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All-purpose apology for corrupt, inept, thieving, substance-abusing Canadian politicians


It's not just Toronto mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford: Canada's politicians at all levels are in trouble, though senators, mayors and the Prime Minister and his cronies are leading the pack for corruption, scandal, thieving, criminality, and prevarication. And none of them, not one, knows how to say sorry. Noting this, Andrew Coyne has penned an all-purpose apology for Canadian pols to use as a template when the inevitable comeuppance arrives:

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Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, covered in the style of foreign affairs

WashPo's Max Fisher reports on Toronto's crack-smoking Mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford, using the conventions of the western press when it reports on poor countries. Here's part of the lede: "In a country where dissent is limited by traditional mores, the transgression has sparked rare public outrage and raised concerns about the stability of the Canadian regime."

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David Cameron threatens injunction against the Guardian to stop further Snowden leak publications

UK prime minister David Cameron has threatened to get a court order against the Guardian if it continues to publish the Snowden leaks. He accused the Guardian of having a "lah-di-dah, airy-fairy view" about the dangers of leaks, and said the if the paper didn't voluntarily censor itself out of a sense of "social responsibility" he would seek court injunctions against it.

The majority of the Snowden leaks have revealed crimes -- illegal spying, lying to Congress and Parliament, violation of international law. That these crimes were committed with the knowledge and approval of the highest levels of the US and UK government doesn't make them any less criminal. And what wasn't criminal was absolutely depraved in its indifference to the public good: for example, the UK government's Edgehill programme, which, with the US government's Bullrun program, sabotaged the security of software, hardware and cryptographic standards to the tune of USD250M/year.

There is nothing more cowardly and corrupt than a lawbreaking political leader who threatens the free press when they call him to account. I never liked Cameron, but with this, he's taken the Tories beyond their reputation of being "the nasty party" and turned them into full-blown Stalinists.

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OMG Nipple! cake in honor of Amanda Palmer's Daily Mail song

A sugary-sweet coda to Amanda Palmer's song for the Daily Mail with its climactic "OMG NIPPLE!" Some of Amanda's fans in Minnesota baked her a nipple-cake [link NSFW, especially if you W at the DM] sporting "5 different skin tones, 2 piercings, 2 tattoos, a mastectomy scar, a tan line, freckles, and a birth mark."

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SF Chronicle's paywall comes down after only four months

After less than four months, the San Francisco Chronicle has torn down its paywall, saying little about what led to the decision. I presume that the signup numbers were very very low, and that the drop in ad-views was sufficiently alarming that it made management reconsider.

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How the Daily Mail invented Britain's bungling-est spy-agency


Adam Curtis's latest piece for the BBC starts out as a strange history of the role that the Daily Mail had in the formation of the British MI5 spy-agency, but then veers into an amazing history of MI5 brutal, awful, terrible record of incompetence, foolishness, self-sabotage, and waste. It turns out that the MI5 owes its origins to a German spy-scare the Mail whipped up 1910 by publishing a serialized novel about a fictional German invasion of England (the route of the invasion was tailored to pass through towns with large populations of Mail subscribers). This led to thousands of impressionable Mail readers writing in, saying they'd seen German spies out and about, and they demanded that Parliament Do Something. And so, MI5 was born.

But as I said, this is just the start of the story. Following on from its weird origin, MI5 spent generations cocking up, framing people, missing double-agents in their ranks, and generally wasting tons of money on paranoid losers who never caught a spy. Curtis is brutal in documenting the depth of MI5's failures, from its storied roundup of a "German spy ring" in 1914 (decades later, it emerged that none of the 21 "spies" were actually spies) to its failure to spot the incipient demise of the Soviet Union, to its hilariously evil false espionage accusations against 33 Iraqi students in 1991, none of whom were spies.

Curtis builds up a picture of spooks as neither evil masterminds nor brave sleuths, but as banal incompetents. As John Le Carre said of his own service in the spy-world: "the reality was the mediocrity. Ex-colonial policemen mingling with failed academics, failed lawyers, failed missionaries and failed debutantes gave our canteen the amorphous quality of an Old School outing on the Orient express. Everyone seemed to smell of failure."

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Stephen Fry explains what a hateful, terrible thing is the Daily Mail

National treasure Stephen Fry published an open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee asking them to move the 2014 Winter Olympics from Russia in response to Russia's banning and scapegoating of LGBT people. Fry compared a 2014 Russia Games to the 1936 Berlin Games, which legitimized Hitler and greatly aided his cause.

Naturally, the Daily Mail, a newspaper that heavily supported Hitler and Naziism, came out against Fry with a predictable, vicious editorial. The Mail is a savage, terrible, morally bankrupt mouthpiece for a clutch of racists, sexists and greedy aristos who'll say or do anything to sell papers.

Fry has responded with a long piece on the Mail and its hatefulness that is a must-read, especially for people who haven't lived in the UK and understood what a genuinely nasty piece of work the Mail is, and how badly it distorts the public debate in this country.

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Jeff Bezos's letter to the WashPo staff

With the announcement that Jeff Bezos is acquiring the Washington Post, Bezos has published an open letter to WashPo employees explaining what he plans on doing with the paper. It starts with, "The values of The Post do not need changing." Nevertheless, "There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years" -- mostly related (obviously) to the Internet.

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Amanda Palmer: "Dear Daily Mail"

After the UK tabloid the Daily Mail "reviewed" Amanda Palmer's Glastonbury appearance by reporting extensively on the fact that one of her breasts "escaped" her bra, Palmer responded with a dandy song called "Dear Daily Mail," which she performs here. The Mail is not even usable as birdcage liner -- it's a kind of one-note joke of immense and terrifying popularity, and whenever I see someone reading it in public, I always check to see if they've got velcro shoe-closures. Hard to believe that someone who takes the Fail seriously could muster the intellectual power to tie their own shoelaces.

Amanda Palmer: Dear Daily Mail

Cyber-crooks mail heroin to Brian Krebs


Brian Krebs is a security expert and investigative journalist who has published numerous ground-breaking stories about the online criminal underground, much to the consternation of the criminal underground. Krebs has been the victim of much harassment, including a dangerous SWATting (where someone called a SWAT team to Krebs's door, having told them that an armed gunman was inside).

Most recently, a Russian crook called Flycracker crowdfunded the purchase of a gram of heroin on the Silk Road, which he mailed to Krebs, having first called the cops to alert them that Krebs was a narcotics trafficker. Luckily for Krebs, he lurks in the same forums in which this was planned, and knew of it in advance and tipped off the local cops and the FBI.

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US spies supplied intelligence on investigative journalist to NZ military

US spy agencies fed "metadata" about a New Zealand journalist's communications to New Zealand's military spies, who were upset that he had reported on human rights abuses against Afghani prisoners of war. Jon Stephenson was writing for McClatchy and "various New Zealand news organisations." The NZ Defense Force later attempted to discredit Stephenson, saying he had invented a visit to to an Afghan base, a claim it retracted after Stephenson brought a defamation suit against it. NZ government is presently pushing legislation to allow its military spies conduct domestic surveillance of NZ citizens, even a leaked NZDF manual discloses that the media are classed with foreign spies and extremist organisations as threats to the state.

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Frequent caller to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's radio show is secretly guy now on the mayor's payroll

Toronto mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford -- the man accused of smoking crack with gang-members, and whose family are alleged to have ties to the KKK and organized crime -- has made a career out of avoiding answering serious questions posed by the press, preferring to address the public via the talk-radio program he and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford (accused to being west Toronto's hashish kingpin in the 1980s) host.

Now, the CBC reports that one of the longtime callers to the show was, in fact, a paid employee of Rob Ford:

In March of last year, “Dave from Scarborough” called in to say that LRT stood for “left-wing redundant transit,” as opposed to light-rail transit.

The next month, the same “Dave from Scarborough” slammed the proposal from the city’s medical officer of health to reduce speed limits.

That May, a “Dave from Etobicoke” offered his take on stores charging for plastic bags:

“That, in my humble opinion, is fascism, and it's ludicrous that comrade [former mayor David] Miller and his merry band of big-brother, I know better than you, paternalistic, heavy-handed, Looney Tunes socialists should be setting the agenda of this great city of Toronto,” the caller said.

"Dave" is David Price, the mayor's director of operations and logistics (also alleged to have helped run Doug Ford's hashish empire in the 1980s).

Rob Ford's friend 'Dave' made calls to mayor's radio show [Jamie Strashin/CBC]

(Thanks, Dave!)

European Broadcasting Union steps in to keep the Greek national broadcaster on the air after police shut it down

Yesterday, the Greek government forcibly shut down the state broadcaster, ERT, sending in the police to drag journalists away from their microphones. The government claimed that the shutdown was the result of inescapable austerity measures. In response, the European Broadcasting Union -- an umbrella group representing public broadcasters across Europe -- has set up a makeshift mobile studio where ERT broadcasters can continue to work and stay on air.

This is being fed around Europe on an EBU satellite as part of its European news exchange operation and can be picked up by commercial stations in Greece but not the general public.

A spokesman for the EBU, which is headquartered in Geneva, said a "high-level meeting with a conference call" with the director general of ERT would take place later on Wednesday to decide on next steps.

Roger Mosey, the BBC's editorial director, who is on the EBU board told the Guardian: "We're watching events in Greece with great concern. When countries are in difficulty, there's an even bigger need for public service broadcasting and for independent, impartial news coverage. I hope that's restored in Greece as soon as possible."

The EBU spokesman said ERT staff in contact with the organisation have told them the power has not yet been cut by the government, but email servers have been taken down. They are now contacting the EBU through smartphones, using Facebook and personal email accounts.

"This is unprecedented, stations have closed and re-opened for a number of reasons, but never with such abruptness," said a spokesman for the EBU.

ERT shutdown: European Broadcasting Union sets up makeshift studio [Lisa O'Carroll/The Guardian]

Rob Ford crack-smoking video is "gone"

Gawker's John Cook has finally gotten in touch with the guy who offered to sell him a video of Toronto Mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford smoking crack. Bad news: the guy says the video is "gone":

But I have heard independently from others familiar with the goings-on in Toronto that leaders in its Somali community have determined who the owner is and brought intense pressure to bear on him and his family. Toronto's "Little Mogadishu" neighborhood is located in the ward Rob Ford represented when he was a city councillor; though he is a conservative and a racist buffoon, I am told he has long-standing connections to Somali power brokers there.

Which brings us to this past Friday, when the intermediary called to tell me that he had finally heard from the owner. And his message was: "It's gone. Leave me alone." It was, the intermediary told me, a short conversation.

"It's gone" could mean many things. It might mean that the video has been destroyed. It might mean that it has been handed over to Ford or his allies. It might mean that he intends to sell or give it to a Canadian media outlet. It might mean that the Toronto Police Department has seized it and plans to use it as evidence in a criminal investigation. It might mean that it has been transferred to the custody of Somali community leaders for safekeeping. It might be a lie. The intermediary doesn't know. Neither do I.

The Rob Ford Crack Video Might Be "Gone"

Why are Britons seeing large, muscular black cats?

Thousands of Britons have reported seeing "beasts" in various places, usually described as a large, muscular black cat -- possibly a melanistic leopard. Some have taken photos and found footprints, as well as animals torn apart on moors. However, the boring science people annoyingly keep pointing out that the photos could be housecats, the footprints come from housecats and domestic dogs, and the animals were torn apart by badgers and crows.

Still, there's something weird and interesting going on here -- the thousands of similar eyewitness reports point to a kind of "beast fever" fuelled by (what else?) the Daily Mail's printing of stories that, for example, described a beast with "great fangs jutted from its huge jaw, gleaming in the afternoon sun" (it was revealed to be a "putrefying seal").

George Monbiot writes about this in his new book Feral, which comes out next week and was excerpted in today's Guardian:

The age of terrestrial exploration and encounters with peoples unknown to us was ending; planet Earth was perhaps a less exciting place than it had been. Aliens and their craft filled a gap, while promising that we too would achieve the mastery of technology we ascribed to extraterrestrials. Today, perhaps because our belief in technological deliverance has declined, we hear less about UFOs.

Could it be that illusory big cats also answer an unmet need? As our lives have become tamer and more predictable, as the abundance and diversity of nature has declined, could these imaginary creatures have brought us something we miss?

Perhaps the beasts many people now believe are lurking in the dark corners of the land inject into our lives a thrill that can otherwise be delivered only by artificial means. Perhaps they reawaken vestigial evolutionary memories of conflict and survival, memories that must incorporate encounters – possibly the most challenging encounters our ancestors faced – with large predatory cats. They hint at an unexpressed wish for lives wilder and fiercer than those we now lead. Our desires stare back at us, yellow-eyed and snarling, from the thickets of the mind.

Big-cat sightings: is Britain suffering from mass hysteria? [George Monbiot/The Guardian]

(Image: 20120413, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from tomascosauce's photostream)