The Evening Blues - 11-8-21
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This evening's music features folk blues singer Odetta. Enjoy!
Odetta - House of the Rising Sun
"The world is dominated by opaque and unaccountable government agencies. The Pentagon killed ten civilians, none of whom were combatants and seven of whom were kids, lied about it, got caught, investigated itself and found its staff weren’t even guilty of so much as negligence, then classified the report."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
On Monday, the US supreme court will hear arguments in a case which could determine whether the US government faces accountability for its mass surveillance of Muslim Americans after 9/11. The nine justices will be asked to decide on whether Muslim US citizens who were subjected to undercover surveillance by a paid informant at their southern California mosque can receive redress through the courts.
Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, Ali Malik and Yasser Abdel Rahim, the three plaintiffs, argue that they and thousands of other Muslims were targeted because of their religion, and the federal authorities who subjected them to such unconstitutional treatment should answer for that.
Lawyers for the government will counter that the case should be dismissed, as litigating it would reveal intelligence about federal anti-terrorism operations that would be harmful to national security. Information on who they were investigating and why, as well as details of the FBI’s sources and methods, should remain confidential on grounds that they are “state secrets”.
Ahilan Arulanantham, a human rights lawyer at UCLA who will be arguing FBI v Fazaga for the plaintiffs on Monday, told reporters that the question for the court was simple: “Will the people we represent ever get their day in court? Are the courts open to protect this community’s religious freedoms, or can the government slam the doors shut whenever it claims to be acting in the name of national security?” ...
In the Fazaga case, the nation’s highest court will adjudicate on whether the lawsuit against FBI’s surveillance can proceed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This would allow the case to be heard in a federal district court with part of the proceedings conducted in private to safeguard sensitive intelligence.
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib and the peace group CodePink were among those who condemned Friday's killing by Israeli forces of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy in the illegally occupied West Bank.
Middle East Eye reports Mohammed Daadas, who was from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, was shot in the stomach during a post-prayer confrontation with Israeli forces in Deir al-Hatab, a village east of Nablus that has been the site of repeated attacks by Israeli settler-colonists over the past month. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Daadas died in a Nablus hospital later Friday after attempts to save his life failed.
Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, responded to the boy's death by tweeting, "Our country must stop enabling the killing of children."
Noting the high number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces, the women-led peace group CodePink asked, "How many more?"
Israeli forces killed 67 children during this year's Operation Guardian of the Walls assault on Gaza and, according to the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Information, at least 3,090 children since 2000.
Palestinian-American author and analyst Yousef Munayyer responded to Friday's killing by noting Israel's recent internationally condemned designation of six human rights groups as "terrorist organizations."
"It is precisely efforts to seek justice for victims like Mohammed that Israel wants to eliminate by targeting human rights groups," he tweeted.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson said Friday's deadly violence involved soldiers responding to a "riot" near the illegal settlement of Alon Moreh.
"During the disturbance, rioters threw stones at Israeli soldiers," the IDF official said. "The troops responded with riot dispersal means and live fire."
The Palestine Chronicle reports at least five other Palestinians were injured while protesting Israeli settler-colonization, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid Friday.
Senior figures in Iraq believe a brazen drone attack on the home of Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, marks an unprecedented escalation between the country’s leaders and Iran-backed militant groups attempting to overturn last month’s election. The overnight attack is seen by Iraqi officials as an assassination attempt, and the first of its kind against a prime minister since the US-led invasion to remove Saddam Hussein nearly 19 years ago.
Kadhimi was slightly injured when a drone exploded near the front door of his residence in Baghdad’s fortified green zone. Seven of his guards sustained more significant injuries, although none were life-threatening.
Regional intelligence figures say the attack was likely launched by Iran-linked groups which lost two-thirds of their parliamentary seats in the national election and had on Friday tried to storm the green zone before being beaten back by security forces. ...
The absence of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, who exerted a powerful influence over Iran-linked militias until he was assassinated in a drone strike ordered by Donald Trump in January 2020, has however clouded even Iraqi officials’ understanding of whether acts by proxies in Iraq are ordered by figures in Iran. “We assess that this would not have happened if Qassem Suleimani was still alive,” the official said. “There is no longer the same hold over the militia groups as there was under him. This means the link to the seat of power in Tehran is not as [strong] as it was.”
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum this week, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley targeted China as the No 1. security threat to the United States and narrowed the time frame for a potential war over Taiwan to two years. Milley’s remarks clearly reflect the discussion taking place in the top military, intelligence and political echelons in Washington. Over the past decade, Obama, Trump and now Biden have successively raised the stakes in an increasingly reckless confrontation with China, aimed at preventing it from threatening American global hegemony.
Speaking of China, Milley complained: “They want to challenge the so-called liberal, rules-based order that went into effect in 1945 at the end of World War II. They want to revise it.” But the catchphrase—the international rules-based order—refers to the post-war international framework established by the US, in which it set the rules to suit its economic and strategic interests. What concerns Milley is that China, by virtue of the sheer size of its economy and need for energy, raw material and parts, is coming into conflict with the world dominated by the US and its allies. Moreover, in order to compete economically, China is compelled to seek to advance hi-tech industries that both Trump and Biden have sought to block.
Milley focused attention on US tensions with China over Taiwan, which were intensified by Trump and have rapidly come to the fore under Biden. In March, the outgoing head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Phil Davidson, warned of the potential for war with China within six years. Milley said he did not expect Chinese military action over Taiwan in the next two years, which only suggests that the US military is preparing for war within a short time frame. He added: “Having said that, though, the Chinese are clearly and unambiguously building the capability to provide those options to the national leadership if they so choose at some point in the future.”
“We are witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed,” Milley said. In a statement that foreshadows a vast acceleration of the US arms race with China, he declared: “If we, the United States military, don’t do a fundamental change ourselves in the coming 10 to 20 years, we’re going to be on the wrong side of a conflict.”
China hawk Sen. Josh Hawley normally has little in common with anti-war group Code Pink. But the two are on the same side when it comes to keeping women out of the draft.
Congress is expected to debate this year whether women should register with the selective service, when it considers the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The fight is uniting advocates on opposite extremes of the political spectrum, even if their reasons for supporting or opposing the change are different.
“It’s a weird pairing,” said Kara Vuic, an expert on women in the military who teaches at Texas Christian University. “They’re united because they don’t want women going to war, whether that’s because they don’t want anybody going to war or because they think women should be in the home….It is bringing together people both for and against who probably agree with each other on absolutely nothing else.”
The objections are likely to fall flat. There is bipartisan support in both the House and Senate for the proposal requiring women to register. The House has already approved the bill, and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted the legislation out of committee with Republican support. ...
President Joe Biden also supports women registering with the selective service. While running for president last September, he told the Military Officers Association of America that he would “ensure that women are also eligible to register for the Selective Service System so that men and women are treated equally in the event of future conflicts.”
Julian Assange and his fiancee, Stella Moris, say they are being prevented from getting married and are preparing legal action against Dominic Raab and the governor of Belmarsh prison. The action accuses the justice secretary and Jenny Louis, who runs the prison where the WikiLeaks co-founder is being held while the US is seeking his extradition, of denying the human rights of the couple and their two children. They say they have had no response to repeated requests seeking agreement that a ceremony can take place at the prison. ...
“We are suing because creepy elements of the UK government are illegally blocking and delaying our marriage by effectively giving the US government veto power,” Moris said on Twitter on Sunday. “Our request to marry is now in the hands of the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service], which acts for the US in #Assangecase. ...
Louis has reportedly told the couple’s legal team she was obliged to refer the wedding request to the Crown Prosecution Service. However, those lawyers say this is irrelevant as there are no UK charges against him. Raab and Louis, who are also accused in the action of abusing their power over Assange, have been given until 12 November to respond. The Ministry of Justice has been approached for comment.
The U.S. House on Friday night passed a bipartisan physical infrastructure bill but didn't bring the Build Back Better Act to the floor—sending just one half of President Joe Biden's two-pronged economic agenda to the White House, with only a pledge that conservative House Democrats will vote for the party's broader social infrastructure and climate package at a later date.
That wasn't the plan on Friday morning. When the day started, Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said they wanted House Democrats to pass both parts of the president's legislative agenda: the Build Back Better Act (BBB), which would invest $1.75 trillion over 10 years to strengthen climate action and the welfare state; and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), a fossil fuel-friendly proposal to upgrade the nation's roads, bridges, and ports that was approved by the U.S. Senate in August.
Due to the intransigence of a few right-wing House Democrats who made last-minute demands for additional fiscal information that could take weeks to obtain, and the acquiescence of Pelosi and Biden, a planned floor vote on BBB was shelved and reduced to a "rule for consideration," which was approved in a party-line vote of 221-213. Prior to that, BIF passed by a tally of 228-206, with 13 House Republicans joining most Democrats in supporting the measure.
Because it wasn't accompanied by a real vote on BBB, six progressives—Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—voted against BIF.
"Passing the infrastructure bill without passing the Build Back Better Act first," Omar said in a statement, "risks leaving behind child care, paid leave, healthcare, climate action, housing, education, and a roadmap to citizenship."
For months, progressives have stressed—and Democratic leaders had agreed—that keeping both pieces of legislation linked and passing them in tandem was key to securing Biden's entire agenda. Holding a floor vote on BIF and a mere procedural action on BBB, progressives argued Friday, was a betrayal of the two-track strategy that opens the door for right-wing party members who are content with the passage of BIF to further weaken, or completely abandon, the already heavily gutted BBB.
Voters in Virginia and New Jersey this week sounded a serious warning to Democrats, key players in the Biden administration and Congress said on Sunday: the party needs to get things done or it faces disaster in midterm elections next year. The energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said “we thank God” something was done on Friday night: a $1tn infrastructure deal sent to Joe Biden’s desk by the House.
Three days after Democrats lost a race for governor in one state Biden won comfortably and barely held the other, House centrists and progressives managed to come together, with some Republican support. Biden hailed a “monumental step forward” and a “blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America”. He also said “the one message that came across” in Virginia and New Jersey was: “Get something done.” ...
But Democrats punted again on the second half of the president’s domestic agenda, the 10-year, $1.75tn Build Back Better package to boost health and social care and to seek to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis. Granholm told CNN’s State of the Union: “I think that the Democrats in the House got the message very loud and clear. Pass the bill and pass the second part too, because these contain things that everyday people care about.
Allie Young believed in Kyrsten Sinema. Her vote helped elect the seemingly progressive Democrat from Arizona to the Senate in 2018. But she wonders what happened to Sinema when she got to Washington. Young, a voting rights activist and citizen of the Diné, or Navajo Nation, is appalled by Sinema’s refusal to reform or abolish the filibuster. “She has betrayed her constituents,” Young, 31, said by phone this week. “The sort of inaction that she’s taking right now is an action and it’s making the BIPOC community, especially in Arizona, distrust her more and more as the days go by.” ...
It is an issue that hits home for Young, who last year organized a second “Ride to the Polls” campaign in Arizona that led Indigenous people more than 20 miles on horseback to polling places so they could cast their votes. “Her campaign was something that attracted us because back then she seemed to be a little more progressive than she is now. That’s the part that we’re all having trouble understanding. What happened?”
The bewilderment deepened late last year when Sinema nominated Young for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Citizen Honors Award for her contribution to increasing voter registration and turnout. Young reflected: “The fact that nomination came from her and her office tells me that she knows the importance of the Native vote.”
“[But] she’s not protecting our right to vote and, if she doesn’t end the filibuster and these voting rights acts don’t get passed, that will affect us. We’re already seeing some of these voter suppression laws that have been passed earlier this year and how they will affect the Native vote.” ...
“It’s very devastating to all of us Arizonans and those who trusted in her. That’s the point of this election process. We vote in and we elect leaders that should be held accountable and that’s what we’re doing now. We put faith in a leader that’s going to show up for us and protect us and fight for us and we’re not seeing that right now.”
“Flight cancelled”; “service temporarily suspended”; “not currently available”; “longer than normal wait times”: these are the messages that confront US consumers daily as the economy struggles to find a post pandemic footing. Now the phenomenon has a name: “skimpflation”. It’s a simple in concept – struggling with shortages of workers and goods, companies are skimping on what they offer consumers while, in many cases, charging the same price or more for that service.
But skimpflation may have profound consequences, and may even go some way to account for the rising tide consumer of dissatisfaction seen in increasing air rage incidents and even the Biden administration’s plummeting poll numbers. Skimpflation is everywhere. Last weekend, American Airlines cancelled upwards of 2,000 flights, leaving thousands stranded, as a single weather event (high winds in Dallas) threw the carrier’s rotas of pilots and flight attendants, already in short supply, into chaos. But passengers weren’t the only ones affected. Crews found themselves having to work double shifts or stuck far from home at the end of work.
All of this, says Alan Cole, a writer at Full Stack Economics and formerly a senior economist at the joint economic committee of the US Congress, is part and parcel of the skimpflation, a sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, sense among consumers that they are getting less for their money, worker unhappiness with consumers and employers, employers’ unhappiness with restive workers. It’s an economic force that leaves everyone feeling they are getting the bad end of the transaction.
“Nothing prepared us for how much life has gotten worse,” Cole told the Guardian. “Most of these factors haven’t been picked up on by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We thought these changes to products were going to be temporary, so it was reasonable not to account for the changes. But now everything has got worse all at the same time, so even if you tried to account for them, you probably couldn’t.” ...
At the same time, exit polls from the upset in the Virginia governors race this week showed that one-third of voters registered the economy as their chief concern. With the job market still 7 million workers down from pre-pandemic employment levels, inflation running at a 30-year high, and worker dissatisfaction triggering a mass resignation, circumstances could get worse.
Close to four years after the event, a sprawling civil lawsuit alleging a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence against nine residents of Charlottesville during the white-supremacist Unite the Right march and rally is drawing together some of the most notorious figures of America’s alt-right movement. The case, Sines v Kessler, alleges that 14 people, including Richard Spencer and podcaster Chris Cantwell, white nationalists who are representing themselves in court, and 10 far-right groups, among them Vanguard America, Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Worker party, violated an obscure federal law known the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 citing “conspiracy to interfere with civil rights”.
A diverse jury, identified only by numbers, has been hearing evidence that the white nationalists violated the constitutional rights of nine plaintiffs who were left injured or emotionally scarred, and now seeking compensation. Jurors need only find “a preponderance of the evidence” to assert the defendants’ liability.
But some of the defendants are missing, most say they are now broke, and some are using the case as a stage to promote their views. The statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee, to which the white nationalists rallied, has been removed, but political amplification of the mayhem over that weekend, which left a young woman dead and 14 injured, continues. ...
The court has already entered default judgments against seven defendants, including neo-Nazis Elliot Kline and Robert “Azzmador” Ray, who refused to comply with court orders to turn over electronic devices. Authorities have been searching for Ray, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a tough-talking brawler, since June 2018.
Andrew Anglin, who publishes the hate site the Daily Stormer, is subject to a $14m judgment for orchestrating an antisemitic harassment campaign against a Montana real estate agent, is missing and believed to be out of the country. Jeff Schoep, former commander of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, said his cellphone “accidentally” fell into the toilet, making it impossible to recover potential evidence, and claims to have reformed his views.
Citizens are alarmed by the climate crisis, but most believe they are already doing more to preserve the planet than anyone else, including their government, and few are willing to make significant lifestyle changes, an international survey has found. “The widespread awareness of the importance of the climate crisis illustrated in this study has yet to be coupled with a proportionate willingness to act,” the survey of 10 countries including the US, UK, France and Germany, observed.
Emmanuel Rivière, director of international polling at Kantar Public, said the survey, carried out in late September and published to coincide with the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, contained “a double lesson for governments”. They have, first, “to measure up to people’s expectations,” Rivière said. “But they also have to persuade people not of the reality of the climate crisis – that’s done – but of what the solutions are, and of how we can fairly share responsibility for them.”
The survey found that 62% of people surveyed saw the climate crisis as the main environmental challenge the world was now facing, ahead of air pollution (39%), the impact of waste (38%) and new diseases (36%). But when asked to rate their individual action against others’ such as governments, business and the media, people generally saw themselves as much more committed to the environment than others in their local community, or any institution.
About 36% rated themselves “highly committed” to preserving the planet, while only 21% felt the same was true of the media and 19% of local government. A mere 18% felt their local community was equally committed, with national governments (17%) and big corporations (13%) seen as even less engaged. Respondents were also lukewarm about doing more themselves, citing a wide range of reasons. Most (76%) of those surveyed across the 10 countries said they would accept stricter environmental rules and regulations, but almost half (46%) felt that there was no real need for them to change their personal habits. ...
The most common reasons given for not being willing to do more for the planet were “I feel proud of what I am currently doing” (74%), “There isn’t agreement among experts on the best solutions” (72%), and “I need more resources and equipment from public authorities” (69%). Other reasons for not wanting to do more included “I can’t afford to make those efforts” (60%), “I lack information and guidance on what to do” (55%), “I don’t think individual efforts can really have an impact” (39%), “I believe environmental threats are overestimated” (35%) and “I don’t have the headspace to think about it” (33%).
"Would climate leaders build 399 new coal plants in the U.S.?"
So asks an advertisement placed in Scotland's largest daily newspaper this week by U.S. environmental and climate justice groups during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, part of an effort to persuade the Biden administration to reject all new gas exports and fossil fuel infrastructure.
"The answer is no," the ad says. "Yet right now, 23 liquefied natural gas export terminals and pipelines are sitting on your desks. These projects will unleash greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to doubling all existing U.S. coal-fired power plants."
Last month, Oil Change International—a member of the Build Back Fossil Free coalition behind the ad—published a briefing paper noting President Joe Biden has the executive authority to block two dozen fossil fuel infrastructure projects that, if completed, would produce as much greenhouse gas emissions annually as more than 400 coal-fired power plants.
Since the report's publication, one of its featured liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals has been canceled, leaving 23 projects that would generate the equivalent yearly emissions of 399 coal plants.
According to the briefing, the combined greenhouse gas emissions of the 24 fossil fuel projects—among them the Line 3, Dakota Access, and Mountain Valley pipelines and 20 liquified gas terminals—"would be larger than all current U.S. coal power plants combined, moving the United States away from Paris agreement commitments."
"At a critical time when we need to rapidly phase out fossil fuel production and wind down our emissions, allowing even one of these fossil fuel infrastructure projects to move forward would undermine our global climate goals," Oil Change International U.S. program manager Collin Rees said in a statement Friday.
"The fact that dozens of LNG and pipeline projects are being seriously considered for approval by the Biden administration is deeply alarming, and this should put the United States on the hot seat in Glasgow during the rest of COP26," Rees added.
The ad was published after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced new rules targeting leaks and emissions of methane—a greenhouse gas found to be up to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period—that the advocacy group Earthworks said "do not go far enough to address pollution."
Julia Walsh, director of Frack Action, said Friday that "the new methane regulations put a Band-Aid on the problem."
"Even if we're leaking less methane in the U.S., we're still pulling it out of the ground, transporting it around the country, and then leaking or burning it overseas," Walsh noted. "To limit global warming to 1.5°C, the U.S. must ultimately stop building new export terminals and pipelines that prop up this dangerous fossil fuel worldwide."
"No world leader could credibly claim to be a climate champion without tackling fossil fuel development head-on," Wenonah Hauter, executive director at coalition member Food & Water Watch, said Friday. "This includes cutting dangerous greenhouse gas emissions off at the source by halting new drilling and fracking, and canceling new oil and gas infrastructure projects."
Hauter added that "President Biden has a stark choice: to lead by acting decisively against fossil fuels, or to continue down the current path to irrevocable climate chaos."
Rejecting the label of "radical" that has been assigned to climate action advocates for decades, Fridays for Future leader Greta Thunberg addressed thousands of campaigners in the center of Glasgow on Friday as politicians at the United Nations' 26th Conference of the Parties unveiled plans to combat the climate emergency—plans, Thunberg and others at the rally said, don't go nearly far enough in limiting the heating of the planet to 1.5°C.
Contrary to what many in power claim, Thunberg said, policymakers' apparent belief that "our world can survive a 2.7° or 3° hotter world is not only extremely radical—it's pure madness."
Thunberg's speech drew loud applause from thousands of young people who traveled to Glasgow from all over the world to march as the conference, known as COP26, marked "Youth and Public Empowerment Day."
Campaigners have praised some of the efforts made by policymakers at COP26, including a vow to end overseas fossil fuel projects and the Biden administration's decision to return the U.S. to the "High Ambition Coalition."
But observers including Thunberg have also been wary of wealthy nations' pledges, as campaigners wait to see whether the Global North will deliver on a decade-old pledge to deliver $100 billion to developing countries to help them adapt to and mitigate the climate crisis, as well as new promises to end coal consumption by a number of countries—but not the U.S., China, or Australia.
"The question we must now ask ourselves is, what is it that we are fighting for?" said Thunberg. "Are we fighting to save ourselves and our living planet or are we fighting to maintain business as usual? Our leaders say we can have both, but the harsh truth is that is not possible."
The people in power can continue to live in their bubble filled with fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear out of nowhere and will suddenly erase all of these crises, just like that. All this while the world is literally burning, on fire, and the people on the front lines are still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. They can continue to ignore the consequences of their inaction, but history will judge them poorly and we will not accept it.
We don't need any more distant, non-binding pledges. We don't need any more empty promises... Yet that is all that we are getting and no, that is not radical to say. They have had 26 COPs, they have had decades of blah, blah, blah, and where has that led us?
Some in the crowd replied, "Nowhere!" as the campaigners applauded.
Thunberg's speech came the day before even larger demonstrations are expected in Glasgow, as COP26 enters its second week.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Odetta - Hit Or Miss
Odetta - Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
Odetta - Wayfarin' Stranger
Odetta - Another Man Done Gone (Live)
Odetta - Careless Love / St. Louis Blues
Odetta - The Midnight Special
Odetta - Jim Crow Blues
Odetta - God's Gonna Cut You Down
Odetta - Goodnight Irene