The Evening Blues - 8-5-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans singer Blue Lu Barker. Enjoy!
Blue Lu Barker - Georgia Grind
"Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed."
-- Albert Einstein
News and Opinion
In courthouses across the country this week, grief and anger over looming eviction orders turned to hope as the Biden administration shifted course. The evictions were temporarily halted yesterday with the announcement that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will extend the federal eviction moratorium in counties with “high levels of community transmission levels” for 60 days.
But not everyone was pleased. Some view the coming eviction wave in more jubilant terms, as a long-awaited financial opportunity to increase dividend payments. Wall Street financial analysts, speaking to corporate-owned apartment complexes in recent weeks, have pressed for answers on how investors can benefit from the expected wave of tenant evictions. Many of the largest investor-owned apartment trusts have carefully tracked pandemic-related restrictions on landlords, preparing for a return to normal so that those late on payments can be removed and rents can be increased. The push for profits comes despite the fact that many corporate landlords are roaring back and performing better than ever.
In June, rents soared 14.6 percent over the previous year, a rate of increase not seen since 1993. Publicly traded residential real estate stocks have been surging, with increased dividends and stock performance that have made them one of the most successful asset classes this year. ...
The real estate industry has been vocally opposed to the CDC’s moratorium. Lobbying records show real estate groups spent millions of dollars over the last year attempting to weaken or repeal eviction moratoriums and other landlord-related restrictions relating to the pandemic.
Anti-war organizers credited a decades-long grassroots effort on Wednesday after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to repeal two authorizations for the use of military force in Iraq, putting the chamber further on the path to ending the United States' "forever wars" that have seen the U.S. military fighting in the Middle East for over three decades.
Three Republicans joined all 11 Democrats on the committee in voting to repeal the authorizations that were passed in 1991 and 2002, which started the Gulf War and the Iraq War and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
The last authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that was terminated was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the U.S. to use military force in Vietnam.
The historic vote followed "unwavering" advocacy and persistence by grassroots groups, said the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that he plans to bring the AUMF repeal to a full vote on the Senate floor later this year, saying "there's a real danger to letting these legal authorities persist indefinitely." President Joe Biden has said he supports terminating the authorizations. All 50 Senate Democrats are expected to support the measure along with enough Republicans to surpass the 60-vote threshold needed with the filibuster in place.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who was the only member of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against the AUMF three days after the September 11 attacks and who has repeatedly introduced legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization, called the vote "a major victory in our fight to end forever wars."
Another day, another demand from Israel that somebody bomb Iran ...
Israel on Wednesday called on the international community to consider military action against Iran following a fatal drone attack on an Israeli-owned commercial shipping vessel in the north Arabian Sea that took place last week. "Now is the time for deeds - words are not enough. It is time for diplomatic, economic and even military deeds - otherwise the attacks will continue," Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a meeting in Jerusalem with representatives of United Nation Security Council members.
The U.S., United Kingdom and Romania have joined Israel in attributing responsibility to Iran for the attack on the ship Mercer Street that is said to have taken place on Friday. The ship was targeted with explosives delivered by drone, and that attack took place off the coast of Oman. Two sailors were killed in the attack, a British and Romanian national. ...
However, the United Nations has yet to assign Iran responsibility for the attack. "We do not have any specific information ... on who could have attacked the vessel," said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, in a briefing with reporters Tuesday.
The Mexican government has launched legal action against US gunmakers in an unprecedented attempt to halt the flow of guns across the border, where US-made weapons are routinely used in cartel gun-battles, terror attacks on civilians – and increasingly to challenge the state itself.
The Mexican government is suing six gunmakers in a Massachusetts court, alleging negligence in their failure to control their distributors and that the illegal market in Mexico “has been their economic lifeblood”.
Announcing the suit on Wednesday, the foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, alleged that units of Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Glock and Ruger have catered to the tastes and needs of Mexican drug cartels and depend on illegal Mexican sales to boost their bottom lines.
The lawsuit alleges that gun companies openly pandered to Mexican criminals, citing Colt’s special edition .38 pistol, engraved with an image of the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. One such weapon was used in the 2017 murder of the Chihuahua journalist Miroslava Breach, who investigated links between politicians and organized crime and was shot dead while taking her son to school.
You hardly ever hear about Russiagate anymore. The last time it made a blip in the radar was when disgraced Collusion author Luke Harding published a very thinly-sourced story in The Guardian claiming to have proof that Donald Trump was a Kremlin asset, but other mass media outlets barely touched it and it vanished as quickly as it came.
Looking at mainstream news outlets in 2021, you’d hardly know they’d recently spent years hammering the story into public consciousness that Vladimir Putin had infiltrated the highest levels of the US government, day after day after day after day after day.
But they did. Vast fortunes were raked in off the public interest generated by click-friendly stories about the latest BOMBSHELL revelation involving some peripheral member of Trump’s associates perhaps maybe having some kind of contact with a Russian national at some point. Entire careers were built on this.
Then the Mueller investigation invalidated the entire claim by failing to indict a single American for conspiring with the Russian government, and the mass media who’d spent the previous few years bashing everyone in the face with that story just kind of slowly sidled away from it.
And now they act like it never happened.
Now I’m going to ask you to put yourself in the shoes of someone you might not normally be inclined to.
Imagine you’re someone on the political right watching this whole thing unfold. Imagine that from late 2016 to mid-2019 you were watching the mass media aggressively shove this story down everyone’s throat that a US president, whom you support, is secretly working for a hostile foreign government with the goal of subverting the United States of America. The media you consume have been highlighting all the massive, glaring plot holes in this narrative the entire time, so you know it’s not true, yet you’ve still got friends, coworkers and family members who believe it is.
Can you imagine how disgusted you’d get with the media watching this happen day after day? How outraged? How resentful? If you’re really putting yourself there, I think you probably can.
Now imagine a year later these exact same media institutions start telling you there’s a novel coronavirus which we’re all going to have to sacrifice some personal liberties in order to stop. We might have to stay in our homes, wear a mask, get injected with new drugs we’re not sure about, possibly while watching our bank account drain and our business go under, and all these media institutions you just watched lie to everyone’s face for years on end are aggressively saying you need to do this and support this or you’re a dangerous monster whose voice should be banned from social media.
How well do you imagine that would go over with you?
And yet now we’re seeing article after article after article and news segment after news segment after news segment from these very same institutions freaking out about “the unvaccinated”, a new label for a new category of human we’re all meant to have very strong opinions about. The very media institutions which actively cultivated the distrust of these populations are now whipping up public outrage at the people they alienated.
And of course it’s not just right-wingers; people of color across the political spectrum have relatively low vaccination rates as well. What do those groups have in common? Distrust for institutions which in their experience have an extensive history of being untrustworthy. People on the left who saw through the Russiagate madness would be skeptical as well.
The sane way to counteract the public distrust that’s been caused by generations of lies, wars and depravity would be a tremendous increase in transparency, accountability and contrition on the part of those institutions, showing the public that they have changed and are working to become more trustworthy. So naturally what we are seeing is vaccine mandates in New York City, pundits calling for forced injections, and soldiers policing the streets of Sydney.
The way people are acting like trust in media-sanctioned narratives should be a given after those institutions literally just discredited themselves in front of everyone is insane. You don’t have to believe anything odd about the virus or the vaccine to understand the distrust. It was entirely predictable that this trust crisis would occur, and surely there were people in positions of influence who did predict it. And now this entirely predictable thing is being used to ban people from social media, justify vaccine passports, etc. I find that immoral.
I don’t know what’s going on with this virus; my brain just doesn’t work in a way that lends itself to science. One of the most annoying things about the indie media scene in the age of Covid has been gaining an audience because I’m good at logic and writing and then being told by lots of people “Oh you’re good at writing? Cool. Now you have to be good at science or I hate you.” People expect me to either understand things I don’t understand or pretend that I do, and maybe that’s good enough for them but it isn’t for me.
What I do know is that things are getting increasingly ugly and authoritarian as global capitalism looks more and more like the end of a Monopoly game, and that media institutions have no business complaining that people don’t trust them after spending years actively alienating their trust. The sooner humanity wakes up from its unwholesome relationship with mental narrative, the better.
When civilians in Austin, Texas, have called the police in recent months, some have gotten an unusual response: Members of the Austin Police Department are telling residents that they can’t respond to requests for help because reform-focused district attorneys at the city and county levels won’t prosecute crime. While neither district attorneys’ policies forbid police from intervening in crimes or even making arrests, some officers are telling residents that their hands are tied. The push comes as the local police union and allied political leaders are ramping up a campaign for a November ballot measure that would require the city to hire hundreds of new officers next year. ...
In Austin, where the Travis County district attorney handles felonies and the county attorney handles misdemeanors, both Garzas won their elections last year on criminal justice reform platforms. They both vowed to move away from the “tough-on-crime” strategies that have historically harmed poor, Black, and brown communities and seek to end the criminalization of poverty by eliminating cash bail, expanding diversion programs, and treating substance abuse as a public health issue. Delia Garza’s office started an early case review process in March to identify cases that will ultimately be rejected or dismissed, many of which seek prosecution of criminal trespassing.
At a virtual meeting of a local neighborhood association in June, an Austin police commander and two officers told the audience that they could no longer make arrests for certain crimes, Windsor Hills Neighborhood Association Secretary Jeremy Hendricks told The Intercept. Hendricks, who voted for José Garza and works for a local labor union that endorsed him, said he was “dumbfounded” as police described what they saw as futility in responding to crime with the knowledge that low-level offenders would soon be released. In response to attendees’ complaints that calls weren’t being answered in a timely manner, the police said they didn’t have enough officers because the city council had defunded them.
What the cops didn’t say at the time, according to Hendricks, was that local law enforcement interests were preparing to launch a campaign for a ballot measure that would require Austin to hire between 300 and 500 new police officers next year. (The precise number of officers has not been determined ye and would be proportional to the city population per U.S. Census data.) The campaign comes after Austin City Council voted last year to cut or reallocate $150 million from the $434 million police department budget following worldwide protests against police brutality.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should have resigned or been removed from his position months ago. This much is obvious. It should have been sufficient that the governor oversaw a cover-up of thousands of pandemic deaths in New York nursing homes — deaths for which he bears major responsibility. Yet even when revelations of the nursing homes scandal coincided with reports from three women accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment in March, only a small cadre of New York’s most left-wing Democrats called for the governor’s impeachment.
The release on Tuesday of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ damning 165-page report, which offers substantive evidence that Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women, appeared to mark a turning point. While the governor himself continues to deploy a vile mix of denial, manipulation, and pitiful cultural stereotyping to dismiss the serious and abundant claims against him, the vast majority of the Democratic establishment is calling for Cuomo to resign — including his longtime ally President Joe Biden, who was himself accused of sexual assault last year.
If we want the political stage exorcised of figures like Cuomo, who are able to enact patriarchal abuse and quotidian cruelty with impunity for decades, while overseeing systems of racist and gender-based oppression, we must reject not only this governor but the entire politics of power that he represents: oppressive hierarchy, harsh austerity, and top-down control. ...
It’s no accident that it was a group of self-identifying democratic socialist New York legislators, including state Sens. Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport, who first called for Cuomo’s impeachment earlier this year, making explicit that the governor’s deadly nursing home scandal should be understood in a continuum of abuse with his workplace sexual harassment. A Cuomo-style realpolitik treats workers, particularly women workers and workers of color, as worthy of exploitation or disposal.
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York who was found by the state’s top prosecutor to have violated the law by sexually harassing 11 women, continued to brave the storm on Wednesday while political support crumbled around him and moves for impeachment gathered pace.
The third-term Democratic governor – the longest-serving chief executive of any state in the nation – showed no sign of capitulating in the face of almost universal calls for his resignation from the Democratic establishment after the state’s top prosecutor released the results of the five-month investigation this week. Demands for him to stand aside poured in from individuals and institutions that had formed the bedrock of his empire. ...
As cogs of impeachment began to turn, several other critical pillars of Cuomo’s base collapsed. In addition to the top Democrats in the nation led by Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi – both of whom have been longstanding friends of Cuomo – every Democratic member of Congress from New York has now cut ties. On Wednesday, several trade unions that been among Cuomo’s main advocates similarly bailed out, as did another central supporter, the sexual and reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood.
As a further threat, criminal prosecutors were also beginning to circle overhead. The lead prosecutor in the state capital Albany has opened an investigation into Cuomo’s behavior based on the findings of the official inquiry, and similar moves have been made by district attorneys in Manhattan and Westchester county.
San Francisco’s mayor agreed to pay a nearly $23,000 fine to the city for a series of “significant” ethics violations while in office. The city’s ethics commission had found that London Breed committed multiple violations involving the misuse of her title as mayor for personal gain and the abuse of San Francisco’s laws on accepting gifts from subordinates and campaign contributions.
Breed had asked a former governor to release her brother from prison and allowed a former head of public works embroiled in a corruption scandal to pay her car repair bill.
The proposed agreement from the city’s ethics commission also fines Breed for failing to properly report a 2015 campaign contribution while running for re-election to the board of supervisors. If approved by the commission at its next meeting on 13 August, the mayor will personally pay the fine, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.
In a statement Tuesday, Breed said that the fines were “fair” and that she took responsibility for her conduct. Breed appears to be the first San Francisco mayor to settle such a case, the Chronicle reported, and the fine is among the largest imposed by the commission in recent history.
California’s largest wildfire exploded again after burning for nearly three weeks in remote mountains, with officials warning that hot, dry weather threatened to further stoke the flames. Officials warned that the high temperatures increase the risk of new fires across much of the state. “I think we definitely have a few hard days ahead of us,” said Shannon Prather with the US Forest Service.
Strong winds on Tuesday stoked the Dixie fire, which grew to over 395 sq miles (1,024 sq km) across Plumas and Butte counties. The blaze jumped perimeter lines in a few spots, prompting additional evacuation orders for about 15,000 people, fire officials said. Heat from the flames also created a pyrocumulus cloud, a massive column of smoke that rose 30,000ft (10,000 yards) in the air, Mike Wink, a state fire operations section chief said.
Firefighters had been able to save homes and hold large stretches of the blaze in recent days, but a red flag warning was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon through Thursday because of hot, bone-dry conditions with winds up to 40 mph. That could drive flames through timber, brush and grass, especially along the northern and north-eastern sides of the vast wildfire.
Similar risky weather is expected across southern California, with heat advisories and warnings issued for interior valleys, mountains and deserts for much of the week. The Dixie fire has threatened thousands of homes and destroyed 67 houses and other buildings since breaking out 14 July. It was 35% contained.
About 150 miles (240km) west of the Dixie fire, the lightning-sparked McFarland fire threatened remote homes along the Trinity River in the Shasta-Trinity national forest. That fire was only 5% contained, and is was burning fiercely through drought-stricken vegetation and had doubled in size every day, fire officials warned.
As EPA Forced to Finalize New Rules, Report Details Widespread Use of Neurotoxic Pesticide Across US
Two decades after the Environmental Protection Agency ended household use of chlorpyrifos over concerns about its impact on the brains of children, the neurotoxic pesticide is still widely applied to crops across the United States, according to a report published Wednesday.
The public interest law firm Earthjustice released the report—entitled Poisoned Food, Poison Brains: Mapping dangerous pesticides in the foods we eat (pdf)—just weeks before the EPA is set to announce new restrictions on chlorpyrifos.
Earthjustice, along with farmworker and public health groups, has pressured the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos through legal action. In what the group hailed as a huge victory, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in April ordered the agency to ban all food uses of the pesticide or retain only those that are safe for workers and children. The EPA's deadline to unveil its rule is August 20.
Studies have connected chlorpyrifos exposure with permanent harms to the brains of children, including attention problems, developmental delays, and intelligence loss. It is commonly used on broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cranberries, corn, fruit and nut trees, soybeans, and other row crops as well as on fence posts, green houses, golf courses, turf, and utility poles.
If you have cultivated an Edgar Allen Poe-like appreciation for the macabre, there is a certain sort of amusement to be had in watching the developed world deal with the insistent onslaught of climate change. Like many horror stories, this one features a main character full of futile determination to maintain a sense of normalcy even as the ominous signs of doom become ever more impossible to ignore. We can chuckle knowing that the monster is going to come for our designated protectors. We stop chuckling knowing that it’s coming for all of us next.
It is easy to imagine that a real live existential threat to our way of life would prompt any society to assume war footing and marshal everything it has to fight for survival. Unfortunately, this response only takes hold in actual war situations, where the threat is “other people that we can shoot and kill in glorious fashion”. When the threat comes not from enemy people, but from our own nature, we find it much harder to rise to the occasion. Where is the glory in recognizing the folly of our own greed and profligacy? Leaders are not elected on such things. We want leaders who will give us more, leading us ever onwards, upwards and into the grave.
The latest demonstration of this comes from the G20, that coalition that is as good a proxy as any for the combined will of the world’s richest countries. The latest G20 meeting wrapped up last week without firm commitments on phasing out coal power, or on what steps nations will promise to take to try to hold global warming to 1.5C. This goal is both necessary and, perhaps, unlikely – a report by scientists found that China, Russia, Brazil and Australia are all pursuing policies that could lead to a cataclysmic five degrees of warming.
The G20 is a perfect model of our collective failure to build institutions capable of coping with deep, long-term, existential problems that cannot be solved by building more weapons. On the one hand, the head of the United Nations says that there is no way for the world to meet its 1.5C warming goal without the leadership of the G20; on the other hand, a recent analysis found that G20 members have, in the past five years, paid $3.3tn in subsidies for fossil fuel production and consumption. The same group that claims to be bailing out humanity’s sinking ship with one hand is busily setting it aflame with the other hand. It is not good to be too pessimistic on climate change, because we must maintain the belief that we can win this battle if we are to have any hope at all. That said, it sure does seem like we’re screwed.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Blue Lu Barker - Don’t You Make Me High (aka Don’t You Feel My Leg)
Blue Lu Barker - A Little Bird told Me
Blue Lu Barker - He Caught That B & O
Blue Lu Barker - New Orleans Blues
Blue Lu Barker - Scat Skunk
Blu Lu Barker - Love That Man
Blu Lu Barker - You're Going To Leave The Old Home Jim
Blu Lu Barker - You Gotta Show It to Me Baby
Blue Lu Barker – Buy Me Some Juice