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Shockfront

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Goldman Sacks Athens

Wonderment.  The behaviour of Goldman Sachs is truly a wonder to behold.  And one of the beauties of watching the most purely evil organism on the planet "doing it's thing," is that the wonderment never ceases.  Ever new and gloriously mordant horizons of graft and financial shysterism present themselves almost daily.

The latest enumerated sin is Goldman Sachs involvement with current financial mayhem headliner, Greece.  Not only did Goldman knowingly hide billions in debt to help Greece gain admittance to the EU, Goldman continued to advise the earlier, unsurprisingly criminal, right wing "government" on how to continue to hide debt.  How did they do that?  Through new and innovative financial instruments, of course!
Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts.

As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.

Even as the

[...]More

Friday, 12 February 2010

Obama Administration: Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy"

The Obama administration continues the expansion of the surveillance police state, and will argue that American citizens have no right to expect that their mobile phones, and records thereof, cannot or will not be used to track and monitor their whereabouts.
the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment.

… phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.

Obtaining location details is now "commonplace," says
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Poland, Romania's Near-Term Missile Up

Recall the celebration of a new way forward when Barack Obama announced the "cancellation" of Bush-era missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republican.  This was strictly a publicity stunt.

In September of 2009, Obama announced that the US would "scrap missile defense shield plans."  The usual howls and praise were heard, Poland expressed a certain fury at the ostensible cancellation.  By October, Polish officials, continuing to ignore the wishes of their own population, declared Poland "ready to host elements of missile defense."  In November, Obama denied this and declared that the US had "no commitment" toward missile defense deployment in Poland, until such time in December, when US and Polish officials signed an agreement to deploy a US Patriot Missile battery in Poland.  Recently, the Polish Defense Ministry announced the deployment of a U.S. Patriot missile battery 60km from Russian territory, with expected delivery of the battery planned for March.

Excitedly, Romania has joined the US missile defense fray, wherein
US Patriot missile installations promise to blossom like wild, hellish flowers by 2015.
The United States plans by 2015 to field ballistic missile interceptors in Romania.

The U.S. State Department confirmed the statement by Romanian President Traian Basescu that his nation would become part of

[...]More

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Iraq to Blackwater: You have seven days to leave.

The ostensible "incompetence" of the US Department of Justice in the handling of the Nisoor Square massacre, and the subsequent dismissal of the case in US federal court, raised enormous ire in Iraq.  Enough, it now appears, for the Iraqis to finally say, enough is enough. The Interior Ministry has ordered all Blackwater security personnel out of the country.
Iraq has ordered about 250 former and current employees of Blackwater Worldwide to leave the country within seven days or face having their visas pulled.

The order comes in the wake of a U.S. judge dismissing criminal charges against five Blackwater guards who were accused in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad.

The shooting inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said on Wednesday the order targets security contractors who worked for Blackwater at the time of the shootout. He said all "concerned parties" were notified of the order three days ago.

It will be interesting to see how far this goes.  Certainly, there will be attempted work-arounds.  But the Iraqis do appear determined to get these assholes out of the country.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Taking Down the Grouse

The recent damning report in The Washington Times (Whoa, nelly!  What is going there?  The Moon unit zapping the GOP?  an impervious, implacable foe, that knows no shame!  Stay tuned!) by the complicatedly named Jim McElhattan is a masterful hit on major GOP figures most aggressively opposing Barack Obama and the Democrats on, well, everything., but especially the stimulus bill.

McElhattan names names, a tear down of each one.  Brilliant stuff.
Sen. Christopher S. Bond regularly railed against President Obama's economic stimulus plan as irresponsible spending that would drive up the national debt. But behind the scenes, the Missouri Republican quietly sought more than $50 million from a federal agency for two projects in his state.

Mr. Bond was not alone. More than a dozen Republican lawmakers, while denouncing the stimulus to the media and their constituents, privately sent letters to just one of the federal government's many agencies seeking stimulus money for home-state pork projects.

The letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, expose the gulf between lawmakers' public criticism of the overall stimulus package and their private lobbying for projects close to home.
McElhattan proceeds through each of those letters, and visits the undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns … without a really good story. Through FOIA requests, the letters uncover the previously undisclosed behaviour of the Red Bull GOP yowlers who had railed against the commie stimulus bill but who, miraculously, were now grabbing those bucks, because now, well, now that it's been passed by those horrible Democrats, who are always against America, with the [...]More

Monday, 08 February 2010

Descent into madness

The expected outcome of years of extremist torture mongering, pundit plaudits, repeated public pronouncements of efficacy, and unseemly News Corp. Jack Bauer adulation is made manifest; a first cleanly refracted image of the Fox News future.
U.S. soldier 'waterboarded his own daughter, 4, because she couldn't recite alphabet'

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet.

Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry.

As his daughter 'squirmed' to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline.

Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water.
Look for Fox News and Charles Krauthammer to declaim the soldier's arrest; she clearly had it coming, probable links to al Qaeda.
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Final Night Launch of NASA Shuttle

The grand strategic vision that has guided the US space program since the glory days of the Apollo missions has resulted in the final night launch of a NASA space shuttle: STS-130, heading off to the useless International Space Station.  Soon to be followed by the final launch of any NASA space shuttle at anytime of the day.

Truly, this is a triumph of money-grubbing, militarized corporatism over national pride and inspiration.  Because, really, what is the point of going to the moon if one can't make gobs of money from it or immediately turn it into a weapons platform or, preferably, both?

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Space shuttle Endeavour roars off Launch Pad 39A on its STS-130 mission to deliver Tranquility and cupola to the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann


For those interested, these are the remaining shuttle launches on the docket.
STS-131: March 18, 2010, Discovery
STS-132:   May 14, 2010, Atlantis
STS-134:  July 29, 2010, Endeavour
STS-133: Sept 16, 2010, Discovery
That's all folks.  Now, we will wait upon the tender mercies of Virgin Galactic and Amazonian CEO's to deliver us into the final frontier.

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Sunday, 07 February 2010

Jesus was a cage fighter

The goal … is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter."
And nothing says "more appealing" than cage fighting.

The Christianists are insane.  We know this.  They know this.  They say this all the time.  They happily call themselves "crazy for Jesus."  You've heard this.  Of course, we all thought it was just a quaint, religio-nutter figure of speech.

Turns out, … not.  Turns out, their linguistic stylings are exactly like those which they find in their beloved Bible: completely and utterly literal.  They are crazy.

Naturally enough, the Jesus-crazy, in a presumed mutation, turns out some people who don't like the historical, lovey-dove Jesus, all that forgiving and love-thy-neighbour sissy talk.  Fuck-up thy neighbour, is what they think he should have been saying.  Jesus may not have been a cage fighter, but by god, these good folks know he could have -- would have -- been one.  Isn't there one passage in the Gospels where Jesus is like a pissed off Tony Jaa delivering this world's most awesome hand-to-hand evil upon some muthafuckahs who surely deserve it?  Well, if there isn't, there should be.

So, a certain faction of Jesus' pals on earth have decided to toughen up his image.  By fighting each other
[...]More

A Tale of Two "Climate gates"

Since US media coverage of all things Sarah Palin pales all else, more than a few may not have noticed that the CRU "Climate gate" charade is playing out heavily in the British press.

Without further commentary, the tale is summarily and succinctly told by the front pages of two UK dailies, Sunday, February 7, 2010 editions.  Any editorial bias and/or hidden corporate agendas,  either apparent or inferred, are purely coincidental.

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Click on image for a larger version
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Of the two, I suspect you will find the latter story the more interesting.
Think-tanks take oil money and use it to fund climate deniers
Yes.  Yes, they do.  And have been for years.  Naturally, recipients of oil revenue largess scoff at the notion of a conspiracy -- "I'm a grim and mirthless bastard!  fiercely independent!  No one has co-opted me!  Any coincidence between ExxonMobil's agenda and my own is purely that: coincidence."

It seems that the letter [...]More

Saturday, 06 February 2010

Obamacare, rev. 1.7

'She insisted she's going to be buried in an Obama t-shirt'

A t-shirt not to be confused with the soon to-be-released Girl Buried in an Obama t-shirt t-shirt. Which will be Obamacare, rev. 1.7.1

That's quite a plan, Mr. Obama.  Apart from the feel-good aura of self-referentiality, what, exactly, are you proud of?  After refusing to stand for anything on the health care bill, you now stand up proudly and say this?  Your performance on health care to date mocks this woman's death.

You stood in front of the House Republicans and said you were not an ideologue.  "I'm not!" you said.  Republicans don't believe this, of course, but remember: this is a group of people who, if told that their "base" was growing restless because gravity was not in the Bible, and that the gub'mint was teachin' their kids 'bout this so-called "gravity" as if it were a fact, not a theory, well, this group of people that Obama was talking to that night would thenceforth not believe in gravity, or at least would find it troubling that their nation's children were learning only one side of the "gravity" story.  But Obama did tell the truth.

Mr. Obama, though the Republicans will never acknowledge it, you were being absolutely truthful, a rare moment that might otherwise be applauded in less dire contexts, where the prospects of such a lack of conviction might have less deadly consequences.  The President told us the truth!

Yes, sir, you are not an ideologue.  You appear to care about nothing, and any appearance made by the word care within any Obama namespace ought

[...]More

Friday, 05 February 2010

Russia Accused of Nuclear Weapons/Waste Dumping in Baltic

[Update below]
The Russian military allegedly dumped nuclear waste into the Baltic Sea in the early 1990s …

The partly enclosed Baltic Sea is known as one of the most polluted seas in the world.

But now it seems it was also used as a dumping ground for Russian nuclear waste and chemical weapons.

Radioactive material from a military base in Latvia is thought to have been thrown into Swedish waters.

According to a report on Swedish television, Russian boats sailed out at night, to dump barrels of radioactive material, from a military base in Latvia, into Swedish waters.
Update: you can watch the Swedish Television episode of uppdrag granskning for the exposé.  [In Swedish, though there is one brief segment where one hears, in English, "we know there are nuclear weapons in the Baltic."  And that is pretty much the story, attendant larceny and graft in tow.]

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Thursday, 04 February 2010

US missionaries charged with child kidnapping in Haiti

Baptist missionaries baby shopping in Haiti have been charged with child kidnap and criminal association.  Of course, they don't see "man's law" as terribly relevant to the conduct of their lives. As one God's law nutjob tells us, "God's will be done."

Good luck with that, sister!  People on earth generally don't like their babies being stolen.
Ten American missionaries arrested in Haiti for trying to take 33 children out of the country after last month's earthquake were charged today with child kidnapping and criminal association.

The group, most of whom are members of an Idaho-based church group, were sent back to jail today after a closed court hearing in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

Their lawyer, Edwin Coq, said that the judge had found sufficient evidence to file charges against his clients, who were arrested last Friday at Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic while trying to take the busload of ­children out of the country without documents or permission.
Not disabused by American unwillingness to see these activities for what they really are, a cartoon from the buitenlands frames the situation succinctly,
Click on image for a larger version
file-259 [...]More

Een dagje de Dam: 24 uur in 4 minuten

Not all human interfaces are terrible, as the Dam Square in Amsterdam demonstrates.  Watch 24 hours in 4 minutes in the center of Amsterdam.

I have been informed by unnamed sources that this video is from October on the day of a Dinamo Zagreb v Ajax football game. Note the "blue vans," Amsterdam police who are called to action throughout the evening as reports of wilding soccer hooligans force a series of deployments (which may marginalize the initial statement here).

Note, at no time during the 24 hour period does gridlock occur, and this with the circus in town.



from Het Parool

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From the Annals of Rap Battles: "Fear the Boom and Bust"

Plucked from Hancock's business blog, EconStories.tv gives us a rappin' Keynes v Hayek.  Some not bad rhymes.



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Wednesday, 03 February 2010

DHS Domestic Security Policy: Let the terrorists in!

We finally have admission on the part of the United States government, that it is the security policy of this and many administrations, to allow persons on terrorist watch lists into the country.  Global Security Newswire reported that,
U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged the government knowingly allows foreigners whose names are on terrorist watch lists to enter the country in order to track their movement and activities (see GSN, Jan. 13).

In an unusual and startling admission, Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, disclosed the practice during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday.

"I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another," Leiter said.

On Thursday, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed that people who are on three of four federal terrorist watch lists are sometimes allowed into the country.
Now, here's the good part:
"In certain situations it's to our advantage to be able to track individuals who might be on a terrorist watch list because you can learn something from their activities and their contacts."
Why, yes, Michael. Yes there is something to be learned there.  Such as when "the Nigerian" lights off his underpants bomb in an airplane over Detroit. Or when other terrorist watch listed fellows fly airplanes into skyscrapers.  It sure looks like something could be learned from those activities.  But, from the [...]More
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