The Evening Blues - 2-16-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and rock singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt. Enjoy!
Bonnie Raitt - The Road's My Middle Name
"In a sane world, being a neoconservative would carry the same social stigma as being a child molester or a serial killer."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Neoconservatism is not some political ideology which can be placed on a left-to-right spectrum based on one’s ideas about fiscal policy and social issues, it is the civilian-slaughtering American supremacist agenda to butcher, bomb, sanction, starve, bully and manipulate the world population in order to ensure the hegemony of the US-centralized power establishment. I am not condemning an opposing set of political opinions here, I am condemning the mass murder of innocent men, women and children.
Neoconservatism is what fuels support for the war machine which has scattered hundreds of military bases all over the planet, which armed terrorist factions in Syria killing half a million people, which created a failed state in Libya, killed a million Iraqis, facilitated the mass slaughter in Yemen, and escalated the new cold war with Russia which threatens to kill everything on earth, all just in the last few years.
So forgive me if I indulge in a bitter scoff when Nikki fucking Haley tweets about how heartbroken she is about the recent mass shooting in Florida.
I don’t have words tonight. My heart breaks for the students, families, & community dealing with the shooting in Fla today.The sadness for that community will be overwhelming and the healing will be long.We must lift them up in prayer to get them through this horrible tragedy
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) February 15, 2018
UN Ambassador Haley, who has been described by journalist Michael Tracey as “the most dangerous member of the administration,” pushes relentlessly for dangerous escalations with all targets of the US war machine, seemingly at every opportunity. Virtually any time you see her face she’s trying to rally an international coalition against Syria, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, or North Korea. The push is always toward escalation instead of de-escalation, toward war instead of peace. Nikki Haley is a neocon, and she loves war. ...
So when Nikki Haley says that she is shocked and disturbed by the mass murder of civilians, she is lying. She is a death machine awkwardly imitating a human being.
The world has been lucky so far to escape the launch of nuclear weapons through miscalculation, but the odds of such a catastrophic accident are increasing, according to the former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz, a nuclear physicist who played a central role in securing a landmark non-proliferation agreement with Iran in 2015, said the margin for error in avoiding disaster was getting thinner because of the introduction of new, smaller weapons, the broadening of circumstances in which their use is being contemplated, and a lack of high-level communications between major nuclear weapons powers.
As a result, Moniz told the Guardian, the chance of nuclear use “is higher than it’s been since the Cuban missile crisis”.
Moniz, who is now CEO and co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, pointed to a recent false alarm by Hawaii’s public alert system as the sort of technological glitch that could lead to fatal miscalculation. The alert sent islanders running for cover, and it took nearly 40 minutes for the mistake to be rectified. ...
“We know we’ve had those warnings many times in history and we’ve managed so far to dodge the bullet,” he said. “But dodging the bullets is more difficult when there’s not significant communications going on and a lot of tensions between the countries.”
The navy admiral nominated to be the next US ambassador to Australia has told Congress America must prepare for the possibility of war with China, and said it would rely on Australia to help uphold the international rules-based system in the Asia-Pacific.
In an excoriating assessment of China’s increasingly muscular posture in the region, Harry Harris said Beijing’s “intent is crystal clear” to dominate the South China Sea and that its military might could soon rival American power “across almost every domain”.
Harris, soon to retire as the head of US Pacific Command in Hawaii, told the House armed services committee, the US and its allies should be wary of Beijing’s military expansionism in the region, and condemned China’s foreign influence operations, predatory economic behaviour and coercion of regional neighbours.
“China’s intent is crystal clear. We ignore it at our peril,” he said. “I’m concerned China will now work to undermine the international rules-based order.”
Harris also warned of a “cult of personality” developing around Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The senior U.S. diplomat for Asia, Susan Thornton, said on Thursday she understood the Trump administration had no strategy for a so-called bloody nose strike on North Korea, but Pyongyang would be forced to give up its nuclear weapons “one way or another.” ...
Two U.S. senators, a Democrat and Republican, who spoke at Thornton’s confirmation hearing for the post of assistant secretary for East Asia, said they and other senators had been told by senior White House officials on Wednesday that there was no such strategy.
Asked by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen if the Trump administration had no “bloody nose” strategy, Thornton replied: “That is my understanding, senator, yes.”
Republican Senator James Risch said the lawmakers had been told “by administration people, about as high up as it gets, that there is no such thing as a ‘bloody nose strategy.'” Risch added that the officials said they had never considered it or talked about it.
Thornton, currently the acting assistant secretary for East Asia, said Washington was open to talks with Pyongyang but that North Korean denuclearization would be the only issue.
Five Russian citizens may have been killed in Syria in clashes with U.S.-led coalition forces this month, but they were not Russian military personnel, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday.
"Based on preliminary information, as a result of an armed encounter, the reasons for which are now being investigated, we could be talking about the deaths of five people," the spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova told a briefing.
"The assumption is that these are Russian citizens. But all that needs to be checked, in particular, of course, their citizenship, are they indeed citizens of Russia, or of other countries," she said. ...
Zakharova said media reports about dozens or hundreds of Russian dead in the Syria clashes were "disinformation". She added that U.S. actions in Syria were probably designed to undermine the country's territorial integrity.
The Russia investigation just produced its next round of indictments.
On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The eight counts of the indictment include charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and six counts of “aggravated identity theft.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictments Friday afternoon, saying that the defendants had conducted an operation of “information warfare” against the United States. The indictment lays out a comprehensive campaign called “Project Lakhta” conducted on the web and in person by the defendants to in an effort to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”
That campaign began as early as 2014 and sought to undermine American politicians in both parties. By early 2016, when the presidential primaries were beginning, the indictment alleges that the Russians “primarily intended” to attack Hillary Clinton, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Sen. Marco Rubio, while supporting Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. By mid-2016, after those primary battles were mostly settled, the Russians turned their focus to “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.” ...
The defendants stand accused of creating social media accounts posing as Americans, in some instances using stolen identities, to reach “significant numbers of Americans” in order to disrupt the 2016 election. Some defendants even “traveled to the United States under false pretenses” and purchased “computer infrastructure” to obfuscate their Russian origin.
One of the Russian-operated accounts named in the indictment was the Twitter profile @TEN_GOP, or ”Tennessee GOP,” whose foreign origins were first revealed by a Russian news outlet in October. The account was active from November 2015 through last August, and was retweeted by Trumpworld officials — including Donald Trump Jr., Sebastian Gorka, and Kellyanne Conway — in the days leading up to the 2016 election.
News about the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia has died down in recent days, but we know Robert Mueller works quietly, and it turns out he’s just hit a major target: Steve Bannon.
Behind the scenes, Mueller’s team has spent about 20 hours this week talking with Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, NBC News reports.
Tuesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Global Threats and National Security” was an exercise in right-wing hysteria aimed at promoting the claim that all social opposition in the United States is the product of foreign subversion. This fraudulent narrative was advanced to justify censorship and police state repression.
Not since the McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s has Congress seen such a vitriolic denunciation of supposed foreign subversion. Russia, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the committee, “perceived its past efforts [at manipulating the 2016 elections] as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target.” It is necessary to “inform the American people that this is real,” Coats proclaimed, and that “resilience is needed for us to stand up and say we’re not going to allow some Russians to tell us how to vote, how we ought to run our country.”
One after another, senators pressed the assembled intelligence officials about purported Russian and Chinese plots to “sow divisions” within American society, calling on the intelligence agencies to work with technology companies to censor the Internet and prevent the dissemination of “divisive content. Chinese students were denounced as potential spies and subversives and Americans were instructed not to buy smartphones made by Chinese companies.
All of these accusations were made without the slightest attempt at proof or substantiation. This is because they are simply made up.
As dignitaries and civil society gather in The Hague this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Court stands poised to demonstrate its maturity as it weighs a request to investigate members of the US Central Intelligence Agency and the US armed forces for torture and other serious crimes committed in Afghanistan or in Eastern Europe in the so-called “war on terror.” A criminal investigation of US torture – and other serious crimes in Afghanistan – is long overdue.
In November, the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, lodged a request to open a formal investigation following a decade-long preliminary investigation into possible international crimes committed in Afghanistan since it became a member of the court in May 2003, as well as to related crimes in other member states since July 2002.
It also follows longstanding efforts by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to hold high-level Bush administration officials accountable, through the principle of universal jurisdiction, for many of the human rights violations that the imminent ICC prosecution would encompass. We’ve pursued former US officials in Canada and around Europe, seeking to hold them accountable for torture at Guantánamo, Afghanistan, and secret “black sites” around the globe.
To date, no high-level US official from the civilian leadership, military, CIA, or private contractor has been prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. An ICC investigation could finally change that – bringing an end to the impunity US officials have enjoyed and, critically, some measure of redress to victims of the US torture program.
Israel is giving African migrants seeking asylum in the country an ultimatum — leave or end up in jail.
The deportation plan, announced January 1, has stirred alarm among the international community and human rights groups, who say imprisoning asylum seekers goes against Israel’s democratic ideals and is the latest example of the country shedding its responsibility to refugees.
“Instead of jailing them, Israel should fairly identify and protect refugees among them,” said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement last month. He added that the latest crackdown is part of Israel’s ongoing “quest to dodge its refugee protection duties.” ...
African migrants and black Israelis have borne the brunt of the country's sharp turn toward right-wing nationalism in recent years, facing repeated outbursts of violence, harassment and hate speech. And members of Israel’s political parties, including Miri Regev of the Likud party, have played into the anti-migrant wave. “Today, I said in Parliament, the Sudanese are a cancer in our society,” yelled Regev during an anti-migrant rally that turned violent in 2012.
Hoping to put an end to the saga, Israel’s new plan incentivizes voluntary deportations, offering $3,500, airfare and travel document assistance for all those that leave by the end of March.
Brazilian president Michel Temer has signed a decree putting the military in charge of security in Rio de Janeiro, following a rise in street crime and drug gang violence.
Massed robberies and gunfights during carnival, followed by a storm that killed four and caused chaos, have heightened a sense that the city is slipping out of control. “I am taking this extreme measure because the circumstances demand it,” Temer said after signing the decree on Friday. “Enough.” ...
Temer’s decree will also put the army in charge of the city’s police force – the first time Brazil has taken such a decision since it introduced a new constitution in 1988 following two decades of military dictatorship.
It takes immediate effect, though a vote in Congress could overturn it, and lasts until the end of the year.
More than one in 10 of Brazil’s high-ranking politicians, among them President Michel Temer, received campaign donations from companies linked to modern-day slavery, an investigation has found. Party leaders, state secretaries and five of ex-president Dilma Rousseff’s governors are among the elected parliamentarians who received R$3.5m (£760,000) during the last general election, according to the NGO Repórter Brasil.
Temer’s election committee was found to have received R$700,000 (£150,000) from OAS, a Brazilian construction company found guilty of keeping 111 workers in slave-like conditions during the expansion of São Paulo airport, in 2013. “This is just one of an ocean of shocking practices that Temer’s administration has exposed,” said Xavier Plassat, head of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).
President Temer is being investigated for corruption as part of the nationwide Lava Jato (“Car Wash”) enquiry following accusations that he received bribes from JBS, the meat-packing company. JBS was at the heart of a series of Brazilian corruption and meat-industry scandals last year, including investigations of reported slavery in its supply chain. ...
Twenty-one of the 51 MPs who received donations from companies identified by the authorities as using slave labour are part of the extremely influential rural caucus in congress. This lobby has continually attempted to limit efforts to combat slavery in Brazil and, late last year, supported Temer’s attempt to restrict the legal definition of modern-day slavery.
Deaths and injuries among workers in the booming construction industry in New York state in 2016 showed a striking parallel in both the rate and causes of death in the industry nationwide, according an annual report “Deadly Skyline,” published last month by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).
NYCOSH reports that construction deaths in the state of New York reached a 14-year high in 2016, with 71 workers killed on the job. This amounts to a nearly 30 per cent increase from 2015, when a total of 55 construction workers were killed on the job in the state.
As the WSWS has reported, there were 5,190 fatal workplace injuries recorded in the United States in 2016, an increase of seven percent from the 4,836 workers killed on the job in 2015.
Overall, construction workers in the US saw the highest number of deaths in any industry in 2015. That year, a total of 937 construction workers were killed on the job, marking the second straight year of fatality increases in construction, according to the most recent data available to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unreported incidents undoubtedly place the numbers even higher, as injury and deaths among migrant and undocumented workers who are forced to accept the most hazardous jobs routinely go unreported.
Jakarta is sinking — and it’s sinking fast, with current estimates predicting half the city will be underwater by 2030. To cope with the unfolding crisis, the city is building a $10 billion sea wall to keep flood waters out, but that’s only a temporary solution. Parts of the city, home to nearly 10 million people, have sunk over 10 feet in the last few decades, and some areas are submerging at a rate of up to seven inches per year.
The problem is driven by the millions of Indonesians who rely on drawing water up from aquifers that lay beneath the city’s foundation to survive. And since the city was built on-top of marshlands, this practice is directly contributing to the ground’s collapse.
Finding a viable long-term solution has put city-planners, politicians and citizens at odds with one another. “The only step forward is to evacuate four to five million people, or build this outer sea dike, which gives you another 20 to 50 years to solve all of the problems.” says JanJaap Brinkmann, a Dutch Hydrologist who is working on solutions for Jakarta.
Some 60,000 Chinese troops have been deployed to plant trees in an extended area around Beijing roughly the size of Utah, according to Asia Times.
The region suffers from dense air pollution, with the vast reforestation project intended to counter smog that regularly envelops the capital and parts of the northern provinces, especially in winter.
More than 6.66 million hectares (32,500 square miles) of new forest will be planted in 2018, with the People’s Liberation Army reassigning tens of thousands of infantry, with additional help from the police force.
Many of the troops will work in the heavily industrial province of Hebei, which circles Beijing. Authorities in Hebei have pledged to raise total forest coverage to 35 percent by the end of 2020.
The initiative is part of a wider plan to increase China’s overall level of forestation from 21.7 percent to 23 percent by the end of the decade, and to 26 percent by 2035.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Bonnie Raitt - Runaway
Bonnie Raitt - Love Me Like a Man
Ray Charles & Bonnie Raitt - Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
Bonnie Raitt - Guilty
Bonnie Raitt & Roy Rogers - Gnawin' On It
Bonnie Raitt & John Prine - Angel From Montgomery
Taj Mahal & Bonnie Raitt - Done Changed My Way of Living
John Lee Hooker w/ Bonnie Raitt - I'm In The Mood
The Rolling Stones w/ Bonnie Raitt
Eric Clapton, BB King & Bonnie Raitt - Blues Jam - Live At Earl Court 10 17, 1998
Bonnie Raitt - Old Grey Whistle Test