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.
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Hey! Good Evening!
This evenings music features Memphis blues and R&B singer, deejay and dancer of the Funky Chicken Rufus Thomas. Enjoy!
Rufus Thomas - Walking the Dog
"Between persons of equal income there is no social distinction except the distinction of merit. Money is nothing: character, conduct, and capacity are everything. There would be great people and ordinary people and little people, but the great would always be those who had done great things, and never the idiots whose mothers had spoiled them and whose fathers had left them a hundred thousand a year; and the little would be persons of small minds and mean characters, and not poor persons who had never had a chance. That is why idiots are always in favor of inequality of income (their only chance of eminence), and the really great in favor of equality."
-- George Bernard Shaw
News and Opinion
Obama's "Cat Food" Social Security Reform
"It's sort of like The Hound of the Baskervilles, where Sherlock Holmes said the important thing is that the dogs didn't bark. When the government printed $13 trillion to give to the banks after the 2008 breakdown, nobody complained at all about the fact that the government can simply print the money, pour it into the economy, and do something. Nobody's complaining about the increased war spending that we're doing.
Why is it that all these complaints are only focused on one particular small part of the budget, Social Security and medical care and health care? And the reason is this is pure, naked class war. There's no other word for it. You can't believe that people are being honest when they don't talk about the whole budget or the overall economy when they're singlemindedly tunnel-visioned, focused only on how do we pay retirees less, so that we can give the bankers more when President Obama continues the bank deregulation he's doing. You have the idea that they're cutting back pensioners, cutting back Social Security, in order to be able for the next big bank bailout."
Bell the Obama Cat
This spring, there’s a lot of work beckoning for progressives who mean business about gaining electoral power for social movements; who have no intention of eliding the grim realities of the Obama presidency; who are more than fed up with false pretenses that Obama is some kind of ally of progressives; who recognize that Obama has served his last major useful purpose for progressives by blocking a Romney-Ryan regime from entering the White House; who are willing to be here now, in this historical moment, to organize against and polarize with the Obama administration in basic terms; and who, looking ahead, grasp the tragic folly of leaving the electoral field to battles between right-wing Republicans and Democrats willing to go along with the kind of destructive mess that President Obama has been serving up.
A vital next step is staring us in the face: get to work now to develop and launch grassroots progressive campaigns for next year’s primaries that can defeat members of Congress who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk of challenging Obama’s austerity agenda. ...
As of today, after many weeks of progressive lobbying and pleading and petitioning nationwide, 47 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have refused to sign the letter, initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano, pledging to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”[This list was last updated 4-10-13 for most recent updates click here]They want wiggle room for budget votes on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Most of them represent a left-leaning district, and some could be toppled by grassroots progressive campaigns.
Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Michael Capuano, Andre Carson, Donna Christensen, Judy Chu, Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Elijah Cummings, Rosa DeLauro, Donna Edwards, Sam Farr, Chaka Fattah, Lois Frankel, Marcia Fudge, Janice Hahn, Jared Huffman, Rush Holt, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Hakeem Jeffries, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Joe Kennedy III, Ann McLane Kuster, John Lewis, David Loebsack, Ben Ray Lujan, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Gwen Moore, Jim Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frank Pallone, Ed Pastor, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Jared Polis, Charles Rangel, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sanchez, Jan Schakowsky, Louise Slaughter, Bennie Thompson, John Tierney, Mel Watt, Peter Welch
GOP’s Not-So-Shocking “Shocking Attack” On Obama’s Chained-CPI CutsDoes Obama hate the New Deal or what?
That was fast. On Tuesday we suggested that the chained-CPI cut in President Obama’s budget, which was presented as a gesture to Republicans, might instead be used to rebrand Democrats as ‘the anti-Social Security party.’
It took them fifteen minutes.
A GOP official quickly called the chained CPI a “shocking betrayal of seniors.” That’s a replay of the Republicans’ 2010 campaign, which used a “Seniors’ Bill of Rights” to paint Democrats as the anti-Medicare party. That strategy helped them retake the House, and could be at least as effective in 2014.
This not-so-shocking “shocking” comment is further proof that it’s political suicide for Democrats to support the chained CPI, a combined tax hike and Social Security cut in Obama’s new budget.
Obama Targets Symbol of the New Deal, Tennessee Valley Authority For Privatization
President Barack Obama is considering the sale of all or part of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest publicly owned U.S. power company, in a deal that may raise as much as $35 billion as the administration seeks to reduce the national debt.
A potential sale is part of a “strategic review” of the Knoxville, Tennessee-based nonprofit, which faces increasing capital costs, according to the administration’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal released yesterday. A sale may yield $30 billion to $35 billion in cash and reduced government debt obligations, said Travis Miller, a Chicago-based analyst for Morningstar Inc. (MORN)
The 80-year-old authority, created during the Great Depression to bring electricity to rural communities, will probably exceed its $30 billion debt cap to pay for needed infrastructure improvements and meet new environmental rules, according to the budget proposal. U.S. utilities face rising costs to replace aging power lines and generators and install pollution controls to meet stringent air-quality standards.
“We expect potential buyers will have big concerns about the huge pension and asset retirement liabilities that TVA faces,” Miller said in an e-mail today. “That future uncertainty could depress the prices buyers are willing to pay.” ...
“Reducing or eliminating the federal government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives and no longer require federal participation, can help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path,” according to the budget proposal.
Obama Sends Lew to Europe Preaching Growth While Practicing Austerity at Home
So what do we have? We have complete incoherence, complete incompetence, massive hypocrisy, and a belief in budget magic, because what does the administration say, what did Jacob Lew go over specifically to tell them they should do? That they should practice austerity, but then they should have a goal, a target for positive growth. See? So if you substantively do things that are going to produce negative growth, but if you say, I'm trying to achieve positive growth, that acts like magic and it produces positive growth. That's what Jacob Lew thinks. That's what President Obama thinks.
Obama Meets With Blankfein, Dimon and Moynihan Today
President Barack Obama is meeting today with the heads of the world’s biggest banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS)’s Lloyd C. Blankfein and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s Jamie Dimon, people briefed on the plans said.
The attendees, who also include Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s Brian T. Moynihan and Citigroup Inc. (C)’s Michael Corbat, are in Washington for the Financial Services Forum’s quarterly meeting, said the people, who requested anonymity because the meeting is private. More than a dozen of the trade organization’s 19 members are scheduled to meet at the White House with administration officials, one person said. ...
This will be Blankfein’s third meeting with Obama since the president was re-elected, according to one person. Blankfein, 58, is chairman of the Financial Services Forum and Moynihan, 53, is vice chairman. JPMorgan’s Dimon, 57, runs the biggest U.S. bank by assets. It’s based in New York along with Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest securities traders, while Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, has its headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
While Cutting Medicare Benefits, Obama Bails Out Private Insurance for Seniors
Obama administration intervenes to give $71.5 billion to overpaid, for-profit Medicare Advantage plans
Medicare’s costs will jump by $7.43 billion next year – the equivalent of $149 for each of the nearly 50 million beneficiaries in the program – due to an unprecedented intervention last week by the Obama administration in the way privately run, for-profit Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which are also known as Medicare HMOs, are paid by the government, a national physicians group reported today.
The total cost to U.S. taxpayers will be $71.5 billion to $104.5 billion over the next decade, depending on the number of Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in the private plans, researchers at Physicians for a National Health Program said. That’s money that could keep traditional Medicare’s hospital trust fund safely in the black over the same period, eliminating any need for greater cost-sharing by beneficiaries, they said. ...
“Medicare Advantage plans have been overpaid by the federal government for years, wasting tens of billions of taxpayer dollars,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health and co-founder of the physicians group. “Studies by the Government Accountability Office, MedPAC and many private groups have drawn attention to this overpayment. The Obama administration’s ACA acknowledged the overpayments by calling for cuts to these payments starting in 2014.
“But last week’s extraordinary rate-setting directive from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in which she spurned historical practice and the advice of the CMS Office of the Actuary, will result in an obscene windfall to the private, for-profit insurers,” he said. “Simultaneously, this backroom Medicare giveaway is a heavy blow to taxpayers and the traditional, public Medicare program.”
The Reason Health Care Is So Expensive: Insurance Companies
More than 20 years ago, two Harvard professors published an article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine showing that health-care administration cost somewhere between 19 percent and 24 percent of total spending on health care and that this administrative burden helped explain why health care costs so much in the U.S. compared, for instance, with Canada or the United Kingdom. An update of that analysis more than a decade later, after the diffusion of managed care and the widespread adoption of computerization, found that administration constituted some 30 percent of U.S. health-care costs and that the share of the health-care labor force comprising administrative (as opposed to care delivery) workers had grown 50 percent to constitute more than one of every four health-sector employees.
What remains missing even in the discussion of the enormous administrative burden is not just how large, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of health costs, it is, but also how few incentives there are for insurance companies to stop wasting their and everyone else’s time. ... Because insurers are paid a fixed percentage of the claims they administer, they have no incentive to hold down costs. Worse than that, they have no incentives to do their jobs with even a modicum of competence.
The Wall Street Ticking Time Bomb That Could Blow Up Your Bank Account
Shock waves went around the world when the IMF, the EU, and the ECB not only approved but mandated the confiscation of depositor funds to “bail in” two bankrupt banks in Cyprus. A “bail in” is a quantum leap beyond a “bail out.” When governments are no longer willing to use taxpayer money to bail out banks that have gambled away their capital, the banks are now being instructed to “recapitalize” themselves by confiscating the funds of their creditors, turning debt into equity, or stock; and the “creditors” include the depositors who put their money in the bank thinking it was a secure place to store their savings.
The Cyprus bail-in was not a one-off emergency measure but was consistent with similar policies already in the works for the US, UK, EU, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, as detailed in my earlier articles here and here. “Too big to fail” now trumps all. Rather than banks being put into bankruptcy to salvage the deposits of their customers, the customers will be put into bankruptcy to save the banks. ...
In the US after the Glass-Steagall Act was implemented in 1933, a bank could not gamble with depositor funds for its own account; but in 1999, that barrier was removed. Recent congressional investigations have revealed that in the biggest derivative banks, JPMorgan and Bank of America, massive commingling has occurred between their depository arms and their unregulated and highly vulnerable derivatives arms. Under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claims, secured and unsecured, insured and uninsured. In a major derivatives fiasco, derivative claimants could well grab all the collateral, leaving other claimants, public and private, holding the bag.
The bail-in policy for the US and UK is set forth in a document put out jointly by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Bank of England (BOE) in December 2012, titled Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions.
Federal Judge Orders Michelle Rhee Suit to Go Forward, will Broaden to Concealment and Fraud Claims
For nearly three years, efforts by hundreds of DC Public School teachers who were victims of the much publicized mass firings by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee- herself hailed as a reformer and darling of major media- have failed to gain any traction in the courts.
However, in what may be a turning of that tide, US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras has denied Rhee’s motion to dismiss claims by a music teacher that his firing was concocted by using a misapplied or non-existent job title to enable his poor evaluation and subsequent firing.
The suit involves Willie J. Brewer Jr., a 53-year-old teacher who worked for DCPS for 28 years before being terminated in October of 2009 due to “budgetary constraints” under a RIF (Reduction in Force). ...
It has been learned that Brewer will now amend his original complaint to broaden the scope of Rhee’s alleged actions into possible civil fraud and concealment claims. This has developed as a result of videotaped testimony by the former DCPS CFO Noah Wepman before the DC City Council on November 30, 2009. In that testimony, Wepman appears to admit that he willfully concealed, with the knowledge of Rhee, the true accounting figures which indicated that the DCPS had no budgetary shortfall at all- the pretext for the RIF to be instituted and the mass firings to take place.
Military Officer Suggests Press at Bradley Manning Proceedings ‘Police’ Each Other to Prevent Leaks
In reaction to the leak of audio of a statement read by Pfc. Bradley Manning in military court at Fort Meade last month, a military public affairs officer told reporters credentialed to cover his court martial, “Police yourselves.” The officer scolded the press saying, “If there is another violation, everyone feels the pain, not just certain individuals.”
The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) in March published a copy of audio someone recorded of Manning reading the statement he wrote when he pled guilty to disclosing some information to WikiLeaks. FPF saw the publication of the audio as an act that supported journalism, which combatted “overreaching government secrecy.” It noted, “While reporters are allowed in the courtroom, no audio or visual recordings are permitted by the judge, no transcripts of the proceedings or any motions by the prosecution have been released, and lengthy court orders read on the stand by the judge have not been published for public review.”
The officer offered no proof that the leak came from a particular individual, who was in the media operations center. Her comments just made it clear the public affairs officer had adopted a posture toward the press that we were all suspects.
“This media operation center is a privilege, not a requirement,” the officer declared. She suggested this privilege could be taken away. The press pool might have to go to the court room where computers would not be allowed if another leak occurred.
Exxon Pressures Arkansas TV Stations To Ban Critical Ad Following Mayflower Tar Sands Spill
Amidst reports of media intimidation at the site of the Mayflower, Arkansas tar sands oil spill, ExxonMobil has now taken to bullying local Little Rock television stations into canceling the airing of a satirical but cutting advertisement critical of their business practices.
The crowd-funded ad buy was to be part of an ongoing campaign – ExxonHatesYourChildren.com – being run by three progressive organizations using satire to target the more than $10 billion per year US taxpayers spend to subsidize dirty fossil fuel companies like Exxon.
See Exxon’s cease and desist letter here.
See the coalition’s response here, drafted with support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The ad was set to air on Arkansas ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates this week, but was pulled moments before airing by the stations when Exxon threatened legal action.
“Exxon is and will always be a bully,” said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director of Oil Change International. “Instead of engaging their critics appropriately, Exxon uses its billions to hire high-priced lawyers to make scary-sounding but unsupported legal claims to suppress criticism. It’s a window into how they have preserved billions in taxpayer handouts for their industry for so many years.”
22-Foot Gash in Pegasus Pipeline Puts Gaping Hole in Safety Claims
Heavy rains move into Mayflower, Arkansas as cleanup of ExxonMobil pipeline proves ever more difficult
Dustin McDaniel, the Arkansas Attorney General announced on Wednesday evening that a "22 foot long and 2 inch wide" gash along the Pegasus pipeline allowed crude oil to flood the town of Mayflower with thousands of gallons of tar sands oil on March 29. ...
Though he said the state does not yet have an official estimate of how much oil may have leaked through the hole, the Associated Press, citing filings from ExxonMobil and local officials, reports that "crews have recovered about 28,200 barrels of oily water and about 2,000 cubic yards of oiled soil and debris." ...
McDaniels said his immediate concern was about heavy thunderstorms heading for the area that could disperse the oil into run-offs and make ongoing cleanup harder.
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
Rufus Thomas - "Breakdown' & 'Funky Chicken'
Blues Brothers Band & Rufus Thomas - Walking the dog
Rufus Thomas - A Full & Funky Life
Rufus Thomas - Push and Pull
Rufus Thomas - Jump Back
Rufus Thomas - All Night Worker
Rufus Thomas - The Memphis Train
Rufus Thomas - Somebody Stole My Dog
Rufus Thomas on Memphis
Rufus Thomas - Turn Your Damper Down
xRufus Thomas - Sixty Minute Man
Rufus Thomas - Easy Livin' Plan
Rufus Thomas - Boogie Ain't Nuttin' (But Gettin' Down)
Rufus Thomas - Funky Robot (Parts I & II)
rufus thomas - fried chicken
Rufus Thomas - Can Your Monkey Do The Dog
It's National Pie Day!
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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.
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