The Evening Blues - 4-22-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features boogie woogie and blues piano player Meade "Lux" Lewis. Enjoy!
Meade "Lux" Lewis (w/Big Joe Turner) - Roll Em
"It is remarkable how easily children and grown-ups adapt to living in a dictatorship organised by lunatics."
-- A.N. Wilson
News and Opinion
On Tuesday, Donald Trump invoked his veto power for only the second time in his presidency. Trump’s move struck down a congressional resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. In doing so, he stifled a moment of rare bipartisanship, flexing his own authoritarian tendencies to protect a fellow autocrat, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is known by the initials MBS. ...
The bill, though, just like the president’s objection to it, had much more to do with Trump’s relentless and ill-advised devotion to MBS. The resolution first gained momentum in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s murder in October 2018, a crime that many — including the U.S. intelligence community — have linked to the crown prince. MBS is also responsible for leading the coalition of Persian Gulf states in its four-year offensive in Yemen, which has left thousands of Yemeni civilians dead and millions ravaged by famine and disease. In addition to overseeing this disastrous war, MBS has also ordered numerous crackdowns on his own civilians, including mass arrests and alleged torture of nonviolent human rights advocates. ...
It was no great surprise, then, to see the president resort to veto power to protect MBS’s disastrous Yemen campaign. Beneath the shallow appeals to constitutionalism and national security, Trump is acting in accordance with a now-familiar pattern: gravitating toward fellow strongmen and personality-driven deal-making. This entrepreneurial narcissism has fueled much of the president’s volatile foreign policy, from his on-again-off-again “relationships” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to his rabid devotion to building a wall on the Mexican border. This trend has dramatic implications in the Middle East. Since the collapse of the Arab Spring and in the wake of years of foreign intervention, hopes of democracy in the region have in large part given way to a cast of authoritarian rulers. From MBS in Saudi Arabia to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey to the recently re-elected Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, the region has grown increasingly polarized under hawkish, right-wing leaders.
Among this fray, Trump, along with his his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, identified MBS as an ideal partner. The president and crown prince share an alarmist message of Iran as a regional menace and both use this stance to justify destabilizing policies, such as the dismantling of the Iran nuclear deal and the war in Yemen. Trump has also lauded MBS and the Saudis for their alleged work to curb extremism in the region, despite reports that Riyadh has cut deals with Al Qaeda fighters in Yemen. ...
The veto, for all its cynical implications about the state of U.S. foreign policy, should also concern Americans at home. Tuesday’s announcement came barely a month after Trump’s first veto, which he used to enforce his border statement of emergency over congressional opposition. So Trump went to the outer limits of legality in pursuit of an irrational pet project, the so-called border wall with Mexico, at great financial and human cost. Such actions are only the logical extension of a presidency that began with the morally indefensible and constitutionally untenable “Muslim ban,” issued by executive order in the first days of the administration. The president has repeatedly availed himself of these personalized, unilateral mechanisms of power. The effects of such a pattern cannot be held at bay by the occasional congressional override or dissident judge. Americans must recognize this dangerous erosion of democratic principles and, fighting fatigue, continue to resist.
Since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, some American lawmakers have assumed the right and moral authority to dictate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s succession line-up. In November, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) of being “crazy” and asserted that “he needs to go.” Such rhetoric is significant given that the U.S. has not meddled in the Al Saud family’s internal power struggles since the 1960s. But regardless of the preferences that some politicians in Washington may have regarding Saudi Arabia’s succession, the U.S. will likely have to accept dealing with a King Mohammed.
MbS’s ascendancy, which began in 2015, has transformed Saudi Arabia. Gone is Saudi Arabia’s traditional model of leadership of the pre-MbS era that was based on collective decision-making and consensus building among a large group of princes. By virtue of how much power MbS possesses, it is difficult to imagine any credible challenge to his rule, or position in the succession lineup, no matter the pressure Washington might try to impose. Even before the Khashoggi affair, MbS’s power in Riyadh was so consolidated that the millennial prince faced virtually no constraints from other members of the Al Saud family. In recent months, MbS has only further consolidated his power in the Kingdom despite all the criticisms that MbS has received from lawmakers in the U.S. following the CIA’s conclusion that he ordered Khashoggi’s murder. Not even the political fallout of the journalist’s slaying last year has caused MbS to ease his internal crackdown, or even his targeting of Saudi dissidents overseas with efforts to lure them back to the Kingdom.
Thus, given that the Saudi security apparatus and all the dominant state institutions are under MbS’s consolidated control, it is extremely difficult to imagine any successful opposition to the millennial prince from within. While many in the House of Saud dislike MbS, they lack the ability to collectively stop him. As the Kingdom is an absolute monarchy, the decision to change the succession order can only be made by King Salman. Although Salman, since he became the Saudi monarch in January 2015, has twice dismissed/forced out two other crown princes — Prince Muqrin (in April 2015) and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (in June 2017) — he has shown no signs of removing his son from succession.
From Riyadh’s perspective, foreign powers need to butt out and stop naively pretending they can influence the process. Furthermore, outside pressure on King Salman to fire his son could backfire and give the Saudi leadership more interest in standing by MbS. As Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former chief of Saudi intelligence and a former ambassador to Washington, put it: “The more [foreign] criticism there is of the crown prince, the more popular he is in the kingdom.” Indeed, officials in Riyadh find it outrageous that American lawmakers are trying to weigh in on Saudi Arabia’s succession question — a redline for the Kingdom’s leadership. For Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, changing the succession lineup under pressure from the U.S. government would signal weakness and subservience to the world’s superpower at a time when Riyadh is working to project Saudi dominance in the Middle East and greater autonomy from the West as the world becomes more multipolar.
Several airstrikes, including the first alleged use of armed drones in the conflict, shook Tripoli overnight in an escalation of the United Arab Emirate-backed assault on the Libyan capital led by Khalifa Haftar. The allegations about the use of drones were made by the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, and supported by eyewitnesses.
A Reuters reporter and several Tripoli residents said they saw an aircraft circling for more than 10 minutes over the capital late on Saturday, and that it made a humming sound before opening fire on several areas. Drone strikes make a noticeably different noise from missile strikes.
An aircraft was heard again after midnight, circling for more than 10 minutes before a heavy explosion shook the ground. The UAE established a drone facility at al-Khadim airbase south of Tripoli in 2016, and experts say the ageing fighter aircraft available to Haftar cannot fly by night, making it highly likely that drones were involved.
Haftar’s offensive is aimed at toppling the UN-recognised government in Tripoli and has the backing of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Peter Millett, the former UK ambassador to Libya, said: “The use of drones was a significant and tragic escalation that will increase the number of Libyan causalities.”
Trump's Call to Libyan National Army Leader Increases Risk of 'Protracted Urban Conflict,' Experts Say
A phone call from President Donald Trump to Libyan National Army leader Khalifa Haftar helped to escalate deadly violence in the Libyan capital of Tripoli this weekend, as well as undercutting the United Nations' hope for a ceasefire in the country.
A number of airstrikes, allegedly including strikes by armed drones, hit Tripoli in Sunday's early morning hours, escalating Haftar's assault on the city as he attempts to oust the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and take control of Libya. The Libyan National Army's (LNA) attacks on Tripoli have now killed an estimated 227 people, injuring more than 1,000 and leaving at least 16,000 displaced.
The airstrikes followed a conversation Trump had with Haftar last week, which the White House revealed several days later on Friday. A number of sources reported Sunday that Trump appeared to give approval to the leader, who legal experts have accused of ordering his troops to commit war crimes, to move ahead with the air campaign—going against a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire last Thursday.
According to the White House's statement on Friday, Trump told the LNA leader he "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system."
As Patrick Wintour reported in the Guardian:
The airstrikes on Tripoli, first launched last week, appear to reflect the approval given to Haftar by Donald Trump in a phone call on Monday....The U.S. appears to have accepted the view from its chief Middle Eastern allies that Haftar’s assault can be seen as the act of a strong leader fighting jihadist militias in Tripoli. But many independent Libyan experts claim Haftar has no commitment to democracy.
Haftar ordered his troops into Tripoli on April 4, after three years of fighting to secure control of southern and eastern Libya. The strikes in Tripoli have been backed by the United Arab Emirates, reportedly with funding from Saudi Arabia.
Venezuelan National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaido this Friday called on people from all over the country to join in a grand march next May 1, Labor Day, to demand the armed forces' aid in ending the usurpation, as he calls the Nicolas Maduro government.
"We call upon all Venezuelan people to take part in the biggest march in the history of Venezuela next May 1 to demand the definitive end of usurpation in Venezuela, to demand once and for all the termination of this tragedy," he said during an "open town-hall meeting" at a plaza in Caracas.
"What has to happen for this to succeed? To whom is this plea directed? Because we already know it's neither Maduro nor the regime, they have nothing to offer. First it must be the armed forces that accompany a people that wants, that needs, that demands to live," he added.
The opposition leader, recognized as interim president of Venezuela by more than 50 countries, was not clear about the destination of the march on a day the government traditionally uses to call public servants into the streets to show their support.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, an actor and comedian with no political experience other than playing the role of president in a TV series, was heading for a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election, as early results showed him on course to win nearly three-quarters of the vote.
The incumbent, Petro Poroshenko conceded defeat on Sunday evening before results started coming in, as exit polls suggested an overwhelming victory for the 41-year-old Zelenskiy. “I’m leaving office, but I want to make it clear that I’m not leaving politics,” said Poroshenko, acknowledging his failure to win a second term. “I will accept the will of the Ukrainian people,” he wrote on Twitter.
Zelenskiy appeared in front of a crowd of journalists at his campaign headquarters as the polls closed and flashed an impish grin as he pushed his way on to the stage, accompanied by the theme tune to his television show. “We did it together,” he said, thanking his wife, parents and campaign team. “Thanks to all the Ukrainian citizens who voted for me, and to all who didn’t. I promise I won’t mess up.” ...
During the campaign, he offered little information about his policies or plans for the presidency, relying on viral videos, standup comedy gigs and jokes in place of traditional campaigning. His campaign blurred the lines between the real-life Zelenskiy and his on-screen persona. Like the fictional president of his television series, Zelenskiy has promised to clean up politics and end the stranglehold of the oligarchy over Ukraine, but he has offered little by way of specifics. ...
There was little enthusiasm on display for either candidate, with most voters opting for the candidate they considered the least-worst option.
The contrast between the French government's and upper class's response to Monday's fire at Notre Dame and ongoing inaction to combat income inequality, was a primary driver of mass protests in Paris on Saturday.
The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, staged their first major protest since large portions of the historic cathedral burned, apparently due to an electrical short-circuit, to call attention to the €1 billion ($1.1 billion) that the country's richest families have donated to help rebuild the church, months after the yellow vest movement began demonstrating against income inequality.
"You're there, looking at all these millions accumulating, after spending five months in the streets fighting social and fiscal injustice. It's breaking my heart," Ingrid Levavasseur, a founder of the movement, told the Associated Press.
France 24 noted that many members of the Yellow Vest movement—which began in rural areas last fall when many struggling French people demonstrated against high fuel costs and President Emanuel Macron's generous tax cuts for the rich, and has since gathered support from a number of ideological groups—mourned earlier this week along with the rest of the country as news of the heavily damaged 674-year-old church spread. ... But grief turned to anger for many, Levavasseur said, as the Yellow Vests watched donations pour in and Macron call for the church to be repaired within five years, exacerbating the perception of many that he is a "president for the rich." ...
One sign at Saturday's demonstration read, "Victor Hugo thanks all the generous donors ready to save Notre Dame and proposes that they do the same thing with Les Miserables," referring to Hugo's classic novels about the cathedral and the struggles of impoverished people in France.
Whereas Flint doesn’t have clean drinking water, Puerto Rico hasn’t fully recovered, and 3 black churches burned to the ground without comment, Trump offers money to rebuild Notre Dame. That’s not America first. That’s white people first, even if they live in far away countries.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 16, 2019
Pentagon Spending Set to Hit Near-Record Levels, But 'Establishment Says We Can't Afford' Progressive Policies
Pentagon spending is on track to grow significantly for the fifth consecutive year, but "very few in Congress are questioning" how the U.S. can afford it. That's according to the Washington Post's Jeff Stein and Aaron Gregg, who reported Thursday that "the United States is expected to spend more on its military in 2020 than at any point since World War II, except for a handful of years at the height of the Iraq War."
In his 2020 budget request, Trump called for $750 billion in Pentagon spending. Democrats countered with a $733 billion offer, which would still represent a substantial increase over the Pentagon's 2019 budget. Either number would bring U.S. military spending to "near-historic highs," according to the Post.
"Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office projected the United States would spend more than $7 trillion on defense over the next decade," the Post reported, "which is in line with both the White House's and House Democrats' budget plans."
Things the establishment says we can’t afford:
-@AOC's Green New Deal
-A living wage for workers
-A Federal Jobs Guarantee
Things the establishment has unlimited $ for: https://t.co/54mq0cl2a9
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) April 18, 2019
A federal appeals court on Monday denied a request by the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to be released from jail on bail, and upheld a lower court’s decision to hold Manning in civil contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury.
The ruling marks a blow for Manning, who has been detained since March after she declined to answer questions in connection with the government’s long-running investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. ...
Manning has tried to fight the grand jury subpoena in the Assange case, citing her first, fourth and sixth amendment rights under the constitution. Her attorneys said among other things that the district court had failed to address her concerns that the government was abusing the grand jury process so it could preview or undermine her testimony as a potential defense witness at a trial. Her lawyers have also argued that the courtroom was improperly sealed during substantial portions of the hearing.
But a three-judge panel of the US court of appeals for the fourth circuit did not agree with those claims. “The court finds no error in the district court’s rulings and affirms its finding of civil contempt,” they wrote.
No more free pizza delivery to the Fed:
My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. I will respect his wishes. Herman is a great American who truly loves our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2019
A member of an armed civilian group that has detained migrants near the US-Mexico border who was arrested on Saturday reportedly faced similar charges in Oregon 13 years ago. In Sunland Park, Texas on Saturday, FBI agents and local police arrested Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, on suspicion of being a felon in possession of firearms.
In Klamath county, Oregon in 2006, Hopkins was accused of impersonating a police officer and claimed to be a fugitive bounty hunter, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. In his guilty plea, Hopkins acknowledged he had given “the impression to others that I was a peace officer” while unlawfully carrying a firearm as a convicted felon.
Hopkins’ latest arrest came after federal authorities warned private groups to avoid policing the border. Videos circulated on social media have shown armed civilians detaining large groups of Central American families in New Mexico. ...
The ACLU in New Mexico described the group as “an armed fascist militia organization” made up of “vigilantes” and said they were working to “kidnap and detain people seeking asylum”, making illegal arrests and holding migrants at gunpoint.
Federal authorities arrested a Florida man Friday for allegedly threatening to kill at least three Democratic lawmakers, according to reports. John Kless, 49, called the offices of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Eric Swalwell, and Sen. Cory Booker.
"You're going to be the motherfuckers that pay," Kless allegedly told Booker in a voicemail. "Don't worry, you government officials will be in the graves where you belong."
In some of the voice messages, Kless defended President Trump, and in all three messages, he insulted and threatened Rep. Ilhan Omar and attempted to link her to terrorist groups.
In his message to Tlaib, Kless allegedly referred to both Tlaib and Omar using racist, Islamophobic, and gendered slurs. The messages also insulted the Muslim prophet Mohamed and included homophobic innuendo about the two women. Kless also said he’d like to throw Omar off the Empire State Building. ... “You won’t fucking tell Americans what to say and you definitely don’t tell our president, Donald Trump, what to say,” he said.
In his call to Swalwell, Kless allegedly focused on Swalwell’s position on gun control. Swalwell has made gun control his principal issue in his 2020 campaign for the U.S. presidency. "The day you come after our guns, motherfucker, is the day you'll be dead," Kless said, according to a federal indictment.
Mckayla Wilkes, a 28-year-old administrative assistant, part-time student, and mother of two, has had enough. In late March, she announced that she was mounting a bid for Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, aiming to unseat one of the oldest and most powerful Democratic members, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Wilkes is running on a host of progressive policies, but plans to put particular focus on Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and affordable housing.
A student of political science, Wilkes hasn’t formerly been involved in politics before, but thinks the moment is too urgent to wait. She wants more “relatable people” in Congress and is fed up with Hoyer’s record, which she says does not adequately represent the needs of those living in his district. “We need someone who will be a voice for us, who knows what we go through as daily constituents, and Steny Hoyer has been in office so long he’s never really had to be a regular constituent,” she said. Hoyer, who is 79 years old, was first elected to Congress in 1981.
Wilkes’s challenge comes after an election year in which insurgent progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley toppled entrenched incumbents, making it to Congress and, along the way, showing that it is possible to shake things up and succeed. The Democratic Party has grown increasingly wary of these types of challenges and is trying to make it difficult for candidates like Wilkes to find support for their campaigns. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month said it would cut off vendors that work with primary challengers. Mark McLaurin, the political director of SEIU 500, said the climate is ripe for taking down veteran lawmakers in Maryland. He pointed to the 2018 cycle, when progressives unseated some of the most powerful politicians in the state, including state Sen. Thomas Middleton, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, who represented part of Hoyer’s district. ...
Wilkes is counting on the fact that a lot of people might be interested in unseating an old, centrist white man who seems often out of touch with the more progressive direction of his party. ... Wilkes’s campaign is just getting off the ground, backed so far by volunteers, including a group of students at the University of Maryland, College Park. She’s planning a kickoff event for the end of May. ... Wilkes’s challenge could become more potent if she gets the support of local and national groups, which would work to help elevate her profile and reach new voters. She said she’s had conversations with Justice Democrats, the group that backed Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley, but is not officially associated with them. Evan Weber, the political director at the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led group that helped put the Green New Deal on the map, recently reached out as well.
Elijah Cummings, chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Committee, criticized as “baseless” a lawsuit filed on Monday by President Donald Trump to try to block subpoenas from the committee seeking years worth of financial documents from the president.
“There is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress,” Cummings, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Governments will no longer be able ignore the impending climate and ecological crisis, Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist, has told Extinction Rebellion protesters gathered at Marble Arch in London.
In a speech on Sunday night where she took aim at politicians who have for too long been able to satisfy demands for action with “beautiful words and promises”, the Swedish 16-year-old said humanity was sitting at a crossroads, but that those gathered had chosen which path they wish to take.
“I come from Sweden and back there its almost the same problem as here, as everywhere, that nothing is being done to stop an ecological crisis despite all the beautiful words and promises,” she told the crowd. “We are now facing an existential crisis, the climate crisis and ecological crisis which have never been treated as crises before, they have been ignored for decades. And for way too long the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything. We will make sure that politician’s will not get away with it for any longer.”
Her speech came amid police efforts to forcibly clear Extinction Rebellion protesters from Waterloo Bridge as the group debated whether to continue its campaign of mass civil disobedience. Police said on Sunday night they had cleared all the protesters from Parliament Square. ...
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the disruption was “counter-productive” to the cause of climate change and was stretching resources so much it could damage police’s ability to fight violent crime. ... Last week, the group gained global coverage for the disruption its tactics of civil disobedience caused in central London. On Sunday, the organisers said they intended to change tack and would offer to vacate some sites in exchange for the mayor acting on some of their demands.
Along the Midwest’s big rivers, hundreds of miles of levees protect people and property. But when water surged into the Missouri River in March, the levees crumbled — exposing an aging, insufficient flood protection system. The flow, capacity and management of the river has changed a lot since Adams was a kid, he says, but the 50-year-old levees haven’t. And they're not up to the challenge.
Last month’s floods were the most intense the Army Corps of Engineers has ever seen in the Midwest. "It's immense," Bret Budd, Army Corps of Engineers Chief of the Omaha District Systems Restoration Team, told VICE News. "It's a biblical flood for us. It is going to tax the resources of everybody around. We have over 500 miles of levee to provide to reduce the risk of flooding. Of those 500 miles, we had over 50 breaches."
The Corps has been scrambling to patch the broken levees before the rivers rise again — but gaping holes are still unfilled. For now, they’re only able to put temporary fixes in place anyway, so the Corps looking into redesigning their flood control systems to adapt with the changing landscape.
The courts just declared Trump’s coal mining on public lands illegal! Keep up the fight! https://t.co/y3Cz0JGjUH
— Jamie Henn (@Agent350) April 20, 2019
Dutch engineers are building what will be the world’s largest archipelago of islands made up of sun-tracking solar panels. Growing resistance to the construction of wind turbines or fields of solar panels on land has led the renewable energy industry to look for alternative options. Large islands of solar panels are under construction or already in place in reservoirs and lakes across the Netherlands, China, the UK and Japan.
In a development that is to become the largest of its type in the world, construction will begin this year on 15 solar islands on the Andijk reservoir in north Holland. The islands, containing 73,500 panels, will have the sunflower-like ability to move to face the light.
The first phase of the project, involving three islands, each of which will be 140 metres in diameter, is due to be finished by November, once the migratory season for birds has come to an end. Arnoud van Druten, the managing director of Floating Solar, a solar panel supplier, said: “We would like to have started earlier but because of the environmental issues regarding bird seasons, there is only a limited period in the year, these three months, that we can put anything in the water.”
Along with a second project at Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam, which will involve static solar panels, the water company PWN, which owns the land on which the farms will be located, is expected to create enough energy to power 10,000 households.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Meade Lux Lewis - Bear Cat Crawl
Albert Ammons, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Pete Johnson - Cafe Society Rag
Meade Lux Lewis - Denapas Parade
Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons - Boogie Woogie Prayer
Meade Lux Lewis - Honky Tonk Train Blues
Meade Lux Lewis (w/Big Joe Turner) - Low Down Dog
Meade Lux Lewis - Chicago Flyer
Meade Lux Lewis - Mr. Freddie Blues
George Hannah w/Meade Lux Lewis - Molasses Sopper Blues
Meade Lux Lewis - Riff Boogie