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.
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Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues pianist, singer and songwriter Detroit Junior. Enjoy!
Detroit Junior - If I hadn't been high
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
-- Mahatma Gandhi
News and Opinion
Global Action Against Mass Surveillance
Today—Tuesday, February 11th, 2014—is the day the people across the world are "fighting back" against mass, unwarranted surveillance.
With an online campaign designed to galvanize supporters of privacy and the open internet against the troublesome trend of government spying, more than 600 hundred organizations from around the globe—including Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla, ThoughtWorks, and others—are participating by posting banners on their websites and urging their members to endorse a set of 13 Principles for privacy protections.
Condensed, those 13 'Necessary and Proportionate Principles' around which people are gathering make clear that:
- States must recognize that mass surveillance threatens the human right to privacy, as welll as freedom of expression and association, and they must place these Principles at the heart of communications surveillance legal frameworks.
- States must commit to ensuring that advances in technology do not lead to disproportionate increases in the State’s capacity to interfere with the private lives of individuals.
- Transparency and rigorous adversarial oversight is needed to ensure changes in surveillance activities benefit from public debate and judicial scrutiny; this includes effective protections for whistleblowers.
- Just as modern surveillance transcends borders, so must privacy protections.
White House urged to open up review into big data and privacy threats
A coalition of 25 consumer, civil liberties and privacy groups have written to the White House calling for President Obama’s review of “Big Data and the Future of Privacy” to be opened up for participation by the public.
Groups including the Center for Digital Democracy, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic) and the American Civil Liberties Union have written to John Holdren, director of the White House office of science and technology policy, to demand that the public be given the opportunity to weigh in during the big data review, which was launched by President Obama in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance by the National Security Agency.
The letter says the public should be brought into the process “since it is their information that is being collected and their privacy and their future that is at stake.” ...
In the letter, the groups warn that bulk collection of personal data by government agencies and large commercial entities is putting consumers at ever-increasing risk. The groups call on the White House to “conduct a review that incorporates the concerns and opinions of those whose data may be collected in bulk as a result of their engagement with technology”.
Spyware that hit victims in 31 countries had government backing
Security researchers said Monday they discovered cyber-espionage malware which has hit governments and companies in 31 countries and is likely state-sponsored.
Kaspersky Lab researchers said the Spanish-language malware known as “The Mask” or “Careto” has been used since at least 2007 and is unusually complex, with versions that may infect mobile phones and tablets, including those running Apple or Google operating systems.
The researchers said the authors who appear to be Spanish speakers may use the virus to steal sensitive documents as well as encryption keys.
The main targets appear to be government and diplomatic offices, energy companies, research organizations, private equity firms and political activists, according to a white paper from Kaspersky. ...
The malware was active from 2007 until last month, when the command servers were shut down during Kaspersky’s investigation, the researchers said.
“Several reasons make us believe this could be a nation-state sponsored campaign,” Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said.
Raiu said the authors showed a high degree of technical sophistication and have been able to hide their activities so far.
“This level of operational security is not normal for cyber-criminal groups,” he said.
Snowden plea bargain speculation played down by ex-CIA and NSA chief
The former head of the CIA and the NSA, General Michael Hayden, dampened speculation on Monday that the US might offer a plea bargain to Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower.
Hayden, speaking at an Oxford University lecture, said that while deals had been done with other leakers in the past, he detected little enthusiasm for such a deal for Snowden.
His comments come after the US attorney-general Eric Holder and others within the Obama administration hinted at a possible plea bargain.
Snowden has temporary asylum in Russia until July and in the event of being refused an extension would have a further year in the country to appeal. In spite of sympathy for him in many western European countries, none of their governments are prepared to risk angering the US by granting him asylum.
ACLU to Obama: No, You Can't Just Murder an American Overseas
According to AP, "one U.S. official said the Defense Department was divided over whether the man"--said to be affiliated with Al-Qaida and engaged in alleged terrorist plots--"is dangerous enough to merit the potential domestic fallout of killing an American without charging him with a crime or trying him." However, the report continues: "the Pentagon did ultimately decide to recommend lethal action."
But the ACLU, which is fighting an ongoing legal battle with the White House over the CIA and Pentagon's use of drones and Obama's secretive assassination program, responded to the leaked details of the internal deliberations by issuing a serious warning against an attempted assassination.
“The government’s killing program has gone far beyond what the law permits, and it is based on secret evidence and legal interpretations," said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. "The targeted killing of an American being considered right now shows the inherent danger of a killing program based on vague and shifting legal standards, which has made it disturbingly easy for the government to operate outside the law." ...
"Outside of armed conflict zones," according to the ACLU, "the Constitution and international law prohibit the use of lethal force unless it is used as a last resort against a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of grave harm. Even in the context of an armed conflict against an armed group, the government may use lethal force only against individuals who are directly participating in hostilities against the United States."
RAF has fired missiles in Afghanistan using US drones, MoD reveals
British pilots have launched at least 39 missile strikes against suspected Taliban insurgents from American drones based in Afghanistan, according to new figures.
The details have emerged from the Ministry of Defence, which has for the first time disclosed how RAF crews using unmanned US aircraft have launched missiles in conflict zones.
The MoD insists British drone pilots always operate under UK rules of engagement, whatever asset they are flying.
However, campaigners have called for increased scrutiny over the use of the aircraft and condemned a lack of transparency about the programmes run by the American and British armed forces. British crews piloted US Reaper and Predator drones in Afghanistan on 2,150 occasions between 2006 and 2012 – an average of almost once a day. ...
Latest figures show RAF drones fired 94 Hellfire missiles in Afghanistan during 2013, bringing the total number of munitions and bombs fired by British unmanned systems since 2008 to 457.
AFRICOM: 'On a Roll' and Eyeing 'Opportunities'
As journalist Brian Stewart recently wrote at CBC News, "U.S. Africa Command — AFRICOM as it's called — has been on a roll at a time when the Pentagon is undergoing a big downsizing."
In an interview with Military.com, Marine Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, deputy to the commander for military operations at AFRICOM, foresees an increase in drones on the continent "to fill whatever need is required there."
He sees "more than enough space" for different branches to be involved—Army, Navy, Marines and special operators, while stressing that operations would be carried out in partnerships with African countries.
"There’s more than enough opportunities to be able to support the growth of the security sectors in the various countries," Hummer told Military.com.
As for the big picture he sees, Hummer said:I equate the violent extremist organizations to the crocodiles closest to the boat. You have to shoot them when they come up to the boat, so when the violent extremists impact or threaten U.S. interests, that’s what has to occur. But the bigger picture and strategic effort really needs to be draining the swamp.
Time to Take a Stand to End US ImpunityMommy, where does government propaganda come from? Why editorial boards of major media outlets, of course!
The United States has disregarded international law time and again, making a mockery of its very existence. Such behavior makes clear to the rest of the world that the U.S. lacks the moral authority necessary to make serious and substantiate its proclamations. I cannot help but conclude that U.S. hypocrisy, along with the clarity with which the populations of other states view U.S. policy, contributed to the U.S. being ranked as the greatest threat to world peace. ...
In just the past twelve-plus years, the United States has illegally invaded one country and systematically tortured individuals it has rendered and detained. Currently, the U.S. maintains oversight over facilities in Afghanistan at which detainees are still systematically tortured, force-feeds individuals protesting their indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, and operates a “targeted” killing program that continues to kill innocent people. As per usual, the U.S. has succeeded in egregiously violating some of the most significant international legal standards with complete impunity. ...
Impunity for U.S. actions and immunity for U.S. officials maintains bipartisan support among elected and appointed officials. The majority of the electorate either shares this support or only demands accountability when seeking such from members of the other party. And the media plays its obedient role as cheerleader for U.S. foreign policy. The use of the term ‘cheerleader’ is especially apt because many elected officials and their partisan supporters delude themselves into thinking all of this is just a game, one that involves two teams—the red team and the blue team. ...
In the United States, the actual use or threat of violence, therefore, is generally unnecessary to control the way the majority of the populace thinks because passiveness—active participation, of course, is only necessary through the symbolic act of voting for members of the red team or the blue team—is ingrained in Americans.
Chicago Tribune Stands Behind State’s Fantasy of Radical Terror, Even Though ‘NATO 3′ Acquitted of Terrorism
Few terrorism cases are lost by the government prosecutors in the United States, whether at the federal level or, in rare instances, at the state level. However, last week, a jury came to a verdict in the “NATO 3″ trial that acquitted three young men of all the terrorism charges they had faced.
It was a huge defeat for Illinois State’s Attorney of Cook County, Anita Alvarez, who angrily refused to admit the state had lost during a press conference after the verdict was announced.
Alvarez emphasized that the “NATO 3″ had still been found guilty of possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson as well as two mob action offenses. However, the state did not bring this case as an arson or mob action case and all along the public had been led to believe that these were “terrorists” on trial. And they were so dangerous that the men were going to be charged with offenses under a largely untested state terrorism statute.
Rather than react to the outcome in the trial by examining the decision by Alvarez to abuse her authority and bring this case as a terrorism case when there was no shred of evidence for such charges, the Chicago Tribune editorial board published a state-identified editorial on February 10 that was a fervent defense of all that Alvarez and other prosecutors did in this case. It stood in sharp contrast to an editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times, which stated, “The Chicago Police and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez almost comically overreached.”
Yellen says Fed on track to keep trimming stimulus
New Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Tuesday made it clear she would not make any abrupt changes to U.S. monetary policy, saying the central bank was on track to keep reducing its stimulus even though the labor market recovery was "far from complete."
In her first public comments as chief, Yellen said the Fed would need to keep its eye on the number of long-term unemployed Americans and those working only part-time but who want a full-time job, as it begins to plot a tricky reversal of it very accommodative policy stance.
While the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen by 1.5 percentage points since the latest bond-buying program began in September of 2012, at 6.6 percent the rate remains "well above levels" the Fed sees as consistent with maximum sustainable employment, Yellen said.
"(T)he recovery in the labor market is far from complete," she said.
House Republicans aim to pass 'clean' debt limit bill
Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday caved in to demands by President Barack Obama and agreed to advance legislation raising Washington's borrowing authority without conditions.
House Speaker John Boehner, announcing to reporters the plan to advance a "clean" debt limit bill to the House floor on Wednesday, said: "We'll let the Democrats put the votes up. We'll (Republicans) put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed."
It was not clear when the Democratic-controlled Senate would debate and pass the measure, but it is expected to do so before February 27, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew estimates he will run out of borrowing authority.
Lawsuit challenges Eric Holder action on Wall Street
A public advocacy group [Better Markets] filed a legal challenge Monday to block implementation of a record $13 billion civil settlement between Attorney General Eric Holder and Wall Street powerhouse JP Morgan Chase. ...
Holder negotiated privately with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to reach the November 2013 deal, in which Wall Street’s top bank did not admit guilt and simply agreed to a statement of facts. The privately brokered deal, said [Better Markets president Dennis] Kelleher, put on ice plans by federal prosecutors in Sacramento, Calif., to seek an injunction against JP Morgan Chase.
“This case really stands out, let’s face it, for the power grab,” Kelleher said.
The settlement did not preclude criminal charges brought against JP Morgan Chase employees or those in companies it acquired. But since the 2008 financial crisis, there have been few prosecutions of high-level Wall Street executives.
Specifically, Monday’s legal filing asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to impose an injunction halting the settlement with JP Morgan Chase from going forward. It calls the settlement unconstitutional and also alleges it violates the Administrative Procedures Act and more importantly the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989.
Barack Obama's Conservative Utopia in 7 Charts
As President Obama enters the final half of his last term, he has left us with an America that conservatives should love.
The trickle down dynamics of Reaganomics have been cemented into the tax code, abortion rates are down, and border enforcement has led to record deportations. The United States remains the military might of the world, augmented by an aggressive drone warfare program that allows for low risk interventions in hostile foreign lands. Union membership is down. International trade is on the rise.
Even on issues where conservatives might differ, like same sex marriage and marijuana legalization, the states have acted in lieu of the Feds, serving as the laboratories of democracy that conservatives have long claimed they always should have been.
The Evening Greens
House panel holds W.Va. hearing on chemical spill
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Several stakeholders in last month's chemical spill said 300,000 affected West Virginians can use their running water however they please. But no one ventured to tell federal lawmakers Monday that the water is "safe."
The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard testimony from government and water officials at a hearing Monday in Charleston. Almost exactly a month after the Jan. 9 spill, state and federal decision makers who lifted a water-use ban weeks ago emphasize the water met necessary scientific criteria.
State health officer Dr. Letitia Tierney said she is confident in the standard, but everyone has a different idea of what is safe. For instance, she said West Virginians can choose to base jump more than 800 feet off a bridge once a year. ...
Despite receiving an invitation, Freedom Industries President Gary Southern did not attend. Since the company spilled its licorice-smelling chemical into the Elk River, Southern has appeared publicly twice — at a news conference the day after the spill and in federal bankruptcy court on Jan. 21. Under bankruptcy proceedings, the company is temporarily shielded from dozens of lawsuits, many by businesses that lost money while shuttered during the water-use ban.
"There is an odor emanating from Freedom Industries, and it's not licorice," Rahall said. "We cannot legislate morality into the billionaire corporate courtrooms where shell game playing abounds."
Fossil Fuel Subsidies Dampen Shift Towards Renewables
Despite evolving public awareness and alarm over climate change, subsidies for the production and consumption of fossil fuels remain a stubborn impediment to shifting the world’s energy matrix towards renewable sources.
Collectively, fossil fuel subsidies amount to a nearly two-trillion-dollar oar left dragging in the water.
Today, lawmakers hold routine hearings on climate change’s costs and mitigation, citizens in developing nations demand reparations for extreme weather, and even multinational corporations have tepidly begun advertising that rising seas could spill over onto their bottom lines.
But talk is one thing, money quite another.
“If you can remove fossil fuel subsidies, then renewables are the clear choice, they are far cheaper in the long run,” said Philipp Tagwerker, research fellow at the Worldwatch Institute and author of a recent report tallying subsidies. “Renewables are competitive at the moment, but it takes political will to change.” ...
Though definitions vary, in 2013 the IMF found that when “post-tax” externalities like carbon emissions, effects on health and resource scarcity were considered, global subsidies of fossil fuels rose to “$1.9 trillion worldwide – the equivalent of 2.5 percent of global GDP, or 8 percent of government revenues.” Estimates for renewable subsidies top out at a comparably measly 88 billion dollars globally.
Pacific storm eases California drought, but state has long way to go
The most powerful winter storm to hit California in more than a year dumped several feet of snow in the high Sierras and soaked lower elevations with rain over the weekend, easing drought conditions but leaving the state thirsting for more, officials said on Monday.
The Pacific storm doubled the moisture content of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, a key gauge of the state’s principal source of surface water, said Dave Rizzardo, the chief of snow surveys for the state Department of Water Resources.
But the 3 inches of additional water content measured on Monday still leaves California at just 20 percent of where the state’s snowpack should be by Apri1 1, the traditional end of the winter rainy season, Rizzardo said. ...
Just last week, agriculture officials said farmers in California, which grows half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, were expecting to idle some 500,000 acres of cropland this year in what would be a record production loss for the top U.S. farm state.
The Sixth Extinction: Elizabeth Kolbert on How Humans Are Causing Largest Die-Off Since Dinosaur Age
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
Detroit Jr. - Money Crazy
Detroit Jr. - Hot Pants Baby
Detroit Junior - Cool Water Blues
Detroit Junior - Call My Job
Detroit Junior - I Got Money
Detroit Junior - Somebody to Shack
Detroit Junior & Group- Too Poor
Detroit Junior - You mean everything
Detroit Junior - All Through With Love
Lucille Spann w/Detroit Junior (pno)- Meat Ration Blues
Detroit Jr. - Young Blood
Detroit Junior - Money tree
It's National Pie Day!
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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.
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