Puppet Masters


Living in an electronic concentration camp: The surveillance state is alive and well

"Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order [...] and the like." ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice
© Philosophersforchange.org
Bottle up the champagne, pack away the noisemakers, and toss out the party hats.

There is no cause for celebration.

We have secured no major victories against tyranny.

We have achieved no great feat in pushing back against government overreach.

For all intents and purposes, the National Security Agency has supposedly ceased its bulk collection of metadata from Americans' phone calls, but read the fine print: nothing is going to change.

The USA Freedom Act, which claimed to put an end to the National Security Agency's controversial collection of metadata from Americans' phone calls, was just a placebo pill intended to make us feel better and let the politicians take credit for reforming mass surveillance.

In other words, it was a sham, a sleight-of-hand political gag pulled on a gullible public desperate to believe that we still live in a constitutional republic rather than a down-and-out, out-of-control, corporate-controlled, economically impoverished, corrupt, warring, militarized banana republic.

You cannot restrain the NSA. The beast has outgrown its chains.

You cannot reform the NSA. A government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing does not voluntarily alter its behavior.

You cannot put an end to the NSA's "technotyranny." Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA's 60-year history, but none of them have managed to shut down the government's secret surveillance of Americans' phone calls, emails, text messages, transactions, communications and activities.

Indeed, the government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep niggling, inconvenient laws aimed at ensuring accountability, bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

It has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn't suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the so-called end of the NSA's metadata collection of Americans' phone calls.

This, of course, is no end at all.


Ukraine lacks coal stockpiles for winter, extraordinary measures needed says Yatsenyuk

© RIA Novosti/Evgeny Kotenko
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk.
The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has stated that Ukraine does not have enough stockpiles of coal for the winter. He demanded that an emergency plan of measures be worked out to solve the problem.

Comment: That's going to be kind of tough when a) Ukraine is so broke it can't afford to buy coal on the world market, and b) is actively shelling its main coal-producing regions, Donetsk and Lugansk.

"According to the date which I have, it is clear that, as I warned three months ago, there is not a sufficient supply of coal. In order to avoid power outages as last year, I urgently demand an extraordinary plan of measures in order to pass the winter with a stable energy system in the country. This is now the topic of discussion," Yatsenyuk stated during a meeting with the anti-crisis energy headquarters.

According to him, the state has allocated necessary resources, and now needs to get down to business. The head of the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine, Vladimir Demchishin, said earlier on Friday that the coal reserves of Ukraine are sufficient for at least one month, "but in the longer term problems will arise."

According to Demchishin, at the present moment supplies of coal from Russia and Donbass to Ukraine are restricted.

This week, the Donetsk People's Republic suspended deliveries of coal to Kiev-controlled territories and has stated that it will not resume deliveries until Ukraine restores the power supply to Crimea.

Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski

Comment: Mismanagement by Ukraine makes it the author of its own problems. Perhaps they are counting on Russia being generous, as it was last year.

Holiday goodwill: Putin to provide coal to Ukraine without prepayment

Heart - Black

The U.S. descent into fascism: The age of the demagogues

© John Locher / AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at FreedomFest on July 11 in Las Vegas.
The increase in nihilistic violence such as school shootings and Friday's lethal assault on a Planned Parenthood clinic, the frequent executions of poor people of color by police, and the rise of thuggish demagogues such as Donald Trump are symptoms of the collapse of our political and cultural institutions.

These institutions, which once made possible piecemeal and incremental reform, which sought to protect the weak from the tyranny of the majority and give them a voice, acted as a safety valve to ameliorate the excesses of capitalism and address the grievances of the underclass. They did not defy the system of capitalism. They colluded with the structures of privilege and white supremacy. But they provided some restraints on the worst abuse and exploitation. The capturing of major institutions by corporate power and the moral bankruptcy of our elites, especially members of our self-identified liberal class, have shattered this equilibrium.

A faux liberal class, epitomized by amoral politicians such as the Clintons and Barack Obama, has led many disenfranchised people, especially the white underclass, to direct a legitimate rage toward liberals and the supposed liberal values they represent. Racism, bigotry, religious intolerance, homophobia, sexism and vigilante violence, condemned by liberal, college-educated elites, are embraced by those who have been betrayed, those who now speak back to liberal elites in words, gestures and acts, sometimes violent, designed to denigrate the core values of a liberal democracy. The hatred is the product of a liberal class that did nothing to halt corporations from driving tens of millions of families into poverty and desperation as it mouthed empty platitudes about rights and economic advancement.

The Republican business elites, which declared war on the liberal class' call for cultural diversity, allied themselves with an array of protofascists in the Christian right, the tea party, groups such as the National Rifle Association and The Heritage Foundation, the neo-Confederate movement, the right-to-life movement and right-wing militias. The elites in the Republican Party, who needed an ideological veneer to mask their complicity in the corporate assault, saw these protofascists as useful idiots. They thought, naively, that by demonizing liberals, feminists, African-Americans, Muslims, abortion providers, undocumented workers, intellectuals and homosexuals they could redirect the growing rage of the masses, sending it against the vulnerable, as well as against the only institution that could curb corporate power, the government, while they greedily disemboweled the nation.

But what the Republican elites have done, as they now realize to their horror, is empower a huge swath of the public—largely white—that is gripped by magical thinking and fetishizes violence. It was only a matter of time before a demagogue whom these elites could not control would ride the wave of alienation and rage. If Trump fails in his bid to become the GOP presidential nominee, another demagogue will emerge to take his place. Trump is not making a political revolution. He is responding to one.


Wishful thinking: US to curb debt issuance in 2016

© Flickr/ Ars Electronica
The United States Treasury will cut next year's bonds issuance to soften the possible negative consequences to the US economy stemming from the looming US Federal Reserve's hike in borrowing costs, still, the spread between the US and foreign bonds is bound to rise, further unbalancing the global economy.

Amidst improving US fiscal discipline and the narrowing budget deficit, the US Treasury is cutting its supply of government debt securities at an accelerated pace, pushing the price on Treasury notes higher and further widening the spread between overseas and US bonds. Although the main reason for such measures undertaken by the US Treasury is simply that the US does not need as much borrowed money as it did before, the entire situation is more complicated, potentially causing severe damage to the most fragile foreign economies.

In 2016, net issuance of US Treasury notes is expected to decline by 26% to $422 bln, the lowest volume of new debt taken since 2008, according to Treasury notes auctions data. This year, the US Treasury issued some $607 bln worth of bonds.

Comment: That is their hope. Let's see if that really can happen.

Comment: Hmm, preparing for something to happen?


Russia has 'more proof' Islamic State oil routed through Turkey, Erdogan says he'll resign if it's true

© Sputnik / Reuters
Russia has received additional intelligence confirming that oil from deposits controlled by Islamic State is moved through Turkey on an industrial scale, said Vladimir Putin. President Recep Erdogan said he will resign if this is confirmed.

Moscow has grounds to suspect that the Su-24 was downed by Turkish jets on November 24 to secure illegal oil deliveries from Syria to Turkey, he said speaking on the sidelines of the climate change summit in Paris on Monday.
"At the moment we have received additional information confirming that that oil from the deposits controlled by Islamic State militants enters Turkish territory on industrial scale."

"We have every reason to believe that the decision to down our plane was guided by a desire to ensure security of this oil's delivery routes to ports where they are shipped in tankers."

Comment: The evidence is uncontroversial:

Wall Street

Still the same: Fed pretends to limit future emergency lending programs

© Reuters
The Federal Reserve on Monday approved new measures that will limit its ability to prop up failing banks in the event of another financial crisis, a delayed response to the controversial emergency lending programs that supported a handful of financial giants in 2008.

The new rules would allow for emergency lending only in the event of "broad-based" systemic issues affecting a number of banks rather than tailoring emergency loans to the individual needs of a single failing bank. Under the new rules, at least five banks would have to be impacted and in need of emergency loans for the Fed to step in.

Comment: This change in wording of requiring five banks to fail doesn't change anything. There were more than five banks in trouble in the last financial crises of 2008.


Irish politicians face Christmas jail time for trying to inspect US war planes and highlight 'lack of neutrality'

Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly face jail after they refused to pay a fine for breaching security at Shannon Airport
Two members of Ireland's Dáil (parliament) face Christmas in the clink for trying to inspect US military aircraft at Shannon airport.

Independent TD (MP) Mick Wallace and United Left TD Clare Daly used a rope ladder to gain access to a restricted area of Shannon Airport in July 2014.

They suspected the US of carrying weapons through Ireland, a neutral country that is not part of NATO, and were arrested as they approached two US planes on the taxiway guarded by police and the Irish army.

The pair contested charges of trespassing on the grounds that they were inspecting the planes for humanitarian reasons and to highlight Ireland's lack of neutrality.

They were subsequently fined €2,000 for their anti-war protest and could now be sent to prison for up to 30 days for refusing to pay up.

Warrants are believed to have been prepared by Irish courts and could be acted on in the coming days. The deadline for the fine payment expired on July 22nd.

Wallace said he and his colleague are prepared to go to prison.

Comment: Irish neutrality? As Gearóid Ó Colmáin states in this article: Irish mercenaries training Syrian death squads
During the Cold War, America's necessity became a "moral code" as Taoiseach Sean Lemass ordered the checking of all planes flying from the Warsaw Pact countries to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962-63. The Irish government did not show the same concern for the CIA's rendition flights over Shannon Airport after the US invasion of Afghanistan, as US military planes were allowed to pass through Shannon without being checked by Irish authorities. In "world war number three", Ireland's neutrality is firmly slanted towards the aggressors.


Has the EU deal with Erdogan made Europe a supporter of terrorism?

In a desperate bid to put an end to the tide of illegal immigration, European politicians have been trying to make friends with Turkey on whatever terms they can negotiate. For instance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put billions of euros on the table to obtain Ankara's assistance in resolving the refugee crisis.

However, many Western media sources, including Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, are wondering is it really necessary to make a deal with a country that has been heavily engaged in the sponsoring of terrorists, while buying oil from them at the same time? German journalists argue that it would seem that there's more than enough evidence to expose Turkey's connections with the Islamic State, so European politicians would be better off treating Erdogan differently, since he is indirectly involved in the killings of European citizens. Different media sources do not hesitate to cover the illegal oil business that is run by Erdogan's family (including the German Bild), along with its bid in the production of synthetic drugs.


Could China's power play in Djibouti be first step to great naval power status?

© AFP 2015/ POOL / Guang Niu
China's plans to open a military facility in Djibouti have been giving US pundits the chills, with commentators suggesting that Beijing may be attempting to "edge out Western influence" in Africa and the Middle East. Russian experts suggest that the base is, more than anything, a sign that China is ready to emerge as a great naval power.

Last week, US media suggested, citing US officials, that China's diplomatic efforts to set up a naval logistics center for patrol boats in the northeast African nation of Djibouti demonstrate that "Beijing is in Africa for the long haul," and that it could eventually make a play to "edge out Western influence in the region and secure access to the continent's vast mineral resources for itself."

Eye 1

A Dutch disease: The Netherlands train and export dogs to Israel to terrorize Palestinians

© Wagdi Eshtayah/APA images
"An Israeli army dog attacks a Palestinian protester during a demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land in the village of Kufr Qaddoum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, 16 March 2012"
This video shows Israeli forces using a dog to attack and injure 20-year-old Ahmad Shteiwi as he participated in an anti-occupation protest in the West Bank village of Kufr Qaddoum, near Nablus, in March 2012.

It is one of numerous instances of Israeli forces setting dogs on unarmed Palestinian civilians, including children - a violent tactic reminiscent of US police practices against Black citizens.

Comment: And just like the Nazis.

The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and Dutch lawmakers are calling on the Netherlands to immediately halt the annual export of dozens of police and military dogs to Israel.

Such dogs "are intentionally used by Israeli occupying forces to terrorize and bite Palestinian civilians, especially during protests and night house raids," Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin wrote to Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders and trade minister Lilianne Ploumen earlier this month.

Comment: This is just another example of the old and ruthless VOC (Dutch East India Company) mentality that some Dutch people are so proud of, no matter who gets hurt and terrorized. But then again, Western countries do not have to uphold international law; only countries which do not obey the dictates of the criminal West, like Russia and China, have to.
Just a few years ago, former Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende called for the return of the Dutch East India Company's 'industrious' mentality, prevalent in The Netherlands for three centuries. Although most today still believe that 'trade' took place, the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), using military might and forced labour, became exceedingly rich by stealing enormous quantities of natural resources from the East. In fact, the VOC was at one point the wealthiest corporation in the world, and still holds the record. In the words of historian Hans Derks, what the VOC REALLY stands for is 'Violent Opium Company'. Why would a modern Dutch Prime Minister want to promote the kind of extreme mind-set that normalizes pillage and plunder on an absolutely gargantuan scale?
Black Pete, chimney sweep? Meet "Santa's helper" in The Netherlands