February 29, 2012

What the Stratfor Emails Reveal Re- Efforts Against Wikileaks & Assange

Per Raw Story,

In an email published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday morning, Stratfor vice president Fred Burton writes that his firm has “a sealed indictment on Assange” . . . . In another email, Burton suggests that authorities could “lock him up” by having Assange detained as a material witness. [c-Blog note: the US Dept. of Justice has refused to confirm whether such an indictment has been issued; some have speculated it's because extradition proceedings are still ongoing in the UK, where the law might bar extradition if it were shown that Sweden is likely to permit extradition to a country {the US} where Assange could face capital punishment.]

Burton’s email was sent in response to a discussion about reports that U.S. prosecutors have not been able to hang the case against Pvt. Bradley Manning on any direct contact with Assange [c-Blog note: which would be required in order to show that Assange had violated US law].

* * * * *

Other Stratfor emails that discuss WikiLeaks hint that sexual assault allegations against Assange might not be entirely legitimate. One message shows Stratfor President George Friedman . . . replying to analyst Chris Farnham, who openly questioned the veracity of the charges and alleged that a “close family friend in Sweden who knows the girl that is pressing charges” against the WikiLeaks founder allegedly said “there is absolutely nothing behind it” aside from a pair of eager prosecutors.
(Emphasis supplied.) More at Raw Story.

Dead Drops

"‘Dead Drops’ is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessable to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project. ‘Dead Drops’ is open to participation. If you want to install a dead drop in your city/neighborhood follow the ‘how to’ instructions and submit the location and pictures."

By Aram Bartholl; see deaddrops.com for more, including how to install.

February 28, 2012

If You Wish to Avoid the Dept. of Homeland Security's Attention

. . . you should minimize your use of the hundreds of terms listed at Animal on social media sites (or elsewhere online?) I was going to list some of them for you so you could see how ridiculous many of them are, but I prefer to avoid the DHS's attentions – although just mentioning them may be all it takes. (But really, terrorists might be planning a tornado?)

February 26, 2012

Wikileaks to Reveal: Private Spy Network Paid Gov't Officials et Al. for Profitable Secrets, Etc.

Per a twitter source, Wikileaks will begin publication tomorrow of some 5 million emails from the files of an entity called Stratfor:

Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files expose how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the "Yes Men", for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.
Per Gizmodo,
Wikileaks says that the emails also reveal the creation of a parallel organization called StratCap. Apparently, this organization would use Stratfor's network of informants to make money in financial markets. Wikileaks claims that the emails show how then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman put StratCap in motion in 2009.

* * * * *
Stratfor CEO has resigned following this clusterfuck. It seems the company's security hasn't been fixed yet, because Anonymous has captured and published his resignation email.
[Emphasis above and below in this post is supplied.] More at the links above.

A press release from the Yes Men notes,
Many of the Bhopal-related emails . . . reveal concern that . . . the Bhopal issue might be expanded into an effective systemic critique of corporate rule, and speculate at length about why this hasn't yet happened – providing a fascinating window onto what at least some corporate types fear most from activists.

"[Bhopal activists] have made a slight nod toward expanded activity, but never followed through on it—the idea of 'other Bhopals' that were the fault of Dow or others," mused Joseph de Feo, who is listed in one online source as a "Briefer" for Stratfor.

"Maybe the Yes Men were the pinnacle. They made an argument in their way on their terms—that this is a corporate problem and a part of the a [sic] larger whole," wrote Kathleen Morson, Stratfor's Director of Policy Analysis.

"With less than a month to go [until the 25th anniversary], you'd think that the major players – especially Amnesty – would have branched out from Bhopal to make a broader set of issues. I don't see any evidence of it," wrote Bart Mongoven, Stratfor's Vice President, in November 2004. . . .

Mongoven even speculates on coordination between various activist campaigns that had nothing to do with each other. "The Chevron campaign [in Ecuador] is remarkably similar [to the Dow campaign] in its unrealistic demand. Is it a follow up or an admission that the first thrust failed? Am I missing a node of activity or a major campaign that is to come? Has the Dow campaign been more successful than I think?" It's almost as if Mongoven assumes the two campaigns were directed from the same central activist headquarters.

Just as Wall Street has at times let slip their fear of the Occupy Wall Street movement, these leaks seem to show that corporate power is most afraid of whatever reveals "the larger whole" and "broader issues," i.e. whatever brings systemic criminal behavior to light. "Systemic critique could lead to policy changes that would challenge corporate power and profits in a really major way," noted Joseph Huff-Hannon, recently-promoted Director of Policy Analysis for the Yes Lab.
(You can see a Yes Man impersonating a Dow Chemical spokesman in an interview with an unwitting BBC here, accepting full responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal disaster.)

February 24, 2012

Re- Apple

I'm enjoying Walter Isaacson's eponymous biography of Steve Jobs. One thing it lacks that Jobs might have appreciated: an illustrated catalogue of Apple's products. You can see many of them here.

I had one of the powerbooks below.

Punk Economics

Here's a good explanation of the European debt crisis that's also applicable in the US:

A few points that might warrant further explanation:

First, there are good reasons why it's both more fair and more constructive to require lenders and derivatives speculators to eat losses arising from bad loans, rather than passing them on to innocent taxpayers. A basic concept in the law as it's evolved through the centuries is that, when a transaction or other course of conduct results in harm, if the person who was the primary cause (in this case, the borrower) lacks the financial means to make things right, the next person who should be held liable is the person who was in a position to figure out that there could be a problem but who, rather than investigating the situation and preventing the bad transaction, facilitated it and profited from it. In the present situation, this next person would be the banks that made and securitized the bad loans and especially those that created and sold pools of those loans and who also placed bets that those loans would go bad.

If the bankers are required to eat the losses on the loans and the bets they made on them, they'll be motivated not to make the same mistakes or commit the same frauds again. If, on the other hand, innocent taxpayers are required to pay for bankers' mistakes and frauds, the bankers are given every incentive to do it again. So it's both more fair and more constructive to let the bankers eat the losses they should have known would result, rather than imposing them on innocent taxpayers.

I personally also have no problem requiring borrowers who took out loans that went bad to eat their losses, although I do believe we should have a decent social safety net, so they don't end up on the streets.

Instead, we're doing the exact opposite of what would be most fair and constructive – we're bailing out the bankers and some of the borrowers, at the expense of the people who took no part in any of the foolishness or fraud.

Second, the reason excessive austerity won't help is that it's demand that drives economic recoveries. Even proponents of austerity occasionally slip up and admit this; and it's consistent with actual, historical experience in the US – the fact that the economy has tended to grow and deficits have tended to shrink during Democratic administrations, which tend to favor social safety nets and protections for workers, while the economy has tended to shrink and deficits have tended to grow during Republican administrations, whose policies have favored the 1%.

Giving money to people who already have more than they can spend does not stimulate the economy because they don't spend it. More particularly, rich people know it makes no sense to use the money to create inventory when so few others can afford to buy it, so they know it makes no sense to hire workers to create more inventory. When you give money to rich people during a recession, you encourage not job-creation but money-hoarding, which helps no one other than the rich. Thus, despite – or rather, because of – the fact that so much of the U.S. stimulus has gone to banks and big corps., employment has risen very little, while cash reserves held by those businesses have swollen dramatically. Time and again, "trickle-down" has been proven not to work, and that's why conservatives have abandoned the phrase; but they're still pushing the policy.

(It's ironic, too, that in order to believe that trickle-down could work, you have to embrace something its proponents emphatically reject: namely, you'd have to assume it makes sense for the rich to create products regardless of whether the market demands them, even at the risk that they're products no one would ever want, rather than letting the market – i.e., in this case, the rest of us – decide. I.e., you have to embrace centralized planning, only it's planning by the oligarchs rather than by an elected government.)

As a result of the way we've handled things under the undue influence of the rich, vast sums have been sucked out of the productive economy and pocketed by the oligarchs.

Basically, economics can be boiled down to one metaphor: you generally can't eat a carrot unless someone cultivates one. To the extent we allow the 1% to loot our carrots without doing anything to help grow them, we starve. The same is true vis à vis deadbeats among the 99%; but the 1% have perfected the means to loot our carrots faster and on a vaster scale. And we're not just practicing socialism for the rich; we're literally making crime pay, while impoverishing the people who have been the most economically productive . . . because the latter are the only people with any money left but who still lack (or who have as yet failed to effectively exercise) the political clout of the rich.

Finally, I agree with ar47yrr4p, who commented on the video, " . . . I think it might have been beneficial to mention Iceland and what happened there a couple years ago . . . you see they jailed their bankers and some of their MP's, threw out their government, [and] told the banks to shove it . . . and now Iceland is prospering." The same thing happened in the wake of the S&L debacle that resulted from Reagan's deregulation of those institutions: we liquidated the bad S&L's, prosecuted the fraudsters, and moved on.

February 20, 2012

Transparency Grenade

"The device is essentially a small computer with a powerful wireless antenna and a microphone. Following detonation, the grenade intercepts local network traffic and captures audio data, then makes the information immediately available online. . . . The grenade form factor may be a great vehicle for artistic expression, but its conspicuous nature makes it slightly impractical – and could see you propelled face first into the pavement by a member of law enforcement. That's why the development of an application for rooted Android devices is already under way. Constantly running in the background on a smartphone, the transparency grenade app is going to provide some of the original device's functionality."

Designed by Julian Oliver, with metal parts crafted by Susanne Stauch. The development process is funded by donations. See transparencygrenade for more info, including how to donate.

Update Re- "Derivatives for Dummies" (What Every Legislator Should Know About How to Fix Our Economy, but Doesn't)

Remember my posts in May, 2009 (here and here) on "Derivatives for Dummies"?

Well, they're still relevant, because we still haven't done anything about regulating the derivatives that were the source of the biggest loss to our economy (no, it wasn't bad mortgages!) – so the problem has only gotten worse since 2008.

Charles Hugh Smith's oftwominds has an updated discussion, with a description of the current state of the looming, derivatives-driven disaster: "[a]ccording to the Bank of International Settlements, as of June, 2011 total over-the-counter derivatives contracts have an outstanding notional value of 707.57 trillion dollars, (32.4 trillion dollars in CDS’s alone). Where does this kind of money come from, and what does it refer to? We don’t really know, because over-the-counter derivatives are [still] not transparent or regulated." [Emphasis supplied.]

If you don't know what I'm talking about, read my original posts (links at the top of this post). I don't think I've seen a simpler explanation, and it's not nearly as hard to understand as they try to make it seem.

As the hippies used to say, "where the people lead, the leaders will follow."

February 13, 2012

Re- the US Presidential Campaign Debates

WASHINGTON, DC —"The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debate . . . because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter," League President Nancy M. Neuman said today.

"It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions," Neuman said. "The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public."
From a press release dated October 3, 1988.

February 11, 2012

Why "Getting Back to Normal" is Not an Option

Great article by Sara Robinson at Alternet, summarizing three important kinds of shift we may now face:

  1. Per Joseph Stiglitz, we should stop waiting for the economy to "get back to normal"; it ain't gonna happen, because we face a once-in-a-lifetime shift in the basis for wealth creation, from a system based on manufacturing to one based on information. We have too many manufacturing workers and too few information workers. "Austerity and debt reduction will get us nowhere"; "[t]he current economic crisis is doomed to last exactly as long as we put off building [the workforce] necessary to the new information economy."

  2. Per Thomas Homer-Dixon, empires rise and fall based on their control of the dominant energy supply, and the US also faces a shift from oil to renewables. He adduces evidence that no empire has ever survived such a shift, because "the reigning hegemons are always too deeply invested in the current system to recognize the change, let alone repond to it in time."

  3. Per Gar Alperovitz, Jeffery Sachs, and Umair Haque, the real shift relates to the nature of our capitalist system. Haque identifies two kinds of good: those having "thin" value, typified by Big Macs, Hummers, and McMansions, tend to be artificial, unsustainable, and meaningless to anyone but the people who produce and consume them. Those having "thick" value tend to be sustainable and to have potential effects or uses that are moral or that multiply meaningfulness.

    Alperovitz points toward the growth in worker- or consumer-owned cooperative businesses and co-ops which, if continued, could result in a massive redistribution of labor and wealth. "America’s 30,000 cooperatives provide over 2 million jobs [, and t]he UN has declared 2012 to be the Year of the Co-Op, in recognition of the fact that nearly half the world’s population now belongs to cooperatives."
The sooner we let go of our assumption that going back to the way things were is desirable or even possible, the more we'll be able to help create the new world that's now arising.

February 3, 2012

Support Christian Porn

"Filmed procreation. Porn the way God intended."

Seriously, this is not to be missed. Not only is there a t-shirt shop, but there's a contact email for free clips and trailers, and more!

(Thanks, Ben!)

February 2, 2012

The Logic of Nonviolence

"Erica Chenoweth has developed a dataset and analyzed the historical record. Below the fold are slides summarizing the results of her study of 323
 non-violent and violent campaigns 
 1900‐2006." Lots more at naked capitalism.

(In other words,

Hatred never ceases by hatred;
But by love alone is healed.
This is an ancient and eternal law.
Dhammapada, Ch. 1, the Twin Verses 5, as quoted by Maha Ghosananda.)


Via Oddity Central (thanks Ben!)

Sources on Occupy, Assange

F.w.i.w., based on admittedly hurriedly searches, the best source I've found on the ongoing hearing in the UK Supreme Court on Assange's proposed extradition to Sweden for questioning is The Guardian's blog on Assange; and a good source on ongoing Occupy activity, aside from Tim Poole's livestream coverage, is Greg Mitchell at The Nation.

UPDATE: Apparently the core of Assange's appeal at this point is the argument that the person who issued the warrant for his extradition is not a genuine "judicial official," as required by the European applicable treaty – since the person who issued it was not a judge or other member of the judiciary, but the prosecutor in the case (which is sufficient under Swedish law but not under British law, and it's unclear whether it suffices under the treaty). (Assange recently gave a great summary of the case from his point of view, as well as his current situation, in his interview in Rolling Stone, by the way.) No decision is expected on Assange's appeal for at least a few weeks.

Excavated Ant Megalopolis

Can't resist re-blogging this.

Via Boing Boing (thanks, Ben!)