The Evening Blues - 1-27-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues songwriter and guitarist from New Orleans, Earl King. Enjoy!
Earl King - The Things That I Used To Do
“How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them. A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.”
-- Christiaan Huygens
News and Opinion
Justice Stephen Breyer will retire from the supreme court, according to widespread media reporting on Wednesday, which, if confirmed by the court, will provide Joe Biden with the opportunity to fulfill a campaign pledge by nominating the first Black woman judge to the bench.
Such a choice would be a milestone and bolster the liberal wing of the bench, even as it weathers a dominant conservative super-majority achieved under the Trump administration.
Breyer, 83, had been under pressure from progressives eager to give the new president the chance to fill a seat on the court while the Democrats hold power in the White House and Congress, including a wafer-thin margin in the Senate, which would have to confirm Biden’s nominee. ...
As news of Breyer’s retirement came in, the White House distanced itself from the development in an apparent attempt to signal that Biden had not pressured the justice. Biden, meeting private sector CEOs at the White House to talk about his legislative agenda, declined to comment on the retirement per se, saying: “There have been no announcements from Justice Breyer.”
The US has presented its written response to Russian demands on Ukraine, but made clear that it did not change Washington’s support for Ukraine’s right to pursue Nato membership, the most contentious issue in relations with Moscow. The reply, which was delivered to the Russian foreign ministry by the US ambassador in Moscow, John Sullivan, repeats the US offer to negotiate with Russia over some aspects of European security, but the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the issue of eventual Ukrainian membership of the alliance was one of principle.
Blinken was speaking hours after his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, threatened “retaliatory measures” if the US response did not satisfy the Kremlin. “Without going to the specifics of the document, I can tell you that it reiterates what we said publicly for many weeks, and in a sense for many, many years. That we will uphold the principle of Nato’s open door,” Blinken said, adding: “There is no change. There will be no change.” He said the US document would not be made public because “we think diplomacy has the best chance to succeed if we provide space for confidential talks”.
Nato delivered its own response to Moscow on Wednesday with the same message on Ukrainian membership. ...
The Biden administration delivered its message to Moscow as Ukrainian and Russian representatives were meeting in Paris, together with French and German officials, in the latest diplomatic effort to slow the momentum towards a new war in Europe. The talks brought together the Kremlin’s top official on Ukraine, Dmitry Kozak, and Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
At the end of the meeting, the four countries issued a joint statement supporting “unconditional observance of the ceasefire” and agreed to meet again in two weeks’ time in Berlin.
Can the western alliance against Russia over its buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border hold together? It is a question that politicians and diplomats are increasingly grappling with amid fears that Germany and, to a lesser extent, France are in danger of dividing from the US and the UK, not only over how to respond to any future Russian act of aggression in Ukraine, but also in their assessment of the imminence of the threat.
Every effort is being made to minimise the differences within the Nato alliance, including through regular calls such as the one led by Joe Biden on Monday, but they may be impossible to avoid since they reflect not just different short-term assessments on intelligence, but a deep fissure going back decades about what Germany and France, as opposed to the Anglosphere, regard as the best way to handle Russia.
France, looking at the same intelligence provided by the CIA, does not see an imminent invasion, or a gathering of forces equipped to invade in the next three weeks – an assessment shared by the best Ukrainian defence analysts.
In Britain, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has been openly critical of Germany for leaving itself so dependent on Russia for energy, and Berlin’s recent refusal to allow Estonia to send German-manufactured arms to Ukraine. The idea of Germany providing weapons to be used against Russia for the first time since the second world war is anathema. Speaking in Berlin on Tuesday, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, defended the decision, saying it was rooted “in the whole development of the past years and decades”. In Poland, the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said in a Facebook post that he remained concerned by the block on Estonia.
In the US, the German question is increasingly riling Republicans, leading to commentary in the Wall Street Journal with the headline “Is Germany a Reliable American Ally? Nein.”
Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee, two top members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, implored the Biden administration on Wednesday to urgently pursue a diplomatic outcome in Ukraine, warning that "there is no military solution" to surging tensions with Russia.
"Diplomacy needs to be the focus," Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the CPC, and Lee (D-Calif.), the head of the caucus' Peace and Security Taskforce, said in a statement.
While voicing support for the Biden administration's efforts to "extend and deepen the dialogue" with Russia amid fears of a disastrous war involving two nuclear-armed nations, the two progressive lawmakers raised alarm over the flow of U.S. arms into Ukraine and the prospect of American troops being deployed to Eastern Europe.
"We have significant concerns that new troop deployments... and a flood of hundreds of lethal weapons will only raise tensions and increase the chance of miscalculation," Jayapal and Lee said as their party's leadership planned to fast-track legislation authorizing $500 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
The pair also warned against imposing "sweeping and indiscriminate sanctions" on Russia, arguing such a tactic would do more harm than good.
"In past crises, where events are moving quickly and intelligence is unclear, vigorous, delicate diplomacy is essential to de-escalation," the lawmakers said. "We call upon our colleagues to allow the administration to find a diplomatic way out of this crisis."
Ukraine’s leaders sought Tuesday to reassure the nation that an invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real and received a shipment of U.S. military equipment to shore up their defenses. ...
The U.S. State Department has ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country, and it said that nonessential embassy staff could leave. Britain said it, too, was withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from its embassy, and families of Canadian diplomatic staff also have been told to leave.
Ukrainian authorities, however, have sought to project calm. Speaking in the second televised speech to the nation in as many days, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians not to panic.
“We are strong enough to keep everything under control and derail any attempts at destabilization,” he said. ...
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament that “as of today, there are no grounds to believe” Russia will invade imminently, noting that its troops have not formed what he called a battle group to force its way over the border.
“Don’t worry, sleep well,” he said. “No need to have your bags packed.”
Israeli military officials are reportedly holding talks with Russian army officers to calm tensions after Moscow’s Defense Ministry said Monday that it held a joint jet patrol with Syria along the latter’s borders, including in the Golan Heights area.
According to the Ynet news site, Israeli officials are struggling to understand why Russia has apparently changed its policy toward Israel, after it announced such joint patrols are expected to be a regular occurrence moving forward.
The report claimed, without citing a source, that Israel may limit its air campaign in Syria as a result of Russia’s move, even after discussions end.
The Federal Reserve is preparing to raise rates in March for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck the US as it attempts to curb rising prices. After its latest two-day meeting the central bank announced that it would leave interest rates close to zero for now but signaled it was preparing to raise them at its next meeting.
At a press conference, the Fed chair, Jerome Powell, said the central bank would continue to monitor the course of the pandemic, inflation and unemployment but gave his clearest signal yet that the US’s historically low interest rates would start to rise soon.
“I would say the committee is of a mind to raise the federal funds rate at the March meeting assuming that conditions are appropriate for doing so,” said Powell. “The economy no longer needs sustained monetary policy support,” he said.
The central bank cut rates to close to zero when the coronavirus pandemic hit the US in March 2020 and began pumping money into the economy by buying financial assets in order to stave off a potential financial collapse. At this week’s meeting, the Fed committee approved one final round of asset purchases, which will bring that stimulus program to a conclusion by March.
Terry Pratchett’s estate has authorised Jack Monroe to use the “Vimes Boots Index” as the name of her new price index, which is intended to document the “insidiously creeping prices” of basic food products.
The author’s daughter, writer Rhianna Pratchett, said her father would have been proud to see his work used in this way by the anti-poverty campaigner. Monroe was prompted to create her index after inflation jumped to 5.4% last week, and she found herself “infuriate[d]” that the index (the consumer price index or CPI) used for this calculation “grossly underestimates the real cost of inflation as it happens to people with the least”. She laid out how the prices of “value” product ranges in supermarkets had soared over the last decade – rice in her local supermarket had increased in price from 45p for a kilogram bag last year, to £1 for 500g, a 344% increase – and how the number of value products has shrunk. She was soon working with economists, charities and analysts to compile her own index. “One,” she wrote in the Observer, “that will document the disappearance of the budget lines and the insidiously creeping prices of the most basic versions of essential items at the supermarket” and “serve as an irrefutable snapshot of the reality experienced by millions of people”. ...
The index, Monroe said, is named in honour of Pratchett’s creation Sam Vimes, who in the Discworld novel Men at Arms lays out the “Sam Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socio-economic unfairness”.
“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money,” wrote Pratchett. “Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of okay for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”
More than four dozen consumer advocacy, media justice, and privacy rights groups on Wednesday urged the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to hold hearings on the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act—a bill meant to curb warrantless mass surveillance—as soon as possible.
Introduced in April 2021, the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act aims to close major loopholes in federal privacy laws—including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—to protect U.S. residents from unlawful searches and seizures, one of the key civil liberties spelled out in the Bill of Rights. If passed, the legislation would require government authorities to obtain a court order before accessing data through third-party brokers.
For years, federal agencies have exploited legal loopholes to purchase massive amounts of personal information sold by data merchants who harvest sensitive material from cellphone and internet users—enabling them to conduct digital searches without congressional or judicial authorization.
"There's no reason information scavenged by data brokers should be treated differently under the Fourth Amendment," Free Press Action's Nora Benavidez said in a statement.
The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, Benavidez added, "ensures that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can't do an end run around the Constitution to get to your data. Enacting this legislation would stop this flagrant abuse of our privacy and shut down a clandestine business sector that trades away our essential rights for profit."
In a letter sent to the committee leaders—Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Reps. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)—the coalition that includes the ACLU, the Brennan Center for Justice, Demand Progress, and Free Press Action argued that "this legislation enjoys bipartisan support in both chambers for a good reason—what the government is doing is alarming."
A California city has voted to require gun owners to carry liability insurance in what’s believed to be the first measure of its kind in the United States. The San Jose city council on Tuesday night overwhelmingly approved the measure despite opposition from gun owners who said it would violate their second amendment rights and promised to sue.
The Silicon Valley city of about 1 million followed a trend of other Democratic-led cities that have sought to rein in violence through stricter rules. But while similar laws have been proposed, San Jose is the first city to pass one, according to Brady United, a national non-profit that advocates against gun violence.
Council members, including several who had lost friends to gun violence, said it was a step toward dealing with gun violence that Councilman Sergio Jimenez called “a scourge on our society”.
Having liability insurance would encourage people in the 55,000 households in San Jose who legally own at least one registered gun to have gun safes, install trigger locks and take gun safety classes, Mayor Sam Liccardo said.
The liability insurance would cover losses or damages resulting from any accidental use of the firearm, including death, injury or property damage, according to the ordinance. If a gun is stolen or lost, the owner of the firearm would be considered liable until the theft or loss is reported to authorities.
Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the attempt by Republicans in seven presidential battleground states won by Joe Biden in 2020 to subvert the election result by sending bogus slates of Donald Trump electors to Congress.
The ploy was one of the central tactics used by Trump loyalists as part of the “big lie” that he had defeated his Democratic challenger. The fake slates of electors were forwarded to congressional leaders, who then came under pressure to delay certification of Biden’s victory on 6 January 2021, the day of the Capitol insurrection.
In an interview on CNN, the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, revealed that the justice department has begun an investigation into what she called the “fraudulent elector certifications”. She said the department had received referrals on the matter and “our prosecutors are looking at those”. Monaco added: “We are going to follow the facts and the law wherever they lead to address conduct of any kind and at any level that is part of an assault on our democracy.”
Fake slates of Trump electors were sent to Congress from seven states in fact won by Biden – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of those, two – New Mexico and Pennsylvania – added the caveat that the Trump electors should only be counted in the event of a disputed election. The other five states sent signed statements to Washington giving the appearance that Trump had won despite clear and verified counts placing Biden on top.
ADIOS Sinema? Arizona's 'Voto Latino' Launches 6-Figure Campaign To Send Sen. Kyrsten Sinema PACKING
The Biden administration on Wednesday canceled a move by former president Donald Trump to renew mineral rights leases for a proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in north-eastern Minnesota.
Trump had signed an order a month before the 2020 presidential election declaring a national emergency over the country’s reliance on imported metals used to manufacture computers, smartphones, batteries for electric cars and other items.
The reversal by Biden on the two leases follows an October decision to move forward with a study that could lead to a 20-year ban on mining upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Twin Metals said in a statement that the decision was political and the company will not let it kill the project.
“The federal government’s reversal of its position on the mineral leases that Twin Metals Minnesota and its predecessor companies have held for more than 50 years is disappointing, but not surprising given the series of actions the administration has taken to try and shut the door on copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota,” the company said.
Though better known as the homeland of Hollywood, Los Angeles was built on oil. More than 5,200 oil and gas wells sprawl across the city, making it one of the largest urban oilfields in the country. But on Wednesday, the Los Angeles city council voted unanimously to phase out drilling in the city, a move environmental justice advocates have been working toward for years.
The city will now move forward with drafting an ordinance to ban new drilling and evaluate how to shut down operating wells across the city. Officials will also initiate an analysis of the economic and job impacts and how to transition oil industry workers to clean energy jobs. In order to decommission existing oil operations, an amortization study must be also done on how oil companies can make back their investments if they have not already done so.
“From Wilmington to the San Fernando Valley, gas, drilling and and oilwells have disproportionately affected the health of our working-class neighborhoods,” said the council president, Nury Martinez. “This is yet another example of how frontline communities disproportionately bear the impacts of pollution and climate change.”
Fish grow slower when exposed to higher temperatures and a common chemical in plastic, according to new research. It suggests that a combination of plastic pollution and global heating could have a concerning impact on marine populations. Scientists at the University of Sydney have found that fish exposed to the industrial chemical bisphenol A – commonly known as BPA – require more energy to grow in high-temperature waters.
BPA is a common chemical used in plastics manufacturing and is known to disrupt hormone signalling, with impacts in marine animals on metabolism and growth. In humans, it has also been linked to reproductive and developmental dysfunction. Millions of tonnes of the compound are produced globally each year. ...
The study’s corresponding author, Frank Seebacher, a professor of biology at the University of Sydney, said BPA was released into the marine environment from manufacturing effluent as well as from plastics breaking down. “Wherever you have lots of manufacturing plants, lots of plastic pollution, you will find reasonably high levels of BPA,” he said, estimating such concentrations to be four to five times higher than the level used in their study.
The researchers also modelled the risk of warming and plastic pollution in coastal areas in combination with current fishing intensity. Their analysis predicted that south-east Asia had the highest risk of decreased fish biomass as a result of warming and pollution. “Southern North America and northern South America [are also] going to be really affected,” Seebacher said.
Within the brutal machinations of US politics, Joe Manchin has been elevated to a status of supreme decision-maker, the man who could make or break Joe Biden’s presidency. Internationally, however, the Democratic senator’s new fame has been received with puzzlement and growing bitterness, as countries already ravaged by the climate crisis brace themselves for the US – history’s largest ever emitter of planet-heating gases – again failing to pass major climate legislation. ...
“He’s a villain, he’s a threat to the globe,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh. “If you talk to the average citizen in Dhaka, they will know who Joe Manchin is. The level of knowledge of American politics here is absolutely amazing, we know about the filibuster and the Senate and so on. “What the Americans do or don’t do on climate will impact the world and it’s incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up. It will cause very bad consequences for us in Bangladesh, unfortunately.”
The often tortuous negotiations between Manchin, the White House and Democratic leaders appeared doomed on 19 December when the West Virginia senator said he could not support the $1.75tn bill, citing concerns over inflation and the national debt. The latest twist caused anguish to those who see their futures being decided by a previously obscure politician located thousands of miles away.
“I’ve been following the situation closely,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a low-lying Pacific nation that risks being wiped out by rising sea levels. “We have to halve emissions in this decade and can’t do it without strong, immediate action by the US.” Stege said the Marshall Islands was already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis and if the US doesn’t slash its emissions “the outcomes for countries like mine are unthinkable.”
Even America’s closest allies have looked on in dismay as a single lawmaker from Biden’s own party has stalled what would be the biggest – and arguably first – piece of climate legislation in the US’s plodding, and often rancorous, history of dealing with escalating global heating.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Earl King - Come On
Earl King - Trick Bag
Earl King - Is Everything Alright
Earl King - Always A First Time
Earl King - Eating & Sleeping
Earl King - You'll Remember Me
Earl King - Street Parade
Earl King And The Meters - Mama And Papa
Earl King - Big Foot
Earl King - Let's Make A Better World
Earl King and Roomful of Blues