The Evening Blues - 9-19-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Harmonica Slim. Enjoy!
Harmonica Slim - You Better Believe It
"Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe."
-- John Milton
News and Opinion
“We came, we saw, he died,” Hillary Clinton famously quipped when Muammar Gaddafi, after seven months of U.S. and NATO bombing, was overthrown in 2011 and killed by a mob who sodomized him with a bayonet. But Gaddafi would not be the only one to die. Libya, once the most prosperous and one of the most stable countries in Africa, a country with free healthcare and education, the right for all citizens to a home, subsidized electricity, water and gasoline, along with the lowest infant mortality rate and highest life expectancy on the continent, along with one of the highest literacy rates, swiftly fragmented into warring factions. There are currently two rival regimes battling for control in Libya, along with an array of rogue militias.
The chaos that followed Western intervention saw weapons from the country’s arsenals flood the black market, with many snatched up by groups such as the Islamic State. Civil society ceased to function. Journalists captured images of migrants from Nigeria, Senegal and Eritrea being beaten and sold as slaves to work in fields or on construction sites. Libya’s infrastructure, including its electrical grids, aquifers, oil fields and dams, fell into disrepair. And when the torrential rains from Storm Daniel — the climate crisis being another gift to Africa from the industrialized world — overwhelmed two decrepit dams, walls of water 20 feet high raced down to flood the port of Derna and Benghazi, leaving up to 20,000 dead according to Abdulmenam Al-Gaiti, Mayor of Derna, and some 10,000 missing.
“The fragmentation of the country’s disaster management and disaster response mechanisms, as well as deteriorating infrastructure, exacerbated the enormity of the challenges. The political situation is a driver of risk,” said Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization. Taalas told reporters last Thursday that “most of the human casualties” would have been avoided if there had been a “normally operating meteorological service” which “would have issued the [necessary] warnings and also the emergency management of this would have been able to carry out evacuations of the people.”
Western regime-change, carried out in the name of human rights under the doctrine of R2P (Responsibility to Protect), destroyed Libya – as it did Iraq – as a unified and stable nation. The flood victims are part of the tens of thousands of Libyan dead resulting from our “humanitarian intervention,” which rendered disaster relief non-existent. We bear responsibility for Libya’s prolonged suffering. But once we wreak havoc on a country in the name of saving its persecuted — regardless of whether they are being persecuted or not — we forget they exist.
Karl Popper in “The Open Society and Its Enemies” warned against utopian engineering, massive social transformations, almost always implanted by force, and led by those who believe they are endowed with a revealed truth. These utopian engineers carry out the wholesale destruction of systems, institutions and social and cultural structures in a vain effort to achieve their vision. In the process, they dismantle the self-correcting mechanisms of incremental and piecemeal reform that are impediments to that grand vision. History is replete with murderous utopian social engineering — the Jacobins, the communists, the fascists and now, in our own age, the globalists, or neoliberal imperialists. Libya, like Iraq and Afghanistan, fell victim to the self-delusions peddled by humanitarian interventionists — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power and Susan Rice. The Obama administration armed and backed an insurgent force that they believed would do the bidding of the U.S. Obama in a recent post urged people to support aid agencies to alleviate the suffering of the people of Libya, a plea that ignited an understandable backlash on social media. ...
The creed of humanitarian intervention is selective. Compassion is extended to “worthy” victims while “unworthy” victims are ignored. Military intervention is good for Iraqis, Afghans or Libyans, but not for Palestinians or Yeminis. Human rights are supposedly sacrosanct when discussing Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, but irrelevant in our offshore penal colonies, the world’s largest open air prison in Gaza or our drone-infested war zones. The persecution of dissidents and journalists is a crime in China or Russia, but not when the targets are Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Utopian social engineering is always catastrophic. It creates power vacuums that augment the suffering of those the utopianists claim to protect. The moral bankruptcy of the liberal class, which I chronicle in “Death of the Liberal Class,” is complete. Liberals have prostituted their supposed values to the Empire. Incapable of taking responsibility for the carnage they inflict, they clamor for more destruction and death to save the world.
The well-known American military historian, strategic thinker and combat veteran, retired Col. Douglas MacGregor (who served as adviser to the Pentagon during the Trump administration), is prescient when he says that a new “Biden phase of the war” is about to begin. That is to say, having run out of ground forces, the locus will now shift to long-range strike weapons such as the Storm Shadow, Taurus and ATACMS long-range missiles.
The U.S. is considering sending ATACMS long-range missiles that Ukraine has been asking for a long time with the capability to strike deep inside Russian territory. The most provocative part is that NATO reconnaissance platforms, both manned and unmanned, will be used in such operations, making the U.S. a virtual co-belligerent. Russia has been exercising restraint in attacking the source of such enemy capabilities but how long such restraint will continue is anybody’s guess.
In response to a pointed query about how Washington would see the attacks on Russian territory with American weaponry and technology, Blinken argued that the increasing number of attacks on Russian territory by Ukrainian drones are “about how they’re [Ukrainians] going to defend their territory and how they’re working to take back what’s been seized from them. Our [U.S. ] role, the role of dozens of other countries around the world that are supporting them, is to help them do that.” Russia is not going to accept such a brazen escalation, especially as these advanced weapon systems used to attack Russia are actually manned by NATO personnel — contractors, trained ex-military hands or even serving officers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media on Friday that “we have detected foreign mercenaries and instructors both on the battlefield and in the units where training is carried out. I think yesterday or the day before yesterday someone was captured again.” The U.S. calculus is that at some point, Russia will be compelled to negotiate and a frozen conflict will ensue where NATO allies would retain the option to continue with Ukraine’s military build-up and the process leading to its membership of the Atlantic alliance, and allow the Biden administration to focus on the Indo-Pacific.
However, Russia will not settle for a “frozen conflict” that falls far short of the objectives of demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine that are the key objectives of its special military operation.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters Monday that he will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Washington this week as Congress is debating new spending on the proxy war in Ukraine.
Zelensky arrived in New York on Monday where he will attend the UN General Assembly. After that, he’s headed to Washington where he will visit the White House and Capitol Hill.
Zelensky’s visit comes as Congress needs to pass a funding bill by September 30 to avert a government shutdown, and Democrats are looking to include the $24 billion in additional spending on the Ukraine war that President Biden recently requested.
But McCarthy has put forward a continuing resolution for the short-term funding bill that does not include the $24 billion for Ukraine, which will be dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Ukr/West Scale Back Offensive, Budanov Flawed Russia Intel; Wang Yi Meets Lavrov after Sullivan Talk
A drone carrying an explosive device was found on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast on Sunday evening, an incident Bulgaria’s defense minister said was likely “related” to the war in Ukraine.
The drone was found on rocks next to a boat mooring in the resort town of Tyulenovo. It’s unclear whether the drone fell from the air and landed there or if it washed up on the coast after hitting the water.
On Monday, Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry said a bomb disposal team detonated the device in a controlled explosion.
Western leaders have gone on a charm offensive on the opening day of the UN general assembly as they were forced to defend their record in meeting the organisation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), and insist that the war in Ukraine had not distracted them from this commitment to end global inequality.
At a special summit in New York amounting to a halfway stocktake on progress towards meeting the goals by the target date of 2030, all sides acknowledged there was little chance that the ambitious set of commitments set in 2015, including ending extreme poverty and safeguarding the environment, will be met on schedule.
A plea by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, for all sides to avoid recriminations about the cause of the failure and instead to use the two-day summit as a chance to make a global rescue plan was only partially met on the opening day. The list of 17 SDGs, which includes 169 specific targets, was first adopted at the UN sustainable development summit in September 2015, and most assessments say only 15% of the targets are on track.
The leaders adopted a 43-paragraph political declaration, brokered by Ireland and Qatar, that warned years of sustainable development gains were being reversed. It said: “Millions of people have fallen into poverty, hunger and malnutrition are becoming more prevalent, humanitarian needs are rising, and the impacts of climate change are more pronounced. This has led to increased inequality exacerbated by weakened international solidarity and a shortfall of trust to jointly overcome these crises.”
“Instead of leaving no one behind, we risk leaving the SDGs behind … the SDGs need a global rescue plan,” Guterres told the summit.
Justin Trudeau has said there is “credible evidence” India is responsible for the alleged assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Canadian Sikh leader.
The allegations from Canada’s prime minister is likely to further strain relations between the two nations. On Monday, Trudeau told the House of Commons of Canada that, in recent weeks, national security authorities had been probing allegations that New Delhi was behind a state-sponsored assassination. He said he raised the issue “in no uncertain terms” with the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, when the two met briefly in New Delhi last week for the G20 summit. ...
In June, Nijjar was shot and killed in front of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia. He was a strong advocate of the Khalistan movement, which seeks an independent homeland for Sikhs in India’s Punjab region.
New Delhi had previously alleged Nijjar was part of a plan to murder a Hindu priest in Punjab, offering a bounty of nearly $12,000 (£9,688). The fatal shooting of Nijjar led many to accuse India of playing a role in the killing.
With Alito's Billionaire Patron Holding $90 Million in Finance Firms, Watchdog Demands Recusal From CFPB Case
Anti-corruption watchdog Accountable.US on Monday said there is a clear need for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from an upcoming court case regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as a new analysis revealed the extent of one of his key associate's financial interests in the case.
The group released new data showing that hedge fund manager Paul Singer holds at least $90 million in financial firms overseen by the CFPB, which was established in 2011 through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and has since provided $16 billion in financial relief to defrauded consumers and ordered companies to pay $3.7 billion in penalties.
The findings were released three months after ProPublica revealed Singer paid for a luxury fishing trip for the right-wing justice in 2008, costing him an estimated $100,000 each way. Alito has never recused himself from subsequent cases in which Elliott Management, Singer's firm, was directly involved, including one in which the court awarded $2.4 billion to the fund.
Now, said Accountable.US, "should Alito choose to preside over this case despite his billionaire benefactor's direct financial stake in the outcome, it would only fuel an already raging Supreme Court corruption crisis," referring to numerous reports of Justices Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and others accepting gifts or money from groups or people with business before the court.
The case, which the court is set to hear on October 3, is CFPB v. the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) and pertains to the CFPB's funding structure. Opponents—including Republican lawmakers whose own constituents have directly benefited from the agency's work—claim it is unconstitutional for the agency to be funded through the Federal Reserve and say Congress should approve appropriations for the CFPB regularly.
"In one fell swoop," said Accountable.US on Monday, "an anti-CFPB-led Congress could cut the purse strings and erase over a decade of consumer protections and rules that have made our markets fairer and more stable."
The watchdog said the lawsuit filed by a group that represents payday lenders "has nothing to do with upholding the Constitution and everything to do with obstructing the agency that holds the financial industry accountable when they harm consumers."
The group highlighted Singer's connections to the case, including:
- Elliott Investment Management's holdings of $60 million in Fidelity National Information Services, which has over 5,000 complaints in the CFPB's database and has said the agency could have "an adverse impact" on its business;
- The fund's holdings of more than $30 million in Q2 Holdings, Inc., which issued a statement on the case backing the CFSA;
- The fund's 2017 letter to investors calling on the Trump administration to undo the CFPB's independent funding structure and saying "the financial system needs to be freed from the dysfunctional dictates" of Dodd-Frank financial reforms; and
- Singer's own statement in 2011 in which he said Dodd-Frank was "entirely nutty."
"The sprawling web of financial dealings Mr. Singer has overseen by the CFPB explains why his firm has aggressively criticized the agency's independence," said Liz Zelnick, director of Accountable.US' Economic Security and Corporate Power program. "The cause for Alito's recusal in this matter is cut and dry. Should Justice Alito preside over this case despite his clear conflicts of interest, it would add to the worsening Supreme Court corruption crisis and underscore the urgent need for ethics reform."
The watchdog's report shows that Alito "enjoyed untold amounts of luxury and largesse from a billionaire hedge fund manager whose business interests would benefit if the Supreme Court allows for the worst rollback of consumer protections in U.S. history," Zelnick added.
Accountable.US warned that Alito's failure to recuse himself from the case could make it more likely that the court will side with "predatory lenders" like those tied to Singer's business.
"That will likely mean the agency's future funding will be beholden to the political whims of Congress," said the group. "There is little doubt a U.S. House of Representatives made up of lawmakers openly hostile to the CFPB—like the current MAGA Majority—would zero-fund the agency the first chance they get on behalf of their financial industry donors."
I removed the hyperventilating from this article and there are some interesting facts there:
In 2024, there is very much a way for Donald Trump to lose the popular vote, lose the electoral college, lose all his legal cases and still end up president of the United States in an entirely legal manner. It’s called a contingent election. A contingent election is the process put in place to deal with the eventuality in which no presidential candidate reaches the threshold of 270 votes in the electoral college. In the early days of the American republic, when the duopoly of the two-party system was neither desired nor expected, this process was essential.
There have been two contingent elections in US history. The first was in 1825. The year before, Andrew Jackson, the man from the $20 bill, had won the plurality of votes and the plurality of electoral college votes as well, but after extensive, elaborate negotiations, John Quincy Adams took the presidency mostly by offering Henry Clay, who had come third in the election, secretary of state. Jackson, though shocked, conceded gracefully. He knew his time would come. His supporters used the taint of Adams’s “corrupt bargain” with Clay to ensure Jackson’s victory in 1828. ...
In 1836, Virginia faithless [electoral college] electors forced a contingent election for vice-president. If the 270 marker has not been reached by 6 January, the contingent election takes place automatically. And the contingent election isn’t decided by the popular votes or the number of electoral college votes. Each state delegation in the House of Representatives is given a single vote for president. Each state delegation in the Senate is given a single vote for vice-president.
The basic unfairness of this process is obvious: California with its 52 representatives, and Texas with its 38 representatives, would have the same say in determining the presidency as Wyoming and Vermont, which have one apiece. State delegations in the House would favor Republicans as a matter of course. In the struggle for congressional delegates, Republicans would have 19 safe House delegations and the Democrats would have 14, as it stands, with more states leaning Republican than Democrat.
All that would be required, from a technical, legal standpoint, is for enough electoral college votes to be uncounted or uncertified for the contingent election to take place, virtually guaranteeing a Republican victory and hence a Trump presidency. It would be entirely legal and constitutional.
Hunter Biden sued the US Internal Revenue Service on Monday, alleging the agency violated his privacy rights as it investigated his tax affairs. ...
“IRS agents have targeted and sought to embarrass Mr Biden via public statements to the media in which they and their representatives disclosed confidential information about a private citizen’s tax matters,” the suit said.
It also described an “assault on Mr Biden’s rights involv[ing] the public disclosure of his confidential tax information during more than 20 nationally televised and non-congressionally sanctioned interviews and numerous public statements”. ...
In testimony before Congress, an IRS supervisory special agent, Greg Shapley, and a second agent, Joe Ziegler, claimed a pattern of “slow-walking investigative steps” into Hunter Biden. They alleged the prosecutor overseeing the investigation, the Delaware US attorney, David Weiss, did not have full authority to bring charges in other jurisdictions. Weiss and the US justice department have denied that.
On Monday, Shapley’s lawyer called Hunter Biden’s lawsuit a “frivolous smear” that sought to “intimidate any current and future whistleblowers”, adding that Shapley did not release confidential tax information except through legal whistleblower disclosures. “Once Congress released that testimony, like every American citizen, he has a right to discuss that public information,” a statement said.
One day after the largest climate march since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of climate activists blockaded the Federal Reserve Bank in New York to call for an end to funding for coal, oil and gas, with police making scores of arrests.
“Fossil fuel companies … wouldn’t be able to operate without money, and that money is coming primarily from Wall Street,” Alicé Nascimento, environmental campaigns director at New York Communities for Change, said hours before she was arrested.
The action came as world leaders began arriving in New York for the United National general assembly (UNGA) gathering and followed Sunday’s 75,000-person March to End Fossil Fuels, which focused on pushing Biden to urgently phase out fossil fuels. Monday’s civil disobedience had a different but compatible goal, said Renata Pumarol, an organizer with the campaign group Climate Defenders.
“Today we want to make sure people know banks, big banks, are responsible for climate change, too,” she said. “And while marches are important, we think civil disobedience is, too, because it shows we’re willing to do whatever it takes to end fossil fuels, including putting ourselves on the line.”
Monday’s action was organized by a coalition of local organizations including New York Communities for Change and Extinction Rebellion NYC, alongside national groups such as Climate Organizing Hub and 350.org. Demonstrators first gathered in New York’s Zuccotti Park, in the financial district in lower Manhattan, which is partially owned by fossil fuel investor Goldman Sachs.
European governments have “systematically” shrunk their railways and starved them of funding while pouring money into expanding their road network, a report has found.
The length of motorways in Europe grew 60% between 1995 and 2020 while railways shrank 6.5%, according to research from the German thinktanks Wuppertal Institute and T3 Transportation. For every €1 governments spent building railways, they spent €1.6 building roads.
“This is a political choice,” said Lorelei Limousin, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace, which commissioned the report. “We see the consequences today with the climate, but also with people who have been left without an alternative solution to cars.”
The report found the EU, Norway, Switzerland and the UK spent €1.5tn (£1.29tn) between 1995 and 2018 to extend their roads – but just €0.93tn (£0.8tn) to extend their rail networks.
In the four years that followed (2018-21), the average gap in investment in rail and road decreased from 66% to 34%. During that time, seven countries invested more in rail than roads – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the UK – while the rest spent more on roads than rail.
London faces the “incredibly worrying” prospect of enduring days that hit 45C (113F) due to the worsening climate crisis, its mayor, Sadiq Khan, told the Guardian at a climate summit in New York where governments have gathered to discuss how to best cope with searing temperatures.
Khan said an interim independent climate resilience report for London had found the capital could experience multiple 45C days “in the foreseeable future”, potentially buckling various basic functions of the city. “It means the Underground is not fit for purpose, some of the homes are too hot in the daytime, care homes and schools too,” Khan said.
“It means we have to adapt for those temperatures now. It’s now time for those who are delaying action to wake up and smell the coffee because this is happening now. It’s now and it’s happening to us.” ...
London’s climate review was launched in June, nearly a year after the UK capital experienced an extraordinary, record-breaking heatwave. Temperatures breached 40C (104F) in London for the first time on record in July last year, causing schools to close, hospital operations to be cancelled and for the London fire brigade to have its busiest day since the second world war as it fought numerous blazes, including wildfires at the city’s outskirts.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Harmonica Slim - Thought I Didn't Love You
Harmonica Slim - Drop Anchor
Harmonica Slim - I'll Take Love, Budda
Harmonica Slim - Darling I love you
Harmonica Slim - My Girl Won't Quit Me
Harmonica Slim - Do What You Wanna Do
Harmonica Slim - Hard Times
Harmonica Slim - Harmonica Boogaloo
Harmonica Slim - Mary Helen
Harmonica Slim - That's All Right