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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 04:46 PM
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Journal Archives

That Paul Krugman does not know what he is talking about when he disagrees with that assertion.

... each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

How did the parties get this far apart? Political scientists suggest that it has a lot to do with income inequality. As the wealthy grow richer compared with everyone else, their policy preferences have moved to the right — and they have pulled the Republican Party ever further in their direction. Meanwhile, the influence of big money on Democrats has at least eroded a bit, now that Wall Street, furious over regulations and modest tax hikes, has deserted the party en masse. The result is a level of political polarization not seen since the Civil War.

On one side, suppose that Ms. Clinton is indeed the Democratic nominee. If so, you can be sure that she’ll be accused, early and often, of insincerity, of not being the populist progressive she claims to be.

On the other side, suppose that the Republican nominee is a supposed moderate like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. In either case we’d be sure to hear many assertions from political pundits that the candidate doesn’t believe a lot of what he says. But in their cases this alleged insincerity would be presented as a virtue, not a vice — sure, Mr. Bush is saying crazy things about health care and climate change, but he doesn’t really mean it, and he’d be reasonable once in office. Just like his brother.


Of course, Krugman largely discussed the difference in the parties on economic issues.

We all know how different the parties are on social issues.

Head of rebel special forces detachment admits Russian tanks, troops 'decisive in eastern Ukraine


Russian tanks and soldiers have been “decisive” in winning key battles against government troops in eastern Ukraine, the commander of a separatist “special forces” detachment has admitted. The Kremlin denies sending men and military vehicles to fight in Ukraine, but Dmitry Sapozhnikov told the BBC that regular army units sent from Russia and commanded by Russian officers were key in seizing the strategic town of Debaltseve in February.

Mr Sapozhnikov, a Russian from St Petersburg who is now on leave in his home town, went to fight in Ukraine in October and led a detachment of volunteer “special forces” fighters under rebel control. But “all operations, especially large-scale ones, are led by Russian officers, by Russian generals,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “They develop plans together with our commanders ... and then we fulfill the orders.”

Asked if the presence of Russian soldiers had been decisive, Mr Sapozhnikov replied: “Of course. Russian generals, Russian colonels. They decided everything.” The Russian soldiers from Buryatiya had gone willingly to fight in Ukraine, he said. “They said that they knew exactly where they were being sent, but officially it was, 'We are going on exercises.'” The account tallies with those given by Russian soldiers and their families, who have described how regular army units are dispatched “on exercises” to southern Russia, and then sent across the border into Ukraine.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, said once again on Tuesday that no Russian servicemen had been in Ukraine. “We emphatically deny that,” he said. Mr Putin said in December that only volunteer Russian fighters answering “a call of the heart” had gone to Ukraine to support the rebels.


Nemtsov Allies Plan to Publish Report on Russian Soldiers in Ukraine

A report being prepared by supporters of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov claims that Moscow has started discharging its soldiers from the army before sending them to Ukraine and then denying compensation to the families of men who were killed in order to cover up Russia's involvement in the conflict.

The report, which Nemtsov was working on before he was shot and killed in Moscow on Feb. 27, will be completed and published next month by his allies, the politician's friend and associate Ilya Yashin wrote on his Facebook page Monday.

"We have managed to communicate with people who were Nemtsov's sources," Yashin said. "They were very much afraid to speak while he was alive. The murder of Boris, as you understand, did not give them new courage, so they were reluctant to get in contact."

According to these sources, Russia's involvement in Ukraine was marked by two "waves" of increased military casualties, Yashin said. The first surge in casualties came last summer, when scores of Russian troops moved across the border and helped secure an advance by separatist forces. The second wave came in January and February of this year, during the large-scale fighting that preceded the signing of the so-called Minsk II agreement on Feb. 11.


Liberalism in Europe 'facing its biggest fight' against the far-right and 'the politics of fear'

Following a meeting of Liberal international in Oxford, Catherine Bearder, Hans van Baalen, Graham Watson and Cecilia Wikström write that liberals must stand together against the rise of the far-right and the 'politics of fear'.

Liberalism in western Europe is facing its biggest fight since the 1930s. Last May's European parliament elections showed just how steep the mountain we have to climb is. The forces of xenophobia and racism - the populist right across Europe - polled strongly in the UK, France and Italy and in many smaller EU member states.

As liberals, we will be standing together against the racists, the xenophobes and those who believe Europe needs to return to its fragmented past. Liberals are naturally internationalist; it is in our DNA. We view the world as a global stage, not one subdivided by borders. We see friendly cooperation with our neighbours as the very key to unlocking a more secure, sustainable and prosperous future for Europe and the rest of the world.

At an international Liberal conference last week, Grigory Yavlinsky, a prominent Russian liberal and founder of opposition party Yabloko, said the fight for liberalism in Russia against Putin is alive and kicking, but is facing an increasingly tough battle. What's more, Putin is now more determined than ever to put a block on liberalism across the whole of the continent by funding anti-EU parties, putting up barriers not just in his own backyard but further afield too.

We need to spread the message that liberalism is a home for people who don't seek to brand migrants as 'other', for people who believe a Europe without the EU would be weaker and for people who see a reversion to separatism as the very worst outcome. Only in countries with strong civic values and political engagement are the politics of fear and blame denied a wave of popular support. It is up to us as liberals to keep making the internationalist case.


The rise of the 'politics of fear', of branding immigrants as 'others' who should be feared, of xenophobia, racism and separatism (teapublican divisive tactics that we have all experienced) are all things that American liberals have in common with those in Europeans. I am not so sure that we share the European commitment to internationalism, at least not to the same degree, which probably results for decades of experience as the "world's policeman" with its negative consequences. European liberals may see internationalism more as FDR saw it - as a way to tie the world together and promote shared peace and prosperity.

Europe and America seem to also share a decline of a belief that 'friendly cooperation with our neighbors' (down the street or across the border), rather than every man - or country - for itself with its reliance on the mythical 'invisible hand to produce the greatest good, will lead to shared, sustainable prosperity. The more conservative "my country first" (a variant of "me first") seems to be increasingly replacing the "we are all in this together" mentality that was dominant during more liberal eras in both places. There is no evidence that an 'invisible hand' will actually produce the greatest good when many 'me first' actors (individuals or countries) compete, rather than cooperate, with each other.

Germany pays their autoworkers much more, yet manufacture twice as many vehicles

(per capita - 1/4 of US' population, 1/2 of our auto production). In 2014 US vehicle production was 11.6 million, while Germany's was 5.9 million. Paying workers less, which our employers always want to do, is not the answer. German automakers could show GM and Ford why that is true.

Oddly, the US is one of the few countries that manufactures more commercial vehicles (7,407,601 in 2014) than passenger cars (4,253,098). Canada is another (1.5 million vs 900,000).

Another fact, there is a strong positive correlation between the degree of unionization in a country and having a positive balance of trade (more exports than imports).


Krugman: The truth about 'entitlement spending'. No upward trend until Great Recession. None now.

Here, income security is mainly EITC, food stamps, and unemployment benefits, plus a few other means-tested aid programs. Health is all major programs — Medicare, Medicaid/CHIP, and at the very end the exchange subsidies.

What this chart tells you right away:

1. The “nation of takers” stuff is deeply misleading. Until the economic crisis, income security had no trend at all. The only way to make it seem as if means-tested programs were exploding is to include Medicaid, which has gone up in part because of rising costs, in part because of a major expansion to cover children (all those 11-year-old bums on welfare, you know).

2. When people claimed that spending was exploding under Obama, the only thing actually happening was a surge in income-support programs at a time of genuine distress. People smirked knowingly and declared that everyone knew that the bump in spending would become permanent; it didn’t.

3. If there is a long-run spending problem, it’s overwhelmingly about health care. And we have lately been making remarkable progress on that front.


Facts won't matter with republicans and their slash-entitlements fixation. But it is nice to have facts on our side.

Bill introduced to require congressional approval of any diplomatic agreement with Iran

Obama vows veto of new Senate legislation ensuring vote on Iran deal\

Four senators have introduced a bill that would grant Congress the opportunity to approve, or disapprove, of a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 was introduced on Friday by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and ranking member Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), as well as Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia).

Their move was immediately criticized by the White House. US President Barack Obama will veto all legislation on Iran so long as negotiations are under way, one spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.

The bill would require Obama submit to Congress the text of a final agreement as well as evidence of Iran's compliance to the deal, and prohibits him from "suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing" congressional sanctions for sixty days. At that point in time, Congress would vote on a joint resolution of approval or disapproval of the deal. Should Congress vote against the agreement, and should the president veto that resolution, the legislature would vote a second time with the potential to override his veto with a two-thirds majority.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is preparing to open its annual conference on Sunday and to host Netanyahu the following day, will fight for the bill, one official said.


This is no surrender: Paul Krugman on the Greek left’s surprising victory against austerity

One week after Greece’s leftist government reached a new debt deal with its creditors, Paul Krugman argues in his New York Times column today that left-wing criticism of the deal is misguided, obscuring larger victories secured by Greek negotiators.

What was at stake in the negotiations, the Nobel Prize-winning economist writes, was whether Greece would have to impose further austerity measures on its already beleaguered populace. The Syriza government avoided such a calamity:

Krugman concedes that the debt deal contains other provisions with which leftists quarrel. Greek negotiators agreed to proceed with privatization deals already underway and to preserve some “structural reform” of the labor market implemented by the leftist government’s predecessors. But Greece also redoubled its commitment to cracking down on tax evasion, particularly by the wealthy; you’d be hard-pressed to frame that as a defeat for the left.

All in all, Krugman concludes, the pushback against austerity is meeting with notable successes — “even if nobody believes it.”


Putin creates an official holiday to celebrate the role of special forces in Crimea.

Putin Creates Official Holiday on Anniversary of Crimea Annexation

February 27 will from now on be marked in Russia as Special Operations Forces Day, according to a decree signed Thursday by President Vladimir Putin and published on the official legislative website. The Special Operations Forces, a branch of Russian defense apparatus operating both inside the country and abroad, was formed in March 2013. The Chief of the General Staff said at the time of its creation that the new branch was inspired by the experience of "the world's leading nations," Russian media reported.

Answering its own question of why Feb. 27 was chosen as the day, an article in government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta said: "Remember what happened and where a year ago. And how it all ended."

One year ago, mysterious troops bearing no insignia appeared in Crimea, which was shortly afterward annexed from Ukraine by Russia. The troops, who said little and declined to reveal their identity but ensured order during the annexation and subsequent referendum on joining Russia, quickly became known as "little green men" in the international media and "polite people" in Russia.

Putin initially denied that Russian troops had been dispatched to Crimea, but later admitted it.


And now the Russian government denies that there are Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. Perhaps later they will admit that too and establish a new holiday commemorating their deeds.

Nato defence spending falls

Despite the Ukraine crisis and increasing tensions with Russia, most Nato members are doing little to reverse the decline in their defence spending. Nato has already set a target that member states should each spend a minimum of 2% of their national wealth or GDP on defence. In 2015 only one of the 14 nations examined, Estonia, will meet the 2% target.

New research by Ian Kearns and Denitsa Raynova of the European Leadership Network (ELN) found that six countries, including two of the biggest defence spenders in Europe, the UK and Germany, will cut defence expenditure in 2015. Defence spending in France, the other big spender in Europe, will remain static.

Contrast that with Russia's defence spending, which is rising from 3.4% of its GDP this year to 4.2% next year ($81bn or £52.2bn). Russia is also stepping up its military activity.

A separate report by Ian Brzezinski for the Atlantic Council says there is also an "exercise gap" between Russia and Nato. Since 2013 Russia has conducted at least six military exercises involving 65,000-160,000 troops.


"Putin appears to fear that the Maidan’s successes in Ukraine could mobilize Russia’s opposition."

Since the revolution in Kyiv, the Kremlin has sharpened its campaign against domestic dissent.

The turning point in the Kremlin’s view of NATO and the EU—and the turning point in Putin’s foreign policy in general—came in December 2011, as tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets to demand clean elections and an end to Putin’s autocratic rule. This was the first serious threat to Putin’s hold on power, and he took it personally. The protests shifted the balance of power in the Kremlin toward more conservative forces, and led Putin to redefine his definition of the Kremlin’s security interests. Now, Putin realized, his greatest threat was not foreign powers, it was the middle class Russians who took to Moscow streets demanding political change.

Putin does not seriously fear a nuclear strike or a military invasion. Instead, Moscow opposes NATO expansion for the same reason it opposes EU enlargement: it knows that membership in NATO and the EU helps facilitate the establishment of stable, Western-style democracies. Such an outcome in Ukraine would encourage similar efforts in other post-Soviet states, reducing Russian influence. More worrisome to the Kremlin, it would provide a dangerous model for opposition movements within Russia itself.

Yet the most important strategy for staving off a Maidan in Moscow is to prove that political opposition in general—and ‘Western-style’ democracy in particular—leads to chaos. The Kremlin has used Ukraine to prove this point. Russian state-run TV portrays the Maidan protests as a Nazi takeover, and continues to claim that Ukraine is being overrun by fascists. When far-right presidential candidate Dmytro Yarosh won 1% of the vote in recent presidential elections, Russian TV reported polls suggesting he won 37%, underscoring the argument that protests feed radicalism.

But it is important to separate cause from effect. Putin’s media machine repeatedly argues that political opposition causes chaos, yet it is Russia that most aggressively stoked chaos in Ukraine -- from the annexation of Crimea, to the arrival of Chechen fighters in Donetsk, to Russians who have repeatedly destabilized Ukraine. Some see this as evidence that Moscow is willing to risk chaos in order to defend its core interests. The reality is that controlled chaos—which discredits Kyiv’s new government—suits the Kremlin perfectly. Without regular video footage of militants and explosions on the nightly news, it would be far harder for state TV to explain why the Maidan was so dangerous in the first place.

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