The Evening Blues - 9-30-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and gospel group The Holmes Brothers. Enjoy!
The Holmes Brothers - You'reThe Kind Of Trouble
"Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech."
-- Benjamin Franklin
News and Opinion
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern continued her crusade for the expansion of internet censorship during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, this time using the war in Ukraine.
“Whether it’s climate, trade, health crises or seeking peaceful solutions to war and conflict, New Zealand has always been a believer in multilateral tools,” Ardern told the assembly, adding that “without reform, we risk irrelevancy.”
“There is perhaps no greater example of this than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Ardern said. “Let us all be clear: Russia’s war is illegal. It is immoral. It is a direct attack on the UN charter, and the international rules-based system and everything that this community should stand for. Putin’s suggestion that it could at any point deploy further weapons that it has at their disposal reveals the false narrative that they have based their invasion on. What country who claims to be a liberator, threatens to annihilate the very civilians they claim to liberate? This war is based on a lie.”
Later in her speech, Ardern returns to the theme that Russia’s war is “based on a lie” to argue for the censorship of online speech which supports the idea that Russia is fighting for legitimate reasons in Ukraine.
Using the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack as a segue to talk about the perils of online radicalization, Ardern then smoothly transitions to the subject of “mis- and disinformation” on the internet.
“This will also be important in understanding more about mis- and disinformation online: a challenge that we must as leaders address,” Ardern said.
“As leaders, we are rightly concerned that even those most light-touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech we value so highly,” Ardern added, an acknowledgement of the grave human rights concerns inherent in having ‘leaders’ participate in the regulation of public speech. “But while I cannot tell you today what the answer is to this challenge, I can say with complete certainty that we cannot ignore it. To do so poses an equal threat to the norms we all value.”
Then it gets even creepier.
“After all, how do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble?” asks the prime minister. “How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists? How do you ensure the human rights of others are upheld, when they are subjected to hateful and dangerous rhetoric and ideology? The weapons may be different, but the goals of those who perpetuate them is often the same. To cause chaos and reduce the ability of others to defend themselves. To disband communities. To collapse the collective strength of countries who work together. But we have an opportunity here to ensure that these particular weapons of war do not become an established part of warfare.”
This is the face of authoritarianism - even though it looks different than you were taught to expect. And it's the mindset of tyrants everywhere:
This is someone so inebriated by her sense of righteousness and superiority that she views dissent as an evil too dangerous to allow: https://t.co/kmG4zTgPwh
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 28, 2022
Ardern’s remarks are currently getting a lot of criticism in right-wing circles due largely to her suggestion that online discourse about climate change needs to be regulated so that the issue can be properly addressed. And to be sure that is an absolutely insane thing for her to say; I believe climate change is real and anthropogenic and I find the idea of silencing people who disagree with me about that unthinkably nightmarish. This is a line of thinking that can only arise from a profoundly tyrannical mind.
But what isn’t getting enough attention at this time is the fact that Ardern is calling for an increase in the already outrageous amount of online censorship we are seeing with regard to the war in Ukraine. She explicitly said the war is “based on a lie”, and then went on to argue that people need to be stopped from circulating speech which lends credibility to that lie, even if such freakishly authoritarian measures may be “misinterpreted” as being hostile to free speech.
Ardern argues that online speech claiming that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is legal and noble makes it harder to attain peace, but of course she doesn’t really believe that, and neither does anyone else. The idea that free speech about the war could somehow hamper peace negotiations between governments is self-evidently absurd and completely nonsensical.
In reality, this war is just the latest in a string of excuses we’ve been given by the western political/media class to censor the internet, with earlier justifications including Covid-19, election security, domestic extremism, and Russian propaganda again after the 2016 US election. But asserting that it’s important to stop people from thinking wrong thoughts about a war is a major escalation from all those other justifications, because they’re no longer pretending that it’s being done for our own good. Our wrongthink is the justification, in and of itself.
Which is a problem, because this is in fact an extremely dangerous proxy war being waged against Russia by the US and its imperial member states. It was absolutely deliberately provoked, it’s showing no sign of ending anytime soon, and its continual escalation threatens the life of everyone on this planet. The US has lied about every war it has ever been involved in, and if ever there was a war to bring scrutiny and skepticism to, it’s the one that is bringing us closer to a nuclear exchange than at any other time in history.
This notion that it is the job of “leaders” to involve themselves in regulating the ideas and information we’re allowed to share with each other online needs to be stomped out, dissolved in acid, and flushed down the toilet. That’s not their place. They shouldn’t even be looking in that direction, much less talking amongst themselves at the United Nations about how best they can go about doing it. It’s a profoundly dangerous notion that needs to be rejected with unadulterated aggression.
Free speech is not a “weapon of war”. It’s free speech. Either let us have it or stop pretending you value it.
A French Member of European Parliament (MEP), Natalie Loiseau, has delivered a letter to EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Borrell, demanding the European Union place personal sanctions on all international observers of the recent votes in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and certain Russian-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine.
Obtained by The Grayzone from an EU source, the letter is currently being circulated among European parliamentarians in hopes of securing a docket of supportive signatures. ...
Loiseau singled out Vanessa Beeley, a British journalist who traveled to the region to monitor the vote. Extending her complaint well beyond the referendum, the French MEP accused Beeley of “continuously spreading fake news about Syria and acting as a mouthpiece for Vladimir Putin and Bashar el [sic] Assad for years.”
Loiseau, a close ally of French President Emanuel Macron, specifically demanded Beeley be “included in the list of those sanctioned.”
Beeley responded to Loiseau’s letter in a statement to The Grayzone: “Imposing sanctions on global citizens for bearing witness to a legal process that reflects the self-determination of the people of Donbass is fascism. Should the EU proceed with this campaign, I believe there will be serious consequences because the essence of freedom of speech and thought is under attack.
[Much more at the link. -js]
Swedish authorities have reported a fourth leak on one of the two Nord Stream pipelines that EU leaders believe was the target of sabotage at the start of the week.
The two leaks in Swedish waters were close to each other, “in the same sector”, a coastguard officer told Svenska Dagbladet newspaper. Dagens Nyheter reported that one rupture, on Nord Stream 2, was causing a circle of bubbles on the surface of the sea of about 900 metres in diameter, and the other, coming from a leak in Nord Stream 1, a circle of about 200 metres. ...
Seismologists in Sweden and Denmark recorded underwater blasts near the island of Bornholm on Monday morning and Monday evening, suggesting a deliberate act of sabotage. A seismologist quoted by Svenska Dagbladet did not rule out the possibility of a third blast.
Germany’s security agencies believe the damage has made the offshore pipelines “unusable forever”, Tagesspiegel newspaper reported government officials as saying. A source cited by Der Spiegel said German security circles believed the leaks were caused by high-powered explosives equivalent to 500kg of TNT.
Technical experts say the pipelines will become harder to repair once all of the gas has escaped and they fill with seawater and start to corrode. “Ice plugs” blocking the pipes could further hamper repair works.
The Russian side has requested holding an emergency session of the UN Security Council on September 29 over the acts of sabotage at two lines of the Nord Stream pipeline, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said on Wednesday.
"Russia has requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council due to subversive acts against Nord Stream’s two lines. We are expecting it to be held tomorrow," the Russian diplomat wrote on his Telegram channel.
Additionally, he commented on a tweet by ex-Polish Foreign Minister and European Parliament member, Radoslaw Sikorski, in which he thanked the US for damaging the Nord Stream gas pipelines. "Let’s see who will thank whom at this meeting (of the UN Security Council - TASS)," the Russian envoy wrote on Twitter.
https://t.co/XPHG2wOLpX Yes, Jake Sullivan is supporting efforts to investigate the "apparent sabotage" of the Nord Stream pipelines, much as OJ Simpson promised to help locate the killer (who is still out there!) of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.
— Marshall Auerback (@Mauerback) September 29, 2022
US President Joe Biden should issue a reply as to whether the United States had carried out its threat over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
"US President Joe Biden must answer the question of whether the United States carried out its threat on September 25 and 26 when an emergency was reported at three lines of Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, which has been preliminarily recognized as ruptures, whereas he suggested those were blown up," the Russian diplomat said on her Telegram channel. On it, she posted a video in which the US leader delivers the speech in question.
"His statement of intent was backed up with a promise. One must be responsible for one’s words. Failure to understand what one says does not absolve anyone of responsibility. Europe must know the truth!" Zakharova emphasized.
The Pentagon announced a new $1.1 billion arms package for Ukraine on Wednesday that includes 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). So far, the US has delivered Ukraine 16 HIMARS, which are made by Lockheed Martin.
The arms package is being given to Ukraine through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which allows the Biden administration to purchase arms for Kyiv. A US official said the weapons will take a “few years” to be delivered as Washington plans to arm Ukraine for the “long haul.”
The CIA used hundreds of websites for covert communications that were severely flawed and could have been identified by even an “amateur sleuth”, according to security researchers. The flaws reportedly led to the death of more than two dozen US sources in China in 2011 and 2012 and also reportedly led Iran to execute or imprison other CIA assets.
The new research was conducted by security experts at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which started investigating the matter after it received a tip from reporter Joel Schectmann at Reuters. The group said it was not publishing a full detailed technical report of its findings to avoid putting CIA assets or employees at risk. But its limited findings raise serious doubts about the intelligence agency’s handling of safety measures. ...
The websites were active between 2004 and 2013 and were probably not used by the CIA recently, but Citizen Lab said a subset of the websites were sill linked to active intelligence employees or assets, including a foreign contractor and a current state department employee. Citizen Lab added: “The reckless construction of this infrastructure by the CIA reportedly led directly to the identification and execution of assets, and undoubtedly risked the lives of countless other individuals. Our hope is that this research and our limited disclosure process will lead to accountability for this reckless behavior.”
Liz Truss will hold emergency talks with the head of Britain’s independent fiscal watchdog after failing to dampen panic in the financial markets or shore up support from Tory MPs on her radical economic plan.
In a highly unusual move, the prime minister will meet the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) Richard Hughes on Friday, along with her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, before being presented with a first draft of its full fiscal forecasts next week.
One government insider said the OBR meeting was “like trying to read the manual after you’ve broken the thing” after last week’s announcement of sweeping tax cuts triggered investor panic over the future health of the UK economy, prompting a sharp fall in the value of the pound and driving up government borrowing costs. ...
The Guardian understands Truss will use the meeting to discuss the dramatic economic and fiscal developments since March, the last time the OBR published growth forecasts. Kwarteng will continue liaising with the body over the forecast process ahead of the release of the next figures. Alarm was spreading across the Conservative party last night after Truss ruled out any U-turns from the mini-budget and a shock YouGov poll put Labour a record 33 points ahead, on 54%, to the Tories’ 21%, doubling their lead from only four days ago.
Just 37% of 2019 Tory voters said they would now vote for the Conservatives. Veteran Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said if the poll lead was repeated at an election, the Conservatives will “cease to exist as a political party”.
US mortgage rates rose this week for the sixth straight week, marking new highs not seen in 15 years, before a crash in the housing market triggered the Great Recession.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported on Thursday that the average on the key 30-year rate climbed to 6.7% from 6.29% last week. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.01% a year ago.
The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those looking to refinance their homes, jumped to 5.96% from 5.44% last week.
Rapidly rising mortgage rates threaten to sideline even more homebuyers after more than doubling in 2022. Last year, prospective homebuyers were looking at rates well below 3%.
Freddie Mac noted that for a typical mortgage amount, a borrower who locked in at the higher end of the range of weekly rates over the past year would pay several hundred dollars more than a borrower who locked in at the lower end of the range.
A former eBay executive was sentenced on Thursday to almost five years in prison for leading a scheme to terrorize the creators of an online newsletter that included sending live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath and other disturbing deliveries to their home.
David Steiner, who along with his wife was the target of the harassment campaign, told the court that eBay’s former senior director of safety and security James Baugh and other eBay employees made their lives “a living hell”. He expressed fear that other companies would use it as a blueprint to go after journalists in the future. “This was a bizarre, premeditated assault on our lives … with buy-in at the highest levels of eBay,” Steiner told the judge.
Another former eBay executive, David Harville, was sentenced later on Thursday to two years behind bars for his role in the scheme targeting David and Ina Steiner, the publisher and reporter who angered executives with coverage of the company in their newsletter, eCommerceBytes.
Baugh and Harville, eBay’s one-time director of global resiliency, are among seven former employees who have pleaded guilty to charges in the case.
Court records in the case show how the top eBay executives became enraged by the Steiners’ newsletter and readers who posted comments criticizing the company on their site, which eBay viewed as a threat to its business.
More than half of adults in the United States say they lack trust in the federal government's judicial branch and nearly three-fifths disapprove of the way the U.S. Supreme Court is doing its job, according to survey results released Thursday, as the negative ramifications of opinions issued this summer by the high court's reactionary majority continue to reverberate.
Just 47% of U.S. adults have "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust in the federal judiciary, Gallup found. "This represents a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago, including seven points since last year," and is six points lower than the previous record low of 53%, the polling firm noted. "The judicial branch's current tarnished image contrasts with trust levels exceeding two-thirds in most years in Gallup's trend that began in 1972."
In addition to record low trust in the federal judiciary, the new poll, which was conducted September 1-16, found that a record high percentage of U.S. adults (58%) say they disapprove of how the Supreme Court is handling its job. A record-tying low (40%) say they approve.
During its last term, the high court's right-wing majority eliminated the constitutional right to abortion care, opening the door to further attacks on rights long safeguarded by the 14th Amendment's substantive due process clause; weakened gun restrictions; undermined the separation of church and state; eroded hard-won civil liberties; and curbed the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, potentially gutting federal regulatory power in general.
In a separate indicator of how Americans perceive the Supreme Court—based on a June poll taken before the decision overturning Roe v. Wade was handed down but after a leaked draft opinion signaled the right-wing majority's intentions—Gallup found that confidence in the nation's chief judicial body had dropped to an all-time low, with just 25% of U.S. adults expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the court, down from 36% the year before.
In its upcoming term, which begins Monday, the Supreme Court will take up several momentous cases. One of them, Moore v. Harper, threatens to give state legislatures, many of which are highly unrepresentative due to rampant map-rigging, virtually unchecked power to oversee and potentially skew federal elections, throwing the future of U.S. democracy into doubt.
Other cases on the docket could legalize racial gerrymandering, abolish affirmative action in university admissions, slash protections for Medicaid recipients, limit the federal government's ability to tackle water pollution, authorize bigots to discriminate on religious grounds, and more.
The NAACP filed a federal complaint on Tuesday accusing Mississippi state officials of violating civil rights law by repeatedly diverting federal funds meant for ensuring safe drinking water away from the state’s predominantly Black capital, Jackson, to smaller, white communities.
Their conduct amounted to racial discrimination and a devastating loss of access to drinking water for more than a month for residents in Jackson, where more than 80% of residents are Black and a quarter are in poverty.
“The result is persistently unsafe and unreliable drinking water and massive gaps in the access to safe drinking water that are intolerable in any modern society,” Jackson residents allege in the complaint. “Nearly all of the residents of Jackson have watched brackish, dirty, impure, and undrinkable water trickle from their taps. At times, some have had no water at all.”
The complaint, filed to the Environmental Protection Agency, amplifies pressure on officials in Mississippi and Jackson to address longstanding water infrastructure woes that recently forced Jackson to shut down its water supply in late August and maintain a boil water notice for weeks.
Last week, a group of Jackson residents also filed a federal class-action lawsuit against current and former city and state officials as well as an engineering firm seeking monetary damages for neglect by officials.
Acidification of the western Arctic Ocean is happening three to four times faster than in other ocean basins, a new study has found. The ocean, which absorbs a third of all of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, has grown more acidic because of fossil fuel use. Rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic region over the past three decades has accelerated the rate of long-term acidification, according to the study, published in Science on Thursday.
Researchers from the Polar and Marine Research Institute at Jimei University, China, and the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware in the US, say rapid sea-ice loss exposes seawater to the atmosphere, promoting takeup of carbon dioxide at a faster rate than in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Antarctic and sub-Antarctic basins.
“In other ocean systems, acidification is being driven by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is increasing at a rate of around 2ppm [parts per million] per year,” said Wei-Jun Cai, a marine chemistry expert at the University of Delaware and one of the paper’s authors.
Acidification trends tend to follow those predicted from carbon dioxide increases over time, he said. But when the scientists compared data collected from the Arctic between 1994 and 2020 with ocean basins elsewhere, they found acidification was happening much faster in the Arctic. ...
The research follows a separate study in August, which found that the Arctic has warmed at about four times the global average rate over the past 43 years. The faster warming, known as Arctic amplification, is a feedback process driven by melting sea ice, which is also driving faster acidification, the researchers say.
Flaring, the process of burning natural gas escaping from fossil fuel wells, releases five times more methane than previously believed, according to an analysis of most U.S. operations, published Thursday in the journal Science.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Michigan, is based on data collected during 13 flights over three years at the Bakken oil and gas field in North Dakota as well as the Eagle Ford and Permian fields in Texas—which collectively have over 80% of all U.S. flaring operations.
Flaring turns methane into carbon dioxide; while both are greenhouse gases, the former is over 80 times more potent than the latter, in terms of its global heating potential, in the 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.
"Industry and governments generally assume that flares remain lit and destroy methane, the predominant component of natural gas, with 98% efficiency," the study states. "Neither assumption, however, is based on real-world observations."
The researcher simultaneously measured both methane and carbon dioxide at flaring sites.
"If the flare is operating as it should be, there should be a large carbon dioxide spike and a relatively small methane spike. And depending on the relative enhancement of those two gasses, we can tell how well the flares are performing," explained lead author Genevieve Plant, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan.
As co-author and professor Eric Kort summarized, the researchers discovered that "there is a lot more methane being added to the atmosphere than currently accounted for in any inventories or estimates."
Specifically, they found that due to inefficient combustion and flares being unlit 3%-5% of the time, the average efficiency rate is just 91%, which works out to "a fivefold increase in methane emissions above present assumptions" and 4%-10% of total U.S. oil and gas methane emissions.
An analysis published this week shows that past congressional efforts to bolster fossil fuel industry-backed carbon capture schemes have amounted to little more than a sinkhole of taxpayer money—a pertinent warning as Congress moves once again to pump billions of dollars into the failed technology as the climate crisis intensifies.
As a cautionary tale, the report from Food & Water Watch points to the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus package that put forth $3.4 billion for the research and development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.
The results weren't exactly encouraging. Food & Water Watch notes that "out of 11 large-scale demonstration projects selected by the Department of Energy (DOE), nine were funded by the ARRA and only two remain operational."
"Of the five commercial power plant projects," the analysis shows, "only one (Petra Nova) ever reached operation and Petra Nova faced serious challenges, forcing the plant to close after fewer than four years."
Food & Water Watch says "this track record should elicit serious concern," given that the recently approved Inflation Reduction Act "increases federal tax credits for CCS technology, putting even more public dollars on the line for a technology with a failed track record."
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, a law crafted in part by top Big Oil ally Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), also greenlights $2.1 billion in loans and grants for new CCS infrastructure, which fossil fuel companies have embraced in what environmentalists say is a cynical ploy to stave off effective climate action.
"What the fossil fuel industry hopes you won't find out," Food & Water Watch declared, "is carbon capture is already a failure of an experiment, funded with taxpayer money."
In a press release, Food & Water Watch concisely summarized carbon capture's record: "Billions of wasted dollars."
Roughly three months before Florida was clobbered by this week’s climate-intensified hurricane, eight of the state’s Republican lawmakers pressured federal regulators to halt a proposal requiring businesses to more thoroughly disclose the risks they face from climate change. Those lawmakers have raked in more than $1 million of campaign cash from oil and gas industry donors, according to data reviewed by The Lever.
The proposed rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission are designed to give investors, government officials, and the general public much more information and details about the dangers of climate change. But even in Florida — one of America’s most climate-threatened states — top Republicans are trying to help fossil fuel industry lobbyists block such disclosure mandates that could better inform communities about climate risks. Those mandates could also help identify which carbon-emitting companies are most responsible for the climate crisis.
On June 15th, seven of Florida’s House lawmakers signed a letter to SEC Chair Gary Gensler demanding he rescind a proposal that would require large corporations to “disclose extensive climate-related data and additional ‘climate risks.’”
“Congress did not establish the SEC to set climate policy nor to be the final arbiter of businesses' strategies to combat climate change, which is what these rules will do,” the lawmakers wrote, lambasting the agency for “taking a novel, activist approach to climate policy.”
The following Florida Republican House members signed the letter while pulling in fossil fuel industry campaign cash: Gus Bilirakis ($259,550), Vern Buchanan ($174,490), Kat Cammack ($54,737), Byron Donalds ($60,163), Neal Dunn ($20,902), Bill Posey ($127,000), and Mike Waltz ($71,553). In a separate letter signed by Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott — who has received more than $236,000 from fossil fuel industry donors — 32 GOP senators slammed the agency for “mandating climate change reporting requirements that will not only regulate publicly traded companies, but will impact every company in the value chain.”
After the letters, Gensler signaled that his agency could pare back the disclosure rules.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Holmes Brothers - There's a train
The Holmes Brothers - Everything Is Free
The Holmes Brothers - Baby What You Want Me to Do
The Holmes Brothers w/Phil Wiggins - No Ice in my Bourbon
The Holmes Brothers - Big Boss Man
The Holmes Brothers - That's Where It's At
The Holmes Brothers - You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond
The Holmes Brothers - You've Got To Lose
The Holmes Brothers -[What's So Funny 'Bout] Peace, Love And Understanding
The Holmes Brothers -The Love You Save
The Holmes Brothers - In The Spirit