The Evening Blues - 5-24-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues piano player William Lee "Piano Red" Perryman. Enjoy!
William Lee "Piano Red" Perryman - Boogie Woogie
"If a western-backed Ukrainian offensive on Crimea leads to a series of escalations culminating in nuclear armageddon, only about 200 people in the entire world would think it was worth it, and none of them live in Crimea."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
George Orwell wrote in 1984 that "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." Governments work relentlessly to distort public perceptions of the past. Regarding the Ukraine War, the Biden administration has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the Ukraine War started with an unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine on February 24, 2022. In fact, the war was provoked by the U.S. in ways that leading U.S. diplomats anticipated for decades in the lead-up to the war, meaning that the war could have been avoided and should now be stopped through negotiations.
Recognizing that the war was provoked helps us to understand how to stop it. It doesn’t justify Russia’s invasion. A far better approach for Russia might have been to step up diplomacy with Europe and with the non-Western world to explain and oppose U.S. militarism and unilateralism. In fact, the relentless U.S. push to expand NATO is widely opposed throughout the world, so Russian diplomacy rather than war would likely have been effective.
The Biden team uses the word “unprovoked” incessantly, most recently in Biden’s major speech on the first-year anniversary of the war, in a recent NATO statement, and in the most recent G7 statement. Mainstream media friendly to Biden simply parrot the White House. The New York Times is the lead culprit, describing the invasion as “unprovoked” no fewer than 26 times, in five editorials, 14 opinion columns by NYT writers, and seven guest op-eds!
There were in fact two main U.S. provocations. The first was the U.S. intention to expand NATO to Ukraine and Georgia in order to surround Russia in the Black Sea region by NATO countries (Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia, in counterclockwise order). The second was the U.S. role in installing a Russophobic regime in Ukraine by the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014. The shooting war in Ukraine began with Yanukovych’s overthrow nine years ago, not in February 2022 as the U.S. government, NATO, and the G7 leaders would have us believe.
Biden and his foreign policy team refuse to discuss these roots of the war. To recognize them would undermine the administration in three ways. First, it would expose the fact that the war could have been avoided, or stopped early, sparing Ukraine its current devastation and the U.S. more than $100 billion in outlays to date. Second, it would expose President Biden’s personal role in the war as a participant in the overthrow of Yanukovych, and before that as a staunch backer of the military-industrial complex and very early advocate of NATO enlargement. Third, it would push Biden to the negotiating table, undermining the administration’s continued push for NATO expansion.
The archives show irrefutably that the U.S. and German governments repeatedly promised to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch eastward” when the Soviet Union disbanded the Warsaw Pact military alliance. Nonetheless, U.S. planning for NATO expansion began early in the 1990s, well before Vladimir Putin was Russia’s president. In 1997, national security expert Zbigniew Brzezinski spelled out the NATO expansion timeline with remarkable precision.
U.S. diplomats and Ukraine’s own leaders knew well that NATO enlargement could lead to war. The great US scholar-statesman George Kennan called NATO enlargement a “fateful error,” writing in the New York Times that, “Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”
President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Perry considered resigning in protest against NATO enlargement. In reminiscing about this crucial moment in the mid-1990s, Perry said the following in 2016: “Our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when NATO started to expand, bringing in eastern European nations, some of them bordering Russia. At that time, we were working closely with Russia and they were beginning to get used to the idea that NATO could be a friend rather than an enemy ... but they were very uncomfortable about having NATO right up on their border and they made a strong appeal for us not to go ahead with that.”
In 2008, then U.S. Ambassador to Russia, and now CIA Director, William Burns, sent a cable to Washington warning at length of grave risks of NATO enlargement: “Ukraine and Georgia's NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia's influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.”
Ukraine’s leaders knew clearly that pressing for NATO enlargement to Ukraine would mean war. Former Zelensky advisor Oleksiy Arestovych declared in a 2019 interview “that our price for joining NATO is a big war with Russia.”
During 2010-2013, Yanukovych pushed neutrality, in line with Ukrainian public opinion. The U.S. worked covertly to overthrow Yanukovych, as captured vividly in the tape of then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt planning the post-Yanukovych government weeks before the violent overthrow of Yanukovych. Nuland makes clear on the call that she was coordinating closely with then Vice President Biden and his national security advisor Jake Sullivan, the same Biden-Nuland-Sullivan team now at the center of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Ukraine.
After Yanukovych’s overthrow, the war broke out in the Donbas, while Russia claimed Crimea. The new Ukrainian government appealed for NATO membership, and the U.S. armed and helped restructure the Ukrainian army to make it interoperable with NATO. In 2021, NATO and the Biden Administration strongly recommitted to Ukraine’s future in NATO.
In the immediate lead-up to Russia’s invasion, NATO enlargement was center stage. Putin’s draft US-Russia Treaty (December 17, 2021) called for a halt to NATO enlargement. Russia’s leaders put NATO enlargement as the cause of war in Russia’s National Security Council meeting on February 21, 2022. In his address to the nation that day, Putin declared NATO enlargement to be a central reason for the invasion.
Historian Geoffrey Roberts recently wrote: “Could war have been prevented by a Russian-Western deal that halted NATO expansion and neutralised Ukraine in return for solid guarantees of Ukrainian independence and sovereignty? Quite possibly.” In March 2022, Russia and Ukraine reported progress towards a quick negotiated end to the war based on Ukraine’s neutrality. According to Naftali Bennett, former Prime Minister of Israel, who was a mediator, an agreement was close to being reached before the U.S., U.K., and France blocked it.
While the Biden administration declares Russia’s invasion to be unprovoked, Russia pursued diplomatic options in 2021 to avoid war, while Biden rejected diplomacy, insisting that Russia had no say whatsoever on the question of NATO enlargement. And Russia pushed diplomacy in March 2022, while the Biden team again blocked a diplomatic end to the war.
By recognizing that the question of NATO enlargement is at the center of this war, we understand why U.S. weaponry will not end this war. Russia will escalate as necessary to prevent NATO enlargement to Ukraine. The key to peace in Ukraine is through negotiations based on Ukraine’s neutrality and NATO non-enlargement. The Biden administration’s insistence on NATO enlargement to Ukraine has made Ukraine a victim of misconceived and unachievable U.S. military aspirations. It’s time for the provocations to stop, and for negotiations to restore peace to Ukraine.
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, warned Sunday that Russia would consider a US-backed Ukrainian strike on Crimea as serious as an attack on the Russian mainland.
Antonov’s comments came in response to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan saying the US wouldn’t stop Ukraine from using American-provided weapons on Crimea, a statement that came after President Biden signed off on European countries delivering F-16s to Kyiv. ...
Antonov said that the US’s “unconditional approval of strikes on Crimea” and the provision of F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine “once again make it clear that the US has never been interested in peace.” He said Russia will view strikes on Crimea “as an attack on any other region of the Russian Federation” and said the US should consider a potential Russian response.
Russia Defeats Belgorod Suicide Mission, Claims 50K Ukr KIA Bakhmut, Mulls Offensive; Xi, Russian PM
American weapons suppliers have jacked up their prices amid increased demand because of the war in Ukraine, in a move that could hurt U.S. defense capabilities, officials have warned.
Claims of "price gouging"— when businesses inflate the prices of their products by more than is fair or reasonable — were made by former Pentagon insiders, now retired, who are sounding the alarm about the current military landscape.
They are warning that the number of weapons being sent to aid Ukraine in its battle against Russia "no matter the expense" is depleting stock that can't be easily replaced due to soaring prices.
Long-time contract negotiator at the Defense Department, Shay Assad, who is now retired after 40 years of service, spoke out on the CBS news show 60 Minutes, which conducted a six-month investigation.
"The gouging that takes place is unconscionable," Assad said. And the former insider, who previously worked for defense giant Raytheon, warned that the astronomical price increases are already having a harmful effect on the U.S. military.
On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry questioned the US’s sincerity in its calls for more communication and engagement with Beijing after President Biden said he expected a “thaw” between the two nations.
“China and the US maintain necessary communication. However, now the US says it wants to speak to the Chinese side while seeking to suppress China through all possible means and impose sanctions on Chinese officials, institutions and companies. Is there any sincerity in and significance of any communication like this?” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning.
Kissinger at 100: New War Crimes Revealed in Secret Cambodia Bombing That Set Stage for Forever Wars
In a gratuitous display of contempt, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday refused to meet with Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange, Australia’s most prominent political prisoner. The snub came even as Stella was inside the federal parliament, having travelled to the country to campaign for her husband’s freedom. Asked by independent MP Andrew Wilkie why he would not meet with Mrs Assange, Albanese brushed aside the question, declaring: “Who I meet with is determined by the priorities that my office has.”
Over the past month, Albanese has met with a multitude of business tycoons. He attended the wedding of right-wing radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands, alongside a convicted drug dealer and reputed crime boss. Most recently, Albanese fawned over US President Joe Biden in Tokyo on the weekend. Biden is overseeing the attempt to extradite Assange from Britain, and imprison him for 175 years for exposing American war crimes.
Albanese proclaimed in parliament, he was not interested in meeting Assange’s wife, which he said would be akin to a “demonstration” and “grandstanding.” Albanese sought to dress up the refusal by reiterating vague comments that “enough is enough” in relation to the Assange case, and he cannot see that anything is served by the WikiLeaks founder’s continued incarceration.
While Albanese claims he has made this position clear to the US administration, there is no evidence of that, including in extensive correspondence obtained under freedom of information requests between various American and Australian government bodies. Labor continues to give carte blanche to the very administration seeking Assange’s destruction.
The obvious question is: if Albanese won’t even meet with Assange’s wife, a basic act of respect and courtesy that he has extended to thousands of others over the course of his year in office, why would anyone think the prime minister is waging a fight for the imprisoned Australian journalist’s freedom behind closed doors?
A Moscow court has extended the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on espionage charges at the end of March.
During a brief hearing on Tuesday, the court ordered that Gershkovich should remain in jail until 30 August, Russian news agencies reported. His pre-trial detention had initially been scheduled to expire next week. He is being held in the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow, and could face a sentence of up to 20 years if found guilty.
The case is still in the stage of investigation, with no date set for a trial. Tuesday’s hearing was closed to the public.
Taiwan’s last known survivor of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery has died at the age of 92, according to the island’s foreign ministry, which called the issue a “wound in human history”.
Referred to as “comfort women”, more than 200,000 women were sexually enslaved by Japan’s military during the second world war, mostly from South Korea but also from Taiwan, China, and Indonesia.
In Taiwan, which Japan ruled from 1895 to 1945, nearly 60 women had come forward over the years as survivors, according to Taipei’s Women’s Rescue Foundation, which estimates there were at least 2,000.
The foundation said on Monday the island’s last known survivor – who did not want her name made public and so was referred to simply as “grandma” – died on 10 May at the age of 92. News of her death was made public only after a private funeral.
The foundation said that it would “continue to advocate that Taiwan’s syllabus, National History Museum, and history books should record the historical truth of the ‘comfort women’/military sex slaves in Taiwan, so that this history will not disappear due to the death of grandmas”.
Lawyers for Harlan Crow, the rightwing billionaire whose friendship with and gifts to the conservative supreme court justice Clarence Thomas are the focus of swirling scandal, have rejected Senate Democrats’ request for answers about the relationship.
In a letter first reported by Bloomberg News on Tuesday, lawyers for Crow rejected a request from Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the Senate judiciary committee, for a list of gifts to Thomas.
Durbin’s committee, the letter said, had not “identified a valid legislative purpose for its investigation and is not authorised to conduct an ethics investigation of a supreme court justice”.
Democrats on the committee, the lawyers said, were “targeting Justice Thomas for special and unwarranted opprobrium”.
Durbin told Bloomberg: “Harlan Crow believes the secrecy of his lavish gifts to Justice Thomas is more important than the reputation of the highest court of law in this land. He is wrong.”
Legal experts and U.S. Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin on Tuesday derided billionaire Harlan Crow's refusal to answer the panel's questions regarding years of gifts—including luxury vacations and private school tuition—bestowed by the Republican megadonor upon Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his family.
In a letter to Durbin (D-Ill.) responding to requests for information about the private jet, yacht, and upstate New York resort owned by Crow and his holding companies, Michael Bopp of the law firm Gibson Dunn—which represents Crow—asserted that the Judiciary Committee "has not identified a valid legislative purpose for its investigation and is not authorized to conduct an ethics investigation of a Supreme Court justice."
Durbin responded to Bopp's letter with a statement arguing that the missive "did not provide a credible justification for the failure of Mr. Crow and three corporate entities to respond to the committee's written questions."
"First of all, the committee did not receive individual responses from anyone representing the three companies," Durbin said. "That is untenable since the gifts and access to justices that these companies provided are highly relevant to the committee's legislative efforts on ethics reform."
"Second, the letter claims that Congress lacks authority to enact ethics legislation that applies to Supreme Court justices—a claim belied by multiple congressionally enacted ethics laws that Chief Justice [John] Roberts highlighted as applying to Supreme Court justices in his April 25 'Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices,'" Durbin continued.
"Further, Mr. Crow's letter relies on a separation of powers defense when Mr. Crow does not work, and has never worked, for the Supreme Court," the senator added.
With a "significant gap" remaining between what House Republicans and White House negotiators want to resolve the debt limit fight, a federal judge on Tuesday scheduled a hearing next week for a related lawsuit brought by a union for government workers.
Attorneys for the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE)—which represents about 75,000 workers across federal agencies—sued President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Yellen in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts earlier this month. The union's legal team requested emergency action by the court in a filing on Friday.
During a Tuesday videoconference, Judge Richard Stearns gave the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) until May 30 to file a response detailing the department's position on presidential authority relating to the public debt and scheduled a hearing for May 31—the eve of the so-called X-date, or when Yellen warns the government could run out of money.
While NAGE wants a decision from the court before the X-date, Stearns, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, "sounded skeptical of arguments from the union's lawyers that disaster for the nation is impending if he did not put the case on an even faster track," according toPolitico.
"If the emergency is as dire as you think it is, I would think that it's within the power of the president to address it using executive branch authority," the judge said. He added that "I understand there are time constraints, given that events are developing probably even as we're meeting, that probably make a decision prior to June 1st impossible."
Politico also noted that during the conference, DOJ lawyer Alexander Ely declined to disclose the department's position on whether the 14th Amendment's declaration that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned" means the president can disregard the debt limit on constitutional grounds.
As I read this, the government's position in the suit is:
"Stop trying to make us to get rid of the debt ceiling. That sort of thing is for high-level insiders only, not pesky labor unions that are going about it all wrong."
Ah, the eternal cry of elites against activists. https://t.co/psfLpdf8Cu
— David Rosen (@firstpersonpol) May 23, 2023
Thomas Geoghegan, an attorney for NAGE, said that "what we're faced with, I fear, is that the government doesn't really have a position on this, but there is no time to prevent irreparable injury."
On 10 May, a group of religious leaders huddled to pray in a circle in front of the Ohio state capitol. Inside the statehouse, Republicans were voting on a bill that could thwart advocates’ efforts to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. ...
As Ohio law currently stands, voters can amend the state constitution by a direct vote with a simple majority. If it passes this November, one such ballot initiative – brought forward by Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom – would codify the right to abortion in the Ohio constitution.
But Republicans in the Ohio house of representatives passed a proposal on 10 May that could make it much harder for that abortion rights measure to pass by requiring a supermajority vote for ballot measures. The proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR-2), is scheduled to come before voters in an August special election.
Opponents of the bill have already filed suit to stop the 8 August election, citing the state legislature’s recent move to prohibit August special elections. Given the short timeframe – election officials will begin to prepare ballots next month – the lawsuit would need to be resolved quickly to have an effect on the upcoming election. ...
In states like Ohio, where GOP-gerrymandered maps – deemed unconstitutional by the state’s highest court – have stymied attempts to pass progressive legislation, groups have used ballot initiatives to enact those laws instead. But only 24 states allow citizens to directly enact legislation or constitutional amendments, and Republican legislators have increasingly moved to restrict the ability to pass initiatives by a direct vote..
Donald Trump’s trial in New York on criminal charges over hush money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels will begin on 25 March 2024, amid the Republican presidential primary and less than than eight months before the general election the former president hopes to contest.
The trial date was announced in a hearing in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday, Trump attending by video link from his Florida home.
The judge, Juan Merchan, advised the former president to cancel all other obligations for the duration of the trial, which could last for several weeks. Trump was muted for most of the hearing, which lasted around 15 minutes. The video feed showed the former president sitting and conferring with his lawyer, Todd Blanche, in front of a backdrop of American flags. ...
Trump used his Truth Social platform to lash out, claiming his “first amendment rights, ‘freedom of speech’” had been “violated” by the scheduling of the trial “right in the middle of primary season”.
“This is exactly what the Radical Left Democrats wanted,” Trump wrote, also claiming “election interference”, a loaded term given widespread agreement that Russia interfered to boost his candidacy in the election he won in 2016.
The head of the world’s leading carbon credit certifier has announced he will step down as CEO next month.
It comes amid concerns that Verra, a Washington-based nonprofit, approved tens of millions of worthless offsets that are used by major companies for climate and biodiversity commitments, according to a joint Guardian investigation earlier this year.
In a statement on LinkedIn on Monday, Verra’s CEO, David Antonioli, said he would leave his role after 15 years leading the organisation that dominates the $2bn voluntary carbon market, which has certified more than 1bn credits through its verified carbon standard (VCS). ...
The announcement follows a difficult period for Verra, which has seen the environmental integrity of their carbon standard satirised by the comedian John Oliver and journalistic exposés about the integrity of their carbon credit certification process.
In January, a nine-month investigation by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and the investigative group SourceMaterial found Verra rainforest credits used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations were largely worthless, often based on stopping the destruction of rainforests that were not threatened, according to independent studies. It also found evidence of forced evictions at a flagship scheme co-operated by Conservation International in Peru.
Recycling has been promoted by the plastics industry as a key solution to the growing problem of plastic waste. But a study has found recycling itself could be releasing huge quantities of microplastics. An international team of scientists sampled wastewater from a state-of-the-art recycling plant at an undisclosed location in the UK. They found that the microplastics released in the water amounted to 13% of the plastic processed.
The facility could be releasing up to 75bn plastic particles in each cubic metre of wastewater, they estimated. “I was incredibly shocked,” said Erina Brown, the lead researcher of the study, conducted at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. “It’s scary because recycling has been designed in order to reduce the problem and to protect the environment. This is a huge problem we’re creating.”
The researchers tested the water before and after the plant installed a water filtration system and found the filter reduced the concentration of microplastics from 13% of the plastic processed to 6%.
The estimate of 75bn particles a cubic metre is for a plant with a filter installed. A majority of the particles were smaller than 10 microns, about the diameter of a human red blood cell, with more than 80% smaller than five microns, Brown said.
A hard-fought agreement between California, Arizona and Nevada to slash the states’ use of the shrinking Colorado River is only a temporary salve to a long-term water crisis that continues to threaten the foundations of life in the American west, experts have warned.
The deal, announced on Monday, between the three states that make up the lower portion of the sprawling Colorado basin will pare back 13% of water consumption from the beleaguered river over the next three years if adopted, averting the prospect of more stringent cuts imposed by the federal government. Backed by $1.2bn in federal funds, the bulk of the reductions are structured to encourage voluntary cuts taken by rights holders, in exchange for grant money.
Now under federal environmental review, the agreement is being hailed as a breakthrough after months of stalled negotiations and missed deadlines. But the emergency intervention will not itself be enough to head off the existential crisis faced by the Colorado River, a result of decades of over-allocation to slake the thirst of a rapidly expanding US west, and it is now caught firmly in the teeth of global heating.
The flow of the river has declined by about 20% since the turn of the century, a period defined by a “megadrought” that is the most severe the west has seen in 1,200 years. The future of a river that supports 40 million people, underpinning the existence of cities from Los Angeles to Denver, and millions of acres of cropland remains precarious.
“This deal is clearly a Band-Aid solution for a short-term fix,” said Katharine Jacobs, an expert in water and climate adaptation at the University of Arizona. “It’s better than nothing, but we are just putting off a much more dramatic change needed to resolve this problem. The problem we’re trying to solve is just far greater than this. We have a significant shortfall between the river’s supply and demand.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Dr Feelgood & The Interns - Doctor Feel-Good
Piano Red - Wild Fire
Piano Red - Rockin' With Red
Piano Red - Big Rock Joe From Kokomo
Piano Red - Blues, Blues, Blues
Piano Red - Gordy's Rock
Piano Red - Right String, But The Wrong Yo-Yo
Piano Red - Shake Rattle & Roll
Dr Feelgood & the Interns - What's Up Doc