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Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.  

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This evening's music features New Orleans R&B piano player, whose style was influential in the creation of rock and roll Huey "Piano" Smith.  Enjoy!

Huey Piano Smith - Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”

 -- John Maynard Keynes

News and Opinion

US economy shrinks for first time since 2009

As Predicted, Austerity Policies Send US Economy Downward

As if the lessons of recent European policies weren't enough or a century of proven economics, the US trudges towards stagnation and financial pain... by choice

Progressive economists who spent much of the last four years warning against the implementation of austerity policies in the US did not share in the surprise expressed by many lawmakers and mainstream pundits when new GDP data released Wednesday showed Q4 growth trending the economy back towards official recession.

As warned by experts not cowed by the "deficit hawk" alarmists who dominate the national conversation on the economy, the dip in growth was not the result of "uncertainty" in the private sector or the future demands of public spending obligations, but rather on the contraction of public spending and the tax increases prematurely foisted on low-income and middle class workers in the form of a payroll tax increase that took effect on January 1. ...

Robert Borosage, from the Campaign for America's Future, told the Huffington Post: "Inflicting austerity on a weak economy is ruinous and is likely to drive us back into a recession."

"Those dismissing the downturn as due to an odd drop in government spending should consider that more of these are on the docket," Borosage continued, making reference to further government spending cuts, known as 'sequestration,' that will likely be implemented in March.

The Coming Recession: How Fiscal Responsibility is Economic Suicide

My colleagues and I have been writing endlessly about the ignorance of reducing government spending in our current economic straits. Unemployment is stagnant at just under 8% and over 12 million Americans are looking for work–and the latter does not count discouraged workers, those taking jobs well below their skill level, or individuals accepting part-time work when they needed full-time (they add another 10 million or so; Bureau of Labor Statistics). Firms are understandably reluctant to expand operations in an environment where households are debt-ridden and the financial sector continues to be marked more by a desire to get rich quick than facilitate the production of goods and services. Faced with short- and long-term problems, we are far from out of the woods.

It is in this environment that members of both parties are falling over themselves to show how fiscally “responsible” they are. And we achieved this lofty goal in fourth quarter 2012 by reducing federal government spending by 15%. The result? Real GDP shrank by 0.1% (Bureau of Economic Analysis; consumers were able to keep this from being even worse due to a surge in spending on durables, something that is not sustainable because once you get your new big-screen TV for Christmas, you don’t buy another one for a while). This is a preliminary figure, but it contrasts sharply with third quarter growth of 3.1%. Not coincidentally, during that period federal government spending grew by 9.5%. We are primed for another recession.

The only thing wrong with the debt and deficit is that they are too small. We need to be increasing government spending, not reducing it. What in God’s name are our policy makers thinking? Why do they believe that, when we already have over 20 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, a laid off federal employee would suddenly find herself swamped with job offers? And how will those in the private sector replace the revenues that resulted from soldiers, Marines, park rangers, NASA scientists, postal employees, etc., shopping in their store? The short answer is, they won’t. As you cut federal spending, the economy–including the private sector–contracts, just as it would if you cut any other kind of spending.


Vast majority of wage earners are working harder, and for not much more

As is well-documented in The State of Working America, 12th Edition (Mishel et al. 2012), the U.S. economy over the past decade has worked primarily to the advantage of a small sliver of winners. Meanwhile, the vast majority of workers have not fared well—a trend that stretches back to the late 1970s. Contrary to some political rhetoric of late, this is not due to lack of effort; the broad middle class has increased its productivity, upgraded its educational attainment, and worked more hours.

In other words, workers have been offering more to the economy and the labor market, and what they have received in return—particularly in the form of real hourly wages—has been very disappointing. This trend is particularly evident when considering that the majority of workers—especially those in the bottom 60 percent of the wage distribution—increased their work hours substantially between 1979 and 2007, the last year before the current recession. However, during this period (excluding a brief interlude of strong economic growth between 1995 and 2000), real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) hourly wages of the bottom 60 percent grew modestly—ranging from an actual decline for the bottom fifth to annual growth of about 0.25 percent for the middle fifth. This growth is far less than the increase in economy-wide productivity over that time.

Nominee for ‘Sheriff’ Has Worn Banks’ Hat

So how conflicted is Ms. White? Let’s count the ways.

They are well documented: she was JPMorgan Chase’s go-to lawyer for many of the cases brought against it relating to the financial crisis. She was arm-in-arm with Kenneth D. Lewis, Bank of America’s former chief executive, keeping him out of trouble when the New York attorney general accused Mr. Lewis of defrauding investors by not disclosing the losses at Merrill Lynch before completing Bank of America’s acquisition of the firm. (And empirically, Mr. Lewis did keep crucial information about the deal from investors.)

This is what she had to say about Mr. Lewis, in a court filing submitted on his behalf: “Some have looked to assign blame for every aspect of the financial crisis, even where there is no evidence of misconduct. This case is a product of that dynamic and does not withstand either legal or factual scrutiny.” It was a refrain she often made about her clients related to the financial crisis.

And then there was Senator Bill Frist, the Republican from Tennessee, whom she successfully represented when the S.E.C. and the Justice Department started an investigation into whether he was involved in insider trading in shares of HCA, the hospital chain. She persuaded them to shut down the investigation.

She also worked with Siemens, the German industrial giant, when it pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, paying a record $1.6 billion penalty.

And then, of course, there was John Mack. She worked for the board of Morgan Stanley during a now well-publicized 2005 investigation into insider trading that ended soon after she made a phone call to the S.E.C. Using her connections at the top of the agency, she dialed up Linda Thomsen, then the commission’s head of enforcement, to find out whether Mr. Mack, who was being considered for Morgan Stanley’s chief executive position, was being implicated. He ultimately wasn’t. As the Huffington Post pointed out in a recent article about Ms. White, Robert Hanson, an S.E.C. supervisor, later testified, “It is a little out of the ordinary for Mary Jo White to contact Linda Thomsen directly, but that White is very prestigious and it isn’t uncommon for someone prominent to have someone intervene on their behalf.”

All of Ms. White’s previous engagements create not only an “optics” problem, but a practical, on-the-job problem. She will most likely need to recuse herself from just about anything related to her previous work.

Preaching to the Choir

Student Loan Delinquencies Skyrocket Signaling 'Latest Red Flag'

Young people are more likely than ever to default on their students loans, according to a new report published Tuesday by the Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO Labs), signaling that the monstrous debt situation is worsening and will continue to plague our next generation of graduates. ...

Calling the report the "latest red flag" the LA Times reports, "the student-loan delinquency rate in the last three years has risen to 15.1%, up from 12.4% from 2005 to 2007 [...] That’s a nearly 22% increase."

At the same time, the average loan balances also continue to skyrocket indicating that school costs are growing even more out of reach for the average student. According to the report, "in 2005, the average U.S. student loan debt was $17,233. By 2012, it had ballooned to more than $27,253 – an increase of 58 percent in seven years."

Redemption: Oscar-Nominated Doc Follows the Working Poor Who Survive on Collecting Bottles and Cans
Obama Will Again Thwart UN Investigations of Drone War

Micah Zenko is betting that the latest UN investigation into drone killings by the United States “is unlikely to compel increased transparency from the Obama administration.” Essentially, this is because similar investigations have been going on for about ten years and the Bush and Obama administrations have had the same response to them: “Screw off.”

After the first targeted assassination by drone killed six al-Qaeda suspects in November 2002 in Yemen, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, demanded some answers and indicated this probably violated international law. Jahangir wrote:

The Special Rapporteur is extremely concerned that should the information received be accurate, an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of Government. The Special Rapporteur acknowledges that Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens against the excesses of non-State actors or other authorities, but these actions must be taken in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. In the opinion of the Special Rapporteur, the attack in Yemen constitutes a clear case of extrajudicial killing.
The Bush administration’s response, as Zenko documents, was to have “no comment” on the validity of the reports and to say that humanitarian laws wouldn’t apply to “enemy combatants.” This was of course characteristic of the post-9/11 view that the entire world was a limitless battlefield where the US was unrestrained in what it could do because it was all in self-defense against imminent terrorist attacks. Right.

And when UN special rapporteurs made similar inquiries into Obama’s drone attacks, they were similarly stiff armed. And the Obama administration made the same argument as Bush: these attacks were in self-defense of imminent terrorist attacks and it doesn’t matter that they occurred outside of an official battlefield because the world is our battlefield.

Guantánamo judge unplugs hidden censors from 9/11 trial

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- The military judge presiding at the Sept. 11 trial Thursday ordered the government to unplug any outside censors who can reach into his courtroom and silence the war crimes tribunal.

Only a court security officer sitting in court, at the judge’s elbow, has the authority to hit a mute button on the proceedings if there’s a suspicion that national security information could be spilled, Judge James L. Pohl announced.

At issue was a mysterious episode Monday when the sound to spectators was suddenly replaced by white noise in court after 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s attorney David Nevin said the word “secret.”

Nobody inside court did it. The judge erupted in anger, and appeared surprised that “some external body” had the power to prevent the public from listening to the proceedings — which are broadcast in the spectator’s gallery on a 40-second delay.

“This is the last time that will happen,” the judge said Thursday. “No third party can unilaterally cut off the broadcast.”

Walmart Limits Ammunition Sales After Demand Surges

Walmart has started to limit sales of ammunition to three boxes per customer per day due to limited supplies, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Sales of guns and ammunition have risen across the United States since the Dec. 14 shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school.

US drones in Africa: Surveillance or strikes?

'We Will Strike Until We Win!': Greek Workers Continue Tireless Strikes

Workers continued their struggle for an austerity-free Greece Thursday, staging strikes in the health and public transport sectors in the country's capital.

Protesters gathered at several separate demonstrations with port workers rallying in the port of Piraeus to ring in their 48-hour strike and public hospital workers demonstrating at the Health Ministry in central Athens, with hospitals running on emergency staff.

Public buses, suburban rail and trolleys in Athens stood still throughout the day.

Athens' main civil servants’ union declared a three-hour work stoppage at all public services in solidarity—shutting down post offices, tax offices and other services.

Hundreds of doctors, medical staff, teachers and municipal workers marched to parliament, chanting in protest of the "dangerous" austerity measures that continue to rob the nation's public sector in exchange for shady bailout loans from the European Troika—the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank lenders. ...

"Pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions while rich Greeks and tax evaders have escaped sacrifice has enraged Greeks and caused a record 26.8 percent unemployment," Associated Press reports.

UN Report: Israel Must Immediately Dismantle Settlements or Face ICC

Israel must immediately stop without preconditions all settlements, "developed through a system of total segregation," which consistently and on a daily basis violate the rights of Palestinians and are in violation of the Geneva Convention, a UN report published Thursday states.

The scathing findings are from the International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory from the UN's Human Rights Council (HRC), which notes that the illegal settlements, through systemic abuses, violate Palestinians' right to self-determination, and could lead Israel to face the International Criminal Court.

"The magnitude of violations relating to Israel's policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights," stated Unity Dow of Botswana, who joined Christine Chanet, Judge of the Court of Cassation of France and Asma Jahangir, leading Pakistani human rights lawyer and Trustee of the Board of the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in the Mission.

"The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand," she added.

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Will Exaggerated Deficit Talks Lead to an "Obama Recession?" We Must Still Ask These Questions

First-time claims for unemployment benefits rises steeply after steeply dropping last week.

War on Information: Chinese Hacking into NYT Worse than US Hacking into Its Employees' Computers?

Memory to myth: tracing Aaron Swartz through the 21st century

A Little Night Music

Huey "Piano" Smith - Don't You Just Know It

Huey "Piano" Smith and His Clowns - Sea Cruise

Huey Piano Smith - High Blood Pressure

Huey Piano Smith - Don't You Know Yockomo

Huey 'Piano' Smith - Pop-Eye

Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns - Little Liza Jane.wmv

Huey "Piano" Smith and His Clowns - Would You Believe It I Have a Cold

Huey "Piano" Smith and His Clowns - Second Line

Huey "Piano" Smith and His Clowns - Well I'll Be John Brown

Huey Smith (Huey Piano Smith) - You're Down With Me

Huey Piano Smith and His Clowns - If It Ain't One Thing, It's Another

Huey Piano Smith and The Clowns - Doing The Santa Claus

Huey Piano Smith - Somebody told it

Huey Piano Smith and The Clowns - Just A Lonely Clown

It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Team DFH.



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