The Evening Blues - 8-2-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Delta blues guitarist Bukka White. Enjoy!
Bukka White with Howlin' Wolf - World Boogie
"Biden may be stopping all progress and breaking most of his campaign promises, but he did also campaign on bringing back the Obama years so in that sense he kept all his campaign promises."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Biden announced last week that Washington will end its combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. However, these long-serving U.S. soldiers are not coming home: many of the 2,500 American service members are expected to remain in the country for “training and advisory” purposes.
The United States and Iraq had issued a joint statement in April that the U.S. combat mission would be ending, but the timeline remained unclear. The timing of the recent announcement appears intended to boost Kadhimi’s prospects in October’s parliamentary elections — he faces domestic demands to oust U.S. forces, yet remains dependent on American support to maintain some semblance of control.
Many of the militia groups he now struggles to control initially assembled to fight the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, starting in 2014. The Popular Mobilization Forces, or al-Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbī, many of whose fighters are Iraqi Shi’a, were supported by both the U.S. and Iran to defeat the Islamic State. The mobilization of these militias would not have been necessary if Paul Bremer and the Pentagon had not made the foolish decision to disband Iraq’s military following the U.S. invasion in 2003, as Iraq would still have possessed a functional army.
Washington clearly bears significant responsibility for the ongoing instability and dysfunction in Iraq, a fact that the announcement of $155 million in additional humanitarian aid for Iraq seems implicitly to acknowledge. Yet the U.S. military has consistently botched its missions in Iraq — keeping them in the country is in the interests of neither Americans nor Iraqis.
Renaming the stated goal of U.S. troops in Iraq will have little effect on their vulnerability to attack. Iraqi militia groups determined to evict U.S. troops from their country are increasingly acting without or against orders from Tehran. Ironically, Iran’s control of Iraqi militia groups unraveled following the assassination of Quds Force Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Attacks on American forces have increased at a time when Tehran and Washington are attempting to negotiate a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Announcing a troop withdrawal when no troops are in fact to be withdrawn reinforces a broader alarming trend in the forever wars — finding ways to keep American soldiers perpetually deployed, despite the public’s desire for the United States to prioritize investment at home over violence abroad.
Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday declared Tehran would not accept Washington’s “stubborn” demands in talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal and said the United States had failed to guarantee that it would never abandon the pact again.
“The Americans acted completely cowardly and maliciously,” state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying.
“They once violated the nuclear deal at no cost by exiting it. Now they explicitly say that they cannot give guarantees that it would not happen again.”
Since April 9, Tehran and six world powers have been in talks to revive the nuclear pact ditched three years ago by then U.S. President Donald Trump, who argued it favoured Iran.
It wasn’t so long ago that the US was reportedly close to rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, and diplomats were saying much of the terms had been worked out. Now, the US is growing pessimistic, suggesting that the return may be politically impossible.
Biden Administration spin is heavily on the incoming Iranian government, and predictions that they’ll be hard to deal with. The real issue, however, is very much on the American side, and restoring US trustworthiness in the deal after the Trump era.
The real issue is that the US never implemented its sanctions relief requirements under the deal, then unilaterally withdrew from the deal, then continued to undermine its implementation for the rest of the P5+1 for years.
Last week, the ouster of a Guatemalan prosecutor leading embattled efforts against high-level corruption sparked an explosive new chapter in the country’s long-simmering political crisis. The move provoked widespread condemnation, suspension of some U.S. aid, and protests. Heeding calls by Indigenous leaders for a “paro nacional,” or nationwide shutdown, on Thursday, communities and social movements marched, rallied, and blocked roads around the country to demand the president and attorney general resign.
The tipping point came on July 23, when Attorney General María Consuelo Porras fired prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, head of the Special Anti-Impunity Prosecutor’s Bureau, or FECI by its Spanish acronym. In a somewhat ambiguous public statement announcing Sandoval’s termination, Porras’s office referred to bias and disrespect. Sandoval responded with a press conference and laid out detailed allegations that Porras obstructed FECI’s work in order to protect high-level officials, particularly those in the president’s circle, from prosecution for corruption. Porras and President Alejandro Giammattei have both refuted the allegations.
“Today I am the latest in a string of prosecutors who have suffered consequences for seeking truth and justice,” Sandoval said at his press conference last Friday. “History will judge us. The results are there.” Fearing for his safety, he fled the country later that night.
During his three years at the helm of FECI, Sandoval took on presidents, legislators, judges, business leaders, and other powerful figures. FECI worked in tandem with the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, to identify, investigate, prosecute, and dismantle complex criminal networks entrenched in state institutions. In 2015, the two entities brought down sitting President Otto Pérez Molina and most of his administration for graft. Two years later, their investigations into then-President Jimmy Morales, who took office in 2016 and replaced Pérez Molina’s interim successor, prompted fierce backlash from the Guatemalan government. Morales deemed CICIG commissioner Iván Velásquez a threat to national security, barred him from the country, and opted not to renew CICIG’s mandate. The commission shut down in 2019, and FECI took over CICIG’s cases. Ever since, Sandoval has been the main target of animosity from current and potential subjects of corruption investigations.
“I think the [Guatemalan] government is worried about what will happen,” said Edie Cux, a lawyer and president of the Guatemalan anti-corruption group Acción Ciudadana, noting that on Thursday Porras and Giammattei both attempted to minimize the fallout in written responses to the suspension. ... Regardless, the Guatemalan government is probably most concerned with the response of the Guatemalan people, Cux told The Intercept. “I think they are still evaluating how long these kinds of shutdowns, protests, and citizens’ demands will last,” he said. “If the pressure keeps up, I think the government may cede to some extent."
Israel’s supreme court is due to make a decision on whether to evict Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in a final hearing in the controversial case that helped spark communal violence inside Israel and a new war with Hamas earlier this year.
A verdict in the deeply contentious case, which could lead to the neighbourhood’s current residents being forcibly displaced to make way for Jewish settlers in a decades-old dispute, is expected on Monday morning. ...
The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli government was seeking to postpone the hearing for another six months in order to diffuse tensions and appease Joe Biden’s administration, which opposes the evictions. The new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is expected to make his first state visit to Washington DC later in August.
Who does Poland think it is to expropriate land and property without compensation, Israel?
A few years ago, Shoshana Greenberg stood outside a building in Lodz, Poland, once owned by her family, with an old photograph in her hands and tears running down her face. Greenberg, now 74 and living in Tel Aviv, was on a quest to reclaim property lost during the Holocaust. Her father was head of a prominent, wealthy Jewish family in Lodz that owned industrial buildings, residential homes and holiday properties. ...
Since the fall of communist Europe in 1989, most countries in the former Soviet bloc have taken steps to provide restitution and compensation to their pre-war Jewish citizens. Poland is the only major country that has not implemented such a programme – and now it is on the verge of making recompense even harder.
In the coming weeks, a new law is expected to pass its final stages in the Polish parliament that will set a 30-year time limit on legal challenges over confiscated properties, in effect axing thousnds of claims. The Polish government has said the new regulations are aimed at preventing fraud and “irregularities”. It has also said it is “not responsible for the Holocaust, an atrocity committed by the German [occupiers]”. But many other countries – including the UK, Israel and the US – have sharply criticised the move.
[Irony alert - js]
Israel’s foreign ministry said: “This is not a historical debate about responsibility for the Holocaust but a moral debt of Poland to those who were its citizens and whose property was looted during the Holocaust and under the communist regime.”
The UK government would not stand in the way of another vote on Scottish independence if it is the “settled will” of voters, Michael Gove has said.
Westminster has repeatedly rejected requests from the Scottish government for the necessary powers to hold another vote but the Cabinet Office minister said if the public desire a second referendum, “one would occur”.
The comment follows a decline in support for independence. After about six months of consistent polling showing majority support for separation last year – with one poll going as high as 58% in favour – the tide began to turn at the beginning of 2021. ...
It is unclear what would convince the UK government that another vote is the “settled will” of Scots but it could mean positive election results for independence parties or continuous polling in favour for a certain period of time.
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said he believed May’s election to be an indicator that the “settled will” of the Scottish people was in favour of independence. The SNP fell just one seat short of a majority in Holyrood in the election and are in talks with the Scottish Greens over an alliance on certain issues.
Florida’s ban on mask mandates came under increasing scrutiny from public health officials on Sunday as the surging Delta variant pushed new daily cases of Covid-19 in the state to a record high. The 21,683 new cases reported on Saturday was Florida’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic. It came a day after Ron DeSantis signed an executive order prohibiting school districts from requiring staff and students to wear masks.
On Sunday, the state broke its previous record for hospitalisations, also set more than a year ago. ...
“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said on Friday.
Fauci, who has clashed publicly with DeSantis, told CBS’s Face the Nation wearing masks to combat Covid was a “responsibility to society” and that data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics supported masks in schools. “You understand people feeling that they have the individual right to make their own decisions, and I respect that for sure, but the issue is, if you’re going to be part of the transmission chain to someone else, then your decision is impacting someone else,” Fauci said.
Vaccinated people can carry high levels of the virus and transmit the infection to the unvaccinated, data that prompted the CDC to amend guidance and recommend the vaccinated wear masks indoors in areas where transmission and infection rates are high. ... “But we know now they can transmit when they get breakthrough infections, even though they have minimal symptoms or no symptoms."
Democrats who control the House of Representatives cannot blame Republicans for a looming crisis over evictions, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, after a federal moratorium lapsed on Saturday night. The expiration of the pandemic-related protection has left about 11 million Americans at risk of losing their homes in the coming weeks, and the prominent progressive is angry her party allowed the clock to run out on renewing the measure.
“The House and House leadership had the opportunity to vote to extend the moratorium and there was, frankly, a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes rather than hold this vote,” the New York representative told CNN’s State of the Union, referring to the start of the summer congressional break. “And we have to call a spade a spade. We cannot in good faith blame the Republican party when House Democrats have a majority.” ...
The Biden administration did not seek to prolong the moratorium, meant to protect renters hit by economic contraction under Covid, after the supreme court indicated it would oppose any attempted extension. Congress then failed on Friday to find a way to extend it through legislation, with Democratic leadership insisting a request from the White House came too late. “We only learned of this yesterday,” Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, told reporters on Friday evening. “There was not enough time to socialise it within our caucus as well as to build a consensus necessary.”
On Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez was unforgiving. “There is something to be said for the fact that this court order came down on the White House a month ago and the White House waited until the day before the House adjourned to release a statement asking Congress to extend the moratorium,” she said.
CNN's @jaketapper: "Who's to blame" for the failure to extend the eviction moratorium?
— The Recount (@therecount) August 1, 2021
A vote on a $1tn bipartisan infrastructure bill could be held “in a matter of days”, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday, as negotiators scrambled to finish writing the legislation. Schumer opened a rare Sunday session by saying the text of the bill would be released “imminently”.
Senators and staff have been laboring for days to write what is certain to be a massive piece of legislation. An early draft swelled beyond 2,500 pages. To prod the work along, Schumer kept senators in over the weekend, encouraging the authors of the plan to finish drafting it so senators can begin offering amendments.
If the Senate bill passes, the House will consider the matter. On Sunday morning, one prominent House progressive fired a shot across the upper chamber’s bows.
“Bipartisan doesn’t always mean that it’s in the interests of the public good, frankly,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told CNN’s State of the Union. “Sometimes, there’s a lot of corporate lobbyist giveaways in some of these bills.” ...
On Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez told CNN: “If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House, and if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in.
A landmark federal court ruling eight years ago was supposed to put an end to the New York Police Department regime of racially targeted harassment known as stop-and-frisk. The people who won that ruling now say the court-ordered reform process is in danger of falling apart. In a motion filed in federal court Thursday, the plaintiffs in the original suit, Floyd et al. v. The City of New York, warn that the court-appointed monitor is undermining the credibility of the reform process by ignoring the communities actually affected by the racist police policies.
“We cannot have meaningful and lasting change if the only people in the room are lawyers, police executives, and academics,” said Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the lawyers who worked on the Floyd trial, speaking Thursday. “You cannot accurately assess the legality and fairness of the police department’s treatment of the people of the city if you don’t talk to the people who are actually being policed.”
The picture painted by the motion — of a reform process ever more divorced from the experience of the people it was put in place to help — raises questions about the capacity of court monitors to impose lasting change on police agencies resistant to reform. The motion also comes in the final days of the mayoral administration of Bill de Blasio, who rose to office on promises of police reform and accountability but soon disappointed supporters of that agenda. The next mayor will likely be Eric Adams, a former NYPD officer who spoke against the excesses of stop-and-frisk and NYPD racism but campaigned for mayor on a public safety agenda and overcame opponents calling for police accountability.
Activists are expressing worry about backsliding on what few serious police reforms have already been made in the NYPD. The plaintiffs’ motion in the Floyd case, however, suggests even marquee efforts at reform are already on shaky ground.
Nina Turner goes head-to-head on Tuesday with Shontel Brown in a primary in Ohio’s 11th congressional district that is being watched closely by Democrats across the nation. An increasingly rancorous campaign has echoed the bitter battle between Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016 and suggested party divisions still run deep.
Brown, 46, a council member and county Democratic party chair, is in the moderate evolution-not-revolution lane. Dubbed the “anybody but Nina” candidate, she has been endorsed by Clinton, House majority whip Jim Clyburn – who praised her “substance” at a sparsely attended Black church in Cleveland on Saturday – and the Congressional Black Caucus. Turner, 53, a former city council member and state senator, is a standard bearer of the left. She was a national surrogate for Sanders’ 2016 campaign, led its spin-off organisation Our Revolution and was national co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 effort. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for her last weekend, underlining Turner’s appeal to young progressives. ...
The multimillion-dollar contest offers Joe Biden a sobering warning of potential discord across the country ahead of the next year’s midterm elections. Progressives have announced primary challenges to incumbents in Chicago, Louisville, New York and Nashville and are raising huge sums. ...
The fight has rekindled hostilities Democrats suppressed for much of the Trump era and has turned acrimonious with negative ads flying. Both Sanders and Turner used Saturday’s rally to condemn an influx of money from oil, drug and insurance companies and other special interest groups. “Why are they spending all of that money on little old me?” demanded Turner, wearing her trademark thick-framed spectacles. “They like the way things are now. They like it that so few people have so much and so many people have so little … They profit from a system of tax cuts for the rich. They do not want an America as good as its promise and they are investing millions to ensure our voices are silenced.”
The Democratic Majority for Israel political action committee has funded attack ads against Turner – who in May tweeted “Palestinian lives matter” – reminding viewers of her remark last year that voting for Biden instead of Trump was like eating half a bowl of shit instead of a full one.
The former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has hinted at a run for US Senate.
“If God wants me to do it I will,” Palin recently told Ché Ahn, leader of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, according to Right Wing Watch, a progressive advocacy group, and footage posted to social media.
Palin would be running against Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who has not been as steadfast in her support of Donald Trump as most others in the GOP in Congress.
“I would say you guys better be there for me this time, because a lot of people were not there for me last time,” Palin told her Christian audience, referring to her spell as running mate to John McCain in 2008.
For First Time on Record, US Renewables Generated More Electricity Than Either Coal or Nuclear in 2020
The Energy Information Administration, the primary authority in the federal government on energy numbers, concludes that renewables, primarily hydro, wind and solar, rose to become 21% of electricity generation in the U.S. in 2020.
This is the first time on record that renewables were the second-largest generator of electricity in the U.S.
Renewables overall increased 9% between 2019 and 2020. About half of U.S. clean energy now comes from solar and wind, and the other half from hydroelectric power.
Wind generation increased by 14%.
Solar rocketed up even more, with utility-scale solar projects of 1 megawatt or more growing by 26%.
Small-scale solar such as rooftop installations like the one we have increased by 19%.
The Clean Power Association says that America put in 26 gigawatts of renewables electricity plants in 2020 — 80% more than in 2019 — bringing total US renewables capacity to 170 gigawatts.
In the US, some 78% of all new electricity generation was from wind and solar, which are clearly the future of the American grid.
American renewables beat out coal, now only 19%, and nuclear, at 20%. Coal is dirty and expensive, and coal power plants have been replaced in droves by wind farms and by natural gas. It was the largest generator of electricity in the US until 2016, and has gone into a tailspin because renewables and natural gas are much cheaper.
Hundreds of Florida manatees have died this year along the state’s east coast in what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has labeled an “unusual mortality event”. At least 881 manatees have died in Florida since January, far exceeding the annual average of 578 deaths between 2015 and 2020.
Ground zero for the sudden uptick in deaths is the Indian River Lagoon, a 156-mile-long estuary that serves as a seasonal habitat for thousands of manatees. Decades of water pollution from farming and real estate development has pushed the ecosystem to the brink, causing the manatees to perish from an almost entirely manmade disaster: famine. ...
During summer months, manatees venture as far north as New England for food. By winter, many manatees historically returned to the warm waters and abundant forage of Florida’s rivers, springsand coastal lagoons – habitats now frequented by people – following routes passed down over generations. Some manatees still winter in these warm-water edens but thousands now find shelter in the tepid discharge of coastal power plants, including those in the Indian River Lagoon.
“When we put in power plants, we complicated the situation because we provided warm-water sources that aren’t necessarily in the best places [for manatees],” said Mike Walsh, co-director of aquatic animal health at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Generations of manatees have learned to return to these locations, Walsh said, where algal blooms and overgrazing have decimated seagrass coverage. Frigid temperatures can leave them trapped by invisible walls of cold water with next to nothing to eat. Malnourished manatees burn through vital body fat. Nursing calves drain their mothers dry. Some manatees survive the winter too weak to fully recover, and food supply is sparse for those who make it.
A wizened eastern bald cypress dwells in an expanse of North Carolina’s wetlands. It lives among a cluster of eastern bald cypress trees in the state’s Black River, some with origins dating back a millennium. But this singular tree has witnessed more than its comrades; a 2019 study found it’s been alive since at least 605BCE. It’s the oldest-known living tree in eastern North America and the fifth-oldest living non-clonal tree species in the world. ...
A little over six feet of elevation stands between the oldest-known cypress and the Atlantic Ocean. While sea level rise is increasing by two inches a decade now, it’s accelerating at a rapid pace. Sea levels are “all but certain” to rise by at least 20ft over the next 100 to 200 years. In a worst-case scenario, the world’s oldest bald cypress may already be underwater by 2080.
“With those bald cypress only two meters above sea level, that’s a really serious threat,” said Harvard Forest’s senior ecologist, Neil Pederson. “I see sea level rise as a train alarm, on a really long, overloaded train. And it’s going to take a long time to slow that train down.”
Pederson is one of the researchers behind a 2016 study that found that increasing drought conditions and extreme events of the past – which led to unusually high tree mortality rates – could be a forecast for the future. “Even though our forests seem to change slowly over time, every once in a while these things, like black swans, these unprecedented or unforeseen events, come and change an ecosystem,” he said.
Firefighters in Oregon have reported good progress in the battle against the nation’s largest wildfire, while authorities canceled evacuation orders near a major blaze in northern California. Containment of the Bootleg Fire in remote southern Oregon was up to 74% on Sunday. It was 56% contained a day earlier. ... The blaze has scorched more than 646 sq miles since being sparked by lightning on 6 July in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.
California’s Dixie Fire covered nearly 383 sq miles in mountains where 42 homes and other buildings have been destroyed. It was 32% contained on Sunday, and evacuation orders and warnings were lifted for several remote areas of Butte and Plumas counties. But authorities warned that with unpredictable winds and extremely dry fuels, the risk of flare-ups remained high. The cause of the blaze, on 13 July, was still under investigation. ...
In Montana, a wind-driven fire destroyed more than a dozen homes, outbuildings and other structures, authorities said on Sunday. Evacuations were ordered after flames jumped a highway and moved towards communities near Flathead Lake in the north-western part of the state.
Crews also battled major blazes in north-east Washington and northern Idaho.
The US Drought Monitor reported last week that while a robust monsoon has delivered rainfall to the south-west, critically dry conditions persist across northern California and the north-west, where there has been an expansion of “exceptional drought”, the worst category.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Booker White - Aberdeen Mississippi Blues
Bukka White - High Fever Blues
Bukka White - Parchman Farm Blues
Bukka White - Got Sick And Tired
Bukka White - Shake Em On Down
Bukka White - Po' Boy
Bukka White - Pine Bluff Arkansas
Bukka White - Bukka's Jitterbug Swing