The Evening Blues - 8-9-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Otis Rush. Enjoy!
Otis Rush - Double Trouble (Live 1973)
“To my thinking there is no vermin in the world worse than a thief. Another takes what you can spare, but a thief steals the work of your hands, the sweat of your brow, your time ...”
-- Fyodor Dostoevsky
News and Opinion
Last week, Republican Senator Ron Johnson called for ending Social Security and Medicare as entitlement programs, instead transferring them into the discretionary budget where they would be gutted. Johnson’s proposal follows a similar call by Florida Senator Rick Scott, who earlier this year called for putting Social Security and Medicare up for renewal every five years.
Social Security and Medicare spending is allocated as mandatory spending, funded by workers’ payroll taxes, to prevent them from being pillaged. Transferring these programs to the discretionary budget would mean their abolition, slashing US life expectancy as millions of retirees die in poverty and from preventable disease. “If you qualify for the entitlement, you just get it no matter what the cost,” Johnson said. “And our problem in this country is that [mandatory spending takes up] more than 70% of our federal budget, of our federal spending.”
Yes, retired workers are “entitled” to these benefits, because they have been paying for them their entire lives. Out of every dollar workers have earned, they paid eight cents to finance their Social Security and Medicare benefits, matched by equal payments from their employer. But Johnson and Scott, lackeys for the billionaires that rule over America, are demanding that these funds that workers have been paying into over a lifetime of toil and struggle be stolen from them to make the oligarchy richer and to fund America’s new “forever wars.” ...
These senators have articulated as a positive proposal what has been a goal of generations of Democratic and Republican politicians, military strategists and leading think tanks. In 2010, Democratic President Barack Obama formed the bipartisan “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility,” chaired by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff in the Clinton administration. The commission called for slashing funding for Social Security and Medicare. On the basis of its proposals, the federal government oversaw a squeeze on social spending at the federal, state and local levels, together with significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
Now, amid the social crisis triggered by the pandemic, the eruption of war with Russia and the conflict with China, America’s financial oligarchy is renewing its calls for the dismantling of these bedrock social safety net programs. ... While there is allegedly no money to pay retirees their retirement benefits, there is no limit to what can be handed out to defense contractors to fund the US conflicts with Russia and China. ... This massive surge in military spending is accompanied by a systematic effort to reduce workers’ wages with the aim of further enriching the financial oligarchy.
The United States will send an additional $5.5 billion in aid to Ukraine, made up of $4.5 billion in budgetary support and $1 billion in military assistance, to help it come to grips with the turmoil of this year's Russian invasion.
The $4.5 billion budgetary grant will fund urgent government needs including payments for pensions, social welfare and healthcare costs, bringing total U.S. fiscal aid for Ukraine to $8.5 billion since Russia's February invasion, the U.S. Agency for International Development said.
The funding, coordinated with the U.S. Treasury Department through the World Bank, will go to the Ukraine government in tranches, beginning with a $3 billion disbursement in August, USAID said.
It follows previous transfers of $1.7 billion in July and $1.3 billion in June, USAID said. Washington has also provided billions of dollars in military and security support.
The Russian-installed head of the occupied part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region signed a decree on Monday providing for a referendum on joining Russia, in the latest sign that Moscow is moving ahead with its plans to annex seized Ukrainian territory.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has ruled out any peace talks with Russia if the country proceeds with referendums in the occupied areas.
Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the pro-Russia administration in the region, announced the decision to kickstart the process during a pro-Moscow forum entitled “We are with Russia” organised in Melitopol, the largest city controlled by Russia in Zaporizhzhia.
“I am signing the order for the central election committee to start the preparations for holding a referendum on the reunification of the Zaporizhzhia region with the Russian Federation,” Balitsky said.
Roughly two-thirds of Zaporizhzhia is under Russian occupation, part of a swathe of southern Ukraine that Moscow captured early in the war, including most of the neighbouring Kherson region, where Russian officials have also discussed plans for a referendum.
The United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories says Israel’s air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip “not only are illegal but irresponsible”, calling for a diplomatic solution to the latest bout of violence, which began on Friday when Israel launched air attacks on Gaza City.
“The situation in Gaza is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis,” Francesca Albanez told Al Jazeera.
“The only way to secure the wellness of Palestinians wherever they are is to lift the siege and allow aid to enter.”
Israel has characterised the assault as a “preemptive” act of self-defence against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group and said its operation could last a week.
Albanez blasted the United States for saying that it believed Israel had the right to defend itself. “Israel cannot claim that it’s defending itself in this conflict,” Albanez said.
An Israeli Arab politician slammed Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday, claiming he launched the operation in Gaza in an attempt to win the upcoming Knesset election “at the expense of Palestinian blood” and criticizing the Israeli public, which he claimed had “lost its humanity.”
In a statement, Joint List MK Sami Abou Shehadeh of the opposition said that “recent election polls have upset Lapid and [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz,” adding that “they are trying to pave their way back to power at the expense of Palestinian blood.”
Earlier, in a TV interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Abou Shehadeh referred to the latest operation in Gaza — dubbed Operation Breaking Dawn by Israel — as a “war crime.”
The Taliban says it has not found the body of the US-assassinated Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, following a probe conducted after his killing.
Last week, the United States confirmed the killing of Al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan. ...
The Taliban's information minister, Zabiullah Mujahid, was quoted by local Radio Azadi as saying that the investigation launched at the site of the killing concluded that a body was not present at the time of the strike.
"Everything was destroyed, but we did not find a body there," he said.
The European Union has submitted a “final text” at talks to salvage the 2015 deal aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The revival of the agreement now awaits “political decisions” in Tehran and Washington after negotiators in Vienna agreed the text thrashed out between Iranian and European representatives over the past five days was the final text and could not be amended further.
The EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said: “What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text. However, behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals. If these answers are positive, then we can sign this deal.” ...
The US described the tabled draft as “the best and only basis on which to reach a deal”. ...
The first official reaction in Tehran was cautious, amid concerns the US would not deliver on the commitments made in the agreement. Robert Malley, the US special envoy in Iran who was also a lead negotiator on the 2015 deal, has been in Vienna over the past five days and has been consulted by the EU negotiating team. ...
Tehran has also been exploring the extent to which the US administration is willing to give binding commitments that any business contracts signed before the next US presidential elections will be honoured if a new administration in Washington again pulls out of the deal.
One of Colombia’s most feared armed groups has announced a “unilateral” ceasefire in the hopes of entering peace talks with the government of Colombia’s new leftist leader, Gustavo Petro.
The Gulf Clan, a notorious drug-trafficking militia, has unleashed a campaign of terror following the May extradition to the US of its leader – Dairo Antonio Úsuga, or “Otoniel”, assassinating dozens of police and holding large swaths of the country hostage.
The rightwing group said the ceasefire, announced by the group on Sunday, was an “expression of goodwill with the new government and its broad willingness to search for paths of peace”.
The offer comes as Petro said his government was “about to restart” negotiations with leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels, for the first time since the Colombian government broke off peace talks after the rebels carried out a car bomb attack at a police academy in Bogotá in 2019.
The two armed groups are among the largest and most powerful in Colombia, both wanted internationally for narco-trafficking.
The white father and son convicted of murder in Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting after they chased him through a Georgia neighborhood were sentenced on Monday to life in prison for committing a federal hate crime.
Travis McMichael, 36, and Greg McMichael, 66, received their sentences from US district court judge Lisa Godbey Wood in the port city of Brunswick. The punishment is largely symbolic – the McMichaels were sentenced earlier this year to life without parole in a Georgia state court for 25-year-old Arbery’s murder.
Wood said the pair had received a “fair trial”.
“And it’s not lost on the court that it was the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed,” the judge said.
The McMichaels were among three defendants convicted in February of federal hate crime charges. Their neighbor, 52-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan, was sentenced later on Monday to 35 years in prison for the federal hate crime.
Federal investigators searched the contents of Donald Trump’s safe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the former president said in a statement on Monday, the latest indication of an intensifying criminal investigation by the justice department into his affairs.
The FBI executed a search warrant around 6pm ET at Trump’s residence, which appears to have been related to an investigation into Trump unlawfully taking White House documents with him to Mar-a-Lago after his presidency, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Trump says MAL has been searched by feds pic.twitter.com/UEC5KE5pJm
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 8, 2022
Claims that Donald Trump periodically blocked up White House and other drains with wads of paper appear to be borne out in photographs leaked ahead of the publication of a new account of the 45th presidency.
On Monday, Axios published photos of folded-up paper, marked with Trump’s telltale handwriting, using his favored pen, a Sharpie, submerged at the bottom of various toilet bowls.
The photographs were released in advance of the publication of Confidence Man, a book by the Trump White House correspondent for the New York Times, Maggie Haberman, set for October.
Trump, described by Axios as “a notorious destroyer of Oval Office documents”, was the alleged flusher. But photographs of presidential White House toilet document dumps are possible evidence of a violation of the Presidential Records Act.
According to Haberman, the disposals occurred multiple times at the White House, and on at least two foreign trips. Most words are illegible, but one name that is clearly visible is that of the New York Republican congresswoman and potential 2024 running mate Elise Stefanik.
More than half of the human diseases caused by pathogens have been worsened at some point by the sort of impacts associated with the climate crisis, a new and exhaustive study of the link between disease and climatic hazards has found.
Diseases such as Zika, malaria, dengue, chikungunya and even Covid-19 have been aggravated by climate impacts such as heatwaves, wildfires, extreme rainfall and floods, the paper found. In all, there are more than 1,000 different pathways for these various impacts to worsen the spread of disease, a cavalcade of threats “too numerous for comprehensive societal adaptations”, the researchers wrote.
Global heating and changed rainfall patterns are expanding the range of disease vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, resulting in the spread of malaria, Lyme disease, West Nile virus and other conditions.
Storms and flooding have displaced people, bringing them closer to pathogens that cause outbreaks of gastroenteritis and cholera, while climate impacts have weakened humans’ ability to cope with certain pathogens – drought, for example, can lead to poor sanitation, resulting in dysentery, typhoid fever and other diseases.
“We are opening a Pandora’s Box of disease,” said Camilo Mora, a geographer at the University of Hawaii who led the research. “Because of climate change, we have all these triggers all over the world, over 1,000 of them. There are diseases out there just waiting to be unleashed. It’s like we are poking a stick at a lion – at some point the lion will come and bite us in the ass.”
The most awe-inspiring and exuberant birds are facing extinction first – let’s stop nature becoming boring
For decades ecologists have been warning about the homogenisation of diversity – species becoming more alike – in the living world. Now, researchers at the University of Sheffield have published research predicting that bird species with striking and extreme traits are likely to go extinct first. “The global extinction crisis doesn’t just mean that we’re losing species,” says the study’s leader, Dr Emma Hughes. “It means that we are losing unique traits and evolutionary history.” This shows that human activity is not just drastically reducing numbers of species, it is probably disproportionately destroying the most unique, unusual and distinctive creatures on Earth. ...
Many of the potential impacts are unpredictable, but bleak. As Hughes says, we are losing species that could “confer unique benefits to humanity that are currently unknown”. And we already know the knock-on effects of species loss can be catastrophic. The decline of vultures in India and the loss of their scavenging, carrion-eating niche has already had negative consequences for human populations, including the spread of disease. ...
Losing any species is tragic, but we’re also facing a decline in the species that inspire the most awe in humans. In short, we can expect the world to become “really simple and brown and boring”, Dr Eliot Miller, of the Cornell lab of ornithology, told the New York Times. More sparrows; fewer puffins. ...
This latest research illustrates what the often hard-to-imagine biodiversity crisis looks like: a less resplendent, less vibrant world. It is heartbreaking, yes, but galvanising, and an opportunity for focus and pressure on those in power. The vast majority of us don’t want to live in a world bereft of toucans and puffins. Or a boring world, or a dying world. So would politicians care to mention how they square the myopic focus on “growth” with a burnt-out, used-up Earth that is clearly telling us to stop?
Joe Biden on Monday toured parts of eastern Kentucky devastated by the worst flooding in the state’s history and pledged to help recovery, while his spokesperson warned that the climate crisis was having an impact on such events there and across America.
At least 37 people have died in the flooding since a deluge late last month that dropped up to 10.5in of rain on Kentucky in only 48 hours.
The US president said the nation had an obligation to help all its people, declaring the federal government would provide support until residents were back on their feet.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Otis Rush - So Many Roads
Otis Rush - It's my own fault, baby
Otis Rush - Crosscut Saw / Chitlins Con Carne
Otis Rush (Feat. Duane Allman) - Reap what you sow
Otis Rush - Sweet Little Angel
Otis Rush - Keep on Loving Me Baby
Otis Rush - Working Man
Otis Rush - Hold That Train
Otis Rush - All Your Love (I Miss Loving)