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Brian Williams Helped Pave the Way to War

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The scandal of the week is NBC anchor Brian Williams’s shabby bid for self-glorification by falsely claiming he was in a US military helicopter forced to land in the Iraqi desert after being hit by ground fire in 2003. Of course so-called news people shouldn’t make up stuff to look good, but there’s something much worse: uncritically passing along official lies intended to prepare the American people for war.

Williams, like nearly all of his mainstream media colleagues (with precious few exceptions) did this incessantly in the run-up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. As conduits for the Bush administration’s baseless claims about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to 9/11, Williams and the others did Bush’s bidding in manufacturing public support for the illegal and morally outrageous invasion and occupation that would wreck Iraq even more than it had been wrecked in the 1990s through the military and economic warfare waged by George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

What did these fake-news presenters learn from that disgraceful episode? Not a thing. If you want proof, tune in to the three major networks’ newscasts or consult the American cable news channels: CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. There you’ll find stage actors conveying the Obama administration’s neoconservative line about the ISIS threat to the American people and the need for government military action to counteract it — never noting that there was no ISIS or al-Qaeda in Iraq before the Bush war they helped make possible. Reporting “news” without providing the context is a surefire way to mislead viewers. Why don’t they know that? Or do they know it and prefer to mislead their viewers out of a sense of patriotism and in a quest for ratings?
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Kiev’s Bloody War Is Backfiring

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When Ukrainian army officers came to the Ukrainian village of Velikaya Znamenka to tell the men to prepare to be drafted, they weren’t prepared for what happened next. As the commanding officer was speaking, a woman seized the microphone and proceeded to tell him off: "We’re sick of this war! Our husbands and sons aren’t going anywhere!" She then launched into a passionate speech, denouncing the war, and the coup leaders in Kiev, to the cheers of the crowd.

What she did is now a crime in Ukraine: the only reason she wasn’t arrested on the spot is that the villagers wouldn’t have permitted it. But in Ukrainian Transcarpathia, well-known journalist for Ukrainian Channel 112 Ruslan Kotsaba has been arrested and charged with "treason" and "espionage" for making a video in which he declared: "I would rather sit in jail for three to five years than go to the east to kill my Ukrainian brothers. This fear-mongering must be stopped." Kotsaba may sit in jail for twenty-three years, the prescribed term for the charges filed against him.

Kotsaba’s arrest is part of a desperate effort by the Ukrainian government to intimidate the growing antiwar and anti-draft movement, which threatens to upend Kiev’s dreams of conquering the rebellious eastern provinces. Kotsaba’s particular crime, according to prosecutors, was in describing the conflict as a civil war rather than a Russian "invasion." This is a point the authorities cannot tolerate: the same meme being relentlessly broadcast by the Western media – that an indigenous rebellion with substantial support is really a Russian plot to "subvert" Ukraine and reestablish the Warsaw Pact – now has the force of law in Ukraine. Anyone who contradicts it is subject to arrest.
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Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates

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If I were still a practicing ob-gyn and one of my patients said she was not going to vaccinate her child, I might try to persuade her to change her mind. But, if I were unsuccessful, I would respect her decision. I certainly would not lobby the government to pass a law mandating that children be vaccinated even if the children’s parents object. Sadly, the recent panic over the outbreak of measles has led many Americans, including some self-styled libertarians, to call for giving government new powers to force all children to be vaccinated.

Those who are willing to make an “exception” to the principle that parents should make health care decisions for their children should ask themselves when in history has a “limited” infringement on individual liberty stayed limited. By ceding the principle that individuals have the right to make their own health care decisions, supporters of mandatory vaccines are opening the door for future infringements on health freedom.
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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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