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.
Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here. This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.
Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago bluesman, "Lonesome" Jimmie Lee Robinson. Enjoy!
Jimmie Lee Robinson - Boss Man
“Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus—the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers' enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.”
-- Simone Weil
News and Opinion
Fisa court oversight: a look inside a secret and empty process
Obama and other NSA defenders insist there are robust limitations on surveillance but the documents show otherwise
Since we began began publishing stories about the NSA's massive domestic spying apparatus, various NSA defenders – beginning with President Obama - have sought to assure the public that this is all done under robust judicial oversight. "When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls," he proclaimed on June 7 when responding to our story about the bulk collection of telephone records, adding that the program is "fully overseen" by "the Fisa court, a court specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them." ...
Top secret documents obtained by the Guardian illustrate what the Fisa court actually does – and does not do – when purporting to engage in "oversight" over the NSA's domestic spying. That process lacks many of the safeguards that Obama, the House GOP, and various media defenders of the NSA are trying to lead the public to believe exist. ...
Under the FAA, which was just renewed last December for another five years, no warrants are needed for the NSA to eavesdrop on a wide array of calls, emails and online chats involving US citizens. Individualized warrants are required only when the target of the surveillance is a US person or the call is entirely domestic. But even under the law, no individualized warrant is needed to listen in on the calls or read the emails of Americans when they communicate with a foreign national whom the NSA has targeted for surveillance.
As a result, under the FAA, the NSA frequently eavesdrops on Americans' calls and reads their emails without any individualized warrants – exactly that which NSA defenders, including Obama, are trying to make Americans believe does not take place.
NSA Boss Asks Congress For Blanket Immunity For Companies That Help NSA Spy On Everyone
This will come as no surprise to anyone, but NSA boss General Keith Alexander is pestering Congress for a new law which would provide blanket immunity for companies helping the NSA collect data on everyone.Gen. Keith Alexander has petitioned Capitol Hill for months to give Internet service providers and other firms new cover from lawsuits when they rely on government data to thwart emerging cyberthreats.Basically, he's arguing that if the NSA orders companies to do something illegal, the companies shouldn't be liable for that. There's some logic behind that, because when you get an order from the government, you often feel compelled to obey. But, of course, the reality is that this will give blanket cover for companies voluntarily violating all sorts of privacy laws in giving the NSA data. And, theoretically you could then sue the government over those violations, but we've seen in the past how well that goes over. First, the courts won't give you "standing" if you can't prove absolutely that your data was included. Then, if you get past that hurdle, the government will claim "national security" or sovereign immunity to try to get out of the case. And, even if it gets past all of that, and you win against the government, the feds shrug their shoulders and say "now what are you going to do?"
President Obama: I’m not Dick Cheney
President Barack Obama used a television interview set to air Monday night to defend his administration’s use of far-reaching surveillance programs as carefully supervised and controlled. ...
In the interview, Obama appears at one point to equate transparency of the surveillance programs with their oversight by the courts and Congress — even though the public was kept in the dark about the nature of the snooping until the leak of highly-classified documents by an National Security Agency contractor via Britain’s Guardian newspaper earlier this month.
“Should this be transparent in some way?” Rose asked.
“It is transparent,” Obama insisted. “That’s why we set up the FISA Court,” the president said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — which carries out its work almost entirely in secret.
Fear-Mongering NSA Attempts to Justify Spying Before CongressHere's another reminder of what happens in the real world (as opposed to the fantasy world the administration presents for public consumption) when intelligence operations are allowed to run without sufficient oversight and safeguards:
Director seeks to avert public attention from violation of privacy rights as public outrage boils
NSA Director General Keith Alexander gave the impression at a Tuesday congressional hearing that the only thing standing between the U.S. people and 'terrorist' onslaught is secret spying.
Alexander insisted that the Agency's surveillance systems—which secretly gather phone data and monitor internet use—are "critical" to the protection of the United States.
He said spying thwarted an alleged planned bombing of the New York Stock Exchange by monitoring communication between Missouri-based Khalid Ouazzani and an individual in Yemen.
However, as The Guardian points out, Ouazzani has never been accused of the crime that NSA supposedly averted:Ouazzani, however, was never convicted of plotting to bomb the stock exchange. Andrew Ames, a Justice Department spokesman, later clarified that he was convicted of "sending funds" to al-Qaida.Security officials number among the skeptics. As The Guardian reports:
Lawyers and intelligence experts with direct knowledge of two intercepted terrorist plots that the Obama administration says confirm the value of the NSA's vast data-mining activities have questioned whether the surveillance sweeps played a significant role
NYPD sued over ‘unconstitutional’ Muslim surveillance programHere is further evidence (as if you needed any more) that Obama's talk about "transparency" is a pack of lies. Obama is a serial abuser of the classification system and needs to be busted for it:
The New York Police Department and other New York City officials were targeted by a lawsuit filed Tuesday by civil rights groups that hope to end what they called an “unconstitutional” effort to monitor practically all followers of the Islamic faith in the city.
“It’s about equal protection and first amendment rights,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told Raw Story. “We’re basically arguing that the NYPD’s surveillance program has impacted their ability to practice their faith and also chilling free speech in the community.”
She said the lawsuit has been in the works since The Associated Press revealed that the NYPD was conducting extensive surveillance of Muslims within its jurisdiction, aided by the Central Intelligence Agency. The AP later reported that documents it unearthed showed that the NYPD was targeting Muslims purely because of their religious affiliation.
More Obama Administration Secrecy: Rep. Grayson Can’t Discuss Classified Trans-Pacific Partnership Draft
We’ve mentioned before the unheard-of steps the Administration is taking to keep a large, and potentially important trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, under wraps. We say “trade deal” but that is already a misnomer. International trade is already substantially liberalized. Based on what little information has been wrestled from the Administration, the TPP is most important a means for financial firms and multinationals to undermine nation-based regulations. ...
Now get this: the draft text of the TPP is classified. This is simply unheard of for a trade deal. The US Trade Representative has been providing summaries of the US position on key issues to Congress but that falls way short of adequate disclosure. Congressmen almost never have the time (even where they have the ability) to read long agreements in full and parse how key sections work (which often mean going back to definitions and in some cases, existing law). So keeping most staffers and third parties with expertise away assures that (until the last minute) the discussion and “clarifications” of the provisions under negotiation will come only from parties that are already in the tank.
As anyone who has been involved in legal-related drafting knows, the actual language is critical. General terms and concepts that sound innocuous can serve as Trojan horses for all sorts of clever “gotcha” provisions. The plan is clear: Obama intends to spring a long, dense agreement on Congress, with the claim that all these other countries are on board and it can’t be changed. The TPP is intended to be a cramdown.
Zack Carter of the Huffington Post reported today:Members of Congress have been provided with only limited access to the negotiation documents. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost on Monday that he viewed an edited version of the negotiation texts last week, but that secrecy policies at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative created scheduling difficulties that delayed his access for nearly six weeks. The Obama administration has barred any Congressional staffers from reviewing the full negotiation text and prohibited members of Congress from discussing the specific terms of the text with trade experts and reporters. Staffers on some committees are granted access to portions of the text under their committee’s jurisdiction.
“This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system,” Grayson told HuffPost. “They maintain that the text is classified information….they tell me that they don’t want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I’d be releasing classified information…
“What I saw was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it…
“Having seen what I’ve seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty,” Grayson told HuffPost. “And I would further characterize it as a punch in the face to the middle class of America. I think that’s fair to say from what I’ve seen so far. But I’m not allowed to tell you why!”
Journalist Michael Hastings dies in car crash
The journalist and author Michael Hastings died at the age of 33 on Tuesday morning. According to his employer BuzzFeed, Hastings was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles.
“We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone,” Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement. “Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold. Michael was also a wonderful, generous colleague and a joy to work with. Our thoughts are with Elise and and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.”
Hastings gained national attention in 2010 after exposing inflammatory comments made by Gen. Stanley McChrystal about President Barack Obama and the civilian leadership of the military.
Rolling Stone, which employed Hastings as a contributing editor, praised him Tuesday as a “fearless journalist” who sought out hard stories and refused to “cozy up to power.”
U.S. and Rest of G8 Won’t Follow UK on Corporate Transparency
The United States is being singled out for criticism after the Group of Eight (G8) rich countries failed to adopt a plan pushed by British Prime Minister David Cameron to require the creation of public country-level registries with detailed information on corporate ownership and activity.
Although the United States did unveil important new pledges Tuesday to crack down on anonymous “shell” corporations, used by money launderers and tax evaders, critics point out that Washington has not outlined how it will implement these commitments. They also warn that the commitments will not put corporate ownership information into the public domain, a criticism also levelled at the G8 declaration overall. ...
While the United States has now said it will be creating these registries on its own, these will apparently be available only to law enforcement and tax authorities. Critics urge these databases to be made open to the public from the beginning.
Yemenis Gather to Protest Detention, Torture in Gitmo
Yemenis gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa on Monday to protest the continued indefinite detention of Yemeni civilians in Guantanamo Bay and the Obama administration's continued failure to close the facility despite repeated promises to do so.
The protesters, demanding the immediate release of the 84 Yemeni prisoners still held in Guantanamo Bay who have never been charged with a crime, marched through Sanaa chanting "Freedom, freedom for the detainees!" Many wore orange jumpsuits similar to those warn by inmates in Guantanamo.
Fifty-six Yemenis have already been cleared for release, but the Obama administration is yet to make significant steps to free them.
Meanwhile, on Monday the Obama administration released a list of 46 detainees names in the prison camp who they consider "too dangerous" to release—while maintaining that the administration still lacks any evidence to prosecute them.
The men held in that particular limbo include 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, three Saudis, two Kuwaitis, two Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Somali.
Giving arms to Syrian rebels is a bad idea
In Syria, the Obama administration seems to be stumbling back to the future: An old-fashioned proxy war, complete with the usual shadowy CIA arms-running operation, the traditional plan to prop up ostensible “moderates” whose prospects are doubtful and, of course, the customary shaky grasp of what the fighting is really about.
This will not end well.
It is tragic that more than 90,000 people have been killed in the bloody Syrian conflict, with more than 1.5 million displaced. But I have heard no claim that President Obama’s decision to arm the rebels will halt or even slow the carnage. To the contrary, sending more weapons into the fray will likely result in greater death and destruction, at least in the short term. ...
The United States supports Idriss. Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are U.S. allies, send money and arms to competing rebel factions that dream of turning Syria into an Islamic republic. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are supporting Assad with weapons, money and — in the case of Hezbollah — well-trained troops. The rebel side is mostly Sunni; the government side largely Shiite.
As I said, this will not end well.
Tesla Motors to unveil new method to quickly recharge electric cars
Tesla Motors said Thursday it would demonstrate a way to quickly recharge electric cars by swapping drained batteries for fresh power cells.
Tesla chief executive and founder Elon Musk used popular the messaging service Twitter to put out word that a “live pack swap demo” was taking place at the company’s design studio in the Southern California city of Hawthorne.
Video from the event was to be posted on the Tesla website about 0430 GMT on Friday, according to Musk.
Making it fast and easy to restore full power to electric car batteries is seen as a big step in winning over drivers hooked on the convenience of refueling vehicles that run on petrol.
Tesla last month said that Musk would invest $100 million in the surging electric car maker, and that it would repay a loan from the US Department of Energy ahead of schedule.
Toxic Radiation Soars in Fukushima Groundwater
Radioactive substance 33 times legal levels could reach ocean
High levels of a cancer-causing radioactive substance has been found in groundwater surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power plant, following reports of storage tank leaks and concerns that more contaminated waste-water will soon reach the ocean.
Plant operators, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), said recent tests revealed that strontium, a chemical that causes bone cancer if ingested, appeared at 33 times the legally admissible level.
Additionally, TEPCO said the tests revealed tritium, another radioactive substance, at eight times above levels considered to be safe—500,000 becquerels per liter of tritium.
"That is very high," a TEPCO official told a press conference.
The toxic substances were found just 90 feet from the seashore within the Fukushima compound.
When Drones Guard the Pipeline: The Militarization of Our Fossil Fuels
This past week in New Brunswick, the Canadian military came out to protect oil companies. In this case, seismic testing for potential natural gas reserves by Southwestern Energy Company(SWN), a Texas based company working in the province. It’s an image of extreme energy, and perhaps the times.
SWN exercised it’s permit to conduct preliminary testing to assess resource potential for shale gas exploitation. Canadian constitutional law requires the consultation with First Nations, and this has not occurred. That’s when Elsipogtog Mi’gmaq warrior chief, John Levi, seized a vehicle containing seismic testing equipment owned by SWN. Their claim is that fracking is illegal without their permission on their traditional territory. About 65 protesters, including women and children, seized the truck at a gas station and surrounded the vehicle so that it couldn’t be removed from the parking lot. Levi says that SWN broke the law when they first started fracking “in our traditional hunting grounds, medicine grounds, contaminating our waters.” according to reporter Jane Mundy in on line Lawyers and Settlements publication. This may be just the beginning.
On June 9, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) came out en masse, seemingly to protect SWN seismic exploration crews against peaceful protesters – both native and non-Native, blocking route 126 from seismic thumper trucks. Armed with guns, paddy wagons and twist tie restraints, peaceful protestors were arrested. Four days later the protesting continued, and this time drew the attention of local military personnel. As one Mi’gmag said, “Just who is calling the shots in New Brunswick when the value of the land and water take a backseat to the risks associated with shale gas development?”
Back-Door Tar Sands Scheme Blocked by Maine Community
Victory for environmentalists may be near in one of the more overlooked battles in the war against Canadian tar sands oil.
A backdoor plan by Canada's Enbridge and the US-based ExxonMobil to establish an alternate tar sands pipeline has met fierce resistance in the small city of South Portland, Maine where the proposed export terminal would be built.
In a proactive initiative to block the scheme, a local citizens group has collected nearly 4,000 signatures—roughly 4 times the amount necessary—in support of a referendum to place the matter before voters on the November ballot. The question will ask whether the city should enact a zoning change to permanently restrict new development of petroleum-related industry on its waterfront.
South Portland Mayor, Tom Blake, and his wife were the last to add their signatures to the list Monday, the Portland Press Herald reports.
"No amount of jobs are important (enough) if we can't drink the water, breathe the air or work the soil we stand on," he said.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
A Little Night Music
Jimmie Lee Robinson - I'll Be Coming Home
Jimmie Lee Robinson - Easy Baby
Jimmie Lee Robinson - Angry Lover
Jimmy Lee Robinson - Twist It Baby
Jimmy Lee Robinson - Twist It Baby
Jimmie Lee Robinson - Drifting Blues
Jimmie Lee Robinson - See See Baby
Jimmie Lee Robinson
Jimmie Lee Robinson - for Maxwell street
Jimmie Lee Robinson and Sterling Plumpp on Maxwell street
Lonesome Lee - Cry Over Me
It's National Pie Day!
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