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But US efforts to turn the political tide in Ukraine away from Russian influence began much earlier. In 2004, the Bush administration had given $65 million to provide 'democracy training' to opposition leaders and political activists aligned with them, including paying to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to meet US leaders and help underwrite exit polls indicating he won disputed elections.
This programme has accelerated under Obama.....
So it would be naive to assume that this magnitude of US support to organizations politically aligned with the Ukrainian opposition played no role in fostering the pro-Euro-Atlantic movement that has ultimately culminated in Russian-backed President Yanukovych's departure.
But Russia's Gazprom, controlling almost a fifth of the world's gas reserves, supplies more than half of Ukraine's, and about 30% of Europe's gas annually. Just one month before Nuland's speech at the National Press Club, Ukraine signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with US energy giant Chevron "that the ex-Soviet nation hopes could end its energy dependence on Russia by 2020." The agreement would allow "Chevron to explore the Olesky deposit in western Ukraine that Kiev estimates can hold 2.98 trillion cubic meters of gas." Similar deals had been struck already with Shell and ExxonMobil.
The move coincided with Ukraine's efforts to "cement closer relations with the European Union at Russia's expense", through a prospective trade deal that would be a step closer to Ukraine's ambitions to achieve EU integration. But Yanukovych's decision to abandon the EU agreement in favour of Putin's sudden offer of a 30% cheaper gas bill and a $15 billion aid package provoked the protests.
A more recent US State Department-sponsored report notes that "Ukraine's strategic location between the main energy producers (Russia and the Caspian Sea area) and consumers in the Eurasian region, its large transit network, and its available underground gas storage capacities", make the country "a potentially crucial player in European energy transit" - a position that will "grow as Western European demands for Russian and Caspian gas and oil continue to increase."Ukraine is caught hapless in the midst of this accelerating struggle to dominate Eurasia's energy corridors in the last decades of the age of fossil fuels.
Looks like what may be happening is more big oil subsidies provided by the taxpayers in the form of military intervention and strong-arming on behalf of the oil giants, many of whom not only pay no taxes, but receive subsidies directly on top of their dead beat tax status.
Posted by grahamhgreen | Thu Mar 6, 2014, 04:01 PM (5 replies)
Human Rights Record of the United States in 2013
State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China
The State Department of the United States, which posed as "the world judge of human rights," made arbitrary attacks and irresponsible remarks on the human rights situation in almost 200 countries and regions again in its just-released Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. However, the U.S. carefully concealed and avoided mentioning its own human rights problems. In fact, there were still serious human rights problems in the U.S in 2013, with the situation in many fields even deteriorating.
-- The U.S. engaged in a tapping program, code-named PRISM, exercising long-term and vast surveillance both at home and abroad. The program is a blatant violation of international law and seriously infringes on human rights.
-- The use of solitary confinement is prevalent in the U.S.. About 80,000 U.S. prisoners are in solitary confinement in the country. Some have even been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years.
-- The U.S. still faces grave employment situation with its unemployment rate remained high. Rates of unemployment for the lowest-income families have topped 21 percent. The homeless population in the U.S. kept swelling and it had climbed 16 percent from 2011 to 2013.
-- There are a large amount of child laborers in the agricultural sector in the U.S. and their physical and mental health was seriously harmed.
-- Frequent drone strikes by the U.S. in countries including Pakistan and Yemen have caused heavy civilian casualties. The U.S. has carried out 376 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, causing deaths of up to 926 civilians.
-- The U.S. remains a country which has not ratified or participated in a series of core UN conventions on human rights, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The U.S. government took liberty in monitoring its citizens, which shocked the world. Tortures in the U.S. prisons raised concerns. Elections and the checks-and-balances systems were plagued by malpractices and inefficiency, impairing civil interests.
The U.S. government exercises massive and unrestrained information tapping on its own citizens. Edward Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, revealed a tapping program carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA), code-named PRISM. Under the program, the U.S. intelligence, by virtue of data provided by nine Internet companies, including the Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo, and other major telecom providers, tracked citizens' private contacts and social activities recklessly (www.washingtonpost.com, June 7, 2013).
The website of The Washington Post revealed on June 7, 2013, that the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were tapping directly into the central servers of some Internet companies, and users' data, extracting their emails, chats, audio and video data, documents and photos in real time, and putting certain targets and their contacts under full surveillance.
In my view, we should clean up our own act before we start shooting off our pop gun around the world in feigned indignation at the abuse of others.
Posted by grahamhgreen | Thu Mar 6, 2014, 03:35 PM (18 replies)
Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, may prove to be arsenic to the beleaguered nation.
“Recall the phone exchange between the Ukraine ambassador and Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs) that got leaked out, where she basically said ‘we want Yats in there.’ They like him because he’s pro Western,” says Vladimir Signorelli, president of boutique investment research firm Bretton Woods Research LLC in New Jersey. “Yatsenyuk is the the kind of technocrat you want if you want austerity, with the veneer of professionalism,” Signorelli said. “He’s the type of guy who can hobnob with the European elite. A Mario Monti type: unelected and willing to do the IMFs bidding,” he said.
Mario Monti was a centrist Italian technocrat who passed an austerity package that called for increased taxes, pension reform and measures to fight tax evasion.
Also today, Yatsenyuk promised to implement “very unpopular measures” to stabilize the country’s finances. The government said it needs $35 billion to support the country over the next two years. His language in a news report broadcast by Bloomberg today indicates he is heading toward a potentially destabilizing austerity campaign:
“The treasury is empty. We will do everything not to default. If we get the financial support from the IMF, the U.S., we will do it. I’m going to be the most unpopular prime minister in the history of my country,” he said. “But this is the only solution. I would never promise any kind of huge achievements. First and the most important issue is to stabilize the situation.”
Is this whole thing just another way to force austerity on yet another beleaguered population?
Posted by grahamhgreen | Wed Mar 5, 2014, 03:31 PM (34 replies)
Many U.S.-based companies doing a lot of business abroad pay a good deal more taxes overseas than they do here, the study shows. Among 125 Fortune 500 corporations with foreign pretax profits of at least 10 percent of their total worldwide pretax profits from 2008 through 2012, two-thirds paid higher corporate tax rates to foreign governments where they operate (27.3 percent) than they paid in the United States on their domestic profits (15.8 percent), according to the study by the Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) and The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).
Further, the effective foreign tax rate on the 125 companies was 2.7 percentage points higher than their effective tax rate in the United States, says the study, which looks at the profits and U.S. federal income taxes of the 288 Fortune 500 companies that were profitable in each of the five years between 2008 and 2012.
“Corporate lobbyists incessantly claim that our corporate tax rate is too high, and that it’s not ‘competitive’ with the rest of the world,” Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice and the report’s lead author, said in a press release. On the contrary, he added: “Most multinationals are paying lower tax rates here in the United States than they pay on their foreign operations.”
Posted by grahamhgreen | Mon Mar 3, 2014, 08:04 AM (0 replies)
In the heat of the 2010 governor’s race, Scott Walker urged both county employees and campaign aides to go to news websites and post comments promoting him and his record, newly unsealed documents show.
Scott Walker’s defense has always been that he had no connection to any of this, but it is impossible to make that argument when a message sent from his Blackberry ends up posted nearly word for word on a website just a half of an hour after he sent it. On Fox News Sunday, Walker refused to answer questions, and got very defensive when asked about the emails.
His main defense is that he wasn’t charged with a crime. However, not being charged with a crime isn’t the same thing as not committing a crime. Walker’s refusal to answer questions about the emails is only serving to heighten the scrutiny on the governor.
There is enough evidence in these emails for a new investigation into Gov. Walker. If the state won’t investigate, the apparent level of corruption is so severe that this may require federal involvement. It appears that Scott Walker committed numerous crimes, but it may take a public outcry for justice to be done.
Posted by grahamhgreen | Mon Feb 24, 2014, 02:49 PM (77 replies)
Dated (8/25/2010), but good to remember when you see some of the far right leaning debaters hitting these pages. In my view, there are and will always be people pushing the Republican Agenda at DU and in our party:
And for $25,000, 28 giant companies found their way onto the DLC’s executive council, including Aetna, AT&T;, American Airlines, AIG, BellSouth, Chevron, DuPont, Enron, IBM, Merck and Company, Microsoft, Philip Morris, Texaco, and Verizon Communications. Few, if any, of these corporations would be seen as leaning Democratic, of course, but here and there are some real surprises. One member of the DLC’s executive council is none other than Koch Industries, the privately held, Kansas-based oil company whose namesake family members are avatars of the far right, having helped to found archconservative institutions like the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Not only that, but two Koch executives, Richard Fink and Robert P. Hall III, are listed as members of the board of trustees and the event committee, respectively–meaning that they gave significantly more than $25,000.
I added the emphasis.
Fitting, isn’t it? The entity that tries to undermine the progressive agenda from within the Democratic Party was getting funding from the guys who are trying to destroy the Democratic Party from the outside.
Just a side note: The DLC’s long-time CEO, Bruce Reed, is now the Executive Director of the Obama administration’s Debt Commission, a.k.a. the Cat Food Commission.
Posted by grahamhgreen | Mon Feb 24, 2014, 01:06 PM (18 replies)
The decision to drop so-called “chained CPI” came after Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and 15 other senators wrote Obama a letter Feb. 14 urging Social Security to be spared in the president’s budget blueprint.
Obama had included the proposal, which would shrink the inflation rate used to calculate a host of benefits and tax breaks, as part of an attempted grand bargain on the budget, but Republicans refused White House demands for new revenue to go along with cuts in entitlements.
However, while the proposal will not be in his budget blueprint, Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the president’s proposal remains “on the table,” but only as part of a larger package that would shrink tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.
“It’s a principle of fairness,” Earnest said.
“The offer to Speaker Boehner remains on the table for whenever the Republicans decide they want to engage in a serious discussion about a balanced plan to deal with our long-term fiscal challenges that includes closing loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and corporations,” a White House official said in a separate background memo.
It is not "a principle of fairness" because social security does not add one nickel to the deficit!!!
Taxes on the wealthiest need to be increased to the levels of the greatest generation in order to add to the general fund so that they can pay off the debt and deficit, etc....
Social Security is solvent for 20 years and simply needs the cap raised so that those making over $110,000/year continue to pay into it to make it solvent forever.
The deficit and Social Security are two separate pools of money that come from two separate funding sources. We pay into SS as an insurance policy. Cutting it is not an option.
Chained CPI means grannies will starve, as will children.
The continued conflating of these two issues by the administration is very disturbing.... Just when I though they might be getting a clue!
Posted by grahamhgreen | Sat Feb 22, 2014, 03:35 PM (164 replies)
Can we stop the war machine now?
Posted by grahamhgreen | Thu Feb 20, 2014, 02:10 AM (12 replies)
We're living in an age of unprecedented austerity.
Now, that sounds impossible to conservatives who know, just know, that government has exploded under Obama's socialist watch. And that we have trillion dollar deficits—dun, dun, dun—as far as the eye can see. But I have some good news for them (though not the economy). They're wrong. Government employment has actually fallen under Obama, and the deficit is falling fast too.
As Ben Bernanke put it, "people don't appreciate how tight fiscal policy has been." And how much that's knee-capped the economy. Take jobs. Bernanke points out that total public sector employment—local, state, and federal—has fallen by over 600,000 during the recovery alone. As point of comparison, it rose by 400,000 during the previous one.
But even this million person job swing doesn't tell us how historic austerity has been this time. You have to look at the chart below to see that. It shows government job growth during every recovery on record, going back to 1945.
A bit dated, but a great chart!
Posted by grahamhgreen | Mon Feb 10, 2014, 05:39 PM (1 replies)
The actual prison memorial is like a live re-enactment of the Josef Goebbels Handbook, complete with (American) mannequins torturing (Vietnamese) mannequins and a set of instructions for each torment, no matter how self-explanatory it may seem, including:
To break Prisoners Tooth: Torturer puts tip of wood chunk on prisoners tooth. He strikes violently. Tooth breaks immediately.
To Drive Nails into prisoners body: The torturer drives nails of differing lengths (three to ten centimeters) into vulnerable organs of the prisoner: fingertips, backs of hand, instep, shoulder blades, knee and even skull.
To force prisoners to turn somersaults on iron bar: Jailer forces prisoner to take his clothes off and turn continuous somersaults on iron bar full of sharp pointed holes. All his body is peeled off.
To Boil prisoner: torturer covers prisoner with jute bag and throws him into cauldron of water on the boil. Prisoner dies with his skin peeled off.
To BROIL prisoner: Prisoner is tied to two long iron bars, 80 centimeters off the ground. Torturer broils prisoner on slow fire. Like broiling a mullet.
Torture is cool now, right?
Or should we prosecute those among us who commit these crimes willingly?
Posted by grahamhgreen | Fri Feb 7, 2014, 06:02 PM (2 replies)