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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 Delta and later Chicago bluesman Robert Nighthawk.  Enjoy!

Robert Nighthawk - Goin' Down To Eli's

“A history of false flag attacks used to manipulate the minds of the people! “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.”

  -- Friedrich Nietzsche

News and Opinion

Seymour Hersh puts a lot of interesting facts together in this article.  It's well worth reading the whole thing.

The Red Line and the Rat Line

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.[*] Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack. ...

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) ...

The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’

Sy Hersh Reveals Potential Turkish Role in Syria Chemical Strike That Almost Sparked U.S. Bombing

Ukraine Boils as Eastern Cities Rise Up Against Kiev Authority

Following Crimea, Pro-Russian citizens in other regions demand right to vote on independence

Pro-Russian citizens in the eastern cities of Ukraine are rising up against the government in Kiev, storming government buildings, raising the Russian flag, and calling for referendum votes to proclaim their independence.  In their eyes, the recently established government based in the western capital city is not legitimate and now, like Crimea, they wish to exercise their right to break free of Ukraine and rejoin the Russian confederacy.

On Sunday night, protesters stormed buildings in three key cities—Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, clashing with security forces but ultimately gaining access to buildings and refusing to leave.

Ukraine: pro-Russia activists proclaim independent republic in Donetsk

Pro-Russian activists occupying a government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk have proclaimed the creation of a sovereign "people's republic" independent of the capital, Kiev.

The announcement, which was posted on YouTube, was delivered by a protest spokesperson outside a building currently occupied by several thousand Russia supporters, some of them armed.

"Seeking to create a popular, legitimate, sovereign state, I proclaim the creation for the sovereign state of the People's Republic of Donetsk," the spokesperson said to cheers from the gathered crowd.

The Interfax news agency reported that the self-proclaimed leaders of Donetsk had vowed to hold a referendum on regional sovereignty no later than 11 May. Ukrainian presidential elections have been set for 25 May.

The regional news website Ostrov said the activists wanted to join the Russian Federation in a similar way to the Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine's acting president, Olexander Turchynov, said the separatist call in Donetsk and pro-Russian protests in two other cities in the east of the country were evidence of a "second stage" of Russian operations "playing out the Crimean scenario".

Thousands of pro-Russia protesters demonstrate in eastern Ukraine

Fears of gas war as Ukraine refuses to pay increased prices set by Russian firm

The prospect of a new gas war between Russia and Ukraine drew closer at the weekend as the government in Kiev said it would refuse to pay for gas at a new, inflated price set by Gazprom last week. The dispute comes as tensions in eastern Ukraine remain high, with pro-Russian protesters in two cities storming government buildings on Sunday.

In Kiev, interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the cabinet over the weekend that the new price for gas was unfair and Ukraine would not pay it.

"Russia has not managed to grab Ukraine through military aggression, so now they are pursuing a plan to pressure and grab Ukraine through gas and economic aggression," said Yatsenyuk. He said that Ukraine would continue buying gas at the "acceptable market price" of $268 (£162) per 1,000 cubic metres.

Last week, Russia announced two successive price hikes in gas for Ukraine, taking it up to $485.50. It is unclear what Russia will do if Ukraine refuses to pay the new price, but in the past it has shut off the supply. Last week, Gazprom's CEO, Alexei Miller, gave televised comments explaining why Russia was raising the gas price, noting that part of the discount had come when Russia extended credit to Ukraine last December as part of a package that was given to the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, for turning his back on an association agreement with the European Union.

"The discount was given on the condition that Ukraine would pay all its gas debts and pay 100% for the current deliveries, and it was clearly indicated that if this did not happen, the discount would be annulled in the second quarter of 2014," said Miller. He said that Gazprom had "not received a single dollar" in payment for March deliveries, and thus the discount had automatically been annulled.

Giant art installation targets predator drone operators

not a bug splatIn military slang, Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.

To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.

The child featured in the poster is nameless, but according to FFR, lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack.

The group of artists traveled inside KPK province and, with the assistance of highly enthusiastic locals, unrolled the poster amongst mud huts and farms.

Senate’s findings on CIA interrogations likely to become roadmap for litigation

A scathing and still-secret Senate report on harsh CIA interrogations and detentions threatens to drag President Barack Obama into a legal thicket he’d rather avoid.

With its findings that the CIA flagrantly abused some detainees and held some without legal authorization, the Senate Intelligence Committee report now headed for the White House could become a roadmap for future litigation. At the very least, it confronts officials with uncomfortable choices.

The report could put pressure on the Obama administration to abandon its impunity for torture policy,” Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions, said Friday.

Davis, now an assistant professor at Howard University Law School, cited the potential for “civil damages for those who were subjected to the program, civil or criminal liability of those who authorized or participated in conducting the program, and legal action in international or foreign courts.” ...

The report reveals that CIA officers subjected some terrorism suspects to interrogation methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters. The report further concludes the agency illegally detained 26 of the 119 detainees it held, McClatchy has learned.

The Senate committee also concluded that the CIA repeatedly misled the Justice Department while stymieing Congress’ and the Bush White House’s efforts to oversee the secret and now-defunct program. ...

The immediate next step is for the Obama administration to complete a declassification review. Though some advocates had urged the White House to take direct charge, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: “The CIA, in consultation with other agencies, will conduct the declassification review.”

“It’s the latest sign that President Obama is unwilling, or unable, to stand up to the CIA,” [senior legislative counsel of the ACLU, Chris] Anders said.

CIA torture report: Nancy Pelosi blames Dick Cheney

A senior Democrat has fuelled an acrimonious row over a Senate report into torture by the Central Intelligence Agency, by blaming the abuses on former vice-president Dick Cheney.

Nancy Pelosi on Sunday raised the stakes over the landmark study by shifting responsibility from the agency to Cheney, who steered much of the Bush administration's response to the September 11 2001 attacks.

The House minority leader said Cheney, a Republican, set the tone of CIA actions during an era of harsh interrogation methods, a controversy which has flared anew in the runup to congressional elections in November.

"I do believe that during the Bush-Cheney administration, that Vice-President Cheney set a tone and an attitude for the CIA," Pelosi told CNN's State of the Nation.

"Many people in the CIA are so patriotic, they protect our country in a way to avoid conflict and violence. But the attitude that was there was very – I think it came from Dick Cheney. That's what I believe. I think he's proud of it.”

The ‘Cuban Twitter’ Covert Program: Misleading Denials by the Obama Administration

A simple reading of the report last week by the Associated Press that a U.S. State Department agency was engaged in a destabilization program in Cuba suggests that administration officials who responded to the report coordinated their comments to present a smoothly articulated but misleading case that the program was legal under U.S. law.

On April 4, in “U.S. Created Twitter-like Service in Cuba, Denies Fomenting Unrest,” Reuters quoted administration officials as follows:

  • “’Suggestions that this was a covert program are wrong,’ White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
  • [Carney continued:] “In implementing programs in non-permissive environments, of course, the government has taken steps to be discreet. That’s how you protect the practitioners and the public. This is not unique to Cuba.”
  • “State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the program was neither ‘secret’ nor ‘covert’ under the U.S. government’s definitions of those terms. ‘discreet does not equal covert,’ Harf told a news briefing.

Thus, according to the AP and Reuters, the president’s spokesman, Jay Carney, a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, and the USAID administrator, Rajjv Shah, all emphatically denied—using a common choice of words—that the Cuban Twitter program was not a “covert” program, while insisting instead that it was a “discreet” program, even though no such “discreet program” entity exists as such in federal law as applied to government intelligence operations. It is therefore odd, while asserting the legality of the Cuban Twitter program, that each of the Obama administration’s spokespersons would reference a highly nuanced but non-existent category of intelligence activity.

Furthermore, despite the emphatic denials that the Cuban Twitter program was a covert action, the definition of “covert action” under federal law seems to match up quite well to the AP’s reported facts about the Cuban Twitter program. Under the applicable law — 50 § 413b(e) — “covert action” is defined as follows: “An activity or activities of the United States Government to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad, where it is intended that the role of the United States Government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly.”  ...

In addition, and just as problematic, and coordinated, the AP reported that Rajiv Shah, the USAID administrator, claimed that “a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found the [Cuban Twitter] project to be consistent with the law.” And Reuters reported that Mark Herrick, USAID spokesman, claimed that “the project was reviewed in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, and found to be consistent with U.S. law.” Yet, the GAO report issued in January 2013 did not mention the Cuban Twitter [or ZunZuneo] project, or one recognizable as such as detailed by the Associated Press.

The “Cuban Twitter” Scam Is a Drop in the Internet Propaganda Bucket

This week, the Associated Press exposed a secret program run by the U.S. Agency for International Development to create “a Twitter-like Cuban communications network” run through “secret shell companies” in order to create the false appearance of being a privately owned operation. Unbeknownst to the service’s Cuban users was the fact that “American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes”–specifically, to manipulate those users in order to foment dissent in Cuba and subvert its government. According to top-secret documents published today by The Intercept, this sort of operation is frequently discussed at western intelligence agencies, which have plotted ways to covertly use social media for ”propaganda,” “deception,” “mass messaging,” and “pushing stories.”

These ideas–discussions of how to exploit the internet, specifically social media, to surreptitiously disseminate viewpoints friendly to western interests and spread false or damaging information about targets–appear repeatedly throughout the archive of materials provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. ... Whether governments should be in the business of publicly disseminating political propaganda at all is itself a controversial question. Such activities are restricted by law in many countries, including the U.S. In 2008, The New York Times’ David Barstow won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing a domestic effort coordinated by the Pentagon whereby retired U.S. generals posed as “independent analysts” employed by American television networks and cable news outlets as they secretly coordinated their messaging with the Pentagon.

Because American law bars the government from employing political propaganda domestically, that program was likely illegal, though no legal accountability was ever brought to bear (despite all sorts of calls for formal investigations). Barack Obama, a presidential candidate at the time, pronounced himself in a campaign press release “deeply disturbed” by the Pentagon program, which he said “sought to manipulate the public’s trust.”

"I'll See You in C-U-B-A"

USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba

The “ZunZuneo” project, which AP reports was “aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government,” was overseen by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). AP describes OTI as “a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape.” Its efforts to undermine the Cuban government are not unusual, however, considering the organization’s track record in other countries in the region. ...

Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central role in funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI). More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funded for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. ...

Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader Maria Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders. ... The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”

USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered).  The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.

Putin says West may use NGOs to stir unrest in Russia

President Vladimir Putin told his security chiefs on Monday to ensure Russia does not follow what he said was Ukraine's example by letting the West use local civil rights groups to foment unrest.

In a speech to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB's main successor, the former spy called for more vigilance and better counter-intelligence to fight threats ranging from Islamist militants to computer hackers.

But he signalled particularly deep mistrust of the West following protests that toppled Ukraine's Moscow-backed leader in February during the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War ended in 1991.

Accusing the West of funding radical groups in Ukraine that helped to topple President Viktor Yanukovich, he expressed concern that Russia also faced a threat from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) "serving foreign national interests".

"Russia's laws today give us the conditions we need for non-governmental and public organisations to work freely and transparently. But we will never accept their being used for destructive purposes," he said.

"We will not accept a situation like what happened in Ukraine, when in many cases it was through non-governmental organisations that the nationalist and neo-Nazi groups and militants, who became the shock troops in the anti-constitutional coup d'état, received funding from abroad."

Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald address US campaigners via video

Edward Snowden and the reporter Glenn Greenwald, who brought to light the whistleblower's leaks about mass US government surveillance last year, appeared together via video link from opposite ends of the earth on Saturday, for what was believed to be the first time since Snowden sought asylum in Russia.  ...

In Chicago, a sympathetic crowd of nearly 1,000 packed a downtown hotel ballroom at Amnesty International USA's annual human rights meeting and gave Greenwald, who dialled in from Brazil, a raucous welcome before Snowden was patched in 15 minutes later – to a standing ovation.

The pair cautioned that government monitoring of "metadata" is more intrusive than directly listening to phone calls or reading emails and stressed the importance of a free press willing to scrutinise government activity.  ...

Amnesty International is campaigning to end mass surveillance by the US government and calling for congressional action to further rein in the collection of information about telephone calls and other communications.

Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden at Amnesty Int'l conversation on surveillance

Supreme Court declines early look at NSA surveillance case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down a long-shot request for a ruling on whether the U.S. government's gathering of Americans' phone records is unlawful.

The justices' refusal to intervene means the case will go forward in the appeals court, as scheduled. ...

Klayman is a conservative lawyer and Strange is the father of a U.S. cryptologist technician killed in Afghanistan in 2011. They won the case in U.S. District Court in Washington in December. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the program was likely unlawful, and the government appealed.

The case is Klayman v. Obama, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-931.

Merkel ally says U.S. assurances on NSA spying 'insufficient'

A leading ally of Angela Merkel has criticized the United States for failing to provide sufficient assurances on its spying tactics and said bilateral talks were unlikely to make much progress before the German leader visits Washington next month. ...

"The information we have so far is insufficient," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, one of Merkel's closest cabinet allies, told German weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

"U.S. intelligence methods may be justified to a large extent by security needs, but the tactics are excessive and over-the-top," de Maiziere added.

Asked if he expected progress before Merkel pays a visit to President Barack Obama in early May, de Maiziere said: "My expectations of what further talks will yield are low."

Israel Threatens 'Unilateral' Action Over Palestinian UN Move

Israel has threatened to take "unilateral" action over a Palestinian bid to join 15 UN agencies, including the Geneva Conventions.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made the announcement, which prompted scorn from U.S. and Israeli officials, last week.

"The Palestinians' threats to appeal to the UN will not affect us," stated Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The Palestinians have much to lose by this unilateral move."  ...

Mike Coogan of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation previously told Common Dreams that "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."

Human Rights Watch: The US Is Blocking Palestinian Statehood, Rights

After the U.S. and Israel delivered a one-sided, unacceptable interim agreement to the Palestinians last week, the PLO and Mahmoud Abbas decided to pursue further accession at the United Nations, building on its attainment of non-member observer status in 2012. In a press release yesterday, Human Rights Watch condemned the United States for opposing Palestinian efforts to adopt international treaties and urged Washington to “stop blocking Palestinian rights.”

On April 1, 2014, the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, signed accession instruments for 15 treaties, including the core treaties on human rights and the laws of war. On April 2, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, testified in front of Congress, that in response to the “new Palestinian actions” that the “solemn commitment” by the US to “stand with Israel,” “extends to our firm opposition to any and all unilateral [Palestinian] actions in the international arena.”

“It is disturbing that the Obama administration, which already has a record of resisting international accountability for Israeli rights abuses, would also oppose steps to adopt treaties requiring Palestinian authorities to uphold human rights,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The US should press both the Palestinians and the Israelis to better abide by international human rights standards.”

Obviously, the U.S. opposes Palestinian efforts to ingratiate itself further into the international community because Israel opposes them. Why does Israel oppose them? Two reasons: (1) it confers greater legitimacy on Palestine as a state, which conflicts with Israel’s plan to prevent that outcome, and (2) if the PLO seeks jurisdiction at the International Criminal Court, Israel may be subject to trial for its daily crimes against Palestinians.
Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran?

Thought money could buy an American election? You ain't seen nothin' yet

There are lots of areas of American society that could do with more money: preschools, infrastructure, mental health clinics, homeless shelters. The one place it's not needed is in politics. Even in this most polarised of moments, this is one of the few things on which most Americans agree. Indeed, support for limits on campaign donations is high among all income and education levels, party allegiances and political philosophies, and has remained consistent over the last five years. During that time, the supreme court has systematically removed many of the restrictions that did exist. In 2008 spending on the presidential election almost doubled compared with 2004. In 2012 it almost quadrupled compared with 2008. "Every presidential election is the most expensive ever. Elections don't get cheaper," the federal election chairwoman, Ellen Weintraub, told Politico.

Last week's ruling was not as transformative as the case of Citizens United in 2010. Then, the supreme court determined that, since corporations had the same rights as people, they had the right to unfettered free speech under the first amendment and so should be able to spend as much money as they wanted on political campaigns. Last Wednesday's decision, building on Citizens United, argued that since money has been equated with speech, rich individuals should not be muzzled in their ability to speak cash to power. ...

Fewer than 600 donors gave the maximum in 2012. But raw numbers are deceptive. The rich, already powerful, punch way above their weight. In 2010 just 0.01% of Americans accounted for a quarter of all the money given to politicians, parties and political action committees. If anything this makes the loosening of donation rules more damning, not less. For at a time of escalating economic inequality and declining social mobility, the pool of politicians' paymasters will shrink even further. ...

In his book Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America, Princeton professor Martin Gilens illustrates how the political class does the bidding of the rich. "Across multiple presidential administrations and a wide range of political conditions, two patterns remain constant," he writes. "First, the poor never have as much influence as the middle class, and the middle class never has as much influence as the affluent. Second, over the last four decades, responsiveness to the affluent has steadily increased, while responsiveness to the middle class and the poor has depended entirely on the existence of [specific] circumstances."

The Age of the Oligarchs

The chaos in Ukraine can be viewed, in part, as what happens when a collection of “oligarchs” – sometimes competing, sometime collaborating – take control of a society, buying most of the politicians and owning the media. The political/media classes become corrupted by serving their wealthy patrons and society breaks down into warring factions.

In that sense, Ukraine could be a cautionary tale for the United States and other countries that are veering down a similar path toward vast income inequality, with billionaire “oligarchs” using their money to control politicians and to pay for propaganda through media ventures.

Depending on your point of view, there may be “good oligarchs” and “bad oligarchs,” but the concept of oligarchy is antithetical to democracy, a system in which governance is supposed to be driven by the informed consent of the majority with respect for minority rights. Instead, we’re moving toward a competition among oligarchs with the “people” mostly as bystanders to be manipulated one way or the other.

On Wednesday, a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court lifted limits on total amounts that an individual can contribute during a campaign cycle, an extension of the 2010 ruling on Citizens United allowing the rich to spend unlimited sums on political advertising. It was another step toward an American oligarchy where politicians, activists and even journalists compete to satisfy one “oligarch” or another

This is an excellent discussion of the organizing of movements from a labor perspective.  There are concepts of interest for everyone interested in making change, though. The article is well worth the time to read in full.
How to Fan the Flames

We troublemakers keep hoping for the spark that will set a wildfire of workers in motion. The worse our situation gets—economically, politically, ecologically—the more we yearn for a vast movement to erupt and transform the landscape.

It’s not impossible. Look at 1937, when workplace occupations spread everywhere, from auto factories to Woolworth’s. The 1930s wave of militancy forced Congress to aid union organizing with new laws and to enact Social Security and unemployment insurance. Industrial unions formed during that upsurge continue to this day.

So why not here and now?

In our lifetimes, we’ve seen sparks—but we haven’t seen them spread like that. In some ways we’re more connected than ever before, able to watch each other’s struggles in real time on our phones. Yet mostly, the sparks haven’t leapt from one workplace or one Capitol rotunda to another. The Occupy movement is the shining exception.

Why didn’t the occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory, at the outset of the Great Recession, start an avalanche of copycats? Or the Wisconsin uprising, or the Walmart and fast food walkouts? ...

Perhaps there’s a better way to look at it: each uprising is a rehearsal for the next. Can we trace a global movement, learning and progressing, from Republic, to Egypt, to Wisconsin, then Occupy? Where will the next revolt come from?

Today young immigrants are chaining themselves to deportation buses. A thousand “Moral Monday” North Carolinians got themselves arrested for human rights. These mobilizations burst on the scene seemingly out of nowhere, but really grew from years of quiet organizing.

'Welcome to the National Security State': Reporters Detained

The Toledo Blade filed a lawsuit Friday after two of its employees were unlawfully detained while they were exercising their "full legal and constitutional rights to observe and photograph" from public streets outside a General Dynamics-operated plant. ...

Blade reporter Tyrel Linkhorn and Blade photographer Jetta Fraser, who had their media credentials, were shooting stock photos of local area businesses March 28 after completing an assignment in Lima, Ohio.

One of their stops was the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center — a government-owned, General Dynamics-operated tank plant.

After taking several photographs, Fraser returned to the car to leave with Linkhorn, but the pair was stopped and questioned by armed, military police.

A military officer told Fraser that her photographing the plant's power supply raised the "suspicion of terrorism."

Fraser and Linkhorn explained the purpose of their visit and photographs, and showed their documentation of employment with the newspaper. The officer demanded Fraser supply her drivers license, but she questioned why as she was not the one driving. She was then ordered out of the car, cuffed, threatened with being groped, and was spoken to "in terms denoting the masculine gender," according to the suit.

In addition to being detained for over an hour, the pair had equipment, including a camera, seized. While the camera was returned hours later, the photographs Fraser had taken of the plant had been removed.

The Evening Greens

Endangered butterfly defies climate change with new diet and habitat

quino_CheckerspotA butterfly species whose population collapsed because of climate change and habitat loss has defied predictions of extinction to rapidly move to cooler climes and change its food plant.

The quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino), found in Mexico and California, has shifted to higher altitudes and surprisingly chosen a completely different species of plant on which to lay its eggs, according to research presented at the Butterfly Conservation's seventh international symposium in Southampton.

Its rapid adaption offers hope that other insects and species may be able to adapt unexpectedly quickly to climate change. ...

The Quino was once abundant in southern California but the expansion of Los Angeles and San Diego saw it reduced to just two small colonies. Other populations in Mexico began declining sharply as global warming made conditions too hot and dry for its caterpillars' food plant, a species of plantain. ...

Several other butterfly species have been changing habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the quino checkerspot is the first butterfly known to science to change both so rapidly.

Showdown in a Company Town

Politics in Richmond, California, have long been dominated by Chevron Corporation, which operates a 110-year-old oil refinery here, the largest in the state. In August 2012, a huge explosion and fire nearly killed a dozen Chevron workers and sent 15,000 residents to emergency rooms. ...

But in Richmond, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and the city council majority have taken a bold approach with Chevron, suing the oil giant for harming local citizens. The city rejected an offer to settle for an insulting $10 million. McLaughlin demanded that Chevron spend a bigger share of its $21 billion annual profit on fixing hazards for refinery workers and residents.

Richmond’s extraordinary mayor isn’t just the city’s good luck, though—her actions are the fruit of years of politics done differently by the Richmond Progressive Alliance. RPA’s refinery safety and clean energy campaign is one of many battles local progressives have waged since first winning city council seats in 2004. ... Candidates backed by RPA have jousted with Chevron over its property taxes, air pollution, expansion plans, and low level of local hiring.  ...

Two well-financed Democrats are running to replace McLaughlin as mayor. One is Nat Bates, the council’s most devoted servant of Big Oil, Big Banks, Big Soda, and the Chamber of Commerce. Corporate donations are already flowing heavily to anti-RPA candidates.

“Chevron wants to retake the city council,” Mike Parker warns. “They want to sit down and negotiate with people they have already bought and paid for. That will be the main issue in this election—whether Richmond voters want to elect representatives who owe their allegiance to Chevron or to residents of the city.”

Richmond races are non-partisan, and RPA—whose dues-paying members include Democrats, Greens, and independents—is not affiliated with any party. RPA candidates will not accept corporate funding. That sets them apart from both friends and foes on the city council, all registered Democrats.

Elections, Pipelines, and Protests

Enbridge First to Confirm Plans to Export Canadian Oil Via United States

Enbridge Inc. has become the first company to confirm plans to re-export Canadian oil from the United States, a move that could fuel debate over U.S. trade policy and intensify opposition to new oil sands pipelines.

Its U.S. subsidiary Tidal Energy Marketing has received a U.S. government license to export "limited quantities" of Canadian-origin oil from a U.S. port, Enbridge said, confirming weeks of market rumors and speculation about such shipments. Market sources say they expect the first 40,000-tonne cargoes to set sail from Texas ports to Europe later in April.

Re-exports from the United States are rare but allowed as an exception to a contentious ban on exports of its own oil imposed since the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s.

Reuters reported earlier this year that the U.S. government granted a number of licenses to re-export foreign crude to Europe. But Enbridge, which operates one of only two major pipelines that can carry Canadian crude south to the U.S. Gulf Coast, was the first firm to publicly confirm it holds a re-export permit and intends to use it.

The 10 organizations leading the environmental movement collectively have 15 million members and and an annual budget of more than $525 million.

The 120-year-old U.S. environmental movement has undergone a tectonic shift and resurgence over the last several years, spearheaded by the failed legislative effort to cap carbon emissions in 2010. In the aftermath of that debacle, some the biggest environmental groups reshaped their missions—supplementing inside-the-Beltway campaigning with grassroots organizing and civil disobedience action not seen in this country since the 1970s. New groups from the hyperlocal to the national and global were born.

Today the 10 organizations driving the modern green wave  [profiled in this infographic] collectively have 15 million members, 2,000-plus staffers and annual budgets of more than $525 million to advance environmental agendas at the local, national and international levels.

Blog Posts of Interest

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

McCutcheon took us back in time, but it might just birth the next Occupy

Chris Hedges: The Crucible of Iraq

George Fox University denies appropriate housing for transgender student

US Threatens Russia Over Petrodollar-Busting Deal

Spills, Explosions, Earthquakes and War: Welcome to American Energy “Independence”

A Little Night Music

Robert Nighthawk - Take It Easy Baby

Robert Nighthawk - Return Mail Blues

Robert Nighthawk - Maggie Campbell

Robert Nighthawk - My Sweet Lovin' Woman

Robert Nighthawk, Pinetop Perkins + Willie Dixon - Six Three O

Robert Nighthawk - The Moon Is Rising

Robert Nighthawk - Kansas City Blues

Robert Nighthawk - Anna Lee

Robert Nighthawk - Bricks In My Pillow

Robert Nighthawk - Someday

Robert NightHawk & Big John Wrencher - Blues Before Sunrise

Robert Nighthawk - Mr. Bell's Shuffle

It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH and Canadian Kossacks.

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