The Evening Blues - 12-8-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues harmonica player Willie Cobbs. Enjoy!
Willie Cobb - Inflation Blues
"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do."
-- Samuel P. Huntington
News and Opinion
The world’s 100 largest providers of arms and military services recorded a combined total of $592 billion in sales in 2021, as per figures published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as part of its Arms Industry Database.
The figure marks an increase of 1.9 percent in real terms compared to 2020, and the seventh consecutive year that arms sales have grown around the world. Between 2015 and 2021, arms sales increased by 19 percent in real terms, according to SIPRI.
While the rate of growth for 2020-21 was higher than the preceding year, the institute reported a decline in arms sales as compared to the average of the four years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We might have expected even greater growth in arms sales in 2021 without persistent supply chain issues,” said Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, director of the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.
Arms companies have faced supply chain issues that have been exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war, SIPRI noted. Russia is a major supplier of the raw materials needed for arms production.
At a time of heightened militarization around the world, and as the U.S. and Europe continue to pledge billions of dollars in arms and ammunition to Ukraine, SIPRI senior researcher Dr. Diego Lopes da Silva said that “if supply chain disruptions continue, it may take several years for some of the main arms producers to meet the new demand created by the Ukraine war.”
What is the share of arms sales of the SIPRI Top 100 for 2021 by country?
South Korea 1.2%
— SIPRI (@SIPRIorg) December 5, 2022
Congress on Tuesday night unveiled the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), worth $858 billion, $45 billion more than what President Biden requested for the military spending bill.
The House is expected to vote on the legislation this week, and it could be brought to the floor as soon as Thursday. Once the House approves the bill, it will be sent to the Senate, then to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
The massive $858 billion bill represents an 8% increase from the 2022 NDAA, which was also larger than what Biden requested. The $858 billion includes $817 billion for the Pentagon, and the remaining funds go toward military spending for other departments.
Mainstream Republicans on Tuesday rallied behind a resolution sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to audit U.S. military and economic aid for Ukraine, sending their strongest signal yet that the Biden administration will face stricter scrutiny of its support for the war effort when control of the House shifts next year.
The measure, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was defeated in a 26-to-22 vote because of the unity of Democrats, who still control the panel and said the measure risked sending a message to Ukraine that America’s support for the war was in question. ...
Offering a glimpse of the upcoming fights in Congress, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the committee’s top Republican, said the administration should brace for “responsibility and accountability.”
“The era of writing blank checks is over,” he said, echoing a phrase used in October by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif), who is seeking to become the next House speaker. McCarthy later clarified that he supported aid to Ukraine but wanted to exercise more oversight of the assistance.
Kiev Pulling Back in Marinka, Condition Bakhmut Defenders Desperate, Energy System Close to Collapse
Oil prices about to spike?
Russian crude-oil exports have taken a serious hit since new sanctions and a price cap came into force earlier in the week, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that figures from two data providers on Russian crude both show a big fall, though their magnitudes differ.
According to one commodity-analytics firm Kpler, Russia’s seaborne exports fell by nearly 500,000 barrels per day on Tuesday, a 16% decline from the November average of 3.08 million bpd.
Meanwhile, TankerTrackers.com, which tracks sea vessels using signals and satellite images, has reported that Russia's crude exports fell by nearly 50%. With shipments from the Black Sea and Baltic ports accounting for most of the fall.
According to Samir Madani, cofounder of TankerTrackers.com, this is a notable drop rather than a blip, “Russian exports have been moving steadily up until now. The two biggest visible snags are in the Black and Baltic seas. Pacific and Arctic regions remain unaffected, at least for now”.
Analysts at StanChart have predicted that Russia’s crude production is set to fall sharply in the coming year, noting that the key unknown is whether Russia can transport oil to its major consumers (including providing adequate insurance) without using EU or other G7 services.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday that the US will increase its military presence in Australia in a buildup aimed at China. ...
Australia’s ABC News reported in October that the US will be deploying six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Australia to a base just south of Darwin. The US is building facilities to house the bombers, which are expected to be completed by 2026.
The US and Australia have been stepping up military cooperation since signing the AUKUS pact with the UK in 2021, a part of the US effort to build alliances against China. The deal focuses on technology sharing and will give Canberra the capability to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo Is Ousted & Arrested in Latest Episode of Peru's "Enduring Crisis"
Peru’s president, Pedro Castillo, has been removed from office and detained on charges of “rebellion” after he announced he would shutter congress and install a “government of exception” – just hours before he was due to face an impeachment vote.
The public prosecutor’s office confirmed late on Wednesday that Castillo had been arrested and charged with allegedly “breaching constitutional order”, after he was accused of an attempted coup and seen fleeing the presidential palace.
Earlier in the day, the country’s national police tweeted that “former president” Pedro Castillo had been detained, shortly after congress voted to remove him. The vote came after Castillo ordered a night-time curfew and the reorganisation of the judiciary and prosecutor’s office, which is investigating him for alleged corruption and influence trafficking – charges which he denies.
Castillo’s vice-president, Dina Boluarte, described the move as a coup attempt, and hours later was sworn in as the new president, becoming the first female head of state in Peru’s history. ...
In a televised speech, Castillo said he would temporarily shut down congress, launch a “government of exception” to rule by decree and called for new legislative elections. The move immediately prompted mass resignations from the cabinet, and accusations that Castillo had attempted to seize power illegally.
The New York Times is bracing for a 24-hour walkout on Thursday by hundreds of journalists and other employees, in what would be the first strike of its kind at the newspaper in more than 40 years.
Newsroom employees and other members of the NewsGuild of New York say they are fed up with bargaining that has dragged on since their last contract expired in March 2021. The union announced last week that more than 1,100 employees would stage a 24-hour work stoppage starting at 12.01am on Thursday unless the two sides reached a contract deal.
Negotiations lasted for more than 12 hours into late Tuesday and continued on Wednesday, but the sides remained far apart on issues including wage increases and remote-work policies.
On Wednesday evening the union said via Twitter that a deal had not been reached and the walkout was happening. “We were ready to work for as long as it took to reach a fair deal,” it said, “but management walked away from the table with five hours to go.”
Police in Canada have said they don’t have the resources to search a landfill to recover the bodies of two Indigenous women murdered by an alleged serial killer – a decision that has left the daughters of one victim “heartbroken” and angry.
But the prospect that the remains of the victims won’t be recovered has prompted disbelief and frustration from families. “They say they can’t search because it’s unfeasible. Is human life not feasible?” Cambria Harris said at a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday. Earlier this week her family was devastated to learn through a PowerPoint presentation that despite believing the remains of her mother Morgan were located at a nearby landfill, police would not conduct a search.
“Time and time again, our Indigenous women and brothers and sisters have to come here and we have to shout and we have to raise our voices begging for change and begging for justice for our people, and that is wrong.”
On Tuesday, chief Danny Smyth told reporters they investigators believe the remains of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Beatrice Harris are in Prairie Green Landfill, nearly seven miles north of Winnipeg – not the Brady Landfill, where the remains of Rebecca Contois were found earlier in the year. Smyth said the city’s forensic unit concluded in June that without a clear starting point to search, there was “no hope” of recovering the women’s remains. Safety hazards and the size of landfill also played a role in police making the “difficult decision” not to search. ...
“This tragedy is ongoing. Winnipeg is the epicentre of it. Realizing that this is a systemic issue … is important for Canadians,” Crown–Indigenous relations minister Marc Miller told reporters after meeting with Harris’s family, adding he believed that public outcry over the spate of disappearances “perhaps would be much greater” if the victims weren’t Indigenous.
The US supreme court heard arguments on Wednesday in Moore v Harper, one of this term’s highest profile and most contentious cases which has the potential to fundamentally reshape elections for Congress and the presidency. The justices appeared to be starkly divided along predictable ideological lines as they mulled over the power of state courts to strike down congressional districts drawn by state legislatures because they violate state constitutions.
Republicans from North Carolina who brought the case argue that a provision of the US constitution known as the elections clause gives state lawmakers virtually total control over the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections, including redistricting, and cuts state courts out of the process. The Republicans are advancing a concept called the “independent state legislature theory”, never before adopted by the supreme court but cited approvingly by four conservative justices.
The direction of questioning at Wednesday’s hearing suggested that three of those conservative justices – Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas – were open to the idea of adopting the theory, despite decades of precedent from their own court dismissing it. They seemed to have the slightly more tentative backing of Brett Kavanaugh, who was part of the legal team in 2000 that assisted George W Bush through Bush v Gore, the case that in modern times put the independent state legislature theory on the map.
On the other side of the argument, the three liberal-leaning justices were profoundly critical of the notion that state legislatures should be given free rein to control federal elections virtually unrestrained by state constitutions and judicial review from state courts. Questions from John Roberts suggested he might be seeking a more narrowly-drawn compromise position.
Which left all eyes on Amy Coney Barrett, the third of Donald Trump’s three appointees. Potentially, she might find herself casting the decisive vote. Though it gives little clue as to which side of the fence Barrett will be standing on when the ruling comes down, she did ask several probing questions of the lawyer representing North Carolina’s Republicans. She said that those pushing for state legislatures to be freed up from oversight had a “problem” defining their terms, and she questioned whether the theory had any bearing in legal text.
A last-ditch effort to force through legislation that would weaken environmental protections and fast-track energy projects has failed.
Joe Manchin, the fossil fuel-friendly senator from West Virginia, had attempted to latch the controversial deregulation and permitting reforms to a must-pass defense bill – after failing to get his so-called “dirty deal” passed earlier this year.
The proposal to attach his bill to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual appropriations bill that will be voted on later this week, was reportedly supported by Joe Biden and House leader Nancy Pelosi.
But progressive lawmakers and hundreds of climate, public health and youth groups opposed the move to pass such consequential reforms without proper scrutiny. Manchin’s legislation would weaken environmental safeguards and expedite permits to construct pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure while restricting public input and legal challenges.
The deal was ditched – for now at least – amid mounting criticism aimed at the Democratic leadership. Environmental groups welcomed the news, but warned the fossil fuel industry would not give up.
The “fate of the entire living world” will be determined at the Cop15 UN biodiversity summit, according to leading scientists. They said the gathering of the world’s nations, which began on Wednesday in Montreal, is “vastly more important than Cop27”, the recent high-profile UN climate meeting. “We say this because of the many dimensions of anthropogenic global change … the most critical, complex and challenging is that of biodiversity loss,” the researchers said.
The current rapid loss of wildlife and natural places is seen as the start of a sixth mass extinction by many scientists and is destroying the life-support systems on which humanity depends for clean air, water and food. Protection of the natural world, such as rainforests, is also vital in ending the climate emergency.
Cop15 aims to ensure the protection of 30% of the planet by 2030, as well as the redirection of $500bn in agricultural subsidies that support the destruction of nature.
The warning from scientists came in an editorial in the journal Science Advances, written by Prof Shahid Naeem at Columbia University, US; Prof Yonglong Lu at Xiamen University, China; and Prof Jeremy Jackson at the American Museum of Natural History. They said an earlier 10-year plan, known as the Aichi iodiversity targets, failed to meet any of its goals by its 2020 deadline, despite being backed by 196 nations. “Failure is not an option this time as Earth’s terrestrial, marine, and freshwater systems begin to collapse under the pressure to meet the needs of a global population that will soon approach 10 billion,” the researchers said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Willie Cobbs - You Don't Love Me (1961)
Willie Cobbs - Eatin' Dry Onions
Willie C Cobbs - My Little Girl
Willie Cobbs - Don't Worry About Me
Willie Cobbs - You’re so hard to please
Willie C. Cobbs - Mistreated Blues
Willie Cobbs - I'll Love Only You
Willie Cobbs - Don't Say Good-Bye
Willie Cobbs ~ Butler Boy Blues
Willie Cobbs - My Baby Walked Away
Dawn Penn- No No No (1967)
Bo Diddley - She's Fine, She's Mine (1955)