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.
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Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jazz bandleader and pianist Count Basie. Enjoy!
Count Basie - One O'Clock Jump
"Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or "disappeared,' at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame."
-- Amnesty International
News and Opinion
The A-Team Killings
In the fall of 2012, a team of American Special Forces arrived in Nerkh, a district of Wardak province, Afghanistan, which lies just west of Kabul and straddles a vital highway. ... They were U.S. Army Green Berets, trained to wage unconventional warfare, and their arrival was typical of what was happening all over Afghanistan; the big Army units, installed during the surge, were leaving, and in their place came small groups of quiet, bearded Americans, the elite operators who would stay behind to hunt the enemy and stiffen the resolve of government forces long after America’s 13-year war in Afghanistan officially comes to an end.
But six months after its arrival, the team would be forced out of Nerkh by the Afghan government, amid allegations of torture and murder against the local populace. ... Last winter, tensions peaked and President Karzai ordered an investigation into the allegations. Then on February 16th, a student named Nasratullah was found under a bridge with his throat slit, two days, his family claimed, after he had been picked up by the Green Berets. Mass demonstrations erupted in Wardak, and Karzai demanded that the American Special Forces team leave, and by April, it did. That’s when the locals started finding bodies buried outside the American base in Nerkh, bodies they said belonged to the 10 missing men. ...
But over the past five months, Rolling Stone has interviewed more than two dozen eyewitnesses and victims’ families who’ve provided consistent and detailed allegations of the involvement of American forces in the disappearance of the 10 men, and has talked to Afghan and Western officials who were familiar with confidential Afghan-government, U.N. and Red Cross investigations that found the allegations credible. In July, a U.N. report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan warned: “The reported disappearances, arbitrary killings and torture – if proven to have been committed under the auspices of a party to the armed conflict – may amount to war crimes.”
Pakistan Renounces Lowered Civilian Toll From Drone Strikes
The Pakistani government has reportedly acknowledged errors in its recent downgrading of civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes. Shortly after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned from a U.S. visit last month, the Pakistani government reported a count of 67 civilian deaths since 2004. Just months earlier, Pakistan had estimated the toll at around 600. But according to the News of Pakistan, a Pakistani defense official has admitted the lower figure was "wrong and fabricated."
C.I.A. Is Said to Pay AT&T for Call Data
The C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations by exploiting the company’s vast database of phone records, which includes Americans’ international calls, according to government officials.
The cooperation is conducted under a voluntary contract, not under subpoenas or court orders compelling the company to participate, according to the officials. The C.I.A. supplies phone numbers of overseas terrorism suspects, and AT&T searches its database and provides records of calls that may help identify foreign associates, the officials said. The company has a huge archive of data on phone calls, both foreign and domestic, that were handled by its network equipment, not just those of its own customers. ...
The N.S.A. is subject to court-imposed rules about the standard that must be met before its analysts may gain access to its database, which contains records from multiple providers. The C.I.A. appears to have a freer hand, and officials said it had submitted significantly more queries to AT&T for data.
Forget the Backdoor: The Government Now Wants Keys to the Internet
Internet privacy relies heavily on the ability of tech companies to hide user content—such as your emails and bank information—behind a secure wall. But the Department of Justice is waging an unprecedented battle in court to win the power to seize the keys of US companies whenever the US government wants. Edward Snowden has shown that the government is already doing a great job at getting companies to hand over information, breaking down weak doors, and scooping up unlocked material. But if the Justice Department succeeds in this case, it will be far easier for it to do so, and—poof!—there will no longer be any guarantee of Internet privacy. ...
Karl Manheim, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says that that the government's demand for Lavabit's encryption keys appears "unconstitutional." The same argument is being made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union, both of which filed amicus briefs in the case last week. "This case could set a very dangerous precedent," says Brian Hauss, a legal fellow for the ACLU. "The government regularly reminds us how important cybersecurity is right now [in relation to protecting water plants and electrical grids from hackers, for example] so for them to say that and then execute these legal orders that undermine a critical layer of that security, is somewhat paradoxical." ...
If Lavabit loses its case, it will have the option of petitioning the Supreme Court. Should Lavabit not triumph in the end, tech companies will have to find a new way to protect information on the Internet. And they're already looking ahead. Google has started using what's called "Perfect Forward Secrecy" on most of its communications. This system generates new keys each time someone logs in, so there isn't one master key to break all the communications. And Lavabit is working on a project called the Dark Mail Alliance with another secure provider, Silent Circle, which followed Lavabit's lead and shuttered its email service in August in an effort to resist the NSA. The new service will not rely on a master key and aims to make it impossible for the NSA to obtain even a user's metadata. There's no telling how the US government will respond if Lavabit and Silent Circle succeed in developing this service.
The real reason the US & UK govts keep screaming "Terrorist!" and "Traitor!' and "pedophilia!" at NSA/GCHQ leaks http://t.co/...— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 7, 2013
Al Gore: Snowden 'revealed evidence' of crimes against US constitution
Former US vice-president Al Gore has described the activities of the National Security Agency as "outrageous" and "completely unacceptable" and said whistleblower Edward Snowden has "revealed evidence" of crimes against the US constitution.
Gore, speaking Tuesday night at McGill University in Montreal, said he was in favour of using surveillance to ensure national security, but Snowden's revelations showed that those measures had gone too far. ...
Asked about Snowden, the NSA whistleblower whose revelations have been reported extensively by the Guardian, Gore said the leaks had revealed uncovered unconstitutional practices.
"He has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States," Gore said.
Wikileaks editor leaves Snowden's side but cannot return to UK, afraid of prosecution
In August, Sarah Harrison helped former US National Security Agency contractor Snowden flee Hong Kong to Russia, where he has now been granted temporary asylum from US authorities who want to prosecute him for leaking official secrets.
In a statement datelined from Berlin and issued by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, Harrison said she had now left Snowden's side and had "arrived in Germany over the weekend".
She said that after spending 39 days with Snowden in a Moscow airport while he sought asylum, "I then remained with him until our team was confident that he had established himself and was free from the interference of any government".
But she said the detention under British anti-terror laws of David Miranda - the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who landed the scoop of the Snowden leaks - showed there was a climate of "persecution" in her own home country, Britain.
"Almost every story published on the GCHQ and NSA bulk spying programs falls under the UK government's interpretation of the word 'terrorism'," she wrote.
"In response, our lawyers have advised me that it is not safe to return home."
Tim Berners-Lee: encryption cracking by spy agencies 'appalling and foolish'
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist who created the world wide web, has called for a "full and frank public debate" over internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, warning that the system of checks and balances to oversee the agencies has failed.
As the inventor of the global system of inter-connectivity known as the web, with its now ubiquitous www and http, Berners-Lee is uniquely qualified to comment on the internet spying revealed by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In an interview with the Guardian, he expressed particular outrage that GCHQ and the NSA had weakened online security by cracking much of the online encryption on which hundreds of millions of users rely to guard data privacy.
He said the agencies' decision to break the encryption software was appalling and foolish, as it directly contradicted efforts of the US and UK governments to fight cybercrime and cyberwarfare, which they have identified as a national security priority. Berners-Lee also said it was a betrayal of the technology industry.
Dutch government faces lawsuit for collaboration with NSAThe recent elections have brought progressives some wins and some losses, but apparently they haven't dimmed some folks' optimism. Tom Hayden may be right here, but there are some awfully large "if's" in his analysis:
A group of lawyers, journalists and privacy advocates in the Netherlands is taking the government to court to prevent Dutch intelligence using phone data illegally acquired by the US National Security Agency.
Five individuals, among them a prominent investigative journalist and a well-known hacker, and four organisations filed the case before The Hague district court on Wednesday, according to their lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm.
The case comes after recent revelations that the NSA monitored 1.8 million phonecalls in a month in the Netherlands and then passed some of the data to Dutch intelligence services. ...
Those bringing the lawsuit include investigative journalist Brenno de Winter and hacker Rop Gonggrijp — who is under investigation by US authorities for his involvement with Wikileaks — and they say they want the NSA to stop eavesdropping and handing over information to Dutch intelligence.
The plaintiffs want judges to “declare that the Dutch state was acting illegally by receiving information from foreign intelligence services, which had been collected through spy programmes like (the NSA’s) PRISM, contrary to Dutch law.”
Bill de Blasio: Harbinger of a New Populist Left in America
The overwhelming support of New York City voters for Bill de Blasio is the latest sign of the shift towards a new populist left in America. De Blasio owes his unexpected tailwind to campaigning on issues considered by insiders to be too polarizing for winning politics.
One is De Blasio's promise to redress the "tale of two cities" inequalities among New Yorkers, an issue forced into mainstream discourse by the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement – not by New York Democrats aligned with Wall Street. The other is De Blasio's pledge to sharply curb police stop-and-frisk policies directed against young people of color – aggressive tactics favored by a majority of white voters and overwhelmingly criticized by African Americans, Latinos and Asian-American voters. ...
De Blasio will have a mandate for economic and social reform backed by a newly-elected 51-member city council, the most progressive in years. ...
With American politics polarized between the Obama center and the thriving Tea Party, the only opening for the left is through state and local federalism serving as "laboratories of reform", to paraphrase former Justice Louis Brandeis. After the Gilded Age and the Great Crash of the 1920s, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1934-47) and legislators like Robert Wagner created the first pillars of the New Deal before it become the national platform of the Democrats. They successfully fought not only Wall Street bankers, but a virulent and racist American right.
De Blasio is positioned to similarly shift the nation's dialogue, policies and priorities in a progressive direction – assuming he delivers on his campaign pledges. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government has passed a loophole-ridden Dodd-Frank reform law, which failed even to regulate the trillions floating in the derivatives industry. Wall Street investors have been richly rewarded since then, while middle-class incomes stagnate and the numbers of poor Americans reach the highest in 50 years.
Democracy Loses Out as Big Money Overwhelms Grassroots CampaignsThis is a very interesting article. DeChristopher is a thoughtful and articulate activist with some interesting insights; check it out if you have time:
In Washington and Maine, a flood of corporate cash swings popular opinion on key ballot issues
In two referendum battles that took place on opposite sides of the country on Tuesday, the power of big money campaigns funded by out-of-state corporate interests once again revealed itself by overwhelming grassroots campaigns trying to champion a local common good.
From Maine, where a small town tried to thwart a pipeline company from building a tar sands export terminal, to Washington state, where a broad coalition of consumer advocates and food safety groups called for labeling of genetically modified foods—both campaigns won and maintained the support of the local population... until the corporate money started pouring in.
Local backers of Washington's bid to pass the GMO labeling law, known as I-522, were defeated by corporate interests that spared no expense in the final weeks to overcome the strong support the measure had received since the campaign began. As the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports:The No on 522 campaign, at $22 million, was the most lavish initiative effort — and likely the most brazen — in the history of Washington state. It saw an unprecedented laundering of campaign contributions. Supporters raised a little less than $8 million, a big enough war chest, but were overwhelmed....
In Maine, where a local zoning ordinance designed to prevent the possible construction of a tar sands pipeline terminal on the waterfront of South Portland, another grassroots campaign, represented by a citizens group called Protect South Portland, was overwhelmed by record funding supplied by some of the world's largest fossil fuel companies. ...
As the Bangor Daily News reports:The campaign received large amounts of media exposure, as it pitted a citizens group against a campaign funded primarily by petroleum industry groups.
MEMA far out-raised Protect South Portland, whose largest single contributor was the Natural Resources Council of Maine. When cash, in-kind contributions and loans are calculated into the equation, MEMA raised nearly $600,000 in support, far outpacing Protect South Portland, which raised roughly $42,000, according to financial disclosure forms filed with the city clerk’s office. The imbalance prompted the ordinance’s local advocates to decry the influence of “out-of-state oil interests.”
Environmental activist DeChristopher talks about the future of activism and communities in a time of great change.The Russell Brand-inspired argument has another commentator, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. You have to wonder if Clegg is as clueless as to believe that you can vote against climate change, for example, when virtually all political parties are beholden to the polluting industries that cause climate change. Perhaps he thinks that average citizens can vote against war, too?
We’ve never stopped a climate crisis before,” DeChristopher says. But at least, the movement has learned “what doesn’t work—appeasing those in power.” DeChristopher points to what he characterizes as the failed strategy of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) founded in 2007 by a coalition of major environment groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council (partnering with major corporations such as BP America, Pacific Oil and Gas Company, Shell, and General Electric). Having spent more than $700 million on a comprehensive strategy, featuring cap and trade as a principle tactic for change, in 2009 this effort “fell on its face,” says DeChristopher because it was “built around how corporate lobbyists work.”
Well-directed activism can (and must) unmask the violence embedded in culturally condoned policies and infrastructures, DeChristopher believes. “When leaders don’t acknowledge and address climate change, this is violence against the young,” he says. DeChristopher urges giving a human face to the affliction and violence inherent in the current web of public policies and business practices.
He predicts that pressure rather than appeasement will deliver better results. “Appealing [to elected officials] isn’t enough.”
Russell Brand row: Nick Clegg criticises Jeremy Paxman's 'sneering'
The very 2013 debate about modern politics that has thus far brought in Russell Brand, Robert Webb and Jeremy Paxman, among others, has gained yet another participant after [deputy prime minister] Nick Clegg condemned Paxman for making a good living from politics while simultaneously "sneering about politics". ...
Clegg was scathing when asked about Paxman's comments, telling LBC listeners: "Here is a guy who gets paid a million pounds, thereabouts, paid for by taxpayers. He lives off politics and he spends all his time sneering at politics." ...
Clegg echoed Webb's view, saying that to remove yourself entirely from voting and politics was "a total abdication of responsibility".
He said: "We know that politics is not perfect, but at the end of the day it is the way that we decide how you pay your taxes, how we support our hospitals, our schools, whether we are going to war or not, how we deal with climate change.
Protesters Light 'Bonfire of Austerity' Across UKThere's lots more in this Taibbi blog post, but this caught my eye...
The flames burned bright on "Bonfire Night" in London and dozens of other UK cities as protesters gathered once again to protest ongoing austerity measures in the country.
Demonstrators in Parliament Square carried signs that read "no cuts," "corporate greed does not make democracy," and "cut war not welfare," as part of an anti-austerity demonstration organized by the People's Assembly Against Austerity. ...
Similar gatherings took place in up to 40 UK cities, including Manchester, Newcastle, and Nottingham. Many of the demonstrations were organized in coordination with what was coined the Million Mask March, called by the hacktivist group Anonymous, which reportedly took place in over 400 cities across the the world including Washington DC, Vancouver, Tel Aviv, Dublin, Paris, Chicago and Sydney.
"Bonfire Night" in the UK, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, is typically a commemoration of Fawkes' failed effort to blow up the British Parliament in 1605. Many have recently turned the yearly celebration into a night of protest in opposition to corrupt government policies.
Chase Isn't the Only Bank in Trouble
Guardian Care Homes, a British "residential home care operator," is suing the British bank Barclays for over $100 million for allegedly selling the company interest rate swaps based on Libor, which numerous companies have now admitted to manipulating, in a series of high-profile settlements. The theory of the case is that if Libor was not a real number, and was being manipulated for years as numerous companies have admitted, then the Libor-based swaps banks sold to companies like Guardian Care are inherently unenforceable.
A ruling against the banks in this case, which goes to trial in April of next year in England, could have serious international ramifications. Suddenly, cities like Philadelphia and Houston, or financial companies like Charles Schwab, or a gazillion other buyers of Libor-based financial products might be able to walk away from their Libor-based contracts. Basically, every customer who's ever been sold a rotten swap product by a major financial company might now be able to get up from the table, extend two middle fingers squarely in the direction of Wall Street, and simply walk away from the deals.
Nobody is mincing words about what that might mean globally. From a Reuters article on the Guardian Care case:"To unwind all Libor-linked derivative contracts would be financial Armageddon," said Abhishek Sachdev, managing director of Vedanta Hedging, which advises companies on interest rate hedging products.
Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Documents
The military judge presiding over the tribunal of five 9/11 suspects has ordered the Obama administration to hand over a trove of documents on prison conditions at Guantánamo Bay. The judge, Col. James Pohl, will review correspondence between the U.S. government and the Red Cross, which has inspected the prison. He will then decide whether to turn it over to the defense. It is unclear if the material will become public.
Palestinian officials demand investigation into Arafat ‘killing’ after Al-Jazeera’s polonium poison report
Palestinian officials demanded a global probe into the “killing” of Yasser Arafat on Thursday, a day after it emerged that Swiss forensic tests showed he probably died from polonium poisoning.
With the scientific analysis purportedly showing how the Palestinian leader had died mysteriously, a senior figure in the Palestine Liberation Organisation called for an international inquiry to determine who was behind it.
“The (test) results proved Arafat was poisoned by polonium, and this substance is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state,” said Wasel Abu Yusef of the PLO’s executive committee.
“Just as a committee was formed to investigate the killing of (slain Lebanese prime minister) Rafiq Hariri, there must be a international committee to investigate the killing of president Arafat.”
His remarks came a day after Al-Jazeera published a report by Swiss scientists that said the results of tests on Arafat’s remains “moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210″.
The Evening Greens
Huge Election Victories for Colorado’s Anti-Fracking Movement
Yesterday’s election brought huge results for anti-fracking voters in Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette where all measures were approved that will either ban or pause the practice of hydraulic fracturing. Initial results show Broomfield with a tally so close—13 votes—that it will force a recount.
“With wins in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins—and a partial-victory in Broomfield—this election sends a huge wake-up call to Governor Hickenlooper that the people of Colorado do not want to be fracked,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action. ”Fort Collins’ vote is especially revealing—a decisive 10 point win in a swing county while being outspent 40 to 1. The oil and gas industry poured in almost $900,000 to try and force citizens to be exposed to their cancer-causing fracking chemicals. Their money back-fired.”
“Here’s the message to Governor Hickenlooper: Can you hear us now?” said Wockner.
Billion litres of coal-mine muck leaks into Athabasca River
EDMONTON - Geotechnical engineers remained at the Obed Mountain coal mine Sunday trying to determine how one billion litres of murky water leaked from a containment pond into the Athabasca River.
A barrier gave way on Halloween, allowing liquid containing coal dust, sand and dirt to flow through two creeks into the Athabasca, said Darin Barter, a spokesman for the Alberta Energy Regulator. ...
The Obed Mountain mine, owned by Sherritt International and now undergoing reclamation since operations were suspended last November, is about 30 kilometres northeast of Hinton.
The dirty water travelled 25 kilometres to the Athabasca, forming a muddy plume now floating downstream, Alberta Environment spokeswoman Jessica Potter said. ...
Investigators don’t know how long the plume is because aircraft needed to monitor the situation were unable to fly in the snowy weekend weather.
B.C. old-growth logging plan slammed by conservationists
Conservation groups are demanding forestry company Island Timberlands abandon plans to log old-growth forest on the perimeter of a Vancouver Island provincial park.
The company is building a logging road to a site that sits 300 metres from the border of MacMillan Provincial Park, best noted for a protected stand of old-growth trees within the park known as Cathedral Grove.
Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance, an environmental activism group, is asking the provincial government to step in and negotiate a deal with Island Timberlands that would prevent any old-growth logging near the site.
Wu says the road and subsequent logging operation will cause severe erosion, putting increasing pressure on the rare old-growth ecosystem preserved within the park's boundaries.
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
Lester Young/Count Basie - Lady Be Good
Jimmy Rushing & Count Basie - Don't You Want A Man Like Me?
Count Basie - Sweet Georgia Brown
Count Basie with Sonny Payne - Blee Blop Blues
Count Basie - Splanky
Count Basie - Jumping At The Woodside
Count Basie - Tall Cotton
Count Basie - Rock-A-Bye-Basie
Count Basie Orchestra - Swingin' The Blues
Count Basie - Basie Boogie
It's National Pie Day!
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