The Evening Blues - 1-23-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer and harmonica player Buster Brown. Enjoy!
Buster Brown - Lost In A Dream
Critics of the US empire have spent months compiling mountains of evidence showing that the empire knowingly provoked the war in Ukraine. Supporters of the US empire have spent months posting dog memes and accusing strangers of being paid by Putin. It’s clear who’s in the right.
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
So does everyone else in the world get a vote on whether their lives should be risked in an offensive to control who governs Crimea? Or will the Biden administration just be making that call on behalf of all living creatures?
It’s so crazy how the fate of everyone alive and everyone who could potentially be born in the future is riding on the way two governments choose to navigate a conflict in Ukraine, just because those two governments have most of the world’s nuclear weapons. It’s like two people in a bar getting into a brawl that kills everyone in their city. Nobody else in the world gets a vote on the decisions being made that could kill everyone alive and end humanity forever; just a few people within those two governments and their militaries.
The US empire is telling Moscow “I’m the craziest motherfucker around, I’ll keep ramping up the brinkmanship looking you right in the eye and daring you to use nukes,” while telling the rest of the world “I am the voice of sanity that you should all look to for leadership.”
On Friday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley gave a briefing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where they pledged the United States to the military defeat of Russia. Milley announced the commitment of the United States and NATO to “go on the offensive to liberate Russian-occupied Ukraine.” He repeated that Ukraine would use NATO armored vehicles and tanks to go on the “tactical and operational offensive to liberate the occupied areas.”
With this declaration, the entire prestige of the NATO alliance has been staked on the reconquest of all Ukrainian territory, which, according to the United States, includes both the entire Donbas and the Crimean Peninsula. As the immense challenges posed by the new American strategy emerge in the coming months, and as the death toll among Ukrainian troops rises, the demand will inevitably be made for the direct deployment of NATO troops in the war. This would mean that American and Russian soldiers would be shooting at each other in the first general engagement between nuclear-armed states in history. ...
The explicit assertion by Milley and Austin that the weapons being provided by the US and NATO are of an offensive, not defensive, character is a 180-degree reversal of public statements by the Biden administration, which justified the escalation of US involvement in the war with the declaration that it would not provide “offensive” equipment. “The equipment that we’ve provided is defensive, as you know, not offensive. And we see that as being a difference,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a briefing in May. “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment,” Biden said that same month, “and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, just understand—and don’t kid yourself, no matter what you all say—that’s called ‘World War III.’”
Late last month, Biden declared, “The idea we would give Ukraine material that is fundamentally different than is already going there, would have the prospect of breaking up NATO, and breaking up the European Union.” He added, “They’re not looking to go to war with Russia, they’re not looking for a third world war.”
The announcement by NATO that it is sending offensive weapons to Ukraine has exposed the Biden administration’s entire narrative of US involvement in Ukraine as a fraud. It has repeatedly claimed that the US and NATO are not involved in the war. But NATO is not only a party to the conflict, it is its driving force. As in all wars, as the fighting progresses the debate over “who fired the first shot” fades away, and the real, complex social forces driving the war come into view.
Germany would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has said, in what appeared to be the clearest signal yet from Berlin that European allies could deliver the German-made hardware.
Asked in an interview with French television station LCI what would happen if Poland sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Baerbock replied through a translator: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”
Heavy diplomatic pressure has been building on Berlin to send its tanks, or at least allow countries that bought them from German to re-export them. As the producer of the Leopard tanks, Berlin has a veto on their transfer.
Russian officials on Thursday reacted to a report from The New York Times that said the US was warming to the idea of helping Ukraine strike Crimea despite the risk of a Russian escalation.
When asked about the report on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price didn’t deny its contents and said, “Crimea is Ukraine,” as the US hasn’t recognized Crimea as Russian since Russia took control of it in 2014.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, responded to Price’s comments and the reports, likening the plans to potential “terrorist attacks” and warning of escalation. ...
Over in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the US delivering weapons for attacks on “Russian soil” was “extremely dangerous.” The Times report said that the Biden administration previously avoided supporting strikes on Crimea due to the risk of escalation, but that concern of Russia resorting to nuclear weapons has waned in Washington even though the risk clearly still exists.
The German foreign intelligence service assesses that Kiev is losing a "three-digit number" of soldiers daily, according to a report in Der Spiegel. Berlin informed politicians of the assessment during a secret meeting this week.
Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) is "alarmed" by the high number of losses Ukraine is suffering. The report says Berlin believes Ukraine was losing a three-digit number of soldiers every day during the battle of Bakhmut with Russian forces. The BND informed German politicians of the high number of injured and killed Ukrainian forces during a covert Bundestag meeting last week.
The BND believes the Ukrainian casualties will have severe consequences during future battles.
An estimated 100,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night in what protesters described as a “fight for Israel’s destiny” over sweeping judicial changes proposed by the new far-right government. ...
The new administration has accused Israel’s supreme court of leftwing bias and overstepping its authority, and is seeking to curb the court’s powers by giving the Knesset more control over judicial appointments and severely restricting its ability to overturn laws and government decisions.
The Tel Aviv protest, along with smaller demonstrations in Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba, were sparked by fears that the far-reaching proposals undermine democratic norms. Since Israel has no formal constitution, the supreme court plays an important role in keeping government ministers in check.
Netanyahu – himself on trial on corruption charges, which he denies – has defended the plans. His opponents say the proposed changes could help the prime minister evade a conviction or even see the case dropped altogether.
Demockery continues in Peru:
Scores of police raided a Lima university on Saturday, smashing down the gates with an armoured vehicle, firing teargas and detaining more than 200 people who had come to the Peruvian capital to take part in anti-government protests. Images showed dozens of people lying face down on the ground at San Marcos University after the surprise police operation. Students said they were pushed, kicked and hit with truncheons as they were forced out of their dormitories. ...
Many of those arrested in Saturday’s raid had travelled from southern Peru to the capital to take part in a demonstration last Thursday labelled the “takeover of Lima” which began peacefully but descended into running battles between protesters and riot police amid stone-throwing and swirls of teargas. ...
Videos seen by the Guardian showed confused and terrified students massed outside their halls, some still in pyjamas, as riot police shouted orders and insults. Young men were forced to stand against a wall or kneel in a row. “They pointed their guns at us, and shouted: ‘Out out.’ We didn’t even have time to get our IDs,” said Jenny Fuentes, 20, a student teacher. “They forced us to kneel. Many of the girls were crying but they told us to shut up. They didn’t tell us why we were being forced out of our rooms.”
The group of about 90 students, who had remained on campus during the summer holidays to work and study, were then marched to the main patio, a 10-minute walk, where the other people had been detained. Several hours after the raid, they had not been allowed to return to their rooms which were being searched by police.
Worth a full read. See what the U.S. Demockery is all about ...
Peru’s Natural Resources: CIA-Linked US Ambassador Meets With Mining and Energy Ministers to Talk ‘Investments’
The US ambassador in Peru, Lisa Kenna, is a CIA veteran who supported a parliamentary coup in December 2022 that overthrew the South American nation’s democratically elected left-wing president, Pedro Castillo. Castillo was subsequently imprisoned for 18 months without due process, setting off massive protests across Peru. The unelected government responded with extreme violence, killing approximately 50 protesters in just over a month.
One day before the December 7 coup, the former CIA officer turned US ambassador met with Peru’s defense minister, who then told the country’s powerful military to turn against President Castillo.
Since then, Kenna has been quite busy, regularly meeting with top officials in Peru’s coup government, including unelected President Dina Boluarte and her ministers.
On January 18, the US ambassador sat down with Peru’s minister of energy and mining, as well as its vice minister of hydrocarbons and vice minister of mining. Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines boasted that they discussed “investment” opportunities and plans to “develop” and “expand” the extractive industries.
Peru is a country rich in natural resources, especially minerals. Spanish colonialists exploited the South American nation’s substantial silver and gold reserves, and today transnational corporations see it as a very profitable resource hub. One of Earth’s top producers of copper, lead, zinc, tin, silver, and gold, Peru’s economy relies heavily on the mining sector, which represents more than half of total national exports and over 10% of GDP.
Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has accused Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration of committing genocide against the Yanomami people of the Amazon, amid public outrage over a humanitarian catastrophe in the country’s largest Indigenous territory. Lula visited the Amazon state of Roraima on Saturday to denounce the plight of the Yanomami, whose supposedly protected lands have been plunged into crisis by government neglect and the explosion of illegal mining.
“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was a genocide. A premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government impervious to the suffering of the Brazilian people,” Lula tweeted on Sunday, one day after visiting an overcrowded clinic for Yanomami patients in Roraima’s capital, Boa Vista.
Lula’s justice minister, Flávio Dino, said he would order a federal police investigation into “strong indications” the Yanomami had suffered crimes including genocide – meaning the deliberate attempt to partially or completely destroy an ethnic, national, racial or religious group.
Horrifying photographs of emaciated Yanomami children and adults emerged on the eve of Lula’s trip, laying bare the scale of the health crisis facing the territory’s estimated 30,000 Indigenous inhabitants.
Lula, who became president on 1 January, blamed his far-right predecessor for forsaking Indigenous communities and emboldening the thousands of wildcat miners who flooded the Portugal-sized Yanomami enclave during Bolsonaro’s 2019-2022 government. Those miners contaminated rivers and wrecked forests, depriving remote Yanomami communities of key food sources – fish and other animals such as monkeys and wild boars – while simultaneously spreading malaria and hampering the efforts of government health workers.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize-winning Keynesian economist, has called for the super-rich to be subjected to taxes as high as 70% to help tackle widening inequality.
Stiglitz, who won the Nobel prize in economics in 2001 and pioneered many ideas about globalisation and inequality, said introducing a special worldwide income tax rate of 70% on the highest earners “would clearly make sense”.
“People at the top might work a little bit less if you tax them more. But on the other hand, our society gains in having a more egalitarian, cohesive society,” the former World Bank chief economist, 79, told Oxfam’s Equals podcast.
Currently, the top rate of income tax in the UK is 45% on annual earnings above £150,000. In the US, the highest rate of tax is 37% on earnings above $539,901.
Stiglitz said that while an increase in the top rate on income would help lead to a more equal society, introducing wealth taxes on the fortunes accumulated by the world’s wealthiest over many generations would have an even bigger impact.
Despite the Biden administration's pledge to crack down on corporate crime, a new analysis of Justice Department data shows that business prosecutions fell to a record low in fiscal year 2022 even as there appeared to be no shortage of wrongdoing—from healthcare fraud to large-scale price gouging.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonprofit data-gathering outfit, noted Thursday that out of the more than 4,000 federal white-collar prosecutions last year, "under 1% or only 31 of these defendants were businesses or corporate entities."
"This is the lowest number of criminal prosecutions of business entities for white-collar offenses since federal prosecutor tracking began for these in FY 2004," TRAC observed. "The decision to criminally charge a business in contrast to an individual for engaging in white-collar criminal activity is exceedingly rare (just 1%)."
TRAC also found that "the prosecution of white-collar offenders in FY 2022 reached a new all-time low since tracking began during the Reagan administration."
Belkis Terán spoke with her child, Manuel, nearly every day by WhatsApp from her home in Panama City, Panama. She also had names and numbers for some of Manuel’s friends, in case she didn’t hear from the 26-year-old who was protesting “Cop City”, a planned gigantic training facility being built in a wooded area near Atlanta, Georgia. ...
Terán wound up discovering that on Wednesday around 9.04am, an as-yet unnamed officer or officers had shot and killed her son. The shooting occurred in an operation involving dozens of officers from Atlanta police, Dekalb county police, Georgia state patrol, the Georgia bureau of investigation and the FBI. The killing has stunned and shocked not only Tortuguita’s family and friends, but also the environmental and social justice movement in Georgia and across the United States. Circumstances surrounding the incident are still unclear and there are demands for a thorough investigation into the killing and how it could have happened.
The police apparently found Manuel in a tent in the South River forest south-east of Atlanta, taking part in a protest now in its second year, against plans to build a $90m police and fire department training facility on the land and, separately, a film studio. Officials say Manuel shot first at a state trooper “without warning” and an officer or officers returned fire, but they have produced no evidence for the claim. The trooper was described as stable and in hospital Thursday.
The shooting is “unprecedented” in the history of US environmental activism, according to experts. The GBI, which operates under Republican governor Brian Kemp’s orders, has released scant information and on Thursday night told the Guardian no body-cam footage of the shooting exists. At least a half-dozen other protesters who were in the forest at the time have communicated to other activists that one, single series of shots could be heard. They believe the state trooper could have been shot by another officer, or by his own firearm.
Meanwhile, both Terán and local activists are looking into legal action, and Manuel’s mother told the Guardian: “I will go to the US to defend Manuel’s memory … I’m convinced that he was assassinated in cold blood.”
The Biden administration on Friday denied an emergency petition aimed at protecting critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from being struck and killed by ships in their calving grounds off the southeastern coast of the United States.
Conservation groups in November asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to establish a rule that mirrors the agency's yet-to-be-finalized proposal to set speed limits for vessels longer than 34 feet and expand the areas where speed limits apply.
As the petitioners—the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservation Law Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation—explained, such a regulation "would have helped prevent incidents like the 2021 boat collision that killed a right whale calf off Florida and likely fatally injured its mother."
The species' precipitous population decline has continued year after year. Scientists recently estimated that only 340 North Atlantic right whales remain, including just 70 reproductive females that give birth every three to 10 years.
"I'm outraged that the Biden administration won't shield these incredibly endangered whales from lethal ship strikes," said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "This is an extinction-level emergency. Every mother right whale and calf is critical to the survival of the species."
According to the petitioners, the federal agency responsible for stewarding the nation's marine resources said that it lacks the funds and staff necessary "to effectively implement the emergency regulations."
Officials from the fisheries service, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), claim that "they are working with vessel operators to get voluntary slow-downs," the petitioners added, "but voluntary efforts have not proved effective in the past."
Defenders of Wildlife senior attorney Jane Davenport noted that "right whales have journeyed to the Southeast since time immemorial to birth and nurse their calves in the safety of warm, shallow waters."
"But the calving grounds have become killing grounds," said Davenport. "NOAA has dragged its feet on updating the vessel speed rule for over a decade; right whale mothers and calves have paid for this delay with their lives. The agency's decision not to take emergency action to protect mothers and calves puts the species' entire future at risk."
A number of Indigenous communities in the Amazon say that “carbon pirates” have become a threat to their way of life as western companies seek to secure deals in their territories for offsetting projects. Across the world’s largest rainforest, Indigenous leaders say they are being approached by carbon offsetting firms promising significant financial benefits from the sale of carbon credits if they establish new projects on their lands, as the $2bn (£1.6bn) market booms with net zero commitments from companies in Europe and North America.
A huge global expansion of protected areas during this decade was agreed by governments at last month’s Cop15 biodiversity summit with a target to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030. The agreement puts respect for Indigenous rights and territories at its heart amid fears of land grabs.
Proponents of carbon markets, especially those that aim to protect rainforests, say that carbon credits are a good way to fund the new areas and pay Indigenous communities for the stewardship of their lands, as they have been shown to be the best protectors of forest and vital ecosystems. The resulting credits could then be used for climate commitments by western companies. ...
While some leaders recognised the potential benefits from well designed carbon markets, they warn that Indigenous communities are being taken advantage of in the unregulated sector, with opaque deals for carbon rights that can last up to a century, lengthy contracts written in English, and communities being pushed out of their lands for projects. Examples include Peru’s largest ever carbon deal involving an unnamed extractive firm, where the Kichwa community claim they have been forced from their land in Cordillera Azul national park and received nothing from the $87m agreement. The park authorities say everything has been done in “strict compliance with current legal regulations and with special respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples”.
Several Indigenous communities spoke of training themselves in carbon market regulation and organising global exchanges to help others avoid falling victim to “carbon pirates”. Fany Kuiru Castro, an Indigenous Uitoto leader from the Colombian Amazon, says the issue is affecting nearly every community across the Amazon river basin. ... Wilfredo Tsamash, from the Awajun community in northern Peru, says organisations are teaching themselves to understand the mechanics of carbon markets so they do not get ripped off in deals, and says he does not think extractive companies should be able to buy credits due to their role in global heating.
Colombia’s leftwing government has announced that it will not approve any new oil and gas exploration projects as it seeks to shift away from fossil fuels and toward a new sustainable economy. Irene Vélez, the minister for mines told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the time had come for the Andean nation to move away from its reliance on oil and gas and begin a new, greener chapter in the country’s history.
“We have decided not to award new oil and gas exploration contracts, and while that has been very controversial, it’s a clear sign of our commitment in the fight against climate change,” Vélez said during a panel in Davos on Thursday. “This decision is absolutely urgent and needs immediate action.”
Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, made ending the country’s long history of economic reliance on oil a key part of his campaign before becoming the country’s first leftist leader in August last year.
But a fractured congress, increasingly bleak economic outlook and a series of policy U-turns from the government have put Petro’s ambitious environmentally friendly pledge in doubt. The country’s finance minister, José Ocampo, has stepped in on several occasions to contradict government ministers and reassure financial markets after their comments sent the value of the Colombian peso tumbling.
Ocampo has repeatedly told reporters that the country remains open to new oil and gas projects as it relies heavily on the sector’s revenue.
It’s true—dolphins were spotted in the Bronx River this week! This is great news—it shows that the decades-long effort to restore the river as a healthy habitat is working. We believe these dolphins naturally found their way to the river in search of fish.
(Video: Nick Banco) pic.twitter.com/40ZNgBjJZs
— NYC Parks (@NYCParks) January 19, 2023
Towering refineries and rusty pumpjacks greet visitors driving along the highways of Kern county, California. Oil wells sit in the middle of fields of grapevines and almond trees. The air is heavy with dust and the scent of petroleum. The energy fields here are some of the most productive in the US, generating billions of barrels of oil annually and more than two-thirds of the state’s natural gas. And in a drought-stricken state, they’re also some of the thirstiest, consuming vast quantities of fresh water to extract stubborn oil.
But in the industry’s shadow, nearby communities can’t drink from the tap. One of those communities is Fuller Acres, a largely Latino town in Kern county where residents must drive to the nearest town to buy safe water. There is no proven link between the unsafe drinking water and the oil industry that surrounds the town, but there is a history of big businesses polluting the resources they share with their neighbors. For instance, nearby farming has left a dangerous pesticide known as 1,2,3-TCP in the drinking water.
Advocates say the dichotomy highlights deep-seated inequities in a state where water is a precious resource. The western US is in the midst of a once-in-a-millenium megadrought driven by the climate crisis. California officials have imposed restrictions on domestic water use and residents face fines for breaking the rules. But as the state begins to phase out fossil fuels and usher in a sustainable economy, it has yet to limit the use of fresh water by oil companies.
Between 2018 and 2021, oil and gas companies in California consumed nearly 3bn gallons of fresh water for drilling operations – water that could otherwise have supplied domestic systems, according to Food & Water Watch, an NGO that focuses on corporate and government accountability. That’s equivalent to more than 120m showers. Caroline Wren, a researcher with Food & Water Watch, calls it grave misuse that benefits the very companies that are exacerbating global heating. “California cannot afford to waste water on industries like the fossil fuel industry that are unequivocally worsening the climate crisis and the water crisis,” she said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Buster Brown - Fannie Mae
Buster Brown - Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby
Buster Brown - Good News
Buster Brown - Crawlin King Snake
Buster Brown - Gonna Love My Baby
Buster Brown - Slow Drag Pt. 1
Buster Brown - Madison Shuffle
Buster Brown - John Henry
Buster Brown - Doctor Brown
Buster Brown - Sugar Babe