The Evening Blues - 1-26-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features "The Father of the Stride Piano," James P. Johnson. Enjoy!
Bessie Smith & James P. Johnson - Back Water Blues
"Our foreign policy establishment is writing checks that our ability to tolerate nuclear radiation can’t cash."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
One of the groups that wants war is aiming to have its wet dream come true:
The US has helped prepare for the diversion of natural gas supplies from around the world to Europe in the event that the flow from Russia is cut, in an effort to blunt Vladimir Putin’s most powerful economic weapon. As fears of an invasion of Ukraine have grown, US officials said on Tuesday that they had been negotiating with global suppliers, and they were now confident that Europe would not suffer from a sudden loss of energy for heating in the middle of winter.
“To ensure Europe is able to make it through the winter and spring we expect to be prepared to ensure alternative supplies covering a significant majority of the potential shortfall,” a senior official said.
The preparation for bulk gas supplies deliveries is part of a campaign by the US and its European allies to show a united and coherent front to Putin in the hope of deterring him from invading Ukraine. Joe Biden said on Tuesday he would consider imposing personal sanctions on the Russian president himself.
If Russia attacked, Biden said, it would be the “largest invasion since World War Two” and would “change the world”.
Boris Johnson hinted that Germany was concerned about the imposition of sanctions against Russia because of its dependence on Russian gas and told MPs diplomatic efforts were being made to persuade Berlin and others to go further.
"Cyberpartisans?" Why does this smell like a western spook op?
Cyber-activists opposed to the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, say they have penetrated the state-run railway’s computer system and threatened to paralyse trains moving Russian troops and artillery to the country for a potential attack on Ukraine.
Their goals include freeing political prisoners, removing Russian soldiers from Belarus and preventing Belarusians from “dying for this meaningless war”, a person involved in the attack told the Guardian.
A member of the “Cyberpartisans” said the hacktivist group had so far encrypted or destroyed internal databases that the Belarusian railways use to control traffic, customs and stations, an action that could cause delays to commercial and non-commercial trains and “indirectly affect Russia troops movement”.
They had so far avoided taking more drastic steps to paralyse trains by downing the signalling and emergency control systems, but said they “might do that in the future if we’re confident innocent people won’t get injured as a result”.
The group has demanded that Belarus cease serving as a staging ground for a buildup of Russian troops and military weaponry, some of it just miles from the Ukrainian border.
Despite warnings that a dangerous war with Russia could soon be unleashed if diplomatic efforts fail, House Democrats are reportedly looking to bypass typical procedures and fast-track a vote on legislation that would send $500 million in military aid to Ukraine—a move that critics say only adds fuel to the fire.
The Intercept reported Tuesday that "Democrats in the House of Representatives are planning to expedite a massive bill that would dramatically increase U.S. security assistance to Ukraine and lay the groundwork for substantial new sanctions on Russia—hastening a war-friendly posture without opportunity for dissent as concerns over a military invasion abound.
"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told members on a caucus call Tuesday that she's looking to skip marking up the bill and move it straight to the House floor, setting up the possibility of a vote as soon as early next week," The Intercept revealed, citing two unnamed congressional sources.
News of the push for speedy passage of the bill comes just one day after President Joe Biden put 8,500 U.S. troops on standby to deploy to Eastern Europe and as anti-war voices increased their warnings against military action.
One senior Democratic aide told The Intercept that the House leadership's plan to rush a vote on the Ukraine measure "is how the space for nonmilitary options gets slowly closed off in Washington, without any real debate."
If passed, the bill would authorize $500 million in "supplemental emergency security assistance to Ukraine" if Russia invades the country. The legislation would also greenlight $3 million in "international military and education training" for Ukraine and ramp up U.S. sanctions against Russia.
"Is Pelosi insane, fast-tracking massive weapons transfers to Ukraine and ginning up a new war with a nuclear-armed Russia? Don't these Democrats get it?" Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, told Common Dreams in response to the news of House Democrats' plans. "The American people don't want more war!"
"We can think of a lot better uses of $500 million than weapons to Ukraine that only intensify the conflict and feed the war machine," Benjamin added. "What we desperately need is de-escalation and vigorous diplomacy, including guarantees that Ukraine won't join NATO."
It's unclear how much opposition the attempt to provide Ukraine with more U.S. arms will spark within the Democratic caucus, which has struggled to pass legislation that would confront pressing domestic and global crises, from child poverty to climate change.
No Republican has co-sponsored the Ukraine legislation, which is led by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) in the House and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in the Senate.
Warren Gunnels, staff director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), tweeted an anti-war quote from the late rapper Tupac Shakur in response to The Intercept's story on House Democrats' plan.
Sanders is not among the Ukraine bill's Senate co-sponsors.
Even without action from Congress, the U.S. is currently pouring arms into Ukraine, as evidenced by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov's tweet Sunday hailing the arrival of "80 tons of weapons" from "our friends in the USA."
As the New York Times reported Tuesday, the U.S. "has authorized Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to send Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukrainian forces, augmenting the Javelin anti-tank missile deliveries to Ukraine that Britain began this month."
Such developments in recent days have intensified concerns that the U.S. is on the verge of embarking on yet another military intervention that could have devastating human consequences.
Warning against military action and pressing all parties to engage in diplomatic talks, Bridget Moix of the Friends Committee on National Legislation said Tuesday that "war represents a calamitous failure of governments to do their most basic job of keeping their people safe."
"President Joe Biden and members of Congress, expanding NATO any further would constitute an unnecessary provocation as well as an unwise military obligation," she continued. "Taking such expansion off the table would address Russia's primary security concern and reduce the likelihood that U.S. troops will be sent to yet another unwinnable war. Simply by acknowledging this, you could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars."
As United Nations officials projected Tuesday that the civilian death toll from the Saudi-led coalition's strikes on Yemen will break records this month, Oxfam shared the group's difficulties providing aid in the war-torn country and urged action from the U.N. Security Council.
"People are really struggling. Last night we had more airstrikes. Everyone is frightened," Abdulwasea Mohammed, Oxfam's Yemen advocacy, campaigns, and media manager, said from Sanaa, Yemen's capital.
"Children are traumatized—we tell them don't worry, it's all fine, but they wake up to the sound of massive explosions just like we do," he continued. "Each night we go to bed and just pray we wake up in the morning."
Mohammed explained that "we've lived with war for nearly seven years but the last few days have been the worst and I'm worried about what the next hours will bring."
The recent escalation has forced Oxfam to suspend work in some areas due to safety concerns and restrictions on movement. Fuel shortages and soaring prices also threaten aid deliveries of essentials like food, water, and medicine.
"The violence must end immediately so families can feel safe in their homes, and humanitarian agencies can resume lifesaving work," Mohammed declared. "But we need more than a ceasefire, as in the past these have not led to sustainable peace."
"The U.N. Security Council needs to inject new urgency into talks to ensure an end to the conflict and all sides must agree to prioritize the lives of Yemenis above all else," he said.
Mohammed pointed out that "in recent weeks, the U.N. Security Council has reacted strongly to violence against civilians in other countries emanating from Yemen, but not to widespread attacks taking place in Yemen."
"To fulfill its responsibility to uphold international peace and security," he said, "the council must demonstrate the same concern for Yemenis as it does for others across the region and the world."
U.N. Security Council President Mona Juul of Norway said last week that the global body's members "condemned in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attacks" in United Arab Emirates on January 17 as well as in other sites in Saudi Arabia. The statement did not mention UAE and Saudi actions that harm Yemenis.
MSNBC columnist Trita Parsi on Tuesday highlighted a similar behavior by the U.S., which holds one of the five permanent seats on the council:
When Yemeni Houthi rebels struck Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, killing three people on January 17, the Biden administration strongly condemned what it called "terrorist attacks." It was the 14th time the State Department had condemned the Houthis since President Joe Biden entered the White House.
Yet, days later, when Saudi Arabian airstrikes killed at least 70 civilians in Yemen, including three children, the Biden team only mustered a meek call for all parties to de-escalate. Despite the carnage, Biden sustained his perfect record of never condemning Saudi Arabia for its devastation of Yemen, let alone calling it terrorism.
Given that "the Saudis, the Houthis, and the Emiratis have all been accused of committing war crimes," and "none of them pose a threat to the United States," Parsi argued, "the only justified American involvement would be to help negotiate an end to the conflict."
The tech sector led US stock markets on a pandemic boom last year. Now markets are whipsawing on fears that the Federal Reserve will end the era of easy money, all while a potential war in Ukraine looms. Some warn of a bigger correction to come on a scale not seen since the dotcom collapse of the late 1990s.
On Monday, US stock markets crashed then rallied. The Dow Jones at one point lost more than 1,000 points before ending up just over 100. Tuesday was more of the same with the Dow losing 800 points only to gain most of it back. Analysts expect more volatile days ahead. The Fed on Wednesday issued its latest update on its plans to raise rates in order to curb inflation, and the world’s largest tech firms are preparing to issue their latest results to investors, who appear to have grown more skeptical about their prospects.
Jeremy Grantham, the British co-founder of Boston-based investment manager GMO, believes the US is now in a “super-bubble” comparable to the dotcom era, the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the housing market madness of 2006. It is not just tech that has blown up, but housing prices, commodities and bond prices. The “wild rumpus” has begun, according to Grantham. It is unlikely to end soon.
Progressives are celebrating after unionized workers at Denver-area King Soopers grocery stores approved a new three-year contract on Monday following a 10-day strike by more than 8,000 low-wage employees in Colorado.
"Strikes absolutely work," said Kim Cordova, president of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7, which organized the work stoppage. "It shows the company that they can't run without workers."
"It shows that where the real power is is with the people," added Cordova, who was part of a panel convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) late Monday. "We're hoping that we set the bar so that other workers in this country follow suit."
Sanders, who expressed support for grocery store workers during the strike in Colorado, said this victory over Kroger—a nationwide chain that owns King Soopers—"proves that when workers stand together they can defeat corporate greed."
Although details of the new contract have not been shared by UFCW Local 7, the Colorado Sun reported that the deal includes pay raises of more than $5 an hour for some employees, which the union called "the most significant wage increase ever secured by a UFCW local for grocery workers." The contract also creates more full-time employment opportunities and secures better healthcare and pension benefits as well as stronger workplace safety measures.
About 1,100 coalminers in Alabama have entered 2022 still on strike, more than 10 months since they walked out back in April last year, making it the longest strike in the US since the Covid-19 pandemic began and the longest in Alabama’s history. Workers started the unfair labor practice strike over claims of bad faith bargaining by Warrior Met Coal over a new union contract. In the previous contract settled in 2016, miners accepted several concessions, including a $6-an-hour pay cut and reductions in health insurance and other benefits as the mines switched employers in the wake of a bankruptcy. ...
Over the past 10 months they have held rallies and extended protests to the Alabama state capitol to criticize the use of public resources for state troopers escorting strikebreaking replacement workers to the mines throughout the strike. Miners have also held rallies in New York City outside the offices of BlackRock Investment Group, the largest shareholder of Warrior Met Coal. As of 2 November, the strike has cost the company $6.9m. ...
Since Warrior Met Coal took over the mines, the company has reported billions of dollars in revenue. A tentative agreement was reached in the first week of the strike, but overwhelmingly rejected by workers, and a new agreement has yet to be reached.
“What they’ve said openly in negotiations is that they’re just going to starve us out. They’ve said … and this on record, that ‘we have the money to pay what you’re asking, we do not have the desire to.’ That’s the kind of company these guys have been working for,” said Haeden Wright, president of the United Mine Workers of America auxiliary for two of the striking locals and the wife of a striking miner. “Through the journey, most of us are still holding out and trying to hold on, but it is hard.”
Alabama Republicans illegally discriminated against Black voters when they drew the state’s seven new congressional districts last year and must quickly redraw the plan, a federal court has ruled. The ruling is hugely consequential, a blunt assessment of the way lawmakers use their power to draw district lines to dilute the influence of Black and other minority voters.
Pending lawsuits in North Carolina and Texas similarly allege that lawmakers illegally drew districts on the basis of race. About a quarter of Alabama’s population is Black but there is only one congressional district in the state where Black voters make up a majority.
Plaintiffs who sued in September argued it was possible to draw a second district where Black voters made up a sizable enough portion to elect the candidate of their choice. A three-judge panel agreed on Monday, saying the state plan probably violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That provision of the law outlaws voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” Stanley Marcus, a judge on the US court of appeals for the 11th circuit, wrote for an unanimous panel. “The appropriate remedy is a congressional redistricting plan that includes either an additional majority Black congressional district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
Marcus, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, was joined in the opinion by Anna Manasco and Terry Moorer, both nominated by Donald Trump. The Alabama attorney general, Steve Marshall, a Republican, said the state would appeal to the US supreme court.
The descendants of Native American tribes on the northern California coast are reclaiming part of their ancestral homeland, including ancient redwoods that have stood since their forebears walked the land. Save the Redwoods League, a non-profit conservation group, announced Tuesday that it is transferring more than 500 acres (202 hectares) on the Lost Coast to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council.
The group of 10 tribes that have inhabited the area for thousands of years will be responsible for protecting the land dubbed Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, or “Fish Run Place” in the Sinkyone language. Priscilla Hunter, the chair of the Sinkyone Council, said it is fitting they will be caretakers of the land where her people were removed or forced to flee before the forest was largely stripped for timber. ...
The transfer marks a step in the growing Land Back movement to return Indigenous homelands to the descendants of those who lived there for millennia before European settlers arrived. In 2020, the Esselen tribe of northern California regained more than 1,000 acres of its ancestral homeland with a $4.5m deal involving the state and an Oregon conservation group. Such arrangements have become more common in recent years, allowing for the conservation of land and wildlife.
The league first worked with the Sinkyone council when it transferred a 164-acre (66-hectare) plot nearby to the group in 2012. The league recently paid $37m for a scenic five-mile (eight-km) stretch of the rugged and forbidding Lost Coast from a lumber company to protect it from logging and eventually open it up to the public.
Opening access to the public is not a priority on the property being transferred to the tribal group because it is so remote, said Sam Hodder, the president and CEO of the league. But it serves an important puzzle piece wedged between other protected areas.
US oil firms have been accused of using scare tactics after telling a federal court on Tuesday that lawsuits alleging fossil fuel companies lied about the climate crisis could threaten America’s oil supply. At a closely watched appeals court hearing to decide whether a lawsuit by the city of Baltimore should be heard in state or federal court, an attorney for BP, Exxon, Shell and other energy firms painted the case as a threat to America’s energy independence.
Kannon Shanmugam, representing the industry, told the court that if the city were to succeed in state court, and win billions of dollars in compensation, that could kill offshore drilling. “The relief that Baltimore seeks would deter, if not render entirely impractical, any further production on the outer continental shelf,” he said.
Karen Sokol, a law professor at Loyola University who specialises in climate litigation, called the claim one of a number of “scare tactics” deployed by the oil industry as it fights to move the Baltimore and other cases out of state jurisdictions, where consumer protection and other laws favour the plaintiffs, and in to federal courts where the fossil fuel companies believe they have the advantage.
“It’s a scare tactic, which is telling the courts to back off, we’re a very powerful industry and we’re essential right now to energy security. If you step into this, you’re going to screw everything up,” she said.
Baltimore’s case accuses oil firms of breaching Maryland state consumer protection and other laws by running disinformation campaigns to cover up what they knew about the dangers of burning fossil fuels.
Environmental advocates and congressional Democrats are raising alarm after the U.S. Supreme Court this week agreed to hear arguments in two cases regarding bedrock regulations designed to protect the quality of the nation's air and water.
The nine justices announced Monday that they plan to hear arguments in the case of an Idaho couple who were blocked from building a home on their land by the Clean Water Act. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Chantell and Michael Sackett's land contained wetlands and the couple needed a federal permit to build.
Represented by the right-wing Pacific Legal Foundation, the Sacketts are calling on the Supreme Court to settle on a narrow definition of "waters of the United States," one that could have profound implications for numerous industries and regulatory policy in the country.
That case is expected to be heard during the Supreme Court session starting in October, but in just over a month the court is also scheduled to hear arguments in West Virginia v. EPA, in which Republican-led states are asking the court to consider whether the EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate fossil fuel emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The right wing-dominated court's decision to take up the two cases in the span of just a few months is "the latest indication that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is stepping in to assess the limits of the nation's bedrock environmental laws—potentially in ways that hamstring President Biden's environmental agenda," wote Maxine Joselow at The Washington Post Tuesday.
"It seems like we have a new conservative supermajority on the court that is much more inclined to do a slash-and-burn expedition through our major environmental laws," Robert Percival, director of the Environmental Law Program at the University of Maryland, told the Post.
The number of western monarch butterflies overwintering in California rebounded to more than 247,000 a year after fewer than 2,000 appeared, but the tally remained far below the millions that were seen in the 1980s, leaders of an annual count said on Tuesday.
The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count revealed the highest number of butterflies in five years but it is still less than 5% of the 1980s population, said Emma Pelton, senior endangered species biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Pelton said she was ecstatic about the turnabout but cautioned that it did not indicate a recovery of the species.
“It will take multiple more years to understand if this is the beginning of a trend or just a blip,” she said in an online news conference.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
James P. Johnson - Improvisation On Pinetop's Boogie Woogie
James P. Johnson - Charleston
James P. Johnson - Arkansas Blues
Ethel Waters & James P Johnson - My Handy Man
James P. Johnson - Blues for Fats
James P. Johnson - You've Got To Be Modernistic
James P. Johnson - Honeysuckle Rose
James P. Johnson - Snowy Morning Blues
James P. Johnson - Harlem Strut
James P. Johnson, Clarence Williams - I've Found A New Baby