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Greece: The Problem with Playing Hardball

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Greece and the European Central Bank are currently at loggerheads. The new Greek government wants to lighten its debt burden but the ECB won’t give the Greeks everything they want. Only two weeks into Syriza’s governance of Greece, the ECB has decided to play hardball, deciding that Greek government debt may no longer be used as collateral for monetary policy operations. While the ECB thought it was playing a strong hand with that move, it may end up coming back to haunt them.

That one move reduces the market demand for Greek debt. Yields will begin to rise, and the spread between Greek debt and other Eurozone countries’ securities will increase. Remember the great benefit of the euro to the peripheral European countries: all sovereign debt was treated equally by markets because it was assumed that the ECB would ensure that creditors would not suffer losses in the event that there were any difficulties with a Eurozone country servicing its debt. That enabled Italy, Spain, and Greece, among others, to borrow money at rates close to what Germany could, rates far lower than the peripheral countries had historically been able to reach.

Naturally they took advantage of that, overspent, and found themselves in difficulty. But the ECB’s bailout of Greece assuaged investors’ fears, and the spreads between peripheral debt and core Eurozone debt began to narrow again. With this latest move by the ECB, the risk is that the spread will widen with respect to Greek debt. If Greece no longer has the advantage of being able to borrow at low rates, then what good is the euro to them? Why not go back to the drachma? At least then they are in control of their own monetary policy.
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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of TSA Whistleblower Robert MacLean

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Whistleblower laws exist because government officials do not always act in the nation’s best interests.

The Obama administration, in its war on whistleblowers, just lost a major battle. Major in its venue — the Supreme Court — and major in its implications for future whistleblower cases.

The Court’s decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Robert MacLean curtails the government’s manipulation of pseudo-classified information to punish whistleblowers, and strengthens the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).

The Facts

In July 2003, TSA alerted all marshals of a possible hijacking plot. Soon after, TSA sent an unclassified, open-air text message to marshals’ cell phones canceling several months of missions to save on hotel costs. Fearing such cancellations in the midst of a hijacking alert created a danger to the flying public, veteran Air Marshal Robert MacLean tried to get TSA to change its decision.

After hitting a dead end, MacLean spoke anonymously to MSNBC, who published a critical story. Only 24 hours later, and after 11 members of Congress voiced concern, TSA reversed itself, putting marshals back on the flights. A year later, MacLean appeared on TV in disguise to criticize agency policies he felt made it easier for passengers to recognize undercover marshals. The TSA recognized MacLean’s voice and discovered he had also released the unclassified 2003 text message. He was fired in April 2006.
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America's James Bond Complex

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Today, American politicians of both major parties — conservatives, “moderates,” and so-called liberals alike — insist that the United States is an “exceptional,” even “indispensable” nation. In practice, this means that for the United States alone the rules are different. Particularly in international affairs, it — the government and its personnel — can do whatever deemed necessary to carry out its objectives, including things that would get any other government or person branded a criminal.

This is nothing new. “American exceptionalism” goes back to the founding. When American politicians set their sights on Spain’s North American possessions, they were driven by the same attitude. In their view the new “Empire of Liberty,” as Jefferson called it, was destined to replace the old, worn-out empires of Europe in its hemisphere. They had no doubt that the Old World’s colonial possessions would eventually fall under the jurisdiction of the  US government, either formally or informally.

Acquisition through negotiation was preferred over war by a good number of presidents, secretaries of state, and members of Congress, but if war was necessary, they intended to be prepared and to let Spain and her fellow colonial powers know it. Thus the push for a global navy under James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams before 1820. Manifest destiny! (Congress’s constitutional war power was a burr under the saddle for Adams and others, who thought war-making was properly an executive power.)
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March to Folly in Ukraine

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The United States has just made an exceptionally dangerous, even reckless decision over Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War, warns it may lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

Rule number one of geopolitics: nuclear-armed powers must never, ever fight.

Yet Washington just announced that by spring, it will deploy unspecified numbers of military “trainers” to Ukraine to help build Kiev’s ramshackle national guard. Also being sent are significant numbers of US special heavy, mine resistant armored vehicles that have been widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US and Poland are currently covertly supplying Ukraine with some weapons.

The US soldiers will just be for training, and the number of GI’s will be modest, claim US military sources. Of course. Just like those small numbers of American “advisors” and “trainers” in Vietnam that eventually grew to 550,000. Just as there are now US special forces in over 100 countries. We call it “mission creep.”
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Surrendering Liberty: America’s Fatal Freedom Apathy

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According to our civic folklore, Americans are more devoted to freedom than any other nationality on earth. But it is increasingly appears that this dogma is a relic of bygone times.

A Gallup poll last July asked a thousand Americans: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what to do with your life?” Only twenty-one percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied.

Admittedly, the percentage of Americans who say they don’t have sufficient freedom has doubled since the previous Gallup poll on this question in 2006, when only 9% complained. That number was stunningly low, considering the controversies back then over the Patriot Act and repressive “free speech zones,” and the first round of explosive revelations of National Security Agency illegal wiretaps on thousands of Americans. Obama in 2008 exploited the Bush administration’s dreadful civil liberties record to portray himself as America’s constitutional savior.

Jon Clifton, the managing director of the Gallup World Poll, observed last summer that the 2006 freedom poll “ numbers make sense in terms of our classic self-perception. The recent numbers do not.” But has the “classic self-perception” been bogus for decades?
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