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 Texas Barrelhouse blues piano player Robert Shaw. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of his material available and much of what's out there comes from one album and footage of his 75th birthday party. His style is rooted in unrecorded and mostly forgotten 1920's era Texas musicians. Enjoy!
Robert Shaw - Groceries On My Shelf
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
-- H. L. Mencken
News and Opinion
NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally
The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers. ...
During a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year. ...
Although the collection takes place overseas, two senior U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged that it sweeps in the contacts of many Americans. They declined to offer an estimate but did not dispute that the number is likely to be in the millions or tens of millions. ...
Because the agency captures contact lists “on the fly” as they cross major Internet switches, rather than “at rest” on computer servers, the NSA has no need to notify the U.S. companies that host the information or to ask for help from them.
Now the NSA has your Little Black Book
Before the internet, we used to keep the names and telephone numbers of our friends and acquaintances in a little address book. Young people who dated a lot had a ‘little black book’ with telephone numbers of past and potential dinner partners. ...
Back in the 1980s, if the Federal government had wanted to see the address book I kept in a kitchen drawer, it would have had to apply to a judge for a warrant. But now the NSA can gather that information at will. ... Any judge you asked in the 1980s would have wanted solid evidence of wrongdoing before he or she authorized the FBI to barge in and confiscate your hand-written address book. Why should it matter what medium the address book is written and stored in? Pen and paper or zeroes and ones on the internet? The answer is no. The Federal government does not have a right to our private information unless there are strong grounds to believe that a crime is being committed.
Dianne Feinstein Can't Come Up With One Good Defense of the NSA
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Today, she takes a crack at defending the NSA's domestic phone record spying program. She can't come up with one decent justification.
She has, in her Wall Street Journal op-ed today, nothing but a mishmash of vagaries and downright illogical factoids. Let's take them one at a time.
1) The NSA program could have stopped 9/11. ... Odd, since Feinstein includes this paragraph right up front:In the summer of 2001, the CIA's then-director, George Tenet, painted a dire picture for members of the Senate Intelligence Committee when he testified about the terrorist threat posed by al Qaeda. As Mr. Tenet later told the 9/11 Commission, "the system was blinking red" and by late July of that year, it could not "get any worse."2) The NSA itself says the program works. Does the NSA have an established record of misleading self-justifying public statements? Yes. You simply cannot use unverifiable statements from the NSA to justify the NSA's work.
3) Al Qaeda is scary. They are making "nonmetallic bombs," you see. Therefore, we must intercept every phone call in America.[As Colleen Rowley said on Democracy Now yesterday:
So, here’s the problem. Senator Feinstein and others are able to, kind of in a very misleading way, revise history and claim that if NSA had been collecting the massive data before 9/11, these attacks would not have occurred. They can do this because many people have forgotten that the 9/11 Commission and the various inquiries concluded just the opposite of what Dianne Feinstein is saying. Back then, the rationale was that the dots were not connected, and the dots were not connected because there was too much intelligence flowing in. Officials claim that intelligence is like a firehose, and we can’t get a sip from a firehose. That was the excuse for why they had all this information, specific clues including—including hijackers or terrorist suspects who came into California, and CIA Director Tenet never told the FBI; of course, the case in Minnesota, where the FBI did not itself act upon intelligence; and the amount of intelligence that was not even read, let alone appreciated, assessed and then acted upon. So this whole history is being revised and turned on its head now.]
Greenwald on Snowden Leaks: The Worst Is Yet to Come
Although four months have passed since Edward Snowden’s explosive NSA surveillance leaks, the most revealing details have not yet been published, and could be rolled out in the international media over the coming weeks and months, beginning with U.S. spying activities involving Spain and France. That’s according to Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke the Snowden story last June, and whose life has been drastically upturned since. “There are a lot more stories,” he said on Monday in Rio de Janeiro, where he lives. “The archives are so complex and so deep and so shocking, that I think the most shocking and significant stories are the ones we are still working on, and have yet to publish.”
Brazil announces secure email to counter US spying
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced Sunday that her government was creating a secure email system to try and shield official communications from spying by the United States and other countries. ...
The move came after Rousseff publicly condemned spying against Brazilian government agencies attributed to the United States and Canada.
"This is the first step toward extending the privacy and inviolability of official posts," Rousseff said.
After bringing her complaints against US intelligence agencies to the United Nations General Assembly last month and canceling a state visit to Washington, Rousseff announced that the country will host an international conference on Internet governance in April.
How safe is the Obamacare website?
Cybersecurity professionals are voicing questions about potential red flags in the new federal health care website system that could open the door to theft of personal information.
In the two weeks since the Affordable Healthcare Act site, www.healthcare.gov, went live, most complaints have centered on long wait times with sites initially overloaded by interested visitors. In response, government officials are scrambling to get more capacity for the main site and its satellites.
But potentially far more serious questions are emerging about cybersecurity. Experts have said that hackers could “spoof” the website with a look-alike website to collect personal information, or criminals could use an automated program to try repeatedly to enter the site even if it didn’t get a login correct.
Experts have stopped short of calling these concerns “vulnerabilities” – a term that means a proven weak spot to hackers. But they say these red flags need attention.
How to win friends and influence the right people by telling the right people exactly what they want most to hear:
Fired for Standing in Way of Iraq War: Ousted Director of Nobel-Winning OPCW Speaks Out
The former director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [José Bustani], which won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, declared Sunday that he was ousted from the organization's helm over a decade ago for making plans to investigate Iraq's weapons stocks, thereby limiting the Bush administration's ability to build justification for invasion on unverified weapons claims. ...
Bustani says he received a call in 2002 from then-U.S. Under Secretary of State John R. Bolton that he had 24 hours to resign. When he refused, his ouster was put to a vote, and after a U.S. pressure campaign, he was pushed out. "He was reportedly the first head of an international organization to be pushed out of office this way, and some diplomats said the pressure campaign had made them uneasy," the New York Times reports. One of the pressure tactics the U.S. used to achieve Bustani's ouster was to threaten a cut to the OPCW's budget, 22 percent of which was controlled by the U.S., and warning other countries would do the same, diplomats told the New York Times. ...
Many charge that, by awarding the Nobel Prize to a weakened OPCW that caves to U.S. power, the Norwegian Nobel Committee falls short of pushing universal principles of peace and disarmament. “Under the Bush administration, the OPCW and its leadership was attacked and undermined because it dared to use inspections rather than unsubstantiated claims to determine the existence of these dangerous arsenals and peaceful means rather than war to eliminate them," declared leading Middle East scholar Stephen Zunes in a statement released by the Institute for Public Accuracy.
Arthur Laffer is back as GOP tax manPfffftttt!!!!
Four decades ago at the Washington Hotel, a quirky economist made a pitch on the back of a napkin to Ford administration officials Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld: Cutting taxes would create an economic boom.
Back then, many Republicans opposed tax cuts, but that famous “Laffer curve” chart made young Arthur Laffer a conservative legend and spawned a generation of tax-cutting revolutionaries — while Laffer went on to make a fortune in the private sector.
Now, Laffer is back. The 73-year-old helped Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) sell his tax reform idea to Kansas, pushed Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to ditch the estate tax and gave momentum to North Carolina lawmakers desperate to slash rates. All told, Laffer has advised about a dozen GOP-run states on taxes in the past couple of years. ...
He still has his critics, of course; there are entire websites devoted to “debunking Laffer.” Still, he seems to have found a new sweet spot. While tax reform is stuck in neutral in Washington, one-party-controlled state capitals throughout the country are looking to cut rates.
Britney Spears espouses Marxist theory of labour as value
Britney Spears has admitted her latest single "Work Bitch" is inspired by the writings of Karl Marx. ...
“Work Bitch is a satire of commodity fetishism which underlines that the real owners of the means of production are the workers themselves.
When I whip a woman wearing bondage gear in the video, it’s a metaphor.”
A Debt Deal is Nigh! A Debt Deal is Nigh! Or is It?
If you make a quick scan of the headlines, which is the way a lot of people interact with the news, you’d see numerous reports stressing that Senate leaders had made “progress” in the “let’s try not to crash into the debt ceiling” talks and were hopeful of getting a deal done. Stock markets took cheer from these reports.
We feel compelled to mention one matter: getting a debt ceiling/end the shutdown pact of some sort is merely a precursor to the hoped for performance of The Persecution and Assassination of What is Left of the American Middle Class, as Performed by the Inmates of the Beltway under the Direction of Barack Obama (more commonly described as the Grand Bargain or Great Betrayal). ...
Here’s the outline of the deal under discussion:Negotiators talked into the evening as senators from both parties coalesced around a plan that would lift the debt limit through Feb. 7, pass a resolution to finance the government through Jan. 15 and conclude formal discussions on a long-term tax and spending plan no later than Dec. 13, according to one Senate aide briefed on the plan.But keep in mind that the two Senators hashing out a possible deal, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, can’t make any binding commitments. They have to go back to their principals. One can assume that Reid is not too far out ahead of what Obama might accept. That is not a given on the Republican side, as the Times warns:
But while both Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, praised the progress that was made in the Senate, it was already clear that the most conservative members of the House were not going to go along quietly with a plan that does not accomplish their goal from the outset of this two-week-old crisis: dismantling the president’s health care law.
“We’ve got a name for it in the House: it’s called the Senate surrender caucus,” said Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas. “Anybody who would vote for that in the House as Republican would virtually guarantee a primary challenger.”
US debt limit talks in disarray after House GOP fails to back Senate deal
Democrats accuse hardline Republicans of sabotaging bipartisan deal after negotiations to raise debt ceiling left in limbo
A proposal by a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate fizzled when GOP leaders in the House of Representatives failed to get their rank-and-file members to back a revised version. ...
Earlier, House Republicans met to consider a deal reached on Monday between Senate leaders that would have extended the debt limit and authorised government spending with only one token concession over healthcare. ...
That succeeded only in inflaming conservatives in his own party, who regard both House and Senate compromises as surrender, and Democrats, who accused Boehner of introducing unacceptable new "ransom demands".
Another Historically Low Increase to Social Security on Its Way
Next year's benefit increase for Social Security recipients is projected to be one of the smallest increases ever, according to a new analysis by the Associated Press.
The AP projects that the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the 58 million Americans who rely on Social Security will raise just 1.5 percent, meaning a $17-monthly increase. That would mark the second year in a row of "one of the lowest raises since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975."
“This [COLA] is not enough to keep up with inflation, as it affects seniors,” the Washington Post quotes Max Richtman, who heads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, as saying. “There are some things that become cheaper but they are not things that seniors buy. Laptop computers have gone down dramatically, but how many people at 70 are buying laptop computers?”
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson Reach New Heights of Hypocrisy in "Fix the Debt" Ad
Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley board member Erskine Bowles have long been spokespersons for Fix the Debt. The "folksy" Simpson: "For cryin' out loud, Erskine, who isn't fed up with what's goin' on in Washington?" The Bowles tsk tsk: “These politicians are playing games jerking our country around from crisis to crisis.”
This is rich from a group that has been hyping a debt and deficit crisis since its launch in July 2012, even though the deficit has been cut in half in recent years. In January 2013 Fix the Debt steering committee member and former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen admitted that Fix the Debt's strategy was to create an "artificial crisis" to achieve a "grand bargain" on Medicare and Social Security.
Moreover, Fix the Debt was started with a $5 million donation from crisis king Pete Peterson. Peterson has been warning that our Social Security would create a “Pearl Harbor” type crisis for decades as my colleague Lisa Graves documented in her Nation piece “Peterson’s Long History of Deficit Scaremongering.”
The Tragedy of Greece as a Case Study of Neo-Imperial Pillage and the Demise of Social Europe
In early 2010, Greece, a weak and peripheral economy in the euro area, went bankrupt but was subsequently "bailed out" by its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ever since, the small southern Mediterranean nation and birthplace of democracy has been a guinea pig for the policy prescriptions of a neoliberal European Union (EU) under the command of Germany and its northern allies, with the IMF serving as a junior partner. A public debt crisis has been used as an opportunity to dismantle a rudimentary social state, to sell off profitable public enterprises and state assets at bargain prices, to deprive labor of even its most basic rights after decades of hard-fought struggles against capital, and to substantially reduce wages, salaries and pensions, creating a de facto banana republic. It has been done with the support of a significant segment of the Greek industrial-financial class and with the assistance of the domestic political elite, which since the onset of the crisis has relied heavily on dictatorial action to carry out the commands of the country's foreign creditors.
Now Greece is on the verge of collapse. The nation's output has experienced a cumulative decline of 20 percent; the official unemployment rate has climbed to almost 28 percent, with youth unemployment for the ages of 16-24 close to 65 percent. More than 30 percent of the citizens live near or below the poverty line, and the debt-to-GDP ratio has increased from approximately 127 percent in 2009 to over 180 percent in the summer of 2013 (even after a major "haircut" that took place last year among private holders of Greek sovereign debt). Because of the draconian budget cuts in the name of "expansionary austerity," the public health care system lies in ruins, with some hospitals lacking the proper medical equipment to perform certain operations or the drugs needed to treat cancer patients and private pharmacies refusing to provide more drugs until the state pays them the hundreds of millions of euros it owes. Public schools are in shambles; many schools throughout Greece cannot even afford heating oil.
In addition, there is a huge migration wave (particularly among the educated), crime is rampant, and suicides spread like the plague, not to mention the sharp rise of the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn, which, until the recent murder of an anti-fascist, anti-racist rapper at the hands of a paid assassin of this criminal organization and the government crackdown that ensued as a result, had emerged as a vital reactionary political force, openly challenging whatever democratic values are still left in today's economically beleaguered Greece.
In sum, three years and a half years after the EU and IMF, the "twin monsters" of global neoliberalism, came to the "rescue," Greece has been transformed from a developed economy into an emerging economy, posting unemployment and poverty rates that are normally associated with so-called "third world" nations, and is permanently stuck in a vicious cycle of debt, austerity and depression.
The birth of the 'de-Americanized' world
This is it. China has had enough. The (diplomatic) gloves are off. It's time to build a "de-Americanized" world. It's time for a "new international reserve currency" to replace the US dollar.
It's all here, in a Xinhua editorial, straight from the dragon's mouth. And the year is only 2013. Fasten your seat belts - and that applies especially to the Washington elites. It's gonna be a bumpy ride. ...
This paragraph couldn't be more graphic:Instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.The solution, for Beijing, is to "de-Americanize" the current geopolitical equation - starting with more say in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for emerging economies and the developing world, leading to a "new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant US dollar". ...
The move towards a fully convertible yuan is as inexorable as the BRICS move towards a basket of currencies progressively replacing the US dollar as a reserve currency. Until, further on down the road, the real cataclysmic event materializes; the advent of the petroyuan - destined to surpass the petrodollar once the Gulf petro-monarchies see which way the historical winds are blowing. Then we will enter a completely different geopolitical ball game.
Arms Industries have Washington lift Restrictions on Weapons Exports
The United States is loosening controls over military exports, in a shift that former U.S. officials and human rights advocates say could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world’s conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions.
Come tomorrow, thousands of parts of military aircraft, such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires will be able to be sent to almost any country in the world, with minimal oversight – even to some countries subject to U.N. arms embargos. U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries.
Critics, including some who’ve worked on enforcing arms export laws, say the changes could undermine efforts to prevent arms smuggling to Iran and others.
Swiss researchers: Polonium findings ‘support the possibility’ Yasser Arafat died of poisoning
Polonium, the poison scientists suspect may be the cause of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, is a highly radioactive material rarely found outside military and scientific circles.
Swiss radiation experts have confirmed they found traces of polonium on clothing used by Arafat which “support the possibility” the veteran Palestinian leader was poisoned.
Arafat died in France on November 11 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. No autopsy was carried out at the time, in line with his widow’s request.
His remains were exhumed in November 2012 and samples taken, partly to investigate whether he had been poisoned — a suspicion that grew after the assassination of Russian ex-spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
The Evening Greens
Supreme Court agrees to hear six cases on greenhouse gas regulationsHat tip to Agathena:
The US Supreme Court Tuesday took on six cases related to federal regulation of greenhouse gasses, raising expectations for a much-awaited ruling in the debate over climate change legislation.
The court announced it was combining the six suits from plaintiffs in the chemical industry, the Chamber of Commerce, and the state of Texas, each protesting carbon emissions regulations put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency.
All six cases address just one question: Whether the agency “permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act,” the court said in announcing it would take the appeal.
First Nations say work already starting on Northern Gateway Pipeline
VANCOUVER - A First Nations group dedicated to preserving the Fraser River Watershed say they’re already seeing work starting on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline even though the approval process hasn’t yet finished. ...
“Permits were issued [by the provincial government] to cut down trees, to drill holes, to lay the groundwork for the project, which is really putting the cart before the horse,” says Alliance Coordinator Geraldine Thomas Flurer. ...
The Yinka Dene Alliance took their plight against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline all the way to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, on Thursday. ...
Flurer and other members of the Alliance hope recommendations from Anaya will help them convince Enbridge and the Federal Government the pipeline is not in the best interest of Canadians.
BP oil spill: Ex-Halliburton manager pleads guilty to destroying evidence
Anthony Badalamenti [a former Halliburton manager], 62, of Katy, Texas, faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine after his guilty plea in US district court to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence. His sentencing by US district judge Jay Zainey is set for 21 January.
Badalamenti was the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Group, BP's cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Prosecutors said he instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out Macondo well. ...
Badalamenti wasn't the first individual charged with a crime stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but he is the first to plead guilty.
BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine await a trial next year on manslaughter charges stemming from the rig workers' deaths. They botched a key safety test and disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that were glaring signs of trouble before the well blowout, prosecutors say.
Former BP executive David Rainey is charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was spewing from the blown-out well in 2010. Former BP engineer Kurt Mix is charged with deleting text messages and voicemails about the company's response to the spill.
Right now the NSA is spying on everyone's personal communications, and they’re operating without any meaningful oversight. Since the Snowden leaks started, more than 569,000 people from all walks of life have signed the StopWatching.us petition telling the U.S. Congress that we want them to rein in the NSA.
On October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the US Patriot Act, we're taking the next step and holding the largest rally yet against NSA surveillance. We’ll be handing the half-million petitions to Congress to remind them that they work for us -- and we won’t tolerate mass surveillance any longer.
StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
We're about a month from the TPPing point, look alive:
A Little Night Music
Robert Shaw - The Ma Grinder
Robert Shaw - Mobile & KC Line
Robert Shaw - Here I Come With Dirty Dirty Duckins On
Robert Shaw - She Used to Be My Baby
Robert Shaw - People, People
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!