The Evening Blues - 8-2-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features delta bluesman Johnny Shines. Enjoy!
Johnny Shines - Two Steps to Hell
“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”
-- Noam Chomsky
News and Opinion
I wonder if the morons in the NSC understand the concept of sovereignty. Mexicans have the "right to visit America," but that doesn't stop the U.S. from killing, arresting or brutalizing them when they cross the border if they fail to obtain proper permissions from the sovereign government of the U.S.
, amid reports that she will be landing on the island on Tuesday – a move that China has vowed to respond to forcefully. Speaking at a press conference in Washington on Monday, NSC spokesman John Kirby said Pelosi has visited Taiwan before “without any incident”.
“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding US policies into some sort of crisis,” he added.
Around the same time, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, also told reporters that the speaker “will make her own decisions about whether or not to visit Taiwan,” stressing that Congress is independent from the White House.
“Congress is an independent, co-equal branch of government, the decision is entirely the speaker’s. This is very much precedent in the sense that [a] previous speaker has visited Taiwan. Many members of Congress go to Taiwan, including this year,” Blinken said, alluding to Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich’s visit in 1997.
Blinken added, of Beijing: “We are looking for them, in the event she decides to visit, to act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward.”
The arrogance of power is especially ominous and despicable when a government leader risks huge numbers of lives in order to make a provocative move on the world's geopolitical chessboard. Nancy Pelosi's plan to visit Taiwan is in that category. Thanks to her, the chances of a military confrontation between China and the United States have spiked upward.
Long combustible over Taiwan, the tensions between Beijing and Washington are now close to ablaze, due to Pelosi's desire to be the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Despite the alarms that her travel plans have set off, President Biden has responded timidly—even while much of the establishment wants to see the trip canceled.
"Well, I think that the military thinks it's not a good idea right now," Biden said about the prospective trip on July 20. "But I don't know what the status of it is."
Biden could have put his presidential foot down and ruled out Pelosi's Taiwan trip, but he didn't. Yet, as days went by, news trickled out that opposition to the trip was extensive in the upper reaches of his administration.
"National security adviser Jake Sullivan and other senior National Security Council officials oppose the trip because of the risk of escalating tension across the Taiwan Strait," Financial Times reported. And overseas, "the controversy over the trip has sparked concern among Washington's allies who are worried that it could trigger a crisis between the U.S. and China."
Underscoring that the U.S. commander in chief is anything but an innocent bystander in terms of Pelosi's trip, officials disclosed that the Pentagon intends to provide fighter jets as escorts if she goes through with the Taiwan visit. Biden's unwillingness to clearly head off such a visit reflects the insidious style of his own confrontational approach to China.
More than a year ago—under the apt New York Times headline "Biden's Taiwan Policy Is Truly, Deeply Reckless"—Peter Beinart pointed out that from the outset of his presidency Biden was "chipping away" at the longstanding U.S. "one China" policy: "Biden became the first American president since 1978 to host Taiwan's envoy at his inauguration. In April, his administration announced it was easing decades-old limitations on official U.S. contacts with the Taiwanese government. These policies are increasing the odds of a catastrophic war. The more the United States and Taiwan formally close the door on reunification, the more likely Beijing is to seek reunification by force."
Beinart added: "What's crucial is that the Taiwanese people preserve their individual freedom and the planet does not endure a third world war. The best way for the United States to pursue those goals is by maintaining America's military support for Taiwan while also maintaining the 'one China' framework that for more than four decades has helped keep the peace in one of the most dangerous places on earth."
Now, Pelosi's move toward a visit to Taiwan has amounted to further intentional erosion of the "one China" policy. Biden's mealy-mouthed response to that move was a subtler type of brinkmanship.
Many mainline commentators, while very critical of China, acknowledge the hazardous trend. "The Biden administration remains committed to being more hawkish on China than its predecessor," conservative historian Niall Ferguson wrote on Friday. He added: "Presumably, the calculation in the White House remains, as in the 2020 election, that being tough on China is a vote-winner—or, to put it differently, that doing anything the Republicans can portray as 'weak on China' is a vote-loser. Yet it is hard to believe that this calculation would hold if the result were a new international crisis, with all its potential economic consequences."
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal summed up the current precarious moment with a headline declaring that Pelosi's visit "would likely sink tentative rapprochement between U.S., China."
But the consequences—far from being only economic and diplomatic—could be existential for all of humanity. China has several hundred nuclear weapons ready to use, while the United States has several thousand. The potential for military conflict and escalation is all too real.
"We keep claiming our 'one China' policy hasn't changed, but a Pelosi visit would clearly be precedent setting and can't be construed as in keeping with 'unofficial relations,'" said Susan Thornton, a former acting assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department. Thornton added: "If she goes, the prospect of a crisis goes way up as China will need to respond."
Last week, a pair of mainstream policy analysts from elite think tanks—the German Marshall Fund and the American Enterprise Institute—wrote in the New York Times: "A single spark could ignite this combustible situation into a crisis that escalates to military conflict. Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan could provide it."
But July ended with strong indications that Biden has given a green light and Pelosi still intends to go ahead with an imminent visit to Taiwan. This is the kind of leadership that can get us all killed.
Sources told Reuters that Pelosi was due to arrive in Taiwan on Tuesday and spend the night on the island. A US official told CNN that the Pentagon is preparing for her trip and is monitoring Chinese forces in the region. The Financial Times reported that Pelosi will meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday. ...
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the administration will support Pelosi’s trip. “We want to make sure that when she travels overseas, she can do so safely and securely and we’re going to make sure of that,” he said.
Food inflation has soared across much of the developing world since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has trapped several richer countries in a cycle of rising prices, a report by the World Bank has found. The Washington-based development organisation said the war in eastern Europe would hit many countries with an increase in food bills worth more than 1% of their annual national income (GDP), while others would fail to contain the impact and be plunged into a full-blown debt crisis.
Lebanon was the worst-hit, the World Bank said, after a food grain store explosion in Beirut two years ago crippled the Mediterranean country’s ability to hold and distribute maize and wheat to its 6.8 million people.
Food inflation there hit 332% in the year to June, ahead of Zimbabwe’s 255% increase and Venezuela’s 155%. Turkey was fourth with a food inflation rate of 94%. ...
The World Bank said the shock increase in food prices over recent months was affecting most economies, including those with relatively high incomes. “The share of high-income countries with high inflation has also increased sharply, with about 78.6% experiencing high food price inflation.
Federal investigators raided the offices and homes of leaders involved with local Black liberation group under suspicion of Russian collusion early Friday morning. Officials of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and African People’s Socialist Party say the FBI performed a "violent" raid with flash grenades and drones around 5 a.m. Friday morning.
At a news conference Friday, Chairman Omali Yeshitela said he and his wife were handcuffed during the raid as investigators searched their home. He said the FBI threw flash grenades into his home and performed the raid without knocking or showing him a search warrant. Yeshitela said the FBI believes the Uhuru Movement and African People’s Socialist Party may somehow be involved with Russia’s tampering in U.S. elections.
“What they have claimed is that they are indicting someone, a Russian nationalist who is in Russia,” Yeshitela said. “They have claimed that they were investigating the African People’s Socialist Party that I lead in the Uhuru Movement because of some association that we might have with the Russian government.” ...
Yeshitela said he visited Russia in 2014 as part of a conference organized by a Russian organization that dealt with an anti-globalization movement in Russia, but his involvement with the country did not extend beyond that. “This movement had conferences in Russia, organizing peoples from around the world who were opposed to globalization and who were struggling for self-determination,” Yeshitela said.
Yeshitela founded the African People's Socialist Party in 1972. According to its website, party members aim to free African and oppressed populations from "U.S. capitalist-colonialist domination."
As GOP-led states continue working to further restrict reproductive freedom in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's late June ruling, some progressive advocates on Monday responded critically to the introduction of bipartisan abortion rights legislation.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) introduced the Reproductive Freedom for All Act, which they claim "would undo the damage of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade."
NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju declared that "this bill is just another political stunt that would not actually address the abortion rights and access crisis that has pushed care out of reach for millions of people already."
"Unless these senators are willing to end the filibuster to pass this measure, there's no reason to take it seriously," Timmaraju added.
According to the co-sponsors, the Reproductive Freedom for All Act would:
- Prohibit state regulations that impose an undue burden on a woman’s access to pre-viability abortions, while allowing states to enact reasonable restrictions on post-viability abortions—provided that states cannot ban abortions that are necessary to protect the life or health of the mother;
- Protect access to contraceptives; and
- Preserve conscience protections.
NARAL noted that in February, then again in May—after a draft of the Dobbs decision leaked—both Collins and Murkowski refused to support the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), a Democrat-led bill to codify Roe, the 1973 decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion until it was recently overturned by the high court's far-right majority.
At least 10 Republican senators would have to join with the Democratic caucus to pass a bill, due to the filibuster rule that is backed by not only the GOP, but also Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who notably opposed WHPA.
An associate of the far-right Three Percenters militia group has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in storming the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.
It is the longest sentence imposed so far among hundreds of cases related to the insurrection by extremist supporters of Donald Trump who sought to stop the official congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election victory over his Republican rival.
Prosecutors said Guy Reffitt had told fellow members of the Texas Three Percenters militia group that he planned to drag the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi out of the Capitol building by her ankles “with her head hitting every step on the way down”, according to a court filing.
Reffitt was sentenced in Washington DC on Monday after being convicted by a jury in March of obstructing Congress’ joint session, of interfering with police officers outside the Capitol and of threatening his two teenage children if they reported him to law enforcement.
Justice department prosecutors recommended a 15-year prison sentence for Reffitt, with the duration warranted “for terrorism”.
Worth a full read:
The risk of global societal collapse or human extinction has been “dangerously underexplored”, climate scientists have warned in an analysis. They call such a catastrophe the “climate endgame”. Though it had a small chance of occurring, given the uncertainties in future emissions and the climate system, cataclysmic scenarios could not be ruled out, they said.
“Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst,” the scientists said, adding that there were “ample reasons” to suspect global heating could result in an apocalyptic disaster.
The international team of experts argue the world needs to start preparing for the possibility of the climate endgame. “Analysing the mechanisms for these extreme consequences could help galvanise action, improve resilience, and inform policy,” they said. Explorations in the 1980s of the nuclear winter that would follow a nuclear war spurred public concern and disarmament efforts, the researchers said. The analysis proposes a research agenda, including what they call the “four horsemen” of the climate endgame: famine, extreme weather, war and disease. ...
The analysis is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was reviewed by a dozen scientists. It argues that the consequences of global heating beyond 3C have been underexamined, with few quantitative estimates of the total impacts. “We know least about the scenarios that matter most,” Kemp said. ...
Particularly concerning are tipping points, where a small rise in global temperature results in a big change in the climate, such as huge carbon emissions from an Amazon rainforest suffering major droughts and fires. Tipping points could trigger others in a cascade and some remained little studied, they said, such as the abrupt loss of stratocumulus cloud decks that could cause an additional 8C of global warming.
A coal-fired power plant that had been mothballed has become the first of its kind to be put back on to the network in Germany, as debate rages over how Europe’s largest economy will cope without Russian gas. The facility in Lower Saxony, which is owned by the Czech energy company EGH, has received emergency permission to run until April in an attempt to boost energy production.
The move has been described by Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, a leading Green, as a necessary evil, as he acknowledged it was a considerable setback to the country’s attempts to tackle the climate crisis. Meanwhile, Germany’s Greens ruled out lengthening the life of nuclear power plants due to be mothballed by the end of the year.
Ricarda Lang, the head of the Greens, who are in a coalition government with the Social Democrats and the pro-business FDP, said such a move would not happen as long as her party was in government. She rejected calls from the FDP finance minister, Christian Lindner, to keep open until about 2024 if necessary three nuclear power plants due to stop operation by the end of this year.
Heavy rain has pummeled Kentucky once again, raising fears of further devastating flooding that has already killed 35 people, with hundreds more still missing. Another round of rainstorms hit inundated mountain communities on Monday as more bodies emerged from the sodden landscape, and the state’s governor warned that high winds could bring falling trees and utility poles.
Governor Andy Beshear said the death toll rose to 35 while hundreds of people remained unaccounted for five days after one of the nation’s poorest regions was swamped by nearly a foot of rain. The water poured down hillsides and into valleys and hollows, engulfing entire towns. Mudslides marooned some people on steep slopes.
With the saturated ground unable to soak up more water, bridges have collapsed under the weight of flooding, isolating towns and communities and hampering rescue missions. Roads are impassable, mudslides have produced further hazards and many houses have been destroyed. At a press conference from the state capital, Frankfort, Beshear said that on top of everything else residents now had to contend with high winds. ...
With several western states fighting their own battles against wildfires, extreme heat and prolonged drought, Kamala Harris travelled to Miami on Monday to announce a $1bn package to deal with disasters exacerbated by the climate crisis. The vice-president was briefed by officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) about the multiple calamities striking the country simultaneously.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Johnny Shines - Sweet Home Chicago
The Johnny Shines Blues Band - Dynaflow Blues
Johnny Shines - Ramblin'
Johnny Shines - Sitting On top Of The World
Johnny Shines - I Don't Know
Johnny Shines with Big Walter Horton - G. B. Blues
Johnny Shines - Two Trains Runnin'
Johnny Shines w/Big Walter Horton - Layin' Down My Shoes & Clothes
Johnny Shines - Terraplane Blues