The Evening Blues - 7-26-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player Mojo Buford. Enjoy!
Mojo Buford - Don't Go No Farther
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
-- Edward Abbey
News and Opinion
I talk a lot about how we’re destroying our environment with a global system where human behavior is driven by the pursuit of profit, how the power structure which dominates that system does so by violence, exploitation, oppression, and the threat of nuclear war, and how we’re all going to die if we don’t change this system.
Whenever I say this I get a bunch of capitalism cultists bleating “You just don’t understand economics bruh,” which is the line they’ve been trained to say to anyone they see criticizing capitalism. It’s silly for a number of reasons, among them the fact that nobody who regurgitates that line understands economics themselves, and the fact that one’s understanding of economics has nothing to do with the death of the ecosystem our species relies on for survival.
The claim that anyone who opposes capitalism “just doesn’t understand economics” is premised on the notion that unfettered capitalism is the best way for a civilization to attain economic growth, which is arguably true; governments like China saw their economies explode when they started implementing elements of capitalism for pragmatic reasons. If you want to create a bunch of stuff and generate a tremendous amount of wealth, a good way to do that is by giving the capitalist class the protection of the state so they can rake in billions of dollars exploiting the global proletariat without being guillotined.
Problem is, that only looks like a valid point if economic growth is the only value by which you judge a system’s success. If you value quality of life, overall happiness, health, average lifespan, education, eliminating poverty, homelessness and hunger, and many other possible metrics, nations like the United States are far from ideal. If you value avoiding climate collapse, then the only way to think capitalism is the answer is to espouse on blind faith the belief that the world will be saved by greedy union-busting tech oligarchs who just want to make more stuff and send us all to space.
That’s not to say that socialism in and of itself has all the answers on this front either. Nations which have attempted socialism have not historically had the best environmental records, and even a hypothetical ideal socialist society where workers own all the means of production would not be inherently dissuaded from destroying the environment for profit.
What we need, if we are to turn away from the path of extinction and begin working in collaboration with our ecosystem, is a society which values the un-making of things.
Since the dawn of civilization humanity has valued achievement, conquest, invention, creation; it has valued doing things, and it has not valued the undoing of things. Creating a new kind of machine will bring you fame and fortune and put your name in the history books, while figuring out how to clean up all the pollution caused by the manufacturing and operation of that machine will not. Discovering a new way to kill thousands of people at a time will make you rich, while choosing to sit on that invention instead of unleashing that horror upon the world will not. Cutting down a tree to make toothpicks will make you money, while leaving it to grow for future generations will not.
Interestingly this disparity parallels with the inequality in traditional gender roles throughout the ages. While hunter-gatherer societies were largely egalitarian, after the invention of agriculture some twelve thousand years ago women came to be generally regarded as second-class citizens because they were unable to do fieldwork or conquer other tribes for their land. Since that time women have had very little say in the construction of our society and its values systems, and for that reason the work they traditionally do — cleaning, caring, conserving, resolving conflicts and building community — has gone unrewarded by money or esteem compared to traditional men’s work. Doing and making are valued, undoing and unmaking are not. The rise of capitalism poured rocket fuel on this dynamic.
Most mothers will tell you it’s a pretty thankless job compared to how much labor you pour into it from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you lay your head down at night. Because so much of her work goes into disappearing things — dirty diapers, laundry, messy floors, dishes in the sink, owwies, tears, tantrums — people who are conditioned by a society that has for millennia only valued making and doing tend to only notice when her work doesn’t get done. Their attention scans right over all the undoing she spent all day working on; it’s not paid, it’s not rewarded, and for the most part it’s not even appreciated.
In the same way, and for the same reason, people’s attention tends to scan right over the obvious solutions to the ecocidal trajectory our species has been on. Because thousands of years of conditioning have trained us to value doing things and making things and turning over a profit, our attention skips right over the simple solution right under our noses to do less and unmake things and stop pursuing profit at the expense of future generations.
This is why people who are awake to what’s going on in our world so often feel hopeless and despondent, and why the quote “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism” resonates with so many. Because we live in a society that has no framework or conceptual infrastructure for valuing the disappearing of things, and because making things and turning a profit has no answer for our situation, solutions look impossible.
But solutions are not impossible. They just won’t involve turning millionaires into billionaires and billionaires into trillionaires.
Cleaning up this mess will take a lot of work and cost a lot, and the reward for that investment won’t be anyone getting rich or any power structure securing a geostrategic advantage, it will be a future for our children and grandchildren. The oceans for example are one of our planet’s biggest carbon sinks, and their ability to function as such is being choked off by plastics in the water. Getting that plastic out of there in an environment-friendly way won’t turn a profit like clearing a forest or drilling an oil field will, so if we leave it to the Captains of Industry nothing will be done about it. Capitalism offers no incentive to do it.
Ending growth for its own sake, producing less, consuming less, paying people to stay home instead of commuting to pointless jobs; all of these would help the ecosystem far more than producing some new battery made of strip-mined materials. But there’s no profit, so they’re overlooked as viable solutions. You’re only ever going to look for solutions to problems through the reality tunnel you’ve been conditioned to look through. For thousands of years human civilization has been valuing the making of more things and devaluing the unmaking of things, when the latter is what we need right now.
A hidden cost is mental illness. In order to manipulate people to buy things that they don’t need with money they don’t have to keep capitalism from collapsing, you need to keep up a non-stop barrage of trauma-inducing consumerist propaganda. We are all suffering from various mental disorders, from the subtle to the extreme, as a result of this relentless onslaught of brainwashing. Some of these disorders are so prevalent that people assume they are normal. Everything from eating disorders and obesity, to hoarding and shopping addictions, can be traced back to advertising constantly and repetitively ringing our pavlovian bells, while also constantly reminding us that we are not perfect or whole or worthy of love (but maybe if you buy this you will be).
Many readers will attest that you don’t have to be that far along in your waking up journey to start becoming really sensitive to the psychological violence of TV advertising. A TV ad break suddenly becomes physically repellant. In the future we will look back on how coercive and non-consensual mass-scale advertising is and shake our heads in wonder that it was ever allowed to be a thing. Of course, by then, advertising will barely work because too many people will be too awake to manipulate in mass numbers.
But for now, we are manipulated by the millions into consuming massive amounts of products that aren’t good for us, don’t serve us, or are just another thing that we won’t hardly use but we need to find some cupboard space for. Ending advertising would allow so much health to rebuild in our minds and reduce consumption of materials dramatically; but ending advertising would mean ending capitalism. They are inseparable. We have the tools now to find everything we need via word-of-mouth, but capitalism requires infinite growth. Even your mom-and-pop shop owner feel the pressure to grow in order to keep up cash flow and cover increasing overheads.
Growth is baked in to capitalism, and right now we need more than anything just to chill. Do less, be less, compete less, expect less of ourselves and each other, produce less, consume less, commute less; but take more naps, be more kind, be more gentle with ourselves and each other, laugh more, cry more, feel more, and regenerate all the energy stolen from us from a rat race that we were never gonna win anyway.
Only when we have systems in place that make this possible will we find the energy to start cleaning up our world and begin living in harmony and integrity with the very ecosystem that we are intrinsically a part of.
The Taliban say they don’t want to monopolize power, but they insist there won’t be peace in Afghanistan until there is a new negotiated government in Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani is removed. In an interview with The Associated Press, Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team, laid out the insurgents’ stance on what should come next in a country on the precipice. ...
Memories of the Taliban’s last time in power some 20 years ago, when they enforced a harsh brand of Islam that denied girls an education and barred women from work, have stoked fears of their return among many. Afghans who can afford it are applying by the thousands for visas to leave Afghanistan, fearing a violent descent into chaos. The U.S.-NATO withdrawal is more than 95% complete and due to be finished by Aug. 31.
Shaheen said the Taliban will lay down their weapons when a negotiated government acceptable to all sides in the conflict is installed in Kabul and Ghani’s government is gone. “I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolize power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen, apparently including the Taliban’s own five-year rule in that assessment. “So we do not want to repeat that same formula.” ...
Shaheen said under this new government, women will be allowed to work, go to school, and participate in politics, but will have to wear the hijab, or headscarf. He said women won’t be required to have a male relative with them to leave their home, and that Taliban commanders in newly occupied districts have orders that universities, schools and markets operate as before, including with the participation of women and girls. ...
Shaheen said there are no plans to make a military push on Kabul and that the Taliban have so far “restrained” themselves from taking provincial capitals. But he warned they could, given the weapons and equipment they have acquired in newly captured districts. He contended that the majority of the Taliban’s battlefield successes came through negotiations, not fighting. “Those districts which have fallen to us and the military forces who have joined us ... were through mediation of the people, through talks,” he said. “They (did not fall) through fighting ... it would have been very hard for us to take 194 districts in just eight weeks.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar is challenging the Biden administration’s justification for its Tuesday airstrike in Somalia, which the Pentagon claimed was targeted against suspected members of al-Shabab. The Minnesota Democrat is also hitting the White House for a failure to make promised and appropriated reparation payments to families of civilians killed in American airstrikes, according to a letter to President Joe Biden that was provided to The Intercept. The strike was the first in Somalia since Biden took office and came amid the White House’s stated plans, put forward by national security adviser Jake Sullivan in January, to limit drone operations while the administration reviews its counterterrorism policy. Omar, who grew up in Somalia before spending four years in a Kenyan refugee camp, represents a district with a heavy Somali American population.
The airstrike near the city of Galkayo targeted militants in al-Shabab, an insurgency group based in Somalia that the U.S. has long fought as part of its so-called global war on terror. Sullivan’s directive instructed the military and CIA to gain White House permission before launching attacks in places like Somalia and Yemen.
Since then, the administration has rejected requests by U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, to strike al-Shabab targets. But according to the New York Times, Tuesday’s attack occurred without White House approval. In this case, the militants were supposedly attacking members of an elite U.S.-trained Somali commando force called Danab, and Pentagon spokesperson Cindi King said AFRICOM had the power to authorize the response independently under the military’s “collective self-defense” justification. No U.S. troops were actually with the Danab commandos when the attack occurred, as they were advising the unit remotely.
Omar found the rationale unpersuasive. “As you know,” she wrote in the letter, “‘collective self-defense’ is a term with variable meanings in national and international law, and especially in the context of your ongoing review of airstrike authorities, its use merits further explanation in this case. This is also an important and timely matter since it seems suggestive of your Administration’s broader approach to airstrikes in Somalia.”
The main pension fund for New York’s state government workers and retirees warned Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, on Friday that it might restrict its investments in the company because of the ice cream maker’s decision to halt sales in Israeli-occupied territories.
In a letter obtained by The Post, Liz Gordon, executive director of corporate governance for the $254.8 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, informed Unilever CEO Alan Jope that state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli “is troubled and concerned” by Ben & Jerry’s announcement. ...
According to the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s most recent annual report, it has about $73 million invested in Unilever.
Emmanuel Macron has reportedly spoken to the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, to ensure that the Israeli government is “properly investigating” allegations that the French president could have been targeted with Israeli-made spyware by Morocco’s security services.
In a phone call, Macron expressed concern that his phone and those of most of his cabinet could have been infected with Pegasus, hacking software developed by the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group, which enables operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones from infected devices. The leaked database at the heart of the Pegasus project includes Macron’s mobile phone number.
The Macron-Bennett phone call reportedly took place on Thursday, but was first reported by Israel’s Channel 12 News on Saturday evening after the end of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
The prime minister’s office has declined to comment on the phone call or the two leaders’ conversation. According to Channel 12, an unnamed source said Bennett had stressed that the alleged events occurred before he took office in May, and that a commission was examining whether rules on Israel’s export of cyberweapons such as Pegasus should be tightened.
Tunisian president Kais Saied has suspended parliament and dismissed prime minister Hichem Mechichi after a day of protests against the ruling party brought the country’s political crisis to a head.
Cheering crowds quickly flooded the streets of the capital Tunis after Saied’s announcement on Sunday, celebrating and honking car horns in scenes that recalled the 2011 revolution that brought democracy and triggered the Arab spring protests that convulsed the Middle East. ...
Military vehicles surrounded the parliament building late on Sunday, according to Reuters. Witnesses said people who had gathered nearby cheered and sang the national anthem as the vehicles apperared outside the building.
The opposition accused Saied of staging a coup and the extent of support for the president’s moves against a fragile government and divided parliament was not clear. Saied warned against any violent response. “I warn any who think of resorting to weapons... and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he said in a statement carried on television. ...
Saied said in his statement that his actions were in line with the constitution, and cited article 80 to suspend the immunity of members of parliament. “The constitution does not allow for the dissolution of parliament, but it does allow for its work to be suspended,” the president said, citing Article 80 which permits such a measure in case of “imminent danger”.
“Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people,” he said.
Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, said on Sunday top US health officials were discussing whether to revise mask guidance for Americans vaccinated against Covid-19. “This is under active consideration,” Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union, though he also emphasized that local governments can issue their own rules under current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Los Angeles county and St Louis, Missouri, have reinstated indoor mask requirements and other cities are weighing whether to do the same.
After a significant drop in Covid-19 cases because of the national vaccine campaign, infections are rising in all 50 states and Washington DC. The increases are highest in states with large groups of unvaccinated people. More than 610,000 have died from Covid-19 in the US. ...
Fauci said the administration was reviewing whether some vaccinated people may require booster shots. Vulnerable people such as organ transplant and cancer patients were “likely” to be recommended for booster shots, he said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among several critics on Friday who warned that the Biden administration's plan to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium to expire on July 31 would have devastating consequences for millions of renters as well as threatening public health as Covid-19 cases surge.
President Joe Biden extended the moratorium by one month in June but has shown no signs that he plans to do the same this month.
According to U.S. Treasury Department data, dozens of jurisdictions across the country have yet to start distributing assistance funds for renters that were appropriated in March as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
"It is reckless not to extend the deadline when rental assistance funds have not gone out fast enough to protect people," said Ocasio-Cortez on Friday. "Eviction filings have already spiked in anticipation of the deadline being lifted."
According to analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released this week, 11.4 million renters—or one in seven—are behind on rent payments. Advocates say about six million are at risk of promptly losing their homes if the eviction moratorium is not extended at the end of July.
According to Paul Williams, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute, about 80% of those six million people "live in counties with rapid, Delta variant-driven [Covid-1] case growth."
Though the Biden administration has not signaled that it plans to extend aid for renters, the White House on Friday announced it will allow homeowners with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages to delay their payments until September, a measure that will help 1.8 million people in forebearance.
Since the start of summer school in New York City earlier this month, 157 classrooms and two school buildings have been closed due to outbreaks of COVID-19. Summer school has become a test-run by the political establishment for the full reopening of schools on September 13. Normally, summer session is remedial, but this year the administration of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio opened it up to all students, claiming that all students suffered learning deficits during remote learning. The program, called Summer Rising and funded largely with federal pandemic funding, has already enrolled over 200,000 students, the largest summer school program in the US.
The growing numbers of infections give the lie to the much-ballyhooed claims of de Blasio, New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and the rest of the political and media establishment, that the pandemic is over. The summer school infections demonstrate that the current plan of the de Blasio administration to mandate in-person learning for all of the roughly 1.1 million students in the largest public school system in the US this September will be a disaster. The vast majority of New York City students will still be unvaccinated when school buildings reopen this fall. Packing students in the city’s old and poorly-ventilated buildings, with the Delta variant spreading rapidly, will inevitably produce a surge in infections among children which will once again spread throughout the city. ...
One school in Brooklyn, P.S. 207 Elizabeth G. Leary, was closed last week because 11 classrooms have had COVID-19 infections. The neighborhood where the school is located, Bergan Beach, has a positivity rate of 3.4 percent. Citywide, the test positivity rate has risen to roughly 2 percent, while reported cases have increased by 205 percent in the last two weeks. New York state as a whole has seen an increase of approximately the same percentage, although state positivity rates have usually been regarded as less reliable underestimates than those made in the city. Last week, an overnight camp in a rural area about 100 miles north of the city reported 31 infections in children aged 7 to 11.
Despite the growth in infections, New York City and state continue to relax COVID-19 mitigation measures. Theaters and restaurants have reopened and large gatherings are now permitted. For its public hospitals, the city has mandated a choice of vaccine or weekly testing for its employees, but there are virtually no other institutions, including schools, that have implemented similar requirements. Masking remains optional in most public venues. On Thursday, in-person appearances became required once more for civil marriages. The city is also planning a program of large concerts in Central Park to promote illusions of “normalcy” in the city’s population.
Shortly after emerging from his 10-minute space flight last week, Jeff Bezos thanked Amazon customers and employees for their primary role in paying for his Blue Origin joyride to the edge of space.
The Amazon founder’s comments quickly elicited scorn from many employees who toil in extreme working conditions for little pay and with bathroom breaks half as long as Bezos's short rocket ride.
But American taxpayers should be just as roiled for not being mentioned by Bezos at all. Commentators pointed to Bezoss Blue Origin and Sir Richard Branson's earlier trip on Virgin Galactic's Unity spacecraft as being privately funded, but in Bezos's case that is far from the truth.
Dodging taxes and winning public subsidies have been core to Amazon's business strategy from the start, when its e-commerce sales eluded state and local sales taxes. Later as the retailer expanded its distribution network, Amazon aggressively demanded passes on paying local property taxes in exchange for the promise of bringing jobs to a community.
And when Amazon finally turned profitable, the company used various tax reduction schemes, including paying executives with stock options and running transactions through off-shore tax havens. This enabled Amazon to become one of a number of highly profitable companies that have contributed next to nothing to the costs of the federal government.
Early on, Amazon located its shipping centers in states without sales taxes. It successfully argued that the transaction occurred where the package left its distribution center, not once it was left at the customer's front door. This tactic saved Amazon customers billions of dollars, and gave Amazon an enormous competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar stores that had to collect sales taxes.
As Amazon evolved, fast delivery became more important, leading the company to rapidly expand its vast distribution network closer to its customers. Recognizing that this would challenge the underpinnings of its sales tax dodging strategy, Amazon began to demand—and most often receive—lucrative tax breaks and other cash subsidies from communities where Amazon opened facilities and created jobs.
Over the years, Amazon has collected nearly $3.3 billion in 200 different tax subsidy deals with state and local governments, according to Good Jobs First's Subsidy Tracker database. In many cases, that means when an ambulance is dispatched to an Amazon warehouse to tend to a worker overcome by heat, Amazon has left the cost of such services to other taxpayers to pay. Or when Amazon hires an educated worker, it does so knowing that it often contributed little to pay for local government’s investments in schools.
In the three years between 2018 and 2020, Amazon reported $44.7 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits, but paid just $1.9 billion in U.S. corporate income taxes, according to a 2021 analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). These paltry payments gave Amazon an effective tax rate of just 4.3 percent, a fraction of the tax rate paid by typical middle income U.S. families, and only a fifth of the 21% statutory U.S. corporate income tax rate.
If Amazon had paid the full 21% corporate tax rate over the last three years, the company would have paid $7.2 billion more in federal taxes, money that could have been used to invest in basic research, education, national security, and Covid aid for struggling families and small businesses.
Bezos's New Shepherd suborbital flight recreated the historic 1961 flight of America's first astronaut Alan Shepherd. Back then the U.S. corporate tax rate was 48%. If Amazon had paid that same rate on its income in the last three years, the company would have paid an additional $19.5 billion in U.S. income taxes.
Amazon is not alone in not paying its fair share in federal taxes. Back in 1961, corporate income taxes comprised 22.1% of the federal government's revenue. Last year, corporations paid just 6.6% of Uncle Sam's bills, despite U.S. corporations being far more profitable than when Alan Shepherd flew aboard Freedom 7.
Bezos claims to have invested about $7.5 billion in Blue Origin to date. U.S. taxpayers have invested many times that amount in Amazon through sales tax loopholes, property tax subsidies, and federal tax avoidance schemes. It is we, the American taxpayers, along with Amazon’s hard-working, underpaid workers, that made this billionaire’s 10-minute thrill ride possible.
Elected Republican officials in a conservative Michigan county who gave themselves bonuses totalling $65,000 with federal Covid-19 relief funds said they would return the money – following days of criticism. The Shiawassee county commissioners acted after a prosecutor said the payments were illegal, the Argus-Press reported. ...
The commissioners voted on 15 July to award themselves $65,000 as part of a plan to give $557,000 to 250 county employees as “hazard pay” for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The smallest amounts for recipients were $1,000 to $2,000. But the chairman of the county board, Jeremy Root, got $25,000. Two commissioners received $10,000 each, while four received $5,000 each.
The vote was 6-0 with one commissioner absent. The commissioners awarded money to other elected officials, including the prosecutor, the sheriff and the county clerk – all Republicans too. They also said they would give it back.
The truth is that our planet and its people have sounded a symphony of alarms in past decades; the powerful simply chose not to heed them.
Why? It comes back to those stories so many of us in the rich world have been telling ourselves about our relative safety. That when the climate crisis hit, it would be others (read: Black, brown, Indigenous, foreign) who would bear the risks. And if that turned out to be a bad bet, and the crisis came to our communities, then we would simply move somewhere more protected. To Oregon or British Columbia or the Great Lakes or maybe, if things get really dire, Alaska or the Yukon. In other words, we would do precisely what North American, European, and Australian governments ruthlessly punish and vilify migrants on our borders (including climate migrants) for doing: attempting to get to safety. As water scientist Peter Gleick recently wrote, we are seeing the emergence of “two classes of refugees: those with the freedom and financial resources to try, for a while at least, to flee from growing threats in advance, and those who will be left behind to suffer the consequences in the form of illness, death and destruction.”
In this summer of fires and floods, it appears to be dawning on many that even this sinister form of climate apartheid is likely an illusion for all but the ultrarich. As Nasheed said, and as the New York Times echoed in an ominous headline overlaid on a photograph of a burning building: “No one is safe.” We are all trapped in this crisis — whether under that relentless pall of smoke, or in a heat that hits like a physical wall, or under rains and winds that will not stop. Even in the United States, built on the foundational lie of the frontier, the climate crisis can no longer be fobbed off on some faraway place or to some far-off future time. We are fresh out of “out theres” — whether spatially or temporally.
Except, of course, for Jeff Bezos, the man who just in case we missed his cartoonish pluri-planetary frontier fantasy, wore a cowboy hat and boots for the joyride and came back gushing about how he had seen the future, and it was toxic space dumps. “We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is,” he said moments after touchdown.
This, right there, is the crux of our crisis: the persistent fantasy, despite all reason and evidence, that there are no hard limits to capital’s capacity to keep turning life into profit, that there will always be a new frontier to keep the lucrative game going. As Justine Calma wrote in The Verge, “Sticking unwanted stuff in a place that’s seemingly out of sight, out of mind is a tired idea. It’s the same old mindset that has dumped industrial waste on colonized peoples and neighborhoods of color for centuries.” And it’s the same old mindset that convinced residents of Germany and the United States that climate breakdown wasn’t an urgent crisis — until it broke all over them.
If it were only Bezos who thought like this, we could ground him, tax him, and be done with it. But he is only the crassest manifestation of a logic that pervades our ruling class: from Sen. Ted Cruz jetting off to the five-star Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, Mexico, while Texas froze to Peter Thiel planning his luxury bunker in New Zealand. And so long as the rich and powerful continue to believe that there is an “out there” to absorb their messes, they are going to fiercely protect the business-as-usual machine that will keep the rest of us burning down here.
In a development progressives called a "huge legal win in the fight against Line 3," a Minnesota court on Friday ordered police in Hubbard County to stop impeding access to the Giniw Collective's camp, where anti-pipeline activists have been organizing opposition to Enbridge's multibillion-dollar tar sands project.
The ruling comes less than a week after Tara Houska, an Indigenous rights attorney and founder of the Giniw Collective, and Winona LaDuke, an environmental justice advocate and co-founder of Honor the Earth, filed for a temporary restraining order against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner in northern Minnesota.
"We want to thank the court for informing Hubbard County about the rights of property owners, and hope that the sheriff's continued preoccupation with the repression of water protectors can be focused on real criminals," LaDuke said Friday in a statement.
Last month, Aukes unlawfully blockaded a 90-year-old driveway that serves as the only means of entry and exit to the Giniw Collective's camp, which is a convergence point for Indigenous-led protests against the expansion of the Line 3 pipeline. Police officers also cited and arrested individuals who attempted to use the driveway to travel to and from the camp.
According to the Center for Protest Law and Litigation, which represented the plaintiffs alongside EarthRights International and local counsel Jason Steck:
Under the pretext that the small portion of the driveway extending from the camp's private property onto Hubbard County property is now suddenly a "trail" and not designated for vehicular traffic local sheriffs have either physically blocked access, at times by forming a line of over 20 officers, several armed with clubs, or issued citations to water protectors who have driven vehicles on the driveway, even when delivering food, water, or other necessary supplies.
The sheriffs' departments in the region are being paid by funds from the Enbridge pipeline corporation for their time spent acting against the pipeline's opponents through a "Public Safety Escrow Fund." Enbridge has paid more than $1 million to "reimburse" local sheriffs' departments, effectively privatizing Minnesota's public police forces in service to efforts to repress opposition to the pipeline.
In response to the court's ruling, Houska said that "although much of the state appears to have forgotten who their duty is owed to, I'm glad to see some refusing to bend to Enbridge and instead choosing to uphold constitutional rights and basic tenets of law."
"Just because the Hubbard County sheriff and Hubbard County attorney are opposed to Native people protecting our homelands should not mean they can engage in violent, unlawful repression without consequence," Houska added. "Giniw Collective is glad to have rightful access to our home back."
By granting the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order (pdf), the court prohibited the county's law enforcement officials from "barricading, obstructing, or otherwise interfering with access to" the camp, and from arresting, threatening to arrest, or issuing citations to passersby, unless requested by the property owner or authorized users.
Line 3 opponents celebrated the court's ruling and vowed to seek a permanent injunction to protect the constitutional rights of land defenders and water protectors.
"The Hubbard County sheriff has been served notice that his illegal campaign of militarized harassment and obstruction against our clients must end now," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, director of the Center for Protest Law and Litigation, a project of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. "Any ongoing effort by him to blockade the camp, turn it into an open-air prison, or criminalize people for coming to and from the property will subject him to a contempt action."
"This has been an outrageous abuse of law enforcement authority serving the interests of the Enbridge corporation against its environmental opponents," Verheyden-Hilliard added. "We will be moving for a permanent injunction to protect land defenders and water protectors from these abuses."
In California, the Dixie fire, which started on 14 July, had already leveled more than a dozen buildings when it tore through the tiny community of Indian Falls after dark on Saturday. A new damage estimate was not immediately available but fire officials said the blaze had charred 298 square miles of timber and brush in Plumas and Butte counties and was 21% contained. ...
The largest US wildfire, the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon, was nearly half-surrounded as more than 2,200 crew members worked in heat and wind, fire officials said. The blaze had slowed but thousands of homes remained threatened. ...
Brown, the Democratic governor of Oregon, spoke to CNN’s State of the Union. “The harsh reality is that we’re going to see more of these wildfires,” she said. “They’re hotter, they’re more fierce and obviously much more challenging to tackle. And they are a sign of the changing climate impacts.
“In the last year, Oregon has had four federal emergency declarations in addition to the pandemic. We had historic wildfires last fall that we are still rebuilding and recovering from. We had terrible ice storms in February. Over a half-a-million people lost power. And then most recently, as you know, we had the heat dome event … we unfortunately lost over 100 Oregonians.
“So climate change is here, it’s real and it’s like a hammer hitting us in the head. And we have to take action.” ...
By Sunday more than 85 large fires were burning around the US. They had burned more than 1.4m acres.
The most extensive heatwave of a scorching summer is set to descend upon much of America in the coming week, further roasting areas already gripped by severe drought, plunging reservoirs and wildfires. A massive “heat dome” of excessive heat will settle across the heart of the contiguous US from Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast, bringing elevated temperatures to the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the northern reaches of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific north-west and California.
Places used to more mild summers are set for punishing heat, with temperatures expected to breach 100F (37C) in the Dakotas and Montana, a state in which the city of Billings has already experienced 12 days above 95F (35C) this month. Areas of states including Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma may get “sweltering” temperatures reaching 110F (43C), Noaa said, while cities such as Des Moines, Minneapolis and Chicago will get significantly above-average heat.
The latest, but most expansive, in a parade of heatwaves to sweep the US is likely to bring thunderstorms and lightning to some areas, as well as worsen drought conditions ranked as “severe” or “exceptional” that now cover two-thirds of the US west.
Climate scientists have said the barrage of heatwaves over the past month, which have parched farms, caused roads to buckle and resulted in the obliteration of long-standing temperature records, are being fueled by predicted human-caused climate change – but admit to being surprised at the ferocity of the onslaught. “It’s been a severe and dangerous summer, some of the heatwaves have been devastatingly hot,” said Michael Wehner, a a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “We certainly expected these type of temperatures as global warming continues but I don’t think anyone anticipated they would be so hot right now. I don’t think we could’ve expected so many heatwaves in the same general region in one summer.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Mo-Jo Buford - Messin' With The Kid
Mojo Buford - Big Leg Woman
Mojo Buford - Love Without Jealousy
Mojo Buford - Gone And Left Me
Mo-Jo Buford - Whole Lotta Woman
Mojo Buford - St.James Infirmary Blues
Mojo Buford & James 'Pee Wee' Madison - Reconsider Baby & Blues With A Feeling
Mojo Buford - Knockin'On My Door
Mojo Buford - Harp Breaker
Mojo Buford - Blues Is a Botheration
Muddy Waters w/George Mojo Buford - Got My Mojo Working