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 blues singer and drummer Willie Nix. Enjoy!
Willie Nix - Try Me One More Time
"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience."
-- George Bernard Shaw
News and Opinion
Wait, what were those 700 troops that Obama sent to Iraq? Chopped liver?
John Kerry insists any US moves in Iraq will not involve combat troopsOh, I get it now. They're "advisers," like in Viet Nam. That explains everything.
US combat forces will not re-enter Iraq, John Kerry insists, but the US says it will explore more “political, economic and security options” as the country transitions out of political deadlock with a new prime minister.
During a visit to Australia for the annual Ausmin talks, the secretary of state told reporters the US government congratulated Haider al-Abadi on his nomination, and he urged the incoming prime minister to form a new, inclusive and functional cabinet “as swiftly as possible”.
With Nouri al-Maliki effectively deposed overnight by Iraq’s president in favour of the rival Shia candidate, Kerry said the Obama administration stood ready to “fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi government”.
Kerry said the government in Iraq needed to create circumstances where the “forces of Iraq are not a personal force defined by one particular sect and sworn to allegiance to one particular leader, but .. truly represent Iraq”. With a new “inclusive, participatory” government in Baghdad, the US would “absolutely look to provide additional options” to help stabilise the country.
Kerry made it clear this did not mean a return of US combat troops.
Pentagon may send more advisers to Iraq
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. defense official says the Pentagon is considering sending more military advisers to Iraq.
Their role would be to help determine future course of action for the U.S., based in part on the impact of several days of targeted airstrikes on the Islamic extremist fighters and how that has affected Kurdish forces opposing them in northern Iraq.
Maliki signals he’ll step aside peacefully, easing tensions in Baghdad
BAGHDAD -- Tensions eased in Iraq’s capital Tuesday as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki gave his first signals that he’s preparing to step down from his post as Prime Minister-designate Haider al Abadi began forming a new government.
In a statement, Maliki urged the nation’s military “to stay away from the political crisis,” indicating that he won’t use the armed forces to hold on to his office.
It was a significant reversal in tone for Maliki, who on Monday held a press conference in which he and political allies accused Abadi of a power grab and said they would fight his appointment.
At the same time, Maliki lost one of his most important allies when top officials in the Iranian government publicly embraced Abadi’s nomination.
US Denies Role in Plot to Oust Maliki
US officials are rejecting allegations that the United States is playing a direct role in a plot to oust Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, though they continue to reiterate their support for PM-designate Hayder Abadi, and their desire to see Maliki go. ...
The notion that the US isn’t playing a role in Maliki’s ouster is absurd, and underscoring that Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement today pledging support for Masum and warning Maliki “not to cause trouble” with his impending replacement.
US Kept Mum for Weeks on Israel’s Civilian Targeting in Gaza
United Nations officials and human rights organisations have characterised Israeli attacks on civilian targets during the IDF war on Gaza as violations of the laws of war.
During the war, Israeli bombardment leveled whole urban neighbourhoods, leaving more than 10,000 houses destroyed and 30,000 damaged and killing 1,300 civilians, according to U.N. data. Israeli forces also struck six schools providing shelter to refugees under U.N. protection, killing at least 47 refugees and wounding more than 340.
But the Barack Obama administration’s public posture during the war signaled to Israel that it would not be held accountable for such violations.
A review of the transcripts of daily press briefings by the State Department during the Israeli attack shows that the Obama administration refused to condemn Israeli attacks on civilian targets in the first three weeks of the war.
U.S. officials were well aware of Israel’s history of rejecting any distinction between military and civilian targets in previous wars in Lebanon and Gaza. ...
Given that history, Obama administration policy makers knew that Israel would certainly resort to similar targeting in its Gaza operation unless it believed it would suffer serious consequences for doing so. But the administration’s public stance in daily briefings in the early days of the war suggested little or no concern about Israeli violations of the laws of war.
Israel Has No Right of Self-Defense to Invade or Bomb Gaza
Was 9/11 a criminal act or an act of war justifying the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? Similarly, are actions against Israel by militants in Gaza criminal acts or acts of war justifying the habitual Israeli invasions and shelling of Gaza? These are not legalistic questions, but rather speak fundamentally about the degree to which powerful states like the United States and Israel can legitimately claim to be governed by the rule of enlightened law.
In response mainly to the Nazi invasions of Austria (1938), Poland (1939), France (1940), the Soviet Union (1941) and other countries, the major post-war addition to international law was the establishment of the Charter of the United Nations, the cardinal rule of which is the prohibition against the threat and use of armed force by states in the conduct of their international relations. The idea was to make force the instrument of the world community (through the U.N. Security Council) and not of individual states. The effect was to outlaw war, with one narrow exception—self-defense in response to an “armed attack”; that is, as the Lawyers Committee on Vietnam observed in 1967, when “military forces cross an international boundary in visible, massive and sustained form” (now citing Daniel Webster in The Caroline) “leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.”
As horrific and unprecedented as 9/11 was, the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington did not rise to the level of an “armed attack” as defined under international law, since the survival of the United States was not in doubt. In short, 9/11 was a terrorist crime and should have been investigated and prosecuted as such.
Instead, the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands to avenge the killing of 3,000 at a projected total cost to U.S. taxpayers of more than $3 trillion, while destroying Iraq as a social and cultural entity. Israel exacts a proportionately similar degree of retribution in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier or the firing into Israel of relatively ineffective rockets, that is, compared especially to Israel’s U.S.-supplied howitzer tank and artillery shells, which Israel has fired into Gaza in far greater numbers with far more destructive power. As Haaretz reporter Amira Hass once wrote: “For us, the Israelis, history always begins when the Palestinians hurt us, and then the pain is completely decontextualized.”
Committed apparently to “disproportionate force” and “collective punishment,” both of which are outlawed under international humanitarian law, a sizable portion of Americans and Israelis have cited “self-defense” as justification for Israel’s invasion and bombardment of Gaza in recent weeks. However, similar to Afghanistan and Iraq having no military capability in 2001 to invade the United States, Hamas has no mechanized army or a navy or air force with which to invade Israel. Hamas thus has no military capability to realistically engage in an “armed attack” against Israel as the term is defined in international law—a reality which legally nullifies virtually any unilateral claim by Israel to invade Gaza in self-defense.
Gaza homes 'uninhabitable' as tens of thousands come back to rubble
Tens of thousands of people across Gaza returned to their homes on Monday as a tenuous ceasefire held and hopes rose of an end to the month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Local officials and humanitarian workers began to inspect the latest damage the war had caused in the overcrowded enclave, with assessments indicating earlier estimates may have been optimistic.
In Gaza City, which has a population of half a million, 20%-25% of the housing stock had been damaged, said Nihad al-Mughni of the engineering department.
Mohammed al-Kafarna, the mayor of Beit Hanoun, a northern town which saw fierce fighting and heavy bombardment, said 70% of homes were uninhabitable. "Basically the town is unliveable. There is no power, water or communications. There are not the basics for life," he said.
In Shawkat, a neighbourhood of Rafah city in the south which saw heavy fighting after an earlier ceasefire collapsed within hours, 300 out of 2,000 houses had been destroyed, along with the town hall.
"You can't imagine the destruction," said Adel Lubda, the chief council engineer.
Russian aid convoy 'will not be admitted into Ukraine'
A Ukrainian security spokesman has said that a humanitarian convoy Russia has dispatched to eastern Ukraine will not be admitted into the country.
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's national security and defence council, said the convoy had not been certified by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
A convoy of 280 Russian trucks headed for Ukraine early on Tuesday, a day after agreement was reached on an international humanitarian relief mission.
But the ICRC, which was due to coordinate the operation, said it had no information on what the trucks were carrying or where they were going. That has raised fears in Ukraine and the west, where leaders have voiced concerns that Russia could use the initiative as a pretext for sending troops into separatist-held territory.
Egypt massacre was premeditated, says Human Rights Watch
Egyptian security forces intentionally killed at least 817 protesters during last August's Rabaa massacre, in a premeditated attack equal to or worse than China's Tiananmen Square killings in 1989, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has argued in a report.
The 195-page investigation based on interviews with 122 survivors and witnesses has found Egypt's police and army "systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds" in actions that "likely amounted to crimes against humanity".
The report recommends that several senior individuals within Egypt's security apparatus be investigated and, where appropriate, held to account for their role in the planning of both the Rabaa massacre and others that occurred last summer – including Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egypt's then defence minister and new president. As head of the army at the time, Sisi had overall responsibility for the army's role at Rabaa, and has publicly acknowledged spending "very many long days to discuss all the details". ...
The report documents scores of incidents where unarmed protesters were killed, often by snipers shooting from nearby buildings or, according to multiple witnesses, from helicopters flying overhead.
Amnesty Int'l reports: No Justice for Afghan Civilians Killed by US TroopsNational Propaganda Radio is at it again! There's a lot more in the article than can be fairly abstracted, including compelling evidence that al-Qaeda terrists were working on encrytion and avoiding detection long before Snowden's revelations - it's worth your time to click the link and read it in full.
There has been no justice for thousands of Afghan civilians killed and countless injured by U.S. and other international forces in the five-year period from 2009 to 2013, according to a report released late Friday by the human rights group Amnesty International.
The report, Left in the Dark: Failures of Accountability for Civilian Casualties Caused by International Military Operations in Afghanistan (pdf), focuses on operations carried out by U.S. Special Forces and troops under the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the large majority of which are from the U.S. The study found that even apparent war crimes carried out by occupying forces have gone without investigation or punishment. ...
According to Amnesty International, none of the cases they investigated—which involved more than 140 civilian deaths, including pregnant women and at least 50 children—were prosecuted by the U.S. military. Further, evidence of possible war crimes, such as torture, and unlawful killings has also "seemingly been ignored.”
“Thousands of Afghans have been killed or injured by U.S. forces since the invasion, but the victims and their families have little chance of redress. The U.S. military justice system almost always fails to hold its soldiers accountable for unlawful killings and other abuses,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.
NPR Is Laundering CIA Talking Points to Make You Scared of NSA Reporting
On August 1, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast a story by NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston touting explosive claims from what she called “a tech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” That firm, Recorded Future, worked together with “a cyber expert, Mario Vuksan, the CEO of ReversingLabs,” to produce a new report that purported to vindicate the repeated accusation from U.S. officials that “revelations from former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden harmed national security and allowed terrorists to develop their own countermeasures.”
The “big data firm,” reported NPR, says that it now “has tangible evidence” proving the government’s accusations. Temple-Raston’s four-minute, 11-second story devoted the first 3 minutes and 20 seconds to uncritically repeating the report’s key conclusion that ”just months after the Snowden documents were released, al-Qaeda dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online” and, post-Snowden, “al-Qaeda didn’t just tinker at the edges of its seven-year-old encryption software; it overhauled it.” The only skepticism in the NPR report was relegated to 44 seconds at the end when she quoted security expert Bruce Schneier, who questioned the causal relationship between the Snowden disclosures and the new terrorist encryption programs, as well as the efficacy of the new encryption.
With this report, Temple-Raston seriously misled NPR’s millions of listeners. To begin with, Recorded Future, the outfit that produced the government-affirming report, is anything but independent. To the contrary, it is funded by the CIA and U.S. intelligence community with millions of dollars. Back in 2010, it also filed forms to become a vendor for the NSA. (In response to questions from The Intercept, the company’s vice president Jason Hines refused to say whether it works for the NSA, telling us that we should go FOIA that information if we want to know. But according to public reports, Recorded Future “earns most of its revenue from selling to Wall Street quants and intelligence agencies.”) ...
Worse, Temple-Raston knows all of this. Back in 2012, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast her profile of Recorded Future and its claimed ability to predict the future by gathering internet data. At the end of her report, she noted that the firm has “at least two very important financial backers: the CIA’s investment arm, called In-Q-Tel, and Google Ventures. They have reportedly poured millions into the company.”
That is the company she’s now featuring as some sort of independent source that can credibly vindicate the claims of U.S. officials about how Snowden reporting helps terrorists.
An Even Worse Constitutional Scandal Than Iran-Contra and Watergate
The stark admission by the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) Inspector General that the agency had broken into a classified computer network used by its overseers at the Senate Intelligence Committee violates the core principle of separation of powers of governmental branches enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Along with the CIA’s illegal rendition, detention, and torture of suspected terrorists and the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) secret monitoring of Americans’ phone traffic, it shows that US spy agencies are in danger of going rogue and need to be severely disciplined. ...
Taken together, the post-9/11 illegalities by the intelligence community during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations probably constitute the worst constitutional scandal in American history – even worse than the number two scandal, Iran-Contra, and the number three scandal, Watergate. When taken together, the post-9/11 illegal break in, phone monitoring, rendition, detention, and torture by intelligence agencies is probably more detrimental to the American people and the republic’s constitution than the Reagan White House’s financing and running of a secret, unauthorized war in usurpation of Congress’s key constitutional responsibility to approve and fund federal activities (in Iran-Contra) and the Nixon White House’s failed attempt to use US security agencies to obstruct a law enforcement investigation into its third rate burglary during an election campaign (Watergate). ...
[D]uring the post-9/11 hysteria, the authorization of unconstitutional and illegal actions by the Bush and Obama White Houses, Congress, and the courts have led to the current perilous climate that could foster further rogue behavior by intelligence agencies. Thus, the intelligence community needs a walk to the woodshed. John Brennan needs to be fired, the perpetrators of all illegal acts at the CIA finally should be investigated and prosecuted, and the intelligence budget needs to be slashed as a penalty. Bureaucratic organizations really get the message when their budgets are cut. So as to minimize harm to legitimate US intelligence gathering, most of the cuts can come from the CIA’s covert action arm, which needlessly and dangerously tries to destabilize foreign countries. Only if the CIA is severely punished for its latest transgression will US intelligence agencies be deterred from violating the Constitution and laws at home and encouraged to redirect their activities overseas to help safeguard the republic, instead of undermining it.
The Killing of Michael Brown: Missouri Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Teen Sparks Days of Protests
Michael Brown shooting: police use teargas to crack down on protesters
Police have cracked down hard on a second night of demonstrations over the fatal shooting on Saturday of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Missouri, driving dozens of young protesters out of the city of Ferguson with dogs, teargas and rubber bullets.
For two hours, officers from several forces clashed with a crowd that had gathered steadily through Monday near the scene of the killing of Michael Brown. While some protesters threw bricks at police, others walked with their arms aloft, saying: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
“We were just sitting on the ground in the street, singing We Shall Not Be Moved,” Chris McMillan, a 20-year-old childhood friend of Brown’s, told the Guardian, after emerging from a fog of teargas. “They told us, ‘Get off the street’, and then they started shooting gas canisters at us. ...
Sergeant Colby Dolly, a spokesman for St Louis county police, said at a makeshift command centre early on Tuesday morning that some 150 officers had been involved in the operation and had made about 10 arrests. ...
A few dozen police officers, some in military-style dress, remained at the makeshift police operation command centre late in a strip mall car park on Monday night, amid a sea almost 100 law-enforcement vehicles including two armoured Swat trucks.
A small group of officers congregating outside a branch of Target could be heard laughing and mocking the protesters they had been dealing with earlier in the night. “Oh, don’t shoot me!” one said, prompting hearty laughter.
Missouri protesters gather again after two nights of riots
More than 100 people marched at the St. Louis County courthouse on Tuesday to protest the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager but the demonstration remained peaceful after two previous days of violence.
Protesters called for justice in the death of Michael Brown, 18, who was shot to death in the back of a police car on Saturday, an end to what they say is harassment of blacks by the mostly white police force in Ferguson and the jailing of the officer who shot Brown.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said police were determined to keep a lid on simmering tensions. Authorities had been expected to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting on Tuesday but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, citing police, said on Tuesday the name would not be released. The race of the officer, a six-year veteran who is now on administrative leave, also has not been revealed. ...
"We've consistently had a problem," said St. Louis attorney Jerryl Christmas, who helped lead the protest. "There's a lack of diversity all the way up from the local police to the prosecutor's office into the judiciary." ...
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Brown's family speaking on CNN on Tuesday, said the Justice Department needs to take over the investigation completely, and not rely on St. Louis County police.
"There were many, many witnesses who have talked to family members and they paint a very different picture than police witnesses," said Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.
Obama’s standing among voters is hurting Democrats, poll finds
President Barack Obama is dragging down his party and hurting the prospects of fellow Democrats as they head into midterm elections that will determine who controls Congress, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
Obama is beset by problems at home and abroad. Just 40 percent of voters approve of the way he’s doing his job, tying his worst mark in three years and the second worst of his presidency.
Just 39 percent approve of the way he’s dealing with the economy and only 33 percent approve of how he’s dealing with foreign policy, the worst of his years in office.
By 42-32 percent, voters say their opinions of Obama make them more likely to vote this fall for a Republican than for a Democrat.
And for the first time this election cycle, more people said they’d vote for a Republican than a Democrat for Congress, by 43 percent to 38 percent.
“The Democrats are sputtering,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the national survey.
The Evening Greens
Democrats Increasingly Backing Oil and Gas Industry
When House Republicans took up a measure to speed the government's reviews of applications to export natural gas, a move long sought by energy companies, the unexpected happened: The bill won "yes" votes from 47 Democrats.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), anticipated some Democratic backing, but not that much. Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who leads the Democrats' House campaign arm, was a yes, as was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Both had voted to restrict oil and natural-gas exports in 2012.
The energy boom is shaping a new kind of Democrat in national politics, lawmakers who are giving greater support to the oil and gas industry even at the risk of alienating environmental groups, a core of the party's base.
Groups to EPA: Stop Muzzling Science Advisers
Journalist and scientific organizations accused the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday of attempting to muzzle its independent scientific advisers by directing them to funnel all outside requests for information through agency officials.
In a letter Tuesday, groups representing journalists and scientists urged the EPA to allow advisory board members to talk directly to news reporters, Congress and other outside groups without first asking for permission from EPA officials. An April memo from the EPA's chief of staff said that "unsolicited contacts" need to be "appropriately managed" and that committee members should refrain from directly responding to requests about committees' efforts to advise the agency.
The scientific advisory board's office had asked the EPA to clarify the communications policy for board members, who are government employees.
"The new policy only reinforces any perception that the agency prioritizes message control over the ability of scientists who advise the agency to share their expertise with the public," the groups wrote. ...
For journalists, it's the latest skirmish involving transparency issues and the Obama administration. Last month, more than three dozen groups wrote to the White House about what they described as growing censorship throughout federal agencies.
Wild horses maimed by isolation, corralled by controversy
The horses have survived on this narrow barrier island for some 500 years, thought to be descendants of Colonial mounts that swam to shore when Spanish galleons ran aground on the shoals and sandbars of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They’ve withstood centuries of hurricanes and nor’easters on this isolated spit of sand, marsh and woods, and became a huge draw for visitors.
But the horses now face serious threats, say those who manage the herd: a boom in McMansion-style vacation homes on this once-pristine stretch of coast and federal policies that are leaving the mustangs severely inbred and starting to suffer from genetic deformities. ...
The government has described the herd, some of the last remaining wild horses in the Eastern United States, as pests that compete for resources with federally protected birds. The battle over the herd on this island comes as horse advocates and the Interior Department clash nationwide. On the other side of the country, the government is rounding up wild horses in the West and confining them at the urging of cattle ranchers who say the animals deplete the range. ...
“We have one of the highest levels of inbreeding and lowest levels of genetic diversity of any wild herd anywhere. We are down to one maternal line, which is very dangerous,” said Karen McCalpin, the executive director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has taken up the cause. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed his bill in 2012 and 2013 to allow the herd to grow to 130 horses and to let the Corolla Wild Horse Fund bring a few horses from the Shackleford Banks, on another island at the far southern tip of the Outer Banks, in order to infuse some fresh genes into the herd.
But the bill has been opposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it goes nowhere in the Senate.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
Hat tip Azazello:
A Little Night Music
Willie Nix - Just Can't Stay
Willie Nix - Baker Shop Boogie
Willie Nix - Nervous Wreck
Willie Nix - Let's Take A Little Walk
Willie Nix - Riding In The Moonlight
Willie Nix - Prison Bound Blues
Willie Nix - Lonesome Bedroom Blues
Willie Nix - Seems Like A Million Years
Willie Nix - Truckin' Little Woman
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