Puppet MastersS


Bad Guys

General McCaffrey Privately Briefs NBC Execs on War with Iran

Gen McCaffrey
© Reuters/Eliana AponteUS General Barry McCaffrey
In 2009, The New York Times' David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize for his two-part series on the use by television networks of retired Generals posing as objective "analysts" at exactly the same time they were participating - unbeknownst to viewers - in a Pentagon propaganda program. Many were also plagued by undisclosed conflicts of interest whereby they had financial stakes in many of the policies they were pushing on-air. One of the prime offenders was Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who was not only a member of the Pentagon's propaganda program, but also, according to Barstow's second stand-alone article, had his own "Military-Industrial-Media Complex," deeply invested in many of the very war policies he pushed and advocated while posing as an NBC "analyst":
Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.

Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey. . . . General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism. . . .

Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests.

On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC's viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.

Take 2

Lisbon Replay: Ireland to hold referendum on EU tax treaty

Image
When the Treaty establishing the EU Superstate was passed, Ireland was made to vote a second time to ensure the correct result. More recently, Greek PM George Papandreou called a referendum on Greek acceptance of a gargantuan 'bailout' referendum, before retracting and being fired by Greece's EU/IMF creditors within 24 hours.
Ireland has shocked Europe with plans for a referendum on the EU's fiscal treaty, a move that risks an unprecedented fragmentation of the eurozone and a major clash with Germany.

Premier Enda Kenny said Dublin was acting on legal advice from Ireland's attorney-general that "on balance" the fiscal compact requires a vote under the country's constitution. "It gives the Irish people the opportunity to reaffirm Ireland's commitment to membership of the euro," he told ashen-faced members of the Dail.

All three major parties back the treaty but analysts say there is a high risk of rejection by angry voters in the current fractious mood. The compact gives the EU intrusive powers to police the budgets of debtor states, and has been denounced as feudal bondage by Sinn Fein and Ireland's vociferous eurosceptics. The Irish voted "No" to both the Nice and Lisbon treaties before being made to vote again. Dublin has ruled out a second vote this time.

The Taoiseach's announcement sent the euro into sharp dive against the dollar, though it rebounded later. Europe's leaders thought they had tweaked the wording of the text just enough to avoid an Irish vote.

Ireland cannot stop the process since a quorum of 12 states brings the treaty into force, but it would be politically untenable to create a new eurozone structure that left one member in limbo.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted with fury last November when Greece, which on Tuesday night approved €3.2bn of new budget cuts, unexpectedly called a referendum on the terms of its bail-out. Ireland's move may also rankle, even if deemed less capricious.

Attention

Allegations of Election Fraud Demand Serious Response

Stephen Harper
© Chris Wattie/Reuters
Some of the Conservative reaction to the growing robocall scandal reminds us of Leslie Nielsen standing in front of an exploding fireworks factory in Naked Gun while telling a gathering crowd, "Move on. Nothing to see here."

On Monday, Tory Senator Mike Duffy blamed it on third parties. Conservative strategist Tim Powers called it opposition hysteria. On the weekend, Defence Minister Peter MacKay called it an isolated incident. In question period Monday, the unflappable Stephen Harper gave them all a lesson in crisis communications, saying that anyone with evidence of illegal acts should notify Elections Canada, as Harper says his party has done, so the agency can investigate and report back to the House of Commons. It's the only credible response.

With staff at a Thunder Bay call centre admitting they made live calls scripted by the Conservatives to mislead voters about polling station locations in hotly contested ridings, dismissing the allegations merely reinforces the reputation that this is a bullying, stop-at-nothing government that has muzzled everyone from scientists to veterans' advocates.

The Conservatives, after all, once hired a polling company to spread the false word that Liberal MP Irwin Cotler of Montreal intended to resign from Parliament - a tactic that Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer later called "reprehensible." Election fraud is serious. This is not Zimbabwe. If Harper doesn't want to be perceived as Canada's version of Robert Mugabe, he and his party have no choice but to co-operate fully with the joint Elections Canada-RCMP investigation currently underway.

Bizarro Earth

Best of the Web: Wyoming Narrowly Defeats Measure to Prepare for Apocalypse

Image
© unknown
US: Cody, Wyoming - In a sign of rising consumer confidence prevailing over go-it-alone pessimism in the Cowboy State, Wyoming lawmakers on Tuesday narrowly defeated a "doomsday bill" to help the state prepare for a total collapse of the U.S. government and economy.

The bill, rejected on a 30-27 vote by the state House of Representatives, would have allocated $16,000 for a panel of legislators and emergency managers to study various measures, including a new state-issued currency, for handling a range of apocalyptic scenarios.

The bill's chief sponsor, Republican Representative David Miller, originally had sought $32,000 to fund the task force, but the Joint Appropriations Committee later cut that amount in half. Republicans control both houses of the state Legislature.

House members on Monday had given the bill their initial backing after striking a "poison pill" amendment that mockingly asked whether Wyoming should purchase its own aircraft carrier and fighter jets.

"I guess a lot of people think if you're trying to prepare for a disaster, it makes you seem crazy," co-sponsor Kendell Kroeker said. "I was interested in it mainly because I don't think there's any harm in being well-prepared."

Handcuffs

Interpol Says 25 Suspected Anonymous Hackers Arrested

Image
© Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images
Paris - Interpol said that 25 suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement have been arrested in a sweep across Europe and South America.

The international police agency said in a statement Tuesday that the arrests in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain were carried out by national law enforcement officers working under the support of Interpol's Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology Crime.

The suspects, aged between 17 and 40, are suspected of planning coordinated cyberattacks against institutions including Colombia's defense ministry and presidential websites, Chile's Endesa electricity company and national library, as well as other targets.

The arrests followed an ongoing investigation begun in mid-February which also led to the seizure of 250 items of IT equipment and mobile phones in searches of 40 premises in 15 cities, Interpol said.

In Chile's capital, Subprefect Jamie Jara said at a news conference that authorities arrested five Chileans and a Colombian. Two of the Chileans are 17-year-old minors.

Chess

Barack Obama Waives Rule Allowing Indefinite Military Detention Of Americans

obama
© Getty

Washington -- The White House released rules Tuesday evening waiving the most controversial piece of the new military detention law, and exempting U.S. citizens, as well as other broad categories of suspected terrorists.

Indefinite military detention of Americans and others was granted in the defense authorization bill President Barack Obama signed just before Christmas, sparking a storm of anger from civil libertarians on the left and right.

The new rules -- which deal with Section 1022 of the law -- are aimed at soothing many of their gravest concerns, an administration official said. Those concerns are led by the possibility that a law that grants the president authority to jail Americans without trial in Guantanamo Bay based on secret evidence could easily be abused.

"It is important to recognize that the scope of the new law is limited," says a fact sheet released by the White House, focusing on that worry. "Section 1022 does not apply to U.S. citizens, and the President has decided to waive its application to lawful permanent residents arrested in the United States."

Dollar

Warren Buffett Says High Corporate Taxes Are An American 'Myth'

Image
© Associated PressBillionaire investor Warren Buffett speaks in Omaha, Neb., Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, at an event to raise money for the Girls Inc. charity organization.
Corporations, like the rich, aren't paying their fair share in taxes, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC on Monday.

Even while enjoying record profits, corporations last year paid just 12.1 percent of those earnings in taxes, their lowest tax rate since 1972, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At least thirty of the country's most profitable companies had a negative tax rate between 2008 and 2010.

Buffett, for one, says it's time to take notice.

"It's a myth that American corporations are paying 35 percent or anything like it," Buffett said, referring to the top marginal corporate tax rate. "Corporate taxes are not strangling American competitiveness."

Sherlock

'Robocall' Probe Puts Tory Campaign in Guelph, Ontario Under Microscope

Image
© Postmedia News/The Windsor StarElections Canada is investigating whether robocalls in dozens of ridings across Canada, but mainly in southern Ontario, mislead voters.
Canada, Ottawa - An Elections Canada investigation into black ops "robocalls" was focused on a Conservative party campaign in Guelph, Ont., documents obtained by Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen show.

A court order executed on an Edmonton call centre in November specifically refers to records related to the campaign of Conservative candidate Marty Burke in Guelph, where many voters reported receiving pre-recorded messages that falsely claimed their polling stations had moved.

Since reports of that investigation came to light last week, Liberals and New Democrats have reported fraudulent calls in dozens of ridings across the country and the Conservatives have called on anyone with information to send it to Elections Canada - but the documents suggest any such investigation was more narrowly focused, at least in November.

A production order executed on RackNine Inc. in Edmonton compelled the company to turn over all emails, billing records and other correspondence between it and "the Conservative party general election campaign in Guelph."

The court order also required the Conservative-connected company to hand over the user names, passwords and IP addresses of anyone associated with the Guelph campaign who used RackNine between March 26 and May 31.

The order also required RackNine to release records of calls that used the number 450-760-7746. The Bell Canada phone number in Joliette, Que., appeared on call displays of some recipients of the fraudulent election day calls in Guelph.

Whistle

Big Farma Once Again Walking All Over Your Safety - and the Constitution

Image
© Alliance for Natural Health
The agriculture industry is trying to make it a crime to be an undercover investigator at a factory farm. Goodbye, whistle blowers! Farewell, freedom of speech!

Last year, "ag gag" bills were introduced in a number of states. Happily, most were defeated due to overwhelming opposition from our grassroots activists, concerned citizens, and organizations of all political stripes. Unfortunately, many of these bills are back this year, and the dangers are even greater.

The bills introduced last year would have made it illegal to videotape or take a picture on a factory farm - even when an an illegal act was occurring. This is obviously unconstitutional; Iowa's attorney general even told their legislature so.

Bad Guys

Crony Capitalism, Repression, and the Police State

Image
Police violence at Occupy Oakland
The current crony capitalist system in place since the Reagan Revolution dismantled the New Deal consensus that capitalism had to serve both labor and capital is requiring ever-increasing levels of repression to milk additional increments of wealth out of labor for the benefit of capital. Currently almost 5% of the U.S. population is either in jail, on probation, or otherwise involved in the correctional system. We have more people in prison both as a percentage and as a sum total than Stalin had in his gulags.

It was amazing to see the amount of police state brute force used against the Occupy movement. We're talking about a movement that, if it had been ignored, would have simply faded away within a few weeks because people would have gotten bored and moved on. Instead it was in the headlines for weeks because of the level of brutality used to suppress it. Why in the world were the oligarchs so panicked? It's because they have just about reached the end of the amount of force they can apply to eke out tiny increments of wealth out of the labor of the 99%. When you're already applying as much force as Stalin applied, you're reaching the point where it costs more to apply additional force than you'll get as a return on that additional force.