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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 Memphis piano player, blues, r&b and doowop musician Rosco Gordon.  Enjoy!

Roscoe Gordon - Bop It!

“Whatever we may think of the merits of torturing children for pleasure, and no doubt there is much to be said on both sides, I am sure we all agree that it should be done with sterilized instruments.”

  -- G.K. Chesterton

News and Opinion

Progressive Caucus Holds Hearing on Implications of U.S. Drone Policy

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Peace and Security Task Force Chair Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and CPC Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and members of the Progressive Caucus, held a hearing today on United States drone policy.

The hearing focused on lethal drones operations abroad, questions of due process, the implications for executive and congressional war making authority, and the precedent being set as other nations rapidly adopt drone technology.

The members heard testimony from Former House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Ron Dellums, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Campaign Zeke Johnson, international human rights lawyer and New York University Professor Sarah Knuckey, Regional Policy Initiative at Open Society Foundation Program Officer Chris Rogers, counterterrorism and human rights lawyer Professor Naureen Shah, McClatchy News reporter Adam Baron and received video testimony Baraa Shiban, aYouth Representative in Yemen’s National Dialogue and Reprieve Project.

“America ought to set an example for the world to follow on protecting civil liberties and respecting human rights. It’s time our actions live up to our values,” Rep. Ellison said. “This is a national security issue—we cannot allow drones to end up in the hands of our enemies or create a political rallying point for the very people who seek to harm us.  Congress and the Obama Administration should work together to write a legal framework that makes sure any drone use has adequate oversight, avoids civilian casualties, and sets an example for the world to follow.”

“No military or intelligence program should kill innocent people or create more problems than it solves,” Rep. Grijalva said. “The drone program has, in many cases, done both. We need to know more about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and where we go from here. Blundering forward and hoping for the best is what got us where we are now. We have a rightly skeptical public and an international community tired of our excuses. It’s time we got some answers.”

“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus on this issue, and am especially grateful for their efforts in calling this hearing. We need to ensure that both chambers publically debate the implications of drones and drone warfare. We cannot retreat from our Congressional duties of oversight and accountability, especially on issues like this where the stakes are so high,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  

Reps. Lee, Grijalva, and Ellison recently sent a letterto the president asking the administration to explain the legal basis for drone strikes. “It is far past time that the White House openly discuss the drones program,” the authors wrote. “The President has full reign to protect the United States as Commander in Chief, but Congress has a vital oversight role in this issue, and we cannot shy away from those responsibilities.”

Video Testimony: Baraa Shiban

President Obama protected Bush/Cheney from criminal prosecution to protect himself

History Repeats? 'NYT' Boosts, But McClatchy Questions, Claims of Syria's Use of Chemicals

Is history repeating itself?  ... The New York Times, as it did in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, seems to be promoting (if a little less strenuously) some kind of dramatic U.S. intervention in Syria, based on WMDs.   Once again we’ve seen overheated front-page news stories, based on slim evidence, and columns by Thomas Friedman, Bill Keller and others.  And, again as in 2003, the newspaper’s editorials express caution.

Also in a re-play, reporters for McClatchy’s D.C. bureau are expressing sensible skepticism (back in the day the outfit was still owned by Knight Ridder) about evidence of WMDs, in this case, the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical agents against the rebels. ...

When I was editing Editor & Publisher we were one of the few mainstream news outlets to highlight the Knight Ridder team (for the full story see my book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq).  Later I appeared on Bill Moyers' show with Walcott and Landay.   Basically, they got he Iraq WMD story right because, unlike virtually every other major media outlet, they relied on experts outside the usual old-boy network of Pentagon, CIA, military and congressional sources.

Syria govt, rebels play blame game over chemical weapon use

Syria Skepticism -Chemical claims should be investigated, not used as pretext for war

U.S. suggestions that the Syrian government could have used chemical weapons have been treated as fact by some media outlets, and are helping to fuel the case for greater U.S. military involvement. But subsequent reporting has called into question these early, credulous reports--and highlighted the continuing media failure to treat WMD claims with the skepticism they deserve.

The claims, detailed in a White House letter to the U.S. Senate Armed Services committee, were highly qualified. As McClatchy's Jonathan Landay reported, one official described the intelligence assessment as being of "low to moderate" confidence:

In U.S. intelligence analytical parlance, “moderate confidence” generally means that information lacks sufficient corroboration, while low confidence usually means that it’s too fragmented, it isn’t authenticated and there are major concerns about the credibility of the sources.
But many media accounts were more definitive. "U.S. Now Says Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons" was on the front page of USA Today, though a subhead inside told readers that the U.S. was "Still Assessing Chemicals' Use in Attacks." On ABC World News (4/25/13), Martha Raddatz declared, "It is a stunning assessment: American intelligence now believing that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale on its own people." ...

Given the tentative nature of official claims, the media's confidence seemed misplaced, to say the least. But rather than spending time skeptically examining evidence, pundits seem far more interested in arguing that the chemical weapons allegations demanded a military escalation, based on criteria President Obama established last August, when he said that if the United States saw "a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized," that would cross a "red line."

John Kerry insists Syria’s Assad must step down

US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Thursday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will have to step down as part of any political solution in Syria, as he held a third day of talks on the bloody conflict.

Speaking as he met Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Kerry said all sides were working to “effect a transition government by mutual consent of both sides, which clearly means that in our judgement President Assad will not be a component of that transitional government.”

Kerry also officially unveiled $100 million (76 million euros) in additional US humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees, almost half of which will go to help Jordan struggling to cope with a tide of people fleeing the 26-month war.

Barbara Lee and Dick Durbin's 'Nobody-Could-Have-Known' Defense

Various senators are reportedly considering changes to the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) in light of how far beyond its scope US military action is now routinely deployed. That may seem like a welcome development, but as Marcy Wheeler notes, the officials involved and the "experts" on whom they're relying strongly suggest that any changes would entail expanding and broadening this authorization, not narrowing or rescinding it. One of the Senators who is pushing for changes is Democrat Dick Durbin, who said this:

None of us, not one who voted for it, could have envisioned we were voting for the longest war in American history or that we were about to give future presidents the authority to fight terrorism as far flung as Yemen and Somalia. I don't think any of us envisioned that possibility."

Immediately after the 9/11 attack, Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California knew exactly that which Durbin now says nobody "could have envisioned". She not only knew it, but she stood up on the floor of the Congress a mere three days after the 9/11 attack in order to cast the lone vote against the AUMF, citing precisely these dangers:

"[W]e must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.

"In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to 'take all necessary measures' to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.

"At this time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of the two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, 'I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States. I believe that with the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake.'

"Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today."

Prosecutors Seek 75-Year Sentence for U.S.-Backed Guatemalan Dictator Ríos Montt in Genocide Trial

Greenwald: U.S. oligarchs focused on military and surveillance state to put down unrest

Attorney and author Glenn Greenwald confessed Wednesday that he thinks America’s oligarchs appear to be mostly focused right now on consolidating surveillance and military might without regard for discontent across society, risking major civil unrest.

Greenwald made the comments during a panel discussion on “The Young Turks,” joined by journalists David Sirota and Michael Hastings. “I’ve not understood this for a long time,” he said. “If you have serious social discontent, and you’re a member of the elite and you perceive that discontent threatening the structure on which you position and privilege depend, which is what happens, people nearly always want the population pacified.”

“You can do one of two things in response to that discontent: You can try to placate it, whether symbolically placate it or substantively placate it so you avoid that kind of extreme income disparity… [and] even things out a just little bit more, however much you need to calm people down; or you consolidate your own power so that even if people become discontent, there’s nothing they can do to you because you’ve created this massive militarized state, this massive surveillance state. Our elite appears to be doing the later, and very little of the former, if any.”

Disgraced former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling receives prison sentence reduction in new DOJ deal

Disgraced former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling receives prison sentence reduction in new DOJ deal

The prison sentence of disgraced former Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling will be cut by as much as 10 years under a deal announced Wednesday by federal criminal prosecutors.

Currently in prison on a 24 year sentence for for securities fraud, false statements and other charges, Skilling will see his jail term reduced to between 14 years and 17 and a half years under the agreement that will end his long battle against conviction.

Judge Sim Lake, who presided over Skilling’s trial in 2006, set his new sentencing for June 21, 2013.

Under the deal set Wednesday, Skilling agreed to allow $40 million of his forfeited assets to be distributed to victims of his crimes.

He also agreed to stop appealing his conviction and sentence, drawing a close to a legal struggle that began with the spectacular collapse of the high-flying Texas energy and trading conglomerate in 2001.

Peace at the end of a long PKK struggle?

Clothing Giant Benetton Admits Connection to Factory Where Disaster Has More Than 900 Dead

On the same day that news of a separate factory fire near Bangladesh claimed the lives of eight people and the official death toll from last month's Rana Plaza factory disaster near Dhaka  surpassed 900 victims, the global clothing giant Benetton confirmed, despite earlier denials, that the factory was part of its supply chain.

Though the global outrage over the working conditions and treatment of garment workers has risen alongside the bloodshed in Dhaka, labor rights groups continue to say that the tweaks to improve the industry offered by the manufacturers and retailers will do little to improve the lives of the workers. ...

The confession of Benetton's connection to the disaster comes only after initial denials of their involvement were disproved when clothing with Benetton labels were pulled from the rubble.

Chicago Workers Open New Cooperatively Owned Factory Five Years After Republic Windows Occupation

Mexican Worker-Run Tire Factory a Success

Hedge funds in search of distress take a look at Detroit

In the past two decades, a group of specialized hedge funds have transformed corporate bankruptcies, injecting much-needed capital while at the same time drawing fire as "vultures."

Now these same funds may be poised to descend on another landscape: struggling cities and counties - and no place beckons more than Detroit. ...

With $8.6 billion in long-term debt, Detroit would be comparable to the biggest corporate failures if it eventually files for bankruptcy, a major advantage for big hedge funds that are used to investing hundreds of millions of dollars at a time.

The sheer size of Detroit's debt should make it easier for the funds to track down very large chunks of bonds, magnifying their profit potential, cutting their research and advisory costs and giving them leverage when it comes to restructuring talks. ....

Detroit was once America's fifth largest city and a thriving center of U.S. industry. Now, its population has plummeted to 700,000 from a peak of 1.8 million, a third live in poverty and basic services such as street lighting have broken down. ... Even if the city does not file for bankruptcy, its debt will likely be restructured, providing an opportunity for hedge funds to make a profit. ...

Distressed debt funds love to jump in when most bail out. But with the coffers of U.S. companies overflowing with cash, there has been a dearth of the debt defaults, bankruptcies and liquidations that such funds normally feast on.

By contrast, a small but potentially growing number of U.S. cities and towns are struggling with pay and pension obligations that they took on in the boom years.

Warren’s proposal: Offer college students the same interest rates as banks

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give college students the same interest rates on their federal student loans as banks do when borrowing from the Federal Reserve.

“If the Federal Reserve can float trillions of dollars to large financial institutions at low interest rates to grow the economy, surely they can float the Department of Education the money to fund our students, keep us competitive, and grow our middle class,” Warren said. ...

“Right now, a big bank can get a loan through the Federal Reserve discount window at a rate of about .75 percent,” Warren said. “But this summer a student who is trying to get a loan to go to college will pay almost 7 percent. In other words, the federal government is going to charge students interest rates that are nine times higher than the rates for the biggest banks–the same banks that destroyed millions of jobs and nearly broke this economy. That isn’t right.”

Toxic Benzene Fills Air Weeks After Tar Sands Spill

More than a month after ExxonMobil's pipeline spilled thousands of barrels tar sands crude, Arkansas Attorney General warns of nauseating conditions in area

Five weeks after ExxonMobil's Pegasus pipeline ruptured and spewed thousands of barrels of tar sands oil in Mayflower, Arkansas, residents are stuck "on their own" as they suffer from health problems following noxious black cloak that enveloped their neighborhood.

"Both the subdivision and the cove look more like construction sites than neighborhoods," Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said at a press conference on Tuesday of the cove area of Lake Conway. "There's heavy equipment everywhere, much of it contaminated with oil as it goes down roads and through people's yards."

And in contrast to claims from the government and ExxonMobil that the air is safe to breathe, McDaniel said, "Many continue to suffer from headaches and nausea and air sampling continues to show the carcinogen benzene remains in the air."

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Killing Civilians Is More Popular Than You'd Think–Especially Among Pundits

Between Two Economists Lies the American Center

A Little Night Music

Rosco Gordon - Just a Little Bit

Roscoe Gordon - Surely I love you

Rosco Gordon - No More Doggin

Rosco Gordon - Booted

Rosco Gordon - T-Model Boogie

Rosco Gordon - Sally Jo

Wayne Bennett + Rosco Gordon - Hello Baby

Rosco Gordon - Let's Get High, Bop With Me Baby

Rosco Gordon - A Girl To Love

Rosco Gordon - You Got My Bait

Rosco Gordon - New Orleans Wimmen

Rosco Gordon - The Chicken, Love For You Baby

Rosco Gordon - Cheese and Crackers, Shoobie Oobie

Rosco Gordon - Sit Right Here

Roscoe Gordon & The Red Tops - Chicken In The Rough

Rosco Gordon - I'm Locked Up

Rosco gordon - A little bit of magic

Rosco Gordon - Rosco´s Boogie

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!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.


Will the Congressional Progressive Caucus hearing on drone use make a difference?

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