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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 an assortment of Halloween themed tunes.  Enjoy!

Screamin Jay Hawkins - I Put A Spell On You

“Official Washington cannot tell the American people that the real purpose of its gargantuan military expenditures and belligerent interventions is to make the world safe for General Motors, General Electric, General Dynamics, and all the other generals.”

  -- Michael Parenti

News and Opinion

PRISM already gave the NSA access to tech giants. Here’s why it wanted more.

The NSA already had robust front door access to those companies via PRISM. So why did it need a back door?

There are some obvious reasons: The operations take place overseas, where many statutory restriction on surveillance don't apply -- and where the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court (FISC) has no jurisdiction. In fact, the FISC ruled a similar, smaller scale program involving cables on U.S. territory illegal in 2011. So if the NSA decides to harvest that data on foreign soil, it can skip most of the oversight mechanisms. ...

The PRISM program, revealed earlier this year by the Post and the Guardian, provided the NSA access to huge volumes of online communications from nine technology companies including Yahoo and Google by legally compelling them to turn over data matching court-approved search terms.  ... But the NSA may have preferred its back-door method of accessing the data because it was less visible to the technology companies holding the data. By accessing data without the knowledge of tech companies, it didn't have to worry that the volume of data iit was accessing could raise privacy alarm bells within those companies.

Hat tip dharmafarmer:
Revealed: NSA pushed 9/11 as key 'sound bite' to justify surveillance

The National Security Agency advised its officials to cite the 9/11 attacks as justification for its mass surveillance activities, according to a master list of NSA talking points. ...

Invoking the events of 9/11 to justify the controversial NSA programs, which have caused major diplomatic fallout around the world, was the top item on the talking points that agency officials were encouraged to use.

Under the subheading “Sound Bites That Resonate,” the document suggests the statement “I much prefer to be here today explaining these programs, than explaining another 9/11 event that we were not able to prevent.”

NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander used a slightly different version of that statement when he testified before Congress on June 18 in defense of the agency’s surveillance programs.

You can watch Keith Alexander parrot his talking point in the following clip:
Denial File: NSA claims EU Intel agencies willingly shared data

Another question, why would the Obama administration allow one of America's most promising and profitable industries to be jeopardized?
NSA Bombshell Shocks Former Spooks: "Why in The World Would We Burn Google?"

Why in the world would we burn a relationship with Google by breaking into a data center?" one former intelligence officer asked.

According to an August report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the NSA scandal could cost cloud companies with U.S.-based servers between $21.5 billion and $35 billion over the next three years as customers flock to European firms that may have more legal protection from U.S. spies.

"The most enduring setback on national security from all of this could well be the impact on U.S. companies," observed a former U.S. official intimately involved with intelligence matters.

"We've created a Huawei problem for these companies," this official said, referring to the Chinese telecommunications firm that many U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials believe is a proxy spy for the Chinese government.

The NSA has also reportedly worked to undermine encryption standards that are used around the world to protect private information and secure commercial transactions. Technology experts were outraged to learn that a government agency they thought they could trust was secretly working to make it easier to spy on people.

Spying Known at Top Levels, Officials Say

The nation’s top spymaster said on Tuesday that the White House had long been aware in general terms of the National Security Agency’s overseas eavesdropping, stoutly defending the agency’s intelligence-gathering methods and suggesting possible divisions within the Obama administration.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the N.S.A. had kept senior officials in the National Security Council informed of surveillance it was conducting in foreign countries. He did not specifically say whether President Obama was told of these spying efforts, but he appeared to challenge assertions in recent days that the White House had been in the dark about some of the agency’s practices.

Mr. Clapper and the agency’s director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, vigorously rejected suggestions that the agency was a rogue institution, trawling for information on ordinary citizens and leaders of America’s closest allies, without the knowledge of its Washington overseers.

Google and Yahoo furious at reports NSA secretly taps data centres

Google and Yahoo, two of the world's biggest tech companies, reacted angrily to a report on Wednesday that the National Security Agency has secretly intercepted the main communication links that carry their users' data around the world. ...

The documents suggest that the NSA, in partnership with its British counterpart GCHQ, is copying large amounts of data as it flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the worldwide data centers of the Silicon Valley giants. The intelligence activities of the NSA outside the US are subject to fewer legal constraints than its domestic actions.

The story is likely to put further strain on the already difficult relations between the tech firms and Washington. The internet giants are furious about the damage done to their reputation in the wake of Snowden's revelations. ...

Google will have its first turn before a legislative panel to confront surveillance questions next month. Senators Al Franken and Dean Heller, who are backing a bill to compel the government to provide more transparency about bulk surveillance, announced Wednesday that the Internet giant will send a representative to a Senate hearing they will hold on 13 November.

Human Rights Attorneys Have Been Working with German Politicians on Asylum for Snowden

Human rights attorneys have been discussing the possibility of asylum for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden with left-wing politicians in Germany. The plan being developed involves giving testimony in an official government setting on recent revelations, such as the fact that the United States spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. In return, he would be given asylum.

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney and national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project, confirmed the above details as part of an exclusive for Firedoglake. She noted that this news, although premature, had leaked on Twitter by an “unidentified” source. ...

Radack suggested that Snowden has thought about whether he would be safe and is fairly confident he would be okay if he was living in the country.

No asylum offer has been made. No formal application for asylum has been submitted to the German government. However, it does appear this may be a next step.

Snowden was visited by a German politician, and they discussed whether he might enter the witness protection program or be granted asylum. They determined that pursuing the possibility of asylum would be better than witness protection.

The situation, according to Radack, is “delicate.” The fact that the news leaked on Twitter could scuttle a possible asylum offer, however, the human rights attorneys involved, despite the leak, are interested in continuing to push for an asylum offer with politicians, who have been part of discussions.

Meet the “Dark Mail Alliance” Planning to Keep the NSA Out of Your Inbox

Email might be on the verge of a radical makeover. And the NSA is not going to like it.

On Wednesday, two American companies with a track record of offering encrypted private communications are set to join forces in an unprecedented bid to counter dragnet Internet spying. Some of the world’s top cryptographers are behind the secure communications provider Silent Circle, and they’ve teamed up with the founder of Lavabit, the email provider used by Edward Snowden, which recently shut down in a bid to resist surveillance. They’re calling it the “Dark Mail Alliance.” For months, the team has been quietly working on rebuilding email as we know it—and they claim to have had a breakthrough.

The newly developed technology has been designed to look just like ordinary email, with an interface that includes all the usual folders—inbox, sent mail, and drafts. But where it differs is that it will automatically deploy peer-to-peer encryption, so that users of the Dark Mail technology will be able to communicate securely. The encryption, based on a Silent Circle instant messaging protocol called SCIMP, will apply to both content and metadata of the message and attachments. And the secret keys generated to encrypt the communications will be ephemeral, meaning they are deleted after each exchange of messages.

For the NSA and similar surveillance agencies across the world, it will sound like a nightmare. The technology will thwart attempts to sift emails directly from Internet cables as part of so-called “upstream” collection programs and limit the ability to collect messages directly from Internet companies through court orders. ... Existing forms of email encryption, like PGP, can be used to encrypt the content of an email. But PGP cannot encrypt the “subject” header or metadata like the “to” and “from” fields, and the average user can find it too complicated to use. Dark Mail promises to address both of these issues in the form of an easy-to-use iOS app and an Android app. There will also be desktop versions for Mac and Windows users.


Report Exposes 'Unprecedented, Corporate-Backed Attack on Workers'

A new report by the Economic Policy Institute released Thursday, examining the "unprecedented" attack on the rights of both unionized and nonunionized workers in states across the country, reveals how the right-wing machine in recent years has crippled the gains of a once prosperous middle class.

“At a time when our focus should be reversing income inequality and making sure more Americans can find good-paying jobs, it turns out that governors and state legislators, working at the behest of corporate lobbies are working to pass laws that will cut the wages, benefits and bargaining power of both union and nonunion workers," says EPI researcher and author of the report Gordon Lafe.

In the report, The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011–2012, the first-ever comprehensive examination of these legislative efforts, EPI shows how the nation’s most powerful corporate interests are systematically undercutting "the ability of workers to earn a middle class wage" and tilting the labor market ever further in the interest of the economic elite by stripping and undermining established protections.

A key takeaway from his research, contends Lafer, is that "local politics has become nationalized, with state legislation written by the staffs of national lobbies, funded in a coordinated effort by national and multinational corporations."

Chris Hedges at Moravian College: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

‘American capitalism is not producing’ for 47 million poor Americans

MSNBC host Chris Hayes couldn’t contain his exasperation on Wednesday in discussing the implications for poor Americans if $5 billion is cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on Friday.

“Fifteen percent of Americans are poor,” Hayes told Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and his other panelists. “Forty-seven million people. I look at that and I say, this is not working. What we are doing right now — our system, the system we’re running, is failing. Forty seven million people hungry, in poverty, in this country is a failing rate. American capitalism is not producing, at this moment, broad gains for people. It is not.” ...

Taking $5 billion out of the SNAP program, New York Coalition Against Hunger executive director Joel Berg told Hayes, would have the same effect as shutting down all of the country’s food charities for a year, a loss that food banks would not be able to cover, a topic that, as Media Matters reported on Tuesday, has gone largely ignored in media circles.

Well worth reading in full; Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers comprehensively address the reasons why Obamacare is not worth supporting.
Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called "Obamacare," may be the biggest insurance scam in history. The industries that profit from our current health care system wrote the legislation, heavily influenced the regulations and have received waivers exempting them from provisions in the law. This has all been done to protect and enhance their profits.

In the meantime, the health care crisis continues. Fewer people, even those with health insurance, can afford the health care they need because of out-of-pocket costs. The ACA continues that trend by pushing skimpy health plans with low coverage and restricted networks.

This is what happens in a market-based system of health care. People get only the amount of health care they can afford, rather than what they need. The ACA takes our failed market-based system to a whole new level by forcing the uninsured to purchase private health plans and using the government to sell and subsidize them.

Democrats Protest $5 Billion Food Stamp Cut They Voted For

A group of nine Democratic members of the House of Representatives held a press conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday to demand Congress avert an automatic food stamp cut scheduled to take effect on Friday.

"The average family of four will see a $36 cut in their monthly benefits, bringing the average per-person benefit from $1.50 a meal to $1.40 a meal," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said. "Shame on this Congress for allowing this to happen."

But the cut, which will reduce monthly benefits for all 47 million Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by roughly 7 percent, is happening thanks mainly to Democratic votes that hastened the demise of a benefit increase from the 2009 stimulus bill. Each of the representatives at Tuesday's presser voted with their party for a pair of 2010 spending bills that set the cuts in motion.

JPMorgan's $13B Penalty Could Be A Huge Blow to Struggling Homeowners

JPMorgan's $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department is supposed to be punishment for the bank's violations in the sale of mortgage-backed securities. But it could end up far worse for the struggling homeowners some of the money is supposed to assist. While JPMorgan could be allowed to write off the penalty as a tax deduction, ordinary people who receive mortgage relief as part of the settlement could get hit with a giant tax bill, making the debt relief benefit irrelevant, if not actively harmful. This is because Congress, through their sheer inaction, will soon allow this type of mortgage relief to be taxed as income.

This is an unintended consequence of the Justice Department's settlement with JPMorgan Chase, but they have a chance to avoid letting this topsy-turvy outcome occur. They could insert language into the settlement so the mortgage relief is not taxed, but given who participates in such negotiations—bank lawyers, not homeowners—it’s highly unlikely. And it shows once again how utterly tilted the justice system is toward the rich and connected. ...

That means that the money JPMorgan will pay as aid to homeowners, could, thanks to our dysfunctional politics, end up hurting them even further. Here’s an illustrative example. Say an individual Detroit homeowner earning $40,000 a year gets a principal reduction of $100,000, roughly the average principal reduction in the National Mortgage Settlement, a previous deal that offered consumer mortgage relief as part of a penalty for bank misdeeds. In the tax year 2014, that homeowner would record an income of $140,000, and their resulting tax bill, according to this calculator, would be $29,693, or nearly three-quarters of the homeowner’s annual income. Homeowners struggling to stay in their homes typically do not carry large amounts of cash reserves to pay off tax bills; they wouldn’t be desperate for mortgage debt relief if they did.

Canadians Seek Dick Cheney's Arrest For War Crimes During Upcoming Visit

An international volunteer organization urged Canadian authorities to arrest former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on war crimes charges when he visits the 2013 Toronto Global Forum later this week.

Lawyers Against the War argued in a letter dated Sunday that Toronto Police Chief William Blair and Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen have a duty to arrest Cheney "as a person suspected on reasonable grounds of authorizing, counseling, aiding, abetting and failing to prevent torture.”

“Once Richard (Dick) Cheney enters Canada … Canada must ensure that Dick Cheney is either investigated and prosecuted for the indictable offence of torture in Canada or extradited to another country willing and able to do so," Lawyers Against the War's Gail Davidson wrote.

The letter contended that Toronto police are legally obligated to arrest Cheney to prevent him from “escaping to the United States.”

Speaking of fascists...
DHS and NSA Threaten to Sue Man for Selling "Department of Homeland Stupidity" T-Shirts and Coffee Mugs!

The Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency threatened to sue a novelty store owner who sells "Department of Homeland Stupidity" coffee cups and T-shirts with the slogan: "The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens."  ...

McCall operates the website He has (nonparty) -which prints images provided by customers onto products - print his images onto the items he sells. ...

In his 8-page lawsuit, McCall claims that his "use of images of the NSA and DHS seals, whether unaltered but in combination with critical text, or altered in parodic form, did not create any likelihood of confusion about the source or sponsorship of the materials on which they were available to be printed. No reasonable viewer is likely to believe that any of the materials is affiliated with or sponsored by defendants. Nor were the seals affixed to the items to be sold with any fraudulent intent."

McCall claims his images make fair use of the NSA and DHS seals "to identify federal government agencies as the subject of criticism," and are protected by the First Amendment.

Syria's chemical weapons production facilities destroyed, says watchdog

Syria has destroyed all of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities, meeting a key deadline in an ambitious disarmament programme, the international chemical weapons watchdog said in a document seen by Reuters.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its teams had inspected 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites across the country. The other two were too dangerous to inspect but the chemical equipment had already been moved to other sites which experts had visited, it said.

"The OPCW is satisfied it has verified, and seen destroyed, all declared critical production/mixing/filling equipment from all 23 sites," the document said.

"These Drones Attack Us and the Whole World is Silent": New Film Exposes Secret U.S. War

At Long Last, Congress Hears From a Drone Strike Victim

 On Tuesday morning, almost 10 years after the U.S. government began using drones to target suspected militants in Pakistan—one of the tools of the War on Terror that the Obama administration has embraced and expanded since taking office in 2009—Congress heard from some of the policy’s innocent victims for the first time.

In the Rayburn House Office Building, Pakistani school teacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children, 13-year-old Zubair and 9-year-old Nabila, recounted before five members of Congress how an October 2012 drone strike in their native tribal region of North Waziristan killed Rehman’s 67-year-old mother and left the family physically and mentally scarred. ...

Organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) in conjunction with the progressive media non-profit Brave New Foundation, the briefing was not a formal hearing. In fact, there were some concerns that it would not take place at all, given that the family’s lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, who has investigated drone strikes in Pakistan for the last three years and directs the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, was denied a visa by the U.S. government. Linsey Pecikonis, a spokesperson for Brave New Foundation, says she wasn’t sure the meeting was actually going to happen until the Rehman family physically made it out of the airport in Washington last week. ...

According to [Jennifer] Gibson [a lawyer with the United Kingdom-based non-profit Reprieve], whose group has investigated and publicized the United States’ use of drones, the responsibility to prove that drone strikes are harming innocent civilians must not remain on the civilians themselves. “The onus is no longer on these victims to provide evidence of their case. They have done that,” Gibson said during the presentation. “The onus is now on President Obama and this administration to bring this war out of the shadows.”

The Evening Greens

No One's Really Monitoring the Pipeline in Your Back Yard

The most recent publicly known spill in North Dakota was discovered by a wheat farmer in Tioga, near the northwestern corner of the state, on September 29. Over 865,000 gallons of oil, enough to ooze over seven acres of land, had leaked from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline. Tesoro didn’t know about the leak until the farmer, Steven Jensen, called another oil company with a pipeline in the Tioga area to report that oil was gurgling up from the ground on his property. After being relayed to Tesoro the same day, notice of the problem got to the North Dakota Department of Health, whose officials did not alert the public of the accident until several days later, according to the New York Times. According to the AP, “officials kept it quiet for 11 days - and only said something after the AP asked about it.” ...

Notifying the public about spills is one thing, but what about detecting leaks in the first place? Surely there’s a better alert method than waiting for a landowner to step in a puddle of oil.

Or maybe not: A 2012 study commissioned by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found that emergency responders or members of the public are more likely to detect oil pipeline spills than the pipeline companies themselves.

The PHMSA is responsible for regulating the operation of the nation’s 2.5 million miles of crude oil, refined petroleum, and natural gas pipelines. But the agency puts forth relatively few guidelines, rules, or standards regarding pipeline inspection and leak detection. And in September, PHMSA administrator Jeffrey Wiese publicly admitted that he has “very few tools to work with” to create and enforce pipeline safety rules, and that the entire regulatory process in this area is “kind of dying.” The PHMSA has been chronically short of safety inspectors for years now.

Canadians Spin Huge Pollution Levels as “Responsible Development"

Canada’s monitoring of the dirty tar sands is clearly failing the local communities, despite attempts by the region’s politicians to spin it otherwise.

The seriousness of the situation was highlighted last week when scientific research was published that found levels of contaminants near the tar sands processing region were higher than in some of the world’s most polluted cities.

In the region men are now also suffering elevated rates of cancer.

The study by UC Irvine and University of Michigan scientists revealed that there were high levels of the carcinogens 1,3-butadiene and benzene as well as other airborne pollutants in communities on the front line of tar sands extraction and processing.

Airborne levels of 1,3-butadiene were 322 times greater downwind of the tar sands, while downwind levels of benzene were 51 times greater.

And amounts of some volatile organic compounds were a staggering 6,000 times higher than normal.

The researchers also found that the number of men with leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was greater in communities closest to the pollution plumes.

Eyes of the Nation on Colorado Towns' Fracking Fight

Next Wednesday, voters in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins will have the opportunity to choose whether or not they support the controversial extraction method of shale oil and gas in their communities.

The Denver Business Journal provides this rundown of the four ballot measures:

  • Broomfield: Question 300 would impose a five-year prohibition on all fracking.
  • Fort Collins: Its measure would create a five-year moratorium on fracking and storage of waste products related to the oil and gas industry in town.
  • City of Boulder: 2H proposes a five-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration.
  • Lafayette: Question No. 300 would ban new oil and gas wells in town. [As well as] prohibit "depositing, storing or transporting within city limits any water, brine, chemical or by-products used in or that result from extraction of oil and gas.”

Though local ballot initiatives, these are no small-town battles. According to reports, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) has poured over $600,000 into campaigns against the moratoriums.

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Halloween Parade - RIP, Lou Reed

Brief Update On The Government Shutdown's Effect Upon America's "Economic Recovery"

The Fact Checker - Obama’s pledge that ‘no one will take away’ your health plan

A Little Night Music

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs - Haunted House

LaVern Baker - Voodoo Voodoo

Tabby Thomas - Hoodo Party

Redbone - The Witch Queen Of New Orleans

Jimmie Driftwood - He Had A Long Chain On

Howlin' Wolf - Moaning at Midnight

Otis Spann - It Must Have Been The Devil

Zu Zu Bollin - Cold Cold Feeling

William Clarke - Evil

Screamin Jay Hawkins - Little Demon

Charles Sheffield - It's Your Voodoo Workin'

The Blues Brothers - Ghost Riders in The Sky

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!

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