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Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:12 PM PDT

The Putin Doctrine

by Shaun Appleby

A number of attempts have been made to discern and describe a 'Putin doctrine' during the years of his influence on Russian and world affairs, including some recently as a consequence of his reaction to the Syria chemical weapons crisis. Most suggest a doctrine of 'reasserting Russia's power' or 'building Russia up by tearing the US down,' an aspiration and strategy which, while arguably correct, seem to miss Putin's underlying and unmistakeable political philosophy.

Here we propose an argument for a 'Putin doctrine' as follows:

No nation, group of nations or international organisation has the right to interfere or intervene without consent in the internal affairs of any sovereign state under any circumstances short of the proven violation of existing conventions governing the use of weapons of mass destruction.
In other words a sovereign state has the right to deal with dissent, insurgency and secession by whatever means it otherwise sees fit. That this might include conventional warfare against civilians, mass arrests and detentions, summary executions, massacres, genocide and authoritarian terrorism is left to the discretion of the state's leadership. And if the state is an ally, Russia will actively disable the Security Council from taking action against it on behalf of any majority of the larger international community whom might find such activity objectionable. As Russian 'hard power' inevitably increases we need to think this through carefully.
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Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 09:57 PM PDT

Be Careful What You Wish For

by Shaun Appleby

About an hour after the vote which defeats the proposed Authorisation for Use of Military Force in response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria we will probably begin to realise that the world as we know it has been irrevocably changed; and probably not for the better.

The inevitable decline of American power precipitated by the disastrous Bush administration will enter its terminal phase as the American public withdraws into an insular shell of isolationism and denial of collective responsibility in spite of having enjoyed for decades the relative security and prosperity that engaged American power has provided.

The performance of the American Left since 21 August has been an utter embarrassment; exposing the vaunted activist Internet as little more than a breeding place for fatuous conspiracy theories, misdirection, unreasonable and stubborn scepticism, selfishness, wilful ignorance and misplaced moral outrage. A complete and utter shambles. Shameful.

Courageous activists and diplomats campaigned for decades to implement the hard-won provisions of an almost unanimous prohibition of chemical weapons only to have it thoughtlessly repudiated with the ridiculous argument that 'people are just as dead' by other means. Or compared incessantly, in ignorance of what nerve agents are capable of or intended to do, to the use of white phosphorous at Fallujah. All in support of a knee-jerk response to a proposed military action in the face of a truly inhumane war crime.

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Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 04:18 AM PST

The Petraeus Puzzle

by Shaun Appleby

It's interesting to note the subtext in the Petraeus resignation controversy, that the FBI investigation was the result of his paramour "blowing" the affair:

The F.B.I. investigation that led to the sudden resignation of David H. Petraeus as C.I.A. director on Friday began with a complaint several months ago about “harassing” e-mails sent by Paula Broadwell, Mr. Petraeus’s biographer, to another woman who knows both of them, two government officials briefed on the case said Saturday.

When F.B.I. agents following up on the complaint began to examine Ms. Broadwell’s e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Mr. Petraeus that revealed that they were having an affair, said several officials who spoke of the investigation on the condition of anonymity. They also discovered that Ms. Broadwell possessed certain classified information, one official said, but apparently concluded that it was probably not Mr. Petraeus who had given it to her and that there had been no major breach of security.

Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt - Biographer’s E-Mails to Woman Led F.B.I. to Petraeus NYT 10 Nov 12

Given Paula Broadwell's biography, "...she specialized in military intelligence, spending time at the U.S. Special Operations Command and the FBI Counterterrorism Task Forces before pursuing an academic career..." according to her publisher, one assumes she knew an email containing classified information would lead to an analysis of her on-line activity and the exposure of her relationship.  Her motivations are further confounded by the unnamed officials' suggestion that "the two women seemed be competing for Mr. Petraeus’s loyalty, if not his affection."  Needless to say her book "jumped from a ranking on Amazon of 76,792 on Friday to 111 by mid-Saturday."
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Tue Nov 09, 2010 at 06:54 PM PST

Sarah Palin as Policy Wonk

by Shaun Appleby

It would have probably been fair to say of Sarah Palin that until a few days ago 'policy wonk' would have been an unlikely description, love her or loathe her, of any facet of her complex relationship with American politics.

But now this:

I’m deeply concerned about the Federal Reserve’s plans to buy up anywhere from $600 billion to as much as $1 trillion of government securities.  The technical term for it is "quantitative easing." It means our government is pumping money into the banking system by buying up treasury bonds.  And where, you may ask, are we getting the money to pay for all this?  We’re printing it out of thin air.

Sarah Palin via Robert Costa- Palin to Bernanke: ‘Cease and Desist’ National Review 7 Nov 10

That's very interesting on a lot of levels.  The piece is coherent and sober and, more importantly, it is aimed directly at a weak point in the current administration's monetary policy and an electoral vulnerability in the allegiances of establishment Republicans in the newly constituted House of Representatives.

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Sun Nov 07, 2010 at 04:10 PM PST

Moral Hazard and Fraud

by Shaun Appleby

The bailout of failing financial institutions in 2008-09, while arguably necessary, missed an essential step which may now be stalling our economic recovery:

Specifically, [former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan] said today in a panel discussion at a Fed conference in Jekyll Island, Georgia:

Banks operated with less capital because of an assumption they would be rescued by the government, he said.  [Lehman Brothers] wouldn’t have failed with adequate capital, he said.  "Rampant fraud" was also an issue, he said.

"Fraud creates very considerable instability in competitive markets," Greenspan said. "If you cannot trust your counterparties, it would not work."

Greenspan is right.

George Washington - Even Greenspan Admits that Moral Hazard and Fraud are the Main Problems Washington's Blog 7 Nov 10

This is highly out of character for Greenspan who once noted, "I don’t think there is any need for a law against fraud."  And he was hardly alone.

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Underlying the outcome of the recent midterm shift in our political landscape is the almost universal acknowledgement that the electorate is not happy.  Down on Congress, certainly, concerned about the direction the country is headed and pessimistic that things will change any time soon.  

We all seem to understand it's because our economy is broken and we are broke, and more importantly the remedies we've applied are widely unpopular.  Looking back to 2008 one is staggered by the cupidity of those whom 'free market' theory entrusted with our national economy:

Wall Street has turned the economy into a giant asset-stripping scheme, one whose purpose is to suck the last bits of meat from the carcass of the middle class.

Matt Taibbi - Wall Street's Naked Swindle Rolling Stone 15 Oct 09

Could it really be that bad?  America seems to think so and the widespread disaffection with both political parties will continue until it is fixed.

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Sat Oct 30, 2010 at 07:59 PM PDT

The Untouchables

by Shaun Appleby

Back during Prohibition federal agents were used to break up the crime syndicate of Chicago's Al Capone, using federal law, because local law enforcement was unwilling or unable to do so.  Unsuccessful bribery attempts by the syndicate were widely publicised, hence their nickname.

Now the situation seems reversed, with state attorneys general taking virtually the only steps to investigate allegations of fraud, in this case state law governing evidence submitted by plaintiffs, which have arisen from foreclosures nationwide:

Ever since the financial crisis began two years ago, the federal overseers of the banking industry have been consistently unwilling to take the rod to the institutions they regulate.  The robo-signing scandal — and it is, unquestionably, a scandal — hasn’t changed that attitude one iota.

Joe Nocera - The States Take on Foreclosures NYT 29 Oct 10

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Thu Oct 28, 2010 at 06:12 AM PDT

The Curious Case of HR 3808

by Shaun Appleby

Back in April the House of Representatives passed a bill known as HR 3808, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010, and sent it to the Senate where it languished in the Judiciary Committee until late September.  The circumstances of the passage of this bill in the Senate are curious, to say the least.  It was discharged from committee and passed by unanimous consent, with no debate, just as the 111th session of Congress was coming to a close.

In the context of emerging reports of foreclosure fraud at the time it qualified for notorious distinction as the 'silver bullet' which banks were hoping would solve their documentation problems and earned itself a presidential veto.

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Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 04:41 PM PDT

The Socialisation of Risk

by Shaun Appleby

The Federal Reserve has bought a 'staggering' $1.2 trillion of bad debt since the beginning of the sub-prime mortgage and credit crisis of 2008.  There is considerable evidence that this bad debt was a direct consequence of faulty, if not outright fraudulent, processes which pervaded the securitisation of this debt during the housing boom:

Faulty underwriting appears to be prevalent across the board, with originators complicit in overvaluing both the lender and the collateral at the point of underwriting — and doing so systematically.

Julian Fisher - How the mortgage mess could spread beyond sub-prime Reuters 22 Oct 10

Under the circumstances, with the failure of Lehman Brothers and the imminent collapse of credit threatening major financial institutions, an injection of public capital seemed prudent, perhaps even inevitable.  Yet although these systemic problems were widely suspected there have been virtually no regulatory penalties or criminal prosecutions.

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Cross-posted at The Motley Moose

For weeks there has been an emerging story which casts doubt on the validity and provenance of documents used in foreclosure proceedings nationwide:

It is a legal impossibility for someone without a mortgage to be foreclosed upon.  It is a legal impossibility for the wrong house to be foreclosed upon, it is a legal impossibility for the wrong bank to sue for foreclosure.

And yet, all of those things have occurred.  The only way these errors could have occurred is if several people involved in the process committed criminal fraud.  This is not a case of "Well, something slipped through the cracks." In order for the process to fail, many people along the chain must commit fraud.

Barry Ritholtz - Why Foreclosure Fraud Is So Dangerous to Property Rights The Big Picture 12 Oct 10

There is more to the problem, however.

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Crossposted at MyDD

Last Friday I posted a diary at MyDD regarding the linking of the Army Public Affairs web newsletter Stand To to a strongly anti-Obama posting in their 'What's being said in Blogs' section.  This had been originally reported by the Washington Post and Huffington Post linked to it on Friday at around midday regarding a Tuesday edition of Stand To.  The offending link was gone before midnight.

I posted the email address of Major General Anthony A. Cucolo III, Chief of Public Affairs, US Army and sent an email on the subject which can be found in the original diary.  The General's response follows over the fold.

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The recent news that Hillary's campaign strategist Mark Penn had a meeting last week with the Ambassador of Colombia should come as no surprise, as the sovereign state of Colombia is one of his other clients:

Attendance by the adviser, Mark Penn, was confirmed by two Colombian officials. He wasn't there in his campaign role, but in his separate job as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, an international communications and lobbying firm. The firm has a contract with the South American nation to promote congressional approval of the trade deal, among other things, according to filings with the Justice Department.

Susan Davis - Clinton Aide Met on Trade Deal WSJ 4 Apr 08

The Clinton campaign was clearly unhappy with this news but was clear that Penn was meeting solely in his capacity of chief executive.  The Colombian government apparently didn't get the memo as their rebuttal was more ambivalent and suggested a 'level playing field' defence involving other campaigns.

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