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 selections by Keith930 of music by jazz pianist Gene Harris. Enjoy!
Down Home Blues, with Gene Harris on piano & Jack McDuff on the B3
“We are faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words ‘Too Late’.”
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
News and Opinion
Chris Hedges lays it all out. Follow the link and read it all, this really is an must-read essay:
What Obama Really Meant Was ...
Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence
(if he had told the truth)
Department of Injustice
11:15 a.m. EST
THE PRESIDENT: A small, secret surveillance committee of goons and thugs hiding behind the mask of patriotism was established in 1908 in Washington, D.C. The group was led from 1924 until 1972 by J. Edgar Hoover, and during his reign it became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI agents spied upon and infiltrated labor unions, political parties, radical groups—especially those led by African-Americans—anti-war groups and the civil rights movement in order to discredit anyone, including politicians such as Henry Wallace, who questioned the power of the state and big business. Agents burglarized homes and offices, illegally opened mail and planted unlawful wiretaps. Bureau leaders created blacklists. They destroyed careers and sometimes lives. They demanded loyalty oaths. By the time they were done, our progressive and radical movements, which had given us the middle class and opened up our political system, were dead. And while the FBI was targeting internal dissidents, our foreign intelligence operatives were overthrowing regimes, bankrolling some of the most vicious dictators on the planet and carrying out assassinations in numerous countries, such as Cuba and the Philippines and later Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq and Afghanistan. ...
Throughout this evolution, Americans were steadily shorn of their most basic constitutional rights and their traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were always anchored in a system of secrecy—with little effective oversight from either elected leaders or ordinary citizens. ... In the 1960s, the U.S. government spied on civil rights leaders, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement and critics of the Vietnam War, just as today we are spying on Occupy activists, environmentalists, whistle-blowers and other dissidents. And partly in response to these revelations decades ago, especially regarding the FBI’s covert dirty tricks program known as COINTELPRO, laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long, twilight struggle against communism, and now in the fight against terrorism, I am happy to report that we have eradicated all of these reforms and laws. The crimes for which Richard Nixon resigned and the abuses of power that prompted the formation of the Church Commission are now legal. ...
To obtain your personal information, the FBI can now freely issue “national security letters” to your bank, doctor, employer or public library or any of your associates without a judicial warrant. And you will never be notified of an investigation. We can collect and store in perpetuity all metadata of your email correspondence and phone records and track your geographical movements. We can assassinate you if I decide you are a terrorist. We can order the military under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act to arrest you, strip you of due process and hold you indefinitely in military detention centers. We can continue to throw into prison those who expose the illegality of what we are doing, or force them into exile, as all totalitarian secret police forces from the SS to the KGB to the East German Stasi have done. And we can torture. ...
We are the most hated nation on earth. At the same time, globalization—our corporate policy of creating a worldwide neofeudalism of masters and serfs—means we must spy on citizens to prevent agitation and revolt. After all, if you are a worker, things are only going to get worse. ... Threats to the nation raised new legal and policy questions, which fortunately our courts, abject tools of the corporate state, solved by making lawful everything from torture to wholesale surveillance. I would like to take a moment to thank our nation’s compliant judges, the spineless deans of most prestigious law schools and most law professors and lawyers for refusing to defend the Constitution. They have been valued partners, along with the press, in our campaign to eradicate your civil liberties. ...
It is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve taken enormous strides in making the Middle East a caldron of rage. New capabilities and new laws have turned us into the most efficient killers on the planet. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, creating one immense, global corporate system of surveillance and security that obliterates the rights of people at home and abroad. Taken together, these efforts have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. We have terrorized whole countries from the sky and forced millions to become refugees. This will ensure endless war, which ensures endless profits for those who make war—which is the point. ...
We know what we are doing. We know why this is important. The effects of declining incomes for working men and women, the massive debt peonage that keeps people trapped, the slashing of government assistance programs, the chronic, long-term unemployment, and the effects of climate change will eventually trigger volatile unrest. We are ready. ...
Thank you. May God bless you. May God bless Corporate America.
Gov’t used Surveillance of MLK in Bid to Destroy Him: Now they want us to just Trust Them
Among the ironies of Barack Obama trying to sell us the gargantuan NSA domestic spying program is that such techniques of telephone surveillance were used against the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in an attempt to destroy him and stop the Civil Rights movement. Had the republic’s most notorious peeping tom, J. Edgar Hoover, succeeded in that quest, Obama might never have been president, or even been served in Virginia restaurants. ...
At Hoover’s urgent request, Bobby Kennedy permitted the FBI secretly to break into King’s premises and those of his associates and plant bugs. They also bugged meetings where he spoke and hotels he stayed in. Let me repeat that. The reaction of the head of the FBI and the attorney general of the US to King’s dream that little boys and girls of different races would play games with each other was to record his every word and action and those of his friends.
If that speech can get you that kind of scrutiny in the USA, then why should we ever trust any high government official with our personal information? Most of us are at least as idealistic as that. ...
That Barack Obama thinks we’re so naive or uninformed about American history that we will buy his assurances that the NSA information on us would never be used is a sad commentary. Indeed, we cannot know for sure that Obama himself and other high American officials are not being blackmailed into taking the positions they do on domestic surveillance. If the American people do accept such empty words, then I suppose they deserve to have Hoover’s pervy successors in their bedrooms.
Freedom of the Press Foundation's Response to Obama's NSA SpeechGreenwald:
President Obama addressed NSA reform in a forty minute speech this morning in which he proposed a few welcome reforms and many which could normalize some of the NSA's most dangerous practices. ...
While the President's decision that any search of the mass phone records database will now require judicial review is an important one, he still insists the records of millions of Americans should be held by either the government or a private party. In doing so, the President is overlooking a critical point: The Fourth Amendment was written to protect Americans against unwarranted searches and seizures. The NSA and the US government are trying normalize an interpretation in which the 'seizure' part of the Fourth Amendment does not apply. The mere collection of innocent American's private information is a violation of their privacy, no matter if the information is ultimately held by the government or by a company through government mandate. ...
With National Security Letters, Obama vaguely promised to end perpetual gag orders, but failed to provide any specifics. Critically, NSLs will continue without judicial review, thereby continuing to threaten the privacy of tens of thousands of Americans, including many sources and journalists. The President also made no mention of one of the most serious Snowden revelations so far: how the NSA is undermining and sabotaging common encryption used across the Internet, thereby putting everyone's data at risk.
Obama's NSA 'reforms' are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the publicNYT:
In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America's most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama's much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for "reforming" the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.
The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are "serious questions that have been raised". They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic "reforms" so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.
This scam has been so frequently used that it is now easily recognizable. In the mid-1970s, the Senate uncovered surveillance abuses that had been ongoing for decades, generating widespread public fury. In response, the US Congress enacted a new law (Fisa) which featured two primary "safeguards": a requirement of judicial review for any domestic surveillance, and newly created committees to ensure legal compliance by the intelligence community. ...
The same thing happened after the New York Times, in 2005, revealed that the NSA under Bush had been eavesdropping on Americans for years without the warrants required by criminal law. ... This was also the same tactic used in the wake of the 2008 financial crises. ... And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards. ...
Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA – a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world – will fully endure even if all of Obama's proposals are adopted. That's because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, "to restore public confidence" in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn't to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.
The President on Mass SurveillanceGellman breaks down some of Obama's careful parsing:
The president’s most significant announcement was also the hardest to parse. He ordered “a transition that will end” the bulk collection of phone metadata as it currently exists, but what exactly will end? The database will still exist, even if he said he wants it held outside the government. Mr. Obama should have called for sharp reductions in the amount of data the government collects, or at least adopted his own review panel’s recommendation that telecommunications companies keep the data they create and let the National Security Agency request only what it needs. Instead, he gave the Justice Department and intelligence officials until late March to come up with alternate storage options, seeking a new answer when the best ones are already obvious. ...
Mr. Obama did not address the bigger problem that the collection of all this data, no matter who ends up holding onto it, may not be making us any safer. That was the conclusion of the president’s review panel as well as a federal judge in Washington who ruled that the bulk-collection program was probably unconstitutional and an extensive report by the New America Foundation finding that the program “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity.” ...
Several of the presidential review panel’s key recommendations were not addressed on Friday. The panel said a court order should be required to search through Americans’ emails or calls that are incidentally intercepted; the president called only for unspecified reforms. He rejected the recommendation that judges sign off on the subpoenas used by the F.B.I. to demand business records, known as national security letters, saying only that they should be less secret. That doesn’t go nearly far enough to curb these orders, which have been abused.
Obama’s restrictions on NSA surveillance rely on narrow definition of ‘spying’
President Obama said Friday, in his first major speech on electronic surveillance, that “the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”
Obama placed restrictions on access to domestic phone records collected by the National Security Agency, but the changes he announced will allow it to continue — or expand — the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreign citizens alike.
Obama squares that circle with an unusually narrow definition of “spying.” It does not include the ingestion of tens of trillions of records about the telephone calls, e-mails, locations and relationships of people for whom there is no suspicion of relevance to any threat.
In his speech, and an accompanying policy directive, Obama described principles for “restricting the use of this information” — but not for gathering less of it.
Hat tip divineorder:
Congressman Grayson wants to curtail NSA data collecting
Congressman Alan Grayson has filed a new bill designed to stop the National Security Agency (NSA) from collecting data from U.S. citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing.
His bill is called the "Big Brother Is Not Watching You" Act and it would force the president to implement all of the recommendations coming from his panel on the activities of the NSA. Rep. Grayson, D-Orlando, tells FOX 35 that it is a matter which all Americans should be concerned about.
"This is what it all comes down to: Are we going to live as men and women, as free autonomous beings, or are we cattle? I vote for human beings." ...
Grayson asserts that when the NSA collects data from all phone calls sent and received in the U.S., it is a violation of people's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, which limits unwarranted search and seizure.
"The Fourth Amendment requires particularity and probable cause whenever the government gets anybody's private information. That includes cellphone calls, websites you browse, your physical location and so on. In neither case is the NSA adhering to those rules."
Lawmakers divided over what Obama's NSA speech means for agencyDear people of Michigan, Mike Rogers is a weasel. Could you please put him out of our misery?
Lawmakers on Sunday’s political talk shows continued to be divided over President Barack Obama’s proposed changes to the National Security Agency’s massive data dragnets, suggesting the debate over the programs is far from over. ...
Despite hope from NSA defenders that the President’s address would head off some of the more stringent legislative proposals on the Hill, lawmakers were clear that the speech didn’t placate congressional critics. ...
Vermont Democrat and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy told FOX News Sunday that Friday’s speech didn’t head off congressional reform.
“There’s still going to be legislation on this,” he said. ...
Michigan Republican Mike Rogers and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, respectively, expressed concern over the President’s intention to take the data stores out of government hands, saying it could put the nation at risk. ...
Rogers also questioned the President’s proposal to require an individual warrant before sifting through the massive data stores. “Calling for a warrant before access…that’s concerning,” he told CBS.
Mike Rogers' smear tactics: claims Intelligence chair: NSA leaker Edward Snowden may have had Russian help
Mike Rogers, a Republican representative from Michigan, interviewed by NBC’s Meet the Press, said Snowden was “a thief whom we believe had some help”, and added that there was an “ongoing” investigation into whether Russia had aided Snowden.
“I believe there's questions to be answered there,” Rogers said. “I don't think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the [Russian intelligence service] FSB.”
Rogers added: “Let me just say this. I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. ...
Rogers did not give any supporting evidence for his claims, but suggested Snowden “used methods beyond his technical capabilities" and had help with his travel arrangements. ...
Snowden has consistently denied any involvement with foreign spying agencies and said he leaked the documents because he believed the NSA programmes were against the best interests of the US people.
Bruce Schneier: Today I Briefed Congress on the NSA
This morning I spent an hour in a closed room with six Members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Scott, Rep. Goodlate, Rep Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn't forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me -- as someone with access to the Snowden documents -- to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course I'm not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it's extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country.
European commentators see little to praise in Obama’s NSA changesGlobal relations as high school drama - I'm not coming to the party if you don't uninvite that friend of yours that I don't like!
President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated revisions to the National Security Agency international spying program didn’t come close to satisfying European commentators.
The French newspaper Le Monde called them “timid and partial.” The British newspaper The Guardian referred to them as “sleight of hand.” The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel called them “Refoermchen,” meaning less than a real reform, or a “tiny reform.” The Russian news agency Novosti reminded its audience that “neither the reform nor the statement would have happened without the leaks from Edward Snowden,” a former NSA contract worker who began leaking secret files back in June. The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau simply noted in a headline: “Obama disappoints the world.”
The reason? The speech made it clear to Europeans that the Obama administration intends to continue to collect almost as much data as it always has, but has promised not to use it unless necessary. To Europeans, who since last summer have grown increasingly distrustful of the intentions of the American spy program, such words are of little comfort.
As the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung wrote, under a headline of “Nothing but cosmetics,” the priority of the talk was clearly that national security trumps privacy.
“Angela Merkel can be pretty sure her cellphone will no longer be tapped, but that doesn’t change anything for the rest of us,” the paper wrote. “Rarely has a U.S. president made it so clear how little he cares for the concerns of his allies.”
Syrian civil war peace talks at risk as Iran accepts invitation
The first direct talks between both sides in the three-year Syrian civil war appear to be at risk after Iran accepted a last-minute invite by the UN secretary general to attend the opening meeting.
The Syrian opposition only narrowly agreed to attend the talks, due to start in Geneva on Wednesday, over the weekend. On Monday, their attendance was once again in doubt after Ban Ki-moon's decision to invite Tehran – a key regional ally of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad – which they said must be withdrawn before talks can begin.
Iran said it will attend the talks and had accepted the invitation without preconditions.
Iran's attendance also threatens to drive a wedge between the US and Russia, the key international sponsors of the talks.
Both the US and Britain said Iran should only be allowed to attend if it backed the formation of a transitional government in Syria, something the Assad regime has repeatedly resisted.
But Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Monday that excluding Iran from the talks would be an "unforgivable mistake".
Iran halts higher-grade nuclear enrichment
Iran has halted its most sensitive nuclear activity under a preliminary deal with world powers, winning some relief from economic sanctions on Monday in a ground-breaking exchange that could ease the threat of new war in the Middle East. ...
Under the interim deal, Iran agreed to suspend enrichment of uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, a short technical step away from the level needed for nuclear weapons.
It also has to dilute or convert its stockpile of this higher-grade uranium, and cease work on the Arak heavy water reactor, which could provide plutonium, an alternative to uranium for bombs.
The IAEA said Tehran had begun the dilution process and that enrichment of uranium to 20 percent had been stopped at the two facilities where such work is done.
"The Agency confirms that, as of January 20, 2014, Iran ... has ceased enriching uranium above 5 percent U-235 at the two cascades at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and four cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) previously used for this purpose," its report to member states said.
The Global Elite: Rigging the Rules That Fuel Inequality
85 of the world's richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population
The global elite have rigged the rules so that "economic growth looks more like a winner-take-all system" that undermines democracy and threatens future generations with a "cascade of privilege and disadvantage," a new report from Oxfam states.
The report, Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality, states that just 85 of the world's richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population. Further:
Seven out of 10 people live in countries where economic inequality has increased over the past three decades.
In 24 out of 26 countries the top one percent increased their share of income from 1980 to 2012.
In the U.S. following the 2009 financial crisis, the bottom 90 percent has become poorer while the top one percent has captured 95 percent of the growth.
Among the factors that are contributing to policies that favor the rich and corporations over everyone else are tax havens and tax structures that enable tax dodging, financial deregulation, and austerity policies that have benefited investors while hurting everyone else.
US tech firms make eleventh-hour attempt to halt tax avoidance reforms
Silicon Valley has launched a last-ditch attempt to derail plans devised by the G20 group of countries to close down international loopholes that are exploited by the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple to pay less tax in the UK and elsewhere.
The Digital Economy Group, a lobbying group dominated by the leading US digital firms, has written to the OECD, the Paris-based thinktank tasked by G20 leaders with drawing up reforms, saying it is not true that communications advances have allowed multinational groups to game national tax systems.
Suggesting that any leakage of tax revenues flowing from the complex corporate structures of digital groups is merely coincidental, the Digital Economy Group says: "Enterprises that employ digital communications models do not organise their business operations differently as a legal or tax matter."
Their denial of tax engineering follows a string of tax scandals in Europe and the US in the past two years. In the UK, Google bore the brunt of criticism from Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, after it emerged that Google – which the Guardian understands is a member of the DEG – had been allowed to pay £3.4m in tax to HMRC in 2012 despite UK revenues of £3.2bn.
Doctor angry Ohio executed inmate despite warning
The anaesthesiologist who told a court that a new two-drug protocol used in an execution in Ohio would cause the inmate “agony and horror”, has expressed anger the state pressed ahead with the experiment despite his warnings.
David Waisel, associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard medical school, who acted as expert witness for Dennis McGuire's defence attorneys, said he was angry when he learned Ohio had gone ahead with the execution last Thursday using a previously untested combination of midazolam and hydromorphone.
Eyewitness accounts from inside the death chamber suggest his predictions turned out to be accurate.
“Initially I was angry, because I told them this would happen. Now I'm very sad about this. I'm also horrified and aghast. This was all totally unnecessary,” he said.
The Evening Greens
Emails reveal UK helped shale gas industry manage fracking opposition
Shale gas executives and government officials collaborated in private to manage the British public's hostility to fracking, emails released under freedom of information rules reveal.
Officials shared pre-prepared statements with the industry last year before major announcements and hosted high-level dinners with "further discussion over post-dinner drinks", while the industry shared long lists of "stakeholders" to be targeted. Critics said the government was acting as an arm of the gas industry" and was guilty of cheerleading, but officials defended the discussionsaid facilitating discussions was "right and proper" as "right and proper".
This week David Cameron said the government was "going all out for shale" and announced financial incentives for councils and local communities, labelled bribes by opponents. There have been major protests against fracking at sites across the country, and a Guardian poll last summer showed the public evenly split for and against shale gas wells near them.
CO2 emissions are being 'outsourced' by rich countries to rising economies
Greenhouse gas output of China and elsewhere is increased by making goods that are then used in the US and Europe
The world's richest countries are increasingly outsourcing their carbon pollution to China and other rising economies, according to a draft UN report.
Outsourcing of emissions comes in the form of electronic devices such as smartphones, cheap clothes and other goods manufactured in China and other rising economies but consumed in the US and Europe.
A draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by the Guardian, says emissions of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases warming the planet grew twice as fast in the first decade of the 21st century as they did during the previous three decades.
Much of that rise was due to the burning of coal, the report says. And much of that coal was used to power factories in China and other rising economies that produce goods for US and European consumers, the draft adds.
Since 2000, annual carbon dioxide emissions for China and the other rising economies have more than doubled to nearly 14 gigatonnes a year, according to the draft report. But about 2 GT a year of that was produced making goods for export.
The picture is similar for other rising economies producing goods for export, the report finds.
Crippled Fukushima Reactor Springs Another Mysterious Leak
Tepco said the amount of radioactive material in the just-found leak is unknown because the radiation in the reactor building is already so high.
Japanese media is reporting yet another mysterious and previously undetected leak inside one of the crippled nuclear Fukushima reactors this weekend.
According to Asahi Shimbum, citing an announcement from the Tokyo Electric Power Company, a "new water leak, possibly from the effort to cool a crippled reactor, has been detected on the first floor of a reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant."
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
One plate of Gene Harris, comin' up... hope you like it.
Gene Harris, live in Bern, Switzerland...1985. Ray Brown on bass, Grady Tate on drums.
Same concert, same lineup. Covering "Night Train."
Teaming up with Jack McDuff on the Hammond B3, Stormy Monday. Gene's daughter Niki is the singer.
Gene Harris & The Three Sounds - Sittin' Duck
Gene Harris - Black And Blue
This is a slow, gorgeous, contemplative song..almost like Classical Music in parts...
The Gene Harris Quartet - Blue Bossa
no.....you don't know me. He does Ray Charles proud.
Ray Brown Trio - Things Ain't What They Used To Be
I know it's Mid January...but it's always "Summertime."
The Gene Harris Quartet - Sweet and lovely
Gene Harris & Roger Kellaway - Senor Blues
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!