No Way To Slow Down – America’s Foreign-Policy Dilemma

Uncle Volodya says, "No foreign policy, no matter how ingenious, has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none. "

Uncle Volodya says, “No foreign policy, no matter how ingenious, has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none. “

He hears the silence howling;
catches angels as they fall
And the all-time winner
has got him by the balls:
He picks up Gideon’s Bible,
open at page one;
God stole the handle, and
the train won’t stop going…
No way to slow down.

Jethro Tull, from “Locomotive Breath

Almost since the steam locomotive debuted in the USA with Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s “Tom Thumb”, the train has been a symbol of implacable and unstoppable power, while a “train wreck” has become synonymous with any initiative which ends in complete ruin and destruction. This is the impression Ian Anderson sought to create with “Locomotive Breath” – according to Wikipedia, “The song’s lyrics use the imagery of an impending and unavoidable train wreck as an allegorical portrayal of a man’s life falling apart”.

The USA’s foreign policy is a train wreck, and it can’t stop or even slow down on the careering, destructive course it has set itself.  Far from cutting a wide swath in the world and increasing its influence, the United States is increasingly being left out of international decision-making and its influence, more and more, is unwelcome and unsolicited. How did we get here, from the time when ordinary people respected the government and journalists reported the news instead of making them up? Why did Americans think the way they did back then, and why do they think the way they do now?

But it’s not as simple as just passing judgment, or saying “Americans make bad foreign policy because they are idiots led by criminals”. Here to help us understand the legislative framework that holds America together, and the foreign policy which results from the choices left to Americans, is the commenter I know only as UCG. University of California Graduate? Uruguayan Cowboy Groupie? No way to know, although he is clearly from California. I recommend you check out the other fine and perceptive discussions on his blog – meanwhile, read on.

Surviving in the US

According to Indeed.com, the average salary in the US is $62,000.  Since that’s on the high end of the spectrum, let’s go with that, even though the Sacramento Bee places the average salary at $51,190.  And let’s take your average family, two parents, (both working,) and two kids. That’s $124,000. This seems like a lot of money, but it’s not.

First we have to subtract taxes and insurance fees which are essentially taxes paid to private corporations for providing the people with essential services. For instance let’s take health insurance. Even if you do not fall into one of the mandated categories for Obamacare, you either need to buy health insurance or risk being fleeced by the medical companies and hospitals, where a simple medical procedure can cost over $80,000.  And that case is not unique.  How is that not equivalent to a tax?

The reason that I use the combination of taxes and insurance is that these are services that should be provided by the government. Most industrialized countries have universal healthcare, so America’s health insurance is most definitely similar a tax. It’s just not called tax, because apparently, calling it a tax magically gives it cooties. Believe it or not, in the US, most Americans pay half of their income to cover their taxes and insurance fees. Keep in mind that America has a progressive income taxation system and a regressive insurance system, which keeps most Americans dutifully paying half of their incomes to the government and the insurance companies.

But I don’t expect you to take my word for it, so let’s start with the family that I introduced earlier, 2 adults, 2 kids and $124,000 in income. First there’s the federal income tax of 25 percent, over a third of which goes to the military, perhaps to bomb a country you never heard of.  That’s $31,000. Then there’s the 6 percent social security tax,  which amounts to $7,440. The 10 percent Californian state income tax is worth $12,400.  The health insurance is going to cost another $22,000.  Of course that number doesn’t include property taxes, sales taxes, other taxes, car insurance, home insurance, other insurances, etc, and that’s already $72,840. But hey, I said half, maybe they’ll get a tax rebate, so despite the tax and insurance burden clearly being more than half, let’s go with half. Now the family of four has a net income of $62,000.

The next two big items on the expenditure list are housing and food. People need a place to stay and a place to eat. However we’re talking about the middle class here, and they shouldn’t be living in Ghettoville, also known as Detroit. The median home price is $425,000. Presuming that they can get a decent rate, let’s say four percent, that their housing value does not decrease, (which usually isn’t the case in California, or at least wasn’t prior to economic crash, but hey, at least comedians got a good laugh out of Gore’s “locked box” speech, politician wants to do something good for the economy – hilarious!) and that they take out a 30 year housing mortgage, we’re looking at $24,000 in home payments. Of course there needs to be a fund for fixing the house, paying for utilities, etc. That can cost about $300 a month on average, so another $3,600.

After taxes, insurance and housing we’re left with $34,400 for the hardworking family of four, who probably need to eat. Presuming that they don’t end up eating junk food all of the time, the food would average out to be $60 a day for the family of four, one of the reasons being that the mom is working and thus cannot cook Monday through Friday. That’s $21,900. We’re left with $12,500. And I’m being generous, since I’m basing that sum on collegiate data

I’m also guessing that the parents might need a way to get to work, probably a car. In California you can get two decent cars for $25,000, and pay it off with $250 a month or $3,000 a year. But you also need to pay for gas and car repairs. I don’t drive as much as I used to and I still spend about $100 a month on gas, and half of that on other repairs. Thus the car bill, for the parents, assuming that they work fairly close to home and that they are safe drivers, is $6,600. We’re left with $5,900.

The charges still left include emergency situations, school supplies, clothes, toiletries, stuff that families can do on the weekends, etc, etc, etc. That’s Middle America. This is why people in the US are having one kid instead of two: they cannot afford two. That’s why the mom has to work, instead of staying at home and raising her kids. What’s that mean? The kid’s raised by school, TV, the Internet, and video games. Speaking of schools, most schools are not doing too well and quite a few are failing miserably.

Please note what I did: I took the highest Middle America salary I could find, I’ve applied the expenses generously and I still ended up with a loss. That’s why close to half of Americans are in debt.  Speaking of Americans being in debt, here’s what’s owed:

Total: $11.68 trillion in debt

Breakdown:

$854.2 billion in credit card debt

$8.15 trillion in mortgages

$1,115.3 billion in student loans

Don’t worry, I don’t owe any debt; (scholarships FTW,) well, except for the house, but property values negate that. Needless to say, if someone’s living paycheck to paycheck and ends up being unemployed, welp, there goes the house, hope they like the apartments. Why don’t we just make our education free? Good question, but Washington says “nyet”; how are we supposed to afford good schools and have over 9,000 aircraft on carriers?

The problem that I mentioned earlier is that the kids are being raised practically without parents. The situation is not improving; it’s worsening. The working hours and vacation times of American workers are abysmal. Including driving to and from work, the average American works for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week and usually needs either Saturday or Sunday to get his or her house in order. How well can a parent raise a kid on one and a half days a week? Not very well, which is why Justin Bieber is the sensation icon amongst the younger generations and that’s a good thing. At least Bieber is not very violent. The problem with most Americans living paycheck to paycheck is that if someone slips up or loses his or her job, debt and devastation promptly follow. Fellow Californian Mark Ames wrote a brilliant book, From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine, that exposes the ugly truth of what happens when someone slips up.

The sad part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. California, as a state, has a great economy that’s amazingly diversified, one that’s based around the collegiate system. California has 282 colleges and universities for a population of less than 40 million people. This collegiate diversity is what drives California’s economy.

Who has not heard of Silicon Valley, of Hollywood, of Berkeley or Stanford, of USC or UCLA? It all started in 1960, when California launched the Master Plan.Tying the master plan to today’s America would get quite a few people to panic, especially with all of the revelations of governmental corruption, but in 1960 it was a genuine attempt to improve the economy of California, and it worked. The Master Plan created numerous tiers on which new colleges and universities would be founded and divided the universities into three groups: public, private and religious. The public universities were further subdivided into the University of California System, the California State University System and the Community College System. Berkeley serves as the flagship for this system in Northern California and UCLA serves as the flagship for this system in Southern California. Not to be outdone, Stanford and USC had to adapt to the success of Berkeley and UCLA, providing Californians with a superb education system.

Almost every major Silicon Valley company had its origins in students of the California Collegiate System. When two PhD students from Stanford met a PhD student from Berkeley, Google was born. Similarly, the Google of Hollywood would be Star Wars, which had its roots when a young George Lucas started experimenting with different camera techniques at a community college in Modesto, California. He continued his studies at USC and eventually produced the movie that changed history, Star Wars.  

Star Wars and Google are mere examples of a greater theme of how the Master Plan drives California’s economy and helps out local communities. Can any of you imagine a wealthy American Institution bailing out a poor American Institution at its own expense, only to enable it to become independent, deriving no profit from it? Sounds like fiction, right? When the Compton Community College lost its credential, the El Camino Community College bailed it out and set it on a path to recovery. Currently it’s serving the Compton community as the El Camino College, Compton Center.

A college or university is very beneficial to the community, since it actually creates jobs, enables the college students to assist the poor through various internship programs, bonds the college students with the local population, thus creating the basis for strengthening the middle class, provides valuable education to the students, creates a service industry around the campus since the professors like to enjoy their lives, etc.

Currently there are 282 colleges/universities in California, with 135 private institutions and 147 public institutions. The vast majority of the public institutions are 112 community college campuses, enabling 2.6 million Californian students to receive a degree. Speaking of the benefits that they bring, students who earn a California Community College degree or certificate nearly double their earnings within three years.

The next tier of public education is formed by the Cal States. They have 23 campuses, almost 447,000 students, and 45,000 faculty and staff and are the largest, the most diverse and one of the most affordable university systems in the country.  These are four year institutions that could go toe to toe with most of the colleges/universities found in other countries. The Cal States even have their own Marine Laboratories.  The department of defense also runs two federal universities in California. The UC system led by the flagships of UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles has 10 campuses, more than 230,000 students and secures $7 in federal and private dollars for every $1 in research funding provided by the state of California.

In addition to providing fertile soil for Hollywood and Silicon Valley to grow and prosper, the Californian Collegiate System helped the development of property values. In 2008 Californian property management accounted for $309 billion.  The entire GDP of Switzerland was $325 billion, Ukraine – $337 billion and Greece – $330 billion according to PPP figures from the World Bank. California’s GSP was $1,847 billion.

Said GSP, (Gross State Product,) was fully diversified. The housing/real estate/construction/utilities business made up about a quarter of the GSP. The government services, labor and trade made 12 percent of the GSP, apiece. 16 percent of the GSP was made by information services, with Silicon Valley as the flagship, 8 percent for arts and education, with Hollywood as the flagship, 7 percent spent on finances and the remaining 8 percent spent on other services. The collegiate system is what produced the Californian Diversification of the economy.

This model can be best demonstrated by UC Irvine. In 1965 the Irvine Company gave the UC System as much land as they needed, free of charge. Around said land they built housing complexes, shopping malls and similar structures. The students moved in, trailblazing for the city. Soon the city’s property values increased, which led to better schools, thus enriching the community. The Irvine Company made hundreds of millions in property values from their donation and the City of Irvine became a great place to live, enriching Orange County and the rest of California.

Why can’t other countries adopt California’s collegiate system? Instead of building Skolkovo, why not adopt the Master Plan and let Russians build Silikonovaya Dolina, which can later be renamed Skolkovo? It works, and realistically speaking, it is the only system in California that ensures the long term growth of California’s economy, in spite of the inefficiency faced by Californians that’s produced by the government. While California certainly needs Washington and should not secede, (leave that for Texas,) Californians should demand that the Federal Government be at least half as efficient as the State of California when it comes to financial management. What do I mean? According to the 2005 data, California paid $289.6 billion in taxes to Washington and received only $242 billion in Federal spending. A further $45.1 billion was allocated to defense spending. Out of the remaining $196.9 billion, roughly $96.8 billion was spent on Medicaid.

Here I’d like to take a look at America’s extremely inefficient healthcare system. According to the OECD data, the US towers over other countries at healthcare inefficiency, spending a whopping 17.7 percent of their GDP on healthcare. The average is around 10.2 percent, which is also what Japan spends, and the next biggest spender, the Netherlands, spends 11.9 percent.

There’s also the matter of quality of healthcare which in the US is more limited than in places such as Japan or the Netherlands. Thus inefficiency could account from anywhere between a third and half of America’s healthcare spending, and thus California’s spending. With all those figures in mind, let’s compute how much money California wasted in 2005.

In 2005 the GSP of California was $1,629 billion, and 7.5 percent of that is $122.2 billion. (17.7% – 10.2% = 7.5%) Add to this the $47.6 billion difference between the money that California sent to Washington and the money that California received from Washington, and the figure becomes $169.8 billion. If one was to factor in other differences, including military inefficiency, debt interest, social security mismanagement, etc, the figure would probably account anywhere between 15 and 20 percent of California’s economy. That’s between $244.4 billion and $325.8 billion, the latter being more than the GDP of Ukraine.

The lion’s share of the waste lies in healthcare spending, which is what Obamacare was supposed to fix. Sadly, despite having the support of the majority of the American Public, Obamacare became a hostage to the two-party system and utterly failed to meet its goal. Although the quality of healthcare increased under Obamacare, so did the price tag, and the corresponding waste.

The problem with the two-party system is that every single issue gets viewed through a bipolar lens in American politics, often leading to hilarious results. In 2012 the CEO of Chick-Fil-A (CFA) made a comment about Gay Rights, saying that Traditional Marriage FTW, Gay Rights, meh, not really important, or something along those lines. The Democrats exploded with anti-CFA rhetoric. If you went to eat in CFA, you just love oppressing Gay Rights. The Republicans lobbied in favor of CFA, saying that if you love CFA, you love Traditional Marriage Values. It turns out that the CFA made record revenues.  

The Democrats entered panic mode and the Republicans started with the celebrations and cheers of joy. I had a slightly different hypothesis, so I went to CFA, purely for research purposes. There I found absolutely phenomenal service, second to none when it comes to service at a fast food place, which made me wonder: was the whole CFA event over Gay Rights, or was it just people supporting their favorite fast food joint? I’m leaning towards the latter, but that’s not even an option under the two-party system.

With that anecdotal evidence in mind, let’s consider Obamacare. Due to the “quality” of American healthcare service, or rather complete lack thereof, (you can watch the movie, Sicko, which demonstrates this point rather well,) Obamacare had wide ranging support amongst all spectrums of the population. Obama was elected to reforms the inefficiency of the American healthcare system, (not to expand it,) which would, in turn, help the US economy recover faster. The smart play for any party would be to side with the majority of voters and roll through a massive healthcare reform package. That might have happened.

Due to the two-party system, both parties have a big tent ideology, where they vie for support of various groups of voters, even if said voters have nothing in common with one another. For instance the labor union leaders who despise illegal immigration and the Latino voters, who love it, are both parts of the Democratic Party. Similarly, the Family Values group and the Libertarians are both members of the Republican Party, even though they have very little in common. John Kerry is a lot closer to George Bush than he is to Barack Obama, and Chuck Hagel is a lot closer to Obama than he is to Bush, despite party affiliation. Thus, because of this “Big Tent” ideology, the party affiliation does not show the actual support or opposition to the party platform.

As a result of these divisions, the healthcare lobby made devastating precision strikes against Obamacare. The first to hit were the Blue Dogs, members of Obama’s very own political party stabbing him in the back.  This energized the Republican Party to take effective measures against Obamacare, knowing full well that if Obama’s healthcare policy went down in flames, backstabbed by his own party, the Democrats could be devastated in the midterm elections.

Obama and the rest of the Democrats had an out. They should have kicked the Blue Dogs out of the Democratic Party and supported Obamacare with everything they had.  Putin had no trouble purging United Russia when the need arrived, but for some reason Obama bailed out. Seriously, what can one say about a group calling themselves, voluntarily, the “Blue Dogs” whose sole purpose is to serve the corporations over their constituents when it comes to healthcare in America? What should one call them? Corporate Courtesans?

Obama’s failure to effectively challenge the Blue Dogs and the blowback from the Bailout Failures enabled the Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives. The chances of Americans getting quality healthcare that could compete with European efficiency, were defeated with one swift blow. And yet the blows just kept on piling on, blow after blow, until Obamacare became a shadow of its former self and Obama’s legacy, forever tarred.

Currently the Republicans are facing a similar problem on the issues of illegal immigration. When they’re naturalized, former illegal immigrants tend to overwhelmingly support the Democrats. Furthermore the issue of illegal immigration is an issue that could allow the Republicans to crush the Democrats, if they adopt a strong policy on it, since most Americans do not favor illegal immigration.  Illegal immigration is also a drain on the social safety net. In 2010, illegal immigration cost Californians $1.25 billion in unpaid medical bills.

So why is this still going on? Because it provides votes to the Democrats and Republican corporate interests are very much in support of labor that’s dirt cheap and expendable. Who’s more likely to fight for worker rights, an educated citizen or an uneducated illegal immigrant? The Republican Party could lose America to the Democrats if there’s no reform on illegal immigration, but in part because of the two-party system, in part because of corporate interests, there’s little to no movement when it comes to illegal immigration. Ann Coulter wrote a column on an inner party revolt on this issue,  after being one of the few people saying that Cantor’s loss was possible  but the mass media is much more concerned about her idiotic statements when it comes to soccer.

It’s easy to fix the problem of illegal immigration – simply pass a law that says that anyone who provides employment to illegal immigrants will be heavily fined. Problem solved. Instead there are people who profit off of hiring illegal immigrants and then demand that Americans cover the retirement funds of those illegal immigrants.  Maybe they should cover the expenses of the workers who bring them profits on their own and take actual financial responsibility for their actions? Just a thought.

Interestingly enough, California’s direct democracy can be used to counter the corporatists when it comes to illegal immigration, by passing the law mentioned above. Generally speaking, direct democracy has been awesome for California with the people doing a much better job legislating for the state than the legislators, despite the ever present patrician-plebian attitude. For instance, when the Terminator and Moonbeam, (Governors Scwartznegger and Brown,) saw a proposition or two that they didn’t like, they deliberately failed to enforce those propositions. Their parties suffered voter backlash as a result.

The most recent major proposition election was in 2012,  with Californians achieving remarkable results, including:

  1. Stopping the powerful prison lobby’s expansion
  2. Maintaining the balance of power in politics
  3. Funding higher education
  4. Stopping gerrymandering in its tracks
  5. Closing tax loopholes
  6. Demanding that sexual predators register before using online services, although this was later overturned by the courts, thanks to the ACLU’s dutiful protection of the rights of sex offenders. According to the ACLU, when a registered sex offender is unable to participate in online political discussions without revealing his status as a registered sex offender, this amounts to an unconstitutional burden on the free speech and association rights of the sex offender.

Despite that and governors occasionally not doing their jobs, the California proposition process remains a powerful symbol of freedom of choice in California. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than the Californians’ ability to stop the prison lobby in its tracks.

Ironically, the prison lobby had an initial boost when Californians approved the three strikes proposition. But at this time the prison lobby was not yet ready to utilize the Californian boost and ended up overextending themselves, making their activities too large to hide amongst irrelevancy, and thus not subject to help from voter apathy.

In 2012 the Californians had enough of the prison lobby and passed Proposition 36, which limited the incarceration possibilities of nonviolent offenders.  The prison lobby failed to respond, enabling activists all over the United State to launch assaults against them. Make no mistake, incarceration is still a problem in the US, but it’s not increasing as rapidly as it would have, had the California Proposition process not been a huge road bump in their path.

Additionally, California has a precarious balance of power: the unions check the corporations, the college students check the lobbyists, (I’m talking about both undergraduate and graduate students,) the term limits keep the politicians in check, the two major parties try to keep each other in check and the minor parties make sure that the big ones don’t get too cocky. This is a carefully crafted system of checks and balances.

There were not one but two propositions on the ballot funding education, Proposition 30, which Jerry Brown dubbed “Jerry Brown’s Proposition,” (even though the idea was put forth by students and teachers, not necessarily politicians,) and Proposition 38, Prop 30’s not very intelligent cousin. Proposition 30 has a long and proud history, initially proposed by the college students, and eventually promoted by the Democratic Party, when the Democrats realized that Californians were solidly supporting the proposition. It passed with flying colors, after another $121 million was spent on it by both sides. 

At this point you might be wondering what the people in Sacramento are doing. Believe me, I’m also wondering about that. Anyway, Proposition 39 was written to close some of the corporate tax loopholes. It was primarily supported by a hedge fund manager, Thomas Steyer, dubbed California’s Hedge Fund King. Even the hedge fund managers understand that corporate leeching is bad! Needless to say, the proposition easily passed.  

As you’ve no doubt realized, I can go on and on about propositions, so I’ll just go over one more, Proposition 40.  Californians became very tired of gerrymandering and voted to create a special committee that would divide the districts in a fair and equitable manner, taking city and county lines into account, giving them preferential treatment over political boundaries.

The result was a more fair and equitable election system in California, and Proposition 40, which passed by a 72% to 28% margin, ensures that they stay that way. California also has a law where the top two candidates from the primaries advance to the general election, irrespective of party affiliation. I’ve yet to see the political earthquake that the mass media has been predicting as part of our challenge to the two-party system.

How does all of this translate to America’s foreign policy? Most Americans are not very well informed about foreign policy, because the middle class is barely making ends meet, the lower class needs to cut off vital necessities of life just to pay the bills, and the upper class is more focused on the economy, immigration reform and Obamacare than anything else. It’s not that foreign policy is somewhere between Justin Bieber and the LA Clippers for most Americans; it’s that Americans have issues that have to be dealt with, issues that are causing direct harm to the United States, unlike Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which has thus far only caused harm for those in the vicinity of “hot air”.

Add to this the inability to raise a younger generation, since in quite a few families both parents are working, the constant claims about how America is losing ground worldwide, how the more productive sectors of the economy are being overcome with administrative costs, the gridlock of the two-party system, the parties rupturing from within and you have a country in chaos.

Americans are genuinely good people who work hard to make ends meet and love winners. However, because of the two-party system, the party whose president is not in office makes it incumbent upon themselves to make the president look bad, highlighting his every failure, making him look weak, making him look like a loser. Syria provides the best case in point for this: after denying Obama the vote to intervene, Republicans went on talk shows to claim about how weak Obama was. If Putin hadn’t thrown him that lifeline,  Republicans would’ve had even more to hit Obama with during the 2014 midterm elections. BTW, this tactic is not just limited to Republicans, since Kerry tried doing the exact same thing to Bush.

Obama needs a foreign policy success to fight the Republicans on immigration and he’s betting on Ukraine. However, that’s not a very good bet, since no one really controls Ukraine and there’s, realistically speaking, not much that Russia can do to disarm the DonBass Republic. Much like his failed attempt to ride the Arab Spring, riding the Orange Revolution 2.0 is not working out.

Americans are getting tired of hearing bad news from all fronts. Americans need a success somewhere, anywhere. Most Americans are smart enough to understand that success on the Home Front is easier than success abroad, (it’s much easier to vote for a single Proposition fixing illegal immigration than it is to untangle the affairs of Ukraine,) and thus the isolation movement is regaining strength in the US and there’s not much that Washington can do to stop the shift, short of scoring a major victory, which is not going to happen. Washington’s approach to foreign policy produces very interesting results.  

From the article: “As Americans grow increasing averse to expensive and risky actions overseas, so has President Obama.” Recently, Jon Stewart has taken to an isolationist streak as well, which is certainly indicative of a major shift in America’s opinion. Additionally, “Dissatisfaction with President Obama’s conduct of foreign policy has shot up among both Republicans and Democrats.

As the article points out, the problem that’s facing America’s foreign policy planners is “the difference between policy outputs and policy outcomes.  A policy output is, say, the decision to send military advisers into Iraq, or the decision to rule out the use of combat troops there.  A policy outcome is what actually happens on the ground — in the case of Iraq, a worsening sectarian war.  The thing about American foreign policy is that even the best foreign policy outputs do not necessarily translate into the best outcome, because the United States, for all its superpowery-ness, is not actually an omnipotent deity.”  

The problem is that the US government presented America as the World Leader, the nation whose opinion the World trembles for, while failing to properly conduct foreign policy and failing to adapt to a Multipolar World. The result is, ironically the same as the result in Ukraine. The government promised the people something that it cannot provide. This should be very familiar to most Americans, since America’s foreign policy is polling like Obamacare, and the isolationist sentiment is growing.

The American public’s message to the government is simple: “fix your problems at home, first, and then you can go adventuring abroad once again,” or to put it in simpler terms: “finish your homework before you can go out and play!”

In the case of California, it’d be creating a genuine Universal Healthcare, not Obamacare, stopping illegal immigration in its tracks, creating administrative reforms for the collegiate system and reviving the economy through innovation. Americans, just like everyone else, want a comfortable life for their friends and families. The American Dream is to have a house, a spouse, at least two kids, and a dog or cat, while having the ability to go on weekend excursions. It’s NOT to come back victorious from a foreign entanglement, going “yeah baby, we just helped Ukraine’s Oligarchs stay in power!”

 

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1,180 Responses to No Way To Slow Down – America’s Foreign-Policy Dilemma

  1. Fern says:

    PorkChop has not been idle – he’s preparing ‘international legal papers’ to get the Peoples’ Republics recognised as terrorist organisations.
    http://en.ria.ru/politics/20140719/191039621/Ukraine-Prepares-Claims-for-Recognizing-Southeastern-Republics.html

    • Oddlots says:

      Now I get it! “Terrorist” was a “pre-emptive” term a la the Bush Doctrine.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, it’s not hard to see Choppo achieving success in that area – since Frans “I love the gay folk” Timmermans has already signed off on the documents before they are even written, and with Europe a hotbed of Russophobia from jackasses like Carl Bildt and Lady Ashton, I cannot imagine much real resistance, while the American signature is a sure lock – but it is difficult to picture the substantiation since the “terrorists” did not attack anyone before they were themselves attacked (everyone retains the inherent right of self-defense) and have not attacked any Ukrainians or Ukrainian cities outside their own region.

  2. yalensis says:

    Retired General Vladimir Mikhailov proposes theory that the Malaysian airliner was brought down by “air-to-air” (as opposed to “earth-to-air”) missile. Presumably from the accompanying Ukrainian bomber jet (an SU-27). (Mikhailov points out that 2 objects were detected on radar, the Malaysian airliner plus one other object.)

    This theory also fits in with the evidence of Carlos the air traffic controller, and makes sense (except for the whole idea of deliberately shooting down a civilian airliner, which doesn’t make sense).

    Mikhailov also believes that Ukes brought down the plane, assuming (or hoping) that it would crash down on the Russian side of the border. At the speed it was flying, it would have been over Russian territory just 3 minutes later.

    I hadn’t known before that SU’s could launch missiles at another air-borne object, I thought they only bombed objects on the ground.

    • kirill says:

      It’s merely the choice of munitions that are attached. It can carry heavy bombs, air to ground missiles or air to air missiles. Pretty much all fighter jets can do all three jobs but some are designed for ground attack roles and others for attacking other jet fighters.

    • marknesop says:

      Flight-plan software discussed on pilot forums showed another airliner not far behind the Malaysian plane, presumably traveling in the same airlane. They most likely saw something happen, whoever they were. There must be satellite imagery of the missile launch if it occurred from the ground.

      • colliemum says:

        It would be more than astonishing if there were no satellite images of what happened.
        I’m beginning to suspect that the White House knows exactly who fired the missile – and they know also that Moscow knows exactly who did it. That’s why the West is so vague, compared to the ‘proof’ Kerry tried to use last year in regard to the gas attacks in Syria. The WH knows it cannot lie its way out of this, blaming the NAF, because Moscow would put their satellite images on the table for all to see, showing it was the porkchop regime.
        Doesn’t it start looking as if Putin is giving the West more rope with which to hang itself?

  3. colliemum says:

    This is interesting: “Aviation experts were invited by the European Commission to speak to the press. According to the Euractiv report, the analysts told the Commission that no independent sources had so far been able to confirm that the airplane was hit by a missile.”
    http://www.euractiv.com/sections/global-europe/eu-official-downing-malaysia-plane-provides-opportunity-303586
    Some more interesting points are being made by those experts as to who is responsible for air security over the Ukraine further down in that article.
    Btw – Euractiv is definitely not a Russian propaganda organ …

    • Al says:

      That’s a really good find. All the headlines from google news aggregator are repeating the same thing, i.e. quoting verbatim what Kiev says.

      It looks like ‘Europe’, so that’s the Dutch, Germans etc. will not allow themselves to be bumped in to quick action at the behest of either Washington or Kiev because they know it would be a one way street.

      As for much bigger sanctions being used against Russia with little effect at home, this is simply not true. The international markets are extremely jumpy, major american companies don’t want trouble, European companies (Danone for example) who have a major presence in Russia have already been hit heavily in their profits in Russia which makes it much harder to cover a flat/negative European market. Throw in to this that the European economy is still extremely fragile and many German companies have also publicly said they do not want this, then we see the Euros doing the minimum possible that Kiev and Washington are trying to force them to do.

      So what is Washington thinking, that Moscow will drop to its knees and beg for mercy? This is not the 1990s, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Washington. I suspect though that the Obama administration is trying to balance looking strong enough to shrug off Republicans like Fruitcake McCain, but not so strong that things unravel quickly and out of their control.

      Clearly Kiev is throwing absolutely anything it can to try and force a western intervention, however ridiculous. This is exactly what happened in Sarajevo in the early days, expecting the American cavalry to ride to the rescue. Ideally, I would imagine, Kiev would want direct military supplies from the US/NATO and a no fly zone+air strikes directed by Right Sektor. As if.

      I think a reasonable interpretation is that the US cannot afford to be sucked in to this in that way because so far all the cost are strictly Eruopean with the US making lots of noise but not ponying up anything substantial. If the US get in, then like the EU, it will own what it breaks and will not be able to walk away from the consequences.

      Yet again, and I will keep on repeating this basic point over and over again, we’ve seen much noise, but very little action. This means that despite the psychotic media reporting and diatribes by top US and other officials, they know perfectly well that it can all go wrong very quickly and very easily in a way that will be out of the control of anybody.

      This leads me to the view that the West will demand Russia stabs the rebels in the back, with it all monitored and verified by western security services and leave Kiev’s fascist death squads to mop up. (Most of) the ‘free and democratic western media’ will simply continue to turn a blind eye to massacres and targeting of civilians.

      • astabada says:

        If the US get in, then like the EU, it will own what it breaks and will not be able to walk away from the consequences.

        I am afraid we disagree once again. I think the US and EU are specialists in breaking and then disavowing the result: be it Congo or Somalia, Libya or Iraq, they have proven to be capable of precipitating chaos and then abandoning their allies to their fate (think about Desert Storm in 1991 and Saddam’s enemies, which the US encouraged to revolt against him and then rather happily forgot).

        However the case of post 2003 Iraq demonstrated that the USA cannot destroy a country and abandon it, if that country is close to a powerful enemy (in this case Iran). Iran reached out to the people the USA had destroyed and turned them into his allies.

        If the USA were to successfully help Wonkashenko in subduing the Eastern Ukraine, they would alienate its population even more, preparing the ground for a future reversal. Their allies (the junta) have zero popular support in the contested areas. They are bound to either lose the war or to resort to war crimes (one does not exclude the other though). After the war is either lost (like in Syria) or won (like in Iraq), the subsequent situation will be fertile (in the long run) for further Russian influence in the region.

        • Al says:

          I much prefer reasoned disagreement here on the Kremlin Stooge. We are a broad church are we not?

          So far the EU totally owns this and will have to pay up if Russia doesn’t, far more than the US. Are they both responsible and up to their necks in other peoples blood? Of course, but I still don’t think the US wants to ship back thousands of troops and hardware in serious numbers permanently and would rather do it on the cheap with the EU picking up the tab. The bean counters are still there behind the facade. The books need to be balanced or they will be balanced ‘involuntarily’.

          Which reminds me. I saw a post recently about how Lockheed Martin specifically set up its F-35 industrial base in as many US states as possible to buy political favor and make the program un-killable and still it works. It’s the same as the post war military-industrial-complex set up but since the 1990s there have been significant rationalisations/mergers/takeovers in the defense business with larger companies chasing less business, at least until 9/11.

  4. Paul says:

    ‘No way to slow down’ is the title of this thread – highly appropriate. Comments have slowed down horribly, as there are so many. Time for a new thread.

    • kirill says:

      I installed ad block plus on firefox and the old problem of horrible load times has gone. So it is some sort of ad server overhead from all the youtube links that is responsible.

      • Al says:

        Or use ‘click to play’ extensions for you browser so that youtube and other media links only load on your command.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I’m part-way though a new post and am just trying to tear myself away long enough to work on it.

  5. astabada says:

    It seems that while people were busy discussing who shot down the airliner, the Petro Wonkashenko was busy bombing residential areas in Lugansk.

    Cui prodest?

  6. Fern says:

    I’ll wager no-one knew that Pussy Riot were aviation experts. No, me neither but apparently the Guardian rates them as such since it’s published an article by one of their number claiming that Russian media is complicit in Putin’s shooting down of MH17. And they know, they just know, because they’re experts in the field that Russia is to blame.
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/19/russian-media-cover-up-putin-mh17-tragedy

    • yalensis says:

      This comment to the Pussy version of events, gives the best and most succinct “case for the defense” I have seen. The commenter is named Robert Sandlin, and his comment is dated 19 July 2:11 PM:

      So lets see it then.They aren’t producing that evidence because they can’t it doesn’t exist.All the smoking gun evidence is pointing to Kiev.If the media was doing its job in the West it would be asking hard questions of Kiev.But it has turned into the very propaganda tool that this article accuses the Russian media of being.

      Question one for the media to ask.How did Kiev know a day before the shoot down that it happened.Kiev posted a video that accused the Federalists of shooting the plane down.But it was made the day before the shoot down.If that wouldn’t convict Kiev in any murder trial in Europe or America I don’t know what would.Only the criminal would know the crime ahead of it happening.Yet I see the media here daring to show that video as proof against the Federalists.Without even asking the question of the date.Its totally outrageous.
      Next question.Why is the Kiev Junta lying about having Buks in the area.There are videos from early July showing them stationed there.Another smoking gun.Why would they lie about having that weapon there unless they have something to hide.And why isn’t our media calling them on it.If I saw the video,it isn’t a secret the media wouldn’t know about.
      Next question.Why does only Russia report their monitoring shows the Ukrainian Buk in the area turned their Radar on just before the shoot down.If that’s not true.The NATO authorities,that I’m sure could also have picked that signal up,could deny it,with proof.Yet they don’t,why? Was it because its true.And if so why did they do it.
      Next question.Why were Kiev jets traveling near the plane less than 3 minutes before the shoot down.Reported by witnesses on the ground.And by a traffic controller in Kiev.Why were they there,what did they see or do.Since they are happy when they can accuse the Federalists of anything.Why not talk about what their jets saw.What are they hiding,that they refuse to even mention they were there.
      Next question.Why did Kiev change the route of the plane to pass over that area.They claimed because of weather problems.But weather experts reported that wasn’t true.So why route that particular plane at that time over the war zone.Another question the media needs to ask.
      Next and last question,and one of the most important.Why is a Spanish traffic controller that was working for Kiev air control.Tweeting right after the shoot down that it was done by Kiev,not the Federalists.Not one Tweet but a string of them at that time accusing Kiev.And now his account is shutdown,and he was expelled from Ukraine under death threats.Why is only Russian media interviewing him.That should be a huge story in itself.
      When this tragedy happened.While believing it a tragic mistake.I thought it might have been done by the side I believe to be in the right.And I was very sad about them making that kind of mistake.But as more and more evidence comes out,it points away from them and at Kiev.The media needs to react honestly and start trying to get answers to who really did this.And if not a tragic mistake,why was it done.

      • cartman says:

        Ugh. The Guardian’s gone crazy trying to fill the void with nonsense.

        I do wish people would stop using the timestamp as evidence because machines can produce the wrong date and time.

        The inconsistencies in Kiev’s claims about whether or not they even have Buks is very suspicious. They would definitely have them in the war zone if they thought there was a risk of war with Russia.

  7. Al says:

    Thanks to colliemum, I looked at euractiv again and can follow up on my previous post ( https://marknesop.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/no-way-to-slow-down-americas-foreign-policy-dilemma/#comment-66079 ) about who will be the next EU foreign policy spokesmouth (Mogherini) and that the EPP got their center right Juncker and the EU will go for balance and the post shoudl go to a socialist/leftist person. The updated piece says:

    Poland, Baltic states hesitant over Mogherini
    http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-elections-2014/poland-baltic-states-hesitant-over-mogherini-303472

    “…An EU diplomat in Brussels, reflecting the mood among central and east European countries, said: “We need someone with gravitas. Mogherini is not that person. She is a repetition of Ashton. And we need someone else. She lacks experience.”

    However, the misgivings were unlikely to result in her candidacy being blocked, diplomats said, asking not to be named….”
    —–

    They’re like pigs a the trough. It’s not enough for their candidate to get the top job, they want it all. How very un-European of them!

    • colliemum says:

      Pigs at the trough is right – that’s why we call them ‘troughers’, for short.
      The horse trading going is is amazing, but at least Mr Sikorski won’t get the job he desired, replacing Baroness Ashton. not so much because of his gaffes, but because he’s not wearing a skirt. The newly crowned President, Mr Juncker, actually told PM Cameron to refrain from sending a male candidate for a commissioner’s post … gender trumps everything in the modern, vibrant, ever-closer-union EU.

      • Al says:

        And they’ve gone for Jens ‘Placid is not just a lake in the state of New York’ Stoltenberg to replace arch NATO dogpile Rasmussen as the next head of NATO. The irony that after all the rabid, russophobia spitting of the Rasmussen and then going for Stoltenberg speaks volumes. They could easily gone for someone equal or worse that Rasmussen but they didn’t. Is that an actual acceptance that Russia is back on the bloc???

  8. Al says:

    Pepe Escobar on the Asia Times Online website:

    It was Putin’s missile!
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-190714.html
    #####

    Here’s a thought – what if it was a Uke radar that provided ultimate guidance for a rebel launched missile at the fighters that Carlos of Spainbuca twitter feed * wrote had been close to MH17? Is such a missile once launched linked uniquely to the original illuminating radar? I have no idea but it would be quite…. elegant.

    * Carlos, Carlos, Where the f@#k is Carlos? Is he being held incommunicado by Kiev’s SBU or some western security agency. It is very, very weird that we have heard nothing since.

    • Jen says:

      Carlos is that Spanish air traffic controller guy in Kyiv who was stood down. All his original tweets about the Banderista fighter jets trailing MH-17 have been removed.

  9. marknesop says:

    Here’s Sammy Power, incandescent with righteous fury at the UN, summarizing “what we know from the evidence”.

    1. “I” stands for “Infant”. Kissing babies is just good politics – dead babies? Ditto.
    2. The Malaysian flight was probably downed by an SA-11 Surface-to-Air missile.
    3. The system that fired the missile was operated from a “separatist-held location”.
    4. The rebels not only have MANPADS, they are known to have the SA-8 and SA-13 as well as the guilty SA-11 Buk system.
    5. A western reporter spotted an SA-11 system near Schnizne recently, and “separatists” were spotted hours before the incident with an SA-11 system in the vicinity of where the plane crashed.
    6. Rebels – excuse me, “separatists” – claimed credit for downing a plane and then hurriedly deleted their triumphant announcements.
    7. Because the system is complex, “separatists” could not likely have operated it without Russian technical assistance, so the Russians are on the hook for the crash, the murderers. Don’t forget – “I” stands for infant!!
    8. The Ukrainians have the SA-11 (damagecontroldamagecontrol) but no western reporters reported seeing any Ukie systems in the area before the crash and the highly-disciplined Ukies have not fired a single surface-to-air missile in this war even though the Russians violate their airspace routinely.
    9. This kind of thing is just what “separatists” do. They shot down a Ukrainian transport plane, apparently with a MANPADS although obviously they have vehicle-mounted Air Defence systems practically falling out their asses, and right after Poroshenko The Saint announced a unilateral cease-fire, the traitorous dogs shot down a Ukie helicopter, killing 9.
    10. Russia will likely try to destroy all the evidence, so we must rush to judgment before they can succeed.

    I have to say, western reporters are getting awfully good at identifying vehicle-mounted Air Defence systems by sight, and apparently have no trouble discerning the SA-11 from other vehicle-mounted systems which would be unable to reach an airliner at altitude. Not to mention being able to tell a “separatist” system from a Ukie system.

  10. yalensis says:

    A couple more interesting pieces analyzing the airline crash.
    Pepe goes at it here , and makes a lot of points. He analyzes Carlos tweets, and comes to conclusion that the missile was fired on the orders of Uke Ministry of Interior, NOT Ministry of Defense. Supposedly that was Carlos conclusion too.

    And there is this piece which also makes some analysis.

    • marknesop says:

      The plane shown with its right wing root on fire is not a Boeing airliner; it’s a turboprop aircraft that is likely the disputed AN-26. But it’s hard to establish to evidential standards where and when that video clip was made. Not impossible; just hard. It is possible two aircraft were actually shot down – but if so, where’s the wreckage of the AN-26?

  11. ThatJ says:

    So this is how the British media, left, right, center and ‘independent’ (lol), see the downing of the airliner:

    The Mind-Benders is an analysis of the media power in Great Britain. Written in 1997, it details how (and why) the information we receive via the media is censored and distorted. If we are to avoid insidious totalitarianism we must be aware of the enormous control over every form of mass media the Jews possess and – in any democratic society under such powerful influences – who are the real manipulators of political power.
    http://heretical.com/British/mindbend/index.html

    Meanwhile in Gaza…

  12. cartman says:

    Polish howitzers complete with staff are being unloaded in the port of Odessa?

    http://centerkor-ua.org/novosti/item/1251-polsha-vstupaet-v-vojnu-na-ukraine.html

    • marknesop says:

      And yet everything Russia does or is accused of doing in this situation is billed as “escalation” and “ratcheting up the tension”.

      Everybody knows this artillery would not last an hour if Russia intervened in strength. And this is what they want. But I’m not sure for how much longer Russia can put up with this constant tweaking of its nose as NATO tries to make it fight. Eventually NATO will just say screw it, let’s attack them. And by that time they could have considerable military equipment in Ukraine, if they’re just going to keep going like this.

      A possible compromise is for Russia to seriously start smuggling weapons to the rebels and help them out. If NATO wants a proxy war, they can have it, as the sides are looking more evenly matched now.

      • pinky_pie says:

        I personally don’t think any manner of real “war” can start or is desired by NATO/US (and obviously not by Russia), what with all the nukes Russia has. If US/NATO wanted to attack Russia at all they would not need any specific incident to start it, they’d just start shooting. In the real world, however, there’s the MAD and so “everyone’s keeping calm like an elephant” in matters of pushing those inviting red buttons. What we actually see now in Ukraine is West trying to pile up more “pressure” on Russia, that’s it. They are not going to war and they know it, and Vlad knows that all too well.

        As I see it, the only reason Russia isn’t smuggling heavy weapons to federalists or why it isn’t establishing a no-fly zone over Donbass is that Vlad doesn’t want to get involved politically and economically. Strange as it sounds, Russia still isn’t involved in Eastern Ukraine crisis directly (Crimea is a whole different story and the world knows that all too well). And Putin would very much like it to stay that way. It’s no problem for him to order arming the federalists, he can even go public about it like the US about arming Syrian rebels, but he considers the costs too high – yet again that’s the only reason the Ukies are not yet put squarely into dirt by Russian forces or federalist forces having enough powerful Russian weapons. I guess what Putin fears (doesn’t want more likely, of course) the most is to be dragged into owning the result of this Ukrainean mess like US in Iraq and Afghanistan. He just imagines the costs of rebuilding even a tiny region of Ukraine and understands that Russia can not really afford it financially right now. Well, it actually can but Russian budget will have to be severely slashed somehow and that would definately result in loss of popularity back at home – surely the last thing Vlad wants. As of now he can turn the blind eye at any moment and say – you started it, bail them out as much as you want, I’m going fishing. If he gets involved he won’t be able to say that.

        • marknesop says:

          This is certainly plausible, but I have lost confidence in western strategists – at least in those who have their leaders’ ears – to be rational. It is also entirely possible, therefore, that this demographic believes it has hit upon a way to bring Russia to war without it going nuclear. That’s the only way the USA would be directly hurt by a European war, which would otherwise come up roses for America in much the same way it was the only major western country left undamaged after WW II, where it took firm control at Bretton Woods and got its own currency into the spotlight as the world’s reserve while scoring a major boon for American know-how in rebuilding.

          The west has a well-established history for staging deliberate provocations to try to draw a violent reaction which will escalate rapidly to a major military conflict – remember the Israeli missile drill they threw into the middle of the incredibly tense standoff with Syria, in which the USA had announced its intentions to carry out a cruise missile strike to “decapitate the Syrian leadership” and the Med was full of warships?

          There is a strong possibility this is another such provocation, but with an obviously escalatory element – almost 300 dead civilians who had nothing whatsoever to do with the conflict, perhaps sacrificed as pawns in the Great Game. That is likely why the vociferous denials and the painstaking forging of damning evidence that Russia did it. It is well known that this is the most unlikely possibility of three, and in ordinary circumstances the effort would focus on whether the Ukrainian army or the rebels did it. But Kiev is portraying Russia as Suspect Number One, and the west is letting it.

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