The Evening Blues - 9-15-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Lonnie Brooks. Enjoy!
Lonnie Brooks/Sugar Blue - Two Headed Man
"There is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust."
-- James Madison
News and Opinion
The Wall Street Journal put an article out a few days back titled “In Defense of the Defense Industry” and subtitled “Populists of the right and left attack U.S. companies that make weapons. Who do they think protects us?” And it’s exactly what it sounds like: the author defending war profiteers like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin from critics of the military industrial complex.
It’s easily the most Wall Street Journal thing that has ever happened. Definitely read it if you get a chance, there’s nothing I can say here that will do it justice.
This is the most Wall Street Journal op-ed in the history of Wall Street Journal op-eds. pic.twitter.com/Ok1niafKUb
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) September 12, 2023
In a second day of strikes in Crimea, Ukrainian forces claimed to have destroyed an S-400 air defence system on Thursday. Video published on social media showed large explosions near Yevpatoriya, on the occupied peninsula’s south-west coast, where Ukraine said Russia had stationed the air defence system.
Satellite footage showed that the missiles had struck a Russian anti-aircraft position that had previously been identified in social media posts, Radio Free Europe reported. ...
The strike on the Russian air defence missile systems was probably carried out using Neptune cruise missiles, which are designed to be used against ships.
The satellite footage showed a number of craters near the site of an S-400 battery on the coast of Crimea previously identified in photos taken by tourists in 2022. In the raid, Ukrainian drones first targeted radar infrastructure to blind the Russian defences and then the Neptune cruise missiles engaged the anti-aircraft battery.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky implied in an interview with The Economist that Ukrainian refugees in Europe might resort to terrorism if Western aid to Ukraine is curtailed.
The Economist report reads: “Curtailing aid to Ukraine will only prolong the war, Mr Zelensky argues. And it would create risks for the West in its own backyard. There is no way of predicting how the millions of Ukrainian refugees in European countries would react to their country being abandoned. Ukrainians have generally ‘behaved well’ and are ‘very grateful’ to those who sheltered them. They will not forget that generosity. But it would not be a ‘good story’ for Europe if it were to ‘drive these people into a corner.'”
Zelensky also said in the interview, published on September 10, that anyone who is not supporting Ukraine is with Russia. “If you are not with Ukraine, you are with Russia, and if you are not with Russia, you are with Ukraine. And if partners do not help us, it means they will help Russia to win. That is it,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to visit Washington next week as Congress is debating the $24 billion in additional spending on the proxy war in Ukraine that the White House has requested.
The visit hasn’t been officially announced but has been reported by several media outlets, including The Associated Press. Zelensky will stop in the American capital as part of his trip to the US during the UN General Assembly.
Sources told AP that Zelensky will meet President Biden at the White House next Thursday and will also be visiting Capitol Hill. When he last made the trip in December 2022, Zelensky thanked Congress for all the support but said it wasn’t “enough.”
The House returned to session this week after the summer recess and only has until the end of the month — two weeks — to pass the 12 funding bills necessary to avoid a government shutdown.
In lieu of a long-term spending bill, the White House has urged lawmakers to pass a continuing resolution, a stopgap measure which would maintain current funding levels until a larger agreement is reached. In addition to the money needed to keep the government running, President Joe Biden’s $25 billion supplemental spending request for Ukraine also hangs in the balance.
The House Freedom Caucus, the roughly 50-member bloc of Republicans, has voiced strong opposition to a stopgap measure. In August, the group released a list of demands that would be necessary for them to approve the spending bills on the table. Included in the group’s statement from last month — which required the support of 80 percent of its members — is a rejection of “any blank check for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriations bill.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration and Senate Republican leadership have endorsed legislation that ties Ukraine-related assistance with increased disaster relief funding in an emergency spending package.
Last Thursday, Punchbowl News reported that McCarthy was considering attaching the disaster relief to a continuing resolution while omitting aid to Ukraine from the short-term spending bill, setting up a potential showdown with the White House and Senate.
McCarthy has sent mixed signals about his position on Ukraine aid since saying that there would be no “blank check” for Kyiv prior to ascending to the speakership. By deciding to separate Ukraine aid from the stopgap funding bill and reportedly instead tying it to controversial immigration policies, McCarthy has leaned closer to the right flank of his party on this question.
The commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa told reporters Wednesday that the US is considering moving its drone base in Niger following the July 26 coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
“There are several locations I’ll say that we’re looking at, but nothing’s firmed up. We have talked to some countries about it,” said Gen. James Hecker, according to Defense One. ...
Hecker said the Air Force was waiting to see how diplomacy with the post-coup government plays out. He said the “diplomatic solution is going pretty well right now.”
More than 6,000 people are confirmed dead in the flooding across eastern Libya caused by Storm Daniel, which burst two dams and destroyed large parts of the port city of Derna. Many thousands are still missing and the confirmed death toll is expected to at least double as the remains of victims the flood swept out to sea wash back ashore.
This horrific catastrophe is not only the product of severe weather, intensified by climate change. It flows from the war NATO waged against Libya in 2011, which shattered the country and plunged it into civil war. Those who launched the NATO war in Libya or applauded it as a “humanitarian” intervention, and who today are backing a NATO war against Russia in Ukraine on similar grounds, bear direct political and moral responsibility for the Derna catastrophe.
Last year, hydrologist Abdelwanees Ashoor wrote articles warning that Derna’s dams were in poor condition, and that a major flood would be “likely to cause one of the two dams to collapse.” Ashoor continued, “If a huge flood happens, the result will be catastrophic for the people of the wadi and the city.” No repairs were done, however, because of the civil war that has raged between rival governments in eastern and western Libya since NATO destroyed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in the 2011 war. International Crisis Group official Claudia Gazzini told France24: “In 10 years since the fall of the Gaddafi regime—in the following 10 years of wars, policy rivalry and isolation—both governments have completely neglected the infrastructure.”
What is systematically covered up, however, is the NATO powers’ role in instigating the civil war that created the conditions for the flood. Top NATO officials launched the 2011 war in Libya, relying on the professional liars in the major media, the academic establishment and the middle-class pseudo-left parties to sell the war as a crusade for democracy and human rights. These forces all have blood on their hands.
The UK, France and Germany will not lift sanctions on Iran in line with the timetable set out in the 2015 nuclear deal, the governments have announced in a move that will infuriate Tehran and put the continued viability of the deal at even greater risk.
Under the terms of the original deal, some UN sanctions were due to be lifted on 18 October 2023 as part of a sunset clause that would allow Iran to import and export ballistic missiles, including missiles and drones with a range of 300km (186 miles) or more.
In a letter to the EU external affairs chief, Josep Borrell, the three European signatories to the deal, known as E3, said on Thursday that Iran was in such a serious breach of the deal, in terms of levels of stored enriched uranium and allowing UN inspectors access to its nuclear programme, that sanctions relating to its ballistic missile programme had to remain in force.
Google will pay $93m to settle accusations of misleading consumers on how and when their location information was being tracked and stored, a considerable payout for the tech giant that following a years-long investigation into its data practices.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by the California attorney general, Rob Bonta, that concluded the company misled consumers into believing they had more control over their location information than they actually did.
“Our investigation revealed that Google was telling its users one thing – that it would no longer track their location once they opted out – but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain,” Bonta said in a statement announcing the settlement. “That’s unacceptable, and we’re holding Google accountable.”
US autoworkers and the big three US vehicle makers were in a race against time on Thursday to stop the industry’s biggest strike in generations. With the White House pushing for a resolution, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the car companies still appeared far apart as a midnight deadline to agree to a new union contract approached.
If the UAW and the car companies, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, fail to reach agreements for 150,000 workers, thousands could walk out on Friday in planned “stand up” strikes aimed at individual auto plants. It would be the first time workers at all three auto companies have gone on strike.
Under the planned strike strategy, autoworkers would strike suddenly at targeted, individual plants, with additional locations following to pressure the automakers to come to an agreement at the bargaining table. A rally is planned with the UAW and Senator Bernie Sanders in Detroit on Friday to kick off the looming strikes. ...
The White House weighed in on the talks on Wednesday. The White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein said Joe Biden had “encouraged the parties to stay at the table and to work 24/7 to get a win-win agreement that keeps UAW workers at the heart of our auto future”. Asked whether Biden would bring in negotiators or be more actively involved, Bernstein said “the president’s been very much engaged”.
A former Kentucky county clerk is being ordered to pay $100,000 to a local couple who sued the clerk after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Kim Davis, the former clerk of Rowan county in eastern Kentucky, rose to national prominence for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2015, arguing that such actions violated her religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that Davis violated the constitutional rights of the two gay couples who sued her.
US district judge David Bunning said that Davis “cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official”. ...
During this week’s trial, Davis argued that she was protected from litigation due to qualified immunity, a doctrine that protects government officials from lawsuits accusing them of violating someone’s constitutional rights. Davis’s defense team said in a Wednesday press release that they “look forward to appealing this decision and taking this case to the US supreme court”.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday indicted Hunter Biden on gun charges after a plea deal with the president’s son fell apart in July. His lawyer said special counsel David Weiss was “bending to political pressure” by filing the indictment.
A court filing in the US district court in Delaware alleged Biden, 53, illegally obtained and possessed a Colt revolver in October 2018 after falsely declaring that he was not a user of, or addicted to, narcotic drugs.
The surprise indictment filed on Thursday was brought by Weiss, a Donald Trump appointee as US attorney for Delaware, who was named by the attorney general, Merrick Garland, as a special counsel last month after the collapse of the plea deal that included two misdemeanor tax charges.
This is the first time the son of a sitting US president has been indicted on federal criminal charges. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each of two counts of making false statements to a Delaware gun dealer who sold him the gun, and five for possessing it as someone with drug addiction.
A Georgia judge has ruled that Donald Trump and 16 others will be tried separately from two defendants who are set to go to trial next month in the case accusing them of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro had filed demands for a speedy trial, and the Fulton county superior court judge Scott McAfee had set their trial to begin on 23 October. Trump and other defendants had asked to be tried separately from Powell and Chesebro, with some saying they could not be ready by the late October trial date.
The Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, last month obtained an indictment against Trump and the 18 others, charging them under the state’s anti-racketeering law in their efforts to deny Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over the Republican incumbent.
Willis had been pushing to try all 19 defendants together, arguing that it would be more efficient and fairer. McAfee cited the tight timetable, among other issues, as a factor in his decision to separate Trump and 16 others from Powell and Chesebro.
“The precarious ability of the court to safeguard each defendant’s due process rights and ensure adequate pre-trial preparation on the current accelerated track weighs heavily, if not decisively, in favor of severance,” McAfee wrote. He added that it might be necessary to further divide them into smaller groups for trial.
ExxonMobil executives privately sought to undermine climate science even after the oil and gas giant publicly acknowledged the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change, according to previously unreported documents revealed by the Wall Street Journal. The new revelations are based on previously unreported documents subpoenaed by New York’s attorney general as part of an investigation into the company announced in 2015. They add to a slew of documents that record a decades-long misinformation campaign waged by Exxon, which are cited in a growing number of state and municipal lawsuits against big oil.
Many of the newly released documents date back to the 2006-16 tenure of former chief executive Rex Tillerson, who oversaw a major shift in the company’s climate messaging. In 2006, Exxon publicly accepted that the climate crisis posed risks, and it went on to support the Paris agreement. Yet behind closed doors, the company behaved differently, the documents show.
In 2008, Exxon pledged to stop funding climate-denier groups. But that very same year, company leadership said it would support the company in directing a scientist to help the nation’s top oil and gas lobbying group write a paper about the “uncertainty” of measuring greenhouse gas emissions. The company’s preoccupation with climate uncertainty continued. Before one meeting with company scientists in 2012, one researcher expressed an interest in finding “‘skeptic’ arguments that we consider to be not yet disproven”. During a board meeting about climate science and policy that same year, the Exxon board member Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who is the former chief executive of Nestlé, said there was “still uncertainty in predicting future climate changes and impacts” and also said that “money and effort spent on climate change is misplaced”.
The documents also show Exxon’s displeasure with scientific warnings from top authorities. After the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ top climate body, sounded the alarm about the urgent need to curb greenhouse-gas emissions in 2011, Tillerson told a leading Exxon researcher that the IPCC’s warning was “not credible”, and said he was “dissatisfied” with the media’s coverage of the warning about the worst-case climate scenarios.
Six young people are preparing to appear at the European court of human rights to try to compel 32 nations to rapidly escalate their emissions reductions in the world’s largest climate legal action to date.
Aged from 11 to 24, the six Portuguese claimants, say they were driven to act by their experiences in the wildfires that ripped through the Leiria region in 2017, killing 66 people and destroying 20,000 hectares of forest.
After another summer in which wildfires raged across Portugal, Greece, Spain, Croatia and Italy, the young people will argue in the grand chamber of the Strasbourg court in 13 days’ time that the 32 European nations’ policies to tackle global heating are inadequate and in breach of their human rights obligations.
Crowdfunded by people around the world, who have donated more than £100,000, they are seeking a binding ruling from the judges to force the countries to rapidly escalate their emissions reductions in what would be a historic milestone in climate litigation.
“This case is unprecedented in its scale and its consequence. Never before have so many countries had to defend themselves in front of any court anywhere in the world,” said Gearóid Ó Cuinn, of Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), which is supporting the claimants.
Ben McLane has grown accustomed to spending summers under ashen skies. As a fire captain for the US Forest Service (USFS), he’ll spend days on the fire line, engaged in harrowing battles to contain infernos as they devour trees across the Pacific north-west. But even in these harsh conditions, the stresses from home frequently creep into his mind. McLane, and other federal firefighters like him, are struggling to make ends meet as they battle the country’s biggest blazes.
“I would like to buy a house, I would like to start a family, and I would like to be home for some of those things,” he said, adding that he and his wife had had to make hard decisions because of his career. “The demands are too high – we can’t afford to have children.”
Federal firefighters have long faced the twin stressors of low pay – starting at just $15 an hour for entry-level positions – and a high-pressure environment that takes a heavy mental toll and keeps them away from their families, with little downtime between assignments. The issues have pushed scores to leave the service, taking valuable experience and knowledge with them.
This fall, those issues are coming to a head. A temporary but vital firefighter pay bump, implemented as part of Joe Biden’s 2021 infrastructure bill, will expire at the end of September. Without it, firefighters say the US risks exacerbating a crisis of burnout and retention at a time when fires are becoming bigger, more dangerous and harder to control.
Officials have just weeks to implement a long-term fix. If they fail, federal land management agencies may be left to navigate another mass exodus from the essential workforce just as autumn winds increase risks in the fire-prone west.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Lonnie Brooks - Born With The Blues
Lonnie Brooks - Like Father, Like Son
Guitar Jr. (Lonnie Brooks) - Texas Flood
Lonnie Brooks - Those Lonely Lonely Nights
Lonnie Brooks - Boomerang
Lonnie Brooks - Hoodoo She Do
Guitar Jr. (Lonnie Brooks) - The Train And The Horse
Lonnie Brooks - Rockin' Red Rooster
Lonnie Brooks - Shakin' Little Mama