Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Hillary Clinton and the danger of nuclear war

July 14, 2016

The worst thing that an American President could do is to provoke a nuclear war with Russia.

I think that, based on her record and rhetoric, Hillary Clinton would put the USA at greater risk of nuclear war than her predecessors.

As adviser to her husband in the 1990s and as Secretary of State, she was a voice for war.  Her campaign web site is about her credentials as a war hawk.  It is no coincidence that so war hawks of the George W. Bush support her for President.

Victoria Nuland

Victoria Nuland

Her protege, Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, promotes economic warfare and covert warfare against Russia, while promoting regime change in Ukraine and attempting to draw Ukraine and Georgia into an anti-Russian alliance.  This is as dangerous as Khrushchev’s placing missiles in Cuba in 1962.

Pro-Russian news sources predict war if Hillary Clinton is elected.  I think Russian fears are significant because they could be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you think somebody is poised to attack you, you’re going to be ready to strike at them before they do.

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The passing scene – August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

Here are some links to article I found interesting, and perhaps you will, too.

How Close Was Donald Trump to the Mob? by David Marcus for The Federalist.

Maybe there are innocent explanations tof Donald Trump’s business connections with known Mafia bosses in New York City and Atlantic City.  If such exist, we the voting public deserve to hear them.

Katrina Washed Away New Orleans Black Middle Class by Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight.

Black homeowners and business owners lost the most in Hurricane Katrina.  Black professionals such as physicians and lawyers have moved on.  And black school teachers are losing their jobs to supposed school “reform.”

∞∞∞

Hat tip for the following to Bill Harvey—

The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor? by Alan Nasser for Counterpunch.

The United States was the first country in which a majority of the people were taught to think of themselves as middle class.  In Victorian English novels, the middle class are the doctors, lawyers and other professionals who aren’t working class, but not truly upper class.

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The passing scene – August 21, 2015

August 21, 2015

Our infant mortality rate is a national embarrassment by Christopher Ingraham for the Washington Post.  Hat tip to the Mahablog.

The phony unprincipled war on Planned Parenthood by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star (via the Baltimore Sun)

The American infant mortality rate is the highest among developed nations.  The infants of rich Americans have as good a chance of survival as children anywhere in the world, but in the United States, like in countries such as Austria and Finland, the survival rate of children of poor, uneducated parents is much less.

Also, the United States has the same maternal mortality rate as Hungary and Iran.  People who are pro-life and pro-choice ought to agree that something should be done about this.

President Jimmy Carter’s amazing last wish by Sarah Kliff and Dylan Matthews for Vice news.

The Carter Center has nearly eradicated a horrible disease called Guinea worm, which was prevalent in Africa, by promoting common-sense public health measures.  President Carter’s last wish, expressed in his press conference on his brain cancer, is to follow through to eradicate the Guinea worm entirely.

Finland considers basic income to reform welfare system by Maija Unkuri for BBC News.

Finland is experimenting with a pilot project to guarantee everyone a basic minimum income regardless of whether they are employed or not.  It will be very interesting to see how this works out.

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Putin’s energy strategy for isolating Ukraine

July 6, 2015

Hat tip to Vineyard of the Saker.

Gazprom North StreamPresident Putin has made an agreement with Germany, and offered an agreement to Turkey, that will enable Russia to serve its natural gas markets in western Europe while retaining the option to shut off Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states.

The Russian government plans to expand its North Stream pipeline across the Baltic Sea directly to Germany.   This would enable Russia to cut off natural gas to Ukraine and most of the rest of eastern Europe without interrupting its sales to western Europe.

Germany, which is now the financial hub of western Europe, would become the energy hub as well.

black_sea_turkey_south_streamRussia has an alternate plan, the South Stream, a pipeline to cross the Black Sea to Bulgaria, but this has been canceled.  Instead Russia now hopes to build a Turkish Stream, which would connect directly with European Turkey.  Greece and other European countries would have the option of connecting to that pipeline.

The Turkish government also has the ambition of becoming an energy hub.  It is in a good position to do this because of its position as the crossroads between Europe and the Greater Middle East.  But, for political reasons, Turkey might have to give up plans for other pipelines to connect to Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan if goes along with Russia’s Turkish Stream.

Not everything that is announced gets built, and in any case construction of these pipelines would take several years.   But Putin’s strategy could put Russia in a powerful position in regard to Ukraine and NATO’s eastern flank, and without firing a shot.

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Greece and the new cold war

July 6, 2015

The big banks in Germany and other countries lent money to the Greek government that they had good reason to believe would never be repaid, with the understanding that they would be bailed out either by squeezing the people of Greece or at the expense of European taxpayers in general.

greece_2457626a

Source: The Hindu newspaper in India

Their confidence was not misplaced.  As the chart shows, they have already been able to offload most of the Greek government debt.

The Greek leaders have spoken to the Russian government about a possible rescue.  The Russian government’s reply is that it won’t help as long as Greece is in the Euro currency zone—which, as Ian Welsh pointed out, is as good as saying it will help if Greece leaves.

Independent journalist John Helmer recalled that Victor Yanukovich, the president of Ukraine, accepted a similar bailout offer from Russia and was quickly removed from power.   Helmer reported that Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who engineered the regime change in Ukraine, is now working for regime change in Greece.

All this raises the question of just whose interests the U.S. government—and Germany’s—serve.

∞∞∞

Nuland’s Nemesis: Will Greece Be Destroyed to Save Her From Russia, Like Ukraine? by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.

Consequences of the Greek Oxi (No) Vote by Ian Welsh.

Greece Rejects the Troika by Michael Hudson for Counterpunch.

Behind the Greek Crisis by William R. Polk for Consortium News.

Russia and Ukraine: sources of information

May 11, 2015

The Vineyard of the Saker

meduza: The Real Russia Today

Euromaidan Press | News From Ukraine

Dances With Bears

IRRUSSIANALITY: Russia, the West and the world

I would be grateful for suggestions of links to add.

Putin: a would-be Tsar of all the Russians?

May 5, 2015

russians_ethnic_94Source: University of Texas Libraries.

Back when the Ukraine crisis first broke out, I speculated that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal was to reconstitute the old Soviet Union, first by luring the former Soviet Republics into an economic “Eurasian Union” common market, and then to transform the economic union into a political union.

I then began to think, as I still think, that Putin’s policy was more a response to an external threat posed by Ukraine joining NATO and the Russian naval base at Crimea becoming a NATO base.

But there is a third possibility, and that is that Putin is trying to bring all the ethnic Russians back into the Russian Empire.  This would include not only the Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but in northern Kazakhstan.

The great Russian novelist Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a tract in 1990 in which he advocated a union of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, with northern Kazakhstan included in Russia, and independence for all the other Soviet republics and satellite states.

Maybe President Putin is thinking along these lines, and maybe he isn’t.  I have no power to read his mind.  But recent reports say that Kazakhstan’s leaders are worried about Russia’s ambitions and their Russian minorities.

Just as in Ukraine, there are reports of increasing Russian discontent and also increasing anti-Russian feeling.   It is easy to imagine Putin stepping in, as he did in Ukraine, to protect his fellow Russians.

The Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, among others, have large Russian minorities, and, as members of NATO, they are entitled to call upon the United States to defend them if attacked.

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The warmongering record of Hillary Clinton

March 4, 2015

The frustrating thing about the right-wing Republican critics of Hillary Clinton is they criticize her for all the wrong things.   I think I’m as strongly opposed to Clinton as they are, and they put me in the position of defending her.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In the U.S. intervention in Libya, she is criticized for failing to arrange protection for the U.S. ambassador from the terrorist attack on Benghazi, a legitimate issue, and for mis-characterizing the attack as a spontaneous reaction instead of a planned terrorist attack, an insignificant issue.

But neither of these things matter as much as the total disaster she brought down on the people of Libya.

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me a link to an article in Counterpunch that sums up what’s wrong with Clinton very well.

First Libya:

The results of “Operation Unified Protector” … … include the persecution of black Africans and Tuaregs, the collapse of any semblance of central government, the division of the country between hundreds of warring militias, the destabilization of neighboring Mali producing French imperialist intervention, the emergence of Benghazi as an al-Qaeda stronghold, and the proliferation of looted arms among rebel groups.

Now the whole Clinton record:

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War and peace: Links & comments 2/27/15

February 27, 2015

In Midst of War, Ukraine Becomes Gateway for Jihad by Marcin Mamon for The Intercept.

Failed states, where governmental authority has collapsed, are ideal venues for warlords, organized crime and terrorists.  Ukraine fits the profile.

Ready for Nuclear War Over Ukraine? by Robert Parry for Information Clearing House.  (Hat tip to Corrente)

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister said Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia, and is unafraid of nuclear weapons.

The Cold War and Ukraine by William K. Polk for Counterpunch.

Russia sees NATO forces in Ukraine today as the United States saw Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 .

Germany’s army is so under-equipped that it used broomsticks instead of machine guns by Rich Noack for the Washington Post.  (Hat tip to Marginal Revolution)

What Is Russia’s Answer to Greece’s Plan B – Smile, Blow the Whistle, Pass the Red Card by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.

In short, Russia does not intend to bail out Greece.

 

What if Vladimir Putin was a nice guy?

February 26, 2015

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad.”
        ==Bertrand Russell

Keith Gessen, an analyst of Russian politics, says Vladimir Putin is definitely not a nice guy.  He also says that, even if he were, his goals and policies wouldn’t be that much different from what they are.

Russia will, one hopes, eventually change its leadership, but it is not going to be able to change its geographic location, or its historic associations, or its longstanding wish to keep the West—which hasn’t always crossed the border bearing flowers—at bay.  And that holds many lessons for the future.

Let me be clear: The actual Putin is not at all nice.  To take just a few examples:

140801173429-exp-gps-0803-take-00030629-horizontal-gallery1) between 1999 and 2002 he prosecuted a vicious war in Chechnya, complete with rape, torture, filtration camps and mass graves;

2) in 2003, he jailed his leading rival, the oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and, when the initial sentence was almost up, extended it;

3) in 2000-01, shortly after assuming the presidency, he oversaw a government takeover of the country’s main independent television channels, chasing their owners into exile;

4) over time he has enriched his friends to an astonishing degree, such that many of the leading billionaires in Russia owe their riches directly to their proximity to Putin;

5) it is becoming increasingly the consensus view that the September 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk [attributed to Chechen terrorists] were the work of the secret services, and it is hard to imagine that Putin, as the prime minister of Russia and, until just a month before, the head of the FSB, would not have known about them;

6) in his third term he has unleashed the worst aspects of Russian street politics, mobilizing anti-Western, anti-gay and anti-liberal resentment to shore up his domestic popularity; and

7) in 2004, supposedly as an anti-terror measure after the terrible seizure of a school in Beslan by Chechen fighters, he canceled elections for regional governors, replacing them with appointees.

via Keith Gessen – POLITICO magazine.

His indictment could also have included the murder of journalists, such as Anna Politkovskaya.

But, as Gessen pointed out, any Russian leader—and certainly any of Putin’s rivals—would have been a Russian nationalist who would have tried to restore Russia to the status of a superpower, who would have cracked down on internal opposition and who, given the experience of Russia and the USSR in the 20th century, would have resisted the expansion of Western military power to Russia’s borders.

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Hungary 1956 and Ukraine 2015

February 26, 2015

I was at the end of basic training in the U.S. Army in 1956 when the Hungarian people rose up against the Soviet occupiers.

hungarianfreedomfighter.timemanoftheyearIt would have been right and just for President Eisenhower to send me and other young Americans to stand with the Hungarian freedom fighters, especially since their uprising had been encouraged by the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

It also would have been reckless and foolish, because it could have provoked a nuclear war that would have destroyed the USA, the USSR, Hungary and much of the rest of the world.

The USA and USSR still have sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy each other and much else.  A military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine would be as reckless and foolish as defending the Hungarian rebels would have been then.

A truce, or a freezing of the Ukraine conflict, would not be to the benefit of the Ukrainian people, any more than the Cold War division of Europe was to the benefit of the Hungarian people.

Russia would be left in control of its vital naval base in Crimea and with a presence in the eastern Ukrainian industrial heartland.   Ukrainians ruled from Kiev would be forced to submit to the IMF’s harsh austerity requirements and to sell national assets at bargain prices.

The best that can be said is that it is better than nuclear war.

The ebb and flow of Russia in Europe

February 26, 2015
Russia in Europe 1914

Russia in Europe 1914

Since 1848, the United States has been secure within its present continental boundaries.  That’s not been true of all nations, and particularly not true of Russia and its European neighbors.  I’ve collected a series of maps from Google Image showing the ebb and flow of Russian power in Europe.

What they show is why, on the one hand, Russia’s neighboring countries would feel in need of protection and why, on the other hand, Russia would fear any hostile military power along its border, especially in Ukraine.

The Baltic states, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine did not exist as independent countries a century ago.  People who lived in these regions during the 20th century would have lived under several different governments, including some of the bloodiest regimes in history, without having moved from the place they were born.

1wk_brest_litowsk_vertrag_karte

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The passing scene: Links & comments 2/21/2015

February 21, 2015

China pivots everywhere by Pepe Escobar for RT News.

EU Reeling Between US and Russia by Pepe Escobar for Sputnik News.

A couple of years ago, President Putin proposed an economic partnership between Russia and the European Union, which would have been to Europe’s benefit.

Now, with Germany caught up in the U.S.-lead conflict with Russia over Ukraine, this has been wiped off the blackboard.  Now Russia looks to China as its economic partner.  If there is any winner in the Ukraine conflict, it is China.

I have misgivings about linking to RT News and Sputnik News.  They are as much organs of the Russian government as the Voice of America is an organ of the U.S. government.

But I’ll make an exception in Pepe Escobar’s case, just as I did some years back with Julian Assange’s short-lived interview show. I think Escobar is both intellectually acute and independent.

Ukraine Denouement: the Russian Loan and the IMF’s One-Two Punch by Michael Hudson for Counterpunch.

A New Policy to Rescue Ukraine by George Soros for the New York Review of Books.

One of the sidelights of the Ukraine situation is the pivotal role of the wealthy speculator George Soros.  A major contributor to the Democratic Party, he has urged a $50 billion loan to Ukraine in order to fight Russia.

Michael Hudson reported that Soros’s funds are drawing up lists of assets they’d like to buy from Ukrainian oligarchs and the Kiev government when the International Monetary Fund demands they be sold by pay down Ukaine’s debts..

A Whistleblower’s Horror Story by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

It’s not just the federal government that shields wrongdoers while doing after employees that expose them.  Wall Street buys its way out of prosecution while blacklisting employees who reveal its misdeeds.  A case in point: Countrywide / Voice of America whistleblower Michael Winston.

The plight of the bitter nerd: Why so many awkward shy guys wind up hating feminism by Arthur Chu for Salon.

‘I’m Brianna Wu And I’m Risking My Life Standing Up to Gamergate’ by Brianna Wu for Bustle.

Feminist writers are so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire by Michelle Goldberg for The Washington Post.  (Hat tip to Mike the Man Biologist)

Harassment of women on the Internet is no joke, as is shown by this woman’s story of doxing (tracking down and publishing home addresses and other personal information), swatting (sending false emergency calls in her name) and death threats.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia, an empire in decline

February 18, 2015

In contemporary Russia … … the stage is constantly changing: the country is a dictatorship in the morning, a democracy at lunch, an oligarchy by suppertime, while, backstage, oil companies are expropriated, journalists killed, billions siphoned away.

==Peter Pomerantsev.

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.

==Winston Churchill.

I write a lot about foreign affairs even though I have not traveled outside the USA (except to Canada) and I don’t speak, read or write any language except English.

putin.as.czarMy tools for understanding are to learn the basics by reading books and magazine articles, and then to try to imagine what I would do in the place of the citizen or leader of a foreign country.

My method obviously doesn’t yield profound insights, yet it is more than some of our leaders and analysts seem to be able to do.

I’ve been writing a lot lately about Vladimir Putin and Russia, which is my way of trying to clarify what I think.  I don’t admire Putin’s method of governing or his ideology, but I have a grudging respect for him as a Machiavellian statesman and patriot.

The other day I commented on an interesting post on the Vineyard of the Saker blog about how Russians are rallying behind Putin in the face of American and European economic warfare.

Today I read an interesting article by Stephen Kotkin in Foreign Affairs which gave a counterbalancing point of view—Putin as a weak despot only tenuously in control of a ramshackle.

The methods Putin used to fix the corrupt, dysfunctional post-Soviet state have produced yet another corrupt, dysfunctional state. 

Putin himself complains publicly that only about 20 percent of his decisions get implemented, with the rest being ignored or circumvented unless he intervenes forcefully with the interest groups and functionaries concerned. 

But he cannot intervene directly with every boss, governor, and official in the country on every issue.  Many underlings invoke Putin’s name and do what they want. 

Personal systems of rule convey immense power on the ruler in select strategic areas—the secret police, control of cash flow—but they are ultimately ineffective and self-defeating.

This description reminds me of the China of Chiang Kai-shek or the 19th century Ottoman Empire.  Kotkin thinks that dysfunctional despotism is rooted in Russian culture and history.

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The Ukraine’s familiar scenario

February 16, 2015

image-811111-panoV9free-stvuSource: Der Spiegel

Ukraine’s problems can be summed up thusly:

  • A national army that’s unwilling to fight.
  • Out-of-control fanatic militias unwilling to make peace.
  • An economy in a state of collapse.

Every country is unique, and so is every situation, but this sounds an awful lot like the situations in Iraq and other countries in which the United States has intervened.

In these countries, all factions are willing and able to fight except the faction aligned with the United States.

Also similar is the position of the U.S. government.  The President doesn’t want to accept defeat, but neither does he want to send more young Americans to another foreign land to die in a war that probably isn’t winnable.

So he ponders are compromise measures, such as sending defensive weapons that supposedly won’t be used for offense, and technical advisers that supposedly are not actually going to fight themselves.

The best thing that could happen from the standpoint of the United States would be for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to negotiated a compromise peace.  This would involve home rule for eastern Ukraine, and a federal system in which the Russian speakers could veto Ukraine joining NATO.

That would leave Ukraine proper in hock to the International Monetary Fund.  Paying off the IMF would mean higher prices, higher taxes and sale of Ukrainian national assets at bargain prices.  If Washington was truly interested in helping the Ukrainian people, it would try to help free them from IMF debt bondage.

It’s interesting, by the way, that one party in what supposedly is a civil war is absent from the peace negotiations.  The negotiating parties are representatives of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, but not of the separatists in east Ukraine.  Presumably they will have no choice but to accept whatever Russia agrees to.

LINKS

Can Merkel’s diplomacy save Europe? by the Spiegel staff.

Ukraine Denouement: the Russian Loan and the IMF’s One-Two Punch by Michael Hudson for Counterpunch.

Putin couldn’t be a Hitler if he tried

February 16, 2015

In 1938, a ruthless autocrat named Adolf Hitler claimed to be protector of the Sudetenland, a border region of Czechoslovakia, in order to protect ethnic Germans who lived there.

In 2015, a ruthless autocrat named Vladimir Putin claims to be protector of the eastern border region of Ukraine in order to protect the ethnic Russians there.

putin.as.czarIs Putin another Hitler?  Would his next step be to conquer all Ukraine, as Hitler conquered all Czechoslovakia?  Would Poland be next, as it was for Hitler?

I don’t believe these are Putin’s intentions.  Everything he has done so far is consistent with his stated goal, which is for the world’s great powers to accept Russia as a peer and to take Russia’s vital interests into account.

But, for the sake of argument, suppose Putin’s aim is to reconquer eastern Europe or even all of Europe.  How could he carry it out?

The old Soviet Union was unable to pacify Afghanistan, and had to retreat in ignominious defeat.  Putin’s Russian Federation was barely able to crush the rebellion in tiny Chechnya.  How could he hope to conquer a nation as large as Ukraine?

Germany in Hitler’s time had world-class science, technology and industrial power, an efficient government and possibly the best army, man-for-man, in the world.

The Russian Federation is ruled by a corrupt oligarchy.  It lacks high-technology industry.  Its economy is based on exports of natural resources, like Venezuela’s or Iran’s.  The military potential of Putin’s Russia is not comparable to Hitler’s Germany

Russians would no doubt fight valiantly to protect their homeland, if invaded, as they always have.  They have succeeded in protecting their compatriots in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where most of the local people welcome them.   The Russian army could probably occupy Kiev as quickly as the U.S. army occupied Baghdad.

But then what?  The USA was able to quickly occupy Baghdad in 2003, but then became bogged down in a quagmire more.   A Russian conquest of Ukraine would be an even bigger quagmire.   The result would be a devastated Ukraine and a Russia that had been bled dry.

The Russian Federation has the power to destroy the USA with nuclear weapons, just as our government has the power to destroy them.  What neither country has the power to do is to defeat a determined insurgent force being armed by the other side.

Vladimir Putin is too intelligent and realistic to put Russia into such a situation situation.  I think that what he wants is a neutral and, if necessary, a neutralized Ukraine—to have enough of a foothold in that country, as in Georgia and Moldova, to prevent that country from allying itself to a hostile foreign power.

If that is his desire, I think it is completely reasonable—certainly not something for the USA to risk nuclear war over.

LINKS

What does Russia want? by James Meek for the London Review of Books.

Russian science is amazing.  So why hasn’t it taken over the world?, an interview of MIT’s Loren Graham for the Boston Globe.

Has the IMF Annexed Ukraine?, an interview of Michael Hudon for the Real News Network.  Ukraine faces other worse threats than Putin.

Don’t Arm Ukraine by John J. Mearsheimer for The New York Times.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey).

Why would ‘boots on the ground’ even work?

February 10, 2015

Conservative and Republican leaders are calling on President Obama to put American “boots on the ground” to resist Putin in Ukraine and the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East.

And the President reportedly plans to ask for authorization to use military force against ISIS.  Since he does not consider aerial bombing, drone strikes or Special Operations missions to be military force, it must be “boots on the ground” that he has in mind.

troops-on-the-groundMy question is:  Given the failure of “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Afghanistan and, before that, in Vietnam, why would you expect success this time?

Over the years, the American armed forces have taught insurgents in countries they occupy how to defeat us.  The Pentagon has not learned how to defeat insurgents.

The U.S. military has the power to attack virtually any nation except Russia or China and reduce it to chaos.  What is doesn’t have the power to do is to pacify the nation afterwards and make its people submit.

Or, as a friend of mine remarked during the Vietnam era, the United States had the power to kill all the North Vietnamese and kill all the South Vietnamese, but it didn’t have the power to make any Vietnamese do what the US wanted.

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  This insanity is the real Vietnam Syndrome.

LINKS

Boots on the Ground? Yes by Thomas Donnelly for The Weekly Standard.

John McCain: US Boots on the Ground Better Than ISIS on American Soil by Greg Richter for Newsmax.

Gov. Scott Walker Wouldn’t Rule Out U.S. Boots on the Ground in Syria by Jessica Puckett for ABC News’ The Note.

Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham at Odds Over ‘Boots on the Ground’ by David Knowles for Bloomberg Politics.   Interesting that Cruz resists being sucked into this.

Obama readying request to use force against Islamic State by Patricia Zengerle for Reuters.

It’s the lessons the U.S. didn’t learn from Vietnam that makes its loss there the real tragedy by Robert Freeman for Salon.  (Hat tip to Cannonfire).

Burying Vietnam, Launching Perpetual War by Christian Appy for TomDispatch.

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How could Ukrainians embrace Naziism?

February 3, 2015
Azov battalion of the Ukrainian army.  Click to enlarge

Azov battalion of the Ukrainian army. Click to enlarge.

Source: Cannonfire.

I cannot understand how a Ukrainian could be a Nazi.

Given the purges and starvation imposed on Ukraine by Stalin, it is not surprising that many Ukrainians welcomed the invading Germans as liberators in 1941.  But they soon learned better.

Wikipedia says the Nazis killed 17 million people, including 6 million Jews and 11 million others, mostly Slavs.

Between 1941 and 1945, approximately 3 million Ukrainian and other gentile victims were killed as part of Nazi extermination policies in the territory of modern Ukraine. 

More Ukrainians were killed fighting the Wehrmacht than American, British, and French soldiers combined.

Original plans of genocide called for the extermination of 65 percent of the nation’s 23.2 million Ukrainians, with the remainder of inhabitants to be treated as slaves.  Over 2 million Ukrainians were deported to Germany for slave labor. 

In ten years’ time, the plan effectively called for the extermination, expulsion, Germanization or enslavement of most or all Ukrainians.

via Holocaust victims – Wikipedia.

The picture above shows members of the Azov battalion of the Ukrainian army.  Notice whose portrait is being held up.  Andriy Biletsky, the commander of the Azov battalion, has been quoted as follows.

From the mass of individuals must arise the Nation; and from weak modern man, Superman… The historic mission of our Nation in this watershed century is to lead the White Races of the world in the final crusade for their survival: a crusade against semite-led sub-humanity… The task of the present generation is to create a Third Empire — Great Ukraine… If we are strong, we take what is ours by right and even more; we will build a Superpower-Empire…

via Azov Battalion – Wikipedia.

I hope and believe Azov is unrepresentative of a majority of Ukrainians, not to mention the Russians, Tatars, Jews, Poles and other ethnic groups in Ukraine.

Azov+neo+naziBut the present Ukrainian government accepts Azov’s display of Nazi symbols.   The Ukraine, along with the USA and Canada, were the only countries to vote against a United Nations resolution condemning the glorification of Naziism.

There are neo-Nazis in the Russian Federation who’ve murdered Central Asian immigrants.  There have even been neo-Nazi skinheads in Israel some years back, among Russian immigrants whose Jewish identity evidently wasn’t strong.  There are neo-Nazis in other countries, too.   But there are no neo-Nazis in countries other than Ukraine, that I know of, with official acceptance.

Maybe one reason why Naziism is acceptable among a segment of Ukrainians is that the old Soviet Union treated Naziism as a kind of benchmark of evil, and Ukrainians understandably felt that whatever the Communists said must be the opposite of the truth.

Many people around the world have embraced fascism because they think it is the opposite of Communism, and vice versa.

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Austerity: the global reach of a bad ideology

January 23, 2015

2014-12-25-racetothebottom-thumbThe Western world is in the grip of a bad idea that its governments can’t seem to shake off—although its peoples are starting to.

The idea is called “austerity.” It is the belief that public goods must be destroyed in order to increase private wealth.

Banks impose this policy on indebted nations such as Greece.  They say the governments must curtail public services, including schools and public health, while raising taxes and adopting economic policies that will result in higher prices and lower wages.

Supposedly the money saved can be used to pay off the nation’s debts.  The problem is that so-called austerity destroys the nation’s ability to generate new wealth, and so, as long as countries accept the “austerity” meme, they stay in debt indefinitely.

Nations that default on their debts, as American states frequently did in the era before the Civil War, are threatened with loss of credit.  But the fact is that the banking system literally has more money than the bankers know what to do with.  In practice, lending always starts up again after a few years.

Members of the European Union that use the Euro as their currency have a special problem.  Historically the exchange rates of currencies fell when the issuing nation had a balance of payments deficit.  This tended to bring the balance of trade into balance, because their exports became cheaper in relation to foreign currencies and their imports became more expensive.

Under austerity, nations attempt to achieve the same thing by increasing prices, lowering wages and cutting government services.  Unlike with change in the exchange rate, the burden does not fall upon the whole nation equally, but only on the less wealthy and politically powerless.

Austerity involves raising taxes, but never taxes on the wealthy.  That is because the wealthy are considered to be the “job creators” who must be catered to in order to bring about economic recovery.

The “job creator” philosophy is popular here in the USA.  The saying is, “No poor man ever gave me a job.”  The conclusion is that the key to jobs is to have more and richer rich people.

Well, we Americans have made that experiment, repeatedly, and it hasn’t worked.

If we want mass prosperity, we need to invest in the things that create wealth—education, public infrastructure and scientific research—and then see that the benefits of the new wealth are widely spread, so as to create markets for private business.

We Americans once made that experiment, too, and it did work.

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Russia turning down the gas on Europe

January 15, 2015

gas_to_eu_final_3

Russia cut natural gas shipments to Europe by 60 percent, and announced plans to eventually cut off shipments through Ukraine altogether.

The Urkainian route will be replaced with a new pipeline through Turkey, which will take a couple of years to build.  The European Union will need to build its own infrastructure to take the gas from the Greek border to the rest of Europe.

If the Europeans don’t get their new pipelines built in time, Russia will send its gas elsewhere, the head of Gazprom said.  Russia is working on gas deals not only with China, but with India.

Vladimir Putin is not a helpless victim of economic sanctions and falling oil prices.  He is willing and able to use Russia’s economic power to damage Ukraine and the European nations.

Nobody benefits from this cycle of tit-for-tat retaliation.  It’s an economic form of mutually assured destruction.

Russia Fires Ukraine as Natural Gas Transit for Europe by Michael Collins for Op-Ed News [added 1/16/2015]

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The passing scene: January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

The SAT is Corrupt.  No One Wants to Know by educationrealist.

Anybody with sufficient money or sufficient computer skills can obtain answers to the questions on Scholastic Aptitude Tests.  Yet the results of these tests can determine a person’s whole future.

4 Things to Know Before Your Water Is Privatized by Rachel Dovey for Next City.

Some 50 million Americans get their tap water from private companies.  This is supposed to be a cure for poor maintenance by public systems, which is a serious problem, but the cure is not necessarily better than the disease.

NYPD’s de Blasio Protest: Why the Police Turned Their Backs on the City by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic.

Police work over the years has grown progressively safer.  Why do the American public and American police need to believe that police work under constant threat?

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The passing scene: January 6, 2015

January 6, 2015

2015: Grounds for Optimism by Dmitry Orlov for ClubOrlov.

Dimtry Orlov is hopeful that the world, including the USA and the rest of the English-speaking world, is starting to reject Washington’s propaganda version of reality.

Beijing chums up to Washington by Francesco Sisci for Asia Times.

Wang Yang, vice president of China, made a speech saying that the United States is the guide of the world and China is willing to join its system.  I don’t know what to make of this or how seriously to take it. [1]

Social protest rising in Ukraine as gov’t approves harsh austerity budget by Roger Annis for The New Cold War: Ukraine and Beyond [Hat tip to Bill Harvey].

Ukraine is being forced to raise taxes, cut services, raise prices and, most important, sell off its national assets at bargain prices in order to pay its debts.  Acquisition of those assets is what the struggle over Ukraine is all about.

Chain restaurants are killing us: Billionaire bankers, minimum wage toilers and the nasty truth about fast-food nation by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Thomas Frank wrote about how the fast-food industry is automating the process of processing and serving food, how the franchise system holds down wages, and how fast-food franchises are another plaything of Wall Street speculators.

Methane plume over western US illustrates climate cost of gas leaks by Joby Warrick for the Washington Post [via The Guardian]

Police union pushes for cop killings to be included in hate crimes law by Liz Goodwin for Yahoo News, with a comment on Psychopolitik.

Michael Brown case grand juror sues St. Louis County prosecutor, asking to speak out on case by Joel Currier and Michael Patrick for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

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There are no good guys in the Ukraine conflict

January 2, 2015

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me links to a couple of articles with good information about U.S. policy in Ukraine and the folly of the U.S. covert war, economic war and military confrontation against Russia.  But, by omission, they imply an overly favorable impression of Vladimir Putin and Putin’s Russia.

The Russian Federation is dominated by a corrupt financial oligarchy, as was Ukraine before last year’s overthrow.   The original Maidan protests were a thoroughly justified movement representing a broad base of Ukrainian society and including ethnic Tatars, Jews and other minorities as well as ethnic Ukrainians and Russians.

The government in Moscow is as chauvinistic as the government in Kiev and neither has the best interests of the Ukrainian people at heart.

Pro-Russian bloggers such as Dmitry Orlov inadvertently illustrate Russian chauvinism when they say on the one hand that Ukrainians are no different from Russians, and, at the same time, dismiss Ukrainians as an inferior people with no culture worthy of respect.  Ukrainians have good reason to want to be free of Russian domination.

I oppose President Obama’s risky confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, and hope for compromise peace—but I don’t see President Putin as a liberator.  Quite the contrary.

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Obama Says He Is Improving the World by Eric Zuesse for RINF Alternative News.  (Bill Harvey)

U.S. National Public Radio Propagandizes Against Putin, for Regime Change in Russia by Eric Zuesse for RINF Alternative News.  (Bill Harvey)

An American named Ukraine’s finance minister

December 9, 2014
Natalie Jaresko

Natalie Jaresko

Natalie Jaresko, an American citizen of Ukrainian heritage, was appointed Ukraine’s minister of finance last week, a news development I’d probably have missed except for Joseph Cannon’s Cannonfire web log.

She worked in the U.S. State Department in the 1990s on Ukrainian and economic policy.  In 2001, she started an investment fund, Horizon Capital, which invested in Ukraine with funds lent by the U.S. government.

Last week she renounced her American citizenship to join the Ukrainian government.

The Ukrainian government said the reason they appointed a foreigner is because she would be better able to clean up corruption.

Maybe so.  I’m curious to know more about what she’s been doing in Ukraine, and specifically whether her activities were part of the $5 billion that Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state, said that the U.S. government spent since 1991 trying to influence Ukraine politics.

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An American Abroad by Joseph Cannon on Cannonfire.

Meet and Greet Natalia Jaresko, U.S. Government Employee, Ukraine Finance Minister by independent reporter John Helmer.

Ukraine’s Made-in-USA Finance Minister by Robert Parry for Consortium News.

Ukraine, allies refuse to condemn Nazi symbols

December 4, 2014
The Azov battalion, a Ukrainian militia fighting separatists

The Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian militia operating against separatists

Photo via Libertarian Nation

Last Nov. 22, the United Nations General Assembly voted, 115 to 3, with 55 abstentions, to condemn the glorification of Naziism and the display of Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols.

The three opponents were the United States, Canada and Ukraine, and the members of the European Union all abstained.

The resolution was introduced by the Russian Federation, with the obvious intent of embarrassing Ukraine and its allies, but there is nothing in it that refers specifically to Ukraine or any of its political parties or militias.

Hitler’s intentions in Ukraine were to starve and massacre large number of the population, and enslave the rest, in order to provide “living room” for the population.

imagesIt is incredible to me, given this history, that there could be Ukrainians sympathetic to Hitler’s ideals, but this is the case.  Evidently they are blinded by hatred of Russians, Poles and Jews, and by their historic memory of Stalin’s crimes, as if it were necessary to choose between Hitler and Stalin.

Supporters of Ukraine point out that many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation itself, have a neo-Nazi lunatic fringe, and supporters of Ukraine say that the Ukrainian neo-Nazi movement is no different.

But if they are merely a fringe, making public statements to condemn them should not be a problem.  It would be as if an American politician were not willing to condemn the Ku Klux Klan.  It would show that the Klan, like the neo-Nazis in Ukraine, were too powerful a force to risk offending.

It is true that the ultra-nationalist Svoboda and Right Sector parties did poorly in the last election, but they nevertheless seem powerful in government and on the street.

Right-wing Ukrainian nationalists, when interviewed, say they have nothing against other nationalities, but that Ukraine should be for Ukrainians alone.  The implication is that non-Ukrainians should be driven out, or worse.

I find it humiliating, as an American, that somebody like Vladimir Putin, who is an authoritarian nationalist himself, should occupy the moral high ground compared to my own country.  But in this case, he does.

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