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 the Chicago blues band, The Siegel Schwall Band. Enjoy!
Siegel Schwall Band - I Think It Was The Wine
"To declare that in the administration of criminal law the end justifies the means to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure conviction of a private criminal would bring terrible retribution."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
News and Opinion
'New York Times' Editor: Losing Snowden Scoop 'Really Painful'
When former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden made the fateful decision to share sensitive documents with reporters revealing of the metadata associated with the phone calls made by tens of millions of Americans, he had to figure out which news outfit to trust.
But Snowden already knew the one place he didn't trust: The New York Times. ... "It was really painful," [new executive editor of The New York Times, Dean] Baquet told me just a few hours after the Pulitzer ceremony. "There is nothing harder than, if you are the New York Times, getting beat on a big national security story — and to get beat by your biggest overseas competitor and your biggest national competitor, at the same time. It was just painful."
He says the experience has proved that news executives are often unduly deferential to seemingly authoritative warnings unaccompanied by hard evidence.
"I am much, much, much more skeptical of the government's entreaties not to publish today than I was ever before," Baquet said in .
Snowden's choice was the bitter harvest of seeds sown by the Times almost a decade ago. In the fall of 2004, just ahead of the November general elections, the Times' news leadership spiked an exclusive from Washington correspondents James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, disclosing massive warrantless domestic eavesdropping by the NSA.
Encouraging words of regret from Dean Baquet and weasel words from James Clapper
NPR’s David Folkenflik has a revealing new look at what I have long believed is one of the most important journalistic stories of the last decade: the New York Times‘ 2004 decision, at the behest of George Bush himself, to suppress for 15 months (through Bush’s re-election) its reporters’ discovery that the NSA was illegally eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Folkenflik’s NPR story confirms what has long been clear: that the only reason the NYT eventually published that article was because one of its reporters, Jim Risen, had become so frustrated that he wrote a book that was about to break the story, leaving the paper with no choice (Risen’s co-reporter, Eric Lichtblau, is quoted this way: “‘He had a gun to their head,’ Lichtblau told Frontline. ‘They are really being forced to reconsider: The paper is going to look pretty bad’ if Risen’s book disclosed the wiretapping program before the Times“).
As Folkenflik notes, this episode was one significant reason Edward Snowden purposely excluded the NYT from his massive trove of documents. In an interview with Folkenflik, the paper’s new Executive Editor, Dean Baquet, describes the paper’s exclusion from the Snowden story as “really painful”. But, as I documented in my book and in recent interviews, Baquet has his own checkered history in suppressing plainly newsworthy stories at the government’s request, including a particularly inexcusable 2007 decision, when he was the Managing Editor of the LA Times, to kill a story based on AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein’s revelations that the NSA had built secret rooms at AT&T to siphon massive amounts of domestic telephone traffic. ...
That national security state officials routinely mislead and deceive the public should never have even been in serious doubt in the first place – certainly not for journalists, and especially now after the experience of the Iraq War. That fact – that official pronouncements merit great skepticism rather than reverence – should be (but plainly is not) fundamental to how journalists view the world.
More evidence for that is provided by a Washington Post column today by one of the national security state’s favorite outlets, David Ignatius. Ignatius interviewed the chronic deceiver, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who now “says it appears the impact [of Snowden's leaking] may be less than once feared because ‘it doesn’t look like he [Snowden] took as much’ as first thought.” Clapper specifically casts serious doubt on the US Government’s prior claim that Snowden ”had compromised the communications networks that make up the military’s command and control system”; instead, “officials now think that dire forecast may have been too extreme.
Vodafone reveals existence of secret wires that allow state surveillance
Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile phone groups, has revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond.
The company has broken its silence on government surveillance in order to push back against the increasingly widespread use of phone and broadband networks to spy on citizens, and will publish its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report on Friday. At 40,000 words, it is the most comprehensive survey yet of how governments monitor the conversations and whereabouts of their people.
The company said wires had been connected directly to its network and those of other telecoms groups, allowing agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in certain cases, track the whereabouts of a customer. Privacy campaigners said the revelations were a "nightmare scenario" that confirmed their worst fears on the extent of snooping. ...
Direct-access systems do not require warrants, and companies have no information about the identity or the number of customers targeted. Mass surveillance can happen on any telecoms network without agencies having to justify their intrusion to the companies involved. ...
Government agencies can also intercept traffic on its way into a data centre, combing through conversations before routing them on to the operator.
Six governments tap Vodafone calls
The world's second-biggest mobile phone company Vodafone revealed government agencies in six unidentified countries use its network to listen to and record customers' calls, showing the scale of telecom eavesdropping around the world.
The United States and Britain both came in for global scrutiny and criticism after Edward Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), disclosed their vast phone, email and internet surveillance operations.
But Vodafone (VOD.L), which has 400 million customers in countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, said in its "Disclosure Report" on Friday that countries in its reach are using similar practices.
While most governments needed legal notices to tap into customers' communications, there were six countries where that was not the case, it said.
"In a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator's network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful interception on the part of the operator," Vodafone said.
Vodafone did not name the six for legal reasons. It added that in Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey it could not disclose any information related to wiretapping or interception.
NSA reform bill finds few allies before Senate intelligence committee
Senators on the intelligence committee expressed deep doubts about curbing the National Security Agency's broad data collection powers as the upper legislative chamber begins to consider a landmark surveillance bill that passed the House last month.
Lawmakers attacked the USA Freedom Act as insufficiently protective of both privacy and national security as intelligence and law enforcement officials, who now back the bill, conceded that under its provisions they would still have access to a large amount of US phone and other data.
Deputy attorney general James Cole told the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday that the bill allows the NSA to collect information "two hops", or degrees removed from a targeted phone account. "It gives us the prospective collection, it gives us a wider range of information that we wouldn't have under normal authorities," he said.
That account bothered three Democratic privacy advocates on the panel – Oregon's Ron Wyden, Colorado's Mark Udall and New Mexico's Martin Heinrich – but most of the consternation shown by the panel came from the opposite direction, indicating that a surveillance bill whose privacy protections have been largely weakened will still face a difficult road in the Senate.
Reformers frustrated as NSA preserves its power
For two weeks in May, it looked as though privacy advocates had scored a tenuous victory against the widespread surveillance practices exposed by Edward Snowden a year ago. Then came a resurgent intelligence community, armed with pens, and dry, legislative language.
During several protracted sessions in secure rooms in the Capitol, intelligence veterans, often backed by the congressional leadership, sparred with House aides to abridge privacy and transparency provisions contained in the first bill rolling back National Security Agency spying powers in more than three decades. The revisions took place in secret after two congressional committees had passed the bill. The NSA and its allies took creative advantage of a twilight legislative period permitting technical or cosmetic language changes. ...
No one familiar with the negotiations alleges the NSA or its allies broke the law by amending the bill during the technical-fix period. But it is unusual for substantive changes to be introduced secretly after a bill has cleared committee and before its open debate by the full Senate or House.
"It is not out of order, but major changes in substance are rare, and appropriately so," said Norman Ornstein, an expert on congressional procedure at the American Enterprise Institute.
Steve Aftergood, an intelligence policy analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said the rewrites to the bill were an "invitation to cynicism."
"There does seem to be a sort of gamesmanship to it. Why go through all the troubling of crafting legislation, enlisting support and co-sponsorship, and adopting compromises if the bill is just going to be rewritten behind closed doors anyway?" Aftergood said.
NSA: Inside the FIVE-EYED VAMPIRE SQUID of the INTERNET
Profiling the global machinations of merchant bank Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone in 2009, journalist Matt Taibbi famously characterized them as operating "everywhere ... a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”.
The NSA, with its English-speaking "Five Eyes" partners (the relevant agencies of the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) and a hitherto unknown secret network of corporate and government partners, has been revealed to be a similar creature. The Snowden documents chart communications funnels, taps, probes, "collection systems" and malware "implants" everywhere, jammed into data networks and tapped into cables or onto satellites.
The evidence Snowden has provided, by the bucketload, has shown that no country, no network, no communications system, no type of communication has been too small or trivial or irrelevant to attract attention and the ingestion of data into huge and enduring archives - under construction at NSA headquarters and already in operation at its new Utah Data Center. ...
There are parallels to the banking world, too, in the pervasive and longstanding networks of influence that have been created with the aim of influencing and controlling policymakers, and which have assured minimal political change when damage is done. Merchant banks like Goldmans have long worked hard to have their alumni in positions of political power and influence, in control at vital times. ...
The damage created to IT security is deliberate, sustained and protected even inside the agencies' compartmented planning cells by arcane contrivances of language. Breaking the safety and value of crypto systems, in sigint speak, is "enabling". Deliberately sabotaging security, in the inverted Orwellian world of the sigint agencies is said to be "improving security".
Critics Assail Kafkaesque Secret Trial in UK
For the first time in the UK's modern legal history, two men could face an entirely secret criminal trial for terrorism charges, their identities, the proceedings, and the verdict concealed from the public record.
First reported Wednesday, the blackout sparked alarm among human rights campaigners, lawyers, and politicians.
“To hold trials entirely in secret is an outrageous assault on the fundamental principles of British justice," Clare Algar, executive director of UK human rights organization Reprieve, told the Telegraph.
Until Wednesday, the media was banned from reporting the trial at all. After a challenge to the gag order by UK media organizations, including the Guardian and the Daily Mail, the press won the right to cover a Wednesday hearing challenging the gag order. The court will rule on the appeal to the media blackout in the coming days.
The case involves two men, identified as "AB" and "CD," who will face terrorism charges in a criminal court. The Crown Prosecution Service successfully pushed for the secrecy, which would ban any public report on the trial's proceedings and outcome, on the grounds that it is necessary for the protection of national security, with the specifics unknown to the public.
Hillary Clinton and the Weaponization of the State Department
On May 23, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) trade show in Tampa, Florida to share her vision of “smart power” and to explain the State Department’s crucial role in extending the reach and efficacy of America’s growing “international counterterrorism network.” ...
Hillary’s widely-ignored speech marked a radical departure from the widely-held perception that the State Department’s diplomatic mission endures as an institutional alternative to the Pentagon’s military planning. Instead, Secretary Clinton celebrated the transformation of Foggy Bottom into a full partner with the Pentagon’s ever-widening efforts around the globe, touting both the role of diplomats in paving the way for shadowy special ops in so-called “hot spots” and the State Department’s “hand-in-glove” coordination with Special Forces in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
Finally, with little fanfare or coverage, America’s lead diplomat stood before the shadow war industry and itemized the integration of the State Department’s planning and personnel with the Pentagon’s global counter-terrorism campaign which, she told the special operations industry, happen “in one form or another in more than 100 countries around the world.”
If this isn’t entirely unexpected, consider the fact that under then-Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the State Department fought attempts by the Pentagon to trump its authority around the globe and, as reported by Washington Post, “repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval.”
But that was before Hillary brought her “fast and flexible” doctrine of “smart power” to Foggy Bottom and, according to her remarks, before she applied lessons learned from her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee to launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. That Pentagon-style review spurred the creation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to “advance the U.S. government’s foreign policy goals in conflict areas.”
But the new, improved bureau does more than just react to messes made by unlawful invasions or direct costly remediation efforts in war zones – it also collaborates with “relevant partners” in the Department of Defense and NATO “to harmonize civilian and military plans and operations pertaining to conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization.”
This integrated relationship between State and Defense was confirmed by US Special Operations chief Admiral William McRaven shortly after Hillary’s speech.
Hillary Clinton wanted to arm Syrian rebels, memoir reveals
Hillary Clinton favoured arming Syria's rebels early in the country's civil war but was overruled by Barack Obama, the former secretary of state said in her new memoir, according to CBS News.
Clinton's long-awaited book Hard Choices – seen as the unofficial start to her expected bid for the presidency in 2016 – is set to launch on 10 June, but CBS said on Thursday it had got hold of a copy at a bookshop
"Wicked problems rarely have a right answer; in fact, part of what makes them wicked is that every option appears worse than the next. Increasingly that's how Syria appeared," Clinton wrote.
She said she returned to Washington from an overseas trip convinced that the training and arming of moderates among the Syrian rebels was the best way to turn the tide against the country's president, Bashar al-Assad.
"The risks of both action and inaction were high, [but] the president [Obama]'s inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels," she added.
Kiev calls for martial law in east Ukraine as fighting intensifies
Pro-Russia gunmen overran three eastern Ukrainian military bases on Wednesday, making off with weapons and armored vehicles after ill-equipped government forces ran out of ammunition and fled, Kiev officials and media reported.
The setbacks in the Ukrainian government's campaign to retake key facilities seized by the militants two months ago prompted acting President Oleksandr Turchynov to appeal to the nation's security agencies to consider imposing martial law.
Russian state television reported that more than 9,000 refugees from eastern Ukraine have crossed into Russia to escape the fighting, and that 2,000 of them were moved to Crimea, the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula seized by Russian troops in February and annexed by the Kremlin in March. The rest have taken refuge in the Rostov-on-Don region, prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency, Russia-24 TV said.
Kiev Escalates: Air Strikes on Ukraine’s Rebel Cities
US-supported forces are committing war crimes – against their own people
The Kiev "government" – and I use the term loosely – is claiming to have killed over 300 "separatist militants" in the eastern city of Luhansk, and wounded 500 – an extremely dubious claim that even the pro-Kiev Western media is reporting skeptically. What can be verified is that the rebels have scored a number of successes, including driving Ukrainian border guards from their posts near the Russian border. All told, pro-Kiev military units were expelled from three eastern towns. "In a show of force," as the New York Times lamely put it, Ukrainian "acting president" Aleksander Turchynov showed up in the eastern pro-rebel city of Slovyansk – just as the rebels had downed a National Guard helicopter.
The reason for the complete failure of Kiev’s "anti-terrorist" offensive is all too clear: the US-supported Ukrainian "government" forces are all conscripts, and no match for motivated rebel fighters – who are angry at air-launched rocket assaults targeting civilian areas in rebel-controlled territory. Yes, the "anti-terrorist" operation includes attacks by the Air Force on Luhansk and Slovyansk. The New York Times reports:"At a funeral on Wednesday for Alexander Gizai, one of the eight people killed by a Ukrainian airstrike two days before, anger hung in the air. ‘How could they use air power in the center of the city, in broad daylight, next to a jungle gym?’ asked a Russian literature teacher named Georgy, who had come to pay his respects to Mr. Gizai, and said he despised the separatists. ‘Ukraine was always divided. It was always hard to understand it as one country. Now it is even harder.’"Now Kiev is braying and beating its chest, claiming to have murdered hundreds of people, when in fact its forces are in retreat and have lost control of the eastern part of the country. What can one say when a regime proudly claims to have committed war crimes – which are clearly, at best, exaggerations? Only that Ukraine has crossed the always vague border between the Twilight Zone and Bizarro World.
That this bizarrely bloody series of events occurred as our President was canoodling in Warsaw with the Chocolate Oligarch, issuing a statement hailing events in Ukraine as "an incredible outpouring of democracy" merely serves to confirm our relocation to another dimension.
[The picture above is of a stamp issued by the Ukrainian government celebrating their proud Nazi heritage by featuring their hero, the fascist Stepan Bandera. - js]
Obama, Cameron Issue Demands, Give Russia One Month Ultimatum
Continuing to escalate tensions with Russia, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron today laid out an ultimatum, giving Russia’s President Putin a series of demands he has to meet by the end of a month or face major sanctions.
The new “thresholds” are familiar demands, including blocking all arms from crossing the border into Ukraine, ending all public support for the ethnic Russian protesters in the eastern portion of Ukraine, and “recognizing Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Ukraine.” ...
On a rhetorical front, the State Department also made clear that under no circumstances would the US ever consider the situation in Ukraine a “civil war,” arguing that they believe the whole eastern situation is Russia’s fault and that therefore it can’t be an internal conflict.
Putin, Ukraine leader break crisis ice at D-Day event
The leaders of Russia and Ukraine held their first talks on Friday since Moscow annexed Crimea, discussing ways to end their four-month conflict in a brief encounter during commemorations in France of the World War Two D-Day landings.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought together Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko for a 15-minute meeting before they joined other dignitaries for lunch.
The meeting was the culmination of weeks of secret diplomacy by French officials to try to break the ice in the most serious European security crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Putin later had an equally short "informal" talk with U.S. President Barack Obama, the White House said.
Hollande's office said Putin and Poroshenko shook hands and agreed that detailed talks on a ceasefire between Kiev government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine would begin within a few days.
They also discussed steps such as Russian recognition of Poroshenko's election as well as economic relations.
Strike tangles Sao Paulo again in run-up to World Cup
Brazil's biggest city confronted a second straight day of commuting chaos on Friday, as striking subway workers and a protest over housing conditions tangled the streets of Sao Paulo less than a week before it hosts the opening match of the World Cup.
Police used tear gas to break up a demonstration blocking access to one metro station, but a third of the city's subway stops remained closed early in the morning. More than 200 kilometers (125 miles) of traffic choked city streets.
The strike already set a record on Thursday for morning gridlock in Sao Paulo this year and snagged several FIFA officials in over two hours of traffic as they arrived for a conference ahead of the World Cup.
The Evening Greens
El Niño 70% likely to arrive in summer, says US weather forecaster
The chances of an El Niño, the global climate phenomenon that can destroy crops in Asia and offer a relief from harsh winters in North America, were raised to 70% on Thursday. But scientists said the coming El Niño was likely to be of only moderate strength.
In their monthly forecast, scientists from the US government's Climate Prediction Centre said warming sea temperatures in the Pacific continued to create the conditions for an El Niño this summer.
“The chance of El Niño is 70% during the northern hemisphere summer and reaches 80% during the fall and winter,” the centre said. Its ultimate strength had weakened over the last month. “Regardless, the forecasters remain just as confident that El Niño is likely to emerge,” the forecast said. ...
In California, there has been hope that a strong El Niño could be a drought buster. The phenomenon is known for bringing wetter winters to Texas and southern California. They are also good news for Florida and the Caribbean, damping down the hurricane season in the Atlantic.
But El Niños can wreak havoc on fisheries in South America, and worsen droughts in part of Asia, Africa, and Australia.
That type of El Niño, with widespread global impact, has yet to fully materialise, the scientists said. While warmer sea temperatures in the Pacific were building conditions for an El Niño, the scientists said they were still not seeing the inter-action with atmosphere they would expect for a really big event.
Measure Climate-Related Destruction in the Many Trillions of Dollars: UN
Measure the cost of destructive climate change-related impacts in the trillions of dollars, says a United Nations report published Thursday.
The report, which focuses on the world's 52 Small Island Developing States (or SIDS) found predominantly in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, highlights how the nations and people least responsible for the climate crisis face the most severe damage. However, the report notes, the costs associated with the destruction of low-lying nations, coral reefs, and vulnerable coasts will be felt globally.
According to the UN's Environment Program (UNEP), the coral reefs in all SIDS regions are already severely impacted by rising ocean surface temperatures. And the report says that the global net loss of the coral reef cover - around 34 million hectares over the coming two decades - will cost the international economy nearly $12 trillion, with the economies and very existence of those small nations especially impacted.
Genetically Modified Crops Fueling Decline of Monarch Butterflies: Report
The monarch butterflies' numbers have been plummeting in recent years, and a new study has pointed to the likely main culprit: loss of its summer habitat as a result of genetically modified crops.
The findings from researchers with the University of Guelph were published Wednesday in the Journal of Animal Ecology.
A report issued earlier this year from the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico’s National Commission for Protected Areas pointed to three main factors threatening the pollinators: deforestation and forest degradation in monarch reserves that serve as their winter habitat in Mexico, habitat loss due to land use changes and the loss of its larval food plant—milkweed—as a result of the widespread use of the herbicide glyphosate, and weather extremes.
The new study, however, puts the main cause of the crisis squarely on its summer habitat loss in the United States.
The researchers' projection model showed that disturbances in their breeding grounds affected the butterflies' number to a greater degree than disturbances to their wintering grounds. Those breeding grounds need to have milkweed, the only host plant for the monarch caterpillars.
This is an excellent diary about the ongoing West Virginia water crisis and its effect on the people of West Virginia - The Family Afterward: West Virginia Four Months After The Freedom Industries Chemical Spill. Check it out if you haven't seen it already.
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
Siegel Schwall Band - Hush Hush
Siegel-Schwall Band - I'm a Hog for you Baby
Siegel-Schwall Band - King Bee
Siegel-Schwall Band - Old Time Shimmy
The Siegel-Schwall Band - Shake For Me
Siegel - Schwall Band - The Blues Is Allright
Siegel-Schwall Band - I Can't Be Satisfied
The Siegel-Schwall Band - I Don't Want You To Be My Girl
The Siegel-Schwall Band - Correct It All
The Siegel-Schwall Band - His Good Time Band
Siegel Schwall Blues Band - Mellow Down Easy
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
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.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!