The Evening Blues - 5-27-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Memphis soul singer Rufus Thomas. Enjoy!
Rufus Thomas - Walking The Dog
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
-- George W. Bush
News and Opinion
Worth a full read:
It was apparently a “gaffe” of the kind we had forgotten since George W Bush stepped down from the US presidency in early 2009. During a speech in Dallas last week, he momentarily confused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current war of aggression against Ukraine and his own war of aggression against Iraq in 2003. ...
Last week, the New York Times very belatedly turned down the war rhetoric a notch and called on the Biden administration to advance negotiations. Even so, its assessment of where the blame lay for Ukraine’s destruction was unambiguous: “Mr. Putin will go down in history as a butcher.”
But have Bush or Blair gone down in history as butchers? They most certainly haven’t. And the reason is that the western media have been complicit in rehabilitating their images, presenting them as statesmen who “blundered” – with the implication that good people blunder when they fail to take account of how entrenched the evil of everyone else in the world is.
A butcher versus a pair of blunderers.
This false distinction means western leaders and western publics continue to evade responsibility for western crimes in Iraq and elsewhere.
That was why in late February – in reference to Ukraine – a TV journalist could suggest to Condoleezza Rice, who was one of the architects of the illegal war of aggression on Iraq as Bush’s national security adviser: “When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime.” The journalist apparently did not consider for a moment that it was not just Putin who was a war criminal but the very woman she was sitting opposite.
It was also why Rice could nod solemnly and agree with a straight face that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “against every principle of international law and international order – and that’s why throwing the book at them [Russia] now in terms of economic sanctions and punishments is a part of it”.
But a West that has refused to come to terms with its role in committing the “supreme international crime” of invading Iraq, and has been supporting systematic crimes against the sovereignty of other states such as Yemen, Libya and Syria, cannot sit in judgment on Russia. And further, it should not be trying to take the high ground by meddling in the war in Ukraine.
If we took the implications of Bush’s comment seriously, rather than treating it as a “gaffe” and viewing the Iraq invasion as a “blunder”, we might be in a position to speak with moral authority instead of flaunting – once again – our hypocrisy.
The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO members are preparing a major new stage of the US-NATO war against Russia by using their warships to break the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports, creating the conditions for a direct shooting war between NATO and Russian naval forces. This massive escalation by the US and NATO is being billed as a “coalition of the willing,” echoing the words used by the Bush administration to describe the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Retired four-star General Jack Keane, chairman of the Institute for the Study of War and chairman of AM General, the maker of the Humvee military vehicle, called on Wednesday for the creation of an “international coalition of warships led by the United States” to secure control over the Black Sea.
“We… go to the port of Odessa and let the ships… pick up the grain that needs to be picked up and escort them out,” Keane told Fox News. “The other risk is the Russian Navy is there. They could see this as a provocation, and we could have a prospective confrontation.” He said it was “well within the risk profile to get this done.” Keane developed the comments of Admiral James Stavridis, who earlier this month said that the Black Sea would be “the next major front in the Ukraine war.”
Responding to an earlier version of Keane’s remarks, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial entitled “Breaking Russia’s Ukrainian Grain Blockade.” It declared, “A Black Sea mission to escort commercial ships may be needed to prevent a global food shortage.” The Journal enthusiastically agreed with Keane’s proposal. ...
Not even bothering to hide its cynicism, the Journal made clear that this major escalation would be “best planned and pitched as a humanitarian operation.” That is, a direct shooting war between the two largest nuclear powers would be “pitched” as a way to end world hunger.
The language of Keane and the Wall Street Journal dovetails perfectly with the rhetoric of US officials and those of its imperialist allies.
“There is really no true solution to the problem of global food security without bringing back the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets despite the war.” These blunt words by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres accurately describe the present global food crisis.
Looking at the world food supply situation, many experts see an imminent threat of “human catastrophe,” as World Bank President David Malpass put it. Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, characterized his outlook on global food supply problems as “apocalyptic” when discussing increasing food prices. This rise has led to the unfolding of two issues simultaneously: creating the threat of hunger and famine in parts of the Global South and hitting living standards in every country across the globe.
Even before rapid price rises surrounding the Ukraine war, more than 800 million people were suffering from chronic food insecurity — around 10 percent of the world’s population. ...
Faced with this rapidly rising threat of the deepening food crisis, the G7 foreign ministers met from May 12 to May 14 to finally focus their attention on this pressing matter. They issued a statement on May 13 expressing “deep concern” about the growing food insecurity, while pointing out the next day that “the world is now facing a worsening state of food insecurity and malnutrition … at a time when 43 million people were already one step away from famine.” But the G7 falsely claimed that the reason for this food crisis was primarily due to “Russia blocking the exit routes for Ukraine’s grain.” According to Canada’s foreign minister, Mélanie Joly: “We need to make sure that these cereals are sent to the world. If not, millions of people will be facing famine.”
This G7 statement deliberately misrepresented the present global food crisis. Instead of attempting to solve this crisis, the U.S, and the rest of the G7 used this opportunity to further their propaganda on the Ukraine war.
Officials in Ukraine have admitted that Russia has the “upper hand” in fighting in the country’s east, as Ukrainian forces fell back from some of their positions in the Donbas region.
Amid reports that Lyman, the site of an important railway junction, had largely been taken by Russian forces, Ukraine’s general staff reported that Russian forces were also advancing on Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
The governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said just 5% of the region now remained in Ukrainian hands – down from about 10% little more than a week ago – and that Ukrainian forces were retreating in some areas.
“It is clear that our boys are slowly retreating to more fortified positions – we need to hold back this horde,” Haidai said. Hinting at further withdrawals, he said it was possible that troops would leave “one settlement, maybe two. We need to win the war, not the battle.”
Separately, a senior Ukrainian military official conceded at a briefing on Thursday that Russia had the upper hand in fighting in Luhansk. “Russia has the advantage, but we are doing everything we can,” Gen Oleksiy Gromov said.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has called for a vigorous defence of the existing global order, but stressed that Joe Biden’s administration did not seek a “cold war” with China. “President Biden believes this decade will be decisive,” Blinken said in a China policy speech on Thursday. “The actions we take at home and with countries worldwide will determine whether our shared vision of the future will be realised.”
The Biden administration’s policy towards the world’s most populous country contained three words: invest, align and compete, Blinken said, adding that while the administration has devoted much of its resources to containing Moscow, Washington sees Beijing as a “long-term challenge”.
“China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order – and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” he warned in the speech hosted by Asia Society’s Policy Institute – delayed from earlier this month due to his positive Covid test result.
Blinken said that the administration will work with American partners and allies to preserve that international order, and double down on investments into research and development. The US will also attract the best talents from around the world – including those from the People’s Republic of China, he said. ...
Zhao Tong, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace based in Beijing, said that Blinken’s China speech on Thursday would not change Beijing’s perception about and its dealings with Washington significantly. “In Beijing’s view, the Biden administration has a darker heart than it is willing to admit,” Zhao said.
The People’s Liberation Army of China on Wednesday described organizing combat drills in the waters and airspace around Taiwan to send a blunt message to the United States over its “collusion” with Taiwan.
China’s announcement was short on details, and ambiguous as to whether such drills had taken place recently or were still to come. But it came a day after China and Russia sent bombers over the seas in northeast Asia, their first joint military exercise since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. ...
China has increased its incursions near Taiwan over the past year. Last week, on the day that Mr. Biden arrived in Asia, China sent 14 aircraft into the island’s air defense zone. Under Mr. Biden, the Pentagon has divulged more details about the sailings of American warships through the Taiwan Strait. Some analysts have worried that could lead to an accident that could trigger conflict.
On Wednesday, China described organizing drills near Taiwan as a “solemn warning to the recent collusion between the United States and Taiwan.”
“It is hypocritical and futile for the United States to say one thing and do another on the Taiwan issue and frequently encourage and support ‘Taiwan independence’ forces,” the spokesman for China’s Eastern Theater Command, Senior Col. Shi Yi, said in an online statement.
Twitter has been fined $150m (£119m) by US authorities after collecting users’ email addresses and phone numbers for security purposes but then using the data to target them with adverts.
The social media platform had told users the information would be used to keep their accounts safe, according to a settlement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Trade Commission.
“While Twitter represented to users that it collected their telephone numbers and email addresses to secure their accounts, Twitter failed to disclose that it also used user contact information to aid advertisers in reaching their preferred audiences,” said a court complaint filed by the DoJ.
The offences occurred between May 2013 and September 2019, according to the court document, with the information ostensibly used for purposes including two-factor authentication. But Twitter would then use this data to allow advertisers to target specific groups of Twitter users, by matching the telephone numbers and email addresses to the advertisers’ own lists of telephone numbers and email addresses.
In addition to the financial settlement, the agreement requires Twitter to improve its compliance practices. The complaint said the misrepresentations violated the FTC Act and a 2011 settlement with the agency.
Donald Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump have been ordered to testify in a New York state civil investigation of their business affairs.
The state attorney general, Letitia James, said: “A court has once again ruled in our favor and ordered Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump to appear before my office to testify under oath.”
“Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law.”
James is a Democrat. Trump, a Republican, has claimed James’s investigation of suspected tax-related offences at the Trump Organization is politically motivated and a “witch-hunt”.
Any day now, a federal district court is expected to deliver a ruling that would allow a historic climate change lawsuit to proceed to trial. If and when the case moves forward, however, it faces a major obstacle: President Joe Biden’s Justice Department.
The lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, was brought by 21 young plaintiffs in 2015 and seeks to establish a federal, constitutional right to a livable planet. If the case is successful, any federal policies that enable more fossil fuel development could be challenged as unconstitutional.
But the Obama and Trump administrations both vehemently fought the lawsuit, and now those close to the case say that Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated it will also use every procedural tool at its disposal to prevent the lawsuit from ever getting a trial.
“I have asked [them] very directly, if we win this motion, and we can move forward with the case, do you intend to go to trial?” Julia Olson, the lead plaintiff’s lawyer, told The Lever. “Their response has always been something along the lines of, ‘It is our position that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction and that this case should never go to trial.’”
Individuals in rich countries face huge financial losses if climate action slashes the value of fossil fuel assets, a study shows, despite many oil and gas fields being in other countries. The researchers estimated that existing oil and gas projects worth $1.4tn (£1.1tn) would lose their value if the world moved decisively to cut carbon emissions and limit global heating to 2C. By tracking many thousands of projects through 1.8m companies to their ultimate owners, the team found most of the losses would be borne by individual people through their pensions, investment funds and share holdings.
The analysis also found that financial institutions have $681bn of these potentially worthless assets on their balance sheets, more than the estimated $250-500bn of mispriced sub-prime housing assets that triggered the 2007-08 financial crisis.
The researchers did not predict if or when these fossil fuel “stranded assets” would cause a financial crash, but said the size of the number was worrying. The US and UK are by far the countries with the biggest potential stranded assets in their financial sectors. Overall, the study calculated that individuals own 54% of the $1.4tn oil and gas assets at risk – $756bn. Three-quarters of these people are in the 38 developed countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group. Governments and corporate creditors carry the balance.
But the proportion is much higher in the US and UK, where individuals own 86% and 75% of the potentially stranded assets respectively. In contrast, 80% of those assets in China are owned by the government.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said the rate of change needed to tackle the climate crisis was “so large that the rapid collapse of fossil fuel industries presents major transition risks”.
As BlackRock held its annual general meeting on Wednesday, 22 climate scientists and academics sent an open letter to a top leader at the world's largest asset manager, calling for action to align the firm's business with the Paris agreement's 1.5°C goal for this century.
The experts directed their demand at Philipp Hildebrand, a Swiss banker who is BlackRock's vice chairman and a member of the firm's Global Executive Committee. While several signatories to the letter are based in Switzerland, others are from France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
They wrote that despite BlackRock's recent climate pledges, it remains "one of the largest shareholders at many of the companies driving the climate crisis," and argued that as such, the firm "needs to be taking a firmer position advocating for energy transition."
"As scientists and academics, we are writing this letter to tell you directly that the facts are clear: New coal, oil, and gas development is incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C," the document states.
The letter continues:
The devastating impacts of the climate crisis are harming people around the world, from deadly heatwaves and floods, to fires, droughts, crop failure, extreme storms, and rising sea levels—as well as destroying entire ecosystems, such as coral reefs and the Amazon. Expanding fossil fuel production guarantees extreme events will become both more frequent and more severe, with immense costs in terms of human lives, livelihoods, and economies. The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions. This applies to us, as scientists, but even more to you, since your company is investing in companies pursuing and enabling fossil fuel expansion.
The experts also called out Hildebrand, noting that at the annual general meeting of Credit Suisse last month, "you personally had an opportunity to demonstrate that your and BlackRock's climate goals are more than mere greenwashing, empty words to distract from your actions. Instead, you failed to support a shareholder resolution that asks Credit Suisse to reduce its exposure to fossil fuel assets."
"Worse, BlackRock has argued for expansion of fossil fuel extraction to address the energy crisis emerging from Russia's invasion of Ukraine," notes the letter. "This war, rather than providing justification for fossil fuel expansion, demonstrates that these energy sources do more than threaten the stability of a livable planet."
"Mr. Hildebrand, you and BlackRock face a choice," the letter concludes. "For the stability and credibility of your company, we urge you to align your company's investment emissions trajectory to be consistent with 1.5°C, and to outline a clear path to eliminate fossil fuels. We await your actions, not just statements, at the upcoming BlackRock annual general meeting."
Some signatories—including NASA scientist Peter Kalmus and Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University—have been involved in similar calls this year, such as a letter pushing U.S. President Joe Biden to ditch fossil fuels in favor of renewables, and another urging educational institutions to stop letting the dirty energy industry fund climate research.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Rufus Thomas - Boom Boom
Rufus Thomas Jr. - Bear Cat. (The Answer To Hound Dog)
Rufus Thomas Jr. - Night Workin' Blues
Rufus Thomas, Jr. - Save That Money
Rufus Thomas - The Memphis Train
Rufus Thomas- Can Your Monkey Do The Dog
Rufus Thomas - Funky Mississippi
Rufus Thomas - Itch and Scratch
Rufus Thomas - [Do The] Push And Pull
Rufus Thomas - Breakdown & Funky Chicken