The Evening Blues - 1-20-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Son Seals. Enjoy!
Son Seals - On My Knees
“Nobody today is nearly smart enough to make the sorts of weapons even the poorest nations had a million years ago. Yes, and they were being used all the time. During my lifetime, there wasn’t a day when, somewhere on the planet, there weren’t at least three wars going on. And the Law of Natural Selection was powerless to respond to such new technologies. No female of any species, unless maybe she was a rhinoceros, could expect to give birth to a baby who was fireproof, bombproof, or bulletproof.”
-- Kurt Vonnegut
News and Opinion
The Polish prime minister has said his country would be willing to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without securing Germany’s approval if Berlin does not agree to their re-export at Friday’s meeting of western defence ministers at Ramstein airbase.
Mateusz Morawiecki said in a radio interview on Thursday that “consent was of secondary importance” when it came to German-made tanks, because the key issue was to get military aid to Ukraine urgently.
“We will either obtain this consent quickly, or we will do it ourselves,” Morawiecki added, heaping further pressure on Berlin to allow German made Leopard 2s to be sent to Ukraine in preparation for a spring offensive.
His comments came as the US Defense Department formally announced new military assistance for Ukraine valued at up to $2.5bn, including armoured vehicles and support for Ukraine’s air defence. The aid includes 59 Bradley fighting vehicles and 90 Stryker armoured personnel carriers, but not Abrams tanks.
Poland, along with Finland, has said it wants to give 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, which would normally require German approval, but it is one of a number of countries trying to force the pace at a time when Berlin is still negotiating.
The United States will “likely” announce that it is sending long-range missiles with a range of over 100 miles to Ukraine this week, US officials told Politico. The weapons system, known as the ground-launched Small Diameter Bomb, is a rocket-launched maneuverable glide bomb with double the range of the HIMARS missiles Washington has already provided.
Seeming to confirm Politico’s report, Ben Hodges, former commanding general of US Army Europe, wrote on Twitter: “GLSDB (ground launched small diameter bombs) will reduce sanctuary for Russians. Life is about to start getting very uncomfortable for Russian navy, air force and ammunition handlers on Crimea, along the ‘land bridge’... and hopefully soon for repair crews on Kerch Bridge.”
Hodges’ statement implies that the missiles would be used to attack the Crimean Peninsula.
The announcement would mark a repudiation of Biden’s pledge in May that “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” and his declaration that “We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.”
The announcement is expected to be made Friday at the meeting of the imperialist powers funding, arming and directing the Ukrainian military, which will be held at America’s Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
President Vladimir Putin instructed Russian lawmakers on Tuesday to adopt a law that would formally end the country’s participation in 21 treaties and charters related to the Council of Europe. Moscow withdrew from the human rights body last March, claiming it had been captured by the US and its allies and only serves Western political objectives. ...
The CoE was established in 1949 by several Western European countries, with a mission to promote “democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” Russia joined the organization in 1996 and in 1998 ratified the human rights convention.
In February 2022, however, 42 out of 47 members voted to suspend Moscow’s membership, citing the conflict in Ukraine. Russia condemned the “openly political” decision by which the nominally neutral body sided with the US and NATO, and withdrew from the CoE on March 15.
In June, Putin signed a law that declared all verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights after March 15 null and void in Russia. Moscow formally repealed the convention accepting the ECHR jurisdiction in September 2022. The following month, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution urging member countries to declare “the current Russian regime as a terrorist one.”
Peru’s capital city is bracing for further unrest as thousands of protesters from across the country pour into Lima to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, after nearly six weeks of turmoil that has claimed close to 50 lives.
Two more people were killed late on Wednesday and another seriously injured in Macusani, a city in the southern region of Puno. After the deaths, protesters torched a police station, forcing officers to flee in a helicopter. In Lima, police fired teargas after clashes broke out with protesters.
Outrage over the rising death toll has powered the growing protests, which began in early December in support of ousted former president Pedro Castillo but have shifted overwhelmingly to demand Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of congress and fresh elections. Boluarte was Castillo’s vice-president, who replaced him after he attempted to shutter congress and rule by decree on 7 December.
Human rights organisations and the UN have accused Peru’s security forces of using disproportionate force in the protests, including firing live ammunition and launching teargas canisters from helicopters.
Edgar Stuardo Ralón, vice-president of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, detailed last week that a fact-finding mission had “received reports of indiscriminate shootings against demonstrators in certain regions … as well as other reports of shots aimed at vital points [of the body] with lethal and high-calibre weapons in violation of the principle of the gradual use of force.”
Following a storm of protest, Harvard’s Kennedy School has reversed its decision to deny a fellowship to the former head of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kenneth Roth, over criticisms of Israel.
The decision by the Kennedy School dean, Douglas Elmendorf, to refuse Roth a position at the school’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy drew widespread condemnation, including from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other free speech advocates, and hundreds of Harvard faculty and students.
Roth told the Guardian at the time that the move amounted to “donor-driven censorship” over HRW’s exposure of Israel’s human rights abuses and the group’s recent report accusing Israel of practicing a form of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories. Roth said he regarded the move as a reflection of “how utterly afraid the Kennedy School has become of any criticism of Israel”.
On Thursday, Elmendorf told Kennedy School staff and students that the decision had been a mistake and that Roth would be accepted after all.
“I now believe that I made an error in my decision not to appoint him,” he said in the email. “I am sorry that the decision inadvertently cast doubt on the mission of the School and our commitment to open debate in ways I had not intended and do not believe to be true.”
More than 1 million people have taken part in demonstrations across France as transport, schools and refineries were hit by strikes in protest at Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 64. The interior ministry said 1.12 million people protested nationwide on Thursday, with 80,000 taking part in the biggest rally in Paris. Trade unions said the figure was even higher.
Police made arrests on the edges of the march in central Paris amid clashes with officers in the early afternoon. Police said 15 people were arrested before the Paris march and 15 during it, for offences such as carrying illegal weapons or throwing projectiles. Shopkeepers around the Place de la République boarded up windows and shopfronts after the authorities warned of a possibility of vandalism after the marches or black bloc-style tactics.
Local and regional train services across France ground almost to a standstill, and public transport in cities including Paris was “very disrupted”, according to operators. Many primary schools closed for the day. Authorities estimated 40% of primary teachers and more than 30% of secondary teachers went on strike. Unions said participation was higher, at 70% in primary schools. ...
The 24-hour strike and protests in 200 towns and cities are the first big test for Macron since his re-election against his far-right rival Marine Le Pen last spring.
Macron has made the pensions issue a marker of his aim to transform France and overhaul its social model and welfare system. He insists he will deliver his key election pledge to change the French pension system – raising the retirement age for most people to 64 from 62 and increasing the years of contributions required for a full pension. Opinion polls have shown most French people oppose these proposals and view them as unjust, even if many agree with a need for change.
Sen. Joe Manchin provoked outrage Wednesday by suggesting congressional Democrats should agree to pursue changes to Social Security as part of a debt ceiling agreement with Republicans, an idea one advocacy group condemned as "negotiating with legislative terrorists."
In an interview on Fox Business—conducted at the annual gathering of corporate and political elites in Davos, Switzerland—the West Virginia Democrat said that "we have a debt problem" and argued members of both parties should "work together" on solutions. The senator singled out Social Security, even though the program can't by law add to long-term deficits.
While Manchin voiced opposition to GOP calls to privatize Social Security, saying such proposals "scare the bejesus out of people," he said Congress "should be able to solidify it, so the people who have worked and earned it know they're going to get it."
The problem, from the perspective of Social Security defenders, is Manchin's suggested avenue for reforms: Bipartisan congressional committees that critics have denounced as "a Trojan horse to cut seniors' benefits."
"Hell no to even a single penny of cuts to Social Security's earned benefits," the progressive group Social Security Works tweeted Wednesday in response to Manchin's comments. "Hell no to fast-track commissions designed to cut benefits behind closed doors."
Under legislation that Manchin has introduced alongside Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Congress would establish bipartisan "rescue" committees for the nation's trust fund programs—including Social Security and Medicare—and give the panels 180 days to devise "legislation that restores solvency and otherwise improves each." (Analysts and advocates reject the notion that Social Security is in financial crisis and needs "rescuing.")
The bills produced by the bipartisan committees would then be placed on an expedited path to floor votes in both chambers of Congress, with no amendments allowed.
The US supreme court said on Thursday it has not determined who leaked a draft of the court’s opinion overturning abortion rights, but that the investigation continues.
According to a 23-page report released by the court after an eight-month investigation, the investigative team “has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence”.
On 2 May, the bombshell leak was made public after Politico published the draft opinion of Justice Samuel Alito that overturned Roe vWade. Within 24 hours, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the draft’s authenticity and ordered court marshal Gail Curley to investigate the leak.
Investigators “conducted 126 formal interviews of 97 employees, all of whom denied disclosing the opinion” in sworn affidavits under the penalty of perjury. According to the Wall Street Journal, the interviews were at times fairly brief and included questions such as: “Did you do it? Do you know anyone who had a reason to do it?”
Some employees had to amend their written statements after they “admitted to telling their spouses about the draft opinion or vote count”, the report said, adding that “some personnel handled the Dobbs draft in ways that deviated from their standard process for handling draft opinions”. The court said it could not rule out that the opinion was inadvertently disclosed, “for example, by being left in a public space either inside or outside the building”.
The US government has hit the ceiling on its debt, brushing up against its legal limit of $38.381tn and piling pressure on Congress to approve an increase to avoid a debt default in the coming months that would send a shock wave through the global economy.
In a letter to congressional leaders, the treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, said it would begin taking “extraordinary measures” to make the government’s cash on hand last until Congress acts. These include a “debt issuance suspension period” lasting from today until 5 June, as well as suspending investments into two government employee retirement funds.
“As I stated in my January 13 letter, the period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to considerable uncertainty, including the challenges of forecasting the payments and receipts of the US government months into the future. I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” Yellen wrote.
The countdown toward a possible US government default puts the spotlight on frictions between President Joe Biden and House Republicans, raising alarms about whether the US can sidestep a potential economic crisis.
Heh, it's time for "progressives" to get creative, now that the House has changed hands and their bills have little chance of coming to the floor, much less being passed.
To end an era in which wealthy corporations have been given free rein to spend nearly unlimited money on political campaigns, Democrats in the U.S. House on Thursday proposed a constitutional amendment that would overturn the hugely consequential Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by U.S. Supreme Court, saying the ruling "has dangerously eroded" the government's ability to serve the public interest.
Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) led dozens of co-sponsors in introducing the Democracy for All Amendment two days before the 13th anniversary of the Citizens United decision, in which the court struck down a ban on corporate independent expenditures. ...
The proposal, said the campaign finance reform group End Citizens United, "strikes at the heart" of the 2010 ruling.
"It would affirm the right of the people to pass state and federal laws by restoring Congress' and the states' authority to place [limits] on political spending," said the group.
In addition to overturning Citizens United, the Democrats aim to overturn the "fundamental flaws" and legal precedents that underpinned the court's reasoning in 2010 and in "an entire line of cases dating back to the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, which prevented meaningful regulation of campaign expenditures by corporations and special interest groups."
“There is no light in earth or heaven / But the cold light of stars,” wrote the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But for myriad writers and artists, that source of inspiration could be fading as research has revealed light pollution is rapidly reducing the number of stars visible to the naked eye. The study, published in the journal Science, suggests locations with 250 visible stars at present will have just 100 visible stars in 18 years.
“If these trends continue, eventually it will be very difficult to see anything at all in the sky, even the brightest constellations. Orion’s belt will start to disappear at some point,” said Dr Christopher Kyba, of the German Research Centre for Geoscience and first author of the research.
The team write that the glow produced by artificial lighting grew exponentially over the 20th century with population growth, new technologies, and expansion of towns and cities. However the impact of a shift to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in recent years is unclear. Satellites that can measure skyglow have limited resolution and cannot detect some wavelengths of light emitted by LEDs.
To delve deeper, the team analysed 51,351 citizen scientist observations of stars visible to the naked eye, made between 2011 and 2022 as part of a project called Globe at Night. Participants were asked to use a website to view a selection of star charts for their location – each showing an incrementally greater number of the stars that exist in that patch of sky – and pick the chart that best matched what they could see. ... The results reveal that on average across locations where participants made observations, sky brightness is increasing by 9.6% a year, with the figure slightly lower, at 6.5%, in Europe and slightly higher, at 10.4%, in North America.
When Kitty Bolte looked at her yard at the start of California’s powerful winter storms, she saw more than half a foot of standing water behind her house. At first Bolte, a horticulturalist by trade, contemplated pumping it out on to the street. But with the historic rains coming in the midst of a historic drought, that seemed oddly wasteful.
So instead, she and her boyfriend decided to save it. They found a neighbor selling IBC totes – large 330-gallon plastic containers surrounded by wire – on Craigslist, and filled them up using an inexpensive Home Depot pump. They also dragged some spare garbage cans outside to sit under the downpour, gathering 800 gallons in all.
California has experienced some of the heaviest winter storms in memory this month, causing widespread and destructive flooding. But the influx of water has also prompted another, more hopeful question – how can we keep some of it around for good? ...
Bolte’s plan is to store the water she gathered and use it in the summer to water their native trees, which helps assuage her guilt about cultivating a garden in a drought. “This makes me feel relieved to keep them alive in the summer by not using water that could be used for other sources.” ...
The practice can be as simple as putting out a bucket when it rains. It saves money by reducing future water bills. It also keeps stormwater from carrying trash, chemical and pet waste into the Pacific Ocean – reducing the bacterial spikes that happen after storms. Harvesting also saves energy: 20% of all the power generated in California goes into moving, treating and using water. And when water enters a yard instead of the streets it helps to replenish underground aquifers.
Four years after taking the World Economic Forum by storm, Greta Thunberg returned to Davos on Thursday to blast the United Arab Emirates for appointing the head of its state-owned oil company to chair the Cop28 climate talks later this year.
Thunberg said it was “completely ridiculous” that Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), will preside over the next round of global climate talks in Dubai in November.
She told an event on the sidelines of the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos that lobbyists have been influencing these conferences “since, basically, forever”.
“This just puts a very clear face to it,” she added. “It’s completely ridiculous.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Son Seals ~ Going Back Home
Son Seals - Bad Axe
Son Seals - I Can't Hear Nothing But The Blues
Son Seals - Let It Go
Son Seals - Your Love Is Like A Cancer
Son Seals - Buzzard Luck
Son Seals - Cotton Picking Blues
Son Seals - Frank And Johnnie
Son Seals - The Woman I Love
Son Seals - Jelly , Jelly
Son Seals - Sadie
Son Seals - Going Home Where Women Got Meat On Their Bones