The Evening Blues - 9-17-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features a fellow who needs no introduction here, Jimi Hendrix. Enjoy!
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
"Nobody ever rioted for austerity."
-- George Monbiot
News and Opinion
Not a month after the eviction moratorium was allowed to expire in the United States did the Biden administration do away with nearly all pandemic-related protections. The latest casualty in the U.S. race to the bottom is the federal unemployment boost which provided $300 extra per week to workers not generally considered eligible for the benefit. Estimates predict that at least fifteen million workers across the United States are now at risk of losing their housing. Millions more will see their incomes drastically dip amid devastating spikes in the cost of living. These breakneck austerity measures come as the contagious Delta variant continues to kill more than a thousand people per day.
The pandemic has only further exposed how mass murder and austerity are an American pastime for the ruling class of the imperialist albatross. Nearly 900,000 people have died over the last 18 months due to the refusal of the United States’ political class to curb transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the Biden administration’s hoarding of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is estimated that 100,000 more people will die from COVID-19 in the U.S. before the year’s end. Workers in all sectors of the capitalist economy are quitting their jobs in record numbers as they weigh the risks between engaging in low-wage work or avoiding COVID-19. Cuts in pandemic-related protections send a message that workers must make a choice: go to work or find themselves hungry and houseless.
This choice didn’t emerge from the pandemic. Rather, such coercion is a pillar in the foundations of U.S. capitalism. Capitalism is predicated upon the sale of labor to capitalists or those who own the means of production privately to accumulate maximum profit. A wage is provided to workers at a fraction of the value that they produce. The rest is pocketed as profit by the bosses.
Austerity is a key feature of the neoliberal stage of capitalism whereby finance and monopoly capitalists have calculated that any kind of so-called “welfare state” is an obstruction to their lust for profit. That calculation is based upon the very real crisis faced by a system mired in contradiction. The more intense the exploitation of the worker becomes, the harder and faster the system reaches a “bust cycle” vis-à-vis underconsumption (generally called overproduction). Austerity is an acknowledgement that underconsumption is a permanent feature of capitalism at this stage of development. That’s why universal welfare policies such as Medicare for All, a living wage, and student loan forgiveness find no support from any section of the capitalist class regardless of their political persuasion.
“Another World Is Possible”: How Occupy Wall Street Reshaped Politics, Kicked Off New Era of Protest
Emmanuel Macron has said French military forces have killed the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, claiming “another major success” in the fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel. The French president, who recently moved to reduce French troop deployment in the troubled sub-Saharan region amid broad consensus that the intervention was not achieving its aim, gave no further details in his statement on Wednesday night, though he mentioned French casualties. ...
Sahrawi was the historic leader of Islamic State in the Sahel region of west Africa and his group targeted US soldiers in a deadly attack in Niger in 2017, Macron’s office said. In August 2020, the extremist leader personally ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerien driver, it added.
Britain and the US are battling to contain an international backlash over a nuclear submarine pact struck with Australia amid concerns that the alliance could provoke China and prompt conflict in the Pacific. Boris Johnson told MPs that the Aukus defence agreement was “not intended to be adversarial” to China. But Beijing accused the three countries of adopting a “cold war mentality” and warned they would harm their own interests unless it was dropped.
Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, questioned whether the pact meant Britain could be dragged into a war with an increasingly assertive China over Taiwan as Washington demands a greater British presence in the Pacific.
In Washington, the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, made clear that the administration had chosen to close ranks with Australia in the face of belligerent Chinese behaviour.
Austin said he had discussed with Australian ministers “China’s destabilising activities and Beijing’s efforts to coerce and intimidate other countries, contrary to established rules and norms”, adding: “While we seek a constructive results-oriented relationship with [China], we will remain clear-eyed in our view of Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order.”
The fallout followed Wednesday night’s announcement of the Aukus agreement, under which the US and UK will share sensitive technology with Australia to let it develop its first nuclear-powered submarines. The pact was described by the UK’s national security adviser, Stephen Lovegrove, as “perhaps the most significant capability collaboration in the world anywhere in the past six decades”.
Fury in Paris at Australia’s decision to tear up plans to buy a French-built fleet of submarines is not only a row about a defence contract, cost overruns and technical specifications. It throws into question the transatlantic alliance to confront China.
The Aukus deal has left the French political class seething at Joe Biden’s Trumpian unilateralism, Australian two-facedness and the usual British perfidy. “Nothing was done by sneaking behind anyone’s back,” assured the British defence minister, Ben Wallace, in an attempt to soothe the row. But that is not the view in Paris. “This is an enormous disappointment,” said Florence Parly, the French defence minister.
As recently as August, Parly had held a summit with her Australian counterpart, Peter Dutton, in Paris, and issued a lengthy joint communique highlighting the importance of their joint work on the submarines as part of a broader strategy to contain China in the Indo-Pacific region. Given Dutton’s failure to tell his French counterparts of the months of secret negotiations with the US, the only conclusion can be he was kept out of the loop, was deeply forgetful, or chose not to reveal what he knew.
There was no forewarning. France only heard through rumours in the Australian media that its contract was about to be torn up live on TV in a video link-up between the White House, Canberra and London. ...
The language emanating from Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister and the man behind the original 2016 deal with Australia, is unprecedented. “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do. I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies. It’s really a stab in the back.” ... Coming on top of the mishandled US exit from Afghanistan, a Nato operation in which allies had little say, France and the EU have come to terms with the fact that Biden is not all he seemed when he travelled to Brussels to promise America was back.
Israel would be willing to accept a return to a U.S.-negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Foreign Policy—but Israeli officials are also pressing Washington to prepare a serious “demonstration of power” in case negotiations with Tehran fail. The remarks, made during an exclusive interview last week, appear to reflect a shift in policy for Israel, which under the leadership of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loudly opposed the 2015 nuclear agreement and worked to undermine it. ...
Gantz, asked about efforts by the Biden administration to get back to an agreement with Iran, said: “The current U.S. approach of putting the Iran nuclear program back in a box, I’d accept that.” He added that Israel would want to see a “viable U.S.-led plan B” that includes broad economic pressure on Iran in case the talks fail. And he gestured at Israel’s own “plan C,” which would involve military action.
Gantz was skeptical about the chances of diplomacy successfully reversing Iran’s progress. He outlined what Israel would view as a “viable” back-up plan: political, diplomatic, and economic pressure imposed on Tehran by the United States, Europe, Russia, and—crucially—China. “We have to connect China in this too, Asia has to play a role,” Gantz said, highlighting the key trade ties between Iran and Asian countries. “Israel has no ability to lead a real plan B, we can’t put together an international economic sanctions regime. This has to be led by the U.S.”
“Iran has to fear that the U.S. and its partners are serious,” Gantz said.
Israeli officials warned the United States not to hold Saudi Arabia and Egypt accountable for human rights abuses, or else risk driving them into the arms of China, Russia, and Iran. This would contradict President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken’s pledge to “put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy.” Israel need not worry: despite his campaign rhetoric lambasting Trump’s fondness for Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and President Sisi, since taking office Biden has made few efforts to pressure the Saudi or Egyptian governments on human rights. Washington did pause the bonanza of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, but then allowed certain sales to go through.
Meanwhile, Biden declined to sanction Mohammed bin Salman, despite affirming that MBS ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration evidently intends to send the $1.3 billion of military aid that Washington gives Cairo each year, violating a Congressional mandate to withhold almost a quarter of that funding if the Egyptian government continues to violate human rights, which it clearly has. ...
The gall of Israel instructing the U.S. to prioritize Israeli foreign policy preferences aside, it is hardly surprising that Biden will not hold Saudi Arabia and Egypt accountable for human rights abuses. The Biden team increasingly orients foreign policy around the perceived threat posed by China. Israel’s exhortation against alienating Arab partners for fear of pushing them closer to China already reflects the thinking of many in the White House.
Israel’s concern that accountability from the U.S. might encourage the Saudis and Egyptians to reach out to Iran bears analysis. In general, the narrative in Washington has portrayed the animosity between Riyadh and Tehran as driving many conflict dynamics in the Middle East, with each side sponsoring proxies and fomenting sectarianism in an effort to undermine the other. President Obama asserted in 2016 that the Saudis and Iranians need to learn to share the region, which prompted howls from the Kingdom at the time. Yet as demonstrated by the recent thaw in relations between Iran and the Gulf countries, the animosity long directed at Iran reflected the Gulf Arab leaders’ belief that Washington would take on Tehran if conflict escalated. Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, Trump’s muted response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities, and now Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan all show the Gulf monarchs that their preferences may no longer align with those of the U.S.
Israel, for whom the Abraham Accords represented an opportunity to build an anti-Iran coalition, prefers Arab-Persian discord. For this reason, Israel wants the U.S. to keep Arab security partners close.
When Joe Biden announced sweeping federal coronavirus vaccine requirements for 100 million Americans, the White House was braced for objections from Republican opponents. But this being 2021, the rightwing backlash has gone way beyond mere political debate into the realm of incendiary language that, analysts fear, could translate into direct and violent action.
In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster vowed to fight “to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian”. Tate Reeves, the governor of Mississippi, tweeted: “The vaccine itself is life-saving, but this unconstitutional move is terrifying.” JD Vance, a conservative running for a Senate seat in Ohio, warned: “Only mass civil disobedience will save us from Joe Biden’s naked authoritarianism.”
And the rightwing media went further, casually tossing around terms such as “authoritarian”, “fascist”, “totalitarian” and “tyrannical” to characterize the US president’s mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require their employees to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly. ...
Biden’s intervention last week was seen as a turning point where he replaced the carrot with the stick and finally got tough with the unvaccinated who are needlessly prolonging the pandemic. He said: “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.” The White House is confident that it has the majority of the public on its side. Three in five Americans support the new mandates for private companies and federal government workers, according to an Axios/Ipsos poll this week. Media reports suggest that many employers quietly welcome the cover that Biden’s move will give them to ensure their staff are vaccinated.
It was a routine bike ride around the neighborhood that landed Zachary McCoy in the crosshairs of the Gainesville, Florida, police department. In January 2020, an alarming email from Google landed in McCoy’s inbox. Police were requesting his user data, the company told him, and McCoy had seven days to go to court and block its release.
McCoy later found out the request was part of an investigation into the burglary of a nearby home the year before. The evidence that cast him as a suspect was his location during his bike ride – information the police obtained from Google through what is called a geofence warrant. For simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, McCoy was being investigated and, as a result, his Google data was at risk of being handed over to the police.
Geofence location warrants and reverse search warrants such as the ones McCoy dealt with are increasingly becoming the tool of choice for law enforcement. Google revealed for the first time in August that it received 11,554 geofence location warrants from law enforcement agencies in 2020, up from 8,396 in 2019 and 982 in 2018.
It’s a concerning trend, argue experts and advocates. They worry the increase signals the start of a new era, one in which law enforcement agencies find ever more creative ways to obtain user information from data-rich tech companies. And they fear agencies and jurisdictions will use this relatively unchecked mechanism in the context of new and controversial laws such as the criminalization of nearly all abortions in Texas. ...
With reverse search warrants law enforcement is still looking for their suspect and they’re asking tech companies to give them a list of people to investigate. For geofence warrants, anyone in a certain place at a certain time becomes a suspect and is subject to further investigation which could mean giving police even more of their user data. For keyword search warrants, another relatively new mechanism to obtain user information that has emerged, anyone who searched for a certain phrase or address becomes a suspect.
Residents of a First Nations community in Canada, who were deprived of clean drinking water for nearly a quarter of a century, can now drink from their taps after a water treatment facility became fully operational earlier this week.
Shoal Lake 40, a community on the Manitoba-Ontario border, has been under drinking water advisory since 1997. On Wednesday, residents celebrated the opening of the community’s C$33m (US$26m) water treatment facility. “It’s unbelievable – and it’s also about damn time,” Vernon Redsky, chief of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, told reporters. ...
For generations Canada has been unwilling to guarantee access to clean water for Indigenous peoples, and supplies in dozens of communities are considered unsafe to drink. ...
Data from the federal government show there are still 51 long-term drinking water advisories in 32 communities. A total of 109 advisories have been lifted since November 2015.
An attorney who represented Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was indicted on Thursday for lying to the FBI. The development was part of special counsel John Durham’s ongoing examination of the origins of the FBI’s investigation into ties between Russia and former US president Donald Trump’s election campaign.
Michael Sussmann, a partner with Perkins Coie who also represented the Democratic National Committee in connection with Russia’s hack of the organization, is accused of making false statements during a 19 September 2016, meeting with the then FBI general counsel, James Baker. ...
In the indictment, Sussmann is accused of falsely telling Baker that he did not represent any client when he met him to give the FBI white papers and other data files containing evidence of questionable cyber links between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank. The indictment alleges that in fact Sussmann had turned over this information not as a “good citizen” but rather, as an attorney representing a US technology executive, an internet company and Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Attorneys for Sussmann were expected to deny that he lied.
US congressional investigators say they have uncovered “very concerning” new documents about ExxonMobil’s disinformation campaign to discredit climate science. Representative Ro Khanna, a leading critic of the petroleum industry on the House oversight committee, said the documents came to light ahead of a hearing next month to question the heads of large oil companies about their industry’s long history of undermining the evidence that burning fossil fuels drove global heating.
Khanna declined to discuss the information beyond describing it as “very troubling facts and some very concerning documents”.
On Thursday, the House oversight committee sent out letters summoning the heads of four firms – Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP – to testify on 28 October. The letter to Darren Woods, Exxon’s chief executive, said the “fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits” while devastating communities, ravaging the natural world and costing taxpayers billions of dollars. “We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change,” the letter said. ...
Khanna said he wants to hear from the leaders of the oil giants not only about past actions but their continued funding of front groups and thinktanks spreading disinformation about climate science, the covert funding of denialist advertising and the use of lobby groups to oppose green legislation. ... The committee is also requesting that the heads of two major trade groups closely aligned with the oil industry, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the US Chamber of Commerce, answer questions about their role in the coverup.
A new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data has revealed that PFAS chemicals – often known as “forever chemicals” due to their longevity in the environment – are contributing to the climate crisis as their production involves the emission of potent greenhouse gases.
In recent years, an ever-expanding body of scientific research has shown that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are among the most toxic substances widely used in consumer products. Now the new report shows that one of America’s largest PFAS manufacturing plants is also the second largest polluter of the destructive greenhouse gas HCFC-22, which is about 5,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. ...
HCFC-22 emissions are banned worldwide under the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 international environmental treaty, because the chemical is so destructive to the ozone layer. The plant of the PFAS manufacturer Daikin in Decatur, Alabama, released about 240,000 pounds of HCFC-22 in 2019 – the equivalent of more than 1bn pounds of carbon dioxide, or what would be released from driving 125,000 cars every day for a year. ...
Diakin’s plant is one of many PFAS plants around the country, and many of the nation’s top 50 HCFC-22 polluters are “forever chemical” manufacturers. A loophole in the Montreal treaty allows companies to release HCFC-22 when it’s used as an intermediate in production of another chemical, such as PFAS.
A coalition of conservation groups sued the Biden administration on Thursday over the U.S. Department of the Interior's recent rule allowing fossil fuel companies to harass polar bears and walruses while searching and drilling for oil and gas in the Southern Beaufort Sea.
Announced last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the rule was quickly blasted as "disturbing" by Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups behind the new federal lawsuit (pdf) in Alaska.
The suit accuses the Interior Department and USFWS of violating the National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
"The Biden administration flouted the law in allowing oil companies to continue their noisy, harmful onslaught on polar bears," Monsell said Thursday. "We're hopeful the court will overturn this dangerous rule that puts polar bears in the crosshairs." ...
Trustees for Alaska is representing the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, Environment America, and the Sierra Club, which also represents itself. Representatives for the groups outlined how industry activity threatens the region's polar bears.
"'Harassment' is a fancy legal way of saying that an action can disturb or injure polar bears," explained Nicole Schmitt, executive director of Alaska Wildlife Alliance. "This Fish and Wildlife Service rule allows oil and gas companies to harass almost half of the polar bears left in the Southern Beaufort Sea population, double the harassment that occurred under the last regulation."
Such harassment includes scaring the animals with noise and equipment as well as disrupting denning and feeding. The organizations warn these actions can be fatal, especially for young bears.
"Relying on bad math to gloss over the injury or death of newborn polar bear cubs for the sake of oil industry profit isn't just morally wrong, it's also unlawful," declared Sierra Club Arctic campaign representative Mike Scott.
Nicole Whittington-Evans, director of Defenders of Wildlife's Alaska Program, warned that "unchecked oil and gas development in Alaska's Arctic impedes the survival of Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, already one of the world's most imperiled populations due to climate change and habitat loss."
The regional polar bear population "has already declined by 50% during the last three decades—their survival is a bellwether for the future of a landscape and its people who are being ravaged by climate change," noted Kristen Miller, Alaska Wilderness League's acting executive director.
Whittington-Evans asserted that "we can't continue to send wildlife toward extinction in the name of fossil fuels, especially in a climate and biodiversity crisis."
As Steve Blackledge, conservation program director for Environment America, put it: "Extinction, after all, can't be rectified."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jimi Hendrix - Killing Floor
Jimi Hendrix Exp - Hear My Train A Comin'
Jimi Hendrix - Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Foxey Lady
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Like A Rolling Stone
Jimi Hendrix - Wild Thing
Jimi Hendrix - Red House
Jimi Hendrix - Little Wing
Jimi Hendrix- 'Superconcert '70' Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany 9/4/70