The Evening Blues - 12-6-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas country blues singer Andrew "Smokey" Hogg. Enjoy!
Andrew "Smokey" Hogg - Kind-Hearted Blues
"I personally do not believe it’s anti-semitic to criticize Israel’s murderous actions in Gaza. See I have this wild idea that murdering children is not an aspect of the Jewish faith, and that saying otherwise actually has a very ugly history in our society."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Heh, I thought I'd lead off with a different sort of awful news tonight.
Many of the gravest threats to humanity are drawing closer, as carbon pollution heats the planet to ever more dangerous levels, scientists have warned. Five important natural thresholds already risk being crossed, according to the Global Tipping Points report, and three more may be reached in the 2030s if the world heats 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial temperatures.
Triggering these planetary shifts will not cause temperatures to spiral out of control in the coming centuries but will unleash dangerous and sweeping damage to people and nature that cannot be undone.
“Tipping points in the Earth system pose threats of a magnitude never faced by humanity,” said Tim Lenton, from the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute. “They can trigger devastating domino effects, including the loss of whole ecosystems and capacity to grow staple crops, with societal impacts including mass displacement, political instability and financial collapse.”
The tipping points at risk include the collapse of big ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic, the widespread thawing of permafrost, the death of coral reefs in warm waters, and the collapse of atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic. Unlike other changes to the climate such as hotter heatwaves and heavier rainfall, these systems do not slowly shift in line with greenhouse gas emissions but can instead flip from one state to an entirely different one. When a climatic system tips – sometimes with a sudden shock – it may permanently alter the way the planet works.
Scientists warn that there are large uncertainties around when such systems will shift but the report found that three more may soon join the list. These include mangroves and seagrass meadows, which are expected to die off in some regions if the temperatures rise between 1.5C and 2C, and boreal forests, which may tip as early as 1.4C of heating or as late as 5C.
— James Elder (@1james_elder) December 3, 2023
The UN’s top aid official has said the Israeli military campaign in southern Gaza has been just as devastating as in the north, creating “apocalyptic” conditions and ending any possibility of meaningful humanitarian operations.
Martin Griffiths, the UN emergency relief coordinator, said he was speaking on behalf of the entire international aid community in saying the continuing offensive had robbed aid workers of any significant means of helping the 2.3 million people of Gaza, other than to call for an immediate end to the fighting.
His comments came as the Israeli military said it had stormed southern Gaza’s main city in the most intense day of fighting so far, and hospitals struggled to cope with scores of dead and wounded Palestinians.
“What we’re saying today is: that’s enough now. It has to stop,” Griffiths said in an interview with the Guardian, adding that the small amount of aid being allowed into Gaza could no longer be distributed, since the Israeli ground offensive had spread to southern Gaza and the city of Khan Younis, bringing the humanitarian operation effectively to an end.
“It isn’t really a statistically significant operation any more,” said Griffiths, who is also UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs. “It’s a bit of a patch on a wound and it doesn’t do the job, and it would be an illusion for the world to think that the people in Gaza can be helped by the humanitarian operation under these conditions. This is an apocalyptic situation now, because these are the remnants of a nation being driven into a pocket in the south.”
Israeli forces have reported the most intense day of fighting in Gaza since the ground attack began nearly six weeks ago, with offensives stepped up in northern and southern Gaza and reports of a rise in civilian deaths. Amid heavy combat in key urban areas, including around Khan Younis, Hamas said there would be no further return of hostages until Israel’s “aggression against Gaza stopped”.
The UN said “some of the heaviest shelling in Gaza so far” took place between Sunday and Monday afternoons. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 349 Palestinians had been killed and 750 injured in that period. ...
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Tuesday they had mounted an attack into the “heart” of Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, and that paratroopers and navy commandos had raided the Hamas general security headquarters there. Heavy fighting was also reported in Shujai’iya, another Hamas stronghold in the north. The IDF spokesperson Lt Col Richard Hecht said the fighting in the north had been “close-quarter and face-to-face” amid building-to-building combat.
At the same time, the bombing of Gaza’s second city, Khan Younis, in the south of the coastal strip, intensified before an expected ground incursion. Israeli tanks were reported to be at the entrance to the city. Armoured vehicles were reported to have taken up positions on the southern section of the main north-south highway running through Gaza and to be firing on Palestinians trying to move through the area in cars or on foot.
“We are in the heart of Jabaliya, in the heart of Shujai’iya, and now also in the heart of Khan Younis,” the commander of the IDF southern command, Maj Gen Yaron Finkelman, said. “We are in the most intense day since the beginning of the ground operation – in terms of terrorists killed, the number of firefights and the use of firepower from the land and air. We intend to continue to strike and secure our accomplishments.”
Biden referred to Israel’s initial bombing attack, prior to its ground invasion, as “indiscriminate,” and that was a phrase his people didn’t walk back. It’s always difficult to know whether to read more into Biden’s words since he so frequently doesn’t seem to know what he’s saying, but the comments from not only the President but others in the administration show that they are feeling the domestic pressure from their constituents and the international pressure from their allies to try to restrain Israel from such massive civilian casualties as it has created since October 7.
But what does any of this mean on the ground now that Israel has started up its military operation again? This is not clear. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told a television news program that the U.S. fully supported Israel resuming its operations but that it must do so only “after civilians have been accounted for, have the opportunity to be in safety, have access to humanitarian assistance and to be out of the way of any military operation that is conducted.” But what can that possibly mean in southern Gaza? Some 80% of Gaza’s residents have fled to the south, packing the residents of what was already one of the most densely overpopulated places in the world into half of the Gaza Strip.
In addition, there is a massive humanitarian crisis that the meager amount of aid that has been allowed barely begins to address. As the World Health Organization has noted, “[There are] no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to safe water and hygiene and no food.” These shortages will become more acute as Israel pursues its next phase. The people who die as a result of these factors will not be included in the war dead by most official counts. How can civilians possibly be safe even in an alternative reality where Israel was trying to avoid civilian casualties?
The answer, of course, is that they cannot be. But the Biden administration wants to create the illusion that they are doing something to limit the number of civilian casualties. ...
Biden’s Special Envoy for Middle Eastern Humanitarian Affairs David Satterfield introduced what he called a new “deconfliction mechanism” for Gaza last week. This, he says, is a new system to make sure that Israel knows where humanitarian aid workers are so they will not continue to be killed at the highest rate of any conflict in the United Nations’ history. This is addressing a problem that doesn’t exist. UN and other relief organizations have been coordinating with Israel for decades about their activities in Gaza and where they are working. Israel has not been attacking UN sites, hospitals, schools, mosques, and humanitarian aid facilities and vehicles by mistake. Instead, they have argued that Hamas and other militant groups are using them as cover and they are therefore fair game.
But this “deconfliction mechanism” allows the Biden administration to claim it is working to protect innocent lives in Gaza while it continues its support of Israeli actions. The duplicity of this move is evidenced by the fact that Biden continues to refrain from criticizing Israel’s deliberate targeting of Gaza’s medical and humanitarian infrastructure. If that’s not a red line, then the “deconfliction mechanism,” an already redundant idea, is utterly meaningless. It can’t be stressed enough that what we have in the south of Gaza now is an intense concentration of people so densely packed in that it would be impossible to launch even the most careful military operation without enormous civilian casualties. There simply is no room to create the sort of “safe zone” the U.S. is claiming Israel will magically conjure.
The head of Israel's domestic security agency Shin Bet has vowed to hunt down members Hamas in Lebanon, Turkey, and Qatar, according to a leaked recording.
Israel's public broadcaster Kan aired the audio on Sunday, where Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar can be heard saying: "The cabinet has set us a goal, in street talk, to eliminate Hamas.
"We will do this everywhere, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar. It will take a few years but we will be there to do it."
It was unclear when Bar made the remarks, or to whom, while then agency itself declined to comment on the report.
A relative of newly-released Israeli captives has publicly accused the Israeli military of killing its own people and says Tel Aviv is blocking the victims’ families from speaking out. In testimony delivered to Israel’s finance committee on December 3, Noam Dan, whose cousin’s husband remains in Hamas custody and who suffered the loss of two other family members in the hostilities, told legislators the Israeli military has killed its own.
“We know for sure that three people were killed by our fire, three hostages,” she declared, while demanding to be informed of whether the families of captives “were given up on” by the Netanyahu administration.
Dan’s comments appear to confirm a statement delivered from captivity in Gaza by the 34-year-old Israeli citizen Yarden Bibas. Addressing Netanyahu, the abductee stated that the Israeli military had killed his wife and two children in an airstrike, and pleaded for the prime minister to negotiate for the release of their bodies: “Bibi, you destroyed my family. You killed my wife and my children, everything in my life… I am begging you, please bring my wife and my children home.”
Freed Israeli captives have also delivered harrowing accounts of the massive Israeli bombings they endured. According to a Facebook post by Israeli television producer Hagai Levi, “From the reports of the returning abductees, it is repeated that the most horrifying captivity trauma they experienced was probably the IDF bombings. When they tell about them, they literally tremble in front of me. The terms are of hell, of the brink of death, of an earthquake, of noise from another planet (which also caused permanent hearing damage). The fear of being murdered by the captors was zero compared to the fear of dying in the bombing.”
In a previous appearance on Israel’s Channel 13, Dan told her interviewer that “we know for sure that not only did [Israeli civilians] hear bombings, but buildings collapsed on top of their inhabitants,” and that “hostages were injured” in the attacks. “The IDF damages the houses where they’re held,” she noted. And it’s not just Israeli bombs which are jeopardizing the safety of the captive Israelis. According to Dan, “our sanctions on Gaza endanger the health of the hostages,” because “if Gaza doesn’t have flour, they don’t have flour… It’s one to one.”
The “authorities” are not telling us the person’s name or anything about them, but someone immolated themselves with a Palestinian flag outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta on Friday afternoon.
What we do know is that the Israeli government is finding new levels of deprivation daily. On this matter, they put out a statement: “It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way.” Brannon Ingram wrote: “How self-centered can you possibly be? Self immolation is never an act of ‘hate.’ It’s the opposite. It’s a desperate plea for humanity.”
A security guard was also burned.
The Twitter account of the government that is slaughtering thousands of Palestinian children, women, and men on a daily basis added: “The sanctity of life is our highest value.”
Meanwhile the Atlanta police chief said: “We believe this building remains safe, and we do not see any threat here.” Thank goodness the building is safe, unlike every building in Gaza. Maggi Carter wrote: “never mind the desperation of a situation inspiring self-immolation.”
The United Nations has heard accounts of sexual violence during the 7 October attacks by Hamas, in a meeting where speakers also attacked women’s rights activists and UN officials for not doing more to investigate or condemn these crimes. Israeli officials and frontline workers, senior US politicians and activists from both countries spoke at the meeting on Monday, organised in part by former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg. She told those gathered that “silence is complicity”.
Hamas denies that its fighters carried out sexual violence; Sandberg asked if the world should believe them, or “the women whose bodies tell us how they spent the last minutes of their lives” and called for a “full and fair investigation” from the UN. ...
US president Joe Biden denounced the alleged sexual violence, calling on the world to condemn such conduct “without equivocation” and “without exception”.
“Reports of women raped – repeatedly raped – and their bodies being mutilated while still alive – of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them,” Biden said at a campaign fundraiser in Boston. “It is appalling.”
In a statement on its Telegram channel, Hamas denounced Biden’s statements as false accusations and said he was joining Israel’s effort to cover up war crimes in Gaza committed with US support.
In a rare punitive move against Israel, the US has announced it will impose travel bans on extremist Jewish settlers implicated in recent attacks on Palestinians in theWest Bank.
The secretary of state, Antony Blinken, announced the decision on Tuesday after warning Israel last week that Joe Biden’s administration would be taking action over the attacks. Blinken did not announce individual visa bans, but officials said those would be coming this week and could affect dozens of settlers and their families. “We have underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank,” Blinken said in a statement. “As President Biden has repeatedly said, those attacks are unacceptable.”
“Today, the state department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities,” Blinken said. He said the US would continue to seek accountability for settler violence against Palestinians as well as Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Israel, particularly as tensions are extremely high due to the conflict in Gaza. ...
Some analysts described it as a positive step. Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, tweeted: “Finally, settler vigilantes will pay a price for their violent efforts to uproot West Bank Palestinians. I hope their Israeli government sponsors will not be allowed to fly either.”
But Aaron David Miller, a former state department analyst, negotiator and adviser on Middle East issues, expressed doubt that the decision would fundamentally alter the situation. “It’s necessary but not sufficient,” he said. “It’s a welcome demonstration the administration takes seriously the reality of settler vigilantism. But as a practical matter it’s not going to change many hearts or minds.” Miller added: “I wouldn’t call it virtue signalling but in some respects it’s similar to the administration’s ban in the wake of [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi’s murder by the Saudi regime. There were visa restrictions imposed on a number of Saudis as well.”
As Israel continued to wage what critics are calling a genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, just 13 U.S. House Democrats and one Republican on Tuesday voted against a GOP resolution that conflates anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
House Resolution 894 passed with support from 95 Democrats and 216 Republicans, including its sponsors, Reps. David Kustoff (Tenn.) and Max Miller (Ohio), who are both Jewish. Almost as many Democrats—92—voted present.
The resolution, which embraces the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's controversial working definition of antisemitism, was widely condemned by progressive and Jewish groups this week ahead of the vote.
Republican Congressman Thomas Massie (Ky.) joined the 13 Democrats who opposed H.Res. 894: Reps. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Jesús "Chuy" García (Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Summer Lee (Pa.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Delia Ramirez (Ill.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).
US supreme court justices appeared hesitant to overturn a tax targeting owners of foreign corporations in a case that has sparked controversy over a call for Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself, and which could undermine efforts to impose a wealth tax on the very rich.
The justices heard arguments in an appeal by Charles and Kathleen Moore – a retired couple from Redmond, Washington – of a lower court’s decision rejecting their challenge to the tax on foreign company earnings, even though those profits had not been distributed. The one-time “mandatory repatriation tax” (MRT), which applied to taxpayers owning at least 10% of certain foreign corporations, was part of a 2017 Republican-backed tax bill signed into law by then president Donald Trump.
At issue in the case is whether this tax on unrealized gains is allowed under the US constitution’s 16th amendment, which enabled Congress to “collect taxes on incomes”. The Moores, backed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other conservative and business groups, say that “income” means only those gains that are realized through payment to the taxpayer, not a mere increase in the value of property.
Some of the questions posed by the justices appeared aimed at potentially upholding the tax by attributing the income earned by the company to its shareholders, but also probing the limits of the government’s broad taxing power. “Even assuming or leaving it open whether realization is a constitutional requirement, there was realized income here to the entity that is attributed to the shareholders in a manner consistent with how Congress has done that and this court has allowed,” the conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh told the US solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, defending the tax for Joe Biden’s administration.
Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels reached record levels again in 2023, as experts warned that the projected rate of warming had not improved over the past two years. The world is on track to have burned more coal, oil and gas in 2023 than it did in 2022, according to a report by the Global Carbon Project, pumping 1.1% more planet-heating carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a time when emissions must plummet to stop extreme weather from growing more violent.
The finding comes as world leaders meet in Dubai for the fraught Cop28 climate summit. In a separate report published on Tuesday, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) raised its projections slightly for future warming above the estimates it made at a conference in Glasgow two years ago.
“Two years after Glasgow, our report is virtually the same,” said Claire Stockwell, an analyst at Climate Analytics and lead author of the CAT report. “You would think the extreme events around the world would be sparking action but governments appear oblivious, somehow thinking treading water will deal with the flood of impacts.”
As carbon clogs the atmosphere, trapping sunlight and baking the planet, the climate is growing more hostile to human life. The growth in CO2 emissions had slowed substantially over the past decade, the Global Carbon Project found, but the amount emitted each year had continued to rise. It projected that total CO2 emissions in 2023 would reach a record high of 40.9 gigatons. If the world continued to emit CO2 at that rate, the international team of more than 120 scientists found, it would burn through the remaining carbon budget for a half-chance of keeping global heating to 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial temperatures in just seven years. In 15 years, the scientists estimated, the budget for 1.7C would be gone too.
The researchers reported big regional differences in emissions. They expected fossil fuel emissions to have risen this year in India and China, the biggest and third-biggest polluters, and to have fallen in the US and the EU, the two biggest historical polluters. The average of the rest of the world’s emissions was expected to have fallen slightly too. Emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes were also projected to have fallen slightly, though not by enough for current levels of tree-planting to make up for it, the researchers found.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Smokey Hogg – I Want My Baby (But My Baby Don't Want Me)
Smokey Hogg - I Want A Roller
Smokey Hogg w/ Frankie Lee Sims - Hard Times
Smokey Hogg – When The Sun Goes Down
Smokey Hogg - Be My So and So
Smokey Hogg - Jivin' Little Woman
Smokey Hogg - She's Always On My Mind
Smokey Hogg – Good Mornin' Little School Girl
Smokey Hogg – Highway 51