The Evening Blues - 1-2-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues and rock and roll singer and harmonica player Louis "Kid Thomas" Watts. Enjoy!
Kid Thomas - You Heard What I Said
"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia."
-- Charles M. Schulz
News and Opinion
When the new Congress convenes Jan. 3, it is expected to pass a House resolution upholding congressional war powers and ending all direct U.S. involvement in the Saudi coalition’s war in Yemen. But hopes remain high that H. Con. Res. 138 will help to end the Yemen war itself. Congressional strategists and activists who have been working on the issue believe passage of the war powers measure will force Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the negotiating table. ... Proponents of the war powers resolution, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California, argue the Saudis will not be able to continue the war without the political-diplomatic support of the United States, and the Yemen resolution will make dramatically clear the Saudis can no longer count on U.S. support. ...
The Trump administration’s official position, based on the notion that “limited support to member countries of the Emirati and Saudi-led coalition, including intelligence sharing, logistics, and, until recently, aerial refueling” did not constitute being “engaged in hostilities,” was that the resolution had no legal effect. But the activists and congressional staff who worked on the resolution are convinced that the administration’s frantic efforts to prevent its passage reveal just how powerful it will prove. ...
One Democratic congressional strategist involved in promoting the resolution acknowledged as much in an interview with Truthdig. “At the same time the Pentagon and the Trump administration were saying it would have no impact, they were scrambling to change the facts on the ground by unilaterally suspending air refueling,” the strategist said. The strategist also admitted this “first assertion of war authorities by Congress” would “force the administration to retreat, and when the U.S. is no longer the steadfast patron of the Saudi coalition campaign, the Saudi coalition will be compelled to seek an urgent and immediate peace settlement.” ...
The war’s swift conclusion appears all but inevitable. While Crown Prince Mohammed may be committed to final victory, the Saudi regime remains heavily dependent on U.S. political-diplomatic cover, as it has since the beginning of the bombing campaign in Yemen. Ironically, that political reality could now tip the balance toward peace.
'What Kind of Maniacs Are Running This Country?': Pentagon Rings in New Year With Joke About Dropping Massive Bombs on People
While people across the world celebrated the dawning of the New Year overnight, the U.S. military thought it would be funny to celebrate and make light of one of the things they do best: dropping massive bombs on people and places.
In a since-deleted, U.S. Strategic Command (StratCom), which controls the nation's strategic missile systems and coordinates offensive nuclear capabilities worldwide, joked that while people in New York City enjoyed the dropping of "the big ball" during the countdown to midnight, "we are ready to drop something much, much bigger."
Beneath the message was a video, as the New York Times describes it, of "a B-2 stealth bomber soaring across the sky before releasing two GPS-guided bombs that exploded into a giant ball of fire after hitting the ground below."
What kind of maniacs are running this country? pic.twitter.com/0glVs2ee25
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) December 31, 2018
Here's a tweet that contains a full version of the video Stratcom deleted:
... and here's the tweet's video (2/2) pic.twitter.com/ZOlajYo6Nf
— Bernard WERLÉ (@BeWerle) December 31, 2018
A Kurdish woman from Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) has translated British author George Orwell’s Animal Farm into Kurdish, a book which former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had banned for its critique of oppressive regimes. Rewshan Husen, an English teacher in the Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil, attended a book launch on Saturday to present her translation of Orwell’s famous novel. ...
The Rojava native from Qamishlo has lived in Erbil for the past few years where she has taught English. She told Kurdistan 24 that her profession has exposed her to many novels that are missing from Kurdish literature.
“As an English teacher, I have seen many international books which our Kurdish libraries are missing,” Husen stated. “I wanted to bring these important and well-known books to Kurdish readers.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Tuesday he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with President Donald Trump into 2019, but also warned Washington not to test North Koreans’ patience with sanctions and pressure. During his televised New Year’s speech, Kim said he’s ready to meet with Trump at any time to produce an outcome “welcomed by the international community.” However, he said the North will be forced to take a different path if the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure.”
Kim also said the United States should continue to halt its joint military exercises with ally South Korea and not deploy strategic military assets to the South. He also made a nationalistic call urging for stronger inter-Korean cooperation and said the North is ready to resume operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restart South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain resort. Neither of those is possible for South Korea unless sanctions are removed.
Some analysts say North Korea has been trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul while putting the larger burden of action on the United States. Pyongyang over the past months has accused Washington of failing to take corresponding measures following the North’s unilateral dismantlement of a nuclear testing ground and suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests. ...
[Kim said:] “It is the unwavering position of our party and the republic’s government and my firm will that the two countries as declared in the June 12 joint statement … take steps to establish a permanent and stable peace regime and push toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “Therefore, we have already declared domestically and internationally and took various actions showing our commitment that we will no further create or test nuclear weapons and will not use or spread them.”
Adam Mount, a senior analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said Kim appears to be hinting at an agreement that falls short of a full disarmament, but could still represent a major limitation of the North Korean threat — a cap that essentially freezes the North’s rudimentary nuclear capability from growing or advancing further. In exchange, the United States would have to offer major inducements, including sanctions relief.
Five Weeks After The Guardian’s Viral Blockbuster Assange-Manafort Scoop, No Evidence Has Emerged — Just Stonewalling
Five weeks ago, The Guardian published one of the most extraordinary and significant bombshells in the now two-plus-year-old Trump-Russia saga. “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign,” claimed reporter and best-selling “Collusion” author Luke Harding, Dan Collyns, and a very sketchy third person whose name was bizarrely scrubbed from The Guardian’s byline for its online version but appeared in the print version: Fernando Villavicencio, described by the Washington Post, discussing this mysterious discrepancy, as “an Ecuadoran journalist and activist.” ...
In lieu of addressing the increasingly embarrassing scandal, The Guardian’s top editors and reporters on this story have practically gone into hiding, ignoring all requests for comment and referring journalists to a corporate PR official who provides a statement that is as vague and bureaucratic as it is non-responsive. It’s easier to get a substantive comment from the National Security Agency than from The Guardian on this story. The Guardian’s stonewalling appears even more unjustified given the affirmative attacks on the truth of its central claims. The former consul and first secretary at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Fidel Narváez, said emphatically in an interview with the British outlet The Canary that The Guardian story was “a fake” and provided that outlet with a formal complaint to the paper, in which he said at least one other story from the same Ecuadorian intelligence sources was also fabricated.
The Guardian’s refusal to address any of the very serious questions raised by its own article persisted even after one of the world’s largest newspapers, the Washington Post, published a major story on the paper’s debacle, noting: “One week after publication, the Guardian’s bombshell looks as though it could be a dud.” ... The Guardian’s typically public and outspoken editor-in-chief Kath Viner has all but disappeared since the story was published on November 27. Since then, she stopped tweeting entirely except to commemorate the November 30 death of a Guardian columnist. Harding has also tweeted just once since then. And both have ignored these questions submitted by The Intercept, as well as similar inquiries from other reporters.
None of this is an aberration. Quite the contrary, it has become par for the Trump-Russia course. One major story after the next falls apart, and there is no accountability, reckoning, or transparency (neither CNN nor MSNBC, for instance, have to date bothered to explain how they both “independently confirmed” the totally false story that Donald Trump, Jr. was offered advanced access to the WikiLeaks email archive, all based on false claims about the date of an email to him from a random member of the public).
The founder of a movement to unite Germany’s left wing has said it will take to the streets in 2019, inspired by the gilet jaunes protests in France.
Sahra Wagenknecht, who set up Aufstehen (Get Up) in September, said the French demonstrations encouraged her to believe it was possible to effect change without being a political party. She cited growing inequality in Germany and frustration over the government’s failure to adequately tackle it as a powerful motivating force for a protest movement. The public face of Aufstehen, which has almost 170,000 signed-up members, Wagenknecht said she admired Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) and the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Momentum in the UK and that she was effectively modelling the movement on them.
“We have big plans for next year, not least because we recognise when people go on to the streets to protest – especially those who have not had a political voice for many years who rediscover their voice by protesting – then political change can happen,” Wagenknecht said, speaking to the foreign press association in Berlin. “This is what we’re seeing in France right now.” Wagenknecht was quick to stress that she did not support violence, but said she was sympathetic to those who felt the need to use it to express their anger. “I think it’s completely wrong to reduce the yellow vest movement in France to violence,” she said. “Of course there are those ready for violence amongst the protesters, but the movement is much broader than that.
“I’m clear that we don’t want any violence, but at the same time you have to recognise that it is a clear expression of pent-up anger. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere.”
The Marxist politician, who has risen to prominence through the Die Linke (Left) party, did not say what form Aufstehen’s protests would take, but said: “We will be visible on the street and in the public eye in 2019.”
Jair Bolsonaro has announced Brazil’s “liberation from socialism, inverted values, the bloated state and political correctness” after being sworn in as the country’s 42nd president. His words delighted a crowd of more than 100,000 – many of whom had travelled to its modernist capital for the event, convinced the far-right populist can rescue their troubled country from virulent corruption, rising violent crime and economic doldrums. ...
In a brief speech to the chamber of deputies, Bolsonaro thanked God for surviving from a near-fatal knife attack during the election campaign and invited lawmakers to help Brazil free itself from “corruption, criminality and economic irrresponsibility and ideological submission”.
“We have a unique opportunity before us to reconstruct our country and rescue the hope of our compatriots,” he said. “We are going to unite the people, rescue the family, respect religions and our Judeo-Christian tradition, combat genre ideology, conserving our values.”
He also referred to campaign promises such as freeing up gun possession. “Good citizens deserve the means to defend themselves,” he said. Bolsonaro said he was counting on Congress support to provide “legal support” for police to do their work; he has promised impunity for police who kill criminals. “They deserve it and must be respected,” he said.
Donald Trump has invited congressional leaders to a White House briefing on border security on Wednesday, amid a government shutdown and political impasse over immigration and federal funding. Details of the meeting’s agenda and full list of participants were not immediately clear late on Tuesday, but the Guardian confirmed that the meeting is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, according to a congressional source. The top two leaders from both parties of each chamber have been invited, the source said.
The president had said earlier on Tuesday that he is “ready, willing and able” to negotiate an end to the partial government shutdown that stretched into its 11th day and a new calendar year on 1 January, but insists any agreement include funding for “a good old fashioned wall” on the US-Mexico border.
The political gridlock is therefore set to continue into the new session of Congress on Thursday and probably beyond, as Democrats refuse to agree to taxpayers’ money for a wall and intend to introduce their own legislation to reopen the government without such funding. Undeterred, Trump continued to plead his case on Tuesday by tweeting at the Democratic leadership. “Border security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” he said on Tuesday afternoon.
The Democrats are preparing to take control of the House of Representatives on Thursday, when Pelosi is expected to be confirmed as speaker, after significant party victories in the midterm elections. They will vote quickly on several bills to reopen the government, while Republicans insist they will not pass any such legislation in the Senate, which they still dominate, that the president will not sign. Trump had seemed resigned on Tuesday morning to the continuing stalemate. He tweeted: “The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall.”
US authorities fired teargas into Mexico during the first hours of the new year to repel about 150 Central Americans who they claimed were trying to breach the border fence in Tijuana.
An Associated Press photographer witnessed at least three volleys of gas launched onto the Mexican side of the border near Tijuana’s beach early Tuesday. The people affected by the gas included women and children, as well as members of the press.
Authorities in Arizona said on Monday they have sent prosecutors the results of an investigation into a shelter for immigrant children, now shut down, where videos showed staffers dragging and shoving minors. The Maricopa county sheriff’s office investigated incidents that took place on three days in September. Prosecutors will now decide whether to file charges.
The videos, first obtained by the Arizona Republic newspaper, are blurry but show staffers dragging children on the ground and shoving a boy against a door. In one video, a staffer is seen sitting at a conference room table, fidgeting with her hair, while another staffer drags a child into the room. The treatment continued even after the child falls to the ground.
The shelter, known as Hacienda del Sol, was operated by private contractor Southwest Key and located in the wider Phoenix area before it was closed in October. It held immigrant children who came to the US without a parent or in some cases had been separated from family members.
Southwest Key has been under fire in Arizona after a series of investigations into abuse of children in its care. The Texas-based organization is the largest provider of shelters for immigrant children in the country and agreed this year to give up licenses at two of its biggest Arizona facilities at a time when the US government is holding more children in its care, and for longer periods of time. Before the investigations, Southwest Key had about 1,600 children in 13 facilities in Arizona. That number was reduced by about half by the end of the year.
Neither chamber of Congress has had a true gun control debate since 2013, even as the nation has witnessed a historic string of mass shootings, including one at a baseball practice for Republican lawmakers in 2017. While Republican leaders have avoided gun debates at all costs, Democrats are attributing many of their electoral gains last fall to their strong positions on gun reform. And that means a robust Second Amendment debate is coming to Capitol Hill soon.
Back in 2013 the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey limited background check bill died by filibuster, falling six votes short of even being allowed to be openly debated and amended. ... That legislation would require background checks for online and gun show sales, but it still allows arms sales among family members with no background checks and it explicitly bans the government from setting up a national gun registry. Still, even getting a vote on it was a breakthrough for advocates, but since its' defeat it hasn’t been seriously revived. Today’s a new day though. ...
For the past five years the Republican senator tried to deflect attention from his own bill. But then the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh left 11 of his constituents dead, and that slaughter on his home turf, coupled with the new dynamics on Capitol Hill, has changed his tune. “There really never was a path forward, but that may have changed,” Toomey said. ... After the Parkland, Florida high school shooting claimed the lives of 17 students and school officials last February, the Republican governors of Nevada, Ohio, Florida and Vermont all bucked the NRA and endorsed gun-control measures.
And in November Democrats saw big House gains in gun country, including places like Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kansas. But even Manchin-Toomey — watered down though it is — may never see the light of day in a Senate run by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I don’t know what’s dead on arrival. I don’t know exactly what can be done. We won’t know until we actually consider legislation and have some votes,” Toomey, the bill’s lead GOP sponsor, said. ...
For others, this is an area where they want to see Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi and her chamber take the lead. “Let’s see what the House passes and that will give us a floor to operate from. Obviously, there’s a lot who voted for Manchin-Toomey in the Senate, but I’d love to do more,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told VICE News. “I’m under no illusions that Mitch McConnell has this thing teed up for a lot of floor time in 2019, but we can make his life hard by even getting a big, bipartisan vote in the House.”
Presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will be sworn in on Thursday, has promised for months to restore the pay-go rule, which she instituted when first taking over the speaker’s gavel in 2007. She ran into resistance from progressives, who believe that the rule would make it more difficult for Democrats to pass a host of liberal agenda items, from “Medicare for All” to a Green New Deal to tuition-free public college. Critics also argue that pay-go creates an unlevel playing field, where Republicans get to blow giant holes in the tax code, as they did with the 2017 tax cuts, while Democrats must pay fealty to the deficit.
“There’s enormous appetite in the Democratic Party and among all Americans for major public investment to tackle our nation’s major crises: deepening inequality and structural racism and climate disaster,” said Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats, in a statement to The Intercept. “Pelosi and the Democratic Party leadership’s support of Paygo makes actually solving these crises all but impossible. The Democratic Party leadership is unilaterally disarming and shooting themselves in the foot.”
Incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took aim at the Democratic Party on Monday over the newly-announced climate crisis committee—a body she and other progressives say lacks the teeth needed to avert planetary disaster. In a Twitter thread, Ocasio-Cortez said that her proposal for a select committee on a Green New Deal—a key demand of the youth-led Sunrise Movement—contained "3 simple elements: 1. No fossil fuel money on climate cmte 2. Offer solutions for impacted communities 3. Draft sample #GreenNewDeal."
Yet all three, she said, were deemed "too controversial."
In DC + even in our own party, it‘s apparently too controversial to ask that we keep oil+gas co’s away from enviro policy.
It’s too controversial to talk about the socioeconomics of Flint, WV, PR & the Bronx.
It’s too controversial to plan for disasters that are already here.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 31, 2018
Given the rejection of those elements, as well as the expected lack of subpoena power by the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, announced by presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week, Ocasio-Cortez said it will "will be in an even weaker position than the select climate committee of 10 years ago," referring to the House committee in existence from 2007 to 2011. Because "we've got a planet to save," she argued that "we simply don't have any other choice" than to keep pushing for a Green New Deal. "If it's radical to propose a solution on the scale of the problem, so be it."
Hours after taking office, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on environmental and Amazon protections with an executive order transferring the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – which is controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby. The move sparked outcry from indigenous leaders, who said it threatened their reserves, which make up about 13% of Brazilian territory, and marked a symbolic concession to farming interests at a time when deforestation is rising again.
“There will be an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people,” said Dinaman Tuxá, executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (Apib). “Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment.” Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party (PSOL) tweeted her opposition. “The dismantling has already begun,” she posted on Tuesday.
Bolsonaro defended the measure in a tweet on Wednesday. “More than 15% of national territory is demarcated as indigenous land and quilombos. Less than a million people live in these places, isolated from true Brazil, exploited and manipulated by NGOs. Together we will integrate these citizens,” he posted. ...
Silas Malafia, an influential televangelist and close friend of Bolsonaro, said developed countries who centuries ago cut down their own forests should pay if they wanted Brazil to preserve the Amazon. “We’re going to preserve everything because the gringos destroyed what they had?” he said.
The developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline missed a year-end deadline to plant thousands of trees along the pipeline corridor in North Dakota. The company said it was still complying with a settlement of allegations it violated state rules during construction.
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which built the $3.8bn pipeline that is now moving North Dakota oil to Illinois, is falling back on a provision of the September 2017 agreement that provides more time should the company run into problems. The company must provide 20,000 trees to county soil conservation districts along the pipeline’s 359-mile route in North Dakota. ...
Only about 8,800 of the required 20,000 additional trees were planted in 2018. There were several factors, including equipment and staffing issues, difficulties finding willing landowners and poor planting conditions, according to Perennial Environmental Services, which ETP hired to handle the work. A soil conservation district in one of the seven counties refused to participate at all because it didn’t feel any of the 15 tree species identified in the settlement agreement were suitable.
Under Cover of Shutdown, Trump Admin Quietly Moves to Deprive 'American People of Their Right to Know What Government Is Doing'
Amid the chaos of the ongoing government shutdown and winter holidays, critics on Monday are calling out the Trump administration for quietly moving to make it harder for the public to find out what goes on behind closed doors at the U.S. Department of the Interior. A proposed new rule (pdf) filed to the Federal Register on Friday would enable the department—which, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been responsible for pushing through President Donald Trump's widely condemned regulatory rollbacks—to ignore public records requests that officials deem too "unreasonably burdensome."
The rule would loosen timelines for the agency to fulfill Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests—which journalists, advocacy groups, and others use to attain government records in the name of accountability—and increase requirements for how specific requests must be. Critics of the proposal warn it could jeopardize efforts to keep the public informed about the actions of the administration.
"This is a war on transparency," declared Jeremy Nichols of the environmental group WildEarth Guardians. "This is a calculated attempt to shield the Interior Department from scrutiny, to shield it from watchdogs, and to shield it from accountability."
"They are depriving the American people of their right to know what the government is doing—they are only going to cause themselves more fights and more litigation," Nada Culver, senior counsel at The Wilderness Society, told The Hill.
The rule was filed without an agency press release—and spokespeople declined multiple media outlets' requests for comment, citing the government shutdown—but the Federal Register filing claimed the department has seen a 30 percent jump in requests over the past two years and such "changes are necessary to best serve our customers and comply with the FOIA as efficiently, equitably, and completely as possible."
Human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading, fights over camping spots and other damaging behavior in fragile areas are beginning to overwhelm some of the American west’s most popular national parks, as a partial government shutdown left the areas open to visitors but with few staff on duty. Camping will be suspended in Joshua Tree national park, California, from Wednesday because of the chaos.
“It’s a free-for-all,” Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, in northern California, said , as Yosemite national park officials announced closings of some minimally supervised campgrounds and public areas within the park that are overwhelmed. “It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I’ve seen in my four years living here,” Snider said.
The 11th day of the partial government shutdown, amid rows over federal funding and immigration issues, has forced furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal government employees. This has left many parks without most of the rangers and others who staff campgrounds, enforce rules and otherwise keep parks running. Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration was leaving parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs, said John Garder, the senior budget director of the not-for-profit National Parks Conservation Association.
“We’re afraid that we’re going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts,” Garder said. “We’re concerned there’ll be impacts to visitors’ safety.” Garder added: “It’s really a nightmare scenario.” Spokespeople with the interior department did not respond to requests for comment. ...
Most visitors were being respectful of the desert wilderness and park facilities, Joshua Tree’s superintendent, David Smith, said in a statement. But some are seizing on the shortage of park staffers to drive off road illegally and otherwise damage the park, as well as relieving themselves in the open, a park statement said. Joshua Tree said it would begin closing some campgrounds for all but day use. Meanwhile, some visitors have strung Christmas lights in the protected Joshua trees, many of which are hundreds of years old, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Kid Thomas aka Tommy Louis - The Hurt Is On
Kid Thomas - The Wolf Pack
Tommy Louis - I Love You So
Kid Thomas - The Spell
Kid Thomas - In A Cold Cold World
Tommy Louis - Lookie There
Kid Thomas - You Are An Angel
Tommy Louis with Marshall and The Versatiles - Wail Baby Wail
Kid Thomas - Rockin' This Joint To-nite