The Evening Blues - 5-13-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features British blues rock group The Animals. Enjoy!
The Animals - I'm Crying
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
-- found on a damned piece of paper
News and Opinion
Worth a full read:
Even as the Democrats’ feeble legislative attempt to codify federal protections for abortion rights goes down in flames, many Washington elites are directing their attention and anger towards the same target: no, not right-wing judges reaching their ideological hands into millions of people’s bodies, but instead the protesters peacefully demonstrating outside the homes of Supreme Court justices who are about to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Prominent Republican lawmakers, conservative operatives, and Beltway pundits are demanding the government arrest demonstrators — and to do so, they are citing a McCarthy-era statute passed to stop people from protesting the prosecutions of alleged communists. Ignored in the discourse is a past ruling from the Supreme Court effectively blessing conservative protests at the homes of abortion clinic workers. ...
Even as the nation is poised to enact an injustice of historic proportions, those in power and their chosen mouthpieces only appear to care about one thing: upholding the rights and privileges of the ruling class, and ensuring they remain safely ensconced in the Washington bubble. ... The hypocrisy is particularly powerful among liberals like Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. He purports to support the pro-choice movement but he has spent his decades atop the Washington power structure failing to secure reproductive rights, and this week he has spent his time using his platform to deride the court protesters, calling them “reprehensible.” Durbin’s behavior — emblematic of so many liberals and media elites — evokes the warning of Dr. Martin Luther King.
“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate,” King wrote in 1963 amid the civil rights struggle of his era. “The white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.’” ...
There’s no evidence that the protests have been violent, and Congress is already fast-tracking legislation to allow the Supreme Court’s police force to provide security for justices’ families. Notably, the bipartisan bill includes no additional security protections for people who go to abortion facilities amid credible threats of violence.
Finland must apply to join Nato “without delay” in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, its president and prime minister have said, signalling a historic shift in the country’s security policy that drew a blunt warning of retaliation from the Kremlin. With neighbouring Sweden expected to follow suit, Sauli Niinistö, Finland’s president, and Sanna Marin, the prime minister, made the call in a joint statement, adding: “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.” ...
The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat, and the foreign ministry in Moscow said it would have to take “military-technical” steps if Helsinki applied for Nato accession. “The expansion of Nato and the approach of the alliance to our borders does not make the world and our continent more stable and secure,” Peskov said. “Everything will depend on how this process takes place, how far the military infrastructure moves towards our borders.”
Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps … to address the resulting threats to its national security”. It accused Nato of seeking to create “another flank for the military threat to our country” and said Helsinki should “be aware of its responsibility and the consequences of such a move”.
The Finnish daily Iltalehti reported that key Finnish politicians had been told Russia could halt gas supplies to Finland on Friday, although it did not say where the warning came from or whether it was in response to the Nato announcement. Finland shares an 810-mile (1,300km) border with Russia and has for decades maintained a strict policy of military non-alignment, viewing membership of the US-led alliance as an unnecessary provocation of Moscow.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) hit the brakes Thursday on bipartisan hopes that the Senate could quickly pass nearly $40 billion in Ukraine aid before leaving town for the week.
Paul objected to a deal offered by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would have set up votes on Thursday afternoon on the funding and on an amendment from Paul, who wanted to include language in the bill to expand an Afghanistan inspector general role to include oversight of the Ukraine funds.
Paul blocked the votes because he wants his language inserted into the text of the bill instead of having to take his chance with an amendment vote, which could be blocked. The stalemate will delay the Senate’s passage of the Ukraine package until at least next week, and potentially beyond. “I think they’re going to have to go through the long way,” Paul told The Hill about what comes next after the floor standoff. ...
“Ukraine is not asking us to fight this war. They’re only asking for the resources they need to defend themselves against this deranged invasion, and they need help right now,” McConnell said. Paul, however, warned about the pace of spending, arguing that “we cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy.”
“Americans are feeling the pain [from inflation] and Congress seems intent only on adding to that pain by shoveling more money out the door as fast as they can,” Paul said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Sweden on Wednesday and agreed that relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin should never be normalized.
“The leaders agreed that the aftershocks of Putin’s abhorrent invasion of Ukraine had fundamentally changed international security architecture,” a spokesman for Johnson said following the meeting. “They underlined that relations with Putin could never be normalized.”
The statement is the latest example of Western leaders suggesting they want to see Putin removed from office. On Tuesday, Lithuania’s foreign minister explicitly called for regime change in Moscow, claiming it was the only way for regional countries to be safe from Russia.
Transcript at the link:
A senior UAE official has criticised a bill floated in the US Congress that would potentially open up the oil cartel Opec and countries working with it to lawsuits for collusion on rising crude oil prices. Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said on Tuesday that Opec was being unfairly targeted over the energy crisis, as he warned that passage of the bill, known as "Nopec", could disrupt the industry's long-standing system of production and send prices up to 300 percent higher. ...
A US Senate committee last week passed the bipartisan No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels bill (Nopec), sponsored by Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Amy Klobuchar, with a 17-4 majority. ...
Versions of the legislation have failed in Congress for more than two decades. But last week's vote shows how rising energy prices have galvanised support for the measure.
The bill, which will need to pass the full Senate and House and be signed by President Joe Biden in order to become law, would change US antitrust law to revoke the sovereign immunity that has long protected Opec and its national oil companies from lawsuits.
The US justice department secretly issued a subpoena to gain access to details of the phone account of a Guardian reporter as part of an aggressive leak investigation into media stories about an official inquiry into the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the southern border.
Leak investigators issued the subpoena to obtain the phone number of Stephanie Kirchgaessner, the Guardian’s investigations correspondent in Washington. The move was carried out without notifying the newspaper or its reporter, as part of an attempt to ferret out the source of media articles about a review into family separation conducted by the Department of Justice’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.
It is highly unusual for US government officials to obtain a journalist’s phone details in this way, especially when no national security or classified information is involved. The move was all the more surprising in that it came from the DoJ’s inspector general’s office – the watchdog responsible for ethical oversight and whistleblower protections. ...
The leak inquiry was conducted on behalf of the DoJ by the inspector general’s office of an outside government department, housing and urban development (Hud). Its investigation focused on allegations that an employee within the DoJ’s inspector general’s office had leaked sensitive information to three news outlets – the Guardian, the New York Times and NBC News.
The Guardian was the only one of the three outlets to have a subpoena issued relating to its reporter’s phone account. The Guardian published two sensitive reports by Kirchgaessner within the timeframe of the DoJ review into child separation covered by the leak inquiry.
Trump officials “collaborated” with the meatpacking industry to downplay the threat of Covid to plant workers and block public health measures which could have saved lives, a damning new investigation has found.
Internal documents reviewed by the congressional select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis reveal how industry representatives lobbied government officials to stifle “pesky” health departments from imposing evidence-based safety measures to curtail the virus spreading – and tried to obscure worker deaths from these authorities.
At least 59,000 workers at five of the largest meatpacking companies – Tyson Foods, JBS USA Holdings, Smithfield Foods, Cargill and National Beef Packing Company which are the subject of the congressional inquiry – contracted Covid in the first year of the pandemic, of whom at least 269 died.
According to internal communications, the companies were warned about workers and their families falling sick within weeks of the virus hitting the US. Despite this, company representatives enlisted industry-friendly Trump appointees at the USDA to fight their battles against Covid regulations and oversight.
In addition, company executives intentionally stoked fears about meat shortages in order to justify continuing to operate the plants under dangerous conditions. The fears were baseless – there were no meat shortages in the US, while exports to China hit record highs.
A former eBay executive pleaded guilty on Thursday to participating in a scheme to terrorize the creators of an online newsletter that included the delivery of live spiders and other disturbing items to their home.
David Harville, eBay’s former director of global resiliency, is the final onetime eBay employee charged in the case to plead guilty. Six others have admitted to their roles in the harassment campaign targeting a Massachusetts couple who publish the newsletter EcommerceBytes, which eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.
The scheme included sending items like a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and books about surviving the loss of a spouse to the couple’s home with the hopes of getting them to stop publishing negative articles about the company, prosecutors say. eBay employees also set up fake social media accounts to send threatening messages to the couple and posted the couple’s home address online.
Harville and others were charged in June 2020 over the plot, which authorities say was orchestrated by members of eBay’s executive leadership team after the newsletter published an article about a lawsuit filed by eBay accusing Amazon of poaching its sellers, authorities said.
Advocates pushing to raise California's minimum wage to $18 an hour heralded a key development Thursday as they began submitting more than one million signatures to get the Living Wage Act on the November ballot, easily surpassing the roughly 623,000 required.
"California Voters have been clear: people working full time should be able to afford life's basic needs," said anti-poverty activist Joe Sanberg, who filed the ballot initiative, in a statement.
The state's current minimum wage for employers, $15 an hour, was implemented just this year, though the wage drops to $14 an hour for companies with fewer than 26 employees.
Sanberg says the wage floor is clearly insufficient.
"Californians simply cannot afford to support a family on the current minimum wage—which amounts to just $32,000 a year for someone working full-time," he said. "Raising the minimum wage in the Golden State is a moral imperative."
If the Living Wage Act passes in November, it would increase the minimum wage incrementally, boosting it $1 per year until reaching $18 on January 1, 2025 for employers with 26 or more workers. Employers with fewer workers have an additional year to hit that minimum wage.
Thereafter, the minimum wage for all employees would also increase over time to keep pace with inflation and the cost of living.
Sanberg estimates that wage increase could mean an additional $6,420 per year for more than 5 million workers.
Beyond organizational backers like the California Faculty Association, Unite Here Local 11, and SEIU Local 87, the proposal appears to have strong public support.
Supporters of the ballot initiative point to a survey conducted last month of 1,200 likely voters in the state showing 76% in favor of raising the wage.
"Raising the minimum wage," said California Labor Federation executive secretary-treasurer Art Pulaski, "is one of the strongest anti-poverty measures we have as a state."
"For low-wage workers, a higher minimum wage is life-changing," he said. "Better wages for workers also means they have more to spend at local businesses in our communities. If we're serious about combating poverty and reducing inequality, raising the minimum wage is an absolute necessity."
According to Sanberg, successful passage of the initiative could reverberate nationwide.
"Not only are we going to give 6M+ California workers a raise," he tweeted Thursday, "we're going to set a new bar for working people all over the country."
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was widely condemned Thursday for his joint statement with the National Border Patrol Council complaining about the Biden administration feeding migrant children in U.S. custody amid a national shortage of infant formula.
"Gov. Abbott and NBPC are literally demanding that the government lock babies in cages and then starve them of the sustenance they need to survive," tweeted Carl Takei, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU. "I just... I can't come up with the words to describe how despicable and inhumane this is."
"I'm especially blown away by the explicit contrast this statement sets up between 'our children' (who are vulnerable, precious, and deserve survival) vs. the not-our-children who deserve to starve in our baby jails," he continued.
"*Every* child, regardless of whether Gov. Abbott and Border Patrol agents consider them 'our child' or not, deserves food and love," Takei asserted. "We should be shutting down these cages, not turning them into even more horrific places."
Abbott and the NBPC's statement frames the federal government feeding children in custody as "yet another one in a long line of reckless, out-of-touch priorities from the Biden administration when it comes to securing our border and protecting Americans," adding that "our children deserve a president who puts their needs and survival first—not one who gives critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve."
Some critics of the statement highlighted that the governor—who last year signed into law one of the most controversial abortion bans in the United States as part of a nationwide effort by the GOP to crack down on reproductive freedom—presents himself as "pro-life."
"Abbott infamously signed a bill into law last year that bans abortion at six weeks ...and incentivizes citizens to spy on and sue each other to enforce it," Caitlin Cruz wrote for Jezebel. "But there's nothing pro-life about suggesting that we should let babies in America starve if they don't have the right legal documents."
An attorney for the family of a 29-year-old Black man who was fatally shot last month by a Houston police officer said an independent autopsy shows he was shot in the back of his neck.
Jalen Randle was shot on 27 April as he exited a vehicle, police said. Police said he was being pursued because he was wanted on three felony warrants.
“The witnesses have said that he got out of the car and was running away. We believe the body cameras will all show it,” the civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol has issued unprecedented subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, seeking to compel their cooperation with the inquiry into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The select committee empowered the chairman, Bennie Thompson, to move ahead with subpoenas to the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama.
The five congressmen flatly refused to accept invitations to provide voluntary assistance to the investigation, sources said.
Thompson said: “Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily. Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th.”
The subpoena letters indicate that the select committee is seeking testimony from the five House Republicans about some of the most sensitive details about Trump’s unlawful efforts to overturn the election, including their contacts with Trump.
A dozen US oil refineries last year exceeded the federal limit on average benzene emissions. Among the 12 refineries that emitted above the maximum level for benzene, five were in Texas, four in Louisiana, and one each in Pennsylvania, Indiana and the US Virgin Islands, a new analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project revealed on Thursday.
Benzene is a known carcinogen that is highly toxic and volatile when exposed to air. Much of the excess emissions come through leaks from valves, tanks, pumps and other means that are hard to detect. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 6.1 million people in the US live within three miles of a refinery, with low-income people and people of color represented at rates nearly twice that of the general population.
Out of 129 operable oil refineries in 2021, 118 reported benzene concentration registered at or near the site, otherwise known as the fence-line. Nearly half of these refineries released benzene levels above 3 micrograms per cubic meter, which the Environmental Integrity Project defines as a long-term potential health threat.
The EPA requires facilities to take action if they exceed an average 9 micrograms per cubic meter, or above “action level” emission of benzene. “If [facilities] can’t get their benzene below the action level, year after year, we really need to see enforcement from the EPA,” said Eric Schaeffer, the executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, in a press conference. “You need to start paying penalties when your fence-line levels persist,” he added.
As United Nations and other experts gather in Côte d'Ivoire's largest city for a major conference on fighting desertification, an agency of the world body published a new report warning that humanity is "at a crossroads" in drought management, and that mitigation must proceed "urgently, using every tool we can" if the planet is to avert catastrophic consequences.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report—entitled Drought in Numbers, 2022—was released to mark Drought Day at UNCCD's 15th Conference of Parties (COP15), which began on Monday and will run through May 20, in Abidjan.
"The facts and figures of this publication all point in the same direction: an upward trajectory in the duration of droughts and the severity of impacts, not only affecting human societies but also the ecological systems upon which the survival of all life depends, including that of our own species," UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said in a statement.
"We are at a crossroads," he warned. "We need to steer toward the solutions rather than continuing with destructive actions, believing that marginal change can heal systemic failure."
The publication—which calls on world leaders to fully commit to drought preparedness and resiliency—reveals:
Since 2000, the frequency and duration of droughts have risen by 29%; From 1970 to 2019, weather, climate, and water hazards accounted for 50% of disasters and 45% of disaster-related deaths, mostly in developing countries; Droughts represent 15% of natural disasters but claimed the highest number of lives—approximately 650,000—during that same period; From 1998 to 2017, droughts caused global economic losses of around $124 billion; and In 2022, more than 2.3 billion people face water stress, while 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged droughts.
According to the report, unless urgent action is taken, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought by the end of the decade. By 2040, an estimated one in four children will live in areas with extreme water shortages, while droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world's population by 2050.
"One of the best, most comprehensive solutions is land restoration, which addresses many of the underlying factors of degraded water cycles and the loss of soil fertility," said Thiaw. "We must build and rebuild our landscapes better, mimicking nature wherever possible and creating functional ecological systems."
"We all must live up to our responsibility to ensure the health of present and future generations, wholeheartedly and without delay," Thiaw added.
The new report follows an April UNCCD publication, Global Land Outlook 2, which details how humans have altered 70% of the Earth's lands from their natural state and degraded as much as 40% of the planet's non-ice land.
"The human-environment relationship must drastically change," that report states, "to avoid catastrophic tipping points whereby the human power of exploitation is overwhelmed by the power of nature."
Extreme fire conditions are continuing to fuel a massive wildfire in northern New Mexico, making it difficult for crews to contain the largest blaze in the US, which grew to nearly 260,000 acres acres on Thursday. The continued destruction came as a smaller fire broke out in California, destroying more than 20 homes, many of them multimillion-dollar mansions, in the coastal community of Laguna Niguel.
New Mexico has seen an explosive start to what is expected to be another devastating fire season across the American west, with parched vegetation and gusty winds fanning flames that have burned for weeks. “This fire is going to keep growing,” New Mexico officials said in a Thursday morning update, noting that more resources are being deployed to battle the blaze as another red flag warning was issued through the evening. “The weather has been unfavorable for weeks,” they said. “This will continue to cause extreme fire behavior and rapid growth, especially to the north.”
The fire in California began on Wednesday when strong ocean winds sent embers flying, sparking flames that swept through the dry seaside bluffs and into the community. Though conditions improved overnight, by Thursday morning officials still listed the fire at zero percent containment. Residents of about 900 houses were under evacuation in coastal California and one firefighter was injured, Orange county officials said. The wildfire has torched about 200 acres. ...
Rising temperatures have spurred desiccation throughout the west and drought conditions are only expected to deepen through the hot, dry weeks and months ahead. In its latest report, released on Thursday, the US Drought Monitor classified more than 40% of the west in “Extreme Drought”, up from roughly 35% last week. Nearly 60% of California was also in the category, a sharp jump from just over 40% last week.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Animals - Bring It On Home To Me
The Animals - Tobacco Road
The Animals - See See Rider
The Animals - We Gotta Get Out Of This Place
The Animals - Boom Boom
The Animals - Baby Let Me Take You Home
The Animals - Don't Bring Me Down
The Animals - Lonely Avenue
The Animals - Bright Lights, Big City
The Animals - Smoke Stack Lightning
The Animals - Shake
The Animals - Animalization