Puppet MastersS

Star of David

Israeli minister presses Ottawa for support on Iran's nuclear program

© Dave Chan for the globe and mailIsrael's Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz gestures during an interview October 20, 2013 in Ottawa. He is scheduled to meet Mr. Harper on Monday.
A senior Israeli minister has come to enlist the Canadian government in efforts to persuade the world to keep up pressure on Iran until it gives in - thoroughly - on its nuclear program.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs, was briefed Friday by British and other officials now in nuclear talks with Iran. He flew to Canada for meetings Monday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, and heads to Washington Tuesday.

Amid all the other Mideast issues, there's little doubt what tops Israel's agenda: pushing an uncompromising stance on nuclear talks with Iran.

"The greater the pressure, the greater the chances for diplomacy to succeed," Mr. Steinitz said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "It would be unwise, to say the least, to ease the pressure on Iran before you get a final and satisfactory solution to the problem."

The election of centrist Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, who pledges to settle the nuclear issue, has led some to express hope for a deal with the United States and other Western countries that believe Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.


Despite $13-billion settlement, JPMorgan can't end criminal probe

© J. Scott Applewhite/AP PhotoJPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon has pleaded with and complained to the U.S. Justice Department but cannot convince the government to end its criminal investigation of his bank.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon has pleaded with and complained to the U.S. Justice Department but cannot convince the government to end its criminal probe of his bank because prosecutors are not yet certain of their findings, people familiar with the matter said.

Dimon has negotiated a tentative $13-billion deal to settle many of the U.S. investigations into mortgage bonds that JPMorgan - and the banks it bought during the financial crisis - sold to investors.

But the criminal investigation proved to be a sticking point during negotiations, the sources said, and Dimon's inability to win this point underscores the breadth of the problems his bank faces even after it resolves these mortgage suits.

The criminal probe relates to whether JPMorgan misrepresented the quality of the mortgages it was packaging into bonds and selling to investors.

Bad Guys

A politics really worse than Watergate?

But dollars will vote, at Gilded Age levels, if the U.S. Supreme Court continues dismantling the campaign reforms enacted in Watergate’s wake.
If the Supreme Court chooses to erase our remaining post-Watergate campaign finance reforms, Richard Nixon's scandalous reign may come to seem - thanks to growing inequality - mere kid's play.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments in a case that could end up giving America's wealthy a perpetual green light to contribute as much as they want directly to politicians and political parties.

Credit Shaun McCutcheon, an electrical company CEO from Alabama, for starting the ball on this case rolling. In the 2012 election cycle, McCutcheon contributed heavily to conservative candidates and Republican Party committees. But the experience left the mega millionaire feeling terribly aggrieved.

Federal campaign finance reform legislation enacted four decades ago in the wake of the Watergate scandal limits how much individuals can give directly to candidates and political parties. In 2012, McCutcheon ran up against those limits, then sitting at about $46,000 for candidates and $70,000 for party committees.


The religious right is a fraud: Nothing Christian about Michele Bachmann's values

© Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com/SalonMichele Bachmann, Rick Santorum
The American right obsesses over abortion and birth control, not helping people. It's different around the globe

Last week, the nation's capital was host to Value Voters 2013 Summit, a three-day political conference for predominantly religious conservatives. Among the smattering of social and economic issues at hand, the overall tenor of the Summit focused on eliminating Obamacare, expanding the tangible presence of Christianity through the public arena and military and preventing the proliferation of easily available birth control and abortion. In speeches, lunches and breakout sessions, American's Christian Right worked out strategies to bring the values of the federal government in line with their preferred Christian ethical dictates, using democracy as their chief tool.

It isn't unusual for Christians living in democracies to use the vote to express their ethics, and to shape government to do the same. That the moral and ethical preferences of a given society should inform government is a foundational principle of democracy, after all. And American values voters are far from the first Christians to undertake the project of bringing their government's policies in line with Christian ethics: European Christian parties have aimed to do the same for decades. But between American Christian voters and their European counterparts, a curious departure opens up: while European Christians generally see the anti-poverty mission of Christianity as worthy of political action, the American Christian Right inexplicably cordons off economics from the realm of Christian influence.

By all means, the American Christian Right is willing to leverage government authority to carry out a variety of Christian ethical projects, especially within the arena of family life. Michele Bachmann would make abortion illegal, and Rick Santorum has stated on multiple occasions that he supports laws against homosexual intercourse. But Christian politicians in the United States curtail their interest in making the gospel actionable when it comes to welfare. While the government should see to the moral uprightness of marriage, sex and family, the Value Voters 2013 Summit was notably bereft of talks on living wages, labor rights or basic incomes.


British MPs want 11% pay rise, but refuse expenses cut

The Houses of Parliament in London
© Reuters/Stefan WermuthThe Houses of Parliament in London.
UK politicians are resisting a proposal by a watchdog to raise their salaries by 11 per cent in exchange for their expenses. MPs want to cling onto their perks which include hotels, free tea and biscuits and the installation of TVs in second homes.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has proposed a wage increase of £7,000 ($11,289) for members of parliament on the condition they sacrifice their tax payer-funded allowances. The 11 percent raise would boost politicians' salaries to £74,000 ($119,000) a year.

The IPSA found that last year the expenses cost UK taxpayers £161,000 ($260,000) which works out at around £250 ($400) per MP.

However, MPs have dug their heels in and complained that professionals such as doctors, lawyers and policemen claim expenses and therefore MPs should have the same right. They believe they should be compensated for "regular unsocial hours or residence away from home."

"We find it hard to believe that employers in other sectors would expect their employees to wait until 0100 before booking a hotel," said an official letter by parliamentarians to the IPSA.


The police state wants what the police state wants

© Corbis
The FBI went after Levision's secure email service called Lavabit. The NSA and the rest of the security state couldn't get into it.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The Fourth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution

The founding document of the United States is inherently suspicious of a government's willingness to abuse its powers, a suspicion rooted in centuries of tyranny around the world. Even the U.S. government, as well as state and local governments, have abused their powers from time to time since the country's beginning. The drift toward an American police state intensified under the guise of anti-Communism, but that was mostly a convenient cover for state intrusion into people's lives. The Soviet Union collapsed, but the nascent American police state kept growing. The Patriot Act of 2001, a massive assault on personal and political liberty, was largely written before 9/11 and passed, largely unexamined, in the hysterical atmosphere and raw panic of that over-hyped "new Pearl Harbor."

Now we have a police state apparatus of almost unimagined dimension, most of which is kept secret and remains unknown, despite the efforts of a few reporters and whistle blower, who tell the truth at their personal peril.

The "American police state" is likely an abstraction in the minds of many people, and as long as they remain unknowing and passive, it's likely to leave them alone. But even law-abiding innocence is not a sure protection of a person's right to be secure. And when the police state comes after you in one of its hydra-headed forms, the assault can be devastating.

Arrow Down

Who will protect you from the police? The rise of government-sanctioned home invasions

Swat Team
© Deadliestwarrior Wiki

It's 3 a.m. You've been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud "Crash! Bang! Boom!" Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone - or several someones - are breaking through your front door. With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom. Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something - anything - that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, your son's baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you'd never need. In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It's the police.

Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: the problem is not that all police are bad. The problem, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, is that increasing numbers of police officers are badly trained, illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, and, in some cases, willfully ignorant about the fact that they are supposed to be peacekeepers working for us, the taxpayer.

Consider, for example, the sad scenario that played out when a SWAT team kicked open the door of ex-Marine Jose Guerena's home during a drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena - 23 of those bullets made contact. Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.


U.S. drone strikes claim 18 lives across Afghanistan

At least eighteen people have been killed and several others injured in a series of US assassination drone attacks in Afghanistan over the past three days.

According to the latest reports, six Taliban militants were killed in the northeastern Kunar Province on Sunday. It was the fourth US drone attack over the past three days.

On Saturday, at least ten people were killed as two airstrikes ripped through the eastern Kunar Province near the border with Pakistan.

Two people lost their lives in a similar attack in the Nuristan Province on Friday.


Afghan special forces commander defects with guns to insurgents

An Afghan army special forces commander has defected to an insurgent group allied with the Taliban in a Humvee truck packed with his team's guns and high-tech equipment, officials in the eastern Kunar province said on Sunday.

Monsif Khan, who raided the supplies of his 20-man team in Kunar's capital Asadabad over the Eid al-Adha religious holiday, is the first special forces commander to switch sides, joining the Hezb-e-Islami organisation.

"He sent some of his comrades on leave and paid others to go out sightseeing, and then escaped with up to 30 guns, night-vision goggles, binoculars and a Humvee," said Shuja ul-Mulkh Jalala, the governor of Kunar.

Zubair Sediqi, a spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami, confirmed that Khan had joined the group, saying he had brought 15 guns and high-tech equipment.

Eye 1

NSA leaks: Years of spying on Mexico govt gave US investment benefits

© (NSA) (AFP Photo)The Threat Operations Center inside the National Security Agency
US electronic surveillance in Mexico reportedly targeted top officials, including both current and previous presidents. Intelligence produced by the NSA helped Americans get an upper hand in diplomatic talks and find good investment opportunities.

The US National Security Agency was apparently very happy with its successes in America's southern neighbor, according to classified documents leaked by Edwards Snowden and analyzed by the German magazine, Der Spiegel. It reports on new details of the spying on the Mexican government, which dates back at least several years.

The fact that Mexican President Peña Nieto is of interest to the NSA was revealed earlier by Brazilian TV Globo, which also had access to the documents provided by Snowden. Spiegel says his predecessor Felipe Calderon was a target too, and the Americans hacked into his public email back in May 2010.

The access to Calderon electronic exchanges gave the US spies "diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico's political system and internal stability," the magazine cites an NSA top secret internal report as saying. The operation to hack into presidential email account was dubbed "Flatliquid" by the American e-spooks.