Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The government is about to finally kill rap music

What the literal hell? Community member Sabina sent me this story:

Democratic representatives held a press conference Wednesday to announce the formation of the first ever Congressional Hip-Hop Task Force.

“Hip hop is not just music. It’s not just an art form,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said. “It’s a culture with a multi-billion dollar economy. But we haven’t harnessed the power of it yet, to make transformative change in legislation.”

Shay Lawson, policy chair for Black Music Action Coalition, spoke about the objectives of the advocacy organization and how it aligns with the new Hip-Hop Task Force.

“[We are] committed to utilizing the cultural capital of black music to influence the music industry and greater society on the issues of racial justice and equity through policy, philanthropic and educational initiatives” Lawson said.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) pointed to the RAP Act, which he and Bowman introduced in 2022 and again last year, as the type of meaningful legislation upon which the task force could build.

Music getting in bed with government?  What the literal hell?  I share Sabina's outrage.  Music is art and it is supposed to transgress and rebel.  That's not the US Congress.  Hank Johnson always looks stoned anytime I see him at a Congressional hearing so maybe he just thinks the link-up will help him score better weed?  I have no idea.

 But I guess this is how the government finally kills off rap music -- something they've tried to do for years -- by making music a government apparatus. 

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Wednesday, February 14, 2024.  Hate merchant Selma Blair pretends to apologize (and pretends it was a one time thing), Joe Biden has no plan at all with regards to stopping the assault on Gaza, and much more.

Hate Merchant Selma Blair is back in the news and --  Sadly?  I think that's the term.  Not for Selma, but for so-called news outlets.  I see a ton of them.  I only see DEADLINE getting it right.  Domnic Patten's "Selma Blair Now Claims Ignorance Was Cause Of Her Vitriolic Rant Against Islam & 'Terrorist Supporting Goons'" explains, "Selma Blair is trying to dramatically walk back her self-admitted rage filled rant against Islam and members of the US Congress from a week ago."  That's what it is.  It's not an apology.

This is not an apology, "I mistakenly and inadvertently conflated Muslims with Radical Islamists and fundamentalists, a terrible err in my words, and resulted in hurting countless people I never meant to, and I deeply regret this."  Mistakenly and inadvertently?  Oh, was it a typo, dear?  

She typed up hate speech and this wasn't her first time attacking Muslims online.        

All those favorites she did to Tweets attacking Muslims.  Inadvertent as well?  "Islam: the religion of evil created in hell"?  Look at the Tweets she's been liking.  This was not a one time thing or even a one day thing.

Like many around the world, I'm laughing at her claim to have received feedback from her mythical Muslim friends.  She slurred a people with her racist stereotyping and called for their deaths.  Quit acting like a piece of correction tape is going to make things alright.

You projected hate and you meant to.   Here are some reactions.


Let's move away from Selma for one second.  Sunday, Ava and I wrote "TV: The hate spreaders."  And some people were bothered by that -- by one name included it.  Barbra Streisand.  On Selma, people are sending e-mails with Tweet suggestions and some contain Barbra's name.  I have no trouble holding Barbra accountable -- I did with her nonsense about "her" A STAR IS BORN actually being about something as opposed to Bradley Cooper's (I know Bradley and I know Barbra).  No.  As I noted here, that's exactly why so many in the industry will not give her another Academy Award or even nominate her.  She can be an ego maniac.  Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne were the ones who came up with the idea ("Carly Simon and James Taylor in a rock and roll version of A STAR IS BORN") and wrote the first screenplay and several more.  What Barbra claimed credit for as she attacked Bradley was not her credit to claim.  She added the garbage b.s. to that dreadful film -- it makes me physically sick to watch that movie -- as she tried to include her abusive relationship with Jon Peters in that film.  As you can see, I'm not holding back.  And I didn't hold back when Ava and I reviewed her awful book ("Media: MY NAME IS BARBRA, my game is pity party").

So I'm not rescuing her.  Barbra has publicly and repeatedly called for a cease-fire.  For that I applaud her.  If you're unaware of that, you may be uninformed or you may be guilty of your own stereotyping ("She's Jewish! She's not going to call for a cease-fire!").  She's made public calls (plural) for one.  I applaud her for that.  She has been trashed for doing so.  It would be nice if those who want a cease-fire could stop smearing her falsely.

I was happily surprised she called for a cease-fire.  It is in keeping with her larger view of the world; however, I was still surprised due to the parties involved and the rhetoric and climate.

Amnesty International is also calling for a cease-fire:

Countless lives have been shattered, ripped apart, and upended due to the crisis in Gaza, Israel and wider Occupied Palestinian Territories. In the face of such devastation and suffering, humanity must prevail.

Right now, civilian deaths in Gaza are rising at a staggering rate. The Israeli authorities' 16-year-long illegal and inhumane blockade has trapped 2.2 million people in Gaza, including children, the elderly, and disabled, under relentless bombardment by Israeli authorities. With nowhere to go, they face losing everything.

After horrific attacks in Israel by Hamas and other armed groups that, according to Israeli authorities, resulted in 1,200 people killed and the abduction of civilians, at least 200 hostages held in Gaza also remain in danger, and ongoing indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel places civilians at risk.

Humanitarian pauses of a few days will bring a brief respite. But halting the fighting for a matter of days is nowhere near enough to address the catastrophic suffering or relieve the horrifying harm to civilians. We must act now.

A negotiated ceasefire would:

  • Put a stop to unlawful attacks by all parties, halt the mounting death toll in Gaza and enable aid agencies to get life-saving aid, water and medical supplies into the strip
  • Allow hospitals in Gaza to receive life-saving medicines, fuel and equipment they desperately need and to repair damaged wards
  • Provide opportunities to negotiate the release of all hostages detained in Gaza
  • Allow for independent international investigations to take place into war crimes committed by all parties to help end long-standing impunity, which continues to produce further atrocities

Palestinians and Israelis deserve a future where they can live free from violence and see an end to the fatal human rights violations that continue to destroy so many lives. Challenging the Israeli authorities' system of apartheid over Palestinians is now more urgent than ever.

Again, I have no problem calling Barbra out and have many times -- including to her face -- but I hope I'm also the first one to give her credit when she's earned it.

Selma Blair is lying and has not apologized.  We see her for what she actually is.  If there's any further use to her in this discussion, it's in the crowd she plots with.  WASHINGTON MONTHLY, can you explain your journalists' Tweets?  

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We turn now to Gaza, to Israel threatening to launch a ground invasion of Rafah, where over a million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge. On Monday, President Biden hosted King Abdullah of Jordan at the White House. During public remarks, Biden initially described Israel’s operation in Rafah as, quote, “our operation.”

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: As I said yesterday, our military operation in Rafah — the major military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible plan, a credible plan for ensuring the safety and support of more than 1 million people sheltering there.

AMY GOODMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah condemned Israel’s plan to attack Rafah and called for a ceasefire and the creation of a Palestinian state.

KING ABDULLAH II: We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah. It is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe. The situation is already unbearable for over a million people who have been pushed into Rafah since the war started. We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting ceasefire now. This war must end. … Seven decades of occupation, death and destruction have proven beyond any doubt that there can be no peace without a political horizon. Military and security installations are not the answer. They can never bring peace. Civilians on both sides continue to pay for this protracted conflict with their lives.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Toronto, where we’re joined by Dr. Yasser Khan. He’s a Canadian ophthalmologist and eye surgeon who recently returned from a humanitarian surgical mission at the European Hospital in Khan Younis in Gaza.

Dr. Khan, welcome to Democracy Now! If you can describe what you saw there in Khan Younis, the level of the injuries, how crowded the European Hospital was, the threats people were facing there?

DR. YASSER KHAN: Thank you very much for having me.

Well, you know, I look at the impending invasion of Rafah and the attacks on Rafah, and I know, because I’ve seen it — I know what’s going to happen. I know the casualties, and I know how much worse it’s going to get.

When I was in Khan Younis a few weeks ago — I’ve been to over 40 different countries, you know, doing humanitarian work, anywhere from in Africa, Asia and South America. And what I saw in Khan Younis were the most horrific scenes in my entire life, and I hope I never see them again. It was just — you know, the bombings were going on every few hours at that point in time. The Israeli forces were about a kilometer away. And the mass casualties kept on coming in.

And it was mostly — I mean, the majority of the patients that I treated were children, anywhere from the age of 2 to 17. I mean, I saw horrific eye and facial injuries that I’ve never seen before, eyes shattered in two 6-year-old children with shrapnel that I had to take out, eyes with shrapnel stuck inside, facial injuries. I saw orthopedic injuries where — you know, limbs just cut off and dangling. I saw abdominal injuries that were just horrific. And it was just mass chaos. There was children on the floor, unattended to, with head trauma, people suturing patients without anesthesia on the ground. It was just mass chaos and really horrific, horrific scenes.

And I know that now with the bombing going on in Rafah and scenes of children hanging exploded and, you know, half their bodies cut off and hanging on a wall because they’ve been exploded — I mean, those are scenes going on now. So I know exactly what my colleagues are going through right now in Rafah and in Gaza, basically.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Doctor, you were working shifts of 12-, 13-hour days. Can you talk about the conditions of the medical staff and the doctors you worked alongside with? Where did you sleep? Were you able to eat? Could you talk about those conditions you faced?

DR. YASSER KHAN: Well, the doctors were amazing. I mean, the Palestinian doctors were amazing. Their dedication and their will to resist dying and staying alive was amazing. They’re talented. But they have nothing. There’s no antibiotics. There’s no painkillers. On the last day I was leaving, we ran out of morphine, which is very important in a lot of orthopedic injuries.

So, patients were — I mean, the whole European Gaza Hospital was, at the time — now everything I’m saying and — everything I saw is much worse now. But, basically, it was overcrowded, about 300, 400% over capacity. There was patients and bodies lying all over the hospital floor, inside and outside. They had orthopedic devices coming from their legs or their arms. They were getting infected, they were in pain, because they were on the floor, so the conditions weren’t very sterile. And if they survived amputation the first time, the infection would get them, because then they’d have to be amputated after.

A lot of the kids that I saw — and more than 60% of the patients I saw were children — they’re thin. They had no fat on them. They’re starving, because, as you know, Israel has had a food blockade since this war on Gaza started. And so, they’re all thin, with no fat, starving. And they were coming in, and, you know, it was just — and we didn’t have enough supplies, enough gauze, enough antibiotics, enough instruments even — the instruments are rusting — to kind of, you know, deal with the mass trauma.


DR. YASSER KHAN: I stayed in the hospital — yes, please.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Khan, this is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland speaking Monday ahead of a vote on the $95 billion aid package to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Madam President, I want that to sink in. Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food. In addition to the horror of that news, one other thing is true: That is a war crime. It is a textbook war crime. … And that makes those who orchestrate it war criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Dr. Khan, you’re talking about the thinness of the children, of the whole population.

DR. YASSER KHAN: Yeah. Well, you know, Amy, it’s — you know, from what I saw and what I experienced when I was on the ground, speaking to officials, speaking to the doctors there, and this whole — you know, one of the whole aspects of this war on Gaza, you know, the genocidal intent of Israeli politicians, the Israeli army has been clear. What is really bizarre is they haven’t hid it. They have openly called for it. They have openly called for epidemics.

And so, as a healthcare professional, the attack on the healthcare system has been unprecedented. I mean, the viciousness of it, the killing machine that Israel has unleashed on the healthcare system, I think, is unprecedented. Hospitals have been bombed. When the doctors have tried to repopulate them, they’ve been — you know, sniper fire with drones has prevented them from going in.

They’ve attacked the sewage system, the water system, so the sewage mixes with the drinking water. And you get diarrheal diseases, bacterial diseases. You know, cholera, typhoid is not far away. Hepatitis A is epidemic there now. They’re living in cramped spaces.

They have killed over 300 or 400 healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics. Ambulances have been bombed. This has all been a systematic sort of — you know, by destroying the healthcare system, you’re contributing to the genocide.

What’s going on is now there’s 10,000 to 15,000 bodies that are decomposing. So, it’s raining season right now in Gaza. So all the rainwater mixes with the decomposing bodies, and that bacteria mixes with the drinking water supply, and you get further disease.

They have kidnapped about 40, 45 doctors, that have been specifically targeted. They have targeted specifically specialists who are, you know, one-offs. So, like, the one nephrologist in the Gaza Strip was targeted. The pathologists, hospital chiefs and directors have all been targeted through drones or targeted missile strikes.

And, you know, so the whole thing is that if the bombings are not going to get you, then disease will surely get you, because they’re all malnourished. So, as you know, if you’re malnourished, your immune system is weaker, so you’re more susceptible to disease. But there’s no antibiotics.

You know, the amount of amputations I saw in children, for example — both arms, one arm, one leg, both eyes gone, you know, both eyes amputated, basically, out of their eye socket — you know, it’s amazing. I mean, it takes about — you know, if this was done properly in a nonwar scenario, one amputation in a child, a child will need about nine to 12 surgeries by the time they’re an adult, you know, for prosthetic fitting and whatnot. Now, in this case, first of all, it’s a war situation. They have not been done properly, fair enough, because you have to rush it. But secondly, who is going to take care of these children? Most of them mostly children. Because their parents are gone. Their uncles are dead. Their grandfathers and grandmothers are dead.

And so, you know, the Israeli killing machine has been vicious. I mean, they’ve used drones. When I was there, I was speaking to doctors who were there, and they told me that they’ve used drones like the Hellfire drone, that is an explosive drone. It fires off these discs once it implodes or explodes. And these discs are very unique, and they cause unique amputations. Most amputations occur at the weak points, like the elbow or the knee. But they cause, you know, mid-thigh, mid-arm amputations, which are much more complicated. And they fire off this shrapnel.

And, you know, from what the doctors are telling me, that what I believe is that they’re using weapons on the civilian population that have never been used before, because from what I heard, based on my experience, you know, Israel has a very strong defense industry, and buyers like weapons that are battle-tested. So, if you can put a label to your new weapon that it’s battle-tested, that increases the value of it. And they’re experimenting with these weapons, from what I’ve heard and from what I saw, in a civilian-dense population. So, it’s just — it’s been vicious, really, really vicious.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Yasser Khan, I want to thank you for being with us, Canadian ophthalmologist, eye surgeon, based in Toronto, Canada, just recently returned from a humanitarian surgical mission at the European Hospital in Khan Younis in Gaza.

When we come back, we’ll be joined by climate scientist Michael Mann, just awarded a million dollars in a defamation lawsuit against two right-wing critics. Back in 20 seconds.

Each Palestinian home has two hearths: the space where the family eats and the kitchen, where the food is prepared. These rooms are where the fires of life and hospitality burn most brightly.

When I visit Khan Younis, one of the popular family meals we enjoy together is maghluba (“upside down” in Arabic): a large, savoury cake of rice, vegetables and chicken cooked in a large pot. When the meal is ready, the pot is turned upside down and the family gather around to await the unveiling, when the pot is lifted off to display the yellow rice, red tomatoes and deep brown aubergines. Every dish of maghluba is a family celebration.

Today, with the destruction of Khan Younis, and of my family home there, it feels like my life has been turned maghluba. My youngest son, Aziz, cannot understand how a home can disappear. He still carries all the emotions and the fond memories of his auntie’s kisses. “Mom?” he asks incessantly. “Who will be left when we visit this summer? What will be left?”

Gaza remains under assault. Day 131 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  ALJAZEERA notes, "Israel’s war on Gaza has killed at least 28,576 people with at least 68,291 others wounded, Gaza Health Ministry says.  The latest toll includes 103 people killed over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."   

  President Joe Biden and other leading American officials have publicly urged Israel not to invade the overcrowded Gaza city of Rafah without ensuring the protection of civilians, but the administration reportedly has no plan to impose consequences if the Netanyahu government launches the ground assault without heeding U.S. warnings.

Three unnamed U.S. officials toldPolitico's "National Security Daily" newsletter on Tuesday that "no reprimand plans are in the works, meaning Israeli forces could enter the city and harm civilians without facing American consequences."

Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, wrote in response to Politico's reporting that "Biden can stop this but chooses not to."

"Instead, he only resorts to calling Netanyahu an 'asshole' behind his back," Parsi added. "This is leadership?" 

  Around 1.4 million people, most of them displaced from other parts of the Gaza Strip, are currently in Rafah, which is roughly a quarter the size of the U.S. city of Baltimore. Some are desperately trying to flee ahead of an Israeli invasion, gathering their few remaining belongings and leaving the city without any clear direction or assurance of safe passage.

"They need to be protected," Biden said of Rafah's civilians following a White House meeting with the king of Jordan on Monday.

But that same day, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing that "we are going to continue to support Israel" after a reporter asked whether Biden has "ever threatened to strip military assistance from Israel if they move ahead with a Rafah operation" that doesn't protect civilians. 

Clueless Joe?  Try useless Joe.  CNN's Niamh Kennedy reports:

Leo Varadkar, Ireland's Taoiseach (or prime minister), strongly criticized Israel Tuesday, accusing the country of becoming "blinded by rage" as it doubles down on plans to launch a ground offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces previously told hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians to seek shelter.

Speaking to lawmakers in the Irish parliament, Varadkar said it was "very clear" to him that Israel is "is not listening to any country in the world," even the United States. 

"They [Israel] have become blinded by rage. And they are going to, I believe, make the situation much worse for their own security in the long term by going down the path they are going," the Irish leader said. 

Varadkar said an Israeli ground offensive on the border city of Rafah "should not happen," drawing attention to the 1.3 million Palestinians who are "taking refuge there." 

Other members of the Irish government joined Varadkar in condemning Israel this week including Trade Minister Simon Coveney, who accused the country of acting like a rogue state and behaving "like a monster to defeat a monster."

The United States is monitoring Israel’s military activities in Gaza under a recently established program that “systematically” tracks reports of suspected civilian harm by forces using U.S.-made weapons, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“We do seek to thoroughly assess reports of civilian harm by authorized recipients of U.S.-provided defense articles around the world, including under the Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance, the CHIRG,” Miller said during a news briefing Tuesday.

As The Washington Post first reported in September, the CHIRG system provides a way for officials to formally investigate reports of civilian harm by partner governments suspected of using U.S.-origin arms and recommend penalties in response — including the suspension of weapons sales. The system, which was introduced before Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and Israel’s military response in Gaza, is intended to reduce civilian collateral damage incidents.

In Tuesday’s briefing, Miller specified that the process was “not intended to function as a rapid response mechanism.” Instead, he said, the system was designed to shape future policies and to pressure U.S. military allies to follow international humanitarian law during warfare.

The following sites updated: