The Evening Blues - 2-12-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Enjoy!
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I'm Your Man
“Divide and rule, the politician cries;
Unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.”
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
News and Opinion
A debate about the power in Washington of the pro-Israel lobby is underway, after Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., responded sharply to reports that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was targeting both Omar and fellow Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan. Omar quoted rap lyrics — “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” — to suggest McCarthy’s move was driven by the lobby’s prolific spending. Asked specifically who she was referring to, Omar responded, “AIPAC!”
The debate over the influence of pro-Israel groups could be informed by an investigation by Al Jazeera, in which an undercover reporter infiltrated The Israel Project, a Washington-based group, and secretly recorded conversations about political strategy and influence over a six-month period in 2016. That investigation, however, was never aired by the network — suppressed by pressure from the pro-Israel lobby. In November, Electronic Intifada obtained and published the four-part series, but it did so during the week of the midterm elections, and the documentary did not get a lot of attention then.
David Ochs, founder of HaLev, which helps send young people to AIPAC’s annual conference, described for the reporter how AIPAC and its donors organize fundraisers outside the official umbrella of the organization, so that the money doesn’t show up on disclosures as coming specifically from AIPAC. He describes one group that organizes fundraisers in both Washington and New York. “This is the biggest ad hoc political group, definitely the wealthiest, in D.C.,” Ochs says, adding that it has no official name, but is clearly tied to AIPAC. “It’s the AIPAC group. It makes a difference, it really, really does. It’s the best bang for your buck and the networking is phenomenal.” (Ochs and AIPAC did not immediately return The Intercept’s requests for comment.)
he explains. He describes a fundraiser for Anthony Brown, a Democrat running for Congress in Maryland, as typical. “So we want the Jewish community to go face to face in this small environment, 50, 30, 40 people, and say this is what’s important to us. We want to make sure that if we give you money that you’re going to enforce the Iran deal. That way, when they need something from him or her, like the Iran deal, they can quickly mobilize and say look we’ll give you 30 grand. They actually impact,” Ochs tells the reporter.
Such a claim is not so different from what Omar was describing, and for which she was roundly condemned.
As Omar 'Unequivocally' Apologizes, Critics Rip Democratic Leaders for Trying to 'Silence Criticism' of AIPAC
Progressive critics on Monday condemned a statement by Democratic congressional leaders—including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—who demanded an apology from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) regarding statements she made about the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Among those critics was healthcare activist Ady Barkan, who said he was "deeply disappointed" in the Speaker's "failure" on the matter. "When AIPAC and its army try to silence criticism of the immoral, illegal, inhumane occupation by screaming about anti-Semitism and claiming that nobody may ever talk about how the Israel lobby, uses money to build power," Barkan declared, "don't fall for their bullshit."
Pelosi and Schumer know damn well that @IlhanMN was not engaged in anti-semitism and they intentionally conflate criticizing AIPAC with attacking Judaism and Jewish people. Omar hit a tripwire and the full force of the party was brought down on her.
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) February 11, 2019
And while Omar on Monday afternoon did "unequivocally" apologize for a pair of tweets Sunday night that some registered as containing "anti-Semitic tropes," she reaffirmed her belief that powerful lobbying interests—including AIPAC, the fossil fuel industry, and the NRA—remain "problematic" in U.S. politics. "Listening and learning," Omar declared in a tweet, "but standing strong."
Even while many Jewish Americans and other progressives defended Omar from an onslaught of attacks over her tweets—because, as one noted, "accurately describing how the Israel lobby works is not anti-Semitism"—the freshman congresswoman said in her Monday statement that "We always have to be willing to step back and think through criticism."
Worth a read:
Several recent events suggest that global warming is not the only thing threatening our future. As if they are running on parallel tracks, some of the modern institutions that help make for stable societies — the ones that hold back the rise of barbarism — are being weakened even as the atmosphere is heating up and the oceans swell. In pursuit of short-term state or personal interests, some national leaders are violating or ignoring international law and, by doing so, putting us all at long-term risk. ...
One of the most hopeful developments to follow the catastrophe that was World War II [...] was the extension and strengthening of international law. In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations, seeking to give such laws real force, called for the establishment of an international criminal court. That call triggered resistance because such a court would necessarily impinge on nation-state sovereignty. It took 54 years before the court was finally convened in order to enforce laws against the committing of war crimes and other evils, such as genocide. Still, there are some nations that refuse to recognize the court’s jurisdiction. Often these are the states most addicted to the barbaric behavior that came close to destroying a good part of the globe during the 20th century. ...
In the case of the United States, the problem began when the International Criminal Court at the Hague decided to investigate allegations of war crimes, specifically the use of torture, committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. At that point President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton (who reminds one of a modern Savonarolapublicly threatened the court’s judges. ...
Before 1946 the world was a mess: one hot war after another, economic recessions and depressions, imperialism, colonialism, and racism galore. All of this was grounded in the nation state and its claim of sacred sovereignty. The world experienced a sort of climax to this horror show in the form of Nazi racism and the Holocaust, the use of nuclear weapons, and Stalinist Russia’s purges, mass starvations and Gulag exiles. ... Now things are falling apart again, and rest assured that U.S. leaders and their less-savory allies abroad are doing their part in the devolution of peace and justice. Shall we name just a few U.S. names? Well, there is Donald Trump and his minion Bolton. They go gaga over thugs passing themselves off as presidents in such nation-states as Egypt, the Philippines and that pseudo-democracy, Israel. There is also Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has turned into the U.S. version of Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to Washington’s South America foreign policy. He is the one pushing for the overthrow of the legitimate government in Venezuela while simultaneously calling for close relations with the new fascist president of Brazil. And the list goes on.
But now, with global warming upon us and lifestyles soon to be under threat, things are going to get even messier—and messy social and economic situations are usually good news for barbarians. More than ever, we are going to need uncorrupted international laws, courts and police.
The legitimacy of a ruler can best be determined by asking the ruled people.
The independent Venezuelan polling firm Hinterlaces asked (in Spanish) 1,580 Venezuelans in direct interviews who they consider to be the legitimate president of Venezuela.
57% said that the Nicolás Maduro is the legitimated president. 32% said Juan Guaidó. 11% did not know or did not respond.
Worth a full read:
The Miami Herald (2/8/19) reported, “Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro continues to reject international aid—going so far as to blockade a road that might have been used for its delivery.“ The “Venezuelan leader” reporter Jim Wyss referred to is Venezuela’s elected president. In contrast, Wyss referred to Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s “interim president.”
Guaidó, anointed by Trump and a new Iraq-style Coalition of the Willing, did not even run in Venezuela’s May 2018 presidential election. In fact, shortly before the election, Guaidó was not even mentioned by the opposition-aligned pollster Datanálisis when it published approval ratings of various prominent opposition leaders. Henri Falcón, who actually did run in the election (defying US threats against him) was claimed by the pollster to basically be in a statistical tie for most popular among them. It is remarkable to see the Western media dismiss this election as “fraudulent,” without even attempting to show that it was “stolen“ from Falcón. Perhaps that’s because it so clearly wasn’t stolen. The constitutional argument that Trump and his accomplices have used to “recognize” Guaidó rests on the preposterous claim that Maduro has “abandoned” the presidency by soundly beating Falcón in the election. Caracas-based journalist Lucas Koerner took apart that argument in more detail.
What about the McClatchy-owned Herald‘s claim that Maduro “continues to reject international aid”? In November 2018, following a public appeal by Maduro, the UN did authorize emergency aid for Venezuela. It was even reported by Reuters (11/26/18), whose headlines have often broadcast the news agency’s contempt for Maduro’s government.
It’s not unusual for Western media to ignore facts they have themselves reported when a major “propaganda blitz” by Washington is underway against a government. For example, it was generally reported accurately in 1998 that UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq ahead of air strikes ordered by Bill Clinton, not expelled by Iraq’s government. But by 2002, it became a staple of pro-war propaganda that Iraq had expelled weapons inspectors (Extra! Update, 10/02). And, incidentally, when a Venezuelan NGO requested aid from the UN-linked Global Fund in 2017, it was turned down. Setting aside how effective foreign aid is at all (the example of Haiti hardly makes a great case for it), it is supposed to be distributed based on relative need, not based on how badly the US government wants somebody overthrown.
But the potential for “aid” to alleviate Venezuela’s crisis is negligible compared to the destructive impact of US economic sanctions. Near the end of Wyss’ article, he cited an estimate from the thoroughly demonized Venezuelan government that US sanctions have cost it $30 billion, with no time period specified for that estimate. Again, this calls to mind the run-up to the Iraq invasion, when completely factual statements that Iraq had no WMDs were attributed to the discredited Iraqi government. Quoting Iraqi denials supposedly balanced the lies spread in the media by US officials like John Bolton, who now leads the charge to overthrow Maduro.
A Trump supporter launched an “incredibly violent attack” on a BBC cameraman during a raucous Trump campaign-style rally in Texas Monday night, the broadcaster reported. Shouting “Fuck the media,” the attacker launched into action moments after Donald Trump trashed the media from the podium in El Paso.
Wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, the assailant jumped onto the reporters’ platform and gave a “very hard shove” into the face of Ron Skeans, who said he was blindsided by the attack. “I didn't know what was going on,” Skeans told the BBC. The attacker shouted “Fuck the media” twice before being led away by security.
Just attended my first @realDonaldTrump rally where my colleague BBC cameraman Rob Skeans was attacked by a Trump supporter. The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night #TrumpElPaso pic.twitter.com/Oiw8osPms3
— Eleanor Montague (@EleanorMontague) February 12, 2019
Trump saw the incident and gave Skeans a thumbs-up from the stage after he got back on his feet.
Lawyers for eight immigrant families separated under Trump administration policy have filed claims against the US government, demanding $6m each in damages for what they describe as “inexplicable cruelty” and lasting trauma. In claims filed to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, released on Monday, the parents accuse immigration officers of taking their children away without giving them information, sometimes without even a chance to say goodbye.
The claims allege the children remain traumatized, including a seven-year-old girl who will not sleep without her mother and a six-year-old boy who is reluctant to eat.
Stanton Jones, an attorney representing some of the plaintiffs, warned the Trump administration that other families caught up in the government’s policy of “zero tolerance” for unlawful border crossings, which resulted in parents being forcibly divided from their children and held in detention separately, are getting ready to sue. ... Jones said the claims depicted “inexplicable cruelty” and that the affected families deserve monetary damages. “The government’s actual conduct of tearing children – often small children – away from their parents in a way that was designed to deliberately inflict emotional trauma on those people for the purpose of achieving a policy objective is unlawful,” he said.
“They are entitled to more than just the outrage that was prompted by what people saw in the news in 2018. They are entitled to compensation from the government for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The government’s use of emotionally traumatizing children to try to achieve a policy objective very clearly meets all the legal elements of the offense intentional infliction of emotional distress,” he added.
The Trump administration is still tearing young children away from their parents when they cross the US-Mexico border unlawfully, despite formally ending the policy of family separations last summer, according to immigration advocates in Texas.
In El Paso on Monday, on the day Donald Trump held a rally in the border city, a mother sobbed as she told how she arrived in the US from Honduras last October and had her two daughters, aged five and three, taken away from her without explanation. It was a month before she was allowed to speak to her girls, by phone, and then see them for one hour a week. They were reunited after four months and are now staying in El Paso, in western Texas, while authorities process the asylum application of their mother, Yeimi, who asked to withhold her last name out of security concerns.
“It was four months in which I got very depressed and very anxious. I felt I couldn’t control it but I knew I had to do my best to keep my daughters calm when I spoke to them on the phone, even though I wasn’t,” Yeimi said on Monday at Annunciation House, a local not-for-profit in El Paso that shelters immigrants released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). ...
Taylor Levy, legal coordinator for Annunciation House, said Yeimi’s case is not an anomaly. She said Annunciation House receives one or two calls a week about new cases of family separations – and that is just cases their agency knows about in the El Paso area. ... There is plenty of evidence, including from a government report, that families had been separated months before the official implementation of the policy in May 2018, and that families have continued to be separated since, all while the government has had difficulty reuniting children they had removed.
Democratic and Republican leaders announced late Monday that they had reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown when funding under a stopgap agreement expires at midnight on Friday.
The details of the agreement, preceded by intensive negotiations over funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border, were unspecified.
The proposal would require the signature of Donald Trump to avert a new shutdown.
At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday Trump said he had been informed about the committee’s progress. “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway”, he added.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers reached a preliminary deal Monday to avoid another government shutdown — but there is no guarantee that President Donald Trump will sign it. The agreement includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the border, far short of the $5.7 billion Trump demanded to build more than 200 miles of steel-and-concrete walls. ...
The $1.375 billion for border security will be spent on a barrier in the Rio Grande Valley using existing designs, such as metal slats, but not the concrete wall Trump wants. The deal also provides an extra $1.7 billion for border security, including technology at ports of entry, more officers and humanitarian aid, according to officials speaking to the New York Times.
Democrats have also caved on one of their main demands. Talks broke down over the weekend because Democrats demanded a strict new cap on immigrants detained within the U.S. — as opposed to at the border. That cap has now been omitted, but the deal does reduce the number of beds in detention centers from 49,057 to 40,250. However, GOP officials briefed on the situation told the Washington Post that ICE would have enough money and flexibility to maintain its current detention levels and add more when needed.
For more than two years U.S. politicians, the media and some bloggers hyped a conspiracy theory. They claimed that Russia had somehow colluded with the Trump campaign to get him elected. ...
Finally the conspiracy theory has run out of steam. Russiagate is finished:
After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.
Democrats and other Trump opponents have long believed that special counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators would unearth new and more explosive evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russians. Mueller may yet do so, although Justice Department and Congressional sources say they believe that he, too, is close to wrapping up his investigation.
Nothing, zero, nada was found to support the conspiracy theory. The Trump campaign did not collude with Russia. A few flunkies were indicted for unrelated tax issues and for lying to the investigators about some minor details. But nothing at all supports the dramatic claims of collusion made since the beginning of the affair.
The new global scientific review into the perilous condition of our insects reports that more than 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction while the mass of insects is declining by 2.5% a year. This catastrophic decline is a direct cause of the existential threat to other animals, insects being at the bottom of the chain and the primary food source. Since 1970, 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out. The review identifies a key driver towards this mass extinction: habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture with its associated use of pesticides. Given this is a manmade disaster, surely we are capable of tackling and reversing it? ...
What might accurately be dubbed insectageddon is being driven by the agrichemicals industry. This situation is compounded by compliant politicians and policymakers who fall prey to lobbying pressure and then refuse to implement science-driven policy to protect wildlife. This has meant that over the past five decades conventional farmers have forgotten the natural systems they once relied on to control pests. Non-organic agricultural systems are highly dependent on chemicals, so feeding a vicious circle. But there is a legal route out of this – in Europe at least. Since 2009 the EU has adopted the sustainable use of pesticides directive. This aims to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment, while prioritising the use of alternative approaches or techniques such as non-chemical methods.
However, because it is a directive rather than regulation it requires implementation in national law, and the vicious circle that has led to high levels of chemical dependency also operates at national level, meaning that member states have been slow to implement policies that reduce pesticide use. And the agrichemical industry is literally writing pesticide assessments that are then presented as the work of regulators. For example, a recent report exposed how EU regulators based a decision to relicense controversial glyphosate on an assessment plagiarised from industry reports. Around 50% of some chapters were actually a copy-and-paste job from papers Monsanto and other agrichemical corporates had written.
Changing the ways in which we produce our food is a key plank to preserving biodiversity and rebelling against mass extinction. ... We also need independent scrutiny around the authorisation procedure for chemicals and so end the grip that corporate lobbying currently holds over our politicians, policymakers and farmers. ... Unless we take drastic action, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction within a few decades. And we can be quite sure that we would follow on closely behind.
While a rapidly rising number of people across the globe are worried about the climate crisis—prompting warnings from scientists, demands for robust action, and sweeping legislative proposals such as the Green New Deal—there are also mounting concerns about the United States in the era of President Donald Trump, according to new polling from the Pew Research Center. ...
As the global community frets about the United States flexing its geopolitical muscles under Trump—from ditching the Paris climate agreement and global treaties to backing an effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government—Pew also found that both Americans and people around the world perceive the human-caused climate crisis as a top security risk. In half of the 26 nations where the survey was conducted from May to August of 2018, the greatest number of respondents selected climate change as posing a major threat.
"Since 2013, worries about the climate threat have increased significantly in 13 of the countries where data are available," according to Pew. "In 2013, well before the Paris climate agreement was signed, a median of 56 percent across 23 countries surveyed said global climate change was a major threat to their country. That climbed to 63 percent in 2017, and in 2018 it stands at 67 percent."
In the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Kenya, and South Africa, the number of people concerned about the climate crisis has soared, rising by double-digits over just five years. Across Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa—which are increasingly at risk for extreme weather exacerbated by rising temperatures—climate change has continuously ranked as a top concern.
An unusually large weather system is wreaking havoc in America’s north-west and even brought snow to Hawaii. ...
Hawaii officials said the blanket of snow at Polipoli Spring state recreation area is probably the first for any state park. Polipoli is at 6,200ft (1,900m) making this possibly the lowest elevation snow ever recorded in the state.
Honolulu’s National Weather Service reported 60ft (18-metre) waves north of Kauai and Oahu at the height of the storm on Monday. Significant wave heights – a measure averaging the bigger waves – reached a record 38ft.
Sam Lemmo from Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources said: “We rarely, if ever, have seen the combination of record high onshore waves, coupled with gale force winds.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Screamin Jay Hawkins - Whistling Past The Graveyard
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I'm So Glad
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Stone Crazy
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Even Though
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Alligator Wine
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Is You is or is You Ain't My Baby
Screaming Jay Hawkins - The Whammy
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Shut Your Mouth When You Sneeze