The Evening Blues - 6-8-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues piano player Willie Mabon. Enjoy!
Willie Mabon - The Seventh Son
"The American government is making nuclear weapons like there's no tomorrow."
-- Emo Philips
News and Opinion
“It’s very profitable to prepare for omnicide,” Daniel Ellsberg, famed whistleblower and anti-nuclear weapons activist, said in a recent interview. “Northrop Grumman and Boeing and Lockheed and General Dynamics make a lot of money out of preparing for such a war. The congressmen get campaign contributions, they get votes in their district and almost every state for preparing for that.” But don’t just take it from Ellsberg. At an investor conference in 2019, a managing director from the investment bank Cowen Inc. queried Raytheon’s CEO on this subject. “We’re about to exit the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] with Russia,” said the Cowen executive. Did this mean, he asked, whether “we will really get a defense budget that will really benefit Raytheon?” Raytheon’s CEO happily responded that he was “pretty optimistic” about where things were headed.
A new report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons released Monday examines in detail just who’s getting all the radioactive cash and why. ... There are currently nine countries that possess nuclear weapons: the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. ICAN calculated that they collectively spent $72.6 billion in 2020 on nukes. The U.S. was responsible for just over half of this doomsday payout, at $37.4 billion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, U.S. nuclear spending is anticipated to soon increase sharply due to plans for technological upgrades, rising to $41.2 billion next year and totaling $634 billion during the 10 years from 2021-2030. ...
A great deal of U.S. nuclear spending consists of profitable contracts with private corporations. The four companies Ellsberg said were raking in cash “preparing for war” indeed received the most money in 2020:
- Northrop Grumman — $13.7 billion
- General Dynamics — $10.8 billion
- Lockheed Martin — $2.1 billion
- Boeing — $105 million
These enormous contracts create obvious incentives for these companies to lobby for more government expenditures on Armageddon, and they assiduously do so. Indeed, lobbying unquestionably is the most profitable investment these companies make. According to ICAN’s report, for every $1 they spent on lobbying, they received $239 in nuclear weapon contracts.
The US and Europe have decided to set aside a fresh warning from the director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it is no longer possible to say with confidence whether Iran is seeking to build a bomb, as they press on with attempting to revive its nuclear deal with the west.
Rafael Grossi says Iran is not co-operating or providing any answers to questions his agency has posed after it found nuclear particles at four undeclared sites.
Grossi’s findings were reported to a board meeting of the IAEA in Vienna, and are deeply awkward for the US, France, Germany and the UK, which have collectively decided that the prize of a revived nuclear deal is so great they will not act on the complaints of the UN nuclear inspectorate, even if this temporarily risks the integrity of the UN inspection process.
The sixth round of nuclear talks is due to start in Vienna on Thursday in the hope that a brief pause to allow delegations to consult national capitals will achieve the required breakthrough; allowing the US to rejoin the nuclear deal; sanctions on Iran to be lifted and Iran itself to come back into full compliance. The backdrop of the fraught Iranian presidential elections – a second TV debate is due on Tuesday – is making the task of reaching agreement more difficult.
Israeli police have blocked a planned march by Jewish nationalists through Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem after a similar parade last month played a key role in building the tensions that led to the latest Gaza conflict. In a statement, police said a permit for a different time or route might be considered.
The decision came as Israel faced an anxious week ahead, with an opposition coalition pushing forward in its attempts to oust the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The fragile and ideologically diverse new government may not be voted on in the Knesset until 14 June, said the parliament speaker and Netanyahu ally Yariv Levin on Monday, giving the prime minister more time to knock it down.
In the past few days, security officials have expressed alarm at a rise in incitement and hate speech from voices on the hard right who are angered that the proposed government – while headed by a far-right nationalist, Naftali Bennett – includes Arab and left-wing politicians.
Netanyahu, who has been in power for 12 consecutive years, has done little to calm the situation. On Sunday, he accused the coalition of “election fraud”, as Bennett had promised during the campaign not to sit with left-wing or Arab parties. Netanyahu suggested that people “justifiably feel deceived and they are responding”.
The head of the opposition, Yair Lapid, who negotiated the coalition, attempted to appeal to rightwing voters on Monday. “I want to speak to Netanyahu’s supporters,” he said. “I know that the formation of the unity government is a crisis for some of you, but you’ll discover that this government isn’t being created against you.” Still, he added: “If our political culture is based on lies and threats and hatred of Arabs, and hatred of leftwingers, and hatred of rightwingers who don’t hate Arabs and leftwingers enough, then yes, we need change, and we’ve brought change.”
The United States’s reputation as the leading global power has suffered in France and Germany because of Washington’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed nearly 600,000 Americans, according to a new poll of views in 11 countries.
On the eve of President Joe Biden’s trip to Europe, the survey by the German Marshall Fund and the Bertelsmann Foundation said he had not won back the standing of the United States as it was before Covid-19 struck. China’s reputation had risen slightly.
According to US research papers released on 26 March, the United States under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump could have avoided nearly 400,000 deaths with a more effective strategy.
“The first three months of the Biden administration have not affected French and German views of US influence in the world,” the study said. “These numbers are in line with the results of the 2020 survey, which had fallen by about 10 points from the pre-pandemic numbers, to the advantage of China.“
That compares with the perception within the United States that US influence abroad has risen, the survey found.
U.S. President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday that he will stand up for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity ahead of a summit between Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
National security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters the two leaders spoke about the bilateral relationship in a phone call prior to Biden's trip to Europe. ...
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskiy's chief of staff, said the Ukrainian leader and Biden coordinated their policy positions.
Zelenskiy said on Twitter the phone call also covered Ukraine's aspirations to join the NATO military alliance and Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Washington has been Ukraine's most powerful ally since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, though Kyiv was taken aback by the Biden administration's decision to waive sanctions on the company behind Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, has announced a new anti-corruption drive, economic aid and tougher enforcement against human trafficking during a visit to Guatemala. But Harris, on her first foreign trip as vice-president, faced sceptical questions over whether the measures she announced would represent a real change in US policy in the region, at a time of worsening poverty and corruption.
At a press conference in Guatemala City after talks with Harris on Monday, the country’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, was repeatedly asked whether he was part of the corruption problem, after the arrest of investigators who had been looking into government abuses, and allegations that Giammattei has been packing Guatemala’s highest court with compliant judges.
The president blamed the allegations on misinformation on social media. ...
Harris insisted she had been blunt in her talks with Giammattei. “We don’t have time for glossing over the concerns that we have,” she said. “And so we did have a very frank conversation about the importance of an independent judiciary. We had a conversation about the importance of a strong civil society. I expressed concerns about those issues.” ...
A joint statement by several human rights advocacy groups before Harris’s visit said that “the rule of law has continued to deteriorate rapidly” in Guatemala. “In recent months, there have been alarming assaults against judicial independence by corrupt elites and criminal networks, seeking to ensure impunity for their crimes and reverse the progress that had been made to strengthen the rule of law,” the statement said.
Mexican voters have denied President Andrés Manuel López Obrador a mega-majority in midterm elections, though his Morena party kept its majority in the lower house of congress with the support of a controversial ally. Voters also showed little enthusiasm for Mexico’s rightwing opposition, which remains reviled after its decisive 2018 defeat by López Obrador, who swept to power promising to curb corruption and put the poor first.
The president, widely known as Amlo, welcomed the results, saying on Monday that he was “happy, happy, happy,” with both the turnout and that a majority allowed him to approve budgets targeting the poor. Mexicans turned out in numbers not seen in recent midterms, with participation hitting 51%. The country also selected governors in 15 states and elected hundreds of mayors and local legislators.
Morena and its allies failed in their bid to win two-thirds of the lower house, which would have allowed him to roll back reforms opening the energy sector to private investment and overhaul autonomous institutions – including the country’s electoral institute, which Amlo has railed against as a biassed and bloated bureaucracy.
“This is a tolerable loss at the margin for Amlo after what’s been a disastrous two and a half years,” said Federico Estévez, professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. “He keeps the institutional power that counts: the budget process and congress.” ...
Morena and the Workers’ party – a long-time Amlo ally – were projected to win between 260 and 292 seats in the 500-seat lower house and would need the 40-plus seats claimed by the Green party to hold a majority. ... Morena performed strongly on the state-level and was leading in 10 of the 15 gubernatorial races Sunday, according to election officials.
Western corporate media have time and again proved to be reliable allies for US regime change efforts against Venezuela (FAIR.org, 12/19/20, 1/22/20, 9/24/19, 6/26/19, 5/1/19). Alongside the occasional military threat, Washington’s strategy in recent years has relied on unilateral coercive measures commonly known as sanctions. Despite these measures being classified as “collective punishment” and found responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, corporate journalists have been for a long time happy to downplay or totally ignore them.
Coverage of the Trump administration’s Venezuela policy proved an interesting case study, with the media establishment momentarily putting aside its hostility to the right-wing former president in order to cheer on his crusade against the elected government in Caracas (FAIR.org, 4/15/20, 5/24/19).
Corporate journalists began to scrutinize the consequences of sanctions and complain about their “failure” to topple the Maduro government toward the end of the Trump administration (Vox, 9/9/20; New York Times, 11/1/20). But the arrival of President Joe Biden evidently reinvigorated their sense of duty as loyal stenographers serving the imperial presidency. As the US blockade becomes more asphyxiating to Venezuelans than ever before, corporate outlets have either turned their gaze somewhere else, or doubled down on misrepresenting sanctions.
As the November 2020 election approached, the Trump administration played some cards to boost its chances of winning Florida and, in the worst-case scenario, leave a couple of “hot potatoes” for a new White House tenant. These included putting Cuba back on the “state sponsors of terrorism” list and, in the case of Venezuela, banning crude-for-diesel swap deals.
A host of actors, including some anti-government Venezuelans, immediately rang alarm bells on the potential consequences of diesel shortages. Venezuela has now gone months without receiving diesel shipments, with severe repercussions for electrical generation, public transportation, and especially food production and supply.
As the situation worsens, Reuters (3/18/21, 5/19/21) has been on the scene to share the dramatic stories of farmers unable to sow or distribute crops, but less eager to admit that the devastation is the product of Trump’s October 2020 diesel sanctions. Rather, the corporate wire agency prefers to cloud the cause in mystery, presenting it as the object of an irresolvable debate.
“Critics, and many farmers, say sanctions are not the root cause of the shortages,” claimed Reuters (5/19/21). The oft-mentioned “root cause” is Venezuela’s nearly paralyzed refining industry (Reuters, 3/18/21). However, what this account conveniently leaves out is the well-documented fact that Venezuela’s refineries were likewise crippled by US sanctions, with the struggle to perform maintenance and secure spare parts compounded by a ban on diluent imports—chemicals needed to dilute crude oil into usable petroleum products like diesel and gasoline.
And regardless of the poor state of Venezuela’s refining capacity, the fact is that there had been no diesel shortages before the US Treasury’s hammer came down. In contrast, gasoline shortages have been a constant in recent years. Despite the crushing weight of sanctions, the Venezuelan government had prioritized securing diesel due to its critical importance.
Reuters will never allow facts to get in the way of a good imperial alibi, going on to repeat its “critics and many farmers say…” mantra in its subsequent reporting on diesel shortages (5/27/21). This specious argument is akin to saying “many Palestinians blame Hamas” for Israeli bombings, or that children in Israeli-besieged Gaza “may have been killed” by Palestinian militants.
In addition to covering up US responsibility for Venezuela’s economic devastation, Reuters journalists Luc Cohen and Keren Torres (5/19/21) likewise retail the Venezuelan opposition’s talking points, stating that self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó is working with Washington to “design a mechanism to allow diesel imports while ensuring Maduro does not use the fuel for corrupt ends.” Yet it is far from clear what those “corrupt ends” might be, since the same piece admits that the government distributes diesel free of charge.
Another fixture in the reporting on diesel shortages is allowing Biden officials to describe how serious (or not) the situation is. For example, Brian Nichols, noted sanctions enthusiast and nominee for assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, assured the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Venezuela has enough diesel capacity “for the next six months or so” (Bloomberg, 5/19/21).
While corporate journalists paid little mind to this apparent confession that the current asphyxiation will take six months to kill, they were even less interested in factchecking the prediction. Specialized sources place the diesel crunch in a much shorter time window (S&P Global, 3/30/21; Argus Media, 1/20/21). Estimates vary, but a 40,000 barrel per day (BPD) deficit would mean that the country’s estimated 4 million barrel inventory as of early March would run out in a little over three months—i.e., some time in June.
Furthermore, if Nichols’ estimate were right, it would be reasonable to expect the government to increase supplies to food producers, given that it is sowing season, and crop shortages would mean another problem in a few months. However, Reuters (5/19/21) invited another Beltway bureaucrat, Juan Sebastian Gonzalez, to float the conspiracy theory that the Maduro government will “leave the people to suffer to help their international argument.”
Gonzalez, who serves as senior director for the Western Hemisphere at the White House’s National Security Council, also received a platform to echo yet another opposition talking point, namely that shortages are due to Venezuela “giving” diesel to Cuba. Ignoring the fact that the Havana/Caracas relations span a number of areas, with no less than 20,000 Cuban doctors currently in Venezuela, even obsessively anti-socialist outlets like the Miami Herald (3/11/21) recognize that diesel represents a “small portion” of exports, while Reuters places the shipments at 4,000 BPD, around 5% of daily demand (1/18/21).
In short, Washington can choke an entire country, accuse it of faking its suffering and not being close to “dying” while corporate media look the other way.
The US Justice Department has recovered the majority of a multimillion-dollar ransom payment to hackers after a cyberattack that caused the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline to halt its operations last month, officials said Monday.
The operation to recover the cryptocurrency from the Russia-based hacker group is the first undertaken by a specialized ransomware taskforce created by the Biden administration, and reflects what US officials say is an increasingly aggressive approach to deal with a ransomware threat that in the last month has targeted critical industries around the world.
“By going after an entire ecosystem that fuels ransomware and digital currency, we will continue to use all of our tools and all of our resources to increase the costs and the consequences of ransomware attacks and other cyber-enabled attacks,” deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco said Monday at a news conference announcing the operation. ...
“The extortionists will never see this money,” said Stephanie Hinds, the acting US attorney for the northern district of California, where the seizure warrant was filed. ...
Monaco said the takeaway for the private sector is that if companies come quickly to law enforcement, officials may be able to conduct similar seizures in the future.
In an opinion piece, the Washington Post's publisher on Sunday accused President Joe Biden's Justice Department of exacerbating the Trump administration's assault on press freedom and called for a "full accounting" of the Biden DOJ's recent practices in order to prevent such a "brazen infringement of the First Amendment rights of all Americans" from happening again.
Recent reporting revealed that during the last days of then-President Donald Trump's term, DOJ officials authorized subpoenas to secretly obtain the phone and email records of reporters at the Post, CNN, and the New York Times. In the wake of the revelations, Biden last month condemned the unconstitutional actions taken by his predecessor's Justice Department and vowed that his administration would protect the rights of journalists and, by extension, those of the public.
"Unfortunately," Post publisher Fred Ryan wrote Sunday, "new revelations suggest that the Biden Justice Department not only allowed these disturbing intrusions to continue—it intensified the government's attack on First Amendment rights before finally backing down in the face of reporting about its conduct."
According to Ryan:
After Biden took office, the department continued to pursue subpoenas for reporters' email logs issued to Google, which operates the New York Times' email systems, and it obtained a gag order compelling a Times attorney to keep silent about the fact that federal authorities were seeking to seize his colleagues' records.
Later, when the Justice Department broadened the number of those permitted to know about the effort, it barred Times executives from discussing the legal battle with the Times newsroom, including the paper's top editor.
Ryan argued that "this escalation, on Biden's watch, represents an unprecedented assault on American news organizations and their efforts to inform the public about government wrongdoing."
Following last month's bombshell report about the Trump DOJ's seizure of three Post journalists' communications records, the newspaper "immediately requested an explanation and answers to several questions from the Justice Department as well as a meeting with the attorney general," Ryan wrote Sunday.
"To date, no answers have been provided and the meeting has yet to take place," he added. "This delay is troubling."
Although Biden last month called apprehending journalists' communication records in an attempt to identify the sources of leaks "simply, simply wrong" and insisted that he "will not let that happen," his Justice Department tried to justify the Trump administration's intervention at the Post as part of "a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information."
As Ryan noted Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has been unable to explain the discrepancy between Biden's denunciation of the Trump administration's actions plus his assurances that he would not permit such practices to continue, on the one hand, and his own Justice Department's behavior, on the other. She did, however, issue a statement "disavowing White House knowledge of the actions that appear to have continued for several months during Biden's presidency."
While First Amendment advocates have long argued that cracking down on journalists and their sources dissuades people from sharing information that can help expose the truth, hold the powerful accountable, and improve the common good, the Obama-Biden administration and the Trump White House both went to great lengths to prevent leaks and punish government officials for divulging information to reporters. Before the Trump-era "war on whistleblowers," the Obama DOJ prosecuted nine leak cases, more than all previous administrations combined.
A US public health expert has warned that though cases of Covid-19 are at their lowest rates for months and much of the country is returning to normal life, young Americans are still “a vulnerable host” for the coronavirus. Dr Richina Bicette, associate medical director at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told CNN children were now accounting for nearly 25% of US cases.
“As adults get vaccinated and become more protected and immune,” she said, “the virus is still in the community looking for a vulnerable host, and pediatric patients fit that description.” Children aged 12 and above are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, one of three in US use. Federal authorities will this week debate extending vaccines to children aged 11 and under. ...
Deaths in the US have slowed drastically, the toll a little under 590,000. But with virus variants causing problems as other countries reopen, experts have voiced concern over slowing rates of vaccination, particularly in Republican states.
Caitlin Johnstone states the obvious again.
In 2008 the American public was fed up with the disastrous status quo politics of George W Bush, so they came together and elected a progressive candidate who campaigned on hope and change to replace him.
But no progress happened; the hope and change never came. Barack Obama continued and expanded all of his predecessor’s most depraved policies at home and abroad, and it wasn’t long before the initial elation wore off and the illusion that things were looking up evaporated. It was as if Bush had never left office.
Worn out and disgusted by crushing neoliberal policies at home and murderous neoconservative policies abroad, Americans elected a political neophyte who ran on a populist platform which criticized both Bush and Obama. Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, end the wars, and fight the establishment in the interests of ordinary people. This time for sure there would be change.
But the wars kept going, and the swamp got even fuller, and the US empire kept chugging along on the same trajectory it had been on throughout the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Despite all this, the Democratic Party and its allied media institutions acted as though some drastic deviation from the norm had taken place, insisting that the United States had been plunged from a free democracy respected around the world into an isolationist fascist dystopia.
In order to stop fascism, the American people had yet another people’s uprising against the corrupt status quo and… elected Obama’s vice president. Lifelong corporate crony and empire lackey Joe Biden now sits in the White House, advancing all the same murderous, oppressive, exploitative, authoritarian policies as his predecessors, as a result of the latest fake, decoy revolution against tyranny.
And that’s all mainstream electoral politics ever is in the US empire: a fake, decoy revolution staged for the public every few years so that they don’t have a real one. A symbolic ceremony where the public pretends to cast the abusive status quo into the sea so they feel like the battle against their oppressors has been won. And then their oppressors just keep right on oppressing them.
Every few years the public gets to choose between two reliable lackeys of the oligarchic empire, and then all of the evils of that empire get pinned upon the winner. The public then directs their rage at the lackey rather than the actual power structure which has been oppressing them, after which they have another election to rid themselves of the scoundrel once and for all. They hug, they cry, they celebrate, and the oppression machine continues completely uninterrupted.
As Gore Vidal once said:
“It doesn’t actually make any difference whether the President is Republican or Democrat. The genius of the American ruling class is that it has been able to make the people think that they have had something to do with the electing of presidents for 200 years when they’ve had absolutely nothing to say about the candidates or the policies or the way the country is run. A very small group controls just about everything.”
That small group is the plutocratic class whose legalized bribery and propaganda machine has immense influence over US politics, as well as the imperial war machine and special interest groups with whom the plutocratic class is allied. It is necessary to form coalitions of support within that power cluster if one wants to become president in the managed democracy that is the United States, and no part of that power cluster is going to support a president who won’t reliably advance the interests of the oligarchic empire.
From this point of view, the oligarchic power cluster is essentially running its own employees against each other and having them promise to end the injustices which are inextricably baked in to the oligarchic empire. Americans live in a totalitarian state whose most important elections are rigged from top to bottom, and they’re fed news stories about Evil Dictators in other countries rigging their elections to remain in power.
Politicians cannot change the status quo to one which benefits ordinary people instead of their oligarchic owners, because the oligarchic empire is built upon the need for endless war, poverty, and oppression. You cannot have a unipolar global empire without using violent force (and the threat of it) to uphold that world order, and you cannot have a plutocracy without ensuring that a few rulers have far more wealth control than the rank-and-file citizenry.
For this reason, even politicians who run on relatively progressive-sounding platforms are themselves a part of the fake decoy revolution unless they demand a complete dismantling of oligarchy and empire. The politicians who present themselves as progressives in America today offer only light opposition to some aspects of empire and oligarchy, in effect merely supporting an oligarchic empire that gives Americans healthcare. Since keeping Americans poor, busy and propagandized is an essential dynamic in the hub of a globe-spanning oligarchic empire, this is a nonsensical position; the oligarchs don’t want ordinary Americans to have money to burn on campaign donations and free time to research what’s really going on in their world, because then they might meddle in the gears of empire. A power structure built upon economic injustice will never permit economic justice.
The door to meaningful change in America via electoral politics has been closed, locked, bolted, welded shut, and barricaded with a metric ton of solid steel. The only thing that can cause an end to the oppression and exploitation is an end to the oligarchic empire, and the only thing that can cause the end of the oligarchic empire is direct action by the American people: mass-scale activism, general strikes, and civil disobedience the likes of which the nation has never before seen, in sufficient numbers to bring down the plutocratic institutions which maintain the status quo.
The problem is that this will never happen as long as Americans are being successfully propagandized into being content with their fake decoy revolutions. There is a zero percent chance of electoral politics leading to an end of the empire, but a concerted effort to spread awareness by those who understand what’s going on just might.
All positive changes in human behavior are always preceded by an expansion of awareness, whether you’re talking about awareness of the consequences of one’s addiction leading to their getting sober or an expansion of awareness of the injustices of racism leading to racial justice laws. Making people aware that the mass media are lying to us about what’s real, aware of the horrors of war, aware of the underlying dynamics of the economic injustice which is grinding Americans into the dirt, that can lead to a chain reaction which sees the collective using the power of its numbers to shrug off the chains of oppression as easily as you remove a heavy coat on a warm day.
Demanding that lawmakers go on the record regarding their views on the For the People Act, pro-democracy campaigners on Monday called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring the voting rights bill up for a full debate on the Senate floor.
The day after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) published an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, falsely claiming passage of the For the People Act (S. 1) would be an example of "partisan policymaking" and vowing to vote against the measure because of its lack of Republican support, Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn demanded that the fight against disenfranchisement "does not end with an op-ed."
Hobert Flynn called on Schumer to bring S. 1 to the floor for a vote and demanded that Manchin "allow the debate to take place on the floor and not just in the op-ed pages."
"If Senate Republicans try to filibuster such a motion to proceed to a full floor debate, Senator Manchin should not join such a filibuster," Hobert Flynn said regarding the congressional maneuver which Manchin supports and which all but guarantees the For the People Act will be voted down, as the Democrats would need 10 Republicans to join them in passing the bill.
As Hobert Flynn noted, Manchin insisted in the pages of the Gazette-Mail on Sunday that the For the People Act is a partisan measure, even though 79% of his own constituents including 76% of West Virginia Republicans support the legislation.
New data released Monday showed atmospheric carbon dioxide reached a monthly average level of 419 parts per million in May, which is not only the maximum reading ever recorded since accurate measurements began 63 years ago but also the highest level the planet has experienced in over four million years.
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego working at NOAA's Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii said the May measurements—an increase from 417 parts per million (ppm) in May 2020—mean that "the atmospheric burden of CO2 is now comparable to where it was during the Pliocene Climatic Optimum, between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago, when CO2 was close to, or above 400 ppm."
"During that time, sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7°F higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra," they said.
The scientists noted that while the worldwide economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic led to a significant but temporary decrease in global greenhouse gas emissions, the drop had no discernible impact on the rate of atmospheric CO2 accumulation.
Monthly average CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa observatory, world's benchmark atmospheric monitoring station, reached a new record 419.13 parts per million in May, up from 417.31 ppm in May 2020.
This is more than just a statistic.#ClimateChangehttps://t.co/6obisTX75P pic.twitter.com/U1M57vYWlZ
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) June 7, 2021
Joe Biden may be pressing for 2021 to be a transformational year in tackling the climate crisis, but Republicans arrayed in opposition to his agenda have dug in around a unifying rallying theme – that the fossil fuel industry should be protected at almost any cost. For many experts and environmentalists, the Republican stance is a shockingly retrograde move that flies in the face of efforts to fight global heating and resembles a head in the sand approach to the realities of a changing American economy.
In a recent letter sent to John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, more than a dozen Republican state treasurers accused the administration of pressuring banks to not lend to coal, oil and gas companies, adding that such a move would “eliminate the fossil fuel industry in our country” in order to appease the US president’s “radical political preferences”. The letter raised the extraordinary possibility of Republican-led states penalizing banks that refuse to fund projects that worsen the climate crisis by pulling assets from them. Riley Moore, treasurer of the coal heartland state of West Virginia, said “undue pressure” was being put on banks by the Biden administration that could end financing of fossil fuels and devastate West Virginia and put thousands of families out of work”.
“If a bank or lending institution says it is going to do something that could cause significant economic harm to our state … then I need to take that into account when I consider what banks we do business with,” Moore, who has assets of about $18bn under his purview, told the Guardian. “If they are going to attack our industries, jobs, economy and way of life, then I am going to fight back.” The shunning of banks in this way would almost certainly face a hefty legal response but the threat is just the latest eye-catching Republican gambit aimed at propping up a fossil fuel industry that will have to be radically pared back if the US is to slash its planet-heating emissions in half this decade, as Biden has vowed.
In Louisiana, Republicans have embarked upon a quixotic and probably doomed attempt to make the state a “fossil fuel sanctuary” jurisdiction that does not follow federal pollution rules. In Texas, the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, has instructed his agencies to challenge the “hostile attack” launched by Biden against the state’s oil and gas industries while Republicans in Wyoming have even set up a legal fund to sue other states that refuse to take its coal.
The messaging appears to be filtering down to the Republican electorate, with new polling by Yale showing support for clean energy among GOP voters has dropped dramatically over the past 18 months.
The economies of rich countries will shrink by twice as much as they did in the Covid-19 crisis if they fail to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions, according to research. The G7 countries – the world’s biggest industrialised economies – will lose 8.5% of GDP a year, or nearly $5tn wiped off their economies, within 30 years if temperatures rise by 2.6C, as they are likely to on the basis of government pledges and policies around the world, according to research from Oxfam and the Swiss Re Institute.
The economies of G7 nations contracted by about 4.2% on average in the coronavirus pandemic, and the economic losses from the climate crisis by 2050 would be roughly on the scale of suffering a similar crisis twice every year, according to the research. The UK’s economy would lose 6.5% a year by 2050 on current policies and projections, compared with 2.4% if the goals of the Paris climate agreement are met.
Other nations will be hit much worse, including India, whose economy will shrink by a quarter owing to a 2.6C temperature increase, while Australia will suffer a loss of 12.5% of output, and South Korea will lose nearly a tenth of its economic potential. ...
The modelling by the insurance firm Swiss Re took account of the forecast direct impacts of climate breakdown, including extreme weather such as droughts and floods, as well as the effects on agricultural productivity, health and heat stress.
In Sin City, one thing that will soon become unforgivable is useless grass. A new Nevada law will outlaw about 40% of the grass in the Las Vegas area in an effort to conserve water amid a drought that is drying up the region’s primary water source: the Colorado River.
Other cities and states around the US have enacted temporary bans on lawns that must be watered, but legislation signed Friday by the state’s governor, Steve Sisolak, makes Nevada the first in the nation to enact a permanent ban on certain categories of grass. Sisolak said last week that anyone flying into Las Vegas viewing the “bathtub rings” that delineate how high Lake Mead’s water levels used to be can see that conservation is needed.
The ban targets what the Southern Nevada Water Authority calls “non-functional turf”. It applies to grass that virtually no one uses at office parks, street medians and the entrances to housing developments. It excludes single-family homes, parks and golf courses.
The measure will require the replacement of about 8 sq miles (21 sq km) of grass in the metro Las Vegas area. By ripping it out, water officials estimate the region can reduce annual water consumption by 15% and save about 14 gallons (53 liters) per person a day in a region with a population of about 2.3 million.
The ban was passed by state lawmakers with bipartisan support and backing from groups like Great Basin Water Network conservation group and the Southern Nevada Homebuilders’ Association, which wants to free up water to allow for projected growth and future construction.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Willie Mabon - I Don't Know
Willie Mabon - Why Did It Happen To Me
Willie Mabon - Poison Ivy
Willie Mabon - I'm Mad!
Willie Mabon - You're A Fool
Willie Mabon - Cruisin'
Willie Mabon - Willie's Blues
Willie Mabon - I Got To Go
Willie Mabon - Got To Have Some
Willie Mabon - Just Got Some