The Evening Blues - 3-21-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Louis Myers. Enjoy!
Louis Myers ~ Top Of The Harp & Bluesy
"People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news."
-- A. J. Liebling
News and Opinion
... What is disturbing is that the architects of these debacles have never been held accountable and remain ensconced in power. They continue to promote permanent war, including the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine against Russia, as well as a future war against China. The politicians who lied to us — George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to name but a few — extinguished millions of lives, including thousands of American lives, and left Iraq along with Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen in chaos. They exaggerated or fabricated conclusions from intelligence reports to mislead the public. The big lie is taken from the playbook of totalitarian regimes.
The cheerleaders in the media for war — Thomas Friedman, David Remnick, Richard Cohen, George Packer, William Kristol, Peter Beinart, Bill Keller, Robert Kaplan, Anne Applebaum, Nicholas Kristof, Jonathan Chait, Fareed Zakaria, David Frum, Jeffrey Goldberg, David Brooks and Michael Ignatieff — were used to amplify the lies and discredit the handful of us, including Michael Moore, Robert Scheer and Phil Donahue, who opposed the war. These courtiers were often motivated more by careerism than idealism. They did not lose their megaphones or lucrative speaking fees and book contracts once the lies were exposed, as if their crazed diatribes did not matter. They served the centers of power and were rewarded for it. Many of these same pundits are pushing further escalation of the war in Ukraine, although most know as little about Ukraine or NATO’s provocative and unnecessary expansion to the borders of Russia as they did about Iraq. ...
The Iraq war cost at least $3 trillion and the 20 years of warfare in the Middle East cost a total of some $8 trillion. The occupation created Shi’ite and Sunni death squads, fueled horrific sectarian violence, gangs of kidnappers, mass killings and torture. It gave rise to al-Qaeda cells and spawned ISIS which at one point controlled a third of Iraq and Syria. ISIS carried out rape, enslavement and mass executions of Iraqi ethnic and religious minorities such as the Yazidis. It persecuted Chaldean Catholics and other Christians. This mayhem was accompanied by an orgy of killing by U.S. occupation forces, such as as the gang rape and murder of Abeer al-Janabi, a 14-year-old girl and her family by members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne. The U.S. routinely engaged in the torture and execution of detained civilians, including at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca. There is no accurate count of lives lost, estimates in Iraq alone range from hundreds of thousands to over a million. ...
Yes, Saddam Hussein was brutal and murderous, but in terms of a body count, we far outstripped his killings, including his genocidal campaigns against the Kurds. We destroyed Iraq as a unified country, devastated its modern infrastructure, wiped out its thriving and educated middle class, gave birth to rogue militias and installed a kleptocracy that uses the country’s oil revenues to enrich itself. Ordinary Iraqis are impoverished. Hundreds of Iraqis protesting in the streets against the kleptocracy have been gunned down by police. ...
A national reckoning with the military fiascos in the Middle East would expose the self-delusion of the ruling class. But this reckoning is not taking place. We are trying to wish the nightmares we perpetuated in the Middle East away, burying them in a collective amnesia.
Xi Jinping said China was ready with Russia “to stand guard over the world order based on international law” as he arrived for a state visit to Moscow that comes days after Vladimir Putin was made the subject of an arrest warrant by the international criminal court.
The Chinese leader is expected to position himself as a potential peacemaker in the Ukraine war during his two-day visit to Russia – his first state visit since Putin’s invasion. For his part, the Russian president will be hoping to project unity in the face of western isolation, as the US condemned Xi for providing “diplomatic cover” for Moscow to continue to commit further crimes in Ukraine. ...
In a further symbolic gesture of defiance, Russia’s investigative committee said on Monday that it had opened a criminal case against the ICC prosecutor and judges who issued the warrant.
During a media briefing on Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on the ICC to avoid “politicisation and double standards”.
The US on Monday announced a new $350 million arms package for Ukraine that includes ammunition for the HIMARS rocket launchers, artillery rounds, and High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs).
The arms are being sent to Ukraine via the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows President Biden to ship Kyiv weapons and equipment directly from Pentagon stockpiles. The funds are being pulled from the $45 billion aid bill Congress passed in December. ...
The new package comes after a Pentagon official told The New York Times that upcoming ammunition shipments were part of a “last ditch effort” to help Ukraine on the battlefield as Ukrainian forces are using artillery rounds at an unsustainable rate. According to the fact sheet, the US has pledged over 1.5 million 155mm artillery rounds to Ukraine.
France’s major ciites have seen a wave of protests since French President Macron announced his use of the anti-democratic article 49.3 to impose his government’s hated pension reform on Thursday. A wave of strikes is engulfing France’s major industries, including at refineries, airports, waste management facilities and railroads. Macron rammed through his reform bill over concerns over how a lost vote would impact European financial markets. The reform is viewed as critical by the French bourgeoisie as it will fund a massive €413 billion rearmament of the French military before 2030 and arms deliveries for the war in Ukraine, without increasing tax on the wealthiest sections of society. ...
Violent police repression Friday and Saturday night confirmed the PES’ warnings: the French ruling class has spent the last decade constructing a police state and normalizing state violence to violently crackdown on independent opposition to capitalist rule. So far at least 600 people have been arrested across Thursday, Friday, and Saturday’s protests. This includes Chloé Grace, a journalist from LeMediaTV who was arrested while covering Friday evening’s protest at the Place de la Concorde.
Macron and his fascistic interior minister Gérald Darmanin, have clearly instructed cops to crack down on protests with extreme violence. Footage captured by journalists on the ground show heavily-armed police suddenly and brutally assaulting peaceful, unarmed protesters. In every major city, cops with full body armor, gas, batons, riot shields and often assault rifles, have kettled protest groups before repeatedly charging and teargassing them.
After dispersing protests on Friday and Saturday, BRAV police motorcycle units scoured the streets of Paris for suspected protesters who had evaded initial arrests. Dozens of arrested protesters near the Place d’Italie on Saturday were lined up against a building with their hands on their heads. On Saturday night, water cannon were used again, while a canine police unit set dogs on protesters in Lyon. On Saturday, Paris police released an order that all unregistered gatherings in the city would be “dispersed.” When protesters began gathering at Place d’Italie for a protest called by the CGT (General Confederation of Labor) union’s Île-de-France regional organization, a police statement was released to the media stating, “Due to the presence of many thugs, the organizer calls for dispersal.” This illustrates the traitorous role of the union bureaucracy: when called upon by the state, the bureaucracy blames its supporters and excuses their violent repression by the police.
By the end of the night, police had arrested 67 people on Saturday in Paris and 187 across the country.
The French government has survived two votes of no confidence but Emmanuel Macron continues to face protests and strikes over his decision to use executive powers to push through an unpopular rise in the pension age.
Although the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, avoided having to instantly resign, the president remains under pressure to break his silence and shore up the government amid growing anger in the streets. Opposition politicians in parliament accused him of arrogance, denying democracy and failing to learn from the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) anti-government protest movement four years ago.
Government insiders, opposition politicians and observers have raised fears that France could experience another round of spontaneous, anti-government revolt in cities and small towns – not just over raising the pension age to 64, but also because of distrust in the political system, only a few years after the gilets jaunes movement shook Macron’s first term in office. ...
The first no-confidence motion, put forward by Charles de Courson, France’s longest-serving MP and a member of the small opposition centrist grouping Liot, was narrowly defeated – it fell short of the required absolute majority by only nine votes. A total of 278 MPs voted in favour. The motion won the support of politicians from the leftwing grouping, Nupes, as well as Marine Le Pen’s far right, independents and some MPs from the rightwing Les Républicains. ...
Under Macron’s changes, the minimum general retirement age will rise from 62 to 64, some public sector workers will lose privileges and there will be an accelerated increase in the number of years of work required to qualify for a full pension. But tensions are likely to continue on the street in the coming days, with a major day of strike action and protests planned for Thursday. Macron is under pressure to address the nation and clarify how he intends for the government to keep working, and whether there could be a reshuffle. Macron’s centrist grouping lost its absolute majority in elections last June, leaving the government in a weak position.
An Israeli minister has claimed there is “no such thing” as a Palestinian people as Israel’s new coalition government, its most hardline ever, ploughed ahead with a part of its plan to overhaul the judiciary. ...
The development came a day after an Israeli and Palestinian delegation at a meeting in Egypt, mediated by Egyptian, Jordanian and US officials, pledged to take steps to lower tensions roiling the region ahead of a sensitive holiday season. It reflected the limited influence the Biden administration appears to have over Israel’s far-right government and raised questions about attempts to lower tensions, both inside Israel and with the Palestinians.
As the negotiators were issuing a joint communique, the Israeli finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, delivered a speech in Paris saying the notion of a Palestinian people was artificial. “There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language,” he said in France late on Sunday. He spoke at a lectern draped with what appeared to be a map of Israel that included the occupied West Bank and parts of Jordan.
The Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said Smotrich’s remarks were “conclusive evidence of the extremist, racist Zionist ideology that governs the parties of the current Israeli government”.
Shares in troubled First Republic Bank crashed more than 46% on Monday, after reports the San Francisco-based bank may need to raise more funds despite a $30bn (£24bn) rescue last week.
As the growing banking crisis spread into a new week, the credit rating of the regional bank was downgraded deeper into junk status by S&P Global. The agency said that the bank, which caters to wealthy clients, probably faced “high liquidity stress with substantial outflows”.
US officials are studying how to temporarily expand the protection offered to banking customers by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) to include all deposits, going beyond the current $250,000 cap, Bloomberg reported on Monday night.
Like the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), a large proportion of First Republic’s customers hold more than the $250,000 amount guaranteed by federal insurance. However, the move may face political roadblocks. Hardline Republicans in the House of Representatives on Monday vowed to oppose any cover extension.
The Republican House Freedom Caucus said in a statement: “Any universal guarantee on all bank deposits, whether implicit or explicit, enshrines a dangerous precedent that simply encourages future irresponsible behavior to be paid for by those not involved who followed the rules.”
Starbucks’ chief executive, Howard Schultz, is ending his third stint as head of the coffee chain early as he faces growing scrutiny over the company’s labor practices.
The company announced on Monday that Schultz had stepped down as interim chief executive, nearly two weeks earlier than expected. The new CEO, Lax Narasimhan, was slated to take over on 1 April.
“As I turn Starbucks over to you now, know that you have my utmost confidence, trust and love,” Schultz said in a public letter on Monday. “You are all the future of Starbucks. The world needs Starbucks – and Starbucks needs all of you.”
Schultz started his third term as CEO last April upon the retirement of the then CEO, Kevin Johnson. Schultz served as CEO of the company twice before, from 1986 to 2000 and 2008 to 2017, overseeing huge growth for the company. Schultz said last year that this would be his last time as CEO.
Over the last few years, Schultz has developed a reputation for being a resolute force against growing unionization efforts seen at locations across the company. Schultz has argued that Starbucks can manage its relationship with its employees without a union. The company has been accused of multiple anti-union tactics over the last year, including wrongfully firing employees and intimidation. Earlier this month, Schultz agreed to appear in front of a key Senate labor committee on 29 March after the committee nearly voted to subpoena him for testimony.
America is in a maternal health crisis. According to new CDC data released this week, the rate of maternal mortality – defined as deaths during pregnancy or within 42 days of giving birth – rose by 40% in 2021. At a rate of 33 deaths for every 100,000 live births, 1,205 women died of maternal causes that year. That rate was more than twice as high for Black women, whose maternal mortality rate was 70 deaths for every 100,000 live births. The latest federal compilation of data from reviews of maternal deaths suggests that 84% were preventable.
Experts believe that 2021’s spike in maternal mortality can be attributed at least partly to the Covid-19 pandemic, though it’s not clear exactly how. ... But even before Covid-19, America has long been an outlier in maternal deaths, with dramatically higher rates of women dying in or as a result of childbirth than in peer nations. America has 10 or more times the rate of pregnancy-related death in Australia, Austria, Israel, Japan and Spain. ...
The maternal mortality rate in America is likely to get worse before it gets better. The dramatic increase in deaths in 2021 was the third consecutive year that the rate rose – the trend is only going in one direction. And the 2021 data was collected before the US supreme court’s June 2022 Dobbs decision, which reversed Roe v Wade and led to the enforcement of laws across dozens of states that forbid or delay medically necessary abortions. This means that pregnant women are getting sicker, and waiting longer for care; it also means that many doctors are now frightened of the legal repercussions they will face for intervening to save pregnant women’s lives. More bodies will accumulate; more lives will be cut short; more women will be lost to the cruelty, indifference, scarcity and fear that now pervades our medical system.
But the logic of the anti-choice movement and the Dobbs regime poses not just a logistical hazard to women’s health, but also a moral one. After all, the anti-abortion laws that are now in effect in a majority of states are wildly antagonistic towards pregnant women. They pose pregnancy and childbirth as punishment; they treat the pregnant patient as a person whose pain is deserved, a just consequence of recklessness or immorality.
It’s not hard to imagine how the logic of these bills might seep into the broader culture, creating social, professional and, yes, medical environments where pregnancy is treated as a moral failing, and pregnant women are regarded with open contempt. After all, how else do you describe a country that has made giving birth extraordinarily dangerous – and now is forcing more and more women to do it?
An Idaho hospital has planned to stop delivering babies, with the medical center’s managers citing increasing criminalization of physicians and the inability to retain pediatricians as major reasons.
Bonner General Health, the only hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho, announced on Friday that it would no longer provide labor, delivery and a host of other obstetrical services.
The more than 9,000 residents of Sandpoint are now forced to drive 46 miles for the nearest labor and delivery care, the Idaho Statesman reported.
In a statement, the hospital’s leadership said that the decision to eliminate the obstetrics unit stemmed from the “political climate” in Idaho.
“Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving. Recruiting replacements will be extraordinarily difficult,” hospital officials said in a press release. “We have made every effort to avoid eliminating these services,” the hospital’s board president, Ford Elsaesser, added in the statement.
Months after the implementation of the most stringent abortion ban in the country, conservative lawmakers in Tennessee have publicly acknowledged that the state’s ban poses grave risks to the lives of women.
Now a political debate over how to change the law is centered on questions that would have been considered unthinkable before last June’s reversal of Roe v Wade: like how close to death a woman must be before a doctor may legally treat her if it means terminating her pregnancy, and whether women should be forced to carry embryos with fatal anomalies to term.
Will Brewer, the powerful lobbyist of Tennessee Right to Life, a Christian anti-abortion group that wrote the current ban, has been accused of waging a campaign of intimidation against lawmakers who he has said are seeking to “weaken” the law. In public testimony and private meetings, Brewer has said women should only be offered terminations if they are facing acute emergencies – such as when they enter an emergency room “bleeding out” – and suggested some complications can “work themselves out” without medical intervention. ...
The fractious political fights shows how radically the battle lines over abortion have shifted since the US supreme court’s decision last June to reverse Roe v Wade, which in effect allowed every state to determine its own rules. In Tennessee, one of 13 states where abortion is currently banned, a “trigger law” came into effect that had been passed in 2019 in the event that Roe was ever overturned. The law states that any doctor who performs an abortion is committing a felony, and must defend themselves in court in order to prove the procedure was done to save the life of the pregnant patient.
Donald Trump has cheered the news that a former adviser to Michael Cohen will testify before a Manhattan grand jury investigating the ex-president’s alleged role in a hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Robert J Costello, a one-time legal adviser to former Trump attorney Cohen, was scheduled to appear before the grand jury on Monday and expected to give testimony “attacking the credibility of Cohen’s statements”, the Associated Press reported. ...
Costello, who has represented the Trump confidants Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani, offered to represent Cohen in 2018 as he faced charges related to the Daniels payment. The pair discussed the case, the New York Times reported, but the relationship soured after Cohen began to criticize and implicate Trump.
The AP reported that Costello recently contacted a Trump lawyer, claiming he had information that contradicted Cohen’s account and could prove exculpatory for Trump. The lawyer brought it to the attention of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who last week subpoenaed Costello’s law firm for records and invited him to testify.
A former Texas governor met Middle Eastern leaders in 1980 to convince Iran to delay releasing American hostages as part of a Republican effort to sabotage Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign, according to a news report. The New York Times reported on Sunday that John Connally, who served as Texas’s Democratic governor from 1963 to 1969 and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, traveled to a number of countries in the summer leading up to the 1980 election.
By that time Ronald Reagan had secured the Republican nomination, and the re-election campaign of his Democratic rival Carter was struggling in the midst of the crisis that resulted from more than 50 Americans being taken hostage from the US embassy in Tehran. In an interview with the Times, a then protege to Connally named Ben Barnes said he was with Connally as he met leaders in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Connally was there to deliver a message, the Times reported:
“Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr Reagan will win and give you a better deal.”
Carter, who had ordered a failed attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, lost the election amid criticism of his handling of the Iran crisis and a stagnating economy. The hostages were eventually released on 20 January 1981, the day Reagan took office. ...
Barnes – a Democrat who served as lieutenant governor of Texas and was vice-chair of John Kerry’s 2004 election campaign – told the Times that on returning from the Middle East, Connally reported to the chairman of Reagan’s campaign, William J Casey.
Avoiding the worst ravages of climate breakdown is still possible, and there are “multiple, feasible and effective options” for doing so, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said. Hoesung Lee, chair of the body, which is made up of the world’s leading climate scientists, made clear that – despite the widespread damage already being caused by extreme weather, and the looming threat of potentially catastrophic changes – the future was still humanity’s to shape.
“[The IPCC reports] clearly show that humanity has the knowhow and the technology to tackle human-induced climate change. But not only that. They show that we have the capacity to build a much more prosperous, inclusive and equitable society in this process. “Tackling climate change is a hard, complex and enduring challenge for generations. We, the scientific community, spell out the facts of disheartening reality, but we also point to the prospects of hope through concerted, genuine and global transformational change.”
Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of the “synthesis report”, the final section that draws together the key findings, said: “Almost half the world’s population lives in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions.”
This positive framing of a report that makes mostly very grim reading was a deliberate counterblast to the many voices that have said the world has little chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C above preindustrial levels, the threshold beyond which many of the impacts of the crisis will rapidly become irreversible.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Louis Myers - Give me a drink
Louis Myers & The Aces - L. M. Blues
Louis Myers ~ Short Haired Woman
Louis Myers - Southbound Blues
Louis Myers – That’s All Right
Louis Myers ~ Bottom Of The Harp
Louis Myers & The Aces - Just Whaling
Louis Myers ~ Tell My Story Movin'
Louis Myers with the Aces - Blues With A Feeling
Louis Myers - Stop Breaking Down