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Puppet Masters

Eye 1

New EU rules 'to protect Europeans from NSA' are actually riddled with loopholes for intelligence agencies to continue exploiting people


The EU essentially IS a CIA creation, so remind us again, what exactly is the fuss about?
Regulations will make it harder to move European data to third countries, with fines running into billions for failure to comply

New European rules aimed at curbing questionable transfers of data from EU countries to the US are being finalised in Brussels in the first concrete reaction to the Edward Snowden disclosures on US and British mass surveillance of digital communications.

Regulations on European data protection standards are expected to pass the European parliament committee stage on Monday after the various political groupings agreed on a new compromise draft following two years of gridlock on the issue.

The draft would make it harder for the big US internet servers and social media providers to transfer European data to third countries, subject them to EU law rather than secret American court orders, and authorise swingeing fines possibly running into the billions for the first time for not complying with the new rules.


The ideological disaster of fundamentalist Christian capitalism - an analysis

Part I - Going Backward

In the eighteenth century the West shifted from mercantilism to capitalism. Mercantilism was an economic system that gave governments wide-ranging regulatory powers over commerce, mostly to ensure a positive balance of trade. It also allowed for strong guild structures and protection for domestic industries. However, the Industrial Revolution ended mercantilism and brought to power a business class that wanted to be free to operate without government oversight.

As the capitalist worldview evolved, it made a fetish out of the "free market" and viewed government as, at best, a necessary evil. Any sort of regulation was seen as the equivalent of slavery, and the proper role of officialdom was reduced to maintaining internal order (police), defending the realm (military) and enforcing contracts (the courts). Any government involvement in social welfare was disapproved of because it allegedly promoted laziness among the poor, but this was just a convenient myth. The real reason for keeping government activity to an absolute minimum was the rising business class's fear and loathing of taxes.

In Europe the rationalizations for capitalism remained primarily secular, looking to the maximization of efficiency for the sake of profit. In the United States, however, where little good happens that is not ascribed to an overseeing God, secular rationalizations were soon complemented with the notion of divine will. God wanted unregulated economic freedom and minimalist government to prevail.

christian facts
This religious view continues to exist. Today's struggle to return us all to minimalist government and maximum economic "freedom" is led by a collection of fundamentalist Christian right-wingers and Tea Party mad hatters. Chris Hedges lays out a worst-case scenario of the drive for power by the Christian right in his recent article "The Radical Christian Right and the War on the Government." He tells us that "the public face" of this political force is "on display in the House of Representatives" and its main ideological aim is to "shut down the government." Hedges also points to Texas SenatorTed Cruz as the archetypal fundamentalist politician leading the charge against big government. Hedges thinks this is just the first step toward the real goal of men like Cruz, which is to make the U.S. a Christian fundamentalist nation.

Eye 2

Tomgram: The Prawer Plan - expulsion and revulsion in Israel

Prawer Plan Israel

The Prawer Plan
In case you hadn't noticed, Israel has been in the news a lot lately. After all, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the U.N. in the midst of an Iranian "charm offensive," just as presidents Obama and Rouhani were having the first conversation between Iranian and American heads of state since Jimmy Carter's day, and gave the usual hellfire sermon. He said Israel would, if necessary, "stand alone," implicitly threatening to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities without Washington's support (an act that is, in reality, increasingly unlikely), and generally acted like the odd man out. Soon after, he made a comment reflecting his ignorance of life among the Iranian young -- "If the people of Iran were free, they could wear jeans, listen to Western music, and have free elections " -- and the next thing you knew, indignant Iranian tweets were going up along with photos of jeans and Western music albums. And so another round of news stories hit the wires.

Only one problem: just about all the "Israeli" news here is focused on its future policy toward Iran, and remarkably little of it on the way Israel continues to eat up Palestinian lands and displace Palestinians on the West Bank and elsewhere, or the way in which Israeli control over so much of the West Bank is stunting the Palestinian economy. Fortunately, Max Blumenthal, who previously slipped inside the Republican Party and produced a bestselling book, has spent four years researching the on-the-ground realities of Israel. Today, he offers us a powerful, if grim, glimpse of just where Israel has been and where it's heading, the sort of up-close-and-personal reporting you're not likely to see in the American mainstream media (not, at least, since President Obama tried -- and failed -- to get the Israelis to stop building new settlements and other housing on Palestinian or contested lands). But think of today's TomDispatch post as just a snapshot. The full picture can be found in Blumenthal's new blockbuster of a book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. It's an odyssey of a trip into a largely unknown Israel and a remarkable, as well as riveting, piece of reportage. Tom

The Desert of Israeli Democracy
A Trip Through the Negev Desert Leads to the Heart of Israel's National Nightmare

By Max Blumenthal

From the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seamlessly blended frightening details of Iranian evildoing with images of defenseless Jews "bludgeoned" and "left for dead" by anti-Semites in nineteenth century Europe. Aimed at U.S. and Iranian moves towards diplomacy and a war-weary American public, Netanyahu's gloomy tirade threatened to cast him as a desperate, diminished figure. Though it was poorly received in the U.S., alienating even a few of his stalwart pro-Israel allies, his jeremiad served a greater purpose, deflecting attention from his country's policies towards the group he scarcely mentioned: the Palestinians.

Back in November 1989, while serving as a junior minister in the Likud-led governing coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a younger Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan University, "Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of demonstrations [at China's Tiananmen Square], when the world's attention was focused on what was happening in that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the Territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented."

Eye 2

Pakistan claim 400 civilians killed by drone strikes: US refuses to release death toll figures claiming 'they're classified'

© inconnu
Over two thousand people living in Pakistan have been killed by drone strikes in the past decade, according to a UN human rights investigator calling for America to release death toll figures.

Of the 2,200 dead, 400 were civilians and an additional 200 victims were deemed "probable non-combatants Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism announced on Friday.

Mr Emmerson is now urging the United States to release its own data on the number of civilian casualties caused by its drone strikes.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry told Emmerson that since 2004, at least 330 drone strikes were on record in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan's largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan.

In an interim report to UN General Assembly released on Friday, Emmerson said Pakistani government records highlighted that drone attacks had also seriously wounded at least 600since strikes began in 2004.

He said Pakistan had confirmed that "at least 400 civilians had died as a result of remotely piloted aircraft strikes and a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants."


The radical Christian Right's war on the U.S. government

Sen. Ted Cruz
© Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, talks to reporters.
There is a desire felt by tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, to destroy the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment, radically diminish the role of government to create a theocratic state based on "biblical law," and force a recalcitrant world to bend to the will of an imperial and "Christian" America. Its public face is on display in the House of Representatives. This ideology, which is the driving force behind the shutdown of the government, calls for the eradication of social "deviants," beginning with gay men and lesbians, whose sexual orientation, those in the movement say, is a curse and an illness, contaminating the American family and the country. Once these "deviants" are removed, other "deviants," including Muslims, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and those dismissed as "nominal Christians" - meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible - will also be ruthlessly repressed. The "deviant" government bureaucrats, the "deviant" media, the "deviant" schools and the "deviant" churches, all agents of Satan, will be crushed or radically reformed. The rights of these "deviants" will be annulled. "Christian values" and "family values" will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions. Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church. Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz - whose father is Rafael Cruz, a rabid right-wing Christian preacher and the director of the Purifying Fire International ministry - and legions of the senator's wealthy supporters, some of whom orchestrated the shutdown, are rooted in a radical Christian ideology known as Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism. This ideology calls on anointed "Christian" leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation "biblical." It seeks to reduce government to organizing little more than defense, internal security and the protection of property rights. It fuses with the Christian religion the iconography and language of American imperialism and nationalism, along with the cruelest aspects of corporate capitalism. The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it - its leaders champion small government and a large military, as if the military is not part of government - and its laughable pseudoscience are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.

Dollar Gold

New York is drowning in bribes and corruption by Pam Martens

Public corruption, based on all the evidence, appears rampant. And the ranks of those convicted in office have swelled to absolutely unacceptable levels. State Senators as well as State Assemblymen; elected officials as well as party leaders; city council members as well as town mayors; Democrats as well as Republicans.

- Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (the district that has failed to rein in the serial crimes by Wall Street's biggest firms)
© Liberty Blitzkrieg
It's no surprise to me that New York is exceedingly corrupt. It's a huge city, with a ton of wealth and massive income inequality. That's basically the primary breeding ground for wide-scale corruption. However, it also comes as no surprise to me that the situation has gotten a lot worse in recent years.

After all, NYC is the headquarters of some of the largest financial institutions in the world. As such, some of the worst actors in the recent financial collapse call the city home. The whole world watched as these criminals and shysters not only evaded criminal charges, but were also rewarded trillions of dollars of public support for their efforts.

The example was set. Crime pays, and now the entire city seems to be following their lead.

Pam Martens has written and excellent article about corruption within New York's legal system. Some excerpts from Counter Punch are below:

Snakes in Suits

Lampedusa migrant deaths: The real face of the European Union

evil eu
The horrific images of hundreds of drowned refugees off the coast of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa reveal the real face of the European Union. Twenty-one years after the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht, the project of European unification under capitalism has turned into a nightmare in every respect.

From the outside, the EU resembles a fortress, before whose walls thousands of refugees lose their lives. Inside it resembles a prison, in which poverty, exploitation and oppression are rapidly increasing and the benefits of "unity" are exclusively reserved for the rich and powerful.

The dead of Lampedusa are victims of the European Union (EU) in a double sense.

The imperialist wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, supported by Europe; the fomenting of civil war in Syria; the looting of raw materials and the neocolonial exploitation of the countries of the Middle East and Africa have created conditions under which escape is the only hope of survival for many. Only a small fraction of the millions of refugees from the countries concerned make their way to Europe.


Dozens of Syrians killed in clashes after suicide attack in Damascus

© Jan-Niklas Kniewel/EPA
Syrians jostle for food at a UN aid station Aleppo
Attack by rebel forces on checkpoint in pro-government suburb of Jaramana kills at least 30 people, reports say

More than 30 people have been killed in a suicide bombing and ensuing battle at a checkpoint in Damascus, activists have said.

The blast came during an attack by rebel forces near the pro-government suburb of Jaramana, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed.

The state news agency Sana blamed "terrorists" for the explosion and said it wounded 15 people, most of them seriously.

The pro-opposition SOHR said 15 rebels and at least 16 soldiers were killed.

Penis Pump

Shameful! French MP clucking at woman in parliament sparks anger over sexism

female french mps
© Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images
Female members of the Assemblée Nationale arrive late in protest at the clucking aimed at Véronique Massonneau a day earlier.
Female politicians call for action to counteract wave of machismo sweeping through French politics

It's raining machismo in France. Chucking it down, in fact.

From parliament to local councils, via national media and regional newspapers, storms have erupted as French men indulge in misogynist outbursts that could have come from the cave age.

Now, thanks to the name-and-shame tactics of social media networks, France's long-suffering women, who might previously have shrugged off such attacks as everyday sexism and machismo, are hitting back.

The backlash came after a banal enough event: a male member of the UMP opposition in the Assemblée Nationale humiliated a female opponent by making clucking noises as she spoke during a late-night debate on the Socialist government's controversial pension reforms.


America is bankrupt but drone strikes continue: 23 Afghans dead in 48 hours

us drone
Four separate US drone attacks have claimed the lives of nearly two dozen people in different regions of the war-ravaged Afghanistan over the past 48 hours, local security sources say.

According to local Afghan officials, at least ten people were killed as two airstrikes ripped through the eastern Kunar Province near the border with Pakistan.

Also on Friday, two people lost their lives in a similar attack in Nuristan Province.