The Evening Blues - 8-12-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues slide guitarist J.B. Hutto. Enjoy!
J. B. Hutto - The Blues Got Soul
This is accurate: pic.twitter.com/UNqqr0uN0S
— Neil Oliver (@thecoastguy) August 11, 2022
News and Opinion
There’s a scene in The Usual Suspects where Kevin Spacey tells the fable of the mysterious Keyser Soze and how he became a crime lord.
“One story the guys told me, the story I believe, was from his days in Turkey,” he says. “There was a gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realized that to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.”
Spacey’s character describes the way the Hungarians came after Soze and his family to take over his drug dealing business, but the viciousness with which they did so was no match for the viciousness they are met with.
“Then he showed these men of will what will really was,” Spacey says, describing the way Soze kills his own family and then wipes out the families and friends of the entire Hungarian gang.
And what’s funny is if you carefully watch the way power moves in the world, you will see that this is pretty much how it works. The most vicious among us are elevated to the top, because all our systems are built in a way which elevates viciousness.
The US empire is able to dominate the world exactly because it has “the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.” Whenever I lay out my evidence that the US is the most tyrannical regime on earth, I’ll get someone conceding that this is true but arguing that the US only behaves that way because it is the most powerful. Any other government with the power of the United States would behave with the same amount of viciousness or worse, they argue.
And I always tell them that they’ve got it exactly backwards. The US isn’t uniquely vicious because it is the world’s most powerful government, the US is the world’s most powerful government because it is uniquely vicious.
The United States put an exclamation point at the end of the second world war by dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan, not because it needed to (it didn’t), but because it wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union. It then immediately launched into a succession of new wars and strategic operations of astonishing viciousness with the goal of eventually becoming the global dominator. It achieved this at the fall of the USSR, after which it immediately instituted a policy of working to ensure that no rival superpowers ever develop and began working toward “full spectrum dominance” of the land, sea, air, and space. All of the major international conflicts of our day are the direct result of these policies.
None of the people driving the imperial power structure which rules over us are in their positions because of their wisdom or kindness. Oligarchs get to the top of their corporate and financial ladders by being willing to step on whoever they need to step on to get ahead. Military strategists get to their positions by demonstrating an aptitude for military domination. Intelligence officials get to their positions because they understand how to facilitate the interests of the oligarchic empire. Politicians get to the top by displaying a willingness to serve imperial power.
And this principle tracks from the top down through the rest of our entire society. The only valuing system we have for human behavior is money, but what human behavior does money value? Competitiveness makes money. War and militarism make money. Ecocide makes money. Sickness makes money. Finite commodities make money. The entanglement of corporate and state power makes money. Propagandizing people into believing they need more than they have makes money.
What doesn’t make money? Kindness. Collaboration. Peace. A thriving biosphere. Health. Psychological well being. Political transparency and integrity. Decisions made to benefit the whole. Sources of energy that can’t be controlled by the powerful. Abundance. People being content with what they have.
Goldman Sachs asks in biotech research report: 'Is curing patients a sustainable business model?' https://t.co/My7QSINDHc
— CNBC (@CNBC) April 11, 2018
Money has no wisdom. The “invisible hand” of the free market will never value the better angels of humanity.
Pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in the valuing of treatments over preventions and cures. The arms industry has a vested interest in inflaming hostilities between nations. Ecocidal industries have a vested interest in ensuring that they remain able to rape and pillage our planet without legal intervention while offloading the cost of the consequences to the public. Monopolistic corporations have a vested interest in intertwining themselves with government power to protect themselves from antitrust cases.
Everything we ache for our world to be — the way we know it ought to be deep down in our heart of hearts — is subverted by the systems we have in place, which are all geared toward taking it in the exact opposite direction.
The world will never know peace as long as war is profitable. The world will never know health as long as sickness is profitable. The ecosystem will never thrive as long as ecocide is profitable. We will remain ruled by tyrants for as long as our systems elevate tyranny.
To have a healthy world, we’re going to need systems in place which elevate health instead of viciousness. Until then the gravitational pull of those systems will continually steer us toward dysfunction. Hoping we can move toward peace and harmony without changing those systems is like stepping off a cliff and hoping you don’t fall.
We need to move from competition-based models to collaboration-based models. Systems which value working in collaboration toward the greater good, both in collaboration with each other and with our ecosystem. Until we do, we’ll fall every time.
The Biden administration approved new arms sales worth an estimated total of $5 billion to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier this week.
In the latest sign that the administration is resuming business as usual with the two client governments, the State Department justified the potential sales of Patriot and THAAD missiles as necessary to assist in defending their countries against possible aerial attacks.
The notification of new arms sales came as the truce in Yemen was extended again for another two months in what has been the longest pause in hostilities since the beginning of the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in March 2015. While the sales would technically be in line with the Biden administration’s commitment to sell only defensive weapons to Saudi coalition members, the U.S. should not be providing these governments with weapons of any kind at least until the war on Yemen has ended. ...
Proceeding with these missile sales signals to both governments that they will pay no penalty for the war crimes they have committed with U.S.-made weapons in the past. Instead, their governments will conclude that the U.S. will continue to arm them no matter what they do if it can be spun as supporting their “self-defense.” The more support that these governments receive from the United States, the more reckless and irresponsible they have tended to be, and that makes any new arms sales potentially dangerous.
Much of the Beltway has been on vacation in recent weeks, doing anything they can to get away from the sweltering DC sun. But while wonks cooled down, U.S. arms sales to foreign countries heated up, with the State Department approving almost $20 billion worth of deals in little more than two weeks — that is, more than $1 billion in military sales per day.
One third of those sales went to Middle East autocracies, highlighting the contradictions of President Joe Biden’s avowed commitment to democracy promotion. As Lauren Woods of the Center for International Policy noted in War on the Rocks, these deals were likely years in the making, with Biden ultimately giving them “the green light to continue.”
“[A]lthough initially signaling a slowdown, this administration now resembles every other recent administration in terms of volume and value of arms sales,” Woods wrote, noting that the United States is by far the world’s leading exporter of weapons. “And this is true for countries with poor human rights records as well.”
The top recipients of recent deals were Germany, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Netherlands, all of whom purchased more than $1 billion worth of military equipment. Other notable buyers include Kuwait, Taiwan, and Norway, whose purchases helped bring total foreign arms sales this year to nearly $60 billion. But the largest beneficiaries were American defense primes.
As Bill Hartung of the Quincy Institute argued in Forbes, “the tenor of defense industry leaders has been to posture as defenders of democracy” given their role in providing arms to Ukraine. But “they fail to mention sales to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and the Philippines that have killed thousands of their own citizens while — in the case of Saudi Arabia and the UAE — spearheading an invasion in Yemen that has resulted in nearly 400,000 direct and indirect deaths.”
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said Wednesday that it had “completed various tasks” around Taiwan after days of military exercises but said it would conduct regular patrols in the area, signaling that Beijing will keep up the pressure on the island in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit. ...
The statement added that the command will “keep an eye on the changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, continue to carry out training and preparation for combat, organize regular combat readiness patrols in the direction of the Taiwan Strait, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” ...
Pelosi said Wednesday that the US can’t let China establish a “new normal” in its military drills around Taiwan, which are a consequence of her visit. “What we saw with China is that they were trying to establish sort of a new normal. And we just can’t let that happen,” she said.
Russia’s embassy in Egypt on Tuesday lashed out at Prime Minister Yair Lapid, slamming him for past criticism of an alleged Russian massacre in Ukraine in light of the past weekend’s fighting in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian terrorists.
In a statement posted on its social media accounts, the Russian mission posted a screenshot of a tweet that Lapid issued in April on the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where Moscow’s forces have been accused of slaughtering hundreds of noncombatants.
“Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it,” the tweet from April said. Lapid, who was Israel’s top diplomat but not prime minister at the time, explicitly accused Russia of war crimes days later.
The tweet apparently rankled Russia, which has denied responsibility for the Bucha killings and claimed they were staged. Russian troops have also been accused of other atrocities since invading Ukraine on February 24.
In Tuesday’s statement, the Russian embassy in Cairo sought to contrast Lapid’s tweet from April with what it said were his calls to bomb the Gaza Strip, where Israel engaged in a three-day conflict with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group that ended Sunday night with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
And it was on that day, at precisely that time, when irony died forever. pic.twitter.com/arYxehSyQQ
— Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) August 11, 2022
Protests—some of them massive—in defense of democracy and education and against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's coup-mongering were held in cities across Brazil Thursday, less than two months before the first round of the South American nation's presidential election.
Demonstrations took place in at least 23 of Brazil's 26 state capitals, as well as in the national capital of Brasília. Many of the protests featured readings of a pair of pro-democracy manifestos, including the "Letter to Brazilians in Defense of Democracy and Rule of Law." The missive, which has been signed by nearly one million people, was inspired by a similar 1977 document that helped bring down a 21-year, U.S.-backed military dictatorship admired by Bolsonaro, who served in its army.
During the reading event at the University of São Paulo (USP) School of Law—where large banners read "dictatorship never again" and "state of rights, always"—presidential candidates spoke out in defense of Brazil's electronic voting system, which has been the target of baseless allegations of fraud by Bolsonaro and his allies. The right-wing president, who is pushing for paper ballots, has threatened to reject the results of October's first-round presidential election if he loses under the current electronic voting system.
"Defending democracy is defending the right to quality food, a good job, fair wages, access to healthcare, and education," said Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former leftist president who is running again representing the Workers' Party and leads Bolsonaro by double digits in aggregate polling.
"[This is] what the Brazilian people should have," da Silva added. "Our country was sovereign and respected. We need to get it back together."
Bolsonaro mocked the massive nationwide rebuke of his rule, tweeting that "today, a very important act took place on behalf of Brazil and of great relevance to the Brazilian people: Petrobras once again reduced the price of diesel."
Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, has been rewriting websites its users visit, letting the company follow them across the web after they click links in its apps, according to new research from an ex-Google engineer. The two apps have been taking advantage of the fact that users who click on links are taken to webpages in an “in-app browser”, controlled by Facebook or Instagram, rather than sent to the user’s web browser of choice, such as Safari or Firefox.
“The Instagram app injects their tracking code into every website shown, including when clicking on ads, enabling them [to] monitor all user interactions, like every button and link tapped, text selections, screenshots, as well as any form inputs, like passwords, addresses and credit card numbers,” says Felix Krause, a privacy researcher who founded an app development tool acquired by Google in 2017. ...
Krause discovered the code injection by building a tool that could list all the extra commands added to a website by the browser. For normal browsers, and most apps, the tool detects no changes, but for Facebook and Instagram it finds up to 18 lines of code added by the app. Those lines of code appear to scan for a particular cross-platform tracking kit and, if not installed, instead call the Meta Pixel, a tracking tool that allows the company to follow a user around the web and build an accurate profile of their interests.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said it is considering adopting new rules to prohibit harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security, saying American consumers are often unknowingly giving up personal information ranging from their menstrual cycles to how they pray.
“Firms now collect personal data on individuals on a massive scale and in a stunning array of contexts,” said the FTC commissioner, Lina Khan, on Thursday.
The FTC is issuing an advanced notice of proposed rule-making to address commercial surveillance, the “business of collecting, analyzing, and profiting from information about people”. The FTC said companies are often incentivized “to collect vast troves of consumer information, only a small fraction of which consumers proactively share”. ...
Under the FTC’s existing authority to prohibit “unfair or deceptive acts”, it cannot seek fines for a first offense and it said that “may insufficiently deter future law violations”. New rules could set “clear requirements or benchmarks by which to evaluate covered companies”.
The public can offer input on the FTC notice and the commission will hold a virtual public forum on 8 September.
Workers at Starbucks have held over 55 different strikes in at least 17 states in the US in recent months over the company’s aggressive opposition to a wave of unionization.
According to an estimate by Starbucks Workers United, the strikes have cost Starbucks over $375,000 in lost revenue. The union created a $1m strike fund in June 2022 to support Starbucks workers through their strikes and several relief funds have been established for strikes and to support workers who have lost their jobs.
Starbucks employees have alleged over 75 workers have been fired in retaliation for union organizing this year, and hundreds of allegations of misconduct by Starbucks related to the union campaign are currently under review at the National Labor Relations Board, including claims of shutting down stores to bust unions, firing workers and intimidating and threatening workers from unionizing. Starbucks has denied all allegations.
More than 200 Starbucks stores around the US have won their union votes, with dozens of stores currently waiting for their election votes.
In the leadup to the US supreme court overturning Roe v Wade and thus scrapping federal abortion protection, Republican lawmakers across the country maintained an uncompromising rallying cry against abortions, vowing to implement a sweeping wave of restrictions in their states. However, since the highest court in the US overturned the ruling, many Republican leaders and officials have become more hesitant – or have even gone silent – over the exact type of bans they promised to enact.
As Republicans move towards an election season rife with internal disagreements within their own party and mixed public opinions on exceptions in abortion bans such as instances of rape and incest, many rightwing lawmakers are finding it increasingly difficult to implement cohesive abortion policies.
The phenomenon has been starkly illustrated by Kansas’s referendum last week, where the usually reliably Republican state voted to keep abortion protections in its state constitution, providing an unexpected boost from red state America to the abortion rights movement.
With delays in passing abortion bills across the US and contentious questions on how far the bans will reach, Republicans are now, as Sarah Longwell, a moderate Republican strategist, said to Politico, “the dog that caught the car”. ...
As Republican lawmakers grapple with mixed public opinions, many lawmakers have been divided over just how far they should go to ban abortions. With the recent case of the 10-year-old rape victim traveling across state lines from Ohio to Indiana to obtain an abortion continuing to dominate national headlines, many Republicans are realizing that the reality they are presented with differs vastly from their initial narratives surrounding abortion politics.
An armed man who tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office was shot and killed by police after he fled the scene, leading to an hour-long standoff Thursday afternoon, the Ohio highway state patrol said.
The man is believed to have been in Washington in the days leading up to the January 6 insurrection and may have been present at the Capitol on the day of the attack, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the matter. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The suspect was identified as Ricky Shiffer, 42, according to the law enforcement official. He was not charged with any crimes in connection with the January 6 attack, the official said. Federal investigators are examining whether Shiffer may have had ties to far-right extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, the official said.
Leaks to WaPo now claim "documents relating to nuclear weapons" were "sought" at Mar-a-Lago. No word on whether they were recovered. Taking this story at face value, the DOJ decided to wait a year and a half before tracking down the USA's most closely guarded nuclear secrets?
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) August 12, 2022
The US justice department (DoJ) has asked a court to unseal the search warrant the FBI received before searching the Florida estate of Donald Trump, Merrick Garland said on Thursday. The attorney general cited the “substantial public interest in this matter” in announcing the request at a hastily scheduled justice department news conference.
It was not immediately clear when – or if – the unsealing of the warrant request might be granted or when the documents could be released. Trump will also have a chance to object.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the FBI investigation, that classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items sought by federal agents in their search of Mar-a-Lago. Those familiar with the investigation didn’t provide additional details about the information agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons owned the by the US or another nation. Neither did they say if documents were recovered, the Washington Post reported. ...
In a brief press conference announcing the move Garland said he personally authorized the decision to seek a search warrant of Trump’s home and that the decision had not been “taken lightly”.
An entire building and roads washed away by raging waters in Yellowstone. People desperately swimming from their homes in St Louis. Dozens dead after torrential downpours in Kentucky. The summer of 2022 has been one of extreme floods in the US, with scientists warning the climate crisis is worsening the devastation.
The deadliest of the recent barrage of floods, in Kentucky, was described as “heartbreaking” by Joe Biden as he surveyed ruined houses and inundated cars on Monday. At least 37 people died after five days of pounding record rain washed down mountainsides and drowned entire towns, an event that scientists say is a once in 1,000 year occurrence.
Such extremes are no longer such outliers, however, with St Louis breaking its one-day rainfall record by 8am on 26 July, swamping city streets and houses, a disaster quickly followed by a similarly severe storm that hit Illinois. On Friday, Death Valley in California, a place known for its searing dry heat, got a year’s worth of rain in just three hours, causing huge sheets of flooding that washed away and damaged hundreds of miles of roads.
In an 11-day span, the US experienced at least four flooding events that would each normally be expected once every 1,000 years, or have a 0.1% chance of happening in any given year. Scientists say extreme rainfall spurred by climate breakdown is rendering many of these historical norms obsolete.
“We are going to have to change the labeling because these are not one-in-1,000-years events any more,” said Andreas Prein, an expert in climate extremes at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “It’s shocking to see all of this flood damage but it follows a pattern. These rare events are becoming more and more common and our infrastructure is just not keeping up.” ... Although flooding has always occurred in the US, the climate crisis is worsening such events, as well as making them more frequent. The federal government’s most recent national climate assessment found that heavy precipitation events have increased in the north-east US by 55% since the 1950s, with such events growing by 27% in the south-east, including Kentucky. The midwest, scene of the record St Louis flooding, has seen a 42% increase in extreme rainfall in this time.
Could a moonshot policy finally rid the nation’s most congested city of its incessant, noisy, polluting traffic? Soon, over a million drivers a day could be forced to cough up as much as $23 to enter midtown and lower Manhattan – a toll that planners say will raise $15bn to fund New York public transit while cutting vehicles in the area by as much as one-fifth. ...
The plan is called congestion pricing, and New York City is poised to become the first city in the United States to implement it. Similar policies have long been in place in cities including Singapore, which has had congestion pricing since 1975, and London, where a congestion charge has been in place since 2003. But in New York, a city synonymous with gridlock, the policy struggled to overcome opposition for decades before it was finally signed into law in 2019.
On Wednesday, transportation authorities released a much-awaited environmental assessment for the policy, an important milestone that explains how the plan will affect the city. “Bottom line: congestion pricing is good for the environment, good for public transit and good for New York and the region,” said the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) chair and CEO, Janno Lieber, in a statement. ...
Manhattan is an island connected to its neighbors by a network of bridges, tunnels, train routes and ferries. An estimated 7.7 million people enter Manhattan’s central business district every weekday – twice the population of Los Angeles, according to the report. Of those people, just under a quarter – or 1.85 million – enter in a motor vehicle. All that traffic has slowed travel speeds to an agonizing crawl: from an average of 9.1 mph in 2010 to just 7.1 mph in 2019. That costs the average New York City driver 102 hours of lost time every year. ...
The new study offers policymakers a number of tolling scenarios, with peak-hour tolls ranging from $9 to $23 per vehicle. In some scenarios, vehicles such as taxis and transit buses and would be exempt from the toll completely, while some other vehicles would be charged the toll a maximum of once a day. In another scenario, vehicles including taxis, rideshare vehicles, trucks and buses could be hit with the congestion charge every time they enter or re-enter the zone in a given day.
The thick layer of ice that has covered a Swiss mountain pass for centuries will have melted away completely within a few weeks, according to a local ski resort.
While the ice measured about 15 metres (5oft) thick in 2012, the ground underneath “will have completely resurfaced by the end of September”. ... Glaciologist Mauro Fischer, a researcher at Bern University, said the loss of thickness of the glaciers in the region will be on average three times higher this year compared to the last 10 summers.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
J. B. Hutto - Too Much Alcohol
J. B. Hutto - Things Are So Slow
J.B. Hutto & The Hawks - Dust My Broom
JB Hutto - Dim Lights
J.B. Hutto & The Hawks - Precious Stone
J.B. Hutto - Lulu Belle's Here
J.B. Hutto - Slidewinder
JB Hutto - Combination Boogie
J.B Hutto - Shy Voice
J.B. Hutto - I Feel So Good