The Evening Blues - 12-2-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues piano player Johnnie Johnson. Enjoy!
Johnnie Johnson - Tanqueray
“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
-- William Blake
News and Opinion
Speaking on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday before votes on a trio of bills affecting the nation's freight rail employees, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he had one "simple question" to ask: "Are any Republicans prepared to stand with rail workers who have zero paid sick days or are they instead going to back the outrageous greed of the rail industry?"
Sanders (I-Vt.) got his answer a short time later when 42 Republicans—and serial Democratic obstructionist Joe Manchin of West Virginia—voted down Rep. Jamaal Bowman's (D-N.Y.) proposal to include seven paid sick days in the tentative contract being foisted upon rail workers by Congress and the Biden administration under the terms of the Railway Labor Act of 1926 in order to avoid a strike that experts say could cost the nation's economy $2 billion per day. The White House-brokered tentative contract was previously rejected by more than half of the nation's unionized freight rail employees.
Six Republican senators voted for the sick leave measure: Mike Braun (Ind.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), John Kennedy (La.), and Marco Rubio (Fla.).
The senators also voted 80-15 to approve the contract supported by President Joe Biden—who once called himself the "most pro-labor president" in U.S. history—to force freight rail workers to remain on the job under pain of termination. A third measure, which would have extended the negotiation period by another 60 days, was rejected.
The Biden administration had urged senators to quickly legislation to thwart a potential strike by the nation's freight rail employees, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg telling CNBC Thursday that "there is no substitute in the American transportation system for a functioning freight rail network," and that a strike "wouldn't just bring down our rail system, it would really shut down our economy."
Responding to the Senate rejecting his House-approved resolution, Bowman tweeted that "Senate Republicans and Joe Manchin have yet AGAIN failed working Americans by voting down seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers."
"I'm truly disgusted by their inability to care about workers," he added. "They continue to put profits over people and it's sickening."
On Thursday afternoon, the US Senate voted by a margin of 80 to 15 to impose the terms of a national rail contract that tens of thousands of workers voted to reject. The vote in the Senate followed the law’s passage Wednesday in the House of Representatives. The law—which does not even include the fig leaf of seven paid sick days that was narrowly approved as a separate measure in the House—is a major assault on the democratic rights of all workers in the United States. ...
To a far more direct and open degree than before, workers are locked in a fight against the capitalist state itself. To the extent that anything “positive” has come out of this, it is that the vote completely exposes all factions of the political establishment. ... On Tuesday, House Democrats introduced a separate resolution, originally drafted by Sanders in the Senate, to add seven paid sick days on top of the contract they were imposing. This was a sham aimed at providing political cover. It had no chance of reaching the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Even if it did pass both houses, it would do next to nothing to seriously address workers’ demands. ...
The Senate, after voting to reject a Republican proposal to extend the deadline into February, voted down the sick days proposal, as expected, in a near party-line vote, with Democrat Joe Manchin playing his assigned role of joining with Republicans against his own party. ...
The most significant element of the voting in the Senate was the expedited procedure, worked out in negotiations involving both parties and the White House, which required the unanimous consent of all 100 senators. If either Bernie Sanders, the “progressive” Elizabeth Warren or anyone else had objected to this, the vote would have been delayed. In other words, Sanders’ support was decisive, under conditions in which the outcome of voting was known in advance. Not only that, he was a principal architect of the parliamentary maneuvering through which it was passed.
Sanders and the Democrats are cynically using the Republican opposition to sick days to posture as friends of workers after they voted to impose the contract by an even wider margin than the Republicans, many of whom voted against it for factional reasons. But even the New York Times, the house organ of the Democratic Party, could not avoid admitting the obvious. “In a statement that perfectly captured the yawning gap between Democratic Party rhetoric and behavior,” Times editorial board member Binyamin Appelbaum observed in an opinion piece, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced railroad companies as rapacious profiteers who ‘have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers.’ Then, just one sentence later, she announced that House Democrats would stand with the profiteers.” ...
The entire political system, including both its right wing and nominal “left,” is revealing itself as an instrument of class rule. The shabby maneuvering over sick days cannot conceal from the working class the significance of what has taken place. Workers will begin to draw sweeping conclusions. By its own actions, Washington has shown to workers that they cannot fight for even their most minimal demands within the existing framework. They have unwittingly made a powerful argument for social revolution in the United States.
Snowden is safe in the arns of Mother Russia:
Edward Snowden has received a Russian passport after swearing an oath of allegiance to the country that has sheltered him from US authorities since 2013, his lawyer has said. Snowden, 39, a former intelligence contractor who leaked secret files that were reported on by the Guardian, was granted Russian citizenship in an order signed by Vladimir Putin in September.
On Friday, Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Snowden had received his passport. “He took the oath,” he said. ...
Kucherena said on Friday that Snowden was “happy” and that Russian citizenship would prevent him from being extradited.
Anti-war advocates blasted U.S. lawmakers on Thursday, one day after it was reported that Congress is expected to pass an $847 billion military budget for the coming fiscal year even though the Pentagon recently failed its fifth consecutive annual audit and nearly 40 million people nationwide are living in poverty.
Last month, "the Pentagon once again failed to pass a basic audit showing that it knows where its money goes," the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies said in a statement. "And instead of holding out for any kind of accountability, Congress stands ready to give a big raise to an agency that failed to account for more than 60% of its assets." ...
NPP said Thursday that "after 20 years of war, and in a time when government spending is desperately needed elsewhere, the Pentagon's fifth failed audit in as many years (and having never, ever passed) should be the last straw."
"This isn't using our taxpayer dollars wisely," the nonprofit research institute continued. "It's robbing programs that we need, like the discontinued child tax credit that cut child poverty by half. And it's continuing the Pentagon's legacy of war, all for the benefit of the contractors who commandeer roughly half of the Pentagon's budget in any given year."
Approximately 55% of all Pentagon spending went to private sector military contractors from FY 2002 to FY 2021, according to Stephen Semler of the Security Policy Reform Institute. "If this privatization of funds rate over the last 20 years holds," Semler wrote last December, arms dealers will rake in an estimated $407 billion in public money in FY 2022.
The US and NATO are directly involved in the war in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday.
“You shouldn’t say that the US and NATO aren’t taking part in this war. You are directly participating in it,” Lavrov said at a press conference.
“And not just by providing weapons but also by training personnel. You are training their military on your territory, on the territories of Britain, Germany, Italy, and other countries,” he added.
Lavrov made the comments while defending Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, which have left millions of civilians without power and heat as temperatures are dropping. He said that Russia is “disabling” energy infrastructure that allows the US and NATO to “pump Ukraine with deadly weapons to kill Russians”
President Biden said Thursday that he has no plans to contact Russian President Vladimir Putin but that he’d be willing to talk with the Russian leader if he was prepared to end the war in Ukraine.
“I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin,” Biden said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is visiting the White House. “I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet.”
Russia has maintained that it’s open to talks with the US and Ukraine about the war, but there’s little chance Putin and Biden would be anywhere close on what they think is an acceptable peace deal to end the fighting.
Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin has called for Europe to build its own defence capabilities in the wake of the war in Ukraine, saying that without US help it is not resilient enough.
“We should make sure that we are stronger,” Marin said in Sydney on Friday. “And I’ll be brutally honest with you, Europe isn’t strong enough. We would be in trouble without the United States.”
Her remarks came in response to a question about China’s responsibility to “rein in Russia”. Marin said that while China could play a role, “We shouldn’t only rely on that.”
Marin insisted Ukraine must be given “whatever it takes” to win the war, adding that the United States had been pivotal in supplying Kyiv with the weapons, finance and humanitarian aid necessary to blunt Russia’s advance.
“We have to make sure that we are also building those capabilities when it comes to European defence, the European defence industry, and making sure that we could cope in different kinds of situations,” she said.
Inside Israeli Cover-up & US Response to Murder of Palestinian American Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
After months of lawbreaking, Starbucks must swiftly begin negotiating with a union formed at one of its locations in Seattle, the federal agency that enforces labor law reaffirmed Wednesday.
The unanimous decision from three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) comes after employees of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery at 1124 Pike St. in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood voted 38-27 in April to form a union—which the company has been fighting against since.
Starbucks, the NLRB order explains, "admits its refusal to bargain, but contests the validity of the union's certification of representative based on its contention, raised and rejected in the representation proceeding, that the regional director erred in directing an election by mail."
The document also notes that all issues raised by Starbucks "were or could have been litigated in the prior representation proceeding," and the coffee company is not offering "any newly discovered and previously unavailable evidence, nor has it established any special circumstances that would require the board to reexamine the decision."
The panel—featuring two Democrats and a Republican—commands Starbucks "to cease and desist from failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with the union, to bargain on request with the union and, if an understanding is reached, to embody the understanding in a signed agreement."
In response to the order, a Starbucks spokesperson told Bloomberg that "we are challenging certification of the Seattle Roastery election and plan to appeal today's decision."
Democrats are poised to shake up the way in which they nominate presidential candidates, after Joe Biden said the primary process should better represent the party’s non-white voters.
Biden has reportedly told Democrats that Iowa, the state that has led off the Democratic voting calendar since 1976, should be moved down the calendar, with South Carolina instead going first.
The move would see New Hampshire, which has technically held the nation’s first primary since 1920 (Iowa uses a slightly different system of caucuses, or in-person voting), shunted down the calendar.
Both Iowa and New Hampshire are predominantly white states. Clamor has been growing inside and outside the Democratic party for a different state, with a population more representative of the US as a whole, to be given the first go.
U.S. Senator-elect John Fetterman on Friday announced two key staff hires for his office on Friday, including tapping the author of a book calling for the abolishment of the arcane Senate filibuster to be his next chief of staff.
The Pennsylvania Democrat said in a statement that he has hired Adam Jentleson to oversee his D.C. office as chief of staff and that longtime party operative and labor organizer Joseph Pierce will be his state director.
A veteran of the Senate who served under former Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Jentleson also wrote the 2021 book, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern State and the Crippling of American Democracy, which examines Senate rules that powerful interests have exploited to obstruct progressive legislation with overwhelming majority support among the American public.
Throughout the first two years of the Biden administration, Jentleson was a key voice calling for Senate reforms to enact pressing priorities.
The Canadian government has been accused of putting its domestic timber industry ahead of the global environment, following a leaked attempt to water down the world’s most ambitious regulations on deforestation-free trade. Weeks before the United Nations biodiversity conference, Cop15 in Montreal, the host nation sent a letter to the European Commission asking for a reconsideration of “burdensome traceability requirements” within a proposed EU scheme that aims to eradicate unsustainably sourced wood products from the world’s biggest market.
The letter from the Canadian ambassador to the EU, Ailish Campbell, also called for a “phased” approach that would slow down implementation, and a review of plans to include “degraded” forests among the areas considered at risk. Green MPs and conservation groups said the lobbying effort showed the government of Justin Trudeau placed more of a priority on its paper, timber and wood products industry than the international commitment it made at last year’s Glasgow climate conference to “halt and reverse” forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
“In this letter, you can perfectly see Canada wanted to protect its economic interests rather than the forest,” said the French MEP Marie Toussaint, one of the initiators of the new regulations. “For a country that is supposed to be in favour of conserving natural resources to say ‘don’t go so fast’ is surprising, especially when they will be at the forefront of the biodiversity issue in Montreal in a couple of weeks.” ...
Canada’s lobbying efforts are under particular scrutiny before the Montreal conference, which will put a spotlight on the country’s green reputation as well as a darker environmental side. Canada is a base for some of the world’s biggest mining firms, including Belo Sun, which aims to open a huge gold pit in the Amazon rainforest. Canada’s exploitation of tar sands in Alberta has also been widely criticised as out-of-step with efforts to keep global warming to between 1.5C and 2C above pre-industrial levels. The sustainability of the country’s forest-products firms, such as Paper Excellence and Resolute, has also been questioned.
The catastrophic chain of events that water and power authorities are working to prepare for amid the desertification of the Colorado River basin would amount to a "complete doomsday scenario," harming water and electricity supplies for millions, according to new reporting from The Washington Post.
While the Biden administration earlier this year ordered water use cuts in Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Mexico that use water from the rapidly shrinking Colorado River, officials in the region are examining how they can keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead—the largest human-made reservoirs in the U.S.—from reaching dangerous "dead pool" status, in which water levels would drop so low that water no longer flows downstream.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, with Lake Powell's surface already having fallen 170 feet, the reservoir is even closer to reaching "minimum power pool" status.
If water levels drop another 38 feet in Lake Powell, which is currently a quarter of its original size, the surface could approach the tops of eight underwater openings allowing Colorado River water to pass through the Glen Canyon Dam.
"The normally placid Lake Powell, the nation's second-largest reservoir, could suddenly transform into something resembling a funnel, with water circling the openings," reported the Post.
That would force turbines which supply 4.5 million people with electricity to shut down, likely triggering financial struggles for people across southwestern states. The standard rate for low-cost power generated by Glen Canyon Dam is $30 per megawatt hour, but with the dam already producing 40% less power than it originally did, customers this past summer faced prices as high as $1,000 per megawatt hour as they sought electricity on the open market.
The latest projections of the Bureau of Reclamation show that minimum power pool status could be reached as early as next July.
Tom Buschatzke, director of Arizona's Department of Water Resources, told the Post that dead pool status would amount to "an ecological disaster," with the region's agricultural sector cut off from a crucial irrigation source.
"You're not going to have a river" in the case of Lake Powell reaching dead pool, he said. "It would be a catastrophe for the entire system."
As government officials announced over the summer that water levels could approach the dam's underwater openings by next July, the Bureau of Reclamation also announced it was supporting studies to examine whether authorities could make modifications to the dam, such as drilling tunnels at river level.
"There was a time in my professional career that if anybody from Reclamation ever said that, they'd be fired on the spot," said Jack Schmidt, an expert on the river at Utah State University who worked on the U.S. Geological Survey during the Obama administration.
Schmidt told the Post that the fact such a possibility has been raised denotes "a huge sea change telling you how different the world is."
Jeff Goodell, author of the book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, suggested that the aridification of the West—made 40% worse by planetary heating and the continued extraction of fossil fuels, according to one recent study—has left the Colorado River unable to provide water and power to the millions of people who have come to rely on it.
"The problem with massive projects like Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam," tweeted Goodell, "is they were engineered for a climate that no longer exists and will never return (at least not on human timescales)."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Johnnie Johnson - Movin' Out
Johnnie Johnson - Blues Shuffle
Johnnie Johnson - Cow Cow Blues
Johnnie Johnson featuring Barbara Carr - Black Nights
Johnnie Johnson - Honky Tonk Train Blues
Johnnie Johnson - I'm Goin' Fishin'
Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson ~ House of Blue Lights
Johnnie Johnson - The Blues Don't Knock
Johnnie Johnson - Johnnie's boogie
Johnnie Johnson Jam: BTS from Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll