The Evening Blues - 3-5-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and guitarist Little Milton Campbell. Enjoy!
Little Milton - We're Gonna Make It
"Good government is known from bad government by this infallible test: that under the former the labouring people are well fed and well clothed, and under the latter, they are badly fed and badly clothed."
-- William Cobbett
News and Opinion
On February 25th, President Biden ordered U.S. air forces to drop seven 500-pound bombs on Iraqi forces in Syria, reportedly killing 22 people. The U.S. airstrike has predictably failed to halt rocket attacks on deeply unpopular U.S. bases in Iraq, which the Iraqi National Assembly passed a resolution to close over a year ago.
The Western media reported the U.S. airstrike as an isolated and exceptional incident, and there has been significant blowback from the U.S. public, Congress and the world community, condemning the strikes as illegal and a dangerous escalation of yet another Middle East conflict.
But unbeknownst to many Americans, the U.S. military and its allies are engaged in bombing and killing people in other countries on a daily basis. The U.S. and its allies have dropped more than 326,000 bombs and missiles on people in other countries since 2001 (see table below), including over 152,000 in Iraq and Syria.
That’s an average of 46 bombs and missiles per day, day in day out, year in year out, for nearly 20 years. In 2019, the last year for which we have fairly complete records, the average was 42 bombs and missiles per day, including 20 per day in Afghanistan alone.
So, if those seven 500-pound bombs were the only bombs the U.S. and its allies dropped on February 25th, it would have been an unusually quiet day for U.S. and allied air forces, and for their enemies and victims on the ground, compared to an average day in 2019 or most of the past 20 years. On the other hand, if the unrelenting U.S. air assault on countries across the Greater Middle East finally began to diminish over the past year, this bombing may have been an unusual spike in violence. But which of these was it, and how would we know?
We don’t know, because our government doesn’t want us to. From January 2004 until February 2020, the U.S. military kept track of how many bombs and missiles it dropped on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and published those figures in regular, monthly Airpower Summaries, which were readily available to journalists and the public. But in March 2020, the Trump administration abruptly stopped publishing U.S. Airpower Summaries, and the Biden administration has so far not published any either.
As with the human casualties and mass destruction that these hundreds of thousands of airstrikes cause, the U.S. and international media only report on a tiny fraction of them. Without regular U.S. Airpower Summaries, comprehensive databases of airstrikes in other war-zones and serious mortality studies in the countries involved, the American public and the world are left almost completely in the dark about the death and destruction our country’s leaders keep wreaking in our name. The disappearance of Airpower Summaries has made it impossible to get a clear picture of the current scale of U.S. airstrikes. ...
President Biden has foolishly tried to use airstrikes in Syria as “leverage” with Iran, instead of simply rejoining the Iran nuclear agreement as he promised during the election campaign. Biden is likewise trailing along in Trump’s footsteps by shrouding U.S. airstrikes in the secrecy that Trump used to obscure his failure to “end the endless wars.”
It is entirely possible that the highly publicized February 25th airstrikes, like Trump’s April 2017 missile strikes on Syria, were a diversion from much heavier, but largely unreported, U.S. bombing already under way elsewhere, in that case the frightful destruction of Mosul, Iraq’s former second city.
The only way that Biden can reassure the American public that he is not using Trump’s wall of secrecy to continue America’s devastating airwars, notably in Afghanistan, is to end this secrecy now, and resume the publication of complete and accurate U.S. Airpower Summaries.
In a speech delivered Wednesday by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and an accompanying national security strategy document, the Biden Administration has signaled the continuation, and escalation, of the Trump administration’s “great-power competition” with Russia and China. But to an extent even greater than its predecessor, the Biden administration is singling out China as the greatest US adversary and target for conflict. In his remarks on the interim strategy document, Blinken concluded, “Several countries present us with serious challenges, including Russia, Iran, North Korea … but the challenge posed by China is different. China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power” to “challenge” the United States.
Biden’s focus on the US conflict with China includes the explicit threat to wage war. “The United States will never hesitate to use force when required to defend our vital national interests,” the national security strategy document states. “We will ensure our armed forces are equipped to … defeat threats that emerge.”
The Trump administration’s realignment of US foreign policy toward conflict with China was widely viewed as its defining foreign policy stance. Trump’s “America first” nationalism—involving protectionism and mercantilist trade war policy, was inseparable from its orientation toward conflict with China. Likewise, the Biden administration has made clear that it will continue Trump’s trade war policies.
“Some of us previously argued for free trade agreements because we believed … those deals would shape the global economy in ways that we wanted,” Blinken said. “Our approach now will be different. We will fight for every American job and for the rights, protections and interests of all American workers.” Foreign Policy argued earlier this month that Biden’s foreign policy is a “Kinder, Gentler Spin on ‘America First.’” This comparison is facile at best; many of the new administration’s statements seem neither kinder nor gentler. “Wherever the rules for international security and the global economy are being written, America will be there and the interest of the American people will be front and center,” the Biden national security document states.
A central focus will be the attempt to recruit the American population into supporting this conflict. The document states that “We must also demonstrate clearly to the American people that leading the world isn’t an investment we make to feel good about ourselves. It’s how we ensure the American people are able to live in peace, security, and prosperity. It’s in our undeniable self-interest.
Even before this much of the water was unsafe and probably lead poisoned. There are no high level talks between the State and the city (which is the State capital!)
American un-development continues. What is also striking is the complete incapability and unwillingness to handle problems. In the third week and the State and the City aren’t in high level talks? Meanwhile, this news has not gone national: there is no American effort to help Jackson, any more than there was a national effort of any significance to help Flint with its water problems.
This is no longer a society where you can count on the public infrastructure OR on society to help you. Congress is currently cutting Covid aid even more, not just from $2,000 to 1,400 but more and more means testing and based on 2019 incomes, so if you lost your job during the pandemic, you are shit out of luck. (It is also true that people will look back and say Trump gave more money, with a $1,200 check and a $600 one.)
The level of malign indifference displayed by elected officials and senior bureaucrats is mind-boggling. They do nothing to help, but make sure to keep funneling money to the rich people who own them.
You can’t count on US or most State governments. They aren’t interested in the basic duties of governing, like making sure the power and water keep flowing; the dikes are built, the forests are managed and so on.
'Stop Nickel and Diming the American People': Anger Grows as Senate Democrats Move to Deny Relief Checks to 17 Million
The decision by the Senate Democratic leadership and President Joe Biden—for no discernible reason—to tweak the emerging coronavirus relief bill in a way that would deny survival checks to around 12 million adults and five million children is drawing sustained blowback, with progressive House Democrats warning that the needless change could come with severe economic and political consequences.
"This is madness. People are struggling and we're fighting over how many people we want to EXCLUDE from the relief checks," Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), vice chair at large of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), wrote in a fiery Twitter thread on Thursday. "What about the family with several kids who made $160k but lost their job in 2020? Or the person who made 80k pre-pandemic but lives in a high-cost-of-living state like NJ or NY? We're going to cut them out?"
"Stop nickel and diming the American people and pass the checks. We've been listening to this debate for a month. Enough," the New Jersey Democrat added. "While you're quibbling over who you want to exclude, people are suffering. SEND THE CHECKS."
On Wednesday, as Common Dreams reported, Biden and the Senate Democratic leadership signed off on a plan advanced by a faction of conservative Democrats that would accelerate the phase-out of $1,400 direct payments proposed under the emerging $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The new framework would completely deny payments to individuals who earned more than $80,000 in either 2019 or 2020, heads of household who earned more than $120,000, and joint filers who earned more than $160,000—a significantly quicker phase-out than the one proposed (pdf) by House Democrats. People can also qualify for checks based on 2021 income if their 2019 and 2020 incomes were too high.
Only individuals earning $75,000 or less, heads of household earning $112,500 or less, and joint filers earning $150,000 or less would receive full $1,400 checks under the new eligibility structure, plus $1,400 per child and adult dependent.
In an analysis released Wednesday, the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated that 280 million people would receive a full or partial check under the new framework, compared to 297 million under the House structure.
"This is terrible politics and even worse policy," said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the CPC whip. "Why would we take needed relief away from 17 million Americans? The era of austerity is over. We should be getting as much relief to as many people as possible."
In an appearance on MSNBC Thursday morning, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) echoed the frustrations of his fellow CPC members, noting that the approximately $13 billion in savings produced by the change would represent just 0.05% of the $1.9 trillion package.
"If we win the Presidency, Congress, and the Senate, we'll enact progressive policies" pic.twitter.com/l7Pmv8oWD0
— Zack Bornstein (@ZackBornstein) March 4, 2021
Heh, Sirota is absolutely correct, but what are the chances of getting a half dozen "progressive" congresspersons to get up on their hind legs and stand for something?
For the last week, Americans paying attention to politics have learned an important truth: Joe Biden may live in the White House, but conservative Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is effectively president. This depressing reality can certainly be fixed, but only if progressive Democrats in Congress are willing to actually change the dynamic — and they have a rare opportunity to do that right now by using their power to raise the minimum wage. But so far, they aren’t choosing to use their power — which is a huge structural problem not just now, but also for the foreseeable future.
Some have argued that the way to fix this situation is by ending the filibuster, but that’s a catch-22: It is absolutely a necessary reform, but President Manchin is pledging to veto it. Even if Democrats were to eliminate the filibuster, they would still need Manchin’s stamp of approval for virtually all legislation, given the Senate’s current 50-50 split.
The way to fix this dynamic is for a decisive number of House Democrats or Democratic senators to make clear, line-in-the-sand demands, and demonstrate they will vote down Democratic legislation that does not honor those demands. And they must do this specifically on must-pass legislation for which Biden can find zero GOP votes. That is the way to force Biden to stop pretending he has no agency and instead motivate him to use the overwhelming power of the executive branch to press the conservative wing of the party to back down. It is also the way to get Manchin himself to negotiate — right now, he gets to operate with impunity because there is no counterforce.
The COVID relief bill provides progressives this game-changing opportunity, and in the process they can heroically deliver not on some unimportant issue or tangential agenda item — but instead on the crucial cause of delivering a desperately needed higher minimum wage to millions of Americans. The debate over the legislation also gives the public a way to see whether self-identified progressive heroes are as serious about actually using power as President Manchin is.
The Senate has approved the motion to begin debate on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Vice-President Kamala Harris was forced to cast the tie-breaking 51st vote on the measure, after the evenly divided Senate deadlocked 50-50 on whether to take up the bill. ...
After the bill is read, the Senate can begin the “vote-a-rama” on amendments to the package. Republicans are expected to introduce many amendments to delay a final vote on the bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday denounced as "outrageous" the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's opposition to a South Africa and India-led effort to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights to allow for the production of generic versions of coronavirus vaccines that—while developed with huge injections of public funds—are controlled by pharmaceutical giants.
"Amid a global pandemic, major pharmaceutical companies are lobbying to protect billions in profits," Sanders (I-Vt.) said after the deep-pocketed Chamber of Commerce, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in the U.S., dismissed the proposal to waive intellectual property rights—and thus enable countless people in poor nations to access life-saving shots—as "misguided" and "a distraction."
Echoing a demand of hundreds of civil society organizations in the U.S. and around the world, the Vermont senator called on the Biden administration to ignore big business lobbying and support the India-South Africa proposal to "waive vaccine-related IP rights at the [World Trade Organization] to rapidly expand supplies of vaccines."
Despite garnering support from more than 100 countries, the waiver push has run up against opposition from powerful nations such as the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, which have thwarted the will of a supermajority of WTO member nations in order to ensure that pharmaceutical corporations retain monopoly control over coronavirus vaccine technology.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the new director-general of the WTO, said in an interview with Reuters last month that it is "unconscionable" that people are dying due to continued lack of access to the coronavirus vaccine "when we have the technology" to ensure that everyone is inoculated.
"No one is safe until everyone is safe," she added. "Vaccine nationalism at this time just will not pay, because the variants are coming. If other countries are not immunized, it will just be a blowback."
The Chamber of Commerce's public opposition to the IP waiver proposal came as powerful pharmaceutical industry groups in the U.S. are reportedly urging the Biden administration to punish countries for attempting to ramp up coronavirus vaccine production without the blessing of drug companies, which see coronavirus vaccine-making as a lucrative and potentially long-term business opportunity given the emergence of new strains of the deadly pathogen.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday accused the state's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of staging "red carpet vaccine distribution for donors" and called for the FBI to investigate the matter.
Citing her experience as a public defender, Fried, the state's highest-ranking elected Democrat, said, "The fact pattern is simply just to clear to avoid: give campaign contribution, big dollars, get special access to vaccines—ahead of seniors, ahead of our teachers, ahead of our farmworkers, and so many of our residents here in the state of Florida."
"If this isn't public corruption, I don't know what is," said Fried, whose office is also the state's consumer watchdog.
"I will not stand by and let our vaccines be used as political gain... to be auctioned to the highest bidder," she said.
Fried's call for an FBI probe followed reporting by the Miami Herald that nearly all those over 65 in the wealthy Key Largo community Ocean Reef Club received vaccines by mid-January.
The Herald noted Wednesday that Ocean Reef is "home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis" and the "the only people from Key Largo who gave to DeSantis' political committee live in Ocean Reef," the outlet added.
Citing the Florida Division of Elections, the newspaper reported that 17 residents of the community had given DeSantis contributions of $5,000 each through December of 2020.
One of the Ocean Reef residents is former Republican Gov. of Illinois Bruce Rauner, who on Feb. 25 "increased his contribution and wrote a $250,000 check," according to the Herald.
In fact, "Since DeSantis started using the state's vaccine initiative to steer special pop-up vaccinations to select communities," the Herald reported, "his political committee has raised $2.7 million in the month of February alone, more than any other month since he first ran for governor in 2018, records show."
More evidence of DeSantis is playing politics with vaccine distribution came weeks earlier.
As the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday:
The Herald report comes after weeks of controversy over whether the wealthy communities targeted by the DeSantis' vaccine "pods" were influenced by political considerations.
Three communities in Charlotte, Manatee, and Sarasota counties developed by Republican fundraiser Pat Neal were chosen by DeSantis for pop-up sites. Neal contributed $125,000 to DeSantis in 2018 and 2019.
Only two ZIP codes were eligible at the Manatee site, and County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh included herself and the development's CEO on a VIP list.
Those events prompted U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) to call for a Justice Department investigation.
In a letter to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson dated Feb. 21, Crist expressed concern about DeSantis "setting up 'pop-up' vaccination sites to deliver doses to select communities" and wrote that in "several cases, these sites seem to be targeted to wealthy communities with whom Governor DeSantis has clear political connections, allowing some to skip to the front of the line in counties with existing waitlists."
A potential roadblock to talks between Iran and the US on the future of the nuclear deal has been cleared after the UN nuclear inspectorate said it had won Iran’s agreement to return to Tehran to hold focused talks on doubts over the veracity of the country’s previous declarations about its nuclear sites. ...
The agreement reached over the past 48 hours means European countries will not go ahead with plans to table a censure motion against Iran at an IAEA board meeting on Friday.
Iran had said it would in effect end its cooperation with the IAEA if the motion went ahead, which would have damaged hopes of starting informal talks between Iran and the US over how both sides could come back into compliance with the deal.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, had warned his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, that the chances of reviving the nuclear deal would collapse without a clear gesture from Iran. In response to Iran’s offer to clarify its disclosures, Europe said it would hold off on its censure motion to give time for diplomacy.
No one is above the law.
The @IntlCrimCourt has the authority and duty to independently & impartially investigate and deliver justice to victims of human rights violations and war crimes in Palestine and Israel. The U.S. should not interfere with its ability to do so. https://t.co/HgTvbDA9u5
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) March 4, 2021
Early on Wednesday morning, the protests building in North Okkalapa, in Yangon, Myanmar, seemed peaceful. “I saw around three or four police officers along the road, but it was calm,” said Khin, who like all demonstrators the Guardian spoke to asked not to give her real name. Onlookers cheered as the crowds passed.
About 1,000 people, she estimated, had joined the march. Many had turned out in the hope that they would put pressure on police resources, and in forcing them to spread more thinly would protect demonstrators elsewhere in the city. After weeks of defiant mass protests opposing the military coup, the security forces were using increasing violence, including live ammunition, to break up rallies.
By evening, it was clear that the police and military response that day was the most deadly since the army seized power. In total, 38 people were killed by security forces, according to the UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener.
The violence has prompted international outrage. UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said the military “must stop murdering and jailing protesters” and the US state department said it was “appalled”. The UN security council is due to meet on Friday to discuss the crisis, though it is unlikely that China and Russia will agree to coordinated action.
Since the state of Hawaii reopened to visitors in October 2020, more than 650,000 people have flown to the islands. After arriving, some tourists are receiving vaccines before local residents, even though Pacific Islanders are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Despite the influx, visitor numbers are still lower than usual, leaving the state’s economy – which is overly dependent on tourism and military dollars – in shambles. It’s the kind of colonial treatment that Native Hawaiians have endured since the Hawaiian Kingdom’s government was illegally overthrown in 1893 and the Hawaiian islands were unlawfully annexed by the United States in 1898.
The Biden administration is poised to settle this problem by federally recognizing a Native Hawaiian government in a similar process to that which it does American Indian tribes. Re-establishing a government-to-government relationship with the US has been praised as a way of protecting entitlements, programs and services for Native Hawaiians. At first glance, that may sound like a positive step. But federal recognition could be a final nail in the coffin for Hawaiian sovereignty. For that reason, it is steadfastly opposed by most Native Hawaiians and has earned the moniker “Fed Wreck”.
There’s history here. In 2014, the Department of the Interior proposed a rule to re-establish a government-to-government relationship with Native Hawaiians. Twenty public meetings followed in Hawai‘i and across Indian country to solicit feedback. According to one study, an overwhelming majority of Native Hawaiians – more than 95% – objected to the prospect of the US government recognizing a new Native Hawaiian government. As Ka‘iulani Lovell testified in Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i: “We don’t need to be recognized by you. We know who we are.” ...
A new Native Hawaiian government would not receive a land-base, territorial jurisdiction, nor be eligible for land to be taken into trust. The only possible land back is the island Kaho‘olawe, bombed for 50 years by the US navy and with unexploded ordinance still stuck in the ground. In fact, federal recognition would have the effect of officially ceding authority to the US, for the first time ever, of over approximately 2m acres of national land stolen from the Hawaiian Kingdom and Native Hawaiians. ...
The thief returns to the scene of the crime asking for forgiveness but refusing to return what they stole.
Denouncing the advancement of House Bill 1 in the Florida legislature on Wednesday, the state's ACLU chapter warned that if signed into law, the undemocratic anti-protest bill pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis would "silence and criminalize" people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights to peacefully advocate for social change.
"This bill does nothing but criminalize peaceful protest, silence dissent, and inhibit Floridians from seeking to influence how our state leaders make decisions about our lives," Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in response to the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee's vote to pass HB1.
"We know the true nature of this bill and its origins," said Kubic. "We know that it is not about public safety, but about criminalizing peaceful protesters advocating for racial justice."
As Common Dreams reported earlier this year, progressives have been sounding the alarm that Republican lawmakers in multiple states are exploiting the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters to push for anti-protest bills, which critics say have nothing to do with stemming the tide of far-right extremism and everything to do with suppressing left-wing dissent and quashing protests against police brutality, fossil fuel pipelines, and more.
In Florida, Trump ally DeSantis promoted HB1 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 484—punitive proposals that critics say are meant to repress Black Lives Matter and other social justice protests—on January 6, "the same day insurrectionists were storming the Capitol," as journalist Christopher Cook pointed out earlier this year in a critique of what he called the "righteous bipartisan weaponizing of this crisis."
As journalist Iliana Hagenah wrote at the time, DeSantis used the riots in Washington, D.C., attended by several neo-Confederates, as a pretext to "make taking down Confederate statues a felony" in Florida.
D.C. National Guard commander says Pentagon delayed deployment of troops to protect US Capitol on January 6
In the second joint hearing held by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees on the January 6 siege of the US Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists, D.C. National Guard Commander William Walker confirmed that senior leadership at the Department of Defense refused for hours to approve urgent requests from Walker and D.C. police to deploy National Guard troops to protect Congress from the mob.
In his opening statement, Walker said he asked Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy for approval to deploy National Guard troops at 1:49 p.m., but was not given the go-ahead until 5:08 p.m. Walker testified that the three hour and 19 minute delay left him “stunned and frustrated.”
He told the panel that he had “about 155” soldiers fully equipped and ready to deploy, and their dispatch to the Capitol could have “secured the perimeter” and “made a difference.”
Walker’s statements coincide with testimony given last week by D.C. Metro Police Chief Robert Contee and former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. Both police chiefs testified that they were “stunned” at the lack of response from Pentagon officials when they pleaded for reinforcements, even as the Capitol was being overrun by far-right forces whom Trump had called on to halt congressional certification of the Electoral College vote.
The US House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the most ambitious police reform effort in decades, for the second time on Wednesday.
The sweeping legislation would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. Nine months after Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police, lawmakers voted to approve the reform measure named after him 220-212, along party lines. However, the only Republican who voted in favor said he did so in error, and has changed the official record to reflect his opposition.
The House had passed a version of the bill last year, but the Republican-controlled Senate never took it up. This time around, Democrats have the support of the White House and a slight edge in the Senate. But they will have to win over at least 10 Republican senators to overcome a filibuster and pass the measure – which is unlikely to happen.
On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives passed a sweeping package of voting rights and campaign finance reform that, if enacted, would reshape the structure of American politics, expanding the franchise and diminishing the power of wealthy interests. ...
H.R. 1, also known as the For the People Act, creates a national system of automatic voter registration, which is expected to bring millions of new voters to the ballot box, and cracks down on voter suppression tactics. Crucially, it mandates nonpartisan redistricting commissions in order to outlaw gerrymandering. Without passage of the legislation, Republicans are well positioned to retake the House of Representatives in 2022 without persuading a single voter to switch parties or turning out new voters, but simply by gerrymandering in the wake of the Trump administration’s rigged census. ...
The bill has strong support among Democrats in the Senate, support that is only growing stronger as Republicans unleash a wave of voter suppression laws — particularly in Arizona and Georgia, where Democrats will be defending new gains in the upcoming midterms. While Republicans across the country support the legislation, their elected representatives in Congress are dead set against it. That means passage requires busting or evading the filibuster.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has compiled a short list of successors in his home state of Kentucky, preparing for the possibility that he does not serve out his full term, Kentucky Republicans tell The Intercept. The list is topped by his protégé, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and also includes former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft, whose billionaire coal magnate husband is a major McConnell donor, as well as Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a formerMcConnell Scholar.
Under current law, the power to appoint McConnell’s replacement falls to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. But new legislation McConnell is pushing in the Kentucky General Assembly would strip the governor of that power and put it into the hands of the state GOP.
McConnell’s scramble to secure his legacy comes as his position in the party he effectively built from the ground up is increasingly shaky. McConnell’s denunciation of former President Donald Trump — even as it was accompanied by a vote of acquittal and a pledge to endorse the former president in 2024 if he is the GOP nominee — has brought on calls for his censure by party leaders across the state. A candidate running in McConnell’s mold would face an uphill climb through a primary in the new Republican Party — unless, that is, the candidate has the benefit of incumbency.
The 79-year-old McConnell has held his Senate seat since 1985 and handily won a seventh term last November.
The varied, and beautiful, butterfly species that dot the US west are being cut down by the climate crisis, new research has found, with rising temperatures helping cause a steep decline in butterfly numbers over the past 40 years.
There has been a 1.6% reduction in the total number of butterflies observed west of the Rocky Mountain range each year since 1977, researchers calculated, which amounts to a staggering loss of butterflies over the timespan of the study period. ...
The declines are winnowing away much-loved species such as the monarch butterfly, which is known for is spectacular mass migrations to California each year but has lost 99% of its population compared with 40 years ago. “With the monarch it seems we are on the verge of losing the migration, if not the species itself,” Matt Forister, biology professor at the University of Nevada and lead study author, said.
The research, published in Science, analyzed citizen-gathered sightings of butterflies in 72 locations spanning all of the western US states. In all, more than 450 butterfly species were included in the study.
Across all of these sightings, the researchers found an annual 1.6% drop in butterfly numbers in the west, which is consistent with the rate of decline of other insects found by researchers in different places around the world, fueling concerns of a deep crisis among the creatures that help supply much of our food, break down waste and form crucial foundations to the web of life.
Last month, the German energy giant RWE announced it was suing the government of the Netherlands. The crime? Proposing to phase out coal from the country’s electricity mix. The company, which is Europe’s biggest emitter of carbon, is demanding €1.4bn in “compensation” from the country for loss of potential earnings because the Dutch government has banned the burning of coal for electricity from 2030.
If this sounds unreasonable, then you might be surprised to learn that this kind of legal action is perfectly normal – and likely to become far more commonplace in the coming years. RWE is suing under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a little-known international agreement signed without much public debate in 1994. The treaty binds more than 50 countries, and allows foreign investors in the energy sector to sue governments for decisions that might negatively impact their profits – including climate policies. Governments can be forced to pay huge sums in compensation if they lose an ECT case.
Investigate Europe has revealed that the EU, the U.K. and Switzerland could be forced to pay more than €345 billion in ECT lawsuits over climate action in the coming years. This amount, which is more than twice the EU’s annual budget, represents the total value of the fossil fuel infrastructure that is protected by the ECT, and was calculated using data gathered by Global Energy Monitor and Change of Oil International. With ECT-covered assets worth €141 billion (or more than €2,000 per citizen), the U.K. – which in 2019 became the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law – is the country most vulnerable to future claims.
As part of its clean-energy agenda, the Biden administration is reviving an energy department program that disbursed billions of dollars in loan guarantees to companies such as electric car maker Tesla and the failed solar company Solyndra, the energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, says. The loan program helped launch the country’s first utility-scale wind and solar farms as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to create “green jobs” but largely went dormant under Donald Trump.
The program boosted Tesla’s efforts to become a behemoth in electric cars, but it stumbled with a major loan guarantee to Solyndra, the California solar company that failed soon after receiving federal money a decade ago, costing taxpayers more than $500m. Republicans and other critics cite Solyndra as an example of wasteful spending under Barack Obama’s stimulus program, and the loan guarantees have largely dried up in recent years. The energy department provided $12bn in guarantees for the Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia, but few other loans were offered under Trump. ...
Granholm said up to $40bn in guarantees will be made available for a variety of clean-energy projects, including wind, solar and hydro power, advanced vehicles, geothermal and even nuclear. “It’s got to be clean. That’s it,” she said. “And when I say clean, you know, it’s technologies that are being researched in the lab,” like projects to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, so-called green hydrogen fuel and other energy sources, she said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Little Milton Campbell - I'm Tired
Little Milton - If Crying Would Help Me
Little Milton - Walking The Backstreets And Crying
Little Milton - Feel So Bad
Little Milton Campbell - Somebody's Changin' My Sweet Babys Mind
Little Milton - Blind Man
Little Milton - The Blues Is My Companion
Little Milton Campbell - Many Rivers To Cross
Little Milton - My Dog and Me