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 Delta blues piano player Willie Love. Enjoy!
Willie Love - V8 Ford
“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
-- Lewis Carroll
News and Opinion
An excellent article, well worth taking the time to read:
Anatomy of the Deep State
During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War. ...
Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions — with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either — even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.
These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.
Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.
Judge Tosses Muslim Spying Suit Against NYPD, Says Any Damage Was Caused by Reporters Who Exposed It
A federal judge in Newark has thrown out a lawsuit against the New York Police Department for spying on New Jersey Muslims, saying if anyone was at fault, it was the Associated Press for telling people about it.
In his ruling Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini simultaneously demonstrated the willingness of the judiciary to give law enforcement alarming latitude in the name of fighting terror, greenlighted the targeting of Muslims based solely on their religious beliefs, and blamed the media for upsetting people by telling them what their government was doing.
The NYPD’s clandestine spying on daily life in Muslim communities in the region — with no probable cause, and nothing to show for it — was exposed in a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of stories by the AP. The stories described infiltration and surveillance of at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey alone.
In a cursory, 10-page ruling issued before even hearing oral arguments, Martini essentially said that what the targets didn’t know didn’t hurt them:None of the Plaintiffs’ injuries arose until after the Associated Press released unredacted, confidential NYPD documents and articles expressing its own interpretation of those documents. Nowhere in the Complaint do Plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press. This confirms that Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents. The harms are not “fairly traceable” to any act of surveillance.The NYPD didn’t publicize the program, the judge wrote. “The Associated Press covertly obtained confidential NYPD documents and published unredacted versions of these documents, as well as articles interpreting the documents.”
Chris Hedges: Edward Snowden’s Moral Courage
“My country, right or wrong” is the moral equivalent of “my mother, drunk or sober,” G.K. Chesterton reminded us.
So let me speak to you about those drunk with the power to sweep up all your email correspondence, your tweets, your Web searches, your phone records, your file transfers, your live chats, your financial data, your medical data, your criminal and civil court records and your movements, those who are awash in billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars, those who have banks of sophisticated computer systems, along with biosensors, scanners, face recognition technologies and miniature drones, those who have obliterated your anonymity, your privacy and, yes, your liberty.
There is no free press without the ability of the reporters to protect the confidentiality of those who have the moral courage to make public the abuse of power. Those few individuals inside government who dared to speak out about the system of mass surveillance have been charged as spies or hounded into exile. An omnipresent surveillance state—and I covered the East German Stasi state—creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible. Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state. It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control. The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, “but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.” The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.
Those who wield this unchecked power become delusional. Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, hired a Hollywood set designer to turn his command center at Fort Meade into a replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise so he could sit in the captain’s chair and pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had the audacity to lie under oath to Congress. This spectacle was a rare glimpse into the absurdist theater that now characterizes American political life. A congressional oversight committee holds public hearings. It is lied to. It knows it is being lied to. The person who lies knows the committee members know he is lying. And the committee, to protect their security clearances, says and does nothing.
"The Paragraph Began to Self-Delete": Did NSA Hack Computer of Snowden Biographer & Edit Book Draft?
Was Apple security ‘flaw’ actually an NSA backdoor?
Last week, Apple announced that it had discovered a major security flaw in its OS operating system. The flaw, called “Gotofail,” allowed hackers or other actors — including spies — to access to theoretically secure data transmitted through wireless connections or along a shared network. Such data included that sent through SSL, a method employed by websites to protect credit card numbers and other personal information when establishing a connection between a customer and a merchant’s point of sale.
The flaw was a simple one, a mistake in a line of code. Just an “if” clause, nested deep within lines of code.
Over the weekend, coding experts examined the timeline of the NSA’s penetration of Apple’s data and the date the flaw first emerged. They made a curious discovery: that the flaw appeared in Apple’s code just a month before the NSA internally reported success in hacking Apple. ...
One coder, Dancing Fireball‘s John Gruber, got down to the nitty gritty. Taking great pains to note the evidence was circumstantial, he nevertheless drew attention to the following facts. 1) The flaw first emerged in iOS 6.0, 2) iOS 6.0 was released publicly on Sept. 24, 2012, and 3) Snowden’s NSA slide has the agency tapping into Apple’s customers a month later. ... “Sure would be interesting to know who added that spurious line of code to the file,” he continued. “Conspiratorially, one could suppose the NSA planted the bug, through an employee mole, perhaps.
Secretive Netflix-Comcast Deal Destroys Promise of Net Neutrality
Arrangement allows Comcast to charge Netflix in exchange for preferential access to its network, undermining key 'net neutrality' principle
A secretive deal between cable giant Comcast and the video streaming company Netflix is being slammed by consumer watchdog and media groups for formalizing the idea that large, deep-pocketed content providers can pay internet service providers (ISPs) in order to receive special treatment on their networks.
Announced on Sunday, the deal will give Netflix direct access to Comcast delivery networks by side-stepping third-party delivery systems that others are forced to use. In effect, the arrangement will speed up Netflix streaming, but only because Netflix can afford to pay the fee that Comcast has now set.
That situation, in which one company can make an exclusive deal with an IPS in order to receive special treatment is a fundamental betrayal of the concept known as 'net neutrality,' in which all online content is given equal treatment across the internet.
Ukraine issues arrest warrant for missing leader
Ukraine's acting government issued an arrest warrant Monday for President Viktor Yanukovych, accusing him of mass crimes against the protesters who stood up for months against his rule. Russia sharply questioned its authority, calling it an "armed mutiny."
Yanukovych himself has reportedly fled to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, a pro-Russian area in Ukraine.
Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Yanukovych on trial, after a tumultuous presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and family and cracked down on protesters. ... The parliament speaker is now nominally in charge of a country whose ailing economy is on the brink of default and whose loyalties are sharply torn between Europe and longtime ruler Russia.
In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly referred to parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchinov as the "interim president" and said Turchinov will meet with Monday visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Kiev.
Turchinov said he hopes to form a new coalition government by Tuesday.
Ukraine's new government is not legitimate – Dmitry Medvedev
Ukraine's new acting government is not legitimate, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has said. "If people crossing Kiev in black masks and Kalashnikov rifles are considered a government, it will be difficult for us to work with such a government," the prime minister said.
"Some of our foreign, western partners think otherwise, considering them to be legitimate authorities. I do not know which constitution, which laws, they were reading, but it seems to me it is an aberration of perception when something that is essentially the result of a mutiny is called legitimate."
He also called the legitimacy of many of Ukraine's governing bodies "doubtful", adding: "There is no one to deal with there [in Ukraine]; masked and armed people are no partners for dialogue."
The Russian PM said he did not understand what was happening in Ukraine. "There is a real threat to our interests and to the lives of our citizens," he said. "There are big doubts about the legitimacy of a whole series of organs of power that are now functioning there.
Updates from Guardian's Ukraine live blog
Ukraine’s parliament has appointed Stepan Kubiv, a member of parliament with experience in banking, as the new chairman of the central bank.
A total of 310 deputies in the 450 seat chamber backed Kubiv after his predecessor, Ihor Sorkin, resigned following the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych.
It comes amid several warnings about the precariousness of the country’s financial situation. ...
Harriet Salem, reporting for the Guardian in central Kiev, says the mood in Independence Square or Maidan, which was the heart of the protests against Viktor Yanukovych, is much calmer today. She writes:The mood on the Maidan was relaxed today, with but people continued to flock to pay their respects to the dead, bringing flowers and lighting candles. There is a cautious optimism but people know there is a long way to go. Reflecting this the Molotov cocktail making equipment has all been cleared to a safe area and is cordened off under the guard of two members of Euromaidan defence unit guards.
Our Country Is Up To No Good Again-- This Time In Venezuela… And On Behalf Of Big Oil
You would never guess it from the U.S. media coverage but the U.S. is making its move against the people of Venezuela, doing all it can to incite and support a violent right-wing takeover of a legitimately elected government of the working masses. Sure, that's the kind of thing that scumbags like Nixon and Kissinger did. But Obama and Kerry? You bet your ass! You'd like the Obama Administration gets it's Venezuela policy direct from Fox-- or vice versa. Since the government of Venezuela nationalized the oil industry, the standard of living for Venezuelan working families has made healthy gains -- and the Permanent DC Foreign Policy Establishment wants none of it. They want regime change. ...
One of the few journalists covering this to get the story right has been Carl Gibson at Reader Supported News:A leaked document from November of 2013 shows that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with the Colombian government and Venezuelan opposition leaders to destabilize Venezuela and stoke massive protests. The document, obtained by journalist and attorney Eva Golinger, was the product of a June 2013 meeting between US-based FTI Consulting, the Colombian Fundación Centro de Pensamiento Primero Colombia (Centre for Thought Foundation of Colombia First), and Fundación Internacionalismo Democratico (Democratic Internationalism Foundation). The third tactic outlined in the 15-point strategy document openly called for sabotage:
"Maintain and increase the sabotage that affect the population's services, particularly the electricity system, that puts blame on the government for assumed inefficiencies and negligence.”Coincidentally, during one of Nicolas Maduro's televised speeches outlining his economic plan in early December, the power went out for 60% of Venezuelans for several hours. Maduro blamed the act on sabotage.
Venezuelans on streets again as protest leader awaits trial
Venezuelans have taken to the streets for the second time in ten days in opposing marches for and against the Maduro administration. The government has asked women to rally around the presidential palace, while the opposition has called on supporters to protest against the country's mounting street crime and to demand the disarmament of violent pro-government groups. ...
Since the protests began, 10 people have died, 137 have been injured and 104 arrested, according to government figures. ...
Maduro reiterated that the events of the last two weeks are a coup-in-the-making backed by the US and financed by Colombia's ex-president Álvaro Uribe, whom Maduro accuses López of working closely with. The proof of his allegations, he says, "will soon come to light".
But as Venezuelans take to the streets again it is hard to predict whether the march will be the last, or if it will serve to inject new energy into an opposition that has been dispersed over the last couple of nights by National Guard troops firing rubber bullets and teargas and tearing down the camps students set up on street corners.
Venezuela protests flare anew, death toll rises to 12
Anti-government demonstrators set up barricades and started fires in Venezuela's capital on Monday despite calls from within the opposition to rein in protests in which at least 12 people have died in the OPEC nation.
Traffic slowed to a crawl around Caracas, and many people stayed at home, as protesters burned trash and piled debris along main avenues a day after opposition leader Henrique Capriles called on them to keep demonstrations peaceful. ...
Capriles, 41, was invited to meet Maduro in the afternoon as part of a gathering of mayors and governors that could open up communications between the two sides but may not be able to stem the nearly two weeks of street violence. ...
Capriles, who has seen his leadership of the opposition upstaged by Lopez's street activism, lashed Maduro for talking "rubbish" and said he was unsure if he would attend the meeting scheduled for the afternoon at the presidential palace.
What the Wikileaks Cables Say about Leopoldo López
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López has been thrust onto the international stage during the past week of protests in Venezuela and his arrest on February 21. López is mentioned at least 77 times in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. ...
The Wikileaks Cables show an interesting history of Lopez’s rise to leadership and also show some of the divisions within the opposition. Below, one party leader is quoted as saying that “for the opposition parties, Lopez draws ire second only to Chavez, joking that ‘the only difference between the two is that Lopez is a lot better looking.’” And also, “During a party event December 6, Primero Justicia (PJ) Secretary-General Tomas Guanipa called on Lopez to respect the unity table and its agreements and consensus. Guanipa urged Lopez to ‘not continue dividing us, we should not go through life like crashing cars, fighting with the whole world.’”
The U.S. government has been funding the Venezuelan opposition for at least 12 years, including, as the State Department has acknowledged, some of the people and organizations involved in the 2002 military coup. Their goal has always been to get rid of the Chávez government and replace it with something more to their liking. However, their funding is probably not their most important contribution in Venezuela, since the Venezuelan opposition has most of the wealth and income of the country. A more important role is the outside pressure for unity, which, as these cables and the history of the past 15 years show, has been a serious problem for the Venezuelan opposition. The cables also show that this is a serious concern for the U.S. government.
Egypt's prime minister and cabinet resign
Egypt is braced for its sixth government since the start of the 2011 uprising, after the prime minister announced the early resignation of the entire interim cabinet on Monday afternoon.
Hazem al-Beblawy, appointed in the days following the removal of Mohamed Morsi last July, was meant to head Egypt's government until the election of a new president, but resigned on Monday after weeks of mounting criticism. ...
Criticism of his government had peaked in recent weeks amid large strikes in industrial cities, and widespread electricity blackouts.
Senior officials gave conflicting advice on whether the mass resignation signalled that Egypt's defence minister, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, had imminent plans to make a formal announcement about a widely expected presidential run. ...
Beblawy's successor was not immediately announced, nor was it clear whether any of his ministers would be reappointed. But there has been speculation for weeks that Beblawy will be succeeded at some stage by the outgoing housing minister, Ibrahim Mahlab. The former head of Egypt's largest building firm, Arab Contractors, Mahlab is seen by Egypt's political class as a more active and decisive leader than the 77-year-old Beblawy.
Mohamed Morsi accused of passing state secrets to Iran
An Egyptian prosecutor on Sunday accused the ousted Islamist president of passing state secrets to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the first such explicit detail in an ongoing espionage trial. ...
At Sunday's hearing, part of which was aired on state television, the prosecution accused Morsi and 35 other Brotherhood members of conspiring to destabilize the country and cooperating with foreign militant groups – including Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. ...
Morsi started off his time in office with repeated tirades against Iran over its support to Syrian President Bashar Assad, but soon warmed up to the Islamic Republic, allowing its tourists to come to Egypt for the first time in decades and founding a four-nation contact group on the Syrian war that included Iran.
What the hell is Barack Obama's presidency for?
A few days after John F Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson sat in his kitchen with his key advisers working his first speech to Congress. ... Johnson's advisers were keen that he introduced himself to the nation as a president who could get things done. For that reason, writes Caro, they implored him not to push for civil rights in this first speech, since it had no chance of passing. ... Johnson, who sat in silence at the table as his aides debated, interjected: "Well, what the hell's the presidency for?" ...
Barack Obama has now been in power for longer than Johnson was, and the question remains: "What the hell's his presidency for?" His second term has been characterised by a profound sense of drift in principle and policy. While posing as the ally of the immigrant he is deporting people at a faster clip than any of his predecessors; while claiming to be a supporter of labour he's championing trade deals that will undercut American jobs and wages. In December, even as he pursued one whistleblower, Edward Snowden and kept another, Chelsea Manning, incarcerated, he told the crowd at Nelson Mandela's funeral: "There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people." ...
His ascent to power had meaning. It's his presence in power that lacks purpose. The gap between rich and poor and black and white has grown while he's been in the White House, the prospects for immigration reform remain remote, bankers made away with the loot, and Guantánamo's still open. It's true there's a limit to what a president can do about much of this and that Republican intransigence has not helped. But that makes the original question more salient not less: if he can't reunite a divided political culture, which was one of his key pledges, and his powers are that limited, then what is the point of his presidency?
Emergency Manager's Plan for Detroit Called "Gut Punch" To Workers
Proposal calls for slashing monthly pension payments by 34% for general workers and 10% for police and firefighters
As part of his plan to push the city through bankruptcy proceedings, a proposal submitted by Detroit's so-called 'Financial Emergency Manager' Kevyn Orr on Friday confirmed the worst fears of public pensioners as it called for a 34% slashing of monthly payments for retired city workers, many of whom rely solely on those delayed and guaranteed earnings to support them through their later years.
That reduction is geared to general workers, such as teachers, clerks, and other municipal workers, while the pensions of retired firefighters and police officers would receive a less substantial but significant 10% cut if the plan is ultimately approved.
Though the attack on public workers has been at the center of Orr's efforts since he first filed the bankruptcy petition last year, pensioners responded to Orr's official proposal to the bankruptcy court with outrage.
“The proposed plan of adjustment is a gut punch to Detroit city workers and retirees,” said Al Garrett, president of the AFSCME Council 25 which represents the city’s largest employee union “The plan essentially eliminates health care benefits for retirees and drastically cuts earned pension benefits. Retires cannot survive these huge cuts to the pensions they earned. The plan is unfair and unacceptable.”
The Evening Greens
Historic Rally Challenges Fracking Export Industry in Maryland
A natural gas export terminal being proposed near a small coastal town in Maryland would increase toxic gas fracking operations around the region, hurt the environment, speed up climate change, and do little for "energy independence" in the United States, campaigners warned at the "the largest environmental protest in Baltimore history" on Thursday.
At issue is the proposal to convert the Dominion Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas import terminal into an export terminal, a plan which is up for approval with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. However, Maryland's Public Service Commission in Baltimore has the power to veto the proposed 130-megawatt power plant that energy company Dominion needs to build for the export operation, the Baltimore Sun reports.
On Thursday, the commission held a hearing on Dominion's proposal, which drew over 700 protesters from around Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region to its doorstep.
"The controversial $3.8 billion Cove Point project, proposed by Virginia-based Dominion Resources, would take gas from fracking wells across the Appalachian region, liquefy it along the Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland, and export it to Asia," writes the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who has helped lead the charge against the project.
Colorado approves limits on air pollution from oil and gas drilling
Colorado health and environment officials on Sunday approved new rules to limit air pollution from oil and gas drilling in the state, including what regulators said is the nation’s first-ever plan to detect and reduce methane emissions.
The new measures were adopted to reduce the release of methane during production and transport of natural gas, in a deal first proposed last fall with energy producers Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy, Encana Corp and the Environmental Defense Fund.
The regulations would require operators to perform frequent checks for leaks using infrared cameras and other technologies.
Drinking water intakes closed after oil spill shuts down 65 miles of Mississippi River
An oil spill has shut down a 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Public drinking water intakes were shut down in St. Charles Parish as a precaution, officials said, and the Port of New Orleans was also closed.
The spill came from a barge carrying light crude that was struck Saturday afternoon by a tugboat near Vacherie, reported the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Coast Guard officials said they were unsure how much oil had spilled, but they stressed that only a sheen of oil had been reported on the river’s surface.
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
Willie Love & his Three Aces - Feed My Body To The Fishes
Willie Love - Little Car Blues
Willie Love & his Three Aces - 21 Minutes To 9
Willie Love & his Three Aces - Everybody's Fishing/My Own Boogie
Willie Love & his Three Aces - Shady Lane Blues
Willie Love & his Three Aces - Nelson Street Blues
Willie Love & his Three Aces - Shout, Brother, Shout
Willie Love & his Three Aces - Vanity Dresser Boogie/Seventy Four Blues
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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