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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.  

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 Chicago bluesman Son Seals.  Enjoy!



Son Seals - On My Knees


“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

  -- George Washington


News and Opinion




Grand Bargain Circus - Blue Clowns in Bondage

It's Intermission here under the Beltway Bigtop.  The house lights are back on, the Clowns are taking a brief break and the Audience is taking the opportunity to catch their breath after the remarkable performance that they've just been witness to as the red clowns and blue clowns faced off in the Scaredy Cat Sideshow.

For the past several days the blue clowns have been celebrating their big (temporary) win.  Audience polls have shown that the audience holds the red clowns responsible for the clown war that left the lights turned off at the Bigtop for 16 days. Despite the audience's sentiments, the blue clowns' big win may not be worth getting too worked up about:

Because the deal only includes minor concessions, the Beltway consensus is that it represents a resounding defeat for Republicans, who “surrendered” their original demands to defund or delay Obamacare. In the skirmish of opinion polls, that may be true, for now. But in the war of ideas, the Senate deal is but a stalemate, one made almost entirely on conservative terms. The GOP now goes into budget talks with sequestration as the new baseline, primed to demand longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And they still hold the gun of a US default to the nation’s head in the next debt ceiling showdown.

Surrender? Any more “victories” like this and Democrats will end up paying tribute into the GOP’s coffers.

Speaking of surrender, the blue clowns' "idea guys" in the Bigtop Office of Promotions are hot on a way for the blue clowns to "win" the next round, too...
Ezra Klein: Democrats Should Return To Being Wimps Quickly

No matter which deal ultimately resolves the U.S. government shutdown, it’s almost certain to include a new bicameral budget commission. This will be the eighth major budget commission since 2010. Until now, every single one of them has failed for the same reason: taxes. And if nothing changes, this one will fail too.

But something should change: Democrats should admit the obvious. For the time being, they’ve lost on taxes. And you know what? That’s OK. At least, it could be, if they were willing to admit it and smartly negotiate the terms of their surrender.

Meanwhile, the Ringmaster delivered a speech to celebrate the end of the shutdown and decided to blame bloggers for the trouble:
You cannot make this stuff up.

Obama gave his usual adult talking to the children, meaning American citizens, type of speech to mark the cease-fire in the budget battle so that the two sides can work out a peace accord. Of course, it goes without saying that both sides keenly want a pact that will inflict cuts on middle and low-income Americans while only imposing at most token costs on the wealthy, and in particular, secure the prize that the leadership of both parties keenly desire, namely, cuts in Medicare and Social Security, dressed up as “reforms”.

"And now that the government has reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that's grow this economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul. That's why we're here. That should be our focus."
Theatre Bizarre by Patricia Drury

Meanwhile, over in the Bigtop Funders pavillion, one of the big funders, formerly a leading member of the Union of Pickpockets and Banker Bozos, Peterson T. HedgeHog pricked up his ears and jabbed a member of the Bigtop Office of Promotions who cranked out a reminder that the Bigtop Funders expect a windfall - soon, damnit!

Why is it that I think, when the president was decrying the effect of professional activists who profit from conflict, he probably wasn't talking about these eternal grifters? ...
Fix the Debt, the organization that took flight last year from the very deep pockets of octagenarian Blackstone co-founder Pete Peterson, held an afternoon event at the National Press Club to remind everyone that, crisis averted, the real problem in this country remained our crushing long-term debt.  You might think that the fiasco of the past few weeks would have prompted some soul-searching within the organization - after all, its well-broadcast doomsday warnings of a nation drowning in red ink have only helped to feed conservative Republican fury about out of control spending, even as budget deficits steadily decline and the long-term fiscal picture brightens. It is that fury that, as much as anything, drove the brinksmanship over the government shutdown and debt ceiling, but Fix the Debt officials spoke as if they have had no role in bringing us to this point - as if, to the contrary, we arrived at this point precisely because we were not listening to them.
This is the real threat to the recovery right here. Not partisan bickering. Not the temporizing in the deal cut last night. Not even Ted Cruz and the members of the monkeyhouse on the other side of the Capitol. It is this permanent class of deficit fetishists and austerian fantasts. These are the people who will wreck lives. These are people who get heard in the White House instead of being told to go pound sand until we elect Paul Ryan to be president. Every time the president mentions the deficit, these guys get their semi-annual woodies and a little bit of actual progressive politics dies again. These are the people whose credentials really should have been revoked last night, if there actually was the kind of Democratic triumph that we're being sold today. Pete Peterson must have bought Purina short. I am so dreading that conference committee.
In the end, it seems that the Bigtop funders stepped in and interceded with the red clowns.  Warning shots were fired across the bow:
Hard times have arrived for the Republican Party and particularly for right-wing pressure groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Heritage Action and the one-time lavishly funded tea party PAC, FreedomWorks. According to a report in Politico, heavyweight Republican donors are frustrated and “horrified” that their money is going to wrong-headed politicians and groups that appear to have no effect on election outcomes. ...

Donors, they say, were “horrified in November after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for president and Congress with nothing to show for it,” and in the wake of the Republican shutdown fiasco, they have become even more concerned.

Behind the scenes, the Bigtop Funders were quite agitated at the Koch Klowns Krew; pressures appear to have built to a level that the Kochs themselves felt the need to disassociate from what their money bought the actions of their sponsored clowns:
   
Koch Industries, umbrella corporate behemoth for the conservative Koch brothers, sent a letter to members of the Senate on Wednesday disavowing any rumored positions on shutting down the government over the president's health care law. Even for the controversial and unloved Kochs, it seems, the Republican plan to force a shutdown over Obamacare went too far.
Slomo clown fight y Rob, Joyce, Alex & NovaThe internecine fighting among the red clown's factions grew quite intense and the Bigtop funders ratcheted up the pressure, threatening recriminations against the demurring Koch Klown Krew:
Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.

Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years.

Some of these Bigtop Funders spoke with some degree of admiration at the way that the Ringmaster and the blue clowns keep their progressive wing from having even the slightest bit of influence getting in the way of the corporate agenda:
Joe Echevarria, the chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, said, “I’m a Republican by definition and by registration, but the party seems to have split into two factions.”

While both parties have extreme elements, he suggested, only in the G.O.P. did the extreme element exercise real power. “The extreme right has 90 seats in the House,” Mr. Echevarria said. “Occupy Wall Street has no seats.”

Hmmm... do you think, circus fans, that the way that the Ringmaster and the blue clowns suppress their progressive wing might have something to do with the fact that they keep winding up in a position of defending themselves against increasingly extreme attacks by the red clowns?

Blue Clowns In Bondage



Wonder Woman Crucified for Milk by jooleeah_stahkey"When I saw Wonder Woman being constantly put in positions where she'd get tied up with her own rope, or held hostage, even as a kid, my reaction was 'C'mon, she's too smart for that.'"

  -- J. Michael Straczynski

How does the Ringmaster always seem to wind up in a hostage situation?  In the past, people chalked it up to him being a bad negotiator:

"You can always tell when Obama's negotiations with the Republicans are winding down, because he's missing his watch and his lunch money."

 -- Bill Maher

That is when they were not busy calling the Ringmaster a, "stupid negotiator" (with all due respect):
Amazing Carny: In The Wheel of Fortune by Circus DivasObama is an absolutely terrible negotiator, and his reactions to GOP hostage-taking have been incredibly disappointing, to say the least. This is especially true on the impending debt-ceiling vote, where Obama has dashed the possibilities for a "clean" vote in favor of one that gives the GOP license to extract concessions from the administration. Jonathan Chait explains:
I don't really blame the Republicans for this, either. If Obama is going to begin by saying he'd like a straight vote on the debt ceiling but is willing to make policy concessions, what do you expect the Republicans to do? Keep in mind, the assumption that the Congressional minority can use the debt ceiling as a hostage to win substantive policy the president opposes is entirely novel. Obama has introduced this new development.
Obama isn't stupid, or insane, or dangerously credulous, but this is a stupid, insane, and dangerously credulous approach to negotiating. Whether the White House is blind to the radicalism of the GOP caucus or willfully ignorant, I don't know; either way, it doesn't inspire much confidence.
We have now seen that, contrary to speculation based upon previous results (and a desire to think well of the Ringmaster) that when faced with the prospect of losing something that he actually does care about, the Ringmaster has the ability, gumption and common sense to stand his ground.

Given this, his many previous failures to stand up to hostage takers over issues like single-payer, the extension of the Bush tax cuts, an assortment of austerity measures and his unforced errors on entitlements - must all be reassessed.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Ringmaster is just "not that into" the audience or its needs. The Ringmaster intentionally gets into these hostage crises in order to be "forced" to rob the audience.  Hostage crises are the means that the Ringmaster has chosen to obfuscate the responsibility for his own actions.

 

Audience to visit the Midway



The Simpsons Ride Midway Carnival Games by insidethemagic

While the audience is on the Midway, some blue clowns are encouraging them to visit the Whack-A-Rat booth.  Hopes are high among the blue clowns that many of the Koch Klown Krew will be replaced by Moder-Rats or at least the sort of Corpo-Rats that fill out the ranks of the blue clowns.

Many in the audience have been getting notes like this from famous blue clowns that pretend to know them personally:

From: Governor Howard Dean
Subject: Speaker Pelosi?

 joe --

I've never seen anything like what the Republicans tried to pull over the last two weeks. But one thing is for sure, DFA members are determined to hold the Republicans accountable at the ballot box. ...

Would you like to see Nancy Pelosi take the gavel again as House Speaker in 2015? I would. Over 10,000 DFA members making 5 million calls to take back the House will help make it happen, but it will take more than calls to win.

Please contribute $20 right now to fuel our campaign to Call Out The Vote.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll just released reveals that 74% of Americans now disapprove of the Republican Party -- the worst ratings ever for the GOP. We can thank Sen. Ted Cruz for that.

With their control of the House in jeopardy, Republicans are running scared in district after district. Now we need to turn this momentum into the resources it will actually take to win back the House in 2014.

The red clowns are also organizing to take advantage of the Whack-A-Rat utility to advance their red clown ideology. Some red clowns are so mad about having taken a public drubbing in the Scaredy Cat Sideshow that they have hatched a plan to force the red clown leader in the third ring to ride The Terminator:
Terminator_and_Paratrooper,_night by andrew c dunnThe Senate Conservatives Fund, the outside group founded by former Senator and Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, has endorsed Matt Bevin, the Republican challenger running in a primary against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The group has been critical of McConnell’s handling of the budget and debt limit crises and funded $340,000 in attack ads against him in September. ... In recent weeks, McConnell, buoyed by extremely strong fundraising, has indicated he is unconcerned by the primary challenge, turning his sights on top Democratic prospect Alison Lundergan Grimes and the general election.

Given the gerrymandered, voter-proof districts that most of the clowns live in, it is unlikely that too many of either the Koch Klown Krew, the Moder-Rat or Corpo-Rat red or blue clowns will get fatally whacked, most likely they'll just get more funding from their respective backers and more annoyed at the general audience.

There is new evidence that, swirling in the collective minds of the audience is a sentiment that might put off the dreams of dominance of both red clowns and blue clowns, however:  

[Note, portions of this section have been redacted due to site rules at Daily Kos.  If you wish to see the full content of this, seek out this article which is posted in full elsewhere in the progressive blogosphere.]

In U.S., Perceived Need for █ █████ █████ █████ Reaches New High

Amid the government shutdown, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that █ █████ █████ █████ is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.

1

The results are consistent with Gallup's finding of more negative opinions of both parties since the shutdown began, including a new low favorable rating for the Republican Party, and Americans' widespread dissatisfaction with the way the nation is being governed. ...

2

Republicans (52%) and Democrats (49%) are similar in their perceptions that █ █████ █████ is needed. In fact, this marks the first time that a majority of either party's supporters have said █ █████ █████ is needed.

Audience disgust at the red and blue clowns both is at an all time high as is disgust with the entire Beltway Bigtop enterprize.  Clowns of each side in attempting to leverage recent events for support and political advantage may indeed find an unreceptive audience.

The blue clowns, despite their perceived success are in a particularly bad spot and will likely find themselves treading the highwire unable to satisfy their fans in the audience due to their allegiance to the Bigtop funders.  As economist Richard Wolff, points out in this interview, the blue clowns enable the Koch Klowns Krew and red clown ideas by validating their schtick about government being the problem:

For the last 50 years, we as a people have felt it appropriate to criticize our school system, our energy system, our medical insurance system for the last two years, even our system of marriage. We criticize systems with one overwhelmingly obvious exception. That's the capitalist system. For 50 years it has been taboo in this country to criticize business, the business community, the economic system that puts them in the driver seat of our economic system. ... The Tea Party simply cashes in on that history by saying, look, the economic crisis is the worst we've had in 75 years (true enough), and therefore you should be really angry (and we're going to show you the way) at the government, which we are going to blame, because that's what everybody is used to. I think they're performing a function that makes it very easy to understand why they get such enthusiastic funding from all sorts of wealthy business interests, because, again, they're shifting the criticism and the upset about how this economy is working away from the capitalist system that is the way we organize production, away from the people who sit at the top of that system, and focusing it instead on the government. ...

[T]he Democratic Party bears a major responsibility for the success of the Tea Party. And when they berate the Tea Party and denounce it, there's something peculiar, since they're so complicit in this situation. You'd look long and hard in the history of the Democratic Party over the last 50 years to find a word of criticism of capitalism as a system. The Democratic Party avoids it. The Democratic Party joins in pretending that a political solution is adequate to deal with an economic system that has now collapsed twice in the last 75 years. ... And because they didn't, because they never offered a real alternative, they have kind of left the field open for the Tea Party folks to take that ball, a ball that says you can't criticize capitalism, you can only criticize politicians, and take it to its logical end, to the discomfiture of the Democrats.

Old Kids Book by 'Playingwithbrushes'So, stay tuned Circus fans as the blue clowns and the red clowns re-engage each other in another exciting round of the Grand Bargain Circus.  There will be yet another super-duper-catfood-commission swinging into action soon.  Can 29 clowns get in the car? Can they get it to the Ringmaster's magic table with "everything on it?" Will the hapless morons at Fix the Debt manage to convince the audience that catfood is a tasty alternative diet program for Granny?

See you next time!

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."

  -– Mark Twain

Democrats Opening The Door On Cuts To Social Security

You would think after winning the shutdown and debt ceiling battle Democrats would press their advantage, instead they seem to be volunteering cuts to Social Security as a solution to a future budget deal. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin went on Fox News to promote a deal that would cut Social Security in exchange for tax increases.

Durbin said that Republicans had to put tax revenue on the table to get entitlement cuts. Fox host Chris Wallace noted that Durbin has previously supported entitlement cuts, and asked why Republicans should have to give up tax increases to get something that many Democrats support. President Barack Obama has repeatedly endorsed Social Security cuts as part of budget deals, and Durbin acknowledged that he did support Social Security reforms.

“Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years,” Durbin said. “The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don’t wanna see that happen.”

If this is what Democrats do after they win a budget standoff I would hate to see what they do after they lose one.
Why Democrats Might Cave On Social Security Cuts

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Sunday opened the door to Social Security cuts as part of a budget deal with congressional Republicans. ... Also speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) ... said that if Democrats aren't willing to negotiate over "entitlement savings versus some additional spending," to ease the sequester, then Democrats will have to live with the sequester cuts.

Durbin said that Republicans had to put tax revenue on the table to get entitlement cuts. Fox host Chris Wallace noted that Durbin has previously supported entitlement cuts, and asked why Republicans should have to give up tax increases to get something that many Democrats support. President Barack Obama has repeatedly endorsed Social Security cuts as part of budget deals, and Durbin acknowledged that he did support Social Security reforms.

[Durbin responded with one of his customary specious lies that he learned at a Peter Peterson-funded seminar...]

"Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years," Durbin said. "The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don't wanna see that happen."

Social Security will not run out of money in 20 years. The program currently enjoys a surplus of more than $2 trillion. Social Security will, however, be unable to pay all benefits at current levels if nothing is changed.

Let’s Get This Class War Started

“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are,” Wendell Berry writes. “Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all—by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians—be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”

The rise of an oligarchic state offers a nation two routes, according to Aristotle. The impoverished masses either revolt to rectify the imbalance of wealth and power or the oligarchs establish a brutal tyranny to keep the masses forcibly enslaved. We have chosen the second of Aristotle’s options. The slow advances we made in the early 20th century through unions, government regulation, the New Deal, the courts, an alternative press and mass movements have been reversed. The oligarchs are turning us—as they did in the 19th century steel and textile factories—into disposable human beings. They are building the most pervasive security and surveillance apparatus in human history to keep us submissive. ...

Class struggle defines most of human history. Marx got this right. The sooner we realize that we are locked in deadly warfare with our ruling, corporate elite, the sooner we will realize that these elites must be overthrown. The corporate oligarchs have now seized all institutional systems of power in the United States. Electoral politics, internal security, the judiciary, our universities, the arts and finance, along with nearly all forms of communication, are in corporate hands. Our democracy, with faux debates between two corporate parties, is meaningless political theater. There is no way within the system to defy the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers. The only route left to us, as Aristotle knew, is revolt.

Over in Switzerland they're having a very interesting public debate about how the economy should be managed.  
The Activist Behind Switzerland's Referendum for Guaranteed Income

Basic income means enough money to live without need. And in Switzerland it's only a number to say 2,500 francs. I don't know how many it is in the States. It's not to be rich. It's simply to say, today we are rich enough and there are goods enough that we can say everybody needs an income to live. And why shall we--why have we to bound it to conditions?

And it's an idea, for example, of the '60s in the United States. Milton Friedman tried such things. It was a negative income tax, called so.

And we can say it's a moment in the world, it's a new century, a new vision, a social vision to say, set the people free by living, and then they do their things. And they are paid for their work, but the basic has to be sure for everybody.

And so we go with this in Switzerland. And the thing in Switzerland is that you have this direct democracy. And that means you can go with such wishes, such an idea. What really changed many things and let you look to all this facts new and to--yeah, it's a bit of philosophical thing, but it's a moral thing. It's to acknowledge where we are now. And you can do this in Switzerland by such an initiative. And then the whole population discuss it and think about it.

The Business of America Is War

There is a new normal in America: our government may shut down, but our wars continue.  Congress may not be able to pass a budget, but the U.S. military can still launch commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the Afghan War can still be prosecuted, Italy can be garrisoned by American troops (putting the “empire” back in Rome), Africa can be used as an imperial playground (as in the late nineteenth century “scramble for Africa,” but with the U.S. and China doing the scrambling this time around), and the military-industrial complex can still dominate the world’s arms trade.

In the halls of Congress and the Pentagon, it’s business as usual, if your definition of “business” is the power and profits you get from constantly preparing for and prosecuting wars around the world.  “War is a racket,” General Smedley Butler famously declared in 1935, and even now it’s hard to disagree with a man who had two Congressional Medals of Honor to his credit and was intimately familiar with American imperialism. ...

We’re discouraged from reflecting on the uncomfortable fact that, as “our” troops sacrifice and suffer, others in society are profiting big time.  Such thoughts are considered unseemly and unpatriotic.  Pay no attention to the war profiteers, who pass as perfectly respectable companies.  After all, any price is worth paying (or profits worth offering up) to contain the enemy—not so long ago, the red menace, but in the twenty-first century, the murderous terrorist.

Forever war is forever profitable.  Think of the Lockheed Martins of the world.  In their commerce with the Pentagon, as well as the militaries of other nations, they ultimately seek cash payment for their weapons and a world in which such weaponry will be eternally needed.  In the pursuit of security or victory, political leaders willingly pay their price. ...

“The business of America is business,” [Calvin Coolidge] declared in the Roaring Twenties.  Almost a century later, the business of America is war, even if today’s presidents are too polite to mention that the business is booming.

Former Bush Official: We Went Into Iraq Because 'We Were Looking For Somebody's Ass To Kick

New York Times reporter Peter Baker is out with a new book that reportedly reveals some eyebrow-raising details about the Iraq War.

A senior official from former President George W. Bush's administration is quoted in “Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House” saying American troops went into Iraq because the U.S. was looking for a fight.

"The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy," the anonymous official said, according to Politico.

Dear Healthcare.gov IT Department,

The guy whom you've disappointed is seriously pissed and he has a "kill list."  It's not a traditional "shit list;" he actually murders the people that piss him off.  

No pressure...

Obama concedes 'no excuse' for healthcare website glitches

Barack Obama admitted that technical problems had overshadowed his historic reforms to the US healthcare system, acknowledging on Monday that the gateway website "stank" and was a gift to political opponents.

With his flagship domestic policy achievement in serious danger of being eclipsed by the three-week IT disaster, the president tried to shore up support for the wider effort to provide affordable healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans by stressing alternative ways to access so-called insurance marketplaces.

But in the most candid admission yet that website glitches were preventing many from signing up, Obama confirmed that a team of outside experts had been brought in over recent days to try to tackle the problem.

"There's no sugar-coating it," Obama said in a speech in the White House Rose Garden. "No one is madder than me that this is not working, which means it is going to get fixed."

Obamacare Website Failure Threatens Health Coverage For Millions Of Americans

A broken website imperils the largest expansion of the American safety net since the Great Society.

More than two weeks into the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the website created by President Barack Obama's health care reform law still isn't working right.

"The website that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable," Obama said during a Tuesday interview with KCCI television in Des Moines, Iowa. But the administration won't disclose exactly what's wrong with the health insurance exchange website, or when consumers can expect to see the promise of convenient, one-stop shopping for health benefits and financial assistance fulfilled.

Although there are signs of incremental improvement, HealthCare.gov is unable to reliably allow consumers to create accounts, verify their identifies, apply for tax credits available to low- and middle-income people or shop for health insurance plans. Insurers are receiving bad enrollment data and states are reporting difficulties in accessing the federal system.

The administration won't say how many people have signed up so far, but its reported goal of enrolling 500,000 people this month appears difficult to reach. Some thousands of dogged shoppers appear to have signed up for plans on the federal health insurance exchanges, also called marketplaces. But others have become discouraged, and traffic to HealthCare.gov has waned, according to one independent analysis. People working to help consumers are using paper applications for financial assistance that eventually will have to be entered into the computer system.

France summons US envoy over NSA surveillance claims

The French government has summoned the US ambassador in Paris, demanding an explanation about claims that the National Security Agency has been engaged in widespread phone surveillance of French citizens.

On Monday, Le Monde published details from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden suggesting that the US agency had been intercepting phone calls on what it termed "a massive scale".

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, warned: "This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens." ...

According to the [Le Monde], the documents show that the NSA was allegedly targeting not only terrorist suspects but politicians, businesspeople and members of the administration under a programme codenamed US-985D. ...

Le Monde said the unpublished Snowden documents to which it had access showed "intrusion, on a vast scale, both into the private space of French citizens as well as into the secrets of major national firms".

BBC News - Snowden: France summons US envoy over spying claims

Governments Have A Long History Of Calling Journalists 'Traitors' When They Publish Embarassing Materials

It's been somewhat incredible to watch government officials try to claim that reporters covering the NSA revelations from Ed Snowden's leaked documents are somehow "traitors." Last week, in the UK, the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, made a fool of himself going around telling other newspapers that The Guardian had somehow helped terrorists. However, as Amy Davidson at the New Yorker reminds us, when the government suddenly starts calling journalists "traitors," it pays to be skeptical, because it's most likely that the government is just very embarrassed about some news that makes them look bad.

NSA leaks: Years of spying on Mexico govt gave US investment benefits

US electronic surveillance in Mexico reportedly targeted top officials, including both current and previous presidents. Intelligence produced by the NSA helped Americans get an upper hand in diplomatic talks and find good investment opportunities.

The US National Security Agency was apparently very happy with its successes in America’s southern neighbor, according to classified documents leaked by Edwards Snowden and analyzed by the German magazine, Der Spiegel. It reports on new details of the spying on the Mexican government, which dates back at least several years.

The fact that Mexican President Peña Nieto is of interest to the NSA was revealed earlier by Brazilian TV Globo, which also had access to the documents provided by Snowden. Spiegel says his predecessor Felipe Calderon was a target too, and the Americans hacked into his public email back in May 2010. ...

The surveillance on President Nieto started when he was campaigning for office in the early summer of 2012, the report goes on. The NSA targeted his phone and the phones of nine of his close associates to build a map of their regular contacts. From then it closely monitored those individuals’ phones as well, intercepting 85,489 text messages, including those sent by Nieto.

Plug & Pray: EU's first step towards data protection in wake of Snowden leaks





The Evening Greens




The ocean is broken

It was the silence that made this voyage different from all of those before it.

Not the absence of sound, exactly.

The wind still whipped the sails and whistled in the rigging. The waves still sloshed against the fibreglass hull.

And there were plenty of other noises: muffled thuds and bumps and scrapes as the boat knocked against pieces of debris.

What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat.

The birds were missing because the fish were missing.

Exactly 10 years before, when Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen had sailed exactly the same course from Melbourne to Osaka, all he'd had to do to catch a fish from the ocean between Brisbane and Japan was throw out a baited line. ...

But this time, on that whole long leg of sea journey, the total catch was two.

No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all.

Tar Sands Protesters Commandeer Public Meeting, Oil Executives Run for the Door

The End of Impunity? Indigenous Guatemalans Bring Canadian Mining Company to Court

Montreal - For the first time, a Canadian mining company will appear in a Canadian court for actions committed overseas. Hudbay Minerals, Inc, will be standing trial for murder, rapes and attacks committed against Indigenous Guatemalans by security personnel working for Hudbay’s subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN). The court case is proceeding thanks to a precedent-setting decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which ruled this past July in favour of the Mayan Q'eqchi' people of Lote Ocho, near El Estor, Guatemala. ...

Grahame Russell of Rights Action, a Canadian organization working mainly with Indigenous communities in Central America, has been doing solidarity work with the Q'eqchi' people for almost 10 years and has worked closely on the case. “Two major pre-trial issues were fought over. One was jurisdiction, and one [was] whether Hudbay could be held accountable—directly or via its subsidiary CGN—over what happened in Guatemala,” Russell told The Dominion.

“We won on both counts. First, the company accepted that Canada can be the appropriate jurisdiction. Second, the judge decided in our favour, saying that it is appropriate to try to hold Hudbay accountable [for their negligence] in Guatemala.”

Russell explained that the conflict is rooted in unresolved tensions around what can be referred to in Canada as “prior land claims.” The events in question occurred between 2007 and 2009 in the context of a land dispute between the Q'eqchi' people and the mining company.

“The specific context of the attack, rape[s] and murder is related to the mining company wanting to get the Q'eqchi' people off their land so they can get the mineral resources under the ground,” Russell said. “There have been waves of repression in this region related to Canadian mining companies going back to the 1970s and early 1980s. This is an old story that is replaying itself out all over again.”

Hat tip Agathena:
Shale gas company loses bid for injunction to halt N.B. protests

A request by SWN Resources Canada to extend a court injunction that prevents anyone from impeding its exploration activities in New Brunswick has been denied by a judge.

Justice George Rideout issued a ruling Monday afternoon after hearing arguments in the Court of Queen's Bench on Friday. Rideout did not state his reason in court, but said he would issue a written decision. ...

The original injunction ordering that SWN Resources be allowed to carry on its exploration was issued on Oct. 3. But no action was taken by RCMP to enforce the court order as negotiations were taking place between representatives of the provincial government, Elsipogtog, and the coalition of native and non-native protesters.

An extention to the injunction was authorized on Oct. 10, with an expiry date of Oct. 21.

The court order included requirements to remove barricades on Route 134 and to allow SWN access to the shale gas exploration vehicles and equipment it had located in a compound off Route 134. SWN Resources was able to remove its vehicles and equipment Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Assembly of First Nations' Chiefs in New Brunswick is calling for the provincial government to suspend shale gas exploration permits issued to energy companies until a peaceful solution to the dispute can be negotiated.






Rally Against Mass Surveillance


October 26th, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

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.

Click here for more information



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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 Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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