The Evening Blues - 1-25-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Memphis blues guitarist and singer Walter Jacobs Vinson. Enjoy!
Walter Vinson - Rosa Lee Blues
"The Empire is the institution, the codification, of derangement; it is insane and imposes its insanity on us by violence, since its nature is a violent one."
-- Philip K. Dick
News and Opinion
The US has placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to deploy to Europe as Nato reinforced its eastern borders with warships and fighter jets, amid growing fears of a possible “lightning” attack by Russia to seize the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the troops, all of them currently stationed in the US, would be on standby to take part in Nato’s Response Force (NRF) if it is activated, but would also be available “if other situations develop”.
The alert order issued by the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, reduces the number of days it would take to deploy but it is not itself an order to deploy. The USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier, along with its strike group and air wing, joined patrolling activities across the Mediterranean Sea on Monday, the first time since the cold war that a full US carrier group has come under Nato command.
Kirby said: “In the event of Nato’s activation of the NRF or a deteriorating security environment, the United States would be in a position to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, transportation and additional capabilities into Europe.”
Any deployment in Europe, he said, “is really about reassuring the eastern flank of Nato” of the US readiness to come to the defence of alliance members. The force would not be deployed in Ukraine, which is not a Nato member. There are currently about 150 US military advisers in the country, and Kirby said there were no plans at present to withdraw them.
The deranged lapdog is raving and drooling:
A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “painful, violent and bloody business”, Boris Johnson has warned as he said a “lightning war” was possible but not inevitable. ...
Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to a hospital, Johnson was asked about the prospect of an imminent invasion by Russian troops. “I think the intelligence is pretty gloomy on this point,” he said.
“The intelligence is very clear that there are 60 Russian battle groups on the border of Ukraine. The plan for a lightning war that could take out Kyiv is one that everybody can see. We need to make it very clear to the Kremlin that that would be a disastrous step.”
President Emmanuel Macron of France can end the present threat of war in Europe with just four words: J’ai dit: Non (“I have said: No”). These were the words of his great predecessor, President Charles de Gaulle, when he announced in 1963 that he had vetoed (quite rightly, as it now appears) Britain’s application to join the European Common Market. In the present context, Macron can use them to declare that he will veto, and he expects his successors to veto, any Ukrainian application to join NATO.
This would be symbolism — since nobody really thinks Ukraine can be offered NATO membership in the foreseeable future and Macron cannot dictate his successors’ actions — but it would be an immensely powerful piece of symbolism. It would signal the determination of France, the only significant military power in the European Union, not to be led into an unnecessary conflict with Russia; and it would begin to rally European publics finally to take responsibility for the security of their own continent. This in turn would lay the initial foundation of a new European security architecture including Russia, and open the way for a solution to the various unsolved disputes around the borders of NATO and the EU.
A French initiative along these lines would at last bring some honesty and clarity to a Western debate on Ukraine characterized up to now by deceit, self-deception, and hypocrisy. For not only does the West totally lack both the will and the military forces to defend Ukraine whether or not it is in NATO; following the lamentable records of the Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, and Bulgarians since joining the EU and NATO, there is also absolutely no will at all in Western Europe to make any serious moves towards bringing Ukraine into the EU.
President Macron has made a good start with his statement this week (marking the start of France’s six-month presidency of the EU) that he hoped to restart the “Normandy Format” of talks between France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine aimed at the implementation of the Minsk II agreement on a solution for the Donbas conflict in Eastern Ukraine aimed at internationally-guaranteed autonomy for that territory within Ukraine. This is indeed the only way that dispute can be solved peacefully. ...
In the present French presidential election campaign, all the candidates from far right to center left have sought to wrap themselves in the mantle of Charles de Gaulle. They should remind themselves that de Gaulle most certainly would not have allowed France to be dragged into an unnecessary and disastrous conflict by the megalomaniac ambitions of Washington and the ancestral Russophobe hatreds of Poles and Swedes.
US stock markets were hit by another wave of wild trading on Monday as investors worried that the Federal Reserve would wind down its support for the economy faster than expected and fears of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine intensified.
Last week’s sharp selloffs were repeated in early trading on Monday but by the end of the day, the S&P 500 stock index regained its losses, ending up 0.29%, the Dow Jones rose 99 points, or 0.29%, after dropping 1,115 points at its low, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.5%.
Stock markets hit record highs after highs last year. But so far this year the S&P 500 has fallen at its fastest rate on record, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and on Monday it briefly fell 10% from its most recent high on 3 January before regaining ground.
The Fed meets this week and on Wednesday will give a clearer picture of how quickly it will raise interest rates in order to tackle soaring inflation.
Attorneys general from Washington, D.C. and three states plan to sue Google on Monday, accusing the tech giant of deceiving consumers about the security of their location data in order to boost its digital advertising profits.
"Google uses tricks to continuously seek to track a user's location," said D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D). "This suit, by four attorneys general, on a bipartisan basis, is an overdue enforcement action against a flagrant violator of privacy and the laws of our states."
The District of Columbia and Texas have filed lawsuits, and Washington and Indiana are expected to do the same.
The Washington Post reported Monday:
The lawsuits... allege the company made misleading promises about its users' ability to protect their privacy through Google account settings, dating to at least 2014. The suits seek to stop Google from engaging in these practices and to fine the company.
The complaints also allege the company has deployed "dark patterns," or design tricks that can subtly influence users' decisions in ways that are advantageous for a business. The lawsuits say Google has designed its products to repeatedly nudge or pressure people to provide more and more location data, "inadvertently or out of frustration." The suits allege this violates various state and D.C. consumer protection laws.
Although congressional scrutiny of Big Tech has grown in recent years, federal lawmakers have yet to pass legislation to prevent location data from being obtained through manipulative surveillance practices, prompting state AGs to launch investigations and pursue legal action.
"During this state of paralysis, these companies have become massive and powerful to an extent where they're able to forestall reasonable regulation," Racine told the Post in an interview. "The time of trickery for profits is over."
The US supreme court agreed on Monday to hear a pair of cases on race-based affirmative action in college admission, giving the majority-conservative court an opportunity to overturn protections that increase opportunities for individuals belonging to groups known to have been discriminated against. ...
Both affirmative action cases have been brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a non-profit led by the conservative activist Edward Blum, who has spent much of the last decade trying to end affirmative action in higher education.
Harvard, a private institution, and the University of North Carolina, a state school, are the defendants for the two court cases.
“Any ruling that calls into question the legality of race-conscious admissions would be a reversal of more than 40 years of Scotus decisions that have repeatedly and consistently confirmed the constitutionality and legality of race-conscious admissions in higher education,” Legal Defense Fund, a prominent civil rights law organization that fights for racial justice, said in a statement.
Blum was behind Fisher v University of Texas, the last case on affirmative action that the supreme court considered in 2016. In that case, Blum argued that the university’s admission policies discriminated against Abigail Fisher, a white applicant. In a 4-3 ruling, the court upheld affirmative action, with then justice Anthony Kennedy being the only conservative judge who ruled in favor of the policy.
The bitter arctic blast, which had Minnesota temperatures below 0F , didn’t stop protesters from hosting a rally as the three lesser-known police officers accused of involvement in the killing of George Floyd faced their turn in the courtroom. A caravan of two dozen cars had occupied the length of the block outside the courthouse in the state capital, St Paul, last week, as jury selection began in the federal civil rights trial of Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane.
Opening statements began on Monday, in the second trial of the closely watched process of legal accountability after the white former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, and admitted violating his civil rights in May 2020, sparking the largest racial reckoning in America’s recent history.
“The day that George Floyd was killed, in addition to Derek Chauvin as the officer that took George Floyd’s life, there were three other human beings that were there. They wore badges and guns, too. They were officers, too,” local activist Toshira Garraway told the bundled-up protesters standing in a tight circle outside their cars. She added: “Not one of the four officers that was there had compassion and empathy enough to intervene.” ...
As the trial of the three subordinate officers got under way, a prosecutor told the jury they broke federal law by failing to stop Chauvin from killing Floyd, and were indifferent to the handcuffed man’s dying pleas.
The three have pleaded not guilty in both their civil rights case and their state case, which is due later this year and in which they are accused of aiding and abetting murder.
There's of course no mention of it in the article, but a quick Google will show that the U.S. was extensively involved overtly and covertly in supporting the military organizations committing atrocities. Sadly, the U.S. government will likely never be held accountable for it's crimes.
Indigenous women raped by paramilitaries during Guatemala’s brutal civil war have triumphed in court, when their aggressors were sentenced to 30 years each in prison. In a verdict hailed as a vindication for survivors who have spent years fighting for justice, a tribunal convicted five former paramilitary patrolmen of crimes against humanity for the rape of five Maya Achi women in the early 1980s. ...
Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war left an estimated 200,000 people dead and 45,000 people disappeared. Many of the worst atrocities occurred in the early 1980s. The 36-year armed conflict was between leftist guerrilla groups and the military, but the military’s counterinsurgency campaign, which included paramilitaries, was also deployed against indigenous civilians.
More than 80% of victims of atrocities were indigenous Maya civilians, according to a United Nations-backed truth commission, which also documented more than 600 massacres carried out by the military and paramilitaries. State actors committed acts of genocide in some regions of the country, including the Achi region, the truth commission concluded. A domestic court concurred in 2018, and high-ranking former military officials are facing trial for genocide.
Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, stoked outrage on Sunday by predicting members of the House committee investigating the Capitol attack will be imprisoned if Republicans retake the chamber this year.
One of two Republicans on the committee, Liz Cheney, said: “A former speaker of the House is threatening jail time for members of Congress who are investigating the violent attack on our Capitol and our constitution. This is what it looks like when the rule of law unravels.”
Gingrich made his name with scorched-earth opposition to Bill Clinton in the 1990s and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He is now a prominent Trump supporter, rightwing gadfly and adviser to House Republican leaders.
He made his prediction on Fox News, for which he is a contributor.
Calling the members of the 6 January committee “wolves [who] are going to find out that they’re now sheep”, he said that if Republicans take Congress in November, “this is all going to come crashing down … they’re the ones who in fact, I think, face a real risk of jail for the kinds of laws they’re breaking”.
Grade inflation at work?
After campaigning on a historic climate and environmental agenda that went well beyond vowing to undo the Trump administration's damage, President Joe Biden had a disappointing first year in office, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund concluded Monday.
Following up on a "report card" released last July, six months into Biden's presidency, the nonprofit published another assessment of his administration's environmental record. In both cases, the group handed down a C- grade for "desperately needs improvement."
The new report warns that "Biden's environmental agenda is at a precipice, with his signature Build Back Better Act teetering dangerously." The House-approved bill has been held up in the Senate, where it needs support from every Democrat to pass.
Biden has "squandered his first year in office" by repeating former President Barack Obama's strategy of prioritizing legislation over executive action, according to the analysis.
Killer corporation cannot be brought to heel by the law:
A federal judge who has overseen Pacific Gas & Electric's soon-to-expire felony probation is calling for the California utility company to be broken up, warning that PG&E is emerging from its five-year probationary period as "a continuing menace" to the state.
Noting that PG&E pled guilty to dozens of manslaughter charges and caused more than 30 wildfires since entering probation in 2017, U.S. District Judge William Alsup wrote in a report last week that he "must acknowledge failure" in his attempt to rehabilitate the company.
"In these five years, PG&E has gone on a crime spree," Alsup wrote. "While on probation, PG&E has set at least 31 wildfires, burned nearly one and one-half million acres, burned 23,956 structures, and killed 113 Californians."
The company's executives entered probation, which is set to end at midnight Tuesday, after being convicted in 2016 of crimes that caused a natural gas explosion in San Bruno in 2010, killing eight people.
In 2020, PG&E CEO Bill Johnson pled guilty on behalf of the company to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise—leaving just 5% of its buildings undamaged.
An investigation revealed that the company let its power grid deteriorate and scaled back inspections of its equipment, allowing a hook connected to a transmission tower to break and start the Camp Fire.
Last year, PG&E's failure to remove a pine tree that its contractors had marked for clearance years earlier was blamed for the Zogg Fire, which killed four people ranging in age from eight to 79. The company was charged with 11 more felony counts including manslaughter.
As the charges have mounted in the past five years, victims have called on prosecutors and Alsup to extend the company's probation to no avail.
According to former California power regulator Catherine Sandoval, federal prosecutors have declined to extend the period of court supervision because "there appears to be no binding case law on this point."
Closing out the probation, Alsup recommended that PG&E be broken up into two separate utilities.
"Less sprawling utilities would be easier to train and to instill practices and procedures that truly put safety first," the judge wrote.
As it stands, he said, "we remain trapped in a tragic era of PG&E wildfires because for decades it neglected its duties concerning hazard-tree removal and vegetation clearance, even though such duties were required by California's Public Resource Code."
The company's outsourcing of tree clearance to independent contractors has been a main driver of its continued sparking of wildfires, said Alsup, including the Kincade and Dixie Fires during the probation.
Earlier this month, Cal Fire concluded that the Dixie Fire—the second-largest wildfire in California history—was caused when a tree fell on PG&E's power line.
"PG&E and its reckless disregard for its own power line infrastructure puts thousands of families at risk of losing everything, even their lives," said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook.
The Mercury News editorial board on Saturday wrote that Alsup's admission that he cannot stop PG&E's "reign of terror" was "stunning."
"In effect, the judge told Californians that they cannot count on the courts to hold PG&E accountable. But the 16 million customers served by PG&E can't keep waiting," wrote the board, adding that the state must take action to avoid further death and destruction:
As we have said repeatedly, the state and the California Public Utilities Commission must step up and initiate a takeover of the utility. Now. Before PG&E wreaks further havoc on our lives.
The question now is not whether to take over the failed utility, but how: What is the best way to replace the company? Should it be split up? Run by the state? By a nonprofit? By another utility company? It's past time for state officials to figure that out—and to act.
"It's long past time to end this outrage," added the editors.
Alsup noted in his report that the vast majority of survivors are still awaiting compensation from the $97 billion power company while "management pays itself handsome salaries and bonuses, all paid from revenues collected from customers.”
In a brief filed with Alsup during PG&E's probation, Sandoval accused the company of "cognitive immaturity" and "lazy thinking" that has led to its persistent crimes against Californians, calling for the company's executives to submit to counseling as an individual might after being released from incarceration or probation.
"PG&E, the corporation, needs the training an individual criminal defendant would have received in prison to break the cycle of criminal thinking that endangers public safety," wrote Sandoval.
Ganesh Pant worries about the future. While he delights in the stunning conservation accomplishment that has seen the numbers of greater one-horned rhinos in Nepal jump from 100 in 1965 to 752 in 2021, he wants to be sure that success will continue. Before the 1950s, as many as 1,000 rhinos roamed the grasslands and forests of Nepal. But by 1965, rampant hunting, poaching and changes in land use had brought the species close to extinction in the country. Then, the national park was established in 1973 and thanks to concerted conservation efforts, the rhino population began to bounce back.
Today, Chitwan national park has the second-largest concentration of one-horned rhinos after India’s Kaziranga national park, with the two parks accounting for 70% of the species’ global population. Besides playing a key role in the ecosystem, Chitwan’s rhinos help attract huge numbers of tourists each year, contributing considerably to the country’s economy. In 2019, there were 185,000 foreign visitors to the park.
But the greater one-horned rhino is still classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and a new threat has emerged. While there were only about five confirmed deaths due to poaching between 2016 and 2020, more than 100 rhinos were reported to have died of natural or unknown causes. “Poaching used to be the reason for rhino mortality. But in recent years, the government has done an excellent job in protecting rhinoceroses from poaching,” says Pant, a conservation officer working for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Nepal.
“At this point, we cannot say that [these deaths are] only due to the impacts of climate change,” says Pant, who is studying for a PhD with the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. But he believes that the climate crisis could be one of the underlying causes. Pant and a team of researchers developed a set of 21 indicators to assess the vulnerability of the rhinos in Nepal to climate change. They concluded that they were “moderately vulnerable” to the impacts of global warming, primarily due to the likelihood of invasive species and extreme flooding in prime rhino habitat, along with habitat fragmentation, droughts and forest fires. ...
While the one-horned rhinos fared well in the climate change vulnerability analysis, the changing climate is already threatening the rhino population in Chitwan national park. The species is dependent on a certain level of annual flooding to maintain its habitat. But over the last few years, extreme flooding has affected the park several times, sweeping rhinos downstream into India and bringing debris and rubbish from upstream. Drought is also occurring more often, leading to fewer of the ponds that rhinos wallow in to regulate their temperature. Invasive species such as the bitter vine (Mikania micrantha), and Chromolaena odorata, a flowering shrub also known as Siam weed, are spreading at an alarming pace, encroaching into the grasslands that are the rhinos’ prime habitat. Global heating is expected to exacerbate extreme flooding and prolonged droughts, as well as the rapid growth of invasive species in the future.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Walter Vinson & Bo Carter - Times Is Tight Like That
Walter Vinson - How Did It Happen
Walter Vinson - Rats Been On My Cheese
Walter Vinson - Can't Get a Word in Edgeways
Walter Vinson w/ Mary Butler - Mad Dog Blues
Walter Vinson - Your Friend Gonna Use It Too (Part 1)
Walter Vinson with Leroy Carter - Black Widow Spider
Mississippi Sheiks - Livin' In A Strain
Walter Vinson - Mississippi Low Down
Walter Vinson with Leroy Carter - Can't Anybody Tell Me Blues