The Evening Blues - 11-28-22
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This evening's music features blues slide guitarist Casey Bill Weldon. Enjoy!
Casey Bill Weldon - Blues Everywere I Go
"Why should freedom of speech and freedom of press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?"
-- Vladimir Lenin
News and Opinion
I will never get used to living in a world where our rulers will openly imprison a journalist for telling the truth and then self-righteously pontificate about the need to stop authoritarian regimes from persecuting journalists.
Just today US State Department spokesman and CIA veteran Ned Price tweeted disapprovingly about the Kyrgyz Republic’s decision to deport investigative journalist Bolot Temirov to Russia, where press freedom groups are concerned that the Russian citizen could face conscription to fight in Ukraine.
“Dismayed by the decision to deport journalist Bolot Temirov from the Kyrgyz Republic,” said Price. “Journalists should never be punished for doing their job. The Kyrgyz Republic has been known for its vibrant civil society — attempts to stifle freedom of expression stain that reputation.”
This would be an entirely reasonable statement for anyone else to make. If you said it or I said it, it would be completely legitimate. But when Ned says it, it is illegitimate.
This is after all the same government that is working to extradite an Australian journalist from the United Kingdom with the goal of imprisoning him for up to 175 years for exposing US war crimes. Price says “Journalists should never be punished for doing their job,” but that is precisely what the government he represents is doing to Julian Assange, who has already spent three and a half years in Belmarsh Prison awaiting US extradition shenanigans. This is in top of the seven years he spent fighting extradition from the Ecuadorian embassy in London under what a UN panel ruled was arbitrary detention.
A UN special rapporteur on torture determined that Assange has been subjected to psychological torture by the allied governments which have conspired to imprison him. Scores of doctors have determined that his persecution is resulting in dangerous medical neglect. Yet he is being pulled toward the notoriously draconian prison systems of the most powerful government in the world, where he will face a rigged trial where a defense of publishing in the public interest will not be permitted.
All to establish a legal precedent that will allow the most powerful empire that has ever existed to extradite journalists from anywhere in the world for exposing inconvenient truths about it. But sure, Ned, “Journalists should never be punished for doing their job.”
Earlier this month US secretary of state Antony Blinken posted a tweet of his own commemorating the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, without the slightest trace of self-awareness.
“No member of the press should be threatened, harassed, attacked, arrested, or killed for doing their job,” Blinken said. “On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, we vow to continue protecting and promoting the rights of a free press and the safety of journalists.”
Two weeks later, the Biden administration shockingly granted Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman immunity from lawsuits regarding the gruesome assassination of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, thereby slamming the final door on all attempts to hold the tyrannical ruler responsible for his brazen assault on the press.
“No member of the press should be threatened, harassed, attacked, arrested, or killed for doing their job.”
We are ruled by tyrannical, hypocritical freaks who do not care about truth and freedom; they care only about power and what they can use to obtain it. The only press they support are those whose persecution can be politically leveraged, and those who can be used to peddle propaganda like the notorious AP editor who recently said she “can’t imagine” a US intelligence official being wrong.
Pointing out hypocrisy is important not because hypocrisy is an especially terrible thing in and of itself, but because it draws attention to the fact that the hypocrite does not really stand where they claim to stand and value what they purport to value. The rulers of the western empire care about press freedoms only exactly insofar as they can use them to concern troll foreign governments they don’t like to advance their global power agendas. And not one molecule further.
Poland’s government says an anti-missile system which Germany offered to send to Poland should instead go to Ukraine, a proposal that is a likely non-starter for Berlin because it would significantly ratchet up NATO involvement in Ukraine.
Poland’s surprising response to Berlin’s offer was welcomed by Ukraine, which is desperate to protect its airspace as barrage upon barrage of Russian missiles have knocked out power across the country. But Germany’s Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht stressed that use of NATO defense systems outside its territory needs to be agreed by all member states. ...
In Poland, critics of the populist ruling party accused it of sacrificing the country’s security with a war next door in Ukraine for the sake of a domestic political struggle which exploits anti-German sentiment for short-term gain.
The Rzeczpospolita daily called the new proposal by Poland’s leaders “shocking,” arguing that it would require sending German soldiers operating the system to Ukraine, and “that, in turn, would involve NATO in a direct clash with Russia, something the alliance has been trying to avoid from the beginning.”
“This proposal affects Poland’s credibility and, worst of all, its security. The Germans get a clear signal that we do not want their help, so the defense potential of the Polish sky will be lower,” deputy editor Michal Szuldrzynski wrote. “In the worst war in Europe since 1945, this is an unforgivable mistake.” An aide to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said the president has not been consulted on the decision.
Last week, the Department of Defense revealed that it had failed its fifth consecutive audit.
“I would not say that we flunked,” said DoD Comptroller Mike McCord, although his office did note that the Pentagon only managed to account for 39 percent of its $3.5 trillion in assets. “The process is important for us to do, and it is making us get better. It is not making us get better as fast as we want.”
The news came as no surprise to Pentagon watchers. After all, the U.S. military has the distinction of being the only U.S. government agency to have never passed a comprehensive audit.
But what did raise some eyebrows was the fact that DoD made almost no progress in this year’s bookkeeping: Of the 27 areas investigated, only seven earned a clean bill of financial health, which McCord described as “basically the same picture as last year.”
The US has granted Chevron a limited license to restart pumping oil in Venezuela in the most significant easing of sanctions on the country since the harsh measures were imposed by the Trump administration.
The move came after the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed a deal with an opposition coalition to unlock about $3 billion in Venezuelan funds that were frozen by US and European banks. Under the deal, the funds will go toward humanitarian and economic development projects.
According to the Treasury Department, the license granted to Chevron prohibits the Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA from receiving profits from any oil sales by Chevron. The license is only limited to Chevron and does not allow any other companies to work with PdVSA.
The Treasury Department said that all other sanctions on Venezuela will remain in place and that the US will “vigorously enforce these sanctions.”
Kim Jong-un has said North Korea intends to have the world’s most powerful nuclear force as the leader was again pictured with his daughter while inspecting troops and an intercontinental ballistic missile.
North Korea’s “ultimate goal is to possess the world’s most powerful strategic force, the absolute force unprecedented in the century”, Kim said in an order promoting dozens of military officers involved in the launch last weekend of a new ballistic missile, state media reported on Sunday.
He described the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as the “world’s strongest strategic weapon” and said it demonstrated North Korea’s resolve and ability to eventually build the world’s strongest army, which would reliably protect the dignity and sovereignty of the state and the people.
State media also showed Kim being accompanied on a military review by his daughter, whose existence had never been publicly confirmed before last weekend’s Hwasong-17 test. Ju Ae is estimated to be about 12 or 13 years of age. ... Her second appearance will raise the prospect that leadership of the totalitarian state could pass to a fourth generation of Kims.
The head of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) returned to Israel on Thursday after five days of talks with US officials in Washington that were focused on Iran and said joint military operations between the US and Israel will be “significantly expanded.”
“In order to improve our capabilities in the face of challenges in the region, joint activity with the US Central Command will be significantly expanded in the near future,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said, according to The Times of Israel.
Earlier this week, Kohavi held talks with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and CIA Director William Burns. Kohavi said that he stressed to the US officials that the US and Israel should step up planning for joint attacks on Iran.
It floats to the top.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right Israeli lawmaker who was convicted of incitement to racism against Arabs and supporting a terrorist organization in 2007, is poised to become Israel's national security minister after reaching a deal Friday with incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
Haaretz reported that the agreement between Likud and Ben-Gvir's Jewish Power party is the first Netanyahu "has signed with another party as part of the coalition negotiations following this month's elections, which saw his bloc winning the majority of votes." Under the terms of the deal, Reuters observed, Ben-Gvir "will have an expanded security portfolio that will include responsibility for Border Police in the occupied West Bank."
Ben-Gvir hailed the new agreement as an "important step" in the process of establishing "a full right-wing government."
To advocates of Palestinian rights, the news was deeply alarming if not surprising, given the expectation that Ben-Gvir would receive a key post in what's expected to be Israel's most right-wing government ever.
"The nightmare materializes," tweeted writer Abe Silberstein.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and further undercut the prospects of future diplomatic talks.
The Financial Times notes that Ben-Gvir is "a disciple of Meir Kahane, a rabbi who wanted to strip Arab-Israelis of citizenship and whose party was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S."
"Ben-Gvir was on the fringes of Israeli politics until he entered parliament last year," the newspaper added. "At the time, Netanyahu said that Ben-Gvir—who until a couple of years ago kept in his house a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians in a mosque in 1994—was not fit to serve as a minister. However, as Ben-Gvir's popularity surged in the run-up to this year's poll, Netanyahu changed tack and acknowledged that the 46-year-old lawyer was likely to become a member of his cabinet."
As the Jerusalem Post reported at the time of Ben-Gvir's 2007 conviction, "The self-declared Kahane spokesman was found guilty for carrying signs that read, 'Expel the Arab enemy' and 'Rabbi Kahane was right: The Arab MKs are a fifth column.'"
"He was acquitted on similar charges for chanting 'Death to the Arabs' after a Jerusalem bombing, and for stating that outlawing the [far-right extremist] Kach movement was a joke," the outlet added.
The first major free trade agreement signed by Britain after Brexit has been branded a failure after new figures showed exports had fallen since it came into force.
Liz Truss signed a “historic” deal with Japan as trade secretary in October 2020, describing it as a “landmark moment for Britain”. It was claimed it would boost trade by billions of pounds and help the UK recover from the pandemic.
However, figures collated by the Department for International Trade show exports to Japan fell from £12.3bn to £11.9bn in the year to June 2022. Exports in goods fell 4.9% to £6.1bn and services fell 2% to £5.8bn.
The decline is a significant setback for supporters of Brexit who claimed global trade with non-EU countries would help compensate for any losses from leaving the single market.
Amazon workers at the air hub outside the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky international airport, Amazon’s largest air hub in the world, are pushing to organize a union in the latest effort to mobilize workers at the tech company.
Workers say they are dissatisfied with annual wage increases this year. About 400 of them have signed a petition to reinstate a premium hourly pay for Amazon’s peak season that hasn’t been enacted at the site yet. Their main demands also include a $30 an hour starting wage, 180 hours of paid time off and union representation at disciplinary hearings.
“We have to operate a lot of heavy machinery, freight loaders, cargo tractors and things like that, and people aren’t paid any extra to do that work,” said Griffin Ritze, an air associate and ramp agent at the Amazon air hub, and a member of the organizing committee. “They just cross-train you in as many roles as possible and you’re constantly shuffled around.”
About 4,500 workers are employed at the expanding air hub in Kentucky. Those organizing have already filed two unfair labor practice charges over Amazon’s response to the unionization effort, which has included anti-union talking points on televisions and its communications system for employees that characterize the effort as a third-party scheme. ...
Organizing efforts at Amazon have spread beyond the JFK8 Staten Island, New York, warehouse, where workers won the first union election at an Amazon site in the US in April 2022. But they have yet to repeat the success. Amazon has aggressively opposed additional efforts while contesting the union election results at the Staten Island location. Those results have yet to be certified as Amazon is trying to overturn the election. Most recently, the company appealed against a ruling dismissing their objections to the election.
Billionaire Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the world and the CEO of BNSF Railway's parent company, saw his wealth jump by nearly $1.4 billion in a single day earlier this week, a sum that could easily fund 15 days of paid sick leave for every rail worker in the United States.
BNSF is one of the major railroad giants refusing to budge in contract negotiations with rail unions as they fight for 15 days of paid sick leave. Under a White House-brokered contract that major rail unions have recently voted to reject, rail workers would not receive a single paid sick day.
A nationwide rail strike or lockout with major implications for the U.S. economy could begin as soon as December 9 if rail companies and unions don't reach a contract deal. ...
Rail companies have estimated that it would cost roughly $688 million a year to provide 15 days of paid sick leave to rail employees, who work long and erratic hours and are often expected to be on call 24 hours a day. To make matters worse, rail companies' attendance policies punish workers for calling out sick or taking a day off to see the doctor.
"Buffett's BNSF, for example, has started using a convoluted system called 'Hi-Viz' under which workers start with a point balance then lose points if they're unavailable to work because they're sick, have a family emergency, or other reasons," Mother Jones reported in September. "If their balance hits zero, they get a 10-day suspension, and a 20-day suspension if it happens again. Reaching zero for the third time in a two-year period means getting fired."
BNSF has urged Congress to intervene and force rail workers to accept a contract with no paid sick days, something Senate Republicans tried to do via the unanimous consent process in mid-September. Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, blocked the GOP legislation, allowing the collective bargaining process to continue.
With the possibility of a nationwide strike growing after the largest union of rail workers in the U.S. voted to reject the White House-brokered contract deal earlier this week, Congress is once again facing calls from the hugely profitable railroad industry to get involved.
The government of Barbados is considering plans to make a wealthy Conservative MP the first individual to pay reparations for his ancestor’s pivotal role in slavery. ... The Drax family pioneered the plantation system in the 17th century and played a major role in the development of sugar and slavery across the Caribbean and the US. ...
Countries in the Caribbean community (Caricom) have been campaigning for the payment of reparations by former colonial powers and institutions which profited from slavery. This is the first time a family has been singled out. Among the plans being considered are that 17th-century Drax Hall is turned into an Afro-centric museum and that a large portion of the plantation is used for social housing for low-income Bajan families. There is also a recommendation that Richard Drax pays for some of the work.
David Comissiong, the Barbados ambassador to Caricom and deputy chairman of the task force, said that besides Drax, other families whose ancestors benefited from slavery are being considered including the British royal family: “It is now a matter that is before the government of Barbados. It is being dealt with at the highest level.
“Drax is fabulously wealthy today. The Drax family is the central family in the whole story of enslavement in Barbados. They are the architects of slavery-based sugar production. They have a deep historical responsibility. The process has only just begun and we trust that we will be able to negotiate. If that doesn’t work, there are other methods, including litigation. ...
Drax’s ancestor, Sir James Drax, was one of the first Englishmen to colonise Barbados in the early 17th century. He part-owned at least two slave ships, the Samuel and the Hope. The Drax family also owned a plantation in Jamaica, which they sold in the 19th century. When slavery was abolished across the British empire in 1833, the family received £4,293 12s 6d, a very large sum in 1836, in compensation for freeing 189 enslaved people.
In all the debates on how to curb climate change, hemp is hardly mentioned. Better known as cannabis, modern varieties of hemp are too weak to use as narcotics, but they are extremely efficient at absorbing and locking up carbon.
Hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and can grow 4 metres high in 100 days. Research suggests hemp is twice as effective as trees at absorbing and locking up carbon, with 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of hemp reckoned to absorb 8 to 22 tonnes of CO2 a year, more than any woodland. The CO2 is also permanently fixed in the hemp fibres, which can go on to be used for many commodities including textiles, medicines, insulation for buildings and concrete; BMW is even using it to replace plastics in various car parts.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Casey Bill Weldon - You Shouldn't Do That
Casey Bill Weldon - Sold My Soul to the Devil
Casey Bill Weldon - I've Been Tricked
Casey Bill Weldon - Two Timin' Woman
Casey Bill Weldon - W. P. A. Blues
Casey Bill Weldon - I'm a Stranger In Your Town
Casey Bill Weldon - Go Ahead Buddy
Casey Bill Weldon - Casey Blues
Memphis Minnie & Casey Bill Weldon - When The Sun Goes Down
Casey Bill Weldon - Guitar Swing