The Evening Blues - 6-21-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singers Sam and Dave. Enjoy!
Sam and Dave - I Thank You
"We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
News and Opinion
After Approving Strike on Iran Backed by Bolton, Pompeo, and Haspel, Trump Called Off Attack at Last Minute
Just hours after he brought the United States to the brink of war Thursday night by approving a military strike against Iran, President Donald Trump abruptly called off the attack before any missiles were fired.
That's according to the New York Times, which reported that as late as 7 pm Thursday, "military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president's top national security officials and congressional leaders." ...
The military strike—which was approved after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone that it said violated its airspace—was reportedly backed by national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA director Gina Haspel, a team critics have described as the president's "war cabinet."
According to the Times, Trump "initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries."
This ought to put an end to dismissal of a US war of choice with Iran as too idiotic to happen, and an end to the idea that if it did happen it would be an "accident," as opposed to immoral madness. Join us#NoWarWithIran https://t.co/Bcieb0uN1c
— Ploughshares Fund (@plough_shares) June 21, 2019
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in response to the Times report that the "place we have arrived at tonight on Iran is Donald Trump's choice."
"He chose escalation over diplomacy," Murphy tweeted, "without any idea how to get out of the downward spiral he set in motion."
Donald Trump has said he cancelled an airstrike on Iran with 10 minutes to go because it would not have been proportionate to kill 150 people in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned US drone.
....On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
....proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
It was reported overnight that Trump gave approval for the US military to launch the strikes on Iran but pulled back at the last minute. Planes were in the air and ships were in position but no missiles were fired before word came to stand down on Thursday night, the New York Times quoted an unnamed official as saying.
US military and diplomatic officials were expecting strikes on a handful of radar and missile sites after the president’s leading national security officials and congressional leaders gathered at the White House, the paper said. The military operation was called off at about 7.30pm ET (12.30am BST).
Senior US Democrats led the outcry on Friday against Donald Trump’s dramatic almost-launch of military action on Iran and the last-minute pullback – calling the crisis “self-inflicted” by America and pressing for a swift de-escalation.
They also demanded oversight from Congress on decisions involving any eventual strikes. ...
While most Democrats were focused on the risk of war, some decried the almost haphazard manner in which Trump had called off airstrikes with just minutes to spare. Trump said he made the decision after he was informed that the strikes could cause the loss of up to 150 Iranian lives – but in that case, Democrats wanted to know, why was he informed so late in the process?
Anthony Brown, the Democratic vice-chairman of the House armed services committee, told CNN: “But 10 minutes before a potential strike against Iran – that demonstrates a broken system, a lack of understanding and knowledge by our commander-in-chief.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill fear members of President Trump’s inner circle are pushing the commander-in-chief into starting a war with Iran — and they’re taking steps to stop it. ... Wednesday the House of Representatives tried to take away his ability to order a strike on Iran by voting to repeal the two-decades-old Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the 9/11-era law authorizing the war against terror that former President George W. Bush used to invade Iraq and that his successors have used to carry out military missions in the Middle East.
The House vote marked the first time either chamber of Congress has voted to revoke the war powers granted to the executive branch; the AUMF is also one of the legal underpinnings the administration is using to justify any potential military conflict with Iran. But it comes as many prominent Republicans are telling the president he can launch airstrikes and other military operations without having to come to Congress. ...
In the House, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) is working to attach language to a must-pass defense authorization bill that explicitly says the current AUMF doesn’t apply to Iran while also threatening to cut off funding to any military activity in Iran that isn’t approved by Congress.
“I don’t think Trump wants to go to war,” Khanna told VICE News in between votes just off the House floor. “I think Bolton and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo are trying to create the conditions that will force his hand. He’s using them to appease the right-wing base and thinks he can call the shots, and the danger is that there’s some risk of miscalculation that escalates.”
The Republican-controlled US Senate has voted to block the Trump administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia, launching a new challenge to Donald Trump’s alliance with the country amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
Trump had already promised to veto the measures. The White House said stopping the sales “would send a message that the United States is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing”.
While all the resolutions of disapproval voted on in the Senate on Thursday will probably pass the Democratic-controlled House, supporters fell well short of a veto-proof margin.
Two of the resolutions passed with 53 votes, while another group was approved narrowly, with 51 votes. Overturning a presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
Seven Republicans broke with Trump to reject at least some of the arms sales. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Todd Young of Indiana all supported at least some of the votes to block weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
'Rare Piece of Good News for the People of Yemen' as UK Court Finds Weapons Sales to Saudis Unlawful
In an "historic" Thursday ruling, the U.K. Court of Appeal declared unlawful the government's decision to allow weapons sales to Saudi Arabia while it wages war on Yemen without assessing breaches of international humanitarian law. The judgment (pdf) came in response to a judicial review brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)—joined by Amnesty International, Rights Watch U.K., and Human Rights Watch. Amnesty's Lucy Claridge called the ruling "a rare piece of good news for the people of Yemen."
"We welcome this verdict," CAAT campaigner Andrew Smith said in a statement, "but it should never have taken a court case brought by campaigners to force the government to follow its own rules."
"The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world, yet, for decades, it has been the largest buyer of U.K.-made arms. No matter what atrocities it has inflicted, the Saudi regime has been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the U.K.," Smith added. "The arms sales must stop immediately."
The UK government should accept today’s court ruling that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful because of their use against civilians in Yemen.
UK advice, assistance and arms supplies to Saudi's war in Yemen is a moral stain on our country.
Arms sales to Saudi must stop now.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 20, 2019
U.N. Concludes That Saudi Arabia Needs to Be Held Accountable for Khashoggi. Here’s Why That Won’t Happen.
On Wednesday, the United Nations released the results of a five-month investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. ... The report’s author, Agnes Callamard, the U.N. human rights agency’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, places guilt for the murder squarely on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, emphasizing the “individual liability” of many senior officials. There was “credible evidence,” the report said, of the direct involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Describing Khashoggi’s murder as a “deliberate, premeditated execution” and an “extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” Callamard called on the U.N. secretary general to establish an international criminal investigation.
Callamard singled out the U.S., calling on the country to recognize its duties to Khashoggi as a legal U.S. resident and its jurisdiction to investigate, and prosecute, possible stateside links to the plot. It also called out the American government for failing to honor multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Committee to Protect Journalists for documents related to the CIA’s investigation of the crime.
Despite the chilling and highly documented details of the report, Callamard’s articulate arguments are likely to go unheeded. From the beginning of the Khashoggi affair, President Donald Trump set himself firmly in defense of the Saudi government and bin Salman, in particular. Trump has repeatedly and openly dismissed accusations against the crown prince, calling him a “very good ally” and refusing to accept the findings of his own intelligence community. Rather, he’s reassured Riyadh both rhetorically and materially, invoking the veto power to sustain U.S. support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen and using emergency powers to pursue massive arms deals with the kingdom. Trump’s unequivocal, lavish support of the Saudi regime has garnered a rare level of bipartisan opposition, yet so far, the executive branch has largely won out.
Without a strong rebuke from the U.S., any international outcry is unlikely to influence Saudi behavior. Bolstered by a fawning president and strategic alliances with the United Arab Emirates and Israel, Riyadh has proven remarkably immune to anyone else’s critiques. ... The implications of this pattern are grave — and the consequences are accelerating. With bin Salman’s erratic, violent tendencies unchecked, Saudi Arabia has taken an increasingly aggressive position in a region already beset by conflict. Recent strikes between Houthi fighters and Riyadh promise only escalation in war-battered Yemen, exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Confrontations in the Persian Gulf stoke an anti-Iran rhetoric in the Persian Gulf and the U.S. alike, now approaching a fever pitch. Meanwhile, Saudi courts are on track for a record number of executions, while scores of human rights activists and other civilians remain in prison. With the stakes continually rising, and Callamard’s carefully argued plea for justice likely to go unheeded, the potential body count of Mohammed bin Salman’s reign is likely to rise much further still.
President Donald Trump’s attention span isn’t exactly the stuff of folklore. ... Trump has reportedly lost interest in the crisis in Venezuela, a once-key issue for the White House. With Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro still in power months after his supposed ouster, “the president, officials said, is losing both patience and interest in Venezuela,” the Washington Post reported in a piece published on Thursday. ...
An unnamed former official told the Post that Venezuela was “always thought of . . . as low-hanging fruit” on which Trump “could get a win and tout it as a major foreign policy victory.”
“Five or six months later . . . it’s not coming together,” the official added.
As the Post noted, whereas Trump once regularly tweeted and pontificated about Venezuela, the issue has been moved to the backburner in the last month or so. In early May there was lots of talk about (and fears over) potential military intervention, which has seemingly cooled in the month or so that followed.
German authorities are already grappling with the recent murder of a pro-refugee politician believed to have been carried out by a far-right extremist. Now, they’ll have to deal with two new threats of deadly right-wing violence.
On Wednesday an email containing death threats was sent to two pro-immigration German mayors, Henriette Reker and Andreas Hollstein, warning that the recent killing of Walter Lübcke, was only the first strike in a wave of “impending purges.”
Both of these politicians have received threats before, and both have been the victim of violent attacks by right-wing extremists: Reker, mayor of Cologne, was stabbed in the neck while on the campaign trail in October 2015, while Hollstein, mayor of Altena, was attacked in the same way two years later. But the latest messages, arriving just weeks after Lübcke, a pro-immigrant politician, was fatally shot execution-style in his home in Kassel, have stoked national alarm as Germany confronts the rising threat from its increasingly radicalized far-right. ...
Police investigating the threats say they believe it came from the right-wing extremist scene, but have yet to establish whether there is any connection with Lübcke’s death. On Saturday, authorities arrested a 45-year-old right-wing radical identified as Stephan E., named by German media as Stephan Ernst, in connection to Lübcke’s killing, after DNA found on Lübcke’s clothes matched a sample taken from Ernst after he tried to blow up a refugee shelter in 1993.
More children may die in the detention of the US government unless Congress passes a $4.6bn emergency fund for immigration services at the US-Mexico border, the head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has warned. John Sanders, CBP’s acting commissioner, blamed the rising number of deaths of child migrants in US detention on a lack of federal funding to care for them, in an interview with the Associated Press.
Referring to the death last month of Carlos Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old from Guatemala who contracted the flu but was kept on a concrete bench in a cell, the border patrol chief said: “The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding … they can’t move the people out of our custody.”
At least seven migrant children have died in US custody since late 2018, as a combination of policies spearheaded by Donald Trump as part of his much-vaunted immigration crackdown have led to scenes of chaos and meltdown at the border. Children and families are being held for days longer than the 72 hours allotted in grossly overcrowded facilities in which medical provisions are scanty at best. ...
Despite the growing evidence of extreme conditions and hardship at US border facilities, Trump appears to have no concerns and has vowed to step up the chaos.
Trump has heaped all responsibility for the crunch on his Democratic opponents in Congress, for their resistance to his demands for funding for his determined efforts to build a border wall. But all indications suggest that the president’s crackdown has been self-defeating – the number of families with children turning up at the US border largely from Central America has shot up, in direct proportion to Trump’s threats.
Critically ill Palestinian infants taken from impoverished and war-battered Gaza to the better equipped Makassed hospital are suffering and dying alone.
Israel allows temporary exit from Gaza for medical reasons in some cases, but not all. At the same time, it prevents or seriously delays many parents of patients from leaving, and others never apply in the first place, fearing that extensive security checks for adults will hold up their child’s exit permit and lose vital time.
Since the beginning of last year, 56 babies from Gaza were separated from their mothers and fathers, six of whom perished without a parent present, according to the hospital.
In one case, a 24-year-old mother from Gaza was permitted to travel to Jerusalem to give birth to gravely ill triplets two months early. Two weighed less than a bag of sugar. But Hiba Swailam’s permit expired and she had to return to Gaza. She was not there when her first child died at nine days old, or two weeks later when her second baby also died. She was informed by phone. The surviving child, Shahad, spent the first months of her life cared for by nurses, and Hiba could only see her daughter in video calls. While the baby was ready for discharge since February, no family member was able to pick her up.
After being approached for comment, Israeli authorities allowed Swailam to exit Gaza. She was permitted to travel to Jerusalem the same day Israel responded to the Guardian’s request for comment on 29 May.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, an Israeli medical non-profit, said more than 7,000 permits were issued for minors from Gaza last year. Less than 2,000 permits for parents were granted, suggesting most children travelled without their mothers and fathers. Mor Efrat, the group’s director for the occupied Palestinian territories, said “the Israeli government should be held accountable for the human suffering”.
The Trump administration can implement a rule that could strip Planned Parenthood and other health care organizations of millions of dollars in federal funding, a panel of three judges from U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit ruled in a scathing opinion issued Thursday. Under the rule, announced in February, health care providers that offer abortions or refer patients for the procedure will be cut off from Title X. The $286 million federal program currently caters to four million low-income people and offers them access to services like birth control, as well as cancer and STD screenings.
If they want to keep the money, providers must now maintain a “clear physical and financial separation” between abortion-related treatment and their other work — like building a completely separate facility to perform abortions in. They’re also generally forbidden from referring patients for abortions.
It’s also already illegal to use federal funding to pay for most abortions, but Trump administration officials have said that the new rule is necessary to ensure taxpayer dollars are not involved in the procedure at all.
The rule was originally scheduled to take effect in May, though Title X beneficiaries would have had until March 2020 to comply with the physical separation requirement. Planned Parenthood has already vowed to seek emergency relief from the Court of Appeals.
“Planned Parenthood will not let the government censor our doctors and nurses from informing patients where and how they can access health care,” Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “We will continue to fight the Trump administration in the courts and alongside champions in Congress to protect everyone’s fundamental right to health care.”
72 Police Officers in Philly Just Got Put on Desk Duty for Writing Violent and Racist Facebook Posts
The Philadelphia Police Department has put 72 officers on desk duty for writing hundreds of racist, violent, and homophobic Facebook posts, according to the results of a recent investigation.
A group of Philadelphia-based attorneys, the “Plain View Project," revealed the misconduct earlier this month when they released the public-facing Facebook accounts of officers at eight jurisdictions across the United States. So far, officials in three of those jurisdictions — Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Phoenix — have taken concrete steps to address the posts.
At least several dozen of the 72 officers in Philadelphia will be disciplined, and others will be fired, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Wednesday. The decision comes after protests in the city over the racist posts. “We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and, in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” Ross added.
Joe Biden’s going on the offensive after getting called out by the 2020 Democratic field for bragging about his constructive and civil relationships with white supremacist legislators.
“Apologize for what?” Biden told CNN when he was asked about Sen. Cory Booker’s calling on the former vice president to apologize. “Cory should apologize,” Biden said. “There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career.”
Booker, along with several other 2020 challengers, came for Biden on Wednesday after he reminisced about the civility of politicians from the Jim Crow-era South who he worked with in Congress in the '70s. Politics are so partisan now, Biden said, but back then, Democrats and vocal segregationists could get things done together. ...
Biden citing a whole career fighting for civil rights is a bit of a stretch.
Moderate Democrats have stepped up their opposition to Bernie Sanders as part of a concerted effort to isolate him from the sprawling field of otherwise “mainstream” and “electable” presidential candidates running for their party’s nomination in 2020.
Last week, Sanders delivered a searing defense of democratic socialism that set himself apart from the rest of the Democratic party, whose opposition he said he not only anticipated but welcomed. Days later, at a gathering of nearly 250 political moderates convened by the centrist thinktank Third Way in South Carolina, some of the party’s most prominent center-left voices took the bait.
“I believe a gay midwestern mayor can beat [Donald] Trump. I believe an African American senator can beat Trump. I believe a western governor, a female senator, a member of Congress, a Latino Texan or a former vice-president can beat Trump,” said Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, hours before Donald Trump formally launched his re-election campaign with a rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday. “But I don’t believe a self-described democratic socialist can win.”
In speeches and on panels over the course of two sticky days in Charleston earlier this week, moderate lawmakers, strategists and donors inveighed against the Vermont senator’s populist economic vision. The approach elevated a conversation that has largely taken place behind closed doors about how to thwart Sanders, who moderates believe would alienate crucial voting blocs in a general election. “He has made it his mission to either get the nomination or to remake the party in his image as a democratic socialist,” Cowan told the Guardian. “That is an existential threat to the future of the Democratic party for the next generation.” ...
The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly "anybody but Bernie." They know our progressive agenda of Medicare for All, breaking up big banks, taking on drug companies and raising wages is the real threat to the billionaire class. https://t.co/zimci7JRO6
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 19, 2019
Sanders campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement that the party’s moderate faction had effectively “declared war on Senator Sanders” and denounced Third Way as a “Washington thinktank that takes Wall Street money.”
In the two years since leaving the White House, former President Barack Obama has spent his time raising and solidifying his position in the uppermost echelons of the top one percent of Americans. Obama has raked in exorbitant amounts of money for public speaking events and made deals worth millions with multiple companies. Despite his quip, made during the depths of the Great Recession, that “at a certain point you’ve made enough money,” there seems to be no such limit for the Obamas. His family has amassed so much wealth that even Obama himself said he was surprised in a speech in South Africa last year.
Since he left office, the former president has given an estimated 50 speeches a year to corporate audiences for hundreds of thousands of dollars per event. In 2017, the same year he left office, Obama was officially recognized as one of the top ten highest paid public speakers in the US.
Just last month, Obama was reported to have been paid nearly $600,000 to speak at the EXMA conference in Bogotá, Colombia. According to the Bogotá Post, EXMA is Colombia’s largest marketing and business event of the year and one of the largest in Latin America. Simply titled, “A conversation with President Barack Obama,” his talk purportedly addressed “influential growth strategies” in marketing and other aspects of the marketing economy.
Notably, Obama’s purse was nearly triple the amount Hillary Clinton was paid for her notorious speeches to Goldman Sachs that revealed her and the Democratic Party as Wall Street stooges. Former President Bill Clinton was paid just $200,000 per speech when he toured Latin America in 2005. A key factor in Obama’s newfound and growing wealth are those who profited from his presidency. A number of his public speeches have been given to big Wall Street firms and investors. Obama has given at least nine speeches to Cantor Fitzgerald, a large investment and commercial real estate firm, and other high-end corporations. According to records, each speech has been at least $400,000 a clip.
Oregon is poised to become the second US state after California to impose a cap and trade program aimed at reducing industrial carbon emissions. But ahead of a vote on the legislation Thursday, all 12 Republican state senators fled the capitol in a bid to delay the process. Several claimed to have left the state, beyond the reach of state troopers dispatched by the governor in order to get the legislative session back on track.
Senate Republican leader Herman Baertschiger Jr wrote in a statement that the walk-out was “exactly how we should be doing our job”.
If passed into law, the clean energy jobs bill would place a cap on emissions from power, transportation and other industries in the state, and establish a system to auction and trade them. The program would begin in 2021, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 45% of 1990 carbon levels by 2035, and 20% of 1990 levels by 2050. Not unlike the principles of the Green New Deal, Oregon’s “cap and invest” program would earmark funds generated by the program for clean energy, climate-related upgrades to infrastructure in order to better retrofit the state for increasing extreme weather events and green jobs training. ...
While cap and trade schemes enjoy broad and in many cases passionate support among Democrats, carbon pricing has critics on the left and the right. ... Some environmental activists say carbon pricing isn’t just an inadequate tool for addressing climate change, but a potentially destructive one. Cap and trade critics argue a market-based strategy to influence corporate behavior shirks regulatory responsibility and disproportionately impacts low-income communities, by creating pollution hot spots exacerbated by companies buying the right to emit, raising fuel prices that poor rural drivers will struggle to pay.
A trio of central European countries have blocked the EU from inching closer to a net-zero carbon emissions target for 2050. European leaders meeting in Brussels sparred over the EU’s role in tackling the unfolding climate emergency, which threatens to significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, poverty and destruction of wildlife around the world.
Dashing earlier hopes of a compromise, Poland and the Czech Republic refused to sign up to a text that referred to a climate-neutral EU by 2050 – a target that was already seen as too vague by green activists. In a further blow, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, joined his neighbours in opposing the EU text, despite earlier signs the country was ready to compromise.
An ethical investment operation by the UK’s largest asset manager has dumped shares in a string of US companies it has deemed climate crisis laggards, including oil giant ExxonMobil and insurer Metlife.
Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM) said it had cut five companies – ExxonMobil, Metlife, Spam maker Hormel Foods, US retailer Kroger and Korean Electric Power Corporation – from its umbrella of ethical investment funds worth a total of £5bn.
LGIM added the climate laggards to a list which already includes China Construction Bank, carmaker Subaru, Japan Post Holdings, Canadian retailer Loblaw, US food and service conglomerate Sysco Corporation and Russian oil giant Rosneft, which is part-owned by BP.
Meryam Omi, head of responsible investment at LGIM, said investor engagement with companies can be “a powerful tool” if there are “consequences”. L&G retains shareholdings in the blacklisted companies at other funds in its £1tn investment empire and will now use those shares to vote against board appointments at the named and shamed businesses.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sam & Dave - Soul Man
Sam and Dave - I Need Love (First Record)
Sam And Dave - Ooh, Ooh, Ooh
Sam and Dave - Soul Sister Brown Sugar
Sam and Dave - Wrap It Up
Sam and Dave - Gimme Some Lovin'
Sam & Dave - A Place Nobody Can Find
Sam & Dave - Soothe me
Sam and Dave - You Don't Know Like I Know
Sam and Dave - Hold On, I'm Coming