The Evening Blues - 9-1-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer and guitarist Son Seals. Enjoy!
Son Seals - On My Knees
"We kill because we are afraid of our own shadow, afraid that if we used a little common sense we'd have to admit that our glorious principles were wrong."
-- Henry Miller
News and Opinion
The U.S. on Thursday conducted joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan, flying fighters and bombers above and near the Korean peninsula days after North Korea's latest missile launch.
”North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in a statement. ...
Four Marine Corps F-35B Lighting II fighters and two Air Force B-1B Lancers joined Japanese and South Korean warplanes in the show of force, officials said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday blamed Barack Obama for the U.S. government’s order for Russian officials to vacate three diplomatic compounds in the states. Lavrov claimed the former president’s policies have led to the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations and are preventing current U.S. president Donald Trump from making any “constructive proposals.”
Lavrov was informed of the decision in a phone call with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Thursday, and he said the Kremlin was still “looking into it.”
Raqqa, the last Islamic State stronghold in Syria, will fall by the end of October, allowing credible democratic elections to be held within a year, according to the UN special envoy for the country.
Setting out a highly optimistic scenario for the end of the civil war, Staffan de Mistura said the country would face a “moment of truth” after the reclaiming of Raqqa. He urged President Bashar al-Assad to recognise he must make a political gesture if he didn’t wish to see a version of Isis return under a new name within months.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, De Mistura argued that permanent peace would not be possible if the war ended in a messy but unilateral military victory for Assad. This, he said, would make the task of reconstruction and the return of refugees impossible.
There is a widespread view that the international community is beginning to wash its hands of Syria, and will allow Assad to win. But De Mistura said a military victory without a political settlement would lead to the revival of a Sunni military opposition “and the endless engagement would continue”.
He said he expected Isis to be defeated in its last Syrian strongholds of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor by October.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog has reported that Iran is staying within the main limits set down in a 2015 multilateral agreement that Donald Trump has insisted Tehran is violating.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium is 88.4kg (about 195lb), less than a third of the maximum allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name of the 2015 agreement. Under the agreement, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. The current stockpile is just over 1% of the pre-agreement level.
The stockpile of heavy water is also below the agreed limits, the IAEA said, according to journalists shown the agency’s latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities. The report comes at a critical time, as Trump has threatened to withhold his certification of Iranian compliance when he is next required to report to Congress in mid-October. He has said he expected Iran to be found non-compliant by then and “if it was up to me” would have found them non-compliant months earlier.
Former officials say the White House is putting pressure on intelligence officers and other officials to look for Iranian infractions that could justify the withdrawal of US adherence to the agreement, which is also signed by the UK, France, China, Germany and Russia.
An interesting article worth a read. Here are some excerpts:
A very senior Israeli intelligence delegation, a week ago, visited Washington. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke into President Putin’s summer holiday to meet him in Sochi, where, according to a senior Israeli government official (as cited in the Jerusalem Post), Netanyahu threatened to bomb the Presidential Palace in Damascus, and to disrupt and nullify the Astana cease-fire process, should Iran continue to “extend its reach in Syria.” Russia’s Pravda wrote, “according to eyewitnesses of the open part of the talks, the Israeli prime minister was too emotional and at times even close to panic. He described a picture of the apocalypse to the Russian president that the world may see, if no efforts are taken to contain Iran, which, as Netanyahu believes, is determined to destroy Israel.”
So, what is going on here? Whether or not Pravda’s quote is fully accurate (though the description was confirmed by senior Israeli commentators), what is absolutely clear (from Israeli sources) is that both in Washington and at Sochi, the Israeli officials were heard out, but got nothing. Israel stands alone. Indeed, it is reported that Netanyahu was seeking “guarantees” about the future Iranian role in Syria, rather than “asking for the moon” of an Iranian exit. But how could Washington or Moscow realistically give Israel such guarantees?
Belatedly, Israel has understood that it backed the wrong side in Syria – and it has lost. It is not really in a position to demand anything. It will not get an American enforced buffer zone beyond the Golan armistice line, nor will the Iraqi-Syrian border be closed, or somehow “supervised” on Israel’s behalf. Of course, the Syrian aspect is important, but to focus only on that, would be to “miss the forest for the trees.” The 2006 war by Israel to destroy Hizbullah (egged on by the U.S., Saudi Arabia – and even a few Lebanese) was a failure. Symbolically, for the first time in the Middle East, a technologically sophisticated, and lavishly armed, Western nation-state simply failed. What made the failure all the more striking (and painful) was that a Western state was not just bested militarily, it had lost also the electronic and human intelligence war, too — both spheres in which the West thought their primacy unassailable. ...
Against Hizbullah, Israel had thrown its full military force (though Israelis always say, now, that they could have done more). And against Syria, the U.S., Europe, the Gulf States (and Israel in the background) have thrown the kitchen sink: jihadists, al-Qaeda, ISIS (yes), weapons, bribes, sanctions and the most overwhelming information war yet witnessed. Yet Syria – with indisputable help from its allies – seems about to prevail: it has stood its ground, against almost unbelievable odds.
Just to be clear: if 2006 marked a key point of inflection, Syria’s “standing its ground” represents a historic turning of much greater magnitude. It should be understood that Saudi Arabia’s (and Britain’s and America’s) tool of fired-up, radical Sunnism has been routed. And with it, the Gulf States, but particularly Saudi Arabia are damaged. The latter has relied on the force of Wahabbism since the first foundation of the kingdom: but Wahabbism in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq has been roundly defeated and discredited (even for most Sunni Muslims). It may well be defeated in Yemen too. This defeat will change the face of Sunni Islam.
Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has referred to the situation in the Palestinian territories as “an alleged occupation”, in an apparent break from US foreign policy and mainstream international opinion.
Talking to the Jerusalem Post in his first major interview with the Israeli media, Friedman appeared to adopt a stance more in line with Israeli settlers, of whom he has been a high-profile supporter. One of the two journalists who conducted the interview confirmed to the Guardian that Friedman had been accurately quoted. A US official insisted that Friedman’s comments did not mark a change in US policy.
Demanding clarification from the US a Palestinian official said: “Our understanding is that when someone has an official position, like being an ambassador, this person does no longer speak in a personal capacity. Mr Friedman should realise that denying facts doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. He has an extensive record of attacks against the national rights of the Palestinian people, including funding illegal colonial-settlements and participating in celebrations of the Israeli occupation. We call upon the US administration to clarify their position.”
The legal status of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem – captured during the six-day war in 1967 – is recognised by the United Nations, most countries and by Israel itself in its use of institutions such as military courts to try Palestinians in the West Bank.
Isabel Kershner, writing in The New York Times, recently misrepresented the reality of Israeli-built walls and the fact that it is Palestinians enclosed by them and not Israelis.
Establishing that she spends far too much time in an Israeli milieu and too little in occupied Palestinian territory, she flips reality by penning, “Challenged by hostile forces on most of its fronts, Israel is already pretty much walled in.”
Yet it is Israel itself which has chosen to build walls. The people to describe as “walled in” are Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians are the ones being forcibly enclosed within bantustans as part of a comprehensive system of apartheid – not Israelis.
Throughout the article, Kershner repeatedly omits vital information about an underground wall Israel is building to further obstruct Palestinian egress from the tightly blockaded Gaza Strip.
In a historic decision Friday, Kenya’s Supreme Court annulled last month’s election result, citing irregularities in the way the vote was run and calling for a new election in the next 60 days.
Following a vote on August 8, the election commission declared incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner by a margin of 1.4m votes. But opposition candidate Raila Odinga quickly filed a complaint, challenging the validity of the vote and alleging that the commission’s IT system had been hacked to change the outcome.
The court seemingly agreed. Delivering the ruling, Chief Justice David Maraga said: “Elections are not an event but a process. After considering the totality of the entire evidence, we are satisfied that the elections were not conducted in accordance to the dictates of the Constitution and the applicable principles.” Justice Maraga called for a new election in the next 60 days.
At a court hearing on Wednesday, a federal judge agreed to delay accused leaker Reality Winner’s trial until March. The delay will allow Winner’s lawyers and expert witnesses to acquire the required security clearances needed to access classified information the government may use against her in court.
A potentially critical pretrial battle, however, is brewing right now, according to court documents filed Tuesday. Winner — the 25-year-old Air Force veteran and ex-National Security Administration contractor indicted under the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking a top-secret document — has accused the FBI of violating her Miranda rights. Winner’s lawyers are arguing that any alleged confession should be barred from a jury trial.
“Because Winner was not read her Miranda rights prior to law enforcement questioning,” Winner’s lawyers said in a memo supporting their motion, “any statements elicited by law enforcement from Winner during the encounter must be suppressed, as should any evidence obtained as a result of those statements.”
Winner is accused of having leaked an NSA document that was the basis of a story published by The Intercept on June 5, though The Intercept has no knowledge of the source’s identity. (The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, has taken steps to provide independent support for Winner’s legal defense through the Press Freedom Defense Fund. First Look also contributed $50,000 in matching funds to the Stand With Reality campaign, which I co-founded.)
Winner was denied bail shortly after her arrest and is currently in jail awaiting trial. Her case is the first leak prosecution the Trump administration has brought under the Espionage Act, as part of a wider crackdown on leaks. Winner’s case is widely seen as having enormous implications for both whistleblowers and the press. The Miranda rights argument made by her defense adds a potentially significant early wrinkle in what is almost sure to be a complex case.
The New York Times published a scurrilous column on United States military whistleblower Chelsea Manning and provided a platform to a right-wing neoconservative writer, who was disappointed the military did not sentence Manning to execution in the electric chair. Jamie Kirchick also initially refused to refer to Manning as Chelsea and use appropriate gender pronouns after she came out as a woman in August 2013. In fact, two months later, for Commentary Magazine, Kirchick labeled Chelsea Manning, a transgender person, a man.
“Supporters of [Edward] Snowden and Bradley Manning (the former Army private who released more than a quarter million classified diplomatic cables to the anarchist web collective WikiLeaks and who was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison after being found guilty of violating the Espionage Act) claim that the men are ‘whistleblowers,'” Kirchick wrote. “Far from betraying their country, both men’s backers say, they in fact served it by revealing egregious wrongdoing.”
Kirchick insists on pushing the notion that Manning engaged in treason or treachery, even though a military judge acquitted Manning of this very offense: “aiding the enemy.” He also compares Manning to the wife of Bashar al-Assad, and by dropping the Syrian leader’s name, goes low again just to push a cheap guilty-by-association smear into the minds of readers.
Why did the New York Times editorial board publish such malevolent commentary and give a platform to someone with such a toxic reputation? What is with the vitriolic headline, “When Transgender Trumps Treachery”? ... If the Times merely wants to play the role of contrarian to drive traffic to their website, that is vile because it comes at a cost to Manning.
It was recently announced that The Young Turks Network, led by Cenk Uygur, had secured $20 million dollars in funding to bolster their business/media presence. But while Cenk Uygur attempts to sell his brand to the public as a progressive alternative media outlet, facts reveal that this is nothing more than a façade meant to lure young liberal pragmatists into buying into a hidden corporatist agenda. ...
The main conduit for the funding is a newly created growth equity fund called 3L Capital, with additional financial backing from venture capital groups Greycroft Partners, E.ventures, and WndrCo. — which was recently launched by Hollywood mogul Jefferey Katzenberg. ...
Greycroft Partners – venture capital fund run by Alan Patricof — Patricof has been active in Democratic Party politics, contributing to candidates including Bill and Hillary Clinton, whom he met in the Hamptons when they were there guests of lobbyist and Democratic activist Liz Robbins. Greycroft Partners pumps money into the Clinton slush funds so their businesses can curry favor from the government in an effort to maximize profits on the companies they are invested in.
Jeffrey Katzenberg – Hollywood mogul & film producer, Disney, Dreamworks Animation — Katzenberg has been actively involved in Democratic politics. He actively supported Barack Obama, and has been called “one of Hollywood’s premier political kingmakers and one of the Democratic Party‘s top national fundraisers.”
Revealing that he is no progressive by any stretch of the imagination, Katzenberg tellingly donated $1 million to the Super PAC Priorities USA, which supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Furthermore, in June 2016, information released by WikiLeaks regarding leaked Democratic National Committee documents confirmed that Katzenberg donated $3 million to the Hillary Clinton campaign. Then in October 2016, he hosted a $100,000-per-person fundraiser at his Beverly Hills residence with Obama as the main attraction.
The idea that someone with such a strong track record of support for the Clinton machine and Obama, like Katzenberg, is actually working to help real progressives and progressive ideas come to the forefront of American political discourse is patently absurd. Ironically, Cenk still attempts to maintain that he is against money in politics – completely failing to mention that his newest corporate owners have shoveled millions of dollars into the pockets of Hillary and Obama – both standard bearers for the corporatist brand of Democratic party politics.
Single payer activists say they will not support a proposed bill that Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce after Labor Day if the bill includes cost-sharing measures such as co-pays. In a letter to Senator Sanders, Carol Paris, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) warn that PNHP “cannot endorse or wholeheartedly advocate for a reform that includes copayments for medically-necessary services.” ...
“While your staff has not shared with us the details of the current draft, we understand from colleagues in other single-payer advocacy groups that it mandates copayments for medical services for most Americans and proposes a four-year delay before the implementation of the single-payer reform,” the doctors write. “We also understand that during the four year phase-in period, the bill would make available a public option, and provide some upgrades to and expansion of Medicare coverage.” ...
“Recent reports are that Sanders’ bill falls far short of HR 676 in fundamental ways. In fact, Sanders’ bill is a multi-payer system not a single payer system,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers of Health Over Profit. “His bill reportedly would allow private insurers to compete with the public system, allow the wealthy to buy their way out of the public system and allow investor-owned health facilities to continue to profit while providing more expensive and lower quality health care.”
“As a leader in the Democratic Party in the Senate, Sanders is trying to walk the line between listening to the concerns of his constituency, which overwhelmingly favors single payer health care, and protecting his fellow Democrats, whose campaigns are financed by the medical industrial complex. Sanders needs to side with the movement not those who profit from overly expensive US health care.”
File under: "Tales from the police state."
The nation's largest nurses union is among those condemning the Salt Lake City police department after a video released Friday showed an officer physically assaulting and then arresting a nurse who refused to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient.
While attempting to force registered nurse Alex Wubbels to draw the sample without the appropriate warrant or authority, Detective Jeff Payne became infuriated when Wubbels' supervisor defended her refusal. Payne lunged at the nurse and tried to arrest her while she screamed for help and her shocked colleagues protested.
Payne reportedly wanted a sample from a car accident victim, but without a warrant—which he matter-of-factly told Wubbels he did not have—both hospital policy and state law forbid it.
Hmmm... something smells funny here...
Hillary Clinton’s case isn’t interesting enough to the public to justify releasing the FBI’s files on her, the bureau said this week in rejecting an open-records request by a lawyer seeking to have the former secretary of state punished for perjury.
Ty Clevenger has been trying to get Mrs. Clinton and her personal attorneys disbarred for their handling of her official emails during her time as secretary of state. He’s met with resistance among lawyers, and now his request for information from the FBI’s files has been shot down.
“You have not sufficiently demonstrated that the public’s interest in disclosure outweighs personal privacy interests of the subject,” FBI records management section chief David M. Hardy told Mr. Clevenger in a letter Monday. “It is incumbent upon the requester to provide documentation regarding the public’s interest in the operations and activities of the government before records can be processed pursuant to the FOIA,” Mr. Hardy wrote.
Greenpeace & Indigenous Water Protectors Respond to Lawsuit Accusing DAPL Activists of Eco-Terrorism
The French company that says its Houston-area chemical plant is spewing "noxious" smoke — and may explode — successfully pressed federal regulators to delay new regulations designed to improve safety procedures at chemical plants, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times. The rules, which were set to go into effect this year, were halted by the Trump administration after a furious lobbying campaign by plant owner Arkema and its affiliated trade association, the American Chemistry Council, which represents a chemical industry that has poured tens of millions of dollars into federal elections.
The effort to stop the chemical plant safety rules was backed by top Texas Republican lawmakers, who have received big campaign donations from chemical industry donors. ...
Arkema has six production plants in Texas and has received more than $8.7 million worth of taxpayer subsidies from the state. Arkema’s Crosby plant — which OSHA fined more than $90,000 for ten “serious” violations earlier this year and has spewed smoke in Crosby — appears to be covered under the existing EPA rules because of the kinds of chemicals it uses. While Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has given chemical companies legal cover to hide the locations of their EPA-regulated chemicals, the Associated Press reports that the imperiled Arkema facility houses large amounts of toxic sulfur dioxide and flammable methylpropen, which required Arkema to submit a risk management plan to the agency — and which would have subjected the company to the strengthened safety rules.
However, those rules — which would have taken effect on March 14 — were blocked by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma Attorney General demanded the rule be withdrawn. The move was a big win for the chemical industry that has spent more than $100 million supporting federal lawmakers since 2008. Among those who have received more than $100,000 from the industry are powerful Texas lawmakers including Sen. John Cornyn (R), Rep. Joe Barton (R), Rep. Pete Olson (R), Rep. Gene Green (D), Rep. Pete Sessions (R) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R).
The Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, which contains samples of some of the most deadly and incurable diseases, has issued a statement reporting itself safe five days after Hurricane Harvey struck on Friday amid safety concerns for a lab built in one of America’s most active hurricane zones. The lab issued a statement late on Wednesday saying, “The GNL reported that the facility continued operations without interruption and did not incur any damage, loss of power or biocontainment during the storm. “
Until Wednesday, there had been a news blackout about the lab since the Category 4 hurricane struck the island of Galveston in the Gulf of Mexico, where the lab is located. Reporters had been unable to reach the island because of severe flooding and the local press did not report on the fate of the lab. A voice message I left at the lab on Tuesday was never returned.
The lack of news about the lab fueled legitimate worry about its condition, given longstanding concerns about placing the lab in the path of hurricanes.
Irma, now barreling toward the Caribbean, formed as a tropical storm on Wednesday morning. By Thursday evening, however, the storm had strengthened at an alarming rate: Winds had built up to 115 mph — what meteorologists call “rapid intensification — making it a Category 3 hurricane. And as Irma tracks across the Atlantic, it’s expected to build to a Category 4, at least.
“Irma has become an impressive hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center wrote in a notice issued late Thursday. By Friday morning, the agency noted that Irma was on the move, “which should allow the hurricane to intensify.”
Meteorologists are calling Irma a classic example of a “Cape Verde” hurricane, a category of particularly dangerous storms that form near the Cape Verde islands in the eastern Atlantic. For example, Hurricane Ivan, the Category 5 storm that hit the Gulf Coast in Alabama in 2004, was a Cape Verde storm — so was Hugo, another Category 5 that hit just north of Charleston in South Carolina in 1989. ...
By Monday, we’ll know which of the models predicting Irma’s path is correct.
Good bet at a casino is an intense Hurricane Irma at Cat 4 or 5. But it's still red or black on U.S. impacts. Hope it's a "fish storm" pic.twitter.com/w6rWbbGVts
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) September 1, 2017
In recent years, right whales made a dramatic return to the Gulf of St. Lawrence – and then they started to die in unprecedented numbers, leading Ottawa to close fisheries down. The sightings were initially treated as a passing curiosity. The North Atlantic right whale, a rare and endangered species distinguished by patches of roughened white skin, had been seen off the coast of the Gaspé in Quebec before – though few could recall ever seeing them in this part of the gulf. But then came the deaths. That's when everyone started paying attention – especially the fishermen.
The first whale was discovered in the first week of June of this year, found floating west of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine in the south-central area of the gulf. ... Five more dead whales were found later that month. At least one was found entangled in fishing gear, others with evidence of being struck by ships. The crisis further escalated after a whale rescuer, Joe Howlett, was killed trying to disentangle one.
In total, there have been eight dead whales found this summer alone in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – a devastating figure, given only 524 North Atlantic right whales were previously believed to be in existence. ... "It's catastrophic," said Sean Brillant, the manager of marine programs at the Canadian Wildlife Federation. "We're talking about almost 1.5 per cent of an entire population."
The deaths have left officials scrambling. In the second week of July, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced a temporary closing of fisheries in one small area of the gulf. Then, late last week, DFO announced it would suspend all snow-crab fishing across a larger swath of the gulf for the rest of the snow-crab season. ...
Earlier this year, even before the deaths in the gulf, Mr. Brillant released a paper urging summer closings of two areas in the Bay of Fundy known to be critical right-whale habitats. With the recent events in the gulf, he said it's clear that further closings will have to take place there, too. "We're not looking to turn the ocean into a wildlife preserve … we just need to change to recognize that there is more than one purpose of the ocean – it's not simply a driver of economics for Canada. It's also a part of who we are," he said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Son Seals - Don't Lie To Me, Sky Is Crying
Son Seals - Going Back Home
Son Seals - Friday Again
The Son Seals Blues Band - Hot Sauce
Son Seals - I Can't Hear Nothing But The Blues
Son Seals - Let It Go
Son Seals - Dear Son
Son Seals - The Sun Is Shining
Son Seals - Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong
Son Seals - Going Home
Son Seals - Sadie
Son Seals - Growing up in Osceola, AR with Albert King