The Evening Blues - 8-8-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims. Enjoy!
Frankie Lee Sims - Lucy Mae Blues
“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”
-- Bruce Coville
News and Opinion
Amnesty International has said it “deeply regrets the distress and anger” caused after it alleged that Ukrainian forces were flouting international law by exposing civilians to Russian fire.
“We fully stand by our findings,” the rights group said on Sunday, but it stressed that “nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations”.
Amnesty sparked outrage in Ukraine with the publication of a report on Thursday that accused the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals, and launching counterattacks from heavily populated areas.
The head of Amnesty’s Ukraine office resigned in protest, accusing the rights organisation of parroting Kremlin propaganda.
Amnesty’s report listed instances in which Ukrainian forces appeared to have exposed civilians to danger in 19 towns and villages in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions. In its statement on Sunday, the rights group refused to back down on that assessment.
You can always tell how important narrative control is by watching the way people react when their control of the narrative is jeopardized.
Empire apologists are raging at Amnesty International for pausing its aggressive facilitation of western imperialism to issue one brief criticism of the way Ukrainian forces have been endangering civilian lives with their warfare tactics against the Russian military.
Amnesty is far from the first to highlight this extensively documented issue; that Ukrainian forces have been deliberately positioning themselves in civilian populations without taking proper measures to protect noncombatants is a concern that has been voiced repeatedly since the war began and reported on by both mainstream western news outlets and the United Nations.
Nevertheless, Amnesty’s claim that “Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals” has drawn fire from Ukrainian officials, from mass media pundits, from the brainwashed rank-and-file on social media, and from President Zelensky himself.
A common criticism circulating among the outrage is that Amnesty is facilitating Russian propaganda, has been influenced by Russian propaganda, or has itself become an instrument of Russian propaganda.
The head of Amnesty International’s Ukrainian branch resigned as a result of the report, saying that “the organization created material that sounded like support for Russian narratives” and that in an effort to protect civilians, “this study became a tool of Russian propaganda.”
“It is a shame that the organization like Amnesty is participating in this disinformation and propaganda campaign,” tweeted Zelensky advisor Mykhailo Podolyak.
“Amnesty International can go to hell for this garbage,” tweeted Human Rights Foundation Chairman Garry Kasparov. “Or go to Ukraine, which Putin’s war is trying to turn into hell. As with their actions on Navalny, it reeks of Russian influence turning Kremlin propaganda into Amnesty statements.”
The Daily Mail called the Amnesty report “a coup for Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine.”
The underlying premise behind these complaints, of course, is that it is Amnesty International’s job to help Ukraine win a propaganda campaign against Russia. Which is odd, because Amnesty’s reporting on the war has actually been overwhelmingly biased in favor of Ukraine this entire time.
“Anger directed at Amnesty is surprising given that it is the first critical piece the group has written on Ukraine since the war began,” reports Unherd. “Over the last six months, Amnesty has published 40 articles on Ukraine, nearly all of which condemn Russia’s invasion, with only one exception — its latest — that could be conceivably described as critical of Ukraine.”
Even the Amnesty report currently sparking all the outrage contains repeated condemnations of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, citing “indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces” and “war crimes” Amnesty has found Russia guilty of committing, as well as decrying the use of “inherently indiscriminate weapons, including internationally banned cluster munitions.”
But even ninety-nine percent loyalty to the official line is not enough for imperial spinmeisters and the empire’s useful idiots. Anything short of 100 percent compliance counts as Russian propaganda.
But that’s precisely the notion that has been drummed into western consciousness with ever-increasing fervor since 2016: that any dissent about US foreign policy is Russian propaganda. Don’t support western interventionism in Syria? You’re spouting Russian propaganda. Worried about nuclear war? Russian propaganda. Don’t think the fight for US unipolar domination is worth all this dangerous brinkmanship? Russian propaganda. Don’t like the idea of an expensive proxy war with no exit strategy whose economic fallout is making life harder and harder for more and more people all around the world? Russian propaganda.
I myself am accused of being a peddler of Russian propaganda many times per day, and have been for years. This despite my hardly ever consuming Russian media, never receiving a penny from Russia, and never having worked for the Russian government or any other government at any time. Russian media have at times chosen of their own initiative to amplify my work since I have a standing invitation for anyone to do so, but I’m literally just an Australian woman writing her opinions online with her American husband. I only qualify as “Russian propaganda” because I disagree with US foreign policy.
Ask anyone who says a criticism of the western empire’s Ukraine policy is “Russian propaganda” to name a critic of western Ukraine policy who they don’t consider a Russian propagandist. They won’t be able to. For them, disagreeing with one’s government about Ukraine is itself Russian propaganda.
For empire apologists the measure of what constitutes “Russian propaganda” about Ukraine has nothing to do with whether or not what’s being said is true or valid; it’s literally just a question of obedience to one’s government about the decisions it’s been making with regard to that nation.
If the measure of whether something qualifies as propaganda is defined entirely by whether it agrees with one’s government, then that measure is itself propaganda.
That’s exactly what’s happening with criticism of the west’s interventionism in Ukraine. Something doesn’t have to come from Russia to be considered Russian propaganda, and its source doesn’t need to have any connection to the Russian government. It doesn’t even have to be false. All it needs to be is disobedient.
We saw this illustrated this past June when The Guardian published a NATO-backed claim that journalist Aaron Maté was “the most prolific spreader of disinformation” among a “Russia-backed network of Syria conspiracy theorists,” despite being incapable of citing a single false thing in Maté’s Syria reporting, and despite The Guardian having to hastily edit out their “Russia-backed” claim.
We also saw this illustrated this past June in a University of Calgary briefing paper on “disinformation” about the war in Ukraine which warns about “five primary narratives” being circulated online:
1. Implying NATO expansionism legitimizes the Russian invasion
2. Portraying NATO as an aggressive alliance using Ukraine as a proxy against Russia
3. Promoting a general mistrust in institutions and elites
4. Suggesting that Ukraine is a fascist state or has extensive fascist influences
5. Promoting a specific mistrust of Canada’s Liberal government, and especially of Prime Minister Trudeau
There are arguments of varying strengths to be made for every one of those points, but more importantly it is self-evident that all of them are matters of opinion and none of them meet any sane definition of “disinformation”. They also can’t in and of themselves rightly be called either “Russian” or “propaganda”.
Russian propaganda certainly exists, and the Russian government certainly has a vested interest in influencing western thought in its strategic favor to whatever extent it is capable. But its capability is very, very limited, especially compared to the exponentially greater influence that western institutions have over our minds.
Russia has a few trolls and some media outlets that were barely viewed by westerners even before they were banned; the US-centralized empire has the billionaire media, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the education system. Comparing the two is like comparing a candle to the sun, and the sun ain’t Russia. But that’s the one whose influence over our minds we’re meant to worry about.
In reality we are swimming in propaganda that is favorable to the US empire our entire lives; it’s so ubiquitous that people don’t even notice it. Claiming your support for US foreign policy on an issue has nothing to do with being propagandized is like someone who was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church claiming it was pure coincidence that he happens to agree with the church on the sinfulness of homosexuality. It pervades our minds and shapes our society, but they want us all freaking out about the virtually nonexistent problem of “Russian propaganda”.
This is a thought-killing dynamic, and it is a major problem. It is not good that propaganda is shoved into our minds manufacturing consent for dangerous escalations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers while anyone who opposes any part of it is dismissed as a Russian propagandist or a useful idiot of the Kremlin.
We should be using our minds more at this critical juncture, but these dynamics put in place by imperial narrative managers have instead got us using them a lot less.
A Russian and an American get on a plane in Moscow and get to talking. The Russian says he works for the Kremlin and he’s on his way to go learn American propaganda techniques.
“What American propaganda techniques?” asks the American.
“Exactly,” the Russian replies.
Reuters reports unnamed officials in the Biden administration say a new $1 billion weapons package is waiting for the president’s signature. The next arms transfer will be the 18th since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
President Joe Biden will use the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) to fund the security assistance package. In May, Congress placed billions into the PDA, allowing the White House to send Kiev increasingly sophisticated weapons with little oversight. According to the Department of Defense, the new package will bring the total military aid for Kiev to nearly $10 billion.
One aspect of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan that has been largely overlooked is her meeting with Mark Lui, chairman of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC). Pelosi’s trip coincided with U.S. efforts to convince TSMC – the world’s largest chip manufacturer, on which the U.S. is heavily dependent – to establish a manufacturing base in the US and to stop making advanced chips for Chinese companies. U.S. support for Taiwan has historically been based on Washington’s opposition to communist rule in Beijing, and Taiwan’s resistance to absorption by China. But in recent years, Taiwan’s autonomy has become a vital geopolitical interest for the U.S, because of the island’s dominance of the semiconductor manufacturing market. ...
U.S .officials began to realise during the Trump administration that U.S. semiconductor design companies, such as Intel, were heavily dependent on Asian-based supply chains to manufacture their products. In particular, Taiwan’s position in the world of semiconductor manufacturing is a bit like Saudi Arabia’s status in OPEC. TSMC has a 53 percent market share of the global foundry market (factories contracted to make chips designed in other countries). Other Taiwan-based manufacturers claim a further 10 percent of the market.
As a result, the Biden administration’s 100-Day Supply Chain Review Report says, “The United States is heavily dependent on a single company – TSMC – for producing its leading-edge chips.” The fact that only TSMC and Samsung (South Korea) can make the most advanced semiconductors (five nanometres in size) “puts at risk the ability to supply current and future [US] national security and critical infrastructure needs.” This means that China’s long-term goal of reunifying with Taiwan is now more threatening to U.S. interests. In the 1971 Shanghai Communique and the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. recognised that people in both mainland China and Taiwan believed that there was “One China” and that they both belonged to it. But for the U.S. it is unthinkable that TSMC could one day be in territory controlled by Beijing.
For this reason, the U.S. has been trying to attract TSMC to the U.S. to increase domestic chip production capacity. In 2021, with the support of the Biden administration, the company bought a site in Arizona on which to build a U.S. foundry. This is scheduled to be completed in 2024. The U.S. Congress has just passed the Chips and Science Act, which provides $52 billion in subsidies to support semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. But companies will only receive Chips Act funding if they agree not to manufacture advanced semiconductors for Chinese companies. This means that TSMC and others may well have to choose between doing business in China and in the U.S. because the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. is deemed to be too high without government subsidies.
This is all part of a broader “tech war” between the U.S. and China, in which the U.S. is aiming to constrain China’s technological development and prevent it from exercising a global tech leadership role. In 2020, the Trump administration imposed crushing sanctions on the Chinese tech giant Huawei that were designed to cut the company off from TSMC, on which it was reliant for the production of high-end semiconductors needed for its 5G infrastructure business. Huawei was the world’s leading supplier of 5G network equipment but the U.S. feared its Chinese origins posed a security risk (though this claim has been questioned). The sanctions are still in place because both Republicans and Democrats want to stop other countries from using Huawei’s 5G equipment.
The British government had initially decided to use Huawei equipment in certain parts of the U.K.’s 5G network. The Trump administration’s sanctions forced London to reverse that decision. A key U.S. goal appears to be ending its dependency on supply chains in China or Taiwan for “emerging and foundational technologies,” which includes advanced semiconductors needed for 5G systems, but may include other advanced tech in future.
Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan was about more than just Taiwan’s critical place in the “tech war.” But the dominance of its most important company has given the island a new and critical geopolitical importance that is likely to heighten existing tensions between the U.S. and China over the status of the island. It has also intensified U.S. efforts to “reshore” its semiconductor supply chain.
A truce between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad has taken effect in the Gaza Strip after three days of cross-border fighting triggered by surprise Israeli airstrikes.
Earlier, officials from Egypt, which mediated the deal, said that a truce would start at 11.30pm (9.30pm BST) on Sunday.
Israeli strikes and militant rockets continued in the minutes leading up to the beginning of the truce. Israel confirmed the ceasefire was set to take hold, but said it would respond if it was violated. Islamic Jihad also confirmed the agreement. “We appreciate the Egyptian efforts that had been exerted to end the Israeli aggression against our people,” spokesperson Tareq Selmi said. ...
The deal should at least temporarily halt the bloodshed that erupted in the blockaded territory on Friday with Israel’s “pre-emptive” Operation Breaking Dawn, which it said thwarted alleged planned rocket attacks by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
A total of 44 Palestinians, among them 15 children, as well as members of Islamic Jihad, have now been killed in the bombing campaign and more than 300 people have been injured, while 13 Israelis have been treated in hospital for minor injuries as hundreds of retaliatory rockets were fired across the Gaza frontier towards the south of the country.
“It Brings Hope”: Colombia Inaugurates Leftist Former Guerrilla as Pres., Afro-Colombian Woman as VP
Senate Democrats passed their climate and healthcare spending package on Sunday, sending the legislation to the House and bringing Joe Biden one step closer to a significant legislative victory ahead of crucial midterm elections in November.
If signed into law, the bill, formally known as the Inflation Reduction Act, would allocate $369bn to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewable energy sources. Experts have estimated the climate provisions of the bill will reduce America’s planet-heating emissions by about 40% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.
Democrats have promised the bill will lower healthcare costs for millions of Americans by allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and capping Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket prescription drug prices at $2,000 a year. Those who receive health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace are also expected to see lower premium costs.
The legislation includes a number of tax provisions to cover the costs of these policies, bringing in $739bn for the government and resulting in an overall deficit reduction of roughly $300bn. The policy changes include a new corporate minimum tax, a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks and stricter enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service. ...
The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Saturday that a key healthcare provision, which would have placed inflation-related caps on companies’ ability to raise prescription drug prices for private insurance plans, ran afoul of reconciliation rules. Another proposal to cap the cost of insulin in the private insurance market at $35 a month was also stripped out of the bill after 43 Senate Republicans voted to block the policy on procedural grounds.
dems really gave the fossil fuel industry 620,000,000 acres of drilling permits and called it a climate bill
— dilan (@dilanpcook) August 7, 2022
Indiana’s state legislature has become the first in the US to pass new legislation restricting access to abortions since the federal supreme court overturned Roe v Wade.
The bill went to the state’s Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, who signed it into law on Friday night.
Indiana was among the earliest Republican-run state legislatures to debate tighter abortion laws after the supreme court ruling in June that removed constitutional protections. It is the first state to pass a ban through both chambers.
The Indiana senate approved the near-total ban 28-19, hours after house members advanced it 62-38. It includes limited exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, and to protect the life and physical health of the mother. The exceptions for rape and incest are limited to 10 weeks post-fertilization, meaning victims could not get an abortion in Indiana after that. Victims would not be required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an attack. ...
The house rejected, largely on party lines, a Democratic proposal to place a non-binding question on the statewide November election ballot: “Shall abortion remain legal in Indiana?” The Indiana house speaker, Todd Huston, said that if residents were unhappy, they could vote for new lawmakers.
A Minnesota jury found that a pharmacy did not discriminate against a woman when it refused to give her the morning-after pill. The pharmacist gave “belief” as the reason for refusing to fill the prescription for emergency contraception. Although the jury decided that the woman’s rights had not been violated, it did say that the emotional damage caused by the decision amounted to $25,000.
Gender Justice, a legal advocacy non-profit, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Andrea Anderson in 2019, though the case did not reach trial until Monday. Anderson was denied morning-after contraceptive bills by numerous pharmacies, and said she would have to travel 100 miles total to get a pill.
In a statement released by Gender Justice, she expressed concern about the precedent the jury’s decision sets and the message it gives to other women seeking emergency contraception.
The small city of Vincent in Alabama has voted to disband its police force after the revelation of racist text messages exchanged between two of its officers. ...
The messages were first reported by AL.com on Tuesday, the same day the Vincent city council met to decide on the issue.
Earlier on Tuesday, the police chief, James Srygley, had said the department had “conducted an internal investigation” and that they had taken “appropriate disciplinary action”.
But on Thursday, Srygley himself was identified as one of the officers who was terminated. Assistant chief John L Goss was also terminated, and the city council then voted to disband the whole department.
When Peter Meijer voted to impeach Donald Trump, breaking with nearly all of his Republican colleagues in one of his first acts as a newly elected member of Congress, Democrats praised him as the kind of principled conservative his party – and the nation – desperately needed.
But this election season, as Meijer fought for his political survival against a Trump-endorsed election denier in a primary contest for a Michigan House seat, Democrats twisted the knife.
It is part of a risky, and some say downright dangerous, strategy Democrats are using in races for House, Senate and governor: spending money in Republican primaries to elevate far-right candidates over more mainstream conservatives in the hope that voters will recoil from the election-denying radicals in November.
In Michigan, the plan worked – for now. Meijer lost after the House Democrats’ official campaign arm spent $425,000 to elevate Meijer’s opponent, John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who asserted, falsely, that Joe Biden’s victory was “simply mathematically impossible”. It is impossible to know what impact the Democrats’ ad had on the race, but cost more than the Gibbs campaign raised.
Now, as the primary season nears its conclusion and the political battlefield takes shape, Democrats will soon learn whether the gambit was successful. While election deniers have prevailed in Republican primaries across the country without any aid from Democrats, critics say the effort at the very least complicates the case that their priority is to safeguard the future of American democracy.
CNN's Brian Stelter: Hunter Biden Scandal NOT Just A 'Right-Wing' Story, Could DERAIL Biden 2024 Run
China’s decision to halt cooperation with the US over the climate crisis has provoked alarm, with seasoned climate diplomats urging a swift resumption of talks to help stave off worsening global heating. On Friday, Beijing announced a series of measures aimed at retaliating against the US for the “egregious provocation” of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, visiting Taiwan. China, which considers Taiwan its territory and has launched large-scale military exercises near the island, said it will stop working with the US on climate change, along with other key issues.
While the extent of China’s withdrawal from climate discussions is still not clear, the move threatens to derail the often fragile cooperation between the world’s two largest carbon emitters, with only a few months to go before the crucial UN Cop27 in Egypt this autumn. Experts say there is little hope of avoiding disastrous global heating without strong action by the US and China, which are together responsible for about 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. ...
The US is on the brink of passing landmark climate legislation at home, but collectively the world’s governments are still not doing enough to avoid breaching agreed temperature goals. The goal of limiting heating to 1.5C is “on life support” with a weakening pulse, António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, warned last month.
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) August 5, 2022
A wildfire burning in a remote part of northern California appears to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of fish, according to a Native American tribe.
The Karuk Tribe said in a statement that the dead fish of all species were found on Friday near Happy Camp, California, along the main stem of the Klamath River.
It is unclear exactly what is causing the fish deaths but biologists with the tribe believe a flash flood caused by heavy rains over the burn area caused a massive debris flow that entered the river, said Craig Tucker, a spokesman for the tribe.
The huge McKinney fire, the largest of the season so far in California, has been burning just south of the Oregon border for several days and has scorched more than 90 square miles. This week the blaze wiped out the scenic hamlet of Klamath River, population 200 people, killing four people in the tiny community and reduced most of the homes and businesses to ash.
Now, the local tribe is surveying the toll on the environment. The Karuk are working with the Yurok, another northern California tribe, and state and federal agencies to gain access to the fire zone to get a better sense of what happened with the fish and the extent of the problem. It is still unclear if the fish kill will be localized or will spread further downriver, affecting additional fish.
Flash flooding at Death Valley national park closed all roads into the park, buried cars and stranded about 1,000 people on Friday.
A deluge brought “nearly an entire year’s worth of rain in one morning” into the famously hot and dry park in the California desert. At least 1.7in (4.3cm) of rain fell in the Furnace Creek area; the park’s average annual rainfall is 1.9in (4.8cm).
About 60 vehicles were buried in debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stranded, park officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries and the California transport department estimated it would take four to six hours to open a road that would allow park visitors to leave.
It was the second major flooding event at the park this week. Some roads were closed on Monday after they were inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Frankie Lee Sims - Walking with Frankie
Frankie Lee Sims - Hey Little Girl
Frankie Lee Sims - Married Woman
Frankie Lee Sims - Well Goodbye Baby
Frankie Lee Sims - Boogie Across The Country
Frankie Lee Sims - Misery Blues
Frankie Lee Sims - I'm Long, Long Gone
Frankie Lee Sims - Wine And Gin Bounce
Frankie Lee Sims - She Likes To Boogie Real Low