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.
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This evening's music features blues singer and songwriter Albert Washington. Enjoy!
Albert Washington - I'm The Man
"Congress acting surprised by NSA spying is like a parent saying “I can’t believe you stayed out all night and got drunk … just because I left you a keg of beer and a note that said ‘Do whatever yhe f@ck you want, for as long as you want!’”
-- Jon Stewart
News and Opinion
NSA chief Keith Alexander blames diplomats for surveillance requests
The director of the National Security Agency has blamed US diplomats for requests to place foreign leaders under surveillance, in a surprising intervention that risks a confrontation with the State Department.
General Keith Alexander made the remarks during a pointed exchange with a former US ambassador to Romania, lending more evidence to suggestions of a rift over surveillance between the intelligence community and Barack Obama's administration.
The NSA chief was challenged by James Carew Rosapepe, who served as an ambassador under the Clinton administration, over the monitoring of the German chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.
Rosapepe, now a Democratic state senator in Maryland, pressed Alexander to give "a national security justification" for the agency's use of surveillance tools intended for combating terrorism against "democratically elected leaders and private businesses".
"We all joke that everyone is spying on everyone," he said. "But that is not a national security justification."
Alexander replied: "That is a great question, in fact as an ambassador you have part of the answer. Because we the intelligence agencies don't come up with the requirements. The policymakers come up with the requirements."
He went on: "One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors."
Edward Snowden’s lawyer says he is ready to turn over U.S. spying info to Germany
US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden is ready to talk with German prosecutors in Russia, his lawyer said on Friday, after the fugitive met a German lawmaker over his evidence that Washington spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, who was also due Friday to begin work at an undisclosed Russian Internet firm, was granted asylum in Russia in August to the fury of the United States, where he faces trial.
“Snowden will not go to Germany. This is not possible because he has no right to cross Russian borders,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told the popular Echo Moscow radio.
“If he does that, he can lose temporary asylum.”
But the Kremlin-friendly lawyer added: “Within the framework of international agreements Snowden can give testimony in Russia but this should be decided by the German authorities.”
On Thursday, Snowden met with Green party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele for three hours over reports that the US spied on the German government.
Edward Snowden’s letter to Angela Merkel
Here is the text of Snowden’s letter, which Reuters reports is to chancellor Angela Merkel, the German parliament and federal prosecutors.To whom it may concern,
I have been invited to write to you regarding your investigation of mass surveillance.
I am Edward Joseph Snowden, formerly employed through contracts or direct hire as a technical expert for the United States National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency.
In the course of my service to these organizations, I believe I witnessed systemic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act. As a result of reporting these concerns, I have face a severe and sustained campaign of persecution that forced me from my family and home. I am currently living in exile under a grant of temporary asylum in the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.
I am heartened by the response to my act of political expression, in both the United States and beyond. Citizens around the world as well as high officials – including in the United States – have judged the revelation of an unaccountable system of pervasive surveillance to be a public service. These spying revelations have resulted in the proposal of many new laws and policies to address formerly concealed abuses of the public trust. The benefits to society of this growing knowledge are becoming increasingly clear at the same time claimed risks are being shown to have been mitigated.
Though the outcome of my efforts has been demonstrably positive, my government continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense. However, speaking the truth is not a crime. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior. I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents, as appropriate and in accordance with the law.
I look forward to speaking with you in your country when the situation is resolved, and thank you for your efforts in upholding the international laws that protect us all.
With my best regards,
31 October 2013
So, was Angela Merkel considered a terrorist or a pedophile?Do you think the NSA would be so bold as to suggest that the Pope is either a terrorist or a pedophile?
We have frequently and repeatably been told that mass surveillance and wiretapping is necessary to “catch terrorists”. Pedophiles are also mentioned from time to time. This is a complete and utter lie.
In that context, it is also said that the mass surveillance, sweeping across all citizens, is necessary to find the needles in the haystack. You may be wiretapped so that governments can find the somebody-else terrorist, and you’re just randomly caught in the dragnet, we’re falsely told.
However, we also have news that Barack Obama personally approved the wiretapping of Angela Merkel. This means that there wasn’t a random element involved; she was directly, personally, and individually targeted.
This begs the inevitable question: Was Angela Merkel considered a terrorist or a pedophile? It has to be either one, given the justifications we’ve heard for wiretapping. So which one was it?
The obvious answer, now that we have the information, is neither – because the surveillance was not intended to catch neither terrorists nor pedophiles. ... The purpose of wiretapping was always domination. Geopolitical domination over other countries; governmental domination over citizens.
Report: NSA 'Wiretapped the Pope'
US secret services allegedly eavesdropped on cardinals before the conclave in March to elect a new pope, Italian weekly magazine Panorama claimed Wednesday. "The National Security Agency wiretapped the pope," the magazine said, accusing the United States.
Feinstein shows off NSA “reform” bill that’s really about the status quo
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has been one of the most stalwart defenders of widespread NSA surveillance since leaks with information about the programs started seeping out nearly five months ago. Civil libertarians and reformers have been none too pleased with her rhetoric—and they're not going to get any happier after reading the bill she introduced today.
The FISA Improvements Act has already attracted plenty of critics who view it as no improvement at all. In fact, they say, Feinstein's bill would make things much worse. It would actually enshrine the NSA "bulk data" collection programs into law and grant official Congressional approval to widespread surveillance programs that haven't ever received such affirmation before. ...
"I'd laugh if I weren't so offended," said Jennifer Granick, of the Center for Internet and Society, in an e-mailed comment about Feinstein's bill. "It legalizes the currently illegal bulk collection of phone records and its language—whether sloppily or intentionally, I don't know—encourages the NSA to conduct bulk collection of other kinds of records under 215, as well as content, without even the bill's purported 'safeguards.'"
The "enhanced criminal penalties" for unauthorized access to data actually criminalizes anyone who accesses a computer "without authorization," noted Ruthann Robson, professor of Law at City University of New York. "While couched in protecting privacy and data, this provision would also further sanction and chill whistleblowers."
"The modest improvements [the bill] makes are far outweighed by the damage it does to civil liberties,” said Greg Nojeim, of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Obama halted NSA spying on IMF and World Bank headquarters
President Barack Obama has ordered the National Security Agency to stop eavesdropping on the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as part of a review of intelligence gathering activities, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.
The order is the latest move by the White House to demonstrate that it is willing to curb at least some surveillance in the wake of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of programs that collect huge quantities of data on U.S. allies and adversaries, and American citizens.
The NSA's surveillance of the Washington-based IMF and World Bank has not previously been disclosed. Details of such spy programs are usually highly classified.
Court Blocks Reform of Unconstitutional Stop-and-Frisk
Removal of judge who ruled in favor of constitutional rights 'troubling and unprecedented'
To the dismay of civil rights advocates, on Thursday a federal appeals court blocked the implementation of reforms to the New York City Police Department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" program, which had been ordered in an earlier district court ruling.
The decision today by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will delay a ruling by District Court judge Shira Scheindlin, which said the NYPD has violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men in stop-and-frisk searches. Scheindlin had ordered an outside monitor to oversee major changes to the program. ...
In addition, without the prompt of a legal request, the court ordered Judge Scheindlin to be removed from the case claiming she "ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges" when she gave of a series of media interviews and public statements after her ruling, the Associated Press reports. ...
“The NYCLU is appealing today’s decision,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “There is overwhelming evidence that the stop-and-frisk regime is unconstitutional and out of control – just ask any black or brown New Yorker. We expect the next mayoral administration to make reforming stop-and-frisk a top priority, and we are confident New York City will soon see a day when all New Yorkers’ basic rights are protected and respected.”
US court blocks NYPD stop-and-frisk ruling and removes judge from case
Federal court says Shira Scheindlin showed appearance of bias when she ruled that stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional
The appeals court said Scheindlin should be removed from the case because she violated of the code of conduct for US judges by compromising the need for impartiality. The court said it had been influenced in part by Scheindlin giving a series of media interviews and public statements responding publicly to criticism of the court.
Throughout the trial, the mayor and the police commissioner attacked Scheindlin in media interviews and speeches, but declined to testify in court.
The pair criticised Scheindlin as being "in the corner" of civil liberties activists campaigning against stop-and-frisk while an internal report by Bloomberg's office, shared with the New York Daily News in May, sought to portray the judge as biased against law enforcement.
Center for Constitutional Rights statement about Court of Appeals actions in Stop and Frisk lawsuit
We are dismayed that the Court of Appeals saw fit to delay the long-overdue process to remedy the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices, and we are shocked that they cast aspersions on the professional conduct of one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary and reassigned the case. The City carried out a whisper campaign against Judge Scheindlin but never once raised any legal claims of bias, even in its papers to the Court of Appeals. That, unprompted, they should reassign the case from a judge deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years, who gave the City every opportunity to defend itself in the course of this litigation, is troubling and unprecedented.
How to Uphold Racial Injustice
A decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit suggests that there is no limit to the obstacles courts can raise to claims of race discrimination. Not only did the Court of Appeals temporarily stay any remedies arising from a landmark lower court decision in August finding that the New York City Police Department had engaged in intentional discrimination in its “stop-and-frisk” program; it also took the extraordinary step of removing the lower court judge from the case.
The Second Circuit decision came in connection with a preliminary motion in an appeal of Floyd v. City of New York, a longstanding case challenging the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy. In August, US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a 198-page decision in the case, finding that that the NYPD intentionally stopped and frisked blacks and Latinos at much higher rates than whites, and had stopped and frisked thousands of city residents without the constitutionally required basis for doing so—“reasonable suspicion” that they were engaged in some criminal conduct. ... The city appealed, and sought a stay of any remedial measures pending the outcome of the appeal. On Tuesday, the court of appeals heard argument on that motion, and on Thursday granted it. ... But the court of appeals then went further, entirely on its own initiative, and ordered Judge Scheindlin’s removal from the case. The city had not even requested that remedy. This is unheard of. ...
So here’s where we stand. A district court judge issues careful and extensive findings, based on months of trial testimony and meticulously elaborated in a 198-page decision, that the NYPD intentionally targeted black and Latino New York residents for unconstitutional stops and frisks over many years. And she is rewarded by a court of appeals that, on its own initiative, without even hearing from the parties, and apparently without bothering to distinguish between the judge’s out-of-court statements and her written opinions, has now stayed all remedies, chastised the judge, and removed her from the case. That’s what you get for mandating equal protection of the law.
The Most Important Labor Strike in the World Is Happening Right Now
Millions of workers across Indonesia are joining a national strike this week to press for a higher minimum wage and universal health coverage. This is actually a big deal for Americans, not that any of us are paying a lick of attention.
Why does a giant strike in Indonesia matter? Because the United States stands to benefit from the rise of a global middle class that can buy high-end American goods and services, and we also stand to benefit as the cost of labor rises in developing countries, making American workers more competitive.
Indonesia is not just any developing country. It’s the fourth most populous country in the world (after China, India, and the U.S.), and it’s now a big sweatshop for global corporations. The country’s minimum wage is about $200 a month, leaving vast swaths of Indonesia’s workforce in poverty.
But Indonesia’s middle class is also growing by leaps and bounds. The number of Indonesian households with more than $10,000 in disposable income has doubled in just the past seven years — and is projected to double again by the end of this decade. Meanwhile, American exports to Indonesia have nearly quadrupled in the past decade.
Strong gains by organized labor could help to greatly accelerate the rise of Indonesia’s middle class. Over the past century, unions have been instrumental in creating shared middle class prosperity in country after country, including — of course — here in the United States.
Will Clinton's Paid Speaking Events for Goldman Sachs Draw Populist Scorn?
Potentially raising eyebrows for those concerned about the influential role of large financial firms on current (or possibly future) elected officials, former Senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given a pair of reportedly 'lucrative' talks for an audience of Goldman Sachs employees and their clients in recent days.
Clinton, regarded as a likely top contender for the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, is said to receive approximately $200,000 for her paid speaking engagements, leading the National Review to report that "she likely netted around $400,000 for her paid gigs at Goldman" that took place on Thursday, October 24 and Tuesday, October 29. ...
Though none of the reporting on Clinton's recent engagements presume there is anything wrong with former governmental official plying the 'talking circuit' in order to leverage their political experience, the financial transaction between a possible presidential candidate and one of the most powerful investment banks in the country will undoubtedly reinforce the troubling idea that a revolving door exists between Wall Street and Washington.
Did You Think Only Republicans Are Wall Street Whores?
Of course, virtually every Republican in Congress is a full on shill for Wall Street. It's part of their DNA. But it's part of the DNA of a significant chunk of the Democratic congressional caucus as well. When it comes to catering to Wall Street there is virtually no difference whatsoever between Republicans and New Dems. Yesterday, 70 Wall Street-oriented Democrats voted with all but 3 Republicans to pass H.R. 992, an amendment to gut a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform consumer protection act. The final vote was 292-122. The 70 bad Democrats were led over the aisle by corrupt corporate business shills among the Democratic leadership and the New Dem leadership-- Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Crowley, Jim Himes, Ron Kind, and Rick Larsen. The bill was actually co-sponsored by 3 especially craven New Dems, Sean Patrick Maloney, who does his call time from a hedge fund office, Jim Himes, widely considered to be Wall Street's guy in the Democratic caucus, David Scott, and Brad Schneider, another pathetic New Dem freshman, almost all of whom voted for Wall Street Wednesday. Nancy Pelosi and Steve Israel absented themselves from the House and didn't vote. The 119 Democrats who stood up to Wall Street and voted against the giveaway bill that Citibank lobbyists wrote were led by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The bill, written for GOP dullard, Randy Hultgren (R-IL) by CitiBank lobbyists, exempts a wide array of derivatives trading from new regulation and forces the taxpayers to insure overly-risky derivatives trading so that reckless behavior of the sort that crashed the economy in 2008 is not actually risky for the banksters, just for the rest of us.
Something Insane Just Happened in the House of Representatives
The U.S. House just passed a bill called H.R. 992 — the Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act — that was literally written by mega-bank lobbyists. It repeals the laws passed in 2010 to prevent another meltdown like the one that crashed our economy in 2008. The repeal was cosponsored by a former Goldman Sachs executive and passed with bipartisan support from some of the House’s largest recipients of Wall Street cash. It’s so appalling… so unbelievable… so blatantly corrupt… that you’ve got to see it to believe it:
In 2010, Congress passed the “Dodd-Frank” law to clamp down on risky “derivatives trading” that led to the financial collapse of 2008. Dodd-Frank was weakened by banking lobbyists from the start and has been under attack by those lobbyists ever since. Now a new law written by Citigroup lobbyists (we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried) exempts derivatives trading from regulation, and was passed this week by the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support.
Find out if your Rep. voted for H.R.992 here.
House Reduces Workdays On 2014 Calendar After Working So Hard In 2013
Who banks a $174,000 annual salary and works less than a third of the year?
Members of the House of Representatives, apparently.
The 2014 calendar for the House was released Thursday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and shows members will only work only 113 days. That's down from 2013, when House lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days. Only 107 days were scheduled in 2012.
Only 6 People Enrolled in Obamacare on Site’s 1st Day
Newly revealed documents have provided hard numbers showing just how few people were able to enroll in health insurance through the new government website amid massive technical failures. The Obama administration says there were 4.7 million unique visits to the site in the first 24 hours. But according to notes from a meeting on the morning after the launch, just six people had successfully enrolled. By that afternoon, about 100 people had enrolled; 248 enrolled by the end of the day. The notes were released to a House panel under a documents request. They were first reported by CBS News Thursday, a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel there was no precise data on enrollments.
The Evening Greens
Blood & Gore: Growing 'Carbon Bubble' Threatens Earth and the Global Economy
Former U.S. Vice President turned climate campaigner Al Gore and his longtime business partner David Blood, a former Goldman Sachs executive, are out with a bit of financial advice for their wealthy comrades who remain in the habit of investing in the world's high-polluting carbon industry: Don't.
Saying the misguided dependence on the world's fossil fuel reserves is creating the "largest bubble ever" in the investment community, Gore and Blood are telling people to find ways to dump their "high-carbon assets" and start using their money to invest in the clean energy future that the Earth demands. As it turns out, they say, it's not only the morally correct and responsible thing to do in terms of battling climate change, it will ultimately serve their bottom lines.
Blood and Gore, as the Guardian's Fiona Harvey reports,have brought forward a four-point plan that they say will protect future investors. They are calling on companies, investors and regulators to identify the carbon risks in their portfolios; to demand of company managers and boards that the risks should be publicly disclosed; to diversify their investment portfolios to include low-carbon infrastructure such as renewable energy and electric vehicles; and finally to take their money out of fossil fuels and other high-carbon assets, or turn them into low-carbon assets - for instance, by installing carbon capture and storage units on power stations.Though critics of the powerful duo may voice concern over some of their underlying assumptions—the unproven and largely derided prospect of carbon storage technology, for instance, or the supremacy of the capitalist experiment in general—the idea that the fossil fuel paradigm is not only an ecological disaster, but a financial one, has steadily come to the center of the debate on climate change.
Vandana Shiva: How economic growth has become anti-life
Limitless growth is the fantasy of economists, businesses and politicians. It is seen as a measure of progress. As a result, gross domestic product (GDP), which is supposed to measure the wealth of nations, has emerged as both the most powerful number and dominant concept in our times. However, economic growth hides the poverty it creates through the destruction of nature, which in turn leads to communities lacking the capacity to provide for themselves.
The concept of growth was put forward as a measure to mobilise resources during the second world war. GDP is based on creating an artificial and fictitious boundary, assuming that if you produce what you consume, you do not produce. In effect , “growth” measures the conversion of nature into cash, and commons into commodities. ...
A living forest does not contribute to growth, but when trees are cut down and sold as timber, we have growth. Healthy societies and communities do not contribute to growth, but disease creates growth through, for example, the sale of patented medicine. ... The dominant model of economic development has in fact become anti-life. When economies are measured only in terms of money flow, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. ...
Nobel-prize winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen have admitted that GDP does not capture the human condition and urged the creation of different tools to gauge the wellbeing of nations. This is why countries like Bhutan have adopted the gross national happiness in place of gross domestic product to calculate progress. We need to create measures beyond GDP, and economies beyond the global supermarket, to rejuvenate real wealth. We need to remember that the real currency of life is life itself.
BP's 'widespread human health crisis'
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the toxic components commonly found in chemicals in crude oil, and several of these chemicals have been found in the blood of people living in the impact zone of BP's disaster.
Several toxicologists agree, and now one accuses both BP and the US Environmental Protection Agency of knowingly placing people in harms way since they both had prior knowledge of the harmful effects of the oil and dispersants.
"BP told the public that Corexit was 'as harmless as Dawn dishwashing liquid'," Dr Susan Shaw, of the State University of New York, told Al Jazeera. "But BP and the EPA clearly knew about the toxicity of the Corexit dispersants long before this spill." ...
A newly published study conducted by doctors at Houston's University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers and reported in the American Journal of Medicine, sheds more light on the potential health repercussions for the more than 170,000 people who worked in some capacity to clean up the 2010 disaster.
Their blood tests suggest an elevated health risk for Gulf spill cleanup workers. The study shows that people hired to clean up Gulf of Mexico beaches and marshes during the 2010 oil spill have significantly altered blood profiles that, just as Shaw and other toxicologists warned, put them at increased risk of developing liver cancer, leukemia and other disorders.
"People in the Gulf were exposed to massive amounts of crude oil and Corexit dispersants, both of which contain multiple toxic chemicals, including volatile organic compounds and carcinogens that are hazardous to human health," said Shaw, who served on the Department of Interior's Strategic Sciences Working Group - a team of 14 scientists charged with assessing consequences of the oil spill and recommending policy actions in the Gulf.
"The combination of crude oil and Corexit is exponentially more toxic than either alone, since they contain many ingredients that target the same organs in the body."
Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist, and Exxon Valdez survivor, told Al Jazeera she sees clear indications of widespread toxic chemical exposure across the four-state impact zone of BP's oil disaster.
Tar Sands, Tankers & Pipelines
For decades a federal moratorium has protected British Columbia’s sensitive northern waters from crude oil tankers. All that will change if currently proposed oil pipelines are built from the Alberta tar sands to the coast of BC’s Great Bear Rainforest.
For example, the Enbridge Northern Gateway project proposes two parallel 1,177-kilometre pipelines across northern BC – crossing hundreds of important fish-bearing rivers and streams. One pipeline would carry an estimated 525,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, BC; the second pipeline would carry 193,000 barrels a day of condensate in the other direction (a chemical and petroleum mixture used to dilute tar sands crude oil extracted so that it can travel by pipeline) from Kitimat to the Alberta tar sands. Despite safety measures, oil pipelines leak – and a leak into BC’s rivers could bring terrible consequences for fish, animals and birds, and communities that rely on those rivers for food sources and water.
If these pipelines are built, about 225 oil tankers, including massive supertankers, would carry their loads to and from BC’s Pacific North Coast every year. The waters of the north coast are notoriously dangerous and difficult to navigate. With that much tanker traffic carrying tar sands oil to Asian markets, BC can likely expect many small spills every year and a catastrophic spill of over 10,000 barrels every 12 years (figures based on a report from Simon Fraser University). British Columbia would be vulnerable to an oil spill disaster on the scale of the Exxon Valdez, which could devastate the coastal environment and way of life for generations.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
A Little Night Music
Albert Washington - Hold Me Baby
Albert Washington - Somewhere Down The Line
Albert Washington - You're messing up my mind
Albert Washington - You Gonna Miss Me
Albert Washington - Ramble
Albert Washington - No Matter What The Cost May Be
Albert Washington and The Kings - Turn On The Bright Lights
Albert Washington - A woman is a funny thing
Albert Washington - Loosen These Pains And Let Me Go
Albert Washington - Steal Away
Albert Washington Crazy legs
Albert Washington - Crazy Legs pt2
Albert Washington And The Kings - These Arms Of Mine
Albert Washington - Go On and Help Yourself
Albert Washington - I Wanna Know How You Feel
Albert Washington & The Kings - Rome, GA
It's National Pie Day!
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