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Member since: 2002
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Why it's OK to Accept Wall Street Campaign Cash

Why It's OK to Accept Wall Street Campaign Cash

By Bill Scher
February 08, 2016

What do Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Franklin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson all have in common? They all accepted campaign contributions from Wall Street tycoons.

And, for those on that list who have already been president, all successfully imposed regulations on corporations anyway.

The Internet Age has dramatically changed fundraising in the ensuing 100 years—or has it? On one hand, then-Sen. Barack Obama was able to tap nearly 4 million individual donors in 2008. On the other, when it came to actual dollars donated, the share coming from small donors was a similar one-third. Not only did some of Obama’s top bundlers hail from the world of finance, but he also took in almost twice as much Wall Street money as his Republican opponent, John McCain.

Sanders doesn’t name-check Woodrow Wilson on the trail, perhaps because the Wilson administration prosecuted his socialist hero Eugene Debs and imprisoned him. Sanders does, however, lean heavily on the two Roosevelts in making the case for his platform. Yet both of them tapped the financial industry to make it to the White House.

Approximately 25 percent of FDR’s donations in 1932 came from Wall Street. For the progressive Republican Teddy Roosevelt, the extent of his reliance on Wall Street was kept secret during his successful 1904 campaign. It was only fully revealed in the midst of his 1912 third-party challenge with this scathing headline: “Wall Street Favored Roosevelt, Admits Monster 1904 Slush Fund.” J.P. Morgan himself ponied up $150,000. The Standard Oil monopoly gave $100,000 while the question of whether Roosevelt would bust them up was up in the air.



Krugman: Health Reform Realities

Health Reform Realities
Paul Krugman Paul Krugman
JAN. 18, 2016

Health reform is the signature achievement of the Obama presidency. It was the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare was established in the 1960s. It more or less achieves a goal — access to health insurance for all Americans — that progressives have been trying to reach for three generations. And it is already producing dramatic results, with the percentage of uninsured Americans falling to record lows.

Obamacare is, however, what engineers would call a kludge: a somewhat awkward, clumsy device with lots of moving parts. This makes it more expensive than it should be, and will probably always cause a significant number of people to fall through the cracks.

The question for progressives — a question that is now central to the Democratic primary — is whether these failings mean that they should re-litigate their own biggest political success in almost half a century, and try for something better.

My answer, as you might guess, is that they shouldn’t, that they should seek incremental change on health care (Bring back the public option!) and focus their main efforts on other issues — that is, that Bernie Sanders is wrong about this and Hillary Clinton is right. But the main point is that we should think clearly about why health reform looks the way it does.



Slate's Fred Kaplan: Obama Offers Honest Words About Hard Truths

The president doesn’t have any magic solutions for defeating ISIS. And neither does anyone else.

By Fred Kaplan

The question, after President Obama’s prime-time televised speech Sunday night, is whether common sense and an awareness of limits still have a place in American politics.

He has delivered similar speeches before, though this one was more forceful in tone and more specific in language, laying out the elements of what to do, and not do, in a bullet format. (First … Second … Third …) His critics had failed to voice any substantive alternatives to his previous proposals. When a moderator would ask what the critics would do differently, they had no answer, except for some who thought that repeating the words “radical Islam” while dropping smart bombs would somehow make the war go faster.

Obama listed the things that he and other world leaders have done, and stepped up doing since the attacks in Paris. At home, law enforcement and intelligence have thwarted countless plots. Abroad, the military has mounted airstrikes, trained and equipped Syrians and Iraqis fighting ISIS on the ground, sent special-operations forces to accelerate those efforts, and surged intelligence-sharing, while diplomats are trying to negotiate a political cease-fire in Syria, so that the “coalition” of countries—including Russia, he intriguingly noted—can pursue their common interest of defeating ISIS. (The White House also put out a fact sheet, cataloguing these activities in somewhat greater detail.)

He proposed a few things Congress could do: pass a law forbidding anyone on a terrorist watch list from buying semi-automatic weapons (the fact that Senate Republicans voted down such a bill is staggering); step up screenings for those who come to the United States (that should be popular); and pass a bill authorizing the president to use military force against ISIS (congressional Republicans’ persistent refusal to do so reflects an unwillingness to share any responsibility for the war that they keep pushing Obama to wage more fiercely).



Elizabeth Drew: How much is George W. Bush responsible for 9/11?

How Much Is George W. Bush Responsible for 9/11?
Elizabeth Drew
Posted: 11/02/2015

Poor Jeb. Or I should say, Poor Jeb! (I'm not given to exclamation points, but Jeb! is so magnetic.) It's unfathomable how he thought that he could run for the Republican nomination without having to wrestle with his brother's record as president.

Soon enough, he was so entangled in the question of whether he would have gone into Iraq, knowing what we know now, that it took him four tries to come up with the currently politically acceptable answer: No. But while the war in Iraq is widely accepted to have been a disastrous mistake, another crucial event during the George W. Bush administration has long been considered unfit for political discussion: President Bush's conduct, in the face of numerous warnings of a major terrorist plot, in the months leading up to September 11, 2001.

The general consensus seems to have been that the 9/11 attacks were so horrible, so tragic, that to even suggest that the president at the time might bear any responsibility for not taking enough action to try to prevent them is to play "politics," and to upset the public. And so we had a bipartisan commission examine the event and write a report; we built memorials at the spots where the Twin Towers had come down and the Pentagon was attacked; and that was to be that. And then along came Donald Trump, to whom "political correctness" is a relic of an antiquated, stuffy, political system he's determined to overwhelm. In an interview on October 16, he violated the longstanding taboo by saying, "When you talk about George Bush--I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time."

Trump's comments set up a back and forth between him and Jeb Bush--who, as Trump undoubtedly anticipated, can't let a blow against him by the frontrunner go by without response--but the real point is that with a simple declaration by Trump, there it was: the subject of George W. Bush's handling of the warnings about the 9/11 attacks was out there.

much more...


E. J. Dionne: Obama and the Republican Cavaliers

Comment in parentheses entirely mine.

Obama vs. the Republican Cavaliers

Those who counsel Obama to be more conciliatory toward Republicans in defending an agreement that could block Iranian nuclear ambitions for at least a decade (and probably more) are nostalgic for a time when many Republicans supported negotiated settlements, saw containment policies as preferable to the aggressive rollback of adversaries and were committed to building international alliances.

Such Republicans still exist, but there are not many of them left in Congress. And we should have enough respect for the party’s presidential candidates to believe that they mean what they are saying when, for example, one of them (Scott Walker) insists that “Iran is not a place we should be doing business with,” while another (Jeb Bush) declares that “we need to stop the Iran agreement, for sure, because the Iranian mullahs have . . . blood on their hands.”

(Wow! This is incredibly rich coming from JEB! whose brother Dubya has far more Middle East blood on his hands than anyone on earth--other than perhaps Dick Cheney.)

Obama is defending a long bipartisan tradition of negotiating even with adversaries we deeply and rightly mistrust, the prime example being the Soviet Union. For now, the consensus across party lines in favor of such diplomacy is broken. Many of us would like to see it restored, but the evidence of Obama’s time in office is unambiguous: Friendly gestures won’t win over those determined to block his policies.

In the short run, Obama simply has to win enough votes for his Iran deal. For the long run, he has to convince Americans that his measured approach to the world is the safest path for the country. Defending this view aggressively is no vice.

NYT: Saudi Arabia Approves of Iran Nuclear Deal

Note the date of this article. Have heard or read nothing else regarding this seemingly significant development.

Saudi Arabia Approves of Iran Nuclear Deal, U.S. Defense Chief Says
JULY 22, 2015

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter gave a surprisingly upbeat assessment on Wednesday of American relations with Saudi Arabia, asserting that the kingdom welcomed the international nuclear deal reached with its regional rival, Iran.

Mr. Carter, who visited Jidda and held his first meeting with King Salman, also said the Saudi monarch would visit the United States this fall and was committed to fighting the Islamic State, the Sunni militant extremist group.

The defense secretary’s description of ties with the Saudis, which he made to reporters after the meeting while en route to Amman, Jordan, was unexpectedly upbeat, considering Saudi Arabia’s strong reservations about the nuclear negotiations between the big world powers and Iran that yielded an agreement last week.



Peter Beinart: Don't Underestimate Bernie Sanders

“Don’t underestimate me,” declared newly announced presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. That may be good advice.


Luckovich: So you think you can dance...

Peter Beinart: The Real Achievement of the Iran Nuclear Deal

The Real Achievement of the Iran Nuclear Deal
Details of the accord matter less than the potential end of Washington's cold war with Tehran.

APR 3 2015

Right now, a thousand pundits and politicians are debating the details of Thursday’s framework nuclear deal with Iran. That’s fine. I think the details are far, far better than the alternative—which was a collapse of the diplomatic process, a collapse of international sanctions as Russia and China went back to business as usual with Tehran, and a collapse of the world’s ability to send inspectors into Iran. But ultimately, the details aren’t what matters. What matters is the potential end of America’s 36-year-long cold war with Iran.

For the United States, ending that cold war could bring three enormous benefits. First, it could reduce American dependence on Saudi Arabia. Before the fall of the shah in 1979, the United States had good relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, which meant America wasn’t overly reliant on either. Since the Islamic Revolution, however, Saudi Arabia has been America’s primary oil-producing ally in the Persian Gulf. After 9/11, when 19 hijackers—15 of them Saudis—destroyed the Twin Towers, many Americans realized the perils of so great a dependence on a country that was exporting so much pathology. One of the unstated goals of the Iraq War was to give the United States a large, stable, oil-producing ally as a hedge against the uncertain future of the House of Saud.

What George W. Bush failed to achieve militarily, Barack Obama may now be achieving diplomatically. In recent weeks, American hawks have cited Saudi anxiety about a potential Iran deal as reason to be wary of one. But a big part of the reason the Saudis are worried is because they know that as U.S.-Iranian relations improve, their influence over the United States will diminish. That doesn’t mean the U.S.-Saudi alliance will disintegrate. Even if it frays somewhat, the United States still needs Saudi oil and Saudi Arabia still needs American protection. But the United States may soon have a better relationship with both Tehran and Riyadh than either has with the other, which was exactly what Richard Nixon orchestrated in the three-way dynamic between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing in the 1970s. And today, as then, that increases America’s leverage over both countries.

Over the long term, Iran may also prove a more reliable U.S. ally than Saudi Arabia. Iranians are better educated and more pro-American than their neighbors across the Persian Gulf, and unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran has some history of democracy. One of the biggest problems with America’s Mideast policy in recent years has been that, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan to Egypt, the governments the United States supports preside over populations that hate the U.S. Thursday’s nuclear deal, by contrast, may pave the way for a positive relationship with the Iranian state that is actually undergirded by a positive relationship with the Iranian people.



Fred Kaplan: The Deal of a Lifetime

The Deal of a Lifetime
There are still questions to be answered, but the nuclear agreement with Iran is very good news.

By Fred Kaplan

The Iranian nuclear deal reached in Switzerland on Thursday is a significant breakthrough. Uncertainties remain, inherently so, as it’s merely a “political framework” for a formal deal to be completed and signed by June 30. But this framework turns out to be far more detailed, quantitative, and restrictive than anyone had expected.

It might not lead to a deal as good as the outline suggests; it might not lead to a deal at all. But anyone who denounces this framework—anyone who argues that we should pull out of the talks, impose more sanctions, or bomb Iran because it’s better to have no deal than to have this one—is not a serious person or is pursuing a parochial agenda.

If this deal is fully implemented, Iran will be unable to build a nuclear bomb by enriching uranium or by reprocessing plutonium for at least 10 years. Some of the restrictions imposed by this deal would last 15 years. The international inspections of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear program would stay in place for 25 years.

As for the economic sanctions against Iran, they would be lifted not upon the deal’s signing, as the Iranians initially demanded, but only after the inspectors have verified that Iran has fulfilled all of its commitments in the deal.

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