The Evening Blues - 12-5-22


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Martha Reeves

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features motown singer Martha Reeves. Enjoy!

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - Dancing In The Street

"Make war on machines. And in particular the sterile machines of corporate death and the robots that guard them."

-- Abbie Hoffman

News and Opinion

The Incremental Normalization Of Police Murderbots Probably Needs More Attention

One of the most under-discussed topics in the world right now is how governments have been incrementally pacing the public toward accepting the use of police robots that kill people.

The city of San Francisco has voted to legalize the use of killbots in specific emergency situations like active shooters and suicide bombers, with high-ranking officers making the call as to whether their use is warranted.

“Police in San Francisco will be allowed to deploy potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations,” The Guardian reports. “The controversial policy was approved after weeks of scrutiny and a heated debate among the city’s board of supervisors during their meeting on Tuesday.”

“The proposed policy does not lay out specifics for how the weapons can and cannot be equipped, leaving open the option to arm them,” The Guardian reports, adding that the current plan is to equip them with “explosive charges” rather than firearms.

We are seeing more and more expansions in the normalization of militarized police robots, to the point where there are now significant escalations from year to year. Last year I wrote a piece on the way police departments in the US and Canada have been normalizing the use of quadrupedal robots (disingenuously labeled “dogs” for PR purposes) for tasks like surveilling hostage situations and enforcing Covid restrictions. A few months later I had to write another one on this trend because arms manufacturers had begun designing firearms specifically to be mounted on those same quadruped bots. The year before during the 2020 George Floyd protests it was revealed that police had been using drones to surveil demonstrations in US cities, including the Predator drone normally used overseas by the US military.

Now the Oakland Police Department is pushing for the use of robots armed with shotguns. Police have already used a robot armed with a bomb to kill a suspect in Texas. Every year we’re seeing more steps toward the normalized ubiquitousness of unmanned weapons systems for domestic use in western civilization.

It makes sense that the US, whose police force is more heavily funded than almost any other nation’s military force, is leading this charge. As John and Nisha Whitehead explain for The Rutherford Institute, this ongoing expansion of police robot militarization tracks alongside the steadily increasing militarization of police forces in the US more generally; SWAT teams first appeared in California the 1960s, by 1980 the US was seeing 3,000 SWAT team-style raids per year, and by 2014 that number had soared to 80,000. It’s probably a lot higher now.

“These robots, often acquired by local police departments through federal grants and military surplus programs, signal a tipping point in the final shift from a Mayberry style of community policing to a technologically-driven version of law enforcement dominated by artificial intelligence, surveillance, and militarization,” write Whitehead and Whitehead, adding, “It’s only a matter of time before these killer robots intended for use as a last resort become as common as SWAT teams.”

Like all escalations in police powers and police militarization, the increasingly widespread use of police killbots will be justified in the name of saving lives and protecting law enforcement officers, but will certainly see a rise in abuses of that new power. More importantly (at least in the long term), once armed robots are being used to police civilian populations, the powerful will have made the possibility of a people’s revolution against them far more remote.

Flesh-and-blood armed goons will hesitate to fire upon their countrymen in a domestic uprising. They can be persuaded to side with the people and oust the sitting government. They have beating hearts and aren’t covered in armor. We are still a ways off from AI-guided weaponized robots enforcing the rule of law on our streets, but that does appear to be where we’re headed, and once we’re there it’s entirely possible that the door to revolution will have been bolted shut for good.

If that’s the case, then it’s no exaggeration to say that humanity is in a race between (A) a revolution against the status quo power structures which are oppressing and exploiting us while driving us toward disaster and (B) the ubiquitousness of armed police units. Our rulers keep incrementally pacing us into accepting this in the same way they pace us into accepting internet censorship, whistleblower persecution, and the war on journalism.

So it’s probably important that we do not accept it, and keep shining a bright public spotlight on this freakish trend to keep it from becoming normalized.

Julian Assange Appeals to European Court Over U.S. Extradition

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, who is battling extradition from Britain to the United States where he is wanted on criminal charges, has submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the court confirmed on Friday. ...

His legal team have also launched a case against Britain at the ECHR, which could potentially order the extradition to be blocked. ...

Stella Assange, his wife, said she hoped the ECHR would not be needed to consider the case and that it could be resolved in Britain. If the case was taken to the ECHR, she said it "would be a sad day and a major disappointment".

Assange's brother Gabriel Shipton told Reuters earlier this week he believed the U.S. authorities would want to avoid the case going before the ECHR, as the European media and public were more sympathetic to his cause than those in Britain or the United States.

"I would imagine the U.S. wants to avoid that... trying to extradite a publisher from Europe for publishing U.S. war revelations when the U.S. is asking Europe to make all sort of sacrifices for the war in Ukraine," Shipton said.

Russia Launches Big Missile Strike, Ukraine Bakhmut Losses Grow, Scholz Macron Talk Peace

Fresh off of The Guardian's propaganda catapult:

Vladimir Putin better informed now about Ukraine war, says US

The head of US intelligence has said Vladimir Putin has “become better informed” about the difficulties facing his invading forces in Ukraine, as the Kremlin suggested the Russian president could visit the occupied Donbas region at a future unspecified date.

Speaking at a defence forum late on Saturday, Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, indicated Putin was no longer as insulated from bad news about the conditions facing his invasion of Ukraine as he was earlier in the campaign.

Alluding to past assessments that Putin’s advisers could be shielding him from bad news, Haines said he was “becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces”.

“But it’s still not clear to us that he has a full picture of at this stage of just how challenged they are,” she said, addressing an audience at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California.

US DNI Haines No Moscow Regime Change

Zelensky Looks To Ban Christian Denomination With Ties to Moscow

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he is seeking to ban all religions with ties to Russia. He claims the move is needed to "guarantee spiritual independence to Ukraine."

This law will target millions of Ukrainians who identify as Russian Orthodox. ...

The Ukrainian leader said it was necessary to purge the church to preserve the country’s spiritual independence. Adding, "We will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul." Zelensky denounced Ukrainians continuing to attend the parishes as failing to overcome "the temptation of evil."

America, meet the warmongering neocons' new toy that you'll be paying dearly for:

Pentagon unveils first strategic bomber in over 30 years to counter China

The Pentagon unveiled its first new strategic bomber in more than 30 years on Friday, a nuclear-capable bat-wing plane that will become a central component of the US effort to counter China’s military build-up when it enters service around 2027. Almost every aspect of the B-21 Raider is classified, but in a tightly-controlled unveiling at the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, currently home of Lockheed-Martin’s legendary Skunk Works, the new strategic plane was briefly shown to the public.

“This isn’t just another airplane,” Lloyd Austin, the defence secretary, said. “Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft. Even the most sophisticated air defence systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.” ...

The B-21, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, looks much like B-2, acknowledged the contractor’s CEO Kathy Warden. “The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21,” Warden said.

Included in information offered to the public was the plane’s estimated cost ($700m), engine manufacturer (Pratt & Whitney) and payload (conventional and nuclear). Top speed, ceiling, range were all listed as classified, though the Pentagon allowed that it will be “optionally crewed” and it wants 100 of them.

The B-21 is the first part of the US nuclear deterrent’s $1tn overhaul – an upgrade that will include new nuclear submarines and land-based missiles – and represents a rapid shift from aircraft and cruise missiles needed for counterterrorism campaigns in Afghanistan and elsewhere to weapons that can meet China’s military modernisation.

Dutch wrestle with national apology for 250 years of slavery

The Netherlands is expected to formally apologise for its role in 250 years of slavery but the planned move is threatening to cause a split in the country, with some critics calling it “complete nonsense”.

The prime minister, Mark Rutte, will deliver a public message on 19 December that will aim to “do justice to the meaning and experience of past slavery”, according to a parliamentary briefing. It is widely anticipated that this will be an apology for the 250 years in which the Dutch funded an economic and cultural “Golden Age” by exploiting more than 600,000 people from Africa and Asia – about 5% of the 12 million enslaved by Europeans from the 17th to the 19th century. According to broadcaster NOS, plans include €200m for awareness projects and €27m for a slavery museum.

However, groups including the Nationale Reparatie Commissie in Suriname, which was colonised by the Dutch, have already protested that the Netherlands is proceeding in a “hasty and tarnished” way, with a lack of consultation that some believe has echoes of colonialism.

Yet pressure has been growing for national government action. In October, a parliamentary majority supported making an official apology after a working group reported on a research trip to Suriname, Curaçao and Bonaire. In the past 18 months, the mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague, as well as the management of De Nederlandsche Bank, have apologised for their institutions’ role in, and enrichment from, slavery.

Don Ceder, an MP for the ChristenUnie party who was on the trip, is a leading advocate for action. “An apology is important for the Netherlands as a society in our attempts to combat division and polarisation within a multicultural society,” he said. “It’s hard to believe for some, but my recent visit showed me that the slave trade and the economy that was built in the former colonies still affects these countries till this day.”

Is this the corollary of parents tying a steak around a kids neck to get the dog to play with him?

Biden attempts to restore America’s global standing with state dinner pageantry

It was the night food porn returned to the White House. In a heated tent on the south lawn, political leaders, business titans and Hollywood stars feasted on butter poached Maine lobster, American Osetra caviar, calotte of beef with shallot marmalade, triple cooked butter potatoes and artisanal cheeses.

Joe Biden, a teetotaller reportedly drinking ginger ale, and French president Emmanuel Macron, wielding a flute of California brut rosé, wore tuxedos and offered toasts to their friendship. “Et laisse-moi dire, vive les États-Unis d’Amérique, vive la France, et vive l’amitié entre nos deux pays,” Macron said.

At Washington’s first state dinner since September 2019, the projection of unity – and restoration of normality – was unmistakeable. Congressman James Clyburn, who was among more than 338 guests under the chandeliers, said: “To see Macron reach in his pocket and pull out the US constitution and wave it, saying ‘We the people’, I thought was a tremendous gesture.”

The handshakes and embraces between America’s oldest president and France’s youngest were a vivid illustration of Biden’s efforts to restore the US’s standing in the world and heal relations with old allies shaken to the core by former president Donald Trump’s “America first” substance and chaotic style.

Pete HUMILIATED LIVE Over Paid Leave Hypocrisy

Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

U.S. rail workers and working-class allies are angry at President Joe Biden—the self-proclaimed "most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history"—and Democratic congressional leaders for betraying them this week. ...

The president, who is now under pressure to require paid sick leave via executive order, called on Congress to pass such a resolution late Monday. While progressives tried to add seven sick days to the deal, 42 Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) blocked it—a move some critics say outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) should have anticipated and refused to allow, either by focusing on a single resolution with paid leave or not voting at all.

Instead, as Jacobin's Luke Savage put it: "Democratic leaders are, in effect, declaring their solidarity with the American working class while actively siding with the very business interests they say are exploiting it. It's a clear violation of fundamental labor rights and a concession to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has issued predictable pleas for Congress to intervene and prevent a strike ahead of the holiday season."

Workers, organizers, and labor reporters warn that growing criticism of how Biden and Democratic lawmakers chose to handle the rail industry dispute could have long-term consequences for the president, who is expected to run again in 2024, and his party.

"This is a grave mistake and I hope the craven fools behind it reap every rotten morsel of what they have sown next time they want unions or working-class voters to lift a finger for them," labor journalist Kim Kelly said of Biden's directive to Congress, which she called "cowardly and shameful."

"The actions speak for themselves," Ross Grooters, a railroad engineer from Des Moines, Iowa, who co-chairs the advocacy group Railroad Workers United (RWU), told USA Today earlier this week. "Don't tell me what you are. Show me what you are."

"He's not stepping up for workers in the way that he should be," Grooters said of Biden—whom others have blasted this week for effectively "saying that these essential workers have to suffer to preserve the profits of the railroad industry and its billionaire owners."

Freight railroad conductor Gabe Christenson worked to get Biden elected in 2020—when the Democratic former vice president successfully ousted then-President Donald Trump, who infamously refused to accept his loss and recently announced his 2024 campaign.

"I have shirts from me campaigning—blue-collar Biden shirts," Christenson told The New York Times earlier this week. "I knocked on doors for him for weeks and weeks."

Since Biden's move against rail workers on Monday, Christenson "has been besieged by texts from furious co-workers whom he had encouraged to support the president," the Times reported. The conductor said of his angry colleagues, "I'm trying to calm them down."

Christenson isn't alone, according to the newspaper:

Several union members and local officials said they had urged co-workers who had previously supported Donald Trump to back Mr. Biden, arguing that he would be friendlier to labor. They said that these co-workers had reached out to complain about what they saw as Mr. Biden's about-face since Monday, though it was unclear how many of these union members had voted for the current president.

"Many Trump voters calling me out for endorsing Biden," Matthew A. Weaver, a carpenter with rail maintenance employees union, said by text Tuesday night. Mr. Weaver previously worked as an official for his union in Ohio.

Meanwhile, RWU leaders on Friday took aim at Capitol Hill, with the group's general secretary, Jason Doering, declaring that "this one-two punch from the two political parties is despicable."

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic, the essential nature of our work, the difficult and dangerous and demanding conditions of our jobs," Doering added. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

RWU organizer Ron Kaminkow similarly said that "we have been played for well over a century by politicians and union officials alike. The fiasco of recent months will show that perhaps the time has come for railroad workers to push for a unified and powerful labor organization of all crafts, together with a political party that will better serve the interest of not just railroad workers but all working-class people."

Willie Adams, head of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, pointed out that "Congress talks about 'saving democracy' at the ballot box, but they just totally undermined workplace democracy by imposing a contract that workers voted to reject."

"It is wrong to impose a rejected contract, period. Congress had the option to allow more time for the railroad workers to negotiate better benefits with their highly profitable employers, and they had the option to add paid sick days," Adams added. "There's no excuse for taking away workers' collective bargaining rights. Congress failed America's workers today."

RWU Steering Committee Member Paul Lindsey, called out the carriers—whose trade group, the Association of American Railroads, opposed the effort to add seven paid sick days while supporting the resolution to impose the agreement on workers.

"The rail carriers are too powerful and are a scourge to the national economy," Lindsey charged. "They need to be taken into public ownership and run in the interest of workers, shippers, passengers, and the nation, not a handful of wealthy stockholders."

The Lever noted that "while opposing a plan that would have required them to spend $321 million to give workers seven paid sick days, the main railroad companies raked in more than $7 billion in profits and paid out over $1.8 billion in dividends, in a year where they and their lobbying groups have spent more than $13 million lobbying Congress—after railroad CEOs pocketed more than $200 million in compensation."

Tony Cardwell, president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED), one of the unions that rejected the agreement, told Politico that "what's frustrating is that the railroads know that their backstop is federal government intervening in a strike."

"The railroads would have come running to the bargaining table if they knew that we would have been able to go on strike. But they were reliant on the Congress stopping our strike, and therefore they bargained in bad faith," said Cardwell, one of the union leaders who spent this week on Capitol Hill, trying to convince lawmakers to vote in favor of seven sick days.

In a letter to lawmakers after the votes on Thursday, Cardwell thanked those who backed sick leave while sharing that the Senate's rejection of the seven-day proposal "leaves me baffled, exasperated, and deeply saddened."

Cardwell continued:

The federal government inserted itself into the dispute between the railroads and the railroad workers under the premise that it must protect the American economy. Yet, when the federal government makes that decision, its representatives have a moral responsibility to also protect the interests of the citizens that make this nation's economy work—American railroaders. That is, members of Congress were obligated to vote to pass paid sick leave for all railroad workers. The representatives were not obligated to protect the exceeding profits of the corporations. A number of members of Congress chose—yet again—to trample on the workers, in their rush to cozy up to the corporations.

It is shocking and appalling that any member of Congress would cast a vote against any sort of provision that raises the standard of living for hard-working Americans. In fact, such a vote is nothing less than anti-American, an abdication of their oath of office, and you are deemed, in my eyes, unworthy of holding office. I am resolved to shine a light on their votes over this issue, because all railroad workers deserve to know and need to know who will stand and fight with them for what is right and just. They also deserve to know and need to know those who are willing to put them in harm's way to save their own political and personal self-interests.

Noting that the House-approved sick day resolution would have been much closer to passage if the few Senate Democrats who didn't vote had been there "and Manchin wouldn't have screwed us," Cardwell concluded in his comments to Politico that "corporations won today and the working class lost."

How Trudeau, MSM BETRAYED The Canadian Working Class And Persecuted Protesting Truckers: BJ Dichter

As Millions Face Poverty, Global Food Companies Paid Out Nearly 15 Billion to Shareholders

The world's biggest food companies have paid out nearly £15bn to shareholders as spiralling prices leave desperate families struggling to afford to eat, openDemocracy can reveal.

Nestlé, Unilever, Associated British Foods, Mondelez and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) have raked in £20bn in profits in the space of a year while all raising average food prices.

Four of the five multinationals—which between them own thousands of popular brands such as Twinings, Kingsmill and Cheerios—have also signalled that consumers should expect further price rises. Only ADM has not.

The firms' profits would be enough to fill the £9.8bn funding gap twice over that is currently facing the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP)—which aims to provide food for 160 million people facing poverty by the end of the year. The WFP said it costs 44% more for it to buy food than it did in 2020. ...

Food prices in the UK have increased by an average of 16% in the past year, with the costs of some staples—such as bread and milk—rising by a third. The prices of vegetable oil and pasta have soared by more than 60%, the highest increases among the lowest-cost groceries tracked by the Office of National Statistics.

The UK's biggest producer of vegetable oil, Edible Oils Limited, is jointly owned by American grain giant Archer-Daniels-Midland and Princes, a UK subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation. The former has seen its profits rise by 48% this year and paid out the equivalent of £1.5bn to its shareholders in dividends and share buybacks in the first half of this year alone.

The UK's highest grossing food company, Associated British Foods (ABF), has also paid out £500m to shareholders.

This month, ABF's chief executive George G Weston, who will receive £2.2m in remuneration this year, told investors at the firm's annual results presentation: "Revenues benefiting from price increases and o