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Has U.S. Democracy Been Trumped? Bernie Sanders wants to know who owns America?

#14561 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-January-02, 18:54

From Ruth Igielnik and Kim Parker at Pew Research:

Quote

By many measures, the U.S. economy is doing well. Unemployment is near a 50-year low, consumer spending is strong and the stock market is delivering solid returns for investors. Despite these positive indicators, public assessments of the economy are mixed, and they differ significantly by income, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Majorities of upper-income and middle-income Americans say current economic conditions are excellent or good. But only about four-in-ten lower-income adults share that view, while a majority say the economy is only fair or poor.

Views of the economy are strongly linked to partisanship, with Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party much more likely than their Democratic and Democratic-leaning counterparts to have a positive view of the current economy. While attitudes toward the economy have long been partisan, they are particularly so today – and virtually all the increase in positive views of the economy since Donald Trump became U.S. president has been among Republicans. Still, income gaps persist within these party groups. In fact, lower-income Republicans are roughly four times as likely as those in the upper-income tier to give the economy an only fair or poor rating.

To the extent that current economic conditions are helping particular groups, the public sees the benefits flowing mainly to the most well-off. Roughly seven-in-ten adults (69%) say today’s economy is helping people who are wealthy (only 10% say the wealthy are being hurt). At the same time, majorities of Americans say poor people, those without a college degree, older adults, younger adults and the middle class are being hurt rather than helped by current economic conditions.

When asked how economic conditions are affecting them and their families, nearly half of adults (46%) say they are being hurt, 31% say they’re being helped and 22% say they don’t see much of an impact. Overall, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say economic conditions are hurting their own families, but views differ significantly by income within parties.

A variety of factors go into Americans’ assessments of current economic conditions, the most prominent being perceptions about wages and income, the availability of jobs and the cost of health care. Two of these three factors are also seen as having a significant impact on people’s own financial situations: 51% say wages have a great deal of impact on their household finances, and 43% say the same about health care costs. The overall job situation is seen as less personally relevant. Instead, 45% say consumer prices have a large impact on their own financial health.

About two-thirds of lower-income Americans frequently worry about paying their bills A look inside the financial lives of Americans reveals an enormous gulf in the day-to-day challenges and worries that lower-income and upper-income adults experience. Two-thirds of lower-income adults (65%) say they worry almost daily about paying their bills, compared with about one-third of middle-income Americans (35%) and a small share of upper-income Americans (14%). The cost of health care is also a worry that weighs on the minds of many Americans, particularly those in the lower-income tier. More than half of lower-income adults (55%) say they frequently worry about the cost of health care for themselves and their families; fewer middle-income (37%) and upper-income Americans (18%) share this worry.

The nationally representative survey of 6,878 adults was conducted online from Sept. 16-29, 2019, using Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

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#14562 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-January-02, 19:57

From A Ridiculously Optimistic History of the Next Decade by David Brooks at NYT:

Quote

Looking back at the 2020s from our vantage point in 2030, the first great event was the complete destruction of Donald Trump’s Republican Party. As the former Republican consultant Mike Murphy had noticed, there were roughly 300 state and federal elections during the Trump years and Republicans did horribly in most of them. The 2020 vote was a continuation of that trend. Trump’s landslide defeat left him humiliated, and the Republicans lost their Senate majority.

Trump cried fraud and tried to whip up his followers, but they turned their backs. He went from idol to scapegoat in an instant. It seemed they could forgive him everything but losing. Many temporarily retreated from political life, the way evangelical Christians did after the ignominy of the Scopes trial.

President Joe Biden faced an interesting dynamic in his party. The political power was with moderates. The intellectual power was with the left. People of color, whose views were largely more moderate, became the crucial swing faction.

As president, Biden resisted the interest groups that wanted him to address health care first. Instead, he did child and earned-income tax credits, infrastructure, expanded early childhood education, expanded prison reform, and so on — what some writers called “reparations by any other name.” He gave regulatory czar Elizabeth Warren a special portfolio to take on Big Tech.

The major events of the decade were cultural, not political. The Trump era had witnessed a crisis of connection at the bottom of society and a crisis of authority at the top. Social repair was the top order of the day once a new president took office.

The first whiff of the cultural restoration was the “Accountability Clubs” that spread across the nation’s campuses. College students realized that America stinks at accountability. Either there is no accountability (Wall Street after the financial crisis) or people have their lives destroyed for a “problematic” tweet.

The Accountability Clubs bore the motto “Truth and Mercy.” Students wanted to restore a culture in which facts mattered. They were also searching for a way to judge others in a graduated and humane manner, allowing for repentance, forgiveness and restoration. Marshall McLuhan once remarked that “moral indignation is a technique used to endow an idiot with dignity.” Suddenly indignation, the keystone emotion of the Trump years, was lame. Empathy made a comeback.

The second cultural trend of the decade was the rise of the urban church. Suburban megachurch attendance fell, because the pastors had disgraced themselves under Trump. But suddenly there was a surge in church plants in places like Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco, as highly educated people found homes for their spiritual longings.

The churches were liturgically highly charismatic (Bethel music) and highly universalistic and intellectual (Richard Rohr). Their politics were an odd mix — pro-L.G.B.T.Q., pro-life, active on climate change, pro-animal rights (one of the signature moral causes of the decade). The religious left gained on the religious right.

At the same time, the racial justice conversation went intimate. America is involved in a multigenerational process of truth and reconciliation. In the teens, the truth-telling had generally revolved around historic events — slavery, lynching, redlining. In the 2020s, a series of writers, artists and directors gave us vivid descriptions of the subtleties of contemporary black life.

The profusion of video streaming networks allowed a new generation of artists to take audiences inside the psychological lives of people of color. These artists realized that structural change would happen when people learned to see one another whole.

The most important cultural change came to be known as the Civic Renaissance. During the first two decades of the century, hundreds of thousands of new civic organizations came into being — healing political divides, fighting homelessness, promoting social mobility and weaving communities. But these organizations were small. They did not grow into the big national chapter-based structures that had repaired America’s social fabric a century earlier — the Y.M.C.A., the Rotary, the Boy Scouts.

By the 2020s, philanthropists and community builders realized the only way to change culture and weave the social fabric was by creating an A.F.L.-C.I.O. of civil society, with big national voices and large, decentralized national organizations so that people across America had easy and practical pathways to get involved in community revival.

In the 2010s, it seemed like the liberal order was cracking up. In the 2020s, that feeling vanished. The decline of the Chinese economy delegitimized the authoritarian model. It turns out you can’t run a centrally controlled economy without a lot of waste, corruption and riot police.

Meanwhile, the American political system began to work better. The G.O.P. re-emerged under Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio as a better version of a working-class party — socially right, economically left. Democrats remained dominant through the decade. Their party’s biggest accomplishment was in foreign affairs — the repair of America’s alliances and the restoration of global American leadership.

Americans were more collaborative in the 2020s. And the New York Mets won the World Series every single year.

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#14563 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2020-January-03, 00:41

Just waking up to find out the the US assassinated Qassem Soleimani. WTF? Guess the latest Gulf War just kicked off...
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#14564 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2020-January-03, 01:36

View Posthrothgar, on 2020-January-03, 00:41, said:

Just waking up to find out the the US assassinated Qassem Soleimani. WTF? Guess the latest Gulf War just kicked off...

Trump tweets American flag amid reports of strike against Iranian general

The Manchurian President continues to disgrace the office of the President of the United States with the equivalent of a crowd chanting USA ... USA at a sporting event.

Quote

The Pentagon later said that Trump directed the strike against Soleimani, calling it a “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad.”

No mention of a consensus of high ranking military or intelligence leaders endorsing the attack.

Quote

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the statement continued. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Can you believe a press report from the White House led by somebody who's coming up on 15,000 lies in less than 3 years in office? It's just as likely that Putin told his American stooge to assassinate Soleimani.

Iran experts uniformly agreed the Soleimani was a bad actor in the region, but that's been true for decades. Israel apparently considered assassinating Soleimani but deferred because they feared worse consequences in the future. The USA under Obama also considered assassinating Soleimani but decided not to, again because they feared Iranian terrorist retaliation with unacceptable losses.

At least the next news cycle won't be about impeachment. B-)
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#14565 User is offline   shyams 

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Posted 2020-January-03, 07:01

View Postjohnu, on 2020-January-03, 01:36, said:

At least the next news cycle won't be about impeachment. B-)

If it happens, Mission Accomplished!
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#14566 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-January-03, 09:55

The string that ties a bow around all these characters - Pompeo, Bolton, Pence, Cruz, Barr, et al - is religious fervor. The leader is Pope Donald I. And that is why he is infallible.
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#14567 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-January-03, 20:32

From the Editorial Board at NYT:

Quote

The real question to ask about the American drone attack that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was not whether it was justified, but whether it was wise. Many pieces of the puzzle are still missing, but the killing is a big leap in an uncertain direction.

General Suleimani was indisputably an enemy of the American people, a critical instrument of the Iranian theocracy’s influence across the Middle East and an architect of international terrorism responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and a great many others in the region, from Yemen to Syria. He no doubt had a role in the campaign of provocations by Shiite militias against American forces in Iraq that recently led to the death of an American defense contractor and a retaliatory American airstrike against the militia responsible for the attack.

It may well be that General Suleimani had come to Iraq in part to plot the next move against United States military personnel or civilians when his car was blown up by a missile from an American Reaper drone. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior commander of a Shiite militia in Iraq, was also killed. But then, General Suleimani and his whereabouts have long been well known to American and other intelligence services, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had resisted killing him for fear of setting off a greater conflict with Iran and further destabilizing a chronically volatile region.

Assassinating General Suleimani, moreover, was not the same as hunting down Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leaders of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, both terrorists who answered to no government. General Suleimani was a senior official of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and openly targeting him was a sharp escalation in the conflict between the United States and Iran, all but taunting Iran to strike back. And that by a president who had previously demonstrated strong aversion to American involvement in the Middle East, contempt for intelligence from the region and occasional reluctance to order the use of military force.

“The game has changed,” the defense secretary, Mark Esper, said Thursday, before the general was killed, vowing pre-emptive action if the United States detects plotting by Iranian-backed forces to attack American interests in the region.

This American escalation is particularly aggressive, if not impulsive, after the administration’s hesitation to respond to a series of previous Iranian provocations, including an attack on Saudi oil facilities. It’s reasonable to ask why the administration didn’t take more measured deterrent steps before abruptly twisting the regional dial to “boil.”

As Senator Christopher Murphy, among other Democrats, pointed out, the Trump administration might have set off “a potential massive regional war” without congressional authorization.

“One reason we don’t generally assassinate foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not less, Americans killed,” Mr. Murphy added. “That should be our real, pressing and grave worry tonight.”

Coming as Mr. Trump awaits Senate trial on his impeachment by the House of Representatives, the president’s ordering of the assassination raised discomfiting questions about his motive. Similar questions were raised in 1998 when President Bill Clinton ordered a major bombing campaign of Iraq, known as Operation Desert Fox, while Congress was holding impeachment hearings. In Washington’s acutely partisan climate, most Republicans rallied in support of Mr. Trump while Democrats demanded to know what imminent threat the attack was meant to avert.

Mr. Trump said Friday afternoon: “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN that President Trump’s decision to “remove” General Suleimani pre-empted a “big action” Iran was plotting that would have put American lives at risk. But neither Mr. Pompeo nor the Pentagon offered any details on the threat, or on how General Suleimani’s death would resolve it.

On the contrary, the killing of a general close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and highly popular among many Iranians rendered a major Iranian retaliation certain. What it would be, and where, were now the major unknowns, with Iran experts warning that the country had many far-flung proxies and many asymmetric means at its disposal, including cyberwarfare.

Any such strike would then demand an American retaliation, risking an all-out war with enormous consequences for the Middle East and beyond. Oil prices have already spiked; any chance for a new nuclear deal with Iran would be eliminated; Israel, under a prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as deeply in political trouble as Mr. Trump and potentially in search of a diversion, could be tempted to get involved; Iraq, currently without a firm government, could again become a battleground between American forces and pro-Iranian militias.

Given the enormous risks to which President Trump and his hawkish secretaries of state and defense, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Esper, have exposed the nation, they must promptly and convincingly explain their reasons for ordering so fateful an action. The explanation had better be good: Mr. Trump’s record of lies, lies and more lies; his impeachment on charges of misusing the power of his office; and his record of improvising foreign policy according to his immediate political calculations have undermined his credibility, at home and abroad. Congress and the American public need the facts.

Another fair question: Why didn’t the White House alert senior Democrats in Congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as is customary before a major military action?

On Friday, Mr. Pompeo tweeted that “de-escalation” was the primary objective of the United States. At the same time, the Pentagon announced it had deployed roughly 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to the region, joining another 750 who were deployed there earlier this week. In May, the United States weighed plans for a force of as many as 120,000 soldiers in bases around the Middle East. That’s approaching the number of soldiers who participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

What about the promise to end endless wars, Mr. President?

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#14568 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2020-January-04, 03:18

So, spent a bunch of time wandering Seville. Its nice. Much less touristy than Granada. The locals appear to really like planting orange trees. And of course, this being me, I spent a whole bunch of time listening to podcasts about the targeted assassination a couple days back. My current thoughts (which are very much subject to change)

1. I think that Solemani was involved in a whole bunch of decisions that were not in the interest of the US and lead to the death of US citizens, soldiers, and allies. However, this kind of targeted assassination of a very high ranking Iranian official feels escalatory.

2. Regardless of whether or not Trump had the authority to kill Solemani, I suspect that this will turn out to have been a bad move on the part of the US. I don't believe that Solemani is indispensable to the Iranian regime. He might even be worth more as a martyr, especially given the civic unrest that is going on there. At the same time, the symbolism of this action is enormous and, with this, the downside risk is very large as well. I'm not sure whether this is a case where Trump is being impetuous / stupid or if this a genuine "Wag the Dog" moment. (I suppose that it is possible that this was a carefully considered and thought out action, but I doubt it and so does most everyone that I have heard speak about this)

3. From the looks of things, the AUMF(s) are broad enough that Trump has the authority to take this action. Those need to be superseded.

4. Craziest take: Trump launch this attack as a bride to Bolton to help convince him to keep his mouth shut.
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#14569 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2020-January-04, 04:57

View Posthrothgar, on 2020-January-04, 03:18, said:

So, spent a bunch of time wandering Seville. Its nice. Much less touristy than Granada. The locals appear to really like planting orange trees. And of course, this being me, I spent a whole bunch of time listening to podcasts about the targeted assassination a couple days back. My current thoughts (which are very much subject to change)

1. I think that Solemani was involved in a whole bunch of decisions that were not in the interest of the US and lead to the death of US citizens, soldiers, and allies. However, this kind of targeted assassination of a very high ranking Iranian official feels escalatory.

2. Regardless of whether or not Trump had the authority to kill Solemani, I suspect that this will turn out to have been a bad move on the part of the US. I don't believe that Solemani is indispensable to the Iranian regime. He might even be worth more as a martyr, especially given the civic unrest that is going on there. At the same time, the symbolism of this action is enormous and, with this, the downside risk is very large as well. I'm not sure whether this is a case where Trump is being impetuous / stupid or if this a genuine "Wag the Dog" moment. (I suppose that it is possible that this was a carefully considered and thought out action, but I doubt it and so does most everyone that I have heard speak about this)

3. From the looks of things, the AUMF(s) are broad enough that Trump has the authority to take this action. Those need to be superseded.

4. Craziest take: Trump launch this attack as a bride to Bolton to help convince him to keep his mouth shut.


I like Seville although my first experience of it was in August in a heatwave and it was something like 130 degrees on the streets in the sun. The crazy thing was that the buildings caught and reradiated the heat so it was still stupidly hot in the late evening.

Solemani was a very dangerous man the world may well be better off without, but his deputy who is taking over will mean little changes. I have no idea whether this will turn out to be a good move or not.
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#14570 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-January-04, 08:31

View Posthrothgar, on 2020-January-04, 03:18, said:

So, spent a bunch of time wandering Seville. Its nice. Much less touristy than Granada. The locals appear to really like planting orange trees. And of course, this being me, I spent a whole bunch of time listening to podcasts about the targeted assassination a couple days back. My current thoughts (which are very much subject to change)

1. I think that Solemani was involved in a whole bunch of decisions that were not in the interest of the US and lead to the death of US citizens, soldiers, and allies. However, this kind of targeted assassination of a very high ranking Iranian official feels escalatory.

2. Regardless of whether or not Trump had the authority to kill Solemani, I suspect that this will turn out to have been a bad move on the part of the US. I don't believe that Solemani is indispensable to the Iranian regime. He might even be worth more as a martyr, especially given the civic unrest that is going on there. At the same time, the symbolism of this action is enormous and, with this, the downside risk is very large as well. I'm not sure whether this is a case where Trump is being impetuous / stupid or if this a genuine "Wag the Dog" moment. (I suppose that it is possible that this was a carefully considered and thought out action, but I doubt it and so does most everyone that I have heard speak about this)

3. From the looks of things, the AUMF(s) are broad enough that Trump has the authority to take this action. Those need to be superseded.

4. Craziest take: Trump launch this attack as a bride to Bolton to help convince him to keep his mouth shut.


The Bolton idea is not a crazy as you think - I considered it, too. Kind of a twofer - wag the Bolton. I don't think it is outside the realm of possibilities that Trump is trying to ingratiate himself with the hawks in the armed services and the DOD in order to have them on his side if he decides to dispute election results and stay in office regardless.

I am convinced that Donald Trump wants to be the American Putin. I think there is nothing he would not do to accomplish that goal.

Btw, I don't think it necessary for Iran to chant "Death to America" when we are already in the process of suicide.
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#14571 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2020-January-04, 09:52

Well worth a read

https://twitter.com/...sHwNIx2ZEtzIeAg
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#14572 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2020-January-04, 13:40

Now, the Manchurian President and his stooges are just pulling things out of their asses and presenting them as fact.

Pence Links Suleimani to 9/11. The Public Record Doesn’t Back Him.

Quote

In one of his tweets, Mr. Pence claimed that General Suleimani helped 10 of the men who would go on to carry out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks cross through Iran and enter Afghanistan. That does not match established historical accounts of General Suleimani or public United States intelligence about the hijackers.

Quote

By 2001, General Suleimani had already been named the head of the Quds Force, the powerful security branch that often coordinates with other terrorist groups worldwide. Yet General Suleimani was not named at any point in the “9/11 Commission Report.”

In fact, the report states in no uncertain terms that neither the Iranian government nor Hezbollah, a group that General Suleimani worked closely with, ever knew anything about the attacks or helped facilitate them:

I am still waiting for even the thinnest of imminent plots against the US that were the pretext of the Suleimani assassination. I expect that I will be waiting until a Democratic President takes office and exposes these fabrications.
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#14573 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2020-January-05, 01:10

View Postjohnu, on 2020-January-04, 13:40, said:

I am still waiting for even the thinnest of imminent plots against the US that were the pretext of the Suleimani assassination. I expect that I will be waiting until a Democratic President takes office and exposes these fabrications.


Just like the Ukraine impeachment details, the Suleimani details are trickling out slowly, and based on past history, will soon turn into a flood of information.

Trump Bolted To Most Extreme Iran Measure Despite Reported Concerns By Aides

Quote

The president went for the most extreme alternative despite some aides’ fear that the action was not legally justified, reported The Associated Press — and that evidence was weak of “imminent attacks” from Iran quickly claimed in the wake of Soleimani’s death by the Trump administration, a source told the Times.

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#14574 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2020-January-05, 07:38

View Postjohnu, on 2020-January-05, 01:10, said:


Just like the Ukraine impeachment details, the Suleimani details are trickling out slowly, and based on past history, will soon turn into a flood of information.

Trump Bolted To Most Extreme Iran Measure Despite Reported Concerns By Aides




If I were having a personal crisis, physical, emotional, financial, whatever, who would I like to have by my side to help me through it? Is there anyone anywhere who would choose Donald Trump? For me, the answer would be "Good God, no, do I look insane?" The various people quoted in the article that you cite seem to think the same, but of course there are others out there. I hope those who support Trump might try a thought experiment. Imagine yourself in deep crisis, imagine DT is at your side. Would this really make you feel more optimistic about your chances? I cannot see why it would. Just one more danger to watch out for is how I would see it.
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#14575 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-January-05, 11:48

Unfortunately it's not just Trump.

This gentleman and his wife, who are spending their last years on the planet wrestling with our increasingly strapped nursing home industry, are represented by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse who thinks dismantling Obamacare and issuing press releases like this one are a substitute for the hard work of figuring out how to improve healthcare in the U.S.:

Quote

“Here’s the good news: This ruling is further proof that Obamacare is a smorgasbord of unconstitutional bunk. Here’s the bad news: the longer it stays on the books the longer Nebraska families are trapped under the weight of its impossibly complicated structure. We need to give families the power to manage their budgets with portable, flexible insurance that meets their needs. Moms and dads shouldn’t be stuck with the two crummy choices of either big government bureaucrats or big overpriced insurance companies. This ruling is another chance for Congress to work on real solutions — let’s do better.”

As if anything besides indifference has been preventing Mr. Sasse and his colleagues from working on real solutions for the last 20 years. For them "let's do better" means "lets cut taxes and let private equity solve this problem" and substantive efforts to do better are dismissed as unconstitutional bunk.

What a jerk.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sasse had this to say about Trump's decision to assassinate Suleimani:

Quote

"This is very simple: General Soleimani is dead because he was an evil bastard who murdered Americans. The President made the brave and right call, and Americans should be proud of our service members who got the job done. Tehran is on edge - the mullahs have already slaughtered at least a thousand innocent Iranians - and before they lash out further they should know that the U.S. military can bring any and all of these IRGC butchers to their knees."

Everything appears simple to Mr. Sasse who has a PhD in history from Yale. No doubt, in his view, the decision to go into Iraq in 2003 was also very simple.
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#14576 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2020-January-05, 16:36

Mission Accomplished

Iran Ends Nuclear Limits as Killing of Iranian General Upends Mideast

Quote

On Sunday, the Iranian government said it was abandoning its “final limitations in the nuclear deal,” the international agreement intended to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. The decision leaves no restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, the statement said, including on uranium enrichment, production, research and expansion.

Iran will, however, continue its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and return to the nuclear deal if the economic sanctions imposed on it are removed and Iran’s interests guaranteed, the government said. American sanctions have hit Iran’s oil-based economy particularly hard.

If the goal was to prod Iran into rapidly completing nuclear weapons, mission accomplished.

Iraqi Parliament Votes To Expel Foreign Troops After Soleimani Killing

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Iraq’s parliament voted to demand the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country on Sunday following U.S. President Donald Trump’s order to assassinate a high-profile Iranian military leader there.

The vote came after Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi advised parliament to expel the troops in response to the attack Trump authorized last week on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani while the commander was at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq.

If the goal was to concede US influence in Iraq, mission accomplished.

Twitter Critics Explode Over Trump’s Threatened ‘War Crimes’ In Iran

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{Trump Twitter feed} - targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture

Rebutted by many including former special counsel in the Department of Defense Ryan Goodman

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WAR CRIME

"Making the clearly-recognized historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples ... the object of attack"

Geneva Convention Protocol I
(also: U.S. Department of Defense, Law of War Manual, 5.18)

So targeting cultural and religious sites is a war crime under the Geneva Convention? Who would have known B-) If the goal was to make President Impeached a war criminal, mission approaching completion.
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Posted 2020-January-06, 07:47

From Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg:

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I don’t know why President Donald Trump decided to kill the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Perhaps he was rolled by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others; perhaps it was just impulsive.

But I can say that if Trump is seeking a confrontation to help him win re-election, he’s almost certainly making a big mistake.

I went through all of this back in the spring, and Michael Tesler goes through similar arguments over at the Monkey Cage. Our view more or less the consensus among political scientists — contrary, as he points out, to the “Wag the Dog” assumptions in the popular culture about the popularity of war.

The basic argument?

In the short run, not all foreign confrontations produce a rally effect (an upward spike in the president’s approval ratings). The key variable turns out to be whether out-party elites support or oppose the president’s actions. So far Democrats, while condemning Soleimani as a terrorist mastermind responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans in Iraq and elsewhere, haven’t been praising Trump’s actions. And Trump hasn’t sought their support; not only did he refrain from notifying Congress in advance, but within hours of the drone attack that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday, he was already using it to distinguish Republicans from Democrats, going so far as to retweet a Republican activist who slurred Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. In other words, while we can never be certain about the outcome, Trump is doing exactly the opposite of what would be needed to get a short-term burst of support.

But rally effects are short-term, anyway. And so are the public opinion gains if the policy goes well, because voters have extremely short memories. The classic example is the fate of President George H.W. Bush after the first Gulf War. The conflict was perceived as a tremendous victory with low costs, and voters promptly forgot about it as soon as it was no longer dominating the news. Just two years after it ended with Bush’s popularity soaring, he lost the 1992 election. A quieter victory now — say, if Iran’s threat to retaliate fizzles out and killing Soleimani actually does reduce Iranian adventurism — would almost certainly yield no significant public opinion gains because those successes wouldn’t dominate the news. (To be fair: Quiet setbacks, even important ones, probably wouldn’t harm Trump’s popularity because, again, most people wouldn’t notice them).

If, however, the result of Trump’s actions is a longer military conflict, then he’s really in trouble. The two things that have been found to hurt presidential approval ratings, and therefore re-election chances, are bad economic news and mounting U.S. casualties in a foreign conflict. Trump is risking both.

Could this analysis be wrong? Sure. Any number of things could have changed so that previous findings by political scientists might no longer apply. Or perhaps something about Trump, or about this particular international crisis, is different in some relevant way. That’s always possible — but partisan polarization would presumably make it less likely, not more likely, to get significant public opinion effects from events of any kind.

None of this is about whether Trump’s actions are good policy or bad. Policy failures (such as the taking of hostages by Iran in 1979) can produce a rally effect for a president; policy successes, such as the ones that George H.W. Bush had during his presidency, can have no effect at all or only spark only short-term changes. And in the long run, policy successes can be politically useful for presidents even if they have no direct effect on public opinion. Not to mention that policy success is good for the nation.

But if all Trump was interested in is improving the chances of his own re-election? Then this confrontation with Iran is all downside risk, with little chance of any reward.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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Posted 2020-January-06, 16:33

More from Matt Yglesias on the state of the economy and how this affects the Dems campaign strategy:

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Many on the left hoped that the silver lining of the prolonged slump since the Great Recession of 2008 would be to discredit capitalism and build momentum for drastic change. Only the youngest voters have stayed wedded to this idea, with much of the broader electorate holding a fairly positive view of the status quo: 76 percent of voters rate economic conditions as either “very good” or “somewhat good,” according to a CNN poll in late December.

For liberals, this sets up a worrisome political dynamic ahead of 2020. Typically, positive attitudes about the economy are good news for incumbent presidents.

But one nice thing about a strong labor market is that it creates political space to finally pay attention to the myriad social problems that can’t be solved by a “good economy” alone — things like child care, health care, college costs, and environmental protection — that during, the Obama years, tended to be crowded out by a jobs-first mentality.

Good times, in other words, could be the perfect opportunity to finally tackle the many long-lingering problems for which progressives actually have solutions and about which conservatives would rather not talk.

For years, there was a mostly true narrative that despite positive GDP growth, actual good economic news was largely limited to stock prices and corporate profits. More recently, however, the corner has turned.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index shows a high degree of optimism about the future of the economy. A Gallup poll found that 65 percent of adults think it’s a good time to find a quality job, and 55 percent rate economic conditions as either good or excellent. Fifty-six percent of Americans rate their personal financial situation as good or excellent, 66 percent say they have enough wealth and income to live comfortably, and 57 percent say their personal financial situation is improving.

Corporate profits, meanwhile, remain high but have actually been falling as a share of the economy since 2012.

At the same time, a low unemployment rate plus higher minimum wages in many states mean that pay is rising — especially for workers at the bottom end.

At the same time, according to voters, “the economy” no longer rates among the top four problems facing the nation.

That doesn’t change the fact that macroeconomic management remains, substantively speaking, one of the government’s most important tasks. But the mission for the next administration won’t be to heal a broken labor market, but to take advantage of a sound one to create huge benefits.

One nice thing about low unemployment is that it tends to lead to wage increases.

Employers, of course, don’t like to raise wages when they can get away with it. But in the context of a strong labor market, that stinginess brings its own benefits, since the only way to get away with avoiding big wage increases is to take a risk on workers who might otherwise be locked out. Companies have suddenly found themselves more open to hiring ex-convicts, for example, which is not only good for a very vulnerable population but also makes it much less likely that ex-offenders will end up committing new crimes. Similarly, people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction aren’t normally an employer’s first choice of job applicants. But beggars can’t be choosers, and a strong labor market is a great chance for people who need of a second chance to get one.

A related issue is racial discrimination. For as long as we have records, the black unemployment rate has always been higher than the white unemployment rate. But the racial unemployment gap, which surged during the Great Recession, has been steadily narrowing ever since. Discrimination becomes more costly during periods of full employment, and continued strength in the labor market will continue to whittle away at this and other similar gaps.

Last, but by no means least, a strong labor market is the optimal time for labor militancy.

The threat of a strike is much more potent at a time when customers are plentiful but potential replacement workers are scarce. And periods in which it’s relatively easy for an experienced worker to get a new job with a new company are typically periods in which it’s hard for employers to intimidate workers out of organizing. Indeed, as Polish economist Michael Kalecki predicted way back in 1943, this is one reason why business interests somewhat counterintuitively fail to advocate for robust full employment policies. An actual recession is bad for almost everyone — but a healthy chunk of the population out of work makes for a decent disciplinary tool, and it keeps the political agenda occupied with things like the need to fix the mythical “skills gap” rather than with worker demands for a bigger piece of the pie.

Meanwhile, a reduced public obsession with the need to address short-term economic problems opens up more space to address the many longstanding problems that can’t be cured by a strong economy.

Even as the labor market has gotten steadily healthier in recent years, the American birth rate continues to fall from its recession-era highs.

Women tell pollsters that’s not because the number of kids they’d ideally like to have has fallen. Instead, the No. 1 most-cited reason is the high cost of child care. Child care doesn’t get more affordable just because the unemployment rate is low. If anything, it’s the opposite — child care is extremely labor-intensive, and the prospects for introducing labor-saving technology into the mix look bad. To make child care broadly affordable would require government action; it’s just not going to happen in a free market, which doesn’t magically allocate extra income to people who have young kids.

More broadly, America’s sky-high child poverty rate compared with peer countries is entirely attributable to our failure to enact a child allowance policy. A better labor market helps marginally, but it doesn’t address the fundamental issue that a new baby increases financial needs while also making it harder to work long hours.

By the same token, getting sick is expensive, and simultaneously, often leads to income loss. Absent a strong government role, there’s no way to ensure that care and other needed resources are there for those who need it most.

Last, but by no means least, there’s the environment. An unregulated economy generates a lot of pollution, and nothing about strong economic growth changes that. On the contrary, what happens is the long-term negative impacts of the pollution end up outweighing the short-term benefit of letting businesses operate unimpeded. Moving the ball forward on everything from climate change to lead cleanup to air pollution requires persuading voters to make the opposite calculation: that the economy is doing well enough to prioritize long-term concerns.

These are all policy areas in which progressives want to act regardless of the current state of the economy. But the mass public is more likely to give these ideas a hearing when there’s no real worry of a short-term economic emergency. And conservatives really have nothing to say about any of them.

The administration of President Donald Trump is steadily pursuing a policy agenda aimed at stripping as many people as possible of their health insurance, but the president never talks about it.

By the same token, his reelection campaign claims “we have the cleanest air on record” when, in fact, air quality has been declining under Trump, and his administration is working on a bunch of regulatory rollbacks that will make air pollution even worse. Meanwhile, Trump’s only child care proposal has been the idea of creating a one-off grant program designed to give states extra money if they agreed to lower quality standards for child care settings.

Progressives have ideas about how to boost economic growth, but conservatives have their own clearly articulated vision, one centered on tax cuts and business-friendly regulation. By contrast, when it comes to other social concerns that transcend the short-term state of the economy, progressives have a set of proposals and, well, conservatives have basically nothing. The strong economy is, itself, an asset for Trump during his reelection bid. But the recovery he’s presiding over plainly began under former President Barack Obama, and all Trump has really done is avoid rocking the boat too much. Meanwhile, growth itself is raising the salience of a whole range of other topics on which conservatives have essentially nothing to say.

Democrats’ best path forward isn’t in denying that economic progress has been made, but in emphasizing the extent to which it’s absurd that a rich and stable country like ours is also home to sky-high child poverty, middle-class families who can’t afford day care for their kids, and worsening air quality. Low unemployment is great, but it should be the start of good social policy — not the end.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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Posted 2020-January-06, 19:30

From Michelle Goldberg at NYT:

Quote

There are no more adults in the room.

After three harrowing years, we’ve reached the point many of us feared from the moment Donald Trump was elected. His decision to kill Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s second most important official, made at Mar-a-Lago with little discernible deliberation, has brought the United States to the brink of a devastating new conflict in the Middle East.

We don’t yet know how Iran will retaliate, or whether all-out war will be averted. But already, NATO has suspended its mission training Iraqi forces to fight ISIS. Iraq’s Parliament has voted to expel American troops — a longtime Iranian objective. (On Monday, U.S. forces sent a letter saying they were withdrawing from Iraq in response, only to then claim that it was a draft released in error.) On Sunday, Iran said it will no longer be bound by the remaining restrictions on its nuclear program in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal that Trump abandoned in 2018. Trump has been threatening to commit war crimes by destroying Iran’s cultural sites and tried to use Twitter to notify Congress of his intention to respond to any Iranian reprisals with military escalation.

The administration has said that the killing of Suleimani was justified by an imminent threat to American lives, but there is no reason to believe this. One skeptical American official told The New York Times that the new intelligence indicated nothing but “a normal Monday in the Middle East,” and Democrats briefed on it were unconvinced by the administration’s case. The Washington Post reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who last year agreed with a Christian Broadcasting Network interviewer that God might have sent Trump to save Israel from the “Iranian menace” — has been pushing for a hit on Suleimani for months.

Rather than self-defense, the Suleimani killing seems like the dreadful result of several intersecting dynamics. There’s the influence of rapture-mad Iran hawks like Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence. Defense officials who might have stood up to Trump have all left the administration. According to Peter Bergen’s book “Trump and His Generals,” James Mattis, Trump’s former secretary of defense, instructed his subordinates not to provide the president with options for a military showdown with Iran. But with Mattis gone, military officials, The Times reported, presented Trump with the possibility of killing Suleimani as the “most extreme” option on a menu of choices, and were “flabbergasted” when he picked it.

Trump likely had mixed motives. He was reportedly upset over TV images of militia supporters storming the American Embassy in Iraq. According to The Post, he also was frustrated by “negative coverage” of his decision last year to order and then call off strikes on Iran.

Beyond that, Trump, now impeached and facing trial in the Senate, has laid out his rationale over years of tweets. The president is a master of projection, and his accusations against others are a decent guide to how he himself will behave. He told us, over and over again, that he believed Barack Obama would start a war with Iran to “save face” and because his “poll numbers are in a tailspin” and he needed to “get re-elected.” To Trump, a wag-the-dog war with Iran evidently seemed like a natural move for a president in trouble.

It’s hard to see how this ends without disaster. Defenders of Trump’s move have suggested that he might have re-established deterrence against Iran, frightening its leadership into restraint. But Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar at Johns Hopkins University and former senior adviser to Obama’s State Department, tells me that Iran likely believes that it has to re-establish deterrence against the United States.

“If they don’t do anything, or if they don’t do enough, then Trump will get comfortable with this kind of behavior, and that worries them,” said Nasr. To Iranians, after all, America is the aggressor, scrapping a nuclear agreement that they were abiding by and imposing a punishing “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. Just like militarists in the United States, they’re likely to assume that weakness invites attacks. “I don’t think they want to provoke war, but they do want to send a signal that they’re prepared for it,” said Nasr.

Even if Iran were to somehow decide not to strike back at the United States, it’s still ramping up its nuclear program, and Trump has obliterated the possibility of a return to negotiations. “His maximum pressure policy has failed,” Nasr said of Trump. “He has only produced a more dangerous Iran.”

Meanwhile, ISIS benefits from the breach between Iraq and America. “ISIS suicide and vehicle bombings have nearly stopped entirely,” said Brett McGurk, who until 2018 was special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS. “Only a few years ago, there were 50 per month, killing scores of Iraqis. That’s because of what we have done and continue to do. These networks will regenerate rapidly if we are forced to leave, and they will again turn their attention on the West.”

Unlike with North Korea, it’s difficult to imagine any photo op or exchange of love letters defusing the crisis the president has created. Most of this country has never accepted Trump, but over the past three years, many have gotten used to him, lulled into uneasy complacency by an establishment that has too often failed to treat him as a walking national emergency. Now the nightmare phase of the Trump presidency is here. The biggest surprise is that it took so long.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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Posted 2020-January-07, 07:23

From Gideon Rachman at FT:

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“Ladies and gentlemen, we got him”: I can still remember the exultant tone of Paul Bremer, the American governor of post-invasion Iraq, as he announced the capture of Saddam Hussein. Mr Bremer’s exhilaration was understandable. But it also pointed to a persistent fallacy that has undermined US foreign policy for decades. You could call it the “Dr Evil syndrome”.

This is the idea, popular in Hollywood, that killing or capturing a “bad guy” is the key to solving a complex foreign policy problem. It did not work out like that with Saddam. And it is unlikely that the Dr Evil theory will fare any better after the killing last week of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most feared military commander.

Many of the “bad guys” eliminated by the US over the years were genuinely evil. Those successfully targeted have included not just Saddam and Soleimani, but also Osama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda, and Muammer Gaddafi, the tyrannical leader of Libya.

It is emotionally cathartic for the US to finally catch up with an old enemy, like bin Laden. Even Soleimani, who the vast majority of Americans had never heard of, could be made a proxy for all the slights and setbacks that the US has suffered at the hands of Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

But the record suggests that taking out a famous bad guy almost never yields lasting gains in US security or influence, which are the usual measures of foreign-policy success. That is partly because Dr Evils generally emerge in deeply dysfunctional countries. Removing them does not remove the social and political pathologies that produce these people in the first place. In fact, it may, for a while, make those problems worse.

In 2003, President George W Bush suggested that the capture of Saddam would be “crucial to the rise of a free Iraq”. But Iraq did not turn into a stable, pro-western democracy. Instead it remained a fractured, violent country which fell increasingly under the sway of Iran.

Gaddafi was another longstanding foe of America, whose compound was bombed by the US in 1986, during the Reagan years. The US and its allies backed an uprising against him in 2011, and the colonel was killed by his Libyan adversaries. But, in the ensuing years, Libya has descended into anarchy and become a base for people traffickers and radical Islamists.

After the 9/11 attacks, it became a psychological and political necessity for the US eventually to catch up with bin Laden. His death dealt a further blow to an already weakened al-Qaeda. But Islamist militancy and terrorism resurfaced in new forms — in particular, through the rise of Isis in Iraq and Syria. In a reminder of the complexity of the real world, as opposed to the Hollywood version of it, Soleimani — the Iranian commander the Americans have just killed — played an important role in repressing Isis.

The assassination of Soleimani will not fix America’s problem with Iran, any more than executing Saddam fixed the problem with Iraq. John Bolton, Donald Trump’s erstwhile national security adviser, is tweeting hopefully about the possibility of “regime change” in Iran. But even if that happens (and most experts seem doubtful that it will), the experience of Iraq and Libya does not suggest that the US will necessarily like the aftermath.

Assuming the Iranian regime holds on to power, it may well become an even more dangerous adversary for the US. The Iranians now have both the opportunity and the motive to go after American targets in the region. The regime could also go all out to develop nuclear weapons. Mr Trump could find himself sucked into another of those “endless wars” in the Middle East that he has promised to end.

The malign consequences of the killing of Soleimani could extend well beyond the Middle East — by encouraging other countries to follow America’s example. Assassinations as a tool of foreign policy were made illegal by the US in the 1970s, after a Congressional inquiry into some of the murkier actions of the CIA during the cold war.

Both US and international law place severe restrictions on political assassination, which is why the Trump administration insists that strikes such as those aimed at Soleimani, and before him Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a leader of Isis, are acts of self-defence aimed at terrorists. But the definition of “terrorism” may now be flexible enough to tempt both Russia and China, should they wish to emulate America by eliminating foreign enemies with drone strikes.

The decision to disavow assassination as a tool of US foreign policy was not made solely on moral grounds. American officials had also noticed that the tactic was often ineffective and counter-productive.

The strategy that did eventually allow the US to prevail in the cold war demanded patience, restraint and a willingness to avoid reaching for quick, violent fixes. It was laid out in 1947 by George Kennan, the original “wise man” of US foreign policy. He recommended the “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies”.

Faced with Iran’s much less threatening expansive tendencies, America should once again have chosen patience and vigilance. Instead, it has fallen once again for the Dr Evil fallacy, with dangerous consequences for the Middle East and the wider world.

From an interview with George Kennan in 2002:

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Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before … In other words, war has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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