Daily Archive: 07/29/2014

Jul 29 2014

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Jul 29 2014

The ‘Good’ War

Taliban Making Military Gains in Afghanistan

By AZAM AHMED, The New York Times

JULY 26, 2014

Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops, according to Afghan officials and local elders.



Their advance has gone unreported because most American forces have left the field and officials in Kabul have largely refused to talk about it. The Afghan ministries have not released casualty statistics since an alarming rise in army and police deaths last year.



Interviews with local officials and residents in several strategic areas around the country suggest that, given the success of their attacks, the Taliban are growing bolder just two months into the fighting season, at great cost to Afghan military and police forces.

In Kapisa, a verdant province just north of Kabul that includes a vital highway to northern Afghanistan, insurgents are openly challenging and even driving away the security forces in several districts. Security forces in Tagab District take fire daily from the Taliban, who control everything but the district center. Insurgents in Alasay District, northeast of Kabul, recently laid siege to an entire valley for more than a week, forcing hundreds of residents and 45 police officers to flee. At least some of the local police in a neighboring district have cut deals with the Taliban to save themselves.

In the past month, a once-safe district beside the major city of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, has fallen under Taliban control, and a district along a crucial highway nearby is under constant threat from the Taliban. South of Kabul, police forces in significant parts of Logar and Wardak provinces have been under frequent attack, to deadly effect.

But there are only anecdotal reports to help gauge just how deadly the offensive has been. The Afghan defense and interior ministries stopped releasing casualty data after a shocking surge of military and police deaths in 2013 began raising questions about the country’s ability to sustain the losses. By September, with more than 100 soldiers and police officers dying every week, even the commander of the International Security Assistance Force suggested the losses could not be sustained.

Kandahar suicide attack kills cousin of Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai

AFP

Tuesday 29 July 2014 04.20 EDT

A cousin and close ally of the outgoing Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been killed in a suicide attack in the volatile southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, officials said, raising tensions during a struggle over the contested election result.

Hashmat Karzai was a campaign manager in Kandahar for Ashraf Ghani, one of the two presidential candidates involved in a bitter dispute over fraud that threatens to pitch the country into worsening instability.

Hashmat Karzai, who famously owned a pet lion, was killed by a man with explosives hidden inside his turban when visitors arrived to celebrate Eid, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Maybe it has something to do with this-

How Missing American Guns Might Be Fueling Terrorists In Afghanistan

by Will Freeman, Think Progress

Posted on July 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

On Monday, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), charged with ensuring efficiency and preventing fraud, reported that it discovered a significant lack of accountability on both the part of the U.S. and Afghanistan’s military, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), in tracking the hundreds of thousands of weapons the U.S has sold to Afghanistan since 2004. According to the report, the Pentagon set up two inventory systems to track the weapons in 2010, but incompatibilities between the programs led to “missing serial numbers, inaccurate shipping and receiving dates, and duplicate records,” that produced a logistical nightmare and caused some weapons to go missing even before they were shipped abroad.

The situation only gets worse inside Afghanistan. The report states that ANSF officials rarely take inventory of all the weapons they receive, and often by the time they do, many have already gone missing. As if poor record-keeping wasn’t enough, the real danger comes from the army’s inability to properly dispose of weapons, thousands of which have been piling up in excess as the ANSF attempts to scale down its huge supplies. Afghanistan’s military received 83,000 more AK-47s than needed in 2013 alone. Overwhelming numbers of extra weapons aren’t just a waste of money; they also threaten to trade hands and bolster the anti-government insurgents the U.S. and ANSF have been battling for years.



While the U.S. supplies huge amounts of military aid across the globe, it has been less keen on developing nonproliferation programs with other U.N. member states to stop the illicit trade in small arms. In 2001, the U.S. and a small group of states including China, Cuba, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and Russia voted to block the creation of a more comprehensive system for monitoring weapons proliferation. They argued that existing standards set up under international law were doing enough to check the illegal flow of weapons. But a look at the growing power of insurgencies over the past several years suggests otherwise. Infamous terrorist groups like ISIS have stunned the world by overpowering well equipped armies, often using illegally smuggled or captured weapons.

Ultimately, ensuring accountability over future arms sales may do more to counter terrorism around the globe than dumping huge shipments of weapons on foreign armies incapable of tracking them.

Jul 29 2014

The Failure of the Political Class

GOP’s 30-year spin job is over: Why we are not a center-right nation

Joshua Sager, Salon

Monday, Jul 28, 2014 11:45 AM EST

According to Gallup polling, 59 percent of Americans think that U.S. wealth “should be more evenly distributed” among a larger percentage of the people while only 33 percent thought that the current “distribution is fair.” While this is down from the 2008 modern high point, where 68 percent of Americans supported more redistribution, the public opinion of redistribution has held a stable majority, if not super-majority, for decades.



According to Pew Research, 69 percent of Americans oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare, even in order to cut the deficit, while only 23 percent support such cuts. Additionally, 59 percent oppose cuts on programs assisting the poor in order to address the deficit, while only 33 percent support such austerity.

A multitude of polls have indicated that between 60 percent and 80 percent of Americans support increasing taxes on the wealthy, depending upon how the question is worded and the polling venue – this indicates that a majority of Americans support increasing taxes on top-earners in order to reduce the deficit.

According to Quinnipiac Polling, 71 percent of Americans support increasing the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour, while only 27 percent oppose increasing the minimum wage.

According to Gallup Polling, 54 percent of Americans support labor unions, while only 39 percent disapprove of unions.

According to Gallup Polling, 37 percent of Americans think that we spend too much on defense, while only 28 percent think that we spend too little.

During the fight over letting jobless benefits expire, Quinnipiac Polling found that 58 percent of Americans supported extending benefits by at least three months, while only 37 percent of Americans supported letting benefits expire.

According to Washington Post/ABC polling, 59 percent of Americans support gay marriage, while only 34 percent oppose marriage equality.

According to Pew Research, 54 percent of Americans support keeping abortion “legal in all/most cases,” while only 40 percent support making abortion “illegal in all/most cases.” While informative of public opinion, this poll is moot, as abortion is a constitutionally protected right, and there is no way for even a majority of antiabortion voters (that hasn’t existed for decades) to legally make abortion illegal in most cases.

According to ABC/Washington Post polling, 51 percent of Americans disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, while only 33 percent support the decision. This decision was a direct result of the Alabama GOP’s attempts to circumvent the Voting Rights Act preclearance provision, and was engineered to allow right-wing legislatures to pass voter disenfranchisement laws.

According to polling by the Feldman Group, 62 percent of Americans support the Paycheck Fairness Act – which seeks to close the gender-based wage gap – while only 29 percent of Americans oppose the act.

According to Gallup Polling, 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, while only 39 percent support continued criminalization.

Even Fox News Polls indicate that 68 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship, while only 15 percent support deportation – of the remaining 17 percent of those polled, 13 percent support expanding guest worker programs while 4 percent didn’t know what they wanted.

According to Pew Research, 81 percent of Americans support universal background checks for all gun purchases, while only 17 percent oppose them. A University of California, Davis, poll concluded that even 55.4 percent of gun sellers supported universal background checks and disqualifying offenses for gun purchase, while only 37.5 percent opposed background checks.

According to USA Today/Stanford University polling, 73 percent of Americans believe in climate change and 52 percent of Americans say that it will be a “very serious” problem if we don’t implement policies to reduce it (as opposed to 10 percent who say that climate change will be “not serious at all”).

According to polling by Perception Insight/Greenberg Quinlan, 66 percent of Americans support stronger EPA air regulations, 72 percent support stronger carbon-emission regulations, and 60 percent support stronger regulations on motor vehicle emissions.

According to these policy polls, an “average American” supports the redistribution of wealth through taxing the wealthy more, wants to increase the minimum wage and environmental protections, thinks that unions are beneficial to society, and opposes attempts to cut anti-poverty programs or entitlements, even if those cuts are intended to balance the budget. On social issues, this theoretical American supports gay equality, reasonable abortion access, universal background checks for gun purchases, wage equality for women and the legalization of marijuana.



The tendency of the American public to vote based upon party or cultural identification rather than objective policy preferences creates a situation where almost half of our political representation in the federal government supports policies that are supported by only a tiny minority of the total population; this is what has led Congress to have a 13 percent approval rating, up slightly from when it cratered to 9 percent in late 2013.

If the American people want to actually implement their policy preferences, they need to stop voting based upon cultural or party identifiers and start voting based purely upon policy. Democrats need to vote for progressive politicians while Republicans need to vote for conservatives who do not live so far out on the fringe that they fall off the edge of sanity.

My party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the victory of Wall Street Democrats

Bill Curry, Salon

Sunday, Jul 27, 2014 07:00 AM EST

Though a private citizen, Nader shepherded more bills through Congress than all but a handful of American presidents. If that sounds like an outsize claim, try refuting it. His signature wins included landmark laws on auto, food, consumer product and workplace safety; clean air and water; freedom of information, and consumer, citizen, worker and shareholder rights. In a century only Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson passed more major legislation.

Nader’s also the only American ever to start a major social or political movement all by himself. The labor, civil rights and women’s movements all had multiple mothers and fathers, as did each generation’s peace and antiwar movements. Not so the consumer movement, which started out as just one guy banging away at a typewriter. Soon he was a national icon, seen leaning into Senate microphones on TV or staring down the establishment from the covers of news magazines.



Washington’s rapid response affirmed Nader’s belief that people provided with critical facts will demand change and that sooner than one might expect politicians, however listless or corrupt, will give it to them. This faith in the power of ideas and of public opinion – in the educability of people and thus in the viability of democracy – distinguishes Nader from much of what remains of the American left.



In 1985 moderate Democrats including Bill Clinton and Al Gore founded the Democratic Leadership Council, which proposed innovative policies while forging ever closer ties to business. Clinton would be the first Democratic presidential nominee since FDR and probably ever to raise more money than his Republican opponent. (Even Barry Goldwater outraised Lyndon Johnson.) In 2008 Obama took the torch passed to Clinton and became the first Democratic nominee to outraise a GOP opponent on Wall Street. His 2-to-1 spending advantage over John McCain broke a record Richard Nixon set in his drubbing of George McGovern.

Throughout the 1980s Nader watched as erstwhile Democratic allies vanished or fell into the welcoming arms of big business.  By the mid-’90s the whole country was in a swoon over the new baby-faced titans of technology and global capital. If leading Democrats thought technology threatened anyone’s privacy or employment or that globalization threatened anyone’s wages, they kept it to themselves.  In his contempt for oligarchs of any vintage and rejection of the economic and political democratization myths of the new technology Nader seemed an anachronism.



Between 1996 and 2000 the Wall Street Democrats who by then ruled the party’s upper roosts scored their first big legislative wins. Until then their impact was most visible in the quietude of Congress, which had not enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s. It was the longest such stretch since the 19th century, but no one seemed to notice.

In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.

The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.

The furor over Nader arose partly because issues of economic and political power had, like Nader himself, grown invisible to Democrats. As Democrats continued on the path that led from Coehlo to Clinton to Obama, issues attendant to race, culture and gender came to define them. Had they nominated a pro-lifer in 2000 and Gloria Steinem run as an independent it’s easy to imagine many who berated Nader supporting her. Postmortems would have cited the party’s abandonment of principle as a reason for its defeat. But Democrats hooked on corporate cash and consultants with long lists of corporate clients were less attuned to Nader’s issues.

Democrats today defend the triage liberalism of social service spending but limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street). The rank and file seem oblivious to the party’s long Wall Street tryst. Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.



Populism encompasses not just Bryan’s late 19th century agrarians but their close relations, the early 20th century urban progressives and countless descendants of each. Jefferson and Jackson are called fathers of both populism and the Democratic Party. Jackson and Bryan are the only Democrats other than FDR to be nominated three times for president. All populists share common traits: love of small business; high standards of public ethics; concern for individuals, families and communities; suspicion of elites and of all economic trusts, combinations and cartels.

Some recent populist talk is owing to the election of two liberals, Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio. (Liberals taking Massachusetts or Manhattan didn’t used to be news.) It’s unclear how well they and other Democratic liberals can tap populist sentiment. In any case, Democrats are late to the populist dance. Mass protests of corrupt oligarchies have roiled global politics for a decade. In America the Tea Party has been crying crony capitalism since the Bush bailout and Obama stimulus. Income inequality’s so bad Mitt Romney wants to raise the minimum wage.

Even the Democrats’ tardy me-too-ism seems insincere, less a churning of policy than a freshening of message. In 2009, when he had the votes in Congress, Obama chose not to raise the minimum wage. Not till late 2013 did Democrats press the issue. Why then? As the New York Times reported, “they found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014.” If there’s a true populist revolt on the left it is as yet invisible to the naked eye.



Democrats aren’t even having a debate. Their one think tank, the Center for American Progress, serves their establishment. (Its founder, John Podesta, once Clinton’s chief of staff, is now counselor to Obama.) The last real primary challenge to a Democratic senator was in 2006 when Ned Lamont took on Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman. They say the GOP picks presidents based on seniority. Two years out, Republicans seem headed for a bloody knife fight while Hillary Clinton may be headed for the most decorous, seniority-based succession in either party’s history. (If she loses this time it will be to herself.)

If Democrats had caught populist fever they’d be reappraising their own orthodoxy and offing a few of their own incumbents. Owing only partly to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, they instead spend their days as Republicans do, in an endless search for new ways to help the rich pump money into politics. As public alienation deepens, polls show Democrats generally content with their party’s leaders. Of such stuff revolutions are not made.



What agrarian populists did best was battle cartels and advocate for a kind of homegrown communitarian capitalism. They busted price fixing railroads and granaries, fought for rural free delivery and established cooperative banks that still provide a third of all credit to rural America. Most amazing, they did it all via Congress amid the venality of the first Gilded Age. Powerful trusts were turning farmers into wage slaves and the world’s greatest democracy into just another corrupt oligarchy when Populists and Progressives rose as if from nowhere to stop them.

Parallels to our own time could hardly be clearer. Like invasive species destroying the biodiversity of a pond, today’s global trusts swallow up everything smaller than themselves.  The rules of global trade make organizing for higher wages next to impossible in developed and undeveloped countries alike. Fights for net neutrality and public Wi-Fi are exactly like the fight for rural free delivery.  Small businesses are as starved for credit as small farmers ever were. PACs are our Tammany Hall. What’s missing is a powerful, independent reform movement.

Republicans make their livings off the misappropriation of populism. Democrats by their silence assist them. Rand Paul is more forceful than any Democrat on privacy and the impulse to empire. The Tea Party rails loudest against big banks and corporate corruption. Even on cultural issues Democrats don’t really lead: Your average college student did more than your average Democratic congressman to advance gay marriage.



Mistaking the nature of the crisis, Obama mistook massive fraud for faulty computer modeling and a middle-class meltdown for a mere turn of the business cycle. Had he grasped his situation he’d have known the most he could do by priming the pump would be to reinflate the bubble. Contrast him to FDR, who saw the systemic nature of his crisis. To banks Roosevelt offered only reform; financial help went to customers whose bad mortgages he bought up and whose savings he insured. By buying into Bush’s bailout, Obama co-signed the biggest check ever cut by a government, made out to the culprits, not the victims. As for his stimulus, it didn’t cure the disease and hefty portions of it smelled like pork.



Liberals have spent the intervening years debating macroeconomic theory but macroeconomics can’t fathom this crisis. This isn’t just a slow recovery from a financial sector collapse, or damage done by debt overhang or Obama’s weak tea Keynesianism. We’re in crisis because of all our broken systems; because we still let big banks prey on homeowners, students, consumers and retailers; because our infrastructure is decrepit; because our tax code breeds inefficiency and inequality; because foreign interventions bled us dry. We’re in peril because our democracy is dying. Reviving it will take more than deficit spending and easy money. It will take reform, and before that, a whole new political debate.



It pains us to watch Democrats bungle populist issues. We see Rand Paul corner the market on privacy and the scrutiny of defense budgets and wonder why no Democrat rises to expose his specious rantings. We yearn for a new politics but worry that our democracy, like that Antarctic ice shelf, has reached its tipping point. For things to improve Democrats must come up with better ideas and learn how to present them. So why don’t they?

One reason is that today’s Democrats think politics is all about marketing. While Republicans built think tanks Democrats built relationships with celebrity pollsters. When things go awry one pops up on TV to tell us how they “lost control of the narrative.” Asked to name a flaw, Obama invariably cites his failure to “tell our story.” Judging by his recent book, Tim Geithner thinks failing to tell his story was the only mistake he ever made. People don’t hate the bailout because Tim Geithner gives bad speeches. They hate it because their mortgages are still underwater.

Democrats must learn that policy precedes message; figure out what you believe, then how to tell people about it. A good idea advertises itself.



Democrats think the power of money is greater than the power of ideas. Nader thinks that with the right ideas you can win even if outspent 100-to-1.  Every year Democrats further dilute their ideas to get the money they think they need to sell them. The weaker the ideas, the more ads they need, the more money it takes, the weaker the ideas. As you can tell from their ads, they’ve been at this a long time.

They don’t believe in ideas because they don’t believe in people. Obama wasted years dickering with Republicans who wished him only ill. He should have talked to the people and let them talk to the Republicans.

One reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama. In 2008 Obama said he’d bail out homeowners, not just banks. He vowed to fight for a public option, raise the minimum wage and clean up Washington. He called whistle-blowers heroes and said he’d bar lobbyists from his staff. He was critical of drones and wary of the use of force to advance American interests. He spoke eloquently of the threats posed to individual privacy by a runaway national security state.

He turned out to be something else altogether. To blame Republicans ignores a glaring truth: Obama’s record is worst where they had little or no role to play. It wasn’t Republicans who prosecuted all those whistle-blowers and hired all those lobbyists; who authorized drone strikes or kept the NSA chugging along; who reneged on the public option, the minimum wage and aid to homeowners. It wasn’t even Republicans who turned a blind eye to Wall Street corruption and excessive executive compensation. It was Obama.

A populist revolt among Democrats is unlikely absent their reappraisal of Obama, which itself seems unlikely. Not since Robert Kennedy have Democrats been so personally invested in a public figure. Liberals fell hardest so it’s especially hard for them to admit he’s just not that into them.



If Democrats can’t break up with Obama or make up with Nader, they should do what they do best: take a poll. They would find that beneath all our conflicts lies a hidden consensus. It prizes higher ethics, lower taxes and better governance; community and privacy; family values and the First Amendment; economic as well as cultural diversity. Its potential coalition includes unions, small business, nonprofits, the professions, the economically embattled and all the marginalized and excluded. Such a coalition could reshape our politics, even our nation.

Inside the Beltway, things look much different.

No Labels? No results? No problem.

By Meredith Shiner, Yahoo News

7/28/14

In 2010, a group of political veterans who said they were tired of the extreme partisanship paralyzing Washington created an organization to advance their new cause. The founding mission of No Labels was “to move America from the old politics of point scoring toward a new politics of problem-solving.” Through a combination of congressional engagement in Washington and grass roots organizing around the country, No Labels’ lofty aspiration was to promote bipartisanship by providing political cover for lawmakers to work across the aisle and creating incentives to slowly erode the culture of polarization and intransigence in Congress. But four years later, it appears the group designed to combat the insidious habits of the Washington establishment has been engulfed by it.



The group failed to carve out much of a niche for itself in the 2012 presidential contest. Its backing of a 12-point “Make Congress Work!” action plan and promotion of a bill that would “withhold congressional pay if members of Congress fail to pass spending bills and the budget on time” went nowhere.  Since then, its focus on fostering bipartisanship in Congress has not gone far, except to the extent that there is now bipartisan stagnation and gridlock so severe some members report becoming depressed and hating their jobs. Members of Congress seem all too eager to accept the mantle of civic responsibility offered by No Labels, only to return to partisan warfare.

In July 2013, No Labels held a rally where lawmakers of both parties crowded a park outside the Capitol, stood on a grandstand and one by one declared themselves “problem solvers.” The government shut down a few months later as Republicans, including some who appeared on that stage, refused to allow a budget to pass unless it defunded the president’s health care law.

Even in its own May document, No Labels claimed only one legislative victory: a bill that passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee by voice vote, but which never came up for a vote in the House or became law.

It turns out that for a group that consistently bills itself as above the partisan politics and the corrosive culture of Washington, No Labels has come to exemplify some of the most loathed qualities of the town’s many interest groups.

Much of the group’s budget goes toward sustaining or promoting itself. According to No Labels’ confidential document, the group employed 22 paid staffers and eight consultants as of May. Of its projected $4.5 million budget for 2014, only 4 percent – or $180,000 – of spending was slotted for “Congressional Relations.” By contrast, administrative and operational expenses got $1.035 million over the same time period. Another 5 percent was set for travel. A further 30 percent ($1.35 million) was earmarked for digital growth and press, and 14 percent for fundraising.



Outside groups have become a cottage industry inside the Beltway, where they pay lush salaries to staffers and consultants while talking loudly and doing little to achieve their missions in this age of legislative stasis.

“The reality is that No Labels is a front group to raise money and pay consultants,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They should release a full disclosure of not only how they’re raising their money but also how they’re spending it.”



Clearly people still are writing big checks to keep the operation moving.

But the more they do, and the more entrenched a player No Labels becomes, the more risk there is that the accumulated weight of the group’s actions will come to define them permanently. In today’s highly partisan Washington, it’s hard to stay unlabeled for long.

Jul 29 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Joshua Sager: GOP’s 30-year spin job is over: Why we are not a center-right nation

From minimum wage to the environment to abortion, America is far more liberal than the media or the right admit

It is a persistent belief among many in the political and media establishments, fed by decades of right-wing propaganda, that the United States is a “center-right nation” that finds progressives to be far too liberal for mainstream positions of power.

If you look purely at electoral outcomes, those who assert this appear to have a fairly strong point. The last several decades of federal politics have been dominated by center-right policies and truly left-wing politicians have been largely marginalized (e.g., Bernie Sanders). Even Clinton and Obama – the last two Democratic presidents who, theoretically, should be leftists – are corporate-friendly moderates who have triangulated during negotiations with Republicans to pass center-right policy compromises (e.g., Obama’s Heritage Foundation-inspired ACA or the Clinton Defense of Marriage Act compromise).

While electoral results may support the idea of a center-right nation, looking beyond electoral politics – which involve a mixture of policy choices, party politics, fundraising and propaganda – and focusing purely upon raw policy preferences leaves us with an entirely different picture.

Here is a compilation of polling data from various reputable American polling organizations, describing the policy preferences of the Americans people over the last year.

Bill Curry: My party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the victory of Wall Street Democrats

In 2006 the Atlantic magazine asked a panel of “eminent historians” to name the 100 most influential people in American history.  Included alongside George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain and Elvis Presley was Ralph Nader, one of only three living Americans to make the list. It was airy company for Nader, but if you think about it, an easy call. [..]

Populism isn’t just liberalism on steroids; it too demands compromise. After any defeat, a party’s base consoles itself with the notion that if its candidates were pure they’d have won. It’s never true; most voters differ with both parties. Still, liberals dream of retaking Congress as the Tea Party dreams of retaking the White House: by being pure. Democratic elites are always up for compromise, but on the wrong issues. Rather than back GOP culture wars, as some do, or foreign wars, as many do, or big business, as nearly all do, they should back libertarians on privacy, small business on credit and middle-class families on taxes.

If Democrats can’t break up with Obama or make up with Nader, they should do what they do best: take a poll. They would find that beneath all our conflicts lies a hidden consensus. It prizes higher ethics, lower taxes and better governance; community and privacy; family values and the First Amendment; economic as well as cultural diversity. Its potential coalition includes unions, small business, nonprofits, the professions, the economically embattled and all the marginalized and excluded. Such a coalition could reshape our politics, even our nation.

Glen Ford: The Siege of Detroit: A War of Black Urban Removal

The people of Detroit have no rights that corporations and their servants in government are bound to respect. Indeed, the emergency manager laws have been used to disenfranchise the residents of every largely Black city and school district in the state, encompassing more than half the Black population of Michigan. (The people of Michigan rejected the legislation in a referendum, but Republican lawmakers simply passed a near-identical measure, as if nothing had happened.)

The 82 percent Black metropolis is under siege, in the Medieval sense of the term. Just as ancient armies deprived towns under siege of food and water, to starve and thirst them into submission, so Kevin Orr has caused the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to cut off tens of thousands of residents, in an escalating trajectory of systematically inflicted mass punishment and pain designed to make life in the city unbearable for a huge proportion of the population.

This is a war against a Black city, and a blueprint for future aggressions aimed at shrinking “chocolate cities” across the nation. What Katrina accomplished through the sudden advent of flood, the corporate strategists in Michigan intend to achieve by emergency dictatorship, privatization and blatantly racist official barbarism.

Dean Baker: Finance in America: Promoting Inequality and Waste

In the crazy years of the housing boom the financial sector was a gigantic cesspool of excess and corruption. There was big money in pushing and packaging fraudulent mortgages. The country paid a huge price for the financial sector’s sleaze.

Unfortunately, because of the Obama administration’s soft-on-crime approach to the bankers who became rich in the process, the industry is still a cesspool of excess and greed. Just to be clear, knowingly issuing and packaging a fraudulent mortgage is a crime, the sort of thing for which people go to jail. But thanks to the political power of the Wall Street, none of them went to jail, and in fact they got to keep the money.

Since the penalties for ripping off people are trivial to non-existent, the financial sector finds this to be a much more profitable line of business than actually providing financial services. The New York Times recently reported on the boom in the subprime market for auto loans featuring many of the same abusive practices we saw in the subprime mortgage market during the bubble years. Lenders are slapping on extra fees, changing the terms after contracts are signed, and doing all the other fun things we have come to expect from leaders in finance. The used car industry was sufficiently powerful that it was able to gain an exemption from being covered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

We could look to contain these abuses with better regulation, but there is an easier route: competition. Senator Elizabeth Warren and others have proposed re-establishing a postal banking system. The Postal Service used to provide many basic banking services and postal banks still exist in many European countries. It should be a simple enough matter to re-establish such a system, run on a profit-making basis, that would provide basic services to low and moderate income households.

Eugene Robinson: Republican Lawmakers on Strike

The Republican Party’s paralysis on immigration is so complete-and so utterly irresponsible-that President Obama has no choice but to act on his own.

Just say the word immigration and most GOP members of Congress either change the subject or scurry away. Rather than tackle a suite of genuine issues whose obvious solutions would clearly benefit the nation, House Republicans prefer to pass yet more useless bills that seek-and fail-to take away people’s health insurance. [..]

House Republicans, meanwhile, have been spinning their wheels. Boehner is reportedly seeking agreement on a bill that provides only about $1 billion in emergency funding, far less than Obama says is needed. And it seems likely that the House bill-if there is one-will seek to change a 2008 law that prevents the Central American children from being summarily deported.

A little background about that law is in order. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act-named after a 19th-century English abolitionist-was signed by George W. Bush late in his presidency. Designed to combat human trafficking, the law provides that any child from a country other than Canada or Mexico who enters the United States illegally must be given a full immigration hearing before being deported. The goal is to determine whether the child has a valid claim for asylum.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Paul Ryan’s New Clothes

Paul Ryan is counting on this: Because he says he wants to preserve a safety net, speaks with concern about poor people and put out a 73-page report, many will elide over the details of the proposals he made last week in his major anti-poverty speech.

The Wisconsin Republican congressman is certainly aware that one of the biggest political difficulties he and his conservative colleagues face is that many voters suspect them of having far more compassion for a wealthy person paying taxes than for a poor or middle-income person looking for a job.

So Ryan gave a well-crafted address at the American Enterprise Institute in which the centerpiece sounded brand spanking new: the “Opportunity Grant.” The problem is that this “pilot program” amounts to little more than the stale conservative idea of wrapping federal programs into a block grant and shipping them off to the states. The good news is that Ryan only proposes “experiments” involving “a select number of states,” so he would not begin eliminating programs wholesale. Thank God for small favors.

Jul 29 2014

The Breakfast Club 7-29-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Jul 29 2014

On This Day In History July 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 29 is the 210th day of the year (211th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 155 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1858, the Harris Treaty was signed between the United States and Japan was signed at the Ryosen-ji in Shimoda.  Also known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, it opened the ports of  Edo and four other Japanese cities to American trade and granted extraterritoriality to foreigners, among other stipulations.

The treaty followed the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa, which granted coaling rights for U.S. ships and allowed for a U.S. Consul in Shimoda. Although Commodore Matthew Perry secured fuel for U.S. ships and protection, he left the important matter of trading rights to Townsend Harris, another U.S. envoy who negotiated with the Tokugawa Shogunate; the treaty is therefore often referred to as the Harris Treaty. It took two years to break down Japanese resistance, but with the threat of looming British demands for similar privileges, the Tokugawa government eventually capitulated.

Treaties of Amity and Commerce between Japan and Holland, England, France, Russia and the United States, 1858.

The most important points were:

   * exchange of diplomatic agents

   * Edo, Kobe, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Yokohama‘s opening to foreign trade as ports

   * ability of United States citizens to live and trade in those ports

   * a system of phttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritoriality extraterritoriality] that provided for the subjugation of foreign residents to the laws of their own consular courts instead of the Japanese law system

   * fixed low import-export duties, subject to international control

The agreement served as a model for similar treaties signed by Japan with other foreign countries in the ensuing weeks. These Unequal Treaties curtailed Japanese sovereignty for the first time in its history; more importantly, it revealed Japan’s growing weakness, and was seen by the West as a pretext for possible colonisation of Japan. The recovery of national status and strength became an overarching priority for the Japanese, with the treaty’s domestic consequences being the end of Bakufu (Shogun) control and the establishment of a new imperial government.

Jul 29 2014

TDS/TCR (Loser)

TDS TCR

No Forks!

For this week’s guests, the web exclusive Fareed Zakaria extended interview and the real news join me below.