Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mr. Fish: At Your Service


A self-portrait by esnl’s cartoonist laureate, via Clowncrack, Mr. Fish’s blog of quaquaversal quidnunckery:

BLOG Fish

Charts of the day: Terror war trumps drug war


Two fascinating charts from  the  2014 Afghanistan Opium Survey [PDF] released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counternarcotics and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics reveal the amazing recovery of the Afghanistan’s most lucrative cash crop.

First, total production on a year-by-year basis:

BLOG Afghan op prod

And, second, the fluctuations in prices in the leading production provinces, indicating the triumphal reign of the free market so beloved by the neoliberal set:

BLOG Afghan op price

InSecurityWatch: Protest, war, hacks, spies, lies


A whole lot of ground to cover, catching up from feeling a tad unwell.

First, from Deutsche Welle:

Anti-austerity ‘Million Mask March’ sweeps the globe

  • Activists protesting against austerity, mass surveillance and oppression have taken to the steets in some 481 cities worldwide. The Million Mask March was organized by the activist group Anonymous.

Protesters from around the world united on Wednesday night in the Million Mask March against austerity, mass surveillance and oppression. The worldwide demonstration took place for the third consecutive year in some 481 towns and cities around the globe.

Obscuring their faces with masks, made famous by the 2005 film “V for Vendetta,” protesters gathered in countries as far apart as the UK, China, Germany, Australia, Sweden and the US, to name but a few.

The global demonstration was organized by Anonymous, which describes itself as “a truth movement advocating hacktivism as self-defense for unconstitutional government.”

Hints of dark secrets in Old Blighty, via the Independent:

The Dickens Dossier: Secret file on establishment paedophiles may be opened

A secret file which is said to contain the names of paedophiles with links to the British establishment and which is rumoured to be locked away in archives at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, could be made public as part of the Government’s child abuse inquiry.

Inquiry panel members Barbara Hearn and Sharon Evans, along with Ben Emmerson QC, counsel to the inquiry, assured campaigners at their meeting last week – shortly before Fiona Woolf announced she would be the second person to resign as chair – that they would have top-level security clearance and access to restricted or closed files.

The whereabouts of the “Dickens Dossier”, containing allegations of paedophiles linked to the British establishment and compiled by former Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens, is unknown. It went missing after the politician handed it to the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, in 1984, as are more than 100 documents concerning child abuse allegations that had been held by the Home Office. It is rumoured it may be in the Barbara Castle archives within the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

Obama calls for more war, via BuzzFeed:

Obama Calls On Congress To “Update” Military Force Authorization

  • “The idea is to right size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight, rather than previous fights,” Obama says.

President Obama said Wednesday he will work with Congress to “update” his authorization to conduct the ongoing war with ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Speaking to reporters during a post-election press conference, Obama listed updating the 2001 Authorized Use of Military Force — a sweeping, 60-word law that has been used to launch attacks against terrorists in Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world.

Obama said he would “begin engaging Congress over a new authorization to use military force against ISIL. The world needs to know we are united in this effort and the men and women of the military deserve our clear and unified support.”

From Al Jazeera America, oops:

US anti-ISIL strategy faces major setback in Syria’s second city

  • As Aleppo goes, so go prospects for a viable rebel force to fight both Assad and extremists

A growing chorus of alarm has warned the Obama administration that its strategy to combat Islamic State forces in Syria is on the verge of unraveling in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. But with regime forces now in control of all but one road into Aleppo, the remaining residents of areas controlled by the rebels designated “moderate” by the U.S. are bracing for the worst.

“We started planning for the siege,” Zaina Erhaim, a journalist living in Aleppo, told Al Jazeera. “I have a friend who is a theater director who is learning how to use a pump action [shotgun]. If the regime attacks the city, he’d have to defend himself.”

Forces fighting for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have taken advantage of the U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) targets elsewhere in Syria to press their offensive in Aleppo and are now within firing range of Castello Road, the rebels’ last remaining supply route. “They can close it whenever they like,” Erhaim said, speaking by phone. “Maybe they’re still opening it for those who want to escape, before applying the siege.”

Another campaign, same war, another outlay, via the London Telegraph:

US army ‘loses’ military equipment worth $420 million in Afghanistan

  • Missing hardware includes sensitive weapons systems, encryption devices and vehicles, according to internal Pentagon investigation that highlights challenges of $7 billion Afghan withdrawal

The US army has “lost” $420 million (£260m) worth of military equipment, including weapons systems, vehicles, encryption devices and communications gear, in Afghanistan, according to an embarrassing internal investigation.

The report by the Pentagon’s inspector general criticised Army officials for being slow to report and investigate the losses of equipment, much of it highly sensitive, from its main operating bases at Bagram and Kandahar.

The investigation did not conclude how the “inventory losses” of 156,000 pieces of hardware for the 2013 financial year occurred, but noted a series of failings in oversight, accounting and record-keeping.

It was not clear if the any of equipment may have fallen into enemy hands, but the report underscored the costs and challenges facing the US as it winds down its military operations in Afghanistan after 13 years. The withdrawal could cost a further $7 billion, according to Pentagon estimates.

Another grim assessment, via United Press International:

U.S. General: Number of Aghan troop deaths ‘unsustainable’

According to the commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, Afghanistan’s National Security Force has lost 9,000 members since the beginning of 2013, a number that is “not sustainable in the long term.”

The losses suffered by Afghanistan’s National Security Forces is unsustainable, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command said Wednesday.

According to U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, ANSF has lost 9,000 members since the beginning of 2013, a number that is “not sustainable in the long term.”

The U.S., by comparison, has lost 2,346 troops since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001.

“Their first priority right now is to get their recruiting back up,” Anderson told reporters via video conference from Kabul, citing the fact that Afghanistan’s police and army forces have filled only 89 and 81 percent of their slots respectively.

From TheLocal.de, German blowback:

Berlin rapper brandishes severed head in Isis clip

A German rapper turned jihadist has appeared in an Islamic State (Isis) video holding a severed head.

The video, uploaded by activists reporting on war crimes in Syria from the eastern province of Dair as-Saur, shows Denis Cuspert, whose rap names was Deso Dogg, with other fighters who are seen killing several people.

The jihadists kill three people during the video, with one shot and another beheaded.

Austrian, too, via TheLocal.at:

Austrian jihadist poses in front of corpses

Austrian Islamist Mohamed Mahmoud, who was released from custody in Turkey in August, has published a photo of himself on the Internet posing in front of several half naked, decapitated corpses.

The photo is reported to have been taken a few days ago, in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, considered to be the unofficial capital of the Islamic State extremist group Isis.

Mahmoud served four years in an Austrian prison for joining and actively supporting al-Qaeda and its affiliates. He is now linked to Isis and calls himself Abu Usama al-Gharib.

He is reported to have married Ahlam Al-Nasr, an Isis propaganda official known as the “poet of the Islamic State” a few weeks ago.

And the French in the ranks, from Der Spiegel:

The Lost Children: France Takes Stock of Growing Jihadist Problem

  • More than 1,000 young people from France have joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, more than from any other European country. The recruits are no longer just coming from the margins of society.

Extremism is infecting young French people like a slow but steadily progressing disease. And like a disease, its course varies slightly among individuals, and yet in each case it passes through similar stages.

There are believed to be about 1,000 French citizens in Iraq and Syria, or en route to those countries, more than from any other European nation. Entire families have joined jihadist movements, including about 100 young French women. Many have already been married off to fighters in the Turkish-Syrian border region. Once a girl is married and pregnant, it becomes more difficult for her to flee. The terrorist groups that are targeting France in their recruitment efforts include Islamic State and Syria’s Al-Nusra Front.

“Young people are being deliberately targeted, boys and girls, each for different purposes,” says Dounia Bouzar, who has been studying the radicalization of French youth for 15 years. Bouzar, 50, an anthropologist specializing in religion, had already analyzed the phenomenon of self-proclaimed holy warriors when officials at the French Interior Ministry were still dealing with isolated cases. She wrote a book on the subject in 2006, a sort of guide for parents. Bouzar says that she saw this wave of radicalization of French youth coming, but that she would have preferred to be wrong.

ISIS afloat from BBC News:

Jihadists ‘using cruise ships’ to reach Middle East war zones

Would-be jihadists have been travelling on cruise ships to reach conflict areas in the Middle East, Interpol has said.

The international police body said some of those trying to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria had used cruise lines to get to countries including Turkey.

It said checks to passenger lists should be extended from airlines to cruise operators before the issue became more of a problem. No figures were put on how many militants had travelled in this way.

Speaking in Monaco, Interpol’s outgoing chief, Ronald Noble, said countries should conduct checks on all passengers using airports “and, more and more, cruise lines”.

Division Down Under from CNN:

Sectarian tensions running high, say Australian Muslim leaders

Muslim community leaders in Australia say sectarian tensions are soaring, as radicalized Sunni youth, inspired by ISIS, seek to import the religious conflicts wracking the Middle East.

“The tensions are very high and will continue to be high,” said Jamal Daoud, a Shia community leader in Sydney, where a 47-year old Shia leader was shot in the shoulder early Monday morning, as worshipers observed the Shia ritual of Ashura.

He said Rasoul Al Mousawi, a leader in the Shia community focused around the Islamic center in Greenacre, south-west Sydney, had been released from hospital on Tuesday and was doing well.

And on the other extreme, via Der Spiegel:

Germany’s New Right: The Unholy Alliance of Neo-Nazis and Football Hooligans

  • The riots in Cologne at the end of October show there is a new danger on Germany’s extremist right. Neo-Nazis and football hooligans have teamed up to go after Islamist Salafists. Many are wondering why officials didn’t recognize the development sooner.

Hours after their coup, the rabble rousers were still reveling in their unexpected success. One hooligan going by the nom de guerre “Bo Ne,” happily posted: “We made it into the news around the entire world. Russia, Turkey, Switzerland, Spain, France — first goal achieved!”

It was a view shared by almost everyone in the four closed forums belonging to the group called Hooligans gegen Salafisten (Hooligans against Salafists). With more than 3,000 members, the network is a loose association of neo-Nazis, nationalists and football rowdies — and their posts made it clear that they didn’t think they were being monitored. One regretted not having brought an axe to the demonstration to “destroy all of Islam.” Bo Ne and others, however, were totally satisfied. Germany, he wrote, has now seen “what it means to deceive a people for 70 years.”

The rally took place on the last weekend in October and saw almost 5,000 demonstrators, right-wing extremists and football hooligans march through Cologne, many of them clearly looking for trouble. Riled up by the right-wing rock band Kategorie C (which sings lyrics like: “Today they are slitting the throats of sheep and cows, tomorrow it may be Christian children”), they filled the Cologne city center with their hate. Tourists and passersby got out of their way.

More of the same further to the south, also via Der Spiegel:

Sun Sets on Golden Dawn: Greek Party Accused in Killings and Racist Attacks

  • Greece’s public prosecutor claims the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party bears all the characteristics of a ‘criminal organization’. Party members stand accused of murder and other acts of violence. Will Greek officials soon move to ban Chrysi Avgi?

The 697-page report from the public prosecutor’s office reads like a thriller. But it addresses things that people in Greece long would have considered inconceivable. It paints a picture of a neo-Nazi party that is both openly and forcefully attacking the democratic system in a way not seen in Europe in decades.

Directly or indirectly, the report accuses 69 members or supporters of the Chrysi Avgi, or Golden Dawn, political party — among them 16 members of Greek parliament — of participation in murder or attempted murder, serious bodily injury, violent hate crimes, theft, blackmail or arson. Chief Prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos describes in meticulous detail the structures of a criminal organization that is being directed from inside the Greek parliament.

Eight members of parliament from the party are currently being held in pre-trial detention, including party spokesman and chief ideologist Ilias Kasidiaris in addition to party chief Nikos Machaloliakos. Three additional parliamentarians are currently under house arrest while five others have been forbidden from leaving the country. Investigators are hoping to take the case to trial early next year.

More internal disorder in Europe from Deutsche Welle:

Clashes at anti-austerity reforms protest in Brussels

  • A mass demonstration of some 100,000 workers in the Belgian capital has ended in clashes between protesters and police. The march was the first in a series of protests against new austerity measures.

Belgian riot police fired tear gas and water cannon during clashes with demonstrators on Thursday, at the first of a series of anti-austerity demonstrations and strikes planned for the coming weeks. More than 100,000 people were on the streets of Brussels where they marched peacefully for almost two hours before violence broke out.

Car windows were smashed, other vehicles were overturned or set alight, and protsetors threw paving stones and fireworks. There were also reports of serious injuries among police as well as demonstrators.

As part of the reforms and cost-cutting measures, Belgium’s one-month old, center-right government has pledged to raise the retirement age and limit scope for early retirement. An inflation-linked wage hike, due next year, will also be cancelled, and health and social security budgets are to face cuts.

Video from RT:

Clashes, water cannon, tear gas in EU’s ‘capital’: Anti-austerity anger in Brussels

Program notes:

Violent clashes broke out in Belgium as more than 100,000 protesters marched in Brussels against the government’s austerity measures. Police deployed water cannon and tear gas as the protesters started upturning cars.

After the jump, Cold War 2.0 gets hotter, another ratchet up, a Russian missile test, British spookshops want Russian speakers, British spies bug lawyer/client parlays and apply their digital vacuums to journalists, Austrian drones under digital attack in the Ukraine, drones keep flying over French nuke plants, an American spy drone heads to an Okinawan base, and Goggle drone delivery rolls along, Snowden abandons German asylum hopes, Google in your kitchen, confidential messaging proclaimed, Word under siege, an iWorm warning, Gmail hacking gets personal, Facebook goes to the dark side, major messaging fails, on to Mexico and a march in solidarity with missing college students, what Mexican police fear most, and a question of tipping points as a murdered journalist’s body is found, murderous Brazilian police, and Argentine cops raid the press, next to Libyan and an oil field seized, mass arrests and protests over the murder of Pakistani Christians as a cop takes an axe to an alleged [and mentally ill] blasphemer, Pakistan looks to China for tanks, Myanmar journalist beaten to death in police custody?, Taiwan hit by Watergate of its own, on to China and a security scandal prolonged, a Hong Kong protest increasingly unpopular as the last British governor trades charges with Beijing and the latest clash breaks out, China deploys its anti-drone lasers, Game of Zones claims a Korean construction contract, Washington shuts down a Korean air show, Chinese ships test the Japanese line in the water, and that vexing olde shrine rears its ugly head again. . . Continue reading

One of the differences between U.S. and France


Can you image any U.S. national art museum opening a major exhibit taking the same approach to a promotional video as the staff of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris did to an exhibition focusing on that most controversial of French writers, the man whoise name gives us sadism?

From TheLocal.fr:

Musée d’Orsay shocks with erotic promo video

This week The Local is handing its prestigious “Only in France” award to Paris’s famous Musée d’Orsay, whose promotional video for its new exhibition has got pulses racing beyond the French art world. Let’s just say it’s “Not Safe For Work”.

Dozens of people lie naked on the floor, all intertwined in a writhing, squirming mess, as arms reach up grabbing and groping at the bare flesh.

It might sound like a scene from one of DSK’s notoriously sordid sex parties, but it is in fact a video advertising a new exhibition at Paris’s famous Musée d’Orsay.

The Musée d’Orsay, which stands on the banks of the River Seine has been forced to defend itself this week over its provocative marketing campaign for its new exhibition “Sade: Attacking the Sun” (Sade. Attaquer le soleil), which opened this week.

And here’s the video [NSFW, sadly], via the Musée d’Orsay:

An exhibition, a look, “Sade Attacking the sun.

Program notes [via Google Translate and a tweak]:

The Musée d’Orsay video artists David Freymond and Florent Michel created this to offer a personal look at the exhibits. The event of the season, “Sade. Attacking the Sun”, inspired this clip.

Chart of the day II: WHO’s latest Ebola tally


From the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report [PDF] issued today [88 October]:

BLOG Ebola sitrep

Mr. Fish: How to Succeed in Business


From Clowncrack,a kankedort of Kulturkampf:

BLOG Fish

New business, old business: Same old tricks


First this from Ted Rall of the Los Angeles Times:

Republicans are making new friends — in Silicon Valley

BLOG Rall

And from PandoDaily, silicon synchronicity:

As questions arise over a $500M Apple deal, LA school district votes to destroy internal emails

California’s largest school district just dealt a major blow to public transparency.

According to the Pasadena public radio station KPCC, the Los Angeles Unified school district (LAUSD) has voted to destroy all internal staff emails after one year. The reason for doing so, according to the board’s new policy, is that, “Because the District relies on public funds, it is imperative for the District to minimize its costs and, therefore, dispose of information and Records in a timely manner.”

That sounds reasonable on the surface, but consider the timing of the announcement: Less than three weeks ago, KPCC published emails revealing that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy had met with representatives from Apple and the textbook company Pearson to discuss the purchase of iPads and educational software. These meetings occurred a year before public bidding opened up on the contract to supply technological resources to LA schools. Although Deasy claims the discussions were unrelated to the impending contract bid, Apple and Pearson went on to win the deal which is worth a record $500 million.

Following the release of the emails, Deasy cancelled the contract and vowed to reopen the bidding process.