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.
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This evening's music features soul and r&b musician Joe Simon. Enjoy!
Joe Simon - If
"Expedience, not justice, is the rule of contemporary American law."
-- Abbie Hoffman
News and Opinion
Court order that allowed NSA surveillance is revealed for first time
A secret court order that authorised a massive trawl by the National Security Agency of Americans' email and internet data was published for the first time on Monday night, among a trove of documents that also revealed a judge's concern that the NSA "continuously" and "systematically" violated the limits placed on the program.
The order by the Fisa court, almost certainly its first ruling on the controversial program and published only in heavily redacted form, shows that it granted permisson for the trawl in part beacause of the type of devices used for the surveillance. Even the judge approving the spying called it a “novel use” of government authorities.
Another later court order found that what it called "systemic overcollection" had taken place.
Transparency lawsuits brought by civil liberties groups compelled the US spy agencies on Monday night to shed new light on the highly controversial program, whose discontinuation in 2011 for unclear reasons was first reported by the Guardian based on leaks by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. ...
The methods, known as pen registers and trap-and-trace devices, record the incoming and outgoing routing information of communications – traditionally phone calls made between individual users. Kollar-Kotelly ruled that acquiring the metadata, and not the content, of email and internet usage in bulk was harmonious with the “purpose” of Congress and prior court rulings – even though no surveillance statute ever authorized it and top officials at the justice department and the FBI threatened to resign in 2004 over what they considered its dubious legality.
Big Brother, Inc.: The Surveillance Industrial Complex
Not wanting to leave anyone out of the spy game, a Guardian exclusive revealed Monday that private firms are peddling the latest in surveillance technologies to smaller governments and regimes interested in conducting NSA-level operations on their own citizenry.
Research watchdog Privacy International has compiled an online database entitled the Surveillance Industry Index (SII) which documents how private firms offer governments a "range of systems that allow them to secretly hack into internet cables carrying email and phone traffic."
According to the report, hawking these technologies with brochures and sales pitches at "private trade fairs," the largely-Western firms specifically target "repressive regimes" from nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East offering them the same "powerful capabilities" as the NSA and GCHQ as a means of "political control."
Prosecuted New York Times reporter speaks at journalism school event
James Risen, the New York Times reporter facing imprisonment for refusing to disclose his sources, denounced the federal government’s infringement on the press in a rare public appearance Thursday, saying it is time for journalists to “surrender or fight.” ...
The lack of protection for national security reporters, he said, has allowed the federal government to demand that journalists like him reveal their sources, which threatens the integrity of the press.
“The basic issue is, can we continue as journalists to protect and offer the confidentiality to someone who knows something going on in the government but doesn’t want to go public?” ... Risen faces incarceration after refusing to comply with a 2008 subpoena issued by a federal grand jury demanding that he testify in the case of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is charged with allegedly leaking information included in a chapter of Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”
NSA grapples with huge increase in records requests
Fueled by the Edward Snowden scandal, more Americans than ever are asking the National Security Agency if their personal life is being spied on.
And the NSA has a very direct answer for them: Tough luck, we're not telling you.
Americans are inundating the NSA with open-records requests, leading to an 888% increase in such inquiries in the past fiscal year. Anyone asking is getting a standard pre-written letter saying the NSA can neither confirm nor deny that any information has been gathered.
The NSA scandal has detonated in Australia - we can no longer look away
“We don’t discuss intelligence matters,” Australia’s bewildered prime minister told the media again this morning, making him the only person left on earth not discussing intelligence matters. Seven months after the fuse was lit, the scandal of the US National Security Agency surveillance state has finally detonated in Australia. ...
With the apparent help of the NSA’s equipment and expertise, at least since 2009 our security agencies have hacked the private phones of the president of Indonesia, his wife, and senior Indonesian leaders. Finally, the consequences of indiscriminate surveillance overkill have made it to Australia. ...
Clandestine intelligence agencies spy on people: it’s their job. We grant them extraordinary powers justified by the dangerous work they do – go after violent extremists, organised crime syndicates, transnational terror networks. ... But since when did the president of Indonesia join this company? The chancellor of Germany? Glenn Greenwald’s partner? When did everyone who ever used Facebook or searched Google become a target of counterterrorism agencies?
GCHQ snoops on hotel reservations targeting diplomats – Snowden leaks
A UK spy agency infiltrated international hotel booking systems for some three years, tracing high profile officials and wiretapping their suites, new leaks reveal. GCHQ’s top secret ‘Royal Concierge’ program tracked 350 hotels across the globe. ...
Documents unearthed by Snowden reveal that over a three-year period GCHQ had an automatic system for singling out people of interest, who made reservations in about 350 upscale hotels worldwide.
Field operatives then allegedly wiretapped the phone and network cables inside the targetted suite, and were potentially able to check into the next door suite in order to eavesdrop the target at the scene.
American Doctors and Psychologists Engaged in Frightening Torture Programs Since 9/11
If you thought the U.S.’s involvement in the torture of prisoners detained in the “war on terror” was limited only to U.S. military personnel, intelligence officers, wrongheaded prison guards, or, through “extraordinary rendition,” handled by foreign proxies, think again. A new report from The Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers has found that since 9/11, “Military and intelligence-agency physicians and other health professionals, particularly psychologists, became involved in the design and administration of that harsh treatment and torture — in clear conflict with established international and national professional principles and laws.”
According to the recently issued Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, medical practitioners were involved in such activities as “designing, … and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees. And while the DoD has claimed that it has taken steps to remediate the problems, “including instituting a committee to review medical ethics concerns at Guantanamo Bay Prison,” the report’s authors say that these efforts fall far short of being meaningful. ...
A broad array of “health professionals” and/or “medical personnel,” including physicians, psychologists, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, corpsmen (U.S. Navy or Marine-trained enlisted medical personnel), medics (U.S. Army-enlisted medical personnel), and technicians, participated in, or enabled, torture of detainees.
More Cuts in Military Spending Are Good for America
The Budget Control Act of 2011 required automatic spending cuts unless Congress could agree on a long- term deficit reduction plan. ... cuts to Pentagon spending began in March of 2013. It was a dumb idea to reduce the deficit with unemployment elevated, but given that government spending was going to be cut, the fact that this resulted in cutting the bloated Pentagon was good.
Now we hear whining and complaining from the Pentagon spending lobby, including the Navy, that America’s national security will be compromised. Of course that depends on how you define “America” and “national security.” ...
No one has explained how the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq made us safer, and it cost the lives of more than 4,400 Americans and several hundred thousand Iraqis. It’s tough to see how the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has increased our security, or the drone killings of civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries – all of which are creating new enemies every day.
No, the Pentagon lobby’s real fear right now is that people will see that Pentagon cuts don’t endanger us in the least, and will want more.
Bubbles Are Not Funny
Paul Krugman tells us that Larry Summers joined the camp concerned about secular stagnation in his I.M.F. talk last week, something that I had not picked up from prior coverage of the session. This is good news, but I would qualify a few of the points that Krugman makes in his elaboration of Summers' remarks.
First, while the economy may presently need asset bubbles to maintain full employment (a point I made in Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy), it doesn't follow that we should not be concerned about asset bubbles. The problem with bubbles is that their inflation and inevitable deflation lead to massive redistribution of wealth. ...
The long and short of the matter is that secular stagnation is really a story of too much wealth. It is absurd that this ends up impoverishing countries and leading to mass suffering. Keynes taught us how to deal with this problem almost 80 years ago. We know how to prevent the suffering; we just lack the political force to stop it.
Analysis: Tens of millions could be forced out of health insurance they hadElizabeth Warren:
Even as President Barack Obama sold a new health care law in part by assuring Americans they would be able to keep their insurance plans, his administration knew that tens of millions of people actually could lose those their policies. ...
Yet advisers did say in 2010 that there were large caveats and that anyone whose insurance plan changed would lose the promised protection of being able to keep existing plans. And a report in 2010 said that as many as 69 percent of certain employer-based insurance plans would lose that protection, meaning as many as 41 million people could lose their plans even if they wanted to keep them and would be forced into other plans. Another 11 million who bought their own insurance also could lose their plans. Combined, as many as 52 million Americans could lose or have lost old insurance plans. ...
Obama insisted anew Thursday that the problem is limited to people who buy their own insurance. “We’re talking about 5 percent of the population who are in what’s called the individual market. They’re out there buying health insurance on their own,” he told NBC.
But a closer examination finds that the number of people who have plans changing, or have already changed, could be between 34 million to 52 million. That’s because many employer-provided insurance plans also could change, not just individually purchased insurance plans.
On Social Security: “It’s Values, Not Math”
With tens of millions of people more financially stressed as they approach retirement, with more and more people left out of the private retirement security system, and with the economic security of our families unraveling, Social Security is rapidly becoming the only lifeline that millions of seniors have to keep their heads above water. And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits. ...
The call to cut Social Security has an uglier side to it, too. The Washington Post framed the choice as more children in poverty versus more seniors in poverty. The suggestion that we have become a country where those living in poverty fight each other for a handful of crumbs tossed off the tables of the very wealthy is fundamentally wrong. This is about our values, and our values tell us that we don’t build a future by first deciding who among our most vulnerable will be left to starve.
CEOs Against GrandmasAnd now for something completely different:
The loudest calls for Social Security cuts are coming from CEOs who will never have to worry about their own retirement security.
David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, has more than $134 million in his personal retirement fund. If I were sitting on a nest egg that big, I might feel a bit sheepish about telling ordinary grandmas and grandpas to take a cut in their Social Security payments.
But Cote — and leaders of many other large corporations — don’t see it that way. In fact, as Congress prepares for yet another budget showdown at the end of the year, the loudest calls for Social Security cuts are coming from CEOs who will never have to worry about their own retirement security. ...
Like Cote, these are people who are sitting on massive nest eggs of their own. According to a new report by my organization, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Center for Effective Government, Business Roundtable CEOs have retirement accounts worth $14.5 million on average. That’s enough to generate a monthly retirement check of $86,043 starting at age 65. By contrast, the average monthly Social Security check is only $1,237.
Many of these CEOs are also shortchanging their own workers’ pension funds. General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, for example, has made his employees’ future less secure by building up a nearly $22.6 billion deficit in the company’s retirement fund.
Monty Python to reunite for stage show
The five surviving members of the Monty Python team are to reform for a stage show, bringing to an end years of will-they-won't-they speculation about one of the most popular and influential comedy troupes of all time.
Terry Jones confirmed to the BBC that he, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin were "putting on a show", following a report about the reunion in Tuesday's Sun.
The surviving members of the seminal BBC comedy show – sixth Python Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989 – will announce more details of their reunion plans at a press conference in London on Thursday, a spokesman for the group confirmed.
They have not performed Python sketches together on stage since appearing at a US comedy festival in 1998. The last time they were all on stage together is believed to be the opening of Spamalot, Idle's musical loosely based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in 2005.
The Evening Greens
Activist ‘Reverend’ Billy Talen: JPMorgan Chase ‘is basically the government of New York’
Reverend Billy Talen, founder of the Church of Stop Shopping, faces up to a year in jail over a protest at a Manhattan branch of JPMorgan Chase Bank, Metro reported.
Talen and Nehemiah Luckett, his troupe’s musical director, were arrested in October and charged with second-degree riot, third-degree menacing, two counts of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly after their group performed a 15-minute sermon at the bank’s offices for private client wealth management are located, with choir members dressed as Central American Golden Toads, a species rendered extinct as a result of global climate change. Talen’s group performed the same protest at another JPMorgan branch in June. ...
“Our researchers have it that JP Morgan Chase is one of the top financiers of climate change disruption in the world, and we’re handing out that information and that is a very sensitive thing,” Talen was quoted as saying. “I think that we’re in dicey territory here because JP Morgan Chase is basically the government of New York.”
Arctic oil spill is certain if drilling goes ahead, says top scientist
A serious oil spill in the Arctic is a "dead cert" if drilling goes ahead, with potentially devastating consequences for the pristine region, according to a leading marine scientist who played a key role in analysis of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ... Concerns about the potentially dire consequences of drilling for oil in the region have intensified as the Russian government and others have begun exploration under the Arctic seas. ...
Simon Boxall, an oil spill expert from the University of Southampton, told the Guardian exploring the region was inherently dangerous: "It is inevitable you will get a spill – a dead cert. I would expect to see a major spill in the not too distant future. I would be astonished if you did not see a major spill from this."
The conditions in the Arctic would vastly compound the problem, he said. "It's a completely different environment. In temperate climes, oil disperses quickly. Bacteria help [to digest the oil]. In the Arctic the oil does not break down in this way – it can take decades before it breaks down. Nature will not help us." ...
Even without a spill, exploring the region could disrupt the Arctic environment, warned Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol. "You get an increase in shipping, and ships release their ballast water which contains species from other areas. So you could get the introduction to the Arctic of entirely foreign species and we don't know the impact of that. The Arctic ocean is very enclosed, virtually landlocked, so this could have very big consequences and affect the whole food chain."
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
Joe Simon - The Chokin' Kind
Joe Simon - The Power of Love
Joe Simon - Drowning In The Sea Of Love
Joe Simon - (You Keep Me) Hangin' on
Joe Simon - Trouble In My Home
Joe Simon - Get Down (Get Down On The Floor)
Joe Simon - Nine Pound Steel
Joe Simon - Farther On Down the Road
Joe Simon - No sad songs
Joe Simon - Bring It On Home To Me
Joe Simon - Lets Do It Over
Joe Simon - The Whoo Pee
Sugar Pie De Santo - Do The Woo Pee
Joe Simon - Moon Walk Part 1
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