The Evening Blues - 6-23-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters. Enjoy!
Muddy Waters - You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had
"The worst thing about the George W Bush administration is that it never ended."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Progressives expressed outrage after a House panel voted Wednesday to tack an additional $37 billion on top of President Joe Biden's already gargantuan military spending request.
During its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Armed Services Committee approved by a 42-17 margin Rep. Jared Golden's (D-Maine) amendment to boost the topline budget by $37 billion.
"Today members of the House Armed Services Committee put the demands of the military-industrial complex over the needs of the American people yet again," Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement.
"Granting $37 billion to a war machine that can't even pass an audit while saying that we 'can't afford' what American families and communities need is quintessential hypocrisy," said Weissman. "Congress can still correct this misstep—rerouting that funding into investments like economic stability, climate justice, and affordable healthcare for all Americans instead."
The House panel's increase comes less than a week after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to add $45 billion to Biden's $813 billion request, pushing the upper chamber's total proposed budget for national military spending in the coming fiscal year to a whopping $857.6 billion—including $817 billion for the Pentagon, $30 billion for the Department of Energy, and an additional $10.6 billion that falls outside NDAA jurisdiction.
During a speech Wednesday in which she explained why she voted against Golden's "unconscionable" amendment, Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Cailf.) stressed that "there are simply not military solutions to every problem."
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also voted against Golden's amendment and explained his opposition in remarks delivered from the House floor.
"If you're supporting this amendment, you're basically paving the way to a trillion-dollar defense [bill]," said Khanna. "Is that what we want in this country?"
"I just want to be clear," he added. "There is no country in the world that is putting over half its discretionary budget into defense and I would rather for us to be the preeminent economy of the 21st century by investing in the health of our people, in the education of our people, in the industries of the future."
Public Citizen, meanwhile, noted that the military spending increase approved by the House panel costs 10 times more than preserving the free school lunch program that Congress is allowing to expire "because it's 'too expensive.'"
Public health experts from the progressive advocacy group have also spent more than a year urging the U.S. to ramp up vaccine manufacturing and inoculate the world against the coronavirus with an investment of just $25 billion, or roughly 3% of the nation's annual military budget. ...
Roughly 55% of all Pentagon spending went to private sector military contractors from FY 2002 to FY 2021, according to Stephen Semler of the Security Policy Reform Institute. "If this privatization of funds rate over the last 20 years holds," Semler wrote in December, arms dealers will gobble up an estimated $407 billion in public money in FY 2022.
While the NATO powers are escalating the proxy war in Ukraine against Russia, the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) is threatening Moscow with the use of nuclear weapons. According to a report in the Bild newspaper, the Air Force head Ingo Gerhartz stated at the Kiel International Seapower Symposium on Friday:
“For credible deterrence, we need both the means and the political will to implement nuclear deterrence if necessary.” According to the newspaper, he added threateningly, “Putin, don’t mess with us! By 2030, Europeans will have 600 modern fighter jets in the Baltic Sea region. Then there are the Americans’ planes.”
The fact that a German general is openly threatening to use nuclear weapons against Russia must be taken as a serious warning. Seventy-seven years after the fall of the Third Reich, a fascist mentality is once again spreading in the ruling class. It is ready to commit the worst crimes once again in order to assert its imperialist interests. The Wehrmacht’s war of annihilation against the Soviet Union which began 81 years ago today and in which the Luftwaffe under its then leader Hermann Göhring played a central role, resulted in the death of about 30 million Soviet citizens. A comprehensive nuclear war with Russia would not only turn Europe into a nuclear desert, but it would also call into question the survival of all humanity. ...
Gerhartz leaves no doubt that the German military is de facto already at war with Russia. In an interview, he praised the rapid advance of the German Air Force in Eastern Europe. “After the Russian forces invaded Ukraine, the Air Force was the first to move its Eurofighters to Romania,” he said. They have “shown what the Air Force has to show, that we are fast.” The Patriot missile defense systems already “rolled into Slovakia one week after the invasion.” The general made clear that the Bundeswehr is preparing for a comprehensive military confrontation behind the backs of the population. ...
Gerhartz’s nuclear threats against Russia are not simply the testimony of a mad general but are consistent with the logic of war. With the systematic military encirclement of Russia by NATO, the imperialist powers, especially Germany and the US, provoked Putin’s reactionary attack on Ukraine. Above all, they are now responding to the deep economic crisis and the growing opposition of the working class with a further escalation of war, which literally provokes the use of nuclear weapons. Above all, the ruling class in Germany is striking out more and more recklessly and sees war as an opportunity to return to an aggressive foreign and great power policy after their monstrous crimes in two world wars.
Dramatic footage has emerged from Russia of what appears to be a drone crashing into an oil refinery and setting off a fiery explosion in what could be an attack inside Russia’s borders. Video shared on social media showed the unmanned aerial vehicle crashing into the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery, in Rostov, in what would be an embarrassing penetration of Russia’s air defence systems in its ongoing war in Ukraine. ...
Vasily Golubev, the governor of Russia’s Rostov region, appeared to confirm the incident, writing that fragments of two drones had been found on the territory of the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery, where a large fire broke out on Wednesday morning.
A British man sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court for fighting in Ukraine has been told the execution will be carried out, his family have said.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were sentenced on charges of “terrorism” by a court that is not internationally recognised earlier this month in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
The former care worker, originally from Newark in Nottinghamshire, told his family that his captors claimed there had been no attempt by UK officials to negotiate on his behalf. His family said they had spoken to him in a phone call, in which he said he had been told that “time is running out” by his captors.
Food Shortage or Economic Crisis? Experts Say Poverty & Capitalism Are Real Drivers of Global Hunger
Violent protests against the economic policies of Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso have paralysed the country’s capital and other regions, but the government on Wednesday rejected their conditions for dialogue.
Quito is experiencing food and fuel shortages after 10 days of demonstrations in which protesters at times have clashed with police. After officials rejected the conditions for negotiations, the United States government issued an advisory urging travellers to reconsider visiting the country due to “civil unrest and crime”.
The demonstrations led primarily by the Indigenous organization Conaie, began on 14 June to demand that gasoline prices be cut by 45 cents a gallon to $2.10, price controls for agricultural products and a larger budget for education. The protests began with peaceful roadblocks but levels of violence have escalated in parts of the country, including the capital, Quito, prompting conservative ex-banker Lasso to decree a state of exception in six provinces.
The Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza on Tuesday demanded – among other things – that the government eliminate the emergency decree and remove the military and police presence around places where protesters have gathered in Quito.
But the minister of government on Wednesday said the government could not lift the state of emergency because it would leave “the capital defenseless”.
Powell, the lackey of the bankers, vows to continue bludgeoning the working classes until the rich agree to lower prices.
The Federal Reserve will keep raising rates until it sees “compelling evidence” that inflation is coming down, the Fed chair, Jerome Powell, told Congress on Wednesday.
The US is wrestling with rates of inflation unseen in 40 years and Powell warned that “further surprises could be in store”.
“Over coming months, we will be looking for compelling evidence that inflation is moving down,” Powell said. “We have both the tools we need and the resolve it will take to restore price stability.”
Last week the Fed raised interest rates by 0.75 percentage-points – the largest hike since 1994. Powell and other Fed officials have signaled that further outsized increases are in the works as they try to drive inflation down to their 2% target from the current annual rate of 8.6%.
The Fed’s benchmark federal-funds rate is currently in a range between 1.5% and 1.75% and expected to rise above 3% this year. The increase has already led to a spike in mortgage costs. A 30-year fixed-rate loan now costs close to 6%, up from 3.25% at the start of the year.
The asshole of America speaks:
Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said the US jobless rate would need to rise above 5% for a sustained period in order to curb inflation that’s running at the hottest pace in four decades.
“We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation -- in other words, we need two years of 7.5% unemployment or five years of 6% unemployment or one year of 10% unemployment,” said Summers said in a speech in London Monday. “There are numbers that are remarkably discouraging relative to the Fed Reserve view.”
Joe Biden will call on Congress today to temporarily suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes in an attempt to quell voter anger at the surging cost of fuel.
In a speech on Wednesday afternoon, Biden is expected to ask the House to pause the federal taxes – about 18¢ a gallon for gas and 24¢ a gallon for diesel – until the end of September.
Biden will also call on states to suspend local fuel taxes and urge oil refining companies to increase capacity – just days after accusing executives of profiteering and “worsening the pain” for consumers.
If all the measures Biden will call for are adopted, prices could drop by about $1 a gallon at the pumps, according to senior officials who briefed CNN, although energy experts have questioned the effectiveness of gas tax holidays.
As President Joe Biden on Wednesday prepares to urge Congress to temporarily suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes in a bid to ease pain at the pump, progressives are calling instead for the passage of Democratic lawmakers' overwhelmingly popular bill to impose a windfall profits tax on Big Oil.
"Congress should take the president's call and answer it with the windfall profits tax legislation already proposed in the House and Senate," Jamie Henn, a spokesperson for the Stop the Oil Profiteering (STOP) campaign, wrote on social media. "A windfall tax would get more relief to more people by penalizing the Big Oil profiteering that's driving up prices." ...
According to Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and other critics, a three-month gas tax holiday would do little to help consumers while taking away an estimated $10 billion in revenue used to fund highway repair, mass transit, and environmental remediation.
"I'm shaking my head," Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told Politico Wednesday. "Oil companies and gas stations will pocket most of the money and won't even send President Biden a thank you card. Consumers will get no meaningful relief from this, it will just starve our highway trust fund of revenues. I had hoped better ideas would prevail—like consumer rebates or vouchers for free public transit."
Authorities in Brooklyn Center, a city in the suburbs of Minneapolis, have agreed to pay $3.2m to the family of Daunte Wright, a Black man shot dead by a police officer who said she confused her gun with her Taser.
The tentative settlement also includes changes in police policies and training involving traffic stops like the one that resulted in Wright’s death, according to a statement from attorneys representing Wright’s family.
Wright, 20, was killed in April 2021. He was shot once in the chest by the officer, Kim Potter, who is white, after being stopped for expired registration tags.
The former officer was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison.
An environment group has launched a legal bid to halt a $16bn gas development in Western Australia, arguing the effect of its greenhouse gas emissions on the Great Barrier Reef will be significant and should be assessed under national environment law.
Documents lodged by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) in the federal court on Tuesday said Woodside’s Scarborough gas project would likely affect the 2,300km reef system’s world and natural heritage values by adding to mass coral bleaching. ... ACF said the project’s effect on the reef meant it should lose a legal exemption from national environment laws granted to projects assessed by Nopsema, and instead be considered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act by the federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek.
The case is the latest in a growing list testing the approval of Australian fossil fuel developments based on their projected contribution to global heating. Scarborough has become a rallying point for climate campaigners who cite a warning from scientists and the International Energy Agency that the world cannot afford new large fossil fuel projects if it is to avoid a worsening climate crisis. It involves opening an untapped gas field 375km off WA’s Pilbara coast and connecting it via a pipeline to an expanded liquified natural gas processing plant near the town of Karratha. The bulk of the LNG would be exported and burned in Asia.
Researchers at Climate Analytics have estimated gas from the development could lead to 1.37bn tonnes of carbon dioxide – more than three times Australia’s annual emissions – being released into the atmosphere over 25 years.
Only a “massive” and immediate scaling-up of funds and humanitarian relief can save Somalia from famine, a UN spokesperson has warned, as aid workers report children starving to death “before our eyes” amid rapidly escalating levels of malnutrition.
In a message to G7 leaders who are meeting from Sunday in Germany, Michael Dunford, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) regional director for east Africa, said governments had to donate urgently and generously if there was to be any hope of avoiding catastrophe in the Horn of Africa country.
“We need money and we need it now,” said Dunford. “Will we able to avert [a famine in Somalia]? Unless there is … a massive scaling-up from right now, it won’t be possible, quite frankly. The only way, at this point, is if there is a massive investment in humanitarian relief, and all the stakeholders, all the partners, come together to try to avert this.”
The Horn of Africa has suffered four consecutive failed rainy seasons and is experiencing its worst drought in four decades, a climate shock exacerbated by ongoing conflict and price rises caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Across the whole of east Africa, 89 million people are now considered “acutely food insecure” by the WFP, a number that has grown by almost 90% in the past year.
“Unfortunately, I do not see [that rate of growth] slowing down. If anything, it seems to be accelerating,” said Dunford.
Los Angeles could become the largest city to prohibit the construction of new gas stations, joining a movement that seeks to limit fossil fuels at the local level as part of efforts to combat the climate crisis. Officials in America’s second largest city, along with Bethlehem, New York, and Comox valley regional district, British Columbia, said on Wednesday morning that they were working on policies to stop the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“We are ending oil drilling in Los Angeles. We are moving to all-electric new construction. And we are building toward fossil fuel-free transportation,” said Paul Koretz, the LA council member who is working on the policy. “Our great and influential city, which grew up around the automobile, is the perfect place to figure out how to move off the gas-powered car.”
LA’s developing policy is a significant shift for the car-reliant metro area, which has been ranked as one of the worst cities for US commuters. If successful, Los Angeles would be the largest city to pass such a measure. Andy Shrader, a staff member in Koretz’s office, said the council member hopes to see the policy move ahead by the end of the year.
“Our daily bad habits are destroying the natural systems we depend on to exist. It’s really up to cities to turn around climate change,” Shrader said. “If you have lung cancer you stop smoking. If your planet is on fire, you stop throwing gasoline on it.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Rollin' And Tumblin'
Muddy Waters - The Same Thing
Muddy Waters - She Moves Me
Muddy Waters - I Can't Be Satisfied
Muddy Waters - Catfish Blues
Muddy Waters - Blow Wind Blow
Muddy Waters - The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll
Muddy Waters - Blind Man
Muddy Waters - Caledonia
Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live