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 piano player Little Brother Montgomery. Enjoy!
Little Brother Montgomery - Vicksburg Blues
“Terrorist', noun: 1. Someone my government tells me is a terrorist; 2. Someone my President decides to kill.”
-- Glenn Greenwald
News and Opinion
A studious review of the weasel words:
Obama speech suggests possible expansion of drone killings
President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his administration’s use of drone strikes to kill terrorists as effective, lawful and “heavily constrained,” but he also appeared to be laying groundwork for an expansion of the controversial targeted killings. ...
Obama’s speech appeared to expand those who are targeted in drone strikes and other undisclosed “lethal actions” in apparent anticipation of an overhaul of the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against al Qaida and allied groups that supported the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
In every previous speech, interview and congressional testimony, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed “senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States.
But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from “those who want to kill us” and “terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat” to “all potential terrorist targets.” ...
The fact sheet also said that those who can be killed must pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to “U.S. persons,” setting no geographic limits. Previous administration statements have referred to imminent threats to the United States – the homeland or its interests.
“They appear to be broadening the potential target set,” said Christopher Swift, an international legal expert who teaches national security studies at Georgetown University and closely follows the targeted killing issue.
In Drone Speech, Obama Gets Slippery on Killing U.S. Citizens
President Obama has an eerie and alarming ability to detach himself from his own dubious actions. ...
When he talked about the need to shut down Guantanamo, he said: “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?”
Wise words, but hollow ones.
Hollow, because he could have closed Guantanamo on day one in his first term, as he promised.
Hollow, because even today he could be releasing those prisoners himself, rather than overseeing their force-feeding.
As the great constitutional scholar David Cole notes in the New York Review of Books, “Current law permits the executive branch to waive some of the requirements when the transfer ‘is in the national security interests of the United States.’ Moreover, eighty-six detainees have been ‘cleared for release’ but remain in detention. Fifty-six of them are Yemeni citizens, and it was President Obama, not Congress, who placed their release on hold.”
Obama's Empty Rhetoric
Like the "War on Drugs," a rhetorical phrase that the Obama administration has rejected even while continuing to wage the policy it describes, many ongoing activities of the government he presides over came under verbal attack from President Barack Obama this afternoon.
So the president says "journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs," even though journalists are at legal risk—from his administration—for doing their jobs. "History will cast a harsh judgment" on the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, the president warned, even though (in the words of Human Rights Watch's Laura Pitter) "there are still a number of steps the Obama administration could have taken -- and can still take now -- to begin closing the facility and ending indefinite detention without trial." ...
Obama actually has quite a bit of latitude to impose his values on the waging of American war. After 52 months in office, it's long since past time to stop judging the man by his words alone.
'Not Good Enough': Rights Groups Respond to Obama's Foreign Policy Speech
Human and civil rights groups generally responded to Obama's foreign policy speech by saying that though they welcomed the president's decision to directly address long-ignored issues—including extrajudicial killings, drone attacks, the permanent war footing of the US military, and the ongoing crisis at the Guantanamo Bay prison—there remained enormous problems with many of his declarations and formulations surrounding these controversial policies.The president’s stated reengagement on Guantanamo is welcome, but long overdue. However, unless he takes immediate steps to resume transfers and ultimately close the prison, his administration will not escape the “harsh judgment” of history he anticipated in his speech. We welcome his decision to lift the ban on transfers to Yemen, which has trapped more than half of the men at the prison. However, we are disappointed by the president’s comment that cleared men will only be released “to the greatest extent possible.” While more than 100 men continue to starve themselves in a principled protest for their freedom, the president’s equivocation is troubling. ...Amnesty International
[T]he essence of his speech was to reassert the legally-flawed and dangerous premise of the targeted killing program —namely, that the United States continues to be engaged in a global war with Al Qaeda and undefined “associated forces.” Whether or not the United States can use lethal force under the laws of war is not a matter of policy preference—it is a matter of law and facts. The policy standard he outlined for the targeting of individuals, requiring imminence and feasibility of capture, while narrower than prior asserted standards, also raised questions about how those standards would be interpreted. Prior Justice Department interpretations, for example, that imminence does not require clear evidence of a specific act in the immediate future, do not engender confidence.
What's needed on drones is not a "kill court," but critically, much more transparency regarding the legal basis for the drones program, including the release of the newly approved presidential guidance as well as independent investigations of alleged extrajudicial executions and remedy for victims.
There's no need to wait to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. The Obama administration should immediately end reliance on the flawed "global war" legal theory at the heart of indefinite detention, military commissions and the killing of terror suspects and civilians alike.
Obama frames covert drone war as necessary evil
Speaking for an hour in front of an invited audience at the National Defense University in Washington DC, Obama made an impassioned defence of the US targeted killing programme, insisting that it was both effective and legal. But he admitted that this may not be enough:
‘To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power — or risk abusing it,’ he said.
He addressed head-on controversies surrounding civilian casualties. Acknowledging that there was a ‘wide gap’ between US and non-governmental assessments, he bluntly conceded that civilians have died in US strikes. Obama said that for himself and ‘those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live’. ...
But he also insisted that civilian deaths were sometimes a necessary risk. ‘As Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold.’
Obama drone oversight proposal prompts concern over 'kill courts'Huffington Post calls for the ejection of Holder
Proposals to vet future US drone strikes risk creating "kill courts" according to human rights campaigners who say Barack Obama's promise of new legal oversight does not go far enough to end what they regard as extrajudicial executions.
The president has asked Congress to consider establishing a special court or oversight board to authorise lethal action outside warzones under a new counter-terrorism doctrine which he says will end the "boundless war on terror".
But responses to his speech from leading campaign groups, though broadly welcoming, highlight how little change Obama is proposing to the underlying principle that the US has a legal right to kill suspected terrorists abroad without trial. ...
Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA's Security with Human Rights Campaign, said: "What's needed on drones is not a 'kill court' but rejection of the radical redefinition of 'imminence' used to expand who can be killed as well as independent investigations of alleged extrajudicial executions and remedy for victims.
Prominent Journalists File Suit to Lift Veil of Secrecy Over Manning Trial
In a complaint filed in a federal district court Wednesday by the Center of Constitutional Rights—along with journalists Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, Kevin Gosztola, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, and Chase Madar—the group of plaintiffs motioned for a preliminary injunction that would compel the judge to "grant the public and press access to the government’s filings, the court’s own orders, and transcripts of the proceedings." To date, none of these have been made available to the public.
“Secret trials are commonplace in dictatorships, but have no place in this country." said co-plaintiff Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!. "The Obama administration conducts unconstitutional dragnet surveillance of journalists to uncover protected sources, and targets whistleblowers with unprecedented use of the espionage act."
"Access to court documents and proceedings in the court martial of Bradley Manning is vital to the public's right to know to what lengths their government will go to keep secret their conduct of wars and occupations abroad,” she added
Pakistan remains opposed to drones after Obama speech
The Pakistan government Friday repeated its view that US drone strikes in its territory were illegal, after President Barack Obama laid out new guidelines for their use. ...
Islamabad said it welcomed some aspects of Obama’s address, particularly his acknowledgement that “force alone cannot make us safe”, but it remained firm on its long-held public stance on unmanned missile attacks in its tribal northwest.
“The Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Why You Should Join the Global Movement and Protest Against Monsanto on Saturday
Fed up with the fact that she has to spend “a small fortune” in order to feed her family things she says “aren’t poisonous,” Tami Canal of Utah has organized a global movement against the giant chemical and seed corporation Monsanto. Monsanto is the conglomerate mastermind behind many of the pesticides and genetically engineered seeds that pervade farm fields around the world. Monsanto produces the world’s top-selling herbicide; 40 percent of US crops contain its genes; it spends millions lobbying the government each year; and several of its factories are now toxic Superfund sites. ...
“Not only are they threatening our children and ourselves as well, but also the environment,” Canal says. “The declining bee population has been linked to the pesticides that they use, and that’s just the start. I’ve been reading studies recently that butterflies are starting to disappear, and birds. It’s only a matter of time, it’s pretty much a domino effect.”
What started as one mother’s call to action on a Facebook page has become a movement with more than 400 demonstrations scheduled in 50 countries and 250 cities around the globe. The events are organized online via an open Google Document, where people can find the protest nearest them. The March Against Monsanto Facebook page has received more than 105,000 “likes.” It has reached more than 10,000,000 people in the last week according to its website, which averages over 40,000 visitors per day. ...
The ultimate goal of the march is a complete ban on Monsanto within the US. At least 60 countries worldwide, including Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, South Australia, Russia, France, and Switzerland, have implemented outright bans of Monsanto and its genetic modification of food products.
German brewers demand moratorium on fracking to protect the purity of their beer
The Association of German Breweries sent a letter this week to German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and six Cabinet Ministers demanding a moratorium on fracking until more research can be carried out to allay concerns of water contamination.
Germans have had strict standards for beer brewing since the 1516 implementation of the Bavarian “Reinheitsgebot,” or purity law, which allowed only malted barley, hops and water to be used in the brewing of beer. (Yeast was allowed later, after it was discovered.) But the strict nature of the law, which remains in effect today, means that no additives of any kind are allowed — especially contaminants in the drinking water.
The breweries association spokeperson, Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, told Bloomberg, “We are concerned that fracking endangers the brewing water that more than half of Germany’s breweries take from private wells.” He explained to The Telegraph, “The water has to be pure and more than half Germany’s brewers have their own wells which are situated outside areas that could be protected under the government’s current planned legislation on fracking.”
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
Little Brother Montgomery - Doctor, Write Me A Prescription for the Blues
Little Brother Montgomery - Riverside Boogie
Little Brother Montgomery - First Time I Met The Blues
Little Brother Montgomery - Farish Street Jive
Little Brother Montgomery - Tasty Blues
Little Brother Montgomery -- Prisoner Bound Blues
Little Brother Montgomery - Mama,You Don't Mean Me No Good
Little Brother Montgomery & Edith Wilson - The Same Dog That Bit You
Little Brother Montgomery - Shreveport Blues
Little Brother Montgomery - Crescent City Blues
Little Brother Montgomery - little brother boogie
Catfish Keith - Jitterbug Swing
Volo Bog Trotters - Tell It to Me