The Evening Blues - 1-12-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Eddie Taylor. Enjoy!
Eddie Taylor - Bad Boy
“Success sometimes may be defined as a disaster put on hold.”
-- Nadine Gordimer
News and Opinion
The Kremlin has said it sees “no significant reason for optimism” about diplomatic solutions for the Ukraine crisis, ahead of a meeting in Brussels between Russia and Nato’s 30 member states. As Moscow was playing down the chances for success at the negotiating table after initial US-Russian talks in Switzerland on Monday, Russian forces deployed near Ukraine conducted a live-fire military exercise involving 3,000 troops and tanks, in a clear rejection of US demands for a de-escalation in the region. ...
Sherman and Ryabkov pointed to the “useful” and “professional” nature of the Geneva talks, in which the US proposed reciprocal confidence-building measures limiting missile deployment and military exercises in Europe. But Ryabkov said the negotiations had made no progress towards fulfilling Vladimir Putin’s central demand: a guarantee that Ukraine will never become a Nato member and that US troops and equipment would be withdrawn from former Soviet bloc countries in eastern Europe that are now in Nato.
“So far, let’s say we see no significant reason for optimism,” the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters, adding that Russia was looking for quick results and would make an assessment of progress at the end of the week, following the Nato talks and a meeting on Thursday of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is due to hold a press conference on Friday. “There are no clear deadlines here, no one is setting them. There is just the Russian position that we will not be satisfied with the endless dragging out of this process,” Peskov said. ...
Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the approaches followed by the US and Russia were fundamentally incompatible, with the US seeking to reduce the talks to technical arms control issues while Russia wanted to use them to redefine Europe’s whole security order. “In Moscow’s view, the arms control agreements should follow the logic of the newly agreed order, not substitute for it,” Liik said.
Whatever the outcome of this week’s diplomacy, she predicted it would “likely shape Europe’s strategic landscape for many years to come”.
The Biden administration said Tuesday that it will contribute roughly $308 million to humanitarian assistance efforts in Afghanistan, where millions are on the brink of starvation and at risk of freezing to death in the aftermath of the U.S.-led war.
But the newly announced aid falls far short of estimates of the war-torn country's immediate needs and pales in comparison to the $9.4 billion in Afghan government assets that the Biden administration is refusing to unfreeze, despite growing pressure from progressive members of Congress and human rights advocates.
On Tuesday morning, the United Nations launched what was described as its "largest single country aid appeal ever," requesting just over $5 billion in assistance that officials said would go toward providing food and other relief to Afghans struggling to survive as winter sets in.
"This is a stop-gap, an absolutely essential stop-gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today," said U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. "Without this being funded, there won't be a future."
Human rights defenders marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba under the administration of former President George W. Bush by noting that three American presidents have come and gone without anyone being held accountable for the horrific crimes that have occurred there, while calling on the fourth—Joe Biden—to finally close what one advocate called an "indelible stain" on the nation.
"Four American presidents have overseen the facility and three have promised to close it," the ACLU tweeted Tuesday. "Every day Guantánamo remains open is an affront to human rights, justice, and the rule of law."
"Since 2002, 779 Muslim men and boys have been held at Guantánamo, nearly all without charge or trial," the ACLU continued.
According to retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Bush-era Secretary of State Colin Powell, Bush, along with his vice president and defense secretary, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, knew that most of the prisoners were innocent, but kept them locked up for political reasons.
"Today, 39 men remain indefinitely detained," noted the ACLU. "Twenty-seven have never been charged with a crime, and 14 of those prisoners have been cleared for transfer or release, some for years."
In July 2021, the administration of Biden—who has signaled his intention to close Guantánamo—released 56-year-old Abdul Latif Nasser after 19 years of detention and repatriated him to his native Morocco. No other Gitmo prisoners have been transferred during Biden's tenure.
Biden's former boss, President Barack Obama, signed executive orders after entering the White House in 2009 that were meant to end torture and close Gitmo. Obama—who was blocked by Congress from implementing the prison's closure—broke a campaign promise and the law by actively shielding Bush-era officials from accountability while torture continued at Gitmo.
Obama's successor, former President Donald Trump, vowed to "load up" Gitmo with "bad dudes" and "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding" while signing an executive order to keep the facility open. However, the prison's population did not increase under his tenure and in 2019 he said his administration would search for alternatives to Guantánamo.
Connecting the four presidents of the Guantánamo era is a military commission regimen under which detainees accused of the most serious crimes—including planning and supporting the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States—are slated to be tried. Numerous military officers have resigned from what former lead prosecutor Col. Morris Davis called the "rigged" commission.
As the U.S. military slowly moves ahead with the commission proceedings, human rights advocates urge Biden to succeed where his predecessors failed and finally close Guantánamo once and for all.
"President Biden, keep your campaign promise to put the brutal legacy—torture, detention without charges or trial—of Guantánamo Bay detention center behind us," Marcy Winograd of the women-led peace group CodePink tweeted, while calling on the president to appoint a special State Department envoy "to close this hellhole."
"President Biden needs to fulfill his pledge to finally end this shameful chapter of American history," the ACLU asserted. "He can do this by ending indefinite military detention and the unconstitutional military commissions system."
Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, wrote Tuesday that "it is not only about closing Guantánamo. It is also about delivering accountability for the violations committed within its settings."
"Guantánamo is an indelible stain on the United States' history, a chapter it must now close and never repeat," she stressed.
Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly threatened to withdraw his Forza Italia party from Italy’s governing majority if the current prime minister, Mario Draghi, is elected president later this month. The scandal-tainted media tycoon, who served four times as prime minister, is in Rome from Tuesday on the hunt for votes as he ramps up his own presidential campaign.
The secret ballot by more than 1,000 parliamentarians and regional representatives begins on 24 January and is expected to go through several rounds before a successor to Sergio Mattarella, who steps down on 3 February, is elected.
There are no official candidates in Italy’s presidential elections, although party leaders usually try to agree on a candidate. Berlusconi, 85, is a favourite among the rightwing parties for the seven-year-mandate. However, Draghi, who is credited with restoring stability in Italy, as well as keeping the broad coalition in line, is tipped as the frontrunner.
Kroger CEO GREED Makes Employees Suffer. Dems LOSE Working Class To GOP, Do Right Populists Deliver?
Worth a full read. Another reason why Bill Clinton should be shunned by all decent people:
When Congress passed welfare reform in 1996, states were given more autonomy over how they could use federal funding for aid to the poor. They could demand welfare recipients find work before receiving cash assistance. They could also use their federal “block grants” to fund employment and parenting courses or to subsidize childcare.
Twenty-five years later, however, states are using this freedom to do nothing at all with large sums of the money. According to recently released federal data, states are sitting on $5.2 billion in unspent funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF. Nearly $700 million was added to the total during the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, with Hawaii, Tennessee and Maine hoarding the most cash per person living at or below the federal poverty line.
States have held on to more of this welfare money amid rising poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.1 percent of children under age 18 lived in poverty in 2020, up from 14.4 percent the year before. The poverty rate also ticked up for people aged 18 to 64, from 9.4 percent to 10.4 percent. As unused TANF dollars have accumulated, applications to the cash assistance program have waned, though it’s not for a lack of need, say experts and people who have applied to the program. ...
The unused welfare stash tells a larger story of how the 1996 welfare reform law has failed the poor: It allows states to not distribute cash assistance even when they have the money to do so. Each year, the federal government awards states a block grant, or lump sum, of funding, with the intention that the money be spent to help poor people meet their basic needs, become employed and start two-parent families. States have discretion in how they can use, or not use, the money and have increasingly used it to fill unrelated budget gaps. Experts say it’s reasonable for states to have some TANF reserves, even as large as their annual block grant, but when they stockpile the money from year to year it’s cause for concern.
Tennessee has $790 million in federal welfare funding sitting around — the largest pool of unspent welfare dollars nationwide — though it has recently promised to spend it. Hawaii has $364 million idling in an account, equivalent to $2,923 per person living in poverty. And Oklahoma has $264 million, nearly double its annual TANF budget of $138 million. ... The coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic travails did not make a dent in states’ TANF reserves. Between June and November 2020, the national poverty rate made its largest jump since the government began tracking it 60 years ago, from 2.4 percent to 11.7 percent. Other parts of the federal government’s social safety net increased aid to help some of the 7.8 million Americans who fell into poverty, with stimulus packages and expanded unemployment benefits. TANF, conversely, is helping fewer people.
California is considering creating the first government-funded, universal healthcare system in the US for state residents. The proposal, which lawmakers will begin debating on Tuesday, would adopt a single-payer healthcare system that would replace the need for private insurance plans.
Lawmakers are debating two bills – one would create the universal healthcare system, another would outline plans to fund it by increasing taxes, especially for wealthy individuals and businesses. The sweeping healthcare reform faces significant hurdles, including opposition from powerful lobbies for doctors and insurance companies. If the bills are approved by the legislature, voters would ultimately have to approve the taxes to fund the new system in an amendment to the California constitution.
California has tried and failed to replace private health insurance with a universal, state-funded program for years. Voters rejected such a proposal in 1994 and state lawmakers failed to find a way to fund a single-payer health system in 2017.
Protesters gathered in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a second night in a row on Monday after a man was killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. The Fayetteville police department identified the man killed on Saturday as Jason Walker, a 37-year-old Black man who the deputy told authorities jumped on to his vehicle. The Cumberland county sheriff’s office identified the deputy as Jeffrey Hash.
In a statement, Fayetteville police said a preliminary investigation revealed that Walker “ran into traffic and jumped on [the] moving vehicle”.
“The driver of the vehicle shot [Walker] and notified 911,” it said.
Hash, who has been with the Cumberland county sheriff since 2005, was taken into custody but not arrested. On Monday, he was put on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation. By Tuesday, no charges had been filed. ...
Elizabeth Ricks, a trauma nurse, told WRAL News she was on the scene and tried to save Walker’s life. “I did not see anyone in distress. The man was just walking home,” she said. “It breaks my heart he didn’t survive and I’m trying to cope with that as well. I don’t want to take away from Jason or the injustice and I’m not going to be silent.”
Joe Biden on Tuesday gave his most forceful endorsement to date of changing the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass sweeping voting rights legislation, saying he was “tired of being quiet” in a high-profile speech in Georgia. In one of the most significant speeches of his presidency so far, Biden drew a connection in history between the civil rights movement, the 6 January attack on the US Capitol by extremist supporters of Donald Trump, and the unprecedented efforts in many states to restrict the vote over the last year.
He said America was at a moment to choose “democracy over autocracy”.
But despite the passion, some prominent Georgia civil rights activists, proclaiming themselves more interested in action than speeches, declined to attend the event in Atlanta on Tuesday where Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris spoke and urged progress in Congress to pass key legislation currently stalled there.
Describing himself as an “institutionalist”, Biden, who served in the Senate for more than three decades, said Republicans had “weaponized” the filibuster, turning the US Senate into a shell of what it once was. “We must find a way to pass these voting rights bills. Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules – including getting rid of the filibuster,” Biden said during remarks at the Atlanta University Center Consortium amid a clutch of campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
He did not endorse a specific change to the rule but said he backed changing the filibuster, which currently requires 60 votes to advance legislation – an insurmountable challenge for the voting rights legislation given lack of support from Republicans.
The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack closed in on Donald Trump’s inner circle on Tuesday, issuing subpoenas to three new White House officials involved in planning the former president’s appearance at the rally that preceded the 6 January insurrection.
The new subpoenas show the select committee is moving ever nearer to Trump in its investigation and suggests the panel is now examining whether the former president’s speech suggested that the White House had advance knowledge of plans to attack the Capitol.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, issued subpoenas to the former White House strategists Andy Surabian and Arthur Schwartz, suggesting they helped coordinate Trump’s appearance by communicating with the organizers and speakers at the rally.
The chairman also authorized a subpoena for Ross Worthington, the former White House official who drafted the speech Trump delivered at the rally, during which the former president lied that he won the 2020 election and urged his supporters to march to the Capitol. ...
The rally at the Ellipse has grown in significance for the select committee in recent weeks, as it examines whether Trump obstructed a congressional proceeding by inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol and stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.
The world’s oceans have been set to simmer, and the heat is being cranked up. Last year saw the hottest ocean temperatures in recorded history, the sixth consecutive year that this record has been broken, according to new research.
The heating up of our oceans is being primarily driven by the human-caused climate crisis, scientists say, and represents a starkly simple indicator of global heating. While the atmosphere’s temperature is also trending sharply upwards, individual years are less likely to be record-breakers compared with the warming of the oceans.
Last year saw a heat record for the top 2,000 meters of all oceans around the world, despite an ongoing La Niña event, a periodic climatic feature that cools waters in the Pacific. The 2021 record tops a stretch of modern record-keeping that goes back to 1955. The second hottest year for oceans was 2020, while the third hottest was 2019.
“The ocean heat content is relentlessly increasing, globally, and this is a primary indicator of human-induced climate change,” said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and co-author of the research, published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
Warmer ocean waters are helping supercharge storms, hurricanes and extreme rainfall, the paper states, which is escalating the risks of severe flooding. Heated ocean water expands and eats away at the vast Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which are collectively shedding around 1tn tons of ice a year, with both of these processes fueling sea level rise.
The US was battered by 20 separate billion-dollar climate and weather disasters in 2021, one of the most catastrophic climate years on record which led to at least 688 deaths, according to the annual report of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).
Damage from the year’s 20 most costly disasters, which included thousands of wildfires burning across western states, frigid temperatures and hail storms in Texas, tornadoes in the south-east, and tropical storms saturating the east coast, totaled around $145bn.
This makes 2021 the third costliest extreme weather year on record, with four tropical storms – Elsa, Fred, Ida and Nicholas – accounting for just over half the total price tag.
The deadly mega-disasters were scattered throughout 2021 and hit communities from coast to coast, starting with flash floods and bomb cyclones in California and ending with Colorado’s most destructive ever wildfire, which tore through almost 1,100 homes and 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares), causing more than $10bn of damage. Between 44% and 56% of the country was affected by drought during the course of 2021.
Overall, the US saw its fourth-hottest year on record fueled by historic highs in December (beating 2015) that produced spring-like temperatures on parts of the east coast. Ten states – Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas – also had their warmest December on record.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Eddie Taylor - Ride 'Em On Down
Eddie Taylor - I'm Gonna Love You
Eddie Taylor - Big Town Playboy
Jimmy Reed with Eddie Taylor - Big Boss Man
Eddie 'Playboy' Taylor & The Aces - Wreck On 83 Highway, 38 Pistol
Eddie Taylor - E T Blues
Eddie Taylor - Anna Lee
Eddie Taylor - Stop Breaking Down
Eddie Taylor - Look On Younders' Wall