The Evening Blues - 9-27-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Tommy Brown. Enjoy!
Tommy Brown - Rock Away My Blues
"True revolution comes from true revulsion; when things get bad enough the kitten will kill the lion."
-- Charles Bukowski
News and Opinion
Energy and food bills are soaring. Under the onslaught of inflation and prolonged wage stagnation, wages are in free fall. Billions of dollars are diverted by Western nations at a time of economic crisis and staggering income inequality to fund a proxy war in Ukraine. The liberal class, terrified by the rise of neo-fascism and demagogues such as Donald Trump, have thrown in their lot with discredited and reviled establishment politicians who slavishly do the bidding of the war industry, oligarchs and corporations. The bankruptcy of the liberal class means that those who decry the folly of permanent war and NATO expansion, mercenary trade deals, exploitation of workers by globalization, austerity and neoliberalism come increasingly from the far-right. This right-wing rage, dressed up in the United States as Christian fascism, has already made huge gains in Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Italy, Bulgaria and France and may take power in the Czech Republic, where inflation and rising energy costs have seen the number of Czechs falling below the poverty line double.
By next spring, following a punishing winter of rolling blackouts and months when families struggle to pay for food and heat, what is left of our anemic western democracy could be largely extinguished. Extremism is the political cost of pronounced social inequality and political stagnation. Demagogues, who promise moral and economic renewal, vengeance against phantom enemies and a return to lost glory, rise out of the morass. Hatred and violence, already at the boiling point, are legitimized. A reviled ruling class, and the supposed civility and democratic norms it espouses, are ridiculed. ...
Economic collapse was indispensable to the Nazis’ rise to power. In the 1928 elections in Germany, the Nazi party received less than 3 percent of the vote. Then came the global financial crash of 1929. By early 1932, 40 percent of the German insured workforce, six million people, were unemployed. That same year, the Nazis became the largest political party in the German parliament. The Weimar government, tone deaf and hostage to the big industrialists, prioritized paying bank loans and austerity rather than feeding and employing a desperate population. It foolishly imposed severe restrictions on who was eligible for unemployment insurance. Millions of Germans went hungry. Desperation and rage rippled through the population. Mass rallies, led by a collection of buffoonish Nazis in brown uniforms who would have felt at home at Mar-a-Lago, denounced Jews, Communists, intellectuals, artists and the ruling class, as internal enemies. Hate was their main currency. It sold well. The evisceration of democratic procedures and institutions, however, preceded the Nazis’ ascension to power in 1933. The Reichstag, the German Parliament, was as dysfunctional as the U.S. Congress. The Socialist leader Friedrich Ebert, president from 1919 until 1925, and later Heinrich Brüning, chancellor from 1930 to 1932, relied on Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution to largely rule by decree to bypass the fractious Parliament. Article 48, which granted the president the right in an emergency to issue decrees, was “a trapdoor through which Germany could fall into dictatorship,” historian Benjamin Carter Hett writes.
Article 48 was the Weimar equivalent of the executive orders liberally used by Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, to bypass our own legislative impasses. As in 1930s Germany, our courts — especially the Supreme Court — have been seized by extremists. The press has bifurcated into antagonistic tribes where lies and truth are indistinguishable, and opposing sides are demonized. There is little dialogue or compromise, the twin pillars of a democratic system. The two ruling parties slavishly serve the dictates of the war industry, global corporations and the oligarchy, to which it has given huge tax cuts. It has established the most pervasive and intrusive system of government surveillance in human history. It runs the largest prison system in the world. It has militarized the police. Democrats are as culpable as Republicans.
The step from dysfunctional democracy to full blown fascism was, and will again be, a small one. The hatred for the ruling class, embodied by the establishment Republican and Democratic parties, which have merged into one ruling party, is nearly universal. ... At the heart of the problem is a loss of faith in traditional forms of government and democratic solutions. Fascism in the 1930s succeeded, as Peter Drucker observed, not because people believed its conspiracy theories and lies but in spite of the fact that they saw through them. Fascism thrived in the face of “a hostile press, a hostile radio, a hostile cinema, a hostile church, and a hostile government which untiringly pointed out the Nazi lies, the Nazi inconsistency, the unattainability of their promises, and the dangers and folly of their course.” He added, “nobody would have been a Nazi if rational belief in the Nazi promises had been a prerequisite.” ...
We have seen this movie before.
Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday granting Russian citizenship to the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Snowden, 39, a former US intelligence contractor, has been living in Russia since 2013 to escape prosecution in the US after leaking secret files, published by the Guardian, that revealed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the US National Security Agency.
In 2020, Snowden said that he and his then-pregnant wife were applying for Russian citizenship in order not to be separated from their future son in an era of pandemics and closed borders. Russia granted him permanent residency rights the same year, paving the way for him to obtain Russian citizenship.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our sons,” Snowden, whose name appeared on a list of 72 foreign-born individuals for whom Putin was granting citizenship, said on Monday. “After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little stability will make a difference for my family. I pray for privacy for them—and for us all.”
Israel has declared the case closed. The US state department has done its best to duck difficult questions. But leading members of the US Congress are refusing to drop demands for a proper accounting of the death of the Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, four months ago.
The longest-serving member of the US Senate, Patrick Leahy, recently upped the ante by warning that Israel’s failure to fully explain the Al-Jazeera reporter’s killing could jeopardize America’s huge military aid to the Jewish state under a law he sponsored 25 years ago cutting weapons supplies to countries that abuse human rights.
Nearly half of the Democratic members of the Senate have signed a letter calling into question Israel’s claim that Abu Akleh was accidentally shot by a soldier. The letter suggests she may have been targeted because she was a journalist.
The Biden administration is also facing a flurry of legislative amendments and letters from members of Congress demanding that the state department reveal what it knows about Abu Akleh’s death and that the FBI launch an independent investigation.
Few think there is much prospect of the US actually cutting its $3.8bn a year in military aid to Israel in the near future, but it is politically significant that so many senior Democrats have signed on to publicly challenge Israel, which has frequently been able to count on solid bipartisan support in America.
Although criticism has focused on Abu Akleh’s death, the demands for accountability come as Israeli killings of Palestinians have escalated while Jewish settlers in the West Bank appear to have been given free rein at times to attack Palestinians and take over their land.
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League, has promised that his alliance with Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy will deliver a long-lasting government, as Italians begin to digest the outcome of an election that will bring about the country’s most rightwing government since the end of the second world war.
Final results gave the coalition control of both houses of parliament with 44% of the vote and confirmed a swing in the balance of power in the Italian far right towards Meloni as her party made spectacular gains in the League’s northern strongholds of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Meloni is expected to be given a mandate from the president, Sergio Mattarella, to form a government after 13 October, meaning she could take office by the end of next month.
Ministers have been struggling to prevent a full-scale loss of financial market confidence in its economic strategy after the Bank of England’s decision to rule out an emergency rise in interest rates prompted fresh selling of the pound.
Attempts by Threadneedle Street and the Treasury failed to repair the damage caused by Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget last Friday, with sterling falling to a record low against the US dollar.
Within minutes of the Bank saying that it intended to wait until November before responding to the recent turbulence, the pound had dropped two cents against the dollar and was within three cents of the record low of $1.03 hit in Far East trading overnight.
Some mortgage lenders – including Halifax, the UK’s biggest home loan provider – temporarily withdrew their products as financial markets predicted the Bank would need to raise interest rates from 2.25% to 6% to restore confidence.
Nomura, the Japanese bank, forecast that the pound would end the year below parity against the dollar while Paul Donovan, the chief economist at UBS global wealth management, said investors were inclined to see the Conservative party as a “doomsday cult”.
The French government plans to spend €45bn shielding households and businesses from energy price shocks in a budget focused on bringing down inflation. The finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said the increase in the cost of gas and electricity would be capped at 15% from January. Gas and electricity price rises are currently capped at 4% until the end of the year in what is known as the bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield).
Outlining key elements of his 2023 budget bill on Monday, Le Maire said it was financed “down to the last euro” and the government’s No 1 priority was fighting inflation at a time of unprecedented uncertainty due to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“The most important and the most urgent challenge for France and other European nations is to bring down the inflation pressure,” the minister told journalists on Monday. “We don’t want to increase taxes and we want to protect households,” he added.
Special levies on energy companies were expected to reduce the net cost to the country of the price cap from €45bn to €12bn. Le Maire said €3bn would be set aside to help French companies threatened by soaring energy prices particularly those “exposed to international competition”. The French state is the majority shareholder in EDF, the country’s largest electricity supplier – it is engaged in taking full control of the company – and has a majority shareholding in Engie (formerly Gaz de France).
Since the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court held in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the U.S. Constitution does not protect the right to abortion, many states have restricted or outright banned the procedure. But some states, like California, are endeavoring to enshrine the right to abortion in their constitutions. Although the California Supreme Court has declared that the state constitution’s right to privacy protects abortion, that safeguard remains ephemeral.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court established in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a fundamental right and a state could not prohibit it before fetal viability (able to live outside the womb). Just as the U.S. Supreme Court retracted the abortion right when conservatives attained a majority, California’s Supreme Court could likewise rescind the right to abortion if the court’s membership were to shift to the right.
In August, Kansas voters rejected an amendment that would have explicitly excluded the right to abortion from its constitution. On Nov. 8, voters in California, Michigan and Vermont will decide whether to amend their state constitutions to enshrine the right to abortion. People in Kentucky, on the other hand, will vote on an amendment that specifically excludes the right to abortion from constitutional protection.
A few weeks after the supreme court’s 24 June decision to overturn the nationwide abortion rights established by Roe v Wade, the pharmacy chain Walgreens sent Annie England Noblin a message, informing her that her monthly prescription of methotrexate was held up. Noblin, a 40-year-old college instructor in rural Missouri, never had trouble getting her monthly prescription of methotrexate for her rheumatoid arthritis. So she went to her local Walgreens to figure out why, standing in line with other customers as she waited for an explanation.
When it was finally her turn, a pharmacist informed Noblin – in front of the other customers behind her – that she could not release the medication until she received confirmation from Noblin’s doctor that Noblin would not use it to have an abortion. Since the supreme court’s elimination of federal abortion rights, many states have been enacting laws which highly restrict access to abortion, affecting not only pregnant women but also other patients as well as healthcare providers.
Noblin is one of the 5 million methotrexate users across the US and one of the country’s many autoimmune patients. Although she was eventually given her prescription, Noblin and other patients are now forced to grapple both with a monthly invasion of privacy at pharmacies that ask them about their reproductive choices as well as the possibility of being wholly denied the medication in the future due to restrictive laws.
For 60 years, methotrexate has been considered a cheap, standard treatment for nearly 60% of rheumatoid arthritis patients. It is also widely used to treat other autoimmune diseases, including Crohn’s disease, lupus and psoriasis. And, because it inhibits certain cellular functions, it has been used to treat a variety of cancers including leukemia, breast cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma.
But methotrexate also treats ectopic pregnancies, in which a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. Although rare, with only about 100,000 occurring annually, ectopic pregnancies are fatal for fetuses and can severely jeopardize mothers’ health. Therefore, the only treatment is abortion, and methotrexate commonly is combined with other medicine to perform the procedure.
When the first spindly, armour-clad carcass was spotted in the fast-flowing Nechako River in early September, Nikolaus Gantner and two colleagues scrambled out on a jet boat, braving strong currents to investigate the grim discovery. Days later, the remains of 10 others were spotted floating along a 100km stretch of the river in western Canada.
In total, 11 endangered white sturgeon have mysteriously died in a short period of time, blindsiding biologists, who are trying to save a fish teetering towards extinction. ...
So far, there are no obvious answers. The team hasn’t found any sign of trauma nor evidence of chemical exposure, disease, or angling-induced death. “Whatever it is, it affects larger sturgeon, not other species. It’s constrained to a place in time and space. So that gives us some clues,” said Steve McAdam, a biologist with the province’s ministry of land, water and resource stewardship. “In a way, it’s easier to rule a bunch of stuff out than to rule some things in.” ...
Before the mysterious die-offs, white sturgeon, which are listed as a federal species at risk, were already in trouble. Over the last century, the numbers in the Nechako River have dropped from more than 5,000 to only 500. Soon after a dam was built on the Nechako River in 1957, the species experienced what biologists call “recruitment failure” – new fish weren’t being added to the population.
Overfishing, drainage projects and dam construction have all contributed to the collapse. On all the rivers in the province where sturgeon once thrived, dams have crushed their populations. Only the Fraser River, the largest without a dam, has a relatively healthy sturgeon population in the tens of thousands. All of the 26 remaining species of sturgeon are now at risk of extinction. They are the victims of overfishing; in some species, like beluga sturgeon, the roe is prized as caviar. And the habitats they have persisted in are disappearing.
Florida officials issued a mandatory evacuation order to residents of Tampa in anticipation of Hurricane Ian, and leaders in other parts of the state are warning residents that similar orders could come within the next day as they brace for a storm that forecasters fear will be potent.
Ian moved near the Cayman Islands and closer to western Cuba early on Monday on a track to hit Florida as a major hurricane this week. ...
If Ian hits Tampa directly it would be the first hurricane to do so in a century, meteorologists calculate. ...
The storm was forecast to intensify rapidly and hit Cuba as a major hurricane – category 3 or above – late Monday, and then become an even stronger category 4 hurricane over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before striking the west central coast of Florida as soon as Wednesday.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Tommy Brown And Orchestra - Atlanta Boogie
Tommy Brown - V-8 Baby
Tommy Brown - The House Near The Railroad Track
Tommy Brown - Southern Women
Tommy Brown - Double Faced Deacon
Tommy Brown - Remember Me
Tommy Brown - Someday, Somewhere
Griffin Brothers featuring Tommy Brown - Tra La La
Little Tommy Brown - Won't You Forgive Me Baby
(Probably not the same) Tommy Brown - That Cat