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World Shaker

February 2, 2011

Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire six weeks ago in Tunisia out of frustration that his vegetable cart, the only means he had to eke out a living, had been confiscated by the authorities.

It’s doubtful that Bouazizi had any inkling of the events his action would set in motion and unfortunately he did not survive to see them. Don’t know if Mr. Bouazizi had a political bone in his body but he definitely got the attention of those who do and six weeks later his own corrupt government has fallen, the corrupt Egyptian regime is on the ropes and could fall at any time, and other Middle Eastern nations are watching intently and may soon follow suit. Bouazizi has become a world shaker, and the oligarchs and plutocrats of the West, East, North and South don’t know whether to smile, spit, or swallow.

As disturbing as the practice of self-immolation is, there is a lesson to be taken here (and no, the lesson is NOT that more people should start setting themselves aflame). Lash out at your enemies and the decent people of the world are repelled. Put your own ass on the line and the decent people might just follow.

Millions of them.

As we all continue to watch events unfold, please take a moment to remember Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who had nothing and yet managed to change the course of history.

Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.

RIP.

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41 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2011 10:10 am

    Jeremy Scahill notes a distinct change in the treatment Al Jazeera is receiving after the events of the last several weeks – Washington Embraces Al Jazeera.

    If it weren’t for Al Jazeera, much of the unfolding Egyptian revolution would never have been televised. Its Arabic- and English-language channels have provided the most comprehensive coverage of any network in any language hands-down. Despite the Mubarak regime’s attempts to shut it down, Al Jazeera’s brave reporters and camera crews have persevered.

    ~snip~

    The Obama White House has been intently monitoring al Jazeera’s coverage of the Egyptian revolt. The network, already famous worldwide, is now a household name in the United States. Thousands of Americans—many of whom likely had never watched the network before—are livestreaming Al Jazeera on the Internet and over their phones. With a handful of exceptions, most US cities and states have no channel that broadcasts Al Jazeera. That’s because cowardly US cable providers refuse to grant the channel a distribution platform, largely for fear of being perceived as supporting or enabling a network that for years has been portrayed negatively by US officials.

    It’s as if they just figured out that Al Jazeera isn’t all that popular with Arab leaders either so now it’s OK to watch them. Few days ago I was watching the Al Jazeera live feed and I turned on CNN at the same time to see what they were saying. It was almost as if they were just regurgitating what was coming across from Al Jazeera at the exact same time.

    The latest –

    Mubarak vows to finish his term which does not go over well at all. Now things are starting to get ugly.

    Hoping to avoid similar ugliness in their own countries, King Abdullah in Jordan has fired his cabinet and Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has vowed that neither he nor his son will seek office again.

    Sounds like it may all be too little too late.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 2, 2011 1:35 pm

      Related note –

      Good article on another relatively unknown rat with a lot of clout – The Empire’s Bagman: Frank Wisner in Cairo .

      From inside the bowels of Washington’s power elite, Frank Wisner emerges, briefcase in hand. He has met the President, but he is not his envoy. He represents the United States, but is not the Ambassador. What is in his briefcase is his experience: it includes his long career as bagman of Empire, and as bucket-boy for Capital. Pulling himself away from the Georgetown cocktail parties and the Langley Power-point briefings, Wisner finds his way to the Heliopolis cocktail parties and to the hushed conferences in Kasr al-Ittihadiya. Mubarak (age 82) greets Wisner (age 72), as these elders confer on the way forward for a country whose majority is under thirty.

      ~snip~

      Wisner has a long lineage in the CIA family. His father, Frank Sr., helped overthrow Arbenz of Guatemala (1954) and Mossadeq of Iran (1953), before he was undone in mysterious circumstances in 1965. Frank Jr. is well known around Langley, with a career in the Defense and State Departments along with ambassadorial service in Egypt, the Philippines, and then India. In each of these places Wisner insinuated himself into the social and military branches of the power elite. He became their spokesperson. Wisner and Mubarak became close friends when he was in country (1986-1991), and many credit this friendship (and military aid) with Egypt’s support of the US in the 1991 Gulf War. Not once did the US provide a criticism of Egypt’s human rights record. As Human Rights Watch put it, the George H. W. Bush regime “refrained from any public expression of concern about human rights violations in Egypt.” Instead, military aid increased, and the torture system continued. The moral turpitude (bad guys, aka the Muslim Brotherhood and democracy advocates need to be tortured) and the torture apparatus set up the system for the regime followed by Bush’s son, George W. after 911, with the extraordinary rendition programs to these very Egyptian prisons. Wisner might be considered the architect of the framework for this policy.

    • sisdevore permalink
      February 4, 2011 9:03 pm

      al jazeera rocks. I’ve been listening/watching constantly. What we hoped CNN would be, before it caved, and became about it’s broadcasters.

      Although, CNN gave us Christianne Amanpour, who I don’t see as particularly tainted.

  2. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2011 1:48 pm

    It’s now official. The USDA has approved Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa. Not only that, it’s been given full non-regulated status so I guess anything goes even though nobody has any clue what the long term effects might be. Just fucking brilliant.

    Some people are trying to fight back however I doubt calls to Congress will amount to a pisshole in the snow. More here.

    There is evidence that the USDA was subjected to intense lobbying by Monsanto at the last minute, and possible collusion with Monsanto by the White House. According to Food Safety News, “Sources familiar with the negotiations at the USDA…believe the White House asked Vilsack to drop proposed regulations so the Administration would appear more friendly to business.”

    And why do we need this new Round-Up dependent alfalfa when it has been grown without using much pesticide at all in the past?

    Moreover, Roundup Ready® alfalfa will substantially increase herbicide use. The USDA’s own data shows that just 7% of alfalfa acres are currently treated with herbicides. USDA’s projections in the EIS show that substantial adoption of Roundup Ready®increases in herbicide use of up to 23 million pounds per year.

    And much of that will wind up right in the Gulf of Mexico. Guess Barry doesn’t care now that everything else there is already dead.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 3, 2011 1:48 pm

      Related news from Mexico – Mexico, cradle of corn, finds its noble grain under assault.

      Plant specialists describe the native varieties of corn in Mexico as a genetic trove that might prove valuable should extreme weather associated with global warming get out of hand. Corn, one of the most widely grown grains in the world, is a key component of the global food supply.

      But experts say Mexico’s native varieties are themselves under peril — from economics and genetic contamination — potentially depriving humans of a crucial resource.

      Farmers are punished at the marketplace for selling native corn, and some types are dwindling from use. Perhaps more significantly, genetically modified corn is drifting southward and mingling with native varieties, potentially bringing unexpected aberrations and even possible extinction.

      ~snip~

      Through the centuries, varieties of corn adapted to different soils, altitudes, temperature conditions and water availability, and Gonzalez said the seed stock handed down in his village in this corner of the Sierra Juarez range in central Oaxaca state probably wouldn’t grow well just a few miles distant.

      “In the sierra here, there are varieties of corn that grow as high as 3,000 meters,” Gonzalez said, or nearly 10,000 feet. “There are varieties that can be planted in swampy land or that you can plant in semidesert areas. They may not be very productive but they have allowed people to survive.”

      Then there was this bullshit from Monsanto –

      In late 2009, the government permitted a subsidiary of a U.S. conglomerate, Monsanto, to test genetically modified corn on isolated plots of about 240 acres in Sinaloa and Tamaulipas states in the north.

      The head of Monsanto Mexico, Jose Manuel Madero, said at a news conference two weeks ago that the federal government demands further tests before allowing commercial farming of the genetically altered corn.

      Madero said modified corn was in use in 20 countries around the world and would help Mexico raise agricultural productivity, cut its reliance on food imports and slash the use of herbicides, thereby protecting the environment.

      Slash the use of herbicides? Really? Perhaps this corn is not used in conjunction with Roundup, but otherwise I fail to see how this would slash the use of herbicides, unless Monsanto has bribed some officials to come up with a new designation for its chemicals.

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 3, 2011 4:44 pm

      7% sounds about right. Have you ever tried to get rid of alfalfa? By its nature it can rebound quickly from most insect flareups just like it does from mowing, and if you have weeds in alfalfa, you just aren’t trying.

      This is a solution in search of a problem.

  3. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2011 2:10 pm

    Not much new in the following articles on the financial world, but taken together they make for an interesting back and forth.

    Dean Baker notes that the UK experiment in austerity isn’t panning out so well and suggests that those in the US would be wise to take note.

    But he seems to realize that Barry and the bankers likely will not do so because in this article he discusses how the US government is more than happy to make good on debts owed to bankers by other banks with the people’s money, but when it comes time to make good on debts owed to the people with the people’s money, not so much.

    One Brit offers a weak tea remedy. He notes the enormous government subsidies UK banks receive from the government and suggests that if the bankers pay up and reimburse the public through lending to small business, the people will shut up about the outrageous compensation they continue to pay themselves.

    Yves Smith also notes the overly generous subsidies the banking industry receives as well as the again record compensation they awarded themselves for 2010. Her suggestion of a remedy is much more appropriate – prosecute the sons of bitches and take back their ill gotten gains.

    Enjoyed this bit at the end –

    While we invoked Croesus, perhaps the better metaphor is that of Crassus, the richest man in the history of Rome, and arguably one of the wealthiest men ever. He made most of his fortune via the proscriptions (basically legalized theft) under the dictator Sulla, and increased it via a combination of investment and opportunism (he was famous for buying buildings as soon as they caught fire, as well as the ones immediately adjacent, then having his well organized fire brigade put the blaze out, which usually resulted in him getting the neighboring properties on the cheap and fully intact). He nevertheless also became a general, since even with his riches, top status was accorded to conquerers, not mere plutocrats.

    His relentless pursuit of wealth was his undoing. Crassus attacked Parthia, a rich prize, and underestimated the prowess of its army. The accounts of his death vary, but he was preparing to meet with the Parthian king when he was killed in a skirmish. One account says that the king, upon receiving his corpse, poured molten gold into his mouth to punish him for his thirst for wealth.

  4. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2011 1:53 pm

    Big news from the Kepler satellite – more habitable zone exoplanets and a six planet system discovered.

  5. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2011 2:34 pm

    More on Egypt, etc. –

    Good rundown of yesterday’s events from this Al Jazeera liveblog. Sounds like the pro-democracy protesters manged to push out the pro- Mubarak goons for the time being at least.

    Looks like Al Abdullah Saleh’s vow not to run again didn’t take as thousands hit the streets in Yemen . He’s already taken a page from Mubarak’s book and has pro-government demonstrators out there as a counter already.

  6. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2011 2:46 pm

    Excellent reprint of a speech given in defense of libraries and decrying the “free market” fundamentalism that is causing their budgets to be slashed all over the world, including in my own town.

    The squidlette has a blast going to children’s story time every week at the local library. Recently two of the beloved librarians who ran this program were forced out due to budget cuts. One retired early and the other quit in disgust, citing cuts as a reason. meanwhile the crappy little strip mall that nobody wanted continues to be built after the developer received a few hundred grand from the city.

    Here’s the piece well worth reading in full – Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value.

  7. cometman permalink*
    February 4, 2011 1:28 pm

    With Egypt erupting, there is lots of talk on financial sites in recent days about the rising food prices cited by the protesters as one of their grievances, specifically the cause of those rising prices which many are blaming on the Fed’s monetary policy of quantitative easing, aka printing shitloads of money. And shitloads of cheap money cause inflation.

    Inflation, or creating another bubble, seems to be precisely what the Ber-nank wants despite claims to the contrary. Stocks are up, many back to their pre-meltdown levels, and this is touted as evidence that QE worked. But while stock prices may be back to their old levels, the actual value of the dollars one pays for those stocks is not. You may be able to sell your stock for the same price you could three years ago but the proceeds won’t go nearly as far. This article explains it very well – Bernanke: Does He Really Think We’re This Dumb?. In short, the author explains that when taking leverage (ie debt) into consideration, back in 2007 you’d would have needed to purchase on average $4 worth of stock to get a value in tangible assets of $1 . Today, you must purchase on average $12 of stock to get the same $1 value. If that isn’t a bubble I don’t know what is, and when (not if) it blows it’s going to be a disaster.

    But cheap money hasn’t just created another stock market bubble, but also bubbles in the commodities markets. Global food prices recently hit another record high but it isn’t due to shortages or bad weather so much as financial speculation in completely deregulated markets.

    From the WSJ – Companies Stock Up as Commodities Prices Rise . Most people understanmd that flooding the economy with cheap money is going to cause inflation so they’re stockpiling commodities, which creates a vicious cycle of even more inflation –

    Companies contending with rising commodity prices are stockpiling rubber tires, cotton clothing and other goods, a maneuver that is aimed at insulating them from inflation but also could contribute to it.

    As the mouthpiece for the business world the WSJ writes “could contribute” but it ought to say “will”.

    Good basic rundown of the situation here – Food, Egypt and Wall Street.

    More from Bruce Krasting – WSJ & Ben.

    Companies are stockpiling stuff because they think prices are going to rise. Not surprising at all. Cheap money is the fuel for commodity price increases. This is what the Fed has said time and again that they want to see happen. Bernanke is delighted to read that some guy is stocking up on shirts with ZIRP financing. It “proves” that his policy is working. It also proves that his policy is stoking food/commodity inflation. That crosses a very big line when countries are falling.

    Tempted to say that countries falling so Uncle sugar can swoop in and save the day might have been the intent, but from reading the next article, I don’t think that was the case because Egypt under Mubarak had already been doing the bidding of the IMF, World Bank, US financiers, etc.

    More from (the dreamy) Nomi Prins – The CIA on Egypt’s Economy, Financial Deregulation and Protest

    Egypt’s more devastating economic transformation centered around its decision to aggressively sell off its national banks as a matter of foreign and financial policy between 2005 and early 2008 (around the time that US banks were stoking a global sub-prime and other forms-of-debt and leverage oriented crisis). Having opened its real estate to foreign investment and private equity speculation, the next step in the deregulation of the country’s banks was spurring international bank takeovers complete with new bank openings, where international banks could begin plowing Egyptians for fees. Citigroup, for example, launched the first Cards reward program in 2005, followed by other banks.

    ~snip~

    When a country, among other shortcomings, relinquishes its financial system and its population’s well-being to the pursuit of ‘good deals’, there is going to be substantial fallout. The citizens protesting in the streets of Greece, England, Tunisia, Egypt and anywhere else, may be revolting on a national basis against individual leaderships that have shafted them, but they have a common bond; they are revolting against a world besotted with benefiting the powerful and the deal-makers at the expense of ordinary people.

    Blaming the Fed for rising food prices got enough traction that the Ber-nank felt it necessary to issue a denial in his presser yesterday –

    Asset purchases by the US Federal Reserve do not cause rising food prices in countries such as Egypt, the central bank’s chairman Ben Bernanke said on Thursday.

    “I think it’s entirely unfair to attribute excess demand pressures in emerging markets to US monetary policy, because emerging markets have all the tools they need to address excess demand in those countries,” he said.

    ~snip~

    Answering questions after a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr Bernanke said that rising food prices in the emerging world reflected the growing wealth of their populations and, in some countries, a failure to tackle inflation.

    Sounds to me like the Ber-nank is the one in denial, and that ain’t just a river in Egypt.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 4, 2011 1:47 pm

      On a somewhat related note, the hubris of the Ber-nank and the banksters still knows no bounds. Having fucked up the entire world with their fraudulent schemes, they have their sights set on even more fraud and the bailouts that will come to them as a result. Credit where credit is due, they really are tenacious when it comes to thinking up new ways to pillage the rest of us. Via Yves Smith – Wall Street Co-Opting Nominally Liberal Think Tanks; Banks Lobbying to Become New GSEs.

      Side note: GSE is financial speak for Government Sponsored Enterprise a la Fannie and Freddie.

      A think tank that calls itself liberal, the Center for American Progress, just presented a plan to reform Fannie/Freddie and the housing finance system. It would create an FDIC-like insurance fund for the securitization market, and create entirely private Fannie/Freddie like entities that can offer insurance wrappers on mortgage-backed securities, only these entities will carry explicit government guarantees. These entities can also be controlled by banks.

      ~snip~

      Effectively all this proposal does is move Fannie’s and Freddie’s activities to new private entities that will have bigger loss cushions and and an explicit government guarantee. It thus preserves the incentives that led to their being placed in conservatorship in the first place, namely, socialized losses and privatized gains.

      It is takes a wee bit of unpacking to depict accurately the multiple levels of hypocrisy involved in this initiative. First, the banking industry has long attacked Fannie and Freddie for distorting the mortgage market. Now they come hat in had to the government hat in hand wanting to be the GSEs.

      Actually, that characterization is too kind. They are pushing for a better deal than the GSE had. They want the new entities, which they call to be fully privatized (they are called “Chartered Mortgage Institutions”, while the GSEs had an ambiguous public/private role that became more private over time, and they want an explicit government guarantee, while the old GSE had an implicit guarantee (actually, their documents declared loudly that they were not government guaranteed, but the reassurance of government officials to important foreign investors led them to demand that the US stand behind the guarantees).

      ~snip~

      the bigger source of profit to banks will be no doubt be indirect. Take note of the huge lie at the heart of this: the idea that the new CMIs will charge a sufficiently high premium. If the insurance were “appropriately priced”, it would lead to the mortgages having pretty much the same terms as if there were no guarantee. “Appropriately priced” insurance has to cover the risk of expected loss. In fact, third-party insurance is typically more costly than self insuring because people are loss averse and are willing to pay more than the actual expected value of loss to forestall the consequences of Bad Stuff Happening to Them.
      But the canard is in plain view; the document explicitly says that the insurance will NOT cover the risk of “catastrophic loss”; that is to be borne by the taxpayer.

      So they want the taxpayer to foot the bill for any of their derivative deals that just so happen to blow up in their face. And Barry will likely give it to them too, now that he’s hurt their poor little feelings so badly by already giving them every damn thing they wanted.

      Ratfuckers.

  8. cometman permalink*
    February 4, 2011 5:10 pm

    melvin, no idea how it got there , but I just rescued this comment from a few days ago from the spam filter.

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 7, 2011 9:33 am

      Yeah I remember that, it just disappeared into the ether, no filter message, nothing. I think that happened to Devore a while back too. Who knows? It turned into a diary at witr.

  9. artemis54 permalink
    February 7, 2011 9:41 am

    A couple interesting notes at EurekAlert this morning:

    Recognizing gibbons from their regional accents

    This is actually open access, but bmc is down right now.

    Clay-armored bubbles may have formed first protocells

    We have now provided a complete physical mechanism for the transition from a two-phase clay–air bubble system, which precludes any aqueous-phase chemistry, to a single aqueous-phase clay vesicle system,” Subramaniam says, “creating a semipermeable vesicle from materials that are readily available in the environment.

    Relatively stable and semi-permeable, an empty proto-cell.

    Dust to dust?

    Sadly, the original article is behind a wall.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 7, 2011 10:35 am

      Fascinating and also hard to miss the biblical implications. Wonder how long it will be before the Discovery Institute latches on to this as “proof” of something or other in the Jeebus book….

  10. cometman permalink*
    February 7, 2011 12:36 pm

    Some encouraging news –

    W has to cancel a trip to Switzerland due to security fears. People already had their shoes at the ready –

    Protest organisers had called for participants to each bring a shoe to the rally outside the lakeside Hotel Wilson – named after another US president, Woodrow Wilson – where the dinner was to be held.

    Also, shark attacks were up 25% last year worldwide.

  11. cometman permalink*
    February 7, 2011 1:59 pm

    Couple of good ones on “jumping genes” or horizontal gene transfer –

    In old fungi – Discovery of Jumping Gene Cluster Tangles Tree of Life.

    “The fungi are telling us something important about evolution … something we didn’t know,” said Antonis Rokas, assistant professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt. He and research associate Jason Slot reported their discovery in the Jan. 25 issue of the journal Current Biology.

    Rokas and Slot discovered that millions of years ago, a cluster of 23 genes jumped from one strain of mold commonly found on starchy foods like bread and potatoes, Aspergillus, to another strain of mold that lives in herbivore dung and specializes in breaking down plant fibers, Podospora.

    The findings came as a major surprise, as there are only a handful of cases in recent evolutionary history where this type of gene transfer between organisms, known as horizontal gene transfer, has been reported in complex cells like those found in plants, animals and fungi.

    And in new humans – Jumping Genes Caught in the Act: New Evidence That the Genome Contains Many Mobile Elements.

    An ambitious hunt by Johns Hopkins scientists for actively “jumping genes” in humans has yielded compelling new evidence that the genome, anything but static, contains numerous pesky mobile elements that may help to explain why people have such a variety of physical traits and disease risks.

    Using bioinformatics to compare the standard assembly of genetic elements as outlined in the reference human genome to raw whole-genome data from 310 individuals recently made available by the 1000 Genomes Project, the team revealed 1,016 new insertions of RIPs, or retrotransposon insertion polymorphisms, thereby expanding the catalog of insertions that are present in some individuals and absent in others. Their results appeared online October 27 in Genome Research.

    ~snip~

    “In any individual, only between 80 to 100 retrotransposons are actively copying and inserting into new sites,” says Haig Kazazian, M.D., professor of human genetics, McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We’re not only discovering where they are and who has which ones, but also finding out that they insert with a remarkable frequency: On the order of one in every 50 individuals has a brand-new insertion that wasn’t in their parents.”

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 10, 2011 10:30 am

      Fascinating.

  12. cometman permalink*
    February 8, 2011 1:35 pm

    Few days ago it looked like the Egyptian protests may be petering out after Mubarak let loose the goon squad and Bushwa Barry started making the rounds about installing the latest US puppet. Fewer protesters remained but the diehards were holding strong as “negotiations” commenced.

    More from Robert Fisk – The wrong Mubarak quits. Soon the right one will go. He remains unsure of what government will take Mubarak’s place, but it does seem very likely that he will be gone.

    Fisk also has more on Washington’s bagman in Egypt Frank Wisner and the glaring conflicts of interest he brings with him – US envoy’s business link to Egypt

    Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama’s envoy to Cairo who infuriated the White House this weekend by urging Hosni Mubarak to remain President of Egypt, works for a New York and Washington law firm which works for the dictator’s own Egyptian government.

    Mr Wisner’s astonishing remarks – “President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical: it’s his opportunity to write his own legacy” – shocked the democratic opposition in Egypt and called into question Mr Obama’s judgement, as well as that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    The US State Department and Mr Wisner himself have now both claimed that his remarks were made in a “personal capacity”. But there is nothing “personal” about Mr Wisner’s connections with the litigation firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the US”. Oddly, not a single journalist raised this extraordinary connection with US government officials – nor the blatant conflict of interest it appears to represent.

    But for now it looks like the protesters are holding fast and refusing to cave to US “suggestions” as huge numbers of protesters have gathered again in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

    More protests coming later this week, this time in Gaza, which could really shake things up further. Some are planned by political parties but not everyone is sticking to the plan –

    “I found out about the rally through Facebook, and it said the sit-in was in support of the Egyptian people in their revolution. I wanted to be part of something, to help the Egyptian people somehow,” recalls Mahmoud, afraid to give his full name.

    “The government had already held a big demonstration on Friday, and most of the movements joined it, but most youth don’t belong to any faction here. I didn’t want to be part of that. I wanted to do something from me.”

    Mahmoud describes what happened when he arrived at the Square of the Unknown Soldier, where most demonstrations are held in Gaza City. “Out of the blue, an officer wearing civilian clothes grabbed my hand and said ‘come with me.’ …He pushed me into a jeep and accused me of protesting against them. He said, ‘I’m going to teach you a lesson.’ I thought they were going to beat us.”

    Mahmoud believes he was not beaten because a relative works for the government. Several hours later, after being blindfolded and interrogated, he was released. His telephone was confiscated and only returned two days later.

    Sounds like there could be shakeups with the largely discredited Fatah and Hamas as well if the young people go their own way.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 8, 2011 1:41 pm

      Another shot across the bow. Not many details to be found yet but Suez canal workers are going on strike. Funny how the unnamed official claims shipping won’t be affected. We don’t even know what country or company this “official” supposedly represents.

  13. cometman permalink*
    February 8, 2011 2:51 pm

    Can’t claim to understand what’s technically going on with all the DDOS attacks coming from ‘Anonymous’ but I do get a kick out of the big brass balls they’re sporting. Evidently they were hacked and they hacked back – ‘Anonymous’ hacks security firm that probed its membership‎.

    The online group of hacktivists known as “Anonymous” infiltrated the network and websites of an Internet security company after learning the company planned to sell information about the group to the FBI.

    The website of Washington DC-based HBGary Federal was hijacked Sunday along with the Twitter account of CEO Aaron Barr. The company’s website was defaced with a message that read, “This domain seized by Anonymous under section #14 of the rules of the Internet.”

    “Your recent claims of ‘infiltrating’ Anonymous amuse us, and so do your attempts at using Anonymous as a means to garner press attention for yourself,” the messaged continued. “How’s this for attention?”

    ~snip~

    In addition to hacking the company’s website and Twitter account, “Anonymous” gained access to more than 44,000 company e-mails, which were released to the public in a 4.71 gigabyte Torrent file. The group also gained access to the report that was allegedly going to be sold to the FBI and posted it online (.pdf).

    “Anonymous” claims that most of the information gathered was either publicly available or inaccurate.

    “The lack of quality in Aaron Barr’s undertaken research is worth noting,” the group said in a statement. “Aaron Barr missed a great deal of information that has been available online, and in fact failed to identify some of those whose identities were never intended to be hidden. People such as DailyKos’ diarist blogger Barrett Brown, and the administrator of anonnews.org, joepie91, whose identities could have been found in under a minute with a simple Google search.”

    “Anonymous does not have leaders,” the statement added. “We are not a group, we are not an organization. We are just an idea. What we have done today will appear harsh. It is harsh. We will respond to those who seek to threaten us. We understand that our participants have been concerned about recent FBI raids and companies such as HBGary Federal lurking and logging our chats, so we’ve given all of Anonymous a message: we will fight back.”

    And it sounds like they got the CEO’s attention –

    “Do I regret it now? Sure,” he told Forbes on Monday. “I’m getting personal threats from people, and I have two kids. I have two four-year old kids. Nothing is worth that.”

  14. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2011 11:05 am

    Rooster 1, California cockfighting enthusiast 0.

  15. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2011 1:31 pm

    Good article about the people who might gain some political clout if the uprising in Egypt is successful – Meet Egypt’s Future Leaders.

    Also, labor joins the fray.

  16. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2011 1:43 pm

    Some unrelated links –

    Quantum computers come even closer to reality – Ten Billion Bits of Entanglement Achieved in Silicon.

    The oligarchs continue to spread bullshit about AIG and how much the taxpayer will get reamed by bailing them out – Is AIG Getting Yet More Presents from the Treasury, Meaning the Chump Taxpayer? Sure sounds like the answer is “hell yes”.

    Excellent article from ex-insurance-industry-toadie-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter discussing what the insurance companies are really after – ANALYSIS — The Insurers’ Real Agenda for Change. Shouldn’t be news to regular readers here but the industry actually likes many of the “reforms” Barry managed to pass because it means more money in their pockets. But they’d like even more and are hoping the republicans can get rid of the few “reform” measures that might actually cost them a nickel or two –

    The insurers do not want the bill repealed or declared unconstitutional. Congress gave them exactly what they wanted by including in the legislation a requirement that all Americans not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid buy coverage from a private insurance company. That provision alone will result in hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and profits the insurers otherwise would never see.

    ~snip~

    The court challenges and repeal efforts are, in reality, a useful smokescreen for the big insurers, whose real agenda is to gut the law while preserving the mandate. Expect a big lobbying and PR campaign — financed by our insurance premiums — to persuade us that the new regulations and consumer protections will make those premiums skyrocket.

    And, probably a Pyhrric victory as the special vote required a 2/3 majority, but yesterday the House voted down the extension of three key provisions of the Patriot Act. Looks like Kucinich was successful in getting some of the Tea party crowd to actually practice what they preach regarding government overreach. Somehow I doubt they would have done so if it were the Bush administration asking for the extension, but the right thing was done even if for the wrong reasons. More here.

  17. cometman permalink*
    February 9, 2011 1:51 pm

    Just have to say that David Foster Wallace is an absolute joy to read, even if I end up feeling a little dimwitted and have to check the dictionary fairly often to make sense of his prose.

    But judging by his essay reviewing lexicographers’ works, perhaps that’s part of his point.

  18. artemis54 permalink
    February 10, 2011 10:38 am

    Our school bond levy failed, getting a mere 57% yes votes. Under WA law, these money raising issues require 60% approval.

    Horrendously shortsighted. Over and over I kept getting the argument that people won’t want to live here if the taxes are too high. Given a choice, who will choose to live in a town with the schools literally falling apart?

    The other argument is that it was just too expensive with the economy down. 1) The economy is not that down here unless you are listening to the tv. The cabinetry shop down the street for instance is hopping 7 days a week and hiring another employee or two very soon. But more imprtantly 2) it’s only going to get more expensive when interest rates go back up and if contractors are busier and less hungry.

    I have mentioned I thought the pro campaign was lame. Think so more than ever now, esp the artist renditions that were all over town. It owuld have made more sense to have an illustration of one of the new science labs next to the current ones, which look like something from a third world country.

    Maybe we need to bring in Laurence O’Donnell to start a charity for us.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 10, 2011 1:48 pm

      I remember that stupid supermajority rule quite well.

      Your suggested arguments did work here, but only on the second school bond vote and we don’t have the supermajority rule. I think the final vote did get about 60% in favor though.

      After the first vote failed, it was still clear that the town needed a new high school which would only get more expensive the longer it was put off and that point was made at city council meetings. I think what sealed the deal here was a long line up of parents of young children not yet of high school age who told the council in no uncertain terms that they were happy to pay for the school and if it weren’t built, they’d move elsewhere so their children could get a decent education in a non-crumbling school, and sinking property values of those left behind be damned! That got people’s attention I think.

      Didn’t catch everything the pro-school campaign did here, but there were a couple articles front paged in the local free weekly that gets mailed to everybody, one of which featured a well-liked science teacher making the argument for a new modern school. I mentioned to the school board and the local reporter that more articles like this would be a great idea for their campaign and both told me that I should put the other party in touch with them. Not sure why it would have been so difficult for say, the superintendent who’s making a six figure salary to pick up the damn phone to the paper herself and pitch a story to them or why they thought an unpaid person like myself should be the one to do the legwork for paid administrators and reporters, but at least the damn thing finally passed.

      If you have a local free weekly, maybe you can try a similar suggestion as people do read those things.

  19. artemis54 permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:39 am

    Hmmmm

    Female squid produce a pheromone that triggers instant aggression in males.

    They discovered a protein pheromone produced in the female reproductive tract and embedded in the outer surface of eggs. After purifying the pheromone and presenting it to male squid in the lab, they found the same extreme aggressive responses, even when the protein was “painted” translucently on a glass vial that contained squid eggs. “The contact pheromone was incredibly resistant to degradation,” says Nagle. “It appears to remain intact for an extended period of time until the eggs are seen and contacted by male squid.”

    “Our lab experiments show that the male squid that touches the eggs first becomes aggressive faster than other males who have not yet touched the eggs,” says Hanlon. “This leads to dominance by the males that encounter the pheromone. Dominant males pair with the females and mate more often, and they gain greater fertilization success so the extremely competitive aggression has a payoff.”

    The pheromone is similar to a substance in mammals, including humans, the function of which is unknown.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 10, 2011 1:56 pm

      Heh. Reading through your comment the thought occurred to me that I’d met a few females myself who’ve triggered instant aggression before and their mating habits had something to do with it :P

  20. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2011 11:44 am

    You might enjoy this documentary if you can find it melvin. Just heard about it today and it looks good – The Fish Belong to the People.

  21. artemis54 permalink
    February 10, 2011 1:31 pm

    NRA attacks the CBD’s Get the Lead Out campaign. Not sure it is worth fact checking an article that begins by strongly implying the CBD is an “anti-hunting group,” before admitting on page two that it is not.

    And I’m not real sure what to make of this one: WWF is launching a new file format, and unprintable pdf, to save paper. The idea is if you want to print something, you save as pdf, and if you don’t, you save as wwf. But isn’t the choice already available?

    • cometman permalink*
      February 10, 2011 2:00 pm

      Or one that claims a “grassroots NRA victory” in its first sentence which appears to me to be an oxymoron. Know quite a few gun owners and the most any of them do to support the NRA is put a sticker on their 4X4. Somehow I’d imagine your average hunter doesn’t really care which type of metal brings down their quarry. And you’d think those who hunt with shotguns would want an alternative to little poisonous lead pellets in their birdflesh.

  22. artemis54 permalink
    February 10, 2011 1:45 pm

    The Harry Baals Government Center

    • cometman permalink*
      February 10, 2011 2:04 pm

      Ha!

      Too bad they aren’t going with the will of the public. Would have been a great building to house the Seymour Butz Memorial Lavatory.

  23. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2011 2:41 pm

    Mubarak once again refuses to leave, laughably saying he won’t bow to foreign pressure. Guess all those people in the streets calling for his hide must be Australians or something….

    On a related note, this little article caught my attention – Pirates seize US-bound supertanker. Here’s the interesting bit –

    The Irene SL was heading for the Suez Canal, the Egyptian waterway connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, according to EU Navfor.

    Sounds like they were quite a ways from the canal when the pirates captured the vessel, but makes me wonder if this might have had anything to do with what’s going on in Egypt (including striking canal workers). No idea whether the pirates are that organized, but it strikes me that maybe they were trying to take advantage of the situation while everyone was preoccupied.

    More here.

  24. cometman permalink*
    February 10, 2011 2:50 pm

    More on Aaaron Barr, the dipshit who tried to take down “Anonymous” and had his ass handed back to him on a platter. This one is worth reading in full just for the yuks – How one man tracked down Anonymous—and paid a heavy price. A sample –

    And who were Barr and his company up against in all this? According to Anonymous, a five-member team took down HBGary Federal and rootkit.com, in part through the very sort of social engineering Barr had tried to employ against Anonymous.

    One of those five was allegedly a 16-year old girl, who “social engineered your admin jussi and got root to rootkit.com,” one Anonymous member explained in IRC.

    Another, pleased with power, harrassed Penny Leavy [Barr’s boss -cman] and her husband, who sat beside her during the chat: “How does it feel to get hacked by a 16yr old girl?” One can almost hear the taunt echoing from some kind of grade school playground.

    After capturing 44,000 of Barr’s company’s emails, the hackers uncovered other schemes from Barr’s company to help out Bank of America by targeting wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald.

    More on targeting Greenwald from emptywheel.

    Absolutely hilarious!

  25. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2011 10:53 am

    Mubarak out.

    Next up, Algeria. Good luck!

  26. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2011 11:38 am

    Well well well. Looks like the “Anonymous” response to Aaron Barr and his company HPGary Federal discussed above has made a few people think twice about helping out Uncle Sugar and BofA.

    The emails captured by “Anonymous” revealed that other companies were involved with the scheme to discredit wikileaks and their supporters like Glenn Greenwald. One of those companies, Palantir Technologies, has now issued a blanket apology for its plans as well as a personal apology to Greenwald. Sounds like somebody didn’t want to see their sorry ass business beaten to death by 16 year old hackers. Lovely!

  27. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2011 11:43 am

    This could be interesting. A charitable organization called A Human Right is trying to purchase a commincations satellite from a bankrupt communications company so they can provide free basic internet service to people in developing countries all over the world.

    The group hopes to raise $150,000 to finalize a business plan, investigate the legal and business aspects of submitting a bid for the satellite, and hire engineers to turn the plan into a reality. After this initial phase, the group plans to develop an open source low cost modem that could be used to connect to the satellite and finalize plans with partner governments.

    If you want to help them out, you can donate at their website – Buy This Satellite.

  28. cometman permalink*
    February 11, 2011 3:02 pm

    Eureka!

    Think I may have just stumbled across what the Fed has been up to the last couple years.

    It’s clear that rather than forcing the banks to write off their bad assets and making them take their lumps, the Fed has embarked on a policy of “quantitative easing”, also known as printing shitloads of money, and handing it to the banks with few or most often no strings attached. The idea seems to be that if the banks are drowning in cash, nobody will be able to tell that they’re insolvent. Basically, Barry and Bernanke are trying to blow some more economic bubbles.

    Usually printing shitloads of money causes inflation and this method has been used before by countries before to ease their debt burdens. Inflation, if it occurs across all parts of an economy, makes it easier to pay off debts. Prices will rise but so will wages as a result and if countries are able to keep inflation from becoming rampant, they can get their house in order eventually. In theory (ie, if a country actually taxes people fairly) increasing the monetary supply means increasing tax revenues and then the debt a country owes is much easier to pay off. Same goes in theory for private individuals. If you owe $100k on a fixed-rate mortgage and make $30k per year you may find the mortgage difficult to handle, but if inflation leads to rising costs and rising wages, your $100k mortgage suddenly becomes a lot easier to pay off if you’re now making $35 or $40k per year.

    And while we have seen inflation in other parts of the world in the last couple years, with rising food costs leading to riots and dictators falling, it hasn’t happened here even though short term interest rates are still about zero. Since inflation has supposedly been kept in check, wages haven’t risen at all even with the huge influx of cash into the economy and have continued to stagnate. That last part has been very puzzling and I haven’t been able to figure out the inner workings of how they thought they could pull all this off until now.

    Here’s Mike Whitney latest article – Bernanke’s Bubblenomics. Remember all those “toxic assets” we heard about a couple years ago which none of the the bailed out banks were ever been forced to disclose? They haven’t gone anywhere and they’re still pretty much worthless but because of recently relaxed accounting rules which allow the banks to value this garbage at pretty much whatever they feel like, the banks haven’t had to face any repercussions. And if the Ber-nank has his way, they never will because now the price investors with access to all this cheap credit are willing to pay for this trash is finally going up –

    The game is on. Two years of zero rates, limitless guarantees, and a $2 trillion drip-feed from the Fed, has lifted Wall Street from the canvas and put the speculators back in the thick-of-things. It’s a miracle. Who would have thought that Bernanke could engineer another bubble this fast. But he has. Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) are increasing, LBO’s (Leveraged buyouts) are on the rise, revolving credit (“plastic”) is expanding, and investors are scarfing up low-yield junk bonds wherever they can find them.

    Still can’t believe it? Then, take a look at this from Businessweek:

    “Home loans that inflated the U.S. housing bubble…are fueling the fastest gains in the mortgage-bond market….Prices for senior bonds tied to option adjustable-rate mortgages, called “toxic” by a government commission, typically jumped 6 cents to 64 cents on the dollar in the past month, according to Barclays Capital.

    Rising values show Federal Reserve efforts to stimulate the economy by purchasing an additional $600 billion of Treasuries and holding interest rates near zero percent are driving investors into ever-riskier securities…..

    The market is pricing in defaults on option ARMs of about 75 percent, according to hedge fund Metacapital Management LP in New York. As the worst housing slump since the Great Depression deepened, assumptions reached as high as 90 percent, said Whalen, who’s based in Los Angeles.” (“‘Toxic’ Mortgages Rally as Resets Accelerate: Credit Markets”, Businessweek)

    Got that? Investors are loading up on these garbage bonds even though they expect 75% of them will go belly-up. That’s what you call a Bernanke gold rush! And the author even points to Bernanke’s QE2 as the proximate cause for the feeding frenzy.

    Whitney goes on to explain how financial institutions are once again dishing out huge amounts of auto loans, student loans, etc, even though the ability of people to pay them back has not improved whatsoever.

    So why would banks do this? Yves Smith explains – GSE Headfake: Yet More Looting Branded as “Reform”. Now they’re looking to repackage even more shady loans but this time they want an explicit government guarantee that they’ll be bailed out when things turn sour.

    But how in the hell can there be no inflation because of all this? Zhedge explains in this post – A Tale Of Two Inflations.

    Mention Harper’s article on government stats. – numbers racket

    Mention finance as a % of gdp growing, manufacturing as % shrinking

    If finance is pumped up and “profits” added to gdp, then debt as % of gdp will not get too high to cause investors to shy away.

    This combined with CPI stats will leave the US as last country to be affected.

    Conclusion, the Ber-nank as fluff girl.

    Unfinished – will be edited later.

    Add in somewhere bits from previous post – the Ber-nank denying that Fed policies caused inflation in other countries but still suggesting that they could take measures to combat it (ie rigging their economies like the US).

    another theory: 1st round of QE to make banks look whole, 2nd round to provide $$ to speculate to create next bubble.

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