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.
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Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features guitarist Mike Bloomfield. Enjoy!
Muddy Waters + Mike Bloomfield - Long Distance Call
“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.”
-- Gore Vidal
News and Opinion
Under The Big Top
Hey looky, the circus is back in town - and here come the two lead clowns, one red clown and one blue clown - specially chosen by the Ringmaster:
Like harbingers of a hard winter, anti-entitlement spokesmen Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles have returned to the nation’s capital. These constituentless advocates for a widely disliked set of policies were given their usual unwarranted level of press coverage. Somewhat messianically, Simpson told Politico that “we have to be in reserve” in case politicians “put their country at risk” – by failing to impose the destructive austerity policies favored by Bowles and Simpson’s backers.The Ringmaster is busy as hell trying to pack all of the clowns into the car. The red clowns and the blue clowns keep complaining about each others flatulence while in the car and continuously stream in and out of it. The clowns all agree that they want to get into the car and get on with the show, but the Ringmaster needs to come up with the correct enticement. The Ringmaster proposes to rob the audience and distribute the proceeds amongst the clowns and their cronies; the clowns don't trust the Ringmaster to take enough from the audience to make it worth their while.
GOP-White House 'Grand Bargain' Talks CollapseThe clowns all agree that the audience hasn't brought enough stuff with them into the tent to make it worth their while. The Ringmaster has proposed to steal their retirement securities. Will he now agree to drop his demand for taxes on the clowns and their cronies to sweeten the deal? Stay tuned...
"All the cuts they need are there to avoid a possible shutdown"
Special Bonus - What Happened Last Time The Circus Was In Town
Remember the last time the circus was here? Yes, that's right, you got fleeced by a bunch of carnies! One of the big clowns, Pete Peterson, paid a couple of academic con-persons to shill for austerity and the Ringmaster got away with the con. Take a look at what it cost you last time. Are you ready to let the Ringmaster do it again?
Once again, the Beltway fell for cherry-picked data—and you paid the price.
Wall Street's Latest Scheme Will Cost You More at the Gas Pump
NOOR: So, Bill, The New York Times is reporting that Wall Street is speculating on ethanol credits, prompting a 20-fold spike in only six months. This impacts consumers at the pump, of course. Can you explain the basics of the ethanol credit market, why the program began, and what its original intention was?
BLACK: Sure. So this is what happens when four really bad ideas come together at the same time.
The genesis of the program was all about Iowa politics. So this is one of those quasi-green projects, sort of like an okra project: green on the outside, but a lot of brown seeds on the inside. Ethanol doesn't turn out to be all that good a thing in terms of renewable, but you can make it from corn, and that means that Iowa loves it. And the first big presidential get-together on who will get the nomination is in Iowa. And so the Bush administration created this big ethanol trading credit program. That's one.
The second thing was that [incompr.] the Bush administration had decided there should be no real controls or regulation, because regulation is bad. So they put it under the EPA, but with no enforcement program, no safety and soundness, no system for looking at people who were speculating and manipulating markets, just absolutely no capacity to deal with those problems.
The third thing is they got rid of Glass-Steagall, and this has meant that the banks not only loan; they speculate and own all of these. They purchased vast amounts of these renewable credits that are created whenever a gallon of ethanol is created. And there is a federal minimum requirement for how much ethanol you have to have when you produce, or you get fined. So if these credits get scarce, the refiners have to bid up the price really high to be able to get the credits and avoid these very large fines. And that's the economics of the system. And as I said, by repealing Glass-Steagall, we put the banks in a position where they're no longer lenders but they're speculators and market manipulators in something that not only affects the price of oil but of course affects the price of food as well, because ethanol comes from crops that could be used either directly or indirectly to feed human beings. Often, of course, they are used to feed animals.
And the fourth really bad idea is that we allow the creation of these systemically dangerous institutions, these banks that are so large that they're too big to prosecute, too big to run, too big to regulate, etc. And so no one is willing to take on these large banks. And the EPA, of all things, the Environmental Protection Agency, has become a shill to the big banks, saying, we don't see any problem here. You know, so what the price is going up? Oh, we don't see manipulation. Well, they don't have any systems for even looking for manipulation. They have no expertise in looking for it and such.
So it is a complete screwup from these four disastrous roots.
House passes GOP plan for $39B cut in food stamps
Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told USA TODAY's Capital Download on Thursday that Democrats are not opposed to food stamp cuts.
"I'm certain that we could embrace as House Democrats some measure of cuts," she said. "I mean, every program can benefit from some savings. But the first go-round the Republicans' proposed cut was $20 billion. Then they passed an amendment that was $31.4 billion. And now that still isn't good enough for the Tea Partiers. Now we're at $40 billion. What they're saying is that in America it's OK for people to go hungry.
How Walmart got Obama's support, despite union pleas
The White House disregarded union pleas not to hold public events promoting Walmart, according to the main union backing protests against the retail giant.
Since President Obama’s first term, administration officials have joined Walmart executives for events devoted to issues ranging from boosting U.S. manufacturing to hiring returning veterans, including a series of appearances by First Lady Michelle Obama touting Walmart’s role in providing healthy and affordable food. ... “It irritates me,” Joe Hansen, the president of the 1.3 million-member United Food & Commercial Workers union, told Salon in a recent interview. ...
Hansen added that after the first such event, he met with White House advisor Valerie Jarrett, and “she felt we ought to have a conversation. I said I’m willing to do it. The phone still hasn’t rung. And that’s a couple years ago.” ...
As Walmart faces heightened attention to its labor practices and resistance to its urban expansion plans, perceived approval from the President – who joined his opponents in criticizing the company during the 2008 Democratic primary – is a valuable commodity. Walmart’s then-executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations, Leslie Dach, told investors in 2010 that “our reputation” was “a lever” for achieving Walmart’s aims, among them entering “new markets.”
Communities Fight Back Against Racist DC School Closures
NOOR: So, Rania, supporters of school closings, which, again, are happening all over the country in almost every urban school district, argue that this is the only way or one of the only ways to take decisive action and help students who are trapped in so-called failing schools, or these closings are necessary to address budget deficits and will improve educational outcomes. What's your response? What have you found in places like Washington, D.C.?
KHALEK: Well, it's really interesting, because a few years ago, in 2008, under then chancellor Michelle Rhee, Washington, D.C., closed 28 schools, 28 public schools. And the same argument was used, that it was going to save a ton of money, that it was going to help students at failing schools, they would be sent to better schools.
And what happened was actually just the opposite. It--not did it only not save money; it actually ended up costing something like $40 million, which was four times what they said it would save. And on top of that, it's--the students who were sent to different schools whose schools were closed ended up going to schools that were just very, very similar to the ones they were already at or were even worse-performing schools. So just based on that, there's absolutely no evidence showing that their reasoning makes any sense.
Regulator sues 13 banks in Libor rate-fixing case for selling nearly $2.4 billion in ‘faulty securities’ to credit unions
The US credit union regulator has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against 13 major international banks as part of the global crackdown in the Libor rate-rigging scandal.
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) said it aims to recover some of the funds lost by five corporate credit unions it supervised and which have since failed, according to a statement posted on the NCUA website Monday.
“We have a responsibility to pursue recoveries through every available avenue against those who caused billions of dollars in losses to credit unions,” NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz said.
“Some firms were manipulating international interest rates in a way that cost the five corporates to lose millions of dollars. Just as we are doing in our other suits, we are seeking to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions,” she added.
The complaint — that the banks violated both federal and regional anti-trust laws — was filed in a Kansas court, the agency said.
Obama Tells World: US Is 'Exceptional' But (Don't Worry) Not 'Imperial'
In a display of what critics were quick to interpret as the rhetorical equivalent of U.S. military imperialism and its hubris in foreign policy matters, President Obama defended the idea of "American exceptionalism" and its outsized role in international affairs during his address at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
Dismissing the notion of "an American empire" as mere "propaganda" by some, Obama defended the dominance of U.S. military power as a necessary good in the world. He argued that despite more than a decade of war, which included the illegal invasion and subsequent occupation and destruction of Iraq, the U.S. should continue to use its military strength to defend its interests around the globe.
Shorter Obama: the Gulf War was great and we need the Middle East's oil— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) September 24, 2013
Speaking at UN, Obama Tries to Claim He Was Always For Diplomacy in Syria
I had seen several indications this morning that Obama planned to call for a diplomatic approach to the ongoing conflict in Syria despite the earlier indications that he intended to pursue a military strike even if the UK did not join and the UN did not provide a resolution authorizing force. I was hopeful that this new-found reliance on diplomacy would go all the way to calling for a ceasefire to provide safe conditions for the gathering and destruction of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Alas, my hopes were once again dashed as Obama fell far short of proposing a ceasefire and he wound up delivering very convoluted remarks as he tried to maintain the fiction that Bashar al-Assad’s forces have been proven to have carried out the August 21 chemical weapons attack and that he favors diplomacy over military action. ...
In a move that approaches Colin Powell’s historic spinning of lies before the invasion of Iraq, Obama stated that there is no dispute that Syrian forces are responsible for the August 21 attack:The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st. U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians. These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods.the report did not show that the rockets for which they determined trajectories carried sarin. That argument is strengthened further by the subsequent realization by others that not one of the environmental samples from the Moadamiyah site came back as positive for sarin. So now one of the famous lines that cross at a Syrian military installation has to be disregarded entirely because there is no evidence of sarin at the point of rocket impact.
It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.
Brazilian president: US surveillance a 'breach of international law'
Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, has launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN general assembly, accusing the NSA of violating international law by its indiscriminate collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted on the country's strategic industries.
Rousseff's angry speech was a direct challenge to President Barack Obama, who was waiting in the wings to deliver his own address to the UN general assembly, and represented the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. ..."Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country."Rousseff called on the UN oversee a new global legal system to govern the internet. She said such multilateral mechanisms should guarantee the "freedom of expression, privacy of the individual and respect for human rights" and the "neutrality of the network, guided only by technical and ethical criteria, rendering it inadmissible to restrict it for political, commercial, religious or any other purposes.
"As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country," the Brazilian president said. She was imprisoned and tortured for her role in a guerilla movement opposed to Brazil's military dictatorship in the 1970s.
"In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among nations."
NSA surveillance goes beyond Orwell's imagination – Alan Rusbridger
The potential of the surveillance state goes way beyond anything in George Orwell's 1984, Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, told an audience in New York on Monday. ... Rusbridger said: "Orwell could never have imagined anything as complete as this, this concept of scooping up everything all the time. ...
The Guardian editor rebuffed criticism from the Obama administration that the newspaper was drip-feeding the stories in order to get the most from them. "Well, the president has never worked in a newsroom," he said.
"If there are people out there who think we have digested all this material, and [that] we have all these stories that we are going to feed out in dribs and drabs, then I think that misunderstands the nature of news. What is happening is there is a lot of material. It's very complex material.
Obama’s Justice Department: Trumpeting a New Victory in War on Freedom of the Press
There’s something profoundly despicable about a Justice Department that would brazenly violate the First and Fourth Amendments while spying on journalists, then claim to be reassessing such policies after an avalanche of criticism—and then proceed, as it did this week, to gloat that those policies made possible a long prison sentence for a journalistic source.
Welcome to the Obama Justice Department.
While mouthing platitudes about respecting press freedom, the president has overseen methodical actions to undermine it. We should retire understated phrases like “chilling effect.” With the announcement from Obama’s Justice Department on Monday, the thermometer has dropped below freezing.
You could almost hear the slushy flow of public information turning to ice in the triumphant words of the U.S. attorney who led the investigation after being handpicked by Attorney General Eric Holder: “This prosecution demonstrates our deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and to prevent future, potentially devastating leaks by those who would wantonly ignore their obligations to safeguard classified information.”
Translation: This prosecution shows the depth of our contempt for civil liberties. Let this be a lesson to journalists and would-be leakers alike.
UK's Campaign of Intimidation Continues With Detention of Human Rights Activist
In "part of a worsening campaign of intimidation," UK officials have again made a controversial use of the country's anti-terrorism legislation to detain someone at an airport.
On Monday, human rights activist and member of Yemen’s National Dialogue, Baraa Shiban was detained at Gatwick Airport and held under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. ...
Shiban also works for Reprieve, a UK charity that "delivers justice and saves lives, from death row to Guantánamo Bay." In a press release reporting the news of Shiban's detention, the group also explains that it "works to support the relatives of civilian victims of drone strikes who are seeking legal redress."
Shiban has also been an outspoken critic of the U.S. drone war. At a May 8 congressional hearing on the U.S. drone program, Shiban said that the strikes not only cause civilian casualties, but that "Every lethal mistake the U.S. makes is kerosene for an insurgency."
At Gatwick, officials threatened to detain Shiban for 9 hours, and was told, “Your organization has obviously been causing a lot of problems to your country. The relations between your government and the UK are vital for us.”
Should Cruise Missiles Target Saudis?
All across Official Washington – from politicians to pundits – there has been much swaggering about the geopolitical value of threatening to bomb people as a way to extract concessions and enforce compliance. Think Syria on chemical weapons and Iran regarding its nuclear program. So, if that’s the case, maybe it’s time to put “on the table” a bombing threat against Saudi Arabia.
It now appears that the primary obstacle to peace talks that could resolve the bloody Syrian civil war is the obstruction from al-Qaeda-connected jihadists who are beholden for their military and financial support to Saudi Arabia and other oil sheikdoms operating under Saudi Arabia’s political/diplomatic wing.
Despite what you may have read in some New York Times opinion columns, the Syrian government has agreed to send peace envoys to Geneva. But the rebels have refused, insisting on a long list of preconditions, such as the U.S. delivery of sophisticated weapons and a reversal of the rebels’ fortunes on the battlefield. The real problem seems to be how divided the Syrian opposition is, with schisms from pro-democracy moderates to violent jihadists including some who film themselves eating the internal organs of dead Syrian soldiers and executing defenseless captives.
Since the only way to stop the bloodletting that has reportedly claimed more than 100,000 lives is to arrange a ceasefire and a political settlement, the calculation of the rebels must change or at least the calculation of their chief sponsors must change. In that light, perhaps a warning is in order to Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan that cruise missiles could be aimed at his offices in Riyadh if Saudi intelligence doesn’t stop arming the most extreme factions fighting in Syria.
Israel's Ambassador Admits Toppling Assad a Longtime Goal
DESVARIEUX: So let's talk about the U.S. and how they're pressuring Syria to surrender their chemical weapons stockpile. But Israel is actually one of the only countries which has refused to ratify the convention against chemical weapons. Do you think this suggests a double standard by the U.S.?
PARRY: Well, the United States has long had a double standard as it relates to Israel. Israel also, perhaps even more importantly than its chemical weapons stockpile, has one of the most sophisticated nuclear weapons stockpiles in the world. It's undeclared and it's not under any of the conventions relating to nuclear weapons, but it exists, and everyone knows it exists. The United States, however, goes out of its way not to officially acknowledged that it exists. Occasionally it'll pop out in some congressional testimony, including when Robert Gates was up for defense secretary some years ago, but it's not officially acknowledged.
So you have the U.S., which has been very aggressive in going after other countries for just the possibility of having nuclear weapons. That is, in the case of Iraq, the United States invaded because of very dubious and ultimately false suggestions that the Hussein regime might be planning to develop nuclear weapons. And similarly, there have been threats against Iran for not having a nuclear weapon but possibly moving in the direction of getting a nuclear weapon.
So, yes, of course they're double standards, and we're seeing them applied again here, where Israel is allowed to have a very--I'm told, a very sophisticated stockpile of chemical weapons, yet Syria is expected to give theirs up.
The Evening Greens
Ecological 'Wake-Up' Call Counters Corporate-Friendly 'Free' Trade
The world needs to "wake up before it is too late" and usher in a paradigm shift in agriculture that moves away from industrial agriculture in favor of “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production system" that favor small-scale farmers and local food production, a new report from a UN body states. ...
The report — Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate (pdf) — was written with contributions from over 60 experts, and finds that "urgent and far-reaching action" is needed to address the "collective crisis" of "rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns." ...
However, as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) points out, the approaches the report advocates are incompatible with the free trade agreements like the TPP. In its contribution to the report, IATPfocused on the effects of trade liberalization on agriculture systems. We argued that trade liberalization both at the WTO and in regional deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had increased volatility and corporate concentration in agriculture markets, while undermining the development of locally-based, agroecological systems that better support farmers.
The report’s findings are in stark contrast to the accelerated push for new free trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which expand a long discredited model of economic development designed primarily to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy. Neither global climate talks nor other global food security forums reflect the urgency expressed in the UNCTAD report to transform agriculture.
Right now the NSA is spying on everyone's personal communications, and they’re operating without any meaningful oversight. Since the Snowden leaks started, more than 569,000 people from all walks of life have signed the StopWatching.us petition telling the U.S. Congress that we want them to rein in the NSA.
On October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the US Patriot Act, we're taking the next step and holding the largest rally yet against NSA surveillance. We’ll be handing the half-million petitions to Congress to remind them that they work for us -- and we won’t tolerate mass surveillance any longer.
StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum.
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
Mike Bloomfield - One Way Out
Mike Bloomfield - Blues for Roy
Junior Wells, Nick Gravenites and Michael Bloomfield - Messin' With The Kid
Mike Bloomfield - If I Ever Get Lucky
Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield - Albert's Shuffle
Mike Bloomfield - Don't You Lie To Me
Mike Bloomfield & Friends - Born In Chicago
Mike Bloomfield - Bad Luck Baby
Michael Bloomfield - Mood Indigo
Michael Bloomfield - Buried Alive In The Blues
Son House, Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield discuss and play the blues
It's National Pie Day!
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