Puppet Masters


Gingrich: gangs have increased by 40% since Obama was elected


Collateral damage: QE3 and the shadow banking system

Rather than expanding the money supply, quantitative easing (QE) has actually caused it to shrink by sucking up the collateral needed by the shadow banking system to create credit. The "failure" of QE has prompted the Bank for International Settlements to urge the Fed to shirk its mandate to pursue full employment, but the sort of QE that could fulfill that mandate has not yet been tried.

Ben Bernanke's May 29th speech signaling the beginning of the end of QE3 provoked a "taper tantrum" that wiped about $3 trillion from global equity markets - this from the mere suggestion that the Fed would moderate its pace of asset purchases, and that if the economy continues to improve, it might stop QE3 altogether by mid-2014. The Fed is currently buying $85 billion in US Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities per month.

The Fed Chairman then went into damage control mode, assuring investors that the central bank would "continue to implement highly accommodative monetary policy" (meaning interest rates would not change) and that tapering was contingent on conditions that look unlikely this year. The only thing now likely to be tapered in 2013 is the Fed's growth forecast.

It is a neoliberal maxim that "the market is always right," but as former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz demonstrated, the maxim only holds when the market has perfect information. The market may be misinformed about QE, what it achieves, and what harm it can do. Getting more purchasing power into the economy could work; but QE as currently practiced may be having the opposite effect.
Snakes in Suits

Psychopathic US laws over drone strikes that kill Americans and civilians of other countries

drone over california
© Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/MCT
An unmanned drone flies a training mission over Victorville, California
Courts cannot second-guess drone strikes that kill U.S. citizens overseas, an Obama administration lawyer argued Friday.

A Republican-appointed judge sounded dubious about the expansive claim, saying she was "really troubled" by assertions that courts are completely shut out of the drone strike debate. But for other legal reasons, the judge also sounded hesitant about a lawsuit targeted at top military and intelligence officials for violating the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens blown up in foreign lands.

"There are instances where wrongs are done, but for one reason or another they cannot be remedied in a civil suit," U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing a family member, have sued former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other former officials over the two separate drone strikes that killed three U.S. citizens in Yemen. The Obama administration wants the lawsuit dismissed.

The lawsuit is the latest challenge to the administration's secretive war-fighting practices that have mobilized skeptics on both the right and the left.

Syrian rebels to start receiving US weapons amid anxiety from Congress

CIA could begin shipping arms in the coming weeks after clearance from House and Senate intelligence committees

© Reuters
A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon as he takes a defensive position in Aleppo on Tuesday
The CIA could begin shipping arms to Syria in the coming weeks, after two US congressional panels cleared the way for the controversial transfer of weapons.

The White House announced in June that it would provide limited military support for vetted rebel groups, which have recently been struggling in their campaign against President Bashar al-Assad.

Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees have expressed concerns that arms could end up in the hands of Islamist militants fighting in the region - or not do enough to tip the balance in the civil war.

Mike Rogers, chairman of the House committee, said on Tuesday that the panel had agreed to support the plan to arm the opposition fighters. However, the committee made clear it has only agreed reluctantly and retained serious anxieties about whether Barack Obama's new policy would work.

"The House intelligence committee has very strong concerns about the strength of the administration's plans in Syria and its chances for success," he said in a statement, after Reuters reported the decision. "After much discussion and review, we got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration's plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations."

Bill requiring warrants for email searches nears senate vote

big brother watching
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing to fast-track legislation that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing emails and other private online messages.

Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) goal is for the Senate to unanimously approve his bill before the August recess, according to one of his committee aides. Any opposition could delay a vote until after Congress returns in the fall.

He has secured unanimous support from his fellow Democrats and is in negotiations with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee's ranking member, and other Republicans to address their concerns.

Leahy's aide claimed that even if a floor vote is delayed until after the recess, they are already "way past" the 60 votes they would need to overcome a filibuster and approve the bill, which is co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Lee (Utah).

Gregory Nojeim, a senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology and a supporter of stronger privacy protections, said that the news of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs has given Leahy's bill a new boost of momentum.

Comment: Note that even if the proposed bill is passed, it will not affect at all NSA's global surveillance program and human rights violations.

Eye 1

Global Security State: Empire of Secrets

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised transparency and open government yet his administration is one of the most closed governments in US history, described as being worse than even the Nixon administration.The technology and information revolution allows the government to cast its net wider than ever before; collecting data, watching, spying and analysing. As revelations of systemic snooping continue to hit the headlines, Empire asks: who is watching the watchers? Joining us as we unpack some of the known unknowns are Oscar-winning film director Oliver Stone, and war reporters Jeremy Scahill and Richard Rowley. We unravel the psychology of secrets with psychiatrist Justin Frank, the author of Obama on the Couch and Bush on the Couch. We look at the impact of state secrets brought to light with Dana Priest, a leading Washington Post investigative reporter on national security and author of two books, including her most recent Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. We are also joined by Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and an attorney representing Julian Assange and Wikileaks; as well as Evgeny Morozov, an expert on internet and privacy issues, and author of two books: The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom and his most recent: To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism.


Pallin' around with terrorists: Hezbollah declared 'terrorist group' for fighting al-Qaeda-in-Syria

On Monday, the European Union formally labeled Hezbollah a "terrorist" group.


Because Hezbollah has gone to war with al-Qaeda.

But wait a minute - wasn't al-Qaeda supposed to be the worst terrorist group in the world? Isn't the West leading a "global war on terror" whose main target is al-Qaeda? Shouldn't the West be thanking Hezbollah, and showering it with rewards, for turning against global terrorist enemy number one?

Apparently not.

Al-Qaeda is now the West's darling in Syria. So anybody who resists al-Qaeda - as Hezbollah recently decided to do - is a "terrorist."

The irony doesn't get any thicker than that.

Comment: With hundreds and probably thousands more al Qaeda (Database) members being loosened from neighbouring Iraq, and the CIA ramping up its arms shipments to 'The Database' in Syria, it looks like the U.S. and allies have decided to simply throw more bodies, money and machinery into their dirty war against Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian leader is stronger than ever following recent successes against the West's death squads. Now that he is supported by the only army that has ever actually beaten Israel in open battle (in Lebanon in 2006), the only way for the empire to 'win' this 'civil war' while maintaining the illusion of 'not intervening directly' is by maximising civilian carnage.


ACLU calls for new investigations into Todashev death

© RIA Novosti. Alexander Natruskin
Abdulbaki Todashev, Ibraghim's father, holds up photos of his dead son at a press conference at the RIA Novosti headquarters in Moscow on May 30.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants two US states, Florida and Massachusetts, to open their own investigations into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shooting death of a Chechen immigrant acquainted with one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

"A person was shot and killed at the hands of law enforcement in Florida. That alone should require Florida officials to investigate, and explain to the public what happened," said Howard Simon, Florida Executive Director for the nonprofit civil liberties organization, in an ACLU press release.

The FBI and the Department of Justice are conducting an internal inquiry into the death of 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, who was shot and killed by a Boston-based FBI agent during an interrogation with several different law enforcement agencies at his Orlando, Florida apartment on May 22.

Could fracking finally kill off rural America?

fracking map
© Gasland 2
If drillers get their way, rural America will have no escape from fracking. U.S. map showing waterways (in blue) over shale gas plays (in red).
Gasland 2, the sequel to Josh Fox's documentary about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, introduces a frightening image.

It's not another money shot of tap water on fire, though the water well hose lit up by the owner of a multimillion dollar home in Parker County, Texas is a wonder.

Nor is the most frightening image an internal gas industry memo labeling residents of small towns in Pennsylvania or New York State an "insurgency" that must be put down with PSYOPS techniques honed by the military in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most frightening image in Gasland 2 is a map of the United States covered with potential fracking sites.

The United States of Fracking

Look at the map. It's hard to find a state whose water supply doesn't originate in or cross through a place that the industry would like to frack.

So what? The U.S. government says that fracking can be done without harm to groundwater. And the industry claims that no study has ever proven that fracking has contaminated one single water supply.
Arrow Down

MIT opposes Freedom of Information when it comes to Aaron Swartz

© Common Dreams Org
Despite its earlier vow to act in "a spirit of openness," the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has intervened in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) court case brought by Wired reporter Kevin Paulsen aimed at releasing Aaron Swartz's Secret Service file. Paulsen has blasted MIT's move to block the release, which they justified by citing the need to protect MIT personnel even though records are routinely redacted, as unprecedented, noting neither he nor his lawyer has ever seen a non-governmental party argue for the right to interfere in a FOIA release of government documents.
"The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century...The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world's great challenges."