March 26, 2014
On the 14th of March I Tweeted "1) The Malaysian government is totally incompetent. 2) Either the pilot or co-pilot did it, probably..." At various times since then the pilots theory has been debunked and thrown out. Now, however, the Daily Mail reveals that the pilot had unresolvable marital problems. A motive for doing himself in. It's not quite absolute proof, not yet, but I'm reasonably certain it's the real explanation. Note that neither the BBC nor the New York Times have picked up this story, more than 12 hours after it was first reported. I guess for them the Daily Mail is too déclassé. Eventually, once they've triple checked their grammar, spelling, sources — and lawyers — they'll have the story too...
March 25, 2014
Another day, another intercept. This story is not from the shady interwebs but from the U.S. government's RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty). In other words, legit news. Presumably again originating from the Russian Secret Service, posted on YouTube, this time the intercept is of Yulia Tymoshenko (on Twitter she's admitted the phone call is real). She's talking with the former deputy secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Nestor Shufrych. In the conversation Yulia says, "Screw it, we should take up arms and kill the goddamned katsaps" — that would be derogatory Ukrainian slang for Russians — "along with their leader." Oh, OK... This is a nice group for the U.S. to back, I don't think...
March 16, 2014
Americans against war should know that Washington's neoconservatives are busily fanning the flames of a confrontation with Russia over Ukraine.  But there's more than this to the story. A different, also somewhat behind-the-scenes group passionately believes that the breakup of the Soviet Union didn't go far enough, that Russia itself must be ripped to shreds.  Motivations for pursuing a scorched earth objective vary widely, from an inherited ethnocentric hatred to ideological fervor to plain old greed, but for descriptive purposes we may label such true believers the neoliberals. At the moment they are ascendant.
March 8, 2014
As we ratchet up sanctions and further threats of sanctions against Russia it might be heuristically helpful to think about how the U.S. government's escalatory algorithm works. Most substantive content in U.S. demands will come from the Department of State. Within State, the European Bureau produces most of the grist for the mill, supervised by the Undersecretary for Political Affairs, the Deputy Secretary of State and, to some extent, the Office of Policy Planning. Other players at State could add to the mix, as could staff at the NSC, possibly Treasury, and possibly a few other agencies, but most actionable items first will run through the State Department's ordinary chain of command — in this case dominated by the European Bureau — up to John Kerry.
March 6, 2014
Normally, once the government of the United States embarks on a course of sanctions it's almost impossible to remove the sanctions short of complete capitulation by the target. Normally, however, the target is some small, relatively impotent state that the U.S. is happy to slap around until they see things our way. Given that Russia is not at all a typical specimen things just might work out differently. But make no mistake about it: the U.S. is taking an extremely serious step. A major escalation. Expect an unfriendly Russian response, possibly to include the recall of Russia's Ambassador to Washington, the forced deportation (declaring them persona non grata) of a group of U.S. diplomats from Moscow, and various Russian military mobilizations. Ukraine is quickly becoming, as Steve Cohen warned so presciently, the front line of a new Cold War.
March 5, 2014
Recently — indeed, for weeks — I'd been having trouble with distortion in my recordings. The signal from my microphone had developed issues and just wasn't clear enough. Since I'd had two preamplifiers go bad on me I was inclined to suspect my relatively new preamp had in turn gone bad but I thought that to be sure I should trouble-shoot my set-up before taking the drastic step of sending any gear back to the manufacturer for bench testing.
Another intercept. Perhaps because it's not of a U.S. official it hasn't yet gotten either the proper amount of attention from the public at large or any comment from western officials. So, allegedly at Maidan it was the same snipers, using the same bullets, who shot both police and activists at the same time. If true, a classic provocation. One wonders, would that have been a home-grown nationalist thug or a paid agent? Nice intercepts, again — I keenly look forward to further installments.
March 1, 2014
The first, of course, was trying to pull a fast one with a "democracy movement" consisting of a mob that included a significant number of nationalist thugs. When things went south the second was not to have a defensive rhetorical position wherein diplomatically we agreed with Russian concerns about said mob and therefore about the problematic political legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government. (Agreeing that the new Ukrainian government should be more inclusive would have been relatively easy.) The third, making ever more strident claims while adding vague threats. Yet to occur but now reasonably predictable, further steps to actualize said threats, thus forcing a showdown with Russia, with Mr. Putin personally, and also, by the way, with many European allies. Unpredictable consequences abound. This is what you get when the chief qualification of those in office, from Mr. Obama through most of his senior national security staff, amounts to scarcely more than having the greatest ambition in the room... There's nobody adult enough in the White House to turn this thing around — they'll just have to learn about reality the hard way.