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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 banjoist, jug band leader and songwriter Gus Cannon.  Enjoy!

Gus Cannon - Walk Right In

“As far as I’m concerned, all of this airport security, all the searches, the screening, the cameras, the question it’s just one more way of reducing your liberty and reminding you that they can fuck with you any time they want, as long as you put up with it. As long as you put up with it. Which means, of course, any time they want. Because that’s what Americans do now. They’re always willing to trade away a little of their freedom for the feeling, the illusion–of security.”

  -- George Carlin

News and Opinion

Britain is up to its neck in US dirty wars and death squads

The war on terror is now an endless campaign of drone and undercover killings that threatens a more dangerous world

You might have thought the war on terror was finally being wound down, 12 years after the US launched it with such disastrous results. President Obama certainly gave that impression earlier this year when he declared that "this war, like all wars, must end".

In fact, the Nobel peace prize winner was merely redefining it. ... Of course, the US and its friends have carried out covert assassinations and sponsored death squads for many years. But assassination and undercover killings, once criticised by the US as an unfortunate Israeli habit, are now a central part of American strategy – and the battlefield has gone global. The number of countries in which the US Special Operations Command is operating has risen from 40 to 120.

And Britain is with them every step of the way. British officials like to present their own drone operations in Afghanistan as a moral cut above those of the CIA and Jsoc. In real life, the collaboration could hardly be closer. This week Noor Khan, whose father was one of more than 40 killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan, has been at the appeal court in London demanding the British government reveal the extent of GCHQ support for such war crimes.

The government is hiding behind "national security" and the special relationship. But there can be no doubt that GCHQ intelligence is used for drone attacks – just as British undercover units have been operating hand in glove with US special forces in Somalia, Mali, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

The US-led dirty wars are a recipe for exactly the endless conflict Obama has promised to halt. They are laying the ground for a far more dangerous global order. The politicians and media who plead national security to protect these campaigns from exposure are themselves a threat to our security.

The NSA says it ‘obviously’ can track locations without a warrant. That’s not so obvious.

In conversations with The Washington Post over Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani's recent story on cellphone location tracking, an intelligence agency lawyer told Gellman, "obviously there is no Fourth Amendment expectation in communications metadata.” But some experts say it's far from obvious that the 1979 Supreme Court case on which the administration bases this view gives the government unfettered power to scoop up Americans' cellphone location data. ...

[In Smith v. Maryland the Supreme Court] ruled that the audio of [a] phone call is protected by the Fourth Amendment, but the numbers ... dialed [are] not. Ever since then, law enforcement agencies have invoked Smith v. Maryland to argue that while the contents of communications enjoy Constitutional protection, "metadata" like phone numbers dialed does not. The NSA argues that the same ruling applies to location metadata.

But Smith v. Maryland was a very different case in a very different time than the intelligence activities laid bare by documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. For one thing, Smith v. Maryland involved the very narrow targeting of data collection about a specific person the police already suspected of committing a crime, bulk collection and long-term storage of data [are] about huge numbers of innocent people. But more importantly, the surveillance capabilities of current technology were almost unthinkable in 1979.

The most recent Supreme Court case involving location tracking, United States v. Jones was settled on narrow trespassing grounds in 2012. But five Supreme Court justices signed on to concurring opinions that questioned whether Smith v. Maryland holds up in the face of modern technology.  An opinion concurring in judgment with the Jones decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan specifically noted the prevalence of smartphones and argued that "the use of longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy."

NSA Talking Points Are Laughable | Interview with Kevin Gosztola

No, al Qaeda is not more dangerous now than before 9/11

On Nov. 15, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) — a champion of NSA surveillance — told CNN that al Qaeda "poses a bigger threat to attack inside the U.S. right now than it did before 9/11." That assertion came a day after National Journal reported that "the death of bin Laden...[has] set the stage for a rebirth of al Qaeda as a global threat."...

"Al Qaeda central no longer exists as an effective organization," says Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who has done extensive field research on al Qaeda. "Most of its skilled leaders and lieutenants have been either killed or captured. It is no longer capable of carrying out spectacular operations along the 9/11 lines." ...

Prior to 9/11, al Qaeda was so organized that members had vacation days. That's not the case anymore.

"Since al Qaeda has become more decentralized, the vast majority of attacks are happening against what you'd call the 'near-enemy,' so for example, attacks by al Shabab are focused almost entirely on inside of Somalia," says Seth Jones, an associate director for the RAND Corporation. "They're not more dangerous, if what concerns you most is attacks on the homeland."

NSA Analyzing Cell Phone Location Data Globally

The NSA is tracking the locations of a huge number of cell phones around the world, according to an article published today by The Washington Post. The report, based on documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, says the agency is analyzing the movements of many millions of cell phones worldwide, including those belonging to Americans travelling abroad. Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, had this reaction:

It is staggering that a location-tracking program on this scale could be implemented without any public debate, particularly given the substantial number of Americans having their movements recorded by the government. The paths that we travel every day can reveal an extraordinary amount about our political, professional, and intimate relationships. The dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of cell phones flouts our international obligation to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans alike. The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrongdoing, not assembling massive associational databases that by their very nature record the movements of a huge number of innocent people.”

How the NSA uses cellphone tracking to find and 'develop' targets

Commerce Department Takes On Facial Recognition

The Department of Commerce will convene industry representatives and consumer advocates in an attempt to forge privacy standards governing facial recognition technology, the agency said on Tuesday.

“The goal of the process is to develop a voluntary, enforceable code of conduct,” the National Telecommunications & Information Administration stated. “Stakeholders will discuss how best to ensure that consumers' rights to control, transparency, security, access and accuracy, focused collection, and accountability are respected within the context of current and emerging commercial uses of facial recognition technology.” ...

Facial recognition technology, which identifies people based on their photos, is still relatively new and not yet in widespread use in retail environments. One well-known example of its use online is Facebook's automatic face-tagging feature, which prompts people to tag photos of friends with their names.

Detroit Enters Bankruptcy As Pensions and Benefits Go on Chopping Block

Pension Theft: Class War Goes to the Next Stage

In the past two days we've seen a federal judge rule that Detroit can go bankrupt, putting its workers' pensions in jeopardy, and we have seen Illinois' Legislature vote for substantial cuts in its retirees' pensions. Undoubtedly these two actions are just the tip of the iceberg. We have opened up a new sport for America's elite: pension theft.

The specifics of the situations are very different, but the outcome is the same. Public employees who spent decades working for the government are not going to get the pensions that were part of their pay package. In both cases we have governments claiming poverty, and therefore the workers are just out of luck. ...

The pensions are not gifts bestowed by the government on workers; they are part of workers' pay. When the city of Detroit or state of Illinois cut workers' pensions, they are in effect saying that they are not going to pay workers for the work they did.

Detroit workers might be forgiven if they thought they could count on getting the pensions for which they worked. After all, the Michigan Constitution prohibits the state from cutting pensions. And the city of Detroit is a creation of the state of Michigan, which might have led them to believe that the Michigan Constitution also applied to Detroit. However, a federal judge just ruled otherwise. Now Detroit's workers face the prospect of a bankruptcy judge taking large chunks out of their pensions.

The story of Illinois pensions should be at least as infuriating. Unlike Detroit, the economy in Illinois is reasonably healthy. News reports often tout its unfunded liability of $100 billion without pointing out that this is an obligation that needs to be met over the next 30 years. During this period, Illinois' economy will exceed $18 trillion in output, putting the liability at roughly 0.6 percent of the state's future income. That is hardly trivial, but neither is it an unbearable burden.

Hey listen! Is that the sound of the rusty wheels of justice ever so slowly turning?  Nah, it's Obama and Holder at the controls of that train, I bet none of the crooks goes to jail.
U.S. plans new bank fraud cases in early 2014 - attorney general

The U.S. Justice Department plans to bring mortgage fraud cases against several financial institutions early in 2014, using as a template the case that ended last month in JPMorgan Chase & Co's $13 billion settlement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters, Holder would not say which companies or how many could face lawsuits but said the Justice Department was in contact with them and it was hard to say whether the talks would lead to settlements. ...

The cases stem from a government task force the Obama administration created in early 2012 to probe the packaging and sale of shoddy home loans. At the time, the department sent subpoenas to more than a dozen financial institutions and warned of action.

Other institutions including Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc have disclosed related investigations and could face future lawsuits.

"We Can’t Survive on $7.25": Fast-Food Workers Kick Off National Day of Action for Higher Pay

Wal-Mart arrests could fuel “a new political movement of the disenfranchised,” Grayson tells Salon

“If one person falls out of the middle class, that’s sad,” Grayson told Salon. “But if millions of people fall out of the middle class, that creates a backlash which is being seen all over the country, and will potentially create a new political movement of the disenfranchised.”

Members of the union-backed workers’ group OUR Walmart promised 1,500 protests today, including nine civil disobedience actions. Organizers say at least eighty-one total people were arrested among six of those actions, including a St. Paul protest which included both Walmart workers and striking sub-contracted janitors who clean buildings for Target. “Even people who are employed now, many of them are not making enough money to survive,” said Grayson. “And the outlet more and more for people that they see is this kind of civil disobedience, because the political system has become completely unresponsive to their genuine concerns and their physical needs.” ...

While some congressional Democrats have joined Grayson in blasting the retail giant, the Obama Administration has not. Asked whether the Administration’s repeated praise for and appearances with Wal-Mart hurt the workers’ cause, Grayson told Salon, “It certainly doesn’t improve things.” Then he asked, “What has Wal-Mart given the president in return? Or, for that matter, what has Wal-Mart given to the president’s constituents in return?”

Major CEO Makes $100 Million As Taxpayers Spend $650 million on His Employees’ Welfare

If you don’t recognize the name “Yum! Brands,” you’ll definitely recognize the companies they own. Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut chains all fall under its corporate umbrella. Yum Brands employes nearly 400,000 US workers and their fast food chains are practically national symbols, recognized all over the world. ...

If you’re an investor of Yum! Brands you couldn’t be happier. If you were one of the 400,000 workers who make up the day-to-day operations at one of their locations, you probably didn’t share in its success. The wages for many of Yum! Brands employees was so low that many seek out, and are even encouraged by the company to seek out, anti-poverty programs like food stamps and affordable housing just to live. The actual wages are so disconnected with the living wage that the National Employment Law Project estimates that Yum Brands’ workers alone cost $650 million in medicaid and other public assistance annually.

Guess who pays for that $650 million? You do.

Guess who doesn’t pay for that $650 million? Yum! Brands.

But there is at least one person who works for Yum! Brands that gets a decent paycheck. CEO David Novak earned about $94 million dollars in 2011 and 2012. That money mostly came, not from a salary, but from so-called “performance pay” income like stock option gains, bonuses, and dividends. Not a bad paycheck considering the pay from one of his employees usually accounts to little more than minimum wage.

As Workers Strike Against Low Wages, Fast-Food CEOs Fatten Pockets with Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay

Tax breaks for CEOs pay for million-dollar salaries

CEOs' salaries are ballooning thanks to tax breaks that turn bonuses into government subsidies for corporate America

It’s no secret that US CEOs are some of the best-paid people on earth. After all, for the first time ever, the two top-paid corporate executives took home billion-dollar pay checks. What seems to be a better-kept secret, though, is that a large portion of their pay is tax deductible – which creates, effectively, a government subsidy for corporate bonuses.

It’s all thanks to a lucrative tax break that's completely legal. In 1993, when Congress capped the tax deductibility of executive pay at $1m, it allowed US corporations to deduct performance-based pay –including stock options – from their federal income taxes. The companies use the tax-deductible stock options to lower their IRS bills. That, in turn, means that those rich executive bonuses turn into government subsidies.

The total cost to the US: in the neighborhood of $7bn a year at last count, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Obama & Holder Win Court Case, Keep Thouands in Prison Under Unfair 80s Crack Sentencing Laws

I got an email yesterday from the NAACP LDF, the outfit founded by none other than Thurgood Marshall, who litigated Brown V Board of Education back in the 1950s. The email said that the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had just ruled that the so-called Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reducing the racist laws fixing the penalties for crack cocaine at 100 times those for powder cocaine to a somewhat less unfair ratio of 18 to 1 would not be applied retroactively to the thousands of people still serving obscenely long prison sentences from the quarter century those laws were enforced.

The press release went on to say that they are heartened that 7 judges did favor the release of the prisoners suffering these unfair sentences, and that “...Their powerful dissents encourage us to remain steadfast in our effort to win the release of those held under draconian and discriminatory sentences.” ...

So why did the NAACP LDF fail to mention that their legal opponents in this case were President Barack Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department, which opposed in court the application of the very law which the president signed and the attorney general lauded.

Let me say that again... First, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which first refused to retroactively reduce the unfair crack cocaine sentences under the law the president signed and the attorney general praised. Secondly, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which went to court to keep those people in prison. They lost when the trial judge ruled they should be released. And third, the same Justice Department run by the same first black attorney general under the first black president appealed the order to reduce those sentences, instead seeking and obtaining yesterday's ruling by the 6th circuit court of appeals.

Elizabeth Warren pledges to finish term and not run for president

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) pledged on Wednesday to serve out the full extent of her six-year Senate term and not run for president.

The Boston Herald reported that Warren held a press conference in Boston Wednesday afternoon to dispel rumors that she might be readying herself to seek the presidency in 2016

How ‘Limited Government’ Is Burying a Generation in Debt

The cost of tuition in this country has increased at an almost unbelievable pace over the past generation – twice as fast than as the costs of health care. According to an analysis by Bloomberg News, over the past 35 years, the cost of a college education in the US has increased 12-fold.

But all of those additional dollars pouring in aren’t improving students’ instruction. Spending on teaching has remained relatively flat, according to The Delta Cost Project.

The leading driver of higher tuition costs are cuts to state budgets for higher education. Long before revenues crashed in the Great Recession, politicians were funding tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy by slashing education budgets. And American students and their families have had to make up the difference out-of-pocket. ...

All of this has a lot to do with our young people entering the workforce with crippling debt burdens. ... While tuitions are rising across the board, the cost drivers are different in public and private institutions.  ... And while public institutions are catching up, much more of the growth in private school tuition pays for administrators’ bloated salaries. As Benjamin Ginsberg noted in The Washington Monthly, “between 1975 and 2005, the number of administrators and managers employed by public institutions increased by 66 percent. During the same time period, the number of administrators employed by private colleges and universities grew by 135 percent.” ...

It’s a huge ripoff and it’s hurting the prospects of an entire generation of Americans.

Chris Hedges Calgary, AB: Q&A

The Evening Greens

Vandana Shiva & Jane Goodall on Serving the Earth & How Women Can Address Climate Crisis

Conservative group ALEC pushes stealth tax on homeowners who install solar panels

An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as “freeriders” – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned. ...

[D]etails of Alec’s strategy were provided by John Eick, the legislative analyst for Alec’s energy, environment and agriculture program.

Eick told the Guardian the group would be looking closely in the coming year at how individual homeowners with solar panels are compensated for feeding surplus electricity back into the grid.

“This is an issue we are going to be exploring,” Eick said. He said Alec wanted to lower the rate electricity companies pay homeowners for direct power generation – and maybe even charge homeowners for feeding power into the grid.

“As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other non direct generation customers are being penalised,” he said.

Eick dismissed the suggestion that individuals who buy and install home-based solar panels had made such investments. “How are they going to get that electricity from their solar panel to somebody else’s house?” he said. “They should be paying to distribute the surplus electricity.”

In November, Arizona became the first state to charge customers for installing solar panels. The fee, which works out to about $5 a month for the average homeowner, was far lower than that sought by the main electricity company, which was seeking to add up to $100 a month to customers’ bills. Gabe Elsner, director of the Energy and Policy Institute, said the attack on small-scale solar was part of the larger Alec project to block clean energy. “They are trying to eliminate pro-solar policies in the states to protect utility industry profits,” he said.

Ontario Activists Protest Tar Sands Pipeline By Locking Themselves to Machinery

Blog Posts of Interest

Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.
What's Happenin'

How Robots, Race and Neoliberalism killed Detroit and what it Means for You

US Media Whitewashes Israel’s Plan To Ethnically Cleanse 40,000 Of Its Arab Citizens

A Little Night Music

Dr. Hook - Walk Right In

Wanda Jackson - Walk Right In

Gus Cannon - Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home

John Fahey - Poor Boys Long Way From Home

Gus Cannon - Viola Lee Blues

Ry Cooder - Viola Lee Blues

Grateful Dead - Viola Lee Blues

Gus Cannon - Big Railroad Blues

Grateful Dead - Big Railroad Blues

Gus Cannon - Gonna Raise a Ruckus Tonight

Old Crow Medicine Show - Gonna Raise A Ruckus Tonight

Riley Puckett - Gonna Raise Ruckus Tonight

Buster Brown - Raise A Ruckus Tonight

Gus Cannon - Minglewood Blues

Old Crow Medicine Show - Minglewood Blues

Minglewood Blues - Doc and Merle Watson

David Lindley & Wally Ingram - Minglewood Blues

Gus Cannon - Come on Down to My House

It's National Pie Day!

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