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eb 2

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.


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Delta bluesman Skip James.  Enjoy!

Skip James - Crow Jane

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."

  -- Friedrich Nietzsche

News and Opinion

Too Big To Comply? NSA Says It’s Too Large, Complex to Comply With Court Order

Arminianism_as_five-headed_monsterIn an era of too-big-to-fail banks, we should have known it was coming: An intelligence agency too big to rein in — and brazen enough to say so.

In a remarkable legal filing on Friday afternoon, the NSA told a federal court that its spying operations are too massive and technically complex to comply with an order to preserve evidence. The NSA, in other words, now says that it cannot comply with the rules that apply to any other party before a court — the very rules that ensure legal accountability — because it is too big.

The filing came in a long-running lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenging the NSA's warrantless collection of Americans' private data. Recently, the plaintiffs in that case have fought to ensure that the NSA is preserving relevant evidence — a standard obligation in any lawsuit — and not destroying the very data that would show the agency spied on the plaintiffs' communications. Yet, as in so many other instances, the NSA appears to believe it is exempt from the normal rules.

In its filing on Friday, the NSA told the court:

[A]ttempts to fully comply with the Court's June 5 Order would be a massive and uncertain endeavor because the NSA may have to shut down all databases and systems that contain Section 702 information in an effort to comply.
For an agency whose motto is "Collect It All," the NSA's claim that its mission could be endangered by a court order to preserve evidence is a remarkable one. That is especially true given the immense amount of data the NSA is known to process and warehouse for its own future use.
Here are a few excerpts from an interview with Henry Giroux:
The Specter of Authoritarianism and the Future of the Left: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux

The commanding institutions of society in many countries, including the United States, are now in the hands of powerful corporate interests, the financial elite and right-wing bigots whose strangulating control over politics renders democracy corrupt and dysfunctional. Of course, what is unique about the United States is that the social contract and social wage are subject to a powerful assault by the right-wing politicians and anti-public intellectuals from both political parties. Those public spheres and institutions that support social provisions, the public good and keep public value alive are under sustained attack. Such attacks have not only produced a range of policies that have expanded the misery, suffering and hardships of millions of people, but have also put into place a growing culture of cruelty in which those who suffer the misfortunes of poverty, unemployment, low skill jobs, homelessness and other social problems are the object of both humiliation and scorn.

Neoliberal societies, in general, are in a state of war - a war waged by the financial and political elite against youth, low-income groups, the elderly, poor minorities of color, the unemployed, immigrants and others now considered disposable.  ...

As Edward Snowden made clear, the hidden registers of authoritarianism have come to light in a trove of exposed NSA documents which affirm that the US has become a national security-surveillance state illegally gathering massive amounts of information from diverse sources on citizens who are not guilty of any crimes. To justify such lawlessness, the American public is told that the rendering moot of civil liberties is justified in the name of security and defense against potential terrorists and other threats. In reality, what is being defended is the security of the state and the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the controlling political and corporate elites. The real threat, in this case, is the American people and the possibility of their outrage and potential action against such dangerous Orwellian modes of surveillance. What is at risk and must be prevented at all costs is the possibility of dominant power and its machinery of civil and social death from becoming visible. There is also the shameful exercise under Bush, and to a lesser degree under Obama, of state sanctioned torture coupled with a refusal on the part of the government to prosecute those CIA agents and others who willfully engaged in systemic abuses that constitute war crimes. What this list amounts to is the undeniable fact that in the last 40 years, the US has launched an attack not only on the practice of justice and democracy itself, but on the very idea of justice and democracy.

Concern Grows as Military Weapons Flood Police Departments

Under the Obama administration, surplus weapons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—from grenade launchers to machine guns to silencers—have militarized police departments across the United States at unprecedented levels, the New York Times revealed in an investigation published Sunday.

Pentagon data shows a massive transfer of military weapons to local law enforcement on Obama's watch, including "tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft," writes journalist Matt Apuzzo.

Since 2006, police departments across the United States have received 432 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP0 armored vehicles, 435 other armored vehicles, and 533 planes and helicopters, the report reveals.

The trend is attracting increasing attention from journalists. Mark Alesia writes for the Indianapolis Star, "[T]o some, the introduction of equipment designed for war in Fallujah, Iraq, to the streets of U.S. towns and cities raises questions about the militarization of civilian police departments." He adds, "Does it blur the line between civilian police and the military?"

The weapons have been handed over through the little-known military transfer program, which was established by Congress in the early 90s and allows the Department of Defense to give "surplus" weapons to local police and sheriffs. In addition to the free giveaway program, several police departments have applied for federal grant money to purchase military fighting vehicles and other equipment, Apuzzo notes.

As Right-Wing Shooting Rampages Grow, U.S. Revives Domestic Terror Unit Shelved After 9/11

Fighting the Sunlight: The James Risen Case in Context

When Noam Chomsky asked the audience at his June 3 talk in Prague to imagine that there was a free press, laughter erupted throughout the filled auditorium. Why? Because those who think about the theory versus the practice of free speech recognize its fundamental contradictions.

A most recent case in point: On June 2 the U.S. Supreme Court rejected New York Times national security reporter James Risen’s appeal of the 4th Circuit ruling that the government can compel him to reveal the identity of his source. This has been widely deplored as a blow to free speech. In fact, it is a blessing that the Supremes declined to rule on the merits of the case – for if they had they would likely have ruled that subpoenaed reporters are not privileged from having to disclose the identity of their confidential sources, thus setting back press rights by settling the jurisdictional split on the issue ever since The Court’s 1972 Branzburg v. Hayes ruling. This underscores the manner in which the powers of the state are aligned against a free press. ...

The Justice Department has recently tightened its ‘guidelines’ for subpoenaing reporters and the Obama administration claims it supports a tepid journalist shield law, but this was the case where they could have shown they meant what they said about protecting journalists' rights. Instead, they argued to the court that reporter's privilege does not exist all. By going after Risen, the Obama administration has done more damage to reporter's privilege than any other case in forty years.” ... Raids of press offices and confiscation of reporters’ computers and notebooks have also occurred, revealing the divide between words and deeds. ...

Think about the power of the prosecutors in the Risen case. His book was published in January 2006. A grand jury began investigating the disclosures in the book in March 2006. In January 2008, the government subpoenaed Risen before a grand jury, which issued an indictment in 2010. In May 2011 a trial subpoena for Risen was issued. Risen has been fighting this attack on his work for more than six years. Talk about a chilling effect. Yet Risen vows to go to prison before he will reveal his source. What is so threatening about investigative reporting? The truth? Being exposed for corrupt and illegal acts?

Ukraine's President Pledges Peace While Shelling the East

Assistant_Secretary_Nuland,_Ambassador_Pyatt_Greet_Ukrainian_President-elect_Poroshenko_Before_Meeting_in_WarsawJust one day after taking power, Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko opened peace negotiations in an apparent bid to quell fighting in the country’s east. But today, as the Ukrainian army renewed its efforts to take back rebel-held Sloviansk, the violence showed no signs of dying down, and residents in the east endure further hardship.

On Sunday, at a three-way meeting of Ukrainian, Russian, and European representatives in Kiev, Poroshenko called for a halt to the hostilities. “We must ensure a ceasefire this week,” he told the group. “The situation where people die each day and Ukraine is paying such a high price is unacceptable,” he added. ...

Mortar and heavy artillery fire have encroached into civilian areas and multiple residential buildings have been hit inside the city as the Ukrainian forces have widened their area of shelling. Water and electricity have now been cut off and all phone networks are down. Last month, Kiev stopped social warfare payments and state-sector wages to Sloviansk and nearby Kramatorsk. Difficulties getting supplies into the area and a lack of money are leaving many short of food.

Civilians take cover, flee Ukrainian city as shells land

Dozens of charred bicycles stand upright in the rubble of a burnt-out sports shop in Slaviansk, a strategic stronghold for pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

After a week of intensified shelling by government forces, windows of buildings on the outskirts of the city have been blown out, fires have gutted stores and the hulks of damaged Soviet-era cars lie abandoned in the road.

A few stores are still operating in the leafy town center, where the muffled sound of mortar fire drifts in from areas around the city edges, but life has been transformed even there.

A few days ago, residents were showing defiance by carrying on their lives as best they could. Now only a handful of people dare to walk in the open near the city hall, barricaded by sandbags and fenced off by the rebels. Others have fled. ...

The transformation of Slaviansk in the past week is a result of the two-pronged policy being pursued by President Petro Poroshenko, the pro-Western leader elected last month and sworn in on Saturday with a pledge to end the insurrection.

Although he has started talks with Russia on a peace plan he has drawn up, he has also ordered Ukraine's armed forces to step up their "Anti-Terrorist Operation" to win back control of towns and cities held by rebels seeking unification with Russia.

'It's not becoming a war, it IS a war'

Ukraine, separatists battle to control border with Russia

Ukrainian border guards stand grim-faced and nervous at the remote Marynivka checkpoint on the frontier with Russia, fearing an attack by pro-Moscow separatists at any time.

Last week they fought off an assault by up to 150 rebels seeking control over supply routes from Russia to bring in arms and other war materials, forcing them to abandon two armored personnel carriers strafed with machine gun fire. ...

Not all border guards have put up such a fight. Outgunned and outnumbered, they have fled one post after another in the week since the rebels took the border guards' headquarters in Luhansk, the region's main city. ...

Ukraine's inability to police parts of its own border underscores the military weaknesses President Petro Poroshenko has to deal with as he tries to end the insurrection that began after his Moscow-leaning predecessor was toppled in February.

His promise to regain Crimea, annexed by Russia in March, also puts him at loggerheads with President Vladimir Putin, complicating dealings with Moscow to plug the power vacuum at the border where Kiev says Russia gives rebels a green light.

"The border can't be closed in a day, and without that the anti-terrorist operation (against the separatists) could continue endlessly," Ukrainian military expert Dmitry Tymchuk wrote on his Facebook page.

Ukraine sees 'understanding' with Russia on peace moves

Ukraine said on Monday it had reached a "mutual understanding" with Moscow on parts of a plan proposed by President Petro Poroshenko for ending violence in the east of the country.

Kiev gave no details and Russia did not comment directly but two days of talks, following a brief encounter in France last week that broke the ice between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, have given momentum to peace moves.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement released in Berlin that there was "some faint light at the end of the tunnel" in the Ukraine conflict for the first time in months.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement in Kiev that Russian and Ukrainian representatives had met three times in the past two days to discuss Poroshenko's plan to end an insurrection by pro-Russian separatists in the east.

"As a result of the work, the sides reached a mutual understanding on key stages of the implementation of the plan and on a list of priorities which will contribute to a de-escalation of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine," it said.

NATO launches fresh war games near Russia border

RIGA: NATO on Monday launched one of its largest military manoeuvres in the Baltic states since tensions spiked with neighbouring Russia over its annexation of Ukraine´s Crimean peninsula. ...

Russia has voiced its objections to the manoeuvres, which move to neighbouring Lithuania on Tuesday. ...

Russia was quick to label the games an "act of aggression," according to the Interfax news agency.

"We can´t take this military buildup by the alliance next to Russia´s borders as anything but a demonstration of hostile intent," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov told Interfax.

"The deployment of extra NATO troops in Central and Eastern Europe, even on a rotational basis is a violation of Russia´s agreements with the alliance."

Russia Warns Against Buildup as NATO Launches New Wargames

Tensions with Russia are on the rise again today as NATO launches the “Sabre Strike” military exercises in Latvia and Lithuania. Some 4,700 troops and 800 military vehicles are taking part in the action, right along the Russian border.

It’s worth noting that NATO was furious at Russia for conducting its own wargames near Ukraine’s border, dubbing it a threat even though Ukraine isn’t a NATO member to begin with. Latvian DM Raimonds Vejonis touted the Sabre Strike wargames as aimed directly at Russia and their “aggression” in the region.

For Western Oil Companies, Expanding in Russia Is a Dance Around Sanctions

MOSCOW — Like many chief executives of American companies, Rex W. Tillerson of Exxon Mobil didn’t attend the major business forum in Russia last month, at the urging of White House officials. But the company’s exploration chief, Neil W. Duffin, did.

In a ceremony at the event, Mr. Duffin signed an agreement with [subject of sanctions] Igor I. Sechin, the head of the state-owned Rosneft, to expand its joint ventures to drill offshore in the Arctic Ocean, to explore for shale oil in Siberia and to cooperate on a liquefied natural gas plant in Vladivostok. ...

Despite the push by Western governments to isolate Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine, energy giants are deepening their relationships with companies here by striking deals and plowing more money into the country.

Russia pumps about the same volume of oil as Saudi Arabia, while exporting more energy than the desert kingdom, if oil and gas are counted together.  ... For that reason, many analysts think Russian energy companies like Rosneft are simply too big to punish.

Brazilian Military Deployed, Civil Unrest Intensifies Two Days Before World Cup

Revealed: Asian slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK

Slaves forced to work for no pay for years at a time under threat of extreme violence are being used in Asia in the production of seafood sold by major US, British and other European retailers, the Guardian can reveal.

A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world's largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

Men who have managed to escape from boats supplying CP Foods and other companies like it told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years; some were regularly offered methamphetamines to keep them going. Some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them. ...

In addition to Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco, the Guardian has identified Aldi, Morrisons, the Co-operative and Iceland as customers of CP Foods. They all sell frozen or cooked prawns, or ready meals such as prawn stir fry, supplied by CP Foods and its subsidiaries. CP Foods admits that slave labour is part of its supply chain.

Migrants in Texas's federal prisons subjected to 'shocking abuse'

With attention focused on other aspects of immigration reform, the federal government has quietly gone on a massive immigrant prison building spree. Since 1999, the Bureau of Prisons has contracted for the operation of 13 for-profit private prisons located mostly in isolated towns far from the prying eyes of activists, prisoner's families or attorneys. Five are located in Texas. Run by three private companies, these 13 "criminal alien requirement" prisons, as the BOP calls them, house one of America's fastest-growing prison populations: immigrants in federal custody, many convicted for the crime of illegally crossing the border. The 13 facilities collectively house more than 25,000 immigrant prisoners at a cost to US taxpayers estimated at $1bn a year. ...

In a report, released today, on the five Texas prisons, 'Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private-Prison System, the ACLU claims that the BOP policies discriminate against non-citizen inmates and that prisoners are "subjected to shocking abuse and mistreatment." Between 2009 and 2014, the ACLU visited all five Texas prisons, interviewed hundreds of prisoners and their families and reviewed contracts, medical records and other documents held by the Bureau of Prisons. The report describes BOP policies that incentivize overcrowding, indiscriminate use of solitary confinement, and extreme cost-cutting measures that have led to both the death of prisoners and an unusually high number of riots among low-security inmates. The report claims that immigrant prisoners in these facilities have far less access to educational programming and rehabilitation services than their citizen counterparts, raising questions about how America's unequal treatment of non-citizen inmates.

As Obama Moves to Cap Student Debt Payments, Activists Push For Broader Write-Off of Crushing Loans

Obama woos student borrowers with executive order on loan repayments

In another attempt to stem the economic threat of high student debt and win favor for his party before November’s election, President Obama on Monday signed an executive order that will limit federal student loan payments for 5 million more people.

Calling an education “the single best investment you can make in your future,” Obama extended the four-year-old Pay As You Earn initiative, which has lowered monthly payments for student who borrowed federal student loans for the first time between 2008 and 2011.

The program lowered monthly payments to 10% of a borrower’s after-tax income. Borrowers who graduated before 2008 or after 2012 had access to another program, which limits student payments to 15% of income.

Monday's executive order will extend the initiative to anyone with a federal student loan.

It also adds another dimension: forgiveneness of student loans. If borrowers make regular payments on the PAYE program, the government will forgive any unpaid portion of their loans after 20 years. Forgiveness comes even sooner for students who decide to take government or nonprofit jobs, who will find themselves released from their loans after 10 years of regular payments.

... Another barrier to the effectiveness of PAYE: borrowers will have to be patient. The order won’t go into effect until December 2015, meaning borrowers will still have make thousands of dollars in student-loan payments for the next year and a half.

Is College Worth It? New Doc "Ivory Tower" Tackles Higher Ed’s Unsustainable Spending, Student Debt

Wall Street predators follow their prey downmarket. Bastards.
Trailer Parks Lure Wall Street Investors Looking for Double-Wide Returns

When Dan Weissman worked at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and, later, at a hedge fund, he didn’t have to worry about methamphetamine addicts chasing his employees with metal pipes. Or SWAT teams barging into his workplace looking for arsonists.

Both things have happened since he left Wall Street and bought five mobile home parks: four in Texas and one in Indiana. ... With more of the U.S. middle class sliding into poverty and many towns banning new trailer parks, enterprising owners are getting rich renting the concrete pads and surrounding dirt on which residents park their homes. ...

The economics of mobile homes are particularly alluring to folks who’ve made their living in the markets. Many counties in the U.S. have banned or discouraged construction of new trailer parks because the inhabitants are poor, pay little in taxes and drain resources. Yet demand is higher than ever, new investors in the parks say, because so many people never got back on their feet after the recession.

David Protiva, a former mortgage-backed-bond salesman at Kidder, Peabody & Co. and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., now owns four trailer parks in Georgia. He’s noticed that until 2008, most people coming into his parks were moving up; they owned nothing before buying a trailer. Since 2009, half of his residents have come to him from conventional homes, moving down, he says. ...

The beauty of a trailer park -- for its owner, anyway -- is that once a tenant trucks a home to a site, then lowers it onto a pad, as it’s known in the business, and hooks up to the electricity and septic systems, he’s unlikely to leave. It costs at least $5,000 to move a home, a sum that trailer dwellers rarely accumulate more than once, [trailer park owner Frank] Rolfe says.

“We’re like a Waffle House where everyone is chained to the booths.”

Somebody forgot to make a delivery of the milk of human kindness to London...
Controversy over 'anti-homeless spikes'

More about how the sausage is made, or to what extreme lengths the lackeys in Washington have to go to in order to make things work out just so for their 1% masters:
Republicans’ gagging hypocrisy

The Republican-led House will reach a dubious milestone this week: It will enter the record books as the most gagged in American history.

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday plans to approve two more “closed rules” for debate — a procedure to block lawmakers from offering amendments on the House floor — bringing the total in the current Congress to 62. This will break the record of 61 closed rules set during Nancy Pelosi’s 2007-2008 Congress — and John Boehner’s House still has seven months in which to run up the score.

To put this in perspective, in 1975-1976, only three rules were designated as closed. Republicans complained when they took control of Congress in 1995 that the number of “open rules” — the sort of freewheeling debate that characterized the House for most of its history — had fallen to 30 percent of all debates in 1993-1994, from 85 percent in 1975-1976. And now? Open debates are 6 percent of the House total.

The increasingly undemocratic way in which the House is governed is both a symptom and a cause of the fierce partisanship that has seized the country, and the condition has worsened under both parties’ rule. The frequent promise to “let the House work its will” is almost never honored — and not just on high-profile issues such as immigration reform, unemployment insurance and the minimum wage.

The Evening Greens

Japan's President Plan: 'Kill the Whales'

Despite the international ban that took hold in 1986 and years of ensuing controversy over its "scientific" hunting, president of Japan Shinzo Abe has sparked outrage across the world by announcing his intent to restart the nation's commercial whaling industry.

"I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources," Abe told a parliamentary commission on Monday. "To that end, I will step up efforts further to get understanding from the international community."

Since the international ban, governed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), went into effect nearly three decades ago, Japan has been allowed to hunt select whale species within its territorial waters and conduct what are categorized as "research" whaling hunts in international waters, done mostly in the South Pacific and Southern Ocean.

Abe's comments to revitalize a true return to industrial whaling, however, was met with immediate condemnation by conservationists and governments.

Fish are great at fighting climate change. Too bad we’re eating them all.

Cetorhinus_maximus_by_greg_skomalDespite the international ban that took hold in 1986 and years of ensuing controversy over its "scientific" hunting, president of Japan Shinzo Abe has sparked outrage across the world by announcing his intent to restart the nation's commercial whaling industry.

"I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources," Abe told a parliamentary commission on Monday. "To that end, I will step up efforts further to get understanding from the international community."

Since the international ban, governed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), went into effect nearly three decades ago, Japan has been allowed to hunt select whale species within its territorial waters and conduct what are categorized as "research" whaling hunts in international waters, done mostly in the South Pacific and Southern Ocean.

Abe's comments to revitalize a true return to industrial whaling, however, was met with immediate condemnation by conservationists and governments.

Waterless World? Scarcity could bring Earth to breaking point

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Don't fear the Koch brothers. Fear an election that caters only to billionaires

Meet the Tenacious Gardeners Putting Down Roots in "America's Most Desperate Town"

Does Snowden Know Why the NSA Doesn't Need Warrants? He Might.

Dick Cheney's Iraq Legacy still getting worse

Al Gore: NSA’s actions revealed by Snowden are “a threat to the heart of democracy.”

Born this way

A Little Night Music

Skip James - Devil Got My Woman

Skip James - Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues

Skip James - I'm So Glad

Skip James - Cypress Grove Blues

Skip James - Illinois Blues

Skip James - 22 20 Blues

Skip James - Skip´s Worried Blues

Skip James - My Last Boogie

Skip James - Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning

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!

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Originally posted to DFH writers group on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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