The Evening Blues - 2-7-24
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans soul-blues singer Irma Thomas. Enjoy!
Irma Thomas - Ruler of my heart
“It doesn't matter if justice is on your side. You have to depict your position as just.”
-- Benjamin Netanyahu
News and Opinion
Mass media outlets like The Guardian, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have been allowing the publication of some amazingly racist pieces these last few days. All are directed at middle easterners and those of middle eastern descent, just as the western empire drops more and more bombs on more and more countries in the middle east.
On Monday The Guardian published a political cartoon which would be indistinguishable from Nazi propaganda of the 1930s, except that it happens to depict a Muslim instead of a Jew. The cartoon features Iranian leader Ali Khamenei holding puppet strings to so-called Iranian proxy groups in the middle east like the Houthis, Hezbollah and Hamas, in exactly the same way Nazis used to depict Jews as malignant puppet masters manipulating world affairs.
To this day it’s understood by the mainstream press that it’s unacceptable to depict anyone of the Jewish faith as any kind of puppet-master figure in any context at all. Fox News, the Dutch paper De Volkskrant, the Indian Bharatiya Janata Party and right wing political cartoonist Ben Garrison have all come under fire in recent years for depicting Jewish people in that way, so it’s safe to say that if The Guardian had published a similar cartoon about Israeli influence featuring an Israeli leader it would have been a massive scandal subject to international outcry.
In fact the bar is quite a bit lower for what qualifies as an outrageous racist trope when it comes to criticism of Israel. Mainstream platforms like The Guardian, The New York Times and the Sunday Times have been pressured to remove cartoons critical of Israel which are far less clearly anti-semitic than cartoons about sinister puppet masters. In 2014 the Sydney Morning Herald was pressured to remove and apologize for a cartoon which was labeled anti-semitic because it featured “a grotesque stereotype of a Jew using a remote-control device to blow up houses and people in Gaza,” something that for the last four months has been a daily occurance and an objective fact of life.
There is zero chance that The Guardian’s editors would have even for a second entertained the idea of publishing such a cartoon about Israeli leaders in the year 2024, but apparently publishing the exact same sort of rehashed Nazi propaganda about Iranian leaders is perfectly fine.
The NY Times is comparing victims of US-Israeli genocide and colonialism to insects.
This is the contemporary equivalent of Nazi rhetoric that dehumanized their victims as cockroaches. Except now fascist ideology is so mainstream in the US, NYT columnist Thomas Friedman uses it. https://t.co/6pBTkoesrw
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 4, 2024
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who has never met a middle eastern war that didn’t physically arouse him, was somehow permitted to publish an article titled “Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom” which compares middle easterners to insects and parasites.
There is of course no meaningful analysis in Friedman’s piece; he’s literally just comparing countries he likes to cool animals and countries he doesn’t like to yucky bugs. Hamas is a spider. Iran is a “parasitoid wasp”, and Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq are the caterpillars it lays its eggs in. Netanyahu is a lemur, hopping side to side based on the political demands of the moment, and the United States? You guys, get this: the United States is a lion. Rooooar!
Again, there is no mainstream western outlet in existence who would permit a columnist to compare Israelis to insects or parasites, and rightly so — it’s exactly the type of dehumanizing language was used by the Nazis to pave the way to the Holocaust. But comparing Muslim populations is a-okay in the eyes of the western press.
“We have no counterstrategy that safely and efficiently kills the wasp without setting fire to the whole jungle,” Friedman writes, as though this is a perfectly sane and normal thing to print in the most influential newspaper in the western world.
“Sometimes I contemplate the Middle East by watching CNN. Other times, I prefer Animal Planet,” Friedman concludes, apparently never having been told that contemplating the middle east by watching either is an embarrassing admission.
And that’s it. That’s the extent of the analysis here from mister Thomas L Friedman, who has won no fewer than three Pulitzers for this kind of baby-brained schtick. And if that isn’t an indictment of the state of western journalism, nothing is.
Not to be outdone, The Wall Street Journal has published an article by Steven Stalinsky titled “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital” about the Michigan city which is home to the largest per capita Muslim population in the United States.
In recent decades Dearborn saw a wave of immigration from Palestine and from Muslim-majority nations that the US is currently bombing like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and apparently Mr Stalinsky finds it outrageous and scandalous that such a population would be opposing Israel’s actions in Gaza at this time. He frets over a Palestinian American Islamist cleric calling President Biden a “senile pharoah”, which I think we can all agree is hilarious.
Stalinsky runs a think tank called the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which was literally founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer. Pro-Palestine activist and academic Norman Finkelstein has accused MEMRI of using “the same sort of propaganda techniques as the Nazis,” and even brazenly unprincipled empire propagandist Brian Whitaker has written that MEMRI “poses as a research institute when it’s basically a propaganda operation.”
In the last few days The Wall Street Journal has also published editorial board pieces with demented headlines like “Chicago Votes for Hamas” after the Chicago City Council voted to support a ceasefire in Gaza, and “The U.N.’s War on Israel” about the since-discredited narrative that some UNRWA staff are known to have participated in the October 7 attack.
And I must say it sure is an interesting coincidence how all this mass media demonizing and dehumanizing of Muslim populations is happening at the exact same time the western empire is raining military explosives upon nations full of Muslims. It’s almost like the western press are trying to manufacture consent for the military aggressions of western governments. It’s almost like they always have.
Israel has said it has informed the families of 31 people held in the territory since 7 October that their relatives are dead. The news came as the Qatari prime minister said Hamas had given a “generally positive” response to proposals for a deal trading a break in the fighting and release of Palestinian prisoners for the return of more hostages. ...
Qatar’s Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose country is acting as a mediator between the two sides, said on Tuesday that Hamas’s response to proposals drawn up by the US and Israel and tabled more than a week ago “inspires optimism”, but he said he would not go into details. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, speaking with the Qatari PM on his fifth tour of the region since the 7 October attacks, said he would discuss Hamas’s response with Israel on Wednesday.
“There’s still a lot of work to do be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible, and indeed essential,” Blinken said.
A statement from Hamas referred to “a comprehensive and complete ceasefire, ending the aggression against our people”. Israel has previously ruled out a permanent ceasefire and it is believed it was proposing a pause in the fighting of 40 days.
The kernel of the negotiations turns on whether there are guarantees, implicit or explicit, that an extended ceasefire will become permanent, and whether the number of Palestinian prisoners likely to be released meets the demands of Hamas for a near emptying of jails. The future status and presence of Israeli forces inside Gaza during the ceasefire has also been contentious.
As the US escalates the war in the Middle East by targeting Iran and Iranian-backed militia, Israel is preparing to widen its genocidal war in Gaza by attacking Hezbollah military forces in southern Lebanon and Syria. Such a conflict would likely extend the barbarity being inflicted on Gaza and dramatically inflame the situation throughout the region and internationally.
Fighting along Israel’s northern border has been underway for months since the eruption of the war in Gaza on October 7, including strikes by Israel and Hezbollah on virtually a daily basis. Israeli attacks have killed at least 177 Hezbollah fighters and 40 others, including 19 civilians, three of whom were journalists. Nine Israeli soldiers and reservists have been killed, along with six civilians. Some 76,000 civilians in Lebanon have been displaced by the conflict, as well as 80,000 Israelis.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant made a series of statements last week indicating that full-scale war is imminent. Amid negotiations over a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, he warned on Friday: “If Hezbollah thinks that when there’s a pause in fighting in the south, we will hold fire against it, it’s sorely mistaken.” Speaking to Israeli troops, Gallant emphasised: “I say here explicitly: Until we reach a situation in which it’s possible to restore security for residents of the north, we will not stop. Whether we reach this through a [diplomatic] arrangement or military means, we will [restore] calm.”
Earlier in last week, the defence minister told troops on Israel’s southern border with Gaza that “forces close to you… are leaving the field and moving towards the north, and preparing for what comes next.” Gallant declared that “they very soon will go into action.” As it launched its onslaught on Gaza, the Israeli military boosted its presence in northern Israel. Tens of thousands of regular troops and some 60,000 reservists are deployed there already.
The following day, Gallant declared again that “the stage will come when our patience will run out.” He warned that “a forceful action to enforce peace on the northern border” would impact the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Indicating the close involvement of the US in the war preparations, Gallant discussed tensions on the northern Israeli border with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last Thursday night.
"This was the third time a humanitarian convoy led by @UNRWA has been hit"@JulietteTouma confirms to @AJEnglish that yesterday an @UNRWA led convoy was hit while carrying food to people in northern #Gaza - where there are the highest levels of starvation among the population. pic.twitter.com/69NW4PyHhs
— UNRWA (@UNRWA) February 6, 2024
An Israeli dossier that more than a dozen countries have cited to justify cutting off funding to the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency “provides no evidence” that a small number of the key U.N. aid body’s employees were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack, according to an investigation released Monday by the British outlet Channel 4.
The dossier merely states that
“from intelligence information, documents, and identity cards seized during the course of the fighting, it is now possible to flag around 190 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist operatives who serve as UNRWA employees.”
“More than 10 UNRWA staffers took part in the events of [Oct. 7],” reads the six-page dossier, which Israel provided to UNRWA donor countries — including the agency’s top contributor, the United States — shortly after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed down an interim decision ordering Israel to take concrete steps to prevent genocide in the Gaza Strip. The ICJ instructed the Israeli government to ensure that sufficient humanitarian assistance flows to desperate and starving Gazans, but Israel’s allegations against UNRWA employees led at least 16 countries to suspend funding for the agency, the most critical aid body operating in the Palestinian enclave. Around a million displaced Gazans are currently sheltering at facilities run by UNRWA, which has 13,000 employees across the strip.
The UNRWA is reportedly set to lose $65 million by the end of February as donors’ funding cuts take effect, imperiling the agency’s operations in Gaza and across the Middle East.
Channel 4 noted Monday that all 13,000 of UNRWA’s Gaza employees’ names “have been checked against the U.N. terrorism list and, as recently as last May, were vetted and approved by Israel.” The Daily Beast also obtained a copy of the Israeli dossier and — similar to Channel 4 — reported Tuesday that it “includes little evidence to back up” Israel’s allegations against UNRWA employees.
Retired US Marines Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, former commander of US Central Command, described Israel’s success in Gaza as “very limited,” noting Israel has failed to dismantle the Palestinian group’s military and political leadership.
McKenzie, who retired from his post at CENTCOM in 2022, made the comments while appearing on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. When asked about the level of Israel’s success, McKenzie said, “It’s very limited so far.”
“I think they set themselves a goal of removing the political echelon, and the military leadership echelon of Hamas, when they went in. They have not been successful to date at doing either,” he said.
The US House of Representatives rejected a Republican-led bill on Tuesday that would provide $17.6bn to Israel, as Democrats said they wanted a vote instead on a broader measure that would also provide assistance to Ukraine, international humanitarian funding and new money for border security.
The vote was 250 to 180, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage.
Opponents called the Israel legislation a political ploy by Republicans to distract from their opposition to a $118bn Senate bill combining an overhaul of US immigration policy and new funding for border security with billions of dollars in emergency aid for Ukraine, Israel and partners in the Indo-Pacific region. ...
The Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, had said the Senate bill was “dead on arrival” in the chamber even before it was introduced. And Senate Republican leaders said on Tuesday they did not think the measure would receive enough votes to pass.
The US is purposely blocking a Yemen peace deal that was negotiated between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The US decision to re-designate the Houthis as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” will block the payment of public sector workers living in Houthi-controlled Yemen, who have gone without pay for years.
The payment of civil workers has been a key demand of the Houthis and is part of the first phase of the peace deal. The Houthis had asked for the salaries to be paid for using oil revenue that goes to the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, whose leaders are mainly based in Saudi Arabia. It’s unclear if the Saudi side agreed to the Houthi demand or if they decided to pay the salaries using other means. ...
A US official told the Times that the US would only allow the payment of Yemeni civil salaries if the Houthis choose the path of “peace” and stop attacking shipping in the Red Sea. But the Houthis, who govern the most populated area of Yemen, have been clear the operations will only stop once the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza ends.
Reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is transporting goods to Israel via Jordan, on a new land route bypassing the risk of attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, off Yemen, has stoked anger on the Jordanian street.
Hundreds of Jordanians have held protests demanding an end to what they called "the Zionist land bridge" aimed at circumventing the impact of the attacks on ships heading to Israeli ports by the Iran-aligned Ansar Allah, better known as the Houthi movement.
In mid-December, Israeli media reported the arrival of the first batch of commercial shipments of fresh produce to Israel from the UAE through a new alternative route that passes through Saudi Arabia and Jordan and takes two days.
The Jordanian government has since repeatedly attempted to dispel the reports as misinformation, however a recent report by Israeli Channel 13 caused widespread anger in Jordan.
On 31 January, the channel broadcast interviews with truck drivers coming from the UAE carrying goods for Israel and drone footage of dozens of commercial trucks parked at the border crossing that connects Jordan to Israel in the Jordan Valley region.
House Republicans on Tuesday narrowly failed to impeach the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, a stinging – but possibly only temporary – setback for the majority’s deeply partisan effort to punish a cabinet official in a presidential election year.
In a vote of 216-214, four Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the two articles of impeachment against the secretary. When the gavel came down, Democrats burst into applause, having assailed the impeachment case against Mayorkas as a “bunch of garbage” designed to boost Donald Trump’s electoral prospects in the November election.
In a sign that Tuesday’s defeat may only be temporary, the Republican congressman Blake Moore of Utah, who supports the impeachment effort, switched his yes vote to a no in a procedural move that would allow the motion to be brought up to the floor again at a later date.
Republicans sought to impeach Mayorkas on charges that he willfully refused to enforce immigration law, resulting in record levels of migration at the US’s southern border, and “breached the public trust” by his actions. The historic vote would have marked the first time since 1876 that the House had impeached a cabinet official, but with hours to go before a scheduled evening vote its prospects dimmed.
With Republicans in control of the House by a whisker-thin margin, and Democrats uniformly opposed, they could only afford a handful of defections. Two Republicans had already announced their opposition in advance of the vote, then on the floor, the Republican congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, cast the decisive vote.
A potential perjury deal with a key witness could shake up the verdict in Donald Trump’s $370m New York fraud trial, a new court document reveals. Arthur Engoron, the judge presiding over the case, sent an email to the trial’s lawyers on Monday asking them to give him more information about a supposed perjury deal that Allen Weisselberg, a former Trump Organization executive, is making with the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
While Bragg’s office is not involved with the fraud trial – which is being prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office – the district attorney’s office is overseeing a separate hush-money case against Trump. The New York Times reported on 1 February that Bragg’s office was in the early stages of negotiating a deal with Weisselberg. Should he take the deal, Weisselberg would admit to committing perjury during his October testimony in the fraud trial. In exchange, he would not have to be a witness against Trump in the hush-money trial, which is scheduled for March.
Weisselberg, who served as chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, is a key figure in both cases, having been intimately involved with Trump’s finances for decades. ...
In his email, Engoron said he wanted to know whether Weisselberg “is admitting he lied under oath in my courtroom at this trial”. “Although the Times article focuses on the size of the Trump Tower Penthouse, his testimony on other topics could be called into question.” Engoron said he might use such a perjury admittance to “invoke falsus in uno”, meaning he would judge Weisselberg’s entire testimony as not credible.
The young, muscular male approached from the east at about 4am. He paused briefly in front of the motion-sensor camera, seemingly posing for the photo. “It was overall a moment of euphoria,” says Emily Burns, programme director at the Sky Island Alliance conservation group in Arizona, as she walks along a rutted forest service road towards a canyon framed by lichen-covered cliffs. “I was equal parts thrilled and shocked that there was a jaguar here.”
Jaguars once roamed throughout the American south-west, but they were hunted to local extinction by the 1960s. In the 1990s, the elusive cat began to occasionally reappear in the rugged Sky Islands mountain ranges in New Mexico and Arizona. Now, a series of sightings in the region over the past year marks the endangered predators’ tentative return.
Yet numerous obstacles remain to re-establishing a jaguar population in the US. The wide-ranging cat faces growing climate extremes, habitat loss – and the continued impact of the Trump administration’s border wall, which has severed wildlife corridors and fragmented ecosystems throughout the region. ...
The Whetstone and Huachuca mountains are part of the Sky Islands, a series of rugged peaks rising from the desert floor of northern Mexico and the US south-west, so-called because of the radical difference between their habitats and that of the surrounding lowland. Their peaks and valleys boast some of the highest biodiversity in the US – and are a plentiful habitat for jaguars. ...
Louise Misztal, executive director at Sky Island Alliance, says: “We know the western flank of the Huachuca mountains and the San Rafael valley provide one of the last open corridors for the northernmost population of jaguars to move between habitat in the US and Mexico. To recover these cats in the US, it’s vital that we protect this pathway.” But that freedom – and the animal’s return to this region – is threatened by the construction of the border wall, begun under Donald Trump’s presidency and continued under Joe Biden’s, despite the latter’s opposition to the policy.
From deadly floods in California to devastating fires in Chile, scientists say the world is not prepared for the climate disasters that are hitting with increasing frequency as human-driven global heating continues to break records. The hottest year in history has been followed by the warmest ever January. Many regions in the northern hemisphere are sweltering in heatwaves that would be more normal in June. Marine scientists are shocked by the prolonged and intense heat at the surface of the oceans.
Scientists say the extreme heat is mostly the result of human activity, such as the burning of oil, gas and coal and the cutting down of forests. This has been amplified by natural factors, particularly the El Niño – a phenomenon associated with Pacific Ocean warming – that started last year and is expected to continue until spring at the earliest. This year has a one in three chance of being even hotter than last year’s record, according to the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The higher the global temperature, the greater the risk of fires and flooding. This month alone has seen two grim records of such climate-related disasters.
The Chilean president, Gabriel Boric, has declared two days of national mourning after the country’s deadliest ever forest fires claimed more than 120 lives in the Valparaíso region. This follows a decade-long drought in the area and a shift from diverse natural forests, which are more resilient to fire, to monoculture plantations, which are more vulnerable. In the US, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, announced a state of emergency as an “atmospheric river” – which was supercharged by the unusually warm Pacific Ocean – dumped unprecedented amounts of rain on San Diego and neighbouring districts, killing at least three people.
Attribution studies will be needed to ascertain the precise extent to which these particular calamities were drive by human-driven climate disruption, but they are in line with a broader trend towards increasingly severe impacts.
In what one plaintiff called "a sweeping victory for family farmers and dozens of endangered plants and animals," a federal court in Arizona on Tuesday rescinded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2020 approval of the highly volatile herbicide dicamba for use on certain genetically engineered crops.
In a 47-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David C. Bury found that the EPA failed to comply with public notice and comment requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), legislation passed in 1947 to protect agricultural workers, consumers, and the environment. ...
Dicamba has damaged millions of acres of U.S. cropland since the EPA, during the Trump administration, dubiously approved its use on genetically engineered cotton and soybeans developed by Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018.
The EPA subsequently identified spray drift as the main environmental risk for dicamba due to its potential to contaminate nontargeted crops, declaring that since 2016 "there has been a substantial increase in the overall number of reported nontarget plant incidents."
As CFS explained on Tuesday:
In today's decision, the court canceled dicamba's over-the-top use, holding that EPA violated FIFRA's public input requirement prior to the approval. This violation is "very serious," according to the court, especially because the 9th Circuit previously held EPA failed to consider serious risks of over-the-top dicamba in issuing the prior registration. The court outlined the massive damage to stakeholders that were deprived of their opportunity to comment, such as growers that do not use over-the-top dicamba and suffered significant financial losses and states that repeatedly reported landscape-level damage yet, in the same 2020 decision, lost the ability to impose restrictions greater than those imposed by the federal government without formal legislative and/or rulemaking processes. As a result, the court found "the EPA is unlikely to issue the same registrations" again after taking these stakeholders' concerns into account.
"We are grateful that the court held the EPA and Monsanto accountable for the massive damage from dicamba to farmers, farmworkers, and the environment, and halted its use," Lisa Griffith of the National Family Farm Coalition—another plaintiff in the case—said in a statement Tuesday. "The pesticide system that Monsanto sells should not be sprayed as it cannot be sprayed safely."
Tuesday's decision in Arizona follows a July 2022 ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis that found Monsanto and BASF were liable for damage to a Missouri peach farmer's groves caused by dicamba.
A 2021 EPA report revealed that high-ranking Trump administration officials intentionally excluded scientific evidence of dicamba-related hazards, including the risk of widespread drift damage, before reapproving the dangerous chemical. A separate EPA report described the widespread harm to farmers and the environment caused by dicamba during the 2020 growing season.
"Every summer since the approval of dicamba, our farm has suffered significant damage to a wide range of vegetable crops," said Rob Faux, a farmer and communications manager at the advocacy group Pesticide Action Network, a case plaintiff. "Today's decision provides much-needed and overdue protection for farmers and the environment."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Irma Thomas - Time Is On My Side
Irma Thomas - It's Raining
Irma Thomas - I Wish Someone Would Care
Irma Thomas - I've been loving you too long
Irma Thomas - I Done Got Over It
Irma Thomas - Break-A-Way
Irma Thomas - Hittin' On Nothing
Irma Thomas - Times Have Changed
Irma Thomas - Backwater Blues