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 evenings music features pianist and bandleader Earl "Fatha" Hines. Enjoy!
Earl Hines - Fatha's Blues
"Not many people know this but “The Simpson-Bowles Plan” is magic. It is whatever you want it to be. It will fix the deficit and grow the economy and it does it without raising taxes on anyone, unless you want to raise taxes on some people, and then it does that. It cuts all government spending but in a way that doesn’t hurt Medicare or The Troops. If you stand in front of a mirror and say “Simpson-Bowles” three times David Gergen and Gloria Borger appear out of nowhere and praise your wisdom and seriousness. “The Simpson-Bowles Plan” gives you Your Country Back and makes it the ’90s again, or the ’50s, or whatever past decade you wish it was, when things were better."
-- Alex Pareene
Fears Confirmed: Domestic Drones 'Fly Regularly' in US Airspace
Digital watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published several thousand pages of new drone license records on Wednesday confirming innumerable theorists' fears: that drones "regularly fly" in "national airspace all around the country."
The records, which were obtained by way of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and—for the first time—three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the group writes on their Deeplinks blog.
According to the records, the Air Force has been testing out a variety of drones, from the smaller, hand-launched Raven, Puma and Wasp drones to the larger Predator and Reaper models largely responsible for countless civilian and foreign military deaths. ...
Also Wednesday, the watchdog group published a new map that tracks the location of drone flights across the United States.
Thousands of US troops arrive near Syrian shore on USS Eisenhower
The USS Eisenhower, an American aircraft carrier that holds eight fighter bomber squadrons and 8,000 men, arrived at the Syrian coast yesterday in the midst of a heavy storm, indicating US preparation for a potential ground intervention.
While the Obama administration has not announced any sort of American-led military intervention in the war-torn country, the US is now ready to launch such action “within days” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decides to use chemical weapons against the opposition, the Times reports. ...
The arrival of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of the 11 US Navy aircraft carriers that has the capacity to hold thousands of men, is now stationed at the coast of Syria, DEBKAfile reports. The aircraft carrier joined the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, which holds about 2,500 Marines.
Al Qaida-linked group Syria rebels once denied now key to anti-Assad victories
When the group Jabhat al Nusra first claimed responsibility for car and suicide bombings in Damascus that killed dozens last January, many of Syria’s revolutionaries claimed that the organization was a creation of the Syrian government, designed to discredit those who opposed the regime of President Bashar Assad and to hide the regime’s own brutal tactics.
Nearly a year later, however, Jabhat al Nusra, which U.S. officials believe has links to al Qaida, has become essential to the frontline operations of the rebels fighting to topple Assad.
Not only does the group still conduct suicide bombings that have killed hundreds, but they’ve proved to be critical to the rebels’ military advance. In battle after battle across the country, Nusra and similar groups do the heaviest frontline fighting. Groups who call themselves the Free Syrian Army and report to military councils led by defected Syrian army officers move into the captured territory afterward. ...
Nusra’s rise is most evident in Syria’s north and east, where anti-Assad forces have recently been racking up impressive military gains. Gone are the days just five months ago when Nusra’s actions seemed limited to car and suicide bombings. Now, Nusra fighters are organized in battalion-sized groups that are often armed with heavy weaponry.
On a trip to Syria that spanned most of the month of November, a journalist found Nusra’s fighters on every frontline he visited.
After Deadly Clashes in Cairo, Egypt Faces One of Its Largest Political Crises Since Revolution Began
For Greece, Oligarchs Remain Obstacle to Growth
Greece’s economic troubles are often blamed on a public sector packed full of redundant workers, a lavish pension system and uncompetitive industries hampered by overpaid workers with lifetime employment guarantees. Often overlooked, however, is the role played by a handful of wealthy families, politicians and the news media — often owned by the magnates — that make up the Greek power structure.
In a country crushed by years of austerity and 25 percent unemployment, average Greeks are growing increasingly resentful of an oligarchy that, critics say, presides over an opaque, closed economy that is at the root of many of the country’s problems and operates with virtual impunity. Several dozen powerful families control critical sectors, including banking, shipping and construction, and can usually count on the political class to look out for their interests, sometimes by passing legislation tailored to their specific needs.
The result, analysts say, is a lack of competition that undermines the economy by allowing the magnates to run cartels and enrich themselves through crony capitalism. “That makes it rational for them to form a close, incestuous relationship with politicians and the media, which is then highly vulnerable to corruption,” said Kevin Featherstone, a professor of European Politics at the London School of Economics.
This week the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Greece as the most corrupt nation in Europe, behind former Soviet states like Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. Under the pressure of the financial crisis, Greece is being pressed by Germany and its international lenders to make fundamental changes to its economic system in exchange for the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy.
But it remains an open question whether Greece’s leaders will be able to engineer such a transformation. In the past year, despite numerous promises to increase transparency, the country actually dropped 14 places from the previous corruption survey.
Obama to fill key posts in weeks, Hagel on Pentagon short list
President Barack Obama is expected to announce his nominees for secretaries of state and defense in the next two weeks, with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on the short list of potential choices to head the Pentagon, senior administration officials said on Tuesday.
Hagel, whose appointment would give Obama's reshuffled second-term Cabinet a bipartisan cast, met the Democratic president at the White House this week to discuss a post on his national security team. But there was no sign that Obama had decided on any of the key nominations he will put forth.
Obama is still deliberating whether to unveil his top national security appointments, likely to include a new CIA director, in a single high-profile package this month or to name them one-by-one, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Other top contenders to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are believed to include former senior Pentagon official Michele Flournoy, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Democratic Senator John Kerry.
U.S. Commandos’ New Landlord in Afghanistan: BlackwaterApparently rats come out looking like saints when their behavior is compared to the Obama administration's treatment of Bradley Manning.
U.S. Special Operations Forces have a brand new home in Afghanistan. It’s owned and operated by the security company formerly known as Blackwater, thanks to a no-bid deal worth $22 million.
You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan.
That would be the Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan, created on July 1 to unite and oversee the three major spec-ops “tribes” throughout Afghanistan, which command some 7,000 elite troops in all. It’s run by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, and is already tasked with reforming how those elite forces train Afghan villagers to fight the Taliban. And its role is only going to grow in Afghanistan, as regular U.S. forces withdraw by 2014 and the commandos take over the residual task of fighting al-Qaida and its allies. Perhaps that’s why Academi’s no-bid contract runs through May 2015.
A new model of empathy: the rat
At the very least, the new experiment reported in Science is going to make people think differently about what it means to be a “rat.” Eventually, though, it may tell us interesting things about what it means to be a human being.
In a simple experiment, researchers at the University of Chicago sought to find out whether a rat would release a fellow rat from an unpleasantly restrictive cage if it could. The answer was yes.
The free rat, occasionally hearing distress calls from its compatriot, learned to open the cage and did so with greater efficiency over time. It would release the other animal even if there wasn’t the payoff of a reunion with it. Astonishingly, if given access to a small hoard of chocolate chips, the free rat would usually save at least one treat for the captive — which is a lot to expect of a rat.
The researchers came to the unavoidable conclusion that what they were seeing was empathy — and apparently selfless behavior driven by that mental state.
How a plutocrat 1%er made 20,000 kids homeless
There are 20,000 kids sleeping in homeless shelters in New York City, according to the city's latest estimate, a number that does not include homeless kids who are not sleeping in shelters because their families have been turned away. Up to 65 percent of families who apply for shelter don't get in, and their options can be grim.
"Some end up sleeping in subway trains," Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, tells AlterNet. "Some go to hospital emergency rooms or laundromats. Women are going back to their batterers or staying in unsafe apartments."
Families that make it into shelters are taking longer to leave and move into stable, permanent housing. Asked by reporters why families were staying 30% longer than even last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "... it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before."
“Is it great?" He elaborated a day later in response to outcry over his comments. "No. It’s not the Plaza Hotel ... but that’s not what shelter is supposed to be and that’s not what the public can afford or the public wants.”
That deep-seated empathy for the poor also runs through the mayor's policies, which have helped create a crisis that the New York Times has called "an emergency." Since the mayor took office, promising to slash the rate of total homelessness by two thirds in five years, the homeless rate in New York City has ballooned to 46,000 people sleeping in shelters, an increase of almost 40 percent. The administration blames the financial crisis, but as it turns out, there are ways to make the lives of the very poor tougher in the middle of a recession: you just need to subscribe to a governing philosophy that assumes the poor are both too lazy to get on their feet and working hard day and night to cheat the system.
Shell VP: Yeah, we’re gonna spill some oil in the Arctic
Your quote of the day comes from the BBC.There’s no sugar-coating this, I imagine there would be spills, and no spill is OK. But will there be a spill large enough to impact people’s subsistence? My view is no, I don’t believe that would happen.That’s Shell’s Alaska vice president, Pete Slaiby, discussing the company’s new, fraught drilling operations off the North Slope of Alaska. During the summer, the company had a near-daily series of screw-ups that did little to inspire confidence in its ability to successfully extract oil from the ocean floor without spilling it all over themselves and the ocean and the animals in the ocean and probably you, too, somehow. So I’m not sure if Slaiby’s admission is a refreshing demonstration of realism or a heart-attack-inducing statement of indifference.
I do however love his statement that, yeah, there’ll be spills, but, don’t worry: minor ones. How … does that work? The entire context for the BBC article is that Native populations in Alaska are nervous about the prospect of drilling and a spill.
To which Shell responds, in essence: Don’t worry your pretty little heads.
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
Earl 'Fatha' Hines - Blues in thirds
Earl Hines - Boogie Woogie On Saint Louis Blues
Budd Johnson , Earl Hines - Blues For Sale
Earl Hines - Caution Blues
Billy Eckstine & Earl Hines - Stormy Monday
Earl Hines Orchestra - Limehouse Blues
Earl Hines Trio - St. James Infirmary
Earl 'Fatha' Hines - I Ain't Got Nobody
Earl 'Fatha' Hines - Pops' Blues
Earl Hines & Budd Johnson - The dirty old man
Louis Armstrong w/Earl Hines - West End Blues
Earl Hines and his Orchestra - Everybody Loves My Baby
Earl Hines - Save It, Pretty Mama
Earl Hines Trio - Bye Bye Baby
Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?
Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.
Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.
"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." ~ Noam Chomsky