The Evening Blues - 11-18-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul singer Arthur Conley. Enjoy!
Arthur Conley - Funky Street
"Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we're still at the mercy of nature."
-- Neil deGrasse Tyson
News and Opinion
The US federal government is on Wednesday launching an auction of more than 80m acres of the gulf for fossil fuel extraction, a record sell-off that will lock in years, and potentially decades, of planet-heating emissions. The enormous size of the lease sale – covering an area that is twice as large as Florida – is a blunt repudiation of Biden’s previous promise to shut down new drilling on public lands and waters. It has stunned environmentalists who argue the auction punctures the US’s shaky credibility on the climate crisis and will make it harder to avert catastrophic impacts from soaring global heating.
Even Biden’s Democratic allies have raised concerns. “This administration went to Scotland and told the world that America’s climate leadership is back, and now it’s about to hand over 80m acres of public waters in the Gulf of Mexico to fossil fuel companies,” said Raul Grijalva, chair of the House natural resources committee. “[The] lease sale is a step in the wrong direction, and the administration needs to do better.”
There is no guarantee that all the leases will be taken up by oil and gas companies but the Department of the Interior, which oversees public lands and waters, has estimated there is as much as 1.12bn barrels of oil and 4.2tn cubic ft of gas available for extraction. A separate lease sale offered by the government in Alaska’s Cook Inlet will offer up another 192m barrels of oil and 301bn cubic ft of gas to drillers. Combined, these leases would result in nearly 600m tons of planet-heating gases if fully developed over the next four decades, which is more than the total annual emissions of the UK.
US military apologizes for misidentifying the bombs that may have killed dozens of civilians in Syria
After reportedly spending more than two years trying to keep the American public ignorant of an airstrike in Syria that may have killed as many as 64 civilians, the U.S. military has issued an apology – but not for accidentally killing innocent people. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command issued an apology for misidentifying the type of ordnance dropped on a cluster of civilians in a March 2019 airstrike in Baghouz, Syria.
The airstrike was first revealed by the New York Times, which detailed how two people with knowledge of the incident were repeatedly thwarted by their superiors when they tried to get the airstrike investigated as a possible war crime.
Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, initially said that two 2,000-pound bombs and one 500-pound bomb were used in the strike, in which at least four civilians died and it is “highly likely that there were additional civilians killed.”
The Pentagon and the New York Times report offered conflicting accounts of the number of civilians killed in the strike. According to Urban, investigators were unable to determine how many of roughly 60 casualties resulting from the airstrike were armed because several women and one child were allegedly seen carrying weapons in surveillance video. The spokesman for CENTCOM did not provide any evidence to support that claim.
However, on Tuesday, Urban admitted that he had misspoke: All three of the bombs dropped by a U.S. F-15 that day were variants of 500-pound bombs. “The CENTCOM Public Affairs shop apologizes for the error,” Urban said.
The United States Supreme Court has rejected a petition to review a case filed by an American journalist based in opposition-held Syria, which accused Washington of placing him on a "kill list" and attempting to assassinate him five times.
The country's highest court did not give a reason for the denial of Bilal Abdul Kareem's petition, which stemmed from a lawsuit filed in a Washington DC district court in 2017 against the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, and several other government agencies.
The district court had dismissed the case in September 2019, after the US invoked the "state secrets" privilege in order to avoid disclosing information on its kill list, which Abdul Kareem argues is unconstitutional and violates his right to due process. Then earlier this year, an appellate court similarly dismissed the case on the basis of state secrets and that Abdul Kareem could not "explicitly link the United States" to the attacks against him.
Abdul Kareem told Middle East Eye that he was not surprised by the Supreme Court's refusal to consider his case. "What are they afraid of? They are worried that their assassination programme will come under intense scrutiny. Right now it is free-wheeling and they like it that way. If they have to deal with me fairly then they would have to deal with others fairly," he said. ...
Tara Plochocki, a lawyer for Abdul Kareem, said during the appellate court hearing that the case held in it the fate of the due process rights guaranteed by the US Constitution's Fifth Amendment. "It's a purely legal issue, and the Government has offered no limiting principle, as this Court has observed on whether and when it can kill US citizens. So whether that's in a parking lot in the United States or abroad in Syria, the Government has claimed for the first time ever in this case that it has unfettered and unreviewable discretion to kill US citizens at will," she said.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is dropping his push to add a competitiveness proposal into a sweeping defense policy bill after striking a deal with the House to negotiate on the China-focused competition legislation.
The announcement removes a significant roadblock for the defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is a breakthrough on the Senate-passed China legislation that has been stuck for months in the House.
Schumer's effort to add the Senate-passed anti-China competitiveness legislation — including potentially making changes to the Senate bill over concerns about procedural snags in the House — into the defense bill had sparked warnings from Senate Republicans that they would block the defense bill from coming up for debate.
But Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Wednesday night that they had reached an agreement to enter formal negotiations between the House and the Senate on the competitiveness legislation.
'Inappropriate Giveaway of Galactic Proportions': Outrage Over $10 Billion Taxpayer Gift to Bezos Space Obsession
Progressives on Wednesday slammed what they called a proposed $10 billion handout to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—the world's first multi-centibillionaire—in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act as a "giveaway of galactic proportions" in the face of growing wealth inequality and the inability of U.S. lawmakers to pass a sweeping social and climate spending package.
According to Defense News, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to merge the $250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA)—aimed largely at countering the rise of China—with next year's NDAA, which would authorize up to $778 billion in military spending. That's $37 billion more than former President Donald Trump's final defense budget and $25 billion more than requested by President Joe Biden. The NDAA includes a $10 billion subsidy to Bezos' Blue Origin space exploration company.
"Providing Jeff Bezos with $10 billion of taxpayer money would be an inappropriate giveaway of galactic proportions," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said in a statement Wednesday.
"Jeff Bezos shouldn't receive taxpayer subsidies for his personal projects—period," he continued. "In at least two recent years, one of the richest people on the planet paid no income tax; yet he then demands billions in taxpayer funds for a project that's already been awarded to another company. This is the height of hubris."
"Rather than waste $10 billion on a redundant space contract for Bezos, that money could be used to adequately fund Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid, and the food stamps that many of his own employees at Amazon and elsewhere have to rely on to make ends meet," Appelbaum said.
"Jeff Bezos's business model includes feasting on public subsidies—and the U.S. Senate must not acquiesce to his demands," he added. "Furthermore, until Jeff Bezos changes the way his employees are mistreated and dehumanized at Amazon and elsewhere, no elected official should support the passage of subsidies for him or any of his projects."
A $285 billion tax cut that would predominantly flow to rich households is now the second most expensive component of the Build Back Better Act after corporate Democrats succeeded in slashing funding for a number of key progressive priorities—and removing other programs entirely.
With the House of Representatives preparing to vote later this week on the roughly $1.8 trillion reconciliation package, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Democrats' plan to raise the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2026 would be "more costly than establishing a paid family and medical leave program, and nearly twice as expensive as funding home-medical services for the elderly and disabled."
"Over the next five years, raising the SALT cap would provide a tax cut only to those who itemize their taxes and pay more than $10,000 in state and local taxes—a group overwhelmingly made up of the wealthy," the Post noted. "A recent analysis from the Tax Policy Center says the tax cut will benefit primarily the top 10% of income earners, with almost nothing flowing to middle- and lower-income families."
The only part of the Build Back Better package that's currently larger than the proposed SALT cap increase is the legislation's universal pre-K and affordable child care programs, both of which progressive critics warn are deeply flawed and have been pared back in recent weeks to appease right-wing Democrats.
"As the Build Back Better bill makes its way through Congress, significant changes are being made to the various proposals, generally for the worse," Matt Bruenig of the People's Policy Project noted last week. "Hollowed-out versions of older proposals are limping to the finish line and it's a completely different bill at this point."
The proposal to lift the SALT cap—which was created by the GOP's 2017 tax law—was added to the reconciliation package largely at the behest of a small group of corporate Democrats who threatened to tank any bill that omitted an increase.
"No SALT, no deal," Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) said in a recent statement, a message that other right-wing Democrats readily echoed.
Last month, after President Joe Biden privately floated leaving SALT changes out of the reconciliation package, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly intervened to rescue the tax break, which one analysis estimates will deliver an average tax cut of $16,760 to U.S. millionaires.
Outraged by the SALT proposal's regressivity, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters on Tuesday that he's currently working on a compromise plan that would limit the provision's benefits for the wealthy.
Big Pharma’s massive lobbying campaign and advertising offensive against Democrats’ drug pricing plan saved the industry nearly half a trillion dollars. That represents a return of more than 1,700 times the investment the drug industry has made on lobbying Congress this year. This outcome illustrates why industry groups are willing to throw ungodly sums of money at influencing Washington lawmakers. While spending hundreds of millions on lobbying and advocacy efforts might seem exorbitant, it’s nothing compared to the hundreds of billions these business interests stand to lose if legislative decisions don’t go their way.
In September, House Democrats estimated that the drug pricing provisions in their Build Back Better agenda reconciliation bill would save $700 billion over a decade. Democrats’ compromise drug plan — negotiated by pharmaceutical industry favorites Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Rep. Scott Peters of California, and Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon — would only save $250 billion during that same time, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a pro-austerity think tank. The difference equals $450 billion in savings.
According to data from OpenSecrets, the pharmaceutical and health products industries have spent $263 million on lobbying in Washington so far this year. Dark money groups with ties to Big Pharma have run misleading ad campaigns promoting the Democrats who worked to gut the party’s drug pricing measure, and they have also spent millions on ads attacking the entire concept of allowing the government to negotiate drug prices — an idea that is broadly popular and one that many other countries have implemented.
Joe Biden announced a deal last month to establish around-the-clock operations at the Port of Los Angeles to break an unprecedented container ship traffic jam blamed for driving up consumer prices. But that hasn’t happened yet.
Gene Seroka, the Port of Los Angeles executive director, said in an online briefing on Tuesday that the sprawling complex has “24/7 capability”, but a shortage of truck drivers and nighttime warehouse workers poses problems in establishing a nonstop schedule, along with getting importers to embrace expanded hours. “It’s an effort to try to get this entire orchestra of supply chain players to get on the same calendar,” he said. Among thousands of importers, “we’ve had very few takers to date.” ...
On Tuesday, the backlog remained significant, but there were signs of progress. Eighty-four container ships were waiting to enter the Los Angeles–Long Beach port complex, slightly down from some recent days when the number topped 100.
As for moving cargo, Seroka said the port had witnessed a 25% drop in the number of import containers on the docks since 24 October, from 95,000 to to 71,000. During the same time, cargo sitting nine days or longer dropped by 29%, he said. To speed up the clearance of containers, the port earlier this month had announced a new fee that would hit imports destined for truck removal after nine days or more on docks, and would start after six days for rail-bound cargo. Ports would charge ocean carriers escalating fees for overstaying container – with a $100 charge for the first day, $200 for the second, and so on.
Ever wondered what it takes to get into Harvard? Stellar grades, impressive extracurriculars and based on a recently published study, having deep pockets and a parent who either works or went there. Those last two are pretty important for Harvard’s white students because only about 57% of them were admitted to the school based on merit.
In reality, 43% of Harvard’s white students are either recruited athletes, legacy students, on the dean’s interest list (meaning their parents have donated to the school) or children of faculty and staff (students admitted based on these criteria are referred to as ‘ALDCs’, which stands for ‘athletes’, ‘legacies’, ‘dean’s interest list’ and ‘children’ of Harvard employees). The kicker? Roughly three-quarters of these applicants would have been rejected if it weren’t for having rich or Harvard-connected parents or being an athlete.
Here’s the thing– Harvard is insanely competitive. The admittance rate for the class of 2025 was 3.43%, the lowest rate in the school’s history, in a year that saw an unprecedented surge in applications. But as more and more comes to light about Harvard’s admissions process, it’s clear that the school’s competitiveness is not just based on academic strength or great test scores, but also whether or not your parents or grandparents have donated significantly to the school.
This dynamic is inherently racialized, with almost 70% of all legacy applicants at Harvard being white. According to the study, a white person’s chances of being admitted increased seven times if they had family who donated to Harvard. Meanwhile in stark contrast, African American, Asian American and Hispanic students make up less than 16% of ALDC students.
The Los Angeles police department pursued a contract with a controversial technology company that could enable police to use fake social media accounts to surveil civilians and claimed its algorithms can identify people who may commit crimes in the future. A cache of internal LAPD documents obtained through public records requests by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-profit organization, and shared with the Guardian, reveal that LAPD in 2019 trialed social media surveillance software from the analytics company Voyager Labs.
Like many companies in this industry, Voyager Labs’ software allows law enforcement to collect and analyze large troves of social media data to investigate crimes or monitor potential threats. But documents reveal the company takes this surveillance a step further. In its sales pitch to LAPD about a potential long-term contract, Voyager said its software could collect data on a suspect’s online network and surveil the accounts of thousands of the suspect’s “friends”. It said its artificial intelligence could discern people’s motives and beliefs and identify social media users who are most “engaged in their hearts” about their ideologies. And it suggested its tools could allow agencies to conduct undercover monitoring using fake social media profiles.
The LAPD’s trial with Voyager ended in November 2019. The records show the department continued to access some of the technology after the pilot period, and that the LAPD and Voyager spent more than a year trying to finalize a formal contract. The documents show that the LAPD has had ongoing conversations this year about a continued partnership, but a police spokesperson told the Guardian on Monday that the department was not currently using Voyager. ...
The full scope of the LAPD’s surveillance tech is unclear, though records suggest that the department has in recent years purchased or considered buying software from at least 10 companies that monitor social media. The department is often a trailblazer among US police departments in adopting new technologies, with a large police budget and private foundation funding that allows it to trial programs later adopted by other departments.
Two men convicted in the assassination of Malcolm X are set to be cleared after more than half a century, with prosecutors now saying authorities withheld evidence in the civil rights leader’s killing. Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam, who were incarcerated for a combined 42 years for the crime, were being exonerated after a nearly two-year investigation by their lawyers and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. A court date is expected on Thursday.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, told the New York Times, which first reported the news. “These men did not get the justice that they deserved.” ...
Aziz, Islam and a third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim – known at the time of the killing as Talmadge Hayer and later as Thomas Hagan – were convicted of murder in March 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. Halim confessed that he was one of three gunmen who attacked Malcolm X, but he testified that neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. They also maintained their innocence. ...
“This wasn’t a mere oversight,” lawyer Deborah Francois told the Times. “This was a product of extreme and gross official misconduct.”
A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced the US Capitol rioter nicknamed the “QAnon shaman” for his horned headdress to 41 months in prison for his role in the deadly 6 January attack by former President Donald Trump’s followers.
Prosecutors had asked US district judge Royce Lamberth to impose a longer 51-month sentence on Jacob Chansley, who pleaded guilty in September to obstructing an official proceeding when he and thousands of others stormed the building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election. ...
While in detention, Chansley was diagnosed by prison officials with transient schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. When he entered his guilty plea, Chansley said he was disappointed Trump had not pardoned him.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Friday that he has “no idea” if he’ll run for reelection to the Senate in 2024, predicting he’ll make a decision after next year’s midterm election. ...
Manchin's indecision on whether or not to run again in 2024 comes after he indicated during the 2018 race that he thought it was his last. He told Politico at the time that "it’s my last campaign for Senate, I know that. I know that for sure."
But Manchin has indicated more recently that he's undecided. Asked if he'll make another Senate bid in 2024, Manchin recently joked at an Economic Club event: "I'll be 77 years old, what do you think?"
Denmark has accused the UK of breaching the post-Brexit fisheries deal over plans to ban destructive bottom trawling in a North Sea conservation zone.
The UK announced in February that it wanted to ban bottom trawling at the Dogger Bank conservation zone in the North Sea, a move hailed by environmentalists hopeful of seeing a resurgence of halibut, sharks and skate in the once marine life rich sandbank.
In an interview with the Guardian, Denmark’s fisheries minister, Rasmus Prehn, said such plans were not in line with the post-Brexit deal. “The Brexit agreement ensures full access [for EU vessels] to fish in UK waters until 2026. And therefore, of course, it is a very big problem for us if the British government is going to change that. We find that unacceptable and it’s a breach of our agreement,” he said. ...
Under the Brexit trade and cooperation agreement struck between the EU and the UK last Christmas Eve, EU fishers can continue to access UK waters as before until 30 June 2026, a transition to delay the blow of reduced fishing rights in future. The deal also commits both sides to “promoting the long-term sustainability” of the 70 common fish in the shared waters. ...
Environmentalists have welcomed the government’s decision to protect Dogger Bank, but said the UK needed to show the same efforts when it came to protecting fish targeted by British fishers.
Cassie King grew up in San Diego, the daughter of loving parents, and she’d wanted to be a teacher since she was 5 years old. As a teenager, she had planned to have children of her own. “But with more health crises and climate catastrophes, I started to worry more about the state of the world in just 10 years, let alone in 100 years when the children of my grandchildren would be having kids,” she said. “That makes me feel like it would be wrong to bring someone into that chaos, without their consent.” ...
Two nonprofits, Fair Start Movement and Population Balance, filed a complaint in late October with the United Nations Human Rights Council, on behalf of King and other young women, alleging that the United Nations has failed to protect the rights of younger generations to safely and sustainably have children. “Young people are increasingly choosing not to have children, not because they don’t want them, but because they’re worried about how the climate crisis will impact their children’s future,” said Carter Dillard, policy advisor for Fair Start, which advocates on behalf of families and children and is based in San Francisco.
The United Nations is obligated to interpret the “right to found a family” from Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a way that preserves that right for generations to come, Dillard said. Instead, U.N. member states have limited the ability of future generations to found a family in a safe and healthy way by “encouraging unsustainable population growth models that have contributed to climate change.” The obligation to protect the right of future generations to found a family flows from the Council’s vote a month ago, adopting a resolution formally recognizing a healthy and sustainable environment as a basic human right, the complaint alleges.
Eleven percent of childless adults cite climate change as a “major reason” for why they do not currently have children, and another 15 percent say it’s a “minor reason,” according to a nationally representative 2020 survey by Morning Consult, a data and polling company.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Arthur Conley - People Sure Act Funny
Arthur Conley - Lets go steady
Arthur Conley - Nothing Can Ever Change This Love
Arthur Conley - Shake, Rattle & Roll
Arthur Conley - I've Been Loving You Too Long
Arthur Conley - Burning Fire
Arthur Conley - I Got a Feeling
Arthur Conley - Rome (Wasn't Built in a Day)
Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music