The Evening Blues - 5-25-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues rock band Little Mike and the Tornadoes. Enjoy!
Little Mike and the Tornadoes - I got too many problems
"The devil doesn't come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you've ever wished for."
-- Tucker Max
News and Opinion
The second in command of Ukrainian military intelligence says Kyiv’s spies are actively trying to kill Vladimir Putin—and the Russian leader is well aware of it. Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukraine's Main Intelligence Directorate, made the admission in an interview with German publication Welt.
“Putin is noticing that we are getting closer and closer to him, but he is also afraid of being killed by his own people,” Skibitsky was quoted as saying, describing the assassination of Putin as a top priority. ...
He said similar plans were in the works for Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Grab your salt shaker, this is from the Guardian's propaganda catapult:
The head of the Wagner mercenary force has said that 20,000 of its fighters have been killed in the battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and warned that Russia could face another revolution if its leadership does not improve its handling of the war.
Yevgeny Prigozhin said 20% of the 50,000 convicts Wagner had recruited, and a similar number of its regular troops, had been killed over several months in the fight for Bakhmut.
Prigozhin pointed to the social disparity underlined by the war, with the sons of the poor being sent back from the front in zinc coffins while the children of the elite “shook their arses” in the sun.
“This divide can end as in 1917 with a revolution,” he said in an interview posted on his channel on the Telegram messaging app. “First the soldiers will stand up, and after that – their loved ones will rise up. There are already tens of thousands of them – relatives of those killed. And there will probably be hundreds of thousands – we cannot avoid that.”
Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s chef” because he once provided catering services to the Russian leader, but he said that “Putin’s butcher” would be a more fitting nickname. He claimed his men now controlled all of Bakhmut – a claim disputed by the Kyiv government, which insists its forces still have a foothold in the ruined Donbas city – but he warned that Wagner would pull out at the beginning of next month.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday that Ukraine is unlikely to win the war against Russia and that the only way the conflict can end is through a deal between the US and Russia.
“Looking at the reality, the figures, the surroundings, the fact that NATO is not ready to send troops, it is obvious that there is no victory for the poor Ukrainians on the battlefield. That’s my position,” Orban said at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha, according to Al Jazeera. ...
The Hungarian government’s calls for diplomacy and a ceasefire in Ukraine have angered the US, as the White House has previously come out against a pause in fighting. The US ambassador to Hungary recently slammed Budapest’s calls for peace, calling them “cynical.”
Russia and China have agreed to deepen investment in trade services, promote agricultural exports and boost sports cooperation, as Mikhail Mishustin, Russia’s prime minister, signed a set of bilateral agreements on a visit to Beijing.
Mishustin is the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since the start of the war in Ukraine. In March, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, visited Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a show of support for his “dear friend”.
China has claimed to be a neutral mediator in the war in Ukraine, but China and Russia have pulled closer together since the start of the invasion. Mishustin’s visit, where he met Xi and the Chinese premier, Li Qiang, came after G7 leaders called on Russia and China to be more transparent about their nuclear arsenals. On Tuesday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said the G7 statement was designed to “exert psychological and military-political pressure on Russia and China”.
Ben Bland, the director of the Asia-Pacific programme at Chatham House, said the G7 statements “underlined the deepening geopolitical divide between China and Russia on one side and the US and its allies on the other”.
On Wednesday, Mishustin told Xi that Moscow and Beijing would push back against attempts by countries to use sanctions to “impose their will”. Trade between the two countries has surged since the start of the invasion. On Tuesday, Mishustin said bilateral trade could reach $200bn this year, up from $190bn in 2022. Russian energy shipments to China are projected to rise by 40% this year, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency.
The US risks causing “enormous damage” to its tech industry if it continues restrictions on trade with China, according to the chief executive of the chipmaker Nvidia. Jensen Huang said curbs introduced by the Biden administration, which include restricting the export to China of advanced chips made with US technology, had left the business with “our hands tied behind our back”.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Huang said: “If [China] can’t buy from … the United States, they’ll just build it themselves. So the US has to be careful. China is a very important market for the technology industry.”
Nvidia said last August that US officials had told it to stop exporting two artificial intelligence chips to China, although the company later announced the development of a product that would meet US government restrictions. Nvidia’s chips are a key tool in the development of the large language models that underpin chatbots such as ChatGPT.
In October, the Biden administration published further export controls on the technology, including a measure to cut China off from certain semiconductor chips made anywhere in the world with US tools. Senior US officials said many of the rules sought to prevent foreign firms from selling advanced chips to China or supplying Chinese firms with tools to make their own advanced chips.
Lawmakers exchanged sharp criticism about who was to blame for the protracted standoff over the debt ceiling on Wednesday. As the country nears its deadline to avoid a federal default, talks between Joe Biden and the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, continued on Wednesday, as negotiators met again to hash out the details of a potential deal. But both parties simultaneously trade pointed remarks, underscoring that an agreement is not yet in reach.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pushed back against Republicans’ insistence on spending cuts. Jayapal said she spoke Tuesday to White House officials who informed her that Republican negotiators had already rejected $3tn worth of deficit-reduction proposals, such as ending tax subsidies for large oil companies and closing the carried-interest loophole. “It is not actually about debt or deficit,” Jayapal said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “It is about keeping the cash flowing to the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.”
Accusing Biden of acquiescing to the “extreme” wing of his party, McCarthy reiterated that he would not support a “clean” bill raising the debt ceiling without cutting government spending. Rejecting the White House’s efforts to reduce the federal deficit by raising more tax revenue, McCarthy insisted that any agreement must focus on the spending side. “We have to spend less than we spent last year,” McCarthy said. “It’s not a revenue problem. It’s a spending problem.” ...
Progressive lawmakers countered that Republicans were playing politics with the future of the US economy in the hopes of weakening Biden’s prospects in the 2024 election. “They are not negotiating,” said the progressive congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. “They are looking to waste time, play games and make sure we default because they think that somehow that is going to be a political advantage that they will have in the coming elections.”
Republicans in Washington are threatening to blow up the United States’ economy unless Democrats agree to shrink the social safety net by adding work requirements to programs such as food assistance and healthcare. They are billing the effort — which would help corporations grow an exploitable workforce — as necessary to end dependency, boost the economy, and reduce the federal deficit.
In doing so, GOP lawmakers are following the agenda pushed by an obscure conservative think tank bankrolled by far-right billionaires and activists that was behind a recent slew of state bills rolling back child labor laws across the country. The effort comes several years after the GOP passed massive, deficit-busting tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and corporations — and as the party pushes to make those tax cuts permanent, at an estimated cost of $3.5 trillion.
In effect, Republicans want to force Americans in poverty to pick up the tab for the tax cuts they gave to their wealthy donors, while giving those donors more vulnerable workers to exploit.
Republicans are attempting to ram through the think tank’s agenda by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, an arbitrary limit set by Congress on how much money the federal government can borrow, unless Democrats accept sweeping spending cuts and expanded work requirements on social programs.
When Joe Biden was first elected president his propagandists and their friends in corporate media told us that he was “the most progressive president since FDR” and that he would “cut child poverty in half.” Yet the temporary covid relief programs have all gone, from the Child Tax Credit, to emergency SNAP nutrition benefits, to automatic medicaid enrollment, and all with little fightback from the democrats. Now Biden is continuing the democratic presidents’ tradition of using sleight of hand to sell out the millions of people who have already lost what little help they had. The republican bogeymen and women have returned just when Biden needed them to make the case for his plan to further eviscerate the social safety net and continue the race to the bottom which results in precarity for the people.
Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections in 2022 and now they get to do their worst. They point at their fake enemies, the republicans, and whine that they are being forced to do things they claim they want to avoid. The routine is pretty stale but it worked for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Joe Biden isn’t straying from the tried and true theatrical plot.
As always, republicans threaten to shut down the government if the debt limit isn’t raised. Biden, begins like his democratic predecessors did, saying that a shutdown would be terrible and would destroy the economy. He calls names like “extreme MAGA” and says that his alleged opponents are all very bad and awful people. After that act in the drama was over, Biden then announced his willingness to cut $1 trillion from the federal budget. What is being cut? Not money for Ukraine, which is getting an additional $375 million in military aid. The republicans insist on stealing from the people, the poorest people, and after pretending to be outraged Biden is going along. He said that he would accept republican demands that medicaid and SNAP benefit recipients be required to work at least 20 hours per week. According to the Congressional Budget Office some 600,000 people would lose health coverage and 275,000 people would lose SNAP benefits every month if these rules go into effect.
The game hasn’t changed much since the Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich agreements of 1995, or Barack Obama’s attempt at a “grand bargain” with republicans in 2011. Dissent within republican ranks saved cuts to entitlement programs and Congressional Black Caucus leader Emmanuel Cleaver dubbed the proposals as a “sugar coated satan sandwich” and later added, “This debt deal is antithetical to everything the great religions of the world teach, which is take care of the poor, aged, vulnerable.” Now the highest ranking member of the CBC, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, says that democrats are willing to freeze spending, which would actually cut $1 trillion from the budget over a ten-year period. His justification is all too familiar, “We're willing to discuss freezing spending at current levels. That's an inherently reasonable position many in our party might even be uncomfortable with, but President Biden recognizes we're in a divided government situation.” ...
The CBC has certainly devolved over time, but Biden’s willingness to cut deals goes back decades. When Clinton was caving to Newt Gingrich he did so with Senator Biden’s full support. “When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.”
The FBI isn't supposed to use its most controversial spy tool to snoop on emails, texts, and other private communications of Americans or anyone located in the United States. However, that didn't stop the FBI from sometimes knowingly using its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Section 702 powers to conduct warrantless searches on US persons more than 280,000 times in 2020 and 2021, according to new disclosures. US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) described the searches as "shocking abuses."
Among the most concerning so-called backdoor searches on Americans were disclosures that the FBI ran more than 23,000 queries on people involved in storming the US Capitol, 19,000 on political campaign donors, and 133 on protesters after the police killing of George Floyd. The deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Security and Surveillance Project, Jake Laperruque, said that "these latest revelations should set off alarm bells across Congress," urging lawmakers in a statement not to re-authorize FISA Section 702 at the end of this year—when it's due to expire—without a "full overhaul."
"The systemic misuse of this warrantless surveillance tool has made FISA 702 as toxic as COINTELPRO and the FBI abuses of the Hoover years," Laperruque said, while his group's press release noted that the court opinion "confirmed the worst fears of civil rights and civil liberties advocates.
"We now know that the FBI, which has already been under scrutiny for a litany of past compliance violations involving Section 702, engaged in improper searches for Americans’ communications targeted at political activities and actors," the press release said.
The chief justice of the US supreme court, John Roberts, said he and the other justices were working to hold themselves to the “highest standards” of ethical conduct. “I want to assure people that I am committed to making certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct,” Roberts told an awards dinner in Washington on Tuesday.
He was speaking the same day lawyers for Harlan Crow said the Republican mega-donor would not cooperate with the Senate judiciary committee. The panel asked for list of gifts Crow has given to the conservative justice Clarence Thomas and which Thomas mostly did not declare: the source of scandal and calls for Thomas to resign or be removed.
On Tuesday, Roberts said: “We are continuing to look at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment, and I am confident that there are ways to do that consistent with our status as an independent branch of government and the constitution’s separation of powers.” ...
Supreme court justices are subject to federal ethics rules – which observers have said Thomas clearly broke – but in practice govern themselves. In his remarks on Tuesday, Roberts did not say what the justices were doing or planned to do.
An overwhelming majority of US voters say they are concerned about law enforcement and intelligence agencies interfering in future elections, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll.
When asked whether they were concerned “about interference by the FBI and intelligence agencies in a future presidential election,” 37 percent of respondents said they were “very concerned,” while 33 percent said they were “somewhat concerned.”
This comes just months after the Ronald Reagan Institute (RRI) revealed that less than half of US citizens trust their nation’s military.
Seven out of ten respondents also said they were “not surprised” that the FBI violated its rules to launch an investigation into the 2016 Trump presidential campaign over the so-called ‘Russiagate’ scandal.
Americans also believe that the materials on the Hunter Biden laptop are real, and are not and never were "Russian disinformation."
So again, Americans view the claim that the US corporate media and CIA spread for weeks before the 2020 election - to help Biden win - as a fraud. pic.twitter.com/aPYmU4jqyz
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 21, 2023
*Large majorities* of Americans say they are not surprised to learn the FBI abused it power in the 2016 Trum/Russia probe to help Biden.
*Large majorities* also say they are deeply worried about the US Security State's manipulation of US politics, and sweeping reform is needed. pic.twitter.com/io4ifiq4aV
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 21, 2023
Worth a full read, here's a snippet:
It is fine that we know more now of the who-did-what-when-and-why of the Russiagate story. But let us remind ourselves of something Durham chose for whatever reason not to note. Russiagate was a criminal enterprise with many perpetrators and accomplices guilty of what would stand in a court of law as felonies. They corrupted the political process, tampered with an election and unlawfully undermined the Executive Branch. Abuses of office and public institutions were rampant during the Russiagate years—fatally, I would say, in the case of the FBI.
We are left with various bitter realities. Our already troubled republic has sustained permanent damage at the hands of people pretending to protect it. We can no longer trust the nation’s dominant political party or those institutions charged with upholding the Constitution and the legal processes that derive from it.
Let’s go larger. Many of those elected to govern this country display no respect for it. I do not see there is any longer any denying that a Deep State—a term that gained currency during the Russiagate years, not coincidentally—exercises a wholly unlawful degree of power over the American polity. “Apple pie authoritarianism” can no longer be taken as a distant, unlikely danger or the cry of Cassandras. It is our reality.
I have been looking, since the Durham Report was made public, for historical comparisons to bring home the magnitude of what the report puts on paper, if incompletely. Nixon and Watergate? Not even close. Watergate was at bottom one man’s scandal; it had nothing to do with systemic decadence and institutional rot from within. The theft of the Gore–Bush election in 2000 is a worthier comparison. While it got a lot less press than Watergate, it put Americans on notice that their judiciary, supreme among our mediating institutions, was corroded at the very highest level.
But for the breadth and depth of the decay, it seems to me, Russiagate has no match in American history going back who knows how long. It leaves us with the bitter realities just mentioned. ...
I have to ask: Was Durham, whose integrity and disinterest have been much-praised in the course of his career, compromised during his investigation? Has he been “got to,” shown where the Deep State plants the fence posts and advised not to operate beyond them? Was he urged to conclude—this reminds me of Al Gore’s moment in 2000—that the truth, the whole, and nothing but of Russiagate would threaten the stability of our republic (as I think it would) and so avoided telling it? Did he produce what the spooks call a “limited hangout” because what is probably the greatest political hoax in our history is simply too big to fail?
The consequences of the Durham Report’s omissions are already evident. The New York Times can describe it as “a whimper” bearing no significance. The Times and the major dailies that routinely ape it continue to report allegations of malfeasance at the FBI as mere “conspiracy theory.” You see what is going on here, I trust. Allow the Deep State and its appendages to bury our history in this manner and we will lose our ability to see anything clearly—you name it: the war in Ukraine, Joe Biden’s senility, the conjured nonsense of “domestic extremism,’ and in the end even ourselves, who we are, and what kind of nation we live in.
A devastating 2005 flood that killed 1,000 people in the Indian city of Mumbai was blamed on a tragically simple problem: plastic bags had blocked storm drains, stopping monsoon flood water from draining out of the city. Now a new report, attempting to quantify this problem, estimates that 218 million of the world’s poorest people are at risk from more severe and frequent flooding caused by plastic waste.
The number is equivalent to the population of the UK, France and Germany combined. About 41 million of those are children, older people and people with disabilities, the report found. Three-quarters of those most at risk live in south-east Asia and the Pacific region.
Researchers from Resource Futures, an environmental consultancy, and Tearfund, an international Christian charity, found that communities in Cameroon, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Bangladesh and Indonesia had experienced more severe flooding due to plastic waste blocking drainage systems in the last few years. In these communities, plastic waste was a “risk multiplier” for flooding, they said.
To identify those most at risk, they used a study of flood risk and poverty published in 2022 by Jun Rentschler and others that identified 1.8 billion people at high risk of flooding in 188 nations. They narrowed their analysis to only low and middle-income countries with inadequate urban drainage, solid waste management and sanitation. To focus on the populations most at risk from plastic exacerbating the flood risk, they also excluded countries with mismanaged waste of less than 1kg for each person a year, and focused on urban slums.
Rich Gower, a senior economist and policy associate at Tearfund, said: “Around the world, from Brazil to the DRC, from Malawi to Bangladesh, we see plastic pollution making floods worse. Without decisive action, this problem is only going to get worse.”
Nationwide raids against members of the German climate protest group Letzte Generation (Last Generation) have been carried out at the behest of authorities in Munich investigating charges that the group is a criminal organisation. Launched at 7am local time on Wednesday, 170 police officers took part in the raids, which targeted 15 properties in seven German states, including Bavaria and Berlin.
According to the Munich general public prosecutor’s office, the searches took place at the request of the Bavarian state criminal police office (LKA), which is in the preliminary stages of an investigation, based on “numerous criminal complaints received from the population” against seven people, members of Letzte Generation aged between 22 and 38, who are suspected of “forming or supporting a criminal organisation”, according to prosecutors.
On a police directive, the homepage of the group was shut down and possessions belonging to members were seized. There were no arrests.
The seven individuals are accused of setting up a donation campaign with funds of €1.4m (£1.22m) to finance the group’s future legal battles, in order to allow the campaigners to continue their protests, including gluing themselves to roadways and bridges, more recently to vehicles, and holding up traffic, as well as throwing substances at paintings in art galleries and other activities. There have been mixed reactions to their protests by the public. The LKA said two of the defendants were also suspected of having tried to sabotage the Trieste-Ingolstadt oil pipeline in April 2022.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Little Mike & The Tornadoes - Payday
Little Mike & The Tornadoes - Nothin' but the Blues
Little Mike & The Tornadoes - Not What Mama Planned
Little Mike & The Tornadoes ~ Me and The Blues
Little Mike & The Tornadoes ~ Close to My Baby
Little Mike & The Tornadoes ~ Wait a Minute Baby
Little Mike & The Tornadoes w/ Zora Young - Rock Me
Hubert Sumlin (With James Cotton & Little Mike And The Tornadoes) - Chunky
Pinetop Perkins with Little Mike and The Tornadoes - Chicken Shack
Little Mike & The Tornadoes - Heart Attack