The Evening Blues - 8-3-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and saxophone player Bull Moose Jackson. Enjoy!
Bull Moose Jackson - Nosey Joe
"The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern: every class is unfit to govern."
-- Lord Acton
News and Opinion
Nancy Pelosi has landed in Taiwan for a controversial visit to the self-ruled island, offering “unwavering commitment” to supporting its democracy as already heightened tensions with China escalate.
Timed with her arrival, China’s ministry of defence said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been put on “high alert” and announced a series of targeted military operations, including missile tests in the waters east of Taiwan and drills encircling the main island for four days after Pelosi leaves.
China, which regards Taiwan as its territory, has repeatedly warned of retaliation for the visit. Shortly before Pelosi’s arrival, Chinese state media reported that Beijing’s Su-35 fighter jets were flying across the Taiwan strait. Taipei subsequently dismissed the announcement as “fake news”.
China summoned the US ambassador in Beijing to rebuke him over Pelosi’s “egregious” trip to Taiwan, state media reported on Tuesday night. The deputy foreign minister, Xie Feng, voiced “strong protests” over Pelosi’s visit during his talk with Nicholas Burns. ...
Some, including senior Taiwanese figures who spoke on condition of anonymity, expected any significant act to occur after Pelosi departed, to avoid a confrontation with US military assets. They also noted that a response could include punitive economic action. On Tuesday, Chinese authorities announced a sudden ban on imports from more than 100 Taiwanese food companies.
China is conducting its largest military drills around Taiwan in decades in response to a visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), whose plane landed in Taipei on Tuesday night.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it will conduct a series of military operations surrounding Taiwan, and announced “strong military responses” were underway as soon as Pelosi’s plane landed.
According to The South China Morning Post, the PLA said the response will include joint air and naval patrols to the north, southwest, and southeast of Taiwan’s coastline and airspace. The drills will also include long-distance, live-fire artillery shooting in the Taiwan Strait, as well as missile test firings in the waters east of the island.
America’s Taiwan policy hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years. For many experts, that’s a good thing. They argue that Washington’s careful balancing act between Beijing and Taipei, enshrined in part in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, has kept tensions low and allowed Taiwan to transform from a notorious dictatorship into a full-fledged democracy.
But Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) aren’t satisfied with the status quo. The pair recently introduced a bill, known as the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, that they touted as “the most comprehensive restructuring of U.S. policy towards Taiwan” since 1979. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Menendez chairs, is set to take up the proposal on Wednesday.
Some of the bill’s most notable changes to U.S. policy include increasing military support for Taiwan, expanding Taipei’s role in international organizations, and laying out a harsh package of sanctions to be applied if Beijing engages in any “significant escalation in hostile action” toward the island. ...
According to Michael Swaine of the Quincy Institute, the bill would undermine America’s traditional “One China policy,” under which Washington recognizes Beijing as the sole legitimate government of China and acknowledges that Chinese leaders consider Taiwan to be part of their territory.
“The document plays with words to seem as if no fundamentals have changed, but One China is in effect gutted,” Swaine said. “The One China policy has led to strong limits being placed on political, diplomatic, and military contacts with [Taiwan]. This bill, if passed and implemented by the administration, would add greatly to the existing erosion of such limits.”
The United Nations’ secretary general, António Guterres, has warned that a misunderstanding could spark nuclear destruction, as the United States, Britain and France urged Russia to stop “its dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behaviour”. At the opening of a key nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference in New York, Guterres warned that the world faced “a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the cold war”.
Citing Russia’s war with Ukraine and tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East, Guterres said he feared that crises “with nuclear undertones” could escalate.
“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” Guterres told the 10th review conference of the NPT, an international treaty that came into force in 1970 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict,” he added, calling on nations to “put humanity on a new path towards a world free of nuclear weapons”.
President Joe Biden, to his credit, did not come out swaggering at his press conference announcing that the CIA had just killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri. But he did make the dubious assertation that the assassination somehow "made us all safer."
In reality, this killing will not end the war on terror, and is unlikely to make us safer. And meanwhile, the Biden administration and other top U.S. officials are taking actions that do threaten our security.
The U.S. is still spending billions of dollars arming Ukraine against Russia, while numerous experts around the world are discussing openly how the war escalates the danger of a nuclear exchange between the world's two largest nuclear weapons states.
Another problem is that Biden spoke just as the third most powerful U.S. political leader, and second in line of succession to the presidency, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was about to land in Taiwan, deliberately provoking China in what looks an awful lot like the abandonment of Washington's longstanding policy of recognizing only one China. An increasingly tense cold war between Washington and Beijing may be on the verge of rapidly heating up.
Still another problem is that just hours before his Rose Garden announcement of the killing of al Zawahiri, Biden all but promised to give up his late and half-hearted effort to return to the Iran nuclear deal that Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. Instead, Biden imposed new sanctions prohibiting the sale of Iranian oil and petrochemical products to increase pressure on Tehran. Polls show 56% of people across the United States support the nuclear deal. And despite Israel's right-from-the-beginning opposition, even top Israeli military and intelligence officials have agreed that a return to the deal is far safer than continuing to reject the agreement, known as the JCPOA, since continuing U.S. sanctions will be met with continuation of Iran's nuclear program.
And yet another problem is that despite the pundit-driven discussion of whether the assassination of al Zawahiri represents the "real end" of Washington's Global War on Terror, that war continues. The U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan last year marked the end of the large-scale troop deployments that characterized most of the 20+ years of the GWOT. But the war was strategically modified, not ended. U.S. special forces are deployed publicly in Syria, in Somalia, in Niger and elsewhere. Unofficially CIA commandos are operating in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Drone and air strikes continue from "over the horizon." The war on terror—the forever war—isn't over yet.
In the meantime, Washington confronts 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the U.S. and billions more around the world, who all face a planet consumed with floods and fire, a raging global pandemic, escalating inflation, and rising militarism and refugee flows around the world.
Congress appears to finally be moving forward on a package of health care and climate programs paid for by raising taxes on the rich and large corporations. But this is a bare-bones, whittled down version of the once-transformative Build Back Better bill. It does nothing to expand access to affordable housing, childcare, or elder care. Nor are there any moves to cut the inflationary military spending that now amounts to 52 cents of every federal discretionary dollar.
Biden invoked security, safety, and justice as what al Zawahiri's death would bring.
But whatever people in the U.S. might think about the killing of al Zawahiri in the middle of the Afghan capital 7,000 miles away, safety and security are hardly likely to top the list. President Biden assured us that "people around the world no longer need to fear the vicious determined killer." But when most people around the world think about the "vicious determined killer" they fear, Ayman al Zawahiri is unlikely anywhere near the top of their list.
Biden's words would have had more power if he had been announcing a ceasefire in Ukraine, so that the killing stopped and the threat of war-driven famine around the world would disappear. Or proclaiming that the instructions for producing Covid-19 vaccines were now publicly available, so that global vaccine apartheid could be relegated to the past. Or revealing a new solution to the floods and heat and hunger of climate change, so that tens of millions of refugees and other displaced people could begin to go home.
President Biden told us "justice has been delivered." But for low-wage workers who've seen their paychecks shrink under inflation while their companies' stocks soar and their CEOs walk away with multi-million dollar salaries, justice still seems very far away. Killing al Zawahiri is unlikely to change that.
The forever war against terrorists has not made us safer. It has not cooled an overheated world or saved millions from pandemics and forced displacement. The killing of one terrorist leader proves only that the United States is willing to face the possibility of new cold wars, against either economic or nuclear competitors, that are rapidly threatening to spiral into direct conflict—even while airstrikes and drone attacks continue.
And finally, it must be noted, we still have seen no evidence confirming that there were no civilian casualties in the strike that killed al Zawahiri. Remember the August 2021 drone strike in Kabul that killed "only two ISIS terrorists"—but turned out to have targeted only a humanitarian aid worker transporting water, and killed not only him but nine other members of his family, seven of them children?
The role of American intelligence in the war in Ukraine has been put under scrutiny after Russia accused the White House of supplying targeting information used by Kyiv to conduct long-range missile strikes.
Russia’s defence ministry claimed Washington was “directly involved” in the war, and had passed on intelligence that had led to the “mass deaths of civilians”. The US was responsible for rocket attacks by Kyiv on populated areas in the eastern Donbas and in other regions, it said. “All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement. ...
The Kremlin’s comments came after an interview given to the Telegraph on Monday by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s acting deputy head of military intelligence. Skibitsky said the US-made long-range Himars artillery systems had been extremely effective in wiping out Russian fuel and ammunition dumps.
He said excellent satellite imagery and real-time information had helped. He denied US officials were providing direct targeting information. But he acknowledged there was consultation between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials before strikes, so Washington could vet and if necessary veto intended targets.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, leaped on the remarks. She told the RIA Novosti news agency: “No other confirmation of the direct involvement of the United States in the hostilities on the territory of Ukraine is required. “The supply of weapons is accompanied not only by instructions on its use, but in this case they perform the function of gunners in their purest form.”
Peace campaigners on Tuesday decried the Biden administration's approval of more than $5 billion in missile sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a move that came weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden visited the leaders of both countries despite pleas from human rights defenders.
The U.S. Department of Defense said the U.S. State Department approved the $3.05 billion sale of 300 Raytheon Patriot MIM-104E missiles to Saudi Arabia, as well as 96 Lockheed Martin Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles worth $2.25 billion for the UAE.
The move came just after the extension of a United Nations-brokered truce in Yemen, where a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE is waging a war against Houthi rebels backed by the Iranian government. The sale's approval also comes days ahead of a virtual Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ministerial meeting.
Citing "persistent Houthi cross-border" drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said the proposed sales "will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a partner country that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Gulf region."
However, anti-war voices argued that such sales will only prolong a seven-year war in which more than 300,000 people have been killed, millions have been displaced, and millions more face hunger and disease in what's widely considered the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Reproductive freedom advocates across Kentucky and beyond vowed to keep fighting after a judge on Monday night allowed the GOP state attorney general to enforce a trigger law and six-week abortion ban.
The trigger law bans all abortions and makes performing one a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The other ban outlaws ending pregnancies around six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant. While both measures permit abortion if the patient's life is at risk, neither allows exceptions for rape or incest.
"For the time being, abortion is illegal in Kentucky. We plan to appeal this order to the Kentucky Supreme Court on Tuesday," ACLU of Kentucky spokesperson Samuel Crankshaw said in a Monday statement just after the appeals court decision.
"Kentuckians deserve better than extremist politicians who will risk your bodily autonomy to score cheap political points," he added. "No Kentuckian should ever be forced to remain pregnant against their will. Despite this setback, we will never stop fighting for your right to make the best decisions for yourself."
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Tuesday: "Kentucky is now a forced-birth state. They also have one of the highest maternal mortality rates and child poverty rates in the country."
The Biden administration’s Department of Justice is suing Idaho over the state’s near-total abortion ban, set to take effect on 25 August. The lawsuit is the justice department’s first piece of litigation aimed at protecting abortion access since the US supreme court in June overturned the landmark Roe v Wade decision that established federal abortion rights nearly 50 years earlier.
During a press conference on Tuesday, the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, announced the lawsuit alongside representatives from the justice department’s reproductive rights taskforce.
Garland said Idaho’s abortion ban violates federal law which mandates that medical providers offer emergency care in the face of serious health consequences – not just in life-saving circumstances. The law makes no exceptions for abortions, regardless of what any state law says. Under Idaho’s law, abortions are only legal for victims of rape or incest as well as to save the life of a pregnant person.
After spending months reviewing the 2020 election in Arizona last year, Cyber Ninjas, the firm overseeing the so-called audit said it believed nearly 300 dead people may have voted. It was one of a series of allegations the company made as part of an effort to sow doubt about the election results in Arizona.
It turned out not to be true. After investigating the allegations thoroughly, analysts found just one person who was actually dead at the time of the election.
“After spending hundreds of hours reviewing these allegations, our investigators were able to determine that only one of the 282 individuals on the list was deceased at the time of the election. All other persons listed as deceased were found to be current voters,” Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, a Republican, wrote in a letter on Monday to state senate president, Karen Fann, who authorized the review.
Brnovich added: “Our agents investigated all individuals that Cyber Ninjas reported as dead, and many were very surprised to learn they were allegedly deceased.”
Leaders of African countries are likely to use the next UN climate summit in November to push for massive new investment in fossil fuels in Africa, according to documents seen by the Guardian. New exploration for gas, and the exploitation of Africa’s vast reserves of oil, would make it close to impossible for the world to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
However, soaring gas prices have made the prospect of African supplies even more attractive, and developed countries, including EU members, have indicated they would support such developments in the current gas shortage.
The Guardian has seen a technical document prepared by the African Union, comprising most of Africa’s states, for the “second extraordinary session of the specialised technical committee on transport, transcontinental and interregional infrastructure and energy committee”, a meeting of energy ministers that took place by video conference from 14 to 16 June.
The five-page document, and accompanying 25-page explanation, indicates that many African countries favour a common position that would inform their negotiating stance at the Cop27 UN climate summit, scheduled for this November in Egypt, which would entail pushing for an expansion of fossil fuel production across the continent.
The document states: “In the short to medium term, fossil fuels, especially natural gas will have to play a crucial role in expanding modern energy access in addition to accelerating the uptake of renewables.” Member states of the African Union will meet again, in Addis Ababa, this week to confirm the stance to be taken. They are expected to argue that Africa must be allowed to benefit from its fossil fuel reserves, as rich countries already have done, and that developed countries by contrast must take the lead on sharp cuts to their emissions.
Environmentalists raised grave concerns Monday over newly reported details of a side deal between the Democratic leadership and Sen. Joe Manchin that would reform the permitting process for energy projects and clear the way for final approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry fracked gas through West Virginia.
The agreement was reached as part of an effort to secure Manchin's support for the Inflation Reduction Act, a proposed budget reconciliation bill that includes renewable energy investments, drug price reforms, and a number of giveaways to the fossil fuel industry. Because its provisions fall outside the bounds of reconciliation, the side deal must be passed as separate legislation.
According to a one-page summary obtained by the Washington Post, the agreement in its current form "would set new two-year limits, or maximum timelines, for environmental reviews for 'major' projects," a potentially massive victory for the fossil fuel industry that could also entail benefits for renewable energy production.
"It would also aim to streamline the government processes for deciding approvals for energy projects by centralizing decision-making with one lead agency," the Post notes. "The bill would also attempt to clear the way for the approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would transport Appalachian shale gas about 300 miles from West Virginia to Virginia. This pipeline is a key priority of Manchin's."
Specifically, the summary states the bill would require "relevant agencies" to "take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and give the D.C. Circuit jurisdiction over any further litigation."
As the New York Times notes, that move would take cases involving the pipeline away "from the Fourth District, where environmentalists had found success."
The emissions impact of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has been mired in legal and regulatory issues for years, would be substantial at a time when scientists say failure to swiftly rein in carbon pollution would have devastating consequences for life on Earth. One analysis estimates the completed pipeline would generate 89,526,651 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equal to 26 new coal-fired power plants or 19 million passenger vehicles.
The pipeline has drawn forceful opposition from local and Indigenous communities that fear the project will expose water and land to dangerous leakage and pollution. The pipeline's current route would carry gas across around 1,000 streams and wetlands on its path from West Virginia to Virginia.
"It's not a climate solution. It's a climate bomb," Jamie Henn, the director of Fossil Free Media, wrote in a Twitter post Monday.
"Fast-tracking fossil fuel projects and industry boondoggles will just throw more fuel on the climate fire," Henn added. "Democrats shouldn't be sacrificing communities in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline just to please a senator in the pocket of Big Oil."
No timeline has been formally established for a vote on the side deal, which would also restrict legal challenges to energy projects. But Manchin, a close ally of the fossil fuel industry and the top recipient of oil and gas donations in Congress, suggested in a statement last week that Democratic leaders committed to advancing legislation containing his priorities by the fall.
According to the Times, which cited unnamed people familiar with the deal, it is likely that Democratic leaders will attempt to "insert the Mountain Valley Pipeline and permitting provisions into a must-pass piece of legislation, such as the bill that funds the federal government, to maximize its chances" of final approval despite anticipated backlash from progressive members.
In a statement late Monday, Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen warned that hacking away at regulatory processes for energy infrastructure "prioritizes polluting industries and fossil fuel interests over people who are dealing with prolonged exposure to toxic pollution."
Since the text of the Inflation Reduction Act emerged last week, climate organizations have been grappling with the trade-offs in the bill and attempting to discern whether the good—historic investments and tax credits for renewable energy production—outweighs the bad, such as requirements for more oil and gas lease sales on public lands and waters.
"The world is on fire and Congress is attacking it with a squirt gun while giving Senator Manchin and fossil fuel executives more matches by fast-tracking oil and gas drilling and hydrogen boondoggles," Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel said Monday. "Drilling for oil and gas is no solution to the climate crisis."
Experts have offered varying estimates for how much the Inflation Reduction Act's passage would cut U.S. carbon emissions, with one analyst suggesting CO2 pollution could be reduced by 800 million to 1 billion tons in 2030.
Dillen indicated Monday that Earthjustice supports final approval of the Inflation Reduction Act, which could get a vote in the Senate this week. But she made clear that the climate organization—one of many groups that have sued to block the Biden administration's fossil fuel lease sales—will fight any "attempt to weaken bedrock environmental review laws when the time comes."
"In the meantime," Dillen added, "we must focus on what's in front of us and get the critical climate and environmental justice investments in the Inflation Reduction Act passed. Our planet can't wait."
Fierce heatwaves and a lack of rain in Spain threaten to reduce olive oil production from the world’s top exporter, the country’s agriculture minister has warned.
“If there is no temperature relief or rains in the coming weeks, this year’s olive harvest could be notably lower than previous ones,” Luis Planas told Bloomberg News. “The olives sector is concerned about oil production.”
Spain accounts for nearly half of global production of olive oil. The setback, along with continued disruption to the supply of sunflower oil from Ukraine, meant the prices of vegetable oils were likely to remain high, Planas said. ...
Kyle Holland, an analyst at market research group Mintec, said its market sources are suggesting that there could be year-on-year reductions of 25 to 30% for Spanish olive oil production. “There are also major worries in the market regarding the quality of the coming crop and what proportion of the crop will make extra virgin/virgin grades and how much will be classed as lampante [not fit for human consumption],” he said. ...
Supplies of olive oil are under threat as northern Italy suffers its worst drought in 70 years. Market sources suggest Italian production of olive oil could be 20-30% lower than last year. The drought is also expected to lead to lower crops of apricots, peaches and pears.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Bull Moose Jackson - Why Don’t You Haul Off And Love Me
Bull Moose Jackson - Big Fat Mammas Are Back In Style Again
Bull Moose Jackson - I Want A Bowlegged Woman
Bull Moose Jackson - Jammin' And Jumpin'
Bull Moose Jackson - I know who threw the whiskey in the well
Bull Moose Jackson - Sneaky Pete
Bull Moose Jackson - Moosey
Bull Moose Jackson - Cleveland Ohio Blues
Bull Moose Jackson - Big Ten-Inch Record