Links 8/3/10

Tokyo’s ‘oldest women’ missing for decades BBC

Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding in Rhinebeck Sends Bad Message Helaine Olen

Layoffs to gut East St. Louis police force St. Louis Today (hat tip Marshall)

Some Directors Say 3-D Is One Dimension Too Many New York Times. As someone with no depth perception, I agree completely.

The Evolution of the Journalism Job Market Michael Mandel (hat tip Richard Smith). This is much cheerier than anything I hear from people in the industry.

Here be dragons Asia Times (hat tip Crocodile Chuck). Why it costs a million per year to keep a private in Afghanistan. Some of this is astonishing.

Americans who swap passports Financial Times

Monsanto: The world’s poster child for corporate manipulation and deceit New American Republic (hat tip Crocodile Chuck)

ISM survey confirms sharp slowdown in US economy Econoclast. New FT blog by Gavyn Davies.

Project Vigilant and the government/corporate destruction of privacy Glenn Greenwald, Salon (hat tip reader Francois T). Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:

Picture 1

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  1. Ina Deaver

    My parents are not online at all: they do not own a computer. I have always considered them somewhat crazy (and believe me, I have my reasons) — silly old people and their goofy fear of technology.

    There can’t be a dossier on my parents, because they do nothing that creates one. From the point of view of a digital universe, they quite simply do not exist.

    I’m starting to see how not being able to get pictures of the grandkids or read the paper online may be a really easy trade off.

    1. Francois T


      My parents are the same: no computer at home, “not interested”, “too complicated”, which is pretty rich coming from an ex-hospital pharmacist and an accountant. Us kids can only answer “Whatever!”

      On a related, albeit more serious note, it is a pity that Austin Hill didn’t pursue his Zero-Knowledge start-up harder. For those of us who were paying attention during the tech bubble:

      INDIAN WELLS, California (IDG) — A company with the unusual name of Zero-Knowledge wowed an audience of techies here at the Demo 99 conference with a demonstration of its Freedom 1.0 application, which ensures 100 percent anonymity to users browsing the Web. Anonymity is achieved through a combination of encryption and anonymous rerouting.

      The program, which creates pseudonyms for $10 per year, hides a Web surfer’s true identity. It renders useless user information and profiles created by following mouse clicks or the recording of the content of an online discussion because ISPs and Web site owners know neither the name nor the location of the actual user.

      “Even if we are subpoenaed for information about a customer, our answer would have to be [that] we don’t know,” said a smiling Austin Hill, president of Zero-Knowledge .

      “All Zero-Knowledge has is encrypted data,” said Hill, who paused before finishing the thought with a swipe at current U.S. Government encryption policy. “And our encryption scheme can be shipped worldwide because we are from Canada.”

      The need is growing to protect the identity of users who may want to enter into political, religious, or health-related discussions, for example, without repercussion to business or other activities, Hill noted. At the moment an electronic-commerce site can track a users activity through every mouse click on the site.

      Note this last sentence and remember this was written in…1999! How much more sophisticated is the tracking technology today?

      What I remember clearly is how preoccupied were the FBI and other surveillances agencies of the US gubmint by the Zero-Knowledge technology. There were rumors of, ahem, “insistent and persistent pressure” on the Canadian authorities to find a way to prevent ZK to become an household name like PGP.

      They apparently succeeded, because the actual corporate entity owns by Austin Hill ( does offer Internet Security packages to Internet Service Providers…but not the original ID Scrambler mentioned in the CNN article.

      Quelle Surprise!

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        A friend of mine (old enough to have been doing the Internet before it was called the Internet; also controlled a block of Class B IP addresses) devised an anonymizing program years before Zero Knowledge. It was elegant, basically made sure your message got bounced around so many times before delivery as to be untraceable.

        Roughly a week after he released it (with little fanfare) his office was broken into and all his computers smashed. He was pretty certain the two events were related.

    1. David

      Ann Jones has written several books on women and at least one specifically on Afghan women: Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan (2006); and the forthcoming War Is Not Over When It’s Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War (2010)

      Perhaps that would have been clearer to PSH had Yves linked to the article’s original appearance at which includes a preface to the essay by Tom Engelhardt that was omitted from the Asia Times posting. From that preface: “She arrived in Kabul in 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to work with Afghan women on their problems. Unlike almost any other American who wrote about the experience, she embedded herself in an Afghan world.”

  2. tyaresun

    The Here Be Dragons report is incredible. While what she writes about the US effort rings true, the few things she writes about the Afghan side seem terribly biased. Calling the white bearded Afghans men of extraordinary dignity is one example. Has she talked to the Afghan women?

  3. Ronald

    Here be Dragons:

    Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan all have the same flavor as Americans try to tech kill our way to victory. The American public worried about falling home prices hardly notices the killing either to our soldiers or Afgan non-combats. The rational for killing Taliban rather then say Saudi Arabia were most if not all the 9/11 participants lived and were financially supported gets lost in the daily attempt to instill democracy and lets not forget women rights in this rural backwater. American media directed by various government branches continually point out the progress of Afgan women rights since we freed them from Taliban control as if the imposition of women rights itself is reason enough for the war effort but again that only is used to further justify the killing.

    “Still, Americans feel entitled to safety. Hence the MRAP was designed to address a double whammy of fear: roadside bombs (improvised explosive devices – IEDs) and ambushes. I was trained to be a passenger in an MRAP for a mission that never materialized, but in the process I learned where the built-in handholds are for those frequent occasions when the top-heavy MRAP rolls down a mountainside.”

    1. BillF

      Amazing article. Speaking of coalition forces’ living conditions at a Forward Operation Base (FOB) in Afghanistan, Jones says,

      “The tents are cooled by roaring tornados of air conditioning, thanks to equipment fueled by gasoline that costs the army about $400 per gallon to import. It takes fuelers three to four hours every day to refill all the giant generators that keep the cold air coming, so I felt guilty when, to prevent shivering in my sleep, I stuffed my towel into the ducts suspended from the ceiling of my tent.”

      We’re vociferously consuming $400/gallon gasoline in Afghanistan while states and local jurisdictions in this country verge on bankruptcy.

  4. Secret Sharer

    The project vigilant article raises many questions.

    Why are these people volunteering (when they could be making billions like the rest of the surveillance industry)? Why do ISPs give them unfettered access to snooping on customers?
    How do you join this group? Why did they decide to “out” themselves as a group? Which other people have they gone after besides Manning? How did Glenn Greenwald find out what he did? Who are the other 500 members? What technologies do they use to create dossiers on 250 million people?

    The article never answers the question why Manning chose a member of Project Vigilant. It insinuates there was something fishy about the coincidence. What exactly was suspect about it?

    How many other Stasi are among us?

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Brown shirts — collaborators — Google wears one … screw em!


      “Wired’s defense dude, Noah Schachtman, has a fascinating story about Google and the CIA being joint investors in a web monitoring firm. Both Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s investment arm, have injected sums (less than $10 million each) into Recorded Future, a company that goes through “tens of thousands” of websites and looks for related actions and conversations between, for example, Twitter accounts, blogs and websites, and analyzes them in order to spot events and trends as early on as possible.

      Describing its analytics as “the ultimate tool for open-source intelligence,” Recorded Future markets itself towards corporations and brands, but it’s also got one very large foot in the counter-terrorism field–which is what makes it so attractive to In-Q-Tel. The firm’s CEO is an ex Swedish Army Ranger who holds a PhD in Computer Science, and he says that what sets Recorded Future apart from other analytics firms is “you can actually predict the curve, in many cases.” “

      More here …

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  5. Secret Sherer

    I enjoyed the M0nsant0 article immensely.

    I read elsewhere that to enforce their seed policies they send thugs to farmers’ houses in the middle of the night to harass, threaten and check up on them. They even do this to farmers who are not customers but whose crops become cross-pollinated in spite of their best efforts to separate their crops.

  6. abelenkpe

    3D is one dimension too many. It’s just a fad like skinny jeans, only appropriate for the young who can withstand the discomfort of caving into peer pressure.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Yeah. and you’re probably the kinda person that wouldn’t see any value in a watching a full length 3-d movie on their iPhone either! How would we be so massively in debt if everybody had your attitude?

      1. abelenkpe

        O please, I work in entertainment. It’s a nice living, please keep buying all the latest fads so I can keep posting sarcastic comments.

    2. eric anderson

      No, 5D is one dimension too many. I confess, I am perfectly content with just the four. To want more is simply greedy.

  7. doc cookie holiday

    Stock up your cereal and flour…

    Prices to rise … but, also see:

    An increasing number of studies on gliadin indicate gluten has a direct and modifying effect on the cells of the small intestine. Two different lines of research show that different gliadins can increase permeability of the epithelial cells (outermost cells of the villus) allowing food proteins to enter.


  8. Sundog

    The loss of privacy is entirely one-way. Government and corporate authorities have destroyed most vestiges of privacy for you, while ensuring that they have more and more for themselves.

    Best piece from Greenwald I’ve read for a while, cheers for pointing it out.

    On a more mundane level, I suspect that Internet presence will become, like credit scores and piss tests, ever more commonly and formally incorporated into the means by which the formal economy evaluates engaging with any given particular human. (I would say “person” but we’re all aware of the advances made by business organizations into that category.)

    Before long, the countermeasures of the stars will be marketed to the hoi polloi.

    In the modern digital age where seemingly everything and everyone is online, a new industry is emerging to “manage” the internet footprint that people and businesses leave online. “Reputation managers” can clean up and shape a person’s online history: burying the damaging stuff and promoting the good.

    Paul Harris, “Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan… and you too. Why your reputation needs an online detox”

    BTW Obama’s vote back in 2008 for the FISA bill granting telco immunity for illegal wiretaps, contradicting his 2007 promise not to grant immunity, is a big reason I’m less disappointed in him than many. This action spoke louder than words.

    People who spent the week railing against Steny Hoyer as an evil, craven enabler of the Bush administration — or who spent the last several months identically railing against Jay Rockefeller — suddenly changed their minds completely when Barack Obama announced that he would do the same thing as they did. What had been a vicious assault on our Constitution, and corrupt complicity to conceal Bush lawbreaking, magically and instantaneously transformed into a perfectly understandable position, even a shrewd and commendable decision, that we should not only accept, but be grateful for as undertaken by Obama for our Own Good.

  9. Sundog

    I enjoyed this podcast interview with Chris Whalen.

    Whalen seems to be trying to consider the world beyond finance, which seems to me unusual for someone who was brought up in, and has spent his life in, that milieu. Most talk among themselves, exchanging their latest gambits for wealth preservation and pandering to power.

    I’m not sure yet what to make of Jim Rickards, who Whalen cites approvingly.

    Rickards is beating the drums for hyperinflation, and in a recent podcast talks of Weimar Germany blowing up its money supply in the early ’20s as the reason for catastrophe.

    However, the way I read Liaquat Ahamed’s “Lords of Finance” is that Germany’s falling off the cliff happened as a result of three factors, two of which were long-term and one of which was sharp and sudden. Germany had little access to external finance for WWI so printed money; the dollar exchange rate went from 4.2 in 1914 to 65 in early 1920. After the war, reparations were demanded of Germany in absurd quantities. In the midst of sorting reparations, in summer 1921 rightist death squads staged a campaign of assassinations. Foreign investors bailed. [pp 119-120]

    Regardless, it comes down to Mexico vs. Denmark; wealth preservation vs. legitimate social institutions.

    Steve Randy Waldman:
    It’s one thing to offer a guaranteed saving vehicle to the little guy. We’ve decided, reasonably, that schoolteachers should be able to save a bit without having to worry about the risks of investing. That’s the logic behind limited F.D.I.C. insurance for bank accounts. But we have come to let anyone “invest” however much they want in guaranteed instruments. We’ve created giant loopholes to investor accountability and let whole nations waltz through them (e.g., China, Saudi Arabia). And then we are shocked, shocked….

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
    Last year, in Davos, during a private coffee conversation that I thought aimed at saving the world from, among other things, moral hazard, I was interrupted by Alan Blinder, a former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, who tried to sell me a peculiar investment product. It allowed the high net-worth investor to go around the regulations limiting deposit insurance (at the time, $100,000) and benefit from coverage for near unlimited amounts. The investor would deposit funds in any amount and Prof. Blinder’s company would break it up in smaller accounts and invest in banks, thus escaping the limit; it would look like a single account but would be insured in full. In other words, it would allow the super-rich to scam taxpayers by getting free government sponsored insurance.

  10. ShinjukuBaby

    The missing old lady is EVERYWHERE on the news and this issue has blown up to the point that all local authorities are questioning whether the old people on their books are really alive. The Prime Minister was questioned about the issue.

    There’s no record of the 113 year old woman having used her health insurance in decades. Needless to say, not likely if she’s been alive during that time…

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