The Evening Blues - 11-12-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features delta bluesman Robert Johnson. Enjoy!
Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago
“We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers.”
-- George W. Bush
News and Opinion
The U.S. Will Stop Refueling Saudi-led Coalition Jets in Yemen, but Progressives in Congress Want More
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration would end mid-air refueling support to the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen, cutting off what is widely seen as the most significant pillar of American support for the brutal campaign. But progressives in Congress are pushing for more, aiming to cut off weapons sales and pass a measure in both chambers that would force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Yemen. The measure, which was introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D.-Calif) in the House and by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Mike Lee (R.-Utah) in the Senate, relies on the legal theory that intelligence and logistical support amount to “hostilities” under the 1973 War Powers Act, and therefore must be authorized by Congress, which has not approved U.S. involvement in the war between the coalition and a rebel group known as the Houthis in Yemen.
In a phone interview on Friday, Khanna told The Intercept he was “cautiously optimistic” about the news, but wants to pass the measure to ensure the Trump administration follows through on its decision. “This is a major change. It could avert a humanitarian crisis,” Khanna said. “From everything that I’ve understood, from activists on the ground, from people who are briefed on policy, the war could not continue without the assistance of U.S. refueling.”
It is not clear whether that is the case, however. Citing anonymous sources, the Post reported that the administration’s decision “was prompted at least in part by the Saudi military’s increased aerial refueling capacity,” suggesting that the withdrawal of U.S. support may not have as much impact as Khanna and others hope.
Airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen are on a pace to kill more civilians than last year, according to a database tracking violence in the country, despite the United States’ repeated claims that the coalition is taking precautions to prevent such bloodshed. The database gives an indication of the scope of the disaster wreaked in Yemen by nearly four years of civil war. At least 57,538 people — civilians and combatants — have been killed since the beginning of 2016, according to the data assembled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED.
That doesn’t include the first nine months of the war, in 2015, which the group is still analyzing. Those data are likely to raise the figure to 70,000 or 80,000, ACLED’s Yemen researcher Andrea Carboni told The Associated Press. The organization’s count is considered by many international agencies to be one of the most credible, although all caution it is likely an underestimate because of the difficulties in tracking deaths.
The numbers don’t include those who have died in the humanitarian disaster caused by the war, particularly starvation. Though there are no firm figures, the aid group Save the Children estimated hunger may have killed 50,000 children in 2017. That was based on a calculation that around 30 percent of severely malnourished children who didn’t receive proper treatment likely died. ...
Asked about the finding, the U.S. State Department said in an emailed reply, “Throughout this conflict, the United States has urged all parties to abide by the Law of Armed Conflict, work to prevent harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure, and thoroughly investigate and ensure accountability for any violations.”
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the US will hold accountable all involved in the killing of a dissident Saudi journalist in a wide-ranging telephone call that also took in the conflict in Yemen. ... “The secretary emphasised that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. ...
British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Monday to call on Saudi leaders to cooperate with an investigation into the murder of Khashoggi and press for an end to the war in Yemen. The foreign ministry said Hunt would meet Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Prince Mohammed, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen and Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani.
Hunt, the first British minister to visit Saudi Arabia since the murder of Khashoggi a month ago, will also call on the Saudi authorities to do more to deliver justice and accountability for his family.
Ankara has given recordings on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, the US, Germany, France and Britain, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. ... Speaking as he left Turkey to attend first world war one commemorations in France, which are being attended by the US president and European leaders, Erdogan said for the first time that the three European Union states had heard the recordings.
“We gave the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, Germans, French and British, all of them. They have listened to all the conversations in them. They know,” Erdogan said. ... Erdogan did not give details of the contents of the tapes on Saturday but two sources with knowledge of the issue have told Reuters that Turkey has several audio recordings. They include the killing itself and conversations pre-dating the operation that Turkey subsequently uncovered, the sources said. These had led Ankara to conclude from an early stage that the killing was premeditated, despite Saudi Arabia’s initial denials of any knowledge or involvement.
Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has become the first western leader to confirm Turkish claims that an audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder exists and has been passed to intelligence agencies. ...
Speaking at a press conference in Paris, where he attended a peace forum after armistice ceremonies, Trudeau said Canadian intelligence had listened to the audio tape provided by Turkish intelligence, but he had not done so.
“Canada’s intelligence agencies have been working very closely on this issue with Turkish intelligence and Canada has been fully briefed on what Turkey had to share,” he said. ...
In contrast, the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said recordings related to Khashoggi’s murder were not to his knowledge in France’s possession, directly contradicting Erdogan.
Six weeks after Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents, the decision-making process in Riyadh is slowly starting to change. Fallout from the assassination in Istanbul has wounded Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne, and given a second wind to an old guard of elders, whose views are once more being heard. Publicly, the Kingdom’s leaders appear chastened and contrite in the wake of Khashoggi’s gruesome killing inside the Saudi consulate. In private though, senior members of the House of Saud, including the crown prince, are partly blaming Turkey for the global revulsion, which they say could have been contained if Ankara had played by “regional rules”.
Central to the resentment, according to sources close to the royal court in Riyadh, is a view that the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan betrayed the Kingdom by disclosing details of the investigation and refusing all overtures from Saudi envoys, including an offer to pay “significant” compensation. “They say they were betrayed by the Turks,” a regional source said. “That’s where they are in their most private thoughts.”
The return to Riyadh earlier this month of Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the sole surviving full brother of monarch, King Salman, has been widely interpreted as a first step in the restoration of an old order, in which decision making was made after extensive consultation among elders. Another senior figure, Khalid al-Faisal, led the Saudi delegation to meet Erdogan in October, and the King himself - who has taken more of a chairman role since appointing Prince Mohammed as his heir - has been more visible and vocal in meetings, a second senior source says. ...
In the days after Khashoggi was killed, as the official Saudi reaction shifted from outright denial that it had played a role, to a begrudging admission that Khashoggi had been killed in a fight, Prince Mohammed struggled to comprehend the scale of the reaction – and even the reason for it. “He was blaming the Americans for betraying him initially,” said the regional source. “He’d seen Abu Ghraib, renditions, death penalties, and he felt comforted by Trump. He could not understand why this was happening to him.”
Since then, western leaders’ once enthusiastic embrace of Prince Mohammed has been replaced by wariness and a view that some of the regional feuds launched in his name need to be brought to an end. ... There is little appetite in London or Washington for Prince Mohammed to be removed, and Ankara – which is strongly opposed to the Crown Prince, but not at odds with King Salman – is being lobbied heavily by Riyadh’s allies to accept the fact that Prince Mohammed will not be ousted.
An unprecedented number of US airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia has caused significant casualties without seriously weakening the Islamic extremist group, research suggests. The US has conducted 29 airstrikes in Somalia against al-Shabaab this year. In 2017, the US conducted 27 strikes against the al-Qaida affiliate, which has fought for almost a decade to impose its rigorous version of Islamic law on the country. Four further strikes last year were directed at a small group of fighters loyal to Islamic State in the east African country.
Some strikes against al-Shabaab have inflicted considerable casualties, with at least 60 recruits dying in an attack on a training camp in Mudug province in the centre of the country last month. But research published last week has suggested that although the overall number of attacks by the extremists has declined slightly, al-Shabaab is adapting to the increasingly lethal air campaign.
Analysts at the Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute found that the group is conducting fewer massed attacks on government bases but the numbers of strikes against government offices and businesses that refuse to pay its taxes has increased markedly. The Hiraal Institute report said: “There was a more than a twofold increase in bombings, suggesting that al-Shabaab made a conscious decision to switch to bombings as its primary source of targeting the Somali government and its allies as an efficient attack method that does not expose its men to attacks.”
Many experts say the struggle against the insurgency has reached a stalemate. Hussein Sheikh Ali, the executive director of the Hiraal Institute and a former national security adviser, said: “Al-Shabab are definitely not getting stronger but the government is not getting stronger either. “The US has been very active and hitting very serious targets but holding territory is very difficult.”
Half Million Killed by America's Global War on Terror 'Just Scratches the Surface' of Human Destruction
The United States' so-called War on Terror has killed about half a million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, according to a new estimate from the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute. "This new body count signals that, far from diminishing, the war is only intensifying," Stephanie Savell, co-director of the project, pointed out in a piece for Axios. The overall death toll "is an increase of 113,000 over the last count, issued just two years ago."
The new report (pdf) estimates that since 2001, between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed because of war violence in those three nations—a tally that does not include "the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria, raging since 2011, which the U.S. joined in August 2014," and "indirect deaths," or those killed by war's impact on public health, such as limiting access to food, water, hospitals, and electricity.
Over 480,000 have died due to direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but the number of indirect deaths - because, for example, of war-related disease -- is several times larger. See our paper at https://t.co/Q8RuLYE3br
— The Costs of War (@CostsOfWar) November 8, 2018
The "direct deaths" accounted for in the estimate include U.S. military, contractors, and Defense Department employees; national military and police as well as other allied troops; opposition fighters; civilians; journalists; and aid workers. About half of those killed were civilians—between 244,000 and 266,000 across Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Up to 204,000 of them were Iraqis. While the U.S. government has repeatedly underestimated the costs of waging war, since the project launched in 2011, its team has aimed to provide a full account of the "human, economic, and political costs" of post-9/11 U.S. military action in the Middle East, "and to foster better informed public policies." ...
Regardless of how Democrats in the House proceed, Neta C. Crawford, a Boston University political science professor who co-directs the Costs of War Project, argued in the report's conclusion that there is a need to keep the public more informed about the consequences of the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East in order to drive demands for improving U.S. foreign policy. "This update just scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war," Crawford wrote. "Too often, legislators, NGOs, and the news media that try to track the consequences of the wars are inhibited by governments determined to paint a rosy picture of perfect execution and progress."
At least the timing is exquisite. Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are coming to Philadelphia on Sunday night to receive the National Constitution Center's much-ballyhooed Liberty Medal, which is supposed to be earmarked for leaders "who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe." This Veterans Day also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I — the massive and utterly pointless global conflagration that killed tens of millions and alienated an entire generation for reasons that historians are still struggling to explain a century later. The immoral similarities between "The War to End All Wars" and George W. Bush's 2003 lie-and-propaganda-laden push to bring the "blessings of liberty" to Iraq at the tip of a Tomahawk missile are almost beyond parody. ...
It's a pretty safe bet that no one on the Constitution Center's panel that selected the Bushes for the now-tarnished Liberty Medal consulted with the Iraq-born novelist Sinan Antoon, who wrote in the New York Times in March that "Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country" and noted that estimates of as many as one million dead mean the war "is often spoken of in the United States as a 'blunder,' or even a 'colossal mistake,' " but, he writes, "It was a crime." Nor did the panel likely investigate the "blessings" that America under Bush's leadership bestowed upon Lakhdar Boumediene, a Bosnian national scooped up in 2001 by U.S. intelligence on baseless allegations and flown to the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, where during nine years of imprisonment he said he was kept awake for days at a time, forced into uncomfortably painful positions, and brutally force-fed during a hunger strike. "These are things I do not want to write about," he wrote. "I want only to forget."
Apparently America only wants to forget the Bush years as well. (The Iraqi Antoon complained of our "mostly amnesiac citizenry" after watching Bush do a happy dance with liberal TV host Ellen DeGeneres.) The very different kind of awfulness of Donald Trump's presidency and the arrival of a new generation of voters make it important now to do something that wouldn't have been necessary just a decade ago — to remind everybody how the George W. Bush presidency wasn't just flawed but a moral low point in American history. ...
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longtime chairman of the Judiciary Committee, made a dramatic announcement Nov. 1 that should lead to jail time for both former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. As reported, but widely overlooked amid the media focus on the midterm elections, Brennan ordered CIA hackers to intercept the emails of all potential or possible intelligence community whistleblowers who may have been trying to contact the congressional oversight committees, specifically to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Hacking the Senate’s computer system constitutes illegal use of a government computer, illegal espionage and wire fraud.
Brennan and Clapper, in 2014, ostensibly notified congressional overseers about this, but in a way that either tied senators’ hands or kept them in the dark. They classified the notifications. As a result, Grassley knew of the hacking but couldn’t say anything while senators on neither the Intelligence or Judiciary Committees didn’t know.
It’s a felony to classify a crime. It’s also a felony to classify something solely for the purpose of preventing embarrassment to the CIA.
For all of this—for the hacking in the first place, and then the classification of that criminal deed—both men belong in prison.
Oh my. The UK has dangerous lefty academics with impure thoughts.
An essay by a prominent leftwing academic that examines the ethics of socialist revolution has been targeted by a leading university using the government’s counter-terrorism strategy. Students at the University of Reading have been told to take care when reading an essay by the late Professor Norman Geras, in order to avoid falling foul of Prevent.
Third-year politics undergraduates have been warned not to access it on personal devices, to read it only in a secure setting, and not to leave it lying around where it might be spotted “inadvertently or otherwise, by those who are not prepared to view it”. The alert came after the text was flagged by the university as “sensitive” under the Prevent programme.
The essay, listed as “essential” reading for the university’s Justice and Injustice politics module last year, is titled Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution. Geras was professor emeritus of government at the University of Manchester until his death in 2013. He rejected terrorism but argued that violence could be justified in the case of grave social injustices.
Waqas Tufail, a senior lecturer in criminology at Leeds Beckett University,, who wrote a report about Prevent last year, described the case at Reading as “hugely concerning”. Another Prevent expert, Fahid Qurashi of Staffordshire University, said the move showed how anti-terrorism legislation is “being applied far beyond its purview”.
Warning of an impending constitutional crisis if action is not taken to protect Robert Mueller, congressional Democrats demanded on Sunday that acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the the special counsel’s investigation and warned of a showdown in Congress if Whitaker does not.
Top Democrats have written to the chief ethics officer of the justice department, asking for an official opinion on whether Whitaker, who has denied Russian interference in the 2016 election and described a strategy for derailing Mueller, should recuse himself from the Russia inquiry. Whitaker will be the first witness summoned by the House judiciary committee when Democrats take charge in January, incoming chairman Jerry Nadler said, calling Whitaker “a complete political lackey” and “a real threat to the integrity of that investigation”.
Donald Trump fired attorney general Jeff Sessions on Wednesday and appointed Whitaker, a former US attorney from Iowa and Sessions’ chief of staff, to be acting attorney general – a move Democrats called illegal. “We will certainly hold a hearing on that,” Nadler told CNN’s State of the Union. “We will summon or if necessary subpoena Mr Whitaker to ask him about his expressed hostility to the investigation – how he can possibly oversee it when he has come out and said that the investigation is invalid.”
Nadler said Whitaker held “ridiculous legal opinions” and concluded “he’s totally unqualified. The only qualifications seems to be that the president wants him to be a hatchet man to destroy Mueller’s investigation.” If Whitaker does not recuse himself, Senate Democrats plan to tie legislation protecting Mueller to a spending bill that must pass in order to prevent a government shutdown, minority leader Chuck Schumer told CNN.
In the bleak history of lynchings in the deep south, Mississippi holds dubious pride of place. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, 654 lynchings of black people were carried out within its borders, dramatically more than any other state. It is within that context that a video posted on social media on Sunday and by Monday morning viewed almost 3m times landed with incendiary impact. It showed the appearance at a campaign stop earlier this month of Cindy Hyde-Smith, the white sitting US senator from Mississippi who is locked in a fight for the seat with a black Democrat, Mike Espy.
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row"- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.
Hyde-Smith is in a runoff on Nov 27th against Mike Espy. pic.twitter.com/0a9jOEjokr
— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 11, 2018
The senator scrambled to explain herself after the video went viral. She said it was an “exaggerated expression of regard” for the individual who had invited her to speak and “any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous”.
But talk of public hanging is rarely perceived as innocent in Mississippi, given the state’s sordid legacy. ...
Derrick Johnson, the national president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who comes from Mississippi, denounced the remark of Hyde-Smith, who has been endorsed by Donald Trump, as “shameful”. He said it yet again proved “how Trump has created a climate that normalizes hateful, racist rhetoric from political candidates”.
A cop mistakenly shot and killed an armed security guard while responding to a shooting at a club in a Chicago suburb early Sunday. Midlothian officials have released few details about the incident but confirmed that an armed security guard, 26-year-old Jemel Roberson, had been killed at Manny’s Blue Room Bar where at least four others had been shot. One of those four people is the suspected shooter. No other injuries are life-threatening.
"Everybody was screaming out, 'Security!' He was a security guard," witness Adam Harris told a local news station. "And they still did their job, and saw a black man with a gun, and basically killed him."
The police department said that the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force will investigate the shooting.
The most high-profile bipartisan legislation of the Trump era turned out to be electoral poison — or at least, not a prophylactic — for the Senate Democrats who decided to support it, which could serve as a lesson for party leaders wishing to join with the president on other bills next year. The “Crapo bill,” a bank deregulation measure co-authored by Senate Banking Committee chair Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and several centrist Democrats, passed Congress this spring with the help of 17 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus and 33 House Democrats.
In the 10 states where Donald Trump won in 2016 and a Democratic senator stood for re-election this year, the three who opposed the Crapo bill all won a greater share of votes in their states than the seven who voted for it. Senators voting “no” averaged 54.7 percent of the vote and won by 10 percentage points, while the “yes” votes averaged 48.1 percent and lost by 1.5 points. The only Republican who lost, Dean Heller of Nevada, also voted for the Crapo bill, and fell by 5 points to Jacky Rosen, who voted against the legislation in the House.
The Crapo bill rolled back a number of elements of the Dodd-Frank Act, including, in particular, stiffer regulations on banks that have between $50 billion and $250 billion in assets. A recent proposal from the Federal Reserve, using authority granted by the Crapo bill, expands that deregulation up to banks with as much as $700 billion in assets.
Senate Democratic supporters justified their votes by casting the legislation as a tweak to benefit community banks in small towns and rural areas, despite its greatest impact occurring well up the chain. In fact, the bill has already led to accelerated consolidation and further disappearance of community banks.
Florida governor Rick Scott accused Bill Nelson, his opponent in a brutally tight US Senate race now subject to a recount, of trying to steal the seat by committing voter fraud. State elections and law enforcement officials say they have seen no evidence suggesting such allegations are true. Scott’s accusation appeared to be in keeping with a pattern of wild allegations about voter fraud used by Republicans, starting with Donald Trump, to contest election results they do not like.
Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018
Scott accused Nelson’s lawyers of trying to count ballots that have been thrown out and ballots cast by non-citizens. Lawyers for Nelson have gone to court to stop what they say is an effort by Republicans to stop some ballots being counted. ...
In Florida on Sunday, amid Republican claim and Democratic counter-claim, the Senate and governor’s race recounts ran into an early technical hiccup. In the state’s second most-populous county, the recount was delayed because of problems with the machines. Broward county was scheduled to begin counting about 700,000 ballots on Sunday morning, but a tested machine was not registering all ballots. Republican representatives asked that all machines be retested and county officials agreed.
The heavily Democratic county is one of two where Republicans have made allegations of possible ballot fraud, which appear to be unfounded.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott filed lawsuits Sunday calling for voting machines to be impounded in two Democratic-leaning counties, after accusing his opponents of voter fraud. ... A machine recount was launched Saturday, as Scott’s lead shrunk to 12,500 votes, or 0.15 percent — below the threshold under which a recount is automatically triggered.
In the lawsuit filed Sunday, Scott called on a judge to issue an emergency injunction requiring sheriffs in Broward and Palm Beach counties to impound all voting machines and ballots whenever they’re not being used in the recount — until the end of the recount and any legal action relating to the closely fought race. ... A separate suit, filed late Saturday, asked that the judge order any ballots counted after noon on Saturday to be disregarded, alleging that votes in Broward County were counted after the noon deadline.
“Senator Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try to win this election,” Scott said on Fox News Sunday. “That’s all this is.”
Nelson said the lawsuits represented a bid by Scott “to stop every legal vote from being counted,” and showed that his opponent was panicking. Scott had seen his slim lead shrink even further as mail-in and provisional ballots rolled in. “He's doing this for the same reason he's been making false and panicked claims about voter fraud: He's worried that when all the votes are counted, he'll lose this election,” Nelson said.
- “Be really wary of nominating a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) type who is going to scare moderates.”
- “In states where being ‘middle of the road’ is no insult, it’s a good idea to go with a moderate.”
- “Moderates don’t have to be boring, and outside of deep-blue enclaves, it’s entirely logical to avoid overreaching.”
Well, the worst news for Democrats on Tuesday was the loss of three Senate seats held by incumbent Dems: North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill. As it happens, these are the Democrats who vote second-, third- and fifth-most often in line with Donald Trump’s preferences. Heitkamp ran an ad bragging that she “voted over half the time with President Trump.” A Donnelly spot featured Trump saying, “Sen. Donnelly, thank you very much.” A McCaskill ad declared that she was “not one of those crazy Democrats.” They sound pretty “moderate,” right? Yet they not only lost, they lost big—by 11-, 7- and 6-point margins, respectively.
As fire officials from across Ventura and Los Angeles county gathered to speak to reporters on Sunday, beyond the charred and smoldering hills where the Woolsey fire burned through the weekend, the wind was already starting to pick up. As Los Angeles fire chief Daryl Osby took the podium, strong gusts swirled smoke, ash and dust through grey skies. Along with updates on progress in fighting the fire, he said this blaze signified a shift: fire crews are now facing the most erratic and challenging fight of their lives.
Climate change, Osby said, was undeniably a part of why the fires burning in northern and southern California were more devastating and destructive than in years past. ...
“The fact of the matter is if you look at the state of California, climate challenge is happening statewide,” Osby said, adding that “it is going to be here for the foreseeable future”. Drought conditions have increasingly affected the state over the past decade, causing erratic fire behavior and making efforts to contain the flames much more difficult. The Woolsey fire, which was only 10% contained on Sunday, has burned more than 87,000 acres in three days. More than 177 homes have been lost and officials said that number was expected to rise rapidly.
The fire season, which started in early summer, is poised to break records for a second year in a row. In July California’s outgoing governor, Jerry Brown, referred to megafires as the “new normal”. ...
According to Cal Fire chief Scott Jalbert, there was a window on Saturday when the winds died down and firefighters were able to make some progress. But with strong winds projected through the beginning of the new week, containing the fire will be more difficult.
There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018
Since his first day on the job, when he surrounded himself with a National Park Service police escort and rode through Washington DC on a white-nosed horse named Tonto, the US interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, has exhibited a flair for ostentation. Not long after taking office in March 2017, the new secretary started flying a special flag, adorned with the agency’s bison seal, above the interior department’s elegant New Deal-era headquarters. At a cost of more than $2,000, he also commissioned commemorative coins emblazoned with his name to hand out to visitors and staff. He replaced the doors in his office to the tune of more than $130,000, and installed a hunting-themed arcade game in the department’s cafeteria.
Yet to some longtime civil servants working at interior headquarters, this flashy behavior was merely a distraction from graver concerns. “There was a lot of eye-rolling and embarrassment about the flag and the horse and all of the ridiculousness,” said a former senior employee who left last year and requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. For some, the dominant emotional tenor at the time was “fear and anxiety” as Zinke and his team ushered in “dramatic change” at the interior department. “All the new administration was interested in was their checklist for dismantling regulations and weakening environmental and land use protections,” said the former staffer. “Instead of asking why a senator or lobbyist or CEO was asking for a special favor and whether or not it was allowed under the law, this administration wanted to know why the special favor wasn’t already done and which deep state employee was standing in the way.” ...
Zinke rapidly installed a slew of conservative operatives and industry sympathizers in key positions throughout the agency. Because these senior advisers, counselors and other appointees are rarely subject to Senate approval, few people know their names. They nevertheless wield immense power and are responsible for much of the day-to-day work at the interior department. Hundreds of pages of correspondence and calendars reviewed by the Guardian and Pacific Standard show how Zinke and his top aides have favored corporate and conservative calls to prioritize resource extraction at the expense of conservation, while consistently delivering on industry desires – despite sometimes running afoul of conflict of interest rules. ...
Zinke is now facing a swirl of misconduct allegations, and Trump has said he would make a decision on his future at the department as soon as this week. But whatever Zinke’s fate, he has stocked the department with a slate of committed conservative appointees who will continue to remake the agency in the image of the Trump administration. “They are undermining the department’s mission at every turn,” said one current high-level civil servant, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “I have been here a pretty long time and seen different administrations from both sides of the aisle,” the civil servant added, “but this is the worst I have ever seen.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Robert Johnson - Come on in my Kitchen
Robert Johnson - Hellhound on my Trail
Robert Johnson - When You Got a Good Friend
Robert Johnson - Love In Vain
Robert Johnson - They're Red Hot
Robert Johnson - Honeymoon Blues
Robert Johnson - Phonograph Blues
Robert Johnson - If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day
Robert Johnson - I'm A Steady Rollin' Man