The Evening Blues - 2-13-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Motown vocal group Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. Enjoy!
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Nowhere To Run
“People will continue to commit atrocities as long as they believe in absurdities.”
News and Opinion
The House of Representatives will be voting on the bipartisan H.J. Res. 37 on Wednesday.
The resolution is the War Powers Act challenge to the US involvement in
the war in Yemen, and instructs the US to immediately halt military
This is the long-awaited House vote on the Yemen War, which in 2018 was repeatedly blocked by last minute rule changes. The Senate is also planning a vote on an identical resolution, S.J. Res 7, though the date has yet to be set for that. ...
Those wishing to contact their Representative to express support for H.J. Res 37 should do so before Wednesday afternoon. Contact information can be found at this link on the House’s website.
Yemenis in Hodeida are despairing as fighting continues, plunging the city into a deeper humanitarian crisis, while the ceasefire agreement due to be implemented last month continues to stagnate. ...
"Citizens are becoming very desperate for a solution, even though there was a glimmer of optimism at first. People completely distrust the agreement in Sweden to bring about a ceasefire and a peaceful solution, as there is clearly no peace achieved between both sides, and believe that both sides are responsible for a lack of peace," Manal, a Yemeni activist in Hodeida added. "It has taken a huge toll on people's lives and their mental wellbeing. Every day people are disturbed by hearing endless sounds of heavy, light and medium weapon fire, and citizens are dying."
Both sides have been accused by the other of consistently violating the ceasefire. A Houthi report claims that throughout January the Saudi-led coalition violated the agreement 3,189 times, through a combination of missiles, artillery shells, open fire with heavy weapons, and Saudi airstrikes. Meanwhile, the coalition and the Hadi government accuse the Houthis of breaching the ceasefire more than 700 times in the same period. ...
The wording of the Stockholm Agreement itself is vague, leaving a lack of clarity that still allows both sides to haggle over the details, arguably a cause of the ceasefire's breakdown. The UN had to resort to holding peace talks on a boat off the city's coast on Sunday, as a neutral location acceptable to both sides. The meeting suggested that there is still hope for a solution.
Since its outset, the Trump administration has ratcheted up pressure on Venezuela and radicalized its positions. In the process, the Venezuelan opposition has become more and more associated with—and dependent on—Washington and its allies. An example is the opposition protests that occurred last week. The actions were timed to coincide with the European Union’s “ultimatum,” which stated they would recognize the shadow government of Juan Guaidó if President Nicolás Maduro had not called elections within a week’s time. ...
The outcome of Washington’s actions is bound to be unfavorable in a number of ways, regardless of whether or not they achieve regime change. Most importantly, a government headed by Guaidó will be perceived both by Venezuelans and international observers as “made in U.S.A.” Further, the opposition’s association with foreign powers has enabled the Maduro leadership to keep discontented members of the Chavista movement in their ranks. Furthermore, Venezuelans will perceive any sign of economic recovery under a Guaidó government as made possible by aid, if not handouts, from Washington, designed to discredit Maduro’s socialist government, though such assistance will undoubtedly be used to further U.S. economic and political interests. ...
The Trump administration’s blatant and undisguised interventionism may in fact backfire and help Maduro counter his sagging poll numbers, which last October the polling firm Datanálisis reported was 23 percent. Maduro recently lashed out on Twitter at the close nexus between Washington and the opposition, saying “Aren’t you embarrassed at yourselves, ashamed at the way every day by Twitter Mike Pence, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo tell you what you should do.”
Anti-imperialism is, of course, a major cornerstone of the Chavista movement, born from resentment of U.S. interventionism and heavy-handedness that had for decades controlled many of Venezuela’s resources and dictated its economic policies. The maneuvers of the Trump administration and its allies only double down on this narrative, and are counterproductive at best when it comes to solving the crisis. Their actions also risk fanning the flames of anti-Americanism throughout the continent. It wouldn’t be the first time: In 1958, then-Vice President Richard Nixon was attacked by a riotous crowd in Caracas, and a decade later Nelson Rockefeller’s fact-finding tour arranged by then-President Nixon faced off with angry disruptive protests. Both incidents were responses to Washington’s self-serving support for regimes that came to power through undemocratic means, in some cases with U.S. involvement.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) engaged in a testy back and forth on Wednesday with special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, accusing the diplomat of being a liar and pressing him on his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair and killings in Central America during the Reagan administration. "I don’t understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful," she said in her initial comments to Abrams, who pleaded guilty to withholding evidence from Congress in the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s. Abrams tried to interject, but Omar said she was not asking a question. "It was an attack," Abrams responded.
Omar pressed Abrams repeatedly on U.S. involvement in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the Reagan administration, when the U.S. backed the Salvadoran military and Nicaraguan insurgents. Abrams served at the time as assistant secretary of State. Omar specifically questioned Abrams about his past comments on the El Mozote massacre, where the Salvadoran military killed hundreds of civilians. ...
Omar finally got Abrams to respond to a question when she asked if Abrams will ensure that human rights are upheld in Venezuela under U.S. policy. "The answer is that the entire thrust of American policy in Venezuela is to support the Venezuelan people’s effort to restore democracy to their country," he said. "That’s our policy." Asked if that included protecting human rights, Abrams said "that is always the position of the United States."
Abrams was named the special envoy to Venezuela last month, shortly after the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate president.
I just had a moment that I've been waiting for since the early 1980s, because I am an old guy who remembers things. Of all the bloodthirsty think-tank Rambos that were wandering around the Reagan Administration, none of them were so bone-deep inhumanely repulsive as Elliot Abrams, whose main job was to enable death squads and cover up massacres committed by our plucky cutthroats-for-hire in Central America, most notably in Guatemala. His portfolio also included lying to Congress and Trolling Around For A Pardon. (Thanks, Poppy!)
Anyway, Abrams came before the House Foreign Relations Committee. It came time for Rep. Ilhan Omar to ask him questions. ... Abrams didn't seem to enjoy having his bona fides as a war criminal discussed by this...person. ...
I think I speak for thousands of dead people in Central America when I thank Rep. Omar for allowing us to say, together, once again, and to the skull-like face of Elliott Abrams, "Man, fck that guy."
Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Secretly Shipping Arms After Weapons Found on Plane with Possible CIA Ties
Humanity is sleepwalking toward global annihilation, furthered by a collective amnesia about the threat posed by nuclear weapons, especially in an environment void of meaningful arms control. On Feb. 2, the United States suspended its obligations under the INF Treaty, beginning a 180-day process that, once concluded, will lead to the abandonment of that agreement. Russia soon followed suit. The death of the INF Treaty represents far more than simply the end of an era. It is the end of a process—a mindset—that recognized nuclear weapons for their globe-killing reality and sought their reduction and eventual elimination. ...
The election of President Barack Obama injected rare optimism at the bulletin, which moved the hands of the clock back to six minutes in 2010. But his administration’s failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 2014 brought the hands back to five minutes, and the election of Donald Trump caused the hands to be moved to 2.5 minutes. The failure of the U.S. and Russia to return to the arms control negotiating table brought the hands to their current position in 2018—two minutes before midnight.
The demise of the INF Treaty is symptomatic of a larger problem—the collapse of arms control as an institution. Viktor Mizin, one of the Soviet negotiators involved in the INF Treaty, made note of this reality, and its consequences. “[Soviet arms control negotiators] got their start with the first negotiations for the partial test-ban treaties [in the 1950s]. These were the people with whom the partial [U.S.-Soviet] detente and the idea of peaceful coexistence began … [t]his was an entire generation of brilliant diplomats, soldiers, and defense industry specialists. It’s no coincidence that most competent people around then were the ones who participated in all these negotiations … [w]e don’t have anyone like them now. Both here and in America, there’s been a collapse of institutional memory, and no one remembers what happened at these negotiations, and there’s nobody who has the same negotiating skills.” Worse, Mizin noted, “We’re absolutely failing to raise the next generation.” ...
The U.S. nuclear posture review published by the Trump administration has postulated specific scenarios in which nuclear weapons could be used—including against Russia in Europe. With the INF Treaty gone, and the caps on strategic nuclear weapons soon to be eliminated due to the expected demise of the New START treaty, there is real concern that the U.S. and Russia are about to enter into a nuclear arms race that would rival that of the U.S. and Soviet Union in the 1980s. The difference this time is that neither side has a stable of seasoned arms control experts working on the sidelines to avoid catastrophe. ... The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is wrong to keep the hands of the Doomsday Clock stuck at two minutes to midnight. The situation is far more grave than its assessed “new abnormal” would suggest. The United States is in the process of creating the conditions for a nuclear war with Russia, and the Russian president is calmly talking about global annihilation if such an event transpires.
The world is on the edge of the nuclear abyss. It’s one minute before midnight, and we are acting as if we still have time. We don’t.
Not-So-Veiled Threat of War as John Bolton Says Iran May Not Have 'Many More Anniversaries to Enjoy'
As Iranians this week mark the 40th anniversary of their country's 1979 revolution, President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton declared in a message to Iranian leaders on Monday that he doesn't think they will "have many more anniversaries to enjoy"—a comment that was immediately perceived as a direct threat of war.
In video posted to the White House's official Twitter page on Monday, Bolton echoed false assertions and repeatedly debunked claims by the Trump that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and described the Iranian government as the "central banker of international terrorism."
Responding to Bolton's video, Sen. Chris Murphy warned in a tweet on Tuesday that Trump's hawkish national security adviser is knowingly lying to build momentum for a U.S. military attack on Iran. "Here Bolton says Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. This simply isn't true. The intelligence says the opposite and he knows it," Murphy wrote. "He is laying the groundwork for war and we all must be vigilant."
Canada’s former justice minister has resigned from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet amid allegations that the prime minister’s office pressured her to avoid prosecuting a major Canadian engineering firm. The veterans affairs minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, released a letter announcing her resignation. She had been demoted from the post of justice minister last month.
Wilson-Raybould, who did not give any reasons for her resignation, said in a letter to Trudeau she was quitting “with a heavy heart”, adding: “I am aware that many Canadians wish for me to speak on matters that have been in the media over the past week.“
The Globe and Mail reported that people in Trudeau’s office tried to pressure Wilson-Raybould last year to help the construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a corruption trial when she was justice minister. Wilson-Raybould, who the Globe and Mail said had ignored the pressure, was demoted from the justice ministry last month. Trudeau said on Monday that he had full confidence in her and that her presence in his cabinet spoke for itself.
The resignation is the second blow for Trudeau in two days over the affair. Mario Dion, Canada’s independent ethics commissioner, said on Monday he was investigating allegations of possible wrongdoing by senior officials. In a hint that the situation could grow more complicated for Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould has retained the former supreme court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on how much she can say about the SNC-Lavalin case. Cromwell declined an interview request. ...
Wilson-Raybould, 47, appointed justice minister when Trudeau’s Liberals came to power in November 2015, is one of the most prominent indigenous politicians in federal politics.
Giving Trump Far Too Much in Shutdown Deal, Progressives Warn Democrats 'Throwing Immigrants Under the Bus'
After Democratic negotiators dropped their demand for a limit on how many immigrants the Trump administration can detain and agreed to provide over $1.3 billion for fencing and other barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border, immigrant rights advocates warned on Tuesday that Democrats are conceding far too much to President Donald Trump and handing "Nativist Republicans more money to jail and deport immigrants."
"By gifting this administration $1.3 billion for what is essentially a steel wall and the power to detain and deport an unlimited number of people, there's no other way to say it: Democrats would be throwing immigrants under the bus," Democracy for America (DFA) declared in an email to supporters.
The group continued:
This isn't just about stopping Trump's wall (which he's still threatening to build by declaring a ridiculous national emergency)—this is about standing on the right side of history, and standing with the most vulnerable.
Children, mothers, fathers, grandparents. Coming here in search for a better life, many seeking refuge from violence and threats to their lives back home.
The Trump administration has already separated thousands of families, admitting they lost countless children along the way. Multiple children have died in government custody. There are still no answers from this administration.
Supporting a deal that allows the Trump administration to create further division across the border, increase the number of families and individuals being held prisoner in detention centers, and deport more immigrants back to danger is not an acceptable compromise.
... Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said he's "not happy" with the bipartisan plan, which right-wing provocateurs like Anne Coulter and Fox News' Sean Hannity are attacking as a cowardly capitulation by Republicans because it doesn't fund the president's border wall. Despite such outrage from conservatives who have the president's ear, Trump didn't say he would veto the funding plan if it reaches his desk, and he is reportedly still considering taking executive action to build the wall—either by declaring a "national emergency," executive action, or through other unilateral maneuvers.
California police officers fatally shot a 20-year-old rapper who was sleeping in his car outside a Taco Bell, authorities said.
Six Vallejo officers fired “multiple rounds” at the man, identified by family as Willie McCoy, police said. McCoy had a handgun on him when the officers fired out of “fear for their own safety” on Saturday night, according to the department. The family of McCoy, whose rapper name was Willie Bo, said Tuesday that police had racially profiled the young black man and that there was no justification for using deadly force against someone who was sleeping and not a threat. ...
Police said officers were checking up on McCoy after a Taco Bell employee called 911 and said a man was “slumped over” behind the wheel of his car at the fast-food restaurant drive through on Saturday at around 10.30pm. McCoy was unresponsive and had a handgun on his lap, police said, adding that the doors were locked and the car was on. After they called for backup, McCoy “suddenly” moved, officials said in a statement.
Police further alleged that officers told him to “keep his hands visible” but that he “quickly moved his hands downward for the firearm”. Police said six officers all fired shots within roughly four seconds, but they did not disclose the number of bullets that struck McCoy. The officers continued shouting commands before removing him from the vehicle and “rendering medical assistance”. He died on the scene. Police have not yet confirmed his identity and said an autopsy was pending.
The killing of McCoy follows numerous scandals involving alleged police brutality against black residents in Vallejo, a diverse city 30 miles north-east of San Francisco. ... “No one trusts the police in Vallejo,” said David Harrison, McCoy’s cousin. “We are being targeted … Police have a campaign of executing young black men who fit a certain profile. Willie dressed the part. He represents hip-hop music. They are profiled.” ...
“Police are trained to shoot first and hurt you first,” he said. “They do not respect black people. Even when they have a person subdued and their life is not in danger, they continue to be blatantly physically disrespectful. That is just accepted in America.”
For the most part, this piece by Caitlin Johnstone rehashes material that we've been over here before, but this part is worth mentioning:
... For the last two years the mainstream liberal establishment has been endlessly bleating about the need to elevate women of color to positions of leadership; then the first Black Muslim and first Somali American ever to get elected to Congress begins taking the leadership for which she was elected, and it turns out they actually meant they just wanted women with dark skin who will advance the status quo of the white imperialist patriarchy. James Clapper, the primary architect of the establishment Russia narrative, has said on multiple occasions that Russians are genetically predisposed towards nefarious behavior, and he hasn’t so much as lost his cushy CNN slot. Such displays of pro-establishment bigotry are deemed perfectly acceptable by the political-media class, but yeah, pointing to the influence of an influence firm makes you a Nazi in need of international humiliation.
Israel is a western imperialist military operation that was dropped in the heart of the most strategically crucial location on earth a few decades ago. It should surprise no one that there is a transnational political-media campaign to keep that operation going, especially as pertains to the United States, the nation with the most powerful military force in history. Lobbying, campaign donations, military and intelligence alliances are all just glue which keeps ostensibly different nations moving in the same direction in a world where separate nations don’t actually exist. In reality our world is dominated not by sovereign nations and governments, but by a transnational alliance of influential plutocrats who have no loyalty to any government or religion but rather use governments as tools to advance their agendas. Many of those plutocrats call themselves Christian, Muslim and Jewish, but really they worship nothing but the amassment of more power.
If the unipolar world order operated honestly, the nations currently labeled “United States”, “Israel”, “United Kingdom”, “Australia”, “South Korea”, “Japan” etc would all be painted the same color on the globe, and they’d all be labeled simply, “The Unipolar Empire”. There’d be the unabsorbed nations labeled “China”, “Russia”, “Iran” and so forth with their own individual colors, but the majority of the globe would be one giant smear of empire. Shoring up ever-increasing dominance over this hegemonic world order is the highest ambition that anyone can have in terms of real power, far greater than president or king, and controlling the narratives that the general populace believes about what’s going on in their world is an indispensable aspect of that power.
If you can understand this, you’ll understand why Ilhan Omar was so ferociously attacked by the political-media class today. She disrupted a crucial imperial narrative.
And really that’s all it takes to have a working big-picture understanding of large-scale power dynamics in our world. Understand that real power doesn’t acknowledge the existence of separate nations within the unipolar empire, and that narrative control is the key to wielding real power, and you’ll understand everything from wars to establishment politics to the otherwise incomprehensible behaviors of the mass media.
Four Nigerian women at the centre of a long-running legal battle against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell saw their historic case reach the Hague on Tuesday. The company is accused of complicity in the state execution of nine Ogoni protesters and human right abuses dating back to 1993. The allegations concern the 1990s violent government crackdown in Ogoniland, in the oil-rich Niger delta region, where oil spills inflicted environmental damage on a huge scale.
The Netherlands court will decide whether a case can proceed after hearing arguments from both sides on Tuesday.
The landmark case, brought by the widows of four of the Ogoni nine – Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula – allege Shell was complicit in the Nigerian government’s policy of brutally quelling protests, and with human rights abuses that were aimed at protecting the company’s staff and infrastructure, actions that ultimately led to the death of their husbands. Peaceful demonstrations by Ogoni people against Shell’s widespread, devastating pollution ended in a brutal backlash by Nigerian security forces, who allegedly killed, maimed, raped and tortured hundreds of people who lived in the area.
Nine members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), including its leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed in 1995 by the Nigerian authorities, following a trial that was widely discredited. Esther Kiobel’s husband, Dr Barinem Kiobel, was one of those executed. “Over the years, Shell has continually fought to make sure this case is not heard in court. They have the resources to fight me instead of doing justice for my husband,” said Esther Kiobel.
'This Is What Dem Leadership Looks Like': Minnesota Gov. Praised for Backing Fight Against Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline
Green groups and progressive lawmakers heaped praise on Minnesota's new Democratic governor on Tuesday for "working for the people first not a foreign pipeline company" by announcing that he would renew a challenge launched by his predecessor against Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline project, which would run from Canada's Alberta tar sands through North Dakota and Minnesota on its way to neighboring Wisconsin.
"Minnesotans have clearly voiced that they do not want this dirty pipeline, and Governor [Tim] Walz and Lieutenant Governor [Peggy] Flanagan showed today that they are listening," declared Greenpeace USA tar sands campaigner Rachel Rye Butler.
"By committing to refile the state's appeal to Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline expansion," Butler said, "he's rightly putting Indigenous rights, our global climate, and the water resources for thousands of Minnesotans before fossil fuel industry profits."
Last year, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the Calgary-based company's proposal to replace a decades-old corroded crude oil pipeline with a new 1,031-mile pipeline that would cross Native American reservations and treaty lands, threatening fresh water resources, and culturally significant wild rice beds. That approval was granted in spite of expert analysis submitted by the state Department of Commerce (DOC) that the project was unnecessary, and "serious environmental and socioeconomic risks and effects outweigh limited benefits." ...
Winona LaDuke, executive director and co-founder of Honor the Earth, characterized the PUC approval as "a rogue decision, contrary to all state agencies and tribal interests." Welcoming the governor's decision, she said, "as Minnesota moves toward efficiency and renewable energy, we want to thank the governor for doing the most prudent thing possible to help avert the ecological economic and social disaster that is Line 3."
Gavin Newsom declared Tuesday there “isn’t a path” for completing the state’s plan for a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, yet his office insisted he is fully committed to building such a project. The California governor, delivering his first State of the State address, said he’d shift his focus to completing just a 171-mile segment of the line already under construction in the state’s Central Valley. The project is key to the economic vitality of the state’s agricultural heartland, he said.
A high-speed rail line linking Los Angeles to San Francisco was the goal when voters approved a ballot measure in 2008. The roughly 520-mile line initially was estimated to cost $33bn and was pegged for completion in 2020. Officials eventually hoped to connect the line to San Diego and Sacramento. Subsequent estimates more than doubled the cost to $77bn and pushed the timeline to 2033. ...
Newsom said he’d continue doing environmental reviews for the LA-San Francisco line and seek private investment to connect the Central Valley to the state’s major hubs, prompting confusion about whether he actually was changing the policy of his predecessor, Jerry Brown. Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Click said the governor is committed to completing the longer line with additional private and federal money “as the Central Valley section demonstrates the viability of the broader project”.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Martha & the Vandellas - Heatwave
Martha & The Vandellas - Dancing in the Streets
Martha & The Vandellas - Jimmy Mack
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - My Baby Loves Me
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Quicksand
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Honey Chile
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Then He Kissed Me
Martha And The Vandellas - I'm Ready For Love
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Show Me The Way
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Just One Look