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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 ragtime and blues pianist, composer and bandleader Jelly Roll Morton.  Enjoy!

Jelly Roll Morton - Hesitation Blues

“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear-kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor - with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it ...”

  -- General Douglas MacArthur

News and Opinion

James Clapper might as well be called director of US fearmongering

James Clapper is very worried. It's not the first time.

Last week the man who serves as America's Director of National Intelligence trudged up to Capitol Hill to tell the assembled members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (pdf) that the annual worldwide threat assessment, put together by the intelligence community, has filled him with dread. He told the room:

Looking back over my more than half a century in intelligence, I have not experienced a time when we have been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.
That is some scary stuff.

However, if you think you've heard this before from Clapper … well you have.

[Over and over again.]

Of course, one must consider the possibility that over the past five decades the world has never been as dangerous, complex and challenging as it's been over the past three years (putting aside for a moment that whole "threat of nuclear holocaust" that defined much of the 60s, 70s and 80s.) If, however, you're skeptical about this, well you have good reason because Clapper's alarmist tone is hardly matched by the threats he cites. ...

This is what makes Clapper's argument – and indeed the entire process of writing a "worldwide threat assessment" so fundamentally unserious and distorting. America doesn't face a single truly serious security threat. We are a remarkably safe and secure nation, protected by two oceans, an enormous and highly effective military and dozens upon dozens of like-minded allies and friends around the world. Truly we have nothing to fear – except perhaps global climate change, which oddly merits a one-paragraph mention (pdf) in this year's threat assessment.

To listen to Clapper and others in the intelligence community one might never know that inter-state war has largely disappeared and that wars in general are in the midst of a multi-decade decline. For all of Clapper's expressed concern about "the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction", one might not know that 2013 was a landmark year for non-proliferation with important progress made in slowing down Iran's nuclear aspirations and enforcing the norm on chemical weapons usage. ...

Clapper has been under fire for months now because he allegedly lied to Congress over the extent to which the National Security Agency was collecting phone and e-mail records of individual Americans. Yet, the yarn he spun on Capitol Hill last week was far worse than that: deceiving Americans about the nature of the world today and the threats facing the country.

NSA targeted German Chancellor Schröder for failure to support Bush's war of choice in Iraq

The Süddeutsche Zeitung daily and the NDR regional public broadcaster on Tuesday reported that US secret services began monitoring the communications of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder no later than 2002. ...

Citing multiple US government sources and NSA insiders, the outlets said that Social Democrat Schröder's public opposition to invading Iraq - and fears of a split within the NATO defense alliance as a result - was the primary reason to begin monitoring his communications.

"We had reason to presume that [Schröder] was not contributing to the success of the alliance," the Süddeutsche quoted an unnamed source "with direct knowledge of the case" as saying. ...

 Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele, who recently met with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in Moscow, told both publications that he could "confirm" the report.

"According to my information, it really was the case that in 2002 and 2003 Chancellor Schröder - and presumably other members of the coalition government - were tapped," Ströbele said. "The reason for this indeed seems to be that the US side wanted information on Germany's position towards the Iraq war and especially on any German activities seeking to stop a UN resolution."

NSA Spied on German Ex-Chancellor Over Iraq War Opposition

The National Security Agency tapped the mobile phone of Germany's ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder because of his opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq, German media reported Tuesday.

Schroeder, a Social Democrat, held office from 1998 until 2005, with his second term beginning in 2002.

He was s staunch opponent of the Iraq war, saying at the beginning of his second election campaign that his country would not be providing troops for what he called an "adventure." ...

Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered his thoughts on Schroeder's reelection, saying, "the way [the election] was conducted was notably unhelpful, and as the White House indicated, has had the effect of poisoning the [U.S.-German] relationship."

Stallman: Businesses do the spying, US harvests the intel

“The NSA Doesn’t Spy On Americans”

Over at Lawfare, Ben Wittes is making excuses for the intelligence officials who’ve been saying the NSA doesn’t spy on Americans. ...

This is nonsense. Perhaps Ben’s right that it’s difficult to come up with a single sentence, or even a single paragraph, that clearly and comprehensively describes the nature and extent of the NSA’s surveillance of Americans. (Can you describe any federal agency’s functions in a single, comprehensive paragraph?) But it’s not difficult to come up with a sentence more accurate than “The NSA doesn’t spy on Americans.” Try this one: “The NSA spies on Americans.” Or this one: “The NSA collects a huge amount of information about Americans’ communications and in many contexts it collects the communications themselves.” Or this one: “The NSA is sometimes described as a foreign-intelligence agency but this label should not obscure the fact that a large part of the agency’s energy is dedicated to collecting and analyzing information about Americans.”

Heh. They say that turnabout is fair play...
State Dept Official Caught on Tape: ‘Fuck the EU’

In the wake of revelations the NSA spied on foreign officials, the State Department’s top official for Europe has been caught on tape planning a deal to end the Ukraine crisis and she had a message for her European counterparts – “Fuck the EU.”

A YouTube video uploaded by an anonymous user has publicly revealed a private conversations between Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. In the tape, the two officials discuss a plan to broker a deal between the Ukrainian government led by Viktor Yanukovich and the Ukrainian opposition, which is led in part by former boxer Vitali Klitschko. ...

Nuland told Pyatt she had discussed the plan with U.N. Undersecretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, a former senior U.S. Department official, and that he would appoint a U.N. representative to help move it forward. Vice President Joe Biden would also be brought into the plan at the right time, according to Nuland.

“That would be great to help glue this thing and to have the U.N. help glue it,” she said. “And you know, fuck the EU.”

Ukraine protest leader says he was tortured into saying he was a US spy

A Ukrainian anti-government activist who fled the country after being abducted said he had been forced under torture to declare himself a US spy.

Dmytro Bulatov, the leader of a protest group known as AutoMaidan, said his kidnappers forced him to say on camera that he had accepted money from the US embassy to organise anti-government protests in Ukraine.

"I was telling them lies just to stop the torture … at one point I asked them to kill me because I couldn't stand it any more," the 35-year-old said on Thursday, speaking at the Vilnius University emergency hospital in Lithuania where he is being treated after leaving Ukraine on Sunday.

Bulatov was found bloodied and injured in woods outside Kiev on 30 January. He said unidentified assailants had driven nails through his hands in a "crucifixion" and had beaten him during a week in captivity. ...

Bulatov said he would not return to Ukraine unless he got guarantees that he would not be prosecuted.

Hundreds More Israeli Settlement Properties Announced in Midst of 'Peace Process'

Israel's Jerusalem municipality gave the green-light on Wednesday to 558 new settlement properties in the occupied West Bank, despite being in the midst of the so-called peace process brokered by the United States. ...

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality announced Wednesday that private contractors had been approved to build the properties in the Jewish settlements of Har Homa, Neve Yaakov and Pisgat Zeev.

All of these settlements are illegal according to international law.

Empire of Necessity: Historian Greg Grandin on Slavery, Freedom and Deception in the New World

U.S. policy change on Cuba stalled - by Obama

U.S. relations with Cuba are at their best in almost two decades, but President Barack Obama seems unwilling or unable to confront a well-organized anti-Cuba lobby and push for further progress.

Obama suggested change was coming at a Miami fundraiser in November, saying "we have to be creative, and we have to be thoughtful, and we have to continue to update our policies" on Cuba, and yet he has withheld using his executive power since last easing Cuban travel restrictions in January 2011.

Many Cuba experts and policy analysts say a fundamental revision of Cuba policy is overdue and that greater U.S. involvement could promote the market-oriented reforms under way on the communist-ruled island since Cuban President Raul Castro took over for his ailing brother Fidel in 2008. ...

Cuba analysts who advocate a greater opening argue that Obama should not wait for Cuba to act, that he can loosen remittance policy and support Cuba's growing private sector by allowing U.S. businesses and investors to deal more directly with Cubans. Although U.S. law blocks most commerce, Obama could pursue a national-interest or presidential waiver, experts say.

Let Them Eat Cake - Obama’s Plan for the Long-Term Unemployed

It is a point of historical controversy whether or not when told that French peasants did not have bread to eat, Marie Antoinette uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake,” an even more inaccessible and scarce food for poor people. But what is certain and should be beyond controversy is that in response to the capitalist implosion that shattered so many lives, Obama and the corporate Democrats have demonstrated a policy attitude as cavalier as the French queen. Over the last five years, they have offered neither bread nor cake or anything other than false hope and empty symbols. ...

Obama and the corporate Democrats have only one primary objective — holding on to power so that they can continue to enjoy the state banquets, media attention and campaign dollars that derive from the benefits of being the “party in charge.”  The fact that they are playing with the lives and hopes of millions of people who are desperately looking for some relief from the material and psychological insecurities of life on the edge are of little real concern for these party operatives.  

The Obama-Clinton centrists who make up the dominant core of the Democratic Party, along with a subordinate sliver of liberal reformers, have no substantive policy prescriptions to offer the long-term unemployed or the general U.S. public beyond inchoate policy recommendations framed as representing the elements of an “opportunity agenda.”  

The references to creating opportunities is an ideological mystification meant to suggest that reversing the decades of economic restructuring, stagnant and declining wages, unemployment and expanding poverty can be easily corrected by simple will and the right mixture of incentives for private sector capital. It is as though these realities are just the result of incorrect policies and not the inherent logic of capitalist processes.

As TPP Opposition Soars, Mainstream Media Blackout Deafening

Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership is receiving unprecedented popular opposition and nearly no news coverage by major outlets

Last week, more than 550 groups, representing tens of millions of individual members, signed a letter to members of Congress urging them to vote against a push by President Obama for 'fast track' authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a so-called "free trade" now under negotation between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific rim nations. ...

But if you watch the evening cable or broadcast news shows, you might not know anything about the TPP—not what it is, not why Obama says it would be good for the country, and certainly not why these hundreds of public interest groups, environmentalists, economists, and labor organizations say trade agreements like this are the source of economic and labor woes, not the solution to them.

According to a new study by Media Matters, over the last sixth months the network evening news shows—including ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS—have ignored the TPP almost completely.

After reviewing transcripts of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelly, ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer, and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams from August 1, 2013 through January 31, 2014, Media Matters found no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not a single one.

One American City Enjoys a Hyperfast Internet -- Any Surprise Corporations Don't Control It?

[W]hile high-speed internet access may still seem out-of-reach for many Americans, down in Chattanooga, Tennessee it’s been a reality for a long time.

That’s because Chattanooga is home to “The Gig,” a taxpayer-owned, high-speed fiber-optic network.

According to The New York Times, back in 2009, Chattanooga received a $111 million stimulus grant from the federal government, which allowed that city to get “The Gig” up and running.

Maintained and operated by Chattanooga’s publicly-owned utility company EPB, “The Gig” allows Chattanooga’s residents to surf the web at lightning-fast speeds.

For less than $70 per month, residents browse the World Wide Web on a high-speed fiber-optic connection that shoots data back and forth at one gigabit per second – that’s 1000 megabytes per second. Where I live in Washington, D.C., you have to pay a lot just to get a 20 megabit-per-second connection. ...

Chattanooga officials say that “The Gig” has helped to create at least 1,000 jobs over the past three years.

Government By the People Act takes aim at super PAC-run Washington to empower small donors

H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act, maps out new funding rules that would enable congressional candidates to run competitive campaigns while relying on small donor contributions, rather than on big-spenders and corporate coffers. ...

According to Dēmos, the act has four key provisions.  It:

  • Creates the Freedom from Influence Fund to match contributions of up to $150 to participating candidates 6-to-1 or more;
  • Provides a $25 refundable tax credit for small contributions;
  • Provides enhanced matching funds in the final 60 days of a general election for candidates in high-cost races (because of an onslaught of outside spending, for example); and
  • Creates People PACs, or small donor committees, that aggregate the voices and power of ordinary citizens rather than wealthy donors (as traditional PACs tend to do).
The bill was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), with the backing of 30 progressive organizations including Dēmos, Common Cause, U.S. PIRG, Sierra Club, and the Brennan Center for Justice.
Money Is Pouring Into Super PACs Even Without A Presidential Race

Though the next presidential election is still almost three years away, America's super PACs threw themselves into fundraising last year and the coffers filled up. The unlimited-money groups, which drew so much attention in the 2012 elections, raised far more in the off year of 2013 than they did in 2011.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by last Friday, super PACs raised more than $140 million last year. That's $41 million more than the $99 million the groups raised in 2011, the year preceding both a very busy Republican presidential primary and the most expensive general election contest in history, between President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Gosh, imagine if the Democrats had, say a platform that resonated with voters and a documentable history of actions to show that they have actually been supporting efforts to improve average people's lives instead of being a bunch of corporate whores whose primary achievement is in slowing down the slide of the poor and middle class into increasingly desperate conditions, while keeping the rewards flowing to the 1%.
Senior Democrats set out strategy in preparation for tough Senate battle

Not one, but two, Democratic presidents met with their party's senators on Wednesday at a private strategy meeting about an election year that could prove almost as pivotal as the race for the White House in 2016. ...

But many of the senators present at Wednesday’s closed-door summit, which was held at the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium, are rather less keen to be associated with the White House as they fight to hold their seats this year, according to campaign staff – and judging by recent public rifts. ...

The DSCC fears it could lose seven of the 21 currently Democratic seats that it must fight to hold – South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina – but is only hopeful of taking two from Republicans: Georgia and Kentucky.

The electoral math is even bleaker in the House of Representatives, where Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently admitted she could not “confidently predict” that her party would close the 32-seat gap needed to take back control of the lower chamber.

Party officials are privately urging donors to consider switching some funding away from the almost impossible House campaign and to concentrate their money and efforts on protecting the Senate and avoiding complete Republican domination of Congress.

High danger hydrangea? French police hunt gang peddling 'cheaper weed'

Some gardeners prefer the spiky Hydrangea paniculata; others opt for the smoother mop-head varieties such as Hydrangea macrophylla. Others, often those with yellow as opposed to green fingers, do not much care. They just like to rip off the petals of any old hydrangea – also known as hortensia – and smoke them, police in France have claimed.

Gendarme in northern France are on the trail of the "Hortensia Gang", acting on reports that dozens of the wintering plants have been stolen or severely pruned in the past few weeks.

Initially sceptical that youngsters were roaming private and public gardens chopping off hydrangea heads and leaves to dry, mix with tobacco, and smoke as a cheap alternative to cannabis, police say they are now investigating.

As part of their inquiries, officers spoke to local pharmacists who confirmed the hallucinogenic and euphoria-inducing effects of the hydrangea bloom, of which there are thousands of varieties. Experts say the effect is similar to that of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in the cannabis plant. ...

Before anyone rushes out to the nearest garden centre, hydrangea-smokers risk poisoning themselves, said Kurt Hostettmann, honorary professor of pharmacology at the University of Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland.

"The secondary effects of it are very bad for the health," Hostettmann told Le Matin newspaper last year.

He said the flowers could provoke stomach and respiratory problems, speed up the heart, cause dizzy spells and, if consumed in large quantities, produce hydrogen cyanide (also known as prussic acid), the base of Zyklon B, the poison gas used in the Nazi death chambers, causing a slow and painful death.

The Evening Greens

In Post-Spill West Virginia: Polluters' Input Welcome, Health Advocates Shut Out

Seeking the opinions of 'stakeholders' for new proposed legislation meant to prevent future toxic chemical leaks like the January 9 Elk River spill, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin invited a host of industry leaders and trade associations to weigh in.

However, notably absent from the talks were any environmentalists or public health officials, according to an investigative report by the Charleston Gazette published Tuesday.

West Virginia journalist Ken Ward Jr. reports:

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce was invited. So were the Oil and Gas Association and the Coal Association. Trade associations representing grocers, manufacturers, trucking firms and energy companies were included, according to the Governor's Office.

But the chief lobbyist for the West Virginia Environmental Council — the environmental community's umbrella lobby group at the Capitol — said that his organization wasn't included in the governor's meeting.

"Neither I nor anyone else I know of in the environmental community knew about that meeting," Garvin said Monday. "You telling me about it is the first I've heard about that meeting."

The Gazette learned of the Jan. 20 closed-door meeting through documents released in a Freedom of Information Act Request about the proposed legislation.
Keystone XL has a Job for You!

How the Feds Are Ripping You Off To Benefit Big Coal

Federal coffers are missing out on what could be billions of dollars in lost revenue due to shoddy accounting work by the office that handles leases for coal mines on public land, according to a report made public today by the investigative arm of Congress.

The Government Accountability Office was asked by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a stalwart climate hawk, to look into whether the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management routinely sells leases to coal mining companies for far less than their market value. Investigators found that BLM agents in Wyoming (by far the country's largest coal producer) set prices based on coal's historic value, but, in contradiction of the department's own rules, fail to take into account how much it will likely be worth in the future. Similar problems were found in other coal-producing states. As a result, the GAO report claims, many leases were sold far beneath their true market value, depriving taxpayers of additional royalties (which, as it stands, come to about $1 billion per year) that are normally skimmed from the mines' profits.

"As a net result, the public is getting screwed," said Tom Kenworthy, an energy analyst at the Center for American Progress who has kept tabs on Interior's longstanding problems with coal lease valuation. ...

Of course, Kenworthy added, the appraisal process also doesn't at all consider the social costs of coal consumption (read: climate change and health impacts). Sixteen coal leases have been sold since President Obama took office. "The administration needs to face up to the disconnect between an ambitious climate plan," Kenworthy said, "and these coal lease sales."

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Fear And Loathing In West Virginia

A Little Night Music

Jelly Roll Morton - Finger Breaker

Jelly Roll Morton - Dr. Jazz

Jelly Roll Morton - Buddy Bolden's Blues

Jelly Roll Morton - Sweet Jazz Music

Jelly Roll Morton - Maple Leaf Stomp

Jelly Roll Morton - The Crave

Jelly Roll Morton - Grandpa's Spells

Jelly Roll Morton - Creepy Feeling

Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers - Steamboat Stomp

Joe Oliver/Jelly Roll Morton - Tom Cat Blues

Jelly Roll Morton and his Orchestra - Courthouse Bump

Jelly Roll Morton And His Red Hot Peppers - Black Bottom Stomp

Jelly Roll Morton w/Sidney Bechet - Winin' Boy Blues

Jorma Kaukonen - Winin Boy Blues

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 Feb 06, 2014 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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