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 delta bluesman Junior Kimbrough. Junior describes his music this way, "My songs, they have just the one chord, there's none of that fancy stuff you hear now, with lots of chords in one song." Enjoy!
Junior Kimbrough - All Night Long
"The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their number have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East."
-- Bertrand Russell
News and Opinion
Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza
Below are two charts reflecting the deaths of civilians, soldiers and “militants” in both Gaza and Israel since the July 8 Israeli attack began. The statistics used are unduly generous toward Israel, since “militants” in Gaza are often nothing more than residents who take up arms to defend their homes against an invading and occupying army. Even with that generous interpretation, these numbers, standing alone, tell a powerful story:
Click on graphic to embiggenize.
If you landed on earth from another planet this week, knowing nothing other than the most common use of the word “terrorism,” which side do you think would most frequently be referred to as “terrorists”? ...
In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defense.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favor of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.”
Over 1200 Palestinians slaughtered in Gaza so far, Netanyahu wants more killing
This is the seventh “Gaza war” Israel has launched since Hamas took over the strip in 2007, the longest lasted only three weeks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still talking up a “protracted campaign” this time, and suggesting this war will soon be both the longest and deadliest of the bunch. ...
The current death tolls stand at over 1,200 killed in Gaza, overwhelmingly civilians, and 55 from Israel, 52 of them Israeli troops involved in the fighting. Today saw Israel attack yet another Gaza hospital, killing a number of civilians.
110 killed in Gaza in 24 hours
Israel increased its attacks on Gaza on Monday night.
Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive.
Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours.
Israeli forces targeted key strategic targets, including the home of the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and a building housing Hamas-controlled broadcast outlets.
Haniyeh's home was hit by a missile shortly before dawn, causing damage but no injuries. Eleven people were killed in a strike on a house in Bureij refugee camp in Gaza City.
Shells hit fuel tanks at Gaza's only power plant, causing a massive explosion and black smoke to billow into the air. The plant's capacity - already down to about three hours' electricity supply a day - is likely to be further reduced.
Hamas said al-Aqsa TV and al-Aqsa Radio were also targeted. The television station continued to broadcast but the radio station went silent.
The Israel Defence Forces struck 150 targets in total during the course of the night.
Strikes Near Gaza's Shifa Hospital, Refugee Camp Kill at Least 10
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Missiles or rockets struck within yards of Gaza's main hospital and a nearby refugee camp Monday, leaving at least 10 dead and dozens more wounded.
The Israeli military denied initial reports that its forces were responsible for the strikes, saying instead that the bombing was the result of rockets misfired by Palestinian militants — while Hamas cast blame back at Israel. ...
"The story being put forth by the 'Occupation' that resistance rockets fell in Shifa Hospital and at the Children's Park in the Al-Shati Refugee camp is a failed attempt to escape from this crime and its fears that this crime will be exposed and held judicially accountable," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
"In addition, Israeli shrapnel has been collected as evidence from these scenes," the message from Zuhri said.
Early reports from the ground had said an Israeli drone appeared responsible for the attack.
Israel has been criticized for several strikes which hit hospitals in the Gaza Strip during its recent offensive.
Last week, charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said health workers in Gaza were coming under fire and urged Israel to stop its strikes.
Less than 4% of Israeli Jews Think the IDF Has Used Excessive Firepower in Gaza
90+% of Israeli Jews Believe Operation Protective Edge Is Just
The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) and Tel Aviv University are releasing the monthly Peace Index poll, which this month covers Israeli public opinion on Operation Protective Edge and the Gaza-Israel conflict.
In three sequential surveys carried out 14 July, 16-17 July, and 23 July, public opinion was assessed.
Justness and Proportionality
- Justness of Operation Protective Edge: Over the course of the surveys, Israeli Jewish public opinion has been consistently almost unanimous in its definition of Operation Protective Edge as justified – an average of 95% (96%, 92%, and 97% over the course of the three surveys).
- Use of Firepower: Only 3 - 4% of Israeli Jews believed that the IDF has used excessive firepower in Gaza (3.1%, 3.8%, and 3.7%). The balance believed that the IDF used an appropriate level of firepower (48%, 37%, and 60%) or insufficient firepower (45%, 57%, and 33%).
Israel's 155mm Cure for 'Terrorism'
In 1956, Britain and France were convinced that Egypt’s charismatic nationalist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, was threatening what was left of their Mideast and African colonial empires. London branded Nasser, “Hitler on the Nile.”
So the British and French governments secretly enlisted Israel to invade and annex Egypt’s Sinai. British and French troops were to seize the Canal Zone in a supposed “peacekeeping mission,” march on Cairo, and install a puppet government there. Israel would keep the entire Sinai Peninsula.
The infamous Suez invasion turned into a humiliating debacle for the bungling British and French; Nasser became a hero to the entire Third World. But Israel tenaciously hung on to Sinai, claiming it needed the peninsula ‘for security.’
When US President Dwight Eisenhower learned of the UK-French-Israeli plan to grab the Suez Canal and march on Cairo, he was furious. Ike ordered the British and French out of Egypt under threat of collapsing their weak currencies. Eisenhower told Israel to get out of Sinai – or else. Israel got out.
This event is worth recalling as we today watch US President Barack Obama and his hapless Secretary of State John Kerry plead with Israel to stop massacring Palestinians in Gaza.
What could be more pitiful than two of the world’s most supposedly powerful men imploring Israel to stop killing Palestinians with US-supplied weapons like F-16 warplanes and heavy 155mm self-propelled guns – which violates US Arms Export Act, though no one in Washington dares to admit this? Or resuming military payoffs to Egypt’s brutish military dictatorship to keep Palestinians locked up in the Gaza Ghetto?
Instead, Washington is steadily raising the risks of a totally unnecessary war with Russia over Ukraine by arming and financing Kiev’s military forces and waging a massive anti-Russian propaganda war. Welcome back to the Cold War. Last time around men of skill and character conducted US foreign affairs; today, we have midgets.
Harry Reid: Israel May Need More US Aid for War
Says US Should Give Israel Far More for Gaza Conflict
Most funding requests go through a period of debate where the administration requests a set amount and various congressional factions start trying to pare it down to a more manageable sum. That is not the case with Israel aid.
A new Pentagon request for $225 million in “emergency” aid for Israel, above and beyond the billions sent there annually, was panned by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as far too low. ...
The latest military aid package comes in spite of administration efforts to convince Israel to agree to a ceasefire, though Congressional eagerness to bankroll Israel above all other concerns means that Israel can safely ignore calls for a ceasefire without risking the gravy train.
Citing Holocaust, Israel Demands ‘Strict Regulation’ of Antiwar Protests in Europe
A new Holocaust is imminent, if one is to believe Israeli MPs, who spent the afternoon berating European officials about the growing antiwar protests across their countries, centered on criticizing the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Officials blamed “one-sided” media reports on the large number of dead civilians in Israel’s attack, and demanded the European Union impose “strict regulations on the format and content” of antiwar demonstrations going forward.
The Israeli proposal would see the creation of a Special Commissioner in the European Union that would empowered to “monitor” antiwar protesters and restrict them from portraying Israel an “an aggressor” during its assorted invasions of Palestinian territory.
Moscow may walk out of nuclear treaty after US accusations of breach
Russia may be on the point of walking out of a major cold war era arms-control treaty, Russian analysts have said, after President Obama accused Moscow of violating the accord by testing a cruise missile.
There has been evidence at least since 2011 of Russian missile tests in violation of the 1987 intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) treaty, which banned US or Russian ground-launched cruise missiles with a 500 to 5,500-mile (805 to 8,851km) range. But the Obama administration has been hesitant until now of accusing Moscow of a violation in the hope that it could persuade Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to stop the tests or at least not deploy the weapon in question, known as the Iskander, or R-500.
Washington has also been reticent because of the technical differences in definition of what constitutes the range of a missile under the INF treaty. That ambiguity now seems to have dropped away. According to Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence analyst and columnist for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Russia has indeed broken the treaty by testing the R-500 which has a range of more than 1,000km.
"Of course, this is in gross violation of the 1987 treaty, but Russian officials including Putin have said this treaty is unfair and not suitable for Russia," Felgenhauer said. "The United States doesn't have [medium-range missiles] but other countries do have them, such as China, Pakistan and Israel, so they say this is unfair and wrong."
Justice Dept. Moves to Shield Anti-Iran Group’s Files
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has gone to court to protect the files of an influential anti-Iran advocacy group, saying they likely contain information the government does not want disclosed.
The highly unusual move by the Justice Department raises questions about the connections between the American government and the group, United Against Nuclear Iran, a hard-line voice seeking to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The group has a roster of prominent former government officials and a reputation for uncovering information about companies that sometimes do business with Iran, in violation of international sanctions.
The Justice Department has temporarily blocked the group from having to reveal its donor list and other internal documents in a defamation lawsuit filed by a Greek shipping magnate the group accused of doing business with Iran. Government lawyers said they had a “good faith basis to believe that certain information” would jeopardize law enforcement investigations, reveal investigative techniques or identify confidential sources if released.
Judge Edgardo Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York called the government’s involvement “very curious.” But since March, he has agreed not to force the group to reveal the information. The government has until Thursday to say whether it will formally claim law enforcement privilege and try to keep the information secret permanently.
The intervention by the Justice Department added a new layer of mystery to an already intriguing case. Lawyers for Victor Restis, who filed the defamation suit, have accused the group of being funded by unidentified foreign interests and are trying to force the testimony of Israeli’s former intelligence chief and a prominent Israeli businessman.
“This raises so many questions about what is going on behind the scenes,” said Abbe D. Lowell, a lawyer representing Mr. Restis.
MoD and Foreign Office sued by Pakistani citizen in Iraq torture case
A Pakistani citizen is suing the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office, accusing them of responsibility for his subjection to torture and severe abuse over 10 years.
Yunus Rahmatullah was captured by British special forces in Iraq in 2004 and handed over to US troops soon afterwards. The incident was initially kept secret from ministers and only disclosed to MPs five years later, in 2009. Rahmatullah, now 31, was released by the US without charge in May.
He is believed to have been first held at Camp Nama, a secret detention facility at Baghdad airport that British troops helped to run. He was later transferred to Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib jail before being rendered to the Bagram "black prison" in Afghanistan.
The court of appeal ruled in 2011 that Rahmatullah was unlawfully detained and ordered a writ of habeas corpus – the ancient British legal right to be charged or released from arbitrary detention – to be issued.
However, lawyers acting for the government later successfully argued in the supreme court that British ministers had no power "to direct the US" to release Rahmatullah from Bagram.
Senators consider obscure rule in CIA torture report declassification debate
Senators are considering the use of an obscure parliamentary procedure to compel the Obama administration to release more of a landmark Senate report into the Central Intelligence Agency's abusive post-9/11 interrogations should they be unsatisfied with the administration’s first version.
"If the redacted version of the Senate Intelligence Committee's study that we receive appears to be an effort to obscure its narrative and findings — and if the White House is not amenable to working toward a set of mutually agreed-upon redactions — I believe the committee must seriously consider its other option," Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat on the intelligence committee, told the Guardian on Monday. ...
Udall joins Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat and civil libertarian on the committee with whom Udall often votes, in pointing to the parliamentary rule, Senate Resolution 400, as an additional tactic to force disclosure. Yet the never-before-used rule portends an uphill struggle: a majority of senators would need to vote for additional disclosure.
Steven Aftergood, a secrecy and intelligence scholar at the Federation of American Scientists, said invocation of the rule "does not offer a realistic alternative," since the Senate is far from united in favor of broad public access to the committee torture report. ...
The CIA director who established the agency's post-9/11 interrogations, detentions and renditions, George Tenet, is reportedly convening former CIA notables, including his fellow ex-directors, to discredit the report once it is released.
U.S. Senate bill proposes sweeping curbs on NSA surveillance
Senator Patrick Leahy will introduce legislation on Tuesday to ban the U.S. government's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records and Internet data and narrow how much information it can seek in any particular search.
The bill, which has White House backing, goes further than a version passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in reducing bulk collection and may be more acceptable to critics who have dismissed other versions as too weak. ...
The legislation is not expected to come up for a vote in the Senate before Congress leaves for a five-week break on Friday.
Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed greater limits on the terms analysts use to search databases held by phone companies such as Verizon Communications Inc or AT&T Inc.
The bill, called the USA Freedom Act, would prohibit the government from collecting all information from a particular service provider or a broad geographic area, such as a city or area code, according to a release from Leahy's office.
The USA Freedom Act would expand government and company reporting to the public and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews NSA intelligence activities.
Banks Cash In on Inversion Deals Intended to Elude Taxes
Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently said, “I love America.” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote an opinion article saying, “Investing in America still produces the best return.”
Yet guess who’s behind the recent spate of merger deals in which major United States corporations have renounced their citizenship in search of a lower tax bill? Wall Street banks, led by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
Investment banks are estimated to have collected, or will soon collect, nearly $1 billion in fees over the last three years advising and persuading American companies to move the address of their headquarters abroad (without actually moving). With seven- and eight-figure fees up for grabs, Wall Street bankers — and lawyers, consultants and accountants — have been promoting such deals, known as inversions, to some of the biggest companies in the country, including the American drug giant Pfizer.
So far, on deals completed or pending, Goldman Sachs is estimated to have made $203 million advising on inversion deals since 2011, according to data from the Deal Intelligence unit of Thomson Reuters. JPMorgan stands to collect $185 million, while Morgan Stanley will make $98 million and Citigroup $72 million.
None of the major Wall Street banks, which received help from American taxpayers in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars in loans, appear to have declined on principle to take an assignment from a client seeking to move its corporate citizenship abroad. ...
These deals are expected to sap the United States Treasury of $19.46 billion over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. And that figure doesn’t take into consideration any future inversions. Nor does it account for the possible loss of jobs and revenue that will ostensibly move overseas over time.
Past-due debt prevalent across U.S., with South the highest
Roughly one in three adult Americans have a past-due debt that’s been turned over to a collection agency, according to a novel new study.
Southern states fare worst in the study, with most having four in 10 residents with credit files that show debt in collection. The New England states fared best.
The findings overlap other economic data that together suggest millions of Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet in an uneven economic recovery that’s benefited the top end far more than the middle and bottom.
- 35 percent of Americans with a credit file have debt in collection reported in these files. Bills more than 180 days overdue are sent to collection agencies.
- The average amount owed on bills in collection is $5,200.
- 5.3 percent of Americans with a credit file have bills reported to a credit bureau between 30 and 180 days past due.
- The average amount owed on past-due debt not yet in collections is $2,258.
- Americans with bills in collection and past-due debt owe a combined average of $9,123.
What Recovery? You Probably Became Poorer In the Last 10 Years
From 2003-2013, ordinary Americans lost a third of their wealth.
You sense it when you look at your retirement account. You feel it when the bills come in. According to new research supported by the Russell Sage Foundation, your instinct is right: you are very likely getting poorer.
For the study, researchers gathered information on families in the middle of the wealth distribution continuum. What they found is that in 2003, the inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992. Fast-forward 10 years: that figure is down to a mere $56,335.
Ordinary Americans got 36 percent poorer in just a decade. ...
Underlying all of this is the spread of faulty economic thinking throughout academia, political circles and the mainstream press. Neoclassical economics, or so-called free-market ideology, essentially serves as the official justification for inequality, promoting mythologies about the rich as the great job creators (when they are actually job destroyers), the presumed benefits of inequality such as innovation (check the Scandinavian countries to debunk that one, where innovation thrives but inequality does not), and a host of similar nonsense.
Will Dems Ever Stop Being Craven Tools of Wall Street?
To put it crudely, the dilemma facing the Democratic party comes down to this: Will Dems decide next time to stand with the working people, or will they stick with their big-money friends in finance and business? Some twenty years ago, Bill Clinton taught Democrats how they can have it both ways. Take Wall Street’s money—gobs of it—while promising to govern on a heart-felt agenda of “Putting People First.”
It worked, sort of, for the party. Not so much for the people. New Democrats prevailed. Old labor-liberals lost their seat at the table. Among left-wing malcontents, Bill Clinton became “slick Willie.”
Now economic adversities have blown away the Clinton legacy, which is rightly blamed for much of what happened to middle-class wage earners. New voices like senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherod Brown are demanding a new new politics—big governing reforms that really do put people first. The old New Dems are stuck with their moderation and obsolete economic doctrine that is utterly irrelevant amid the nation’s depressed circumstances.
Sooner or later I expect politics will change, because the injuries and adversities will not go away in the absence of stronger government interventions. For now, however, the Clintonites are the Democratic Party, having deliberately excluded liberal thinkers and activists from the ranks of government policymakers for two decades. Economic experts recruited by the Obama administration are more likely to have been trained at Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. They do not personally share the public’s anger.
Weeding out the prison population
The New York Times’ editorial board – America’s barometer of what cautious, moderately liberal elites are supposed to think – wants America’s war against weed to end. States, they say, should be allowed to make their own marijuana policies. ...
The policing costs alone of enforcing the criminalization of marijuana are almost $8 billion annually. America spends a staggering $80 billion on prisons and jails each year: with just 5 percent of the world’s population, it has 25 percent of the world’s inmates (17 percent of all people in U.S. prisons are there for drug offenses. In federal prisons, the number is a jarring 50 percent.)
From 1978 and 2009, the U.S. prison population grew by 430 percent. It is impossible to understand what Emily Badger calls the “the meteoric, costly and unprecedented rise of incarceration in America” without looking at the nation’s drug policy. “Between 1980 and 2010,” she writes, “the incarceration rate for drug crimes increased tenfold.” (Recently, America’s prison population has fallen fractionally, largely thanks to state reforms.)
The Evening Greens
White House warned over climate
Several former treasury secretaries and a couple of billionaires have come forward in recent weeks to warn Americans about the economic risks of climate change. By producing its own report on the costs of climate change, the White House appeared to be moving to bolster Obama's climate agenda from industry attacks.
Industry groups claim that new Environmental Protection Agency rules for power plants will cripple the economy.
In their rebuttal, Obama's economic team said the costs of delaying action to cut carbon pollution would be far higher in the long term - 40% over the course of a decade, in terms of the increased costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with climate impacts.
The costs were projected to rise even more steeply with each additional degree of warming above the 2C threshold for dangerous climate change, the report said.
“Each decade we delay acting results in an added cost of dealing with the problem of an extra 40%,” Jason Furman, chairman of the council of economic advisers, told a conference call with reporters. “The total amount we would have to pay today would be 40% larger if we waited a decade instead of acting now.”
Dirty Coal Exports Are a 'Global Shell Game'
Federal coal leases are essentially a major fossil fuel subsidy, Greenpeace says
U.S. coal exports and the federal coal leasing program threaten to undermine federal, state, and international efforts to reduce carbon pollution, according to reports issued Monday.
An Associated Press analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that while the U.S. has cut its own coal consumption by 195 million tons over the last six years, about 20 percent of that coal was shipped abroad, much of it to European countries. ...
In a report titled "Leasing Coal, Fueling Climate Change," Greenpeace uses the federal government's metric to calculate the social cost of carbon damages expected from publicly owned coal that has been leased during the Obama administration (2.2 billion tons so far), showing that one ton of coal has sold for $1.03 on average, but will cause between $22 and $237 in damages to society.
In total, the report finds that "the carbon pollution from publicly owned coal leased during the Obama administration will cause damages estimated at between $52 billion and $530 billion. In contrast, the total amount of revenue generated from those coal lease sales was $2.3 billion."
'Climate Criminality': Australia OKs Biggest Coal Mine
Environmental groups slam decision that will 'dump on' Great Barrier Reef, fuel climate crisis
In a decision criticized as "climate criminality," Australia's federal government announced Monday that it has given the OK to the country's biggest coal mine.
The announcement comes less than three months after the state of Queensland gave its approval to the project.
"With this decision," wrote Ben Pearson, head of programs for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, "the political system failed to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the global climate and our national interest."
“Off the back of repealing effective action on climate change," stated Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters, referring to the scrapping of the carbon tax, "the Abbott Government has ticked off on a proposal for Australia’s biggest coal mine to cook the planet and turn our Reef into a super highway for coal ships.” ...
UNESCO "noted with concern" (pdf) in April the prospect of additional dredging that would negatively impact the Reef and warned that the site could be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger.
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
Junior Kimbrough - Sad Days, Lonely Nights
Junior Kimbrough - Most Things havent Worked Out
Junior Kimbrough - I'm leaving you baby
Junior Kimbrough - Meet Me in the City
Junior Kimbrough - I Gotta Try You Girl
Junior Kimbrough - Old Black Mattie
Junior Kimbrough - Feels So Good
Jr Kimbrough - Done Got Old
Junior Kimbrough - Pull your clothes off
Junior Kimbrough - My Mind is Ramblin
Junior Kimbrough - Do the Rump!
The Black Keys - Do the Rump
Junior Kimbrough - My Mama Done Told Me
It's National Pie Day!
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