Links, 7/19/11

Our American Empire

Yesterday, I noted that Bob Baer predicts an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities this fall. Today, Reuters reports that Iran is adding more sophisticated centrifuges to its nuclear development program, presumably to repair some of the damage done by Stuxnet.

The rebels we’re about to give all of Qaddafi’s looted money to? They’re using kids–as young as 7–to fight their war against Qaddafi.

In Pakistan, we’re killing kids directly; the Bureau of Investigative Journalism counts 6 kids among the 45 civilians we’ve killed in drone strikes in the last year.

A group of Pakistani drone victims and their families are seeking to arrest former CIA general counsel John Rizzo for “conspiracy to wage war and commit murder and other crimes in violation of Pakistani law, and to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in breach of international law.” Rizzo basically boasted to Newsweek for a February article, saying ““How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?”

J.M Berger notes that some “homegrown” Islamic terrorists are increasingly ignoring al Qaeda doctrine. Not only does that lead them to strike at different targets than al Qaeda might choose, but it makes it a lot easier to catch them. (Some might say that that’s a testament to the way our counterterrorism strategy needs to create terrorists here to sustain the industry.)

If you haven’t already, read this Glenn Greenwald smackdown of the way the press has unquestionably repeated the government’s equation of al-Shabaab with al Qaeda. It’s not enough, I guess, for the press to get us into war; it also helps the government slowly redefine who we’re at war with so we can never declare victory and go home.

The National Surveillance State

Wall Street must have liked the Murdochs’ performance today in Parliament; News Corp stock is up over 6% on the day. Meanwhile, WYNC shows how it easy it is to carry out the hack News Corp used on its victims.

Iran has banned Google+ as a plot of US spy agencies, which at one level speaks badly of free speech. But I have to admit that I believe that Google+ will make it easier to conduct surveillance–probably on Iranians and Americans–as it offers a virtual one-stop shop spooks can use to map out social networks. And while he doesn’t address my paranoia, Julian Sanchez has a good reflection on Google+ and privacy.

No Rule of Law

The government continues its efforts to prosecute those who, well, didn’t crash the economy through financial fraud. Today, they’re going after Reddit co-founder online activist Aaron Swartz for “stealing” a bunch of academic journals. I can see how the liberation of knowledge is more dangerous to our government than the theft of average folks’ homes. (Corrected per Andrew)

And that theft is ongoing. Both the AP and Reuters had reports yesterday on ongoing robo signing.

The Great Recession

Borders is liquidating, and with it, it is liquidating over 10,000 jobs. Yet another MI company going under.

Food stamp use in the US continues to rise. In three states–OR, MS, and and NM, over 20% residents rely on foodstamps (MI is close, with 19.4% of residents using food stamps).

Obama is thinking creatively about ways to fund education now that we have to spend our education money bombing kids on the other side of the world: get private corporations to donate to schools. Apparently, Microsoft has ponied up $15 million in video games for classroom. I guess asking Microsoft to end the practice of sheltering its profits from taxes–and giving that money to schools instead–would make too much sense?

The Politics of Influence

DOJ has indicted two men for serving as unregistered agents for Pakistan. Basically, the ISI is laundering money through a Kashmir Center to lobby for Kashmir unification. I’ve got two questions about this. First, how does prosecution of what is basically an ISI effort tie to our troubled relationship with Pakistan? Also, if it’s okay for corporations to donate money, why didn’t the Kashmir Center just go into some business and launder the money that way?

Thankfully, the IRS is finally doing something about one way private entities dump money into elections: it denied non-profit status to three groups the sole purpose of which “is to provide education solely to individuals affiliated with a certain political party who want to enter politics.”


29 replies
  1. marksb says:

    Microsoft video games in the classroom. Sheesh. What a fucking joke. (Heard you could swear around here if the situation warrants it. And seems to me it does.)

  2. cregan says:

    You have succinctly made a good point that the world is more of a mess than ever. And, heading even more out of control.

  3. Andrew says:

    Small point, just fyi. Swartz was not a cofounder of reddit (though he may claim he was). The NYT article has been corrected.

  4. EoH says:

    Being concerned about Google and its peers’ ability easily to invade one’s privacy is not paranoia, it’s being informed.

    Take an Android phone, please. It requires signing up for a google mail account, and usually giving the vendor your name, address, driver’s license and Social Security number.

    That’s for starters. Imagine actually using that google mail account for personal mail instead of just for your phone. Every phone number you use or store is recorded, as is the time, duration and frequency of calls made to it, as is the time, duration and frequency of every Internet use, music download, etc.

    And let’s not forget the ubiquity of real-time GPS tracking to within 3-5 meters of your location. Where you go, how quickly and how often, what you read, eat, search for, who you talk to, when and for how long, all meticulously stored on your phone and downloaded to your vendor. It even records your battery usage, how frequently and often you charge, how long it lasts.

    The inter-relatedness of all that acts on a veracity check for the other data, just as it yields increasingly personal patterns of past behavior and increasingly accurate predictions of future behavior.

    Wow. Once upon a time, you could make a legitimately anonymous ten-minute phone call on a public street corner for four bits.

  5. emptywheel says:

    EoH: I appear to be the only one I know who is concerned about that (and really, I was just thinking about what this added: speech plus network all in one place, with some distinction between which networks are which). I guess that has the upside that people implicated through their little “six degrees of separation game” might have a defense if they’re in one circle but not another. But that doesn’t comfort me all that much.

  6. EoH says:

    Borders’ liquidation is the passing of an era. I remember its first store in Ann Arbor, long before trendy over-priced coffee and baked goods and new hardbacks littering the aisles as you tried to navigate from one section to the next. Being in Ann Arbor, staff were often grad students, some in literature, who could tell you more about the book you wanted than you could glean from reading it. They carried books you could only find in a major urban library, and didn’t inundate you with airport novels and self-improvement bibles.

    It was heaven. When I traveled a lot to faraway places for long periods, the first thing I did on returning home was go to a grocery store for fresh fruit and veg and to Borders for a good long meander. It was as American as baseball and apple pie. You could enjoy a coffee and no one asked you to leave because you took too long or didn’t buy enough. Consequently, it’s where I bought my books and music and coffee.

    Borders expanded too fast, the sale to Kmart was a mistake, its products were commodified. The experience lost its uniqueness, its depth and localness. Reasonable pricing went out the door. A visit to Borders was no longer special or different from B&N.

    Kmart went bankrupt, too, and I lost track of who owned Borders. I suspect they looked on everything with an accountant’s eye and tried to securitize anything that moved. I mistakenly bought something at Borders online and have suffered two e-mails a day from them ever since. There seemed to be no way to get off their mailing list, and I vowed not to buy from them again. Financialization and commodification may have been as responsible for Borders’ demise as the trend away from books toward digital media.

    We can ill afford to lose 10,000 jobs in any economy, let alone the current depression that the PTB keep calling a “recession” or downturn. It’s like calling the Grand Canyon a pot hole. I am sure, however, that increasing financialization in the business model is not a way to bring jobs or customers back, but a way to strip more meat off the carcass.

  7. EoH says:

    EW, yes, “smart phones” are small computers, not phones. That adds convenience, which is hyped, AND vulnerability, which is not. Smart phones lack the privacy protections available on most computers. You can’t get the same s/w to protect your privacy and limit what pre-loaded s/w does on your phone. Plus, you take them everywhere you go. That connects what you do with what you say. It also adds excruciatingly detailed information about where, when and how long you do it.

    The added problem here, unlike Europe, is that the US government and its corporations have successfully avoided European-style laws that protect privacy and make explicit who owns what information and what anyone else can do with it without penalty. That dramatically erodes privacy and the expectation of it. It enriches corporations by the billion via information extraction and use that many Americans are oblivious to.

  8. klynn says:

    EW, (OT)

    Have you thought of doing one of your “common sense” posts on the reports from CBO about the terrible financial impact cutting SS and Medicaid will do?

    What is wrong with O?

  9. EoH says:

    Mr. Obama doesn’t think anything is wrong with his staffing choices, or his legislative, economic, and legal priorities. He’s doing what he wants to do, not what he is forced to do by way of political compromise or economic necessity. That’s what’s wrong with him.

  10. Bob Schacht says:

    Is this “Links” thing, which seems to consist of ideas too small to make a full diary out of, going to be a new feature of Emptywheel? Somewhere between a tweet and a diary?

    Bob in AZ

  11. EoH says:

    I believe so, which would be useful so long as the links are actually there. It will make the comment section more varied, which will be easier to follow once the back office boys work out the “reply” and other functions. I hope they learned from the MyFDL pages how NOT to do it.

  12. Bob Schacht says:

    Like EOH, I was an early customer of Borders (ca. 1970, in my case). Good bookstores are a treasure. The local favorite here in Flagstaff is “Bookman’s”. In Madison, WI it is “Paul’s Book Store.” Paul’s looks pretty much the same as it did 45 years ago. Paul’s is an idiosyncratic local venture. Bookman’s is part of a chain, but a small chain. They not only offer a large variety of used books, but a wireless cafe, where one can spend hours inhaling and exhaling the Internet.

    Bob in AZ

    Bob in AZ

  13. EoH says:

    On Murdoch’s empire and the 4% fall in News Corp’s share price, from the Independent:

    “The gathering scale of the crisis surrounding Rupert Murdoch’s media empire alarmed investors and sent News Corporation shares sliding yesterday, as the media mogul prepped for a Parliamentary select committee grilling that could determine his future at the helm of the company.

    “And last night, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s piled further pressure on the company, saying it could downgrade News Corp’s debt. The company has enough cash coming in to cover financial penalties should investigations on either side of the Atlantic turn up criminal activity, the agency said, but there are potentially bigger implications for News Corp.”

  14. EoH says:

    Presumably, that 4% slide was in anticipation of today’s parliamentary hearings, so today’s rise is a partial recovery from prior losses, which anticipated lost revenues and profits from this scandal and where it may lead.

    The Independent’s article described the News Corp share price as suffering from a “Murdoch discount”, arising out of Murdoch’s continuing management of the company. That strikes me as nonsense, as brokerspeak that helps News Corp by distancing Rupert from his own company.

    Yes, News Corp is a large, complex, multinational with one of the most elaborate uses of offshore tax havens in the world. But its culture, its top management choices, its business priorities and methodologies are all owing to Rupert Murdoch. He IS News Corporation similar to the way that until the 1940’s Henry Ford was Ford Motor Company. It will be that way until Rupert and his progeny are long gone, which won’t be anytime soon. That makes the brokerspeak about a Murdoch discount a hopeful dodge, not a description of his effect on the company’s share price.

  15. Gitcheegumee says:

    After watching Inside Job, I don’t put much stock(pun intended) in the ratings agencies.

  16. EoH says:

    Re Bob in AZ, I would add Powell’s in Portland and City Lights in SFO. Denver used to have a good one, but I believe it’s gone or a shadow of its former self. The liquidation of Borders will leave holes in more places than just urban real estate.

  17. MadDog says:

    Another tidbit that might be worth adding to EW’s links list – via the DOJ:

    Sixteen Individuals Arrested in the United States for Alleged Roles in Cyber Attacks

    “Fourteen individuals were arrested today by FBI agents on charges related to their alleged involvement in a cyber attack on PayPal’s website as part of an action claimed by the group “Anonymous,” announced the Department of Justice and the FBI. Two additional defendants were arrested today on cyber-related charges…

    …The San Jose indictment alleges that in retribution for PayPal’s termination of WikiLeaks’ donation account, a group calling itself Anonymous coordinated and executed distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against PayPal’s computer servers using an open source computer program the group makes available for free download on the Internet…


    …In addition to the activities in San Jose, Scott Matthew Arciszewski, 21, was arrested today by FBI agents on charges of intentional damage to a protected computer…

    …According to the complaint, on June 21, 2011, Arciszewski allegedly accessed without authorization the Tampa Bay InfraGard website and uploaded three files. The complaint alleges that Arciszewski then tweeted about the intrusion and directed visitors to a separate website containing links with instructions on how to exploit the Tampa InfraGard website. InfraGard is a public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection sponsored by the FBI with chapters in all 50 states.

    Also today, a related complaint unsealed in the District of New Jersey charges Lance Moore, 21, of Las Cruces, N.M., with allegedly stealing confidential business information stored on AT&T’s servers and posting it on a public file sharing site. Moore was arrested this morning at his residence by FBI agents and is expected to make an initial appearance this afternoon in Las Cruces federal court. Moore is charged in with one count of accessing a protected computer without authorization.

    According to the New Jersey complaint, Moore, a customer support contractor, exceeded his authorized access to AT&T’s servers and downloaded thousands of documents, applications and other files that, on the same day, he allegedly posted on a public file hosting site that promises user anonymity. According to the complaint, on June 25, 2011, the computer hacking group LulzSec publicized that they had obtained confidential AT&T documents and made them publicly available on the Internet. The documents were the ones Moore had previously uploaded…”

  18. MaryCh says:

    News Corps’s uptick today looks like classic Wall Street “sell on the rumor buy on the news”

  19. emptywheel says:

    Thanks Bob.

    Yeah–I stole the links idea shamelessly from DDay and Yves. It’s an effort to focus on larger analytical posts. And also to pull together certain themes of our decline into neofeudalism in systemic fashion.

    And thanks for the DOJ announcement. I see DOJ got the PayPal hackers before they got the hackers who took down WikiLeaks weeks earlier. And for that matter, I see they got the PayPal hackers before they indicted a significant bankster.

    I guess defacing PayPal is a bigger risk to our country than crashing it by destroying the property system. Who knew!

    • bmaz says:

      Before: PREGERSON, HAWKINS, and McKEOWN, Circuit Judges.

      Hard to envision a better panel than that. Also, hard to see a great decision, even out of this panel, after Jeppesen though.

  20. MadDog says:

    In response to emptywheel on July 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm, if there is anyone who still believes the US government can’t or doesn’t do domestic Internet surveillance, those Anonymous folks indicted today can tell you otherwise. :-)

  21. MadDog says:

    In response to bmaz on July 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm, when I saw the hearing date of over a year since the appeal was filed, and then the argument limit to 40 minutes per side, I was thinking the panel had already come to their decision and that the argument they were scheduling was a mere formality, or even less, a sop to the plaintiffs so they wouldn’t feel entirely aggrieved when the panel finally ruled and more firmly slammed the door shut on their appeal.

    I’m too betting that the 9th’s decision will be that Congress legislated retroactive immunity for these crimes, and therefore who are we in the Judicial branch to complain.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, that is a little long on time from filing, but not shockingly so; and, remember, Jeppesen probably slowed it up a bit too. That is actually an enlarged time allotment per side. Between FAA and Jeppesen, I just do not see how the plaintiffs can succeed. That is a great panel though.

  22. emptywheel says:


    Yup–it’s in this post. I already teased Swartz on Twitter that this might just make academic journals cool, if they are, like music, a prosecutable offense.

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