Category Archives: Idiocy

Headlines of the day I: Econo/crazy/Fuku/chaos


Lots to cover, given our slow post of late, including political madness at home, more grim numbers, the Greek debacle, and a stunning rise in radiation leaked from Fukushima.

We begin with the suggestion of a homeopathic cure from The Atlantic Wire:

Big Business Wants to Defeat the Tea Party by Being More Like the Tea Party

Frustrated business groups think they may have a way to counteract the tea party’s influence: Act more like it.

Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, reports on a downgrade:

Dagong downgrades U.S. credit rating to A-

Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. Ltd., a Chinese credit rating agency, on Thursday downgraded the local and foreign currency credit ratings of the United States to A- from A, maintaining a negative outlook.

Xinhua also offers up another rater’s dim view of American governance:

Interview: Fitch move warns U.S. of “lousy governance,” fiscal challenge

Fitch Ratings’ decision to place the AAA credit rating of the United States on a negative watch list is a timely reminder for some Republicans and the world ‘s largest economy needs to improve its long-term fiscal sustainability, said Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, Wednesday.

Quartz reports on another slice in the death by a thousand cuts of the American service worker:

An army of robot baristas could mean the end of Starbucks as we know it

Salon covers the unChristian side of the GOP’s Fundie backers:

Family Research Council: Christians should not want the government to care for the poor

“The government has a responsibility to care for the poor? That’s not what Scripture says”

From MarketWatch, revealing that Ted Cruz is a classical Republican, perhaps:

Ted Cruz reportedly failed to disclose ties to Caribbean private equity firm

Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and leader of the conservative effort to tie a curtailment of Obamacare to funding the government, is coming under scrutiny for failing to disclose ties to a Caribbean-based private equity fund.

So Cruz is a money-grubbin’ sleaze. Business as usual, right? Well, maybe there’s something a whole lot scarier goin’ on, reports Talk to Action, which has a video of the speech in question:

Cruz’ Father Suggests Ted Cruz “Anointed” to “Bring The Spoils Of War To The Priests”

In a sermon last year at an Irving, Texas, megachurch that helped elect Ted Cruz to the United States Senate, Cruz’ father Rafael Cruz indicated that his son was among the evangelical Christians who are anointed as “kings” to take control of all sectors of society, an agenda commonly referred to as the “Seven Mountains” mandate, and “bring the spoils of war to the priests”, thus helping to bring about a prophesied “great transfer of wealth”, from the “wicked” to righteous gentile believers.

The Atlantic Wire brings us a heart-warmer [or not]:

Dick Cheney Very Nearly Died in 2010

Dick Cheney very nearly succumbed to longtime heart disease in 2010, but it was okay, because he was “at peace” and enjoying sweet dreams of an Italian villa.

From Mother Jones, something to strike terror in the hearts and stomachs of the poor:

GOP Picks Anti-Food Stamp Crusader to Determine Future of Food Stamps

OpenSecrets Blog reports on true fandom:

Fundraising Down for GOP Dissidents, but Koch and Citizens United Stayed True

And the World Socialist Web Site covers the latest despicable move of Barry O’s BFF and former chief of staff:

Chicago mayor announces elimination of retiree health care subsidies

Chicago’s Democratic Party mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on October 9 that the city would go forward with a plan to entirely eliminate health insurance subsidies for retired city workers at the end of 2016. An estimated 21,100 workers, along with 9,100 of their spouses and dependents, will see their health costs rise dramatically.

From the Washington Post, grim reality:

Study: Poor children are now the majority in American public schools in South, West

A majority of students in public schools throughout the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades, according to a new study that details a demographic shift with broad implications for the country.

More grim reality, this time from the London Daily Mail:

Racism still exists when cutting a deal: Black people have to offer MORE money to seal the same contract

  • People from other races, however, didn’t suffer the same discrimination

  • Research was inspired by the 2011 U.S. Government’s debt ceiling debates

  • Scientists observed how at this time, political parties were prepared to reject a deal even if it appeared to damage their own supporters

From International Business Times, a tearjerker:

Government Shutdown Over: Fox News Is Angry, Will Miss The Ratings

And for our first transcontinental item, a warning from European Union Financial Services Commissioner Michel Barnier via Reuters:

EU’s Barnier warns U.S. of tit-for-tat action over banks

The European Union’s financial services chief warned of tit-for-tat action if the United States pushes ahead with plans to impose extra capital requirements on foreign banks.

Quartz covers yet another instance of Banksters Behaving Badly:

How traders might have made money manipulating massive currency markets

Regulators in Europe, the US, and as of yesterday, Hong Kong are looking into whether the $4.7 trillion market for currency is being manipulated by a handful of traders in order to gouge their clients and pocket big profits.

And the CBC covers the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement [CETA]:

Canada-EU free trade deal signed

Canada and the European Union have signed a tentative deal to open up markets and drop nearly all import taxes on everything from food to cars.

And Independent.ie offers a key detail:

EU finally strikes trade deal with Canada

The European Union and Canada agreed a multi-billion-dollar trade pact today that will integrate two of the world’s largest economies and paves the way for Europe to do an even bigger deal with the United States.

EurActiv debunks euromyth:

‘Benefits tourism’ in the EU is a myth, report says

There is little evidence of “benefits tourism” in Europe, according to a new European Commission study, which contradicts claims by the UK, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands that EU social security systems are under strain from Romanian and Bulgarian migrants.

From EurActiv again, hints of changes, likely too little and too late:

Minimum wage issue resurfaces in Paris election debate

Proposals for a continental minimum wage and jobs-creation dominated the first of a series of European Parliament panel debates in Paris on Tuesday (15 October), as EU-wide elections approach. EurActiv.fr reports.

From Europe Online, a most interesting pre-crash tale:

Ex-EU chief says he was “brutally” sidelined by Germany and France

Former European Commission president Romano Prodi recalled on Friday how he was “brutally” sidelined by France and Germany when he objected to them breaching the bloc’s strict deficit rules a decade ago.

And Bloomberg Businessweek covers another grim reality:

As Utility Bills Go up, European Consumers Go Ballistic

With temperatures dropping across Europe, a new controversy is heating up fast as households across the region face soaring utility bills.

Next up, Old Blighty’s austerian darkside comes into focus, declares the head of the British government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, on the issuance of its first annual report via BBC News:

Alan Milburn says child poverty ‘no longer problem of the workless and work-shy’

Working parents in Britain “simply do not earn enough to escape poverty”, the government’s social mobility tsar Alan Milburn has warned.

And the London Telegraph covers austerian hypocrisy from Britain’s money minister:

Osborne: Britain must up its game to compete in global economy

Britain has lost its sense of ambition and optimism and has allowed “the bits that were great” to wither, George Osborne has said as he called on the country to “up our game”

But some folks got game, via the London Daily Mail:

The James Bond of prams! Aston Martin release £2,000 buggy in time for Christmas – modelled on their £1.2m coupe

  • Only 800 Silver Cross Surf Aston Martin Edition on sale in Harrods

  • Features an Alcantara ultra-soft Italian suede interior and winged logo

  • Leather push bar and alloy wheels based on £1.2m One-77 coupe

Ireland next, with another austerian hit via Independent.ie:

Families hit by €360 hikes for health insurance

FAMILIES will be hit with hikes of up to €360 in the annual cost of health insurance after a move in the Budget to change the tax treatment of premiums.

Next up, France, first with some blowback to racism from on high via BBC News:

French schoolchildren march in anger over expulsions

Thousands of schoolchildren in Paris and other parts of France have been demonstrating in anger over the expulsion of two foreign teenagers.

The students were especially angry over the deportation of a 15-year-old Roma girl, reports RFI:

Paris school students protest after Kosovo Roma girl’s deportation

Police fired teargas in Paris Thursday after clashes at a school students’ protest against the deportation of a 15-year-old Roma from Kosovo and a 19-year-old Armenian.

And France 24 brings us up to date with coverage of more demonstrations Friday:

Paris students intensify protests over deportations

Thousands of high school students in Paris took to the streets for a second consecutive day on Friday to protest against the deportation of foreign pupils following the controversial expulsion of 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani earlier this month.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on xenophobia translated into political action:

Xenophobes of the world, unite? French, Dutch far-right weigh alliance

France’s National Front and the Netherlands’ Freedom Party are set to meet next month to discuss a joint anti-EU platform. Can an international alliance of nationalists work?

Deutsche Welle adds another dimension:

French recession, insecurity ‘good for Marine Le Pen’

France’s far-right National Front (FN) won a victory in a local by-election. Nonna Mayer, Research Director at the National Research Centre in Paris, spoke to DW about the ramifications.

And RFI tracks the latest racist outrage, smearing an African-born French official:

Front National suspends candidate for comparing justice minister to ape

France’s far-right Front National (FN) has sacked one of its candidates in next year’s local council elections after she posted an image of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as an ape on Facebook.

From EurActiv, another controversial French gambit:

French bid to boost aid by taxing finance stirs hornets nest

The French National Assembly’s finance committee has green-lighted an amendment to the country’s draft 2014 budget law, significantly increasing the amount of aid funds that can be generated from the upcoming financial transactions tax (FTT), EurActiv.fr reports.

Germany gets some sobering news, via Xinhua:

German economic institutes cut 2013 growth forecast

Germany’s leading economic thinktanks on Thursday cut their 2013 growth forecast by half to 0.4 percent, but said domestic demand and better global climate will help Europe’s biggest economy to rebound in 2014.

But Europe Online offers some Germanic reassurance:

Advisers to German government forecast robust growth in 2014

The German government’s panel of economic advisers on Thursday forecast robust growth for the country’s economy next year, after a lacklustre start this year, as well as surging tax revenues.

And the Christian Science Monitor notes that things could be looking up for those at the bottom of the German pyramid in a nation currently without any minimum wage laws or regulations:

Federal minimum wage a step closer to reality… in Germany

Germany’s SPD and CDU announced today they would begin talks to form a coalition government – talks that the SPD had predicated on a federal minimum wage law.

Switzerland next, where the banksters at Frey & Co have voted to close up operations and return 2 billion Swiss francs {$2.2 billion] to depositors, reports the Economic Times:

Second Swiss bank closes over US tax pressure

A second Swiss bank has decided to close its doors as the United States cranks up pressure on financial institutions for abetting tax evasion.

On to Spain, first with some bankster boomerism from El País:

Brussels sees Spain making a clean exit from bailout program

  • In political success story scenario, ECB also feels there will be no need to extend rescue loan’s maturity

  • EU will wait to rule on bailout extension for Spain

From thinkSPAIN, another pump-priming effort:

Plan PIVE relaunched: Great deals for car-buyers as Spanish motor industry flourishes

A FOURTH version of a ‘scrap-for-cash’ part-exchange scheme allowing drivers to get new cars at heavily-discounted prices is due to be launched in the next few days thanks to a government investment of 70 million euros.

While El País covers the latest move to head off foreclosures in a country where the mortgage-holder remains indebted even after the property has been seized:

Strasbourg intervenes to stop eviction of 16 families from Girona apartments

Protestors rejoice in Salt as squatters given reprieve at least until end of the month

thinkSPAIN covers an anti-austerian reaction:

Three regional governments take legal action over hospital drug payment rules

THE Basque Country’s regional government intends to take legal action over new pressure on patients to pay for drugs dispensed in hospital.

Europe Online spots a dark cloud looming:

Amount of bad loans hits record levels in Spain

The share of bad loans on the balance sheets of Spanish banks, cooperatives and credit establishments rose in August to the record level of more than 180 billion euros (245 billion dollars), the Bank of Spain said Friday.

And El País reports on the new austerian budget:

Government unveils four-billion-euro fiscal adjustment plan for 2015

Rajoy administration has not confirmed whether personal income tax hike will remain in place

Italy next, with a lone headline from the European Union Times:

Italians go on strike to protest austerity measures

Thousands of Italian civil servants and transport workers have gone on strike in the capital Rome and other cities to protest against austerity measures enforced by the government.

After the jump, the latest grim Greek tidings, developments in Latin America, conflicting signals from Moscow, Delhi, and Beijing, and the latest catastrophic news from Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Republicans sink to a new low


Literally, as well as metaphorically. From a new Gallup report, “Republican Party Favorability Sinks to Record Low“:

BLOG GOPlo

Quote of the day: Greed and the classroom


From Cory Doctorow, writing at Boing Boing:

The University of Toronto’s School of Business has advised its faculty to avoid assigning articles from the Harvard Business Review to their students. Though the U of T library has a digital subscription to the Review, Harvard has put it — and other schools — on notice that they will be billed separately if they are caught assigning, suggesting, or referring to HBR articles in classrooms. That’s because the license agreement for academic HBR subscriptions forbids using HBR in coursework, and Harvard is now enforcing those terms, and hoping to extract rent from universities where the profs assume, foolishly, that just because a scholarly journal is in their library on a paid-up subscription, they can tell the students to go and read it.

BBC plays Fox, foiled in attack on Greenwald


BBC presenter Kirsty Wark plays government tool using the best of Roger Ailes “have you stopped beating your spouse” interview technique and fails to land a hit on the lawyer-turned-journalist who has played the pivotal role in publishing the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The clearly adversarial tone is breathtaking, marking yet another new nadir for the once-globally respected government mouthpiece.

From BBC Newsnight:

NEWSNIGHT: Glenn Greenwald full interview on Snowden, NSA, GCHQ and spying

The program note:

BBC Newsnight exclusive interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald on Edward Snowden, the PRISM revelations and mass surveillance.

Quote of the day: All Koched up and angry, too


Ruth Conniff of The Progressive tells a very instructive story about just what happens when you try to peer behind the carefully and expensively drawn veil the Koch brothers have drawn around their American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], the secretive cabal of necons doing so much to destroy the American commons.

Her story focuses on what happened when a process server tried to file a subpoena on Wisconsin GOP state senator Leah Vukmir, ordering him to turn over documents relating to an ALEC conference in May.

Coniff describes what happened when process server Bruce Lowrey attenpred to serve the notice on Vukmir aide Jason Rostan:

“I handed him the paperwork and asked him to make sure that he gets them to the senator,” Lowery stated in his affadavit [sic]. “He, at that time, started to call me a low life jerk and a f-..ing a..hole. I left her office and Jason Rostan chased me on a full run. When I got outside, Jason was running after me and he pushed me and knocked me down and threw the paperwork at me and continued to call me all kinds of vulgar names and kept trying to put the papers in my pockets.

According to an account in the Wisconsin State Journal, Lowrey told his wife and business partner about his bad experience, and she went back the next day to Senator Vukmir’s office.

“One of the guys got rude and snotty and I told him to stop right there,” Chris Lowery told the State Journal.

“I told them, ‘You guys are the ones who make the law, and you have to follow it. Be professional.’”

She then reached around behind the staffer and touched the legal documents to his hands, explaining that made the service legal, and left the papers on a desk.

Read the rest.

Rostan denies shoving the process server but acknowledges he might’ve handled the situation better.

We’ll leave the choice of who to believe up to you, gentle reader.

Headlines of the day I: Spooks, pols, and a video


While it’s a headlines column, we’ll start today with a cartoon from Tom Toles of the Washington Post that says much:

BLOG Toles

SWIFT, outed by the Edward Snowden leaks, is the National Security agency’s financial transaction super-tracker, and Spiegel reports it’s drawing lots of heat:

SWIFT Suspension? EU Parliament Furious about NSA Bank Spying

Revelations the US is spying on international bank transfers have angered European parliamentarians. Some are calling for the suspension of the SWIFT deal between the EU and US. “Washington must make clear where it stands,” says one.

“Can you hear me now?” via The Guardian:

Fisa court: no telecoms company has ever challenged phone records orders

Judge says requests for mass customer data have not been challenged ‘despite the mechanism for doing so’

From Al Jazeera America reporting a court ruling posted online here [PDF]:

FISA court: Phone tapping doesn’t violate Constitution

From Techdirt, “Can you hear me now?” II:

Same Day It’s Revealed Verizon Has Never Challenged NSA, It Mocks Internet Companies For Doing So

from the poor-timing dept

From Ars Technica, the NSA, restin’ easy:

NSA Buddy System

NSA aims to plug holes that sprang Snowden leaks

NSA official: “Could someone today do what [Snowden] did? No.”

From the Daily Dot, more assurances:

The NSA knows which documents Edward Snowden swiped

And the headline from actor John Cusack’s timely essay in The Guardian:

Will Eric Holder guarantee NSA reporters’ first amendment rights?

The US attorney general vows not to prosecute journalists, but his criminalisation of whistleblowers undermines that assurance

Call ‘em Freedom Hacks, via Techdirt:

NSA Apparently Purchasing Software Exploits From French Security Firm

from the and-everyone’s-a-little-less-safe-now dept

And from MercoPress, call it black “oops”:

Brazilean hackers miss their target and attacks NASA instead of NSA

  • “At no point were any of NASA primary websites, missions or classified systems compromised” said spokesman Allard Beutel

  • Hackers have hit back in retaliation for US cyber-spying on Brazil but mistook the US space agency NASA for the National Security Agency (NSA), a news website reported here Tuesday.

A question from the Christian Science Monitor:

Did Brazil’s president just knock down US influence a notch or two?

The postponement of President Dilma Rousseff’s US state visit is a blow. But her domestic political standing may be as much a factor as anger over NSA spying.

From the Brazil Sun, continued Latin blowback:

Brazil may opt out of US-centric Internet following NSA spying claims

More from the BBC:

Brazil data plan aims to keep US spies at bay

Brazil is considering ways to make local use of the internet less dependent on US-based services, following leaks about Washington’s cyberspy operations.

And from the BBC, a map of the NSA-free cable system under development by Brazil and the other BRICS nations:

BLPOG Brics cable

From The Guardian, a little civil rights role reversal:

Americans need more protection from NSA surveillance: committee chairman

Republican chairman Bob Goodlatte calls for ‘robust oversight’ of NSA programs and that ‘further protections are necessary’

From Deutsche Welle, more German blowback:

German privacy primus chides secret services

Germany’s federal commissioner for data privacy and freedom of information Peter Schaar has told an international conference in Berlin that intelligence services must disclose more of their workings to civil society.

Meanwhile, the penal censors strike again, via the Journalism in the Americas Blog:

New law in Grenada to punish offensive online content with up to one year in prison

From Business Insider, more Black Oops:

Tasteless Joke About Bomb Attack In The Philippines Gets Pentagon-Run Twitter Account Shut Down

And from SINA English, not a surprise:

UK intelligence still active in HK: reports

And a “Gee, ya really think so?” headline from the South China Morning Post:

China crackdown on online rumours seen as tactic to silence critics

And changes in Japan, via the Mainichi:

Gov’t decides to clearly state ‘public’s right to know’ in state secrets protection bill

Fishin’ chips, from Ars Technica:

Researchers can slip an undetectable trojan into Intel’s Ivy Bridge CPUs

New technique bakes super stealthy hardware trojans into chip silicon.

From We Are Change and JoyCamp:

Satirical video treat: The iPhone 5nSa

The program notes:

Introducing the new iPhone nSa, the best surveillance device to date. It aims to put your freedom… in the crosshairs

And to close, an item from the “Look in the mirror and see who’s wearin’ the clown nose, Bozo” Department via [who else] Techdirt:

Former NSA Boss Hayden Says Snowden Likely To Become An Alcoholic Because He’s ‘Troubled’ And ‘Morally Arrogant’

from the funny-you-should-say-that dept

Headlines of the day 1: Of spooks and others


We begin with an odd admission from the Director of National Intelligence via the Los Angeles Times:

Clapper: Snowden case brings healthy debate; more disclosures to come

Legal face-saving, or so headlines Salon:

Parts of Yahoo NSA court order to be declassified

A 2008 FISC ruling ordered Yahoo to hand over customer data to the government; the tech firm wants to save face

And another adminssion, via The Guardian:

Fisa judge: Snowden’s NSA disclosures triggered important spying debate

Dennis Saylor orders government to review rules on surveillance and says further declassification would protect court’s integrity

Guess who’s searching whom, via CNET:

NSA disguised itself as Google to spy, say reports

If a recently leaked document is any indication, the US National Security Agency — or its UK counterpart — appears to have put on a Google suit to gather intelligence.

The we’re-the-Zeitgeist-incarnate corporate excuse, via The Guardian:

Google’s Eric Schmidt says government spying is ‘the nature of our society’

Tech giant’s executive chairman calls for greater transparency but declines to ‘pass judgment’ on spying operations

Computerworld drops a shocker:

Google knows nearly every Wi-Fi password in the world

Examples you don’t need to Goggle, from Wired:

6 Whopping Government Misstatements About NSA Spying

From our “Gee, we’re stunned—not” collection, via The Guardian:

Obama’s NSA surveillance review panel did not discuss changes, attendees say

Pair say meeting was dominated by tech firms’ interests and session did not broach the topic of changes to data collection

And from Techdirt, N.Y.P.D Blue Black [Ops]:

AP Journalists: The NYPD ‘Less Transparent’ Than CIA, FBI And NSA When It Comes To FOI Requests

from the ray-kelly-states-info-needs-to-be-pried-from-his-cold,-live-fingers dept

From The Guardian, Greens decry:

Green leader says major parties ‘rolled over’ on NSA and GCHQ scandal

Natalie Bennett tells party conference Tories, Lib Dems and Labour have wilted in face of Edward Snowden revelations

And from the London Telegraph, a corporate leak and another shade of green:

‘BAE’ documents lost by SFO found at cannabis farm

Documents identifying prosecution witnesses in a case against defence contractor BAE Systems turned up at a cannabis farm in east London after being lost by the Serious Fraud Office, it has emerged.

A case of I Spy/He Sue from Ars Technica:

Kim Dotcom sues New Zealand for $7 million over illegal spying, raid

New details emerge about the Mega-raid: including video cameras, secret pencams.

Finally, from the Department of the NSA-had-it-anyway, the worst use of “Like” since Valley Girls started turning gray, via BuzzFeed:

Montana Lt. Gov. “Accidentally” Liked Picture Of Breasts On Facebook — Then Quickly Scrubbed His Account

“Breasts.Proof men can multitask2″ reads the image’s caption that was liked by a top-tier Democratic recruit for U.S. Senate. “This was spam,” a Montana Democrat says.

Television pranking: Sometimes, it’s just too much


We love a good practical joke as much as the next person, but some folks seem to be taking the prank to another level — one that’s just a little too extreme.

Here’s a Brazilian commercial for LG’s new Ultra High Definition [8.3 million pixels] television, in which folks whoi think they’re applying for work see just how good the South Korean firm’s hardware is:

Ultra Reality: What would you do in this situation? – LG Meteor Prank

The program notes:

You won’t believe what the new LG technology, Ultra HD can do. Welcome to the Ultra Reality of LG. Learn more: http://lgtv.cl/ultrahd

And here’s another heart-stopping prank, this one from a Japanese television show, posted to YouTube by a South Korean vlogger:

Okay, enough is enough. When pranks produce terror, they cease to be pranks and become something quite different: Torture.

When cultures find such abject horror humorous, we’ve all got problems.

Arguably the raptor prank is ludicrous on its face, an impossibility. But not to the young office worker confronted by the carefully constructed chimera.

But the meteor prank is all too plausible. The only time we ever had the shit scared out of us [literally] was when we saw something similar that lead us to believe that World War III had arrived. The terror we felt is nothing we’d wish on anyone.

To use terror to sell a product is nothing less than despicable.

Headlines of the day II: Fukushimapocalypse Now!


Just so darn many headlines today that we decided to break out the torrid TEPCO tales for an item all by themselves.

The economics roster will follow in an hour or so.

We start with this from the Asahi Shimbun:

TEPCO locates groundwater inflow into reactor turbine building for first time

Followed by this very nasty tidbit from NHK WORLD:

Leaked water may have reached groundwater

South China Morning Post offers this official effort to pour oil on troubled waters [lots of luck with that, as BP can tell you]:

Japan watchdog chides Tepco over misleading Fukushima reports

The chief of Japan’s nuclear watchdog chided the operator of the Fukushima plant on Thursday for its inability properly to explain problems, which he said was inflating fears around the world.

And the wait-a-minute follow from Reuters:

Regulator raps Fukushima operator over “unreliable” data

And some reassurance from the Japan Daily Press:

Japanese government says it is keeping in touch with US, international experts on Fukushima crisis

And a “Gee, you really think?” item from euronews:

Fresh leaks and higher radiation at Fukushima point to disarray in Japan’s crisis management

From ENENews, yet another source of confidence:

Crane arm snaps while removing debris from Fukushima Unit 3

Here’s a video of the collapse from those fine folk at Tepco. It’s the crane to the immediate left of the nearerer of the towers, and the collapse starts at 1:37:

And for our next headline from Vice we have no comment:

Japan Wants to Move Families Back to Radioactive Fukushima

From our Department of “Can you Say Chernobyl?,” via the London Telegraph:

Russian ambitions to build nuclear reactors in Britain are ‘realistic’, say ministers

Ministers have opened the door to Russia building nuclear reactors on British soil, signing an agreement describing it as a “realistic longer-term ambition”.

Finally, a headline from Salon explains much:

Study proves that politics and math are incompatible

People were more likely to solve a problem incorrectly when it conflicted with their political beliefs

Stupid Corporate Tricks: A very odd launch date


Microsoft’s vastly ballyhooed [and spook’s delight] Xbox One video game set now has an official launch date, 22 November.

Now Microsoft is presumably staffed by some relatively intelligent people, and certainly some rich ones, so we’ve got to ask what the hell were they thinking?

Now a video game controller launch is guaranteed to get a certain amount of press these days, but if Microsoft wanted to do the one thing destined to minimize the coverage of their new toy, they couldn’t have picked a better date?

See, exactly 50 years ago this 22 November, something happened, and depraved and diminished as our modern news media may be, we can be very certain that their attention will focus a lot more on Dallas, Texas, than on the new Microsoft toy.

And if Microsoft’s intent is to upstage the remembrance of what happened at Dealey Plaza, they’re nothing less than despicable.

Stupid American legal tricks: They’re not so new


The European Union Times offers up a compendium of stupid legal tricks from all lands, with an emphasis on the good ol’ U.S.A..

Some examples:

A large number of ridiculous laws exist in the state of Alabama. In Montgomery, pedestrians are prohibited from opening umbrellas in the streets, so as not to frighten horses. In Alabama, it is forbidden to drive a car blindfolded. It is also considered a crime to carry ice cream in pockets, to spit in the presence of women, to wear fake mustache in a church and appear masked in the streets.

In Pennsylvania, authorities pay great attention to clean homes. According to the laws of the state, housewives are not allowed to hide dirt and dust under the carpet. It is also considered illegal for more than 16 women to live in one house. The law, however, allows 120 men to live together. In the state of Idaho, it is forbidden to fish while sitting on a camel.

In Minnesota, the law prohibits to hang men’s and women’s underwear on the same rope. Sleeping naked is illegal too. In Cleveland, Ohio, women are prohibited from wearing patent leather shoes, because men can see a reflection of underwear in them. In Oxford, Ohio, women can not undress, standing in front of a portrait of a man. In Seattle, Washington, a woman, who sits without a pillow on the lap of a man in buses or trains, will face a prison term of one year. In New York, the law prohibits the presence of naked mannequins in shop windows. In the town of Carmel, also located in the State of New York, a man faces a fine if he goes out wearing pants that do not fit his jacket. The authorities of the state of Washington went even further: it is officially banned to pretend having wealthy parents. Also in Washington, the people, who came to the U.S. with intent to commit a crime, must at first call the police and inform them about the availability of such plans.

Read the rest.

The corrisive consequences of privatization


Paul Buchheit, who teaches the causes and consequences of economic inequality at DePaul University. Is one of the founders of Us Against Greed and an activist with US Uncut Chicago.

In this interview with Jessica Desvarieux of The Real News Network, he talks about the destructive effects of the neoliberal push for privatization of the commons:

How is Privatization Failing America?

An excerpt from the transcript:

Our health-care system—and the right-wingers will blame Medicare, but it’s the cost of—it’s too many hands of the pot. You have doctors and hospitals and insurance companies and drug companies, and they’ve worked the system to the point where basic surgeries, you know, kidney stones or something, cost three times more in America than in countries with a single payer. And it’s not just the cost of care. Administrative costs are about three times higher for private medicine than for Medicare. And these are reputable studies or reports that have shown us that our private health care system is clearly out of control. And I think everybody realizes that, but there’s too much money being made by those CEOs you mentioned to change the system.

And one more point on that about CEOs. Think about this. The Medicare administrator last year made about $200,000. The CEO of MD Anderson Cancer Center made ten times as much, $2 million, and the CEO of UnitedHealthcare made 300 times as much, $50 million. I mean, you know, when you think about the importance of providing care, health care to everybody in our country, children and old people especially, and millions of dollars are going to just a few individuals, it’s really rather obscene.

Headlines of the day I: Stupid intelligence tricks


We open with this latest bit of news for which we can thank Edward Snowden, by way of the Washington Post:

NSA gathered thousands of Americans’ e-mails before court struck down program

More succinctly, from The Hill:

Court: NSA violated Constitution with domestic email surveillance

From the Department of Feel Good Yet? Via The Guardian:

White House: US government wouldn’t force reporters to destroy computers

Official says it would be ‘very difficult to imagine a scenario’ where newspapers would be ordered to surrender leaked secrets

And from Reuters, some assignment of blame goes right to Number 10 Downing Street:

Close Cameron aides asked paper to destroy Snowden data

More from The Guardian:

Guardian told to destroy NSA files for national security, says Clegg

Clegg’s spokesman confirms that Sir Jeremy Heywood made request on instructions of David Cameron

Some blowback, via Deutsche Welle:

Criticism as Britain pressures Guardian to ditch Snowden files

Germany’s chief human rights official has criticized a British demand that a British newspaper destroy material leaked by US whistlebower Edward Snowden. Russia also expressed condemnation for the move.

And, ahem, the ostensible reason, from Wired:

U.K. Ordered Guardian to Destroy Snowden Files Because Its Servers Weren’t Secure

From EUobserver, europols demonstrating the sound of one hand washing:

Miranda detention is internal matter for UK, EU says

And from World Socialist Web Site, a suspicion we share:

Detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner approved at highest levels of US and UK governments

From Spiegel, a dash of German Realpolitik:

Black Helicopters: Britain’s Blind Faith in Intelligence Agencies

Most in Britain seem unconcerned about the mass surveillance carried out by its intelligence agency GCHQ. Even the intimidation tactics being used on the Guardian this week have caused little soul-searching. The reason is simple: Britons blindly and uncritically trust their secret service.

And from Xinhua, something europols will probe:

EU to launch independent investigation into PRISM scandal

The latest on the NSA’s ability to search the Internet without a warrant from the Washington Post:

Report: NSA can ‘reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic’

More details from Techdirt:

NSA & FBI Spied On All Emails In Salt Lake City Before & After The Olympics

from the minimization? dept

And from our Department of Ominous Acronyms, via Ars Technica:

Feds spending over $5.1M on facial recognition surveillance program

Meet DHS’ “Biometric Optical Surveillance System,” or BOSS.

It’s not just your face. The government also wants to own your passwords, reports Forbes:

Ditch Your Passwords — US Gov To Issue Secure Online Ids

Finally, via RIA Novosti, a rare moment of sanity, thanks to Rep. Dana Rohrbacher:

US ‘Shooting Self in Foot’ in Row with Moscow over Snowden– US Lawmaker

Quote of the day: America’s jumped the shark


From Tom Kludt, writing at TPM:

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government’s post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren’t sure who to blame.

Advertisement of the day: Bachmann balderdash


Via The Galloping Beaver, a public service ad from Christians for Michelle Bachmann™:

BLOG Michelle

Headlines of the day I: Spooks and Big Brother


We open with our Ominous Headline of the Day from Cryptogon:

Apple Patents Kill Switch for Mobile Devices Because: “Covert Police or Government Operations May Require Complete ‘Blackout’ Conditions.”

And from our Stupid Intimidation Tricks file, this from The Guardian:

Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours

David Miranda, partner of Guardian interviewer of whistleblower Edward Snowden, questioned under Terrorism Act

Also from The Guardian, the detainee’s partner responds:

Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation

The detention of my partner, David Miranda, by UK authorities will have the opposite effect of the one intended

And from the BBC, some Latin blowback from the detention:

Snowden case: Brazil ‘concerned’ after UK detention

Brazil says the detention under British terror laws of one of its citizens at London’s Heathrow airport caused “grave concern” and was “unjustified”.

Meanwhile, a corporate giant talks security in Moscow, via RIA Novosti:

Google, Russian Senators to Talk Data Protection

From The Daily Dot, an organization braces with battle:

Is WikiLeaks bluffing, or did it really just post all its secrets to Facebook?

More from Business Insider:

Wikileaks Just Released A Massive ‘Insurance’ File That No One Can Open

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, that damn T-word:

Egypt government paints opponents as terrorists; US journalists targeted

From the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong braces for Occupy:

Senior police officers asked to delay retiring amid manpower fears over Occupy Central

Senior officers being asked to delay leaving the force, sources say, amid fears over public order and the planned civil disobedience in Central

From Techdirt, stupid prosecutorial tricks:

Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service

from the either-you-help-us-spy-on-people-or-you’re-a-criminal dept

And from International Business Times, stupid journalism tricks:

Time Reporter Michael Grunwald Tweets About Defending A Drone Strike On WikiLeaks’ Assange

More from Mashable:

TIME Reporter Deletes Tweet About Killing Julian Assange

And from the San Francisco Chronicle, following a fatal fire truck runover of an injured Airplane crash victim, more proof that the panopticon is a one-way mirror:

SF fire chief bans helmet cameras in wake of crash

Headlines of the day II: Spooks and insecurity


We begin with this from The Guardian:

NSA revelations of privacy breaches ‘the tip of the iceberg’ – Senate duo

Leading critics of NSA Ron Wyden and Mark Udall say ‘public deserves to know more about violations of secret court orders’

And from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, California’s high-profile senator says, “What, me worry?”:

Feinstein defends Congress’ intelligence oversight amid new revelations

And a statement of the obvious from The Guardian:

Obama has not delivered on May’s promise of transparency on drones

An escalation of drone strikes in Yemen highlights the fact that the US public is still in the dark about this use of lethal force

From The Christian Science Monitor, more bad news for Bradley Manning:

Judge: Bradley Manning ‘had reason to believe’ his acts could injure the US

More from The Guardian:

Bradley Manning’s leaks ‘wanton and reckless’, judge says

Colonel Denise Lind says ‘Manning’s conduct was of a heedless nature’ as she prepares to deliberate on soldier’s sentence

More blowback from Snowden’‘s revelations, via The 4th Media:

MERcosur Foreign Ministers Issue Alert at UN on Serious Nature of US Espionage

And from the London Daily Mail, another reminder of contingent existence:

Internet apocalypse: Google blackout sees global web traffic plunge by 40 per cent

  • All services down for five minutes in ‘unprecedented’ outage

  • Experts ‘nervously’ trying to find out the cause of mystery

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, paranoiacs target the paranoid:

Seeing threats, feds target instructors of polygraph-beating methods

Finally, “security” run amok from The Independent:

Knitting group ‘barred’ from meeting at local library because of ‘dangerous needles’

Local authority says the group is too big for new facilities, while councillor condemns the decision

Headlines of the day II: Spooks, peeks, absurdities


We open we our daily dose of the absurd, via the Moscow News:

Chinese electric car tech maker seeks ‘Snowden’ trademark

From the Washington Post, the tempest de jour:

NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

From the Washington Post again, debunking oversight:

Court: Ability to police U.S. spying program limited

Again, Techdirt makes a key point:

White House Tried To Interfere With Washington Post’s Report, And To Change Quotes From NSA

From Spiegel:

Spying on Its Own: The NSA’s Deep Bag of Tricks

Spy on US citizens? We don’t do that, the American government claimed. But new NSA documents published by the Washington Post show that the intelligence service violates the law in thousands of instances. Analysts with the agency are free to pick targets as they choose.

From The Guardian:

NSA under renewed fire after report finds it violated its own privacy rules

Revelations that NSA collected records it was not permitted to acquire pile further pressure on intelligence chief James Clapper

The Christian Science Monitor raises a question:

NSA broke privacy rules. Are latest revelations big, or same-old?

The number of NSA privacy violations tied to surveillance programs – 2,776 in one year – seems big, but there’s no context for judging. The revelations, however, appear to contradict Obama’s assurances that the NSA acts with care and propriety.

And for the obligatory ornamental rage, we turn to a powerful California lawmaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, via The Hill:

Pelosi: NSA report ‘extremely disturbing’

Once again, Techdirt digs up the essence:

Just Weeks Ago, Keith Alexander Said Review Of NSA Found Not A Single Violation; Reality: Thousands Of Violations

From Schneier on Security, the bottom line:

The NSA is Commandeering the Internet

From ars technica, a longer leak:

US gov’t: Snowden also took secret docs while working at Dell in April 2012

Former NSA contractor downloaded materials far earlier than previously believed

From the Washington Post, high fashion as [anti] spy fashion:

Designers trying to help people fight government surveillance

Activists turn to fashion to provide ways to block eavesdropping, confuse cameras and thwart drones — and to provoke conversations about U.S. surveillance programs.

The Guardian reports some good news for Julian Assange:

Ecuador restates support for Julian Assange on asylum anniversary

A year after granting WikiLeaks founder political asylum, Ecuador says it remains committed to finding solution to standoff

From Reuters, turnaround as fair play:

China to probe IBM, Oracle, EMC for security concerns: paper

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, something to help you sleep — or not:

All U.S. nuclear reactors vulnerable to terrorism, probe finds

From the BBC, a decades-belated admission of another secret already in the public domain:

Area 51 ‘declassified’ in U-2 spy plane history

The CIA has officially acknowledged the secret US test site known as Area 51, in a newly unclassified internal history of the U-2 spy plane programme.

From the Raleigh News & Observer, Big Brother on campus:

NSA establishes $60 million data analytics lab at NC State

From Xinhua, high friends in low places:

IBM buys Israeli data security company

From the London Daily Mail, whistleblower backlash

Ed Snowden shuns his father who ‘doesn’t represent him in any way’ as paranoid whistleblower also says he doesn’t trust WikiLeaks anymore

  • Snowden made claim as father, Lon, plans to travel to Russia to see his son
    Lon’s legal team said yesterday they didn’t trust Guardian or WikiLeaks

  • Also said Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald touted story out for seven-figure sum

  • Snowden: ‘They know nothing special and do not represent me in any way’

  • He adds: ‘Don’t exploit tragic vacuum of my father’s emotional compromise’

We conclude with this Orwellian nightmare, from Washington’s Blog:

Copyright Infringement Is Being Treated as Terrorism

Another landmark privatized — and destroyed


But not in Berkeley, and it was much, much older that out glorious old post office.

From Al Jazeera:

Peru destroys ancient pyramid to build home

The program notes:

An ancient pyramid in Peru has been bulldozed to make way for new flats.It is one of many famous cultural sites in and around the capital that are being sacrificed for the sake of development.Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez reports from Lima.

Headlines of the day: The economy, and Nazis


We’ll start at home, with this from In These Times:

The Force Behind Bills To Lower Wages and Suppress Workers’ Rights? You Guessed It: ALEC

The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council has modeled legislation to strip workers of their rights nationwide.

And while Detroit’s gone belly-up, the city’s still on the hook to help a plutocrat. From The Nation:

On Vultures and Red Wings: Billionaire Gets New Sports Arena in Bankrupt Detroit

And then from AlterNet, a case of collusion:

Bombshell: Plutocrats Brazenly Collude to Hurt State Economies and Screw Working People

Illinois fatcats discuss plan to sabotage state bond ratings in scheme to destroy pensions.

For our final domestic item [at least for now], we offer this from the Department of Corporations Caching Cash, via CNBC:

Big corporate names keep billions offshore: Report

On on to Europe, with some marginally good news from Deutsche Welle:

Eurozone unemployment posts first fall in two years

The number of unemployed in the countries that use the euro has fallen for the first time since April 2011. The fall in June came amid brightening economic prospects, suggesting an end to the bloc’s stubborn recession.

More from the London Telegraph:

Eurozone unemployment still ‘horrendous’ despite first fall in two years

Eurozone unemployment fell for the first time in for more than two years in June, though officials warned that the figures remained “horrendously high”

And from the hardest hit country, another take, via To Vima in Athens:

Unemployment slightly reduced in Eurozone

Marginal drop in number of unemployed for June halts rampant unemployment after two years

From Britain, the impact of austerity on what was once Europe’s finest pub lic health system, via the London Telegraph:

GPs ‘flee sinking ship’ as more leave the NHS to practise oversees

Number of family doctors who requested Certificates of Good Standing required for registering to work abroad has risen by more than a third since 2008

More woes for Spain, reported by Spiegel:

Crisis of Faith: Doubts Grow Over Spanish Reforms

Measures to pull Spain out of the crisis are failing to bear fruit and exacerbating social tensions. While some are optimistic, the core problems remain, and many are questioning the old elite’s ability to clean up the financial sector and reform the country.

And that recovery? You might want to ask young Italians. From ANSAmed:

Youth unemployment rises to 39.1% in Italy

Over half a million under-25s are looking for work

On to Greece, starting with this from EnetEnglish:

IMF says €11bn bailout shortfall lies ahead

11 Latin American countries bail out of bailout

In a 207-page report published on Wednesday, IMF cautioned that a €11bn bailout shortfall awaits Greece in 2014-15

And some words of Deutsche discouragement, via Capital.gr:

Germany: Merkel “sees” no second Greek debt haircut

Meanwhile, the Greek fascists continue their pandering, via Neos Kosmos:

“Greek only” handouts continue despite ban

Nazi anthem played during Golden Dawn’s food handout

And a Troika demand to evict homeowners in default is sure to win more friends and influence lots of people, via Keep Talking Greece:

Greek gov’t announces home evictions to start on 1.1.2014

From Greek Reporter, another austerian casualty:

Elderly Man Kills Self Over Son’s Layoff

And a Latin spin on Greek woes, via the London Telegraph:

Brazil expresses Latin America’s fury as IMF continues to support Greece

Brazil has angrily attacked last week’s £1.6bn International Monetary Fund payment to Greece on the same day as a report from the fund identified a new £9.6bn black hole in Greek finances.

And a potential economic boost, via the Drug Policy Alliance:

Uruguay Poised to Become First Country to Legalize Marijuana

And two headlines from China Daily reflect a regime embracing both privatization and a peculiar brand of austerian rationalization. First this, hinting at a partial sell-off of the commons:

China widens market access in public services sectors

And then this masterpiece of circumlocution:

Economy slows to improve endurance, quality

Finally, from our Department of Banksters Behaving Badly, an oldie but gooidie, just revealed. From The Independent:

Documents reveal Bank of England sold stolen gold for Nazis

Archived material details how gold bars plundered from Czechoslovakia were sold on behalf of Germany’s central bank in 1939

Well, that wasn’t quite so final, since we had to include this from Tokyo Desu. Strictly speaking not economic, but then. . .

Japan Should Study the Nazis For Constitutional Reform Tips, Says Finance Minister

But unlike the Nazis, Aso’s not your traditional hate of Jews. He’s also the same guy who famously said Japan should become the kind of successful country where “the richest Jews would want to live.”

Ah, Aso. His last name’s just so appropriate. . .