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 Delta blues musician Houston Stackhouse. Enjoy!
Houston Stackhouse and Carey Ditty Mason - Mercy Blues
“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind.”
-- Philip K. Dick
News and Opinion
“Surveillance breeds conformity”: Salon’s Glenn Greenwald interviewCameron is looking for a bit of that conformity through surveillance stuff:
LENNARD: Much of the discussion about privacy generated by Snowden’s leaks has been embedded in a legal and rights discourse. No doubt, it’s crucial to point out that our national security apparatus has systematically violated the Fourth Amendment. But the surveillance state stretches beyond where constitutional protections apply. Let’s talk about why privacy, in principle, is important and worth protecting in the first place. Can you talk a little about why you think privacy — privacy of communications, in particular — is so important? What are the deep dangers of a surveilled citizenry, in your view?
GREENWALD: I think the primary value of privacy is personal as opposed to legalistic or constitutional or political, by which I mean it’s essential to what it means to be human that we have a private life. We interact with other human beings as social animals, and live part of our lives in the public eye — that’s crucial — that’s why if you put someone in solitary confinement for 23 and a half hours a day like we do in U.S. prisons, it’s a form of torture. And it makes people go insane, because we need, as part of our human functioning, to be seen by other human beings and to be perceived by them and understood through the eyes of other people. But equally important to who we are is a realm where we can be free of those judgments, of people watching us.
That’s why people have always sought out realms where they can conduct themselves with anonymity and privacy. Where there aren’t other human eyes forming judgments and posing decrees about what they should and shouldn’t do. The reason it is so crucial is that it is only in that state that we are free to do the things that other human beings would condemn us for doing. We can be free of shame and guilt and embarrassment; it’s where creativity resides, it is where dissent to an orthodoxy can thrive. A human being who lives in a world where he thinks he is always being watched is a human being who makes choices not as a free individual but as someone who is trying to conform to what is expected and demanded of them. And you lose a huge part of your individual freedom when you lose your private realm. Politically that is why tyranny loves surveillance, because it breeds conformity. It means people will only do that which they want other people to know they’re doing — in other words, nothing that is deviant or dissenting or disruptive. It breeds orthodoxy.
David Cameron's internet porn filter is the start of censorship creep
The government's filter, which comes into full effect this month after a year of lobbying, will block far more than dirty pictures. That was always the intention, and in recent weeks it has become clear that the mission creep of internet censorship is even creepier than campaigners had feared. In the name of protecting children from a rotten tide of raunchy videos, a terrifying precedent is being set for state control of the digital commons.
Pious arguments about protecting innocence are invariably marshalled in the service of public ignorance. When the first opt-in filtering began, it was discovered that non-pornographic "gay and lesbian" sites and "sex education" content would be blocked by BT. After an outcry, the company quickly changed the wording on its website, but it is not clear that more than the wording has been changed. The internet is a lifeline for young LGBT people looking for information and support – and parents are now able to stop them finding that support at the click of a mouse.
Sexual control and social control are usually co-occurring. Sites that were found to be inaccessible when the new filtering system was launched last year included in some cases helplines like Childline and the NSPCC, domestic violence and suicide prevention services – and the thought of what an unscrupulous parent or abusive spouse could do with the ability to block such sites is chilling. ... The worst thing about the porn filter, though, is not that it accidentally blocks a lot of useful information but that it blocks information at all. With minimal argument, a Conservative-led government has given private firms permission to decide what websites we may and may not access. This sets a precedent for state censorship on an enormous scale – all outsourced to the private sector, of course, so that the coalition does not have to hold up its hands to direct responsibility for shutting down freedom of speech.
More worrying still is the inclusion of material relating to "extremism", however the state and its proxies are choosing to define that term. Bearing in mind that simple protest groups like tax justice organisation UK Uncut have been labelled extremist by some, there is every chance that the categories for what constitutes "inappropriate" online content will be conveniently broad – and there's always room to extend them. The public gets no say over what political content will now be blocked, just as we had no say over whether we wanted such content blocked at all.
NSA seeks to build quantum computer that could crack most types of encryption
In room-size metal boxes secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.
According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md. ...
The NSA appears to regard itself as running neck and neck with quantum computing labs sponsored by the European Union and the Swiss government, with steady progress but little prospect of an immediate breakthrough. ...
Quantum computers have many applications for today’s scientific community, including the creation of artificial intelligence. But the NSA fears the implications for national security.
“The application of quantum technologies to encryption algorithms threatens to dramatically impact the US government’s ability to both protect its communications and eavesdrop on the communications of foreign governments,” according to an internal document provided by Snowden.
Senator presses NSA to reveal whether it spies on members of Congress
A US senator has bluntly asked the National Security Agency if it spies on Congress, raising the stakes for the surveillance agency’s legislative fight to preserve its broad surveillance powers.
Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and socialist, asked army general Keith Alexander, the NSA’s outgoing director, if the NSA “has spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials”.
Sanders, in a letter dated 3 January, defined “spying” as “gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business”. ...
The NSA did not immediately return a request for comment. Hours after Sanders sent his letter, the office of the director of national intelligence announced that the Fisa court on Friday renewed the domestic phone records bulk collection for another 90 days.
Israeli Politicians Demonstrate Scorn For Peace Talks with Palestinians as Kerry Arrives
Secretary of State John Kerry has returned to the Middle East in a bid to revive peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. On the day of Kerry’s arrival, the Israeli interior minister and a group of lawmakers attended a ceremony marking construction of new settlement homes in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. All settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, and Palestinians have warned they could derail the talks.
Palestinian protesters greet Kerry's visit
Palestinian protesters on Friday condemned the latest efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to advance peace talks with Israel, using chants evoking the Arab uprisings and telling him to go home.
Hours before Kerry was due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a raucous crowd of several hundred took to the streets of Ramallah, the West Bank's de facto capital, chanting "Kerry, you coward, there's no place for you in Palestine!"
Separately, an official close to Abbas dismissed Kerry's drive for a "framework agreement" as biased toward Israel. ...
But Yasser Abed Rabbo, Abbas's deputy in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the plan, still being finalized, "restricts Palestinian sovereignty on Palestinian land".
"The Palestinian side will not even look at a worthless piece of paper, a framework agreement, which contains general principles for later negotiations, when the two sides have already been negotiating for months and years," Abed Rabo said in a statement published in the al-Ayyam newspaper on Friday.
$1T spending bill nears unveiling
Congress is set to unveil a giant spending bill next week that staff for appropriators have been preparing on a near daily basis throughout the holiday break.
Aides say progress on the $1 trillion, 12-part omnibus legislation has been better than expected at the subcommittee level, and their goal remains to pass the bill through both chambers by Jan. 16 to prevent a government shutdown.
The secretive process has members anticipating rushed votes when they return next week, as congressional leaders race the clock. ...
The bill is being developed according to the $1.012 trillion top-line spending cap in the budget agreement forged by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and signed into law by President Obama last week.
The Fight for $15: Campaign for Living Wage Readies National Push
The push for a true living wage—not $8.25, not $9.50, not $10.10, but an hourly wage of $15—wants to go national.
Following the victory of a $15 established hourly wage in the Washington state city of Seatac in November, coupled with the win of Kshama Sawant who ran for Seattle City Council as a Socialist Alternative candidate and a growing national movement led by low-wage retail and fast-food workers, organizers behind the '15Now Campaign' think the moment is now right to connect those across the country who are boldly calling for such an increase.
“Good jobs are disappearing while the wealthiest 1% are taking an unprecedented share of the national income," says Sawant who plans to fight for the $15 wage in Seattle where newly elected Mayor Ed Murray has also endorsed the idea. ...
In statement announcing their new campaign, organizers said they will focus on Seattle as an immediate testing ground, but consider their push a national one.
'Throw the Bums Out' in 2014? It Doesn't Look GoodMore evidence that those donations from Big Pharma go a long way with Obama...
What's the worst thing about the current 113th Congress which has been marked for accomplishing next to nothing legislatively in 2013, elevating the phrase "partisan gridlock in Washington, DC" as the most notable topic of political discussion of the year?
The worst part is that the squabbling and dysfunction are likely to continue through to the 2014 midterm elections and likely beyond.
At least that's the finding of an analysis published in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that shows—even though numerous polls reflect a consistent and "unprecedented level of contempt for Congress"—that a majority of voters "dislike members of the other party most" which in turn means that "any partisan shift in November's election will be modest."
And because political gerrymandering has been so scientifically executed in recent years, without a radical shift in public thinking or a populist groundswell capable of overwhelming the status quo, the idea that one party will vastly overpower the other seems unlikely, according to a focus group study conducted in Ohio, a state often cited as representing national political trends.
India’s Efforts to Aid Poor Worry Drug Makers - Obama "discusses the issue" with Indian PM
The drug, Herceptin, is one of the most effective treatments for an aggressive form of breast cancer. But in India, at a cost of at least $18,000 for one course of treatment, only a small fraction of the women who need it get it.
The Indian government last year threatened to allow production of less costly, generic versions of Herceptin. Its maker, Roche Holdings of Switzerland, initially resisted, but surrendered its patent rights this year in large measure because it concluded that it would lose a legal contest in Indian courts.
The skirmishing over Herceptin and other cancer medicines is part of a new and critical phase in a struggle to make drugs affordable to the world’s poorest people, one that began in earnest more than a decade ago when advocates campaigned successfully to make AIDS medicines accessible to millions of Africans. ...
American trade officials have voiced concerns about India’s treatment of drug patents, including its reasons for sometimes overriding them. President Obama discussed the issue this year with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in the Oval Office, administration officials said.
NAFTA at 20: Lori Wallach on U.S. Job Losses, Record Income Inequality, Mass Displacement in Mexico
LORI WALLACH: [L]istening to President Clinton made my blood boil, because in no year of NAFTA were 200,000 jobs created. Rather, now 20 years out, one million net U.S. jobs have been lost to the growing trade deficit with Mexico and Canada under NAFTA, and there’s a list of an explicit 400,000 with Canada, 845,000 total jobs lost to NAFTA, specific workers certified under just one narrow program called Trade Adjustment Assistance that’s very hard to qualify for.
And on that end, if you want to see the actual effect of NAFTA in your community, you can go to our website, TradeWatch.org, look at the Trade Data Center. You can put in your zip code, and actually it will pop up the list of companies. A lot of them were companies that explicitly said during the NAFTA debate, "Congress, if you pass NAFTA, we’re going to create X number of jobs in Y community." And you can actually go by the company name and see Caterpillar, GE, Chrysler promising jobs then, offshoring jobs in reality, using NAFTA’s investor protections. Now, the one place that U.S. exports did grow was in dumping subsidized corn.
Over 1.5 million campesinos in Mexico displaced. As folks know, desperate immigration from Mexico after the NAFTA wipeout increased—doubled in the years after NAFTA. Meanwhile, in the corporate tribunals, over 365,000—sorry, $365 million have been paid out to corporations attacking environmental and health laws. So even the environmental improvements didn’t happen. Poverty increasing in Mexico, job offshoring in the U.S., and that is in effect across the economy. So if you weren’t one of the people who lost your job to NAFTA, the effect of having those million people displaced from higher-wage jobs meant they were competing for the service-sector jobs in the U.S. that aren’t subject to offshoring. So the government data shows that when someone lost their job to offshoring, on average, they lost 20 percent of their income and then went into the pool of people searching for non-offshorable jobs. So even in those sectors that are growing in the service sector, wages are flat or declining, which is a key factor to this growing income inequality.
That’s the reality of 20 years of NAFTA. But despite that, now the Obama administration is trying to do NAFTA on steroids, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which, given the record, is outrageous—can be stopped, but is pending.
Lobby-a-palooza! New year brings new turn of the revolving door
It's a happy and potentially lucrative New Year for many former Capitol Hill denizens, as the turn of the calendar also brings a turn of Washington's revolving door.
As of this week, nearly 250 former congressional employees can legally begin lobbying their former colleagues, the Sunlight Foundation's post-employment lobbying tracker reveals. Included in that list are 71 former members of Congress, some of whom already have secured berths at K Street influence shops even before they were legal to lobby. (House members must wait one year after leaving office before embarking on a lobbying career; for former senators, the cooling-off period is two years.)
[Here's a full list of the eligible former members.]
Mitt Romney is Being Sued in Federal Court for Criminal RacketeeringDavid Cay Johnston has an excellent article up, well worth reading in full:
Steven “Laser” Haas is the owner and sole shareholder of Collateral Logistics Inc. (CLI) the firm which was retained to oversee the liquidation of assets in the bankruptcy of eToys in 2001.
During the process of liquidating the company Haas came across irregularities, unethical practices and outright criminal acts originating from the top at Bain Capital (Mitt Romney’s asset management firm), Goldman Sachs, Kay Bee Toys and Stage Stores, all of which were involved in the machinations to sell eToys for mere pennies to Bain through its interest in Kay Bee.
Haas filed his suit under a provision of the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statute which allows a plaintiff to become a “Private Attorney General” when it is necessary in order to address “Prosecutorial Gaps.” According to Haas, that gap was created by Colm F. Connolly, former United States Attorney in Delaware who had been a partner in the law firm of Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell (MNAT) in 2001, alleging he had failed to disclose that fact while also neglecting to investigate the complaints which Haas had lodged.
Along with Romney, Haas has named Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital, Michael Glazer Barry Gold and Paul Traub in the suit. Haas has claimed that he has evidence that the parties involved have committed perjury on 35 separate occasions — even alleging that there have been murders carried out in attempts to cover up their wrong doing.
The coming stock market collapse
Tech stocks have returned to bubble levels, thanks to PR, weak financial journalism and cheap credit
Irrational exuberance is back on Wall Street, encouraged by cheap credit lavished on heavily leveraged speculators, lax accounting rules and the unfortunate tendency to confuse the true value of stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, long a bellwether of the stock market, started the year at 13,416. Last week it hit 16,478, which is 2.5 times its low point during the Great Recession in 2009.
Given rather modest job growth, government spending cuts that have weakened the economy and other lukewarm measures of domestic and global economic growth, this rise in the Dow is difficult to explain based on rational expectations.
But the Dow’s striking 23 percent rise this year is nothing compared with the steep prices of many specific stocks, at least when traditional measures of valuation are applied.
These sky-high valuations get little skeptical coverage in the financial press, which has acted more as lapdog than watchdog in the past decade. Instead of barking warnings, many Wall Street reporters wag their tales in ways that please the speculative crowd, which, at great profit, feeds them market-moving tidbits along with a pat on the head.
US economy losing 'up to a $1bn a week' after jobless benefits cutDivineorder out up a diary with this worthy petition in it earlier today:
The US economy is losing up to a billion dollars a week because of the “fiscally irresponsible” decision to end long-term unemployment benefits, a Harvard economist said on Friday.
Professor Lawrence Katz based his assessment on official forecasts of the impact to the economy of 1.3 million jobless Americans losing benefits
The benefits, which apply to people who are unemployed for longer than six months, expired last week after a bipartisan budget deal on federal spending for the next two years failed to include a reauthorisation of the program. ...
He later told the Guardian that the calculation was based on the “multiplier effect” of cancelling the benefits program, which had been forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Applying the CBO’s estimated multiplier effect to the $400m per week being lost in benefits, Katz said, translated into a cost to the economy of between $600m and $1bn.
“It is actually fiscally irresponsible not to extend unemployment benefits,” he said. “The long-run cost to the taxpayers will be much higher from disconnecting people from the labour market.”
Tell Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits
Congress failed to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program before they left for vacation. The result? Three days after Christmas, 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans lost their unemployment benefits.
Journalist says NYPD beat and illegally arrested him during OWS march files suit
Queens-bred journalist Chris Faraone says NYPD cops illegally beat and arrested him while he was covering the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, according to a new lawsuit.
Faraone, who was writing for the Boston Phoenix, an alternative weekly, claims he was lawfully “photographing, observing and investigating” a demonstration at One Chase Manhattan Plaza on Sept. 17, 2012 when one police officer ordered additional cops to “stop, tackle, batter, search, arrest, detain and imprison” him, without probable cause.
The 34-year-old, who filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city, the NYPD and 10 unnamed cops, says five or more officers “violently forced” him to the ground. ...
Faraone claims he “repeatedly identified himself as a journalist and offered his professional credentials and identification” during the arrest.
His suit claims he was denied access to a lawyer and “directed and/or threatened by the defendants to cease his journalism/reporting activities in the city.”
U.S. Customs Won’t Apologize for Destroying Musician’s Rare Flutes
U.S. customs officials last week destroyed 11 rare flutes by a respected Canadian musician who was returning home via New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. But the agency isn't apologizing for the incident -- it says the flutes were an ecological threat.
Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection identified the instruments owned by flute virtuoso Boujemaa Razgui as agricultural products that risked introducing "exotic plant pathogens" in to the United States, a customs official tells Foreign Policy. As a result, officials destroyed every single flute without contacting Razgui in an incident that makes your holiday airport delays trivial by comparison.
Razgui said there are around 15 people in the U.S. with such flutes, which means acquiring one ahead of his upcoming performances in February may be impossible. "I'm not sure what to do," Razgui told The Boston Globe.
The Evening Greens
Exxon to Face Criminal Charges for 50,000+ Gallon Fracking Wastewater Spill
Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy will have to face criminal charges for allegedly dumping tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste at a Marcellus Shale drilling site in 2010, according to a Pennsylvania judge’s ruling on Thursday.
Following a preliminary hearing, Magisterial District Judge James G. Carn decided that all eight charges against Exxon—including violations of both the state Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act—will be “held for court,” meaning there is enough evidence to take the fossil fuel giant to trial over felony offenses.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General filed criminal charges back in September, claiming Exxon had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil.
Documents Reveal Coal Exporter Disturbed Native Archaeological Site
BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Three summers ago the company that wants to build the largest coal export terminal in North America failed to obtain the environmental permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres of land, including some wetlands.
Pacific International Terminals also failed to meet a requirement to consult first with local Native American tribes, the Lummi and Nooksack tribes, about the potential archaeological impacts of the work. Sidestepping tribal consultation meant avoiding potential delays and roadblocks for the project’s development.
It also led to the disturbance of a site from which 3,000-year-old human remains had previously been removed—and where archeologists and tribal members suspect more are buried. ...
The Gateway Pacific Terminal is one of three coal export facilities proposed in Oregon and Washington. Mining and transportation interests want to move Wyoming and Montana coal by train so it can be loaded onto vessels on the Columbia River or Puget Sound and shipped to Asia.
The projects have been met with strong opposition from various groups concerned about increases in train and vessel traffic, coal dust and climate change. ... For tribes, the stakes include the protection of their treaty fishing rights and the sanctity of their ancestral burial grounds.
Obama Disregards Court Order on Antibiotic Use in Livestock
Nothing exemplifies more clearly the corporate takeover of democratic government than the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approach to Food Inc’s routine use of antibiotics in animal feed. Thirty-six years after their 1977 finding that this practice jeopardizes human health, the FDA has given feed manufacturers three years to voluntarily remove antibiotic supplements from feed. What you won’t hear on the six o’clock news is that the the FDA move directly violates a March 2012 court ruling ordering them to ban the practice outright
Mystery Steam Over Fukushima Could Be Sign of Another Meltdown
Tepco has confirmed that (unexplained) plumes of steam have been rising from the mangled remains of Reactor Building 3. In other words, there's a chance Fukushima could be in the middle of another meltdown. ...
The Reactor 3 fuel storage pond is still home to about 89 tons of plutonium-based mixed-oxide fuel according to the The Ecologist, and should that fuel storage pond dry out, the highly radioactive rods will melt down with devastating results.
Still, there are two other slightly less severe possibilities outlined by The Ecologist. First, the molten fuel could have burnt its way through the base and into the soil below, producing steam as it comes into contact with groundwater (while simultaneously releasing radioactive contaminants into the ocean). Second, reactor rod fragments could have come into contact with rainwater, producing extreme amounts of heat and, consequently, steam. As The Ecologist notes, "Of the three choices this is probably the least serious."
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Houston Stackhouse - Big Road blues
Houston Stackhouse & Peck Curtis - Right round the corner
Houston Stackhouse & Carey Ditty Mason - That's Alright
Houston Stackhouse - Cool Drink of Water
Howlin' Wolf - I Asked For Water
David Bromberg - Jugband Song
James Blood Ulmer's Memphis Blood - I Asked for Water
Robert Nighthawk And Houston Stackhouse - Bricks In My Pillow
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!