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 blues singer and guitarist Lonnie Brooks. Enjoy!
Lonnie Brooks - I Want All My Money Back
“Civilization, in fact, grows more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. Wars are no longer waged by the will of superior men, capable of judging dispassionately and intelligently the causes behind them and the effects flowing out of them. The are now begun by first throwing a mob into a panic; they are ended only when it has spent its ferine fury.”
-- H.L. Mencken
News and Opinion
Ukraine forces 'helpless' to stop pro-Russia takeover in east
Ukraine's police and security forces are helpless in the face of a pro-Russia takeover of government buildings in the east and are in some cases co-operating with the separatists, the interim president said.
Oleksandr Turchynov, addressing a meeting of regional governors, said his priority was to stop the agitation spreading to other parts of Ukraine. He also reiterated Kiev's fear of Russia beginning a land war and said Ukraine's armed forces had been put on full military readiness.
The beleaguered government's slim hold on law and order in the east was further undermined on Wednesday as pro-Russian separatists seized control of state buildings in Horlivka, almost unopposed by police. ...
On Tuesday, 3,000 activists – some in masks and military fatigues – stormed the regional government HQ in the eastern city of Luhansk. Police supposedly guarding the building let the crowd inside.
"I will be frank: today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control," Turchynov told the governors. "The security bodies … are unable to carry out their duties of protecting citizens. They are helpless in those matters. Moreover, some of those units are either helping or co-operating with terrorist organisations."
Kerry says US intercepts Moscow's calls to spies in Ukraine
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, claims America has obtained intercepted phone calls that prove Moscow is deliberating trying to destabilise eastern Ukraine, according to reports of leaked remarks he made at a private meeting last week.
US news site the Daily Beast quoted Kerry saying: "Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow … We know exactly where they are coming from." ...
The Daily Beast said it had a recording of Kerry's remarks, which were made during a private meeting last Friday in Washington of the Trilateral Commission, a thinktank that aims to foster co-operation between America, Europe and Japan.
It quoted him claiming that the intercept evidence disproved Russian denials about involvement in the separatist unrest. ...
The state department played down the leak, saying Kerry was referring to Ukrainian rather than US intelligence.
Deputy FM: Russia Doesn’t Want to Take Over East Ukraine
In comments made at the Trilateral Commission last week, Secretary of State John Kerry dubbed Russia a “thug” responsible for stirring unrest in eastern Ukraine, claiming it was a plot to take the region over. ... Yet with Ukraine overtly invading the protester-held east, it seems like Russia has all the excuse it would need, and isn’t acting.
It’s not an oversight, according to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who insists Russia simply doesn’t want to take over the eastern portion of the country, and has no inclination to try to repeat the Crimean annexation there. It’s not hard to see why. While Russia was eager to retain its naval base in Crimea, it has no such strategic interests in Ukraine’s east.
Russian firms turn to Asia for finance as Western funds demur
Russian companies shut out of Western markets as a result of the Ukraine crisis are scouting the possibility of raising cash via Chinese or Singapore bonds instead, even if a large scale funding switch to Asia is likely to be a tall order. ...
Usually prolific borrowers, Russian firms' bond and loan issuance this year has languished as lenders fear getting caught up in U.S. and EU sanctions imposed on Russian individuals in retaliation for Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
But with $150 billion or so owed in debt payments this year, the scramble for funds is driving firms to Asia, a region with cash-rich investors and governments that are less critical of the Kremlin's actions.
"We may see some developments in Asia in exotic currencies such as the 'dim sum' market or in Singapore dollars. We are seeing Russian issuers expressing interest in those segments of the market," said Cecile Camilli, managing director for CEEMEA debt capital markets at Societe Generale.
'Dim sum' bonds refers to debt denominated in China's yuan but sold outside China, most commonly in Hong Kong.
WSJ/NBC Poll: Americans Want Less Interventionist Foreign PolicyThis is an excellent article, well worth reading in full.Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs even as a showdown with Russia over Ukraine preoccupies Washington, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.
In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement—an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines.
…The poll findings, combined with the results of prior Journal/NBC surveys this year, portray a public weary of foreign entanglements and disenchanted with a U.S. economic system that many believe is stacked against them. The 47% of respondents who called for a less-active role in world affairs marked a larger share than in similar polling in 2001, 1997 and 1995.
A Neocon’s Lament
Now that the Iraq war has been relegated to the Dead Past, however, and the heat is off, various neocon stragglers are coming out of the bushes, like those Japanese soldiers who never knew the war was over and were still ensconced in the jungles of Borneo. The latest is one Reihan Salam, co-author with Ross Douthet of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream(2011), which sought to reinvigorate the "national greatness" theme of early 1990s neoconservatism by proposing more government benefits to the Republicans’ lower-middle class constituency. (One example of his "family friendly" agenda: he wants to tax non-breeders at a higher rate).
"We neocons have fallen out of favor," whines Salam, "not just on the left, where ‘neocon’ is routinely used as a term of abuse, but also on the right, where libertarian-minded conservatives who favor a smaller (and cheaper) military have seized the initiative." ... "Given all of this, why am I still a neocon? Why do I still believe that the U.S. should maintain an overwhelming military edge over all potential rivals, and that we as a country ought to be willing to use our military power in defense of our ideals as well as our interests narrowly defined? There are two reasons: The first is that American strength is the linchpin of a peaceful, economically integrating world; and the second is that we know what it looks like when America embraces amoral realpolitik, and it’s not pretty."
The idea that the world economy is dependent on American military power – that if not for the 82nd Airborne, there’d be no such thing as world commerce – is one of the biggest conceits of the political class. ... Economics was never the neocons’ strong point, but this is really laughable: the world economy preexisted the American empire, and will endure long after our imperial delusions are only an extended footnote in the history of folly. What Salam really means is that American guns are the linchpin of a world order that benefits particular American interests.
U.S. report offers grim portrait of Afghanistan’s futureIf you read this entire article, it will depress you as to how clueless most of the SCOTUS is about the technologies that they are being asked to referee. It may also make you wonder if maybe you ought to look into strong encryption for the contents of your smartphone.
As Afghanistan prepares to hand over power to a new president and U.S. combat forces depart, the United States’ special inspector general for the war-torn country paints a bleak picture of its long-term prospects in a new report to Congress.
The report, of which McClatchy obtained an embargoed copy before its Wednesday release, said corruption is so widespread in Afghanistan that it threatens the U.S. long-term reconstruction effort.
“Corruption in Afghanistan includes everything from petty bribery for routine services, nepotism and tribal preference to contract fraud, large-scale theft of resources and subversion of the justice system,” the report concludes. ...
Experts inside and outside the Pentagon told McClatchy that the situation in Afghanistan is dismal, with rampant corruption fueled by a gusher of largely untracked reconstruction funds from the United States and other donor nations. ...
The United States has spent $103 billion to rebuild Afghan roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure since 2002, more than in any previous overseas reconstruction effort.
Almost $64 billion of the aid has come in the last four years, creating a deluge of money that the U.S. government can’t track and which the fragile Afghan economy can’t absorb, the report said. As a result, it said, large sums of aid are unaccounted for and major projects have not been finished or were done poorly.
US supreme court justices debate phone privacy and police seizures
Civil liberties lawyers on Tuesday warned that police seizure of smartphones is becoming a grave threat to US privacy, in a supreme court hearing that saw the world of Facebook, Fitbits and cellphone encryption collide with centuries-old jurisprudence.
The nine justices struggled with two cases that sought to establish whether police can search digital content from seized cellphones in the same way they are allowed to handle physical diaries or photographs held by someone at the time of their arrest. ...
“What is the difference between [photos stored on a smartphone and] hard copy photos in a billfold?” asked justice Samuel Alito. “I don't see there is much of a difference,” he added. ...
“A person could be arrested for driving without a seatbelt, police can take the phone, look at their work emails … look at their bank details, look at GPS data and find out where that person had been,” said Justice Elena Kagan. “That strikes me as a very different type of world to one where a person has photos in a billfold.”
“People carry their entire lives on cellphones,” she added. “That is not a marginal case; that is the reality … Most people carry their lives on cellphones and that will only grow every year as young people take over the world. Everyone under a certain age – let's say under 40 – has everything on them.”
But other judges on the bench appeared to argue that young people were acknowledging a lower standard of privacy by carrying such data around with them and posting it on social networking sites. ...
[Chief Justice John] Roberts also asked whether police could check a person's movements by examining their Fitbit exercise monitor or review their banking apps for financial data. “Carrying [personal data] with you in public makes it less private,” he added.
Justice Antonin Scalia commits major factual blunder in latest dissentHat tip Don Midwest:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is being chided by legal experts for making a major error in his latest dissent. Talking Points Memo reported that Scalia was dissenting to a 6-to-2 ruling in EPA v. Homer City Generation, upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate air pollution from coal across state lines.
The arch conservative jurist wrote that the majority’s decision runs counter to a unanimous ruling by the court in 2001, mistakenly claiming that the court struck down the agency’s ability to override cost considerations when setting regulations.
TPM’s Sahil Kapur quoted the dissent, “This is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation. Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457 (2001), confronted EPA’s contention that it could consider costs in setting [National Ambient Air Quality Standards].”
The dissent — in which Scalia was joined by fellow right-leaning justice Clarence Thomas — was factually inaccurate, however, because the EPA was actually arguing the opposite in the 2001 case. The agency argued that the benefits to the population of reducing coal-generated air pollution outweigh considerations of cost. It was the trucking industry that argued that curbing pollution poses an undue economic burden on polluters.
As elections loom, Capitol Hill is latest front in war on poverty
The war on poverty returns to Capitol Hill as lawmakers prepare to wage a battle this week that’s a likely preview of what’s to come on the campaign trail this election year and in 2016.
Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared his intent to “not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it,” key congressional Republicans and prospective Republican presidential candidates are hammering away at some of his Great Society programs. They label them well-meaning failures that have done more to strain the federal budget than to slow the cycle of poverty. ...
Democrats, meanwhile, are looking to increase the nation’s minimum wage as a key strategy for reducing poverty and helping to narrow the income gap between America’s rich and poor. As Ryan’s committee meets Wednesday, the Senate is expected to take a key test on a measure to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
Driving all this debate is some very crucial political calculus. Voters can expect to hear more of how each party would address income inequality as this year’s congressional elections and the 2016 presidential contest approach, political analysts and poverty experts say.
But for all the talk, people shouldn’t expect political action soon, they warn.
US Senate Can't Muster Even Modest Minimum Wage Increase
The effort to bring national low-wage to $10.10 is on verge of defeat
Proving once again that popular economic policies—even modest ones—that would improve the lives of millions of low-wage workers cannot possibly pass in a Congress dominated by the interests of the corporate class, reporting from Capitol Hill on Wednesday reveals that the effort in the U.S. Senate to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 is about to die on the vine.
According to Gallup, the historic approval rating of raising the minimum wage is close to 75%. Despite that consistent public support, however, even soft-ball efforts to increase the stagnant level of low-wage pay have faced constant opposition in Congress. The minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, has been flat-lined for nearly forty years and that widespread income and wealth inequality has been shown to harm the overall economy, but neither of those facts have been enough to overcome the opposition of the powerful interests that maintain their grip on both political parties in Washington.
An admittedly weak bill by progressive standards, the bill now in the Senate [that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour], introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is expected to be defeated in a procedural vote on Wednesday according to numerous reports.
Millionaires Unite to Defeat Minimum Wage
A broad-based coalition of millionaires converged on Washington today to defeat a bill that would have increased the minimum wage for American workers to $10.10 an hour.
Leaving behind their mansions and yachts, the millionaires were motivated by what they saw as an existential threat to the country, Mitch McConnell, a spokesman for the millionaires, said.
“This was an extremely diverse coalition,” McConnell said, noting that everyone from the rich to the very rich to the super-rich united to vote down the bill.
China poised to overtake US as world's largest economy, research shows
China is poised to overtake the US as the world's largest economy this year, earlier than expected.
Fresh research by the International Comparison Program (ICP), coordinated by the World Bank, considered the real cost of living and purchasing power in countries around the world as the best way of comparing the size of different economies.
Using this measure, the ICP concluded that the size of the Chinese economy in 2011 was 87% of the US economy, up from 43% in 2005 when the last comparison was made.
"The United States remained the world's largest economy, but it was closely followed by China when measured using purchasing power parity," the ICP said in its report.
According to expectations from the International Monetary Fund for growth between 2011 and 2014, that would put China ahead of the US this year.
Cecily McMillan: I was labeled 'Paris Hilton of Occupy Wall Street'
An activist accused of assaulting a New York police officer was dismissed as a mainstream liberal by more radical protesters and was even labelled “the Paris Hilton of Occupy Wall Street”, she told a court on Tuesday.
Taking the witness stand for the first time in her trial for felony assault, Cecily McMillan told the jury that she advocated a course of peaceful demonstration and political engagement with the outside world that frequently set her apart from other members of the protest movement. ...
McMillan said on Tuesday that her repeated attempts to codify an Occupy Wall Street platform – against public spending cuts, stop-and-frisk and student debt – were not well received. “I was not seen as very radical,” she said. “They called me a liberal, and I didn’t know that was a kind of backhanded term”. ...
“I think most of the people at Occupy Wall Street really wanted to cut themselves off from a violent society and to create a society anew in the park,” where healthcare and food were provided, she said. “They were not particularly interested in negotiating with what they viewed as a violent and decrepit and ultimately unsalvageable state”.
By contrast, said McMillan, she wanted to take the influence of “this beautiful experiment” to “the biggest possible level, the national level”, in an attempt to effect political change. McMillan is expected to be cross-examined by state prosecutors on Wednesday. They and McMillan’s lawyers are then due to make their closing arguments.
Catalonia police banned from using rubber bullets
A ban on the use of rubber bullets by the police force in Catalonia comes into force on Wednesday following a campaign led by seven people who each lost an eye on the streets of Barcelona. ...
Campaigners called into question the use of the weapon, which by law should not be fired from a distance of less than 50 metres or hit above the knee. Witnesses declared in court that police shot Italian Nicola Tanno directly in the face from 30 metres away in Barcelona's Plaza España during the celebration of Spain's World Cup victory in 2010. Aged 25 at the time, Tanno lost an eye and had a brain haematoma that almost caused his death. Three others lost an eye in street celebrations on Las Ramblas after Barcelona's Champions League victory against Manchester Unitedin 2009.
With the help of social media, victims were able to find video evidence in which vans and policemen could be recognised, to show the court that police were present at the time they received their injuries.
Campaigners argue that as police enjoy impunity from prosecution, they have the freedom to act without facing the consequences of those actions. They accuse the police of using a strategy of fear indicative of a repressive state to quell protests.
Oklahoma execution: Clayton Lockett tortured to death
The state of Oklahoma botched one execution and was forced to call off another on Tuesday when a disputed cocktail of drugs failed to kill a condemned prisoner who was left writhing on the gurney.
After the failure of a 20-minute attempt to execute him, Clayton Lockett was left to die of a heart attack in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma state penitentiary in McAlester. A lawyer said Lockett had effectively been "tortured to death".
For three minutes after the first drugs were delivered Lockett struggled violently, groaned and writhed, lifting his shoulders and head from the gurney.
Some 16 minutes after the execution began, and without Lockett being declared dead, the blinds separating the chamber from the viewing room were closed. The process was called off shortly afterwards. Lockett died 43 minutes after the first executions drugs were adminsitered.
The execution of Charles Warner, scheduled for 8pm local time, was then postponed. Both were due to have been carried out with a drug cocktail using dosages never before tried in American executions.
Department of Education: Title IX Prohibits Discrimination Against Transgender Students
On Tuesday, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued explicit guidance barring schools that receive federal Title IX funds from discriminating against transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
"Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation. Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations," the guidance reads. ...
The Title IX program is a Nixon-era law that bans schools that receive federal funding from engaging in sex discrimination. But the requirement hasn't always extended to transgender students. The Transgender Law Center is currently representing a transgender man who filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the University of Pittsburgh violated his rights under Title IX, among other laws. While he was a student, the university allegedly banned him from using the men's restrooms and later expelled him after he continued using the men's facilities.
The Evening Greens
Almost half of Americans live with unhealthy levels of air pollution
Nearly half of all Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to an American Lung Association (ALA) report released Wednesday.
Nearly 148 million people live in areas where smog and soot particles make it unhealthy to breathe the air, according to the ALA's annual study on US air quality.
The report, which is based on data collected between 2010 and 2012, found smog, or ozone, had worsened in 22 of the 25 biggest US metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Houston, Washington-Baltimore, New York City and Chicago – and said there was a high risk of more high-ozone days because of climate change.
"Weather played a factor," the report said. "The warmer summers in 2010 and 2012 contributed to higher ozone readings and more frequent ozone days. Sunlight and heat create conditions that increase the risk of high ozone levels."
Smog, or ozone, which is the most widespread air pollutant, forms more readily in hotter temperatures, and is expected to increase under climate change. "It's going to make it harder to clean up air pollution," said Janice Nolen of the ALA. "Days that wouldn't ordinarily have high ozone levels are going to have them."
How This U.S. Rail Safety Measure Has Been Delayed for 44 Years … And CountingThis is a great article, kinda uplifting even. It may even have some things to think about for those of us that are interested in organizing to make some actual change, as opposed to the kind of fake change that happens in elections.
On August 20, 1969, two Penn Central commuter trains collided head-on near Darien, Conn. Four people were killed and 43 were injured. The crash led the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to recommend that railroads implement new safety technology called positive train control — a system for monitoring and controlling train movements to increase safety.
The NTSB first recommended positive train control in 1970. In 2008, after another fatal train collision that killed 25 people, Congress finally passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which mandated positive train control be implemented by the railroad industry by the end of 2015. Fast-forward another six years to multiple congressional hearings in recent months, during which the railroads have informed Congress that positive train control simply won’t be implemented by the end of 2015. ....
Looking at the way the positive train control scenario has played out for the past 44 years offers valuable lessons on how the U.S. is now dealing with safety regulations for shipping oil by rail.
Last week, the NTSB held a two-day forum on rail safety regarding the transportation of crude oil and ethanol. One of the main topics was how to improve rail tank car safety and what to do with the DOT-111 tank cars currently being used to ship crude oil and ethanol.
Much like positive train control, the NTSB has been recommending for decades that the DOT-111 tank cars not be used for ethanol and crude oil transportation due to the high risks they pose in derailments.
So why hasn’t anything been done? Mostly because of opposition by oil and gas industry groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute (API).
The Cowboys and Indians pipeline protest was a throwback — in more ways than one
[W]hen I saw the photos of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance in Washington, D.C., last week, the first thought that floated into my mind, unbidden, was this: “Damn. That’s a good-looking protest.” The signs looked like they’d been made by someone with some serious experience in sign making. The people in the photographs looked comfortable, but they had clearly dressed for the occasion.
Back in the civil rights era, protests were carefully designed affairs. They were in a more stylish time, sure, but the church and civil rights groups that organized them also made sure that the people who went to them wore clothes that they might not necessarily wear in their day-to-day life: suits, ties, button-down shirts, dresses, hats. Sunday best, but for a serious Sunday. Participants used the signs that the organizers gave them — they weren’t allowed to make their own. ...
The Cowboy and Indian Alliance gathering, is in many ways, a throwback to the more careful, deliberate model of civil-rights style organizing. The organization dates back to January of 2013, when a handful of ranchers who had been protesting the Keystone pipeline were invited by Faith Spotted Eagle, another anti-Keystone activist, to an event called “Protect the Sacred” on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The ranchers were invited to join in an 1863 treaty that the Yankton Sioux had made with the Pawnee to band together and support each other against the homesteaders, ranchers, railroads, army, and rival tribes that were threatening their way of life.
“It was kind of spiritual,” says Tom Genung, who was one of the ranchers invited. “The original treaty was with some tribal folks that were opposed to each other – warring. They realized they had to get together and stand together to deal with the United States better than what they were used to. And the reason they were doing that was because they wanted to protect the land for the next seven generations. That was 150 years ago, so in a way we renewed that treaty for the next seven generations.”
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
Lonnie Brooks - Trading Post
Lonnie Brooks - Too Little, Too Late
Lonnie Brooks - Woke Up This Morning
Lonnie Brooks - Voodoo daddy
Lonnie Brooks - Born with the Blues
Lonnie Brooks - Let's Talk is Over
Lonnie Brooks - Two Headed Man
Lonnie Brooks & Hubert Sumlin - Two Guitars Shuffle
Lonnie Brooks, Phillip Walker, Long John Hunter - Two Trains Running
Lonnie Brooks - Demonstrating
Lonnie Brooks - The Train
Lonnie Brooks - Backbone Man
Lonnie Brooks - The Frog
Lonnie Brooks - Watch Dog
Lonnie Brooks, Long John Hunter, Phillip Walker - Alligators Around My Door
Koko Taylor + Lonnie Brooks - Queen Bee
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.
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