Category Archives: Satire [duh]

Headlines II: Spies, pols, threats, hacks, zones,


Lotsa ground to cover, so straight ahead, first with the Washington Times:

Greenwald to publish list of U.S. citizens NSA spied on

Glenn Greenwald, one of the reporters who chronicled the document dump by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden via the U.K. press, now said he’s set to publish his most dramatic piece yet: The names of those in the United States targeted by the NSA.

“One of the big questions when is comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’ Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists? What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer,” Mr. Greenwald told The Sunday Times of London.

And a video report from RT America:

Greenwald to reveal Americans targeted by NSA

Program Notes:

Journalist Glenn Greenwald will end his National Security Agency series by revealing the names of American citizens targeted for surveillance by the agency. Documents provided to Greenwald by whistleblower Edward Snowden have been central to his series, revealing the massive extent of the government’s surveillance on international and domestic populations. The journalist promises his last reveal will be similar to a fireworks display; the best and most impressive portion of the show is the finale. RT’s Ameera David has more information on the tantalizing tease by Greenwald.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, there’s a deeper story here:

Spy whistleblower advocate stays put

Less than two months ago, a high-profile government whistleblower advocate found himself under scrutiny — ironically in an investigation of an alleged leak to Congress.

The Pentagon’s inspector general was trying to suspend and possibly revoke the top secret access of Dan Meyer, that office’s former director of whistleblowing. At the time, the news triggered concerns in Congress that he was being retaliated against for doing his job. But Meyer, who is now executive director for intelligence community whistleblowing, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

Although he won’t comment on the specifics, he did say his security badge “had been restored.” Asked if he had any concerns about his future, he was cryptic, but upbeat. “I have been treated very well by the intelligence community,” he said.

From NBC News, both spook and eavesdropper:

Edward Snowden Tells Brian Williams: ‘I Was Trained as a Spy’

Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, is fighting back against critics who dismissed him as a low-level hacker — saying he was “trained as a spy” and offered technical expertise to high levels of government.

Snowden defended his expertise in portions of the interview that aired at 6:30 p.m. ET on Nightly News. The extended, wide-ranging interview with Williams, his first with a U.S. television network, airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Snowden said in the interview.

From New Europe, politically inconvenient:

Austria constant partner of NSA: journalist

American journalist Glenn Greenwald has said in an interview with newspaper Der Standard on Monday that Austria “constantly” works together with the American National Security Agency (NSA).

This came despite recent claims from Austrian Minister for Defence Gerald Klug that the two work together only “occasionally.”

The confidant for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said the cooperation is discreet and aimed at specific goals, though added the NSA sees countries such as Austria — which it puts in a “Tier B” category — primarily as a monitoring target, and as a partner “only secondarily.”

He said further documents on the cooperation between Austria and the NSA would “probably” be released as he understood the Austrian public is interested in the information, and added that “we” are currently deciding the best way to distribute the documents amongst journalists to speed up their reporting.

From intelNews.org, raising curious questions:

Alleged CIA spy seeks retrial after Iranian court slashes his sentence

A United States citizen held in Iran since 2011 on spy charges has appealed for a retrial after an Iranian court quashed his earlier death sentence for espionage. Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former Marine born in the US state of Arizona, was arrested in August of 2011 in Iran and charged with carrying out a covert mission for the Central Intelligence Agency.

In December of 2011, Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television and acknowledged that he was an operative of the CIA. He said in an interview that he had been trained “in languages and espionage” while in the US Army and that, in 2009, after nearly a decade of intelligence training, he was recruited by the CIA and specifically prepared to carry out what intelligence operatives sometimes refer to as a ‘dangling operation’ in Iran.

The aim of the mission, said Hekmati, was to travel to Tehran, contact Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, and pose as a genuine American defector wishing to supply the Iranians with inside information about American intelligence. His immediate task was to gain the trust of Iranian authorities by giving them some correct information in order to set the stage for a longer campaign of disinformation aimed at undermining a host of Iranian intelligence operations.

From the New York Times, street level spookery:

In Complaint, Activists Seek Audit of New York Police Surveillance

Several groups plan to file a formal complaint on Tuesday seeking an audit of the New York Police Department’s intelligence gathering operations, after recent revelations that the department had been monitoring political activists, sending undercover officers to their meetings and filing reports on their plans.

The groups said the complaint would be the first over surveillance to be filed with the department’s new office of inspector general; it is likely be a closely watched test for the office, whose duty is to oversee the tactics and the policies of the police.

The City Council, despite opposition from former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, created the office last year after complaints about the overuse of stop-and-frisk tactics and surveillance of Muslim communities.

From Homeland Security News Wire, repudiating another form of domestic “security”:

U.S. recalibrating Secure Communities

As more and more municipalities across the country refuse to hold undocumented immigrants in jail on behalf of DHS’ Secure Communities program, President Barack Obama is adopting a strategy to limit deportations to undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of violent crimes. The new strategy would help relieve political pressure on the White House as immigrant rights activists continue to label Obama as the “deporter in chief” for his administration’s aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.

Secure Communities began under the George W. Bush administration to coordinate enforcement of federal immigration laws with local communities. The FBI collects the fingerprints of individuals arrested by local and state police, to identify fugitives or individuals wanted in other jurisdictions. With Secure Communities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials review the fingerprints against immigration databases to see whther arrested individuals are deportable.

Secure Communities requires that local law enforcement agencies hold detainees until an ICE agent arrives, but police chiefs say that the law has made undocumented immigrants less likely to report crimes when they have been victims or witnesses. “The immigrant community are the prey; they are not the predators,” said Ron Teachman, chief of police in South Bend, Indiana. “We need them to be the eyes and ears. They are exploited in their workplace, in their neighborhoods and in their own homes with domestic violence.”

From the Guardian, revelations assessed:

Privacy under attack: the NSA files revealed new threats to democracy

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know the apparatus of repression has been covertly attached to the democratic state. However, our struggle to retain privacy is far from hopeless

The 20th-century question was how many targets could be simultaneously followed in a world where each of them required hack, tap, steal. But we then started to build a new form of human communication. From the moment we created the internet, two of the basic assumptions began to fail: the simplicity of “one target, one circuit” went away, and the difference between home and abroad vanished too.

That distinction vanished in the United States because so much of the network and associated services, for better and worse, resided there. The question “Do we listen inside our borders?” was seemingly reduced to “Are we going to listen at all?”

At this point, a vastly imprudent US administration intervened. Their defining characteristic was that they didn’t think long before acting. Presented with a national calamity that also constituted a political opportunity, nothing stood between them and all the mistakes that haste can make for their children’s children to repent at leisure. What they did – in secret, with the assistance of judges appointed by a single man operating in secrecy, and with the connivance of many decent people who believed themselves to be acting to save the society – was to unchain the listeners from law.

And from RT, a curious blacklisting:

Snowden, Greenwald, Appelbaum, WikiLeaks ‘blacklisted’ from Stockholm Internet Forum

Key digital rights activists – including Edward Snowden and hacker Jacob Appelbaum – have been blacklisted from the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) on internet openness and freedom. The move has caused a stir at the gathering and outraged Twitter users.

The third annual European meeting of internet activists kicked off in Sweden on May 26, with its main theme being “Internet– privacy, transparency, surveillance and control.”

But strangely enough, those whose names immediately spring to mind when it comes to the issue of surveillance are not allowed to attend the event.

And a video report from RT, focusing on the waffling of program organizations when put to the question:

Where’s Ed? Stockholm web summit slammed as Snowden, Greenwald ‘blacklisted’

Program note:

Blacklisting Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, hacker Jacob Appelbaum and others by the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) on internet freedom provoked strong criticism from participants and outrage on Twitter.

From the New York Times, rewards for switching sides:

Hacker Who Helped Disrupt Cyberattacks Is Allowed to Walk Free

The New York man who helped the authorities infiltrate the shadowy world of computer hacking and disrupt at least 300 cyberattacks on targets that included the United States military, courts and private companies was given a greatly reduced sentence on Tuesday of time served, and was allowed to walk free.

Federal prosecutors had sought leniency for the hacker, Hector Xavier Monsegur, citing what they called his “extraordinary cooperation” in helping the Federal Bureau of Investigation take down an aggressive group of hackers who were part of the collective Anonymous, of which he was a member, and its splinter groups, which had taken credit for attacking government and corporate websites.

Mr. Monsegur’s information, the authorities said, led to the arrest of eight “major co-conspirators,” including Jeremy Hammond, whom the F.B.I. had called its top “cybercriminal target” and who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in November.

The Washington Post covers an equally spooky form of everyday espionage:

Brokers use ‘billions’ of data points to profile Americans

Are you a financially strapped working mother who smokes? A Jewish retiree with a fondness for Caribbean cruises? Or a Spanish-speaking professional with allergies, a dog and a collection of Elvis memorabilia?

All this information and much, much more is being quietly collected, analyzed and distributed by the nation’s burgeoning data broker industry, which uses billions of individual data points to produce detailed portraits of virtually every American consumer, the Federal Trade Commission reported Tuesday.

The FTC report provided an unusually detailed account of the system of commercial surveillance that draws on government records, shopping habits and social media postings to help marketers hone their advertising pitches. Officials said the intimacy of these profiles would unnerve some consumers who have little ability to track what’s being collected or how it’s used — or even to correct false information. The FTC called for legislation to bring transparency to the multi-billion-dollar industry and give consumers some control over how their data is used.

From the New York Times, caught in the crossfire:

Technology Companies Are Pressing Congress to Bolster Privacy Protections

A law that allows the government to read email and cloud-stored data over six months old without a search warrant is under attack from technology companies, trade associations and lobbying groups, which are pressing Congress to tighten privacy protections. Federal investigators have used the law to view content hosted by third-party providers for civil and criminal lawsuits, in some cases without giving notice to the individual being investigated.

Nearly 30 years after Congress passed the law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which government officials have interpreted to cover newer technologies, cloud computing companies are scrambling to reassure their customers, and some clients are taking their business to other countries.

Ben Young, the general counsel for Peer 1, a web hosting company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said his customers were keeping their business out of the United States because the country “has a serious branding problem.”

Defense One asks for spare change:

Are Paychecks the Problem? Senate Considers Bonuses for Pentagon’s Cyber Workforce

Current and aspiring Defense Department personnel with cyber skills could see a boost in pay under a Senate 2015 defense policy bill that lawmakers detailed on Friday.

Defense is up against the private sector’s lucrative salaries as it endeavors to boost cyber mission forces. Pentagon Secretary Chuck Hagel recently said these forces, expected to include 1,800 personnel by year’s end, should number 6,000 professionals in 2016.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved a measure that directs each military service to determine “whether recruiting, retention, and assignment of service members with cyber skills requires bonuses or special and incentive pays,” according to the new details. The services would have to report their decisions to Congress by Jan. 31, 2015.

BBC News hacks you pocket pal:

Apple devices ‘hijacked for ransom’ in Australia

Several users of Apple devices in Australia have reported that their gadgets have been “hijacked” – with a message demanding money.

Experts believed the hack had targeted users by exploiting the Find my iPhone feature.

A message appeared on some targeted phones asking for “$100 USD/EUR” to be sent to a PayPal account.

Mobile networks have advised affected users to contact Apple, which has not yet commented on the problem.

And it’s not just Down Under, as the London Telegraph reports:

iPhones frozen by hackers demanding ransom

  • People around the world have found their iPads and iPhones frozen by hackers who are demanding cash ransoms to unlock their devices

Owners of iPhones and iPads have been targeted by a hacker who is freezing iOS devices and demanding a ransom of up to £55 to unlock them.

The majority of the attacks have taken place in Australia although there are also reports of Britons being affected.

It appears that the hacker, who goes by the name Oleg Pliss, has managed to exploit the Find My iPhone feature which can track and remotely lock stolen devices.

Reuters covers another hack attack:

Spotify to ask users to re-enter passwords after cyberattack

Music streaming service Spotify AB will ask some of its 40 million users to re-enter their passwords and upgrade their software in coming days after detecting unauthorized access to its internal systems and data.

Chief Technology Officer Oskar Stal said in a blogpost on Tuesday that it has found evidence of attackers accessing just one user’s data, which did not include payment or password information. But as a precaution, it intends to ask “certain Spotify users” to re-enter their log-in credentials, and upgrade their Google (GOOGL.O) Android app.

Spotify said it is not recommending any action yet for users of Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPhones or devices based on Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) Windows.

From CBC News, a spy in the bedroom, and for a good cause:

Spy cam nabs care worker stealing from 82-year-old Winnipegger

  • ‘What you did is despicable,’ Manitoba judge says in giving thief 2 years probation, community work

Viola Dufresne said she noticed money vanishing from her wallet starting last January, totalling nearly $1,100 over six months.

“My dad taught us morals, and all of a sudden I’m in my home and somebody rips me off. It made me mad,” she told CBC News on Monday.

Winnipeg police told Dufresne there wasn’t much they could do without evidence, so she went online and bought a spy camera. The camera, which resembles a clock radio, showed the home-care aide taking $25 from Dufresne’s wallet.

Techdirt laments:

Former CIA Director And Defense Secretary Says CIA Tried, But Failed, To Do Economic Espionage

  • from the this-doesn’t-make-the-us-look-any-better dept

US intelligence officials still seem to think that there’s some big distinction between the kind of intelligence work the US does versus the kind that other countries do. US officials time and time again claim that they don’t do “economic espionage” — even though it’s pretty clear that they do it, just through indirect means (i.e., while they don’t hand trade secrets over to companies, they’re certainly using economic information to impact policy and trade discussions).

Former Defense Secretary and CIA boss Robert Gates continued this sort of tone deaf line of thinking from US intelligence defenders by claiming that French intelligence downloads the contents of laptops from businessmen visiting Paris:

“There are probably a dozen or 15 countries that steal our technology in this way,” Gates said in an interview the Council on Foreign Relations posted online Thursday. “In terms of the most capable, next to the Chinese, are the French — and they’ve been doing it a long time.”

After the jump, the latest developments in the ongoing, ever-transforming Asian Game of Zones, including the latest American plans for Afghanistan, Sino-American cyberwar gambits, allegations of ramming, corporate targeting, the relentless push for Japanese militarization, and Pyongyang blusters belicosely. . . Continue reading

Clark and Dawe: The Down Under media war


John Clarke and Bryan Dawe, two droll comedians from Down Under [previously], offer their take on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s ongoing war on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which poor Tony feels doesn’t pay him and his policies suitable obeisance.

Their feature airs, of course, on the network in question:

From Clarke and Dawe:

Clarke and Dawe – Turning Back The News Where It Is Safe To Do So

Program note:

“Tony Abbott, Prime Minister” Originally aired on ABC TV.

Oh , and that “broadcorping castration” slip of the tongue? It’s not a lapsus linguae at all but an homage.

Annie Ominous: A surveillance state anthem


The title: “Just Trust Us.”

Program notes and lyrics:

Annie Ominous’ video lampoons the outrageous state of our national security state. The title of course begs the question, why should we? Annie O. reminds us that trust is earned, not granted freely and that absolute power corrupts absolutely—yes. How badly are our rights being violated? “It’s much worse than you realize”, says Annie O.

Lyrics: Just Trust Us!

Your metadata fills us in
On who you are and where you’ve been
On all your secrets all your sin
Just trust us!

Your credit card, your bank and phone
By Internet search, email and drone
What you thought was not is known!
Just trust us!

We all hoped you wouldn’t care
Pardon but we like to stare
Far into your underwear
Just trust us!

We’ve thrown your rights under the bus
With trillions that you spend on us
It’s fascism without the fuss!
Just trust us!

Judges, politicians too
We’re hacking them, we’re tracking you
We know everything you do
Just trust us!

We can cherry-pick a crime
For twice the busts in half the time
All for the corporate bottom line
Just trust us!

Oppression has been privatized
By moles and trolls and spooks and spies
Its much worse than you realize
Just trust us!

We’ll hack and track and snoop and spy
For evidence we classify
The rule of law does not apply
Just trust us!

Our tentacles you can’t avoid
We love to make you paranoid
We know about your hemmorhoid
Just trust us!

What we claim the truth belies
We just keep telling big fat lies,
Spinning spirals in your eyes!
Just trust us!

Perfidious, unscrupulous!
salac(ee)ous and slanderous!
scurrilous and scandalous!
Just trust us!

Yes, we know exactly where
That extra dark and kinky hair
Grows out of your derriere!
Just trust us!

BBC3 Comedy: The Israeli Embassy’s Extension


Simply brilliant, and certain never to be seen on U.S. network television:

The Israeli Embassy’s Extension

From a report on the video from the Times of Israel:

A recent BBC television sketch lampooned alleged Israeli policies by telling businesses located near the Israeli Embassy in London that their properties were to be taken over to make way for an extension of the embassy.

In the sketch, actors dressed as workmen inform property owners that the embassy did not require paperwork to seize their assets because the embassy had a God-given right to appropriate their land.

The candid camera sketch was broadcast on BBC 3 in December, as part of the channel’s “The Revolution Will be Televised” show, which according to the BBC’s website “bring[s] corruption, greed and hypocrisy to the fore. Politicians, multinationals and tax-shy corporations who have been taking the public for a ride for years are now on the receiving end.”

Fukushimapocalypse Now! French cartoon flap


Le Canard enchaîné, a French satirical weekly, has enraged the Japanese government by publishing cartoons raising the question of whether or not the ongoing, escalating nuclear crisis at Fukushima makes the country a suitable Olympic venue.

Here’s the first:

“Thanks to Fukushima, sumo is now an Olympic sport”

“Thanks to Fukushima, sumo is now an Olympic sport”

Agence France-Presse reports via the London Telegraph:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the satirical jabs give the wrong impression about Japan. The government has repeatedly claimed the accident and its waste water problem are under control and should not affect the Olympics.

Japan is traditionally sensitive to opinions about it expressed in foreign media and has been angered that a crisis that brought such human tragedy has become the subject of caricature.

“These kinds of satirical pictures hurt the victims of the disaster,” Suga told a news conference.

More from euronews:

Japan was angered last year after a French broadcaster used a composite picture that showed Japanese national soccer team goalie Eiji Kawashima with four arms and the caption “Fukushima Effect” about a save he made in a game between the two nations. The broadcaster subsequently apologised.

Japan was chosen as host for the 2020 Olympics on Sept 7, beating Madrid and Istanbul despite the issues posed by the Fukushima plant, some 230 km (140 miles) from Tokyo.

The crisis shows no signs of ending. The operator of the plant said on Wednesday that levels of tritium — considered one of the least harmful radioactive elements — spiked more than 15 times in groundwater near a leaked tank over three days this week.

Here’s the second of the two images raising hackles in Tokyo:

“There is already a pool in Fukushima for the Olympics. We will perhaps reauthorize its use for swimmers.”

“There is already a pool in Fukushima for the Olympics. We will perhaps reauthorize its use for swimmers.”

Given that the Japanese government has repeatedly underplayed the seriousness of  the ongoing crisis and entrusted conduct of the cleanup to a company demonstrably incapable of dealing with the escalating crisis, a couple of cartoons should be the least of their worries.

Simply hilarious: Help Kickstart World War III!


From the Second City Network:

Help Kickstart World War III!

The credits:

President Obama needs your help starting World War III! Find out how you can help!

Written by John Loos
Staring Brianna Baker, Neal Dandade, Greg Ott and Niccole Thurman.
Directed and Produced by Jeph Porter | Sound Jason Culver | Production Coordinator Joel Labahn | Hair/Makeup Chloe Hector

(c)2013 The Second City Inc.

H/T to Naked Capitalism.

An esnl PSA mix: From your friends at the NSA


First, from vlogger Rasp Berry:

The NSA — We’re always here to listen

The program notes:

NSA is our new best friend. They’re always there to listen. :D

Funny or Die’s Trevor Moore of the Whitest Kids U’ Know tells us what we can do about the NSA wiretapping our phones.

NSA Wiretapping Public Service Announcement

And then there’s this, which will bring smiles to any Verizon subscriber. From
CTNMVH:

A Night At The NSA

The program notes:

The NSA has some issues when monitors Verizon lines.

Starring:
Winston Carter
Ben Crutcher
Brand Rackley

And finally, as he is with most things, Der Fuhrer is fuhererious over the Ft. Meade folks knowing his web-surfing antics.

From vlogger brighterside111:

Hitler upset about the NSA data mining his internet activities

Class Humor Interlude: ‘Pay to Stay’ Jail in Fremont


From Jimmy Kimmel Live, a report on a San Francisco Bay Area community’s latest twist in the hunt for city finances by giving richer criminals a way to avoid all that unpleasantness that comes from hanging out with a lower class of misdemeanant:

“Pay to Stay” Jail in Fremont

So if you’ve got the cash, they’ll keep you from getting raped?

We’ve got a better motto: Stay in our hole and yours will be safe.

Headlines of the day II: Of spooks and silly walks


From MapLight.org, a case of fidelity to their sponsors, not their constituents:

House Members Voting to Continue NSA’s Dragnet Surveillance Received Twice as Much From Defense Contractors

From The Guardian, politicians who stand up:

Wyden calls Fisa court ‘anachronistic’ as pressure builds on Senate to act

Dick Durbin joins growing outcry among senators to rein in power of secretive court meant to serve as a check on NSA

Meanwhile, from International Business Times, another revelation about the power of the anonymous spook in Obama’s America:

Greenwald Says Low-Level NSA Analysts Can Access E-mails, Phone Calls

From Antiwar.com, making a crucial point:

The Fourth Amendment was Mortally Wounded by the Drug War Long Before National Security Tried to Kill It

From In These Times, a timely reminder:

Why NSA Surveillance Should Alarm Labor

If unions are not speaking out against PRISM, it is because they have short memories.

And on to the leaker, first with this from China Daily:

No time limit for Snowden’s stay: Russia

And a studied ambiguity, reported by RIA Novosti:

Russia to Reply to US Attorney General’s Snowden Letter

From Reuters, a German speaks truth:

German president says whistleblowers like Snowden merit respect

From New Europe, reporting on other Germans who agree:

Thousands take to streets in Germany to protest US surveillance of Internet

From AlterNet, a reminder of how some see “security”:

Shocking ‘Extermination’ Fantasies By the People Running America’s Empire on Full Display at Aspen Summit

Security Forum participants expressed total confidence in American empire, but could not contain their panic at the mention of Snowden.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, reporting on sacrificial lambs:

U.S. allowed Italian kidnap prosecution to shield higher-ups, ex-CIA officer says

From EUbusiness, a reminder that ornamental rage is still just ornamental rage:

France, Germany call for closer EU military cooperation

From The Guardian, an entry for the Department of But People Really Die:

Life as a US drone operator: ‘It’s like playing a video game for four years’

Artist Omer Fast looks at the military staff who fly drones from Nevada in a film commissioned by the Imperial War Museum

From The Guardian, a reminder that uber-WikiLeaker Bradley Manning also blew the whistle:

Bradley Manning’s ‘sole purpose was to make a difference’, lawyer insists

In closing arguments, defence lawyer paints portrait of Wikileaks source as someone without ‘evil intent’

From the New York Times, more spooky doing, this time inthe South:

Video of Clashes in Brazil Appears to Show Police Infiltrators Among Protesters

From The Guardian, reporting on the latest move to protect the rich:

Scientist banned from revealing codes used to start luxury cars

High court imposes injunction on Flavio Garcia, who has cracked security system of cars including Porsches and Bentleys

And for our final item, via The Independent, a help wanted ad from British spooks. Or perhaps the Ministry of Silly Walks:

MI5 needs a health and safety chief (but you didn’t hear it from us)

British intelligence service advertises post, but warns ‘we can’t tell you much about the job. We can’t give exact locations’

Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks (Full Sketch)

It had to happen: The KTVU baby names


KTVU, the local Fox affiliate that gave us those racist Asiana Airlines pilot names is at it again, or so the folks at Links That Stink would have us believe, via Rich Lieberman 415 Media:

BLOG Royals

Under your skin: Next up for UC students?


With the former Minister of State Security heading the University of California as of today, perhaps one of her first moves could be implementing a surefire means of making sure students don’t party too hearty.

And a new invention could help her do just that, with just a minor tweak of two.

From Reuters:

Tiny lab under the skin could stop drug cheats

The program notes:

Amid yet more claims of illegal drug-taking by high-profile athletes, scientists in Switzerland say they may have found a foolproof way to prevent the use of banned substances in sports. They say their chip implant, designed to monitor naturally-occurring substances in the blood, could also be used as a weapon against drug cheats. Jim Drury reports.

Hey, and why stop with illegal or banned compounds? Why not monitor students to make sure they’re taking their daily doses of Ritalin and/or Prozac?

Heck, why not monitor for endorphins, too, making sure students are properly upbeat. If not, as Huxley wrote, “a gramme is better than a damn.”

Gee, the possibilities are endless.

Quote of the day: Cavities without dentists


A little satire from Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I:

UC Freshman Orientation to Include Cavity Searches

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, will step down from her post to lead the University of California system.

Because nothing qualifies someone to deal with “academic freedom” as someone who has run what is probably the one Federal cabinet department that is most opposed to individual freedom and liberty.

Comment of the day: An austerian roast?


Posted by commenter SWB2 to a Washington Post story headlined “Skeleton of teenage girl confirms cannibalism at Jamestown colony”:

It just goes to show that people will be innovative and industrious in supporting themselves if we can just get rid of this safety net.

Sincerely,

Paul Ryan

Comment of the day: An austerian roast?


Posted by commenter SWB2 to a Washington Post story headlined “Skeleton of teenage girl confirms cannibalism at Jamestown colony”:

It just goes to show that people will be innovative and industrious in supporting themselves if we can just get rid of this safety net.

Sincerely,

Paul Ryan

Finally: ‘The First Honest Cable Company’


From ExtremelyDecentFilms via Corrente:

Happy Valentine’s Day, Los Angeles Police edition


Via Sociological Images:

BLOG Valentine

 

A blast from the past: The Vatican Rag


A classic performed here in Demark in 1967 and written in 1965 — during another moment of crisis in the Catholic church — the song styling of Tom Lehrer, retired UC Santa Cruz mathematician and inventor of the Jello Shot:

An esnl PSA: CATNIP: EGRESS TO OBLIVION?


In light of our musings on medical cannabis, we provide an equal time response opportunity in the form of a Sundance-debuting, audience award-winning public service announcement:

The program notes:

Debuting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and available only on YouTube

Catnip is all the rage with today’s modern feline, but do we really understand it? This film frankly discusses the facts about this controversial substance.

Watch more short films curated by Sundance Institute.

Written and Directed by Jason Willis. Starring Giovanni Dominice, Neil Kight and Terry Easley.

Inside the Making of ‘Dr. Strangelove’


It was, for those of us who grew up when the Cold War reached its peak, the perfect film, the blackest of satires about the bleakest of horrors, featuring a superlative cast and a riotous script.

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb allowed an anxiety-rid generation to laugh in the face of horror.

Appearing 15 months after the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear apocalypse, the film’s dark vision show a glaring light on the horrors of life at a time when nuclear attack drills were a regular part of school life and monthly siren blasts served as a constant reminder of the daily proximity of disaster.

The film is inextricably linked to the time it was shot, and the scheduled initial screening date for critics was changed at the very last minute because on 22 November 1963 the world was in shock because of the assassination that very day of President John F. Kennedy.

We recall our own first impression of the film as a college student in Colorado. First we felt a momentary sense of outrage, quickly followed by the first of very many outbursts of cathartic laughter.

The most memorable character, the Peter Sellers creation whose name graces the title, was a former Nazi scientist, now enshrined as the nation’s leading nuclear expert — just as former SS rocketeer Werner von Braun had become the public face of the U.S. space program.

And Sellers himself, playing three distinct roles, was never better.

So enjoy this David Naylor documentary on the creation of the film, created in 2000, for its insights into one of the most remarkable films ever made.

Inside: ‘Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’

Part 1

Part 2

.

Part 3

.

Part 4

Part 5

And it you haven’t seen the film, enjoy:

British tax collector receives his just desserts


WeAreTheIntruders, a group of British activists, donned their formal best Thursday and popped in on a retirement dinner for Britain’s top tax man to present him with a well-earned reward for his service on behalf of corporadoes and banksters:

Matthew Sparkes of the London Telegraph reports on the dubious honors for David Harnett, formally known as Permanent Secretary for Tax at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs:

Mr Hartnett was giving a speech at New College Oxford on Thursday when a group calling themselves WeAreTheIntruders, posing as employees of Goldman Sachs and Vodafone, interrupted to present him with a bouquet of flowers and the “Lifetime Achievement Award to Corporate Tax Planning”, otherwise known as the “Golden Handshake”.

HMRC was accused of agreeing controversial “sweetheart” deals with large businesses over outstanding tax bills while it was still run by Mr Hartnett. The issue exploded last year after a whistleblower revealed that HMRC had waived as much as £20m of interest on a £30m tax bill owed by Goldmans on bankers’ bonuses. It was also accused of letting Vodafone off as much as £8bn in taxes by accepting a £1.25bn settlement.

It was cleared by a National Audit Office report in June, although it was told to clean up its processes to remove the suspicion of unhealthy relationships with companies. At the time HMRC said: “We welcome today’s report. We have always maintained that the settlements represented good value for the UK.”

Read the rest.

David Leigh of The Guardian reported on that Goldman Sachs tax deal back in December:

Britain’s tax authorities have given Goldman Sachs an unusual and generous Christmas present, leaked documents reveal. In a secret London meeting last December with the head of Revenue, the wealthy Wall Street banking firm was forgiven £10m interest on a failed tax avoidance scheme.

HM Revenue and Customs sources admit privately that the interest-free deal is “a cock-up” by officials, but refuse to say who was responsible.

Documents leaked to Private Eye magazine and published in full by the Guardian record that Britain’s top tax official, HMRC’s permanent secretary Dave Hartnett, personally shook hands on a secret settlement last December.

>snip<

The £10m Christmas gift for Goldman was the culmination of a prolonged attempt by the US firm to avoid paying national insurance on huge bonuses for its bankers working in London.

The sum was pocket change to Goldman, whose employees received $15.3bn (£9.5bn) in pay and bonuses last year. Its Wall Street head, Lloyd Blankfein, received $68m in 2008 and at the height of Britain’s banking crisis 100 London partners set their bonuses at £1m each. This level was considered a mark of restraint.

Read the rest.

It wasn’t the first time Harnett was targeted. Back in November UK Uncut paid him a visit to “congratulate” him on the Goldman Sachs deal when he was delivering the keynote speech at the Corporate Tax Conference:

As the BBC reported in November, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee accused Harnett of playing too cozy a game with corporateers, finding that, among other things, he:

  • authorised a large tax settlement whose negotiation he had been involved in, breaching HMRC’s internal rules
  • had given “imprecise, inconsistent and potentially misleading answers” to MPs
  • had relationships with big companies that were “too cosy”, resulting in the appearance they received “preferential treatment”
  • had used a bogus excuse of observing taxpayer confidentiality to avoid explaining the tax deals he had been involved in.

As for Vodafone, which owns the lion’s share of Verizon, here’s what Andrew Buckwell and Martin Delgado of the London Daily Mail reported in March:

Britain’s top tax official accepted hospitality from a mobile phone company’s financial advisers only weeks before a deal which allowed the firm to avoid up to £6 billion of tax liabilities.

Dave Hartnett attended a supper at the headquarters of accountancy firm Deloitte while negotiations were still ongoing over the amount of tax its client Vodafone would have to pay.

Three months later, in what has been described as an ‘unbelievable cave-in’, Mr Hartnett agreed Vodafone was not liable for vast amounts of tax on profits racked up by a subsidiary based in a tax haven.

Read the rest.

Yep, Harnett certainly deserved those awards.