The Evening Blues - 5-18-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers. Enjoy!
Smokey Smothers - Do Your Thing
"The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity."
-- Andre Gide
News and Opinion
"I've got names and addresses of American war criminals if any senators are interested," quipped veteran journalist Nick Turse.
Critics of U.S. foreign policy on Tuesday reacted to a report that the United States Senate is advancing a draft bill that would grant domestic courts universal jurisdiction to prosecute alleged war criminals by questioning whether the measure would also apply to Americans—who are rarely if ever brought to justice after committing war crimes.
According to The New York Times, leading senators from both parties have agreed to a draft bill to expand the 1996 War Crimes Act to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute suspected war criminals who enter the United States, no matter where their alleged offenses occurred. Currently, the law only applies to Americans who commit war crimes.
"Lo and behold, the U.S. has discovered universal jurisdiction," Seton Hall Law School professor Jonathan Hafetz sardonically tweeted.
The significant policy shift—U.S. leaders of both parties have long opposed universal jurisdiction, largely out of fears that the principle could be used to prosecute American officials responsible for unlawful invasions, torture, killing civilians, and other crimes—is motivated by alleged and documented war crimes committed by Russian forces invading Ukraine.
Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement that "perpetrators committing unspeakable war crimes, such as those unfolding before our very eyes in Ukraine, must be held to account. We have the power and responsibility to ensure that the United States will not be used as a safe haven by the perpetrators of these heinous crimes."
However, the U.S. has long provided refuge to favored war criminals—many of them trained or supported by the United States—although numerous violators have also been extradited to face justice in their home nations, or to third countries for universal jurisdiction prosecution.
Lee Carter, a former U.S. Marine and Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, noted that "the U.S. doesn't even try war crimes cases when they do involve Americans."
"They went as far as to pre-authorize invading the Netherlands if the world court attempted to prosecute American war crimes," he added, a reference to the American Service Members' Protection Act, a 2002 law that not only bars the U.S. from assisting the International Criminal Court (ICC) but which also authorizes the president to use "all means necessary and appropriate" to secure the release of American or allied personnel held by or on behalf of the Hague tribunal.
U.S. limits on cooperation with the ICC have complicated the Biden administration's reported consideration of greater involvement in the court's effort to prosecute alleged Russian war criminals, as has the inconvenient fact that American personnel have enjoyed impunity or relative leniency after committing some of the same atrocities—from bombing shelters, homes, and hospitals to murdering, torturing, and raping civilians—that Russians are perpetrating in Ukraine.
International Commission of Jurists Commissioner Reed Brody last month noted the dilemma of the U.S. wanting to help the ICC "prosecute Russian war crimes while barring any possibility the ICC could probe U.S. (or Israeli) war crimes."
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now, pointed out that "Israeli settlements are war crimes under the Geneva Conventions," adding that "it would be great to prosecute them here in the U.S. alongside the ICC, where they're currently being investigated."
Some observers suggested a simple—albeit extremely unlikely—solution.
"We could also just ratify the Rome Statute, my fellow Americans," tweeted Jessica Dorsey, a professor at Rechtsgeleerdheid Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands and a board member of the U.K.- based civilian casualty monitor Airwars, in a reference to the 1998 treaty establishing the ICC.
Others noted that the only people who seem to ever pay for war crimes are the journalists and whistleblowers who expose them.
"The U.S. is already exerting international jurisdiction over the free press via Julian Assange's imprisonment," observed political analyst Fiorella Isabel in a reference to the WikiLeaks founder facing extradition from Britain to the United States more than a decade after he revealed U.S. and allied war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other crimes and misdeeds around the world.
Alluding to recently slain Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, Isabel added that Israel "can murder journalists to no consequence."
"So this isn't really about 'trying war crimes,'" she concluded, "but covering them up and controlling the war narrative."
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will soon conduct large-scale exercises in the Baltics, with thousands of troops from more than a dozen nations set to take part in war games just 40 miles from the nearest Russian military base.
Dubbed “Hedgehog,” the drills will kick off later this week in Estonia and run until June 3, meant to simulate a Russian invasion. They will involve 15,000 troops from 14 countries – including the United States, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway, as well as non-NATO members Ukraine, Georgia, Sweden and Finland.
According to Major General Veiko-Vello Palm, deputy commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, the exercise will take place just 40 miles from a Russian military base, a facility hosting Moscow’s 76th Guards Air Assault Division in the border city of Pskov.
The size of the war games – among the largest in the Baltics since the fall of the USSR – their proximity to the Russian border, and the inclusion of non-NATO states are likely to escalate tensions with Moscow. Though the exercises were planned before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, they will no doubt serve as an additional show of force as NATO members flood the Ukrainian battlefield with billions of dollars in weapons and gear.
Sweden and Finland will formally submit simultaneous requests to join Nato on Wednesday, the Swedish prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, has said, in a seismic shift in Europe’s security architecture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Finland and Sweden have agreed to go through this entire process hand in hand, and we will tomorrow file the application together,” Andersson told a joint news conference with the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, in Stockholm.
“Membership of Nato strengthens security in Sweden but also in the Baltic Sea region,” Andersson said. “The fact that we are applying together with Finland means that we can contribute to security in northern Europe.”
The announcement came as the White House said Niinistö, and Andersson would meet the US president, Joe Biden, on Thursday to discuss their bids to join the US-led mutual defence alliance and European security more broadly.
The Biden administration is poised to fully block Russia’s ability to pay US bondholders after a deadline expires next week, a move that could bring Moscow closer to the brink of default.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is expected to let a temporary exemption lapse once it expires on May 25, according to people familiar with the matter. The waiver, issued shortly after the US levied sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine in February, has given Moscow room to pay coupons, helping it avert default on its government debt.
The end of the carve-out could be the final straw in Russia’s debt saga after almost three months of war in Ukraine. It’s managed to make all its payments to creditors so far, weaving through the tangle of sanctions that closed off some avenues.
That includes an 11th-hour escape earlier this month, when blocked payments were eventually allowed through after Moscow tapped its domestic dollar reserves. But it’s unclear how it can sidestep the end of the US loophole.
Way to go, Obama and Hillary:
Fighting broke out in Tripoli after one of the two rival Libyan prime ministers entered the capital to claim the role only to flee hours later when he realised he had misjudged the scale of military opposition.
Fathi Bashagha said he had retreated to prevent further bloodshed, and later said that he would base his government in the city of Sirte. It was clear he found that the levels of militia support he had been promised were not forthcoming. He had entered the city in secret overnight with the support of one powerful armed group, the eighth brigade, but it found itself isolated and no other support arrived from outside the city.
In statements before his retreat, Bashagha’s camp made it clear they had planned to take control of the government, and claimed he had received a warm reception in the capital.
The bulk of the clashes occurred at dawn.
There has been stalemate in Libya with rival groups claiming to run the country. Parliamentary and presidential elections planned for last December had to be shelved as the eligibility of various candidates was disputed, and there was no consensus that the result would be honoured.
The Dem's uselessness is now an unavoidable fact:
Even as Democrats have denounced the court’s provisional decision to overturn Roe and vowed to defend abortion rights, their efforts at the federal level have largely failed to live up to their rhetoric. A vote last Wednesday in the Senate to codify Roe and protect abortion rights nationwide was once again blocked, as Democrat Joe Manchin joined all 50 Republican senators in opposing the bill.
The failure of Democrats in Washington to shore up abortion rights, even as they control the White House and both chambers of Congress, has complicated the party’s messaging to voters about the likely end of Roe. Some frustrated Democrats are instead turning their attention to state and local policies that could protect reproductive rights even if Roe falls.
Abortion rights supporters’ frustration with Democratic inaction at the federal level has been on display since the draft opinion leaked earlier this month. At a protest outside the supreme court last week, abortion rights demonstrators chanted: “Do something, Democrats.”
Progressive members of Congress have also argued for the urgent need to pass federal abortion rights legislation, calling on senators to amend the filibuster to get a bill approved.
“People elected Democrats precisely so we could lead in perilous moments like these - to codify Roe, hold corruption accountable, [and] have a President who uses his legal authority to break through Congressional gridlock on items from student debt to climate,” progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. ...
Democratic congressional leaders have encouraged members of their party to direct their criticism toward Republicans rather than each other.
Apparently you only have the rights that you can defend. The Constitution is just a damned piece of paper.
The Democrats have no plan. ...
What’s next in the Democrats’ fight to preserve abortion rights? Evidently, not much. After the WHPA failed, Vice-President Kamala Harris told ABC News that Americans’ best chance to protect their sovereignty over their own bodies was to vote more, and vote harder. “A priority for all who care about this issue should be to elect pro-choice leaders at the local, the state and the federal level.” It was a shrugging admission of defeat, and the administration has consistently passed the buck. “It will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials in November,” Biden himself said in a Wednesday statement. The responsibility for securing this essential right, the administration seems to say, lies with voters – not with them. ...
And here lies a legitimate conundrum for the Democratic leadership: their voters are enraged and scared by the Dobbs opinion, and by the coming end of legal abortion in an estimated 26 to 28 states. But the party leadership insists they cannot intervene, claiming that there is relatively little that can be done to stop, slow or mitigate this coming legal and humanitarian disaster. It is part of the rot of our political system that, like the electoral college, our legislatures have been manipulated by gerrymandering and malapportionment to ensure that Republicans can get fewer votes from the people and yet control more seats in the Capitol – and Democrats must not just win the popular vote, but win it by impossibly large margins to have any power at all. Republican victories are increasingly inevitable, even as the majority of voters move away from the party’s rapid extremism, and Democratic victories are largely toothless even as they become more and more difficult to achieve. This is a real structural obstacle the Democrats face, and one that is incompatible with continuing American democracy. It threatens to enshrine permanent Republican minority rule. ...
For months, human rights activists and legal experts have been pleading with the Biden administration to take aggressive action to protect abortion within its own authority – for while the legislative avenue to codifying women’s rights seems foreclosed, the Democrats still control the expansive authority of the executive branch. Biden could instruct the FDA to loosen its uniquely onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion medication. He could lease federal lands and buildings in red states to abortion providers, creating islands of access inside the vast stretches of the American landscape where abortion will soon be illegal. His administration can sue to block state restrictions on abortion medication that are more stringent than the FDA’s rules, citing federal supremacy. They could make a more aggressive push for Congress to end the Hyde Amendment, a budget rider that bans federal funds from covering abortion care. Or they could circumvent it, by paying for women’s transportation to legal-care states.
As abortion becomes not just illegal, but criminal, the administration can direct the Department of Health and Human Services to step in to protect patients from being reported to law enforcement and prosecuted. According to Emma Roth, an attorney with the advocacy group National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the HHS has this authority both under HIPAA’s privacy protections, and under section 1557, a federal regulation preventing sex discrimination in healthcare.
But the administration hasn’t done any of this. They don’t seem interested in trying.
Amnesty International has called on the US government to fully restore tribal jurisdiction over crimes on Native lands in the face of staggeringly high rates of sexual violence against Native women, according to a report released on Tuesday.
Nearly one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women have been raped – more than twice the average for white women and probably an undercount given gaps in data collection, according to the report.
These high numbers, the authors explained, result from the US government stripping tribal nations of their authority, followed by a “complex jurisdictional maze” that, depending on whether the survivor and perpetrator are Native and the location and severity of the crime, could place responsibility in the hands of tribal, state or federal authorities.
“You have then people who survive an assault, they have police show up who are then arguing on their doorstep who has to take this, who doesn’t want it, who’s responsibility it is, whose [it] isn’t,” said Tarah Demant, the report lead.
The 98-page report came 15 years after Amnesty International published a study on the crisis of sexual violence against Native women. Demant said it was rare for the organization to revisit an issue in this way. But after seeing no significant decrease in these crimes despite a series of related federal policies viewed as huge steps toward rectifying the situation, she said it was clear they needed to reinvestigate.
Oh looky, a foreign country is meddling in U.S. elections:
The US’s most powerful pro-Israel lobby group is pouring millions of dollars into influencing Democratic congressional primary races to counter growing support for the Palestinian cause within the party, including elections today in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s money is focused on blocking female candidates who, if elected, are likely to align with “the Squad” of progressive members of Congress who have been critical of Israel.
But it is funneled through a group, the United Democracy Project (UDP), that avoids mention of its creation by Aipac and seeks to decide elections by funding campaign messages about issues other than Israel. The UDP has thrown $2.3m in to Tuesday’s Democratic primary race for an open congressional seat in Pennsylvania – one of a handful of contests targeted by the group where a leading candidate is overtly sympathetic to the Palestinians.
The money has mostly been spent in support of a former Republican congressional staffer turned Democrat, Steve Irwin, in an attempt to block a progressive state representative, Summer Lee, who is leading in opinion polls in the solidly Democratic district which includes Pittsburgh.
Lee has spoken in support of setting conditions for the US’s considerable aid to Israel, has accused Israel of “atrocities” in Gaza, and has drawn parallels between Israeli actions and the shooting of young black men in the US. She is endorsed by Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, members of the Squad who support the Palestinian cause. Irwin has defended Israeli government policies and questioned whether Lee has “a strong conviction that Israel has a right to exist”.
The UDP has also spent $2m in support of the North Carolina state senator Valeria Foushee in today’s Democratic primary in an attempt to block Nida Allam, the political director of Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign and the first Muslim American woman to hold elected office in North Carolina. Allam has participated in pro-Palestinian rallies and has been endorsed by members of the squad. She has also spoken out against antisemitism. ...
The UDP has also spent $1.2m to protect the Texas Democratic congressman, Henry Cuellar, who faces a run-off later next week against Jessica Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration lawyer who has spoken in support of the Palestinians and is endorsed by members of the Squad.
Two of Wisconsin’s presidential electors and a voter in the state filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to punish a group of Republicans who tried to cast fake electoral votes for Donald Trump in 2020, asking a state court to order them to pay up to $2.4m collectively in damages and bar them from ever serving as legitimate electors in a presidential election.
Wisconsin was one of seven states Trump lost in 2020 where allies cast an alternative set of electoral votes as part of his effort to overturn the election. The suit, filed by Law Forward and the Georgetown Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (Icap) on behalf of the legitimate electors, is the first of its kind seeking civil punishments against the electors. Federal prosecutors and the January 6 commission are reportedly also reviewing the fake slates.
The lawsuit, filed in Dane county, targets the 10 Republicans who served as the fake elector slate, as well as Jim Troupis, an attorney for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin, and Kenneth Chesebro, a Boston-area attorney who aided their efforts. It asks a judge to order each of them to pay a $2,000 fine as well as up to $200,000 each in damages in addition to blocking them from ever being able to serve as electors.
“Although Defendants were unsuccessful in having their fake ballots counted, they caused significant harm simply by trying, and there is every reason to believe that they will try again if given the opportunity,” the complaint says. “Defendants actions also violated a host of state and federal laws. Thus far, however, none of the fraudulent electors has been held accountable. This lawsuit seeks to change that.”
Nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding climate catastrophe, according to a new scientific study.
The assessment goes beyond the call by the International Energy Agency in 2021 to stop all new fossil fuel development to avoid the worst impacts of global heating, a statement seen as radical at the time.
The new research reaches its starker conclusion by not assuming that new technologies will be able to suck huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere to compensate for the burning of coal, oil and gas. Experts said relying on such technologies was a risky gamble. ...
Greg Muttitt, at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, was one of the leaders of the new research and said: “Halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget. Some existing fossil fuel licences and production will need to be revoked and phased out early. Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests.”
Kelly Trout, at Oil Change International, the other lead author of the work, said: “Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The world has already tapped too much oil and gas.” The researchers said governments should accelerate the introduction of renewable energy and efficiency measures instead.
The new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, analysed a database of more than 25,000 oil and gas fields and developed a new dataset of coal mines. The researchers found that fields and mines that have already been developed would lead to 936bn tonnes of CO2 when fully exploited and burned. That is 25 years of global emissions at today’s rate – the world’s scientists agree emissions must fall by half by 2030.
New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the weekly average CO² concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reached 421.13 parts per million (ppm) from May 8 to May 14—the highest in recorded history and up from 418.34 ppm one year ago and 397.38 ppm one decade ago.
"We simply do not know a planet like this," meteorologist Eric Holthaus said Monday. "We are in a climate emergency."
According to NOAA, the daily average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa hit 422.04 ppm on May 14, just slightly below the agency's all-time record of 422.06 ppm observed on April 26. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, meanwhile, measured 421.68 ppm of CO² at Mauna Loa on May 13, which they consider the daily record as of Monday.
Those record-breaking daily and weekly measurements came after the monthly average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa surpassed 420 ppm for the first time in human history, with NOAA observing 420.23 ppm in April compared with Scripps at 420.02 ppm.
Mexican farmers have travelled to London to demand that a FTSE 100 company compensates them for illegal mining on their land and explain violence against anti-mining activists.
Penmont mining, a subsidiary of Fresnillo, was ordered by an agrarian court in Mexico in 2013 to pay members of El Bajío community, co-owners of common land in Sonora, north-west Mexico, for the gold extracted and to restore the land to its original state.
Having bought shares in Fresnillo, three El Bajío representatives, as well as activists from London Mining Network and London Mexico Solidarity, entered the company’s annual meeting to ask the chairman why it had not complied with the court order and about the kidnapping, disappearance and murder of anti-mining activists.
Fresnillo told the Guardian it had complied with the court order by vacating the land and that it had no connection to any violence.
Jesús Thomas, one of the co-owners, said after the meeting: “We have spent eight years trying to get justice for our people. There are tonnes of cyanide in the soil, a lot of animals are dead. I made it clear to them [in the meeting] that they are in the wrong. They never said anything in reply, they don’t have any answer.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Smokey Smothers - I can't judge nobody
Smokey Smothers - I Got My Eyes On You
Smokey Smothers - I'm Looking For You
Smokey Smothers - I Ain't Gonna Be No Monkey Man No More
Smokey Smothers - Blind and Dumb Man Blues
Smokey Smothers - I've Been Drinking Muddy Water
Smokey Smothers- Ever Ready Daddy
Smokey Smothers - Come on rock little girl
Smokey Smothers - Midnight and Day