeachment proceeding against Dilma and is now in prison. ... The fraud of all this is too enormous to express with words, but no words are needed because of how self-evident it is.
In the 2018 presidential race, Brazil’s oligarchic press is openly united behind São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, the ultimate establishment figure from the conservative PSDB party. He can be accurately described to an American audience as a somewhat more conservative, cautious version of Hillary Clinton: he’s been around politics for decades, funded by and serving corporate interests, inoffensively occupying every conceivable office, comfortably resting in and feeding off of the sleaze and neoliberal corruption that greases the wheels of Brazil’s political class. He’s the ultimate guardian of the status quo and the prevailing order. A candidate so uniquely uncharasmatic on all levels that he’s most often compared to a cucumber – to the point where Cucumber is his effective nickname – his last bid for the presidency in 2006 resulted in a 21-point crushing defeat at the hands of Lula. He’s basically Jeb Bush, but less bold, less exciting and with less popular support.
For all of 2018, despite the unconcealed love which Brazil’s dominant media outlets harbor for him, polls have showed Alckmin lingering pitifully at 6-7%. Just as is true in the U.S., the UK and throughout Western Europe, huge numbers of voters are so contemptuous of the establishment class that they will refuse to vote for anyone supported by or associated with them. ... Brazil’s establishment – led, as always, by the huge media outlets controlled by a tiny group of billionaire families – has spent all of 2018 panicking because, no matter how hard they try to resuscitate it, the decayed corpse of Geraldo Alckmin has remained lifeless.
A study of rising bankruptcy rates among older Americans places blame squarely at the feet of a hollowed-out safety net and policy changes that have left people without adequate retirement savings, paying huge out-of-pocket medical expenses, and seeing their funds dwindle due to the student loan crisis that many people mistakenly believe affects only younger generations.
When comparing the rate of bankruptcy filing among Americans 65 and older now versus in 1991, "the only explanation that makes any sense are structural shifts," Deborah Thorne, lead author of the Consumer Bankruptcy Project's recent study, told the New York Times.
Entitled "Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society," the group's report found that older Americans filed for bankruptcy three times as often from 2013 to 2016 as they did a quarter of a century before.
Those surveyed for the study blamed multiple factors beyond their control for their decision to file. According to the Times, "About three in five said unmanageable medical expenses played a role. A little more than two-thirds cited a drop in income. Nearly three-quarters put some blame on hounding by debt collectors."
Many large U.S. employers have suspended or reduced contributions to 401K savings plans in recent years — already having shifted away from traditional, more secure pensions — while out-of pocket healthcare costs have risen faster than incomes. The student loan crisis has also played a role for many filers, with more than a third saying they were driven into bankruptcy after shelling out huge sums of money for family members. With college costing many families tens of thousands of dollars, bankruptcy lawyers are encountering parents who have guaranteed loans that they are no longer able to pay back.
John Sweeney knew from his four decades as a civil rights lawyer that something about the police shooting of Donta Taylor was off. Taylor, a 31-year-old African American, had been walking from a friend’s house in Compton to a nearby grocery store one summer night when members of the county sheriff’s department challenged him, gave chase and ended up firing more than a dozen shots at him along a lonely concrete pathway alongside a canal. To Sweeney, who had cut his teeth as an associate of the legendary civil rights lawyer Johnnie Cochran, the 2016 killing smacked of an execution, the work of renegade police officers reveling in violence for the sake of it. It was no more than a hunch, at first. ...
At a deposition hearing in May, Sweeney asked one of the officers, Samuel Aldama, if he harbored racial animus toward African Americans, and Aldama spent close to five minutes struggling to give an answer. At first Aldama said he did have ill feelings, then changed tack and said he’d misunderstood the question. Next, Sweeney asked Aldama if he had a tattoo. After some hesitation, Aldama showed an elaborate image on his calf of a frightening skeletal figure wielding a rifle. Between 10 and 20 deputies at the Compton station had the same tattoo, he acknowledged.
Sweeney hadn’t known about the tattoo in advance. But he did know that the Los Angeles sheriff’s department had a history of violent gang-like cliques that glorify violence for its own sake and pressure deputies to break the rules so they can prove their bona fides and “earn their ink” in the form of just such hidden tattoos.
The revelation wasn’t just a Perry Mason moment in court. It has jolted civic leaders in Los Angeles, just a few years after an epic scandal in which sheriff’s deputies, supported and protected by senior officers up to the sheriff himself, were found to have engaged in systematic beatings of prisoners, helped smuggle drugs and other contraband in and out of jail on behalf of White Power gang leaders, and worked to conceal aspects of the scandal from the FBI. Lee Baca, the former sheriff, as well as his former No 2 and close to a dozen former sheriff’s deputies, have been prosecuted and convicted of an array of offenses from abuse of police power to obstruction of justice.
Jim McDonnell, the current boss of what is America’s largest county police department, has ordered an internal investigation into what he called “renegade cliques” and insisted – despite an official finding by the district attorney’s office last year in favor of Aldama and his partner, Mizrain Orrego – that the Compton incidents are still being investigated.
A woman who protested against a rightwing group rallying in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday said has been left with severe injuries to her arm and chest after being hit by a police “flash-bang” round. Michelle Fawcett, 52, said she was about half a block from the front of the counter-protester gathering, as they opposed rightwing group Patriot Prayer’s rally, at about 2pm on Saturday when she was hit.
“I heard the most earth-shattering explosion,” she told the Guardian. “I felt struck in the chest, then the arm, and then a really intense and searing pain.” When Fawcett, a documentary film-producer, later saw a doctor, she said was told she had severe soft tissue injuries and third-degree chemical burns on her arm and chest. Fawcett shared with the Guardian photographs of her injuries and her doctor’s report that describes chemical burns.
The police tactics at Patriot Prayer’s latest rally, which again brought disorder and violence to the city’s downtown area, have been questioned after officers charged counter-protesters with batons drawn, used dozens of “flash-bang” stun grenades and rounds containing pepper spray.
Fawcett said she believes she was hit by the first of the stun grenades to be fired and said she did not hear any warnings. Portland police chief Danielle Outlaw has announced an inquiry by the Office of Independent Police Review into the police’s use of less than lethal weapons. In a statement, Outlaw said the inquiry would “determine if force was used and if so, was within our policy and training guidelines”. ...
Fawcett said Saturday’s events will long be a source of pain and confusion. “Police are supposed to protect citizens from violence,” she said. “When it’s the police who assault you, where do you go? Does anyone know?"
"For the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer,” wrote Sir William Blackstone in 1765, expressing a fundamental principle of Anglo-Saxon justice. Miko Peled, in “Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five,” his exhaustive study of the U.S. government’s case against five defendants from a friendless minority, demonstrates how American justice has deviated so far from Blackstone that the courts can convict a hundred innocents for one who is guilty. ...
The FBI, the Treasury Department, and other assorted police forces in Texas and California accosted them with raids on most of their family houses early in the morning on July 26, 2004. The criminal trial against the Holy Land Foundation Five — or HLF 5, as the five Arab-Americans became known, a reference to the Islamic charity they founded in 1990 — opened exactly three years later. It culminated in a hung jury. The retrial in Dallas federal court began in September 2008, and included unprecedented testimony from “Avi,” the pseudonym assumed by an Israeli intelligence agent whose qualifications the defense was unable to probe. Judge Jorge Solis, although he instructed jurors that they were allowed to weigh the agent’s credibility in light of his anonymity, nonetheless brushed aside the defendants’ right under the Sixth Amendment “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Nothing in the U.S. Constitution until then permitted conviction by anonymous accusations, but the court convicted all five men.
Peled’s book is a fascinating account of immigrants making good in their new country, starting families and businesses and creating a charity to help those they left behind. Through Peled, Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulrahman Odeh emerge as decent human beings motivated by the desire to relieve suffering, in line with their religious convictions. They remind the reader of the many Jewish Americans that were persecuted during the McCarthy era for their support of humanitarian causes espoused by organizations that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI declared “communist front organizations.” ...
The charges stemmed from the men’s involvement with the Holy Land Foundation, then America’s largest Muslim charity, that sent aid to Palestinians throughout the Middle East, as well as to refugees and war victims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Turkey, and Africa. The men consulted the U.S. Treasury Department to assure compliance with all laws governing nonprofit organizations. In Israel, the HLF was affiliated with a legal Israeli-Palestinian charity and worked with the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. Aid to Palestinians, many of them children orphaned in the conflict between occupier and occupied in the West Bank and Gaza, prompted Israel to investigate the charity and the U.S. to follow suit. While unable to prove a direct link between the HLF and Hamas, which President Bill Clinton declared a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1995, prosecutors alleged that civilian aid to Palestinians meant more resources for Hamas to attack Israel.
A domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could tilt the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasingly futile, a group of leading climate scientists has warned.
This grim prospect is sketched out in a journal paper that considers the combined consequences of 10 climate change processes, including the release of methane trapped in Siberian permafrost and the impact of melting ice in Greenland on the Antarctic.
The authors of the essay, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, stress their analysis is not conclusive, but warn the Paris commitment to keep warming at 2C above pre-industrial levels may not be enough to “park” the planet’s climate at a stable temperature.
They warn that the hothouse trajectory “would almost certainly flood deltaic environments, increase the risk of damage from coastal storms, and eliminate coral reefs (and all of the benefits that they provide for societies) by the end of this century or earlier.”
As temperatures bust heat records across the globe and wildfires rage from California to the Arctic, a new report produced annually by more than 500 scientists worldwide found that last year, the carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere reached the highest levels "in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years."
While the most significant jump was the global average for carbon dioxide (CO2)—which, at 405.0 parts per million (ppm), saw a 2.2 ppm increase from the previous year—concentrations of other dominant planet-warming greenhouse gases, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), also hit "record highs," according to State of the Climate in 2017 (pdf) released Wednesday.
Considering those rates, Greg Johnson, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, warned that even if humanity "stopped the greenhouse gases at their current concentrations today, the atmosphere would still continue to warm for next couple decades to maybe a century."
The 332-page report—which was overseen by NOAA and published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society—also notes that 2017 is among the three hottest years ever, taking the top spot for warmest non-El Niño year since scientists began measuring in the 1800s. However, NOAA data released last weekend shows that 2018 is on track to set a new record.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Pete Johnson And His Boogie Woogie Boys - Baby, Look At You
Pete Johnson - Holler Stomp
Pete Johnson & Joe Turner - That's All Right Baby
Pete Johnson - Rocket Boogie
Pete Johnson & Joe Turner - Roll 'Em Pete
Pete Johnson - Let 'Em Jump
Pete Johnson - Atomic Boogie
Pete Johnson And His Boogie Woogie Boys - Cherry Red
Pete Johnson - Rocket Boogie 88
Pete Johnson And His Boogie Woogie Boys - Lovin' Mama Blues
Pete Johnson - Mutiny in the Doghouse
Joe Turner & Pete Johnson Kansas City Blues
Pete Johnson - Blues on the Downbeat
Pete Johnson - Bottomland Boogie