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Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday September 18, 2014 8:07 pm



Eva Ybarra plys a blue sparkly accordion against a backdrop of downtown San Antonio.

Eva Ybarra, Queen of the Accordion, performed in San Antonio, Texas at the International Accordion Festival.

Tonight’s music video is Eva Ybarra performing ”El Eco De Mi Voz.” Eva is widely known as La Reyna Del Acordeón — the Queen of the Accordion. Like Dwayne Dopsie, Tsuumi Sound System, and Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, she performed on Saturday at San Antonio’s International Accordion Festival.

I wanted to capture Eva as very few have seen her before- just her and the accordion. As you can see, she is one of the few who utilize the bass section of the accordion and composes her own songs.

Eva Ybarra, the ‘La Reyna Del Acordeón,’ is one of a few women accordionists who have become professionals in a style that has traditionally been dominated by men.

When she was 4, her father presented her with a small accordion. Migrant laborers, but also musicians, her parents were thrilled that Eva took interest in the accordion and now had an alternative to working in the fields. At age 6, she began performing with her parents around town, helping them earn extra money. By her late teens, she had mastered the instrument and was proving many wrong about the capabilities of a woman accordionist.

She recorded two CDs on Rounder Records A Mi San Antonio (1994) and Romance Inolvidable (1996). Most of the songs are written by Eva and demonstrate her virtuosity and creativity.

In 1997 she went to the University of Washington as a visiting artist in the Ethnomusicology Department. Currently, she teaches at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio and works on various projects with Smithsonian Folklife.

This song is beautiful, but also a little sad — a fitting tribute for tonight, it felt.

With the changes coming to MyFDL, this may very well be the last Watercooler for a while. Tomorrow is also my last day with Firedoglake. Although Jane wanted to keep me on at FDL, I’m moving on to another opportunity. You can read this entry on my personal blog if you’d like to find out where I’m going next and where to find my writing. I’ll still be visiting and crossposting to the ‘Lake frequently, and you will always be able to keep up with me on Twitter and Instagram.

I began editing on Firedoglake in April of 2012. It’s been a pleasure to work with you here almost every single weekday since then, and I’ll miss editing Over Easy every morning, along with checking in with all the rest of you and your important, enlightening, and entertaining words. Thanks for being part of FDL and part of the Watercooler and part of my experiences here.

This is more like “so long” than “goodbye” — I may even host an occasional Book Salon. But I’ll still miss being a part of the Lake from Monday through Friday. You’ve taught me a lot and made me smile!


I’ll leave you with one last piece of weird Texas news to discuss around the Watercooler.

A Prada storefront in the middle of the desert, labelled Prada Marfa.

Neither a storefront not an advertisement, after all.

Lonely in the desert of Texas, on the way to Marfa, is an unlikely Prada outlet. Or so it might seem at first glance. It’s actually an art installation.

Prada Marfa is a site-specific, permanent land art project by artists Elmgreen & Dragset constructed in 2005. Modeled after a Prada boutique, the inaccessible interior of the structure includes luxury goods from Prada’s fall collection from that year. The door does not open, ensuring that the sculpture will never function as a place of commerce. Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa co-produced the project.

‘Prada Marfa is an artwork initiated by ourselves and realized in a collaboration with the not-for-profit cultural organizations Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa in 2005. It was not a work commissioned by the fashion brand Prada nor had the fashion brand any involvement in the creation of this work. They kindly gave us the permission to use their logo after we asked them, due to the founder Muccia Prada’s personal interest in contemporary art, and she donated shoes and bags, which have never been renewed but stay the same – as a historic display – inside the sculpture.’

The state threatened to remove Prada Marfa on the grounds that it was an illegal advertisement — only to save it through a bit of a legal loophole. From Adweek:

Prada Marfa, an art installation 26 miles northwest of the West Texas town of Marfa—featuring a fake Prada storefront containing luxury goods—is not an illegal advertisement and can remain on its site off U.S. Highway 90, the state decided this week.

The installation, by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, has been up since 2005. But it came under scrutiny last year, when Playboy built Playboy Marfa—which was deemed to be illegal advertising.

This week, arts organization Ballroom Marfa reached a deal with the Texas Department of Transportation to have Prada Marfa designated as an art museum site and the building as its single art exhibit.

An Adweek colleague who has been to Prada Marfa tells me you can see bullet marks in the bulletproof glass, as the stuff inside is indeed real Prada.


May you always find plenty to write about and the words never be blocked! And be sure to look me up if you’re in Austin …


Just Because We’re Natural Born Killers Does Not Mean We Are Not Good People

By: Masoninblue


A caricature of George W. Bush as a chimpanzee in the jungle, holding scraps of the US

Some primates are still unredeemable.

The significance of the recent scientific study published in Nature, which found that chimpanzees are natural-born killers, is that killing has a genetic basis. They did not learn that behavior from humans or choose to be that way. They are genetically predisposed to kill because, via natural selection, that predisposition has resulted in a competitive advantage for scarce resources and reproduction compared to chimpanzees that do not have that predisposition.

We need only look to our own culture and past to realize that we have the same genetic predisposition.

The Boston Globe reports:

It can be tempting to take a dark view of the violent behavior of chimpanzees, but Joan Silk, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, said discovering the origins of human behaviors in other animals is not the same as learning our destiny.

‘How do animals resolve conflict is interesting,’ Silk said. ‘How do animals find out ways to cooperate? Those are general principles from which we can learn a lot, but it doesn’t mean we’re expecting them to be the same across species. I study baboons, and I love them dearly, but they do all kinds of things I think are sort of uncivilized. If they were my kids, I’d be very distressed.’

We are finally beginning to understand that human behavior has a genetic basis. That is, we are predisposed to act in certain ways, despite our race, ethnicity, language and culture.

A predisposition to kill when vital resources are scarce is a competitive advantage. In times of plenty, it’s a competitive disadvantage.

Empathy is a competitive advantage during times of scarcity because survival is enhanced by living in a peer-to-peer cooperative relationship with others.

Individuals cannot long survive unless they belong to a group and groups cannot survive without the informed consent and cooperation of their individual members.

Mutual respect and dignity promote harmony and cooperation in times of scarcity and plenty.

Greed and exploitation of others never do. They promote discord and ultimately cause chaos.

This is why living the Golden Rule and democracy are a better model for living than a corporation that exploits other people and the environment for profit and has no accountability for the harm it causes.

Survival of the fittest is not a law. It’s only a prediction of the outcome of a fight.

DO NOT Vote for These People!

By: Big Al Thursday September 18, 2014 9:03 am

The United States Congress voted 273-156 to pass an amendment giving President Obama authority to train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels waging war against Islamic extremists. That includes sending $500 million American dollars, dollars that could be used here at home, to train Obama’s proxy army in his illegal war against Syria.

A joint meeting of the US Congress

Don’t vote for Congressional warmongers!

This is all based on lies. The use of the term moderate is a lie. The idea that these rebels will be waging war against their fellow extremists is a lie. Those same extremists and so called moderates have already declared their unity in their fight against the Syrian government.  Obama has admitted they are being trained to overthrow the Assad government.

That’s what ISIS has been all about, an excuse to go to war against Syria. The Global War OF Terror, started by war criminals George Bush and Dick Cheney is nothing but a big lie to justify U.S. and Israeli imperialism.

It was a bipartisan approval by both corrupted major political parties. Republicans had 159 yes votes while Democrats had 114 yes votes.

Make no mistake, this is a warmonger, imperialist vote for more war and more imperialism. It is a vote to ILLEGALLY take down the elected government in Syria and destroy the country. It is a vote to use the same terrorists that the U.S. is supposedly at war with in the great neverending Global War OF Terror as a proxy army in a WAR AGAINST SYRIA.  It is a vote to continue U.S. imperialism and the insane agenda of the western ruling class to dominate the world and create their New World Order.

Many progressives and liberals continually lament the lack of holding our politicians accountable. Here’s a chance.

Here are the political “representatives” who voted to go to WAR WITH SYRIA. These are warmongers. They have no excuse, they voted yes.  Keep in mind however that most if not all but a couple of those that voted no did so not out of opposition to more war and imperialism.  They did so for other reasons.  Some, particularly republicans, voted no because they want more, they want boots on the ground, full spectrum dominance applied.  Check their reasons before voting for them. But for those that voted yes, there is no question.

For those democrats, progressives, and liberals who are against war and imperialism, tell me how you can vote for any of these “representatives” in the next election.

How could you? Based on a lesser evil? There is no greater evil than perpetual war and killing.

If you’re serious, here’s a chance to help end war and imperialism.


And make it known why because this is going to happen again and again if we don’t stop them.

A Quick Whirl Around the Fracking World: 18 Sep 2014

By: KateCA Thursday September 18, 2014 10:43 am


A Quick Whirl Around the Fracking World

*USA. Are you ready? The People’s Climate March is set to go on Sunday, September 21st, at 11:30 am in Central Park West, New York City. Why’s it so important? See here and here, for example. If you’re able to go, you just might bump into UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, too.

*Worldwide. New major report to show that “the necessary fixes” for tackling global warming “could wind up being effectively free.”

*Worldwide. The World Resources Institute reports that “many places with water scarcity are using too much of their resources on fracking,” including Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa and the USA. Strong recommendations: “water risk assessments before drilling, increased transparency of fracking company actions, cooperation between companies and governments and lowering freshwater use in fracking.

“Worldwide. A sudden drop in the global demand for oil is ‘nothing short of remarkable’” says the International Energy Agency. Reasons: US oil consumption has fallen, there are “pronounced declines in Japanese power sector demand,” and Europe’s growth is weakening. Meanwhile, US and OPEC output “continue to surge”, and we know what that mean$.

*Worldwide. Projections of how soon the world will have exhausted various resources, including oil. Is there a Plan B?

*USA. Rice University researchers studied fracking-produced water in TX’s Eagle Ford, NM’s Barnett and PA’s Marcellus Shales. Findings: fracking-produced water “contained potentially toxic chlorocarbons and organobromides;” chlorine dioxide or hypochlorite used to treat the water “can actually enhance” conversion of “hydrocarbons to chlorocarbons and organobromides;” fracking-produced water contained six inorganic chemicals “that would make the water unsafe to drink.” More results here.

*USA. Research shows that fracking for natural gas results in about 5% of methane leaking into the atmosphere. Some of the leakage seems to occur during the fracking process; inability to effectively seal wells is another culprit—“all wells leak.”

*USA. Two sites with specific information re corporate $s donated to politicians: Open Secrets and Forecast the Facts.

*USA. Refreshing to note interest in the health impacts of oil and gas fracking on workers: the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reveals that some fracking industry workers “are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene”, a cancer-causing gas. Sad to say, the amounts of benzene NIOSH recorded are below “the far higher limit . . . set by” OSHA.

*USA. Earthworks is also interested in whatever is in those fracking fluids (currently “trade secrets”), is pushing for US Environmental Protection Agency to disclose what chemicals are involved.

*USA. Concerns about possible  illegal use of diesel fuel in fracking have surfaced, involving “at least 33 companies fracking at least 351 wells in 12 states . . . from 2010 through early August 2014”—AR, CO, KS, MT, ND, NM, OK, PA, TX, UT, WV, WY. Industry spokespersons blamed data recording mistakes.

*USA. How to make yourself feel better (or not). An Oil Train Blast Zone interactive website that’ll show you are close you are “to a disaster waiting to happen”.

*CA. And here comes roarin’  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who’s so sure that the US Department of Transportation is gonna con us all about global warming “theory” that he opposes a proposed rule making it illegal for an freight train carrying crude oil “to be left unattended on main or side tracks that are located near rail yards ‘unless specific requirements are followed.’”

*CO. Fracking has intruded on the governor’s race, with incumbent John Hickenlooper (D) maneuvering to strike an anti-fracking initiative from the ballot which “some Democrats feared could spur a backlash” against him (of course, it could have spurred some support for him, too).

Iraq & Syria: How does this end?

By: Jordan Melograna Thursday September 18, 2014 10:20 am


America is about to start yet ANOTHER war to stop terrorism. But, we’ve been invading, bombing, cruise missiling, and droning countries for decades, and terrorism hasn’t gone away. Congress and the President need to stop and think — how does this end?

The simple answer is that it doesn’t. President Bush’s so-called War on Terror seems likely to continue to the end of President Obama’s term and beyond. America no longer ends the wars it starts, whether literal wars or figurative ones. There’s too much money at stake. Whether it’s Halliburton selling supplies, or Lockheed Martin’s over-budget, dysfunctional F-35, those who make money off foreign wars are not content to just let them end.

Perpetual war doesn’t make the world safer. It breeds extremism and terrorism abroad, while costing trillions of dollars back home. But, it also puts the American psyche permanently on a wartime footing. So it’s not surprising that we’re arming our police for war, even when they’re facing peaceful protests. It’s no wonder that another famous “war”, the so-called War on Drugs keeps raging in the face of all the evidence that it is not working.

Arming “moderate” groups, while bombing “extremist” groups hasn’t working out well for us either, but that’s not stopping the House of Representatives from endorsing President Obama’s plan to do just that.

No one is saying that ISIS or Al Qaeda or any other extremist organizations are a bunch of nice guys, or that they wouldn’t deserve all the terrible things the US military could do to them. The problem is that we’ve been kicking terrorist ass over the world, but in doing so, we’re not pausing for a moment to consider the unintended consequences.

In the 1980s, we decided that the enemy of our enemy, the Soviet Union, would make great friends. We handed off hundreds of millions of dollars to arm and train the Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan. We did not fully understand who these fighters were, nor did we fully appreciate or seemed to care about the radical social policies they would enact if they won, so long as they could be a pain in the side of the “evil empire.”

The problem was that those same fighters included Osama Bin Laden, and future members of the Taliban. They famously attacked the American homeland in 2001, but were also implicated in several preceding attacks all over the world. This lead to our own invasion of Afghanistan, where we’re still fighting rebel elements as well as launching attacks into neighboring Pakistan. Our policy of drone strikes in the region are undoubtedly creating new terrorists. Victims of drone strikes are often innocent children, not bad guys, and you can hardly blame them for hating America when the first time they heard about our country was because their neighbor’s house had been destroyed by our military.

That whole litany of killing and more killing can be traced to previous leaders’ reluctance to consider the results of their actions. Now, the President and Congress are planning to do the same thing in Syria and Iraq. This time, do you think our military action and the arming of militants will have a different outcome? How does this end?

Swinging for the Fences

By: New Progressive Alliance Wednesday September 17, 2014 5:47 am

Our series profiling independent and alt-party candidates for seats in the November election who have endorsed the New Progressive Alliance’s Unified Platform continues. An introductory piece is here.

By Andrew McCoy
NPA Volunteer

Green party logo

A newly redrawn district offers a chance for a Green upset in Colorado.

Gary Swing of Colorado believes it’s time for Progressive candidates to raise the stakes, and again this election cycle, this endorser of the Unified Platform is all in.

Swing, a Green, is running for Colorado’s newly drawn 6th District seat for U.S House, where major-party registrations are about equally split. He has run twice before for House from Colorado, but in traditionally “safe” Democratic districts.

This cycle is different.

“Every election year we hear the same nonsense about ‘voting for the lesser of two evils,’” Swing says.

“Despite the spirited chants of ‘We Are the 99 percent,’ 99 percent of American voters continue to embrace the greater evils: perpetual wars of aggression, imperialism, authoritarianism, and environmental devastation,” which, Swing says, “is the shared agenda of the two corporate parties.”

So this year Swing is working to give the people a stronger voice. He is challanging not only incumbent Mike Coffman, who Swing calls a “a right-wing Republican militarist,” but the Democrat, Andrew Romanoff – who leads the incumbent by about 10 points in recent polling.

“We still hear the same tired old arguments that have never been valid: Voting your conscience is a wasted vote; a vote for a Green Party candidate is a vote for the Republican, and so on,” Swing says. “Voting Green can’t ‘spoil’ elections that are already rotten to the core.”

Swing similarly pulls no punches in distinguishing himself from his opponents. His clear policy positions unequivocally oppose wars of aggression, the spread of American imperialism, and the national surveillance state. He opposes government policies that privilege corporate profits over the well-being of workers (such as the TPP and NAFTA).

Swing also seeks to empower the American people by pushing for structural change that gives citizens a more forceful voice in policy decisions.

Romanoff and Coffman, meanwhile, support largely similar policies that emphasize balancing the federal budget, though neither has expressed any desire to raise revenue. Both support American intervention overseas in response to vague “security” concerns, and neither has provided any clear policy framework regarding their positions on any specific issue. Campaign contributions from private industries and PACs constitute a significant portion of both candidates’ cash flow.

“The corporate media are already so bored and unimpressed with the meaningless contest between Coffman and Romanoff that they have declared this to be a ‘swing district,’” Swing notes, adding with a wry laugh, “and I’m looking for Swing voters!”

An avid outdoorsman, Swing has climbed all of Colorado’s 637 mountains and backpacked more than 10,000 miles of American wilderness. He says his understanding of the risks of exploiting of our natural resources has made him committed to developing a sustainable path forward.

America, For Sale: $2 Billion Oughta Do It

By: Jane Stillwater

With election time almost upon us, here’s a rather sobering thought: By spending as little as a mere two billion dollars, anyone with that amount of money can now afford to buy an entire American election — Congress, the White House, governorships and all.

An illustration of a jet plane labelled "Citizens United" pouring dollars onto cartoon emblems of the Republicans and Democratic party animal mascots.“But Jane,” you might ask, “why would anyone even want to do that?” Why? Just look at all the immense amount of loot you can score with just this tiny investment. Access to national park land, bank deregulation, profits from weapons production, corporate monopoly status, pro-pollution laws, judges’ rulings in your favor … need I go on?

For instance, eleven trillion dollars has been recently spent on escalating and pursuing fake wars. So if you “invest” in American elections and still only receive, say, just ten percent of that eleven trillion singles for your weapons-manufacturing services or whatever the heck else companies like Halliburton do, you still have just grown your measly two-billion-buck investment at least a thousand times over. Forever War really pays off!

Or if you are guys like Obama, Bush and Cheney — and can’t resist playing with war toys? Then you get to buy your very own wars! Lots and lots of wars. You get to play with actual life-sized GI Joe dolls and call yourself “Commander in Chief.” You get to bomb Libya and Ukraine and Iraq and Syria. What fun! Two billion dollars can buy you a hecka lot of war toys — eleven trillion dollars worth to be exact.

Or let’s say that your net worth is approximately 100 billion dollars, like, say, the Koch brothers’ worth is. You spend less than three percent of that money on buying elections — and voila! You too get over a thousand percent return on every dollar you spend.  What kind of crazy-good investment is that!

Or let’s say you are a member of the notorious WalMart family, worth hundreds of billions of dollars.  You spend just a few paltry billion on election buyouts — and suddenly us taxpayers are paying for all of your employees’ healthcare.  And we’re throwing food stamps into the bargain too.  Brilliant idea!

Or what if you own a giant coal company, oil company, car company, power company or some other major polluter? Common sense tells us voters that we need to cut down on polluting the atmosphere so as to avoid drastic climate change that even now threatens to kill off the whole human race.

We could have been using solar power all this time for instance — and also cleaned up our rivers and even eliminated the need for fossil fuel. But no. For a few (billion) dollars more at election time, you can potentially doom the entire human race. America, are we having fun yet?

A Step Forward for Democracy in D.C.

By: Scott McLarty Tuesday September 16, 2014 11:59 am

“The capital of the nation is the last plantation!” “Free D.C.!”

A sculpture of a red hand labelled "51" and "Give Me A Vote"

“Free D.C.!”

For decades, residents of “America’s last colony” have clamored for the same irrevocable rights as other citizens of the United States.

The movement to bring democracy to the District of Columbia took a step forward on Monday, September 15, when local political leaders and representatives of pro-democracy groups testified in favor of statehood for the nation’s capital city before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

The subject of the committee hearing, which was led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), was the “New Columbia Admissions Act” (S. 132; with counterpart bill H.R. 292 in the U.S. House).

Among those testifying were D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who holds a nonvoting seat in the House, and Mayor Vince Gray. The hearing is unlikely to lead to passage of the two bills any time soon, given Congress’s ongoing gridlock and Republican hostility to D.C. statehood.

But the hearing represents an advance for the statehood movement because a new unity behind the goal of statehood was on display.

Until recently, many of the same officials who now seek statehood preferred another goal, “D.C. voting rights,” which meant a single voting seat for the District in the House of Representatives. Ten years ago, Del. Norton and other Democratic leaders who favored D.C. voting rights tried to discourage D.C. democracy advocates from demanding statehood. Endorsement of statehood was removed from the Democratic Party’s national platform in 2004 and still hasn’t been restored. The promotion of D.C. voting rights legislation led many people to confuse voting representation in Congress with statehood.

This was a mistake. Self-determination and self-government, not representation in a legislature, are the true measures of democracy. Colonies in Africa and Asia and conquered European nations like Ireland held voting seats in the legislatures of nations that ruled over them, even while they suffered exploitation and oppression. Many of these colonies, like Algeria, a French possession until 1962, became free only after violent revolutions.

Our own Founding Fathers and Mothers in the thirteen colonies fought for independence, not voting rights. Patrick Henry never said “Give me a vote in Parliament or give me death.”

The D.C. voting rights legislation went nowhere, and not only because of Republican contempt for the rights of D.C. residents. Even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, most recently in 2009 and 2010, no meaningful expansion of the rights of D.C. residents has taken place after limited Home Rule was granted in 1973. Legislation to grant statehood to D.C. was defeated in the U.S. House in 1993 by a vote of 277 to 153.

Statehood advocates (those not distracted by D.C. voting rights) have always understood that the lack of voting representation in Congress is just one of several reasons for statehood, and that self-government and full equality under the U.S. Constitution for the District with its black majority remain part of the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement. (For a more thorough history of the D.C. democracy movement, see “The D.C. Statehood Papers: Writings on D.C. Statehood & Self-government” by Sam Smith.)

Until D.C. becomes a state, Congress holds the power to veto locally passed decisions and impose unwanted laws, policies, and budgets on D.C. residents. Congress threatens to nullify a local marijuana legalization measure: in July, 2014, a Maryland Republican Representative inserted an amendment into the District’s 2015 Appropriation Bill that would stop decriminalization of marijuana from taking effect and remove the initiative from the D.C. ballot in November. In June, House Republicans blocked funding for a law passed by D.C. Council that would eliminate the threat of jail time for marijuana possession. In 1998, Congress overturned a ballot measure for medical marijuana (Initiative 59) that had passed with a 69% majority.

Congress has imposed zero-tolerance laws and a charter-school program; outlawed needle exchange in D.C. to prevent HIV transmission; and prohibited District government from taxing commuters, a source of revenue for all other cities. Congress members have tried to enact the death penalty, impose a school voucher program, and deny benefits for same-sex couples. In 2001, Congress, through an appointed Financial Control Board, ordered Mayor Anthony Williams to dismantle D.C. General Hospital, the District’s sole full-service public health facility.

In the only public referendum on the issue, over 60% of D.C. residents voted in favor of statehood in 1980.

Groups that have consistently advocated statehood, like the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition, the D.C. Statehood Green Party, D.C. Statehood — Yes We Can, and Neighbors United For D.C. Statehood are encouraged that Democratic leaders have seen the light and embraced the call for genuine democracy in the form of statehood.

Weaving a New Star

The New Columbia Admissions Act is consistent with arguments by statehood advocates that statehood for the District can be achieved by an Act of Congress (requiring a 51% simple majority), without a constitutional amendment (requiring ratification by 2/3 of states). In 1846, an Act of Congress removed Arlington from D.C. and ceded it to Virginia, proving that Congress can legally alter the District’s borders.