The Evening Blues - 1-19-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer, guitarist and drummer Baby Face Leroy. Enjoy!
Baby Face Leroy Trio - Rollin' And Tumblin'
“The party that leans upon the workers but serves the bourgeoisie, in the period of the greatest sharpening of the class struggle, cannot but sense the smells wafted from the waiting grave.”
-- Leon Trotsky
News and Opinion
There is one last hope for the United States. It does not lie in the ballot box. It lies in the union organizing and strikes by workers at Amazon, Starbucks, Uber, Lyft, John Deere, Kellogg, the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the Northwest Carpenters Union, Kroger, teachers in Chicago, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, fast-food workers, hundreds of nurses in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Organized workers, often defying their timid union leadership, are on the march across the United States. Over four million workers, about 3% of the work force, mostly from accommodation and food services, healthcare and social assistance, transportation, housing, and utilities have walked away from jobs, rejecting poor pay along with punishing and risky working conditions. There is a growing consensus – 68% in a recent Gallup poll with that number climbing to 77% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 – that the only way left to alter the balance of power and force concessions from the ruling capitalist class is to mobilize and strike, although only 9% of the U.S. work force is unionized. Forget the woke Democrats. This is a class war. ...
The Democrats have been full partners in the dismantling of our democracy, refusing to banish dark and corporate money from the electoral process and governing, as Obama did, through presidential executive actions, agency “guidance,” notices and other regulatory dark matter that bypass Congress. The Democrats, who helped launch and perpetuate our endless wars, were also co-architects of trade deals such as NAFTA, expanded surveillance of citizens, militarized police, the largest prison system in the world and a raft of anti-terrorism laws such as Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) that abolish nearly all rights, including due process and attorney-client privilege, to allow suspects to be convicted and imprisoned with secret evidence they and their lawyers are not permitted to see. The squandering of staggering resources to the military — $777.7 billion a year — passed in the Senate with an 89-10 vote and in the House of Representatives with a 363-70 vote, coupled with the $80 billion spent annually on the intelligence agencies has made the military and the intelligence services, many run by private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton, nearly omnipotent. The Democrats long ago walked out on workers and unions. The Democratic governor of Maine, Janet Mills, for example, killed a bill a few days ago that would have allowed farm workers in the state to unionize. On all the major structural issues there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.
The longer the Democratic Party does not deliver real reforms to ameliorate the economic hardship, exacerbated by soaring inflation rates, the more it feeds the frustration of many of its supporters, widespread apathy (there are 80 million eligible voters, a third of the electorate, who do not cast ballots) and the hatred of the “liberal” elites stoked by Donald Trump’s cultish Republican Party. Its signature infrastructure package, Build Back Better, when you read the fine print, is yet another infusion of billions of government money into corporate bank accounts. This should not surprise anyone, given who funds and controls the Democratic Party. ...
All the openings in our democracy were the result of prolonged popular struggle. Hundreds of workers were murdered, thousands were wounded, tens of thousands were blacklisted in our labor wars, the bloodiest of any industrialized country. Abolitionists, suffragists, unionists, crusading journalists and those in the anti-war and civil rights movements opened our democratic space. These radical movements were repressed and ruthlessly dismantled in the early 20th century in the name of anti-communism. They were again targeted by the corporate elites following the rise of new mass movements in the 1930s. These popular movements, which rose again in the 1960s, moved us, inch by bloody inch, towards equality and social justice. Most of these gains made in the 1960s have been rolled back under the onslaught of neoliberalism, deregulation, and a corrupt campaign finance system, legalized by court rulings such as Citizens United, which allow the rich and corporations to bankroll elections to select political leaders and impose legislation. The modern incarnation of 19th-century robber barons, including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, each worth some $200 billion, summon us to our radical roots.
Class struggle defines most of human history. Marx got this right. It is not a new story. The rich, throughout history, have found ways to subjugate and re-subjugate the masses. And the masses, throughout history, have cyclically awoken to throw off their chains.
The US and Russian foreign ministers will hold talks in Geneva on Friday in a development that a US official said suggested that “perhaps diplomacy is not dead” in the efforts to fend off a new Russian attack on Ukraine.
With the White House warning that such an attack could come “at any time”, the US secretary of state, Tony Blinken, will fly to Kyiv on Wednesday and Berlin on Thursday to consult with the Ukrainian government and European allies before the meeting the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. It comes as Nato also offered Russia a fresh round of talks. “The fact that Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to meet on Friday in Geneva suggests that perhaps diplomacy is not dead,” a senior state department official said. “We will certainly know a lot more after that engagement on Friday.”
At the end of last week, after three sets of discussions in Europe that produced no progress, a senior Russian official suggested that diplomacy could be at a dead-end. Since then tensions have continued to rise, with movements of Russian troops and heavy weapons westwards from the far east, and into Belarus. Nato was not notified of the Russian military exercises in Belarus, a US official said, noting that the troops were in “numbers beyond what we’d expect in regard to a normal exercise”.
“What it represents is an increased capability for Russia to launch this attack – increased opportunity, increased avenues, increased routes,” the official said, questioning how much control Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko – weakened by popular opposition to his rule – had over events.
These jackasses can't agree to do anything decent for working americans, but they can agree enthusiastically to arm Nazis and bring the U.S. to the brink of war with a major nuclear power.
A bipartisan group of United States senators promised solidarity and weapons on a visit to Kyiv on Monday while warning Russian President Vladimir Putin against launching a new military offensive against Ukraine. ...
These weapons could include Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger missiles, small arms and boats, Senator Richard Blumenthal said.
"And so our message is: there will be consequences if he chooses to violate the sanctity of this democracy," Senator Amy Klobuchar added.
Russia’s top diplomat angrily rejected U.S. allegations that Moscow was preparing a pretext to invade Ukraine, as Russian troops that are amassed near the Ukraine border launched more drills Monday.
The White House said Friday that U.S. intelligence officials had concluded that Russia had already deployed operatives to rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine to carry out acts of sabotage there and blame them on Ukraine in a “false-flag operation” to create a pretext for possible invasion.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the U.S. claim as “total disinformation.” He reaffirmed that Russia expects a written response this week from the U.S. and its allies to Moscow’s request for binding guarantees that NATO will not embrace Ukraine or any other ex-Soviet nations, or station its forces and weapons there.
Houthi forces who control much of northern Yemen say about 20 people have died in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on the capital, Sana’a, a day after a Houthi drone attack killed three people in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s coalition partner.
Neighbours and doctors said about 14 people were killed when coalition planes struck the home of a high-ranking Houthi military official, including his wife and son. A Houthi official tweeted that in all, about 20 people had died.
Early on Tuesday, the coalition said it had begun strikes against strongholds and camps in Sana’a belonging to the Houthi group.
The Israeli police allegedly conducted warrantless phone intercepts of Israeli citizens, including politicians and activists, using the NSO group’s controversial Pegasus spyware, according to an investigation by the Israeli business media site Calcalist.
Among those described as having been targets in the report were local mayors, leaders of political protests against the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former government employees. According to the report, the surveillance was done without the court supervision required for Israeli citizens and without monitoring of how the data was used, a claim denied explicitly by the Israeli police service and a government minister. ...
While numerous reports have emerged over the misuse of Pegasus, which is designed and sold by Israel’s NSO group to foreign governments, the latest claims mark a major departure in suggesting that Israelis were also targeted for interception. ...
Underlining the implications of the story, the Jerusalem Post commented: “[This] astounding report, if true, would blow gaping holes through a number of NSO, police and potentially state prosecution narratives about the proper balance between collecting evidence and respecting citizens’ privacy rights and court protections from unlawful searches and seizures.”
Oregon’s public pension fund, which manages tens of billions of dollars in retirement savings, appears to have privately given its blessing to a 2019 deal by an investment fund to acquire NSO Group, the controversial spyware company. A source with close knowledge of the matter and emails seen by the Guardian suggest that a senior official at the pension fund signalled his strong support for the takeover of NSO as early as 2018, months before the deal was announced.
Last month, Oregon officials said they were “deeply disturbed” by reports that NSO Group “enabled widespread human rights violations”. However, it now appears that the Oregon pension fund, one of the most prominent in the US, gave its tacit approval over an investment in NSO several years ago – at a time when security researchers were already publicly raising alarms about the company.
NSO, which is based in Israel, was recently blacklisted by the Biden administration and accused of acting against the national security interests of the US. ...
A spokesperson for Tobias Read, the Democratic Oregon state treasurer who has oversight of the pension fund, issued a statement in December supporting the administration’s decision. The statement was significant because Oregon invested $233m in a private equity firm, Novalpina Capital, in 2017. Novalpina’s fund then acquired a controlling stake in NSO in 2019, making the Oregon fund the largest indirect investor in the spyware company.
The family of a delivery driver who died last month when a tornado collapsed the central Illinois Amazon facility where he worked has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
The action on behalf of Austin McEwen, 26, was filed Monday in Madison county, and claims that Amazon failed to warn employees of dangerous weather or provide safe shelter before a tornado slammed the Edwardsville facility on 10 December. McEwen and five others were killed in the disaster.
It is believed to be the first legal action taken in response to the deaths. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation.
McEwen’s parents, Randy and Alice McEwen, allege that Amazon administrators knew severe weather was imminent but had no emergency plan and did not evacuate employees from the fulfilment center. “Sadly, it appears that Amazon placed profits first during this holiday season instead of the safety of our son and the other five,” Alice McEwen said at a news conference Monday.
Amazon “carelessly required individuals ... to continue working up until the moments before the tornado struck,” the lawsuit says, and “improperly directed” McEwen and colleagues to shelter in a rest room, which it says the company knew or should have known wasn’t safe.
The Associated Press reported that Carvajal, a Trump appointee, was forced to resign after more than 100 BOP employees had been arrested for or convicted of crimes during his short two-year tenure. The employees were prosecuted for crimes ranging from smuggling drugs and cell phones into prisons to sell to prisoners, to theft, to a warden raping a prisoner. Following the rape arrest, the House Judiciary Committee investigated Carvajal and Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) demanded that he resign. ...
Perhaps worst of all, Carvajal failed utterly to address the Covid-19 pandemic as it raged inside the walls of the country’s federal prisons in 2020. Indeed, many observers contend that his unwillingness to act cost dozens of prisoners their lives. Certainly, individual wardens could be criticized for their own inattention, but the buck has to stop somewhere. ...
In this case, it has to stop at the desk of Michael Carvajal. But it’s not right that Carvajal should just be fired. He should also be prosecuted. His failure to take action to protect prisoners from Covid constitutes depraved indifference: “Behavior so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.”
Carvajal belongs in prison.
As U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema continues to stymie voting rights legislation by refusing to support filibuster reform, an overwhelming majority of respondents to a Tuesday survey by Indivisible said they would back a 2024 primary challenger to the Arizona Democrat if she does not change course.
In a "flash poll," the progressive advocacy group asked over 4,600 Indivisible activists in Arizona via SMS: "If Sen. Sinema votes 'no' on fixing the filibuster and passing voting rights, would you support a Democratic primary challenge to her in 2024?"
Out of the 723 people who texted back, 94% replied affirmatively.
"Since 2021, Arizonans have been calling on Sinema to eliminate the filibuster and pass democracy reform," Indivisible said in a statement Tuesday. "Despite the senator's refusal to host a single town hall or have a meeting with activists, Indivisibles have been trying to get through to her with rallies, light brigades, car caravan protests, letters to the editor, and social media."
"After a year of demonstrations and activist pressure, fed-up constituents and voters who helped elect Sinema are starting conversations around finding a Democratic primary challenger to Sinema after her failure to represent Arizonans and follow through on her campaign promises," the group said.
Indivisible isn't the only progressive organization that would support primarying Sinema. In a statement last week, Adam Jentleson of Battle Born Collective and the Primary Sinema Project asserted that "there is no excuse for Sinema's obstruction" of filibuster reform, which progressives say could be the key to passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
Obstruction by Sinema and fellow corporate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) has already all but sunk President Joe Biden's flagship Build Back Better Act, as well as other progressive legislation.
Jentleson argues that Sinema is "out of step with Arizonans—and not just Democrats," noting, for example, that 61% of all voters in the state support a $15 minimum wage—which she opposes—according to Data for Progress polling. ...
Punchbowl News reporter Christian Hall tweeted Tuesday that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told him that "he'd be open to supporting a primary challenge to senators against suspending the filibuster."
EMILY's List, the national advocacy group that supports pro-choice women running for public office, said Tuesday it would no longer support Sinema if she won't back filibuster reform.
"Right now, Sen. Sinema's decision to reject the voices of allies, partners, and constituents who believe the importance of voting rights outweighs that of an arcane process means she will find herself standing alone in the next election," Emily's List president Laphonza Butler said in a statement Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, the reproductive freedom advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America announced it was changing its endorsement criteria "to reflect our commitment to the freedom to vote."
"Going forward," the group tweeted, "we won't endorse any U.S. senator who doesn't support changing the Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation. Our democracy is on the line."
The US congressional committee investigating the Capitol attack has issued a blitz of subpoenas to some of Donald Trump’s top lawyers – including Rudy Giuliani – as it examines whether the former president oversaw a criminal conspiracy on 6 January 2021.
The House panel subpoenaed four of Trump’s legal team on Tuesday: the former president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his associate Boris Epshteyn, as well as Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, who all defended Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims as he attempted to overturn the election result.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, said in a statement that the panel issued the subpoenas to the four Trump lawyers because they were “in direct contact with the former president about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes”.
The move by the select committee amounts to another dramatic escalation in the investigation, as the orders compel Trump’s lawyers to produce documents and testimony, suggesting the panel believes the lawyers may have acted unlawfully.
In its most aggressive move, the select committee ordered Giuliani to testify under oath about his communications with Trump and Republican members of Congress regarding strategies for delaying or overturning the election results.
ExxonMobil is attempting to use an unusual Texas law to target and intimidate its critics, claiming that lawsuits against the company over its long history of downplaying and denying the climate crisis violate the US constitution’s guarantees of free speech. The US’s largest oil firm is asking the Texas supreme court to allow it to use the law, known as rule 202, to pursue legal action against more than a dozen California municipal officials. Exxon claims that in filing lawsuits against the company over its role in the climate crisis, the officials are orchestrating a conspiracy against the firm’s first amendment rights.
The oil giant also makes the curious claim that legal action in the California courts is an infringement of the sovereignty of Texas, where the company is headquartered.
Eight California cities and counties have accused Exxon and other oil firms of breaking state laws by misrepresenting and burying evidence, including from its own scientists, of the threat posed by rising temperatures. The municipalities are seeking billions of dollars in compensation for damage caused by wildfires, flooding and other extreme weather events, and to meet the cost of building new infrastructure to prepare for the consequences of rising global temperatures.
Rule 202 in effect allows corporations to go on a fishing expedition for incriminating evidence. They are able to question individuals under oath and demand access to documents even before any legal action is filed against them. Exxon wants to use the provision to force the California officials to travel to Texas to be questioned by the firm’s lawyers about what the company describes as “lawfare” – the misuse of the legal system for political ends. ...
The oil giant’s critics say Exxon’s attempt to use claims of free speech to curtail the first amendment rights of others follows a pattern of harassment toward those who challenge the company’s claims about the climate crisis. Patrick Parenteau, a law professor and former director of the Environmental Law Center at Vermont law school, has described the company’s move as “intimidation” intended to make “it cost a lot and be painful to take on Exxon” whether or not the company wins its case.
The cocktail of chemical pollution that pervades the planet now threatens the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends, scientists have said. Plastics are of particularly high concern, they said, along with 350,000 synthetic chemicals including pesticides, industrial compounds and antibiotics. Plastic pollution is now found from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans, and some toxic chemicals, such as PCBs, are long-lasting and widespread.
The study concludes that chemical pollution has crossed a “planetary boundary”, the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years. Chemical pollution threatens Earth’s systems by damaging the biological and physical processes that underpin all life. For example, pesticides wipe out many non-target insects, which are fundamental to all ecosystems and, therefore, to the provision of clean air, water and food.
“There has been a fiftyfold increase in the production of chemicals since 1950 and this is projected to triple again by 2050,” said Patricia Villarrubia-Gómez, a PhD candidate and research assistant at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) who was part of the study team. “The pace that societies are producing and releasing new chemicals into the environment is not consistent with staying within a safe operating space for humanity.”
“There’s evidence that things are pointing in the wrong direction every step of the way,” said Prof Bethanie Carney Almroth at the University of Gothenburg who was part of the team. “For example, the total mass of plastics now exceeds the total mass of all living mammals. That to me is a pretty clear indication that we’ve crossed a boundary. We’re in trouble, but there are things we can do to reverse some of this.” Villarrubia-Gómez said: “Shifting to a circular economy is really important. That means changing materials and products so they can be reused, not wasted.”
The researchers said stronger regulation was needed and in the future a fixed cap on chemical production and release, in the same way carbon targets aim to end greenhouse gas emissions. Their study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
There's a human-caused extinction crisis underway—probably the start of the Sixth Mass Extinction—and denial or indifference to this planetary crisis is "an abrogation of moral responsibility," according to scientists behind a new study.
Published last week in the journal Biological Reviews, the assessment by biologists from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris finds that the unprecedented rate of species loss is undeniable. The authors reject both the argument that the human-caused loss of species are simply a natural trajectory of life on Earth and that extinction rates are exaggerated.
Part of the issue, they say, may rest in a reliance on the "Red List" maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The list, despite assessing over 120,000 species, covers a mere 5.6% of the over 2.2 million animal and plant species recognized by taxonomists.
In addition to likely underestimating extinctions of those listed, the authors say the compilation is also heavily skewed toward non-marine vertebrates while invertebrates—both on land and in the sea—constitute up to 97% of known animal species.
"Including invertebrates was key to confirming that we are indeed witnessing the onset of the Sixth Mass Extinction in Earth's history," said lead author Robert Cowie, a research professor at the UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.
The researchers point to data on molluscs, which are the second-largest phylum of invertebrates and whose long-lasting shells leave an important historical record. They extrapolate mollusc extinction rates to assess greater biodiversity losses, though noting that data shows marine and plant species have fared better in the extinction crisis than land animals.
Their findings show there are 638 mollusc species extinct and 380 possibly extinct—figures that add up to more than twice as many listed by IUCN's 2020 assessment.
Making a "bold" extrapolation on data on 200 land snail species, the study finds that 7.5% to 13% of roughly 2 million species have gone extinct in the last 600 years. That's between 150,000 and 260,000 species in total.
It's clear there is a crisis is underway, the researchers say.
"The Sixth Mass Extinction may have not occurred yet, but heightened rates of extinction and huge range and population declines have already occurred, and whatever it is called, biodiversity is changing at a greater rate than it would in the absence of anthropogenic influences," they wrote.
"This is a fact," the researchers continued. "Denying it is simply flying in the face of the mountain of data that is rapidly accumulating, and there is no longer room for scepticism, wondering whether it really is happening."
The scientists reject the argument that humans are simply "just another species going about its business in the greater evolutionary scheme of things, an argument that gives carte blanche to those who would destroy the Earth for their own short-term gain." Humankind has a "power to manipulate the Earth on a grand scale," they add, and has "a moral and ethical obligation to use that power judiciously not capriciously."
"We cannot help but feel that humanity is allowing a probable Sixth Mass Extinction to unfold," the authors lament, "and it is pie in the sky to think that this situation will change in any major way."
Still, important efforts to at least slow down the crisis are underway, the study notes, pointing to mobilizations by groups of individuals like Extinction Rebellion and the establishment of protected areas as examples.
Yet more must be done, the researchers say, including by biological scientists who should "spread the message that the biodiversity that makes our world so fascinating and beautiful is going extinct unnoticed at an unprecedented rate" and should also collect species and their descriptions before they go exinct.
According to Cowie, "Despite the rhetoric about the gravity of the crisis, and although remedial solutions exist and are brought to the attention of decision-makers, it is clear that political will is lacking."
“Denying the crisis, accepting it without reacting, or even encouraging it," said Cowie, "constitutes an abrogation of humanity's common responsibility and paves the way for Earth to continue on its sad trajectory towards the Sixth Mass Extinction."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Baby Face Leroy - Blues Is Killin' Me
Baby Face Leroy Foster / Muddy Waters - Locked out Boogie
Baby Face Leroy Trio - Red Headed Woman
Baby Face Leroy - My Head Can't Rest Anymore
Baby Face Leroy - Boll Weevil
Baby Face Leroy - Pet Rabbit
Baby Face Leroy - Louella
Baby Face Leroy - Late Hours At Midnight
Little Walter Trio - Just Keep Lovin' Her