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 guitarist and songwriter Elvin Bishop. Enjoy!
Elvin Bishop - Juke Joint Jump
"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security."
-- Milton Mayer (They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45)
News and Opinion
'I Want Them To Be Worried We’re Watching... To Never Know When We’re Overhead.'Greenwald reports through NBC again; it appears that the pace of revelations is picking up a bit lately.
Law enforcement push 'persistent surveillance' monitoring systems
“I want them to be worried that we’re watching. I want them to be worried that they never know when we’re overhead.”
That's what Police Chief Richard Biehl of Dayton, Ohio told the Washington Post while referring to the people of his city as he supported new aerial surveillance technology that would allow his officers to "track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time."
Focused on the work of Persistent Surveillance Systems—a Dayton-based company that is already providing aerial surveillance for large events, like political rallies and sporting events—the Post's reporting reveals that even as "Americans have grown increasingly comfortable with traditional surveillance cameras, a new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed." ...
Predictably, those in favor of the hovering surveillance technology, like Police Chief Biehl and the company's president Ryan McNutt, say the whole purpose of the 'unblinking eye-in-the-sky' is to solve crimes or prevent them from happening. ... But privacy advocates contend this is just another creepy development in the evolution of the 'Big Brother' society that George Orwell warned about and the National Security Agency has helped turn into a global enterprise.
Snowden Docs: British Spies Used Sex and 'Dirty Tricks'
British spies have developed “dirty tricks” for use against nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers that include releasing computer viruses, spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into “honey traps.”
Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and exclusively obtained by NBC News describe techniques developed by a secret British spy unit called the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG) as part of a growing mission to go on offense and attack adversaries ranging from Iran to the hacktivists of Anonymous. According to the documents, which come from presentations prepped in 2010 and 2012 for NSA cyber spy conferences, the agency’s goal was to “destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt” enemies by “discrediting” them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications. ....
Spies have long used sexual “honey traps” to snare, blackmail and influence targets. Most often, a male target is led to believe he has an opportunity for a romantic relationship or a sexual liaison with a woman, only to find that the woman is actually an intelligence operative. ... The version of a “honey trap” described by British cyber spies in the 2012 PowerPoint presentation sounds like a version of Internet dating, but includes physical encounters. The target is lured “to go somewhere on the Internet, or a physical location” to be met by “a friendly face.” The goal, according to the presentation, is to discredit the target. ...
The 2010 presentation also describes another potential operation that would utilize a technique called “credential harvesting” to select journalists who could be used to spread information. According to intelligence sources, spies considered using electronic snooping to identify non-British journalists who would then be manipulated to feed information to the target of a covert campaign. Apparently, the journalist’s job would provide access to the targeted individual, perhaps for an interview. The documents do not specify whether the journalists would be aware or unaware that they were being used to funnel information. ...
Other effective methods of cyber attack listed in the documents include changing photos on social media sites and emailing and texting colleagues and neighbors unsavory information.
Spooks' Worldwide Threat Assessment ranks internal leaks ahead of terrorism as a threat
Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who commands the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Matt Olsen, chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, claimed that Snowden’s revelations had resulted in changes in how Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups conduct their communications activities.
“What we’ve seen in the last six to eight months is an awareness by these groups…of our ability to monitor communications and specific instances where they’ve changed the ways in which they communicate to avoid being surveilled,” Olsen said.
This is both unprovable and likely bogus, since the vast bulk of the Snowden revelations concern US government spying on ordinary citizens of the United States and other countries to accumulate a gigantic database of all the communications linking all individuals throughout the world. This has nothing to do with fighting terrorism and everything to do with profiling the population politically and preparing the military-intelligence apparatus to suppress movements from below that would threaten the profits and property of the financial aristocracy.
The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing coincided with the release of a 27-page report, “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” filed annually with Congress by the director of national intelligence (DNI). This year’s report for the first time cites internal leaks as a major danger to US national security and actually ranks such leaks ahead of terrorism as a threat.
Secret court approves phone surveillance changes
National intelligence chief James R. Clapper said Thursday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had approved two limits on how the government can use huge volumes of data it collects about Americans' phone use. ...
Under the first change, Clapper said, the massive caches of phone records can be searched only after a court finds that there is "a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the selection term is associated with an approved international terrorist organization."
That limitation will be in place "absent a true emergency," Clapper said without elaboration.
The second change requires that the data query results "be limited within two hops of the selection term instead of three."
Angela Merkel: Victoria Nuland's remarks on EU are unacceptable
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has described as "totally unacceptable" remarks by a senior US official who said "fuck the EU" while speaking about the crisis in Ukraine.
In a leaked conversation posted on YouTube, the state department official Victoria Nuland revealed the White House's frustrations at Europe's hesitant policy towards pro-democracy protests in Ukraine, which erupted late last year. Nuland was talking to the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
The German spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said Merkel appreciated the work of Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, who had tried to mediate between the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and protesters who have taken to the streets. "The chancellor finds these remarks totally unacceptable and wants to emphasise that Mrs Ashton is doing an outstanding job," Wirtz said.
Speaking in Kiev, after meeting Yanukovych, Nuland refused to be drawn into the row. "I will not comment on a private diplomatic conversation," she said. But she implied she had been a victim of a sophisticated eavesdropping operation carried out by Russia's spy agencies. The embarrassing tape surfaced with Russian subtitles. "It was pretty impressive tradecraft. [The] audio quality was very good," Nuland said on Friday.
The point is not that she said fuck. The point is she's choosing the next president of Ukraine while calling for 'freedom' #nuland— IvorCrotty (@IvorCrotty) February 7, 2014
US official apologises to EU counterparts for undiplomatic language
The frustration of the Obama administration at Europe’s hesitant policy over the pro-democracy protests in Ukraine has been laid bare in a leaked phone conversation between two senior US officials, one of whom declares: “Fuck the EU”.
The US state department did not directly confirm that the leaked audio clip posted on YouTube captures the voices of the top US diplomat for European and Eurasian affairs,Victoria Nuland, and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. However, the department’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Nuland, who made the disparaging remark about the EU, “has been in contact with her EU counterparts and of course has apologised for these reported comments”.
In an attempt at damage limitation, US officials tried to turn focus onto Russia, suggesting that Moscow had leaked the audio recording. They pointed to an early tweet from Dmitry Loskutov, an aide to the deputy prime minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin, that said: “Sort of controversial judgment from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaking about the EU.” ...
At the State Department, [spokeswoman Jen] Psaki said that if the Russians were responsible for listening to, recording and posting a private diplomatic telephone conversation, it would be “a new low in Russian tradecraft”. Pressed on whether the call was authentic, Psaki said: “I didn’t say it was inauthentic.”
Blaming the Russians for leaking a conversation that was presumably obtained by covert means poses problems for the US, as documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the US has in the past listened into the communications of its allies, as well as enemies.
First Look Media to launch with Snowden-themed online magazine
First Look Media, a new journalism outlet funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, will begin publishing an online magazine next week, according to a statement released Thursday.
The first stories will be based on classified government documents obtained by Edward Snowden, the statement said.
The publication will be led by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras – journalists who have worked directly with Snowden – and by Jeremy Scahill, the investigative journalist and co-author of the film Dirty Wars. Greenwald broke the first revelations based on Snowden’s documents when he worked at the Guardian.
Turkish lawmakers adopt ‘Orwellian’ Internet limits
Turkish MPs late Wednesday adopted new Internet legislation roundly criticised as a fresh assault by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on freedom of expression, access to information and investigative journalism.
The proposals come amid parallel moves by Erdogan to push through contentious judicial reforms as he fights to keep the lid on a deeply damaging corruption probe entangling some of his closest allies. ...
The bill extends what are already hefty Internet curbs in place under a controversial 2007 law that earned Turkey equal ranking with China as the world’s biggest web censor according to a Google transparency report published in December. ...
Under that existing legislation, websites including blogging tool WordPress and video-sharing services DailyMotion and Vimeo have been blocked temporarily by court orders, while YouTube was off limits for two years until 2010.
Taliban talks: What is Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai really up to?
Whatever one’s judgment of sartorially immaculate crypto-American puppet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, he’s not a fool.
So now the word is out, via his spokesman Aimal Fazi, that Karzai envoys have been negotiating in Dubai with the Afghan Taliban. And Karzai, on top of it, is boldly encouraging Washington to join the party. Otherwise, he won’t sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) – the key plot line in the Hindu Kush’s favorite geopolitical soap opera for over a year now.
One may imagine the roars of laughter of Taliban supremo Mullah Omar at his secret refuge, possibly in Quetta – so secret that the NSA has never intercepted anything in or out of it.
Omar and his mullahs may – or may not – hold the pleasure of playing Karzai like a violin, lots of sophisticated Pashtun subterfuge included. Still, any way they play, they can’t lose. They know that as much as Karzai badly needs to buy some protection, Mob-style, he may also insert them – in a totally legit way – inside the Afghan political scene. What’s not to like?
The Obama administration, as usual, is puzzled. The official spin – playing like a scratched CD – is about “fighting Al-Qaeda.” It’s not. Al-Qaeda has been non-existent in Afghanistan for years. The fight is against the Taliban. Now, not only we’re sort of kicking ourselves out, but we also need to talk to them?
The point is everybody needs a deal with everybody else. Karzai well knows he needs to cut a deal with the Taliban; otherwise his successor, to be chosen in next April’s elections, will be crushed by them.
Bipartisan Senate group demanding a say in any Afghanistan security deal
A bipartisan group of senators demanding an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan urged President Barack Obama on Thursday to seek congressional approval if he wants to keep troops there beyond 2014.
The Obama administration is negotiating a bilateral security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that could keep troops in Afghanistan after the longest war in US history winds down at the end of this year, when the NATO mission ends.
“We are introducing a bipartisan resolution to say before any American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is committed to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, Congress should vote,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley told reporters.
“Automatic renewal is fine for Netflix and gym memberships, but it isn’t the right approach when it comes to war.”
Conservative Senator Mike Lee and fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul have also signed on.
A $9 Trillion War?
40 Republican senators are making a last-minute push to bring further Iran sanctions up for a vote despite the opposition of senate majority leader Harry Reid. Some 59 senators signed on to a plan to increase sanctions during President Obama’s negotiations with Iran, which Iranian leaders have argued could derail the talks. ... It is absolutely outrageous and very rare that Congress would interfere in diplomatic negotiations of the president. They let Bush go around invading countries but won’t let Obama try to forestall a war.
The GOP is acting for its own reasons, since it wants to take the senate in the fall and thinks making vulnerable Democrats explicitly vote against further Iran sanctions will hurt them with the public. But the further sanctions have been pushed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, other Israel lobbies, and the far right wing Israeli government of Binjamin Netanyahu, and some of the impetus for further pushing them likely is coming from AIPAC donors (who skew much further to the right than the mainstream of the American Jewish community– which after all contains many peace activists). ...
Iran is three times more populous than Iraq was when the US invaded it in 2003. It is also geographically three times Iraq’s size (it is the size of continental Western Europe– i.e. Germany, France and Spain combined). Gen. Shinseki estimated that based on the Balkans experience the US would have needed 800,000 troops in Iraq to pacify it post-invasion. He was proved right (US viceroy in Iraq Paul Bremer admitted that there were never enough US troops on the ground there). This estimate suggests that the US would need 2.4 million troops on the ground in Iran (hint: it does not have them).
If we figure in the cost over their lifetimes of caring for the some 30,000 Iraq War veterans who were injured badly enough to go to hospital, the true cost of the Iraq War is at least $3 trillion. The US is currently $16 trillion in debt, about the amount of its annual gross domestic product, which is a very dangerous economic posture that has led to its credit rating being cut. Iran could be three times as costly as Iraq, given the demographic and territorial considerations, and therefore could cost $9 trillion. That kind of debt burden (the money would have to be borrowed) would certainly bankrupt the country, causing the cost of borrowing money for small businesses to skyrocket and leading to a Great Depression.
Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes at five-year high: aid groups
Aid agencies working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem expressed alarm on Friday at a spike in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian property coinciding with renewed U.S.-backed peace negotiations.
The statement by 25 aid organizations said the number of demolitions increased by almost half and the displacement of Palestinians by nearly three-quarters between July 2013, when the talks began, and the end of the year, compared to the same period in 2012.
Of the 663 Palestinian structures torn down last year, the highest number in five years, 122 were built with international donor aid, the groups said.
The International Red Cross announced this week it would stop delivering tents to Palestinians made homeless by demolitions in the Jordan border region of the occupied West Bank, citing Israeli obstruction and confiscation of aid.
"International and local aid organizations have faced increasingly severe restrictions in responding to the needs created by the unlawful demolition of civilian property, in violation of Israel's obligation to facilitate the effective delivery of aid," wrote the groups, which included Oxfam and Christian Aid.
Israeli military and political officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Will Economy Weather the Weather, Another Bad Jobs Report?
Bad weather and continued cuts in government employment appeared to weigh on hiring in January, with employers adding just 113,000 jobs after dismal hiring in December, the government said in a report Friday.
Coming on top of softening economic data and sluggish car sales, the January jobs report from the Labor Department is sure to renew concerns that for a third straight year, forecasts for stronger growth may prove wrong.
Mainstream economists had expected January payrolls to grow by 175,000, so January's number was a second straight big miss. Friday’s report revised up December's dismal 74,000 jobs number by just 1,000 positions.
A better measure of unemployment trends over time:
Liberals should question Obama’s ‘opportunity agenda’
When focus shifts from inequality to opportunity, progressives lose
By invoking the “ladder of opportunity” and “opportunity agenda” as President Obama does, liberals may lose their grip on something that matters just as much, which is the real-world outcomes of such policies — the actual distribution of income and resources among Americans. “Equality of opportunity” doesn’t tell us enough about what we, as a society, should consider acceptable differences in outcomes, or the minimum that society ought to provide to individuals, or any of the societal elements of inequality.
Obama appears to have this in mind as well when he references work. He argues, alongside a majority of Americans, that “no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.” Actual distribution measures will be important for liberals to defend, because opportunity is both difficult territory and a weak standard to employ for having these political discussions.
Indeed, part of the very purpose of opportunity rhetoric and an embrace of meritocracy is a conceptual retreat from the broad claims of the welfare state. Instead of the idea that the wealth of society is created together, there’s the shady and poorly defined notions of individual merits and luck. Or as R.H. Tawney wrote in his 1931 book “Equality,” meritocracy is just “equal opportunities to become unequal.” ...
The whole point of equality of opportunity is about trying to create access for anyone to become an elite, thereby making the elite class itself socially acceptable. But what if elites are part of the problem? A focus on “opportunity” can’t help us here.
The issue of runaway income, wealth and power for the top 1 percent is the very part of the debate Obama is retreating from, even though it is perhaps the most important topic for addressing inequality.
The Evening Greens
More than a dozen communities in California could run out of water in months
Governor Jerry Brown last month declared a state of emergency due to what could be the worst drought in a century for California including its ultra-fertile Central Valley.
With no significant rain since November, state authorities identified 17 communities it warned could run out of water within 60-120 days, if the drought continues.
Only last Friday, California’s State Water Project announced for the first time in its 54-year history that it cannot deliver anything beyond the bare minimum to maintain public health and safety. ...
California’s drought — the third winter in a row with well below average rainfall — has also extended the annual wildfire season through into the winter, including one just outside Los Angeles that forced thousands of residents to evacuate.
The western state’s rivers and reservoirs have hit record lows, with only 20 percent of the normal average supplies of water from melting snowpack, which flows down from the Sierra Nevada.
Duke Energy Battles to Halt Leak Amid Coal-Ash Review
The latest spill comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prepares to issue regulations for coal ash after a record 1 billion gallons of ash sludge poured into Tennessee’s Emory River from a Tennessee Valley Authority disposal pond in 2008. Duke estimated its Dan River Plant pond has leaked as many as 27 million gallons of water and 82,000 tons of ash since Feb. 2. ...
“Duke has done nothing to contain the spill,” Donna Lisenby, the global coal campaign coordinator for the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance, said yesterday in an interview. When Lisenby visited the spill location Feb. 4, “there were no hard assets deployed on the river to clean up the ash, contain the ash, or stop the spill,” she said. ...
Environmental groups have sued the EPA to force a decision on coal-ash regulations, arguing that new rules are needed to protect human health and the environment. The EPA told a judge last month it will publish a final rule for managing coal-plant waste by Dec. 19.
Duke agreed last year to pay $100,000 to settle North Carolina claims that ash ponds at two of its coal-fired plants had polluted groundwater, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
As Coal Ash Spews Into N.C. River, More 'Ticking Time Bombs' Threaten
As a busted pipe at a Duke Energy power plant continues to leak arsenic and lead-laden coal ash into the Dan River that flows through North Carolina and Virginia, residents are demanding that energy giants stop pumping their waterways with poison.
“Any coal ash dump next to a river or lake is a ticking time bomb, and Duke has lost all credibility when it says it’s responsible to hold the fuse,” Greenpeace Charlotte organizer Monica Embrey said while protesting outside of Duke Energy's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday along with dozens others. “Duke should clean up its mess in the Dan River and make sure that Charlotte isn’t next.”
"This could have been avoided. The Environmental Protection Agency has dragged its feet on the issue of coal ash for more than five years," said Matt Wasson, director of programs for Appalachian Voices, in an interview with Common Dreams. "We've been warning about this, commenting to the EPA in public comment periods, and talking to the press."
Coal Ash Waste
Every year, the nation’s coal plants produce 140 million tons of coal ash pollution, the toxic by-product that is left over after the coal is burned. All that ash has to go somewhere, so it’s dumped in the backyards of power plants across the nation, into open-air pits and precarious surface waste ponds. Many of these sites lack adequate safeguards, leaving nearby communities at risk from potential large-scale disasters like the massive coal ash spill in Tennessee in 2008, and from gradual yet equally dangerous contamination as coal ash toxins seep into drinking water sources or are blown into nearby communities.
Coal ash pollution contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and hexavalent chromium. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash dumping have been known for many years, including increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, reproductive failure, asthma, and other illnesses.
Coal ash is not subject to federal protections, and state laws governing coal combustion waste disposal are usually weak or non-existent. The result: millions of tons of coal ash are being stored in ponds, landfills, and abandoned mines. Many of these sites lack adequate safeguards, leaving nearby communities at risk from potential large scale disasters like the December 22, 2008, TVA disaster in Tennessee in which a dike holding back decades’ worth of coal ash failed at the Kingston Fossil Plant, flooding the surrounding residential area with more than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash—enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep.
While dramatic events like the coal ash spills in Tennessee garner national media attention, dangerous contaminants are quietly seeping from coal ash dumps into groundwater supplies across the country or blowing into the air of communities, exposing people and wildlife to toxic substances. EPA data indicates that at least 535 coal ash ponds operate without a simple liner to prevent dangerous chemicals and heavy metals from reaching drinking water sources.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Elvin Bishop - Going Fishin'
Elvin Bishop - Travelin' Shoes
Elvin Bishop - So Fine, Party Till The Cows Come Home
Elvin Bishop - My Dog
Elvin Bishop - Help Me
Elvin Bishop - Oklahoma!
Elvin Bishop - Callin' All Cows
Blues Rockers - Calling All Cows
Elvin Bishop - Don´t Let The Bossman
Elvin Bishop - What the hell is going on?
Elvin Bishop - Country Blues
Elvin Bishop - Middle Aged Man
Elvin Bishop - That Train Is Gone
Elvin Bishop - Beer Drinking Woman
Elvin Bishop & Little Smokey Smothers - Roll Your Moneymaker
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!