The Evening Blues - 9-20-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Ernest "Little Son Joe" Lawlars. Enjoy!
Little Son Joe - Just Had To Holler
"Silence never won rights. They are not handed down from above; they are forced by pressures from below."
-- Roger Baldwin
News and Opinion
The ruling oligarchs are terrified that, for tens of millions of people, the economic dislocation caused by inflation, stagnant wages, austerity, the pandemic and the energy crisis is becoming unendurable. They warn, as Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and NATO Secretary GeneraJens Stoltenberg, have done, about the potential for social unrest, especially as we head towards winter. Social unrest is a code word for strikes — the one weapon workers possess that can cripple and destroy the billionaire class’s economic and political power. Strikes are what the global oligarchs fear most. Through the courts and police intervention, they will seek to prevent workers from shutting down the economy. This looming battle is crucial. If we begin to chip away at corporate power through strikes, most of which will probably be wildcat strikes that defy union leadership and anti-union laws, we can begin to regain agency over our lives.
The oligarchs have spent decades abolishing or domesticating unions, turning the few unions that remain — only 10.7 percent of the workforce is unionized — into obsequious junior partners in the capitalist system. As of January 2022, private-sector unionization stood at its lowest point since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. And yet, 48 percent of U.S. workers say they would like to belong to a union. As a result of crushing conditions workers have been subjected to for years, the nation is facing its first major rail strike since the 1990s. The transportation industry, of which most rail workers are a part, has a higher than average union density compared to other parts of the private sector. A rail strike could mean a loss in economic output of $2 billion a day, according to a trade group representing railroad companies.
It was announced by the Biden White House, which hopes to avoid the optics of forcing striking workers back to the job, that the leaders of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), among others, reached a tentative agreement with major freight companies, including Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) and Union Pacific. The tentative agreement was made amid intense pressure from the Biden administration. Union officials stressed that the wording of the agreement is yet to be finalized and workers may not see the details of the agreement for three to four weeks, after which point union rank-and-file members will still have to vote on the proposed settlement. ...
It appears that the proposed contract will meet few of the railroad workers’ core demands including redressing years of declining wages, the need for cost-of-living adjustments to deal with inflation, an end to onerous attendance policies, guaranteed time off and sick days, massive lay-offs that have put tremendous pressure on remaining rail workers and an end to the practice of one-man crews. ...
Widespread strikes, a necessity if we are to prevail, will be declared illegal, no matter which party is in the White House. Those who lead strikes will be targeted for arrest, and corporations will attempt to replace workers with scabs. It will be a very, very ugly fight. But it is our only hope. ...
Our oligarchs are as vicious and tight-fisted as those of the past. They will fight with everything at their disposal to crush the aspirations of workers. Alexander Herzen, speaking to a group of anarchists about how to overthrow the czar, reminded his listeners that it was not their job to save a dying system but to replace it: “We are not the doctors. We are the disease.” All resistance must recognize that the corporate coup d’état is complete. It is a waste of energy to attempt to reform or appeal to systems of power. We must organize and strike. The oligarchs have no intention of willingly sharing power or wealth. They will revert to the ruthless and murderous tactics of their capitalist forebearers. We must revert to the militancy of our own.
Nineteen members of the US House of Representatives have written a letter [PDF] to President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin cautioning that the partial cancellation of student debts can have the unintended consequence of reducing military recruitment in the United States.
The letter reads as follows:
Dear President Biden,
We write to you to share our concerns about the unintended consequences of your decision to cancel up to $20,000 of student loan debt per borrower. We are particularly concerned about the negative impact this will surely have on our nation’s military and their ability to recruit and retain top talent.
As you know, some of the most successful recruiting incentives for the military are the GI Bill and student loan forgiveness programs. The idea that the military will pay for schooling during or after completion of a service obligation is a driving factor in many individuals’ decision to join one of the services. A recent estimate showed that as many as 178,000 servicemembers were eligible for some type of forgiveness.
By forgiving such a wide swath of loans for borrowers, you are removing any leverage the Department of Defense maintained as one of the fastest and easiest ways to pay for higher education. We recognize the loan forgiveness programs have issues of their own, but this remains a top recruiting incentive.
Currently, a mere 23 percent of the population is eligible to serve in the military. Even fewer of those have a propensity to serve. At the end of last month, the Army had only reached 66 percent of its recruiting goal for the year. The Navy, only 89 percent. It is no secret that each of the services continues to battle hardships in recruiting and now these problems will be exacerbated by removing the uniqueness of this benefit.
As the services try to adopt unique approaches to tackle their recruiting challenges, including historic bonuses, it feels like their legs are being cut out from underneath them. With this in mind, we ask for you to provide us answers to the following questions:
1. Was the effect on military service considered in the development of the recent student loan forgiveness decision?
2. What is the administration’s plan to develop incentives to augment the loss of those who might join the military to help pay off student loans?
3. What improvements are being made to ensure timely payments to those currently enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs for both active duty and reserve components?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
So they’re just coming right out and admitting it. One of the reasons the US government doesn’t offer the same kinds of social support systems that people have in all other wealthy nations is because otherwise there’d be no economic pressure on young Americans to sign up for service in the US war machine.
This is no secret, but it’s generally considered taboo for government officials to actually say so. People have been talking about the poverty draft for many years — about the established fact that a majority of US military recruits come from neighborhoods with below median income levels and that those neighborhoods are targeted for recruitment because impoverished communities often see military service as their only chance at upward mobility.
But the term “poverty draft” can create a bit of confusion, because when most Americans hear “poverty” they think homeless people and those who can barely afford to eat or keep a roof over their heads. In reality the US is a nation where a majority of the population would be unable to pay for a $1,000 emergency expense from their savings, and the level at which economic pressure is felt to join the military is much higher than the very poorest of the poor.
Those economic pressures are why US Army officials have explicitly said that the student loan crisis is to thank for their success in meeting recruitment goals.
It’s one of those things that looks more ghoulish the more you think about it. In the wealthiest nation in the world, economic justice is actively suppressed in part to ensure that young Americans will feel financially squeezed into killing foreigners who are far more impoverished than they are. They are keeping people poor so that they will commit mass murder. It’s actually hard to think of anything more depraved than that.
But such is the nature of the capitalist empire. You’re either a useful gear-turner of the machine or you are liquidated and turned into fuel for its engine. If you’re not a successful capitalist you can be used to defend the empire with pricey weaponry. If you’re not helping the empire you can be used to drive up profits for the military-industrial complex as a target for war machinery whose costly munitions will need to be replaced. If you’re not a good gear-turner you can be sent to become a prison slave or incarcerated in a private for-profit prison. There’s a use for everyone in the empire.
The globe-spanning power structure that is centralized around the United States is the most evil, soulless and destructive force on this planet. The young people who are duped, manipulated and financially coerced into joining its war machine come back horrifically traumatized by the experiences they have in the situations they are placed in.
Corporate media somehow missed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s shocking charge, at his press conference Friday:
"We even see attempts at perpetrating terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation, including – I am not sure if this was made public – attempts to carry out terrorist attacks near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants in the Russian Federation. I am not even talking about the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant."
Putin was answering what seemed to be a canned question about Russia’s "restraint" amid, what the questioner called increasing "strikes, raids and acts of terror even on Russian territory. We are hearing all the time very aggressive statements that the final goal of Kiev and the West is Russia’s disintegration. Meanwhile, many think that Russia’s response to all of this is very restrained. Why is that?”
Putin addressed the question frontally:
"With regard to our restrained response, I would not say it was restrained … after all, a special military operation is not just another warning, but a military operation. In the course of this, we are seeing attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks and damage our civilian infrastructure.
"Indeed, we were quite restrained in our response, but that will not last forever. Recently, Russian Armed Forces delivered a couple of sensitive blows in that area [civilian infrastructure]. Let’s call them warning shots. If the situation continues like that, our response will be more impactful. Terrorist attacks are a serious matter. … We see this in the killing of officials in the liberated territories, we even see attempts at perpetrating terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation."
When the President of Russia claims there are attempts to attack nuclear power facilities in Russia – whether true or false – is that not newsworthy? No, says the NY Times. Its lead front-page story Sunday, written by its first-string team of (WMD in Iraq) David Sanger, Julian Barnes, Eric Schmitt, and Anton Troianovski reports copiously on Putin’s Friday press conference, but chooses to omit his charge regarding terrorist planning to sabotage nuclear power plants in Russia. The article explains how President Joe Biden is trying not to provoke Russia into escalating in Ukraine, despite Zelensky being "flush with success in northeastern Ukraine."
According to these NYT first-string writers on Ukraine, Washington is concerned that Putin might escalate "to compensate for his humiliating retreat … the Russians, for now, are still in disarray."
The Biden administration is hesitant to give Ukraine the longer-range missiles it is asking for as Russia has warned providing such arms would make the US a party to the conflict.
Ukraine has asked the US for Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, which have a range of about 190 miles, significantly farther than anything Washington has provided Kyiv up to this point. The HIMARS rocket launch systems that the US has sent Ukraine are currently equipped with missiles that can hit targets up to 50 miles away.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that President Biden is resisting Ukraine’s calls to send the arms. The report cited senior aides to Biden who said the president was told by the Pentagon that the benefits of sending Ukraine the ATACMS would be minimal, leading him to conclude it wasn’t worth the risk of provoking Moscow.
A powerful American political figure has condemned what she said were “illegal” border attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenia, using a visit to Russia’s military ally to pledge US support. Speaking in the capital Yerevan on Sunday, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her trip had particular importance following the “illegal and deadly attacks by Azerbaijan on Armenian territory” that led to border clashes in which more than 200 people were killed.
Pelosi said it was clear the border fighting was triggered by Azeri assaults on Armenia and the chronology of the conflict should be clarified. “We strongly condemn those attacks,” Pelosi said. “This was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that.” The United States, Pelosi said, was listening to Armenia about what its defence needs were and said Washington wanted to support the country in what she cast as “a global struggle between democracy and autocracy”. ...
Pelosi also said she found it interesting that Armenia was unsatisfied with the response from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation. A senior Armenian official expressed unhappiness last week with the Russian-led military alliance’s response to Yerevan’s request for help. “We are very dissatisfied of course. The expectations we had were not justified,” parliamentary speaker Alen Simonyan told national television, likening the CSTO to a pistol that did not shoot bullets, according to Interfax news agency.
After several days of fighting, an uneasy truce appears to be holding along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Nearly 100 people died and hundreds more suffered injuries when a long-standing conflict between the two Central Asian countries erupted in violence late last week. The governments in Bishkek and Dushanbe each accuse the other of provoking this latest episode. Kyrgyzstan insists that Tajikistan sent troops and paramilitary forces into villages in its Bakten region. Its soldiers, allegedly confronting an “invasion” with tanks and armored personnel carriers, engaged enemy border guards in a firefight when they refused to leave. The Tajik military maintains, however, that its towns were first shelled from across the border and then repeatedly hit by heavy weaponry over the course of several days.
Videos on social media appear to show a civilian bloodbath on both sides, with children and medics among the fatalities. Kyrgyz officials evacuated 136,000 residents from the area over the weekend, and one regional airport was reportedly packed with people trying to leave on Saturday. Some are now returning home.
The immediate cessation of hostilities does not indicate any lasting end to the violence. While indicating on Sunday that his government is ready for negotiations and a “peaceful” resolution, in a statement just released on YouTube, Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Zhaparov emphasized his country’s readiness for military conflict, insisting that it is fully capable of “defending its borders.” Authorities in Bishkek continue to accuse Dushanbe of engaging in a “disinformation” campaign regarding who is responsible for last weekend’s deadly events. Since 2014 alone, there have been 11 major conflicts along a portion of their 600-mile-long shared border. In May of last year at least 54 people died in fighting.
Both mountainous countries with large tracts of arid land and not enough agricultural resources to support their populations, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan each lay claim to the fertile Fergana Valley. According to the UN, Tajikistan’s population is expected to more than double by the end of this century, putting immense pressure on the already food-insecure country. Of the 7 percent of its land that is arable, the World Food Programme says 97 percent is vulnerable to soil degradation, which is expected to worsen as the effects of climate change intensify. According to the Ecological Threat Register, out of 157 countries studied, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are among the top most 19 endangered. They face the imminent threat of desertification. ...
Current tensions are being exacerbated by the combined effects of the war in Ukraine, the US’ efforts to destabilize and break-up Russia, the rapidly escalating conflict with China, and the fight for Central Asia’s resources.
Indian people living near the country’s disputed Himalayan border with China have accused their government of giving away swathes of land after both sides agreed to withdraw troops from some contested areas and create buffer zones.
Earlier this month, Indian and Chinese troops, who have been locked in a tense border dispute since June 2020, began to draw back from the contested area of Gogra-Hot Springs after an agreement was reached to disengage.
The Indian government said the agreement restored the territory on both sides of the contested border, known as the line of actual control, to the “pre-standoff period”. In the newly created buffer zones, neither side will be allowed to patrol their troops.
Nevertheless, local Indian residents, elected representatives of the region and former Indian military officers who have served along the disputed border in Ladakh are claiming that the new “buffer zones” have been established in areas previously under Indian control.
Meanwhile, they allege Chinese troop positions remain either in contested areas or much inside the Indian territory.
Synchronous interest rate hikes imposed by the world's most powerful central banks in recent months have triggered mounting concerns of a global recession that could plunge millions more into poverty, spark a surge in joblessness, and heighten economic pain for poor nations in particular.
The latest warning comes from the World Bank, which published a study late last week warning that central banks' efforts to tame inflation by aggressively hiking interest rates—thereby increasing borrowing costs and tamping down demand—could cause a significant global economic contraction without bringing inflation back down to the pre-pandemic average.
Under a scenario of persistently high inflation, the World Bank notes, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and other central banks would likely continue raising interest rates, further slowing a global economy that is already "in its steepest slowdown following a post-recession recovery since 1970."
"If the degree of global monetary policy tightening currently anticipated by markets is not enough to lower inflation to targets, experience from past global recessions suggests that the requisite additional tightening could give rise to significant financial stress and trigger a global recession in 2023," the study cautions. "This would entail a recession in advanced economies within the range of the contractions that occurred in the past five global recessions."
"A global recession would also translate into a sharp decline in growth in [emerging market and developing economies]," the study adds. "In light of elevated vulnerabilities in many of these economies, they would face severe challenges associated with financial stress."
David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, said in a statement that "global growth is slowing sharply, with further slowing likely as more countries fall into recession."
"My deep concern is that these trends will persist, with long-lasting consequences that are devastating for people in emerging market and developing economies," said Malpass. "To achieve low inflation rates, currency stability, and faster growth, policymakers could shift their focus from reducing consumption to boosting production. Policies should seek to generate additional investment and improve productivity and capital allocation, which are critical for growth and poverty reduction."
The World Bank's warning came just days ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting this week, when it is expected to announce its third 75-basis-point interest rate hike of the year following worse-than-expected Consumer Price Index data. Prior to 2022, the last time the Fed raised its benchmark rate by 75 basis points was in 1994.
Progressive economists and lawmakers in the U.S. have been warning for months that the Fed is flirting with economic disaster by quickly hiking interest rates in an attempt to fight an inflation surge driven in large part by pandemic- and war-induced supply chain disruptions and corporate profiteering—neither of which will be directly mitigated by rate increases.
"Powerful businesses are using the cover of inflation to increase their prices higher than their actual costs are rising," Robert Reich, the former head of the U.S. Labor Department, argued on Twitter Monday. "Repeat after me: Wages and costs of production aren't pushing up prices."
Bolstering outside criticism of the Fed's approach, a study authored by one of the U.S. central bank's own economists and quietly published in July warned that "strong (tight) labor markets can become weak (slack) faster than policymakers may anticipate."
"Indeed, our results demonstrate that labor demand reacted sharply and quickly to the tightening of monetary policy [in the past], at a speed which can outpace policymakers' abilities to track current economic conditions," potentially resulting in a "severe recession," the study authors wrote.
But during remarks at a symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last month, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said openly that "pain" is ahead for U.S. households and businesses, an indication that the central bank has no plans to stop the rate hikes anytime soon—a decision whose impacts will reverberate worldwide.
"A dangerous contagion is spreading from the U.S. Federal Reserve to the European Central Bank and the rest of the world," The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner wrote in a column Monday. "All this depresses economic activity, which is precisely the Fed's intention. As an even more dangerous side effect, the higher U.S. rates have pushed the dollar to its highest exchange value against other currencies in decades, as investors move their money into dollar assets."
"Countries with debt denominated in dollars face higher interest costs on their debt, and the principal amount of the debt also increases," Kuttner added. "Central bankers are supposed to be looking out for the economy as a whole. But at the end of the day, they have the mentality of bankers, protecting creditors. The project of democratizing central banking is a never-ending challenge."
Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s decision to move unwitting migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last week has been compared to a “mini-ethnic cleansing with genocidal precedence” by a philosopher who has closely studied dehumanization and its role in genocide and the Holocaust.
“Of course this is not genocide, but it is somewhat reminiscent of awful things that have happened in the past. As soon as you start treating human beings as undesirable problems to dump on others, you are in very dangerous territory,” said David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of New England. “What frightens me most actually is that someone who does these sort of acts is capable of doing much worse,” he said. ...
Smith warned that seeing the incident as merely a political “stunt” by an attention-seeking Republican politician risked diminishing the “moral seriousness and the possible future implications of what they are doing”.
“In effect,” Smith said, “DeSantis is intimating that this is an ethnic cleansing operations, that he will take these so-called undesirables and pick them up and dump them in the lands of [his] political enemies.” Stone said he was also struck by the way in which both DeSantis and Texas governor Greg Abbott appeared to see liberal American cities like Washington DC or the wealthy liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard as being like a foreign country. “You could say that’s no surprise: there’s often talk of ‘real Americans’ living in the heartland. But this takes it to a new level. To use a gross but apt analogy, it’s as if someone is taking their garbage and dumping it in their neighbors’ yard. DeSantis talks about it like that,” he said.
Joe Biden has said “the pandemic is over” in an interview broadcast on Sunday, though he admitted “we still have a problem with Covid”, as the US continues to grapple with coronavirus infections that kill hundreds of Americans a day.
The president told CBS’s 60 Minutes: “We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”
A Baltimore judge on Monday ordered the release of Adnan Syed after overturning his conviction for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee – a case chronicled in the hit podcast Serial.
Ruling that the state violated its legal obligation to share exculpatory evidence with Syed’s defense, the circuit court judge, Melissa Phinn, ordered Syed placed on home detention with GPS monitoring. Phinn also gave the state 30 days to decide whether to seek a new trial or dismiss the case.
As the hearing ended, Phinn said: “All right Mr Syed, you’re free to join your family.” Outside, Syed smiled as he was shepherded to an SUV, through a sea of cameras and cheering supporters. ...
Syed’s first trial, in December 1999, ended in mistrial. At his second trial, in February 2000, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Now 41, he has spent more than 20 years behind bars. He has always maintained his innocence.
State attorney, Marilyn Mosby said investigators were waiting for the results of “DNA analysis” before determining whether to seek a new trial or throw out the case and “certify [Syed’s] innocence”.
More at the link:
States are continuing to allow sewage sludge to be spread on cropland as fertilizer and in some cases increasing the amount spread, even as the PFAS-tainted substance has ruined farmers’ livelihoods, poisoned water supplies, contaminated food and put the public’s health at risk.
Michigan and Maine are the only two states in the US to widely test sludge, and regulators in each say contamination was found in all tested samples. Still, in recent months, officials in Virginia increased the amount of sludge permitted to be spread on farmland without testing for PFAS, while Alabama regulators have rejected residents’ and environmental groups’ pleas to test sludge for the chemicals. Similar fights are playing out in other states, including Georgia and Oklahoma, and public health advocates fear regulators are ignoring the dangers to appease the waste management industry. ...
Sewage sludge is a byproduct of the water treatment process that’s left over when water is separated from human and industrial waste discharged into the nation’s sewer systems. The Sierra Club has characterized sludge as “the most pollutant-rich manmade substance on Earth”.
The biosolid treatment process doesn’t remove PFAS, or “forever chemicals”, a widely used toxic compound – typically used to make thousands of products resist water, stain and heat – that experts say contaminates all sludge. The chemicals can easily move from sludge into soil, crops, cattle, and nearby drinking water sources. Regulators in Michigan and Maine’s testing programs have identified widespread contamination in fields where the substance was spread, as well as in crops, beef, groundwater and even farmers’ blood.
Maine last year became the first state to ban the practice after contamination harmed its agricultural industry. Similarly, Michigan officials and environmental groups have uncovered PFAS contamination on dozens of farms, forcing one to shut down and raising questions about safety of the state’s farmland. The state enacted a plan to identify farms at risk for the highest levels of contamination, prohibited some wastewater treatment plants from selling sludge, and forced polluters to stop discharging PFAS into sewers.
Burning the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels would emit more planet-heating emissions than have occurred since the industrial revolution, easily blowing the remaining carbon budget before societies are subjected to catastrophic global heating, a new analysis has found. An enormous 3.5tn tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be emitted if governments allow identified reserves of coal, oil and gas to be extracted and used, according to what has been described as the first public database of fossil fuel production.
The database, which covers around three-quarters of global energy production, reveals that the US and Russia each have enough fossil fuel reserves to single-handedly eat up the world’s remaining carbon budget before the planet is tipped into 1.5C (2.7F) or more of heating compared to the pre-industrial era. Among all countries, there is enough fossil fuel to blow this remaining budget seven times over, propelling people and ecosystems into disastrous heatwaves, floods, drought and other impacts never seen before in human history. Governments have agreed to restrain global heating to 1.5C but have largely declined to actively halt new fossil fuel leases or extraction.
“You’ve got governments issuing new licenses or permits for coal that are completely decoupled from their own climate commitments,” said Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker Initiative, which is launching the new Global Registry of Fossil Fuels with Global Energy Monitor on Monday. “It’s like a country announcing that they’re going on a climate change diet and they’re going to eat salad for lunch and then sneaking back to their office and working their way through a box of donuts,” he said. “You’re not on a diet if you’re stuffing your face with donuts, but that’s what’s happening with countries and their developers of fossil fuels.”
For the world to have an even chance of avoiding 1.5C or more of global heating, scientists have estimated the world can only emit 400 to 500bn more tons of greenhouses gases. This would involve drastically cutting emissions by around half this decade before zeroing them out entirely by the mid point of the century.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Little Son Joe - Diggin' My Potatoes
Memphis Minnie with Little Son Joe - My Black Buffalo
Little Son Joe - Black Rat Swing
Memphis Minnie with Little Son Joe - Key To The World
Little Son Joe - Bone Yard Blues
Memphis Minnie with Little Son Joe - Hoodoo Lady
Memphis Minnie with Little Son Joe - Me and My Chauffeur Blues
Little Son Joe - A Little Too Late (I'd Write A Letter)
Little Son Joe - Ethel Bea