The Evening Blues - 10-3-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and gospel singer and guitarist Roebuck "Pops" Staples. Enjoy!
Pop Staples - Nobody's Fault But Mine
"No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution... revolution is but thought carried into action."
-- Emma Goldman
News and Opinion
Worth a full read.
There was a decade of popular uprisings from 2010 until the global pandemic in 2020. These uprisings shook the foundations of the global order. They denounced corporate domination, austerity cuts and demanded economic justice and civil rights. There were nationwide protests in the United States centered around the 59-day Occupy encampments. There were popular eruptions in Greece, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Chile and during South Korea’s Candlelight Light Revolution. Discredited politicians were driven from office in Greece, Spain, Ukraine, South Korea, Egypt, Chile and Tunisia. Reform, or at least the promise of it, dominated public discourse. It seemed to herald a new era.
Then the backlash. The aspirations of the popular movements were crushed. State control and social inequality expanded. There was no significant change. In most cases, things got worse. The far-right emerged triumphant.
What happened? How did a decade of mass protests that seemed to herald democratic openness, an end to state repression, a weakening of the domination of global corporations and financial institutions and an era of freedom sputter to an ignominious failure? What went wrong? How did the hated bankers and politicians maintain or regain control? What are the effective tools to rid ourselves of corporate domination?
Vincent Bevins in his new book“If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution” chronicles how we failed on several fronts. The “techno-optimists” who preached that new digital media was a revolutionary and democratizing force did not foresee that authoritarian governments, corporations and internal security services could harness these digital platforms and turn them into engines of wholesale surveillance, censorship and vehicles for propaganda and disinformation. The social media platforms that made popular protests possible were turned against us.
Many mass movements, because they failed to implement hierarchical, disciplined, and coherent organizational structures, were unable to defend themselves. In the few cases when organized movements achieved power, as in Greece and Honduras, the international financiers and corporations conspired to ruthlessly wrest power back. In most cases, the ruling class swiftly filled the power vacuums created by these protests. They offered new brands to repackage the old system. This is the reason the 2008 Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s Marketer of the Year. It won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors gathered at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference. It beat out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. The professionals knew. Brand Obama was a marketer’s dream.
Too often the protests resembled flash mobs, with people pouring into public spaces and creating a media spectacle, rather than engaging in a sustained, organized and prolonged disruption of power. Guy Debord captures the futility of these spectacles/protests in his book “Society of the Spectacle,” noting that the age of the spectacle means those entranced by its images are “molded to its laws.” Anarchists and antifascists, such as those in the black bloc, often smashed windows, threw rocks at police and overturned or burned cars. Random acts of violence, looting and vandalism were justified in the jargon of the movement, as components of “feral” or “spontaneous insurrection.” This “riot porn” delighted the media, many of those who engaged in it and, not coincidentally, the ruling class which used it to justify further repression and demonize protest movements. An absence of political theory led activists to use popular culture, such as the film “V for Vendetta,” as reference points. The far more effective and crippling tools of grassroots educational campaigns, strikes and boycotts were often ignored or sidelined.
The MIC is hungry:
Joe Biden has pressed congressional Republicans to back a deal to provide more aid to Ukraine, after provisions for Kyiv were left out of a bill to avoid a US government shutdown.
The US president said on Sunday he was “sick and tired” of the political brinkmanship, and that US support for Ukraine could not be interrupted “under any circumstances”. Republicans had pledged to provide Ukraine aid through a separate vote, he said.
Without referring directly to the US bill, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that nothing would weaken his country’s fight against Russia, and that no one could “shut down” Ukraine’s stability, endurance, strength and courage, echoing a Ukrainian verb often used to refer to power outages caused by Russian attacks. The Ukrainian president’s comments were made in a recorded speech released on the Defenders Day holiday. ...
Ukraine defence minister Rustem Umerov said he had received reassurances about further military assistance in a telephone call with US defence secretary Lloyd Austin. “Secretary Austin assured me,” Umerov wrote in a post on X, using flags in place of country names, that US support to Ukraine “will continue” and that Ukrainian “warriors will continue to have a strong back-up on the battlefield”.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday said that comments made by his defense secretary about sending troops into Ukraine for training are part of long-term planning, not something the UK would do in the “here and now.”
British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps told the Sunday Telegraph that he was discussing the idea of moving London’s training programs for Ukrainian troops from the UK into Ukraine. “I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well,” Shapps said.
According to the Discord leaks and several media reports, the UK has had special operations forces inside Ukraine. The Times of London reported all the way back in April 2022 that British Special Air Service troops were training Ukrainians on anti-tank weapons outside of Kyiv. But the presence was never officially acknowledged by London, and an open British military deployment to Ukraine would mark a significant escalation of NATO involvement in the war.
US neocon efforts to stir up trouble in the Caucasus via Armenia will likely only force other countries in the region closer together and isolate Armenia. Neocon think tanks in Washington like the RAND Corporation and Middle East Media Research Institute have long advocated for stirring up trouble in the South Caucasus as another way to weaken Russia and Iran and potentially cause a rift between the two. Instead the opposite is likely to happen. This is an absolute worst case scenario for Armenia as it has allowed itself to become a proxy battleground between world and regional powers and will almost certainly end disastrously for the country. ...
Azerbaijan taking the region by force comes after months of miscalculations or purposeful maneuvering by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Under Pashinyan’s direction Armenia recently hosted military exercises with the US, invited the EU and Washington into the peace process with Azerbaijan (traditionally handled by Russia), the prime minister’s wife visited Kiev to deliver humanitarian aid, and on Thursday the Armenian parliament moved closer to adopting the Rome Statute, which Moscow calls a “hostile move.” Was Pashinyan making loud overtures to the West in an ill-fated attempt to coax more support from Russia in the long conflict with Azerbaijan or was he simply maneuvering to blame Russia for the loss of Nagorno Karabakh and move Armenia closer to NATO, the EU, and Washington? Either way, he got in over his head. He has now given away Nagorno Karabakh with nothing to show for it.
It’s possible that Pashinyan was caught up in magical thinking that he had more support from Washington despite the fact the US has no real way to project power into the Caucasus. After all, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was demanding in July that Azerbaijan immediately reopen the Lachin Corridor, which is the sole road that connects Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh. Nancy Pelosi went to Armenia last September and pledged “the strong and ongoing support of the United States.” Members of Congress had also been making noise about more support for Yerevan and stronger opposition to Azerbaijan. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov recently said, “We have information that they [the West] are signaling to the Armenians, ‘Come to us, kick the Russians out of your territory, remove the [Russian] military base and border guards too, the Americans will help to ensure your security.’”
Well, Armenia is still waiting for the US support, and for now Pashinyan is left holding the bag and flailing about. While he blames Russia, he’s also tried to downplay claims of mass casualties and backed the ceasefire brokered by Moscow. Pashinyan will now meet with his Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev October 5, potentially for a wider peace deal. The blaming of Russia for the loss of Nagorno has unleashed widespread anger in Armenia. ...
In such an environment, a new Western-backed color revolution to install someone that could take advantage of the current popular anger to push even more anti-Russian policies is not out of the question.
Tens of thousands of now-homeless people have streamed into Armenia from the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, controlled by its emboldened adversary, Azerbaijan. Swarms of protesters are filling the streets of the Armenian capital of Yerevan, demanding the prime minister’s ouster. Relations with Russia, an old ally and protector, have frayed amid mutual accusations. Armenia now finds itself facing multiple challenges after being suddenly thrust into one of the worst political crises in its decades of independence following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Starved of supplies by an Azerbaijani blockade and outnumbered by a military bolstered by Turkey, the separatist forces capitulated in 24 hours and their political leaders said they would dissolve their government by the end of the year. That triggered a massive exodus by the ethnic Armenians who feared living under Azerbaijani rule. Over 80% of the region’s 120,000 residents hastily packed their belongings and trudged in a grueling and slow journey over the single mountain road into impoverished Armenia, which is struggling to accommodate them.
Enraged and exasperated over the loss of their homeland, they will likely support almost daily protests against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has been blamed by the opposition for failing to defend Nagorno-Karabakh. Pashinyan’s economically challenged government has to provide them quickly with housing, medical care and jobs. While the global Armenian diaspora has pledged to help, it poses major financial and logistical problems for the landlocked country.
This year, there seemed to be reason for optimism among advocates of war powers reform. When the Senate voted in March to repeal the 2002 authorization for war with Iraq, many assumed the House would quickly pass the measure, which had garnered broad bipartisan support in previous years.
But that optimism may be misplaced, as a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee demonstrated Thursday. Far from showing a desire to wrestle back their war-making authorities, most lawmakers appear determined to maintain the status quo that has seen U.S. troops carry out operations in more than 20 countries around the world.
The hearing revolved around the holy grail of war powers: the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and any groups that harbored them. Despite concerns that the law has been stretched well past its original intent, Congress has struggled to build consensus on a replacement.
Yet Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the HFAC chair, has made clear that he will only consider repealing the 2002 AUMF alongside a repeal-and-replace of the 2001 version. This may have been a clever attempt to prevent a straight repeal of the 2002 law, but, after a month of negotiations, McCaul now says he hopes to mark up a compromise bill by the end of October.
McCaul opened discussion on Thursday by arguing that America still faces “terrorists committed to our destruction” around the world. (It should be noted that the Department of Defense says the threat to the homeland from Al Qaida, ISIS, and Al Shabaab is “low” and possibly non-existent.)
McCaul said he would not consider putting geographic restrictions on a replacement, going against a key proposal among war powers reformers, who warn that unrestricted AUMFs are ripe for exploitation by the executive branch. Most of his colleagues — including a number of Democrats — agreed with McCaul’s approach.
Saudi Arabia is determined to secure a defense pact with the US in exchange for normalizing with Israel regardless of whether or not concessions are made to the Palestinians, Reuters reported Friday, citing regional sources.
Riyadh is looking for a commitment from the US that it would defend Saudi Arabia if it comes under attack, similar to NATO’s Article 5, which outlines that an attack on one alliance member is treated as an attack on all. The US is not looking to go as far as an Article 5-style guarantee, but the Reuters report said Saudi Arabia “would not settle for less than binding assurances of US protection if it faced attack.”
A formal US mutual defense guarantee for Saudi Arabia would risk reigniting the war in Yemen, where a ceasefire between the Saudis and the Houthis has held relatively well since April 2022. Such a commitment from the US also risks sparking another war as it would embolden Riyadh in the region.
The Biden administration has quietly struck a deal with Ecuador to deploy troops to the country and patrol the waters off its coast to combat drug cartels, the Washington Examiner reported on Friday. ...
The maritime deal will allow the US Coast Guard to patrol waters off Ecuador’s coast, an area where Colombian cartels transport cocaine.
The second agreement outlines the terms by which the US troops could be deployed to Ecuador, known as a status of forces agreement. The details of the agreement are not known, and it’s also unclear if it means a US troop deployment is imminent.
Congressman Matt Gaetz, a hard-right Republican of Florida, introduced a motion to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker on Monday, expressing outrage over the Republican leader’s successful efforts to avoid a government shutdown this weekend.
“I have enough Republicans where at this point next week, one of two things will happen: Kevin McCarthy won’t be the speaker of the House, or he’ll be the speaker of the House working at the pleasure of the Democrats,” Gaetz told reporters after he filed the motion. “I’m at peace with either result because the American people deserve to know who governs them.” ...
Gaetz had warned that he would move to oust McCarthy if the speaker collaborated with Democrats to keep the government open and he followed through with that threat on Monday evening. Now that Gaetz has introduced a motion to vacate the chair, House leadership will have to schedule a vote on the matter within two legislative days.
McCarthy’s allies are expected to deploy some procedural tactics to derail Gaetz’s motion, but if those efforts fail, it will take only a simple majority of voting members present to remove the speaker. ... Because of House Republicans’ narrow majority, McCarthy can only afford to lose five votes within his conference and still hold the speakership, assuming every House member participates in the vote. Despite that tricky math, McCarthy has struck a defiant tone in recent days, insisting he has the votes to keep his gavel.
The rightwing activist Leonard Leo has helped fund a network of groups involved in a crucial US supreme court case that could fundamentally weaken the federal government’s ability to hold corporations to account, a leading watchdog said as the conservative-dominated court prepared for its new term.
“Leonard Leo spent years stacking the court with ideological kindred spirits,” said Caroline Ciccone, president of Accountable.US. “Now he’s funding a dark web of special interest groups to push an extreme agenda.”
The case in question, in the term that starts on Tuesday, is Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v Community Financial Services Association of America, or CFPB v CFSAA. The CFPB was set up under the Obama administration after the global recession of 2008 to 2009, to better protect ordinary Americans from predatory business interests. The CFSAA is an umbrella for a group of payday lenders.
Last week, writing for Scotusblog, Amy Howe, a law professor and counsel in supreme court cases, said: “The stakes in the case are high. The Biden administration … warns that a ruling for the challengers could call into question not only the payday-lending rule at the center of this case but also a wide swath of other regulations that protect consumers.
“And more broadly, the case is the first of several on the court’s docket this term in which the justices will weigh in on the division of authority between the three branches of government, as well as the power of administrative agencies.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday recused himself from a decision—but the rare move from the embattled right-winger came as he weighed in on another case involving his billionaire benefactor, which outraged one watchdog group.
The high court declined to hear Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) v. City of New York, New York, a landlord-backed constitutional challenge to the massive city's longtime rent stabilization policies for about a million apartments.
"It is a travesty that Clarence Thomas failed to recuse himself in yet another case from which his right-wing donors could directly benefit," said Revolving Door Project executive director Jeff Hauser in a statement. "Justice Thomas' billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow has a vested interest in weakening rent control laws across the country to buttress his real estate empire's profits."
The Supreme Court in recent months has faced calls for new ethics rules, a U.S. Department of Justice probe, and Thomas' resignation in response to revelations about his relationship with Crow and other rich GOP donors. In addition to treating Thomas to luxury vacations, Crow bought his mother's house and contributed to the private school tuition for a great-nephew he raised.
"Crow's industry lobbyist of choice, the National Multifamily Housing Council, filed an amicus brief urging the 2nd Circuit to take up the challenge to New York City's rent control law in 2021," Hauser noted. "While the NMHC did not file a brief for the case before the Supreme Court, there should be little doubt that Thomas and his clerks are aware of NMHC's, and therefore Crow's, interest in the case."
As The New York Times reported Monday, "Other petitions asking the Supreme Court to rule on aspects of the regulations are pending, and the justices may yet agree to consider one or more of those cases."
Given that, "the threat from the Thomas-Crow relationship remains imminent," Hauser stressed. "We call on Thomas to immediately recuse himself from two additional challenges to New York City's rent control law relisted for the October 6th conference by the court: 74 Pinehurst LLC v. New York (22-1130) and 335-7 LLC v. City of New York. Crow's interest in these cases is unambiguous, as is the depth of Thomas' relationship with his patron Crow."
The police chief who led a highly criticized raid of a small Kansas newspaper has been suspended, the mayor confirmed to the Associated Press this weekend.
The Marion mayor, Dave Mayfield, in a text said he suspended chief Gideon Cody on Thursday. He declined to discuss his decision further and did not say whether Cody was still being paid.
The 11 August searches of the Marion County Record’s office and the homes of its publisher and a city council member have been sharply criticized, putting Marion at the center of a debate over the press protections offered by the free press rights enshrined in the US constitution’s first amendment.
Cody’s suspension is a reversal for the mayor, who previously said he would wait for results from a state police investigation before taking action.
The vice-mayor, Ruth Herbel, whose home was also raided on 11 August, praised Cody’s suspension as “the best thing that can happen to Marion right now” while the central Kansas town of about 1,900 people struggles to move forward under the national spotlight.
A Texas prisoner who is facing execution having been sent to death row on the basis of “shaken baby syndrome”, a child abuse theory that has been widely debunked as junk science, has had his petition to the US supreme court denied. The country’s highest court issued its denial on Monday morning giving no explanation. Robert Roberson, 56, who was sent to death row in 2003 for shaking his two-year-old daughter Nikki to death, had appealed to the justices to take another look at his case focusing on the largely discredited forensic science on which his conviction was secured.
The court’s decision leaves Roberson’s life in jeopardy. Having come within four days of execution in 2016, he has already exhausted appeals through Texas state courts and must now rely on the mercy of the Republican governor Greg Abbott who rarely grants clemency. ...
In the intervening years, however, new evidence has been uncovered that suggests that not only is Roberson potentially innocent but that the crime for which he was convicted of never took place. Leading scientists have questioned the reliability of shaken baby syndrome, both as a medical diagnosis and as a forensic tool in criminal prosecutions, pointing to more than 80 alternative causes that can explain the symptoms without violence having occurred. ...
In Nikki’s case, several of the alternative causes that scientists have identified for the symptoms linked to shaken baby syndrome have been found to apply to the toddler. The girl had been ill with a fever of 104.5F (40.3C) shortly before she collapsed, had undiagnosed pneumonia, and had been given medical pills that are no longer considered safe for children as they can be life-threatening.
At his 2003 trial, Roberson was portrayed by prosecutors as a cold and calculating father who displayed no emotion. After his conviction, though, the inmate was diagnosed with autism which put those qualities in a completely different light.
Donald Trump attacked the judge and New York prosecutors who have charged him with orchestrating a years-long fraud on Monday as state prosecutors accused the former president of using the scam to inflate his wealth by as much as $2.2bn. ...
“This is a continuation of the single greatest witch-hunt of all time,” Trump said as he headed into court. He said his financial statements were “phenomenal”, called James, who is Black, a “racist” and a “horror show” and said the case was being overseen by a “rogue judge”. ...
The judge delivered a dramatic punishment to Trump, along with his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, who will see their business certificates canceled. This will make it nearly impossible for them to continue doing business in New York.
What could make things even worse is a hefty fine. The attorney general’s office will have to prove that there should be a disgorgement of profits from the Trump family, meaning they should have to give up the profits they made off their fudged financial statements. James’s office is arguing that Trump received loans using those fraudulent statements to purchase properties like the Trump golf club in Miami, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and the Old Post Office building in Washington DC. Any profits from those, the attorney general is arguing, were made off lies. ...
The trial is scheduled to run until 22 December , though it will likely not last that long as the judge’s pre-trial ruling settled a major question: whether Trump indeed committed fraud. Now the case is focused on how much he will have to pay for it.
The unmistakable influence of the climate crisis helped cause New York City to be inundated by a month’s worth of rain within just a few hours on Friday, scientists have warned, amid concerns over how well the city is prepared for severe climate shocks.
A new rapid attribution study, released by scientists in Europe, has found that the type of storm seen on Friday is now 10-20% wetter than it would have been in the previous century, because of climate change.
Flash flooding soaked large parts of the US’s largest city, turning roads into rivers, following intense rainfall that broke records. John F Kennedy international airport measured 8in of rainfall in one day, the most since records began, while Brooklyn received a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours. People had to be rescued from swamped basement apartments, subway and bus services were canceled and sewage backed up in overwhelmed pipes.
Climate scientists have stressed that such pounding rainfall is a symptom of a warming planet, with a hotter atmosphere able to hold more moisture that is then unleashed in torrential downpours. ...
Following scenes where parts of New York again resembled a giant, fetid swimming pool, and less than four months after the city’s skies turned a toxic orange from wildfire smoke, questions have been raised about the preparedness of the metropolis, along with many other major cities, to escalating climate impacts.
Brazil’s government has begun removing thousands of non-Indigenous people from two native territories in a move that will affect thousands who live in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The Brazilian intelligence agency ABIN said in a statement that the goal was to return the Apyterewa and Trincheira Bacaja lands in Para state to the original peoples. It did not say whether or not the expulsion of non-Indigenous people had been entirely peaceful.
The territories are located around the municipalities of Sao Felix do Xingu, Altamira, Anapu and Senador Jose Porfirio in Para state. Brazil’s government said the supreme court and other judges had ordered the operation.
Indigenous groups estimate more than 10,000 non-Indigenous people are living inside the two territories. ABIN said as many as 2,500 Indigenous people live in 51 villages within.
“The presence of strangers on Indigenous land threatens the integrity of the Indigenous [people] and causes other damages, such as the destruction of forests,” the agency said in its statement. It added that about 1,600 families lived illegally in that region with some involved in illegal activities such as cattle raising and gold mining. “They also destroy native vegetation.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Pops Staples - Why Am I Treated So Bad?
Pops Staples - World In Motion
Staples Singers - Wade In The Water
The Staple Singers - Respect Yourself
Pops Staples - No News Is Good News
Pops Staples - Grandma's Hands
Staple Singers - Slippery People
Pops Staples - Down In Mississippi
The Band feat. the Staples Singers - The Weight