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.
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This evening's music features blues and r&b singer and harmonica player Buster Brown. Enjoy!
Buster Brown - Fannie Mae
"With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world."
-- Randolph Bourne, War is the Health of the State
News and Opinion
US drone strikes could be classed as war crimes, says Amnesty InternationalExecutive incompetence? Malfeasance? Misfeasance? High Crime or Misdemeanor?
US officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign against suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have committed war crimes and should stand trial, a report by a leading human rights group warns. Amnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.
The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama's own guidelines on drones.
The reports are being published while Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister, is in Washington. Sharif has promised to tell Obama that the drone strikes – which have caused outrage in Pakistan – must end.
Obama misdirecting $40 Million Congress Allocated for Drone Victims
The peace group CODEPINK recently discovered that every year for the past four years, a pot of $10 million has been allocated for Pakistani drone strike victims. That would make a total of $40 million, quite a hefty sum to divide among a few hundred families. But it appears that none of this money has actually reached them.
The Pakistani Civilian Assistance Fund was modeled after the ones that exist in Iraq and Afghanistan, where money was allocated to help alleviate the suffering of civilians harmed by US military operations as part of a strategy to “win hearts and minds.” In the case of Pakistan, where the CIA operates its drones, the money is supposed to go directly to the families of innocent drone victims, or for needs like medical expenses or rebuilding homes.
But Tim Rieser, the long-time staffer for Senator Patrick Leahy who has worked to get this Pakistani civilian assistance fund included in the yearly Foreign Operations budget, expressed his exasperation about the use of the funds. “It’s been like hitting a brick wall every time we push the administration to use these funds for drone victims, since for years they wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of drone strikes,” said Rieser. “I seriously doubt that any of this money has reached the victims it was intended to help.”
Instead, it appears that the Conflict Victims Support Fund gets farmed out to US-based non-governmental organizations like International Relief and Development that, after taking their cut, provide humanitarian assistance for Pakistanis who are not drone victims and are not even living in the tribal areas of Waziristan where the US is carrying out the strikes.
Supreme Court to get reporter's privilege plea
Lawyers for Times national security reporter James Risen filed a motion Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, asking that the court halt the effect of its decision requiring him to testify in the expected trial of Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, has been indicted for leaking Risen information about a CIA operation to provide Iran with flawed nuclear designs as part of an effort to set back that country's alleged nuclear weapons program.
"The situation faced by Mr. Risen here is not unique and is likely to recur," Risen attorneys David Kelley and Joel Kurtzberg write in the motion (posted here).
"As has frequently been pointed out, this administration has initiated more prosecutions for allegedly improper leaks than all past administrations combined. There is no indication that these practices are likely to wane. The questions of law in this case are not only unsettled, but also vitally important to our democracy....Given the conflicts in the lower courts and the importance of the issue, this Court should stay its mandate to allow the Supreme Court to decide whether to grant plenary review of this important and substantial matter," the lawyers write.
Kurtzberg confirmed in an e-mail to POLITICO Tuesday that a Supreme Court petition is planned.
When Will the Government Officially Correct the False Claims It Made to the Supreme Court About NSA Surveillance?
We’ve documented again and again how the government has refused to tell the truth about NSA surveillance to news organizations, Congress, and the American public. Now it seems clear we can add the Supreme Court to that list. ...
[I]n order to convince the Supreme Court to throw out the ACLU’s challenge, the government smartly argued someone could have standing to challenge the law. Otherwise, it may have seemed absurd to at least one more Justice, and the case might have gone the other way.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli told the Court any defendant charged with a crime would be officially notified if they were subject to NSA surveillance and then someone could challenge it—an actual target. Prosecutors, according to the government, just hadn’t used FISA evidence yet in any court case.
Turned out, that wasn’t true.
As the New York Times reported last week, “Mr. Verrilli’s assurances clashed with the practices of national security prosecutors, who had not been alerting such defendants that evidence in their cases had stemmed from wiretapping their conversations without a warrant.”
In other words, the argument the Solicitor General used to convince the Supreme Court to dismiss a challenge to the FISA Amendments Act was false, and the Solicitor General deceived the Supreme Court, though perhaps not wittingly. When Verrilli confronted the Justice Department’s national security lawyers who briefed him for his argument, they explained away this false statement as “a misunderstanding,” according to the New York Times.
Court Rules Probable-Cause Warrant Required for GPS Trackers
An appellate court has finally supplied an answer to an open question left dangling by the Supreme Court in 2012: Do law enforcement agencies need a probable-cause warrant to affix a GPS tracker to a target’s vehicle?
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals gave a resounding yes to that question today in a 2 to 1 decision.
“Today’s decision is a victory for all Americans because it ensures that the police cannot use powerful tracking technology without court supervision and a good reason to believe it will turn up evidence of wrongdoing,” said ACLU attorney Catherine Crump in a statement. ... It’s the first appeals court ruling in the wake of United States v. Jones, a Supreme Court case involving a convicted drug dealer. In that case, the Supreme Court justices ruled in January 2012 that law enforcement’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. The justices declined to rule at the time, however, on whether such a search was unreasonable and therefore required a warrant. ...
Several courts around the country have ruled that the evidence gathered prior to the Supreme Court ruling can be submitted in court because investigators were acting in good faith at the time, relying on what were then binding rulings in several U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal that authorized the use of warrantless GPS trackers for surveillance. ... The appellate judges rejected this argument, however, and ruled that the “good faith” exception did not apply.
Germany: US may have targeted Merkel's cellphone
German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to President Barack Obama on Wednesday after learning that U.S. intelligence may have targeted her mobile phone, and said that would be ‘‘a serious breach of trust’’ if confirmed, her government announced.
The White House denied that the U.S. is listening in on Merkel’s phone calls.
The German government said it responded after receiving ‘‘information that the chancellor’s cellphone may be monitored’’ by U.S. intelligence. It wouldn’t elaborate but German news magazine Der Spiegel, which has published material from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, said its research triggered the response.
Guantanamo detainees can’t file complaints about torture because alleged mistreatment is classified
Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of the 9/11 attacks said their defendants’ rights were violated because they are prevented from open discussion of alleged mistreatment in secret prisons.
Speaking at a hearing in Guantanamo as the five detainees listened, lawyers for the men asked for the death penalty to be eliminated as a possible sentence, in light of alleged torture the inmates had undergone while being held by the United States, before their 2006 transfer to Guantanamo.
Detainees could not file complaints under the UN Convention against Torture, their lawyers said, because their treatment in U.S. detention was a classified matter. ...
The self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “was subjected to waterboarding for 183 sessions,” began lawyer Jason Wright, who represents the Pakistani defendants.
But Wright was immediately interrupted by Judge James Pohl, who said certain aspects of the prisoners’ treatment will be dealt with only in closed-door sessions, because they involve classified information.
The order prompted an angry retort from lawyer Cheryl Bormann, who said the defense team was consistently coming up against “a brick wall because of the classification issue.”
“You can’t gag somebody about talking about torture and then want to kill them,” she argued. ...
One after another, the lawyers said a court ruling protecting the secrecy of their detention in secret CIA prisons “violated the Convention against Torture.”
Nothing’s changed: Both political parties aim to protect and reinforce the capitalist system
Neither party ... has figured out how to prevent capitalism’s business cycles. Both consistently fail to make sure that cycles they failed to prevent would be shallow and short. So, today, Republicans blame the crisis since 2007 on government over-regulation and interventions in the housing and finance markets (and they blame Democrats for championing those policies). Democrats blame the crisis on too little regulation of those markets and insufficient redistribution (and – you guessed it – they blame Republicans for opposing those government policies). In short, crises, like everything else, are just opportunities to be explained and exploited politically to advance each party’s characteristic policies and their electoral strategies. ...
The ubiquitous availability of jet travel made movement around the globe much easier, cheaper, and faster. Computer and telecommunications advances enabled enterprise headquarters to monitor, command and control production facilities anywhere on the planet. It suddenly became practical to move production and distribution sites from locations of high wages and taxes, to locations of poverty and weak government. Sharp competitors led the way as, first, manufacturing and then, service jobs were increasingly “exported” or “outsourced”. Laggards suffered and so learned the importance of following their more nimble competitors.
Most Republicans and Democrats facilitated the process by endlessly promoting “free trade” and arguing that any constraints on free enterprises’ relocations were unthinkable, inefficient and other synonyms for “really bad”. As more and more jobs left the US, and formerly prosperous cities and states entered long-term declines, the two parties blamed their favorite targets: one another.
The idea that capitalism and capitalists were the problem was something neither Democrats or Republicans allow into their debates and talking-points. Yet, it was precisely capitalists’ profit-driven, self-interested decisions to move that have caused our economic problems. And so they remain.
Unemployment Edges Down as People Continue to Leave the Workforce in September
The unemployment rate edged down to 7.2 percent in September, the lowest level since November of 2008. The Labor Department’s establishment survey showed a gain of 148,000 jobs. With modest upward revisions to the prior two months’ data, this brings the average rate of job growth over the last three months to 143,000. This compares with an average rate of job growth of 186,000 a month over the last year.
In spite of the September drop in unemployment, the employment-to-population rate (EPOP) remained unchanged at 58.6 percent. This continues the pattern that we have seen throughout the recovery as the unemployment rate falls mainly because workers leave the labor market. The unemployment rate is now down by 2.8 percentage points from its 10.0 percent peak in October of 2009. However, the EPOP is up just 0.4 percentage points from its low point in June of 2011. Over the last year the EPOP actually edged down by 0.1 percentage point, while the unemployment rate dropped by 0.6 percentage points. This drop in labor force participation is now occurring at an equal pace among men and women, with the participation of both dropping 0.5 percentage points in the last year.
Distribution of Sandy Aid Irks the City
New York officials said they are frustrated by the slow pace of federal money being distributed to superstorm Sandy victims, blaming Washington bureaucracy for the fact that almost no aid for housing recovery has been given out almost a year after the disaster.
New York City has been allotted $648 million in federal aid to give out for housing recovery assistance. So far, one person has received help: a Staten Island woman whose damaged home was acquired this month. ...
New York officials said federal rules, some implemented after Katrina, have required them to perform lengthy tasks, such as conducting environmental reviews on every home that must be repaired and determining whether rebuilding work is happening on Native American burial grounds.
Shaun Donovan, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—the agency charged with overseeing the distribution of Sandy housing recovery money—has said he is working to speed up distributing money to victims.
"There's no question that while we've made progress there are still many things that we can do, both administratively and also, legislatively, to speed up the process of getting help to families," he told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs subcommittee in September. He added that thousands of dollars had been approved for funding. "The money is beginning to flow."
Saudi Arabia warns of shift away from U.S. over Syria, Iran
* Source says shift could affect arms, oil trade
* Prince Bandar set to end cooperation over Syria war
* In Washington, Saudi prince assails Obama's Mideast moves
Upset at President Barack Obama's policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.
Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a "major shift" in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria's civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
"The shift away from the U.S. is a major one," the source close to Saudi policy said. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent."
Kerry holds urgent talks as US-Saudi rift deepens over Middle East policy
A deepening diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and the US burst open on Tuesday after secretary of state John Kerry acknowledged that Washington's key strategic ally had serious misgivings about US foreign policy in the Middle East.
Kerry held urgent talks with his Saudi counterpart in Paris on Monday amid complaints from Riyadh that the US was not doing enough to help Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria following a decision not launch US military action.
"We know that the Saudis were obviously disappointed that the [Syria] strike didn't take place," Kerry told reporters in London on Tuesday.
"It is our obligation to work closely with them – as I am doing," he added, referring to multiple meetings he had on Monday with Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. "The president asked me to come and have the conversations that we have had."
Kerry insisted relations remained fundamentally sound, but news of the meetings appears to confirm reports in the Wall Street Journal that the Saudis had threatened to scale back their regional co-operation with the US in protest at what it saw as a misguided Middle East strategy.
For US in the Mideast, the Ice Is Getting Thinner
[O]n the Turkish front, Washington was clearly taken aback by a series of developments that likely to complicate ties with its only predominantly Muslim NATO ally, if they haven’t already.
The well-connected Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported last week that Ankara’s intelligence chief had deliberately exposed the identity of 10 Iranians who were spying for Israel to his Iranian counterparts, effectively ending a long-running and close intelligence relationship between the two erstwhile allies that began falling off the rails Israel’s 2008-09 military offensive against Gaza.
(The Turkish press reported Tuesday that Washington had cancelled delivery of Predator drones to Ankara in retaliation for the alleged exposure.)
While Ignatius’s account was denied by Ankara, it nonetheless added to suspicions that, despite Turkey’s historic rivalry with Iran, its strong support for rebels seeking to overthrow of Tehran closest Arab ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Obama’s personal efforts to mend ties between Turkey and Israel, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained more favourably disposed toward Tehran than to Tel Aviv.
Moreover, the report came on the heels of Turkey’s surprise announcement last month that it had selected a Chinese company – and one that was under U.S. sanctions for selling military equipment to Iran, no less – over its U.S. and European competitors to build a new long-range missile-defence system despite the fact that the Chinese system would be incompatible with existing NATO equipment.
Even veteran defenders of Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party against the attacks of neo-conservatives and, more recently, the powerful Israel lobby, conceded that the latest developments suggested that the U.S.-Turkish alliance was in deep trouble.
The Evening Greens
Natural Gas Boom Is Part of Climate Problem, Not Its Solution: Report
New study debunks theory that replacing coal, oil with natural gas will decrease carbon emissions
The current explosion of shale gas production in the U.S., driven by the fracking boom, will not decrease carbon emissions in the long term as claimed by its proponents, according to a study released by Stanford’s Energy Modeling Forum this week.
While shale gas may have lower carbon emissions than dirtier forms of fossil fuel such as coal and crude oil, the exponential extraction and use of shale gas, says the report—Changing the Game? Emissions and Market Implications of New Natural Gas Supplies—will push out the use of sustainable energy solutions such as wind and solar and will thus increase, not decrease, overall carbon outputs going forward.
"Most claims that shale gas will significantly reduce U.S. carbon emissions in the future are based on little more than hand-waving and wishful thinking," writes Joseph Romm at The Energy Collective. "That’s because those claims assume natural gas is replacing coal only, rather than replacing some combination of coal, renewables, nuclear power, and energy efficiency — which is obviously what will happen in the real world."
Pipeline Expert: Over 90% Probability of Line 9 Rupture with Tar Sands Dilbit
The international pipeline safety expert who last August described Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline as “high risk for a rupture” now says the probability of Line 9 rupturing is “over 90%.”
“I do not make the statement ‘high risk for a rupture’ lightly or often. There are serious problems with Line 9 that need to be addressed,” Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector, said in an interview with DeSmog Canada.
Hundreds rallied in Toronto on the weekend to voice their opposition to Enbridge’s plans to ship Alberta tar sands bitumen from Sarnia to Montreal through the 37-year-old Line 9 pipeline.
Kuprewicz also expressed concerns about transporting diluted bitumen through Line 9 saying it will increase the growth rates of cracks on the pipeline. Line 9 lies in the most populated part of Canada and crosses the St. Lawrence River and major waterways flowing into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. A Line 9 spill could pollute the drinking water of millions of Canadians.
Pipeline Regulators Spend More Time With Industry Than Oil Spills: Watchdog Report
The Transportation Department office charged with overseeing the 2.6 million miles of pipelines in the United States is spending more time at oil and gas industry conferences than it is addressing spills and other incidents, a watchdog group contends in a new report.
Between 2007 and 2012, staff from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spent 2,807 days at conferences, meetings and other events sponsored by the oil, gas and pipeline industries, according to the report from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). That's nearly three times as many as the 970 days the staffers spent responding to spills, explosions and other significant incidents on the pipelines they regulate. PEER drew the figures from agency records received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
According to records that PEER provided to The Huffington Post, the pipeline agency spent $245,938 on travel to industry meetings and events sponsored by groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Gas Association in those six years. But it spent only $171,801 responding to significant spills, explosions and breakdowns on pipelines that transport oil, gas and other hazardous materials during the same period.
PEER also found that agency representatives attended 850 meetings and other events with industry in that period, but staffers were sent to investigate only 159 significant spills, explosions and breakdowns. A previous release from the watchdog group, also based on FOIA information received from the agency, found there have been more than 300 spills, explosions and other incidents since 2006 that the agency did not dispatch inspectors to investigate. PEER found that since 2006, the federal agency and its state partners had inspected less than one-fifth of the 2.6 million miles of pipeline.
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'
A Little Night Music
Buster Brown - Sugar Babe
Buster Brown - Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby
Buster Brown - I'm Goin But I'll Be Back
Buster Brown - Doctor Brown
Buster Brown - Lost In A Dream
Buster Brown - Two Women
Buster Brown - John Henry
Buster Brown - The Madison Shuffle
Buster Brown - Sincerely
Buster Brown - I Get The Blues When It Rains
Buster Brown - Crawlin' King Snake
Buster Brown - Raise a Ruckus Tonight
Buster Brown - In The Presence of You
Buster Brown - Good News
Buster Brown w/Chas. Lucas & The Thrillers - Big legs Big stockings
Buster Brown - War Song
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!