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 blues singer, guitarist and piano player Henry "Mule" Townsend. Enjoy!
Henry Townsend - Cairo Blues
"All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume."
-- Noam Chomsky
News and Opinion
Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters
Top-secret documents from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart reveal for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.
The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous. ...
The documents call into question the Obama administration’s repeated insistence that U.S. citizens are not being caught up in the sweeping surveillance dragnet being cast by the NSA. Under the broad rationale considered by the agency, for example, any communication with a group designated as a “malicious foreign actor,” such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous, would be considered fair game for surveillance.
Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in surveillance issues, says the revelations shed a disturbing light on the NSA’s willingness to sweep up American citizens in its surveillance net.
“All the reassurances Americans heard that the broad authorities of the FISA Amendments Act could only be used to ‘target’ foreigners seem a bit more hollow,” Sanchez says, “when you realize that the ‘foreign target’ can be an entire Web site or online forum used by thousands if not millions of Americans.”
NSA and GCHQ spying on WikiLeaksPfffffftttt!!!
Julian Assange calls for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the NSA, after documents show US spying on WikiLeaks and its supporters.
Today, documents were published from the national security whistleblower Edward Snowden, detailing US and UK spying efforts against the publishing organization WikiLeaks. One document shows that as far back as 2010 the US National Security Agency added WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to a “MANHUNTING” target list, together with suspected members of al-Qaeda. Another shows that the NSA wanted to designate WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor” in order to expand the NSA’s ability to target WikiLeaks staff, associates and supporters. And a third document, from 2012, demonstrates that the NSA’s UK partner GCHQ also spied on WikiLeaks and its readers.
In response to these revelations WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange has released the following statement:’WikiLeaks strongly condemns the reckless and unlawful behavior of the National Security Agency. We call on the Obama administration to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media including WikiLeaks and its extended network.
News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling. No less concerning are revelations that the US government deployed "elements of state power" to pressure European nations into abusing their own legal systems; and that the British spy agency GCHQ is engaged in extensive hostile monitoring of a popular publisher’s website and its readers.
The NSA and its UK accomplices show no respect for the rule of law. But there is a cost to conducting illicit actions against a media organization. We have already filed criminal cases against the FBI and US military in multiple European jurisdictions. The FBI’s paid informant, who attempted to sell information about me and my staff to the FBI, was imprisoned earlier this year.
No entity, including the NSA, should be permitted to act against journalists with impunity. We have instructed our General Counsel Judge Baltasar Garzón to prepare the appropriate response. The investigations into attempts to interfere with the work of WikiLeaks will go wherever they need to go. Make no mistake: those responsible will be held to account and brought to justice.’
Clapper: NSA should have been more open about data collection
The US director of national intelligence has conceded that the US government ought to have told American citizens that the National Security Agency collects their phone data in bulk.
James Clapper, whose misleading testimony to the Senate about the mass surveillance now overshadows his nearly four years atop the US intelligence agencies, continued to defend the bulk domestic phone, fax and other “telephony” data collection, as well as his honesty.
But in an interview released late Monday with the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake, Clapper said that crucial moment was the first revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on 5 June last year, when the Guardian revealed the bulk phone records collection, which claims legal authority under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. “What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” Clapper said.
Clapper said that the controversy would not have occurred had the security apparatus been more open before. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 – which is the genesis of the 215 program – and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards … We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”
His admission contradicts months of warnings, from his office and from elsewhere in the administration, that disclosure of the bulk data collection jeopardized US national security.
This leapt out at me from a feature article about Amazon/Jeff Bezos. It brought to mind the fact that Amazon recently won a contract with the CIA:
In 1995, in Chicago, Bezos manned an Amazon booth at the annual conclave of the publishing industry, which is now called BookExpo America. Roger Doeren, from a Kansas City store called Rainy Day Books, was stopped short by Amazon’s sign: “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.” Approaching Bezos, he asked, “Where is Earth’s biggest bookstore?”
“Cyberspace,” Bezos replied. ...
Bezos said that Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. The books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet. (Amazon says that its original business plan “contemplated only books.”) ...
Before Google, and long before Facebook, Bezos had realized that the greatest value of an online company lay in the consumer data it collected.
Drone victim meets with German MPs and officials in wake of Pakistan kidnapping
Kareem Khan will today meet with the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Committees, as well as members of Germany’s Green Party. Tomorrow he is set to meet officials from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There had been fears for Mr Khan’s safety up until last Friday, following his abduction from his Rawalpindi home by men in police uniforms on February 5. Mr Khan had not been heard from until his release on February 14, after which he revealed that, during his captivity, he had been beaten and questioned about his activities.
Mr Khan is being accompanied on his visit by Noor Behram, a journalist from North Waziristan (the region which bears the brunt of CIA strikes); his lawyer Shahzad Akbar, a fellow of human rights charity Reprieve; and Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney at Reprieve.
The group is visiting Germany, followed by the Netherlands and the UK, in order to discuss the impact of the CIA drone programme on civilians in Pakistan.
European states have been revealed to be involved in the CIA campaign through the sharing of intelligence used to target strikes, and the provision of crucial infrastructure – notably at US air bases such as Ramstein in Germany and RAF Croughton in the UK.
Protests Over Twitter Tax Breaks As Angers Rise In Inequality Valley, California
The city of San Francisco is running a deficit, urging its government workers to put more of their personal earnings into health care costs for themselves and their families. But this deficit, workers argue, could be overcome if major technology companies in the area weren’t given the immense tax breaks they currently receive.
Across the Bay Area, and especially as one heads south from San Francisco, labor activists and others are gearing up for what could become the next hotspot of American activism: making wealthy tech giants pay their share.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of members of SEIU Union 1021 and other supporters marched through downtown San Francisco to Twitter’s headquarters. They picketed for about an hour, calling for an end to the massive tax breaks the company gets in the name of building a larger job base for the city.
Twitter, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, was given some $55 million in tax breaks last year alone, and many economists and observers believe it will receive even more breaks in 2014. For workers and Bay Area residents, the numbers are hard to swallow and anger is brewing.
Twitter, of course, is not the only tech company receiving big tax breaks. Zynga, the maker of Facebook games like FarmVille, received $6 million in tax breaks in 2011, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Several other companies, such as Microsoft and Spotify, areapplying for their own exemptions.
What is arguably a tipping point in the growing fight against inequality in the Bay Area is the skyrocketing rent: prices have increased across San Francisco and the Peninsula, heading south towards San Jose, by some $1,500 across the board in recent years.
Now, families that have called the area home for decades are being forced to look elsewhere, farther away from their place of work, in order to meet the basic need of a roof over their head.
Obama Admin’s TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks
Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.
Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.
Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman's] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.”
Many large corporations with a strong incentive to influence public policy award bonuses and other incentive pay to executives if they take jobs within the government. CitiGroup, for instance, provides an executive contract that awards additional retirement pay upon leaving to take a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.” Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, the Blackstone Group, Fannie Mae, Northern Trust, and Northrop Grumman are among the other firms that offer financial rewards upon retirement for government service.
Froman joined the administration in 2009. Selig is currently awaiting Senate confirmation before he can take his post, which collaborates with the trade officials to support the TPP.
Union leaders condemn 'despicable' GOP effort to influence UAW vote
A failed attempt to extend union recognition into southern manufacturing states erupted in bitter recriminations on Monday as labour leaders across the US accused Republican opponents of “extortion”.
Employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga factory in Tennessee voted narrowly against joining the United Auto Workers union despite support from the German company’s largely unionised workforce in the rest of the world.
But warnings from local Republican politicians that recognition would lead to a loss of state subsidies has prompted a sharp attack from several unions, underlining a high-stakes struggle that goes far beyond one car factory. ...
But the vote of 712 to 626 against UAW recognition on Friday evening has led to a clutch of other US unions to speak out, arguing the battle was as an important a milestone as a high-profile campaign against anti-union laws in Wisconsin in 2011.
“The narrow loss in the National Labor Relations Board election Friday would have been just an issue of working Americans exercising their rights if it were not for the despicable interference of Senator Corker, Governor Haslam, Republican state legislators and outsiders like Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers,” the Communication Workers Union said in a statement on Monday.
“These officials will claim that they have free speech rights, whether they are lying or not, or even when they’re engaging in blatant extortion. Chattanooga is the new Madison, Wisconsin.”
Four reported dead, more than 100 injured as violent clashes break out near Ukraine's parliament
Open warfare broke out on the streets of Kyiv today, with four persons reportedly killed and more than 100 people injured.
Dr. Olga Bogomolets, a physician, told the Kyiv Post at 3:30 p.m. today that three protesters had been shot to death while dozens more were injured, including many with serious wounds. The Emergencies Ministry reported a fourth casualty, that of an employee for the ruling pro-presidential Party of Regions, apparently killed after protesters stormed the party office on Lypska Street. ...
The four deaths came in the aftermath of renewed violent clashes that pit thousands of police and protesters against each other at several locations near Ukraine's parliament building in Kyiv. Police said that at least 37 police officers were injured, but that number could not be confirmed by other sources.
The Institute of Mass Information said that at least eight journalists covering the violence were attacked by police.
Ukraine: at least a dozen people killed in Kiev clashes
A large section of the protest camp in the capital, Kiev, was engulfed in flames on Tuesday night as police advanced on the demonstrators using water cannons and stun grenades. ...
There were reports that riot police were firing smoke and stun grenades. Opposition sources said police snipers were firing on demonstrators from rooftops. According to reports, security services began moving in at around 6pm GMT after announcing over loudspeakers that they were about to conduct "an anti-terror operation". ...
"Snipers posted on roofs are targeting the heads and chests of protesters. "Ambulances blocked by security forces are not able to provide first aid to the injured," it continued.
Protesters, some of them armed with air pistols and petrol bombs, hurled bricks and paving stones at ranks of riot police, who used rubber bullets, smoke and stun grenades. Many of the injuries were said to have been head wounds from being struck by grenades.
US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake
When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that's not the way Latin American governments generally see it.
On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week's demonstrations in Venezuela. They described "the recent violent acts" in Venezuela as "attempts to destabilize the democratic order". They made it abundantly clear where they stood.
The governments stated:their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and, in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool....
Of course we all know who the US government supports in Venezuela. They don't really try to hide it: there's $5m in the 2014 US federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg – adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years.
But what makes these current US statements important, and angers governments in the region, is that they are telling the Venezuelan opposition that Washington is once again backing regime change. ... It took a long time for the opposition to accept the results of democratic elections in Venezuela. They tried a military coup, backed by the US in 2002; when that failed they tried to topple the government with an oil strike. They lost an attempt to recall the president in 2004 and cried foul; then they boycotted National Assembly elections for no reason the following year. The failed attempt to de-legitimize last April's presidential election was a return to this dark but not-so-distant past. It remains to be seen how far they will go this time to win by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box, and how long they will have Washington's support for regime change in Venezuela.
Venezuela Under Attack Again
Again, a highly organized attack is being carried out against the democratic and popular government of Venezuela. It has involved monetary manipulations, economic sabotage, international media campaign against the economy despite excellent economic indicators, defaming the state run oil company, and this last week riots on the streets that have left 3 dead and 66 injured.
The tactics are the same that the un-democratic opposition has tried for 15 years ever since the first election of President Hugo Chávez. Such tactics have been used in the so-called Rainbow Revolutions in Eastern Europe, Libya, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Ukraine. The object is to give a semblance of chaos, to provoke the forces of public order, to discredit the government through the compliant international media, to foster civil unrest, even civil war (as it successfully happened in Syria), and ultimately to promote conditions for international intervention and even occupation.
However, Venezuela is not in the Middle nor Near East and its government is a participatory democracy that enjoys a very strong majority, the backing of all key institutions under the rule of law, and the support of its regional neighbors. Furthermore, the population is linked to many organized community groupings, it is not an amorphous mass.
The stakes are high because the country has the largest known oil reserves and these are a stone’s throw from Washington.
The Evening Greens
Suspected Radiation Leak in Military's Nuclear Dumping Ground
A New Mexico deep-earth repository for the U.S. military's nuclear waste has likely sprung an underground radiation leak, sparking concern among Native American communities and other residents who "carry the burden" of this state's nuclear legacy. ...
Over the weekend, abnormally high levels of radioactive particles were found underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico, where radioactive waste, including from nuclear weapons production, is dumped deep beneath the earth's surface and stored in salt formations.
"I believe it's safe to say we've never seen a level like we are seeing. We just don't know if it's a real event, but it looks like one," said Department of Energy spokesman Roger Nelson. ...
Don Hancock, Director of the Nuclear Waste Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center, says the concerns about the site extend beyond the method of nuclear waste storage. "We have always thought the site is a bad site primarily because it is centrally located in one of the largest and most active oil and gas production areas in the United States. This does not seem to be an appropriate place to put waste."
The incident comes just over a week after an underground truck fire forced an evacuation of the facility.
U.S. whacks India with WTO complaint over its local solar program
India is going gangbusters for solar. Over the past four years, the country has boosted its grid-connected solar capacity from 18 megawatts to 2,200 MW. The prime minister’s pet renewables project, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, aims to increase that figure to 20,000 MW by 2022. And, as we told you yesterday, India has plans to build the world’s biggest solar array.
Such ambitions are helping the country slow the growth of its carbon emissions and are providing reliable electricity supplies to historically electricity-poor communities. And because the national solar program requires developers to use domestically made panels, it’s generating green jobs in a country where poverty is rampant.
Which all sounds great — unless you’re the U.S. government.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says India’s rules requiring use of domestically produced solar panels unfairly discriminate against American panel manufacturers. He has been trying to smash open trade barriers around the world on environmental goods like solar panels and wind turbine components. On Monday, he announced that the U.S. would file a case with the World Trade Organization in a bid to abolish India’s rules on use of domestic panels.
Over One Million Voices to European Parliament: Stop Water Privatization
First European Citizens' Initiative calls for water to be human right, not a commodity
Nearly nearly 1.7 million Europeans symbolically brought their voices to Brussels on Monday to say "water is a human right," not a commodity to be privatized.
The action comes as a result the first European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)—a tactic through which EU citizens can propose legislation if they show backing from at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states. There is also a minimum number of signatories per member state required.
The campaign behind this first ECI, the Right2water, has three main goals. "Implement the human right to water, do not liberalize water services in the EU and do more to ensure people across the world have access to clean and safe water," stated Jan Willem Goudriaan, vice-president of the ECI Right2Water.
"We want the EU to change their mind-set from its current focus on competition and completely market-based approach, to a public service attitude and a rights-based approach. Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health. It is a ‘natural’ monopoly and must be kept out of internal market rules," the campaign adds on its website.
Ohio Governor's Office Linked to Fracking PR Conspiracy
The office of Ohio Governor John Kasich is implicated in an attempt to cover up the administration's involvement in a conspiracy to promote fracking in public parks.
A "Draft Communications Plan" dated October 20, 2012 and published Friday reveals a detailed plan for various agencies within the Kasich administration to "marginalize” opponents by teaming up with “allied” corporations—including Halliburton, business groups and media outlets—in a public relations maneuver to promote drilling on public land.
Though the governor's office had denied that the governor was aware of the plan, an internal email released Monday reveals that, on the same day the draft plan was dated, Kasich's Director of Policy Wayne Struble sent an email to eight senior staffers with the subject line: "Meeting re: State-Land Leasing - Strategy and Communications Meeting."
Both documents were obtained by the Sierra Club through an Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) public information request.
According to a statement issued by the Sierra Club, the initial draft memo reads like a "Nixonian" hitlist:The communication plan states that efforts to frack in Ohio’s state parks “will be met with zealous resistance by environmental activist opponents, who are skilled propagandists.” It sets out a comprehensive strategy to “marginalize” those on a lengthy fracking P.R. hit list, including the Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council, OMBWatch.org and state legislators. The document then lists “current and potential” allies in this effort, including the Governor’s Office, JobsOhio, Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Health, Halliburton, Chamber of Commerce, Youngstown Vindicator, and several other news outlets.
W. Virginia schools shut down after tainted water is linked to headaches and dizziness
Four West Virginia schools were forced to send students home earlier on Monday after teachers linked a chemical smell coming from the water to headaches and dizziness.
WCHS reported that Principal Erin Sullivan of Grandview Elementary School in Charleston followed protocol and dismissed the children early after learning of an odor associated with Crude MCHM, the chemical that shut down water for 300,000 people last month after it spilled into a West Virginia river.
Several teachers reported to Sullivan that they had experienced headaches and dizziness after detecting the smell sometime after 8 a.m. Response teams from the West Virginia National Guard and the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department were on site testing the water later on Tuesday. ...
The state also dispatched “rapid response teams” and closed three other schools on Monday due to a similar chemical smell in the water.
West Virginia Is Open For Business
What in the fk is the matter with West Virginia? Specifically, what in the fk is wrong with the elected officials in West Virginia, and more specifically, is Governor Earl Ray Tomblin waiting until you can see the state glow from space before he realizes that his business-friendly environment is primarily occupied wth poisoning the state's actual environment?
Right now, as the state is still grappling with the effect of the chemical spill from the conveniently bankrupt Freedom Industries, and from a deluge of coal slurry into a river an Kanawha County, this one courtesy of the recently-emerged-from-bankruptcy Patriot Coal, Governor Earl Ray and his environmental secretary have decided that this is the ideal moment to turn West Virginia into a catchbasin for fracking fluids.The legislation, HB 4411, which would allow the disposal of drill cuttings and associated drilling waste generated from well sites in commercial solid waste facilities, passed the House Energy Committee yesterday. And the Energy Committee is seeking to bypass the House Judiciary Committee and move the bill straight to the House floor.In July 2013, Huffman, without consulting solid waste authorities throughout the state, sent a memo to landfill owners and operators laying out how they could blow by their monthly tonnage limits to accommodate the fracking wastes.Once again, as it is on so many other issues, it is out in the states where environmental issues are most directly being either ignored, or actively exacerbated, largely because state governments are cheaper and easier to buy.
Anthropologist Jane Goodall: China is pillaging Africa like an old colonial power
China is exploiting Africa’s resources just like European colonisers did, with disastrous effects for the environment, acclaimed primatologist Jane Goodall has told AFP. ...
And the rising world power’s involvement on the continent especially raises alarms when it comes to her beloved chimpanzees and wildlife habitats.
During the last decade China has been investing heavily in African natural resources, developing mines, oil wells and running related construction companies. ...
“In Africa, China is merely doing what the colonialist did. They want raw materials for their economic growth, just as the colonialists were going into Africa and taking the natural resources, leaving people poorer,” she told AFP in an interview in Johannesburg.
The stakes for the environment may even be larger this time round, she warns.
“China is bigger, and the technology has improved… It is a disaster.”
Other than massive investment in Africa’s mines, China is also a big market for elephant tusks and rhino horn, which has driven poaching of these animals to alarming heights.
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
Henry James Townsend - Blind Girl Blues
Henry Townsend - All My Money's Gone
Henry Townsend - She's got a mean disposition
Henry Townsend - Heart Trouble
Henry Townsend - I Got Tired
Henry Townsend - Mistreated Blues
Henry Townsend - Buzz Buzz Buzz
Pinetop Sparks & Henry Townsend - Everyday I have the Blues
Henry Townsend - Talkin' guitar blues
Henry Townsend - Three G's Blues
Henry Townsend - Living St. Louis (Henry Townsend obit)
It's National Pie Day!
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