The Evening Blues - 9-21-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues harmonica player Junior Wells. Enjoy!
Junior Wells - Hoodoman Blues
"Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
News and Opinion
Worth a full read:
In the early months of 1947, President Harry Truman and Dean Acheson, his secretary of state, made up their minds to prop up Greece’s openly fascist monarchy against a popular revolt they had cast as a Soviet threat. After much hand-wringing, Truman went to Congress on March 12 to ask for $400 million in aid, not quite $5 billion today when adjusted for inflation. Truman and Acheson knew the Greek intervention would be a hard sell: Congress was in no mood to spend that kind of money, and the war-weary public harbored hope for FDR’s vision of a postwar order built on the principle of peaceful coexistence. As the speech went through its multiple drafts, Arthur Vandenberg, Republican senator from Michigan and a presence in the planning of America’s postwar posture, offered advice that must be counted elegantly forthright, if diabolic in its cynicism.
It comes down to us today, and for good reason. “Mr. President,” Vandenberg said during White House deliberations, “the only way you are ever going to get this is to make a speech and scare hell out of the American people.”
Truman made his since-famous “scare hell” speech. The Greeks got their $400 million (a remarkable proportion of which was embezzled by government ministers), and the American public was kept scared for the next 40–odd years — the Cold War years. There are various thoughts as to when the Cold War started. ... My date is March 12, 1947, when Truman delivered his address to a joint session of Congress. And it is remarkable how faithfully the intervention in Greece, the first of Washington’s major Cold War undertakings, has been reproduced during all the decades since. A year later the U.S. (with Britain’s assist) corrupted Italy’s first postwar general elections. Then came the coup in Iran, then the coup in Guatemala, and so on without interruption until our time.
Last Wednesday President Joe Biden announced a new trilateral security agreement with Britain and Australia. Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, respectively the British and Australian prime ministers, joined him electronically from London and Canberra. Biden couldn’t remember Morrison’s name — “that fella down under” is as far as he got — but let us not allow the shocking incompetence of the man driving our bus to distract us from the gravity of the moment. There are numerous things to say about the new accord, by which the U.S. and Britain are to provide Australia with the sensitive technology needed to build a fleet of eight or more nuclear-powered submarines. But before we get to anything else, get used to Roman numerals: Last Wednesday was a three-sided declaration that Cold War II is now our new, flesh-and-blood, steel-and-bombs, propaganda-and-paranoia reality.
The Ides of September: Remember the date. Sept. 15, 2021, is our March 12, 1947. Xi Jinping’s People’s Republic is in 2021 what Stalin’s Soviet Union was three-quarters of a century ago. Truman and Acheson changed the world when they drafted the full-of-lies “scare hell” speech — greatly for the worse, of course. Biden, Johnson and Morrison just did the same. It would be hard to overstate the dangers and burdens Cold War II is going to inflict upon us — we Americans, we the rest of the human population.
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has submitted an amendment to the annual United States defense spending bill to block the sale of precision-guided munitions to Israel.
According to a statement released on Thursday by her office, the resolution would prevent the transfer of $735 million worth of Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits to Israel. The kits turn unguided bombs into GPS guided missiles.
Ocasio-Cortez also submitted amendments to prevent weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Colombia over alleged human rights abuses.
In a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said that the amendment relating to Israel was “over the bombing of Palestinian civilians [and] media centers,” apparently referring to the bombing of a building in Gaza City that housed the offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
The European Union is demanding answers – and an apology from Australia – over its treatment of France as the fallout from the Aukus announcement threatens to delay a key trade deal. Australia’s hopes of entering into a free-trade agreement with the European Union hit rough waters with the EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, demanding Australia explain its conduct in defence of EU member state France. ...
While trade talks with Australia are expected to continue as planned, von der Leyen said Australia had some explaining to do first.
“One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we want to know what happened and why,” von der Leyen said in an interview with CNN. “Therefore, you first of all clarify that, before you keep on going with business as usual.”
The chair of the European Parliament’s committee on International Trade, Bernd Lange, continued that theme in an interview with the ABC on Tuesday. “It is really an unkind situation France is faced with,” he said, adding that the he expected to see “some kind of apology, some kind of de-escalation of the situation, from the Australian government” to help for “better understanding”.
“The question of trust is now occurring, and some members could ask for more safety nets, for more safeguards,” he said.
There is something pathetic about a leader who cannot recognise his limitations. For months, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has insisted that he could bend democracy in Latin America’s largest nation to his will if he so desired. Brazil’s independence day, 7 September, was supposed to be a watershed moment, as the president mobilised his supporters to take to the streets. Instead, it revealed the distance between Bolsonaro’s perception of the popular support that he enjoys and reality. Sinking in the polls and with mounting obstacles in the way of broadening his political alliances, the president bet that he could compel enough of a grassroots backing to intimidate the political establishment, and the supreme court in particular. Unsurprisingly, to quote Gabriel García Márquez’s novel The General in His Labyrinth, the president “could not renounce his infinite capacity for illusion at the very moment he needed it most”.
Bolsonaro backers and dispassionate analysts alike predicted a massive public outpouring of support for the president’s ongoing efforts to undermine democratic processes. It was thought that 7 September might even culminate in a takeover of the supreme court building akin to the raucous invasion of the US Capitol building on 6 January. Days before independence day, Bolsonaro called the planned demonstration an “ultimatum” for supreme court judges, and declared ominously that “if you want peace, prepare for war”. He even hinted at a constitutional “rupture that neither I nor the people want”. ...
But the purported showdown set for 7 September left Bolsonaro and his most ardent followers wanting. Thousands took to the streets in Brasília, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere, but far fewer than was expected, and certainly nowhere near the critical mass needed to convince other more cautious political actors to embark on a radical escapade led by Bolsonaro. History is no guide to the future but it can be instructive all the same. The only Brazilian head of state who successfully carried out a “self-coup” to increase his power was Getúlio Vargas, the authoritarian statesman credited with laying the institutional groundwork of modern Brazil. This is not the 1930s and Bolsonaro is no Vargas.
For one thing, Vargas cannily presented himself as the only rational actor in a system riven by extremists on the right and left. By contrast, Bolsonaro is the one preaching the most radical far-right ideas, framing his aggressive anti-institutionalism as the only way of breaking through a sclerotic and self-interested political culture. Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, meanwhile, is meeting with influential figures from across the political spectrum, seeking to blunt any equivalence between himself and the president. Lula, a moderate former trade unionist who governed ably for eight years, leads the pack by a wide margin in every poll – even as he insists he has not yet made up his mind about pursuing a third term next year. As the favourite to win in next year’s presidential elections, Lula is talking about reconciliation and good governance. Bolsonaro and his allies point to the spectre of Lula’s return as the main reason for their continued political relevance. A major problem for Bolsonaro, however, is that his rhetorical campaign against the status quo is simply not as potent as it was in 2018, when he rode a wave of anti-left hysteria and anti-political angst to power.
The US will lift Covid-19 travel restrictions to allow fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and most European Union (EU) countries to travel into the country from early November, the White House has announced.
The move signals the end of a travel ban imposed by Donald Trump more than 18 months ago in the early stages of the pandemic, and comes after intense lobbying from Brussels and London.
In addition to the UK and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, the easing of restrictions will also apply to Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India. ...
The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients, said on Monday international travellers will require proof of full vaccination before boarding a flight and a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure. They will not be required to quarantine upon arrival.
There will be some exceptions to the vaccine policy including for children not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The new rules do not yet apply to travellers crossing land borders with Mexico and Canada.
In news sure to be greeted by parents across the US, Pfizer and BioNTech said on Monday children aged five to 11 are on track to receive the two companies’ Covid-19 vaccination by Halloween. Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, hailed “the first results from a pivotal trial of a Covid-19 vaccine in this age group”.
If the US regulatory process proceeds as it has for older age groups, authorisation for use would be expected by the end of October. Earlier this month, FDA chief, Dr Peter Marks, told the Associated Press that once Pfizer turned over results, his agency would evaluate the data “hopefully in a matter of weeks”.
Pfizer and BioNTech said European and British authorities would also be asked for emergency authorisation.
In a statement, Bourla said: “We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorization, especially as we track the spread of the Delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children. “Since July, paediatric cases of Covid-19 have risen by about 240% in the US – underscoring the public health need for vaccination.” ...
Pfizer and BioNtech’s trial included 2,268 participants, the companies said. Two shots of a 10-microgram dose, one-third of an adult shot, produced antibody levels comparable to those in 16-to-25-year-olds given the adult dose.
Conservative Democratic Reps. Scott Peters (Calif.) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) have been defending their huge hauls of campaign cash from the pharmaceutical industry since announcing their opposition to House Democrats’ wildly popular plan to reduce drug prices. Meanwhile, another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), has completely flipped her reasoning for why she voted against the measure. Last week, Schrader, Peters, and Rice used their seats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to try to block House Democrats from allowing Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices as part of the party’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure reconciliation effort. The proposal has support from 90 percent of registered voters in their districts, according to a recent poll by Data For Progress.
Since their votes, Peters and Schrader have faced tough questions at home about the donations they’ve received from the pharmaceutical industry. Over the course of their careers, the congressmen have raised a combined $1.5 million from donors in the pharmaceutical and health products industries, according to data from OpenSecrets. Peters has been the top recipient of pharma cash in the House this election cycle.
In a contentious Zoom meeting last Friday with health care reform advocates who live in his district, Peters refused to stop taking pharma money, according to a recording of the meeting provided by a Daily Poster subscriber. “I'm not going to unilaterally disarm and defund my campaign so that Republicans can win, I just think that's a dumb thing to do,” said the congressman, who represents a solidly blue district. ... Schrader, meanwhile, participated in a difficult interview with Portland’s local NBC network. When he was asked why pharmaceutical companies give him so much money, Schrader said, “I don’t know. I get money from a lot of different interests out there.” He said that the companies don't tell him why they're contributing to his campaigns. ...
Peters and Schrader also defended their personal ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Schrader reportedly received “a quite large inheritance” from his grandfather who was a senior executive at Pfizer. He said last week he’s “proud of the work my grandfather did and developing mass production for Pfizer.” Peters’ wife is the CEO of an investment firm whose portfolio company provides manufacturing and packaging for pharmaceutical companies. He said last Friday that it’s “ridiculous” to believe he has a conflict of interest, explaining instead that he’s trying to protect the local life science industry in San Diego. “It's about 68,000 jobs here,” he said. “And my job is to protect those jobs.”
Rice, the New York lawmaker who joined Peters and Schrader in opposing the drug pricing measure last week, has since been reduced to complete incoherence in trying to defend her vote. She is now telling constituents she still supports the “goals” of the drug pricing legislation, and only voted no on the measure because Democrats sought to include it in the Biden infrastructure package — a very different explanation than the one she originally gave for her no vote.
“We Need to Deliver”: Anger Grows at Sens. Manchin, Sinema over Obstruction of Democratic Priorities
In what could be the most consequential stretch of his presidency, Joe Biden faces an autumn sprint to advance a once-in-a-generation expansion of the social safety net. In the coming weeks, Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill will attempt to steer the president’s multi-trillion dollar economic vision through Congress and into law. With a narrow window for action, they will have almost no room for error. If they fail, the party will face voters in 2022 with little to show for two years in control of Congress. ...
“I believe this is a moment of potentially great change,” Biden said last week. “This is our moment to deal working people back into the economy.” ...
The legislative battle will challenge Biden, both as the leader of a factious party and as an experienced congressional dealmaker. Last week, as Congress faced a dizzying array of fiscal and legislative deadlines to avert a government shutdown and a debt default, he signaled his readiness to wade deeper. The president held “productive” meetings with the two senators concerned by the policy package, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Later, he called the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
Then, on Sunday, as if perfectly to illustrate the treacherous ground on which Biden must walk, the website Axios reported that Manchin wanted the spending bill paused until the new year.
A San Antonio doctor who said he performed an abortion in defiance of the state’s new law has been sued, setting up a potential test of the legality of the extreme, near-total ban on the procedure.
Former attorneys in Arkansas and Illinois filed lawsuits on Monday against Dr Alan Braid, who became the first Texas abortion provider to publicly reveal he violated the law when he wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post over the weekend. That piece all but dared supporters of the law to make an example by suing him, because it can only be enforced through private lawsuits. ...
Oscar Stilley, the former attorney in Arkansas who filed one of the lawsuits, has said he is not personally opposed to abortion and sued in order to force a court to review the ban. “If the law is no good, why should we have to go through a long, drawn-out process to find out if it’s garbage?” Stilley told the Washington Post.
Stilley, who said he lost his law license after being convicted of tax fraud in 2010, added in an interview with the Associated Press: “I don’t want doctors out there nervous and sitting there and quaking in their boots and saying, ‘I can’t do this because if this thing works out, then I’m going to be bankrupt.’”
Abortion rights advocates geared up for a major fight as the U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will soon hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case in Mississippi which poses a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade.
The high court confirmed it will consider the case December 1 after months of speculation regarding when it would take up the dispute over Mississippi's ban on most abortion care after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The question before the court, as the Center for Reproductive Rights explains, is "whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional." In the landmark 1973 Roe decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the right to abortion care before fetal viability, usually around 24 weeks.
"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line," tweeted Rewire News Group, which reports on reproductive rights.
Mississippi's restriction makes no exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest, only allowing abortion care "in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality." Providers who administer abortions in violation of the law could have their medical licenses revoked and face fines.
The court will hear the case three months after it refused to intervene in Texas, allowing that state's six-week abortion ban to take effect at the beginning of September. The Texas law allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who helps a person to obtain abortion care after that point, with plaintiffs who prevail in court entitled to $10,000 and recovery of their legal fees. Republican governors in several other states have said since the Texas law was permitted to go into effect that they plan to seek similar legislation.
The Texas case has led reproductive rights advocates to warn that the Supreme Court cannot be counted on to protect Roe.
Rep. Ro Khanna on Border Guards Whipping Haitians, U.S. Drone Strikes, Afghanistan & Ending Iraq War
The White House on Monday responded critically to widely shared images of US border patrol agents in Texas rounding up Haitian migrants on horseback. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked if the use of horses and possibly whips, potent imagery in a country founded on slavery, represented an “appropriate tactic”.
She said: “I have seen some of the footage. I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate.” She added: “I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.”
More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from the encampment at the Texas border town of Del Rio, other US officials said Monday as they defended their strong response. Calling it a “challenging and heartbreaking situation”, the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, issued a stark warning: “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”
Mayorkas and the border patrol chief, Raul Ortiz, said they would look into the actions of the agents on horseback to push back migrants and refugees at the river between Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and Del Rio, but both officials said they saw nothing apparently wrong based on the photos and video.
The world’s biggest tech companies are coming out with bold commitments to tackle their climate impact but when it comes to using their corporate muscle to advocate for stronger climate policies, their engagement is almost nonexistent, according to a new report. Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Facebook and Microsoft poured about $65m into lobbying in 2020, but an average of only 6% of their lobbying activity between July 2020 and June 2021 was related to climate policy, according to an analysis from the thinktank InfluenceMap, which tracked companies’ self-reported lobbying on federal legislation.
The report also sought to capture tech companies’ overall engagement with climate policy by analyzing activities including their top-level communications as well as lobbying on specific legislation. It found that climate-related engagement levels of three of the five companies – Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft – had declined compared to the previous year.
Tech companies, which have some of the deepest pockets in corporate America, have been racing to come out with increasingly ambitious climate pledges. Amazon has a target to be net zero by 2040 and to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025, and Facebook has a target of net zero emissions for its entire supply chain by 2030. In 2020, Microsoft pledged to become carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 to have removed all the carbon the company has ever emitted. Apple has committed to become carbon neutral across its whole supply chain by 2030. And Google has pledged to power its operations with 100% carbon-free energy by 2030, without using renewable certificates to offset any fossil-generated power. ...
Yet this strong pro-climate rhetoric is not being matched by action at a policy level, according to the report. “These gigantic companies that completely dominate the stock market are not really deploying that political capital at all,” said the InfluenceMap executive director, Dylan Tanner.
When Argyll and Bute council’s planning department asked David Blair if the huge wooden ark he had raised on a hillside overlooking the Kyles of Bute was a permanent structure, he did not think long about his answer. “I told them it’s not permanent in the same way that humanity won’t be if we don’t take action on the climate,” says Blair, with a laugh that does not diminish the urgency of his message.
Built from European larch, the 20-metre-long, six-metre-high boat frame stands about half a mile up the road from the village of Tighnabruaich, on the Cowal peninsula, in a field that Blair – a woodsman by trade – has taken as a grazing let for a year, and near a convenient parking spot so that visitors can stop off to investigate.
“It is a beautiful structure,” he says, “and I hope it stands as a symbol of strength and urgency. I thought I’d have to put up signs explaining it but its already being well visited and the majority interpret it to be about climate change, sea levels and Cop26,” the climate conference taking place in Glasgow this year.
The elegant structure was built by Blair and other members of Tighnabruaichs’s Extinction Rebellion chapter over the two-week period of the Impossible Rebellion this month, a series of climate protests across the UK calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Junior Wells - Messin' With The Kid
Junior Wells - It Hurts Me Too
Junior Wells - Little Red Rooster
Buddy Guy & Junior Wells - Country Girl
Junior Wells - Pleading The Blues
Junior Wells - Snatch It Back and Hold It
Buddy Guy & Junior Wells - Come On in This House
Junior Wells w/ Bonnie Raitt - Everybody's Gettin' Them Some
Junior Wells - Up In Heah
Junior Wells - Mystery Train