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Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.  

Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here.  This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.  

Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features bluesman, piano player and composer Memphis Slim.  Enjoy!

Memphis Slim - Everyday I Have The Blues

“Misdirection is the key to survival, never attack what your enemy defends, never behave as your enemy expects, and never reveal your true strength, if knowledge is power then to be unknown is to be unconquerable.”

  -- A Romulan

News and Opinion

Fisa court documents reveal extent of NSA disregard for privacy restrictions

Newly declassified court documents indicate that the National Security Agency shared its trove of American bulk email and internet data with other government agencies in violation of specific court-ordered procedures to protect Americans’ privacy.

The dissemination of the sensitive data transgressed both the NSA’s affirmations to the secret surveillance court about the extent of the access it provided, and prompted incensed Fisa court judges to question both the NSA’s truthfulness and the value of the now-cancelled program to counter-terrorism. ...

“NSA’s record of compliance with these rules has been poor,” wrote judge John Bates in an opinion released on Monday night in which the date is redacted.

“Most notably, NSA generally disregarded the special rules for disseminating United States person information outside of NSA until it was ordered to report such disseminations and to certify to the [Fisa court] that the required approval had been obtained.”

In addition to improperly permitting access to the email and internet data – intended to include information such as the “to” “from” and “BCC” lines of an email – Bates found that the NSA engaged in “systemic overcollection”, suggesting that content of Americans’ communications was collected as well.

NSA asked Linus Torvalds To Install Backdoors Into GNU/Linux

The NSA has asked Linus Torvalds to inject covert backdoors into the free and open operating system GNU/Linux. This was revealed in this week’s hearing on mass surveillance in the European Parliament. Chalk another one up of the United States NSA trying to make information technology less secure for everyone.

The father of Linus Torvalds, Nils Torvalds, is a Member of the European Parliament for Finland. This week, Nils Torvalds took part in the European Parliament’s hearing on the ongoing mass surveillance, and brought a revelation:

The United States security service NSA has contacted Linus Torvalds with a request to add backdoors into the free and open operating system GNU/Linux. ...

The story does not tell us how Linus Torvalds responded to the NSA, but I’m guessing he told them he wouldn’t be able to inject backdoors even if he wanted to, since the source code is open, and all changes to it are reviewed by many independent people. After all, that’s the whole point of open source code, and the reason that open source is the only kind you can trust when it comes to security.

Still, it’s very interesting to hear confirmation that the NSA has tried to attack Linux at its lead developer, too.

NSA surveillance hinders Iceland's attempts to be a haven for free speech

Iceland’s attempts to become a free-speech haven risk floundering in the wake of revelations regarding the extent of internet monitoring by the US and UK intelligence agencies.

The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) has spent the last three years working protections for whistleblowers and investigative journalists into the country’s constitution. But the knowledge that monitoring of digital communications is far more widespread than previously thought makes it difficult to promise safety to sources who might have hoped otherwise.

“When we were making IMMI, even if we were aware that there had been spying going on, on all our devices, I don’t think any of us at the time – late 2009, early 2010 – anticipated that it was so invasive,” says Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, one of the driving forces behind the initiative. ...

After the release of the NSA files, however, it has become clear that IMMI’s goals cannot be met through the legislative arena alone.

“With the revelations from the NSA, it is obvious that it doesn’t matter if we have the best source protection laws in the world. It just doesn’t matter.” With surveillance so much more widespread than was previously assumed, it no longer seems possible for a source to stay anonymous purely through legislative protection.

Jónsdóttir emphasises that the primary goal of the law was never to protect sources, but to protect their right to publish, and their publisher’s right to keep them anonymous.

Bill Black takes apart one of Pete Peterson's and Obama's little austerity helpers in the media:
Jackie Calmes’ “Dirty Secret” About the Opponents of Austerity is That They are Correct

Calmes is back and writing about economics in an article entitled:  “A Dirty Secret Lurks in the Struggle Over a Fiscal ‘Grand Bargain.’”

Calmes thesis is:

But the dirty secret — a phrase used independently, and privately, by people in both parties — is that neither side wants to take the actions it demands of the other to achieve a breakthrough.

That is, many Republicans are no more interested in voting to reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits than Democrats are, lest they threaten their party’s big advantage among the older voters who dominate the electorate in midterm contests like those in 2014.

And Democrats are no more eager than Republicans, with control of both houses of Congress up for grabs, to vote for the large revenue increases that a grand bargain would entail. They do not want to limit popular but costly deductions, as Mr. Obama and past bipartisan panels, like his Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, have proposed.

When we pull away the camouflage that Calmes deploys to obscure matters, the “dirty secret” that emerges is that key members of both parties realize that the purported “Grand Bargain” actually represents a self-destructive Grand Betrayal that should be opposed by both parties.  Her “dirty” secret is actually a “clean” non-secret.  Calmes’ quoted passage discusses two of the key planks of the proposal – cut the safety net and increase tax revenues (but not marginal tax rates on the wealthy, which Bowles Simpson propose to reduce).  The third plank is to cut (mostly) social program spending.

The most obvious question is also the most important question – would the three planks be desirable to implement today?  Calmes neither asks nor attempts to answer the question.  She assumes, implicitly, that the three planks would be desirable though she presents information that demonstrates the opposite.  Her article implies that the Grand Betrayal would be desirable because “past bipartisan panels, like his Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, have proposed” [the three planks]. ... Reporters like Calmes ignore Bowles and Simpson’s failure to acquire the required consensus despite the stacking of the panel with so many deficit hawks.  Calmes treats the word “bipartisan” as good magic even though the reality is that the Wall Street-wing of the Democratic Party agrees with the Wall Street-wing of the Republican Party that they would love to privatize Social Security and make tens of billions of additional dollars selling investment products to our grandmothers.  Washington reporters who bask in and glorify good vibes for such “bipartisan” assaults on our elderly are as common as they are loathsome.

They can't stop flogging deficits

And they won't stop talking about them no matter what the numbers say.

“We’ve made clear that in order to do the kind of entitlement reforms that are in the president’s budget it would require moving a tax reform and raising some additional revenue,” Lew added. “If that’s not a possibility for the Republicans then something large is not likely. But there’s other ways for these conferees to work things out but I’ll leave it to them.”
Yes, yes, yes. I am duly scolded for highlighting this since it's obvious the Republicans will never agree so it's pretty much a moot point. And Lew admits that they will probably only be able to get a less ambitious budget through this congress. So why does the administration put this "entitlement reform for revenue" plan forward in every, single public forum making it plain they believe "deficit reduction" is the key to future prosperity and this ridiculous formulation is the painless way to achieve it?

If the president's budget is as dead on arrival as everyone says, then maybe the president and his people should put it in the trash bin where it belongs and stop using it as the one true north of "responsible" adults. It's a dangerous document that's going to take years, if not decades, to shed from the Democratic party's economic platform. The policy of cutting the hell out of everything for some useless temporary chump change in the lobbyist playground known as the tax code is now "reasonable Democratic centrist" dogma and I don't know what it's going to take to get them to recognize that it's killing any hope for decent economic policy.

Update: At the same event the president reportedly said he (and Republicans) want to do "entitlement reform" so clearly he's on the same page.

Iran leader vows Tehran will 'not step back one iota' as nuclear talks resume

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said he has set limits for the country's negotiators at nuclear talks, which resume on Wednesday in Geneva.

As senior diplomats from Iran and six major powers gathered again in the Swiss lakeside city, 10 days after coming close to a historic deal, Khamenei delivered a defiant speech to volunteer militiamen, the Basij, in an apparent attempt to reassure the country's hardliners that the regime was not make strategic concessions....

Khamenei used his speech to reaffirm his overall control over the direction of the talks, which are being conducted by a team led by the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"We do not intervene in the details of these talks. There are certain red lines and limits. These have to be observed. They are instructed to abide by those limits," he said.

Breakthrough Imminent? Now it's 'real chance' to solve Iran nuclear row

Endless Afghanistan? US-Afghan agreement would keep troops in place and funds flowing, perhaps indefinitely

While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key U.S.-Afghan security deal obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces.

The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. ...

Taken as a whole, the document describes a basic U.S.-Afghan exchange. Afghanistan would allow Washington to operate military bases to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda after the current mission ends in 2014. For that foothold in this volatile mountain region wedged between Pakistan and Iran, the United States would agree to sustain and equip Afghanistan's large security force, which the government in Kabul currently cannot afford. The deal, according to the text, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and “shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond.” It could be terminated by either Washington or Kabul with two years advance written notice.

EU Leaders Start 'Drone Club' for a 'European Generation'

European leaders are banding together to form the world's first "drone club" in a bid to stay up-to-snuff on the lethal technology now pervasively used by the United States on battle fields and neighborhoods across the world.

France, Germany and several other European countries said the "drone users club" would welcome any European Union country that currently has drones or plans to have them in the near future, in order to close the military-industrial "gap" between European states and the U.S. and Israel.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the group's ultimate goal is to create a "European generation" of drones within a decade.

Detroit accused of exaggerating $18bn debts in push for bankruptcy

Detroit's debts are a fraction of the $18bn lawyers pushing for bankruptcy say they are, and their costs are "irrelevant, misleading and inflated," according to a report released Wednesday.

A Demos thinktank report, issued as a city judge decides whether to allow Detroit to file for the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, lays the blame for the city's woes at the feet of falling revenues, Wall Street banks and "extreme assumptions" calculated to make its problems worse than they are.

"There is no doubt that the city has suffered from structural decline and that state and city policies have not successfully addressed that decline. But that is not the immediate issue in a municipal insolvency. The issue is that the cash currently available does not cover the current expenses of the city," said Walter Turbeville, the report's author, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and a leading expert in infrastructure finance and public private partnerships.

Kevyn Orr, the state appointed emergency manager, has argued that the city's pension and healthcare liabilities are a leading cause of the city's woes. City workers and retirees face draconian cuts on the $3.5bn in pension payments, and another $6bn in healthcare benefits they are owed. The average Detroit pensioner gets $19,000 a year. Under a deal now being discussed they would be given 16 cents to the dollar, cutting the average pension to $3,040.

The report claims Orr's focus on cutting benefits and other debts are "inappropriate and, in important ways, not rooted in fact."

Donald Sutherland: 'I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution'

Donald Sutherland wants to stir revolt. A real revolt. A youth-led uprising against injustice that will overturn the US as we know it and usher in a kinder, better way. "I hope that they will take action because it's getting drastic in this country." Drone strikes. Corporate tax dodging. Racism. The Keystone oil pipeline. Denying food stamps to "starving Americans". It's all going to pot. "It's not right. It's not right."

Millennials need awakening from slumber. "You know the young people of this society have not moved in the last 30 years." With the exception of Occupy, a minority movement, passivity reigns. "They have been consumed with telephones." The voice hardens. "Tweeting." ...

The Canadian actor has a venerable record of leftwing activism dating back to support for the Black Panthers and opposition to the Vietnam war, but this latest foray into subversion dovetails with promoting The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second instalment in a series of four films based on Suzanne Collins's bestselling novels for young adults. It takes forward the story of Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who must fight other oppressed proles to the death as part of a tyrannical government's strategy of rule through fear. The dystopia, called Panem, is built on the ashes of the US, and Sutherland wants young audiences to respond to the allegory. "Hopefully they will see this film and the next film and the next film and then maybe organise. Stand up."

Walmart Intimidation, Firings an 'Illegal' Attack on Workers: NLRB

Walmart's intimidation and firing of employees who participated in strikes and protests against the retail giant were illegal, the National Labor Relations Board announced on Monday.

According to the NLRB, Walmart has “unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees” in 13 states for protesting their employer and taking part in strikes. In four states those charges also included the surveillance, discipline, and/or termination of employees "in anticipation of" planned strikes.

On two occasions Walmart spokesperson David Tovar had illegally threatened workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who partook in the year's Black Friday strikes.

The NLRB said that if the parties cannot reach settlements in these cases, which covers striking employees who partook in the "Black Friday" protests of 2012 as well as protests in June at a shareholder meeting in Bentonville, Ark., the board will take action in favor of the ousted workers. That may include forcing Walmart to rehire as many as 117 employees with back pay, according to Bloomberg.

Striking LA Truckers Target Walmart Supply Chain

Crazy Dreamers? Port Truckers Battle ‘Sweatshops on Trucks’

Drivers who move Asian goods from southern California docks pulled a 36-hour strike ending today, charging three employers with unfair labor practices including retaliation for organizing.

Port truckers in the huge L.A.-Long Beach ports are largely immigrants. Most lease their vehicles from the companies that employ them, with payments deducted from their paychecks. Also deducted are charges for parking, diesel fuel, and insurance, including insurance on the cargo.

“Last Friday I only got less than $200,” striker Daniel Linares said, “for working six days a week, from early in the morning to 4 or 5 in the afternoon.”

Sometimes he makes $400-$500, he said, but even so, “this job is a sweatshop on trucks. It’s a miserable wage, not even close to a living wage. The company is making millions of dollars and giving us crumbles.”

McDonald’s to employees: Break your food into small pieces to feel full and sell your Christmas presents for cash

The restaurant chain made the recommendations on its “McResource” employee website to help workers manage stress, health and finances.

The company recommended “breaking food into pieces” to feel more full on less food, singing away stress and taking two vacations a year to lower the risk of heart attack, as well as “selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

Obamacare faces new threat at state level from corporate interest group Alec

Barack Obama is facing a fresh offensive against his troubled healthcare reforms as Republican legislators backed by corporate sponsors prepare an attempt to effectively destroy the Affordable Care Act at state level. ...

The idea for the new attack is the brainchild of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a group that acts as a dating agency for Republican state legislators and big corporations, bringing them together to frame rightwing legislative agendas in the form of “model bills”.

A new Alec proposal, approved by its annual meeting in Chicago in August and published as a model bill for adoption by state assemblies across the nation, would scupper the federal health insurance exchanges set up under Obamacare. The Health Care Freedom Act, as Alec calls its model bill, threatens to strip health insurers of their licenses to do new business on the federal exchanges should they accept any subsidies under the system.

Alec justifies the measure as a way to protect local employers from the “employer mandate” – the provision in Obama's act that penalises employers with more than 50 workers who do not offer any or sufficient healthcare cover for their employees. However, health insurance experts say that were the model bill to be taken up widely by Republican-held states, it would seriously disrupt the federal exchanges, and in turn put the whole health reforms in peril.

After Yesterday's Supreme Court Decision Roe Looks Doomed

That sound you heard emanating from the Supreme Court yesterday may well have been the unmistakably musical strains of the skids being greased.

The court, in a 5-4 vote, split along ideological lines in turning down an appeal to block the law that abortion rights advocates challenged as unconstitutional. The measure, adopted by Texas lawmakers in July, requires that abortion providers have a doctor on their staffs who has admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. By rejecting the request, the justices signaled they do not think the Texas law puts an unconstitutional barrier before women seeking an abortion. The Planned Parenthood Federation said the law had forced 12 of the state's 36 licensed abortion providers to stop offering abortions.
Once again, as it did in Citizens United and in Shelby County, a majority of the court determined to demonstrate to the nation that its members do not live in the same world with the rest of us. In Citizens United, we learned that, in the world where the majority of the court resides, unlimited corporate spending in our elections does not result in even "the appearance of corruption." In Shelby County, we learned that, in the world where the majority of the court resides, we have attained the Day Of Jubilee and institutional racism plays no significant role in the local laws governing elections. And yesterday, we learned that, in the world where the majority of the court resides, having no doctor legally capable of performing an abortion in 24 counties in a state the size of Texas does not place an "undue burden" on women who are attempting to exercise their constitutional right. ... The "undue burden" standard comes to us from the earlier Casey decision which carved a loophole in Roe v. Wade through which you can sail the Nimitz. Now the majority of the court has determined that a law specifically designed to ban all abortions de facto in the state of Texas does not place an "undue burden" on women in Texas who want to obtain one.
Lyme Disease Community Blows the Whistle on Corruption Within the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that rather than 30,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year in the United States, there are likely 300,000. What the CDC failed to explain is why it's taken them so long to acknowledge that Lyme disease has reached epidemic proportions.

The Lyme disease community has been battling for years to get the CDC to admit that Lyme disease is a mass public health crisis. ... On a recent "Your Own Health and Fitness" show about Lyme disease on KPFA radio in Berkeley, Calif., host Layna Berman observed that the announcement of increased rates coincides with a financial interest in releasing the new Baxter Lyme vaccine:

"With this announcement of the increased number of cases, we might imagine that an economic opportunity has presented itself.  . . .The treatment favored by doctors who treat chronic Lyme . . . is long courses of antibiotics . . . But these treatments aren't money makers. So what inspired the CDC after so many decades of ignoring and denying chronic Lyme to release these new statistics? The promise of a new vaccine."

[See the rest of the article for details of the slime and corruption.]

The Evening Greens

As Poor Countries Walk Out of Climate Talks, Venezuela Calls on Industrial Nations to Take Action

Poor countries walk out of UN climate talks as compensation row rumbles on

Bloc of 132 countries exit Warsaw conference after rich nations refuse to discuss climate change recompense until after 2015

Representatives of most of the world's poor countries have walked out of increasingly fractious climate negotiations after the EU, Australia, the US and other developed countries insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events be discussed only after 2015.

The orchestrated move by the G77 and China bloc of 132 countries came during talks about "loss and damage" – how countries should respond to climate impacts that are difficult or impossible to adapt to, such as typhoon Haiyan.

Saleemul Huq, the scientist whose work on loss and damage helped put the issue of recompense on the conference agenda, said: "Discussions were g oing well in a spirit of co-operation, but at the end of the session on loss and damage Australia put everything agreed into brackets, so the whole debate went to waste." ...

Developing countries have demanded that a new UN institution be set up to oversee compensation but rich countries have been dismissive, blocking calls for a full debate in the climate talks.

"The EU understands that the issue is incredibly important for developing countries. But they should be careful about … creating a new institution. This is not [what] this process needs," said Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner.

She ruled out their most important demand, insisting: "We cannot have a system where we have automatic compensation when severe events happen around the world. That is not feasible."

After Global Failure to Cut Emissions, Will Poor Nations Get Help to Deal With Climate Change?

Collapse? Wealthiest Nations Accused of Sabotaging UN Climate Talks

Harjeet Singh, a spokesman for ActionAid Internatonal, called the continued willingness of the wealthiest (and most polluting) nations to sacrifice the low-lying islands nations and poor countries that are the least responsible for but most vulnerable to climate change an insult to the spirit of the UN talks.

"The US, EU, Australia and Norway remain blind to the climate reality that's hitting us all, and poor people and countries much harder," Singh said. "They continue to derail negotiations in Warsaw that can create a new system to deal with new types of loss and damage such as sea-level rise, loss of territory, biodiversity and other non-economic losses more systematically."

U.N. Defends Banning Three Youth Activists While Allowing Fossil Fuel Firms To Sponsor Climate Talks

'Fight Far From Over' After First Nation Loses Bid to Stop Fracking in New Brunswick

First Nations anti-fracking protestors have vowed to regroup and continue the wave of resistance after losing their legal big on Monday to stop shale gas exploration on their land in New Brunswick.

Last week, the Elsipogtog First Nation filed an application for an injunction to stop SWN Resources Canada from conducting seismic testing for shale gas. The "urgent" application called for a suspension of SWN operations under oil and gas licenses, and said that it was:

required to preserve the peace and rights of the First Nation. It says the exploration by SWN is illegal and unconstitutional because it violates aboriginal and treaty rights. ...
Following the ruling, Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock said, "It is a small step backward, I guess. But in the big picture we’re going to be regrouping and coming back with a different strategy.”

“The fight between Elsipogtog First Nation and the government of New Brunswick concerning the lack of consultation is far from over,” added T.J. Burke, the lawyer representing Sock and band council of the community.

Opposition to fracking in the province is widespread.

House To Vote On Bill That Would Impose $5,000 Fee For Protesting Drilling Projects

The House is likely to vote on a number of GOP bills this week related to the oil and gas industry, arguably the most sweeping of which is the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), is broad legislation designed to make it much easier for oil and gas companies to obtain permission to drill on public lands. If signed into law, the legislation would automatically approve onshore drilling permits if the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) failed to act on them in 60 days.

If an individual does not like a proposed drilling project and wanted to oppose it, he or she would have to pay a $5,000 fee to file an official protest.

In addition, Lamborn’s proposed bill would direct the DOI to begin commercial leasing for the development of oil shale, a controversial type of production that has been largely banned by the United States since President Herbert Hoover prohibited the leasing of federal lands for oil shale. Oil shale — which should not be confused with the more common “shale oil” — is a type of rock that needs to be heated to nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to produce crude oil, which then has to be refined.

Jessica Goad, research manager of the Center for American Progress’ Public Lands Project has said the process of producing oil shale “takes a large amount of energy and money, as well as 3-5 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced, a dangerous issue in the parched West.” The Natural Resources Defense Council calls it “the dirtiest fuel on the planet.”

Blog Posts of Interest

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

A Conversation With Jeremy Hammond, American Political Prisoner Sentenced to 10 Years

Obamacare Pits the 50% Against the 49%

The First Transgender Member of European Parliament

A Little Night Music

Memphis Slim -I'm lost without you

Memphis Slim - Mother Earth

Memphis Slim - Feel So Good

Buddy Guy & Memphis Slim - You Call Me At Last

Memphis Slim - Lend Me Your Love

Memphis Slim - Rockin' This House

Memphis Slim - Wish Me Well

Memphis Slim - Cold Blooded Woman

Memphis Slim - Steppin Out

Memphis Slim - I Am The Blues

Memphis Slim - If You See Kay

Memphis Slim & Canned Heat - Boogie Duo

Memphis Slim - The Blues is Everywhere

Memphis Slim & Sonny Boy Williamson Blues Legende Live In Europe

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!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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