The Evening Blues - 5-22-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Ben E. King. Enjoy!
Ben E King - What Is Soul
“Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.”
-- Lord Acton
News and Opinion
The acting US defence secretary has claimed that the alleged threat from Iran has receded as the result of an American show of force in the Middle East.
“We’ve put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans,” Patrick Shanahan told reporters before briefing Congress on the situation in the Persian Gulf and the military deployments that the US said were a response to a danger of imminent attack. ...
Asked what he meant by saying that the threat was “on hold”, the acting defence secretary said: “There haven’t been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold. That doesn’t mean that the threats that we’ve previously identified have gone away,” Shanahan added. “Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region.”
The Trump administration did not make public the intelligence it claimed showed an imminent Iranian threat to the US in the Middle East. An investigation is under way into the sabotage attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates last week. The UK and Norway are helping the US with the inquiry, which was expected to report on Monday, but has been delayed for reasons that have not made clear.
In an act of defiance against Saudi Arabia's brutal assault on Yemen—which is being carried out with the support of the United States and European nations—Italian union workers on Monday refused to load a Saudi vessel reportedly filled with weapons that could be used to fuel the world's worst humanitarian crisis. "We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen," union leaders said in a statement.
According to Reuters, dockworkers attempted to have the Saudi ship—officially called the the Bahri Yanbu—barred from entering the Port of Genoa. When that effort failed, Reuters reported, "workers refused to load two generators aboard the boat, saying that although they were registered for civilian use, they could be instead directed to the Yemen war effort."
As Amnesty International noted in a statement last week, the Bahri Yanbu has been "bouncing off European ports like a pinball," loading up with weapons that rights groups warn will be used to massacre civilians in Yemen. Earlier this month, the Bahri Yanbu left a French port without its cargo amid protests from Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) and other human rights organizations. The vessel then proceeded to Spain, where it successfully "took on cargo contracted from private companies," according to Al Jazeera.
The Institute for Public Accuracy published a report today about the leaked engineering assessment from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigation into an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria which directly contradicts the findings of the official OPCW report on the matter. Until the unauthorized release of this internal document the public was kept entirely uninformed of its existence, despite the serious military consequences of the questions it raises; the official story that the Syrian government had dropped chemical weapons in Douma was used to justify an airstrike on Syria days later.
MIT professor Theodore Postol provided IPA with a basic analysis of some of the data in the engineering assessment, adding that he “will have a much more detailed summary of the engineering report later this week.”
A leaked OPCW document challenges claim that Assad used chemical weapons in Douma in April 2018, the basis for US military strikes. So far, Western media has ignored it, w/ only exceptions at the margins. Ted Postol is a leading expert; this should be impossible to ignore now: https://t.co/jaQlyjKy6g
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) May 21, 2019
Hours later, the US State Department issued a statement once again accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, and now when you search Google for information on chemical weapons in Syria, the results you get [are entirely dominated by the U.S. State Department accusations, utterly wiping mention of the leaked engineering report out of the top results. (article graphic demonstrating this not extracted) -js]
So that’s convenient.
The State Department’s release actually reads like a government trying to regain control of an important narrative. It begins with an unsubstantiated allegation of a chlorine gas attack by the Syrian government this past Sunday, and warns that the US and its allies will respond militarily if chemical weapons have been used. It condemns the Syrian government’s offensive to recapture the Al Qaeda-occupied Idlib province, then veers off into sheer narrative management, accusing the Russian government of lying about the White Helmets and citing the OPCW as a trustworthy source of authority. ...
As I wrote the other day,
The notion that the Syrian government would use chemical weapons at this stage in the game is even more nonsensical than it was at the time of the Douma allegations in April 2018. President Bashar al-Assad has recaptured far more territory from the western-backed extremist factions, the eventual full recapture of the nation by Syria and its allies is a foregone conclusion barring direct military intervention by the US empire, and now the western imperialists are even beginning to lose the narrative war as well. There’s no reason to believe Assad would use chemical weapons at this point in the game unless you sincerely believe that he gains some sort of sexual gratification from committing war crimes that is so powerful it overwhelms his most basic survival instincts.
Theresa May’s final attempt to patch together a parliamentary majority for Brexit appears to have backfired after her 10-point “new deal” was rejected by MPs from across the political spectrum.
In a speech at the headquarters of consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers in London on Tuesday, the prime minister laid out a series of promises that will be included in the 100-page withdrawal agreement bill (Wab) when it is published later this week – including an offer of a binding vote on a referendum if the deal passes.
But, after a stormy cabinet meeting in which a more generous proposed offer on a second referendum was met with the threat of revolt, MPs on both sides of the Brexit divide said that the proposals were hollow. Within hours, more than 20 Conservatives who backed the deal last time rejected it.
May had implored MPs in her own party and beyond to take a fresh look at what she called a “serious offer”. And with her party facing defeat by Nigel Farage’s Brexit party in Thursday’s European election, she warned that extending the Brexit deadlock “risks opening the door to a nightmare future of permanently polarised politics”. ...
MPs across the House of Commons were unpersuaded by May’s new proposals. By Tuesday evening not a single MP who opposed the deal last time had come out to support it. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “We won’t back a repackaged version of the same old deal – and it’s clear that this weak and disintegrating government is unable deliver on its own commitments.”
President Trump has pulled out all the stops to prevent Congress from investigating his administration, his family and his finances, defying subpoenas and suing his political opponents to keep his records hidden.
But Trump’s strategy suffered a significant setback on Monday when U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled the president's lawsuit to block his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, from turning over documents to House Democrats had no merit. In doing so, Judge Mehta not only undermined one of Trump’s key legal defenses but also reaffirmed Congress’ power to investigate the president.
The decision marks an important early victory for House Democrats trying penetrate Trump’s unprecedented stonewalling of Congress, a historic standoff that Democratic leaders have called a Constitutional crisis.
“This judge ruled not only in favor of Congress and their investigative authority,” said Martin J. Sheil, who served over 30 years as an investigator at the IRS, “but in such profound language that it leaves, as far as I’m concerned, no wiggle room for appeal.”
Democrats faced another brazen attempt by Donald Trump to stonewall their investigations on Tuesday, this time with former White House counsel Donald McGahn defying a subpoena to appear before Congress on orders from the White House. ...
Trump blocked McGahn from testifying before Congress about the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference, prompting sharp criticism and fresh threats of impeachment.
The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, said the House would hold the president accountable “one way or the other” and the committee was ready to hold McGahn in contempt. The committee will hear McGahn’s testimony, “even if we have to go to court”, Nadler said. ...
Democrats were encouraged by an early success on that route, as a federal judge ruled against Trump on Monday in a financial records dispute with Congress.
Revolting Against Speaker's Inaction, Pelosi's Own Leadership Team Demands Trump Impeachment Proceedings
After the Trump administration instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn to refuse to comply with a Judiciary Committee subpoena to testify, several members of House Speaker Nancy >Pelosi's leadership team privately confronted the Democratic leader late Monday and demanded impeachment proceedings against the president immediatelyin response to the latest attempt to stonewall congressional oversight.
According to the Washington Post, at least "five members of Pelosi's leadership team—four of whom also sit on the House Judiciary Committee, with jurisdiction over impeachment—pressed Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a closed-door leadership meeting to allow the panel to start an [impeachment] inquiry, which they argued would help investigators attain documents and testimony that Trump has blocked."
One of the lawmakers who reportedly pressed Pelosi to approve impeachment proceedings on Monday was House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who has faced calls to act as his repeated attempts to investigate President Donald Trump and administration officials have been brazenly denied by the White House. "The meeting marks the first time a chairman and top rank-and-file lawmakers—including members of Pelosi's leadership team—have lobbied her to change her long-held position on impeachment," the Post reported. ...
Seems to me this is doubly significant—first, that Pelosi’s team is finally losing patience with her shit, and second, they ran to the Post 10 seconds after the meeting concluded with the embarrassing details. https://t.co/byeHUFkrEX
— Elon Green (@elongreen) May 21, 2019
Pelosi, however, refused to budge despite backlash from her own leadership team.
If Pelosi won't do the job she was hired to do, then Dems should find someone who will https://t.co/epMKEP72Xe
— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) May 21, 2019
The family of an African American man shot dead by Minneapolis police are demanding a $US20m ($A29m) payout equal to what the family of the Australian Justine Ruszczyk-Damond received.
Jamar Clark’s father said Damond and her family were treated differently because they were white. “There’s no justice for black people,” James Clark told a rally outside Minneapolis’ federal courthouse. “White people get all the justice”.
Jamar Clark, 24, was shot in 2015 during a scuffle with two white Minneapolis police officers. The police officers were not charged.
Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, and brother Jason filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis last year and just days after the jury’s guilty verdict the city agreed to pay the family a record $US20m. Clark’s family filed a civil lawsuit in 2017 against the city but the parties have not come to an agreement. Settlement talks continue.
How ICE Is Using Solitary Confinement to Punish Asylum Seekers, Including LGBT & Disabled Immigrants
The Republican-controlled Texas House passed the so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill on Monday, despite fervent opposition from Democrats and the LGBTQ caucus. The bill outlaws local governments from taking “any adverse action” against any person or business for their affiliation with a religious organization, including those that promote anti-LGBTQ causes.
The bill already passed the Republican-controlled Senate — though the Senate will need to approve of small changes made by the House — and is now fast-tracked for the GOP governor, who is expected to sign it.
Republicans introduced the bill after the San Antonio City Council voted to ban Chick-fil-A from opening up shop in the city’s airport three months ago in response to the fast-food chain’s long-documented history of anti-LGBTQ advocacy. And its members wouldn’t reconsider their decision. ...
“This bill is going to pass; let’s face it,” state Rep. Celia Israel, a Democrat, said minutes before her colleagues cast their votes, according to the Austin Chronicle. “It’s been cloaked in religious freedom, but the genesis, the nexus of this bill, is in hatred.”
A Tennessee judge offered dozens of inmates about a month off their sentence if they’d undergo surgical sterilization, and many agreed to it, in what critics argued amounted to a eugenics program and a blatant violation of constitutional rights.
Now, nearly two years after a local district attorney first made his concerns about the program known, inmates sued to end deals to get vasectomies or birth control implants, and nationwide outrage grew, sterilization deals are officially quashed after a federal court order Monday night.
“Inmate sterilization is despicable, it is morally indefensible, and it is illegal,” said Daniel Horwitz, a Nashville attorney who represented inmates pro-bono in their lawsuit against White County General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield and former county sheriff Oddie Shoupe, in a statement. ...
While the program was in practice, White County agreed to sterilize “dozens” of inmates, according to the lawsuit. Both vasectomies and birth control implants can be reversed or removed, but — like all surgical procedures — can be costly and pose medical risks to patients. In an email, Horwitz told VICE News that “several dozen” women received Nexplanon implants through the program, and nobody received vasectomies, though many signed up to do so.
Worth a full read, here's a little taste:
Progressive activist Norman Solomon offers a succinct description of neoliberalism: an ideology that sees victims but never victimizers. Bad things just happen. They’re the product of mysterious, unaccountable and ill-defined “market forces.” Factories just close, endless wars just “erupt,” the Nasdaq just crashes and our 401K and home equity just evaporate. No one specifically is responsible. And when someone is, around the margins, it’s a handful of faceless Arabs off in a cave somewhere or, increasingly, anonymous “Russians.” Our military and intelligence services are off fighting those Bad Guys. Trust us.
But intuitively we know this is inadequate. It’s clear neither Islamic State group nor the Russians caused the opium crisis, the housing bubble, racist policing, the predatory gig economy, massive college loans, endless wars or a host of other social ills. It’s human nature to seek out the causes of a crisis, name names and get a sense that, even if one accepts that terrorism and Putin are real and urgent threats, they’re small-time compared to those making us poor, overworked, drug-addicted, indebted and war-fatigued. We have victims—this much is obvious. But where are the victimizers?
Two 2020 presidential candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have gone to great lengths to lay out who these victimizers are and to establish The Bad Guy—the former, first in 2016; the latter with more specificity in 2020. ... For Sanders and Warren, it’s simple: This Bad Guy is the rich, the one percent, the oligarchy—however one wants to put it. It’s not an exact definition (and some on the left think this vagueness, when globalized, carries its own potential problems), but it’s precise enough, and one that has been good enough for countless left-wing populist movements, reforms and revolutions for centuries. ...
In 2016, Trump understood the political power of The Bad Guy and, fully harnessing years of Fox News’ brand of faux-class warfare, proffered a made-up one: a racist fever dream, a Soros-Black Lives Matter-Islamo conspiracy out to get the underdog-middle-class white man. Its face wasn’t that of a wealthy bank or pharma exec but a (((globalist))) liberal donor, a masked Islamic State group fighter and the dreaded “liberal media.” ... It’s important, as I’ve noted time and again, that the much-heralded white working class is not Trump’s base—however, the largest defection of voters from Obama to Trump did come from this demographic. The median, most consequential Trump backer is a golf-tanned white man with $1.3 million in the bank who owns a network of Toyota dealerships in Central Florida. But—the domain of poor whites is where Trump picked up a lot of “winnable” ground—and where the Democrats can rightfully reassert themselves.
Only instead of offering up a racist, Fox News-concocted Bad Guy, Warren and Sanders can offer voters a real one: the rich, cynical prescription drug pusher; the bank executive who foreclosed on your aunt’s house; the retail overlord who docks your pay for taking bathroom breaks when you pick up shifts at Walmart. In other words: the one percent.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive US congresswoman and social media sensation, has said she would be “hard pressed” to endorse the frontrunner, Joe Biden, in the Democratic presidential primary. The statement is the latest sign of the left’s apathy towards the former vice-president, who has surged ahead of the Senator Bernie Sanders and other rivals in recent polls.
Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, appears to be the favourite to secure 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez’s prized endorsement but she said she was still some way off making a decision.
“I’m not close to an endorsement announcement any time soon,” she told the Guardian on Tuesday. “I’m still trying to get a handle on my job. It seems like ages but I’m just five months in and we have quite some time. The debates are in the summer and our first primary election for the entire country isn’t until next year.”
Asked if she would consider endorsing Biden, widely seen as a centrist, Ocasio-Cortez replied: “I’d be hard pressed to see that happen, to be honest, in a primary.”
'Absolutely Nothing to Offer': Beto's Answer on Medicare For All at CNN Town Hall Angers Progressives
Democratic presidential primary candidate Beto O'Rourke went on CNN for a town hall Tuesday evening in an attempt to breathe some life into his struggling campaign, but all he did was earn the ire of progressives after delivering a less than ambitious answer to a question on Medicare for All.
O'Rourke declined to endorse the popular policy by host Dana Bash as a follow up to a question from the audience on drug prices. Bash asked the former Texas congressman why he supports the Medicare for America plan put forth by Democratic Reps. Rose DeLauro (Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) instead of Medicare for All.
"They don't have time for us to get to the perfect solution," O'Rourke said, referring to audience member Diane Kolmer, whose struggles with the disease multliple sclerosis prompted her to ask about healthcare, and a man O'Rourke claimed to have met named "Joey."
"If we were to start from scratch, maybe we would start with a single payer," added O'Rourke, "but we've got to work with the system that we have here today."
O'Rourke's perceived prevarication on healthcare generated sharp criticism from the left.
"It's obvious why this guy has been campaigning on awkward hand motions, standing on tables, photo shoots and trying to sound like Obama," progressive news podcast "The District Sentinel" said in a tweet. "He has absolutely nothing to offer."
Some More News host Cody Johnston mocked O'Rourke's narrow use of timing.
"Beto O'Rourke," Johnston tweeted, "running for president of Exactly Now." ...
Columbia Law School lecturer Shawn Sebastian pointed out that any plan supported by Democrats, even Medicare for America, won't face any more of an easy path to becoming law than Medicare for All—Republicans, Sebastian said, will oppose anything with the same ferocity they oppose the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
"The GOP tried to repeal the ACA for a decade and they'll fight Beto's plan another decade," said Sebastian. "We'll get worse outcomes to protect private insurance. Beto is lying."
A total of 1.6 million Americans live next to the most polluting incinerators in the country, with lower-income and minority communities exposed to the vast majority of pollution coming from these waste-burning plants. The burning of household and commercial waste can give off a stew of pollutants, including mercury, lead and small particles of soot. This pollution isn’t evenly distributed, however. Of the 73 incinerators across the US, 79% are located within three miles of low-income and minority neighbourhoods, according to research by the Tishman Environment and Design Center at New York City’s New School.
In total, 4.4 million people live within three miles of an incinerator in the US. Of this total, 1.6 million live close to the top 12 incinerators measured in terms of pollutant emissions across mercury, lead, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide.
These pollutants are linked to a range of health problems, including asthma and heart disease. US incinerators typically abide by rules set on the amount of allowable emissions. But researchers said that even incinerators operating within their permits are adding to public health problems that heavily burden black, Hispanic and poorer communities. ...
The report, which was commissioned by anti-incinerator group Gaia and draws from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, charts the rise of incinerators from the 1980s after federal rules eliminated many of the most harmful landfills. Many US incinerators, which typically last for about 30 years, are nearing the end of their lifespans, making them increasingly costly to maintain.
The facilities can, however, benefit from renewable energy subsidies by helping create electricity from the burning of waste. A further boost has indirectly come from China’s decision to ban the import of most plastic for recycling, leaving many US cities to simply burn plastic they can’t reuse.
Global Sea Level May Rise Faster Than Previously Projected, With 'Profound Consequences for Humanity'
A new study warning that rapidly melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica may push global sea level rise beyond 7.8 feet by 2100 has elicited alarm about the "profound consequences for humanity" and cast doubt on past projections.
"If we see something like that in the next 80 years we are looking at social breakdown on scales that are pretty unimaginable," lead author Jonathan Bamber, a professor of physical geography at the U.K.'s University of Bristol, told New Scientist.
The structured expert judgement study, published Monday by the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), brought together 22 experts. Under the experts' worst case scenario projection—based on global temperatures increasing to 5°C (9°F) above pre-industrial levels by 2100—rising seas would leave about 1.79 million square kilometers (691,123 square miles) underwater and displace up to 187 million people.
Detailing what this would look like on a global scale, BBC News reported:
Much of the land losses would be in important food growing areas such as the delta of the Nile. Large swathes of Bangladesh would be very difficult for people to continue to live in. Major global cities, including London, New York and Shanghai would be under threat.
"To put this into perspective, the Syrian refugee crisis resulted in about a million refugees coming into Europe," said [Bamber].
"That is about 200 times smaller than the number of people who would be displaced in a two meter sea level rise."
The PNAS study's upper level projection is more than double the highest estimate from the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC). That 2013 U.N. analysis, which experts have long criticized as too conservative, concluded that under business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, global sea level could rise up to 3.22 feet by the end of this century.
Two months after what was reportedly the largest international climate demonstration ever, young people around the world are expected to make history again on Friday with a second global climate strike.
Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, who began the global movement in which students around the world have walked out of their classrooms on a weekly basis since last fall to demand climate action, reported Tuesday that at least 1,351 separate strikes are now scheduled to take place all over the world on Friday. ...
Two strikes are planned in Antarctica, according to a map on the #FridaysForFuture website; countries including Afghanistan, Namibia, and Uzbekistan are each planning at least one strike, while hundreds of rallies have been planned across Germany, France, the U.S., and several other countries.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ben E King - It's All Over
Ben E King - Young Boy Blues
Ben E. King - Too Bad
Ben E. King - Show Me The Way
Ben E. King - Souvenir of Mexico
Ben E King - Spanish Harlem
Ben E. King - That's When It Hurts
Ben E. King - Stand By Me
Ben E King (Drifters) - Save the Last Dance for Me
Ben E King (Drifters) - There Goes my Baby
Ben E King - Money Honey