The Evening Blues - 6-20-19
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This evening's music features r&b singer Mary Ann Fisher. Enjoy!
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“If there was an observer on Mars, they would probably be amazed that we have survived this long. There are two problems for our species' survival - nuclear war and environmental catastrophe - and we're hurtling towards them. Knowingly. This hypothetical Martian would probably conclude that human beings were an evolutionary error.”
-- Noam Chomsky
News and Opinion
The document, entitled Nuclear Operations, was published on 11 June, and was the first such doctrine paper for 14 years. Arms control experts say it marks a shift in US military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war – which they believe is a highly dangerous mindset.
“Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” the joint chiefs’ document says. “Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”
At the start of a chapter on nuclear planning and targeting, the document quotes a cold war theorist, Herman Kahn, as saying: “My guess is that nuclear weapons will be used sometime in the next hundred years, but that their use is much more likely to be small and limited than widespread and unconstrained.” Kahn was a controversial figure. He argued that a nuclear war could be “winnable” and is reported to have provided part of the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr Strangelove.
The Nuclear Operations document was taken down from the Pentagon online site after a week, and is now only available through a restricted access electronic library. But before it was withdrawn it was downloaded by Steven Aftergood, who directs the project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.
A spokesman for the joint chiefs of staff said the document was removed from the publicly accessible defence department website “because it was determined that this publication, as is with other joint staff publications, should be for official use only”.
The crown prince of Saudi Arabia should be investigated over the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi because there is “credible evidence” that he and other senior officials are liable for the killing, according to a damning and forensic UN report. In an excoriating 100-page analysis published on Wednesday of what happened to Khashoggi last October, Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur, says the death of the journalist was “an international crime”.
“It is the conclusion of the special rapporteur that Mr Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” she says.
Using recordings of conversations from inside the Istanbul consulate where Khashoggi was killed, her report pieces together his last moments, and how he was confronted by Saudi officials, one of whom said: “We are coming to get you.” ...
Saudi Arabia dismissed the report. The minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, tweeted it was “nothing new … the report of the rapporteur in the human rights council contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations.”
[The UN report's] main findings include:
- There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation, of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s.
- Khashoggi’s death was an extrajudicial killing. His attempted kidnapping would constitute a violation under international human rights law … and may constitute an act of torture under the terms of the convention against torture.
- The investigations conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths.
- The Saudi investigation into the murder was not conducted in good faith, and might amount to obstructing justice.
Iran said it shot down a U.S. "spy" drone on Thursday after the aircraft entered Iranian airspace over the southern province of Hormozgan.
"U.S. drone intrusion to the Iranian airspace is clear violation of the U.N. Charter and national sovereignty of the country," Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a top Iranian national security official, said in a statement.
Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, said any "violation[s] of Iran's borders are strongly condemned."
"We warn of the consequences of such illegal and provocative measures," Mousavi added.
The U.S. confirmed that an American drone was downed but denied that it violated Iranian airspace.
Adding fuel to widespread fears that his administration is preparing to launch another devastating Middle East war, President Donald Trump on Thursday told reporters "you'll soon find out" whether his administration plans to strike Iran after the downing of an American surveillance drone.
— ABC News (@ABC) June 20, 2019
"Iran made a very big mistake!" Trump declared.
Iran made a very big mistake!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2019
Shortly after U.S. military officials confirmed that Iran shot down an American drone Thursday morning, Navy Captain and CENTCOM spokesman Bill Urban said in a statement that the downing of the American aircraft was an "unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace." ... Urban did not provide evidence to refute Iran's claim that the U.S. aircraft violated Iranian airspace.
The US wages #EconomicTerrorism on Iran, has conducted covert action against us & now encroaches on our territory.
We don't seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters.
We'll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 20, 2019
The downing of the U.S. drone comes as the Trump administration is reportedly laying the groundwork for a military attack on Iran without congressional approval.
Irrespective of whether Iran is responsible for the recent attacks on Gulf shipping, the crisis now unfolding is fundamentally one manufactured out of thin air by the Trump administration. The implications go beyond the threat of a major war and consequent worldwide economic crash. Donald Trump’s reckless, incoherent Iran policy also throws into question the viability of the role of the United States as the global leader.
The US achieved its hegemonic status in the world system not simply through raw strength, but also by convincing the second-tier capitalist powers that it could manage that system in their interests as well as its own. Washington could be relied on to confront and put down challenges to the capitalist order, expand and deepen its reach, and handle crises as they arose. It was through responsible management of the system in the interests of western capital and state power more broadly (if not of humanity as a whole) that the US secured consent from its allies to lead this new form of empire.
The 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, brokered by the Obama administration and signed by the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, Germany and the European Union, was an example of this hegemony in action. The deal was only superficially about the always implausible threat that Iran would build a nuclear weapon and then use it in a suicidal attack on a US ally. The deeper strategic purpose was to bring Iran in from the cold, stabilise its relationship with the wider Middle East, and open it up as a market to international (principally European) capital. The promise of greater stability on their doorstep and a significant new global south market to exploit was a major prize for the European powers, delivered to them by a competent and responsible hegemon. So, naturally, the Europeans have watched in horror as the Trump administration tore up the deal, ratcheted up sanctions on Iran with the apparent aim of collapsing its economy, and boosted Washington’s military posturing in the Gulf on the flimsiest of pretexts. ...
Washington’s European allies are now faced with the opposite of what they thought they had won in 2015. ... The temptation will be to wait for Trump to lose the 2020 election and for life to return to normal. But what if this is the new normal? The precedent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the militaristic dogmatism of which that enterprise was born, suggests an emerging behavioural pattern. Far from being aberrational, Trump’s presidency fits with the Republican party’s long-term trajectory into unreasoning hawkish belligerence. The fact that tens of millions of Americans – mostly middle-class or affluent white people – were prepared to vote for a figure like Trump in 2016 demonstrates that this state of affairs cannot simply be wished away. With one of Washington’s two parties of government firmly in the grip of extremists, US allies will need to ask themselves if American leadership is now a reliable asset or a dangerous liability.
The fevered dreams of dictators and Democrat politicians to dominate the world never die:
As the eight-year war in Syria winds down and the US regime-change operation falters, strategists in Washington are plotting new ways to terrorize Damascus into submission. An analyst at a think tank bankrolled by the US government and NATO has an idea: Use the “wheat weapon” to starve Syria’s civilian population.
“Wheat is a weapon of great power in this next phase of the Syrian conflict,” insisted Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, DC. Washington can pressure its Kurdish allies to restrict the country’s food supply, Heras argued, “to apply pressure on the Assad regime, and through the regime on Russia, to force concessions.”
As a CNAS fellow, Nicholas Heras has produced a paper offering “bottom up” steps to facilitate the arming of Syria’s “moderate opposition.” The header image of the document features fighters from the Salafi-jihadist militia Nour al-Din al-Zinki using US-made TOW missile systems in Syria. In 2017, just months after Heras published his paper, al-Zinki entered into a formal coalition with local al-Qaeda affiliates, including a group that called itself “The Bin Laden Front.”
Heras previously served as a researcher for the Pentagon, and oversaw research projects funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He is also a senior fellow at the neoconservative Jamestown Foundation, a think tank founded under the watch of CIA Director William Casey in 1984 to provide support for Soviet bloc defectors.
The Center for a New American Security functions as a revolving door to the Democratic Party’s foreign-policy elite, giving veterans of Barack Obama’s Pentagon and State Department a chance to cool their heels while a Republican controls the White House. CNAS’ top donors include leading weapons manufacturers like Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and BAE Systems.
Nicholas Heras issued his call to use Syria’s food supply as a “weapon” against its government in an interview with the international news agency AFP. CNAS endorsed its fellow’s proposal by approvingly tweeting his quote, along with a link to the report.
"Wheat can be used to apply pressure on the Assad regime, and through the regime on Russia, to force concessions in the UN-led diplomatic process." - @NicholasAHeras tells @AFP's @Delilsouleman: https://t.co/RadVpWgSmE
— CNAS (@CNASdc) June 18, 2019
Critics Lament as 126 House Democrats Join Forces With GOP to Hand Trump 'Terrifying' Mass Domestic Spying Powers
Privacy advocates and civil liberties defenders are expressing outrage after the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night voted down a bipartisan amendment designed to end, as one group put it, the U.S. government's "most egregious mass surveillance practices" first revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In a final vote of 253-175, it was 126 Democrats who joined with 127 Republicans to vote against an amendment introduced by Rep Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would have closed loopholes in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that critics charge has allowed the NSA to abuse warrantless surveillance capabilities and target the emails, text messages, and internet activity of U.S. citizens and residents. See the full roll call here.
House Democrats: Donald Trump is a reckless authoritarian Russian puppet who poses a grave threat to Democracy.
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) June 19, 2019
Among the high-profile Democrats to vote against the bill was Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a frequent and outspoken critic of President Donald Trump.
"It's good to know that House Democrats like Adam Schiff are 'resisting' Trump by voting to ensure that he has limitless authority to conduct mass warrantless surveillance," said Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight for the Future, in a statement rebuking those Democrats who sided with the president and the Republicans in voting down the Amash-Lofgren amendment.
While House Democrats otherwise treat Trump as an existential threat who cannot be trusted on any matter, Greer and her group said it was bewildering to see a majority of the party leave such "terrifying" mass surveillance powers in the hands of the president and the intelligence agencies he largely controls.
The United States has joined Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran in a rogue’s gallery of countries perceived as likely to use their influence for bad. All five countries are also seen as less likely to use their influence for good than they were 10 years ago.
The findings showing that Canada, Germany and the UN are seen as mostly likely to use their international influence for good. The findings are being published to accompany a major speech by the former British foreign secretary David Miliband who argues that international relations are now governed by a new age of impunity in which war crimes and attacks on humanitarian workers are typically left unpunished. Miliband, currently president of the International Rescue Committee, will argue that a long retreat of liberal democracy has ushered in a new divide in which some states abide by the rules ushered in after the second world war, and other states regard such international law as “for suckers”.
The poll was conducted amongst 17,000 adults around the world conducted by Ipsos Mori in 24 countries on behalf of Policy Institute at Kings College London.
The top prosecutor in St Louis has compiled an “exclusion list” of dozens of police officers whose investigations she will not advance by bringing charges or processing warrants because they have allegedly posted racist and violent comments on social media.
Kimberly Gardner, the circuit attorney for the Missouri city, created the initial list in August last year with 28 names but it has grown since and another 22 officers were added to it this week. That brings the total number of officers she will not work with in the city’s police department to 59, questioning their credibility based on accusations of offensive posts on Facebook.
For seven of the officers recently added to the list, Gardner’s office said they will not bring any charges based on their investigations, apply for search warrants on their behalf or consider cases where the officers are essential witnesses, according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch. Her office will review the other 15 newly added officers to see if they should be able to bring their cases forth.
“Police integrity is at the core of the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system,” Gardner said in a statement to the St Louis Post-Dispatch. “When a police officer’s integrity is compromised in this manner, it compromises the entire criminal justice system and our overall ability to pursue justice.”
Amid Rise of Xenophobes Like Trump, UN Report Shows World's Refugee Population Has Exploded to More Than 70 Million
Aggressive anti-immigration policies and rhetoric from President Donald Trump and other right-wing world leaders has contributed greatly to the skyrocketing number of refugees around the world, the United Nation's refugee agency said Wednesday.
Marking a distressing record, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed in its annual Global Trends report that the number of refugees worldwide is now the highest it's ever been since the UN began keeping records, with more than 70 million people seeking refuge after being forced from their homes.
At least one in 108 people around the world were displaced in 2018, including both those who had been refugees previously and those who were forced to leave their homes last year due to issues including war, violence, food shortages, and the effects of the climate crisis.
In between tweets complaining about Fox News polling numbers and boasting about the size of future rallies, President Donald Trump took a moment on Monday to send shock waves through immigrant communities with a threat meant to rally his base — but one that is not actually logistically possible.
“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” he tweeted. “They will be removed as fast as they come in.” An administration official later told the Associated Press that the effort would target people who have received final orders of deportation. There are more than 1 million people living in the United States with final deportation orders, among an undocumented population of about 11 million. “He obviously wants everyone to believe he’s talking about some mass roundup, which is just not possible,” immigration attorney Matt Cameron said of Trump, “both because of resources and because of due process.” ...
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump linked his announcement of a mass roundup to recent talks with Mexico and Guatemala to keep asylum-seekers from reaching the United States, which is vastly different from removing people with final deportation orders from the country. This is yet another indication that Trump’s tweet — issued the night before his official 2020 campaign launch — was about appealing to a nativist base rather than an actual policy. ...
By all measures, a plan to deport “millions” of people is an astounding exaggeration — even beginning to deport millions, as Trump pledged ICE would do, stretches the truth to a breaking point. As Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, pointed out on Twitter, ICE has deported an average of 90,000 people from the interior of the United States in recent years. The largest number of people ICE deported overall — from the interior, as well as recent border crossers — was about 420,000 people in 2012. ...Regardless of what Trump was referring to, or if such a plan to deport immigrants actually exists, ICE is not actually capable of such a large-scale deportation operation, immigration lawyers and analysts say.
Some segregationists were pretty chill, Joe Biden reminisced Tuesday night.
The former vice president and leading 2020 Democratic candidate remarked during a fundraiser in New York that Southern Sens. James Eastland and Herman Talmadge still managed to be civil to him back in the day when he, a white man from Scranton, Pennsylvania, was in Congress, according to NBC News.
"I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland," Biden said, according to NBC News. “He never called me ‘boy’; he always called me 'son.'" Eastland, a Democratic senator from Mississippi from the early 1940s to late 1970s, was a staunch segregationist and racist. But then-Sen. Biden and Eastland might have gotten along because Biden sought his support in 1977 in fighting busing as a way to desegregate schools, according to CNN. Meanwhile, Biden conceded that Talmadge, a Democratic senator from Georgia, was “one of the meanest guys I ever knew.”
But between the two senators, Biden said, “at least there was some civility.”
“We got things done,” Biden continued, according to NBC News. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore."
Vowing Not to 'Demonize' the Rich, Biden Tells Billionaires 'Nothing Would Fundamentally Change' If He Was Elected
Don't worry, billionaires: your standard of living won't change under a Joe Biden administration.
That's the message the Democratic frontrunner delivered to donors Tuesday as he continued a fundraising trip in New York that saw him on Monday tell a room of wealthy Wall Streeters "you guys are great" and ask a Trump-loving supermarket magnate for support. In Biden's comments Tuesday, the former vice president told a room of 100 of the New York financial elite, including bankers Robert Rubin and Roger Altman, both of whom worked in the Treasury Department under Democratic administrations, that he wasn't their enemy. According to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Epstein, Biden took pains to separate himself from the rest of the field in his comments.
"Remember, I got in trouble with some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side, because I said, you know, what I've found is rich people are just as patriotic as poor people," said Biden. "Not a joke. I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who's made money."
But, said Biden, their taxes might have to be raised a little to achieve some of his legislative goals—though he assured the members of the 1 percent in attendance at the Upper East Side Carlyle Hotel that under his plan, the increase wouldn't even be noticeable. "The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done," said Biden. "We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it's all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished."
"No one's standard of living will change," said Biden. "Nothing would fundamentally change."
Biden 2020: “Nothing would fundamentally change” https://t.co/CuReVfbZFG
— Alexis Goldstein (@alexisgoldstein) June 19, 2019
Beekeepers across the US lost four in 10 of their honeybee colonies over the past year, as the worst winter on record for tracked bee populations raised fresh concerns over the plight of the crucial pollinators. Over the past winter, 37% of honeybee colonies were lost to beekeepers, the worst winter decline recorded in the 13-year history of a nationwide survey aimed at charting bees’ fortunes. Overall, 40% of colonies died off over the entire year to April, which is above the 38% average since the survey began.
Researchers said the numbers were concerning given the intensive efforts to stem the loss of honeybees, which pollinate an estimated $15bn in US crops each year, enabling the farming of foods including apples, melons, cherries, almonds and blueberries.
Alarm over honeybee numbers has grown since 2006, when a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder became widely known. This problem, in which the majority of worker bees abandon the colony, has since receded but beekeepers are now faced with more general die-offs linked to disease, pesticide use and habitat loss.
“It’s disconcerting that we’re still seeing elevated losses after over a decade of survey and quite intense work to try to understand and reduce colony loss,” said Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University. “We don’t seem to be making particularly great progress to reduce overall losses.”
The melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled since the turn of the century, with more than a quarter of all ice lost over the last four decades, scientists have revealed. The accelerating losses indicate a “devastating” future for the region, upon which a billion people depend for regular water. The scientists combined declassified US spy satellite images from the mid-1970s with modern satellite data to create the first detailed, four-decade record of ice along the 2,000km (1,200-mile) mountain chain.
The analysis shows that 8bn tonnes of ice are being lost every year and not replaced by snow, with the lower level glaciers shrinking in height by 5 meters annually. The study shows that only global heating caused by human activities can explain the heavy melting. In previous work, local weather and the impact of air pollution had complicated the picture.
Joshua Maurer, from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth observatory, who led the new research, said: “This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting since 1975, and why.” The research is published in the journal Science Advances.
Serious consequences will be felt by those who rely on the great rivers that flow from the peaks into India, Pakistan, China and other nations. “It’s the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” said Philippus Wester, at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, who led the February study and said the new work was very convincing. “Increasingly uncertain and irregular water supplies will impact the 1 billion people living downstream from the Himalaya mountains in south Asia.”
President Donald Trump has made a habit of undoing his predecessor's accomplishments, especially environmental regulations. Now, his EPA has replaced the only rule meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions — and potentially caused the death of thousands of people in the process.
Speaking to a crowd full of coal miners in uniform Wednesday morning, EPA Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler announced a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce CO2 levels from energy production by a third by 2030. The Trump administration’s new plan, called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, stipulates that, to reduce emissions, coal-fired plants just need to get more efficient.
“Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE [the Affordable Clean Energy rule] adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford,” Wheeler said at the press conference.
But according to the EPA’s own analysis, the increased air pollution could result in as many as 1,400 deaths per year by 2030 and 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems. Federal data has also shown that the air is getting dirtier: Last year had 15 percent more days with dirty air than the average between 2013 and 2016. And since the Clean Power Plan was proposed in 2014, the evidence that climate change will kill people has only mounted. The World Health Organization estimates that 250,000 people will die per year between 2030 and 2050.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Mary Ann Fisher - Put On My Shoes
Mary Ann Fisher - I Can´t Take It
Ray Charles w/Mary Ann Fisher - What kind of man are you
Mary Ann Fisher - Wild As You Can Be
Mary Ann Fisher - Forever More
Mary Ann Fisher - It's A Man's World
Mary Ann Fisher - Can´t Take the Heartbreaks
Mary Ann Fisher - Cloudy Weather Blues
Mary Ann Fisher - Yes, I Love You
Ray Charles - This Little Girl of Mine
Ray Charles - Mary Ann