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 Jimmy Johnson. Enjoy!
Jimmy Johnson - I'm A Jockey/In The Midnight Hour
"I would carry democracy to the rest of the world, not upon the point of a bayonet, but by furnishing the most perfect example of a Government of liberty and equality of opportunity for every man, woman, and child in these United States."
-- Fighting Bob La Follette
News and Opinion
Obama wastes your tax dollars on a free texting service in Cuba to try to foment civil disturbances and regime change:
US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest and undermine governmentAn interesting read from Andrew Bacevich:
In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a US government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government.
McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company's ties to the US government.
McSpedon didn't work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the US Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in US humanitarian aid.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project, the plan was to develop a bare-bones "Cuban Twitter," using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba's strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo — slang for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet.
Documents show the US government planned to build a subscriber base through "non-controversial content": news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize "smart mobs" — mass gatherings called at a moment's notice that might trigger a Cuban spring, or, as one USAid document put it, "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society." ...
It is unclear whether the plan got its start with USAid or Creative Associates International, a Washington for-profit company that has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in US contracts. ... The program's legality is unclear: US law requires that any covert action by a federal agency must have a presidential authorization. Officials at USAid would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. ... The money that Creative Associates spent on ZunZuneo was publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, government data show. But there is no indication of where the funds were actually spent.
La Follette’s Lessons in Empire
Remembered as a rabble-rousing insurgent, La Follette actually began his career in public life as a stalwart party regular, chiefly interested in bread-and-butter issues affecting his home state of Wisconsin. Over time, he embraced progressivism. Doing battle with the “Money Power”—the corporate and financial oligarchy that seemingly owned the government and ran the country—became his abiding cause. ...
With La Follette’s elevation to the U.S. Senate in 1905, his foreign-policy education commenced in earnest. The Mexican Revolution and then the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 persuaded him that the Money Power’s tentacles reached far beyond the confines of the United States. La Follette’s inclination to let Mexicans determine their own fate, despite objections from Wall Street, placed him at odds with William Howard Taft, a pro-business Republican whose “dollar diplomacy” he despised. La Follette’s determination to steer clear of Europe’s war—rather than treating it as an opportunity to turn a buck—put him on a collision course with Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic progressive whose lofty rhetoric he admired.
La Follette’s problem with Wilson was the disconnect between words and actions. U.S. policy toward the European war was nominally one of neutrality, which La Follette fully supported. Yet when it came to trade, loans, and enforcing the “laws” of war, the administration charted a course that favored Great Britain and France. When Wilson, having successfully campaigned for reelection on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War,” soon thereafter declared it imperative for the United States to intervene on behalf of the Allies to whom Wall Street had loaned billions, La Follette saw the Money Power at work.
Wilson’s request for a declaration of war against Germany in April 1917 spurred La Follette to take to the Senate floor in opposition. But his epic four-hour speech achieved little apart from marking him in the eyes of super-patriots as “the German ambassador from Wisconsin.” Back home, members of the gentlemanly Madison Club expelled him from its precincts for “unpatriotic conduct and giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” The faculty of the University of Wisconsin, keen for their students to have a go at the Hun, voted 421-2 to condemn La Follette for disloyalty. ...
Once Congress voted for war, La Follette took the position that he and every other American citizen had an obligation to accede to that decision. Although critical of legislation infringing on civil liberties, such as the infamous Espionage and Sedition Acts, he nonetheless supported the war effort, accepting Wilson’s depiction of the stakes at issue and warmly endorsing the president’s vision for peace. ... When the peace conference at Paris found Wilson abandoning principles previously declared sacrosanct, La Follette concluded that “he and the other believers had been hoodwinked.” Perhaps, but an element of opportunistic self-deception also figured in the process. At any rate, La Follette now turned on the president. “The declaration that we were fighting for democracy,” he announced, “was the boldest, most wicked lie ever imposed upon a people.” The doughboys sent to France had fought at the behest of “Big Business for Bigger Business,” he now insisted. “It was a war for trade routes and commercial advantages. It was a war for new territory and the right to exploit weaker peoples. It was a mean, sordid, mercenary war.” Why, he wondered, did Wilson’s vaunted right to self-determination not apply to Ireland, India, Korea, or the peoples of the Middle East? The question answered itself.
Ukrainians Get IMF’s Bitter Medicine
It’s a safe bet that most of the Ukrainians who flooded Maidan Square in Kiev in February did not do so because they wanted the International Monetary Fund to make their lives even more miserable by slashing subsidies for heat, gutting pensions and devaluing the currency to make everyday goods more expensive.
But thanks to the U.S.-backed coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a regime including far-right parties, super-rich ”oligarchs” and technocrats with little sympathy for the suffering of average people, that’s exactly what happened. Although lacking legitimacy that would come from national elections, the coup regime pushed through the demands of the Washington-based IMF. ...
What is also striking about the IMF plan is that it puts virtually all the pain on average Ukrainians. There is nothing in the economic “reform” package that extracts some of the ill-gotten gains from Ukraine’s ten or so “oligarchs,” the multimillionaires and even billionaires who largely plundered Ukraine’s wealth after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
There is no plan for demanding that these “oligarchs” kick in some percentage of their net worth to help their own country. Instead, hard-pressed citizens of the United States and Europe are expected to carry the financial load.
The U.S. Congress voted by large bipartisan majorities to have the American taxpayers provide $1 billion in aid to Ukraine’s coup regime. Further, the IMF predicts that its $18 billion in loan guarantees could generate up to $27 billion from the international community over the next two years.
Tense Rhetoric Escalates as Russia Mocks NATO’s ‘Cold War Mindset’
NATO-Russia relations continue to get worse for no apparent reason today, as NATO officials keep warning Russia against invading Ukraine, despite Russia repeatedly reassuring them that this isn’t being considered.
The warnings and the nonsensical predictions of imminent Russian military action have not escaped Russian notice, and the Foreign Ministry issued a statement mocking the “Cold War mindset” of the alliance.
Russian minister's advice to US over Crimea: do yoga and chill out
A top Russian official has accused the US of "childish tantrums" in its response to the annexation of Crimea, and suggested that American politicians practise yoga and watch sitcoms to help chill out.
"Clearly, the US leadership is really annoyed, and cannot come to terms with the new situation, which has arisen in large part due to the deliberate line taken by the US and its allies in Europe to prepare anti-Russian forces to take power in Ukraine," said deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview with Interfax. ...
"What can we advise our American colleagues? They should get more fresh air, do yoga, eat healthily, maybe watch some sitcoms on television.
"This is better than getting themselves and others all worked up when they know very well that the train has already departed and that childish tantrums, tears and hysterics will not help things."
Ukraine detains 12 police accused of shooting at protesters
A dozen Ukrainian police officers have been detained on suspicion of shooting at protesters during violent clashes that shook Kiev in February, the country's new interior minister announced on Thursday.
Arsen Avakov said that the former interior minister Vitali Zakharchenko, currently on the run, was directly involved in giving orders to shoot at protesters, along with the SBU security services.
Valentyn Nalivaichenko, the new head of the SBU, added that a number of officers from Russia's FSB had been consulting with the SBU in Kiev in December and January, and that Russian citizens were present at SBU headquarters. He also claimed that explosives and weapons were delivered to Ukraine from Russia during the protest period.
More than 100 people were killed during February's violence. ...
The Kremlin has put forward a completely different version of events, alleging the violence which spurred Yanukovych's downfall was organised by far-right radical protest groups keen to radicalise the situation. On Sunday, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow had evidence that Ukrainian nationalist groups were behind the sniper attacks.
'Troop Buildup on the Border' – We've Heard This BeforeInvisible Russian troops on the Ukraine border are in this AFP story, too. Incredible how the propaganda propagates.
With all of the unknowns swirling around the Russia/Ukraine story, media seem to agree on one thing: Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on their border with Ukraine, and this is of intense concern.
It could be that Russia, for any number of reasons, has decided to move tens of thousands of troops to the area. They claim nothing out of the ordinary is happening, except for some training exercises. NBC correspondent Jim Maceda went to the border area to check out the claims of Russian troop presence and couldn't turn up much.
But does any of this sound familiar? After Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, US officials–with the help of corporate media–were claiming that Saddam Hussein was headed next for Saudi Arabia, and the evidence was satellite images showing a massive Iraqi troop buildup on the border of the US ally. But the St. Petersburg Times obtained satellite images that analysts said undermined the US claims (Extra!, 4/91). [also see here and this post contains the text of the original article. - js]
Ukraine moves to grant more power to regions
Crisis-hit Ukraine took the first step Wednesday toward granting more powers to the regions in line with Western wishes but stopped well short of creating the federation sought by Russia.
The Western-backed team unveiled its high-stakes plan under the dual pressure of tens of thousands of Russian troops massed at its border and a veiled Kremlin threat to raise the price it charges its neighbour for crucial gas deliveries for a second time in a week.
But Ukraine’s new government — having won both vital financial backing from the IMF last week and morale support from a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday — appeared ready to resist the Kremlin’s attempts to dislodge the more Russified regions in the east of the ex-Soviet country from direct Kiev rule.
The government said it would like to eliminate the current practice under which local governors are appointed by the president and move toward an election system.
But it said nothing about granting regions the right to set their own trade policies or establish special relations with foreign states.
“The main idea behind the concept is to decentralise power in the country and substantially broaden the authority of local communities,” the government said in a statement published on its website.
Lebanon marks 'devastating' milestone with millionth refugee
The number of Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon officially topped 1 million on Thursday, highlighting the growing humanitarian catastrophe caused by Syria's civil war and the huge burden placed on its poorly prepared neighbors.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR marked what it called a devastating milestone by formally registering a 18-year-old student from the city of Homs as the millionth refugee at a ceremony in Lebanon's Mediterranean city of Tripoli. ...
With a population of just 4 million, Lebanon now has the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide, an influx which the government has described as an existential threat in a country scarred by its own volatile history.
School-aged refugees eclipse the number of Lebanese children in the country's state schools, the UN says, and 2,500 new refugees are registered every day. ...
Syrians have also fled to Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, and the official total of 2.6 million refugees - which understates the scale of the exodus - means Syrians will soon overtake Afghans as the world's biggest refugee population.
US Slams Palestine for Disrupting 'Peace Process' with Peace Conventions
The U.S. government and corporate media rebuked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after he announced on Tuesday that he is seeking to join 15 UN bodies — most of which set international standards for human rights — including the Geneva and Vienna conventions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry even took the step of canceling a planned Wednesday return to Israel/Palestine to engage in "peace talks" with Abbas. And several U.S. media outlets slammed Abbas for allegedly torpedoing negotiations by seeking statehood through other means. This included a New York Times headline entitled, "Abbas Takes Defiant Step, and Mideast Talks Falter."
Yet, Mike Coogan of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams, "I think it says a lot about a peace process if it has supposedly been imperiled by Palestinians signing international treaties, most of which protect human rights, not by Israel's colonization and killing.
He added, "Since this so-called peace process started, Israel has increased construction of settlements--which are illegal under international law; continued destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel itself; confiscated Palestinian land; and responded to weekly protests against these things with violent measures."
A report released in late February by Amnesty International finds that in the past year alone, Israeli forces killed at least 22 Palestinian civilians—four of who were children and 14 of whom were killed at protests.
Twitter remains blocked in Turkey despite order from constitutional court
Turkey’s government faced growing pressure Thursday to quickly implement a top court order to unblock Twitter, which it had banned after corruption claims went viral on the social media site.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the block on March 20 in the lead-up to last Sunday’s key local elections, in which his party won sweeping wins despite the damaging online leaks.
On Wednesday Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the Twitter ban breached free speech, and ordered the communications ministry and telecoms authority to reverse it “with immediate effect”.
The US-based micro-blogging service reacted quickly to the ruling, tweeting: “We welcome this Constitutional Court ruling and hope to have Twitter access restored in Turkey soon.”
But although the ruling by the country’s highest court was published Thursday morning in Turkey’s Official Gazette, by mid-morning the service still remained unavailable in Turkey.
Sezgin Tanrikulu, a lawmaker for the secular main opposition Republican People’s Party, said he would lodge a complaint unless the government abides by the court ruling, warning that defying it “would mean an abuse of power”.
Tanrikulu — who was among the group that had lodged the initial challenge with the Constitutional Court — warned that the ruling is “binding for everyone, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who does not recognise the law”.
Many say NSA news changed their behavior
Nearly half the nation's adults changed their behavior online because of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) snooping programs, according to a new poll.
The Harris Interactive survey found that 47 percent of adults were thinking more carefully about what they do, what they say or where they go on the Internet in light of the spying revelations that began emerging last summer.
More than a quarter of the 2,000 people surveyed said they were doing less banking online, and 24 percent said they were less inclined to use email.
Many of the results were more exaggerated for young people, ages 18 to 34. A third of people surveyed in that age group said they were doing less shopping online, compared to 26 percent of the public at large.
Yahoo unveils encryption measures to protect users' data
Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s recently appointed chief information security officer, said on Wednesday his ultimate aim was to make sure “all traffic through Yahoo will be encrypted by default”. ...
“The goal is all traffic to and from Yahoo users is going to be encrypted all the time by default, and invisibly. This is not going to be something you have to think about all the time,” he said. “Preventing surveillance of millions of people at a time is totally within our abilities,” Stamos said.
Yahoo was working with thousands of partners to make sure encryption was as widespread as possible, and pushing media partners and advertisers to encrypt by default.
“What we are hoping to do by this is to get a big chunk of the internet and advertising infrastructure gets separated and then it gets easier for people to fall behind and follow,” he said.
“Anything we can do to protect users against widespread, no-targeted surveillance is our duty,” he said.
An NSA "Reform Bill" of the Intelligence Community, Written by the Intelligence Community, and for the Intelligence Community
Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, introduced HR 4291, the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act (.pdf), to end the collection of all Americans' calling records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Both have vehemently defended the program since June, and it's reassuring to see two of the strongest proponents of NSA's actions agreeing with privacy advocates' (and the larger public's) demands to end the program. The bill only needs 17 lines to stop the calling records program, but it weighs in at more than 40 pages. Why? Because the “reform” bill tries to create an entirely new government "authority" to collect other electronic data.
The bill only ends the government collection of all Americans' calling records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act—a good, albeit very small, first step. It also tries to prohibit the mass collection of other records like firearm sales and tax records. Unfortunately, it may still allow the government to argue for such collection as long as the NSA uses a "specific identifier or selection term." In short: we might see the government still try to search these records and other records like library, book, and gun records. The bill leaves almost all of Section 215 as-is; the sole fix being that the section would no longer apply to calling records. The bill also stays mum on the NSA's ability to mass spy on financial records, credit card records, or other purchasing records using Section 215. ...
The bill is what's expected from the House Intelligence Committee. The committee was created to oversee the intelligence community, but it has been coopted for quite some time. Though it stops the mass collection of all Americans' calling records, the bill's creation of a new order to conduct unconstitutional mass spying on any record created by a communication is disturbing.
In 11-3 vote, Senate Intel panel approves CIA report's release
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday voted to declassify parts of its controversial report on Bush-era interrogation tactics, paving the way for the report’s public release.
The Intelligence panel voted 11-3 to make public the report’s 400-page executive summary and its conclusions and findings, as well as the dissenting view from Republicans.
The report will now be sent to the CIA for redactions before it is released to the public.
Most Republicans on the committee voted against approving the report when the first draft was completed in December 2012, but three Republicans voted Thursday to declassify it, including committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
The committee did not release a record of the vote, which occurred in closed session.
It's Torture–but Let's Not Call It That
The Washington Post got a big scoop on the massive Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA's Bush-era torture program. But they wouldn't call it.
Under the headline "CIA Misled on Interrogation Program, Senate Report Says," reporters Greg Miller, Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima explain that the still-classified, 6,000-plus page report finds that the CIA misled lawmakers and the public about the effectiveness of torture.
But the piece doesn't call it torture. Readers learn about a "brutal interrogation program," "harsh techniques," "excruciating interrogation methods," "brutal measures," "harsh interrogation techniques," "coercive techniques," "previously undisclosed cases of abuse," "harsh treatment" and "enhanced interrogation techniques."
The descriptions were at times quite vivid. Readers learn of the treatment of one prisoner:CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall.But they still won't call that "torture." The only time that word was used was in reference to critics: "methods that Obama and others later labeled torture."
Details of Illegal Torture That the CIA Doesn't Want You to Know About
The Senate report on CIA torture is still being suppressed. But details are leaking out, according to a report by Jason Leopold. Citing Intelligence Committee staffers, he writes that "at least one high-value detainee was subjected to torture techniques that went beyond those authorized by George W. Bush's Justice Department." In addition, "harsh measures authorized by the Department of Justice had been applied to at least one detainee before such legal authorization was received." ...
The CIA seems to agree that these details are important. It is seeking new assurances that the report won't lead to criminal investigations, according to Leopold's sources:When Panetta briefed CIA employees on March 16, 2009, about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review, he said Feinstein and her Republican counterpart, Kit Bond of Missouri, had “assured” him “that their goal is to draw lessons for future policy decisions, not to punish those who followed guidance from the Department of Justice.”Any agreement to refrain from investigating torture as a criminal offense would itself violate the law. The UN Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan and later ratified by the U.S. Senate, compels signatories to investigate torture and "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution."
But now that some of the report’s conclusions suggest that some of the techniques used on Abu Zubaydah and other captives either went beyond what was authorized by the Justice Department or were applied before they had been authorized, the congressional staffers and U.S. officials who spoke to Al Jazeera said CIA officials are seeking further assurances against any criminal investigation.
Thus far, no such assurances have been given, according to Al Jazeera’s sources, nor is there any indication that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report would prompt a criminal investigation.
Perhaps the U.S. will one day adhere to the law.
Is whistleblower advocate for nation’s spies under attack?
The Pentagon’s inspector general is trying to suspend and possibly revoke the top secret access of the Defense Department’s former director of whistleblowing, triggering concerns in Congress that he’s being retaliated against for doing his job.
If the recommendation is acted on, Daniel Meyer would no longer be able to work in his current job as the executive director for intelligence community whistleblowing at a time when President Barack Obama’s reforms of the system are supposed to be underway .
The controversy over Meyer’s fate comes at an awkward moment for the Obama administration. Meyer, the Pentagon inspector general’s whistleblower advocate until last summer, was well-known for aggressively investigating whistleblower allegations. In his current job, he was supposed to have a key role in the president’s initiative to improve the intelligence whistleblowing system.
The administration pointed to those reforms after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked details on the agency’s then-classified mass collection of Americans’ email and phone records. Snowden has said he was prompted to disclose the details because he believed the whistleblowing system was broken.
“Dan Meyer has been a relentless advocate for whistleblowers in making sure they don’t fall through the cracks,” said one congressional staffer, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter. “If action is taken against him, it could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers coming forward.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, raised the possibility that a whistleblower might have been involved in the recent clash between her committee and the CIA.
The American Government Is Open For Corruption
The remarkable story of how we have come to privatize political corruption in this country reached another milestone today as the Supreme Court, John Roberts presiding, handed down its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, effectively demolishing the aggregate, two-year limit on contributions by individuals, and taking a big chunk out of Buckley v. Valeo, the misbegotten 1976 decision that got the ball rolling in the first place. It was a 5-4 vote, with the court split exactly as it had in the Citizens United case. In writing the opinion for the court, Roberts further emphasized the equation of money with speech, and also seemed to agree with Anthony Kennedy's famous assertion in Citizens United that the ability of megadonors to shovel gobs of money into the election process,"We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." ...
The five-vote majority in favor of virtually unlimited corporate and individual spending in our elections is a rock solid one. Four days after almost every Republican candidate danced the hootchie-koo in Vegas to try and gain the support of a single, skeevy casino gazillionnaire, the majority tells us that there is no "appearance of corruption" in this unless somebody gets caught putting a slot machine in the Lincoln Bedroom on behalf of Sheldon Adelson. Money talks. Big money repeats itself, over and over, age after age.
"The Next Citizens United": McCutcheon Opens Floodgates for 1 Percent to Spend Millions on Campaigns
How Sen. John McCain picked Charlie Keating's pocket
There was a time when McCain's association with Keating looked like it would bring an end to the senator's political career.
In 1989, Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan went belly up, putting taxpayers on the hook for $3.4 billion, or roughly $13.60 from every man, woman and child then living in the United States. ...
McCain was a member of the so-called Keating Five, a group of senators accused of trying to influence regulators on Keating's behalf. There were hearings in the U.S. Senate. There was endless media coverage. ...
And McCain called him friend. The senator and his family went on vacation trips to Keating's home in the Bahamas. They flew on Keating's private jet. McCain took $112,000 in campaign contributions from Keating. McCain's wife, Cindy, and her father invested $359,000 in a shopping-center venture with a Keating company. ...
Keating was accused of racketeering, fraud and conspiracy, and when asked by a reporter if his campaign donations had spurred politicians to act on his behalf he bellowed, "I want to say in the most forceful way I can, I certainly hope so." ...
McCain cut off ties with Keating. He described his involvement with Keating, the other senators and regulators as "the worst mistake of my life." ... It worked. ... He survived the senate hearings with a mild reprimand, his colleagues saying only that the senator had "exercised poor judgment."
Keating spent time behind bars. McCain got reelected.
Supreme Court's McCutcheon Decision is a Blow Against Average Voters
Today’s Supreme Court decision rejects decades of precedent and strikes a sharp blow against the interests of average voters. Once again the Court has struck down a law that curbs the corrupting influence of large campaign contributions in our politics. Sadly, the Court has also achieved a new milestone by striking down a federal contribution limit for the first time.
Our Founders feared corruption. They did not want government beholden to narrow, elite interests. Eliminating these limits will now allow a single politician to solicit, and a single donor to give, up to $3.6 million through the use of joint fundraising committees. Following the Citizens United decision, this will further inundate a political system already flush with cash, marginalize average voters, and elevate those who can afford to buy political access.
The Supreme Court’s Ideology: More Money, Less Voting
In the past four years, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one. ...
The Court’s conservative majority believes that the First Amendment gives wealthy donors and powerful corporations the carte blanche right to buy an election but that the Fifteenth Amendment does not give Americans the right to vote free of racial discrimination.
These are not unrelated issues—the same people, like the Koch brothers, who favor unlimited secret money in US elections are the ones funding the effort to make it harder for people to vote. The net effect is an attempt to concentrate the power of the top 1 percent in the political process and to drown out the voices and votes of everyone else.
Move to Amend's Proposed 28th Amendment to the ConstitutionChris Hedges speaks on 3/29/2014 at the "One Nation Under Surveillance" civil liberties conference at CCSU in CT. If you watched his presentation at the Oxford debate, you'll recognize portions of this speech, which reprises some parts his prior performance.
House Joint Resolution 29 introduced February 14, 2013
Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
GOP Budget Widely Slammed, But Left's Proposal Just Ignored
The vision of a Republican budget was presented by Rep. Paul Ryan this week and the only thing some of his colleagues on the right don't like about it is that it doesn't do enough to punish the poor and working class while it coddles the rich and insulates corporate power.
For progressives, the Ryan latest budget—like those before it—represents a clear view into the Republican mindset in which austerity economics rule and the vision of shared prosperity is eviscerated by attacks on social programs, including Medicare, higher education grants, food and poverty assistance, job training initiatives and others.
Also familiar in the pattern of budget politics, however, is that while the Ryan budget—unpopular as it is among all sections of voters—receives round coverage, the progressive alternative, as contained in the Better Off Budget presented last month, continues to be ignored in the media conversation.
Occupy Minnesota protesters who said police got them high told: you can sue
When the story first broke it sounded like paranoia, possibly from smoking too much weed: law enforcement officers in Minnesota spirited Occupy protesters to a secret location and got them high on pot.
It seemed a bizarre claim, but activists insisted that local police took people away from a protest camp at Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis in April 2012 to study the drug's effects as part of a training program.
It does not sound paranoid any more. This week, a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit launched by two protesters against five officers should go ahead, clearing the way for a trial that will shine a light on the discredited training exercise.
US district judge John Tunheim rejected a motion by the Hutchinson police and the sheriff’s offices in Olmsted and Nobles counties to dismiss the case, saying the officers may have violated the activists' first and 14th amendment rights.
‘Gonzo’ journalist Hunter S. Thompson elected to Ky. Journalism Hall of Fame
The late Hunter S. Thompson has been elected to the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame along with six more traditional reporters.
The Louisville native is credited with inventing the immersive and imaginative “gonzo” journalism, which, in his case, was usually fueled by alcohol and drug use. ...
Thompson wrote for years for Rolling Stone and was also published by The New York Times, Boston Globe, Esquire, Playboy, Time and Vanity Fair.
He’ll be inducted April 29 into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, and efforts are under way to honor him with a “Hometown Heroes” banner in Louisville.
The Evening Greens
Some good news:
Japan Halts Whaling Program in Response to International Court Ruling
Japan says it will abide by a Monday ruling from the United Nations' International Court of Justice ordering the nation to stop hunting whales off Antarctica.
Japan had long claimed that its program to take minke, fin, and humpback whales in the Southern Ocean was aimed at collecting scientific data.
But the International Court of Justice (ICJ), headquartered at the Hague in the Netherlands, found that the program was not scientific in nature and that it could be considered commercial whaling.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986, and most countries participating in the IWC, including Japan, have said they will follow that ban.
"Japan is disappointed and regrets" today's ruling, according to a statement by the chief cabinet secretary of Japan. "However, Japan will abide by the Judgment of the Court."
Colorado Health Department Investigating Spike in Fetal Abnormalities in Heavily-Drilled Garfield County
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has called in an epidemiologist to investigate a recent spike in fetal abnormalities in Garfield County on Colorado's western slope. Stacey Gavrell, Director of Community Relations for Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, said area prenatal care providers reported the increase in fetal abnormalities to the hospital, which then notified CDPHE. So far neither the hospital nor the state have released information about the numbers of cases reported, over what span of time, or the amount of the increase. ...
The report comes shortly after the February, 2014 publication in Environmental Health Perspectives of a study that found an association between the density of natural gas wells within a ten mile radius of expectant mothers' homes and the prevalence of fetal anomalies such as low birth weight and congenital heart defects in their infants.
In Fracking Fight, a Worry About How Best to Measure Health Threats
There are more than 6,000 active gas wells in Pennsylvania. And every week, those drilling sites generate scores of complaints from the state’s residents, including many about terrible odors and contaminated water.
How the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection handles those complaints has worsened the already raw and angry divide between fearful residents and the state regulators charged with overseeing the burgeoning gas drilling industry.
For instance, the agency’s own manual for dealing with complaints is explicit about what to do if someone reports concerns about a noxious odor, but is not at that very moment experiencing the smell: “DO NOT REGISTER THE COMPLAINT.”
When a resident does report a real-time alarm about the air quality in or around their home, the agency typically has two weeks to conduct an investigation. If no odor is detected when investigators arrive on the scene, the case is closed. ...
The concerns of residents ... are not likely to be eased by a study published today in Reviews on Environmental Health, a peer reviewed journal. The study, researchers say, confirms what they have long suspected about natural gas operations — that emission levels from these sites spike drastically over short periods of time, making it hard to assess the true threat to people’s health.
Researchers at the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project collected real-time readings of particulate matter — soot, dust and chemicals — in 14 homes in Washington County, a heavily drilled part of the state. They found repeated episodes during which measures of contaminated dust rose sharply, to dangerous levels in the course of a day.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Jimmy Johnson Blues Band - As the years go passing by
Jimmy Johnson - My Baby By My Side
Jimmy Johnson - Sky is Crying
Jimmy Johnson - I Need Some Easy Money
Jimmy Johnson - You Don't Know What Love Is
Jimmy Johnson - My own fault
Jimmy Johnson - Serves Me Right To Suffer
Jimmy Johnson - Somebody Loan Me A Dime
Syl & Jimmy Johnson - Ashes In My Ashtray
Jimmy Johnson - I Have The Same Old Blues
Jimmy Johnson - Take Five
It's National Pie Day!
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