The Evening Blues - 11-15-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and gospel singer and guitarist Robert Wilkins. Enjoy!
Rev. Robert Wilkins - In Heaven, Sitting Down
"To sate the lust of power; more horrid still,
The foulest stain and scandal of our nature
Became its boast — One Murder made a Villain,
Millions a Hero. — Princes were privileg’d
To kill, and numbers sanctified the crime."
-- Beilby Porteus
News and Opinion
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has been repeatedly refusing to tell the press whether he believes Israel has been following the laws of war in Gaza.
Here’s a transcript from an exchange with The Hill’s Niall Stanage at a White House press conference on Tuesday:
Stanage: You said today, as you’ve said a number of times, about the importance of the laws of war being upheld. Israel has killed around 11,000 Palestinians. Around two thirds of those are women and children. The situation in the hospitals is dire. Israel has dropped an astronomical amount of ordnance in very built-up areas. Is Israel, in your view, abiding by the laws of war? And if it is, how do you come to that conclusion?
Sullivan: Well, as I said yesterday, I — Jake Sullivan, standing here — am not in a position to be judge and jury to make that determination. It’s a legal determination. What I can do is state for you the clear policy of the Biden administration, which we have been unequivocal about from the beginning of this conflict. And that is that even though Hamas is using civilians as human shields, is burrowing into civilian areas with its rocket emplacements that they are continuing to launch every single day at civilian areas in Israel, that puts an added burden on the IDF but it does not lessen their responsibility to act in ways that separate terrorists from civilians and does everything in their power to protect civilian lives.
Stanage: But the —
Sullivan: That is — that was the case. That remains the case today. That is the message that we’ve said publicly and we communicate to our Israeli counterparts privately —
Stanage: But —
Sullivan: — and we do that on a daily basis.
Stanage: I’m just trying to be clear, though. The administration’s view is that the IDF is doing that?
Sullivan: What I’ve told you is that I am not in a position to give you a legal determination to your question. I am not in a position to do that. What I’m in a position to do is to state the U.S. government position on how Israeli operations should be conducted. And that is what I have done. That is what I continue to do. That is what I can do from this podium.
Sullivan performed the same evasive dance routine during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, telling host Dana Bash “I’m not going to sit here and play judge or jury on that question” when asked if Israel is operating according to the rules of war.
It was funny because Bash’s question arose from Sullivan’s own assertion that Israel has a “responsibility to operate according to the rules of war”; Sullivan asserted that this was Israel’s responsibility on his own, but then immediately refused to say whether or not that was actually happening.
Of course, Sullivan has only been performing these freak show contortions with regard to questions about the criminality of governments which align themselves with the interests of Washington; he’s been directly and repeatedly accusing Russia of war crimes in Ukraine without the slightest bit of hesitation from the early days of the conflict.
You see this glaring inconsistency over and over again in US foreign policy, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office or which party is in control. The criminality of US allies gets ignored, downplayed and frantically obfuscated, while the criminality of US enemies gets spotlighted, exaggerated, and pushed to the forefront of international attention.
We’re seeing this inconsistency illustrated today by Hillary Clinton, who just published a think piece with The Atlantic war propaganda outlet forcefully defending Israel’s mass atrocities in Gaza, after spending the last two years tweeting things like “If Russian leadership would rather not be accused of committing war crimes, they should stop bombing hospitals.”
— Will Menaker (@willmenaker) November 14, 2023
Speaking of former US secretaries of state, it’s probably worth mentioning here that a leaked 2017 State Department memo addressed to then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson explained that this inconsistency regarding the criminality of US allies vs US enemies is actually a standing policy within the inner workings of the US government.
The leaked memo from the early days of the Trump administration showed neoconservative empire manager Brian Hook teaching the political neophyte Tillerson that for the US government, “human rights” are only a weapon to be used for keeping other nations in line. In a remarkable insight into the cynical nature of imperial narrative management, Hook told Tillerson that it is US policy to overlook human rights abuses committed by nations aligned with US interests while exploiting and weaponizing them against nations who aren’t.
“In the case of US allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines, the Administration is fully justified in emphasizing good relations for a variety of important reasons, including counter-terrorism, and in honestly facing up to the difficult tradeoffs with regard to human rights,” Hook explained in the memo.
“One useful guideline for a realistic and successful foreign policy is that allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries,” Hook wrote. “We do not look to bolster America’s adversaries overseas; we look to pressure, compete with, and outmaneuver them. For this reason, we should consider human rights as an important issue in regard to US relations with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. And this is not only because of moral concern for practices inside those countries. It is also because pressing those regimes on human rights is one way to impose costs, apply counter-pressure, and regain the initiative from them strategically.”
A lot from this war will stick with me for a long time, but few moments encapsulate so much as Kirby's fake-crying performance over Ukrainians vs. his shrug that, sorry, but innocent people are gonna die in Gaza, get over it.pic.twitter.com/KEGcgyvcFX
— Branko Marcetic (@BMarchetich) October 27, 2023
So if it sometimes seems as though the US has no actual morals or values regarding human rights, it’s because that is precisely the case. You see things like White House spokesman John Kirby crying about civilians dying in Ukraine yet shrugging indifferently at civilians dying in Gaza because his tears are cynical weapons used to advance US interests on the world stage, not a normal empathetic response to human suffering.
The US empire stands for nothing, believes in nothing, and values nothing apart from its own power. Those who understand and align with this reality find themselves elevated to the highest echelons of power within the US empire, while those with normal human empathy centers in their brains find nothing but locked doors past a certain point in government.
The US empire is a psychopathic killer wearing a plastic smiling mask of compassion and humanitarianism. But if you look closely it’s not hard to catch a glimpse of the snarling, blood-spattered face underneath.
The Biden administration is increasingly seeking ways to restrain the Israeli military in an effort to slow the civilian toll and limit the risk of a wider conflict, while it faces a rising level of internal dissent over its Middle East policy. In a letter presented to Biden and his cabinet on Tuesday, more than 500 political appointees and staff members from about 40 agencies across the administration criticised the extent of the president’s support for Israel in its war in Gaza.
The letter denounced the Hamas killing of 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, on 7 October, but called on Biden to rein in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, in which the death toll is now above 11,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
“We call on President Biden to urgently demand a cease-fire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of the Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of water, fuel, electricity and other basic services; and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” the letter said, according to New York Times.
“It’s been an open secret for weeks that significant dissent and frustration has permeated across the US government – driven by heightening concern around the scale of Israel’s military response in Gaza,” Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. “The trigger for much of the internal dissent was Biden’s public comments – initially his zero-sum approach to the issue and then his misinformed scepticism of casualty figures in Gaza.” ...
US officials say the administration’s call for restraint, and emphasis on the need to limit the civilian death toll, has been conveyed repeatedly to Israel, and the Pentagon has been giving the Israel Defense Forces advice on how to target Hamas in Gaza while minimising “collateral damage”.
The Israeli army has failed to find tunnels or weapons stockpiled in Rantisi hospital. Instead, it has turned up a pack of diapers and a calendar listing the days of the week. The presentation has become a laughingstock, except among the cretinous and narrowing base of support… https://t.co/R5mAeEO5ra
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 14, 2023
Palestinians trapped inside Gaza’s biggest hospital are digging mass graves, with no means of keeping corpses from decomposing due to Israel’s siege, an official there says.
“We are planning to bury them today in a mass grave inside al-Shifa medical complex,” said a health ministry spokesperson, Ashraf al-Qidra. “The men are digging right now as we speak.”
With Israeli forces at the gates of the complex, and fighting raging with Hamas militants in the streets of Gaza City, patients have been dying owing to energy shortages and dwindling supplies. Some of the hospital’s buildings have been bombed.
The Biden administration said on Tuesday that US intelligence supported Israel claims that Hamas was using al-Shifa as a military command centre and probably as a weapons store too.
“We have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for a command and control mode” the White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One. “That is a war crime.” But Kirby added that the actions of Hamas did not diminish Israel’s responsibility to protect civilians in the course of its military operations.
Knesset members say there's a moral imperative for western nations to assist them in stealing Palestinian land.
Two members of the Israeli Knesset wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal arguing for Western countries to take in refugees from Gaza as Israeli officials continue to call for Palestinians to be pushed out of the enclave.
The op-ed was written by Danny Danon, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, and Ram Ben-Barak, a member of the opposition party Yesh Atid, which is led by former Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
“One idea is for countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate,” the lawmakers wrote. They listed examples of conflicts where Europe and the US accepted refugees, including the wars in former Yugoslavia and Syria.
“Looking to these examples, countries around the world should offer a haven for Gaza residents who seek relocation,” they wrote. Danon and Ben-Barak concluded the op-ed by saying the “international community” has a “moral imperative” to accept refugees from Gaza as Israel’s war has killed over 11,000 Palestinians, including over 4,500 children, and has internally displaced about 1.5 million people out of Gaza’s approximately 2.3 million residents.
Several Western countries have appealed to Israel in recent days, asking it to allow them to bring humanitarian relief into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza, in order to streamline and expedite the arrival of the aid to the Palestinian population concentrated in the southern part of the Hamas-controlled enclave.
Israel opposes the idea, having announced the complete closure of all crossings into the Strip immediately after the outbreak of the war. Despite the pressure applied by the Western countries, Israeli sources say that Jerusalem objects because it wants to renounce any responsibility for civilian matters in the Gaza Strip.
The humanitarian aid currently entering the Gaza Strip comes entirely through the Rafah Crossing on the border between Gaza and Egypt, but prior to that it undergoes a security check in Israel, most of which takes place at the Nitzana Crossing on the Israeli-Egyptian border.
The winter rains have finally arrived in Gaza, bringing new challenges for the besieged exclave’s 2.3 million people who have already suffered through six weeks of war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
After a warm and dry autumn, a Mediterranean thunderstorm broke across the 25-mile by 7-mile (41km x 12km) strip early on Tuesday morning. The rain washed away the grey rubble dust from airstrikes that clings to buildings in every neighbourhood, and dispersed the smoke and fire from the most recent overnight bombings. Water consumption in Gaza has fallen by 90% since the conflict started, according to the latest data from the UN, and many families rushed outside to enjoy the respite from the unseasonable humidity.
Initial relief at the rainfall quickly dissipated, however, as children began to shiver in wet clothes, while makeshift accommodation flooded and churned-up roads and open land turned to mud.
Two-thirds of Gaza’s population are estimated to have fled their homes due to intense bombing by Israeli forces and a three-week-old ground invasion that has killed an estimated 11,200 people, according to the Hamas-run local health ministry.
YouTube, the video sharing and social media platform owned by Google parent Alphabet, Inc. has demonetized the channel of the antiwar news website MintPress News (MPN). The move blocks MPN from collecting revenue when viewers watch their content. ...
The censorship measures against MPN takes place against the backdrop of a systematic attack on the freedom of expression and amid a crackdown on protests and opposition to the genocide being carried by the Israeli government Gaza with the backing of US and European imperialism. ...
Through original investigative reports, podcasts and videos, MPN has exposed the lies told by the pro-US and pro-Israel corporate media about the siege of Gaza and ethnic cleansing operation of the Netanyahu government and Zionist military that has been underway since October 7.
MacLeod said that the online news outlet has been prevented from generating advertising income from its videos on YouTube since earlier this fall.
Additionally, MPN reports that many of its YouTube videos have been designated as “age-restricted” with a warning that says, “The following content may contain graphic or violent imagery” and “Viewer discretion is advised.” These tactics are clearly aimed at limiting the number of viewers of the videos.
The House on Tuesday approved a novel plan to prevent a government shutdown, with the recently-installed Republican House speaker Mike Johnson relying on Democratic votes as the far-right flank of his caucus dissented.
By a vote of 336 to 95, a coalition of nearly every Democratic representative and more mainstream Republicans joined forces to advance the stopgap spending package that would fund government departments into early 2024, easily clearing the two-thirds threshold needed for passage under an expedited process. Ninety-three Republicans and two Democrats opposed the measure.
The vote comes as federal agencies began preparing for a possible shutdown that would halt paychecks to millions of federal workers, including members of the military, days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The bill next goes to the Senate, where majority leader Chuck Schumer has said his chamber will vote on the measure “as soon as possible”. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has also endorsed the two-tiered plan.
Johnson’s untested “laddered” approach would extend funding for federal agencies into the new year, with two different deadlines that give lawmakers more time to finish drafting their appropriations bills. ... The White House’s request for wartime aid to Ukraine and Israel is not part of the continuing resolution.
The climate crisis will have a catastrophic effect on the health and survival of billions of people unless the world acts to reduce global heating, according to a leading report that warns that heat-related deaths are soaring, dangerous bacteria are spreading along coasts, and economies are being hit as people struggle to work and food production shrinks.
The eighth annual report on health and climate change from the Lancet Countdown team shows that little account has been taken of past warnings. The world, it says, is “moving in the wrong direction”, and strongly criticises continuing investment in fossil fuels.
The report comes as Cop28 prepares to hold its first Health Day, focused on the links between the climate crisis and human health. ...
Even at the current 10-year mean heating of 1.14C above pre-industrial levels, there is a profound impact on the lives and health of people around the world. But, say the 114 experts from 52 research institutions and UN agencies, what we are seeing could just be early symptoms of the disaster to come.
“Our health stocktake reveals that the growing hazards of climate change are costing lives and livelihoods worldwide today. Projections of a 2C hotter world reveal a dangerous future, and are a grim reminder that the pace and scale of mitigation efforts seen so far have been woefully inadequate to safeguard people’s health and safety,” said Dr Marina Romanello, executive director of the Lancet Countdown at University College London.
The US is warming faster than the global average and its people are suffering “far-reaching and worsening” consequences from the climate crisis, with worse to come, according to an authoritative report issued by the US government. An array of “increasingly harmful impacts” is hitting every corner of the vast country, from extreme heat and sea level rise in Florida to depleted fish stocks and increased food insecurity in Alaska, the new National Climate Assessment has found.
While planet-heating US emissions have fallen since peaking in 2007, the reductions are still not enough to meet international targets to avert disastrous climate change, and without deeper cuts in carbon pollution “severe climate risks to the United States will continue to grow”, the report states.
“Even if greenhouse gas emissions fall substantially, the impacts of climate change will continue to intensify over the next decade,” the report finds, adding that choices made by the US and other countries will “determine the trajectory of climate change and associated impacts for many generations to come”.
The release of the fifth iteration of the Congressionally-mandated climate assessment, an exhaustive distillation of climate science compiled by more than 750 experts across the US federal government, follows a summer of vivid climate change-fueled events across the country that have included catastrophic, deadly fires in Hawaii, choking wildfire smoke along the US east coast and record-breaking heat in multiple states.
The report shows “more and more people are experiencing climate change right now, right outside their windows”, said Allison Crimmins, a climate scientist and director of the National Climate Assessment. Crimmins said that escalating dangers from wildfires, severe heat, flooding and other impacts mean that the US suffers a disaster costing at least $1bn in damages every three weeks now, on average, compared to once every four months in the 1980s.
“North America really is unique in the world in the lack of good public transit,” the author Jake Berman told me while discussing his new book, The Lost Subways of North America. The oversize, map-laden volume is a slickly designed deep dive into the mass transit stories of 23 major cities in the US and Canada. Packed with fascinating histories and tons of absorbing information – ever wonder why elevated trains went out of style, or why monorails just don’t work? – the book is a lively and compelling examination of how mass transit has succeeded and failed across the continent.
“European cities never decided to build the kind of copy-and-paste suburbs that we built in North America,” said Berman, explaining why transit has fared so much better across the Atlantic. “The other part of that is, American cities do not make particularly good use of the land near their transit systems. For instance, many stops on [the Bay Area’s Bay Area Rapid Transit] Bart is surrounded mostly by strip malls, or single-family homes or gigantic parking lots.”
While talking with Berman, the misuse of land around transit hubs was a recurrent topic, a common pitfall that undermined the design of subways, light rail and streetcars in many major cities. In one of multiple examples, Berman shared that Dallas’s many miles of light rail doesn’t necessary equal a valuable transit system. “It’s crazy to think that Dallas has about as many miles of rail as Barcelona,” he told me. “The difference is, there’s not a whole lot near Dallas’s rail stations, whereas in Barcelona there’s apartments, there’s stores, there’s businesses, there’s churches – basically everything that you need for daily life.” ...
If there are common factors in mass transit success, there is also at least one common factor in mass transit fails – bureaucracy, which often prevents the creation of transit routes, as well as the creation of the necessary amenities to make said routes thrive.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Robert Wilkins - The Prodigal Son
Rolling Stones - Prodigal Son
Robert Wilkins - Get Away Blues
Rev. Robert Wilkins - Don't Let Nobody Turn You 'Round
Robert Wilkins - I'll go with her blues
Robert Wilkins - Jailhouse Blues
Robert Wilkins - Alabama Blues
Robert Wilkins - Rollin' Stone, Pt. 1
Robert Wilkins - Rollin' Stone, Pt. 2
Robert Wilkins - That's No Way To Get Along