The Evening Blues - 10-25-21


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Lil Green

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features blues singer Lil Green. Enjoy!

Lil Green - Why Don't You Do Right

"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do."

-- Samuel P. Huntington

News and Opinion

Cool “Afghanistan Withdrawal”, Bro

The US government is reportedly close to securing a deal with Pakistan that will ensure its ability to continue military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, the nation where the Biden administration proudly “ended” a decades-long war.

“The Biden administration has told lawmakers that the US is nearing a formalized agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, according to three sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress that took place on Friday morning,” reads a new report from CNN.

“The briefing comes as the White House is still trying to ensure that it can carry out counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K and other adversaries in Afghanistan now that there is no longer a US presence on the ground for the first time in two decades after the NATO withdrawal from the country,” the report reads.

So as has been obvious for months the US empire will still be retaining military control over a key geostrategic region adjacent to Iran and China, will still be enriching the military-industrial complex by raining explosives upon human beings on Afghan soil, and will still be continuing George W Bush’s “war on terror” scam. It just won’t come with the bad cosmetics of maintaining a ground troop presence.

After all the Biden administration’s proud self-fellating fanfare for “ending” this war, it turns out it was nothing more than a slight formatting adjustment.

Cool withdrawal, bro.

As we discussed after Biden took office, this is the modern model of US warfare; a de-emphasis on Bush-era Hulk Smash ground invasions in favor of drone warfare, missile strikes, starvation sanctions, proxy wars, staged coups, special ops, and cold war maneuverings. Constant footage of flag-draped coffins coming home during Bush’s wars caused a PR nightmare for the empire from which it still hasn’t fully recovered, but technological and strategic advancements has made such bad publicity largely a thing of the past. Troops deployed overseas are now far more likely to die by their own hand than by combat.

The goal of the empire is to be able to topple governments and dominate the globe without incurring a negative perception among the inhabitants of the US and its client states. It has been doing this with a combination of (A) shifting to more “light touch” interventionism which doesn’t garner as much negative attention as full-scale ground invasions and (B) a global perception management campaign of historically unprecedented scale and sophistication.

Ideally the imperialists want to be able to dominate the planet with economic sanctions and the occasional strategic drone strike combined with mass-scale psychological manipulation. It is not a coincidence that nations where they are unable to do these things at will are the nations we are most aggressively propagandized against.

The empire isn’t getting less tyrannical, it’s just getting better at public relations. The need for critical thinking and alternative perspectives has never been higher.

Time RUNNING OUT On Iran Nuclear Deal Agreement, Is Biden Admin INTENTIONALLY Dragging Its Feet?

US wants to help Taiwan participate ‘meaningfully’ in UN, as China prepares to mark key anniversary

Taiwanese and US officials have discussed how Taiwan can “meaningfully” participate at the United Nations just days before Chinese president Xi Jinping will give a speech to mark his country’s half century since accession to the global body.

Taiwan, using its formal name the Republic of China, held the Chinese seat at the UN until 25 October 1971, when it was voted out as representative of the country in favour of the People’s Republic of China, whose communist forces had won a civil war in 1949 and forced the republican government to flee to the island.

China says that Taiwan is one of its provinces, and so it has the sole right to represent Taiwan internationally. The democratically elected government in Taipei says only it has that right. In a statement late on Saturday, the US state department said US and Taiwanese officials had met virtually on Friday for a “discussion focused on supporting Taiwan’s ability to participate meaningfully at the UN”.

“US participants reiterated the US commitment to Taiwan’s meaningful participation at the World Health Organization and UN framework convention on climate change and discussed ways to highlight Taiwan’s ability to contribute to efforts on a wide range of issues,” it added. ...

On Sunday, China’s defence ministry said it had conducted its first joint patrols with Russian warships in the western Pacific. It said the exercise aimed to “further develop the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era, enhance the joint action capabilities of both parties and jointly maintain international and regional strategic stability”.

Free Julian Assange: Snowden, Varoufakis, Corbyn & Tariq Ali Speak Out Ahead of Extradition Hearing

Chief Justice of England & Wales, Who Blocked Lauri Love Extradition, Joins Bench for Assange Hearing

Ian Duncan Burnett, the most powerful judge in England and Wales, will join Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde on the bench next week for the two-day U.S. appeal in the extradition case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange at the High Court in London, according to a spokesman at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Burnett, known as Baron Burnett of Maldon, was the High Court justice who on humanitarian grounds overturned a lower court ruling that British activist Lauri Love should be extradited to the United States. Burnett ruled in February 2018 that Love’s extradition would be “oppressive by reason of his physical and mental condition.” Burnett and Mr. Justice Duncan Ouseley said in their decision that, “We accept that the evidence shows that the fact of extradition would bring on severe depression, and that Mr. Love would probably be determined to commit suicide, here or in America.” ...

Holroyde is the High Court judge who on Aug. 11 reversed an earlier High Court order limiting the U.S. from appealing Assange’s medical issues. Holroyde was originally to sit with Dame Judith Farbey, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Israel Condemned for Designating Palestinian Human Rights Groups 'Terrorist Organizations'

Progressives on Friday denounced Israel for classifying six Palestinian human rights groups as "terrorist organizations," a move that effectively criminalizes them.

The six groups, most of which document human rights violations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), are Addameer, AlHaq, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International—Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. ...

The well-known human rights groups "have received funding from E.U. member states, the United Nations, and other donors," The Guardian noted.

In response to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz's decision, Diala Shamas, an attorney at the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, said that "after years of unsuccessful efforts to persuade, or bully, European and U.S. donors and allies to defund and discredit Palestinian human rights defenders, the Israeli government [gave] up and just criminalized them under Israeli law."

"This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement," Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement. "How the international community responds will be a true test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders. We are proud to work with our Palestinian partners and have been doing so for decades. They represent the best of global civil society. We stand with them in challenging this outrageous decision."

DETAILS: Bernie, Manchin's TENSE Standoff On Budget Bill

Pelosi ‘very confident’ Democrats will reach deal to salvage Biden agenda

House speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence on Sunday that a deal between Democrats to salvage Joe Biden’s ambitious social agenda was “pretty much there”, paving the way for a possible vote in Congress later this week. Her upbeat words came as the president was meeting in Delaware with the Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic holdout Joe Manchin to put the finishing touches on what has become a scaled-back package central to Biden’s Build Back Better initiative.

Manchin, of West Virginia, was one of two moderate Senate Democrats, along with Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, resisting the original $3.5tn cost of the social spending bill. Manchin had indicated he would be more comfortable with something closer to $1.5tn, and raised objections over Biden’s flagship clean power plan (CPP) that would have imposed emission controls on power companies.

“We will have something that will meet the president’s goals, I feel very confident about that,” Pelosi said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We’re almost certain [we have a deal], it’s just the language of it. It will not offend, shall we say, the concern that Senator Manchin had about the CPP. The point is to reach your goals, and the president’s goals of reaching the emissions, the pollution and all the rest … there are other ways to reach the goal.”

‘We need him to deliver’: Biden faces wrath of disappointed supporters

When Joe Biden huddled with a group of historians in March, the conversation revolved around thinking big like one of his predecessors, Franklin Roosevelt, architect of the New Deal. Biden, it seemed, wanted to join him in the first rank of transformational US presidents. Six months later, a very different gathering took place this week outside the White House gates. Five young climate activists, holding signs and sitting on folding chairs, began an indefinite hunger strike. It was a visceral expression of disgust at what they see as Biden’s willingness to think small and break his promises.

“Young people turned out in record numbers to elect him on his climate commitments,” said Nikayla Jefferson, 24, an activist helping the quietly determined hunger strikers on the edge of Lafayette Park. “But over this past month he’s almost given up. He’s not being a leader in this moment in the way that we need him to deliver.” A growing sense of betrayal is shared by campaigners for everything from gun rights to immigration reform, from racial justice to voting rights, who saw Democrats’ governing majority as a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Instead party infighting has put Biden’s agenda in jeopardy and could result in voter disillusionment in next year’s midterm elections.

The 46th president came into office promising to attack four crises – coronavirus, climate, economy and racial justice – but has seen his approval rating sink to 42% after colliding with some harsh political and economic realities. These include tepid jobs growth, labour strikes, rising inflation and petrol prices, logjams in the global supply chain, a record number of arrests at the US-Mexico border and a botched withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan that raised unexpected questions about his competence. ...

With his legislative agenda in limbo if not peril, Biden was this week forced to step in, host both factions at the White House and take a more aggressive role. This gave some Democrats fresh hope of a breakthrough but indicated that he will pare down the $3.5tn package in favor of a more modest proposal, threatening a clean electricity programme that was the centerpiece of his climate strategy. It also underlined concerns that Biden is yielding to corporate interests on fossil fuels, prescription drug prices and tax increases. Critics say he has become so consumed with the grind of policy sausage-making that he has lost sight of big picture issues dear to his supporters.

'It's Not Coming Out': Bernie Sanders Stands Firm on Medicare Expansion

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday was quick to push back on reporting that two of the most popular provisions in President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan—an expansion of Medicare benefits and guaranteed paid family leave—are poised to be dropped from the proposal due to objections from right-wing Democrats.

"It's not coming out," Sanders said of a measure that would expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision care for tens of millions of older Americans—a proposal he has pushed for years and which is supported by 84% of Americans including nearly nine in 10 Democratic voters.

Democratic Leaders Are Betting Progressives Will Fold

Over the past few days, Democrats dropped a pair of brutal news dumps indicating they intend to fully gut many of the progressive elements in President Joe Biden’s health care, climate, and anti-poverty reconciliation spending bill. Now, it’s up to progressive lawmakers to ensure the final Biden agenda bill doesn’t end up a hollowed-out shell that won’t meaningfully help anyone. Late on Friday, Politico reported that “Congressional Democrats are watering down — and may entirely drop — a plan to have the government directly negotiate some Medicare drug prices in order to help clinch a deal on their sweeping social spending package.” Yes, you read that right: In order to secure a deal with their own pharma-bankrolled party members, Democratic leaders are now insisting they need to water down or kill the drug pricing provisions that survey data show voters most want, and that the party has been promising those voters for 15 years.

Politico further reported on Saturday that Democrats may also axe their plan to add dental, hearing, and vision benefits to Medicare, and may fully eliminate their already watered-down proposal to guarantee U.S. workers have paid family and medical leave. The news follows reports that the Biden White House is ready to remove its clean electricity program from the reconciliation package in order to appease Democrats’ coal baron senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. None of these developments should come as a surprise — thanks to all the leeway progressives have provided to their conservative Democratic colleagues and their corporate masters. ...

Last month ... the Washington Post described the “five planks of the CPC’s economic priorities — which are climate, housing, expanding health-care access, lowering drug prices and immigration.” The CPC Whip, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, similarly said in July: “We’ve said, you know, we’ve got the five priorities — investing in the care economy, addressing the climate crisis, obviously addressing things like immigration and expanding health care so that more people are covered.” None of those statements tells anyone a whole lot. And when you drill into the actual details of the CPC’s economic priorities, as noted in caucus materials, and compare it to the news coming out of Washington, their promised agenda appears to be very much on the chopping block.

Nevertheless, last week, Jayapal heaped praise on Biden after a recent White House meeting. “The president is the inspirer, he is the closer, he is the convincer, the mediator in chief,” she said, adding: “He really is doing a phenomenal job.” While corporate Democrats have successfully whittled the reconciliation bill down from a topline number of $6 trillion down to $4 trillion, then to $3.5 trillion, and all the way down to $2 trillion, Jayapal has remained confident that her caucus’ priorities would make it into the final reconciliation bill. Just a few days ago, Jayapal told NPR she was “really proud that our five priorities are largely going to stay in here.” ... When all of these developments are taken together, the reality becomes clear. Democratic leaders clearly expect progressives to once again fold without a peep when they inevitably cast a gutted reconciliation bill as the only realistic measure they are able to pass.

Rep. Ro Khanna Slams Conservative Democrats for Holding Back Build Back Better Plan

West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

West Virginians were joined by economists and economic justice campaigners at a virtual press conference hosted by the Poor People's Campaign on Friday where they condemned Sen. Joe Manchin's refusal to back the Democratic Party's far-reaching Build Back Better Act, pointing out how people across his home state stand to benefit from the legislation—and suffer if the senator succeeds in tanking the proposal.

While President Joe Biden and the majority of Democrats in Congress—as well as voters across the country—aim to pass a $3.5 trillion 10-year investment including a long-term extension of the child tax credit that's sent hundreds of dollars per month to families with children, tuition-free community college, universal pre-kindergarten, and other social supports, Manchin has proposed a smaller package that the Poor People's Campaign said will offer a fraction of the help to West Virginians that's included in Biden's plan.

The Poor People's Campaign decried "the immorality of Manchin’s proposal, which hurts the same people that the Biden plan helps." ...

Kaylen Marie Barker, a West Virginian who has experienced generational poverty despite having a master's degree, also spoke at the press conference about tuition-free community college, which the president said Thursday night had been dropped from the proposal after Manchin "and one other person" in the Senate said they would not support it.

"Investment in higher education like free community college would be invaluable to the people in West Virginia," said Barker. "We have nine community colleges across the state that would empower workers to provide better for their families and surrounding communities."

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," she added. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Supreme Court Leaves Texas Abortion Ban in Place

Although the U.S. Supreme Court once again refused to block a restrictive Texas abortion ban on Friday, the justices agreed to hear arguments against the recently enacted law on an accelerated timeline—a development welcomed by defenders of reproductive rights.

The high court is now set to hear a pair of challenges to the Lone Star State's Senate Bill 8—United States v. Texas, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, and Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson, filed by healthcare providers and abortion funds—on November 1.

Supreme Court doubles down to shield abusive police officers from misconduct lawsuits

In 1871, the Reconstruction Congress enacted, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law, Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 1983, known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, to enforce the due-process and equal-protection guarantees embodied in the recently ratified Fourteenth Amendment, which for the first time extended federally guaranteed rights to all people within the jurisdiction of a state. On Monday, October 18, the Supreme Court issued unsigned unanimous orders summarily dismissing two Section 1983 police brutality suits that had been deemed worthy of trial in the Court of Appeals. These rulings demonstrate that all of the justices on the current Supreme Court support the judge-made doctrine of “qualified immunity” that shields local law enforcement officers from facing trials on all but the most egregious excessive force and other misconduct claims.

Section 1983 of the Federal Civil Rights Act, in two unambiguous sentences, provides that any person acting pursuant to local governmental authority who deprives another person of a constitutional right can be sued in federal court for money damages. Police officers who use excessive force violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures, thus triggering Section 1983 liability. The Seventh Amendment, a provision of the 1791 Bill of Rights, guarantees the “the right of trial by jury shall be preserved” for civil lawsuits in federal court.

In short, reading Section 1983 and the Seventh Amendment together dictates that any person who alleges a constitutional injury such as excessive force caused by a public officer is entitled by the Bill of Rights to present that case to a jury made up of members from the community. However, in a series of decisions over the last sixty years the Supreme Court has manufactured a doctrine labeled “qualified immunity,” fashioning a Catch-22 that allows reactionary pro-government judges from the trial court level to the Supreme Court itself to arbitrarily toss cases before they can be presented to a jury.

There is nothing in the text of Section 1983 or the Bill of Rights that supports qualified immunity. To the contrary, blocking access to juries violates the Seventh Amendment. ...

There is a direct link behind the perpetuation and expansion of qualified immunity in the Supreme Court and the persistence of brazen police misconduct that has been documented time and again on video recordings.

‘Striketober’ is showing workers’ rising power – but will it lead to lasting change?

US labor unions have been on the defensive for decades but this October there has been a surprising burst of worker militancy and strikes as workers have gone on the offensive to demand more. Experts are predicting more actions to come but whether “Striketober” can lead to permanent change remains an open question. ...

Many frontline workers – after working so hard and risking their lives during the pandemic – say they deserve substantial raises along with lots of gratitude. With this in mind and with myriad employers complaining of a labor shortage, many workers believe it’s an opportune time to demand more and go on strike. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a strongly pro-union president in the White House and there’s more public support for unions than in decades.

But some corporations are acting as if nothing has changed and they can continue corporate America’s decades-long practice of squeezing workers and demanding concessions, even after corporate profits have soared. ...

Robert Bruno, a labor relations professor at the University of Illinois, said workers have built up a lot of grievances and anger during the pandemic, after years of seeing scant improvement in pay and benefits. Bruno pointed to a big reason for the growing worker frustration: “You can definitely see that American capitalism has reigned supreme over workers, and as a result, the incentive for companies is to continue to do what’s been working for them. It’s likely that an arrogance sets in where companies think that’s going to last for ever, and maybe they don’t read the times properly.”

the horse race

Democrats Already Blame Russia For 2022 Losses!

the evening greens

Lethal ‘forever chemicals’ taint our food, water and even blood. The EPA is stalling

This week the EPA announced a new roadmap to research, restrict, and remediate PFAS – a group of industrial “forever chemicals” that have been linked to cancer and are found in our food, water, and even our blood. President Biden is requesting $10bn in the infrastructure bill to address PFAS. But this new attention still falls short of what’s required to confront an unprecedented crisis that affects the health of the entire United States and countless people across the world.

Today, toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are everywhere we’ve thought to look for them. As engineered, these synthetic chemicals glide through air and water with ease, evade all natural processes of decay, and inflict debilitating injuries even at exceeding