The Evening Blues - 11-24-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and boogie woogie piano player and singer Katie Webster. Enjoy!
Katie Webster - I'm Bad
“Murder begins where self-defense ends."
-- Georg Buchner
News and Opinion
The testimony has concluded in the Georgia murder trial of the three white men who targeted Ahmaud Arbery because he was Black and then killed him. Evidence presented at trial transported us back to the days of the infamous slave patrols. Gregory McMichael, his son Travis, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. are on trial for killing Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, during a purported “citizen’s arrest.” ... Beginning in 1704, slave patrols empowered every white person to control the movements and activities of every Black person. Citizen’s arrest laws date to 13th century Europe and were later brought to the British North American colonies. In 1863, Georgia adopted a citizen’s arrest statute to replace the slave patrols with another avenue to vigilante “justice.” The law deputized any white Georgian to seize and detain any Black person on suspicion of being an escaped slave.
Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law that the defendants are relying on in this case stated that “a private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” Although they never mentioned it to the police, the defendants are now seeking to use the citizen’s arrest law to shield them from responsibility for racially profiling Arbery. In the present case, the defense is claiming that the three men suspected Arbery, who was unarmed and jogging, of committing recent burglaries in the neighborhood. ... In fact, only one burglary had been reported in the area — seven weeks before Arbery was killed — and the defendants had no evidence that Arbery had committed it. ...
The three defendants are each facing nine charges in Georgia state court, including murder and aggravated assault. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. ...
In late April 2021, a federal grand jury indicted Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan Jr. for hate crimes and kidnapping charges. The Department of Justice said the three men had “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.” The federal trial is scheduled to begin in February 2022.
Three white men were found guilty of murder and other charges on Wednesday for the pursuit and fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, in a case that, together with the killing of George Floyd, helped inspire the racial justice protests of last year. The three defendants — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 — face sentences of up to life in prison for the state crimes. The men have also been indicted on separate federal charges, including hate crimes and attempted kidnapping, and are expected to stand trial in February on those charges. ...
Supporters of the Arbery family stopped in an empty lot under a mural of Ahmaud Arbery. Gerald Griggs of the Atlanta NAACP praises the residents who kept the pressure on authorities for weeks while the three men, now convicted of murder, walked free. “We just sent a message to the entire world,” he said. “we just showed the world how you force this system to be fair to all of its people.” ...
The lawyers for Travis McMichael told reporters that they respect the jury’s decision but do plan to appeal the verdict, which they described as “disappointing and sad.” ... All three of the men — Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan — have been ushered out of a side door of the courthouse in handcuffs and were driven away. Their sentencing has not yet been scheduled. ...
A jury found three men guilty of murder on Wednesday in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, but though all defendants were facing a charge of “malice murder,” only one man, Travis McMichael, was convicted on that charge. In finding Mr. McMichael, the man who fatally shot Mr. Arbery in February 2020, guilty of that charge, the 12 jurors found that he had deliberately intended to kill Mr. Arbery.
An excellent article worth a read, here are some snippets:
Whistleblowers in the United States military exposed a strike in Syria that resulted in the massacre of around 70 women and children, according to an investigation by the New York Times. The command responsible for the strike conceded a war crime may have taken place, but a report by the Office of the Inspector General for the Defense Department removed this opinion. Officials in the Pentagon impeded an investigation and ensured no one would ever be held accountable for the civilian deaths. They also turned on one of the whistleblowers, forcing them out of their position in the I.G.’s office.
What happened proves once again that going through proper channels can be a fruitless and risky career-ending effort.
Lisa Ling, a former tech sergeant who worked on drone surveillance systems and is a known whistleblower, reacted, “Again, the public is notified of a ‘possible’ war crime by a brave whistleblower who was eventually forced out of their job.”
“This is a pattern that exemplifies the need for robust whistleblower protections especially for the intelligence community so often carved out of them. We need more light shined in these secret spaces so that this doesn’t happen again, and again, and again, without the public knowing what is done in our name.” ...
Meanwhile, drone whistleblower Daniel Hale is in a communications management unit (CMU) at a medium-security federal prison in Marion, Illinois. He is closely monitored by the FBI and Bureau of Prisons officials so they can prevent him from further commenting on the bloodshed caused by U.S. drone strikes.
The United States must “accept reality” and agree to lift its sanctions on Iran during next week’s nuclear talks in Vienna, according to Tehran’s top negotiator. Representatives of Iran and the other signatories of its 2015 nuclear deal will be in Austria starting November 29 to try to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the US abandoned in 2018. ...
Iran has previously said it is ready for a “good agreement” in Vienna, but the US must accept responsibility for reneging on the JCPOA, lift all sanctions imposed since 2018 at once, and guarantee it will not leave the deal again.
But the US has said it is prepared to lift sanctions “inconsistent” with the accord, signalling it wishes to keep some of the human rights and “terrorism” sanctions imposed over the past three years. It has also said time to reach an agreement is running out as Iran’s nuclear programme continues to advance.
Turkey’s currency slumped on Tuesday to a fresh low against the dollar after Recep Tayyip Erdogan signalled that he would not be deterred by rising inflation from cutting interest rates further.
The Turkish president, who had declared himself an “enemy” of high borrowing costs, said the four percentage point cut in interest rates this year to 15% would spur investment, increase job prospects and boost economic growth.
Erdogan, portraying his economic policies as “an economic war of independence”, stated that his government would not step back from its policy of lowering borrowing rates to boost growth.
However, amid concerns that his unorthodox management of the economy was likely to deter investment and increase inflation above the 20% level recorded in October, investors took flight, pushing the Turkish lira down to 12.6 against the dollar.
Some banks across the country stopped currency transactions, fearing that the steep fall in the lira’s value could spark a run on reserves, according to local newspaper reports. There was also speculation that the government had laid plans to impose strict capital controls to prevent further withdrawals should the economic situation worsen.
The US is expected to remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) from its international terrorist list, five years after the demobilised rebel group signed a peace deal with the Colombian government and formed a political party. The announcement is expected to bolster the struggling peace process, which has been implemented haltingly as violence from dissident rebel groups and drug traffickers continues to trouble the South American nation.
US officials quoted by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal said the move could happen as early as Tuesday afternoon, while the state department said that it had provided notifications to Congress on “upcoming actions” regarding the Farc.
The US added the Farc to its terror list in 1997, when the rebel group was at the height of its power, commanding thousands of fighters and launching large-scale attacks on regional capitals and military bases. The group kidnapped thousands of politicians and ordinary Colombians, and planted landmines across the country.
“Taking the Farc off the list is long overdue, since the group that the state department listed doesn’t exist any more,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America (Wola), a thinktank. “13,600 guerrillas demobilized and became ex-guerrillas in 2017.”
“More than four years later, more than 90% of them remain demobilized and transitioning to civilian life. To keep penalizing and shunning all contact with them is not only absurd, it’s counterproductive,” he said.
Apple has launched a lawsuit against NSO Group, the Israeli spyware company that was recently blacklisted by the Biden administration for acting “contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the US”.
The move marks a sharp turnaround for the technology giant, which previously downplayed the threat posed by the spyware, and underscores growing concern and frustration among technology companies about the proliferation of attacks against its customers.
In its complaint, Apple said that NSO’s signature spyware, called Pegasus, had been used to “attack a small number of Apple users worldwide with malicious malware and spyware”.
The Pegasus project, an investigation into NSO by the Guardian and other media outlets, coordinated by the French media group Forbidden Stories, has documented dozens of examples in which NSO’s spyware was used to attack users of Apple’s iPhone. In some cases, a vulnerability in the company’s iMessage feature, which could be penetrated by Pegasus, was used against journalists, human rights activists and other members of civil society.
“At Apple, we are always working to defend our users against even the most complex cyberattacks. The steps we’re taking today will send a clear message: in a free society, it is unacceptable to weaponise powerful state-sponsored spyware against those who seek to make the world a better place,” said Ivan Krstić, head of Apple security engineering and architecture.
Warren, Sanders, and Baldwin: Investors 'Made Off Like Bandits' at Expense of Striking Alabama Miners
As Alabama miners continue their seven-month strike against Warrior Met Coal, a trio of U.S. senators on Tuesday sent letters of inquiry to the private equity firms the lawmakers say "made off like bandits" after taking over the company while workers "endured severe cuts to pay and benefits" in order to ensure its success.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) wrote to the CEOs of Apollo Global Management and Blackstone asking for details regarding the firms' investment in Warrior Met Coal, which operates the Brookwood, Alabama mine, whose workers have been on strike since April 1.
"We have long been concerned that some private equity firms pursue strategies that extract value from portfolio companies at the expense of workers and communities," the senators wrote. "These strategies include loading debt onto companies to fund payouts for the private equity firm and its executives, engaging in severe cost-cutting measures that harm workers and consumers, and quickly cashing out after extracting as much value as they can."
"Warrior Met has returned at least $1.4 billion—or more than twice the company's market capitalization last year—in dividends to its owners since the company went public in 2017, potentially imperiling its ability to refinance its debt in the coming years," they said.
Warrior Met miners affiliated with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) have been striking over pay, benefits, and working conditions. According to the union: "Workers decided to save their company, preserve their jobs and their communities by sacrificing wages, time off from work, loss of overtime pay, and an end to full healthcare coverage. Their sacrifices totaled $1.1 billion over five years in cost savings and helped the company reach revenues in excess of $4.3 billion."
"The result of these sacrifices and an unheard-of financial comeback for the company was Warrior Met's blatant mistreatment of its workers, forcing them to work most holidays and complete 12-hour shifts reaching up to seven days a week," the union added. ...
The three senators noted that "more than 1,100 Warrior Met workers in Brookwood, Alabama have been on strike to restore wages, benefits, and fair work practices that were stripped away following the bankruptcy of Walter Energy, Warrior Met's predecessor company."
"Blackstone Inc.'s GSO Capital Partners (GSO) and other private equity investors in Warrior Met dictated the terms and conditions of the 2016 takeover of the company and continue to bear responsibility for the cuts in pay and benefits that have led to the Warrior Met miners' strike," they said. "We write to request information in order to better understand Blackstone's investment in Warrior Met and other businesses."
Will Westlake, a Starbucks barista in Hamburg, New York, whose store recently filed for a union election, was told by a manager he could attend an earlier mandatory anti-union meeting on 8 November because he was scheduled to work early the next day. The meeting was in a nearby hotel and when Westlake arrived he found out he was the only worker in attendance, with six members of Starbucks management. The meeting lasted for about one hour.
“That was basically how my last anti-union meeting was, totally separated from the rest of my co-workers and having to be surrounded,” said Westlake. “They started off by going around and saying that they wanted me to vote no for the union. And then they went back and forth talking about how great all the benefits are at Starbucks and if we vote in a union, we may not have any of those benefits.”
Westlake emphasized the numerous anti-union meetings have been framed as listening sessions, but it’s the workers who have been doing most of the listening: the sessions have largely consisted of management presenting anti-union talking points, with little feedback from workers involved.
Westlake’s experience is just one part of an aggressive anti-union campaign run by the giant coffee chain as six Starbucks stores in the Buffalo, New York, area have filed for union elections with the National Labor Relations Board in recent weeks. If successful, the stores would be the first Starbucks corporate locations to unionize in the US.
Workers have reported numerous captive audience meetings, one-on-one meetings, store shutdowns, closures, remodelings, and text messages – a mode of contact that was previously used only for emergencies. Dozens of corporate executives have flooded stores with the intent to deter workers from voting to unionize, workers say. ...
Starbucks Workers United filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB on 4 November over Starbucks’ conduct during the union campaign, which included Starbucks shutting down two stores that are holding union elections and transferring workers to disrupt the voting units. Starbucks characterized the closures as coincidental.
The leader of the Proud Boys far-right group has been denied early release from jail in Washington DC. In a ruling released on Friday, superior court judge Jonathan H Pittman said poor living conditions were not sufficient reason for Henry “Enrique” Tarrio to be transferred to house arrest or to have his sentence reduced.
The “appropriate remedy for unconstitutional conditions of confinement is correction of the unconstitutional conditions of confinement, which are experienced by all inmates, not just the defendant”, Pittman wrote.
Tarrio is serving a five-month sentence for stealing and burning a Black Lives Matter banner from a historic Black church in the capital, after Donald Trump’s election defeat.
Tarrio also requested to be freed under DC’s “compassionate release” statute, which Pittman also denied. Tarrio, he said, “fails to establish that his case presents ‘extraordinary and compelling reasons’ warranting a modification”.
A jury has awarded more than $25m in damages against white nationalist leaders for violence that erupted during the deadly 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville. The defendants were accused of promoting and then carrying out racially motivated violence during the “Unite the Right” rally. After a nearly monthlong civil trial, a jury in US district court in Charlottesville deadlocked on two claims but found the white nationalists liable on four other counts in the lawsuit that was filed by nine people who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the two days of demonstrations.
Attorney Roberta Kaplan said the plaintiffs’ lawyers plan to refile the suit so a new jury can decide the two claims this jury could not reach a verdict on. She called the amount of damages awarded from the other counts “eye opening”. ...
White nationalist leader Richard Spencer vowed to appeal. He said plaintiffs’ attorneys made it clear before the trial that they wanted to use the case to bankrupt him and other defendants.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs invoked a 150-year-old law passed after the civil war to shield freed slaves from violence and protect their civil rights. Commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, the law contains a rarely used provision that allows private citizens to sue other citizens for civil rights violations. ...
The lawsuit accused some of the country’s most well-known white nationalists of plotting the violence, including Jason Kessler, the rally’s main organizer; Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right” to describe a loosely connected band of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and others; and Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist who became known as the “crying Nazi” for posting a tearful video when a warrant was issued for his arrest on assault charges for using pepper spray against counter demonstrators.
Dozens of grassroots advocacy groups representing more than 150,000 Californians demanded Tuesday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein step down if she's unwilling to support—at the very least—a voting rights carve-out for the filibuster, an archaic Senate rule that Republicans have used to tank several pro-democracy bills in recent weeks.
In a letter to Feinstein, more than 65 progressive organizations including Indivisible East Bay and the Poor People's Campaign warned that the GOP's aggressive voter suppression efforts and redistricting schemes nationwide mean that "we are headed toward permanent minority rule over much of the country and therefore over Congress and the presidency—a minority rule which will make a mockery of the idea that citizens have the right to determine how they are governed."
"The Republican Party has prevented votes on the For the People Act, on the Freedom to Vote Act, and on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act," the letter notes, referring to Democratic bills that the GOP has filibustered. "Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic leadership has missed deadline after deadline. In August, the census was finalized. Shortly afterwards, Republicans began gerrymandering congressional districts. In state after state, they have ensured that Democrats will be mathematically prohibited from winning elections, even when their total number of votes cast statewide far exceeds that of their opponents."
While expressing gratitude that Feinstein has thrown her support behind all three bills, the groups argue that the senator has "refrained from naming the solution: the filibuster must not be allowed to stand in the way."
"We need you to step up, now," they wrote. "We need you to call for the swift passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And we need you to clearly and unequivocally call for abolishing or providing a voting rights exception to the Senate filibuster so that this may be accomplished. We need you to step up and fight for our democracy and for the United States of America. If you can't or won't, please step aside so that someone more willing can take your place."
Feinstein said in a statement earlier this year that she's open to reforming the filibuster and acknowledged that Republicans have abused the 60-vote rule to "prevent votes on important bills." But in the same statement, the six-term senator said she doesn't "want to turn away from Senate traditions."
The international climate conferences are a perennial disappointment to anyone who understands the depth of the world wide catastrophe. Every year the rich capitalist nations find a way to undermine the process and consign millions of people to misery and devastation. Activists from all over the world gather in an effort to have an impact on the process, but they are literally outnumbered by fossil fuel lobbyists who always get what they want. This conference ended with an agreement to “phase down” the use of coal instead of phasing it out altogether. Phasing down is deliberately ambiguous and makes a mockery of the 2015 Paris meeting which ended with an agreement to allow a temperature increase of no more than 1.5˚C. The fact that climate agreements allow world temperatures to rise is but one indication that the process falls far short from what the world needs.
Yet the seemingly small 1.5˚C will have devastating consequences, with droughts and storms bringing catastrophe to millions of people. The can is always kicked down the road and the final agreement is a sham. The political duopoly in the United States behaves as it always does with phony heroes and phony villains as in professional wrestling. Republicans refuse to participate in climate agreements, democrats show up for the cameras, but only to fool the rubes into thinking that something important is being accomplished.
It doesn’t matter if democrats show up at COP26 if they refuse to respond to elephants in the room. The United States military is the world’s biggest polluter but its carbon production, and that of other nations’ forces, are exempt from climate goals. When a journalist asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders about military spending and its role in climate change, it was clear they had never considered the issue at all. They were shocked to be asked a question which showed a direct relationship between their actions and global warming and then responded with nonsense. They said the military, which contributes to climate change, needs money to respond to the climate change it causes by its very existence. Why does it matter that George W. Bush and Donald Trump withdrew from previous climate agreements if democrats follow in their footsteps and ignore even the flimsy goals it asked the U.S. to meet?
The UK will continue to press governments around the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions urgently in the next year to limit global heating to 1.5C, after the UN climate talks that concluded last week, the president of the summit has pledged. Alok Sharma, the cabinet minister who led the Cop26 talks, said the world had shown in Glasgow that countries could work together to establish a framework for climate action but the next year must focus on keeping the promises made there. ...
Under the UN rules, the UK will retain responsibility for climate negotiations for the next year, until the Egyptian government assumes the presidency next November. In his first public writing since the talks concluded, Sharma sets out his aims. “The UK’s work as the Cop26 presidency is really only just beginning,” he writes. “Over the course of the next year, we will work with countries urging them to take action and honour their promises.
“There is no formal policing process in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change system, and so we must keep up the constructive pressure, and build on the trust and goodwill generated through Cop26.”
The lack of any policing process or sanctions for countries that fail to revise their national targets on emissions, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), means that the main ways of holding governments to account are through public scrutiny and political pressure.
Those hoping to snag a Dungeness crab for their Thanksgiving table may find them in short supply this year, after the commercial crabbing season was delayed again in parts of California over concerns for the endangered humpback whales that share their waters.
Humpback entanglements in the heavy ropes used by commercial crabbers have been on the rise in recent years, resulting in deaths and injuries to dozens of the imperiled whales. The delay marks the second time state officials have pushed back the commercial crabbing season this year in an effort to reduce entanglements.
Restrictions put in place between Sonoma and Mendocino counties, extending up to the Oregon border, are now set to ease by 1 December, but restrictions to the south, which stretch through the Bay Area down to Lopez Point in Monterey, will continue.
Officials say the the number of whales in the waters off the west coast remain high, with aerial and ship surveys taken over the last month showing up to 79 humpback whales near the Bay Area and off the coast of San Francisco. “Based on the most recent surveys, we are still seeing a high number of humpbacks, in particular out in the Gulf of the Farralones,” said Ryan Bartling, a spokesperson with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, adding that the next assessment will be done in early December.
Last year, California approved new regulations to reduce the entanglements and launched a risk assessment program to better monitor when humpbacks and sea turtles – who are also frequently tangled by the traps – are in the area.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Katie Webster - Two-fisted mama
Katie Webster - Black Satin
Katie Webster - The Love You Save May Be Your Own
Katie Webster - Too Much Sugar For A Dime
Katie Webster - C.Q. Boogie
Katie Webster w/ the Songettes - I Feel So Low
Katie Webster & Cookie with his Cupcakes - You Gonna Need Me
Katie Webster - Katie's Blues
Katie Webster - A Little Meat On The Side
Katie Webster & Carey Bell - Live Germany TV, 1980-ties