The Evening Blues - 9-22-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues guitarist Debbie Davies. Enjoy!
Debbie Davies - I Just Came To Play
“I have supported U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and believe they are authorized under current law, and I support targeted U.S. military efforts to protect U.S. citizens. It is my firm belief, however, that the war against ISIS will never be won unless nations in the Middle East step up their military efforts and take more responsibility for the security and stability of their region. The United States and other western powers should support our Middle East allies, but this war will never be won unless Muslim nations in the region lead that fight. It is worth remembering that Saudi Arabia, for example, is a nation controlled by one of the wealthiest families in the world and has the fourth largest military budget of any nation. This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must become more heavily engaged.”
-- Bernie Sanders
News and Opinion
Saudi Arabia is “not an ally of the United States,” according to Bernie Sanders, the independent senator and former Democratic presidential hopeful. Sanders broke with the bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill in an exclusive interview with The Intercept. The United States has long considered Saudi Arabia to be a loyal friend, supporter, and partner in the so-called war on terror.
Sanders issued a scathing denunciation of the Gulf kingdom, which has recently embarked on a new round of domestic repression. “I consider [Saudi Arabia] to be an undemocratic country that has supported terrorism around the world, it has funded terrorism. … They are not an ally of the United States.”
The Vermont senator accused the “incredibly anti-democratic” Saudis of “continuing to fund madrasas” and spreading “an extremely radical Wahhabi doctrine in many countries around the world.”
Speaking to The Intercept, Sanders called for a “rethink, in terms of American foreign policy … vis-a-vis Iran and Saudi Arabia.” The senator suggested the United States should consider a pivot toward long-standing adversary Iran and away from traditional ally Saudi Arabia. The latter, he claimed, “has played a very bad role internationally, but we have sided with them time and time and time again, and yet Iran, which just held elections, Iran, whose young people really want to reach out to the West, we are … continuing to put them down.”
Sanders said he had “legitimate concerns … about Iran’s foreign policy” but wanted a more “even-handed” approach from the United States to the “Iran and Saudi conflict.”
Amid international calls for an independent inquiry into Saudi war crimes in Yemen, the Kingdom has investigated itself and found it has done nothing wrong.
Countries including China, the Netherlands, and Canada have pushed forward with a U.N. Human Rights Council draft resolution to establish an independent investigation into Saudi war crimes against civilians in the small war-torn nation of Yemen. This week, Human Rights Watch also accused the coalition of committing war crimes.
Though these allegations have been circulating and documented for years, little has been done to stop the Saudi attacks, and the Saudis and their U.S. and Arab allies have worked to undermine efforts to uncover wrongdoing. “The minimal efforts made towards accountability over the past year are insufficient to respond to the gravity of the continuing and daily violations involved in this conflict,” U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in Geneva this week. ...
The Saudis said they did not object to the current push for an inquiry but claimed it was bad timing. According to Abdulaziz al-Wasil, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Geneva:
“We have no objection (to) the inquiry itself, we just have a discussion about the timing.Whether this is the right time to establish an international commission with the difficulties on the ground, and we knew in advance that they will face tremendous obstacles in terms of access.”
Moscow warned Washington Thursday that U.S.-supported forces will face a fierce military response if Russian-backed Syrian government troops come under fire again.
Russian military officials said they issued the statement after U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) troops twice fired on Russian-supported Syrian government troops fighting to oust Islamic State fighters from the oil-rich eastern province of Deir ez-Zour.
The U.S. military command “was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that any fire from the SDF would be “immediately suppressed with all military means.”
Israeli jets have reportedly bombed an area near the Damascus international airport in the third attack in as many weeks by the Israeli military on targets associated with the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
According to social media reports on sites associated with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Israeli planes fired at least two missiles from outside Syrian airspace, hitting either a weapons depot or a convoy.
The Facebook page of the National Guard for the Defence of the Homeland, allied with the Syrian military, reported that “an area near the Damascus international airport was attacked by a hostile missile”, while images showed a fire burning in the early hours of Friday.
The Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen also reported the attack.
The latest airstrikes mark a recent increase in Israeli interventions which have coincided with diplomatic warnings by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that his country will not accept an enhanced Iranian and Hezbollah presence on its northern borders.
D-O-T-A-R-D. Dotard. The internet learned a new word Thursday night.
That’s what Kim Jong Un, the reclusive and combative North Korean leader, called Donald Trump after the U.S. president’s fiery speech at the United Nations on Tuesday. ...
According to Merriam-Webster, Kim’s obscure insult means “a person in his or her dotage,” which is a “state of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.” When it was first used, however, it meant something closer to imbecile.
Google searches for the word were through the roof on Friday morning — and Merriam-Webster, the social-media-savvy dictionary, also tweeted that searches for the word had skyrocketed.
'Dotard' is a good one to pull out of the bag. Wish I learnt it doing a crossword instead of through being on the precipice of nuclear war.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) September 21, 2017
Japan must brace itself for the possible launch of a nuclear-armed North Korean missile over its territory if the regime carries out a threat to test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, Japan’s defence minister has said.
The warning followed an extraordinary exchange of insults between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in response to the US president’s threat at the UN general assembly to “totally destroy” North Korea if Washington was forced to defend itself or its allies.
Kim said that he was considering retaliating at the “highest level”, calling Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” who would “pay dearly” for threatening to destroy his regime. The North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, suggested Pyongyang could test a powerful nuclear weapon in the Pacific. ...
Earlier this month, North Korea detonated a powerful hydrogen bomb at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the north-east of the country. The explosion caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that was felt over the Chinese border in Yanji.
Testing a nuclear device beyond its own borders would mark a major escalation in tensions over the regime’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes. Analysts said a nuclear test involving a missile could be “truly terrifying” if something goes wrong.
South Korea has approved an $8m (£5.9m) aid package for North Korea, in a humanitarian gesture at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. South Korea’s unification ministry agreed to provide the funds, which will go towards programmes for infants and pregnant women, days after the UN security council agreed a further round of sanctions in response to the regime’s recent nuclear test.
The ministry, which oversees cross-border relations, said humanitarian aid to impoverished North Korea should remain unaffected by rising political tensions on the peninsula. The aid package did not include cash payments, the ministry said, and there was “realistically no possibility” that it could be of any use to the North Korean military. South Korea’s unification minister, Cho Myung-gyon, said the government had “consistently said we would pursue humanitarian aid for North Korea in consideration of the poor conditions there among children and pregnant women”.
The decision is a break with the hardline policy on aid pursued by Seoul since the start of last year. It also risks causing a rift with the US and Japan, which regard engagement as a concession to North Korea, while it accelerates its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, reportedly asked the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to reconsider the timing of the aid package in a recent telephone call. Japan’s government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said it could undermine international efforts to put pressure on North Korea.
Catalonia’s president has accused the Spanish government of a massive and profoundly undemocratic overreaction to its bid for independence, saying the state’s efforts to stop the looming referendum exceed the security measures used at the height of Eta’s terror campaign.
Speaking to the Guardian at the end of a turbulent week that has seen 14 senior Catalan officials arrested, almost 10m ballot papers seized and thousands more police ordered to the region, Carles Puigdemont said he feared Spain was returning to the repressive practices of the Franco era.
“Most normal people would agree on what to call this kind of situation,” he said. “And it’s not a normal, democratic one. There’s a serious and worrying return to the fall of democracy in Spain and it’s not just us who are realising that.”
Puigdemont said the arrival in Catalan ports of at least three ferries intended to accommodate thousands of police officers tasked with preventing the referendum taking place on 1 October was proof of the Spanish government’s authoritarian attitude. ...
“The government is misleading people. We’ve spent six years organising things very calmly and fighting political battles. They may have been pretty noisy battles, but they were political and democratic battles, and they’re behaving as if we were in a violent conflict.”
Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options. A case in point: At last night’s demonstration, spread across multiple locations in Barcelona, were two friends of mine, one who is fanatically apolitical and the other who is a strong Catalan nationalist but who believes that independence would be a political and financial disaster for the region. It was their first ever political demonstration. If there is a vote on Oct-1, they will probably vote to secede.
The middle ground they and hundreds of thousands of others once occupied was obliterated yesterday when a judge in Barcelona ordered Spain’s militarized police force, the Civil Guard, to round up over a dozen Catalan officials in dawn raids. Many of them now face crushing daily fines of up to €12,000. The Civil Guard also staged raids on key administrative buildings in Barcelona. The sight of balaclava-clad officers of the Civil Guard, one of the most potent symbols of the not-yet forgotten Franco dictatorship, crossing the threshold of the seats of Catalonia’s (very limited) power and arresting local officials, was too much for the local population to bear.
Within minutes almost all of the buildings were surrounded by crowds of flag-draped pro-independence protesters. The focal point of the day’s demonstrations was the Economic Council of Catalonia, whose second-in-command and technical coordinator of the referendum, Josep Maria Jové, was among those detained. He has now been charged with sedition and could face between 10-15 years in prison. Before that, he faces fines of €12,000 a day. The confiscation of ballots and other vital voting paraphernalia and the detention of key members of the referendum’s organizing committee, together with today’s decision by the Spanish Finance Ministry to completely block the regional government’s accounts — a move that would not be possible without full cooperation of both Spanish and Catalan banks — could be a major setback for Catalonia’s dreams of independence. ...
Madrid is sending three ships with a total of 6,000 non-Catalan police reinforcements to Barcelona in the coming week. In reaction, the stevedores at Barcelona Port have voted not to provide any services to the ships, which they consider to be “ships of repression.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Thursday a range of options remained on the table, including a possible oil embargo, if Venezuela did not move to restore its democratic processes.
Videos posted on social media appeared to show protesters in New York being hit and punched as they were removed from a speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to one video on Twitter, a protester who appeared to be American yelled at Erdogan, "You're a terrorist! Get out of my country!"
The scuffles took place as Erdogan addressed the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), a group friendly to Erdogan, at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
Earlier this year, members of Erdogan's own security detail were indicted by a grand jury for attacking protesters in May 2017 during a Washington visit -- as he looked on. But this point, it is unclear whose security detail was punching and hitting the protesters as they were being removed.
There’s little doubt that Germany’s elections this Sunday will make history. The populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) will be the first modern radical right party to enter the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament. But whether it becomes the third- or sixth-biggest party in Germany is of little political significance, as the AfD will be immediately excluded from the coalition-formation process.
The real story of the German elections is the seemingly effortless re-election of Angela Merkel, leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and German Chancellor since 2005. Merkel is by far the longest-serving political leader of a major democratic state, having already survived four leaders of the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) as well as two U.S. presidents, three French presidents, three British prime ministers, four Greek premiers, and five Italian ones. Moreover, she has been polling close to 40 percent, which means she is set for one of the best scores in her party’s history. Not bad for someone whom many political commentators predicted would not survive 2016.
Most remarkable about Merkel’s popularity, it’s not based on the older, rural, white electorate that has become the declining base of right-wing parties in the UK and U.S. A recent poll showed her party to be the most popular among under-18-year-olds in Germany by far, polling almost 30 percent. This might not be that surprising, as most of these voters have never known any other chancellor. ...
The AfD will no doubt grab the headlines, spurring commentators to speculate on its role in the future of German politics. But you’d be wise to focus on the almost equally nativist and authoritarian CSU. It is Southern Germany’s austerity-loving winners of globalization who will decide whether Merkel enters the history books as simply a national stateswoman or a leader for all of Europe.
The rise of Alternative for Germany, the new far-right political party competing in the upcoming federal election, has unsettled the consensus-driven, moderate politics of postwar Germany with its rabid anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, unabashed nationalism, and winking gestures embracing the country’s Nazi past.
Election-watchers expected a flood of fake news and inflammatory social media aiding Alternative for Germany, known by its German initials, AfD, to come from Russia. But one of the major publishers of online content friendly to the far-right party is an American website financed in large part and lead by Jewish philanthropist Nina Rosenwald.
Rosenwald’s site, the Gatestone Institute, publishes a steady flow of inflammatory content about the German election, focused on stoking fears about immigrants and Muslims. In one of the most recent posts, the website warns of the construction of mosques in Germany and claims that Christianity is becoming “extinct.” The Gatestone posts, which are often translated into German, are regularly promoted by AfD politicians and AfD-related social media groups to justify the party’s crusade against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy. ...
Gatestone articles are also regularly reprinted by far-right German blogs and web forums that are popular among AfD’s grassroots base. Philosophia Perennis and Politically Incorrect News, two popular sites that specialize in German nationalist content, routinely syndicate Gatestone’s articles. Gatestone content can also be found on Krautchan, a German knockoff of 4chan, the online forum frequented by the far right.
When white nationalist Richard Spencer coined the term “alt-right” nearly a decade ago, his movement was marginal, impotent, and striving for respectability. The phrase was a useful euphemism for his genocidal ideology, a palatable alternative to “the Ku Klux Klan” or “the American Nazi Party” to go with his suit, tie, and military undercut. ...
Now, however, the term has become a liability. Its erosion began as far back as November 2016, when Spencer paid homage to the soon-to-be president with a cry of “Hail, Trump!” Then, in August, the “alt-right” brand cratered. During a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, meant to bring together a coalition that still regarded itself as the so-called alt-right, crowds of white men were captured on camera giving the Roman — or Nazi — salute. Swastikas abounded. Street fights broke out, and the violence turned deadly: A left-wing counterprotester named Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist.
Just a few days after Klansmen and other extreme right-wing activists marched openly on the Charlottesville streets, far-right YouTube star and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich disowned the “alt-right,” calling them “Nazi boys.” “That’s all it is now,” he said in a video, “is a purely anti-Semitic movement.” In 2016, the right-wing website Breitbart had embraced both the moniker and the movement of the “alt-right.” ... But after Charlottesville, Breitbart angrily denounced its critics for ever daring to insinuate that it was part of the “alt-right” movement, calling it a “smear.”
The Proud Boys, a drinking club of male, far-right street brawlers, who purport to defend “Western values,” are routinely associated with the “alt-right.” But the group’s leader, Gavin McInnes, who helped launch Vice Media in 1994 and now runs a right-wing YouTube talk show, has in fact rejected the term for some time, preferring the milder-sounding “alt-light.” McInnes’s insistence that the Proud Boys have nothing to do with the “alt-right” grew even more adamant after the violence in Charlottesville.
Such is the growing toxicity of the “alt-right” brand post-Charlottesville, and the eagerness of many right-wing groups and leaders to escape its valence. That eagerness, in turn, may suggest that the new far-right movement that coalesced around the Trump campaign last year is splitting into factions, divided over the degree to which they openly embrace an overt white nationalist ideology. The biggest cleave within what was once collectively known as the “alt-right” is between explicitly white nationalist organizations and the individuals and groups they derisively call the “alt-light.” ... Before Charlottesville, the two factions sustained an alliance in the face of common adversaries, beginning during Trump’s presidential campaign and continuing through the street brawls between the far right and antifascist activists known as antifa in places like Berkeley, California, where the Proud Boys and other “alt-light” groups have fought side by side with avowed white nationalists. Charlottesville ended that.
It’s become a familiar scene in the the city’s metropolitan area, equal parts deja vu and cliche. Again, protesters marched up and down a stretch of Missouri highway with signs that read “black lives matter” and “say their names”. Again they beat drums, cheered chants and locked arms. Above, helicopters buzzed while police in riot gear cordoned off sections of road. In rolled the armored bearcat, garrisoned with Swat officers.
As if on cue, an hour or so in, the protest was declared unlawful – no reason was immediately given. Threats of arrest and chemical munitions rang over police PA. For demonstrators and reform advocates in the greater St Louis area, the exhaustion, the wearying sense of repetition was palpable – but so was the resolve.
“When folks stop making a mockery of the justice system, that’s when this stops,” said protester Jay Weaver as riot police slowly but steadily advanced their phalanx towards the crowd. “Until that mock trial mess going on in the courtroom stops, this can’t stop. They’re the ones making things worse, not the people out on the street protesting.”
Bernie Sanders's plan to make tuition free at all public colleges and universities is becoming a mainstream position in the Democratic Party. But the plan has appeal far beyond the Democratic faithful.
A Morning Consult poll conducted in mid-September finds that a plurality of self-identified Republicans now agree with a “proposal to make four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free,” as the question is worded.
Forty-seven percent of Republican respondents say they strongly or somewhat support the proposal, while 45 percent say they strongly or somewhat oppose it. Seven percent say they don’t know or have no opinion. Among self-identified tea party backers, support is also strong — with 50 percent saying they support the proposal while 49 percent oppose it.
Overall, 63 percent of Americans support the proposal, while 29 percent oppose it.
There's a lot to unpack about the newly formed Committee to Investigate Russia, which aims to "help Americans recognize and understand the gravity of Russia’s continuing attacks on our democracy." Perhaps its most striking feature is that no Russia experts are involved; that's a sign of the times.
The Committee's birth received broad coverage in the U.S. because of the involvement of two celebrity actors, Rob Reiner and Morgan Freeman, who introduced the new nonprofit in a video asserting that "We are at war." Reiner doesn't appear to have come into contact with Russia in his long career. Freeman made two movies with Timur Bekmambetov, a Russian director, including the 2016 flop "Ben Hur."
The Committee's advisory board includes one person born in Moscow -- the conservative commentator and military historian Max Boot. But he came to the U.S. at an early age, and none of his major works have been focused on Russia. Former National Security Agency chief James Clapper probably came into contact with Russia experts during his service, but he isn't one himself. Nor have other advisory board members demonstrated any previous deep interest in Russia. They aren't, of course, real "investigators" -- they lack the background for it -- but the organization was set up to collect the public evidence and, it seems, to sell a preconceived narrative, rather than provide an impartial evaluation of it. ...
Since the first reports of Russian interference in the U.S. election last year, the terms "propaganda" and "hacks" have morphed into "war" in the American political mind. The U.S. knows how to do war; war excludes nuance and equivocation. It needs Morgan Freeman's well-rehearsed gravitas.
Exxon Mobil may soon have a greater hand in shaping the science used to develop major environmental regulations.
The published list of potential names for the Science Advisory Board and the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee includes many industry representatives and consultants. The panels are typically composed primarily of independent academics and researchers charged with reviewing agency science and advising the Environmental Protection Agency on major policy decisions.
While industry has always had a voice on those panels, comments from the Trump administration and the potential new appointees suggest the balance may soon change in favor of greater power for regulated companies, particularly the oil and gas industries.
The long list of potential new advisory board members includes officials from Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Alcoa, Noble Energy, Total, and the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the chemical industry. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will make the final determination to select the members of the panels.
In an attempt to highlight and bolster the "groundswell of resistance" against fracking wells, pipelines, and other fossil fuel projects throughout the United States, a coalition of environmental groups on Thursday launched the Fossil Fuel Resistance Mapping Project, which details precisely where opposition to Big Oil is taking hold throughout the United States and how others can join in.
"From the Gulf Coast where people are recovering from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to the Pacific Northwest where wildfires are raging, many communities are leading fights against fossil fuel projects amidst life-altering climate impacts," the coalition—which includes 350.org, Sierra Club, and Bold Alliance—said in a joint statement Thursday.
"These fights are not isolated events, but rather a groundswell of steadfast and widespread local resistance to fossil fuel projects across the continent in the absence of federal climate action," the groups continue. "Grassroots leaders in these efforts are pushing back on the fossil fuel industry’s injustices, from environmental racism to violating Indigenous sovereignty."
The groups hope that the map, which can be accessed on the coalition's website, will serve as "a resource for people to find, start, or join a campaign in their community to resist fossil fuel projects, and for those involved in existing fights to connect with each other."
A massive saltwater crocodile – said to be one of the biggest ever seen in Queensland – has been found shot dead and experts fear its demise could lead to other crocodiles becoming more aggressive as young males fight for supremacy. Police and state environmental officers are investigating after the 5.2-metre male reptile was found with a bullet in its head in the Fitzroy river in Rockhampton on Thursday.
The crocodile was taken to the nearby Koorana crocodile farm, where it will be buried once a necropsy is carried out. Farm owner John Leaver said a five-metre crocodile had not been caught in Queensland for 20 to 30 years.
“I would say that someone felt very threatened,” he said, when asked why he thought it had been shot.
Michael Joyce, southern wildlife operations director at Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, said the remaining male crocodiles could act differently and become more hostile as they establish who will rule next.
Joyce said it was estimated to be between 80 and 100 years old. “It is on the larger end of the scale, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “There are not a lot of crocodiles over five metres.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Debbie Davies - I Wonder Why
Debbie Davies - My Time After Awhile
Joe Louis Walker and Debbie Davies - 747
Debbie Davies - Life Of The Party
Debbie Davies - Just Stepped In The Blues
Debbie Davies Band - Slow Blues
Debbie Davies - If you Love Me Like You Say
Debbie Davies - Where The Blues Come To Die
Debbie Davies - Better Off With The Blues
Debbie Davies/Peter Green - Nature's Disappearing