The Evening Blues - 9-20-21
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This evening's music features jazz and blues organist Jimmy Smith. Enjoy!
Jimmy Smith - Midnight Special
"The progress of rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error."
News and Opinion
Along the eastern boundary of the White Earth Indian Reservation in north-western Minnesota, Indigenous Anishinaabe wild rice harvesters Jerry and Jim Libby set down a row of wooden pallets into the mud just beyond the dock of Upper Wild Rice Lake. It was a clear day, and tight, lush clumps of green rice heads were visible across the lake’s horizon. In a typical year, the entrance to this – one of a long necklace of wild rice lakes in northern Minnesota to which the region’s Indigenous people flock every year in the late summer – would be covered in at least two feet of water. But now it is composed of suspended sediment as solid as chocolate pudding, through which the Libbys need to create a makeshift ramp simply to carry their canoe out to the waterline.
Minnesota is weathering an historic drought, but there is another problem beyond the weather: Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline has taken a substantial toll on watersheds in the region, including through a permit to pump five billion gallons of water for construction. In the case of Upper Wild Rice Lake, a road construction contractor named Knife River Construction stuck a pump directly in the lake this past June, sucking out an unknown quantity of water, which locals suspect was related to the use of heavy trucks for the pipeline.
“As far as I’m concerned, Enbridge screwed up our lake, and they’re taking money directly away from our families,” Jerry Libby says. “It makes us feel anguished – this is our staple food, you know.” ...
Line 3 runs across more than 200 bodies of water, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River and some of the region’s most important wild rice waters, streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers. The state Department of Natural Resources permitted Enbridge to draw nearly five billion gallons from these water bodies absent public notice or consultation with the White Earth Indian Reservation.
Christy Dolph, a University of Minnesota research scientist focused on the state’s water resources, notes that the pipeline’s impacts on water and the species that depend on it are numerous. In the course of excavating trenches to lay pipe, Enbridge pumps out any groundwater that still seeps into the trench, inevitably leading water to evaporate. “These activities have a major impact, especially because these wetlands are already under severe stress from the drought,” she says.
The Pentagon has finally admitted to the long-obvious fact that it killed ten Afghan civilians, including seven children, in an airstrike in Kabul last month.
In an article with the obscenely propagandistic title “Pentagon acknowledges Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians,” the New York Times pats itself on the back for its investigative journalism showing that the so-called “ISIS-K facilitator” targeted in the strike was in fact an innocent aid worker named Zemari Ahmadi:
“The general acknowledged that a New York Times investigation of video evidence helped investigators determine that they had struck a wrong target. ‘As we in fact worked on our investigation, we used all available information,’ General McKenzie told reporters. ‘Certainly that included some of the stuff The New York Times did.’”
Indeed, the Pentagon only admitted to the unjust slaughter of civilians in this one particular instance because the mass media did actual investigative journalism on this one particular airstrike. This is an indictment of the Pentagon’s airstrike protocol, but it’s also an indictment of the mass media.
This after all comes out following a new Byline Times report which found that “at least 5.8 to 6 million people are likely to have died overall due to the War on Terror – a staggering number which is still probably very conservative.”
It also comes out two months after whistleblower Daniel Hale was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for leaking secret government information about America’s psychopathic civilian-slaughtering drone assassination program.
It also comes a few months after a Code Pink report found that the US and its allies have been dropping an average of 46 bombs per day in the so-called War on Terror for the last twenty years.
Do you remember seeing an average of 46 news reports a day on bombings conducted by the US and its allies? Do you remember even reading about one single US bombing per day in the mainstream news? I don’t. The US power alliance has for decades been continuously raining explosives from the sky on impoverished people in the Global South and the mainstream news reports on almost none of those instances, much less launches an in-depth investigation into whether each one killed who the military claims they killed.
The difference between the August 29 airstrike and the thousands which preceded it in America’s post-9/11 wars was that this one was politicized. The Biden administration ordered it to look tough on terrorism after the Kabul airport attack (most of the fatalities from which were probably due to panicked gunfire from US and/or allied troops), amidst a withdrawal for which Biden was being aggressively slammed by plutocratic media outlets eager to paint ending US wars as a bad thing that everyone should oppose.
The Pentagon doesn’t care that it snuffed out innocent lives in an airstrike; it does that all the time and its officials would do it a lot more if that’s what it took to secure their futures as lobbyists, consultants, board members and executives for defense industry corporations after they retire from the military. And the mass media don’t care either; they only cared about this one particular highly politicized airstrike during a withdrawal from a military engagement the mass media vehemently opposed.
“Pentagon acknowledges Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians.” Can you believe that headline? Not “admits” but “acknowledges”. Not “killed children while targeting an aid worker based on flimsy evidence” but “was a tragic mistake”. How many times did New York Times editors rewrite this? Imagine if this had been a Russian airstrike.
Think about all the murder victims we’d have known about if the news media had done its job and used their immense resources to investigate them as journalists should over the last twenty years. Think about how much harder it would have been for the war machine to inflict these evils upon the world if they had. Instead it’s been left to obscure bloggers and indie journalists to question these actions using scant resources and shoestring budgets.
They’ve shown that they can do these investigations into the validity of US airstrikes, and they’ve shown that they’ve spent two decades choosing not to. The mass media manipulators who provide cover for mass military murder by journalistic malpractice and negligence are just as complicit in these depraved acts of human butchery as the people firing the weapons and the officials giving the orders.
Three days after a US drone obliterated a car in a Kabul street, General Mark Milley, shrugged off reports of civilian casualties, insisting it was a “righteous strike”. On Friday that word came back to haunt America’s top general when the Pentagon was forced to admit that all 10 dead had been civilians, seven of them children. The drone had hit the wrong white Toyota Corolla.
It was, Milley said, a “horrible tragedy of war” and “heart-wrenching”. It was the last act in America’s longest war, as senselessly tragic as much of the 20 years that had gone before. It was also a blow to Milley’s credibility as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at a time when he needs it most, at the end of a week of revelations of actions during the Trump administration that appeared to bend and possibly break the rules of how civilian leaders and generals are supposed to interact under US democracy.
Milley has already confirmed an account in the book Peril, by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Acosta, that he offered to warn his Chinese counterpart if Donald Trump ordered an attack in the last chaotic weeks of his tenure. He has not denied telling junior officers to consult him if Trump ordered a nuclear launch, an order in conflict with the official chain of command.
Republicans have been demanding his resignation, and even those who have defended him for being prepared to step in to possibly save the world from an arguably deranged US leader, voiced unease at the example set by a general undermining the authority of the elected commander-in-chief.
Female employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men, the interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said on Sunday, detailing the latest restrictions on women by the new Taliban rulers.
The decision to prevent most female city workers from returning to their jobs is another sign that the Taliban, who overran Kabul last month, are enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islam despite initial promises by some that they would be tolerant and inclusive. Under their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life.
Witnesses, meanwhile, said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle in the eastern provincial city of Jalalabad, and hospital officials said five people were killed in the second such deadly blast in as many days in the Islamic State stronghold.
In recent days the new Taliban government has issued several decrees rolling back the rights of girls and women. It told female middle and high school students that they could not return to class for the time being, while boys in those grades resumed studies this weekend. Female university students were informed that studies would take place in gender-segregated settings from now on, and that they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code. Under the US-backed government deposed by the Taliban, university studies had been co-ed for the most part.
On Friday the Taliban shut down the women’s affairs ministry, replacing it with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” tasked with enforcing Islamic law.
Peace and human rights advocates on Friday accused President Joe Biden of breaking his promise to end American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen after the U.S. State Department approved a potential agreement to provide half a billion dollars worth of support services to the Middle East monarchy known for its pervasive human rights abuses and military atrocities.
In a statement, the State Department said Thursday that the proposed $500 million maintenance support services contract—which will serve the Saudi military's fleet of AH-64D/E, UH-60L, UH-60M, Schweizer 333, and Bell 406CS helicopters, as well as the new CH-47F Chinook copters it is slated to acquire—"will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East."
Reuters reports the proposal is the first major military deal involving Saudi Arabia sent to Congress since Biden took office.
In February, Common Dreams reported that the president announced an end to U.S. support for "offensive operations" in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including "relevant arms sales." Peace campaigners hailed the move, as they did the administration's earlier decision imposing a temporary freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pending a review of billions of dollars worth of weapons deals with the repressive regimes that were approved during the tenure of former President Donald Trump.
Anti-war and human rights activists decried the new proposed contract as a betrayal of Biden's pledge to end American backing of a war that has claimed more than 200,000 Yemeni lives.
Aukus causing a ruckus.
A Franco-British defence ministers’ summit due to take place this week has been cancelled as Paris steps up its protests over the loss of a £48bn submarine contract with Australia and its secret replacement with nuclear technology from the UK and US.
Ben Wallace, the UK defence secretary, and his opposite number, Florence Parly, had been due to hold a bilateral meeting in London and to address the two-day Franco-British Council, now the latest casualties of the diplomatic row. ...
Paris is incensed after Australia abandoned a lucrative but troubled contract for new diesel submarines with a French contractor to switch to the nuclear-powered alternative after six months of secret negotiations with the UK and US.
France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia over the weekend, plunging relations between the countries to an almost unheard of low. The cancellation of the defence summit demonstrates there will also be repercussions for the UK, which could yet deepen as the row continues.
Concern about the French reaction also prompted Joe Biden to ask to talk to France’s Emmanuel Macron in an attempt to ease the dispute.
The centre-left frontrunner to replace Angela Merkel emphasised his eagerness to form a government with the Greens in the last TV debate before next Sunday’s German elections, as the ecological party’s candidate came close to ruling out joining a coalition with the outgoing chancellor’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
A snap poll declared Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to have emerged victorious from three out of three televised debates, with more respondents describing him as the winner of Sunday night’s showdown than the CDU’s Armin Laschet or the Green party’s Annalena Baerbock.
A decision not to recommend third-shot booster vaccinations for most Americans is “not the end of the story”, White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci insisted on Sunday, two days after a scientific panel appeared to turn the Biden administration’s plan for combating coronavirus on its head. ...
The near-unanimous vote on Friday by scientific advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recommend against a routine third shot of the Pfizer vaccine was seen as a rebuke to Joe Biden, who announced the “third jab strategy” as a main plank of his six-pronged anti-Covid plan.
“I don’t think they made a mistake,” Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union, “but people need to realize that data is coming in, literally on a daily and weekly basis, and they’re going to continue to look at this literally in real time.
“It is entirely conceivable and maybe likely that ultimately the proper regimen for protection, optimal protection and durability of protection would be more than just the prime and the boost followed by three to four weeks, that it might actually entail a third boost.
Studies have shown that most vaccinated Americans want a booster shot. The FDA panel did recommend providing them for those over 65 and at high risk of contracting severe Covid-19. But experts are divided on the benefits of Biden’s proposal for a third shot for the general population. While the FDA panel’s 16-2 vote is not binding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will consider it before making a final decision.
As congressional Democrats are working out tax hikes targeting corporations and rich individuals for the Build Back Better package they hope to pass in the coming weeks, The New York Times on Sunday shone a spotlight on the revolving door between accounting firms and the U.S. government that benefits companies hoping to avoid taxes.
Based on public records and interviews with both government and industry sources, the Times reports that "the largest U.S. accounting firms have perfected a remarkably effective behind-the-scenes system to promote their interests in Washington."
"Their tax lawyers take senior jobs at the Treasury Department, where they write policies that are frequently favorable to their former corporate clients, often with the expectation that they will soon return to their old employers," reporters Jesse Drucker and Danny Hakim explain. "The firms welcome them back with loftier titles and higher pay."
Drucker and Hakim found that "in the last four presidential administrations, there were at least 35 instances of round trips from big accounting firms through Treasury's tax policy office, along with the Internal Revenue Service and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, and back to the same firm."
In nearly half of those cases, officials were promoted to partner when they returned to their previous accounting firms, securing sizable bumps in pay. While industry giants—KPMG, EY, PwC, Deloitte, and RSM—declined to comment, the journalists provide some specific examples, including Audrey Ellis, who went from PwC to the Treasury Department, then back to the firm.
Though some experts argue the importance of the government hiring from such firms to get officials with relevant real-world experience, the Times highlights the risk that they won't serve the public interest, noting that "from their government posts, many of the industry veterans approved loopholes long exploited by their former firms, gave tax breaks to former clients, and rolled back efforts to rein in tax shelters—with enormous impact."
Walter Shaub, a senior ethics fellow at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) who previously directed the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, responded to the Times' findings by calling for a probe by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
"This is an example of terrible management in the Treasury Department across multiple administrations," Schaub tweeted with a link to the reporting. "Tax lawyers who left a few top accounting firms and then returned to those firms captured a tax office and wrote rules favorable to their former/future employer's clients."
"If any of the officials had arrangements for future employment with their former employers while meeting with the employers, they committed a crime under the conflict of interest law. If not, it's still terrible management," added Shaub, who resigned from his government watchdog post in 2017 after months of clashing with then-President Donald Trump's White House.
Top Democrats are expected to dare Republicans to block a stopgap funding measure, which would trigger the double-barreled fiscal crisis of the US defaulting on its mammoth debt and a shutdown of the federal government, according to two sources familiar with the proposal. The plan being considered by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, involves suspending the debt ceiling past the 2022 midterm elections in a stopgap bill that would keep the government funded through early December, the sources said.
Democrats want to then dare Republicans to block the stopgap funding measure with a filibuster and prevent it from receiving 60 votes needed to pass the Senate – which could cause a government shutdown on 1 October and leave the US unable to pay its bills.
The US has almost always avoided defaults and the sources said they expected some resolution on this occasion, too, even if negotiations, like in years past, continued until the 11th hour. But economists say a failure to raise or suspend the debt limit when tied to the stopgap funding measure would be particularly catastrophic as the US would be unable to service its debt obligations in the midst of a potentially non-functional federal government. ...
Part of the worry for top Democrats is that the path to 60 votes in the Senate was significantly narrowed last month after the majority of the Senate Republican conference signed on to a letter vowing to block any bill that attempted to raise the debt ceiling. Only four Senate Republicans – the Senate appropriations committee chairman, Richard Shelby, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and John Kennedy – declined to sign the letter, a number far short of the threshold required to defeat an expected filibuster.
Protesting a Texas law which outlaws abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and empowers citizens to sue providers and anyone who helps them, a San Antonio doctor said he had provided an abortion beyond the new legal limit.
“I am taking a personal risk,” Alan Braid wrote for the Washington Post. “But it’s something I believe in strongly. “… I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of healthcare. I have spent the last 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.” ...
An architect of the Texas bill, former state solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell, has said women who want to avoid unwanted pregnancy can simply say no to sex.
The former Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke is set to mount a third campaign for major political office with a run for governor in Texas, Axios reported on Sunday.
Citing unnamed “Texas political operatives”, the website said O’Rourke’s challenge to the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, would be announced later this year.
A longtime adviser, David Wysong, told Axios “no decision has been made” but also said O’Rourke had been “making and receiving calls with people all over the state”. ...
Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the state Democratic party, told Axios. “We hope [O’Rourke is] going to run. We think he’ll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott.”
Lots more detail at the link:
Environmentalists slam the White House for brushing off the IPCC report and expanding offshore drilling
President Joe Biden has been touring climate-ravaged areas of America, warning that climate change is a “code red” emergency for the planet. And yet, his administration has continued to boost fossil fuel projects and is now preparing to vastly expand offshore drilling. The White House argues that a court order it opposes and is appealing requires federal officials to lease more than 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel exploration. Environmental groups, however, assert that federal law gives the administration broad discretion over whether or not to hold such sales.
In fact, .
With the help of the nonprofit public interest organization Earthjustice, several environmental and Gulf groups have now launched a lawsuit against the administration to stop the Gulf lease sale. The complaint argues that the environmental analysis behind the lease sale is based on outdated and arbitrary science, in violation of federal law. “We’ve been very patient with his administration,” says Hallie Templeton, deputy legal director for Friends of the Earth, one of the environmental groups involved in the litigation. “The honeymoon’s over. It’s now September, they’ve been in office for eight months. It’s time for them to show that they have priorities and are meaningfully going to move in the right direction.”
The head of security for the oil transport company Enbridge built his résumé managing Exxon Mobil’s response to community protests in Nigeria and helping oversee Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center, a division that has monitored environmental groups and union organizers. Now, at Enbridge, Troy Kirby oversees efforts to combat a protest movement aimed at stopping construction of the company’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. Enbridge’s security operation has drawn criticism for its efforts to influence the police response to the Indigenous-led movement, whose members are known as water protectors.
Enbridge’s response to the water protectors is part of a pattern of megacorporations working to quell resistance to their environmentally harmful activities. Enbridge’s close cooperation with police, including payments and intelligence sharing, has been deemed by academics and water protector critics as emblematic of corporate counterinsurgency — a suite of tactics, ranging from public relations campaigns to surveillance and support for armed force, designed to win over communities to controversial profit-making projects. ...
As sophisticated corporate security efforts have burgeoned, lucrative positions lure specialists from company to company, linking together the practices of megacorporations. Kirby, for his part, started at Enbridge in 2019 after a three-year stint as Amazon’s head of corporate security throughout the Americas, according to LinkedIn. [As this story was being reported, Kirby’s Amazon job description was deleted from his LinkedIn page.] Part of his role included overseeing the online giant’s Global Security Operations Center. Internal Amazon documents dated to the year Kirby left, obtained by Vice, provide clues. According to the report, security personnel with the center used Facebook and Instagram to monitor environmental groups as well as union organizers. ...
Before Amazon, Kirby spent 16 years doing security work for Exxon Mobil. For at least four years, he worked for Exxon in Nigeria — where there is a history of energy company complicity in human rights abuses. During his time in Nigeria, Kirby was an adviser on “strategic security countermeasures,” which involved managing so-called crises, including pirate attacks and kidnapping, as well as “community protests,” according to a section of his LinkedIn page that has since been deleted. As in Minnesota, the work in Nigeria included collaborating closely with public agencies. Kirby’s LinkedIn page said he “Established a Nigerian based security network with private and public sector security leaders” and was involved in “Oversight of host government security forces.” ... For critics of corporate counterinsurgency, Kirby stands as just one example of corporate officials steeped in highly militarized security efforts abroad bringing those practices back home.
The United Nations warned Friday that the planet is barreling toward 2.7°C of warming by the end of the century, a nightmare scenario that can be averted only if policymakers take immediate and sweeping action to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
Even if the 191 parties to the Paris climate accord meet their current commitments, global greenhouse gas emissions will still rise 16% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, according to a new report published by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The goal of the 2015 Paris agreement is to limit global warming to below 2°C—and preferably to 1.5°C—above pre-industrial levels. An analysis released earlier this week found that the climate targets and actions of just one country—The Gambia—are in line with the critical 1.5° goal.
"This is what betrayal looks like," Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in response to the latest U.N. findings. "Whatever our so-called 'leaders' are doing, they are doing it wrong."
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of U.N. Climate Change, said in a statement that the international community must "peak emissions as soon as possible before 2030 and support developing countries in building up climate resilience."
"The 16% increase is a huge cause of concern," said Espinosa. "It is in sharp contrast with the calls by science for rapid, sustained, and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world."
The U.N. analysis came as U.S. President Joe Biden met with world leaders and announced that the United States is partnering with the European Union in an effort to cut methane emissions—a powerful driver of global warming—by nearly 30% by the end of the decade.
In its landmark report last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized that a "strong, rapid, and sustained" reduction in methane emissions is necessary to prevent the worst of the planetary crisis.
The IPCC also estimated that keeping global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would require a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030—a mark that the international community is currently on track to miss badly, according to the new U.N. report.
António Guterres, the secretary-general of the U.N., said in a statement Friday that 2.7°C of planetary heating would be "catastrophic" and that world leaders are "rapidly running out of time" to act.
"This is breaking the promise made six years ago to pursue the 1.5°C goal of the Paris agreement," said Guterres. "Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods."
Hot and dry weather on Sunday added to the challenges facing California firefighters battling to keep flames from driving further into a grove of ancient sequoias, where the base of the world’s tallest tree has been wrapped in protective foil. Fire officials warned that stronger winds were contributing to “critical fire conditions” in the area of the KNP Complex, two lightning-sparked fires that merged on the western side of Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a red flag warning through Sunday, saying gusts and lower humidity could create conditions for rapid wildfire spread. ...
The National Park Service said on Friday flames had reached the westernmost tip of the Giant Forest, scorching a group of sequoias known as the “Four Guardsmen” that mark the entrance to the grove of 2,000 trees. Firefighters wrapped the base of the General Sherman Tree, along with other trees in the Giant Forest, in a type of aluminum that can withstand high heat. The Four Guardsmen received the same treatment. A fire spokeswoman, Katy Hooper, said it wasn’t clear how those trees had fared. ...
To the south, the Windy Fire grew to 28 sq miles on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in Giant Sequoia National Monument, where it has burned into the Peyrone grove of sequoias and threatens others. The fire also had reached Long Meadow Grove, where the Trail of 100 Giant Sequoias is a national monument. Fire officials were not able to determine how much damage was done to the groves, which are in remote areas.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jimmy Smith - The Organ Grinder's Swing
Jimmy Smith & Stanley Turrentine - Back At The Chicken Shack
Jimmy Smith - Got My Mojo Workin'
Jimmy Smith & Stanley Turrentine - Prayer Meetin'
Jimmy Smith feat. Dr. John - Only In It For The Money
Jimmy Smith - Watermelon Man
Jimmy Smith - Walk On The Wild Side
Jimmy Smith - Dot Com Blues
Jimmy Smith - Root Down (And Get It)