The Evening Blues - 5-16-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues guitarist Iverson "Louisiana Red" Minter. Enjoy!
Louisiana Red - Let Me Be Your Electrician
"They used to call you crazy if you warned that we’re being propagandized to support a war with Russia. Now they call you crazy if you don’t support the war with Russia."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
NBC’s Meet the Press just aired an absolutely freakish segment in which the influential narrative management firm Center for a New American Security (CNAS) ran war games simulating a direct US hot war with China.
CNAS is funded by the Pentagon and by military-industrial complex corporations Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, as well as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, which as Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp notes is the de facto Taiwanese embassy in the US.
The war game simulates a conflict over Taiwan which we are informed is set in the year 2027, in which China launches strikes on the US military in order to open the way to an invasion of the island. We are not told why there needs to be a specific year inserted into mainstream American consciousness about when we can expect such a conflict, but then we are also not told why NBC is platforming a war machine think tank’s simulation of a military conflict with China at all.
Go inside our exclusive war game with @CNASdc —
The year is 2027. The briefing: China is poised to attack Taiwan
Which side would prevail? Would China attack the U.S. mainland? Could nuclear war break out?
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 15, 2022
It happens that the Center for a New American Security was the home of the man assigned by the Biden administration to lead the Pentagon task force responsible for re-evaluating the administration’s posture toward China. That man, Ely Ratner, is on record saying that the Trump administration was insufficiently hawkish toward China. Ratner is now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs in the Biden administration.
It also happens that the Center for a New American Security has openly boasted about the great many of its other “experts and alumni” who have assumed senior leadership positions within the Biden administration.
It also happens that CNAS co-founder Michele Flournoy, who appeared in the Meet the Press war games segment and was at one time a heavy favorite to become Biden’s Pentagon chief, wrote a Foreign Affairs op-ed in 2020 arguing that the US needed to develop “the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours.”
It also happens that CNAS CEO Richard Fontaine has been featured all over the mass media pushing empire narratives about Russia and China, telling Bloomberg just the other day that the war in Ukraine could serve the empire’s long-term interests against China.
“The war in Ukraine could end up being bad for the pivot in the short-term, but good in the long-term,” Fontaine said. “If Russia emerges from this conflict as a weakened version of itself and Germany makes good on its defense spending pledges, both trends could allow the US to focus more on the Indo-Pacific in the long run.”
It also happens that CNAS is routinely cited by the mass media as an authoritative source on all things China and Russia, with no mention ever made of the conflict of interest arising from their war machine funding. Just in the last few days here’s a recent NPR interview about NATO expansion with CNAS senior fellow Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a Washington Post quote from CNAS fellow Jacob Stokes about the Chinese threat to Taiwan, a Financial Times quote from CNAS “Indo-Pacific expert” Lisa Curtis (who I’ve previously noted was cited by the mass media for her “expert” opposition to the US Afghanistan withdrawal), and a Foreign Policy citation of the aforementioned Richard Fontaine saying “The aim of U.S. policy toward China should be to ensure that Beijing is either unwilling or unable to overturn the regional and global order.”
As we’ve discussed previously, citing war machine-funded think tanks as expert analysis without even disclosing their financial conflict of interest is plainly journalistic malpractice. But it happens all the time in the mass media anyway, because the mass media exist to circulate propaganda, not journalism.
This is getting so, so crazy. That the mass media are now openly teaming up with war machine think tanks to begin seeding the normalization of a hot war with China into the minds of the public indicates that the propaganda campaign to manufacture consent for the US-centralized empire’s final Hail Mary grab at unipolar domination is escalating even further. The mass-scale psychological manipulation is getting more and more overt and more and more shameless.
This is headed somewhere very, very bad. Hopefully humanity wakes up in time to stop these lunatics from driving us off a precipice from which there is no return.
Yesterday the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Sergei Shoigu.
The U.S. readout of the call says:
On May 13, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu for the first time since February 18. Secretary Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication.
Austin initiated the call and the U.S. is seeking a ceasefire in Ukraine!!!
Are we not told that the Ukraine is winning the war? That it will soon push the Russian forces back over the border? The operation to 'weaken Russia', which Austin had publicly announced two weeks ago, does not seem to go that well.
The leaders of Finland and Sweden have confirmed they intend to join Nato, signifying a historic Nordic policy shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that will redraw the security map of Europe.
Abandoning decades of military non-alignment, the two countries’ governments will present their proposals to their respective parliaments on Monday and are expected to formally submit a joint membership application to the 30-member alliance as soon as the decisions are ratified. ...
However, Turkey has expressed dissatisfaction over Finnish and Swedish membership, which requires the unanimous approval of the alliance’s members. The Turkish foreign minister said on Sunday that Sweden and Finland must stop supporting terrorist groups in their countries and provide clear security guarantees.
Speaking after a Nato foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin, Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had met his Swedish and Finnish counterparts and they were seeking to address Turkey’s concerns, adding that Turkey was “not threatening anybody” but that while Finland’s approach was conciliatory, Sweden was not being so constructive.
“There absolutely needs to be security guarantees here. They need to stop supporting terrorist organisations,” Cavusoglu said. Ankara is particularly concerned about Sweden’s support for the PKK Kurdish militant group, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU and the US.
The small portion of electricity supplied to Finland by Russia was cut off Saturday just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart directly that it would be a "mistake" for his country to join NATO.
The call between Finland President Sauli Niinistö and Putin was the first direct talks between the two leaders since Finland said it will soon apply for NATO membership after decades of neutrality that has kept it out of the U.S.-European military alliance.
According to a report of the call released by the Kremlin, the two leaders "had a sincere exchange of views over the announced decision by Finland’s leadership to apply for NATO membership."
"Putin," the Kremlin said, "stressed that rejecting the traditional policy of military neutrality would be wrong since there are no threats to Finland’s security. Such a change in the country’s foreign policy course could have a negative effect on Russia-Finland relations, which have been built over the course of many years in the spirit of neighborliness and partnership cooperation and have a mutually beneficial nature."
A statement from the Finnish side after the call said Niinistö told Putin "how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia's massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland." Niinistö officially told Putin of Finland's intention to apply for NATO membership.
“The conversation," the readout continued, "was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important."
Earlier in the day, authorities in Finland confirmed the electricity supply from Russia—which makes up only about 10% of the nation's overall usage—had been choked off.
"It is at zero at the moment, and that started from midnight as planned," Timo Kaukonen, a manager at Fingrid, which controls the nation's electrical grid, told Agence France-Presse early Saturday.
While energy supplier RAO Nordic said the energy cutoff had to do with payments that had not been made, Russia earlier this week had said Finland should expect "retaliatory steps" if it moved closer to joining NATO. ...
Critics of further NATO expansion have warned that Finland and Sweden, though perhaps rightly concerned about their own security after seeing what Putin has done in Ukraine, still have very little to gain from joining the bloc and that much could be lost if such moves are finalized.
"By joining NATO, Finland is throwing away whatever remote possibility exists of playing a mediating role between Russia and the West, not just to help bring about an end to the war in Ukraine, but at some point in the future to promote wider reconciliation," wrote Anatol Lieven, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute of Responsible Statecraft, on Friday.
Moreover, added Lieven, "Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO may also be seen to have marked the symbolic moment when European countries as a whole abandoned any dream of taking responsibility for their own continent, and resigned themselves to complete dependence on Washington."
India, the world’s second largest producer of wheat, has banned all exports with immediate effect after a heatwave affected the crop.
A notice in the government gazette by the directorate of foreign trade, dated Friday, said a rise in global prices for wheat was threatening the food security of India and neighbouring and vulnerable countries.
A key aim is to control rising domestic prices. Global wheat prices have increased by more than 40% since the beginning of the year. ...
Even though it is the world’s second largest producer of wheat, India consumes most of the wheat it produces. It had set a goal of exporting 10m tonnes of the grain in 2022-23, looking to capitalise on global disruption to wheat supplies from the war and find new markets for its wheat in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, has disclosed an 82% rise in quarterly profits to a new record of $39.5bn (£32.2bn), boosted by an increase in demand and higher crude prices.
The company, which last week overtook technology group Apple to become the world’s most valuable company, said it would pay an $18.8bn (£15.3bn) dividend and hand $4bn (£3.2bn) in bonus shares to its investors after the better-than-expected performance.
Energy companies such as BP and Shell have posted their highest profits in at least a decade as a result of rising commodities prices fuelled by the unwinding of Covid-19 restrictions around the world and sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
Energy prices have also been driven by strong demand in Asia for gas and a cold winter in 2020 which depleted supplies, leaving stocks low as temperatures dropped in the northern hemisphere last year. Profits have risen despite many groups taking a hit from exiting investments in Russia as Brent crude prices have soared by almost 70% to $107.91 (£87.99) a barrel in March compared with a year before. ...
OPEC+, the producers group which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, agreed this month to a modest increase in its monthly oil output target, but has said it is not possible for other producers to replace Russian exports of more than 7m barrels a day.
A constitutional assembly in Chile has rejected plans to nationalise parts of the crucial mining industry in a blow to progressive hopes of overhauling the neoliberal Pinochet-era political settlement. The proposal, known as article 27, would have given the state exclusive mining rights over lithium, rare metals and hydrocarbons and a majority stake in copper mines. ...
The country’s environmental commission submitted multiple variations of the article to a vote on Saturday, but they all failed to achieve the 103-vote supermajority needed to pass into the draft constitution. However, a separate clause, article 25, which states that miners must set aside “resources to repair damage” to the environment and harmful effects where mining takes place, did get a supermajority and will be in the draft constitution.
The assembly also approved banning mining in glaciers, protected areas and regions essential to protecting the water system. Articles guaranteeing farmers and Indigenous people the right to traditional seeds, the right to safe and accessible energy and protection of oceans and the atmosphere were also approved.
Uh-oh, are Democrats losing Democracy Now?
I just love this headline.
The supreme court is “dangerous to families and to freedoms in our country”, Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday, as justices prepare to finalize a draft ruling stripping almost have a century of abortion rights in the US.
The House speaker railed against conservative judges appointed by former president Donald Trump in an interview Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, in which she urged Democrats to keep their “eye on the ball” to protect other freedoms she sees under threat.
“Beware in terms of marriage equality, beware in terms of other aspects,” she said.
“Understand this. This is not just about terminating a pregnancy. This is about contraception, family planning.
“This is a place where freedom and the kitchen table, issues of America’s families, come together. What are the decisions that a family makes? What about contraception for young people? It’s beyond just a particular situation. It’s massive in terms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, a woman’s right to decide.”
Speaking the day after hundreds of protest events took place nationwide, Pelosi insisted Democrats had done what they could in terms of protecting abortion rights through legislation. She pointed out the House had passed a bill before the women’s health protection act failed in the Senate on Wednesday, and she said she was still optimistic of a resolution with the support of pro-choice Republicans.
Thousands of people were taking part in protests across the US on Saturday to decry the supreme court’s expected reversal of the landmark 1973 law that made abortion legal in America.
Organizers said there were more than 380 protest events in cities including major ones in Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago to demand that the right to an abortion is not stripped away by the court, which is dominated by rightwing justices. ...
In the US capital, protestors gathered at the Washington Monument before marching to the supreme court, which is surrounded by a security fence. Some held pictures of coat hangers to symbolize the dangerous measures some people resorted to for illegal abortions prior to the Roe v Wade ruling. “If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get,” said Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, one of the groups, along with Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet and MoveOn that organized Saturday’s demonstrations, which they called “Bans Off Our Bodies”.
“We have to see an end to the attacks on our bodies,” Carmona added. “You can expect for women to be completely ungovernable until this government starts to work for us.”
Warnings that a new statue of Margaret Thatcher would attract egg-throwing protests came true within two hours of it being installed in her home town of Grantham on Sunday.
The bronze statue was, without ceremony, placed on a 3-metre (10ft) high plinth to make it more difficult for protesters to inflict any damage.
Shortly afterwards a man was seen throwing eggs from behind a temporary fence and, when one connected, a cry of “oi” could be heard. ...
After it was installed on a warm Sunday morning, a number of people stopped to take selfies. But loud booing could also be heard from passing motorists.
A pair of green groups on Thursday appealed the U.S. Postal Service's rejection of a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to uncover details about the mail agency's contract to purchase more than 160,000 new delivery trucks, 90% of which are expected to be gas-powered. ...
The groups are specifically pressing the Postal Service to release the proposal that Oshkosh Defense, a Wisconsin-based company, submitted before it won the lucrative 10-year deal to manufacture the new mail vehicles. ...
Last month, green groups joined forces with 16 state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit that aims to halt the Postal Service's agreement with Oshkosh, contending that the environmental impact analysis underpinning the deal is so shoddy that it violates the National Environmental Policy Act.
With their filing on Thursday, Sierra Club and Elders Climate Action alleged that the USPS is "improperly withholding records" related to the Oshkosh contract, which is worth billions of dollars.
"As USPS proceeds to implement the Oshkosh contract over the objections of the White House and many others," the filing states, "it should not keep the proposal leading to that contract secret."
Sierra Club and Elders Climate Action filed their initial FOIA request for records surrounding the agreement more than a year ago.
Extreme conditions have fueled an explosive start to what’s expected to be yet another intense season of big blazes, with months to go before wildfire threats typically peak across the west.
Wildfires have charred close to 1.3m acres nationwide this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), outpacing the 10-year average for this time of year by more than 71%. Predictions for the rest of the spring do not bode well for the west, with the drought and warmer weather brought on by the climate crisis worsening wildfire danger.
“We all know it’s really early for our fire season and we’re all in awe of what we’ve already experienced,” said Dave Bales, commander on a New Mexico fire that is the largest burning in the US.
From a California hilltop where mansions with multimillion-dollar Pacific Ocean views were torched to remote New Mexico mountains burned by a month-old monster blaze, similar conditions set the stage for the fires, which fire crews are still fighting to contain. Exacerbated by the climate crisis, rising temperatures spurred dryness, turning parched vegetation into fuel. Gusty winds have complicated firefights, carrying embers and fanning the flames through the drought-stricken region.
The massive and deadly floods that struck South Africa in April were made twice as likely and more intense by global heating, scientists have calculated. The research demonstrates that the climate emergency is resulting in devastation.
Catastrophic floods and landslides hit the South African provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape on 11 April following exceptionally heavy rainfall.
The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa called the floods a “catastrophe of enormous proportions” and “the biggest tragedy we have ever seen”, later declaring a national state of disaster. At least 453 people were killed and the port of Durban, the largest in Africa, was closed, causing global disruption in the supply of food and minerals.
Other recent studies found that the heatwave in the Pacific Northwest region of North America in 2021 would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change, and that global heating exacerbated the extreme floods in Europe in July 2021 and the storms in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique in January.
“If we do not reduce emissions and keep global temperatures below 1.5C, many extreme weather events will become increasingly destructive,” said Dr Izidine Pinto, at the University of Cape Town and part of the team that conducted the analysis. “We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heatwaves are more intense and damaging.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.