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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This evening's music features Chicago bluesman John Brim. Enjoy!
John Brim - Ice Cream Man
“We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.”
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
News and Opinion
Budget austerity proved a joke, but the US and Europe won't change course
Even though the case against fiscal policy has been blown to smithereens, there is little impulse in the United States or Europe to change course. The counter-argument appears to have two sides. First, growth has picked up so that we don't really need it. Second, we really wouldn't know what to spend money on in any case.
Neither of these arguments deserves to be taken seriously on its merits. But they nonetheless must be taken seriously because of the prominence of the people who say them. ...
The prolonged periods of unemployment that millions are enduring are in fact a crisis for the people affected. They are ruining the lives of the unemployed and their families. In fact, there was a disturbing study highlighted in the New York Times last week about the surge in suicides among baby boomers approaching retirement age. For these people this stretch of high unemployment is not a short-term problem that we have to tough out.
This brings us to the second complaint, that we don't know how to spend money to create jobs. This argument is every bit as far from the mark as the first one. For beginners, we have just cut well over $100bn from annual spending by state and local governments. This has hit everything from pre-school education to police and fire services. If the federal government restored the funding, many of these cuts could be quickly reversed. ...
There are many more ways to spend money that will put people back to work, but the key is to get such spending back on the political agenda. We allowed policy to be waylaid by a misplaced obsession with deficits. Now that everyone in the debate recognizes this mistake, it is time to focus on getting the country working again.
Neither Admit Nor Deny: Big Business Allowed To Pay Millions to Avoid Jail
Record fines adding up to $36 billion have been paid out in the last 12 years by multinational corporations to the U.S. government to settle charges of corruption and fraud. But are they getting away with a slap on the wrist to avoid prosecution for major crimes? ...
Over the last decade or so two types of deals – non prosecution agreements (NPAs) and deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) – have become the principal tool for government lawyers at the Justice Department to pursue white collar crime. Meanwhile their colleagues at the SEC’s Enforcement Division hand out “consent decrees” which allow companies to “neither admit nor deny” allegations of corruption and fraud.
Typically these arrangements involve a statement of facts agreed together by the corporation and the government, a cash fine, and the appointment of a “probation officer” who monitors the company to make sure that it does not break the law again. ...
“My clients love them,” said Mei Lin Kwan-Gett, the co-head of Willkie Farr & Gallagher‘s White Collar Criminal Defense Practice Group in New York.
But legal experts say that the agreements allow corporations to buy their way out of almost anything.
The Idled Young Americans
THE idle young European, stranded without work by the Continent’s dysfunction, is one of the global economy’s stock characters. Yet it might be time to add another, even more common protagonist: the idle young American.
For all of Europe’s troubles — a left-right combination of sclerotic labor markets and austerity — the United States has quietly surpassed much of Europe in the percentage of young adults without jobs. It’s not just Europe, either. Over the last 12 years, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest.
The grim shift — “a historic turnaround,” says Robert A. Moffitt, a Johns Hopkins University economist — stems from two underappreciated aspects of our long economic slump. First, it has exacted the harshest toll on the young — even harsher than on people in their 50s and 60s, who have also suffered. And while the American economy has come back more robustly than some of its global rivals in terms of overall production, the recovery has been strangely light on new jobs, even after Friday’s better-than-expected unemployment report. ...
Employers are particularly reluctant to add new workers — and have been for much of the last 12 years. Layoffs have been subdued, with the exception of the worst months of the financial crisis, but so has the creation of jobs, and no one depends on new jobs as much as younger workers do. For them, the Great Recession grinds on.
Obama Embraces Plutocrats Again With His Billionaire Commerce Secretary Choice
Picking Penny Pritzker is a clear message that Obama's priorities are not what's in the public interest.
President Obama has let the public down once again with his pick for Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the billionaire businesswoman who led the national 2008 fundraising effort that kept the Obama campaign’s hopes alive and catapulted him to the White House.
Loyalty and trust are prized political values—and clearly Obama trusts Pritzker, whom he has known for two decades. But Obama’s fealty is going to be tested because her record as a businesswoman shares similarities with Mitt Romney’s. Her massive wealth is kept in tax-avoiding offshore accounts. Her family’s best-known business, the Hyatt hotel empire, is known for bitter and ongoing disputes with labor unions. Her resume includes running a bank that pioneered high-interest subprime loans and then failed miserably, leaving uninsured depositors with losses averaging $6,000.
Since 2008, when Pritzker was said to have wanted the Commerce post, she apparently has disentangled her assets from her family’s portfolio. But there is no escaping that her nomination highlights the biggest schism in the Democratic Party: it cannot be a party that embraces both workers and the wealthy without large doses of hypocrisy.
So, Why Are We So Loyal to a President Who is Not Loyal to Us?
Later this month, Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address at Morehouse's graduation ceremony. Another invited speaker was Morehouse alumnus Kevin Johnson, a prominent Philadelphia pastor. Then Johnson, an ardent Obama supporter during both presidential runs, wrote an article criticising the president for failing to appoint enough black cabinet members and to address the needs of African Americans in general. "Obama has not moved African-American leadership forward but backwards," he wrote. "We are not in the driver's seat – or even in the car … Why are we so loyal to a president who is not loyal to us?"
Shortly afterwards his speaker's slot was removed. Instead of addressing the students alone, the day before Obama, he will now be one of a three-person panel curated "to reflect a broader and more inclusive range of viewpoints".
Evidently, whatever they'll be celebrating at this graduation at Morehouse, it won't be critical thinking. And that's a shame. Because that's precisely what black America could do with more of at a time when the quest for greater black representation has been almost completely divorced from improving the material conditions of black people as a whole.
The brouhaha at Morehouse illustrates the degree to which space for this conversation within America's black communities has shrunk under Obama. "Too many black intellectuals have given up the hard work of thinking carefully in public about the crisis facing black America," said Princeton professor Eddie Glaude. "We have either become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits." Hardly surprising when that "hard work" risks the backlash Johnson received. "I have friends," says Virginia state delegate Onzlee Ware, "who say I'm a traitor if I bring [Obama's shortcomings] up as an intellectual conversation."
Why Is a Report on Bush's Torture Program Being Kept Classified by Obama?
A massive report on torture reveals it's far less effective than reported. But the CIA refuses to declassify it.
Much of what you’ve been told (or seen in movies) about George W. Bush’s supposedly effective torture program is false and overhyped. At least, that’s one of the conclusions of the 6,000-page review of the program the Senate Intelligence Committee completed last year.
Yet, right now, President Obama is preventing you from learning any of this, by keeping the report classified. ...
Accounts of the reports’ findings are not limited to whether torture worked. According to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the it shows “the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information about its interrogation program to the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress.”
The finding that the CIA lied about its covert activities to everyone tasked with overseeing them ought to raise concerns going forward, whether or not the CIA ever conducts an interrogation again, because it suggests our intelligence oversight system is broken. Yet the report remains classified and torture boosters keep making expansive claims that, Senate Democrats insist, the report rebuts.
Lawyers say case against Kim Dotcom threatens Internet freedom
Lawyers for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom accused the US government Wednesday of launching a flawed prosecution against their client with “frightening” implications for all Internet users.
The New Zealand-based Internet tycoon’s legal team released a “white paper” to coincide with a visit to Auckland by US Attorney General Eric Holder, which argues that online piracy allegations against Dotcom are baseless.
The 38-page document says that while copyright issues are normally treated as a civil matter, US prosecutors are trying to use anti-racketeering criminal statutes normally used against gangsters to press their case.
“The US actions against Kim Dotcom set a frightening precedent for the basic rights of Internet users and innovators of new technologies,” it said.
The Case of the Disappearing Dilbit: How Much Oil Was Released in 2010 Pipeline Spill?
A crucial number is removed, without explanation, from the EPA website that is tracking the cleanup of the 2010 dilbit spill Michigan’s Kalamazoo River
A key piece of data related to the biggest tar sands oil spill in U.S. history has disappeared from the Environmental Protection Agency's website, adding to confusion about the size of the spill and possibly reducing the fine that the company responsible for the accident would be required to pay.
The July 2010 accident on an Enbridge Inc. pipeline dumped thousands of barrels of Canadian dilbit into the Kalamazoo River and surrounding wetlands. But almost three years and two federal investigations later, one of the most important questions about the spill remains unanswered: Exactly how much oil spilled from the pipeline? ...
Determining the size of an oil spill is important, because every barrel of oil that reaches a navigable waterway triggers a statutory fine of $1,100 per barrel under the Clean Water Act. The fine rises to $4,300 per barrel if a company is proven to have acted with gross negligence.
In the case of the Michigan spill, the EPA has posted numerous updates on its website about the amount of oil recovered from the site. It was 766,000 gallons in March 2011, then grew to 1,148,229 gallons in June 2012. (There are 42 gallons in a barrel.)
But speculation about the magnitude of the spill took a new twist sometime in March, when the EPA’s website for the accident stopped showing how much oil has been collected at the site—1,149,460 gallons at last count.
Sequester Hits Nation's Climate Change Research Capability
Eight regional centers dedicated to expanding climate research at the local level lose millions in budget cuts.
When Renee McPherson took on the role of director of research at the South Central Climate Science Center last year, she had no idea that she’d soon be grappling with budget cuts that threatened her ability to support regional climate research or hire new graduate students and faculty—the premise of hosting the center in the first place.
The facility McPherson runs out of the University of Oklahoma is among eight centers created between 2010 and 2012 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The goal was to bring together federal, academic and on-the-ground experts who could pursue climate change research at the local level.
But then came the sequester, the Congressional mandate that slashed federal budgets across the board.
The USGS took about a 5 percent cut, equivalent to about $55 million in lost funds. The Climate Science Centers will likewise lose around 5 percent of their overall funding, which totaled $25.2 million in fiscal year 2012—money they would have used to add full-time staff, graduate students or summer interns.
As World Burns... Rich Countries Drag Feet at Climate Talks
Another week of international climate negotiations ended in Bonn, Germany last Friday, but there was little mid-level bureaucrats could do when world leaders remain in thrall to the fossil fuel industry, say environmentalists.
“The main barrier to confronting the climate crisis isn’t lack of knowledge about the problem, nor is it the lack of cost-effective solutions,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“It’s the lack of political will by most world leaders to confront the special interests that have worked long and hard to block the path to a sustainable low-carbon future. Until this changes, we’re not going to see the action we need,” said Meyer, who has attended virtually every climate negotiation over the past 19 years.
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
John Brim - You Got me where you want me
John Brim - It Was A Dream
Ice Cream Man - John Brim
John Brim - Tough Times
John Brim - Tougher Times
John Brim - Be Careful What You Do
John Brim - Rattlesnake
John Brim - Dark Clouds
John Brim & Pinetop Perkins - Driving Wheel
John Brim - Lifetime Baby
John Brim And His Gary Kings - Go Away
John Brim And His Gary Kings - That Ain't Right
John Brim - Wake Up America
John Brim - Movin' Out
John Brim - You Put The Hurt On Me
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