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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Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features R&B and gospel singer Tiny Powell. Enjoy!
Tiny Powell - Take Me With You
“Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it.”
-- Philip K. Dick
News and Opinion
If person calls 40 unique people, 3-hop analysis allows US to mine records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating 1 suspected terrorist— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanap) July 17, 2013
Bipartisan Backlash Grows Against Domestic Surveillance
The Obama administration faced a growing Congressional backlash against the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance operations on Wednesday, as lawmakers from both parties called for the vast collection of private data on millions of Americans to be scaled back.
During a sometimes contentious hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans and Democrats told administration officials that they believed the government had exceeded the surveillance authorities granted by Congress, and warned that they were unlikely to be reauthorized in the future.
Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, said that no one in Congress believed that the counterterrorism laws enacted since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were meant to allow for the collection of phone records of virtually everyone in America.
“The government is stockpiling sensitive personal data on a grand scale,” said Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida. “Intelligence officers, contractors and personnel only need a rubber-stamp warrant from the FISA court to then learn virtually everything there is to know about an American citizen,” he said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Mission Creep: When Everything Is Terrorism
NSA apologists say spying is only used for menaces like "weapons of mass destruction" and "terror." But those terms have been radically redefined.
One of the assurances I keep hearing about the U.S. government's spying on American citizens is that it's only used in cases of terrorism. Terrorism is, of course, an extraordinary crime, and its horrific nature is supposed to justify permitting all sorts of excesses to prevent it. But there's a problem with this line of reasoning: mission creep. The definitions of "terrorism" and "weapon of mass destruction" are broadening, and these extraordinary powers are being used, and will continue to be used, for crimes other than terrorism.
Back in 2002, the Patriot Act greatly broadened the definition of terrorism to include all sorts of "normal" violent acts as well as non-violent protests. The term "terrorist" is surprisingly broad; since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it has been applied to people you wouldn't normally consider terrorists.
The most egregious example of this are the three anti-nuclear pacifists, including an 82-year-old nun, who cut through a chain-link fence at the Oak Ridge nuclear-weapons-production facility in 2012. While they were originally arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge, the government kept increasing their charges as the facility's security lapses became more embarrassing. Now the protestors have been convicted of violent crimes of terrorism -- and remain in jail.
Privacy groups led by EFF sue to stop NSA and FBI electronic surveillance
Rights activists, church leaders and drug and gun rights advocates found common ground and filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the federal government to halt a vast National Security Agency electronic surveillance program.
The lawsuit was filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents the unusually broad coalition of plaintiffs, and seeks an injunction against the NSA, Justice Department, FBI and directors of the agencies.
Filed in federal court in San Francisco, it challenges what the plaintiffs describe as an "illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance." ...
In the suit, the coalition demands that the federal government return and destroy any telephone communications information in its possession. It also wants a jury trial on the allegations contained in the suit. ...
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in New York asking the government to stop the phone tracking program. Several other civil liberties organizations have also filed legal actions.
'You Are Being Tracked': License Plate Readers Capture Millions of Innocent Americans' Data
Private companies utilized to capture location info, with little to no oversight
Tens of millions of innocent Americans are being tracked by the police through vast license plate scanning systems, according to new documents obtained by the ACLU.
Location records of millions of civilians are logged and updated in roughly 300 police departments nationwide through "rapidly expanding" automatic license plate reader technologies, dispersed throughout cities and communities the group says. ...
The report, You Are Being Tracked, which was released by the ACLU on Wednesday—and pulls from 26,000 pages of documents which were obtained through freedom of information requests to 300 police departments and other agencies nationwide—also details how the police utilize private tracking companies, which use the same methods and turn data over to police "with little or no oversight or privacy protections."
One of these private companies, Vigilant Solutions, holds over 800 million license plate location records and is used by over 2,200 law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Judge Refuses to Drop 'Aiding the Enemy' From Manning Case
The military judge presiding over the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning ruled Thursday to maintain Manning's most severe charge of "aiding the enemy"—a charge critics are calling a major blow to the freedom of the press.
Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola reports:The judge has denied the defense motions for a finding of “not guilty” on the “aiding the enemy” charge and the charges alleging Manning exceeded authorized access on his computer. What is important to note about this ruling is that she was to consider all evidence presented to her in a “light most favorable to the prosecution.”The move does not bode well for Manning's fate. However, while the decision maintains the charges within the case, a final ruling of "guilty" or "not guilty" has not yet been decided.
“Only in the absence of some evidence” that by reasonable inference could “reasonably tend to establish an offense charged” was she to rule that Manning was not guilty.
Presidential 'Blank Check for War' Wielded Thirty Times, and Counting
Together Presidents Bush and Obama have wielded the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) 30 times against an alleged "nation, person, or organization" affiliated with the attacks of September 11, according to new public disclosures.
The memorandum — which provides the first, full public accounting of times the AUMF has been cited — was compiled by the Congressional Research Service and released by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
"I have been deeply concerned about this overly-broad blank check for war,” said Lee, who was the only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF following September 11. “[I]t gives any president the nearly unlimited authority to wage limitless war at anytime, anywhere, for any reason, in perpetuity."
The report falls short, however, in that it only indicates occasions which were publicly reported and not those that the US government may have deemed 'covert' or 'classified.'
“We don’t know the further, full extent, including the ongoing use of lethal drones, surveillance, unlimited detention, and other actions where the AUMF has been used as justification,” Lee continues.
Leaders of Hunger Strike Against Solitary Punished With More Severe Solitary
Lawyer: "In response to prisoners’ calls for basic human and civil rights, the CDCR responds by violating those rights.”
In a California prisoner hunger strike against solitary confinement, strike leaders are being retaliated against with further isolation.
At least 14 Pelican Bay State Prison inmates who are active in the hunger strike and signed a statement calling for prisoner unity—the Agreement to End Hostilities Among Racial Groups—were forcibly removed from their cells last Thursday and tossed into severe isolation units, the California-based Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition reports. ...
Furthermore, the prisoners are being cut off from news, communication, and even legal documents for a class-action lawsuit against solitary confinement.
Lawyers are being prevented from seeing their clients, the LA Times reports. Marilyn McMahon—lawyer with the group California Prisoner focus—was sent a letter from prison authorities notifying her that she is temporarily banned from all California state prisons.
“This is a clear attack against a non-violent protest,” says Anne Weills, attorney for several hunger strikers. “It is pathetic that in response to prisoners’ calls for basic human and civil rights, the CDCR responds by violating those rights.”
Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke tells Congress: You’re making weak economy worse
Appearing at a congressional hearing, Chairman Bernanke said that Congress's moves to pare back on tax cuts and federal spending are reducing the pace of economic growth by about 1.5 percentage points. For reference, the economy was growing by about 1.8 percent in the year’s first quarter.
Bernanke said an extra 1.5 percentage points of growth could add as many as 750,000 new jobs and bring the unemployment rate from 7.6 percent to 6.9 percent.
His words represent a pointed message at a time when economic growth is weak, the Fed has been struggling to bring the jobless rate down, and Congress has shifted from stimulus efforts to focus on bringing down federal deficits.
As Greece Burns
Amid much protest in the streets, the Greek government last night passed a law firing thousands of public sector workers.
Twenty five thousand public servants – mainly teachers and municipal police – will be placed in a layoff scheme by the end of 2013. They have eight months to find another position or get laid off.
Why? According to Reuters, ‘Greece’s public sector is widely seen as oversized, inefficient….’
Lazy journalism, once again. What are the facts? Greece’s public sector may well be relatively inefficient, although there is little reliable data on public sector productivity and the press rarely if ever quote hard evidence. But the charge that it is oversized is nonsense.
The number of state employees in Greece is below the EU average. Indeed, according to the OECD ‘Greece has one of the lowest rates of public employment’ among advanced economies, with general government employing just 7.9% of the total labour force in 2008. Across the OECD area, the share of government employment ranges from 6.7% to 29.3%, with an average of 15%. ...
Of course there is waste in government expenditure. For example, Greece spends large amounts on defence. According to The Guardian, ‘No other area [of spending] has contributed as heavily to the country’s debt mountain. ... Germany, the world’s third largest arms exporter, has been profiting handsomely from a mini- arms race between Greece and Turkey. It also happens to be the ring leader within the EU-European Central Bank-IMF ‘Troika’ offering international loans to pay this defence debt off – at the price of austerity measures such as these brutal cuts to the public sector workforce.
Women’s health advocates horrified as Perry signs ‘draconian’ abortion bill into law
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed a sweeping set of abortion restrictions into law Thursday morning, drawing a wave of revulsion, shock and horror from women’s health and civil liberties advocates across the nation.
Chants of “Shame!” could be heard echoing through the Texas Capitol as Perry signed the bill, according to CNN. It seemed the protesters, locked out of Thursday’s signing ceremony, could do nothing more than shout after weeks of an intense Democratic mobilization unlike anything seen in Texas for decades.
Despite their efforts, and temporary success in blocking the bill’s passage during the first special session, Republicans simply ignored the crowds and outmaneuvered the small minority of Democrats after Perry called the legislature back.
As of today, abortions are now banned in Texas after 20 weeks of pregnancy and all but five of the abortion providers in the state officially face closure by 2014 if the law is upheld in court.
Cash-strapped localities willing to sell environmental safety for TransCanada promises
Tucked into letters the State Department has received from people seeking to influence its review of the northern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline are pleas from local officials, largely from Montana, who see the project as a lifeline for their strapped budgets.
Several mention offers by TransCanada, the pipeline operator, to help rebuild local bridges or other infrastructure projects. Others want the tax revenue or jobs the project would bring, even if those benefits might be temporary.
The letters are among more than a million comments, most of them form letters, that the State Department received about its draft environmental impact statement during a 45-day public comment period that ended on April 22. ... The taxes that many counties are counting on will be paid in full for only the first year. TransCanada will pay property tax for the land that it uses to construct the pipeline. But because the valuation of a property depreciates over time, TransCanada's tax bill will decline accordingly.
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
Tiny Powell - My Time After Awhile
Tiny Powell - Going Home
Tiny Powell - Bossy Woman
Tiny Powell - Get My Hat
Tiny Powell - On The Blue Side
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