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 jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday. Enjoy!
Billie Holiday - The Blues Are Brewin'
“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world : My own Government, I can not be Silent.”
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
News and Opinion
Why the 1960s still matter
Should the events of 50 years ago matter to the rest of us? Is what happened on May 4, 1970 - and in the tumultuous years leading up to it -- still relevant on May 4, 2013? OK, I've clearly revealed my bias, but I think the answer is undeniably yes -- because there is a straight line between the skirmishes people fought then and the all-too-real war for the future of America that is taking place today.
Was what happened on the homefront just a brief time of heightened social upheaval, or was there really a full-blown revolution in this country? Well, before you jump in with what seems like the obvious answer -- consider the hallmarks of the other revolutions that you've seen. You'd see peaceful protests escalate to street violence, with a mounting death toll and with the militaryeventually called up. You'd see revolutionary cadres form, and intensifying government efforts to stop them but also legitimate protest. with wiretaps and informants, leading up to targeted killings. There'd be deadly suppression of protests, and daring acts of defiance. Yet in some revolutions, the government is ultimately toppled, its leaders put on trial, its secrets aired in a national reconciliation effort. But the underlying tensions remain.
I could have been describing Egypt in 2011, but of course I was talking about the United States from 1965-1975 . Yes, the 1960s were the Second American Revolution, but why and how did it end? This is where history gets messy. I'd argue that the era ended in an uneasy draw. On one hand, the millions protesting the government got some of the things that they fought for -- the draft ended, the war in Vietnam wound down to its inevitable end, 18-year-olds won the right to vote, African-Americans won the right to vote as well as other civil liberties with women, gays and others on their heels. But the revolution of the 1960s also ended because of the often-violent crackdown by the government. More than two dozen leaders of the Black Panthers, for example, were killed by police bullets, and most others were sent to jail.
For a few days after Kent State, the volley of National Guard bullets that inexplicably killed four young people (none of whom were breaking the law, including two bystanders who weren't involved in the anti-war demonstrations) felt like the start of an even bigger revolution, but in the reality is was the end; campuses closed for the summer and when the students came back in the fall, the active protests were all over but the shouting. Killing people has a way of doing that. We don't like to admit it, but too often, violent repression works.
The Game of Drones
At last we know. The mysterious legal authority for Barack Obama’s killer drone program flows from another administration with an elastic interpretation of executive power: that of Richard Nixon.
In a chilling 16-page dossier known simply as the White Paper, one of Obama’s statutory brains at the Justice Department cites the 1969 secret bombing of Cambodia as a legal rationale justifying drone strikes, deep inside nations, against which the United States is not officially at war.
... The bombing of Cambodia (aka Operation Menu), which involved more than 3,000 air strikes, was almost universally acknowledged as a war crime. Now the Obama administration has officially enshrined that atrocity as precedent for its own killing rampages. ...
The professional Left, from the progressive caucus to the robotic minions of Moveon.org, lodge no objections and launch no protests over the administration’s acts of sanctimonious violence against the empire’s enemies. ...
The cyber-Left is kept rigidly in line by the architects of liberal opinion. From David Corn to Rachel Maddow, the progressive press acts in sinister harmony with the administration’s neoliberal agenda. They sedulously ignore Obama’s constitutional depredations, and instead devote acres of airspace to the faux clashes over sequestration and gay marriage.
Night after night, we are presented with sideshows, what Hitchcock called the McGuffin in his films, the dramatic diversions designed to distract the audience’s attention from the real game being played. Meanwhile, the liberal commentariat is balefully complacent to the rapacity of Obama’s remote control death squadrons, even in the face of somber evidence regarding the drone program’s criminal nature. Raid after raid, kill after kill, ruin after ruin, they remain silent. But their silence only serves to emphasize their complicity, their consciousness of guilt. Their fingers too are stained by distant blood.
The Nation: Obama Walk Your Talk on Guantánamo
“I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama told reporters on April 30, adding that “the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can.” He also recommitted to closing Guantánamo, calling on Congress to “step up and help."
It’s true that lawmakers on both sides have fought hard to make transfers impossible. But Obama’s words ignored how his own policies set the stage for the crisis. “He has said the right thing before,” Guantánamo lawyer Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights told The Nation. “It’s time now for action.” The CCR is calling on Obama to end his “self-imposed moratorium” on releasing Yemenis and resume prisoner transfers. It has also called for Obama to appoint a senior official to “shepherd the process of closure.”
As the hunger strike approaches its hundredth day on May 17, more than 100 of Guantánamo’s 166 prisoners are refusing food. The president must start living up to his rhetoric about closing the prison, the CCR warns, or “the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.”
Obama Nominates Billionaire, "Heavyweight" Fundraiser for Commerce Secretary
Pritzker yet another pro-corporate, anti-labor nomination
President Barack Obama nominated another corporate billionaire to his cabinet on Thursday, announcing hotel heiress Penny Pritzker—also longtime Obama supporter and "heavyweight" fundraiser— as his pick to be Secretary of Commerce.
As the Chicago Tribune reports:Pritzker's nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her wealthy family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.Ahead of her nomination, a petition organized by CREDO Action urged Obama not to nominate Pritzker, calling her "an anti-worker business mogul who should not be appointed to head the Commerce Department."
With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker, 54, is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans.
Billionaire Bankster Penny Pritzker
Breaks into Obama's Cabinet
You made fun of me when I suggested that President Barack Obama would nominate a confessed bank scammer, a loan-sharking mortgage predator, to his cabinet. But thar she blows!
Today, Obama has named Penny Pritzker Secretary of Commerce. As the President says, It's a milestone: the first female fraudster to hold that post. No longer will criminal bankers have to lobby the administration - because now they'll have one of their own in the Cabinet. ...
Pritzker's net worth is listed in Forbes as $1.8 billion, which is one hell of a heavy magic wand in the world of politics. Her wand would have been heavier, and her net worth higher, except that in 2001, the federal government fined her and her family $460 million for the predatory, deceitful, racist tactics and practices of Superior, the bank-and-loan-shark operation she ran on the South Side of Chicago.
Superior was the first of the deregulated go-go banks to go bust - at the time, the costliest failure ever. US taxpayers lost nearly half a billion dollars. Superior's depositors lost millions and poor folk in Sen. Obama's South Side district lost their homes.
Big April Unemployment Surprise! Not. Nothing Obama has done has changed unemployment significantly:
The Housing Shell Game: Prices Up, Ownership Down
Why are housing prices rising when the homeownership rate has dropped to its lowest level in 18 years?
Actually, it’s not as confusing as it sounds. The Fed’s low interest rates have triggered a flurry of homebuying by Private Equity firms and other speculators which has reduced already-tight supply and pushed up prices. Of course, there is a downside to all this speculation, which is that real, “organic” demand from ordinary working people looking for a place to live, has dropped off sharply. That’s why the homeownership rate is in the dumps. It’s also why existing homes sales declined 0.6 percent in March and “the volume of purchase applications is at levels last seen in 1998″, because as prices edge higher, more people are opting to rent rather than own. Who can blame them?
Five Star Institute economist Mark Lieberman’s has done considerable research on the homeownership rate by combing through the US Census Bureau report. He found that:“The number of housing units held off the market in the first quarter though was 7,609,000 up from 7,299,000 in the fourth quarter and but down from 7,633,000 a year ago.” (“Homeownership Rate Drops to 18-Year Low” DS News)Can you believe it? So the banks are keeping more than 7 million homes off the market to reduce listings, create the illusion of ”scarcity”, and push up prices. And just look at the numbers. They haven’t budged in the last year, which means that things aren’t really getting better at all. It’s a complete hoax, in fact, it might be the biggest charade of all time.
Bankers Explain How They Cannot Possibly Live On $1 Million Pay
Like many carbon-based lifeforms, you perhaps think that bankers are driven only by naked greed. But that is just because you don't understand them: They actually have a deep psychological need for that money.
In a new article at the U.K. site eFinancialCareers, several bankers explain that they have legitimate reasons for needing more than one million British pounds (about $1.6 million) per year in pay -- more money than most non-banking types could ever figure out how to spend. In a nutshell, it's all about psychology. Abraham Maslow clearly should have added "crap-tons of money" when building his hierarchy of needs.
“It’s really not that unusual to find Wall Street bankers who are close to declaring themselves bankrupt,” Gary Goldstein, co-founder of U.S. search firm Whitney Partners, tells eFC's Sarah Butcher. “Some people are really struggling.”
The entire story -- the latest in a series of jaw-dropping articles from Butcher, who is becoming the City of London's version of Bloomberg's Max Abelson, reporting bankers saying dumb things -- is required reading for anyone trying to understand the soul of the banker.
Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.
From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.
The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent, to about 30 per 100,000. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent, to 7.0 per 100,000.
Suicide rates can be difficult to interpret because of variations in the way local officials report causes of death. But C.D.C. and academic researchers said they were confident that the data documented an actual increase in deaths by suicide and not a statistical anomaly. While reporting of suicides is not always consistent around the country, the current numbers are, if anything, too low. ...
The rise in suicides may also stem from the economic downturn over the past decade. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. “The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period,” Dr. Arias said.
U.S. punishes India for placing public health before corporate profits
The U.S. Trade Report released yesterday continues to hold India in Priority Watch Status because India is not caving in to pressure from pharmaceutical corporations who want to sell high-priced patented medications in India. For the past decade, India has taken the lead in producing low-cost generic medications to meet important areas of need such as the treatment of infectious diseases. India also has a strict approval process for patented medications such that new pharmaceuticals must actually prove that they are more effective than current drugs before being approved.
India's actions mean that the people of India and their neighbors are able to afford life-saving medicines, but US pharmaceutical corporations are in an uproar because of barriers to making profit in India.
Bolivia Expels USAID: Not Why, but Why Not Sooner
At a speech celebrating May Day in Bolivia today, President Evo Morales announced the expulsion of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from the country. ...
The role of USAID in Bolivia has been a primary point of contention between the U.S. and Bolivia dating back to at least 2006. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell characterized Morales’ statement as “baseless allegations.” While State Department spokespeople and many commentators will characterize USAID's work with oppositional groups as appropriate, a look at the agency's work over the past decade paints a very different picture.
Documents obtained by investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood show that as early as 2002, USAID funded a “Political Party Reform Project,” which sought to “serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS [Morales’ political party] or its successors.” Later USAID began a program “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” some of which were pushing for regional autonomy and were involved in the September 2008 destabilization campaign that left some 20 indigenous Bolivians dead. Meanwhile, the U.S. has continually refused to disclose the recipients of aid funds.
Transcanada Considers Deputizing Local Police for Private Pipeline Security
"Are they working for our citizens or are they working for TransCanada?"
That's the question Jane Kleeb, leader of the anti-pipeline activist group Bold Nebraska, is asking after reports surfaced that TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, is in talks with local Nebraska law enforcement officials over how to deal with the likely influx of climate activists to the state if and when the tar sands project is approved.
"That's a conflict of interest," said Kleeb.
According to local news reports, the Nebraska State Patrol and county sheriffs met with representatives from Transcanada last week to discuss "security concerns" during the construction of the not-yet-approved Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, particularly the influence of "outside" protesters and potentially "heated confrontations between construction crews and opponents."
Those discussions reportedly included the possibility of TransCanada hiring off-duty local officers to work as private security guards during construction—a practice which the firm has used elsewhere "for quite a while," notes the anti-pipeline group Tar Sands Blockade.
Appeals court says NY towns can ban fracking
A mid-level appeals court on Thursday said local governments in New York can ban hydraulic fracturing and shale-gas drilling within their borders, delivering a major blow to the natural-gas industry and landowners who had sought to have the bans overturned.
The state Appellate Division ruled unanimously in favor of the Tompkins County town of Dryden and the Otsego County town of Middlefield, both of which passed zoning laws that prohibit natural-gas drilling. The rulings upheld decisions last year from a lower court.
The so-called "home rule" issue has been a topic of contention among the gas industry and critics of fracking.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
A Little Night Music
Billie Holiday - Stormy Monday Blues
Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
Billie Holiday - God Bless The Child
Billie Holiday and Lester Young - Fine and Mellow
Billie Holiday-Tain't Nobody's Business if I Do
Billie Holiday - Easy Living
Billie Holiday - These Foolish Things
Billie Holiday - I Cried for You
Billie Holiday & Louis Armstrong - Farewell to Storyville
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!