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Not Talking to Vladimir Putin Signals Impotence, Not Strength

Understandable outrage at the terrible fate of the 298 innocent passengers on flight MH17 has led Western leaders to reach for their favourite way of coercing rogue states into better behaviour. Sanctions have been ramped up on Russia, targeting key personnel around President Vladimir Putin and cutting specific sectors of the Russian economy off from fruitful business with US and EU partners.

Russia now joins countries ranging from Belarus to Zimbabwe on the US Treasury’s list of states, groups and individuals that fall into the 27 broad headings for its sanctions. The EU’s members have almost as extensive an itinerary of blacklists.
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CIA Admits Hacking Senate Computers After Months of Denials

Brennanfinal 1

In the same week as the State Department report endorsing findings that the CIA lied to Congress and brutalized suspects, the CIA is now admitting that its recent denials of hacking Senate computers was also false. Once again, however, there is not even a suggestion of discipline, let alone criminal charges, for CIA officials who lied to Congress (or allowed others to lie) and hacked into congressional computers.

CIA Director John Brennan used the type of Orwellian speech that we have come to expect when discussing CIA abuses. He admitted that employees “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” between the agency and the Senate. That “inconsistency” just happened to involve hacking into computers during an investigation of the CIA itself on Bush-era interrogation practices.

Keep in mind that it was Brennan who just a few months ago mocked the allegations and said “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. … That’s beyond the scope of reason.” Now one of two possibilities exist. First, Brennan lied to the Senate and then lied to the American people. Second, high-ranking CIA officials lied to Brennan and then sat back as he lied to the Senate and the public. I am not sure which is worse but both would seem a logical basis for a criminal investigation.
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The Rise of the 'Petro-yuan' and the Slow Erosion of Dollar Hegemony

Yuan Dollar

For seventy years, one of the critical foundations of American power has been the dollar’s standing as the world’s most important currency. For the last forty years, a pillar of dollar primacy has been the greenback’s dominant role in international energy markets. Today, China is leveraging its rise as an economic power, and as the most important incremental market for hydrocarbon exporters in the Persian Gulf and the former Soviet Union to circumscribe dollar dominance in global energy—with potentially profound ramifications for America’s strategic position.       

Since World War II, America’s geopolitical supremacy has rested not only on military might, but also on the dollar’s standing as the world’s leading transactional and reserve currency. Economically, dollar primacy extracts “seignorage”—the difference between the cost of printing money and its value—from other countries, and minimises US firms’ exchange rate risk. Its real importance, though, is strategic: dollar primacy lets America cover its chronic current account and fiscal deficits by issuing more of its own currency—precisely how Washington has funded its hard power projection for over half a century.  

Since the 1970s, a pillar of dollar primacy has been the greenback’s role as the dominant currency in which oil and gas are priced, and in which international hydrocarbon sales are invoiced and settled. This helps keep worldwide dollar demand high. It also feeds energy producers’ accumulation of dollar surpluses that reinforce the dollar’s standing as the world’s premier reserve asset, and that can be “recycled” into the US economy to cover American deficits.
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Veteran US Intelligence Analysts to Obama: Provide Evidence or Stop Lying About Malaysia Plane Crash

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Intelligence on Shoot-Down of Malaysian Plane

U.S.–Russian intensions are building in a precarious way over Ukraine, and we are far from certain that your advisers fully appreciate the danger of escalation. The New York Times and other media outlets are treating sensitive issues in dispute as flat-fact, taking their cue from U.S. government sources.

Twelve days after the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, your administration still has issued no coordinated intelligence assessment summarizing what evidence exists to determine who was responsible – much less to convincingly support repeated claims that the plane was downed by a Russian-supplied missile in the hands of Ukrainian separatists.
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Stop! Thief! Stop! — The Looting of Ukraine

Kiev’s hastily assembled, post-coup coalitions couldn’t hold, and Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk threw in the towel last Thursday. On his way out, news stories said, the PM expressed his “disappointment with Ukrainian parliament’s decision to reject a bill that allows the government to hand over up to 49 percent of the country’s gas transport system to investors from the European Union and the United States.”

In other words, what the US and the EU have got themselves up to in Ukraine isn’t so much a demented, madhouse mirror set of policies built on bluster and gross deceit as it is a high-powered burglary.

Ukraine should craft attractive terms to facilitate foreign investment, especially of those technologically-advanced energy companies capable of locating and developing whatever energy assets Ukraine does enjoy. But what does foreign ownership of 49% of the nation’s functioning gas transport system have to do with energy exploration and development?
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On Dominoes, WMDs And Putin’s 'Aggression': Imperial Washington Is Intoxicated By Another Big Lie

Obama New Sanctions

Imperial Washington is truly running amuck in its insensible confrontation with Vladimir Putin. The round of new sanctions is a counter-productive joke. Apparently, more of Vlad’s posse will be put on double probation, thereby reducing demand for Harry Macklowe’s swell new $60 million apartment units on Park Avenue. Likewise, American exporters of high tech oilfield equipment will be shot in the foot with an embargo; and debt-saturated Russian state companies will be denied the opportunity to bury themselves even deeper in dollar debt by borrowing on the New York bond market. Some real wet noodles, these!

But it is the larger narrative that is so blatantly offensive—that is, the notion that a sovereign state is being wantonly violated by an aggressive neighbor arming “terrorists” inside its borders. Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Tony Blanken, stated that specious meme in stark form yesterday:
“Russia bears responsibility for everything that’s going on in Eastern Ukraine” and “has the ability to actually de-escalate this crisis,” Blinken said.
Puleese! The Kiev government is a dysfunctional, bankrupt usurper that is deploying western taxpayer money to wage a vicious war on several million Russian-speaking citizens in the Donbas—the traditional center of greater Russia’s coal, steel and industrial infrastructure.
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In Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything Is The Thing To Do

Stop

The heartbreaking violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere carries many messages, but here’s one Americans shouldn’t miss: The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict. The corollary is that when a president tries to manage it, things will usually get worse. Foresight is always defective, and tragic unintended consequences will prevail.

The foreign-policy “experts” in both major political parties, and the intelligentsia generally, think otherwise. No matter who holds power, we can expect the opposition to complain that the chief executive poorly anticipated and thus improperly responded to world events.

If this charge weren’t so ominous, it would be comical to hear Republicans berating Barack Obama for failing to be “proactive,” for repeatedly being caught by surprise, and for not exerting “American leadership” to keep the world’s hot spots under control and, most important, in harmony with “American interests.”
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The Absurd, Bureaucratic Hell That Is the American Police State

Police Tank

Whether it’s the working mother arrested for letting her 9-year-old play unsupervised at a playground, the teenager forced to have his genitals photographed by police, the underage burglar sentenced to 23 years for shooting a retired police dog, or the 43-year-old man who died of a heart attack after being put in a chokehold by NYPD officers allegedly over the sale of untaxed cigarettes, the theater of the absurd that passes for life in the American police state grows more tragic and incomprehensible by the day.

Debra Harrell, a 46-year-old South Carolina working mother, was arrested, charged with abandonment and had her child placed in state custody after allowing the 9-year-old to spend unsupervised time at a neighborhood playground while the mom worked a shift at McDonald’s. Mind you, the child asked to play outside, was given a cell phone in case she needed to reach someone, and the park—a stone’s throw from the mom’s place of work—was overrun with kids enjoying its swings, splash pad, and shade.

Connecticut mother was charged with leaving her 11-year-old daughter in the car unsupervised while she ran inside a store—despite the fact that the child asked to stay in the car and was not overheated or in distress. A few states away, a New Jersey man was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of his children after leaving them in a car parked in a police station parking lot, windows rolled down, while he ran inside to pay a ticket.
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End Torture, Shut Down the CIA!

Remember back in April, 2007, when then-CIA director George Tenet appeared on 60 Minutes, angrily telling the program host, “we don’t torture people”? Remember a few months later, in October, President George W. Bush saying, “this government does not torture people”? We knew then it was not true because we had already seen the photos of Iraqis tortured at Abu Ghraib prison four years earlier. 
 
Still the US administration denied that torture was torture, preferring to call it “enhanced interrogation” and claiming that it had disrupted so many terrorist plots. Of course, we later found out that the CIA had not only lied about the torture of large numbers of people after 9/11, but it had vastly exaggerated any valuable information that came from such practices.
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Israel's 155mm Cure For ‘Terrorism’

Kerry Netanyahu

In 1956, Britain and France were convinced that Egypt’s charismatic nationalist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, was threatening what was left of their Mideast and African colonial empires. London branded Nasser, “Hitler on the Nile.”

So the British and French governments secretly enlisted Israel to invade and annex Egypt’s Sinai. British and French troops were to seize the Canal Zone in a supposed “peacekeeping mission,” march on Cairo, and install a puppet government there. Israel would keep the entire Sinai Peninsula.

The infamous Suez invasion turned into a humiliating debacle for the bungling British and French; Nasser became a hero to the entire Third World. But Israel tenaciously hung on to Sinai, claiming it needed the peninsula "for security."

When US President Dwight Eisenhower learned of the UK-French-Israeli plan to grab the Suez Canal and march on Cairo, he was furious. Ike ordered the British and French out of Egypt under threat of collapsing their weak currencies. Eisenhower told Israel to get out of Sinai – or else. Israel got out.
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