Russia’s Vladimir Putin is on quite a run in 2014. His country just finished hosting the successful Sochi Winter Olympics. No sooner than Mischa the bear left the stadium, Putin dispatched 16,000 troops in unmarked uniforms to take the strategic Crimean peninsula, which belongs to neighboring Ukraine. Putin’s troops took their prize without firing a shot, and while the surprised U.S. and EU have scrambled for a response, Putin has consolidated his hold on Crimea in two ways. One, he has sent in more troops — as many as 30,000, along with helicopters and armored vehicles — to warn off the weak Ukrainian army against any attack. Two, Crimea’s parliament voted unanimously to break off from Ukraine and formally join Russia. Putin has a third move in the works, which is as purely a Soviet move as he as ever made during either of his reigns in the Kremlin. Crimea will have a referendum on the question of joining Russia. The ballot that will be used on March 16 for that vote offers voters two choices — yes now, or yes later. There is no “no” available, even if Crimea’s majority ethic Russians should want it. So the outcome of that vote is a done deal unless Putin is somehow forced to force a ballot change, and that doesn’t seem likely.
On Monday, Putin will strike right at the heart of American prestige and security. Exiled NSA leaker Edward Snowden will address SXSW 2014 in Austin from wherever Putin is protecting/holding him in Russia. Snowden’s address by web video link is already controversial enough that Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) wants SXSW to uninvite him. That doesn’t seem any more likely than anyone forcing a ballot change in Crimea.
While probably only Snowden knows what he will say on Monday, the content of his address may not matter a lot. The mere fact of his address is another knife twisted into President Barack Obama’s side. Snowden fled the United States after leaking a massive amount of information regarding the Obama administration’s surveillance of Americans’ online and cell phone activities in the name of stopping terrorists. The Obama administration tried in vain to catch him, and then when he arrived in Russia, petitioned Putin to hand him over to American authorities. That has not happened, obviously. Putin granted Snowden a year’s asylum in Russia. Meanwhile, the massive American surveillance effort missed signs that Putin was about to invade Crimea. That’s a pretty big miss.
Now, as Putin ignores the West over Crimea, Snowden will address SXSW and, via video streams, the rest of the world. Given Russia’s massive surveillance state, it is clear that Snowden’s address is not only known to Putin, but has been sanctioned by him. Snowden thus becomes, through Monday’s address, yet another unmistakable snub to Obama. Putin is saying to Obama, “Here’s your most wanted man. I have him. And I am letting him speak to your people in the heart of your country.” There’s no getting around the symbolism. Obama has the choice to look impotent, or try shutting Snowden’s feed down, and look tyrannical. Either way, Putin wins.
The question ahead of Monday is, does Snowden understand that he is being used against the United States by a strongman whose own surveillance state is even worse than ours? Does he understand that he is being made a puppet for Putin? If he doesn’t understand that, then his is a naif and a fool. If he does, then he has truly become an agent of our geopoligical foe and an enemy of the American people. Either way, while some of his leaks have been good for the cause of disclosure and rolling back our overpowering government, ultimately Edward Snowden is no hero at all.
As great as it can be to be a conservative at CPAC, it tends to be a weekend of preaching to the choir. Well, that, and getting smeared by the dishonest media.
Media could just as easily stroll around Austin this weekend and mock the self-important, the hipster, the thousands upon thousands of conventioneers who occupy every couch, beanbag, stool and crevice to do exactly what they would be doing if they were at home — namely, burying their heads in their laptops and shutting out the rest of the world. If you’re looking for stereotypes, the city and SXSW are full of them — the non-conformist who wears the same little porkpie hat that every other non-conformist wears, the anti-corporate type checking into Facebook on his iPhone or Galaxy, the libertarian start-up dreamer who espouses every single anti-business leftwing trope known to humanity. They’re all here.
But so are the corporations.
And the networks.
Seth Meyers’ booth/tent lets you rent bikes to get around town, which is pretty helpful. SXSW has brought a couple hundred thousand extra people here, and the roads aren’t even built to handle Austin’s normal traffic. Parking is insane. A free bike is handy.
Anyway, the media won’t mock any of this and it won’t note the corporate-indie conflict or just make fun of some of the more obvious oddities of the whole thing. The corporations are here and the indie start-ups are here, somewhere, and the politics of the place has a distinctively leftish point of view, which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it. The left these days is all about conformity and one-size-fits-all. The left looks at bankrupt California and successful Texas and wants to force the latter to become more like the former, instead of allowing for differences or admitting that its way isn’t working. Tech is about doing whatever works, and then making that work better or in some new way. Tech development is about freedom. The left, and the politics the left has brought to SXSW, are not about freedom at all.
After dipping to a five-year low last month, unemployment ticked back up a notch to 6.7% in February. The New York Times puts the best spin possible on the poor numbers.
The American economy added 175,000 jobs last month, a pace that was better than economists had expected and well above the anemic job gains recorded in December and January.
Still, the latest figures for hiring were down from last year’s average of roughly 190,000 and fell a bit short of what policy makers had been hoping to see at this stage of the recovery. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 6.7 percent.
The February report by the Labor Department had been eagerly awaited and was viewed as a wild card, with economists struggling to estimate the impact of wintry weather in many parts of the country as well as seasonal adjustments by government statisticians.
Before Friday’s report, the consensus among economists on Wall Street called for employers to have added 149,000 positions in February, with the jobless rate remaining flat at 6.6 percent.
The best thing we could do to foster job growth nationally is repeal Obamacare.
By the way, not all states are suffering equally in the Obama economy. And one state is not only creating jobs, it is creating them more equitably, according to that right-wing rag, the Washington Post.
Texas experienced stronger job growth than the rest of the nation from 2000 to 2013, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Not only that, a pair of researchersnote in a Thursday research publication, but Texas leads the nation in creation of jobs at all pay levels, too.
“Texas has also created more ‘good’ than ‘bad’ jobs,” they write. “Jobs in the top half of the wage distribution experienced disproportionate growth. The two upper wage quartiles were responsible for 55 percent of net new jobs. A similar pie chart cannot be made for the rest of the U.S., which lost jobs in the lower-middle quartile over the period.”
Read the rest.
Crimea’s parliament made a couple of major moves today. First, it voted unanimously to break off from Ukraine and join Russia. Second, it set a referendum on the question for about 10 days from now. President Obama has dubbed that referendum to be illegal.
Crimea is largely autonomous but it does not have the power to break away and join another country. The referendum is aimed at backing that vote in parliament, though, and strengthening Putin’s hand against Ukraine. Russia continues its drive to make it easier for ethnic Russians in Ukraine to obtain Russian passports. Forces in uniform also stopped 35 unarmed international monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from entering Crimea. A visiting United Nations envoy was threatened by 10 to 15 masked gunmen and told not to enter Crimea.
As one might expect, Ukraine isn’t just waving good-bye to its strategic and useful peninsula. Ukraine’s interim prime minister rejected both moves and vowed that Ukraine will defend itself “in case of further escalation and military intervention into Ukrainian territory by foreign forces,” i.e. those 16,000-odd Russian troops wearing unmarked uniforms and currently occupying Crimea.
The US and EU are threatening a range of sanctions against the Russian government and individuals close to Putin. So far, those threats have not caused any public recalculation on Putin’s part.
A couple hundred thousand inventors, entertainers, musicians, hucksters, hawkers, vendors, earnest young liberals and other assorted types are descending on Austin, Texas even as I write this. I went downtown to get badged for SXSW 2014 over lunchtime and the place is already transforming from its usual zoo-like self into a full-blown zoo. And I’m telling you right now, if you’re one of them, you’re going to get tired of the food in the convention center. It’s good, but you’re in Austin. This is one of the most difficult places in the entire world to find a bad place to eat. Even the taco trucks around here range from good to excellent. So have fun and eat up. Here are a few suggestions on places to go, from someone who lives here.
Iron Works BBQ. This institution is right down the street from the convention center. It’s not outrageously priced, and it is authentic Austin BBQ. The lines are sure to be long this week, but you owe it to yourself to stop in and savor the brisket at Iron Works at least once while you’re here. You won’t even need a car to get there, just some patience this week. 100 Red River Street
Texas Chili Parlor. If you do have a car or other means of transport, the Texas Chili Parlor is worth a visit. It’s a hole in the wall, I’m not gonna lie, but it’s got loads of character. It also has good food, if you like Texas-style chili and Fritos. 1409 Lavaca Street
Piranha Killer Sushi. I’m guilty of being a native Texan, but I’m also guilty of having lived in Japan and of knowing my way around a sushi bar. Austin is home to plenty of great Asian restaurants including everything from Chinese to Korean to Vietnamese and just about everything else. Piranha is among the top sushi spots in town. It has a great menu, nice clean decor, and it’s not a million miles from the convention center. It’s also not cheap, yet not likely to break your bank. 207 San Jacinto Blvd
Serrano’s. Tex-Mex at or near its best, and it’s not a daylong hike from the convention center. Serrano’s has an extensive margarita menu, the salsa is hot, and if the weather isn’t, you can enjoy yourself out on the patio/amphitheater that overlooks the river. 1111 Red River Street
The Oasis. You’re going to need a car to get to this one, but if you have wheels and time, it’s worth it. I’m not gonna lie, while the food is good it is not the main reason to visit the Oasis. The killer view of Lake Travis is the reason to visit to the Oasis. The hilly area to Austin’s north and west looks a bit like Tuscany (ok, a small bit. I’m not sure that Tuscany has cacti and pickup trucks everywhere). Go to the Oasis around sunset and you’ll thank me later. Directions to the Oasis here.
Bacon. Bacon made last year’s SXSW list of places to eat. It makes this year’s list of places to eat. It will always make the list of Austin places to eat for as long at it exists, because bacon makes everything better. It just does. And Bacon’s menu is based entirely on bacon. The only downside is that the restaurant is about one-tenth the size it needs to be. 10th & Lamar
El Arroyo. More Tex-Mex, but this is Austin so what did you expect? El Arroyo (“the ditch”) is another local institution. Get the shrimp diablo. Always get the shrimp diablo. Trust me on this. 1624 W 5th
Guarantee: Reading This Salon Article on White Belly Dancers Will Make You Measurably Dumber. Also, Possibly Racist.
This has to be the single dumbest article I’ve read in 2014. I’m not even kidding. And I read a lot of articles every day, many of which are far from enlightening.
By reading that piece, you’ll learn a little bit about belly dancing but you’ll learn a whole lot about butthurt. The author really, strongly resents the fact that people who don’t look like her find something interesting about a culture that’s not natively their own.
Volokh does a great takedown in the Washington Post, but the logic of it is probably lost on Salon and its readers.
If the article wasn’t in leftwing Salon and it wasn’t so obviously anti-white (the title gives that away a little too easily), the Buzzfeeds of the world would have marched on that thing with Twitter torches and Facebook pitchforks and silly cat memes and torn it right down. They like to destroy total strangers lives’ over dumb tweets, after all. This here thing on Salon is a whole racist article.
I’ll just say this: Jarrar’s objection to white belly dancers is every bit as valid as any objection I as a white dude of European descent could muster against Vanessa Mae, the ridiculously talented and amazing Singaporean-born British violinist who is also an Olympic skier for the UK. Which is to say, not valid at all.
Jarrar must hate this serial “appropriation” of other cultures. Or she’s just, you know, easily offended about nothing and Salon has become a desperate, racist rag.
For the record, I have no objection to Vanessa Mae. At all.
Well, if this doesn’t start a war between Russia and the United States, nothing will. A 2013 GAO report found that President Obama spent twice as much time on vacation as he spent on economic meetings. But his vacation record in 2014 is now seriously threatened. Vlad Putin’s aggression in Crimea may result in a crime against humanity, forcing the oft-vacationing President Obama to be flexible about his upcoming vacay, according to the NYDN.
The ongoing crisis between Ukraine and Russia has placed President Obama’s family vacation plans in jeopardy, according to a new report.
Obama and the First Lady were scheduled to head to Miami on Friday for an event focusing on education, Politico reported, and the couple’s daughters were planning to join them afterward for a weekend trip in the area.
But, due to the continuing international crisis sparked by Russia’s troops moving into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, the first family may have to cancel their trip.
Three days into his broadcasting career at MSNBC, Ronan Farrow was given the Cronkite Award for journalism. Yet that’s not even the most ridiculous thing about Ronan Farrow.
To be sure, an anchor who works at a network that gave up on journalism a long time ago winning an award for journalism is ridiculous. MSNBC does not do journalism, it “leans forward.” That Farrow won that award just three days into his career is astounding. That he accepted it is laughable, almost as laughable as Barack Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.
The most ridiculous thing about Ronan Farrow is that his own mother doesn’t even know who his father is. It’s either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra. That’s quite a range to work with.
The second most ridiculous thing about Farrow is that he has a job on the air at MSNBC at all and is expected, by that network, to turn its ratings around. That would be a big ask for a seasoned broadcaster. Seasoned broadcaster and leftwing crazyman Keith Olbermann failed at it. Less seasoned broadcaster Rachel Maddow has also failed at it. Ronan Farrow, though, is no seasoned broadcaster. He’s not even a broadcaster at all. Up to his appointment at MSNBC, he has no career to speak of.
What Ronan Farrow is, more than anything else, is a beneficiary of things that the left that loves him claims to hate. Namely, he is a beneficiary of genetic accidents, family connections, money, and upper class privilege. Farrow would not have the gig he has if not for his family connections, he would not have had his “apprenticeship” with Richard Holbrooke, and MSNBC would have tossed the resume reel that he never even had to submit onto a pile of other resume reels that actual broadcasters did submit, if he was not a son of Hollywood elites, good looking, young and rich. He’s one of the right people because he was born that way.
His ascension to hosting a show at MSNBC is blatantly unfair to the thousands of other young, earnest liberals out there who are plying their trade as broadcasters in places like Wichita and Peoria and elsewhere. Farrow leapfrogged all of them, to pull down a salary said to be in the “low millions,” because of accidents of birth and wealth, not hard work, talent, or paying his dues.
Farrow isn’t NBC’s only privilege hire. The network that once had an all-white lineup on cable hired former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton a few years back to host soft-focus human interest feature stories. What she really does is read a few lines written for her by producers, and pretend to conduct interviews for the camers. Those stories she has taken part in are unwatchable and amateurish. The younger Clinton has no charisma on camera or off. She has no broadcasting chops. But NBC keeps her on the payroll for an undisclosed sum all the same, which crowds out other potential hires.
Clinton’s mother is also a beneficiary of privilege and wealth. At their winter meeting, Democrats who say they’re “ready for Hillary” to be president couldn’t even name any worthwhile thing she had done. They support her because of who she married, or because of who picked her to be in government, or because of her abortion stand or something else — not for anything she has actually accomplished herself. After decades in public life and even stints in the Senate and as Secretary of State, Clinton’s resume isn’t much deeper than Ronan Farrow’s. She certainly didn’t “reset” US relations with Russia. An ambassador was killed by terrorists on her watch.
Yet liberals love the Ronan Farrows, Chelsea Clintons, Hillary Clintons and Unnamed Kennedys of the world. Think the world of them. Can’t get enough of them. Never seeing their hypocrisy. Liberals hating on the controversial Cadillac ad because it espouses hard work, and who want to use government to enforce their narrow definition of “fairness,” don’t blink at the fact that their own heroes tend to rise to positions of power not because of hard work or even talent, but because of the inherent unfairness of life. If life was actually forced to be fair, Hillary Clinton would be less than an afterthought in the presidential sweepstakes, and Ronan Farrow would still be an unknown non-broadcaster not having his thoughts aired on a cable network. But they’re all Kennedys by another name.
NASA’s Morpheus is a prototype planetary lander. It looks like something out of classic sci-fi movies. But it’s real.
Here’s video from its latest test flight, at the Kennedy Space Center.
The geek in me is in love with that thing.
Legalism has gotten a 14-year-old girl a case of frostbite.
The trouble began when a small science experiment triggered the fire alarm at Como Park Senior High School in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fourteen-year-old Kayona Hagen-Tietz was swimming in the school pool for health class at the time. Her clothes were in her locker, and a teacher told her that there was no time for her to change. Hagen-Tietz was rushed outside–still wet and dressed in only swimsuit.
It was 5 degrees below zero in St. Paul that day. With the windchill, it was 25 degrees below zero.
Hagen-Tietz asked to wait inside an employee’s car, or at the elementary school across the street. But administrators believed that this would violate official policy, and could get the school in trouble, so they opted to simply let the girl freeze.
Her fellow classmates, at least, huddled around her to try to keep her warm. And one teacher did eventually lend her a coat.
At the risk of sounding like a dubstep repeat sequence, everyone involved with this who works in the school system needs to be fired. They literally endangered a student’s life, because they have had their brains shoehorned into narrow legalistic modes of behavior. They shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near kids, and criminal prosecution should be considered. No more fooling around with this idiocy.
Between this and the numerous cases of little kids suspended from school for making a gun with their fingers, going pow-pow, drawing a firearm or even wearing a shirt that mentions Second Amendment rights, our educational system has been unionized and overlawyered right out of common sense.
Here’s a radical set of proposals: Kick the unions permanently out of all public education, fire at least half the administrative staffs in every school system, cut excessive superintendent salaries, stop schools from building ridiculous sports palaces, and let those who do remain in the system think.
It’s fair to say that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) is already having a good CPAC. Ealier today, he was mobbed in a good way.
— Josh Perry (@MrJoshPerry) March 6, 2014
In his CPAC address, Cruz outlined what Republicans should do to win back the Senate and win the hearts and minds of Americans young and old.
“Let’s look back at the past four elections, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012,” Cruz said. “The only election we won was 2010, when we stood unequivocally for principle….Who are the most two people who have energized young people? Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul. What did they do? They painted a bold picture of what America can do…. You win elections by standing for principles and believing that there is a better tomorrow.
“How do we inspire people? Number one we tell the truth…. The truth is Washington is corrupt. You are in some of the richest counties in the country. As more and more people make great wealth in Washington, young people, single moms, and small business owners suffer…. Real change is changing the corruption that is here in Washington, D.C.”
Cruz also addressed how President Obama, whom younger Americans propelled into the presidency in 2008, has hurt America’s rising generations.
“Under President Obama, the American Dream is harder to achieve…. If you were to sit down and hammer the living daylights out of young people, you couldn’t do better than the Obama Administration. Obamacare is a massive wealth transfer. And who the heck is going to pay for our national debt?
“We need to stop bankrupting our country. What we’re doing to our kids and grandkids is morally wrong. If we don’t change course, they will be left working to pay off the debts their parents left them with. We need to turn this around.”
Cruz also addressed the need to repeal Obamacare, unleash American energy production, expand school choice and abolish the scandal-plagued IRS.
Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor may have just sealed his defeat this fall. In an interview that aired on religious network MSNBC, Pryor attacked Republican Rep. Tom Cotton’s military service. Cotton is running to replace Pryor in the Senate.
Pryor said of Cotton, “I think that’s part of this sense of entitlement, that he gives off, that is almost like, I served my country, therefore let me into the Senate. That’s not the way it works in Arkansas.”
Pryor provided no evidence, of course. Because there isn’t any. Cotton underwent officer training and ranger school in the US Army. Neither of those experiences fosters a sense of entitlement. Neither did Cotton’s tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US manufacturing sector is stubbornly ignoring the years-old “summer of recovery.”
US factory orders decline 0.7% in January; December's orders revised to show 2% drop instead of previously reported 1.5% fall – @Reuters
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) March 6, 2014
Hiring isn’t doing any better.
Private sector employers added just 139,000 jobs in February. While that was an increase from 127,000 jobs added in January, it was still disappointing.
The number missed economists’ forecasts and was well below an average of 186,000 jobs added in each of the prior 12 months. Like many of the other weak economic reports lately, economists were quick to blame the disappointing number on snow and ice.
“Bad winter weather, especially in mid-month, weighed on payrolls. Job growth is expected to improve with warmer temperatures,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which helps ADP (ADP, Fortune 500) compile the report.
Sure. Blame it on the weather.
Good editorial today in the Washington Examiner, on the reasons for IRS chief Lois Lerner’s stubborn silence.
First, she knows the House of Representatives can cite her for contempt of Congress, but Attorney General Eric Holder would decide whether she is prosecuted on that charge. Lerner need not worry since President Obama has already told the world there wasn’t “a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS actions, and Holder allowed a major Obama campaign contributor to have a role in Department of Justice‘s faux investigation of the scandal.
That gives the game away. Obama and Holder will not allow a real investigation into IRS abuse to proceed, likely because they both know that at a minimum it leads to Obama appointees at the IRS and into the White House counsel’s office. At the moment, Obama and Holder have control over the FBI’s non-investigation, and they have Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, interfering with the main House investigation. They have the congressional investigation in check.
Those are the four essential points of the IRS scandal: Who ordered the tax agency to get involved, who in the tax agency responded, who they targeted and what actions they took. [Lerner] cannot answer these questions because, as she herself has claimed, that would be incriminating. Lerner and others must hope Issa doesn’t already have the answers.
Issa and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) have hinted that they do have the answers. But they need Lerner’s testimony, and she is reprising the role played by Susan McDougal during the Clintons’ Whitewater scandal: clamming up long enough to allow the principals to escape justice. McDougal spent 18 months in prison for refusing to testify. Lerner may end up in similar circumstances.
Given the way the administration and congressional Democrats are behaving, only an independent counsel can get to the bottom of this. But the independent counsel law expired years ago. As things stand now, any independent counsel would be chosen by…Eric Holder.
More: Greta Van Susteren called Obama out on her show last night, saying that he is “part of the problem” in the IRS scandal. She’s half right. Obama is part of the problem, but the problem is, he’s the biggest part of the problem. He signaled that he wanted Citizens United overturned. He signaled how he wanted that decision overturned when he hired Bob Bauer in the White House counsel’s office, after Bauer had spent the 2008 campaign calling for the regulation of political speech, especially conservative political speech. Obama also signaled that cover-ups were his way when he put an executive privilege blanket over the Fast and Furious investigation. Obama has tipped his hand on lawlessness repeatedly in the rollout of Obamacare, and he has signaled his intolerance for opposition throughout his political career. Once again, Obama is showing how he has effectively hacked our system of governance, checkmating investigations into what may be the most consequential government abuse of power since Watergate.
According to a new Fox News poll, President Obama’s approval rating has taken another hit. In February 2014 he stood at 42% approval; today he’s even lower.
For the first time in a Fox News poll, fewer than four voters in ten — 38 percent — approve of President Obama’s job performance. Fifty-four percent disapprove. Before now Obama’s worst job rating was 40-55 percent in November 2013. Last month 42 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved (February 2014).
Approval of Obama among Democrats stands at 71 percent, near its 69 percent record low (September 2013). For independents, 28 percent approve, which is also near the 25 percent all-time low among this group (July 2013). And approval of Obama among Republicans hits a new low of five percent.
Overall, a 59-percent majority thinks the White House has mostly failed at creating jobs, up from 52 percent who said the same in October 2012. Likewise, 56 percent feel it has failed on growing the economy. That’s also up from 52 percent.
The greatest erosion is on improving America’s image around the world — something Obama vowed to do once in office. In 2012, by a four percentage-point margin, voters felt the administration had failed to improve the country’s image. In the new poll that’s now a 26-point margin: 33 percent say mostly succeeded and 59 percent mostly failed.
There’s more bad poll news for Obama and the Democrats today. Rasmussen finds that just 28% of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction. Last week, 32% believed the country was headed in the right direction.
Liz Wahl worked in Russia Today’s Washington, D.C., bureau, until today. She’s the grandchild of Hungarian refugees who fled the Soviet jackboot. Today she quit Russia Today on the air, because she said she could no longer work for a network that “whitewashes” Russia’s actions.
Wahl quit Russia Today one day after fellow DC anchor Abby Martin protested Russia’s Crimea invasion, and the network responded by saying it was sending Martin to Crimea.
On Twitter Tuesday night, Wahl publicly sided with Martin.
— Liz Wahl (@lizwahl) March 4, 2014
h/t Daily Beast
China announced its new military budget today. It includes a major spending increase. According to the Christian Science Monitor, China’s military spending jumps 12.2% this year, to $132 billion. That’s a quarter of the proposed US military budget. The Obama administration has announced force cuts that take the US military back to a size not seen in about 70 years.
China justifies its military build-up as defensive, of course.
China needs a powerful military, explained Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the National People’s Congress, on Tuesday because “if some country provokes or undermines consensus or even damages peace and order in the region, then China must respond effectively.”
On Wednesday the state-run news agency Xinhua followed up with a clearly worded commentary. “As a responsible major stakeholder in regional peace and stability, China needs sufficient strength to prevent hot-headed players from misjudgment and thus forestall conflict and war, so as to maintain a favorable environment for the socioeconomic development of all in the neighborhood.”
China has said little about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but has quietly sided with the Russians.
China’s military budget is now the second-largest in the world. Its military now includes an aircraft carrier, and it has tested stealth fighters.
The Pentagon says it is sending a handful of F-15s to Poland.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. military is boosting its NATO presence in a bid to support the defenses of U.S. allies in Europe in response to Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
After Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel first alluded to the effort during testimony on Capitol Hill earlier Wednesday morning, a Defense official confirmed that the U.S. will send six additional F-15s and one KC-135 to “augment the mission” in Baltic countries.
The U.S. currently provides four F-15s to what’s known as the Baltic Air Policing rotation. The additional aircraft will be sent from a base in Britain to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania, the official said.
Poland and Lithuania had called for a NATO Article 4 meeting over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both nations were subjected to brutal domination from Moscow during the Soviet era and are NATO and EU members now. Lithuania, like its fellow Baltic states Ukraine, has a Russian-speaking minority.
A leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general’s inquiry at Langley.
The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall to Obama, seeking to enlist the president’s help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers.
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight powers and for our democracy,” Udall wrote to Obama on Tuesday.
Independent observers were unaware of a precedent for the CIA spying on the congressional committees established in the 1970s to check abuses by the intelligence agencies.
“In the worst case, it would be a subversion of independent oversight, and a violation of separation of powers,” said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. “It’s potentially very serious.”
Yes, it is.
Prediction: Udall will stand down and claim that his “as you are aware” reference is being misunderstood. Not that it’s truly being misunderstood, of course. The inference is perfectly clear, and inferences from Udall standing down will also be clear.
The Israeli Defense Force reports that it has intercepted a shipment of weapons from Iran that was bound for Gaza:
Last night, following extensive preparations, and on the government’s authorization, the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, ordered the Israel Navy to intercept the KLOS-C, upon which the illicit arms were concealed in between commercial cargo.
IDF special naval forces boarded the vessel, in accordance with international law, and carried out a preliminary inspection of the cargo.
They discovered numerous advanced weapons during the inspection, including M-302 surface-to-surface missiles, which are capable of reaching any point in Israel, including major population centers Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If Palestinian terrorist organizations had gotten their hands on these weapons, they would have been able to use them to threaten millions of Israeli civilians.
The Navy is currently sailing together with the cargo ship back to Israeli shores.
Video and more at the link. The interception comes just a day after President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and just a few days after Obama declared that the Palestinians “want peace” but Israeli settlements are getting in the way. In that interview, Obama warned that the US would not make the case for Israel to the international community if Israel did not go along with Palestinian demands. The interception also comes as Iranian ally Russia consolidates its positions after invading Crimea in neighboring Ukraine.
CNS News captured this video during the DNC’s winter meeting. It speaks for itself: Democrats say they’re ready for Hillary Clinton to be president, despite the fact that none of them can point to anything she has done to deserve the office.
If you listen carefully, a couple of the Democrats who were questioned do come up with reasons to support Hillary: She is married to Bill Clinton, and was picked by Barack Obama. So, her leading qualifications derive from two men, not from her own record.
To no one’s surprise, none of the Democrats mention Benghazi or the failed “reset” with Russia.
Based on this video and the Democrats’ nominating Barack Obama twice, that Democrats don’t really care about candidates’ real qualifications for the U.S. presidency. How’s that working out for the country right now?
The Senate Majority Leader is acting up again. Harry Reid leveled a charge at Republicans that that could easily be leveled more accurately at the Democrats.
The week after claiming on the Senate floor that an organization funded by David and Charles Koch lied about health care reform horror stories, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took another shot at the wealthy conservative duo on Tuesday.
“Senate Republicans, madame President, are addicted to Koch,” Reid said, employing a double entendre.
Reid went on to accuse the Koch brothers of establishing shadow groups and funneling obscene amounts of money into campaigns in order to effectively buy democracy.
That’s exactly what left-wing billionaire George Soros does. He builds and funds all kinds of groups that generate media hits from the left, in support of a number of left-wing causes including extreme anti-war agitators with ties to Communist groups. Democrats like Reid never say a word about convicted felon Soros, even though he spends far more money on politics than the Koch brothers do. And is a convicted felon.
Take a look at Politico’s map of Tuesday’s Texas gubernatorial primary results. One thing should jump out immediately: Democrat Wendy Davis racked up far, far fewer votes than Republican Greg Abbott. Both easily won their party’s nominations, but Davis only earned 432,025 votes to Abbott’s 1,219,831 votes. That’s nearly a 3 to 1 margin. Even adding in Davis’ challenger’s total doesn’t close much of the gap.
But that doesn’t even tell the whole story. Four years ago, the Democrats’ nominee racked up more than 517,000 votes. Bill White was arguably a stronger overall candidate for the Texas Democrats in 2010. He had been mayor of Houston, the state’s largest city, and had a business background to cite and business contacts to lean on for support. He had joined up with Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, but otherwise presented a liberal but non-radical candidacy.
In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry had already been governor for a decade and was already Texas’ longest serving governor by a mile. Some fatigue with him had set in. Perry still defeated White easily.
In 2014, state Attorney General Greg Abbott is arguably in a stronger position than Perry was four years ago. There is no fatigue with him. He is an inspiring and popular figure known for defending Texas in court against the unpopular Obama administration. Davis, a state Senator with no major legislative record to speak of, is mainly known through media hype for filibustering a popular abortion law. Her allies in that fight resorted to tactics that were, frankly, disgusting and embarrassing, and brought dishonor on the state.
For Davis, it gets worse. If she has any hope of winning in the fall, she must have enthusiastic support and turnout in regions of the state where Democrats are strongest. Based on Tuesday’s results, though, she will not have that, at least not without some major ground game work between now and November. Go back to Politico’s map and click on the counties in south Texas and along the border. You’ll see that Davis did not win most of those counties. Democrats there voted for Ray Madrigal, a little known and poorly financed candidate. Madrigal beat Davis in Hidalgo County, Webb County and several other counties in the Rio Grande Valley. That region is heavily Hispanic and heavily Catholic. Davis’ very public support for late-term abortion may not be sitting well with the largely pro-life voters in a region in which she cannot afford to have any weakness or enthusiasm gap at all. Her poor showing in the Valley is ominous for her and the Democrats, according to Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, quoted today in the Austin American-Statesman:
Davis’ especially weak performance in the border counties stretching from Cameron County to Webb County should be setting off the fire alarms in Fort Worth tonight. To be competitive in November she needs Hispanic Democrats in those counties to turn out in record numbers, and to vote for her, not Abbott. These results suggest she has some real work to do down in south Texas. Bill White did better than this, and he faced six other candidates, including two Hispanics as well as Farouk Shami, who dropped $11 million on his primary bid.
Farouk was on fire. Wendy Davis is not.
To be sure, Davis will have some help from state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, the Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate, who is Hispanic. But after Tuesday’s poor results for her and strong results for Abbott on the GOP side, that is very unlikely to be enough to make any difference. Van De Putte will face off in the fall against the winner of the GOP’s lite gov runoff, either incumbent David Dewhurst or state Sen. Dan Patrick, who came in first Tuesday. Both have proven they can run statewide and win; either one will retain the seat for Republicans, and Abbott is unlikely to be threatened by Davis. The Republicans will have 37-year-old military veteran George P. Bush, scion of that family and Hispanic, running as the GOP nominee for Land Commissioner (he only racked up 73% or so in the primary Tuesday). The Texas GOP overall does better with Hispanic voters than other state parties.
Tuesday’s results show that Texas is not turning purple or blue anytime soon. It’s still a Tea Party friendly state that votes much more enthusiastically on the red side up and down the ballot, to keep Texas government lean and mean.
Hyping Wendy Davis atop their ticket may prove to be a serious setback for the state’s already weak and reeling Democrats.
James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas strikes again. O’Keefe’s hidden cameras have captured Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on tape misleading voters about his own bill, HR 3899, which Sensenbrenner has teamed up with the ACLU and other far-left groups to write. That bill would restore sections of the Voting Rights Act that the US Supreme Court struck down last year. At recent town hall meetings in Wisconsin, Sensenbrenner tells voters that his bill doesn’t do what the text of the bill actually says it does. Sensenbrenner also misleads voters on minority voting problems in Texas and Georgia. Take a look.
Sensenbrenner makes a startling claim in the video: That he hopes his bill passes, and that President Obama then vetoes it. How does that make any sense? Well, Sensenbrenner believes that an Obama veto would cost the president much of his support among black voters. Sensenbrenner provides no evidence to back up that claim, as he provides no evidence when he claims that Texas and Georgia Republicans have been caught trying to suppress minority votes in their respective states. In fact, DOJ itself offers no evidence to back up Sensenbrenner’s claims.
Exit question: Media have tended to downplay O’Keefe videos when Democrats are the ones caught on tape lying. What will they do with this video, starring a Wisconsin Republican?
IRS honcho Lois Lerner appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today, but she didn’t say anything. Nine months after pleading the Fifth Amendment, Lerner pled the Fifth again.
At that point, Chairman Darrell Issa adjourned the meeting. Sparks flew when Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings became enraged, not at Lerner for refusing to testify, but at Issa for adjourning the meeting. Cummings began delivering an opening statement, but the hearing’s opening statements had been delivered months ago, the first time Lerner refused to testify. He was speaking into dead mics, because the meeting had been adjourned.
Reporters asked Issa whether the committee would hold Lerner in contempt. He replied that that’s a possibility.
Another reporter asked Issa how much of the hearing was purely political, and an enraged Issa heatedly reminded reporters that President Obama was initially outraged by the scandal, but has since declared that there is “not a smidgen of corruption” in it.
“Roads lead to Ms. Lerner,” Issa told reporters. He said that with her testimony, the committee might have been able to bring the investigation to a close. But her refusal, again, sets the investigation back. Issa said that he is looking at what steps to take going forward in the investigation. He rated Lerner’s testimony might have to be forced through a federal judicial decision.
Update: Issa attempted to ask Lerner specific questions about her own emails. He asked Lerner why, in one email, she described the Tea Party cases as “dangerous,” and in another, she specifically said that the IRS Cincinnati office should not have the Tea Party cases. Lerner refused to answer, invoking the Fifth Amendment.
Update: Video of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) launching into a tirade against Issa, and having his mic cut off. Throughout the investigation, Cummings has run interference for the IRS and the Obama administration. Watch video on next page.
Zero tolerance/zero common sense strikes again.
A ten-year-old Ohio boy was suspended from schoolafter a teacher caught him brandishing a “level 2 lookalike firearm.” What lookalike firearm was this, you ask? Well, Nathan Entingh got in trouble after he pretended to use his finger as a gun. Yep, his finger.
The principal for the Devonshire Alternative Elementary School has reportedly warned students about using “pretend guns” before, though Entingh claims that other students caught doing the same thing weren’t suspended for three days like he was.
His father said they could have just given him detention or an in-school suspension, but to suspend him for that length of time is just “very excessive for what he had done.”
A 10-year-old boy making a gun with his fingers should not be a punishable offense at all.
BREAKING: Texas 2014 Primary Results (Abbott, Davis, Cornyn, Bush All Win Nominations) Update: Runoff!
Texans went to the polls today to vote in primaries for all congressional seats, a senator, governor, lieutenant governor, other statewide offices and district and local offices. Returns are starting to trickle in. You can follow them at the links below.
Update (8:17 pm): Several races can be called early, including governor on both sides. Republican Greg Abbott will face off against Democrat Wendy Davis for governor.
Update (8:33 pm): Texas Land Commissioner race called — George P. Bush has won the Republican nomination to succeed Jerry Patterson. Patterson is running behind in the lieutenant governor race.
Update (9:24 pm): The state’s most-watched race won’t end tonight. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick are headed to a runoff after neither racked up 50% in the GOP lite gov primary.
We could be looking at the high water mark for Wendy Davis’ run for governor. She’ll win the Democratic primary easily, but Democratic votes are running about 3 to 1 behind the GOP primary totals so far, and she is showing weakness in the vital Rio Grande Valley. Her extreme position on abortion may not be playing well in the heavily Hispanic, heavily Catholic region of the state.
Update (9:48 pm): Now that the Senate race is done and dusted, let’s talk about that thing for a minute. Sen. John Cornyn may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he has racked up a 93% conservative voting record. He has made a mistake or two, notably supporting Crist over Rubio in the Florida Senate race, but overall he has been a better senator than most by some distance. His closest challenger, Rep. Steve Stockman, ran one of the most bizarre, unserious races in modern history. We run the risk sometimes of allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good, risking in this case handing over a very safe seat upon which a GOP Senate majority can be built to a Democrat challenger. Had Stockman won tonight, that’s what was at risk.
He didn’t, and Cornyn cruised. Not all incumbents deserve to be primaried.
One more thought. By all conservative accounts around the country, Texas is one of the few states that’s doing it right. Well, those who are doing it right in Texas are mostly incumbent Republicans, no? So, again, not all incumbents deserve to be primaried. They don’t deserve to hold seats for life either. But it might be wise to think a bit more strategically about who does and doesn’t deserve the primary treatment.
Florida Democrat Rep. Alan Grayson has never presented the most stable of public personas. He’s the Democrat who said that Republican health care reform plans amount to “die quickly,” an insult that would probably be more accurate if it were applied to Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board aka the “death panels.”
Now, Grayson is involved in a domestic violence situation.
A judge has granted a temporary protective injunction against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, after his wife filed paperwork accusing the Orlando congressman of shoving and injuring her during an incident this weekend.
Lolita Grayson’s petition for the injunction, dated Monday, says her husband pushed her against a door, causing her to fall to the ground, during a confrontation Saturday at their home on Oak Park Road, near Windermere.
In a statement, Alan Grayson’s press secretary Lauren Doney wrote that the allegations “are absolutely false, completely unfounded, and clearly designed to vilify and harm Congressman Grayson.”
According to the petition, Lolita Grayson was preparing to take the couple’s two youngest children to a play date when Alan Grayson “showed up, unannounced,” and asked to speak to her inside.
After she refused, retrieved his mail and asked him to leave, Alan Grayson “then deliberately and with force pushed [Lolita Grayson] very hard against the front door, causing [her] to fall to the ground as a result,” the petition states.
She told her husband not to touch her, then pushed him in the face and kneed him in the stomach “in order to protect and defend herself,” before calling 911, her petition says.
As she was talking to the operator, Alan Grayson told his wife, in the presence of their children, that she “would receive nothing” in their divorce and would be left “in the gutter,” the petition states.
Mrs. Grayon’s complaint accuses him of getting violent with her more than once in the past.
Grayson’s office is responding with class and restraint. Just kidding — it’s calling Mrs. Grayson crazy.
In the statement released by his office, Alan Grayson said it was his wife who initiated the violence.
“Sadly, it was Ms. Grayson who physically attacked the Congressman as he attempted to visit with his children. He did not respond to Ms. Grayson’s violent assault,” the statement said.
It added that Lolita Grayson has become “increasingly erratic” since filing for divorce, and her husband “is deeply concerned by her recent behavior and is profoundly pained by her accusations.”
Watch the national media not cover this extensively, and not force all other Democrats to answer for Grayson’s behavior. Everyone knows that if Grayson was a Republican, the media would hound other Republicans and force them to say something about him.
Captioning what may turn out to be the photo of the year is already underway. It’s from President Obama’s comments regarding Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The White House advance team thought it was a good idea to put the President of the United States on a kindergarten alphabet carpet, for some reason.
It turns out that Obama’s comments on the invasion were just a prelude to a couple of political fundraisers. He has one tonight, and another tomorrow. We seem to have a part-time president and a full-time fundraiser.
Obama also released his 2015 budget today. First reactions: It’s no more serious than any of his previous budgets, all of which have died swiftly in Congress. While he claims that it’s “responsible,” it adds more spending onto the already spending-addicted federal government.
Russia Today is the Kremlin’s news agency in the West. It’s pro-Russia, generally anti-American. It’s also Larry King’s employer, for whatever that’s worth. While King hasn’t said anything about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, another Russia Today newsreader did.
In an off-message tirade, Abby Martin, a Washington-based American news anchor for Russia Today, shocked mostly pro-Russian viewers by announcing she “cannot stress enough” how strongly she felt about presence of its troops in Crimea, saying “Russia was wrong”.
The host addressed the camera in unscripted remarks at the end of the station’s Breaking the Set segment, saying: “Just because I work here, for RT, doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any military intervention in sovereign nations’ affairs.
“I will not sit here and apologise or defend military aggression,” she went on.
Martin added that she is not well-versed on Ukrainian history or the “dynamics of the region,” and that seems to have been Russia’s cue to announce that it was offering her the opportunity to learn all about that up close.
[I]n Russia Today’s official statement released on Tuesday afternoon it said: “Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn’t beat its journalists into submission, and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in private but on the air. This is the case with Abby’s commentary on the Ukraine.
“We respect her views, and the views of all our journalists, presenters and program hosts, and there will be absolutely no reprimands made against Ms. Martin.
“In her comment Ms. Martin also noted that she does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea. As such we’ll be sending her to Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story.”
Martin says she isn’t going to Crimea. Which may mean that she’s out of a job.
Before anyone gets too excited about an American working in America having the guts to stand up to Putin, Martin describes the US government’s take on 9-11 as “propaganda.”
Putin puts down the phone with Obama as they discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia then test-fires an intercontinental ballistic missile.
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said it had successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, with tensions high over its seizure of control in the Crimea and its threat to send more forces to its neighbor Ukraine.
The Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov told state-run news agency RIA.
The launch site, Kapustin Yar, is near the Volga River about 450 km (280 miles) east of the Ukrainian border. Kazakhstan, a Russian ally in a post-Soviet security grouping, is further to the east.
The missile has a range of 6,000 miles.
Update: Russia notified the US about the test as per START treaty requirements.
Ezekial Emanuel, brother of Chicago mayor and former Obama staffer Rahm Emanuel, is cheerily predicting that Obamacare will bring about the death of the private insurance companies in the US. Ezekiel makes the provocative prediction in the New Republic.
Emanuel writes that Obamacare is already causing insurance companies to either die or evolve into something else. “The good news is you won’t have insurance companies to kick around much longer,” he writes.
Obamacare was not sold to the American people as a means of destroying private health insurance companies or even forcing them into turning into a different type of company. It was sold as a means of bringing insurance costs down while increasing access. It has turned out to cause about 6.2 million Americans to lose their insurance while forcing some Americans to buy insurance or pay a fine to the IRS. “If you like your healthcare, you can keep your healthcare,” President Barack Obama repeatedly promised. Emanuel’s article provides more evidence that the president was knowingly lying, and that people like Emanuel, who were close advisers while Obamacare was being written, knew that it would cause chaos for millions of Americans and their insurance.
Emanuel writes that Obamacare is already causing some medical services providers to seek exclusive contracts with employers, cutting insurance plans out but also limiting the choices available to customers.
Ezekiel has consistently predicted, after Obamacare became law, that it would kill insurance companies. While Obamacare was being debated, Democrats denied that its purpose was to destroy private health insurance companies. Emanuel claims, without providing any evidence, that Americans will be happier in the new employer-based health provider networks.
“So be prepared to kiss your insurance company good-bye forever,” Emanuel concludes at the end of the article.
About 85% of Americans were happy with their healthcare before Obamacare.
President Barack Obama tends to react to the crisis of the moment by expressing some form of “deep concern,” usually followed by doing nothing or going on to attack Republicans. Take a look at this Grabien montage on presidential reactions.
ABC’s Jon Karl looks at six instances in which Obama expressed concern and issued actual warnings to other countries. In all six instances, he was quickly ignored.
CHINA and RUSSIA: Snowden Slips By
RHETORIC: The Administration repeatedly warned China (where Snowden first fled) and Russia that Edward Snowden was a fugitive felon who must be turned over to the United States. On June 24, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry bluntly warned he “would be deeply troubled” if Snowden were permitted to fly from Hong Kong to Russia “and there would be, without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences.” After Snowden boarded the plane in Hong Kong, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney added ominously: “This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship.”
REACTION: China ignored U.S. demands and allowed Snowden to travel to Russia. Russia ignored demands to turn Snowden over to U.S. authorities and granted him asylum.
Obama was ignored twice on Syria alone, when he failed to back up his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons. The result in Syria is that Russia stepped in a brokered a chemical weapons deal that effectively elevated Russia’s influence in the Middle East at US expense.
Having seized Crimea by force, Russian President Vladimir Putin today insisted that he has not seized Crimea by force. Those troops we’ve all seen on TV, armed with the latest Russian military hardware? Not Russian, says Putin.
Russian soldiers have not occupied government buildings and surrounded Ukrainian military bases on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Tuesday during a news conference near Moscow at which he gave an account of recent events that contradicts reports from the ground.
Instead, he told reporters that the heavily armed men are “local self-defense forces.”
Right. Well, Putin has just confirmed why the troops are wearing unmarked uniforms. How long had Russia planned to deploy its forces in those thousands of unmarked uniforms? What are the international law implications of deploying masses of military forces in unmarked uniforms.
But even as he said no Russian troops have been involved in the latest events in Crimea, Putin drew comparisons that would seem to indicate they had been. “Our actions are often described by the West as not legitimate, but look at U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya,” he said, according to a BBC translation of his comments. “Our actions are legitimate from the point of view of international law, because Ukraine’s legitimate president asked us for help. … Defending these people is in our interests. … We do not want to ‘enslave’ anyone.”
But he’s happy to turn off the Gazprom every once in a while, just to get people’s attention.
Putin made the claims about a lack of involvement by Russian forces even though Russian military helicopters have been seen in the skies over Crimea, Russian trucks have been seen moving the armed men to key locations, and the soldiers in unmarked uniforms speak Russian and in some cases have told reporters and local residents that they are members of the Russian military.
Putin also denied that Russia intends to annex Crimea. But Russia was denying any intent to send forces into Crimea, right up until Russian forces in unmarked uniforms went into Crimea.
During his Kiev press conference today, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed astonishment that Putin denied having any Russian troops in Crimea.
It’s reasonable to suspect that Putin is consolidating his position in Crimea and assessing international reaction before moving on eastern Ukraine. He is also gauging market reactions. Russia lost big in the markets Monday, but Putin’s less bellicose talk today has caused the markets to regain some of what they lost. He could count the losses as the price of taking Crimea, which would be a low cost at this point. Shots have not even been fired yet.
When he was Illinois’ junior senator, Barack Obama went to Donetsk, Ukraine. There he saw something that is quite relevant today.
DONETSK, Ukraine – U.S. Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) called for the immediate destruction of 15,000 tons of ammunition, 400,000 small arms and light weapons, and 1,000 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) or shoulder missile launchers that are often sought by terrorists.
Lugar and Obama toured the Donetsk State Chemical Production Plant, a conventional weapons destruction facility where the U.S. has taken the lead in a three-year NATO program to destroy the weapons. Another 117,000 tons of ammunition and 1.1 million small arms and light weapons are slated for destruction within 12 years.
So far, the U.S. has contributed $2.1 million to the project, and Austria, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have contributed $1.2 million.
Ukraine has been calling for US, UK and NATO assistance since Russian troops swept into and captured Crimea over the weekend. Its small military is no match for Russia’s much larger military. Poland, whose missile defense system Obama canceled after Russian objections, called for a NATO Article 4 meeting which takes place today.
During the 2012 presidential election, Obama mocked Republican rival Mitt Romney when the latter said that Russia is America’s main geopolitical adversary. Putin’s moves have proven Romney right.
Markets around the world rose today, after plunging since the weekend invasion, on the news that Putin ended the Russian military exercise on Ukraine’s border and indicated that the Russian troops in Crimea would not open fire. But at the same time, Putin is warning the West against using economic sanctions against Russia. The question now is whether Putin is merely consolidating Russia’s gains in Crimea before moving on to “protect Russians” in eastern Ukraine.
h/t Jim Geraghty