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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 one of the great blues voices, Koko Taylor, The Queen of the Blues.  Enjoy!

Koko Taylor - Ernestine

“Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.”

  -- H.L. Mencken

News and Opinion

NSA statement does not deny 'spying' on members of Congress

The National Security Agency on Saturday released a statement in answer to questions from a senator about whether it “has spied, or is … currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials”, in which it did not deny collecting communications from legislators of the US Congress to whom it says it is accountable. ...

The statement read: “NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.

The NSA refuses to deny spying on members of Congress

Sanders didn't use the word "spy" lightly. He was careful to define his terms, indicating he meant the collection of phone records from personal as well as official telephones, "content from Web sites visited or e-mails sent," and data that companies collect but don't release to the public. ...

The answer is telling. We already know that the NSA collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States. That program was renewed for the 36th time on Friday. If members of Congress are treated no differently than other Americans, then the NSA likely keeps tabs on every call they make as well.

We have erected an enormous, expensive, marble, democracy theme park.

Every 'Threat' The NSA Spreads FUD About Seems To Be Something The NSA Itself Is Actually Doing

Nearly a year ago, well before all the Snowden leaks, we had a discussion about how, for all the talk from Keith Alexander about how the US was facing "unprecedented cyberattacks" that might bring about a "cyber Pearl Harbor," in reality, it appeared that the real global threat to computer systems was... the US government itself, via Keith Alexander's "US Cyber Command," which had, by far, the most sophisticated and advanced digital attack unit and wasn't afraid to use it. In fact, the US government seems to think it has incredibly broad powers to attack digitally. Of course, the nature of those attacks have become a lot more clear lately. And, as a part of that, one thing that's becoming clear: every time you hear a scary story about a kind of attack that some foreigners might do, you can pretty much guarantee: the NSA has already done it.

Napolitano: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should not be given clemency

The former secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano on Sunday added her voice to opposition to clemency or a plea deal being offered to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked thousands of documents on the agency's surveillance operations to media outlets including the Guardian. ...

"From where I sit today, I would not put clemency on the table at all," said Napolitano, who was homeland security secretary from 2009 to September last year, in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press. She added: "I think Snowden has exacted quite a bit of damage and did it in a way that violated that law. The damage we'll see now and we'll see it for years to come." ...

Appearing on Sunday on ABC's This Week, Senator [Rand] Paul was also asked about clemency for Snowden. Referring to remarks he made suggesting Snowden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, should share a prison cell, Paul said: “I don't think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison – that's why he fled. He probably would come home for a few years in prison, which would be not unlike what James Clapper should get for lying to Congress.”

Rand Paul to file lawsuit against NSA

Glenn Greenwald to Bolling: Gov't Labels People Like Snowden Traitors, History Calls Them Patriots

Journalist Glenn Greenwald joined Eric Bolling on Hannity Friday night to talk about the continuing debate over the NSA and Edward Snowden, especially the question of whether Snowden is a patriot or a traitor. Bolling and Greenwald took note of how this debate does not fall neatly along political lines, and Greenwald said “the breakdown is do you have primary allegiance to the government… or is your allegiance to the Constitution?”

He told Bolling that since the the time of the Founders, the government has always branded people like Snowden, trying to get information to the people, as traitors, but ultimately “history views them as patriots.”

Obama plans intelligence surveillance reforms, aides say

President Barack Obama is preparing a package of intelligence reforms that will probably put a public advocate for the first time in the secret court that approves surveillance practices and remove a controversial telephone records database from direct government control, aides said.

With plans to unveil the changes days before the State of the Union address on Jan. 28, key presidential advisers are looking skeptically at a separate proposal to require a federal judge to approve each use of a "national security letter" except in emergencies, however.

Law enforcement officials issue the letters, a little-known form of administrative subpoena that doesn't require a warrant, to secretly compel disclosure of otherwise private customer records by Internet providers, financial institutions, telephone and credit companies, and other services and organizations.

The FBI has issued more than 123,000 such letters for people in or from the U.S. since 2004, federal records show, including more than 15,000 in 2012, the last year for which data are available.

Obama has not made his own position clear, but the proposal to require judicial review each time the government seeks third-party records has sparked the most push-back from national security officials, including the FBI and some top White House advisers.

Chris Hedges : The Last Gasp of American Democracy

This is our last gasp as a democracy. The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression. If we do not do so we will see ourselves become a nation of captives.

The public debates about the government’s measures to prevent terrorism, the character assassination of Edward Snowden and his supporters, the assurances by the powerful that no one is abusing the massive collection and storage of our electronic communications miss the point. Any state that has the capacity to monitor all its citizenry, any state that has the ability to snuff out factual public debate through control of information, any state that has the tools to instantly shut down all dissent is totalitarian. Our corporate state may not use this power today. But it will use it if it feels threatened by a population made restive by its corruption, ineptitude and mounting repression. The moment a popular movement arises—and one will arise—that truly confronts our corporate masters, our venal system of total surveillance will be thrust into overdrive. ...

The courts and legislative bodies of the corporate state now routinely invert our most basic rights to justify corporate pillage and repression. They declare that massive and secret campaign donations—a form of legalized bribery—are protected speech under the First Amendment. They define corporate lobbying—under which corporations lavish funds on elected officials and write our legislation—as the people’s right to petition the government.

Here's an illustration of Hedges' statement about how corporate cash and influence on elective government has undermined democracy:
North Carolina: Battleground State

Pushing the TPP, Obama is Repeating the Mistakes of NAFTA

"[O]nce the Obama administration took office, it began bowing to the wishes of corporate America, which wanted these new trade agreements and certainly did not want the administration to renegotiate the existing ones. But we could have predicted this, because actually during the campaign itself, one of Obama's aides kind of whispered quietly that corporations didn't really need to worry about the renegotiation of NAFTA, because he was only saying it for the purpose of the campaign."

Zapatista's Warning Over NAFTA Rings True 2 Decades Later

And finally, after 20 years, we can see the reality of the Zapatistas. They have been inviting thousands of us to visit the communities. They are opening the doors for these thousands of people. And we are seeing how they have transformed, from scratch, without a penny from the government, they have transformed completely their own reality. You can see there is no exploitation. The material conditions have improved fantastically. There is no hunger in the [incompr.] in the area Zapatista. They have their own clinics, their own schools, their own system of government. There is no oppression, no exploitation. There is a very radical and spectacular change.

It is not only the material conditions. These are very important, but it is basically the possibility of self-government, real democracy, the people in charge of their own lives, and taking the decisions of what they want or what they don't want. And they are telling us all of the people in Mexico, all the other indigenous people, all the Mexicans, but also to many other people in the world in this current situation, when many people see the most profound crisis in the history of humankind and they don't see any option, the Zapatistas are telling us there is an option. You can construct something else, a different kind of society, in the belly of the beast, within this system, this oppressive system that we are suffering.

White House ‘We the People’ petitions unanswered two years later

“There are currently 30 We the People petitions that have crossed the threshold for an official White House reply but not yet gotten one, including eight that have been waiting more than one year,” Joseph Marks wrote for NextGov on Thursday this week. ...

In the two-plus years since being launched, the White House has undoubtedly been aware of the popularity of the We the People section of its site. Originally the administration required that petitions receive only 5,000 signatures to warrant a response, and then raised that threshold to 25,000 autographs and eventually 100,000. ...

 A petition demanding labels for all genetically modified foods, for example, was created within days of the site’s launch and needed to get the support of only 5,000 people to provoke a response. When that deadline passed 30 days later, it had been signed by more than 51,000 people. And while two states — Connecticut and Maine — have each managed to vote in favor of GMO label laws during that span, the White House has failed to even issue a cookie-cutter response, according to NextGov’s report.

When computer prodigy Aaron Swartz committed suicide last January amid a federal court case surrounding hacking charges, the prosecution was quickly condemned by many with allegations of prosecutorial overreach. Within days of his death a petition was launched asking Pres. Obama to remove from office Carmen Ortiz, the US attorney for Massachusetts who prosecuted Swartz. That petition was signed by more than double the 25,000 signatures it needed then, but the White House has stayed silent. A separate petition asking for the termination of Assistant US Attorney for Massachusetts Stephen Heymann also accumulated enough signatures for a response, but the White House remains quiet 11 months later.

Unemployment insurance extension lacks GOP support

f35 vs unemployedA bipartisan plan to once again provide federal unemployment insurance for more than 1 million Americans appears to be falling short of the Republican support needed to clear a key procedural vote scheduled for Monday evening in the Senate.

Payments for about 1.3 million out-of-work people expired last month after lawmakers did not extend the program as part of a bipartisan budget agreement. Responding to the concerns of liberal interest groups, Democratic lawmakers and the unemployed, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) vowed to hold votes on restarting the benefits as soon as the Senate reconvened in 2014.

Supporters are rallying around a proposal by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) that would provide benefits to eligible workers for three months, at a cost of $6.5 billion. A procedural vote on the plan is expected Monday evening after a vote to confirm Janet Yellen as the new head of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The plan needs at least 60 votes of support to survive a threatened GOP filibuster. With Heller and 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, supporters still need at least four votes. But many GOP senators say they will not back extending the program, because Reed and Heller did not outline a way to pay for the billions of dollars in benefits. And even if the proposal passed the Senate, House Republican leaders have expressed no interest in extending the program because the Senate proposal lacks a "pay for."

Beaten by blackmail and betrayal at Boeing

Workers at Boeing facilities in Washington state narrowly ratified drastic concessions demanded by a highly profitable company.

In A devastating blow to not just the machinists' union but the entire labor movement, workers at Boeing's main production facilities in the Puget Sound region approved--by a razor-thin margin of 51 percent to 49 percent--approved an eight-year contract extension with historic concessions in exchange for uncertain promises that thousands of jobs will remain in Washington state to build the new 777X airliner. ...

The vote was a stunning reversal of the overwhelming rejection of a very similar proposal in a November vote by members of International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers District 751.

In the month and a half that followed, Boeing escalated its naked blackmail, threatening the jobs of IAM members if they didn't accept concessions. The giant aircraft maker had help in its extortion campaign--from the political elite of Washington state, dominated by the Democratic Party; a compliant mainstream media; and top leaders of the IAM, who were determined to shove the concessions contract down the machinists' throats.

Retirement Theft in Four Despicable Steps by the 1%

Conservatives say that Social Security is too expensive, and that cutbacks and a later retirement age are necessary. But they refuse to acknowledge the facts about missing revenue. Annual tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and corporations is in the trillions of dollars, over double the cost of Social Security.

Big corporations are the worst offenders. The numbers are startling. For every dollar they paid relative to payroll tax in the 1950s, they now pay ten cents. In just the past ten years they've cut their tax rate in half.

The sum total of tax underpayments, tax haven losses, corporate tax avoidance, and tax expenditures (most of which benefit the very rich) is over $2 trillion. Although Social Security costs less than half of that, Congress is targeting Americans who have paid into it at the highest rate, while tax avoiders are left undisturbed.

lambert over at Corrente has proposed a 12 plank platform for the Dems.  Perhaps after some discussion over time, we might be able to help him out a bit. Here are his planks:

    A living wage
    Medicare for all
    Tax the rich
    Post Office bank
    Jobs guarantee
    Debt jubilee
    Net neutrality
    End the wars
    Restore the Bill of Rights
    Many co-ops
    Few banksters
    Carbon negative economy

[See link for lambert's explanations of the planks]

Rethinking Marijuana: As Colorado Opens World’s First Pot Retail Stores, NY To Allow Medical Usage

Colorado pot shops will run out of marijuana within days

Marijuana dispensaries in Colorado are finding it impossible to keep up with the demands of recreational users.

The first five days of days of legalized sales of marijuana have been big business for dispensary owners — so much so that some shops even closed early last Wednesday, the first day on which such sales were legal.

Supply simply can’t keep up with demand.

“We are going to run out,” Toni Fox, owner of the 3D Cannabis Center, told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “It’s insane. This weekend will be just as crazy. If there is a mad rush, we’ll be out by Monday.”

Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Gay Marriage In Utah

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked a judge's order that allowed for gay marriage in Utah.

That order will keep the state's ban on same-sex marriage alive until a federal appeals court has a chance to rule on the judge's decision.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled last month that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. ...

The state began handing out marriage licenses after the judge's ruling, but now gay couples will have to put their wedding plans on hold. If the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the judge's ruling, then gay marriage will be legal in Utah. It's likely that whichever side loses its case in Utah will ask the Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of gay marriage.

The Evening Greens

Wyoming May Act to Plug Abandoned Wells as Natural Gas Boom Ends

DENVER — Hundreds of abandoned drilling wells dot eastern Wyoming like sagebrush, vestiges of a natural gas boom that has been drying up in recent years as prices have plummeted.

The companies that once operated the wells have all but vanished into the prairie, many seeking bankruptcy protection and unable to pay the cost of reclaiming the land they leased. Recent estimates have put the number of abandoned drilling operations in Wyoming at more than 1,200, and state officials said several thousand more might soon be orphaned by their operators.

Wyoming officials are now trying to address the problem amid concerns from landowners that the wells could contaminate groundwater and are a blight on the land.

This month, Gov. Matt Mead proposed allocating $3 million to pay for plugging the wells and reclaiming the land around them. And the issue is expected to be debated during next year’s legislative session as lawmakers seek to hold drilling companies more accountable. ...

[G]iven the number of wells already abandoned and the concern that more will soon be deserted, the money is not expected to go far. The state estimated that closing the 1,200 wells already abandoned would cost about $8 million.

Compounding the problem, state officials estimate that Wyoming may also have to plug 2,300 wells that are sitting idle but have not been entirely abandoned by operators.

Warren Buffett Bought Stake in Pipeline Company on Same Day as North Dakota Oil Train Explosion

On December 30, the same day a Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) oil train derailed and exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, Warren Buffett — owner of holding company giant Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF — bought a major stake in pipeline logistics company Phillips Specialty Products Inc.

Owned by Phillips 66, a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, Phillips Specialty Products' claim to fame is lubricating oil's movement through pipelines, increasingly crucial for the industry to move both tar sands crude and oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in an efficient manner. ...

In the rail sphere alone, BNSF moves over 1 million barrels per day of Bakken crude to market, with The Dallas Morning News declaring in June 2013 that "without BNSF, the great North Dakota oil boom wouldn’t be as big." ...

Dubbed "bomb trains" by many train crews due to their volatility and containment of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the smoking gun in Casselton was the mushroom cloud ascending after the BNSF train exploded.

Export of American Oil Is Contentious Industry Goal After 4-Decade Federal Ban

Emboldened by the recent boom in U.S. crude production, oil company executives and others closed the year by launching a highly public push for the right to freely export U.S. crude oil. The move is a 180-degree change from 40 years of telling Americans that the country needs all the oil it can get to achieve energy independence and to protect consumers and the economy from oil and gasoline price shocks.

It's a particularly dicey appeal to make right now because the call for oil exports—and the industry's rationale for it—run counter to the arguments that oil companies and politicians are still using to justify a host of industry-backed initiatives, including the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project that would import oil from Canada.

What's more, for the American public, every discussion about oil policy ultimately boils down to one question: What would it do to gasoline prices? On that front, unrestricted oil exports would be a difficult sell. So far, the domestic oil boom has lowered the cost of U.S. crude and enriched the industry and nearby communities, but it's provided little relief to consumers at the pump. In the wake of that disappointment, export proponents would have to convince Americans that fuel costs won't be driven higher once homegrown oil starts flowing to the likes of Europe, Latin America and China—and that's an assurance no one can make.

Canada's Lubicon Lake Nation Continue Anti-fracking Campaign, Appeal Court Injunction

Greenland explores Arctic mineral riches amid fears for pristine region

London Mining, a British mineral company, is trying to attract Chinese and other international investors to build a £1.5bn iron ore mine just outside the Arctic Circle in Greenland.

The move comes as BP and Shell join others exploring for oil and gas in the pristine waters off Greenland, as concerns grow that the wave of industrialisation in the region will damage the pristine environment.

Greenland and the wider Arctic is seen as one of the new frontiers for exploiting mineral wealth, but uncertain national boundaries have also opened up potential political, if not military, conflicts. ...

The project has received government approval and could result in an influx of more than 3,000 construction workers into the country, which has a population of 57,000, to build a port and pipeline to serve the mine.

At present there is no mining of any kind in Greenland, but the cash-strapped and semi-autonomous country is keen to break away from financial and political dependence on its historical owner, Denmark.

Coming to a Field Near You: 'Agent Orange Corn'

Despite widespread opposition from food safety, environmental and watchdog groups, as well as health professionals and concerned consumers, the USDA has paved the way for the commercial use of genetically engineered crops dubbed "Agent Orange" corn and soybeans.

In its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released Friday, the agency said that its "preferred" option for Dow AgroSciences' "Enlist" corn and soybean, genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D, is to deregulate them.

2,4-D, the third most widely used herbicide in the U.S., is made by Dow Chemical, and was a component of Agent Orange. The herbicide has been linked to Parkinson's, birth defects, reproductive problems, and endocrine disruption.

Critics say that green-lighting these two genetically engineered crops will expand the use of toxic herbicides at the expense of public and environmental health, while padding the coffers of the pesticide industry.

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Is media just another word for control?

Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer Than You May Realize - How Do We Finish the Job?

JP Morgan About To Pay $2 Billion For Role In Madoff Fraud—More Wall St Crime, Still No Jail Time

Thinking of Planting or Replacing a Tree at Home? Consider This

A Little Night Music

Koko Taylor - Wang Dang Doodle

Koko Taylor - I' m a Woman

Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor - Born Under a Bad Sign

Hound Dog Taylor - Little Walter - Koko Taylor

Koko Taylor - I'd Rather Go Blind

Koko Taylor - Let the good times roll

Koko Taylor - I'm Ready

Koko Taylor - Twenty Nine Ways

Muddy Waters &  Koko Taylor- I Got What It Takes

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!

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