Friday Night Fun and Culture: Texas Music

Last night Tina and I went and saw Ray Wylie Hubbard, a Texas Music legend at one of our favorite venues, the Kessler theater. In one of his songs Ray mentioned a plethora of fine Texas Musicians.  When we moved here ten years ago we hadn’t really thought that much about the fine music scene here or the many musicians who were born here.

But Texas is the birth place of so many artist in so many musical genres that I could probably feature five of them a day for a year and not cover all of them. Texas musicians are an important part of America’s cultural quilt.

That we still have a thriving live music scene that is cultivated should set an example to the rest of the country where live music has become scarce.  Like Joni Mitchell sang, “All and all, you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.”

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Making the World Safe for Banksters: Syria in the Crosshairs

From Truth Out:

By Ellen Brown
Wednesday, 04 September 2013

Iraq and Libya have been taken out, and Iran has been heavily boycotted. Syria is now in the crosshairs. Why? Here is one overlooked scenario. 

In an August 2013 article titled “Larry Summers and the Secret ‘End-game’ Memo,” Greg Palast posted evidence of a secret late-1990s plan devised by Wall Street and U.S. Treasury officials to open banking to the lucrative derivatives business. To pull this off required the relaxation of banking regulations not just in the US but globally. The vehicle to be used was the Financial Services Agreement of the World Trade Organization.

The “end-game” would require not just coercing support among WTO members but taking down those countries refusing to join. Some key countries remained holdouts from the WTO, including Iraq, Libya, Iran and Syria. In these Islamic countries, banks are largely state-owned; and “usury” – charging rent for the “use” of money – is viewed as a sin, if not a crime. That puts them at odds with the Western model of rent extraction by private middlemen. Publicly-owned banks are also a threat to the mushrooming derivatives business, since governments with their own banks don’t need interest rate swaps, credit default swaps, or investment-grade ratings by private rating agencies in order to finance their operations.

Bank deregulation proceeded according to plan, and the government-sanctioned and -nurtured derivatives business mushroomed into a $700-plus trillion pyramid scheme. Highly leveraged,  completely unregulated, and dangerously unsustainable, it collapsed in 2008 when investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, taking a large segment of the global economy with it. The countries that managed to escape were those sustained by public banking models outside the international banking net.

These countries were not all Islamic. Forty percent of banks globally are publicly-owned. They are largely in the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—which house forty percent of the global population. They also escaped the 2008 credit crisis, but they at least made a show of conforming to Western banking rules. This was not true of the “rogue” Islamic nations, where usury was forbidden by Islamic teaching. To make the world safe for usury, these rogue states had to be silenced by other means. Having failed to succumb to economic coercion, they wound up in the crosshairs of the powerful US military.

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Iran-Contra Redux? Prince Bandar Heads Secret Saudi-CIA Effort to Aid Syrian Rebels, Topple Assad

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Neil Young “Let’s Impeach The President”

When it comes to imperialistic wars it seems like there isn’t a dimes worth of difference between George W. and Barry O.

So Neil Young’s song seems just as applicable now as it was  nearly a decade ago.

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DINO President Obama: Decision To Strike Syria Shouldn’t Depend On Public Opinion

From Huffington Post:


WASHINGTON — In 2008, then-Vice President Dick Cheney was told in an interview that two-thirds of Americans opposed the Iraq War.

“So?” he replied.

The interviewer, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, then asked Cheney if he cared what the American people thought. He responded, “No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.”

President Barack Obama, who spoke out forcefully against the Iraq War before he became president, is now on the other side, trying to convince a skeptical public — and wary lawmakers who have to answer to those constituents — that striking Syria is the right decision.

That may prove to be a difficult task. “When you’ve got 97 percent of your constituents saying no, it’s kind of hard to say yes,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Thursday.

During a press conference at the G-20 summit in Russia on Friday, a reporter asked Obama about that issue: “Why should members of Congress go against the will of their constituents and support your decision on this?”

Obama was less curt than Cheney on the topic of public opinion, saying he hoped he could convince both the public and Congress that his plan for military intervention Syria is in America’s best interest. But he said that ultimately, he hopes lawmakers don’t base their decision entirely on public opinion:

It’s conceivable that at the end of the day, I don’t persuade a majority of the American people that it’s the right thing to do. And then each member of Congress is gonna have to decide, if I think it’s the right thing to do for America’s national security and the world’s national security, then how do I vote?And you know what? That’s what you’re supposed to do as a member of Congress. Ultimately, you listen to your constituents, but you’ve also got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for America. And that’s the same for me as president of the United States. There are a whole bunch of decisions that I make that are unpopular, as you well know.

But I do so because I think they’re the right thing to do, and I trust my constituents want me to offer my best judgment, that’s why they elected me. That’s why they re-elected me, even after there were some decisions I made that they disagreed with. And I would hope that members of Congress would end up feeling the same way.

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Chelsea Manning is seeking a presidential pardon

From The LA Times:,0,3757354.story

By Richard A. Serrano
September 4, 2013

WASHINGTON—Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, sentenced to 35 years in custody for giving a trove of top secret U.S. material to WikiLeaks, is asking the White House for a presidential pardon and release from prison because, as she said in her application, “The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world we live in.”

In the pardon request, filed Tuesday and made public Wednesday, Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, said she leaked more than 700,000 military and State Department records in an effort to show that the U.S. in fighting two wars had “consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The 25-year-old inmate, now housed at the central military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., added: “When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.”

Her rhetoric is a departure from what Manning said in a short statement last month from the witness stand during her military court martial at Ft. Meade, Md. At that time, Manning asked for leniency and formally apologized to the judge, saying she never meant to hurt the U.S. or the public.

The pardon request likely will not see any immediate action, as White House officials have said it will be put through the normal process that often takes years or longer.

Many inside the Pentagon and the administration, however, doubt Manning will ever be pardoned by President Obama. The president’s first term was marred by a series of deeply embarrassing revelations from the Manning leaks, both in divulging classified military strategy and secret State Department cables that often disparaged foreign countries that are U.S. allies.

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Rep. Alan Grayson on Syria: Congress Should Reject “War Mongering” and Focus on Problems at Home

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Fukushima radiation levels ’18 times higher’ than thought

From BBC News:

Radiation levels around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant are 18 times higher than previously thought, Japanese authorities have warned.

Last week the plant’s operator reported radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank into the ground.

It now says readings taken near the leaking tank on Saturday showed radiation was high enough to prove lethal within four hours of exposure.

The plant was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) had originally said the radiation emitted by the leaking water was around 100 millisieverts an hour.

However, the company said the equipment used to make that recording could only read measurements of up to 100 millisieverts.

The new recording, using a more sensitive device, showed a level of 1,800 millisieverts an hour.

The new reading will have direct implications for radiation doses received by workers who spent several days trying to stop the leak last week, the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Tokyo.

In addition, Tepco says it has discovered a leak on another pipe emitting radiation levels of 230 millisieverts an hour.

The plant has seen a series of water leaks and power failures.

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Walmart’s Salmon Policy Leads Fishermen To Protest In Alaska

From Huffington Post:


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Nearly 40 Alaska fishermen protested Wednesday outside an Anchorage Wal-Mart store, upset with a decision by the company about how it buys seafood.

Holding signs like “Buy American? Start with Alaska Salmon” and “Walmart should be WILD about sustainable ALASKA SALMON,” the protesters received honks from passing motorists in south Anchorage.

The protest came a day before Alaska state and seafood industry officials were to meet with executives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

In 2011, the world’s largest retailer decided to only buy seafood that was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based organization; fish in a fishery improvement program; or any equivalent certification program, of which there currently are none, said Chris Schraeder, a Wal-Mart spokesman.

A number of large Alaska processors have dropped the MSC program because of costs and burdensome paperwork, said Greg Gabriel, executive director of the Northwest and Alaska Seiners Association of Kenai, Alaska.

“We would like Wal-Mart to recognize that there are other certifications out there, and the state of Alaska is a leader in sustainability, always has been, always will be,” Gabriel said.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell protested the move in a letter this summer to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke.

“Alaska has been in the business of sustainability long before the MSC’s existence, managing salmon fisheries to high standards since statehood,” he wrote.

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With Rooftop Solar on Rise, U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back

From Environment 360:

Faced with the prospect of a dwindling customer base, some U.S. power companies are seeking to end public subsidies and other incentives for rooftop solar. In Arizona, the issue has sparked a heated public relations battle that could help determine the future of solar in the United States.

by marc gunther
03 Sep 2013

Issues of electricity regulation typically play out in drab government hearing rooms. That has not been the case this summer in Arizona, where a noisy argument – featuring TV attack ads and dueling websites – has broken out between regulated utilities and the rooftop solar industry.

An Internet web video attacks the California startup companies that sell rooftop solar systems as the “new Solyndras,” which are spending “hard-earned tax dollars to subsidize their wealthy customers.” Meantime, solar companies accuse Arizona Public Service, the state’s biggest utility, of wanting to “extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in Arizona to protect its monopoly.”

Similar battles about how rooftop solar should be regulated have flared in California, Colorado, Idaho, and Louisana. And the outcome of these power struggles could have a major impact on the future of solar in the U.S.

Today’s solar industry is puny – it supplies less than 1 percent of the electricity in the U.S. – but its advocates say that solar is, at long last, ready to move from the fringe of the energy economy to the mainstream. Photovoltaic panel prices are falling. Low-cost financing for installing rooftop solar is available. Federal and state government incentives remain generous.

Yet opposition from regulated utilities, which burn fossil fuels to produce most of their electricity, could stop a solar boom before it gets started.

Several utilities, including Arizona Public Service and Denver-based Xcel Energy, have asked their state regulators to reduce incentives or impose charges on customers who install rooftop solar; so far, at least, they aren’t making much headway. A bill in the California legislature, backed by the utility interests would add $120 a year in fees to rooftop solar customers.

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Tar sands a dirty outcome of free trade failures

From Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy:

by Patrick Tsai
September 3, 2013

As controversy over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has captured most of America’s attention, Minnesotans have been dealing with a different pipeline carrying tar sands bitumen to the United States. On July 17, 2013, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) granted Enbridge, L.P. a 120,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) capacity increase to line 67, the “Alberta Clipper”, from 450,000 bpd to 570,000 bpd.

This is the first of a two-phase capacity increase that Enbridge hopes will reach 880,000 bpd (50,000 bpd more than the projected 830,000 bpd capacity of Keystone XL). The application for Enbridge’s second-phase increase has garnered more attention and activism by Minnesota pipeline opponents, led by MN350. Comments submitted by MN350’s legal team to the PUC point out a number of contested facts found within Enbridge’s Phase 2 Certificate of Need. On September 4, the PUC will make a decision on whether a contested case hearing is necessary as a result of the disputed facts uncovered during the comment period. MN350 has asked the public to “pack the PUC to send the message that the contested case hearing is necessary.” There will also be an event on September 9 in Duluth organized by IEN, Sierra Club, Idle No More, MN ASAP and MN350 to resist the tar sands being transported through northern Minnesota. Contentious debate over tar sands mining and its exportation is not new to environmentalists and trade analysts alike.

Canadian crude has become a longstanding source of energy for the U.S. To keep the flow continuous and secure, the U.S. has strategically negotiated free trade agreements with an eye toward control of future Canadian energy supply and less toward sustained mutual benefit. The result is an agreement that drives energy exports from Canada, guaranteeing the U.S. a high percentage of Canadian oil and natural gas. Under NAFTA (article 605), Canada must maintain the previous three-year proportional average of energy exports of total energy supply (domestic production plus imports) to the United States. This means that if, for example, Canada has exported 50 percent of their total energy supply to the U.S. over the past three years, they must maintain energy exports to the U.S. at 50 percent or higher of their total supply, even if it means allocating more energy away from its own domestic need.

The proportionality clause is unique in that there is no similar clause in any other trade agreement, nor does NAFTA’s other signatory (Mexico) ascribe to it (page 26). Projections by the Parkland Institute show that even a 10-percent decrease in production would cause a domestic shortfall due to trade obligations, leaving Canadians the options of importing oil from other oil exporters or importing their own oil back from the U.S. Under the proportionality clause, reductions in production caused by natural disaster do not release Canada from these trade obligations. Sovereignty can only be described as absent in cases where Canada is unable to provide its own natural resources to its own people in need.

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