The Evening Blues - 9-21-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Stax singer Carla Thomas. Enjoy!
Carla Thomas – I've Got No Time to Lose
"The rich are the scum of the earth in every country."
-- Gilbert K. Chesterton
News and Opinion
“War is good for business.”
So reads a quote from an arms industry executive in a recent Reuters article titled “At London arms fair, global war fears are good for business” about Europe’s biggest arms show, the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International. You will probably be unsurprised to learn that Reuters does not name the war profiteer whose quote inspired their headline.
The article describes the way the war in Ukraine and brinkmanship in Taiwan is leading to surging profits for the military industrial complex, with the UK doubling its arms exports in 2022 and worldwide military spending expected to continue to rise by four percent each year for the next five years. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, European military spending rose 13 percent in 2022 alone, bringing total global spending to an all-time high of $2.24 trillion.
“We are extremely busy,” an exaltant head of sales at an armored steel company tells Reuters.
War is good for business, and it’s expected to get even better. The world’s largest military contractor Lockheed Martin saw its stock rise by a whopping 37 percent last year — helped along by taxpayer-sponsored stock buybacks — and in a report titled “Lockheed Martin: Huge Growth Ahead”, an investment analyst for AlmaStreet Capital predicted last month that Lockheed’s massive profits will only continue to climb. Calling the escalated geopolitical tensions in the current political atmosphere “the most favorable condition that Lockheed Martin could possibly operate under,” the article’s author writes the following:
“Governments worldwide are increasing their budget for defense and security under this heightened geopolitical tensions worldwide. The US government is not an exception. As the largest contractor to the US government, Lockheed Martin is bound to be the biggest beneficiary of the increased defense budget. Given that the company already reached approximately 8% of YoY net sales growth in 2Q23, I believe escalating geopolitical tensions along with easing macroeconomic conditions would allow Lockheed Martin to soon achieve double-digit growth in net sales by the end of the year.”
So it’s no wonder that Lockheed CEO James Taiclet called the most recent hike in the US military budget “as good an outcome as our industry or our company could ask for.” There are vast fortunes riding on governments equipping themselves to kill large numbers of human beings.
There’s a popular quote, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society,” commonly attributed to Jiddu Krishnamurti but most likely coined by Kurt Vonnegut’s son Mark. Whenever I read reports like this about corporations raking in billions from death, suffering, and extremely dangerous acts of brinkmanship between military powers, I always find that phrase “a profoundly sick society” rattling around in my head.
It’s hard to imagine a society sicker than one in which corporations are not only allowed to profit from war and militarism, but to actually push for more of it using campaign donations, lobbying, and the funding of influential warmongering think tanks. It’s no less evil than if corporations were allowed to slaughter foreigners like livestock and sell their body parts for profit at industrial scale; the only thing that’s different is the payment plan. And yet the people who do this are celebrated as respected job creators instead of thrown into cages like the monsters they are.
This is not the sort of civilization we should strive to be well-adjusted to. It is no sign of health to be well-adjusted to a society in which someone can become a billionaire selling weapons of mass murder after lobbying the government to perpetrate those murders. It is no sign of health to be well-adjusted to a society in which the military industrial complex launders information through the media to promote its deadly products and agendas. It is no sign of health to be well-adjusted to a society in which war profiteering corporations can reap massive quarterly profits in a proxy war that was provoked by the west while pouring fortunes into think tanks which helped manufacture consent for those provocations and which spin the west’s actions in a positive light for the media.
If this society could give rise to something so depraved as the military industrial complex, then it is not the sort of society we should seek to blend in with. This is the sort of society we should want to stick out like a sore thumb in. The sort of society in which we should be swimming against the current when everyone else is swimming with it. The sort of society in which we say a resounding NO to things that everyone else is saying yes to.
This society has failed as spectacularly as anything can possibly fail. We live in a mind-controlled dystopia where war profiteers get to steer public policy, where the entire biosphere is being fed into the wood chipper of global capitalism while we rapidly accelerate toward nuclear armageddon. This is the most insane civilization anyone could possibly design. We should seek dissent and divergence from it to the fullest extent possible.
When senators meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday, they will have bad news: Delivering any new aid to help defend against Russia, even later this year, is looking tougher than ever.
The obstacles are piling up: House Republicans are skeptical of any new money at all. What’s more, their dysfunction threatens to push the government into a shutdown — a move that certainly gets Zelenskyy no closer to getting the billions requested by the Biden administration. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are divided over whether to continue providing humanitarian aid, arguing the rest of Europe needs to step up. ...
On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) threatened to slow down any funding bill that includes more aid to Kyiv, a move that could push the government into a brief shutdown if Ukraine money is included in a stopgap spending bill. And it’s not hard to see how the growing possibility of a shutdown could scramble lawmakers’ priorities: If Congress can’t fund its own government, how can it also send more money to Ukraine?
“That would be one of the few good consequences of the government shutdown, in my view, is: it actually forces us to reevaluate our priorities on Ukraine,” said Republican Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio, a leading opponent of more Ukraine aid. But, he added, a shutdown wouldn’t mean skeptics prevail in the long term: “We actually have to win the debate.”
Poland will no longer send arms to Ukraine in order to focus on its own defence, the Polish prime minister has said, a few hours after Warsaw summoned Kyiv’s ambassador amid a row over grain exports.
“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” Mateusz Morawiecki said, in response to a question about whether Warsaw would continue to support Kyiv despite the grain exports disagreement.
Poland has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters after Russia invaded in February 2022 and is one of Kyiv’s main weapons suppliers. It also hosts a million Ukrainian refugees, who have been supplied with various forms of state aid.
Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv were sparked by Poland’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports to protect the interests of its farmers, and have intensified in recent days. ...
Morawiecki later told Polsat News television: “I am warning Ukraine’s authorities. Because if they are to escalate the conflict like that, we will add additional products to the ban on imports into Poland. Ukrainian authorities do not understand the degree to which Poland’s farming industry has been destabilised. We are protecting Polish farmers.”
President Biden will announce a new weapons package for Ukraine when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington on Thursday, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Sources told Reuters that the package will be worth $325 million and is expected to include the second tranche of widely-banned cluster bombs in the form of 155mm artillery shells. The US began providing Ukraine with cluster munitions in July despite their history of killing and maiming civilians. ...
A US official also told Reuters that the new weapons package will not include Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which can be fired from the HIMARS rocket systems and have a range of up to 190 miles. ATACMS have been long sought by Ukraine, and recent media reports said they could be soon on their way, but the White House said this week no decision has been made.
The State Department has confirmed that American citizen Gonzalo Lira is being held in a Ukrainian prison over charges related to his speech and views on the war in Ukraine. ...
“We are aware of the detention of Mr. Lira in Ukraine. We take our role in assisting US citizens abroad seriously and are providing all appropriate assistance,” a State Department spokesperson told Breitbart News on Tuesday. ...
The Breitbart report noted that the confirmation of a US citizen being held in Ukraine for his speech comes as President Biden is looking for an additional $24 billion in spending on the proxy war in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is currently in the US and is expected to visit the White House and Capitol Hill on Thursday to make the pitch for more aid.
It doesn’t take much in our media system to be labeled a “Putin apologist” or “pro-Russia.” In this New Cold War, even suggesting that the official enemy is not Hitlerian or completely irrational could earn ridicule and attack.
After the largely stalled Ukrainian counteroffensive against the Russian occupation, conditions on the front have hardened into what many observers describe as a “stalemate.” Like virtually all wars, the Russo-Ukrainian War will end with a negotiated settlement, and the quicker it happens, the quicker the bodies will stop piling up.
Despite this, anyone who advocates actually pursuing negotiations is immediately attacked. The New York Times (8/27/23) did this in an article about former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in an article that argued he “gives a voice to obstinate Russian sympathies.” The Times wrote:
In interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Mr. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “illusory,” ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain “neutral,” and insisted that Russia and France “need each other.”
“People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,” he told Le Figaro. “European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time,” he added.
To Times writer Roger Cohen, Sarkozy’s remarks “underscored the strength of the lingering pockets of pro-Putin sympathy that persist in Europe,” which persist despite Europe’s “unified stand against Russia.” Cohen didn’t challenge or rebut anything the former president said—he merely quoted the words, labeled them “pro-Putin,” and moved on.
The New Cold War mentality has encouraged a new wave of McCarthyite attacks against anyone who dissents against the establishment status quo. Merely pointing out that Putin is “not irrational” flies in the face of the accepted conventional wisdom that Putin is a Hitler-like madman hell bent on conquering Eastern Europe. That conventional wisdom is what allows calls for negotiation to be dismissed without any serious discussion, and challenging that wisdom elicits harsh reactions from establishment voices.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of the Armenian capital after Azerbaijan launched a full-scale military assault on the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The demonstration came amid rising discontent with Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, the inaction of Russian peacekeepers and the failure of western governments to stop bloodshed.
The announcement of a ceasefire in the disputed enclave on Wednesday appeared to involve the de facto capitulation of local defence forces and looked set to fuel the political unrest in Armenia, piling pressure on Pashinyan.
Azerbaijani officials said they had reached a ceasefire agreement involving the withdrawal of all local defence units from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrender of arms and heavy equipment. Many in Yerevan believe that Baku’s ultimate goal is to ethnically cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as Azerbaijani territory, of its predominantly Armenian population estimated to number about 120,000.
Pashinyan, who led Armenia through its defeat in the second Karabakh war three years ago, made it clear from the start of the fighting that he did not intend to authorise a military intervention to counter the Azerbaijani offensive. As Russian peacekeepers, believed to number about 2,000 soldiers, appeared either powerless or disinclined to intervene during the 24 hours of conflict, Baku also seemed to rebuff international calls for peace from the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and other western diplomats.
Putin Talks Aliyev, Pashinyan; Zelensky UN Falls Flat, Ukr Aid Dwindles Rejects Talks, Rus Offensive
A record number of library books were challenged during the first eight months of 2023, the American Library Association revealed Tuesday.
The ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) documented 695 attempts to remove a total of 1,915 library titles as of August 31. That's up from the 681 challenges to 1,651 distinct titles for the same period in 2022, and last year as a whole broke the overall record for book challenges since data collecting began more than two decades ago.
"These attacks on our freedom to read should trouble every person who values liberty and our constitutional rights," ALA OIF director Deborah Caldwell-Stone said in a statement. "To allow a group of people or any individual, no matter how powerful or loud, to become the decision-maker about what books we can read or whether libraries exist, is to place all of our rights and liberties in jeopardy."
The data reflects a growing right-wing movement to restrict the topics taught in public schools and the media that children have access to. In 2019, the ALA only counted 377 challenges to 566 titles, The Associated Press reported. In 2020, the number fell even further as libraries were closed because of Covid-19 lockdowns. Then, in 2021, it surged with a then-record 729 challenges targeting 1,597 books, the ALA said. In 2022, that record was broken again with a total of 1,269 challenges to 2,571 titles, 32% more than the previous year's record, ALA executive director Tracie D. Hall pointed out in an opinion piece for Time.
"This attempt to weaponize the right to read, and by extension the libraries that steward and protect that right, should be especially distressing to all of us as recent nationwide polling indicates that the vast majority of adults in this country, regardless of political party, oppose banning books," Hall wrote.
One sign that this is a censorship wave pushed by far-right groups like Moms for Liberty is the fact that the number of challenges targeting multiple books is rising. So far in 2023, 11 states reported challenges to 100 or more books, up from six states in 2022 and none in 2021, the ALA said. In 2022, 9 out of 10 challenges named more than one book.
This is leading to situations in which parents sign on to challenges backed by extreme groups despite never having read the books in question.
"If we have come to a time in this country when parents can be successfully swayed into restricting access to books they haven't read, what does that mean for our future as a nation?" Hall asked.
Another alarming trend is that challenges increasingly target books in public as well as school libraries, at 49% in 2023 versus 16% in the first eight months of 2022, according to ALA figures.
"The irony is that you had some censors who said that those who didn't want books pulled from schools could just go to the public libraries," Caldwell-Stone told AP.
In a separate statement, she said that public libraries were the "very embodiment of the First Amendment in our society."
"This places politics over the well-being and education of young people and everyone's right to access and use the public library," she said of the mounting challenges.
A white 84-year-old homeowner who is accused of shooting a Black teenager after the high schooler mistakenly came to his Kansas City home entered a not-guilty plea on Wednesday, and the judge scheduled his trial for next year.
Andrew Lester, a retired aircraft mechanic, is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the 13 April shooting of Ralph Yarl. The trial in the case, which shocked the country and renewed national debates about gun policies and race in America, was scheduled to begin on 7 October 2024.
Some supporters joined Yarl’s mother in the courtroom, their T-shirts reading “Ringing a doorbell is not a crime” turned inside out. Philip Barrolle, a family friend, said they wore the shirts that way after being told by the court the shirts were a problem. Supporters have worn them in the past, but an order issued on Monday barred “outbreaks, signs, or displays of any kind”. ...
The not-guilty plea, entered by Steve Salmon, Lester’s attorney, is largely a procedural step, and the hearing lasted just five minutes. Lester also pleaded not guilty soon after he was charged, but this is his first court appearance since a judge found sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
The trial of two suburban Denver police officers was set to open on Wednesday in the killing of Elijah McClain, a Black man put in a neck hold and injected with a powerful sedative whose 2019 death later became a rallying cry for nationwide protests and spurred police reform in Colorado.
It’s the first of several trials stemming from the death of McClain, and lawyers for the two sides are expected to paint contrasting pictures of the deadly struggle between the officers and the 23-year-old massage therapist. McClain was stopped by police in the city of Aurora while walking home from a convenience store carrying only a plastic bag and his phone.
One question jurors could be asked to decide is whether it was lawful for officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt to detain and use force against McClain, who a 911 caller reported as suspicious. If prosecutors can convince jurors the stop was unjustified, that would undermine any argument that McClain’s injuries were a result of the officers just doing their jobs.
Officials eventually determined the sedative ketamine played a key role in McClain’s death, which fueled renewed scrutiny about the use of ketamine for people considered to be acting erratically and led Colorado’s health department to limit when emergency workers can administer it. In 2020, neck holds by police were banned by the state’s Democratic-led legislature.
Roedema and Rosenblatt are both charged with criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and assault. They have pleaded not guilty but have never spoken publicly about the allegations against them. The trial is expected to last about a month. A third officer and two paramedics are charged in McClain’s death and are scheduled for trial later this year.
President Joe Biden will use his executive authority to create a New Deal-style American Climate Corps that will serve as a major green jobs training program. In an announcement on Wednesday, the White House said the program would employ about 20,000 young adults who will build trails, plant trees, help install solar panels and do other work to boost conservation and help prevent catastrophic wildfires. ...
The White House climate adviser, Ali Zaidi, said the administration would work with at least six federal agencies to create the climate corps and would pair with at least 10 states. California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and Washington have already begun similar programs, while five more are launching their own climate corps, Zaidi said: Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah.
The initiative will provide job training and service opportunities to work on a wide range of projects that tackle the climate crisis, including restoring coastal wetlands to protect communities from storm surges and flooding; deploying clean energy projects such as wind and solar power; managing forests to improve health and prevent catastrophic wildfires; and implementing energy efficient solutions to cut energy bills for consumers, the White House said.
Humanity has “opened the gates to hell” by allowing the climate crisis to worsen, the secretary general of the United Nations has warned at a climate summit of leaders that saw angry denunciations of the fossil fuel industry but was undercut by the absence of many of the biggest carbon-emitting countries. António Guterres opened the UN climate ambition summit, held in New York on Wednesday, with a lacerating attack on wealthy countries and the fossil fuel industry for their ponderous response to the climate crisis.
The UN secretary general said the world is “decades behind” in the transition to clean energy. “We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels,” Guterres said, adding that some fossil fuel companies had embarked upon a “shameful” attempt to stymie the transition.
Wealthy countries need to get their planet-heating emissions to net zero as close as possible to 2040, Guterres said, a task that a recent UN analysis found is well off track, as well as deliver promised climate funding to poorer, vulnerable nations that has so far been lacking. “Many of the poorest nations have every right to be angry, angry that they are suffering most from a climate crisis they did nothing to create, angry that promised finance hasn’t materialized and angry that their borrowing costs are sky high,” he said.
Guterres said that “humanity has opened the gates of hell” by unleashing worsening heatwaves, floods and wildfires seen around the world and that a “dangerous and unstable” future of 2.8C global heating, compared with the pre-industrial era, was awaiting without radical action. “The future of humanity is in our hands,” he said. “We must turn up the tempo, turn plans into action and turn the tide.”
Leaders from more than 100 countries were asked to take part in the climate ambition summit, with invites extended to those the UN deemed “to have new, improved ambition on climate”. In a sobering indication of the shortfall in the required effort to avoid disastrous climate change, most of the world’s biggest carbon emitters were absent, including Joe Biden, president of the US, and Xi Jinping, president of China – leaders of the two largest polluters.
California has ordered the company that owns Arrowhead bottled water to stop using some of the natural springs it has utilized for more than a century, following a years-long campaign by environmentalists to stop the operation.
Regulators on Tuesday voted to significantly reduce how much water BlueTriton – the owner of the Arrowhead brand – can take from public lands in the San Bernardino mountains. The ruling is a victory for community groups who have said for years that the bottled water firm has drained an important creek that serves as a habitat for wildlife and helps protect the area from wildfires.
Arrowhead bottled water traces its roots to a hotel at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains that first opened in 1885 and began selling bottled spring water from its basement in 1906. But environmental and community groups say the company has never had permission to take water from the springs in the San Bernardino national forest.
The state water resources control board agreed that BlueTriton does not have permission to use the water and ordered the company to stop. The order does not ban the company from taking any water from the mountain, but it significantly reduces how much it can take. ...
In a statement after the vote, BlueTriton Brandsindicated it would sue to block the order, vowing to “vigorously defend our water rights through available legal process”.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Carla Thomas – I'll Bring It On Home To You
Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – Lovey Dovey
Carla Thomas – How Do You Quit (Someone You Love)
Carla Thomas – You'll Lose A Good Thing
Carla Thomas - B-A-B-Y
Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – Tell It Like It Is
Carla Thomas - I Like What You're Doing
Carla Thomas - Pick Up The Pieces
Otis Redding - Knock On Wood feat. Carla Thomas