Archive for July 2014
Jon Stewart “Here is something I do not get to say very much at all lately, good news from the Middle East.”
Reporter “A 12 hour humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.”
Reporter “There were no civilians being shelled, there were no rockets in the skies of Tel Aviv.”
Stewart “Finally, a cease-fire that, OK 12 hours. It’s only scheduled to last as long as a decent dose of Sudafed. But still, it is some relief, we can build on this.”
Reporter “Sunday, it took all of 10 minutes for the fragile cease-fire expired at 8am for Hamas to send rockets into Israel.”
Stewart “Bleep! I guess the real question was what was going on during those 10 minutes. ‘Hello, people. Humanitarian cease-fire ended 10 minutes ago. Tick tock. The never ending hatred in this region isn’t going to bomb itself'”.
Reporter “The UN Security Council called for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire.”
Stewart “Boom! Unconditional! Not that such resolutions are in any way enforceable or meaningful. But still, when a resolution is issued…”
Reporter “The United Nations Security Council took action with a statement, not a resolution.”
Stewart “Even a resolution was too much? ‘Guys, I don’t know. A resolution seems pretty stern, pretty stern guys. Even a statement, I don’t know. What’s the death toll? A thousand and growing? What about we just jump in with a hmm, hey guys. You know, if that gets push back, we can take it down a notch. I mean, we’re only a collection of the world’s super powers'”.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN But first, here’s my take. Some of President Obama’s critics have an alternative policy toward Russia that they propose. The president, they say, should call Vladimir Putin a thug. OK, but the fact is that what Putin is going to worry about these days are not American words but European actions.
The European Union is by far Russia’s largest trading partner. The EU buys much of Russia’s energy. It is the major investor in Russian companies and the single-largest destination for Russian capital. In fact, the Ukrainian crisis has shown a spotlight on one of the great gaps in the world right now. The lack of a strategic and purposeful Europe. Consider how Europe has dealt with Ukraine from the start. It could not really decide whether it wanted to encourage Ukrainian membership in the EU so it sent mixed signals to Kiev which had the initial effect of disappointing pro-European Ukrainians, angering the Russians nevertheless, and confusing everyone else.
Things began to stir after Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. In the wake of that event, the EU promised an eastern partnership to the countries along Europe’s eastern fringe, including Ukraine. European leaders were now beginning to woo Ukraine, but without recognizing how this would be perceived in Russia.
The EU did eventually offer Ukraine a deal but it was a bad one. It was full of demands for reform and restructuring of Ukraine’s admittedly corrupt economy but with few offers in the way of aid to soften the blows or sweeten the pot.
When then-President Yanokovych rejected Europe’s offer and sided with Moscow, he set in motion a high-speed, high-stakes game that Europe was utterly unprepared for and could not respond to.
On Ukraine Europe has always been a step behind, internally conflicted and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display ever since the shoot down of Flight 17. The your European Union still has a chance to send a much clearer signal to Ukraine, Russia and the world. It is debating sanctions this week. It could ask that Russia pressure the pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine to cooperate fully with the investigation of Flight 17.
It could ask that the Ukrainian government, which Moscow recognizes, be allowed to take control of its own territory in eastern Ukraine. It could put forward a list of specific sanctions that would be implemented, were its conditions not met within two weeks.
In addition Europe should announce longer jump plans on two fronts, first to gain greater energy independence from Russian oil and gas. European nations must also reverse a two decades-long downward spiral in defense spending that has made Europe a paper tiger in geopolitical terms.
Germany, for example, spends only around 1.5 percent of its GDP on defense, among the lowest levels in Europe, much below the United States and well under the 2 percent which is the target for all NATO members.
It’s really difficult to have your voice heard and feared when you both speak softly and carry a twig. The problem is now being described by some as European cowardice and appeasement. It is better explained by an absence of coherence among 28 very different countries, a lack of strategic direction, and a parochial inward orientation that hopes the world’s problems will go away.
The result, nevertheless, is a great vacuum in international life with terrible consequences. If we look back years for now and wonder why the liberal open rule-based international order weakened and eroded over the years, we might well note that a crucial problem was that the world’s most powerful political and economic unit, the European Union, with a population and economy larger than America’s, was the great no- show on the international stage.
Bill Maher “Obama is still dealing with the crisis on our border. He met yesterday with the Presidents of Guatemala, and Honduras, and El Salvador and he was trying to tell them to tell your citizens not to come to this country, and if they do, they will not be allowed to stay, unless they’ve got a great curve ball. Then, we’re all good.”
White House officials expressed growing alarm on Thursday that Congress may not soon approve President Barack Obama’s emergency request for $3.7 billion to tackle the child migration crisis on the southern border of the United States.
The stalemate over the request comes as Obama prepares on Friday to host the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the countries that have been the source of much of the migrant surge that has strained border resources.
Congress is locked in a largely partisan fight over the money that Obama says is needed to provide humanitarian needs of the children and speed deportations for many after they get a hearing from immigration authorities.
Republicans want Congress to amend a 2008 anti-trafficking law to accelerate deportations, but Democrats are opposed out of concern the children would face the same conditions of crime and poverty when returned home. Senate Democrats have proposed cutting Obama’s $3.7 billion request, while Republicans have said $1.5 billion is the most they would want to spend.
Congress is preparing to start a five-week break at the end of next week and there is no compromise in sight.
“The notion that Congress would go home for August recess without having addressed this question … would be pretty extraordinary,” a senior White House official told reporters.
I just got back from my local music radio show on internet only Wbkm Dot Org. With the terrible events in the news this week, I posited that every race and ethnicity is full of wonderful people, but somehow the “leaders” of the world, not all but several, seem to be able to create great pain and suffering.
Song before: The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range – Roger Waters
From our small city to the great big world, these are the Sounds of Burlington. Let’s begin with a Burlington musician that you might have seen if you were on the right porch at the right time in the Old North End, over the years. He’s very political and has something to say about many of the leaders of the world. This is Mad Captain by Brother Zag on WBKM and this is Burlington’s Kind of Music
1.) Mad Captain – Brother Zag
2.) Under Bright Stars – Alice Austin
3.) Good Thing – Maryse Smith
4.) Dear God – Kat Wright & The Indomitable Soul Band
Kat and the band will play at The Precipice: A Vermont Music Festival next week. They are always a good time. Maryse is playing too and I’m excited to check out her new material with Michael Chorney. Great new song from Alice. The brother Zag song makes me think of our common humanity and that everyone on the planet looks up at the same stars. Here’s the next song on Ninja Jane.
5.) Same Stars – Zola Turn
6.) Think I’ll Stay – Great Western
7.) Let Go – Lowell Thompson
8.) Venus In Spurs – Barbacoa
It will be fun to see Barbacoa at the Precipice. Sometimes Lowell sits in with them, so that will be really cool if it happens this year. Great song from GW. They played a nice show at Radio Bean on Tuesday, and played lots of new songs! Great song from Zola. Last Saturday I went to Signal Kitchen to see this band.
9.) Solitude – Alpenglow
10.) WhoNeedsFriends – Paper Castles
11.) Sunflower Street – David L. Jarvis
12.) Dead Or In Jail – Crazyhearse
I missed them last time they were in town but will see them Saturday at The Monkey House. There are sunflowers all around Burlington, so I wanted to play the Dave song. Padraic Reagan and PC did a great job opening for Alpenglow. This next band are playing the Precipice and the Monkey with Crazyhearse.
13.) Burn – The Dirty Blondes
14.) Carnage – Black Rabbit
15.) Black And Red – ROUGH FRANCIS
16.) Everyone Likes To – Swale
Swale will be playing the Precipice and doing double duty with them playing as a karaoke band with pro and amateur singers doing fun covers, as well as their usual set. Rough Francis always rock and are playing the Precipice too. Rabbit got a nice write up from Dan Bolles in Seven Days this week. Well, I hope you enjoyed checking out the music of our town. Let’s do it again next week, shall we?
Song after: Crucifix Corner – Fish
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN: But first here’s my take. The actions of the pro-Russian forces, who it appears shot down a civilian airliner, might seem at first glance to be crude and unsophisticated. But in one sense they’re on the cutting edge. They represent something we see all around us these days — the democratization of violence.
Let me explain. For most of history, the side with the bigger army usually won a conflict. Over the past few decades a different pattern has been emerging, the power of asymmetrical warfare. Look at the pro-Russian separatists or Hamas or Hezbollah or the insurgents in Afghanistan or Iraq, and you will see attacks that are cheap compared with the massive response then launched by traditional armies.
In Moises Naim’s excellent book, “The End of Power,” he calculates that for every dollar that al Qaeda spent planning and executing the 9/11 attacks the United States spent $7 million countering it or coping with the losses. That’s a ratio of $1 million to $7 million. Staggering, indeed. That is why Naim says never in the field of human conflict has so few had the potential to do so much to so many at so little cost.
Naim cites scholar Ivan Arreguin-Toft who looked at asymmetrical conflicts in history and found that while 150 years ago the weaker party would win only about 12 percent of such wars. In the last 50 years it has prevailed 55 percent of the time.
But let’s be clear about the current crisis in Ukraine. This is not really a story about a band of rebels who are up against the Ukrainian government. It is about little Ukraine up against Russia, a country that spends 35 times what Ukraine does on its armed forces. The Russian effort to turn this into an asymmetrical conflict by using special forces, rebels, and perhaps even mercenaries is a conscious strategy to take advantage of the power of asymmetry.
Moscow is seeking to destabilize Ukraine at low cost and perhaps most important with the ability to deny its involvement. The best way to counter Russia’s strategy is to deny that advantage that it seeks. The world must make clear that it recognizes that Russia has had a conscious deliberate centrally directed policy to destabilize Ukraine and to do so has sent into the battlefield heavy weapons including anti-aircraft weapons.
This is not a case where terrorists are operating without an address or a home base. It’s called the Kremlin. If they were in the West to hold Russia responsible for its actions in eastern Ukraine, insist that the government of Ukraine, which Russia claims to recognize, be allowed to take control of all regions of its country and help the democratically elected leaders in Kiev, Mr. Putin’s strategy of causing chaos on the cheap will not work.
After all, despite Russia’s huge defense budget, despite its massive size, despite a U.N. veto, it is now watching its neighbor, historically part of Russia, move irretrievably from its grasp and why? Because Russia has provoked the most important force in the modern world. Nationalism.
Ukrainian public sentiment and sentiment in Eastern Europe and perhaps beyond has become deeply anti-Russian. That’s an intangible force but one that has proved to be very powerful in modern history. In that sense it is the Kremlin that is on the wrong side of asymmetrical warfare.
I had a good time seeing music last night. I got out at 6:30 and was psyched to see Alpenglow at 8:30. I had noticed that Justin Gonyea‘s new band, Doom Service was making its debut at 242 Main, I thought at 7. I walked into my house at 6:47 and was on my way walking downtown at 6:55. I thought I might miss a couple of songs, but was wrong about the start time, which seemed to be the theme of the evening. I hung out for a bit, and after a while, they started to play. They began with a building instrumental, and moved into a groove somewhere between indie rock and punk. The sound and structure of many of the songs sounded like they would be at home on the soundtrack to Mallrats. The four-piece band had two guitars, drums and a low slung bass. Everyone but the drummer sang, but the volume was cranked and the instruments overwhelmed the vocals for the whole show. I caught a lot of it, but couldn’t hear much of it clearly. The energy was good but the playing was pretty loose at the start. I was a little worried but listened and tried to find the groove. They chatted with the audience for a bit, after the first couple of songs, then lit into another that sounded like they tightened up. They played a couple more and announced they had two left. They really locked in for both, and if I had not been worried about time, I would have been saddened that they did not play more.
On the last note I was out the door. A quick time check said 8:15, so I headed to Signal Kitchen. They were not open yet, so I found a quick drink and entered at 8:30. In retrospect, I easily could have gone back to Twofourtwo Main, and caught another band, but erred on the side of caution, not knowing when the band opening for Alpenglow would go on. Inside, the room slowly filled, and the 30 neatly arranged chairs were moved to the audience’s whim. I chatted with a co-worker and her friend for a bit, and soon enough Paper Castles took the stage. They played as a trio with Padraic Reagan, on bass, so Wren had to play a lot of rhythm guitar, instead of the lead and effects that he usually does. The music was slow and gentle and moved along in its own way, occasionally slipping into an easily hummable section that you will have in your head for the next few weeks. A couple of songs had a nice build, and early in the set Wren played some killer slide with a wrench. The show was not long, maybe 30 minutes or so, and at the end they let Wren loose and played some fun rock and roll.
After a short set break, they started the movie projector and then started to play. The show was billed as GLACIER: A Collaboration between Alpenglow and VT filmmaker John Douglas. A movie screen filled part of the top center stage. The film from the ;70;s, was shot on 16mm and was a ton of time jumping cuts showing a journey through the west and across a glacier. The images were entirely human and stunningly breathtaking. The band played with a quiet powerful grace. The soaring vocals took the lead and a variety of instruments filled he room. They played rock that ranged from gentle and quiet, to flexing some muscle. Instead of having the violin and banjo lead the songs they wandered into, they slipped their slowly articulated notes into the flow of the songs. I didn’t recognize anything, and just listened, with feet and ears. The audience was quiet for the first couple of songs, then started to chat a bit. In the third song,, the intense images of daredevils traversing the ice, enchanted the audience, and it was quiet for the rest of the show. Some people sat in the front and many stood in the back. The audience thinned a little when the film finished, but most stayed as the band kept enchanting with each following song. Late in the set, the opening strains of Solitude brought an audible jolt from the audience. They played a killer version of it, and called it a night. A heavily demanded audience request brought them out for a glorious version of Catskills After the last magnificently gentle note rang out, I took the long walk home.