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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Jackie Wilson - Reet Petite
"When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out."
-- Abbie Hoffman
News and Opinion
The Failure of Closing Our Middle East Embassies
What do you call it when you follow the same strategy for twelve years not only without success, but with negative results? What if time shows that that strategy actually helps the enemy you seek to defeat?
America's global war of terror can this week be declared officially a failure, total and complete. After twelve years of invasions, drones, torture, spying and gulags, the U.S. closed its embassies and consulates across (only) the Muslim world. Not for a day, but in most cases heading toward a week, with terror warnings on file lasting through the month. The U.S. evacuated all non-essential diplomatic and military personnel from Yemen; dependents are already gone from most other MidEast posts. Only our fortress embassies in Kabul and Baghdad ironically were considered safe enough to reopen a day or two ago.
The cause of all this? Apparently a message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri to his second in command in Yemen telling him to "do something." ...
As of this writing, no embassies have been attacked; the only killings in Yemen we know of are a string of U.S. drone strikes coupled with public plans to deploy (additional?) special forces on the ground. That sadly predictable resort to violence by the U.S. shows that we have fundamentally failed to understand that in a guerrilla war one cannot shoot one's way out. ... In the populations al Qaeda seeks to influence, claiming they "humbled and scared" the U.S. twelve years after 9/11 simply by ramping up their chatter seems an effective al Qaeda strategy. That the U.S. response is again to unleash violence in the Muslim world, especially significant this week as the Eid holidays begin, drives home al Qaeda's point that America is at war with Islam -- see, they may say, words alone are enough to unleash the beast against you.
IRS manual detailed DEA's use of hidden intel evidence
Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA's Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Greenwald testifies before Brazilian Senate
Glenn Greenwald was answering questions put to him by a foreign relations committee of the Brazilian Senate, which was trying to find out the extent to which the US has been spying on Brazil’s commercial and defence secrets. ...
Last month the Brazil-based journalist co-wrote an article in the Portuguese-language O Globo newspaper, claiming that the NSA had been spying on South American countries thanks to a program that can monitor billions of emails and telephone calls. While authorities in Brazil have been public in their outrage, Greenwald told the Senate committee: “The Brazilian government is showing much more anger in public than it is showing in private discussions with the US government. All governments are doing this, even in Europe.”
Many Brazilian senators have questioned whether a state visit by President Dilma Roussef to Washington in October should go ahead, and whether Brazil should continue with a billion-dollar purchase of fighter jets from the United States.
Brazilian Senators Don 'Snowden' Masks To Protest NSA Surveillance
During the fight over ACTA in Europe, you may remember that a key turning point was when Polish politicians donned Guy Fawkes "Anonymous" masks to show their disapproval of ACTA and its non-transparent process. We may have just had a similar moment down in Brazil. Glenn Greenwald, who testified before the Brazilian Senate concerning NSA surveillance, noted that a bunch of activists showed up at the Senate with Ed Snowden masks and some Senators borrowed the masks and wore them during the hearings.
N.S.A. Said to Search Content of Messages to and From U.S.
The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.
The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.
While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations.
It also adds another element to the unfolding debate, provoked by the disclosures of Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, about whether the agency has infringed on Americans’ privacy as it scoops up e-mails and phone data in its quest to ferret out foreign intelligence.
Veteran civil rights leader: Snowden acted in tradition of civil disobedience
John Lewis, one of America's most revered civil rights leaders, says the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was continuing the tradition of civil disobedience by revealing details of classified US surveillance programs.
Lewis, a 73-year-old congressman and one of the last surviving lieutenants of Martin Luther King, said Snowden could claim he was appealing to "a higher law" when he disclosed top secret documents showing the extent of NSA surveillance of both Americans and foreigners.
Asked in interview with the Guardian whether Snowden was engaged in an act of civil disobedience, Lewis nodded and replied: "In keeping with the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, in keeping with the teaching of Henry David Thoreau and people like Gandhi and others, if you believe something that is not right, something is unjust, and you are willing to defy customs, traditions, bad laws, then you have a conscience. You have a right to defy those laws and be willing to pay the price."
Are Snowden, Greenwald and Wikileaks Winning?
Unable to win their case in the court of public opinion, the self-styled leaders of the free world resort to threats and bullying to get their way - which kind of sums up American foreign policy in the second decade of the 21st century. And the spectacle of US attorney general Eric Holder trying to offer Russia assurances that his government would not torture or execute Snowden speaks volumes about how far the US government's reputation on human rights - even within the United States - has plummeted over the past decade.
Meanwhile, Snowden and Glenn Greenwald and Wikileaks are winning. At the outset Snowden said his biggest fear was that people would see "the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society and that 'nothing will change'". But his disclosures have already created a new debate, and political change will follow. ...
If Snowden really leaked information that harmed US national security, why haven't any of these "really very smart" people been fired? Are we to believe that punishing this whistleblower is important enough to damage relations with other countries and put at risk all kinds of foreign policy goals, but the breach of security isn't enough for anyone important to be fired? Or is this another indication, like the generals telling Obama what his options were in Afghanistan, of the increasing power of the military/national security apparatus over our elected officials?
Manning sentencing: judge rejects claim leaks had 'chilling effect'
The judge at US soldier Bradley Manning's sentencing hearing rejected some government evidence Wednesday that the classified information he disclosed through the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks had a "chilling effect" on US foreign relations.
The judge ruled that such testimony is admissible only if the effect came directly after the information was published.
She threw out State Department undersecretary Patrick Kennedy's testimony that leaked information published more than two years ago continues to hurt US foreign relations and policymaking.
The judge also has rejected acting assistant secretary Michael Kozak's testimony that the leaks had made some foreign citizens, including human rights activists, less willing to speak privately with US diplomats.
UN should condemn crimes committed against Kurds in Syria
The UN Security Council must unambiguously condemn the reported killings of Kurds by radical forces, which try to establish an Islamist state in Syria, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov commented on Wednesday on the reported slaughter of 450 Kurd civilians, including more than 120 children, by the Islamist Al-Nusra Front.
“This was not the first report of such a massacre, but the continued violence is going off the scale. Yesterday there was a new terror attack in Damascus. It must be stopped immediately,” Lavrov said. ...
“We saw before some Security Council members reluctant to condemn terror attacks in Syria on the grounds that – as cynical as it sounds – those attacks are being carried out by the people fighting against an obsolete regime,” the minister noted. “This position is absolutely unacceptable. No double standards can be applied to terrorism.”
Larry Summers' Enron Problem
"Even as blackouts shut down dialysis machines and traffic lights from Sacramento to San Diego, Summers and the Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, decided to take a few moments to teach the California governor a lesson or two about free markets. In an emergency meeting the day after Christmas 2000, Summers and Greenspan, responding to the governor’s complaints about corporate tampering, lectured the governor that price manipulation was only possible because California had improperly regulated its markets. They urged the governor to take it easy on Enron and the other power companies because, in effect, being too critical of them might make them reluctant to do business in California. Summers and Greenspan pressured the governor to remove state caps on consumer rates.
A second meeting took place a few weeks later, via video teleconference, with Summers, California’s governor, and energy providers —including Enron’s Ken Lay. This time, Summers not only called for consumer rate increases, he also urged the governor to reassure the markets by relaxing environmental controls (Ken Lay’s suggestion) so that more power plants could be built quickly.
Once again, the California governor protested, refusing to raise electricity rates for consumers, declining to eviscerate environmental controls, and instead requested federal price caps on the electricity that power companies sold to California. Remarkably, Summers defended the energy executives, including Ken Lay, as doing “a pretty good job” of serving California, and dismissed the possibility that they were colluding to drive prices up —even though, as we know now, that’s precisely what they were doing, Summers disparaged the governor’s plan; it wouldn’t work because such government intervention would inevitably “distort the market,” he said."
The SEC Nails a Minnow While the Whales Go Free
Last week, a jury in New York City convicted former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre on six civil counts of securities fraud, for selling a toxic mortgage-backed bond to investors without disclosing that an architect of the deal, hedge fund Paulson & Co., also bet on its failure. This victory for the Securities and Exchange Commission signifies a long-awaited measure of justice for the unbridled greed and dirty dealing that sparked the financial crisis, but an exceedingly small one. Tourre was a young, mid-level employee (he was listed as a “vice president,” but so are hundreds of people at Goldman), not a decision-maker in executive suites throughout Wall Street. ...
“The SEC must stop chasing minnows while letting the whales of Wall Street go free,” noted Dennis Kelleher of the public interest group Better Markets. ...
If you look at all the excuses for the total absence of prosecutions of major bank executives for their roles in nearly crashing the global economy, you find two major themes. First, the financial industry’s conduct was perhaps unethical but not technically illegal, especially since the peculiarities of securities law ensure that well-heeled bank executives will find some loophole to exculpate themselves from guilt. Second, juries will not be able to understand the hopelessly complex intricacies of the law, and will simply punt before agreeing beyond a reasonable doubt on the guilt of the bankers.
The Tourre case proves these both wrong.
'Eminent Domain for the People' Leaves Wall Street Furious
Richmond became the first California city last week to move forward on a plan that has been floated by other California municipalities to ask big bank lenders to sell underwater mortgage loans at a discount to the city (if the owner consents), and seize those homes through eminent domain if the banks refuse. The city has committed to refinancing these homes for owners at their current value, not what is owed.
City officials launched this process by sending letters in late July to 32 banks and other mortgage owners offering to buy 624 underwater mortgages at the price the homes are worth, not what the owners owe.
"After years of waiting on the banks to offer up a more comprehensive fix or the federal government, we're stepping into the void to make it happen ourselves," Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said in late July.
Wall Street is furious at the plan and has vowed to sue the municipality, a threat that did not stop Richmond but did slow other California cities in adopting the strategy.
‘We Won't Pay’: Greek activists reconnect power to poverty-stricken homes
With a Eurozone record of 27 percent of Greeks unemployed, people are taking a pro-active approach to the crisis. Activists from the ‘We Won't Pay’ movement, which boasts 10,000 members, are illegally reconnecting power to hundreds of homes.
Tough austerity measures have left many people in Greece unable to pay their electricity bills. The ‘We Don't Pay’ movement which has over 10,000 members helps many of those by illegally reconnecting power to their homes, despite legal action against them.
The movement has been gaining new support, despite being targeted by over a hundred law suits. The government warns refusal to pay fees and taxes will only starve Greece of money it needs to get out of debt.
Members of the ‘We Don't Pay’ movement demand alternatives to the austerity measures that, as many argue, have deepened the recession and made unemployment unbearable.
“The vast majority of the public is sunk into poverty, and a few families across the world have 99 percent of the wealth. That's not something we want to bear, that's something we want to overthrow here in Greece and across the world,” Ilias Papadopoulos from the ‘We Don't Pay’ movement told RT in Athens.
Obama administration task force wants to make unauthorized streaming a felony
The U.S. Department of Commerce wants to crack down on the unauthorized streaming of video and audio content by reviving a provision of the Stop Online Piracy Act.
In a report released last week, the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force called for the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted works to become a felony.
“This recommendation was disappointing,” Corynne McSherry, the Intellectual Property Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Raw Story via email. “Legacy content industries need to learn, at last, that they don’t need new enforcement tools, they need competitive business models. As we learned at last week’s Judiciary Committee hearing, creative people are succeeding in the digital economy despite, not because of, copyright restrictions. New copyright penalties won’t lead to more compensation for anyone but lawyers.”
The Internet Policy Task Force report noted that streaming content without permission has been considered a public performance violation rather than copyright infringement, and therefore is a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Streaming has been considered “performing” a copyrighted work rather than reproducing or distributing a copyrighted work.
Security concerns jeopardize October opening of health insurance marketplaces
The opening of the health insurance marketplaces in October – key to Obamacare – is in jeopardy because of looming questions about information security. The problem stems from tight deadlines that must be met to ensure the security of data moving through an information system that supports the marketplaces, sometimes referred to as exchanges, according to a new government watchdog report.
At a cost of $394 million, the federal data-services hub will route requests from the marketplaces to existing federal and state databases.
The Obama administration had expected Tony Trenkle, the chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to decide Sept. 4 whether information routed through the hub was secure from hackers and identity thieves. But a new report by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services says that decision now is expected Sept. 30, only a day before open enrollment on the marketplaces is scheduled to begin.
The Evening Greens
Tribe Blockades 'Megaload' of Tar Sands Equipment
Calling tar sands development a project of "total destruction," members of the Nez Perce tribe placed their bodies before a 'megaload' of extraction equipment for the second night in a row Tuesday, temporarily halting the convoy as it makes its way along Idaho's Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.
Roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups halted for over an hour the 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment—the bulk of which was a 322-ton water purification unit being pulled by a big rig. ...
In an action the previous evening, a group over 250 activists linked arms in a human chain across the roadway, successfully holding up the parade of vehicles for three hours. According to Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the blockade was the longest lasting "since the first tar sands extraction modules rolled from Lewiston area ports on February 1, 2011."
Despite Lac-Mégantic Disaster, Crude-by-Rail Industry Booming
Despite an announcement this week from the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA)—the company responsible for last month's lethal train derailment in the small Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic—that it will discontinue its transportation of oil, other railway companies, seeing an opportunity, are likely to pick up the pace of their own rail shipments. ...
"While we're glad that MMA will no longer be transporting Bakken crude," Meaghan Lasala of 350 Maine told Common Dreams, "we have concerns that those shipments will be picked up by other rail lines like Pan Am that are equally unsafe." The New England-based Pan Am rail company is "already transporting oil on outdated and unregulated infrastructure," said Lasala. "An additional increase in these shipments will only increase risks to our communities." ...
The Canadian company Gibson Energy Inc. and the U.S. Development Group (USDG) announced Tuesday their plan to build a 140,000-barrel-per-day terminal in Hardisty, Alberta—the site of Canada's massive tar sands fields—to ship toxic oil products by rail throughout North America.
"The project would be the largest terminal for western Canada," Reuters reports, "where demand to move crude by rail has been gathering pace as producers look for ways to ease congested export pipelines."
Fracking's Myriad Ties to Flawed State Dept Keystone XL Environmental Review
Most don't think of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") when pondering the future of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline - but they should.
There are numerous ties between key members of the fracking industry and groups pushing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. And these threads all lead back, one way or another, to Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group). ...
In addition to potentially fraudulent claims about its connection to TransCanada, ERM also has significant ties to major gas industry groups and major players supporting the fracking boom in the US.
[click the article link for details]
New study finds high levels of arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites
A recently published study by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater near natural gas fracking sites in Texas’ Barnett Shale.
While the findings are far from conclusive, the study provides further evidence tying fracking to arsenic contamination. An internal Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times warned that wells near Dimock, Pa., showed elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater. The EPA also found arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Pavillion, Wyo., in 2009 2014 a study the agency later abandoned.
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
Dave Alvin & The Guilty Ones - Johnny Ace Is Dead
Paul Simon - The Late Great Johnny Ace
Johnny Ace - Follow the Rule
Johnny Ace - Don't You Know
Johnny Ace - No Money
Jackie Wilson - Stop Doggin' Me Around
Jackie Wilson - Lonely teardrops
Jackie Wilson - (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher
Jackie Wilson - Baby Workout
Jackie Wilson - That's Why (I Love You So)
It's National Pie Day!
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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.
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