The Evening Blues - 12-8-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Kansas City jazz and blues piano player, singer and bandleader Jay McShann. Enjoy!
Jay McShann - Vine Street Boogie
“One nation's common sense is another nation's high blood pressure.”
-- E.B. White
News and Opinion
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin held a virtual summit on Tuesday but made little apparent headway in defusing the crisis over Ukraine in the wake of a Russian troop buildup, and instead delegated officials from both countries to stay in contact.
The two leaders talked by videoconference for just over two hours, during which they laid out their positions. “The discussion between President Biden and President Putin was direct and straightforward. There was a lot of give and take, there was no finger-wagging. But the president was crystal clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues,” the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said.
The Kremlin said Putin and Biden had traded threats regarding Russia’s buildup of forces near the Ukrainian border. Putin accused Nato forces of undertaking “dangerous attempts to develop Ukrainian territory and increase its potential along our borders”. Putin went on to demand “reliable, legal guarantees” that would specifically prevent Nato from expanding its territory toward Russia or place missile systems in countries bordering Russia.
The US has repeatedly said it is Ukraine’s right to decide its own security arrangements, but Sullivan said that Biden made clear that broader strategic talks between the Nato allies and Russia were possible if the threat of invasion receded. Sullivan laid out some of the counter-measures the US and its allies would take in the event of an invasion, including reinforcements to Nato’s eastern flank.
According to the Reuters news agency, US officials told members of congress on Tuesday they had an agreement with Germany to shut down the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia and northern Europe, if Moscow launched an offensive in Ukraine. Sullivan did not go into detail on other economic measures, but among the other sanctions believed to be under consideration are a ban on the secondary market in Russian bonds, sanctions on large Russian corporations and banks and expulsion from the international electronic payments system Swift.
A swift reprisal package against Russia – including US troops and Patriot missiles stationed in the Baltics, the cutting off of Russia from the Swift banking payments system and reinstated sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline – must be prepared now in case it invades Ukraine, the Latvian foreign minister has said.
The warning from Edgars Rinkevics comes as Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin prepare to hold talks about the growing tensions. ...
Rinkevics said he had already discussed the issue with the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, when Latvia hosted the Nato foreign ministers summit last week. “Russia has to know that if you do something bad in Ukraine then the Nato and US presence in the eastern flank of the alliance will increase. If you do this, you will provoke a bigger presence than now”, he said.
“These decisions had to be made now through bilateral channels and the alliance so if Russia acts there can be a swift and broad response that does not take months or years.
The United States Senate on Tuesday evening voted down a joint resolution that would have blocked the proposed sale of $650 million worth of U.S. armaments to Saudi Arabia, weapons critics said will help exacerbate a war in Yemen that is driving one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
In a 67-30 vote, the upper chamber rejected S.J. Res. 31, which was introduced by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and would have halted the sale of 280 Raytheon AIM-120C-7/C-8 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, 596 LAU-128 missile rail launchers, along with spare parts, support, and logistical services to the Saudi monarchy for use in its war against Yemen.
"My simple question is, why in the world would the United States reward a regime that has caused such pain in Yemen with more weapons," Sanders tweeted after the vote. "The answer is we should not."
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who voted to block the arms sale, tweeted after the vote that "the war in Yemen has had devastating humanitarian impacts and we must end it as swiftly as possible. Selling more weapons to a key party to the conflict when there's been no progress does the opposite.
President Joe Biden's administration had "strongly opposed" the resolution, claiming the missiles would be used for Saudi "defenses." U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was a member of Raytheon's board of directors prior to becoming Pentagon chief.
Democrats who voted to sink the measure included Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), and Chris Murphy (Conn.).
Murphy—a self-described "leading critic of the Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen"—told The Intercept that he supported the missile transfer because it is "a true defensive sale."
"With the increased pace of Houthi drones coming into Saudi territory, it is actually important for them to have the ability to shoot them," he explained.
Democrats who supported the resolution include Cory Booker (N.J.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).
Only two Republicans—co-sponsors Paul and Lee—voted for the measure.
Global inequality is as marked as it was in the early 20th century pinnacle of western imperialism after the capture by the super-rich of an increasing share of the world’s income, a new report has shown. A study by a group of economists including Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez said 30 years of the globalisation of trade and finance had widened the gap between rich and poor.
Although the World Inequality report found inequalities between nations had declined since the end of the cold war, it said inequality had increased within most countries and had become more pronounced as a result of the global pandemic of the past two years. The wealth gap between rich and poor was even wider than the income divide, the report added, with the boom in asset prices last year resulting in the sharpest increase in billionaires’ wealth on record.
The research showed the richest 10% of the global population currently taking 52% of global income, compared with an 8% share for the poorest half. On average, an individual from the top 10% of the global income distribution earned $122,100 (£92,150) a year, whereas an individual from the poorest half of the global income distribution makes $3,920 a year.
“Global inequalities seem to be about as great today as they were at the peak of western imperialism in the early 20th century,” the report said. “Indeed, the share of income presently captured by the poorest half of the world’s people is about half what it was in 1820, before the great divergence between western countries and their colonies.”
For more than two decades, Texan civil engineer Rasmy Hassouna was a contractor for the city of Houston. Hassouna has consulted the city on soil volatility in the nearby Gulf of Mexico – a much needed service to evaluate the structural stability of houses and other buildings. He was gearing up to renew his government contract when a particular legal clause caught his eye: a provision that effectively banned him or his company, A&R Engineering and Testing, Inc, from ever protesting the nation of Israel or its products so long as his company was a partner with the city of Houston.
For Hassouna – a 59-year-old proud Palestinian American – it was a huge shock. “I came here and thought I was a free man. It’s not anybody’s business what I do or what I say, as long as I’m not harming anybody,” he told the Guardian. “Were you lying all this time? If I don’t want to buy anything at WalMart, who are you to tell me not to shop at WalMart? Why do I have to pledge allegiance to a foreign country?”
But Hassouna’s reaction did not stop at anger. He took action, launching a case that is challenging the Texas law and – by example – similar provisions that have spread all over the US that seek to stop government contractors from boycotting Israel and can be found in more than 25 US states. Along with the Arkansas Times newspaper, A&R Engineering and Testing Inc is now one of only two companies fighting this kind of law in the nation.
Hassouna’s case – which was filed on his behalf by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – will be heard in federal court on Tuesday and is based on the idea that such laws violate free speech. If ruled unconstitutional, the 2019 ban on boycotting Israel will be illegal in the state of Texas.
Progressives on Tuesday responded to reports that U.S. Senate leadership reached a deal to allow Democrats to raise the nation's debt ceiling by suggesting similar maneuvers on other key priorities for the party, from voting rights and reproductive freedom to gun violence prevention and immigration reform.
"Faced with the frightening prospect of the United States defaulting on our debt, the proposed solution is a convoluted legislative maneuver that highlights the Senate's growing dysfunction," said Sean Eldridge, president and founder of the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America.
"This deal makes clear the need to reform the filibuster to make the Senate work for the American people," he added. "If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."
In a tweet Tuesday, Stand Up America highlighted two specific pieces of legislation that Republicans in the evenly split Senate have prevented from reaching President Joe Biden's desk: the Freedom to Vote Act—a compromise that followed the twice-blocked, bolder For the People Act—and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
"Allowing the 33 voter suppression laws passed by state Republicans this year to go into effect isn't an option," the group said. "Senate Democrats must end the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Our democracy depends on it."
Earlier in the day, responding to reporting by Punchbowl News, Stephen Spaulding of the group Common Cause noted that the deal "will increase pressure for doing something similar" on other top legislative issues.
The US justice department is ending its latest investigation into the death of Emmett Till, a Black teenager who was brutally abducted, tortured and killed in 1955, without filing any charges after failing to prove that a key witness lied. Till’s family said it was disappointed by the news that there will continue to be no accountability for the infamous lynching.
“Today is a day we will never forget,” Till’s cousin, the Reverand Wheeler Parker, said during a news conference in Chicago. “For 66 years we have suffered pain ... I suffered tremendously.”
The DoJ reopened the investigation after a 2017 book quoted Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman, as saying she lied about Till whistling and making sexual advances toward her. But the investigation ended without charges against Donham, who told the FBI that she had never recanted her accusations. The justice department said in a news release Monday that there is “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI”. ...
“In closing this matter without prosecution, the government does not take the position that the state court testimony the woman gave in 1955 was truthful or accurate,” the news release said. “There remains considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events, which is contradicted by others who were with Till at the time, including the account of a living witness.”
In the United States, only certain types of theft are newsworthy. For example, on 14 June 2021, a reporter for KGO-TV in San Francisco tweeted a cellphone video of a man in Walgreens filling a garbage bag with stolen items and riding his bicycle out of the store. According to San Francisco’s crime database, the value of the merchandise stolen in the incident was between $200 and $950. According to an analysis by Fair, a media watchdog, this single incident generated 309 stories between 14 June and 12 July. A search by Popular Information reveals that, since 12 July, there have been dozens of additional stories mentioning the incident. The theft has been covered in a slew of major publications including the New York Times, USA Today and CNN.
In most coverage, the video is presented as proof that there are no consequences for shoplifting in San Francisco. But the man in the video, Jean Lugo-Romero, was arrested about a week later and faces 15 charges, including “grand theft, second-degree burglary and shoplifting”. He was recently transferred to county jail where he is being held without bond.
Just a few months earlier, in November 2020, Walgreens paid a $4.5m settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that it stole wages from thousands of its employees in California between 2010 and 2017. The lawsuit alleged that Walgreens “rounded down employees’ hours on their timecards, required employees to pass through security checks before and after their shift without compensating them for time worked, and failed to pay premium wages to employees who were denied legally required meal breaks”. Walgreens’ settlement includes attorney’s fees and other penalties, but $2,830,000 went to Walgreens employees to compensate them for the wages that the company had stolen. And, because it is a settlement, that amount represents a small fraction of the total liability. According to the order approving the settlement, it represents “approximately 22% of the potential damages”.
So this is a story of a corporation that stole millions of dollars from its own employees. How much news coverage did it generate? There was a single 221-word story in Bloomberg Law, an industry publication. And that’s it. There has been no coverage in the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, or the dozens of other publications that covered the story of a man stealing a few hundred dollars of merchandise. ...
A 2017 study of minimum wage violations, which is just one kind of wage theft, found that in the 10 most populous states “2.4 million workers lose $8bn annually (an average of $3,300 per year for year-round workers) to minimum wage violations –nearly a quarter of their earned wages.” ... If similar levels of wage theft are found in other states, it suggests “the total wages stolen from workers due to minimum wage violations exceeds $15bn each year.” That’s more than the value of stolen goods in all property crimes, according to the latest FBI statistics.
As Seattle residents face an 8:00 pm Tuesday deadline to cast their ballots in the recall election of District 3 Council member Kshama Sawant, supporters of the Socialist Alternative lawmaker made their final pitch to the Washington city's voters.
"Vote 'no' on the right-wing recall," the Kshama Solidarity Campaign said in a statement, calling accusations by proponents of recalling the third-term council member "dishonest."
"The courts haven't found her guilty of anything," the campaign continued. "Kshama, an immigrant woman of color, is being attacked for participating in peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. This recall is part of the racist right-wing backlash attempting to criminalize protest nationally. Big Business and the right wing want to remove Kshama because she's such an effective fighter for working people."
The recall ballot accuses Sawant, the longest-tenured Seattle council member, of "misfeasance, malfeasance, and violation of the oath of office." Specifically, it says she "used city resources to support a ballot initiative," ignored state pandemic rules "by admitting hundreds of people into City Hall" when it was closed to the public, and "led a protest march to Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan's private residence."
Sawant's supporters, however, argue that it's her record of fighting for working-class people and against billionaires and Big Business that has made her a target of "a cabal of tech corporations, real estate interests, and business lobbyists."
"Once again, the wealthy and special interests are making a power grab for Kshama Sawant's seat because she has the guts to stand up for working people," U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said last week. "We need to unite together to stop this baseless recall."
Marxist economist Richard D. Wolff said earlier this week that "when the capitalists and their political servants see the appeal of socialist ideas and proposals, they try to destroy socialist leaders."
Accusing Sawant foes of "abusing the recall process to remove politicians who pose a mild threat to the bottom lines of real estate tycoons and developers will likely prevail," Rich Smith, associate editor of The Stranger, wrote Monday that "conservative media and right-wing activists are scraping the bottom of their barrels for more shit to throw at Sawant's campaign."
While the editorial board of The Seattle Times recently accused Sawant of "shrugging at City Hall norms" and "performative chicanery," her supporters point to her key role in making Seattle the first major U.S. city to enact a $15 hourly minimum wage, as well as in helping to lead the successful push for the so-called "Amazon tax" on large corporations and a slew of tenant protections including free legal aid for people facing eviction and the landmark Renters' Bill of Rights.
Goodman Real Estate CEO George Petrie is one of more than 100 financial backers of former President Donald Trump and hundreds of GOP donors to support the recall, as is Columbia Modern Living president Carl Haglund—described by a whistleblower as a "notorious slumlord." In 2016, Sawant successfully led the effort to pass the so-called "Carl Haglund Law" to boost tenant's rights.
Billionaire real estate developer Martin Selig, known locally as the "ICE landlord," and his apparent heir and daughter, Jordan Selig, are also among the recall's supporters. So is Egan Orion, whose unsuccessful 2019 run to unseat incumbent Sawant received nearly half a million dollars from an Amazon-backed PAC run by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Orion provided the recall campaign with data on 2,500 of his donors and their employers.
The PR Industry Has Been a ‘Major’ But ‘Overlooked’ Influence in Climate Politics for Decades, Says Study
From coining “clean coal” to “carbon footprint,” public relations firms have been instrumental in shaping the public discourse around climate and energy policy, and as a new study underlines, their powerful efforts have flown under the radar for too long. PR firms have played a key role in obstructing action on climate change over the past 30 years, engaging in PR campaigns on behalf of the fossil fuel industry to not only downplay the seriousness of climate change, but also to position industry-favored solutions as the preferred course of action.
A new peer-reviewed study, published in Climatic Change on November 30 by Robert J. Brulle and Carter Werthman of Brown University, analyzes the role that PR firms have played in the climate misinformation ecosystem between 1988 and 2020. The study looked at 214 organizations across five major sectors — coal/steel/rail, oil & gas, utilities, renewable energy, and the environmental movement — and found that electric utilities hired and used PR firms the most out of any other sector analyzed, followed by oil and gas.
At the same time, those organizations used a very small number of big names in the PR world, including Edelman, Glover Park Group, Cerrell, and Ogilvy. Of more than 600 PR firms analyzed, the top 25 accounted for nearly a third of the engagement on climate work with companies and nonprofits.
“The fossil fuel industry’s obstruction of climate action goes beyond misinformation and climate denial. A major part of the effort to obstruct climate action involves enhancing the positive public reputation for the fossil fuel companies and emphasizing the benefits of continued fossil fuel use,” said Robert Brulle, visiting professor at Brown University and co-author on the article. “From the severity of climate impacts to policies to address the problem, PR firms are a big part of the corporate propaganda machinery that guides the way Americans think about the issue.”
If Glasgow 2021 is remembered at all, it will be as the moment when big finance came to the party. ... U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced, is all ready to go. Johnson told us that governments can mobilize billions, while the private sector can mobilize trillions, as though that money was not created by government in the first instance. ... No “respectable” media or body is going to question the taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks and above all taxpayer guaranteed returns the big financial sharks are going to get — because it is all to combat climate change. This is an even bigger spree in the offing for the fat cats than the banker bailouts that led to the decade of austerity. In order to ensure the private sector money rolls in, you and I will be meeting R & D costs and then picking up any losses: the wealthy will be hoovering up the profits.
They also need to keep consumers consuming. There is no government interest in distributed power generation solutions. Consider this. If you insulated every home in the country, and put solar panels on every roof, non-local energy usage would be greatly reduced and people’s energy bills would fall. But insulating homes, especially older ones, is much more labor-intensive than it is capital intensive. It would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. But material costs are comparatively small, and then after insulation consumers people will not be paying big energy bills. This is not in the least a fat-cat-friendly policy.
But what if you leave homes pumping heat into the atmosphere, forget local generation and instead build a new network of nuclear power stations? There is nothing more conducive to the concentration of economic and social power than the nuclear industry, with its inextricable links to the security state. Electricity can still be sold to the helots, whose self-sufficiency and freedom will in no way be enhanced.
Nobody should be surprised the government is showing much more interest in nuclear power than in home insulation or domestic solar panels. ... In Glasgow the people were shut out while the global super-wealthy asked themselves this vital question:
“The planet is heading for environmental destruction: how do we make money out of that?”
Leaders of the world’s biggest oil companies have used an industry gathering in Houston to launch an attack on the speed of transition to clean energy, claiming a badly managed process could lead to “insecurity, rampant inflation and social unrest”. Executives from oil companies including Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, and US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron publicly described the shift towards clean energy alternatives as “deeply flawed”. They called for fossil fuels to remain part of the energy mix for years to come despite global efforts for an urgent response to the climate crisis.
Saudi Aramco’s chief executive, Amin Nasser, told delegates at the World Petroleum Congress in Houston, Texas, that adapting to cleaner fuels “overnight” could trigger uncontrolled economic inflation.
“I understand that publicly admitting that oil and gas will play an essential and significant role during the transition and beyond will be hard for some,” he said. “But admitting this reality will be far easier than dealing with energy insecurity, rampant inflation and social unrest as the prices become intolerably high, and seeing net zero commitments by countries start to unravel. “The world is facing an ever more chaotic energy transition centred on highly unrealistic scenarios and assumptions about the future of energy.” ...
Global oil and gas prices have surged in recent months since the original Covid-19 lockdown, which stifled economies around the world in 2020. Energy experts and economists have argued that the global energy market surge – which has triggered blackouts, higher bills and the shutdown of factories in some countries – should encourage policymakers to accelerate the move away from volatile fossil fuels. ...
The calls for a slower transition to clean energy put oil executives on a collision course with those energy industry experts, climate scientists and governments which have warned that without a rapid phasing out of CO2 emissions within the next decade catastrophic levels of global heating will be unavoidable.
There is a fundamental problem in contemporary discussion of climate policy: it rarely acknowledges inequality. Poorer households, which are low CO2 emitters, rightly anticipate that climate policies will limit their purchasing power. In return, policymakers fear a political backlash should they demand faster climate action. The problem with this vicious circle is that it has lost us a lot of time. The good news is that we can end it.
Let’s first look at the facts: 10% of the world’s population are responsible for about half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom half of the world contributes just 12% of all emissions. This is not simply a rich versus poor countries divide: there are huge emitters in poor countries, and low emitters in rich countries.
Consider the US, for instance. Every year, the poorest 50% of the US population emit about 10 tonnes of CO2 per person, while the richest 10% emit 75 tonnes per person. That is a gap of more than seven to one. Similarly, in Europe, the poorest half emits about five tonnes per person, while the richest 10% emit about 30 tonnes – a gap of six to one. (You can now view this data on the World Inequality Database.)
Where do these large inequalities come from? The rich emit more carbon through the goods and services they buy, as well as from the investments they make. Low-income groups emit carbon when they use their cars or heat their homes, but their indirect emissions – that is, the emissions from the stuff they buy and the investments they make – are significantly lower than those of the rich. The poorest half of the population barely owns any wealth, meaning that it has little or no responsibility for emissions associated with investment decisions. ...
It follows that the rich should contribute the most to curbing emissions, and the poor be given the capacity to cope with the transition to 1.5C or 2C. Unfortunately, this is not what is happening – if anything, what is happening is closer to the opposite.
Wildfires produced a record amount of carbon emissions in parts of Siberia, the United States and Turkey this year, as climate change fanned unusually intense blazes, the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said on Monday. Wildfires emitted 1.76bn tonnes of carbon globally in 2021, Copernicus said. That’s equivalent to more than double Germany’s annual CO2 emissions.
Some of the worst-hit hotspots recorded their highest wildfire emissions for any January-November period since Copernicus’ dataset began in 2003, including parts of Siberia’s Yakutia region, Turkey, Tunisia and the American west. “We have seen extensive regions experience intense and prolonged wildfire activity. Drier and hotter regional conditions under a changing climate have increased the risk of flammability and fire risk of vegetation,” said senior Copernicus scientist Mark Parrington.
Globally, the wildfire emissions total wasn’t the highest since 2003, but Copernicus said such emissions were likely to increase as the impacts of climate change unfold.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jimmy Witherspoon with Jay McShann - Confessin' the blues
Big Joe Turner & Jay McShann - Rose Garden
Jay McShann - Stompin' in K C
Jay McShann with Charlie Parker - Swingmatism
Jay McShann - 'Tain't Nobody's Biz'ness If I Do
Jay McShann - Jumpin' The Blues
Jay McShann w/Jimmy Witherspoon - Voodoo Woman Blues
Jay McShann's Kansas City Stompers - Come On Over To My House
Jay McShann - Hootie's Ignorant Oil
Jay Mcshann - Blue Devil Jump