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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This evening's music features jazz, r&b and blues saxophonist and singer Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. Enjoy!
Eddie Cleanhead Vinson - Cleanhead Blues
“A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own.”
-- H.G. Wells
News and Opinion
Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to NDAA Detention Power
Refuses to Hear Hedges v. Obama
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Barack Obama's administration by declining to hear a challenge to a law that allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain people believed to have helped al Qaeda or the Taliban.
The high court left intact a July 2013 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that journalists and others who said they could be detained under the law, did not have standing to sue.
The provision in question is part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the U.S. Congress passes annually to authorize programs of the Defense Department.
It lets the government indefinitely detain people it deems to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces."
Journalists and activists whose work relates to overseas conflicts, including Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and an Icelandic spokeswoman for the Wikileaks website, said that the law could subject them to being locked up for exercising constitutionally protected rights. They also said the threat of enforcement violated their right to free speech.
US senators remove requirement for disclosure over drone strike victims
At the behest of the director of national intelligence, US senators have removed a provision from a major intelligence bill that would require the president to publicly disclose information about drone strikes and their victims.
The bill authorizing intelligence operations in fiscal 2014 passed out of the Senate intelligence committee in November, and it originally required the president to issue an annual public report clarifying the total number of “combatants” and “noncombatant civilians” killed or injured by drone strikes in the previous year. It did not require the White House to disclose the total number of strikes worldwide. ...
“The executive branch is currently exploring ways in which it can provide the American people more information about the United States’ use of force outside areas of active hostilities,” Clapper wrote to the leaders of the Senate committee, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, on 18 April.
“To be meaningful to the public, any report including the information described above would require context and be drafted carefully so as to protect against the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods or other classified information. … We are confident we can find a reporting structure that provides the American people additional information to inform their understanding of important government operations to protect our nation, while preserving the ability to continue those operations,” Clapper continued.
Another provision, which would require alternative intelligence analysis, as well as commensurate congressional notification should an intelligence agency consider legal action against a US citizen, has been moved to a classified annex of the bill.
Senate Agrees: US People Can't Know Overseas Drone Death Toll
The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Obama administration agree on this: the American people should not know the number of people killed by U.S. drone attacks overseas, nor should they hope to understand the circumstances under which such lethal killings are authorized or executed.
This high-level agreement was confirmed on Monday after a "modest" provision designed to add transparency to the US drone assassination program was killed in the Senate committee following objections by the Obama administration's intelligence chief.
New U.S. sanctions hit Russian energy barons, but not their companies
The Obama administration sought to tighten the noose on the Russian economy Monday, imposing new economic sanctions against 17 companies and seven associates of President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s failure to keep promises made in recent Ukraine peace talks.
President Barack Obama announced the new asset freezes and visa bans against rich or politically connected members of Putin’s inner circle at a news conference in Manila, Philippines, where he was completing a four-nation tour of Asia. He said the sanctions were intended to chastise Russia for not matching U.S. and European efforts to ease tensions in Ukraine under an April 17 agreement reached in Geneva. ...
While the new sanctions don’t target Russia’s energy sector _ Obama said that step would be taken if Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine _ they take aim at individuals whose wealth comes largely from Russia’s vast oil and natural gas industry. The reluctance to impose broad sanctions on Russian sales of oil and natural gas reflects concerns that such a step would cripple Europe’s economic recovery _ the European Union is deeply dependent on Russian energy _ and likely drive up global oil prices, which would hurt U.S. consumers and slow the U.S. economy ahead of hotly contested midterm elections in November.
The sanctions also don’t target Putin. “The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin, personally,” Obama said. “The goal is to change his calculus with how the current actions he’s engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy.”
Ukraine: EU sanctions list – who's who
The EU sanctions against 15 Russian officials announced on Tuesday lacked the punch of the preceding US sanctions, since they did not target officials overseeing Russia's state-owned oil group Rosneft or the assets of Kremlin-connected oligarchs. EU countries depend heavily on Russian oil and gas exports.
However, they did target General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, and Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister, who was put in charge of Crimea's development after Russia annexed the peninsula last month.
They also included several leaders of the pro-Russian militia and protesters who have been occupying buildings in eastern Ukraine. Among these leaders, most of whom were little-known before the wave of unrest, was Igor Strelkov, cited by some media as head of the "Donbass People's Militia". He is reputed to be one of the "little green men" Russia has allegedly sent to promote unrest in eastern Ukraine, and EU officials identified him as a Russian military intelligence officer and an adviser to the Crimean PM, Sergei Aksyonov. ...
Denis Pushilin, prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, was also included on the list. ... After Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the EU negotiated a plan in Geneva to defuse the crisis in Ukraine, Pushilin refused to recognise the agreement, saying the Donetsk protesters would refuse to leave the buildings they had taken until the Kiev government left its buildings and held a referendum on the region's future.
Pro-Separatist Mayor Shot in Eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv
Kharkiv mayor Gennedy Kernes is recovering today in a hospital after being shot in the back while bicycling. Though he survived, he remains in serious condition according to the Interior Ministry.
Kharkiv was briefly part of the eastern Ukraine protests, and Kernes was at the time publicly supportive of the separatist movement in the region. Kharkiv was conquered by Ukrainian troops loyal to the Interior Ministry earlier this month.
BP Sides with President Putin
Yesterday the US increased sanctions on Putin’s inner circle and for the oil companies one name stands out: Igor Sechin (pictured with Bob Dudley from BP). Yesterday Sechin was added to the list of “Specially Designated Nationals” by the US Treasury or put another way he is now blacklisted.
Why this matters to the international oil majors is that Sechin has been described as “the kingpin of Russia’s oil industry” who is “Russia’s second most powerful man” and one of Russia’s true Oligarchs.
Sechin is chairman of the country’s top oil producer Rosneft, who is a former KGB official from Putin’s inner circle, who has been called the “Scariest Man on Earth” due to his intelligence background. ... By placing Sechin on the sanctions list, the Obama Administration is creating “a legal and political tangle for BP”, argues the British Daily Telegraph. The oil giant owns just under 20 per cent of Rosneft’s shares.
BP’s immediate response is a stinging rebuke to Washington and London, arguing that the British oil giant remains “committed to our investment in Rosneft, and we intend to remain a successful, long-term investor in Russia.”
Currently BP’s American chief executive, Bob Dudley, sits on Rosneft’s board. However, the US Treasury argues that “US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with” people on the sanctions list.
It is hard to see how Dudley can remain on the board if Sechin does too. Will Dudley leave the room every time Sechin speaks, or vice versa. Of course not. The charade surely cannot last.
The Prelude to the End of the American Era
And so it begins. Russia is not restraining the separatists, the Kiev government is finally really sending in the troops, Barack Obama and EU leaders claim they will impose real sanctions and Russia and China are set to ink a deal to export Russian Gas to China, the world’s industrial heartland.
If the sanctions are imposed, for whatever reason (Russian invasion or not), they will force the creation of a second economic, non-dollar bloc. Russia is not Iran, and China is not going to cut off Russia to please the West, rather the contrary. The creation of a real non dollar bloc which can make almost anything people want, and which has access to essentially all key resources from oil to rare minerals, metals and food is an existential threat to the hegemony of the West and its allies like Japan and Korea. ...
Absent China, Russia cannot be isolated. Cannot. China is unlikely to cooperate. ... Russia has a lot to offer them, and the Chinese cannot be coerced by sanctions. Sanctioning China would backfire so hard that the US was go into a real economic collapse: China makes the goods. Sanction them, and they WILL break the patents and just make them anyway. ...
Over Ukraine? I guarantee that if this is done in 50 years historians will look back on this like we do on WWI—what were they thinking? The Balkans wasn’t worth WWI. Ukraine isn’t worth destroying American: Western, hegemony. Well, not for America. Others might think this is more of a good thing than bad.
But it is also the potential glide path to war, real war. WWIII.
John Kerry apologises for Israel 'apartheid' remarks
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has apologised for warning that Israel risked becoming an "apartheid state" if it did not reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, following a barrage of criticism in America.
In a statement, Kerry hit back at what he described as "partisan political" attacks against him, while stating that in retrospect he would have chosen a different word.
He said that apartheid was "a word best left out of the debate [in the US]" despite the fact that there have been similar warnings from senior Israeli politicians.
Kerry insisted his remarks were only an expression of his firm belief that a two-state solution was the only way to end the long-running conflict.
Kerry's reported comments, and his retraction, come at a sensitive time for the peace process, suspended by Israel last week after the agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hamas to reconcile and try to form a unity government.
Kerry Grovels over Israeli ‘Apartheid’
It is a mark of how upside-down Official Washington has become over facts and evidence that Secretary of State John Kerry, who has developed a reputation for making false and misleading statements about Syria and Russia, rushes to apologize when he speaks the truth about the danger from Israeli “apartheid.”
After public disclosure that he had said in a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission last week that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state,” Kerry hastily apologized for his transgression, expressing his undying support for Israel and engaging in self-flagellation over his word choice. ...
Kerry scurried to make this apology after his remark was reported by The Daily Beast and condemned by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which said: “Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate.”
The only problem with AIPAC’s umbrage – and with Kerry’s groveling – is that Israel has moved decisively in the direction of becoming an apartheid state in which Palestinians are isolated into circumscribed areas, often behind walls, and are tightly restricted in their movements, even as Israel continues to expand settlements into Palestinian territories.
Israel begins implementing economic sanctions against Palestinians
Israel has begun implementing economic sanctions against the Palestinians, after threatening to do so in wake of their new bid to join some UN organizations and recently announced unity deal between rival Fatah and Hamas, a senior Palestinian told Ynet Monday evening, a mere day before peace talks reach their deadline.
Israel confirmed additional sanctions Monday, saying has frozen plans to build housing for Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control. An official from the Defense Ministry's administration in the Palestinian territories said that the decision was made after the Palestinian Authority applied to join a dozen international organizations and treaties, including the Geneva Conventions last month.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the applications in a live televised ceremony after Israel failed to carry out the release of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners to which it agreed last summer as part of US brokered peace talks. The Palestinians announced a renewed bid Sunday night, promising to join some 60 organizations.
Israel Cancels Palestinian Housing Permits, Seizes Tax Money
The new sanctions include the revocation of building permits, and the authorization to install a cellphone network in the occupied West Bank, as well as freezing the funds belonging to Palestinians but held in Israeli banks. There will also be travel restrictions on all Palestinians above and beyond the usual ones.
In addition to the funds being frozen, Israel has also announced its intention to permanently increase the portion of the Palestinian tax money it seizes monthly to pay for electricity, a moot point since Israel often ends up seizing the whole thing on some other pretext.
Israeli forces demolish West Bank mosque as peace talks deadline passes
Israeli forces demolished several structures, including a mosque, in a Palestinian village on Tuesday, the day a deadline for a deal in now-frozen peace talks expired.
A Reuters correspondent saw several hundred soldiers deployed in Khirbet al-Taweel, in the occupied West Bank, around daybreak. They guarded six bulldozers that reduced to rubble buildings that were constructed without Israeli permits. Palestinians say such documents are nearly impossible to obtain.
Palestinians saw a link between the demolitions and the passing, without a peace deal, of the April 29 deadline set when the talks began in July. Israel has also drawn Palestinian anger by continuing to expand settlements on land they seek for a state. ...
Other razed buildings included three one-storey family houses, animal shelters and a communal well. Locals said around 30 people were made homeless.
The Israeli army said in a statement that eight structures, including a "mosque in use", were demolished because they had been built illegally inside a dangerous live-fire military training zone. ...
Speaking on local radio, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top Palestinian official, said that "unless acts like this cease completely" there was no room to return to U.S.-sponsored peace talks with "this expansionist, racist occupier".
Senator Pat Leahy will not sign off on aid for Egyptian military, Obama still sending attack helicopters to regime
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said on Tuesday he will not approve sending funds to the Egyptian military, denouncing a "sham trial" in which a court sentenced 683 people to death. ...
"I'm not prepared to do that until we see convincing evidence the government is committed to the rule of law," Leahy said.
The Obama administration said last week it would deliver 10 Apache attack helicopters and $650 million to Egypt's military, relaxing a partial suspension of aid imposed after Egypt's military ousted President Mohamed Mursi last year and cracked down violently on protesters.
The Apaches are not subject to congressional approval.
Turkey's Erdogan calls on U.S. to extradite rival Gulen
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he would ask the United States to extradite an Islamic cleric he accuses of plotting to topple him and undermine Turkey with concocted graft accusations and secret wire taps.
Fethullah Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, when secularist authorities raised accusations of Islamist activity against him. Erdogan accuses him of building a "parallel state" of followers in institutions such as the police and judiciary and using them to try to pull the levers of state power.
Gulen, a former ally, denies engineering a police graft investigation which has seen three cabinet ministers quit, but has denounced Erdogan over moves to shut down the inquiry by purging police and judiciary of his followers.
Asked by a reporter at parliament after a meeting of his ruling AK Party if a process would begin for Gulen's extradition, Erdogan said: "Yes, it will begin."
In an interview with PBS talk show host Charlie Rose broadcast late on Monday, Erdogan said Gulen could also pose a threat to U.S. security by his activities.
US death row study: 4% of defendants sentenced to die are innocent
At least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the US in the modern era are innocent, according to the first major study to attempt to calculate how often states get it wrong in their wielding of the ultimate punishment.
A team of legal experts and statisticians from Michigan and Pennsylvania used the latest statistical techniques to produce a peer-reviewed estimate of the “dark figure” that lies behind the death penalty – how many of the more than 8,000 men and women who have been put on death row since the 1970s were falsely convicted.
The team arrived at a deliberately conservative figure that lays bare the extent of possible miscarriages of justice, suggesting that the innocence of more than 200 prisoners still in the system may never be recognised.
The study concludes that were all innocent people who were given death sentences to be cleared of their offences, the exoneration rate would rise from the actual rate of those released – 1.6% – to at least 4.1%. That is equivalent in the time frame of the study, 1973 to 2004, of about 340 prisoners – a much larger group than the 138 who were exonerated in the same period. ...
The study, published in a prestigious journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, does not solve perhaps the greatest single riddle of the death penalty: how many innocent people have actually been put to death in modern times. That remains a haunting unknown.
Sugar war between Mexico, U.S. threatens broader trade relations
The U.S. industry, sometimes called Big Sugar, simmers over soaring competition from Mexico and argues that a doubling of Mexican exports triggered a collapse in the market price of sugar.
A reluctant Obama administration has opened a formal investigation into those exports that could result in new import duties on Mexican sugar _ and ignite a broader trade dispute over sweeteners that might affect other U.S. industries.
A spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance, Phillip Hayes, said the sugar industry faces losses of up to $1 billion this year because of what it alleges is dumping _ selling at prices lower than what it costs to produce _ by Mexican sugar producers.
The dispute ricochets to the far corners of both countries, involving hundreds of thousands of jobs and affecting sugar cane fields in Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Hawaii and sugar beet farms in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota, along with California, Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.
“This is a very big battle,” said John W. Bode, the president of the Corn Refiners Association, a trade group with offices in Washington, D.C. “The political influence of the U.S. sugar industry is legendary. . . . They may be only 4 percent of U.S. agriculture but when you look at political contributions, they account for a third.”
The Evening Greens
Court upholds Obama rule on cross-state air pollution
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed the Obama administration an important victory in its effort to reduce power plant pollution in West Virginia and more than two dozen Midwestern and Southern states, which blows downwind and leads to unhealthy air.
The decision caps a decades-long effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to find a legally acceptable way to ensure that states are good neighbors and don’t contribute to pollution problems in downwind states, where environmental officials can do nothing to control it. The rule upheld Tuesday was EPA’s third attempt to solve the problem
In a 6-2 decision, the court upheld a rule adopted by the EPA in 2011 to limit emissions that create smog and soot that drifts into the air above states along the East Coast. ...
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution from power plants can be carried long distances and the pollutants react with other substances to form smog and soot, which have been linked to respiratory illnesses and other disease. The cross-border pollution has prevented many cities and counties from complying with health-based air pollution standards set by law, because they have not authority to control it. ...
The new downwind pollution rule was triggered by a federal court throwing out the previous rule penned by the Bush administration. The new rule would cost power plant operators $800 million annually in 2014, according to EPA estimates. That’s in addition to the $1.6 billion spent per year to comply with the 2005 Bush rule that was still in effect until the government drafted the new one.
The EPA said the investments would be far outweighed by the hundreds of billions of dollars in health care savings from cleaner air. The agency said the rule would prevent more than 30,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses each year.
Federal Pipeline and Oil-by-Rail Regulator Making 9% Staff Cut, Confounding Experts
The federal regulator for petroleum pipelines and oil-toting railcars is offering employee buyouts that could shrink the agency's staff by 9 percent by mid-June—a step that has confounded observers because the agency is widely regarded as being chronically understaffed.
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) spokesman Damon Hill said the buyout offers are meant to "help the agency manage attrition in areas where a large and growing number of employees are eligible for retirement by offering an inducement for a limited number of employees to voluntarily retire or resign." ...
[T]he job cuts come at a time when PHMSA is already under considerable duress. Politicians and the public have been pushing the agency to more rigorously regulate the nation's aging pipeline network as well as the many new pipelines tied to surging domestic oil and natural gas production. A spate of damaging pipeline spills and oil-by-rail accidents is adding to the workload, exposing PHMSA's shortcomings and intensifying scrutiny of the agency.
Price of Gas in U.S. Rises as Refiners Export More to Other Countries
Drivers in the U.S. are facing rising gasoline prices ahead of summer-vacation season, just as refiners here are shipping more gas to other countries.
A new pipeline, built to release a glut of crude oil that was stuck in the middle of the country, is now feeding oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast that churn out gasoline and diesel. While these fuels still make their way to the Southeast and the East Coast, growing amounts are being sold to Mexico, the Netherlands, Brazil and other countries.
The push into these markets has been spurred by the U.S. oil boom. Rising oil output had been flooding the nation's oil market in recent years, keeping U.S. crude prices low relative to world prices. Facing tepid fuel demand in the U.S., refiners have been ramping up exports, creating more global competition for U.S.-produced fuel.
Duke Energy says it would be too hard to actually fix its coal-ash problem
After utterly ruining 70 miles of a North Carolina river, Duke Energy has been making nice noises about cleaning up its coal-ash ponds — the type that ruptured in February with environmentally catastrophic consequences. But a presentation to state officials this week revealed that the company is only aiming to achieve a small portion of the reforms that environmentalists have long demanded. Al Jazeera reports:Duke’s current plan, presented on Tuesday, calls for the removal of all the coal ash at three basins, including the one that leaked into the Dan River. At Duke’s 14 basins where coal ash is still deposited regularly, Duke said it would convert to dry ash handling — a method that could reduce the risk of leaks into rivers and groundwater — or retire those units. At the inactive basins, Duke said it would begin the process of drying the ponds so only ash remains.
Duke said its current plan would take a few years to complete and cost upward of $2 billion.
But environmentalists say the plan doesn’t go far enough and want Duke to close its coal ash basins and remove the ash from unlined pits. The company warns that could take three decades and cost up to $10 billion.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
More info on the Kaganate of Nulands
A Little Night Music
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - Wee Baby Blues
Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson & Roomful of Blues - Past sixty blues
Etta James, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Shuggie Otis - Baby What You Want Me To Do
Eddie Cleanhead Vinson - Kidney Stew Blues
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - Straight Away
Eddie "Mr. Cleanhead" Vinson & His Orchestra- Too Many Women Blues
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - Person To Person
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - Oil Man Blues
Eddie Cleanhead Vinson - Juice Head Baby
Eddie Cleanhead Vinson - Hold It!
Etta James & Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson - Old Maid Boogie
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson & His Orchestra - Some Women Do
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - I'm Gonna Wind Your Clock
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