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 Chicago blues harmonica player George "Mojo" Buford. Enjoy!
Muddy Waters w/George Mojo Buford - Got My Mojo Working
"We all deserve credit for this new surveillance state that we live in because we the people voted for the Patriot Act. Democrats and Republicans alike. We voted for the people who voted for it, and then voted for the people who reauthorized it, then voted for the people who re-re-authorized it. The American people have spoken. ... And it is more than a passive acquiescence on the part of the American people. Americans have proven time and again that they enjoy handing people with no accountability millions and millions of dollars to set up surveillance equipment and record things that really should be private."
-- Stephen Colbert
News and Opinion
Labour to overhaul spy agency controls in response to Snowden files
Labour will on Monday propose substantial changes to the oversight of the British intelligence agencies, including the legal framework under which they operate, in response to the revelations emerging from files leaked by Edward Snowden.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, is preparing to argue that the current arrangements are unsustainable for the government, and that it is damaging to trust in the agencies if ministers continue to hide their heads in the sand.
In a speech that represents Labour's most serious intervention since the controversy about the scale of state surveillance broke last summer, she will say: "The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date. In particular that means we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of the legal framework to keep up with changing technology." ...
Cooper will call for sweeping changes to strengthen the accountability of the intelligence agencies and a replacement to the out-of-date Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa). Her speech eschews direct criticism of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, and accepts that the leaks by the former National Security Agency contractor Snowden have damaged national security while highlighting legitimate concerns about privacy in the internet age.
She will also argue that ministers have responded to the revelations in a patronising way by trying to stifle debate on the online role of the police, intelligence and security agencies, or of the legal framework that governs their work. "The government can't keep burying its head in the sand and hoping these issues will go away," she will say in the speech to the thinktank Demos.
UN report identifies 30 drone strikes that require ‘public explanation'
A UN counter-terrorism expert has published the second report of his year-long investigation into drone strikes, highlighting 30 strikes where civilians are reported to have been killed.
The report, by British lawyer Ben Emmerson QC, identifies 30 attacks between 2006 and 2013 that show sufficient indications of civilian deaths to demand a ‘public explanation of the circumstances and the justification for the use of deadly force’ under international law.
Emmerson analysed 37 strikes carried out by the US, UK and Israel in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza, to arrive at a ‘sample’ of strikes that he believes those nations have a legal duty to explain.
Britain and the US conduct strikes as part of the armed conflict in Afghanistan, and the US also conducts covert strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Although Israel has never officially acknowledged using armed drones, Emmerson met with Israeli officials in the course of preparing his report and lists seven attacks in Gaza among those requiring investigation. ...
The US has argued that its strikes are legal on two grounds: they are legitimate acts of self-defence against an imminent threat, and they are part of an armed conflict against an enemy, al Qaeda, and its ‘associated forces’. Emmerson asks a series of questions – about the thresholds for action in self-defence, the definition of ‘imminent’ threat, al Qaeda’s current state, and more – on which he says the international community must reach consensus.
Western leaders try to halt Russia's advance into Ukrainian territory
Western leaders are scrambling to defuse the crisis in Ukraine without shots being fired after the US conceded Moscow had "complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula".
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, was due to fly to Kiev overnight in a further attempt to halt Russia's advance into Ukrainian territory, having conceded that Crimea had fallen to Moscow in a bloodless takeover.
On Sunday, Kerry told CBS leading western nations were prepared to enact economic sanctions against Russia over what he called an "incredible act of aggression".
"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext," Kerry said. "It is really a stunning, wilful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations."
'We can't let Russia invade a country under a phony pretext' said John Kerry. Has he ever heard of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Grenada?— Eric Margolis (@ericmargolis) March 2, 2014
Ukraine mobilizes following Putin’s ‘declaration of war’
Ukraine mobilized for war on Sunday and Washington threatened to isolate Russia economically after President Vladimir Putin declared he had the right to invade his neighbor in Moscow’s biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War.
“This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in English. Yatsenuik heads a pro-Western government that took power in the former Soviet republic when its Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted last week. ...
With Russian forces in control of majority ethnic Russian Crimea, the focus is shifting to eastern swaths of Ukraine, where most ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as a native language.
Those areas saw more demonstrations on Sunday after violent protests on Saturday, and pro-Moscow activists hoisted flags for a second day at government buildings and called for Russia to defend them.
Ukraine’s security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert. But Kiev’s small and under-equipped military is seen as no match for Russia’s superpower might.
Making Russia Pay? It’s Not So Simple
President Obama has warned Russia that “there will be costs” for a military intervention in Ukraine. But the United States has few palatable options for imposing such costs, and recent history has shown that when it considers its interests at stake, Russia has been willing to pay the price. ...
Mr. Obama announced the first direct response after a 90-minute telephone call with Mr. Putin on Saturday as he suspended preparations for the G-8 summit meeting in Russia in June. The White House said that “Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.” ...
Russia is ... too formidable even in the post-Soviet age to rattle with stern lectures or shows of military force, and too rich in resources to squeeze economically in the short term. With a veto on the United Nations Security Council, it need not worry about the world body. And as the primary source of natural gas to much of Europe, it holds a trump card over many American allies. ...
“What can we do?” asked Fiona Hill, a Brookings Institution scholar who was the government’s top intelligence officer on Russia during the Georgia war when Mr. Putin deflected Western agitation. “We’ll talk about sanctions. We’ll talk about red lines. We’ll basically drive ourselves into a frenzy. And he’ll stand back and just watch it. He just knows that none of the rest of us want a war.”
Who Is Provoking the Unrest in Ukraine? A Debate on Role of Russia, United States in Regional Crisis
What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis
President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration. ...
Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine – between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south – neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.
NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.”
State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe. ...
Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles. ...
As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II. ...
Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.
The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.
Heard the One About Obama Denouncing a Breach of International Law?
International law is suddenly very popular in Washington. President Obama responded to Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Russia of a “breach of international law.” Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by declaring that Russia is “in direct, overt violation of international law.”
Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law. ...
On Sunday night, the top of the New York Times home page reported: “Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has pursued his strategy with subterfuge, propaganda and brazen military threat, taking aim as much at the United States and Europe as Ukraine itself.” That was news coverage.
Following close behind, a Times editorial appeared in print Monday morning, headlined “Russia’s Aggression,” condemning “Putin’s cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea.” The liberal newspaper’s editorial board said that the United States and the European Union “must make clear to him that he has stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior.”
Such demands are righteous—but lack integrity and credibility when the same standards are not applied to President Obama, whose continuation of the Bush “war on terror” under revamped rhetoric has bypassed international law as well as “civilized behavior.”
Pres. Obama's One Option: Put Up or Shut Up
Russia's Federation Council believes sending forces to the Ukraine will help "stabilize" that country and has voted unanimously to allow President Putin to do just that. President Obama's not pleased. Seems the U.S. president doesn't believe that boots on the ground have a stabilizing effect. It seems President Obama sees this act of aggression as nothing more than a territorial power grab and as such, has condemned the action. ...
The problem is, the United States of America lacks the moral high ground necessary to lecture Russian officials about wars of invasion. ... It appears President Putin read his Mideast history book though, because he used U.S. foreign policy rhetoric against President Obama. President Putin pushed back on President Obama explaining that Russia has a right to protect its "interests in the region." ...
If President Obama would like to lecture President Putin on the evils of invasion then he must direct Attorney General Holder to issue arrest warrants for his invading predecessors. If President Obama lacks the stomach to seek justice at home, he's ill-equipped to wag his overly powerful finger in anyone else's direction. Because when you ignore the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the lies told to the American people to wage a war of invasion, the crippling of the U.S. economy and the death and devastation of your own military personnel, you don't stand qualified to criticize aggression in others, you set precedence for it.
The Ukraine crisis: John Kerry and Nato must calm down and back off
Both John Kerry's threats to expel Russia from the G8 and the Ukrainian government's plea for Nato aid mark a dangerous escalation of a crisis that can easily be contained if cool heads prevail. Hysteria seems to be the mood in Washington and Kiev, with the new Ukrainian prime minister claiming, "We are on the brink of disaster" as he calls up army reserves in response to Russian military movements in Crimea.
Were he talking about the country's economic plight he would have a point. Instead, along with much of the US and European media, he was over-dramatising developments in the east, where Russian speakers are understandably alarmed after the new Kiev authorities scrapped a law allowing Russian as an official language in their areas. They see it as proof that the anti-Russian ultra-nationalists from western Ukraine who were the dominant force in last month's insurrection still control it. Eastern Ukrainians fear similar tactics of storming public buildings could be used against their elected officials.
Kerry's rush to punish Russia and Nato's decision to respond to Kiev's call by holding a meeting of member states' ambassadors in Brussels today were mistakes. Ukraine is not part of the alliance, so none of the obligations of common defence come into play. Nato should refrain from interfering in Ukraine by word or deed. The fact that it insists on getting engaged reveals the elephant in the room: underlying the crisis in Crimea and Russia's fierce resistance to potential changes is Nato's undisguised ambition to continue two decades of expansion into what used to be called "post-Soviet space", led by Bill Clinton and taken up by successive administrations in Washington. At the back of Pentagon minds, no doubt, is the dream that a US navy will one day replace the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean ports of Sevastopol and Balaclava.
The new dilemma for Jews in Ukraine
Jewish life and Jews as individuals have flourished in Ukraine in recent decades. Even after most of the Jews emigrated in the early 1990s to Israel and the west, at least 200,000 remain, many of them prosperous, and communal life is vibrant if fractious (at least three rabbis claim to be the chief rabbi of Kiev). Whatever the government of the day, whether pro-Russian or more western-friendly, the authorities, taking the concerns of the community seriously, have provided security for synagogues and Jewish schools and generally kept anti-Semitism on the margins.
And over the last few weeks, as law and order broke down in Kiev and other cities, there has been a rise in attacks on Jews which has barely gone noticed in the wider story of the Independence Square revolution.
At least three beatings of Jews and two vandalism attacks on synagogues have taken place in central Kiev, not far from the anti-Yanukovych demonstrations. ... The greatest worry now is not the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents but the major presence of ultra-nationalist movements, especially the prominence of the Svoboda party and Pravy Sektor (right sector) members among the demonstrators. Many of them are calling their political opponents "Zhids" and flying flags with neo-Nazi symbols. There have also been reports, from reliable sources, of these movements distributing freshly translated editions of Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Independence Square.
While they don't represent the majority of protestors, some observers have estimated them at around thirty percent and belonging predominantly to the more militant, violent vanguard.
Karzai: "Afghans Died in a War That’s Not Ours"
That's what outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the Washington Post in an interview that took place this weekend in Kabul and was published on Monday.
Karzai says his intrasigence over a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. is fueled by his anger at the Obama administration and the sadness he feels after witnessing so much pain and suffering inflicted upon his people by a war that has dragged on for more than twelve years.
The war, he says, was fought for “for the U.S. security and for the Western interest” but it was ordinary Afghans, including a four-year-old girl he recently visited in the hospital who had half her face blown off during a U.S. bombing. ...
Karzai offered this parting message to the reporters as they left: “To the American people, give them my best wishes and my gratitude. To the U.S. government, give them my anger, my extreme anger.’’
Interview: Karzai says 12-year Afghanistan war has left him angry at U.S. government
In an unusually emotional interview, the departing Afghan president sought to explain why he has been such a harsh critic of the 12-year-old U.S. war effort here. He said he’s deeply troubled by all the casualties he has seen, including those in U.S. military operations. He feels betrayed by what he calls an insufficient U.S. focus on targeting Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. And he insists that public criticism was the only way to guarantee an American response to his concerns.
To Karzai, the war was not waged with his country’s interests in mind. ...
In Karzai’s mind, al-Qaeda is “more a myth than a reality” and the majority of the United States’ prisoners here were innocent. He’s certain that the war was “for the U.S. security and for the Western interest.” ...
On the security agreement, as with several other issues, Karzai’s antagonistic approach seems to have succeeded, in the sense that he has forced U.S. officials to move deadlines — and even to reshape policy.
His strong criticism of the civilian casualties caused by American attacks, for example, forced the U.S. military to revise its tactics, producing a dramatic decline in the number of noncombatants killed by American forces (although Taliban-inflicted casualties have increased).
His demands that the United States hand over the Bagram prison were eventually met, allowing Karzai last month to release dozens of high-profile detainees despite U.S. protests. Those experiences reaffirmed his conviction that public criticism of the United States is often his most effective diplomatic tool.
“I had no other weapon to resort to, no other means to resort to, but to speak publicly and get attention that way. In other words, I was forced to yell,” he said.
Large protests in Venezuela despite carnival
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters have rallied across the capital, in what seems to be their largest show of force since unrest began in February.
But it is unclear whether the protest movement can keep its momentum, or where it can go from here.
"I don't know what will happen next," said businesswoman Ana Sosa, as she marched through the upscale Las Mercedes district with her friends on Sunday.
"We are waiting for another plan from the students," who have played a leading role in ongoing unrest. ...
The government released 41 detainees on Sunday, including Italian photojournalist Francesca Commissari, arrested on Friday. It was not immediately clear if the whole AP team was part of that group.
At least one National Guard soldier has been killed in the unrest and groups of opposition protesters covering their faces with masks sometimes hurl stones and Molotov cocktails at security forces.
"There are small groups in the opposition bent on causing violence," said Douglas Caraballo, an electrician celebrating carnival in central Caracas with a friend. "What they are doing is against a legitimate, democratic government."
The Evening Greens
Major Nuclear Dump Has Leaked, But Does US Gov't Have a Plan B?
A radioactive leak from a New Mexico underground nuclear dump that was championed as a safe long-term repository calls into question the federal government's overall approach to disposing of dangerous waste from nuclear weapons production, experts warn. ...
The federally-owned Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico, which stores nuclear waste deep beneath the earth's surface in salt formations, is the only underground repository for materials above the lowest level of radiation. It is the bedrock of the U.S. government's current approach to dispose of military-generated plutonium-contaminated transuranic waste from decades of nuclear bomb production and testing. Since it became operational in 1999, WIPP has collected this waste from across the United States, including Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico. ...
On February 5th, a vehicle caught on fire underground, forcing the evacuation of the facility and sending six workers to the hospital with smoke inhalation-related injuries. On February 14th, an alarm detected a suspected radiation leak which has since been confirmed to have released radioactive particles into the air.
The DOE and Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor that operates WIPP, admit that they do not yet know what caused the leak or what its health impacts will be. ...
Meanwhile, the halt in WIPP operations is leaving waste stranded across the United States, "including the last of nearly 4,000 barrels of toxic waste that Los Alamos National Laboratories has been ordered to remove from its campus by the end of June," the Associated Press reports. ...
[Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear industry executive turned whistleblower] says that the U.S. government "does not really have a strategy" for safely disposing of the massive amount of nuclear waste that has already been generated, let alone the waste produced by current and future nuclear production. "The strategy is really just to put the waste wherever they can," he said.
Major Oil City Takes Groundbreaking Step Against Fracking in City Limits
Los Angeles is primed to become the first oil-producing city in California and the largest city in the United States to place a moratorium on fracking.
The Los Angeles city council unanimously voted Friday on a draft ordinance that prohibits "well stimulation" by hydraulic fracturing, acidizing and other controversial oil and gas drilling methods.
"Until these radical methods of oil and gas extraction are at the very least covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, until chemicals are disclosed and problems are honestly reported, until we're safe from earthquakes, until our atmosphere is safe from methane leaks, we need a fracking moratorium," Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the motion along with Councilmember Mike Bonin, told a cheering crowd before the meeting. ...
The moratorium motion now goes before the city attorney’s office to be written as a zoning ordinance and will then return to council for a final vote.
Police arrest dozens of Keystone XL protesters at White House
Police arrested dozens of young people protesting the Keystone XL project on Sunday, as demonstrators fastened themselves with plastic ties to the White House fences and called for U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the controversial oil pipeline.
Participants, who mostly appeared to be college-aged, held signs reading “There is no planet B” and “Columbia says no to fossil fuels,” referring to the university in New York.
Another group, several of whom were clad in white jumpsuits splattered with black ink that was meant to represent oil, lay down on a black tarp spread out on Pennsylvania Avenue to stage a mock spill.
Organizers estimated 1,000 people protested and said several hundred agreed to risk arrest by refusing to leave the sidewalk in front of the White House.
“If the Democratic Party wants to keep our vote, they better make sure President Obama rejects that pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a 23-year-old student at Tulane University in New Orleans.
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
Mojo Buford - Don't Go No Farther
George "Mojo" Buford - Lucille
Muddy Waters w/ Mojo Buford - King Bee
George "Mojo" Buford - Messin' with the Kid
George "Mojo" Buford - All over the world
Mojo Buford w/M Waters Band - Champagne and Reefer
George Mojo Buford with Cool Disposition - Everything Going To Be Alright
Mo-Jo Buford - Whole Lotta Woman
Mojo Buford - Sweet Home Chicago/ Best friend blues
Mojo Buford + The Rough Cuts - I'm Ready
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