The Evening Blues - 2-9-24
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas singer Lou Ann Barton. Enjoy!
Angela Strehli, Lou Ann Barton, Marcia Ball, Sarah Brown - Good Rockin Daddy!
"If America ever passes out as a great nation, we ought to put on our tombstone: America died from a delusion she had Moral Leadership."
-- Will Rogers
News and Opinion
President Joe Biden is refusing to fold a losing hand as he bets with Ukrainian lives and U.S. taxpayer money. Biden and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer propose to squander the lives of tens of thousands more Ukrainians and $61 billions of federal funds to keep Biden’s disastrous foreign policy failure hidden from view until after the November election.
The $61 billion will make no difference on the battlefield except to prolong the war, the tens of thousands of deaths, and the physical destruction of Ukraine. It will not “save” Ukraine. Ukraine’s security can only be achieved at the negotiating table, not by some fantasized military triumph over Russia.
$61 billion is not nothing. This worse-than-useless outlay would exceed the combined budgets of the U.S. Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, and the Women, Infant, and Children nutrition program.
Almost exactly 10 years ago this month, Biden did much to put Ukraine on the path to disaster. This is well known to those who have looked carefully at the facts but is kept hidden from view by the White House, the Senate Democrats, and the mainstream media that back Biden. I have previously provided a detailed chronology, with hyperlinks, here.
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush, Sr. and his German counterpart Chancellor Helmut Kohl promised Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand eastward if the Soviet Union accepted German reunification. When the Soviet Union disbanded in December 1991, with Russia as the successor state, American leaders decided to renege.
President Bill Clinton began NATO expansion over the vociferous opposition of top diplomats like George Kennan and the opposition of his own Secretary of Defense, William Perry. In 1997 Zbigniew Brzezinski upped the ante, with a plan for NATO to expand all the way to Ukraine. He famously wrote that without Ukraine, Russia would cease to be a great power.
Russian leaders have repeatedly made clear that NATO expansion to Ukraine is understandably the reddest of Russian redlines. In 2007, President Vladmir Putin stated that NATO enlargement to that date was a cheat on the 1990 promise, and that it must go no further. Despite these clear warnings, including by his own diplomats, George W. Bush Jr. committed in 2008 to expand NATO to Ukraine and Georgia in order to surround Russia in the Black Sea.
William Burns, now CIA director, and then the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, wrote a famous memo entitled “Nyet means Nyet,” explaining that Russia’s opposition to NATO enlargement was across Russia’s political spectrum. Most Ukrainians themselves were also firmly against the plan, favoring neutrality over NATO membership. The Ukrainian Rada declared Ukraine’s state sovereignty in 1990 on the basis of becoming “a permanently neutral state.” In 2009, the people of Ukraine elected Viktor Yanukovych, who ran on a platform of neutrality.
In early 2014, the U.S. decided to help bring down Yanukovych in a coup. This was standard U.S. deep-state operating procedure, one used on dozens of occasions around the world. The CIA, National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and NGOs like the Open Society Foundation went to work in Ukraine. The point person was Victoria Nuland, who was first Richard Cheney’s principal deputy foreign policy advisor, then George Bush Jr.’s ambassador to NATO, then Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson, and by 2014 Assistant Secretary of State.
This time, the Russians caught the conspiracy on tape, in an intercepted call between Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt (now Assistant Secretary of State). Nuland explains to Pyatt that Vice President Joe Biden will help choose and cement the post-coup government. The 2014 Ukraine team, including Biden, Nuland, Jake Sullivan (then and now Biden’s national security advisor), Geoffrey Pyatt, and Antony Blinken (then the deputy national security advisor), remains the Ukraine team today.
It is a team of bunglers. They thought that Yanukovych’s overthrow would quickly usher in NATO expansion. Instead, ethnic Russians in Ukraine virulently rejected the Russophobic post-coup government that was installed by Nuland, and called for autonomy of the ethnically Russian regions. In a referendum, Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join Russia.
Obama, Biden, and their team armed the post-coup government to attack the ethnically Russian regions, thinking this would be the end of it. Yet the regions resisted. Ukraine and the breakaway regions signed the Minsk Agreements to bring an end to the fighting and give constitutional autonomy to the ethnically Russian Donbas. The Minsk II agreement was backed by the UN Security Council, but the U.S. privately agreed with the Ukrainian government that it was okay to ignore it.
In 2021, after 7 years of fighting and more than 14,000 deaths in the Donbas, Putin called on newly elected President Biden to stop NATO enlargement and engage in negotiations with Russia over mutual security arrangements. Biden rejected Putin’s call to end the gambit of NATO enlargement to Ukraine.
In February 2022, Putin launched the Special Military Operation (SMO) invasion to push Ukraine to the negotiating table. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately called for negotiations based on Ukraine’s neutrality. Within a month, a framework agreement to end the fighting was reached between Ukraine and Russia, based on Ukraine’s neutrality and an end to NATO’s enlargement to Ukraine. Biden stepped in to stop the deal, with the U.S. informing Zelensky that the U.S. would not support neutrality.
Biden and team had still more failed tricks up their sleeve. They firmly believed that U.S. financial sanctions—freezing Russia’s assets and cutting it out of the SWIFT banking system—would cripple the Russian economy and cause Putin to relent. In fact, they expected that the ensuing economic crisis would topple him. Of course, nothing of the sort happened.
Then they expected that NATO weaponry would trounce Russia on the battlefield. That too did not happen. Then they expected that Ukraine’s “counter-offensive” in the summer of 2023, backed by Pentagon and CIA planners, would defeat Russia. Instead, Ukraine lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers dead and wounded—its military hardware destroyed.
The entire war, including the loss of Ukrainian territory, the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian casualties, and the utter waste of more than $100 billion of U.S. taxpayer money to date, could easily have been avoided.
Now, Biden and Schumer want to throw more Ukrainian lives and more tens of billions of dollars at this glaring failure. They want to do this in a rushed vote, without any Congressional let alone public oversight, without hearings, and without any strategy. The fact is they want to save Biden from the embarrassment of a decade of puerile and failed plotting, at least until the November election.
There remains one answer for Ukraine’s security: diplomacy and neutrality. That solution doesn’t cost lives or money. It was Ukraine’s choice before the 2014 coup and again in 2022 until stopped by Biden. It is the path that Biden and the Senate Democrats still refuse to take.
There was never any possibility that the Israeli government would agree to a pause in the fighting proposed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, much less a ceasefire. Israel is on the verge of delivering the coup de grâce in its war on Palestinians in Gaza – mass starvation. When Israeli leaders use the term “absolute victory,” they mean total decimation, total elimination. The Nazis in 1942 systematically starved the 500,000 men, women and children in the Warsaw Ghetto. This is a number Israel intends to exceed.
Israel, and its chief patron the United States, by attempting to shut down the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides food and aid to Gaza, is not only committing a war crime, but is in flagrant defiance of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The court found the charges of genocide brought by South Africa, which included statements and facts gathered by UNWRA, plausible. It ordered Israel to abide by six provisional measures to prevent genocide and alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe. The fourth provisional measure calls on Israel to secure immediate and effective steps to provide humanitarian assistance and essential services in Gaza. ...
More than half a million Palestinians – one in four – are starving in Gaza, according to the U.N. Starvation will soon be ubiquitous. Palestinians in Gaza, at least 1.9 million of whom have been internally displaced, lack not only sufficient food, but clean water, shelter and medicine. There are few fruits or vegetables. There is little flour to make bread. Pasta, along with meat, cheese and eggs, have disappeared. Black market prices for dry goods such as lentils and beans have increased 25 times from pre-war prices. A bag of flour on the black market has risen from $8.00 to $200 dollars. The healthcare system in Gaza, with only three of Gaza’s 36 hospitals left partially functioning, has largely collapsed. Some 1.3 million displaced Palestinians live on the streets of the southern city of Rafah, which Israel designated a “safe zone,” but has begun to bomb. Families shiver in the winter rains under flimsy tarps amid pools of raw sewage. An estimated 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes.
“There is no instance since the Second World War in which an entire population has been reduced to extreme hunger and destitution with such speed,” writes Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University and the author of “Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine,” in the Guardian. “And there’s no case in which the international obligation to stop it has been so clear.”
The United States, formerly UNRWA’s largest contributor, provided $422 million to the agency in 2023. The severance of funds ensures that UNRWA food deliveries, already in very short supply because of blockages by Israel, will largely come to a halt by the end of February or the beginning of March.
Israel has given the Palestinians in Gaza two choices. Leave or die. ...
There will be scholars and historians who will write of this genocide, falsely believing that we can learn from the past, that we are different, that history can prevent us from being, once again, barbarians. They will hold academic conferences. They will say “Never again!” They will praise themselves for being more humane and civilized. But when it comes time to speak out with each new genocide, fearful of losing their status or academic positions, they will scurry like rats into their holes. Human history is one long atrocity for the world’s poor and vulnerable. Gaza is another chapter.
The US military presence in Iraq has become a “factor for instability” and must be ended, the Iraqi military has said, as it responded angrily to a US drone strike on a car in Baghdad that killed three members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah militia.
Yehia Rasool, the spokesperson for the commander of the military forces, accused the US of conducting “a blatant assassination through an airstrike in the heart of a residential neighbourhood in the capital, Baghdad, showing no regard for civilian lives or international laws. “By this act, the American forces jeopardise civil peace, violate Iraqi sovereignty, and disregard the safety and lives of our citizens.”
Claiming the US mission deviates increasingly from its stated objectives in Iraq, he said: “This trajectory compels the Iraqi government more than ever to terminate the mission of this coalition, which has become a factor for instability and threatens to entangle Iraq in the cycle of conflict.”
The US is already in talks with Iraqi officials about their continued presence, but the attack in Baghdad, undertaken without any prior consultation, is going to make those talks even more fraught.
Qasim al-Araji, Iraq’s national security adviser, said the attack was “a cowardly and reprehensible act, targeting Iraqi sovereignty”. He said: “The Iraqi government has a clear and explicit decision to end the mission of the international coalition in Iraq.” Inside Iraq’s fissiparous parliament the calls were already intensifying for an unambiguous withdrawal date to be set.
On February 7, 2024, a U.S. drone strike assassinated an Iraqi militia leader, Abu Baqir al-Saadi, in the heart of Baghdad. This was a further U.S. escalation in a major new front in the U.S.-Israeli war on the Middle East, centered on the Israeli genocide in Gaza, but already also including ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Syria, and the U.S. and U.K.’s bombing of Yemen.
This latest U.S. attack followed the U.S. bombing of seven targets on February 2, three in Iraq and four in Syria, with 125 bombs and missiles, killing at least 39 people, which Iran called “a strategic mistake” that would bring “disastrous consequences” for the Middle East.
At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been touring the shrinking number of capitals in the region where leaders will still talk to him, playing the United States’ traditional role as a dishonest broker between Israel and its neighbors, in reality partnering with Israel to offer the Palestinians impossible, virtually suicidal terms for a ceasefire in Gaza.
What Israel and the United States have proposed, but not made public, appears to be a second temporary ceasefire, during which prisoners or hostages would be exchanged, possibly leading to the release of all the Israeli security prisoners held in Gaza, but in no way leading to the final end of the genocide. If the Palestinians, in fact, freed all their Israeli hostages as part of a prisoner swap, it would remove the only obstacle to a catastrophic escalation of the genocide.
When Hamas responded with a serious counter-proposal for a full ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Biden dismissed it out of hand as “over the top,” and Netanyahu called it “bizarre” and “delusional.”
The position of the United States and Israel today is that ending a massacre that has already killed more than 27,700 people is not a serious option, even after the International Court of Justice has ruled it a plausible case of genocide under the Genocide Convention. Raphael Lemkin, the Polish holocaust survivor who coined the term genocide and drafted the Genocide Convention from his adopted home in New York City, must be turning in his grave in Mount Hebron Cemetery.
The United States’ support for Israel’s genocidal policies now goes way beyond Palestine, with the U.S. expansion of the war to Iraq, Syria, and Yemen to punish other countries and forces in the region for intervening to defend or support the Palestinians. U.S. officials claimed the February 2 attacks were intended to stop Iraqi Resistance attacks on U.S. bases. But the leading Iraqi resistance force had already suspended attacks against U.S. targets on January 30th after they killed three U.S. troops, declaring a truce at the urging of the Iranian and Iraqi governments.
A senior Iraqi military officer told BBC Persian that at least one of the Iraqi military units the U.S. bombed on February 2nd had nothing to do with attacks on U.S. bases. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani negotiated an agreement a year ago to clearly differentiate between Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) units that were part of the “Axis of Resistance” fighting a low-grade war with U.S. occupation forces, and other PMF units that were not involved in attacks on U.S. bases.
Tragically, because the U.S. failed to coordinate its attacks with the Iraqi government, al-Sudani’s agreement failed to prevent the U.S. from attacking the wrong Iraqi forces. It is no wonder that some analysts have dubbed al-Sudani’s valiant efforts to prevent all-out war between U.S. forces and the Islamic Resistance in his country as “mission impossible.”
Following the elaborately staged but carelessly misdirected U.S. attacks, Resistance forces in Iraq began launching new strikes on U.S. bases, including a drone attack that killed six Kurdish troops at the largest U.S. base in Syria. So the predictable effect of the U.S. bombing was in fact to rebuff Iran and Iraq’s efforts to rein in resistance forces and to escalate a war that U.S. officials keep claiming they want to deter.
From experienced journalists and analysts to Middle Eastern governments, voices of caution are warning the United States in increasingly stark language of the dangers of its escalating bombing campaigns. “While the war rages in Gaza,” the BBC’s Orla Guerin wrote on February 4, “one false move could set the region alight.”
Three days later, Orla would be surrounded by protesters chanting “America is the greatest devil,” as she reported from the site of the U.S. drone assassination of Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Baqir al-Saadi in Baghdad—which could prove to be exactly the false move she feared.
But what Americans should be asking their government is this: Why are there still 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq? It is 21 years since the United States invaded Iraq and plunged the nation into seemingly endless violence, chaos, and corruption; 12 years since Iraq forced U.S. occupation forces to withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011; and 7 years since the defeat of ISIS, which served as justification for the United States to send forces back into Iraq in 2014, and then to obliterate most of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in 2017.
Successive Iraqi governments and parliaments have asked the United States to withdraw its forces from Iraq, and previously scheduled talks are about to begin. But the Iraqis and Americans have issued contradictory statements about the goal of the negotiations. Prime Minister al-Sudani and most Iraqis hope they will bring about the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, while U.S. officials insist that U.S. troops may remain for another two to five years, kicking this explosive can further down the road despite the obvious dangers it poses to the lives of U.S. troops and to peace in the region.
Behind these contradictory statements, the real value of Iraqi bases to the U.S. military does not seem to be about ISIS at all but about Iran. Although the United States has more than 40,000 troops stationed in 14 countries across the Middle East, and another 20,000 on warships in the seas surrounding them, the bases it uses in Iraq are its closest bases and airfields to Tehran and much of Iran. If the Pentagon loses these forward operating bases in Iraq, the closest bases from which it can attack Tehran will be Camp Arifjan and five other bases in Kuwait, where 13,500 U.S. troops would be vulnerable to Iranian counter-attacks—unless, of course, the U.S. withdraws them, too.
Toward the end of the Cold War, historian Gabriel Kolko observed in his book Confronting the Third World that the United States’ “endemic incapacity to avoid entangling, costly commitments in areas of the world that are of intrinsically secondary importance to [its] priorities has caused U.S. foreign policy and resources to whipsaw virtually arbitrarily from one problem and region to the other. The result has been the United States’ increasing loss of control over its political priorities, budget, military strategy and tactics, and, ultimately, its original economic goals.”
After the end of the Cold War, instead of restoring realistic goals and priorities, the neocons who gained control of U.S. foreign policy fooled themselves into believing that U.S. military and economic power could finally triumph over the frustratingly diverse social and political evolution of hundreds of countries and cultures all over the world. In addition to wreaking pointless mass destruction on country after country, this has turned the United States into the global enemy of the principles of democracy and self-determination that most Americans believe in.
The horror Americans feel at the plight of people in Gaza and the U.S. role in it is a shocking new low in this disconnect between the humanity of ordinary Americans and the insatiable ambitions of their undemocratic leaders.
While working for an end to the U.S. government’s support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, Americans should also be working for the long-overdue withdrawal of U.S. occupying forces from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
A prominent Israeli human rights lawyer of Palestinian heritage has been released to house arrest after spending 110 days in prison for organising a peaceful protest against the war in Gaza. A supreme court judge ruled on Wednesday that Ahmad Khalefa, 42, a lawyer working with Human Rights Defenders Fund, an Israeli non-governmental organisation, should be detained at home subject to electronic monitoring while his case is pending.
He was arrested on 19 October and charged with “incitement to terrorism” and “identifying with a terrorist organisation”. No evidence has been presented by prosecutors to support the accusations against him and he is facing up to eight years in prison if convicted, according to his colleagues.
Khalefa, a well-known community figure in the Arab Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm, used commonly known anti-occupation chants during the protest, for which he was arrested, sustaining mild injuries. He was denied medical treatment and taken straight to prison, where he alleges he and other Arab and Palestinian prisoners were denied food and clothing and suffered degrading abuse at the hands of wardens. Conditions in Israeli prisons have rapidly deteriorated since the outbreak of the war, on the orders of the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Several attempts by Khalefa’s lawyer, Afnan Khalifa, to get her client released to house arrest, citing his lack of criminal record and community standing, were denied before the case reached the supreme court. In the hearing on Wednesday, Judge Ofer Grosskopf rejected the prosecution’s argument that Khalefa is a “dangerous person”, adding that “detaining a lawyer for four months demands an explanation”.
As polling stations closed across Pakistan on Thursday evening, democracy defenders accused the South Asian nation's U.S.-backed government—which banned the country's most popular politician from running for office—of conducting a general election rife with voter suppression and violence.
"This is one of the most controversial and most rigged elections in Pakistan's history," Taimur Jhagra, a parliamentary candidate from the populist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told Al Jazeera. "This is yet another black mark, and it's only because of the fear of the people of Pakistan voting for Imran Khan."
Jhagra was referring to the PTI founder and former prime minister who is imprisoned on what his supporters say are politically motivated charges that disqualified him from seeking office. Khan remains Pakistan's most popular politician.
As preliminary results showed Khan's PTI leading in a strong majority of Pakistan's constituencies, local and international media reported increased presence of military and police forces at polling places. Some observers reported ballot counts being stopped and videos posted on social media showed violence erupting at some polling places.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s decision to replace his most senior military commander may solve a political problem, but it is not clear how it can improve Ukraine’s weakening position on the battlefield. It was clear that the outgoing Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi had lost the confidence of the Ukrainian leader, who had come to be wary of the general’s popularity and saw him as a political threat. By refusing to resign when asked by the president last week, Zaluzhnyi had created an untenable situation at the top.
Eight days later, Zaluzhnyi has recognised reality, as Zelenskiy has made it clear he wants a change of leadership after the failed summer counteroffensive. His choice of Col Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, however, currently commander of land forces, is not seen as a radical departure.
“Syrskyi is close to the president,” said Oleksiy Goncharenko, an opposition Ukrainian MP close to Zaluzhnyi. “And the most important thing for Zelenskiy is that he thinks that Syrskyi is absolutely not a political person. That is his most valuable characteristic.”
Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro has surrendered his passport as part of a police investigation into the attempted coup on 8 January 2023, which sought to keep him in power, his lawyers have said. In operations that also targeted key allies of the former far-right leader, federal police agents carried out 33 searches and four arrests across Brazil on Thursday morning.
They visited Bolsonaro’s holiday home on the south coast of Rio de Janeiro, where he was given 24 hours to hand over his passport and was banned from making contact with the other suspects. Soon afterwards, police seized the passport at the headquarters of Bolsonaro’s Liberal party in Brasília, one of his lawyers told GloboNews.
According to Brazil’s media, military officers and high-profile members of the previous administration are among the targets of the operation, including Bolsonaro’s running mate in the 2022 election, Gen Walter Braga Netto. The president of the Liberal party, Valdemar Costa Neto, was also targeted and the party’s headquarters in Brasília were raided. The four suspects taken into police custody reportedly include former aides to Bolsonaro.
In a statement, federal police said the operation, which was authorised by the supreme court, was looking into “a criminal organisation that attempted a coup d’état and the abolition of the democratic state of law, to obtain advantages of a political nature by maintaining the then-president of the republic in power”.
The Senate on Thursday advanced a wartime aid package for Ukraine and Israel, reviving an effort that had stalled amid Republican opposition to a border security bill they demanded and later abandoned.
A day after blocking a measure that would have paired harsh new border restrictions with security assistance for Ukraine, Israel and other US allies, the Senate voted 67 to 32 to begin consideration of the $95bn emergency aid bill. Several Republicans who voted to block the broader border package agreed to open debate on the foreign policy-only version of the measure after securing the opportunity to propose changes, including the immigration enforcement measures that were stripped out.
With Kyiv begging Washington for help battling Russian forces on the frontline, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, hailed the preliminary vote as a “good first step”. But its prospects remained unclear as Republicans threatened to force a lengthy amendment process. ...
If the Senate passes the bill, it would face further uncertainty in the House, where Republicans hold a slim majority and have been increasingly opposed to sending additional aid to Ukraine. The House Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, said that his caucus members were “prepared to use every available legislative tool to make sure we get comprehensive national security legislation over the finish line”.
The repeated failure of the Biden administration to get a funding package for Ukraine approved by the Senate will have real consequences in terms of lives on the battlefield and Kyiv’s ability to hold off Russian forces on the frontline, say Ukrainian officials.
The latest move by Senate Republicans to torpedo a bipartisan bill that would have combined $60bn (£48bn) in aid for Ukraine with aid to Israel and increased border security measures is a bitter blow for Kyiv. It could signal a very grim year ahead as the US political agenda settles into an election year with Donald Trump all but certain to be the Republican candidate.
As the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine approaches, Ukrainian officials say the delay in US support has already had a clear impact on the battlefield, where Kyiv’s exhausted troops have a severe hardware deficit in comparison to the Russians.
Joe Biden has twice made gaffes this week in which he told anecdotes wrongly identifying dead European leaders as having talked to him about the events of the attack on the Capitol on 6 January 2021.
On Wednesday at a campaign fundraiser in New York, Biden reportedly referred to the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl as talking to him about European concerns about the attempt to stop the certification of his 2020 election win, when he apparently meant Angela Merkel. Kohl died in 2017.
Previously on Sunday, Biden in Nevada apparently confused François Mitterrand, the former French president who died in 1996, for France’s current president, Emmanuel Macron, while recounting a similar anecdote about the events of 6 January and European fears over them.
Joe Biden made a short last-minute speech on Thursday after a report from the justice department questioned his ability to remember key events and facts while also sparing him criminal charges over his handling of highly classified materials. He sought to emphasize that he participated in a five hour interview for the investigation in the days after the 7 Oct attack on Israel, when he was occupied with pressing concerns. “I was in the middle of handling an international crisis,” he said. “My memory is fine,” he also told a reporter when taking questions.
The year-long investigation by special counsel Robert Hur centred on Biden’s improper retention of highly classified documents from his time as a senator and as vice-president to Barack Obama. Hur, a Republican, found that Biden “willfully” retained and disclosed the materials, including documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan. The report includes photos of documents inside a damaged cardboard box in the garage of his Delaware home.
But among the reasons Hur gave for not bringing charges was a concern that jurors would not believe that Biden knowingly kept the documents. The special counsel explicitly referenced the 81-year-old’s “significantly limited” memory – an incendiary topic in this year’s election – including his inability to remember what year his son Beau died.
“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” Hur wrote. “Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him – by then a former president well into his eighties – of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”
The president is not a crook. But there may be something more unforgivable in the court of public opinion. The president is old.
That is what will linger from Joe Biden’s pyrrhic victory at the hands of the justice department on Thursday. True, he will not face criminal charges over his handling of highly classified documents when a private citizen, despite an awkward photo revealing papers stashed in a broken cardboard box in his garage, according to special counsel Robert Hur.
But most striking among the reasons that Hur gave for his decision was that 81-year-old Biden “would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.
The special counsel had delivered an attack line to Donald Trump’s election campaign on a silver platter. Only in America could Trump gain a political lift from 91 criminal charges even as his opponent suffers a political setback from not being charged at all. ...
Biden’s lawyers were quick to dismiss the report as a hatchet job by a partisan hack swerving outside his lane. They accused of Hur, a Republican who served in senior roles at the justice department during the Trump administration, of overreach and “investigative excess”.
In short, the president’s brain don’t work. It’s shot. The “leader of the free world” has rusted out gray matter. It’s like swiss cheese in there.
And it is indeed getting worse. During a press conference in which Biden was ostensibly meant to reassure the world that his brain is working fine in light of the big news, the president referred to the president of Egypt as the president of Mexico and froze mid-speech when he unsuccessfully tried to remember where his son got the rosary he carries from. Just this week Biden has mistakenly referred to dead European leaders as still being in office, not once but twice.
If you were still laboring under the delusion that it matters who the US president is, the fact that an actual, literal dementia patient has held that office for three years now should dispel that notion once and for all. The US empire has been marching along in exactly the same way it was before Biden took office, completely unhindered by the fact that the person who’s supposedly calling the shots is in a state of degenerative neurological free-fall.
Biden refutes claims he didn’t remember when his son died by showing the rosary his son got… and forgot where it came from
“Every day I wear the rosary he got from Our Lady of……” pic.twitter.com/Iofyj5xlBg
— johnny maga (@_johnnymaga) February 9, 2024
Literally anyone could hold that office and it would make no meaningful difference in the way the US empire is run. A coma patient could be president. A jar of kalamata olives could be president. The position which Americans hold elections over in the belief that it could bring positive changes to their country and their world is nothing but a figurehead.
Which is a bit of a problem for Americans who would like to change certain aspects of their government’s behavior, like for example the backing of an active genocide in Gaza. Whose conscience do they work to appeal to if the person they were told is in charge actually isn’t? Who do they vote for if the people who really call the shots aren’t even on the ballot?
The fact that the US president has dementia exposes the uncomfortable truth that the functioning of the empire is too important to be left in the hands of voters. There’s too much power riding on the behavior of the US government from year to year for the electorate to be permitted a say in it.
The globe-spanning power structure that is centralized around the United States is run not by the official elected government of that nation, but by unelected empire managers who filter in and out of each administration and maintain a steady presence in government agencies and government-adjacent institutions. These empire managers form alliances with corporate powers and working relationships with the many nations, assets and partners who function as members of the undeclared US empire.
Which means there’s not really any way for Americans to vote their way out of this mess. If you have a problem with genocide, militarism, economic injustice, authoritarianism, or any other crucial building block for the US-centralized power structure, you will never be permitted to have any influence over those things through the official electoral system. Voting in western “democracies” is done to give us the illusion of control, like letting a toddler play with a toy steering wheel while you drive so they can feel like they’re participating.
That doesn’t mean there’s no way out of this mess, just that there’s no way out of this mess that involves voting. We’re already seeing pro-Palestine activists throwing significant obstacles in the operations of Israeli weapons dealers, and the push to educate and inform the public about what’s happening in Gaza has caused Israel to lose control of the narrative so severely that it’s now resorting to desperate online influence ops. Measures like this can be implemented across the board to bring about the end of the imperial power structure. Once enough people begin turning against the empire, using the power of our numbers to force real change will quickly move from impossible to possible to likely to inevitable.
But we’ve got to stop hanging all our hopes on the electoral system first. Every four years we see American attention get sucked up into this empty puppet show about which soulless empire manager should be the temporary official figurehead at the front desk of the permanent imperial machine, and if you want to vote by all means go ahead and vote. But don’t let that performative ritual distract you from the real project: to wake up our fellow humans and begin forcing real change.
The US supreme court appeared skeptical of a Colorado decision removing Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot during nearly two hours of oral arguments on Thursday. It seems poised to rule Trump is not constitutionally disqualified from running for president.
The case is perhaps the most high-stakes legal dispute to arrive at the court this century and thrusts the court to the center of a politically charged election. A majority of justices, including some from the court’s liberal wing, voiced concern about the chaos that would ensue if they allowed states to decide whether to disqualify candidates from the ballot.
“What do you do with the, what would seem to be, the big, plain consequences of your position? If Colorado’s position is upheld, surely there will be disqualification proceedings on the other side and some of those will succeed,” the chief justice, John Roberts, asked Jason Murray, the lawyer who argued on behalf of the Colorado voters.
“I would expect that a goodly number of states will say whoever the Democratic candidate is, you’re off the ballot, and others, for the Republican candidate, you’re off the ballot. It will come down to just a handful of states that are going to decide the presidential election. That’s a pretty daunting consequence,” Roberts added.
Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, two of the court’s liberal justices, echoed Roberts’ line of questioning. While the constitution grants states an enormous amount of power, Kagan said to Murray, there are some national questions where states are not the “responsitory of authority”. “What’s a state doing deciding who other citizens get to vote for for president?,” she said.
The number of endangered monarch butterflies at their wintering areas in Mexico has dropped by 59% this year to the second lowest level since record keeping began, experts said, blaming pesticide use and climate change.
The annual butterfly count doesn’t calculate the individual number of butterflies, but rather the number of hectares they cover when they clump together on tree branches in the mountain pine and fir forests west of Mexico City. Monarchs from east of the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada overwinter there.
The butterflies’ migration from Canada and the US to Mexico and back again is considered a marvel of nature. No single butterfly lives to complete the entire journey.
Mexico’s Commission for National Protected Areas said on Wednesday the butterflies covered an area equivalent to 0.9 hectares (2.2 acres), down from 2.21 hectares (5.4 acres) last year.
The lowest level was in 2013 at 0.67 hectares.
Thousands of liters of radioactive wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan leaked from the outdoor vent of a filtering device, the company that operates the facility said Wednesday.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said about 5,500 liters of both contaminated and filtered water leaked when a valve was left open during cleaning. The company, which said it discovered the leak on Wednesday morning, warned that some of the water—which is believed to contain 220 times the level of radioactivity required for government reporting—may have seeped into the ground.
"TEPCO has confirmed that there was no significant fluctuation in radiation measurements recorded at the site," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement. "The event does not pose any risk to the public and there is no environmental impact off-site." ...
News of the leak prompted an angry response from the Chinese government.
"Japan's repeated accidents in the process of treating Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water have fully exposed the chaos and disorder of TEPCO's internal management," a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo said on Thursday, according to the South China Morning Post.
"The Japanese government's supervision measures are lacking and ineffective, which once again proves that the nuclear-contaminated water treatment equipment lacks long-term reliability," the official added.
Asserting that "the discharge of the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the sea is related to the health of all mankind, the global marine environment, and international public interests," the spokesperson reiterated calls for Japan to "face up to the concerns of its neighboring countries and the international community."
ExxonMobil has insisted it will explore for oil in a region bitterly contested by Guyana and Venezuela, despite the dangers that the move is likely to escalate tensions between the two South American neighbors. Relations between the two countries have reached an all-time low in recent months following a series of announcements by the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, suggesting that he could take the Essequibo region by force.
Leaders across South America are trying to calm regional tensions and fears that Maduro could annex the vast swath of mineral-rich rainforest but Exxon’s announcement threatens to fire up the disagreement once more.
“The truth is that this announcement couldn’t come at a worse time,” said Geoff Ramsey, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “Venezuela’s neighbors, led by Brazil, have been working hard for the last three months to lower tensions and ensure good communication between the two governments. This is going to be a massive test for regional diplomacy.”
Venezuela has claimed it is the rightful owner of the Essequibo region since the 1960s. The matter is currently being reviewed in the international court of justice but Maduro’s decision to take up the decades-old territorial dispute has been described as an attempt to whip up patriotic support at home. ...
Guyana and Venezuela met in Brazil in December, when they agreed to not use military force, but the two sides did not find a lasting solution to the disagreement.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
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SRV w/ Lou Ann Barton - Scratch My Back
Lou Ann Barton & The Antones Band - Rocket in my Pocket
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