The Evening Blues - 4-8-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer and guitarist Mighty Joe Young. Enjoy!
Mighty Joe Young - Baby Please
"The constitutional Presidency—as events so apparently disparate as the Indochina War and the Watergate affair showed—has become the imperial Presidency."
-- Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
News and Opinion
More than two months after President Joe Biden announced that he would end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales,” his administration has yet to detail what forms of support the U.S. has cut off. Biden made the commitment in a February address, but he also promised to help defend Saudi Arabia from missile attacks and “threats from Iranian-supplied forces,” an apparent reference to assaults by Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-backed government of Yemen. That left many members of Congress questioning how the administration would distinguish between offensive and defensive military support.
Forty-one progressive members of Congress wrote to Biden asking him to clarify what forms of support he had discontinued and which Trump-era arms sales would be deemed “relevant” to offensive operations. The letter requested a response before March 25, six years to the day after a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched their intervention to defeat the Iranian-backed Houthis. The intervention was supported by the United States, and both the Obama and Trump administrations provided weapons, intelligence, and, until 2018, mid-air refueling support for Saudi aircraft.
But almost two weeks after the deadline, the administration still has not responded to the letter. A spokesperson for the State Department referred The Intercept to the White House. A spokesperson for the White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment. ...
The missed deadline comes as many of the same members of Congress are looking for ways to press Saudi Arabia to end its blockade of Yemen. After years of war, Yemen is suffering one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, and aid groups have criticized both sides for impeding the flow of needed goods.
Israel reportedly informed U.S. officials that it was behind a Tuesday mine attack on an Iranian vessel stationed in the Red Sea, a dangerous escalation that came on the same day American and Iranian negotiators took part in European-led talks in Vienna on the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The timing of the attack, which Iranian media outlets reported Tuesday without assigning blame, raised suspicions that it was carried out with the express purpose of undermining steps toward a diplomatic solution on the nuclear accord. In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump violated the agreement, which Israel's right-wing government has opposed from the beginning.
"Israel appears to be stepping up attacks on Iran to undermine diplomacy," argued Mohammad Ali Shabani, editor of Amwaj.media. "Same Catch 22 for Tehran as before: respond, and get blamed. Don't respond, and invite further attacks. One exit: Statements of condemnation from Iran's counterparts in Vienna."
Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, tweeted in response to the mine attack that "some U.S. lawmakers advocate for Israel to be in the room for any talks with Iran, presumably so they can blow negotiations up from the inside as well as the outside."
The New York Times reported that while Israeli officials had yet to publicly comment on the attack as of Tuesday night, "an American official said the Israelis had notified the United States that its forces had struck the [Iranian] vessel at about 7:30 am local time."
Against the backdrop of intensifying tensions with Ukraine, the Russian government will proceed with previously planned nationwide military exercises, announced Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday. The test of the country’s fighting capacity and readiness will stretch over the course of April, involve both ground and naval forces, and include more than 4,000 separate events conducted across the country, even in its most remote regions. While the military exercises have been scheduled for some time, Moscow’s public reaffirmation that they will proceed is clearly intended as a show of force in the face of growing threats of war against Russia over Ukraine. In the last several weeks, these threats have reached a fever pitch, with the danger emerging of a full-blown conflict between Russia and Ukraine, behind which stand the United States and Germany.
Over the last seven days, the Ukrainian government has called on NATO to admit the country to the transnational military alliance, appealed for stepped-up NATO intervention in the Black Sea, and announced that Ukrainian forces will be conducting joint exercises with NATO later this year. Prior to this, Kiev outlined its intentions to retake Crimea by force, the peninsula extending into the Black Sea that rejoined Russia in 2014. Fighting has also intensified between Ukrainian and Russian-allied forces in the Donbass, where breakaway republics emerged in 2014 after a coup orchestrated by Washington and Berlin brought to power a far-right anti-Russian government in Ukraine.
In calls with the heads of state of Canada and Britain on Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky secured assurances of these nations’ support for Ukraine. They follow the lead of the US government, the architect of the pro-Kiev, anti-Russian campaign, which has involved the financing, equipping, and training of Ukraine’s military for years. Writing for the Atlantic Council, American political analyst Stephen Blank appealed Tuesday for the US to go further and upgrade Ukraine’s air force in order to make clear the “hard and tangible long-term strategic costs Russia must bear for its malign conduct.”
These events unfold as NATO is pressing forward with war preparations against Russia. It is currently conducting a massive military training exercise that extends across the European continent. DEFENDER-Europe 2021, involving 27 nations and 30,000 troops and unfolding in 12 countries, “demonstrates,” according to the US Army’s Europe and Africa division, “our ability to serve as a strategic security partner in the western Balkans and Black Sea regions while sustaining our abilities in northern Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Africa.” Involving ground, maritime, and airborne exercises along the entire stretch of Russia’s western borders and in areas central to Moscow’s geopolitical interests, DEFENDER-Europe 21 is gearing up NATO to wage World War III. The consequences of such a conflict would be, at the very least, the loss of tens of millions of lives in Europe and Russia and, most likely, the nuclear annihilation of the planet, as the US military has repeatedly made clear that it is prepared to use atomic weapons to secure American interests.
Not a single person in Ukraine, or anywhere else for that matter, will achieve “liberation” from “Russian aggression” under these circumstances. Rather, they will all be dead.
Joe Biden’s foreign policy differs little from that of his predecessor Donald Trump. The imperatives of the United States hegemon require treating the rest of the world as either willing vassals or as sworn enemies. Any nation that threatens economic supremacy or the ability to thwart foreign policy directives is labeled an adversary and faces an onslaught of governmental and corporate media attacks. This dynamic remains unchanged and the Biden administration has only worsened an already bad situation. The troubles start at the top with the president himself. When asked by George Stephanopoulos in an ABC news interview if Vladimir Putin is “a killer” Biden answered in the affirmative. The president was never known for his intellect and thought that repeating Russiagate tropes would play well. It didn’t play well with the Russians who immediately recalled their U.S. ambassador back home to Moscow.
While Biden was dealing with foot in mouth disease regarding Russia, his Secretary of State Antony Blinken was making a mess of relations with China. He invited his Chinese counterparts to a meeting in Anchorage, Alaska and proceeded to offend them by scolding them in front of the press and repeating unfounded charges about human rights abuses against the Uyghurs. ...
Having squandered opportunity and lost leverage, the hapless Americans have been pressured by the Europeans to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Talks will resume in Vienna but the Iranians are neither impressed nor intimidated. Foreign minister Javad Zarif stated in a Twitter post that the U.S. must remove all sanctions in order for the talks to move forward. He added for emphasis, “No Iran-US meeting. Unnecessary.” The ongoing impacts of U.S. meddling are coming to fruition all over the world. Even U.S. ally Germany is moving ahead with the Nord Stream II gas pipeline with Russia, making a lie out of claims that Russia is a threat to Europe. Despite all of its schemes to dominate, nothing is working in this country’s favor on the diplomatic front. ...
Biden is dealing with the results of decades of the United States behaving as if its brief unipolar moment would last forever. China will soon surpass the United States economically and it is using that power to its advantage. Its Belt and Road Initiative involves countries on every continent and provides opportunity where the western nations offer only debt and subjugation.
The idea that Joe Biden is the most powerful man in the world is a fantasy accepted only because of endless indoctrination. No one else lives in this dream land. Even dim witted Joe Biden has to learn that he can’t call other presidents killers and have any expectation of good relations. Of course his definition of good relations means other countries obeying U.S. dictates. But that isn’t how the world works any more. He and his handlers must quickly disabuse themselves of any notion that the U.S.can continue to get away with these debacles of their own making. These “grown ups” in the room had better grow up fast.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Wednesday called far-right President Jair Bolsonaro a grave "threat to the planet" after the nation's daily Covid-19 death toll topped 4,000 for the first time since the pandemic began last year, a sign that the public health crisis is worsening as Bolsonaro continues to downplay the virus and undercut potential solutions.
At least 4,195 Brazilians died of the coronavirus on Tuesday and nearly 87,000 new infections were reported as the South American country's treatment facilities were "stretched to breaking point" by the rapidly spreading virus.
"It's a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control," Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University in the United States, told The Guardian of the worsening Covid-19 crisis in Brazil, which has the second-highest Covid-19 death toll in the world behind the U.S.
"It's a biological Fukushima," said Nicolelis.
With deaths and cases surging, Bolsonaro has persistently refused to consider implementing public safety measures to slow the spread and remained committed to dismissing the severity of the pandemic, which he has previously characterized as a media creation.
In an open letter published Wednesday, Lula—who is expected to mount another presidential bid—wrote that "unfortunately, our country is today considered a global threat, due to the uncontrolled circulation of the virus and the emergence of new mutations."
"It must be said that this threat to the planet has a name and a surname: Jair Bolsonaro, a president of the republic who systematically denies science and who ignores the suffering of the people he has sworn to defend," Lula continued.
The former president went on to stress the need for equitable and swift global distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, echoing scientists' warnings that leaving much of the world unprotected dramatically increases the risk of vaccine-resistant mutations emerging and spreading around the world, rendering first-generation vaccines ineffective.
"We cannot consider living in a world where part of the planet is vaccinated and part abandoned and isolated to be a free field for mutations of the virus," Lula wrote. "The epicenter of the pandemic cannot be Europe yesterday, today Brazil, tomorrow Africa, with new variants restarting the cycle of death and sadness around the world."
But "instead of defending immunizations as a public good for humanity," said Lula, the Bolsonaro government "advocates the private commercialization of vaccines and their concentration in a few companies and countries."
As The Intercept reported Wednesday, Bolsonaro has repeatedly undermined Brazil's public vaccination system—widely considered one of the best in the world prior to the Covid-19 crisis—and is currently supporting an effort by right-wing lawmakers to "allow corporations to directly purchase vaccine doses from international suppliers and give them to employees, even before priority groups like the elderly and medical workers are fully vaccinated."
Under Bolsonaro's leadership, Brazil has also joined the United States, Canada, and European nations in opposing a South Africa and India-led effort at the World Trade Organization to temporarily suspend vaccine-related patent protections.
"The real tragedy is that Brazil is among the few vaccine-manufacturing countries in the world blessed with world-class vaccine research and production facilities," Achal Prabhala of accessibsa, an international project focused expanding access to medicines and vaccines, told The Intercept. "If there had been a coordinated federal strategy early on to support the local production of vaccines, Brazil would have been in a very different situation today."
The US is about to enter a post-pandemic boom, according to JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon, even though it has been “torn and crippled by politics, as well as racial and income inequality.” In his annual letter to shareholders, Dimon, the US’s pre-eminent banker who was paid $31.5m during 2020, called for higher spending on everything from infrastructure to childcare and backed higher taxes on companies and the wealthy and to help pay for it.
But he said the economy was on the edge of a “Goldilocks moment” where expanding vaccinations, high savings rates and the Biden administration’s massive stimulus bill could trigger a strong recovery lasting well into 2023. Dimon’s closely watched letter stands in marked contrast to last year’s, when the JP Morgan chief executive predicted the US was heading for a “bad recession” in which US gross domestic product could fall by up to 35%.
But his upbeat assessment of the economic landscape also comes with caveats. Dimon has long warned that growing economic inequality poses a systemic threat and says that future growth has been challenged by “China, Covid-19 and our own competence”.
Over the past months, federal law enforcement has used a wide variety of surveillance technologies to track down rioters who participated in the 6 January attack on the US Capitol building – demonstrating rising surveillance across the nation. Recent news coverage of the riot has largely focused on facial recognition – and how private citizens and local law enforcement officials have conducted their own facial recognition investigations in an attempt to assist the FBI with the help of social media. But charging documents reveal that the FBI has relied on a variety of other technologies, including license plate readers, police body cameras and cellphone tracking. And civil rights watchdogs like the ACLU are concerned that the same technologies used to surveil the rioters could impede protesters exercising their first amendment rights.
The Capitol riot was an exceptional event – marking the first time in centuries that insurrectionists breached the center of the US federal government. Many of those surveilled and charged belonged to white supremacist groups. But, according to Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit advocating for free speech and digital privacy, the level of surveillance was “overkill”. ...
While the surveillance tools were used to monitor the mostly white crowd in the Capitol during the riots, research and news reports have indicated that Black demonstrators are more likely to be monitored during protests, and to be arrested for protest-related infractions than white demonstrators.
Christian Davenport, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, led a study of more than 15,000 protests between 1960 to 1990 to find out if race was a factor in police response to protests. Researchers found:
[W]hen compared with other groups, African American protesters are more likely to draw police presence and that once police are present they are more likely to make arrests, use force and violence, and use force and violence in combination with arrests at African American protest events.”
On top of concerns about privacy and racial inequity, Maass pointed out that rather than keeping the Capitol safer at the time of the attacks, surveillance seems to have replaced real-time police work. “I was definitely sitting in front of the computer watching live and wondering ‘where are the cops?’ No one was kicking people out,” he said. “All the surveillance in the world didn’t serve to prevent what happened … it’s helping them clean up the mess afterwards. Surveillance is not a replacement for judgment.”
Backed by more than 50 progressive advocacy groups, dozens of House Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to issue an executive order to prevent the transfer of military-grade weaponry from the Pentagon to federal, tribal, state, and local police departments.
In a letter (pdf) sent to the White House on Tuesday afternoon, 29 lawmakers, led by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), argue that taking executive action to reform the Defense Department's 1033 program "is a reasonable step towards demilitarizing our police forces while preserving the safety of our communities."
"Decades of militarization of our nation's law enforcement have led to some police departments looking more like an occupying army than a community-based regulatory arm of state and local government," the lawmakers wrote.
Stephen Semler, cofounder of the Security Policy Reform Institute, highlighted the scale of the "military-to-police pipeline" in a Jacobin article published Tuesday: "Nearly $34 million in military equipment was sent to police in the first quarter of this year, according to the Pentagon's latest figures on the 1033 program. Since its inception in 1997, the program has been a conduit for at least $1.8 billion in combat gear shipments from the Department of Defense to U.S. law enforcement agencies."
"Not surprisingly," Semler added,
In their letter to Biden, the House Democrats noted that "the inappropriate use of such weapons is incentivized by a perverse requirement that to keep the equipment transferred under the 1033 program, the receiving agency must utilize it within one year or it must be returned to DOD."
Referring to the crackdown on nationwide protests against police violence that erupted last year in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the members of Congress wrote that "law enforcement's response to the civil rights demonstrations last summer show irrefutable proof of our police forces' increasing aggression and brutality—images of local police in military vehicles, with military-grade weaponry trained on citizens exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest."
An expert police witness has told the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis that the accused former officer used a technique designed to deliberately inflict pain and subjected George Floyd to it for an extended period.
Sgt Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles police specialist on the use of force, said on Wednesday that video shows Chauvin applying a “pain compliance” procedure by pulling the 46-year-old Black man’s wrist into the handcuffs, which can be heard clicking tighter.
Stiger said the technique, which also involves squeezing the knuckles together, is normally used to inflict pain in order to persuade a person to comply with an officer’s commands – but at that point Floyd was not resisting and was lying prone on the ground.
The procedure was also used for much longer than was necessary, Stiger told the jury.
The prosecutor asked Stiger what the effect is of using the pain compliance procedure if there is no opportunity for compliance.
“At that point it’s just pain,” he said. ...
Earlier, Stiger questioned the use of any force, given the low-level offence Floyd was accused of - using an allegedly forged $20 bill in a store.
Krystal Ball: ELITIST National Review Writer Blames VOTERS For National Mess In Anti-Democracy Piece
Tishaura Jones has been elected as the next mayor of St Louis, Missouri, making history as the first Black woman to hold the city’s top position.
“This campaign can unequivocally say that we’ve begun breaking down the historic racial barriers and the racial divides that exist, and have existed for generations in our city,” Jones said on Tuesday night, adding that she “will not stay silent” in the face of “any injustice”.
“As a city, we’ve been surviving. We’ve suffered disinvestments, decades of violence, broken promises from our city’s leaders, who have bowed to the will of special interests and insider dealings,” she said. “It’s time for St Louis to thrive.”
Jones, who currently holds the position of treasurer in St Louis, defeated Alderwoman Cara Spencer, who conceded the race on Tuesday night. The final vote tally between the two women was Jones with 52% against Spencer with 48%.
Michael Regan, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has sought to revive the effort to confront environmental racism by ordering the agency to crack down on the pollution that disproportionately blights people of color.
On Wednesday, Regan issued a directive to EPA staff to “infuse equity and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies, and programs”. The memo demands the agency use the “full array of policy and legal tools at our disposal” to ensure vulnerable communities are front of mind when issuing permits for polluting facilities or cleaning up following disasters.
The directive states there should be better consultation with affected communities and indicates the EPA will be tougher on companies that violate air and water pollution mandates. Regan’s memo calls for the EPA to “strengthen enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes and civil rights laws in communities overburdened by pollution”.
Enforcement of pollution violations dropped steeply under Donald Trump’s administration, with the EPA even suspending routine inspections of facilities while the Covid-19 pandemic raged in the US last year.
Much more detail at the link:
US banks are pledging to help fight the climate crisis alongside the Biden administration, but their boards are dominated by people with climate-related conflicts of interest, and they continue to invest deeply in fossil fuel projects.
Three out of every four board members at seven major US banks (77%) have current or past ties to climate-conflicted companies or organizations – from oil and gas corporations to trade groups that lobby against reducing climate pollution, according to a first-of-its-kind review by climate influence analysts for the blog DeSmog.
One of the controversial projects those board members have chosen to back is the new Line 3 tar sands pipeline, currently under construction in northern Minnesota. If completed, the project would allow the Canadian oil giant Enbridge to double the amount of high-polluting tar sands oil it transports through the region to 760,000 barrels per day. ...
From the US, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have made the project possible with billions of dollars in loans, although it’s impossible to tally precisely how much they have financed for the pipeline specifically. Another five large Canadian banks are also financing Enbridge, according to Rainforest Action Network (Ran).
Out of these nine North American banks backing Enbridge, six have recently published net-zero climate goals, pledging to align their investments with the international Paris climate agreement.
Asked about the future of Parkinson’s disease in the US, Dr Ray Dorsey says, “We’re on the tip of a very, very large iceberg.” Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and author of Ending Parkinson’s Disease, believes a Parkinson’s epidemic is on the horizon. Parkinson’s is already the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world; in the US, the number of people with Parkinson’s has increased 35% the last 10 years, says Dorsey, and “We think over the next 25 years it will double again.”
Most cases of Parkinson’s disease are considered idiopathic – they lack a clear cause. Yet researchers increasingly believe that one factor is environmental exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical compound used in industrial degreasing, dry-cleaning and household products such as some shoe polishes and carpet cleaners.
To date, the clearest evidence around the risk of TCE to human health is derived from workers who are exposed to the chemical in the work-place. A 2008 peer-reviewed study in the Annals of Neurology, for example, found that TCE is “a risk factor for parkinsonism.” And a 2011 study echoed those results, finding “a six-fold increase in the risk of developing Parkinson’s in individuals exposed in the workplace to trichloroethylene (TCE).”
Dr Samuel Goldman of The Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California, who co-led the study, which appeared in the Annals of Neurology journal, wrote: “Our study confirms that common environmental contaminants may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s, which has considerable public health implications.” It was off the back of studies like these that the US Department of Labor issued a guidance on TCE, saying: “The Board recommends [...] exposures to carbon disulfide (CS2) and trichloroethylene (TCE) be presumed to cause, contribute, or aggravate Parkinsonism.”
TCE is a carcinogen linked to renal cell carcinoma, cancers of the cervix, liver, biliary passages, lymphatic system and male breast tissue, and fetal cardiac defects, among other effects. Its known relationship to Parkinson’s may often be overlooked due to the fact that exposure to TCE can predate the disease’s onset by decades. While some people exposed may sicken quickly, others may unknowingly work or live on contaminated sites for most of their lives before developing symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Mighty Joe Young - Suffering Soul
Mighty Joe Young - Drivin' wheel
Mighty Joe Young - Just A Minute
Mighty Joe Young - Somebody Loan Me A Dime
Mighty Joe Young - Teasin' The Blues
Mighty Joe Young - Wisefool Express
Mighty Joe Young - Just A Minute
Lucille Spann & Mighty Joe's Young Blues Band - Womans Lib
Mighty Joe Young - Big Talk
Mighty Joe Young - Every Man Needs a Woman
Mighty Joe Young - Guitar Star
Mighty Joe Young - Why Baby