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 the fellow who wrote Canned Heat's big hit, "On the Road Again," Floyd Jones. Enjoy!
Floyd Jones - Stockyard Blues
“What’s necessary is pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.”
-- Antonio Gramsci
News and Opinion
RIP, the middle class: 1946-2013
When I was growing up, it was assumed that America’s shared prosperity was the natural endpoint of our economy’s development, that capitalism had produced the workers paradise to which Communism unsuccessfully aspired. Now, with the perspective of 40 years, it’s obvious that the nonstop economic expansion that lasted from the end of World War II to the Arab oil embargo of 1973 was a historical fluke, made possible by the fact that the United States was the only country to emerge from that war with its industrial capacity intact. Unfortunately, the middle class – especially the blue-collar middle class – is also starting to look like a fluke, an interlude between Gilded Ages that more closely reflects the way most societies structure themselves economically. For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. It’s an order in which the many toil for subsistence wages to provide luxuries for the few. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction. Between 1970 and today, the share of the nation’s income that went to the middle class – households earning two-thirds to double the national median – fell from 62 percent to 45 percent. Last year, the wealthiest 1 percent took in 19 percent of America’s income – their highest share since 1928. It’s as though the New Deal and the modern labor movement never happened. ...
The shrinking of the middle class is not a failure of capitalism. It’s a failure of government. Capitalism has been doing exactly what it was designed to do: concentrating wealth in the ownership class, while providing the mass of workers with just enough wages to feed, house and clothe themselves. Young people who graduate from college to $9.80 an hour jobs as sales clerks or data processors are giving up on the concept of employment as a vehicle for improving their financial fortunes: In a recent survey, 24 percent defined the American dream as “not being in debt.” They’re not trying to get ahead. They’re just trying to get to zero. ...
The lesson of the last 40 years is that we can’t depend on the free market to sustain a middle class. It’s not going to happen without government intervention. Even when American industry dominated the world, one reason workers prospered was that the economy operated on New Deal underpinnings, which included legal protections for labor unions, government regulation of industry and high marginal income tax rates.
It’s time to declare an end to the deregulatory experiment that has resulted in the greatest disparity between the top earners and the middle earners in nearly a century. Now that the New Deal has been vanquished – a goal conservatives have cherished since before Robert Taft went extinct – we need a Newer Deal that will raise the minimum wage, reduce obstacles to union organizing, levy higher taxes on passive wealth such as investments and inheritances, and provide benefits for workers unable to obtain it at their jobs, perhaps by lowering Medicaid eligibility or instituting a single-payer health system. The demand for such reforms is brewing. We heard from the middle class during the Occupy movement of 2011, and from the lower class in this year’s fast food strikes.
Why We Should Fear – and Fight – An Entitlement-Cutting “Grand Bargain”
It’s autumn, when a politician’s fancy turns to thoughts of a Grand Bargain.
Right now it looks as if the two sides are at an impasse. But President Obama’s “no negotiations” posture only applies to the debt ceiling, and his budget still includes the “chained CPI” cut to Social Security. The Republicans who are attempting to force a showdown over Obamacare are still railing against the programs they call “entitlements.” ...
Tea Party Republicans are demanding Obamacare’s repeal in return for a budget deal. The President says he’ll refuse to negotiate. Things look hopelessly gridlocked.
Look again. Boehner will want to give his party’s Tea Party wing something in return for dropping their futile Obamacare attacks, and entitlements would be the perfect prize. As for the president, in a terse conversation with Boehner on Friday he merely said “he wouldn’t negotiate with him on the debt limit,” according to Boehner’s office. ... That’s an argument about process, not content. When it comes to “entitlement” spending, the two sides’ positions are disturbingly close. The president’s budget still contains the “chained CPI” cut. Boehner has talked about cutting these programs for years. On the Senate side, Republican Rob Portman of Ohio called for cutting “the 65 percent of the budget that is not touched: entitlements.”
And Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said this: “If we found $700 billion in savings from entitlements — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — it would relieve pressure on the Pentagon and on non-mandatory spending. All the cuts they need are there to avoid a possible shutdown.”
The Average American Family Pays $6,000 a Year in Subsidies to Big Business
That's over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. ... The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.
$870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies
$696 for Business Incentives at the State, County, and City Levels
$722 for Interest Rate Subsidies for Banks
$350 for Retirement Fund Bank Fees
$1,268 for Overpriced Medications
$870 for Corporate Tax Subsidies
$1,231 for Revenue Losses from Corporate Tax Havens
[See the article for details]
Merkel Victory a Blow to Europe Reeling Under Austerity's Thumb
German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a historic third term to office on Sunday, leading the conservative parties most closely aligned with her to their best election results in more than two decades while rivals—both further to the right and those on the left—suffered lost ground at the polls. ...
Germany's left-wing Die Tageszeitung newspaper offered this editorial on the election results:And so, the worst chancellor in the country's postwar history is set to stay in office. Though her conservatives will be forced to enter into a new coalition government -- probably with the Social Democrats -- not much is likely to change as a result. The key questions of our time have been left undiscussed. The fact that Merkel's euro-zone policies benefit only the banks and investors in rich member states, and the fact that people in the troubled economies and taxpayers in the relatively stable economies are the ones to foot the bill were barely touched upon by the Social Democrats and the Greens during this campaign.
The fact that Merkel is set to stay in office is bad news for Europe. The possibility that she might govern alongside the Social Democrats in a grand coalition hardly softens the blow. The SPD does have remnants of a Keynesian approach -- they know that debts cannot be reduced through austerity. They are familiar with simple mathematics -- they understand that without a debt haircut, Greece will never get back on its feet. So there is a possibility the SPD will push through the occasional amendment to Merkel's euro-zone policies. But a fundamentally different political approach -- a totally new direction -- is not to be expected.
India among top targets of spying by NSA
Among the BRICS group of emerging nations, which featured quite high on the list of countries targeted by the secret surveillance programs of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) for collecting telephone data and internet records, India was the number one target of snooping by the American agency.
In the overall list of countries spied on by NSA programs, India stands at fifth place, with billions of pieces of information plucked from its telephone and internet networks just in 30 days.
According to top-secret documents provided to The Hindu by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the American agency carried out intelligence gathering activities in India using at least two major programs: the first one is Boundless Informant, a data-mining system which keeps track of how many calls and emails are collected by the security agency; and the second one is PRISM, a program which intercepts and collects actual content from the networks. While Boundless Informant was used for monitoring telephone calls and access to the internet in India, PRISM collected information about certain specific issues — not related to terrorism — through Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, YouTube and several other web-based services.
Asked by The Hindu why a friendly country like India was subjected to so much surveillance by the U.S., a spokesman of the U.S. government’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence said: “The U.S. government will respond through diplomatic channels to our partners and allies. While we are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. We value our cooperation with all countries on issues of mutual concern.”The DNI spokesman chose not to respond to questions about how the NSA managed to pick so much data from India — 13.5 billion pieces of information in just one month — especially from its telephone networks, and about whether it had received the cooperation of Indian telecom companies.
In secret, Fisa court contradicted US supreme court on constitutional rights
On Tuesday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) declassified an opinion in which it explained why the government's collection of records of all Americans' phone calls is constitutional, and that if there is a problem with the program, it is a matter of political judgment, not constitutional law. So, should Americans just keep calm and carry on phoning? Not really.
Instead, we should worry about a court that, lacking a real adversarial process to inform it, failed while taking its best shot at explaining its position to the public to address the most basic, widely-known counter-argument to its position. The opinion does not even mention last year's unanimous US supreme court decision on the fourth amendment and GPS tracking, a decision in which all three opinions include strong language that may render the NSA's phone records collection program unconstitutional. No court that had been briefed by both sides would have ignored the grave constitutional issues raised by the three opinions of Justices Scalia, Sotomayor, and Alito in United States v Jones. And no opinion that fails to consider these should calm anyone down. ...
In Jones, the government attached a GPS device to a suspect's car and tracked all the car's movements for four weeks. The government argued that since the car was visible on public roads, and could have been tracked in the open by a police officer, no warrant was needed. Just like phone metadata, the car's movements were not in private – they were on public roads. The lower court had already excluded evidence from when the car was parked in its private parking lot. All nine justices found the tracking unconstitutional, and each of the opinions offer strong reasons to reject the Fisa court's interpretation of the fourth amendment with regards to phone metadata.
Close ties between White House, NSA spying review
Stung by public unease about new details of spying by the National Security Agency, President Barack Obama selected a panel of advisers he described as independent experts to scrutinize the NSA's surveillance programs to be sure they weren't violating civil liberties and to restore Americans' trust.
But with just weeks remaining before its first deadline to report back to the White House, the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts.
... James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it's issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it. ...
Obama described the panel an Aug. 9 speech as an "independent group" and said its members would "consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used."
The formal White House memorandum days later — effectively the legal charter for the group — does not specify anything about its role being independent of the Obama administration. It directed the panel to emphasize in its review whether U.S. spying programs protect national security, advance foreign policy and are protected against the types of leaks that led to the national debate in the first place. The final consideration in the White House memo told the panel to examine "our need to maintain the public trust." There was no mention of the panel investigating surveillance abuses.
Police Can Search Your Phone Without a Warrant
Police officers can’t just come into your home and start searching through your belongings without a warrant, but that same protection does not extend to your cellphone, apparently. As Mother Jones reports, in most states, cops are permitted to start reading your text messages and other personal information on your phone at their discretion, Fourth Amendment protections and privacy rights be damned. ...
If you think a password lock will keep your content secure, think again. Major phone manufacturers will generally help police officers with tricks to get around the passcodes. It’s no surprise, bearing in mind that the same companies already collude with law enforcement authorities to turn your cellphone into a tracking device. ...
Fortunately, the Supreme Court may take on the issue in its next session. Currently, the nation’s highest court is considering hearing two cases (though they’ll likely only choose one) in which an arrested person’s phone was searched without a warrant to subsequently tie the person to larger crimes.
The Obama administration has made itself clear on this issue: it believes police should have the right to conduct these searches. Of course, that’s to be expected from a team that has thrown its full support to similar mass warrantless searches performed by the NSA. In the police’s case, however, information collected would not (purportedly) be restricted to track terrorists.
The company that can secretly activate the GPS chip in your phone didn't even try to fight a FISA order for every customers' call records.— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) September 18, 2013
@csoghoian No wonder my phone battery life sucks.— James Love (@jamie_love) September 18, 2013
Path to Autocracy
In the name of post-9/11 security, the Patriot and FISA acts have severely compromised the civil liberties of all Americans. Yet it's not just a matter of individual privacy. Ellsberg observed that when people know that their every comment on phones or emails "is being recorded and can be retrieved," they won't feel free to speak their minds. That's especially true when what they want to say contradicts official policy or can be seen as political protest.
In his pre-vacation news conference on August 9, 2013, President Barack Obama addressed NSA surveillance in a few sentences. He said he will work with Congress to increase the oversight of controversial programs (pledging to name a panel of outside experts to review the technologies of data collection) and to have an adversary in the court to counter government requests for surveillance. He acknowledged that the government can and must be more transparent in how it conducts surveillance.
Those steps would indeed represent an improvement - if they are in fact adopted by Congress and honored by the NSA and other government agencies. Yet one may ask a a more basic question: Why do we need a FISA Court and the warrantless searches it allows? Why should our government not simply honor the Fourth Amendment and its requirement of search warrants on a showing of probable cause? We now know that NSA uses the new data gathering software as a fishing expedition.
Guilty! UN Report on Syria Does Not Say What John Kerry Says It Said
The UN released its report on chemical weapons use in Syria. You can read it here. It’s not that long, just some forty pages including legal appendices. John Kerry says it confirms that the Assad regime fired the gas rockets. Unfortunately, that is not what the actual report says. In a court, Kerry’s case might be seen as circumstantial at best, certainly not enough for a jury to return a guilty verdict in a murder trial. ...
The problem is that the report does not confirm anything other than chemical weapons were used. I can’t give you a quote because the report simply does not say– anywhere– that the Syria Army, or the rebels, or anyone by name– used the weapons. But don’t believe me. Unlike Kerry, I provide links, so check the full text of the report. If you don’t care to read it all, skip to page five, “Conclusions.” It just isn’t there. No one is named as the culprit. ...
The U.S. is wholly misrepresenting facts in favor of another Middle East war. Unlike a fictional murder trial where one man’s life is on the line, should the U.S. attack Syria many, many people will lose their lives.
U.S. official: Syrian CW list more complete than anticipated
U.S. officials were pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the initial declaration that Syria has submitted to the world's chemical weapons watchdog outlining its inventory of the munitions, a senior administration official said Saturday.
The official said the declaration was more complete than what the officials had expected the Syrians to put forth. ...
The timing meets the terms set in a deal forged last week between the United States and Russia in Geneva to begin destroying Syria's chemical arsenal.
Israeli Troops attack European Diplomats on Aid Mission
First the Israelis again erased a Palestinian population, ruling that the 120 Bedouin inhabitants of Khirbet Makhul in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank did not have proper “building permits” for the huts in which they lived. These people have lived in Palestine since forever, and they are not in Israel. ... Then the Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and other European-heritage Israeli troops whose families mostly came in the 1930s and after demolished these “unlicensed” dwellings, leaving the people homeless. The Palestinians refused to take the hint, and they stayed on their land. Then some European diplomats tried to drive out to give them some blankets and food, and Israeli troops stopped them, attacked them with sound grenades, threw some of them to the ground, and confiscated the aid.
The Evening Greens
Fine Print of Obama's EPA Rules Reveal Huge Giveaways to Big Coal and Gas
The Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations for the energy industry on Friday which will limit, for the first time, the amount of carbon that gas- and coal-fired plants can emit into the atmosphere.
And though many of the larger environmental groups in the country welcomed the new restrictions, more critical observers of the EPA announcement argue the rules don't go far enough in terms of limiting emissions. Meanwhile the Obama administration, in fact, is preparing to use huge amounts of public money to prop up the U.S. coal industry. ...
Citing New York Times reporting which shows the Obama administration plans to support the fossil fuel industry with "as much as $8 billion" in order to help it build the "cleaner" plants the rules will require, Scher concludes that "Obama is not launching a war on coal. He’s bending over backwards to keep coal viable."
And the Center for Biological Diversity, striking a much more adversarial tone than its larger environmental colleagues, declared the EPA rules and Obama's effort are far too imperfect to adequately address the climate crisis facing the country and the planet.
“If we’re really serious about tackling the climate crisis – and morality dictates that we must be – we just have to do more than this,” said Bill Snape, the Center’s senior counsel. “That means a stronger rule for power plants and other serious measures that lead to deep cuts in greenhouse emissions.”
Should We Wait 300 Years for Clean Air in U.S. National Parks?
If you’ve been planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park, and are hoping for a perfectly clear, crisp day, you’ll have to wait awhile. Like 150 years or so.
You see, Yellowstone, like many of the United States' national parks, suffers from some pretty serious air pollution. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, at current rates of progress, it’s going to take until 2163 for Yellowstone to clear the haze and once again have natural air quality.
Yellowstone isn’t alone. The NPCA crunched the numbers of ten flagship national parks, and found some disappointing results. According to their research, natural air quality in these popular and prestigious parks wouldn’t be achieved until these dates:
North Cascades National Park (Washington) – 2276
Badlands National Park (South Dakota) – 2265
Voyagers National Park (Minnesota) – 2177
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming/Montana/Idaho) – 2163
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota) – 2158
Big Bend National Park (Texas) – 2155
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) – 2127
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado) – 2119
Joshua Tree National Park (California) – 2106
Sequoia National Park (California) – 2096
Right now the NSA is spying on everyone's personal communications, and they’re operating without any meaningful oversight. Since the Snowden leaks started, more than 569,000 people from all walks of life have signed the StopWatching.us petition telling the U.S. Congress that we want them to rein in the NSA.
On October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the US Patriot Act, we're taking the next step and holding the largest rally yet against NSA surveillance. We’ll be handing the half-million petitions to Congress to remind them that they work for us -- and we won’t tolerate mass surveillance any longer.
StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum.
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
Floyd Jones - On The Road Again
Floyd Jones + Eddie Taylor- Hard Times
Floyd Jones - Schooldays on my Mind
Floyd Jones - Dark Road
Floyd Jones - Rising Wind
Floyd Jones - Big World
Floyd Jones + Snooky Pryor - Keep What You Got
Floyd Jones - You can't live long
Floyd Jones - Mr Freddy's Blues
Floyd Jones + Big Walter - Talk About Your Daddy
Floyd Jones - Any Old Lonesome Day
Floyd Jones - Skinny mama
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!