Puppet MastersS

Bizarro Earth

A time for 'sublime madness'

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© Flickr/Humphrey King
The planet we have assaulted will convulse with fury. The senseless greed of limitless capitalist expansion will implode the global economy. The decimation of civil liberties, carried out in the name of fighting terror, will shackle us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York. To endure what lies ahead we will have to harness the human imagination. It was the human imagination that permitted African-Americans during slavery and the Jim Crow era to transcend their physical condition. It was the human imagination that sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred.

It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants, work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that, as Ralph Ellison wrote, "we had in place of freedom." The oppressed would be the first - for they know their fate - to admit that on a rational level such a notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the verdict to lead the evening prayers.

Dollar

How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini's millions

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© Photograph: Alessandra Benedetti/CorbisBehind Pope Benedict XVI is a porfolio of property that includes commercial premises on London's New Bond Street.
Papacy used offshore tax havens to create £500m international portfolio, featuring real estate in UK, France and Switzerland.

Few passing London tourists would ever guess that the premises of Bulgari, the upmarket jewellers in New Bond Street, had anything to do with the pope. Nor indeed the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, on the corner of St James's Square and Pall Mall.

But these office blocks in one of London's most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.

Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the church's international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929.

Since then the international value of Mussolini's nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m. In 2006, at the height of the recent property bubble, the Vatican spent £15m of those funds to buy 30 St James's Square. Other UK properties are at 168 New Bond Street and in the city of Coventry. It also owns blocks of flats in Paris and Switzerland.

Crusader

On eve of Roe v. Wade anniversary, Gov. Rick Perry vows to continue anti-abortion crusade

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© AFPTexas Governor Rick Perry
Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas blasted the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision on Monday, indicating he will continue to push for anti-abortion laws.

"Roe v. Wade paved the way for the loss of more than 54 million innocent lives, with more than a million added to that total with each passing year," he said in a statement on the eve of the ruling's 40th anniversary. "This catastrophic loss of life is a grim testament to judicial activism, and a tragic stain on our national conscience."

"In Texas, we've worked hard to strengthen our abortion laws to the greatest extent possible under Roe v. Wade," the governor added. "We will continue working to empower families and protect our children's future, until the day abortion is nothing more than a tragic footnote in our nation's history."

Eye 2

Missouri Republican: No such thing as a hate crime

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Missouri lawmaker Paul Curtman
Missouri State Rep. Paul Curtman (R) on Saturday denied that crimes based on an the victim's race, religion, national origin, ethnic identification, gender, or sexual orientation were any different than other crimes.

Curtman's remarks were recorded by the group Progress Missouri at the Forum on Missouri Economic Prosperity. During his speech at the forum, the Missouri lawmaker advocated for free market policies, and said the U.S. Constitution provided an outline for limited government and economic freedom.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," Curtman said, quoting the Declaration of Independence. "Let's start right there: All men are created equal. The first thing you need is equality under the law to apply to the economic sector of society just as it would to any thing else."

Megaphone

Time to target the real terrorists: The return of COINTELPRO?

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"Democracies die behind closed doors" - Judge Damon J. Keith


For 15 years (1956-1971) the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran a broad and highly coordinated domestic intelligence / counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO (COunter INTELligence PROgrams). What was originally deemed as a justifiable effort to protect the US during the Cold War from Soviet and Communist threats and infiltration, soon devolved into a program for suppressing domestic dissent and spying on American citizens. Approximately 20,000 people were investigated by the FBI based only on their political views and beliefs. Most were never suspected of having committed any crime.

The reasoning behind the program, as detailed in a 1976 Senate report, was that the FBI had "the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order." The fact that the "perceived threats" were usually American citizens engaging in constitutionally protected behaviour was apparently overlooked. The stated goal of COINTELPRO was to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" any individual or group deemed to be subversive or a threat to the established power structure.

The FBI's techniques were often extreme, with the agency being complicit in the murder and assassination of political dissidents, or having people sent away to prison for life. Some of the more "moderate" actions that were used were blackmail, spreading false rumors, intimidation and harassment. It has been argued that the US is unique in that it is the only Western industrialized democracy to have engaged in such a wide spread and well organized domestic surveillance program. It finally came to an end in 1971 when it was threatened with public exposure.

Or did it?

Target

Shedding crocodile tears while collaborating with U.S.-led sanctions

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© AP / Andoni LubakiA Free Syrian Army fighter holds his weapon during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013.
Are the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation targeting Syria's civilian population?

One powerful image from Damascus that has become seared into this observers mind these days is when I walk by a Western Union office. Most of them remain open despite the brutal US-led sanctions which in their pervasive effects target almost entirely the civilian population. But all Western Union offices were closed last Thursday and Friday due to heavy snowfall, which some say is the deepest here for more than a quarter century. Still, some Syrians braved the extreme cold and could be seen huddled outside some branches, evidently in vain hope that they might open and their families might eat.

One of the few economic lifelines not yet cut by the ever strangling, profoundly immoral and illegal US-led sanctions, with their throat-hold tightening around the civilian population in Syria in order to achieve regime change, "WU" as it's known, has become, for some, literally a lifesaver. This is because its money transfer service is still allowing family and friends from abroad to send in assistance to Syria for their desperate families caught up in this regional contest between Resistance and a return to Western hegemony.

Peering in the window or stepping inside a Western Union outlet in Damascus reminds this observer of scenes from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange or a European bourse wherein traders wave pieces of paper or other objects trying to get the attention of someone. But in Syria, those trying to submit their ten digit Money Control Transfer Number (MTCN) numbers and ID's in order to collect cash, are not wearing clothes from the fashion houses. Rather, given the frigid temperatures and lack of mazot (heating oil that 90% of the population here relies on for heat) they are tightly bundled. Women and kids generally wrapped tight in thick head scarves.

Handcuffs

Saudi Arabia sent death row inmates to fight in Syria in lieu of execution

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© Photo: Saudi Press Agency/APKing Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with French President Francois Hollande, who went to the desert kingdom in early November for talks about Syria and Iran.
A top secret memo sent by the Ministry of Interior in Saudi Arabia reveals the Saudi Kingdom sent death-row inmates, sentenced to execution by decapitation, to Syria to fight Jihad against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences.

According to the memo, dated April 17, 2012, the Saudi Kingdom negotiated with a total of 1239 inmates, offering them a full pardon and a monthly salary for their families, who were to remain in the Kingdom, in exchange for "...training for the sake of sending to the Jihad in Syria."

The memo was signed by Abdullah bin Ali al-Rmezan, the "Director of follow up in Ministry of Interior."

USA

The U.S. was operating in Mali months prior to French incursion: Meet the "intelligence and security command"

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Last week we reported that in the aftermath of the so far disastrous French campaign to eradicate "rebels" in the north of Mali, because of their implied threat fo Europe, that "US Drones, Boots Arrive In Mali."

Turns out we were wrong, and as the case virtually always is, for some reason there was already a US presence of at least three US commandos in Mali in the summer of 2012. What they were doing there remains a mystery, as it is a mystery if the ever co-present flip flops on the ground were there inciting the perpetual scapegoat Al Qaeda to do this, or that.

Or maybe it was not the CIA. Maybe it was the Army's "little-known and secretive" branch known as the Intelligence and Security Command. Regardless, what becomes obvious is that while the US was on the ground and engaged in secret missions, it needed an alibi to avoid "destabilizing" the local situation once its presence became conventional wisdom. It got just that, thank to one Francois Hollande just over a week ago.

USA

Kill Anything that Moves: Seeing the sickening reality of the Vietnam war, 50 years late

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How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam?

A New Book Transforms Our Understanding of What the Vietnam War Actually Was


For half a century we have been arguing about "the Vietnam War." Is it possible that we didn't know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.

Now, in Kill Anything that Moves, Nick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth. Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.

Light Saber

Martin Luther King's vehement condemnations of U.S. militarism are more relevant than ever

 Martin Luther King
© Francis Miller/GettyMartin Luther King at Washington DC's Lincoln Memorial in 1968. Barack Obama used the day before his inauguration to honour the spirit of King.
His vital April 4, 1967 speech is a direct repudiation of the sophistry now used to defend US violence and aggression

The civil right achievements of Martin Luther King are quite justly the focus of the annual birthday commemoration of his legacy. But it is remarkable, as I've noted before on this holiday, how completely his vehement anti-war advocacy is ignored when commemorating his life (just as his economic views are). By King's own description, his work against US violence and militarism, not only in Vietnam but generally, was central - indispensable - to his worldview and activism, yet it has been almost completely erased from how he is remembered.