Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.
Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here. This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.
Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features west coast blues harmonica player William Clarke. Enjoy!
The William Clarke Band - I'm An American
“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”
-- George Orwell
News and Opinion
So, can we have war crimes prosecutions now, Mr. Obama?
"Institutionalist" Panel Confirms US "Indisputably" Engaged in Torture Post-9/11Even the most milque-toast, middle of the road news organizations are reporting this:
Report: Never before had there been such discussions "directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on detainees in our custody.”
An independent examination of the United States' post-9/11 rendition program released Tuesday concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.” Though not groundbreaking news, the findings—which were reached by a "cautious, institutionalist" panel—demonstrate new and widespread awareness of our nation's past and perpetual crimes against civilians.
Published by the Constitution Project, the 580-page report (pdf) found that "in the course of the nation's many previous conflicts" never before had there been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”
Furthermore, the report argues that the use of torture has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.”
Even Bipartisan Conventional Wisdom Report Says It Was Torture
The report represents a cautious, bipartisan, institutionalist view. Which is why its conclusion is so valuable.
In short: it was torture, it was illegal, it was not valuable, and it still needs to be prosecuted. (And, among other findings implicating it directly, the Obama Administration needs to stop force feeding Gitmo detainees.)
And all that’s ignoring some of the more damning evidence out there.
Let’s see whether bipartisan conventional wisdom serves its purported purpose, effecting change in cautious, institutionalist DC.
Hunger Strikes Put Guantanamo Back in the Spotlight
WASHINGTON - Public debate here over the military prison at Guantanamo Bay heated up again following Monday’s surprise publication of a highly charged article by an inmate at the prison, one of dozens currently engaged in a months-long hunger strike over detainees’ “indefinite detention”.
The op-ed follows just days after the head U.N. official in charge of human rights, Navi Pillay, said the indefinite detention of Guantanamo Bay inmates runs counter to international law, and called again for the prison to be closed. ...
The essay also adds to pressure on President Obama to close Guantanamo, a pledge he made during the first year of his presidency, in 2009. Obama is facing widespread criticism now that the Guantanamo Bay prison has surpassed the two wars his presidency inherited.
"In fact, he signed an executive order in 2009 promising that he would close the prison, and he has done absolutely nothing since then to do so. Even though he has the power to transfer people out of Guantanamo right now, he hasn’t done that in the past two years and transfers have all but ceased.
Obama’s Raid on Social Security and MedicareThe next time Ken and Carmen want to publish, they should consider submitting to. "The Journal of Irreproducible Results."
While cutting Social Security got the predictable applause from the Washington Postand other Washington establishment types, it prompted far more outrage among the president’s base than he had anticipated. As a result, Obama’s people were busy re-writing the plan at the time the budget was released, trying to ameliorate some of its worst effects.
However the basic objection remains. Why is a Democratic president trying to cut Social Security in response to a crisis created by a combination of Wall Street greed and Washington corruption and incompetence?
If we compare the most recent GDP projections from the Congressional Budget Office with the pre-crisis projections from 2007, the crisis will cost the country more than $17 trillion in lost output. This is more than $50,000 per person. And, rather than making the people responsible pay the cost, President Obama is now looking to cut the $1,250 monthly Social Security check that provides more than half of the income for the typical retiree.
How much unemployment did two famous economist's arithmetic mistake cause?
Reinhart and Rogoff's work is used the world over to justify austerity cuts and they got their math wrong
That's the question millions will be asking when they see the new paper by my friends at the University of Massachusetts, Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin. Herndon, Ash, and Pollin (HAP) corrected the spreadsheets of Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff. They show the correct numbers tell a very different story about the relationship between debt and GDP growth than the one that Reinhart and Rogoff have been hawking.
Just to remind folks, Reinhart and Rogoff (R&R) are the authors of the widely acclaimed book on the history of financial crises, This Time is Different. They have also done several papers derived from this research, the main conclusion of which is that high ratios of debt to GDP lead to a long periods of slow growth. Their storyline is that 90% is a cut-off line, with countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above this level seeing markedly slower growth than countries that have debt-to-GDP ratios below this level. The moral is to make sure the debt-to-GDP ratio does not get above 90%. ...
After being unable to reproduce R&R's results with publicly available data, HAP were able to get the spreadsheets that R&R had used for their calculations. It turns out that the initial results were driven by simple computational and transcription errors. ...
This is a big deal because politicians around the world have used this finding from R&R to justify austerity measures that have slowed growth and raised unemployment.
In the United States, many politicians have pointed to R&R's work as justification for deficit reduction even though the economy is far below full employment by any reasonable measure. In Europe, R&R's work and its derivatives have been used to justify austerity policies that have pushed the unemployment rate over 10% for the eurozone as a whole and above 20% in Greece and Spain. In other words, this is a mistake that has had enormous consequences.
Greece slashes civil service jobs in new bailout
Greece has secured an aid package worth €8.8bn from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund after the government agreed to cuts including 4,000 public sector job losses this year.
Officials representing the troika of international creditors agreed to release the funds following a government pledge to fire thousands of civil servants in return. The deal includes the disbursement of an initial €2.8bn tranche in the coming weeks, followed by a further €6bn in May. ...
Under the deal, the government endorsed mass lay-offs in the civil service. Samaras said some 15,000 employees would be fired by 2015 with 4,000 redundancies by the end of the year.
Why 'financial literacy' is a bunch of hooey – and why the banks promote it
Almost all of us are sure that if someone, somehow, can convince us to improve our financial knowledge, all will be right in the world of our wallets. Goodbye balloon mortgage payments, hello responsible financial decision making. Of course, we're always talking about the other guy. But I digress.
So take a few classes, and learn to manage your money. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says it is the right thing to do: "Among the lessons of the recent financial crisis is the need for virtually everyone – both young and old – to acquire a basic knowledge of finance and economics."
Sounds great. But it's not true.
As I discovered when I researched my recent book, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, financial literacy or capability or whatever you want to call it is a bunch of hooey. It promotes the false equivalence that the victims of the financial shenanigans of the past several years are as responsible for the financial crisis as the financial services sector, the ultimate creator of all those financial products of mass destruction.
Think about it this way: did you take on a collateralized debt obligation? Did your neighbor? (Readers in Manhattan and Fairfield County, Connecticut, you shouldn't answer this question.)
Occupy’s legacy: The media finally covers social protest fairly
There has been a lot of discussion about why the national media treated Occupy so differently from protest movements of the past — really, almost any since the 1960s. Much attention has been paid to social media, or perhaps a felt need for balance to compensate for the inordinate attention paid to relatively small numbers of Tea Partiers in the immediate years before. No doubt all these were factors, but then again, the media’s initial portrayal of the Occupy protests was as airily dismissive as their portrait of what they dubbed the “Anti-Globalization Movement” in 1999: A collection of confused kids with no clear conception of what they were fighting for. The New York Times, the self-proclaimed paper of historical record, wrote absolutely nothing about the occupation for the first five days. On the sixth, they published an editorial disguised as a news story in the Metropolitan section, titled “Gunning for Wall Street, with Faulty Aim,” by staff writer Ginia Bellafante, mocking the movement as a mere pantomime of progressivism with no discernible purpose.
Still, the media’s eventual decision to take the protests seriously was pivotal. The rise of Occupy Wall Street marked, for perhaps the first time since the civil rights movement in the 1950s, a success for Gandhian tactics in America, a model that depends on a certain degree of sympathy from the media. Gandhian nonviolence is meant to create a stark moral contrast: It strips bare the inherent violence of a political order by showing that, even when faced by a band of nonviolent idealists, the “forces of order” will not hesitate to resort to pure physical brutality to defend the status quo. Obviously, this contrast can only be drawn if word gets out about what’s happening, which has in the past rendered Gandhian tactics almost completely ineffective in the United States. Since the 1960s, the American mainstream media has refused to tell the story of any protest in a way that might imply that American police, acting under orders, engaged in “violence” — no matter what they do. ...
The conventional story is that the rise of social media made the difference: While activists at Seattle had made extensive use of web-based guerrilla reporting, by 2011 the omnipresence of phone cameras, Twitter accounts, Facebook, and YouTube ensured such images could spread instantly to millions. The image of Tony Bologna casually blasting two young women behind a barricade with a chemical weapon appeared almost instantly on screens across the nation (the most popular of the many camera phone uploads you can find on the Internet has well over a million views). I would hardly deny social media was important here, but it still doesn’t explain why the mainstream media did not play its usual role of presenting only the official police point of view.
Here I think the international context is crucial. Another effect of the Internet is that in media terms, the United States is not nearly as much of an island as it once was. From the very beginning, international coverage of the protests was very different from American coverage. In the international press, there were no attempts to ignore, dismiss, or demonize the protesters. In the English-speaking world, The Guardian in England, for example, began producing detailed stories on the background and aspirations of the Occupiers almost from day one. Reporters from Al Jazeera, the satellite TV news network based in Qatar that played an instrumental role in the Arab Spring by airing videos and other testimony of state violence provided by grassroots activists through social media, quickly appeared on-site to play the same role in New York as it had in Cairo and Damascus. This led to wire stories in newspapers almost everywhere except America. These in turn not only helped inspire a wave of similar occupations as far away as Bahia and KwaZulu Natal, but sympathy protests in such unlikely places as China, organized by left-wing populist groups opposed to the Chinese Communist Party’s embrace of Wall Street–friendly policies at home, who had learned of the events by monitoring foreign news services on the web.
InsideClimateNews wins a Pulitzer for Report on Dilbit Disaster
On Monday, InsideClimate News, a five-year-old investigative news outlet that is based in Brooklyn, but doesn’t even have an office, won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for its coverage of the most costly onshore oil spill in US history.
InsideClimate’s series, which began last June under the banner, “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of,” revealed the inept response of industry and government to the 2010 oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, which dumped a million gallons of bitumen, a thick, dirty oil from Canada’s tar sands region that has to be thinned with chemicals in order to flow through oil pipelines.
It was not the first time that a Web-native newsroom founded within the last 10 years had won a Pulitzer Prize. There was ProPublica in 2010 and The Huffington Post in 2012, but they were born Goliaths in a land of Davids, and never before had such small startup won so quickly.
The Curse of Fertilizer
N. Nitrogen. Atomic number seven. Unnoticed, untasted, it nevertheless fills our stomachs. It is the engine of agriculture, the key to plenty in our crowded, hungry world.
Without this independent-minded element, disinclined to associate with other gases, the machinery of photosynthesis cannot function-no protein can form, and no plant can grow. Corn, wheat, and rice, the fast-growing crops on which humanity depends for survival, are among the most nitrogen hungry of all plants. They demand more, in fact, than nature alone can provide.
Enter modern chemistry. Giant factories capture inert nitrogen gas from the vast stores in our atmosphere and force it into a chemical union with the hydrogen in natural gas, creating the reactive compounds that plants crave. That nitrogen fertilizer-more than a hundred million tons applied worldwide every year-fuels bountiful harvests. Without it, human civilization in its current form could not exist. Our planet's soil simply could not grow enough food to provide all seven billion of us our accustomed diet. In fact, almost half of the nitrogen found in our bodies' muscle and organ tissue started out in a fertilizer factory.
Yet this modern miracle exacts a price. Runaway nitrogen is suffocating wildlife in lakes and estuaries, contaminating groundwater, and even warming the globe's climate. As a hungry world looks ahead to billions more mouths needing nitrogen-rich protein, how much clean water and air will survive our demand for fertile fields?
House Tries Again To Force Keystone Pipeline Approval
A House subcommittee has taken the first step toward legislation that would push through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, bypassing the State Department and the White House while limiting other regulatory and court reviews.
The subcommittee on energy and power voted 17-9 on Tuesday to approve the Northern Route Approval Act and send it to the full Energy and Commerce Committee. Two Democrats joined 15 Republicans in support of the bill [Gene Green of Texas and John Barrow of Georgia].
The legislation declares that the delivery of oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries in the United States "is in the national interest because of the need to lessen dependence upon insecure foreign sources." ...
"No Presidential permit shall be required for the pipeline," the bill flatly decrees. ...
The full Commerce Committee is likely to approve the bill, and House Speaker John Boehner has promised to move it to the full House promptly.
'Cooking the Books and the Planet': Report Slams State Dept. KXL Findings
'Any objective analysis of the impact of building Keystone shows that it would be a climate catastrophe'
A new report by some of the nation's top environmental groups on Tuesday shows that approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would add at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the equivalent of pollution from 37.7 million cars or 51 newly built coal-fired power plants.
The report—“Cooking the Books: How The State Department Analysis Ignores the True Climate Impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline” (pdf)—is a direct rebuttal of the government authored environmental impact statement (known as an SEIS) which was released in draft form last month and that environmentalists say is a deeply flawed and short-sighted look at the project, especially as it relates to the science of climate change.
The report was researched and authored by Oil Change International with input and review by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 350.org, Environment America, National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.
“Any objective analysis of the impact of building Keystone shows that it would be a climate catastrophe,” said Ross Hammond, senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Instead, the State Department seems ready to buy into the pipeline propaganda of an army of lobbyists who are trading on their ties to Secretary Kerry and President Obama to taint the decision."
Note - For those of you who have older computers or slower connections that have a difficult time with this diary's extensive use of flash video, I have been testing out a solution.
I have been testing out two plugins for the Firefox (get it here) browser and both of them seem to work well.
Flashblock (get it here) will probably be the most useful for folks. It blocks all flash videos and allows you to play them individually by clicking on them.
Flash OnOff (get it here) is also a useful plugin, it turns off (and on) all flash video on a page at once, making page loads much more rapid.
These plugins are likely available for the Chrome browser as well if you Google them.
Hat tip to Johnny the Conqueroo for the plugin suggestions.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
A Little Night Music
William Clarke - Pawnshop Bound
William Clarke - Chromatic Jump
William Clarke - The War Is Over
William Clarke - Must Be Jelly
William Clarke - Drinkin' Beer
William Clarke - Trying To Stretch My Money
William Clarke - Easter Bunny Boogie
William Clarke - Blues is killing me
William Clarke - Your Love is Real
William Clarke - The Boss
William Clarke - My Last Goodbye
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!