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This evening's music features pianist, blues singer and composer Victoria Spivey. Enjoy!
Victoria Spivey - Black Snake Blues
“A good song reminds us what we're fighting for.”
-- Pete Seeger
News and Opinion
Folk Activist, McCarthy Survivor, Peace Legend Pete Seeger Passes
Edward Snowden Speaks in Half-Hour Televised Interview [Transcript]
[From The Transcript]
Q - In many countries, as in America too the agencies like the NSA are not allowed to spy within their own borders on their own people. So the Brits for example they can spy on everybody but the Brits but the NSA can conduct surveillance in England so in the very end they could exchange their data and they would be strictly following the law.
A - If you ask the governments about this directly they would deny it and point to policy agreements between the members of the Five Eyes saying that they won’t spy on each other’s citizens but there are a couple of key points there. One is that the way they define spying is not the collection of data. The GCHQ is collecting an incredible amount of data on British Citizens just as the National Security Agency is gathering enormous amounts of data on US citizens. What they are saying is that they will not then target people within that data. They won’t look for UK citizens or British citizens. In addition the policy agreements between them that say British won’t target US citizens, US won’t target British citizens are not legally binding. The actual memorandums of agreement state specifically on that that they are not intended to put legal restriction on any government. They are policy agreements that can be deviated from or broken at any time. So if they want to on a British citizen they can spy on a British citizen and then they can even share that data with the British government that is itself forbidden from spying on UK citizens. So there is a sort of a trading dynamic there but it’s not, it’s not open, it’s more of a nudge and wink and beyond that the key is to remember the surveillance and the abuse doesn’t occur when people look at the data it occurs when people gather the data in the first place.
Q - What could you do if you would sit so to speak in their place with this kind of instrument [XKeyscore]?
A - You could read anyone’s email in the world. Anybody you’ve got email address for, any website you can watch traffic to and from it, any computer that an individual sits at you can watch it, any laptop that you’re tracking you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one stop shop for access to the NSA’s information. And what’s more you can tag individuals using "XKeyscore". Let’s say I saw you once and I thought what you were doing was interesting or you just have access that’s interesting to me, let’s say you work at a major German corporation and I want access to that network, I can track your username on a website on a form somewhere, I can track your real name, I can track associations with your friends and I can build what’s called a fingerprint which is network activity unique to you which means anywhere you go in the world anywhere you try to sort of hide your online presence hide your identity, the NSA can find you and anyone who’s allowed to use this or who the NSA shares their software with can do the same thing. Germany is one of the countries that have access to "XKeyscore".
Q - You worked for the NSA through a private contractor with the name Booze Allen Hamilton, one of the big ones in the business. What is the advantage for the US Government or the CIA to work through a private contractor to outsource a central government function?
A - The contracting culture of the national security community in the United States is a complex topic. It’s driven by a number of interests between primarily limiting the number of direct government employees at the same time as keeping lobbying groups in Congress typically from very well funded businesses such as Booze Allen Hamilton. The problem there is you end up in a situation where government policies are being influenced by private corporations who have interests that are completely divorced from the public good in mind. The result of that is what we saw at Booze Allen Hamilton where you have private individuals who have access to what the government alleges were millions and millions of records that they could walk out the door with at any time with no accountability, no oversight, no auditing, the government didn’t even know they were gone.
Q - President Obama obviously is in the very moment not quite convinced of that because he said to you are charged with three felonies and I quote: "If you Edward Snowden believe in what you did you should go back to America appear before the court with a lawyer and make your case." Is this the solution?
A - It’s interesting because he mentions three felonies. What he doesn’t say is that the crimes that he has charged me with are crimes that don’t allow me to make my case. They don’t allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convince a jury that what I did was to their benefit. The espionage act was never intended, it’s from 1918, it was never intended to prosecute journalistic sources, people who are informing the newspapers about information that’s of public interest. It was intended for people who are selling documents in secret to foreign governments who are bombing bridges who are sabotaging communications not people who are serving the public good. So it’s I would say illustrative that the president would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial.
Spy Agencies Probe Angry Birds and Other Apps for Personal Data
When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.
In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.
According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users’ smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day.
The N.S.A. and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters were working together on how to collect and store data from dozens of smartphone apps by 2007, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Since then, the agencies have traded recipes for grabbing location and planning data when a target uses Google Maps, and for vacuuming up address books, buddy lists, phone logs and the geographic data embedded in photos when someone sends a post to the mobile versions of Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services. ...
The documents show that the N.S.A. and the British agency routinely obtain information from certain apps, particularly some of those introduced earliest to cellphones. With some newer apps, including Angry Birds, the agencies have a similar capability, the documents show, but they do not make explicit whether the spies have put that into practice. Some personal data, developed in profiles by advertising companies, could be particularly sensitive: A secret 2012 British intelligence document says that spies can scrub smartphone apps that contain details like a user’s “political alignment” and sexual orientation.
Angry Birds and 'leaky' phone apps targeted by NSA and GCHQ for user data
• US and UK spy agencies piggyback on commercial data
• Details can include age, location and sexual orientation
• Documents also reveal targeted tools against individual phones
The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of "leaky" smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users' private information across the internet, according to top secret documents.
The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users' most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.
Many smartphone owners will be unaware of the full extent this information is being shared across the internet, and even the most sophisticated would be unlikely to realise that all of it is available for the spy agencies to collect.
Dozens of classified documents, provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica, detail the NSA and GCHQ efforts to piggyback on this commercial data collection for their own purposes.
U.S. Army to Test Blimps With Capacity to Surveil East Coast
Blimps that will be tested in Aberdeen, Maryland have the capability to monitor airspace from North Carolina to Boston, as military technology is increasingly used in domestic law enforcement
Navy admiral apparent choice to take reins of NSA
A Navy admiral is the apparent choice to be the next chief of the troubled National Security Agency, which was rocked by former analyst Edward Snowden's disclosures of its secret surveillance programs that collect phone and Internet data around the world and now faces enormous pressure to change its ways.
According to U.S. officials, Vice Adm. Mike Rogers, a former intelligence director and currently the head of the Navy's Cyber Command, will likely be nominated to replace Army Gen. Keith Alexander. Rogers has long been considered the heir apparent for the job, but Alexander's planned retirement in mid-March has put added pressure on the White House to make the decision and announcement soon. According to officials, Rogers would also be nominated to take over U.S. Cyber Command. ...
The White House has said it intends to continue having one commander oversee the NSA and Cyber Command, despite suggestions that the jobs should be split, due to concerns that the lines have blurred between the two powerful posts. The White House declined to comment on Rogers.
Congress secretly approves U.S. weapons flow to 'moderate' Syrian rebelsHello, Irony Department? You're not going to believe this crap...
Light arms supplied by the United States are flowing to "moderate" Syrian rebel factions in the south of the country and U.S. funding for months of further deliveries has been approved by Congress, according U.S. and European security officials.
The weapons, most of which are moving to non-Islamist Syrian rebels via Jordan, include a variety of small arms, as well as some more powerful weapons, such as anti-tank rockets.
The deliveries do not include weapons such as shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADs, which could shoot down military or civilian aircraft, the officials said.
The weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30, two officials said. ...
Congress approved funding for weapons deliveries to the Syrian rebels in classified sections of defense appropriations legislation, two sources familiar with the matter said. It was not clear when the funding was approved, but unclassified defense funding passed Congress in late December.
US Slams Afghan Decision to Not Indefinitely Hold Bagram Prisoners as 'Step Backward in Rule of Law'
U.S. military forces on Monday slammed Afghanistan's decision to release from the notorious Bagram prison 37 prisoners for whom there is "no incriminating evidence" as a "major step backward in... the rule of law."
The 37 are among a group of 88 men detained without trial at "the other Guantanamo" whom Afghanistan has slated for release but that the U.S. insists are dangerous and linked to violent acts.
The head of the Afghan Review Board (ARB) previously denied the U.S. assessment that the 88 men were dangerous threats. "In many cases, detainees were wrongly linked to certain incidents they were not involved in," said ARB head Abdul Shakor Dadras. Investigations led by the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai found evidence against just 16 of the men.
"We cannot allow innocent Afghan citizens to be kept in detention for months and years without a trial, for no reason at all," said Aimal Faizi, Karzai's spokesman. "We know that unfortunately this has been happening at Bagram, but it is illegal and a violation of Afghan sovereignty." ...
Speaking at a news conference Saturday, Karzai called Bagram "a place where innocent people are tortured and insulted and made [into] dangerous criminals."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws fire from all sides over settlements
Comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum make it clear he is against the establishment of a Palestinian state, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat has said.
“Anyone who says they want the settlers to remain is actually saying they don’t want the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Erakat said in remarks published Monday in Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam.
Erakat was reacting to comments by Netanyahu at last week’s WEF gathering in Davos, where the premier insisted Israel would not evacuate Jewish settlements built on occupied land the Palestinians want for their future state.
Netanyahu has publicly supported the two-state solution during US-sponsored talks which envisage the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a final peace agreement.
But at Davos, the premier told Israeli journalists at a briefing, “I have said before and I say again; I do not intend to dismantle any settlement, I don’t intend to uproot any Israeli.” ...
Israel’s settlements, which are illegal under international law, are a key sticking point that is preventing peace talks from making any visible progress.
Ukrainian president Yanukovych agrees to scrap anti-protest laws
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday agreed to scrap anti-protest laws but said jailed protesters would be released only if barricades are taken down, in a new twist to a two-month crisis before a key EU-Russia summit.
Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk also formally turned down the post of prime minister, held out by Yanukovych following a previous round of negotiations on Saturday, the presidency said in a statement on the talks. ...
Radical protesters earlier on Monday agreed to leave the premises of the justice ministry building they had stormed on Sunday evening in a provocative move that had threatened to derail attempts to find a solution. ...
Taking a more radical line than many in the opposition, the jailed leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, earlier urged opposition leaders to reject the “humiliating terms” set by the presidency.
Klitschko, who was offered the job of deputy prime minister, had already dismissed it as “a poisonous offer” aimed at driving a wedge between the leaders of the demonstrations.
Ukraine's president accepts resignation of PM after protest laws annulledChris Hedges:
Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, accepted the resignation of his prime minister and government on Tuesday, in an apparent concession to the opposition and to demonstrators who have taken to the streets to protest against his rule.
In a decree Yanukovych said he had accepted the resignation of Mykola Azarov, a key ally and hardliner, and his cabinet of ministers.
Separately, Ukraine's parliament voted to scrap anti-protest laws that have provoked a violent escalation of the country's political crisis. A large majority of deputies voted in favour of revoking the legislation passed on 16 January. The move came after four rounds of talks between the embattled Yanukovych and three opposition leaders. The laws severely curtailed freedom of assembly, with critics suggesting they in effect ushered in a dictatorship. ...
The opposition responded cautiously to Azarov's resignation, saying it was unclear who would replace him. Russia, meanwhile, piled further pressure on Yanukovych by announcing that it might not fulfil its pledge to pay a £9bn bailout to Ukraine if the government falls, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing Russian government sources. The money is desperately needed to keep Ukraine's struggling economy afloat.
One former Ukrainian foreign ministry official said that the Kremlin was exerting massive pressure on Yanukovych behind the scenes, and had been urging him to deal more harshly with anti-government protesters. "Ukraine is out of money. If Russia stops financing Yanukovych he will be unable to pay his loyal supporters in the east," the official said.
The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies
Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—much of it worthless subprime mortgages—each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money—because wages are kept low—by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. ... Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.
The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, a few days ago, issued a new report that warned that the oceans are changing faster than anticipated and increasingly becoming inhospitable to life. The oceans, of course, have absorbed much of the excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. This absorption is rapidly warming and acidifying ocean waters. ... Or look at the recent research from the University of Hawaii that says global warming is now inevitable, it cannot be stopped but at best slowed, and that over the next 50 years the earth will heat up to levels that will make whole parts of the planet uninhabitable. Tens of millions of people will be displaced and millions of species will be threatened with extinction. The report casts doubt that [cities on or near a coast] such as New York or London will endure. ...
Clive Hamilton in his “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.
New 5-year farm bill would cut subsidies while slashing food stamps benefits
Congressional negotiators reached a deal on a five-year bill Monday that eliminates or caps agriculture subsidies for thousands of farmers and slashes the food stamp program for needy Americans.
The mammoth measure, which took some two years to hash out and endured a collapse of negotiations in 2013, could now be voted on as early as Wednesday in the House of Representatives, the chamber’s Republican leaders said.
The Senate could address the so-called farm bill next week, according to Senate Democrat Debbie Stabenow, chair of the chamber’s Agriculture Committee. ...
Food stamps will be revised downward to save some $9 billion over the next decade, according to The New York Times.
Why are US corporate profits so high? Because wages are so low
Corporate cash piles have never been bigger, either in dollar terms or as a share of the economy.
The labor market, meanwhile, is still millions of jobs short of where it was before the global financial crisis first erupted over six years ago.
Not in the slightest, according to Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs:“The strength (in profits) is directly related to the weakness in hourly wages, which are still growing at just a 2% nominal pace. The weakness of wages and the resulting strength of profits are telling signs that the US labor market is still far from full employment.
Seattle’s socialist city council member vows to keep just 34 percent of her salaryWell worth reading the whole thing:
Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant promised on Monday to retain just 34 percent of her $117,000 salary after taxes, with the rest going toward various social activism groups.
The Stranger reported that Sawant, a self-identified Socialist who was active in the Occupy Wall Street movement before being elected in November 2013, will keep $40,000 as her salary after taxes, which she described in a statement as “roughly the full-time take home pay of a Seattleite.”
“Seattle city council members receive over $117,000 a year – the second highest of any city council in the country,” Sawant said. “Inevitably, such a salary removes Councilmembers from the realities of life for working people.”
The remaining $77,000 of Sawant’s salary will be put into a “solidarity fund” and distributed in support of several causes. On Monday, she donated $15,000 to 15Now, a group backing the push for a $15 minimum wage for Seattle residents. She gave another $500 to a union group, Puget Sound SAGE.
Disingenuous Basterds: The oligarchs’ long campaign to depict their critics as Nazis
The rich have never been richer and the poor keep getting poorer. The Masters of the Universe enjoy indefinite taxpayer-funded bailouts, while the social safety net for the poor is gutted on the grounds that they should “suck it up and cope.” The ruling class that engineers crushing economic inequality gathers at Davos to pretend to care about said inequality, and then promises no concrete actions to combat the crisis. Many high-income earners pay a lower effective tax rate than low-income earners, and what little progressiveness there was has now been wrung out of the tax code.
And if you think there’s a problem with any of this, you’re a Nazi. At least according to the poor, put-upon oligarchs.
The latest rich dude to compare critiques of inequality to violent National Socialism is venture capitalist Tom Perkins – he of the $150 million yacht and the 5,500 square foot San Francisco penthouse. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal editor, this Silicon Valley billionaire bewailed supposed “parallels” between “fascist Nazi Germany’s war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews” and “the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’” Citing rising angst over tech-driven gentrification in San Francisco, he concluded: “This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”
From this skewed perspective, the 85 people who now own as much wealth as 3.5 billion people aren’t the big winners. They are instead a persecuted diaspora being exterminated by Hitler.
The Evening Greens
Poor West Virginia? Think Again
The chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia has once again put Appalachia on the map. This is what it usually takes. People have to not just die at the hands of the coal and chemical industry, they have to die dramatically. ... It was very dramatic, much more so then the suffering that goes on each and every day here, which is killing people, which is permanently ruining streams and rivers and removing mountains.
After all, if the chemical had not leaked accidentally, they would have brought it up the Coal River and dumped it into the aquifer on purpose, and it would have gone to Charleston and down to New Orleans anyway. ...
The upper 80 miles of the Kanawah is called Chemical Valley and for over a century has been home to the highest concentration of chemical companies in the U.S. The mineral wealth of Appalachia literally built this country as we know it today, powered its mills and factories and made the belching smokestack a symbol of prosperity. It was a deciding factor in both world wars. Indeed it was the WW1 that created Chemical Valley as federal dollars rolled in to replace our almost total dependence on chemicals from Germany, which supplied almost all of the world’s industrial chemicals in use at the time. Soon Chemical Valley could make the same claim, and while the last few decades other countries have reduced its market share, Charleston is still the world’s leader in the manufacture of chemicals, and by proxy, in the poisoning of the world’s water. If you ate a fish caught any place in the world, you have chemicals from Charleston in your body.
So what of the rest of the country? Are any of us really that different? Isn’t their fate in the hands of the same Toxic Overlords as our own? The answers are obvious. We face a global crisis, and solutions need to be global. Yet there is reason to keep our attention on Charleston, and on mountain top removal, because this is where much of the chemicals released into the global environment originate. It is also where much of our fresh water originates. It was the birthplace of the labor movement, where the poor and disposed did rise up,and, for a while at least, made things better.
Greens to pressure Obama by demanding rejection of redundant, red herring pipeline
Green groups hope to get President Obama's attention by parading a giant inflatable pipeline around the Capitol Tuesday before his State of the Union address.
It's the latest push by environmental groups, including 350.org and the National Wildlife Federation, to persuade Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
The 100-yard inflatable pipeline will have the message "Climate Champion or Pipeline President" scrolled across it. ...
"The mock pipeline out front is a reminder that there’s one environmental issue that’s brought people into the streets again and again across the country, and that’s the KXL pipeline," said Bill McKibben, president and co-founder of 350.org said in a statement.
"Because we never forget for a minute that the president, all by himself and without asking [Speaker] John Boehner, can stop it once and for all," he added.
Dirty Energy Job Numbers Don't Add Up
A foolproof way to sell an idea to the American public is to link that idea to jobs. If you are able to convince them that your proposal will either preserve jobs already in place, or even better, create new jobs, it makes it much more difficult to ignore.
This is why the promise of jobs has been used to sell the Keystone XL pipeline to the public, and the concept of preserving jobs has been used to fight the tightening of safety standards for the coal industry.
In both of those examples, the dirty energy industry has grossly inflated the net economic benefit of their activities, but that hasn’t stopped politicians and pundits from parroting those same “job creation” talking points to the national media. ...
The industry claims that they currently support 9.2 million jobs in America, which they say supports a staggering 7.7% of the entire U.S. economy. These numbers come from written testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources from American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard. Mr. Gerard spouted these numbers as a way to protect and justify his industry’s gross profits and federal subsidies.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) decided to take a deeper look into Gerard’s claims, and their findings show that these numbers have been exaggerated by 484%.
CAP’s investigation uncovered the true number of dirty energy jobs in America, and the accurate figure is about 1.9 million direct jobs. ... Sustaining 1.9 million jobs might still seem like a hefty sum, but that number becomes significantly less meaningful when you factor in gas station jobs, which account for a little more than 850,000 jobs in the industry. These jobs are typically minimum wage positions that do not carry any type of benefits (health insurance, paid leave, etc.) for their employees.
UK to Shred Over 80,000 Pages of Environmental Protections
In a sweeping overhaul of environmental regulations in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday announced plans to slash over 80,000 pages of laws that protect the environment against business practices.
The list of over 3,000 regulations on the chopping block—outlined in a speech at the Federation of Small Businesses Conference Monday—includes guidance on contaminated land and hazardous waste management, food labeling regulations, and building regulations such as requirements for onsite green technologies.
The overhaul, which is part of Cameron's Red Tape Challenge campaign, include proposals to “wind down” the code for sustainable homes and limit Environmental Impact Assessments for building projects, according to Naomi Luhde-Thompson from Friends of the Earth. ...
“The Government must stop making the environment a scapegoat for the economic challenges we face," said Friends of the Earth’s Policy and Campaigns Director Craig Bennett.
Bennett continued, "Important rules that safeguard our health and environment are being lost in this ideologically-driven war on red-tape."
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
Louis Armstrong & Victoria Spivey - How do They Do It That Way?
Victoria Spivey - One Hour Mama
Victoria Spivey -TB Blues
Victoria Spivey & Lonnie Johnson - Dope Head Blues
Victoria Spivey - Any Kind A Man
Victoria Spivey - Murder In The First Degree
Victoria Spivey - Funny Feathers
Victoria Spivey - Mama's Quittin' and Leavin' pt.1 & 2
Victoria Spivey - Blood Hound Blues
Victoria Spivey - Don't Trust Nobody Blues
It's National Pie Day!
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