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 Delta bluesman and writer of a couple of Elvis' early hits, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. Enjoy!
Arthur Crudup - That's All Right
“If we are to violate the Constitution, will the people submit to our unauthorized acts? Sir, they ought not to submit; they would deserve the chains that these measures are forging for them. The country will swarm with informers, spies, delators and all the odious reptile tribe that breed in the sunshine of a despotic power ... [T]he hours of the most unsuspected confidence, the intimacies of friendship, or the recesses of domestic retirement afford no security. The companion whom you most trust, the friend in whom you must confide, the domestic who waits in your chamber, all are tempted to betray your imprudent or unguarded follie; to misrepresent your words; to convey them, distorted by calumny, to the secret tribunal where jealousy presides — where fear officiates as accuser and suspicion is the only evidence that is heard ... Do not let us be told, Sir, that we excite a fervour against foreign aggression only to establish a tyranny at home; that [...] we are absurd enough to call ourselves ‘free and enlightened’ while we advocate principles that would have disgraced the age of Gothic barbarity and establish a code compared to which the ordeal is wise and the trial by battle is merciful and just."
― Edward Livingston [opposing the Alien & Sedition bills of 1798, in Congress]
News and Opinion
Here's part two of the lecture series that I started posting yesterday. Moglen's discussion of the issues is just outstanding. If you missed part 1, you can click here to see it.
Less Than 20% Of Americans Believe That There's Adequate Oversight Of The NSA
One of the key responses from the NSA and its defenders to all of these Snowden leaks is that there is "rigorous oversight" of the NSA by the courts and Congress. Of course, that talking point has been debunked thoroughly, but NSA defenders keep trotting it out. It appears that the public is not buying it. At all. A recent poll from YouGov found thatonly 17% of people believe that Congress provides "adequate oversight" on the spying of Americans. A marginally better 20% (though, within the 4.6% margin of error, so meaningless difference really) felt that Congress provides adequate oversight of the NSA when it comes to collecting data on foreigners. ...
According to a different study, the more informed people are about the NSA, the less they like what the NSA is doing.
NSA's Vast Surveillance Powers Extend Far Beyond Counterterrorism, Despite Misleading Government Claims
Time and again we’ve seen the National Security Agency (NSA) defend its vast surveillance apparatus by invoking the spectre of terrorism, discussing its spying powers as a method to keep America safe. Yet, the truth is that counterterrorism is only a fraction of their far broader authority to seek “foreign intelligence information,” a menacing sounding term that actually encapsulates all sorts of innocuous, everyday conversation.
The New York Times demonstrated this disconnect last week, reporting, “the [leaked NSA] documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.” ...
[G]overnment officials consistently refer to terrorism as the reason NSA is conducting this surveillance, while occasionally adding the spice of nuclear proliferation or “cyber”-hackers. For example, Rep. Mike Rogers defended the NSA like this two weeks ago, telling CNN’s State of the Union that if French citizens knew what terror plots the NSA was protecting them from “they would be applauding and popping Champagne corks.” While Rogers knows full well that there is no terrorism connection to tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, he wants the conversation to go to more familiar ground. ...
So let’s get one thing straight: when the NSA vacuums up millions of innocent people’s communications and metadata, the agency is not limiting itself to counter-terrorism uses. Pretending there is a narrower scope is not an honest way to have a debate.
Oil Espionage: How the NSA and GCHQ Spied on OPEC
In January 2008, the NSA department in charge of energy issues reported it had accomplished its mission. Intelligence information about individual petroleum-exporting countries had existed before then, but now the NSA had managed, for the first time, to infiltrate OPEC in its entirety. ...
When the NSA used the Internet to infiltrate OPEC's computers, its analysts discovered an internal study in the OPEC Research Division. It stated that OPEC officials were trying to cast the blame for high oil prices on speculators. A look at files in the OPEC legal department revealed how the organization was preparing itself for an antitrust suit in the United States. And a review of the section reserved for the OPEC secretary general documented that the Saudis were using underhanded tactics, even within the organization. According to the NSA analysts, Riyadh had tried to keep an increase in oil production a secret for as long as possible. ...
The British, who also targeted OPEC's Vienna headquarters, were at least as successful as the NSA. A secret GCHQ document dating from 2010 states that the agency had traditionally had "poor access" to OPEC. But that year, after a long period of meticulous work, it had managed to infiltrate the computers of nine OPEC employees by using the "Quantum Insert" method, which then creates a gateway to gain access into OPEC's computer system. GCHQ analysts were even able to acquire administrator privileges for the OPEC network and gain access to two secret servers containing "many documents of interest."
Bankster Paradise: President Obama Taps Another Wall Street Law Firm Partner to Head a RegulatorSpeaking of Obama's wretched appointees, one of them got a bit of much-deserved, but probably unappreciated pre-approval publicity last night:
President Obama is about to do it again – appoint one of those revolving door Wall Street lawyers to head a critical top post at one of Wall Street’s key regulators. This time it’s the Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). According to multiple leaks in the business press today, this afternoon the President will nominate Timothy Massad to head the CFTC – a man who spent 27 years at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a core part of Wall Street’s legal muscle. ...
If confirmed to head the CFTC, Massad will play a critical role in the regulation of derivatives, an area that has received heavy pushback from his former law firms’ clients.
CodePink projects drone documentary onto DHS secretary candidate’s house
Jeh Johnson, the Obama administration’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, is a relatively obscure figure. While some on the left are fans because of his involvement in the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, anti-war activist group CodePink wants to bring attention to the fact that he created the legal justification for the Obama administration’s drone policy. So last night, the group screened a documentary about drones on the side of his house. ...
Johnson and his family apparently went to a hotel during the screening (he later spoke with organizers for 20 minutes but wouldn’t allow photos or quotes). Not exactly comparable to suddenly having a drone dropped on you. Further, this action raises awareness about the drone program and Johnson’s involvement, an important topic to bring up prior to his confirmation hearing starting this Wednesday.
[Photo by Jenna Pope]
Oh my. People are noticing that Hillary Clinton is a stooge of Wall Street, the MIC and other nasty business interests.
Populist Ire for Wall Street Make Clinton A Poor Choice: Critics
Politico reports that Wall Street is freaking out over the idea of a populist contender for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016.
With the consummate insider Hillary Clinton—a former First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State—once again seen in establishment circles as the "inevitable" choice to lead the party, The Hill says the left of the Democratic base wants a strong primary challenger in order to highlight Clinton's corporate-friendly, Wall Street-appeasing, and military hawkish instincts.
Though critics are sure to note the possible premature nature of the debate—it's still 2013, by the way—the uptick in the conversation this week was spawned by a feature-length article in the New Republic on Monday, titled Hillary's Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren, in which journalist Noah Scheiber paints of a scenario in which the freshman senator from Massachusetts, championed for her tough positions on Wall Street and well-received populist message, rises to challenge the party's pro-corporate standard-bearer. ...
Picking up on the story, The Hill reached out to several prominent progressive DC groups to gauge their thoughts on a primary challenge from Clinton's left, and found that most worried about her inability to genuinely inhabit the anti-Wall Street, populist mood that has become a central tenet in an era of massive income and economic inequality. Not only did the groups cite economic disparity as one of the biggest problems facing the nation, it is also a galvanizing political issue for the left.
Meet Your Taxpayer-Subsidized Farm Bill Billionaires!
When most people think about farm subsidies, chances are they do not immediately think "massive taxpayer money boondoggle that should be cut from the federal budget immediately." They've probably heard about how hard it is out there for small family farmers, doing honest work in the world, keeping everyone fed and maintaining our institutional repository of agricultural practices. Surely, these subsidies are helping to keep an important way of life alive for the True Sons of Soil and Toil ... like, say, multi-billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Wait. What? He's a farmer?
Ha ha, yes. As it turns out, your taxpayer dollars "subsidize" the "farming" that's being done by a host of mega-rich superstars from the Forbes 400 list, none of whom you'd immediately associate with the sort of hardscrabble agri-artisan who's in need of a leg up from the federal government. But their numbers are legion. According to the Environmental Working Group, "at least 50 billionaires or farm businesses in which they had a financial interest benefited from $11.3 million in traditional farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012." And the farm bill currently being considered contains changes that will likely increase the subsidies these billionaires take away.
The billionaire rogue's gallery (see article for details):
Charles Ergen (co-founder of DISH Network), Charles Schwab (founder of brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corporation), Jim Walton(Wal-Mart heir), Jim Kennedy (chairman of Cox Enterprises), Leonard Lauder (former CEO of the Estee Lauder Companies Inc.), Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft), Phillip Anschutz (owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group and co-founder of Major League Soccer), Alice Walton (Wal-Mart heir), Leslie Wexner(CEO of L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret), Penny Pritzker (U.S. Secretary of Commerce), Richard Devos (co-founder of Amway), S. Truett Cathy (founder of Chick-fil-A)
Why France is playing 'stupid' on Iran
The failed Geneva negotiations this past weekend over a temporary nuclear deal at least carried the merit of revealing who is really blocking it: the axis of fear and loathing composed by the Likudniks in Israel, the House of Saud, and the Francois Hollande administration in France.
Torrents of bytes have already detailed how Israel routinely hijacks US foreign policy. Here's yet one more graphic demonstration of how Wag the Dog works. Last Friday evening, President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu asking him not to derail Geneva. Bibi then duly picked up the phone and called, in succession, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Hollande and asked them ... to derail Geneva. ...
On both Syria and Lebanon, Paris is unabashedly playing a mix of neocolonial hugs and kisses while sharing the bed with Israel and the House of Saud.
But why, once again, shoot itself in the foot? ... Ah, but there is always the seduction of Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, and the Gulf petro-monarchies. In a nutshell; Bandar Fabius was nothing but playing paperboy for the House of Saud. The prize: huge military contracts - aircraft, warships, missile systems - and possible construction of nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, a deal similar to the one energy giant French Areva clinched last year with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). ... As for France doing the Wahhabis' bidding, just follow the money - from Veolia building and operating water desalination plants in Saudi Arabia to all those Rafale fighter jets to be unloaded. ...
It may take years - and it will. But Washington will inevitably find some sort of accommodation with Iran. US corporations want it. The energy-starved West wants it. Even the US hyperpower complex wants it - as it will give it way more leeway in Southwest Asia and beyond. The axis of fear and loathing of Israel, the House of Saud and France may play spoilers - but not for long. "Pivot to Asia"? Not before a pivot to Persia.
Saudi Arabia and Israel Try To Derail Nuclear Negotiations With Iran by Terrorism
The opposition to U.S.-Iran rapprochement by Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the support of the former for the most extreme forces in Syria that have committed countless number of atrocities, have brought to the fore the real axis of evil consisting of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the War Party in the United States, as opposed to George W. Bush’s bogus "axis of evil." The same Saudi Arabia that has always supposedly been the grand marshal of defending the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people, has now made an "unholy alliance" with Israel, ignoring the fact that much of Israel’s saber rattling over Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapon program is for distracting attention from the fact that it continues to devour the Palestinians’ lands, water, and other natural resources, and has made practically impossible the two-state solution for the problem.
The second round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – began on Thursday November 7 in Geneva, and the initial reports have indicated that progress has been made. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has even declared that the main framework for a long-term agreement may be reached during the two days of negotiations between the two parties. That is not the news that Israel and Saudi Arabia want to hear.
Thus, in addition to pressuring the Obama administration through their lobbies in Washington, another way of derailing the negotiations and killing any potential agreement between Iran and the U.S. that the unholy alliance has put in place is provoking Iran’s hardliners that are deeply suspicious of the West and oppose any rapprochement with the U.S. The hardliners have made their opposition clear, with the latest manifestation of which being the demonstrations that they staged in front of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on Monday on the 34th anniversary of the hostage crisis. And the best way to provoke Iranian hardliners is by terrorist attacks inside Iran, although such attacks are nothing new.
[See article for information about terrorist attacks in Iran and US, Israeli and Saudi support for them.]
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia seek to destabilize Iran and its government, keeping it tied up with internal problems. And, both hope that the terrorist attacks will provoke the hardliners in Tehran to react strongly, retaliate militarily and, hence, not only give an excuse to the two countries and the United States to attack Iran, but also block any diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Thus, both President Rouhani and Obama must control their hardliners, and give diplomacy a chance.
Right-Winger Avigdor Lieberman Reinstated as Israeli Foreign Minister
In Israel, right-wing hardliner Avigdor Lieberman has been reinstated as foreign minister following his acquittal on corruption charges. Lieberman is a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who kept the post open for Lieberman during his trial on accusations of promoting a diplomat who tipped him off about a criminal probe. Lieberman’s return could deal a further blow to U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, which Lieberman has openly criticized. He has also drawn allegations of racism for suggesting, for example, that areas inhabited by Arab citizens of Israel become part of a future Palestinian state while Israel keeps West Bank settlements.
Obama Embraces $10 Minimum Wage
What prompted President Obama to up the ante on the minimum wage? In January 2013, in his State of the Union address, he proposed raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $9 an hour. Then last week he announced that he supports hiking it to $10.10 an hour.
It is unlikely that his change of heart was the result of key economic advisers persuading him that a bigger wage boost was needed to reduce poverty and stimulate the economy. Both of those things are true, and surely entered into his thinking, but the major impetus was political. He was responding to the growing protest movement, public opinion polls and election outcomes that reflect widespread sentiment that people who work full time shouldn't be mired in poverty. It is a heartening reminder that democracy - the messy mix of forces that typically pits organized people versus organized money - still can work.
Growing activism by low-wage workers around the country has put a public face and sense of urgency over the plight of America's working poor. During the past year, workers across the country at fast-food chains such as McDonalds, Taco Bell and Burger King have gone on strike and demanded a base wage of at least $15 per hour. Walmart workers have engaged in one-day work stoppages and civil disobedience as part of an escalating grass-roots campaign to demand that the nation's largest private employer pay its workers at least $25,000 a year, thousands more than a full-time worker making $10.10 per hour would earn.
In recent years, Americans have shown increasing support for boosting the minimum wage and for the idea that people who work full-time should not earn poverty-level wages. The most recent poll, conducted in July by Hart Research Associates, showed 80 percent of Americans back hiking the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and adjusting it for the cost of living in future years. Not surprisingly, 92 percent of Democrats voice support for this proposal, but so do 80 percent of independents, 62 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Southern whites and 79 percent of people with incomes over $100,000.
Americans also have expressed their growing frustration with widening inequality, stagnant wages and persistent poverty at the ballot box.
Automatic Spending Cuts Would Bite More In 2014
The first year of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts didn't live up to the dire predictions from the Obama administration and others who warned of sweeping furloughs and big disruptions of government services. The second round just might.
Several federal agencies found lots of loose change that helped them through the automatic cuts in the 2013 budget year that ended Sept. 30, allowing them to minimize furloughs and maintain many services. Most of that money, however, has been spent. ...
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said agency budget chiefs "squeezed everything to get through the first year thinking we would come to our senses."
However, most of those accounting maneuvers were one-time steps. The automatic spending cuts in 2014 promise to be far more painful
For the time being, Congress has frozen 2014 spending at 2013 sequestration levels while negotiators seek a budget deal that would ease some of the automatic cuts. Absent a deal, the spending "caps" on agency operating budgets will shrink by another $20 billion or so, with most of that money squeezed out of the Pentagon.
The Evening Greens
Radiation from Japan nuclear plant arrives on Alaska coast
Scientists concerned about lack of monitoring plan
Some radiation has arrived in northern Alaska and along the west coast. That's raised concern over contamination of fish and wildlife. More may be heading toward coastal communities like Haines and Skagway. ...
John Kelley, a professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, says he's not sure contamination will reach dangerous levels for humans but says without better data, who will know?
"The data they will need is not only past data but current data, and if no one is sampling anything then we won't really know it, will we?
"The general concern was, is the food supply safe? And I don't think anyone can really answer that definitively."
Fukushima water storage tanks flawed, workers say
When tons of radioactive water leaked from a storage tank at Fukushima’s crippled nuclear power plant and other containers hurriedly put up by the operator encountered problems, Yoshitatsu Uechi was not surprised. He wonders if one of the tanks he built will be next.
He’s an auto mechanic. He was a tour-bus driver for a while. He had no experience building tanks or working at a nuclear plant, but for six months last year, he was part of the team frantically trying to create new places for contaminated water to go.
Uechi and co-workers were under such pressure to build tanks quickly that they did not wait for dry conditions to apply anti-rust coating over bolts and around seams as they were supposed to; they did the work even in rain or snow. Sometimes the concrete foundation they laid for the tanks came out bumpy. Sometimes the workers saw tanks being used to store water before they were even finished.
“I must say our tank assembly was slipshod work. I’m sure that’s why tanks are leaking already,” Uechi, 48, told The Associated Press from his hometown on Okinawa. “I feel nervous every time an earthquake shakes the area.”
Environmentalists call for reinstatement of Atlantic tuna fishing quotas
The US-based Pew Charitable Trusts called on the 47-member governments of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to maintain catch limits on endangered bluefin tuna.
The group will meet in Cape Town next week under pressure from the fishing industry and countries to loosen rules. ...
Since the industrial fishing era began, stocks of Bluefin tuna are thought to have fallen by at least 85 percent in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, where they come to spawn in the warmer waters. ...
Pew warned that the fish is not out of danger yet, citing a study which appeared to show fishing between 2008 and 2011 exceeded quotas by 57 percent.
Democrats to Target Tax 'Loopholes'— But Not for Fossil Fuel Industry
Document shows Democrats preparing to target tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, but omits those for industry fueling climate disaster
A document obtained by several news agencies last week shows Democrats preparing to target tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations as part of congressional negotiations to meet a Dec. 13 deadline for a budget deal.
Not on the list of Democrats' targets: tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry. ...
"The list makes clear that Democrats believe they can win public support by targeting tax breaks that they can portray as subsidies for the rich," according to Reuters. ...
Progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have called for an "End [to] tax breaks and subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies to reduce the deficit by more than $113 billion over the next 10 years"—a call echoed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus's "Back to Work Budget," which calls for an elimination of corporate tax subsidies for oil, gas, and coal companies.
But preserving tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry appears to have widspread bipartisan consensus.
The fact that fossil fuel companies are not on the list of targets may be a result of Democrats' "embrace" of fossil fuels, the Financial Times reported.
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
Arthur Crudup - My Baby Left Me
Arthur Crudup - Born into the Blues (footage)
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - Mean Ol' Frisco Blues
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - Rock me Mama
Arthur Crudup (Elmer James) - Gonna Find My Baby
Arthur Big Boy Crudup - My Mama Don't Allow
Arthur Crudup & Sons - Greyhound Bus
Arthur Crudup - Who's Been Foolin' You
Arthur Crudup - Standing At My Window
Arthur Crudup - She's got no hair
Arthur Crudup - I'm gonna dig myself a hole
Arthur Crudup - So glad you're mine
Arthur Crudup - If I get lucky
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!