The Evening Blues - 1-12-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features zydeco musician Boozoo Chavis. Enjoy!
Boozoo Chavis - Johnny Billy Goat
"Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe."
-- Meteor Blades
News and Opinion
The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous Authoritarian Just Voted to Give Him Vast Warrantless Spying Powers
Leading Congressional Democrats have spent the last year relentlessly accusing Donald Trump of being controlled by or treasonously loyal to a hostile foreign power. Over the last several months, they have added to those disloyalty charges a new set of alleged crimes: abusing the powers of the Executive Branch – including the Justice Department and FBI – to vindictively punish political opponents while corruptly protecting the serious crimes of his allies, including his own family members and possibly himself.
The inescapable conclusion from all of this, they have relentlessly insisted, is that Trump is a lawless authoritarian of the type the U.S. has not seen in the Oval Office for decades, if ever: a leader who has no regard for Constitutional values or legal limits and thus poses a grave, unique and existential threat to the institutions of American democracy. Reflecting the severity of these fears, the anti-Trump opposition movement that has coalesced within Democratic Party politics has appropriated a slogan – expressed in the hashtag form of contemporary online activism – that was historically used by those who unite, at all costs, to defeat domestic tyranny: #Resistance.
One would hope, and expect, that those who genuinely view Trump as a menace of this magnitude and who view themselves as #Resistance fighters would do everything within their ability to impose as many limits and safeguards as possible on the powers he is able to wield. If “resistance” means anything, at a minimum it should entail a refusal to trust a dangerous authoritarian to wield vast power with little checks or oversight.
Yesterday in Washington, Congressional Democrats were presented with a critical opportunity to do exactly that. A proposed new amendment was scheduled to be voted on in the House of Representatives that would have imposed meaningful limits and new safeguards on Trump’s ability to exercise one of the most dangerous, invasive and historically abused presidential powers: spying on the communications of American citizens without warrants. ... House Democrats held the power in their hands to decide whether or not Trump – the President they have been vocally vilifying as a lawless tyrant threatening American democracy – would be subjected to serious limits and safeguards on how his FBI could spy on the conversations of American citizens.
Debate on the bill and the amendments began on the House floor yesterday afternoon, and it became quickly apparent that leading Democrats intended to side with Trump and against those within their own party who favored imposing safeguards on the Trump administration’s ability to engage in domestic surveillance. The most bizarre aspect of this spectacle was that the Democrats who most aggressively defended Trump’s version of the surveillance bill – the Democrats most eager to preserve Trump’s spying powers as virtually limitless – were the very same Democratic House members who have become media stars this year by flamboyantly denouncing Trump as a treasonous, lawless despot in front of every television camera they could find.
With bipartisan backing, the House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would renew one of the government’s most sweeping surveillance authorities for six years with minimal changes. The measure, which passed 256-164, reauthorized Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was set to expire later this month. ...
The law serves as the legal backing for two mammoth NSA programs revealed by Edward Snowden: Upstream, which collects information from the internet junctions where data passes in and out of the country, and PRISM, which collects communications from U.S.-based internet companies, like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo.
The programs rest on the notion that they are “targeting” foreigners, but they also collect massive amounts of data on Americans, including wholly domestic communications. Amazingly, the intelligence community has never disclosed how much. Numerous members of Congress have requested an estimate since 2011, but both the Obama and Trump administrations have refused to provide one. ...
On Thursday, the House failed to pass an amendment to the bill offered by Rep. Justin Amash, R.-Mich., which would have required federal law enforcement agents to get a warrant before searching NSA data for information on Americans. The amendment was defeated 183-233, with 125 Democrats voting for it and 55 Democrats against, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif..
As it is, the bill contains a cosmetic reform to the practice of “backdoor searches,” which requires the FBI to get a warrant whenever conducting searches related to an established criminal investigation. But it carves out massive exceptions, including for any investigation related to national security and whenever the FBI determines there is a “threat to life or serious bodily harm.” The issue is largely moot anyway because current rules allow the FBI to conduct queries even before opening an investigation.
Donald Trump has waived a raft of sanctions against Iran as required under a 2015 nuclear agreement, staying within the deal for the time being, but has vowed that it would be the last such waiver he signs if the accord is not radically altered.
With his announcement, the president in effect began a four-month countdown until the US ceases to comply with its obligations under the agreement. The next sanctions waivers fall due on 12 May.
The president made clear he was only reluctantly continuing US participation in the agreement, which he has habitually called “the worst deal ever”.
At the same time as waiving oil and banking sanctions that were suspended under the agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as JCPOA), he ordered the imposition of new sanctions on 14 individuals and entities, on human rights and weapons proliferation grounds.
The U.S. Air Force deployed three stealth B-2 Spirit bombers to Guam this week as discussions between the North and South Koreans involving the Winter Olympics were about to commence, a move that the service says was scheduled in advance but came at a particularly sensitive time.
The bat-winged B-2s and 200 airmen deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. island territory from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. They are part of what the U.S. military characterized as a short-term deployment that is part of the Pentagon’s bomber assurance and deterrence mission in the Pacific. The Air Force has rotated bombers in the Pacific for 15 years in a show of support for its allies in the region.
But the deployment of B-2s during the Winter Olympics — and shortly after President Trump taunted North Korea by tweeting Jan. 2 that his “Nuclear Button” was bigger than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s — may be seen as inflammatory in the region. The planes have stealth technology and the ability to carry nuclear weapons, something that the B-1B Lancer bombers deployed to Guam last year do not have.
B-2s also are the only aircraft capable of dropping a relatively new conventional 30,000-pound bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, which is designed to pierce hardened bunkers and tunnels such as the ones in North Korea.
A leaked helmet camera video out of Afghanistan showing a US soldier shooting an Afghan civilian driving a truck has been removed from social media sites and led to a promise of an investigation by the Pentagon.
The video, initially leaked on YouTube, showed a soldier’s camera view as his armored vehicle drives past a civilian truck. He then fires a shotgun directly into the driver’s side window, shattering it.
Donald Trump rates himself as the ultimate dealmaker, but Germany’s Angela Merkel may have him beat after her last bit of miracle politicking. On Friday, Merkel appeared to be zeroing in on a solution to a three month-long political stalemate that has left her leadership of the country in doubt.
After a marathon all-night negotiation session, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced they had reached a breakthrough, agreeing to launch formal talks to form a new coalition government.
The parties, Germany’s two biggest political forces, still face a number of hurdles before they can revive the “grand coalition” under which they have governed the country since 2013. But the 28-page coalition agreement represents the best chance yet at ending the political deadlock that has left Europe’s most powerful country rudderless since federal elections in September.
Under the agreement, the two sides hammered out compromises on issues which had previously proven to be dead-ends, such as immigration, fiscal policy and healthcare. It also called for strong cooperation with France to strengthen the European Union.
Sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi may not be what Israelis had in mind when, over many years, they criticised Palestinians for not producing a Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. Eventually, colonised peoples bring to the fore a figure best suited to challenge the rotten values at the core of the society oppressing them. Ahed is well qualified for the task.
She was charged last week with assault and incitement after she slapped two heavily armed Israeli soldiers as they refused to leave the courtyard of her family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Her mother, Nariman, is in detention for filming the incident. The video quickly went viral. Ahed lashed out shortly after soldiers nearby shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face, seriously injuring him. ...
Distinctive for her irrepressible blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, Ahed has been filmed regularly since she was a small girl confronting soldiers who tower above her. Such scenes inspired one veteran Israeli peace activist to anoint her Palestine’s Joan of Arc. But few Israelis are so enamoured. Not only does she defy Israeli stereotypes of a Palestinian, she has struck a blow against the self-deception of a highly militarised and masculine culture. She has also given troubling form to the until-now anonymised Palestinian children Israel accuses of stone-throwing.
Palestinian villages like Nabi Saleh are regularly invaded by soldiers. Children are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, as happened to Ahed during her arrest last month in retaliation for her slaps. Human rights groups document how children are routinely beaten and tortured in detention. Many hundreds pass through Israeli jails each year charged with throwing stones. With conviction rates in Israeli military courts of more than 99 percent, the guilt and incarceration of such children is a foregone conclusion. They may be the lucky ones. Over the past 16 years, Israel’s army has killed on average 11 children a month.
The video of Ahed, screened repeatedly on Israeli TV, has threatened to upturn Israel’s self-image as David fighting an Arab Goliath. This explains the toxic outrage and indignation that has gripped Israel since the video aired. Predictably, Israeli politicians were incensed. Naftali Bennett, the education minister, called for Ahed to “end her life in jail”. Culture minister Miri Regev, a former army spokeswoman, said she felt personally “humiliated” and “crushed” by Ahed. But more troubling is a media debate that has characterised the soldiers’ failure to beat Ahed in response to her slaps as a “national shame”. ... Ahed has exposed the gun-wielding bully lurking in the soul of too many Israelis. That is a lesson worthy of Gandhi or Mandela.
New Orleans approved a resolution on Thursday pledging to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in corporations whose practices violate human rights — an initiative pushed in the council as part of the campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel for its occupation of Palestinian territories. New Orleans became the first city in the South — and one of the largest in the country — to pass a resolution in accordance with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Movement, known by its initials BDS.
“This resolution specifically recognizes the city’s social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in certain corporations, namely those that consistently violate human rights, civil rights, or labor rights,” said council President Jason Williams just ahead of the vote. The resolution passed the council unanimously, with all five members present voting in support. ...
Both backers and detractors agree that the movement to boycott Israel is growing. In recent weeks alone, a New York court has been hearing the case of a pro-BDS student group that was banned from a college campus and pop singer Lorde acceded to boycott activists’ requests that she cancel a show in Israel. Some local governments have passed measures in opposition to the BDS movement — and such measures have been pushed on the federal level as well — but cities like Portland, Oregon, have passed limited pro-BDS measures.
Strikes in Greece have caused transport chaos and slowed hospital care and shipping as thousands of workers protested against proposed changes to a 36-year-old industrial action law demanded by the country’s creditors.
Nine thousand people demonstrated in the city centre against the overhaul, part of a multi-purpose bill to be voted on in parliament on Monday, with protesters chanting “Hands off strikes”. At the end of the protest, police fired teargas to repel a small group of demonstrators who tried to enter the parliament building. Further strikes and protests will be held on Monday.
Sailors and hospital doctors participated in the walkout, along with staff on the Athens metro, causing huge traffic jams in the capital as commuters used their cars instead. The union GSEE said the bill – demanded by the country’s creditors – “deals a killing blow to workers, pensioners and the unemployed ... effectively eliminating even constitutionally safeguarded rights such as the right to strike”.
The new US ambassador to The Hague has apologised for saying Muslim migrants had created “no-go zones” and “burned” politicians in the Netherlands.
In extracts from an interview with De Telegraaf newspaper to be published in full on Saturday, Pete Hoekstra said that with hindsight, “I’m shocked I said it. It was a misstatement. It was simply wrong.”
Hoekstra, a Dutch-born former Republican congressman who was Donald Trump’s pick to represent the US, added: “I got countries mixed up. I got it wrong, and I don’t know how it could have happened.”
During a panel discussion in 2015, Hoekstra said “the Islamic movement” had caused “chaos in the Netherlands – there are cars being burned. There are politicians that are being burned and, yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands”.
The ambassador caused upset on his first day on the job this week after presenting his credentials to King Willem-Alexander, clashing with reporters and refusing to answer repeated requests for clarification about the statements.
“Completely Racist”: Edwidge Danticat on Trump’s “Shithole Countries” Remark Targeting Africa, Haiti
John D. Feeley — who served as an active-duty military helicopter pilot for the Marine Corps prior to joining the State Department in 1990 — began his role as ambassador to Panama in February 2016. The State Department confirmed Feeley's resignation Friday. He will leave on March 9.
“As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies," Feeley wrote in his resignation letter, according to Reuters. "My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor-bound to resign."
Trump caused a controversy on Thursday when he reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and countries in Africa as “shithole countries” during a meeting on immigration with senators in the Oval Office. The president lamented the influx of immigrants from such countries, and, according to senators present, indicated a preference for immigrants from countries like Norway, whose Prime Minister had visited the White House the day before.
A new five-year investigation revealing that more than 170 million Americans were drinking water contaminated with radioactive elements is also renewing concerns about President Donald Trump's pick for a top environmental position in his administration—Kathleen Hartnett White, who ran Texas' environmental agency while it was falsifying reports of radiation levels in tap water. White chaired the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from 2003 to 2007, and admitted to local reporters in 2011 that the agency intentionally lowered the radiation level reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because, "We did not believe the science of health effects justified EPA setting the standard where they did."
She is now a fellow at Texas Public Policy Foundation—a conservative think tank that's funded by the Koch Brothers and other major corporate donors—but if Trump gets his way, White will head the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which is charged with making sure federal environmental agencies are following the law. ...
In December, the Senate Enivornment and Public Works Committee declined to approve her, and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) released a statement explaining, "White's concerning record, unacceptable statements, and shockingly poor performance before the EPW Committee last month have elicited serious concerns on both sides of the aisle and all across the country." Despite the committee's decision, the Trump administration resubmitted White's nomination earlier this week.
For its study, EWG tested for radioactive elements in tap water across the country from 2010 to 2015, and found "radium, the most common radioactive element found in tap water" in "more than 22,000 utilities serving over 170 million people in all 50 states." While California has the highest number of residents affected by radiation in tap water—about 25 million people, or 64 percent of the state's population—the state with the most widespread contamination is Texas, where utilities serving 22 million people, or about 80 percent of the state's population, reported radium in drinking water.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
Hat tip Snoopydawg:
A Little Night Music
Boozoo Chavis - I'm Going To The Country To Get Me Mojo Hand
Boozoo Chavis - Zydeco Cha Cha
Boozoo Chavis - Paper In My Shoe
Boozoo Chavis - Lula Lula Don't You Go To Bingo
Boozoo Chavis - Crying Waltz
Boozoo Chavis - You're Gonna Look Like A Monkey
Boozoo Chavis - Dance All Night
Boozoo Chavis - Bottle Up And Go
Boozoo Chavis - Do It All Night
Boozoo Chavis - Motor Dude Special