The Evening Blues - 6-5-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues piano player Willie Mabon. Enjoy!
Willie Mabon with The Aces - I Don't Know
"True revolution comes from true revulsion; when things get bad enough the kitten will kill the lion."
-- Charles Bukowski
News and Opinion
The biggest problem with the western left is that it doesn’t exist.
To look at leftist discourse you’d think the left’s biggest problem is that some leftists have the wrong beliefs about this or that issue, or that the left pays too much or not enough attention to identity politics, or places too much or not enough emphasis on electoral politics, or is too sympathetic toward enemies of the US empire or not sympathetic enough, or that this or that faction gets it all wrong — but it’s not. The biggest problem is that there aren’t anywhere remotely close to enough leftists to get anything done in the west today.
And by leftists I of course don’t mean Democrats or “progressives” or anyone who just wants a few adjustments to be made to the capitalist empire so that they can afford medicine or a college degree or whatever. I mean real socialists, communists and anarchists who oppose capitalism and imperialism and seek the drastic, revolutionary changes this civilization urgently needs. Those who understand that the system is not broken and in need of repair, but is working exactly as intended and is in need of complete dismantling.
This latter category has barely any meaningful existence in the western world. The “western left” in modern times is either controlled opposition or what amounts to a glorified online message board. That’s not our fault; the empire has poured vast amounts of wealth and effort into making that happen. But we do need to be real about it, and we do need to fix it.
And it’s just so strange to me that this doesn’t dominate all leftist discourse all the time. The fact that the western left is a tiny politically impotent minority with nowhere near the numbers needed to accomplish its goals is the single most significant thing about the western left, by a long, long way.
I mean, if you were a general who was setting off to war, and you only had a handful of soldiers to fight against an entire enemy nation, that would be the single most glaring fact in your attention. You wouldn’t be spending your time arguing about military strategies or the history of equestrian combat, and you certainly wouldn’t be wasting your energy fighting against those who are basically on your side. Front and center of your attention would be the fact that you don’t have enough troops to fight this war, and how can you get more.
If you’re an architect who’s been hired to construct a skyscraper, and your workforce shows up and it’s just one guy with a plastic toy hammer, that’s going to be the focus of your attention. You’re not going to be poring over your blueprints and books on architectural theory and musing about the finer points of foundational integrity, you’re going to be trying to figure out how to get more workers to build this damn thing.
So you’d think that would be the case with the western left as well, because we find ourselves in more or less the same kind of situation. But it isn’t. To look at the writings of a lot of western leftists you’d think the best way to enact your ideology in the world is to spend your time arguing with other leftists using esoteric Marxist jargon about obscure points that nobody outside your tiny echo chamber knows about or cares about, or to sit back smugly knowing better than everyone else while waiting for the contradictions inherent in capitalism to bring about its demise.
If you look at organizing and demonstrating it’s not much better. You’ve got sparsely attended meetings with increasingly atomized sects, antiwar protests with a handful of people and one banner, and some LARPers dressed in black punching racists and transphobes here and there to make believe they’re fighting a real revolution against real power. Which is the same as nothing.
The first and foremost goal of the western left should be to create more western leftists. You don’t do that by having all the correct opinions and reading all the correct books and proving yourself the most correct in argument after argument, and you don’t do it by waiting for western material conditions to deteriorate like a bunch of fundamentalists awaiting the Rapture. You do it by reaching out to people, winning hearts and minds, showing them that everything they’ve been taught about their nation and their world is a lie, and showing them that things can be better.
I don’t claim to have all the answers on how to address this dilemma, I’m just highlighting a massive, glaring problem that doesn’t get the tiniest fraction of the attention that it should get. I address this problem the best way I know how with my own work, but I’m just one person with one mind. I hope to see many more minds pointed at this issue in the future, so that we can all come up with solutions and fix this thing.
“To be brutal about it, we need to see masses of Russians fleeing, deserting, shooting their officers, taken captive, or dead. The Russian defeat must be an unmistakably big, bloody shambles. …To that end, with the utmost urgency, the West should give everything that Ukraine could possibly use,” argues Eliot Cohen in The Atlantic.
What neither Cohen, who also famously pushed for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, nor The Atlantic acknowledge in the article is that most of the weapons Cohen mentions in the article — including long-range missiles, F-16s, and even F-35s — are made by funders of Cohen’s employer, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
While this might seem like a glaring conflict of interest that, at the very least, should be disclosed in the article, a new Quincy Institute brief that I authored, “Defense Contractor Funded Think Tanks Dominate Ukraine Debate,” shows that this article isn’t an exception; it’s the norm. America’s top foreign policy think tanks are awash in funding from the defense industry. They’ve dominated the media market related to the Ukraine war, and they seldom, if ever, disclose that many of the weapons they’re recommending the U.S. give to Ukraine are made by their funders.
In short, when you hear a think tank scholar comment on the Ukraine war, chances are you’re hearing from someone whose employer is funded by those who profit from war, but you’ll probably never know it. That’s because 78 percent of the top ranked foreign policy think tanks in the U.S. receive funding from the Pentagon or its contractors, as documented in the new brief.
At the very top, defense industry influence is even greater: every single one of the top 10 ranked foreign policy think tanks receives funding from the defense sector. And, for many think tanks, the amount of defense funding is enormous. For example, CSIS, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and The Atlantic Council all reported receiving more than a million dollars a year from the defense sector.
These and other think tanks that receive considerable defense sector funding have publicly advocated for more militarized U.S. responses to the Ukraine war and, compared to their counterparts at think tanks that accept little or no defense sector funding, have dominated the media landscape related to the Ukraine war.
Sorry Ukies, Antony Blinken says you have to keep dying so that you won't be punished at the negotiating table.
The US will focus its efforts on arming Ukraine and not attempting to bring the war to a negotiated settlement, America’s top diplomat said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out a plan to massively expand Kiev’s military before talks begin.
In a speech delivered in Finland on Friday, Blinken stated, "The United States – together with our allies and partners – is firmly committed to supporting Ukraine’s defense today, tomorrow, for as long as it takes." He continued, "We believe the prerequisite for meaningful diplomacy and real peace is a stronger Ukraine, capable of deterring and defending against any future aggression."
Blinken dismissed the idea of even a temporary pause in the fighting. "Some countries will call for a ceasefire. And on the surface, that sounds sensible – attractive, even. After all, who doesn’t want warring parties to lay down their arms? Who doesn’t want the killing to stop?" He said. "But a ceasefire that simply freezes current lines in place and enables Putin to consolidate control over the territory he’s seized…It would legitimize Russia’s land grab. It would reward the aggressor and punish the victim."
A pro-Ukraine group of Russian partisans has said it captured several soldiers during a cross-border raid into southern Russia and will hand them over to Ukrainian authorities.
The Russian Volunteer Corps made the claim in a video statement released on Telegram on Sunday after a raid into the Russian region of Belgorod.
The Corps, along with fighters from the Freedom of Russia Legion, has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks inside Russian territory, including last week when Moscow said two civilians were killed during fighting.
The one minute and 26 second video clip showed what appeared to be about a dozen Russian soldiers being held captive, with two lying on hospital beds. The Freedom of Russia Legion released the same video on its Telegram channel.
The Corps said earlier it had taken two soldiers prisoner. A man from the group, who did not give his name, said more Russians were captured during the course of the day.
Russian Minister Attends Meeting of Developing Economies as Bloc Discusses Adding Saudi Arabia, Iran
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Thursday with China's deputy foreign minister and other top diplomats from the BRICS bloc of developing economies for discussions that included the group's possible expansion to include the major oil-producing nations of Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.
Ahead of the talks at a luxury oceanside hotel in South Africa, Lavrov cast BRICS — an acronym for current members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — as central to the establishment of a "more just" world order.
The Russian minister also took swipes at the West for its sanctions and other forms of what Lavrov alleged was "financial blackmail” against Moscow, according to a translation of his comments.
Hundreds of thousands of people have marched through central Warsaw to protest against Poland’s rightwing populist government before a delicately poised election due in the autumn. ... “We’re half a million here, it’s a record,” said Donald Tusk, the former prime minister who leads the Civic Platform opposition grouping. He said the march on Sunday had been the biggest political gathering since Poland regained independence after the communist period. ...
Although convened by Civic Platform, the march brought numerous opposition groupings together, and banners among the crowd called for everything from trans rights to trade union representation. ... Also present at the rally was Lech Wałęsa, the shipyard worker who emerged as a leader of the solidarity movement and later became Poland’s president. He is now a staunch critic of PiS.
PiS has won popularity for policies that have led to increased social spending. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also shored up the party’s support, as well as muting some international criticism of its policies as Poland has emerged as a vital pillar of the western alliance in support of Ukraine.
Polls suggest that neither PiS nor Tusk’s Civic Platform are likely to gain enough votes to form a government alone, so the election outcome could hinge on how smaller parties fare and who is able to form a workable coalition.
The opposition has been galvanised in recent days by the passing of a controversial law that would allow a government commission to ban people from public office if it believes they were agents of Russian influence. It has been nicknamed “Lex Tusk” as it is widely seen as targeting the opposition leader.
A teacher who was repeatedly shocked with a Taser by Los Angeles police died from an enlarged heart and cocaine use, according to an autopsy report released on Friday. The 3 January death of Keenan Darnell Anderson, 31, prompted an outcry over use of force by Los Angeles police. It was one of three fatal LAPD confrontations, including two shootings, that took place days into the new year.
The manner of Anderson’s death was undetermined but the cause was listed as “effects of cardiomyopathy and cocaine use” and his death was “determined hours after restraint and conducted energy device use”, the coroner’s report said. ...
He was visiting family when he was stopped on suspicion of causing a hit-and-run traffic accident in the Venice area, police said. An officer found Anderson “running in the middle of the street and exhibiting erratic behavior” according to an official account.
Anderson initially complied with officers but then bolted, the LA police chief, Michel Moore, said. Police chased Anderson and he was shocked with a Taser at least six times when he resisted arrest, police said. ...
Anderson screamed for help after he was pinned to the street by officers and repeatedly shocked, according to police body camera footage. Footage also showed an officer pressing his forearm on Anderson’s chest and an elbow in his neck.
Mathew Bianchi became a Staten Island traffic cop in 2017, two years after joining the New York police department, assigned to enforcing traffic violations and issuing tickets. In the first two years on that beat, he received stellar performance evaluations.
But in November 2018 – a year into his career in the traffic unit – Bianchi issued a ticket to a civilian who held a New York City police department laminated courtesy card, an unofficial credential issued to NYPD officers based on their union affiliation that can then be distributed to family members and friends to carry with them.
What happened next is the subject of a lawsuit against the city and a police captain. According to Bianchi, who is Cuban-American, courtesy cards are used to maintain a system of impunity – a “get-of-jail-free card” for families and friends of NYPD officers to avoid traffic tickets, a growing source of revenue for the city.
Bianchi claims his superiors retaliated against him for his stance against the “corrupt” cards after he was warned by an official with the Police Benevolent Association, New York City’s largest police union, that he would not be protected by his union if he wrote tickets for people with cards. And if he continued, he’d be reassigned. ...
“I see card after card. You’re not allowed to write any of them [up],” he told the Associated Press. “We’re not supposed to be showing favoritism when we do car stops, and we shouldn’t be giving them out because the guy mows my lawn.”
Sen. Joe Manchin—the West Virginia lawmaker reviled by progressives for his climate-killing policies and many Democrats over his repeated sabotage of his own party's agenda—said Sunday he has still not decided about whether he might make a third-party run for president in 2024.
Asked by "Fox News Sunday" host Shannon Bream if he's decided on a possible run with the billionaire-backed "No Labels" or otherwise, Manchin applauded the group "pushing very hard to the centrist middle" and "making commonsense decisions," but dodged a direct answer to the question.
"If Plan A shows that we're going to the far reaches of both sides, the far left and the far right, and the people don't want to go to the far left and the far right, they want to be governed from the middle," Manchin said. "I think there is… you better have that Plan B available and ready to go."
When pressed by Bream on his consideration of a presidential run, Manchin replied, "Not ruling anything in, not ruling anything out."
Rich nations are undermining work to protect poor and vulnerable countries from the impacts of the climate crisis, by providing loans instead of grants, siphoning off money from other aid projects or mislabelling cash, new research suggests. Only $11.5bn (£9.2bn) of climate finance from rich countries in 2020 was devoted to helping poor countries adapt to extreme weather, despite increasing incidences of climate-related disaster, according to a report from the charity Oxfam.
Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam’s international climate change policy lead, said this was inadequate given the scale of the problem. “Don’t be fooled into thinking $11.5bn is anywhere near enough for low- and middle-income countries to help their people with more and bigger floods, hurricanes, firestorms, droughts and other terrible harms brought about by climate change,” she said. “People in the US spend four times that each year feeding their cats and dogs.”
Under a promise made by the developed world in 2009, developing countries should have been receiving $100bn a year in climate finance from 2020, made up of funds to help countries adapt to climate impacts and to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. But that pledge has so far gone unmet, with only $83bn provided in 2020.
Estimates suggest that the $100bn figure should be exceeded this year, but Oxfam said standard estimates overstated the true amounts. That is because some of the money has been taken from existing overseas aid budgets, and some of what is counted as climate finance includes funds primarily allocated to development projects such as health and education, with only tangential benefits to the climate. Oxfam also argues that finance should be provided in the form of grants rather than loans, though some donor countries defend the use of loans. If all of these sums are stripped out, then only $21bn to $24.5bn of the $88bn remains as pure climate finance without strings attached, according to Oxfam in its Climate Finance Shadow Report 2023, published on Monday.
It might have been one of Alfred Hitchcock’s fanciful tales of the supernatural: a 5,000-mile wide blob of murky seaweed creeping menacingly across the Atlantic before dumping itself along the US shoreline.
But now giant clumps of the 13m-ton morass labeled the Great Atlantic sargassum belt are washing up on Florida’s beaches, scientists are warning of a real-life threat from the piles of decomposing algae, namely high levels of the flesh-eating Vibrio bacteria lurking in the vegetation.
The alarming discovery by marine biologists at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) lends a dangerous new aspect to the brown seaweed onslaught, which is already threatening to spoil the state’s busy summer tourism season as coatings of decaying goop exude a pungent aroma akin to that of rotting eggs.
Even more worrying, the researchers say, is the role of ocean pollution in the proliferation of the bacteria, which can cause disease and death if a person gets infected. Samples tested from the Caribbean and Sargasso Sea within the Atlantic were abundant with plastic debris, which interacted with the algae and bacteria to create a “perfect pathogen storm [with] implications for both marine life and public health”.
“Our lab work showed that these Vibrio are extremely aggressive and can seek out and stick to plastic within minutes,” said Tracy Mincer, assistant professor of biology at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and Harriet L Wilkes Honors College. He said the seaweed belt stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the African coast provided the perfect breeding ground for “omnivorous” strains of the bacteria that target both plant and animal life, and associated “microbial flora” potentially harboring potent levels of pathogens.
The state of Arizona has restricted future home-building in the Phoenix area due to a lack of groundwater, based on projections showing that wells will run dry under existing conditions.
The action by the Arizona department of water resources on Thursday is set to slow population growth for the Phoenix region, the state capital, home to 4.6 million people and one of the most rapidly expanding areas of the United States.
The decision underscores the precarious position of Arizona in the face of a “megadrought”, fueled by the climate crisis, that has gripped the US west for the past two decades. Last week the state, along with Nevada and California, agreed to significant cutbacks in the use of water from the Colorado River, which is rapidly shrinking.
Arizona, one of the driest states in the US, gets about a third of its water from the Colorado River, with approximately another 40% coming from groundwater sources. The state’s recently concluded analysis projected a water shortfall of 4.86m acre-feet (6bn cubic meters) in the Phoenix area over the next 100 years. In response, the state said it will deny new certificates of Assured Water Supply, which enable home construction.
The global chemical giant Syngenta has sought to secretly influence scientific research regarding links between its top-selling weedkiller and Parkinson’s, internal corporate documents show. While numerous independent researchers have determined that the weedkiller, paraquat, can cause neurological changes that are hallmarks of Parkinson’s, Syngenta has always maintained that the evidence linking paraquat to Parkinson’s disease is “fragmentary” and “inconclusive”.
But the scientific record they point to as proof of paraquat’s safety is the same one that Syngenta officials, scientists and lawyers in the US and the UK have worked over decades to create and at times, covertly manipulate, according to the trove of internal Syngenta files reviewed by the Guardian and the New Lede.
The files reveal an array of tactics, including enlisting a prominent UK scientist and other outside researchers who authored scientific literature that did not disclose any involvement with Syngenta; misleading regulators about the existence of unfavorable research conducted by its own scientists; and engaging lawyers to review and suggest edits for scientific reports in ways that downplayed worrisome findings.
The files also show that Syngenta created what officials called a “Swat team” to be ready to respond to new independent scientific reports that could interfere with Syngenta’s “freedom to sell” paraquat. The group, also referred to as “Paraquat Communications Management Team”, was to convene “immediately on notification” of the publication of a new study, “triage the situation” and plan a response, including commissioning a “scientific critique”.
A key goal was to “create an international scientific consensus against the hypothesis that paraquat is a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease,” the documents state.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Willie Mabon – Willie's Blues
Willie Mabon - Got to have it
Willie Mabon ~ Just Got Some
Willie Mabon – Someday You Gotta Pay
Willie Mabon – Knock On Wood
Willie Mabon – I'm the Fixer
Willie Mabon – He Lied
Big Willie (Mabon) - Bogey Man
Willie Mabon – Monday Woman