The Evening Blues - 11-29-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer Etta James. Enjoy!
Etta James + Doctor John - I'd Rather Go Blind
"How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
-- Abraham Lincoln
News and Opinion
Pentagon contractor Elon Musk and war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu had a conversation that they broadcast on Twitter during Musk’s apology pilgrimage to Israel in a desperate bid to salvage his public image amid costly accusations of antisemitism.
The “conversation” was really more of a monologue, with the Israeli leader droning on in his conspicuously American accent while Musk meekly agreed with him on every point. During his lecture, Bibi said something worth highlighting while complaining about the worldwide pro-Palestine protests that have been underway since the beginning of Israel’s ongoing Gaza massacre.
“We have mass demonstrations,” Netanyahu said at around the 15:55 mark. “Where were these demonstrations when over a million Arabs and Muslims were killed in Syria, in Yemen, many of them starving to death, those who didn’t die in explosions. Where were the demonstrations in London? In Paris? In San Francisco? In Washington? Where are they?”
“The answer is they don’t care about the Palestinians, they hate Israel,” Netanyahu said. “And they hate Israel because they hate America.”
You hear this “where were the protests over Yemen and Syria?” talking point over and over again from Israel apologists, the argument essentially being that because few people protested the mass killings in those countries then Israel should get to do a little genocide of its own, as a treat.
This talking point is stupid for a few reasons, including the way it tends to avoid the inconvenient fact that the bloodshed in both Yemen and Syria was facilitated by US interventionism, just like the bloodshed in Gaza is. The civil war in Syria was only able to occur because the western alliance and its regional partners flooded the nation with weapons given to extremist factions in the hope of toppling Damascus, and Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen were fully backed by the US and its allies.
The talking point is also stupid because there are many entirely legitimate reasons the Gaza massacre is getting special attention. In a recent New York Times article titled “Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace,” Lauren Leatherby explains that Israel’s actions in Gaza are actually quite different from other conflicts this century, killing far more civilians far more rapidly than the wars in places like Syria and Ukraine. Last week the UN’s emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths said during a CNN interview that Gaza is the worst humanitarian crisis he’s ever seen, even worse than the Killing Fields in Cambodia. This conflict is being treated differently because it is different.
Another reason this specific bombing campaign is getting so much more public backlash than others is because the pro-Palestine movement has had generations to build, whereas when the west lays waste to a country using military explosives it’s normally a fast ordeal which moves from manufacturing consent to execution very quickly. By the time people figure out they were lied to about the justifications for a depraved war the empire is usually two or three new wars down the track. The Israel-Palestine issue has been just sitting there for decades, so there’s been time to accumulate popular opposition. Once someone learns about the realities of the Palestinian plight they very seldom abandon their support for it, so every newly-opened pair of eyes stays open on this issue for a lifetime.
But perhaps the dumbest thing about this talking point is the fact that it ultimately works against the agendas of the people saying it. Israel apologists keep asking “Where were the protests over Yemen and Syria,” and gradually the millions of people who are beginning to wake up to the criminality of the US-centralized power alliance as a result of the Gaza massacre are going to start asking themselves the same question.
Because the assault on Gaza is so uniquely horrific and is being broadcast onto people’s social media feeds in real time, millions of people around the world are being snapped out of the propaganda-induced coma that has had them consenting to evil war after evil war over the years. People are starting to realize they’ve been deceived about the Israel-Palestine conflict, and they’re starting to wonder what else they’ve been deceived about. Keep asking them “Where were the protests over Yemen and Syria,” and eventually they’re going to start researching those conflicts and learning about their own government’s role in them, and from there it’s only a matter of time before they start asking, “Hey yeah! Where WERE the protests over Yemen and Syria??”
In a new article for The Guardian titled “The war in Gaza has been an intense lesson in western hypocrisy. It won’t be forgotten,” Nesrine Malik writes that “for the first time that I can think of, western powers are unable to credibly pretend that there is some global system of rules that they uphold. They seem to simply say: there are exceptions, and that’s just the way it is. No, it can’t be explained and yes, it will carry on until it doesn’t at some point, which seems to be when Israeli authorities feel like it.”
“Part of that inability to reach for convincing narratives about why so many innocent people must die is that events escalated so quickly,” Malik adds. “There was no time to set the pace of the attacks on Gaza, prepare justifications and hope that eventually, when it was all over, time and short attention spans would cover up the toll. Gaza has been a uniquely, inconveniently, intense conflict… The area is so densely populated that the toll of civilians is too high, and evidence for having undermined Hamas’s capabilities, the only possible justification for the casualties, is too low.”
This is the sort of political moment in which newly-formed critics of the western war machine are being asked to think carefully about why there hasn’t been a robust resistance to their governments’ other criminal actions. Which looks like a nightmare waiting to happen for the propagandists whose job is to manufacture consent for depraved acts of war.
One thing the empire is about to realize is that the western public has lost all its appetite for war. All the careful sanitising, video-gamifying and propagandizing that has been put in place since Vietnam in order to build a platform of consent for “humanitarian” wars has cratered into nothing over the course of mere weeks.
You can’t have an up close and personal relationship with the reality of bombs and all the things they do to human flesh and then go back to the way you were ever again. Millions of western eyes have been changed forever.
“War” is not abstracted any more.
Israel’s military and intelligence officials were given a highly detailed warning that Hamas was actively training to take over kibbutzim on the Gaza border and overrun military posts with the aim of inflicting substantial fatalities, according to reports in the Israeli media. The claim made by Israel’s Channel 12 on Monday evening was based on leaked emails from the Israeli military’s 8200 cyber-intelligence unit discussing the warnings.
Those emails revealed that a senior officer who reviewed the intelligence considered the danger of a massive surprise attack by Hamas across the Gaza border to be “an imaginary scenario”.
The hugely embarrassing leak describes in shocking detail what would turn out to be key elements of Hamas’s planning for its massacre of 1,200 Israelis on 7 October, including that Israel spotters were aware of senior Hamas officials present as observers during training preparations.
According to the leaked emails, Hamas went as far as giving the mocked-up kibbutz used in training a name and even practised raising a flag over its synagogue. Plans were also intercepted that discussed overrunning a border military base and killing all of its occupants.
While much of the focus of recent scrutiny for the intelligence failure before the 7 October attack has looked at what information was available to senior political and military figures, including Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the new leaks and briefings suggest serious failings within the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence reporting and distribution system as well.
Gaza is not getting enough aid to meet even basic emergency needs, the UN has warned, and the population is so ravaged by hunger, bombing and the lack of clean water that deaths from disease could outstrip those from war. “All this aid is triage, and it’s not even enough for triage,” a Unicef spokesperson, James Elder, told a press conference in Geneva, speaking by video link from inside Gaza. “Everything here is emergency care.”
Aid workers in Gaza are racing to assess needs and provide aid during a brief truce, the terms of which included allowing more food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies into the enclave. ...
The World Health Organization also said that only a “trickle” of aid was reaching Gaza, even during the pause in fighting. “It’s barely registering,” said Margaret Harris, spokesperson for the organisation. The scale of displacement meant needs were growing daily, even when there were no new war injuries.
The UN estimates 1.8 million people in Gaza have fled their homes, nearly four in five residents, with children making up half of those crowded into shelters, given shelter by relatives, or living in tents or cars.
“It is not just the hospitals, everybody everywhere has dire health needs now, because they are starving, because they lack clean water, they are crowded together, they are in terror so they have massive mental health needs. And there is a continuing rise in outbreaks of infections disease,” Harris said. “Eventually, we will see more people dying from disease than we are even seeing from the bombardment, if we are not able to put back this health system and provide the basics of life. Food, water, medicines and of course fuel to operate hospitals.”
With his approval ratings in the tank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been lobbying members of his Likud party in a bid to keep their support, claiming he is "the only one who will prevent a Palestinian state" in Gaza and the West Bank.
Netanyahu's remarks, first reported by the Israeli public broadcaster Kan, fly in the face of the Biden administration's continued push for a two-state solution as the "only way to guarantee the long-term security of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people."
"To make sure Israelis and Palestinians alike live in equal measure of freedom and dignity, we will not give up on working towards that goal," U.S. President Joe Biden, who has offered unconditional political and military support to Israel during its latest assault on Gaza, wrote in a social media post late Monday.
Analysts have long argued that one democratic state, not two states, is the only viable alternative to the apartheid status quo, given factors such as ever-expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Throughout his career, Netanyahu has vociferously opposed a peaceful resolution and worked to divide Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by propping up Hamas.
"Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas," Netanyahu told his colleagues in 2019. "This is part of our strategy—to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank."
In his latest comments to Likud backbenchers, Netanyahu reportedly said he's "the only one who can withstand U.S. pressure" and that he knows "how to manage American public opinion," even as American public support for Israel's assault on Gaza falls.
The Times of Israel reported Monday that Netanyahu "boasted about having gone against" U.S. wishes by launching a ground invasion of Gaza and raiding the Palestinian territory's largest hospital on the pretense that Hamas was hiding a command center on the facility's grounds—a claim that has not been substantiated.
Netanyahu, facing mounting domestic pressure to resign, has also indicated that Israel plans to occupy the Gaza Strip for an "indefinite period" after the current war, defying Biden's warning against a prolonged occupation.
"Look Joe Biden: Netanyahu is spitting in your face," Yonah Lieberman, co-founder of the Jewish-American advocacy group IfNotNow, wrote on social media Monday. "He doesn't take you seriously. Are you going to keep hugging him in public or are you going to finally end the blank check and hold him accountable for his words and actions?"
Look @JoeBiden: Netanyahu is spitting in your face. He doesn’t take you seriously. Are you going to keep hugging him in public or are you going to finally end the blank check and hold him accountable for his words and actions? https://t.co/GJ7dSyKz8o
— Yonah Lieberman (@YonahLieberman) November 28, 2023
The Financial Times reported Tuesday that Biden and other top U.S. officials have implored Israel not to trigger mass internal displacement in its planned offensive in southern Gaza, where many people have fled to escape Israeli bombing in the north. Israel's assault has displaced around 70% of Gaza's population so far.
Israeli officials have not provided any public indication that their bombing campaign will be less destructive following the end of the pause.
"The enemy will meet first the bombs of the Air Force, and after that the shells of the tanks and the artillery and the scoops of the D9 [bulldozers], and finally gunfire of the infantry troops," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday. "We will fight in the entire strip."
Palestinians inspecting the destruction wreaked by the Israeli military have been dismayed to find Gaza’s main public library in ruins following at least seven weeks of bombing.
A temporary truce came into effect on 24 November, with the cessation of bombing allowing Palestinians to see loved ones, attempt to find food and return to their homes to check up on the damage.
Authorities in Gaza announced on Monday that the pause in fighting has revealed that Gaza City’s main public library was among the many civilian buildings destroyed during the war.
Officials have decried the bombing of the building as a “deliberate attempt to destroy historical documents and books”.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday told United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Israel must be held accountable in international courts for what he called war crimes it committed in Gaza, the Turkish presidency said. ...
In a phone call ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Gaza planned for Wednesday, Erdogan and Guterres discussed the "expectations of the international community regarding Israel's unlawful attacks", access of humanitarian aid into the enclave, and efforts for a lasting peace, the Turkish presidency said.
"During the call, President Erdogan said Israel continues to shamelessly trample on international law, the laws of war, and international humanitarian law by looking in the eyes of the international community, and it must be held accountable for the crimes it committed in front of international law," it said in a statement.
Israeli restrictions on fuel supplies to Gaza are hampering aid deliveries and humanitarian access required under an UN resolution, an EU commissioner, Janez Lenarcic, said Tuesday. Lenarcic - who is in charge of crisis management - was speaking as the EU countries and aid organisations scrambled to provide relief to Gaza's population of 2.3 million under a truce agreed by Israel and Hamas.
"We are calling for the increase of fuel supplies to the (Gaza) strip," Lenarcic told journalists in Brussels. "The humanitarian access should be based on the needs and not on some restrictions," he said. ...
Lenarcic said aid deliveries to Gaza were encountering two bottlenecks. One is that trucks needing to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt - the only entry not giving onto Israeli territory - had to undergo screening at a point 90 minutes' drive away. The other is that Israel is allowing only restricted amounts of fuel to go into Gaza which are "still not sufficient for the needs" of the territory.
The EU commissioner said Brussels is calling for increased truck screening capacity, and for more fuel to be allowed in. The fuel, he noted, was essential for humanitarian operations, hospitals, water stations, desalination plants, water pumps and bakeries. "The quantities that are for the moment entering daily are not enough for all this," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday dismissed growing calls to condition military aid to Israel, calling them “ridiculous,” as Israel has been killing civilians at a historic pace in Gaza.
“Our relationship with Israel is the closest national security relationship of any country in the world. And to condition, in effect, our assistance to Israel on their meeting our standards, it seems to me is totally unnecessary,” McConnell said, according to The Hill.
While the majority of Congress staunchly backs Israel and wouldn’t want to place limits on US military support, there have been growing calls from some Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to put conditions on US aid.
“The United States must make clear that while we are friends of Israel, there are conditions to that friendship and that we cannot be complicit in actions that violate international law and our own sense of decency,” Sanders wrote in The New York Times last week.
At a vigil held in his honor Monday at Brown University, Hisham Awartani, one of three students of Palestinian descent shot this past Saturday in Burlington, Vermont, issued a statement, read out by a professor, placing the hate-fueled attack against him and his fellow students within the context of the global struggle for democratic rights. ...
In his statement, which was read aloud by Beshara Doumani, the Mahmoud Darwish professor of Palestinian studies at Brown, Awartani said: “It’s important to recognize that this is part of the larger story. This hideous crime did not happen in a vacuum. As much as I appreciate and love every single one of you here today, I am but one casualty in this much wider conflict.”
He continued, “Had I been shot in the West Bank, where I grew up, the medical services that saved my life here would likely have been withheld by the Israeli army. The soldier who shot me would go home and never be convicted. I understand that the pain is so much more real and immediate because many of you know me, but any attack like this is horrific, be it here or in Palestine.
“This is why when you say your wishes and light your candles today, your mind should not just be focused on me as an individual, but rather as a proud member of a people being oppressed.”
Since 7 November, Stuart Seldowitz has been harassing workers at his local halal cart on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, according to reports. The police, who initially did nothing about Seldowitz’s harassment, finally arrested him on 22 November; he has been charged with aggravated harassment and several counts of stalking. Harassment of any sort is unacceptable, but Seldowitz’s behavior is particularly vulgar and disgusting. And it’s racist to the core. ...
The takeaway of Seldowitz’s hateful behavior is not that he reveals himself to be a bigot. That fact is painfully obvious. It’s also not that his racism is on display at a moment when Islamophobia and antisemitism are on the rise globally, though the racism expressed by Seldowitz in these videos does show how vigilant we must be in defeating such prejudice today. The real takeaway of Seldowitz’s hectoring and vile behavior lies with his former career.
Stuart Seldowitz, it turns out, is a former diplomat with the US government. A former state department employee and national security council official, Seldowitz worked under five different administrations, according to this press release by his (now former) employer, Gotham Government Relations. From 1999 to 2003, he worked in the state department’s office of Israel and Palestinian affairs, and during the Obama administration he was acting director for the national security council south Asia directorate. He is also said to be a three-time winner of the state department’s “superior honor award”.
What does it say about the US government and its foreign policy that a three-time winner of a “superior honor award” and a man who worked on the Israel-Palestine issue can harass and harangue a simple food cart vendor because of the vendor’s religion and ethnicity? ... When people harbor such racist and Islamophobic views, and also act on those views, and have already been rewarded, multiple times over, with positions of influence and accolades for their leadership in multiple administrations, you really have to wonder who is running our government. Why should such people, ideologues with clearly demonstrated bias, be instrumental in setting the foreign policy agenda of the US in the first place?
No wonder American foreign policy can count so many failures over the decades, from the disastrous invasion of Iraq to the present carnage in Gaza. A recent poll by Reuters found that almost 70% of Americans agreed with the statement “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate”. Meanwhile, the US government, from the White House on down, meets the idea of a ceasefire, of preserving life, with heartless and imperial contempt for the will of its own people, let alone the children of Gaza. In fact, what we are watching in these videos is not merely the problem, as significant as it is, that racists and Islamophobes were (or are) employed in the American foreign policy establishment. What we are really seeing, in microcosm, is a walking and talking version of unmasked American foreign policy.
The Colorado officer who stopped Elijah McClain in 2019 and placed him in a neck hold was reinstated to the Aurora police department and will receive $200,000 in back pay, city officials said on Monday.
Nathan Woodyard’s “reintegration” into the police force comes weeks after a jury found him not guilty of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Woodyard had been suspended without pay for two years since he was indicted for his role in the death of the 23-year-old. An Aurora spokesperson said city law mandated that the department offer him his job back after his acquittal in the criminal trial, and that he would receive $212,546 to cover the salary from his leave.
The killing of McClain, who became unconscious as he was held down by multiple officers and then was injected with a dangerously high dose of ketamine, sparked national outrage and years of protests. McClain was a massage therapist and animal lover who had taught himself to play violin.
Woodyard, one of three officers who have faced prosecution, is returning to his job despite playing a pivotal role in the initial stop of McClain and using force tactics that the local coroner’s office has ruled contributed to his death.
“[Woodyard] has elected to reintegrate with the APD and is currently on Restricted Duty (not in uniform, no public contact, and no enforcement actions) pending next steps in the reintegration process,” a city spokesperson, Ryan Luby, said in an email, adding that Aurora’s city charter dictates that officers who face felony charges must be immediately suspended without pay until the case is resolved, and reinstated if they are acquitted.
A national conservation group sued the Biden administration on Tuesday for failing to respond to a public records request pertaining to the Interior Department's dismissal of a petition that called for a phaseout of oil and gas extraction on federal lands and waters.
Submitted last year, the petition from more than 360 environmental and Indigenous organizations called on the Interior Department to initiate a rulemaking process aimed at reducing oil and gas production on public lands and waters by 98% by 2035.
The department rejected the petition earlier this year, claiming that it "has a robust rulemaking agenda already underway to address the climate crisis and implement reforms to our conventional energy programs" and doesn't have adequate resources to "undertake the proposed rulemaking at this time."
CBD is now taking legal action against the Interior Department again, this time for violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
In July, CBD requested that the Interior Department turn over records related to the agency's deliberations about the fossil fuel phaseout petition and its response.
"At the time of the filing of this complaint, over 130 days have passed since the Center submitted its FOIA request to Interior. To date, however, Interior has not provided any requested records," the new lawsuit states. "Accordingly, the Center challenges Interior's FOIA violations resulting from its failure to respond to the Center's request and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to require Interior to promptly search for and produce all responsive records without further delay."
Taylor McKinnon, CBD's southwest director, said in a statement that the lawsuit "will shed light on the Biden administration's dumbfounding refusal to align our country's federal fossil fuel programs with its own climate goals."
"All-time high federal oil production is causing our planet's life support systems to shut down under the stresses of the climate emergency," said McKinnon. "The administration needs to explain its failure to take bold, urgent action but instead it's hiding public records."
Under Biden's leadership, U.S. crude oil production is on pace to surge to a record 12.9 million barrels this year. During his first two years in office, the Biden administration approved more than 6,400 permits for oil and gas drilling, exceeding the number of approvals during former President Donald Trump's first two years.
According to a CBD analysis released Monday, drilling projects that the Biden administration has approved could "erase" emissions-reduction progress from the Inflation Reduction Act, the president's signature legislative achievement.
"The Biden administration is canceling out its own climate progress by greenlighting major oil and gas projects," said Shaye Wolf, CBD's climate science director.
UAE Oil CEO Sultan Al Jaber Uses His Role as U.N. Climate Summit President to Push Fossil Fuel Deals
A new investigation by human rights experts appointed by the United Nations has expressed alarm at evidence of pollution from a North Carolina PFAS manufacturing plant, describing it as “alleged human rights violations and abuses against residents”. The ongoing PFAS crisis in North Carolina has been linked to a Fayetteville Works plant operated by Chemours, a chemical giant that was spun off from DuPont in 2015.
The United Nations human rights council has released publicly the allegation letters its experts sent to Chemours and four other parties alleged to play a role in the problem. The letters were signed by five UN special rapporteurs, who are independent experts appointed by the council, who said they were acting after information had come to their attention. The letter to Chemours cited extensive evidence that the plant has contaminated the air, soil, water and food supply in south-east North Carolina, and regulators have failed to rein in the pollution. It also charged “purposeful suppression and concealment” of the PFAS dangers by DuPont and Chemours.
“We are especially concerned about DuPont and Chemours’ apparent disregard for the wellbeing of community members, who have been denied access to clean and safe water for decades,” the UN experts wrote in a letter to Chemours. They asked for a response to their observations, which the letter explains are shared in cases or over policies which are considered “not to be fully compatible with international human rights standards”.
In a response to the allegations, Chemours said the UN letter was full of “mischaracterizations” and touted its recent efforts to reduce pollution levels.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Etta James - Something's Got A Hold On Me
Etta James - I've Been Lovin' You Too Long
Etta James - Tell Mama
Etta James – Down So Low
Etta James - Baby What You Want Me To Do
Etta James - I'll Take Care of You
Etta James – Mean Mother
Etta James – Leave Your Hat On
Etta James - I Sing the Blues