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 Texas bluesman, "The Master of the Telecaster," Albert Collins. Enjoy!
Albert Collins - If trouble was money
News and Opinion
Obama demonstrates his deep concern for the information and opinions of privacy advocates by declining to meet with them. I guess he's already paid the NSA to spy on them, so he knows what they're planning to say anyway.
White House meets with privacy advocates to discuss NSA surveillance, Obama will not attend meeting
Privacy advocates head to the White House on Thursday for what is likely to be their last chance to convince US President Barack Obama to decisively end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications data.
Representatives of the major privacy and civil libertarian organizations – including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic) and the Open Technology Institute – arrive at the White House for a mid-afternoon meeting as expectations mount that Obama will propose changing the National Security Agency’s controversial database of all domestic phone call records.
But the civil liberties groups expressed concern that pushback from the NSA, its allies on Capitol Hill and those within the Obama administration will lead Obama to make cosmetic changes, rather than ending the mass surveillance, first reported by the Guardian thanks to leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden. ...
On Thursday morning, Obama will meet with key legislators overseeing the surveillance efforts, including skeptics like Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. On Friday, White House staff members are expected to meet with technology firms, which the White House did not identify, to hear their concerns as well.
Obama will not attend the Thursday afternoon meeting with the privacy advocates. Their liaison to the president will be White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.
European parliament invites Edward Snowden to testify via video
A European parliament committee has invited Edward Snowden to testify via video link in its investigation of US surveillance practices.
The justice and civil liberties committee voted 36-2 with one abstention on Thursday to seek testimony from the former NSA contractor, who has exposed the reach of the US secret surveillance apparatus.
No date has been proposed and it was not immediately clear if Snowden would accept the invitation.
Glenn Greenwald: My answers to questions about the New News Site– First Look– and NSA Reporting
I am not a “partner” in the new entity in any legal or financial way. The journalism company that has been created is a non-profit, and I own none of it, and that was the plan from the start. The tech company – created to build privacy technologies and other tools – is for-profit, and I own none of that. The same is true of Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.
My relationship to First Look is fundamentally unchanged from my relationship to Salon and the Guardian: I will write my blog and news articles which they publish. ...
The claim that we are “holding back documents” for some nefarious or self-interested purpose is and always has been false. I have discussed many times before – most prominently here - why our agreement with our source, along with related legal issues, prevents any sort of mass release of documents , but I have been working endlessly, as has Laura, to continue to publish stories all around the world, including publishing many stories and documents after we formed our new venture .
Not only have I published new documents in Norway, Sweden, France, Spain, and Holland after we formed our new venture, but I also published one of the most attention-generating stories yet in the Huffington Post just five weeks ago. Similarly, Laura has published numerous big articles and key NSA documents in both der Spiegel and the NYT after we formed our new venture. We’re doing the exact opposite of this accusation: we’re publishing documents and stories aggressively all over the world with other media outlets until our First Look site is ready.
We will continue to publish aggressively with other outlets until we are up and running at First Look. In fact, I am working right now with other news outlets, including in the U.S., on big stories. I’m not “holding back” anything: of all the many entities with thousands of Snowden documents, I have published more NSA documents, in more nations around the world, than anyone. And there are many, many more that will be published in the short-term.
Daniel Ellsberg: On Secrecy, Oaths, and Edward Snowden
[C]ontrary to the frequent assertions in the last week ... that Snowden is particularly reprehensible because he "broke his OATH of secrecy," neither Snowden nor anyone else broke such a secrecy "oath."
Such an oath doesn't exist (look up "oath" on the web). Rather he—and I—broke an agreement (known as Standard Form 312) which was a condition of employment. It provides for civil or administrative penalties (e.g., losing a clearance or a job) for disclosing classified information: serious enough to keep nearly everyone quiet about...anything classified, no matter how illegal or dangerous.
Guantanamo Prisoner: People Are Called "Packages," Stripped of Names and Basic Human Rights
It is not enough that we are called packages. At best, we are numbers. I worry that when I come home that my children will call for "Daddy", and I will sit unmoving. I am 239. I even refer to myself as 239 these days. I am not sure when I will ever be anything else. It is much easier to deny human rights to those who are not deemed to be "human".
I have been reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) so I could mark it with the violations the US government commits against us in this facility at Guantánamo Bay. I have been studying each article and on virtually every occasion I have noted how the US military is doing the opposite. After going through all of the articles, I have identified one underlying motive that leads the US to violate the whole declaration.
It is national security. This is the coathanger the government uses to suspend all of these rights. It is always a matter of national security. The US military violates its own constitution. What is almost sadder is to watch the rest of the world credulously accept that the US government has good reason to jettison the very liberties that the US constitutional convention felt were so important – all in the name of protecting those same rights. At the same time, they conduct a daily charade here in Guantánamo – they stage everything that visitors see, and they brag about how well this place is run. What shameless people they are.
In Blow to Diplomacy, Nearly Half of Senate Backing Iran Sanctions
Nearly half of the U.S. Senate has lined up behind a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill since it was introduced just before the holiday recess—a significant gain in support for legislation that many warn could sabotage the diplomatic processes underway and risk a catastrophic war. ...
According to a public roster, 48 senators—15 of them Democrats—have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. This is a significant jump from the bill's initial 26 co-sponsors upon introduction December 19. The bill requires 51 votes to pass the Senate. ...
The so-called Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013 (S. 1881) was introduced by powerful Republicans and Democrats: Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The Obama administration has publicly condemned the legislation and vowed to veto it if it passes, indicating cracks in the Democratic party.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is pouring lobbying muscle into the legislation, which pushes for further sanctions on Iran and imposes near-impossible conditions on a final deal.
Experts warn that this provision is in direct violation of an interim agreement reached in late November in Geneva that the U.S. will "refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions" during the six-month period the agreement is in effect.
Iraq’s Real Problem: A US Occupation legacy of Sectarian Politics
Violence in Iraq is again in the news. The biggest problem we face about what is going on in Iraq is the disinformation campaign to which we have been subjected since the 2003 invasion and occupation.
Iraq, which had its infrastructure and institutions demolished in 2003, was rebuilt on political and sectarian lines. Originally Iraq’s army had been based on a nation-wide forced conscription (in which all sects and ethnicities were represented according to their percentages in society). All that was abolished in 2003 in favor of a militia-based structure. Iraq’s current military and security forces are made of former Chalabi-led Iraq National Congress militiamen, Iran-based Badr militia, Mahdi Army militia and other sectarian based militias.
It is as though the President of the U.S. were to abolish the Armed Forces and form a new military force from recruits from extremist groups. Imagine the racial and sectarian killings that would happen here. ...
Supporting the Baghdad government with arms is big mistake; instead, the White House should open talks with the Tribal leaders in these provinces, with the Sunni leaders in the Parliament and pressure the Iraqi government to reform their military and security apparatus and keep the commitment to the April 2014 elections. Unfortunately the media is still playing the old movie of supporting the central government to “fight the bogeyman.”
If this failed policy continues, of blindly supporting the central government without looking beyond the headlines to see what is really going on, Iraq will boil over worse than Syria.
US the biggest threat to world peace in 2013 – poll
The US has been voted as the most significant threat to world peace in a survey across 68 different countries. Anti-American sentiment was not only recorded in antagonistic countries, but also in many allied NATO partners like Turkey and Greece.
A global survey conducted by the Worldwide Independent Network and Gallup at the end of 2013 revealed strong animosity towards the US’s role as the world’s policeman. Citizens across over 60 nations were asked: “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?”
The US topped the list, with 24 percent of people believing America to be the biggest danger to peace. Pakistan came second, with 8 percent of the vote and was closely followed by China with 6 percent. Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and North Korea came in joint fourth place with 5 percent of the vote.
The threat from the US was rated most highly in the Middle East and North Africa, those areas most recently affected by American military intervention. Moreover, the survey showed that even Americans regard their country as a potential threat with 13 percent of them voting the US could disrupt global status quo.
Latin America expressed mixed feelings towards its northerly neighbor, with Peru, Brazil and Argentina all flagging the US as the most dangerous country
United States sending more troops and tanks to South Korea
The United States said on Tuesday it will send 800 more soldiers and about 40 Abrams main battle tanks and other armored vehicles to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to East Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The battalion of troops and M1A2 tanks and about 40 Bradley fighting vehicles from the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas, will begin a nine-month deployment in South Korea on February 1.
A Pentagon spokesman said the personnel would remain for nine months but on departing would leave their equipment behind to be used by follow-on rotations of U.S. forces.
"This addition of forces to Korea is part of the rebalance to the Pacific. It's been long planned and is part of our enduring commitment to security on the Korean peninsula," Army Colonel Steve Warren said.
Top U.S. tax breaks to cost $12 trillion over decade, benefit wealthy: CBO
The top ten tax deductions, credits and exclusions will keep $12 trillion out of federal government coffers over the next decade, and several of them mainly benefit the wealthiest Americans, a new study from the Congressional Budget Office shows.
The top 20 percent of income earners will reap more than half of the $900 billion in benefits from these tax breaks that will accrue in 2013, the non-partisan CBO said on Wednesday.
Further, 17 percent of the total benefits would go to the top 1 percent of income earners -- families earning roughly $450,000 or more. The same group that was hit with a tax rate hike in January.
The benefits of preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends, a break worth $161 billion this year, go almost entirely to the wealthy, including 68 percent to the top one percent of earners.
50 Years After the War on Poverty, Will the Middle Class Become the New Poor?
The gaps between the rich and poor are the widest they have been in a century, and the middle class is disappearing into the chasm. According to research by economist Emmanuel Saez, the share of income that goes to the top 1 percent has more than doubled since 1964. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the top 1 percent has sucked up nearly all of the income gains in the first three years of the “recovery" — a stupifying 95 percent. The fluidity of American society used to be taken for granted, but now the U.S. lags behind Europe in measurements of mobility.
Not only is the climb to middle-class stability increasingly steep, the fall into poverty is more likely. The Great Recession brought home an ugly reality: nowadays it only takes one pink slip, foreclosure notice or catastrophic medical bill to push economically secure people into the ranks of the poor — even people with college diplomas and impressive resumes.
Why is this happening? Not because of some cosmic forces beyond our control, but because of misguided policies put into place by our elected officials and paid for by an increasingly out-of-touch business elite. ...
New research shows that four out of five U.S. adults will struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives. What’s especially interesting is that the face of poverty is changing. You are still more likely to be poor if you are black or brown, but census data show that race disparities in the poverty rate have significantly narrowed since the 1970s. By the time they turn 60, a whopping 76 percent of whites will experience economic insecurity, defined as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government assistance like food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line.
You read that correctly. Three out of four white people will get a chance to know economic panic before they reach retirement age.
The Poverty Line Was Designed Assuming Every Family Had a Housewife Who Was a 'Skillful Cook'
The official poverty line, as I wrote yesterday, is a dated and crude statistical concept that in many ways fails to capture America's historical success at fighting economic need. It was based on the cost of food in 1963, mostly because the Department of Agriculture had some idea of what a basic grocery budget should look like, whereas there wasn't any real agreement on what families needed to spend on other essentials. Since then, it's mostly just been adjusted for inflation.
Keep that history in mind while reading this passage, which I found in a 1992 report by the Social Security Administration on how the poverty threshold came to be:When the hypothetical family cut back its food expenditures to the point where they equaled the cost of the economy food plan (or the low cost food plan) for a family of that size, the family would have reached the point at which its food expenditures were minimal but adequate, assuming that "the housewife will be a careful shopper, a skillful cook, and a good manager who will prepare all the family's meals at home.”
Boeing puts all pensions at risk
Now that our state’s pensioned politicians have so deftly assisted Boeing in wrenching pensions away from its line workers, the big question is: Who’s next?
A wrap-up story in this paper last weekend suggested that the stable retirements of Boeing’s 21,000 engineers will now be on the chopping block.
“SPEEA will be in the fat bull’s-eye next time,” one Boeing analyst was quoted, referring to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which still retains traditional pensions for all but new hires, at least until its contract is up in 2016.
But there’s another more immediate target, one made ripe by the politics of the big Boeing squeeze play of 2013: state employees.
“Republicans have long wanted to do away with pensions for public employees, and I fear we just gave them an opening to bring that up again,” said Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, one of the few to vote against the Boeing tax breaks last fall.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, last year proposed replacing state pensions with a 401(k)-style plan — exactly as Boeing just did.
The argument against Tom’s legislation was clear at the time: 401(k)s are not as good as pensions for the workers.
But how do Democrats make that argument now when they just spent two months siding with Boeing management against the Machinists on the exact same issue?
David Dayen: Elizabeth Warren, Tom Coburn Introduce “Naked Capitalism Was Right About the Corruption of Financial Regulators Act” (Not Actually Called That)
I’ve been going out of my mind the past few days seeing the easily duped traditional media uncritically printing statistical analysis from JPMorgan Chase’s roundelay of get-out-of-jail-almost-free settlements. The gist of it, and this must have been in a Department of Justice release somewhere, is that JPM has “paid” $20 billion over the last calendar year to resolve a variety of disputes, the most recent being their admission that they knew the bogus nature of Bernie Madoff’s business and never generated any suspicious activity reports or raised red flags for regulators (the fact that they took their money out of Madoff feeder funds right before he was arrested being a smoking gun).
Peter Eavis at the New York Times scratches his head and wonders how the bank has “taken in stride” all this hemorrhaging of cash in fraud settlements. Well first of all, considering that shareholders effectively pay the fines and nobody in the executive suites has to go to jail, I’d say taking it in stride is a pretty proper reaction. But just as important is that $20 billion is a FAKE NUMBER. I’m going to go ahead and quote Matt Yglesias on this, mostly because he quotes me:Consider the $9 billion settlement with the Justice Department (over mortgage-backed securities -ed). Almost half of that consists of “relief” to homeowners rather than actual fines paid to the government. That’s fine—homeowners need the money more than the government does. But as David Dayen has written, JPMorgan can get away with labeling a lot of stuff they would or should have to do anyway as relief that counts for the purposes of the settlement. When the bank writes down the value of an unrecoverable second-lien on an underwater mortgage, for example, that’s a loss for the bank. But when it goes and applies the cost of that write-down against the legal settlement tab, that’s not an additional loss to the bank—it’s just double counting. At best these aspects of the legal settlement are a way of prodding Morgan to acknowledge losses rather than dragging its feet. There is real merit to that kind of prodding, but it ought to be the ordinary work of bank regulators. It’s not a legal penalty.That’s just one piece of the puzzle. Most of the aforementioned MBS settlement was tax-deductible. The big National Mortgage Settlement and others allowed JPM to write off their penalty with investors’ money. They’re suing the FDIC to stick them with the bill for WaMu losses even though they assumed them in the acquisition. The games are notable and legendary. JPMorgan Chase isn’t worried about paying $20 billion because there is no such number. That the media reports this speaks to their incurious nature, and allows the Justice Department and people like Eric Schneiderman to get away with claiming a “get tough” approach when the settlements look more like back-door bailouts.
Along comes Elizabeth Warren with a bill to attack this corruption directly. Warren and Tom Coburn introduced the Truth in Settlements Act, which uses disclosure to force these little games into the open.
Fifteen Miners Died on the Job in the Past Three Months—but Washington Is Cutting Inspections
During the last three months of 2013, fifteen miners died on the job. Most were killed in electrical or powered haulage accidents; others fell from ladders or drowned in a dredge. The number of miner deaths has been steadily declining in recent years, a trend that continued throughout the first nine months of 2013, until the most recent uptick. ...
Three million people were injured on the job in 2012. ...
Part of the problem is that President Obama has slashed the budget of both OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). OSHA’s ratio of inspectors to facilities fell from one inspector for every 1,900 workplaces in 1981 to one for every 4,300 facilities in 2012. OSHA can afford to visit a workplace only every ninety-nine years, on average. ...
Relatedly, last year the Department of Labor cut the staff of the Office of Administrative Law Judges by 5 percent, decreasing the number of judges who hear wage disputes and benefits cases. The result of these cuts, according to one retired administrative judge, is long waits for sick or injured claimants and subpar settlements.
The Evening Greens
Texas Supreme Court Favors Landowner Over TransCanada in Eminent Domain Case
AUSTIN, TX – The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of landowner Julia Trigg Crawford, ordering TransCanada to submit information by Feb. 6 as the justices weigh arguments to hear the case regarding eminent domain abuse.
Texas’s highest court delivered a clear victory for pipeline opponents and landowners fighting TransCanada’s overreach on property rights. At the heart of Crawford’s case is the ability of TransCanada, a foreign corporation, to use eminent domain under the state’s “common carrier” clause since their pipeline transports 90% Canadian tar sands and 10% North Dakota oil. There is no on ramp for Texas oil therefore violating the definition of a common carrier under Texas law. ...
“We’re thrilled, because the Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of us – the little guys – and against a foreign oil giant,” Julia Trigg Crawford continued. “Basically, TransCanada said that it wanted a waiver from responding to our petition, and the Supreme Court said, ‘No, you must respond’.”
Crawford says her case has broad implications, because if she wins, TransCanada and other foreign oil companies will no longer be able to use eminent domain to seize land for their private profit without direct proof their pipeline is carrying Texan oil.
Obama's Allegiance to Gas a Betrayal of Climate Promises
A "free pass to pollute."
That's what environmental advocates say the Obama administration's new rules, announced Wednesday, give the nation's gas-burning power plants.
In addition, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the framework contained in the Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines are in direct contradiction to bold promises the president has made regarding the worsening climate change crisis.
“The EPA’s lax standards for gas-fired power plants contradict President Obama’s strong statements about the urgent need to cut carbon and other greenhouse pollution,” said Bill Snape, the Center’s senior counsel in a statement. “The president has rightly said we must find the courage to fight climate change before it’s too late to act. But his administration’s weak natural gas power-plant rules are a huge missed opportunity to fight the pollution that’s warming our planet and pushing us toward climate chaos.”
The new EPA standards push for new plants to have tighter emission controls, but make no demands that existing gas-fired plants need to install proven reduction technologies.
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
Albert Collins - Iceman
Albert Collins - I Ain't Drunk
Albert Collins - Dirty Dishes
Albert Collins - Honey Hush
Albert Collins - My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone
Albert Collins - Frosty
Albert Collins - The Moon is Full
Albert Collins w/ The Allman Brothers Band - The Same Thing
Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan & Lonnie Mack - Further On Down The Road
Albert Collins 1988
It's National Pie Day!
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