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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.  

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This evening's music features Texas blues guitarist and contemporary of Lightnin' Hopkins, Melvin "Lil' Son" Jackson.  Enjoy!

Cairo Blues - Lil' Son Jackson

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News and Opinion

NSA faces sweeping surveillance review as intelligence chiefs face hostile House

Lawmakers move forward with bill to rein in programs amid signs of a split between White House and intelligence community

[L]egislative efforts to end bulk collection of Americans’ communications data gathered pace with two complementary bipartisan bills aimed at curbing “a trust deficit” sparked by the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

On Tuesday morning, congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, a veteran Wisconsin Republican and author of the Patriot Act, introduced his long-awaited USA Freedom Act, that would stop the NSA’s bulk domestic phone records collection. The legislation would also stop the NSA from searching through its foreign communications databases for identifying information on Americans.

A companion bill in the Senate was also being introduced Tuesday by Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate judiciary committee. Both bills have already attracted significant support: Sensenbrenner claims 60 co-sponsors, including eight who either opposed or abstained from a July effort in the House to stop the bulk phone records collection, a number that would have swung the earlier vote against the NSA. ... Those bills still face a tough ride through Congress, not least because they are up against Feinstein’s own surveillance legislation which will be marked up, the process by which a congressional committee debates and rewrites proposed legislation, on Tuesday in a closed-door session of the Senate.

Intelligence officials defend surveillance tactics in Congressional hearing

There wasn't much talk of reform coming from the witness table, Guardian national security editor Spencer Ackerman notes:

The proposal for a permanent advocate on the Fisa court was not rejected by the intelligence chiefs, Spencer notes, but deputy attorney general Cole opposed the idea.

The intelligence officials said Fisa court opinions could be declassified as a way of calming the public and meeting demands for greater transparency. ...

Rep. Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, co-sponsered legislation in July with Democratic Rep. John Conyers that would have ended the collection of phone metadata under section 215 of the Patriot Act. ...

Amash wasn't impressed with what he saw this afternoon:

NSA spying has nothing to do with terrorism, Greenwald tells Amanpour

From Amanpoour's blog:

Spying by America’s National Security Agency does not have “anything to do with terrorism,” Glenn Greenwald, the activist journalist who broke the story, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“Is Angela Merkel a terrorist? Are sixty or seventy million Spanish or French citizens terrorists? Are there terrorists at Petrobras?” he asked rhetorically. “This is clearly about political power and economic espionage, and the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.” ...

“It is not true that every country intercepts the personal communications of their democratically elected allies,” Greenwald told Amanpour, referring to the oft-repeated criticism put forward by true believers that “everyone does it.”

“And it’s definitely not the case that every country mass, bulk collects the communications of millions of innocent people in virtually every country in the world.”

“It’s something that the world didn’t know, and now they do know, and that’s the reason why U.S. officials are so angry,” he said. “Not because it damaged national security but because it damages their reputation and credibility around the world.”

The White House on Spying

The White House response on Monday to the expanding disclosures of American spying on foreign leaders, their governments and millions of their citizens was a pathetic mix of unsatisfying assurances about reviews under way, platitudes about the need for security in an insecure age, and the odd defense that the president didn’t know that American spies had tapped the German chancellor’s cellphone for 10 years.  ...

[T]here has long been an understanding that international spying was done in pursuit of a concrete threat to national security.

That Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations could fall under that umbrella is an outgrowth of the post-9/11 decision by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that everyone is the enemy, and that anyone’s rights may be degraded in the name of national security. That led to Abu Ghraib, torture at the secret C.I.A. prisons, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, grave harm to international relations, and the dragnet approach to surveillance revealed by the Snowden leaks.

Embassy Espionage: The NSA's Secret Spy Hub in Berlin

A "top secret" classified NSA document from the year 2010 shows that a unit known as the "Special Collection Service" (SCS) is operational in Berlin, among other locations. It is an elite corps run in concert by the US intelligence agencies NSA and CIA.

The secret list reveals that its agents are active worldwide in around 80 locations, 19 of which are in Europe -- cities such as Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague and Geneva. ... Wiretapping from an embassy is illegal in nearly every country. But that is precisely the task of the SCS, as is evidenced by another secret document. According to the document, the SCS operates its own sophisticated listening devices with which they can intercept virtually every popular method of communication: cellular signals, wireless networks and satellite communication. ...

Among the politically decisive questions is whether the spying was authorized from the top: from the US president. If the data is accurate, the operation was authorized under former President George W. Bush and his NSA chief, Michael Hayden. But it would have had to be repeatedly approved, including after Obama took office and up to the present time. Is it conceivable that the NSA made the German chancellor a surveillance target without the president's knowledge? ...

[US National Security Adviser Susan] Rice called the Chancellery on Friday evening to explain that if reports began to circulate that Merkel's phone had been targeted, Washington would deny it -- or at least that is how the Germans understood the message. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assured his counterpart, Merkel's spokesperson Steffen Seibert, of the same thing. The message was passed on to SPIEGEL late that evening without comment, at which point editors decided to continue investigating. ...

Merkel spoke with Obama on Wednesday afternoon, calling him from her secure landline in her Chancellery office. Both spoke English. According to the Chancellery, the president said that he had known nothing of possible monitoring, otherwise he would have stopped it. Obama also expressed his deepest regrets and apologized.

UN Will Censure Illegal Spying, But Not US or NSA

When the 193-member General Assembly adopts a resolution next month censuring the illegal electronic surveillance of governments and world leaders by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the U.N.’s highest policy-making body will spare the United States from public condemnation despite its culpability in widespread wiretapping.

A draft resolution currently in limited circulation – a copy of which was obtained by IPS – criticises “the conduct of extra-territorial surveillance” and the “interception of communications in foreign jurisdictions”.

But it refuses to single out the NSA or the United States, which stands accused of spying on foreign governments, including political leaders in Germany, France, Brazil, Spain and Mexico, among some 30 others.

The draft says that while the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information may be justified on grounds of national security and criminal activity, member states must still ensure full compliance with international human rights.

France and Spain spied on their own citizens and handed data over to the NSA

Electronic spying on French and Spanish phone records was carried out by those countries’ intelligence services and not by the National Security Agency, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Citing unnamed US officials, the Journal’s report contradicted earlier accounts from French and Spanish media that alleged the NSA was scooping up millions of phone records of citizens in those countries. ...

US officials told the Wall Street Journal that the documents provided by Snowden to European media had been misinterpreted and show that phone records were first collected by French and Spanish spy agencies, and then shared with the NSA.

The officials said the document also shows that the phone records collected by the French were gathered outside of France, and then passed along to the US intelligence community.

The leaked information does not indicate that the French spied on their own citizens inside the country.

Latest Declassified NSA Records Show NSA Believes It Can Spy On Everyone's Location Based On Existing Approvals

Do you know where you were on April 26, 2010? Because the NSA probably does. It had already been revealed that the NSA had run "a test" of obtaining location info from the telcos. This document, which is a memo from the NSA to the Senate Intelligence Committee is just explaining some of the details, with this being the key one:

In regards to the mobility testing effort, NSA consulted with DOJ before implementing this testing effort. Based upon our description of the proposed mobility data (cell site location information) testing plans, DOJ advised in February 2010 that obtaining the data for the described testing purposes was permissable based upon the current language of the Court's BR FISA order requiring the production of 'all call detail records.' It is our understanding that DOJ also orally advised the FISC, via its staff, that we had obtained a limited set of test data sampling of cellular mobility data (cell site location information) pursuant to the Court-authorized program and that we were exploring the possibility of acquiring such mobility under the BR FISA program in the near future based upon the authority currently granted by the Court.
The key takeaway here: the NSA believes that the current FISA approval of dragnet collection of metadata on every phone call includes permission to track location data as well, even though it doesn't currently do so. The "BR FISA order" means "business records" which is what Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is sometimes called. The fact that the NSA didn't seem to think it was necessary to check with the FISA Court before running this test, just to make sure it was actually allowed is rather telling.
'Publish & be damned!' Cameron threatens media over NSA leaks

Cameron hints at ‘tougher measures’ if media continues publishing Snowden leaks

British Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a veiled threat against media organizations, calling on The Guardian and other outlets to stop publishing the disclosures leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Guardian first began its ongoing series based on the Snowden leaks in June, when far-reaching clandestine activity of the American NSA and British Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) were made public. UK lawmakers have not yet been “heavy handed,” the prime minister said, but if media does not cease such publication soon the government could soon crack down.

He suggested the government may employ D-Notices, official requests asking editors not to publish news items for national security reasons, if the coverage goes on.

1 Year Later, Superstorm Sandy Strengthens Resolve for Community Solutions in Recovery, Rebuilding

Here's an interesting piece, worth reading in full:
Mainstream economics is in denial: the world has changed

Rebellions aren't meant to kick off in lecture theatres – but I saw one last Thursday night. It was small and well-read and it minded its Ps & Qs, and I think I shall remember it for some time. ... On the night before the latest growth figures, no one in this 100-strong hall used the word "recovery" unless it was to be sarcastic. Instead, audience members – middle-aged, smartly dressed and doubtless sizably mortgaged – took it in turn to attack bankers, politicians and, yes, economists. They'd created the mess everyone else was paying for, yet they'd suffered no retribution.

In one of the world's elite institutions, the elites were taking a pasting – from accountants, entrepreneurs and academics. They knew what they were on about, too. Given his turn on the mic, one biologist said: "I'll believe economists have reformed when the men behind Black and Scholes [the theory that helps traders value financial derivatives] have been stripped of their Nobel prizes."

One of the central facts of post-crash Britain is that the elites still hold power, but no longer command the credibility to wield it. You see that when Russell Brand talks on Newsnight about the corrupt lilliputian world of Westminster, and the various YouTube clips total more than 3m views. And I certainly saw it in Cambridge.

Like all the other plebs in Britain – whether on minimum wage, or a five-figure salary – the people in that lecture theatre had been told for decades to trust the politicians, policymakers and employers to provide the jobs, the houses and pensions, and the prospects for their kids. In the wake of the biggest economic rupture since the 1930s, they're evidently no longer so willing to extend that trust.

Five Years After Wall Street Meltdown, 'Toxic Culture of Greed and Risk' Remains

According to the government watchdog created to guard over the federal bailout of the Wall Street banking industry in the wake of the 2008 housing collapse and financial crisis, all of the sinister ingredients that created the crisis five years ago—including "rampant risktaking" "greed" and "significant unchecked power" — remain pervasive throughout the "toxic" corporate culture that rules the financial industry.

When the industry was on the verge of total collapse in late 2008, the Treasury Department, Congress, and the Federal Reserve stepped in to backstop teetering Wall Street banks with a cash infusion of $700 billion in taxpayers funds under a program call the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or TARP). Subsequent to the allocation of those funds, Congress established an oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or SIGTARP), designed to monitor the program, make sure the funds were used appropriately, and offer feedback to lawmakers and Treasury officials.

Released on Tuesday, SIGTARP's latest public quarterly report paints a picture of ongoing dysfunction, systemic risk, and complains that much of the advice it has offered to government agencies regarding the restructuring of the financial system and possible ways to help still-struggling homeowners have been ignored.

Nobody Should Shed a Tear for JP Morgan Chase

A lot of people all over the world are having opinions now about the ostensibly gigantic $13 billion settlement Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase have entered into with the government.

The general consensus from most observers in the finance sector is that this superficially high-dollar settlement – worth about half a year's profits for Chase – is an unconscionable Marxist appropriation. It's been called a "robbery" and a "shakedown," in which red Obama and his evil henchman Eric Holder confiscated cash from a successful bank, as The Wall Street Journal wrote, "for no other reason than because they can and because they want to appease their left-wing populist allies." ...

[T]he key to this whole thing is that the punishment is just money, and not a crippling amount, and not from any individual's pocket, either. In fact, the deal that has just been completed between Chase and the state represents the end, or near the end, of a long process by which people who committed essentially the same crimes as Bernie Madoff will walk away without paying any individual penalty. ...

[W]hile it is true that the federal government in this latest $13 billion settlement is ostensibly reserving the right to continue to pursue criminal charges, don't hold your breath. The arc of this story suggests that the whole purpose of this agreement has been to find the highest price Chase is willing to pay to a) stay in business b) keep employees out of jail.

Warren, Sanders Ready to Face Down Obama over Social Security, Medicare Cuts

Though the 'deficit scold dream' of a so-called 'Grand Bargain' may be diminished on Capitol Hill, a mini-version—circulating among some as the 'Small Deal' version of a 2014 austerity budget—is still on the table as congressional budget negotiations are set to resume Wednesday.

With austerity proposals again taking the lead in the latest budget battle, however, at least two progressive senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, are ready to fight such a deal.

"Instead of talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we must end the absurdity of corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes," Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is on the Senate and House budget conference committee, wrote in an op-ed in the LA Times Monday. ...

“Chained CPI is just a fancy way to say ‘Cut benefits for seniors, permanently disabled, and orphans,’” warned Sen. Warren in a recent interview. “Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle-class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled, inch by inch.”

3rd Quarter Corporate Profits Reach Record High-Worker Pay Hits Record Low

The numbers are in for Q3 and big business has $1.75 trillion worth of reasons to celebrate as these record-breaking results improved on last year’s numbers by a stunning 18.6 percent—the largest after-tax profit quarter in the nation’s history.

And that’s just for openers as total Q3 profits broke another record by accounting for a huge 11.1 percent of the U.S. economy. ...

The American worker—that hard working employee who, according to CNN Money, citing newly published government reports, has seen his or her wages dip to an all-time low as a percentage of GDP during the most recent quarter—

“A separate government reading shows that total wages have now fallen to a record low of 43.5% of GDP. Until 1975, wages almost always accounted for at least half of GDP, and had been as high as 49% as recently as early 2001.(emphasis added) But overall economic growth has greatly outpaced growth in hourly wages and job creation since the end of Great Recession, so workers’ share of the economic pie has dropped steadily. That’s despite the fact that modest hiring by employers lifted total wages to a record $6.88 trillion in the third quarter.”

“Riots always begin typically the same way”: Food stamp shutdown looms Friday

macdonalds food stamps

Food stamp recipients face a massive benefit cut set to kick in when stimulus funds expire Friday. The nationwide cut “is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three,” according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis using the USDA’s “Thrifty Food Plan.” CBPP called the roughly $5 billion annual cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program “unprecedented” in “depth and breadth.”

“If you look across the world, riots always begin typically the same way: when people cannot afford to eat food,” Margarette Purvis, the president and CEO of the Food Bank for New York City, told Salon Monday. Purvis said that the looming cut would mean about 76 million meals “that will no longer be on the plates of the poorest families” in NYC alone – a figure that outstrips the total number of meals distributed each year by the Food Bank for New York City, the largest food bank in the country. “There will be an immediate impact,” she said.

“The fact that they’re going to lose what’s basically an entire week’s worth food” each month, said Purvis, “it’s pretty daunting.” She told Salon that while policymakers “are attempting to punish people for being poor,” and “people are comforted by believing that they know that a person has to have done something wrong in order to be poor,” in reality, “I can tell you that more and more folks have more than one job and are still needing help.”

In United Nations vote, 188 countries condemn U.S. embargo of Cuba

A record-equalling 188 countries on Tuesday condemned the five-decade-old US embargo against communist Cuba in an annual UN General Assembly vote that signalled hardening opposition to US sanctions.

Only Israel joined the United States in opposing resolution, the smallest number ever. Last year two allies voted with the US government.

Three Pacific island states normally close to the United States — Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau — abstained as the barrage of criticism of the embargo reached a new peak in the 22nd annual vote at the UN Assembly.

China, Iran, which has launched a bid to thaw relations with the US administration, Latin American and African nations all publicly condemned the United States.

The Evening Greens

Former Irish President, Climate Justice Advocate Mary Robinson Urges Divestment of Fossil Fuel Firms

Oil And Gas Pipeline Incidents In Canada Doubled In A Decade

The number of safety-related incidents involving federally regulated Canadian pipelines has doubled in little more than a decade, with the number of reported spills tripling during that time, according to an investigative report at the CBC.

According to data obtained by the network from the National Energy Board, the number of annual incidents rose to two per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline by 2011, up from one per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline in 2000.

There were 142 pipeline incidents in 2011, up from 45 in 2000.

The data covers only those pipelines that are federally regulated, meaning those that cross provincial boundaries.

The news comes as debate heats up over which method of transporting oil and gas — rail or pipelines — is best for the environment, and the least risky.

A recent study from the Fraser Institute suggested pipelines are the less risky option, with rail experiencing three times as many spills as pipelines.

But while pipeline incidents may be less frequent, evidence suggests they spill more oil. A report this spring from the International Energy Agency said that pipelines spill three times as much oil, per kilometre of transport distance, as rail.

Blog Posts of Interest

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

Scahill: Will the Global War on Terror Ever End

Reid: Senate to consider ENDA

A Little Night Music

Lil' Son Jackson - Blues Come To Texas

Lil' Son Jackson - Red River Blues

Lil' Son Jackson - Ticket Agent

Lil' Son Jackson - Rockin' and Rollin' (Rock Me Baby)

Lil' Son Jackson - Charley Cherry

Lil Son Jackson - Groundhog Day Blues

Lil Son Jackson - Messin' Up

Lil Son Jackson - Freight Train Blues

Little Son Jackson - Talking Boogie

Little Son Jackson - Dirty Work

Lil Son Jackson - Aching Heart

Lil Son Jackson - Movin' To The Country

Lil' Son Jackson And His Rockin' And Rollers - Red Light

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 Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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