The Evening Blues - 9-10-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features English blues musician and bandleader John Mayall. Enjoy!
John Mayall Feat. Eric Clapton - All Your Love
"The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?"
-- Glenn Greenwald
News and Opinion
Shortly after the [9/11] attacks, President Bush sent a 60-word blank check to Congress that would give him or any other president the authority to wage war against enemies of their choosing. It was a sweeping resolution known as the 2001 authorization for use of military force, or the 2001 AUMF. I was the lone vote in Congress against the authorization because I feared it was too broad, giving the president the open-ended power to use military force anywhere, against anyone. ...
The Afghanistan war alone has cost more than $2.6tn taxpayer dollars and killed more than 238,000 individuals. The 2002 AUMF, which authorized war against Iraq based on fabricated claims of weapons of mass destruction, has cost $1.9tn and killed an estimated 288,000. Together, these two AUMFs have been used by three successive presidents to engage in war in at least seven countries – from Yemen to Libya to Niger – against a continually growing list of adversaries that Congress never foresaw or intended. The Bush, Obama and Trump administrations have further identified to Congress combat-ready counter-terrorism deployments to at least 14 additional countries, indicating that the AUMFs could justify armed combat in those places as well. Only 56 current members of the House and 16 senators were present at the 2001 vote, making a mockery of the constitutional principle that only the people’s elected representatives in Congress can send our country to war.
The results today are a perpetual state of war and an ever-expanding military-industrial complex that consumes a greater and greater amount of our resources every year. Pentagon spending since 9/11 (adjusted for inflation) has increased by almost 50%. Each hour, taxpayers are paying $32m for the total cost of wars since 2001, and these wars have not made Americans safer or brought democracy or stability to the Middle East. To the contrary, they have further destabilized the region and show no sign of ending or achieving any of the long-ago stated goals.
Additionally, many of these actions were essentially hidden from the American people by using funds from an account meant for unanticipated developments called overseas contingency operations. Congress appropriated nearly $1.9tn for this account, enabling continuing military actions and wars in several countries, exempted from congressional budget rules. Thankfully, President Biden ended this budget practice this year. But two decades of reliance on emergency and contingency funding sources has resulted in less oversight, less transparency and higher levels of waste. ...
[I]t’s not enough just to withdraw our forces. We must rein in executive power and keep it from being abused by any more administrations – Democratic or Republican. In my role on the Democratic platform drafting committee, I successfully advocated for including a repeal of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs in the Democratic party platform. In a historic 268–161 vote, the House passed my legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF in June, and the Senate foreign relations committee voted 14-8 in August to do the same, with both votes drawing bipartisan support. I am also calling on Congress to address the outdated 2001 AUMF. ... Congress must reclaim its constitutional duty to oversee matters of war and peace. In addition to repealing these AUMFs, we also need to revisit the broader statutes that govern war powers so that Congress can more effectively rein in presidential war-making – a project being pursued in earnest by my colleagues, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY). But we need to go beyond just changing the law. We need to change our approach to the world, away from framing every challenge as one that requires military force as a response.
Two hundred Americans and other foreigners who remain in Afghanistan were expected to depart the country on charter flights from Kabul on Thursday after the new Taliban government agreed to their evacuation.
The departures will be among the first international flights to take off from Kabul airport since the end of the chaotic US-led evacuation of 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans.
The new Taliban-approved departures come amid mounting concern over the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation under the hardline Islamist group’s new rule, including around freedom of expression and women’s rights.
With the Taliban moving to ban demonstrations after the appointment of a new interim cabinet, Afghan journalists on Thursday described being beaten and detained after covering protests.
Among them were two reporters who were left with welts and bruises after being beaten and detained for hours by Taliban enforcers for covering a protest in the Afghan capital on Wednesday. They were taken to a police station in the capital, where they say they were punched and beaten with batons, electrical cables and whips after being accused of organising the protest.
The process of drastically shrinking the social improvements contained in the “human infrastructure” bill, slashing its cost and blocking any significant increase in corporate taxes began in earnest last week, when Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia published a column in the Wall Street Journal headlined, “Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion.” Manchin, a multimillionaire owner of coal companies in West Virginia, cited the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Admiral Mike Mullen, as his authority on the danger to national security from too much debt. The senator called for a “strategic pause” in consideration of the budget bill, in effect delinking passage of the corporate-backed infrastructure bill from passage of the broader social legislation.
An unabashed flack for the fossil fuel industry, Manchin has repeatedly opposed environmental regulations on mining and energy in general. He previously called certain provisions in the budget bill aimed at modestly restraining carbon emissions, such as repealing tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, “very disturbing.” He has also made it clear he is opposed to raising corporate taxes and would like to “means test” measures such as tuition-free community college, universal preschool, child care tax credits and an extension of the enhanced child tax credit. Other Democratic senators who have publicly opposed the budget bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag (spread out over 10 years) include Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia, a former tech entrepreneur worth $200 million and now chairman of the Intelligence Committee. On Tuesday, press reports emerged that Manchin had let it be known he was prepared to support a bill costing from $1 billion to $1.5 billion. ...
The response by the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership has made clear that the $3.5 trillion package of social measures will be drastically cut back before any bill is brought up for a vote. The same applies to Biden’s promise to increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy. On Tuesday, Biden told the press, referring to Manchin, “Joe at the end has always been there. He’s always been with me. I think we can work something out, and I look forward to speaking with him.” Pelosi has said she will only bring before the House a budget measure that can be passed in the Senate, i.e., one that accommodates the most right-wing factions in the Democratic Party. Yahoo News cited a “lobbyist familiar with internal deliberations on Capitol Hill” as saying “there was optimism among congressional Democrats that a bill would get passed and sent to Biden for signing into law. But such a bill is likely to be in the range of about $2 trillion…”
The article continues: “While the various House committees are likely to approve bills that would total $3.5 trillion, that number would get whittled down before the legislation is sent to the full House for debate and passage, the source said. That could mean that any proposed tax increases on the wealthy and corporations would not have to be as steep as initially envisioned.”
Around 15.5 million U.S. adults under the age of 65 and 2.3 million seniors were unable to afford at least one doctor-prescribed medication this year, according to a study released Thursday as the Biden administration unveiled its plan to reduce the nation's sky-high drug prices.
The new study (pdf) was based on four nationally representative surveys conducted in recent months by the polling outfit Gallup in partnership with West Health, a nonprofit organization focused on lowering healthcare costs.
Asked whether "you or a family member skipped a pill to save medication in order to save money" over the past 12 months, 10% of survey respondents answered in the affirmative, with the impact falling most heavily on lower-income households.
Seven percent of poll respondents told Gallup/West Health that there has "been a time in the last three months" when they or a member of their household have been "unable to pay for medicine or drugs that a doctor had prescribed" because they "did not have enough money." People who are immunocompromised couldn't afford their prescription medicines at almost twice the rate of Americans generally, Gallup and West Health found.
"Prescription drugs don't work if you cannot afford them," Dan Witters, a senior researcher at Gallup, said in a statement. "Across multiple studies, we are measuring adults from all age, race, and ethnic groups, political parties, and income levels are reporting that they are struggling to afford medications. And amidst these reports are strong and consistent sentiment for more government action to rein in costs."
Joe Biden, striving to restore public confidence in his handling of the pandemic, announced on Thursday new vaccination requirements for 100 million workers, about two-thirds of the entire American labour force. Channeling national frustration as the virus surges back, the US president adopted his sternest tone yet in reprimanding the tens of millions of Americans who are still not vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“We can and we will turn the tide of Covid-19,” he said firmly. “It’ll take a lot of hard work and it’s going to take some time. Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free.” ...
The president unveiled a six-pronged strategy, relying on regulatory powers and other steps. He said the Department of Labor is developing an emergency temporary standard that will require all employers with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.
This will affect more than 80 million workers in private sector businesses. Companies that do not comply could face fines of up to nearly $14,000 per violation. Biden said: “The bottom line: we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of Covid-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”
The administration will also require all workers in healthcare settings that receive Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement be vaccinated, a move that applies to 50,000 providers and covers more than 17 million healthcare workers. In another nod to public desire for life to get back to normal, the president called on entertainment venues such as sports arenas and big concert halls to require that patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.
As millions of children head back to school across the US, health experts are highlighting a troubling trend: hundreds of thousands of them are testing positive for Covid.
More than 250,000 children had new cases in the last week of August, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a report published on Tuesday. That’s the highest weekly rate of new pediatric cases since the pandemic began, and it’s a 10% increase in two weeks.
With slightly more than 1m new Covid cases reported in the US during that period, that means one of every four new cases in the country was among children.
Children’s hospitals are straining under the spike in cases. About 2,500 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 in the week up to 6 September, which is also more than ever before, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
In one long-buried video, white Louisiana state police troopers can be seen slamming a Black man against a police cruiser after finding marijuana in his car, throwing him to the ground and repeatedly punching him – all while he is handcuffed. In another, a white trooper pummels a Black man at a traffic stop 18 times with a flashlight, leaving him with a broken jaw, broken ribs and a gash to his head. That footage was mislabeled and it took 536 days and a lawsuit for police to look into it.
And yet another video shows a white trooper coldcocking a Hispanic drug trafficking suspect as he stood calmly by the highway, an unprovoked attack never mentioned in any report and only investigated when the footage was discovered by an outraged federal judge.
As the Louisiana state police reel from the fallout of the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene – a case blown open this year by long-withheld video of troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black motorist – an Associated Press investigation has revealed it is part of a pattern of violence kept shrouded in secrecy.
An AP review of internal investigative records and newly obtained videos identified at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which Louisiana state police troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.
AP’s review – coming amid a widening federal investigation into state police misconduct – found troopers have made a habit of turning off or muting body cameras during pursuits. When footage is recorded, the agency routinely refuses to release it. And a recently retired supervisor who oversaw a particularly violent clique of troopers told internal investigators this year it was his “common practice” to rubber-stamp officers’ use-of-force reports without reviewing body-camera video.
A Minnesota prosecutor who filed manslaughter charges against a police officer who shot and killed the black motorist Philando Castile in a 2016 stop for a broken tail light says he will no longer pursue cases involving minor traffic infractions.
The aim, according to the Ramsey county attorney John Choi, is to reduce the number of “unnecessary” encounters between police and people of color that can, as in Castile’s confrontation with officer Jeronimo Yanez, turn fatal. “I’m not going to do this any more. I am not going to perpetuate these unjust practices that disproportionately impact my community,” Choi said in an interview with the Daily Beast.
Yanez, who is Hispanic, shot Castile, 32, seven times on 6 July 2016, after pulling him over for the broken light. Castile’s partner Diamond Reynolds, who livestreamed the aftermath of the incident, said the officer opened fire immediately after warning her boyfriend not to reach for a licensed gun he said he owned. ...
Choi, the Ramsey county attorney since 2011, whose biography describes him as the first Korean-American prosecutor in the US, told the Beast that he had never stopped thinking about the innocuous reason for the stop. In Castile’s case, he had been pulled over on at least 40 previous occasions. And in St Paul, Ramsey county’s largest city where only 16% of the population is black, 43% of traffic stops in 2020 were of black motorists.
The Biden administration sued Texas on Thursday over the state’s extreme abortion law, which amounts to a near total ban on abortion, calling the law “clearly unconstitutional”. The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, said the law that went into effect last week after the supreme court refused to block it and bans almost all abortions in the state was one “all Americans should fear”. ...
The justice department decided to argue that the law, which offers no exceptions for rape or incest, “illegally interferes with federal interests”, the Wall Street Journal first reported. ...
On Thursday, when announcing the lawsuit, Garland said: “The act is clearly unconstitutional” and said that it failed to give women seeking an abortion their constitutional right “at the very moment they need it”.
And he added that the “kind of scheme” that Texas has devised and other states want to follow, where the public enforces the law as a way to avoid legal challenge, and allows individuals to sue abortion providers or those helping a woman obtain the service, was designed to “nullify the constitution”.
India Walton, the self-identified democratic socialist who won a primary challenge for Buffalo mayor earlier this year by defeating the four-term Democratic incumbent Byron Brown, celebrated a state appellate court's ruling Wednesday which has put on hold—at least for now—an effort by Brown and his corporate allies to put him back on the ballot in the general election under a new party they created after he lost to Walton in the primary.
"This is clearly a wise decision," Walton said in a statement late Wednesday after the Fourth Judicial Department issued a stay on last week's ruling, which would have allowed Brown to run representing the so-called "Buffalo Party."
"If everyday Buffalonians are late on rent, parking fees, or school assignments, they face consequences. There is no reason the rules should not apply to my GOP-backed opponent as well," Walton added.
As Common Dreams reported in June, Brown and his supporters were stunned when Walton, a democratic socialist, won the primary. A former nurse and longtime affordable housing advocate in the city, Walton has campaigned on issues including immigrants' rights, police and public safety reform, climate action, and strengthening protections for tenants. Walton's victory over the four-term mayor, a longtime ally of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo who has called her an "inexperienced, radical socialist," drew national attention.
Brown soon made clear that he was not prepared to accept the election results, gathering support for his "Buffalo Party" from Republicans including powerful real estate developers.
The mayor missed the May 25 filing deadline by several months. He filed a lawsuit arguing that the deadline, which was established earlier this year by the state legislature, was unconstitutional. In federal court, three Brown supporters filed a separate lawsuit claiming the deadline "violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments."
In an interview with Jacobin on Wednesday, Walton called the mayor a "sore loser" who "did not work to earn the votes of Buffalo residents":
His record over the past sixteen years shows that he doesn't have much care, compassion, or empathy for the people of Buffalo, unless they’re wealthy developers or heads of large corporations.
We’re looking at unprecedented child poverty, a looming affordable housing crisis and housing crisis—not only of affordable units, but we have one of the widest racial wealth and homeownership gaps in the country—and some of the worst health outcomes, like a childhood lead problem that is comparable to Flint, Michigan. That is the legacy that this man leaves behind. And he won't move on so that someone who has a bold and visionary plan to improve our city can begin the process of governance.
In both court cases, the Republican judges ruled in Brown's favor, allowing him to appear on the ballot. In the latter case, Walton denounced U.S. District Court Judge John Sinatra's financial ties to the mayor, calling the ruling "a travesty and a mockery of justice."
As the Walton campaign told Common Dreams, Sinatra faced calls to recuse himself from the case due to his past donations to Brown as well as thousands of dollars his brother has donated to the mayor.
"We saw that a lot of people were very upset and outraged by these Republican decisions, especially in the federal case," Jesse Myerson, director of communications for the Walton campaign, told Common Dreams on Wednesday, adding that Sinatra "has himself donated seven times to various Brown campaigns" while his brother is "a very prominent downtown real estate developer with long-standing and deep ties to Byron Brown."
Following the ruling late last week, Walton called Sinatra "the farthest thing from an impartial judge."
Constituents have also voiced anger over Brown's attempt to circumvent the voters' will and the Board of Elections' deadline.
"Should I be delinquent in paying a parking fine, I will remember to tell the parking enforcement judge that paying an increased fine for being delinquent on a parking ticket is as unconstitutional as having to abide by an election deadline," one voter said at a hearing of the Board of Elections on Tuesday.
"There was a lot of backlash to what is a patently unfair decision to have two sets of rules where Byron Brown doesn't have to play by the rules that everybody else has to play by," said Myerson about the public hearing. "And I think that will inspire more people to get involved."
With Walton's appeal of Sinatra's ruling still pending and the appellate court's Wednesday decision only temporary, the campaign—as election ballots must be filed by the end of this week—is hoping for "very precipitous action to stay the orders of the Republican judges," Myerson said.
Regardless of whether Brown's name ultimately ends up on the ballot on November 2, Walton's campaign plans to continue engaging with voters in Buffalo in order to represent the interests of working people over those of the corporate class.
"Certainly, the urgency is greater if he's on the ballot, but I don't think the strategy changes very much," Myerson told Common Dreams. "The strategy has always been what won the primary for her, which is talking directly with voters on their doors and on the phones, and by mail and advertisements about the issues that are most important to them, and highlighting her bold vision and viable solutions to the challenges that Buffalo faces."
The campaign has seen an increase in small-dollar donations and interest in grassroots volunteering since the rulings were announced last week.
"I return to the mantra of Senator Bernie Sanders: the way to win against organized money is with organized people," Walton told Jacobin. "So we continue to organize."
The old assumption that the Earth’s tipping points are a long way off is beginning to look unsafe. A recent paper warns that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation – the system that distributes heat around the world and drives the Gulf Stream – may now be “close to a critical transition”. This circulation has flipped between “on” and “off” states several times in prehistory, plunging northern Europe and eastern North America into unbearable cold, heating the tropics, disrupting monsoons. Other systems could also be approaching their thresholds: the West and East Antarctic ice sheets, the Amazon rainforest, and the Arctic tundra and boreal forests, which are rapidly losing the carbon they store, driving a spiral of further heating. Earth systems don’t stay in their boxes. If one flips into a different state, it could trigger the flipping of others. Sudden changes of state might be possible with just 1.5C or 2C of global heating. ...
If Earth systems tip as a result of global heating, there will be little difference between taking inadequate action and taking no action at all. A miss is as good as a mile. So the target that much of the world is now adopting for climate action – net zero by 2050 – begins to look neither rational nor safe. It’s true that our only hope of avoiding catastrophic climate breakdown is some variety of net zero. What this means is that greenhouse gases are reduced through a combination of decarbonising the economy and drawing down carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere. It’s too late to hit the temperature targets in the Paris agreement without doing both. But there are two issues: speed and integrity. Many of the promises seem designed to be broken.
At its worst, net zero by 2050 is a device for shunting responsibility across both time and space. Those in power today seek to pass their liabilities to those in power tomorrow. Every industry seeks to pass the buck to another industry. Who is this magical someone else who will suck up their greenhouse gases? ...
Even when all the promised technofixes and offsets are counted, current policies commit us to a calamitous 2.9C of global heating. To risk irreversible change by proceeding at such a leisurely pace, to rely on undelivered technologies and nonexistent capacities: this is a formula for catastrophe. If Earth systems cross critical thresholds, everything we did and everything we were – the learning, the wisdom, the stories, the art, the politics, the love, the hate, the anger and the hope – will be reduced to stratigraphy. It’s not a smooth and linear transition we need. It’s a crash course.
The world’s largest plant designed to suck carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into rock has started running, the companies behind the project said on Wednesday. ... Constructed by Switzerland’s Climeworks and Iceland’s Carbfix, when operating at capacity the plant will draw 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air every year, according to the companies.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, that equates to the emissions from about 870 cars. The plant cost between US$10 and 15m to build, Bloomberg reported. ...
Proponents of so-called carbon capture and storage believe these technologies can become a major tool in the fight against climate change. Critics however argue that the technology is still prohibitively expensive and might take decades to operate at scale.
Ominous weather is again threatening areas of California as dozens of fires continue to burn, with hot, dry conditions and forecasted thunderstorms prompting officials to issue warnings through parts of the state’s north-west.
Higher risks of new ignitions remain through Friday, with the possibility of dry lighting and gusty winds further complicating the containment efforts of thousands of firefighters who have battled large blazes for weeks.
“The combination of possible dry lightning as well as strong winds with the dry fuels could lead to critical fire weather conditions,” forecasters with the National Weather Service wrote on Thursday. ...
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) also warned of the potential for extreme fire behavior such as pyrocumulonimbus clouds, massive formations generated by smoke and heat that can reach miles into the sky and can even stir up winds, unleash thunder and lightning, or create its own weather. “Plume-dominated wildfire behavior and pyrocumulonimbus development are possible on active large fires in the Sierra into north-east California, central Oregon, and central Idaho,” the department noted.
A National Weather Service heat advisory also stretched down through the Central Valley and into inland southern California, with an excessive heat warning extending eastward across the desert into Nevada.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers = Steppin' Out
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers w/Mick Taylor - Oh, Pretty Woman
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers - Greeny
John Mayall - The Laws Must Change
John Mayall - Nature's Disappearing
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers - An Eye For An Eye
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers - Me & My Woman
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers - I'm A Stranger
John Mayall w/Peter Green - Someday After A While
John Mayall and Peter Green - Out of Reach
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (feat. Peter Green) - Live In 1967