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Intermittent Notes

February 2014

February 19, 2014

Kievan hooliganWords matter. So do actions. When U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says, as he did Wednesday, that "[t]he fact of the matter is we have made very clear to the Ukrainian government that it is their responsibility to allow for people (to) protest," and that "[w]e consistently oppose any of the violence by all sides, but the responsibility is on the government to pull back its riot police, to call a truce and to engage in a meaningful discussion with the opposition about the way forward," then White House words lose all meaningful context except perhaps as a vector of what the administration wishes were reality. To understand just how far such words may ring hollow it is helpful to read (or reread) the CIA's internal history of its 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.† Where such a complete mismatch exists between official rhetoric about peaceful, non-violent protests and actual, premeditated violence, as is true for Ukraine today, it's only natural to wonder whether American rhetoric may be a smokescreen for agents operating to instigate violence.

Continue reading "Violence and Non-violence"...

February 16, 2014

Out of body visionThe National Science Foundation undertakes regular surveys of American adults to assess the nation's general scientific level of knowledge. One result, quite consistent over the years, is that about one quarter of American adults think the sun orbits the earth. Which raises a vexing question: Is it reasonable to suppose that an individual who thinks the sun orbits the earth is capable of making their own political decisions? Or of participating meaningfully in elections? And one wonders, to what extent does this group, fully one quarter of our population, badly skew every other type of polling? Whenever we talk about what "Americans" really want we should keep the NSF results in mind...

February 14, 2014

February 9, 2014

Old photo, Fifth Avenue in snowVictoria Nuland's gaffe is not quite what it seems. NBC, for example, trotted out former Secretary of State Colin Powell to murmer some platitudes about how senior officials should be careful about who might be listening to their phone conversations. The State Department itself called the leaked recording a new low in Russian tradecraft. But all this is preposterous. Of course Victoria Nuland, who has occupied many senior positions at the State Department, knew who was listening to her. What she couldn't imagine was that the Russians might make her conversation public. And of course the Russians don't care whether or not Nuland gets egg on her face. They only want to nudge the State Department into more normal behavior. Let me explain.

Continue reading "A Lovely Intercept"...

February 4, 2014

Nose on parchmentHere's a reordering of our schedule. This Friday, so I can get it out of my system, my guest is Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist, who last week published a most excellent ebook, The Snowden Operation (99¢ at Amazon). The week following, Friday, February 14th, my guest will be Dr. Nicolai Petro, currently on a Fulbright scholar grant in Odessa, talking about the Ukrainian crisis. The opinions he expresses are his own and not those of the U.S. State Department or the Fulbright Program. But he is right as rain. Then, the show I had previously planned for this week and well worth waiting for, on Friday, February 21st, my guest will be Dr. Bill Bengston, talking about his research on and experience with the energy cure. Another entry from the strange but true — and definitely useful — files. Enjoy!