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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 blues singer, guitarist and banjo player Guy Davis.  Enjoy!

Guy Davis - Goin' Down Slow

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world : My own Government, I can not be Silent.”

  -- Martin Luther King Jr.

News and Opinion

On Shifting Ground: Tensions High As Egypt Names New PM

Exclusive: US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists

Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president's removal.

Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This programme vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011.

The State Department's programme, dubbed by US officials as a "democracy assistance" initiative, is part of a wider Obama administration effort to try to stop the retreat of pro-Washington secularists, and to win back influence in Arab Spring countries that saw the rise of Islamists, who largely oppose US interests in the Middle East.

Activists bankrolled by the programme include an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow of the Morsi government, an anti-Islamist politician who advocated closing mosques and dragging preachers out by force, as well as a coterie of opposition politicians who pushed for the ouster of the country's first democratically elected leader, government documents show.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, and public records reveal Washington's "democracy assistance" may have violated Egyptian law, which prohibits foreign political funding.

It may also have broken US government regulations that ban the use of taxpayers' money to fund foreign politicians, or finance subversive activities that target democratically elected governments.

Muslim Brotherhood leader's arrest ordered for 'inciting violence'

The Quiet Coup: No, Not Egypt. Here.

The revelations and subsequent reporting, what press critic Jay Rosen calls the "Snowden Effect," expose a parallel state, one dedicated to massive surveillance and covert operations, with an untouchable judicial structure that approves the spying. Enabled by the USA Patriot Act that President George W. Bush pushed through Congress in the shadow of 9/11, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court operates by its own rules and procedures, ones not subject to anything resembling constitutionality. The Supreme Court, the Fourth Amendment, citizen petitioning -- none of what we have taken for granted as comprising the legal, national state has the power to stop it.

Snowden's and the others' revelations should not be completely surprising, given the work of Dana Priest and William Arkin in their 2011 book, Top Secret America. Many of the most shocking bits were excerpted in the Washington Post, where Priest is a reporter. They uncovered a vast, opaque security bureaucracy, extremely inefficient but aggressively intrusive. "The federal-state-corporate partnership has produced a vast domestic intelligence apparatus that collects, stores, and analyzes information about tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing," they wrote. It involved, they calculated, nearly 4,000 organizations in the United States, "each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions." ...

Now we know: the United States of America is partially governed by a deep state, undemocratic, secret, aligned with intelligence agencies, spying on friend and foe, lawless in almost every respect.

If this doesn't constitute a coup d'etat, it's hard to imagine what would. People we barely know of -- the director of NSA, the eleven judges on FISC, who knows who else -- are running the deep state. The actual president seems just fine with everything it's doing, or is so weak-kneed he can't see fit to put an end to it. I'm not sure which is worse.

Trapped: An air escape from Moscow unlikely for NSA leaker Snowden

Aviation experts say that even if Snowden accepts the tentative offers of Venezuela, Nicaragua or Bolivia to give him shelter, it’s virtually impossible to chart a flight plan to those nations that doesn’t include traveling over or refueling in a U.S.-friendly country that could demand inspection of the plane – and detain him. ...

While President Barack Obama has said he wouldn’t be “scrambling jets” to haul in Snowden, the U.S. government has shown that it can pressure countries that would serve as pit stops for Snowden on his way to Latin America or other potential exile destinations. Snowden has petitioned more than 25 countries for asylum; the State Department has promised “grave difficulties” for bilateral relations with any nation that aids his escape. ...

On Tuesday, Bolivia – backed by Nicaragua, Ecuador and Venezuela – called the move against Morales’ plane an “act of aggression” and called on the Organization of American States to approve a declaration demanding that such an incident never be repeated. But while officials in Italy, Spain and France have backed away from embracing what took place – France called it a “technical” error, and Italy and Spain have denied they barred Morales’ jet – the lesson is clear.

Snowden Asylum: Ecuador FM slams Morales jet fiasco, urges more nations to aid leaker

DOJ Says Public Has No Right To Know About The Secret Laws The Feds Use To Spy On Us

So, we were just discussing the insanity of the FISA court (FISC) basically acting as a shadow Supreme Court, making broad rulings in total secrecy that have created a secret body of law that the public is not allowed to know about. Given increasing revelations about these shadow laws, the ACLU and other public interest groups are trying, yet again, to get access to some of these key rulings. All along, they've been extremely careful to note that they're not asking FISC to reveal specific foreign intelligence issues, operations or targets: merely the parts of the rulings that identify what the law is -- i.e., how it's being interpreted by the courts. Because that seems rather fundamental to a functioning democracy.

However, as you might expect, the Justice Department has now hit back with a new filing that says, flat out, the public has no right to know what the secret court is ruling on and how it's codifying secret laws. The argument is, basically, that because FISC rulings have almost always been secret, then it's perfectly reasonable that they're secret. In other words, it's perfectly legal for secret laws to remain secret, because they're secret. Later it also argues that actually revealing the law would be (oooooooh, scary!) dangerous.

This is a difficult article to condense or excerpt, it's well worth reading in full:
Revealed: how Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages

Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian. ...

Since Prism's existence became public, Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents as providers have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems. ...

But internal NSA newsletters, marked top secret, suggest the co-operation between the intelligence community and the companies is deep and ongoing. ...

Eight months before being bought by Microsoft, Skype joined the Prism program in February 2011.

According to the NSA documents, work had begun on smoothly integrating Skype into Prism in November 2010, but it was not until 4 February 2011 that the company was served with a directive to comply signed by the attorney general. ...

The information the NSA collects from Prism is routinely shared with both the FBI and CIA. A 3 August 2012 newsletter describes how the NSA has recently expanded sharing with the other two agencies.

Indignation Across Europe At Revelations of US Spying on Its Citizens

NSA surveillance: French human rights groups seek judicial investigation

Two human rights groups have filed a lawsuit in Paris seeking an investigation into whether the US National Security Agency violated French privacy laws by secretly collecting massive amounts of personal data.

The legal complaint against persons unknown aims to prompt a judicial investigation that would also look at the alleged role of tech companies including Facebook, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Skype in data-gathering by the NSA.

The France-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights League based the complaint on disclosures by the NSA leaker Edward Snowden which indicated that the US government amassed phone and internet usage data on people around the world for security reasons.

Lawyers for the two groups said that such surveillance, if confirmed, would violate up to five French privacy laws, including illicit collection of personal data and the infringement of the right to a private life.

Patrick Baudouin, of the FIDH, estimated that thousands of French people may be regularly targeted by the surveillance. He said that although the lawsuit was limited to French jurisdiction, he hoped it could lead to wider pressure on the US.

Jailed Journalist Barrett Brown Faces 105 Years For Reporting on Hacked Private Intelligence Firms

NSA scandal delivers record numbers of internet users to DuckDuckGo

You've probably never heard of DuckDuckGo. ... But this 20-person business offers what none of the big search engines do: zero tracking. It doesn't use cookies or store data about its users' IP addresses, doesn't offer user logins, and uses an encrypted connection by default. (Google provides an encrypted connection for logged-in users, but not automatically for non-logged in users.) If the NSA demanded data from DuckDuckGo, there would be none to hand over. ...

Gabriel Weinberg noticed web traffic building on the night of Thursday 6 June – immediately after the revelations about the "Prism" programme. Through the programme, the US's National Security Agency claimed to have "direct access" to the servers of companies including, crucially, the web's biggest search engines – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Within days of the story, while the big companies were still spitting tacks and tight-lipped disclaimers, the search engine Weinberg founded – which pledges not to track or store data about its users – was getting 50% more traffic than ever before. That has gone up and up as more revelations about NSA and GCHQ internet tapping have come in.

Kremlin turns back to typewriters to avoid security leaks

A Russian state service in charge of safeguarding Kremlin communications is looking to purchase an array of old-fashioned typewriters to prevent leaks from computer hardware, sources said Thursday.

The throwback to the paper-strewn days of Soviet bureaucracy has reportedly been prompted by the publication of secret documents by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and the revelations leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The Federal Guard Service, which is also in charge of protecting President Vladimir Putin, is looking to spend just over 486,000 rubles ($14,800) to buy a number of electric typewriters, according to the site of state procurement agency,

“This purchase has been planned for more than a year now,” a source at the service, known by its Russian acronym FSO, told AFP on Thursday.

Bradley Manning defence rests after calling just 10 witnesses

The defence has rested its case in the trial of the WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, rounding off its portrayal of the US soldier as a young man who accepted that he was wrong to have leaked a vast trove of state secrets but who had no "general evil intent" to "aid the enemy".

Having called just 10 witnesses over the space of three days, the defence phase of the trial was brought to a close far quicker than expected. ...

The final defence witness called, the Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, delivered blistering testimony in which he portrayed WikiLeaks as a legitimate web-based journalistic organisation. ... Amid the legal argument over Benkler's expert credentials, one of the great ironies of the Manning trial emerged in court. In seeking to drive home the "aiding the enemy" charge, the government has presented evidence gathered during the 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which Osama bin Laden was killed, that the al-Qaida leader personally requested Wikileaks material to read.

But Coombs revealed in court that according to stipulated testimony that has not yet been made public, Bin Laden only asked to see the WikiLeaks files after his curiosity was piqued by the US government's own description of WikiLeaks as an organisation helpful to America's enemies. It was the government's own rhetoric, Coombs said, that drew the al-Qaida chief's attention to the website; the defence attorney said this was an important example of how a legitimate journalistic organisation could be turned into a terrorist outfit "upon response of the government".

The "rhetoric is what drives the enemy to actually go look at WikiLeaks, not the actual publication of the information," Coombs said.

Michael Hastings Crash Investigation Heats Up, Police and Fire Told Not to comment!

Hat tip to priceman:
Senate Democrats Spar Over Wall Street Reform

One group of Dems is urging regulators to hurry up and finish one of the most critical provisions of Dodd-Frank. Another is trying to stall it. Guess which side is probably gonna prevail?

The Dodd-Frank law, passed in order to avoid another financial crisis, requires Wall Street regulators to draw up tighter rules governing the trading of derivatives (financial products with values derived from from underlying variables, like crop prices or interest rates), and one question has been how these new standards will apply to US banks operating abroad. Advocates of financial reform contend these regulations must be strictly applied to the overseas trading activity of US banks. They note that Wall Street banks do more than half their derivatives dealing through foreign subsidiaries; if a bet in one of these foreign locations goes sour, the trading loss could come home to roost and threaten economic security in the United States. Foreign branches of US banks have so far been exempt from Dodd-Frank rules on derivatives, and Big Finance wants to keep it that way.

On Friday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is due to finalize a rule that will apply these strict regs on derivatives trading to overseas branches of US-based banks. But the agency's chief, Gary Gensler, is facing a crush of opposition from the financial industry and European banking regulators. And he's been getting conflicting messages from Senate Democrats. At the end of June, six Democratic senators—Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Thomas Carper (D-Del.)—sent a letter to the Treasury Department urging that the CFTC delay finalizing the guidelines on overseas trading. Last week, another eight Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), sent a letter to the CFTC pushing for a rule on overseas derivatives trades that is even stronger than the one Gensler has floated, and urging him to implement it soon. ...

"Rather than start to implement the strongest parts of Dodd-Frank, the finance industry and its supporters are pushing for endless delays, hoping people lose interest from exhaustion," says Mike Konczal, an expert on financial reform at the Roosevelt Institute. "This rule has been delayed enough already." (It was supposed to go into effect six months ago.) None of the six senators who are pushing for a delay responded to a request for comment. ...

The Democratic senators pushing for slow-walking on the overseas rule took in an average of $1,879,161 in campaign contributions from the financial-services and banking industries in 2011 and 2012, according to campaign finance records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The Senate Dems in favor of a strong cross-border rule banked an average of $592,696 from the industry.

How Tim Geithner Gets $200,000 a Pop to Chat With Big Banks

Cashing in on the speaker circuit the minute you leave office is a well-traveled road in Washington. In recent decades, the number of speaking bureaus has mushroomed, and the negotiations often start even before the office is vacated. As Puff Daddy once sang, “ It’s All About the Benjamins.” ...


Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has wasted not a moment to shove his snout in the financial sector speaking-engagement trough. Geithner’s bank-centric worldview dominated the White House in the aftermath of the financial crisis, doing untold damage to ordinary Americans. As renowned economist Simon Johnson has explained,  “Geithner came to stand for providing large amounts of unconditional support for very big banks…” at the New York Federal Reserve and continued this pattern in Washington. He favored unqualified assistance to troubled banks rather than throwing out incompetent managers and directors or working to change harmful policies. The fact that we still have dangerous Too-Big-to-Fail banks on our hands is part of his dismal legacy.

The banking world is very grateful for Geithner’s championing of their interests over the public’s. Just six months after he left the Treasury in January, it has showered Geithner with cash. Deutsche Bank lavished him with $200,000 to speak at a conference in June. Private equity groups are also shoveling over piles of dough: Blackstone and Warburg Pincus paid  Geithner $100,000 each for recent speaking engagements.

Teflon Tim and the Obama Keystone Cops

Did the First Amendment get amended when I wasn’t watching so that freedom of the press is guaranteed except when it comes to writing about Timothy Geithner?

What else could explain how the former Treasury Secretary’s name could not be found in any of the stories last week about the Obama administration’s decision to postpone for a year the Obamacare requirement that employers with 50 or more employees must provide health insurance or pay a penalty of $2,000 per employee?

The explanation for the postponement was that the rules, instructions, and reporting forms necessary to implement the requirement could not be written in time. The Treasury Department has responsibility for that paperwork and has had three years and three months to get it done. Geithner was in charge of Treasury for all but five of those 39 months.

Try a Google news search for any combination of “Obamacare employer mandate delay” and “Geithner” and you get nothing. How great is that — if you’re Geithner? And how emblematic is that of the press’s widespread failure to cover how well, or badly, the Obama administration governs? ...

Can’t someone tell us why Geithner and his team couldn’t get their homework done in 39 months? Is 39 months too fast to be “thoughtful and careful?” What happened? Why wasn’t the White House staff monitoring them from the day the bill passed to make sure the work was getting done? What about the Office of Management and Budget, which was run during most of those 39 months by Peter Orszag and Jacob Lew (who now runs Treasury) and which is supposed to supervise regulation-writing at federal agencies?

Privatization's the Name of the Game for Accident-Prone Train Company Behind Lac-Mégantic Oil Disaster

As the head of the company behind the runaway oil train that derailed and caused a fireball explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec faced furious residents on Wednesday, he continued to defend the shoddy safety record of his company hell-bent on privatization.

Edward Burkhardt, chairman of Maine, Montreal and Atlantic Railways (MM&A) and President and CEO of Rail World, Inc., its parent company, headed to the tragedy-stricken town where he hoped he was "not going to get shot," though he faced heckling by residents and dodged a handful of reporters. ...

The Canadian Press, citing information from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, reports that the MM&A has had 8 derailments and four collisions since 2010, and it has an average of 34.7 accidents per million miles traveled, well above the national average of 2.3 accidents per million miles.  The Wall Street Journal adds that the company had "23 accidents, injuries or reportable mishaps from 2010 to 2012."

As for the parent company itself Rail World Inc., its goals are laid bare on its own website:

A railway management, consulting and investment corporation specializing in privatizations and restructurings.  Its purpose is to promote rail industry privatization by bringing together government bodies wishing to sell their stakes with investment capital and management skills.
'Significant' Destruction of Canadian Wildlife Serves 'Public Interest,' says Govt Panel

Federal and provisional regulators acknowledge 'significant' negative impact of Shell tar sands expansion, but approve project anyway

A panel of government regulators in Canada has determined that a proposed multi-billion dollar expansion of Royal Dutch Shell's tar sands project in Alberta would cause 'significant' damage to the ecosystems of the region and that the oil giant's proposed cleanup plans are likely to be ineffective.

So they blocked the project, right?

No. Instead they have called the expansion vital to the "public interest" and said the nearly forty percent expansion of Shell's Athabasca tar sands project can now proceed to its next phase.

According to its official review, the panel found "that the project would likely have significant adverse environmental effects on wetlands, traditional plant potential areas, wetland-reliant species at risk, migratory birds that are wetland-reliant or species at risk, and biodiversity." ...

Simon Dyer, policy director of the Pembina Institute in Canada, said the decision strikes a blow to "aboriginal rights and values, wildlife populations, wetlands, migratory birds and old-growth forests."

“The joint review panel heard from Shell's own analysis that this project will exceed science-based environmental limits for impacts to air quality, wildlife habitat and the Athabasca River," Dyer said, "yet the panel recommended approval of the project anyway."

An Open Letter to President Obama from Gasland Director Josh Fox

Dear President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Moniz, Heather Zichal and Valerie Jarrett,

I write to request a meeting with you and families directly impacted by oil and gas drilling and  fracking—as documented in  Gasland Part II—together with a small group of scientists and engineers who are also featured in the film. We would like to discuss health and economic impacts felt by communities located near the oil and gas fields, share our first-hand stories, and provide you with evidence on rates of well leakage, water contamination, air pollution and  methane emissions.

We are aware that your administration has met with the natural gas industry and their representatives and lobbyists many times. We now ask you to meet with us: representatives of those suffering from unconventional drilling and fracking, and members of the scientific community who wish to inform you of the perils of this unprecedented push to drill.

We believe that the natural gas industry has not been forthcoming with your administration about the real effects of drilling and fracking on our water, air, land, climate, public health and safety—and on democracy itself. As such, we seek to discuss with you the dark side of fracking, a perspective that has not yet been presented to you with adequate weight or emphasis. ...

I have now made a second film,  Gasland Part II, which covers a new form of contamination—the capture of our regulatory agencies by the oil and gas industry. I document industry’s undue influence on your administration as well as on state and local regulators whose job is to protect the public health and safety. A striking pattern emerges: Time and again, regulators investigating citizens’ concerns determine the gas development operation nearby is a clear cause of water contamination, only to walk away after protest from industry reaches an uncomfortable pitch. The film’s portrayal of the exclusion of “we the people” from the dialogue about the future of energy in the United States should concern you.  Gasland Part II premieres July 8, on HBO.

We thus respectfully request a meeting with you. More specifically, I wish to introduce you to members of seven families from disparate regions across the nation who have all had their lives ruined by drilling and fracking operations. These families are emblematic. They represent thousands of people who have had their basic rights trampled by drilling on nearby properties and by the attendant gas refining and delivery infrastructure.

Chomsky: How Do We Defend Ourselves from the Corporate and Imperial Forces That Threaten Our Existence?

That the Earth now desperately needs defense from impending environmental catastrophe is surely obvious to any rational and literate person. The different reactions to the crisis are a most remarkable feature of current history.

At the forefront of the defense of nature are those often called “primitive”: members of indigenous and tribal groups, like the First Nations in Canada or the Aborigines in Australia - the remnants of peoples who have survived the imperial onslaught. At the forefront of the assault on nature are those who call themselves the most advanced and civilized: the richest and most powerful nations.

The struggle to defend the commons takes many forms. In microcosm, it is taking place right now in Turkey’s Taksim Square, where brave men and women are protecting one of the last remnants of the commons of Istanbul from the wrecking ball of commercialization and gentrification and autocratic rule that is destroying this ancient treasure.

The defenders of Taksim Square are at the forefront of a worldwide struggle to preserve the global commons from the ravages of that same wrecking ball - a struggle in which we must all take part, with dedication and resolve, if there is to be any hope for decent human survival in a world that has no borders. It is our common possession, to defend or to destroy.

Blog Posts of Interest

Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.
What's Happenin'

Being a student while transgender

U.S. Diplomat Downplays "Zero Option" for Afghanistan

A Little Night Music

Guy Davis - Things About Coming My Way

Guy Davis - Cain't Be Satisfied

Guy Davis - Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms

Guy Davis - Waiting on the Cards to Fall

Guy Davis - Pay Day

Guy Davis - Step It Up and Go

Guy Davis - 61 highway

Guy Davis- You don't know my mind

Phil Wiggins & Guy Davis - Louis Collins

It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.


Can a democracy have secret laws, secret courts and secret extrajudicial killings of its citizens and still be a democracy?

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