Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.
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This evening's music features the good McCain, harmonica ace Jerry McCain. Enjoy!
Jerry McCain - Steady
"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
-- Vice President Dick Cheney
News and Opinion
Iraq crisis: Barack Obama sends in US troops as Isis insurgency worsens
The Obama adminstration has ordered the urgent deployment of several hundred armed troops in and around Iraq, after the rampant insurgency in the country forced the first talks between the US and Iran over a common security interest in more than a decade.
Barack Obama discussed the crisis with national security team on Monday night after earlier notifying Congress that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for personnel and the US embassy in Baghdad.
While Obama has vowed to keep US troops out of combat in Iraq, he said in his notification to Congress that the personnel moving into the region were equipped for direct fighting. In addition, officials told Reuters that the White House was considering sending a contingent of special forces to train and advise beleaguered Iraqi troops, many of whom have fled their posts in the face of the insurgency.
The moves were made in advance of any decision Obama may yet make on attacking the Isis fighters currently threatening Iraq.
About 170 US personnel have already arrived in Baghdad – almost as many as those already there – with another 100 nearby outside Iraq to assist, rear admiral John Kirby said in a statement from the Pentagon late Monday. Obama had earlier sent a letter to members of Congress informing them of the decision – a signal that the administration does not want to risk another disaster at an under-guarded embassy akin to the 2012 assault on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya that remains a major controversy on the right.
US Marines, Warships Head Toward Iraq
In addition to the 275 US Marines deployed to the US Embassy in Baghdad yesterday, another 550 Marines are being brought into the area off the coast of Baghdad by the USS Mesa Verde, one of four US warships that have joined the aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush in the Persian Gulf. ...
Though the US is still officially predicating its intervention on the Maliki government making reforms, the indications are that the plans are going forward either way, and that the administration was just trying to squeeze some concessions out of the Iraqi PM under duress.
Insurgents attack repelled in Baquba
The Iraqi security forces have also repelled that attack in Baquba, according to AFP.Militants attacked and took control of parts of the central Iraq city of Baquba but security forces eventually repelled the assault on Tuesday, army and police officers said.
The overnight attack took place in the centre of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, and according to the officers, saw militants temporarily occupying several neighbourhoods.
The city, located just 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Baghdad, is the closest the fighting has come to the capital since a major militant offensive swept down from the north last week.
The security forces performed poorly during the initial [Isis] assault, in some cases abandoning uniforms and vehicles to flee, but seem to be recovering somewhat from the shock of the onslaught, and have begun to push back.
ISIS and a new Sunni uprisingThis is interesting analysis, worth a read:
ISIS has substantial roots in Mosul, where it managed to remain a potent force during and after the U.S. troop "surge." ... But this is not all about ISIS. Many other armed Sunni actors are involved in what has become, in effect, a Sunni uprising -- groups such as the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia, Jaish al-Mujahideen, Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, Al-Jaish al-Islami fil Iraq and various tribal military councils.
ISIS may be the largest force involved (with about 8,000 fighters in Iraq), but it is far from sufficient to take and hold multiple urban centers. It is still totally reliant on an interdependent relationship with what remains a tacitly sympathetic and facilitating Sunni population. But this "relationship" is by no means stable and should not be taken for granted. The militant group has consistently failed to retain popular support, or at minimum, acceptance. ...
The militants' prospects are also dependent on the government and its supporters continuing to advance sectarianism -- something that encourages Sunni actors to accept ISIS. Unfortunately, this apparent sectarianism has been consolidated in recent days with al-Maliki's call for a "volunteer army" encouraging the further reconstitution of the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Jaish al-Mahdi and the Badr Brigades (three Shiite militias active during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, which appear to be receiving a new boost in recruitment). ...
This latest offensive is arguably the most significant event in Sunni jihadism since 9/11. Having already challenged al Qaeda's ideological legitimacy, ISIS has now underlined its perceived military superiority to a receptive younger and more fanatical generation of potential recruits around the world.
While al Qaeda and its affiliates are embracing a more patient locally focused strategy, ISIS manifests a determination for rapid, dramatic results. It's certainly just shown these in Iraq. But whether this will prove a more effective long-term strategy remains to be seen.
America's Middle East Delusions
The explosive ascendance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) underscores the thoroughgoing failure of America’s political class to devise an effective and sustainable strategy for the United States after 9/11. The failure cuts across Democratic and Republican administrations, with the most self-damaging aspects of each administration’s policies roundly endorsed by the opposing party in Congress.
Both sides deny responsibility for unfolding catastrophe in Iraq: Republicans criticize Obama’s marginal modulations of Bush’s approach to the Middle East while Democrats blame Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (Republicans also criticize Maliki, but not so much that it might exculpate Obama.) Foreign policy elites also ignore a more urgent and ongoing flaw in America’s post-9/11 Middle East policy that is directly linked to Iraq’s current crisis—Washington’s recurrent partnership with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states to arm, fund, and train Sunni militias.
America’s turn to jihadi proxies did not start with Bush’s strategic malpractice in Iraq. It was born on July 3, 1979, when President Carter signed the first directive to arm jihadists in Afghanistan, before Soviet forces invaded the country. For U.S. policymakers, collaborating with Riyadh to launch transnational jihad in Afghanistan seemed a clever way to undermine the Soviet Union—by goading it into a draining occupation of Afghanistan, which Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, hoped to make Moscow’s Vietnam. Ultimately, Red Army garrisoning of Afghanistan contributed only marginally (if at all) to the Soviet Union’s dissolution. But U.S. support for the mujahideen and cooperation with Riyadh contributed critically to al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and 9/11—which opened the door for Republican neoconservatives and Democratic fellow travelers to unite behind attacking Iraq.
America’s invasion-cum-occupation of Iraq was not just badly implemented, as many of its non-Republican champions self-servingly lament; it was an irredeemably bad idea from the start. Certainly, U.S. action destroyed the Iraqi state. But, just as fatefully, the political displacement of Iraqi Sunnis by decisively larger Shi’a and Kurdish communities attracted powerful patrons—e.g., Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states—determined to help Iraqi Sunnis, including segments of Saddam’s disbanded army, fight to regain a disproportionate share of political power. Such were the roots of the insurgency that erupted within months of the U.S. invasion in 2003—stoked by an externally-facilitated influx of non-Iraqi Sunni fighters (including a substantial number from neighboring Syria), many coalescing into the Jordanian Abu Musab az-Zarqawi’s nascent Al-Qa’ida in Iraq.
Russia tables new UN resolution for ceasefire and talks in Ukraine
Russia has circulated a new UN resolution on Ukraine in a fresh effort to get the deeply divided security council to address the worsening humanitarian situation and escalating conflict in the east between the government and separatist fighters.
Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said in New York on Monday the new resolution included parts of two earlier resolutions it circulated this month which called for humanitarian aid, a ceasefire, and a national dialogue in Ukraine.
It also includes several issues raised by council members including a reference to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, he said.
Churkin said Russia, which holds the security council presidency in June, made the changes "to try to get as much support as possible," and will be working at a rapid pace to win council approval. ...
Churkin said that towns and villages in the east are being attacked daily with artillery, tanks and planes, that "hundreds of people including children were killed in and around the cities of Luhansk and Slavyansk", and that many towns have no drinking water because energy and water supplies have been targeted. He said 60,000 Ukrainian refugees are in Russia.
President Petro Poroshenko to propose cease-fire with pro-Russian separatists
The Ukrainian President has announced that he will propose a cease-fire with separatist rebels in the east of the country later this week - with the aim of ending violence that has plagued the country for months, according to local news reports.
In a statement at the start of a Security Council meeting on Monday, recently elected Poroshenko said he had set government forces the task of regaining full control of Ukraine's border with Russia.
He added that a temporary cease-fire would only be proposed when the border was secure, at which point efforts would be made to agree on a peace plan, according to Interfax news agency. He did not, however, disclose how long the truce he was proposing should last.
To declare a cease-fire "while the border is open would be irresponsible," added Porshenko, who was sworn in on 7 June.
Miami exiles pressure U.S. to loosen policy on Cuba
Cuban exile Joe Arriola at one time would never have dreamed of returning to his homeland while it was under communist rule.
But after 53 years in the United States, the former manager of the city of Miami swallowed his pride and decided he had waited long enough.
Arriola, 67, said a weeklong trip to the island last year had opened his eyes to what he now believes is a failed U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba.
"The number one weapon we have is capitalism, and we are not using it," he said over breakfast at the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, a bastion of older, conservative-minded exiles in Miami-Dade County. "We should be flooding the place with tourists and commerce."
Tired of waiting for the end of communism in Cuba, more and more Cuban-Americans have concluded that it is time for the United States to allow more engagement with the island they left behind, polls show.
"Our president has not had the guts to do the right thing," said Arriola, who helped raise funds for Barack Obama's campaign and whose son, Ricky, sits on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
$40-billion missile defense system proves unreliable
With a convulsive rumble, followed by billowing flames and exhaust, a sleek 60-foot rocket emerged from its silo at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. ...
Scientists conducting the test at Vandenberg on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, had left little to chance. They knew exactly when the target missile would be launched from an atoll in the Marshall Islands 4,900 miles away. They knew its precise dimensions, expected trajectory and speed. ...
Within minutes, the interceptor's three boosters had burned out and fallen away, and the kill vehicle was hurtling through space at 4 miles per second. It was supposed to crash into the mock enemy warhead and obliterate it.
At a cost of about $200 million, the mission had failed.
Eleven months later, when the U.S. Missile Defense Agency staged a repeat of the test, it failed, too.
The next attempted intercept, launched from Vandenberg on July 5, 2013, also ended in failure.
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, was supposed to protect Americans against a chilling new threat from "rogue states" such as North Korea and Iran. But a decade after it was declared operational, and after $40 billion in spending, the missile shield cannot be relied on, even in carefully scripted tests that are much less challenging than an actual attack would be, a Los Angeles Times investigation has found. ...
Boeing Co. manages the system for the Pentagon. Raytheon Co. manufactures the kill vehicles. Thousands of jobs in five states, mostly in Alabama and Arizona, depend directly or indirectly on the program.
The Obama administration, after signaling that it would keep the number of interceptors at the current 30, now supports expanding the system.
Obama to sign executive order protecting job rights for gay employees
After years of pressure from gay rights groups, President Obama is set to sign an executive order that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, a White House official has told the Associated Press.
The Obama administration has said it would prefer Congress to pass legislation that broadly extends workplace protections to all US employees. Such a bill passed the Senate last year but remains stalled in the Republican-dominated House.
Discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is not explicitly banned under US law, and Obama does not have the authority to extend such workplace protections to all US employees. He can, however, take action to bar employers from firing or harassing workers employed by companies that work with the US government because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This would not require legislative approval.
A study by the Williams Institute thinktank at UCLA law school, found that the order would cover up to nearly 16 million workers and about 14 million workers would gain extra protections. ...
Obama, the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage, is scheduled to travel to New York on Tuesday for the Democratic national committee’s annual gay and lesbian fundraiser.
IMF slashes estimate for US economic growth in 2014 - recommends rise in the minimum wage
The International Monetary Fund slashed its forecast for US economic growth on Monday, citing a harsh winter, problems in the housing market and weak international demand for the country's products.
In its annual review of the US economy, the IMF cut its growth forecast by 0.8 percentage points to 2%. At a press conference IMF managing director Christine Lagarde blamed the bad winter for much of the cut and said the setback should be temporary. But she warned: “Growth in and of itself will not be enough.”
As part of a series of reforms the IMF has called for an increase in the minimum wages in the US, currently the lowest when compared to the average wage in any of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s 34 countries.
She said the number of long-term unemployed, 3.4 million in May according to the Department of Labor, remained too high and the percentage of people in or actively looking for work, the so-called participation rate, remained too low.
“We believe that a rise in the minimum wage would be helpful,” she said, especially if complemented with tax policies to help low-wage earners. “We are talking about significant numbers when you have 50 million living below poverty, many of whom are working. That’s why we are recommending it,” she said.
Little-known Export-Import Bank ignites big trade fight
As a federal agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States’ job is to provide credit insurance, loans and guarantees to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.
Critics say it’s corporate welfare, unnecessarily putting taxpayers’ money at risk.
As they revive a fight from two years ago, many conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives want the bank disbanded when its funding expires Sept. 30.
Members of the Washington state congressional delegation are among those rallying to save the bank _ often called Ex-Im _ and it’s easy to see why. Since 2007, 183 of the state’s companies have lined up $111 billion in financing through the bank, with no state benefiting more.
That’s nearly half the national total of $232 billion.
“Here’s the bottom line: If the bank is allowed to go away, thousands of jobs in Washington state will be lost. That’s the fact,” said Democratic Rep. Denny Heck of Washington state, a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
Washington state’s top ranking _ it’s followed by Texas and California, each with $21 billion over the seven-year period _ is due largely to the muscle of aerospace giant Boeing, the nation’s largest exporter. ...
In the House, opponents are led by Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the Financial Services panel, who in May called the bank the “poster child of the Washington (D.C.) insider economy.” He noted that more than 60 percent of the bank’s financing last year benefited just 10 large corporations, including the likes of GE, Ford and Boeing.
An Eric Cantor sweepstakes
Who’s going to hire the soon-to-be unemployed but highly marketable Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.)?
He’s got a law degree, a world-class Washington Rolodex and the kind of visibility that should make him a client magnet for K Street’s law firms and lobbying and public policy shops.
Or will he go to a think tank? That path might be more complicated because the most likely home for a conservative heavyweight, the Heritage Foundation, seems to have veered so far right that it might be awkward to welcome a guy just beaten by a candidate who attacked him from the right.
Or will he go home to Richmond, a place he might not now have to go home to had he spent more time there before the primary?
The Evening Greens
Study: Economic Models Fail Test of Climate Emergency
A new peer-reviewed study in the UK is casting doubt on the current economic models widely used to calculate the full breadth of costs associated with global warming and argues the price tag for continued inaction on carbon pollution is astronomically higher than frequently predicted.
The paper (pdf), co-authored by Dr. Simon Dietz and Lord Nicholas Stern of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, shows that the risks from unchecked climate change are bigger than previously estimated and strengthens the case for strong and immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The research, which will appear in The Economic Journal, is based on a revised approach of what is known as the ‘dynamic integrated climate-economy' (or DICE) system, an economic model initially devised by William Nordhaus in the 1990s. This framework for calculating climate costs is still widely used by climate scientists—including the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—to predict financial impacts from changes associated with a warming planet and changing climates.
The new model developed by Dietz and Stern, according to a statement by LSE, "includes a broader range of potential climate impacts, because the standard model tends to underestimate the potential economic damage" that could result from runaway climate change and the unraveling of economic assumptions.
New EPA Rules Are a Boon for Fossil Fuel Industry
DESVARIEUX: So, Bob, let's start off with you. The new rules are still under review, but many environmentalists are saying these rules are a great step forward to combating carbon emissions. So what's your take? Do you think they go far enough?
KINCAID: They don't. In point of fact, they're essentially meaningless for the communities that are on the ground where coal is extracted in central Appalachia. These new emissions standards, while laudable, certainly, and important in terms of protecting the health of people who are downwind from things like coal-fired power plants, they do nothing for the communities where toxic dust poison enters water, where the sludge, we call it, as much as 100 billion gallons of it, is stored in open lakes. None of that is touched by these regs. ...
DESVARIEUX: Bob, what about what political supporters of coal are saying? They're basically saying, essentially, this is going to translate into job loss. What would be your response to them?
KINCAID: The fact of the matter is, where mountaintop removal coal is concerned, peer-reviewed studies have indicated that as many as 4,000 excess deaths happen annually in West Virginia's mountaintop removal communities. That's roughly the same number of people as we have working on mountaintop removal jobs. So that means that 4,000 innocents are trading their very lives every year for someone else to have a job. That seems to me not much in the way of the bargain. It's rather--well, it's more the brutal. It's heartbreaking.
The fact of the matter is, though, even if these, as Cathy notes, even if these regulations are successfully implemented, that speaks to emissions at the burning end of the process. The fact of the matter is, a lot of this stuff is exported to places like Russia and India and China, and there's going to be no impact on that. There's a long history of the coal industry being less than forthcoming, and I think this is another example of it.
Japan's 'Research' Killing of Whales Continues
Japanese officials announced Friday that the country had killed 30 minke whales in the northwestern Pacific as part of its stated "research" program that allows for the taking of the marine mammals.
The UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in March that Japan must halt its JARPA II Antarctic whaling program, stating that it is not for purposes of scientific research as the country had claimed.
The 30 minke whales that were killed during the April-June season, however, were caught as part of the country's North Pacific program, which was not stopped by the ICJ ruling.
Earthquakes Strike 20 Miles from Fukushima
Two sizable earthquakes struck off the coast of Japan near the precarious Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant early Monday.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, one quake measuring magnitude 5.8 and another measuring 5.6 struck off the coast of Honsu—Japan's largest and most populated island—overnight.
The agency says there is no immediate risk of a tsunami.
Oil train fires require SWAT teams, veteran firefighters tell states
A series of derailments of trains loaded with crude oil in the past year has exposed numerous safety vulnerabilities, including the integrity of the rail cars, the condition of the tracks and the way the trains are operated.
It’s also revealed a yawning gap in emergency response. Most fire departments across the country are simply not trained or equipped to fight the enormous fires seen in recent derailments.
“Emergency response is the most difficult part,” said Bob Andrews, founder and president of the San Antonio-based Bob Andrews Group, who has both firefighting experience and knowledge of the rail industry. ...
“There’s only so much training you can do,” said Sam Goldwater, Andrews’ business partner. “Our first responders are pretty much maxed out.”
Andrews and Goldwater said they’ve received a favorable response so far from the state and federal officials they’ve approached. Several states have expressed interest in their plan, but a proposal for a specialty fire department in the Philadelphia region is the furthest along. They envision for their proposal to be a mix of public and private funds.
[Oh looky, they want to privatize the profits and socialize the risks. Why are public funds being solicited for a hazard created by a particular business? If the risk cost of shipment of crude by rail can't be borne by the enterprise, then it's not a profitable business and should be abandoned, right? Isn't that how capitalism is supposed to work? - js]
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Jerry McCain - She's Tough
Jerry McCain - I'm a Ding Dong Daddy
Jerry Mccain - Juicy Lucy
Jerry Mccain - Rough Stuff
Jerry "Boogie" McCain - Twist "62"
Jerry Mccain - Red Top
The Shindigs (Jerry McCain & Sam The Sham) - Pussycat A Go-Go
Jerry McCain 'The Jig's Up'
Jerry McCain - Honky tonk
Jerry McCain - Rock and Roll Ball
Jerry McCain - She's Crazy 'Bout Entertainers
Jerry McCain - Love Ain't Nothin' To Play With
Jerry McCain and his Upstart - That's What They Want
Jerry McCain - A Cutie Named Judy
Jerry McCain - I've Got The Blues All Over Me
Jerry McCain - 53 Year Old Man
Jerry 'Boogie' McCain - Deadbeats
Jerry McCain - I'm a King Bee
Jerry McCain - Courtin' In A Cadillac
Jerry McCain - Put Where I Can Get It
Jerry Boogie McCain
It's National Pie Day!
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