The Evening Blues - 11-8-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Piedmont blues singer and guitarist Amos "Bumble Bee Slim" Easton. Enjoy!
Amos Easton (Bumble Bee Slim) - I Keep On Drinkin'
“People will continue to commit atrocities as long as they believe in absurdities.”
News and Opinion
One of the bloodiest events in what constitutes the world’s largest ongoing war crime is beginning to unfold in Hodeidah, the Red Sea port that serves as the principal lifeline for food, fuel and medicine upon which at least 70 percent of Yemen’s impoverished and starving population depend for survival. The Saudi-led coalition that has waged a devastating war against Yemen’s population for the past three and a half years reports that it has mobilized some 30,000 troops to surround the city. These include Emirati and Sudanese regulars, Al Qaeda militiamen and Yemeni mercenaries, all being massed on Hodeidah’s outskirts.
The city is being subjected to non-stop bombardment from both the air and sea, with the aid group Save the Children reporting that its staff counted some 100 airstrikes just over the weekend, a five-fold increase compared to the first week in October. ...
Yet the escalation of the siege comes just one week after extensive reports in the US media of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis calling for a “ceasefire” in Yemen and indicating a 30-day deadline for the resumption of peace talks. Even as the siege of Hodeidah was building, the New York Times published a hypocritical November 5 editorial titled “End Yemen’s Agony”, praising Pompeo and Mattis for having “urged all sides to stop the killing” and proclaiming that “the secretaries have taken a first step.” Events on the ground make it abundantly clear that this is all nonsense, a cover-up for continuing and intensifying slaughter that is reaching a near-genocidal scale.
From an interview with Senator Chris Murphy in Foreign Policy:
FP: How much responsibility does the United States bear for the humanitarian disaster in Yemen?
CM: I think there is an American imprint on every single civilian death inside Yemen. We sell them the bombs, we help them with the targeting, we fuel their planes in mid-air, and we give them moral cover. So I don’t think there is any way around complete American culpability for the humanitarian nightmare that is happening there.
We also have made no meaningful effort at all to try to find a path to peace. The Trump administration has been totally AWOL on the political process. They have outsourced it to the U.N., and there is no sign that the U.N. is making any progress. It stands to reason the Saudis will never move until the United States commands them to move.
So, yes, I think we are very much responsible for every terrible thing that’s happened inside Yemen today. I’m not saying if we pulled our military support, peace would blossom, but the first step to getting the parties to the table is for the Saudis to feel like they don’t have a blank check from the United States.
FP: Secretary of Defense James Mattis says the support we provide to the Saudi-led war helps them reduce the number of civilian casualties. What is your response?
CM: It’s just BS. The Saudis are hitting civilian targets on purpose. They are blatantly ignoring the no-strike lists that we give them. Mattis works for Donald Trump, he has to espouse the position of this administration, and this administration’s position is “never question the Saudis about anything.” I worry that there are financial ties between the Trumps and the Saudi royal family. I don’t think that the civil servants who work on this problem every day see it the same way that Trump and his cabinet do.
At some point, you have to actually believe what you see. The number of civilian targets that are being hit are increasing, not decreasing, and the coalition is admitting to hitting civilian targets.
Aid agencies and medical staff on the ground in Hodeidah have begged the international community to intervene to stop the violence in the besieged Yemeni city as coalition and Houthi rebel forces struggle to gain the upper hand ahead of a planned ceasefire at the end of the month.
“The violence is unbearable, I cannot tell you. We’re surrounded by strikes from the air, sea and land,” said Wafa Abdullah Saleh, a nurse at the barely functioning al-Olafi hospital in the Houthi-controlled city centre.
“The hospital treats the hungry and people injured in airstrikes day in and day out, but there is a serious shortage of medicine,” she said. “Even if we try our hardest we cannot treat patients because we lack the necessities for basic operations.”
Worth a full read:
Tuesday’s midterm elections put Democrats back in control of the U.S. House while strengthening the Republican hold on the Senate. The big picture is that, two years after Donald Trump replaced the GOP’s old arsenal of racial code words and dog whistles with blaring white supremacist bullhorns, majorities of U.S. whites are firmly committed to an openly white nationalist political program under the leadership of a billionaire huckster who speaks their vile language. Although the GOP remains a minority party -- Democrats outpolled them in House races by 7 to 9 percent – white supremacists remain the largest bloc in the U.S. political spectrum.
This was a rematch of the contest that corporate Democrats wished for and thought would allow them to win decisively back in 2016. Democratic leaders sought to set the terms of electoral battle as a conflict between “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton described white supremacist voters, and the rest of the electorate, the great bulk of whom the corporate Democrats believed could be corralled into Hillary’s Big Tent, where big city and Deep South Black politicians, Rio Grand valley and East L.A. Hispanics, suburban white “moderates,” Silicon Valley and Wall Street oligarchs, scheming CIA operatives and warmongering generals would find common cause against the Orange Menace. Clinton campaign chief John Podesta urged his troops and their friends in media to do everything possible to boost Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination, in the certainty that Clinton would beat him in a landslide -- as incontrovertibly documented in the emails that were pilfered and delivered (not hacked) to Wikileaks (not the Russians) and sent to the media. By March of 2016, corporate media – most glaringly CNN, but including the whole herd -- had already given Trump’s GOP takeover gambit $2 billion in free media, amounting to more exposure than all the other candidates from both corporate parties, combined, including Clinton. By end the of the general election campaign, corporate media had bestowed a total of $5 billion in free media on Donald Trump -- their criminally cynical contribution to the solidification and consolidation of the white supremacist bloc in the United States.
Trump is not their Frankenstein, but the Democrats and their media supplied most of the electricity that energized the monster. ... This is the big picture -- much of the rest of the midterm results is clutter. The white supremacist bloc flexes its muscles and fingers its triggers. The racist horde -- a majority of whites – feels a renewed entitlement to primacy in the national life. Corporate Democrats, whose bungled schemes led us to this juncture, forge ahead with the same strategy as in 2016.
The 2018 midterms have been the most expensive congressional elections in US history, with an estimated $5.2 billion raised and spent by Election Day, according to data collected and reported by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The total not only rose 35 percent over the previous midterm record in 2014, it exceeds the money spent on congressional races during the 2016 presidential election year. Significantly, the Democratic Party and affiliated political action committees raked in the lion’s share of the record fundraising. Of the $4.7 billion spent by the latest reporting period, Democrats accounted for $2.5 billion, compared to $2.2 billion for Republican candidates and committees. Republicans have traditionally enjoyed a massive fundraising edge. ...
Overall, spending by the Democratic Party and associated groups was projected by the CRP to rise 44 percent over 2014, while the Republican Party and associated groups boosted their spending by only 21 percent.
Despite the claims that small-dollar donors were the driving force in the Democratic fundraising advantage, on the model of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign in 2016, donations of under $200 accounted for only 16 percent of the funds raised by House candidates and 27 percent of the money raised by Senate candidates—with the latter figure swelled mainly by the small-donor fundraising for Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who raised a colossal $70 million for his campaign, more than double the cost of a typical presidential campaign 30 years ago.
Among the most significant changes in big-money fundraising is the shift by Wall Street, with the securities and investment sector raising its spending by $100 million compared to 2014 and favoring Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by 52 percent to 46 percent. This is the first time Wall Street has favored congressional Democrats since 2006, the last time the Democratic Party won control of the House of Representatives. Finance also backed the Democratic Party in 2008, by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, but the bulk of that funding went to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. In 2010, Wall Street swung its funding back to the Republicans, who raked in 69 percent of the funds from stockbrokers and hedge fund bosses.
Donald Trump has threatened a “war-like” response if his political opponents investigate him after a bruising night at the polls in which he lost control of a crucial arm of the US government. ...
The result hands Democrats powers to block Trump’s legislative agenda, for example his wall on the Mexican border, and to seek his long-concealed tax returns, investigate possible conflicts of interest in his business empire and dig into any evidence of collusion between him and Russia in the 2016 election. They can demand documents and issue subpoenas if needed.
At a combative, rambling and often wild press conference on Wednesday, Trump offered an olive branch for “a beautiful bipartisan-type situation” but also issued a warning. “Now we have a much easier path because the Democrats will come to us with a plan for infrastructure, a plan for health care, a plan for whatever they’re looking at, and we’ll negotiate,” he said.
But if Democrats launch investigations against him, Trump warned, his attitude will be different. “If they do that, then it’s just – all it is is a warlike posture.”
He added: “They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate and a lot of questionable things were done between leaks of classified information and many other elements that should not have taken place. I could see it being extremely good for me politically because I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually, but we’ll find out.”
House Democrats are already threatening an investigation into Jeff Sessions’ firing and the president’s motives — as it could derail the special counsel probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
“It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader who is poised to become the House Speaker after Democrats swept the chamber in Tuesday’s election, wrote on Twitter.
Sessions submitted his resignation letter to the president Wednesday afternoon, after months of indications he’d be fired after the midterms. The AG recused himself in March 2017 from control of the special counsel investigation because of his contacts with Russia as part of Trump’s campaign, handing that authority to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump's been openly bitter about the recusal and critical of Sessions ever since. ...
Mueller has already been looking into Trump’s statements about removing Sessions to determine whether they fit a pattern of obstructing justice, according to the Washington Post.
President Trump must allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to continue unimpeded. Any attempt by the president or the Justice Department to interfere with Mueller’s probe would be an obstruction of justice and impeachable offense. https://t.co/d7vivkXbqJ
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 7, 2018
Donald Trump moved to impede the Russia investigation on Wednesday by replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a temporary successor, Matthew Whitaker, who argued last year that Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be barred from investigating the president’s finances.
By naming Whitaker, who has been serving as Sessions’s chief of staff, as the acting attorney general, Trump effectively appointed the former federal prosecutor to oversee the investigation into his 2016 campaign’s contacts with Russia, taking that responsibility away from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller after Sessions had recused himself from the matter.
Before he joined the Justice Department, Whitaker had argued last year in his role as a CNN legal analyst that the Mueller investigation needed to be reined in, writing in an opinion piece that “investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.”
“The Trump Organization’s business dealings are plainly not within the scope of the investigation, nor should they be,” Whitaker added in that August 6, 2017, op-ed. Referring to reports at the time that the special counsel probe had widened to focus on possible financial crimes, unconnected to the 2016 election, Whitaker wrote that it was time for the Justice Department “to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation.” ...
Several Democratic senators, including Chris Coons of Delaware and Kamala Harris of a California, a possible contender for her party’s 2020 presidential nomination, called for Whitaker to recuse himself from oversight of the Mueller investigation.
Progressive organizations have announced coordinated protests to take place in cities and communities nationwide on Thursday, November 8th at 5 PM (local time) in the wake of President Donald Trump's firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Right after Trump forced Sessions to resign, the White House announced that Matthew Whitaker—a DOJ official who has shown open hostility to the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller—would now serve as acting AG and be put in charge of the ongoing investigation.
"Trump just put someone who has openly trashed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in charge of it," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, one of the advocacy groups behind the rapid-response demonstrations, explained in an emergency email Wednesday evening. "Trump thought that by waiting until after the polls closed on Election Day, our voices would be silent. He was wrong."
Anna Galland, executive director for MoveOn.org, said: "This is a red line crossed, an attack on rule of law."
The French president has said it is “legitimate” to pay tribute to Marshal Philippe Pétain, who led the French army to victory in the first world war but decades later collaborated with Nazi Germany. Emmanuel Macron’s plan to honour Pétain alongside seven other French marshals who directed military campaigns during the first world war, which ended 100 years ago on 11 November, has unleashed criticism from Jewish groups, political opponents and on social media. ...
Renowned as a “soldier’s soldier”, Pétain was promoted to commander-in-chief of the French armies in mid-1917, after victory at Verdun, rebuilding troop morale after a series of mutinies and other setbacks. ... Two decades later, with the country poised to fall to German forces in the second world war, Pétain was appointed prime minister of France. His administration, based in the unoccupied part of the country known as Vichy France, collaborated with the Nazis and their deportation and extermination of the Jews.
After the war, Pétain was sentenced to death for treason, though President Charles de Gaulle, a longtime admirer of Pétain, reduced the punishment to life in prison.
“It is shocking that France can pay tribute to a man deemed unworthy of being French in a trial held in the name of the people,” said Francis Kalifat, the president of Crif, the body that represents France’s 400,000 Jews.
West Virginia and Alabama are getting ready for a future where abortion is no longer legal nationwide in the United States.
On Tuesday, voters in each state passed ballot measures that stripped the state’s constitution of protections for abortion. Those measures plan for a United States where Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the country, has been overturned and where states have more control over whether and how to regulate abortion access — including banning the procedure entirely.
Deb Haaland, One of Nation’s First Native Congresswomen, Calls for Probe of Missing Indigenous Women
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, has been hospitalized after falling and breaking three ribs in her Supreme Court office Wednesday night. The Supreme Court released a statement confirming Ginsburg’s fall, the second time the 85-year-old justice has fallen and broken her ribs in six years.
"She went home, but after experiencing discomfort overnight, went to George Washington University Hospital early this morning," the statement said. "Tests showed that she fractured three ribs on her left side and she was admitted for observation and treatment."
Ginsburg’s health has been a matter of intense speculation, since she is the oldest member of the court by five years and is one of its four sitting liberal justices. ... Ginsburg has signaled that she wants to remain on the court for at least as long as Trump is president. The judge has hired law clerks through at least 2020, when Trump is up for re-election.
Maine is on the verge of making history as it appears the state's new ranked choice voting system—in use this year for the first time—will be needed in order to determine the ultimate winner of a too-close-to-call race for the U.S. House.
As of Wednesday afternoon, incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) had exactly 46 percent of the vote while Democratic challenger Jared Golden held 45.9 percent. Eighty-one percent of voting precincts had reported their results. Two independents, Tiffany Bond and William Hoar, had captured 5.7 and 2.4 percent of the vote respectively.
Under the state's ranked choice voting (RCV) system, which voters approved for state-wide elections by referendum in June, Mainers are able to rank congressional candidates in order of preference. A candidate must capture at least 50 percent of the vote for a race to be called for him or her. With neither Poliquin nor Golden appearing to have gathered a decisive majority of votes, votes for Bond and Hoar will likely be distributed to those voters' second and third choices until either the Republican or Democrat has 50 percent.
The use of RCV to elect a national candidate will ensure for the first time that voters in the 2nd Congressional District are represented fairly, advocates say, as whoever wins the instant run-off election will have been at least the second or third choice of most voters.
The ballots are still being counted in the closely-watched Georgia governor’s race, but Republican Brian Kemp has claimed victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams, and on Thursday he resigned from his current job as secretary of state to take the job he doesn’t yet have.
Currently, Tuesday’s election results are too close to call, although Kemp has already claimed victory. Abrams, who would be the country’s first black female governor, has refused to concede.
In a news conference announcing Kemp’s resignation, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal referred to Kemp as “governor-elect.” Election officials are still counting provisional and absentee ballots, although Kemp is slightly ahead with 50.3 percent of the vote. If his share of the vote drops below 50 percent, it will trigger a runoff election for Dec. 4.
The Florida governor’s race is heading to a machine recount and the U.S. Senate race will face a lengthier manual recount after returns from Broward County on Thursday pushed Democrats Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson closer to their Republican opponents Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott. ...
Gillum trailed DeSantis by less than 39,000 votes, or 0.47 percentage points. A recount is automatically triggered if the margin drops below 0.5 points.
In the Senate race, Nelson trailed Scott by about 17,000 votes, a margin of 0.22 points. A hand recount of ballots, longer and more thorough than a machine recount, is triggered if the margin falls below 0.25 points.
Gillum conceded to DeSantis on Tuesday night, and DeSantis was busy Wednesday announcing his transition staff in emails describing him as “governor-elect.” But unless Gillum formally declines a recount, it would go forward if it gets within the needed margin — and his campaign staff did not look like it would turn down the opportunity.
“On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count,” Gillum spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said in a statement. “Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported.”
Just before Hurricane Michael made landfall last month, a ferocious red tide that had scoured Florida’s Gulf Coast for a year, depositing countless dead sea turtles, dolphin and other marine life on beaches before spreading to the Atlantic coast, had finally started to wane.
In most places, with the wet season winding down and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers easing up on releasing polluted water from Lake Okeechobee, the toxic algae that had become a key election year campaign issue had dropped to relatively low levels. Fish kills were down and so were the coughing fits among beach-goers.
But in the weeks following the storm, red tide that is already considered the worst in a decade has roared back.
On Monday, state wildlife officials logged high to medium levels along beaches from Clearwater to waters off Everglades City and in the Panhandle. Fish kills were reported in nine counties from the Panhandle around the tip of the state to the Space Coast. Along the Atlantic coast, levels capable of killing fish and causing respiratory distress remained along Cocoa Beach and in Martin County, but had dropped from Friday to Monday along other stretches of the Treasure Coast. ...
While the red tide bloom on the Atlantic Coast has been less intense, the high numbers are still worrisome, said Rosenstiel algae expert Larry Brand. Usually counts remain low because the algae are dispersed as they are carried hundreds of miles by the Florida Current. High numbers suggest the algae could be beginning to multiply as well. “The fact we’ve had high concentrations up there suggests it’s growing. It’s not just getting carried over, but it’s growing. It’s surviving off the nutrients coming off land,” he said.
With their win of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will now have the numbers to put climate change issues back on the congressional agenda. But the Republicans reinforced their firewall against any legislative efforts in the Senate by gaining at least two new members with poor records on confronting the climate crisis. That bolsters the power of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to block any measures unfavorable to the fossil fuel industries. ...
Back in the majority on House committees, Democrats will at least be able to turn a spotlight on the problem by using hearings to bring public attention to communities pummeled by storms, droughts, floods and wildfires, and wielding subpoena power to investigate President Donald Trump's climate policy rollbacks and retreat from responsibility.
In all, it's a mixed message, and the midterm election results highlight the steep challenges that remain at a time when the world's scientists, and most national governments, are emphasizing the need for more rapid action on climate change.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in line to regain the House speakership, has promised to revive the select committee on climate change that the GOP eliminated when it seized control of the House in 2010. The purpose would be to "prepare the way with evidence" for energy conservation and other climate change mitigation legislation, Pelosi told The New York Times.
In 'Loud and Clear' Rebuke of Factory Farming, California Passes World's 'Strongest Animal Welfare Law'
In a clear rebuke of factory farming, California voters on Election Day passed the "ground-breaking" Proposition 12, which is being celebrated by some advocates as the world's "strongest animal welfare law for farmed animals in history."
Backed by 61 percent of voters, Proposition 12 establishes "minimum space requirements based on square feet for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens"—which includes chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl—and and bans the sale of veal, pork, and eggs from livestock from other states that are confined in spaces deemed too small under California's standards.
The ballot measure—which builds on Proposition 2, passed by voters in 2008—has two rounds of new rules. By 2020, calves must have at least 43 square feet of usable floor space and hens at least 1 square foot. By 2022, breeding pigs and offspring must have at least 24 square feet of space and hens must be kept in indoor or outdoor cage-free housing systems based on the United Egg Producers' 2017 cage-free guidelines.
"California voters have sent a loud and clear message that they reject cruel cage confinement in the meat and egg industries," declared Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. "Thanks to the dedication of thousands of volunteers and coalition partners who made this victory happen, millions of veal calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens will never know the misery of being locked in a tiny cage for the duration of their lives."
California's pro-animal-rights Proposition 12 - designed to improve conditions for animals by requiring cage-free pens and greater protections - passes with 60%. Animal groups were divided over its impact but clearly shows pro-animal-rights voter sentiment https://t.co/BY1WTyrAIS
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 7, 2018
California wasn't the only state to adopt new animal rights rules on Election Day. Florida's Amendment 13—which aims to phase out greyhound racing by 2020—also passed after receiving support from 69 percent of voters across the state. The Committee to Protect Dogs, which backed the ban, called it "a knock-out blow to a cruel industry that has been hurting and killing dogs for nearly a century."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Bumble Bee Slim - Everybody's Fishing
Bumble Bee Slim - Greasy Greens
Memphis Minnie & Bumble Bee Slim - New Orleans Stop Time
Bumble Bee Slim - Ease Me Down
Bumble Bee Slim - Lemon Squeezing Blues
Bumble Bee Slim - Dumb Tricks Blues
Bumble Bee Slim - Step Child
Bumble Bee Slim - Fattening Frogs For Snakes
Bumble Bee Slim - No Woman No Nickel