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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Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features early blues singer and songwriter Beulah "Sippie" Wallace. Enjoy!
Sippie Wallace - Women Be Wise
“The greatest danger of a terrorist's bomb is in the explosion of stupidity that it provokes.”
-- Octave Mirbeau
News and Opinion
UK Court: Obstructing 'Journalism' OK... If You Call It 'Terrorism'Some of Glenn's commentary is priceless, it's well worth reading in full:
Ruling on the case of David Miranda, a Brazilian national and partner to well-known journalist Glenn Greenwald who was held by UK officials while passing through Heathrow Airport last summer, the lower court decision said that even though the police's actions were “an indirect interference with press freedom,” the detention was permissible as it was in the service of "very pressing" national security concerns.
As exposed in court documents related to the case, the UK government was operating under a request from the U.S. government to hold Miranda, who was on a stop-over in London from Berlin, Germany on his way back to Brazil. Given his relationship with Greenwald, it was supposed that he was carrying materials leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and acting as courier between Greenwald and his colleague Laura Poitras who lives in Berlin. Invoking the Terrorism Act of 2000, police used a statute called Schedule 7, which allows for authorities to hold "terrorism" suspects for up to nine hours without contact or a lawyer.
Responding to the ruling himself, Miranda vowed to appeal and said the decision was more damaging to the UK's reputation than his own:I will appeal this ruling, and keep appealing until the end; not because I care about what the British government calls me, but because the values of press freedom that are at stake are too important to do anything but fight until the end.
I’m of course not happy that a court has formally said that I was a legitimate terrorism suspect, but the days of the British Empire are long over, and this ruling will have no effect outside of the borders of this country.
I’m convinced they’ve hurt their own country far more than me with this ruling, as it emphasizes what the world already knows - the UK has contempt for basic press freedoms.
On the UK’s Equating of Journalism With Terrorism
The UK Government expressly argued that the release of the Snowden documents (which the free world calls “award-winning journalism“) is actually tantamount to “terrorism”, the same theory now being used by the Egyptian military regime to prosecute Al Jazeera journalists as terrorists. Congratulations to the UK government on the illustrious company it is once again keeping. British officials have also repeatedly threatened criminal prosecution of everyone involved in this reporting, including Guardian journalists and editors. ...
It should surprise nobody that the UK is not merely included in, but is one of the leaders of, this group of nations which regularly wages war on basic press freedoms. In the 1970s, British journalist Duncan Campbell was criminally prosecuted for the crime of reporting on the mere existence of the GCHQ, while fellow journalist Mark Hosenball, now of Reuters, was forced to leave the country. The monarchy has no constitutional guarantee of a free press. The UK government routinely threatens newspapers with all sorts of sanctions for national security reporting it dislikes. Its Official Secrets Act makes it incredibly easy to prosecute journalists and others for disclosing anything which political officials want to keep secret. For that reason, it was able to force the Guardian to destroy its own computers containing Snowden material precisely because the paper’s editors knew that British courts would slavishly defer to any requests made by the GCHQ to shut down the paper’s reporting.
That such repressive measures come from British political culture is to be expected. The political elite of that country cling desperately to 17th century feudal traditions. Grown adults who have been elected or appointed to nothing run around with a straight face insisting that they be called “Lord” and “Baroness” and other grandiose hereditary titles of the landed gentry. They bow and curtsey to a “Queen”, who lives in a “palace”, and they call her sons “Prince”. They embrace a wide range of conceits and rituals of a long-ago collapsed empire. The wig-wearing presiding judge who issued this morning’s ruling equating journalism with terrorism is addressed as “Lord Justice Laws”, best known for previously approving the use of evidence to detain people that had been derived from torture at Guantanamo. ...
It is not difficult to apprehend the reason the UK government is so desperate to criminalize this reporting. The GCHQ itself made the reason clear in a once-secret memo previously reported by the Guardian. The British agency “has repeatedly warned it fears a ‘damaging public debate’ on the scale of its activities because it could lead to legal challenges against its mass-surveillance programmes.” ... In sum, the UK Government wants to stop disclosure of its mass surveillance activities not because it fears terrorism or harm to national security but because it fears public debate, legal challenges and accountability. That is why the UK government considers this journalism to be “terrorism”: because it undermines the interests and power of British political officials, not the safety of the citizenry.
Repeal the AUMF
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (the Quaker lobbying group) is running a petition drive to repeal the much-abused 2001 AUMF.
The Authorization for the Use of Military Force has been used as the sole legal justification for the war in Afghanistan, deadly drone attacks, detention at Guantanamo Bay, warrantless wiretapping and military interventions around the world.
Ukraine is now in a potentially revolutionary situation
This is no longer about east v west – and the descent into violence may be hard to reverse
Just as it seemed that the threat of serious, widespread violence in Ukraine had been averted, clashes broke out in Kiev on Tuesday night that left at least 25 people dead, hundreds injured and a part of the city centre in flames. ... Here are a few pointers as to what might happen next:
• The situation is now more dangerous than it has ever been. Ukraine voted for independence and separated from the dying Soviet Union peacefully in the autumn of 1991. Its Orange Revolution in 2004-5, a street response to rigged elections, was also completed without bloodshed, though some panicky reactions on both sides brought it pretty close. Since then, Ukrainian politics have been messy and tainted by corruption, but more spontaneous and democratic in many ways than in the countries around it. It has now descended, for the first time, into violence, and that may be hard to reverse. ...
• This geographical change was linked to another change. Although the conflict has largely been presented outside Ukraine as about east and west, and was precipitated in November by Yanukovych's decision to accept an economic package offered by Russia rather than the association agreement held out by the EU, this is no longer what the struggle is about. In Ukraine, Europe still stands – unrealistically, many EU citizens might think – as a cypher for clean government, order and high living standards. But the protests have evolved into an internal struggle against the corruption and general inadequacy of the Kiev government. The calls are not for Yanukovych to change his mind, but for him to go.
• This is a potentially revolutionary situation – we are watching violent street protests that could force out a government that was, whether we like it or not, reasonably democratically elected. It is also an emergency in which an ill-informed EU policy played a role. In demanding an all or nothing, now or never, decision from a Ukraine that needed emergency financing more than it needed European promises, it badly misplayed its hand.
Ukraine leader denounces coup bid, West readies sanctions
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accused pro-European opposition leaders on Wednesday of trying to seize power by force after at least 26 people died in the worst violence since the former Soviet republic gained independence.
European Union leaders condemned what they called "the unjustified use of excessive force by the Ukrainian authorities" and said they were urgently preparing targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown. ...
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yanukovich spoke by telephone during the night and both denounced the events as an attempted coup, a Kremlin spokesman said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, visiting Kuwait, blamed radical activists for the bloodshed and said: "I cannot leave without mention the responsibility that lies with the West encouraging the opposition to act outside of the law."
Joe Biden tells Ukrainian president to call police off as anti-protester violence escalates
“Vice President Biden called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych today to express grave concern regarding the crisis on the streets of Kiev. He called on President Yanukovych to pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint,” a White House statement said. ...
The White House said Biden made clear in the telephone call that Washington condemned violence by any side “but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation.
“The vice president further underscored the urgency of immediate dialogue with opposition leaders to address protesters’ legitimate grievances and to put forward serious proposals for political reform.
France, Poland seek quick, targeted EU sanctions on Ukraine
France and Poland called on the European Union to impose targeted sanctions on those responsible for the deadly violence in Ukraine as early as Thursday.
“The president condemned the unacceptable police violence and called for its immediate end,” French President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement after 25 people were killed on Tuesday.
Venezuelan Opposition Leader Arrested for Fomenting Unrest
Foreign Policy experts emphasize the largely orchestrated demonstrations come with strong US backing
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez handed himself over to state security forces on Tuesday in an escalation of tensions foreign policy experts say has largely been orchestrated by western interests.
According to reports, Lopez was taken on charges of fomenting unrest against the government and spurring violence that has killed at least four people. Days before being arrested, Lopez taunted the government on Twitter writing: "Don't you have the guts to arrest me?" ...
Foreign policy experts emphasize that the Maduro-led government is fending off the same sort of attacks that were frequently levied at former President Huge Chavez, despite holding strong majority approval, the backing of key institutions and the support of neighboring governments.
On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela) released a statement denouncing the "recent violent acts" in Venezuela as "attempts to destabilize the democratic order."
According to Venezuelan-born sociologist María Páez Victor, while some demonstrators carry genuine complaints, the protests were largely orchestrated and that the appearance of massive revolt is a tactic used to delegitimize the government.
The real opposition, she says, is the U.S. and other western governments.
Saudis and CIA agree to Arm Syrian Moderates with Advanced Anti-aircraft and Anti-tank Weapons
The news that the “Saudis Agree to Provide Syrian Rebels With Mobile Antiaircraft Missiles,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal, will change the battle field in Syria.
The newly formed “Southern Front” led by Bashar al-Zoubi, will be the main recipient. The WSJ says Zoubi has a direct line to Western and Arab intelligence agencies in a military operations room in Amman. He will be the primary recipient of these new, more lethal weapons. He went to Geneva for the talks with the Assad regime.
From the article:Washington’s Arab allies, disappointed with Syria peace talks, have agreed to provide rebels there with more sophisticated weaponry, including shoulder-fired missiles that can take down jets, according to Western and Arab diplomats and opposition figures.
Saudi Arabia has offered to give the opposition for the first time Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads, and antitank guided missiles from Russia, according to an Arab diplomat and several opposition figures with knowledge of the efforts. Saudi officials couldn’t be reached to comment. ...
The U.S. for its part has stepped up financial support, handing over millions of dollars in new aid to pay fighters’ salaries, said rebel commanders who received some of the money. The U.S. wouldn’t comment on any payments. ...
The weapons will flow across the border into southern Syria from the warehouses in Jordan and across the northern border from Turkey, the Western diplomat said. Rebel leaders said the shipments to southern Syria are expected to be more substantial because opposition fighters are more unified in that area and there is a lower risk the weapons will fall into the hands of al Qaeda-inspired groups—a big concern for the U.S.
Argentina appeals bonds case to U.S. Supreme CourtThis is one of those articles that you owe it to yourself to read in full. Even if articles about economic matters usually make your head spin, this one is clear, well explained in layman's terms and scores points. It is an eloquent smackdown of one of the leading neoliberal
Argentina said Tuesday it had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court against a lower court order to pay off hedge fund investors in its bonds, arguing that order violated its sovereignty.
Taking its two-year battle against the investors, which it calls “vulture funds,” to the highest U.S. court, Buenos Aires said the lower court was wrong in trying to force the country to pay them out of reserves it says are immune from such orders.
In addition, it said, enforcing the lower court ruling could wreak havoc with restructurings of sovereign bonds generally, having a potential deep effect on global sovereign bond markets. ...
The two U.S. investment houses were among a small group of “holdouts” which did not take part in the 2005 and 2010 restructurings of some $100 billion in debt the country defaulted on 13 years ago.
While 93 percent of the investors took large writedowns on the debt in the negotiated deal, the holdouts have persisted in their claims for full payback.
The New York court’s ruling gave NML and Aurelius the right to pursue Argentine sovereign assets — mainly bank accounts held offshore — to that end.
Stay Classy, Greg: Mankiw on What the Rich Deserve, and Why They Deserve It
So what does “inequality” tell us? Not much. Hemingway’s famous set-up of Fitzgerald is a symmetrical relation. The rich are different than you and me, but, equally, you and me are different from the rich. Hemingway’s punchline introduces the asymmetry: Yes, they have more money. Not a ≠ b, but a > b (or perhaps $ > -$). If I fell into the pit of becoming a Walmart greeter, it would be absurd to characterize the relation between the Waltons, and me, as one of inequality: They can rent my time, but I can’t rent theirs; that’s inherently an asymmetrical relation, better characterized as (for example) exploitation rather than inequality. Oh, and to answer the question: How much? Well, too much is never enough; that’s why Arrighi talks about “endless” accumulation.
And now to the remaining substance of Mankiw’s paper.
So, first, what do the rich deserve? Or rather — reframing the question in terms that the rich would understand — how much do they deserve? I’m reframing the question that way because it seems to me that the essence of neo-liberalism, the dominant ideology of the political class on upward — can be summed up in one sentence: Those who are good with money deserve longer life, and those who are not deserve to die (to be fair, in the aggregate, they deserve to have their life expectancy shortened). That’s how things played out in Russia after “reform,” anyhow! You can see this idea play out very precisely with ObamaCare; if, rat-like, you demonstrate the ability to navigate the maze of the Exchanges successfully, you will be rewarded with better medical care which (one hopes) will translate into longer life; at least in the aggregate. Single payer doesn’t select for people being good with money which is why, from the neo-liberal perspective, it’s immmoral. You can also see the same idea play out with disemployment and economic stress generally.
Capital One says it can show up at cardholders' homes, workplacesHeh, perhaps the German unions will have the last laugh at the expense of knuckle-dragging republican lackeys of the 1%:
The credit card company's recent contract update includes terms that sound menacing and creepy.
Credit card issuer Capital One isn't shy about getting into customers' faces. The company recently sent a contract update to cardholders that makes clear it can drop by any time it pleases.
The update specifies that "we may contact you in any manner we choose" and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or a "personal visit."
As if that weren't creepy enough, Cap One says these visits can be "at your home and at your place of employment." ...
Incredibly, Cap One's aggressiveness doesn't stop with personal visits. The company's contract update also includes this little road apple:
"We may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose."
Now that's just freaky. Cap One is saying it can trick you into picking up the phone by using what looks like a local number or masquerading as something it's not, such as Save the Puppies or a similarly friendly-seeming bogus organization.
VW workers may block southern U.S. deals if no unions: labor chief
Volkswagen’s top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized. ...
German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined “co-determination” principle which is anathema to many politicians in the U.S. who see organized labor as a threat to profits and job growth. ...
“I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again,” said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council.
“If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor” of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW’s supervisory board, said.
The 20-member panel – evenly split between labor and management – has to approve any decision on closing plants or building new ones.
The Evening Greens
Official who raised safety concerns at Hanford nuclear site is fired
The head of nuclear safety for the cleanup of the former nuclear weapons site at Hanford, Wash., was fired Tuesday after allegations she made over several years that the construction project was ignoring serious safety problems.
Donna Busche, an employee of San Francisco-based URS Corp., said executives at the company told her she was being fired for "unprofessional conduct" before she was escorted out of the company's offices at the site in central Washington.
The company denied that her dismissal was punitive or connected to her criticism of the project.
Busche is at least the third senior project official at Hanford who has been fired or who left under duress after raising concerns about safety at the massive $13.4-billion construction project, which has been stalled for more than a year over concerns about its basic design.
"The Energy Department's overall safety culture is broken and all they are doing now is sitting idly by," Busche said in an interview Tuesday.
Second coal ash dump leak sends arsenic-laced toxins into North Carolina riverWhat time is it? Time for land reform.
North Carolina on Tuesday ordered Duke Energy Corp to plug a leak of contaminated wastewater from a decommissioned power plant, which authorities in the state said might be leaking into a river that supplies drinking water.
The arsenic-laced discharge from a 36-inch stormwater pipe was the second this month from beneath a coal ash dump at the Eden plant.
In early February, thousands of tons of sludge spilled into the Dan River after a 48-inch pipe broke under the 27-acre ash pond, Duke said. ...
Pipe water samples indicated elevated levels of arsenic, though the duration and volume of the discharge was not known, the Charlotte, N.C.-based firm said.
Private Equity Predators and the Great American Farm Grab
An estimated 400 million acres of farmland in the United States will likely change hands over the coming two decades as older farmers retire, even as new evidence indicates this land is being strongly pursued by private equity investors.
Mirroring a trend being experienced across the globe, this strengthening focus on agriculture-related investment by the private sector is already leading to a spike in U.S. farmland prices. Coupled with relatively weak federal policies, these rising prices are barring many young farmers from continuing or starting up small-scale agricultural operations of their own. ...
In the long term, critics say, this dynamic could speed up the already fast-consolidating U.S. food industry, with broad ramifications for both human and environmental health.
“When non-operators own farms, they tend to source out the oversight to management companies, leading in part to horrific conditions around labour and how we treat the land,” Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, a U.S. watchdog group focusing on global large-scale land acquisitions, told IPS.
“They also reprioritise what commodities are grown on that land, based on what can yield the highest return. This is no longer necessarily about food at all, but rather is a way to reap financial profits. Unfortunately, that’s far removed from the central role that land ultimately plays in terms of climate change, growing hunger and the stability of the global economy.”
Promises of Prosperity, Fracking Delivers Devastating Toxic Emissions
Residents living near the Eagle Ford Shale were promised riches and jobs when the fracking boom exploded in their region of southern Texas. However, according to a new investigation published Tuesday, with the wells came unchecked toxic emissions that would devastate both their health and the quality of their 'easy country life.'
While much of the reporting on the negative impact of fracking has focused on the danger it poses to drinking and groundwater resources, this eight-month, joint study by the Center for Public Integrity, Inside Climate News, and the Weather Channel reveals the lesser-known impact on air quality and the unchecked and potentially lethal amounts of toxic chemicals emitted from the wells. ...
Since 2008, over 7,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the Eagle Ford Shale and, with another 5,500 approved wells on the way, it has become "one of the most active drilling sites in America." And though the shale covers 20,000 square miles, the state has installed only five permanent air monitors, which reportedly sit on the "fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest."
According to the report, chemicals most commonly released during oil and gas extraction include:hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas found in abundance in Eagle Ford wells; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene, a known carcinogen; sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which irritate the lungs; and other harmful substances such as carbon monoxide and carbon disulfide. VOCs also mix with nitrogen oxides emitted from field equipment to create ozone, a major respiratory hazard.While there are some federal safety standards for workers who encounter these chemicals, there are no protections for people living near the drilling sites. Further, guidelines are typically set for one compound at a time without taking into account the impact of simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals.
Why Taxpayers Will Bail Out the Rich When the Next Storm Hits
As homeowners around the nation protest skyrocketing premiums for federal flood insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has quietly moved the lines on its flood maps to benefit hundreds of oceanfront condo buildings and million-dollar homes, according to an analysis of federal records by NBC News.
The changes shift the financial burden for the next destructive hurricane, tsunami or tropical storm onto the neighbors of these wealthy beach-dwellers — and ultimately onto all American taxpayers.
In more than 500 instances from the Gulf of Alaska to Bar Harbor, Maine, FEMA has remapped waterfront properties from the highest-risk flood zone, saving the owners as much as 97 percent on the premiums they pay into the financially strained National Flood Insurance Program.
NBC News also found that FEMA has redrawn maps even for properties that have repeatedly filed claims for flood losses from previous storms. At least some of the properties are on the secret "repetitive loss list" that FEMA sends to communities to alert them to problem properties. FEMA says that it does not factor in previous losses into its decisions on applications to redraw the flood zones.
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
Sippie Wallace - Murder Gonna Be My Crime
Sippie Wallace w/John Mayall - Shorty George
Sippie Wallace - Suitcase Blues
Sippie Wallace - I'm A Mighty Tight Woman
Sippie Wallace - Bedroom Blues
Sippie Wallace w/Albert Ammons - Buzz Me
Sippie Wallace - Devil Dance Blues
Sippie Wallace - You Gonna Need My Help
Sippie Wallace w/Clarence Williams' Trio - Off And On Blues
Sippie Wallace w/Clarence Williams' Blue Five Trouble Everywhere I Roam
Sippie Wallace - Up The Country Blues
It's National Pie Day!
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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.
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