The Evening Blues - 4-8-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features delta blues singer Arthur Big Boy Crudup. Enjoy!
Arthur Crudup - That's All Right
"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental - men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre."
-- H. L. Mencken
News and Opinion
In a move human rights defenders decried as "shameful," the Trump administration revoked the visa of the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor this week for trying to investigate alleged war crimes committed by American forces in Afghanistan. "What we can confirm is that the U.S. authorities have revoked the prosecutor's visa for entry into the U.S." Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's office said in a statement. The decision, per her office, shouldn't interfere with her travel to the United Nations headquarters in New York City. ...
Katherine Gallagher, an international human rights attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, condemned the move as "interference with judicial proceedings" that violates international law.
U.S. revokes ICC prosecutor's entry visa over Afghanistan... This is interference with judicial proceedings, pure and simple-a violation of international human rights law & a breach of one of the central tenets of a democracy: that courts are independent. https://t.co/umbLLKswue
— Katherine Gallagher (@katherga1) April 4, 2019
While the decision was widely criticized in the international community, it was not a surprise. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last month that the administration would revoke or deny visas for any court personnel who try to probe or prosecute American officials or key allies—which critics called a "blatant effort to intimidate and retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and advocates seeking justice for victims of serious human rights abuses." Pompeo's announcement came after John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser and a longtime critic of the ICC, threatened to impose sanctions on court officials in September if they continued to pursue an investigation into U.S. service members' conduct in Afghanistan.
Under the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, the United States has refused to join or support the Hague-based court, which probes and prosecutes crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide under international law.
While Ecuador denies plans to revoke Julian Assange's political asylum, a top United Nations human rights official has vowed to investigate fresh rumors, noting that if the WikiLeaks founder is expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, he likely would be arrested by British authorities and extradited to the United States. U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer warned in a statement Friday that "such a response could expose him to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."
Melzer, who is preparing a formal request to visit Assange in London, called on Ecuadorian authorities to refrain from kicking the journalist and publisher out of the embassy or otherwise suspending his political asylum "until such time as the full protection of his human rights can be guaranteed."
The U.N. official also claimed that, according to information he has received, Assange is "at risk of extreme vulnerability, and his health is in serious decline." Given that, Melzer said Ecuador should continue providing the asylee "with adequate living conditions and access to appropriate medical care."
British police are prepared to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he is ousted from his sanctuary at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Officers with London's metropolitan police department were stationed outside the embassy Friday morning following messages from WikiLeaks claiming that Assange would be moved out of the facility within hours or days, The Associated Press reported.
Police told reporters that Assange faces a warrant for his arrest in the United Kingdom, which he has been avoiding for years by living in the Ecuadorian diplomatic compound, and officers said that they are “obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy," according to the AP.
By the time I publish this we’ll be at or around the 24-hour mark since WikiLeaks announced that two high level Ecuadorian government insiders had told them that Julian Assange faces eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy within days, which seems to have been further confirmed by the Foreign Minister of Ecuador now tweeting that states have the right to revoke political asylum at any time. Activists are mobilizing everywhere, a round-the-clock presence has been set up outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and a #Unity4J emergency broadcast is currently underway full of many respected dissident voices coming together in defense of the legendary leak publisher. And, as we should all have come to expect by now, the establishment narrative management patrol has been going out of its way to inform us all that this is a good thing and no cause for alarm.
Why do you suppose the Foreign Minister of Ecuador would choose today of all days to start tweeting about mechanisms for unilaterally revoking asylum claims? https://t.co/RS8xPBwZMJ
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 5, 2019
Whenever you voice concerns about the persecution of Julian Assange on any public forum, you will with remarkable predictability encounter empire loyalists calling Assange a stinky Nazi rapist Putin puppet Trump supporter who deserves to be in prison forever. What’s striking about these responses, which by now are as familiar to me as the keyboard I type these words on, is how extremely emotional they always are. ... This happens because the smear campaign that has been used by the western political/media class to manufacture support for Assange’s silencing and imprisonment has its foundation not in fact, but in emotion. Smear campaigns are by their nature emotional at their core, because they are intended to elicit public disgust, disdain and hatred for their target. That’s why you’ll see so many mainstream news media articles claiming that Assange smells bad, for example, despite that having nothing whatsoever to do with the legitimacy or illegitimacy of Assange’s work. ...
Another reason the Assange smears focus on emotion rather than facts is because the facts are very contrary to the interests of the smear merchants. The facts are that prosecuting Julian Assange under the Espionage Act for exposing US war crimes, as the Trump administration is attempting to do, would strike a devastating blow to press freedoms around the world. This is because there are no legal distinctions in place separating an outlet like WikiLeaks from outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Guardian, meaning that a precedent would be set allowing for the prosecution of those outlets on the same grounds, who also publish anonymous government leaks. Which is why the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian have all warned sternly of this precedent, which has also been recognized by the Obama administration.
The battle for Tripoli escalated on Sunday as a military assault on the city by the eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar led to 21 deaths and nearly 90 injuries, and international calls for calm were ignored.
As the fighting neared the capital, the UN issued a plea for a temporary ceasefire to allow the wounded to be evacuated. Hours earlier, the US announced it was withdrawing some of its troops from the country, citing deteriorating “security conditions on the ground”. India also withdrew a group of its peacekeepers, saying the situation in Libya had suddenly worsened.
The international airport 15 miles south of central Tripoli was a scene of fierce battles after Haftar claimed to have seized control of the area from the UN-backed government of national accord. Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army, backed by the United Arab Emirates, is leading a multi-pronged assault on the capital in an attempt to overthrow the Tripoli-based GNA. ...
An air assault was mounted on military vehicles belonging to the GNA presidential council’s Naqlia camp. It is thought Haftar has superior air forces supplied by the UAE. There is also mounting concern in Washington about Russia’s role in Libya, with diplomatic sources recently accusing Moscow of deploying up to 300 mercenaries in eastern Libya to support Haftar. ...
The US evacuation was the first public acknowledgement that the US had forces in Libya. The US Africa Command said: “The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable.” The US gave no details of the size of the force, or its mission, but said it might be sent back later. In the last three years US special forces have been deployed, along with British and French elite units, to fight Islamic State in Libya. The US has launched more than a dozen sets of airstrikes against Isis in the southern desert.
Yemen is staring down its third major cholera outbreak in four years, according to the United Nations, which puts the number of suspected cases in March at double that of previous months.
The recent spike has invited early comparisons to 2017’s outbreak, when more than 1 million suspected cases of cholera were reported. And the situation could still get worse, doctors and aid officials warned, pointing to a health care system pushed to the brink by years of war and crippling blockades.
With much of the country’s basic infrastructure, including its sewage system, in disarray, there’s particular concern that the water-borne disease will spread rapidly once the rainy season arrives. ...
“The conflict has also caused high rates of malnutrition, which makes children more vulnerable to disease. Malnourished children have compromised immune systems and are even more susceptible to contracting cholera and dying from it,” said Emily Clifton, associate director of humanitarian response at Save the Children.
Theresa May is facing intense cabinet pressure to avoid the prospect of a long Brexit delay, amid increasing expectations that last ditch cross-party talks on a compromise departure plan will not produce anything concrete.
Before a crucial EU summit later this week, the prime minister is facing a fast-diminishing range of options that could split the Conservative party and prompt a mass cabinet walkout, or could result in the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on Friday.
May’s only response on Sunday was a homespun video that called for a compromise solution, but while praised for its conversational style, it lacked any fresh detail on proposals to break the Brexit impasse. With Labour reiterating it had yet to learn even the basics of concessions May might offer after her dramatic call last week for consensus, the timetable looked tight to agree anything before the European council gathering on Wednesday evening.
Under the terms of the previous brief extension agreed with the EU, if Brussels does not agree another delay, a no-deal Brexit will happen on Friday. May has requested a pause until 30 June, but Brussels is keen on a wait of up to a year, which could be broken earlier if a solution is found.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if he wins his country’s election on Tuesday, a dramatic last-minute rallying call to his nationalist base.
In interviews with domestic media ahead of the polls, Netanyahu repeated his promise and said he would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by “controlling the entire area”.
Hundreds of thousands of settlers live in outposts in the West Bank, which Israel’s military captured in a war more than half a century ago and continues to rule, controlling the lives of more than 2.5 million Palestinians.
World powers consider the settlements illegal under international law, built on land confiscated from Palestinian families and squeezing them into ever-smaller enclaves. Formally declaring the settlements part of Israel would also be seen as putting an end to fading hopes for a Palestinian state, as there would be little continuous land on which to create it.
Netanyahu is facing a tight race for re-election. Recent polls have shown his rightwing Likud party just behind the Blue and White party, run by a former Israeli army chief Benny Gantz. However, with support from smaller pro-settlement, far-right and ultranationalist parties, Netanyahu would have a better chance of forming a coalition government.
Addressing American Jews on Saturday in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump casually invoked the anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty by referring to Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “your prime minister.”
Given that Trump was speaking to Jewish Republicans — including Sheldon Adelson, the American casino magnate who is one of Netanyahu’s biggest donors — the president was not wrong to assume that the crowd was strongly pro-Israel, but the accusation that the loyalty of non-Israeli Jews to their home countries is somehow suspect has a long, ugly history.
Later in his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering, Trump referred a second time to American Jews as if they were Israelis by saying that a victory for Democrats in the 2020 election “would cripple our country and very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.”
Trump’s remarks earned him a rebuke from the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, who urged the president, “to avoid language that leads people to believe Jews aren’t loyal Americans.”
The president’s comments were particularly striking because they came just minutes after he mocked Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, for her criticism of Israel.
Beto O'Rourke: "The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet. And that relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a Prime Minister who is racist." pic.twitter.com/cZoEerEU82
— The Hill (@thehill) April 7, 2019
Donald Trump and Fox News are coming under fire for contributing to a climate of Islamophobia, following the arrest of a supporter of the president who threatened to kill Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota who was one of the first Muslim women elected to the US Congress.
Patrick Carlineo, from Addison, New York, was arrested on Friday and charged with making a threatening phone call to Omar’s office. According to the FBI, Carlineo told a staff member: “Do you work for the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are you working for her, she’s a fucking terrorist. I’ll put a bullet in her fucking skull.”
Though Fox News was not mentioned in the complaint against Carlineo, the New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez drew a direct link between controversial remarks made by presenter Jeanine Pirro and the threat against Omar. Last month Pirro attacked Omar’s wearing of the hijab, asking if it was indicative of “her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States constitution”.
In a tweet on Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez implied there was a causal link between Pirro’s comments and the death threat against Omar. ...
Just hours after Carlineo’s arrest, Trump mocked Omar in front of an audience of Jewish Republicans. Sarcastically pretending to thank Omar for her support of Israel, he said: “Oh, I forgot. She doesn’t like Israel, I forgot, I’m sorry. No, she doesn’t like Israel, does she?”
Democrats in Congress will “never” see Donald Trump’s tax returns, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday. Mulvaney accused Democrats of engaging in a “political stunt” after the chair of the House ways and means committee, Richard Neal, this week asked the Internal Revenue Service to provide six years of the president’s personal tax returns and the returns for some of his businesses. ...
An obscure 1924 statute includes no exceptions to Neal’s authority to ask for returns and says the treasury “shall furnish” them when requested. It does require a review be conducted in “closed executive session” if the returns are provided without the taxpayer’s consent.
Mulvaney said the law provides narrow exceptions for lawmakers to review tax returns but Democrats “knew they are not going to get [Trump’s] taxes”. ...
Michigan representative Dan Kildee, a member of the tax committee, hit back. “This is a legitimate authority that the Congress has,” he told ABC’s This Week. “This president, by the way, is the least transparent president we’ve had in half a century. “It is not up to President Trump, it is not up to some lawyer that President Trump hires, to determine whether” his tax returns can be sought, Kildee said. “This is not an autocracy. The president does not get to decide for himself and for Congress what a legitimate subject of inquiry might be.”
On Friday, an attorney for Trump said the request “would set a dangerous precedent” and contended that the IRS cannot legally divulge the information.
It could take the US government up to two years to identify potentially thousands of children who were separated from their parents by the authorities at the southern border, the government said in a court filing.
The filing late on Friday outlined for the first time the Trump administration’s plan for identifying which family members might have been separated by assessing thousands of records using data analysis, statistical science and manual review. Last month, a federal judge in San Diego expanded the number of migrant families the government may be required to reunite as part of a class-action lawsuit brought last year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Office of Inspector General at the US Department of Health and Human Services said earlier this year it had identified many more children in addition to the 2,737 initially included in the suit. The US district court judge Dana Sabraw had already ordered those children be reunited with their parents. ...
In a statement on Saturday, the ACLU lead attorney for the case, Lee Gelernt, said the group strongly opposed the government’s proposed plan and accused it of not treating the separations with the necessary urgency.
Trump calls on Congress to "get rid of the whole asylum system" because "it doesn't work."
"Frankly, we should get rid of judges," he adds. pic.twitter.com/5s8kI9mbHR
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 5, 2019
Kirsten Nielsen, the homeland security secretary who has been the public face of some of the Trump administration’s most contentious policies, has resigned.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2019
... Nielsen’s position had been rocky for some time. In November, leaks from the White House suggested she would be out by the end of the year as Trump fulminated against what he complained was her weak performance. The previous May, the New York Times reported that Trump had humiliated her in front of the entire cabinet, castigating her for failing to reduce the numbers of undocumented migrants entering the US from Mexico. The newspaper said she considered quitting then.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading every other presidential candidate in support from Hispanic voters, who make up a significant chunk of his base, recent polling finds. Sustaining this support will be critical to Sanders’s shot at the Democratic nomination, as Latinx voters will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate by 2020, and wield greater influence over the outcome of the nomination than in previous elections due to changes in the primary calendar.
The polling, which was done by Morning Consult and shared with The Intercept, shows that Sanders’s support among Hispanic voters is at 33 percent, though those results are not broken down by age, which could be a determining factor in the primary vote. Sanders generally performs best among young voters, and a turnout of young Latinx voters would likely benefit him more than if older Latinx voters show up to the polls.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is also considered a leading candidate despite not having declared his run for office, is the only contender who comes close to Sanders’s level of support, with 24 percent of Latinx voters polled putting their weight behind him.
Just six states hold about 71 percent of eligible Hispanic voters, including 7.7 million who live in California, 5.4 million who live in Texas, and 3 million in Florida, all of which are early primary states. Hispanic people overall are on track to account for more than 13 percent of eligible voters — slightly more than the share of black voters, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. In the 2018 midterms, about 43.5 percent of all Hispanic eligible voters were 18 to 35 years old, compared with 30.6 percent of all eligible voters. Super Tuesday, which will fall on March 3, 2020, will include California and Texas, two delegate-rich states that also happen to have the largest Latinx populations in the country.
[See article for more extensive poll results and analysis. -js]
Former Vice President Joe Biden, accused of touching seven women inappropriately, took the opportunity on Friday to make two jokes about touching.
As Biden took the stage at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference in Washington, D.C., he embraced the group’s president, Lonnie Stephenson. Right before starting his speech, Biden then told the crowd, “I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie.”
The crowd laughed. Attendees were primarily men, the New York Times reported.
Saturday Night Live gives Biden a pass.
If you buy scientists’ claims that an economy-wide mobilization is the only thing that can stave off full-blown catastrophe, there are some obvious reasons to believe that a Green New Deal — the only call for that on the table — will make us happy, at least in the long run. Averting civilizational collapse, that is, is a happier outcome than the alternative. Provisions like a federal job guarantee, improved public transportation, and reining in pollution could improve millions of lives in the shorter term. A growing body of research, though, points to some more unexpected reasons why a Green New Deal could make us more cheerful.
The most recent entry on this front is a forthcoming paper from economists Anders Fremstad and Mark Paul. Looking at household-level data on work hours and household purchasing habits from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, they then calculate the carbon-intensity of that spending to produce individual carbon footprints for each of the households surveyed. Fremsted and Paul find that people who work less also emit less carbon dioxide.
The punchline here isn’t novel; economist Juliet Schor has been drawing connections between work hours and climate change for well over a decade, stemming from her work in the 1993 bestseller “The Overworked American,” delineating how Americans have come to work more and what effect that has on how people spend their dwindling leisure time. Namely, by doing more shopping — a habit spurred on by copious corporate advertising. “Many potentially satisfying leisure skills are off limits because they take too much time: participating in community theater, seriously taking up a sport or a musical instrument, getting involved with a church or community organization,” she wrote then. “We have gotten ourselves entrenched in a cycle of work and spend — a cycle of long hours and consumer mentality as a way of life.” As Schor’s recent work has pointed out more directly, all that manufactured consumption comes at a high carbon cost. Examining data from 29 high-income OECD countries conducted between 1970 and 2007, Schor and the late Eugene Rosa and Kyle Knight found in comparing nations that shorter work hours reduce both ecological (i.e., resource usage) and carbon footprints.
Things didn’t necessarily need to turn out this way. At the start of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that work weeks could dwindle to just 15 hours as people opted for more leisure time, their material needs being met and then some as living standards rose. The labor militants that helped push for and win the original New Deal also campaigned for shorter work weeks and higher wages, to allow more people to do less work overall while getting more of their basic needs met by a freshly minted welfare state. Combined with rising automation, many expected that shorter work weeks were all but inevitable as Keynes predicted. Yet years later work hours in the United States have ballooned and remain stubbornly high, thanks in no small part, as Schor documents, to the right wing’s persistent attacks on unions. Productivity has skyrocketed as wages have stagnated — a split that widened starkly as neoliberalism and the giddy consumerism it brought with it took hold.
Though global phenomena, the effects of each have been felt acutely in the United States, an oddly tired man out among wealthy countries. As Fremsted and Paul reiterate from Schor’s and others’ work, “Most high-income countries have substantially shorter work hours and significantly smaller carbon footprints than the US. For example, the average German worker toils 23 percent fewer hours than their American counterpart, and the average German emits 46 percent less carbon.” None of that happened by accident, of course: In Germany, shorter work weeks have been a perennial demand of the country’s labor movement, which has a formal role in the governance of its biggest companies. Shorter weeks can go hand in hand with a job guarantee, too — if each person works less, there are more useful jobs to go around.
Human activity has helped cause carbon levels to rise to a rate that hasn't been seen on planet Earth in three million years, researchers have revealed.
A study published Wednesday by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany showed that the last time carbon dioxide was detected in the planet's atmosphere at the level it is now was during the Pliocene epoch, which took place 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago.
Greenland was mostly green the last time carbon levels were this high.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) April 4, 2019
Authors of the report, which was published in Science Advances, warned that while global temperatures have not yet risen more than 2º Celsius (3.6º Fahrenheit) above industrial levels in the past three million years, they likely will if "climate inaction" on the part of world governments continues. "It seems we're now pushing our home planet beyond any climatic conditions experienced during the entire current geological period, the Quaternary," said Matteo Willeit, lead author of the study, "a period that started almost three million years ago and saw human civilization beginning only 11,000 years ago. So, the modern climate change we see is big, really big; even by standards of Earth history." ...
Carbon levels are currently at 410 parts per million and rising.
Scientists estimate that at least 100 million and maybe as many as a billion birds die each year in the US when they collide with buildings, especially glass-covered or illuminated skyscrapers. And, in a new report, conservationists now have a better idea which American cities are the deadliest for those on the wing.
Chicago, with its many glass superstructures that spike into what is the busiest US avian airspace during migration, is the most dangerous city for those feathered travelers. More than 5 million birds from at least 250 different species fly through the Windy City’s downtown every fall and spring. They journey twice a year, many thousands of miles, going north in the spring from Central and South America, across the Great Lakes to Canada, and back south in the fall.
The famous skyline of Manhattan is another death trap for birds, especially those migrating. “They wind up landing somewhere that’s unfamiliar, like a sidewalk somewhere,” said Susan Elbin, director of conservation and science at New York City Audubon, a leading bird advocacy organization. “Then when daylight comes, and they want to get more food, they’ll fly into a tree that they think is a tree, and it’s really a reflected tree in some glass building … Then they’ll slam into the glass, and then they die.”
Most birds migrating through the US do so at night, when the airspace is cool and calm – and often end up veering through cities because their glow stands out. Scientists have long known that birds are attracted to light, so when they fly over a bright city at night, they are naturally drawn toward it, unaware they are in dangerous territory. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology published a study this week that ranks cities based on the danger they pose to migrating birds.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - Mean Ol' Frisco
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - Look On Yonder Wall
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - My Baby Left Me
Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup - Death Valley Blues
Arthur Big Boy Crudup - Katie Mae
Arthur Big Boy Crudup - My Mama Don't Allow Me
Arthur Big Boy Crudup - Rock Me Mama
Arthur Big Boy Crudup - Ethel Mae
Arthur Big Boy Crudup - I Want My Lovin'
Arthur Big Boy Crudup & Sons - Greyhound Bus Blues