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 and harmonica player Aaron "Little Sonny" Willis. Enjoy!
Little Sonny - Goin' Down Slow
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
-- Edward Bernays
News and Opinion
New analysis of rocket used in Syria chemical attack undercuts Obama's claims to justify attempted war on Syria
A series of revelations about the rocket believed to have delivered poison sarin gas to a Damascus suburb last summer are challenging American intelligence assumptions about that attack and suggest that the case U.S. officials initially made for retaliatory military action was flawed.
A team of security and arms experts, meeting this week in Washington to discuss the matter, has concluded that the range of the rocket that delivered sarin in the largest attack that night was too short for the device to have been fired from the Syrian government positions where the Obama administration insists they originated. ...
In Washington, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said its assertion of Syrian government responsibility remains unchanged. ...
But the authors of a report released Wednesday said that their study of the rocket’s design, its likely payload and its possible trajectories show that it would have been impossible for the rocket to have been fired from inside areas controlled by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
NSA collects millions of text messages daily in 'untargeted' global sweep
• NSA extracts location, contacts and financial transactions
• 'Dishfire' program sweeps up 'pretty much everything it can'
• GCHQ using database to search metadata from UK numbers
The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.
The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to people in the UK.
The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.
The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people’s travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more – including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity.
Obama to Ride the Fence, Attempt Appearance of Reform of NSA, Spook Agencies
President Obama will issue new guidelines on Friday to curtail government surveillance, but will not embrace the most far-reaching proposals of his own advisers and will ask Congress to help decide some of the toughest issues, according to people briefed on his thinking.
Mr. Obama plans to increase limits on access to bulk telephone data, call for privacy safeguards for foreigners and propose the creation of a public advocate to represent privacy concerns at a secret intelligence court. But he will not endorse leaving bulk data in the custody of telecommunications firms, nor will he require court permission for all so-called national security letters seeking business records.
The emerging approach, described by current and former government officials who insisted on anonymity in advance of Mr. Obama’s widely anticipated speech, suggested a president trying to straddle a difficult line in hopes of placating foreign leaders and advocates of civil liberties without a backlash from national security agencies. The result seems to be a speech that leaves in place many current programs, but embraces the spirit of reform and keeps the door open to changes later.
ACLU Comment Ahead of President’s Friday NSA Speech
President Obama is not planning to change the core of the NSA’s bulk surveillance programs, according to a report today in The New York Times.
Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this comment:
“President Obama’s speech on Friday will not only determine the direction of national security policies and programs, but also define his civil liberties legacy. If the speech is anything like what is being reported, the president will go down in history for having retained and defended George W. Bush’s surveillance programs rather than reformed them.
“Keeping the storage of all Americans’ data in government hands and asking ‘lawmakers to weigh in,’ as reported, is passing the buck – when the buck should stop with the president. If Congress fails to act on this matter, as it has on other critical policy issues, President Obama will effectively be handing off a treasure trove of all our private data to succeeding presidents – whether it is Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, or Hillary Clinton.”
Fighting Back Against the NSA's Dragnet Web: Can Activists Turn the Tide in a Draconian Digital Era?
As President Obama is set to issue new guidelines Friday for his plans to rein in some of the National Security Agency's (NSA) vast dragnet surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, a broad coalition of privacy and digital rights organizations is gearing up for a mass online action planned this Febrary 11 to protest ubiquitous electronic surveillance by several governments.
The planned action is reminiscent of the successful internet blackout, which protested the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in 2012, which would have given law enforcement the authority to block web pages containing copyright infringement violations. ...
The Day We Fight Back is not just fighting invasive dragnet surveillance programs, but it also hopes to fight for something - namely the USA Freedom Act.
The USA Freedom Act, authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, would take action to restrict the NSA and other governmental surveillance programs and give companies a voice in what types of surveillance their products can be used for. If passed, the bill would halt the mass collection of metadata under section 215 of the Patriot Act and allow companies to report the number of FISA letters they receive that request access to their business records, how many of those letters they grant and the number of users who are affected.
"It's a bill that isn't going to fix everything that's wrong with NSA surveillance. Rather it's going to do some extremely common-sense fixes that are modern in nature and should be the first step in what is hopefully a much larger effort to reform NSA surveillance abuses," says Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, another group behind the February 11 action. "I think of it as a floor, not a ceiling." ...
The tactics and ways in which individuals and internet advocacy organizations will participate are numerous, from appeals to call Congressional representatives on the issue to physical street protests. "It's not just one organization telling you how you should be fighting against the NSA surveillance. Rather it's thousands of people coming up with their own creative ideas, and that’s kind of the beauty of decentralized internet culture."
NSA: six out of 10 Americans want reform of data collection, says poll
Fears grow President Obama will allow NSA to keep bulk databases as survey finds majority in favour of change
Fears are growing among civil libertarians that Barack Obama will allow the National Security Agency to retain its bulk databases of US phone call information, despite new polling that indicates substantial public appetite for restricting the spy agency’s powers.
A poll by the Anzalone Liszt Grove Research firm, released Thursday, finds 59% of Americans oppose keeping the NSA’s widespread collection of data unchanged. Twenty-six percent of respondents “strongly” oppose keeping NSA current surveillance in place.
A majority of respondents, 57%, say they have “not much” confidence in the government’s ability to prevent abuse of the NSA’s troves of US phone records. Similarly, 58% doubt that the government can keep the data safe from hackers.
That scepticism of the NSA echoes concern voiced earlier this week by Geoffrey Stone, a law professor and member of Obama’s surveillance review panel, which recommended taking the bulk collection out of the hands of the NSA. “Government can do far more harm if it abuses information it has than private entities can,” Stone told the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday.
The findings also come the day before President Obama is set to deliver a major speech outlining his perspectives on the proper scope of NSA data collection.
Washington State Bill Proposes Criminalizing Help to NSA, Turning Off Resources to Yakima FacilityNo doubt Feinstein is now too traumatized to sleep through the night...
The state level campaign to turn off power and electricity to the NSA got a big boost Wednesday.
In a bipartisan effort, Washington became first state with a physical NSA location to consider the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, designed to make life extremely difficult for the massive spy agency.
Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee) and Rep Rep. Luis Moscoso (D- Mountlake Terrace) introduced HB2272 late Tuesday night. Based on model language drafted by the OffNow coalition, it would make it the policy of Washington “to refuse material support, participation, or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation, or order which purports to authorize, the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant.”
Practically speaking, the bill prohibits state and local agencies from providing any material support to the NSA within their jurisdiction. This includes barring government-owned utilities from providing water and electricity. It makes information gathered without a warrant by the NSA and shared with law enforcement inadmissible in state court. It blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds. And it disincentivizes corporations attempting to fill needs not met in the absence of state cooperation.
Lawmakers in Oklahoma, California and Indiana have already introduced similar legislation, and a senator in Arizona has committed to running it there, but Washington counts as the first state with an actual NSA facility within its borders to consider the Fourth Amendment Protection Act. The NSA operates a listening center on the Army’s Yakima Training Center (YTC). The NSA facility is in Taylor’s district, and he said he cannot sit idly by while a secretive facility in his own backyard violate the rights of people everywhere.
“We’re running the bill to provide protection against the ever increasing surveillance into the daily lives of our citizens,” he said. “Our Founding Fathers established a series of checks and balances in the Constitution. Given the federal government’s utter failure to address the people’s concerns, it’s up to the states to stand for our citizens’ constitutional rights.”
Was the Drone that Feinstein Encountered at Her House a Tiny Pink Helicopter?
To reinforce her concerns about the use of commercial drones, California Senator Dianne Feinstein told her peers on Wednesday about an encounter she had with a drone at her house. Quite probably, it was a small toy helicopter flown by protesters from Code Pink — in which case it may not be the nightmare scenario one might fear.
Politico reported on her comments before the Senate Commerce Committee. Feinstein "used the episode to implore lawmakers to 'proceed with caution,'" the site reports. After all, here's what happened to her:Feinstein said she encountered the flying robot while a demonstration was taking place outside her house. She said she went to the window to peek out — and “there was a drone right there at the window looking out at me.”Looking at her! This is a terrifying new world, indeed.
Yemen drone strikes kills farmer - witnesses
A Yemeni farmer was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Wednesday in what witnesses said was an attack apparently intended for suspected Islamist militants in southeastern Yemen.
Witnesses said the farmer was killed by shrapnel from two rockets fired by the drone early in the morning as he walked home in the village of al-Houta, near the city of Shibam.
A local government official confirmed the report but declined to give further details. ...
Last month, at least 15 people were killed and five others injured when a drone mistook a wedding party travelling in the central Yemeni province of al-Bayda for an al Qaeda convoy.
The Wedding That a U.S. Drone Strike Turned Into a Funeral
The world learned in December that a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed numerous wedding-goers as they made their way to a young couple's celebration. ...
Standing by a row of corpses burned in this latest attack, some villagers held up a sign that said, "America Spills the Blood." It's hard to argue with them. This drone strike comes months after President Obama announced a change in U.S. drone policy, promising that before a drone strike was executed "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set."
Plainly, the promise was bogus, not just because of these wedding guests who wound up dead, but because it is impossible to fire a drone on a convoy of five dozen people or so with "near certainty" that no innocents will be killed. A White House national-security staff spokesperson nevertheless told Isikoff this week that "before we take any counterterrorism strike outside areas of active hostilities, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.” What these people say has little connection with reality. But the deference the press accords the presidency prevents this sort of official nonsense from being called out as obvious, self-serving dishonesty.
A mistake of this magnitude cries out for an independent investigation by people who won't have any blood on their hands regardless of the outcome. But that sort of oversight won't happen because Congress is too deferential to the executive branch on drone policy, and the Obama Administration is ever determined to keep conducting drone strikes under a cloak of substantial secrecy, directly contradicting the unprecedented transparency its head once promised voters. That promise was appealing in part because, without it, what happens are things like a horrific wedding massacre in which no one is held accountable.
Exposing Obama's Hypocrisy on Drone Warfare
There’s a disconnect between what the president and his team say about drones, and what actually happens.
In 2013, the discussion about the Obama administration’s use of drones as weapons of war intensified. Americans became more aware of the practice, and President Obama outlined his vision of counterterrorism efforts, and how the use of these unmanned bombers fit into that vision. The upshot is that the administration continues to deploy drone strikes as its main counterterrorism strategy, ignoring both the high rate of civilian casualties associated with these attacks, and the high cost to U.S. taxpayers. ...
[See article for accounting of Obama's statements and actions.]
The Obama administration has not followed through on its promise to provide greater transparency about the drone program. Most of the legal rationale and procedures behind the drone program still have not been explained to the American public.
Here’s a list of things the American public still doesn’t know about drone strikes:
- The U.S. government’s count of civilian deaths
- Who can be targeted
- Which strikes are conducted by the U.S.
- The legal processes behind who the Obama administration decides to target
- The rationale/reasoning process in who or where they decide to strike
The upshot is that drone policy continues without any transparency or accountability.
Photos Depict US Marines Burning Iraqis
Photographs obtained and posted on the entertainment and gossip website TMZ reportedly show U.S. Marines burning the bodies of Iraqi opponents in the aftermath of a military battle in the city of Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.
If deemed authentic, the grisly photos would be the latest evidence of U.S. soldiers treating dead enemy soldiers in a manner contrary to their claims of noble performance on the battlefield.
In response to the emergence of the images, the U.S. military has launched an internal investigation.
“We are aware of photos appearing on TMZ.com that depict individuals in U.S. Marine uniforms burning what appear to be human remains,” Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “The actions depicted in these photos are not what we expect from our service members, nor do they represent the honorable and professional service of the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
New Memo: Kissinger Gave the "Green Light" for Argentina's Dirty War
[F]or years, the former secretary of state [Henry Kissinger] has sidestepped judgment for his complicity in horrific human rights abuses abroad, and a new memo has emerged that provides clear evidence that in 1976 Kissinger gave Argentina's neo-fascist military junta the "green light" for the dirty war it was conducting against civilian and militant leftists that resulted in the disappearance—that is, deaths—of an estimated 30,000 people.
In April 1977, Patt Derian, a onetime civil rights activist whom President Jimmy Carter had recently appointed assistant secretary of state for human rights, met with the US ambassador in Buenos Aires, Robert Hill. A memo recording that conversation has been unearthed by Martin Edwin Andersen, who in 1987 first reported that Kissinger had told the Argentine generals to proceed with their terror campaign against leftists (whom the junta routinely referred to as "terrorists"). The memo notes that Hill told Derian about a meeting Kissinger held with Argentine Foreign Minister Cesar Augusto Guzzetti the previous June. What the two men discussed was revealed in 2004 when the National Security Archive obtained and released the secret memorandum of conversation for that get-together. Guzzetti, according to that document, told Kissinger, "our main problem in Argentina is terrorism." Kissinger replied, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But you must get back quickly to normal procedures." In other words, go ahead with your killing crusade against the leftists.
The new document shows that Kissinger was even more explicit in encouraging the Argentine junta. The memo recounts Hill describing the Kissinger-Guzzetti discussion this way:The Argentines were very worried that Kissinger would lecture to them on human rights. Guzzetti and Kissinger had a very long breakfast but the Secretary did not raise the subject. Finally Guzzetti did. Kissinger asked how long will it take you (the Argentines) to clean up the problem. Guzzetti replied that it would be done by the end of the year. Kissinger approved....
In other words, Ambassador Hill explained, Kissinger gave the Argentines the green light.
Kissinger watchers have known for years that he at least implicitly (though privately) endorsed the Argentine dirty war, but this new memo makes clear he was an enabler for an endeavor that entailed the torture, disappearance, and murder of tens of thousands of people.
Amazon hosting most of the net's malware, says security firmShouldn't this violate some sort of obscenity statute?
Report says net's large cloud providers, including Google and GoDaddy, are unknowingly harbouring ‘on-demand’ malware
Amazon web services are the biggest malware server in the world along with GoDaddy and Google, as malware producers take advantage of the cloud, according to a new report.
The report from security firm Solutionary claims that malware writers are using the big cloud hosting platforms to quickly and effectively serve malware to oblivious internet users, allowing them to bypass detection and geographic blacklisting by serving from a trusted provider like Amazon. ...
The report claims malware producers use the cloud hosting services like Amazon and GoDaddy for the same reasons legitimate publishers use them.
The ease of website creation, low cost and speed of deployment allows malware producers to create and remove malware serving websites quickly, easily and cost effectively, allowing them to infect millions of computers and vast numbers of enterprise systems, according to the report.
Goldman Sachs pays employees average of $383,000 after profits rise 5%
Goldman Sachs paid its bankers an average of $383,000 (£233,000) in 2013, after profits for the year rose by 5% to $8bn.
Putting a fresh focus on the debate over bankers' pay, Goldman's 32,900 global employees will be told the size of their individual bonuses on Thursday.
The bank set aside $2.19bn in the quarter ending December 31 to compensate employees, up 11% from a year earlier but down 8.1% from the previous quarter. Goldman partners were told about their bonuses on Wednesday.
Where Is the Democrats' Outrage?
Shame on Republicans for blocking the resumption of long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans. And shame on Democrats for letting them.
The GOP cannot be allowed to cast this as a bloodless policy debate about "incentives" that allegedly encourage sloth. Putting that spin on the issue is disingenuous, insulting and inaccurate: As Republicans well know, individuals receiving unemployment checks are legally required to look for work. ...
But while Congress inches forward, probably toward some kind of extension, lives are falling apart. All day, every day, Democrats ought to be making a loud and righteous noise over this disgraceful state of affairs.
SEC may seek more power to enforce Volcker rule
U.S. securities regulators fear they do not have the full range of enforcement powers to police Wall Street's compliance with the controversial Volcker rule, and told Reuters they are considering new rules to fill the gap.
Officials at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission say the rule, which generally bans banks from making speculative bets with their own money, does not currently allow the agency to police brokerages for technical violations.
While such violations may seem minor, those types of enforcement actions are an important part of the SEC's mission, and they can deter or prevent more egregious behavior and send markets a strong regulatory warning.
"If we want to sanction a firm for not keeping the records or documents they are required to keep or provide reports to us in the form (it is) required, we need to take further action," John Ramsay, acting director of the Trading and Markets Division at the Securities and Exchange Commission, told Reuters in an interview this week.
Japan Remains Hotbed of TPP Protest as U.S. Tries to Fast-track Trade Deal, Crush Environmental Laws
Scahill and Rowley's "Dirty Wars" Nominated for Best Documentary Film
"Holy Shit," says Scahill as hopes rise that prominent award can elevate discussion of US drone war and Obama's "kill list" policies
The documentary film "Dirty Wars," featuring independent journalist Jeremy Scahill whose book of the same name explores the rise of the U.S military's secret war against global terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11, has been nominated for this year's Academy Award in the Best Feature Documentary category.
Announced Thursday, the nomination will likely elevate the profile of the film, its director Rick Rowley, and the investigative work of Scahill that has tracked the use of drones, assassination squads, and other controversial military strategies employed by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
[Scahill's statement on his facebook page:]As I watched the announcement of our Academy Award nomination for Dirty Wars this morning, I was flooded with memories of all of the people who risked their lives to make this film: from Somalia to Yemen to Afghanistan and beyond. And I remembered the humility and humanity of the victims of US drone strikes and night raids who welcomed us into their homes to share their painful, harrowing stories with us. Richard and I are deeply honored by this nomination and our hope is that it will enable us to fulfill our promise to the people who live under the bombs and missiles to tell their stories to the world. (Oh, and my first words were "Holy Shit!")
The Evening Greens
5,900 natural gas leaks discovered under Washington, D.C.
More than 5,893 leaks from aging natural gas pipelines have been found under the streets of Washington, D.C. by a research team from Duke University and Boston University.
A dozen of the leaks could have posed explosion risks, the researchers said. Some manholes had methane concentrations as high as 500,000 parts per million of natural gas – about 10 times greater than the threshold at which explosions can occur.
Four months after phoning in the leaks to city authorities, the research team returned and found that nine were still emitting dangerous levels of methane. "Finding the leaks a second time, four months after we first reported them, was really surprising," said Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke who led the study. ...
In addition to the explosion hazard, natural gas leaks also pose another threat: Methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas that also can catalyze ozone formation. Pipeline leaks are the largest human-caused source of methane in the United States and contribute to $3 billion of lost and unaccounted for natural gas each year.
Leaked TPP Document Reveals No Regard for Environment in Trade Agreement
Back in 2007, in order to pass a trade agreement, President Bush agreed to move enforcement of the environmental problems into the main agreement of the trade agreements so that they could actually be enforced. And that was in every trade agreement he put forward since 2007. Now we get to this trade agreement, and this leak shows us there's no enforcement. There's just some pablum talk and nothing to enforce it. And so if a state, a country is violating the environmental standards, there's nowhere to bring them to enforce it.
It's totally the opposite of the power of the investors, the corporations. They have very strong enforcement. They can take it to the trade tribunal. They can sue for potential lost damages. They go for a rigged trade tribunal made up of corporate lawyers that already support them, and they get a verdict that can't be appealed.
There's nowhere to sue here. There is no way--any mechanism.
What it puts in place is a discussion process between governments. And they can go to an arbitrator and come to a--here's our agreement; how are you going to fix things? And then beyond that there's nothing. Okay, I agree to fix everything, like you say. But there's no way to enforce it. So it's a real step back.
And a number of environmental groups have commented on it today, and they've all come to the same kind of conclusion, that this is just an unacceptable agreement, that this really is a missed opportunity to really get the environment right when it comes to trade.
What the water looks like in Charleston, WV after the Freedom Industries chemical leak pic.twitter.com/gP8Fwo6e3V— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) January 15, 2014
Budget Deal Protects Fossil Fuel Interests
The $1.1 trillion catch-all spending bill negotiated by Congressional leaders and published on Monday night shaves away at several of the Obama administration's climate priorities, propping up fossil fuels at the expense of clean energy programs. ...
The bill does not go as far toward hamstringing the administration as the forces opposed to climate action wanted. And the administration retains considerable leeway in its own campaign to exert as much influence over climate policy as it can without Congressional legislation. ...
The Department of Energy's main green technology effort, its Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program, gets $1.9 billion in the current fiscal year—$182 million more than in 2013 but nearly a third less than what President Obama had sought. Among other things, the program pays for innovations in biofuels, clean cars, and manufacturing, and for home weatherization grants. The administration will not be able to do nearly as much as it wanted in several areas, but it escaped the more devastating reductions that the House had recommended several months ago.
The bill will direct more of the DOE's research money into coal, oil and natural gas, according to summaries posted by the House and Senate appropriations committees.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Little Sonny - You're Spreading Yourself A Little Too Thin
Little Sonny - The Creeper Returns
Little Sonny - My Woman Is Good To Me
Little Sonny - Wade in the Water
Little Sonny - Memphis B-K
Little Sonny - Eli's Pork Chop
Little Sonny - Stretchin Out
Little Sonny - You Can Be Replaced
Little Sonny - I gotta find my baby
Little Sonny - Love Shock
Little Sonny - We Got A Groove
Little Sonny - Sonnys Bag
Little Sonny - I Love You Baby Until The Day I Die
Little Sonny - Twice as hard
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!