The Evening Blues - 1-19-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Jimmy Dawkins. Enjoy!
Jimmy Dawkins - Chitlins Con Carne
“This is the greatest country in the world, but we do have some really stupid people representing it from time to time.”
-- Senator Orrin Hatch
News and Opinion
Disgusting. This election will surely be a measure of the depths we are plumbing as a nation.
Rick Saccone, the GOP nominee in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, is a former intelligence support consultant for the U.S. Army at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. He has written extensively in support of interrogation tactics widely condemned by human rights experts as torture.
Over the years, drawing upon his experience in Iraq, Saccone has promoted waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, as well as threatening prisoners with execution, dogs, and electrocution, as necessary tactics for obtaining information from detainees.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump appeared in North Fayette Township in Pennsylvania to promote Saccone’s candidacy. Despite the district going to Trump by some 20 points in November, the GOP is at risk of losing it to Democrat Conor Lamb.
The election was triggered by the sudden resignation of Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Penn., after revelations last year that the pro-life lawmaker had pressured his mistress to seek an abortion.
The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia has said Turkish forces have fired about 70 shells at Kurdish villages in the Afrin region of north-western Syria, as Ankara said its threatened military assault was “de facto” under way.
The bombardment from Turkish territory began at around midnight and continued into Friday morning. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey and has vowed to attack their Afrin enclave, massing troops and tanks on its border for several days.
Military action, however, risks further inflaming relations with the US, which allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Defence Force in its campaign against Islamic State.
The Turkish defence minister, Nurettin Canikli, on Friday said the assault had begun. “The operation has actually started de facto with cross-border shelling,” Canikli told the broadcaster A Haber. “When I say ‘de facto’, I don’t want it to be misunderstood. It has begun. All terror networks and elements in northern Syria will be eliminated. There is no other way.” ...
Military action would mean confronting Kurds allied to the United States at a time when Turkey’s relations with Washington are reaching breaking point. The US state department has called on Turkey to focus on the fight against Isis and not send its troops into Afrin.
Syria threatened on Thursday to "destroy" any Turkish warplanes that fly into its territory as Ankara prepares to launch a cross-border military operation to wipe out Kurdish fighters it calls "terrorists".
Turkish officials have repeatedly vowed to attack the Syrian-Kurd militia known as the YPG at any moment in the Afrin region in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey.
The move comes after the United States announced this week it would train the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to be part of a 30,000-strong "border force" - a statement US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday was "misportrayed".
Syria's government warned Turkey it would shoot down Turkish fighter jets and bombers that flew into its airspace.
"We warn that the Syrian Air Force is ready to destroy Turkish air targets in the skies of Syria," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad was quoted as saying by the official SANA news agency.
By the end of 2017, almost all the territory so-called Islamic State (ISIS) had once controlled in Iraq and Syria had been captured, but at significant cost. The year in many respects was a watershed for popular conceptions of modern warfare. Sold as the “most precise campaign in history” by US officials, the urban battlefields laid waste by bombs, artillery and improvised explosives told another story.
ISIS took every opportunity to endanger civilians, even as the Coalition increased the intensity of its own actions. The Coalition-backed assault on Mosul also grew bloodier in 2017 as fighting moved into denser pockets of the city, leaving thousands dead. In June, after months of bombing the vicinity, Coalition-support ground forces also began battling inside Raqqa. The ferocity of these simultaneous campaigns yielded the largest civilian casualty total from likely Coalition strikes ever monitored by Airwars.
Non-combatant deaths from Coalition air and artillery strikes rose by more than 200 per cent compared to 2016, rising to between 3,923 and 6,102 civilians estimated killed during the year according to Airwars tallies. By another measure, roughly 65% of all civilian deaths from Coalition actions tracked by our team since 2014 occurred over the last 12 months. This unprecedented death toll coincided with the start of the Trump presidency, and suggested in part that policies aimed at protecting civilians had been scaled back under the new administration.
The huge ramp up in Coalition actions came in parallel with a relative reduction in Russian operations in Syria. From January 2017, for eight straight months until September, Airwars tracked many more allegations per month against the Coalition than against Moscow’s forces. Despite international concern over increased civilian deaths, Russia continues to deny any civilian harm from its strikes – while the Coalition has downplayed the devastating impact of its own actions in Iraq and Syria.
Russian fever sweeps Sweden!
The Swedish government will distribute leaflets to the country’s 4.7 million households later this year explaining what to do if war breaks out with Russia, the Civil Contingencies Agency in Stockholm said Thursday. The announcement comes in the middle of a heated parliamentary election campaign, and amid a renewed fear of hostilities with its eastern neighbor. ...
The leaflets will suggest preparing long-abandoned Cold War bunkers and stockpiling food, water, and blankets.
The families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea want Kim Jong Un prosecuted in The Hague, the head of a support group told Reuters Friday.
The group will present a petition to the International Criminal Court requesting an investigation into the kidnappings – and the regime’s silence about the disappeared – as crimes against humanity.
The group, which represents families of people Pyongyang has either admitted to kidnapping or is suspected of kidnapping, hopes their actions will shine a light on the decades-old issue and exert some pressure on Pyongyang, its leader Kazuhiro Araki said.
The Department of Homeland Security was almost entirely unprepared for implementing Donald Trump’s January 2017 travel ban, and appears to have violated federal court rulings during the order’s enforcement, a stinging government review has found. ...
The ban, which targeted refugees and visa holders from several Muslim majority countries, led to chaos at airports around the US and was later blocked by a series of court rulings which found grounds for violations of the constitution.
Trump’s order was eventually rescinded but the administration subsequently issued two more limited bans, which were, at times, also been blocked by court rulings. On Friday the supreme court announced it would consider a challenge to Trump’s third ban. The nine justices in the nation’s highest court had already allowed the ban to go into effect during their review.
The inspector general’s report into the first ban found that: “Answers to critical questions necessary for implementation were undefined when the EO [Executive Order] issued. No policies, procedures and guidance to the field were developed. This meant that Homeland Security and other other government departments were forced to “improvise policies and procedures in real time”.
President Trump’s zigzagging on immigration reform as the country careens toward a Friday night government shutdown deadline has Congress frustrated. ... A group of bipartisan senators have a bill they thought the President would back based on his comments last week. But after the infamous “shithole” meeting, no one can pin the White House down on immigration reform, making the possibility of a shutdown imminent.
“Their demands are nebulous, their messaging makes no sense, they continuously move the ball,” said David Bier, a policy analyst at the conservative CATO institute. “I think it’s a sign that the administration doesn’t want a deal.” ...
This week President Trump doubled down on his disapproval for the Graham-Durbin immigration plan, calling it “horrible” and “very, very weak.” One reason for the whiplash could be a memo that White House staff gave to the President before last Thursday’s meeting. The memo, obtained and reviewed by Axios, lists five objections to the bill: it fails to secure the border, increases illegal immigration, grants legal status to parents of “Dreamers,” increases chain migration and fails to end the visa lottery.
In fact, the bill includes $2.7 billion for border security, prohibits citizenship for parents of “Dreamers”, limits the number of family members a U.S. resident can sponsor, and terminates the diversity visa lottery program, allocating those visas for a merit-based system. “The idea that they gave the President everything that he asked for, these are dramatic things that are going to have a permanent effect on our immigration system,” said Kamal Essaheb, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center. “For the President to just scoff at that and say that’s weak, it’s just beyond words.”
As ICE Targets Immigrant Rights Activists for Deportation, Suspicious Vehicles Outside Churches Stoke Surveillance Fears
When word came down from the upper floors of Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was taking custody of Ravidath Ragbir and intended to deport him, hundreds of his supporters, standing outside on the cold sidewalk, raised up their hands to the monolithic building and screamed. ...
The New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, where Ragbir is the executive director, emphasizes the power of illuminating the dark and confusing workings of the federal immigration machine. The coalition runs workshops to help immigrants fleeing violence in their home countries to apply for asylum. It sends groups of friendly volunteers to accompany people called to hearings in immigration court or mandatory check-ins with ICE officials. It builds a community of trust and mutual aid among New York’s most vulnerable and isolated immigrants.
The New Sanctuary Coalition’s work builds on a movement begun by religious congregations in the 1980s to support Central American refugees in defiance of Reagan-era immigration policies. Grounded in religious congregations, the movement relies in part on the government’s reluctance to send law enforcement into houses of worship. The concept of sanctuary — that people inside houses of worship enjoy some special protection from agents of the state — goes back centuries. But it doesn’t rest on any firm legal footing. While certain actions, like disrupting religious ceremonies, are illegal, the force keeping ICE officers from raiding churches has more to do with optics, said Rev. Michael Ellick, a former pastor at Judson Memorial Church and a friend of Ragbir. “It’s like, ‘OK, you can come and do that, but we’re going to have cameras rolling and everyone’s going to see you storming a church,’” he said. “Previous administrations, we thought they wouldn’t do that. But this administration? Who knows?”
Ragbir’s detention was the second such arrest of a New Sanctuary Coalition leader by ICE in the space of a week. It was only the most recent and public in a series of developments that advocates believe is part of a concerted effort to intimidate and dismantle the immigration rights movement in New York City. Coalition members say unmarked cars with heavily tinted windows have begun surveilling churches and movement leaders’ homes. Clergy who work with New York’s immigrant communities say that ICE agents have repeatedly entered church property and interrogated people as they come and go from houses of worship. The events in New York are taking place against a national backdrop of escalating actions against prominent immigrant rights figures.
Sweet Jesus, these people are still at it! Newsweek published this steaming pile yesterday. I want to know who got to Larry Lessig and performed the lobotomy.
Nearly a year after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a Harvard University professor says 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could still become commander in chief.
Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman professor of law and leadership at Harvard Law School, penned an essay for Medium in October outlining a series of hypothetical scenarios that could take place should the ongoing probe find that the Trump campaign actually conspired with Russia to influence the results of the election.
If Trump did conspire with Russia, the president “should resign, or, if he doesn’t, he should be impeached,” Lessig wrote in his essay. Vice President Mike Pence would also have to either resign or get impeached, which would make House Speaker Paul Ryan the president of the United States, Lessig wrote at the time.
Given that there is “no mechanism in American law for a new election,” nor “a mechanism for correcting the criminal results of the previous election,” Ryan ought to nominate “the person defeated by the treason of his own party, and then step aside, and let her become President,” Lessig went on to say.
Nigel Farage may have given Julian Assange a thumb drive of data and was possibly a more frequent visitor than was publicly known to the Ecuadorian embassy where the WikiLeaks founder lives, according to testimony given to US congressional inquiry into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to the Kremlin.
Glenn Simpson, a private investigator whose company compiled the controversial dossier alleging a conspiracy between Trump campaign officials and Russian agents, told the House intelligence committee that he was told by an unnamed source that the former Ukip leader had given data to Assange, but had no proof of the exchange.
“I’ve been told and have not confirmed that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran [sic] Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange,” Simpson told the committee, according to a transcript released on Thursday. Asked what kind of data Farage was alleged to have passed to the WikiLeaks founder, Simpson replied: “A thumb drive.”
Assange has denied working as an agent of Russia and Farage has ridiculed suggestions that the Kremlin influenced either the US election or Britain’s 2016 vote to exit the European Union. Farage’s relationship with Assange is of key interest because US intelligence and law enforcement officials see the WikiLeaks founder as a conduit for the Russian government.
Last July, eight months after the Democratic Party experienced one of its most devastating defeats in history, DNC chairman Tom Perez announced an “unprecedented” rebuild of the party from the ground up with a $10 million fund dedicated to state parties. That fund could provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to each state party, an enormous sum for often cash-strapped organizations.
That money hasn’t arrived. In fact, the DNC didn’t even have $10 million on hand as of November 30 and declined to comment on whether it had the money now. ... Some Democratic officials argue that Perez and the new staff at the committee are simply doing the best they can after mismanagement of the DNC during the Obama years. “Clearly Tom inherited a shithole, not just in fundraising but in terms of morale as well,” Ken Martin, head of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and of the Association of State Democratic Chairs, said in a wry reference to President Trump’s incendiary “shithole” comment last week about immigration.
There has also been minimal help from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders—the biggest stars of the party—to fundraise, and a lot of money being raised on the Left is going to a host of shiny new “resistance” organizations or candidates rather than the Democratic Party itself. Others attribute current problems to 2016 elections that left the DNC with a tarnished brand, complicating efforts to generate enthusiasm and donations.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is blocking quick confirmation of three Trump administration nominees, saying he hasn’t gotten sufficient assurances regarding offshore drilling off Florida’s coasts.
Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said the senator sent Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a letter last week seeking details on Zinke’s pledge to remove Florida from consideration for drilling.
But Zinke hasn’t responded to that letter, prompting the hold late Wednesday on three Interior Department nominees.
Brown said Nelson “will keep the holds in place until Zinke rescinds the draft five-year drilling plan published in the Federal Register on Jan. 8 and replaces it with a new draft plan that preserves the current moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico beyond 2022 and fully protects all of Florida’s coasts from the threat of both offshore drilling and seismic testing.”
After a brief meeting last week with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), Zinke said Florida’s waters would be taken out of the drilling plan.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is questioning whether Albert Kelly, a senior adviser at the Environmental Protection Agency, is fit for his job. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, sent Kelly a letter requesting information from Kelly in light of The Intercept’s December investigation that revealed he had been banned from the financial industry. ...
Before becoming an EPA senior adviser in May, Kelly was chair of SpiritBank, a community bank in Oklahoma that made loans to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Though Kelly had no experience with environmental issues, Pruitt hired him and tasked him with oversight of the agency’s Superfund program – just two weeks after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation fined him $125,000 for making a loan not approved by the banking regulator. In July, he was banned from the banking industry for life.
In her letter Warren noted the significant financial losses SpiritBank experienced under Kelly’s leadership, as well as the bank’s inability to repay more than $21 million it received in federal funds through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, both first reported by The Intercept.
The Superfund program manages clean-up of the country’s most contaminated areas and has a direct impact on Americans’ health and safety. Some 53 million people live within 3 miles of one of the more than 1,100 such sites around the country. And hundreds of the sites are at increased risk of flooding due to climate change.
As Warren noted, the program’s budget has been on the decline since 1999, and the Trump administration has proposed slashing it even further. “Given these financial struggles,” Warren wrote, “it is essential that the EPA personnel responsible for the Superfund program — including the personnel making recommendations on the Superfund’s future — are capable of properly managing and allocating the program’s finances.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jimmy Dawkins - Born In Poverty
Jimmy Dawkins Rumping 'N' Stomping
Jimmy Dawkins - Feel So Bad
Queen Sylvia & Jimmy Dawkins - Life And Troubles
Jimmy Dawkins - Dawkins' Mood
Jimmy Dawkins - Kant Sheck Dees Bluze
Jimmy Dawkins - Night Rock
Jimmy Dawkins - Goin' Down
Queen Sylvia Embry with Jimmy Dawkins
Jimmy Dawkins - Skopje Jazz Festival