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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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No Doubt: US Taxpayers Will be Robbed to Arm Poroshenko

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President Petro Poroshenko, who the US, along with the Europeans and NATO, helped place in power after last year’s coup, has declared that he has “no doubt” America's taxpayers will provide the lethal weapons he desires to fight the separatists in eastern Ukraine. I never had any doubt, either. Of course it's all to stop "Russian aggression." NATO's expansionism is never considered an important issue in the very dangerous war.

Our policy in Ukraine is a far cry from "neutrality," staying out of the internal affairs of others, or avoiding entangling alliances. It is more like being the policeman of the world and claiming the title of the greatest arms manufacturer of all history. The military-industrial complex must be pleased with its repeated successes.
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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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History In the Balance: Why Greece Must Repudiate Its 'Banker Bailout' Debts And Exit The Euro

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Now and again history reaches an inflection point. Statesman and mere politicians, as the case may be, find themselves confronted with fraught circumstances and stark choices. February 2015 is one such moment.

For its part, Greece stands at a fork in the road. Syriza can move aggressively to recover Greece’s democratic sovereignty or it can desperately cling to the faltering currency and financial machinery of the Euro zone. But it can’t do both.

So by the time the current onerous bailout agreement expires at month end, Greece must have repudiated its “bailout debt” and be on the off-ramp from the euro. Otherwise, it will have no hope of economic recovery or restoration of self-governance, and Syriza will have betrayed its mandate.

Moreover, the stakes extend far beyond its own borders. If the Greeks do not take a stand for their own dignity and independence at what amounts to a financial Thermopylae, neither will the rest of Europe ever escape from the dysfunctional, autocratic, impoverishing superstate regime that has metastasized in Brussels and Frankfurt under cover of the “European Project”.
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Netanyahu’s Speech and the Politics of Iran Policy

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Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to speak to the US Congress on 3 March, two weeks before the Israeli election and without any consultation with the White House, is aimed at advancing both Netanyahu’s re-election and the proposed new set of sanctions against Iran in the US Congress. For many months, pro-Israeli legislators and lobbyists have been threatening to re-impose existing sanctions on Iran and add new ones while negotiations are still going on. 

Regardless of the argument that the sanctions legislation is meant to strengthen the US negotiating hand, the real purpose of the proponents of sanctions has always been to ensure that no nuclear agreement can be reached. Those proponents take their cues from Netanyahu, and that has been Netanyahu’s openly proclaimed aim ever since the negotiations with the Rouhani government began. Netanyahu has often insisted that Israel will not accept an agreement that allows Iran to retain any enrichment capability. 

The Obama administration has made it clear that it would veto such new sanctions legislation, arguing that it would leave the United States with no options except the threat of war. That argument prevailed in the Senate earlier, and the administration may well be able to use it again to defeat the Israeli effort to sabotage the negotiations through sanctions legislation. But there are more battles to come.
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Mini-Maidan Picks Up Steam in Budapest

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Hungarians are supposed to be good at math. After all, the father of the hydrogen bomb, the inventor of the Rubik's Cube, and a whole lot of really brilliant mathematicians are all Hungarian. Indeed mathematics and the arts derived from it are seemingly endemic to the Hungarian DNA -- have a look at all the Hungarian chess masters.

However when it comes to the science of regime change, mathematics can most often be an impediment rather than an advantage. 

For example, a rally which took place over the weekend -- the latest attempt to overthrow the democratically-elected government in Hungary -- drew only an estimated 3,000 protesters. 

Nevertheless, rally organizer Balazs Gulyas is convinced that 3,000 constitutes an absolute majority in a country of ten million people. Said Gulyas, a former politician of the opposition Hungarian Socialist (formerly Communist) Party, "We want to show that the country is not equal to Orban, that the majority does not support his policies going closer to Vladimir Putin." 

In the seemingly non-mathematical mind of Gulyas, 3,000 is a majority in 10 million.
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The Failed 'Yemen Model'

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Last September President Obama cited his drone program in Yemen as a successful model of US anti-terrorism strategy. He said that he would employ the Yemen model in his effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria. 
 
But just a week ago, the government in Yemen fell to a Shiite militia movement thought to be friendly to Iran. The US embassy in Yemen’s capitol was forced to evacuate personnel and shut down operations.
 
If Yemen is any kind of model, it is a model of how badly US interventionism has failed
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March to Folly in Ukraine

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The United States has just made an exceptionally dangerous, even reckless decision over Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War, warns it may lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

Rule number one of geopolitics: nuclear-armed powers must never, ever fight.

Yet Washington just announced that by spring, it will deploy unspecified numbers of military “trainers” to Ukraine to help build Kiev’s ramshackle national guard. Also being sent are significant numbers of US special heavy, mine resistant armored vehicles that have been widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US and Poland are currently covertly supplying Ukraine with some weapons.

The US soldiers will just be for training, and the number of GI’s will be modest, claim US military sources. Of course. Just like those small numbers of American “advisors” and “trainers” in Vietnam that eventually grew to 550,000. Just as there are now US special forces in over 100 countries. We call it “mission creep.”
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