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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 jazz guitarist and electric guitar innovator Charlie Christian.  Enjoy!

Benny Goodman Septet 1940 - Ad-Lib Blues

“Belief can be manipulated. Only knowledge is dangerous.”

  -- Frank Herbert

News and Opinion

Dianne Feinstein Loses Mind!!!

Sen. Feinstein: Press Must Stop Calling NSA Spying ‘Surveillance’

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman and outspoken surveillance enthusiast Dianne Feinstein (D – CA) has demanded today during the committee hearing that the American press stop referring to the NSA surveillance programs as “surveillance programs.” ...

Hilariously enough, Sen. Feinstein has been referring to the surveillance programs as “these surveillance programs” in her own form letters sent to worried constituents defending them for months.

The change in rhetoric appears to reflect the NSA’s own decision to stop talking so much about the program itself and instead angrily attack the media, claiming that American outrage over its privacy violations are simply a product of “irresponsible” media coverage of classified programs.

Redefining English: Senator Feinstein Says The Press Needs To Stop Calling Patriot Act Surveillance Program A 'Surveillance Program'

It's no secret that the intelligence community tries to give the "least untruthful" answers by basically redefining the English language. In an open Senate Intelligence Committee hearing today, in which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA boss Keith Alexander and Deputy Attorney General James Cole all got to talk up how important spying on everyone is, there was an incredible moment in which Intelligence Committee boss Senator Dianne Feinstein scolded not these bosses of the surveillance program, but the press for calling it a surveillance program. ... [Feinstein] argued that the Patriot Act's Section 215, which has been interpreted to allow for the collection of phone records on every phone call is NOT a surveillance program because it just "collects metadata."  She suggests that it's unfair to call this surveillance program a surveillance program. That's because she's either lying or doesn't understand what metadata reveals.

Dianne Feinstein Gives NSA Apologist Ben Wittes More “Oversight” Time than Ron Wyden

The problem is, Dianne Feinstein had already deviated from normal Senate policy by giving Senators just 5 minutes to ask questions [...] Which meant that when Ron Wyden asked his first question — about geolocation — General Keith Alexander knew he could filibuster. As he did. ...

But when the first round ended, DiFi said they didn’t have time for a second one, because they had to move onto the two non-governmental witnesses, Ben Wittes and Tim Edgar. Wyden tried to just ask his questions quickly, but Susan Collins objected.

Wittes — who recently admitted that he is an NSA apologist, according to the dictionary definition of the term — had an unfettered (and unsworn) opportunity to read his statement, which seemed to take up far more than the 5 minutes Wyden got to exercise oversight (the entire statement, with admittedly long footnotes, was 13 pages, though I’m not certain he read it all).

Feel the fear; commit the lies to memory:
US intelligence chiefs urge Congress to preserve surveillance programs

US intelligence chiefs used an appearance before Congress on Thursday to urge lawmakers not to allow public anger over the extent of government surveillance to result in changes to the law that would impede them from preventing terrorist attacks. ...

In testy exchanges at the Senate intelligence committee, Alexander and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, refused to say on the record where the NSA had ever sought to trawl cell site data, which pinpoints the location of individuals via their phones.

They were challenged by Democratic senator Ron Wyden who, as a member of the committee, has for years been privy to classified briefings that he cannot discuss in public. "You talk about the damage that has been done by disclosures, but any government official who thought this would never be disclosed was ignoring history. The truth always manages to come out," he said.

"The NSA leadership built an intelligence data collection system that repeatedly deceived the American people. Time and time again the American people were told one thing in a public forum, while intelligence agencies did something else in private."

Official sidesteps queries on cellphone locations

The nation's top intelligence official on Thursday sidestepped questions from a senator about whether the National Security Agency has ever used Americans cellphone signals to collect information on their whereabouts that would allow tracking of the movements of individual callers.

Asked twice by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if NSA had ever collected or made plans to collect such data, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander answered both times by reading from a letter provided to senators who had asked the same question last summer. He also cited a classified version of the letter that was sent to senators and said, "What I don't want to do ... is put out in an unclassified forum anything that's classified."

Wyden promised to keep asking.

"I believe this is something the American people have a right to know, whether NSA has ever collected or made plans to collect cell site information," Wyden said.

Hey looky!  "The Lockbox" is back! I thought it had disappeared with Al Gore when he wanted to put Social Security in it!
NSA Director Supports Putting All Americans’ Phone Records in ‘Lock Box’

To whether it was a goal of the NSA collect the records of all Americans, he replied, “I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lock box that we can search when the nation needs to do it, yes. And the reason and the way we do it and the way we comply would ensure better security for this nation.”

This refers to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which allows for bulk data collection—what the American Civil Liberties Union calls a massive “domestic call tracking” program. For at least the past seven years, this sweeping program has been operating and apparently the only thing the program has caught is an individual who sent less than $10,000 to the terrorist group, al Shabaab, in Somalia. In all other cases, other collection methods could have led to the acquiring of data necessary for the discovery of plots or the thwarting of potential terrorist attacks.

In addition to violating the privacy of millions of Americans, the NSA’s hoarding complex, its commitment to building the haystack bigger and bigger and bigger, may inhibit the ability of the US government to prevent terrorism. David Headley, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, Major Nidal Hasan, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are some of the terrorists who the US intelligence community failed to prevent from carrying out terrorist attacks.  The sheer amount of data being collected played a key role in overwhelming analysts and led to a failure to connect the dots before the attacks.

Higher standards for collecting data would mean there was less to sift through, but, as Clapper said, the intelligence community wants to collect all the data to have “peace of mind.” It helps intelligence agency leaders feel emotionally confident that they are doing all that is necessary to protect the nation, but their feeling good does not guarantee America will be protected from the next attack.

'Loveint': NSA letter discloses employee eavesdropping on girlfriends, spouses

National Security Agency employees improperly eavesdropped on the phone calls of girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives and spouses and engaged in other "intentional" abuses of their authority on 12 occasions since 2003, according to a newly released letter by the agency's inspector general.

The agency also has two open investigations into alleged misuse of its eavesdropping authorities and is reviewing a third one for possible investigation, according to a letter by NSA inspector general Dr. George Ellard.

Ellard's letter – in response to an inquiry by GOP Sen. Charles Grassley – was prompted by media reports that NSA employees at times have been caught in what is informally known as "loveint" – collecting intelligence on love interests. But until now, the specific examples and the frequency of such cases have never been disclosed by the NSA.

In one case revealed by Ellard, an NSA employee for five years snooped on the phone calls of nine female foreign nationals "without a valid foreign intelligence purposes." In another, 2011 instance, an NSA employee admitted it was "her practice" to eavesdrop on foreign phone numbers "she obtained in social settings" in order to ensure she was not talking to “shady characters.'' Both employees resigned before any disciplinary action could be taken.

Google’s Gmail Keyword Scanning Might Violate Wiretap Law, Judge Finds

A federal judge today found that Google may have breached federal and California wiretapping laws for machine-scanning Gmail messages as part of its business model to create user profiles and provide targeted advertising.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh was rendered in a proposed class-action alleging Google wiretaps Gmail as part of its business model. Google sought to have the federal case in California dismissed under a section of the Wiretap Act that authorizes email providers to intercept messages if the interception facilitated the message’s delivery or was incidental to the functioning of the service in general.

“Accordingly, the statutory scheme suggests that Congress did not intend to allow electronic communication service providers unlimited leeway to engage in any interception that would benefit their business models, as Google contends. In fact, this statutory provision would be superfluous if the ordinary course of business exception were as broad as Google suggests,” Judge Koh wrote.

It was the second time this month that a federal court has found Google potentially liable for wiretapping.

Just yesterday, Google asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a recent ruling finding Google potentially on the hook for wiretapping when it secretly intercepted data on open Wi-Fi routers.

Grand Bargain Circus - Red Clowns Gone Wild!

Dogs and horses in usual circus act
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Step right up! Come one, come all to the continuing Grand Bargain Circus!  

Just as when last we checked, the red clowns are still refusing to get in the car and leave the ring until the Ringmaster makes an enticing offer.  Some of the red clowns have been imbibing in the fermented popcorn and their demands are becoming increasingly delusional.  Today the red clowns are going wild, making all of the outrageous demands that they can think of to force the Ringmaster to beat more concessions out of the audience.  

All the rage for the past couple of days has been the red clowns saying that they won't get in the car if the Ringmaster reduces the number of those in the audience without health insurance to about 30 million and provides a sizable return to the Ringmaster's donors in the health care sector rewards the insurance and pharmaceutical industries handsomely.

That simple demand which the Ringmaster refuses to countenance has festered into a raging torrent of demands, among them that the audience fork over more taxes to offset the tax liability of the rich and also acquiesce to more environmental destruction.

The drama here under the big top is growing as the demands rise...

Red Clowns Gone Wild!

GOP Leaders Aren't Even Pretending the Debt-Ceiling Fight Is About Spending

red clownsLast time around, Tea Party-inspired conservatives wanted spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit. This time, not so much.

The Tea Party is less popular than ever, And while the debt ceiling remains a negotiating chit for the GOP, Republicans leaders are hardly even pretending that this is about spending anymore. ...

Consider the list of demands House leaders have issued in exchange for raising the debt ceiling -- or really, just suspending it -- which Derek Thompson called "insane" this morning. The big items are, in order: a one-year Obamacare delay; tax reform according to Paul Ryan's budget; and energy reforms that include approving the Keystone XL pipeline and eliminating almost every major White House environmental regulation. Coming in the last two slots are spending reforms and a few health-spending tweaks. ...

It's tempting (if unprovable) to see this as a symptom of the decline of the Tea Party as a force in national and Republican circles: The GOP has taken the techniques of the insurgent movement, hollowed them, and repurposed them for the establishment's purposes.

While one set of red clowns is running around screaming that the tent must be burnt to the ground, another group is sharpening its knives, ready to help the Ringmaster more efficiently fleece the audience.  If the Ringmaster can't be forced to fully back off of his program that rewards the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the red clowns could be made happy by jiggering the tax code to make the audience pay more and the red clowns and their cronies proportionately less.  The red clowns know that blue clowns want to reward their rich cronies, too, but have a greater need to distract and fool entertain the audience:
How Republicans Can Win Debt Fight

Obama’s refusal to negotiate is pure posturing, an opening bid. The president seems to hope congressional Republicans will move from their preferred starting position -- repealing Obamacare and securing budget savings equal to the amount of the debt-limit increase -- to a middle ground that will “force” him to come to the table. Republicans could seek a delay of the individual and employer insurance mandate, the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or both, instead of a full repeal of the health-care law. The more reasonable the Republicans’ request is, the harder it will be for the president to refuse to engage them.  ...

There is obviously middle ground. Both sides could be satisfied with a debt ceiling increase of about $1 trillion --an amount sufficient to get past the 2014 elections --accompanied by an agreement to enact revenue-neutral tax reforms that broaden the base and lower rates. ...

This solution would appeal to House and Senate Democrats because it spares cuts to the entitlement programs they desperately want to protect and fear the president might agree to cut as part of a more comprehensive deal. Obama and Boehner had entitlement cuts on the table during their 2011 deal that fell through. Faced with a decision between raising taxes and protecting entitlement spending, Democrats have historically chosen the latter.

Bend over America! The red clowns want to shove a pipeline in!  The red clowns, mindful of the blue clown's need to assuage its constituency on environmental matters are helpfully preparing to provide the Ringmaster and the blue clowns with a "blameless opportunity" to reward an industry that the Ringmaster has gone out of his way to accomodate at the expense of the environment.
Republicans See Keystone Pipeline as a Card to Play in Last-Minute Fiscal Talks

As a possible government shutdown looms, environmental activists who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline say they are increasingly alarmed that the project might become a bargaining chip in last-minute negotiations between Republicans and President Obama to avert a fiscal crisis.

Republicans who support the pipeline have already signaled that they intend to demand approval of a permit for its construction in exchange for their willingness to support Mr. Obama and raise the nation's debt ceiling next month.

''We feel like this is our only option,'' said Representative Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican who is one of the leading pipeline supporters. Mr. Terry said members of his party were working to draft legislative language that would ''deem'' the pipeline to be approved if an agreement is reached to raise the debt ceiling.

Blue Clowns Warm Up To Red Clowns' Ideas

Yesiree, the deficit is dropping like a rock, while unemployment and social needs continue to rise.  Even the biggest clowns in town know that tight fiscal policy is stunting the economy and austerity is harming 99% of the audience.  Nevertheless the Ringmaster and his blue clown friends are happy to get on board with austerity.

Watch now as over in ring two, Babs T. Blueclown prepares to accomodate the red clowns, suggesting that the pressure to rob the audience will work better in November:

Mikulski calls for grand bargain by mid-November on sequester, taxes, spending

blue clownsSenate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called on Congress Tuesday to adopt a spending resolution that funds the government through mid-November, and then hammer out a grand bargain that would cancel the sequester, look at mandatory spending cuts, and raise taxes.  ...

"Nov. 15 keeps the pressure on … both sides of the aisle to get the job done," Mikulski said on the Senate floor.

She defined "get the job done" as finding some way to find an agreement on issues that have split the two parties since Republicans took over the House in 2011. ...

"We can do that through additional strategic cuts," she said, noting the first part of her equation. "As an appropriator, I'm willing to look at them."

Look! Up there on the tightrope! Why it's Debbie Wasserman-Blueclown and she's juggling a hungry homeless child, food-stamp subsidies and a large meat cleaver!

Careful with that cleaver Debbie!

Watch breathlessly as the ideological heirs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Four, OOPS! Three Freedoms, protect the traditional constituency of the blue clowns.

But wait, what's this?  Ah, the blue clowns are happy to rob the audience, so long as the red clowns take the blame!

House passes GOP plan for $39B cut in food stamps

Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told USA TODAY's Capital Download on Thursday that Democrats are not opposed to food stamp cuts.

"I'm certain that we could embrace as House Democrats some measure of cuts," she said. "I mean, every program can benefit from some savings." But the first go-round the Republicans' proposed cut was $20 billion. Then they passed an amendment that was $31.4 billion. And now that still isn't good enough for the Tea Partiers. Now we're at $40 billion. What they're saying is that in America it's OK for people to go hungry.

But what of the Audience - how are they enjoying the show?  Why they're positively mesmerized by it - and the media carnies have got them bamboozled...
Poll: The Public Thinks the Deficit Is Growing and Defaulting on the Debt Is A-OK

The first part is demonstrably false. The second is just deeply misguided.

If you're the sort who's prone to despair about the public's generally low-level of policy knowledge, this chart from Bloomberg won't help. About 59 percent of Americans told the news organization in a recent poll that they believe that the deficit is growing. It isn't. This is not a matter of opinion, like whether Obamacare will be good for the country or whether Miley Cyrus should cool it with the tongue thing already. It's just math. The deficit is down from its trillion-dollar recession heights to about $642 billion this year, and the Congressional Budget Office expects it to keep plunging. Even before sequestration, the deficit was already falling as a percentage of the economy faster than at any time since World War II. ...

This could be an opportunity to lash at the media for failing to push back hard enough against Republicans who talk about exploding deficits or act like we're on the precipice of a Greece-style debt crisis. But I'm not even sure that's the problem. Human beings are notoriously resistant to information that challenges their preconceived notions. And a plenty of people are comfortable thinking of Washington as full of wastrels spending the country towards calamity. Maybe that's because they've been trained to by decades of rhetoric. But it's a pretty entrenched outlook.

Clowns playing marbles, when the circus comes to town
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.”

  -- Gore Vidal

Federal Contractors Employ More Low-Wage Workers Than Walmart and McDonald's Combined, While Paying Top Execs. $24 billion

Army-Funded Study: We Have No Idea If Drones Work

A meta-analysis of the research on drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan published on Thursday, funded by the U.S. Army War College, found very little evidence that the targeted killing campaign was successfully degrading al-Qaeda and the Taliban. ...

Walsh’s conclusion: “drones appear to be, at most, weak substitutes for traditional counterinsurgency operations.” They’re not, on their own, going to seriously weaken the Taliban. While drone strikes might be more effective if the sole goal were to degrade al-Qaeda’s ability to attack the American homeland, Walsh finds that “this claim is difficult to assess, however, since the United States has not employed drones consistently in a counterterrorism campaign.”

U.S., Russia reach UN deal on Syria chemical arms that doesn’t include military force

The United States and Russia reached an agreement Thursday on a plan to seize Syria’s chemical weapons in a move the Obama administration deemed a diplomatic breakthrough, even though the resolution stops short of triggering military action should Syria fail to comply.

The draft U.S.-Russian resolution received support from fellow permanent members France, China and Britain, and it was put before the full 15-member U.N. Security Council on Thursday night. The draft also was to be submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is expected to add its own text to the resolution, Russian officials said. ...

U.S. negotiators gave up the demand of military force, authorized under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, as a consequence for noncompliance, compromising with the Russians on softer wording that says the Security Council would be “authorized to impose measures under Chapter 7,” according to diplomats and news reports.

That means no punitive measures would kick in automatically. Instead, chemical weapons authorities would have to report any alleged violations to the Security Council, which would have to determine whether Syria had in fact failed to comply with the resolution. And even after that, the Security Council would have to agree on the appropriate punishment under Chapter 7, which allows for measures other than military action.

Chemical Solution? Draft resolution on Syria weapons agreed, implies no immediate force

Homemade sarin was used in attack near Damascus – Lavrov

Russia has enough evidence to assert that homemade sarin was used on August 21 in a chemical attack near Damascus, the same type but in higher concentration than in an Aleppo incident earlier this year, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said.

“On the occasion of the incident in the vicinity of Aleppo on March 19, 2013 when the United Nations, under the pressure of some Security Council members, didn’t respond to the request of the Syrian government to send inspectors to investigate, Russia, at the request of the Syrian government, investigated that case, and this report, i.e. the results of this investigation are broadly available to the Security Council and publicly,” Lavrov said.

“The main conclusion is that the type of sarin used in that incident was homemade. We also have evidence to assert that the type of sarin used on August 21 was the same, only of higher concentration.”

The minister said he had recently presented his US counterpart John Kerry with the latest compilation of evidence, which was an analysis of publicly available information.

The Evening Greens

GOP's Upton wants to speed up cross-border oil pipeline projects

A senior House Republican is pushing a bill to speed up approval of cross-border oil pipelines, end the State Department’s lead review role and cut environmental study.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) unveiled a draft bill Wednesday that would revamp permitting for these oil pipelines, as well as gas pipelines and electricity transmission projects that cross the U.S. border. ...

The bill, which a committee panel will review next Wednesday, arrives as Republicans and centrist Democrats allege the State Department is dragging its feet in the yearslong review of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Canada's Government Silences Scientists, Sides With Corporate Interests

Mobile Alabama: A Tar Sands Mecca in the Making

It took a while for the Alabama public to understand that their state is being transformed into a tar sands Mecca. Proposals for rail and pipeline transport and tar sands storage facilities were first presented in 2010, and by 2012, most were rubber stamped with no public input.

But in 2013, a handful of concerned citizens in the Mobile Bay Sierra Club and the newly formed Tar Sands Mobile Coalition cried foul. And now their cries are being heard.

Two of four proposed projects are on hold -- The Plains Southcap Pipeline, which would pass through the Big Creek Lake watershed that supplies drinking water to Mobile and the vicinity, and the American Tank & Vessel project to build tar sands storage tanks in Africatown, a historic Mobile neighborhood. ...

September 17th delivered a big victory when Judge Don Davis dismissed Plains Southcap's condemnation lawsuit against Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS). This victory opens the door for landowners to fight back. At issue was whether Plains Southcap had authority to use eminent domain to condemn the land they wanted in the Big Creek Watershed in the first place. This judge ruled they did not.

Blog Posts of Interest

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

White House open to more National Security Agency data limits, officials say

Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media


A Little Night Music

Charlie Christian - Stompin' at the Savoy

Charlie Christian - Blues in B

Charlie Christian - Royal Garden Blues

Benny Goodman Sextet -  Rose Room

The Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet - Profoundly Blue

Charlie Christian - Swing to Bop

Charlie Christian - Solo Flight

Benny Goodman Sextet - Roast Turkey Stomp

Charlie Christian - Charlie's Dream

Charlie Christian - Celestial Express

Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian - Flying Home

BB King discusses the influence of Charlie Christian

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 Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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