The Roundup for May 29th, 2015

How was this week for you folks? Hope it went well. See you at the Left Forum (if you live in New York City.

Come to think of it, today’s roundup is very New York City-centric.

International Politics


– Vice President Joseph Biden: We will not accept any nation using their “sphere of influence”

– A United Nations special envoy to Libya warned the country was on the brink of collapse

– Sepp Blatter was re-elected as president of FIFA for his fifth term

– Quite shameful for President Barack Obama to refer to the Civil Rights Movement as an example why Israel should be defended

Middle East

– The Islamic State seized phosphate mines in Syria, major revenue source for the Assad government

– Foreigners trying to join ISIS are using alternative strategies when heading to Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, Interpol warns extremist groups around the globe are increasingly supporting ISIL

– Israel is glad the “absurd situation” of expulsion from FIFA is over

– Houthi rebels killed the governor of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen

– A fighter for ISIL was beheaded in Syria by a Christian soldier for revenge

– Another attack by an ISIS militant in Saudi Arabia led to the deaths of four people (more…)

Saturday Art: Jean-Antoine Watteau

Pleasures of the Ball by Watteau
Pleasures of the Ball by Watteau

(Picture courtesy of Irina at

Nymph and Satyr by Watteau
Nymph and Satyr by Watteau

(Picture courtesy of Jean Louis Mazziere at

Remarkable animation of the spirit of his time seems to have been the major characteristic that brought Jean-Antoine Watteau to the ranks of foremost artists, and gave him distinction there.

One of the most brilliant and original artists of the eighteenth century, Antoine Watteau (1684–1721) had an impact on the development of Rococo art in France and throughout Europe lasting well beyond his lifetime. Living only thirty-six years, and plagued by frequent illness, Watteau nonetheless rose from an obscure provincial background to achieve fame in the French capital during the Regency of the duc d’Orléans. His paintings feature figures in aristocratic and theatrical dress in lush imaginary landscapes. Their amorous and wistful encounters create a mood but do not employ narrative in the traditional sense. During Watteau’s lifetime, a new term, fête galante, was coined to describe them. Watteau was also a gifted draftsman whose sparkling chalk sheets capture subtle nuances of deportment and expression.


Despite his unconventional training, Watteau was permitted to compete for the Prix de Rome at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. He won a second-place prize in 1709, but to his great disappointment was never sent to study in Italy. With the backing of Charles de La Fosse (1636–1716), a fellow admirer of Rubens and Venetian painting, Watteau was accepted into the Academy in 1712. His innovative subject matter did not fit into any established category in the academic hierarchy, and he was ultimately accepted with the unprecedented title “painter of fêtes galantes.” His reception piece, Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera (Musée du Louvre, Paris), was finally submitted to the Academy in 1717. It depicted amorous couples on the mythical island of Cythera, in various stages of their metaphoric “journey” of love.


Admiration for the drawings of Watteau has always been equal to that of his paintings. He drew few compositional studies; for the most part, his graphic oeuvre is made up of chalk studies of heads or figures. In contrast to prevailing practice, Watteau seems usually not to have made figure studies in preparation for predetermined compositions, but apparently filled sketchbooks with incisive renderings of figures drawn from life, which he would later mine for his painted compositions. A drawing of a Seated Woman (1975.1.763), for example, has captured all the spontaneity and grace of a young woman’s natural movements, yet does not seem to have been used in a painted composition.

Although he limited himself to chalk, there is a clear evolution in the technique of Watteau’s drawings. His earliest studies are in red chalk alone, with black chalk eventually added to the red, as in Savoyarde (1978.12.1). Around 1715, he added white chalk to the mix. Although Watteau did not invent the technique of trois crayons, or three chalks (Rubens and La Fosse, among others, had used it before him), his name is always linked to the technique for his intuitive mastery of it, melding red, black, and white to great painterly and coloristic effect. In Standing Nude Man Holding Bottles (1972.118.238), the three colors of chalk, in combination with the tone of the paper reserve, create a convincing rendering of flesh tones.

Watteau’s artistic legacy pervades French art up to the emergence of Neoclassicism. The sweetness of his palette, an homage to Rubens and the colorism of sixteenth-century Venetian painting recast in delicate pastels to suit the scale and aesthetic of Rococo décor, was widely followed, as was his preference for erotic genre subjects adapted from seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish sources.

The times dictated his paintings subject and spirit, but Watteau’s mastery was unique.  The paintings of pierrots, or harlequins, are reflected in Picasso’s artwork, and the painting below will remind us of much of that work.

(Picture courtesy of Jean Louis Mazlere  at

Pierrot dit autrefois Gille by Watteau
Pierrot dit autrefois Gille by Watteau

Late Night FDL: Another Brick In The Wall

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall

Another Plaque in the Wall – Pink Floyd Honored…

Pink Floyd founding members Roger Waters and Nick Mason reunited at a special event on Thursday in London to mark the 50th anniversary of the band’s formation.

The pair were on hand to unveil a commemorative plaque which has been installed onto the front of the University of Westminster – formerly known as the Regent Street Polytechnic.

It was at the school that Waters, Mason and Richard Wright met as architecture students that soon began playing together; after some name and lineup changes, they teamed with guitarist Syd Barrett to form Pink Floyd in early 1965.

The commemorative plaque reads: “Pink Floyd. Between 1962-1966, Nick mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic where they formed the band.”

“We are hugely gratified to be here and to have the plaque,” said Waters. “It’s an honor.”

“Living as a student was a fantastic way to live,” recalled Mason. “Although I’d like to see more government grants introduced. I spent my grant on curry, I think, mainly. But sensible people need the money in order to further their education and study.”

“I spent mine on bass guitars,” added Waters. “I used to be freezing in my dorms.”

Longtime guitarist David Gilmour was not at the London ceremony on Thursday as he joined the group in December 1967 after their school years ended.

I’m back at work, be nice to one another…!

Sepp Blatter was reelected today to a fifth term as president of FIFA

Reuters is reporting,

Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday after the only other candidate conceded defeat after a first round of voting in an election overshadowed by allegations of corruption in world soccer.

Blatter’s victory came despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged the world soccer body into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Neither Blatter nor Jordanian challenger Prince Ali bin Al Hussein got the necessary two thirds of the vote in the first round, with Blatter on 133 and Prince Ali on 73. Prince Ali later conceded.

In a victory speech, Blatter declared: “Let’s go FIFA, let’s go FIFA,” to a standing ovation.


While Asian, African and Latin American states had been expected to rally around Blatter, Europe, which accounts for all but three of the countries that have ever made it to a World Cup’s final match, had been keen for him to step aside.

On a visit to Berlin, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Blatter to go “the sooner the better”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the dirty side of soccer must be cleaned up.

I do not see anything encouraging about this development, although I cannot say I am surprised. FIFA corruption is wide, deep and no secret. I believe Blatter’s reelection confirms that, even though he was not indicted by the federal grand jury that indicted 14 others earlier this week.

For more information on the federal indictment go here to read my article, Memo to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch: More Indictments Like FIFA Please.

Speaking of corruption, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R), who was selected to replace Bob Livingston (R) who withdrew his name from consideration after being selected to replace Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House for corruption problems, was indicted this week for structuring multiple cash transactions in amounts less than $10,000 in order to evade the IRS requirement that cash transactions exceeding $10,000 must be reported to the IRS

Why did he do that? According to the indictment he was paying off someone to keep quiet about something he did during the 60s when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach.

And what might that have been? Reports this afternoon on MSNBC say that two unnamed government sources say it had to do sex.

And Hastert was picked to be Speaker of the House because he was ‘squeeky clean.’

I can’t figure out whether to throw up or pop some corn and watch the news.

Former Speaker Dennis Hastert Indicted for Violating Federal Banking Laws

Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Dennis Hastert was indicted Thursday for violating federal banking laws and lying to investigators.

According to the indictment former Speaker Hastert was involved in a scheme to pay an unknown person $3.5 million to rectify a recent impropriety and was trying to game federal banking laws by withdrawing around $950,000 from his various accounts in small enough increments so as to avoid notifying authorities.

When confronted by federal agents about the suspicious withdrawals Hastert allegedly lied to the FBI and said the withdrawn cash was for his own use. The indictment does not identify the individual Hastert paid off or what transgression Hastert committed to warrant the clandestine payments.

After leaving public service in 2007, Hastert became a lobbyist to cash in on his connections and institutional knowledge of Congress. In the wake of the indictment Hastert has resigned from his position at the lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro.

When serving Congress Hastert had a reputation for corruption perhaps most notably in the instance where he secured a congressional earmark to improve the value of land he owned. Given that the nature of the crime he is accused of committing involves well documented financial transactions it would appear that Hastert is going to have a tough time escaping all the charges brought by prosecutors.

New York Times Pushes False Notion Both Sides of Patriot Act Debate Are Wrong

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 10.41.34 AM

An analysis published in the New York Times falsely equates arguments for and against extending provisions of the PATRIOT Act, making it seem as if those against extension are just as wrong as those pushing to preserve government spying powers.

“There is little evidence in the history of the expiring Patriot Act powers to bolster the arguments that either supporters or opponents are making,” according to a description of the analysis written by Charlie Savage.

With the headline, “Reality Checks in Debate Over Surveillance Laws,” it appropriately calls out Republican senators like Tom Cotton, who have claimed a lapse in “this critical tool would lead to attacks.” Savage notes that studies and testimony have both shown that in the program’s existence zero terrorist attacks have been thwarted.

However, in the next paragraphs, Savage casts opponents of extending the provisions as individuals who are comparably wrong:

At the same time, proponents of ending the program say it poses risks to Americans’ private lives, by permitting the government to know who has been calling psychiatrists or political groups, for example. But despite the discovery of technical violations of the rules several years ago, no evidence has emerged that the program has been misused for political or personal gain. As a result, the privacy-minded critics have had to couch their warnings in hypothetical terms.

“Even if we stipulate for purposes of this discussion that no one within the N.S.A. is currently abusing this program for nefarious political purposes,” Senator Rand Paul, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said in a filibuster-style floor speech last week, “can we say we are certain that will always be the case? Who is to say what might happen one year from now, two years from now, five years, 10 years or 15 years from now?”

While Savage may consider this to be equal to fear mongering about what will happen if spying powers are curtailed, “privacy-minded” opponents of the PATRIOT Act are not relying on the same hyperbole.

The only example Savage cites is very restrained and calculated. It is based on a concern that history could repeat itself because the country once experienced what it was like to have a domestic security state turned against citizens decades ago when J. Edgar Hoover was FBI director. And, in the example, Paul is making no claims about abuse for personal or political gain that cannot be backed up.

On the contrary, none of the supporters of the Patriot Act spying powers are as measured in their arguments. Not even officials from President Barack Obama’s administration are as level-headed in their rhetoric.

Administration officials have had a reporter from the Times print anonymous statements from them, one which suggests critics are playing “national security Russian roulette.” The administration maintains opponents are being “grossly irresponsible” because they want to have a debate and reform spying powers in a manner that much of the country actually supports.

Furthermore, it is inaccurate—and, at best, misleading—to write in any analysis that there is “no evidence” that “the program has been misused for political or personal gain.” (more…)

The Roundup for May 28th, 2015

Today’s song for Break Time is thanks to good folks over at The Struggle Bus podcast. Check them out here!

International Politics


– Pew: Fifty-eight percent of Americans support drone strikes

Part two of five with author Christian Appy on mid-20th century and the role of the U.S., especially in Vietnam

– FIFA President Sepp Blatter: I will restore trust in our organization after the “shame and humiliation brought” on the sport; No, he won’t resign

– European nations might boycott the FIFA World Cup if UEFA chairperson Michel Platini is still in charge

– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said both Russia and the U.S. are slowly coming to an agreement on what to do on Syria

– The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a watchdog group, said at least 90 percent of the world’s chemical weapons are destroyed

A new report found women are joining the Islamic State for reasons other than being “jihadi brides.” Such reasons include dissatisfaction with how the West treats Muslims

Middle East

– Economist Shir Hever joins The Real News to highlight apartheid in Israel

– Dave Zirin: “Will the FIFA Raids Scuttle the Vote to Suspend Israeli Soccer?

– Journalist Reese Erlich joins The Real News to talk about the Islamic State’s victories in Iraq and why the battle is very tough for the U.S.

– Al-Nusra, a Syrian rebel group tied to al-Qaeda, was told by al-Qaeda heads not to attack the West (more…)

Over Easy: Friday Free For All!

Why do I read the news before my Valium?
Why do I read the news before my Valium?

Here’s a few current events to stimulate discussion. Let’s see what people are thinking about!

Here’s the first US government admission of what we already pretty much knew: Fuku Melted fuel most likely went through the floor. There are some scary simulations in the link, along with admissions that the simulations are probably conservative. Not a mention of in in the MSM.

You’ve all been reading about the Duggar scandal and seeing it on TV. As of the date of this post Fox News has spent less than 2 minutes of airtime on it per Salon. Duggar has strong links to too many GOP presidential candidates, I guess.

And if you missed it because you watch Fox: Duggar sued in 2007 to stop DHS from investigating this. His father campaigned on on Death to Child Molesters.

The Intelligent Design folks are busy educating the media and and trashing a Slate writer for suggesting that Intelligent Design and creationism are the same thing. Notice the site name with this story:

On a related note, remember the Santorum Amendment? If Frothy Mixture gets the GOP nod, he’ll probably want you to forget it.

Calif Needs Desalinization. No Question. But the spread of desal plants will create situations like this. Deal with it, water bills are GOING to go up.

A “giant” squid was nearly caught off Auckland. However, it isn’t a giant squid or a colossal squid. Experts just aren’t sure what species it is. Lot of big stuff down deep that we hardly ever see.

NASA will build a robot squid to look for life in the suspected oceans on the outer planets moons.

The ballot initiative for Marijuana for Ohio has been certified and is now collecting signatures. It’s basically full legalization with restrictions. The Ohio GOP (which runs the state) is solidly against it, but the citizens are slightly for it. We’ll see.

Five years for painting a funny picture of the Chinese president. I can only imagine the jealousy of our politicians who must put up with editorial cartoonists.

Boxturtle (Happy Friday to all!)

Boston Bombing News: Friends & Acquaintances

It was announced today that a sentencing hearing has been scheduled in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now convicted on thirty charges in relation to the 2013 bombing of the Boston marathon and the events which followed. This hearing is to take place on Wednesday 24th June. The sentencing hearings in the cases of four of Tsarnaev’s former friends and acquaintances are also scheduled to take place during the upcoming month.

Dias Kadyrbayev: (Sentencing Tuesday 2nd June.)

Kadyrbayev, detained whilst awaiting trial since April 2013, faces charges in relation to obstructing the FBI’s investigation into the bombing of the Boston marathon. It is alleged that he made false statements to the FBI and also concealed evidence. He changed his plea to one of guilty in August 2014, having entered into a plea deal with the government in exchange for a lighter sentence, and notably, following the July 2013 conviction of Azamat Tazhayakov, a former friend of both Kadyrbayev and Tsarnaev, on almost identical charges.

Azamat Tazhayakov: (Sentencing Friday 5th June.)

Tazhayakov’s circumstances are much akin to those of his former friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, with the exception of having been convicted at trial in July 2013, on charges almost identical to those to which his former friend has now entered a guilty plea and which resulted from similar alleged actions. During his trial, Tazhayakov’s defense attempted to prove that it was Kadyrbayev, and not their client, who was responsible for removing a back pack containing, amongst other items, firework casings from which the explosive powder had been removed, from Tsarnaev’s dorm room.

Robel Phillipos: (Sentencing also Friday 5th June.)

Phillipos, a friend of Tsarnaev and acquaintance of both Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov has been held on “house arrest” since April 2013 and was convicted in October 2014 on two counts of lying to FBI investigators. His defense attorneys claimed that their client was high on marijuana during his initial contact with the FBI and also succeeded in discrediting the testimony of at least one FBI agent in court. Nevertheless, the jury in this case convicted Phillipos.

All three of these young men were in their late teens in the Spring of 2013. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov became friends with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during the time all three were college students at UMass Dartmouth. Robel Phillipos had known Tsarnaev since their school days. None are alleged to have had any knowledge of the bombings prior to the event.

Another thing that these three former friends have in common, in addition to knowing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is that all three expressed disbelief that their mutual friend could have been responsible for the bombings. With this borne in mind I would suggest that it is likely that all three sought to protect a friend they believed had been wrongfully accused and that the greatest “crime” they may be guilty of is perhaps exercising poor judgement in their encounters with the FBI? Should anyone believe otherwise I would ask: Is over 24 months incarceration not penalty enough, for a non-violent crime, given the circumstances of both youth and no prior criminal record?

Khairullozhon Matanov: (Sentencing Thursday 18th June.)

Matanov is an admitted acquaintance of both Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It has been documented that when he recognized the Tsarnaev brothers as the suspects identified in surveillance footage released by the FBI he contacted the police and told law enforcement that he knew both suspects and volunteered contact information for both Tamerlan and Dzhokhar. Matanov was later interviewed by the FBI and was then kept under surveillance by the FBI for a period of over twelve months. During this time the FBI made contact with him on numerous occasions. He was arrested on 30th May 2013 and charged with obstructing the FBI’s investigation into the bombing of the marathon by way of destroying evidence.

In reality, Matanov’s only “crime” seems to have been in deleting files from his computer in order to minimize perception of the depth of his relationship with the Tsarnaev brothers. An understandable, even if unwise reaction, perhaps, in the event of someone with whom he was acquainted being identified as suspects in a serious crime? Again, as in the cases of Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos, I would ask if Matanov is actually guilty of any “crime”, or is he simply guilty of poor judgement? He has now been held in solitary confinement for nearly eleven months.

On 24th March, Matanov changed his plea to guilty, despite having protested his innocence during the months prior. During this hearing, Judge Young was able to elicit statements from Matanov which indicated that his reason for changing his plea was not that he now believed himself to be guilty as charged, but rather that he believed that a jury at trial, in the city of Boston, would find him guilty regardless.

Matanov, in addition to Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos, initially stated that he did not believe that the Tsarnaev brothers could have been responsible for the bombing.

Konstantin Morozov, Magomed Dolakov & Viskhan Vakhabov:

None of these three known acquaintances of Tamerlan Tsarnaev are facing criminal charges.

Morozov was detained on immigration charges some months ago and is now believed to be facing deportation. (If he has not already been deported.) It is said that his “immigration issues” arose after he declined the “opportunity” to become an informant for the FBI.

Dolakov, whose identity was until recently concealed, has now been identified as the “third man” who visited the gym with Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the days prior to the bombings. It was admitted in court during the Tsarnaev trial that neither Tsarnaev’s defense, who had planned to use Dolakov’s statements to the FBI, nor the prosecution, had any knowledge of this individual’s whereabouts at that time. As the FBI have kept such a close eye on so many of the Tsarnaev brothers’ associates, is this not at least a little curious?

Vakhabov refused to testify in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, (citing the Fifth), and was claimed by prosecution attorney William Weinreb to have made “inconsistent” statements to the FBI regarding his acknowledged contact with the elder Tsarnaev, three days after the bombings. If “inconsistent” statements to the FBI in the cases of others who were known to one or more of the Tsarnaev brothers led to criminal charges being filed, one might wonder why not so in this case?

More to ponder.

Late Night FDL: Heartbreaker/ Ring of Fire

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo – Heartbreaker/ Ring of Fire

As Rolling Stone wrote last week…

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo: ‘We’re Like Johnny and June’

On August 1st, 1981, Pat Benatar strutted her way onto MTV, the upstart video channel that would change the way a generation listened to music. The petite New York native with the gigantic voice tore through a cover of the Young Rascals’ “You Better Run,” sticking her index finger in the face of some imaginary foe, and pointing toward a future in which women would grab rock & roll by the wallet. Only the second-ever video played on MTV, it followed the Buggles’ synth-heavy “Video Killed the Radio Star” on the channel and helped turn the classically trained Benatar into a rock superstar with dozens of chart hits, a Number One album and a seemingly endless concert tour that continues to this day. By her side, playing guitar in the clip, was Neil Giraldo, who would secure his own place in history as the first-ever guitarist spotlighted on MTV. In addition to serving as her musical partner, Giraldo would also secure a place in Benatar’s heart — they married in 1982 and have two daughters. {…}

After a whirlwind media day in New York last week, Benatar and Giraldo landed in Nashville to play the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, a fitting venue for the couple as they feel a close kinship to one of country music’s most legendary couples. That’s one reason their set list includes an incendiary mash-up of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (co-written by the future Mrs. Cash, June Carter) and the couple’s own “Heartbreaker.” The result is one of their still-spectacular live show’s most thrilling and genuine moments…

What’s on your mind tonite…?