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Bombs Away! Obama Signs Lethal Aid to Ukraine Bill

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President Obama made good today on his promise to sign the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, which had passed Congress last week. Dubbed by former Rep. Dennis Kucinich the bill that "reignited the Cold War while no one was looking," the Act imposes new sanctions on the Russian defense and energy industries, authorizes $350 million in lethal military assistance to the US-backed government in Kiev, urges that government to resume its deadly military operations against the Russian-speaking areas of east Ukraine seeking to break away from Kiev's rule, and authorizes millions of dollars to fund increased US government propaganda broadcasts to the countries of the former Soviet Union. Just days before Christmas, this bill is a massive gift to the US defense industry from which Ukraine will be required to purchase its lethal wish list.

Perhaps as disturbing as the bill itself is the shocking process by which it passed the US House of Representatives. Three Members of the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), planned to be on the House Floor after the business of the day (passage of the massive omnibus spending bill) was completed and Members had left the Floor. 

Under a parliamentary move called "unanimous consent" the normal rules of the House can be suspended provided not a single other Member objects. The solution for these three Members was to ensure that no other Members were present. It would have been difficult for other Members to object anyway, as no one else in the House had even seen the bill! It had only just been introduced and the text was not available.
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Torture and the Destruction of the Human Being Shaker Aamer by the United States

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The Bush and Obama administrations have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide America’s archipelago of secret prisons and systems of torture. 

For all the empty talk of “transparency” being high-fived around following the Senate Report, they at first denied any of that nasty stuff even existed, then used an ever-so-compliant media to call it all necessary for our security and very survival, then shaping dumb-cow public opinion with ersatz terms like enhanced interrogation to keep the word torture out of the discourse, then having the CIA destroy videos of the brutality, then imprisoning officials, such as John Kiriakou, who sought to expose it all, then refusing to hold hearings or conduct investigations, then employing black ops to try and derail even a cursory Senate report and finally allowing the torturers at the CIA themselves the final word on the watered-down public version of a Senate report on torture. 

The Torture of Shaker Aamer by the United States 

Yet, like a water leak that must find it’s way out from inside the dark place within your walls, some things become known. Now, we can read a psychiatrist’s report which includes, in detail, the torture enacted on just one prisoner of the United States, Shaker Aamer.
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For Truly Better Relations with Cuba, Open the Door and Get Out of the Way!

President Obama today took a bold and surprising step toward ending the futile 50 year US embargo of Cuba. The president announced he would begin normalizing relations, including upgrading the diplomatic mission in Havana to embassy status. The president also said he was taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information between the US and Cuba.

President Obama said that the half-century US embargo of Cuba was an “outdated approach” that “failed to advance our interests.” He rightly noted that decades of US sanctions have “had little effect.”

He noted, as I have often pointed out, that the US has had economic and diplomatic relations with communist China for 35 years and has even established productive relations with a Vietnam, where the US fought a brutal war just over four decades ago.
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The Cold War Has Never Ended for the CIA

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In the midst of the CIA’s torture scandal, USAID continues its obsessive Cold War activity against Cuba, in a desperate attempt to finally, once and for all, oust the Castro regime from power and install another pro-U.S. dictatorship. 

Yes, I know how a conservative would immediately respond: “Jacob, the CIA and USAID are two separate and distinct entities. Why are you bringing them up in the same sentence?” 

Yeah, right, and I have a nice piece of fertile swampland in the Everglades I’d like to sell that conservative. USAID is one of the CIA’s favorite front organizations. By taking over some of the CIA’s regime-change operations under the guise of promoting “civil society,” USAID provides the CIA with “plausible deniability” with respect to its never-ending Cold War obsession over Cuba and other socialist regimes. 

The latest regime-change fiasco involves a pathetically comical attempt to secretly infiltrate Cuba’s hip-hop scene. According to an article in The Guardian, “The idea was to use Cuba’s rappers ‘to break the information blockade’ and build a network of young people seeking ‘social change’ to spark a youth movement against the government of Raul Castro.”
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Three Members of Congress Just Reignited the Cold War While No One Was Looking

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Late Thursday night, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a far-reaching Russia sanctions bill, a hydra-headed incubator of poisonous conflict. The second provocative anti-Russian legislation in a week, it further polarizes our relations with Russia, helping to cement a Russia-China alliance against Western hegemony, and undermines long-term America’s financial and physical security by handing the national treasury over to war profiteers.

Here’s how the House’s touted “unanimity” was achieved: Under a parliamentary motion termed “unanimous consent,” legislative rules can be suspended and any bill can be called up. If any member of Congress objects, the motion is blocked and the bill dies.

At 10:23:54 p.m. on Thursday, a member rose to ask “unanimous consent” for four committees to be relieved of a Russia sanctions bill. At this point the motion, and the legislation, could have been blocked by a single member who would say “I object.”  No one objected, because no one was watching for last-minute bills to be slipped through.
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BBC US Editor Parrots CIA, Republican Talking Points on Senate Torture Report

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The BBC is supposed to be an "impartial", "honest" and "independent" news outlet, but today its US Editor, Jon Sopel, showed very clearly whose side he is on. In a short post, "A whiff of hypocrisy about CIA report?", he regurgitates some staple Republican talking-points and makes arguments eerily similar to those presented by former CIA and Bush officials in their various self-exculpatory media appearances this past week.

His piece bears the revealingly Cheney-esque tagline: “America has not come under serious attack since 9/11 on its home soil – so you would think that would be a source of celebration.” Then, just like CIA Director Brennan at his press conference last Thursday, Sopel kicks off with the September 11 attacks. He speculates that there might eventually be two versions of 9/11, one in which "a war on terror was declared, and those responsible were hunted down and detained, and there were no further attacks on US soil", another in which "the torture tactics used to hunt down and detain those responsible brought condemnation and America lost its moral authority in the world".

Both of these versions are inaccurate. His assumption is that the CIA's interrogation and rendition program was the only factor involved in capturing terrorists. Of course there were other departments of the US government at work - most importantly the FBI (which did not use torture). And there were other methods, besides human intelligence, which yielded information (for example, signals intelligence was crucial to the hunt for Bin Laden).
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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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Torture and the Myth of Never Again: The Persecution of John Kiriakou

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In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

The United States sanctioned acts of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency and others. The acts took place in secret prisons (“black sites”) against persons detained indefinitely without trial. They were described in detail and explicitly authorized in a series of secret torture memos drafted by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, senior lawyers in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. (Office of Legal Counsel attorneys technically answer directly to the DOJ, which is supposed to be independent from the White House, but obviously was not in this case.) Not one of those men, or their Justice Department bosses, has been held accountable for their actions.

Some tortured prisoners were killed by the CIA. Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently that no one would be held accountable for those murders either. “Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths,” he said, “the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Jose Rodriguez, a senior CIA official, admitted destroying videotapes of potentially admissible evidence, showing the torture of captives by operatives of the US government at a secret prison thought to be located at a Vietnam-War-era airbase in Thailand. He was not held accountable for deep-sixing this evidence, nor for his role in the torture of human beings.
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