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After Ukraine: Are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary Veering Off The NATO/EU Reservation?

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Despite the firmness shown by the EU’sbiggest players when it comes to sanctioning Putin’s Russia, lower down the pecking order some member states are not happy. Unlike the most craven and obedient puppets — the Baltic States and Poland — it took some arm twisting to get the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary to agree to punish Moscow for annexing Crimea. Each country is dependent for much of its energy on Russia with which there are also valued economic ties. Why rock the boat? Despite hyperbole claiming that Vladimir Putin was intent on taking them over and rebuilding the iron curtain, in reality, Russia has been an unproblematic neighbour for a quarter of a century.

Could these ripples of discontent with the famed Washington consensus develop into something more troubling for both the  US and Brussels? What can they do about it? All three countries are members of both NATO and the EU. Promoting regime change inside the Euro-Atlantic tentsurely becomes more problematic. Or, does it? Let us examine each case separately and see what the auguries bode.
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All I Want for Christmas is a (Real) Government Shutdown

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The political class breathed a sigh of relief Saturday when the US Senate averted a government shutdown by passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. This year’s omnibus resembles omnibuses of Christmas past in that it was drafted in secret, was full of special interest deals and disguised spending increases, and was voted on before most members could read it.

The debate over the omnibus may have made for entertaining political theater, but the outcome was never in doubt. Most House and Senate members are so terrified of another government shutdown that they would rather vote for a 1,774-page bill they have not read than risk even a one or two-day government shutdown.
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Eric Garner, the Torture Report, and Authoritarian Psychology

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What do the NYPD arresting officers of Eric Garner, the CIA officials responsible for the crimes detailed in the Torture Report and U.S. foreign policy officials all have in common? They are all agents of  institutions that have adopted an “authoritarian psychology.” So what does authoritarian psychology mean?

Alexandre Kojeve, a French fascist in Vichy France, and lifelong close friend of Neocon Godfather Leo Strauss, explained authority as follows: “Authority is the possibility of an agent acting upon others without these others reacting against him, despite being capable to do so, and without making any compromises. Any discussion is already a compromise.”

This is anathema to the authoritarian because it means their absolute authority or of the institution they represent has been lost, even if only to an imperceptible degree. That is the nature of authoritarian psychology and authoritarian government by Kojeve’s and fascist logic.
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Do They Really Oppose Torture?

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited report on CIA torture of detainees and the reaction has been strong. While some still maintain that torture is justified, the emerging details of the program have left most of the country disgusted and ashamed.

Many in the current Administration blame the Bush people for this dark chapter, claiming that President Obama finally put an end to what his predecessor started.

Senator John McCain, an advocate for war and an interventionist foreign policy, has nevertheless been one of the strongest voices opposing torture. He has recalled his time as an abused prisoner of war in Vietnam to argue the importance of facing up to the recent behavior of the US government and making necessary corrections.

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Washington’s Frozen War Against Russia

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For over a year, the United States has played out a scenario designed to (1) reassert US control over Europe by blocking E.U. trade with Russia, (2) bankrupt Russia, and (3) get rid of Vladimir Putin and replace him with an American puppet, like the late drunk, Boris Yeltsin.

The past few days have made crystal clear the perfidy of the economic side of this US war against Russia.

It all began at the important high-level international meeting on Ukraine’s future held in Yalta in September 2013, where a major topic was the shale gas revolution which the United States hoped to use to weaken Russia. Former US energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to make the pitch, applauded by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Washington hoped to use its fracking techniques to provide substitute sources for natural gas, driving Russia out of the market. This amounts to selling Europe a pig in a poke.

But this trick could not be accomplished by relying on the sacrosanct “market”, since fracking is more costly than Russian gas extraction. A major crisis was necessary in order to distort the market by political pressures. By theFebruary 22coup d’état, engineered by Victoria Nuland, the United States effectively took control of Ukraine, putting in power its agent “Yats” (Arseniy Yatsenyuk) who favors joining NATO. This direct threat to Russia’s naval base in Crimea led to the referendum which peacefully returned the historically Russian peninsula to Russia. But the US-led chorus condemned the orderly return of Crimea as “Russian military aggression”. This defensive move is trumpeted by NATO as proof of Putin’s intention to invade Russia’s European neighbors for no reason at all.
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The Long Arm of US Law

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In a perfect illustration of just how ridiculous the US government’s tax policies are, Mayor of London Boris Johnson is being pursued by the IRS for capital gains taxes he owes for selling his residence in London. Apparently Mr. Johnson was born in New York and, despite the fact that his parents returned to Britain when he was five years old, has never given up his US citizenship. Like many other people who through no fault of their own become United States citizens, he never realized that the US government, situated as it is across an ocean, claims to be the rightful owner of a substantial portion of his income and assets.

If Mr. Johnson hasn’t paid capital gains tax on the sale of his house, I’m assuming that he also hasn’t filed a yearly Form 1040 tax return, nor has he probably submitted his annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). I’m sure IRS is salivating right now just thinking about all the penalties, back taxes, and interest they can charge him.

The sad thing about this situation is that it takes a prominent example like this to expose the absurdity of US tax laws. US citizens living abroad have for years been seeing their access to foreign bank accounts cut off due to over-reaching laws such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and the situation will only get worse. While Mr. Johnson may end up getting a slap on the wrist due to his political stature, the same cannot be said for other innocent victims, not just the accidental Americans, but those who have lived and worked abroad for years and decades and now find themselves shut offfrom an international banking system that now sees Americans as toxic.
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