03 March 2014
Update from the Heartland
24.2.14 – 2.3.14
The follow-up news items:
-- With the European Union, the United States and the world, for that matter, focused on the Ukraine at the moment, the PRC took another stab at the Senkaku Islands dispute [567, 574, 580, 582, 624]. On Friday, 21.February, they sent a People's Liberation Army Air Force, Tu-154 electronic warfare aircraft, and a State Oceanic Administration, Y-12 utility aircraft into the Japanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) simultaneously, without notification. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled F-15J fighters to intercept the intruders. Given the configuration of the intruders, the PRC mission was probably a signals intelligence collection operation to characterize the Japanese response. We have the prospect of many more provocations by the PRC, it seems to me.
“Edward Snowden's Moral Courage”
by Chris Hedges
Truthdig | Op-Ed
Published: Monday, 24 February 2014; 09:43
Hedges offers us noble words. To be frank, I would like to agree with his words. Yet, I find myself unable to do so. In fact, I must respectfully disagree. Moral courage . . . I must raise the bullshit flag.
Taken at the philosophical or intellectual level, there is a point to be made with the implications by the disclosures by that fugitive in asylum in Russia. The intellectual debate regarding the USG’s, and specifically the NSA’s, intelligence collection activities certainly can and should be a matter of public debate in a free society. If we are to believe the claims of that fugitive from justice, the NSA has been walking a very fine line, pressing their legal authority right to the precipice, and challenging our individual, fundamental, right to privacy as well as our freedom from governmental intrusion.
My objections and rejection grow from his methods. I certainly appreciate his prima facie whistleblower motivation; he apparently believed the NSA was acting beyond its authority under the Constitution and the law. However, his methods of confronting that perceived illegality were wrong in the worst possible way. The fugitive in Russia used his trusted position inside the NSA to hack into compartmented folders to collect documents he believed demonstrated his assessment. He set himself up as the ultimate judge. He had no way on God’s little green earth of placing any (if not ALL) of those documents into context, or understanding (perhaps not even aware of) the legal basis of the NSA’s electronic surveillance intelligence work. If he had used different methods, taken a different path, I might actually be defending him as a patriot, standing up to the man, uncovering wrongdoing in the federal government. He chose the traitor’s path. I must condemn his betrayal of this Grand Republic. I advocate for his prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, if for no other reason than to discourage other potential whistleblowers from choosing the wrong path. That fugitive in Russia has not made us safer or freer. In fact, his egocentric, ill-informed, unilateral actions have done quite the opposite.
Chris Hedges only saw the superficial, idealistic façade, rather than the root threat of the actions taken by that fugitive in Russia. The rationalization portrayed in Hedges’ opinion has its own implications on the functioning of the Intelligence Community of this Grand Republic and consequently on our national security.
The eyes of the world have been on the Republic of Ukraine for several weeks now. After weeks of protest and bloodshed, President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych fled the country to take refuge in Russia. Fortunately, imprisoned, former, prime minister Yulia Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko was released from political incarceration. Speaking from Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovych claimed he was still president and demanded the country must remain united. After the Yanukovych departure, the chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament Oleksandr Valentynovych Turchynov was elected acting president of the troubled country, caught between Russia to the east and Europe to the west. Then, as if the political turmoil and struggle was not enough, President Vladimir Putin decided to throw his oar in the water, ordering Russian troops in the Crimea to seize two airports outside the large Black Sea Fleet naval base at Sevastopol. The Russian troops and their supporting vehicles had their identification markings removed, as if that might lessen the seriousness of the armed incursion. The Ukraine and Russia have a long and contentious relationship over many centuries. During World War II, many Ukrainians fought for and aided the Germans against the Russians. In 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR transferred the Crimea by decree from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian SSR, as a “gift” for Ukrainian support of the Soviet Union. I suspect the Russians feel their warm water naval base is threatened, or perhaps the ethnic Russians in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine feel this is the time to break up the country along those ethnic lines. It seems to me we have seen these justifications for war before. Then, Putin requested permission (as if he needed it) to use armed force in Ukraine, if he believed it was needed; the Federal Assembly voted unanimously to grant him that authority. As with the Russian 2008 invasion of Georgia, the European Union and the United States can do little to defend the sovereignty of the Ukraine; in fact, no one has much leverage over the Russians. I am reminded of the extraordinary action of Prime Minister Churchill in 1945, as victory over Germany was inevitable and Russian tyranny over Eastern Europe took on all too real dimensions. Churchill ordered the Imperial General Staff to plan Operation UNTHINKABLE – the liberation of Eastern Europe by force of arms. Clearly, the plan was never executed, but it exemplifies the West’s perception of the Russian propensity for domination. We cannot know how this will turn out. We can do little to assist them in their journey to freedom. We can only hope they are able to find their way to the light of freedom they deserve, as all human beings deserve. Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Kiev on this coming Tuesday to show support for the Ukrainian people. Hopefully, armed conflict can be avoided and some peaceful solution achieved. A repeat of 1945 is simply not acceptable, and we collectively must find a way to achieve peace.
We have another state constitutional amendment declared unconstitutional for blatant discrimination against non-heterosexual citizens -- De Leon v. Perry [USDC TX WD SAD Case 5:13-cv-00982-OLG (2014)]. Judge Orlando Luis Garcia of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, in San Antonio, wrote, “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution.” This is precisely the bottom-line in this debate. The government has NO place behind the front door and especially in the bedroom of citizens.
Arizona Governor Janice Kay “Jan” Brewer vetoed the state’s latest discrimination bill passed by the legislature in the guise of religious freedom (SB 1062). Finally, some semblance of sanity has come to a socially conservative state.
News from the economic front:
-- The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index increased 11.3% in 4Q2013, compared to a year earlier. An index of existing home prices in 20 major metropolitan areas rose 13.4%. Home prices posted their largest annual gain since 2005, amid a frenzy of sales activity, low mortgage rates, and reduced inventories during the first half of the year.
The Commerce Department reported new single-family home sales rose 9.6%, reaching their highest level since July 2008 – a long stretch of weakness in the housing sector. I hope we are not creating yet another real estate bubble.
Comments and contributions from Update no.636:
Comment to the Blog:
“Perhaps the Spanish (in re Gibraltar) really are not trying to re-write history. Maybe they just want to begin a new chapter after three centuries.
“Charles Lane, in your linked article on marijuana legalization, ignores factors other than the “War on Drugs” that might have reduced marijuana use and arrests. I include demographics. The Baby Boom generation has aged. Some of us have quit using illicit drugs, and many others by now have learned to avoid arrest. He also argues with himself in the next-to-last paragraph by stating that, “The case for decriminalizing pot is strong . . .” In the end, he leads himself astray.
“Perhaps it's just the attitude I inherited from my father, but I do not see rising household debt as a positive thing. When will we learn that credit is not money?
“Speaking of credit, I see no surprise in the Ukraine's dropping debt rating. That's bound to happen when a government is overthrown, regardless of reason.
“I rejoice that more bankers stand to do time in the LIBOR mess.”
My response to the Blog:
Re: Gibraltar. As I understand history, the British are not easily intimidated and do not take kindly to those who seek to do so. Further challenges to British sovereignty will not end well for Spain. Gibraltar is NOT Hong Kong.
Re: Lane. There are numerous conflicts in Lane’s opinion. From my perspective, he has not spent much time really thinking things through. Decriminalization has the least chance for success. Legalization will not be much better. Neither of those governmental actions can deal with the criminal sub-culture that has evolved over decades to supply demand or address the paramount public domain objective of eliminating the collateral damage. Frankly, I am NOT in favor of simple decriminalization. I think the lower level actions are meant to be self-fulfilling prophecies – see, I told you so; legalization made it worse; we need to go back to the war on drugs and we need the death penalty for possession.
Re: household debt. You are spot on. Increasing household debt is not a positive thing. It does suggest increased economic confidence. Household debt is like national debt but worse. Households cannot print money – legally.
Re: Ukraine. Nope, no surprise whatsoever. I’m puzzled that the country’s credit rating is as high as it is . . . perhaps an indication of the capacity potential of the country.
Re: LIBOR. Ditto! I’m encouraged by Green’s statement there are more to come. Those criminal bankers are no better than Bernie Madoff or Bob Stanford. None of them should be allowed to enjoy one berry of the fruits of their crimes. So, to David Green and the other prosecutors of these banker criminals I say, godspeed and following winds.
My very best wishes to all. Take care of yourselves and each other.