The Evening Blues - 9-26-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer Lee Shot Williams. Enjoy!
Lee Shot Williams - You're Welcome To The Club
"We are in the era of the thermonuclear bomb that can obliterate cities and can be delivered across continents. With such weapons, war has become, not just tragic, but preposterous."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
News and Opinion
In the aftermath of statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday threatening to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine, US officials have made clear they are actively discussing the possibility that the conflict will erupt into a nuclear exchange. ... In his appearances on the US Sunday talk shows, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed a report published in the Washington Post Thursday that US officials had sent “private communications to Moscow warning Russia’s leadership of the grave consequences that would follow the use of a nuclear weapon.” Sullivan made these threats more explicit. He told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd the consequences would be “catastrophic if Russia went down the dark road of nuclear weapons use.” ...
The escalation of tensions came as Russia held referendums in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, four regions of Eastern Ukraine under its military control, for joining the Russian federation. The third day of voting was held Sunday. On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that any regions annexed to Russia will be “under the full protection of the state,” implying that Russia would respond to any attacks on them with the use of nuclear weapons. The Russian parliament could potentially move to incorporate the provinces into the Russian Federation on Thursday, and Putin is tentatively planning to address parliament on Friday. ...
Sullivan’s threats were accompanied by a full court press in the US media rationalizing the potential use of nuclear weapons in the conflict. In perhaps the most egregious example, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat mused that “Kyiv might be willing to accept an unusual degree of nuclear risk, even absorb a nuclear strike, for the sake of its own territorial integrity. In a battle for their very freedom, the Ukrainians … want their children to look back and say that in the greatest crisis, the blood of their fathers ran strong.” In a previous commentary on the World Socialist Web Site, we wrote that the strategists and propagandists of US imperialism see the people of Ukraine as “cannon fodder.” There is no greater confirmation than the suggestion that the people of the impoverished Eastern European country would be happy to “absorb” a nuclear attack potentially capable of killing millions of people.
In no section of the US political establishment has the increasingly obvious reality that the conflict is rapidly threatening to escalate into a nuclear wear been treated as an incentive to push toward a negotiated settlement of the war, which has already killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. Rather, the US is treating any Russian escalation of the conflict in the wake of the military debacle in northern Ukraine as an opportunity to further escalate its own involvement in the war. US officials, according to an op-ed Sunday by Times columnist David Brooks, wish to “continue to supply Ukraine with weapons, maybe even including tanks and advanced fighter planes. Those systems are apparently on the table.”
Neocons are eager to get some nukes in the air ... but don't worry, they're taking this seriously. But, um, not seriously enough to stop poking the bear.
America and its allies will act “decisively” if Russia uses a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday, reaffirming the Joe Biden White House’s previous response to mounting concerns that Vladimir Putin’s threats are in increased danger of being realized.
“We have communicated directly, privately and at very high levels to the Kremlin that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia, that the US and our allies will respond decisively, and we have been clear and specific about what that will entail,” Sullivan told CBS’s Face The Nation.
Sullivan said that the Russian leader Putin had been “waving around the nuclear card at various points through this conflict”, and it was a matter that Biden’s administration has “to take deadly seriously because it is a matter of paramount seriousness – the possible use of nuclear weapons for the first time since the second world war”. ...
The administration’s security chief said that Russia’s nuclear threat against Ukraine, including extending its nuclear umbrella over eastern parts of the country that are still being contested seven months after its invasion, would not deflect the US and its allies.
On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia wasn’t threatening anyone with nuclear weapons and said Moscow doesn’t want a direct conflict with the US and NATO. “We are not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons,” Ryabkov said. “The criteria for their use are outlined in Russia’s military doctrine.”
Russia’s doctrine is that it could use nuclear weapons if it is facing an “existential threat,” and Russian officials have made clear throughout the current war in Ukraine that this is still the policy. ...
Ryabkov said that it’s not in Russia’s interest to be in a direct conflict with the US and NATO. “A face-off with the United States and NATO, which is fraught with an open armed conflict, is not in our interests,” he said.
“We hope that the Biden administration understands the risks of uncontrolled escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, given the repeated statements by their officials that they don’t plan to send American servicemen to Ukraine,” Ryabkov added.
Italy elections: Giorgia Meloni hails ‘night of pride’ as exit polls point to far-right coalition victory
Giorgia Meloni has claimed victory in Italy’s elections and promised to govern for all Italians, after exit polls gave her right-wing coalition a clear majority, putting her on course to create the most rightwing government since the end of the second world war. With full results due on Monday, the Brothers of Italy leader is set to become Italy’s first female prime minister – and a model for nationalist parties across Europe as she heads one of the EU’s six original member states.
The poll, for Italian broadcaster Rai, gave the rightwing coalition 41%-45% against 25.5%-29.5% for the leftwing bloc. The populist Five Star Movement was on 13.5%-17.5%.
Meloni’s party, which has neofascist origins, is also set to scoop by far the biggest share of the votes within the coalition, which includes the far-right League, led by Matteo Salvini, and Forza Italia, headed by Silvio Berlusconi. Early on Monday morning Meloni said Italian voters had given a clear mandate to the right to form the next government and called for unity to help confront the country’s many problems. ...
The coalition’s expected victory, however, raises questions about the country’s alliances in Europe as the continent enters a winter likely to be dominated by high energy prices and its response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Meloni has sought to send reassuring messages, but the prospect of her as prime minister is unlikely to be welcomed in Paris or Berlin.
Germany’s governing Social Democratic party warned last week that her win would be bad for European cooperation. Lars Klingbeil, the chairman of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD, said Meloni had aligned herself with “anti-democratic” figures such as Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
To hear Ron DeSantis tell it, his splurge of up to $12m of Florida taxpayers’ money to fly migrants between two states he’s not governor of is all Joe Biden’s fault.
The US president’s border policies, the Republican Florida governor insists, left him no alternative but to step in to the immigration fight, which he did by dumping two planeloads of mostly Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, last week with no advance notice.
“Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them,” DeSantis’s office claimed in a statement painting him as a champion of the immigrants’ welfare who is “sharing the burden” of border states.
“They have been provided accommodations, sustenance, clothing and more options to succeed,” the statement added, without noting such aid was provided entirely by authorities on the ground, who moved swiftly to deal with the sudden and unexpected influx. ...
“For DeSantis to now claim that he’s a champion of these asylum seekers and migrants who were lured and tricked on to planes, and brought to Martha’s Vineyard without their meaningful consent, that’s kind of the height of irony, isn’t it?” said Elora Mukherjee, professor of social justice and human rights at Columbia Law School. ...
“But what we’re seeing is DeSantis playing toward the xenophobic and nationalistic white supremacist impulses that are at the base of the modern Republican party. It’s a well-timed act of political theater to propel him forward and gain as much national media attention as possible as part of his bid to become our next president.”
JD Vance had some explaining to do. After winning a brutal, costly primary to secure the Republican nomination in Ohio’s Senate race, Vance had spent the summer making few appearances on the campaign trail and allowing his Democratic opponent, congressman Tim Ryan, to dominate the airwaves.
Now polls showed Vance, a first-time candidate and author of the bestselling memoir Hillbilly Elegy, running neck and neck with Ryan in a race that many Republicans had hoped would be an easy win.
“We have a tough campaign,” Vance said at an event with supporters in Avon, Ohio, last weekend. “I know that a lot of people are frustrated you didn’t see a whole lot of my TV commercials over the summer. Hopefully that’s started to pick up in the last couple of weeks.”
Vance’s struggle to establish a clear lead in Ohio mirrors Republican Senate candidates’ missteps in other battleground states that could determine control of the vital upper chamber. Like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia, Vance was able to win the Republican nomination after receiving Donald Trump’s endorsement, but he has stumbled in his pivot to the general election.
Republicans are now racing to avoid a Democratic victory in Ohio, often at the expense of investing in other close races. If Republicans cannot drag Vance across the finish line in Ohio, it could spell doom for the party’s hopes of flipping the Senate in the midterm elections this November.
Attempts by Donald Trump to delay the criminal investigation into his unlawful retention of government secrets have been largely thwarted after the Department of Justice regained access to about 100 documents with classified markings that the FBI seized from the former US president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The US appeals court for the 11th circuit this week set aside key parts of an order by a federal judge that barred the department from using the documents in its investigation, and additionally ruled that Trump’s lawyers need not review the documents over potential privilege concerns.
The 29-page decision amounted to a sharp rebuke of the rulings by US district court judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing the case in Florida, but it also brought an end to Trump’s attempt to slow down the investigation that his advisers feared was moving perilously fast.
The justice department, according to the search warrant affidavit, is investigating potential violations of at least three criminal statutes, including the Espionage Act concerning national defense information, obstruction of justice and the removal of government documents more generally.
Being allowed to examine the roughly 100 documents marked classified means justice department investigators can now resume the investigation into the most serious lines of inquiry – the willful retention of national defense information and obstruction – with the primary evidence itself.
The fact that the appeals court also ruled that Trump’s lawyers – as well as the special master recently appointed to review the seized materials for potential privilege protections – do not need to review the 100 documents closes off additional opportunities to delay the process further.
The Pacific island of Vanuatu has called for a first-of-its-kind global treaty to phase out the use of fossil fuels in a bold public call at the UN general assembly. “We call for the development of a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty to phase down coal, oil and gas production in line with 1.5C and enable a global just transition for every worker, community and nation with fossil fuel dependence,” he said.
Urging others to join his call, which would make ecocide punishable by the international criminal court, he added: “We call on states to join the group of nations proposing to include the crime of ecocide in the Rome statute. Acting with the knowledge of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment can no longer be tolerated.”
As Democrats attempt to depict their newly-released energy permitting bill as a climate “win,” they are being boosted by a “clean power” lobbying group with ties to the fossil fuel industry. The American Clean Power Association, which presents itself as the voice of clean energy and is touting the bill as a way to boost renewables, is led by a former gas industry executive who had previously helped deregulate the industry as President Barack Obama’s energy advisor. Its board of directors also includes officials from electric and gas utilities that could be enriched by the legislation’s provisions to expedite fossil fuel pipelines.
Several prominent news outlets have already amplified the “clean power” association’s recent memo — which asserts that the legislation will “unlock clean energy, American investment, and jobs while protecting the environment.” But few have scrutinized that claim, examined the group’s motivations, or mentioned that its members could benefit from the bill’s pro-fossil fuel provisions.
“A leading renewables trade group says that without permitting reform, roughly 100 gigawatts of clean energy expected to be deployed by 2030 is at risk of not being built,” a New York Times climate reporter tweeted Thursday, citing the American Clean Power Association’s memo pushing the legislation. The lobbying group’s estimate was also cited in a Financial Times article about the clean energy industry’s support for permitting reform, as well as referenced in other major media outlets.
While the association does include clean energy companies, it is also one of many conduits for fossil-fuel-reliant corporations to try to position themselves as part of a green future.
In Congress, those conglomerates that own and rely on fossil fuels are spearheading the “all of the above” legislative strategy embodied by the Inflation Reduction Act and now adopted by the permitting deal, which would grant the president the power to designate 25 energy projects for quick federal approval. Both bills link clean and dirty power together as if they must grow in tandem, even as scientists warn that fossil fuel buildouts must end to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
Climate campaigners and other progressives on Sunday praised the Biden administration's announcement that it is establishing a new environmental justice office at the Environmental Protection Agency—but at least one critic noted that the office's work will not cancel out the damage done by the so-called "permitting reform" bill being pushed by Sen. Joe Manchin.
"We've seen a lot of structural changes on environmental justice in the Biden, Obama and Clinton administrations, but we need to see the results," Wes Gobar, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives, told The New York Times.
According to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR) will invest heavily in ensuring residents of areas plagued by decades of industrial pollution live in a healthier environment.
With about 200 staffers and a director who will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the office will oversee the distribution of billions of dollars included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for monitoring air quality near schools and impacted neighborhoods and cleaning up pollution in those areas. The OEJECR will also have a budget of $100 million.
Communities that could benefit from the funds include those in so-called "Cancer Alley," between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana, where chemical plants stand near residential neighborhoods and cancer prevalence is 44% higher than the national rate in some areas.
Areas affected by redlining, where largely Black, Latino, and low-income neighborhoods were targeted for development by pollution-causing industries, may also benefit. One 2017 study found that Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as white people to die from exposure to pollution.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) issued a round of applause on Twitter following Regan's announcement.
"This is a big step to act on climate in our most vulnerable communities," said environmental legal advocacy group Earthjustice.
But Gobar noted that Regan's announcement came as Manchin seeks to pass his energy infrastructure bill, which would make it easier for fossil fuel companies to complete projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and the right-wing Democratic senator's home state of West Virginia.
The White House said last week that President Joe Biden is "committed to the deal" between Manchin and party leaders which resulted in the bill in exchange for Manchin's support of the IRA.
"This deal exchanges the health of Black lives across the country in exchange for fossil fuel profits," Gobar told the Times. "And [the OEJECR] won't make up for this side deal—for cutting the federal government's ability to protect Black communities."
Canadian troops are being sent to assist the recovery from the devastation of storm Fiona, which swept away houses, stripped off roofs and knocked out power across the country’s Atlantic provinces.
After surging north from the Caribbean as a hurricane, Fiona came ashore before dawn on Saturday as a post-tropical cyclone, battering Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with hurricane-strength winds, heavy rains and huge waves.
The defense minister, Anita Anand, said on Saturday that troops would help remove fallen trees and other debris, restore transportation links and do whatever else was required for as long as it took. She didn’t specify how many troops would be deployed. ...
The Canadian Hurricane Centre tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressure ever recorded for a storm making landfall in Canada. Forecasters had warned it could be the one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.
“We’re getting more severe storms more frequently,” Trudeau said.
More resilient infrastructure was needed to withstand extreme weather events, the prime minister said, adding that what was once a one-in-100 year storm might now arrive every few years because of climate change.
“Things are only getting worse,” Trudeau said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Lee Shot Williams - I'm Trying
Lee "Shot" Williams - You Gotta Have Soul
Lee "Shot" Williams - Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me
Lee "Shot" Williams - You Hurt Me so Good
Lee Shot Williams - Hello Baby
Lee Shot Williams - I Found A Love
Lee Shot Williams - Mark My Words
Lee Shot Williams - Love Now Pay Later
Arlene Brown and Lee "Shot" Williams" - Impeach Me Baby