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.
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This evening's music features Chicago bluesman, formerly a sideman for Magic Sam and Muddy Waters Luther "Guitar Jr" Johnson. Enjoy!
Luther "Guitar Jr" Johnson and The Magic Rockers - Make My Getaway, Every Day I Have The Blues
"My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes."
-- Ronald Reagan
News and Opinion
Ríos Montt Guilty of Genocide: Are Guatemalan President Pérez Molina, U.S. Officials Next?
Former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was found guilty of overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. Over the past two months, nearly a hundred witnesses testified during the trial, describing massacres, torture and rape by state forces. ...
Ríos Montt becomes the first former head of state to be found guilty of genocide in his or her own country. Ríos Montt was a close ally of the United States. Former President Ronald Reagan once called him, quote, "a man of great personal integrity."
Ronald Reagan: Accessory to Genocide
More than any recent U.S. president, Ronald Reagan has been lavished with honors, including his name attached to Washington’s National Airport. But the conviction of Reagan’s old ally, ex-Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt, for genocide means “Ronnie” must face history’s judgment as an accessory to the crime
The conviction of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide against Mayan villagers in the 1980s has a special meaning for Americans who idolize Ronald Reagan. It means that their hero was an accessory to one of the most grievous crimes that can be committed against humanity.
The courage of the Guatemalan people and the integrity of their legal system to exact some accountability on a still-influential political figure also put U.S. democracy to shame. For decades now, Americans have tolerated human rights crimes by U.S. presidents who face little or no accountability. Usually, the history isn’t even compiled honestly. ...
Yet, while Guatemalans demonstrate the strength to face a dark chapter of their history, the American people remain mostly oblivious to Reagan’s central role in tens of thousands of political murders across Central America in the 1980s, including some 100,000 dead in Guatemala slaughtered by Rios Montt and other military dictators.
Indeed, Ronald Reagan – by aiding, abetting, encouraging and covering up widespread human rights crimes in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua as well as Guatemala – bears greater responsibility for Central America’s horrors than does Rios Montt in his bloody 17-month rule. Reagan supported Guatemala’s brutal repression both before and after Rios Montt held power, as well as during.
Guantanamo Prison Documents Reveal 'Brutality of Force-Feeding'
Doctors not allowed to "act independently" as military performs 'torturuous' and painful procedure
News outlet Al-Jazeera has obtained an internal document detailing the US military's approach to the ongoing hunger strike by more than 100 detainees being held at the offshore detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
Central to the document—a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manual—is the manner in which 'force-feeding' will be instituted by prison personnel and includes sections titled "General Algorithm for a Hunger Strike" and "Strategy for Detainee Biting Feed Tube".
Al-Jazeera asked Leonard Rubenstein, a lawyer at the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath and the Berman Institute of Bioethics, to review the SOP document for his impressions.
Rubenstein said the military's guidelines were especially troubling because doctors and nurses are reminded that they are "adjuncts of the security apparatus" and not authorized to "act independently" in their duties as health professionals.
According to Al-Jazeera, "The SOP grants Guantanamo Cmdr. Smith - not physicians - with the final authority to select hunger-striking prisoners for force-feedings."
Israeli Attacks on Syria Escape Security Council Scrutiny
Israel, which has launched three air strikes inside Syria since January this year, has escaped scrutiny or condemnation by a Security Council which remains sharply divided.
The continued air attacks have escalated tensions in the region and threatened a wider regional conflagration, according to reports from the Middle East.
Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of the Arab Studies Journal Jadaliyya, told IPS the Anglo-American reaction has been “the political equivalent of a standing ovation, though it remains unclear whether Washington and London’s public approval of Israeli aggression was in this case the result of a coordinated strategy or merely a Pavlovian response.”
He said the consequence has been – as it so often is in the Arab-Israel conflict – that the institutions charged with preserving international peace and security, first and foremost the U.N. Security Council, are once again caught with their pants down.
“And they have been prevented by Washington from formulating an effective response,” he added
Europe Eases Corporate Tax Dodge as Worker Burdens Rise
As politicians in Europe and the U.S. talk tough on corporate tax dodging, several of their governments are helping multinationals lower tax bills. They have been cutting corporate rates, introducing laws that encourage tax avoidance, and rejecting proposals to close loopholes. Even amid growing public outrage in Europe against austerity policies, the gulf between rhetoric and reality on taxation means individuals rather than businesses are often bearing the brunt of higher taxes.
At a time when unemployment in the European Union is at record levels, nations eager for jobs remain hesitant to alienate multinational companies by raising their taxes. Instead, countries such as Spain, Greece, and Hungary have imposed hefty sales tax increases, a hit borne most severely by poor people.
Greece takes emergency action against striking teachers
Greece on Monday took emergency action — the third this year — to ward off a strike by secondary school teachers timed to coincide with university entry exams.
The emergency order to work follows similar steps taken against metro workers in January and seamen in February as the conservative-led coalition government fights to minimise labour unrest. ...
School teachers have suffered major pay cuts as a result of the harsh austerity programme imposed on the indebted country by its international creditors.
“We have lost our salaries. All of us could lose our jobs at any given time,” high school teacher Katerina told AFP during an anti-austerity protest earlier this month.
Austerity and Debt Conspire to Wreck the Lives of Working American Families
The last great financial collapse, by contrast, transformed America’s economics. First, however, the Roosevelt administration needed to transform politics. FDR’s reforms during the Great Depression constrained both the financial abuses that caused the crash of 1929 and the political power of Wall Street. Deficit-financed public spending under the New Deal restored growth rates but did not eliminate joblessness. The much larger spending of World War II—with deficits averaging 26 percent of gross domestic product for each of the four war years—finally brought the economy back to full employment, setting the stage for the postwar recovery.
By the war’s end, the U.S. government’s public debt exceeded 120 per- cent of GDP, almost twice today’s ratio. America worked off that debt not by tightening its belt but by liberating the economy’s potential. In 1945, there was no panel like President Obama’s Bowles-Simpson commission targeting the debt ratio a decade into the future and commending ten years of budget cuts. Rather, the greater worry was that absent the stimulus of war and with twelve million newly jobless GIs returning home, the civilian economy would revert to depression. So America doubled down on its public investments with programs like the GI Bill and the Marshall Plan. For three decades, the economy grew faster than the debt, and the debt dwindled to less than 30 percent of GDP. Finance was well regulated so that there was no speculation in the public debt. The Department of the Treasury pegged the rate that the government would pay for its bonds at an affordable 2.5 percent. The Federal Reserve Board provided liquidity as necessary. ...
In 1936, John Maynard Keynes provocatively called for “the euthanasia of the rentier.” He meant that once an economy was stabilized into a high-growth regime of managed capitalism, combining low real interest rates with strictures against speculation, and using macroeconomic management of the business cycle to maintain full employment, capital markets would efficiently and even passively channel financial investment into productive enterprise. In such a world, there would still be innovative entrepreneurs, but the parasitic role of a purely financial class reaping immense profits from the manipulation of paper would dwindle to insignificance. Legitimate passive investors—pension funds, life insurance companies, small savers, and the proverbial trust accounts of widows and orphans—would reap decent returns, but there would be neither windfalls for the financial middlemen nor catastrophic risks imposed by them on the rest of the economy. Stripped of the hyperbole, this picture describes the orderly but dynamic economy of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, a time when finance was harnessed to the public interest, true innovators were rewarded, most investors earned merely normal returns, and windfall speculative profits were not available—because the rules of the game gave priority to investment in the real productive economy.
In today’s economy, which is dominated by high finance, small debtors and small creditors are on the same side of a larger class divide. The economic prospects of working families are sandbagged by the mortgage debt overhang. Meanwhile, retirees can’t get decent returns on their investments because central banks have cut interest rates to historic lows to prevent the crisis from deepening. Yet the paydays of hedge fund managers and of executives of large banks that only yesterday were given debt relief by the government are bigger than ever. And corporate executives and their private equity affiliates can shed debts using the bankruptcy code and then sail merrily on.
excerpted from from Debtors' Prison by Robert Kuttner
Climate milestone is a moment of symbolic significance on road of idiocy
The difference between 399ppm and 400ppm is small, in terms of its impacts on the world's living systems. But this is a moment of symbolic significance, a station on the Via Dolorosa of environmental destruction. It is symbolic of our failure to put the long-term prospects of the natural world and the people it supports above immediate self-interest. ...
The problem is simply stated: the power of the fossil fuel companies is too great. Among those who seek and obtain high office are people characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples, who will take money or instructions from any corporation or billionaire who offers them, and then defend those interests against the current and future prospects of humanity.
This new climate milestone reflects a profound failure of politics, in which democracy has quietly been supplanted by plutocracy. Without a widespread reform of campaign finance, lobbying and influence-peddling and the systematic corruption they promote, our chances of preventing climate breakdown are close to zero.
So here stands our political class at a waystation along the road of idiocy, apparently determined only to complete the journey.
'This Is Our Last Chance': Deep-Pocketed Dems Urge Obama to Reject Keystone XL
To avoid 'catastrophic climate disruption,' warn donors, president must take a historic stand
In a letter sent to President Obama on Friday, 150 high profile Democratic donors urged the president "to proclaim with clarity and purpose that our nation will transition away from carbon-based fossil fuels to job-creating clean energy" and take a stand once and for all against the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. ...
Despite a prolonged and dramatic national movement that has risen up to oppose the Keystone XL project, conventional wisdom in Washington supposes that the powerful influence of the oil and pipeline industry is still enough that Obama will likely approve the pipeline. A final decision is expected this summer or early fall. ...
The letter's dominant theme is the urgency of the climate change issue—and that it will be an irreversible mistake if the president chooses poorly: "Yours is the last presidency in which it is possible for America to choose a responsible path forward for itself, before climate disruption becomes unmanageably dangerous."
New Constitutional Convention Urged to End 'Democracy's Destruction'
A group of Vermont state senators are calling on Washington to hold a constitutional convention to address the “corrupting influence of money in our political system” wrought on by the Supreme Court's 2010 decision, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.
The lawmakers unveiled a Senate resolution Thursday, requesting a national convention of state legislatures be called to consider constitutional amendments that would remove corporate influence from campaign finance, returning power to "the people alone."
Under Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot restrict spending on politics by corporations, labor unions or other groups—opening the door to unrivaled political spending and influence. ...
"Our representative democracy is broken," said resolution author State Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden County. For the resolution to take effect, two thirds of state legislatures must also vote for that convention. Following, three-quarters of US states would need to ratify any proposed constitutional amendments.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
Hat tip Tardis 10:
A Little Night Music
Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson - Luther's Blues
Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson - Walkin' with you baby
Luther "Guitar Junior " Johnson & The Magic Rockers - I Need Some Air
Luther 'Guitar Junior' Johnson - Just Like Mama Said
Luther Guitar Junior Johnson - So Mean to Me
Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson and the Magic Rockers - Hoochie Coochie Man
Luther Guitar Junior Johnson w/Pinetop Perkins - Come Baby, Got My Mojo Workin'
Luther Guitar Junior Johnson - Walkin' the Dog
Luther 'Guitar Jr' Johnson - Doin the Sugar Too
Luther Johnson - If The Blues Was Whiskey
It's National Pie Day!
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