The Evening Blues - 11-9-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features The Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Enjoy!
James Brown - Hold It
"The word bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."
-- George Carlin
News and Opinion
During the campaign, the Democrats refused to even speak about Trump’s witch hunt against Central American asylum seekers, the erection of immigrant detention camps or the attack on birthright citizenship. In the midst of new moves by the administration in the direction of war with Russia, Iran and China—the withdrawal from the intermediate nuclear missile treaty, the imposition of savage sanctions against Iran and the escalation of trade war against China—they said nothing about the mounting war danger. They dropped their token opposition to Trump’s tax cuts for the rich. The result, hardly the much-vaunted “blue wave,” was what the Democratic Party wanted: An election that would allow Trump to consolidate his control while giving the Democrats more input. As the Democratic leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said in the run-up to the vote, control of the House would give the Democrats “leverage.” They intend to use that influence to pressure Trump to pursue a more aggressive confrontation with Russia and a wider war in Syria. ...
Trump held a press conference Wednesday to make clear there would be no let-up in his right-wing policies. He attacked a reporter as an “enemy of the people” and warned the Democrats that any attempt to use their majority in the House to investigate his finances would result in a “warlike posture.” At the same time, he praised Pelosi and offered to supply Republican votes to assure her election as speaker of the new House that takes office in January. Pelosi then held a rambling press conference in the course of which she used the terms “bipartisan” and “work together” dozens of times.
The New York Times posted an editorial spelling out the Democratic agenda of collaboration with Trump and intensification of his administration’s right-wing course. There is to be no talk of mild reforms broached early on in the campaign by so-called “progressive” Democrats, such as “Medicare for all” and the “abolition” of the Gestapo-like Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Instead, the Democrats are to talk about ethics “reform,” “transparency” and similar empty phrases. The “I” word (impeachment) is to be avoided, as is an excess of subpoenas and investigations. Instead, the Times states, “Finding a compromise path with Mr. Trump would be good policy and good politics.”
Europe’s political and media establishment is responding to the 2018 US midterm elections with calls for a military build-up to confront Washington and for legitimizing far-right politics. It is ever clearer that the breakdown in trans-Atlantic relations following Donald Trump’s election and his trade war measures against Germany and China was not a coincidence or a passing blip. European ruling circles are widely interpreting Trump’s ability to extend Republican control of the Senate, though he lost control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party, as a sign that growing US-European conflicts reflect a deeper crisis than they originally believed. They are calling for their own aggressive military policy in response.
The Reuters news service spoke of disappointment in European capitals: “Although few European politicians said so openly, the hope in Berlin, Paris and Brussels was that US voters would deliver a clear rebuke to Trump’s Republicans in the midterms, forcing a change of tack and bolstering hopes of regime change in 2020. … But the outcome fell short of the ‘blue wave’ some had hoped for.” Even Democratic victories in the House, Reuters added, might only make US foreign policy more unpredictable and dangerous, given the Democrats’ aggressive agenda. Against Trump, “while House Democrats could push for a tougher approach towards Saudi Arabia and Russia, they are unlikely to move the dial on his biggest agenda items: the trade conflict with China and hardline course with Iran.” ...
Top European officials sounded calls for a military build-up, barely hiding that the target of their political and military collaboration would be their US “allies.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared, “We must find an answer on this side of the Atlantic to the ‘America First’ slogan. For me and for us, it is clear that it can only be ‘Europe United.’” On Twitter, Maas warned it would be a “mistake to count on a course correction by Donald Trump. … We must reassess and realign our relations with the United States.” ... Warnings in official European circles on the militaristic and protectionist policies of both US big business parties show that US-EU conflicts go well beyond Trump’s boorish persona. These are conflicts not between individuals, but between US and European capitalism. Bitter inter-imperialist conflicts over markets, profits and strategic advantage—rooted in the final analysis in the contradiction between the world economy and the nation-state system—are exploding, after they twice plunged humanity into world war in the 20th century.
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.
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."
We’re left again with the usual, “What was Trump thinking?” He’d pretty much won the RussiaRussia controversy. Democrats dropped that a while back as a talking point for the midterms, which were widely seen as a referendum on Trump. The wisdom of that decision was confirmed by this article, flagged by Lamber: Exit Polls: Majority Say Russia Probe ‘Politically Motivated’. Vox had pointed out last May that the Mueller findings could well be buried. Bob Woodward admitted he’d looked for two years for evidence of a connection and had come up empty-handed. The Muller investigation has retreated from the public eye and some media outlets have been managing down expectations for it.
But with the easily-provoked Trump, it repeatedly looked like Trump would give Mueller his win by engaging in obstruction of justice. Installing the pugnacious Whitaker as Mueller’s minder puts the probe back in the spotlight. It creates the impression that Trump sees it as a live threat. And the Democrats will use this high-handed move to provide further support for what they intended to do anyhow, which is to use their control of House committees to go full proctological on Trump.
So the day after the election, and Trump gives the Democrats a new target to shoot at. November 2020 looks like an awfully long way away.
Trump’s appointment of Matt Whitaker to acting attorney general is raising all sorts of legal red flags
“It seems as if Trump is trying to take over the Department of Justice by exploiting a legal loophole,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a former prosecutor and an expert on prosecutorial ethics at New York Law School. “I can’t say yet whether he’ll succeed, but it sure looks that way.” For his part, Whitaker has shown no signs of relinquishing his new powers, reported The Washington Post.
If you ask the lawyer who personally drafted the special counsel regulations that now govern Mueller’s work, the answer is unequivocally no. Lawyers Neal Katyal and George Conway — husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway — called the president's move downright unconstitutional. Together, they argue Trump should be required to pick someone for this all-important job who had already been confirmed to a government post by the Senate.
“President Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid,” they wrote in The New York Times Thursday.
Whitaker’s previous job as Sessions’ chief of staff didn’t require Senate confirmation. And that makes Whitaker the first Acting Attorney General in American history to assume the post without having already been confirmed by the Senate to another top government job, according to Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown Law Center. ...
Whitaker hasn't just forecasted what he would do if he took control of Mueller’s probe, he’s consistently and publicly attacked the special counsel. He’s accused Mueller over going “too far,” retweeted an article that called the special counsel’s team a “lynch mob,” and said inquiries into Trump’s finances was a “red line.” At the very least, Whitaker’s public criticisms of the Mueller investigation raise questions about his impartiality that warrant a careful review by DOJ ethics officials, legal analysts said.
Worth a full read:
The victory of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential election last week has won Israel a passionate new friend on the international stage. The world’s fifth-most populous nation will now be “coloured in blue and white”, an Israeli official said, referring to the colours of Israel’s flag. The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately called to congratulate Bolsonaro, a former army officer with a pronounced nostalgia for his country’s 20-year military dictatorship. Critics describe him as a neo-fascist. According to Israeli media reports, it is “highly probable” that Netanyahu will attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration on January 1. ...
One might imagine that Netanyahu is simply being pragmatic in cosying up to Bolsonaro, given Brazil’s importance. But that would be to ignore an unmistakable trend: Israel has relished the recent emergence of far-right leaders across the Americas and Europe, often to the horror of local Jewish communities. ...They suspect that Bolsonaro covets Israel’s military expertise and the votes of tens of millions of fundamentalist Christians in Brazil, who see Israel as central to their apocalyptic, and in many cases antisemitic, beliefs. Not that this worries Netanyahu. He has been engaged in a similar bromance with Viktor Orban, the ultra-nationalist prime minister of Hungary, who barely veils his Jew-baiting and has eulogised Miklos Horthy, a Hungarian leader who collaborated with the Nazis. ...
The conclusion drawn by Jewish communities abroad is that their wellbeing – even their safety – is now a much lower priority than bolstering Israel’s diplomatic influence. That was illustrated starkly last week in the immediate aftermath of a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27. Robert Bowers gunned down 11 worshippers in the worst antisemitic attack in US history. ... Chemi Shalev, a commentator for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noted the disturbing impression created by Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the US, escorting Trump through Pittsburgh. Dermer looked like a “bodyguard”, shielding the president from local Jewish protesters, Shalev observed.
Meanwhile, tone-deaf diaspora affairs minister Naftali Bennett, leader of largest Israeli settler party, the Jewish Home, milked the local community’s pain over the Pittsburgh massacre to Israel’s advantage. At an official commemoration service, he compared Bowers’ bullets to rockets fired by Palestinians, describing both as examples of antisemitism.
Edward Snowden said on Tuesday that software from the Israeli firm NSO Group Technologies was used to help track the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. ...
The assertion that Israeli spyware has been used against Saudi dissidents was first reported by the Canadian research institute Citizen Lab in October. According to the report, NSO's Pegasus spyware had been installed on the phone of Omar Abdulaziz, another exiled Saudi dissident and a friend of Khashoggi's. Abdulaziz said that he used his cell phone to discuss Saudi politics and plan joint projects with Khashoggi in the months before the latter was killed. Abdulaziz claims that his phone was being monitored at the time. ...
Snowden then suggested that the Saudis were able to gain information on Khashoggi by spiying on "his friend, who was also in exile in Canada."
"The reality is that they bugged one of his few friends and contacts using software created by an Israeli company. We don’t know the chain of consequence because this company will never comment on this, but it’s one of the major stories not being written about," Snowden added.
Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa, who is wanted in his homeland on suspicion of kidnapping, has requested political asylum in Belgium, two well-placed sources told AFP.
Correa has lived near Brussels with his family since 2017, and requested asylum on 25 June this year. The request has been under consideration since August by Belgium’s CGRA refugee agency, one source said. ...
Correa insists he is innocent, and on Thursday in an interview with AFP he accused the new authorities in his homeland of “political persecution”, and his successor Lenín Moreno of a plot against him.
Arguing that he would not be given a fair trial if he return to Ecuador, Correa preempted the issuance of an arrest warrant against him by asking for asylum in Belgium, AFP has learned from two sources.
A Chilean judge has convicted the country’s former army chief for complicity in the deaths of 15 people during the early days of Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. Juan Emilio Cheyre, 70, was sentenced to three years and a day under house arrest following an inquiry by an investigating magistrate. Cheyre is the most senior figure so far to be held accountable for abuses committed after Pinochet overthrew the former Chilean president Salvador Allende in a military coup in 1973.
Cheyre became emblematic of the national transition from dictatorship to democracy that began in 1990. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces between 2002 and 2006, he was the first to ask forgiveness for the military’s past excesses. But his tenure was clouded by an investigation into his involvement with Chile’s notorious “Caravan of Death” military committee, which traversed the country in the months following the coup, killing and ordering the murder of leftists.
Cheyre’s conviction follows those of more than 1,000 former agents, soldiers and collaborators of the Pinochet regime for human rights abuses despite an initial reticence on the part of the authorities to reopen old wounds. Pinochet himself died in 2006 without ever being convicted of human rights abuses.
The Trump administration wants to give employers the option to deny birth control coverage for female employees based on religious or moral grounds, according to a set of final rules unveiled Wednesday. The rules, which are set to take effect in two months, allow large, for-profit employers to deny coverage based on religious beliefs, according to the final language released by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday. For non-profit institutions and small employers, the administration is offering a vague and nonreligious “moral” exemption, allowing those employers to deny coverage if they have “convictions” about it.
Under current federal law, most private and employer-based insurance plans are required to cover contraceptives as “essential health benefits,” without imposing any cost-sharing burdens on the customer. ... But the Trump administration is steadily chipping away at that protection. Last October, for example, Trump released a set of interim rules that created loopholes in birth control coverage. ...
Four nonprofit groups and eight states filed lawsuits to block the rule last year, obtaining preliminary injunctions from courts in Pennsylvania and California. The Trump administration appealed those two cases, which will likely wind their way to the Supreme Court, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Ultimately, if the rules are upheld, it’ll be up to a woman’s employer, her insurance plan and her state to determine which contraceptive services — if any — are covered.
A US appeals court in California ruled on Thursday that Donald Trump’s administration must continue the “Dreamers” program begun under former president Barack Obama that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.
The decision by the San Francisco-based ninth US circuit court of appeals preserves the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program introduced in 2012 that has shielded from deportation a group of immigrants dubbed “Dreamers” and given them work permits, though not a path to citizenship. The ruling represented another legal defeat for Trump over Daca, although he has won court victories on other parts of his hardline immigration policies.
On Monday, his administration asked the US supreme court to review a federal judge’s January decision to block Trump from ending the program even before the ninth circuit had weighed in, an unusually aggressive move in terms of procedure.
The past 48 hours have been a complete whirlwind. ... Yet amid all these stories — and the controversies that surrounded them — many other very good stories of important election victories from Tuesday were overlooked. Four that immediately come to mind took place in Nevada, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York, where progressive black candidates each ran for and won their races to be the attorneys general of their respective states. ... It’s shocking to say this in 2018, but this is the first time most of these states have ever had an African-American person serve as their state’s top law enforcement official. ...
Aaron Ford, a former high school teacher turned lawyer with a Ph.D. in education, narrowly edged out his Republican opponent in Nevada. Kwame Raoul, like most Democrats running for statewide office in Illinois this year, defeated his Republican opponent by double digits. Former Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., won a tough race for attorney general in Minnesota — also marking a sweep for Democrats running for statewide office there. Lastly, Tish James became the first black woman ever to win statewide office in New York with her blowout victory to become attorney general.
While racial and cultural representation are absolutely important in politics, each of these newly elected leaders have also made strong pledges on criminal justice reform, protection of immigrant families, and much more. Furthermore, while each would likely deny that they are using the position as a political stepping stone to something else, such statewide offices are regularly used as a pool from which to draw candidates for higher office. In other words, these were big wins.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is confident she will return as speaker when the new Democratic majority takes over in the House, but the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are not yet saying whether they will support her leadership bid. When asked if the caucus supports Pelosi’s leadership bid in a press call on Wednesday, November 7, and if leaders will try to convince the incoming members who promised not to support her throughout the midterms to back her anyway, caucus co-chair Mark Pocan said he’s going to keep his options open and make sure he’s leveraging his power to assure progressives are well represented in leadership. ...
Democratic leaders are hoping that the calls on the campaign trail for “new leadership” won’t be renewed on the House now that campaign season is over. On election night, Rep. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip and Pelosi’s No. 2, told The Intercept that he met just last week with incoming Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, and that he is comfortable that she will fit in well with the caucus. “I had the opportunity to sit down with Alex, as she calls herself, last week, and I found her to be very reasonable, very bright, very able, and very willing to work together to accomplish objectives. And the democratic socialists party or group in New York” — referring to the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America — “endorsed her one month before the campaign — before the election. It wasn’t as if she started with that. She says she’s a Democrat. That’s what she told me, and that’s what I believe: She’s a Democrat,” he told Nicholas Ballasy, who was on location for The Intercept. (DSA NYC endorsed Ocasio-Cortez two months before the primary.)
Pelosi, who has been a top House Democrat since 2003, including four years as speaker, has expressed her willingness to work with President Donald Trump when possible, saying in a press briefing on Wednesday that the party “will strive for bipartisanship” where it can. She has waved off questions about a potential leadership shakeup, saying she considers herself the best person to unify the party.
So far, no one has stepped up to challenge Pelosi, despite a growing frustration within the Democratic Caucus with the trio of septuagenarian leaders. ... No one has yet challenged Pelosi or Hoyer. The caucus’s No. 3, Rep. Jim Clyburn, is facing a challenge from Rep. Diana Degette, D-Colo. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., has said she is making a bid for Crowley’s vacated No. 4 position. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries announced on Thursday that he will run for that same position. Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., had also launched a bid, but dropped out Thursday after her husband was indicted.
As the vote count continues to narrow Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s lead in the state’s closely watched Senate race, he’s railing that it’s a left-wing conspiracy to “steal” his election — and he’s suing election officials. “I will not stand idly by while unethical liberals try to steal an election,” the Republican governor said in a news conference Thursday night. He’s got a razor-thin edge over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, but mail-in and provisional ballots are still rolling in, and a recount seems likely.
Scott is accusing election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties — both left-leaning areas — of “rampant fraud” and said he’s asking the state’s department of law enforcement to “investigate this immediately.” Scott has not yet presented evidence of voter fraud, which is very rare. But President Trump still chimed in at a press gaggle outside the White House Friday morning, fueling the voter-fraud conspiracy theory.
"Election officials are literally just counting the ballots. This isn't corruption or fraud," David Becker, the executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, wrote on Twitter. "It is literally the best of democracy. Let election officials do their job and count the ballots." ...
However, it’s true that Broward’s election office has been plagued by mismanagement and missed or destroyed ballots in the past, according to the Washington Post. Both Scott and the National Republicans Senatorial Committee filed a lawsuit Thursday against Brenda Snipes, the Broward County supervisor of elections, and Susan Bucher, who holds the same title in Palm Beach, alleging that the officials violated federal and state laws when supervising Tuesday’s election results.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also claimed on Twitter that Democrats were aiming to manipulate the results, rather than just count ballots.
A judge in Montana has halted the construction of Keystone XL, one of the most controversial pipelines in North America. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled in favor of the Indigenous Environmental Network and Northern Plains Resource Council, who had argued that Trump violated several laws by approving the pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Nebraska.
The Obama administration had stopped the project due to concerns about its greenhouse gas emissions, but two days after he took office, President Donald Trump approved it with a presidential permit. The court case sought an injunction against that permit. In granting it, the judge ruled the state department’s analysis under Trump “fell short of a ‘hard look’” on the following points: the effects of current oil prices on the pipeline’s viability, the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, a survey of potential cultural resources, and an updated modeling of potential oil spills and recommended mitigation measures. ...
But, similar to a recent Canadian court decision that sent the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion back for additional consultation and review, the U.S. court decision is not a death blow to Keystone XL. It simply means the Trump administration must go back and complete a proper assessment before approving the project.
Tom Goldtooth, ED for @IENearth: “This is a win for Lakota, the Oceti Sakowin and other Tribal Nations, for the water, and for the sacredness of Mother Earth. This decision vindicates what we have been saying all along:
— Dallas Goldtooth (@dallasgoldtooth) November 9, 2018
Trump’s approval of this pipeline was illegal, violated environmental laws and was based upon fake facts. Our legal fight has been for the benefit of all life along the proposed route of this Canadian tar sands pipeline.
— Dallas Goldtooth (@dallasgoldtooth) November 9, 2018
This pipeline is the enemy of the people and life as we know it. It must be stopped.
— Dallas Goldtooth (@dallasgoldtooth) November 9, 2018
Environmental advocates are suing Donald Trump’s interior department for using what they call a secretive process that ignores science in refusing protections for at-risk species. The Center for Biological Diversity says a new program called the Species Status Assessment bypasses findings from scientists and leaves protection decisions to career federal employees who are not experts and may be under pressure from their bosses. ...
The administration last year declined to list the Pacific walrus as endangered, arguing that the long-tusked, mustachioed mammals could adapt to sea ice melting from climate change. Additionally, two scientists have said they were rushed in assessing the threats from farming to the endangered American burying beetle and felt the interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service would conclude agriculture is not a risk regardless of what data they presented.
Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate a fast-moving wildfire that exploded in size Thursday, threatening several northern California communities and forcing panicked residents to race to help neighbors and drive through walls of flames to escape.
The blaze destroyed an unknown number of structures and injured some civilians, but the extent of their injuries was not immediately known, said California department of forestry and fire protection Capt John Gaddie.
As people fled in cars, some abandoned their vehicles, running from encroaching flames as they held babies and pets in their arms, said Gina Oviedo, who described a devastating scene as she evacuated the town of Paradise. Flames were engulfing homes, utility poles were crashing down and things were exploding, she said. Fire officials were working on a plan to rescue patients from a hospital after officials tried to evacuate them but had to turn back because of gridlocked traffic.
All of Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people 180 miles (290 kilometers) north-east of San Francisco, was ordered to evacuate, said the Butte county sheriff’s spokeswoman, Miranda Bowersox. The wildfire was reported at 6.30am, Rick Carhart, a Cal Fire spokesman, said. Within roughly six hours, the fire had grown to more than 26 square miles (69 square kilometers), said Gaddie. “The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds,” Carhart said. “It’s really dry and we have low humidity and unfortunately those are great conditions for a fire to spread.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
James Brown & The Famous Flames - I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On
James Brown & The Famous Flames - Chonnie-On-Chon
James Brown & The Famous Flames - Try Me
James Brown & The Famous Flames - Good Good Lovin'
James Brown - Licking Stick, Licking Stick
James Brown - Bring It Up
The James Brown Band - The Chicken
James Brown - You Got To Have A Mother For Me
James Brown ?– Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Nothing
James Brown ?– Live At The Apollo (1968)