Tag Archives: Obama

Video of the Week: From Russia With Love – Poll Regarding Crimean Self-Determination

I’ve been wanting to write new articles about issues including shale gas, bitcoin and the foreign exchange rigging scandal. However, events in Ukraine keep making the headlines around the world and thus I’m inclined to cover them.

In my latest post, I had discussed how the Ukranian government had fallen and how Viktor Yanukovych was nowhere to be found. Following those events, something unexpected occurred. On February 28th, armed gunmen wearing unmarked uniforms took over military and government installation throughout Crimea, the autonomous peninsula region of Ukraine. For those of you not familiar with Crimea’s location, this map should help clear things up.

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There are some important facts about Crimea that are necessary to know before we continue. Despite being a territory of Ukraine, Crimea is an autonomous region. It has its own parliament and its own laws to some extent. In fact, it was a part of Russia until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to kindly hand it over to Ukraine. Sevastapol, which is a city on the southwest coast of Crimea houses Russia’s Black Sea fleet and is crucial for Russia’s naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, and most importantly, as the map below shows, majority of Crimea’s population mainly consists of Russian speakers or trace their ethnic roots to Russia. All these factors combined make Crimea a significant piece in Russian-Ukrainian relations.

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To continue, on the very same day that armed gunmen appeared all over Crimea, Yanukovych resurfaced in Russia, claiming to still be the legitimate president of Ukraine. Complications continued when on March 1st, the Russian parliament gave the military the right to invade Russia. Following the parliament’s decision, thousands of Russian troops crossed into Crimea on the pretense that they were mobilizing to defend Crimean citizens of Russian decent. Many Ukrainian military bases were surrounded and the Ukrainian reserves were put on alert. The newly formed temporary Ukrainian government and many western leaders saw Russia’s aggressive actions as a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Western leaders were quick to announce their discontent of Russia’s actions. US president Barack Obama sent a message to Putin by stating that “there would be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine”. Other western leaders concurred with Obama and announced that they would instill heavy economic sanctions on Russia in order to punish Putin and his government. British Prime minister decisively affirmed his determination by sending a tweet.

Proposed sanctions currently include travel bans and asset freezes on influential Russians. However, US and European leaders also announced that if Russia continues to escalate its military presence in Crimea, they could consider cancelling certain trade agreements with the Russian government. Sanctions may have not been put into place yet but investors gave Russia a slight pinch over the weekend following the start of the crisis. On Monday, March 3rd, the Russian ruble tumbled in value and the Moscow Stock Exchange (MICEX) fell by 11.2%. As the graph below shows, the MICEX neared its lowest point in a year on the 3rd of March.

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All these events have finally led to this week’s Video of the Week. On March 6th, Crimea’s pro-Russian government decided that they will move to become a part of the Russian Federation. To confirm their decision with their citizens , the Crimean government decided to hold a referendum on the 16th of March. This decision by the Crimean government brought further negative reactions by Western leaders. President Obama stated that the proposed referendum would violate international laws.

If the West does in fact move to place trade sanctions on Russia, this will not only severely hurt Russia, but it will also strike at the European economy as well. As I had stated in my earlier posts, Europe nations import a significant amount of natural gas from Russia. If European nations were to end energy trade deals, then they would deal a major blow to their energy supplies as well. Without natural gas from Russia, the Europeans would have to turn to other sources such as increased imports from the Middle East or an increased investment into national energy production which would take years to develop. This is one of the reasons why some European nations such as Germany are reluctant to implement trade sanctions. The map below depicts the major natural gas pipelines from Russia to Europe.

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There are two issues on which I want to express my own opinion. The first is the premises of Russia’s military intervention. Putin’s justification to intervene in Crimea is to supposedly protect Russian speakers in Crimea. This notion is extremely similar to the excuse Adolf Hitler used to invade Sudetenland (modern day Czech Republic and Slovakia) in 1938 in the lead up to the start of World War II. Back then, Hitler demanded control over the Sudetenland to protect the oppressed German minority of the region. However, as we all know, he had much bigger and much more violent plans. More importantly, the West’s concession of Sudetenland didn’t quench Hitler’s lust for conquest. With that in mind, I don’t believe that a country can claim the responsibility to protect a group of citizens in another country that have ethnic or linguistic ties to it; at least not to the extent that they see the justification to rely on force. If Russia can invade Crimea to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine, whats to stop Mexico from invading the United States in order to protect the rights of Mexicans in America or to stop Turkey from invading Northern Iraq in order to protect the local ethnic Turks. In the modern globalized world,  the age of ethnically homogeneous countries are coming to an end. National populations are becoming more and more diverse with each passing year and with North Korea forming an odd exception, national identities are rarely forged from a single ethnicity or a single language. Thus, Russia’s decision to mobilize its military in order to protect Russian speaking Crimeans seems to be an excuse taken out of the 20th century’s playbook to me.

The second, and more important issue that I want to further discuss is Crimea’s right to self-determination, which is a fancy term for a region, or a country to determine its national identity or allegiance. The Crimean government announced that it wishes to be a part of Russia. But should it have the right to decide to which country it wants to belong to? I’m a fervent supporter of democratic rights and I know that Crimea is an autonomous region. However, Crimea is also still a part of Ukraine, and if Crimea is to join Russia or become independent, then all of Ukraine should have a say in the decision. Self determination seems rightful when you look at the issue from the side of those that are seeking it. However, not many may realize that in this case, if Crimea were to break away from Ukraine without the entire country’s consent, then Ukrainians would have their rights trampled on too. What sort of rights you may ask. The right to access, the right to utilize the public resources of that area and the right to do business are a few that come to my mind. Lets use the example of Catalonia, a region within Spain that also talks now and then about becoming an independent nation. The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona. Now imagine that I’m a Spaniard living in Madrid. As a Spanish citizen, I have the right to travel, live and move in Barcelona just like I would have those rights in Valencia. As a citizen of Spain, I should also have the right to utilize the resources of that region, whether it be public resources accumulated by the government or resources I might earn by setting up my own company there. If that region breaks off from Spain without the vote of all of the country’s citizens, then my rights would be violated. I’m sure that there are many regions within countries across the world where if a vote was held just in that region for secession, then it would pass. Catalonia, Quebec, the majority Kurdish populated regions of Turkey and Crimea are just a few that come into mind. Popular culture might make us symphatise with the struggle of these small regions. However, it is important to look at the issue on a national scale. That is why I’m against regional self determination without national consent.

Nevertheless, I’m an open minded person and I’m curious on what you might have to say about this issue. I’m sure that a lot of good arguments can be made in favor of self determination, such as the fact that many of the countries that exist today are a result of a struggle for self determination. Thus, for the first time, I’m creating a poll on my blog to see what you think. Should regions such as Crimea be able to secede or join another country or should it be up to the entire nation. I’m looking forward to hearing some interesting arguments that will challenge my opinions and perhaps sway me away from my current views.

Hopefully, the crisis in Ukraine comes to a peaceful end and I can write about other subjects. Until then, I’m looking forward to your views on my poll. As always, I’ll stay up to date on all matters regarding Ukraine. Stay tuned…

“The claims by President Putin and other Russians that they had to go into Crimea and maybe further into eastern Ukraine because they had to protect the Russian minorities, that is reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930s when Germany under the Nazis kept talking about how they had to protect German minorities in Poland and Czechoslovakia and elsewhere throughout Europe”
-Hillary Clinton

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Video of the Week – Obama Offers Surveillance Reform

Ever since Edward Snowden revealed last year that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been secretly recording cyber data from individuals across the entire globe, many advocates of civil liberties have been in a state of outrage. The US government responded to Snowden’s revelations by repealing his citizenship and seeking his arrest. However, after several weeks in which Snowden remained a man without a country, he was able to escape to Russia and was granted temporary asylum.

The NSA spying scandal was a large violation of individual privacy and gave us a better view of the post 9/11 world of paranoia and surveillance. Throughout the years, government officials had stated that they had been collecting information only on individuals who were deemed to be threats to national security. But Snowden showed us that in fact the NSA was keeping track of everyone, even the leaders of US allies such as Angela Merkel of Germany. The debacle caused Obama’s approval ratings to drop and brought a landslide of outrage and ridicule, leading to memes such as this.

Obama-Selfie-NSA

Well, as the video of this week shows, President Obama decided to give a speech regarding the NSA surveillance program. As the video explains, even though he admitted that mistakes were made by the extent of surveillance, he still deemed the program to be crucial to US security and highlighted the importance of secrecy regarding the way the NSA operates. The president did explain that certain internal controls would be enacted and that unless extraordinary cases occurred, the government would not spy on allied leaders. However, he did state that the collection of meta data would continue. Over the 6 years that Obama has been the US president, my outlook has been that there is always a big difference between what Obama says and what he does. So its wise to take even this small step to reform with a grain of salt and to not be overly optimistic. As Glenn Greenwald (the journalist who first interviewed Snowden) states, this is just one big PR stunt.

“I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
-Edward Snowden

Video of the Week – John Kerry Accidentally Averts War

I know that reading paragraph after paragraph of writing can get tiring at times; no matter how interesting the writing might be. Thus, starting today and every following Friday, I will post the Video of the Week. This clip will have either the most interesting or most newsworthy video from the previous week’s events. Additionally, I’ll try to briefly explain the context of video  Without further adieu, here is the Video of the Week

I was going to write a post on whether the US should engage in a military strike on Syria. However, my collection of thoughts might have become outdated thanks to the clumsiness of John Kerry. Appearing in a press conference regarding Syria, John Kerry was asked by CBS reporter Margaret Brennan, if there was “anything at this point [Assad’s] government could do…to stop an attack”. John Kerry went off script and said that Assad could turn over his entire arsenal of chemical weapons to the international community.

At first, this weak response went unnoticed. However, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, decided to take up Kerry on his offer. Putin suggested that Russia could take the chemical weapons off Syria’s hands and the Syrian government seems to have agreed to this deal. Finally, President Obama has said that if the Syrian government complies, they will not launch a military strike on Syria. Crisis averted? Perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see what unfolds. Maybe we should take Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize and give it to Margaret Brennan.

“Why don’t you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage him in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace”
-Vladimir Putin

Background on Syria – John Kerry is a Lizard

As you might know, the Obama administration is currently trying to seek approval from Congress in order to engage in a military strike on Syria. To give you the back story, the Syrian people first took to the streets during the Arab Spring of 2011 in protest of the dictatorial rule of Bashar Al-Assad. Since then, the situation in Syria has eventually avalanched into a full blown civil war. At first, Western nations were timid to intervene as Assad murdered his own people in droves. Additionally, two factors have made the situation even more complicated

1) The rebels, which were originally formed by moderate liberal citizens, have been infiltrated by radical Islamist groups.
2) Iran, China, and especially Russia are supporting the Assad regime. Since China and Russia are members of the UN National Security Council, they are vetoing any proposal to intervene in Syria.

At the beginning of the bloody conflict, President Obama had said that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would be a “red line” for the United States. Over the past few months, there were instances where Assad was believed to have used chemical weapons but Obama did not act. Finally though, a few weeks ago, videos surfaced that seemed to prove that the Assad regime had in fact used chemical weapons against the rebels. Obama seems to have had enough and has decided to ask Congress for the approval to engage in a limited missile strike against the Assad regime. Many have argued whether a military strike on Syria is the right option. I will discuss that in another post. For now, I only wanted to give a brief back story.

I don’t want to involve too much humor in such a tragic story, but the events over the past few days have brought forward an interesting question. Is John Kerry a lizard? John Kerry is the US Secretary of State and a few days ago he was being questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding striking Syria. The event was televised on CNN. As I was watching the hearing, I noticed something strange about Kerry and it seems like the crew at The Young Turks picked it up too.

What the hell is up with John Kerry’s tongue? Most people would say that its some kind of tick, but I think there’s a very good chance that John Kerry is secretly a reptilian humanoid. After the hearing, I’m sure Kerry went home and had a good time with his son Gecko.

In his book The Biggest Secret, Jon Icke, a British writer, first came up with the conspiracy theory that the world’s leaders have been extraterrestrial reptilian humanoids ever since the beginning of human history. Looking back at how many times our political leaders have betrayed, deceived, and disappointed us, I would say that it is very likely that we’ve in fact been led not by humans, but by reptiles.

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician”
-Charlie Chaplin

New FED Chairman

The Federal Reserve (FED) is the bank of all banks within the United States. It serves as the lender of last resort to banks within the nation, influences interest rates, controls the supply of money in the economy, and much more. The decisions the FED makes, let alone the topics they discuss in their meetings, have a huge impact on not just the American economy, but the entire global economic system.

Since 2006, the FED chairman has been this guy. Ben Bernanke. Or as I like to think of him; Captain Picard with a badass beard.

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“Quantitative Easing? Make it so.”


At the end of this year, Bernanke’s final term as FED Chairman will end and it will be up to President Obama to select his successor.

Why does this all matter? The reason why who becomes the next FED chairman is so crucial is because of the policies they will choose to enact. In response to the financial crisis of 2008, Bernanke decided to employ an operation called Quantitative Easing (QE), where the FED pumped money into the economy by continuously buying bonds. However, since the economy has steadily improved over the past several months, Bernanke is looking to draw down QE.

Enter the potential candidates. The first contender is Janet Yelen.

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Janet Yellen is currently the vice chairwoman at the FED. So she’s Bernanke’s right hand woman. Because of her experience in central banking and her familiarity with the rest of members of the FED, she is seen as the front-runner for the position. Many believe that she will represent a continuation of Bernanke’s ideas and policies and thus think that Yellen is a safe bet candidate. Of course she would make everyone feel safe. I mean look at her. If I ever ran into this woman, I can be positive that she would bake me cookies with milk and then tuck me into bed.

On the other hand is Larry Summers.

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Larry Summers is a widely acclaimed economist. His past positions include serving as Secretary of Treasury under Bill Clinton, the National Economic Council under Barack Obama in 2009, and as chief economist at the World Bank; not to mention President of Harvard. The most important factor, however, is that President Obama adores him. When several media outlets discussed how Summers is impulsive, has trouble working with others, and has a history of being misogynistic with female coworkers (smooth), President Obama made a statement in his defense. Summers is also seen as a person who tends to think outside the box and is experienced when it comes to dealing with crises. He not only served in the National Economic Council in 2009 after the economy tanked in 2008, but he was also the Treasury Secretary during the late 90s when Asia was in the midst of a financial crisis and Russia and Mexico had a currency crisis. These experiences would serve crucial at a time when the US economy is susceptible to the threat of a deepening crisis in Europe and to economic uncertainties across the world. Many believe that based on Summers’ track record, it might be possible for Summers to scrap or reform Bernanke’s current policies and come up with new FED actions.

In my opinion, Janet Yellen seems to be the more logical choice. She has an ample amount of experience working in the FED and has most likely earned the respect of other FED members. Though I don’t doubt Summers’ intellectual capabilities, it is important to point out that Summers’ actions as Treasury Secretary under President Clinton paved the path for financial deregulation which many state is the reason the 2008 crash occurred. So far, President Obama has said that he still has not made up his mind about the decision. Only time will tell and if you’ve been following the news lately, you will know that Obama has a lot on his plate right now.

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“In fact, the world needs more nerds.”
-Ben Bernanke