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 Chicago blues guitarist Buster Benton. Enjoy!
Buster Benton - Spider In My Stew
"Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds."
-- John Perry Barlow
News and Opinion
Belgacom Attack: Britain's GCHQ Hacked Belgian Telecoms Firm
Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that Britain's GCHQ intelligence service was behind a cyber attack against Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian telecoms company. A "top secret" Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) presentation seen by SPIEGEL indicate that the goal of project, conducted under the codename "Operation Socialist," was "to enable better exploitation of Belgacom" and to improve understanding of the provider's infrastructure.
The presentation is undated, but another document indicates that access has been possible since 2010. The document shows that the Belgacom subsidiary Bics, a joint venture between Swisscom and South Africa's MTN, was on the radar of the British spies.
Belgacom, whose major customers include institutions like the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, ordered an internal investigation following the recent revelations about spying by the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) and determined it had been the subject of an attack. The company then referred the incident to Belgian prosecutors. Last week, Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo spoke of a "violation of the public firm's integrity."
Justice Dept. watchdog never probed judges' NSA concernsHeh... looks like Snowden whose description by NSA apologists has gone back and forth between brilliant and, well, not that clever is currently back to, um, both, sort of:
In response to a FOIA request from USA TODAY, the Justice Department said its ethics office never looked into complaints from two federal judges that they had been misled about NSA surveillance.
The Justice Department's internal ethics watchdog says it never investigated repeated complaints by federal judges that the government had misled them about the NSA's secret surveillance of Americans' phone calls and Internet communications.
Two judges on the court that oversees the spying programs separately rebuked federal officials in top-secret court orders for misrepresenting how the NSA was harvesting and analyzing communication records. In a sharply worded 2009 order, one of the judges, Reggie Walton, went so far as to suggest that he could hold national security officials in contempt or refer their conduct to outside investigators.
The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility routinely probes judges' allegations that the department's lawyers may have violated ethics rules that prohibit attorneys from misleading courts. Still, OPR said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by USA TODAY that it had no record of ever having investigated — or even being made aware of — the scathing and, at the time, classified, critiques from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2009 and 2011.
Officials: Edward Snowden's Leaks Were Masked By Job Duties
More than three months after Edward Snowden revealed details of NSA secret surveillance activities, intelligence officials are still assessing the fallout from the former contractor's disclosures. But they already know how the leaks happened. ...
According to the officials, the documents Snowden leaked — the memoranda, PowerPoint slides, agency reports, court orders and opinions — had all been stored in a file-sharing location on the NSA's intranet site. The documents were put there so NSA analysts and officials could read them online and discuss them. ...
As a systems administrator, Snowden actually had the responsibility to go to the NSA intranet site and move especially sensitive documents to a more secure location. The assignment was the perfect cover for someone who wanted to leak documents.
"It's kind of brilliant, if you're him," an official said. "His job was to do what he did. He wasn't a ghost. He wasn't that clever. He did his job. He was observed [moving documents], but it was his job."
September 24, 2013 - Surveillance and Foreign Intelligence Gathering in the United States: Past, Present, and Future
Georgetown Law's Center on National Security and the Law and National Security Law Society proudly present a three-part discussion series this autumn: Surveillance and Foreign Intelligence Gathering in the United States: Past, Present, and Future
This is a crucially important time in the United States' history.A number of foreign intelligence gathering programs using new technologies recently have been unveiled, and the public, the media, and scholars are just beginning to address what these programs mean for the future of the country.
Please join us on September 24, 2013 for the first event in the series, focused on the past.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), will be giving the keynote address, followed by a panel discussion by former members and key staff of the 1975-76 Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities ("Church Committee").
The Church Committee exposed government surveillance abuses and played a key role in the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which, as subsequently amended, provides the framework for current foreign intelligence gathering programs.
Group Says Domestic Spying Goes Too Far
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the federal government created a multibillion-dollar information-sharing program meant to put local, state and federal officials together to analyze intelligence at sites called fusion centers.
Instead, according to a Senate report the Government Accountability Office and now the ACLU, the program has duplicated the work of other agencies, has appeared rudderless and hasn't directly been responsible for any terror-related prosecutions. According to the GAO, the government maintains 77 fusion centers throughout the country and their operations are funded by federal and local sources.
The ACLU obtained about 1,700 suspicious activity reports filed with the Sacramento office through a California Public Record Acts request. Another 100 were submitted as part of a court case in Los Angeles filed by the ACLU on behalf of photographers who say they are being harassed by Southern California law officials.
The documents do not appear to show valuable counterterrorism intelligence.
"We want the administration to stop targeting racial and religious minorities," ACLU lawyer Linda Lye said.
A Facebook Like Is Now Covered by the First Amendment
In November of 2009, B.J. Roberts, the sheriff of Hampton, Virginia, ran for re-election. A group of workers in Roberts' office, however, among them one Bobby Bland, weren't enthused about the prospects of their boss's continuation in his role. So they took to their Facebook accounts to protest the run: They Liked the campaign of Roberts's opponent, Jim Adams. Despite the minuscule mutiny, however, Roberts won the election. He then chose not to retain Bland and the others as his employees. The dismissals, Roberts said at the time, were the result not only of budgeting concerns, but also of the workers' hindrance of "the harmony and efficiency of the office." The sheriff had not liked his workers' Likes.
Bland and his colleagues took Roberts to court, arguing that, in the dismissals, Roberts had violated their First Amendment rights. In April of 2012, however, the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia dismissed the case on the grounds that a Like didn't involve an "actual statement," and therefore was “insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.”
Yesterday, however, that decision was overturned. A federal appeals court ruled that a Facebook Like is, indeed, a form of expression that is covered by the First Amendment. Clicking a button is, per the decision, a protected form of speech.
Bland v. Roberts has been watched closely, and for good reason. It's obvious that First Amendment freedoms extend to the Internet. It's more obvious still that the expressions and discussions that happen to be mediated through fiber-optic cables are precisely the kind of thing Mr. Madison and his merry band of misfits envisioned when they went out of their way to write the Bill of Rights as extensively as they did. So courts have, in the past, granted First Amendment protection to written posts on Facebook, as Judge Raymond Jackson pointed out in his initial ruling. Which is both appropriate and unremarkable, and precisely how the Bill of Rights was meant to work: Its protections expand to accommodate new times and new technologies.
How Facebook May Secretly Foil Your Activist Plans
In recent years, Facebook has become an unexpectedly crucial tool for activism. The social media platform allows activists to efficiently connect and communicate with one another in order to arrange meetings, protests and boycotts. Unfortunately, activists who once found that Facebook helped make organizing easier are now encountering obstacles – and the resistance is coming from Facebook itself.
With little explanation, Facebook has been disabling pages related to activism. In some cases, administrators who set up the pages are no longer able to add updates. In others, the pages are being deleted entirely. Understandably, activists are frustrated when a network of 10,000 like-minded individuals is suddenly erased, leaving no way to reconnect with the group. ...
For example, this year’s March Against Monsanto events have been popular with people across the globe, but not Facebook. An upcoming invitation for a rally in St. Louis, Missouri where Monsanto is headquartered was wiped clean from the social networking site. ... When the “Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics” group became extremely popular, employees at Facebook didn’t erase the page, but effectively shut it down anyway by putting severe restrictions on it. Not only was the page’s creator unable to edit or update the page, followers of the page could no longer start new discussions or post links and videos. A similar page that called for a boycott on BP was also rendered similarly useless after receiving the same posting constraints. ...
Perhaps we’ve been naïve to believe that using a platform created by a corporate entity would help activists to break free from corporate oppression. [DUH!!!]
Syrian government says war has reached stalemate
The Syrian conflict has reached a stalemate and President Bashar al-Assad's government will call for a ceasefire at a long-delayed conference in Geneva on the state's future, the country's deputy prime minister has said in an interview with the Guardian.
Qadri Jamil said that neither side was strong enough to win the conflict, which has lasted two years and caused the death of more than 100,000 people. Jamil, who is in charge of country's finances, also said that the Syrian economy had suffered catastrophic losses. ...
If accepted by the armed opposition, a ceasefire would have to be kept "under international observation", which could be provided by monitors or UN peace-keepers – as long as they came from neutral or friendly countries, he said. ...
Asked what proposals his government would make at Geneva, he said: "An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process in a way that the Syrian people can enjoy self-determination without outside intervention and in a democratic way."
Dianne Feinstein Defines "Journalist"
It was the late, great George Reedy ... who pointed out that, if we accepted a shield law, then we also would have to accept government's right to define who it would be that the shield law covered, which meant we had to accept the government's right essentially to define what a journalist was, and this way, George said, lay madness. ...The final hurdle for the Judiciary Committee was defining who is a journalist in the digital era....
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) insisted on limiting the legal protection to "real reporters" and not, she said, a 17-year-old with his own website.
"I can't support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I'm not going to go there," she said.
Feinstein introduced an amendment that defines a "covered journalist" as someone who gathers and reports news for "an entity or service that disseminates news and information." The definition includes freelancers, part-timers and student journalists, and it permits a judge to go further and extend the protections to any "legitimate news-gathering activities."
But the bill also makes it clear that the legal protection is not absolute. Federal officials still may "compel disclosure" from a journalist who has information that could stop or prevent crimes such as murder, kidnapping or child abduction or prevent "acts of terrorism" or significant harm to national security.
This is a law to protect secrets. This is a law that redefines the exercise of a constitutional right as a privilege "protected" by the government. This is a law that allows the government to define what "the press" is under the First Amendment, and, my god, if that's not the primary consitutional heresy in that regard, I don't know what is. And I don't care that a judge can "extend" that privilege. That's not a judge's job, either. ...
Which part of "Congress shall make no law..." do you not understand?
Senator Diane Feinstein’s Husband Selling Post Offices to Cronies on the Cheap
EastBayExpress, via publishing a section from a new e-book by Peter Byrne called Going Postal (um, sadly the same as used by Mark Ames for his important book on workplace shootings), tells us how the husband of powerful Senator Diane Feinstein, Richard Blum, is feeding at the Postal Service privatization trough. Blum is the chairman of C.B. Richard Ellis (CBRE) which has the exclusive contract to handle sales for the Post Office’s $85 billion of property. Bryne summarizes the finding of his investigation:
• CBRE appears to have repeatedly violated its contractual duty to sell postal properties at or above fair market values.
• CBRE has sold valuable postal properties to developers at prices that appear to have been steeply discounted from fair market values, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars in public revenue.
• In a series of apparently non-arm’s-length transactions, CBRE negotiated the sale of postal properties all around the country to its own clients and business partners, including to one of its corporate owners, Goldman Sachs Group.
• CBRE has been paid commissions as high as 6 percent by the Postal Service for representing both the seller and the buyer in many of the negotiations, thereby raising serious questions as to whether CBRE was doing its best to obtain the highest price possible for the Postal Service.
• Senator Feinstein has lobbied the Postmaster General on behalf of a redevelopment project in which her husband’s company was involved.
... CBRE is tasked with selling properties at market value or higher. But who determines what market value is? CBRE. So the fox is officially running the henhouse.
Bryne filed a FOIA to try to obtain the appraisals. The Post Office refused, with the intelligence-insulting excuse that the appraisals were commercially sensitive and were comparable to national security secrets! Um, they are property specific and at a certain point in time, so their value after a sale is consummated is nil…except for audit purposes. But it appears that anything that might embarrass DiFi, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, by definition is a national security issue.
Private prisons demand states maintain maximum capacity or pay fees
Falling crime rates are bad for business at privately run prisons, and a new report shows the companies that own them require them to be filled near capacity to maintain their profit margin.
A new report from the advocacy group In the Public Interest shows private prison companies mandate high inmate occupancy rates through their contracts with states – in some cases, up to 100 percent.
The report, “Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations,” finds three Arizona prisons must be filled to capacity under terms of its contract with Management and Training Corporation.
Is privatization driven by corruption? The Chicago parking meter debacle
Given the immensely favorable deals that governments — federal, state and local — give to their private “partners,” how can crony corruption and kickbacks not be a part of it.
For example, consider just this via Rich Perlstein, on the sale of revenues from Chicago parking meters to a consortium led by Morgan Stanley and including the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Abu Dhabi.… Everyone, I suppose, dislikes parking meters. Chicagoans hate them even more. That’s because Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2008 struck a deal with the investment consortium Chicago Parking Meters LLC, or CPM, that included Morgan Stanley, Allianz Capital Partners and, yes, the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Abu Dhabi, to privatize our meters.Who would negotiate such a contract, except someone in bed with cronies, or benefiting from kickback?
The price of parking—and the intensity of enforcement—skyrocketed. The terms were negotiated in secret. City Council members got two days to study the billion-dollar, seventy-five-year contract before signing off on it. An early estimate from the Chicago inspector general was that the city had sold off its property for about half of what it was worth. Then an alderman said it was worth about four times what the city had been paid. Finally, in 2010, Forbes reported that in fact the city had been underpaid by a factor of ten.
The deal, you see, is structured like this. Not only does CPM get the money its meters hoover up from the fine upstanding citizens of Chicago. It gets money even if the meters are not used. Each meter has been assigned a “fair market valuation.”If the City takes what is called a “reserve power adverse action”—that can mean anything from removing a meter because it impedes traffic flow, shutting down a street for a block party or discouraging traffic from coming into the city during rush hour—“CPM has the right to trigger an immediate payment for the entire loss of the meter’s fair market value over the entire life of the seventy-five-year agreement.”
Obama names large campaign donor Goldman Sachs exec Bruce Heyman as ambassador to Canada
US President Barack Obama named a Goldman Sachs executive and large campaign contributor as ambassador to Canada on Thursday amid potential rifts between the allies over the Keystone pipeline.
Bruce Heyman, managing director for private wealth management at the investment bank, lives in Obama’s base of Chicago and is a so-called “bundler” who raised funds for the president’s campaigns.
In a statement announcing Heyman and nominees for unrelated posts, Obama called them “experienced and committed individuals.” Heyman requires confirmation by the Senate.
'Winning the Race to the Bottom': Obama Moves to Fast-Track the TPP
Meeting with his corporation-heavy Export Council, President Barack Obama declared Thursday he intends to push for renewal of Trade Promotion Authority legislation to allow him to fast-track so-called trade agreements by giving Congress a yes or no vote but taking away powers to amend.
The statement comes as the U.S. continues negotiations with 11 other countries on the TPP, with the stated goal of wrapping up the deal by the year's end. The U.S. is also pursuing a similar trade deal with the European Union.
The global public has been shut out of the negotiation process of the TPP, although it will profoundly impact domestic policies and the international economy. Press coverage of negotiations is prohibited, and even U.S. Senators are denied access to the most basic information about the proposals the U.S. is bringing. However, corporate "trade advisers" do get access to this information, as well as a role in the process. ...
The bulk of information about the TPP negotiations that is available to the public was leaked out. Documents show that negotiators are pushing for inclusion of NAFTA's infamous corporate tribunals, in which corporations "settle disputes" with governments in secrecy and trample domestic protections from public health to environmental regulations, completely circumventing their own national legal systems.
Colorado’s House Republicans ask for flood relief after voting against Sandy aid
Republican Reps. Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton joined the rest of their state’s delegation in asking Obama to send emergency funds to Colorado, reported Think Progress.
Those same four Republicans voted against the Sandy relief package in January, and Lamborn voted against a smaller billion relief package less than two weeks later.
All three of Colorado’s Democratic representatives voted for each of the Sandy relief packages.
The Evening Greens
Top Climate Scientist: Today’s Leaders Will ‘Determine the Fate of Humanity
New research co-authored by leading U.S. climate scientist James Hansen, a longtime employee of NASA who recently resigned to engage in climate activism, paints a grim picture of a future Earth left virtually uninhabitable by current warming trends. The paper, published Monday, concludes that energy-related decisions being made by today’s government leaders will ultimately “determine the fate of humanity.” ...
Hansen’s report comes at a crucial time for global climate negotiators too, who are anticipating the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest assessment of warming trends, set to be released later this month. Drafts of the report have already leaked to key climate skeptics, who’ve had a run of the mainstream media narrative on the matter in recent weeks. Hansen, however, pays little mind to the deniers and concludes his latest study with forceful clarity.
“If fossil fuels were made to pay their costs to society, costs of pollution and climate change, carbon-free alternatives might supplant fossil fuels over a period of decades,” Hansen et. al write. “However, if governments force the public to bear the external costs and even subsidize fossil fuels, carbon emissions are likely to continue to grow, with deleterious consequences for young people and future generations.”
“It seems implausible that humanity will not alter its energy course as consequences of burning all fossil fuels become clearer,” the study concludes. “Yet strong evidence about the dangers of human-made climate change have so far had little effect. Whether governments continue to be so foolhardy as to allow or encourage development of all fossil fuels may determine the fate of humanity.”
IPCC chairman dismisses climate report spoiler campaign
The chairman of the United Nations' climate panel has dismissed a contrarian spoiler campaign targeting next week's blockbuster report, saying "rational people" will be convinced by the science.
In his first public comments on the organised effort to discredit the major climate change report ahead of its release on 27 September, Rajendra K Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said he was confident the high standards of the science in the report would make the case for climate action.
"There will be enough information provided so that rational people across the globe will see that action is needed on climate change," Pachauri told a conference call.
"I really wouldn't want to say anything about any perceived effort for a pushback," he went on. "We are doing our job and we are reasonably confident that rational people in government and all over the world will see the merit of the work that has been done."
Ex-Halliburton manager charged in Gulf spill probe
A former Halliburton manager was charged Thursday with destroying evidence following BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a case that coincides with a guilty plea to a related charge by the Houston-based oilfield services company.
Anthony Badalamenti, who had been the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., was charged in federal court with instructing two other employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out well.
Halliburton was BP PLC's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Badalamenti, 61, of Katy, Texas, is charged in a bill of information, which typically signals that a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. His attorney, Tai H. Park, declined to comment.
Also on Thursday, a federal judge accepted a plea agreement that calls for Halliburton to pay a $200,000 fine for a misdemeanor stemming from Badalamenti's alleged conduct.
Colorado Flooding Sparks 18,000-Gallon Oil Leak
Over 18,000 gallons of oil have leaked into Colorado's South Platte and St. Vrain Rivers as historic flooding continues to wreak havoc upon the state.
One 5,250-gallon spill happened near Milliken, while a second, 13,500-gallon release happened near Platteville.
The leaking tanks are owned by Anadarko, which stated on Thursday that "there were no impacts to the environment due to our drilling or hydraulic fracturing activities."
In addition to the oil leaks, Noble Energy reported "natural gas releases" from three of its wells, with one of those releases still not contained.
Greenpeace Ship Seized, Crew Taken Hostage by Russian Security Agents
Armed agents—from Russia's coast guard service, its security agency the FSB, or both—stormed the ship of Greenpeace activists trying to save the Arctic region from oil and gas drilling on Thursday, and after more than 12 hours without communication, the 'seized' Arctic Sunrise on Friday morning is reportedly heading back towards Russian-controlled waters while the 30 crew members remain incommunicado and under armed guard.
According to activists on the ship, Russian FSB agents forced their way into the ship’s radio room and inflicted significant damage to communication equipment. This information came from activists aboard the Arctic Sunrise who were able to communicate for some period via satellite phone, but those communications later went silent.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
Hat tip rwood:
A Little Night Music
Buster Benton & Carey Bell - Born With The Blues
Buster Benton - Lonesome for a Dime
Buster Benton - Love Like I Wanna
Buster Benton - Dangerous Woman
Buster Benton - Sweet 94
Buster Benton - From Missouri
Buster Benton - Money Is The Name of The Game
Buster Benton - The Hawk Is Coming
Buster Benton - Hole In My Head
Buster Benton - Do As You Please
Buster Benton - Catch Up With The World
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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