this seems a bit disingenuous, like so many articles posing as a question what is in fact a well-known and obvious given

This is obviously a completely ideological article, hence all the shoulds at the end. But it discloses an aspect of the Kiev madness that is worth bearing in mind – RB

Ukraine’s Massive Witch Hunt: tackling corruption, or an old-fashioned purge?
Mark Varga, The National Interest (Pindo’s national interest, obviously – RB), Feb 26 2015

It has become somewhat of a cliché to say that Ukraine is Europe’s most corrupt country. While the the IMF agreed on Feb 12 to extend to Kyiv a new $17.5b rescue package over four years in exchange for continued structural reforms, the real question is if staving off the country from an imminent default at the hands of international creditors (read, Russia) would be enough. Why? Because one of the unanswered questions for Kyiv’s leaders is whether they have the mettle to deal with the country’s public enemy #2: corruption. The correlation between state instability and high levels of corruption has long been established and is one of the major features behind state failure, and Ukraine’s weak state has so far been unable to stop kleptocratic elites from syphoning off public money. Nevertheless, in spite of many setbacks in Ukraine’s fight against graft, Kyiv has recently embarked on an ambitious program of lustration directed at members of the former regime. In a nutshell, lustration refers to the purging of civil servants and government officials from all levels of public administration on account of their association with the previous regime. Stemming from the Latin term lustrare, meaning purification by sacrifice, lustration is an extreme procedure that needs most of all to strike a balance between its aims and its effects. But will Ukraine’s be fair? Or will it turn into yet another example of a noble principle employed by the state not to do justice, but to enact revenge? More importantly (sic – RB), could extensive lustration hamper Ukraine’s economic growth?

The law, which passed amid fierce Parliamentary fighting in Sep 2014, is one of the most far-reaching ever to emerge out of Eastern Europe. In its current form, it subjects a whopping one million people who worked under the Yanukovych government, as well as members of the Communist nomenklatura and KGB agents, to screening processes for their involvement in the former regime. The law also applies to individuals who “carried out events aimed at sabotaging the foundations of Ukraine’s national security, defense or territorial integrity by their actions or lack thereof, made public calls for violations of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, or fanned ethnic feud.” Those found guilty will receive a five- to ten-year prohibition from holding public office. Conveniently, the law does not apply to elected officials, such as former Yanukovych minister and current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko or Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, a former MP. Ukraine’s Justice Minister has been a vocal critic of this loophole, claiming that subjecting all officials to lustration mechanisms is “an essential precondition for transformations in the country.” The rift deepened on Feb 10, when the prosecutor general Vitaliy Yarema resigned after opposing parts of the law.

The desire to “cleanse the government” of the remnants of the past seems to be an obvious choice for a Ukraine ridden with rampant corruption, nepotism and tax avoidance, but the government should tread carefully in the application of the law. Human Rights Watch has been quick to criticize the law, claiming that the review and dismissal of judges lacks adequate public consultation and could be subject to political bias and will essentially undermine the independence of the judiciary, “which can only deepen mistrust in an already fractured society.” Perhaps the most stringent condition in the new law refers to “property lustration,” which effectively means that transgressors and their family members “have to prove the legality of the means they used to buy property.” This latter provision could be a dangerous double-edged sword. Some 80% of Ukraine’s GDP is in the hands of 50 individuals, some of whom are suspected to have acted in support of the separatists or worked with the former government before defecting to the current government.

Could property lustration act as a catalyst, open up Ukraine’s economy and improve its overall business climate? Were property lustration applied thoroughly, individuals such as Rinat Akhmetov, Vadim Novinsky, Yuriy Ivanyushchenko, Vasily Khmelnitsky, Dmytro Firtash, Serhiy Liovochkin, Andriy and Serhiy Klyuyev and Viktor Pshonka, who obtained assets or were the recipients of “fake privatizations” during the Yanukovych era, should be investigated. Unfortunately, the early signs are not encouraging. As a report by the ECFR showed, after the Maidan the oligarchs sought to adapt or even increase their clout over the government. Ihor Kolomoisky, co-founder of Ukraine’s biggest bank, has been targeting the interests of former Yanukovych crony Serhiy Kurchenko, while Vitaliy Khomutynnik, another member of the “Yanukovych Family,” is now comfortably installed in the Parliament as deputy of the “Economic Development” faction. So far, there have been two waves of lustration that have charged 374 individuals. A third wave is set to begin in March. According to the Ukrainian Justice Ministry, almost half of the lustrated officials have already appealed against their dismissal from office, and in Nov 2014 a Kharkiv court annulled the lustration against Volodymyr Sukhodubov, an ex-deputy prosecutor in the Kharkiv oblast. The belief among former officials that one is being subject to an unjust form of political revenge, reinforced by a court decision, could spell disaster for the country’s stability.

Indeed, Ukraine has previously been the subject of much contention with regards to the unfair targeting of certain officials in Yanukovych’s former government for misappropriation of funds, many of whom later found themselves on the EU and Pindosi sanctions list, without being informed by authorities in Ukraine about their cases. One of the victims of this chaotic procedure who was accused of corruption, Oleksandr Klymenko, Ukraine’s former Income and Tax Minister, recently won a case in Kiev’s Pechersky court in which the judge ruled that false information published about Klymenko and his alleged involvement in corrupt practices while in office should be retracted. Previously, in an interview with CNN, Klymenko defended his innocence concerning the allegations against him, claiming that while his administration had certain shortcomings, including in the taxation of individuals, he felt his current situation was a “political purge” against him due to his involvement in the Yanukovych regime.

While the provision of initiatives to wipe out corruption within Ukraine’s bureaucratic ranks should certainly be encouraged both by the population and the IMF as a precursor to economic growth, careful measures must be taken to ensure these new policies do not amount to political purges and human-rights violations. Ukraine should also not rely fully on its lustration law to banish corruption from the country once and for all. The government should tread carefully on such matters, since the law in its current form has the potential to further damage the finances and the unity of the country. While cleaning the economy of corruption and venal office-holders should be an imperative, eliminating individuals from Ukraine’s economic life could actually backfire if it were to hamper its chances for recovery. Lustration is simply a stopgap measure, not a one-size-fits-all approach and should be complemented by reforms aimed at fostering good governance and rule of law. Wealthy elites should be brought in the public eye under strict taxation and oversight regimes. In this respect, the Ukrainian Finance Minister’s announcement of the creation of a “new electronic system for corporate tax filing to try to eliminate about $1b/yr in tax fraud” in order to make Ukraine’s current bureaucratic tax system more transparent and less susceptible to bribes should be welcomed as a first step to boosting the economy. To be clear, previous applications have not produced any “hard evidence that lustration laws contributed to democracy, that they improved governance, or that they curbed corruption.” As the Venice Commission argued:

Party affiliation, political and ideological reasons should not be used as grounds for lustration measures, as stigmatization and discrimination of political opponents do not represent acceptable means of political struggle in a state governed by the rule of law.

A new and just Ukraine should not be built on senseless sacrifice.

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yemen seems to be effectively divided into two states, north and south, just as it was 50 years ago

First Iran flight lands in Shi’ite-held Yemen capital
AFP, Mar 1 2015

SANAA – A first Iranian flight landed in the Yemeni capital on Sunday, a day after officials from the Shi’ite militia-controlled city signed an aviation agreement with Tehran. The Mahan Air plane arrived in Sanaa carrying a team from the Iranian Red Crescent and medical aid, an aviation official told AFP. Senior Iranian diplomats were on hand to welcome the flight, the first between the two countries in many years. Yemen’s official Saba news agency, which is controlled by the Shi’ite militiamen who overran Sanaa in September, said Mahan Air and Yemenia would each operate 14 weekly flights under the accord. Western-backed Pres Hadi, who last weekend escaped house arrest by the Houthis in Sanaa, slammed the agreement as “illegal,” according to an aide. Hadi said during a meeting with tribal chiefs in the southern city of Aden, where he is now based:

Those who signed it will be held accountable.

Tehran has repeatedly been accused of backing the Houthi militia, known as Ansar’ullah. Saba reported that a Houthi delegation led by the head of the Ansar’ullah political council, Saleh al-Sammad, would travel to Tehran on Sunday for an official visit. Sammad told Saba:

The delegation, which includes an economic delegation, will hold talks with Iranian government officials to discuss means of strengthening economic, political and other means of cooperation between both countries. We intend to open new horizons in relations with countries that respect the will of the Yemeni people.

Jackass Kerry charged last week that critical support of the militia by Iran had contributed to the collapse of Yemen’s government. Iran rejected Jackass’ “blame game,” insisting that foreign intervention in Yemen would only further complicate the situation. The Houthis, who have long clashed with central authorities, descended from their power base in northern Yemen to seize Sanaa in September. After moves to expand into southern and central Yemen were checked by fierce resistance from AQ and from Sunni tribesmen, the militia grabbed the seats of power in Sanaa in February.

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jackass will use his wonderful, god-given powers to veto any further investigation of the gaza holocaust

Jackass to defend Israel as Netanyahu readies critique of Iran talks
Arshad Mohammed, Reuters, Mar 1 2015

GENEVA – Jackass Kerry will defend Israel at the UNHRC on Monday, as Netanyahu prepares to criticize nuclear negotiations with Iran that Jackass is leading. Jackass landed in Geneva late on Sunday for up to three days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The talks will be held in Montreux. In addition, Jackass will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday, and speak at the UNHRC in part to defend Israel against what Pindosi officials regard as its bias against the Jewish state. An official aboard Jackass’ plane told reporters:

Our position is always very much in defense of Israel and protection of Israel’s interests at the HRC. Any investigations of Israel should be objective and neutral and not one-sided and biased. One of our main concerns is the UN inquiry into last summer’s conflict in Gaza. We want to try to protect against any follow-on.

The UN investigation, due to issue its report by Mar 23, is looking in to violations by both sides. By travelling this week to Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Britain, Jackass will avoid being in Washington on Tuesday, when Netanyahu makes his speech to Congress. Netanyahu’s planned speech has strained relations with the Democratic White House, which has made no secret of its anger that it was set up with Congressional Republicans without it being in the loop. The White House has suggested that Netanyahu’s speech two weeks ahead of an Israeli election has injected partisanship into the USrael relationship.

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i have a feeling our masters are going to invade libya all over again

Italy to begin naval exercises off Libya
James Mackenzie, Reuters, Mar 1 2015

ROME – Italy will begin annual naval exercises this week near the coast of Libya, where a breakdown in order has allowed tens of thousands of migrants to try to reach Europe by boat and increased fears of attacks by Islamist militants. The navy said in a statement that the exercises, known as Mare Aperto (Open Sea), would begin on Monday. The exercises were suspended last year because of the search-and-rescue mission dubbed Mare Nostrum, which was set up after hundreds of migrants were drowned off the southern island of Lampedusa. Mare Nostrum has now ended and been replaced by a more limited EU mission known as Triton. Admiral Pierpaolo Ribuffo, the officer in command of exercises, said the operation was not directly connected with the crisis in Libya, where Italian energy group Eni has significant offshore oil platforms and other assets. But he said the presence of naval vessels in the area could help improve security. He told Italian news agency ANSA in comments that were subsequently released by the navy:

We’re training our ships and our men, that’s all. Our activity has nothing to do with other scenarios. Obviously the presence of ships at sea also means security, deterrence and dissuasion. But that’s normal, it’s like police patrolling the streets.

Italy, whose southern islands are only around 300 km from the Libyan coast, has led calls for a global diplomatic push to stabilize Libya, where two rival governments are fighting for control and where Islamist militants have gained a growing foothold. It has also offered help in training a regular Libyan army, but has ruled out any peacekeeping mission for the moment. Concern over attacks on targets in Italy has been heightened by video messages from groups associating themselves with ISIS, stating that Rome was a target and by press reports that militants could reach Italy on migrant boats. Officials have said that Italy, like other Western countries, faces a general risk but there has been no indication of any concrete threat and no evidence of violent militants among migrants, most of whom are from Africa or Syria. Worries over a domestic threat were underlined by a report of a 64-page document in Italian inviting Muslims to help “the Caliphate that will conquer Constantinople and Rome.” The document was first reported on an Italian news website called Wikilao, which said it had been circulating on Jihadi websites. The report was picked up by several Italian newspapers and television stations on Sunday, but there was no immediate confirmation by Italian officials.

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i suppose a president who doesn’t know the difference between sunni and shi’a would be quite useful

Jindal: Obama Not Fighting ISIS Might Be Linked To His Desire To Get Iran Deal
Andrew Kaczynski, BuzzFeed, Feb 27 2015

Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal said he believes, but cannot prove, that the reason Obama is not fighting ISIS might be his desire to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Jindal said on NewsMax TV Midpoint on Friday:

I worry that this president’s desire to get a deal, even if it’s a bad deal, I worry if he wants a bad deal greater than no deal. Let’s be clear, a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat not only to Israel and our European allies, it’s a threat, an existential threat to Pindostan as well, and it won’t stop with Iran. I believe the Egyptians, I believe Turkey, I believe the Saudis all will want a nuclear weapon as well. And I believe that some of those countries may already have a deal with Pakistan to buy that technology if they need to. So now you’ve got multiple countries in the Middle East nuclear armed. What I worry about is that this president’s hesitancy in going all the way and defeating ISIS may be linked, I can’t prove that, I suspect that from his actions, his rhetoric, may be linked to his overarching desire to get a deal with Iran.

Jindal is often mentioned as a Republican presidential hopeful in 2016 and said in the interview he was “thinking and praying” about a possible run.

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welcome to this year’s ziomaniacal circus

Before Netanyahu Speaks, AIPAC Gives Thanks for An Aggressive Congress
David Weigel (Jewish, obviously – RB), Bloomberg ‘News’, Mar 1 2015

“Thank goodness for Congress!” said Howard Kohr, the CEO of AIPAC. Applause filled the Washington Convention Center, from thousands of people attending AIPAC’s annual policy conference. In the Obama years, AIPAC’s show of force in Washington has often overlapped with a moment of tension or scandal in the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. This year’s conference coincides with Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress, which originated in conversations with the Republican leadership, not, as is the norm, via conversations with the White House. The controversy has gripped Washington for weeks, pointing unwelcome attention on Netanyahu’s government, his country’s Mar 17 election, and the increasing disquiet about Israel on the Pindosi left. AIPAC’s opening plenary, always a dazzling show of video and music beamed around a cavernous convention space, dealt bluntly with the controversy while assuring supporters and members of the lobbying group that everything was going to work out. Screens playing the main events onstage were bracketed by rotating pictures of inspirational photos of Israel, and slogans like “This is Hope,” “This is Resilience,” and “This is Diversity.” The contrast with the just-concluded CPAC conference, which ended in a long period of confusion about when the straw poll would come out, is especially stark this year. That was the theme of Kohr’s remarks, which were delivered in a friendly conversation with AIPAC managing director Richard Fishman. Kohl’s praise of Congress came in the context of praising how legislators (he did not name them, but many would appear at the conference) pushed when the White House might not have. Kohr told Fishman and the audience:

Congress time and time again has led the effort to put pressure on the regime in Iran.

Still, whenever he could, Kohr argued that AIPAC could pressure the administration through Congress without truly worrying the relationship between USrael. He said:

Many journalists have written the story that this is a relationship in crisis. This is not a crisis. Frankly, it’s up to us to not let it become a crisis.

AIPAC organizers emphasized that point by bringing South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin onstage, to trade lines about how ready Congress was to united behind Israel. Cardin said, to applause:

The circumstances surrounding the invitation were not what they should have been. We all understand that. But don’t lose focus. The bad guy is Iran. Iran is who’s violating international agreements. The focus must be on the Iranian negotiations. This gives us a chance to come together in a strong, united way to make sure we are focused on what is necessary from an acceptable deal with Iran. Secondly, we can never allow Israel to become a political wedge issue. It’s too important to Pindostan.

Graham one-upped Cardin as only a member of the party with no speech-boycotters could, crowing:

I will be there in the front row.

The Netanyahu drama, which will hang over the entire week, mostly emphasized how much support Israel otherwise had in Washington. Kohr said:

We have spent many active hours lobbying for members of the House and Senate to attend this speech.

Cardin won more applause by telling the AIPAC crowd about legislation “coming this week” to use trade negotiations to penalize countries that boycotted, divested from or sanctioned Israel. Graham, newly empowered as a member of the Senate majority, one-upped Cardin again, saying:

All the money that goes in to support the State Dept comes through my committee. I’m gonna put the United Nations on notice.

If the UN “marginalized” Israel in any way, he’d come after its funding. The commonality in all of these remarks from Graham, from Cardin, from Kohr, was that Congress needed to embrace its role if the Obama administration cut a deal with Iran. Kohr said:

The congressional role doesn’t end when there’s a deal. Congress must review this deal.

The limits of this pitch in an increasingly partisan atmosphere became clear as the morning went on. At one point in the opening session, Fishman and Kohr insisted that supporters of Israel could support cutting off aid to Plastelinans without truly disrupting Pindostan’s policy. Fishman said:

The point of suspending aid is not punitive.

Kohr echoed:

No, it’s just meant to be a suspension. It gives Abu Mazen the opportunity to come back, for him make the choice we want him to make.

Later, in a breakout session about the sanctions debate, California Democratic Representative Brad Sherman warned AIPAC members that the fight over Netanyahu’s speech had hardened some Democrats’ positions, and made it less possible to override the administration where it clashed with Israel. He said:

It has gotten personal and partisan, and so it has gotten much more difficult for me to go to Democrats. Now that it’s gotten personal, and back home they view this as a personality contest between the president and prime minister Netanyahu, they say: Guess who I’m going to side with? It’s hard for people in districts where the president got 60, 70, 80% of the vote to vote against Obama’s position on sanctions now that it’s such a personal, high profile issue. My guess is that Congress does not pass additional sanctions over a presidential veto.

That situation, he indicated, would limit the ability of Congress to actually apply sanctions to Iran that went above what the administration wanted.

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i should think the white house is pretty well immune to accusations from right-wing pindosi jews by now

Jewish groups line up to denounce Boteach ad on Susan Rice
JTA, Feb 28 2015

rice-genocide

WASHINGTON — An array of Jewish groups condemned an ad by a foundation associated with controlled by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach accusing National Security Adviser Susan Rice of turning a blind eye to genocide. “Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide,” said the advertisement appearing in Saturday’s NYT, touting a talk on Iran this week in Washington hosted by Boteach. As soon as the Sabbath ended, Jewish groups rushed to condemn the ad by This World: The Values Network. The AJC called it “revolting,” the ADL called it “spurious and perverse,” the Jewish Federations of North America called it “outrageous” and Josh Block, the president of The Israel Project, said it was “entirely inappropriate.” Marshall Wittmann, the spokesman for AIPAC, which will host Rice on Monday at its annual conference, said:

Ad hominem attacks should have no place in our discourse.

On Sunday, the CPMAJO issued a statement blasting the ad. Other condemnations came from the Orthodox Union, J Street, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement. In a combined statement, the leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism and Reform’s Religious Action Center called the ad “grotesque,” “abhorrent” and a “sinister slur.” The ad notes Rice’s recent complaints about Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Tuesday, which was organized without consulting the White House. Netanyahu plans to speak against the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers, which Obama backs. Rice said last week that the way the speech was organized was “destructive” to the USrael relationship. The ad also notes a controversy from the 1990s, when Rice was on Clinton 42’s National Security Council staff and reportedly advised against describing the mass killings in Rwanda as “genocide.” It said:

Ms Rice may be blind to the issue of genocide, but should treat our ally with at least as much diplomatic courtesy as she does the committed enemy of both our nations.

In an interview, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who directs the Rabbinical Assembly, said:

Ms Rice deserves an apology from Shmuley Boteach. The ad is completely inconsistent with the record of friendship and loyalty this public official has shown Israel and the Jewish people. It is not up to Shmuley Boteach to make it appear this is the way the Jewish community treats our friends.

Rice grew close to pro-Israel and Jewish groups during her stint as Pindosi envoy to the UN, in Obama’s first term, through her efforts to head off attacks on Israel and protect vulnerable populations in Sudan. Boteach in an interview said he stood behind the ad. He said:

The stakes could not be higher, and our ad rightly points out that Susan Rice has gone beyond any mandate in condemning the prime minister for simply speaking out. Condemnation should be directed not at those who seek to give Israel a voice but to those who seek to deny it.

Boteach, whose talk on Monday will take place in a Senate office building and will include Elie Wiesel, as well as Rep Brad Sherman (D-Calif) and Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas), has appealed to AIPAC activists to attend. Sherman condemned the ad on Twitter, but did not say if he was still participating in the event it was promoting. He said:

This ad is outrageous and harms the USrael alliance. It should be denounced in every forum.

Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, described the ad on Twitter as an “inappropriate ad hominem attack” that “doesn’t advance discourse on key issue of Iran.” Rabbi Steve Gutow, who heads the JCPA, the public policy umbrella for the community, said the ad was a blow against bipartisan support for Israel. He said in an interview:

It’s a sad moment for the Jewish community to have this ad appear.

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