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Syria's Moment: RPI's Daniel McAdams on Crosstalk

With another round of talks in Geneva on the Syria crisis scheduled to take place in just days, the US and Russia still cannot agree on who should represent the opposition at the negotiating table. The US and Saudis have insisted that the political leader of the Islamist Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) head up the negotiations as the opposition representative. The Russians have objected to any organization that has ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda. Who will blink? What to expect now in Syria, where the facts on the ground have shifted in favor of Damascus after Russia's entry at the request of the Syrian government? RPI Executive Director Daniel McAdams joins RT's news discussion show Crosstalk to share his analysis and predictions...
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Democrats in ‘Group Think’ Land

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A curious reality about Official Washington is that to have “credibility” you must accept the dominant “group thinks” whether they have any truth to them or not, a rule that applies to both the mainstream news media and the political world, even to people who deviate from the pack on other topics.

For instance, Sen. Bernie Sanders may proudly declare himself a “democratic socialist” – far outside the acceptable Washington norm – but he will still echo the typical propaganda about Syria, Russia, Iran and other “designated villains.” Like other progressives who spend years in Washington, he gets what you might called “Senate-ized,” adopting that institution’s conventional wisdom about “enemies” even if he may differ on whether to bomb them or not.

That pattern goes in spades for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other consciously “centrist” politicians as well as media stars, like NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Lester Holt, who were the moderators of Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate. They know what they know based on what “everybody who’s important” says, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.

So, you had Mitchell and Holt framing questions based on Official Washington’s “group thinks” – and Sanders and Clinton responding accordingly.
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The Injustice Of Mandatory Minimums

Thanks in part to "mandatory minimum" laws starting in the 1980s, the US has the largest prison population -- per capita and total -- of any country on earth. Including China. Is that because Americans are that much worse than others? No, it is due to a completely dysfunctional justice system where, for example, jury members are not allowed to know the potential sentence of a defendant before they decide whether guilty or not guilty. If they were allowed to know, they would likely hesitate before sending someone away for life for smoking a marijuana cigarette. The Senate is expected to take up a mandatory minimum reform bill sometime in the next couple of months, which might be a step in the right direction to correcting the completely broken and unjust US justice system. Tune in to today's Liberty Report for more...
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The Riverine Mysteries

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The events surrounding the interception of ten American sailors in two US riverine boats who somehow wandered into Iranian waters continues to baffle the curious. Not that the American media is to be included among those asking questions: aside from the outraged shrieks of the neoconservative outlets over the alleged “appeasement” of Iran and the so-called “humiliation” of the sailors, no one is asking the most pertinent question of all: how did they get there in the first place?

I raised the most obvious questions here: simultaneously, both Glenn Greenwald and Rachel Maddow made similar observations. Now the mystery grows deeper as the ever-changing Official Story – which is, currently, that a “navigational error” was made – collapses under its own weight. This story line was never all that convincing to begin with – after all, did both boats fall victim to the same “error”? Was this not a routine journey undertaken hundreds of times? Well, there’s always a first time, right? The GPS devices on both boats could have failed at the same time, although the odds are against it.

However, now we learn from the Iranians that the GPS devices on both boats were fully functional:

“[A] statement from Iran’s parliament cited Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officials as saying that the U.S. sailors should have been aware of their location.
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The Right to Tell the Government to Go to Hell: Free Speech in an Age of Government Bullies, Corporate Censors and Compliant Citizens

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Free speech is not for the faint of heart.

Nor is it for those who are easily offended, readily intimidated or who need everything wrapped in a neat and tidy bow. Free speech is often messy, foul-mouthed, obscene, intolerant, undignified, insensitive, cantankerous, bawdy and volatile.

While free speech can also be tender, tolerant, soft-spoken, sensitive and sweet, it is free speech’s hot-blooded alter ego—the wretched, brutal, beastly Mr. Hyde to its restrained, dignified and civil Dr. Jekyll—that tests the limits of our so-called egalitarian commitment to its broad-minded principles.

Unfortunately, our appreciation for a robust freedom of speech has worn thin over the years.

Many Americans have become fearfully polite, careful to avoid offense, and largely unwilling to be labeled intolerant, hateful, closed-minded or any of the other toxic labels that carry a badge of shame today. We’ve come to prize civility over freedom. Most of all, too many Americans, held hostage by their screen devices and the talking heads on television, have lost the ability to think critically.
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When Free Trade Fails, War Follows

Free trade -- not corporatist, managed trade -- is the best guarantor of peace and prosperity. Protectionism leads to trade wars which very often lead to hot wars. In the US presidential race the issue of tariffs and other taxes on trade have begun to enter the conversation. We should remember how dangerous this kind of isolationism is, especially to working and middle class Americans. In today's Liberty Report, Ron Paul explains the importance of real free trade...
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Missing from the 'State of the Union'

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I had expected that there would be little in last week’s State of the Union address about foreign policy as it is not an Administration strength, but, to my surprise, President Barack Obama gave it about eight minutes, a little over 1000 words. Governor Nikki Haley was, however, more detached from the issue in her rebuttal speech, stating only that “… we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it.”

Obama made a number of points which illustrate his own inclinations regarding how to deal with the rest of the world. He emphasized that America, the “most powerful nation on earth,” must be the global leader, “…when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead. They call us.”

Regarding the major conflict zones, he observed that “In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria, client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit.”

Obama added that “Both Al Qaida and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people… Our foreign policy has to be focused on the threat from ISIL and Al Qaida. We have to take them out. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries…If this Congress is serious about winning this war and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.”
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When Peace Breaks Out With Iran…

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This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979.

Last weekend ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership – which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to – did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain.
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Caught With Our Pants Down in the Gulf

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Your B.S. meter should be making an awful racket in response to the shifting explanations given for the twenty-four-hour Iranian hostage scare involving two US Navy boats intercepted in the Gulf.

First they told us “at least one of the boats” had experienced a “mechanical failure.” Then they said the boats had run out of fuel, although it wasn’t clear if they meant both boats. Then they said “there was no mechanical problem.” Then they claimed that the two crews had somehow not communicated with the military command, although “they could not explain how the military had lost contact with not one but both of the boats.” As the New York Times reported:
Even as Mr. Kerry was describing the release on Wednesday morning, American military officials were offering new explanations about how the two 49-foot patrol boats, formally called riverine command boats, had ended up in Iranian territorial waters while cruising from Kuwait to Bahrain.
And they still haven’t explained it – or any of the other distinctly odd circumstances surrounding this incident.

The best they could do was have an anonymous Navy officer aver “When you’re navigating in those waters, the space around it gets pretty tight.”
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Ron Paul on MSNBC: Talking Presidential Race and Rise of Libertarian Ideas

Speaking Thursday with host Chuck Todd on MSNBC before the latest Republican presidential debate, former US House of Representatives member from Texas and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul gave his assessment of the 2016 presidential race. Paul also commented on the "great progress" libertarianism is making, noting, for example, that many states are opting out of parts of the drug war.
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