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UAW workers and their kids picket outside Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan.

Which Side Are You On: Whales,  Jobs, Wrenches or Duck Soup?

With the power of organized labor surging, two guys went to Detroit this week to apprise striking autoworkers what they think of their righteous labor. Joe Biden historically walked the picket line and told union workers, "You've earned a hell of a lot more than you're getting paid." A stable, genius, "billionaire charlatan" who long ripped off workers and ran a fraudulent empire built on lies raved to non-union workers about China, trucks, environmental lunatics, transitions to hell, yuge fake jobs, vote for me. Tough choice.

In a newly expanded strike of over 18,000 autoworkers against 38 GM, Ford, and Chrysler parent Stellantis plants in 20 states, the UAW is pushing the so-called Big Three automakers for significant pay and benefit upgrades: A 40% wage increase, a 32-hour work week paid as full-time, an end to lower pay tier forced on new workers as part of the 2008 bailout. Justifiably disgruntled workers cite the industry's surging profits - $250 billion over the past decade - and obscene payouts to CEOs - all over $20 million, sometimes thanks to raises of up to 40%, representing a nearly 400-to-1 ratio of executive pay to that of the average worker, presumably without breaking a sweat. In contrast, the real wages of many workers have declined or inched up by a mere 6% since their 2019 contract; across the country, many workers haven't seen a rise in the $7.25 minimum wage for over 14 years, and largely feel "we're on our own." At the start of the strike, mirroring pay at the top, UAW President Shawn Fain was demanding a 40% wage increase over four years along with the return of pensions and cost of living increases; he's now gone down to 36%, but nobody else has budged.

Given those grossly inequitable numbers, the fact over 60% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and the propensity of America's Fattest Cats to act like the entitled assholes they are - Jeff Bezos gives away just 1% of his billions and spent over double that to be weightless in space for four minutes - the strike has garnered broad support. Today, between 62% and 75% of Americans support the union, with that number rising. It thus made political and moral sense for Joe Biden, touted as one of the most pro-labor presidents in US history, to go Tuesday "where no president has gone before" and become the first sitting president to join striking workers on a picket line - a move historians called historic and long overdue. For a gleeful Michael Moore imagining "our 756 billionaires" as they "choke on whatever they were eating (and make a) frantic effort to find a baby aspirin in their vest pocket," it was also "The Day the Filthy Rich Were Sure Would Never Come" - the moment when "the man they thought they bought and paid for, their old friend from Delaware, yeah, that guy Joe, spoke up in "Scrantonese: You fuck with these good people, you’re fucking with me."

Outside a G.M. plant in Belleville, MI, Biden reminded workers they sacrificed to save the auto industry in 2008 when they were hurting, "now they're doing incredibly well (and) you should be doing incredibly well, too...The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class." Fain thanked him for "being a part of this fight" and "not falling victim to both-sides-ism." He later argued, "We can’t keep electing (clueless) billionaires to solve the problems of the working class," aptly referencing all those you-strike-you're fired GOP masters of cognitive dissonance who implausibly claim to be pro-working class while maligning unions. Among what Eisenhower in 1952called these "unreconstructed reactionaries," surely the most egregious bullshitter of them all is the twice-impeached, multi-indicted, silver-spoon-in-toxic-mouth, tax-cuts-for-the-rich, Labor-Relations-Board-gutting crook and liar who for decades has trashed unions (also, inexplicably, windmills), used mostly non-union labor, stiffed, stonewalled, endangered or underpaid workers and contractors, belittled the very notion of the power of organized labor and otherwise out-Pinkertoned the Pinkertons to steal from the little guy however he could in the odious name of enriching himself.

That tawdry history goes back decades. A report by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) found that, outside New York, Trump mostly used non-union crews in "right-to-work" states; faced over 60 lawsuits from tradespeople he didn't pay or shorted on overtime and over 200 mechanics’ liens for nonpayment; was sued by underpaid and unpaid Polish laborers working 12-hour shifts 7 days a week building Trump Tower in "choking clouds of asbestos dust"; was repeatedly cited for labor violations at multiple projects; imposed a "Trump discount" - often 75% of what was owed - at time of payment; paid contractors pennies on the dollar during bankruptcy filings; was sued for non-payment by multiple lawyers who represented him in lawsuits for non-payment. As president, he shaped an anti-worker SCOTUS, chose anti-worker hacks to make anti-worker decisions, bad-mouthed union leaders, wildly inflated awful job figures; and in Lordstown, Ohio promised jobs were "all coming back" right before the GM plant closed: "He flat-out lied to everybody." Said a union leader this week, "He would be a disaster for the American working families. He was a disaster."

He was also, it's now definitively established, a disaster at business. Ruling Tuesday in a civil lawsuit brought by A.G. Letitia James', Justice Arthur Engoron found Trump engaged in "persistent fraud” by wildly inflating his own wealth - upping the worth of shoddy golf courses and office buildings, a gaudy Trump Tower apartment he made three times its size, multiplying trashy Mar-A-Lago's $20 million value by at least 2,300%, transforming maybe $1 billion net worth into $10 billion. In what one sage deemed a "corporate death penalty," the judge also cancelled all Trump Organization's business licenses, effectively dissolving the whole rotten empire - "Spirit Halloween moving into Trump Tower" - sending it into receivership at fire-sale prices, leaving the fake tycoon possibly bankrupt and stripping him of his brassy, pathetic persona: "Like everything else about him, it was all a lie, built on rampant fraud." Engoron's scathing, 35-page opinion blasted Trump's lawyers for "pure sophistry," dissed their defenses as fantasy "without basis in law or fact" akin to both Groundhog Day and Duck Soup, slapped sanctions on them, suggested Trump was also guilty of influence peddling, and left his chance of winning an appeal at "between zero and nothing." Karma rules.

Still, there he was, in Detroit at the incongruously non-unionauto parts supplier Drake Enterprises, greeted by UAW workers chanting "Hey hey ho ho Donald Trump has got to go" and a circling airplane proclaiming "TRUMP SOLD US OUT" but determinedly distracting from his cowardly absence from another GOP debate by telling a carefully curated crowd that Biden will "murder the U.S. auto industry," "kill countless union autoworker jobs forever," "(sell) you out to China (and) environmental extremists," see "your lives wrecked and your families destroyed, and in two years, using electric cars, put "(you all) out of business" in "a transition to hell." But you'll have more (short-on-specifics) jobs you've ever seen before if you "just get your union guys (to) endorse me" (from a non-union shop because unions tend to support Democrats), also fake signs, "Barack Hussein Obama," and electric cars that will sell for "peanuts" and "go for like one-fifth," in contrast to "one of the good brands" of current gas-powered trucks, like "you take a Powerbuilt," except Powerbuilt is a brand of tools, not trucks, but vote for me and incoherence and nihilism anyway. The UAW's Shawn Fain: "I don't think he gets it."

“They pit the lifers against the new boy, the young against the old, the black against the white. Everything they do is to keep us in our place.” - Yaphet Kotto as Smokey in Paul Schrader's Blue Collar, a dark movie in which "the bad guys far outnumber the good guys because the bad guys are power incarnate and the good guys merely work for it."

Which Side Are You On? - Pete Seegerwww.youtube.com

A drilling platform is pulled into the Gulf of Mexico

Biden Administration's New Offshore Drilling Plan Decried as 'Climate Nightmare'

Climate and environmental defenders on Thursday condemned the Biden administration's imminent plan to sell offshore oil and gas drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico over the next five years.

Bloombergreported Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau told a Senate panel on Thursday that the Biden administration's five-year offshore drilling rights plan will be released on Friday. Beaudreau said the plan was "definitely informed" by the Inflation Reduction Actction Act, which–while allocating hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy investments—mandates fossil fuel drilling, a move made to gain the support of corporate Democrats including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

"The only way to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis is by stopping new fossil fuel projects."

The previous drilling plan expired last year. The new one will include details regarding drilling rights in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. Congress will have 60 days to review the proposal.

"The only way to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis is by stopping new fossil fuel projects. The Biden administration knows this, and yet is making the outlandish and irresponsible decision to increase oil production for decades to come," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch—which warned the drilling plan would be a "climate nightmare"—said in a statement.

"This decision is yet another reminder that thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin, the Inflation Reduction Act requires oil and gas drilling on public lands in order to develop clean energy sources like wind and solar," she added. "This short-sighted political dealmaking will continue to have grave consequences."

Biden was praised by green campaigners earlier this month for canceling existing oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and for banning drilling on 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve.

However, the president—who campaigned on a pledge to phase out fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters—has been criticized for approving new drilling permits at a faster rate than his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and for approving major fossil fuel infrastructure including the Willow Project in Alaska, the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia, and for green-lighting liquefied natural gas export terminals in Alaska and along the Gulf of Mexico.

Numerous green groups also sued the U.S. Interior Department earlier this year over its plan to offer more than 73 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico in a lease sale.

"Approving new offshore drilling is an unconscionable betrayal of future generations who will be forced to live through an intensifying planetary emergency, and will pose direct and severe threats to healthy oceans and marine life," said Hauter.

"President Biden says that climate change is an existential threat," she added. "Unfortunately, this decision is yet another sign that his administration is not willing to take actions that would match that rhetoric."

Last week, the Biden administration and green groups said they would appeal a Louisiana federal judge's ruling blocking the administration from exempting 6 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico from a drilling lease sale initially scheduled for Wednesday but postponed by the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management after the judge's decision.

A journalist and video game actor demonstrate motion-capture acting.

With 98% Support, SAG-AFTRA Video Game Performers Vote to Authorize a Strike

Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists video game performers voted 98.32% in favor of authorizing a strike Monday, a day before negotiations were set to resume with industry representatives.

The voice and motion-capture performers want inflation-adjusted wages, improved workplace safety, and protection against the exploitative use of artificial intelligence. Similar concerns about AI drove the Writers Guild of America and the film and television actors represented by SAG-AFTRA out on strike earlier this year.

"It's time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract," SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement. "The result of this vote shows our membership understands the existential nature of these negotiations, and that the time is now for these companies—which are making billions of dollars and paying their CEOs lavishly—to give our performers an agreement that keeps performing in video games as a viable career."

The strike authorization vote was cast by 27.47% of eligible union members. It does not mean the video game actors will strike, but the union hopes it will give them bargaining power in negotiations that have dragged on since they began in October 2022. In November of that year, the Interactive Media Agreement between video game performers and major companies expired, Reuters reported. It has been extended on a month-to-month basis ever since.

"After five rounds of bargaining, it has become abundantly clear that the video game companies aren't willing to meaningfully engage on the critical issues: compensation undercut by inflation, unregulated use of AI, and safety," SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement.

AI is an emerging concern across the creative industries, as performers and writers want to make sure they retain the rights to their images and work.

"It's not being dramatic to say we are at a crossroads where the very sustainability of a career performing in video games is at stake."

"This is at an inflection point for our industry. In particular with AI, because right now there aren't any protections," Ashly Burch, a voice actor for the video game Horizon Zero Dawn, told Reuters. "So, there's every possibility that someone could sign a contract and be signing away the right to their voice or their movement."

The union also wants to make sure on-camera performers are entitled to the same breaks as off-camera performers, to improve physical safety for motion-capture actors, and to increase voice-stress protections for voice actors.

On the other side of the negotiating table sit 10 of the largest video game companies in the business, according to More Perfect Union. They are Activision Productions Inc., Blindlight LLC, Disney Character Voices Inc., Electronic Arts Productions Inc., Formosa Interactive LLC, Insomniac Games Inc., Epic Games, Take 2 Productions Inc., VoiceWorks Productions Inc., and WB Games Inc., the union said.

"We will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that reflects the important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers in video games," a spokesperson for the IMA toldThe Hollywood Reporter. "We have reached tentative agreements on over half of the proposals and are optimistic we can find a resolution at the bargaining table."

If they don't, members may join their film and television colleagues on the picket line.

"It's not being dramatic to say we are at a crossroads where the very sustainability of a career performing in video games is at stake," SAG-AFTRA executive vice president Ben Whitehair said in a video recorded for members, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

House Oversight Committee

'Shameless Display of Political Grandstanding': GOP Holds Biden Impeachment Hearing

With a government shutdown just two days away, the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee on Thursday launched its first hearing as part of the GOP's impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, a probe that campaigners and the White House have dismissed as a sham.

Brett Edkins, managing director of policy and political affairs at the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America, echoed that assessment in a statement ahead of the hearing, denouncing the proceedings as Republicans' "most desperate and embarrassing ploy yet."

"House Republicans are not serious people," said Edkins. "Today's impeachment hearing will feature neither fact witnesses nor evidence that President Biden did anything wrong."

"Instead, it'll be a shameless display of political grandstanding, conspiracy theory quackery, and a who's who of right-wing punditry," he added. "Republicans should try governing for a change and keep the government open, rather than wasting time and tax dollars on this sad sack political theater."

Watch the hearing live:

Spearheaded by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), Thursday's hearing will feature testimony from four witnesses, including conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley, who testified against the impeachment of former President Donald Trump in 2019 and expressed concern at the time about "lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger."

The committee will also hear from former George W. Bush Justice Department official Eileen O'Connor, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky, and impeachment expert Michael Gerhardt, a witness called by the oversight panel's Democratic minority.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, lamented in a social media post that instead of working to prevent a government shutdown, the panel is "holding a baseless impeachment hearing."

"The Oversight Committee is supposed to serve the people, NOT run interference for Donald Trump," Bush wrote.

Republicans have been investigating Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, for years but have yet to demonstrate wrongdoing by the president—and have in some cases acknowledged that their efforts have yielded no incriminating evidence.

"Let's get it straight: We're 62 hours away from shutting down the government of the United States of America, and Republicans are launching an impeachment drive based on a long-debunked and discredited lie," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said during his opening statement at Thursday's hearing. "No foreign enemy has ever been able to shut down the government of the United States, but now MAGA Republicans are about to do just that."

A customer makes a purchase at Sunnyside Cannabis Dispensary

Marijuana Industry Banking Bill Passes Key Senate Panel

The U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday brought major federal marijuana banking legislation closer to becoming law than ever, approving a bipartisan bill that advocates say is essential to the safety of legal recreational and medical marijuana businesses across the United States.

The committee voted 14-9 in favor of passing the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, which would legally protect banks and credit unions that provide services to cannabis operations and prohibit federal regulators from ordering financial institutions to close a business' account based on "reputational risk."

An earlier version of the bill passed in the U.S. House numerous times but was never advanced in the Senate under either Democratic or Republican control.

"We've got momentum on our side to finally pass the SAFER Banking Act," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who is sponsoring the legislation along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). "Let's get this done to protect our legal cannabis businesses!"

Although 39 states have passed laws legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational or medical use, advocates say dispensaries are put at risk by a lack of federal protections for financial institutions that might otherwise work with them.

Only 12% of all U.S. banks and 5% of credit unions provide banking services to marijuana-related businesses, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

As Common Dreams reported, Mastercard announced in July that it would no longer offer services in the cannabis industry because marijuana is still criminalized at the federal level—even though annual national sales in the sector are projected to reach $57 billion by 2030 in states where cannabis is currently legalized.

NORML, which has advocated for marijuana decriminalization since 1970, noted on Wednesday that more than 70% of cannabis businesses report that a "lack of access to banking or investment capital" is their top challenge.

Without access to banking services, businesses are forced to make sales only in cash, which Merkley said is "an open invitation to robberies, muggings, money laundering, and organized crime."

"Forcing legal businesses to operate in all-cash is dangerous for our communities," said the senator.

NORML political director Morgan Fox called the newly advanced legislation "an improved version of the SAFE Banking Act."

"It allows state-licensed cannabis businesses to more easily access financial services, such as opening a simple bank account, and it provides entrepreneurs with greater access to lending and other services that are available to other legal businesses," said Fox.

Schumer called the passage of the bill out of the committee "a huge step," and said he is also working to include amendments to expunge people's marijuana-related criminal offenses in the final bill.

"Now is the time," said the senator.

cluster bombing of Ukraine

As US Sends Cluster Munitions to Ukraine, Three More Countries Destroy Stockpiles

As the U.S. gives cluster bombs to Ukraine—and as the Biden administration reportedly moves to send longer-range missiles armed with them to Kyiv—three nations this week said they've finished destroying their stockpiles of the internationally banned weapons amid renewed calls for more countries to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The 11th meeting of parties to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), to which 112 nations are party, wrapped up Thursday in Geneva on a high note as Bulgaria, Slovakia, and South Africa announced that they have completed the destruction of a combined 9,582 bombs and 585,422 bomblets. South Africa is the only country that once possessed but gave up both nuclear weapons and cluster bombs.

"Countries that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to destroy their stockpiles, clear remnants, and oppose the weapon's use," said Human Rights Watch acting arms director Mary Wareham, who played a key role in the CCM's success.

"The main concern remains with countries unwilling to ban the weapon that may continue to use them now or start using them in the future," added Wareham, who was also jointly awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

As Common Dreamsreported earlier this month, the refusal of countries including Russia, Ukraine, and the United States to end the use and transfer of cluster munitions caused nearly 1,000 civilian casualties last year.

"Countries that have not banned cluster munitions should heed the call of the United Nations secretary-general and join the convention without delay," Wareham asserted.

A youth contingent of the advocacy group Mine Action Fellows, members of which attended the Geneva meeting, said in a statement that "while we have much to celebrate, we cannot ignore the harm done by states not party and the escalation in deaths from cluster munitions."

"Producing, using, and transferring cluster munitions by any actor, under any circumstance is unacceptable," the group added. "We call for an immediate stop to the transfer and use of this indiscriminate weapon."

The remarks from Wareham and Mine Action Fellows came as the Biden administration is reportedly close to approving the shipment of longer-range ballistic missiles armed with cluster munitions to Ukrainian forces defending their country from a 19-month Russian invasion. This, after the U.S. began sending 155mm artillery shells to Kyiv earlier this summer. Russian and Ukrainian forces have both killed and wounded soldiers and civilians with cluster bombs during the war.

Earlier this month, the U.S. also started sending Ukraine depleted uranium munitions, which have been linked to birth defects, miscarriages, and cancers after their use by U.S. forces in Iraq and Yugoslavia.

Multiple congressional efforts to prohibit the export of U.S. cluster munitions to any country have failed to advance. Earlier this summer, the Republican-controlled House Rules Committee voted down a resolution proposed by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), while backing a new one led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)—whose controversial sponsorship doomed the measure.

The latest effort to thwart the transfer of cluster bombs is an amendment spearheaded by Jacobs and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), with Reps. Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii) as co-sponsors.

"Sending cluster munitions anywhere in the world makes the United States complicit in the unavoidable and inevitable civilian harm that follows," Jacobs toldThe Intercept on Thursday. "No amount of guardrails or promised precautions are enough because these weapons are unpredictable and maim and kill indiscriminately—potentially years after their intended use."

Claiming that the U.S. "has a strong reputation for upholding human rights around the world," Jacobs added that "that message is muddied when we're willing to send these weapons that are infamous for the carnage they cause."

Since the end of the Vietnam War, unexploded cluster munitions—which can look like inviting toys to children who find them—have killed approximately 20,000 civilians in Laos, where the U.S. dropped more bombs than all sides in World War II combined. The U.S. dropped as many as 270 million cluster bombs on Laos, and less than 1% of the unexploded bomblets have been cleared since. They are still killing civilians to this day.