Amazing expose on internet “pranksters” from The Smoking Gun

I direct all MFT readers to read this amazing, detailed expose from The Smoking Gun identifying and incriminating the the denizens of “Pranknet” an online community of highly destructive and juvenile practical jokers, whose exploits include the following:

Late on the evening of February 10, a call to Room 306 at the Best Western in Shillington, Pennsylvania roused a sleeping traveler. Jonathan Davis at the front desk was calling with scary news: A ruptured gas line was threatening hotel guests, some of whom were already feeling lightheaded and dizzy.

Noting that he was following a “protocol sheet,” Davis instructed the male guest that he needed to quickly unplug all electrical devices and place wet towels at the base of the room’s door to keep carbon monoxide from entering the space. After the guest took those precautions, Davis then directed him to bust out a 5’ x 5’ section of window. The man, who happened to be a glazier, asked, “Are you serious?” When Davis urgently assured him that the drastic measure was required for his safety, the guest replied that he would put on clothes and “bust this fucker.”

Using a chair, the guest then smashed a window. As broken glass cascaded into the room, Davis then advised that the television screen would need to broken since the tube contained an electrical charge that could spark an explosion. Davis suggested the use of the toilet tank cover to disable the television. But when the guest threw the porcelain lid at the TV, it broke. So Davis directed the man to toss the set out the window. Stepping gingerly around glass shards, the guest complied.

At this point, Davis’s supervisor, Jeff Anderson, joined the call and determined that the guests in 306 had co-workers in the adjoining room. Anderson then called Room 304 and advised the man answering the phone to “remain calm.” He told the guest of the gas leak and advised him of the safety measures that had already been followed next door. The man in 304 also unplugged electrical devices, placed wet towels at the door, smashed a window, and tossed the television to the sidewalk below. Anderson then directed the guest to pull the fire alarm. As a siren wailed, the guest asked Anderson, “Can we get out of this motel? Why can’t we just leave the building?” He had previously remarked, “I hope this ain’t some kind of joke.”


This is a really impressive investigation. The author writes with a well-deserved satisfied tone and seems to almost taunt the Pranknet members with his ability to expose them. Do yourself a favor and spend the next half hour reading through it and listening to some of the calls. You’ll see what a public service it is to hopefully stop these people.

Anti-tax protesters: Yes you CAN borrow your way out of debt!

One placard at the moronic (but apparently well-attended!) anti-tax “tea party” protests reads “You can’t borrow your way out of debt,” and that just floors me, because it just isn’t true and I have the experience to prove it.

After coming back from a high school exchange in Japan and attending a semester of community college, I suddenly decided that I needed to get out of Connecticut and transfer to a four-year univserity as soon as possible. A combination of a lack of preparation, a burning need to get out of my hometown, and plain ignorance of how money works led me to forego cheaper options and attend a private university funded almost entirely on student debt (in a ratio of around 75% variable rate private debt and 25% fixed rate direct federal borrowing). At the end of it I was many tens of thousands of dollars in the hole, but today less than 4 years later I am two months away from being debt-free, all thanks to “borrowing my way out.”

At the end of my education I had a degree in “International Relations” – essentially a liberal arts program.  I left the system without much in the way of skills, but college did give me two things that would come in very handy later on – a bona fide college degree and the time and impetus to dedicate to accumulating knowledge (a good portion of which came through classwork) and compulsively studying Japanese, all without any immediate need to make ends meet.

But without any directly marketable skills and no immediate job prospects, I stayed afloat in Washington DC after graduation through multiple part-time jobs (at one point I was working for four separate companies), occasional parental assistance, and deficit spending with one of those “pre-approved” credit cards they were always sending me back then. I also deferred my student loan repayment to the last possible moment, a decision that added another $10,000 in piled-on interest by the time I started paying.

But I kept at my jobs and eventually landed a gig translating for a law firm. Though I already had some translation skills before starting (documented in early MF posts!), the office experience, from the basic administrative duties of a “legal assistant” to keeping up with the high-paced research activities of my boss, was a very uphill learning curve, and the salary was just barely enough to survive on and pay a $1000 a month minimum payment.

But I somehow managed to stay afloat, and while I left that firm to follow Mrs. Adamu to Thailand, I continued working and improving as a freelance translator. When I eventually made my way to Japan, I easily landed a much better paying job (at a time when the JPY-USD exchange rate was at its most favorable in a decade) that put me on the path out of debt bondage.

So by dint of this experience I know that with a little luck knowing how to learn from people and ask for and accept help, perseverence, development, and talent can end up paying big dividends, as long as you are willing to invest in yourself. My own experience was not ideal as I made some “bad” decisions initially (though I do not regret the path my life took since otherwise there would be no Mrs. Adamu), but then neither is this recession. While many representing the underdeveloped economies argue for sustainable growth free from major-power exploitation, America has been in the grip of the “cult of progress” for more than a century. Our future prosperity is tied to economic growth, so in the bad times we seek to limit the downside through deficit spending and a series of debt rollovers. 

I wonder if any of the protesters have had similar experiences. Perhaps it is tough to relate big, nationwide events to everyday life, but I am shocked that so many are ready to throw common sense to the wind and buy into idiotic catch phrases no doubt orchestrated by Astro Turfers who view them as nothing more than pawns that are useful to serving an end entirely removed from the actual protesters’ interests. There is nothing explicitly liberal or offensive about public works spending, so it doesn’t make sense to oppose in such and ugly and kneejerk way just because it doesn’t come from the right wing’s preferred sectors like the military. And Obama’s budgeting actually improves the tax burden of most families. It is really hard for me to understand people like the “Obama is a fascist BECAUSE HE IS!” guy:

 

But perhaps Matt Taibbi has it right when he calls these people the peasant class, always ready to hate an external enemy rather than face their own lots in life:

The really irritating thing about these morons is that, guaranteed, not one of them has ever taken a serious look at the federal budget. Not one has ever bothered to read an actual detailed study of what their taxes pay for. All they do is listen to one-liners doled out by tawdry Murdoch-hired mouthpieces like Michelle Malkin and then repeat them as if they’re their own opinions five seconds later. That’s what passes for political thought in this country. Teabag on, you fools.

From another article:
After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.

But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

Least relevant front-page headline ever?

As of this morning, this is what I see as the bottom headline of asahi.com’s top stories:

ペイリン氏、娘の元婚約者と応酬 「うそつき」「売名」(03:03)

Palin arguing with daughter’s ex-fiance: “Liar,” “Self-promoter”

 I just don’t see this story as worthy of the Asahi’s status as the 2nd most read newspaper nationwide and the paper of record for the center-left elites. I mean, it’s true that some of Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s more controvertial statements get coverage in Western media, but how in the world does this completely inconsequential Jerry Springer segment matter to any but the readers of Josei Seven, Japan’s equivalent of the National Enquirer?

UPDATE: Well, I guess if the New York Times is sinking to that level, the Asahi was just following suit.

Dubai’s downfall just as spectacular as its rise

NYT has a report on the situation in Dubai:

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The government says the real number is much lower. But the stories contain at least a grain of truth: jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town.
...
“Why is Abu Dhabi allowing its neighbor to have its international reputation trashed, when it could bail out Dubai’s banks and restore confidence?” said Christopher M. Davidson, who predicted the current crisis in “Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success,” a book published last year. “Perhaps the plan is to centralize the U.A.E.” under Abu Dhabi’s control, he mused, in a move that would sharply curtail Dubai’s independence and perhaps change its signature freewheeling style.
...
But Dubai, unlike Abu Dhabi or nearby Qatar and Saudi Arabia, does not have its own oil, and had built its reputation on real estate, finance and tourism. Now, many expatriates here talk about Dubai as though it were a con game all along. Lurid rumors spread quickly: the Palm Jumeira, an artificial island that is one of this city’s trademark developments, is said to be sinking, and when you turn the faucets in the hotels built atop it, only cockroaches come out.


Also, check this video from German TV (in English, via The Big Picture):