The Evening Blues - 12-6-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features novel blues singer Screamin Jay Hawkins. Enjoy!
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Shut Your Mouth When You Sneeze
"There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."
-- Warren Buffett
News and Opinion
The Congressional decision to prohibit railroad workers from going on strike and force them to accept a contract that meets few of their demands is part of the class war that has defined American politics for decades. The two ruling political parties differ only in rhetoric. They are bonded in their determination to reduce wages; dismantle social programs, which the Bill Clinton administration did with welfare; and thwart unions and prohibit strikes, the only tool workers have to pressure employers. This latest move against the railroad unions, where working conditions have descended into a special kind of hell with massive layoffs, the denial of even a single day of paid sick leave, and punishing work schedules that include being forced to “always be on call,” is one more blow to the working class and our anemic democracy.
The rage by workers towards the Democratic Party, which once defended their interests, is legitimate, even if, at times, it is expressed by embracing proto-fascists and Donald Trump-like demagogues. Dating back to the Clinton administration with NAFTA, the greatest betrayal of the working class since the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, the Democratic Party has become a full partner in the corporate assault on workers. The cloying feel-your-pain rhetoric, a staple of the Joe Biden White House, is offset by a hypocritical subservience to the billionaire class. ...
The railroad barons refuse to permit sick days because they have stripped the railroads down to skeleton crews in a process known as precision scheduled railroading, or PSR. In essence, no spare labor is available, which is why the reduced labor force is subjected to such punishingly short periods of time off and onerous working conditions.
Class struggle defines human history. We are dominated by a seemingly omnipotent corporate elite. Hostile to our most basic rights, this elite is disemboweling the nation; destroying basic institutions that foster the common good, including public schools, the postal service and health care; and is incapable of reforming itself. The only weapon left to thwart this ongoing pillage is the strike. Workers have the collective power to slash profits and cripple industry, which is why the ruling class has gone to such lengths to defang unions and outlaw strikes. A rail freight strike, it is estimated, would cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day, with daily losses increasing the longer a strike continued. ...
The Democrats insist they are the party of the working class. Joe Biden calls himself “a proud pro-labor president.” But they pile up one empty promise after another. In 2020, they promised, for example, that with control of the White House and both branches of Congress, they would pass a law to strengthen collective bargaining. Instead, they revoked the collective bargaining power of one of the few unionized industries that retains it. They promised to raise the minimum wage. They failed. They promised a national paid family and medical leave program allowing all employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off. It never happened. They promised to impose a federal tax rate on corporations ranging from 21 percent to 28 percent, so that “wealthy Americans and big corporations pay their fair share.” The proposed tax increase was promised to pass legislation to ensure that super PACs “are wholly independent of campaigns and political parties.” It went nowhere. They then mounted a midterm election campaign, which cost both parties a staggering $16.7 billion and was funded by massive infusions of PAC money. ...
All the advances we made in the early 20th century through union strikes, government regulation, the New Deal, a fair tax code, the courts, an alternative press and mass movements have been reversed. The oligarchs are turning American workers — as they did in the 19th century steel and textile factories — into serfs, kept in check by onerous anti-union laws, militarized police, the world’s largest prison system, an electoral system dominated by corporate money and the most pervasive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. The rich, throughout history, have subjugated and re-subjugated the populations they control. And the public, throughout history, has awakened to the class war waged by the oligarchs and plutocrats and revolted. Let us hope that defying Congress, freight railroad workers carry out a strike. A strike will at least expose the fangs of the ruling class, the courts, law enforcement and the National Guard, much as they did during labor unrest in the 20th century, and broadcast a very public message about whose interests they serve. Besides, a strike might work. Nothing else will.
An excellent article. Here's the intro to whet your link-clicking appetite:
Recent comments by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel shed light on the duplicitous game played by Germany, France, Ukraine and the United States in the lead-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. While the so-called “collective west” (the U.S., NATO, the E.U. and the G7) continue to claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an act of “unprovoked aggression,” the reality is far different: Russia had been duped into believing there was a diplomatic solution to the violence that had broken out in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of the 2014 U.S.-backed Maidan coup in Kiev.
Instead, Ukraine and its Western partners were simply buying time until NATO could build a Ukrainian military capable of capturing the Donbass in its entirety, as well as evicting Russia from Crimea.
In an interview last week with Der Spiegel, Merkel alluded to the 1938 Munich compromise. She compared the choices former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had to make regarding Nazi Germany with her decision to oppose Ukrainian membership in NATO, when the issue was raised at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest. By holding off on NATO membership, and later by pushing for the Minsk accords, Merkel believed she was buying Ukraine time so that it could better resist a Russian attack, just as Chamberlain believed he was buying the U.K. and France time to gather their strength against Hitler’s Germany
The takeaway from this retrospection is astounding. Forget, for a moment, the fact that Merkel was comparing the threat posed by Hitler’s Nazi regime to that of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and focus instead in on the fact that Merkel knew that inviting Ukraine into NATO would trigger a Russian military response. Rather than reject this possibility altogether, Merkel instead pursued a policy designed to make Ukraine capable of withstanding such an attack.
War, it seems, was the only option Russia’s opponents had ever considered.
Explosions have rocked two Russian airbases far from the frontlines as Kyiv appeared to launch a pre-emptive strike on bombers that the Kremlin has used to try to cripple the Ukrainian electrical grid. The Russian defence ministry confirmed the attacks on Monday, claiming two of its warplanes had been damaged when it intercepted two Ukrainian drones. For Kyiv the strike represented an unprecedented operation deep inside Russia to disrupt the Kremlin strategy of provoking a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine on the verge of winter.
Russian media reports and video posted to social media indicated that an explosion occurred early on Monday morning at the Engels-2 airbase in Russia’s Saratov region, which hosts Tu-95 bombers that have taken part in cruise missile strikes against Ukraine. Another explosion took place at the Dyagilevo military airbase near Ryazan, a city less than 150 miles from Moscow. Three people were killed and five wounded after a fuel truck exploded, Russian state media reported. That base also hosts Tu-95 long-range bombers.
Soon after the blasts at the airbases, Russia launched a long anticipated mass strike against Ukraine, involving air-and sea-launched missiles from the Black and Caspian Seas. Ukraine claimed to have shot down 60 of a total of 70 incoming missiles, a new record in the effectiveness of its air defence systems. The Russian defence ministry claimed to have hit 17 targets. ...
If confirmed as a Ukrainian operation, the strike on the Engels airbase would be the most daring attack behind Russian lines to date. The airbase is a crucial site for Russian air force operations against Ukraine and for the country’s strategic nuclear forces. It has a nuclear weapons storage bunker with warheads that can be deployed on Russia’s long-range strategic bombers.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Russia’s security concerns when it comes to NATO expansion need to be taken into account in any future peace talks and that the West needs to be prepared to give Moscow guarantees.
“We need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table,” the French leader said in an interview that aired Saturday.
“One of the essential points we must address — as President Putin has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron added. ...
Macron’s comments drew an angry response from Ukraine. Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said security guarantees for Moscow would only be possible “after tribunal, conviction of war authors and war criminals” and the “imposition of large-scale reparations.”
Sales by the world's 100 leading weapons and military services firms continued to increase last year despite significant supply chain challenges—with the United States accounting for more than half of all sales—an annual analysis published Monday revealed.
Global arms sales rose for the seventh straight year, increasing by 1.9% to $592 billion in 2021, according to new data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The rate of growth was higher than the previous year, but still well below the 3.7% average of the four years preceding the Covid-19 pandemic.
SIPRI said that enduring supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic affected last year's figures.
"We might have expected even greater growth in arms sales in 2021 without persistent supply chain issues," Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, director of SIPRI's military expenditure and arms production program, said in a statement. "Both larger and smaller arms companies said that their sales had been affected during the year. Some companies, such as Airbus and General Dynamics, also reported labor shortages."
Broken down by country, U.S. companies made up 51% of 2021 sales—a larger share than the next 10 countries combined. U.S. companies made up 40% of SIPRI's top 100 list, with 2021 sales totaling $299 billion—a 0.8% decrease from the previous year attributable to rising inflation. For the fourth consecutive year, the top five firms on SIPRI's list were U.S.-based. ...
SIPRI said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine "has added to supply chain challenges for arms companies, not least because Russia is a major supplier of raw materials used in arms production."
"This could hamper ongoing efforts in the United States and Europe to strengthen their armed forces and to replenish their stockpiles after sending billions of dollars' worth of ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine," the report states.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a slate of resolutions on Palestine during its 77th session last week, with Palestine’s representative declaring the two-state solution over and denouncing Israel for its continuing impunity. Among the many resolutions, the Assembly voted with 90 votes in favor, 30 against, and 47 abstentions to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba by organizing a high-level event at the General Assembly on May 15, 2023. Israel, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S. voted against.
The Nakba, or “The Catastrophe,” refers to the series of mass atrocities committed by Zionist forces that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. At least 15,000 Palestinians were killed and over 750,000 were forcibly expelled from their homes, as over 500 villages were completely destroyed. Though the Nakba certainly did not begin or end in 1948, May 15 is internationally observed as Nakba Day each year as an acknowledgment of this historic and ongoing violence and colonization of Palestine.
Israel predictably opposed the resolution, with Gilad Erdan, its U.N. ambassador, claiming the Nakba was something Palestinians had “brought upon themselves with their own aggression by waging a war against Israel,” accusing Arab states of using the Palestinian people as “political tools.” He also warned that the approval of the resolution on the Nakba would impede any chance of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. ...
Meanwhile, the General Assembly also adopted a resolution on the “peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” by calling for an “immediate halt to all settlement activities, land confiscation, and home demolitions, for the release of prisoners, and for an end to arbitrary arrests and detentions.” ...
The General Assembly also condemned the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and voted to name a journalism training program in her honor.
Violent protests have broken out in Greece’s second-largest city over the police shooting of a Romany teenager after he allegedly filled his vehicle at a fuel station and drove off without paying. The 16-year-old boy was being treated at a Thessaloniki hospital where he was in critical condition. The officer who allegedly shot him in the head was arrested and suspended from duty, police in the northern city said.
About 1,500 people took part in a protest march organised by leftwing and anarchist groups in central Thessaloniki on Monday night. Some smashed shops and threw molotov cocktails at police, who responded with teargas and stun grenades. The march ended without any arrests or injuries reported.
Before that protest, about a hundred Romany men set up barricades blocking a main road outside the hospital where the boy was being treated and set fire to bins. Police had used stun grenades and teargas earlier to disperse protesters throwing bottles at them outside the hospital.
Several hundred people took part in a peaceful protest march in central Athens over the shooting as well as over a past incident in which a Romany man was shot during a police chase. The demonstrators in Greece’s capital had a banner reading: “They shot them because they were Roma.”
Members of the Romany community in Greece and human rights activists frequently accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against Roma. Several Romany men have been fatally shot or injured in recent years during confrontations with police while allegedly seeking to evade arrest for breaches of the law.
With rights advocates rallying outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, the right-wing majority of the court appeared poised to rule in favor of a web designer who aims to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples when she creates wedding websites, as the justices heard arguments in the case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.
The court's six right-wing justices asked a number of pointed questions of Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson and the state's principal deputy solicitor general, Brian Fletcher, as they defended Colorado's public accommodation law.
The line of questioning suggested they believe the plaintiff, Lorie Smith, should legally be permitted to exclude LGBTQ+ couples from using her services—raising questions about what other groups they believe Smith's business should be allowed to discriminate against, said rights advocates.
Colorado's statute makes it one of nearly two dozen states which protect people from being refused services on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and has been targeted by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)—the right-wing group that brought the case and others dealing with LGBTQ+ rights to the Supreme Court—as a law that violates the First Amendment.
A number of court observers noted before the arguments were presented Monday that Smith filed her lawsuit against the state in 2016 preemptively, not because she had received a request to create a wedding website for a same-sex couple.
"This lawsuit was ginned up by a law firm—Alliance Defending Freedom—that has been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group," said Rewire News Group. "They are on the frontlines when it comes to wielding the First Amendment as a weapon to discriminate against LGBTQ people."
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund added that the lawsuit "should be seen as part of the dangerous larger effort now underway to shut LGBTQ+ people out of public spaces more broadly."
The court's right-wing justices put forward a number of hypotheticals. Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh asked whether a victory for Colorado in the case could allow the state to then compel a speechwriter to write a speech going against their "most deeply held convictions."
When Fletcher answered that speechwriting would likely not be covered by the public accommodation law, Kavanaugh said, "I mean, that's what states could do."
Alito also compared LGBTQ+ couples' push for equal rights in public spaces to "a Ku Klux Klan outfit," asking whether a Black Santa Claus at a shopping mall should be legally required to pose for a picture with a child wearing a KKK robe.
"No, because Ku Klux Klan outfits are not protected characteristics under public accommodation laws," said Olson.
The comparison represented "a despicable new low for [Alito] and the Supreme Court," said activist Christine Pelosi.
Justice Neil Gorsuch also appeared ready to side with Smith, repeating views he stated in 2017 when the court heard Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission—another case in which Kristen Waggoner, Smith's attorney, argued in favor of a business being permitted to turn away a gay couple.
Compelling businesses to comply with anti-discrimination laws is synonymous with forcing business owners to undergo "reeducation training," Gorsuch told Olson, prompting the solicitor general's strong disagreement.
"It does not bode well for the future of civil rights law that Gorsuch believes a state imposes 'reeducation training' on employers when it reminds them how to comply with nondiscrimination rules," said Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern.
Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed deep concerns about how a ruling in favor of Smith could slash anti-discrimination protections for any number of groups.
"There is no line on race, there is no line on disability, ethnicity, none of the protected categories," said Sotomayor.
The arguments presented Monday "underscore the fundamental rights at stake" in the case, said Sunu Chandy, legal director for the National Women's Law Center, "including for LGBTQ people, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and people of all faiths."
"If the Supreme Court decides to toss away its own precedents, there would be little to stop businesses from discriminating against customers not only based on sexual orientation, but also because of other characteristics like race, sex, disability, religion, or national origin," said Chandy. "A print shop that disapproves of women working outside the home could refuse to make business cards for women. A jeweler opposed to interfaith marriages could refuse to design jewelry for a mixed-faith couple. A family photographer with white supremacist beliefs could refuse to offer their services to a Black family."
"The court must reject this approach, prevent second-class citizenship, and ensure all companies are open for business for all," Chandy added.
Jurors in New York were on Monday set to deliberate their verdict in the trial of the Trump Organization, accused of running a criminal tax fraud scheme enriching executives with off-the-books benefits including property and luxury vehicles. While Donald Trump himself is not on trial, prosecutors have said the former president knew of – and sanctioned almost every aspect of – the fraud, as head of the eponymous company handling his real estate and other dealings.
“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant is just not real,” Manhattan assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass told the jury during Friday’s closing arguments. But he added it did not really matter if they believed he was aware or not, because it was the company that was on trial in New York state court. Prosecutors described a 15-year scheme in which the Trump Organization reduced its tax liability in various ways, including by reducing payroll and giving executives other perks to make up the difference in their salaries.
will consider running for president to stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House, if no other potential GOP candidates denounce Trump.
In an interview with Meet the Press Now, Bolton said that other potential GOP presidential contenders have to speak out and strongly condemned Trump’s social media statement over the weekend that the Constitution should be terminated to put him back into power.
“I’d like to see Shermanesque statements from all the potential candidates,” about the comments Bolton said. “If I don’t see that, I’m going to seriously consider getting in.”
Bolton called Trump’s statement “disqualifying,” and said, “I think to be a presidential candidate you can’t just say, 'I support the Constitution.' You have to say, 'I would oppose people who would undercut it.'”
With the next United Nations Biodiversity Conference set to kick off in Canada this week, a report out Monday details how corporate interests have attempted to influence efforts to protect the variety of life on Earth amid rampant species loss.
After a long-delayed and mostly virtual meeting in Kunming, China last year to work on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), nearly 20,000 delegates are headed to Montreal for the second part of COP15, which will bring together countries party to a multilateral treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) report, titled The Nature of Business: Corporate Influence Over the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Biodiversity Framework, "explores how business interests have tried to shape the recent course of the work" of the 20-year-old treaty and, "in many cases, have succeeded in doing so."
While the publication focuses specifically on the development of the new framework—widely regarded as a Paris climate agreement for nature—the group's analysis notes that "the context is the broader and longer span of business influence over the CBD, especially since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 where the CBD was open for signature."
"To achieve their desired results," the report explains, "corporations have used a variety of tactics and strategies to influence the CBD processes, including the following: direct party lobbying; targeting individual delegations or becoming part of them; installing direct contacts in the CBD Secretariat; making use of revolving doors; co-opting civil society, academia, and think tanks; funding U.N. activities; the distortion of language and concepts; and public-private partnerships."
Pointing to such activities, Nele Marien, FOEI's Forests and Biodiversity program coordinator, declared Monday that "corporate influence goes deep into the heart of the CBD."
Taking aim at fossil fuel and mining giants, she said that "one strategy in particular stands out: The formation of purpose-built lobby coalitions allowing many corporations, such as BP or Vale, to present themselves as part of the solution and advocates for sustainability with green-sounding names. However, their 'solutions' are carefully crafted in order to not undermine their business models; ultimately they do nothing for the environment."
The report points to offsetting, self-certification, self-regulation, and "nature-based solutions" as examples of measures that give the impression of action without any impactful changes.
"There is a fundamental conflict of interest," Marien stressed. "Corporations are the most prominent contributors to biodiversity loss, ecosystem destruction, and human rights violations. Addressing corporate capture of the CBD is a precondition for saving biodiversity. The U.N. and its member states must resist corporate pressure and the CBD must reclaim its authority to regulate business."
Fellow FOEI program coordinator Isaac Rojas argued that "putting corporations in their place would allow peoples-led solutions to biodiversity loss to regain momentum."
"Indigenous peoples and local communities protect 80% of existing biodiversity, often by defending it with their lives," he said. "Conserving biodiversity goes along with taking IPLCs and their human and land tenure rights seriously."
However, the current draft framework has critics concerned, with FOEI warning that it "increasingly bears the strong hallmarks of lobbying by business interests."
The report also highlights that "it is difficult to disentangle what has resulted specifically from corporate lobbying from what certain parties might have desired anyway, given their strong disposition towards 'nonregulation,' voluntary action, market mechanisms, private sector implementation, and weak or nonexistent monitoring, reporting, and corporate accountability."
"Businesses in many countries are 'pushing at doors' that are already permanently open to them," the document continues. "The picture is further obscured by the collaboration of most of the major corporate lobbying groups with certain international conservation organizations. The lobbying of these groups has converged and merged around many issues."
"But the consequences are clear: The GBF lacks the 'transformational' measures required by the biodiversity crisis," the report adds. "The chance for a global agreement that is able to address the underlying drivers of biodiversity, transform economic sectors, initiate measures to reduce consumption, and hold corporations to account, seems to be lost."
Given FOEI's findings and fears, the group offers reforms for the entire U.N. system and the CBD.
Recommendations for the broader system include resisting pressure to give corporate interests a privileged position in negotiations, excluding business representatives from national delegations, increasing transparency around lobbying and existing links to the private sector, ending all partnerships with corporations and trade associations, establishing a code of conduct for U.N. officials, and monitoring the impact of companies on people and the planet.
As for the biodiversity convention, the report asserts that "rightsholders should have a voice regarding policies that affect the territories and ecosystems they live in," and "corporations should not be part of decision-making processes and should not have a vote."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Screamin Jay Hawkins - Whistling Past The Graveyard
Screamin Jay Hawkins - Portrait Of A Man
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Little Demon
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Constipation Blues
Screamin' Jay Hawkins- I Put a Spell On You
Screamin Jay Hawkins - Ice Cream man
Screamin Jay Hawkins - Voodoo
Screamin Jay Hawkins - Monkberry Moon Delight
Screamin' Jay Hawkins- I Am The Cool
Screamin' Jay Hawkins- Live At The Olympia, Paris 1998