The Evening Blues - 5-22-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b songwriter and guitarist Roy Lee Johnson. Enjoy!
Roy Lee Johnson - Mister Moonlight
"The government surveils us more and more to make sure we’re under control. Tech companies surveil us more and more to manipulate how we shop. Employers surveil us more and more to control how we work. Meanwhile every institution with power over us grows more and more secretive."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Friday's "alarming" revelations about U.S. law enforcement's abuse of a powerful surveillance tool "confirmed the worst fears of advocates" and likely further complicated a brewing battle in Congress over reauthorizing a constitutionally dubious spying law.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)—which is set to expire at the end of this year unless reauthorized by federal lawmakers—empowers the U.S. government to engage in warrantless surveillance of electronic communications. Although the law only authorizes targeting foreigners located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information, a massive amount of Americans' data is also collected.
On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), in consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), released a pair of redacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions—one which revealed that in 2020 and early 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) misused the Section 702 database over 278,000 times.
The "persistent and widespread" violations by the FBI—which is part of the DOJ—include searches for information related to crime victims, protesters arrested after the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, donors to a congressional candidate, and people suspected of breaching the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The New York Times reported that "a senior FBI official said that in those cases, the analysts misunderstood the standard and were required to undergo additional training," and a representative for the DOJ disclosed that the unidentified political candidate lost to an incumbent lawmaker.
The ODNI's statement about the court documents insists that "all of these compliance incidents occurred prior to FBI deploying a series of remedial measures beginning in the summer of 2021 and through 2022. As a result, these compliance incidents do not reflect FBI's querying practices subsequent to the full deployment of the remedial measures."
However, exposure of the FBI's conduct prompted fresh demands from civil liberties advocates in Congress and beyond for seriously reforming or even ending Section 702, with several critics casting doubt on claims that the bureau—and other agencies with access to the collected data—will behave absent outside intervention.
"These abuses have been going on for years and despite recent changes in FBI practices, these systematic violations of Americans' privacy require congressional action," U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) declared Friday. "If Section 702 is to be reauthorized, there must be statutory reforms to ensure that the checks and balances are in place to put an end to these abuses."
"I am disappointed at the extent of the redactions in the opinions released today," he added, pledging to pressure ODNI to inform the public about the interpretation of the law behind closed doors. "There is important, secret information about how the government has interpreted Section 702 that Congress and the American people need to see before the law is renewed."
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) also weighed in:
Section 702 exists only to protect the country from external threats to our national security. The government may only use it to target non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States. If the FBI insists on using it for routine domestic criminal investigations, without a warrant or probable cause, then perhaps they should not have access to this information at all. The problem is not that the FBI unlawfully targeted thousands of Americans of any particular political view. They appear to have conducted backdoor searches on Black Lives Matter protestors, January 6th rioters, and everyone in between. The problem is that they unlawfully targeted thousands of Americans. Period.
The FBI says that they have instituted new procedures to make this kind of abuse impossible. They have made that promise before. Without significant changes to the law to prevent this abuse, I will oppose the reauthorization of this authority.
Civil society groups that have for years sounded the alarm about Section 702 responded similarly to the latest revelations.
Just go ahead and click to read the whole thing, it's worth it. Here's a bit to get the hesitant started:
There is no report, investigation or new revelation, including the recent release of Special Counsel John Durham’s “Report on Matters Related to Intelligence Activities and Investigations Arising Out of the 2016 Presidential Campaigns” that will implode the myth that Russia was responsible for the election of Donald Trump.
Myths are impervious to facts. They fulfill an emotional yearning. They are a short circuit from reality into a world of childish simplicity. Hard and painful questions are avoided. Thought-terminating cliches are spat out to blissfully embrace a willed ignorance.
The cynical con the Democratic Party and the F.B.I. carried out to falsely portray Donald Trump as a puppet of the Kremlin worked, and continues to work, because it is what those who detest Trump want to believe.
If Russia is blamed for Trump’s election, we avoid the unpleasant reality of our failed democratic institutions and decaying empire. We avoid facing the inevitable rise of a Christianized fascism borne out of widespread impoverishment, rage, despair and abandonment.
We avoid acknowledging the complicity of the Democratic Party in the orchestration of the largest social inequality in our nation’s history, the evisceration of our basic civil liberties, endless wars and an electoral system bankrolled by the billionaire class, which is legalized bribery.
The myth allows us to believe that Democratic politicians, like the establishment Republicans who have joined them, are the guarantors of a democracy they destroyed.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy has secured fresh military aid from the US during a day of frantic diplomatic activity at the G7 summit, as Russia claimed a battlefield victory in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Joe Biden announced military assistance worth up to $375m (£300m) to Kyiv, telling Zelenskiy the US was doing everything possible to strengthen Ukraine’s defences in its war with Russia.
Their meeting came as Zelenskiy attempted to win over the leaders of non-aligned countries, including India and Brazil, who have so far declined to condemn the Russian invasion.
In a meeting with Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Biden said the military aid package included ammunition, artillery, armoured vehicles and training, days after giving the UK and other allies the go-ahead to transfer US-built F-16 jets to Ukraine.
“Together with the entire G7 we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere,” Biden said. Later, he said he had received a “flat assurance” from Zelenskiy that the jets would not go into Russian territory, but added that they would be used “wherever Russian troops are within Ukraine and the area”.
Zelenskiy initially appeared to confirm the loss of Bakhmut, saying there was “nothing left” of the city. Asked if Ukrainian forces were holding on or if Russia had captured the city, Zelenskiy was not entirely clear, but said, “You have to understand there is nothing” there. “For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts.” But at a press conference later on Sunday, he said Bakhmut was “not occupied” by Russian forces, adding that Ukrainian troops remained in the city.
Ukraine has rejected Russian claims to have captured Bakhmut, insisting its forces still have a foothold in the Donbas city and are steadily encircling the Russian mercenaries holding the ruined town centre.
It was impossible to verify the conflicting claims in a battle of attrition for a devastated city, which has assumed symbolic importance as a measure of which side has the resilience to prevail in the war overall, as Kyiv prepares to unleash a broader counteroffensive against Putin’s occupation forces.
“Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today,” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, told a press conference at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. He said that images of Hiroshima after it was flattened by the atom bomb dropped by the US in 1945, reminded him of Bakhmut.
But he did concede little of the city remained intact. “You have to understand that there is nothing. They destroyed everything. For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts. There is nothing in this place … just ruins and a lot of dead Russians,” Zelenskiy said.
Zelenskiy was speaking after the head of the Wagner mercenary organisation, Yevgeny Prigozhin, posed amid the wreckage with some of his fighters on midday on Saturday, and claimed they controlled the whole of Bakhmut. Later, Vladimir Putin congratulated Wagner and Russian regular forces on “the completion of the operation to liberate Artyomovsk [the city’s Soviet-era name]”.
A Russian official said Saturday that the Western plans to provide Ukraine with American-made F-16 fighter jets bring “colossal risks” after the US announced it would sign off on European countries delivering the aircraft.
“We see that Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario. It involves colossal risks for themselves,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, according to TASS.
“In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the goals we have set,” Grushko added.
Biden proposes $1 trillion in social spending cuts after announcing $375 million more for war in Ukraine
At a press conference Sunday following the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, President Joe Biden called on Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to meet face to face to revive talks on a bipartisan plan to slash social spending in return for raising the nation’s debt ceiling and averting a default.
Biden spoke after talks between a team of White House advisers and negotiators named by McCarthy broke off on Saturday. The entire debt limit and budget negotiation process has from the start been heavily stage-managed in an attempt to stampede public opinion.
On Sunday, Biden repeatedly pointed to his proposal to cut more than $1 trillion in discretionary spending as part of a budget deal, making clear that his government is committed to imposing a new wave of austerity measures that will further undermine education, health care, housing, home heating assistance and other vital programs relied upon by millions of working class families.
Biden announced that he would be calling McCarthy from Air Force One while flying back to Washington. Later on Sunday, McCarthy dropped his accusatory tone toward Biden, called the telephone call “productive” and said the two would meet face to face at the White House on Monday. He also said the negotiating teams for each side would resume their talks later on Sunday.
What neither he nor the Republicans nor the corporate media point out is the direct connection between the new austerity drive and the ever-expanding cost of the US-led war against Russia in Ukraine. While Biden was in Japan, the US government announced that it had allotted another $375 million to arm Ukraine, part of a feverish escalation that includes providing the right-wing nationalist government in Kiev with F-16 nuclear-capable jets. In the barrage of propaganda over the supposed necessity to slash social programs to avert the nation’s first-ever default on its debt obligations—which, according to Treasury Secretary and former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, could come as early as June 1—nothing is said about the role of military spending in driving up the debt.
US president Joe Biden and House Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy have held a “productive” phone call on the continued impasse over the debt ceiling and promised to meet on Monday after Biden returned to Washington.
McCarthy, speaking to reporters after the call, said there were positive discussions on solving the crisis and that staff-level talks were set to resume later on Sunday.
Asked if he was more hopeful after talking to the president, McCarthy said: “Our teams are talking today and we’re … meeting tomorrow. That’s better than it was earlier. So, yes.”
Speaking from the G7 summit in Japan on Sunday, Biden said he would be willing to cut spending together with tax adjustments to reach a deal, but the latest offer from Republicans on the ceiling was “unacceptable.”
Less than two weeks remain until the 1 June deadline, upon which the Treasury department has said the federal government could be unable to pay all its debts.
Greece’s general election has failed to produce a winner despite the centre-right party of the incumbent prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, clinching 40% of the vote with more than 90% of ballots counted.
New Democracy was leading with a 20-point margin – 40.8% – over the leftist main opposition Syriza party which was trailing at just over 20.1% – a difference rarely seen since the collapse in 1974 of military rule. Even in Crete, a socialist bastion, the rightwing party had fared unexpectedly well. ...
Under a new electoral system of proportional representation introduced under the former prime minister and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, the victor had to secure about 46% of the vote to win an outright majority of 151 seats in the 300-member parliament. That, for any party, had been an impossible feat.
With 96% of the vote counted, smaller parties including MeRa25, headed by the country’s former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, failed to pass the 3% threshold to get into parliament.
KKE, the communist party, came in with 7.2% of the vote, doing especially well in urban centres, with senior officials hailing the outcome as proof of the party’s ability to put up stiff opposition to “neoliberal” policies it has said are bringing Greeks to its knees. The inconclusive result will lay the ground for a fresh ballot in July if, as expected, efforts to form a coalition government break down.
Heh, how utterly stupid and gutless. The Democrat proposal to fix a corrupt, broken and illegitimate court, rather than confront and excise the corruption and other problems is to, get this - make it bigger. Morons.
Wearing dark suit and sunglasses reminiscent of a character in The Matrix, Brian Fallon pointed a finger at the gleaming US Capitol building to his left, then to the marble edifice of the supreme court to his right.
“If you look at any point in the last 40 years, Congress’s public approval always hovers around 10%,” said Fallon, a former justice department official who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “But the [supreme] court’s is now in the 30s and that’s a historical anomaly because there’s always at least been the benefit of the doubt conferred upon the court.”
There is no better symbol of the crisis of trust in American institutions than its highest court, pummeled by partisan appointments, divisive rulings and ethical scandals. In a University of Chicago survey last year just 18% of Americans said they had a great deal of confidence in the supreme court – the lowest in half a century.
Congressional Democrats and allies such as Fallon, now head of the pressure group Demand Justice, believe that they have a solution: expand the court by adding four seats to counter a rightward tilt during the Donald Trump administration that, they say, put it out of step with mainstream public opinion. This week a group including Senators Ed Markey, Tina Smith and Elizabeth Warren, and representatives Jerrold Nadler, Hank Johnson, Cori Bush and Adam Schiff announced the reintroduction of legislation that would create a 13-justice bench.
The mother of an eight-year-old girl who died in US border patrol custody said on Friday that agents repeatedly ignored pleas to hospitalize her medically fragile daughter as she felt pain in her bones, struggled to breathe and was unable to walk.
Agents said her daughter’s diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks said in an emotional phone interview. They knew the girl had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia.
“They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe,” Alvarez Benedicks said. “She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her.”
The girl died on Wednesday on what her mother said was the family’s ninth day in border patrol custody. People are to be held no more than 72 hours under agency policy, a rule that is violated during unusually busy times.
The account is almost certain to raise questions about whether the border patrol properly handled the situation, the second death of a child in federal officials’ custody in two weeks after a rush of unlawful border crossings severely strained holding facilities.
The FBI and Tohono O’odham Nation police are investigating the fatal shooting of a tribal member by US border patrol agents in southern Arizona. ...
“Nation member Raymond Mattia lost his life in the incident,” Tribal chairman Ned Norris Jr said. “Our hearts go out to his family and all those [affected] during this difficult time. ...
Tucson TV station KVOA reported that Mattia had called the border patrol because there were multiple migrants who had trespassed into his yard, and he wanted assistance getting them off of his property. ...
According to KVOA, Mattia’s family told them that he went outside when he saw the agents, and for an unknown reason they apparently shot him.
The city of Minneapolis has agreed to a $700,000 settlement with family members who were locked inside two squad cars when police killed their father after officers refused their offers to try and help calm him down.
A federal judge ruled that officers were justified in shooting 52-year-old Chiasher Vue after he pointed a rifle at them on 15 December 2019. The settlement will resolve a lawsuit his family filed arguing that police had illegally and unconstitutionally detained them that night.
Chamee Vue and her brothers Hailee and Nou Vue tried to intervene but weren’t allowed out of the police cars. And after the shooting, they spent hours detained in interrogation rooms while police questioned them. “I couldn’t get out of the car, couldn’t give him reassurance that everything would be OK,” Chamee said.
A language barrier contributed to the the killing because Chiasher Vue spoke little English and few officers there that night spoke Hmong. Hailee Vue said he wants the Hmong community to understand what happened to his family, and for their case to be instructive for future policing. “I just don’t want any other family to go through what the four of us went through,” he said. ...
Family members say Chiasher Vue was going through a mental health crisis and suffering with untreated depression on the night he was killed, just months before the 25 May 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police set off worldwide protests.
The world’s top fossil fuel companies owe at least $209bn in annual climate reparations to compensate communities most damaged by their polluting business and decades of lies, a new study calculates. BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company and Chevron are among the largest 21 polluters responsible for $5.4tn (£4.3tn) in drought, wildfires, sea level rise, and melting glaciers among other climate catastrophes expected between 2025 and 2050, according to groundbreaking analysis published in the journal One Earth.
It is the first time researchers have quantified the economic burden caused by individual companies that have extracted – and continue to extract – wealth from planetheating fossil fuels.
Amid growing debate about who should bear the economic cost of the climate crisis, the paper, titled Time to Pay the Piper, presents a moral case for the carbon corporations most responsible for the climate breakdown to use some of their “tainted wealth” to compensate victims.
The study considers this to be a substantial yet conservative price tag, as the methodology excludes the economic value of lost lives and livelihoods, species extinction and other biodiversity loss, as well as other wellbeing components not captured in GDP. “This is only the tip of the iceberg of long-term climate damages, mitigation, and adaptation costs,” said co-author Richard Heede, co-founder and director of Climate Accountability Institute.
The study builds on the carbon majors database, which records the emissions of individual oil, gas and coal companies since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established and industry claims of scientific uncertainty about the climate crisis became untenable. The creation of an evidence-based “polluter pays” price tag has been welcomed as an important step towards achieving climate justice for communities and countries which have contributed the least, but are losing the most as the climate breaks down.
Since Group of Seven leaders on Saturday put out a wide-ranging communiqué from a Japan-hosted summit in Hiroshima, climate action advocates from G7 countries and beyond have blasted the statement's support for future investments in planet-heating gas.
The statement comes after G7 climate, energy, and environment ministers were criticized for their communiqué from a meeting in Sapporo last month as well as protests around the world this week pressuring the summit's attendees to ditch fossil fuels and "deliver a clear and just renewable energy agenda for a peaceful world."
To meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris climate agreement, the new statement commits to "accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels so as to achieve net-zero in energy systems by 2050 at the latest" along with "the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 or sooner."
The statement also highlights that last year, G7 nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—pledged to end "new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector, except in limited circumstances," though as recent analysis shows, some are breaking that promise.
The communiqué then endorses liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a solution to "the global impact of Russia's war on energy supplies, gas prices and inflation, and people's lives," referencing the invasion of Ukraine:
In this context, we stress the important role that increased deliveries of LNG can play, and acknowledge that investment in the sector can be appropriate in response to the current crisis and to address potential gas market shortfalls provoked by the crisis. In the exceptional circumstance of accelerating the phaseout of our dependency on Russian energy, publicly supported investment in the gas sector can be appropriate as a temporary response, subject to clearly defined national circumstances, if implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives without creating lock-in effects, for example by ensuring that projects are integrated into national strategies for the development of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen.
"The G7 energy outcome correctly diagnoses a short-term need for energy security, then promotes a dangerous and inappropriate lock-in of fossil gas that would do nothing to address this need," responded Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International (OCI). "Energy security can only be achieved by rapidly and equitably phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy, not locking in deadly fossil fuels and lining the pockets of oil and gas executives."
After accusing the summit's attendees of "using the war as an excuse," deflecting blame for current conditions, and neglecting Global South countries disproportionately suffering from the climate crisis, Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam, declared that "the G7 must stop using fossil fuels immediately—the planet is on fire."
In the parched Southwest, one in eight Americans rely on a single drought-stressed river that carries snowmelt from Rocky Mountain peaks down to desert communities. But instead of strengthening protections for that crucial water supply, the Biden administration has quietly laid the groundwork for a financial firm full of former government officials to use it as a route for oil trains — amid heightened concerns about derailments.
This spring, the project’s backers took the initial steps to apply for special Transportation Department bonds subsidized by tens of millions of dollars in annual tax breaks. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — a former McKinsey consultant who has previously touted such bonds — is under pressure from Democratic lawmakers, local communities, and environmental groups to deny the bonds, but has remained silent.
Meanwhile, the firm at the center of the project has never successfully developed a major infrastructure project, though it says it is “leveraging a proprietary set of relationships” its executives built during their time in government, according to corporate documents reviewed by The Lever.
As climate change jeopardizes the American West’s tenuous water supplies, the Utah project — which already received federal permitting approval — is audacious. It aims to run trains full of petroleum from Northeast Utah’s Uinta Basin along the banks of the Colorado River as it winds through treacherous canyons prone to rockslides and mudslides.
Critics say those hazards could easily trigger derailments, spilling crude oil into the water that millions of Americans living downstream need to survive. Indeed, even the federal agency that approved permits for the project admitted that such rail lines are susceptible to derailments, and that accidents involving oil trains often involve the release of toxins.
“If issued, this would not only constitute the largest [private activity bond] the [Department of Transportation] has ever issued; it would also irretrievably sink taxpayer dollars into a project that has proven unable to contain its own costs,” wrote Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet (D), John Hickenlooper (D), and Rep. Joe Neguse (D) in a March 9 letter to Buttigieg, demanding he reject the developers’ request for tax breaks. “The project could result in as many as five, two-mile-long crude-oil trains running over 100 miles directly alongside the headwaters of the Colorado River each day.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Roy Lee Johnson - When A Guitar Plays The Blues
Roy Lee Johnson - Nobody Does Something For Nothing
Roy Lee Johnson - So Anna Just Love Me
Roy Lee Johnson - Boogaloo Number 3
Roy Lee Johnson - Take Me Back And Try Me
Roy Lee Johnson - That's All I Need
Roy Lee Johnson With Dr. Feelgood & The Interns - Black Pepper Will Make You Sneeze
Roy Lee Johnson - Plowing Playboy
Roy Lee Johnson - Busy Body
Roy Lee Johnson - Patch It Up