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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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US Foreign Policy: Into the Heart of Darkness

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The United States is careening toward an unnecessary new cold war with Russia.  Cold War II may be even more dangerous than the first Cold War, because the constitutional checks and balances and the attention span of the people regulating the US government’s behavior have broken down. While Ukraine is now at the center of this madness, the neocon-driven march to folly has roots reaching well beyond the Ukraine. 

At the same time the United States is rushing to an unnecessary and unwarranted confrontation with Russia, it is engaged in perpetual war on terror that is creating enemies in the Islamic world faster than we can kill them. Moreover, the grand-strategic focus of the war on terror has degenerated into a swamp of contradictions. About the only outcome that is clear in the war on terror is that defense contractors will be the winners.  And then, there is the looming pivot to a confrontation with China. 

In short, the warmongering politicians of American Empire, like those of the Roman Empire, have succumbed to the delusion of their own invincibility and are driving the United States into the age-old cul-de-sac of military overextension. 

Yet at the same time the country is careening to disaster, the American people are tuning out on their government and its actions.
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'A Litany of Federal Crimes' - Judge Napolitano on the CIA Torture Report

"The most compelling, detailed documented report of government intentional infliction of pain on non-combatants ever produced in American history since the time of the Civil War." That is how RPI Advisory Board Member Judge Andrew Napolitano reacted to today's release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques.
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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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Our Enemies, the Presidents

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Two summers ago Judge Andrew Napolitano joined the faculty of Mises University, the Mises Institute’s summer program for students. He was interested in teaching a nine-session special seminar to a select group of attendees. Students didn’t know what the format would be, but they were all thrilled at the opportunity. As it turns out, they were treated to a high-level seminar with a professor who spoke with authority, pulled out obscure legal references without notes, and traversed the room interacting with students. It was an experience they would not soon forget.

And this is the Judge Napolitano who comes through in Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Assault on Civil Liberties: the law professor in command of his material, presenting his case, anticipating objections, and leaving his audience spellbound.

Had the Judge given us nothing but a blow-by-blow overview of the enormities of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, we would have been in his debt. But Suicide Pact does much more than just this. For one thing, the Judge looks beyond the presidents to the whole federal apparatus, which – “checks and balances” civics lessons to the contrary notwithstanding – is so often complicit in presidential misdeeds. For another, he cuts through the delusions of left and right alike. While he places special emphasis on the outrages of the past two presidential administrations, he will admit of no golden-age mythology. Presidential crimes and overreach are not strange aberrations, explains the Judge. They extend back into American history for more than two hundred years.

Not ten years after the ratification of the Constitution, for example, the Alien and Sedition Acts curtailed civil liberties to a degree that shocks us even today. Critics of the president and Congress could find themselves fined or imprisoned. Ordinary Americans were punished for offhand remarks, as were newspaper writers and even a US congressman from Vermont.
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House Chooses New Cold War With Russia

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Last week the US House voted overwhelmingly in favor of an anti-Russia resolution so full of war propaganda that it rivals the rhetoric from the chilliest era of the Cold War. Ironically, much of the bill condemns Russia for doing exactly what the US government has been doing for years in Syria and Ukraine!
 
For example, one of the reasons to condemn Russia in the resolution is the claim that Russia is imposing economic sanctions on Ukraine. But how many rounds of sanctions has the US government imposed on Russia for much of the past year? I guess sanctions are only bad when used by countries Washington doesn’t like.
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Ukraine’s Made-in-USA Finance Minister

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Ukraine’s new Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, a former US State Department officer who was granted Ukrainian citizenship only this week, headed a US government-funded investment project for Ukraine that involved substantial insider dealings, including $1 million-plus fees to a management company that she also controlled.

Jaresko served as president and chief executive officer of Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by the US Agency for International Development (US AID) with $150 million to spur business activity in Ukraine. She also was cofounder and managing partner of Horizon Capital which managed WNISEF’s investments at a rate of 2 to 2.5 percent of committed capital, fees exceeding $1 million in recent years, according to WNISEF’s 2012 annual report.

The growth of that insider dealing at the US-taxpayer-funded WNISEF is further underscored by the number of paragraphs committed to listing the “related party transactions,” i.e., potential conflicts of interest, between an early annual report from 2003 and the one a decade later.

In the 2003 report, the “related party transactions” were summed up in two paragraphs, with the major item a $189,700 payment to a struggling computer management company where WNISEF had an investment.
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US Army Sends 100 Tanks To Eastern Europe To 'Deter Russian Aggression'

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The ink on Barack Obama's Chuck Hagel termination letter hasn't dried yet but already the US president's new, and seemingly far more hawkish advisors, are having their warmongering presence felt. Case in point: the Eastern European theater of (Cold) war, where Military.com reports that the new Army commander in Europe plans to bolster the U.S. armored presence in Poland and the Baltic states and keep rotations of U.S. troops there through next year and possibly beyond to counter Russia. Lt. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges, who replaced Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell  earlier this month as commander of U.S. Army Europe, said the Army was looking to add about 100 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles to the forces in Eastern Europe.

"We are looking at courses of action for how we could pre-position equipment that we would definitely want to put inside a facility where it would be better maintained, that rotational units could then come and draw on it and use it to train, or for contingency purposes," Hodges said in a briefing from Vilnius, Lithuania.

So "better maintained... or for contingency purposes." Got it. That probably also explains why as NATO is seeking to deliver 100 tanks to Eastern Europe, it has already added several squadrons of fighter jets just minutes away from Russia's border. For "contingency purposes."
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