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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 blues, jazz and rock n' roll singer LaVern Baker.  Enjoy!

LaVern Baker - Tweedlee Dee

"This is what imperialism is all about: to give yourself the right to intervene in far away places and to project power in every corner of the globe, including the arctic, and to disregard world public opinion.  Imperialism is to have the temerity to lecture and hector Russia about the evils of intervention in the affairs of its neighbor, Ukraine, where the US and EU are blatantly conspiring against Russian interests there.  Imperialism is not only, the highest stage of capitalism, it is the worst and most savage forms of capitalism.  Obama sends drones around the world to kill people, including Americans, who have never been put on trial and yet sounds like a peaceful dove when offering lessons to Russia.  Basically the US is objecting to attempts by Russia to play a smaller and even far less aggressive version of its own world game.  Obama has not noticed what century we are living in."

  -- As'ad AbuKhalil

News and Opinion

Probe sought of CIA conduct in Senate study of secret detention program

The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.

The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.

The development marks an unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers amid an extraordinary closed-door battle over the 6,300-page report on the agency’s use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons. The report is said to be a searing indictment of the program. The CIA has disputed some of the reports findings. ...

In question now is whether any part of the committee’s report, which took some four years to compose and cost $40 million, will ever see the light of day.

The report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture, according to public statements by committee members. It also shows, members have said, how the techniques didn’t provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs.

C.I.A. Employees Face New Inquiry Amid Clashes on Detention Program

The Central Intelligence Agency’s attempt to keep secret the details of a defunct detention and interrogation program has escalated a battle between the agency and members of Congress and led to an investigation by the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog into the conduct of agency employees.

The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation.

The committee has spent several years working on a voluminous report about the detention and interrogation program, and according to one official interviewed in recent days, C.I.A. officers went as far as gaining access to computer networks used by the committee to carry out its investigation.

The events have elevated the protracted battle — which began as a fight over who writes the history of the program, perhaps the most controversial aspect of the American government’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks — into a bitter standoff that in essence is a dispute over the separation of powers and congressional oversight of spy agencies. ...

[I]n December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”

It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases.

Obama knew CIA secretly monitored intelligence committee, senator claims

A leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general’s inquiry at Langley.

The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall to Obama, seeking to enlist the president’s help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers.

McClatchy and the New York Times reported Wednesday that the CIA had secretly monitored computers used by committee staffers preparing the inquiry report, which is said to be scathing not only about the brutality and ineffectiveness of the agency’s interrogation techniques but deception by the CIA to Congress and policymakers about it. The CIA sharply disputes the committee’s findings. ...

In 2012, the Justice Department closed an inquiry into prosecuting low-level CIA practitioners of torture without bringing any charges. But the prospect of the agency spying on its Senate overseers who prepared their own inquiry potentially places the agency right back into the legal morass it has labored for years to avoid.

In February, the CIA confirmed to the Guardian that it is subject to the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a crime to access government computer networks without authorization. The issue arose after Udall’s partner on the committee, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, asked CIA Director John Brennan at a January hearing, without elaboration, if the statute applied.

Obama Is Complicit in Suppressing the Truth About Torture

President Obama is complicit in suppressing the truth about CIA torture of prisoners. That's clear from the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee's $40 million, 6,000-page torture report is still being suppressed 15 months after being adopted. It is made clearer still by a scathing letter that one member of the committee, Senator Mark Udall, sent the White House on Tuesday. Its claims are jaw-dropping.

Udall wants the torture report released to the public as fully and quickly as possible. He is also interested in a separate CIA report about torture of prisoners. His letter makes all of the following charges:

  • Lots of information already given to the public about the CIA's torture program, its management, and its effectiveness "is misleading and inaccurate."
  • The Obama Administration itself has declassified and publicly released torture information that "contains inaccurate characterizations of CIA programs."
  • The CIA's internal review of its torture program contradicts what it told the oversight committee.
  • The CIA is erecting "impediments and obstacles" to its overseers.
Freed Ex-Black Panther Marshall "Eddie" Conway on 44 Years in Prison & FBI COINTELPRO Surveillance

Attorneys for Barrett Brown want case on linking to hacked material dismissed

Lawyers acting for Barrett Brown, the activist-journalist facing more than 100 years in prison for having posted a hyperlink to hacked material, have called for his case to be dismissed on grounds that it violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and would chill the internet. ...

The main allegation against him – spanning 12 counts - is that he posted a hyperlink on an internet chat room to a website containing material hacked from the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc, (Stratfor). The hack included email addresses of 860,000 Stratfor subscribers as well as 60,000 credit card details.

In a legal memorandum lodged with a federal court in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, Brown’s lawyers argued that the charges against him should be dropped ahead of trial because they were too vague and were in breach of his constitutional right to free speech. By hyperlinking to the hacked material, Brown did not “transfer” the stolen information as he arguably would have done had he embedded the link on his web page, but merely created a path to files that had already been published elsewhere that were in the public domain.

“Republishing a hyperlink does not itself move, convey, select, place or otherwise transfer, a file or document from one location to another... The government only alleges that Mr Brown ‘transferred’ a hyperlink containing directions to where the Stratfor file was already placed by another person when the Stratfor files were uploaded to public web servers,” the motion argues.

Brown’s case is being closely watched by First Amendment lawyers, publishers and activists who fear that a conviction could set a precedent that would criminalise the very act of linking on the internet. His legal team, led by Ahmed Ghappour of the University of Texas law school in Austin, point to a wide range of public activities that could be impacted.

NSA chief criticises media and suggests UK was right to detain David Miranda

The outgoing director of the National Security Agency lashed out at media organizations reporting on Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations, suggesting that British authorities were right to detain David Miranda on terrorism charges and that reporters lack the ability to properly analyze the NSA’s broad surveillance powers.

General Keith Alexander, who has furiously denounced the Snowden revelations, said at a Tuesday cybersecurity panel that unspecified “headway” on what he termed “media leaks” was forthcoming in the next several weeks, possibly to include “media leaks legislation.”

In perhaps his most expansive remarks to date since Miranda – the partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald – was detained for nine hours at Heathrow airport last summer, Alexander noted that a panel of UK judges found Miranda’s detention to be legal.

“Recently, what came out with the justices in the United Kingdom … they looked at what happened on Miranda and other things, and they said it’s interesting: journalists have no standing when it comes to national security issues. They don’t know how to weigh the fact of what they’re giving out and saying, is it in the nation’s interest to divulge this,” Alexander said.

Edward Snowden set for video ‘appearance’ at South By Southwest festival

Former security contractor Edward Snowden, facing arrest if he steps foot on U.S. soil, will participate remotely in a panel discussion next week in Texas about governmental intrusion into privacy, conference organizers said on Tuesday.

Snowden, who is in Russia, will answer questions via video conference at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin on Monday on how the U.S. National Security Agency uses technology to keep tabs on people.

Journalistic independence. Some folks got it, some folks don't.
RT Host Abby Martin Condemns Russian Incursion Into Crimea – On RT

American media elites awash in an orgy of feel-good condemnation in particular love to mock Russian media, especially the government-funded English-language outlet RT, as being a source of shameless pro-Putin propaganda, where free expression is strictly barred (in contrast to the Free American Media). That that network has a strong pro-Russian bias is unquestionably true. But one of its leading hosts, Abby Martin, remarkably demonstrated last night what “journalistic independence” means by ending her Breaking the Set program with a clear and unapologetic denunciation of the Russian action in Ukraine:

For all the self-celebrating American journalists and political commentators: was there even a single U.S. television host who said anything comparable to this in the lead-up to, or the early stages of, the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Even now, how many American TV hosts on the major networks and cable outlets report on the types of American killings described in the first three paragraphs of this interview with Hamid Karzai, or the ongoing extinguishing of innocent human lives by President Obama’s drone attacks, or the pervasive chaos and suffering left in the wake of the NATO intervention in Libya that they almost universally cheered, or the endless brutality of the West Bank occupation and Gaza domination by the U.S.’s closest Middle East ally, or, for that matter, U.S./EU interference in the very same country that Russia is now condemned for invading?

Carnival in Crimea

The speaker of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, has confirmed there will be a referendum on greater autonomy from Ukraine on May 25.

Until then, Crimea will be as hot and steamy as carnival in Rio - because Crimea is all about Sevastopol, the port of call for the Russian Black Sea fleet. ... If the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a bull, this is the red flag to end all red flags. ... NATO's ultimate wet dream is to command a Western puppet Ukrainian government to kick the Russian navy out of its base in Sevastopol. The negotiated lease applies until 2042. Threats and rumors of reneging it have already emerged. ... We're not facing a new Crimean War - yet. Only up to a point. NATO's wet dream is one thing; it is quite another to pull it off - as in ending the Russian fleet routinely leaving Sevastopol across the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and then reaching Tartus, Syria's Mediterranean port. So yes, this is as much about Syria as about Crimea. ...

As Immanuel Wallerstein has already observed, Nuland, Kagan and the neo-con gang are as much terrified of Russia "dominating" Ukraine as of a slowly emerging, and eventually quite possible, geopolitical alliance between Germany (with France as a junior partner) and Russia. That would mean the heart of the European Union forging a counter-power to the dwindling, increasingly wobbly American power. ...

The new prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is - what else - a "technocratic reformer", code for Western puppet. Ukraine is a (torn) basket case. The currency has fallen 20% since the start of 2014. Millions of unemployed Europeans know the European Union does not have the dough to bail out the country (perhaps Ukrainians could ask former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for some tips).

In Pipelineistan terms, Ukraine is an appendix to Russia; it's Russian gas that transits through Ukraine to European markets. And Ukrainian industry depends on the Russian market.

Let's take a closer look at the new Aperol Spritz "revolutionary" wallet. Every month, the natural gas import bill from Russia is roughly US$1 billion. In January, the country also had to spend $1.1 billion in debt repayment. Foreign currency reserves plunged to $17.8 billion from $20.4 billion. Ukraine has a minimum debt repayment of no less than $17 billion in 2014. They even had to cancel a $2 billion eurobond issue late last week. ...

The notion that Putin will order a military attack on the Ukraine should be billed to US corporate media's sub-zoological intellectual quotient. Vlad the Hammer just needs to watch the circus - as in the West squabbling about where to get those billions to be squandered in a (torn) basket case. Or the International Monetary Fund churning out yet another dreadful "structural adjustment" to send Ukraine's population back to the Paleolithic.

John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago talks sensibly on the PBS Newshour.  Astounding.
Few options for U.S. on Russia's Ukraine intervention?

Russia refuses to order Crimea troops to pull back in talks with US

Russian diplomats have refused a request to order the pro-Russian "self-defence" forces that have taken over the Crimean peninsula to pull back in the first day of face-to-face talks with the US aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis.

Top-level US and British diplomats admitted they had also failed in their attempt to bring together Russia and Ukraine for discussions in Paris on Wednesday. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said that "regrettably" one member – Russia – had failed to appear for a meeting of the so-called Budapest agreement group, created to assure Kiev's security after it renounced nuclear weapons in the 90s.

Before entering his first face-to-face meeting with Kerry since the Ukraine crisis escalated, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, also repeated the Kremlin's assertion – ridiculed by the west and disputed by international journalists in the Crimean peninsula – that the 16,000 troops that have seized Crimea are not Russian soldiers.

"If you mean the self-defence units created by the inhabitants of Crimea, we give them no orders, they take no orders from us," Lavrov told a press conference.

"As for the military personnel of the [Russian] Black Sea fleet, they are in their deployment sites. Yes, additional vigilance measures were taken to safeguard the sites … We will do everything not to allow any bloodshed."

Ukraine raises flag in Donetsk, ends pro-Moscow building siege

Ukraine ejected pro-Moscow demonstrators on Wednesday from a regional government building and raised its flag where Russia's had flown since the weekend, signaling an important shift of control in the Russian-speaking east.

The Donetsk administrative headquarters had been held since Monday by activists who burst in chanting "Putin come!" and demanded control over the regional police force and the end of ties with Kiev. Police said they evacuated it peacefully after receiving reports it was booby-trapped with explosives.

Donetsk, home city of deposed president Viktor Yanukovich, has seen the most persistent pro-Moscow demonstrations since protests erupted in eastern and southern cities on Saturday as Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his right to invade.

A large force of police was guarding the building with helmets and shields. Sniffer dogs had been brought to search it.

Around 200 pro-Moscow demonstrators were still clustered by tents in front of the building, where biscuits and tea were served from a cart. Their leader, burly local businessman Pavel Gubarev who has declared himself "people's governor", called the evacuation a "provocation" and vowed to re-enter the building.

"We are determined to erect our people's power in the Donetsk region. And we will not retreat. We have huge support," Gubarev said. "When we go back in, I don't want to see a single police officer in the building. Then we will go to the police, remove the boss that was imposed from Kiev, put our own boss in place and declare the police a municipal force."

EU freezes misappropriated Ukrainian state funds

As agreed at the Foreign Affairs Council of 3 March, the Council today adopted EU sanctions focussed on the freezing and recovery of misappropriated Ukrainian state  funds.  Today's decision targets 18 persons identified as responsible for such misappropriation whose assets within the European Union will be frozen. The sanctions also contain provisions facilitating the recovery of the frozen funds, once certain conditions are met.

European Commission's support to Ukraine

This document sets out the main concrete measures that the Commission is proposing for the short and medium term to help stabilise the economic and financial situation in Ukraine, assist with the transition, encourage political and economic reforms and support inclusive development for the benefit of all Ukrainians. These measures combined could bring overall support of at least €11 billion over the coming years from the EU budget and EU based international financial institutions (IFIs) in addition to the significant funding being provided by the IMF and World Bank.  

Key elements of the package:

  • €3 billion from the EU budget in the coming years, €1.6 billion in macro financial assistance loans (MFA) and an assistance package of grants of €1.4 billion;
  • Up to €8 billion from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development;
  • Potential €3.5 billion leveraged through the Neighbourhood Investment Facility;
  • Setting up of a donor coordination platform;
  • Provisional application of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area when Association Agreement is signed and, if need be, by autonomous frontloading of trade measures;
  • Organisation of a High Level Investment Forum/Task Force;
  • Modernisation of the Ukraine Gas Transit System and work on reverse flows, notably via Slovakia;
  • Acceleration of Visa Liberalisation Action Plan within the established framework; Offer of a Mobility Partnership;
  • Technical assistance on a number of areas from constitutional to judicial reform and preparation of elections.
U.S., Europe split over imposing tough sanctions on Russia

U.S. officials are struggling to get Europe on board for harsh punitive measures against Russia, whose incursion into neighboring Ukraine is putting transatlantic relations to the test as nervous European states seek to avoid the fray.

Under pressure from U.S. lawmakers to issue a tough response to what they see as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s challenge to U.S. resolve, Obama administration officials have said without much elaboration that a sanctions package is in the works.

But it took enormous wrangling to get the European Union to agree to the largely symbolic move of suspending preparations for the Group of 8’s June meeting in Russia, and analysts who receive briefings on the diplomatic efforts said Tuesday that the American side, despite working around the clock, is having difficulty finding common ground with the Europeans.

So far, they say, Europe sees high risks for the continent and very little to suggest that any such action would sway a defiant Putin. The options, then, are the United States going the sanctions route alone or watering down the measures to mollify Europe – both scenarios that would please Putin, who has a reputation of exploiting any sign of transatlantic splits.

Interesting. Another tapped phone conversation surfaces, this time between the Estonian FM and Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy head discussing the snipers in Kiev:
Kiev snipers hired by Maidan leaders - leaked EU's Ashton phone tape

The snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were allegedly hired by Maidan leaders, according to a leaked phone conversation between the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign affairs minister, which has emerged online.

 “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition,” Urmas Paet said during the conversation.

“I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh,” Ashton answered.

The call took place after Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet visited Kiev on February 25, following the peak of clashes between the pro-EU protesters and security forces in the Ukrainian capital.

 Paet also recalled his conversation with a doctor who treated those shot by snipers in Kiev. She said that both protesters and police were shot at by the same people.

“And second, what was quite disturbing, this same Olga [Bogomolets] told as well that all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,” the Estonian FM stressed.

Ashton reacted to the information by saying: “Well, yeah…that’s, that’s terrible.”

“So that she then also showed me some photos she said that as a medical doctor she can say that it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened,” Paet said.

Olga Bogomolets was the main doctor for the Maidan mobile clinic when protests turned violent in Kiev. She treated the gravely injured and helped organized their transportation to neighboring countries, who had expressed a willingness to treat those with severe wounds. From the outset, Olga blamed the injuries and deaths on snipers. She turned down the position of Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for Humanitarian Affairs offered by the coup-appointed regime.

Kiev snipers hired by Maidan leaders - Estonian FM to EU's Ashton (alleged phone leak)

Obama to Netanyahu: Israel faces Int’l Sanctions over “Permanent Occupation of West Bank”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, D.C., this week was even more of a disaster for him than might have been expected.

It did not help that the Crimea crisis had broken out, which rather cast a bad light on one country militarily occupying parts of another. Most observers in Europe and even some in the US could see the hypocrisy of the US denouncing Russian troops in Crimea but supporting Israeli troops in Hebron.

Netanyahu’s government has doubled housing starts for Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank in the past year, while pretending to negotiate peace with the Palestine Liberation Organization (there is no such process with the Hamas government in Gaza). ...

Obama is trying to tell Netanyahu that we can see him, and he isn’t invisible any more. He is telling him that the world is deciding that the Israelis intend to keep the Palestinians stateless and to constrain their lives with checkpoints and arbitrary arrest and property theft virtually forever. And this policy is no more acceptable than a revival of plantation slavery for African-Americans in the Old South would be. Stateless people like the Palestinians have many resemblances to slaves– both lack the right to have rights.

The members of the European Union, and the Union itself, are trying as hard as they can to signal to Netanyahu that permanent Occupation is not an option and will attract sanctions. Over a third of Israeli trade is with Europe and it deeply depends on EU countries for technology transfers.

Netanyahu and most Israelis on the Right just cannot see the future. They cannot see what they are doing to the Palestinians (Netanyahu thinks the latter would be satisfied with statelessness and indignity if only their economy improved). They cannot see how unacceptable is their economic siege of the Palestinians in Gaza, illegally targeting non-combatants, and warping children’s lives. They think people who complain about these policies just don’t like Jews, using their grievances about anti-Semitism in old Christian Europe to hide from themselves that they have themselves now become a colonial power, that they are dominant, and that pretending to be downtrodden victims of prejudice under these circumstances is absurd.

Does Netanyahu's Attack on BDS Reveals 'Desperation' of Israeli Govt?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's repeated attacks on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in his annual speech at the AIPAC convention on Tuesday has Palestinian rights advocates claiming a victory for their international and nonviolent movement against what they see as Israel's systematic injustice and lawlessness.

As Philip Weiss, founder and co-editor of the popular Mondoweiss website, points out, Netanyahu mentioned the BDS movement a full eighteen times in the speech.

Netanyahu told the audience that "one movement that’s definitely on the wrong side of the moral divide is the movement to boycott Israel, the so-called BDS." He promised the movement would fail and then added, “those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot."

Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee responded:

Netanyahu’s desperate attack on the BDS movement comes as European pension funds are blacklisting Israeli companies and banks, as Israeli concert organizers find it increasingly difficult to persuade artists to perform in Israel and as governments begin to take action to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. ...

At its core, the BDS movement is a movement against Israel’s systematic discrimination and apartheid policies. The BDS movement is opposed, as a matter of principle, to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia. The world is growing increasingly weary of Israel’s attempts to conflate criticism of its violations of international law with anti-semitism.

Lots of good background information in this article, worth a peek if you're interested in what's happening in Turkey:
Turkey's Erdogan rallies popular support in power struggle

Before cheering crowds, he dons the mantle of tragic hero, comparing his enemies to leeches, reciting a poem that once saw him jailed for sedition and invoking the memory of his political hero, toppled and hanged by the generals.

Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan, shaken by a graft scandal he says is concocted by a former ally, is fighting to secure his political future in the run up to March polls. But more than that, he sees at stake the legacy of an 11-year drive to reshape Turkey, breaking the hold of a secular, urban elite.

Speaking amid a sea of orange and blue AK Party flags in the western town of Denizli, the Prime Minister moved between anger and sarcasm as he decried a campaign including anonymous online audio-tapes accusing him and members of his family of graft. Its instigators, he said, were worse than leeches. ...

The Denizli crowd, many bussed in, were core supporters; religiously conservative, most women in headscarves, some in chador, people who have to their mind achieved social justice under Erdogan. Bans on religious attire in state offices have eased and a new business elite has flourished in the Anatolian heartland. ...

The local polls on March 30 should indicate whether the graft scandal and the backlash against his authoritarian traits are whittling support down to his core constituency - on display in the fervent crowd at Denizli.

Venezuela One Year After Chavez's Passing

Obama just can't get stealing from old people off of his mind.
White House Suggests Social Security Cuts Remain 'On The Table'

Even though President Barack Obama's formal budget proposal Tuesday omitted cuts to Social Security, the White House strongly suggested that a controversial policy to cut the program "remains on the table" if Republicans are willing to compromise.

"In last year's Budget, the President included a compromise proposal intended as a show of good faith to spark additional negotiations with Congressional Republicans about the nation’s long-term deficits and debt and to encourage all parties to come together to remove the economically-damaging sequestration cuts," the White House said in a fact sheet that accompanied its budget release. "Although that compromise proposal remains on the table, given Congressional Republicans' unwillingness to negotiate a balanced long-term deficit reduction deal, the President’s 2015 Budget returns to a more traditional Budget presentation that is focused on achieving the President’s vision for the best path to create growth and opportunity for all Americans, and the investments needed to meet that vision."

The "compromise proposal" is a thinly veiled reference to a policy known as Chained CPI, which slows the rate of inflation for Social Security benefits.

FCC questions state laws that block cities from building their own broadband network

Frustrated with the sluggish speed and high cost of their Internet service providers, the residents of Wilson, N.C., decided a few years ago to take matters into their own hands – they would simply build their own connection.

The city council unanimously voted in 2006 to create a fiber-to-home network that today provides affordable high-speed Internet to homes and businesses, connects schools, and even supplies downtown Wilson with free Wi-Fi.

Incumbent companies Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink were forced to lower their prices and upgrade their service to remain competitive.

Four other communities in the state also launched municipal broadband. Such enterprises irked big-time providers enough that, after years of lobbying and a million dollars in campaign cash, North Carolina in 2011 passed a cable industry-backed law that makes it nearly impossible for any other municipality to do the same. (Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink did not return requests for comment.)

Two weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it intends to take a close look at overruling such state laws, which restrict the ability of cities and towns to build their own broadband networks in 20 states across the country. ...

State laws resulting from Internet service provider-sponsored bills vary in severity across the country. Florida restricts community broadband by placing special taxes as well as profitability requirements that make it difficult to approve networks like Wilson’s. In contrast, Pennsylvania does not allow municipalities to sell broadband services at all if a “local telephone company” already provides it, no matter how high the price or how poor the service.

The Evening Greens

Paul Ryan stands at the Fossil Fool Blvd. onramp to the War Hawk Expressway and gestures the Global Destruction Corps forward:

Paul Ryan: Keystone pipeline will solve Russia’s Ukraine invasion

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) shocked CNN host Kate Bolduan on Wednesday when he asserted that Congress and President Barack Obama could solve the crisis in Ukraine by approving the Keystone XL pipeline. ...

Bolduan pressed Ryan on what Congress could do in response to international crisis.

“Well, I think we should move forward on natural gas exports very quickly,” the former GOP vice presidential nominee insisted. “I think we should approve an LNG terminal in the east coast to go to Europe. I think we should approve the Keystone Pipeline. And I think we should show that the U.S. is going to be moving forward on becoming energy independent.”

“Moving forward with the Keystone pipeline!” Bolduan exclaimed. “That development would take years, though, to actually make that happen.”

Ryan argued that the controversial pipeline would be a “signal” to Russia.

“The signal is very, very important,” he declared. “And I think showing that this [invasion] is going to make us move in that direction helps give our allies the kind of resources they need, and reduces Russia’s grip on this.”

Big Oil Push for Crude Exports Spells 'Disaster' for Climate

A push by Big Oil interests to lift the decades-old ban on crude oil exports would effectively release over 4 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to a report published Monday by an environmental watchdog group.

The report, "Lifting the Ban, Cooking the Climate" (pdf), by Oil Change International, analyzes the climate impact should the U.S. cede to heavy lobbying efforts and eliminate existing regulations.

"Allowing U.S. crude oil exports will result in increased profits that will in turn result in increased oil production," the report argues.

According to the report, an average projected increase in U.S. crude oil to $10 per barrel would lead to an additional 9.9 billion barrels of production between 2015 and 2050. That production would release over 4.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equal to the lifetime emissions of 42 coal plants.

Judge approves Freedom evidence-collection request

A bankruptcy judge approved a request from Freedom Industries on Tuesday to hire a company to help collect and preserve its electronic documents, like cell phones and emails.

The documents from current and former Freedom officials must be collected to comply with subpoenas issued by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office and other agencies investigating the company after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the Elk River fouled the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians, an attorney for the company said. ...

Goodwin is conducting a criminal investigation of the leak. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board also is examining the incident.

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Venezuela is not Ukraine

A Little Night Music

LaVern Baker - Jim Dandy

Lavern Baker- Voodoo Voodoo

Lavern Baker- Saved

LaVern Baker - Bumble Bee

Lavern Baker - You Better Stop

Lavern Baker - Gimme a Pigfoot

LaVern Baker & Jimmy Ricks - You're The Boss

Lavern Baker - Batman to the rescue

Lavern Baker - Trouble In Mind

Little Miss Sharecropper (Lavern Baker) - I Want To Rock

Lavern Baker - Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

Lavern Baker - You'd Better Find Yourself Another Fool

Lavern Baker - Hey Memphis

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.  

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Originally posted to DFH writers group on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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