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, funk, soul and jazz saxaphonist Maceo Parker. Enjoy!
Maceo Parker - Shake everything you've got
“If two wrongs don't make a right, try three.”
-- Laurence J. Peter
News and Opinion
CIA's torture experts now use their skills in secret drones program
The controversy over the CIA’s secret drone program has gone from bad to worse this week. We now know that many of those running it are the same people who headed the CIA’s torture program, the spy agency can bomb people unilaterally without the president’s explicit approval and that the government is keeping the entire program classified explicitly to prevent a federal court from ruling it illegal. And worst of all, Congress is perfectly fine with it.
The New York Times reported on Sundaythat many of those in charge of the CIA’s torture program – the same people whose names were explicitly redacted from the Senate’s torture report in order to avert accountability – “have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks” and now run the CIA drone program under the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. Rather than being fired and prosecuted, they have been rewarded with promotions. ...
Adding to the disturbing nature of the CIA’s ability to kill people in complete secrecy, the agency apparently now has a carte blanche to conduct drone strikes on its own. According to the New York Times, President Obama doesn’t individually approve them anymore – he lets the CIA unilaterally decide to kill people if the strikes “fit certain criteria.” We have no idea what those conditions are since virtually everything about drone strikes at the CIA is secret. ...
The most absurd part of this whole debate is that the White House actually refused to admit that the two hostages killed in Pakistan died in a US drone strike. ... The reason for this denial apparently has nothing to do with legitimate secrets; the administration just wants to avoid a court ruling their program illegal. ... Think about that for a second: The Obama administration has promised more transparency around drone strikes, yet at the same time, won’t even acknowledge that the controversial drone strike it’s apologizing for even happened - just because such admission might force courts to hold the government accountable for its actions.
American Psychological Association Bolstered C.I.A. Torture Program, Report Says
The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.
The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.
The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.
Pakistan Is Investigating a CIA Official Accused of Murder After a US Drone Strike
Pakistani authorities on Thursday launched a formal investigation into the CIA's former station chief in Islamabad. He's accused of murder and conspiracy in connection with the agency's lethal drone program, which resulted in the deaths of civilians in a covert operation in Pakistan five years ago. ...
The criminal investigation into the December 2009 drone strike is the first time another country has taken steps to hold individual CIA officers accountable for their alleged roles in the CIA's drone program, according to the international legal organization Reprieve, which represents Kareem Khan, whose son and brother were killed in the strike.
Earlier this month, the Islamabad High Court ordered the police to launch a criminal investigation into the CIA's former station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank and former CIA general counsel John Rizzo. It was unclear at the time whether the police were going to appeal the decision. On Thursday, however, Islamabad police decided to press forward and comply with the court order.
However, police said they intend to transfer the case to the secretariat of the Federally Administered Tribal Area, which has jurisdiction in Mir Ali in North Waziristan, where the strike occurred. Distrustful of the move, Reprieve lawyers said they would file a motion with the Islamabad high court next week seeking to block it.
Washington seeks ‘genuine’ Israeli commitment to 2 states
The Obama administration expects a commitment to the two-state solution from the next Israeli government and from the Palestinian Authority, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said.
“President Obama has made clear that we need to take a hard look at our approach to the conflict, and that resolving it is in the national security interest of the United States,” Rice said Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Arab American Institute.
“We look to the next Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate — through policies and actions — a genuine commitment to a two-state solution,” she said.
Obama administration officials have said they will “reevaluate” their approach to advancing peace in the wake of comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of his reelection last month in which he appeared to count out a two-state solution.
The reevaluation included reconsidering the degree to which the United States shields Israel from a proposed United Nations resolution that would impose terms for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Isis leader incapacitated with suspected spinal injuries after air strike
The leader of the Islamic State (Isis), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains incapacitated due to suspected spinal damage and is being treated by two doctors who travel to his hideout from the group’s stronghold of Mosul, the Guardian has learned.
More than two months after being injured in a US air strike in north-western Iraq, the self-proclaimed caliph is yet to resume command of the terror group that has been rampaging through Iraq and Syria since June last year. Three sources close to Isis have confirmed that Baghdadi’s wounds could mean he will never again lead the organisation.
Isis is now being led by a long-term senior official, Abu Alaa al-Afri, who had been appointed deputy leader when his predecessor was killed by an air strike late last year.
Details of Baghdadi’s condition, and of the physicians treating him, have emerged since the Guardian revealed he had been seriously wounded on 18 March in an air strike that killed three men he was travelling with. The attack took place in al-Baaj, 80 miles (128km) west of Mosul.
The Pentagon subsequently denied that Baghdadi had been killed and, while it acknowledged that it had carried out the attack, claimed to be unaware that the world’s most wanted man had been among the casualties.
Republican Mick Mulvaney and Democrat Chris Van Hollen are joining forces to block a series of Pentagon spending increases.
An unorthodox partnership between an ultra-conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat is threatening House Republican plans to fund the government.
Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican, and Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat running for Senate, are joining forces to block a series of Pentagon spending increases that underpin the GOP’s spending strategy this year.
If Van Hollen can convince all his Democratic colleagues to get on board, and Mulvaney can muster enough conservative votes, they could jeopardize a $38 billion Pentagon boost that GOP leaders used to woo support from defense hawks. The duo’s first try was a big enough threat that leaders abruptly pulled a military construction and VA spending bill off the floor when it wasn’t clear they could defeat it. It ultimately failed when 19 defense-minded Democrats bucked their party and rejected the amendment.
But the two are going to keep trying to take down the extra Pentagon money, which is funneled through the so-called overseas contingency operations account, or OCO, an emergency war fund that critics call a budgeting farce. Van Hollen plans to talk to liberal defectors, and Mulvaney feels confident he can count on more than 25 Republicans to stick with him.
“If appropriations come across with any OCO money hidden in it, I’ll do everything I can to strip it,” Mulvaney said in a Thursday interview. “It’s a slush fund and gimmick, and our own budget called it a backdoor trick last year.”
Scheer, Binney and Blum on the Patriot Act
House Committee Passes Watered-Down NSA Reform Bill
The House Judiciary Committee today made a token move toward NSA reform with the 25-2 passing of the USA Freedom Act, an even more watered-down version of Sen. Leahy’s (D – VT) reform bill from last year, which was criticized for not doing much to start with.
Though some are presenting the passage as a dramatic blow to the surveillance state, most analysts seem to agree that the bill as ultimately passed is little more than a “diversion” passed to placate privacy groups.
Five of the Six Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Death of Freddie Gray in Custody
Five officers who have been charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray are now in custody, according to an announcement from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, local media outlet WJZ is reporting.
The development comes after the Baltimore State's Attorney's office announced on Friday morning that Gray's death following his arrest by city police has been deemed a homicide, and that it had issued warrants for the arrest of six officers on various charges related to the murder.
State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced the decision at a news conference held Friday morning, declaring that police had no probable cause to justify Gray's arrest and that the officers involved were negligent in his death.
"We have probable cause to file criminal charges," she said, which include second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault in the second degree, misconduct in office, and false imprisonment.
What We Know About the Multiple Investigations into Freddie Gray's Death
Freddie Gray protests: second prisoner in Baltimore police van comes forward
US city braces for more demonstrations as Donta Allen dismisses reports he told police Gray caused his own injuries
A man identifying himself as a key witness to Freddie Gray’s death in custody has come forward to reject previous reports suggesting he told investigators the 25-year-old caused his own fatal injuries inside a police van.
Donta Allen, interviewed by two TV channels on Thursday, said he was the second prisoner authorities had said was inside the vehicle with Gray on 12 April. According to a police timeline, the second prisoner was placed in the vehicle around 20 minutes after Gray was arrested at 1700 Presbury Street, in west Baltimore. ...
On Thursday, a leaked police document, reported by the Washington Post, stated that the second prisoner believed Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself” by “banging against the walls”. But Allen, interviewed by CBS Baltimore, denied saying this.
“And they’re trying to make it seem like I told them that, I made it like Freddie Gray did that to himself,” Allen said. “Why the fuck would he do that to himself ?”
In another interview with WBAL TV, Allan said that when he was placed in the van he didn’t hear anything and described the journey to the Western District police station as a smooth ride. “All I heard was a little banging for about four seconds,” Allen said.
Freddie Gray Supporters Wary of Maryland Medical Examiner
Freddie Gray died after head 'slammed into bolt in police van', reports say
Freddie Gray sustained his fatal injuries inside a police van when his head slammed into a bolt in the back of the vehicle, a Baltimore TV news station has reported after claiming to have received multiple briefings on a police report and the interim findings of the medical examiner’s office reviewing the 25-year-old’s death.
An injury on Gray’s head is said to have matched a bolt in the back of the police van, according to ABC local news, who also reported that the only police officer involved in Gray’s arrest and detention yet to have provided an account to the police was the van’s driver.
A spokesman for the Maryland medical examiner’s office refused to comment on the reports, stating that its investigation remained open.
Many questions remain over Gray’s death, with some speculating he was subjected to a so-called “rough ride”, where a prisoner is not placed in a seatbelt and is then thrown violently around a vehicle being driven erratically.
Protesters Demand Police Accountability: State of Emergency - Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore doesn't need the 'black crisis clergy' and their same old message
For years, the same self-appointed black leaders have visited every city mourning yet another black man killed by the police. But the youth aren’t listening
The elite black crisis clergy are back again. They arrived in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray with the same ol’ custom suits and rhetoric that they have used on their macabre death tours since I was a kid.
For years, the same self-appointed black leaders have visited every city mourning yet another black man killed by the police. They swoop in, give a speech, maybe march a mile or two, take some viral social media pictures and then move on to the next national black tragedy. ...
The old Christian rhetoric seems to work great for the 20 and over crowd but it’s evident that the young people of Baltimore don’t care – they feel that these methods are dated and do not work. In the past, short appearances in times of trouble were good enough for black residents who felt neglected. Not anymore. ...
They feel like Zimmerman, Wilson and those cops who held Eric Garner in a choke hold got away with what many of the kids felt was murder. If peace won’t work, then to them violence is the only option. The police has used violence against the black community for years. These kids are just young people returning the pain that has been given to them in the past and our politicians aren’t helping.
Stephanie Rawlings Blake and President Obama were quick to call the young people who are rising up thugs and criminals. Yet it took these Baltimore youth to make us all understand that the broken methods of the past don’t work.
"This Did Not Begin with Freddie Gray": As Baltimore Awaits Answers, A Call for Long-Term Solutions
Health Problems Take Root in a West Baltimore Neighborhood That Is Sick of Neglect
In Upton-Druid Heights in West Baltimore — one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and, in recent days, the scene of some of its most vocal protests — the cost of long-term poverty is counted in lives. Its residents die from nearly every major disease at substantially higher rates than the city as a whole — nearly double the rate from heart disease, more than double the rate from prostate cancer, and triple the rate from AIDS. Life expectancy here is just 68 years, one notch above Pakistan. ...
Poor health is a physical manifestation of systemic disadvantage. Years of industrial decline have left swaths of this city jobless. Half the people in Upton-Druid Heights live in poverty, slightly more than in 1970, and 64 percent of working-age black men are not employed, according to Marc V. Levine, a professor of history and economic development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who has studied black employment in Baltimore.
Manufacturing jobs in the city have declined by 90 percent since the late 1960s, and much of what replaced them was too far away or required too many skills for the local work force. In 2010, the typical household in Upton-Druid Heights had an income of about $15,700.
“There are factors that build up and something makes it pop,” said Ralph Moore, 62, who grew up a few streets over in Sandtown-Winchester, where Freddie Gray, the man whose death sparked Monday’s riots, was chased by police officers. “Freddie Gray’s death made it pop. This isn’t just happening as a consequence of his death; it was always around.” ...
“People are angry,” Mr. Moore, a program manager at Restoration Gardens, a shelter for homeless young people said. “They don’t feel a connection with any positive Baltimore existence. They feel like they are being ignored.”
Dynece Maberry, 54, who lives a few blocks from the CVS drugstore that was burned and looted on Monday night, agreed. “Freddie Gray was one thing, but what all triggered it off was years of frustration,” said Ms. Maberry, who joined the protests. “We were marching for a rec center, we were marching for schools. We were marching for jobs.”
Turning Deaf Ear to Baltimore Protesters, Congress Moves Instead to Hike Defense Spending
Demonstrators in the streets of Baltimore are calling for police reform and economic revitalization in their city, but Washington isn’t listening.
Lawmakers have had other things on their mind, namely rewarding their donors by increasing spending on defense. This week, Congress moved to increase spending on weapons programs by $3 billion beyond what the Pentagon requested.
On Monday, the House Armed Services Committee, in what Politico described as “a clear win for defense contractors,” unveiled legislation to boost defense spending to “$117 billion — $3 billion higher than the Pentagon’s fiscal 2016 budget request.” Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a member of the committee, has demanded increased military spending, telling Reuters earlier this year, “It doesn’t do any good to be financially responsible if you’re dead, so I’m going to vote for it to protect national security.”
Federal Judge Strikes Down Law that Made it Illegal for Prison Inmates to Speak Publicly
After Mumia Abu Jamal, a former black nationalist and current Pennsylvania inmate convicted of killing a cop in 1981, was broadcast giving a commencement speech in absentia at Goddard College in Vermont last year, Pennsylvania legislators moved to enact a law restricting communications from prisoners — and former prisoners — from going public in the event that they continue to cause pain to victims. But the so-called Re-victimization Relief Act hit an obstacle this week when it was struck down in a federal court, with a judge calling the legislation "manifestly unconstitutional."
US Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner found the law vague and poorly defined, saying the legislator "fell woefully short of the mark," regardless of their intentions. In overturning the law Tuesday, the judge said its violations of free speech were graver than the potential effects on the criminal's victims.
"A past criminal offense does not extinguish the offender's constitutional right to free expression," Conner wrote in the decision. "The First Amendment does not evanesce at the prison gate, and its enduring guarantee of freedom of speech subsumes the right to expressive conduct that some may find offensive."
Sherman, set the time machine for tomorrow's Hellraisers Journal which will feature Father Haggerty's "Wheel of Fortune."
Tune in at 2pm!
About 150 US workers are killed on the job every day – report
About 150 US workers die every day from hazardous working conditions, according to a new report by the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the US.
In 2013, 4,585 US workers were killed on the job and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, found the report. Additionally, about 3.8m work-related injuries and illnesses were reported. The AFL-CIO estimates that the real number of work-related injuries is somewhere between 7.6m to 11.4m each year as many work-related injuries are not reported. ...
“America’s workers shouldn’t have to choose between earning a livelihood and risking their life, yet every day too many end up on the wrong end of that choice,” the AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, said in a statement. “Corporations are prospering while working people suffer because of corporate negligence and insufficient government oversight. We must go beyond mourning those we’ve lost, and take bold, decisive action to ensure that a day’s work brings opportunity, not the risk of death or injury.”
The Significance of Bernie Sanders' Decision to Enter the Democratic Primaries
Why has the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history just announced that he will seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination? Simply put, because Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), so long and so famously neither Democrat or Republican, has understood that the presidential primaries (and caucuses) offer him his best option for taking a politics of the 99 percent to the voters of the 99 percent.
This decision may not go down easy with all of Sanders’s potential supporters. There will be those who may have to swallow hard to follow him into the Democratic primaries. But Sanders obviously has not prefaced this decision by any trimming of his sails so far as arguing against the failure of the leading figures of the Democratic Party to demonstrate that they’re not merely the leaders of the country’s second party subservient to big money interests. What he has done, however, is recognize that the primary process affords him opportunities to be heard that running as independent or third party presidential candidate simply would not.
While his choice may have been unexpected by some who may think that it somehow compromises his independence, it came as little surprise to those who have heard Sanders say that he was not going to put himself in the position to run a race like Ralph Nader’s in 2000. Sanders is, in essence, simply acknowledging what we might call the “subtractive” aspect of the presidential election – and most American elections – the fact that if “third party” candidates don’t win, your vote for them is subtracted from the total available to prevent the candidate you like the least from beating the candidate who might have been your second choice. And Sanders was not about to have the message he intends to take to voters nationwide be drowned out by the continual static of whether his candidacy might inadvertently put a Republican in the White House. After all, Sanders’s problem with the Democrats has always been their failure to sufficiently distinguish themselves from the Republicans.
The Middle East Policy of President Bernie Sanders
A President Bernie Sanders would endorse the Iran negotiations of the Obama administration. He said of the talks,
“While much more work remains to be done this framework is an important step forward. It is imperative that Iran not get a nuclear weapon. It also is imperative that we do everything we can to reach a diplomatic solution and avoid never-ending war in the Middle East. I look forward to examining the details of this agreement and making sure that it is effective and strong.”
Note that Sanders accepts the Washington consensus that Iran is trying to get a nuclear weapon, which Iran denies. Sanders has slammed the GOP obstructionists of the talks for “itching” for a war with Iran. He himself says that a war with Iran should be avoided ‘at all costs.’ However, it is not clear what he would do if the current talks broke down and he became convinced as president that the Iranians had developed a nuclear weapons program.
Sanders opposed the US taking the lead in the aerial campaign against Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, asking where the Arabs were and saying that American kids shouldn’t be dying to protect Saudi Arabia. ... But Sanders also did say that the US should be “supportive” of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Jordan and Iraq in their campaigns against Daesh. It is not clear to me what this stance implies. ...
Sanders supported the Israeli attack on Gaza last summer but thought the Israeli army was a little heavy-handed and ‘over-reacted’ with some of its actions like bombing schools being used as civilian shelters. (There were no weapons at these schools). Sanders excused Israeli actions against Gaza civilian populations on the grounds that missiles were being fired from Gaza into Israel from populated centers. ... Sanders’ Israel policy seems likely to tilt more toward Tel Aviv than that of Obama, though Sanders did boycott the address of PM Binyamin Netanyahu to Congress in March.
Ralph Nader on Bernie Sanders, the TPP "Corporate Coup d’Etat" & Writing to the White House
The Evening Greens
As Planet Warms, One in Six Species Face Total Extinction: Study
One in six of all animal and plant species on Earth could become extinct from impacts related to climate change if human society does not dramatically reduce its emission of greenhouse gases, according to new research published in the journal Science on Thursday.
Conducted as a meta-analysis of existing research done on the possible impact of climate change on species loss, the new study - titled Accelerating extinction risk from climate change - found that the range of predicted loss went from no species loss at all (0%) to as much as 54% in extreme scenarios, but that a synthesis of the existing data and new modeling offered a clearer view of what the future may hold.
Mark Urban, professor of ecology at the University of Connecticut and lead author of the new study, says its most worrying findings are not set in stone but should come as a warning to humanity and world leaders that action on climate must come soon if the planet is to maintain its existing biodiversity and ability to support life. Though its conclusions are considered "predictive" and based on various models of what the future may look like, the study warns that as warming continues to increase in the coming decades the rate of extinctions could accelrate rapidly.
"We have the choice," Urbantold the New York Times in an interview. "The world can decide where on that curve they want the future Earth to be."
Tesla announces low-cost batteries for homes
The electric car company Tesla has announced its entry into the energy market, unveiling a suite of low-cost solar batteries for homes, businesses and utilities, “the missing piece”, it said, in the transition to a sustainable energy world. ...
Wall-mounted, with a sleek design, the lithium-ion batteries are designed to capture and store up to 10kWh of energy from wind or solar panel. The reserves can be drawn on when sunlight is low, during grid outages, or at peak demand times, when electricity costs are highest. ...
Elon Musk also unveiled a larger “Powerpack”, a 100kWh battery block to help utilities smooth out their supply of wind and solar energy - which is generated intermittently - or to pump energy into the grid when demand soars.
New Mexico radiation accident: $73m compensation deal struck over leak
The US energy department is to fund $73m in road and other infrastructure projects in New Mexico as compensation for radiation leaks at a nuclear laboratory and underground dump.
The deal struck between the department and New Mexico forgoes fines and instead applies funds to upgrade federal nuclear facilities and surrounding communities in the state, according to settlement documents. ...
The leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or Wipp, exposed 22 workers to radiation in amounts not expected to threaten their health and led to the indefinite suspension of key operations at the site, which is the energy department’s only permanent underground disposal facility for certain types of waste from US nuclear labs.
The radiation accident was caused by “chemically incompatible” contents, including cat litter, which reacted in a barrel of waste and caused it to rupture, according to a federal probe of the mishap.
The breached drum containing radioisotopes such as plutonium was improperly packaged with the wrong sort of absorbent litter at the Los Alamos National Laboratory near Santa Fe before it arrived at Wipp for disposal, investigators found.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.
What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
Cowardly Firing of Australian State-Funded TV Journalist Highlights the West’s Real Religion
Don't let the 1% determine police reform for the 99%
Cutting Through Police Propaganda in Baltimore
Lawless President Obama Chides Baltimore “Criminals And Thugs,” Ignores Savagery Of Baltimore Police
Hallmark jerks tears for Mother's Day
A Little Night Music
Maceo Parker - Make it funky
Maceo Parker - Cold Sweat
Maceo Parker - Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On"
Maceo Parker - Pass The Peas
Maceo Parker - Uptown Up
Maceo Parker - Advanced Funk
Maceo Parker - Blow Your Brains Out
Maceo Parker - Gimme Some More
Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis - Roots Revisited - Germany 1991
Parliament Funkadelic - Standing On the Verge of Gettin' It On
Maceo Parker - Blues for Shorty Bill
Maceo Parker - Jazzwoche Burghausen
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