Links, 7/26/11

(This video documents a mother’s effort to get her son a Voter ID card in WI.)

Good News for Kids

McDonalds is rolling out new and improved Happy Meals, now with fruits or veggies and fewer fries. These Happier Meals will have 20% fewer calories.

The NYPL has offered an amnesty on overdue fines; but to earn it, the kids need to read. Kids get $1 knocked off their fines for every 15 minutes they read. I’m wondering if there’s a way we could get the NYPL to come up with a debt reduction plan, rather than the yahoos in Congress.

Justice and Injustice

Bunny Greenhouse vindicated! You might remember Greenhouse as the Army Corps of Engineer Chief Oversight Officer who criticized abuses that led to KBR getting a no-bid contract in 2005. She was demoted as a result. But she just got a $970,000 settlement for retaliation.

Remember that ridiculous $85 million wrist slap the Fed gave to Wells Fargo last week, in part because its employees lied on liar loans? Joe Nocera asked DOJ why they weren’t prosecuting those folks. In response, DOJ sent him a statement on 2010 indictments, none of which had anything to do with Wells Fargo.

Back when I was Valedictorian of Cowpie High, the Administration tried hard to discourage me from making the traditional Valedictorian speech–they were worried I would incite rebellion, I think, or maybe say “blowjob.” But even though they distrusted me, I ultimately got to accept the honor. Not so Kymberly Wimberly, (h/t ABL) an 18 year old black woman in Alabama Arkansas who had the best GPA in her class, but nevertheless was replaced as Valedictorian by a white student with a lower GPA.

Jerry Brown nominated Goodwin Liu to the CA Supreme Court.

Bob Fertik expanded on my thoughts about News Corp being a Transnational Organized Crime organization into a worthwhile post. The big question, though, is whether DOJ will treat Murdoch’s band of hacks in the same way as they will the mafia or drug cartels under this program.

A MN Court just ruled that letting pesticides drift over another farm’s field counts as trespassing. It’s be really nice if this rule were applied to Monsanto and their GMO plants.

Our Dying Economy

We continue to treat the long-term unemployed like shit, specifically refusing to consider hiring people who are long-term unemployed.

Cate Long at MuniLand reports on what an infrastucture bank might look like, if we ever raise the debt ceiling. But she notes something disturbing: even though both parties appear to back this infrastructure investment, it’s not entirely clear who will own the infrastructure that gets built.

A number of people have pointed to this WaPo/ABC post showing voters souring on Obama’s economic policies. But what most surprised me about the cross tabs are the results for the question, “Who do you think cares more about protecting the economic interests of Wall Street?” 59% said the GOP, 26% said Obama, and just 4% said both (they had to offer up that answer). I mean, granted, the GOP has done more for Wall Street, particularly in scuttling things like the CFPB. But are people not noticing the way Obama has refused to hold Wall Street accountable? If that remains true, that, by itself, might make the difference in 2012.

Our Economy’s Not the Only One with Troubles

Following a fatal high speed rail crash in Wenzhou, analysts think China will not be able to compete for rail business internationally, as they were increasingly doing. Maybe that’s why China buried the train and has mandated a “in the face of great tragedy, there’s great love” theme for reporting on the crash.

The British economy has tanked since Cameron pushed through austerity. It’s what we have to look forward to!

Our National Security State

Another one of our CyberSecurity officials stepped down suddenly on Friday. There are suggestions he left because the US government’s websites have been hacked recently.

The Third Circuit has ruled that the government can collect DNA from people arrested, but not yet convicted, for a crime.

40 police offices and other units around the country are adopting an iPhone based iris scanner technology to make IDing people in the field easier.

Matthew Olsen admitted in his confirmation hearing to be the head of the National Counterterrorism Center that the “authority may exist” to track Americans inside this country using their cell phone geolocation. Olsen’s General Counsel at NSA right now, so presumably he would know.

Apparently, we’re still in the habit of kidnapping the family members of alleged terrorists.

John Robb explains why extremist groups–such as the Norwegian terrorist or an off-shoot of the La Familia drug cartel in Mexico–might be attracted to Knights Templar culture: because they offer these groups the “fictive kinship” that makes the group closer to a tribe, but one not bound by normal laws.

Sandy Levinson, over at Balkinization, thinks Tom Friedman’s stupid “Radical Center” effort funded by hedge fund money is an effort to set up a David Petraeus run.

Links, 7/25/11

Our Collapsing Empire

Remember how much better Hillary was on trade than Obama in the primary? She gave a really depressing speech–talking up free trade–in Hong Kong today.

Oh. Sorry. Bob Baer was only mostly serious when he said Israel would attack Iran in the fall. But who needs to attack Iran? After five Russian scientists who contributed to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant died in a plane crash last month, one of Iran’s top nuclear scientists was just gunned down outside his home. Or maybe not.

This interesting take-from Gregory Johnsen, who knows a bit about Yemen–says our use of drones there are making AQAP stronger.

Jason Leopold describes how David Addington and Jim Haynes pushed David Hicks charges through to help out Prime Minister John Howard.

Our Collapsing Economy

Dan Froomkin reviews the big money being spent to pass three more NAFTA-style trade deals.

According to this post, the average duration of unemployment just shot up to a new high: 39.9 weeks. And there are now more than 2 million 99ers–folks who have been out of work for more than 99 weeks. This is not the time for austerity, but unfortunately the bozos in Washington can’t help themselves.

Everyone’s talking about this long piece on the insanity of our debt limit crisis, “What were they thinking.” My favorite line, from an anonymous ex-White House employee? “It’s not a place that welcomes ideas.”

In which Republican David Frum lectures Obama about trusting banksters.

This is an interesting piece on how Wall Street has gotten suspicious of Microsoft’s tax shell game.

Corporatists v. the Environment

Hungary is destroying 1000 acres (or much more–see joberly’s comment) of land that got planted with Monsanto’s GMO corn, apparently without the knowledge of the farmers. What’s particularly interesting about this, IMO, is the company that sold the GMO seeds that is now bankrupt. Under what business model does a company sell more expensive Monsanto seeds, particularly if the company is not viable? It almost seems like the company was a ploy to get the seeds in there.

Big Carbon is miffed about the statue at University of Wyoming suggesting that coal has ties to the explosion of pine beetles in the state. The effort to pressure the University is bad enough, but I think the statue is pretty cool on its own right.

Grist finds an interesting way to visualize what the GOP budget would destroy: by describing what it would do to 10 great vacation spots.

Your Daily Murdoch

The ACLU and Gawker are partnering to sue Governor Chris Christie for “correspondence, phone records, and calendar entries” of conversations between him and Roger Ailes. NY Magazine had reported that Ailes had pressed Christie to run for President. ACLU is arguing that Christie did not properly invoke executive privilege, and privilege wouldn’t cover such conversations in any case. I can’t help but wonder whether Gawker, at least, is going for something else, such as mention of why Christie didn’t prosecute News Corp for a US-based hacking incident with Floorgraphics.


Links, 7/22/11

Your Daily Murdoch

Tony Blair’s Attorney General–the guy who provided specious legal justification for the UK to go to war with us in Iraq–is catching some heat for not investigating the Murdoch hacking allegations more thoroughy.

The Telegraph hired one of the big private intelligence companies, Kroll, to figure out who leaked details of a recording they had of Britain’s Business secretary Vince Cable “declaring war” on News International (and its bid to acquire BSkyB). Kroll can’t be sure, but they think it was a former Telegraph exec who moved to News Corp.

The WSJ reports that DOJ is preparing subpoenas in an investigation of News Corp. Now, why woudl WSJ be the newspaper to report that, do yo suppose?

Some of the lawyers hacked by NotW–including Julian Assange’s, though the hack was almost certainly before he represented Assange–are just learning of that fact. This scandal resembles the illegal wiretap scandal here in the US in so many ways.

Someone just wrote a Firefox add-on to alert you if your browser is about to open a Murdoch-owned site.

Justice and Injustice

After firing the two women who did some of the most important early work on foreclosure fraud, FL AG Pam Bondi has now started trashing them publicly. I’m guessing Bondi figured out, after the fact, that firing two fairly low-level employees without cause could cause a whole lot of legal problems.

Remember the case against Joseph Adekeye I wrote about here? Ars Technica has a good profile on it.

There’s something very fishy about the custody discussions of Ali Mussa Daqduq–none of the stated excuses for the problem–the debate over whether to try terrorists in civilian or military courts–makes sense. Not least bc Daqduq is a member of Hezbollah, not al Qaeda, and we’re not at war against Hezbollah. So if we want to try him, it seems, it’s got to be in civilian courts. Which suggests the real problem is that we’re unwilling (I wonder whether we’re trying to hide ties between Hezbollah and Nuri-al-Maliki’s government) or unable (because we only have tainted evidence) to try him in civilian court. Or maybe we did something like waterboard him.

The War on Terror and Our Collapsing Empire

A bomb took out the Norwegian Prime Minister’s office today (though he was safe), followed by a shooting at a summer camp tied to the PM’s party. Norwegian police report that the attack was probably domestic–not Islamic–terrorism. In other news, bmaz’ compatriots would rather be slammed by dust storms than haboobs. See also Glenzilla on the degree to which Americans are stumped by an attack on “peaceful” Norway.

Spencer reports that the State Department refuses to allow the Inspector General for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, to have any oversight into the 5000-person mercenary army that will protect “diplomats” after our troops leave. The State Department says Bowen’s mandate only covers reconstruction. Of course, State doesn’t have a normal Inspector General–haven gotten rid of Howard “Cookie” Krongard (brother of Blackwater and CIA figure, “Buzzy”) back in 2007 in the aftermath of the Nissour Square incident.

The Saudis are considering a law that would make ordinary dissent–such as questioning the integrity of King Abdullah–a terrorist crime.

This is not the day to discuss this (I hope to return to it), but the Bulletin of Nuclear Scientists compares our response to terrorism, WMD, and banksters to our response to climate change. (h/t Grist) Even acknowledging that terrorism remains a big threat, climate change now rivals if not surpasses it in terms of death and destruction. The animation above, btw, comes from this NOAA discussion on the current heat wave.

Links, 7/21

Our Crashing Economy

Obama is going to delay his push for Congress to approve 3 job-killing trade deals until after the August recess in the hopes he can get Trade Adjustment Assistance included. I guess he hopes to continue to pretend these have anything to do with job creation?

GAO’s audit of the Fed is out. As Bernie Sanders reports, it shows the Fed gave $16 trillion in loans to banks, including foreign banks.

Matt Taibbi is horrified that Democrats are treating the idea of a tax holiday as a serious proposal.As he describes, “leading members of the Senate are seriously considering giving the most profitable companies in the world a total tax holiday as a reward for their last seven years of systematic tax avoidance.”

Your Daily Murdoch

News Corp has lifted their gag on lawyers Harbottle and Lewis. So we may find out why they sat on damning emails for years.

It took only a few days for James Murdoch to be caught in a lie mistake. Parliament is going to bring James back to see if his memory improves.

Scotland Yard appears to have the goods on Andy Coulson: evidence he knew of illegal payments to the police.

The closest known analogy between News Corp’s UK hacking and actions here in the US has to do with a supermarket advertising company that alleged News Corp’s competitive subsidiary had hacked it. The company sued, only to be bought out by News Corp, ending the suit. And why weren’t criminal charges filed? Because Chris Christie, as US Attorney, didn’t bring charges.

Justice and Injustice

In OH, agencies only have to pay $10,000 if they improperly destroy public records. Golly. I wonder what effect that law will have?

At Netroots Nation, at a meeting on immigration, Luis Gutierrez revealed that the number of undocumented immigrants deported–400,000 a year–is set by Congressional statute that, in turn, feeds a whole deportation industry. Now, Republicans are trying to eliminate all executive branch discretion on deportation. I wonder which deportation industry donors are pushing that?

Nicholas Shaxson reports that a researcher has won an appeal to get key parts–names of key people, companies, and one country–of an old report on the BCCI scandal via FOIA. Of particular interest, the judges overrode the British desire to keep the country redacted because, “there is considerable public interest in the public seeing the whole of the Sandstorm Report so that it can be seen, not just what happened, but what role was played by the governments, institutions and individuals who were involved with an organisation guilty of what the authors of the Sandstorm Report (paragraph 10.1) described as ‘an enormous and complex web of fictitious transactions in what is probably one of the most complex deceptions in banking history.'”

Yesterday, I noted that judges had thrown out convictions against a bunch of environmental activists because the informant who had built the case against them was an agent provocateur. Craig Murray voices something I thought of too when I read about this: Muslims (I’d say in the UK and here in the US) are not afforded the same ability to make such a case about informants.

Surveillance Nation

Faced with an inability to master the human knowledge about Afghanistan, DOD has once against thrown computers at the problem–this time in the form of a DARPA program called Nexus 7. The logic is, “If you get transparency, you don’t need boots on the ground.” I’m sure they think they’ve achieved transparency. Uh huh.

WA has canceled the driver’s license of Jose Antonio Vargas, who revealed publicly last month he is undocumented.

The Aussies are going to take the proceeds that former Gitmo detainee David Hicks makes off his book.

Our Dying Empire

Amidst the more generalized craziness surrounding the debt limit, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has been hosting its own little marathon of crazy as it debates the appropriations for next year. It has already voted to cut the Organization of American States, reinstate the global gag rule on abortion, and now they’re talking about declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization (a vote on this will be delayed pending a classified hearing). But don’t worry–we’ll still fund Pakistan (which I do think we should do, but it does demonstrate the priorities here).

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.”


Links, July 18, 2011

Btw, DDay tells me I stole this idea from him. So I’m going to admit it fair and square that I did, indeed, take this idea partly from him.


The whistleblower who first tied Andy Coulson to the HackGate scandal, Sean Houre, was found dead in his home last night and the police are, for some reason, not treating the “unexplained” death as suspicious. I find that particularly curious given that Houre had just explained to the NYT and Guardian how News Corp journalists used cell phone data for geolocation, in much the same way our government secretly does under the PATRIOT Act.

Spencer has a really important article on TruePosition, one of the big players in geolocation. Of particular concern? It’s part of Liberty Media, one of the big players in media consolidation.

Chris Soghoian warns that the security problem that Murdoch’s minions used in HackGate may still exist on three US carriers–AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. He reminds that when AT&T and T-Mobile got caught with an open back door to the kind of hacking Murdoch’s minions used in the UK, they only had to reveal that vulnerability, not fix it.

Rule of Law

Thomas Drake was sentenced to a year of probation last Friday. Both the NYT and the Government Accountability Project describe the new asshole Judge Richard Bennett ripped William Welch and the government more generally for the way they treated Drake.

Remember Tim DeChristopher, the UT man who walked into a BLM auction and bid on land in an effort to prevent it from being drilled? In March, he was convicted of two counts of fraud. Bill McKibben writes about his upcoming sentencing, wondering why DeChristopher will be punished but not the MOTUs who crashed our economy.

The head of Obama’s Financial Task Force is leaving after 17 months on the job. Quick! Can you think of any high profile crime he has prosecuted?


Steven Aftergood reviews two of the snowflakes released in the latest batch of RummyLeaks, both address Rummy’s view on secrecy. I’m particularly interested in the November 2, 2005 one where Rummy muses that the US government can’t keep a secret. As Aftergood notes, Rummy doesn’t say what secret he was worried about. But there are two that were about to break: news of the black sites (Dana Priest broke that story just days later and Carl Levin was looking into it), and the warrantless wiretap program.

Corporate Government

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy rolled out an important new project, ALEC Exposed, chronicling the way that the American Legislative Exchange Council serves as a means for corporations to dictate legislative agenda at the state level. Here’s DemocracyNow on some of what CMD discovered. John Nichols looks at how ALEC has tried to curtail democracy.

One of the things the corporatists are trying to do is cut back access to justice. As part of this, Republicans in Congress are trying to cut over a quarter of legal aid’s funding. Adam Bonin has an update on what you can do to stop them.

The Empire and the Rest of the World

Josh Rogin reports on a letter a couple of Congresswomen sent to the PLO, warning that if they don’t drop a plan to ask for a UN vote giving Palestine statehood, they’ll lose US aid. This follows votes in both the House and Senate condemning the plan.

The perennial prediction of an impending Israeli attack on Iran continues, this time with a prediction from former spook Bob Baer. A big basis for recent claims of imminent attack–including this one–stems from warnings from former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Needless to stay, if the Israelis decide to attack Iran, they’ll be doing it over the heads of Americans stationed in Iraq.

Via Steve Hynd, Nuri al-Maliki’s got a new solution to his dilemma of whether to ask US troops to stay: to ask for mercs–er, um, trainers defended by mercs. That way Maliki can bypass his parliament without forgoing our footprint (and/or inviting us to bigfoot in the name of Iranian containment). Of particular note? The last line of the article, which emphasizes Iraq will continue to have US intelligence cooperation.

Eating the World

Mark Bittman links to this Environmental Working Group site that shows you how much better the globe would be if you ate lentils instead of cow. Among other things, it tracks the carbon footprint of 4 oz portions of a variety of foods.

Links, July 15, 2011

In an effort to keep track of breaking stories without necessarily doing a post on all of them, I’m going to start doing a post of links every day. I’ll explain more on what I’m trying to achieve with this next week. And I expect most days the post will be longer than this. But in case you were looking for reading material over the weekend…

Thomas Drake: Drake was sentenced to a year of probation today for exceeding the authorized use of a computer. I guess the only revenge Michael Hayden gets on Drake for whistleblowing about SAIC’s waste is the knowledge that he’s ruined Drake’s career. That, and that this case further institutionalizes the government’s efforts to treat leaks as espionage.

Debt Limit Distractions: The geniuses in DC are still squabbling over how much worse to make the recession by cutting government spending while money is practically free. Obama’s solution for jobs continues to be sending them overseas. Meanwhile, at a house party near, you, real people will be talking about jobs. And remember how David Plouffe claimed that Americans were feeling better about their own economic situations? They’re not.

More Bank Bailouts and Austerity in Europe: Meanwhile, country after country in Europe faces big lending costs because the banksters haven’t taken their share of losses from the crash, with Ireland leading the way. And Italy pushed through its own austerity measures today, continuing the push among most developed nations to alter the social contract to help the banks.

Murdoch Scandal: Several big developments today: Both Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton resigned today. Of note, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi who owns a big chunk of News Corp, had called for Brooks’ resignation. Meanwhile, in the US, DOJ has announced it is investigating News Corp, though the investigation may be limited to whether or not the company hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims. And News Corp has hired Brendan Sullivan Jr (lawyer to both Ted Stevens and Ollie North, from Williams & Connolly.

Libya: The US and a slew of other nations have recognized Libyan rebels as the legitimate government of Libya. While the WaPo explains the US’ earlier hesitation stemmed from concerns about governance, Harold Koh had also said–in response to a question from Senator Webb–that the US was sustaining its recognition of Qaddafi because it made it easier to hold him responsible for his actions. I guess now we can assassinate him without violating our bans on such things? It will also give the US and other nations the ability to unfreeze assets.

The War on Terrorism our Constitution: Yesterday, DOJ indicted someone for linking to bomb-making instructions. Marty Lederman assesses the indictment in light of historical precedent and suggests there may be problems with both charges. Today, the DC Circuit Court ruled that TSA could continue to use naked scanners.

Corporate Torture: There have been two circuit decisions in the last week finding that corporations can held liable for torture. bmaz or I will have more comment on these in the near future. But the short version is–this question is definitely headed for SCOTUS.