The Evening Blues - 9-8-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Mary Wells. Enjoy!
Mary Wells - You Beat Me To The Punch
“Action expresses priorities.”
-- Mahatma Gandhi
News and Opinion
There's plenty of money for war ...
One in 10 American households struggled to feed their families last year, with more than 5 million families missing meals and cutting portions due to poverty, new government research reveals.
Food insecurity in households with children is the lowest level on record, yet families still account for almost half of the country’s food-insecure households, with 2.3m unable to afford adequate nutritional food at times during 2021, according to the annual food insecurity report by the USDA.
In most circumstances, adults went without to ensure the children were adequately fed, but for 0.7% of extremely poor households there was not enough food for anyone. In the richest country in the world, children in 274,000 American households went hungry, skipped meals or did not eat for entire days because there was not enough money to buy food. ...
Food insecurity remains stubbornly high in the US, with only a slight downward trend from 2021 – but significantly lower than 2020 when the Covid shutdown and widespread layoffs led to record numbers of Americans relying on food banks and food stamps to get by.
For some groups, things got worse last year compared to 2021, according to the USDA survey that found higher levels of food insecurity in adult-only households especially for women and elderly people living alone. But there were year-on-year drops for several population sub-groups, including households with children under six, single mothers with children, Black families and households in the south.
Ukrainian President and part-time celebrity endorsement-provider Volodymyr Zelensky rang the bell at the opening ceremony for the New York Stock Exchange on September 6. Zelensky’s virtual arrival to Wall Street was intended as an opportunity to pitch his government’s newly-launched #AdvantageUkraine campaign to investors. The appeal represents a collaboration between the Ukrainian government and WPP, the largest advertising firm in the world.
The president’s Wall Street event coincided with an impending economic collapse in Western Europe, where the European Investment Bank has admitted the Ukraine proxy war could “push many into poverty.” Just a day before Zelensky’s speech, the Euro plunged to a 20-year low after Russia halted gas supplies to Europe in response to Western sanctions. “We now expect the Euro to fall further below parity (with the dollar) and remain around that level for the next six months,” Goldman Sachs strategist Michael Cahill told Reuters.
Meanwhile, both the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial average continued their decline following Zelensky’s speech, with high inflation rates scaring off investors. Zelensky has repeatedly argued that if NATO does not fork over as much military aid as possible to Ukraine, Russia will attack the West next. And the collective West has eagerly obliged, dumping tens of billions of dollars in military aid into the country and untold sums of financial aid as well. This August, the US sent $4.5 billion to Ukraine through the World Bank to “contribute to sustaining the government’s administrative and service delivery capacity to exercise core functions at the national and regional levels.”
Though a country propped up almost entirely by foreign military and financial support may not seem like the most attractive place for investors, the Ukrainian government has contracted the largest advertising and public relations firm on the planet, WPP, to entice multinational speculation. ... WPP is now waging one of its most ambitious campaigns yet, branding a war-torn country whose government is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt as an investor’s paradise.
On a recent interview with the Useful Idiots podcast, Noam Chomsky repeated his argument that the only reason we hear the word “unprovoked” every time anyone mentions Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the mainstream news media is because it absolutely was provoked, and they know it.
“Right now if you’re a respectable writer and you want to write in the main journals, you talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you have to call it ‘the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Chomsky said. “It’s a very interesting phrase; it was never used before. You look back, you look at Iraq, which was totally unprovoked, nobody ever called it ‘the unprovoked invasion of Iraq.’ In fact I don’t know if the term was ever used — if it was it was very marginal. Now you look it up on Google, and hundreds of thousands of hits. Every article that comes out has to talk about the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”
“Why? Because they know perfectly well it was provoked,” Chomsky said. “That doesn’t justify it, but it was massively provoked. Top US diplomats have been talking about this for 30 years, even the head of the CIA.”
Chomsky is of course correct here. The imperial media and their brainwashed automatons have spent half a year mindlessly bleating the word “unprovoked” in relation to this war, but one question none of them ever have a straight answer for is this: if the invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, how come so many western experts spent years warning that the actions of western governments would provoke an invasion of Ukraine?
Because, as Chomsky notes, that is indeed the case. A few days after the invasion began this past February a guy named Arnaud Bertrand put together an extremely viral Twitter thread that just goes on and on and on about the various diplomats, analysts and academics in the west who have over the years been warning that a dangerous confrontation with Russia was coming because of NATO advancements toward its borders, interventionism in Ukraine, and various other aggressions. It contains examples like John Mearsheimer explicitly warning in 2015 that “the west is leading Ukraine down the primrose path, and the end result is that Ukraine is going to get wrecked,” and Pat Buchanan warning all the way back in 1999 that “By moving NATO onto Russia’s front porch, we have scheduled a twenty-first-century confrontation.”
Empire apologists love claiming that the invasion of Ukraine had nothing to do with NATO expansionism (their claims generally based on brazen misrepresentations of what Vladimir Putin has said about Russia’s reasons for the war), but that’s silly. The US war machine was continuing to taunt the possibility of NATO membership for Ukraine right up until the invasion, a threat it refused to take off the table since placing it there in 2008 despite knowing full well that this threat was an incendiary provocation to Moscow.
This is to say nothing of the US empire actively fomenting a violent uprising in 2014 which ousted Kyiv’s sitting government and fractured the nation between its more Moscow-loyal populations to the east and the more US/EU-friendly parts of the country. This led to the annexation of Crimea (overwhelmingly supported by the people who live there) and eight years of brutal warfare against Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas. Ukrainian attacks on those separatists are known to have increased exponentially in the days leading up to the invasion, and it has been argued that this is what provoked Putin’s final decision to commit to invading (which was a last-minute decision according to US intelligence).
The US power alliance could very easily have prevented this war with a few low-cost concessions like enshrining Ukrainian neutrality, rolling back its war machinery from Russia’s borders and sincerely pursuing detente with Moscow instead of shredding treaties and ramping up cold war escalations. Hell, it could likely have prevented this war just by protecting President Zelensky from the anti-Moscow far right nationalists who were openly threatening to lynch him if he began honoring the Minsk agreements and pursuing peace with Russia, as he was originally elected to do.
Instead it knowingly chose the opposite course: continuing to float the possibility of formal NATO membership for Ukraine while pouring weapons into the nation and making it more and more of a de facto NATO member with closer and closer intimacy with the US war machine, and then either ordering, encouraging or tolerating Ukraine’s aggressive assault on Donbas separatists.
Why did the empire opt for provocation over peace? Congressman Adam Schiff gave a pretty good answer to that question in January of 2020 as the road to war was being paved: “so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.” If you relinquish the infantile idea that the US empire is helping its good friend Ukraine because it loves the Ukrainian people and wants them to have freedom and democracy, it’s not hard to see that the US sparked a convenient proxy war because it was in its geostrategic interests to do so, and because it wouldn’t be their lives and property getting laid to waste.
Brian Berletic put out a good video a few days ago about a Pentagon-funded 2019 Rand Corporation paper titled “Extending Russia – Competing from Advantageous Ground,” which is exactly what it sounds like. The US Army-commissioned paper details how the empire can use proxy warfare, economic warfare and other cold war tactics to push its longtime geopolitical foe to the brink without costing American lives or sparking a nuclear conflict. It mentions Ukraine hundreds of times, and it explicitly discusses the same economic warfare tactics we’re seeing today like sanctions and attacking Russia’s energy interests in Europe (the latter of which Berletic points out is also being used to bolster US dominance over its vassals in the EU).
The paper even explicitly advocates continuing to threaten NATO membership with Ukraine to draw out an aggressive response from Moscow, saying, “While NATO’s requirement for unanimity makes it unlikely that Ukraine could gain membership in the foreseeable future, Washington’s pushing this possibility could boost Ukrainian resolve while leading Russia to redouble its efforts to forestall such a development.”
President Biden has made calls for regime change in Moscow that can’t even really be called thinly disguised, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has openly said that the plan is to use this war to “weaken” Russia, which other US officials have told the press is indeed the policy. Comments from the Biden administration continually make it clear that the US alliance is buckling down to keep this war going for years to come, which would fit in nicely with Washington’s known track record of deliberately drawing Russia into military quagmires against US proxies in both Afghanistan and Syria.
So make no mistake, behind all the phony hand-wringing and flag-waving, the US-centralized empire is getting exactly what it wants from this conflict. It gets to overextend Russia militarily and financially, promote its narratives around the world, rehabilitate the image of US interventionism, expand internet censorship, expand militarily, bolster control over its European client states, and all it costs is a little pretend empire money that gets funneled into the military-industrial complex anyway.
Which is why when it looked like peace was at risk of breaking out in the early days of the conflict, the empire sent in Boris Johnson to tell Zelensky that even if he is ready for the war to end, his partners to the west were not.
So as you can see, the notion that this war is “unprovoked” is a fart-brained fairy tale for idiots and children; there’s no excuse for a grown adult with internet access and functioning brain matter to ever say such a thing. If China had backed a coup in Mexico and now had a loyal vassal in Mexico City who was letting Beijing distribute weapons along the US border while continually shelling English-speaking separatists in Baja California who are seeking US annexation, there’s no question that Washington would consider this a provocation and would respond accordingly. You can tell me that’s not true, but we’d both know you’re lying.
But as Chomsky said, the press are still spouting this “unprovoked” nonsense anyway.
“Russia is widely believed to have been taken aback by the West’s assertive and unified response to its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” reads a CNBC article published just minutes prior to this writing.
“The diplomatic visit underlines the importance of the Russian relationship for China, even in the face of international blow back against Moscow after its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine earlier this year,” reads a new report from CNN hot off the presses.
“It was an unprovoked attack on a sovereign country,” a source is quoted as saying in another CNN article published a few hours ago.
It is, as Chomsky observed, really freaky how hard they’ve been hitting us with this line every time the invasion of Ukraine is mentioned. It seems like every time it comes up they’re obligated to say it, like how Michael Jackson had a quota for how often MTV hosts were obligated to refer to him as “The King of Pop Michael Jackson” when his name was mentioned.
In the mass media you’re not allowed to talk about the known US/NATO/Ukraine actions which experts have been warning for many years would lead us to where we’re at. You’re only allowed to say Putin attacked Ukraine completely unprovoked, in a vacuum, solely because he is evil and hates freedom. And you have to do it while saying the word “unprovoked” at every opportunity.
Empire apologists get upset when you talk about the fact that this war was provoked because a large amount of empire apologia in 2022 is built around pretending that provocation just isn’t a thing. By some trick of Orwellian doublethink, this concept we’ve all lived our entire lives knowing about and understanding is now suddenly a freakish and ridiculous invention of the Kremlin.
We’re all guilty of doing the things we knowingly choose to do. If I choose to provoke someone into doing something bad, then they’re guilty of choosing to do the bad thing, but I am also guilty of provoking them. I’m not saying anything new here; this is the plot behind any movie or show with a sneaky or manipulative villain, and it’s been a part of our storytelling since ancient times. Nobody has ever walked out of Shakespeare’s Othello thinking that maybe Iago was just an innocent bystander who was trying to help out his friends.
Most of us learn that provocation is real as children with siblings, kicking the other under the table or whatever to provoke a loud outburst, and we’ve understood it ever since. But in 2022 everyone’s pretending that this extremely basic, kindergarten-level concept is some kind of bizarre, alien gibberish. It’s intensely stupid, and it needs to stop..
Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told Business Insider that Russia’s neighbors are close to turning the Baltic Sea into a “NATO sea.”
If Sweden and Finland join NATO, it would mean every nation on the Baltic Sea except for Russia would be a member of the US-led military alliance. Pevkur said this could turn the waters into an “inner sea of NATO” even though parts of the Baltic Sea are considered international waters.
Pevkur said that if Finland and Sweden were part of NATO, it would allow the countries in the region to act as “one unified operational space” against Russia. “All this will most certainly have a deterrent effect,” he said.
Standing next to an F-35 fighter jet, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday issued a threat to Iran, warning the Islamic Republic that it could soon feel Israel’s “long arm.”
In a video posted on Twitter, Lapid said it was too early to know if his pressure on the Biden administration to scrap negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, has worked. ...
Lapid said in the video that he and President Biden agreed the US wouldn’t constrain Israel if it wanted to attack Iran. “As President Biden and I agreed, Israel has full freedom to act as we see fit to prevent the possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear threat,” he said.
Lapid says that Israel’s concern is Iran becoming a nuclear-armed state, but if that were true, he would favor a revival of the JCPOA, which puts Iran’s civilian nuclear program under strict limits.
A US senator has dismissed an Israeli army report that claims a soldier accidentally killed the Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh in the midst of a gun battle, saying it is unsupported by the evidence.
Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic senator for Maryland, repeated his call for an independent US investigation into Abu Aqleh’s killing in the West Bank in May, saying that the United Nations and reconstructions by major news outlets found that the Al Jazeera television journalist was not in the immediate vicinity of fighting with Palestinian militants and could not have been caught in the crossfire.
“The crux of the ‘defense’ in this IDF [Israel Defence Forces] report is that a soldier was ‘returning fire’ from militants” when Abu Aqleh was struck, Van Hollen tweeted. “But investigations … found no such firing at the time. This underscores need for independent US inquiry into this American journalist’s death.”
A federal judge in Texas has ruled that employers should not be forced to provide coverage for HIV infection prevention drugs if it violates their owners’ religious beliefs “by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior”.
US district judge Reed O’Connor on Wednesday ruled in favor of Braidwood Management, a Christian-owned company based in Texas, saying it was not required to cover the cost of Truvada and Descovy, two pre-exposure prophylactic drugs also known as PrEP.
The drugs, which are taken every day by hundreds of thousands of Americans, are used to prevent HIV transmission and are made available through company health insurance via provisions for preventive healthcare in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
A lawsuit filed by the conservative former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell on behalf of Braidwood Management against the US Department of Health and Human Services argued that the ACA provision “violated [the plaintiffs’] religious beliefs by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and woman”, in the words of the judge.
When the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to limit reproductive rights in its June ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, experts predicted that conservatives would soon use the decision to try to secure a federal ban on abortion. Now that’s exactly what’s happening — at the very moment abortion rights have become a central issue in the midterm elections.
Anti-abortion activists in Rhode Island just filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to consider overturning their state judges’ recent decision that fetuses do not have standing to challenge the state’s law protecting abortion rights. They want the high court to rule that fetuses are entitled to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Such a ruling establishing “fetal personhood” would go beyond the Dobbs ruling, by banning abortions nationwide, rather than leaving the issue to the states. To move forward, the petitioners need just four of the Supreme Court justices to agree to hear the case.
“This case presents the unavoidable confrontation of Dobbs,” the petition says, “which left unresolved the tensions between the Tenth Amendment, federalism, and any surviving constitutional guarantees for the unborn.” Each year, thousands of claimants petition the Supreme Court to consider cases, and the court typically grants only about 80 of the requests.
“The recognition of fetal personhood nationwide could mean a total ban on abortion for everyone in the United States, and if an increasingly sophisticated minority of anti-abortion extremists have their way, many more women would face criminal charges for ending their pregnancies,” leading reproduction legal expert Mary Zielger wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed. ...
If at least four justices vote to take up the case, Kavanaugh and the other justices will be forced to decide in the face of their declining public approval just how far they are willing to go in their assault on reproductive rights.
A judge on Wednesday struck down Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law, months after suspending it, the latest development over abortion rights in a state where the issue is being argued in courtrooms and, possibly, at the ballot box. The law, which was long dormant before the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade in June, violates the Michigan constitution, said Judge Elizabeth Gleicher.
“A law denying safe, routine medical care not only denies women of their ability to control their bodies and their lives – it denies them of their dignity,” Gleicher of the court of claims wrote. “Michigan’s Constitution forbids this violation of due process.”
The decision comes as the Michigan supreme court still is considering whether to place a proposed amendment on the 8 November ballot that would add abortion rights to the state constitution. A Friday deadline is looming. Supporters submitted more than 700,000 signatures, easily clearing the threshold. But a tie vote by the board of state canvassers over spacing issues on the petition has kept it off the ballot so far.
The names of hundreds of US law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that is accused of playing a key role in the January 6 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies – including as police chiefs and sheriffs – and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.
It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or served in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.
Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history, has died aged 96, drawing to a close the country’s second Elizabethan era, and heralding the reign of her son, King Charles III.
The monarch, for whom abdication was never an option, died peacefully at Balmoral on Thursday afternoon two days after undertaking her final public constitutional duty, with the appointment of the 15th prime minister of her 70-year reign.
Her death means Charles now becomes king, and the Duchess of Cornwall the Queen Consort.
E coli has been detected in multiple locations across Baltimore in recent days, city officials have announced. Residents have been urged to boil tap water for at least a minute after E coli samples were detected in West Baltimore over the weekend. Since then, over 1,500 people in the city of around 600,000 have been affected by the advisory, including multiple schools.
“The health and safety of our residents is of the utmost importance,” Baltimore health department director Letitia Dzirasa said at a press conference alongside city leaders on Monday night. “Our key recommendation from a public health standpoint is to boil water for at least one minute. We know that boiling water kills bacteria, as well as other viruses.”
According to the city’s public works department, 360 water samples have been taken from 90 locations across the city, with E coli being found in several locations.
In a notice to residents, the department said its “team is flushing the system continuously and performing leak detection, valve assessment, and increasing the chlorination in the area”.
A brutal heatwave enveloping the US west smashed records on Tuesday, as high temperatures and historic energy use strained California’s grid to the brink of its capacity and spurred fire behavior across the state. ...
California’s state capital of Sacramento on Tuesday hit an all-time high of 116F (47C), breaking a 97-year-old record. Six places in the San Francisco Bay Area and central coast set all-time record maximum temperatures, including Santa Rosa, with 115F (46C).
In neighboring Nevada, Reno’s 106F (41C) on Tuesday was its hottest day ever recorded in September and smashed the previous record for the date, 96F (36C) in 1944. It came within two degrees of the all-time high for any day or month of 108F (42C), set in July 2002 and equaled in July 2007, according to the National Weather Service.
In Salt Lake City, a city at more than 4,000ft (1,219m) elevation, temperatures were about 20 degrees higher than normal, hitting 105F (41C) on Tuesday, the hottest September day recorded going back to 1874.
The National Weather Service (NWS) warned that dangerous heat could continue through Friday.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Mary Wells - Bye Bye Baby
Mary Wells - My Guy
Mary Wells - The One Who Really Loves You
Mary Wells - Your Old Standby
Mary Wells - Me And My Baby
Mary Wells - What's Easy For Two Is So Hard For One
Mary Wells - Operator
Mary Wells - Oh Little Boy
Mary Wells - Just One Look