The Evening Blues - 9-9-15
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Piedmont blues and gospel singer Rev. Gary Davis. Enjoy!
Rev. Gary Davis - Slow Drag / Cincinnati Flow Rag
“I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead; men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideas.”
-― Charles Bukowski
News and Opinion
Countries’ attacks on their own citizens vindicate those who warned that the US president’s signature practice would echo around the world as the British and Pakistani strikes look unlikely to be their last
Two drone strikes by two different countries nearly 3,000km apart this week represent the proliferation of Barack Obama’s signature mode of counter-terrorism.
When the UK and Pakistan announced on Monday that they had each carried out lethal drone strikes against their own citizens, they followed a template sketched by Obama over the past seven years – one that critics have warned risks greater destabilization and legal abuse.
While a few other nations, particularly Israel, have conducted drone strikes in the past, experts have long warned that the proliferation of drone strikes would be inevitable after the US embraced them so enthusiastically early in Obama’s presidency. ...
“The US has already set a troubling precedent by violating international law in many instances through targeted killings; that the UK is now also willing to deliberately kill people outside of an armed conflict, and obfuscate the legal basis behind such killings, simply compounds the problem,” observed Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch.
“The law hasn’t changed, but US allies’ willingness to accept violations of the law may have, and it is a scary world for all of us if rules that govern lethal force can simply be tossed out the window.”
Monster of FOIA, Jason Leopold brings home the bacon again. There's a lot here, this is just a taste:
On April 21, 2011, Mark Boal called the CIA to tell them he was going to Afghanistan.
The previous year, the screenwriter had been at a dinner when CIA director Leon Panetta asked Boal to alert the agency if he ever traveled to the country. ... The previously undisclosed detail about Boal's phone call to the CIA was included in more than 100 pages of internal CIA documents obtained exclusively by VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The documents contain the most detailed information to date about the controversial role the CIA played in the production of Zero Dark Thirty (ZDT).
Included in the trove of redacted agency records is a March 2014 CIA Office of Inspector General report titled "Alleged Disclosure of Classified Information by Former D/CIA" — D/CIA refers to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta — and a separate September 2013 report from the inspector general's office titled "Potential Ethics Violations Involving Film Producers."
The ethics report contains remarkable details about how Bigelow and Boal gave CIA officers gifts and bought them meals at hotels and restaurants in Los Angeles and Washington, DC — much of which initially went unreported by the CIA officers — how they won unprecedented access to secret details about the bin Laden operation, and how they got agency officers and officials to review and critique the ZDT script.
Representative Peter King, the Republican congressman from New York and the former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, had pressed the inspectors general at CIA and Department of Defense in August 2011, a month after Panetta left the CIA to serve as secretary of defense, to investigate the alleged disclosures to Boal and Bigelow. This came after news reports claimed that high-ranking Obama administration officials granted the filmmakers extraordinary access to classified details about the bin Laden operation, and that the disclosures led to the arrests of Pakistanis who assisted the CIA in the operation. ...
The CIA worked with Bigelow and Boal at a time when the agency's so-called enhanced interrogation program was under scrutiny by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee. They were working on what came to be known as the Senate torture report, about the efficacy of the techniques to which CIA captives were subjected. The report concluding that those techniques did not yield unique or actionable intelligence and had nothing to do with tracking down bin Laden. ZDT, however, strongly suggested that the use of torture led the agency to bin Laden, a narrative that current and former CIA officials promoted in numerous op-eds and interviews after bin Laden was killed. That the narrative was so prominently featured in ZDT angered Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who fired off a letter to the president of Sony Pictures objecting to what she called a "false narrative."
As Ari Fleischer warned the world, "Watch what you say, watch what you do," Big Brother is watching and preparing his drones.
If there was ever any doubt that the US doesn’t have a good handle on who the ISIS leadership is, it should be exemplified by the new reports of US officials openly talking about, in their effort to “destroy ISIS,” assassinating people whose Twitter accounts are seen as too pro-ISIS.
There appears, at the very least, to be some debate among counter-terror officials on the matter, though none seem to be questioning whether or not it’s appropriate to assassinate people on the basis of speech, and are simply arguing over whether or not it’s worthwhile. ...
Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero was also a proponent of assassinating people on social media, saying ISIS has a “huge competitive advantage” on Twitter and that with little intelligence on the actual leadership of ISIS, you “attack what you can,” which means people on Twitter.
This pathetic display of American military "prowess" would be hilarious if it wasn't being funded by hundreds of millions of our tax dollars.
A solid year after Congress authorized $500 million for the training and creation of a brand new pro-US Syrian rebel force, the first class of trainees was deployed into Syria. What was initially expected to be tens of thousands of fighters ended up being 54, and they were quickly routed by al-Qaeda.
It’s just now that the Pentagon is finally admitting to there being “flaws” in their plan, and they are now talking about “tweaks” so that their future efforts are a little less disastrous than what they’ve accomplished so far.
The admission itself is a leap forward for the Pentagon, which has been insisting the 54 troops were going to do just fine, despite there only being 54 of them. ... Officials say there are two more classes of rebels, about 200 more of them, being trained right now, meaning they could have a four-fold increase in the number of fighters on the ground in Syria, though they will still be by far the smallest independent faction inside Syria.
France carried out its first reconnaissance flights over Syria Tuesday to identify potential Islamic State (IS) targets for airstrikes.
"The mission on September 8 lasted over six and a half hours," France's ministry of defense said in a statement. The Rafale jets used for the mission "were able to gather intelligence on the terrorist group IS, and reinforce the autonomous assessment capacity of France," the statement read.
French president François Hollande announced Monday that France would conduct reconnaissance flights over Syria with the aim of gathering intelligence for possible airstrikes against IS positions.
Speaking at a special press conference on Monday — the sixth in his presidency — Hollande dismissed the idea of sending ground troops into the country as "inconsequential and unrealistic."
When the resumption of the Turkish war against the Kurdish PKK fueled protests among Kurdish civilians, parliament was quick to pass a law authorizing police to use live ammunition to quell protests, after police complained the heavy use of teargas against Kurds was no longer enough.
Opponents warned this would turn Kurdish towns into live-fire areas, and this appears to be exactly what is happening, as locals report police sealing off Kurdish towns and snipers setting up shop on top of roofs, firing at people as they pass by.
Some of these towns are seeing thousands of police deployed with non-specific orders to tamp down Kurdish unrest, which mostly involves shutting down pro-Kurdish news outlets and shooting up the towns willy-nilly. One might call this excessive police overreach, but all indications are that this is exactly what the police were being ordered to do.
EU Head Says Continent Must Welcome Refugees
"Europe today... represents a place of hope. This is something to be proud of and not something to fear." In a passionate 80-minute speech on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged countries across the continent to remember its history and humanity, laying out an emergency plan for the compulsory distribution of 160,000 refugees.
As chaotic scenes continued on Hungary's border with Serbia, Juncker said Europeans should not be afraid but should welcome refugees. Europe was a continent where almost everyone had been a refugee at some time or another, he said, and it was rich enough to cope with a challenge far smaller than the one facing Syria's neighbors — Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.
"The Europe I want to live in is illustrated by those who want to help," he added, denouncing calls to discriminate among refugees according to religion. "Europe has made make the mistake in the past of distinguishing between Jews, Christians, Muslims. There is no religion, no belief, no philosophy when it comes to refugees."
The former Luxembourg prime minister, whose proposals face opposition from several governments whose interior ministers will meet on Monday, outlined the system by which 160,000 migrants currently in Italy, Greece, Hungary, who are in clear need of international protection, would be divided up between 28 European Union (EU) member states.
The number each country would receive would be calculated according to a formula using objective and quantifiable criteria: 40 percent of the size of the population, 40 percent of GDP, 10 percent of the average number of past asylum applications, and 10 percent of the unemployment rate.
The current migration crisis is the worst global refugee emergency since the second world war, according to the United Nations. Four million displaced Syrians are concentrated in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and, more recently, are trickling into Europe. The US is shielded from the humanitarian dilemma by a stroke of geographic luck, but the country could do more to assist refugees – if it had the political will to fix its broken domestic asylum system.
Immigration in the US is in dire need of reform as the courts are grossly under-staffed and under-funded. Congress tries to safeguard borders by spending more money on enforcement, but it has yet to provide the immigration courts commensurate funding to handle the hundreds of thousands of new removal cases the court receives each year. A miles-long backlog – US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) had 82,175 pending asylum cases as of March – continues to plague immigration judges and keeps asylum seekers in limbo. The New York asylum office, for example, scheduled interviews in July 2015 for people who filed applications two years ago in 2013.
Limited resources forced immigration courts to re-prioritize caseloads last summer, when roughly 68,000 unaccompanied minors and 65,000 families came to the US-Mexico border from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The young people are detained upon arrival, given a credible fear interview – a necessary step for asylum – before they are referred to an immigration court to have their applications processed. Given the sensitive nature of detaining minors, “rocket dockets” were created whereby judges could work speedily through large caseloads often at the expense of fairness.
And the numbers show no signs of waning. Widespread gang-related violence and poverty continues to push children with asylum claims to seek safety on US soil. Meanwhile, other (non-detained) asylum seekers, including Syrians fleeing war, are put on the back-burner.
Latin American countries are opening their doors to Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country, as Europe struggles with a growing refugee crisis.
Chile and Venezuela have this week both offered to take in Syrian refugees , and Brazil said it would continue to welcome people escaping the country’s brutal conflict. Argentina and Uruguay have also created special programs to resettle Syrian refugees since the war started in 2011.
Chile’s government said on Tuesday that it would take 100 families seeking refuge “to address the grave humanitarian crisis affecting thousands of Syrian citizens”.
“The decision has already been made by the president and it will happen as soon as possible,” said the foreign minister, Heraldo Muñoz.
On Monday, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro said that his country would accept 20,000 refugees from Syria – while at the same time reiterating his support for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, whom he described as “the only leader with authority in Syria”.
If you are not dedicated to the destruction of empire and the dismantling of American militarism, then you cannot count yourself as a member of the left. It is not a side issue. It is the issue. It is why I refuse to give a pass in this presidential election campaign to Bernie Sanders, who refuses to confront the war industry or the crimes of empire, including U.S. support for the slow genocide carried out by Israel against the Palestinians. There will be no genuine democratic, social, economic or political reform until we destroy our permanent war machine.
Militarists and war profiteers are our greatest enemy. They use fear, bolstered by racism, as a tool in their efforts to abolish civil liberties, crush dissent and ultimately extinguish democracy. To produce weapons and finance military expansion, they ruin the domestic economy by diverting resources, scientific and technical expertise and a disproportionate share of government funds. They use the military to carry out futile, decades-long wars to enrich corporations such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. War is a business. And when the generals retire, guess where they go to work? Profits swell. War never stops. Whole sections of the earth live in terror. And our nation is disemboweled and left to live under what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism.” Libertarians seem to get this. It is time the left woke up.
“Bourgeois society faces a dilemma,” socialist Rosa Luxemburg writes, “either a transition to Socialism, or a return to barbarism ... we face the choice: either the victory of imperialism and the decline of all culture, as in ancient Rome—annihilation, devastation, degeneration, a yawning graveyard; or the victory of Socialism—the victory of the international working class consciously assaulting imperialism and its method: war. This is the dilemma of world history, either-or; the die will be cast by the class-conscious proletariat.”
Too bad we can't get the UN to organize such an organization to round up and prosecute our own brutal American war criminals and corrupt, self-dealing political and military elites.
The spectacular fall from grace [of Otto Pérez Molina] was a remarkable victory for a UN-backed investigative commission established to dismantle criminal networks with ties to politicians and the security forces, and has prompted growing calls for similar independent crime-fighting bodies to be established in other Central American countries wrestling with endemic corruption.
Evidence collected by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) triggered weeks of unprecedented public protests that eventually forced Pérez Molina to step down last week. He was identified as a flight risk, and ordered to await trial in small cell at a military barracks.
CICIG was established in 2007 to help tackle organised crime that first emerged during Guatemala’s brutal 36-year civil war when corrupt security officials with political ties became involved in drug trafficking and contraband.
A 1996 peace deal ended the conflict but not the criminality. Instead, new groups infiltrated politics, security forces and the criminal justice system, operating with almost total impunity.
Over the past eight years, CICIG has investigated around 200 complex cases to help bring charges against a dozen criminal networks and almost 200 current and former government officials – including two former presidents, several ministers, police chiefs and military officers. It has helped to weed out hundreds of corrupt police, prosecutors and judges.
Greece’s snap election campaign heats up on Wednesday with a televised debate between the main party leaders, the first since 2009.
With just 11 days until the country heads to the polls, seven leaders including former prime minister Alexis Tsipras and conservative challenger Vangelis Meimarakis will cross swords in a debate that will be shown at 9pm local time on state broadcaster ERT.
Tsipras is hoping to pull ahead in a neck-and-neck race between his leftwing Syriza party and Meimarakis’s New Democracy party.
In addition to a challenge from the right, the 41-year-old will also be under pressure from Popular Unity, a breakaway party made up of former Syriza colleagues who rebelled when Tsipras’s government signed an unpopular third EU bailout in July. ...
In addition to Greece’s economic crisis and the bailout, migration is turning into a key campaign issue, with the Greek islands struggling with a huge influx of refugees from war-torn Syria.
The Rawlings-Blake administration plans to pay Freddie Gray's family $6.4 million as a settlement for civil claims in his arrest and death — an extraordinary payment in a lawsuit against city police.
The settlement — which is expected to be approved at Wednesday's meeting of the city's spending panel — will be paid out over two years, according to the mayor's office. The five-member board is controlled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
The payment is larger than the total of more than 120 other lawsuits brought against the police department for alleged brutality and misconduct since 2011. ...
The city is accepting all civil liability in Gray's arrest and death, but does not acknowledge any wrongdoing by the police, according to a statement from Rawlings-Blake's administration.
A little-noticed report on candidates for an open spot on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reaffirms that the reformist wing of the Democratic Party is winning the tactical battle over financial regulatory personnel.
Luis Aguilar, one of three Democratic SEC commissioners on the five-member panel, announced he would step down in May. Initially, the White House floated as a replacement Keir Gumbs, who has passed through the revolving door, from SEC staff to the white-collar corporate law firm Covington & Burling. ...
But months of criticism of both Gumbs and the SEC’s bank-friendly practices created a delay, with the White House agreeing to vet additional candidates who didn’t have ties to corporate America. Last week, word leaked that administration officials were considering Lisa Fairfax, a law professor at George Washington University. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., listed Fairfax as one of her top candidates for the SEC position. ...
The Obama administration, despite a clear preference for moderates with Wall Street ties for financial regulatory positions, now must consider a far broader range of personnel. Warren and company have prioritized this, believing that personnel affects policy when regulators must implement and enforce laws, or exercise independent judgment. Reducing Wall Street’s influence inside those agencies will have a salutary effect on outcomes.
I've been saying this for years:
We have more empty homes than homeless people.
We have more food than necessary to feed everyone in the world.
This is not an era of actual scarcity. It is an era of artificial scarcity.
We either already have excess capacity or we have the ability to create more than people need of all necessities. ...
Most scarcity is artificial. It is imposed through a money system where a few people have the right to create money and everyone else has to get it from them. That money is nothing more or less, in this context, than permission to use society’s resources, whether people’s labor or the results of that labor. ...
By centralizing production of various items (including ideological/intellectual ones) in a few areas and to a few people, we have pooled necessities in places they aren’t needed and denied it to other people.
These are social problems, with social solutions.
Top advisers to Al Gore were so worried that he would come across as wooden in the 2000 presidential debates that they set up a training facility at an aquatic center in Florida featuring a replica stage at a cost of $400,000.
It didn’t work.
This year Hillary Clinton’s advisers have embarked on a subtler strategy for fine-tuning the presidential candidate, according to a New York Times report published Tuesday. The plan amounts to a blueprint for spontaneity, to include more self-effacing humor, more empathy and more backyard parties. ...
Renewed reports that she is trying for yet another image makeover, however, indicate the seriousness with which the Clinton camp is handling their candidate’s slipping popularity and other concerns. A major poll last week measured Clinton’s favorability at near historic lows among all voters – although it remains sky-high among Democrats.
The Evening Greens
The University of Texas has seen 1.6 million gallons of oil, waste water, and pollutants spilling from fracking sites into the ground and groundwater on lands that it leases to oil and gas companies in West Texas, according to a report from two environmental groups released today.
The university owns some 2 million acres of land in West Texas that it leases for oil and gas exploration as well as agricultural use. The report from the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center and the Frontier Group criticized the university for failing to enforce more stringent standards on fracking with the companies leasing its lands.
Luke Metzger, from the ETRPC, said that about 4,100 wells have been fracked on University of Texas (UT) lands since 2005, which has led to a "significant impact" on the environment. He cited six billion gallons of water that were used amid a drought in Texas while state and local leaders were calling for Texans to reduce their water consumption, 270 million gallons of chemicals that were pumped into the ground including hydrochloric acid and methanol, and the release of enough methane to rival the pollution of between 50,000 and 1.5 million cars per year.
He also said that of the 1.6 million gallons of oil, salt water, and other pollutants spilled from the wells on UT land, five spill sites were still being cleaned up.
"We think that it's alarming how much damage has been done to the environment on UT lands, and we think that if UT is going to continue to allow fracking on their lands, at the very least they need to work to end the very worst practices by oil and gas companies and write important protections into leases they sign," Metzger said.
As children across the country head back to school this week, a new report from public interest group ForestEthics reveals that 14,800 schools and 5.7 million students are within the "oil train blast zone"—the area that must be evacuated in case of a derailment or fire from an oil train.
Using its Blast Zone map, released last year, and data from the Department of Education, ForestEthics identified the five U.S. cities with the greatest numbers of students at risk from a potential oil train derailment and explosion: Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and El Paso.
"The federal government needs to protect the millions of students sitting in classrooms inside the blast zone," said Matt Krogh, extreme oil campaign director for ForestEthics, which is calling for a moratorium on oil trains in the absence of publicly available information about their routes, their contents, and their safety.
Massive growth of oil train traffic—over 5,000 percent since 2008 in the U.S.—has led to more derailments, oil spills into waterways, and massive explosions. This year alone has seen five explosive derailments in the U.S. and Canada. In 2013, 47 people died when an oil train crashed and exploded in the small Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic. ...
A separate analysis released last week by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) showed that more than 1 million California students attend school within a mile of confirmed oil train routes, and of those, roughly 521,000 go to school within a half-mile of oil train routes—the area that federal officials say should be initially evacuated in all directions in case of a single tanker on fire.
The countries most responsible for global warming owe the rest of the world a tremendous debt, with the author of a new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change putting the figure at $10 trillion.
The author came up with that number by calculating how much CO2 each country emitted per capita since 1960, generally recognized as the onset of the worst of human-caused global warming. Countries with high per capita emissions carry a carbon debt while countries with lower per capita emissions have a carbon credit. ...
The United States is responsible for about 40 percent of the debt.
The study concludes the carbon debt of high-emitting countries totals 250 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide since 1990. The U.S. government calculates the social cost of CO2 emissions --including property damage from increased flooding, reduced agricultural productivity and adverse effects on human health-- is about $40 per metric ton of CO2. ...
"The biggest polluters in absolute terms are not necessarily countries but entities within countries, that is very often large corporations," Liane Schalatek of the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, said. "If you put their pollution together [they] actually make up the majority of the pollution."
A 2013 study funded in part by the Böll Foundation found nearly two-thirds of carbon dioxide emitted since the 1750s can be traced to the 90 largest fossil fuel and cement producers, most of which are still operating.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some of which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Reverend Gary Davis - If I Had My Way
Grateful Dead - Samson and Delilah
Rev. Gary Davis - Candyman
Roy Bookbinder - Candy Man
Rev. Gary Davis - I Am The Light
Jorma Kaukonen & Barry Mitterhoff - I Am The Light Of This World
Rev. Gary Davis - Cocaine Blues
Rev. Gary Davis - Twelve Gates To The City
Robert Plant & Band of Joy - Twelve gates to the city / I bid you goodnight
Rev. Gary Davis - Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning
Jorma Kaukonen w/ David Bromberg - Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning
Rev. Gary Davis - Death Don't Have No Mercy
Rev Gary Davis w/ Sonny Terry - You've Got To Move
Rev. Gary Davis - You Got To Go Down
Rev. Gary Davis - Hesitation Blues
Reverend Gary Davis - How Happy I Am