The Evening Blues - 12-3-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Eddy Clearwater. Enjoy!
Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater - Blues For Breakfast
"John Foster Dulles invented Brinkmanship, the most popular game since Monopoly."
-- Richard Armour
News and Opinion
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are due to hold talks “in the near future” after their top diplomats made no apparent progress in Stockholm towards defusing a standoff over Ukraine, amid fears of a Russian invasion. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, opted not to make a joint appearance after trading threats during a 40-minute meeting whose short duration indicated there was little chance of a breakthrough.
“We had a very direct, very candid, non-polemical exchange of views,” Blinken said afterwards. “It was serious; it was sober. I believe that the foreign minister will take the conversation back to President Putin. I’m going to do the same, of course, with President Biden. And I think it’s likely the presidents will speak directly in the near future.”
The US has threatened to deploy “high-impact economic measures” if a Russian buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops leads to a larger conflict with Ukraine. Moscow has said that it feels threatened by Nato’s close relationship with Kyiv.
In a bellicose statement following the talks, Russia’s foreign ministry threatened to take “retaliatory measures” if its interests were ignored. “Ignoring Russia’s legitimate concerns, Ukraine’s involvement in US geopolitical games amid the deployment of Nato forces near our borders, will have the most serious consequences, and will force Moscow to take retaliatory measures to level the military and strategic balance,” the ministry wrote.
Blinken repeated the US warning about “serious consequences for Russian aggression toward Ukraine, including high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from taking in the past”.
A decision in the appeal by the United States to overturn a lower court’s decision not to extradite publisher Julian Assange to the U.S. is “imminent,” according to a tweet by WikiLeaks.
A decision is shortly due on the US's appeal against a UK Court decision refusing extradtion of our publisher Julian #Assange. Here's what's at stake: Link: https://t.co/GVVF54uMVA pic.twitter.com/GCbxun8eJv
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) December 1, 2021
Informed sources have told Consortium News that the High Court ruling will be posted online and will not be read out in court.
The US has rejected calls for a binding agreement regulating or banning the use of “killer robots”, instead proposing a “code of conduct” at the United Nations. Speaking at a meeting in Geneva focused on finding common ground on the use of such so-called lethal autonomous weapons, a US official balked at the idea of regulating their use through a “legally-binding instrument”.
The meeting saw government experts preparing for high-level talks at a review conference on the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons from 13 to 17 December. “In our view, the best way to make progress ... would be through the development of a non-binding code of conduct,” US official Josh Dorosin told the meeting.
U.S. House PASSES CR funding government through February 18, 2022, 221-212.
Goes now to the U.S. Senate.
Current spending authority expires Friday at Midnight ET. pic.twitter.com/HGANxhoOCF
— CSPAN (@cspan) December 2, 2021
Republicans are preparing to shut down the American government on Friday, in the latest attempt by the party to thwart White House efforts to increase vaccine take-up, by undermining vaccine mandates across the country.
Clamor is growing among some conservatives for Republican senators to oppose a stopgap funding bill, which would fund the government for the next few weeks, unless Democrats agree to not direct money towards enforcing a vaccine mandate for larger companies in the US.
If the disgruntled Republicans, who reportedly include Senator Mike Lee, from Utah, are successful, the government would effectively run out of money on Friday and could be forced to furlough workers and shut down some federal services.
Asylum seekers looking to enter the US from its southern border will again be sent to Mexico while their claims are assessed, with the Biden administration announcing the reinstatement of the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy on Thursday.
The US and Mexican governments haver agreed to a resumption of the program, put in place by Donald Trump in 2019, following its previous suspension by Joe Biden after he became president. It will initially begin in San Diego and in the Texas cities of Laredo, Brownsville and El Paso next week. ...
In October, Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said that the program “had endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and did not address the root causes of irregular migration”.
However, Republican officials in Missouri and Texas sued Biden’s administration in federal court to prevent the scrapping of the return to Mexico policy, claiming that it would place an undue burden on them from incoming migrants.
The supreme court ultimately concurred with the states, placing an injunction on the federal government in August which forced it to resume the program. Since then, federal officials have been negotiating with their Mexican counterparts on how the scheme will resume.
Korporations are protecting their SCROTUS.
The U.S. Supreme Court is a corporate star chamber, and big business wants to keep it that way. That’s why corporate lobbying groups — like the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — are pressing the Biden administration not to reform the Supreme Court.
The lobbying groups warn that expanding the Supreme Court would damage perception of its legitimacy and independence. It’s a ridiculous argument, given that Republicans blocked President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court seat in 2016, stacked the court with conservative ideologues under President Donald Trump, and confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 election.
Some of the business organizations are even claiming that adding seats on the Supreme Court would harm the U.S. economy. The groups’ letters were filed in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to set up a commission to consider court reform options, such as adding more justices as a defense against the existing corporatist supermajority. Taken together, the documents offer further proof that corporate interests will do anything to preserve a GOP-dominated court that is a boon for business, no matter how reactionary the justices may be.
So far, the Biden administration seems to be heeding some of the lobbying groups’ arguments about protecting the Supreme Court’s legitimacy, even as the court’s conservative justices aggressively threaten abortion rights — and as Democratic senators point out that “wealthy special interests” have already captured the court.
In the wake of Wednesday’s supreme court hearing in which a majority of justices appeared willing to significantly curb abortion rights, reproductive rights advocates said they would continue to fight in statehouses and lower courts for the right to choose. ... A decision is expected in June 2022. ...
While a significant blow to abortion rights is far from a foregone conclusion, questions from the supreme court’s conservative justices on Wednesday appeared to show a willingness to allow restrictions on abortion at 15 weeks and perhaps earlier in a pregnancy. The case also requests the court overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 supreme court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and is the only safeguard for such rights in dozens of conservative US states. ...
“Congress could fix the issue right now,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the organization that represented abortion providers in the supreme court on Wednesday. Although abortion was legalized in 1973 and has been relied upon by women nationally since then, Congress has never affirmed the right to abortion in legislation. That left the Roe v Wade precedent as the principal protection of the option for termination, while anti-abortion campaigners have brought many legal challenges and also pushed laws undermining access to the procedure.
On both sides of America’s abortion debate, activists are convinced that Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion — is imperiled as never before. Yet no matter how the current conservative-dominated court handles pending high-profile abortion cases — perhaps weakening Roe, perhaps gutting it completely — there will be no monolithic, nationwide change. Fractious state-by-state battles over abortion access will continue.
Roe’s demise would likely prompt at least 20 Republican-governed states to impose sweeping bans; perhaps 15 Democratic-governed states would reaffirm support for abortion access. More complicated would be politically divided states where fights over abortion laws could be ferocious — and likely become a volatile issue in the 2022 elections.
“Many of these states are one election away from a vastly different political landscape when it comes to abortion,” said Jessica Arons, a reproductive rights lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. Those states include Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which now have Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures. GOP gubernatorial victories next year could position those states to join others in imposing bans if Roe were nullified.
Republicans control the legislature in Ohio and recently enacted new maps that would give them a supermajority in the state legislature and allow them to hold on to at least 12 of the state’s 15 congressional seats. It’s an advantage that doesn’t reflect how politically competitive Ohio is: Donald Trump won the state in 2020 with 53% of the vote.
What’s worse is that Ohio voters have specifically enacted reforms in recent years that were supposed to prevent this kind of manipulation. Republicans have completely ignored them. It underscores how challenging it is for reformers to wrest mapmaking power from politicians. ... In 2015 and 2018, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved two separate constitutional amendments that were meant to make mapmaking fairer. The 2015 amendment dealt with drawing state legislative districts and gave a seven-person panel, comprised of elected officials from both parties, power to draw districts. If the panel couldn’t agree on new maps, they would only be in effect for four years, as opposed to the usual 10.
The 2018 amendment laid out a slightly different process for drawing congressional districts, but the overall idea was the same. Both reforms also said districts could not unfairly favor or disfavor a political party. Something started to seem amiss earlier this fall when the panel got to work trying to create the new state legislative districts. The two top Republicans in the legislature wound up drawing the maps in secret, shutting their fellow GOP members out of the process. After reaching an impasse with Democrats, Republicans on the panel approved a plan that gives the GOP a majority in the state legislature for the next four years.
When it came time to draw congressional maps, things did not go much better. The panel barely even attempted to fulfill its mission, kicking mapmaking power back to the state legislature. Lawmakers there quickly enacted the congressional plan that benefits the GOP for the next four years.
Water agencies in drought-stricken California that serve 27 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland won’t get any of the water they have requested from the state heading into 2022 other than what’s needed for critical health and safety, state officials announced on Wednesday.
It’s the earliest date the department of water resources has issued a 0% water allocation, a milestone that reflects the dire conditions in California as drought continues to grip the nation’s most populous state and reservoirs have dropped to historically low levels.
State water officials said mandatory water restrictions could be coming and major water districts urged consumers to conserve. “If conditions continue [to be] this dry, we will see mandatory cutbacks,” Karla Nemeth, director of DWR, told reporters. ...
The state will provide a small amount of water for health and safety needs to some of the districts that asked for it. But they won’t get water for any other purpose, such as irrigation, landscaping and gardening, which consume significant amounts of water. ...
While the district as a whole has access to water from other sources, like the Colorado River, some of its member agencies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties rely almost exclusively on state supplies. Three of those districts issued a joint statement calling on residents to reduce the water they use on outdoor projects like landscaping.
A trio of climate and conservation organizations on Thursday filed a public records request regarding the development of a report about leasing federal lands and waters to fossil fuel companies that the Biden administration released the day after Thanksgiving.
The administration came under fire for not only the contents of the U.S. Department of the Interior report—required by President Joe Biden's January executive order on "tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad"—but also dropping it on the Friday after a holiday.
"Tackling the climate emergency at home and abroad requires ending, not reforming, federal fossil fuel expansion," said Taylor McKinnon, senior public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement Thursday.
"Public records released as a result of this request will shine light on the dangerous chasm separating Biden's climate promises from his refusal to phase out the use of our public lands and waters for oil and gas extraction," he said.
McKinnon's group joined with the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and Western Environmental Law Center to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for drafts of the report—including the version sent to the White House—and internal communications about its development.
As a candidate, Biden vowed to end new leases; as president, he took action to halt them—but a federal judge ruled in June that the sales must resume. The Interior report came the same month the administration auctioned off 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.
"This flimsy report abandons Biden's campaign promise to end new federal oil and gas leasing and drilling. Instead, it recommends but does not require tepid, outdated adjustments to lease bids, royalty rates, and bonding that the Office of Management and Budget has been highlighting for literally decades," Melissa Hornbein, an attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, said Thursday. "This type of action is not only long overdue, it is wholly inadequate to tackle the climate crisis."
The report also came in the wake of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which Biden not only attended but at which he called climate change "the challenge of our collective lifetimes" and "the existential… threat to human existence as we know it."
MEIC director of policy Anne Hedges said that "opening up more areas for leasing and drilling directly conflicts with Biden's stated goals and COP26 rhetoric."
"It's a betrayal to his commitment to the world to decrease methane emissions and then immediately ignore these emissions for oil and gas development on public lands," she said. "We want to know what went wrong."
Critiques of the report—which campaigners have called "woefully inadequate" and a "shocking capitulation to the needs of corporate polluters"—have mounted since its Black Friday release.
"This isn't just a broken promise, it's outright deceit," said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians, earlier this week. "While the Interior Department claims to be taking action for the climate, this report seems to confirm the administration's only interest is in driving climate denial on behalf of the fossil fuel industry."
Nichols pushed back against Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's claims that the report's recommendations would mitigate "worsening climate impacts," declaring that "this is a lie."
"Despite President Biden's direction, the Interior Department's report does absolutely nothing to confront the climate impacts of unchecked federal oil and gas extraction," he said. "At best, it's outright climate denial. At worst, it's deliberately deceptive, and nothing more than a shill for the fossil fuel industry's bottom line. Either way, the Interior Department is failing the climate and failing Americans."
Officials in Oregon are asking for public assistance to locate the person or persons responsible for poisoning eight wolves in the eastern part of the state earlier this year.
The Oregon State Police has been investigating the killing of all five members of the Catherine Pack in Union County, plus three other wolves from other packs, the agency said in a news release Thursday.
“To my knowledge this is the first wolf pack to be killed by poison in Oregon,” said Capt. Stephanie Bigman of the OSP in Salem. “To my knowledge there are no suspects. All investigative leads have been exhausted and that is why we are reaching out to the public for assistance.”
Environmental activists in Chile have called for justice after a 42-year-old land defender was found dead with her hands and feet bound. The body of Javiera Rojas was found buried under a pile of clothes in an abandoned house on Sunday in Calama in the northern region of Antofagasta.
Rojas was well known in northern Chile for her participation in protests against the Prime Thermoelectric project. She was also involved in the successful campaign to cancel the construction of the Tranca dam in 2016, which threatened to harm local wildlife and rob communities of water access. ...
On Wednesday, during a session of the assembly that is drawing up a new constitution for Chile, delegate Bárbara Sepúlveda addressed Rojas’s killing and promised to create a charter with greater environmental protections: “To her killers: one message– you can silence one voice but you’ll never silence all of us.”
The progressive presidential candidate Gabriel Boric expressed the “urgency to protect environmental defenders” in a tweet demanding justice for Rojas, before tagging the Escazú Agreement – a legal agreement between Latin American and Caribbean states to protect environmental defenders.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Eddie Clearwater - Cool Blues Walk
Eddy Clearwater - Came Up The Hard Way
Eddy Clearwater - Trouble, Trouble
Eddy Clearwater - Mean Case of the Blues
Mud Morganfield - Jimmy Johnson - Eddy Clearwater - Young Fashioned Ways
Eddy Clearwater - The love I have for you
Eddy Clearwater - Blues Hang Out
Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater & Los Straitjackets - You're Humbuggin' Me
Eddy Clearwater - I Wouldn't Lay My Guitar Down
Eddy Clearwater - A Time For Peace
Eddy Clearwater w/Sandra Hall - Chicago Blues Festival Tour, Rennes-France