The Evening Blues - 5-11-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Lula Reed. Enjoy!
Lula Reed - I Got A Notion
"All Americans need to really deeply ingest the fact that their government is currently decoupling Covid relief funding from Ukraine proxy war funding because it wants to make sure that the proxy war funding actually passes. Really sit with what that says about everything."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Glenn Greenwald, as usual worth a full read:
From the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Biden White House has repeatedly announced large and seemingly random amounts of money that it intends to send to fuel the war in Ukraine. The latest such dispatch of large amounts of U.S. funds, pursuant to an initial $3.5 billion fund authorized by Congress early on, was announced on Friday; “Biden says U.S. will send $1.3 billion in additional military and economic support to Ukraine,” read the CNBC headline. This was preceded by a series of new lavish spending packages for the war, unveiled every two to three weeks, starting on the third day of the war:
Feb. 26: “Biden approves $350 million in military aid for Ukraine": Reuters;
Mar. 16: “Biden announces $800 million in military aid for Ukraine”: The New York Times;
Mar. 30: “Ukraine to receive additional $500 million in aid from U.S., Biden announces”: NBC News;
Apr. 12: “U.S. to announce $750 million more in weapons for Ukraine, officials say": Reuters;
May 6: “Biden announces new $150 million weapons package for Ukraine”: Reuters.
Those amounts by themselves are in excess of $3 billion; by the end of April, the total U.S. expenditure on the war in Ukraine was close to $14 billion, drawn from the additional $13.5 billion Congress authorized in mid-March. While some of that is earmarked for economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, most of it will go into the coffers of the weapons industry — including Raytheon, on whose Board of Directors the current Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, sat immediately before being chosen by Biden to run the Pentagon. As CNN put it: “about $6.5 billion, roughly half of the aid package, will go to the US Department of Defense so it can deploy troops to the region and send defense equipment to Ukraine.” As enormous as those sums already are, they were dwarfed by the Biden administration's announcement on April 28 that it “is asking Congress for $33 billion in funding to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than double the $14 billion in support authorized so far.” The White House itself acknowledges that the vast majority of that new spending package will go to the purchase of weaponry and other military assets: “$20.4 billion in additional security and military assistance for Ukraine and for U.S. efforts to strengthen European security in cooperation with our NATO allies and other partners in the region.”
It is difficult to put into context how enormous these expenditures are — particularly since the war is only ten weeks old, and U.S. officials predict/hope that this war will last not months but years. That ensures that the ultimate amounts will be significantly higher still. The amounts allocated thus far — the new Biden request of $33 billion combined with the $14 billion already spent — already exceed the average annual amount the U.S. spent for its own war in Afghanistan ($46 billion). In the twenty-year U.S. war in Afghanistan which ended just eight months ago, there was at least some pretense of a self-defense rationale given the claim that the Taliban had harbored Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda at the time of the 9/11 attack. Now the U.S. will spend more than that annual average after just ten weeks of a war in Ukraine that nobody claims has any remote connection to American self-defense.
But as gargantuan as Biden's already-spent and newly requested sums are — for a ten-week war in which the U.S. claims not to be a belligerent — it was apparently woefully inadequate in the eyes of the bipartisan establishment in Congress, who is ostensibly elected to serve the needs and interests of American citizens, not Ukrainians. Leaders of both parties instantly decreed that Biden's $33 billion request was not enough. They thus raised it to $40 billion — a more than 20% increase over the White House's request — and are now working together to create an accelerated procedure to ensure immediate passage and disbursement of these weapons and funds to the war zone in Ukraine. ... While it is extremely difficult to isolate any benefit to ordinary American citizens from all of this, it requires no effort to see that there is a tiny group of Americans who do benefit greatly from this massive expenditure of funds. That is the industry of weapons manufacturers. So fortunate are they that the White House has met with them on several occasions to urge them to expand their capacity to produce sophisticated weapons so that the U.S. government can buy them in massive quantities.
The longer the war in Ukraine carries on, the worse the consequences will be for the climate, the US presidential envoy John Kerry has warned. Many countries are struggling with an energy crisis while also urgently needing to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global heating to 1.5C, he said.
“If it’s a long period of time, obviously that makes [staying within 1.5C] very complicated,” Kerry said. “It depends on what happens with the war, where the war goes and how long it lasts. If miraculously we can somehow find a way to resolve some of the fundamental problems in the next six months, then maybe we could just accelerate everything together. I think we can make up some distance [in progress on tackling the climate crisis].”
But he added: “The longer this goes on, the harder it becomes [to stay within 1.5C]. There are a number of scientists who believe we are on the edge of 1.5C now. Anything that is not part of the acceleration [of emissions-cutting efforts] gets in the way.” ...
The US president, Joe Biden, has come under heavy criticism from green campaigners in the US for allowing the expansion of gas drilling, opening up new tracts of public land for exploration and development. Kerry said more gas was needed in the short term, to make up for supplies lost from Russia, but that companies should beware of building large amounts of new gas infrastructure that would be left as stranded assets when the energy crisis passes.
Vladimir Putin could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime, potentially triggering his resort to using a nuclear weapon, the top US intelligence official has warned.
The warning on Tuesday came in an assessment from intelligence chiefs briefing the Senate on worldwide threats. The prediction for Ukraine was a long, gruelling war of attrition, which could lead to increasingly volatile acts of escalation from Putin, including full mobilisation, the imposition of martial law, and – if the Russian leader felt the war was going against him, endangering his position in Moscow – even the use of a nuclear warhead.
The grim forecast came on a day of continued fighting in the east and south of Ukraine, and Russian missile attacks on the port of Odesa, with the UN conceding that the civilian death toll from the war will probably be far higher than the current official estimate of 3,381.
The director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, told the Senate armed services committee that Putin would continue to brandish Russia’s nuclear arsenal in an attempt to deter the US and its allies from further support for Ukraine. The shift of focus to the east and the south are most likely a temporary tactic rather than a permanent scaling back of war aims, she said.
The Russian leader would not use a nuclear weapon until he saw an existential threat to Russia or his regime, Haines argued. But she added that he could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as constituting such a threat. “We do think that [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] could be the case in the event that he perceives that he is losing the war in Ukraine, and that Nato in effect is either intervening or about to intervene in that context, which would obviously contribute to a perception that he is about to lose the war in Ukraine,” Haines told the committee hearing.
Israel commits war crimes. Crickets.
Beijing has accused Washington of “political manipulation” and attempting to change the status quo after the US state department quietly amended its website to remove a line stating it did not support Taiwanese independence. In a delicate geopolitical balancing act, the US has long acknowledged, but not supported, China’s claim to Taiwan under its version of the “one China principle”. However, experts say that policy has been eroded as Beijing has become more assertive. ...
In an updated page on the state department’s online “fact sheet” Washington last week removed some key lines from the 1979 US-PRC joint communique. It included a line saying “the US recognised the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China”.
The line saying the US “does not support Taiwan independence” – which appeared in a previous version published on 31 August 2018 – has also been removed from the website. The new version said the US “continues to encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan”. ...
On the same day, Beijing criticised the change. A foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, called the edit “an act of political manipulation and an attempt to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, which will backfire and the US itself will get burned”.
Federal agents and detectives from the Madison police department are investigating a claim by a pro-choice group that it was behind a weekend arson attack on an anti-abortion office in Wisconsin.
The headquarters of Wisconsin Family Action in Madison was attacked in the early hours of Sunday, with a molotov cocktail thrown through a window, starting a small fire, and graffiti spray-painted on an exterior wall. Nobody was hurt.
In a statement reported on Tuesday by the Lincoln Journal Star, which said it was unable to verify the group’s authenticity, Jane’s Revenge said it launched the attack because of the organization’s anti-abortion stance, and demanded that similar institutions across the US disband or face “increasingly extreme tactics”.
“Wisconsin is the first flashpoint, but we are all over the US, and we will issue no further warnings,” the statement said, citing the violence of anti-choice groups who “bomb [abortion] clinics and assassinate doctors with impunity” as justification.
A Republican US senator called local police to investigate a pro-abortion rights – but otherwise harmless – message written in chalk in front of her home, according to authorities.
The Maine senator Susan Collins called officers last Saturday evening to complain about an anonymous message written in chalk on a sidewalk just outside her residence in Bangor that asked her to support abortion rights legislation, according to a police report that was obtained by the Guardian.
The chalk art, described in the police report as “intricately drawn” and non-threatening, read: “Susie, please, Mainers want WHPA —–> vote yes, clean up your mess.” WHPA refers to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify abortion rights.
In the report, police wrote that they did not notice anything suspicious around Collins’s residence. They also said that the chalk message did not constitute a crime.
A Bangor public works department employee later went to Collins’s home to wash off the chalk message. The senator provided a statement to the Bangor Daily News, which first reported on the chalk message, saying, “We are grateful to the Bangor police officers and the city public works employee who responded to the defacement of public property in front of our home.”
Progressives are intensifying calls for the U.S. Congress to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law to counter Republicans' plan to overturn the landmark abortion rights ruling, but on Monday evening Senate Democrats' attention was on a bill aimed at protecting the U.S. Supreme Court justices' family members from protests like those held over the weekend.
There were no reports of violence at pro-choice protests held outside the homes of right-wing Justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts over the weekend, but Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)—who was photographed raising his fist in support of the January 6, 2021 insurrection—compared the gatherings of around 100 people to sites of "mob violence" and demanded that Democrats condemn the protesters.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki obliged Monday, saying President Joe Biden strongly believes that protests should "never include violence, threats, or vandalism"—suggesting that the demonstrators, including Kavanaugh's neighbors, who chanted pro-choice slogans and carried signs, had posed a threat to the justices' safety.
The legislation that was passed unanimously later that day in the Senate would ensure that the family members of Supreme Court justices are afforded the same level of protection as senators' families.
"It's remarkable how quickly the Senate has acted to protect the privacy and safety of five justices," tweeted journalist Judd Legum. "It's something senators are unwilling to do for millions of women."
The bill passed Monday and sent to the House was co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and introduced shortly after a draft opinion was leaked last week showing that the high court's right-wing majority voted earlier this year to overturn Roe v. Wade—despite the fact that 64% of Americans favor keeping the ruling in place. ...
While the Supreme Court is poised to roll back reproductive rights for 166 million women, said progressive journalist David Sirota, "the Senate's response was to give the justices and their families more royal guards."
Adam Serwer of The Atlantic noted that while Democrats have said in recent days that a backlash against the impending Supreme Court ruling will secure victories for the party in the midterm elections, the unanimous vote on Monday suggests "the party leadership don't seem to like the idea of there being a backlash."
Max Berger of pro-labor rights media organization More Perfect Union tweeted that protests held at Supreme Court justices' homes are "a legitimate outlet for the majority to express anger with an increasingly antidemocratic political system."
While voting to protect justices from such protests, Berger wrote, "the Senate can't defend a right supported by 70%" of Americans.
Progressive activists occupied Democratic Sen. Bob Casey's office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, after which the historically anti-choice lawmaker announced his intention to vote for the Women's Health Protection Act to codify the reproductive rights that are now in peril thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority.
"This week, I will again vote yes to advance debate on the Women's Health Protection Act and I will support the bill if there is a vote on final passage in the future," Casey said in a statement.
The Pennsylvania Democrat's statement was released just minutes after members of Lancaster Stands Up occupied his office in the state capital.
"Community pressure works," said Becca Rast, managing director of Justice Democrats.
In his statement, Casey said that "in the nearly three months since the Senate last voted on the Women's Health Protection Act, the circumstances around the entire debate on abortion have changed."
"In light of the leaked Supreme Court decision draft overturning Roe v. Wade, and subsequent reports that Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate will introduce legislation to enact a nationwide six-week ban," he continued, "the real question of the moment is: do you support a categorical ban on abortion? During my time in public office, I have never voted for—nor do I support—such a ban."
The Women's Health Protection Act would enshrine patients' right to receive legal and safe abortions and healthcare professionals' right to provide them. Casey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only two Democrats who refused to co-sponsor the Senate's version of the legislation when it was reintroduced last year.
, a two-year investigation by Georgetown University law center has found.
Researchers from the Center on Privacy & Technology on Tuesday released one of the most comprehensive reviews of Ice activities, concluding that the federal organisation has strayed well beyond its duties as an immigration body to become what is in effect a domestic surveillance agency. Operating largely in secret and with minimal public oversight, Ice has amassed a formidable armory of digital capabilities that allows its agents to “pull detailed dossiers on nearly anyone, seemingly at any time”.
The vast mountain of data to which Ice now has access includes:
Driver’s license data for three of every four adults living in the US.
Data drawn from the utility records of 75% of adults, covering more than 218 million unique utility consumers in all 50 states.
Information on the movements of drivers in cities that contain 75% of the US population.
Facial recognition technology drawn from the driver’s license photos of at least a third of all adults.
The Georgetown researchers base their report, American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century, on hundreds of freedom of information requests and a review of more than 100,000 previously unseen Ice spending transactions. ...
The agency operates an enormous dragnet of information stored by state and local government, utility companies, social media platforms and private data brokers. The end result is that Ice enjoys almost universal reach, with its intelligence weaponised through the use of powerful algorithmic tools for searching and analysing data.
More than 90% of neighborhoods in America’s major cities were unaffordable to the majority of local Black residents at the start of the pandemic, according to a new study on the worsening housing crisis in urban regions across the US.
The National Equity Atlas, a research initiative focused on racial and economic equity, compared rents and wages in the 100 most populous American metropolitan regions in 2019 and examined whether the majority of households of different racial groups made enough income to afford median market rents in their neighborhoods. ...
The majority of zip codes that were affordable for Black, Latinx and low-income households were classified as “low opportunity” neighborhoods, meaning they have long suffered from disinvestment and lack high-quality schools, clean air, parks, safe streets and good jobs, the researchers said.
“Longstanding patterns of racial segregation are deepening,” said Rasheedah Phillips, co-author of the report and director of housing at PolicyLink, a research organization that co-produces the National Equity Atlas with the USC Equity Research Institute. “Low-income Black and brown households are being pushed out of their neighborhoods … and confined to the outskirts of what are otherwise prosperous cities.”
The crisis was particularly acute in California, which has some of the least affordable housing in the nation and a humanitarian homelessness disaster.
Vanuatu’s push for the international court of justice to protect vulnerable nations from climate change has received the backing of 1,500 civil society organisations from more than 130 countries, as it heads toward a crucial vote at the UN General Assembly later this year.
In 2021 Vanuatu announced its intention to seek an advisory opinion by the international court of justice on the rights of present and future generations to be protected from climate change.
If it succeeds, the ICJ’s advisory opinion - although non-binding - carries legal weight and moral authority which experts say could help shape international law. The opinion could also influence domestic and regional courts and tribunals when addressing issues relating to climate change. ...
Vanuatu is one of the countries most affected by the climate crisis, with a combination of climate risks that include sea level and temperature rises, as well as extreme weather events including cyclones, storm surges, landslides, flooding and droughts.
The international aviation industry has failed to meet all but one of 50 of its own climate targets in the past two decades, environment campaigners say. A report commissioned by the climate charity Possible assessed every target set by the industry since 2000 and found that nearly all had been missed, revised or quietly ignored. The charity says the findings undermine a UK government plan to leave airlines to reduce their emissions through self-regulation.
Leo Murray, Possible’s director of innovation, said: “This forensic investigation shows just how implausible and credulous the government’s jet-zero strategy is shaping up to be. How can we credibly expect this industry to overdeliver on emissions reduction when they’ve never met any of their previous climate targets?
“It’s clear that we need to demand reduction via a frequent flyer levy, which would discourage the frequent flying by a small group of people which makes up the bulk of emissions from planes.”
Air travel accounted for 2.1% of human-produced carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, equivalent to about 915m tonnes, according to the Air Transport Action Group. It is estimated that 15% of people take 70% of all flights, Possible says. ...
The researchers conclude that climate target setting is in effect a smokescreen for business as usual. Such targets “appear to function principally as a tactic for giving an impression of progress and action to address aviation’s environmental impacts to the public and policymakers, in order to prevent any policy barriers to ongoing growth in the industry”, the report says.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Lula Reed - Rock Love
Lula Reed - Sick And Tired
Lula Reed - I´m a Woman (But I Don´t Talk Too Much)
Lula Reed - Jealous Love
Lulu Reed & Freddy King - (Let Your Love) Watch Over Me
Lulu Reed & Freddy King - You Can't Hide
Lula Reed - Your Key Don't Fit It No More
Lula Reed - Give Me The Right
Lula Reed - Baby Baby
Lulu Reed - What makes you so cold
Lula Reed - You Gotta Have That Green