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James Davis - Blue Monday
"History is laden with belligerent leaders using humanitarian rhetoric to mask geopolitical aims."
-- Samantha Power
News and Opinion
No War, says Putin
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addressed the world in a televised press conference Tuesday saying the tense situation in Crimea would not descend into all out war in Ukraine and that military force would only be used as a last resort. ...
Putin's remarks came as U.S. Secretary of State arrived in Kiev to offer the newly declared government there the full backing of the United States, including financial and political support. The U.S. has also said that it is preparing a set of diplomatic and financial sanctions against Russia for what it calls hostile interference in the Crimean peninsula, but Putin said such moves by the Obama administration would be "counter-productive."
According to the Guardian, "A Kremlin aide said on Tuesday that if the US were to impose sanctions, Moscow could be forced to drop the dollar as a reserve currency and refuse to pay off any loans to American banks." ...
In terms of Crimea, Putin said he is not interested in war, but preserving stability and security for those in Ukraine who feel threatened by the new authorities.
"If mayhem breaks out in eastern Ukraine and people ask for help, Russia reserves the right to react, but this is a last resort," Putin said at the press conference. "It's a humanitarian mission, we don't aspire to enslave anyone."
Obama’s War Against CivilizationTed Rall contributes an interesting article with some good background. Worth a read:
The world is learning what U.S. senatorial candidate Barack Obama meant on October 2, 2002, when he told a Chicago crowd that he did not oppose all wars. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.” We now know that President Obama is committed to full spectrum, no-holds-barred, war-without-boundaries against all potential resistance to U.S. imperial rule, anywhere on the planet – a project he considers neither rash nor dumb. ...
National self-determination, the bedrock of international law – is now treated as a franchise, to be issued or withdrawn at the whim of any coalition the U.S. is able to assemble. For Haiti, a simple troika of the U.S., Canada and France constituted a quorum empowered to erase 200 years of independence. For Libya, the recognized government’s capital crime was its threat to quell a jihadist revolt in one of its cities. The Syrian state has been condemned for resisting tens of thousands of foreign-financed killers who recognize no earthly law whatsoever. The U.S. backs a coup against the lawfully elected government of Ukraine by the direct descendants of Nazis. Simultaneously, Obama threatens the democratically elected government of Venezuela with dire consequences if it harms a hair on the head of rioters bankrolled and directed by Washington.
It is almost moot to accuse the Obama administration of interfering with the internal affairs of other nations, since this president does not recognize the elementary rights of nation states. National sovereignty has been replaced, in the Age of Obama, by an arbitrary “humanitarian” interventionist imperative that can only be exercised by the most powerful. ... No rules of sovereignty, no rules of war, no individual or national rights that a superpower is bound to respect. The United States, under Obama’s leadership, is building an infrastructure for fascism on a planetary scale.
What the US Media Won't Tell You About Ukraine
As usual, America's foreign correspondents are falling down on the job.
Stories devoid of historical context cast Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a naked act of neo-Soviet aggression. Considering that the relevant history begins a mere two decades ago, its omission is inexcusable.
The spark that led to the takeover of Crimea was not the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich. It is what happened the day after.
A 2012 law gave the Russian language official status in regions where Russians comprise more than 10% of the population. This is the case in most of eastern Ukraine and particularly in Crimea, where 59% are ethnic Russians.
One week ago, Ukraine's rump parliament (members of Yanukovich's party, hiding from opposition forces and in fear for their lives, didn't show up) took advantage of Yanukovich's downfall to overturn the language law. Americans didn't notice, but Russians did.
"Attack on the Russian language in Ukraine is a brutal violation of ethnic minority rights," Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's commissioner for human rights, tweeted that day.
Seems a little over-the-top, right?
Sure, but only if you don't know that millions of ethnic Russians in former Soviet Republics have suffered widespread discrimination and harassment since the 1991 collapse — and that their troubles began with laws eliminating Russian as an official language.
Ukraine in Context: What You Don't Know About a New Cold War
Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University who has long focused on Russia, says what is constantly missing from most mainstream coverage in the U.S. is the very real perception by many in Russia who see a European takeover of Ukraine as a direct military encroachment by the NATO powers on their western border.
This, he says, may be lost on an American audience, but the seriousness of it is not lost on those who know the history of War World I and the bloodshed along the Russian front after War World II that led to the Cold War.
Another aspect that has created controversy is whether the Russian military presence in Crimea and the rejection of the new Kiev government in other places in the south and east of the country is pretext for a secessionist movement within those provinces. Others worry that the political split between east and west could lead to all out civil war or a regional conflagration with the Ukraine army in the west, backed by the EU and US, facing off against Russian-backed forces in the east.
But Nicolai Petro, a professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island and currently a Fulbright research scholar in Ukraine, says those opposing the takeover in Kiev are not interested in splitting Ukraine, but instead are concerned about losing key rights, including their ability to retain their Russian heritage under new legal edicts. And, says Petro, those with close economic ties to Russia seeing those interests subjugated by a government beholden to European interests does little to inspire confidence in the emerging government that has taken control in Kiev.
Despite those worries, however, those characterized as 'Pro-Russian' do not want to secede, argues Petro in The Nation. He explains:The regions in the South and East that oppose the [new government in Kiev] are not demanding to leave Ukraine. [...] They seek a more formal recognition of their rights. A popular slogan at a recent anti-Maidan meeting in [eastern city of] Kharkiv was ‘We are not separatists. We are federalists.’
Even in Crimea, the government recently put in place by local ‘self-defense forces’ has asked only for a referendum, citing the need to guarantee its autonomy ‘under any changes in central authority or the Constitution of Ukraine.’ The referendum question in fact stipulates that Crimea ‘is part of Ukraine on the basis of agreements and accords.’
In this context being ‘pro-Russian’ does not mean joining Russia. It means speaking, worshiping, and going to school in your own language, in your own country — Ukraine.
Ukraine crisis: US suspends military ties with Russia
The United States has suspended all military engagements with Russia, including exercises and port visits, in response to Moscow sending troops into Crimea.
The announcement from the Pentagon came on Monday night a few hours after President Barack Obama warned that the US government would look at economic and diplomatic sanctions that would isolate Moscow over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis. The United States also put trade and investment talks with Russia on hold.
“We call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and for Russian forces in Crimea to return to their bases,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
Kirby said that although the defence department valued its military-to-military relations with Russia, “we have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements”. Its suspension also applied to bilateral military meetings and planning conferences, he said.
John Kerry arrives in Kiev and reveals economic package for Ukraine
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has arrived in Kiev and has announced an economic package and technical assistance for Ukraine in a show of support for its new government amid escalating tensions with Russia.
Kerry's visit comes as Washington and its western allies step up pressure on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine's Crimea region or face economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
A senior US administration official, who briefed reporters en route to Kiev, said the Obama administration would work with Congress to approve $1bn in loan guarantees to help lessen the impact on Ukrainians of their proposed cuts to energy subsidies.
The United States will also send technical experts to Ukraine to advise its central bank and finance ministry on how to deal with the country's economic challenges and help combat corruption, the official said.
The US will also train observers for the country's 25 May election to bring the electoral process in line with international standards.
Russia warns it could ‘crash’ U.S. economy if sanctions enacted over Ukraine crisis
Russia could reduce to zero its economic dependency on the United States if Washington agreed sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, a Kremlin aide said on Tuesday, warning that the American financial system faced a “crash” if this happened.
“We would find a way not just to reduce our dependency on the United States to zero but to emerge from those sanctions with great benefits for ourselves,” said Kremlin economic aide Sergei Glazyev, saying Russia could stop using dollars for international transactions.
The Washington Post Uses Biased Experts to Promote Propaganda on Venezuela
The Washington Post’s Feb. 19 article about the recent spate of unrest in Venezuela took a breathlessly laudatory stance towards the opposition against President Nicolás Maduro. ... [W]hat’s most interesting about it are the sources which the authors choose to cite as impartial experts. Not only do they appear hostile to the Venezuelan government and supportive of the opposition, they also appear to have serious, unstated conflicts of interest that cast doubt on the integrity of the Washington Post‘s entire reportage on this issue.
At one point, the article quotes Michael Shifter “president of Inter-American Dialogue, a think-tank in Washington”, as giving the following analysis of the situation: “López is saying, ‘this is intolerable, let’s not be resigned to it.’… He felt this was his moment to act, to take to the streets.” Going further, the piece also quotes Moisés Naím – omitting to mention that he too is a member of the Inter-American Dialogue – excoriating the previous opposition leader for not going far enough in challenging Maduro when he had the opportunity.
What the authors failed to explain is that the Inter-American Dialogue is a think-tank whose members happen to include several officials from Venezuela’s previous government – the same one deposed by Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. Even more distressingly, the Dialogue counts among its funders organizations such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, the U.S. government through USAID, and the embassies of Canada, Mexico and Guatemala among others.
That these groups have distinct political and financial interests in Venezuela casts some doubt on the impartiality of the viewpoints their funded analysts produce. Indeed, a 2006 diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks uncovered the fact that U.S. officials were planning to implement a “5-point strategy” to undermine the Chavez government, specifically using USAID as a means to accomplish this. That USAID also happens to be a prime funder of the Inter-American Dialogue raises some serious questions about its unstated mission in the country.
Amnesty International Calls for Int’l Sanctions on Israel over Systematic Violence against Civilians
Israeli forces are killing Palestinian civilians in the West Bank — including children — with "callous disregard for human life," enjoying near impunity for likely war crimes, and should be immediately cut off from arms shipments by the international community, declares a damning report released by Amnesty International on Thursday. ...
Entitled Trigger-Happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank, the 87-page report documents mounting violence and human rights violations due to Israeli use of "unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force," as summarized in an Amnesty statement. The study traces the chilling trail of death and injury this leaves behind.
In the past three years, at least 261 Palestinians in the West Bank — 67 of them children — have been seriously injured by live gunshots fired by Israeli forces. In this same time frame, over 8,000 Palestinians in the West Bank — 1,500 of them children — have been wounded by other weapons wielded by Israeli forces in the West Bank, including rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas, with some dying from their wounds.
The report highlights the murder of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, four of whom were children, and 14 of whom were killed at protests. In some of these cases, Amnesty found evidence of "willful killings, which would amount to war crimes," according to the summary.
Facebook 'in talks to buy drone satellite firm'
Facebook is reportedly in discussions to acquire Titan Aerospace, a manufacturer of drones, for around $60m.
Titan Aerospace specialises in solar-powered, very high flying drones capable of staying airborne for five years at a time, positioned as a more cost-effective alternative to orbital satellites dubbed as “atmospheric satellites”.
The talks, confirmed by technology site TechCrunch, indicate that Facebook is likely interested in these satellite alternative drones that fly as high as 20km in altitude as part of its Internet.org initiative.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress in February to elaborate on the Internet.org coalition’s plans to connect the next five billion people to the internet in developing nations. The drones could be used to blanket large areas of Africa and other countries with internet access.
A source told TechCrunch that Titan Aerospace would be fully committed to the Internet.org project post acquisition, and would start building 11,000 drones for the effort.
Detroit asks federal court to approve a deal stopping interest rate swaps
Detroit on Monday asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to approve its third try at ending controversial interest rate swaps, laying out a plan that would cost the city just $85 million.
The cost to terminate the hedging deals with UBS AG and Merrill Lynch Capital Services is less than the city’s previous proposals, which were rejected by Judge Steven Rhodes, who is overseeing the city’s historic municipal bankruptcy case, as being too costly for the broke city.
As Detroit slashes pensions, Red Wings owners given massive taxpayer handout
Back in December, Pando reported on how Michigan and Detroit officials were simultaneously pleading poverty to justify cuts to municipal workers’ average $19,000-a-year pensions all while promising to keep spending taxpayer cash on a new professional hockey stadium. Now, the Detroit Free Press reports that on top of the money taxpayers spent to finance the stadium and to give the Red Wings a rent-free stadium, the deal will mean a loss of “$7 million in revenue the city received annually from the team’s home games.”
The Evening Greens
Keystone XL is already redundant, now if it is possible, it has been made even more redundant. So much for keeping those hydrocarbons in the ground...
Enbridge Announces $7B Line 3 Rebuild, Largest Project in Company History
In its largest capital project in history, Enbridge plans to do what Transcanada so far can't — ship more than half a million barrels of heavy oil across the U.S. border without President Barack Obama's direct approval.
Late Monday evening, Enbridge announced plans for its largest capital project in history— a $7 billion replacement of its Line 3 pipeline. ...
While the Line 3 pipeline currently has a maximum shipping capacity of 390,000 barrels of light crude oil per day, pumping stations along the line have a much larger capacity (and can accommodate heavier oils). Enbridge plans to take advantage of this. Under the company's replacement plans, the new Line 3 pipeline will be widened by two inches, and built "using the latest available high-strength steel and coating technology." By the time it goes into service in 2017, Line 3 will ship 760,000 barrels of oil across the border every day, nearly double what it currently moves. ...
Unlike the Keystone XL pipeline or its predecessor Line 67 (also known by its more jovial name ‘Alberta Clipper’), this project is classified as "replacement" or "maintenance," meaning it operates under an existing presidential permit and does not require a new one. Enbridge proponents made a point of repeatedly affirming this during Tuesday's call with investors and media.
Judge rules lawyer used ‘corrupt means’ to get $18 billion judgment against Chevron
In a nearly 500-page decision, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he had found “clear and convincing evidence” that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue an $18 billion judgment in 2011 in favor of a group of villagers. They had claimed Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992.
The decision bars Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States and freezes all proceeds from the judgment.
Federal appeals court: BP cannot block payments on Gulf spill loss claims
A divided U.S. appeals court on Monday rejected BP Plc’s bid to block businesses from recovering money over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, even if they could not trace their economic losses to the disaster.
By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a December 24 ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, authorizing the payments on so-called business economic loss claims. It also said an injunction preventing payments should be lifted.
Monday’s decision is a setback for BP’s effort to limit payments over the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and rupture of BP’s Macondo oil well. ...
Barbier had ruled that BP would have to live with its earlier interpretation of a multi-billion dollar settlement agreement over the spill, in which certain businesses claiming losses were presumed to have suffered harm.
BP argued that this would allow businesses to recover for fictitious losses, but the 5th Circuit rejected its appeal.
Mardi Gras: Beads, Bands…And BP Oil
More than one million tourists have flocked to the South for Mardi Gras, and hundreds of thousands of those revelers have settled in for a few days along the Gulf Coast. Those who decided to enjoy the festivities along the Gulf of Mexico might be in for something they didn’t expect: oil tar mats.
On Thursday of last week, workers on Pensacola Beach, Florida spotted and brought to shore a 1,200 pound oil tar mat, which officials say accounted for about 90% of the total size of the mat. While the bulk of the mat was a mixture of sand and other debris, scientists ran tests and were quickly able to determine that the oil in the mat was a perfect match for the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, as the Pensacola News Journal explains:The weathered oil from the tar mat was confirmed to be MC-252 oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Although the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were once scoured regularly for residual oil from the spill, physical searches were phased out as the number of sightings began to dwindle.In the summer of 2013, BP pulled their cleanup crews from the Gulf Coast, assuring residents and tourists alike that the oil spill was all cleaned up. A few months later, the U.S. Coast Guard made similar claims to the public.
Furthermore, the public was assured as early as May 2010 — just one month after the oil leak began — that the majority of the oil would simply “dissolve” into the Gulf of Mexico. This latest tar mat is undeniable evidence that oil from BP’s disaster still remains in the Gulf.
The public was grossly misled about what it actually means for oil to “dissolve.” It may not be visible to the eye, but dissolved oil remains in the water – just as sugar “dissolves” in coffee; the chemicals are still there, just not in the concentration or consistency that they were before.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
James Davis - Chains Around My Heart
James Davis - Your Turn To Cry
James "Thunderbird" Davis - I'm Ready Now
James 'Thunderbird' Davis & Ron Levy - Come By here
James 'Thunderbird' Davis & Ron Levy - Checkout Time
James Thunderbird Davis with Earl King - A Case Of Love
Big Chief Ellis - Louise
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